Slaver Caverns outside of Kirkwall
She liked to eat in front of him. He knew when he’d had nothing all day but a bowl of gruel that he’d be waiting on Hadriana at dinner. He would attend her and her “friends” in her opulent apartments, pouring the wine, serving their extravagant meals. Watching him, she would curve her mouth around a juicy bit of steak, eyes half-closed in pleasure. She wanted him to ask for some, to pilfer a taste of the excess they squandered. Fenris would never grant her such a victory.
One of her companions stood near him, reeking of perfume and wine. He did not move, did not let his face betray anything as she scraped a manicured nail down one of the lyrium markings on his neck. “Just how far do these tattoos go?” While he imagined the satisfying pop her windpipe would make as he crushed it, Fenris stood still, impassive.
Hadriana’s mouth twisted into a delighted sneer. “There’s one way to find out.”
There was only one person whom Fenris wanted dead more. Danarius was not here, however. His former master had placed a large bounty on him, enough to tempt one band of slavers after another to make the long voyage from the Tevinter Imperium in northern Thedas to the sparsely populated Free Marches in the south. Now Danarius had sent his apprentice, Hadriana, to recover his recalcitrant property. All this effort would have been ridiculous were Fenris just another expendable elven slave. Fenris, however, was much more than simply an elf: He was a weapon.
Now Hadriana lay before Fenris, the broken bodies of her guards strewn around them in the dark cavern. She had bargained for her life with information about his and Fenris had meant to keep his word. Let her crawl back to Danarius and report her failure.
It was her smile that killed her. After she had told him that he had a sister named Varania and where to find her, Hadriana’s dark red lips twisted into a sneer. It was the look she would wear while getting him into trouble, knowing exactly what Danarius would do to him. It was the expression on her face when she’d walked in on several of Danarius’s associates using him. It was that smug look of victory.
Fenris leaned his greatsword against the rock wall. She would die by the power her master had inflicted upon him. As effortless as making a fist, Fenris activated the lyrium engraved in his right hand and arm. The magical substance glowed bluish-white as his arm became incorporeal. The smirk was gone. Hadriana’s blue eyes widened as she opened her mouth, whether to scream or beg for her life, Fenris was beyond caring. He plunged his hand into her chest as if it were water. He could feel the currents, could feel the tissue his hand moved through, and found the slippery fish that was her heart. All at once he deactivated the lyrium and his fist again became solid in an explosion of blood. He felt the fish writhe, and then stop. When he withdrew his hand, his gauntlet was covered in her blood.
Turning from her corpse, he was almost surprised to see the dwarf and two mages who had fought beside him. The blond mage, Anders, had his arms crossed, ruffling the feathers that adorned the shoulders of his teal robe. In another situation, it might have made his disgusted expression humorous. The other two were also watching him, their faces unreadable. Fenris really didn’t want to know what they were thinking. He moved to go around them, back toward the passageway they had followed into the cavern. “We’re done here.”
“Fenris…” Fenris tried to ignore Kaiden Hawke, but the red-haired mage stepped in front of him. “We’ll find your sister. If-”
“Are you mad? This is a trap! Even if I have a sister, Danarius has to know about her, and that Hadriana knew.” He pressed his fists to his forehead, filling his senses again with her stench. “All that matters is that I finally got to crush that bitch’s heart. May she rot, and all the mages with her.”
Anders shook his head. “After all we’ve done for you… How many times has Hawke risked his life to save your worthless hide?”
Kaiden’s ice-blue eyes flashed with anger as he turned on his friend. “Anders!” The mage flinched, but continued glaring at Fenris.
It was ridiculous that Anders, of all mages, protested loudest their treatment. While he claimed that not all were bad, he had done what even blood mages condemned: He had allowed himself to become possessed. The mage claimed that it was a good spirit, a spirit of Justice, but that didn’t matter; he was still an abomination. Fenris sneered. “You saw what was done here. Mages will always find an excuse to use blood magic and consort with demons. Even if I find this sister, who knows what the magisters have done to her. What does magic touch that it doesn’t spoil?”
Kaiden’s eyes widened but he didn’t say anything. Fenris expected him to protest the same as Anders, to tell him that not all mages were bad, to argue with him as the mage had done so many times before. He wanted Kaiden to yell at him then, but instead the mage just looked at him, an expression of sadness, but also understanding. Shit. That look was just adding to the hollowness inside. It was too much. His anger was sputtering away and without it, he felt he might collapse into nothing. Fenris turned away. “I… need to go.”
At last the elf was gone. Anders knew that he shouldn't have expected better, but he was furious that Fenris had once again cursed all mages after they had helped save his ass. It was for Kaiden's sake alone that Anders had resisted saying more.
This whole scenario reminded Anders of when they'd first met Fenris not quite a year ago. It had been a contract to recover some smuggled lyrium for a templar and Anders had gone with, eager for what he'd hoped would be an opportunity to blackmail one of the mages' oppressors. It turned out to be a ruse. Fenris had hired them to walk into a trap set for him. At first, Anders had felt sympathy for the escaped slave. He knew what it was like to be on the run and had lost track of how many times he had escaped from that mages’ prison they called the Circle, only to be caught and dragged back again. The last time that the templars had brought Anders in, he'd spent a year in solitary confinement.
Thus it was that when Fenris had asked for their help in bringing the fight to the Tevinter slavers, they had gladly fought beside him. Of course he and Kaiden had used their magic in the battle. Evidently just realizing they were mages, Fenris had turned on them afterward, as if being mages made them Tevinter spies. Anders would have been done with the elf right then and there, but Kaiden...
"You coming, Blondie?"
Anders' thoughts were pulled back to the present. Varric came up with nicknames for everyone, including his crossbow, which he'd named Bianca. The dwarf rasped his voice into a theatrical whisper, "We still have a secret informant to meet up with." He waggled his eyebrows for added emphasis. That earned him a grin from Kaiden and Anders couldn't help but smile himself. Varric was good at that.
As Anders cast a look back, his smile faded. Hadriana's face was still twisted in agony and her chest was a mass of gore. Although Fenris showed himself without honor by breaking his word, Anders was not sorry that she was dead. He had seen the bodies of the slaves she had killed, using their blood to fuel dark magic in an effort to protect herself. No, she was evil and cowardly and the worst example of a mage. Fenris, however, did not see the difference. Anders feared that one day the elf would crush his heart, or Kaiden’s.
It was ironic, this city that Fenris had come to call “home.” Kirkwall had started as a mining camp and then grown into a slave thoroughfare centuries ago when all of Thedas had been part of the Tevinter Imperium. Immense statues of chained slaves still guarded the entrance to Kirkwall’s harbor and there were more in “The Gallows.” The imposing tower had once been the seat of Imperial judgment in the region and the statues were meant to inspire fear in those who would disobey. Now the tower was used as Kirkwall’s Circle, home to all the legal mages in the city’s jurisdiction. Anders would point out that the statues now represented the plight of mages throughout most of Thedas. Fenris scoffed. For all his whining about the Circle and templars, the abomination knew nothing of being a slave.
Passing through back-ways he knew by heart, Fenris was soon in Hightown. The streets were wider here and the architecture stately rather than oppressive. Wealthy Tevinter slavers had once lived in this district and it had been constructed in the style of Tevinter mansions, including large courtyards which made more sense in the balmy north than they did in Kirkwall.
It was yet another layer of irony that Fenris – an elf and escaped slave – was squatting among Kirkwall’s elite. He passed the vine covered arches and rows of manicured shrubbery to “his” mansion. The last group of slavers to come after him had made it their base of operations. After dispatching them, Fenris had simply taken up residence himself. Part of him had hoped that more would come, so he could watch their disdain turn to terror before he killed them. Part of him had hoped that Danarius himself would come for him once Fenris stopped running. Then too, there was the very practical need of a place to stay. Fenris did not have the coin to stay at an inn indefinitely and he was not about to take charity, especially not from Kaiden. The man had done too much for him already.
Fenris pushed the door open. It was never locked; that had been the first thing he’d broken in the place. Stepping over the remains of a table, he walked through another ruined doorway and down a stairway to the cellar. Everyone was always after him to fix the place, but he had never intended to stay here long.
He had long since consumed the fine Tevinter wine stockpiled by the slavers but he had restocked with a cheap wine sold at the docks. The taste was not as pleasant, but at least it brought no memories, and it got the job done faster.
Fenris wasted no time in emptying a bottle and then uncorked another. Again his thoughts turned to Kaiden. It was a sickness, as consuming as the hatred Danarius had infected him with. The man kept him from sleep more effectively than Hadriana. Fenris could not stop thinking about the red-haired mage, his wry smile and sense of humor even in the face of danger – danger which he put himself in time and again to help others. He thought of the man’s lean muscular body and the way it might feel against his own. He would grab that long red hair as he claimed him…
Fenris threw the half-empty bottle against the wall, shattering it in a splash of dark liquid. What was wrong with him? Why did he want a mage, of all things? The abomination’s words ran through his mind. “How many times has Hawke risked his life to save your worthless hide?” Kaiden might deny it, but it was true. Fenris did not deserve Kaiden’s friendship, let alone anything more. He was a runaway slave living in a borrowed mansion. Kaiden may have been a Fereldan refugee, but he was descended from nobility. Since coming to Kirkwall, he had restored his family’s name and fortune. More than that, Kaiden was a good man, even if he was a mage. Fenris was not a good man. Hell, he didn’t even feel like a man much of the time, rather more like an embodiment of hatred and vengeance, like that abomination…
Cool air brushed his face. Fenris didn’t remember deciding to go out, but he owed Kaiden an apology. The stone was cold on his bare feet as he descended the stairway and followed the walkways to the Hawke estate. Hightown was quiet tonight. He sat on the bench outside the door to await Kaiden’s return. Running his hands through his white hair, he leaned back again the stone wall of the courtyard. He took a deep breath and tried to slow his heartbeat through force of will. Why had he thought coming here was a good idea?
He had almost decided to leave when Kaiden appeared at the entryway. The man looked exhausted, as if he'd gone through a decade in the course of one day. It was easy to forget how young the man was, maybe a decade younger than Fenris and the youngest of their ragtag group, yet they all looked to him for leadership. For that matter, all of Kirkwall did. Fenris remembered that they had been on their way to meet with the source of a letter imploring Kaiden’s help when the slavers had ambushed them. Had Kaiden continued on to that meeting without him?
Kaiden stopped when he saw Fenris. “I was worried about you.”
“I… was thinking about what happened with Hadriana. I owe you an apology.”
Kaiden waved a hand. “There’s no need. I understand.”
“You are generous.” Fenris rubbed the back of his neck, for once uncomfortable with silence. “You… found who sent the note?”
Kaiden nodded and walked forward, removing his traveling cloak with a grimace. “It was a templar.”
Fenris saw that Kaiden’s robe was stained with blood and he felt his chest tighten at the thought of Kaiden being attacked, and that he hadn’t been there. “A trap?”
Kaiden shook his head. “He had cornered a group of apostates in a cavern. He had hoped to end the matter without bloodshed and wanted me to talk with them.”
Fenris nodded. “But they turned to blood magic.”
Kaiden sighed. “Yes, Fenris, some of them had turned to blood magic, but not all of them. I agreed to help them escape. I had planned to tell the templar that they had all turned to blood magic and I had been forced to kill them.” He narrowed his ice-blue eyes. “Seems that would have been easily believed.”
Fenris ignored the jab. “Things never go as planned.”
“No, we left the caverns to find a whole company of templars. They forced the issue and we had to fight them.”
Fenris sprang to his feet. “You fought off a company of templars to free apostates? They’ll come after you now!”
A smile crept onto Kaiden’s face. “Then I’ll slay a company of undead.”
“Venhedis! This is not a joke! You risk too much for these apostates!”
“I am an apostate, Fenris.”
“But they aren’t all…” Fenris pressed a gauntleted hand against his forehead. Coming here half-drunk had been a bad idea. “This… isn’t why I came here.” He passed Kaiden as he moved to leave the courtyard.
“So you’re just going to leave?” Contact. Fenris felt the magical energy in the hand that grabbed his arm coursing along his lyrium tattoos. He was back in Minrathaus, Danarius grabbing his arm. “Leaving so soon, my pet?”
Fenris slammed the mage against the wall, ready to rip his heart out. Stop. He stood poised for the kill, his hand on Kaiden’s chest, and felt the man’s heartbeat quicken. He looked up, expecting to see fear or anger, but instead found desire.
Kaiden watched a storm of emotions cross the face of the elf that had him pinned to the wall. For a moment, Fenris had looked like he would kill him, then the next like he might kiss him. Now he was no longer with Kaiden but somewhere else, his eyes closed and face lined in remembered pain.
For so long, Kaiden had held himself back, had kept his emotions in check. He didn’t know what that bastard magister had done to Fenris and he wouldn’t have blamed the elf if he’d never wanted to be with a mage. When Fenris had hinted his desires might be reciprocated, Kaiden had dared to hope. Maker, he wanted the elf so badly. As much as he wanted Fenris, he was willing to be as patient as the elf needed him to be. Right now, however, he realized he needed to act, to pull Fenris from the hatred and memories threatening to overwhelm him.
Slowly, as if approaching a wild animal that might startle and flee, he raised his hand to the elf’s beautiful face. “I’m here, Fenris. Come back to me.” He brushed his fingers down Fenris’ cheek. The elf’s eyes shot open at the touch. With a snarl, he crushed Kaiden against the wall and attacked the mage’s mouth with his own.
Kaiden ceased to be aware of anything else. Fenris was pressed against him, kissing him hungrily, as if the elf had been craving this as much as he had. When he started to draw back, Kaiden spun them around so that Fenris was against the wall. No way was he letting this dream end so soon. Leaning down, he kissed the place where the lyrium tattoo curled behind the elf’s jaw. His lips tingled as the lyrium responded to him. When Fenris gasped, Kaiden drew back, fearful of causing the elf more pain. “The markings hurt you?”
The answer came out roughly. “Not now.” Fenris grabbed his hair and pulled the mage’s lips back to his throat. “Don’t stop.”
Kaiden chuckled. He certainly did not want to stop; he wanted more and more. Fenris made quiet sounds of pleasure as Kaiden continued his explorations. He felt the elf beginning to relax and respond to his touch, moving his lithe body against his and raking his hands down his back, so he asked, “Shall we take this inside?”
“If that is your wish.”
Yes, Maker, yes! There was nothing Kaiden wanted more, yet he hesitated, needing to be certain that the elf wanted it as well. “Is it yours?”
Fenris looked surprised, then grinned. “Unless you wish to scandalize your neighbors…”
Thinking of the priggish nobility with which he was forced to socialize, Kaiden returned the grin. “Well, that is tempting…” Fenris laughed and shoved him toward the door.
Kaiden rejoiced to find that the rest of his household had already retired for the night. Still, it felt like it took them forever to make it to his bedroom. Why did bedrooms have to be upstairs and in the back of the house?
Fenris watched as Kaiden cast a small flame spell into the hearth, lighting the room in a soft orange glow. The bedroom was paneled in dark wood whose age gave it a dignified appearance. The four-post bed was of a matching dark wood and covered by a worn quilt sewn with patterns of mabari, the noble warrior dog of Fereldan.
Kaiden pulled his robe off his shoulders and let it fall over his arms and pool at his feet. Fenris stood transfixed by the beautiful nearly naked man before him. He was not a mage from the Circle Tower, pouring over books. He had had to work hard most of his young life and it showed. Firelight limned orange the lean muscular curves of his shoulders, waist, and round ass. The man was gorgeous. Kaiden was not a hairy man, but still had more than an elf and the slightly curled hair of his legs caught the firelight. The hair on his chest formed a “V” that pointed to the trail that began just over his navel and led down, broadening and thickening until it disappeared under his small-clothes.
The man moved like a cat, all grace and latent power. Fenris wondered how he had never noticed it before. Running his hands over Fenris's armor, Kaiden tried to find how to remove it. Fenris reached up and unfastened it himself, deftly, efficiently. It was always worse to make them wait, always worse to give them a reason for frustration. No. Fenris mentally shook himself. This was Kaiden.
Fenris was intensely aware of the cool air brushing across his now bare skin and the heat from the body of the man in front of him as Kaiden guided him to the bed. The quilt against his back was soft and smelled of sandalwood, warm and spicy, like the man who owned it. Fenris was glad that Kaiden did not smell of figs and wine. Warm skin brushed his own and he felt Kaiden’s erection press against his thigh. He started to roll over, but Kaiden stopped him with a hand to his shoulder. “Stay with me.”
Confused as to what the mage wanted, Fenris turned back to him. Kaiden met his gaze and gently kissed the lyrium markings that curled over his chin. Fenris moaned softly at the tingle of magic. Never had he thought he would enjoy that feeling, but Kaiden was a man unlike any other. Kaiden kissed the base of his neck and caressed the lyrium markings with his tongue, sending more tingles through him. Then he moved up, red hair brushing Fenris’s face as he nuzzled the elf’s ear. “You are beautiful.”
Fenris was not sure what he was supposed to do, but did not think that lying still was expected this time. He ran his hands down the broad muscles from Kaiden’s shoulders to the small of his back, enjoying the feel of warm skin against his palms. Kaiden responded by rubbing his body against his, then lifted his head to smile at Fenris. “Mmm, I like when you touch me.”
Fenris knew Kaiden had had many lovers before they met who had no doubt touched him more skillfully than he knew how. “You are generous.”
“No, I want this.” Kaiden touched the tip of his nose to his. “I want you.” He kissed the corner of Fenris’s mouth. “I want to please you.” He brushed his lips just under Fenris’s ear. “Let me worship you.”
This was madness. “I am yours.”
Kaiden trailed kisses down his body, lingering wherever Fenris responded in pleasure. He made slow progress. Magic was dancing through the lyrium. It felt like the buzz of wine, like sunlight on his skin. Kaiden continued lower and his hair swept against Fenris’s hip. Fenris felt his desire build, pulsing, painful even. He felt warm breath against him. Without thinking, he grabbed a handful of that red hair and pulled Kaiden closer. Kaiden ran his tongue up the lyrium along his shaft. Fenris gasped as pleasure arced through him. This was why the magisters… no, he would not think of that. Lifting his head, he saw Kaiden crouched over his legs, watching him, looking like a jungle cat about to pounce. Kaiden quirked a smile, then took Fenris’s cock into his mouth.
Fenris dropped back against the bed as he was plunged underwater, or pulled out of it. He’d had no idea his body was capable of such… sensation. It was overwhelming. “Festis bei umo canavarum.”
“Mmm?” Kaiden purred against him.
“It means… you will… Hawke…” He flexed his hips as his grip on Kaiden’s hair tightened. He felt Kaiden chuckle around him and it sent him over the edge, into ecstasy. He was falling, and it was exhilarating. Then all at once he plunged into a sea of memories. He was pouring wine for Danarius's first apprentice, a man with eyes cold and dark as space. He failed to catch the crystal goblet before it shattered on the clay tiles. Then he sank deeper, into the murkiness that hid whom he had been before the ritual. Sunlight blinded him as he jumped out from behind a sheet; he was small, chasing an elven girl with red pigtails through a maze of laundry hung to dry. Then they were older, he was telling her to run as he held his master's apprentice pinned to the ground, beating him; he wouldn't let this bastard touch his sister…
“Fenris?” He opened his eyes to see Kaiden’s face beside his, concern in those ice-blue eyes. “Are you alright?”
He forced a smile. “Better.” Kaiden returned his smile and settled on the bed beside Fenris, lightly running his fingers over the lyrium markings. Soon the lyrium was humming again. Fenris shifted. His leg brushed Kaiden’s erection and he felt the man shudder against him. A pang of guilt brought him out of his introspection. He would not be serviced like some magister. Fenris ran his hand through that red hair, now damp with perspiration. “Take me.”
Kaiden moved to look at him and Fenris saw strain in the will that easily turned down demons. “Fenris, you don’t-”
Fenris placed his fingers over Kaiden’s mouth, embarrassed by his continued solicitude. “I’m not made of glass.”
Kaiden looked away. “I didn’t mean-”
“I know, amatus, and that is why I want to do this.” He drew Kaiden’s gaze back to him. “Take me. I am yours.”
When Fenris felt Kaiden pressing intimately against him, he tensed for a moment, fighting against the memories. Breathing in the man's scent helped him focus on where he was. This was Kaiden; he wanted this. The mage slowly pushed into him, waiting for him to relax before sinking deeper, and Fenris felt him gasp against his neck, “Maker, you feel so good.” As he began to move in a steady rhythm, something inside the elf responded, similar to the lyrium but different, deeper, sending waves of pleasure through his core. Kaiden began to stroke him in time with his movement, and the thrill of the added sensation built swiftly until Fenris didn't think he would be able to take it. His body was racked with ecstasy when the tension finally reached the point of release. Then, as he tumbled down from the heights of his climax, the darkness again overtook him.
He pinned the half-elf against the wall with his body, tore through clothing that cost more than he was worth to find smooth perfect skin unmarred by slavery. This magister's son was his. He ran his teeth over that perfect neck to a subtly pointed ear, looked into dark brown eyes as the boy smiled back at him. Then he saw nothing but his master, felt nothing but the need to obey, but for just a moment he saw dark brown eyes wide with terror as he activated the lyrium...
Fenris came back to himself with a gasp and tried unsuccessfully to repress a shudder. He felt Kaiden pull him closer and kiss the back of his neck. Grasping one of the man’s hands, Fenris tried to anchor himself to the present, to this room and this man, but something tugged at his mind. He thought he had recalled something from just after Danarius had branded him…but there was only an impression of himself that he hated. At that time, there had been nothing more to him than the will to obey. Was he fooling himself to believe that he had ever risen above that? No, he was free now, damn it. Yet here he was, lying in the arms of another mage.
Kaiden's breathing had slowed and his body had relaxed into sleep. Never before had Fenris had a lover fall asleep beside him, not that he would give Danarius nor any of his acquaintances such a generous title. He’d been thrown from the room like so much trash once they were done with him. But now he lay with his back against Kaiden and the man’s arms wrapped around him. It was strange, possessive in a way that Fenris had never experienced.
He wanted to join the mage in sleep but a growing anxiety prevented him from doing so, like the feeling he’d had when he knew the slavers were closing in on him. He moved to disentangle himself from the comfortable embrace and Kaiden shifted in his sleep to lie on his back. Fenris brushed a strand of red hair from his face. Maker, the man was beautiful. This sickness was only going to get worse. Already he hated the thought of life without Kaiden. And then there were those memories…
Fenris climbed out of bed and quietly dressed himself. He almost left then, but couldn’t bring himself to do so. Leaning against the hearth, he stared into the fire, seeking to calm himself and figure out just what he was doing.
“Was it… that bad?”
“I’m sorry, it’s not…” Fenris turned to Kaiden. “It was fine.” When Kaiden’s gaze dropped to the floor, Fenris mentally kicked himself. “No. That is insufficient. It was better than anything I could have dreamed.”
“Was it… too soon?”
“No!” He turned back to the fire and took a deep breath. “It’s… I began to remember… my life before… just flashes…”
“Your life before? What do you mean?”
“I told you, I’ve never remembered anything from before… the ritual… when Danarius… gave me these markings.” For a moment, he was back in that dark cell, chained… the smell of blood, consuming pain… Fenris recoiled from the memory. Focusing his gaze on the fire, he tried to remember what he had seen this night. “There were faces… words… For just a moment, I could recall all of it… and then it slipped away. It’s too much. I cannot… do this.”
“I thought… Don’t you want to get your memories back?”
“I’ve never remembered anything. To have it all come back in a rush only to lose it… I can’t. I can’t.”
“I’m here for you, Fenris. We can work through this.”
“I’m sorry. I feel like such a fool. All I wanted was to be happy, just for a little while.” He could not look at Kaiden or his resolve would crumble. That would only make things worse – for both of them. “This should never have happened. Forgive me.”