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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 10

And thus ends the Saturday posting blitz.

Prompt: Fear

“The last time I was hip-deep in water, I was exploring a partially sunken cavern with my cousin,” Ravena said, pulling a face at the feel of water and who knew what else sloshing around in her boots. “I was prepared for that excursion, unlike now.”

“Forgive me for not controlling just where we were sent,” Dorian dryly replied, wringing out his sleeve. “Truly, if I had thought of it, we’d have landed in a much nicer place.”

“Right. So, any thoughts on where we might be?” Ravena looked around. “This looks like part of Redcliffe Castle.”

“I’m almost wondering if the where isn’t in question, but the when.”

She turned to face him. “What exactly do you mean?” She listened as Dorian explained the possibilities of time travel to her before taking a deep breath and nodding. “Right. So, how do you propose we get back where we belong, then?”

“What? No hysterics over time travel? Not even a teary eye over the fact that we might have been flung into the far future or the distant past?”

Ravena held up her palm. “Try having a hole in your hand that has the power to seal or open up rifts in the Fade, then we’ll talk hysterics.” She kept one of her daggers out as they both cautiously exited the waterlogged room, doubting that the initial skirmish with the guards that had found them was going to be their last confrontation. “Do you think that we were the only ones caught in Alexius’ blast, or were Blackwall and Varric affected as well?” Everything in the throne room had happened so quickly; all Ravena really remembered was a flash of light and hearing Blackwall bellow out her name in warning, then nothing.

“I don’t think so, but it would be good to see a friendly face, no?” They made their way up a flight of stairs until they reached a chamber that looked as if it connected four rooms together. Guards jumped to attention and began to attack.

“Those are not friendly faces,” Ravena commented, slashing out with her daggers. She dodged Dorian’s lightning bolts, dimly noting that he fought differently than Solas, who relied mostly on fire or ice to deal damage.

“Not too shabby, Herald,” Dorian commented after the fight.

“Likewise.” She hissed as she tied a ripped portion of a guard’s shirt to her forearm as a makeshift bandage. “Care to put money on that we’ve been tossed into the future?”

“Five coppers?”

She rolled her eyes. “Dorian, if you’re going to be part of our little rag-tag group, you must start betting with the Big Boys. As Bull says, silver, or go home.” She paused at one of the doors she had picked at random, trying to listen if there were any more hostiles on the other side. “I don’t remember Redcliffe being this hostile after the Blight, and I definitely don’t remember blood of the Elder One being used as a curse when any of Andraste’s or the Maker’s body parts usually do just fine.”

“You’re using your powers of deduction to skew that bet. That, Lady Trevelyan, is cheating.”

She flashed him a smile. “Nope, that’s Varric Tethras 101. I’m stupidly in love with that guy, but he’s going to clean your wallet out within the first fortnight. I’m just doing my part to give you a fighting chance.”

They crept down several flights of stairs, both of their eyes adjusting to the gloom, until a dim red light began to illuminate their path. “Red lyrium,” Ravena whispered. “I’ve seen this before at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, but not in this quantity. Don’t touch it.”

“Needn’t warn me twice, this thing just reeks evil.”

They discovered Fiona not long after that. To their horror, they learned of the events that had happened while they were gone.

“This is fixable,” Ravena said, teeth bared in outrage. “I will fix this.”

“Hold on to your anger, Herald,” Fiona told her. “Find the others and undo this.”

Ravena stood straighter. “Others? Blackwall, Varric?”

The Enchanter nodded. “They were quickly taken after you were…” She shuddered as a jolt of pain wracked through her body. “I don’t know where they are exactly, but they are on this same floor.”

“Thank you.” Ravena’s hand went to the dagger at her hip. “Is there anything that I can…” She couldn’t believe the words even as she said them. Killing people that attacked her was one thing. In all her years, she never thought she’d be in the position to actually offer to do the same as a mercy.

Fiona shook her head. “It won’t be long for me,” she whispered. “Besides, what’s a few hours more when this will never happen?”

“I swear, I will never let this happen. To you, or anyone else.”

“Then that is comfort enough. Go. End this nightmare.”

Ravena stumbled up the staircase leading from Fiona’s cell. “We should split up,” she said.

“Are you completely daft?” Dorian countered. “Splitting up in a place we aren’t familiar with is the surefire way to end poorly.”

“We can cover more ground this way.” She pointed towards a doorway. “I’m not suggesting going far. Castle dungeons are normally very similar in design. Keep the prisoners on the lower levels, preferably with cells butting against common walls. It’s an economical design that allows better use of space. Good architects would also use this layout to plan sluices to dump waste into the sewage canals leading to…” she tried to finish her explanation, but her legs gave out on her and she slid against the wall to sit on one of the stairs with a heavy thud.

“You’re in shock,” Dorian said gently, crouching in front of her. He grabbed her trembling hands and rubbed them to try to get some warmth circulating back into her skin. “Understandable, and really, I’m surprised that it hadn’t happened sooner.”

“How did this happen, Dorian?” she whispered, a sheen of tears filming her eyes. She blinked them away before they could fall. “How did everything collapse in such a short amount of time?” She thought of the brief explanation that Fiona had given them. The Empress assassinated, a demon army rising up out of nowhere, if things had gotten this bad, then it was nearly a sure thing that everyone she had known in Haven was dead.

“The Elder One is to blame for this,” he told her.

“Damned right, he is.” A sudden flash of anger had her standing back up. “So let’s find our way back and put a stop to this asshole.”

“There’s the gumption Varric told me about,” Dorian said, dusting his knees off. “This Elder One has given us an advantage, you know.”

She nodded. “Yes. Hopefully we can learn more of his plans here and when we get back, we can put a stop to them before they even begin.”

“All right, now let’s get back to searching. I’m going to throw all better sense to the wind and agree with your idea of splitting up, but practically going to suggest each of us going only so far to clear nearby rooms. Is that agreeable?”

“Very.” They made their way back to the main chamber. Ravena picked through her pockets until she found a little stub of chalk that she made certain to always carry with her. Bending down, she made the subtlest of marks on the floor next to the door they had just exited. She walked to the door they had originally came out of and did the same there. Breaking the chalk in half, she handed it to Dorian. “Mark the rooms you’ve searched so we don’t waste time. That way if we get lost, all we have to do is follow the places we’ve already been.”

His eyebrows rose. “Smart idea.”

“Saved my life in the North. I came across the bodies of several adventurers in an underground labyrinth during an expedition one time. They had gotten so turned around that they wound up starving to death. The sad thing is that I found their bodies only an hour’s walk away from the surface. After that, I make sure to have something to mark my path on hand at all times.”

“Right. Well, good luck. Do try not to get yourself killed.”

Ravena took a deep breath and took one of the doors closest to her. Keeping her daggers in her hand, she silently crept down the staircase and down a long hallway. The red lyrium wasn’t as abundant here as it was in the cellblock Fiona had been in, which made her wonder if the only people capable of turning into the material were mages. No, remember that story Varric told you about the Knight Commander in Kirkwall? Thoughts about Varric and his stories made her suddenly afraid of what she might find once they discovered her companions. She briefly closed her eyes, panic and worry making her throat tight at the thought of Blackwall dead, or worse. Enough. Now focus. You can panic later when everyone is safe.

She finally made her way down to the lower level. The lack of guards made her wary, and the silence was absolutely deafening. She winced when the door she had been trying to quietly open gave out a loud, moaning creak.

“Who’s there?” Ravena’s knees nearly went weak in relief at the sound of Blackwall’s voice. “Come into the light, you blighted coward.”

“Blackwall?” Ravena stepped towards the cell, trying to see him in the gloom. He stepped up to the bars of his prison at the sound of her voice, a surprised inhalation of air catching in his throat.

“You should not be here,” he rasped. “The dead should rest in peace.”

“I’m not dead. Alexius’ magic sent Dorian and me into the future.”

His hands tightened on the bars and he snarled at her. “Don’t lie to me, demon. I saw Ravena vanish in front of my eyes.”

She nimbly picked the lock to his cell. “It’s complicated. All that matters is that we found you and together, we’re going to figure out how to get back.” Swinging open the door, she held out her hand. “Please, trust me.”

Hesitantly, Blackwall reached out and took her offered hand. “Is it really you?” he asked, his voice hushed even as his fingers tightened on hers.

She nodded. “It is. It’s me, I promise.” Whatever she was going to say next was interrupted by Blackwall crushing her to him in a tight embrace.

“You’re alive,” he whispered, backing her up against the cell wall and framing her face with his hands. Ravena barely had any time to take a breath before he was kissing her, his mouth moving over hers hungrily. All she could do was throw her arms over his shoulders and hold on, gasping against his lips when he hitched her up and roughly shoved a thigh between hers. Her gasp turned into a quiet moan when his teeth scraped along the line of her neck. His hands were restlessly moving over her body, almost as if he wanted to touch her so badly that he didn’t know where to start.

“This must be a dream,” he said, his voice rough with emotion, “but my dreams haven’t been good in so long.”

She put a hand to his cheek and tilted his head up to the weak light. She took a ragged breath at the sight of his cloudy red eyes and gaunt face. “What have they done to you?” she asked, lips trembling as he kissed her again.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said quietly, tugging her into another tight embrace. His thumb brushed away a tear she hadn’t registered shedding. “All that matters is that you’re here and you can put a stop to this.” He drew away from her and went to the corner of his cell. “Cocky idiots didn’t even bother to take away our weapons,” he explained, buckling on his sword and picking up his shield. “It’ll feel damned good to run some of these bastards through.”

“Then let’s get out of here and find Dorian and Varric.”

He nodded. “I’m with you.”

It didn’t take them long to look through the remaining rooms and locate Dorian. The mage had also picked up Varric in the process. “Well shit,” Varric whistled. “I guess I owe you some coin after all, Sparkler. Good to see you, Dusty.”

Ravena gave him a shaky smile. “Likewise. Now that we’re all here, how the hell do we fix this mess?”

***

“An hour? That’s impossible! You must go now!” Seconds after Leliana’s exclamation, the floor began to shake and bits of stone started to tumble from the walls.

“The Elder One.”

Ravena turned to Dorian. “Do you think that you can pull off something a little more quickly?” she asked.

“Please,” he started, already beginning to cast. “You’ve seen me work; how can you doubt my amazing prowess?”

Blackwall shared a look with Varric. The dwarf nodded solemnly, taking Bianca in his hands and double checking his supply of bolts. “We’ll go on ahead, take out as many as we can,” Blackwall said, addressing Leliana. “You’re the last line of defense. Give them what you’ve got.”

Ravena shook her head. “No, I am not allowing you to do this. It’s suicide.”

Blackwall stepped close to her and placed his hands on her shoulders. “Look at us, Ravena. We’re already dead,” he told her. “Buying you time is the only way to make sure that this never happens.”

She didn’t even bother hiding her sob. “There has to be another way!”

He pressed his forehead against hers. “We both know that there isn’t.”

“Please! I beg you, don’t do this.”

Varric peeked out from the doorway. “Hero, move it! We don’t have much time left!”

Ravena clutched at his armor. “I love you,” she breathed. “I have horrible timing, I know, but I…”

His hand fisted in her hair and he desperately kissed her. “Nothing wrong with your timing,” he murmured. “A man deserves to know that his feelings are returned before he dies.”

“Blackwall, damn it! Move your ass!”

Blackwall’s fingers softly caressed Ravena’s cheek. “It was at the lake,” he said. “Your hair shone in the sunlight and made your eyes look like copper. You hadn’t said a word to me yet, but I was already bewitched. Remember that, my lady.”

Ravena watched as he walked away, the great door closing behind him. She moved closer to Dorian in preparation of jumping into the slowly growing vortex he was summoning.

She flinched when the heavy stone doors flew off their hinges. Even though she thought she was prepared for it, she still screamed in anguish when Varric and Blackwall’s lifeless bodies were carelessly thrown aside and stepped over by demons. She drew her blades and prepared to charge in grief when Dorian grabbed at her arm, his fingers digging into her skin hard enough to bruise.

“You move, and we all die!”

Ravena had no other choice but to stand by and watch as Leliana was quickly outnumbered. Dorian’s grip on her arm tightened as the spell was finally complete. Closing her eyes, Ravena jumped into the void with him, praying that she would be able to set things to rights.

She was absolutely terrified of the alternative if she failed.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Jun. 30th, 2015 05:18 am (UTC)
Yayyyy! I was so happy to be able to get caught up on these over the weekend!

I always love your slice-of-life snippets - they're so sweet and they always bring a smile to my face. And your characters are always so different than mine that it's like getting a whole new take on the various relationships.

I'm glad to see you're only at Redcliffe... that means there will be so much more to go!
iceprincessd
Jul. 9th, 2015 06:07 pm (UTC)
Yay, glad you liked it! I have about 21 of the 50 left to write, plus trying to figure out a timeline for everything. Prompts are being all "let's work on this one next!" Instead of going in any type of sequential order.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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