Fenris rushes towards the stairs leading up to the room he and Bethany have been sharing, only to have his path blocked by Triss.
“Get out of my way,” he warns.
“Leto,” she catches her error and tries again. “Fenris, how can I convince you that I’m telling you the truth?”
“There is nothing you can say that will make me believe you.”
“Please, I love you. Fenris, I love you. You’re my husband! I want you back. Please.”
“I don’t know you,” he tries to walk pass her but again she blocks his path.
“You must remember me. Wait,” a thought occurs to her. “During the ritual I would sing, that was how I activated the ability he gave.” She hummed a strange quiet tune. The melody reached through his amnesia and touched forgotten memories. He looks at her with shock on his face. She closes her eyes, and reaches back into her own past. Her voice is light and ethereal as she draws out the words. His mind is flooded with memories of pain. She continues to sing in that same delicate, otherworldly tone. She hits him with the full force of her watery eyes as the mesmerizing Arcanum words dance off her tongue with the hypnotic grace of a sleek predator. Suddenly he can feel her in his mind, and for a moment he remembers her. He can recall who she really is, and what she is to him, and who they were together but before he can claim those thoughts as his own he is suddenly drowning in memories of fear and pain. The stench of incense, sweat, lyrium and blood fills his nostrils. He can feel the blades slicing intricate designs into his flesh followed by the scorching agony of the lyrium searing the wounds. He can hear Danarius chanting and a woman laughing while he’s screaming.
“No,” he roars, staggering away from her, trying to force the unwanted memory from his mind. She stops singing and grabs his arm. His response is as much instinct as it is fury. He grabs her and pushes her into one of the columns supporting the upper floor. His face twisted with fury and his brands glow a bright and eerie blue. Her eyes are wide with fear and he works to calm to his rage. “Get away from me,” he growls, backing away from her before his rips her heart out. “I never want to see you again.”
“No, I don’t believe you,” tears spilling down her cheeks. “She did something to you, didn’t she,” she points towards Bethany’s room. “What did she do to you? Is she a sodding mage? Does she have you under a spell? I’ll kill her. I’ll kill that blighted whore,” she heads towards the stairs. Fenris is quick to grab her and viciously pushes her aside. She staggers from the intensity of the shove and collapses to the floor.
“Stay away from her, and stay away from me,” his words come out a feral growl and his eyes narrow in a rage bordering on hate.
“Please,” she sobs. “Please don’t leave me,” her eyes are red as the tears continue to cascade down her face. “I love you.”
“I don’t know you,” he walks away from the weeping elf.
Bianca grabs a couple of healing potions from the drawer, and then a hooded cloak from the drawer below.
“I’m sorry my love,” is the last thing she whispers before pulling up the hood and slipping from the brothel unseen. Her fire blue eyes turn towards the Sunstone which is now emanating the soft blue glow of nighttime.
“Hold on, baby. I’m coming,” she takes off at a run towards the rendezvous point. Along the way she stops only long enough to add a couple of knives and a lantern to her inventory.
It takes her an hour to reach the tunnel indicated in the note, and then another half hour to reach the meeting point.
Isana is bound and gagged, kneeling between a raven-haired elf and a tall human with short wavy, chocolate brown hair. Bianca’s eyes narrow as she approaches stopping five feet from the trio. The young dwarf looks up at her mother, her eyes both fearful and apologetic.
“Zinaga,” Bianca doesn’t bother to hide the contempt in her voice.
“Bianca,” the elf greets the dwarf in a similar fashion, her amber eyes narrowing. “Now that each has something the other wants, I suggest a trade. You set the map on the ground and back away and I’ll release your daughter.”
“I don’t have the map.”
“Don’t lie,” she hooks a stray ebony strand behind her delicately pointed ear. “It’s unbecoming.”
“I’m not lying, I destroyed the map.”
“Liar,” it’s the human who yells. He produces his staff and with a quick incantation brings Bianca to her knees. The air around the red head suddenly becomes heavy and too thick to breath. She struggles to inhale; she can hear Isana muffled voice call out as she fights against ropes.
“That’s enough Tavish, we know we won’t break her that way,” the elf waves her hand in a dismissive manner. With a frustrated sigh the mage rescinds his spell and watches with amusement as the dwarf coughs and gratefully gulps down air.
“I’m not lying,” She insists between gasps.
A muted cry of pain from Isana causes Bianca’s head to snap up. The mage has turned his spells onto her daughter. “I’m not lying,” she screams, finding the strength to get to her feet and run towards her child. Two thugs appear, as if from thin air, and tackle her. They pin her down despite her protests. A trickle of blood seeps from Isana’s nose as she writhes in agony.
“I swear I destroyed it, after I memorized the route. Let her go and I’ll lead you to the thaig,” she frantically offers. Zinaga considers Bianca’s words.
“Please,” Bianca begs, still trying to free herself. “I swear, no tricks, I’ll lead you to the thaig. Just let Isana leave. Please.” Zinaga makes a gesture and Isana’s pain stops. Bianca allows herself only the slightest sigh of relief.
“Why wouldn’t I take her with us to ensure your cooperation?”
“Because if I know you, you already have the supplies to start this expedition tonight. And she will be just one more drain on your resources. With her here I will be sufficiently motivated to get you there quickly and get back so I can be with my daughter again. She’s no threat to you, if she does tell someone about where we are going she doesn’t know the way. If the guild tries to rally against you there is enough gold and enchanted crap down there that they won’t be a threat. No one will be able to touch you.”
“Well aren’t you a perceptive one,” she crouches down and gazes into Bianca’s fire blue eyes. “Give me your word.”
“I promise no tricks. I will take you to the thaig.”
“Let her up,” she snaps her fingers and makes her way towards the still recovering blonde dwarf. The mage roughly hauls the teenager to her feet and removes the gag.
“For once in your life shut up and do as your told,” the words come out harsh and girl immediately snaps her mouth shut. Bianca feels a twinge of guilt for having snapped so. “Go home.”
“Mom,” the pleading tone in her words breaks Bianca’s heart. Isana tries to rush up to her mother, but the mage grabs her arm and prevents the reunion.
Bianca stops struggling against her captors. “You’re so much like your father,” she smiles. “Just go home. I’ll be back before you know it.” The men start dragging Bianca towards Zinaga and away from her daughter.
With tears streaming down her face the teenager nods in compliance and watches as additional people emerge from the shadows and follow Zinaga deeper into the tunnel and towards the ancient dwarven doors.
“Don’t follow us,” the mage warns and draws several archaic runes in the dirt. With softly muttered words the runes glows a bright white for several seconds before fading. “Or do, I would be curious to see what this would do to a dwarf.”
With hands still bound, Isana begins to backs off before turning and running away. The mage makes a disappointed groan before turning to join the rest of the group.
“Varric!” Bethany rushes towards the blonde dwarf, rolls him onto his back and quickly checks his injuries before announcing to Fenris that he’s merely knocked out. She then turns her attention to the wounded people on the bed.
“What happened,” Rafi runs back into the room with the items the dwarf had requested. “Where’s Bianca?”
“We don’t know yet, go help Bethany,” Fenris continues to try and revive the dwarf.
“These injuries aren’t as bad as they look,” she reports, not taking her eyes from her patients. “I can heal the worst of it. Then bandage the rest of it. They’ll both be fine.”
“Praise the maker,” the human sighs and does his best to stay out of her way.
“They’ll be stiff and sore for a few days and I would recommend health tonics to help speed the healing, if you have any.”
“I don’t have many.”
“Ok, I’m going to give you a list of things to pick up and I can make a few for you. I’m going to heal and you are going to write down what I tell you.” She begins weaving her spell, starting on Orez and focusing her energy on the internal injuries. Bethany tells Rafi the ingredients she needs while she battles the dwarf’s resistance to magic.
Varric groans and slowly opens his eyes. Fenris helps his friend sit up.
“My head,” he moans, grabbing the back of his head and winces when his fingers find the lump. “What happened? Where’s Bianca?”
“We were hoping you could tell us,” the elf helps his friend sit up.
“The last thing I remember was Bianca telling me to get some healing potions, and then,” his words trail off as the realization that his lover had tricked him sets in. He growls. “That backstabbing, two-faced, sneaky…woman,” the outburst is so out of character that Fenris is taken aback. “That unbelievably stubborn, impulsive, quick thinking…” all the traits that made him love her. “Maker’s breath she beautiful.”
“Normally your tales are more coherent than that, dwarf.”
“The ransom letter said they would kill Isana if she didn’t show up alone. I should have realized she had a plan when she caved in so easily.”
“I’m no storyteller, but stories are normally best told from the beginning and not the middle,” Fenris continues his efforts to find out what happened.
“The ransom letter said they would kill Isana if she didn’t show up alone,” he begins again. He relays all the detail, and throws in a few embellishments for good measure. He talks about Zinaga and her search for the missing thaig in her drive for control. He tells Fenris about the map Bianca has.
“Do you know where she was headed?”
“No, Elf, I don’t. But if it has anything to do with the map, then I would think we would need to find an entrance leading to the Deep Roads.”
“Orez knows of an entrance,” Rafi volunteers. “He might be able to lead you to one.”
“He won’t be up for at least a day. His injuries were worse than I expected,” Bethany binds the last wound of his wounds and uses her wrist to push a strand of hair away from her face.
“I don’t have that kind of time,” Varric growls.
“I’m sorry Varric, but he has a pretty severe head injury. There’s nothing more I can do.”
The blonde dwarf growls and mutters a few obscene words under his breath, before a thought occurs to him. “Hey Pretty-boy,” he approaches Rafi. “You got connections in this town?”
“I’m going to need 3 weeks’ worth of supplies, can you arrange that?”
“Yes,” the suspicion in his voice is thick.
“How do you plan to find Bianca,” Fenris shares the human’s misgivings.
“Magic,” he winks.
“Dwarves can’t cast magic,” the elf needlessly points out.
“No, but Sunshine can, and I would wager she knows some type of tracking spell.”
Bethany stops washing the blood from her hands and looks at Varric, her expression cautious. “I do know of a spell, but I would need something of that person like nail clippings or hair. I could do it with a personal item, but something from her would be best.”
“Anything,” Fenris questions.
“Blood or body parts would give the best results, but I won’t take them…that’s too close to forbidden magic.”
“I think I can help with that,” Varric offers, his hand reaching back for his beloved crossbow and the lock of hair hidden within the stock.
“Just wait,” Bethany raises her hands. “Let me heal Bela first.”
Isana is as much stumbling as she is running and with her hands bound behind her back her balance is thrown off. Tears are streaming down her face and she gasps for air. She curses at the situation; however it is soon apparent that foul language will not make things better. She’s forced to stop to work her hands free from the chaffing rope.
Using her sleeve she dries her eyes and wipes her nose as her mind races. She takes a few breaths and collects her thoughts. Despite her wishes to the contrary, and all of the friends and contacts she and her mother have, there is only one person she can think to run to. The one man she wants nothing to do with, but may be the only one who would risk everything to save her mother: Varric.
She takes one more deep breath and forces her tired legs to carry her as fast as they can to her father.
Bethany arches her back and lets out a tired sigh. Healing the pirate and mending her injuries took more work than she had originally anticipated, but at last she is finished. With tired and sluggish movements she heads towards the wash basin to clean the blood from her hands. The water is cool on her extremities and she takes a small, private pleasure in feeling the water run over her wrists.
“Bethany,” Fenris’ voice is soft in her left ear and tightens things below her belly. She can feel the mana stored in his lyrium call to her and it would be so easy for her to give in to that temptation. She suppresses the desire to draw from him. Allowing her mana to rebuild on its own will allow her time to rest.
“I’m fine,” she assures, hearing the concern in his voice. “I’ve used a lot of mana, but nothing like earlier.”
“Varric grows impatient.”
“He’s going to have to wait at least an hour. By that time I’ll be ready to cast again.”
“You can draw from me,” he wraps an arm about her waist and pulls her close. With her back pressed to his chest she feels cherished and safe. She closes her eyes, rests her head on his shoulder and savors the feeling of being in his arms.
“Thank you, but mentally I need the rest. Besides Orez won’t be up until tomorrow, Rafi needs time getting the supplies together and I need time to make some health potions.”
“I will deal with him,” he takes half a step back and instantly misses her warmth against his body. She thanks him again, turns and smiles sweetly at him as a faint blush creeps over her cheeks. One side of his lips curls into a grin and he leaves the room without another word.
“I knew he could smolder,” a teasing voice says.
“Isabela,” she turns in exasperation. “How long have you been faking unconsciousness?”
“I fake a lot of things,” that mischievous grin warns Bethany not to ask. “So tell me Sweetness,” she manages to prop herself into a sitting position. “Does everything glow?”
A bright red flush races across the young mage’s cheeks and she finds herself at a loss for words. Her mouth opens, as if to answer only to snap shut when nothing appropriate comes to mind. The Rivaini laughs, then grabs her ribs and groans in pain.
“Serves you right for teasing me so,” the mage chides which only increases the laughter and groans.
“Help me up,” she holds an arm out, waiting for assistance.
“You should rest.”
“You put me in bed with a man and tell me to rest. I see a contradiction here.”
“Bela, you’re incorrigible,” she giggles.
“I’ve been called worse,” she shrugs. “Now help me up before I show you three uses for an unconscious man.
“Three? What do you mean,” she instantly changes her mind. “You know what? Never mind, I don’t want to know.” She helps her friend stand and is pleased when the pirate insists on standing under her own power. While she changes out of her tattered and bloodstained clothes she asks Bethany for information about Isana.
Varric is taking the news about the delay better than Fenris was expecting. He was about to applaud the dwarf’s restraint, until he learned that it was going to take at least a day to gather the necessary supplies.
“What are you going to give Bethany for the spell?”
“Some of Bianca’s hair.”
“How are you going to get that?”
“Let me worry about that little detail.”
“You do realize that we are planning on accompanying you into the Deep Roads.”
“I’m hoping we can talk Bethany and Isabela out of it.”
“Perhaps you like a task a little less impossible,” Fenris crosses his arms, not liking the idea of leaving Bethany unprotected.
Varric raises his hands, “despite everything Anders did, he was a Grey Warden. He told me some things about the Deep Roads that I should tell you, and once I do I’m sure you’ll agree that the women should stay behind.”
“Won’t Bethany need to come along to track Bianca,” his arms still crossed the elf locks his eyes on the dwarf’s somber expression. Varric never gets a chance to answer as Isabela and Bethany emerge from the room.
“When do we leave,” the pirate demands.
“I think you should stay behind,” Bethany follows close behind the dark skinned woman. “You can use the recovery time.”
“Sod that,” woman retorts without breaking her stride. “When do we leave?”
“Supplies should be ready tomorrow,” the elf volunteers.
“Excellent,” the mage adds cheerfully. “I can use that time to make some health potions.”
Varric is about to protest when Isana bursts through the door. Her entrance is so energetic that several eyes turn to her. She ignores them as she searches the room for Varric. Upon seeing the blonde dwarf she rushes up to him, quickly spilling the details of the trade and the deal Bianca made with Zinaga.
“We’re leaving tomorrow,” Isabela volunteers.
“You’re not coming,” Varric says to Isana.
“The Void I’m not. I have the map you need to find her,” she pulls the folded map from her journal and holds it up as proof of her value. Varric is quick to snatch the paper, despite the girl’s outcry.
“Now I have the map,” he places the map into the inner pocket of his coat. “And you don’t have to come.”
“I’m going,” she insists through tightly clenched teeth.
“No you’re not.”
“Yes, I am,” her temper and voice begins to rise.
“No,” he insists.
“No,” his calm demeanor is beginning to crack.
“Who are you to stop me?!” She shouts.
“You’re father!” he counters, the volume of his voice matching hers. His friends are startled by this revelation and are content to watch the drama unfold.
“Since when,” she doesn’t miss a beat, her anger at Varric becoming apparent.
“Maybe we should have this conversation somewhere a little more private,” he suddenly becomes aware of the hush that has fallen upon the staff and patrons. While he enjoys being the center of attention with his tales, he finds it uncomfortable when it’s his personal life everyone is listening to.
“Fine,” she barks. “We can talk about while in the Deep Roads.”
“You’re not coming.”
“I am and you can’t stop me.”
“Maker’s ball,” his frustration at the teen is obvious as he points at her. “You’re as stubborn as your mother,” he growls.
“That’s funny because she says I’m as bull headed as you. Now if I’m as tenacious as both of you do you really think you can stop me?”
Varric grumbles several obscenities but does relent to have the girl travel with them. He feels a headache coming on at the realization that this will be a very long three weeks.