Bianca screams Varric’s name as the storyteller drops. Bethany and Fenris rush over to check on him while Isabela uses every curse she knows and disarms the last trap that no one saw.
“Varric,” Bianca kneels down beside him. “Don’t you die on me. Don’t you dare you selfish son of a bitch. Not after all this time,” tears streaming down her face.
“Can you heal him,” Isana watches the mage as she studies the injury. Fenris gently moves the teenager to crouch across from Bethany to help her with the dwarf’s healing.
“I think so,” Bethany redirects her attention to Fenris. “When I tell you, pull out the arrow.”
He nods and watches as she sends in soft tendrils of magic to determine the extent of the damage. “Something’s wrong,” she whispers.
“What is it,” Fenris asks watching as the mage’s hands as the hover, inches above the dwarf’s prone body. Her hands move away from the arrow and down towards his belly.
“There’s another injury,” she looks baffled. “But it’s old. Let me focus on this one,” she moves back to the arrow. She places her hands on his chest on either side of the arrow and Fenris grips it firmly, waiting for her order. Bethany takes a breath and signals Fenris to remove the projectile and she immediately covers the wound with her hands, but the blood seeps out. As the crimson liquid spills around her hands, she pours magic into the storyteller. Her power slows the bleeding as veins and capillaries mend. She works her mana to weave muscle and flesh back together. With her magic she can feel blood pooling in Varric’s chest cavity. She uses her spell to redirect the fluid into his stomach, which will make him nauseous later but won’t harm him.
Bianca remains by his head, stroking Varric’s blonde hair, and speaking softly to him. Bethany explains there’s another older injury, but she has to find it. Again her hands seem to float over Varric’s body while her magic searches for the damage. Upon finding it she asks Fenris to remove Varric’s sash as her hands are covered with blood and gasps at the massive bloodstain on his tunic. She asks for and receives a rag to wipe her hands, Fenris helps by lifting the shirt.
Bethany removes the wrappings and gasps at the sight of the infect wound. “I’ve never seen an infection set in this quickly.”
“Is it Blight,” Bianca fears the worse, tears spilling from her eyes.
“No, but the wound is definitely infected,” she looks up at the red-head. “I can’t heal this. We need to get him to a real healer or physiker.”
“Will he live,” Bianca can’t keep the desperation from her voice.
“I hope so,” Bethany confesses.
“Maybe there’s something here,” Isana suggests, looking around. “This Torkver guy was some sort of master enchanter, right? Maybe there’s something here?”
“If you want to look, do it fast. I’m going to do my best to clean and bind the wound, and then I recommend we get moving. We need to get him to the surface.”
Bethany works at a hurried pace as she tends to Varric’s wound. She does her best to clean out as much of the infection as she can before pouring a portion of a health tonic into the wound, and then gently easing the rest down his throat. The entire time she mutters curses at the stubborn dwarf for keeping this a secret. She’s about to bind the wound when the teenager comes running up, struggling with a heavy looking box.
“Mom,” Isana cries out as she sets the large and intricately carved box on the ground. “I found an alchemist kit. Maybe there’s something in here,” her bright blue eyes dance with excitement as she hands the box over.
“How do you know it’s an alchemist kit,” Bethany looks up from her work and watches the younger dwarf try to open the chest.
“I’ve stolen a couple,” she shrugs. “They’re worth 2 sovereigns to the right Fence,” she struggles a bit longer with the lid. “I can’t get it open.”
“Let me see,” Bianca takes the case and studies the runes carved into it. “I think an enchantment is keeping it sealed.”
“Think,” the pirate questions. “Can’t you read the runes?”
“Only a little. My mother taught me when I was young but I’ve forgotten most of it,” Bianca admits.
“I recognize that rune,” the mage points to the mark in question. “That’s the same rune I had to pour lyrium on. We need lyrium.”
“Don’t you have any, Sweetness?”
“No I used the last of it to activate the enchantments. Maybe a touch of magic will be enough,” she places one delicate hand over the box and summons a simple spell.
The box doesn’t open.
“Well, shit,” the pirate looks about as if a vial of lyrium might magically appear.
“Let’s pack up, we need to get Varric out of here,” Bethany starts gathering bandages with the intention of wrapping the cut.
Fenris looks at his palm, his lyrium branded palm and wonders. As the others pack up, he removes his gauntlet and places his hand on the indicated rune. Instantly he can feel the pull on the lyrium in his flesh. His markings glow brightly in response to the demand, he gasps when he finds he can’t pull his hand free.
“Fenris?” Bethany reaches for the elf, but stops fearing she may cause more harm than good. Suddenly the kit opens and the warrior is knocked back a few feet. Clutching his wrist, he curls about his hand and Bethany rushes to him, calling his name. She crouches down beside him. She wants to touch him, to see if he’s alright, but the pained growling sounds he’s making stops her. “Are you hurt? Do you need healing,” Bethany questions.
“It burns,” he manages through gritted teeth.
Gently she takes his offered hand and tenderly coaxes the finger open. To her amazement she can see a mirror image of the rune glowing on his palm as his brands pulse. Whips of pale green smoke rise slowly from the rune.
“I’m going try some healing magic,” she cups his hand in hers, cautious not to place pressure on the glowing rune. Bethany mutters her spell, the delicate, comforting wisps of magic envelope the elf’s hand and his pain eases. Her incantation complete she releases his hand and watches as the rune fades from sight.
“Thank you,” he makes a fist a few times, testing his hand for pain.
“What happened,” Isana’s eyes are wide.
“My marks,” he holds out his arms to indicate the silvery blue designs etched into his skin. “They’re lyrium. I thought I could use them to open the box, but I wasn’t expecting it to burn.”
“This one,” Bianca pulls a tall, slender, clay tube sealed with wax. “This says purify,” she hands the vial to the mage who looks at the markings.
“What do these other runes say,” Bethany points to the other, smaller runes on the bottle.
“I don’t know,” the red head admits, she then asks Fenris to remove Varric’s bandages.
Bethany pulls off the wax and is surprised to see liquid. “This is thousands of years old. We don’t know if it’s still viable or if it’s toxic. If it’s toxic it could kill him. We also don’t know if this safe to use on people. Do we still use it?”
Everyone looks at each other waiting for someone else to make the potentially life threatening decision. Finally Bianca speaks up telling her to use it, her tone certain and her voice strong. The mage nods and pours some of the contents on the infect injury. The thick green liquid sizzles when it hits the infected wound it bubbles viciously as wisps of smoke rise from his body.
“Magister,” the messenger kneels before his master, his eyes downcast as a show of respect. “The elf’s information is viable. Fenris was in the city. Judging from the items he left, it would be logical to assume that he will be returning.”
“Good, make all the necessary arrangements. I will travel with you to Nevarra.”
“As you wish.”
They pause at a crossroads and Bianca studies the map. “This is the quickest route,” she points to the tunnel on the right.
“Are there spiders,” Isana remembers her father telling her and the others that there was a warning of spiders on the map.
“No, they should be in the tunnels below us,” Bianca folds the map and returns it to her pack. She then turns her attention to the unconscious Varric and asks the mage about his status.
“The fever’s back,” she reports “We’ll need to make camp soon so I can focus on him.”
The red head nods and takes the lead. Fenris and Isabela each grab an end of the quickly made stretcher and work together to carry it with the prone dwarf through the tunnels. It’s been a week since the thaig and Varric’s fever has come and gone, along with his consciousness. When he is awake, he complains of weakness, nausea, and body aches, but will push himself to keep up with the group until he drops. Bethany is able to rouse him in order to eat, but shortly afterwards he passes out again.
They did learn that the concoction used on the storyteller was indeed intended to be used to cleanse infection and cure most poisons; however, it also requires the tonic to be diluted with water. Bethany is concerned that such a strong dose might have poisoned Varric’s system, slowly killing him. She’s confided her concerns with Fenris who advised her to not burden the others with her fears. He’s worried that such news would could cause varied interpretation of Varric’s symptoms and detract everyone from quickly and safely reaching a physiker.
“Uh-oh,” Isana points to a familiar ball of spider silk.
Isabela’s eyes widen at the thick layer of webbing covering not only the floor and walls, but also the ceiling. Suspended from the ceiling are more webbing balls of varied sizes, which the pirate assumes to be spider food, but tries not to think too much on what giant spiders eat. Bethany gasps and points up at the living ceiling high above them. Bianca is quick to slap a hand over Isana’s mouth to stifle her scream, with her free hand she signals for everyone to back away.
“Now what? We don’t have the provisions to backtrack,” Isabela signals Fenris that she plans to set down stretcher.
“A firestorm,” Isana suggests.
“Did you see all the webbing? It will burn and fill the air with smoke and soot,” Bethany shakes her head. “Besides the fire will fall down, most of the spiders seem to be up.”
“Chrysanthemum,” Bianca says her eyes glued to spider infested tunnel. “Chrysanthemum oil is toxic to insects.”
“How do you know,” Isana asks.
“When I was a girl the Rose had a bug infestation. Lusine filled the place with Chrysanthemum flowers, oil and incense; it wasn’t long until bugs started dying.”
“That’s sweet and all, but do we even have any Chrysanthemum,” Isabela rests her hands on her ample hips.
“I have some, it’s a component in some of my tonics and rituals,” the mage starts digging through her pack. “But I don’t know it it’s enough.”
“Then we have the issue of administrating it to them,” Fenris’ green eyes move from Bethany to the tunnel before them.
“One problem at a time,” Bianca watches as Bethany pulls out four small containers.
“That’s all I have.”
“That may not be enough, but it’ll have to do,” the dwarf admits.
“How are we going to get it to them,” Isana asks.
“If we burn it and trap the fumes in a magic ball can you lift it to the ceiling,” Bianca asks the mage.
Bethany shakes her head. “Force fields are spherical, and fire won’t live in a force field. Nor can I cast two spells at the same time,” an idea occurs to Bethany. “But, I can setup some glyphs at either end of the tunnel that will keep them in the area, burn the Chrysanthemum in a small pot and use magic to force the smoke to rise faster.”
“I though you couldn’t cast multiple spells at one time,” the teenager recalls.
“Glyphs don’t draw against my mana. Once I set them up they will remain until the magic I poured into them is gone.”
“I’ll go with you, watch your back,” the pirate volunteers.
“No,” the firmness Bethany’s voice catches everyone off guard. “Casting a fire spell small enough to allow the Chrysanthemum to smolder takes a great deal of concentration. I can’t afford any distractions.”
“It also means that you’ll be trapped in there with the spiders,” Fenris clearly doesn’t like this plan.
“What choice is there,” Bethany calmly questions. “Setting up the glyph on this side will prevent even me from crossing it without dispelling them. It must be set from the other side. Believe me I’m keen on this either, but if someone has a better idea please say something.”
“So we can’t cross the ward, but can someone cover you with the crossbow,” Bianca trying to find ways to support the mage.
“So we can provide some coverage,” Isabela finds a small measure of comfort in that statement. “Good. Let’s get you ready Sweetness.”
Bethany swallows hard and nods, dread beginning to build in her gut. At Isabela’s directions Bianca and Isana use strips of cloth to cover any gaps between the mage’s armour and her boots, and gloves. The pirate tightly braids Bethany’s shoulder length dark hair. The pirate then uses a piece of fabric to cover Bethany’s head and wraps it about her neck a few times.
“This should keep them out of your hair,” Isabela can see the apprehension in her friend’s eyes. “You’ll be fine,” she hopes her smile gives her nervous friend some courage. “Just remember don’t over extend your thrusts and mind your footing. You’re better at swordplay than you think.”
Bethany manages a tight lip smile and a quick nod. She’s worried that if she tries to speak her courage will escape and she’ll run away screaming hysterically.
Fenris walks up. “We’ll cover you as best we can," he places a hand on her cheek. “Courage, my little Roseus, I’ve waited my whole life to find you. I won’t lose you now.” His lips crash into hers and she holds him tight, drawing strength from his embrace. When their lips part Fenris hugs her and whispers softly in her ear causing a blush races across her cheeks.
“What did he say to make you blush like that,” Isabela teases, which causes the bright pink in Bethany’s cheeks to deepen.
“Umm, I…uh…” she finds she can’t stop the heat rising up to her ear. “I need to go save the world or something.” She mutters.
“Oh, it must’ve been good,” the dark skinned woman turns her attention to Fenris. “You must tell me.”
“And what is a Roseus? Why are you calling her that,” Isana adds.
Suddenly Bethany finds that facing a horde of giant, monstrous, man-eating spiders very appealing. “Are you going to watch my back or what, because I’m going. Right now.”
Bethany takes a few deep breaths, gathers the flowers and sensor and walks into the infested tunnel, pausing long enough to see if her footsteps draw the attention of the spiders. When nothing jumps out at her she turns and uses one of her enchanted swords to draw the runes across the opening. She eyes the huge ball of webbing and freezes it solid. Slowly she walks across the pathway, being mindful of the movement in her surroundings as she moves. Halfway to the other opening they yawning blackness to her left catches her attention. Cautiously she peers over and can see that the rock has crumbled away into the tunnels below. Slowly she continues her trek, her heart pounding so fiercely in her chest it’s a wonder it didn’t break her ribs. Her breath is shaky as she nears her goal. She looks around and satisfied that her presence has not drawn attention she uses her weapon to draw the repulsion wards. She now has to make her way to the center of the passageway in order to light the Chrysanthemum.
When she turns she realizes that corridor is only fifty yards in length, much shorter than she originally thought. She keeps her mind focused on her task and tries not to jump at every little sound she hears.
Besides if something were behind me, my friends would tell me, she repeats this thought and finds a bit of courage believing that she’s not alone. She sets the small metal bowl on the ground and empties all four containers into it. She concentrates and will a small ember into existence within the pile of petals. Despite popular belief small flames are much harder to create than larger ones and only the most talented and disciplined of mages can summon a tiny ember. As planned, the Chrysanthemum begins to smolder, generating a dark plume of smoke. Bethany picks up her swords and weaves her magic to create a painstakingly gentle, yet powerful cyclone of air to force the poison higher instead of allowing it to spread out.
The minutes seem to pass like hours until the fragile column of wind lifts the fumes to the top of the cavern. However, the instant it reaches the living ceiling the movement becomes chaotic and some of the smaller spiders are dead before they hit the tunnel floor. Many of the larger ones descend half way down only the fall the remainder of the way. They kick and thrash about, before finally righting themselves on their long thin legs. They wobble and weave, some attacking each other in their confusion. One the size of a horse approaches and Bethany swings one of her blades and at the fat brown spider. It hisses and spits a vile, green poison in her direction. She manages to dodge the viscous fluid and swing her sword at the beast. It hisses loudly and moves back avoiding her attack. She hears a familiar shriek behind her and quickly spins to see a spider the size of her sister’s mabari fall with a bolt sticking out of it. Bethany sees Bianca take aim and fire another quarry which sails over her head and into the arachnid she was just battling. The horrific beast emits an ear piercing squeal before redoubling its attack on the slender mage. She uses her magic to momentarily redirect the smoke into her opponent’s face. Again it rears up, its leg slashing at the air, trying to attack the poison. When it drops back down it teeters, as if unsure if it’s going to continue attacking. It starts to take a step, then stops, and starts again.
Bethany has turned her attention to the new foe, a large black and grey spider, roughly the size of a mabari. She stabs the eight legged beast and then casts an ice spell, freezing her foe from the inside. Millions of dead spiders in varying sizes fall from the ceiling like black rain while thousands more are crawling up from the crevasse. A few are attacking each others, many are being repelled by Bethany’s wards, others are thrashing about, and still others are slowly climbing up the mage’s legs. When she notices the pests she uses a burst of mana to send them soaring away. It also disorients the fat brown spider, who’s slowly makes its way to her.
Bianca fires a shot, but the fat brown spider stumbles and the bolt misses its target. The dwarf curses and fires again, this time the quarry strikes the arachnid, but it’s not a critical strike and the beast shrieks, before spitting venom. The thick, sticky fluid strikes Bethany on the back of the head, causing her to stumble. She spins, sending an arch of lightening at the attacker, and smaller bolts of electricity jump from the large spider to smaller ones nearby. While her opponent is being electrocuted she drops her weapons and quickly strips off the head cloth just as the venom eats a hole in the fabric. Finally the large arachnid succumbs to the poison and collapses.
The Chrysanthemum has burnt out and she’s relieved that there are no more large spiders to battle. She bends down and sends a blast of icy wind down both sides of the walkway, clearing it of the smaller spider, both living and dead. She picks up her blades when a sound from the pit to her right catches her attention. She looks over the edge, and can see a massive, black shape moving within the deep shadows. Her hands tremble as she clutches her swords and slowly backs towards her friends. With terrifying speed and silence a spider the size of a two story house emerges. She knows she can’t take this down monster, but fear has deafened her to her friends’ frantic demands that she lower the wards. Terror freezes her in place as the impossibly large spider raises up and sprays webbing at her. She screams and instinctually crouches, covering her head with her arm as the sticky, white silk ensnares her.
Fenris is calling out to her, desperately trying to breach the wards Bethany put in place to protect her friends. His panic rises as he watches the monstrous spider close in on Bethany and begins wrapping her in a thick cocoon.