Bethany soundlessly slips out of the barracks and finds a quiet corner in which to finish her supper. She casts a small ball of mage light and has it hover over her head. She looks at the half eaten stew and now that she’s alone with her thoughts she suddenly finds she has no appetite. With a sigh she sets the bowl down and begins facing the issue she’d been avoiding.
Are people married if the Chantry is not involved? If two people exchange vows of love and fidelity is that enough for a marriage? What if one person no longer loves the other? Would that be enough for a ‘divorce’? Marriages through the Chantry are difficult to dissolve. Is she committing a mortal sin by being with Fenris?
She sighs again and drops her shoulders, she wished Sebastian were here. He would know what the right thing to do was. She begins thinking about Fenris and how adamant he was that he was not married. She then starts wondering how he knows. After all he himself has stated, numerous times, that he remembers nothing from before the ritual. She then recalls Marian telling her about Fenris’ sister. How did he know that Hadriana was telling him the truth?
Her head is swimming with doubt. She groans and grabs her head in an attempt to ward off the oncoming headache. Why are matters of the heart so complicated?
She snaps her head up at the sound of Fenris’ voice.
“Are you all right,” unconsciously he plays with the red fabric tied about his gauntlet. “I’m not trying to crowd you, but I noticed you slipped away. I just wanted to make sure you were safe,” he’s quick to add this part. It hurts her to see that her doubt is tearing him apart as much as it her.
“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just a headache,” she looks back at her bowl. The desperate air about him makes him look vulnerable. Guilt gnaws at her gut with jagged little teeth.
“It’s dangerous to wander off down here,” his tone is gentle.
“I know I just,” she gestures towards the barracks from which the muffled sounds of father and daughter bickering can still be heard.
He smiles weakly. “I understand.”
“Fenris, how do you know Triss isn’t your wife? You don’t remember anything from before the ritual. How are you so sure?”
He kneels before her looking up into her face. He wants to take her hands, but stops himself. The pale glow from the mage light dances in his green eyes. She could easily loose herself in the forest of his eyes.
“When Hawke and I battled Hadriana, the witch told me I had a sister, and while I could not remember her name or face, and even though I had no reason to believe a single word from that woman’s mouth I just knew it was the truth. My heart knew I had a sister.” He finds the strength to take hold of one of Bethany’s hands. “When Triss claimed to be my wife, it didn’t feel right. I don’t know if she and Leto had a relationship, but I’m no longer that man. I am Fenris, and I don’t know Triss. I cannot deny that she has feeling for me, but those feelings are not shared. You are the one I have given my heart to.”
He looks down at the joined hands; he can hear Hawke’s words in his head. “I’m begging you; please don’t break my baby sister’s heart.” The irony that his heart might be the one broken is not lost on him.
With her free hand, she lovingly strokes his cheek. His gaze, so eager for her love and acceptance, lock with her tender and tormented brown eyes. She opens her mouth to speak but stops suddenly, the odd clicking sound had returned. They jerk their heads towards the sounds.
In the blackness of the Deep Roads something is moving, they slowly rise to their feet. Fenris draws his sword and Bethany curses herself for leaving her blades in the barracks. She begins drawing on her mana while she dims the light hovering overhead. The clicking sound is now in front and behind them. Bethany spins, pressing her back to Fenris’ as their eyes peer into the shadows. After several tenses moments the clicking noise fades back into the darkness.
“Perhaps we should head back,” Fenris sheaths his weapon, still eyeing the darkness surrounding them.
“I like that plan,” she confesses a more hastily than she would have preferred.
Triss sits at a small table and nurses her whiskey with trembling hands. It didn’t take much for her to confirm that there is still a reward out for Fenris and it terrifies her how easy it was to get a message to the Magister in Tevinter. She herself being an escaped slave could just as easily be dragged back to her new master and she doubted if anyone in this seedy little bar would even care. Memories of her years as a slave flood her mind, and no matter how tightly she squeezes her eyes shut the images won’t stop.
She jumps when a hooded stranger takes a seat across from her. Her heart is pounding and the blood is roaring in her ears.
“Where’s the slave?”
She has to swallow hard before her throat will loosen enough for her to speak. “Are you Danarius’ heir,” she tries to sound brave while sipping the amber liquid.
“I am the messenger you will be working with,” the hood is flipped back to reveal a young dark haired human man. His black hair barely reaches his shoulders and his eyes are as black as night. She hates those eyes. Those cold hard eyes that look down upon her as if she should be honored that one such as he was even willing to be seen with the likes of her. She found the will to turn her hate in courage.
“I want to deal with Danarius’ heir.” Her voice is strong, but her courage flutters when those icy black eyes narrow. One side of his lips curls into a smile.
“That’s not going to happen. You deal with me until I can verify if the information is valid. If your intel is good and we catch him then the reward is yours. We’ll even give you release papers, you’ll be able to return to Tevinter as a free person.”
“No,” she downs half of her drink in one gulp. It burns her throat but she gives no indication of discomfort.
This catches him off guard and his expression reveals as much. She manages not to laugh, but she is amused by his puzzled look. No slave had ever refused their release papers before. He takes a moment to study her before speaking. “You want to negotiate,” he states. “I can do that. Let’s hear your offer.”
“I’ll take the papers, but you can keep the money. When we capture him I’ll return with you as a servant,” she stresses this last part.
“I can have the papers drawn up within a couple of days.”
“After his memory is wiped, I want marriage papers and all the rights that go with it,” she finishes the last of her whiskey and watches as his black eyes study her. It’s rare for a servant and slave to marry but it does happen, and one of the perks is that husband and wife always reside in the same household. It was a small concession the Imperial Archon granted to curtail a rebellion when people spouses were forced to sell themselves due to economic hardship. She is almost amused by watching his mind try to figure out what her gain is in this deal.
“You want him as your lover,” he’s almost amused by this notion. “What makes you think he’ll ever trust you?”
“The quickest way to break him is to erase his memories. Danarius did it once and I’ve heard him say that it’s a simple ritual. Once that’s done it’s a simple thing to convince him that he’s been sick with a brain fever and we can give him any past we want. Do we have a deal?”
“Where is he?”
“He went a three week expedition into the Deep Roads a few days ago.”
“You are not suggesting we go after him.”
“No, I’m suggesting that we wait until he returns and ambush him when they return. I know where they’re staying. Besides, this should give you plenty of time to get the necessary papers together.”
Bianca stares at the small plate of food; at least it looks appetizing this time but she still runs the risk of being drugged. She pokes the morsels, still trying to decide if she’s actually going to eat any of it.
“I’ve always fancied red heads,” a man whispers into her ear from behind. She jumps and spins to face him. A dark haired dwarf with a scruffy beard and short disheveled hair, his piercing green eyes glint with dark lust. His intentions clear.
Her muscles tense with the expectation of a fight. “And red heads fancy men who bathe often,” she’s deliberately trying to anger him; people don’t think clearly when they’re angry. He back hands her, knocking her to the ground. She lands on her belly, grabbing a handful of dirt. He pounces on her, ripping the shoulder off her shirt. She shrieks and tries to scramble away, but her attacker overpowers her and flips her onto her back. She uses the time the throw dirt into his face. While he’s sputtering trying to clear his eyes she escapes his weight and straddles his back. She quickly loops her bound hands over his neck, the rope pressing against his windpipe. She begins pulling back, the rope slowly strangling him. He claws at rope and flips, pinning her beneath him, but she only increases the pressure on his throat.
He’s on the verge of passing out when two other men grab her and pull her from under him; he rolls onto all fours and coughs.
“Get out of here,” Tavish growls.
The man scrambles to his feet and scurries away still coughing. Zinaga approaches Bianca and locks eyes with the dwarf.
“Oh my, that was close,” the elf’s words drip with hypocrisy. “I wonder what you did to upset him,” a small vicious grin on her lips as she gestures for the men to release Bianca. She shakes them off and glares at Zinaga as she walks away.
“Pity about your dinner,” Tavish toes the upturned plate. “It wasn’t even drugged.”
“Bastards,” Bianca growls under her breath.
Bethany’s sleep is fitful and she kicks off her blankets when she rolls onto her side and brushes away a few stray hairs tickling her neck. A few seconds later she feels the tickle again, this time on her arm. She opens one bleary eye, and his bolted away at the sight of a spider crawling up her skin. She brushes the bug off and scurries away from the retreating little pest.
She summons a small dim ball of mage light and watches it race away, she then screams at the sight of thousands of little black spiders crawling in from under the door. Everyone is jolted awake, and their attention is immediately drawn to the dark encroaching mass the mage is pointing at.
Fenris leaps to his feet and immediately knows that their weapons would be useless against such an enemy. “Bethany, fire!”
She wastes no time in summoning a cone a fire which scorches the advancing mass. The swarm shrieks, hisses and retreats.
“We need to get out of here,” Isabela quickly gathers up her gear.
“What’s the plan? Hide behind the mage,” Isana is following the pirate’s example, but making sure to shake her bedding for any unwanted eight-legged friends.
“I don’t like that plan,” Bethany shoves her blankets into her pack.
“Neither do I,” Fenris voices. “But I see no other options.”
“I can’t maintain that spell indefinitely,” She slings her bag onto her back and picks up her twin blades.
“Hopefully just long enough for us to escape,” Isana keeps an eye on the door
“Can you cast ice?” Varric hoists his bag onto his back and picks up Bianca.
“Yes, but again I can’t maintain that spell for long either.”
“How long can you sustain it,” a plan forming in the dwarf’s mind.
“Three minutes at most. Why? Do you have a plan?”
“Yes, Rivaini, give me your oil,” as he watches the woman produce the oil she’s been carrying for torches he explains how he plans to use both his and Isabela’s oil with Bethany’s magic for maximum damage.
“Everyone ready,” Fenris asks.
“Would now be a bad time to bring up my irrational fear of spiders,” the teenager asks.
“Yes,” Varric readies his crossbow, but knows that the bolts will not be useful. “Bethany,” the dwarf signals for the mage to get in place in front of the door.
She takes a deep breath and musters her courage as she moves in front of the door. She can feel her skin craw as she notices that spiders are beginning to push past their dead in order to enter the room again.
Fenris pulls open the door and Bethany blasts the swarm of spiders with ice. The group rushes out and they freeze at the sight of millions of tiny spiders emerging from the balls of webbing. The floor is a thick black carpet moving and undulating as millions upon millions of tiny spider crawl over each other as they head deeper into the darkness. With the door open a surge of the small black vermin scurry and tumble over one another as if their survival depended upon them overwhelming the adventurers. Bethany aims one sword towards the approaching mass and with a chant, a stream of fire sprays out. Again the arachnids shriek as they die by fire. Slowly Bethany steps forward, clearing a path as she alternates between ice and fire.
“Normal spiders don’t scream,” Bethany shouts as she continues to move forward. Varric uses the oil to feed the dying flames behind them, preventing any unwanted visitors from sneaking up on them. They are almost to the gateway when the group stops suddenly as a much larger spider pushes its way through the stone entrance, each step it takes creates the odd clicking sound they’ve been hearing.
Isana freezes at the sight of a spider taller than she. Horror course through her as the eight legged monstrosity slowly approaches. The flickering flames from burning spiderlings reflect in the multitude of shiny black eyes. Undaunted by the smoldering dead it closes in, the large pedipals on either side of the face rub together as if in anticipation of a rare meal. The large bulbous body is covered with course brown and black fuzz. The hair on the legs and pedipalps is thicker and seems to resemble cactus spikes. Isana is horrified and can’t move as she watches thick venom drip from the fangs. Isabela grabs the arms and pull her back with the rest of the party.
“Our retreat is cut off,” Varric reports, indicating the still burning barricades he set up.
Bethany lobs a fireball at the threat and it rears back, its screech is ear piercing and echoes off the stone walls. When it lands back on the ground it jerks forward, spitting venom at the group; however the insect is half blind and the poison misses everyone. Fenris lunges forward in a glowing blur of movement, hacking at one of its many legs. The large spider quickly backs away narrowly avoiding the elf’s blades. Varric manages two well-placed shots in quick secession, taking out two of the spider’s eight eyes. This time the beast squeals and screeches as it thrashes about.
The group uses this time to turn and run further into the Deep Roads, in an effort to escape both the large and small predators. They begin crossing a wide thick overpass when they hear the clicking closing in from both behind and in front. The emergence of a second spider blocking their retreat causes the team to halt in their tracks.
“Stay close!” Bethany shouts and begins to cast a powerful spell; raising her enchanted blade upwards she summons a powerful firestorm. Fireballs of varying sizes rain down about them, scorching the giant spiders. The hug eight-legged monstrosities scuttle about and rear back in an effort to escape the flaming death pouring down from above. The ground rumbles and shards of rock spray up into the air with each impact, showering the team with slivers. Isana yelps as one splinter of stone flies between her and Isabela slicing the girl’s cheek. The ground continues to shake and the party stumbles to keep their balance and bump into each other. The tiny spiderlings scatter, successfully making their escape by crawling up the wall and down into the ravine disappearing into small cracks and openings in the rock.
The ground continues to grumble under the fiery assault. Cracks begin to appear in the walkway and large chunks of stone break off and fall away. The injured spider finally succumbs to the fire and collapses. The second monstrosity manages to make its escape into the darkness, but not without several scars from the encounter. Once the danger has passed, Bethany stops feeding mana into the storm and sinks to her knees; Fenris is quick to crouch beside her.
“I’m fine,” she accepts his help getting back onto her feet. “It’s just…that was close.”
“We should probably get going…Seeing as we are up and moving that is,” Isana watches her father secure his crossbow to its back sheath.
“Come on,” Fenris begins leading the way back towards the outpost. He helps Bethany and Isabela as they make their way around the dead arachnid.
“Ugh,” Isabela wrinkles her nose. “Is that what the inside of a spider smells like?”
“In some parts of Thedas roasted spider is a delicacy.” Fenris voices.
“Just…ew,” Bethany’s stomach rolls at the though, and Isabela laughs at the lovely shade of green the mage has turned.
Isana cannot make her feet move as she realizes that she must get very close to the huge spider. She jumps when Varric places his hand on her shoulder.
“Are you ok,” Varric’s concern is genuine.
“I’m fine,” she jerks her shoulder away from Varric. She truly does have a fear of spiders and this encounter only justified it. She clenches her hands into fists in an effort to stop the trembling. As they begin making their way across the bridge the ground crumbles from beneath their feet and plummets into blackness below.
“Run,” Varric grabs his daughter’s hand and heads towards his friends who are calling and reaching out to them. The disintegrating rock is moving faster than the two dwarves can move. They are so close to the others that they make a jump for it. Fenris succeeds in grabbing Varric’s hands, but Isana’s leap is shy of her goal and she clings to the crumbling rock.
“Isana!” Varric pulls one hand free and twists to offer his help to the girl. She stretches, her fingers barely touching his. He reaches back and pulls Bianca from her sheath and uses her length to reach the young dwarf.
“Varric, you’re slipping,” the elf struggles to keep his grip on his friend. Isabela lunges forward struggling to reach her friend to help the white haired elf.
“Climb,” Varric says, either not hearing or ignoring the voiced danger. He keeps his voice calm as he encourages the girl to move slow and steady towards him. Her eyes are filled with fear, but she manages to find foot holds to help her ascend.
“That’s my girl,” he smiles when she finally manages to wrap an arm about his neck. He can feel his hand slowly slipping out of his glove. Isabela is manages to grab ahold of Varric’s pack just as his hand slips free of the elf’s grasp. Isana tightens her grip on him and he instantly clutches on to her.
“Don’t let me go,” Isana frantically begs.
“I got you,” he assures. The terrifying sound of fabric slowly ripping shatters the storyteller’s confidence. His friends redouble their attempts to pulls the duo onto the ledge; however, the fates have something else planned and the pack rips and both Varric and Isana slide down the rock face, disappearing into the gloom below.