Lifeinthefire asked you: "UGH you're fanfictions make me want to rip my heart out. So perfect. I'm always checking for more 3 I was wondering, if you could write a fic about Hawke falling ill from disease. It would be interesting to see how the arishok would react, seeing as her life is being threatened by something he cannot psychically over power or kill :) KEEP WRITING BRILLIANT WORKS !"
Though it's not the prompt exactly, this is a similar idea I had rolling around in my head a while back. Seemed as good a reason as any to scribble it down! Be prepared – it's a long-un.
Elfroot, eighteen stalks. Deathroot, thirty-seven stalks. Spindleweed, twenty-four stalks. Deep mushrooms, twenty-one sprouts. Felandaris, six cuttings.
Fenlin hummed to himself as he delicately separated the dried stems and leaves, pinning them in bundles of five to the storage netting covering one wall. It was a rare day that he could take the time to inventory his stock with any sort of leisure. Usually he had his hands full with teaching duties, medical emergencies, or purposefully chatting with a certain patient-turned-psuedo-emissary as she absentmindedly did shredding, sorting busywork.
Said newly-minted ambassador was long overdue for one of their witty repartee sessions. Hawke was always good for a laugh - he would readily and lovingly grant her that – and a second pair of hands and a change in the air would be welcome in the dusty, dry Kirkwall afternoon.
He should have learned long ago to be careful what he wished for.
In short order, he heard the rustling of the entrance flap and a muttered curse in the common tongue.
"Hey, Fenlin," she called weakly, the warbling breaks in her voice both very conspicuous and very familiar. "Want to hear a funny story?"
"Depends," he called back, not looking up from his work. "Are you bleeding?"
"I'm not not bleeding."
Sighing, he turned – and the smile he had been wearing slid straight for the ground. He was at her side in an instant, leaves and twigs abandoned as he coaxed her to a table. "Hawke," he managed, "what in Thedas did this?"
She winced as she allowed him to help her up to sitting on the sanded wood surface, stripping off layers of her armor as he went. "We raided a slavers' den," she explained as Fenlin examined the lacerations of varying depth and length that formed a crosshatch pattern along any exposed skin. "They might not have been the sharpest sticks in the bundle, but they weren't just going to hand over their property or come quietly."
She grabbed his hand to stop him when he reached for her clothes, and as she gingerly peeled back the edge of her undershirt, he saw the glint of metal. She couldn't pull it any further – a fishhook held it in place, piercing clear through the fabric and well into her skin. As soon as he saw it, a dozen – two dozen, more – appeared all through her arms and legs, their gleam scattered on anything not protected by leather or metal. A few were caught in her hair, and she hissed as he worked them out. They were barbed and bloodied, but thankfully had been kept from penetrating the skin by her thick, unruly curls.
"They were hung on strings from the makeshift ceiling by the hundreds," she continued as his nimble, trained fingers did their work. "We were so busy checking the ground for traps that no one bothered to look up." She offered him a pained half-smile. "Nasty piece of work, but we learned something, right?"
One hook near her temple induced a flinch, and he pressed a rag to her ear as a trail of blood trickled down from where he had removed it. She took over for his hand quickly – the scratches on her scalp were most certainly not the issue.
The healer swore under his breath as he assessed the rest of her body. "They might be small," he admitted, "but they're going to hurt. And if they've nicked anything under the skin or been coated in something, the sharp bits are going to be the least of your problems."
The look on her face said everything. She took a deep, shaky breath, fingers tightening into the rag staunching the blood flow from her head. "Can't say I'm surprised. Why is nothing ever easy?"
"Why is nothing involving you ever easy, you mean?"
That earned him a smirk and the beginning of a retort, but a noise at the entrance caught their attention. One look at the shadow being cast by the light, and Fenlin recognized it instantly.
"Looks like someone still keeps very good tabs on you," he observed as he headed for the flap, motioning for her to stay put.
Like he ever stopped shadowing her footsteps to begin with, he mused, a single hand pulling back the heavy leather and canvas panel.
"Shanedan, Arishok," he greeted while blinking in the sun as he turned his head upward to face his massive liege. "To what do I owe this visit?"
The Arishok met his stare in silence, as if both were acknowledging that yes, both knew precisely why he was standing outside the healer's tent, but no, the elf was not moving aside.
"I was informed that Hawke was seen entering the compound injured," he rumbled flatly, "and desire more information on the nature and extent of any damage."
"Understood," Fenlin acknowledged. "I'll write up a detailed report as soon as I'm finished."
The Arishok accepted with a sharp noise in his throat, but made no motion to budge or step in any direction of any sort.
The healer had learned to interpret his silences ages ago, though any simpleton, however unschooled in qunari culture, could have read this one like a book.
"There's nothing more for you to do here," he informed him firmly, crossing his arms. "I'm going to be doing delicate, painful work with a variety of tools."
"I am no healer," the Arishok agreed, though something kept him rooted in place.
A something, Fenlin thought to himself with an equal mix of irritation and amusement, that the painted giant was fully aware of and now acknowledged for its legitimacy. And though he was genuinely happy for his commander, it was getting in the way of this elf doing his damned job.
"Your concern is completely valid," he assured him, green eyes focused with sincerity. "I will hand-deliver the report to you myself, down to the very last scrape and bruise."
The Arishok was nothing if not devoted to efficiency and reason. Just as he was about to turn away, a strained voice called out from within the rust-red tent walls.
"He can stay if he helps," Hawke declared, and it was out of Fenlin's hands.
She smirked up at the warlord from her hunched-over position on the table as he made his way to her side. "You would've left," she prodded, "just like that?"
"I am not of the priesthood," he grunted, eyes traveling the length of her wounds. "I would have served only as a distraction."
A grin wound onto her bloodied face, and she made no effort to hide a snicker.
"This amuses you," he growled, and Hawke leaned to the side as Fenlin set down a tray of instruments beside her.
She gently shook her head, hiding her smirk with a slight turn. "A little elf kicked the mighty Arishok out."
Fenlin stood with one hand on his hip, the other holding a pair of wire cutters menacingly. "Watch who you call 'little,'" he warned. "I'm the one holding the surgical tools."
"Good point." She stared at the sharp implement in his hands for a moment before turning up to him with weary resignation written clearly across her face.
"This is going to hurt like a bitch, isn't it?"
"Afraid so," he apologized, "seeing as they're barbed. We'll have to push the tips through before we cut them off and pull the hooks out." With a sympathetic hand, he pulled her rag-clenching fist away from her head. "You may want to hold onto something."
"Good," Hawke muttered, fiercely grabbing onto one of the Arishok's enormous hands and clutching it like she was drowning. "This is where you can help."
He grunted an assent, adjusting his posture.
Starting with the least traumatic, those hooks that had already pierced clean through, Fenlin delicately held one in place as he clipped off the pointed, bloodstained tip.
"That wasn't so bad," Hawke said brightly, craning her neck to get a good look. When he simply held up the tiny bit of curved metal, her optimism deflated.
Pulling out the rest of the hook in a long, slow arc, he could feel the suction and skin dragging at it, trying desperately to keep the intrusion. Still, when it hit the tray, he felt his patient let out a long, slow breath.
"On the plus side," he offered as he moved down to the next one, "we can melt these down and re-use them."
"Hur-rah," she muttered, and he noticed that her other arm was trembling from effort.
It didn't get any easier.
Less than ten hooks later, and he had exhausted the clean punctures. The first time he had to push a barb through, he winced in sympathy as Hawke stifled a groan through gritted teeth. He knew it was grueling. He knew it was akin to torture. And he also knew that they had no other option.
Each hook was just as bad as the last - shaking, hyperventilating, even dry-retching over a pail from the pain. And all through it, he would catch glimpses of her tiny white hand tucked into a massive copper one. The Arishok had had to brace her a few times, remaining faithfully impassive as he watched various shapes and sizes of repurposed deterrents being plucked out of his precious one's flesh, accumulating in a pool of blood on the tray in front of him.
Fenlin would murmur reassurances and encouragement as he kept pace, always seeming to find a new hook just as he thought he was holding the final one. He'd lost count after thirty; neither he nor Hawke would benefit from knowing anything more than "enough." To Hawke's credit, she hadn't once lashed out or asked to be drugged, relying instead on self-control to keep herself steady and weather the worst of it. The Arishok's influence, he thought as he wiped the pliers on his apron, leaving a bloody streak across the pocket. He only hoped it would last.
"This should be it," he informed them both as a particularly large, bulky hook joined its fellows. "You're through."
Hawke collapsed inward, Fenlin rushing to sink his shoulder under her torso and support her back upright. "She's fainted," he told the Arishok as his leader's forearm wrapped around the front of her shoulders. "She needs to be lying down until– "
"I'm all right," she gurgled, clumsily attempting to disentangle herself from the two. "I was only out for half a second."
"You were still gone," the healer pointed out, "and you need a saarebas. I'm going to go send for one." He turned to the Arishok. "Try to keep her in one place, if you can."
"I don't need a saarebas," Hawke protested, struggling to hop off of the table despite the intervention of a warlord easily twice her size. "Just give me a few hours to rest."
"You could have been posioned," Fenlin reminded her with a stern glare, "and I'm sure those slavers didn't keep all their hooks polished and rust-free. The risk that something else will happen is worse than the damage the hooks did."
"I've been poisoned before. I've accidentally poisoned myself, for Maker's sake– "
"Hawke," Fenlin began slowly, tone edged with warning. "I'm not letting you walk out of here."
Just as he was about to cut her off, a voice like a rockslide beat him to it.
"You will obey the healer," the Arishok issued calmly, "or I will remind you of this moment as you lay dying of fever."
That did it. Hawke locked stares with her horned, equally stubborn inamorata and let out a long, defeated sigh.
"I'm not giving you the satisfaction."
He let out a satisfied rumble in response, rewarding her for her compliance. "Good."
That settled, Fenlin made for the door flap to summon two saarebas. One for Hawke – and one for the Arishok.
Judging from her grip strength and the snapping sounds he had heard at about hook number fifteen, Hawke had broken at least three of the fingers in his left hand.
The elf stood in the sunlight while waiting for the healing mages, enjoying the warmth of the sun on his skin and the memory of the Arishok's unflinching expression as he stood beside his mate. He hadn't let slip any evidence of pain – which must have been considerable – and remained steady as he watched her suffer.
Fenlin smiled to himself as he mused over the Arishok's particular flavor of devotion.
That's love for you.