Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

Dealing with Guilt

Hawke didn't remember how she got back to her estate that night. She knew it was by way of the Hanged Man, however, and when she woke with the early morning light, she was still in her gambeson, leather gorget and most of her chainmail. She pulled the pieces off and piled them next to where her plate had somehow been neatly piled. She found the explanation asleep on the lounge on the landing, sunlight mere minutes from waking him. The sound of the door creaking open seemed to do the job, however, and Fenris sat up wearily as he noticed Hawke standing in the doorway.

"Sorry, Hawke, I didn't mean to intrude. You seemed… not well. I didn't want you to be alone if you woke up in the night."

Hawke felt her heart skip a beat then said, "I didn't make too big of an ass of myself, did I?"

He smiled, as if remembering something quite amusing, "No Hawke, but there were some requests…" She raised an eyebrow.

"Some of the patrons wanted a reenactment… of the duel… and the statue. There was a melon, torch, and fire involved."

Hawke let out a resounding sigh and rubbed her temples deeply, "Ok, I don't need to know more." Fenris chuckled for a few moments and she found herself enjoying the warm rumble of it. She could make him laugh after all.

"Thank you for returning me safely," she said genuinely.

"Of course, Hawke. I remain at your side," he smiled her favorite one-corner smile and she noticed the way the skin around his eyes crinkled when he was being sincere. The elf rose to leave and Hawke followed. She opened the door for him and hung on it as he passed by.

"Fenris, when you invited me over last night? You… didn't invite everyone, did you? And I invited Aveline?" she asked.

Fenris looked briefly sheepish as he turned to face her, but recovered quickly, "It doesn't matter Hawke, we're all family." Hawke was a little shocked by this comment, she was never really sure Fenris liked any of them at all, nevertheless considered them family. Maybe it was part of his "crisis of faith", she thought.

She smiled, "Well, I'm sorry anyways. It wasn't my place to assume."

"Make sure you eat. You're probably still drunk," he quipped, and left with a smile. Hawke shut the door after him and memories of what happened in the sewer came rushing back. Looks like the ale didn't do its job, she thought as she moved toward the kitchen.

She sat on the kitchen counter and chewed on a loaf of bread as she ran through the facts in her head again. She'd never felt so frustrated by a situation before, so helpless. They were back to square one and would be sitting on their hands again until something else surfaced. She was forced to wonder the disturbing thoughts she had been holding back for too long. Were those sacrifices made solely to send Hawke a message? How many more would they kill just to prove a point to her? The thought was to strike while the iron was hot, wipe them out before they had a chance to gain a following. But it seemed to be too late. Would it be better to back off? Would it save more lives?

Hawke grabbed a hunk of cheese and wandered into the study. She laid on the lounge by the fire, nibbling at the cheese and running through scenarios in her head. It wasn't long before she started feeling drowsy, her full stomach and activities the previous evening catching up with her. She stared at the fire, striving to come up with a plan, but let sleep take her instead.

She knew the dream wasn't real. She hadn't seen Aveline in those clothes since they first stepped foot into Kirkwall. Where were they headed? She wondered as she followed Aveline down the steps towards the docks.

"They're here, Hawke," she said, and then they were. It was strange, they all wore the clothing she had first met them in. Varric, Anders, Fenris, Sebastian, even Merrill. They all looked so much younger. Did they really look that way only four years ago? Had this life in Kirkwall really aged them so much?

"Who will be the first?" Aveline asked. Hawke swallowed, she didn't know who to pick. Why was she picking anyone to start with? She could only shake her head at Aveline.

"It has to be someone, Hawke," she said, "If you don't pick, she will." A deep red mist hovered behind the group, shifting erratically as Hawke tried to look at it. Every time she found it again it moved.

"I can't, Aveline," Hawke found herself pleading with the warrior.

"You can pick me, I don't mind," Aveline said sincerely. Hawke gaped at her, then heard Merrill scream. She turned to look and the remnants of a battle suddenly lay out before her. Dead guardsman, maleficarum and Kirkwallers littered the street around the statue of the Champion. Of her, she thought. A few meters away, her friends hovered around something, and she rushed over. Isabela kneeled on the ground, sitting on her feet, cradling Fenris's head in her lap, his body marred with deep wounds. Hawke shook her head, then looked up as Sebastian walked toward her carrying Anders' lifeless body.

"Hawke," Varric said, great burden creasing his face, "Couldn't you have done something?"

"Messere?" a voice pulled her out of the nightmare, and she startled awake. It was Bodahn, hovering over her with a glass of water.

"Bodahn, sorry. I must have shut my eyes for a second," she said, but when she looked around she noticed no sunlight peeking through the windowpanes.

"You've been sleeping all day, Messere. But that's alright, you need your rest, you don't get enough of it. Hate to wake you, Messere, but the healer has come calling, he seems to think it's very important," Bodahn handed her the glass. She nodded and took it gratefully, downing as much as she could at once. She left the study and went to meet Anders near the front door. As she rounded the corner and saw him, her dream flashed back to her: Anders' limp, lifeless body. She found herself hugging the mage.

"Nice to see you too, Hawke," he said, a bit abashed.

"Sorry," she said, retreating, "I… had a bad dream. It's just good to see you."

He raised an eyebrow, but nodded, "Good news, Hawke. Well, sort of good news. My contacts have caught wind that the prophet has decided to leave with her flock. Apparently somewhere the Champion can't reach them."

"Good news?" Hawke exclaimed, "So they can go kill innocents in another town?"

"Well that's why I said sort of good news," Anders said carefully, "I already told Aveline, she'll make sure the right people are informed. There's really only a few cities around large enough for a group like that to hide in. They'll be caught, Hawke. It's only a matter of time."

Hawke let the information sink in and found herself nodding.

"Ok, thanks, Anders," she said, her brow knitted, "Do me a favor though, still keep an ear out for it, they could be spreading false rumors. And if you hear what city they end up in, let me know."

"I will, but… I can't let you chase this around Thedas, Hawke," Anders said, concerned, "I've seen good people get consumed by crusades like this before." Hawke just nodded and stared blankly at the muddy boots she'd left on the bench.

"Hey," he said, taking her hand to get her to look up at him, "We did good, Hawke. We did more than good, taking out that many of them? It's a major blow. And if they truly are leaving, the people here will be safe now, and it'll be because of you."

"Of us," Hawke corrected.

"Oh, I think you know that without you, we'd have all murdered each other by now. You're integral to the stability of this…" Anders gestured widely with his palms flat, "…whole dynamic. Plus, you'd have to be crazy to want to leave Kirkwall. Just now when things are starting to get interesting?" he joked. She smiled appreciatively.

"I'll leave you to it then. You know – all the championing, and such, that you do," he held his hand up in mock imitation of the statue and raised his eyebrows, "Quite a show you put on last night."

Hawke groaned, and opened the front door, "Out."

Anders obliged but turned as he went, "I like that Hawke. This one's alright too, but that one," he said nodding in mock salaciousness, and she slammed the door shut on him.

She sighed. She knew Anders was right, that she would have to let it go eventually. It would take time, she wasn't used to letting things go unresolved. Her vivid dream came back to her now, and as she stood alone in the front hall, she found herself with an insatiable need to also see Fenris alive and well.

Continue Reading Next Chapter

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered book publisher, offering an online community for talented authors and book lovers. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books you love the most based on crowd wisdom.