I'm glad everyone is still enjoying and sticking with this fic! :) Thank you guys!
There's an itty bitty time skip here...it's still in ACT 1, but so much of the last few chapters happened within like a week of each other, and it took them months to get the gold in 'gmae world' time. If that makes any sense...
It was Anders, of course, who came to the hovel with a rumor about a missing elven boy who was-supposedly-being hunted by the Templars. Feynriel was his name.
And, if perusing a missing adolescent apostate who-as Carver was quick to point out-was simultaneously being pursued by the Templar's wasn't troublesome enough, this particular mage was plagued by dreams of demons. And that, Hawke knew, was never ever a good thing.
"I still don't see why we're butting our noses into this," Isabela grumbled. She'd been in a bad mood ever since they left the city; persuing Feynriel and his captures to the Wounded Coast. The pirate's love of the ocean seemed rivaled only by her hatred of all other types of nature. Hawke suspected it had to do with the lack of booze…and booty. Both kinds.
"Oh, come on Rivaini, it's because our fearless leader is just a bleeding heart," Varric teased.
Hawke looked back over his shoulder, his eyes wide in alarm, "When did I get elected leader of this merry band of misfits?" he asked, trying to veil his concern in sarcasm.
It seemed to work. "Yes, when did he?" Carver asked, folding his arms over his chest wearing a facial expression that could only be described as pouting.
Varric grinned at the pair of them smugly, "What, you mean you missed the vote?"
Hawke rolled his eyes as Carver's ears turned red.
"Hawke, I sent you a memo about it!" Varric hollered. Hawke could practically feel the dwarfs grin.
"To answer Isabela's original question," Hawke said glibbly, "We're doing this because if I have to hear Anders rattle on about the plight of the mages even once more…" Hawke sighed, letting the empty threat die on his lips.
"At least we're in agreement on something brother," Carver muttered.
Anders, Hawke had finally decided, was not only a good mage, but a good friend. Over the last two months, he'd indulged Hawke's desire to learn new spells, and had even donated his time whenever Hawke was in need of advice regarding a new spell. But he tended to wear his rather controversial political opinions on his sleeves. And he was more than willing to share them with anyone who would listen-and often times with those who had no desire to listen. He was still wary of the man though. Demon or not, a spirit of the fade was inside his head. And that sat no better with Hawke then Merrill's blood magic did. As Varric would say, that story wasn't set up for a happy ending.
"Oh right," Isabela sighed, "The mages plight. I do believe I've heard of that somewhere," she mused.
"Feynriel hasn't hurt anyone," Hawke said seriously, "He doesn't deserve to be hunted and branded an apostate…or a blood mage. Not yet."
"So we aren't turning him over to the Templars?" Carver asked, sounding horrified.
Hawke shrugged casually, "I haven't made up my mind yet," Hawke lied. The boy wasn't running towards the Templars. He clearly didn't want to be a part of the Circle…if there was an alternative to that, Hawke hoped they could find it; before the Templars got involved and forced anyone's hand.
Isabela sighed. "I don't care what we do. But if he turns into an abomination like those Starkhaven mages did? I'm leaving."
Hawke's face darkened at the memory. He sincerely hoped that Grace and her mage friends managed to avoid getting captured by the Templars, mainly because he hoped to never see them again. They'd done nothing obviously wrong, other than wanting their freedom, something he wasn't about to turn them over to Templars for. But they'd also been in the company of a few known blood mages.
Hawke paused as they rounded a bend in the road, "Well, that looks like an entrance to a slaver's cavern to me. Isabela?"
"Definitely," she agreed, her amber eyes darkening angrily as she eyed the foreboding looking cave. The group entered it quietly, wanting to avoid attention.
"Hawke, a little light in here," Varric grumbled.
Hawke tightened his grip on his staff, channeling his mana into the orb at the top until it started giving off a soft red glow.
"We need to hurry. We've been searching for this kid for two days now…who knows what's been done to him…or his captures," Hawke said darkly.
Eventually the dark cavern opened up into a mining tunnel. Small shafts of light seeped in, providing just enough light by which to maneuver through the caves. They paused, when the passage way forked.
"When in doubt…go right?" Hawke offered helpfully.
"It's as good a guess as any," Varric agreed, surveying the winding passageway cautiously.
"Let's just hurry up and get out of here," Carver muttered, suppressing a shiver, "This place is creepy."
"Imagine that, creepy slavers have a creepy hideout on a creepy coast," Hawke teased as he led the way down the passage.
Carver glared at him murderously, "Yes brother, we get it. You're the funny one."
"Well as long as we've finally reached consensus," Hawke grinned.
They were only one hundred yards in when: "Did you hear that?" Isabela asked suddenly, pulling her daggers.
"No. What?" Varric asked, reaching slowly for Bianca.
Isabela relaxed from her battle stance slowly, "Nothing…"
They continued on in silence till Hawke heard a soft pattering sound and froze.
"Ok, you heard that, don't you?" Isabela whispered.
"Definitely Rivaini," Varric agreed, pulling Bianca from his back.
"Well we should-" Hawke didn't finish his thought, as suddenly a large black blur dropped on him from above, knocking him clean off his feet.
As his body slammed against the ground, and his staff skid out of his hands, Hawke was vaguely aware of the fact that other creatures had landed as well, surrounding his companions.
A shaft of light fell on the creatures face and Hawke screamed. The fur covered face, the menacing pincers, and the long sinewy legs towered over him made him instantly aware of what was on top of him. "Spider," he screamed, thrashing and kicking at the creature that easily had a few hundred pounds on him.
The others, having figured out what they were facing, quickly went to work, as Hawke tried desperately to push the creature off him.
"Just use a fireball," Carver yelled, sounding less than concerned.
"It's on top of me Carver!" Hawke yelled back, "Where do you think the fire would spread!"
"Crushing Prison then Hawke? Isn't that a spell?" Varric hollered from clear across the chamber as he fired off bolt after bolt.
"And have it explode all over me!" the creature lunged at Hawke's face and the mage swung his head to the side to avoid being crushed in its pincers. "No thanks!" Hawke finished, slamming his fist against the mammoth creatures leg.
A sudden squelching noise froze Hawke and the spider. A gooey fluid dripped down on Hawke as Isabela stood above the spider, her blade sticking out of its back. She pulled her blade from the giant spiders back and kicked it quickly off of Hawke. "All better," she said dryly before devolving into a fit of laughter with Varric.
"Who knew…our fearless leader….was so terrified of spiders," Varric all but spluttered as he wiped his eyes.
Isabela was hanging onto the dwarf for support. "Get it off me…Get it off me…did you hear him?" she laughed.
"I didn't say that…" Hawke muttered.
"You did brother," Carver informed him, obviously on the verge of hysterics himself.
Hawke felt his face burn red and was thankful for the darkness, "I hate spiders," he muttered, "Ever since Bethany and I stumbled across them in that cave in Lothering…they're everywhere those bastards," he seethed as he grabbed his staff and stabbed the creature again for good measure. "Come on…if spiders are down this passageway the slavers must be down the other," the young mage ordered, trying to muster some shred of dignity.
Isabela and Varric were still struggling to breathe. "And this time, one of you can take the lead," he added. Isabela managed to contain her delight to a few sporadic giggles and started down the passageway with Carver in tow.
"Hawke, I think you owe me that silver," Varric said smugly.
"I think your little display counts as…a rather unmanly loss for you my friend," Varric wiggled his fingers at Hawke as if to say cough it up and Hawke sighed and fished the coin out of his pocket. Varric chuckled, "Don't feel so bad Hawke. This will make a great addition to the serial I'm writing about our adventures. The audience will love that the leader character isn't some fearless demi-god…it'll make him more relatable," the dwarf explained smugly.
"I'm not the leader!" Hawke insisted desperately. Varric just shrugged, "I'm not!"
They made it back to the fork in the chamber with only minimal regaling of the Hawke vs. the Spider tale, a tale which, if Isabela had her way-and she typically did-would never be forgotten at the groups weekly drinking session at the Hanged Man. Hawke ran his hand through his hair in frustration; this story would do dreadful things for his image.
"Come no further," A voice instructed. The companions' heads snapped upwards. On a cliff above them stood the leader of the slavers with a knife to an elven boys throat.
Hawke sighed. "Isabela, care to do the honors," he asked dryly.
"I'd love to spider-boy," she teased, simultaneously flinging a knife directly into the slavers head, dropping him dead on the spot. The elven boy stood paralyzed on the spot, unsure of what to do as the remaining slavers began to attack the group mercilessly.
As Isabela and Carver leapt into the fray, Varric headed for high ground, slamming the butt of his crossbow into the chest of anyone in his way. Hawke sighed; Anders had advised him time and again to keep his distance in battle and to attack from the far, but that just never felt right. Hawke threw himself into the fray head first, icing a slaver at point blank range before firing a rock fist into another's gut, sending him flying straight into the wall before he dropped dead. Seeing a flash of movement out of the corner of his eye, Hawke spun to see a rogue getting much too close to Isabelas back side. The former pirate captain was busy dueling two other slavers and didn't seem aware of her stealthy, would-be attacker. Quickly, Hawke slung a fireball behind the pirates back, incinerating the approaching man. Isabela stabbed one of her frontal attackers through the gut and slit the others neck, ending the battle.
"I would've gotten to that one," Isabela said with a pout, gesturing to the fried corpse behind her.
Hawke shrugged, "I said I had your back," he quipped lightly, grinning at her crookedly.
Isabela returned his smile, looking equal parts amused and uncomfortable, but she said nothing.
"Who-who are you?" the boy stuttered, interrupting any further conversation. "Do…you work for the Templars?"
"Varric, how could you not tell me that the Templars were hiring mages now?" Hawke quipped, glancing up at his dwarven friend who was still on the cliff.
"I swear I didn't know Hawke," Varric grinned, "But you have to admit it is a brilliant plan. Recruit the mages, have them capture mages, then capture the mages who captured mages. Ingenius," he mused.
"Which is probably why they haven't thought of it," Carver muttered sarcastically.
Hawke grinned. "Your mother sent us, Feynriel," he said calmly.
The boy stiffened, "I don't really see a difference. She wants me shipped off to the Templars," he folded his arms across his chest.
"If you're having nightmares about demons Feynriel, then it's in everyone's best interest-yours included-that you get some help," Hawke explained, barely able to contain the urge to be glib.
"I don't want to go," The boy said stubbornly, stopping just short of stomping his foot, "I was trying to get to the Dalish. They have magic, and they can teach me to control it…and it's a better life than being made Tranquil," he shivered.
Hawke clenched his jaw. Anything was a better life then that; that was definitely true. Hawke sighed and ran his hand through his hair, "I know the Keeper of the Dalish clan up in Sundermount…it's maybe a days walk North," Hawke said. "I won't stop you."
As they watched the boy run off Carver sighed. "I cannot believe you just let a potentially dangerous mage go free."
Hawke shrugged, "Anyone, mage or not, is potentially dangerous Carver," he turned and gave his brother his sweetest smile, "Besides, dear brother, aren't you used to being disappointed with my choices?"
"It's true. You'd think I'd be use to it by now," Carver retorted.
"Geez…just whip it out already," Isabela muttered.
"What was that Isabela?" Hawke asked.
"Oh, nothing? Me…I didn't say anything," Isabela said innocently, "Oh look, is that a spider?" she pointed up the path and giggled as Hawke jumped. "Oh, nope, just more of Hawke's lost dignity…lurking in the shadows," she teased, winking at the mage as she passed him. "Come along now Hawke, we've been away from civilization long enough haven't we? I, for one, need a good stiff one and a drink."
Carver shook his head, "She is the dirtiest woman I've ever met," he whispered, sounded disgusted.
Hawke grinned from ear to ear, "It's wonderful isn't it?"
"Ye-what? No! It's…Maker something is wrong with you," Carver shook his head as he walked away.
This was a silly chapter. I enjoyed writing it lol. I hope it was a decent read :)
Also, just in case anyone is getting antsy, the Deep Roads and the end of Act 1 is just around the corner. Promise!
Enjoy and Review!