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The Griffon and the Raven, Chapter 33

Prompt: Life
Note: This one happens a little bit before chapter 32. I was editing the previous chapter and got inspired.


Ravena had read about people going into a berserker rage before. She’d even seen it in action, thanking her lucky stars that she was not on the receiving end of the warrior’s wrath.

What she never thought she’d do is experience the phenomena herself. They were in the middle of the Emerald Graves on the trail of red lyrium smugglers when they crossed paths with a giant. Before, they’d luckily managed to sneak past any that they’d spotted without incident, but this one had spied them before they could avoid combat.

Things had been going well, the fight ever so slowly turning in their favor when several things happened at once: Bull had been flung out of range by the giant’s hand, landing thankfully unharmed in a large pile of brush, and Cole had paused in his fighting to down a healing potion and was unguarded. Ravena had seen what was happening and grabbed him by the arm to get him out of striking range, which unfortunately put her in the spirit’s place. She had braced herself for the impact of the giant’s fist, but what she got instead was a hard shove in the center of her back and a mouthful of grass.

“Ravena, no!” Ravena flipped over in time to see Blackwall stand protectively over her, his sword cutting into the giant’s hand. That same hand opened and scooped Blackwall up faster than any of them could react. He let out a strangled yell as the beast’s hand crushed him, his armor groaning with the strain. The giant then threw him just as easily as someone would discard a wadded up piece of paper, Blackwall’s limp body hitting a massive tree with a sick thud.

Ravena honestly couldn’t recall the events that happened soon after. All she could remember was the heavy sound of Blackwall hitting the ground and a piercing shriek splitting the air, her throat burning as she realized the sound was coming from her. The world became one blur of red as she lunged at the giant with her daggers, rage driving her on. The ground shook, but she continued to attack, long after her arms had gone heavy with exertion.

The Iron Bull stopped her mid-slice, his hand clamping over her wrist. “He’s dead,” he said quietly. He took in her wild expression and clarified. “The giant. We got him.”

His words snapped her out of whatever haze she had been and she blinked, finally noticing the giant lying prone on the ground, its eyes already starting to glaze over in death. “Blackwall,” she breathed, sharply turning to the place she had seen him fall. Sheathing her daggers, she ran to him. Her knees ached when she fell at his side, but she didn’t care. She was more concerned with how pale he was underneath all the spattered blood.

“He’s alive,” Cole said, propping Blackwall’s head in his lap as the spirit carefully fed him sips of healing potion. “Chest, head, ribs. Everything a bright burst of pain. Maker, let her be all right.”

“Can you tell what he hurt exactly?” she asked, gingerly working to strip Blackwall of his armor. His pauldrons were a complete loss, as was his chest plate: metal was twisted on itself and Ravena worried that any pieces might have punctured his body. She left his helmet on, hoping that whatever protection it offered would keep him safe while they transported him to a campsite.

“No. Everything hurts so much, but the worst of the pain is in his chest.” He eased out from underneath Blackwall and looked at Ravena. “He’s not going to die,” he said sternly.

“I know he isn’t,” she said, uncorking a potion from her supply and pressing the glass bottle to Blackwall’s unresponsive lips. Her heart beat frantically when she saw the precious contents dribble out the corners of his mouth.

“Little bird, frightened and alone. I won’t let him leave you; I’m going to help.” As absorbed in trying to get Blackwall to drink, Ravena didn’t even notice him leave.

“We need to move him,” Bull said. “I don’t think the two of us can take on a group of nasties that might show up, at least not right now.” They had run into a lot of wolves lately, and a corpse as large as a giant for them to scavenge would surely bring them in large numbers.

She nodded, her fingers catching the potion on his lips and coaxing him to swallow as much as he could. “I can carry his armor and weapons. Can you…”

Bull put his hand on her shoulder. “I’ve got him, Boss.”

***
Luckily, the closest campsite wasn’t too terribly far and they didn’t run into any enemies along the way. Ravena noted several bandit corpses peeking out from the underbrush and silently thanked Cole for clearing their path. Another stroke of luck was that there was a field medic in the camp who took charge as soon as he saw the extent of Blackwall’s injuries.

Ravena stood close by, wincing as Blackwall’s helmet was taken off and she could see the blood in his hair and the bruise that was beginning to bloom across his face. The surgeon worked in a flurry of movement, especially when he pressed his ear to Blackwall’s chest and declared one of his lungs to be collapsed. Ravena tried to watch, but she turned and buried her face against Bull when the surgeon made an incision and placed a metal tube in his chest. Ravena blessed Cole again when she heard the attending medics mutter under their breath that they didn’t remember packing such instruments in their gear before leaving Skyhold.

“Come on, Boss,” Bull said, pulling at her shoulder. “Let’s give them room to work.”

Ravena was thankful for the Iron Bull: he didn’t try to stop her from pacing back and forth in front of the large statue, one arm wrapped comfortingly around herself while she chewed the nail of her thumb down to the quick. He listened as she rambled on about her limited knowledge of religion and folklore, offering a few brief suggestions as to why they had found so many statues of Fen’Harel when Dalish herself often used the god’s name as a curse. Once Ravena had run out of theories, he distracted her by telling her of his Chargers’ past exploits, even though he’d already told her several of them more than once.

Ravena jumped when the surgeon approached them an hour later. He looked tired, but he smiled as he wiped his bloody hands on a cloth. “He’s stable for now,” he told them. “We were able to re-inflate his lung and potion application made it possible to remove the chest tube. He’s breathing on his own, and my team and I managed to set the ribs that had been broken. It will take a while for them to heal, and he’s going to be bruised and sore until they do. He has some heavy bruising around his kidneys and lower back as well. I couldn’t detect any internal hemorrhaging, but I’d like to keep an eye on them just to be safe.”

“But he’s okay?” Bull asked, more for Ravena’s benefit than his.

“He still hasn’t woken up, and I’m worried about him suffering a concussion, especially with the trauma to his head, but…”

The Iron Bull tilted his head and looked the surgeon in the eye. “But he’s okay, right?” His eye flicked over to Ravena for emphasis.

The surgeon got the hint. “Ah. Yes. Aside from any damage we can’t see until he wakes, I imagine he’ll make a full recovery.”

“May I see him?” Ravena asked.

“Yes. He’s in the tent over there.”

“Thank you.” Ravena turned to Bull.

“You go on. I’m gonna catch a nap.”

She wrapped her arms around his waist and squeezed. “Thanks, Bull.”

He nodded, knowing what she was thanking him for. “No problem, Boss. Take it that we’re gonna cut this trip short?”

“Yes. We’ll head back to Skyhold as soon as Blackwall’s cleared to travel.”

“Good. In the meanwhile, I’ll send a bird to Red to let her and the Commander know what’s going on. I’ll add a note to make sure Stitches and Dalish ride out to meet us halfway.”

“I’m grateful. I’m sure Blackwall will be too.”

“Eh, just tell him when he wakes up that he’d better get his ass back in fighting shape as soon as he can.” He gently pushed Ravena in the direction of the large tent the surgeon pointed out.

As quietly as she could, Ravena pushed the tent flap open. Inside, there were tables full of crafting supplies and unoccupied cots neatly lined up in rows. Blackwall lay in one of them. Ravena dragged a chair over to his bedside, tears threatening to fall as she looked at him. She’d seen him in various stages of undress many times already, but seeing him wrapped in so many bandages was new and a sight she would prefer not to see him in again. Sinking down onto the chair, she reached for his hand.

“Hey,” she said, her thumbs running over the back of his palm. “We’re okay, we’re at a camp. You got yourself beaten up pretty badly, but you’re going to get better.” She brought his hand to her lips and pressed a kiss to his skin.

“I know you can hear me, Thom,” she murmured, reaching out and tentatively brushing the backs of her fingers across his cheek. “So I need you to wake up so I can yell at you.” She really wasn’t expecting him to dramatically wake up at her words; things like that only happened in Varric’s books after all, but she still held her breath and watched anxiously for some sort of response, her eyes glued to his him as she watched the rise and fall of his chest, mentally counting each breath.

***
Ravena woke up to the sensation of fingers twitching against her own. Blinking, she realized that she must have fallen asleep sometime during the night. Rubbing her eyes with the heel of her left hand, she also realized that someone must have moved her because she was sitting on the ground with her head against Blackwall’s arm and his hand firmly held in her right.

That’s when it registered that there were twitching fingers against her palm. Sitting up straight, she stared at him. “Thom?”

Blackwall opened his eyes, a pained breath causing him to grimace. Ravena scrambled to her feet and reached for the canteen of water she had at her belt. After carefully tilting his head and giving him small sips, she blindly sat back down in her abandoned chair.

“Are you all right, Love?” he managed to ask, his voice raspy.

She laughed. “You have broken ribs, a punctured lung, bruised kidneys, and a possible concussion and you’re asking if I’m okay?”

He tried to raise his hand, but winced in pain. “Blood.”

Her fingers touched her cheek, noticing for the first time that her skin was tacky. “It isn’t mine. I’m pretty sure that most of it is the giant’s, but I think some of it is yours too.”

“Good.” He licked his lips and tried to focus on her. “Kept you safe.”

“You almost died because of me. Don’t ever put yourself in danger like that because of me again. I couldn’t bear it if you’d…if…” She leaned over him and gently pressed her forehead to his.

“Can’t promise that.” He tilted his head up enough to brush his lips across hers. “I’d do it all over again if it meant you were safe.”

She took a shaky breath and leaned away. “I should tell the medics that you’ve woken up. They were worried about some things they’d only be able to diagnose when you were conscious.”

“Good. While it’s a nice view, I don’t think I should be seeing two or three of you.” He closed his eyes as a wave of nausea made his stomach unpleasantly twist. “Get the tent to stop spinning, would you?”

“I’ll see what I can do.” Brushing her fingers across his cheek one last time, she turned and went in the direction she had last seen the medics.

“The pain isn’t as bad as it once was. I’m happy he’s better.”

“Cole.” Ravena wrapped her arms around his thin body and held on tightly. “Thank you,” she breathed.

“Knees weak, heart beating wildly, Maker I can breathe again.” He leaned back so he could look her in the eye. “I told you I wouldn’t let him die. I’m glad I could help.”

“You did so much more than help. Where did you find the medical supplies?”

Cole held up a belt full of health potions. “There’s a camp several miles away. They hurt people for fun; Blackwall needed their supplies more than they will. I already talked to the Iron Bull and showed him where the camp is on the map.”

“That’s good. We can’t do anything about them directly now, but we can expand patrols to keep the area safe for Fairbanks and his people.”

Cole pushed a thick lock of hair out of Ravena’s eyes. “You would survive,” he said quietly.

“Pardon?”

“You told Blackwall that you didn’t know what you’d do if he died. You would survive. It would hurt more than anything you’ve ever gone through and you wouldn’t be the same afterwards, but you’re strong. You’d endure.” He frowned and back to the infirmary tent. “He wouldn’t. He had to save you or else he might as well die alongside you. That’s why he risked getting hurt; he’d suffer through more if it meant you were safe.”

“I would do the same for him.”

“Because you love him?”

“Because I love him.”

He looked down at his feet. “But why did you put yourself in danger for me? You don’t love me, not like you love him. You would be sad if I died, but it wouldn’t destroy you.”

She reached out and tipped his chin up with her fingers. “I yanked you out of the way because you’re my friend, Cole. Friends keep other friends safe.”

He gave her the tiniest of smiles. “Friends. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not alone.” His smile grew larger. “It feels so warm.”

“And if you forget, there are a ton of people in Skyhold willing to remind you how much they like you.”

“Yes. I’ll remember that.” He cocked his head to the side, as if listening to something. “You might want to get the medics. Blackwall’s head aches. He’ll need these.” He handed her the cache of potions. Ravena blinked, thinking to thank him one more time, but he was already gone.

Her steps lighter than they had been since earlier that afternoon, she made her way over to the medics and reported her good news.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
reconnoiterer
Sep. 10th, 2015 02:03 pm (UTC)
I was wondering how Blackwall got so banged up! I thought I recalled a previous chapter that ended along the lines of "I'll never let you go out on your own again! I have enough greys!"

I remember how awesome it felt the first time I was ever able to take on a giant instead of immediately turning around and walking in the other direction the moment one popped up on the radar haha Is it the Emerald Graves that's absolutely full of them? Things definitely went a little easier after that!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )

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