The sun had barely risen over Kirkwall, but the market place was a buzz with activity already.
The expedition into the deep roads was set to leave that day and Hawke and her companions stood in the square alongside the dwarves and hirelings, awaiting Bartrand's word.
"Bethany, please. Don't do this to me. I can't lose both children to the Darkspawn." Marian and Bethany's mother begged. Both siblings were fully prepared to go on the search for fame and riches, leaving their mother in despair.
"Mother. I will be fine." Beth insisted. "Marian and Anders will be there. Varric and Aveline too. Don't worry."
Leandra shrank under her daughter's argument and rubbed her face tiredly.
"Beth. Marian. I beg you… I BEG you. Don't do this to me."
The older Hawke remained silent, watching her mother despair. She knew this was coming. Marian wished they hadn't told her. She wished she didn't have to listen to her mother beg them not to leave. Leandra knew they needed this and yet she still tried.
Her mind drifting as she watched her sister and mother, Marian almost missed the soft call of her name from not far behind her.
Glancing over her shoulder first, she saw nothing and no one, and returned to the conversation ahead of her.
Turning again, she caught sight of a chestnut mass of hair, complete with braid, and two large green eyes peering at her from around a nearby corner.
Bethany and Leandra paused mid argument to see, along with the others.
Shyly, the Qunari woman appeared from behind the building, followed closely by two large qunari soldiers. People around them seemed to bristle and quickly move away.
"I'm pleased that I caught you in time." The young woman said, moving closer to Hawke and her friends. "I have been allowed to come."
There was a moment of pause; Hawke blinking once or twice as she thought over what had been said.
"The Arishok said you can come with us?" She asked, almost in disbelief.
"He said it would benefit the Qun if I went with you. Gain some knowledge and maybe experience in battle too."
"Well that's a turnaround…" Varric commented under his breath.
"The Ocheeva is now in your care Basra." One of the Karasten spoke, making those around jump. "She is to return unharmed, within the time you have specified this expedition will take. Any longer, or Ocheeva's death will bring serious punishment to you and all those around you, as is the word of the Arishok and the word of the Qun."
"Er… alright." Hawke stumbled for words a little.
"Tell the Arishok, he has my word that Ocheeva will be returned in one piece." Aveline covered for Hawke, who seemed strangely lost for words while staring at the huge horn headed men.
"Your word isn't much to us…." The Karasten of the other side of Ocheeva hissed before both said something in their foreign tongue to the little Ocheeva and bowed, leaving immediately after.
Ocheeva turned back to Hawke, a large smile on her face and her eyes bright.
"So when do we leave? I am….. excited?"
Varric nodded. "That's the word Green eyes. You got it spot on."
Ocheeva beamed at her triumph with the strange word and followed Hawke and her friends as they grabbed their stuff to leave.
"So what made the Arishok change his mind?" Bethany asked after saying goodbye to her mother. Leandra gave one last heartbroken look before reluctantly making her way back toward the steps to low town.
"We spoke about it." Ocheeva said simply in reply and fiddled with the straps holding her axes to her back.
"And by spoke I assume you mean you pestered him into letting you go?" Varric snickered and grabbed a rather large pack from the floor.
"Pester? I don't know what you mean." Ocheeva smiled coyly and glanced around at the others in the expedition.
"Alright ladies!" Bartrand boomed, his hands clasped together. "Let's get this show on the road!"
"You didn't bring much…" Bethany commented softly as she walked beside Ocheeva.
The qunari carried nothing but her axes and a small, handmade bag that rested on her hip.
"I do not need much." She replied with a smile. "I carry some food, a small package of Gaatlok…."
"Gaatlok?" Aveline looked over at her, startled. "Your carrying qunari explosive powder?"
Ocheeva nodded innocently. "Every member of the Antaam carries just a little." She said.
"Can I give you some friendly advice?" Varric coughed and shuffled closer to her to make their conversation more discreet. Ocheeva glanced down at the dwarf, listening intently. "Don't let that slip to anyone else here but us…" He told her. "Things could get ugly if people know your carrying something that could cut corners in the way of progress…"
"I… I don't understand." The young woman's nose wrinkled as she tried to process what he'd told her. "Cut corners?"
"Something qunari don't do I imagine…." Ander said flippantly.
"People will try and take it from you if they know that the Gaatlok could cut out having to dig tunnels…." Varric explained.
"They can try..." Ocheeva said, pulling a sour face. "The Qun demands I fight to the death to protect the Gaatlok. Even the small amount I carry."
"That could be awkward…" Anders muttered.
"So how big is the bang that stuff can create anyway?" Hawk nudged Anders forward, trying to avoid any conflict.
"If I really needed to use it, it could bring down walls, or blow away a great many enemies at once." The young Qunari woman waved her hand nonchalantly.
"Could come in handy down there." Aveline nodded.
Anders tossed a glance over his shoulder, eyeing Ocheeva before shrugging.
"I hope you have a good amount of it then. I grantee it will be needed."
After entering the deep roads as planned, the expedition didn't get very far.
The whole place smelled. It smelled of smoke. Sulphur. And under that, it smelled…Raw. It was almost suffocating.
Ocheeva was used to the sun light. Par Vollen was warm and sunny. The air was clean, despite the slight smell of salt that hung in the air around the coast and the smell of all the greenery in the jungles. The deep roads couldn't have been more different. They were only a few days in and yet the tunnels, the heat and the cramped conditions made the young qunari woman irritable.
The dwarves seemed right at home there. Even Varric, who claimed he'd never even seen his ancestral home of Orzammar, seemed unconcerned about the conditions. Ocheeva supposed it was all down to him being a dwarf regardless.
Bartrand halted the group as they passed over a long stretch of Thaig.
"What's happening?" Bethany whispered down to Varric.
"I'm not sure sunshine." He told her and watched another dwarf run up to his brother.
"There's been a collapse!" the dwarf said loud enough for the rest of the group to hear. "The way forwards blocked."
"What?!" Bartrand snarled, causing the other dwarven man to back up. "Isn't there another way around?!"
The other man shook his head. "The side passages are far too dangerous.. I-!" Before he could finish, Bartrand had punched him in the face, knocking him straight to the floor.
"Useless!" He ranted. "What am I paying you for?!"
"What are we paying them for…." Hawke corrected with a grunt.
The hirelings around them shrugged and looked between each other sheepishly.
"Set camp!" Bartrand snapped and stormed off to examine the blocked passage for himself.
"Well, it looks like we're not moving for now…" Aveline sighed and dropped her things to the floor before sitting on a fallen chunk of rock.
"Bartrand knew to expect for this…" Varric muttered and helped to lift the dwarf his brother had hit to his feet.
"How long will we be here?" Bethany shivered and moved closer to her sister. "This place gives me the creeps."
"I imagine we'll be here until they can move the blockage sunshine." Varric replied.
Ocheeva had moved away from the main group and was crouched on the ground, examining a rock with unusual patterning. She rolled it between her hands and smiled before tucking it away in her little bag.
She continued to do so for a while, her travelling companions trying to make themselves comfortable as they waited.
"The Arishok likes rocks I take it?"
Glancing over her shoulder, Ocheeva found Hawke watching her intently.
"No… but I like them." She smiled and tucked another small rock into her bag.
"Don't you think all those rocks will weigh you down a little?" the other woman asked, coming to crouch beside Ocheeva as she rummaged through another pile of stone.
"I don't intend to take them all. I only pick the pretty ones." Ocheeva said softly and picked up an oddly shaped rock. She rolled it between her hands like she did the others and found that it crumbled and broke; a strong smell hitting them both.
"Well that's pleasant…" Hawke coughed and Ocheeva dropped the rock with a frown.
"Congratulations. You two just discovered some petrified nug shit." Varric laughed. Both women seemed to cringe away from the offending object and pull very disgusted faces.
"This is ridiculous!" Everyone suddenly turned to see Bartrand returning from the passage, ranting and raving about the blockage.
"Problem brother?" Varric smirked.
"Sodding deep roads!" He grumbled. "Who knows how long it will take to clean the path!" He threw his hands in the air and growled.
"Shouldn't we try and find another path? We're not making money by just sitting here y'know." Varric commented.
"You think I'm an idiot Varric?! " Bartrand growled and stepped up to his younger brother, squaring off. "I'm trying to find another way around. But the scouts say the side passages are too dangerous."
"There's a reason you brought us, you know." Hawke grinned. "And it's not just because I have a pretty face."
Bartrand glared up at Hawke, his nostrils flaring.
"Ok, look. We'll go try and find another way. If we come running back, screaming, you'll know staying put was the best choice." Varric suggested, holding his hands up.
"Fine! Find a way around. Just do it quickly!" Bartrand snorted and stomped past them.
Looking between each other Marian, Bethany, Varric, Aveline, Anders and Ocheeva grabbed their things, ready to trudge further into the thaig.
"I-I hate to trouble you my friends…" Ocheeva stopped mid step, as did others in the group, to look over at the little dwarf, Bodahn Feddic, the trader that had accompanied them on the expodition, along with his son, Sandal.
Oddly though, his son was missing from his side.
"I fear my boy sandal has wondered off. He's somewhere in those passages there…" He pointed in the direction they were heading.
"You… let your son wonder off into Dark spawn infested passages?..." Ander asked in disbelief.
"I didn't let him." Bodahn stressed, his expression painted with worry. "He just doesn't understand danger like he should!"
"We'll keep an eye out for him." Bethany said softly and touched the dwarves' shoulder.
"Oh thank you… My poor sandal. I can't believe he's done this!" Bodahn buried his face in his hands and groaned mournfully.
"We better move quickly then." Varric told Hawke and began to lead the way.
Ocheeva watched Bodahn until they were out of sight. The dwarf was still mopping and whining at the loss of his child and she wondered why the boy would want to leave the party in the first place.
Ocheeva had never seen one in the flesh. Until that moment, that was.
When the sten had returned to the Arishok with answers on the blight, Ocheeva had sat in awe beside the Arishok as Sten relayed his tales and what he had learned. His trip to the deep roads had especially peaked her interest and had left her with some questions of her own.
Crouching down and peering at the thing she'd just slain, Ocheeva examined what she'd been told was a Hurlock and bit her lip.
It was ugly, with cold dead eyes and twisted face. A drone, unthinking of itself. It's what many people thought of the qunari. Ocheeva knew differently.
"I thought you said the deep roads would be clear of dark spawn?" Bethany grunted and clutched her staff tightly.
"We're in the deep roads…" Ander muttered. "There's always dark spawn."
"We have to keep moving." Aveline pulled her sword out of a fallen dark spawn and wiped her forehead with the crook of her elbow.
"Aveline's right. The longer we linger in one place, the easier it will be for the dark spawn to build numbers and swarm us." Anders agreed and started forward again.
"How many dark spawn are there?" Ocheeva collected up her axe, which she'd embedded in a dark spawn's head, and began to follow after the rest of her group.
"Too many to count, I imagine…." Anders answered.
"But I thought you were a grey warden..." she replied. "don't you know these things?"
Anders huffed out a breath and peered around a corner, looking for any sign of movement. When it was clear there was none, he motioned for everyone else to follow.
"We sense dark spawn and have a connection to the arch demon. It doesn't mean we know much else though. I mean, other than when there'll be a blight."
"Well, ain't you useful…" Hawke snorted teasingly and followed close behind Ander as he started down another passage.
He was about to answer, no doubt retort with some smart remark, but before he could utter a word, a roar echoed across the large stone room they'd entered and an ogre charged them from its lurking spot in the corner of the room.
"Duck!" Someone yelled and everyone threw themselves to the floor and out of the way of the ogre's horns.
Ocheeva hit the stone floor with a thud and a gasp as the wind was knocked from her. Her axes clattered together on her back and she craned her back to look at the monstrous beast, now struggling to free its horns from the wall.
"Kossith…." She whispered, staring at the beast just a fraction too long.
"Ocheeva! Move!" Aveline demanded, causing the younger woman to blink back to reality, to find the ogre almost upon her.
Scrambling to her feet, she threw herself out of the way once more, rolling and snatching her axes from her back.
Bolts of lightning flew across the room and hit the dark spawn monster in the back, the electricity making it shake uncontrollably and foam at the mouth.
From his place in the floor, Varric fired continuously at the ogre, hitting it in the chest, neck and face.
Aveline as always, threw herself into the fight, attacking its lower body and legs. One particular slash took out its kneecap and the ogre fell to one knee on the floor.
"Ocheeva now! Hit it!" Aveline screamed before the ogre swung at her, knocking her backward and sending her sword and shield flying.
Her hands sweating as she clutched the handles, Ocheeva found herself unable to do as commanded. Her eyes stared directly at the ogre intrigued and a little disturbed at the resemblance it held to her brethren.
A burning sensation bristled up Ocheeva's back and neck and she yelped as a stream of fire shot close by her. Realising it was Bethany, Ocheeva stumbled back, pressing her back to the stone wall of the red room, gulping back air.
The room seemed to shake as the ogre finally fell dead.
"Let's not do that again…" Varric grumbled as he collapsed back on the floor, lying flat out.
"What was wrong with you?!" Aveline had turned red in the face and Ocheeva couldn't tell if it was from anger or from the recent battle as the flame haired woman approached her. "You just froze up! One of us could have been killed!" She yelled.
"I…I'm sorry…" Ocheeva mumbled sheepishly.
"Leave her alone Aveline." Marian coughed and wiped her nose of blood. She'd hit the floor face first, busting her nose on the stone.
"She's supposed to be a warrior." Aveline growled back at her companion.
"Warrior, mage, lord, lady. It doesn't matter who you are. When you face an ogre for the first time, someone always freezes."
Ocheeva was quite surprised at Anders sudden defence.
"Leave her be Aveline. She'd never even seen a dark spawn until today, let alone faced an ogre."
"I don't suppose they have ogres in Par Vollen." Bethany pushed past Aveline gingerly and took Ocheeva's hand, helping her to her feet.
"That thing…it looked like my brothers…" skin prickling at the memory, Ocheeva shuddered and looked over at the dead ogre.
"Ogres come from Qunari broodmothers." Anders answered in an exhausted huff as he brushed himself off.
"Kossith…" The little Qunari woman corrected him.
"Yea. Kossith. Sorry." The mage muttered and collected up his splintered staff.
The group stood staring at the young dwarven boy Sandal, standing amongst a swarm of frozen dark spawn.
"You have to be kidding me…." Hawke whispered, taking one stone step at a time on her way to the boy. Sandal laughed and smiled, waving at them.
"Did you do this?" Hawke asked him, couching to get to his level.
"Boom!" He laughed and handed her a rune stone.
"Marian…." Bethany gasped, her older sister looking away from the lad toward the frozen ogre.
"Clever lad." Varric chuckled. "We should bring him with us on more adventures!"
Ocheeva wondered over to the ogre, curiously running her hand on its arm. It was freezing and the frost burnt her fingers. She could only imagine what it was like inside the block of ice.
"How long will this last?" she wondered out loud to herself.
"Hopefully long enough for us to get out of here." Anders commented, passing the ogre.
"Go on back to Bodahn now Sandal. The ways clear now." Hawke told him with a smile.
"Not that he'd have much trouble anyway…" Varric snorted.
With the road eventually cleared thanks to Hawke and crew, the expedition moved on quickly.
They moved deeper and deeper into the earth, the sheer thought of how much rock was above them made Ocheeva's head spin as she sat in the small camp the group had set up in some very ancient ruins.
She'd lost track of the days. She'd asked Aveline. She seemed the most sensible, so it seemed logical she should know. But it turned out she wasn't sure either. Rolling the rocks she'd collected around in her hands, Ocheeva glanced about. The Hawke sisters had taken to their bed rolls, the younger of the two complaining that she didn't feel too well.
Anders was sat reading a book and writing down certain passages. She'd seen him do it a few times in the past. Hawke had said it was for his manifestos, not that any of the group seemed to have read them. Ocheeva was under the impression that they allowed him to continue such silliness out of jest.
Aveline sat gazing at the small fire they had created in order to cook food. She'd been that way for a while, as if deep in thought. Ocheeva would have asked, but after being snapped at during the battle with the ogre she was more than hesitant.
Varric was arguing with Bartrand over the far side of the ruins. Bartrand was desperate to push on, but his little brother was insisting everyone needed rest. He was right of course. Varric always seemed to be right.
Resting her chin on her hand, she watched as the two dwarves tried to speak over one another, arms flailing about and insults being tossed back and forth.
"Makes me glad to be an only child."
Ocheeva jumped out of her skin and nearly spun on her rock seat to see Aveline come to rest next to her. She was watching Varric and his brother too.
"If one of them throws a punch, I'll have to go and stand between them or something." The captain of the guard chuckled, her eyes turning to the younger woman beside her.
"Would they really hit each other?" Ocheeva asked hurriedly, turning away to look at the dwarven brothers.
"They're dwarves. Worst still, they're dwarven brothers. Anything goes to them."
Ocheeva bit her lip as Bartrand suddenly lunged at Varric, only to catch himself. Turned out, it was a bluff, one Varric called easily without flinching.
"I would never hit my brothers."
Aveline continued to watch the tanned woman beside her, Ocheeva watching back out of the corner of her eye.
"No, I don't suppose the Qun would take too kindly to you suddenly lashing out at your… brothers…."
Taking a deep breath, Ocheeva turned to face Aveline. "I'm sorry Guardswoman. I should have done something to help today."
Much to her surprise Aveline smiled warmly and shook her head.
"No. I'm sorry. I should have known. I forgot this was the first time you'd experienced anything like this." She turned her attention back to Varric and Bartrand; they're argument dying down as Bartrand stormed away. "Pretty much everyone in the group has come face to face with dark spawn. Anders is a warden. Hawke, Bethany and I fought our way through them to get the Kirkwall. Varric's a dwarf. I know he's never been to his homeland but it's naturally in him, y'know?"
"I bet you don't get any Dark spawn in Qunari lands…"
"No." Ocheeva sighed, looking down at the rocks in her hands. "We hear tales as we travel. I heard once that dark spawn are everywhere. Under the ground. They could be under Par Vollen. They've never made themselves known though."
"You did well." Aveline suddenly commented.
Ocheeva looked up from her hands, watching Aveline's unfamiliar, soft expression. "For someone that's only ever heard tales, you showed little fear."
"That's why I am Ocheeva." The Qunari shrugged with a sheepish smile. "I was too clumsy or too impatient to carry out the duties given to other females in the Qun. But when I fight, I show no fear. I'd rather die in battle than waste away reading scrolls or teaching." She smirked slightly. "I was punished for saying that too loud once in front of the Tamassrans…."
"Do they punish you severely for saying thought types of things?"
Ocheeva thought for a moment before shaking her head. "It is not as bad as we make out. If we speak out of turn in front of the wrong people, we have to be re-educated. It means we spend some time relearning the lessons we are taught as children. One of those lessons is to restrain ourselves from making disrespectful remarks."
The captain of the guard's nose wrinkled as she thought. "I don't understand."
Turning to face the other woman directly, Ocheeva started to explain.
"I do not lack respect for others under the Qun. I do not lack respect for painters, farmers, artisans, merchants or priests. They follow they're role and I follow mine. People in your lands talk badly about one another, insulting another for their role. You are a merchant, so you cannot stay here. You are a lord or lady, so you must not do this or that or talk to this person. Everything here is set on different levels, as are people. In the Qun, we are one. We are all equal and we do not sneer at one another about the roles we have been given. Everyone has their important role. To say I would rather go to war then be a priest or farmer is disrespectful to those under the Qun who have been given that role. They are just as important in the goal of being one. Even if I do not enjoy the thought of that role for myself."
"Ah!" Aveline sat back and nodded. "I think I get it. Sort of."
Ocheeva nodded simply once more.
Ok guys, its been a long time and i'm sorry its taken so long but I've had a lot on. this is part one (and yes I know the endings a little weak but its all I could manage atm). I'll try and get the next few chapters up quickly now because I'd really like to get the the meat and bone of this.