The enormous spider pays the small group no attention as they continue their shouts. It works ceaselessly to wrap the petite mage in its webbing.
“Get away from her you bastard,” Bianca screams firing a bolt at the gigantic beast. It sails through the air and impales one of the monster’s massive mandibles. It shrieks and backs away, as both of the palpus work to remove the annoyance. It shrieks and hisses as it flails about.
The wards are weakening, but are not weak enough for the group to push past. Bianca takes aim and fires a quarry into the beast’s face, just missing its largest left eye. Again it screams and spits poison, but the liquid fails to finds its target. The dwarf goes for a third shot, but he crossbow merely clicks, its bolt supply completely depleted.
“I’m out of bolts,” Bianca hands the useless weapon to Isana. Isabela unsheathes one of her hidden blades and throws it at the arachnid successfully taking out the largest left eye. The fiend’s screech is ear piercing as it echoes off the cavern’s walls.
Finally the mana used to set up the wards is spent and Fenris rushes in. He moves quickly, striking blow after blow. He shows his foe no mercy as he hacks at legs and body. Isabela aids Fenris by flanking the monstrosity and attacking from the shadows. Bianca follows the pirate’s example and strikes from the opposite side. Isana is too terrified of the spider to help with the battle, so instead she tries to be helpful by cutting away at the webbing encasing the mage.
Fenris thrusts the blade up through the arachnid’s dead, killing it. It rolls onto its back, its legs curling inwards. He turns to runs towards the webbing containing the mage. He and Isabela work with Isana to cut away the sticky webbing. To his relief Bethany had cast a force field, and had maintained it so the spider wasn’t actually ensnaring her.
“Bethany,” at the sound of Fenris’ voice the force field drops and he’s quick to embrace her, ripping the last of the webbing off. She wraps her arms tightly about his neck.
“From now on,” with her courage spent her voice is on the verge of tears and her body shivers. “You kill the spiders.”
“I promise, my little Roseus,” he holds her close. “No more spider slaying for you.”
A bubble of nervous laughter escapes her lips.
Fenris waits until Bethany stops trembling in his arms before softly reminding her that they should be moving. She nods and accepts his help getting to her feet. She removes her gloves to wipe away unshed tears, and after taking a deep breath she nods that she’s ready. Bethany reaches down to pick up her blades when a small reddish brown spider leaps onto her hand, and bites her. She yelps and jumps back shaking the tiny spider off.
“I’ve been bit,” she looks at the small two red dots on the back of her hand. Fenris pulls a healing salve and health tonic from his pack. He’s quick the rub the ointment on the bite while she swallows the potion.
“What did the spider look like,” Bianca asks, watching Fenris wrap the bite in a clean cloth.
“Small, reddish brown, with three black dots.”
“We need to get to the surface,” there’s a note of worry in the dwarf’s words. “Now.”
Triss sits at the bar at The Massive Oak slowly sipping her whiskey. She always did hate waiting. She and the messenger, whose name turns out to be Dante, have been waiting for almost three weeks for the party to return from their trip into the Deep Roads.
“What’s going on,” Rafi refills her empty glass without being prompted.
“Nothing,” she says into her glass. She hates herself for making deal with the magisters and tries to sooth her conscious by working on plans for the two of them to escape Tevinter.
“Really, ‘cause you and your friend have been here for almost 3 weeks and haven’t given any of my people business.”
“You were paid well for the room,” she watches the amber liquid as she swirls it around in her cup.
“But your Tevinter friend is making some of my employees nervous.”
“He’s not interested in your staff,” she takes another sip of her beverage.
“Praise Andraste for that,” sarcasm drips from his words. “Honey-Bear should be the only one interested in my staff.”
“That’s not what I meant,” Triss rolls her eyes. Before the conversation can continue Dante walks down the stairs, his presence causing the prostitutes to speak in hushed whispers and back away from him.
“The wards have been tripped. They’re back.”
Fenris, Isabela and Bianca stop to set up camp. They’ll be back in Nevarra by tomorrow, and with two members incredibly ill, it’s only because of exhaustion that they stop. Varric has been conscious for almost a day and a half, but the weariness is evident in his face and eyes. The storyteller slowly sits down, his darkspawn injury throbs. The tonic had cleaned out the infection, but the full strength of the potion has burnt the skin, leaving a scar where it touched him. Bianca calls to him softly, the concern in her voice is obvious as she sits down beside him.
“I’m fine,” he asserts. “I just hurt…everywhere. Maker, I’m getting too old for this shit.”
She chuckles, and then becomes serious. “Why didn’t you tell anyone you were hurt?”
“Beautiful, there was nothing anyone could have done. As soon as I could I cleaned and changed the bandages.” He tries using one of his charming smiles to ease her fears. “I’m not going to die down here,” but he can feel his fever returning.
“You’d better not,” she steals a kiss. “I should help them set up camp,” she makes a move to stand and Varric stops her.
“Come back to Kirkwall with me,” he asks, his free hand digging around in his pocket.
“Varric,” she sighs, turning from him. “We’ve been through this,” it’s a painful topic and not one she wants to talk about, especially not while they’re in the Deep Roads. “I can’t return to…” her words fade when she sees him on one knee offering her a simple gold band. Her eyes widen and she covers her mouth.
“I’ve been carrying this for 15 years,” he looks at the band as it glints softly in fire light. In his mind he had run through everything he wanted to tell her until he felt it was perfect, but once again he’s speechless. She always did have the ability to take his words and his breath away. Varric had fantasized about his moment and everything he would tell her. He was hoping for a more romantic setting but the recent, and multiple, brushes with death have convinced him that there’s no time like the present. “I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Please be my wife.”
“You’re serious,” she breathes, her eyes still locked on the ring.
“I’ve never been more serious. There is nothing that we cannot work through and no threat we can’t overcome, together.”
“What about the Carta or the Guild?”
“Everyone from that time is either dead or not in power. There’s a truce between the two. We don’t kill each other anymore. I’ve always said that you’re the only woman for me. Please say yes.”
Fenris removes the bandage on Bethany’s hand and examines the spider bite. It’s been four days and injury looks worse. It’s swollen, hot to the touch, and pale yellow fluid seeps from it. Her entire hand is red mottled with a deep purple. He gently applies a healing salve onto Bethany’s spider bite; he is both worried and relieved that his touch causes her no pain. He pulls a health tonic from his pack. He removes the wax seal and hands her the small glass phial. She takes the vial and almost drops it; Fenris is quick to catch it and holds her close as he helps her bring the small bottle to her lips. He whispers soft words of encouragement as she swallows the potion.
“How do you feel,” he’s referencing her nausea rather than her over all wellbeing.
“Queasy, but I think I can keep it down.”
“Good,” still holding her close he kisses her temple. Upon her request, he helps her lay down and covers her with a blanket. For days her lithe form has been wracked between fever and chills. In seconds she’s asleep, and Isabela places a hand to the mage’s clammy forehead.
“How is she,” the pirate asks.
“Not good. She’s getting weaker every day, and she hasn’t keeping anything down since the day before yesterday.” He looks at the small container. “There’s no pain in her hand.”
“That’s the last one, isn’t it?” Isabel doesn’t even try to believe that the lack of pain could be a good sign. She knows as well as Fenris that it could be a sign of damage from the venom.
“Yes,” he throws the vial away with all his might, as it that alone would purge Bethany’s body of the spider’s venom. Somewhere in the darkness the glass shatters. He returns his attention to the dark skinned pirate. “I hope this time it makes it through her system.”
“Right, hand me her bag,” her eyes moving to the sleeping form of her friend.
With the mage’s bag in hand she wastes no time in searching through Bethany’s possessions and the first thing she pulls out is the mage’s grimoire. “She’s got to have the recipe for a health potion in here somewhere,” she quickly flips past page after page until she finds what she’s looking for. “Here is it. Let’s see if we can make some more.”
Again she dives into the bag pulling out several labeled containers. Once she has everything the books calls for she takes stock of her materials only to find the elfroot jar is empty. “Bugger it all,” she looks around and sees Isana laying out her sleeping roll. “Isana, do you have that alchemist kit?”
“No, it was too heavy; I had to leave it behind.”
“Did you pinch any of the bottles from it,” the pirate asks, hoping for a little good fortune.
“No, why? Are we out of healing potions?”
“Yes,” Fenris growls his eyes never leaving his lady.
Unsure of what to say the teenager goes back to her task of laying out her sleeping roll.
“We’ll be back on the surface in a day or two; then we’ll get her to a physiker. The physiker will know what to do,” Fenris can’t tell who Isabela is trying to reassure him or her.
When the adventurers emerge from the Deep Roads the sky is dimly lit with the soft pastels of a new day. Fenris is carrying Bethany, her strength exhausted and Varric is still leaning heavily on Bianca. His fever finally broke yesterday, but weakness still claims him. Bethany hangs, almost lifelessly, in Fenris’ arms. He whispers softly to her, asking her to hang on, assuring her he’ll get her to the physiker. She groans softly and tightens her weak grip about his neck.
“Isana, give me your bag,” Bianca takes the backpack from the girl and slings it over her shoulder. “Run the physiker and tell him to expect us. Run, baby, run.” Without another word she takes off like a shot running as fast as her legs will carry her.
“There’s a physiker not too far from here. He’s probably the greatest physiker I’ve ever met, but,” she tries to find the words.
“But what,” Isabela presses.
“He hates mages,” she adjusts Isana’s bag before tightening her grip on Varric. “If he finds out about her, he will turn her in.”
“And the Templars will kill her,” the pirate finishes.
“If she’s lucky,” Varric adds. “For mages there is a fate worse than death.”
“If that happens, I will rip his heart out.”
“Let’s just make sure that it doesn’t come to that,” the blonde dwarf adds.
“If this guy is so good, why isn’t he working for a noble or something,” the pirate asks.
“He did once, but once he secured his position he began having relations with most of the female staff. Then he seduced the lady of the house. Apparently the lady and two maids became pregnant, and since none of them knew about the other, you can imagine the blow up that happened. When he was fired, rumors also began circling that he had stolen from his employer. Since then no noble will hire him. But don’t think his services are cheap, just because he’s in the ‘bad’ side of town.”
“If he’s as good as you’re boasting. We’ll pay,” Fenris says.
“Come on, Love,” Bianca gives Varric’s side a little squeeze to indicate that they’re moving. “I won’t let you make me a widow before I’m a bride.”
“I love it when you’re bossy,” he manages a weak chuckle.
“Varric,” Bianca’s tone is serious. “Your family won’t approve of me.”
“Since when,” he has to take a couple of deep breaths before continuing. “Have you given two squirts about my family’s opinion of you?”
“Since my potential in-laws probably have assassins on retainer.”
“Oh no,” he warns. “No, no, no, no, no, you said yes, you’re not getting out of this engagement that easily,” again he has to pause to catch his breath. “The only one whose opinion I care about is Aunt Rylinn and she will love you.”
“You’re delusional,” the red head accuses.
“Rylinn will be ecstatic that I’m finally settling down.”
“With a casteless thief,” her chuckle is halfhearted.
“There’s something you have in common. You’re both casteless.”
“I’m serious,” she gestures that they need to round the upcoming corner.
“Beautiful, with the fortune we found down there,” it’s becoming apparent that walking and talking it too much for the recovering dwarf. “My clan will welcome you with open arms.”
“You mean they’ll love me because I’m rich.”
“What can I say, they’re practical like that.”
Isabela is keeping pace with Fenris, and occasionally glancing at the unconscious mage in his arms. She then looks about the city, usually when she sees this part of the day it’s because she’s on her way to bed. The colorful banners ripple in the light breeze as the tantalizing scent of freshly baked pastries remind her belly that she hasn’t eaten anything other than rations for days. The street is relatively quiet and few eyes turn their direction, the merchants are far too busy getting their stands set up and goods delivered to be bothered with a small band of road weary, injured adventurers. There is occasional stare and hushed whispered, but overall people are more interested in preparing for the busy day.
“How much farther,” Fenris’ voice breaks the silence.
“Two more blocks,” Bianca points to an intersection. “We turn there and four doors up.”
Fenris growls, his arm are burning from carrying the nearly unconscious mage. It’s sheer willpower that allows him to continue. He’s worried about her; she couldn’t close her hand this morning and hasn’t been able to keep water down since yesterday. He can feel the heat of a fever coming from her. He whispers softly to her, sometimes in English and sometimes in Arcanum and every time he speaks to her she mutters something softly. Her responses give him hope that she will recover and he tries to cling to that thin thread.
Finally he sees Isana with a dark haired human man waving the group into a building.
“Hurry,” the man leads the way into his medium sized clinic. “Put her here,” he points to a waist high table and directs Varric to a sturdy looking cot. He washes his hands and bombards the groups with questions about her symptoms. When did the fever start? When did the vomiting get worse? Can she make a fist? Is she hallucinating? What treatment have they done so far?
They answer the questions as quickly and as best as they can. The man dries his hands and pushes Fenris out of the way. The white haired elf bites back his growl and moves to gives the physiker room to work. The slender man feels the fever she’s running; he then unwraps Bethany’s hand and carefully examines the appendage. He hurries over to the shelves behind Isabela and grabs several bottles and a clean cloth. He carefully drips a small amount of a green concoction directly onto the wound and the drenches the cloth with the other two bottles containing a clear liquid. He drapes the wet fabric over the wound, causing Bethany’s eyes snap open with a pained gasp.
“Leave it on,” the man says as he moves over to Varric, who is now naked from the waist up. Fenris is forced to pin down Bethany’s hands. He speaks soft assuring words to the frightened mage.
“It needs to sit for a few moments,” he then floods Varric with questions about his symptoms and how the wound was treated. The physiker closely studies the faint lines emanating from the laceration. He pokes and prods, making random comments under his breath that no one understands.
“You were poisoned,” the man suddenly pronounces as if there’s nothing to worry about.
“Then help him,” the tone in Bianca’s voice is a cross between concern and shock.
“His body is fighting off a stamina sapping poison. This far along there’s nothing I can do for him. Whatever you poured on the wound stop the spread of infection, but without knowing the exact nature of the poison, I can’t treat it,” he shrugs.
“Will he die,” Isana’s eyes are wide with alarm. She finally found her father and isn’t thrilled at the idea of losing him.
“Doubtful,” the physiker crosses his arms. “If the poison were designed to kill him, he wouldn’t have made it to the city. However, it will take time and work for his stamina to improve.”
“How much time,” Varric pulls his shirt on and gets to his feet.
“Weeks, maybe months, worst case scenario a few of years.”
“What about Bethany,” Fenris releases her wrists and strokes her dark locks.
“I can save her and the hand, but it won’t be cheap.”
“We’ll pay,” Isabela volunteered.
“I’ve heard that before,” he leans back against another examination table. “Six sovereigns.”
“Six!” Isana has never heard of a treatment costing so much.
“Many of the supplies are rare and hard to come by. You’re welcome to take her to another physiker, but I can’t promise they’ll be able to save her and her hand.”
“Here’s half,” Varric immediately produces the payment. “The rest when she’s well enough to travel.”
“Six sovereigns,” the physiker look at the gold coins, but doesn’t take them.
“Andraste’s granny panties,” Isabela reaches into her pack and pulls out one of the finely crafted gold chalice they collected from the Deep Roads. Isabela watches the familiar dance of greed move through the human’s dark amber eyes and he takes half a step towards the magnificent object.
“I can’t sell that,” his eyes never leave the glittering prize. “There are no merchants in Nevarra with enough coin for it and it will raise too many questions that I don’t want to deal with,” he looks at the party and steps back. “Six. Sovereigns.”
“You will tend to her wounds,” Fenris’ anger grows and his lyrium brand glow brightly
“Or what you’ll kill me,” he properly reads the unspoken threat. “If I die I can’t help her,” he stands his ground. “If you hurt me I can’t help her. Your best bet is to either pay me or take her somewhere else.”
The warrior begins swearing in Arcanum as he takes menacing steps toward the slender human. Isabela quickly steps between the two men.
“This isn’t helping,” she says sternly. “If you want to save Bethany, go through your pouch for coin.”
Fenris glares at the physiker and is still thinking about the best way to force the man’s assistance. His resolve breaks when he hears Bethany moan softly in her fevered sleep. He calls the human several unkind things in his native language and riffles through his pouch and finds one sovergein to add to Isabela’s and Varrics’ bringing the total to five. Fenris then digs through Bethany’s pouches while everyone else searches through their packs.
“That’s only five. The price is six.”
“Give us a bloody minute,” Varric snaps. “Is this it,” his attention back with the group.
“The supplies were expensive,” Isabela shrugs. “It took most of our resources to get them.”
“Maybe we can get the last one from Rafi,” Isana’s eyes are bright with hope.
“That’s a good idea! He owes me some money anyway,” Bianca says. “Run to him and get the last coin.”
“Fenris, you and I should go with her,” Isabela turns her attention to Fenris. “We can gather the rest of our things and leave from here to Kirkwall when Bethany is well enough to travel.”
“I will not leave her.”
“Isana and I cannot carry everything by ourselves,” she gestures to the teenager. “And we need to travel fast to get the rest of payment. Varric will slow us down, and Bianca lacks your strength,” the pirate is in full ‘captain mode’ working to solve problem and avoid unnecessary conflicts among her party. “Varric and Bianca will stay here with Bethany.”
“Let’s hurry,” Fenris growls as he walks towards the door unable to find fault in Isabela’ plan.