Fenris didn't mind being on the water. When fleeing from Danarius, there was always a sense of peace for him there. You could see for miles, until cloud specked blue and foam capped waves met. His hands were sore from pulling and tying rope - it seemed like that was endless on a ship - and his hair stiff from the salt water, but none of that mattered. The elf glanced over to Hawke, a faint grin on his lips. She was pacing again, cursing under her breath. Riese didn't see the ship as freedom, but instead as a floating prison. She hated the salt water, the tasteless, stale rations, and the freezing wind that drove them forward.
Isabela shouted at her from quarterdeck, but Fenris couldn't make out what the pirate said. Hawke made a face and went to untie one of the ropes, motioning Carver to tie another. Her brother spent most of his time below decks with Merrill. The Dalish had not recovered from their battle at the Gallows, and being on the water didn't sit well with her. Carver spent a lot of time making her broths and teas, and even more time making sure she drank as much as she could. Fenris had been down to see her once, well, honestly he'd only gone down to get Riese. Still, he took one look at Merrill's pale face, sweat beaded on her brow, and walked back out.
Hawke saw him watching her and smiled, finishing her task to walk over to him. "Mmmm, keeping a watch on us lowly deckhands," she joked. Fenris gave her a smirk, "Someone has to." He leaned in, giving her a soft kiss. They had barely touched on this voyage. Riese still grieved for Anders and the life they left behind in Kirkwall, and it stood between them barring the easy intimacy Fenris had just gotten used to.
"I miss you," she said softly, breath steaming against his cheek. Fenris looked away, out across the water. He wasn't sure what to say, or how to say it. Instead he slipped an arm around her, pulling her close. Riese leaned her head against him, the contact bittersweet. "I - I know its my fault," she began to say. The elf tensed, thinking there was no way this conversation would go well. He kept his gaze firmly on the water, staying silent.
"I should just let go," the mage sighed, "I know. It's just . . ." She trailed off, cheek pressed against him. After a few quiet moments, she sighed. Fenris held her tightly, an ache in his chest. Why was everything always so difficult with Hawke, he wondered. Of all the women he might have fallen in love with, why this one ridiculous little mage? She had burrowed into his heart and made a home there. He kissed the top of her head, "It's alright Riese. I'm not angry." His voice felt thin as it escaped him, almost a whisper, hoarse and low. "I understand how hard this is for you," he said. She nodded, face still pressed against him.
Fenris stroked her back lightly, thinking. He had so many hopes, and each one felt as fragile as a snowflake. It felt good to hold her again though. He wanted to be the man she needed him to be, but he didn't know how. The determination to try was strong, he just worried that he would ruin it before they ever really got started. Fenris hoped once they were settled in Ferelden life would get better. "Riese," he said softly, intending to ask her to his bed, when Isabela's loud voice destroyed the moment. "Shore," the pirate whooped, nearly dancing. "A hot bath, friendly company and someone to gamble with! Well, someone with money anyhow."
Isabela gave them an amused look, "Sorry lovebirds, time to work. Move your ass!" Fenris let go of Hawke, giving her one last gentle squeeze before running to the rigging. It was no easy thing to position the sails. Riese and Carver darted across the deck at the pirate's direction as Isabel steered. It took several more minutes for Fenris to spot land, finally making out the vague silhouette of mountains in the smudged darkness of the horizon. He wondered where they were exactly. Ferelden was foreign territory to him, known only through the stories he'd heard.
Carver gave a shout of joy as the land came into view, as excited as Isabela. "Home," he crowed, smile wide and bright. It was an expression unfamiliar to his usual brooding face. Riese did not seem to share his joy, "Yeah, back to Ferelden." Her brother gave her a glare, "Oh sad to be back in the world of average men, miss champion?" Hawke put a fist to her hip, "I should be excited to be coming back to the smell of wet dog and muddy hovels?"
"It's a damn sight better than anything we had in Kirkwall. At least here we were happy," Carver growled. His sister didn't back down, "Happy? Oh yes, nothing happier than scraping by with what you can grow or borrow from suspicious neighbors. Nothing happier than huddling together in a tiny cottage and hoping you can stay warm enough through the night to see morning!" Carver frowned, "Some of us didn't have it any better in Kirkwall. Some of us didn't strike it rich in some gamble." "That was your choice," Riese hissed, turning away from him. Carver took a step toward her and then changed his mind, staying to the other side of the ship.
Hawke let go of her anger slowly. Fenris could see it in the set of her shoulders and the line of her jaw. Still, she and Carver didnt say a word more than necessary as they ran to follow Isabelas instruction. They were a small crew for a ship this size, and new to it all. If not for that, the trip might have been a bit faster, or smoother at least.
They passed several tiny islands, the hull of the ship scraping ominously against sand bars as Isabela guided them in. Fenris thought it lucky that they had someone as experienced as she. It took the better part of the day to make their way to some rickety fishing docks. A few old women sat on one, mending nets, while a group of tanned children raced along the sandy shore. Most of the boats were out, nets down for the day's catch. The ship slid smoothly up to one of the larger piers and Isabela jumped down to tie it off. A few of the women looked up, curious. Isabela waived, "Hello! Anywhere I can find a drink and a hot bath?" One of the women gave a curt nod, "That way." She pointed toward a cluster of dusty buildings.
Isabela was focused on the tavern, but Fenris was more wary. He looked at the village, worn down and filthy - about what he expected, but up on a hill he could see a large, gleaming building. Like a chantry or a mansion, he thought. Strange. He glanced over to Hawke and noted that she saw it too. They shared a knowing look and then went back to securing the ship before they followed the pirate out. Merrill wobbled up the ladder, her color looking a bit better. "Oh, land," she smiled wanly. Carver picked her up like a doll and walked her to the rail. "Let me set you on it," he said smiling as if credit for this place was his alone. Funny enough, the look Merrill gave him said she agreed. He lowered her off the edge, setting her lightly on the dock and then swung over to land beside her. He was about to call out to Riese but changed his mind, instead leading Merrill away.
The old women looked at them with faint disgust before going back to their nets. Fenris let out a hearty sigh. At least they wouldn't be here long. Wherever here was. He hopped down and reached for Hawke. Miracle of miracles, she let him help her down, reaching for his hand as they walked up the dock. "Where do you think we are," she whispered. "I was hoping you knew." Riese shook her head, "I suppose we could ask . . ." Fenris quickened his step, "At the tavern, I think. Come on."
Riese hurried after him, feeling a bit out of place. "I hope we are near a decent sized town. I want to send letters back to Kirkwall," she said. Fenris gave a slight shrug. It didn't seem like a good idea to send anything to anyone. At least not so soon after fleeing. He wondered how Aveline and Donnic made out in that horrible fight, and whether Orana was surviving. They had not gone back for either of them, and Fenris had to admit he felt some concern. Still, if they were caught, the chantry would hang them. Riese didn't seem to grasp that quite yet.
The tavern was quiet and fairly clean, two things that made Fenris feel a bit better about this port. Isabela was already charming the barkeep, leaning across the counter to give him an eyeful as she chatted him up. The barkeep was an older man, grizzled and scarred, but he seemed happy enough for the nice view and conversation. Merrill was propped up on a stool and Carver stood beside her like some grimacing sentinel. The templar beckoned them over. "We're about a day from West Hill, maybe a week out from Highever if the weather holds," he told them. Riese nodded as if this meant something. Fenris scowled, "If it's a larger city, I say we go there now."
Isabela came up behind him, giving an annoyed sniff. "Impatient? I needed information before sailing in to port so you can stuff it." Carver hid a grin behind his hand. Isabela continued, "I got rooms for us tonight, and convinced him to let us have the baths to ourselves as well." She gave a satisfied grin, "I can't decide if I want a whiskey or a bath more. I think both at the same time." Fenris rolled his eyes, "So we are stuck here for at least a night." Hawke patted his arm lightly, "It's not so bad. We'll have a real bed anyway." The elf nodded, not entirely convinced.
Riese took one look at him and frowned, "No sense in asking you to the baths when you're in this mood," she muttered, looking at the door they just came through. "I am going to look at that building on the hill," she said, stepping away from him. "I remain at your side," he told her, trying to smile a bit. The mage sighed, eyes going to her brother and Merrill, "We will be back in a bit. Try to keep Isabela out of trouble?"
Merrill looked at her seriously, "Do you think she will get in much trouble, Hawke?" Carver patted her shoulder, "I think my sister is trying to make a joke. Come on, we'll go check the rooms." The Dalish gave a little laugh, "Sorry Hawke, I can never tell when you're trying to be funny." Riese shook her head, lips curving into a grin, "It's alright Merrill."
Fenris had a hard time smiling at anything to do with Merrill. He could not shake the memories of her covered in blood, or the horrors caused by her magic. The Dalish had paid a high price for it all, but ot disturbed him to be close. He walked to the door to wait for Riese, arms crossed. She came along after a moment, looking a little happier. "I hope this is a short adventure," he told her, opening the door. "So do I," she grinned, "I really want that bath." The elf laughed, feeling better about being stuck in this village. He had his love, so what did the place matter? Hawke raised her eyebrows, leading them out.
It didn't take long to get to the chantry on the hill. That was the only thing it could be, with a massive stone staircase and columns leading to a huge stone door. Inside, the room was mostly empty, the floor cracked and a pitted. A large statue of a woman held the center of the wall on the far end, her fingers curled around a trident. Her robes looked odd in the dim light, and it took Fenris a moment to realize it was because instead of pooling at her feet, they formed a strange tail, like a fish. "Ohhh," Riese said, sounding excited, "I don't think this was meant to be Andrastian!"
The mage walked to it quickly, too focused to notice anything else yet. She ran her hands over the stone looking for some inscription, but there was nothing. What do you think she might be? Some goddess from the Avvars? Or the elves before there was Andraste? Merrill might know. Fenris shrugged, taking his time. There is no telling, Riese. They dont look Tevinter. I can say that much.
There were some smaller statues along the walls, breasts covered by their hair, feet replaced with tails. The elf looked at them closely. "I don't think these are so old," he said after a few moments, The stone isnt rounded or worn. Hawke walked to him. "Maybe just well tended?" Her eyes fell on the statue nearest to them, "They are beautiful. Look how their faces tilt up, as if for a kiss. Even the lips are parted."
"I think they are singing," Fenris said with a little smile. Hawke blushed, "Or that." He brushed her hair back, leaning in to kiss her. She let him, lips yielding to his gentle touch. After a moment he pulled back, "Let's go have that bath." Riese nodded, a bit breathless. He took one last look at this odd chantry before swinging the door shut behind him. The world was full of strange things, he thought, sliding an arm over her shoulders. Not all were bad either.
The baths here were not as nice as the ones in Kirkwall. Just a large wooden tub, bottom resting on stacked stones with a fire underneath. There wasn't even a proper pump, though thankfully one of the tavern scullions was willing to cart water from the well to the bath with a little encouragement. There were three tubs separated by some waxed linen curtains. The scullion filled and lit two, then left, pocketing the silver Fenris handed him. The elf quickly stripped, giving a shiver at the cold air. The water in the tub wouldn't be much warmer, but he slid into it anyhow, inhaling sharply as he sat down. At least the warmth from the fire could be felt through the bottom. It wouldn't take long, he thought.
Hawke laughed at the sound, stepping out of her salt-crisped clothing. "Cold enough, hm?" Fenris nodded, "Yours should be warmer. I had them fill it first." She slid the curtain between them open, raising an eyebrow. "Mine?" "Yes, yours," he nodded, brows drawing together. Hawke stepped forward, sliding the curtain behind her shut. What are you doing, he asked, eyes going wide.
She laughed, plopping into the tub in front of him. Water sloshed over the side, hissing as it landed on the hot stones. Riese gave a little shiver, still grinning. "Hawke . . . I had them fill a tub just for you," Fenris said, exasperated. She poked his leg with a finger, "This one is big enough for us both!" Riese leaned forward, "You don't really mind, do you?" He couldn't help but smile, pulling her to him, "No. I don't mind at all."
"Good," the mage sighed, shifting to slide her legs to either side of him. Fenris thought he rather liked this, even if he preferred to bathe alone. She was warm and soft, and he liked the smell of her mixed with sea salt. He didn't think she would believe him though. Riese picked up a cloth, soaking it in the water. He watched her, lips settling in an uncertain smile as she brought it to him, letting cool drops land on his neck and shoulders.
He shivered, "What are you going to do?" His voice was low and soft, eyes bright. Hawke slid the cloth down his chest with a wicked grin, "It is a bath, Fenris. I thought I would help you get clean." "That so," he smirked, catching her hand. It was easy to forget in moments like these all that had passed. He was determined to enjoy it. He slid his other hand down her side, tickling lightly. She squirmed against him, splashing more water out of the tub.
His hand drifted lower, now more stroking than tickling. It was Riese's turn to shiver. "What are you doing," she asked, as if she didn't know. Fenris gave her a serious look, and was about to reply when the door flew open and the room filled with off key singing. Hawke gave a little groan of disappointment, "Isabela . . ." The pirate laughed, and they heard the sound of glass clink against stone. "Getting started without me? Good on you," she said.
Fenris let out a breath, "I thought you already bathed." "I was going to but Durgan made an offer of free whiskey! How could I say no?" Her belt clinked to the floor, and she began to undo her boots. I promised him I would come back if he let me take the bottle, the pirate said happily. Riese made a little frown, scooting to the other side of the tube, but Fenris grabbed her hand and tugged her back. "I didn't interrupt anything, did I," Isabela asked, tone saying she knew damn well she had.
Hawke put on her cheeriest voice, "Why no, Isabela. We were just getting scrubbed." A rich laugh was her only answer as the pirate finished stripping. Isabela stepped into the other tub with a groan, splashing as she sat down. Andrastes ass, that is good. Not better than sex but ohhhh . . . close!
Fenris hoped that would be the end of it, but Isabela decided to strike up a lively chatter with herself as she bathed, commenting on the state of her. She chided the callouses on her feet, admired her long legs, and gave a pep talk to each breast. Riese blushed, hand covering a grin and Fenris just rolled his eyes. "I heard that, elf," the pirate said. "You'd call it a vicious kitty too," she huffed. Hawke burst out laughing at that. Fenris ducked his head under the water, escaping embarrassment and any further commentary.
Thankfully the rest of the bath was less eventful. Riese washed her hair and scrubbed clean, and Fenris followed suit. Isabela gave up on talking and lapsed into a tuneless hum, bits of random tavern song recognizable as she went. The mage stepped out of the tub and pulled the towel around her, giving a happy sigh. "I think this is the cleanest I've felt in weeks." "I could check for you," Isabela laughed. Hawke shook her head, "Thanks . . . I'm good." She leaned down to press a kiss on Fenris' cheek. "I'm going to our room. Waiting for you. The elf felt his blood rise at the look she gave him. "I'll be quick," he promised. She hurried from the room, ducking into the hall at a near run.
Fenris took advantage of having the whole tub to himself and stretched out. The water was hot and it felt great to soak. He shut his eyes, thinking of Riese, dripping wet and warm and sweet . . . waiting for him right now. He knew it was foolish, but it seemed that if they made love, all that lay between them would vanish. It would just be the two of them then, all faults forgotten, the past a dead mystery. He gave another languid stretch, head slipping beneath the water for one last rinse. Fenris sat up, eyes opening as he wiped the water from his brow and pushed his hair back. Isabela was standing in front of his tub, her tanned skin steaming in the cold air. She grinned at his surprise.
"You're losing your edge, elf." He stood, reaching for his towel, suddenly gone tense. This was not a good place to be. The pirate held the towel up, dangling it beside her breasts, "Looking for something?" Fenris frowned, "Isabela . . . what are you doing?" She pouted, "Come on Fenris, I'm just having a bit of fun." "I am not enjoying it," he replied, holding out a hand for the towel. Isabela dropped the playful expression, "You used to flirt with me . . ."
"I used to be alone," the elf said, not moving. "We won't have another chance at this," the pirate told him. "That chance passed a long time ago. This is not a chance. This is me, getting my towel and going to my room. To sleep with Hawke, who happens to be your friend." Isabela gave a little sigh, shoving the fabric into his hand, "Oh fine. It's not like she would know, anyway. I'm not asking to marry you . . . just a - a quick roll in the hay before we say our goodbyes." Fenris grabbed the towel, putting it around his hips as he stepped out of the water. "I don't work like that," he told her, scooping up his things and walking to the door. Isabela shrugged, "You can't blame a girl for trying. Be a doll and don't tell Riese?" He left without replying.
Fenris took a breath of relief once out into the hall. Women were so damn confusing, he thought, pacing to their room. Isabela knew how things stood between he and Hawke. The mage saved her life. They were friends! What she was thinking he would never understand. It was probably better not to tell Riese. She had never been happy about the amount of time he spent gambling and drinking with Isabela. Something like this would just complicate things.
That decided, he opened the door and went in. The room was about what he had expected. A straw mattress, chipped wash basin, and chamber pot. There was a nice little cook stove and table as well, an unexpected luxury. Hawke already lit a small fire and set their blanket on the bed. She lay stretched out on it, pale skin glowing in the dim light. He smiled, eyes tracing every line of her. "I really missed you," he sighed, letting his towel drop to the floor.
Riese propped her head up on her hand, "I can tell." Fenris took a step forward, desire taking hold of him. It must have shown on his face. The mage blushed, one hand moving to cover her ample bosom. "Too late for that," he purred, climbing into bed. Hawke smiled, hand slipping down his chest. She started to say something, but he captured her mouth in a kiss. I want this to last forever, he thought. And then he was lost in her.
It was well past dawn when he woke. Riese slumbered beside him, hand at his hip, and head on his chest. Their legs were tangled together, blanket wrapped in odd geometries around them. Fenris tried to slip out of bed without waking her, but her eyes opened as he slipped her from his chest to the pillow. "I don't want to get up," she groaned. "Then don't," he smirked, kissing her forehead. She gave him a sleepy smile, "I have to. My bed warmer moved." Fenris stretched, fingering one of the scratches she'd left on his side. It made him grin. "Your bed warmer is in need of some breakfast, dear lady." He got his legs untangled from the sheet and stood, sorting through the pack for his cleanest clothes. Hawke sat up, wrapping the blanket around her, pouting. She was cute when she made that face, he thought.
Once dressed, he walked to the door. "Anything special you want for breakfast?" Riese stuck her tongue out at him, "Just you - in bed!" The elf nodded, "Sausage in a biscuit, got it!" He gave her a quick grin before closing the door, the sound of her muffled shout making him laugh. He had not felt this good in . . . well, ever really. He walked down the hall and into the tavern, the smell of roasting fish and fresh baked bread making his stomach growl. The barkeep grinned, "Had a good sleep?" Fenris gave a curt nod. "Sounded like it," the man said. The elf found himself blushing darkly. Riese had not been quiet and neither had he; he wasn't sure they could have held silent through that. There were some joys that needed to be voiced.
"I just came out to get some breakfast. Have our companions been in," he asked, hoping to avoid any more jibes. The barkeep nodded, yelling back to the kitchen, "Two breakfasts on the hearty side. Need to keep up your energy, yeah?" Fenris gave him a cold, annoyed look, which brought a gratifying silence. "Our companions?" The barkeep swallowed, "Just Isabela. She left you a note, bought your food and another night if you want it." "She what?" The man slid a tied note across the bar, "I'll just get your plates." Fenris opened it, taking a moment to read. Her handwriting was worse than Hawke's and he still had trouble with some words. The ink was spattered across part of the signature and smeared where it was folded while wet.
It's been fun but I need to move on. Another day would just bring trouble. I'm not very good at not getting what I want. Sorry. Thanks for everything Hawke. Good luck!
The barkeep set a tray beside him. Fenris looked up, "She left? With the ship?" He nodded, "Aye, that and a few young men. Said she had crew positions to fill, and boys around here well . . . they don't say no to a lady like her." Fenris nodded slowly, "And the other two?" "The sick elf and that knight? Haven't left their room. She doesn't have anything catching does she," the barkeep asked. The elf shook his head, "No, nothing like that." He took the tray and walked back to their room, debating whether or not to even show Hawke the note.