Tale of the Stranger (or How I Met Selena Hawke)

Chapter 10

"I'm heading up to Sundermount."

"Wha-?" Anders choked around a mouthful of raspberry tart.

We were sitting at the kitchen table, Bodahn- finally a member of the Hawke family- kneading dough nearby for the day's loaves of bread. He snickered softly at Anders' predicament. I couldn't help it, I laughed too as I patted his back to dislodge a bit of pastry.

"I'm taking Merrill and we're going up to Sundermount," I reitereated. "And I need you to tell Hawke when he gets back from the Viscount's office."

"Why not just wait til Hawke gets back then?" he asked, wiping crumbs from his face and shirt.

"Because Garrett will try and talk me out of it, and this is something I need to do. Oh! And tell him to carry a couple of handkerchiefs big enough to wrap around his face! He'll know why when he gets to it. Trust me."

Anders looked so confused I had to laugh again. Sometimes it was kind of fun knowing some of the things that were going to happen. "Don't worry, Anders. There's just some people I need to talk to."

"Then I'm coming too," he declared, standing from the table.

I followed suit, placing a hand gently on his shoulder. "No, you're not. Hawke's going to need you tonight. This job he's about to take is going to take a healer. And you're the best. Don't let him leave you behind, okay?"

"O-okay," he replied haltingly. I could see the conflict in his eyes. He didn't want me to go without him, but he also didn't want to leave Hawke in the lurch. Not when it might be a matter of life or death.

"Don't worry, cute stuff. I'm taking Merrill and Fenris with me."

"That's supposed to make me feel better?" he asked incredulously. His dislike of the two elves was legendary, which was funny when you considered how alike he and Fenris were.

"Trust me." I said as I wandered to the foyer, grabbing my pack from the entry bench before reaching for the door. "Merrill is intregal to my plan, and I'm going to start working on her about her use of blood magic. Hopefully get her to start using other abilities. As for Fenris, I figured nobody would let me leave with just Merrill, so I'm bringing some muscle."

Quiver and bow were slid into place and knife sheathes strapped to my hips as Anders chewed a nail bed to the quick in aprehension. "What do I tell Hawke about why I let you go without him?"

I reached up and kissed his cheek lightly. "Tell him I overpowered you and when you regained conciousness, I was gone."

"Funny. Very funny."

"- and Sundernount is supposed to be where Andraste came and the flowers are really beautiful and when it's clear you can see all the way to Highever. Not that it's ever clear of course. The clouds are always here and it storms and it's loud. And watch for spiders- big ones, not little ones-"

"Merrill," I interupted, rubbing at the bridge of my nose," could you go see if you can find me some elfroot? Maybe three or four plants?"

"Of course, lethalen. I'll be right back!"

"Take your time," I muttered softly, causing Fenris to chuckle. She was a sweet, wonderful woman, but after several hours of non-stop talk, I had a blistering headache.I wondered if this world had an equivalent to valium I could slip her in her water skin.

"Why are we doing this?" Fenris asked, frowning as he watched for possible threats. "What possible purpose could we have to climb a Maker forsaken mountain."

"Because this is the only place I know that I might be able to communicate with Flemeth."

"WHAT?" Fenris jerked to a stop, grabbing my elbow to force me to follow suit. "Why, in Andraste's name, would you possibly want to do that?"

I looked down at where he gripped, feeling the electric tingle of his tattoos held barely in check. He was fighting not to light them up in his distress. "Because, Fenris, she's the only power in all Thedas that might know why I was brought here. And I need to know. I need to know that I wasn't dragged away from my family because of some stupid bit of chance. Okay?"

The elf continued to stare in wide eyed surprise for a few more moments. I wish I knew what he was thinking. He was so damned hard to read sometimes. Slowly, though, the power that seeped from his markings diminished and he released his grip on my arm.

"I...I'm sorry, Selena. Of course you need to learn about your fate. It is not my decision on how you go about it." He straightened, his eyes becoming hooded once more. Dammit! Someday he'll open up to me, I swear to God!

"Lethalen! I found a whole bunck of elfroot for you!" Merrill cried, running quickly towards us with an armful of plants. "But there's some spiders that aren't taking it too kindly that you needed them!"

Scuttling behind her were three large specimens, all larger than she, all literally spitting mad. I barely had time to draw before a ogb of venom splattered against my leg. It was begining to burn through my leathers but I didn't spare it another thought. "Drop the plants and cast, Merrill! They're too close!"

Fenris, a flash of blue light, was already in the center of the fray, and I tried to concentrate on where my shots would land. Aim for where they will be, not where they are. Twitch of the fingers, flick of the wrist, and three arrows were sprouting from three eyes on one of the poisonous beasts. Merrill cheered my shot as she wrapped another spider in tendrils of tree roots. Slowly the spider would be crushed within the net of plant life. I smiled encouragingly. Much better than bleeding everwhere for power. Fenris brought his sword down through the center of the third spider, seperating head from abdoman in a gush of ichor. Ugh! That's just gross!

I reseated my bow and looked around at the carnage as Merrill reclaimed the elfroot I had sent her for. Fenris jogged up, flicking his greatsword to remove droplets of blood before wiping it down and resheathing it. Well, we seem to have some out of it relatively unscath-SHIT!

The sudden burning on my leg reminded me that one of those stupid spiders had spit at me, and that it had now burned all the way through the leather of my breeches. "Shit!" I cried, fumbling witht the ties of my pants and quickly yanking them off.

"What-?" Fenris began before covering his eyes and turning his back.

"Fuck, Fenris! Stop being squeemish and help me get this spit off my leg!" I yelled. Damned prissy elf!

He spun, all business as Merril dropped to her knees before the wound. No more rambling, she took a handful of the elfroot and began using it to wipe off the poison. "It's all right." she soothed. "It's a good thing you had me fetch the root. The leaves will clean the toxins, while the sap from the broken stems will heal the burn."

Fenris took a firm hold of my shoulders as I swayed slightly. It was like having a bad burn, then ice stroked across it. At first it hurt even more, but as the ice was continually applied, the heat of the burning dissipated, until you felt more cold than hot.

"We'll go tp Keeper Marethari to finish healing this," Merrill said, looking up at me with a quirk of the lips. "And maybe some pants."

I blushed. I couldn't help it. I was standing on the side of Sundermount, with Merrill and Fenris of all people, in nothing but my leather jerkin, boots and smalls. And don't ask me how I got my breeches off without removing my boots- I just chocked it up to magic. I looked down at my pants and drew in my brows angrily. They were now almost nothing but bubbling toxins. Dammit to Hell! Those were good pants!

The people of Merrill's clan watched us with a mix of derision and mirth. The Blood Mage, the Knife-Ear and the Shem with no pants. Yup, that was us. Keeper Marethari, on the other hand, merely smiled and motioned for us to sit with her by her fire, stopping only briefly to send a pulse of healing magic through my calf before offering us tea.

"No, thank you, Keeper. We're only passing through on our way further up the mountain," I said.

She smirked, eyes travelling down my frame. "And to borrow some trousers, I suspect."

I blushed, again. "Yes...please."

Another elf, a child of no more than nine or ten, ran up with a pair of dark leather breeches. They were softer, not treated like my own pair, but were of a similar shade and well made. "Thank you, Callem," the Keeper told the boy softly before he scampered off. She handed the pants to me and I wiggled into them quickly. They were a little short, but fit snuggly and were extraordinarily comfortable.

"Thank you, Keeper. These are wonderful!" She bowed her head slightly at the praise and looked at me thoughtfully.

"So, you are here to speak with Asha'Bellanar." she said matter of factly.

I stared at her dumbfounded as Merrill giggled and Fenris released a surprised grunt. "Y- yes," I stammered. "This is the only place that I could think of that I might be able to get her attention. I figured if anyone knew why I was here, it would be the Witch."

"Your thinking is sound, young one," she said. "But I'm afraid that Asha'Bellanar will not come when called."

The disappointment must have showed because Merrill reached out to pull me into her shoulder. "Why? How do you know?"

"Because I am already here."

Fenris was a flash of blue, sword drawn, spinning towards the throaty voice, before he was frozen in place with a wave of the witch's hand. She stalked down the mountain path, white hair blowing in the wind, burgandy skirts and raven feathers fluttering along. She was beautiful and frightening. Merrill squeaked, moving a little behind my back, then shuffling closer to Marethari as I rose to meet her.

"Flemeth," I said in greeting, nodding towards her.

She gave me a predatory smile. "Earth child. How nice to meet you at last."

"So you know about me then?" I asked, kicking myself as the words left my mouth. Well, of course she knows, stupid! She's Flemeth!

The witch merely laughed, taking a firm grip of my elbow and steering me away from prying ears. "Come. It would not do for others to hear the words we must speak to each other."

We wandered a short distance, to an outcropping of stone that rose to overlook the entire encampment. She sat primly upon a boulder and motioned for me to join her.

"All right, Earth Child. Ask your questions and I will endeavour to answer what I may."

"Why?" I blurted out. "Why am I here? What is it I need to do? What is this green magic that I seem to have inside of me?"

"Well. You certainly don't start small, do you?" the witch chuckled.

"Go big or go home." I answered.

"Very true. Well, to answer your third question first, it is simple. You carry within you the power of a breach in the Veil. A breach dragged you here from your home and left a part of itself within you for future endeavours. You are here to complete those endeavours. Whether or not it's possible is up to you, but if you fail, Thedas will fall."

"What do you mean, 'Thedas will fall'?"

"You have ears and a brain, girl. Use them," Flemeth admonished. "The breaches will tear this world apart. And with the power of Thedas to fuel them, the breaches will grow and consume other worlds, including the one you call home."

I sat and stared at my knuckles for a few moments as I thought. Fuck! I can't even climb a mountain without losing my pants and she wants me to...what? Save the universe?

"The power within you will know what to do and when to do it," she said, evidently trying to reassure me. Badly. "You simply need to be in the right place at the right time."

"Oh, is that all?" I choked out, laughing. "Sounds easy, doesn't it?"

Flemeth looked back at me, and for a moment I thought I saw sadness in her eyes. " One of the easiest and most difficult things you will ever be faced with, Earth Child. But unless you try,this world- and every other- is doomed to the Void."

"Just, please, can you tell me one more thing?" I begged, taking her hand in my own.

She looked down at our clasped digits and smiled slightly. Not her disdainful, haughty smile, but one of genuine surprise and affection. "If I can answer it, I will."

"My family. My kids. Are they okay? Do they know I'm...gone?"

She patted the back of my hand as she pulled hers away and stood to leave. "When you're spirit was pulled into our world, a body was left behind. They grieve. But they move on with their lives and miss you dearly. The woman that was with you, the friend, she lived and has recovered, though she feels responsible for your fate. Eventually she will learn that it was not her doing and will begin to mourn properly. Eventually, your children will begin families of their own, and one will name a daughter for you. Mourn their lose from your life and yours from theirs, but rejoice in the wonders that they will beget."

I couldn't stop the tears that raged from me as the Witch of the Wilds flew from my side in the form of a dragon. All I could think about was that my children believed me dead. And I guess, in a sense, I was.


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