The Village

Chapter Three

Part One

With sound and fury the three warriors hit the wall of ghouls pouring in from the alley. But quickly there were more than even they could take, by ones and twos they got past them. Leliana kept up a steady rate of fire. Morrigan-bear slammed each one within range. Zevran’s daggers flashed here and there with deadly results. And above all they could hear Leliana’s voice singing.

Kathryn ran past all, diving down and then appearing beside Alistair. He sliced off the head of the stunned ghoul next to him and then dropped back into a more defensive stance. He shouted above the din, to make sure he had the ghouls’ attention. His shield cut through the air stunning the next. She drove her dagger into its unprotected neck, dropping it almost at once.

They fought well together. A system where he drew the attention of the enemy, played a defensive game stunning and knocking back if not down, letting her finish them off while she attacked, backstabbed, crippled and weakened, if not outright killed, allowing his attacks to be fewer but better, stronger, and used to best effect. It was a system that had nearly turned into a dance.

“About time.” He said. She wanted to come back with a sufficiently good retort but was soon too occupied with ghouls to think of one.

Wynne looked over the fight from her vantage point in the back. The others were keeping up but barely. She monitored their health closely. If they were to survive, she had to keep them up and fighting.

Kathryn and Alistair were fine and would look out for each other. Oghren was avoiding getting overwhelmed, his smaller size being a distinct advantage. Zevran flickered in and out of sight. Leliana was safely out of range for the moment. Morrigan-bear was keeping up.

Then she saw Sten. She had not thought him to be the most vulnerable but she should have. He was stronger than Oghren but a much bigger target and he needed more room to swing his sword and attack. She could see the blood and sweat coming off of him and how his attacks and attempts at defense were being thwarted. She sent him healing, but watched as it was sapped. She cast health regeneration, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to get the others’ attention to send help but all of them had as much as they could handle.

“Leliana! Sten!” she said.

“I know!” She replied. Arrows flew around him. But there were too many. His sword became stuck in the throng and he had to resort to hand combat. She finally cast a life ward. As soon she cast it, it took effect but it wasn’t enough. She had nothing else. She watched him fall.

Morrigan-bear saw the ghouls overtake Sten. She tried to get to him but couldn’t before he fell. She was able to get the mob off of him and could see that while he was unconscious, he was breathing. The mob now turned its attention to her, jumping on her back, attacking her, putting their weight against her and preventing her from moving. She felt the hands, the bodies piling upon her, pulling her down. She turned back to herself and tried to cast a spell but there were too many and then everything went black.

Zevran tried to keep up with the number attacking the Morrigan-bear but her bulk made that an impossibility. He saw the flash as she returned to her more beautiful form. He was then able to free her from their grasp. He grabbed her, taking a quick feel in the process and pulled her back to where Leliana and Wynne were. He didn’t stop but unceremoniously dropped her there and then returned to his position.

Wynne, gently laid her hand upon Morrigan’s face, moving a stray hair from it. The magic flowed from her, just enough to wake her. She snatched her hand back before Morrigan’s eyes opened and she realized what had happened.

At this point, Alistair could do little more than block. Most of them couldn’t get past his shield to reach him but all his attention was taken with the several with weapons and heavy armor. The rest he had to leave to Kathryn. He had to keep up. He blocked another blow, absorbed it into him but he had taken so many already. He was wearing down. He looked up to see Kathryn’s dagger emerge from its chest. That’s my girl. He thought with a smile.

Then he saw the flash of the mace as it swung up. She was pulling her dagger out from the body and didn’t see it and was unprepared. It came up catching her leg, pulling it out from under her, before she even hit the ground the others were on top of her.

He pushed through, knocking the mace-wielder to the ground and burring his sword into its chest and nearly falling over in the process. He pulled out the sword and then started knocking the others from her. She reached up blindly. He took her arm and tried to pull her up, but her leg collapsed under her. He picked her up and pulled her back.

His strength started to give and then he felt the rush. “Thank you, Wynne.” he murmured. Less gently than he wanted he pushed her through the mob to relative safety and then turned back to the line.

Kathryn screamed over the roar “Zev, get on Alistair.” Zevran followed Alistair thinking that he never thought he’d hear her say that. He had watched the two of them fight. It was beautiful, truly, what they did, much like dancing. Their love making must be incredible, he thought and then the appearance of a ghoul in his way brought his attention back to the less pleasant topic of survival.

Kathryn struggled to her feet, well... her foot. Her knee was gone. “Leliana, trade!” Leliana threw her the bow, jumped down from her vantage point on the crate and while pulling out her daggers ran towards the battle. Taking up a position behind the others, taking opportunistic backstabs, finishing those already weakened and making sure none got past her and doing her best to not get hit. Kathryn took her place on the crate and fired as quickly as she could into the mob.

Zevran ran up to the line slashing as fast as he could. Oghren looked over “Fighting with the big boys, huh?”

“Not sure how to take that, coming as it is from you of all people.” Zevran said.

“More ‘short’ jokes.” Oghren said.

Morrigan felt the rain as it started to come down hard. “Morrigan! Rain!” Kathryn yelled. Morrigan thought it a very odd time for a weather report. She looked up to see that Kathryn had replaced Leliana on the crate.

She said with no small amount of annoyance. “I fail to see your point...”

“Rain... water... ground... ice!” Kathryn said.

“Oh,” Morrigan said. She stood and looked to Wynne who without a word tossed her a couple strong lyrim potions. She could see that Wynne’s hands had a slight glow to them. Too much lyrim. Flemeth had warned her about its effects and the dangers of becoming reliant upon it but now was an exception.

She downed the potion, felt the burn and then the charge. She ran towards the back of the house along the alley and jumped towards it. When she landed she was a spider and quickly scaled the wall and over it. She lowered herself to the ground on the other side. She webbed the closest to her, then changed back.

She raised her hands and watched the ice form around her fingertips. She pressed them to the ground. Ice spread quickly through the wet ground, freezing the standing water until the entire square was covered by ice. The ghouls slipped and fell, slowed and staggered. She took another potion and transformed to the spider again and crawled back over the house just out of the grasp of the ghouls who had managed to reach her. She maneuvered over the roof but her weight, the rain, the moss and neglect caused the shingles to give. She fell to the ground.

Wynne’s hands were shaking now, too much lyrim. She was not used to supporting the entire group. The potions were losing their effectiveness and she was in real danger of an overdose. She saw the ice over the market square and then Morrigan-spider fall off the roof.

She surveyed the group. Sten was out, Kathryn crippled, Alistair was weakening, Oghren even with his dwarven constitution was failing, Zevran and Leliana tiring. She could feel the spirit just there, waiting, watching. Alistair went down to one knee. Oghren staggered back. She closed her eyes and simply said “Please.”

Kathryn saw the light come from Wynne and felt the rush of energy circling her and then penetrate her knee. She jumped down from the crate landing on both feet. She ran to Sten just as he began to sit up. “Sten, have to push them now!” Sten got to his feet and with a growl ran after her.

“Leliana!” She looked back to her just in time to catch her bow and in nearly one motion began to fire.

Kathryn took out her daggers. “Zev, I want my man back. You take Oghren!”

“Life is so unfair.” Zevran said to no one in particular.

Oghren felt the rush and started swinging. She got to Alistair, he was still on one knee. She slashed the one charging him, spinning him with the blow. Alistair swung his sword up, cutting deep into its chest. As he pulled his sword back, he stood and bashed the next one. She ran just past him and spun back digging her dagger deep into its back.

“We have to push now! We lost our mages.” They hit the alley swinging, pushing the remaining ghouls out to the market square.

Zevran made it through first. He could see the ice had mostly melted with the additional rain. Standing water was everywhere, and despite all they had defeated they were still greatly outnumbered. He checked his grenades. He had used all fire, acid was no good, cold useless, but shock... kills everything, especially in water! But it was tricky to pull off. You had to have the right place, enough water, and then the timing of it all and even then it was impossible to do from safety. He took all three into his hand.

Oghren ran up beside him and taking stock began to run.

“No, my short friend. Let me and keep the rest back.” Zevran said.

“You’re not going to do something stupid are you?” Oghren said.

“What would ever make you think that?” Zevran said as he started to run into the square. The rest came up to the edge of the entrance.

“What...” Kathryn said.

“I think the elf is about to do something stupid... or brave... probably both.” Oghren said.

Zevran ran to the middle of the square dodging the ghouls in his way. He stopped at a large puddle. He took all three bombs and smashed them together right above it. The sound was of thunder, the flash intense as the charge hit the water.

It was enough to blind most of the ghouls by itself. Then the lighting traveled through the water, jumping from puddle to puddle and from ghoul to ghoul, creating the effect of chain lightening but more powerful, a lightening field. The entire area sparkled. It was beautiful. I’ve always wanted to try that, Zevran thought before he collapsed.

Oghren didn’t understand till the flash. Stupid elf, he thought, stupid sodding elf. He felt the rage hit him, he took out a salve of grounding. Boy, he hoped this stuff worked. He started running. He felt the lighting but kept going. He knew if he stopped he’d die. He hit the dry ground, every stray piece of wood, each stone or tuft of grass. He kept repeating to himself, as he dodged the ghouls twitching and yelling in pain.

He saw Zevran. By the Stone he had the luck of the ancestors in that he had fallen not on the ground but on a wooden bench and was still alive. He grabbed him in mid stride and kept running. Lightening continues to flash around him. Most missed, but not all, not enough. Too many more of those, he thought, he’d probably wet himself but then again not be the first time. He ground his teeth together, almost there he thought and then he stumbled.

The pain was sharp, like getting hit by thousands of needles each second but each time they seemed to be farther and farther away then nothing. Then a dull ache, icy cold water on him, and the feeling of the ground being slammed up against him. He forced himself to look up. Sten stood there.

Zevran looked up with a questioning glance. Sten’s eyes moved off to the side. Zevran followed the gaze. Oghren laid on the ground, breathing hard. He looked up and met his eyes “Stupid... sodding... elf!” He said.

Zevran laid back and said “Oghren, I have something I must confess to you.”

“Elf, if you say...” Oghren said.

“I think you have the most beautiful beard in all of Thedas.” Zevran said.

“Ha! I... knew you... were... jealous.” Oghren said before he fell back.

The group watched as the electricity finally spent itself out. A few had fallen but all were weakened. Kathryn started to count them and then realized she really didn’t want to know. “Sten.”

“I’ll take right.” He said.

“Go. Leliana...” She said.

“I’ll cover him. You two kids have fun.” Then she followed Sten. The ghouls had recovered from the lightening and where now marching towards them. She looked to Alistair.

“You ready?” She said.

“Ready? What? Ready to fight an unending mob of corrupted flesh-eating ghouls?” He considered. “Probably not.”

He smiled that smile of his and then replaced his helmet and charged, bashing the closest ones to the left. She smiled to herself and followed him.

This was better. Sten thought. He had room to fight, he could see, he could move, parry, dodge, target and slash. Here he could plan his steps and attacks. Here in space his strength and height were an asset. He tore through the remaining ghouls in front of him. One hit, one dead. He could feel the wind from the arrows as they flew past him, some barely missing him but he knew that was by design and skill rather than luck. Soon he saw the pattern to her strikes and could plan. One after another fell at his blade.

Leliana was hurting but despite all she kept firing. She did not let the pain joints affect her aim. She had learned how to block out pain and how to compensate for the stiffness in her hands. That was one thing the Orlesian guard had taught her. She had run out of arrows, and had to stop to pull ones from the bodies. She knew she had to make each shot count.

She also knew that she had to keep Sten on his feet. She could not let him get surrounded, not allow him to be taken down. There were too many and only four of them who could still fight. Chess had been a favorite game in Orlais and she could play it quite well. She knew that in that game as in real battles at times you must sacrifice one for the sake of all and different battles required different pieces and skills. This was a warrior’s fight, one of mass slaughter and not finesse. She saw as more targeted him. She couldn’t keep up the rate of fire, not enough useful arrows. She pulled out the daggers and attacked.

Sten turned to see Leliana next to him. He started to swing but cut it short, not wanting to hit her. “Oh, don’t mind me. You fight, I’ll get out of the way, trust me. I got your back. Go!” She said as she sliced through another ghoul. He was unsure of this but he knew that you must trust those you fight with, be willing to die with and for them. She could get to safety and fire without risk, but she now chose to fight by his side. Trust must be earned but can only be so once given. He swung with all his might, she rolled out of the way, two fell at the blow while another at his back fell from her dagger. This was acceptable, he thought.

Alistair and Kathryn continued their dance. She would cripple one as he bashed and stunned another then they without a word or sign would switch, her backstabbing the stunned ghoul as he cut through the crippled one then they would move on to the next before the first ones had even hit the ground. He would attack leaving himself open knowing that she would protect him. She would strike instead of blocking knowing he would defend her. The trust complete, the knowledge intimate, the timing perfect, the result powerful.

She knew that with sword and shield he was a warrior unequaled but each blow he took she could see its effect on him. There is only so much anyone can take. She would rather suffer the blows herself than watch his struggle but there was nothing she could do but fight and pray. She couldn’t lose him, not in this fight, not ever.

After what seemed an age, she turned to find Sten standing in front of her, bloodied and exhausted but standing. They looked around but the four of them were the only ones standing. “Leliana?!” She called.

“I’m looking!” Leliana crawled up on top of the store and surveyed the village. They waited, holding position and looked around. They listened but there was only the sound of the wind and rain.

“Clear. All clear!” She said, sounding like she would cry in relief. Sten, without letting go of his weapon, fell to one knee and then fell down to the ground.

Kathryn turned to Alistair. His head was bowed and shield down. Then he staggered back. She grabbed him, steadying him. “Stay with me. It’s over.”

“Over? That means we won right?” He asked in a voice dreamy and weak.

“Yes, we won.” She said quietly.

“Yay us.” He said and then his legs gave out. She tried to hold him up but she was too exhausted. She could do little more than break his fall.

He sat up with head bowed. She thought to lean him back but his breathing was labored. She took off his helmet. He was bleeding from a blow to the head. He was conscious but barely. She sat down next to him, facing the other direction.

She gently took her hand to the side of his head and pulled it to her. He didn’t resist and laid his head on her shoulder. He wrapped his arm around her waist. He took a deep breath and slowly allowed his weight to rest against her, as he did his breathing eased. She wrapped her arm around him and looked around.

She saw Wynne and Morrigan emerge from the alley. Oghren and Zevran were now sitting up. Leliana sat down hard on the ground and put her head down. She could hear Sten breathing. All moved, all were alive, they had all survived.

“Kathryn?” Alistair said weakly.

“Yes, I know.” She whispered in his ear.

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