The Untellable Tale of Bianca

Chapter 19

Torkver Thaig is massive as far as thaigs go with a radius of a mile and a half and at the center a massive structure that was forge, workshop and home. No other building could match it in size or grandeur. Centuries ago, when Torkver Thaig the founding paragon discovered a massive vein of lyrium in the middle of his province and had the masons carve his home in and around the glowing mineral. Nearly a hundred smaller houses surround the forge and a ruined network of roads runs through the entire area. The outer rim of the thaig isn’t as developed as the center, giving the impression that whatever happened had happened suddenly.

“There’s no taint,” Bethany realizes. “Everywhere else I’ve seen the beginnings of taint, but not here.”

“Maybe there’s some enchantment keeping the taint at bay,” Isana looks around, thick blue veins run up the walls casting a dim blue glow over everything. High in the ceiling she can see thousands of crystals sparkling like stars, it makes her yearn for the surface.

“And there’s no dust or dirt on the ground,” the mage point the polished stone beneath their feet. “If he made an anti-dust enchantment you could make a fortune with housekeepers.”

“This place doesn’t feel right,” Fenris growls, looking about as if he were about to walk into an ambush.

“I know,” Isabela agrees. “It’s like…underwear that never quite sits right.”

“Rivani, what do you know about underwear?”

“It’s defensible,” the elf points to two entrances, pulling people back to the topic on hand. “We’ve got three possible choke points. You and I,” he indicates Isabela “can be the first line, with Isana to catch those who get past us. Varric and Bethany can provide ranged support.”

“Good plan,” the pirate agrees.

“Only if we know which entrance they’re coming through, Elf.”

“I’m sure Bethany has a spell that can help,” the pirate places her hands on her hips.

“They have a mage with them, he might detect my magic,” her brown eyes begin studying some of the runes in the walls and floors. “But some of these runes are enchantments. Maybe we can figure out how to use them.”

“Then let’s head to the forge,” Varric points to the largest structure. “If there’s anything that might tell us about the enchantments, I’d wager it’ll be there.”

“I bet there’s treasure there too,” Isabela adds, her eyes sparkling.

Bianca collapses to her hands and knees. It’s been days since she last ate, and even longer since she’s slept. Her aching body is exhausted and refuses to move another inch.

“Get up,” Zinaga orders. Bianca only shakes her head, her throat so dry she can’t form words. The elf kicks the dwarf and repeats her order. The red head falls onto her side and curls into a ball as the raven haired elf continues her abuse.

“Zinaga, stop,” Tavish grabs the elf and pulls her away. Zinaga’s golden eyes narrow and her lips curl into a dangerous sneer.

“I’ve been watching her, she hasn’t eaten in days. Her exhaustion is genuine.” He keeps his voice low careful to avoid any hearing his insubordination.

“Whose side are you on mage,” she growls.

“I’ve been on your side and watching your back ever since you rescued me from those Templars. I owe you more than my life and you know it. We give her food and let her rest and then we can be on our way. You are so close to your goal, and once we reach the thaig you can break her legs and leave her for the darkspawn.” His words make her smile; it is a far more brutal end than she was originally planning.

“A last meal, as it were,” the gleam in her eyes could chill the blood. “I love it when you’re vicious,” she places a hand to his cheek and orders her men to rest. Tavish bows to her decision and volunteers to feed the prisoner.

“I think this is what we’re looking for,” Varric points to a set of runes carved into the back wall.

“What does it say,” she stands behind him and looks at the symbols he is referencing.

“Basically, the runes outside the entrance act as a signaling device for incoming visitors. It looks like each entry way was assigned a different color. Green for north, red for south, yellow for east and white for west. When the enchantment is triggered the crystals in the ceiling will flash that color.”

“Right, but the east entrance and the south entrance are already sealed, so we only need to worry about the other two. How do we activate them?”

“With lyrium. It looks like you just need to pour a little lyrium on them and the runes will do the rest. How much do you have on you Sunshine?”

“Hopefully enough, all of the lyrium I found here is dried beyond use. Why don’t you and I go see to those runes?”

“Why don’t you take Fenris, and I’ll scout the area for hiding spots,” he’s starting to feel weak but doesn’t want anyone to worry, not when they are so close to getting Bianca back.

“Are you feeling OK? You look a little pale.”

“I’m fine Sunshine,” he smiles and waves his hand dismissively. “Isana and I have been sharing rations since we fell, and I’ve been giving her the larger portions because of her injury. That’s all.”

Bethany eyes him suspiciously for a moment before accepting his words. She nods and heads out to find the elf, leaving Varric alone in the workshop. His head spins and he places his hands on the work bench to steady himself. Once the dizziness passes he reaches under his coat and tenderly prods his wound. The burning pain causes him to wince. He suspects the infection is worse, but he doesn’t have the time right now to look. Varric makes a mental note to use one of his health tonics and change his bandages after he scouts around. He straightens up and nearly runs into Isabela.

“You would not believe what I found,” her excitement a giveaway that she missed his display of weakness. “I think I found the vault!”

“Then once we get Bianca back we can pillage to our hearts content. Until then, let’s focus on the task at hand.”

Tavish crouches before Bianca with a huge serving of food, he takes a bite of everything while she watches wondering what his game is.

“You need your strength,” he offers her the plate. She looks at the food and then at him then back to the plate, her gaze suspicious. Hesitantly she takes the offering.

“Why the sudden concern,” her mouth is salivating, but she does her best to hide her weakness.

“Well, if you don’t eat,” he takes a long drink from a water skin. “We can always leave you in the Deep Roads the next time you pass out.” He sets the water next to her. “The choice is yours,” he brushes her bangs away from her eyes, revealing her casteless tattoo. She jerks away from his touch.

“Eat,” his smile is proof that he’s amused by her tenacious nature. “No one will bother you. When you’re ready we’ll continue.”

“Bethany,” Fenris breaks the awkward silence as they approach the first rune.

“Yes,” she doesn’t look at him; she hasn’t looked at him since she did the ritual.

“How can I help you?”

“I just need to pour the lyrium. The enchantments will do the rest.”

“That’s not what I’m talking about.”

She sighs heavily. “I betrayed everything Father and the Circle taught me. I’m a blood mage,” her eyes are still downcast and her voice defeated with a touch of bitterness.

“Bethany,” he stops walking and gently takes her arm. “You’re not a blood mage,” he hooks a finger under her chin and draws her eyes to his so that she can see his sincerity.

“I preformed blood magic, Fenris! What does that make me,” there’s a touch of anger in her brown eyes.

“A virtuous and honorable mage who was put in a no win situation.” Fenris rests his hands on her shoulders. “Do you remember when the Carta attacked you while you were in the Circle?”


“Do you remember what you learned about your father?”

The look in her eyes suddenly becomes guarded. Yes, she remembers what the Wardens made her father do.

“What your father did, he did to save your mother, your sister and possibly even thousands of others from an evil as great as any blight. But he was no blood mage. I have known blood mages; they see no wrong in their use of forbidden magic. You do. Believe me when I say you are no blood mage and I will challenge any who say otherwise.”

“Thank you Fenris,” she smiles sweetly at him.

“All right Sweetness,” the pirate hooks an arm around the slender mage’s waist. “Let’s go have some girl time.”

“But, Bela…”

“Everything is prepped and that fancy enchantment-thingy will give us a 30 minute warning. Let me show you the hot springs I found,” she continues to drag Bethany away from the others stopping long enough to pull blankets from hers and Bethany’s packs.

“Hot springs?” The idea of a hot bath was sounding appealing.

“It’s not far, just in that building over there. I swear these dwarves knew how to enjoy their baths,” she winks at the dark haired girl and continues to drag her towards the building in question.

“Maker’s breath,” Bethany breaths at the sight of the massive room constructed around a large hot spring pool. The pool itself had been carved with long shallow steps leading into the enticing water. Frescos had once been carved and painted on the walls; however, untold years of exposure to humid air had caused them to fade and chip. Ornately carved pillars inlaid with gold, stretched up 15 feet to support the ceiling over head. Veins of lyrium danced across the ceiling. Secured to the walls Bethany could see a total of nine stone torches. With a thought and a touch of mana Bethany lit all nine, with a small lick of magic fire casting a soft flickering glow in the room and over the steaming, rippling water. A sudden splash of water pulls the mage back to reality.

“Are you getting in or what,” the pirate smoothes back her wet, ebony locks. Bethany smiles, it’s been days since her last bath and the idea of washing off the accumulated dirt sound heavenly. She pulls off her, looks to be certain Isabela isn’t watching her, then quickly strips off her clothes and rushes into the water. She’s pleased to see that seats had been also carved into edge of the pool. She sits on one of these seats and sinks down until the hot water covers her tense shoulders. She closes her eyes and relishes the feeling of the hot water slowly coaxing the muscles in her neck and shoulders to relax.

“So, what’s going on between you and Fenris,” the pirate swims over. Bethany sits up and can feel the tension returning to her body. She hesitates, trying to find the words that best describe the chaotic mesh of emotions. When the silence is too great, the pirate pokes her and repeats her question. Bethany’s tangled and conflicting emotions come pouring out in uncontrollable streams of tears and words. She seems to talk nonstop about her feelings for the warrior, his admission that Triss claims to be his wife and his feelings on the matter. She talks about her uncertainty if a marriage is real if it’s not recognized by the Chantry. When she has no more words or tears to spill Bethany looks to the pirate desperate for some sage advice.

“Well, that was heavier than I expected,” her voice makes it obvious that she was expecting to hear some juicy bit of information regarding his sexual preferences or prowess. “But,” the Rivani woman is quick to add. “I think you should take him.”

“Just like that? What if he is married?”

“By his own admission slaves are not permitted to marry.”

“But a vow made to the Maker is just as binding regardless of where it was made.”

“This woman ‘married’ Leto, right? And wedding vows are ‘until death,’ right? Well, Whoever Leto was, he’s dead and he’s not coming back. Leto died the night Fenris was born.”

“You really think so,” there’s still a doubtful look in her eye.

“Yes. Now if I’m off to finish that bottle of rum in my pack.”

“Thank you Isabela. You’ve given me something to think about,” Bethany sinks back down and ponders the dark skinned woman’s words as the soothing waters work to ease the tension in her muscles. She closes her eyes and finds a sense of peace settling over her as she comes to terms with her feeling for white haired warrior. She jumps at the sound of Fenris’ voice calling her name.

“Fenris,” she yelps in surprise. Instinctively she tries to cover herself with her hands.

“I’m sorry,” he quickly averts his eyes. “Isabela said you wanted to see me.”

“Bloody pirate,” she mutters under her breath.

“I should leave you.”

“Wait,” she suddenly realizes that she doesn’t want him to leave. He pauses, his back still turned to her to grant her some privacy. She sees the second blanket. “Would you hand me that blanket?”

He picks up the cloth in question and holds it open for her to walk into, his green eyes still looking away. She steps into the fabric and holds it closed behind her.

“I’ve been doing a lot of thinking,” she draws his face to look at her. “About us.”

“And,” his eyes are filled with doubt, he doesn’t know if he wants to hear her answer. But instead of words she slips her hand behind his neck and pulls his lips to hers. He’s startled at first; this is the reaction he was hoping for but didn’t dare expect. Fenris wraps his arms about her waist and pulls her close. She releases her hold on the blanket and holds him close. When they break the kiss they rest their foreheads together.

“Will you stay with me,” she asks quietly, their breaths mingling.

He smiles. “I am yours,” he kisses her again.

Varric takes one more bite of rations before packing the rest of it away. This fever is wreaking havoc on his appetite. Isana is curled up on the ground beside him beneath her blanket sleeping soundly. Varric lovingly strokes his daughter’s head, brushing her golden hair from her face. Every time he looks at her he’s amazed at how much she reminds him of Bianca. He looks over to the sound of approaching footsteps.

“Where are Elf and Sunshine,” he looks behind Isabela for any sign of his last two companions.

“Right now, I’d imagine he’s exploring her Deep Roads,” she drops her bag and sits next to the storyteller and gives him a wink.

“Now,” he’s shocked at the idea. “They’re doing that now? We could be attacked any second.”

“And believe me nothing is more dangerous than a fireball wielding woman who’s been interrupted mid-coitus,” she pulls a near empty bottle from pack and uses her teeth to uncork it. Spitting the cork away she enjoys half of the remaining dark liquid.

“But now,” he looks about the cavern still trying to wrap his head around their timing.

“When the urge strikes,” she offers him the last of the bottle.

“You had something to do with that, didn’t you,” he finishes off the last bit of rum.

“Guilty as charged,” she grins broadly. “Why don’t you get some sleep and I’ll keep watch.”

“I don’t know if I can,” he looks back at Isana. “I’ve got too much to lose.”

“Varric,” the dwarf looks back at the pirate. “We’ll get her back.”

“You should sleep Varric,” Fenris reiterates yet again. The women had been asleep for about three hours, but the dwarf and elf are keeping keen eye out for intruders.

“So should you,” he counters. “But I don’t see that happening for either of us,” he looks at the sleeping Bethany, noting the slight smile on her face. “We both have reasons for staying alert,” Varric’s eyes drift back to his daughter.

Fenris is about to say something with the crystals high above in the stone begin twinkling red indicating that intruders will be using the south entrance.

“Let’s pray that isn’t darkspawn,” Fenris comments. They waste little time in waking the women and getting to their position.

The minutes seem like hours as Fenris and Isabela wait for the signal to attack. Isana tightens her grip on her twin blades, her blue eyes dart from the entrance to Varric and Bethany’s hiding spot then back to the entrance. Bianca’s bronze and silver arms lock into place and Varric hums a melody under his breath; his fingers tenderly caress the weapon’s red cedar stock. Bethany clenches her fists and summons her mana, waiting for the right time to unleash a fireball upon the approaching enemy.

A human, elf and dwarf slowly come into the pale silvery blue light if the lyrium lit thaig. Bethany whispers her spell quietly; her precision with the fireball must be exact. The plan is to take out as many of the thieves as possible, but not put Varric’s lady in danger. A group of ten people follow behind and Bethany places her spell in the middle of them.

There’s a sudden explosion of fire and chaos. Tavish grabs Zinaga and pulls her back away from the pandemonium. Men flail about desperate to extinguish the flames that are engulfing and killing them. The five men outside the blast radius try to douse fire and save whomever they can.

Amidst the confusion Isabela is able to grab Bianca and pull her to safety. Isabela explains Varric’s plan while cuts the red head free, anything else the pirate was thinking about saying gets lost as the sound of Fenris’ battle cry echoes off the stone. The rivani is quick the join the fray, leaping in and killing a badly burnt rogue who was trying to backstab the elf. She immediately switches how she holds her blades and kills another man who was trying to sneak up on her.

Not one to let others fight her battles, Bianca grabs a pair of blades and charges after Zinaga and the mage. Tavish tries throwing the Crushing Prison spell to stop the dwarf’s advance, but the spell fails against her natural resistance. He begins weaving another spell when an arrow to the shoulder stops him. He cries out in pain and turns his attention to Varric and Bethany, but the dark haired girl is quick strike him down with a bolt of lightning. Tavish into the side of a building nearly five yards away, cracking his skull against the stone with such force that a bright red stain is left behind when he crumbles to the ground.

“Looks like it’s just you and me,” Bianca snarls.

“Dance with me, dwarf, let’s see who bleeds,” the elf’s blades flash as she throws herself at Bianca.

Isana rushes forward to help her mother, when a rogue suddenly appears before her. She parries the first strike, successfully landing a blow high on the human’s upper arm. The blade fails to penetrate the leathers and he presses the attack. He tries using his height to overpower the girl, but it soon becomes evident that she has a lot of experience battling those who are taller than she. She’s well versed in knife-play and uses her short stature to take advantage of openings in his attack and vulnerable spots in the human’s leather armour. A second attacker is making her way towards Isana and Varric quickly eliminates the threat with a well-placed bolt. The teen kicks her opponent in the gut, and Varric takes advantage of the distance and kills the man. Again Isana tries to help her mother, but again she’s forced to deal with another enemy.

Fenris dashes forward killing three men in his path and blocking a blow intended for Isabela’s back. Another warrior rushes forward and Fenris barely has time to block the incoming attack. An arrow flies past Fenris’ ear sailing towards his adversary, but it bounces harmlessly off of the man’s shield. The white haired elf uses the distraction to bring his two-handed sword down with full force on his opponent. The man raises his shield to block the blow, but it still staggers him and he stumbles back. Fenris presses the attack and drives his blade into a weak spot in the man’s armour. The man cries out and slams his shield into Fenris’ face. The elf lurches back and tries to shake his head clear of the double vision. He could hear his attacker closing in and swings his sword and frees the man head from his body.

Isabela and her twin blades dance in the blood and gore of the fallen. Each strike brings blood, every dodge fluid and graceful. She’s preparing to slay the next foe, but a pommel strike to the temple stops her mid-action and sends her reeling with her world spinning and vision blurred. She’s vaguely aware of a pain in her leg which drives her to the ground. The floor beneath her suddenly becomes ice cold; when her vision clears Isabela sees that her attacker has been turned into ice. She can see the pain she’s feeling is caused by deep cut, presumably from the ice sculpture in front of her. With her good leg she kicks the frozen foe and watches as he shatters against the unyielding rock.

Dwarf and elf circle one another; hate filled eyes locked and knives hungry for blood. Bianca is the first to attack, lunging at the elf with slashing blades. Zinaga counters and while the dwarf left a paper thin slice on her cheek, she left a deep gash in Bianca’s arm. Both women press the assault their daggers flashing and sometimes biting into each other.

Varric aims at the dueling women with the intention of killing Zinaga “Damn it,” he lowers his weapon. “I can’t get a clear shot.” He moves around in an effort to find a clear view; however there are still other battles occurring in the thaig and a yelp from Isabela pulls his attention back towards the entrance. Varric quickly eliminates the assassin trying to backstab Isabela, an archer aiming for him and a second man attempting to bum rush Isana. Bethany helps kill the two elves battling Fenris and throws a healing spell on the pirate. When Varric returns his attention to Bianca, Zinaga has her on the ground with a blade threatening the beautiful red head’s life. He curses again as she can’t get a clear shot, Bianca manages to use her feet to push the elf off. Zinaga flies back and strikes her head on a stone wall before collapsing to the ground.

Varric glances over in time to see Fenris take down the last attacker. With the danger gone he can turn his attention to his lady.

“Well, Beautiful let it never be said that my lady doesn’t know how to make an entrance.”

She drapes her arms over his shoulders. “My hero. How can I ever repay you,” she whispers, her lips barely touching his when Isana runs up shattering the mood.

“What are you doing here,” Bianca immediately turns her attention to Varric. “Why is she here?”

“I’m keeping her safe,” Varric shrugs.

“She’d be safer on the surface.”

“But, Mom,” she stopped by her mother’s stern gaze, pointing finger and the famous phrase “You keep out of this.”

“She’s safer down here with me than she would be top side,” he remains calm and presents his argument logically.

“In the Deep Roads,” his calmness feeds her irritation. “Do you have any idea what’s down here? Darkspawn. Deepstalkers. Ghouls.” she counts them off on her fingers.

“And spiders,” Isana throws in.

“Not helping,” Varric mutters.

“It’s too dangerous for our daughter to be in the Deep Roads,” Bianca’s rant continues.

“The same could be said for the Undercity,” again he shrugs. “Muggers, rival guilds, slavers. Look Beautiful, the truth is she’s our daughter and if she wanted to come down here to rescue you there’s nothing I can do to stop her from following us. At least this way I can protect her.”

“You are her father, and as such you,” she stops when Varric grabs her and kisses her. After a couple of heartbeats she allows her anger to be diffused and fall into that kiss. Bianca wraps her arms about his neck, deepens the kiss and melts into him.

Isana makes a small disgusted sound. “Get a room,” she groans and walks away.

“You know, I hate it when you do that,” Bianca admits, her eyes narrowing briefly.

“I know,” he chuckles and kisses her again.

“Are you going to pamper her Paragon or are we going to raid a vault,” Isabela wipes away a small trickle of blood from the corner of her mouth.

“Let’s raid a vault,” Bianca all but purrs when their lips part. Her eyes sparkle with a giddy excitement.

“I always did love the way you think,” he admits, calling over Isana and following the pirate towards a large two story building.

They are just about to pass the tall structure when the crystals begin to twinkle a bright white. Everyone looks to each other with one though: darkspawn. They run into the large building and up the stairs into what appears to be a bedroom with a balcony. Bethany inscribes runes on the floor that will paralyze anyone who triggers them. A quick attack plan is formulated while Varric reloads his beloved crossbow.

“Help me move this,” Fenris is trying to move a large heavy piece of furniture to barricade a second doorway. Varric sheaths Bianca and helps the elf. As the work Fenris makes Varric swear that the women will not be taken alive.

“Here,” Isabela gestures for everyone to follow her to the balcony with a clear view of the entrance in question. The group is able to crouch down behind the short wall, and peek out through the carved stone with little chance of them being seen. Bethany says a quick whispered prayer to the Maker.

“The sound of fighting must’ve caught their attention,” Varric says. Before any other comments can be made the familiar staggering of darkspawn begins filtering into the thaig. Eyes widen as nearly four dozen milky-eye monsters stumble in. They watch as the group of blight-carrying monstrosities looks around, as if they had never seen this area of the Deep Roads before.

The large group wanders about aimless for several minutes before a massive hurlock begins giving orders. Varric and his team watch closely as the darkspawn systematically begin salvaging armour and armaments from the dead. As they gather all they can carry, one by one they disappear back into the deeper bowels of the Deep Roads. A crossbow carrying hurlock picks up Tavish’s staff and pokes the dead mage with it before wondering over the Zinaga and pokes her a few times.

To everyone’s surprise, the elf wakes up and screams at the sight of the darkspawn hovering over her. The hurlock shrieks, obviously just as equally startled. Zinaga immediately leaps to her feet, with her swords in hand and slices the bolter’s neck. Its alarmed screech ends in a sickly wet gurgle, but it had already alerted its companions who are rushing back.

Bethany covers her mouth as the elf is rushed at by a dozen of darkspawn. Zinaga makes a split-second decision to run for the southern tunnel, and Bianca finds herself hoping the woman makes her escape. Death by darkspawn is a demise she wouldn’t wish on anyone, including the person who kidnapped and tortured her and her child.

Zinaga doesn’t get very far when an arrow to the shoulder drops her to her knees. The elf is quick to get to her feet and has just enough time to slice the throat of the nearest genlock before it can grab her. She puts up an incredible fight, but eventually is overwhelmed by their sheer numbers. They drag her screaming and kicking towards the western tunnel.

Isabela’s hands form into fists and she closes her eyes while Isana squeezes her eyes shut and covers her ears. Bethany begins whispering a spell, and Fenris is quick to cover her mouth and trap her hands before can complete her incantation. He pulls her into his lap as he presses his back to the short wall. He wraps his legs about her to minimize her struggling; he cranes his neck to keep watch over the vile creatures. Varric starts to reach for his crossbow, but stops, his hand forms into a fist as it retreats. He grabs Isana and holds her close, her body trembling. Bianca watches Varric and knows why he pulls his hand back. He could kill Zinaga, but then the ‘spawn would know they were there and they too would be besieged. She moves closer to him and he wraps an arm about her, his eyes keeping careful track of the darkspawns’ movements.

The elf’s echoing screams seem to last long after she’s dragged into the darkness and the final darkspawn has retreated. Seeing the danger past, Fenris releases Bethany, her face stained with tears.

“Why did you stop me,” her voice is thick with guilt.

“If you had cast that spell, she would’ve been spared but we would all be dead.”

“Oh, Maker,” she cries rising to her feet at looking at the tunnel the ‘spawn and their prisoner had used. “Why did they take her? I didn’t think the darkspawn took prisoners,” she uses her hands and wipes her cheeks.

“I’ve never heard of them taking captives,” Isabela rises to her feet. “Anders never mentioned anything like that before.” She suddenly becomes aware that Fenris and Varric are avoiding eye contact with her. “Or did he,” she asks the dwarf.

Varric sighs and confesses that Ander has mentioned that darkspawn do take hostages. He retells the rebel Warden’s tales of the Deep Roads and the Wardens’ knowledge of broodmothers. The dwarf reiterates what broodmothers are, what they are capable of and where the ‘spawn get them. “When female Wardens go their Calling they are all given a small vial of poison, as a preventative measure, if you will.”

“You mean they’re going to…” Bethany’s words fade as the blood drains from her face. “I’m going to be sick,” she mutters before bolting from the home with Fenris close behind.

Bianca is speechless and just stares at Varric, who continues to hold and sooth his daughter’s fears.

“Did Hawke know,” Isabela’s face and body language are impossible to decipher as she recalls the number of times she’s followed her friend underground and the number of close calls they experienced.

Varric shakes his head. “I don’t think so. Anders wasn’t particularly willing to discuss this topic; I had to coax it out of him.”

Isabela nods and surveys the area, her hands on her hips. “Well I say we seal off that entrance,” she points to the western passageway. “And raid that vault.”

“Are you insane,” Bianca asks.

The pirate shrugs “Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And we’ve come this far.”

Fenris chases the mage around a corner and watches as she places her hands on the cool stone and slowly sinks to her knees, breathing heavily. He hopes she doesn’t throw up; the sound of people retching always turned his stomach. Her heavy inhalations ease into shaky breaths.

“You knew, didn’t you,” she keeps her gaze at the ground, willing her insides to settle. “That’s why you two never let Isabela or I keep watch.”

“Varric told me after we had entered the Deep Roads.”

“You won’t let that happen to me;” her red, swollen eyes look at him, “will you?”

“They will have to kill me to get to you,” his eyes flash with a protective sincerity. She rushes him and wraps her arms tightly about his neck. He holds her tight whispering that won’t let anything happen to her. “You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me; I’ll let no one take you without a fight.”

“I love you,” she whispers into his neck and her admission almost drives him to his knees.

“And I you my little Roseus.”

Confused she pulls back and looks him in the eyes, asking him to repeat what he called her.

“Roseus,” he repeats, cupping her face. “It’s a rare songbird in Tevinter that the Magisters prize for it’s beautiful songs, but the bird won’t breed in captivity so it’s a true symbol of status and wealth to own one.”

“But,” she blinks in confusion. “I don’t sing.”

He chuckles “oh yes you do,” Fenris smiles suggestively at her. “Trust me.”

“But I,” a bright red blush rushes across her cheeks and her eyes widen as his meaning sinks in. “Oh,” she says in a small voice.

“There you are,” Isabela’s voice draws their attention away from each other. “Let’s go seal that entrance and pillage the vault.”

“Are you insane,” Bethany’s question and tone mirroring Bianca’s from a few minutes ago.

“Maybe a little, but I remember stories about the last vault that was found in an old abandoned thaig, so come on.”

“She does have a point,” Fenris concedes.

“Fine,” Bethany submits. “But if there’s a lyrium idol, it stays here and no one touches it.”

“Everyone stay still and try not to make any loud noises,” Varric crouches down to examine the tile at the base of the long stairwell they’d just come down. With his dagger he carefully pries up the tile and deactivates the trigger.

“I love doing that,” he replaces the tile and leads the party into the narrow hallway leading towards a large door. He studies the runes carved into the stone before calling for Bethany.

“The door needs to feel the touch of magic,” he looks at the dark haired mage. “Think you can help with that.”

“Yes, but how would the dwarves have unlocked it,” she summons a shimmering ball of man in her hand and sends it into the rock.

“More than likely lyrium or an enchantment of some kind,” Bianca answers.

The door shifts and dust falls as the sound of heavy stone grinding against stone fills the narrow area. The door slides open revealing a huge cavern with several chests and a large stone sarcophagus resting square in the center.

“Maker’s breath,” Bethany sighs while Isabela wastes no time in rushing up to the first chest.

“Watch for traps,” Varric warns as the pirate begins picking the lock.

“I recommend we get the best pieces we can carry and head back to the surface,” Varric’s mind calculating the profit and loss margins of a Deep Road expedition this far from Kirkwall. Isabela is giddy as she flings open lid after lid of treasure filled chest. Bianca has started opening the chests on the other side of the room and making an equally impressive find. With all of the chests open the best pieces are picked and stuffed into packs.

“What about this,” Isabela points to the sarcophagus.

“Let’s leave that for later,” Bethany doesn’t feel comfortable looting the dead for profit.

“I kinda agree,” Isana lifts her heavy pack and slings it over her shoulder. “I’m not sure we can carry much more.”

“Let’s salvage what resources we can from the men out there and head back to the surface,” Fenris adds.

“Spoil sports,” Isabela follows the rest of her friends as they leave the vault.

Varric laughs, takes a step and is suddenly aware of something hitting his torso. He looks down and sees an arrow sticking out of his chest.

That’s not right, he thinks as he stumbles back and falls to the ground. He’s aware of a lot of movement and voices, but can’t focus on any one thing. His vision is going fuzzy and starting the fade around the edges when he sees Fenris.

Fenris will get my girls out, is his last thought before surrendering to oblivion.

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