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Thursday, April 14th, 2011 07:18 pm
Title: Striving Against Defeat
Series: A Feeling of Something
Author:  [livejournal.com profile] brytewolf
Fandom: Dragon Age 2
Pairing: Mage F!Hawke/Fenris
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Character Study
Length: ~ 2,000
Disclaimer: Much as I love these characters, I do not own them. They belong to all the geniuses over at Bioware, may they always continue to make games that touch my heart.
Summary:  The city is falling apart around her, and Hawke only has once chance to make the destruction less than it could be.

A/N: This takes place during the end of Demands of the Qun.

"A Feeling of Something" Masterlist: found here

 


Striving Against Defeat


 

Snarling in frustration, her fingertips crackle with power as she unleashes a blast of icy fury against the Arishok's troops. These deaths are useless, as useless as the countless battles occurring in the city at this moment, the thousands of innocents who are being needlessly slaughtered all in the name of some mysterious Qun. Unlike the Qunari, she feels remorse for these deaths, these people who are only following orders.

But it doesn't mean she holds anything back, and she's grimly satisfied when her companions surge into combat around her with not the slightest hesitation. Without even breaking a sweat, they proceed to make quick work of the latest batch of the Arishok's men.

The last of them die gurgling, the fletching of one of Varric's arrows protruding visibly from his neck. Flicking a lock of hair out of her eyes, she turns to look where the Arishok retreated up the staircase.

It almost appears as if he wants to clap. A shudder of revulsion rolls through her, that this man she used to respect for his strict code of honor could throw away the lives of his people so heedlessly. That he could be appreciative of the swift way they were dealt with.

"You are Basalit-an after all," he says, his loud voice carrying to each of the huddled courtiers cowering in the audience chamber. "Few in this city command such respect. So tell me, Hawke, you know I cannot withdraw. So how would you resolve this conflict?"

Taking her time to gather her answer, she contemplates her staff for a moment. If she stows it in the strap upon her back, she could be considered dim-witted for leaving herself defenseless. But… The decision is made quickly, and she walks up to the Arishok empty-handed – better he think she does not consider him a threat, for he knows that as a mage she is never unarmed.

She knows he's hungry for blood, burning with the desire to avenge the affront to his people she never knew existed. Even so, she must try one more time to end this without any further bloodshed. No matter how distasteful she finds how he values his men, his alien code of honor still exists. And he did not begin this.

"Isabela stole the tome of Koslan. We find her and you can leave Kirkwall," she can feel Varric and Aveline stiffen at her back, and she mentally apologizes to them for what appears a betrayal. The only one silent and unmoving is Fenris, affected by almost nothing, as he is. She does not feel the need to defend herself to them, though – it was Isabela that shattered the bonds between them, who betrayed one she called friend. There was only ever one option. If they'd given the book back to the Qunari, everyone would have worked together to keep Isabela safe from Castillon – protect her from a death that was uncertain, and in fact unlikely. Instead, Isabela ran off with the book and ensured the destruction that ensued. It is Isabela's hands, more than any, that are responsible for the river of blood rushing through their home.

The Arishok's response, when it comes, is not unexpected. "And is this not one of your companions? One I suspect you aided."

Keeping her head high, she tells him the truth – at least how she'd seen it at the time, though now she knew differently. "The plan was to get the tome and give it to you."

"Admirable," he scoffs, and she can hear the derision lacing his voice. "But I still do not have it. You will answer for the crimes of those who serve you. Their offense is yours."

Her head hangs in defeat, as her heart constricts painfully in her chest. His words simply confirm what she knew all along. There is only one way this can end.

Lifting her head defiantly, she flexes her fingers behind her back in the signal her companions know well. It is Fenris, the quiet hunter who guards her back, that stops her in her tracks.

"Arishokost!" he calls out, his voice sharp and commanding. "Quun-anaam ebra-toh. You have granted this woman basalit-an. By this admission she now has the right to challenge you."

The strange words are unlike anything she's heard pass his lips before, their harshness rolling off his tongue with ease. And, to her surprise, they also make the Arishok give pause.

"If you truly knew the Qun, elf, you would not suggest I battle a female," the Qunari replies, his voice dripping scorn.

She bristles at his tone, her staff in her hand before she even realizes it. She will not stand for such an insult, not while she still has breath in her body. Being female is not a weakness, she is no less than any man here, and she'll let this Qunari know exactly what she thinks of his race's sexism.

But before her protest can pass her lips, Fenris answers the Arishok with his customary mocking eyebrow. "But she is no female. She is a respected outsider…by your own words."

Her eyes are on the Qunari, and so she sees when the flash of hatred lights his eyes. But his people are here, and that twisted honor of his demands he recognize his own admission.

He turns his full regard upon her, his eyes mere slits as they narrow in consideration. "What say you, Hawke?" he asks, the words appearing to leave a sour taste in his mouth. "Do you agree to a duel?"

What she truly wants to do is snarl her acceptance in his face, the anger she usually keeps banked brought to the fore by this tangled hopeless turn of events. She wants nothing more than to add his corpse to those lining the streets, but she was taught to fully understand the risks before diving in headfirst.

"Anything special I should know?"

His huge arms cross over his chest as he answers her. "We fight to the death, you and I alone. Kill me, and the duty that binds me here is ended. The others will return to Par Vollen."

"And if you kill me?" The words want to stick in her throat, the possibility very real – she knows how skilled the Arishok is with that giant blade strapped to his back.

"Then you are dead," he scoffs, his tone expressing his certainty at this outcome.

And the beauty of what Fenris proposed leaves her momentarily stunned. A simple, elegant solution to their current problems that will end in one more death, instead of thousands. The faith demonstrated in that one act, even after all they've been through and what has been left behind between them, astounds her nearly as much as what he has wrought.

Lifting her head high, she spits the words at one who has become her enemy. "To the death, Arishok."

A feral smile lights his face, and his words crack like lightning. "Meravas! So shall it be!" With a sweep of his great hand, he orders his men to begin clearing the open area of the audience chamber so they have room to duel.

She has only moments before the combat begins, and her companions follow her to the side so she can converse with them. A glance, and she decides to leave the pensive-seeming Fenris until last.

"Aveline," she says, clutching the guard-captain's arm. "Whatever happens, save as many of them as you can. Kirkwall, and Qunari."

Her friend, the woman who has become her sister in everything but name, sighs her name. "Hawke…always thinking of others first, aren't you? Take care of yourself."

She smiles, and gives the arm beneath her hand a pat. But she doesn't reply as she moves on to the dwarf.

"Now, lass, don't think I'm not going to pretty this story up afterwards," Varric begins, but she can see the worry in his eyes. "You have a good start there, what with the gallant warrior stepping up to your defense, but it's not nearly enough to captivate your audience!"

With a grin she doesn't really feel, she responds with, "I know, Varric. But that's why I bring you along – I know you'll add all the interesting bits afterwards!"

But he's not listening, his eyes widening in his beardless face. Following his gaze, she can't help but swallow. There, off to the side where it appears to have haphazardly rolled, lies the head of the viscount. Her eyes close momentarily as she whispers an apology – that she did not come fast enough, had not seen this coming and stopped all this blood from being shed. They may not have seen eye to eye on every issue, but the viscount had been a good man, a fair man who'd done everything he could for the city both of them loved – and he had not deserved to die with that look of dawning horror on his visage.

"Make sure he gets to his wife."

"That I will," Varric murmurs, not mentioning the fact both of them know – there's a good chance the viscount's wife isn't alive to receive him. Because there's no time, and Varric understands everything far too well, he jerks his head in the direction of a stiff back, silently prompting her along.

Turning away from her friend, she approaches the elf who turned his back on them and their little goodbyes. She takes a deep breath, and reaches out to brush her fingertips against the protective leather covering Fenris' shoulder.

"Fenris?" she asks, wondering at the increased distance suddenly between them. "I just wanted to…thank you. For standing up for me, and making this possible."

"The only thanks I need," he replies, his voice low and harsh. "Is you proving me correct." He turns slightly, and she sees a spark of green before she's left staring at his back as his gauntleted hands flex at his sides. "I do not need to live with knowing I was the instrument of your destruction."

Stunned, she doesn't know how to reply. There's so much anger there, though for the life of her she can't determine if it's directed at himself, or her for putting him in this situation. She wants to reach out to him, to tell him that she'll be fine – but she can't. Other than that one night when he came to help her ease her grief, he's made it quite clear that there is a line that exists between them that can never be crossed.

She nods, even though he cannot see it, and turns away without a word. She cannot promise him something she's not certain of herself.

Summoning that piece of her, the piece that charges in headfirst – the piece she has because of Fenris – she lifts her head high and, defiant, strides to the center of the cleared room. Not letting any of what she feels show on her face, she makes her way directly to the Arishok.

He towers over her, and that he assumes victory is clear in his eyes. Normally, she'd agree with him – he is strong, and she only has a few stasis spells at her disposal to keep him at bay. If she was any other mage, she wouldn't have any hope of defeating an opponent as skilled as he by herself.

But she has a weapon he isn't aware exists. Knowledge, given freely by he who refuses to watch her now. Closing her eyes, she recalls lessons taught in a sunlit field, by a former bodyguard with laughter in his eyes – even as he charged her with greatsword raised.

Her fingers reach up, pressing against the slip of paper always hidden under her robes. When her eyes open, she can't help but glance to the corner where her friends wait anxious for an outcome – and she sees green eyes, serious and intent, watching her on the battlefield.

A wash of calm fills her, and centered, she spins the staff in her hand to test its balance. Satisfied, she nods at the Qunari before her and they begin.

Swift as thought, a rune springs to life in her mind and her lips give voice. She will not lose.

 

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