Hurtled into chaos, you fight…
…and the world will shake before you.
Is it fate or chance? – Flemeth
Deliver… demanded the voice, the ghost of a whisper inside her mind.
*thump* *thump* beat her heart, the amplification of that pounding internal rhythm battering her ears. She was scarcely aware of the external sounds around her, the raspy cries of her mother and the shouts from Aveline and Bethany as they regrouped from their latest skirmish with darkspawn on the trail to Gwaren.
I can't… Mireille Hawke groaned inwardly in defeat.
Gwaren, their immediate destination, was still at least two long days away for the already bone weary travelers. And while the darkspawn encounters were far less frequent since being rescued by the mysterious Witch of the Wilds, the constant pressure of the life and death flight from Lothering had taken its toll. They hadn't slept in days. It was simply too dangerous to stop longer than it took to catch their breath over a hastily prepared meal.
Her mother scornfully blaming her for her brother's death, along with Bethany's defeatist attitude, had only piled on to sap her will. Mireille could see in their eyes that both had already given up and were simply waiting for fate to intervene and call an end to this. Aveline, however, was doggedly determined not to let the deaths of Carver Hawke and her husband, Wesley, be for naught. Only the strength Mireille was drawing from the woman she shared nothing with, save the common goal of survival, was keeping her from giving up, from forsaking the promise she'd made to her father before his death to keep the family safe.
That and the incessant voice in her head urging her forward.
You will! The voice demanded again. Dalish…Keeper Marethari…
Temper flaring, the rogue snatched the amulet off her neck, breaking the chain in the process. She whirled and fired the amulet into the side of the cliff they were currently circumnavigating before stomping away.
Mireille barely moved a handful of steps before she seized up, a crushing weight dropping her to her knees and then to her hands. There are some things in this world worse than death… the voice warned ominously, chastising her all the while continuing to inflict unbearable pain. Mireille couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. She could only silently beg for the pain to stop.
Finally the invisible force relented.
Moments later she felt a wash of rejuvenating energy envelop her, granting a temporary stay to her weariness. Her face flushed with anger, the rogue pushed herself to her feet, aware of but not surprised that no one around her seemed to notice any of what transpired. It felt like a fog hung over the group that only broke in the short stretches when there was battle.
She couldn't muster the mental energy to protest further. Without sparing the group a glance she retrieved the amulet and tossed it into her pack before trudging ahead on the path, barely aware of her faithful mabari, Revas, trotting at her side or the three women behind her.
Rounding a bend of the trail, she caught sight of a pack of creatures that appeared to be humanoid wolves. It took but a moment to realize they were feasting on the remains of a couple of elves. The wolf-men turned their attention to the sound of boots scuffling along the earth, their predatory red eyes reflecting hunger.
Mireille screamed in sheer terror.
Jerking awake, Misery Hawke gasped as she sat upright, shivering even though the nightshirt she wore was soaked in sweat. She pulled her knees up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her sweat-slick bare legs, bringing her forehead down to rest on her knees as she tried to calm her hyperventilating.
"Miri?" called out a voice softly, tentatively, from the bunk above. "Are you okay?" When her older sister didn't answer right away, Bethany peeked over the side. "Miri?"
"D-do not call me that," the older girl practically growled between audible breaths as she continued to struggle against the memory of their flight from Ferelden.
Not wanting to get into another argument over her sister's choice of monikers, Bethany sighed to herself rather than reply directly. She'd already compromised by only referring to her generically as 'Sister' in public. But whether it was in public or in private, Bethany refused to address her older sister as 'Misery'. After another minute went by without her sister saying anything else, Bethany quietly asked, "It was the witch again, wasn't it?"
Misery's eyes gave away the answer when she affixed her storage chest in the corner of the dimly lit room a hard glare that lasted several moments before turning her gaze upward to meet Bethany's.
"Yeah…" she finally replied. "I don't know how, but she knows I haven't delivered the amulet to the Dalish keeper yet. The nightmares are getting more intense…more…" She paused, still fighting to calm her rattled nerves. With a shake of her head, she hissed, "Just more. I… h-her voice in my head is more… insistent."
"I-I don't even remember the name of the person we were told to give it to," Bethany admitted.
"Marethari," Misery answered, chuckling humorlessly. "The witch will not let me forget."
"Well, our commitment to Athenril is over with, so we have the time now to deliver it?"
"Bethany, we don't even know where the Dalish are!" she replied in frustration. "Besides, they're said to move around on a regular basis to avoid contact with humans, and the information the witch gave us is a year old now. They might not even be anywhere near Kirkwall at this point."
"Last time I asked Aveline she said the City Guard knew of a Dalish clan up on Sundermount. We could start there?" she half suggested, half asked.
"So… what? We walk a whole fucking mountain hoping we just happen to stumble into a group that doesn't want to be found? Who, if you believe the stories, are liable to kill us for coming too close before we even see them?"
Bethany sighed. Trying a different approach she suggested, "Maybe that guy Varric we met the other day knows something. If nothing else, he certainly acted like he knew anything worth knowing around the city."
Misery shook her head, sliding out of bed and angrily yanking off her drenched shirt before casting it into a pile in the corner. She sucked in her bottom lip in response to the chill of the night air on her damp skin. Bethany's eyes immediately went to the doorway, instinctively watching for Uncle Gamlen to be conveniently passing by while her sister dug around for another nightshirt to cover her naked upper half.
"I doubt Varric would be pleased to find us spending what little coin we have on a fool's errand into the mountains when we're supposed to be raising fifty sovereigns for Bartrand's expedition," the older girl finally replied while pulling on a shirt. She ran her fingers through her sweat-matted short black tousled hair, her aqua eyes once again settling on her storage chest as she sighed in resignation. "Still… we'll talk to him… though I'm inclined to tell him to go fuck himself if he objects. I know we need this expedition, but… Andraste's ass, I am going to go insane if I sit on this amulet much longer."
Bethany nodded silently, having a pretty good idea of how much the amulet had been weighing on her by the increased frequency she was having that recurring nightmare of their flight from Lothering. But she prayed Mireille's, nay Misery's notorious temper wouldn't cost them this opportunity with the Tethras brothers.
Flopping back into bed, Misery exhaled audibly. "Go back to sleep, Bethany. We'll figure out a plan in the morning." She closed her eyes, and Bethany finally allowed herself to do the same once she heard her sister's breathing fall into the steady rhythm of slumber.
"Ahh! The Hawke sisters!" Varric called out jovially while waving the girls over to the table he was sitting at in his room in the Hanged Man. He set down his quill and shouted for the waitress Norah to bring up another pot of coffee.
"So you… live here?" Bethany asked in slight confusion.
Laughing, the dwarf nodded. "You got it, Sunshine. Room service, a running tab, someone to clean up after me… what could be better?"
The young mage raised an eyebrow quizzically. "Sunshine?"
"When you have a sister named Misery," Varric began, gesturing with his thumb towards the older sister, "you gotta have something cheerier to offset that."
Bethany giggled while Misery rolled her eyes as she accepted a mug from Norah. After filling her mug and taking a drink, Misery casually asked, "So what do you know about the Dalish around these parts?"
If he was surprised by the question he didn't show it. "I know there's a clan that makes its camp up on Sundermount. They're not what anyone would call friendly towards outsiders, but they don't hide their presence either."
Misery nodded. "I have to make a delivery of sorts to their keeper. Think you could show us the way?"
Varric whistled low. "That's a long way out of the way for a delivery. I hope the job is paying well."
"Afraid not, Varric." Misery sighed with slight bitterness. "More like fulfilling an… mmm… overdue promise."
"I sense a story here."
Misery hesitated. She wasn't a very open person by nature and didn't feel like she knew Varric well enough to delve into personal issues.
Misinterpreting her sister's silence for mere contemplation, Bethany spoke up. "A Witch of the Wilds calling herself 'Flemeth' saved us from being overwhelmed by darkspawn when we were fleeing Lothering. When we told her-"
"Wait, Flemeth?" interrupted Varric, flashing an expression mixed of skepticism and amusement. "The Flemeth?"
"If arriving as a dragon and wiping out scores of darkspawn, transforming into a human to talk to us, then changing back into a dragon and flying off means anything, then probably so," Misery answered dryly, her expression neutral as she took another drink.
Varric stared at the older Hawke sister for a moment, trying to get a read on her. Finally he started chuckling. "You're shitting me."
Bethany giggled. "The witch said she only stopped to help because she was curious to see who had taken down this huge ogre…" Her expression fell slightly and her voice grew softer as she added, "the one that k-killed our brother, Carver." She glanced over at her sister, noticing she'd closed her eyes at the mention of Carver, before tentatively continuing the explanation. "Anyway, we told the witch we were trying to get out of Ferelden and go to Kirkwall, and she promised to make the way to Gwaren safer in exchange for delivering an amulet to the keeper of a Dalish clan near here."
"But I don't get it. You've been here a year. Why haven't you delivered it already? And why now when you need to avoid unnecessary expenses?"
A scowl began to creep across Misery's countenance. "This is necessary."
Bethany tensed. She knew her sister's mannerisms well enough to know that her irritation level was rising rapidly. Trying to preempt an outburst, the younger sister cleared her throat lightly. "Athenril wouldn't give us the time for it while we were in her service paying off the debt. Varric, this really is important. The amulet-"
"That's enough, Bethany!" Misery hissed, cutting her sister off in mid-sentence. She glared harshly at Bethany until the mage averted her eyes nervously to her own mug of coffee. Taking in and releasing a deep breath, she returned her gaze to the dwarf. "This is necessary," she echoed in a tone that made it clear the questioning period was over.
Varric held up his hands, gesturing for the girl to calm down. "Hey, Hawke, take it easy. If it's necessary, it's necessary. We'll do it."
Misery slowly released a breath she hadn't even realized she was holding. Nodding slowly, she finally replied quietly, "Thank you."
Varric rubbed his chin in thought. "It'll take a few days to get a trip to Sundermount put together. You mind if we knock out something local today in the meantime?"
"I'm game, what is it?"
"Come on, let's go and I'll tell you on the way."
Wincing slightly from the brightness of the mid-morning sunlight, Varric motioned for the two girls to follow him while he began talking. "So, you see, in addition to not having the coin to fund the expedition, Bartrand also doesn't have a good way into the Deep Roads anywhere near Kirkwall."
Misery stopped in her tracks. "Let me get this straight. Your brother is starting an expedition which has no destination and he has no means of paying for, yet the little bastard had the gall to act put out that we were asking to help?"
"That's Bartrand for you," Varric grumbled. "Not exactly the sharpest blade in the rack."
"So this whole expedition is bullshit?"
"No, no, Hawke, it's real enough." Resuming his walk he continued, "I got a lead that a Grey Warden came in with a group of Fereldan refugees. The Grey Wardens know the Deep Roads at least as well as my people, so if we can find him I'll bet he can tell us of a good entry point in this region."
"You're kidding, right? A Grey Warden? That's your plan?" Ugh… I'm wasting my time with these idiots…
"You gotta think big here!" Varric explained. "There's only a short time after a Blight when the Deep Roads aren't overrun with darkspawn and haven't been picked clean. The Grey Warden is bound to know a secret way in."
Misery merely scoffed in response.
"Do you know where to find the warden?" Bethany asked, hoping to keep the conversation civil.
"As it so happens, Sunshine, word is the owner of a Fereldan import shop here in Lowtown refers people to him. We pay her a visit, she tells us where to find him, and boom! We're on our way."
"And that's where we're headed now," Misery stated knowingly.
Lost to her thoughts, the female rogue completely missed Bethany smiling apologetically at Varric and the dwarf winking back conspiratorially, as if to say, No worries, Sunshine, I've already got handling your sister under control.
AN: A big thanks to Eva Galana for beta editing the first several chapters and helping me sort through and shuffle around some content. I really wanted to get this story off to a stronger start than what I did with 'The Little Hero', and she helped me quite a bit to achieve that. She's also an outstanding author in her own right, so if you haven't read her stories yet you definitely should!