Posts Tagged 'red lyrium'



Warriors Such As: Fic Masterpost

rannadylin:

image

Let’s gather these chapters in a handy single post, shall we? Especially since, with Thanksgiving break over, I fear updates will slow down again…Here’s everything written thus far for my current Fenris/F!Hawke adventure!

Synopsis: 

Fenris was once told that even in the Imperium, warriors with markings of his sort were rare – with the implication that he is not unique. When the Inquisition hears of Venatori creating warriors marked like Fenris, but with red lyrium, Hawke may have to take her turn being the one left behind while Fenris travels into danger to help the Inquisitor investigate.

Read it on: AO3 | FF.net | DA

Or if you prefer to read it on Tumblr, here’s the chapter listing with titles and synopses:

  1. Wherein parenthood is hard

    Raising baby Malcolm is overwhelming and new parents Lisbet Hawke and Fenris are on edge.

  2. Wherein an expert is required

    Venatori in Seheron are experimenting with lyrium tattoos; Thayer Trevelyan’s advisors convene and send for Fenris.

  3. Wherein an agreement is reached

    Amantium irae amoris integratio est.

  4. Wherein farewells and firsts are spoken

    Hawke bids Fenris farewell as the Inquisition’s expedition to Seheron sets out.

  5. Wherein the ship sails

    En route to Seheron, letters are exchanged.

  6. Wherein Metis meets the Inquisition

    Seheron is not a very safe place for the Inquisitor and friends, but they do find one friend waiting for them.

  7. Wherein the forest is welcoming

    The trek through the jungle begins; meanwhile, interesting developments are occurring at Skyhold…

  8. Wherein Hawke’s worries are not ill-founded. 

    Fenris knows when things are fishy; saarebas are deadly; the jungle is a big place but Harding has lots of scouts looking for our heroes! Also Metis is kind of new to this combat thing.

  9. Wherein the weather interferes. 

    It’s a bad idea to wander around a jungle when you can’t see where you’re going.

  10. Wherein things become clearer

    Fenris’ past catches up with him, in more ways than one, and the Inquisition gains a formidable ally.

  11. Wherein we explore Ath Velanis. 

    Time to see what’s actually going on in that Venatori fortress, as soon as we find a way in through creepy tunnels! It’s all fun and games till someone slips and falls!

  12. Wherein plans change

    From opposite sides of the Ath Velanis gate, Thayer and Varric, Fenris and Metis reconsider their course of action.

  13. Wherein saboteurs are loose in Venatori territory

    Stranded in the fortress of Ath Velanis, Fenris and Metis make mischief for the Venatori.

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Warriors Such As: Chapter 13

They’re not out of danger yet but they can still cause some trouble for the Venatori…

Also, alas that it took me so long to get this chapter done! I’m on Christmas break now, so I hope to be productive in the next week or two…maybe we can reach the finish line before long.

Word count: 3882
Rating: G
Fenris/F!Hawke
Summary: Stranded in the fortress of Ath Velanis, Fenris and Metis make mischief for the Venatori.

Read it here or on:  DA  |  AO3  |  FF.net

Comments and reblogs (and comments in the reblog tags too, or in replies when they finally return, and it is sad just how many chapters I have had to type “when they finally return” on at this point…or in the IMs until they do) are always appreciated! I love seeing what you think of each chapter, what parts you liked or want to respond to, or even just a note if you enjoyed it!

Hawkquisition
Part 4: Warriors Such As
Chapter 13
Wherein saboteurs are
loose in Venatori territory

They had not seen a red-lyrium marked warrior in hours, as far as
Metis could tell the time in the depths of the fortress. He mentioned as much
to Fenris as the two elves combed the lower levels of Ath Velanis in search of
prisoners to free or any other way to hinder the Venatori.

“Maker knows they have sent enough of them after us,” Fenris said.
“Perhaps we have finally exhausted their supply.”

“Conveniently completing one of our mission objectives even while
saving our own skins,” Metis grinned. Then the grin fell as he recalled the
mindless frenzy in which so many of those lined warriors had attacked them.
“Maker also knows, I’d have wished we could do more for them than just put them
out of their misery, though.”

“Their madness is reassuring,” Fenris pointed out. “We have not
yet seen proof that the magister’s experiments have been successful. These
warriors cannot even control the markings and use them to their advantage.”

“Perhaps it can’t ever be done with red lyrium.”

“I hope not.”

The slap of booted feet on the stone floors met their ears,
echoing from a hallway to the left, and the elves ducked behind an appallingly
ugly statue of a dragon to wait for the patrol to pass. Peeking between its
marble wings, Fenris saw two Venatori Zealots, anonymous behind their heavy
helmets, dragging a third person between them. From the back he could see only
that it was an elven man, his tattered clothing and dark hair smeared with the
pale, camouflaging paints of the Fog Warriors. His arms were bound behind his
back; the Venatori yanked him along by his elbows.

Fenris felt the faintest tingle of magic brushing across his
markings only a moment before he saw the prisoner stumble, almost twisting free
from the guards’ grip. The Venatori swore as they paused to straighten their
prisoner, oblivious to the tiny root that had grabbed at the man’s ankle, even
now shrinking back down into the corridor’s paving stones while Fenris shot a
warning glare at his father crouched behind him.

Metis answered with pursed lips and a determined crease to his
forehead as he slowly raised a hand in the guards’ direction again. Fenris
reached out to stop him from doing anything more to draw attention to their
hiding place, but halted when he caught a fragment of the guards’ conversation.

“…to the laboratory now,” one said. “Lord Licinius is
waiting.”

“Making him wait won’t make this any easier on you, rabbit,” the
other guard said.

“Who knows,” said the first, “you might even like it when it’s
done. Saw you take down one of the brutes what caught you. You’re a decent
fighter; the magister’s ritual is supposed to make you a real warrior.”

“If you come out of it with your senses,” the second guard
laughed.

By that time they had moved down the hall and around a corner, and
Fenris slumped with relief as their voices died away.

Metis nudged him. “They’re taking him to the laboratory,
Fenris.”

“I heard,” Fenris grumbled. “I also heard that the magister
awaits him there.”

“We could stop this ritual. We could…”

“Run straight into another trap?” Fenris scowled. “You know he has
to be looking for us. Every red warrior we killed after the gate fell told him
we are still in the fortress. It is likely he is preparing another ritual just
to lure us in.”

“We have to do something!”

“We will.” Fenris crept from behind the statue, approaching the
intersection of hallways through which the Venatori and their prisoner had just
come. To the right, the three even now marched on towards the laboratory. But
to the left, from which they had come… “Presuming that was not the last of
their prisoners,” Fenris whispered, beckoning Metis to follow him to the left,
“let us find where they took that man from. Now is as good a time as any for
our jailbreak.”

~*~

The cells were well guarded, and not only by the Venatori Brutes
and Gladiators patrolling the long hallway, lined with barred doors, behind
which Licinius’ prisoners awaited their turn to be subjected to his ritual. But
Fenris and Metis were not unprepared. Approaching cautiously, sending tendrils
of his magic skirling along the floor while Fenris peered around a corner at
the Venatori Zealot standing guard at the entrance to the dungeon, Metis
detected a patch of the lyrium-quieting potion smeared in the main entryway,
and two more patches further in.

“Another trap,” Fenris whispered when the mage pointed this out to
him.

Metis nodded. “Unless they’re actually keeping marked warriors in
here, I don’t know who else it would be meant for.”

“So we find another way in,” Fenris said, looking around for a
side passage.

“I believe,” Metis said, nudging him and pointing upwards, “I know
just the thing.”

Fenris followed the mage’s line of sight to see, far overhead, a
grating in the wall just below the ceiling. Its purpose was unclear –
ventilation? – but it was well beyond his reach. He ran a hand over the wall,
seeking climbing holds, but the stone was smooth and neatly fitted without gaps
for his fingers. “It seems of little use to us,” Fenris finally said, “unless
you also know how to fly.”

There was a strain in Metis’ voice when he answered, “Better. You
can climb, I presume?” and Fenris glanced back at him to see his face contorted
in concentration as the mage wove his staff through a delicate pattern, then
thrust it up towards the grating, moving his free hand as if to beckon, or as
if slowly pulling at something Fenris could not see.

But when he looked back at the grate, he could definitely see the
dark vines spilling down from it, growing longer with every breath the mage
took.

“Metis,” he said, watching the vines lengthen until he could reach
out and touch one green stem, even as the ends nearer the grate suddenly
sprouted leaves, “we are several floors away from the actual earth
beneath this fortress, are we not?”

“Indeed,” the mage said, speaking quickly, uncharacteristically
terse.

“Then where in Thedas are you even getting these from?”

Metis’ voice was still strained, faraway, as he answered, “Well,
it isn’t exactly easy. They heard my call, though. That is what matters.”

“It is…impressive,” Fenris conceded, giving the vine a tug and
finding it firmly attached. “I am all the more curious, now, to see these
orchards you have promised.”

Metis laughed, swaying slightly as he finished the spell. “Trees
do take a bit longer.” Fenris put out an arm to catch him when he stumbled
approaching the vines. Metis patted the arm steadying him and nodded his
thanks. “Give me a moment. That was rather more mana than I expected to use.”

“Further from the earth than you thought?” Fenris guessed with
half a smile.

“Or nearer the magebane,” Metis reminded him.

“Then the sooner we distance ourselves from it, the better,”
Fenris said, reaching for the vines as soon as Metis had regained his balance.

~*~

Six Venatori, none of them mages. At least twenty prisoners,
possibly more further back in their cells. Two more patches of the potion that
would stop them both from using their powers. From the third grating along the
crawlspace they had found behind the one sprouting Metis’ vines, they could
look down and take stock of the odds, but there was little they could do from
there.

Or so Fenris thought, noting the Venatori’s positions and timing
their patrol patterns, looking for a weak spot. “What I wouldn’t give for one
of the Inquisitor’s smoke bombs right now,” he muttered. “Or Caligo’s fog.”

“Some of the prisoners are likely Fog Warriors,” Metis recalled.
“At least the one on his way to the laboratory was. No doubt the Venatori
stripped them of anything that useful, but…”

“If we could find where they put it,” Fenris nodded.

Metis gestured toward an open door not far from the main entrance
to the dungeon, between it and the barred cells. “That would be my guess. But
there’s a patch of magebane in the doorway.”

Fenris nodded, watching a Venatori Gladiator march past the open
door and turn again. “You’re staying here, then.”

“The potion affects your markings, too, Fenris.”

“But not my sword arm. There are only six of them.”

“Wait,” Metis said, catching at his shoulder before Fenris could
pry the grating away and launch himself into the corridor. “Before you go, I
have an idea. The prisoners might be of aid themselves, if we could open their
cells.”

“Hadn’t we best deal with that after the Venatori are
dead?”

“Every bit of chaos helps,” Metis grinned. And he pushed back from
the grating, motioning Fenris to scoot further away until he had room to move
his staff in the patterns he had used before to call vines from wherever he had
found them.

Apparently the vines were poised for his call now. Fenris glanced
through the grating to see them springing up, more quickly than before, around
the bars of each cell. Faster and faster, thicker and thicker they grew,
squeezing tighter around the bars until, with a series of loud groans, the
metal bent and twisted until each barred gate popped free.

Go,” Metis whispered through the strain of his spell,
clenching his teeth, and Fenris took his cue, wrenching their own bars free and
throwing himself down into the confusion as the Venatori veered from their
patrols, looking wildly about at more than a dozen cell doors suddenly torn
open at once. By the time they realized that there were less than half a
dozen of them to guard the newly opened cells, Fenris had run his sword through
the nearest Gladiator and, lyrium flaring while he was still out of reach of
the potion traps, ducked under the swing of a maul and crushed the heart of the
Brute turning to his comrade’s aid. The Zealot guarding the main entrance went
down with another sweep of his greatsword, as Fenris skidded into the open
doorway of the side room that Metis had guessed to be storage.

His father had guessed right; possessions of far more than a dozen
or two dozen prisoners were scattered over shelves and in chests crammed into
the small antechamber. His lyrium markings, still glowing from their use on the
Brute, gradually flickered and faded from the quieting potion smeared in the
doorway. Keeping his greatsword at the ready, Fenris grabbed up a handful of
swords and daggers from one chest, swept aside a motley assortment of clothing
and armor in another, and finally laid hands on a belt into which three of the
Fog Warriors’ flasks were tucked. Slinging this over his chest, he emerged from
the antechamber to find that Metis had kept the remaining Venatori occupied
with more of his vines and that the prisoners were starting to poke their heads
out of the ruin of their cell doors to see what was going on.

Reaching the first such cell door, Fenris found the man inside
wide-eyed, stammering questions. He cut the ropes binding the prisoner’s wrists
and ankles with one of the daggers he had found in the antechamber, then
pressed it into the man’s hands. The prisoner’s eyes lit up as he squeezed out
of the cell and threw himself upon the nearest Venatori, slashing at the
cultist’s ankles before he could bring his sword down on the prisoner in the
next cell. Then Fenris joined the fight, keeping the Venatori busy with his
greatsword while the first prisoner cut the second one’s bonds.

On down the corridor they went, freeing and arming the prisoners,
who soon made up a sizeable mob, descending upon the remaining Venatori when
they broke free from their vines. Metis, Fenris guessed, was tiring too much to
call the vines again, but the mage remained out of sight in the crawlspace
while Fenris finished off the last of the Gladiators. Then his red hair
appeared at a grating further down the corridor from the one Fenris had jumped
down from, even as Fenris was freeing the last of the prisoners.

“Fenris!” Metis called down. “It sounds like reinforcements are on
their way.”

Fenris nodded acknowledgement up to him. “Don’t come down,” he
insisted. “The potion. I’ll meet you back at the first vines.” Then he slipped
the belt with its flasks of fog from his shoulder, handing it to one of the
prisoners bearing the Fog Warriors’ paints. “I cannot show you a way out of the
fortress,” he told them, more than two dozen who looked to have been capable
warriors before the Venatori had captured them. “But you are free to find one.
Be cautious. The fortress is on alert, looking for us.”

The Fog Warrior nodded. “It is more than we have hoped for in many
days. We will not be captured again.”

Fenris stood aside while the mob rushed out the dungeon entrance,
heedless of the lyrium-quieting potion beneath their feet. Fenris followed more
cautiously, stepping gingerly through the potion trap in two long strides,
still faintly disoriented by his markings’ unresponsiveness. For all the pain
and trouble they had caused him, he had still come to rely on the abilities
they provided. Fighting the Venatori guards and rescuing their prisoners almost
entirely without the aid of his lyrium had left him wearier than he would like
to admit.

From ahead, around the corner, came sudden sounds of fighting
before he had even reached Metis’ vine trail to the first grating, and within
seconds a dense white fog was rolling through the hallway. “Kaffas,
Fenris swore, gripping his sword at the ready as he dashed ahead into the midst
of it.

The Venatori reinforcements had cut off the prisoners’ escape, it
seemed, but the fog helped to even the odds. Fenris moved slowly through it,
taking care not to strike out with his sword until he was near enough to be
sure that the Venatori, not their former prisoners, would be caught in its arc.
He had felled three of the cultists before it occurred to him that he had not
yet seen any prisoners at all in the fog. Perhaps, then, they had all taken the
opportunity to escape beyond its boundaries, leaving the Venatori – and
himself, of course – to stumble around blindly. Counting on it, he advanced
more boldly, keeping close to the wall so that he could watch for the vines
even as he fended off ever more and more of the Venatori.

He should have reached the vines by now, he thought. This
was the side of the hall on which Metis had summoned them. Unless – he nearly
stumbled at the thought – he had gotten turned around in the fog. Perhaps he
was heading in the wrong direction, back toward the dungeon. He parried a blow
from a Venatori Gladiator’s mace, roared in fury when one of their Stalkers
appeared out of nowhere to slash at his arm. Fenris whirled to run him through
but the assassin had already vanished again into the fog.

And then, with a faint breeze and a tsking sound, the fog
suddenly parted and a familiar voice filled the space it had vacated.
“Unharmed, I’m sure I said,” Licinius scolded his Venatori, tucking his hands
behind his back as he advanced. “We do not have time to deal with scars
obscuring the markings.”

Fenris turned again and raised his sword with a scowl, poised to
charge at the magister. But then a flare of light surrounded him and he felt
himself paralyzed, fixed in place. From the corner of his eyes he could barely
make out the glyph that Licinius had cast at his feet. A growl tore from him as
he struggled against the magic, to no avail. With his markings active, he could
perhaps have overpowered the spell, but the effect of the potions he had walked
through in the dungeon yet lingered.

Licinius advanced, casting a calculating eye over the frozen elf.
“You do seem inclined to make this more difficult than necessary, little wolf.”
He gestured to one of his soldiers, who reached out cautiously, keeping his
feet well outside the glyph, and plucked Fenris’ greatsword from his hands. “I
mean you no harm,” the magister said, reaching a finger to trace one of the
lines down Fenris’ throat. “But I do mean to make use of you.”

The paralysis glyph restricted even Fenris’ jaw, so it was with
difficulty that he finally bit out: “I…am…not your slave!

“Dear me!” Licinius chuckled. “I can’t recall saying you were.
Would it help if I assure you that you’ll be free to go when we are finished
here? Truly, this would be easier with your cooperation.”

“No…intention…making it easy, mage,” Fenris managed at
last.

“So I gather,” Licinius said lightly, turning to glide down the
hall again with a gesture to the Venatori Brute nearest the glyph. “Bring him.
And do not damage the markings.”

With a grunt, the Brute swung the blunt end of his weapon around
at the back of Fenris’ head. The last thing the elf saw before darkness claimed
him was a flash of red hair at the vine-covered grating just down the hall.

~*~

Metis was halfway back to the grating at which they had originally
entered the crawlspace when the fog rolled in, though in the dimness of his
passageway it made little difference. By the time he made it back to the vines
at their entrance, the sounds of battle had died down, and as the fog faded from
his hiding place he saw Fenris locked in a paralysis glyph and Licinius
gloating at him.

He counted the Venatori gathered around his son with a sinking
feeling in his stomach. Too many. And the magister was a force to be reckoned
with.

But then, so was Fenris. If he could just loose him from that
glyph, between the two of them their odds might not be so bad. Metis gathered
his mana, beginning to move his staff in a spell to counter the paralysis –

And suddenly Licinius turned away, and the Venatori Brute knocked
Fenris unconscious. Metis winced as his son fell and the Venatori gathered him
up and marched after their master. Cursing  under his breath, he tried to
think of a spell that would help from this distance, but before he could do
anything they had turned a corner.

Metis reached for the vines to climb down and follow, and then
hesitated. Licinius had to know he was still in the fortress. If he had left
potion traps in the dungeon, there would certainly be more up ahead. But the
crawlspaces…

He turned to follow, crawling after them in hopes that this path
of his would lead as far as the laboratory. Metis had no doubt that was where
Licinius would end up taking his son. And whatever use he intended to make of
Fenris, it couldn’t be good. Someone had to stop him.

~*~

Fenris,

Hoping this finds you well and that the assault on the fortress is
going well and everything. (Or has gone well, I suppose, by the time you get to
read this.)

While Malcolm has yet to start, how did you put it, “summoning
sparks” or anything, he is beginning to show signs of an affinity for stealth.
By which I mean that the little scamp found himself a hiding place under the
Inquisitor’s throne, of all places, and we spent all morning looking for him
until he finally crawled out at lunchtime looking insufferably pleased with
himself. For a boy who normally chatters as much as he does these days (it’s
not just “Da” anymore, I must inform you; although sadly he has yet to decide
what to call his mother, Malcolm has picked up the terms “Po” which we think
means “puppy” in reference to the mabari, and “Boo” when he wants a book read
to him, and “Buh” for the birds outside our window, which make him giggle
uncontrollably. It’s adorable enough to make even “Da” smile), right, anyway,
for all his usual chatter, he was suspiciously quiet the whole time he was
hiding under that throne. I had to lie down after we finally found him. I
haven’t been feeling all that well the last few days and had no appetite for
lunch after such a worried morning. (Oh and now I must remind you
not to worry! I’m fine, really. Whatever it is will pass. Probably I’ve just
caught whatever it was Malcolm was sick with not long ago. And he’s
sufficiently recovered to resume driving me insane.)

And speaking of miraculous recoveries, Merrill and Dagna really
have worked a miracle on poor Emmen. They’ve finished cleansing and draining
away nearly all of the lyrium growing on him. Dagna thinks there’s more growing
internally and it will take them a while to work all that out of
his system safely, but his progress is truly amazing. He’s been awake for a few
days now, and says the pain of the lyrium is growing less. Linian – you
remember her, his fiancee that we saved from the demons – has scarcely left
the Undercroft and he seems more comfortable with her sitting there holding his
hand. And Merrill! She’s practically giddy to see this adopted-clanmate of hers
restored, and to know that her skills were enough to save him. And Carver
struts around being proud on her behalf. I try very hard not to laugh but
fortunately he is a little oblivious to his big sister when Merrill is around.
(I could hug Merrill for that alone, I think. Also, if I laugh at Carver, she
usually laughs with me, and then he can hardly object, can he?) Even you would
be happy for them, especially as Merrill has managed all this without any blood
magic.

So, good news out of Skyhold, yes? Maker, I hope the news out of
Seheron is as good. Come back to me soon, my love.

Your Hawke

~*~

“Chief Scout, Ser!”

Scout Harding looked up at the communications officer’s shout to
see him hurrying toward her from the fondly-nicknamed Touring Rookery that
they’d set up for the raven cages in the middle of their base camp near the
Seheron shore. She nodded and smiled as he handed her a letter tightly rolled
into a scroll.

“Who’s sending love notes this time, Deakins?” she asked him. “The
Inquisitor or the elf?”

Deakins grinned. “You tell me, Ser. It’s addressed to you.”

“Oh, that’s new!” Harding said, noting the Inquisitor’s seal on
the scroll before breaking it open. “Not that our Herald isn’t quite the flirt,
but he is married now, and…” She trailed off, eyes widening as she took
in the contents of the scroll.

“And?” Deakins prompted, even as Harding’s grin widened to rival
her eyes.

“And…looks like our vacation here is over,
Deakins. Signal the ships. It’s time to move on Ath Velanis in full force.”

rederiswrites:

rederiswrites:

schrodanger:

DA Discussion:

If someone is poisoned by red lyrium and red lyrium has the Blight, would the Wardens’ Joining have any effect or is red lyrium just too corrupted and deadly?

Oh gosh that is a really good question.  I have no idea.  I mean there are SO many related questions.  Can Red Templars sense darkspawn?  Is Blight-song different from lyrium-song?  Presumably.  But once “everything sang the same”.  I have no idea.  So does lyrium moderate/alter the effects of the Blight?  Like, I dunno, encapsulate it or something?  Is having your mind corrupted by proximity/the song (like Bartrand and Meredith) fundamentally different than actually consuming it?  It absolutely made Meredith stronger, like taking it does.  How come they dropped the weird telekinetic effects we saw with Bartrand and Meredith?  Bartrand can continue to live if you don’t kill him, and there’s no mention of Blight sickness, but he didn’t consume it.

I mean, MAYBE if you took the Joining you’d just be…a Warden with a lyrium addiction?  Ugh.  I’m trying to think of more pertinent information and not coming up with anything.  Anyone else?

Wait wait I thought of something.  Corypheus can take over Wardens’ bodies because they’re Blighted, right?  He keeps them around him expressly for that purpose at least some of the time, it would seem.  Why, if the Red Templars are also Blighted?  He could just use them, but he doesn’t.  He keeps his pet Wardens around still.  So it…can’t be the same?

This is a thing my current WIP has me pondering too and I really need to come to conclusions on how to deal with it before the fic concludes, so may I join in? 🙂

One thought is: Lyrium is a separate organism from the individual poisoned by it. It’s more like a parasitic or perhaps symbiotic relationship, maybe? In which case:

  • The lyrium itself could maybe be “cured” by the joining if the joining ritual could be done on just the lyrium, not the “host” poisoned by it?
  • Corypheus can take over a blighted Warden body, but the Red Templars are not themselves blighted – just the lyrium growing on them is. So if he tried to take them over he’d just somehow animate the red lyrium itself and that wouldn’t work?
  • What exactly does red lyrium poisoning do to people, if not blight them? (i.e. if the blight does not spread from the lyrium to its host…) I suppose the parasitism alone is what overcomes them…

Warriors Such As: Chapter 12

A shorter chapter this time. The calm before the storm? That remains to be seen!

Word count: 1928
Rating: G
Fenris/F!Hawke
Summary: From opposite sides of the Ath Velanis gate, Thayer and Varric, Fenris and Metis reconsider their course of action.

Read it here or on:  DA  |  AO3  |  FF.net

Comments and reblogs (and comments in the reblog tags too, or in replies when they finally return, or in the IMs until they do) are always appreciated! I love seeing what you think of each chapter, what parts you liked or want to respond to, or even just a note if you enjoyed it!

Hawkquisition
Part 4: Warriors Such As
Chapter 12
Wherein plans change

Outside Ath Velanis, it was night still, yet the moonlight tinting
the waves so near the tunnel’s entrance could have been broad daylight after
running through the dark beneath the earth with only the Anchor lighting their
way. Thayer blinked as he emerged onto the shore, hearing Varric’s relieved
gasp of the fresh air.

He looked around and saw no sign of their guide. “Caligo?” Thayer
called softly.

From above, a whistle sounded, and they turned to see the elven
archer crouched on a ledge carved into the cliff. “Inquisitor,” she called
back, scrambling down from her perch by footholds invisible in the moonlight.

Then she looked from one to the other of them, registering their
dwindling numbers, and arched a querying eyebrow at Thayer.

“It was a trap,” the Inquisitor winced. “They’ve got a spell for
seeing through the marked warriors’ eyes. Up until you fogged them back there,
the Venatori were watching our every step.”

Caligo pondered this with a grim nod. “Then…the others with
you?”

“Alive. I hope. But caught in the trap, until we find a way
to get them out.” He turned to retrace the path along the coast at a jog;
Varric and Caligo fell in behind. They had not gone a dozen steps before they
passed the first corpse, a red-lined human sprawled on the sand with an arrow
through his eye. Two steps further and it was an elf with an arrow sprouting
from his chest. Thayer tossed a glance at the Fog Warrior as he swerved to
dodge the third such corpse. “You’ve been busy.”

“They didn’t make it difficult,” Caligo shrugged. “Some of them
even glowed; couldn’t ask for an easier target. I’ll wager whatever their
masters saw through their eyes, though, wasn’t me.”

“He was probably busier siccing the rest of their brood on us,”
Varric guessed. “And monologuing. I’m just gonna assume monologuing takes
priority over maintaining that sight spell, right?”

“Regardless,” Thayer said, “we’d best not rely on this entrance
again. Even if we could find a way through the gate now.”

“You mean to go back in?” Caligo sounded surprised.

“That’s generally a crucial element of a rescue, yes,” Thayer
glanced back at her. “We’re getting them out. And then we’re finishing the job
we came to do.”

They ran on in silence. Not until they reached the broken rocks at
the end of the path did Caligo point out, “You realize there may not be much
point in a rescue now.” At Thayer’s and Varric’s converging glares, she raised
her hands defensively. “I am only saying that we have never seen anyone come
back out of Ath Velanis since the Venatori moved in. Not without…” she
gestured at the corpses piled not far from the path, where they had fallen in
the fog just hours ago. In the moonlight, the lines of lyrium on twisted limbs
and torsoes looked like nothing so much as blood from countless wounds,
blending in with the actual wounds the five companions had inflicted
upon them in their flight towards the shore.

Thayer’s hands clenched into fists as he looked at the tattoed
bodies, and then back towards the path, thinking of the time they had lost
already, running from the gate back through tunnels to the shore, and back down
the path to this point. How long would Fenris and Metis be able to keep ahead
of pursuit on their side of the gate? How long before they fell into the
magister’s hands, or met their end with a lyrium-red hand wrapped around their
heart?

“And yet here we are.” Varric’s voice, rough with worries
unspoken, broke the Inquisitor out of his thoughts. :You saw us come out of
there, right? First time for everything.”

Thayer nodded firmly. “We’re getting them out,” he repeated. “The
sooner we get back to camp, the better. We’ve an assault to plan.”

~*~

Fenris, best beloved, carrying my heart with you into that
fortress:

I don’t even know what to say.

I got your letter (and Varric’s) while we were all at dinner, and
according to Merrill, halfway through reading it I went as pale as the mashed
potatoes, into which I promptly dropped it. Once I’d wiped away the gravy
stains enough to finish it, I told Merrill what you said and she agrees with
me, we can think of nothing more unexpected that you could have written.

Then I told Malcolm that he has a grandfather. He looked confused
and corrected me: “Da!” as he does whenever he sees one of your letters in my
hand. (This one is far too perceptive for his years, or rather months,
dearest.) I attempted to explain the concept, but, to be fair, his world has never
previously extended beyond parents and uncle.

Though presumably there’s also still an aunt out there, and I do
not mean Merrill however readily Malcolm would accept her as one. But Fenris –
I have to ask – are you all right with this? Finding your father. From your
letters he seems a decent sort, and Varric vouched for him too, but I remember
how difficult it was for you, seeing Varania again, and I only hope that this
will be a thoroughly happy reunion. I couldn’t bear to see you hurt in the end.

And I know by the time this letter reaches your camp you’ll probably
be off dealing with the Venatori so perhaps I’m a fool to worry about little
details like how you’re getting along with a sudden influx of family. But it
matters. As surely as you have my heart in your care wherever you go, I should
like to think I’ll do what I can to defend yours. So whatever happens
with this father of yours – truly, I am hoping for the best – I remain,

Ever yours,

Hawke

P.S. And if he is in any way a disappointment, your father will
have me to answer to, love.

~*~

The fortress was enormous. This, Fenris acknowledged with
something like hope flaring for a moment, was to a fugitive’s advantage.

The lyrium-quieting potion seemed to affect his markings less
severely than the magebane in it affected his father: by the time the red warriors
caught up with the two elves as they retraced their steps towards the hallway
with the many side passages that they had ignored on their first trip into Ath
Velanis, Fenris’ markings had recovered from their forced reset enough to rip
out hearts as necessary, though Metis could still do little more than swing his
staff at those who came too close. It was a sensible combat staff, though, with
a bladed end that kept him safe enough in the absence of magic. Fenris tried
not to worry.

But they made slow progress, even once they had slain and evaded
enough of the enemy to find a side passage to hide in. Metis had twisted his
ankle slightly when he slipped on the way to the gate, so when they weren’t
pausing to fight their way past someone, Fenris wedged a shoulder under the
mage’s arm and half carried him.

He felt the tingle of restored magic against that shoulder just
before they heard a Venatori patrol up ahead – perhaps they were running short
of the red-tattooed warriors to throw at the invaders, or perhaps it only meant
Fenris and Metis were drawing nearer to the part of the fortress set aside for
the cult’s own use, not just for Licinius’ experiments – and Fenris pulled his
father into the first open room he could find, not even shutting the door lest
it draw attention. They flattened themselves against the wall in the dark of
what turned out to be some sort of storage room, holding their breath and
listening for the patrol to pass. When it was long gone, Metis finally sighed
and sank down to sit with his legs stretched out in front of him.

Fenris glanced over, unsurprised at the faint healing glow as
Metis ran a hand over his ankle, brows furrowed in concentration. “Your magic
returns,” he observed.

“Barely,” Metis grunted, “but it’ll do for now. I’ve slowed you
down long enough.”

“You are not –”

“Oh, hush, lad. I know the predicament we’re in. If I hadn’t
tripped – if you hadn’t come back to help me before that gate came down…”

Fenris considered this until the light finally dimmed and Metis
carefully hauled himself back onto his feet, leaning carefully on the newly
healed ankle to test it.

“I…would have come back for you anyway,” Fenris finally
admitted. “I would not leave you here on your own.”

“That gate might say otherwise.”

“It would not have stopped me.” He held out a hand, letting the
lyrium flare up till even through his gauntlets the markings were brightly
visible, no longer affected by the lyrium-quieter at all. “They affect my whole
body. Passing the whole of me through, say, a wall, is difficult – more so
than passing my hand through flesh, certainly. But the bars of the gate would
offer less resistance than a wall.”

Metis raised an eyebrow and drew nearer, eyes fixed on the lyrium
glow. “Except of course for the magebane you’d just walked through,” he
reminded Fenris.

Fenris scowled. “It can’t be just magebane. I have…encountered
that poison before. Danarius was as ruthless with rivals as he was
unscrupulous. My hands were made to deliver it because they were unaffected by
it, as his would not be.”

“Oh? That’s interesting,” Metis said, some of the worry seeming to
lift from his shoulders as this new puzzle drew his attention. “Yet whatever
they’ve been using on us has magebane enough to affect me, plus whatever it is
that counteracts your lyrium.”

Fenris shook his head. “Whatever it contains, our concern for now
is only to keep away from it.”

“Fair enough.” Metis looked up at him, eyes softening. “You know,
potion or no potion, if you’d ghosted back through that gate you couldn’t
actually have ghosted me back out with you.”

“I know,” Fenris said in a tone of voice that discouraged further
speculation. “If your ankle is recovered now, we should move on.” He slipped
back toward the doorway, sword at the ready as he leaned out to check the hallway.

Metis leaned against the wall next to him. “Perhaps we might
consider where we are moving on to.”

“Ahead of the patrols is all that matters now.” Finding the coast
clear, Fenris stepped quietly out of the room.

“Is it?” Metis followed, limping only slightly but moving quickly
enough to keep up with the taller elf now. “Because I’ve an idea.”

Fenris glanced at him. “For escape?”

“In a manner of speaking.”

Fenris’ eyes narrowed. “In how many manners may such a thing be
spoken of, then?”

“Please don’t ask me to enumerate, Fenris.”

Fenris blinked and then, to his own surprise and even more to
Metis’, laughed. “Very well, then, Professor. Enumerate when this is all over.
For now, tell me your plan.”

“I was thinking of facilitating other escapes. Namely, the
prisoners we’ve heard the Venatori have for test subjects. For one thing, our
purpose here is to make sure no one else has to undergo that, after all. And
for another, a jailbreak would divide Venatori forces rather than having every
last one of them looking for us.”

Fenris considered and then nodded. “It is better than hiding.”

“Then all that we require,” Metis smiled, “is to
find these prisoners.”

Warriors Such As: Chapter 11

It’s been a busy week-and-a-half since Thanksgiving break (lots of lesson planning and grading, mostly, and commission knitting for Christmas…) so I am glad to finally have a new chapter finished to post! We’re finally heading into Ath Velanis to see what the Venatori are up to!

Word count: 5359
Rating: G
Fenris/F!Hawke
Summary: Time to see what’s actually going on in that Venatori fortress, as soon as we find a way in through creepy tunnels! It’s all fun and games till someone slips and falls!

Read it here or on:  DA  |  AO3  |  FF.net

Comments and reblogs (and comments in the reblog tags too, or in replies when they finally return, or in the IMs until they do) are always appreciated! I love seeing what you think of each chapter, what parts you liked or want to respond to, or even just a note if you enjoyed it! (Also, truly, tell me if I’m overdoing the long complex sentences. Or the alliteration.)

Hawkquisition
Part 4: Warriors Such As
Chapter 11
Wherein we explore Ath
Velanis

Knowing the fog was alchemical made it no less creepy. Even having
seen it emanate from the various flasks of reagents which the Fog Warriors
traveling with them carried for this purpose made it no less creepy as the
Inquisitor and his companions advanced through it. The keening battle cries –
and death screams – of the mindlessly wandering red-lyrium-marked warriors,
taken by surprise as the vanguard of Fog Warriors slipped through the mists,
only made this last slow push toward Ath Velanis even more tense. Fenris
gripped his sword tighter, ever at the ready, poised for the moment one of
those lost souls, broken by the Venatori’s failed experiments, would dodge the
Fog Warriors to attack the Inquisitor’s team.

Then they emerged from the fog atop a slight hill, looking down
over the wasteland surrounding the Venatori fortress, and not even fog could
make Ath Velanis look any creepier. It sat along the shore, the land around it
barren and dry, with deep cracks spidering through the earth, even so near to the
lush jungle that had impeded their march for the better part of the past week.
The fortress itself rose up with the cliffs from the water’s edge, with spikes
of stone jutting from the masonry of its heavy wall at intervals, like the
spokes of a great wheel. Beyond the spiked wall, the keep soared in a pattern
of round towers. And between their hilltop vantage point and the outer curtain
of that spiked wall wandered the red warriors, patrolling the wasteland as if
at random, dozens of elves and men and even a few Qunari with the red lines
twining around their limbs and whatever else their ragged clothing left
visible.

“Curious,” murmured Metis, glancing between Fenris and the nearest
rank of red warriors. “Each one is different.”

“What?” asked Thayer, glancing back at the elves.

Metis gestured at the red warriors. “The patterns of their
markings vary…well, markedly.” Varric barked a laugh while Fenris glanced at
the mage with narrowed eyes, but Metis continued: “None of them, so far as I
can see, have quite the same design as any other.”

They looked again in slow and shrewd study, each one glancing back
at Fenris so often that he finally answered with his most meaningful glower.
“What now?” he huffed.

“They don’t quite have your pattern, either,” Thayer
pointed out.

“Does that mean they don’t have his abilities?” Varric wondered.

Metis hefted his staff and tapped the tip of it against his ear in
thought. “We’d best not assume that. I have yet to see any of them make use of
the markings quite as effectively as Fenris does, but that may be for lack of
experience with them rather than a lack of ability. I would advise caution.”

“Caution it is,” Thayer nodded, waving over one of the Fog Warrior
scouts, a slim elven woman barely taller than Varric, her skin and clothing
whitened with the paint that the Fog Warriors used to camouflage themselves in
the fog. “Caligo,” he addressed her. “You know a way into the fortress that
doesn’t involve frontal assault, right?”

“There are passages,” the woman nodded. “A cave on the coast leads
through tunnels to an old sally port. I can take you there.”

“How far?” Thayer asked.

She peered out over the wasteland and toward the coast, crinkling
her nose as she judged the distance. “No more than an hour’s walk, I would
think. Allowing for some o’ them attacking us along the way, that is.”

“A sensible allowance,” Thayer grinned. “Very well. We’ll set out
at dusk in hopes of fewer of them attacking us then. Rest up, lads and lasses.
Our work is soon to begin.”

~*~

Hawke,

I apologize for not writing to you myself at first. I
was…overwhelmed. Even so, the dwarf refuses to destroy his letter or
surrender it to me, so I suppose you will have to read it. Please bear in mind
that it was
Varric writing that and without a doubt he
will have exaggerated. Whatever he said, do not make too much of it.

Yet even now, I find myself at a loss for words to explain what
has happened – what we have discovered. Is this not a strange fate? That of
all the agents the magister might have sent to work with us on this mission,
she should choose the father I could never have found by my own efforts, not
even if I spent my life trying to? Perhaps the Maker – but I am not sure he
takes any more notice of us than it seems he does of the world as a whole.
Indeed, given the things you and I have lived through, Hawke, it might be
better if he (and the world) took
less notice of us.
Still, what are the odds? Then again, Varric tells tales of bringing the king
of Ferelden to this fortress to find
his father. Apparently Ath Velanis
is simply the sort of place one goes to do…such a thing. At least I have
found mine in better condition than Maric, if Varric’s tale is to be believed.

It is clear now why I had no memories of my father. He was
separated from us – my mother, Varania, and myself not yet born – by slavers,
sold away from us without even knowing I existed. (I am ashamed, Hawke, to
recall the years I hated him for his absence from my memories. Not when my
memories began with Danarius, at least; but when I began to recall things, even
the briefest flashes – seeing Varania again, I
knew her, I recalled our mother at her chores, but nothing of him.
I felt as if he had surely abandoned us, but…)

Even now, knowing better, it is difficult to forgive.

But that is unfair, and unworthy of the…earnestness with which
he almost
courts me now, as if he must earn the
fatherhood that the slavers so long ago deprived him of. I am…unaccustomed to
such attention, so many small
kindnesses from a mage, of all things. (Well,
besides you. I am cognizant of the irony, Hawke. I know when I am surrounded. I
don’t suppose Malcolm has started summoning sparks yet?) This…sollicitousness
is not unwelcome, precisely, yet…overwhelming. I may have spoken in a temper
this morning when he sought to help with one too many trivial tasks. (I did
apologize, I assure you. It is as difficult to remain angry with Metis as it is
to remain aloof to him.)

I cannot say what I was expecting in a father, were I ever to find
him. I am only certain that Metis was none of the things I may have expected.
Yet I think…perhaps he is just as he should be.

But enough of this; you shall judge for yourself what manner of
man my father is when you meet him.

We have made one final camp, overlooking Ath Velanis. Tonight we
attempt to enter the fortress and find out what the Venatori have done there –
as if the hordes of unfortunate souls between us and the walls, wrecked by this
mad experiment to recreate what Danarius made of me, were not answer enough to
that question.

The more urgent question is: Have they yet refined the process to
create the warriors they desire? And what, all told,
do they desire? What do they intend to do with the men they
turn to living weapons?

And what will we do with what we find
in there?

Ah, but you can no more answer these questions than we can now.
Answer me this then: How fares Emmen? Has Merrill been able to reverse any of
the damage done to him? Will he come through this ordeal, do you think?

And most importantly of all, Hawke, how fare my wife and child? I
shudder to think of Metis torn away from
his
when Varania was scarcely older than Malcolm is now. Decades, Hawke, he has
thought us all dead or lost to him, and yet he…perseveres. He meets this
world with open arms despite all its cruelty to him, even when he believed
himself alone in it. In his place I think I would be a broken man, helpless and
hopeless and blinded by rage. Not even knowing if you and Malcolm survived –
what life would remain for me then? I am so glad that Skyhold yet preserves you
till my return.

Dusk approaches. The Inquisition scouts have caught up with us
again and will hold this camp till our return or till we signal for the ships
to bring in reinforcements. Our intention is to be in and out of the fortress
quickly, to see how it lies and what goes on there so that we can make further
plans for dealing with its threat. And in the meantime, the scouts have brought
their ravens, so this letter will accompany Varric’s.

I do not know when I shall emerge again from Ath Velanis, for all
the Inquisitor’s confidence in this plan. If you do not hear from me again
soon, please – do not worry, Hawke. But think of me, as I will surely be
thinking of you and of Malcolm, of a world in which he will grow up with no
Venatori or slavers to fear. Nor will any such withhold his father from him. I
am yours still, Hawke, and not even Ath Velanis shall keep me from you.

Fenris

~*~

The setting sun turned the sea to molten gold as they crept toward
the coast. The Fog Warriors, save their guide Caligo, had remained behind with
the scouts guarding the camp. Neither Thayer nor Varric were unfamiliar with
stealth when called for, yet even they could not match the silent, barefooted
steps of their elven companions. In the fading light there was little chance of
their party drawing the attention of the wandering red warriors.

Yet it was not long before a pair of them, streaked with red stripes
at harsh angles far unlike the delicate curves lining Fenris’ skin, reared up
in their path, bellowing with rage.

The first two warriors were easily dispatched, with a swing of
Fenris’ sword taking off one man’s head while Caligo’s arrows and Varric’s bolts
converged on the second. The Inquisition party paused, scanning the darkening
horizon for more, but all seemed quiet again. They advanced with heightened
caution.

Not a minute later, the next three warriors found them.

Then it was wave after wave of them, flinging themselves at the
intruders without caution or any apparent concept of tactics, yet slowing their
progress along the coast by sheer force of numbers.

“Where are they all coming from?” Varric groaned as Metis
petrified the last of one wave just moments before they heard more of their
keening cries up ahead as another group rushed to meet them.

“The fortress, presumably,” Fenris snapped.

“I’m almost sure,” said the dwarf, “we’ve fought through more of
them now than I counted from the overlook. What, are they mass-producing them
in the keep now?”

Fenris parried a sloppy blow from an attacker’s crude shortsword
and twisted to bury his gauntlet in the man’s chest before replying, “It is not
a simple process. It would…each one would take days.”

Varric winced but finally fired back, “So, what, they have a
stockpile of them inside?”

“Not unlikely,” Metis said, straining with arm outreached until he
finally convinced one of the cracks in the dry earth to widen, swallowing two
more of the oncoming warriors with a low rumble.

“What I’d like to know,” shouted Thayer, yanking his daggers from
another warrior’s back, “is what’s drawing them all here. To us.”

“Inquisitor!” Caligo called from behind them. “To your left. Do
you see the path there? Between the broken rocks?”

Thayer glanced and nodded. “I see it.”

“On my signal, make for that path, all of you!” Slinging her bow
over her back, the Fog Warrior reached for her belt.

“Your signal?” Thayer glanced from the path to their guide. “What
do – Oh. That.” And already the fog was billowing from the flask she had
tossed into the red warriors’ mist. Thayer and his companions, as quickly as
they could finish off the enemies in their way, scurried for the marker Caligo
had shown them. The fog swallowed them up even before they reached the broken
rocks, and they stumbled blindly across the sand toward the memory of the path.

Then the rocks – two great piles of them with the narrow path
cutting between – loomed before him and Thayer swerved towards the path. He had
been nearer the rocks than the others had when the fog signaled them to run, so
he guessed he had reached them first; turning back the way he had come, he
peered into the fog to watch for the others. One by one their silhouettes
appeared in the mist, and he called out till they found their way to him:
Fenris, his markings dimmed now; Metis, spectacles askew; and finally Varric,
grumbling about the terrain, with Caligo on his heels, her bow at the ready as
she glanced over her shoulder for pursuit.

But none came; behind them the mists remained silent. “That will
delay them,” Caligo nodded at last, “but not long enough. Quickly, this way!”

She slipped ahead of them, jogging along the path with the elven
men close behind. Varric still struggled to keep up; Thayer fell in behind him,
keeping watch over his shoulder for enemies to emerge from the fog.

The path wound along the base of the cliffs as the minutes and the
shoreline stretched on till Thayer winced with the pain of the exertion
pinching at his side.

“Path, she calls this,” Varric grumbled beside him. “Just more
bloody sand if you ask me. More sand in my boots than feet now.”

“Come now, Varric,” the Inquisitor grinned, “it can’t be all that
bad if you still have breath to complain.”

“Complaining’s how I know I’m still breathing, Shiny,” retorted
the dwarf.

On they ran till even complaining was beyond Varric’s strength,
and only the desperate force of his breathing – and the shuffling of boots in
the sand – indicated that he yet lived.

Then they rounded a corner, and there ahead of them the elves
crouched at a dark opening, more in the sand than in the cliffs, it seemed.
Varric and Thayer caught up and leaned against the cliff wall, catching their
breath.

“The passage,” Caligo explained with a nod to the Inquisitor.

“This leads under Ath Velanis?” Metis asked.

“To an escape route, yes. Whether the gate will be open, I cannot
say. We know of this entrance but have not had cause to use it in years. It may
be watched.”

“I’d like to think we have the element of surprise,” Thayer
frowned, “but I really don’t like how those warriors swarmed us on the shore.
Maybe they weren’t expecting us before, but the trail of tattooed corpses will
probably tip them off now.”

“So let’s get in and out before the sun comes up and the fog lifts
so they can follow the trail,” Varric wheezed.

Caligo nodded. “You must be quick.”

“We will,” Thayer said. “Wait for us here. If we’re not out by
daybreak, alert the camp.”

The Fog Warrior nodded, backing away and slipping into the shadows
in a cleft of the cliff while the rest of them crouched to enter the cave. A
faint light sprang up from the tip of Metis’ staff, just enough to show them
the way, and they began the long walk into the bowels of Ath Velanis.

If the path between shore and cliffs had seemed long, Thayer
thought as they trudged along after Metis, the tunnel under the cliff was like
walking through a never-ending dream. Their feet slipped every so often in a
trail of slime and sludge down the center of the tunnel’s floor, remnants of
some long-forgotten stream that had perhaps shaped the passageway itself.
Nothing else served to break the monotony of the journey. The tunnel ran on and
on, dark and nondescript, without even the passage of moon and stars overhead
by which to judge how long they had traveled its course. Soon enough, though,
he could feel the slope rising, up from the shoreline, up towards the keep atop
the cliffs.

And then without warning, ahead of them loomed a gate, the light
of Metis’ staff reflecting dimly from the damp coating the metal bars. They
pulled to a stop, studying the gate from a presumably safe distance for a
moment before Metis started to reach for it.

“Wait!” Varric hissed. “Could be trapped.”

Metis’ eyes widened, reflecting the light of his staff as he
glanced back at the dwarf with a nod. “Ah. Shall we…?”

“Give me a moment,” Varric answered, glancing around at the tunnel
where it narrowed to the gate’s fittings. “And a bit more light, maybe?” The
staff flared brighter; they blinked till their eyes adjusted to see Varric
crouching near the gateway, running a hand lightly along the ground and then up
the doorframe and over each metal bar.

Finally he turned back with a satisfied grin. “Clear,” he said.
“No sign of traps, but it is locked. Care to do the honors, Shiny?”

“What?” Thayer raised an eyebrow. “Drop your own lockpicks in the
fog, did you?”

“Nah, I’m good. But it looks like one of those fancy Antivan locks
Zevran sent you as a wedding gift after the trouble in Val Royeaux. You know,
with the note about something to keep the assassins out on your wedding
night
?”

Thayer groaned, grateful for the darkness obscuring the heat
rising to his cheeks at that moment. “By which assassins we were never sure
whether he meant the ones that tried to kidnap Josephine, or the one that gave
the gift? Maker, I should never have told you all that story.”

“Still, at least they were good for lockpick practice. And you’re
better at this kind than I am, so have at it, Your Worship.”

With a sigh, Thayer stepped up to the gate and knelt to inspect
the lock. Complex, yes, but it was as Varric had said: not at all unfamiliar.
Not a full minute passed before it yielded with a satisfying series of clicks
and the gate, like a portcullis, rumbled up into a recess in the stone above
it. Almost it seemed the pathway beyond grew brighter, welcoming them in. All
was still; the four of them had all crouched with weapons ready in anticipation
of guards inside, but one side of the gate was as abandoned as the other.

So they made their way cautiously into these new tunnels. Unlike
the long passage from the shore, this was no single, winding path, but a
central corridor from which they soon saw smaller tunnels branching off. And
then they found themselves in tunnels reinforced by brickwork, and soon the
last traces of the natural caverns were gone and they were creeping through
hallways with ceilings of vaulted stone and torches on the walls. Habitation.
As the torchlight became a regular feature, Metis let his staff go dark.

“Anything looking familiar, Varric?” Thayer whispered as they
emerged from one hallway into a wider room, with motifs of dragons in its
mosaic floor and on the sconces from which torches burned brighter than they’d seen
yet. In each corner of the room, narrow stone stairways led up to a gallery
with another row of torches; doors, many of them veiled in cobwebs glistening
in the flickering firelight, lined the gallery as well as the lower level where
they now stood.

“Can’t say I remember this area, specifically,” the dwarf
answered, leaning out Bianca-first into an open doorway to peer into the gloom
beyond, some dusty side chamber whose use could not be guessed, “but it’s a
distinct architectural style, that’s for sure. The decor involved more blood
the last time I visited, though.”

Fenris bit out a curse as he lifted one bare foot, peering at the
residue of what he had just stepped in. “I do not think they have redecorated
as thoroughly as you believe, dwarf.”

“Ew. Blood on the floor?” Varric grimaced. “Judging from all the
cobwebs, I was sure they had a better cleaning crew than that.”

Fresh blood,” Fenris pointed out. “We should be cautious.
And we should move on.”

“So we should,” Thayer nodded. “Any idea where we’re going,
Varric?” Thayer nudged the dwarf back on topic.

“I didn’t come in through the bowels last time. And we don’t
exactly know where in this place we need to go, Shiny.”

“Fair point.”

“For a start, though, I do remember where Aurelian Titus kept the
prisoners when he set up shop here. And…he had a…laboratory. Mae said it
used to be a torture chamber. Odds are the Venatori are using it for one or the
other of those things, too.”

“We know they have taken prisoners to bear their markings,” Fenris
said, testing another door.

“Then that’s a good start,” Thayer nodded. “Freeing anyone they
have lined up for the ritual is a priority. But we should explore as much as
we’re able tonight. Anything we learn could be useful.”

“Especially names,” Metis added. “Maevaris thought of half a dozen
magisters who might be behind these experiments. If we knew whom we were
dealing with…”

“Ah!” a voice, urbane and resonant, startled them all and they
spun to see the speaker standing on the gallery behind them, above the door
through which they had entered the room. “If it isn’t the gardener. How
interesting.” Tall and thin, draped in the elaborate robes of a magister with
his short, pale blond hair set in careful curls, he leaned over the railing,
smiling as if in welcome.

“Gardener?” Varric muttered. “What’s…”

But Fenris’ eyes widened as he followed the magister’s gaze to
Metis, whose face had gone ashen as he gripped his staff more firmly, staring
up at the magister with furrowed brow. “Metis,” Fenris said in a low voice.
“The gardens…you said…”

“Licinius,” Metis named the magister, his voice carefully
controlled. “I was once his…gardener, yes.”

“You were his slave,” Fenris elaborated, turning his glare on the
so-called Licinius with a fury that drew the gleam of lyrium from his own
markings.

“Why, so he was,” Licinius answered, casually leaning back from
the railing and clasping his hands behind his back, raising an eyebrow at
Fenris. “Until Tilani made an offer I couldn’t really refuse, not for a mere
gardener. More than he was worth, even for an incaensor, though I’ll
admit my orchards have never been quite the same since. You,
however,” he nodded at Fenris, “are even more interesting.”

“I am not –” Fenris began, but the magister cut him off
with a wave of his hand that casually drew the torches to a greater glow.

“You’ve no idea,” Licinius said, turning to pace the gallery at
leisure, as if strolling through an Orlesian market, “how dreadfully difficult
it has been, recreating the ritual that gave you those markings. I had a
glimpse of you only twice, you know, once in Minrathous and once when you
accompanied your master to Qarinus. I don’t suppose you recall? No, perhaps
not. But that fool Danarius apparently had everyone killed who had anything to
do with the process of making you.” He chuckled, a startlingly bright sound
that did nothing to ease the tension as the Inquisitor and his allies gripped
their weapons, following the magister with their eyes and spreading out in the
beginnings of a combat formation. “I’ve often wondered if you weren’t
even his weapon in that. The artist who inscribed the markings, the apprentices
who worked the spells to activate the lyrium…” He shrugged. “All gone. And that
cuculus burned all his research notes, every failed experiment, every
mistake I could’ve avoided along the way…” He sighed, eyeing the elf greedily.
“Obviously you were his magnum opus, the pinnacle of his career, a
masterpiece he had no intention of ever recreating, nor allowing to be
recreated by another.”

“Yet that is precisely what you mean to do,” Metis said quietly.

“I saw this little wolf kill three of Danarius’ rivals in
Minrathous,” Licinius said, tilting his head back in reminiscence. “In rapid
succession, three powerful mages heaped on the ground while Danarius stood back
smiling. It was…breathtaking. Well, their breath,” he chuckled. “You,
as I recall, scarcely broke a sweat.”

“That is not all I will break, mage,” Fenris snarled, but even as
he willed his markings to flare to life, the lyrium light wavered and flickered
and –

Went out.

He stared ruefully at the pale, inert lines on his arm, and back
up at the magister, who clasped his hands before him in glee as a smirk lifted
the corners of his mouth. “What…what have you done?” Fenris demanded, while
the rest of the Inquisitor’s team drew in closer to him, weapons trained on the
magister.

“I had wondered if that would work on you,” Licinius spoke as if
to himself. “Or if it was only compatible with the red lyrium. We had to
develop some way of controlling them, you know – those early trials were
horrid; I lost three mages for every man whose markings drove him mad. Of
course there was no way to be sure your lyrium would be affected as well, there
being only the one of you to test it on, but it seems my hypothesis was
correct. This is a fortunate application. Oh, it’s nothing, really – a
bit of magebane and a few other things; it…quiets lyrium, if you will.
That’s not blood on the floor, if you must know. You’d have had to make
your way to this chamber sooner or later, so I set out a welcome for you. Oh,
and it’ll have a similar effect on any spells you might try to cast, gardener,
in case you were feeling heroic.”

Thayer exchanged a glance with his comrades at the implication,
then took a step forward to accuse the magister: “You knew we were
coming.”

“Of course I did. I saw you.”

“But how?” Thayer demanded, while Metis, staff raised before him
in concentration, winced with the strain of trying to draw upon a supply of
mana suddenly gone dry.

“I have many eyes,” Licinius laughed. “The red warriors, of
course. They are bound to me through the markings. It’s a simple spell – yet I
do like to think it’s an innovation of mine; stop me if this sounds
familiar, little wolf? – it lets me see what my warriors are seeing. It works
best on the ones who retain the least of their wits, but at least it makes them
useful to me.”

Varric groaned. “That’ll be how they knew where to find us on the
coast. Why they just kept coming.”

“And when they lost you in the fog,” Licinius confirmed, “I had to
assume you’d found a way into my home. So! Here you are. I really must thank
you for walking right in like this; having a working set of markings to
study is going to…”

No!” Fenris bellowed, raising his greatsword and charging
toward the stairs. Varric came to his aid with a shot at the magister, but
Licinius laughed and turned the bolt to ash with a wave of his hand. With
another such wave, the doors at the far end of the chamber burst open and half
a dozen red warriors charged toward them.

Alive, mind you!” Licinius shouted at his pets, slipping
away through one of the upper doors even as the Inquisition allies turned to
face the new threat.

“Inquisitor!” Metis called out. “We cannot face them here! Not
with the magebane! I’m of no use to you here!”

“And Fenris is likely to start punching them around when he
forgets he can’t punch through them,” Varric added.

Thayer nodded. “Retreat it is!”

They made it out the door through which they had entered and
halfway down the first hallway before the red warriors caught up with them.
Licinius’ lyrium-quieting trap had no effect on Bianca’s quarrels, nor Thayer’s
daggers, and Fenris’ sword was swift enough against their foes even if he could
not punch through any chests – whatever powers their red markings might have
given them, at least they too seemed blocked by whatever they had walked
through in the room with the dragon mosaics. But more of the red warriors
poured from the hallways that branched off of the large corridor that had
brought them to Licinius’ gallery, and they were forced to keep retreating,
even when Metis’ magic and Fenris’ flares gradually returned the further they
moved from the trap.

But there was no point in finding another route through the
fortress. Enemies were everywhere now, the keep alerted, and if they had not
accomplished everything they came for, at least they had a name. When
they had a moment to rest before more red warriors found them, Thayer said
between gasping for breath, “Back to camp. Regroup. Replan.”

They nodded and followed after him, back through all the torchlit
corridors, back through all the darkened tunnels as the light sprang up again
from Metis’ staff. Back all the way to the gate with the fancy Antivan locks.

Thayer and Varric were ahead, well beyond the gate when suddenly
Metis’ light went out again and he slipped on the damp floor and fell. Fenris
turned and bent to help him up. “What is it?” he asked.

“I –” Metis raised a hand, tried to summon his light, but nothing
came. He exchanged a look with Fenris. “Your markings – can you?”

Fenris frowned at his arm, but the lyrium lines stayed dark. As
did the tunnel, save for the faint green glow of Thayer’s marked hand, nearly
dormant in this rift-free place.

“Magebane again,” Metis groaned. “We’ve got to –”

But even as Fenris slung the mage’s arm over his shoulder and
turned to pull him through the gate, even as Thayer and Varric started back
toward them to help, the gate slammed shut from its hiding place in the stone
above with a crash like the sound of the executioner’s blade falling to.

For a moment they stared at each other across the bars. Then
Thayer bent to the lock, whipping out his lockpicks, but Fenris knew something
was wrong from the way the Inquisitor’s face fell as soon as he tried to insert
the pick in the lock. Tried.

“I can’t –” Thayer looked up, crestfallen. “Fenris, it’s jammed.

Fenris tightened his grip on Metis with a curt nod. “Then go.”

“We can’t just leave you!” Varric shouted.

“Back to the camp,” Fenris turned to the dwarf. “Get help,
Varric. You aren’t coming through this gate again, and we can’t come through
either, with the magebane. Summon the ships. Find another way in. Storm the
keep if you must. Do not stay in this tunnel to die!”

“And what of you?” Thayer asked quietly, face pressed up against
the bars of the gate as if to squeeze his way through to them.

“We’ll hide. The other tunnels – it is a large fortress. There
must be somewhere. We’ll find a way out, or if we cannot, we will stay and
scout until you find another way in. Go quickly, Inquisitor. We cannot
evade them forever, and you must call the ships.”

Finally Thayer nodded, reaching through the bars to grasp Fenris’
arm, then Metis’. “Andraste guide you, my friends,” he whispered, and then
backed away, gripping Varric’s shoulder to draw the dwarf away from his sad
post.

“Varric,” Fenris called. “Tell Hawke – If –”

“I’ll tell her you’re on your way out, elf,” Varric called back,
even as his voice and the slap of their footsteps on the wet stone floor grew
fainter and fainter in the distance.

*

Made-up Tevene note: cuculus is a Latin
word that can mean “fool” and/or “bastard” (and also “cuckoo…”) and sounded
like just the sort of term of endearment Licinius would pick for a rival
like Danarius, so…there you go, add that to the collective Tevene vocabulary
🙂   And magnum opus is a masterpiece, or “great work,” a
phrase common enough in English so hopefully it still sounds exotic enough for
Tevene?

Warriors Such As: Chapter 10

At last! Here is the massive chapter that I’ve been sort of liveblogging today! 🙂 Yes, it is enormous, and also quite a turning point…well, let’s just get on with it, you’ve almost 6500 words to read so here goes…

Word count: 6466
Rating: G
Fenris/F!Hawke
Summary: Fenris’ past catches up with him, in more ways than one, and the Inquisition gains a formidable ally.

Read it here or on:  DA  |  AO3  |  FF.net

Comments and reblogs (and comments in the reblog tags too, or in replies when they finally return, or in the IMs until they do) are always appreciated! I love seeing what you think of each chapter, what parts you liked or want to respond to, or even just a note if you enjoyed it!

Hawkquisition Part 4: Warriors Such As
Chapter 10
Wherein things become clearer

Voices. The smell of the jungle,
decay and growth in harmony. Light pressing in at his eyelids, faint but
persistent. The chatter of birds overhead, but muffled somehow. The smell of
bread, fresh, his stomach responding with sudden urgency…

Fenris opened his eyes to see
fabric overhead, a tent of drab grey cloth insufficient to keep out the morning
light completely. He blinked once in confusion before the strange events of the
day before – was it only the day before? – rushed to memory and he sat up, instantly
alert and anxious.

He was not bound. Looking around,
he saw a tray near the tent flap with the bread he had been smelling, and close
to hand, his sword and armor. So he had slept through someone divesting him of
his armor? As he reached toward the pile, a twinge in his side reminded him of
the wound he had taken in the latest Qunari ambush, and he twisted to inspect
the bandages. Fresh and clean – someone had taken the time to change them
while he slept. Quickly now he strapped the pieces of his armor back on, slid
his sword into its place on his back, and considered the bread.

If he had guessed correctly at
where he was, it was probably safe to eat. They had neither bound him nor
killed him in the fog. It was not the first time he had awakened in a tent of
this sort, mystified to find himself treated as an honored guest without
knowing how he had come to be there.

Fog Warriors. He was sure of it now.

Then again, considering the state
in which he had left the last such camp in which he was an honored guest…He
left the bread behind and slipped out into the morning.

The fog had lifted, if any part of
it had ever been natural in the first place. Grey tents formed a companionable
ring around a fire circled with logs and stumps where a number of elves and a
few humans now sat, eating breakfast and chatting amiably. Fenris noted their
numbers, their weapons, sized them up as potential foes, scanning the faces for
his own comrades.

And there was Thayer. Smiling his
most disarming smile, his posture conveying ease and trust, head to head in
conversation with a grey-haired elf, an old woman whose garb Fenris recognized
as the white robes of the Fog Dancer. He could see no hostility in either the
Inquisitor or the Fog Dancer, nor for that matter in the numerous other Fog
Warriors gathered around the fire or wandering around the camp.

What he did not see was most likely
not there to be seen, Fenris reassured himself. He had never known anyone so
open and honest before he had met the Fog Warriors all those years ago, the
ones who had taken him in when his master left him behind…

The ones he had slaughtered at that
master’s command. This was no place for him to relax. This was no place for him
to be.

“Awake at last, elf?” Varric’s
voice startled him out of his thoughts and Fenris jumped as he turned to meet
the dwarf. “And brooding already, I see.”

“I should not be here,” Fenris
repeated his last thought to the dwarf in a murmur.

Varric took a closer look at him,
wrinkling his brow in confusion. “What? Just because the last people who gave
us a bed for the night ended up betraying us to the Qunari doesn’t mean these
guys will. And that whole fognapping thing was all a big misunderstanding, from
what Thayer’s got out of their shaman there. They don’t like the Tevinters or
the Qunari. Once he explained that neither party likes us
much either, it’s all enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend and I think we’ve found
some actual allies here.”

Fenris shook his head, seeking the
words to explain but hesitant to even try. “Varric…”

But as he hesitated, Metis wandered
up to them, holding out a steaming bowl. “Breakfast?” the mage suggested as he
handed Fenris the bowl. “They make a decent stew here. Absolutely no fish in
it. I checked.”

“I…thank you,” Fenris said,
surprised at the gesture. He fell into step behind the others as they moved
towards the fire, while Metis filled them in on the progress of negotiations.

“They’ve had some encounters with
the red warriors too,” Metis explained. “They’re actually rather eager to help
us, now they know we’ve come to put a stop to these experiments. I suppose the
maddened ones wandering near Ath Velanis have begun encroaching on the Fog
Warriors’ territory, causing them no end of problems. And I gather from some of
the things she says,” he nodded at the Fog Dancer as she spoke quietly to
Thayer, “they have cause to know how dangerous these warriors could be if the
Venatori manage to perfect the process.”

Fenris’ hands tightened on the bowl
as the Fog Dancer’s shoulders shifted at Metis’ voice, as her gaze slowly
turned toward the three of them. Her eyes, blue so pale as to nearly match the
fog, flitted briefly over the mage and the dwarf before fixing their intense
gaze on him, and he knew. “Yes,” he murmured. “They have cause.”

In an instant, the Fog Dancer
shouted to her warriors and the bowl of stew crashed to the ground as two of
them closed on Fenris, catching his arms in firm grips. He did not struggle,
made no effort to escape them. The lyrium tattoos remained inert, unlit, as he
held the old woman’s gaze.

“You,” the Fog Dancer said,
approaching him slowly even as Thayer shot to his feet, appalled, and Varric
and Metis were held back by other Fog Warriors when they made a move towards
those holding Fenris. He shook his head at them, and they ceased struggling,
exchanging a bewildered glance while the Fog Dancer reached Fenris and stood
silently, looking him up and down.

Avanna, Domna*,” Fenris
greeted her, inclining his head respectfully.

“Stories have reached us,” she
continued in a low voice, circling around him, studying the markings where they
were visible on his skin. “South of here, a camp of our brethren fell silent,
many years ago now. When envoys of other camps traveled to see what had become
of them, they found only corpses, drained of blood.”

Fenris winced. “I…was not
responsible for the draining, though I suspect I know who was.”

She nodded thoughtfully. still
pinning him with her gaze. “Some investigated. All they could learn of the
matter was that the camp had taken in a strange elf, weeks before the
slaughter. Lost and wandering in the jungle, wounded in battle and perhaps near
death.”

Fenris hung his head. “Very likely.”

“And marked,” she said finally,
narrowing her pale eyes and jabbing a crooked finger at the markings on his arm.
“The markings were described, but no body so marked was found among the
corpses.”

“No,” Fenris agreed.

“Imagine, then, my curiosity when
my warriors brought in an elf marked just as the stories describe. And yet they
say you put up no fight when they found you in the fog, though you were not
taken by surprise as were the others.”

“Is that why I was not bound?”
Fenris guessed, eyes widening as his brows rose.

“Other warriors so-marked wander
these lands now,” she shrugged, “but you are the first we have seen with
markings that are not red. Still, there could have been others like you. We
will hear what you have to say for yourself. For instance, you say,” she
recalled, leaning closer, “you were not responsible for the draining.
For what, then, do you claim responsibility? Hm?”

He could not help but glance up,
meeting his comrades’ eyes each in turn before answering. Thayer looked grim.
Varric – Varric knew the story, after all; had earned its telling with his
friendship just as Hawke had once, she who was the first to hear it since that
dreadful night when his flight for freedom began. Thayer probably knew it as
well, having read Varric’s account. But Metis, hearing all this for the first
time, looked at him with such horror that Fenris closed his eyes as he answered
the Fog Dancer. “Domna, I…killed them.”

“All of them?”

“Yes.”

“Fog Warriors are not easily
killed. What treachery was this?”

“They…Your stories are correct;
they saved me from the jungle. They restored my health, offered friendship,
showed me a life I had never dreamed of. They gave me everything, and I…I
killed them all.”

Her eyes widened and then narrowed
again. “And here you are again, a guest of those you once slaughtered.”

“I know.”

“Then you know your life is
forfeit, coming here.”

Fenris met her gaze, but before he
could answer, Varric’s shout rang out, “No!” and all eyes turned to the dwarf.

“You ever heard of extenuating
circumstances?” Varric grunted, struggling again against the arms binding him.
“It’s not his fault. Not if you hear the whole story. Go on, elf. Fenris. Tell
them.”

A smile twitched at the corner of
Fenris’ mouth at Varric’s defense, but he kept his voice even as he turned back
to the Fog Dancer. “Perhaps it is not so simple, dwarf. I have…often wondered
if I could have behaved differently, that day. Prevented it from happening. I
have blamed myself. Perhaps you are not wrong to find me guilty.”

The Fog Dancer cocked her head to
one side. “But?”

“I…acted at the command of my
master,” Fenris spoke harshly now. “I was a slave. Danarius made me…as I am,
to be his bodyguard. To intimidate his rivals. To be, simply put, a killer. I
was with him on Seheron when a Qunari attack drove him to flee, but I was left
behind in his escape. I barely survived to escape the city myself. When the Fog
Warriors found me in the jungle, it was the first time in my memory that I had
been separated from him. I saw for the first time what freedom could mean. But
he found me again, somehow, and came for me. My…friends, those who had saved
me, had no idea what they harbored. I was never free. I was always his weapon.”
He bowed his head. “He laughed and told me to kill them, and I did not even
think that I could refuse.”

The Fog Dancer regarded him in
stony silence until Varric spoke up again, voice pitching high in worry, “See?
Danarius was the one to blame. Fenris didn’t know any better, back then.”

“And do you know better now?” asked
the Fog Dancer, sparing half a smile for the dwarf though her eyes remained
fixed on the elf.

Fenris met her eyes steadily. “I am
a free man now. I have killed many; most of them deserved it, and I do not
regret being the end of slavers and blood mages. But this? I have long
regretted this.”

“And atoned for it, don’t you
think?” Thayer put in with eyebrow raised and arms crossed.

“Not to you, Domna,
Fenris bowed his head.

She narrowed her eyes in thought,
then turned to one of the Fog Warriors hovering near and demanded, “His blade!”
The warrior quickly drew the greatsword from its place at Fenris’ back and
handed it over to the old woman. Fenris tensed in the warriors’ grips but kept
still as the Fog Dancer stepped back, spun the blade through the air twice with
an agility well-hidden beneath her age and robes of office, then leaned forward
to place the tip of the blade against his throat in one smooth motion. He
caught his breath, not daring to swallow.

“A fine blade,” she said, her tone
of voice suggesting friendly conversation more than proposed execution. “Now,
if I were to run you through at this moment as the confessed killer of my
people, would you blame this sword of yours for the killing?”

“I…no, Domna,
he whispered.

And just as quickly, the sword was
whisked away again, held out at the old woman’s side for one of her warriors to
take and return to Fenris’ back. “Nor can I blame the sword of Danarius,” she
said, firm and clear. And then her wrinkled fingers were on Fenris’ cheek,
stroking gently. “No one should have to carry out such an order, child,” she
whispered over the collective gasp of everyone in earshot suddenly letting out
the breath they’d been holding. Fenris held her gaze for a long moment before
he nodded, even as the warriors holding him released his arms. He rolled his
shoulders, reaching to rub life back into the flesh where they had gripped.

“Thank you, Domna,
he murmured.

“If you truly wish to atone to me,”
the old woman said, one hand resting on her hip as she regarded him now more
shrewdly, “it seems this Danarius is our true enemy.”

Fenris smiled. “Then may your dead
rest easy. Danarius no longer lives.”

“Your doing?” she asked. He nodded
once, sharply. “Then only one task remains. These Venatori whom you hunt. The
warriors they have marked in imitation, or mockery, of what was done to you.”
She frowned and shook her head. “I think they are even less free than you were,
child. One needs reason to find freedom. Dozens of them, as violent as they are
mad, surround the fortress, not two days’ march from here. Some of them…” She
swallowed, closing her eyes. “We think they experimented on slaves at first,
but recently some of our own warriors have gone missing. I fear the Venatori
think to put the markings on them too. It may be our own brothers whom they
send against us next.”

Fenris nodded. “Then we will end
their suffering, if we cannot prevent it.”

Thayer stepped up, nodding to the
Fog Dancer. “And you’ll still aid us? You were saying something about an
entrance to Ath Velanis that your people could show us.”

“Inquisitor,” the Fog Dancer
smiled, “had you not come, we would have had to deal with the Venatori
ourselves, even if it left us vulnerable to the Qunari. Perhaps it is you
who will aid us.”

“And do so gladly,” Thayer grinned,
reaching out to clasp hands with the old woman. “We are honored to ally with
the Fog Warriors. And we thank you for your hospitality. And for my friend’s
life, of course,” he winked at Fenris.

“Let him earn it in the battle to
come,” the old woman intoned, “and all is forgiven.”

~*~

The mage’s eyes were on him again,
as they made camp that night, a day’s march away from the Fog Warriors’ camp
and less than a day to march on before they would face the maddened warriors of
Ath Velanis. Fenris had felt Metis watching him as they walked, a strained
silence replacing the mage’s usual curious inquiries.

Tiring of the scrutiny, Fenris
sighed and sought him out, bringing Metis a bowl of the stew that the Fog
Warriors who now accompanied them had prepared. “You were right,” Fenris
remarked, taking a seat next to the older elf and sipping at his own bowl. “No
fish, and it is indeed quite good.”

Metis did not answer, but Fenris,
sneaking a glance at him out of the corner of his eye, thought he saw the
mage’s mouth turn up in a smile even as Metis averted his own sidelong glance.
The silence persisted as they both slowly ate. Finally Fenris set down his
empty bowl, cleared his throat, and began, “If you have something to say –”
even as Metis turned to him and said, “Fenris, I was wondering –”

They paused; Fenris finally
chuckled and said, “Go on.”

“You spoke of…you were a slave of
one Danarius?”

Fenris scowled at the name, but
then shifted, tension draining from his shoulders as he realized that this
was what Metis wanted to talk about. Was it not the horror of his revelation as
a slaughterer of innocents that morning that had made the mage so awkward
around him all day? Was it only yet more of his unquenched curiosity?
He sighed. “I…was. Do you mean you have heard the name?”

“Only recently.”

“I am surprised. His infamy in
Minrathous is widespread, I thought.” He gave a harsh laugh as Varric and
Thayer, apparently sensing the imminent telling of a story, joined them,
settling in on the other side of Metis. “In fact,” Fenris mused, “I was once
an…instrument of spreading it, I suppose.” He narrowed his eyes at Metis.
“Are you not of the Minrathous Circle?”

“Oh, indeed, but only in the last
few years, as a researcher,” Metis spread his hands and leaned back on the rock
he had made his seat. “Before that I was trained at the Circle of Qarinus. And
before that I was a slave myself.”

“Also in Qarinus?” Varric asked,
eyes glinting.

“What does this have to do with
Danarius?” asked Fenris at the same time, eyes narrowing.

Varric waved him down. “Hold on,
elf. Let him tell it from the beginning.”

Fenris glowered, but Metis nodded
thoughtfully. “Yes, I suppose that is the best way to go about it. Very well,
then. In brief: I was born on Seheron myself. My grandparents, like many of the
natives here, had been slaves, fleeing their masters to live free on this
island. My parents were born into such freedom, though in the midst of a war,
and so in turn was I. But everything on Seheron is in flux, freedom no less so
than the lines the Qunari and Tevinters draw on their maps. The war caught up
to my family when I was still young, with a wife and a daughter and another one
on the way.”

He closed his eyes with a weary
sigh as the tale continued. “I was tending the trees when they came – even
then I had a knack for growing things, you know, even before my magic had shown
itself. We had a proper cabin, with an orchard out back. It was a decent
living. Simpler times. Well, as simple as anything ever was on Seheron. So –
it was a raid. Tevinter slavers caught the village unawares. I wasn’t even
there when they took my – my wife. My little girl. I kissed her goodnight the
night before, told her some prattling story, and never saw her again.” His eyes
shone when he opened them, looking fiercely at Fenris. “Your boy. You kissed
him goodbye, I hope?”

“I – yes. Of course.” Fenris
cleared his throat, looking down from the intensity of the mage’s gaze. “Yes.
Ser.”

“Hold on to that,” Metis said more
gently. “Just – You’ll see him again, of course. But I – I never knew that
would be the last time. I have held onto that last memory for – oh, decades
now.”

“You never learned what became of
them?” Varric asked.

“Now, dwarf,” Metis chided, a smile
lightening his demeanor, “bide your time. Were you not insisting on hearing the
tale in full?”

“Right,” Varric laughed. “Go on,
then.”

“They took half the village in that
raid,” Metis explained. “When I came into town with the fruit to sell and
realized what had happened, I joined a handful of the survivors intent on going
after the slavers, getting our loved ones back.”

“Unsuccessfully, I take it?” Thayer
guessed.

Metis nodded. “In the end we were
only captured ourselves. I was sold to a magister in Qarinus without seeing my
wife or my daughter or learning where they had been taken.”

“You gave up?” Fenris frowned.

“I…I am afraid I did,” he
admitted. “I was a slave. You must know, lad, what that means. How was I to
make inquiries? I left my heart behind on Seheron. I thought of them as dead,
after a while.”

“So how did you end up in the
Circle?” Varric asked.

“Ah. How quickly fate may change!”
Metis brightened. “I had served the magister for many years, mostly in his
gardens when my knack was known. Oh, and he knew it was magic, but beyond the
basic training so I wouldn’t slip up and summon demons or anything so
unfortunate, he had no intention of letting me hone my skills. He had no need
for an apprentice – I served in a more practical fashion,” Metis said with a
faint laugh, pulling up a sleeve to reveal several deep scars running along his
arm.

“He used your blood,” Fenris
growled.

Metis nodded. “He was one of those
superstitious about how much more effective blood magic could be if fueled by
blood bearing magic, but too practical to use up too much of
his own precious blood. There were several of us on his estate, slaves with
some magical talent, guarded closely lest we do anything dangerous with it, but
kept close to the master in case he needed us to fuel his spells.” He shrugged
and let the sleeve fall. “It was…not all so terrible. The gardens were very
pleasant, the bleedings infrequent, and I could have gone to far worse masters.”

“That is true,” Fenris said darkly.
Metis eyed him thoughtfully before continuing his tale.

“Then one day, there was a Qunari
attack. I happened to be near the docks, tending to errands, when it happened. There
was fighting in the streets once one of their dreadnoughts breached the
defenses, magisters and slaves and soldiers all running about in chaos. I was
trying to run to safety when I came across a pair of Qunari cornering a girl in
a blue dress, fiercely flinging fireballs to hold them back.” He chuckled and
shook his head. “I suppose she reminded me of my own daughter, in a way.
Whatever foolishness drove me, I had the two of them wrapped up in roots before
I really knew what I intended to do with them. Fortunately, she had ideas, and
I gave her the space she needed to put them into action.”

“That, I suppose,” Thayer said,
“was Maevaris Tilani?”

“Of course,” Metis nodded. “Not yet
a magister, but already a promising mage herself. Apparently I impressed her
with my fumbling, for she insisted that I had saved her life and that magic
such as mine should not go to waste. So she followed me home, argued with my
master for hours, and ended up signing my manumission papers herself and
sponsoring my admission to the Circle of Qarinus.”

“She freed you,” Fenris gaped.

“Well, not on the spot,” Metis
admitted. “It took years, in fact. First she had to bully my old master into
selling me to her. Then, in fact, I served at her estate for a few
months, in which time she trained me and tested me herself before finally
deciding I needed formal training.”

“Including formal manumission,”
Fenris insisted.

“Slaves,” Metis shrugged, “are not
admitted to the Circle. But liberati are.”

“But you are serving her now.”

“She is my patron now,” Metis
explained. “All that binds me now, my friends, is gratitude. In truth, most of
my time now is spent at the Circle of Minrathous, where I’ve been researching
the red lyrium, as I believe we discussed previously. But when Mae wrote to me
about the Venatori experiments here and asked if I would investigate on her
behalf…well, I would gladly repay her kindness in this way.”

Fenris nodded, looking away as he
thought this over. “But then,” he asked finally, “why did you ask of Danarius?
Is this connected to your investigations?”

“Oh. No. Not on behalf of Maevaris,
at least,” Metis shook his head. “You…asked earlier if I never found out what
happened to my family in the raid. And of course, as a slave there was little I
could do to learn that.”

“But then you were free,” Varric
caught on.

“So I was. Yet even then, for many
years I did not think to pursue the matter. After all, I had let myself think
of them as dead for years, lest it be too much to bear. I had gone on as if I
were a different man, I think. But then, a few years ago I began to wonder what
I might find if I were to look.”

“And did you?”

“Oh, I looked. Maevaris helped me
gain access to auction records, and after months I came across the records of
that raid, the year we were taken from Seheron. At least, I was taken from
Seheron; as it turned out, my wife and daughter were at first sold to a
Tevinter Altus to work on his plantation on the island. But when I traced the
man down, visited the plantation, they were long gone. He had sold them to
another master, back in Tevinter. Then it took time to track down that
master, and the one who had bought them from him, and so on. I
nearly gave up. But I did at least learn that they had been kept together – my
wife and daughter, and – a baby.”

Varric looked as if he were itching
to go after his notebook. “Say what now?”

“I didn’t even know, for all those
years,” Metis laughed. “She was pregnant at the time of the raid, only we
didn’t know it yet. For years, I didn’t even know I had a son,
born on that plantation and then sold along with them. It’s a wonder, really,
that the three of them were kept together in the sales, but the children were
both so small, I suppose no master would have bought them without their mother.”

“And did you find them at last?”
Thayer asked gently.

Metis shook his head with a sigh.
“The trail ended with a magister called Danarius.” He looked up at Fenris’
sharp intake of breath. “So you see, that was what I wanted to ask. If you too
were in his service, perhaps you knew of them? I heard that they had been
freed, but the magister was traveling when I visited his estate, and no one
would tell me anything more. And now of course he is dead. Her name was Mara –
my wife – and my little girl was Varania. Not so little now, I suppose. I do
not know what they called the boy –”

But at the names, Fenris had first
frozen, and then flew to his feet, staring at the mage agape before turning to
disappear into the jungle without a word.

Metis looked around at Thayer, half
risen as if to follow the elf, and then Varric, equally agape. “Have I said
something wrong?” the mage asked.

“Professor,” Varric said finally,
shaking his head and staring at the trees where Fenris had staggered out of
view, “I have a guess what they called your boy.”

Metis followed his line of sight,
frowning, then eyes widening as he took the dwarf’s meaning. “You can’t – Do
you mean…?”

“I met his sister a few years ago,”
Varric said, “in Kirkwall. Varania. It was…complicated. Don’t know where she
is nowadays, but he didn’t kill her, at least.”

“He didn’t – what?” Metis gasped.

“It’s complicated,” the dwarf
repeated with a shrug.

“If he…Can it be? Maker!” Metis
started to stand, to follow after Fenris, but Varric put out a hand to stop him.

“Word of advice, Professor,” he
said. “Give him a moment. That is one elf whose brooding you don’t want to
interrupt.”

~*~

The sun had nearly set when Fenris
finally returned to the camp. Most of the Fog Warriors lay wrapped in their
bedrolls already, but Thayer and Varric sat silent before the fire. At his
approach they looked up, starting as if caught mid-conspiracy.

“I…should apologize,” Fenris
began.

Thayer shook his head. “No need.
That was…er, Varric’s explained the bits that weren’t in his book. This is
all a bit overwhelming, I should imagine.”

Varric laughed heartily, pounding
the Inquisitor’s back. “Apparently I didn’t explain enough, or you’d realize
what an understatement that was, Shiny.”

Thayer looked affronted. “I was trying
to be polite, Varric.”

“Still,” Fenris said, “that
was…not how I would have wished to…well.” He looked around. “He’s not here?”

“Ah…” Varric almost flushed,
reaching to scratch at his grizzled chin. “He ran off right after you did.
Opposite direction. Looks like brooding maybe runs in the family.”

“Which way?” Fenris asked,
straightening, definitely not brooding now, a frown crinkling his nose beneath
the slant of his eyebrows. Thayer pointed, and Fenris strode into the darkening
woods as to the executioner’s sword.

“Er, elf?” Varric’s voice caught
him at the first tree. Fenris looked back over his shoulder, arching one
eyebrow. “Go easy on him?” the dwarf gently urged.

“As I said,” Fenris answered, “I
intend to apologize.”

~*~

He found the mage near the bank of
a stream not far from the camp, sitting with his knees drawn up and arms
wrapped around them, curled into himself in a way that, despite his greying
hair, made him look so young and vulnerable that Fenris halted at the sight of
him, trying to reconcile the image with the smiling, curious mage he had been
growing used to.

He approached quietly, lowering
himself to a crouch at Metis’ side near enough to touch, despite the sense of a
vast distance between them. Though he had come intending to apologize for his
abrupt reaction to the mage’s story, now that he was here, he could not seem to
find the words.

Metis, eventually, spared him. “Is
it…true?” the mage asked quietly, not looking at him, resting his forehead on
his knees.

“I suppose,” Fenris mused, staring
out at the stream in the last of the day’s light, “it might not be, for all
that.”

“Varric said you…had a sister
called Varania.”

“I do,” he said. Metis dared a
glance in his direction at the present tense. Fenris continued, “It is not such
a common name.” And dared a glance of his own. “She…favored you, I think.
Eyes and hair. Magic, too.”

“You…believe it is true, then.”

“I have given it some thought.”

“As have I. What of your mother?
Was she called Mara?”

“I…” Fenris shook his head. “I
cannot remember. I remember little of who I was before these markings. Varania
says that I competed for them, and as a boon when I was selected I asked for my
mother and sister to be made free.”

“Well. That explains why…I heard
the women had been freed, but not what had happened to the…the boy.”

“Varania…was not so pleased with
the boon.”

Metis chuckled. “Mm. Freedom brings
its own troubles.”

“Yes.”

“I remember her being an awfully
stubborn little girl,” Metis sighed. “But Maker, how I missed even her
tantrums.”

“Perhaps I am glad not to remember
that part,” Fenris smiled. “I…have no memory of my father, though.”

“Which…also fits the story,
doesn’t it?”

“I suppose…it might.”

“Fenris. Tell me the rest of the
story? What happened to you, to Mara and Varania?”

“I know little of it. If not for
Varania, I would have only flashes, the faintest memories.”

“And Varania said…?”

“I competed for the markings. I
became Danarius’ pet,” he spat, “and the boon was granted. They were
freed. She said that freedom was no boon. My mother died. I don’t know how.
Varania entered another magister’s service for a time, in Qarinus, then
returned to Minrathous to make a living on her own, as a tailor. She
had no patron to send her to the Circle, so she…” He cleared his throat
awkwardly as he realized what the story was coming to. “In the meantime, I was
Danarius’ bodyguard, having lost all memory of my life before receiving these
markings. And then came Seheron, and the Fog Warriors.” He looked away.

But the awaited censure did not
come. Instead there was Metis’ hand, gentle on his arm, the warmth of the touch
drawing a tingle from the lyrium. “I am so sorry, Fenris.”

“I was…a monster. A terrible
thing.” He glanced at the mage’s hand. “You…do not think so.” It was not a
question, but a realization spoken in quiet wonder.

“More terrible he who made you so,”
Metis answered, chin tucked and eyebrows tilted as he appeared to study Fenris’
markings once more. “Perhaps we should continue to the part of the story where
he meets his well deserved end?”

Fenris smiled. “I ran, when I saw
what I had done here. Danarius was injured but followed soon, sending hunters
after me. I evaded them for years – and then I met Hawke. I…owe her much,
Metis. I would likely still be running were it not for her support.”

“You tracked Danarius down, I take
it?”

“Not exactly,” he winced.
“Varania…led him to us.”

“What?”

“When I learned that I had a sister
still living, I sought her out and asked her to come to Kirkwall. But Danarius
made a trap of it and came with her.”

“How could she – her brother! She knew
you were her brother?”

“She blamed me, I think. And
Danarius promised her an apprenticeship.”

“Still, that hardly excuses…”

“No. It does not.” Fenris turned
wide eyes on the man who might – he was beginning to believe it – be father
to them both. “Let us not speak of her. I have not seen her since that day –
we defeated Danarius and Varania fled. I…would have killed her, I think, if
not for Hawke.”

Metis shuddered. “This…this is
not quite what I expected when I was trying to find her. You. All of you.”

“Nor are you what I expected,” said
Fenris with a wry chuckle.

“Well!” Metis smiled. “Given your
tendency to expect the worst, I think perhaps I’ll take that as a compliment.”

Fenris shook his head, returning
his gaze to the stream, now shrouded in darkness. “Do you think it’s true,
then?”

Metis was silent in thought so long
that Fenris turned back to look at him. The mage’s eyes were closed tightly,
head bowed to touch the fingertips of his hands clasped over his knees. He
might have been in prayer; dark as it was, Fenris thought he saw his lips move
slightly. Then his head rose and he turned to meet Fenris’ gaze with a ready
smile. “Fenris!” he said. “I…I would like to think so, at least. Perhaps it
can never be proven beyond doubt, but I would be glad to call you my son.”

Fenris’ shoulders straightened as a
weight he had carried unawares seemed to lift from them. He returned Metis’
smile with his own crooked, tentative one. “And I,” he said, “am glad to find
in you a father, mage. Even if you are a mage. Because of course you would
be,” he grumbled, taking an unexpected pleasure in the irony as they both
turned again to face the stream, falling again into silence as they thought
over the weaving together of their stories.

“So,” Metis finally broke the
silence, standing, stretching, and reaching a hand down to help Fenris up,
“tell me of yourself? We have years – decades! – of catching up to do,
haven’t we? All the little things I should know of my son. For instance, I
gather that you do not care for fish.”

Fenris could not suppress a
sheepish laugh as he stood and they turned to walk back to the camp. “I…do
like apples.”

“Apples. Excellent. I can plant you
an orchard. Though I am partial to peaches myself,” he offered as if such facts
were currency, one detail exchanged for another, glancing sidelong as if to
gauge Fenris’ reaction. In this way they made their way back to camp, gradualy
coloring in the details of their lives.

~*~

Hawke:

I’d love to say I’ve never seen
your broody husband speechless before, but obviously you’d call me on that one.
However he is at least so at a loss for words that he’s turned over the writing
of this letter to me.

I promise, I’ll get him to write a
nice footnote at least before I send it.

Anyway, apparently today was one of
those days that has overloaded his brooding meter to the point where he can’t
talk of it until he’s mulled it over a good long while. I told him that this is
VERY IMPORTANT and HAWKE WILL WANT TO KNOW and BESIDES, YOU PROMISED TO WRITE
TO HER, and he threw the scraps of parchment at me to prove he’d been trying
to. (I’m gonna enclose them. Consider it a historical document, Hawke.
Blackmail also comes to mind.)

Consider also that your elf is
alternating between crumpling those attempts at letters, smiling off into the
darkness like he sometimes does when he’s thinking of you (I’m just going to
assume so, anyway, for your sake, and because I’m essentially ghost-writing a
love letter here, aren’t I?), and telling the most random bits of his life story
to a near stranger.

Because that (until a few days ago)
stranger is Metis, the mage Maevaris sent to work with us. I think you’ve heard
of him? Broody claims he has written of him before.

And that stranger, it turns out, is
your long-lost father-in-law.

Yep. Fenris’ dad, it turns out, is
a mage in the Circle of Minrathous. It’s quite the story, actually, and I am
itching to tell it to you, but Fenris is shouting something about JUST TELL HER
WHO HE IS AND LEAVE THE REST TILL LATER (all while pacing, I should say) and I
think he really wants to explain it all in person. He’s giving me the fish-eye
like he’s certain I’ve already written every sordid detail down.

All right, I’ll save the story for
later (besides, it gives me time to write it down properly, with suitable
polishing, because you’d better believe I’m getting a book out of this one),
and just say: I can’t wait till Malcolm meets his granddad.

He’s a nice guy, Hawke. You’ll like
him. Malcolm should like him. Sod it, FENRIS seems to like him well enough for
a mage.

Oh, and we’re storming the Venatori
fortress tomorrow. Thought you’d want to know.

Varric

[addendum, written on a fairly
pristine scrap of parchment amidst a handful of rather crumpled ones with many
a false start scratched out:]

Hawke,

I truly, sincerely, earnestly wish
you were here. I hope Varric has not overdone things – perhaps I should not
have let him write for me – but…

I have a father. I wish you were
here.

That is all.
Fenris

*Some made-up Tevene and some not-so-made-up
Tevene. Avanna is a greeting (taken from Fenris’ short story
preceding DA2, citation: http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Tevene) and Domna is my invention, a term of respect for a female
leader, based on the Latin Domina for lady/mistress. I’m presuming the Fog Warriors,
being Seheron natives, might speak some form of Tevene because Seheron was part
of Tevinter decades/centuries ago, before the Qunari conquered it and it ended
up being eternally fought over between those two nations.

Warriors Such As: Chapter 8

Was so very stuck on the fight scene, one paragraph down and no idea how the rest of it was to go…and then I realized it needed to be from Metis’ perspective this time and it just flowed from there. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out! And also the dialogue after it. And Fenris’ letter at the end. Honestly, very happy with this chapter on the whole and yesterday I was not prepared to like it this much. So, here’s hoping you do too. 🙂

Word count: 4159
Rating: PG for battle scene
Fenris/F!Hawke
Summary: Fenris knows when things are fishy; saarebas are deadly; the jungle is a big place but Harding has lots of scouts looking for our heroes! Also Metis is kind of new to this combat thing.

Read it here or on:  DA  |  AO3  |  FF.net

Comments and reblogs (and comments in the reblog tags too, or in replies when they finally return, or in the IMs until they do) are always appreciated! I love seeing what you think of each chapter, what parts you liked or want to respond to, or even just a note if you enjoyed it!

Hawkquisition Part 4: Warriors Such As
Chapter 8
Wherein Hawke’s worries are not ill-founded

It wasn’t the village leader that woke them the next morning. An
elf with short brown hair and grey eyes that never quite met any of theirs
brought them a breakfast of thin flat cakes wrapped around some sort of gruel
and chunks of fish, at which Fenris made faces, picking fish out of the gruel
in search of anything that hadn’t absorbed its flavor, and finally giving up
and scraping the whole concoction onto the plate to eat the wrap alone.

The boy watched in silence as they ate, standing in the doorway
and glancing from one of them to the next as if worried they would bolt for it
and mow him down. When they had finished and rose to gather their things, he
finally spoke up. “I’m Kynix,” he said. “I’m to take you safe through the
jungle.”

Thayer glanced around at his companions. “That’s kind of you,” he
said slowly, “but I think we –”

Kynix shook his head vehemently. “Please. You must come with me.
At least till you are a safe distance from the village. We are grateful you
closed the hole in the sky, yes, but you can’t stay here. Tevinters leave us
alone mostly, but if they found you here…”

“Overstayed our welcome, is that it?” Thayer cocked his head and
quirked a smile. “All right, then. We don’t wish to put you at risk. But you
still needn’t come with us. We’ll just be on our way and…”

“Wander into Vint raiders?” the boy raised his chin in challenge,
his voice breaking. “They took my brothers last year. Don’t even know if they
made it safe through the slave markets or died at sea. You want to get through
the jungle safe, you follow me.”

Metis nudged Thayer and gently confirmed, “It is actually
raiding season, Inquisitor.”

Thayer fixed Kynix with a hard stare for a long moment before
bursting out, “By Andraste, what sort of land is this that arranges such
things in seasons? Oh, very well. Show us this route of yours.”

~*~

“I knew he was trouble,” Fenris grumbled, hours later and deep in
the jungle, as they drew their weapons, standing back to back surrounded by at
least a dozen Qunari while Kynix disappeared into the trees. “Fish. Pfaugh.

“Fish, as a sign of betrayal?” Thayer laughed in surprise. “By
that logic, all of Seheron’s probably out to get us.”

“Likely enough, by any logic.”

“Well, by my logic, Kynix’s little heartbreaking tale about his
brothers was a scam of the first rate. Wouldn’t you say so, Varric?”

“Actually,” Metis interrupted, “it was probably true. A grudge
against Tevinter would explain why he was working for the Qunari.”

“Not uncommon,” Fenris confirmed. “There are Qunari agents
throughout Seheron. Anyone we meet could –”

“Right. Fine. We’ll watch out for people offering us fish in
future.” He frowned and shifted a dagger, crouching at the ready as the Qunari
slowly closed in, one of the larger ones raising a hand to halt the rest when
they were within spearing – or speaking – distance. “Do you suppose,” Thayer
mused, “it would help if they knew we’re not Tevinters?”

“Doubtful,” Fenris glanced at the Inquisitor, “but the attempt can
be made.” He straightened, lowering his greatsword to shout across the clearing
at the apparent Qunari leader. “Shanedan! Anaan esaam Qun.

The Qunari leader looked the slightest bit surprised at hearing
his language from the elf for only a moment before responding in kind. Thayer
and the others shifted and exchanged glances as the parley stretched on, until
finally Fenris turned to Thayer to say, “They wish to know if you are the
Inquisitor.”

“Well, obviously –” Thayer gestured with his Anchor hand.

“The Inquisitor whom they blame for the loss of a dreadnought off
the Storm Coast some time ago.”

Thayer frowned in thought. “Dreadnought? What the – oh. That.” He
shrugged, keeping an eye on the Qunari leader. “It was the dreadnought or the
Bull’s Chargers. The Inquisition offered reparations, but the Qunari made it
clear that their interest in an alliance was at an end.”

The Qunari shouted something more, at which Fenris snorted and
interpreted: “It appears they have no wish to reopen negotiations at this time.
They do, however, aim to take us alive.”

“Is that so?” Thayer grinned. “How heart-warming. I wonder why.
Let’s not find out, shall we?” A volley of Qunari spears flew in to punctuate
his words, and the Inquisition team answered with the zip of Bianca’s bolts and
the crackle of lightning called down from Metis’ staff, with the flare of
lyrium tattoos and the sweep of Fenris’ greatsword, with the hail of sudden
cuts from Thayer’s daggers when he appeared as if from nowhere behind the
warrior bearing down on Varric.

This was a dance the others knew all too well, Metis thought as he
called to roots and branches to entangle, lightning to spark, fire to kindle
along the Inquisitor’s daggers or in the leaves beneath a Qunari’s feet. The
mage himself had often enough had cause to defend himself with his magic, as
was inevitable when one had the privilege of magic in Tevinter, but seldom on
the scale his companions had reached in their first few days in Seheron. Metis
was finding them fine companions, but for all the Inquisitor’s optimistic charm
and the dwarf’s compassionate wit, they were fatally efficient in battle. And
the elf. Every time battle found them, Metis was astonished anew at the gulf
between Fenris’ lyrium-imposed abilities, honed in years of such combat, and
the berserker-like madness of the red-engraved warriors whom he had thus far
encountered in the wastelands of Ath Velanis. This, Metis reminded
himself, this is what the Venatori hope to create, as he watched Fenris,
with a flare of lyrium light, stop one Qunari’s heart and eviscerate the next
with gestures that from anyone else would have been merely a shove.

They played to one another’s strengths, too, these three so oddly
matched: Fenris held the enemies’ attention with his violent and glowing
onrush, till at some point the balance of the lyrium was tipped and the elf
almost seemed to vanish from their sight, ghosting about the battlefield even
as Thayer emerged from his shadows to catch them off guard when they were
looking around to see where Fenris had gone. Meanwhile Varric had found cover
behind a fallen tree and kept the bolts raining down in all directions,
including three shots fast on each other’s heels into the chest-throat-head of
a Qunari that Metis turned to see rushing up behind himself. He flashed Varric
a grateful smile and reinforced his flagging barriers around them both.

And he was a scholar, not a warrior, but Maker if there
wasn’t a giddy joy flooding him as yet another Qunari writhed to the ground
with Metis’ thorns squeezing at his legs; as the sudden rush of his fire,
kindled at another enemy advancing upon him, stole the very breath from that
horned warrior’s lungs; as Fenris ghosted suddenly in behind him to take the
head of a third, so bloody and determined and intense when he briefly
nodded to Metis in passing that the mage felt the most illogical urge to burst
out laughing.

Three days, and they had certainly improved as a team; but of
course the others already were one, Metis knew, so perhaps it was just that
with repetition of this dance he was seeing their efficiency more. Or
that he was starting to find his own place in it. Nevertheless, this was
quicker, easier than the battle that first day had been, ambushed by Qunari in
their own supposedly safe camp. Though he was fairly sure there had been more
Qunari ambushing them that time, and besides, they’d had a little more time to
ready themselves for this one while Fenris chatted with the Qunari leader; but
even so, it seemed –

Venhedis,” he swore at the sound of a battle horn echoing
through the trees. It seemed the dozen or so that Kynix had stumbled them into
hadn’t been patrolling all alone. “Reinforcements incoming!” Metis shouted over
the cries of battle and the roar of his own fires.

They came from the – well, he’d lost his sense of direction in
the midst of scurrying about the clearing to evade any Qunari taking too great
an interest in him, not to mention that clearing was really too generous
a word for a spot under the trees where one could at least see one’s enemies
between one tree and the next but could still not see the sky. North, for his
best guess. Hopefully not west, because they still needed to head that way.
North could be given a wide berth. Except that north seemed to be nearly upon
them anyway.

The last of Kynix’s Qunari friends fell just as the first of the
reinforcements’ spears flew past the trees into their midst. Metis and the
others ducked behind cover – Varric’s fallen tree, many a fallen corpse –
till the volley lifted. Then they had just a moment to exchange glances, take
stock – each of them still breathing, good; nasty scratch on the dwarf’s
biceps and blood seeping between Fenris’ fingers where he pressed his hand to
his side, not so good; Metis shot quick tendrils of healing energy both their
ways in haste – before the enemies were within sight.

Very not so good. Metis caught his breath when he saw their
numbers, easily twice the dozen that had surrounded them at first. And they
had…

“Saarebas,” Fenris growled when he saw it, the giant enshrouded in
the visor and chains.

“We are in such deep shit,” Varric agreed.

“Qunari mages,” Metis told Thayer, since the other two at least
seemed aware of them, “are the greatest weapon they have. They know no magic
but destruction. And they are very, very destructive. If that one can control
the battlefield, we could be undone in seconds. They are hardly more than
killing machines.”

Thayer nodded. “Of course,” he smirked over his shoulder at the
others, “arguably, so are we. All right then, the saarebas is our first
target. I’m going in close; Fenris, keep the rest off me. Metis, Varric – oh,
to the Void with it, you all know your jobs.” He nodded again and darted into
the shadows of the trees even as Metis lit barriers around the four of them and
Fenris charged into the thick of things, his tattoos flaring to life again.

And then it was chaos, in comparison to which the first round of
this battle had been a leisurely and routine thing, allowing Metis time for
reflection, which, in hindsight, was a remarkable luxury. Every thought now was
for a root to tangle there and fire to singe the enemy rearing up behind
him here and ducking that blow only to bring his staff around and
parry this one…

It was brutal and it was fast and there was no pause. He was too
old for this and he had never felt so alive but Maker, it would be nice
to catch his breath at some point. The barrier flickered and he went to cast it
again but first there was a sword much closer than it should be and he was
bleeding suddenly even as he twisted away, even as the roots squeezed at his
foe and the fire sprang up all along them. And then he was on fire,
somehow, his own? the saarebas? he could not even tell, but he rolled into the
leaves and the damp of the jungle floor to put the flames out and still he had
not found a second to spare in casting the barrier up again. Groaning,
crouching in the leaves, pulling himself up again so he could spin his staff,
weave the next spell (a barrier? a blast of fire scattering the three bearing
down on him now? Oh, to cast both at once…) when there was a light,
bright in his eyes – behind his eyes? – not ruddy as fire, no, nor
blue of lyrium, only – white and –

Cut off suddenly, from chaos to quiet, knowing no more.

When he woke again, disoriented and confused and frankly a little
surprised to wake at all, there were a great many people moving around.

None of them seemed to be Qunari. At least not the horned-giants
kind.

Metis groaned and tried to roll to his side. A throaty chuckle
made his ears perk up. The wrong side though – he rolled over again, the other
way now, and found Varric sitting beside him, oiling that contraption he called
a crossbow.

“So, Professor. You’re still with us,” the dwarf greeted him.

“It would seem so,” Metis allowed, wincing at the pain in his head
when he tried to sit up. He took it as a sign that he wasn’t meant to try so
soon, and lay back down, turning his head to keep an eye on his companion.
“And…the others? Everyone all right?”

Varric nodded. “You got the worst of it, I think. Saw that Qunari
mage fling a rock at you that knocked you out cold, just before Thayer got in
behind him and slit his throat.”

Metis winced. “Er…how did he…?”

“Past the fancy cage they wear?” Varric asked. Metis nodded
faintly. “Oh, his worshipfulness has his ways. Don’t expect me to go spilling
his secrets; I’ve still got a book on the Inquisitor Trevelyan Story planned
and secrets sell books, you know.”

Metis blinked in acknowledgement and laid his head back again.
“Was anyone else hurt?” he finally asked.

“Nothing serious, other than that bump on your head. Oh, and the
stitches in your arm. Sorry we didn’t just heal that with magic; our healer was
unavailable.”

Barely sparing a smile for Varric’s teasing, Metis found the
alleged stitches, more neatly done than he was expecting, and carefully prodded
at the wound with healing magic. “You took a cut to the arm yourself, as I
recall.”

“Also stitched. Don’t worry; it’ll make a decent scar.”

“And Fenris? A side wound…”

“Bandaged; he’ll live. He’s always been quick to heal. Brooding
enhances his immune system, I guess. Or it’s the lyrium.”

“Doubtless.” Metis glanced around. “I don’t seem to recall,” he
mused, “quite so many people traveling with us.”

“Forward scouts,” Varric chuckled, gesturing around at the
soldiers in Inquisition armor who, it became clear when Metis managed to focus
on them longer than a second, were at work setting up a camp. “Harding’s had
groups following us to establish perimeter camps after we blaze the trail.
Makes getting back to the main camp a little easier later on. Plus, they
brought ravens. Thayer and Fenris are over there now,” he waved in a direction
Metis couldn’t really look at the moment anyway, “catching up on all the news
their ladies have been sending from Skyhold, I assume. Or maybe something more
official from Charter.”

“So we’re safe for now,” Metis sighed. “The rest of the Qunari?”

“Let’s just say Harding’s scouts have damned good timing. That war
horn that signaled the Qunari reinforcements? Apparently our reinforcements
came running too.”

“None too happy with us,” commented Fenris, striding up from
Metis’ other side, marginally slower than the mage was used to seeing him,
bandages just visible between the latches of his tunic, “for being so far off
the course Harding had plotted for us.”

“Hey now, Thayer explained about the rift.”

“And the…fishy Qunari spy?” Metis managed a grin.

“Of course!” Varric laughed.

“Nevertheless,” said Fenris, lips thinned with a suppressed smile,
“they had been trying to locate us all this day. Perhaps without the battle we
would have gone on missing each other in this jungle.”

“I for one would have been fine with also missing the Qunari,”
Varric shrugged.

“It is done,” Fenris waved a hand, consigning to a footnote in
history what had arguably been the most exhilarating and doubly most tiring day
of Metis’ life. Then he raised the other hand, bearing a crumpled parchment.
“Besides, Hawke wrote. The scouts brought ravens. They’ve got messages flying back
and forth now between us and the main camp.” He smirked. “She’d accumulated
quite a backlog while we were away from camp. I’m not sure there aren’t ravens
still on their way to us.”

“All’s well?” Varric asked, all trace of jest evaporating.

Fenris nodded. “Safe and sound. Metis?” He held out the letter.
“Something she wrote in the last letter. I thought…you should know about
this.”

Metis nodded, carefully pulling himself up to a sitting position
and blinking against the fireworks going off behind his eyes till he could
focus on Hawke’s neat and narrow script. Adjusting his spectacles, he felt the
ghost of a smile form at Hawke’s endearments, her entreaties to Fenris to
write, her worries at why he couldn’t…and then he read what she had written
of Dagna, Merrill, mirrors, and red lyrium corruption.

“Emmen?” he asked finally as he looked up from the end of the
letter.

“A boy in Merrill’s…er, clan,” Fenris said.

“The one who got infected with red lyrium?” Varric remembered.

“Planted with it,” Fenris frowned. “We fought red templars who
threatened the refugees Merrill had gathered,” he explained to Metis. “Emmen
had located red lyrium growing in a cave nearby. They followed him to the
source and then somehow planted it in him. When we found him he was nearly
unconscious, with bits of it growing out if him, twining along his limbs like…”
Involuntarily his eyes fell on his own tattoos. “Well, Thayer brought him back
to Skyhold. The mages there managed to stop its growth but could not wholly
separate him from the infection. Dagna…” His face twisted at the attempt to
explain Dagna.

“She’s from Orzammar,” Varric assisted. “Studied magic at some of
the Circles before war broke out. Of course she can’t do magic, but
you’d hardly know the difference between what a mage does and what she can
make. Enchantments, runes…she studied red lyrium while we were fighting
Corypheus, so the Inquisitor put her in charge of curing the kid. Or at least
studying him.”

“And Merrill?” Metis asked, rereading the letter.

“A blood mage,” Fenris said curtly and crossed his arms.

“Soon to be his sister-in-law blood mage, if the rumors are true,”
Varric teased in wheedling tones. At Fenris’ glare, he shrugged. “What? Daisy’s
as nice a person as can be, elf. Sometimes I think that’s why you don’t like
her, as much as the blood magic.”

Fenris huffed, but finally unfolded his arms and admitted, “She
is…not as reckless as she once was. Nor, I suppose, as annoying.”

“Aw, she’s grown on you.”

“She is kind to Malcolm,” Fenris shrugged. “But she is, or at
least was once, a blood mage, Metis. She bargained with a demon to learn
a way to cleanse a shattered eluvian of the Blight that had corrupted it.”

With each word, Metis’ eyes grew rounder. “You’re saying she
actually succeeded? In cleansing something of the Blight?”

“So it seemed.” Fenris nodded at the letter as Metis reread it
once more. “Hawke – Dagna seems to think it significant. What Merrill did.”

Varric coughed. “The Blight. It’s…I’ve got a…friend, who’s
done some research in the thaig where we found that red lyrium idol, all those
years ago. Recent conclusions? It’s the Blight. Red lyrium is lyrium that’s got
the Blight.”

Metis frowned thoughtfully, tracing an absent-minded pattern over
the edge of the parchment with his thumb. “It’s fairly new in Tevinter, you
know. Red lyrium. I understand the Inquisition did much to keep it from
spreading this far north, but I suppose it couldn’t be delayed forever. But a
colleague and I, at the Circle of Minrathous, had a chance to run tests on a
sample of it. Our conclusions…were tending to the same end as yours.”

“Any chance of bringing this colleague of yours in to help?”
Varric ran a thumb over his chin, eyes narrowing.

Metis laughed, a huff of irony. “Possibly, but news is scarce out
of Weisshaupt these days.”

“Weisshaupt?” Fenris looked up.

“My friend became a magister. He ran afoul of certain rivals, and
being, as he was, one of the few magisters in Tevinter not to embrace blood
magic, he ran very afoul of them. In the end, to keep his life he had to
yield it up to a Grey Warden recruiter. Ironic, isn’t it? After all our
research into red lyrium and the Blight, Caius is now better acquainted with it
than anyone outside the Order can be. Last I heard of him he was at Weisshaupt.
But word can be sent.” Metis shrugged. “Every resource is precious, is it not?
What I know, what Mae knows, what Caius knows, what your Merrill and Dagna
know.” He shook his head, then smiled and shook the letter at Fenris. “As for
you, oh Wolf, have you written back to this Hawke of yours yet?”

“I was about to,” Fenris admitted, slow smile spreading.

“On with you then,” Metis admonished. “The lady has worried
enough. Send her my regards, hm?”

“Write to her yourself,” Fenris countered, eyes rolling to the
branches overhead as he walked away. “Maybe she’ll take your word for it, as
healer, that I am not in fact dead.”

~*~

Hawke,

Yes, we are well. You can tell Malcolm, if you are still spinning
this story for him, that we have twice fought Qunari and once demons (there was
a rift, even here) and we are still alive.

I will leave it to Varric, or your own most excellent imagination,
to fill in the details. I trust either will make it sufficiently exciting for
Malcolm and for his [alleged aunt] Merrill.

I hope all is going well with Merrill’s and Dagna’s work on Emmen.
The mage here confirms that red lyrium is connected to the Blight, so perhaps
Merrill really can be of use. I wish her luck (you may even tell her so) but I
truly hope blood magic will not be required in the process (absolutely tell her
I said so)!

Tell me, Hawke, when we were at Weisshaupt, do you recall a Warden
called Caius? He is a mage, a friend of Metis’ who last he heard was at that
fortress. Together they studied red lyrium and the Blight, before Caius became
a Warden – which cannot have been so long ago, so I do not think this Warden
would have followed the Calling yet, but I cannot recall anyone by that name at
Weisshaupt when we were there. You surely made more people’s acquaintance than
I, however. Metis will try to contact him, but if you recognize the name
perhaps you could write to him as well, for whatever advice he can give in the
matter of Emmen. Anything but blood magic, which Metis says his friend never practiced.

Metis sends you his regards, by the way. I wonder what you would
make of him. There are worse mages we could be obliged to work with, no doubt.
He seems honorable enough, and if he is damned inquisitive, at least it is with
cause and not mere curiosity. Still, I would be happier not to be the subject
of anyone’s research. I suppose Emmen may feel the same way, if he is conscious
enough to think on it at this point. Metis is certainly capable in a fight –
Merrill would no doubt be intrigued by what he can do with roots and branches,
and he’s a decent healer – but I do miss the heady chill of you freezing
everything in sight, and the scattering of light when my blows shatter your ice
statues. And your far superior healing (I hesitate to mention it, lest you
worry, but I did take some blows in this last fight; think nothing of it,
Hawke, you know I heal fast, and really it troubles me very little already).
Also your laugh. And your eyes. The way you narrow them when you do not believe
what you are hearing, as I know you are narrowing them now when I assure you my
wound is nothing like that other one, the one you left Merrill to tend.

I’m sorry. I was not going to write of that. You already have
those letters.

Maker’s truth, Hawke, I just miss you. Everything. Seheron is a a
death trap riddled with hostile Qunari and Tevinter raiders and treacherous
fish-bearing natives and worst of all, there is no trace of you here. Not even
a hawk in the sky or a violet amidst the tree roots to remind me of you.

In retrospect, though, I hardly need reminding, do I?

Be well, my love, my Hawke, ever on my mind,
Fenris


Blogger Gatherings!



Click the button for reports from the 2010 Spring Blogger Gathering, hosted by Linett of Nimrodel!

Berethron of Brandywine hosted the 2010 Summer Blogmoot.

The Winter Blogmoot was held on December 4, 9 p.m. EST at the home of Telwen of Silverlode.

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