Rite of the Maleficarum: Book I

A Brewing Storm

"Rogues! I need backup!" Aveline yelled. Hawke pulled her sword out of the slaver's gut and turned to locate the captain. Down the hill at least twenty meters, five of the dagger-wielding scoundrels stalked around Aveline, who was crouched in a defensive position. Anders and Fenris were up the hill even farther; and the five guardsmen had made their way almost down to the coast. Hawke was by far the closest. She dispatched another slaver as he slid down the rocks toward her. To make it in time, Hawke knew she would have to descend the rocky cliff in front of her instead of the long path that wound down the hill.

"Anders!" she yelled, and then vaulted off the cliff. She prayed that the mage heard her as she dropped heavily toward the ground, almost five meters in total. She knew he did as her decent slowed, the air getting heavy below her, cushioning her fall. Though Anders' spell did the heavy lifting, she still rolled out of the fall to help decrease the impact. Her elbow hit a rock hidden by the sand, and she wrenched it badly. She passed her greatsword to the other hand as she stalked toward the rogues, shaking out her bad arm. You have to work, she told her elbow, just for a few more minutes.

Aveline had taken one of the rogues out, but another had got her badly in the leg, and her ability to hold her defensive position was waning. Hawke roared in defiance as she swung her sword in a wide, destructive arc, felling two of the rogues. Her elbow burned horribly, and weakness befell it, not allowing her to lift her sword in order to block the oncoming onslaught of dagger strikes. She dropped the weapon and used her gauntlets to thwart the rogue's quick attacks as he searched for breaks in her armor. She saw Aveline fell the other slaver and hoped the warrior could make it over to her in time. The rogue gained a glancing blow just above her gauntlet, as Aveline struck him down from behind. Great, now both arms are useless, Hawke thought, the cut stinging, though she found the weakness of the other elbow far worse. The two women turned toward Fenris and Anders, who had just finished dispatching the rest, and the guardsmen were already making their way back up the hill.

"It is done!" Aveline announced. Anders and Fenris started to make their way back down the winding path toward them.

"Thanks, Hawke, sometimes these packs require a little more… oomph than the Guard can handle," Aveline said.

"Oh yes, that's what we are. Oomph," Hawke repeated the word, liking the sound it made.

"Maybe we've finally discovered a good name for our group," Aveline grinned.

"The Oomphs," Hawke said again, why did she find that word so amusing?

Anders and Fenris approached, the latter was injured badly, a deep cut on his flank.

"Fenris, that looks bad," Hawke said with concern.

"Yeah, mage, it looks bad," Fenris said, holding the gash delicately as blood seeped onto his hands.

"I had to throw a lot of fire and ice and lightning, to make up for your failures. I didn't have the time or energy for healing. Magic has limits, you know," Anders said defensively.

"I was only failing because of the gaping wound in my side, mage."

"I still don't understand why you can't phase out of the impact, I don't get how that works."

"I'm about two seconds from showing you an example of how it works," Fenris growled.

"Ok, you two, that's quite enough," Hawke interceded, "Anders heal it please, it disturbs me."

Anders yielded begrudgingly and motioned for the elf to sit on a nearby rock outcropping. Hawke sighed. It'd been three weeks since the prophet supposedly left town, and the tensions between Anders and Fenris grew daily. Not only did they disagree about following the maleficarum out of Kirkwall, but Anders was growing more and more discontented with the situation at the circle, and he often took it out on the elf. It seemed like every day there was a new story about a mage made tranquil for no reason. Hawke couldn't make sense of it, she knew Knight-Commander Meredith to be strict, but she had a hard time believing she could get away with arbitrarily making mages tranquil.

Hawke found her greatsword, and with both arms under extreme agony, she managed to strap it into the sheath on her back. A few moments later, Fenris approached, still holding his side in pain, though the wound was closed. Anders followed as Aveline's husband, Guardsman Donnic, approached them.

"Thank you for the assist," he said to the three, "We're buying at the Hanged Man this evening, if you'll join us."

Hawke looked to her two angry friends. Fenris stared grumpily away from Anders, who sighed and patted the elf on the back apologetically.

"Thank you, we will," she said, taking their silence as consent. They made their way back up the coast to the gates of Kirkwall, the waning sun peaking out just above an ominous storm cloud that was rolling it's way across the sea and towards the city-state. The rumbles of thunder grew louder as they climbed the steps toward the Hanged Man, and the first few heavy droplets of rain spattered their armor as they made their way inside. Hawke followed Anders to a table and sat down so he could attend to her injuries. Aveline and Fenris joined them as the guardsmen began to pass around drinks.

Donnic held his up, "The last of the Vyrantium slaver crew has been dispatched, thanks to the Champion and her associates."

"To the Champion!" the other guardsmen yelled as they toasted and drank. Hawke flushed as she tipped her glass gratefully towards the men and drank. She always felt very uncomfortable when people attributed her companion's actions to her solely. She may be what they rallied around, but as individuals they were her equals as fighters, probably better. After all, she couldn't even swing her sword earlier.

She massaged the still sore tendon in her elbow as Varric sat down on the bench next to her.

"Who'd you save from certain demise now?" he asked, taking a drink of ale, "Virgins taken captive by a dragon? A capsized ship full of starving urchins? A ship full of virgin urchins taken captive by a flock of dragons?"

"Just helping the Guard out with some slavers, they really did most of the work," Hawke said, taking a drink of her own.

"We've been working on the Vyrantium band for months, Hawke. Taking the rest out that quickly was a huge success, we'd have been dealing with it for weeks without you," Aveline boasted.

"Not me, Fenris and Anders took out that whole band at the top of the hill alone. And you did most of the work with those rogues, Aveline. I mean- " she held out her gauntlets as evidence, marred from being used as a shield against so many dagger strikes. Fenris laughed.

"That's one way to use your armor I guess," Anders said, seeming almost impressed.

"Your desperation distracted them for me," Aveline smiled. Hawke inclined her head and kept drinking. Anders started to tell Varric a somewhat exaggerated version of how it all went down, when Sebastian walked in. Hawke smiled at him and he pulled up a chair to join their overly full table. She hadn't seen everyone together since the prophet's 'going away party', and it was nice to see them happy and joking again. She always wondered what could be lurking around the next corner, something that would tear them all apart for good, she feared. So Hawke smiled to herself and took the opportunity to bask in their happiness, as she never knew when it might be the last time.

Anders made the sounds of explosions and gestured wildly as he continued his account, he was always happy when he got to do some damage and wasn't just considered support. Fenris had no qualms about correcting him, although by the end the two were passing the story back and forth, happily exaggerating the details to the degree that Fenris was so badly wounded that his torso was practically severed as he took out four slavers with one mighty swing of his greatsword. Varric, practically giddy, took in every detail, Hawke knew, so that he could adequately exaggerate it even more upon his own retelling. Somehow Donnic had found room on the bench next to Aveline, and the two were being… somewhat disgusting… but the sound of Aveline giggling was a rare occurrence. Hawke was reminded of how pleased she was that her friend had found someone that made her so happy. Sebastian was in conversation with a guardsman, likely giving spiritual advice. Always working, just like Anders and his humor. She was always a bit envious of the way those two were able to heal the bodies and souls of the people of Kirkwall. They were able to do good in a positive way, instead of the aggressive approach they usually took killing the evil that plagued the streets.

Despite the exaggerated credit she continually got, she was happy to get to do some good again. They'd been so wrapped up in the maleficarum church that their usual bandit and slaver dispatching had gone by the wayside. Maybe Anders was right, maybe it was best to let the authorities in the other cities deal with them now. She couldn't protect all of Thedas, but Kirkwall was hers. She could make a difference here, and the poor city truly needed it. The thunder roared and rain fell in sheets outside, causing Hawke to appreciate even more the warm fire and cheerful friends that surrounded her. Maybe being the Champion of just Kirkwall wouldn't be so bad.

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