Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Using the Maps

In Fenris's opinion, there was far too much discussion happening. He was ready to be done with this vile abomination, and the sooner they found out where it was, the sooner they could wipe it from existence.

"Think of it like this, its mind is in the Fade, its body is here," Merrill explained, "We'll need to destroy both, relatively simultaneously."

"Let's discuss the specificity of the term 'relatively'," Anders suggested wryly, seeming concerned by the prospect.

"We can't really talk strategy until we know where it is. Let's do this," Fenris said, inclining his head to Merrill, who nodded in agreement.

"Let me prepare, just a moment," Merrill announced. The group ambled away from the table to let her work and broke into smaller conversations. Fenris was relieved, after he and Hawke had been interrupted, he felt a great sense of burden in not knowing where they stood.

"Aralynn," Fenris said, his voice low and serious, "Are we… ok?"

"Of course, love, you just caught me off guard, that's all," Hawke said holding a palm to his cheek, "I remain at your side."

His heart warmed with this sentiment, it had been what he would say to her when what he meant was 'I love you'. He wrapped his arms around her and kissed her, gentle but deep. He knew he hadn't been entirely clear - that he meant to marry her, even if it was just the two of them under cover of darkness. And Sebastian, of course, to perform the ceremony.

"The question really is," Hawke whispered, "What will you ever do about a dowry?" This caught Fenris off-guard and he raised his eyebrows in surprise. Apparently he had been clear. He went in to kiss her again but was interrupted.

"Ready," Merrill announced, opening the book up. She flipped until she found the page that Kirkwall lay on.

"The blood will start here, and follow the path the beast took, we'll flip pages to follow it," Merrill explained.

"My coin is on Cumberland, it'd be easy to skirt the coast unnoticed," Varric said.

"I vote Ostwick. Evil things travel east," Anders said, gaining a few eyebrow raises with his logic.

"Who's to say it can't swim? It could be in West Hill or Highever," Aveline joined in.

Merrill began to pour the blood, reciting something in elvish, and the six others leaned over the book expectantly. After the hole had been filled, they watched as the blood seeped up into the pages dramatically, filling them completely. Suddenly it burst off the edge of the pages, but disappeared, not falling on the table underneath. It left a stain behind however, right on the page it was open to. Hawke leaned over the book inquisitively, reading the map to get her bearings. The Planasene Forest, east, just north of the Waking Sea…

"Is that Slaver's Reach?" Sebastian asked in disbelief.

"Right, that makes sense, you said the veil was thin there. That must have been where they did it," Merrill said.

"It returned to where it was created," Anders said, exchanging a look with Fenris, recalling how uncomfortable they had felt there.

"It'd be stronger there," Merrill added.

"Excellent," Varric said, "It'd be too easy for it to be both nearby and killable."

"It's killable," Hawke said determinedly, "Let's talk strategy.

"Well, the first point of contention is likely the two teams," Aveline said.

"I'll go in," Anders volunteered, though it sound more like a demand, "I've proven I have the resolve to not give in to demons."

"Except the one that's inside you right now," Fenris pointed out.

"That's different, friend, and you know it," Anders said leveling a look at him.

"Won't you be Justice in the Fade?" Hawke asked.

"Yes, but I'll have influence over him just like he effects me in this world."

"But if you die in there you'll still be made tranquil," Aveline said.

"Then I'll try my very hardest not to. A mage has to go in, there's no way in without one. And there are only two of us. And it isn't Merrill, it's me," Anders said plainly, then turned, "Sorry Merrill."

"No problem," she said timidly. Fenris admired Anders' tenacity. He wanted to get it done, and get it done right. He knew Merrill didn't want to go anyways. When they had gone into the Fade to save Feynriel she had betrayed them, accepting the demons false offer of help for her people. Not a great track record.

"Alright, Anders it is," Hawke said, "I'll go in with him, from what Merrill has told me it sounds like I'll confuse the demon, he'll know his magic was used to kill me, but I… well, I won't be dead."

"If you're going in, so am I," Fenris declared.

"You can't, Fenris, I need you here, leading this team," Hawke said, resolute. Fenris took her hand and knew that she understood what it meant.

"I won't be but meters away, love, and I can't die in the Fade. I won't be in harms way until I'm back at your side again," Hawke said. As if that was supposed to make him feel better. He never wanted her in harms way, not for an instant. But that was definitely not how Hawke lived her life.

"Let's discuss how we can't actually kill something in the Fade," Anders pointed out.

"Right," Merrill said, chiming in, "You do need to destroy its form, but it's more of a distraction element. The less focused it is on its corporeal form the less it will be able to feed it. You'll need to try and break it down, wear it out so it neglects its body. That will help the team on this side to destroy it."

"It's very likely the creature will try to bargain with you, but we must be resolute. You can't give in to what it offers," Hawke implored, "This is important – we're fairly certain that if you agree to a deal with it, it will consume you much like it consumed the mages that created it."

A silence befell the room, and Fenris was glad. Hopefully the gravitas of the situation was finally starting to sink in.

"We go tomorrow," Hawke said, and the group nodded in agreement. This was it, the closure Hawke was looking for. Slay the demon that slayed her. Fenris realized then that he had never discussed with her the fact that she had placed herself between the prophet and him, thus saving his life. So before going into this, a situation which truly any one of them could not come out of alive, he knew he had some things to discuss with his betrothed.

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