The Silent Plains is a wide stretch of land reaching from The Hundred Pillars in the east to the small river town of Caimen Brea in the west. It’s rolling, treeless countryside is host to a plethora of shrub, squat woody plants, various prickly succulents and spotted by the occasional patch of short growing grass of pale green and yellow. Despite the harsh and almost barren nature of the landscape a diverse number of animals and insects call this region home. One such animal the scholars have recorded is the Okenpy which is similar to a mule in stature and color, but its hindquarter is marked by tan and black stripes, its elongated muzzle and long flexible blue grey tongues. To see one of these stocky, robust beasts is considered to be a sign of good fortune to come; however, Fenris doubts he will see one in the rain. The only animals he’s likely to see are the ones dragging him back into slavery.
Fenris glares at his captors, the lyrium threaded rope securely knotted about his nimble frame as the sprinkling rain continues to drench him. They entered into The Silent Plains two days ago and the dark rain clouds seem to rolling in from Tevinter to greet them. Silently he’s thankful for the rain. The moisture is softening the road and causing them to travel slower because of the weight of the wagons, which should give his friends the ability to catch up.
“I thought it never rained here,” the young guard grumbled to his companion, as he secures Fenris’ left arm. Apparently he’s not a fan of the humidity either.
“The rainy season for the Silent Plains last only for a few days. It’s generally about five consecutive days of heavy rain and then almost nothing for the rest of the year,” the older guard finishes the knot holding the elf other arm and stands up to appraise his work. “Flooding in the area is common, but the Imperial Highway sits on higher ground and is mostly spared the effects of a normally dry land suddenly deluged with water the ground can’t absorb.”
“So now you’re an expert on The Silent Plains, are you Thanus” the younger guard stands.
“My favorite book is ‘In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar by Brother Genitivi. Have you read it,” he looks at the expression on the man’s face. “Can you read,” Thanus teases.
The younger man scowls and extends his middle finger as a sign of his opinion of his comrade’s humor. Thanus laughs and leads the way back to camp.
There are few trees in this part of Thedas and as a result the warrior elf is strapped to one of the wagon wheels. Triss makes another attempt to feed Fenris, as she has done since leaving Nevarra, but again he denies her. His green eyes watch as the company makes plans to retire for the evening. Dante opts to sleep in the dry and comfortable carriage, while the others make for their tents.
The slave hurries along beside Dante, holding a rainshield up to keep the magister dry. The man pauses as he nears Fenris.
“I’m sure if you asked nicely, Triss would be willing to share her tent with you,” the mage chuckles. Fenris’ eyes narrow and spits insults in Arcanum. Dante takes pleasure in backhanding the warrior.
“That was more satisfying than I thought,” Dante wipes the elf’s blood from his hand. “When we return home, I hope I am the one lucky enough to break you,” a quick spell causes a sharp pain to shoot through the warrior’s chest, driving the breath from his lungs. Once released the white haired elf slumps against the ropes.
“I miss civilization,” Varric flips up the collar of his coat in an effort to keep the rain off the back of his neck.
“And what was so ‘civilized’ about the Hanged Man,” Isabela laughs, doing nothing to shield herself from the weather.
“He can get a mug of ale while sitting beside a warm fire as he regales his audience with daring tales of my sister,” Bethany giggles from beneath her hooded cloak. Varric bursts into laughter, and soon has to wrap an arm about his midsection.
“Look,” Isana points to the wheel tracks they’ve been following.
“Yes, it’s good to know they’re still there,” Isabela laughs at her own joke.
“They’re deeper than before. They must be slowing down,” the red head counters.
“Maker willing, we’ll catch up with them soon,” relief obvious in Bethany’s words.
“I say we ride through the night,” the pirate looks up at the grey sky and can only guess that they have a couple of hours before dusk.
“I second that,” Isana raises her hand. “Wet rations will taste the same whether we set up camp or not.”
“With no moon,” Varric refers to the cloud cover. “We’ll be riding blind.”
“It’s a well-traveled road,” Bethany argues. “I think we’ll be fine.”
“Seems like you’re outvoted, Love,” Bianca smiles. She leans in a little closer and speaks in hushed tone. “How are you holding up?”
“I’ll be fine,” the dark rings under his eyes tell a different story. “But when we get back to Kirkwall, I plan to sleep for a week.”
“I like that plan,” she purrs. She can tell this is harder on him than he’s letting on, but she also knows that when his mind is set on something nothing can dissuade him.
“Besides,” Isana’s cheerful voice rings out. “The sooner we get Fenris back the sooner we can return to civilization.”
It’s late at night and the precipitation soaks the bound elf. He cranes his head back and opens his mouth, hoping to catch enough rainfall to quench his thirst. He manages a small swallow, and is about to try again when movement in the dark catches his attention. He studies the small huddled form stealthy making its way towards him. He recognizes the figure as the slave. Green eyes dart to guard, sleeping beneath a small rain shelter.
“He won’t wake. I made sure of that,” the slave says in a quiet voice as if reading Fenris’ concern. “Eat this.” He offers Fenris a slice of fruit, which the warrior gratefully accepts.
“Help me, Gaeris,” Fenris accepts another bite of food. “If you help me escape, I can protect you.”
“With no supplies we wouldn’t get very far,” he offers another sliver of apple. “Should we leave the road your friends might not find us,” it’s obvious he’s been thinking about Fenris’ offer. “Besides, they would just have to follow the track in the mud and we would only get caught again”
“You deserve a better life. A free life,” he talks around the last slice of apple.
“And what of my daughter and brother? Should I abandon them to a life of slavery? I’m sorry Fenris, but I can’t help you escape. Not if it means sacrificing them.”
“My friends can get them out of Tevinter.”
“You’re starting to make promises that you can’t keep,” Gaeris sighs and drops his head. “I can’t help you escape,” he shakes his hooded head. “But when your friends come, I won’t do anything to prevent your escape. I should go before the master wakes up.” Fenris watches as the stealthy elf slips back into his small tent.
The apple did little to satisfy his hunger, but it did sate his thirst. He clenched his fists and jerked against the ropes in frustration, but they refused to yield. Earlier in the journey he tried to phase through them, but the threads of lyrium woven into the bonds counter the effect of his phasing ability and burned his skin, despite his armour.
Suddenly a hooded figure crouches before him and slaps a hand over his mouth. His eyes widen as the hood is pulled back to reveal his dark haired mage.
“Bethany,” he gasps once she removes her hand. Her eyes dart to the sleeping guard. “He’s drugged.”
“I’m not letting you get away that easily,” she smiles and steals a kiss. Quickly she begins working on the knots.
“The magister is sleeping in that carriage,” he gestures with a nod of his head.
“Isabela is watching the road,” with the knot of his left hand undone she works on his right. “And Varric is watching the camp. Can you walk,” the rope falls to the mud.
“I think so.”
She helps him to his feet and his knees almost buckle from weakness. “Lean on me,” Bethany quickly braces him up and wraps an arm about his slender waist.
“Our footprints,” Fenris recalls Gaeris’ concern about the ease of the slavers tracking them.
“I’ve thought of that,” she smiles and helps him trudge through the mud towards the road. Isabela relieves Bethany of the near starved elf, and Bethany summons a small stream of water which obliterates all tracks in the mud.
“Where is he,” Dante’s voice booms like thunder as he kicks the sleeping guard’s feet. The man jolts awake and looks around frantically before his bleary eyes settle on the pile rope.
“You were supposed to keep watch! Where is he?”
“What the blazes is going on out here,” the older guard steps from his tent at the commotion. His salt and pepper hair mussed with strands falling in his face. Thanus’ muscular hand gripping his sword as his storm colored eyes look for a threat.
“This misbegotten cur was asleep at his post,” Dante turns from the man in disgust. “Allowing the Magister’s property to escape,” his teeth are clenched in fury. “If he isn’t returned, none of you will get paid.”
“Alright boys,” the older man says. “Get dressed. We’re going hunting. Laird,” he’s pointing at last night’s guard. “We’re going to have a chat.”
“Woman,” Dante bellows at the red head, who flinches at the anger in the mage’s voice. “Make breakfast. Slave,” Gaeris cringes. “Bring my grimoire and box.” Without another word Dante walks into the plains, away from camp.
Fenris opens his eyes and sees the canvas ceiling of a tent. He sits up, expecting to be in pain, given the last beating he received, and is pleasantly surprised when he isn’t. Looking at himself he’s wearing only his. He examines the tent as his mind replays the event of last.
There’s little in the tent aside from a second bedroll, a traveling pack and his armour, which is piled neatly in a corner. He’s pleased to see that it has been polished and oiled given the amount of time he spent in the rain. A familiar red scarf catches his eye, smirking he retrieves it and breathes in Bethany’s scent before securing it about his left wrist. He’s about to exit when Bethany walks in, almost bumping into him.
“How do you feel,” she asks, smiling sweetly.
“Free,” he cups her face and kisses her.
“Let’s keep it that way,” she says when their lips part. “We need to get moving. It won’t take them long to figure out which way we travelled. You, Isabela and I will start heading back to Nevarra,” she packing her bedroll as she’s speaks.
“What of Varric,” he follows her example and begins packing; his memories of last night are hazy from exhaustion.
“He’s still recovering from the Deep Roads, and has to travel slower. After he collapsed, Bianca insisted that we travel ahead, putting as much distance as possible between us and the slavers. It was almost dawn before Bela and I felt we had to make camp. They’ll meet us at the Red Rat.”
“How far away are they,” he’s referring to the slavers, and it takes Bethany’s mind a few seconds to register who he’s speaking about.
“Oh the slavers,” she helps Fenris into his armour. “Only a few hours.” Fenris has to remove the red favor, in order to get his gauntlet on, but immediately returns the fabric to his left wrist. Bethany smiles at the sight of her scarf, and steals another kiss.
She tosses the bag out and begins breaking down her tent with Fenris’ help.
“We only have two horses, so we’ll have to double up. Isabela says she’ll haul some of our gear so our horse won’t be overburdened.”
“We should’ve taken one from the magister,” he helps her fold the tent.
“Well next time you get yourself captured, we’ll do that,” Isabela helps stuff the tent into a bag. Fenris glares humorlessly at the pirate, who merely smiles brightly and secures the tent to Bethany’s mount.
“I think we should avoid the road and travel cross country,” Bethany suggests watching Fenris climb into the saddle.
“We have no cover on either the road or in the plains. The advantage to the road is that we’ll be able to travel faster,” Isabela countered.
“And the road is less prone to flooding. It sits on higher ground than most of the plain,” Fenris recalls, extending a hand to help Bethany up onto the horse.
“All right,” the mage wraps her arms about the elf’s lithe frame. “The road it is. We should probably hurry.”
Gaeris hates being this close to a magister when they’re performing magic. All slaves with a sense of self-preservation try to avoid being near magic. It’s never a good sign when the mage wants a slave within arm’s length. Yet he dutifully remains where Dante ordered him to stand, praying this spell won’t cost him his life. With fear filled eyes he watches Dante summon his mana and weave his spell. The swirls of white and pale blue magic swirl and dance as it grows in strength. The mage cradles his arcane book in one arm as he reads the words of power while his free hand draws mysterious symbol in the air. As the energy intensifies Dante thrusts the book at the slave and uses both hands to direct the enchantment, his words loud and clear. The once graceful, delicate movements of blue and white become sharper and more aggressive, like dogs fighting for scraps food. Dante pulls the bloody rag from his robes and throws it in the swirling vortex. The power shreds and devours the cloth before it disappears in an explosion of wind that knocks Gaeris back a couple of steps.
“I’m done,” The mage leaves the area offering no explanation about the spell or the expected outcome. Gaeris breathes a sigh of relief, says a quiet prayer for Fenris and then follows Dante.
The rain finally stopped, but gray clouds remained above head, and the humidity ion the air promised more rain. The sound of rustling fabric pulls Isana’s attention from the skewers of meat she’s heating over the small fire. “How is he,” she watches her mother emerge from the tent.
“He’s still sleeping,” she sits down next to the teen. “He pushed himself pretty hard to get to his friend.”
“Will he be ok?”
“Yeah,” she smiles at the girl’s concern. “He just needs some rest. We’ll need to travel at his pace.”
“That could add days. Do we have enough supplies?”
“We’ll be fine,” Bianca takes one of the skewers and eyes the meat. “I’m glad you two are getting along,” she takes a bite of the food.
“Well, weeks in the Deep Roads could do that to a person,” her tone is jovial and light hearted, but it soon changes. “He told me about what happened, back in Kirkwall.”
“Did he,” Bianca’s tone is indecipherable.
“Yeah, I kind of tricked him. I told him you had told me what happened and that I wanted his side of the story,” she offers her mother the waterskin.
“And,” she takes a long drink.
“How come you never told me?”
“It’s a painful memory, baby. I lost everything that night and almost lost you too,” She takes another bite.
“Then why hide it,” she asks around the food in her mouth.
“I wasn’t trying to hide anything from you, I just don’t like thinking about that night. And I was afraid.”
“Your uncle had us convinced that if it was discovered I was still alive we both would’ve been killed. We had no reason to doubt Gerav so we,” she sighs heavily. “Believed. We stayed apart, even though it killed us inside to do so. Isana, Varic is a good man and there’s nothing he won’t do for us.”
“I know that Mom. It’s just weird having him around; for as long as I can remember it’s been just you and me.”
“I know baby, I know just give it some time.”
“Mom,” she rolls her eyes. “It’s not like we’re trying to kill one another.”
“You two are so much alike,” she places a loving hand to her daughter’s cheek.
“Excuse us ladies,” the male’s voice is deep and loud. “We’re looking for someone and were wondering if you could help,” the older guard smiles brightly.
“Hello Bianca,” Triss waves, standing beside the guard.