evilbad ([personal profile] evilbad) wrote in [community profile] peopleofthedas2012-01-13 05:56 pm

Cut Deep Chapter 2 (Post-endgame Dragon Age 2 fic)

Thanks so much for any feedback you can give, this is my first fanfiction. Pretty soon I'll be caught up with what I've put up so far on fanfiction.net and I can start incorporating your suggestions. Thanks and I hope someone enjoys this a little

Morning on the Wounded Coast

Hawke awoke to a facefull of Isabela's wild hair; the Rivani had crawled into the shelter sometime during the night, plunked herself down right between Hawke and Bethany, and was now blissfully snoring sandwiched between them. There were worse ways to wake - Isabela was a warm and comfortable bedmate, as Hawke knew from experience. But there were things to do, and she did not want to lie abed all morning.

Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, Hawke glanced around the darkened space. Bethany was still sleeping. Merrill had already risen and was replaced by another shape that she momentarily confused with Anders, but of course it wasn't; it looked to be Sebastian, miserably huddled against the stone wall. Two guardsmen she did not recognize were splayed across the entrance, and Hawke had to climb over them to leave.

She emerged from the shelter to find the sun newly risen. Everyone seemed to be alive and in possession of the usual number of limbs.

It was, in short, a splendid morning.

Setting aside the weapon she had dragged along, Hawke stretched her weary limbs. She noted Merrill had conjured a fire of some sort and was warming herself besides it. One would have thought, looking at her, that this was some kind of exciting camping excursion. She smiled cheerfully at Hawke and waved, and Hawke had to restrain herself from throwing a weapon at her. Morning people were the very worst kind of people, as far as she was concerned.

Hawke stepped lightly over to Varric, who was sitting nearby, propped against the cliffs with Bianca cradled in his arms. Hawke had to wave her hands in front of his face a few times to verify that he was actually asleep. He had the disconcerting habit of sleeping with his eyes open. It was a handy skill for rogueish dwarves, particularly ones living in the Hanged Man, but she found it downright creepy. Although she did envy his ability to sleep soundly just about anywhere. Hawke was pretty sure she had hardly slept at all.

The warrior stood up once again and scanned for the rest of her party. She noted Fenris sitting on an outcropping above them all, looking down the road intently. Aveline and Donnic were nowhere to be seen. Either they were asleep in the crowded shelter and she hadn't seen them, or they were scouting the area. Knowing Aveline, they were probably scouting the area.

Clad only in a shift and trousers and carrying her favorite axe, which she had grabbed on the way out of the shelter, Hawke set out walking. She always kept her weapon within arm's reach, even when sleeping, and she had a strong preference for axes. She went through them like some other people went through shoes; over-enthusiastic by nature, Hawke had an unfortunate tendency to break off the best bits in her opponent's skulls. The current axe, in all honesty, was also approaching uselessness, but there had been no chance to sharpen and repair it. She could have used one of her companions' weapons, but they all preferred swords (to a degree Isabela would have called symbolic). Hawke was not a big fan of swords, never had been. Most likely she would continue with this weapon until it fell apart in her hands before resorting to anything else.

The sun shone down on the weathered coast with benevolent warmth, chasing away some of the night's chill. It was low still in the sky, leaving a few hours at least to rest and recouperate before they would have to move on.

Hawke raked a hand carelessly through her hair, which was its usual mess. When was the last time she looked at a mirror? She could go days without checking her reflection under normal conditions, and she didn't want to imagine what she might look like now. Unlike her sister Bethany, who was classically beautiful in any circumstance, presentable was about the best Hawke could manage. She was a fighter, an up-close and personal scrapper, and the defender of her sister and her family as long as she could remember. It had taken its toll. Her skin was weathered and scarred from years of combat. She was naturally a bit stocky, but years of serious training had stripped whatever curves she might have had and replaced them with hard muscle. She was short and tough, not pretty. Bethany was the pretty one. Hawke had wit and skill to go on, and the ability to bluff when either of them failed her. She gave as little thought as possible to her looks.

Hawke re-fixed her hair into its customary loose ponytail and strapped her axe across her back before looking up along the chalky cliff. She could see the path Fenris must have taken up the cliff. It was fully out of sight from where he was sitting, and Hawke was certain that she made no sound on the way up, hoping, for a bit of fun, to catch him unawares. She had no metal armor to clang together and reveal her position, and she was a nimble climber. She had scurried up the cliff-face with hardly a pause, and with no sounds of rock fall at all.

But as soon as she edged into sight of the elven warrior, he was already looking over his shoulder directly at her. Damnation. How does he always do that? For someone who hated magic as much as he did, his awareness of her approach was practically supernatural.

Of course, she would never let Fenris know when he had caught her out. "Hoy!" she called over as she straightened up, as though that were just what she was always going to do. "Spotted anything useful? Say, a caravan of bakers hauling pastries? A shipment of featherbeds? A hat stall for Isabella?"

"Nothing of the kind, sadly," Fenris answered her. He looked weary. He was still wearing all of his armor - of course - and Hawke was not sure whether he had slept at all.

She sat down next to him in the dirt and dangled her feet over the cliff's edge. For a time there was companionable silence and they sat together with the morning sun on their faces. Then Hawke cleared her throat.

"I've been meaning to say," she began uncertainly, "thank you."

The elf raised an eyebrow. "For what?"

"For staying with us even though we sided with Orsino and the mages. I know it wasn't what you wanted."That's the understatement of all time, Hawke thought.

"It wasn't," Fenris said flatly. "It was certainly not what I would have done."

"But…" His eyes met hers briefly. "I have never gone wrong following your lead. I could not have done otherwise," he added quietly.

Hawke smiled at this. She had halfway expected him to shout at her, all things considered.

"I doubt it would have gone much better had you made the opposite choice, " he added reluctantly. "Considering the Knight-Commander's possession of the dwarven idol. She was indeed mad after all."

She snorted. "I think I've made a lot of choices I'd like to take back. Meredith wouldn't have even had the damned idol if we had stayed out of the Deep Roads. Or prevented Bartrand from running off with the thing." Sighing, she continued. "Perhaps someone else should take a turn at being the leader. I've fucked it all up pretty spectacularly."

"Untrue," Fenris countered matter-of-factly. "Kirkwall would have been a Qunari training camp or ended as a crater years ago if you had not defeated the Arishok. There would have been nothing to save."

Hawke conceded, "there is that, I suppose."

"You have held our… rather distinctive group together through all of this as well. That is an accomplishment."

"Distinctive is one way of putting it."

He smirked. "Also, you are very bossy. I don't think you could stop telling the rest of us what to do."

"All right; I get the point," Hawke said, feeling just a little bit better. "I'm not resigning my commission just yet."

"Then what is next, my friend?"

"Believe it or not, I haven't the faintest idea." Hawke rubbed at the bridge of her nose. "What do you think we should do, Fenris?"

The elf blinked back at her. He had eventually stopped being startled by Hawke's odd habit of asking for his advice, but offering his own ideas had never come naturally for him. He turned back out to sea for a moment, his brow furrowed slightly.

Hawke was prepared to wait a long time for his answer, possibly the rest of the day, and was slightly surprised when he blurted out relatively quickly: "Sebastian has asked me to accompany him to Starkhaven."

She startled a bit.

"Yes, I remember. He was trying to recruit you for his hypothetical army, in his possible coup, if he ever gets around to it."

"Not so hypothetical now. He asked me again this morning, while you were asleep." Fenris looked strangely guilty about this admission. "After what happened at the Chantry.. .he wants to return to his homeland immediately and retake his throne. He has invited me to join him."

Hawke did her very best not to look crestfallen. Fenris was by far the best warrior of their party, and they could certainly use him. As a fighter he was nearly unstoppable, and she had learned a great deal from him over the years. They had even developed a strong rapport, and she enjoyed his company. But she knew that he and Sebastian were friends, and she had always known that Fenris would eventually move on without her. "I will hate to see you go," she said quietly.

Very quickly indeed, Fenris corrected her. "I have not given him my reply."

Hawke didn't know if that meant he had not yet made up his mind, or if he just hadn't told Sebastian "yes" yet. She found herself determined to persuade him otherwise. "I didn't think you were interested in being a soldier, even in a friend's homemade army."

"I am not. Or I was not. But in truth, fighting is the only thing I know how to do. Sebastian seems to think there would be a use for me there. And he has ideas, about the future." Clearly he had given this a great deal of thought. "He wishes the lives of the Elves to improve, or so he tells me. Not just in his army, but in the kingdom he would rule."

"And he will give you a nice barony for your efforts?"

He scowled at her for that. "I do not wish for any land or title. I would only see that Sebastian takes his rightful place and that he will keep his promise to oppose slavery. That would be satisfying to me."

Hawke doubted he would turn down a title if offered, for the irony of it if nothing else. A slave in Tevinter, and an elf besides, becoming a Lord of Starkhaven… Fenris would probably enjoy that. But then again, he had lived amongst nobility in Kirkwall and done nothing but sneer at them and allow the fine mansion he had claimed to fall into disrepair, so he was hard to predict.

"Oh, you're a philanthropist now? You've been awfully good at hiding your noble intentions of becoming Savior of the Elvish." Her sarcasm earned her a hmph that might have been amused. "But what about mages?"

"How did I know that magic would come in to this?" As always, he said the m-word as if it burned his tongue.

"Does he plan to recapture his homeland without their aid? Or fight against both the mages and the enemy army all at once?"

"You will have to ask him. I imagine he will enlist their aid under some restrictions."

"Such as submitting to a circle, or to tranquility? How tempting. No mage good enough to be useful would volunteer for such a thing. And I know you would not abide enslaving them against their will," she pointed out deliberately. "There are many good mages who would make both soldiers and citizens for Sebastian's rule. But I doubt an elf like Merrill, for instance, would have a place in any kingdom of Choirboy's. Or even a good and reliable woman like my sister."

Here Fenris was definitely smirking, as though he was long expecting this particular point, and had already prepared a reply. "Perhaps if you were to join him as well, Hawke, you would be in a position to convince him otherwise."

Hawke stared at him quizzically for a moment, and then burst out laughing. "Oh, Fen! That wasn't even a little bit subtle!"

Fenris looked slightly abashed. Perhaps to make up for having revealed his aims, and having shown any tolerance towards the hated mages, his temper flared dramatically.

"Even you would have to admit," he said sharply, his face darkening, "that a country without apostates would be a far safer place. Without the scourge of blood magic and abominations…" he trailed off, looking away again at the sea instead of boring holes in Hawke's head with his burning glare. He seemed to take some effort to pull himself back, but couldn't help finishing. "Such a land would be a haven for many who have suffered at the hands of destructive magics."

Hawke shook her head. This was an old argument, one that had been held many times before. She knew very well that Fenris would never be comfortable with magic after his experiences in Tevinter, and that if it were up to him, he would eliminate magic from Thedas entirely. For his part, Fenris knew very well that Hawke came from a family full of mages, and that she was steadfast in her belief that otherwise law-abiding mages should be free. Neither of them was about to budge on the subject. Of late, she tried to avoid discussing it with him. It was uncomfortably similar to banging one's head against the wall.

"Sebastian feels much the same…" he continued, still looking away. "But if you were to come… well, we know your opinions on the matter and that you will not hesitate to voice them. And I…would not oppose you."

"Well, that's encouragement. You won't actively oppose me," Hawke needled him.

"Woman, let me finish," he snapped at her. "I am pointing out that you are the Champion of Kirkwall and your words will hold some weight. If you care so much for your precious mages you should bend Sebastian's ear now before he is king of Starkhaven."

"How thoughtful of you." Despite her tone, Hawke felt a surge of affection for her reticent friend, who would not come right out and ask her to travel with him. It sounded like he would not leave with Sebastian if it would mean abandoning her. Out of…gratitude, perhaps? A sense of duty? Or did he imagine her falling to the next threat that came along, due to her often-referenced (by Fenris) lack of good sense? Leaving her now might seem like a betrayal, especially with the templars on her heels. Or perhaps it was only habit. Hawke didn't really know.

She added, more quietly, "I don't know what I want to do now, but you should know you aren't obligated to stay with me, Fenris. I will understand if you need to follow your own path."

Fenris looked down at the ground. He had re-assumed his usual disinterested expression, but she could see the tips of his long elven ears were slightly reddened. "When the time comes, Hawke, I will move on, but for now I believe it will be safer for all of us to stay together. As someone has been telling me incessantly in recent years, there is some safety in numbers."

"Now who could that be? Not someone you gave any sign of listening to."

"You may find purpose of your own in Starkhaven, if you will only talk to Sebastian. It is a suggestion, nothing more. You asked," he added defensively.

"I did ask." Hawke pondered this. "I'll talk to Sebastian about it. We'll see."


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