Warning: Strong Violence at end
"And there are people who embrace destiny, and do not show their fear,"
"And here we are Champion, at long last."
The Knight-Commander's greeting as Xandria's haggard group appeared at the top of the stair sent a shiver down the mage's spine. It was obvious to Hawke and her friends that Meredith was enjoying the idea of killing her.
As they came to a halt, staring down into the courtyard that was filled with Templars, Xandria unintentionally sought out the white-haired elf, scanning him for injuries before remembering they were on opposite sides.
"You were never part of this Circle, and I tolerated that." Meredith sneered, saying the word like she had been graceful in her acceptance of an apostate. Reflexively Xandria tightened her grip on her staff. "You defend blood mages, Champion. And that is something I cannot allow."
"It doesn't have to end like this." Hawke tried. "Please, stop this while we still have a chance to save lives."
Meredith scoffed but it was Fenris who spoke next. "Backed into a corner mages show their true colors; Orsino proved that. Why are you still defending them? This is an old story that always ends the same way."
"They're not your enemies, Fenris." She said softly walking down the stairs. "And neither am I."
Something flickered across his face.
"Don't do this." It was unclear if she was addressing Meredith or Fenris; maybe she was talking to both, she didn't know.
"The wolf has made up his mind about us." Anders snipped, half stomping to stand beside her. "Why waste your breath Hawke? It's obvious he cares nothing for you."
The words were like knives in her heart and she looked at Anders, wishing he had the good sense to shut up.
Fenris bristled, instantly on the defensive. "You've never been to the Imperium." He growled. "There, the mages spit on us. They keep people like me as pets." The elf snarled, taking a step forward intimidatingly. "You think I won't fight to stop that from happening here?"
"It's not happening here." She interjected before Anders could retort. "None of us want anything more than to survive. Please, listen to me."
The tension in Fenris' shoulders started to sag. Hope soared in Xandria, if she could only convince him to leave maybe she could get through this.
Meredith balked. "See how she lies to you, even now. Mages are like vermin." The blonde fed hate into her words, trying to stir the elf's aggression again. "She is like the others, elf. Do not give her the chance to betray you."
Xandria swallowed hard, meeting his sharp green eyes. Her world stilled for a moment, mind flashing to the night they shared. For the millionth time that night, her heart felt like it shattered, each time the pieces smaller than the last. "Please don't make me fight you." The plea fell from her lips before she could stop it.
Fenris took a step back as though she had physically struck him.
Sebastian pushed through the Templars, brandishing his bow. "Save you words, Hawke." He snapped with his thick brogue. "You harbor a murderer. You have chosen to defend him and the rest of the foul mages."
"Turning him into a martyr would only rally people around him." Hawke shot. "You have turned into murderers yourselves, slaughtering mages who took no part in Anders' crime."
"You made your choice, Hawke." Sebastian said firmly. Suddenly the Starkhaven prince brought up his bow, aiming at her. The sound of a clink fired before anyone could react, a bolt embedding itself in Sebastian's forehead.
"That was for Daisy, Choir Boy." Varric spat.
For a moment all was still and then the world around them erupted in to chaos. A blue-violet shield sprung to life around Hawke as a volley of arrows rained down from the side. Gratefully smiling at Varric who had just saved her life from Sebastian, Xandria turned to Anders. With a sharp nod, the blonde dropped the shield.
Instantly she flung her hand out, sending arching bolts of lightning toward the archers, watching as they hit their target, dropping three men at once. Aveline appeared at her side with a grunting war-cry, slamming her shield into a charging Templar.
Sweeping her staff out, Xandria sent the Templars racing up the stairs flying backwards with a mind-blast. Together she and Aveline rushed forward, tackling the line of Templars. A half circle of ice spikes pushed up around her, catching three of the running men in the gut, piercing through the leather and metal.
A cloud of smoke burst to her left and she could hear Zevran cackling, his daggers dancing. "I am ridiculously awesome." The rogue cheered himself, four Templars falling as the wind blew the darkly colored smoke away.
Xandria ducked out of the way of a Templar's blade, retaliating with a fist of fire. She found herself freezing when she heard a deep voice that haunted her dreams curse in Arcanum. Looking frantically around the field she spotted Fenris off to the side battling Aveline.
Pain ripped along her arm causing her to stumble back, gasping. Glaring at the Templar who managed to catch her, Hawke summoned a dagger of ice and dug it into the man's neck. The wound on her arm began to mend as her mind raced, her magic automatically healing when it could. She had to get Fenris out the fight. The idea of him dying was more than she could handle.
A plan forming, she fought her way toward Anders. "Anders!" she shouted, kicking a Templar back. Xandria twisted her staff around and cut through the leather jerkin that the Templar wore. "ANDERS!"
The blonde glanced at her, fire on his fingertips dying as the charred Templar he had been fighting collapsed.
"Please." Her eyes flickered to Fenris. "Help me."
The mage frowned, objection in his eyes but he gave a curt nod. The two of them wove through the battle, casting in tandem with an ease they had picked up over the years. As they grew close to Aveline and Fenris, they heard the redhead trying to reason with the elf.
"Don't do this, Fenris." Aveline blocked the attack and shoved the elf back. "None of us want to fight you."
"You have chosen your side, Aveline. You and Hawke are protecting blood mages." He snarled back at her, his tattoos flaring into life.
Aveline avoided what would have been a crushing blow had it landed. "We are protecting her, you fool!"
Something flickered across Fenris' face before the mask of hatred twisted there again. He lunged forward, barely missing impaling the Guard-Captain. Just as he gained his balance a soft yellow light enveloped him, leaving him frozen in place, eyes darting around wildly.
Xandria looked to Aveline. The woman gave a sharp nod and rushed to rejoin the fight, bashing into a Templar and knocking the man to the ground. Circling so she would face Fenris, she tried not to grimace at the rage that burned in his green eyes.
With a nod to Anders the two of them began to cast. Xandria tried to ignore the panic that entered the eyes that she had loved so much. Around the elf glowing runes sprung to life, laying on top each other until they made a solid ring, insuring that it would be a while before Fenris would be able to join the battle again.
"BEHIND YOU HAWKE!" Nathaniel's voice rang from the battle.
Dodging just as a Templar tried to impale her, she smashed her staff into the man's face, breaking his nose and temporarily blinding him. Two arrows hit the man, one in his head, the other his neck.
Varric cackled. "That one was mine, Howe, don't even think about claiming it!"
"As you say, dwarf."
Xandria kicked the dead body aside and rejoined Anders in adding another circle of paralytic runes, both protecting the elf and protecting them from the elf. Anders fumbled at his pouch and downed a mana potion, giving her a look before turning back to the battle. Swallowing hard she stepped back, flinching at the hate in Fenris' eyes.
"I'm sorry." She took another step back.
Spinning around, Hawke funneled her raw emotions into her magic, causing the lightning that shot from her staff to splinter and strike five Templars, reducing two to their knees, one dead, and the last fell forward, directly onto Zevran's blade.
The battle stretched for what seemed like forever. For every Templar her group felled, two more seemed to race forward and take their place. How in Thedas did there get to be so many Templars in Kirkwall? Had Meredith been keeping a secret reserve, Hawke wondered, icing the ground so that the Templars advancing fell.
She stabbed the fallen fighters with the sword-tip of her staff, backing away toward the stairs. Xandria was running out of mana potions and had used her last health potion ages ago. Scanning the courtyard her stomach dropped. Her allies were slowing, their movements choppier than she knew they could be; the strain of the night wearing on them.
"This has to end!" Xandria shouted, sweeping her staff out and sending a force blast in the middle of the field. Templars flew back, unable to keep their balance in their bulky armor. "Think of your men!"
"You have chosen your side, Champion!" Meredith screamed at her.
Several of the Templars were dragging their friends back, trying to stem the injuries, suddenly realizing how much lack of magical healing was leaving them at a disadvantage. Six people had managed to slaughter thirty of them.
The battle lines were being drawn once again.
Aveline was leaning heavily on Anders, who was sending waves of blue light over the warrior, trying to heal her. Varric had a rather large gash across his forehead, spilling blood down his face and onto his chest. Nathaniel looked tired but determined and relatively uninjured. Zevran, that stupid wonderful elf, had a cheeky grin on his face, acting as though the cut across his cheek that would likely scar and his broken hand was nothing. Hawke swallowed hard, looking toward Fenris, who was glowering at her group, still surrounded by the traps she and Anders had placed in an attempt to keep him from the fight.
"Please, Meredith." Xandria tried. "There must be a way to end this peacefully; while there are still lives to be saved!"
"You will not sway me, mage!" Meredith announced, stomping forward. "We must stay true to our path!" She pointed at Hawke, sweeping her augmented greatsword out in the raven-haired woman's direction. "Bring her to me now!"
The Templars looked at each other and then charged, a war cry melding from all of them. Sweeping her staff out, Xandria scraped the floor, sending a volley of ice-spikes at the Templars, hoping to slow them. Sharing a look with her friends, they leapt into battle once again, fighting for their lives against a merciless foe.
It became a swirl of blood and blades. Templar after Templar fell. For once, Xandria was grateful for the extra power that damned spirit brought Anders as he managed to deliver wave after wave of heals.
Crying out when a sword grazed her arm, Hawke ducked the following lunge. Fire sprung to life on her hand and she threw a ball of twisting flames at the Templar, taking no satisfaction when he bellowed in pain. Moving back, she watched the man turn, rage and agony fueling his movements. Her staff funneled the blast of cold, slowing his step. Swinging her fist up she brought a stone to smash into him.
Unbelievably he charged, bleeding and half dead. Stumbling back she threw her hand out, barely avoiding his sword and sent him flying away from her with a focused mind-blast. She suddenly crashed into someone behind her.
Barely keeping her balance Xandria spun around, lightning crackling on her fingertips, ready to arc into the nearest adversary. Everything in her froze when she realized who the nearest enemy was. The shock-white hair was illuminated by the glowing lyrium in his veins as he turned to face her, finally free of his magical prison.
Fenris was fluidly twisting around, anxious for a fight to channel his fury at being caged to the nearest opponent. She felt her world slow as his greatsword swung at her, unable to react even to bring up a shield; their eyes met, green and brown, burning in the night.
Suddenly Fenris pulled the blow, causing it to strike the stone near her feet. The rage rippled through him, every breath he took was rigid but all they could do was stare at each other, tension mounting.
It would have been easy to send a volley of magic at him, end the second biggest threat on the battlefield and continue in her fight for survival. It should have been easy. Fenris had all but declared his hate for her. Bedding her, leaving her, frequently asserting that no good could ever come from magic despite the fact she herself was a mage, Xandria should feel nothing for the elf; instead she felt everything for him.
She loved him.
Maker help her, despite his hate, despite his temper, despite everything he had done, she loved him.
Her grip grew slack on her staff as she finally acknowledged what she had known all along: she couldn't do it. Even now on opposite sides of a battle that was to determine not only her right but the right of every mage in Thedas to live; she couldn't do it. She couldn't kill the only man she had ever loved.
Xandria trembled, closing her eyes. She had known it would come to this the moment he sided with Meredith; hell if she was being honest; she had suspected it would come to this the moment she found out how much he loathed magic. No matter what she did for him, no matter how she helped him or how much she loved him it could never change the fact she was a mage. And he hated mages.
A searing hot pain erupted in her abdomen causing her to gasp, unable to catch her breath. Looking down she saw a greatsword impaling her, slicing through her armor as though it hadn't existed. Things went out of focus for a moment; the excruciating pain of the sword slowly being pulled out nearly overwhelming her. Blood began pouring out of the wound, staining her shirt and dripping over her leather vest.
Xandria shook as she flexed her hand, trying to summon the same burst of healing magic she had used when fighting the Arishok when her world exploded into further agony.
A Silence washed over her, ripping her magic away.
She fell to her knees, her staff clattering to the stone floor. Hawke wrapped her arm around the wound that had begun to bleed more freely now that her magic was unable to instinctively halt the flow.
The pain was maddening and all she could do was reach for her weapon, trying desperately to hold onto her sanity. A foot smashed down on her hand before she could reach the staff, snapping her fingers, leaving her eyes watering with the new pain.
"And so ends Kirkwall's Champion." Meredith sneered swiftly kicking Xandria in the gut, causing her to curl into a ball in a feeble attempt to manage the pain.
"HAWKE!" Aveline's shout sounded miles away.
Wincing, Hawke pulled herself up, trying to move, holding her wound as blood spilled through her fingers. She had to get up, she had to keep fighting.
Meredith stomped her foot onto Hawke's back, forcing the mage to cry out in agony, collapsing to the ground again. The sound of her cry carried above the fighting causing it to die down.
Everyone had frozen, staring at the two women in horror and disbelief. Her friends looked terrified at the sight and the Templars were no better, as though neither group could believe what they were seeing.
Sadistically Meredith wound a chunk of Hawke's waist-length raven-black hair around her hand, wrenching Xandria's head up. "Have you nothing to say?" Meredith mocked, sliding her glowing claymore under Xandria's chin, threatening to end it. "No more glib remarks or clever lies?"
From across the courtyard Anders lurched forward, snapping out of his shock and starting toward the women. He attempted to send a healing spell to Hawke but was almost immediately struck from behind by a Templar, forcing the mage to the ground.
"Maker's breath, the sword!" Aveline gasped only to be violently hit across the face, the redhead toppling over with the force of the blow.
"Andraste's dimpled buttcheeks!" Varric exclaimed. "That's the fucking idol!" The dwarf started to move forward but immediately stopped when the Templars attempted to restrain him. Frantically Varric looked at the others before his attention fell on the only person in the entire place that was close enough to do anything. "Elf, the idol!"
Fenris twitched, startled at the shout. Even from the distance the panic and indecision was written on his angular face.
"She's mad!" Varric struggled against the Templars who were removing Bianca from him. "She's got that damned idol!"
Meredith smirked. "Do you recognize this, Champion?" the blonde forced Xandria to look at the glowing red blade. "Forged from pure lyrium, the dwarf charged a great deal for this prize."
Xandria coughed, blood staining her chin. "Some prize; it drives people crazy."
Scowling, Meredith shoved the mage to the ground, sheathing the shining red blade. Weakly Hawke attempted to crawl away. Sadistically the Knight-Commander stepped on her back, forcing a whimper of pain to escape the injured mage.
Meredith's attention suddenly snapped to Fenris. "I must thank you, elf."
Xandria sluggishly looked at him, wondering for one moment if it had been a prefabricated plan for him to stall her long enough for Meredith to attack.
"Your distraction was quite advantageous." The blonde jeered, oblivious to the way Fenris recoiled at the statement.
Reaching down, Meredith grabbed Hawke by the arm, hauling the willowy mage to her feet with ease. Xandria moaned feeling spots invade her vision, the jostling pain nearly causing her to black out. One by one Hawke's companions were disarmed, forced to the ground in a horrific line up without a fight, unable to do much more than watch as Meredith dragged Hawke through the crowd and up the stairs.
Half throwing her forward, Meredith stood on the small jutting platform as though to put her conquest on display. It was all Xandria could do to stay conscious. Falling to her knees when the woman's grip on her vanished, she feebly tried to summon healing magic, if she could only halt the bleeding maybe she could—
"You see your mighty Champion!" Meredith kicked Hawke in the back, causing the mage to collapse, her arms trembling as they supported her, blood already beginning to spot and stain the stone beneath her. "You see the foul mage that she is! Every mage turns to blood magic, every mage accepts a demon's deal!" she shouted at her Templars.
Slowly, Xandria forced herself to her feet. "Not this one." Her words were quiet as she stood, shaking.
Meredith backhanded her across the face causing the raven-haired woman to fall, narrowly missing the iron spiked railing around the platform. "Fereldan upstart bitch!" she cursed kicking Xandria again. "I should have dealt with you long ago!"
"Fenris!" Varric squirmed under the blade near his throat.
Fenris barely tore his eyes away from the sight.
"Help her!" the dwarf was fumbling with the ropes that bound his hands. "Maker damn it, Fenris! She's going to die!"
Fenris recoiled looking sharply back at up at the two women. Somehow despite the battle, despite Meredith's conviction he hadn't thought this would end in Hawke's death. He hadn't thought that she would die—be captured, imprisoned, forced to understand the evil she was trying to protect; but die? Fenris felt his heart drop. Meredith pulled Hawke up by the hair again.
Bile rose in the back of his throat as he finally comprehended what he was seeing. Xandria Hawke, the woman who had fought through hell and back again to keep him free, was covered in blood. The lower half of her soft leather vest was drenched in the scarlet liquid. She had a gash across her forehead where Meredith's boot had connected with her face. Her lip was split open on the side, swelling.
The Knight-Commander threw the mage forward, scoffing at something the raven-haired woman had said. Fenris twitched when Hawke crashed to the ground. Unbelievably, she tried to get up again, her entire body quivering with the exertion. Meredith laughed at the effort, kicking Xandria in the gut with her steel-plated boot.
A horrific thought flashed through Fenris' mind, immediately shifting the picture he was seeing to that of one he had witnessed time and time again between Master and slave. Only here the roles were reversed, it was not a mage towering above gaining sick pleasure from making someone hurt.
Without warning, Meredith shoved Hawke's prone form, causing the mage to tumble down the stone stairs. Each step she hit made a sickening noise until she stopped immobile at the bottom. Several of the people forced into the audience line up, people who he had known for nearly a decade, people who had fought beside Hawke, protected her, tried to move forward, to stop the madness but were prevented by their Templar guard.
"Mages are all the same, animals." Meredith started down the stairs toward Hawke's bleeding body.
Fenris felt something in his gut twist when he saw Hawke move, slowly shifting to her knees. Her long black hair fell over her shoulders, shielding the agony on her face but doing nothing to stop the way her weak voice carried.
"We are not animals."
She looked up at Meredith with the same determination Fenris remember her showing in the fight against Danarius.
"I will never be what you claim."
Danarius who had offered her power, money, everything to give him up.
"There are mages in this world better than you believe." Xandria stood on two trembling legs, her face pale beneath the red but her eyes shining.
Only she hadn't given him up, she hadn't even considered it.
"And we have as much right to live as you."
Hawke had always defended him, always protected him.
"You will never make me what you are; a monster no better than a demon." She held her head high. "And no matter what you do, I will never let you make me one."
Meredith came to a stop in front of her. "You are filth, mage." She backhanded Hawke across the face, sending the mage collapsing to the ground, blood pooling underneath her. Meredith spit on her. "You have always been filth."
Fenris flinched, the words wrenching forth another painful memory from his past.
"You always will be filth."
His heart pounded in his chest. Hawke had never acted like a Magister, she never abused anyone, never took pleasure in someone's pain.
"Mages have no place in this world." Meredith raised her sword.
In a blur of blue he was across courtyard. With inhuman strength Fenris stopped the sword, grabbing the woman by the wrists and shoving her away from his Hawke. His Hawke? When had he decided Hawke was his?
"I should have known." Meredith jeered a dangerous glint of red seeping into her sharp blue eyes. "The blood mage's hold on you is far too strong."
Fenris lunged at her, startling the woman enough that she staggered back. His hand sank into her chest through her armor. He could feel the hooks of the maddening red lyrium burn his hand, fighting to keep its demonic hold on the blonde. The elf clenched his hand around Meredith's heart, deaf to her screams of agony.
"She is not a blood mage." Fenris growled and ripped the throbbing muscle from its place. He took a step back, waiting for Meredith to fall, only it didn't happen.
The cries morphed into laughter as red cracks shot up her arm, burning in her eyes. "You think it that simple to kill me!" Meredith's voice warped, echoing like she was possessed.
Fenris swept his greatsword off his back milliseconds before hers would have hit him. The clang of the two blades caused red sparks to fly from her sword. He forced her up the stairs, trying to back the creature that was functioning without a heart away.
"Damn it, Cullen! You have to stop her! She's not human anymore!" Anders shouted. "How many people do you know who can exist without a heart!"
Suddenly Fenris felt a wave of something pass him, crashing over the thing that used to be the Knight-Commander. The monster let out a scream, shaking and burning bright. Looking sharply behind him he watched Cullen direct the Templars to cast again. Simultaneously all of the Templars threw their hands out, sending a massive burst of Silence at the demon.
If anything that action caused the screams to double. A blinding red-orange light cracked through Meredith's skin and the creature was reduced its knees. Walking back, shielding his face from the light, Fenris gripped his sword, wondering what would happen. A burst of magic shoved out, knocking all of them off their feet.
Fenris rolled down the remaining stairs, coming to a stop near Hawke. He glanced back at Meredith and then reacted. The elf threw himself over Xandria's battered body seconds before an explosion rocked the courtyard. Debris rained down, dust and dirt clouding around them, sticking to the blood and muck.
He reached for his sword, looking toward Meredith only to freeze. In the center of a blast-radius was a glowing statue that looked as though it were made of molten rock. For several long moments Fenris stared at it, worried that the impossible would happen again and the statue would move.
"Fenr's," his name was slurred, jerking his attention to the body beneath him.
Instantly he slid off of Hawke, horrified at how much blood covered the woman, never mind the puddle that was still growing larger around her. "MAGE!" he shouted, yanking off his gauntlets. "ANDERS!" Fenris pressed his hands on the wound on her stomach, grimacing at the blood that squished between his fingers.
"Let me go!" Anders' voice cut through the ringing in Fenris' ears. A moment later the blonde appeared. "Hawke?" he dropped to his knees on the other side of their fallen leader, ripping the leather vest open and pushing up her shift in order to see the wound better. "Hawke can you hear me?"
Foggy brown eyes tried to focus on him and a wry smile spread on her bloodied lips. "I told you." The words were barely audible.
Anders' hands glowed blue, hovering over her. "Told me what, sweetheart?"
"That he was good." She whispered, her eyes closing.
The blonde twitched but didn't respond. Panic suddenly flashed across his face. "Hawke?" Her breathing was slowing. "Hawke, keep your eyes open for me." He abandoned his attempt to heal her stomach and cupped her head; the blue glow illuminated her battered bruised face. "Come on, sweetheart. Keep your eyes open." Anders' magic burned brighter for a moment. "Damn it Hawke, don't do this!"
Slowly she blinked. "Fenr's?"
Anders looked accusingly at the elf, clearly hating that the person she sought was not the one healing her.
Fenris shifted into her view. "I am here."
Relief filled her face, her hand searching for him. He captured her hand, hating how slick her blood had made it. Fenris felt the lump in throat grow bigger when he noticed how cold her hand was.
"I thought he had gotten you." She whispered. "Is he dead?"
Fenris blinked. "Who?"
Looking to Anders, his confusion evident, Fenris realized that Hawke was still waiting for an answer. "He's dead." Fenris' response felt hollow. She lay dying and all she cared about was Danarius?
Her eyes fluttered closed. "You're safe then."
"No! No, Hawke, don't—" Anders exclaimed as she started to go limp again. "Does anyone have any potions?" Anders shouted over his shoulder. "Mana, elfroot, anything? Please!"
Aveline grimly shook her head and Varric followed suit. The blonde mage let out a few choice curse words when a murmur and a series of shuffling came from the remaining Templars. Cullen walked forward and knelt down, holding out three vials of red potion along with a single one of blue. Anders stared at the potions, stunned for a moment before giving a curt nod of thanks to the man.
"You have to get her to drink it." Anders ordered, motioning to the elf.
"It's okay." Xandria whispered. "I don't feel any pain."
Fear thrummed in Fenris when heard that. "Drink it, Hawke." His words were sharper than he had intended.
Confusion was on her face at the order, as though she couldn't understand why he could possibly want her to take a health potion. She tried to sit up but was unable to move. Gently Fenris lifted her head, attempting to help. Bile rose in his throat at the amount of blood that matted her black hair. Biting the cork, Fenris yanked it out with his teeth. He pressed the vial against her lips. Obediently she tried to sip it. Suddenly she began coughing, blood splattering from her.
Anders let out another string of curses. Sliding her into his arms, Fenris tried to calm her coughing fit, Anders automatically adjusting for the new position. As her hacking subsided, Fenris felt her grow heavier in his arms.
"Hawke," Her name came out as a strangled plea. "Hawke." Panic was now coursing through him. She couldn't die. She couldn't! Fenris' lips brushed her ear. "Xia."
Suddenly she stirred.
"Whatever you're saying to her, elf, keep it up." Anders growled, frantically trying to stem the blood that was still seeping from her wound.
Fenris inadvertently tightened his grip around her. "Xia," he repeated. "Don't leave me. I need you." Any embarrassment at bearing his heart in company paled in comparison to his fear of her dying. "I've always needed you. I should have told you before, about how I felt."
Tension abruptly shot through her broken frame. "No." the word was almost moaned. "You can't tell him, Varric, please." Xandria said fervently. Her eyes were fluttering, trying to force themselves open but failing. "Swear to me." Her head rolled slightly, as though searching for the dwarf. "Swear that you won't tell him."
Attention swung sharply to Varric, who was currently looking as though someone had just told him Bianca had been destroyed. Varric limped toward them, eyes glued to the woman he had followed for ten years. "I swear, Hawke, not a word will fall from these lips."
"Swear on your chest hair."
The absurdity of the exchange was not lost but no one seemed to care. Varric closed his eyes, swallowing hard. "I swear on my chest hair to never tell a soul nor imply it in any written format." The oddly specific promise made Fenris positive that the dwarf was simply echoing some pact the two of them had made previously.
"Good." Her breaths were becoming farther apart. "He can't ever know." Xandria's head rested against his chest. "Fenris can't ever know."
Fenris stilled, never imaging this secret could be about him. His moss green eyes shot to Varric who refused to look at him. "Know what?"
"I love him."
It took everything in him not to recoil. She loved him? After all this time; after three years she loved him? She had never brought up that night between the two of them again. He had assumed she dismissed it as nothing just as he desperately tried to.
For three years Fenris had tried to put her out of his mind, pretend she didn't matter to him. He had focused on her faults, her constant need to find the compromise before the fight, her ability to provoke a reaction in him even when unintended, her magic. All this time he had focused on her magic, how it had caused the problems. If only she hadn't been a mage, if only she didn't defend them.
Time and time again he spat in her face, acting as though she was at fault for being born with magic. Time and time again she patiently dealt with his anger. Time and time again he lumped her in with the same monsters he knew in Tevinter.
"No." Anders frantic words drew him from his thoughts. "Hawke! Xandria hang on. Don't let go, don't give up." Fenris held her tighter as though his arms wrapping around her physical body could somehow keep her alive. "I'm losing her!"
A strangled cry was bubbling in Fenris' throat. "Xia," he shifted so he could look at her. He brushed strands of her raven black hair off her bloodstained face. "Xia, please."
"No, no, no, no!" Blue cracks appeared in Anders' skin and a shockwave of healing magic burst through his palms. "Stay with me Hawke!"
Fenris' grip on her tightened; he couldn't lose her, not now, not after what he just learned. "Xia, please." He whispered. "Nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you."
She drew a haltering breath, her eyes opening. Xandria stared at Fenris, a small smile spreading on her lips.
Hope soared in him.
The mage had done it!
"I am yours." Fenris whispered, pressing his lips to her, not caring who saw.
The kiss was messy and weak but it didn't matter. Nothing else mattered but her. She was his, now, forever, she was his.
His heart pounded in his chest when he realized she had gone limp in his arms. Pulling away, Fenris looked at her. The light had drained from her brown eyes as they stared unblinkingly at nothing. She had gone still.
Looking at Anders, unable to comprehend why she had stopped moving, Fenris watched the mage bury his face in his hands; silent sobs wracking his body. Aveline had bowed her head, sorrow written on her strong features. A tear was actually falling down Varric's face. It was when he looked at Cullen that the realization began to dawn on him. The Templar was saying words softly under his breath, giving a last right.
Everything crashed down around Fenris as in that moment he understood.
Xandria Hawke was dead.