Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Airing the Truth

After a few minutes of having to unnervingly watch his friends dodge lightning while unable to gain any kind of advantage with the beast, Fenris was able to find his opening. He propelled himself off the crates and leapt at the demon, stabbing his sword into the creature's spine and letting gravity drive the slash downward. The beast roared in surprised pain before Fenris's feet even hit the ground. He saw the others stand from cover to exploit its sudden weakness. Fenris was barely able to pull his sword from the demon in time to duck under its swing. He rolled back between the creature's feet as it twisted violently. He retreated toward Aveline who gave him an approving nod as she raced back in to gain a devastating strike to the beast's uninjured foot.

Suddenly, the creature pounded the ground with immense force. A shockwave whipped out from it, knocking crates and bunks over haphazardly and causing the walls of the cave to crumble. The force threw Fenris and his companions away from the creature a meter or so, knocking them to the ground.

"We never finished our little talk," Hawke's voice suddenly rang out and Fenris looked up to see the warrior marching defiantly toward the demon, sword in tow. Its fists were now dug deeply into the dirt from the force of its strike. She just kept walking toward it, as if unaware of her prone companions, and Fenris worried as he attempted to regain his balance and stand. Was she insane? Anders wasn't with her, he realized. She meant to distract the demon long enough for him to get out safely.

The creature didn't strike out at her violently. It simply removed its fists from the dirt, and stood quietly as Hawke approached it. He saw the corners of the beast's mouth turn up, and it roared a disturbing band of laughter. Fenris watched as the others looked on as well, clearly concerned by the danger Hawke was putting herself in.

"So many people to call companions, and yet, so alone. Your entire family, dead, all those you cared about, until the mage and the elf came along. Such passion for each, I can hardly tell a difference. Though you tell yourself there is one you love more. Maybe we should test that theory?" the demon growled, and suddenly Fenris felt his windpipe close as he was raised from his feet, as if gripped by the neck.

"Leave the elf out of this," Hawke demanded, "You want me, let's talk."

Fenris was dropped to the ground, his ability to breathe restored. What was going on? Was Hawke truly attempting to strike a deal with this demon?

"So worried about them, all your friends. Nonetheless you're risking their safety yet again," the demon chided, "What if I promised their safety? A trade of sorts, I grant them release and I get you. I'll even let out the one that's inside, and trust me, that's his only way out."

Hawke looked furious, and Fenris agreed. The wretched creature was infuriating.

"What will it be? Will you save the life of the man you can't love? What's it worth to you?"

Suddenly the beast roared out in pain, emanating a faint blue light from the folds in its disgusting flesh. After a moment it opened its eyes again, staring seemingly toward Merrill, Sebastian and Varric, looking more furious than ever. Suddenly, Anders, full of Justice, came charging into the room.

"Don't deal with this demon, warrior," Justice said, marching up to stand between Hawke and the creature.

"Anders?" Merrill squeaked, seeming worried that the change may be permanent. The blue light from within him suddenly went out and Anders blinked his eyes.

"Very good trick, mage. Even I didn't think it was possible for you to leave there anyway but Tranquil," the demon growled.

"As you can see, I'm full of surprises," Anders glowered, looking as if he'd expended quite a bit of his energy already. He usually seemed disoriented after having Justice take over his human form, but the man seemed to know precisely what was going on. The demon barked a disturbing bit of laughter.

"New deal, warrior. I want you both. He has power unlike anything I've ever seen," the creature said voraciously. Hawke said nothing for a long while, and the beast seemed to be thinking.

"Alternatively… the two of you live, and I get the rest. After all, you two are slow-cooked meat. You'll be better with age."

Fenris swore, if it were able, the demon would have licked its lips with that statement. Hawke just glared at the creature, the muscles in her jaw tensing and loosening as if she was thinking hard about something, though her expression didn't give anything away.

"What of it, Champion? The safety of those you care about or your own life? You wanted to leave them anyway, to run away and hide to provide them with some chance at safety. Why not do it this way, it's far more dramatic. A tale for the ages, and the dwarf will even live to exaggerate it," the demon said.

"I don't even know how to embellish this," Varric managed.

Leave them? Fenris thought. This was not something he and Hawke had discussed. He felt the discontent roll through the others, though they did a good job of not showing it.

"Let's talk about it," Hawke said and Fenris caught her giving a look to Anders, though he couldn't tell what it meant. He began to grow worried. He trusted her, but he didn't know what had happened in the Fade. She may think this was her only way out, her only way to save them all. They waited, staring each other down.

"You're all a little too spread out for my comfort," the creature announced. They looked at the beast, unmoving. Suddenly the demon emanated a golden glowing light. Anders slammed his staff to the ground, a protective sphere stemming out from it. It grew fast enough to reach Hawke and Aveline but Fenris and the others were suddenly picked up off their feet and pulled unwillingly toward the demon.

Fenris somehow managed to keep his grip on his sword, and dealt the beast a devastating blow to its chest as he was dropped to the ground at its feet. This distracted the beast from the others and it turned its full attention to Fenris in blind anger. He saw Hawke diving toward the beast, likely screaming out to distract it, but it was too late. Fenris looked down, a slice in his stomach, its entire width, and deep through to his spine.

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