That was the only word that came to Fenris’s mind when he thought back on the last handful of days. While he often disagreed with Anders, the Tevene man had never expected the apostate to act so brashly. Airing his complaints about the mistreatment of mages was one thing; blowing up the Kirkwall Chantry was entirely different. The mass destruction rivaled that of the Qunari invasion. One could almost taste the fear in the air as the people of Kirkwall accused each other of being mages or mage sympathizers, regardless of whether or not the claims were true. Slow progress had been made in the past few days to gather the dead and rebuild the city, but Fenris knew it would be a long, hard road.
A part of him wondered if Anders had even once stopped to consider the true extent of the repercussions for his actions. Another, albeit begrudging, part of Fenris knew that Anders had been driven by desperation. It was still no excuse in his eyes, not when one of the people most affected by Anders’s betrayal was Sylvia.
Ever since the Battle at the Gallows, the Champion had all but locked herself in her room at the Hawke Estate. Fenris knew all too well that his lover was a gentle soul, sometimes even to the point of naïvety. She always tried diplomacy before she resorted to action. Though she had always favored the mages, she tried to respect the opinions of the Templars, as well. Much like the late Grand Cleric Elthina, Sylvia Hawke had tried to remain as neutral as possible throughout the whole ordeal. Even when faced with the reality of Anders’s treachery, she still couldn’t bring herself to kill the apostate she called ‘friend.’ It was a trait that was inherent to Sylvia’s personality, and Maker knew that it also drove Fenris up the wall at times.
But Fenris knew that it also meant he had to protect Sylvia against those that would try to blame her for what had transpired.
Cullen Rutherford was at his wit’s end. In the aftermath of the Battle of the Gallows, he had become the de facto leader of what remained of the Kirkwall Templars, as well as the efforts to rebuild the city. On one hand, it kept him busy. He could barely spare a moment to himself, and so he was able to postpone thinking on Meredith’s death, of regretting and analyzing his actions since Kinloch Hold. But on the other hand, he was functioning on very little sleep, and the list of things he had to attend to never seemed to dwindle.
In fact, it was nearly two weeks after the Chantry explosion that the Knight-Captain had the opportunity to visit the Hawke estate. Though he had allowed the Champion and her companions to walk away from the Gallows, he still wanted to learn about the whereabouts of the man that had caused so much grief. And with tension still high within Kirkwall, Cullen knew he was also obligated to warn Hawke to leave the city if she hadn’t done so already.
When he knocked on the front door of the Hawke estate, he was surprised when the door was answered, not by the dwarven manservant or elven maid that had greeted him before, but by the tattooed elven man that was almost always at Hawke’s side. Fenris, if he recalled the man’s name correctly.
“Ser Rutherford. What brings you here?”
“Is the Champion here?”
“Hawke isn’t taking visitors.”
“This is an urgent matter. About the apostate named Anders.”
“Then it bring it up with Aveline. She will be more use to you than Hawke will be.”
“Please let me talk with her.”
“Fenris, let the Knight-Captain in.”
Annoyance flicked across the elf’s face as he glanced back into the hall. Cullen followed his gaze, and caught sight of the Champion’s younger brother, Knight-Corporal Carver Hawke.
“Carver, you know very well that Hawke–”
“She’s making an exception. She hopes the Knight-Captain can answer some of her questions, tell her what her options are after this whole mess.”
Fenris sighed a little, but nodded and stepped aside so that Cullen could pass through the doorway. Once the door was closed again, the two men led Cullen through the foyer and into the library, where the Champion was curled in an armchair facing the fireplace.
“Sister, the Knight-Captain is here,” Carver announced.
She looked up from the book in her lap, and nodded her head to acknowledge Cullen’s presence. “Good afternoon, Ser Rutherford.”
“Good afternoon, Champion.”
She laughed a little, though the sound was hollow, devoid of any true mirth. “I doubt that title holds any weight at this point. Especially not for an apostate such as myself.”
Cullen didn’t respond, and an awkward silence stretched between the four of them for quite some time before Sylvia sighed a little and stood to better face Cullen.
“So, what brings you to my door, Ser Rutherford?” she asked.
“After what happened at the Gallows, the Templars still have many things to attend to. Between rebuilding and keeping the people calm, our resources have been stretched thin,” Cullen ventured.
“Then I’ll do what I can to help. What is that you need? Gold? Supplies? A healer?” The prospect of helping others seemed to breathe life into her.
Cullen felt a pang of guilt for crushing her enthusiasm. “Not at present. What I need right now is any information about the apostate, Anders.”
Sylvia seemed to physically deflate. “Ah. I see.” Her expression became clouded, troubled, before she shook her head a little and looked Cullen in the eye. “I’m sorry to tell you, Knight-Captain, but I’ve not heard from Anders since the Gallows. Even his clinic lies abandoned.”
“It was one of the better ideas the mage has had,” Fenris grumbled under his breath.
Sylvia shot him an exasperated look before returning her attention to Cullen. “Fenris does have a point. Anders may be an idiot, but he is no fool. While I left him alive, he knows he will find few allies in this city. I’m certain he left within hours after we stopped Meredith.”
“Do you know where he could be heading, at least?”
Her blue eyes flashed with anger. “Why? So your Templars can hunt him down? Make him Tranquil? Even if I knew where Anders was going, I would never tell you.”
“Mistress Hawke, he’s dangerous. If there’s anything you can tell me–”
“There’s nothing I can tell you. We may have fought side by side at the Gallows, but as soon as you let us go, we parted ways. And while I may have once considered him a friend, I cannot even begin to guess where he will go from here. Now, if that’s all you came to speak with me about, I deeply apologize for not being able to help. But I will also not tolerate you pressing me for information I do not have. Good day, Ser Rutherford.”
Sylvia turned away from him, and Cullen thought she looked to be on the verge of tears. Another pang of guilt went through him, and he took a hesitant step towards her.
Stars exploded across his vision and Cullen staggered back a few steps, raising a hand to his face. As his fingers brushed against his jaw, he winced as pain flared up there. When he pulled his hand away, his fingers were sticky with blood. He opened and closed his mouth a few times to test the damage, and the taste of iron found its way to his tongue. Finally, he turned his gaze to the enraged elf standing between him and the Champion, his armored fists clenched tight.
“Sylvia already said that she didn’t know where the mage went,” Fenris growled.
“Fenris!” Sylvia exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
“Even if Anders has left, there are still those that will assume you remain friends. Even if you claim to have known nothing about what he was planning, your claims will convince few others.”
“He’s right,” Carver added, giving his sister a meaningful look. “Although you’ve helped many people in this city, many more will be quick to blame you. Mages everywhere will experience hardship and opposition more than ever before.”
Cullen nodded his agreement, ignoring the blood that streamed down the side of his face, steadily dripping down his chin. “That was the other reason I came here. I cannot guarantee your safety in Kirkwall, Mistress Hawke. Despite your previous actions, and even if I or anyone else were to vouch for you, I doubt you will be safe remaining in this city for much longer.”
Sadness spread across Sylvia’s features, and she suddenly looked much, much older than she was. She nodded slowly.
“Thank you for the warning, Knight-Captain. I’ll keep it in mind. Good luck in rebuilding this city. If you ever need the help, I’m sure Aveline and Donnic Hendyr will be happy to assist you.”
She nodded again. “Before you go…Shall I fix up that cut? If we leave it for much longer, it’s going to scar…”
Cullen shook his head. “After everything that’s happened, I deserve it. Besides, I’m sure Fenris here would prefer it if I left sooner rather than later.”
A ghost of smile tugged at her lips. “Probably.”
Cullen nodded and offered her a slight bow. “Good day, Mistress Hawke.”
“And to you, Ser Rutherford. Maker help us all in the days to come.”