Hawke leant against the railing of the Hightown mansion, looking down at her arguing friends. It was her birthday, and as usual, the company she kept were bickering. Anders was dangling a piece of thread for Ser Pounce-a-Lot II; Isabela was flirting shamelessly with Carver. Marian wished that her mother and Bethany were there, but there was nothing she could do. She grinned as Avaline, long-time friend and companion, since she and her family had fled Lothering to be precise, and Varric, the dwarven rogue whose brother had betrayed them in the Deep Roads.
And Fenris, the elf, former slave to a Tevinter magister, and most trusted companion, friend and lover, stood next to her, an arm wrapped tenderly around her waist, and a bottle of his favourite wine, Aleggrio, imported from the Imperium. "Must be tough, having so many friends." His deep, brooding voice resonated in her ears. Hawke laughed.
"They're your friends too, Fenris."
"Yes, but I don't allow them to bicker so."
"Only because they're too scared you'll lyrium into them." Fenris chuckled.
"Well, I can see why YOU'RE not afraid."
Anders, his friend Justice, whom they had found a suitable host for now, namely a young woman who had taken a shine to Anders; Justice no longer was Vengeance, but he still wasn't Justice - Mirabella's kindness had turned him into Mercy, Anders still wasn't sure he like that either. Isabela the pirate turned landlubber now returned from her capering with a bowed head and humble apologies. Avaline, captain of the guard, widow of Wesley, a Templar, and was now married to Donnic, a fellow Guardsman. Carver, the Grey Warden who was, besides from their traitorous uncle Gamlen, Hawke's sole living family. Varric, the rich dwarf, who had made Hawke's wealth possible. Merril, the Dalish elf, also blood mage, the Keepers first she treated demons kindly and had rebuilt the Eluvian that had killed a fellow clansmen nigh on ten years earlier. And Hawke, their leader, the mage who had defeated the Qunari Arishok in single combat, saved countless mages from death and the Hero of Kirkwall.
"A toast to Hawke!" Varric lifted his bottle in the air, and the others responded with a cheer. Fenris languidly, sexily, lifted his wine glass into the air.
"A toast," he replied, "to the most amazing, the most beautiful, and the bravest woman in all of the Free Marches. Nay, in all of Thedas." Hawke's cheeks flushed crimson.
"Well I dare say I would not be here if it weren't for you blighters, saving my sorry ass on many an occasion. So a toast to YOU my friends, for being here with me as I celebrate my name-day today. So thank you for coming. And THANK YOU Varric, for NOT spiking my wine."
The others laughed and Varric shrugged. His crossbow Bianca leant against a wall. Fenris, the days long past when he feared and despised mages, casually stroked by staff, seeming almost to purr. Hawke nudged him gently. "At least wait until Isabela starts to strip, or they're all drunk."
"You should have let Varric bring his special brew." He kissed her cheek.
"After last time?" Hawke laughed. "No, that won't be happening again." It had been a disturbing sight, Varric running naked down the streets of Hightown, Isabela lap-dancing for the new Viscount, Anders' dance with Ser Pounce-a-Lot and Fenris almost killing a man he had drunkenly believed to be Danarius, his old master, now dead by his hand. Merril hadn't been so bad, she just cried. No, Hawke decided, Varric's 'special' brew was not going to wreak havoc again.
A commotion at the double doors attracted Hawke's attention. A man with greying hair burst into the celebrations. "Messere Hawke!" he cried, and fell, an arrow protruding from his back.
All hell broke loose, a rare thing now that religious troubles were over. Varric sieved Bianca and aimed her at any person who dared move. Fenris grabbed his great-sword, his lyrium tattoos lighting up. And Hawke aimed her mage-staff, its crystal orb glittering wickedly, at the entrance, ready to call down lightning and flames upon any who dare attack.
"And here I thought I would have some QUIET on my name-day."
Everything went still. A faint purple light grew outside the mansion.
In stepped an old woman with eyes as gold as a sovereign and hair as white as snow. "Flemeth!" cried Hawke, incredulous.
"Child," the dragon-witch inclined her head, acknowledging Hawke's greeting. "I should wish you well. Here." She tossed Hawke a silvery shard. She caught it lightly so as not to cut herself. Flemeth strode forward. Merril bowed and greeted her in Dalish.
"I have a job for you Hawke." She sat and examined her gauntlet. "That is the last piece to the Eluvian that Merril has reconstructed. They lead beyond the Fade. You may remember I told you once of my daughter Morrigan. She and the Warden left through another Eluvian with their child at about the time you arrived in Kirkwall. You see, their child is a demi-god. He possesses the soul of the archdemon that Aedan Cousland slayed. That is how he survived. It was my plan for Morrigan to raise him - I had not factored in, however, the chance that she might truly love this human. He left through the Mirror-Gate with her, to a place I cannot follow."
"You know, I agree with Morrigan's statement that you are 'an old hag who talks too much,'" said Hawke. Flemeth laughed.
"That may be so. I want you and your companions to follow Morrigan through Merril's Eluvian. You will be able to return once you have accomplished the task I am setting you." She turned her gaze on each of them, one by one, lingering on the contact between Hawke and Fenris. "I want you to kill Aedan and bring my daughter and her child back to me."
"What's in it for me?" Hawke asked. Flemeth's gaze deepened.
"Morrigan thinks she is out of my reach, yet she plays a role far more important to the fate of Thedas than I could have imagined. This act is not over - the next scene is simply coming to the stage. Bring her to me. I have need of her."
With those parting words the Witch of the Wilds vanished.
"I don't like this," said Fenris quietly, his breath hot in her ear. "She's slippery that one. I feel sorry for this Morrigan of hers."
"Not helping Flemeth could prove more fatal than to do so, Fenris. She said she cannot reach wherever it is her daughter had fled too. We could join them there - all of us."
A few of her friends shook their heads. "I haves stories to tell and drinks to drink."
Avaline shook her head. "I cannot abandon my post as Captain."
"As long as there's an ocean and a ship, im in." Isabela grinned at the thought of adventure.
"I'm sorry, I don't trust her." Anders scratched Ser-Pounce-a-Lot under the chin.
"I'll go. Asha-bellanar trusts us with this. I go where you go."
Carver shook his head. "You're too selfless sister. I'll not go with you."
Hawke turned to Fenris. "I will follow you to the ends of the earth and back Hawke. I'll not desert you now."
"I suppose it's just us four then."
Those who would not accompany them left, clapping a hand on Hawke's shoulder, or, in Varric's case, her lower back.
"We should meet at Merril's house in the morning."
"Agreed." Isabela leant against the door. Hawke threw her a pair of trousers. "You'll fall over and flash the whole chantry.
"Oh yes, because we would hate to have those righteous buggers see a bare bum." Isabela laughed. "Don't worry Hawke; I won't give any Sisters a heart attack."
Merril said she should leave also. It was just Hawke and Fenris. "Come on Hawke. The sheets are getting cold as we speak.
Hawke allowed herself to be led to their chambers.
She woke, Fenris still beside her, his tattoos glowing faintly. She kissed him, feeling their skin touching so exquisitely. "Don't forget we have to meet Merril," he told her gently, holding her hand beneath the thick blanket.
"I didn't forget," Hawke replied indignantly.
"Of course we could just stay here where it's warm."
"Hawke," warned Fenris, his green eyes only partly serious.
"I know I know."
Hawke and Fenris dressed, taking their time. By the time the sun rose on Hightown they were sitting in Merril's small hut, drinking tea and eating eggs. She had laboured all night to restore the Eluvian to its former glory, now it stood, pulsating with light, in Merril's living room. Someone yelled outside. Once again Flemeth appeared. "Be prepared. I do not know what exists beyond the Mirror-Gates, nor if humans or other intelligent races even exist beyond the Fade. So be prepared to fight. Morrigan's location is unknown, but she would have hidden her and her family well." With that, she once again, vanished from sight.
"I don't know how to activate the Eluvian, but from what Lyna told us before she went mad and followed Tamlen, it responds to touch."
Hawke ran her fingers lightly across the surface of the Eluvian. It rippled like water where she touched. She pushed a bit, experimentally, and her hand went right through it. She snatched it back. "Well I vote for entering." She took Fenris' hand. He gripped it lightly and they stepped through. Hawke felt, rather than heard, Isabela and Merril step through after them.
They stepped onto a grassy flat land. Two suns hung in the sky, and it had that dreamlike quality reminisce of the Fade. But it was not the Fade. The four travellers knew in their very bones that where they each stood was a place far beyond the Maker's reach. They were out of His world. They could see a house in the distance, a small cottage.
"Surely it cannot be that easy," muttered Hawke.
"No. It must be a trick." Fenris stood beside Hawke, always ready to defend his woman.
"Only one way to find out." Hawke strode off down the hill, the single pane of mirrored glass reflecting the double suns. Her three companions hurried after her. Soon they came into site of the house.
A woman with black hair tied up in a bun stood in the doorway, her arms crossed, and a taller man with hair the colour of pitch stood behind her. They both watched a small boy only eight years old as he chased a butterfly. He stood and pointed out the travellers. The black haired woman stood still, the dreamy smile wiped off her face. The man, Hawke assumed he was her husband, assumed a defensive stance behind the woman. Hawke held her hands out in a peaceful gesture as she approached. The woman relaxed, though only a little. "Travellers from the Western City would come from the west," she remarked in a lilting, yet somehow patronising tone of voice. "So it stands to reason that you are NOT from this place. WHO SENT YOU?" she threw her mind at Hawke's, who replied in like, defending herself.
"I come from Kirkwall through the Eluvian there!"
"Did my mother send you?"
"If by your mother you mean Flemeth then yes, I was sent by her. But I haven't come to harm you, your child or your husband I swear it on the Maker and the elven gods."
"You should know," said Morrigan, for that was who Hawke assumed she was, she had the same golden eyes, "That in this place beyond the Fade and far from Thedas that you cannot lie. Anything you say will be true, or you will make it true. Otherwise the Upkeepers kill you."
"Maybe I wish to stay." Hawke bowed. "I am Marian Hawke, of Kirkwall and Lothering. This is my companion and - "
"I am Fenris, her lover and companion. You lay a hand on this woman and I will use all my power to hurt you the same."
"Fear not elf. I won't harm unless attacked. Your lover is safe from me." Morrigan smiled. "Aah, Isabela, long time know see. I remember when you played cards against Aedan here."
"Morrigan. I remember you calling me a lying bitch."
"Well it is true," Hawke said jokingly. Morrigan laughed.
"I like you."
"Yes, that's what your mother said."
"She would. She likes an independent woman," she glanced at her husband who smiled back lovingly, "or man, who answers to know one." Aedan nodded. He didn't speak much, Hawke noticed.
"Hawke," the child tugged on Hawke's sleeve. "The dragon in me is like how Mama describes the monster that Papa killed. Am I a monster?" Morrigan seemed shocked.
"Geanad, I told you, you're a boy."
But Mama, Hawke has met Grandmam. Grandmam's a dragon too isn't she? Does that mean im like Grandmam? Or am I like the mean old monster that Papa slayed so that we could come here?" Hawke glanced at Morrigan, at a loss. The witch shrugged.
Hawke knelt. "Nobody else calls me this, except for him," she pointed to Fenris, "but you can call me Marian if you want.
"You're a nice lady Marian." Hawke smiled and tweaked his nose.
"And you're a good lad, im sure."
"Papa says im a ratbag like Dog."
"Who is Dog?" an old mabari ambled out from under the house and barked at the intruders before nudging Geanad over. "You have a mabari?"
Aedan nodded. "He was a coming of age gift from my parents."
"I- WE have no place to stay. How far is it to this 'Western City' of yours Morrigan?"
Morrigan laughed. "A good three weeks!" She smiled tenderly at her husband. "You can stay here."
Hawke knew that Morrigan didn't trust her, as much as she knew that Fenris did not trust Aedan, yet they would have to get along. She understood now, why Aedan rarely spoke - words were dangerous here. Morrigan smiled and bought out some tea, and then they retired to their beds.
Hawke and Fenris lay together, their arms wrapped around the other. "I like it here."
"Really Hawke?" he smiled into her as he cupped her face in his hands and kissed her.
"Yes. We can live here without being slurred by others. We can have a life here my wolf." He smiled at her pet name for him. His old master, Danarius had named him Fenris - his little wolf. Now his master was Hawke, and he loved her as much as she loved him. She had taken his old pet name and rechristened it. Fenris didn't mind. He didn't care what she called him.
"We had a life in Kirkwall Marian. We have friends there."
"Yes, they bicker every time they get together in the same room."
"You love them," said Fenris.
"So do you."
"Yes, but I love you more." Hawke smiled and blushed, her heart pounding fast as he kissed her again, leaning onto her as she leant into him. "I fly where you do my Hawke."
"Yes. And I'll follow you to the ends of the earth my wolf." She closed her eyes and abandoned herself to the joy of touch.
Morrigan smiled softly and wistfully at Hawke and Fenris. "Can I speak with the two of you alone?" she asked casually. Hawke shrugged, and Fenris nodded, confused but willing.
Morrigan took them to a small copse of trees and asked them to sit.
"Normally Aedan and I do not speak. Geanad does, but that is because he was born here - he knows how to get around the Truth spell. The words you each said to each other last night, they were not just a proclamation of your love; they were a binding oath. You swore to each other that you would follow the other wherever they might go, that also means that you swore to find each other, no matter the distance placed between you. This place, this place is strange. If it were not for the fact that tis past my mother's reach I would not stay, but I have no wish to be possessed by my mother. No," she held up her hands to stop Hawke's and Fenris' cries of horror. "I will tell you another time. I came to tell you that wherever we are, that this place will test your bond, and inevitably make it stronger. It WILL rip you from the other's arms and toss you to the ends of the earth. And you MUST find each other - you swore you would." She stood. "Merril and Isabela have returned home. The Eluvian is closed for the moment. I suggest you take solace in the other's company. The Upkeepers will part you before long."
They stood in shock as Morrigan departed. "Do you believe it?" asked Hawke. Fenris shook his head.
"No, I do not, but there is no denying it. We made a solemn oath to each other Hawke. Whether or not we are separated, I intend to keep it." He held out his hand. "Marian Hawke. I proclaim my love for you, here in this place where none can lie. I swear to find you no matter where you walk. Do you swear the same?"
"Fenris," she paused, neither knew his family name, "Former slave of Danarius of the Tevinter Imperium, now a free man, I swear to you on my heart and soul that no matter where you walk, no matter how far from me you might be, I will search for you and will not rest until you are within these arms once more. I love you Fenris. I love you more than the Maker himself loved Andraste." A sound that was no sound resonated throughout the clearing. Geanad giggled with glee, Aedan smiled softly. Morrigan's smile faltered. They had done that which she had never dared to do - they had challenged the land's Upkeepers. They would not want to lose.
And neither would the two who stood hand in hand beneath the oak tree.