Previous Chapters: 1
Characters/Pairings: Anders, F!Hawke, Carver, Varric with eventual Hawke/Anders
Word Count: 4657
Summary: Anders does not think that he will ever return to the Deep Roads, but, then, there are lot of things that he doesn't think he'll ever do again. In this chapter, the team moves deeper into the aptly named Deep Roads, fights darkspawn and giant spiders, and Hawke says a lot of things she's going to regret later.
A/N: Late chapter is very late, and also contains lots of spiders. And more banter.
There is something wrong, something pulling in his blood and making him feel like the world is shifting beneath him.
Anders wakes, immediately grasping for his staff, rolling to his feet unsteadily.
“Darkspawn,” he rasps out, voice harsh from sleep. “Get up.”
There is little enough time for anyone to react. He nearly trips over Varric as he moves towards where he can feel the strongest pull from the taint. He can barely make out the forms of the darkspawn in the dim glow of the lyrium but he can feel them, and that is enough for him to slam his staff into the ground, ice splintering up from the ground to catch the first wave of the creatures.
There are five of them, three of them caught in the ice. Hurlocks, he thinks, no ogres yet. Oh, and an emissary.
A crossbow bolt slices through the air beside him, far too close to his face for comfort, but it strikes one of the hurlocks. The creature doesn't fall, only jerks as the bolt buries itself in its shoulder.
“Maker's breath,” Varric growls from behind Anders. “Hawke! I need light to aim!”
The air around the darkspawn begins to spark and crack, ropes of energy casting blue and white light everywhere. One of the hurlock's falls, a bolt through its skull.
The emissary is at the back, smart enough to keep its distance. Anders can feel the energy that it draws upon, even mixed in with all of the other magic lacing the air. There has always been something wrong about the magic emissaries cast – though, he supposes, it might just have something to do with the taint.
It is a stray thought that crosses his mind as one of the darkspawn draws too near to him – he spins to the side, lashing out with the bladed end of his staff, blood and ice spraying around him as he connects with flesh – that he could always ask Hawke if she notices a difference in the emissary's magic.
There is a very strong sense of this is not something to be thinking about now, and Anders draws his focus back to the darkspawn. The emissary needs to be taken down – that is the first priority.
There is movement to his left, Carver moving forward swiftly. There is a hurlock there – the boy swings at it, hard, and his sword bites into metal armor.
Hawke moves past him as well, into the fray, and it seems like she is targetting the emissary as well. Magic runs thick in the air as she begins to cast, lightning dancing along her fingertips, down the length of her staff, and she swings her body, ready to throw the light from her.
The emissary casts faster.
There is light – there is so often light, the buildup of magic as it is released in whichever form – and Hawke falters as it hits her, staggered, her staff stabbed quickly into the ground to keep her from falling. The lightning at her fingers fades.
“The emissary, Carver!” she yells. “Kill it!”
The boy moves and Hawke casts, stone rising from the ground to encase the emissary, holding it in place. Another hurlock – Anders freezes it solid before it can reach Carver – and then past that, and the boy cleaves upward with his sword. Once, twice, again, and the emissary falls.
When it is all over, every darkspawn dead upon the ground, Anders takes a moment and breathes. He can still feel darkspawn, though there are none close by. His head pounds, though he is not certain what from – use of magic, lack of sleep, the ebb of the taint within him body. Or it could be lack of food – that was always a good bet in cases like that.
“Is everyone all right?” he hears Hawke call out, and she coughs as though she is having trouble breathing. His eyes snap open and he looks to her; she is leaning on her staff, one hand pressed to her chest.
“I'm fine,” Varric says, picking his way over bodies of darkspawn. “Can't say the same for the darkspawn here.” The rest of the expedition is awake now, moving around, an edge of panic in everyone.
“That's kind of the point of killing them, Varric. They're not supposed to be fine after they're dead.” Hawke straightens and looks toward Anders. “Are there anymore darkspawn near?”
“No. There are more, just not...here.”
She nods, strapping her staff onto her back and then turns back to the remains of the camp, wrinkling her nose as she kicks a darkspawn corpse off of her bedroll. “Urgh. And now this is going to smell for the rest of the trip.”
“It's going to smell by the end of this trip, regardless,” says Varric, whose own bedroll is darkspawn-free. Hawke sticks her tongue out at the dwarf.
“Look, can we just pick up camp without all this added banter?” Carver asks. He's completely splattered in darkspawn blood, which is not a good thing. “Bartrand looks ready to kill someone.”
“My brother always looks like that. Give him time. Once he punches someone, he'll be good as new soon enough.”
Anders just shakes his head at this. “You have a very strange family.” He turns to Carver. “You're going to need to get that blood off of you,” he says. He pitches his next words loud enough that everyone can hear them. “Anyone who's come into contact with darkspawn blood needs to wash it off as soon as possible.”
“And just how am I supposed to do that?”Carver demands, wiping at the blackening blood staining his cheek. “It's not like we've got some endless supply of water with us.”
“I wouldn't be so certain about that,” Anders says with maybe just a hint of a smirk, and draws on just the slightest thread of magic, ice crystals blooming in his raised hand.
“Show off,” Carver says, but anything more that he might have said is drowned out by Hawke, who is giving him the same look that she gave him weeks ago when he had used his own fire to purify a basin of water.
“You can do that?” she practically squeaks out. “Isn't it magical ice? Does it actually work like real ice?”
“It is real ice,” he says, far too amused by her questions and her wide eyed expression. “And if I melt it, it will be real water, too. Just...magically created real ice.”
“That is really useful,” she says, and there's an odd longing note to her voice.
“It's not that hard to do,” Anders says. “It's just ice magic, after all. It's really easy.”
Something in her face changes, excitement fading away to be replaced by something hurt, and his heart drops because, somehow, he's just said something bad.
“Sister dearest here can't do ice magic,” Carver says with a hint of malice in his voice. Hawke reaches out to try to whack the back of his head.
“Shut up, Carver!”
“Hey, it's the truth!” He dodges out of the way of her hand. Hawke just glares at him.
“You can't do ice magic?” Anders asks her, and he probably sounds more shocked than he shoulder. It wasn't as though he didn't know mages who couldn't use particular schools of magic – Ren, he remembers, couldn't heal worth anything, and it wasn't like Anders had ever bothered to learn entropy spells no matter how much Na'im had pestered him about it – but normally they could perform a spell if they tried (and Ren certainly rarely tried, though she excelled at setting herself on fire). The way the two siblings were talking, though, it sounded like-
“I am physically incapable of conjuring ice,” Hawke says. “Can we stop talking about this? Please?”
That didn't explain anything, but she's glaring at him now, and he'd rather not be on the receiving end of that look.
“I will hurt you, Carver,” she says. “Now, let's get this blood off you before you turn into a ghoul or something.”
Varric has pretty much decided that he hates the Deep Roads.
That probably makes him a piss poor dwarf, but it's not like he isn't already a topsider and therefore about as un-dwarfish as a dwarf could possibly be without turning into an elf or something like that.
At least they've finally gotten past the really dark part of this journey – now that they've reached the beginnings of the old and forgotten thaigs, deep enough within the earth that lyrium and lava can be found everywhere, casting enough light to brighten the caverns and halls.
The mages have been acting differently since the first sightings of lyrium. Not drastically different, but he's the sort of person to pick up on these sort of things.
Hawke is on edge. Jumpy. More talkative than normal, like she's got excess energy that she's got to get rid of one way or another. The first time that they find a vein of lyrium that isn't completely blocked to them, she darts up to it, far too close to be healthy, looking completely starstruck, and would probably have tried touching the damned stuff if Carver hadn't bodily dragged her away. Varric doesn't know exactly what lyrium does to mages, but he knows full well that it's not the sort of thing that someone should be sticking their hands on.
Then again, the first time they came across a river of lava flowing beside the path, she runs to the edge and sticks her head over to get a better look at it. Blondie is the one to pull her back that time and then proceeded to explain exactly what it was to the woman who only had the barest ideas of what sort of things were buried under the earth.
Anders, on the other hand, wavers between a state of high strung anxiety and a strangely calm state. Calm, but incredibly distant. Being distant isn't exactly a new thing for him – Varric notices things, and he knows that Blondie's not always all there. He's not exactly sure which of the not-normal ways of acting he dislikes more, the distant, blank looks that he gets sometimes or the full on blue-glowing mode of his. Varric's been lucky in regards to the latter of the two; he's only seen Blondie's vengeful passenger show up twice. Hawke, he knows, has seen the spirit come out to play a couple times more than that.
He just hopes that calm and distant is a good thing.
They run into darkspawn more and more often, fighting and killing and stopping to wash away as much of the tainted blood as possible. It becomes impossible to remove it completely from their clothes and armor, though that doesn't stop Hawke from stripping down to a thin shift and pants and try to dig the dried blood out of the grooves of her leathers whenever they stop to make camp.
By the time they are about a week into the expedition, everyone is tired and growing sick of the entire thing, and that is when they actually begin to find things. They are deep underground now, and Varric thinks that he should probably be feeling some sort of ingrained dwarven pride. He's not. While there's less body odor down here than he'd expected, the whole place smells strongly of nug shit and darkspawn and rot.
Preferring to be in the sun to the Deep Roads probably breaks some dwarven law or something. At this point, though, Varric can pretty much care less.
But, at least they are nearing their destination, lyrium running thick around them, more and more doorways leading to areas that had likely once been inhabited. And they are starting to find things, old relics, bit of an ancient dwarven past, gold and jewels and precious metals that will fetch a fantastic price back on the surface.
The four of them end up pushed into playing scouts more often than not, being the most heavily armed and – dare he say it – dangerous members of the expedition.
So, when the path forward is blocked by rubble and and doors that would no longer open after years of being sealed, they were the ones sent on ahead to chart a new route.
Truth be told, though, he thinks that Hawke's insistence they go is spurred by her trying very hard not to punch Bartrand in the face every time the dwarf opens his mouth. She's not a fan of his brother, that much is for certain. And it's understandable – after all, Varric himself isn't particularly enjoying spending several all this time underground with Bartrand.
“Did your brother have to actually be on this expedition?” Hawke asks him once they're out of sight of camp, picking their way carefully down the rubble-strewn side passageway.
Varric gives a sharp bark of laughter. “He's got to 'protect his investment'.”
“Well, given that I'm here because fifty sovereigns is a damn lot of coin and I'm sure this is all costing a lot more than that, I guess I'm not surprised.”
Anders, who is walking in front of them, pulls up short and glances back at them. “We've got darkspawn ahead,” he says with a grim smile.
“Wonderful.” Carver raises a hand to the hilt of his sword, looking briefly towards Anders. “Do you warden senses tell you anything useful?”
“I would think that being able to detect that there are darkspawn around is pretty useful. Why, what's your definition of useful?”
“Oh, maybe telling us how many darkspawn there are and if there are any ogres,” Carver says.
“Maker, please don't let there be ogres,” Hawke says quietly, the words almost a whisper, but they all hear her. There's a moment of almost awkward silence – both he and Anders have heard about how the third Hawke sibling had died, even if Varric hasn't pressed for specifics – and then Hawke pulls her long bladed staff from its resting place on her back and stalks forward. “Right. Darkspawn. Let's move. The faster we get this done, the sooner we can get to wherever it is we're trying to go.”
In the end, though, it's not ogres that they have to worry about, it's spiders. Giant, monstrous spiders that drop down from the ceiling and crawl out of crevices that seem far too small to have harbored such huge creatures. The path they had been following had led only to a locked door that they couldn't open and the corridor behind them filled up with the spiders, trapping them quite effectively and giving them little room to actually move.
The good thing about being a ranged combat fighter is that you don't have to move around a lot. The bad thing is that a crossbow isn't the most effective weapon when a spider crawls right up to you and tries to eat you. At least, Varric assumes it's trying to eat him. He really shouldn't try to reason out the motives behind a giant spider.
Still, he's found that a crossbow bolt, when applied to one of the multitudinous eyes of a spider, makes a damn good weapon.
Well, several bolts applied to several eyes.
Hawke is mashed up against the wall, as far away from the spiders as she can get, casting spells from a small outcropping of rock that she's managed to scramble up. It's not really any safer than anywhere else, but he would guess that it gives her a better view of the hall.
Carver and Anders get stuck in the open, surrounded by the creatures. It's probably not too terrible for Carver. The boy is used to close combat. But Blondie's not all that good at it, and that stupid fluffy coat of his isn't all that protective – not that Varric, clad in his not-armored leather coat has much room to talk. Still, the two do decently, Anders freezing them and dropping those paralysis glyphs of his here and there to slow the spiders down while Carver hacks at them with that absurdly large sword of his.
Well, they do decently until the largest spider that Varric has ever seen drops down from a wide crack in the ceiling, bowling Carver over with one of its legs and turning its attention straight to the healer.
The spider catches him with his back turned to it – he'd been finishing another spider off, what they had all thought to be the last – and he's barely got time to turn and face it before its on him, its grotesque head descending, and Varric can see its fangs.
There's a shout from Anders as he manages to bring his staff up, keeping it between himself and the spider, but the spider is intent on him and there is a terrible cracking sound as it hits the staff instead of him, shattering it even as the force of the blow throws the mage to the ground. And then the spider is on top of him.
It's Hawke's panicked shout and she lunges forward, off the rocks that she's spent most of the battle on, casting even as she moves, spell after spell, all of which seem to do little to harm the spider. He can hear Anders yelling and Hawke casts something, a spell that Varric can feel even from behind her, a force that thrums through the air, tugging on all his limbs so much that he almost feels himself being pulled forward. The spider rears back and Varric takes aim at its head, loosing a bolt straight into one of its eyes.
It's enough for Anders to scramble forward, pulling himself out from under the spider. There's a long tear down the side of his coat and Varric can see blood. He tries to rise to his feet but falters.
“Get away from him!” It's pointless to yell at at a giant spider, but Hawke does so anyway, placing herself between it and Anders. The air hums around her as lightning gathers around her staff, streaking out to scorch along the spider's side. Which does little more than turn its attention to her. But she's not caught as unaware as Anders was and manages to avoid the first swipe of the spider's head. “Carver!” she yells as she plasters herself to the wall, then twists to the side, striking out with the bladed end of her staff and finally – finally – tearing a long gash into the spider's abdomen. “Get its leg! Any of them!”
And Carver hits the spider with as much force as he can, right as the air grows heavy again and Hawke casts one of her gravity spells, slamming the spider down as hard as she can.
Which isn't all that hard, given that the spider seems to be immune to most everything she can throw at it. But combined with what Carver has done, the spider falls – not dead, not even close – but temporarily off-kilter, and even as Carver and Hawke both stab at its underbelly, Anders gathers up enough magic to send a sheet of ice across the ground, catching several more of the legs and freezing them. It's enough to still it, stop it, and it's a combination of Carver's heavy strikes, Varric's crossbow bolts to its eyes, and Hawke tearing at its underside with a lightning-laced blade that finally take it down.
When it's all over, both Hawke and Carver are covered in the spider's gore – Varric is quickly reminded of just how awful the insides of a spider smell – and Anders is propped against the rock wall, cocooning himself in healing magic.
When he tells Isabela about this when they get back, he'll add all sorts of embellishments. Hawke raced over to the fallen healer, falling to her knees beside him. He was hurt, pale and bleeding, but Hawke wasn't about to let him die and called upon healing magic that she hadn't known she'd possessed -
No, that was no good. Too cliched, though Isabela did love a good cliché.
Maybe he'd just tell her what actually happened and the two of them could work on making it more and more unbelievable over a round or two at the Hanged Man.
What actually happens is a bit less dramatic – Hawke does run over to Anders, who is very much conscious and, while he looks pretty pale, he's not bleeding all that much.
“Did you know that most spiders are poisonous?” Anders says from where he lies on the ground, and he has a sort of pained grin on his face. “Do you happen to have an extra antidote kit? It would help fantastically in me not dying.”
Okay, so Hawke does drop to her knees beside him, rummaging through the pouches attached to her belt, spilling little vials of all the various potions and poisons she carried all around her feet, finally finding the one she wants and passing it to him as quickly as she can.
“Come on, Blondie, dying at this point would just be sad,” Varric says, the lightness in his voice betraying the fact that he's more than a little concerned with just how pale Anders looks. Granted, they've been away from the sun for quite awhile now, but this is definitely the “I've been poisoned, help” sort of pale and not the sun-deprived sort.
Anders laughs, uncapping the vial with an unsteady hand and swallowing down the antidote as quickly as he can. “Death by spiders is a bit underwhelming,” he says, wiping a hand over his mouth.
“Anything I can do?” Hawke asks, looking to the healer even while her hands gather up the scattered vials.
Anders shakes his head. “Antidote should kick in shortly. If not, I'll just fall over in a little bit.”
Hawke's eyebrows draw together and she gives him a look, which he patently ignores. “That is not funny.”
“Is our delicate little mage-flower not doing so well?” asks Carver, who has taken this time to make sure there are no other creatures around. Hawke turns her glare on him.
“Shut up, Carver,” she says. “See if you like getting poisoned by Deep Road creatures. I'm sure you'll just love it.”
“Right. And I'll just be waiting for you to swoop in and save me when that happens.”
“Well, I don't appear to be falling over dead,” Anders says to Varric, as the two siblings are glaring quite pointedly at one another. “I'd say the combination of healing magic and potions wins again.”
“You've got too much luck to be good for you, Blondie.”
“Eh.” Anders has that odd, distant smile on his lips as he allows the healing magic to fade. “I'm just lucky enough to get out of bad situations for awhile, but not lucky enough to escape them altogether.”
“Better than having no luck at all.”
Anders shrugs, but doesn't respond to that. “I'm going to need to find a new staff,” he says, almost amused. “Fantastic.”
“Well, I don't have any idea how he did it, but Sandal took down a lot of darkspawn.” Ismat Hawke picks her way through to corpses, turning one over with her booted foot. “I guess Bodhan didn't need to worry all that much about him.”
“You know, I think the Warden-Commander had a story or two about him.” The mention of the Warden-Commander is enough to draw Ismat's attention; Anders doesn't talk about her much, or about his time with the Wardens, and that mystery is one of the thing that fascinates her about him.
“Yeah? Bodhan did mention that they traveled with the Hero of Ferelden during the Blight. What sort of stories were they?” she asks, curious, but not wanting to pry too much.
“I said I think she had stories,” Anders says, that infuriating little smirk of his tugging at his lips. “We were normally all drunk by the time she started talking about the Blight.”
“You? Drunk? I'll believe it when I see it.” She surveys the rest of the corpses, finally spying what she has been looking for. “Aha! Found it!”
Anders give her an odd look as she darts forward, pushing over yet another darkspawn's body. “You found what? Do I even want to know?”
Ismat drops into a crouch, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she tugs at the staff half covered by on of the corpses. “Well, you happen to need a new staff, and emissaries just happen to carry staffs. And seeing as all these are quite dead, I figure,” she yanks on the staff, managing to pull it out, and holds it up triumphantly, “that you could find a better use for one. Like this one!”
He's looking at her really oddly, but she's really not sure what his expression is supposed to convey. Then again, she's not always the best at reading people. She glances from him to the staff and grimaces.
“Okay,” she concedes, “so it's sort of covered in darkspawn guts and is probably tainted and sort of smells, but it's a staff! It's better than no staff, at least. It will help make your fireballs larger!”
“Is that some sort of euphemism, Hawke?” Varric asks. “If it is, it's not really the best.”
Ismat's cheeks heat somewhat, but she laughs. “Varric, if it was meant to be a euphemism, you'd know.” She looks back to Anders. “Oh, for the Maker's sake, just take the bloody staff, Anders. Think of it as a gift.”
“A bloody staff indeed,” he says, but he reaches out and gingerly takes the staff. “I can cast perfectly well without a staff, you know.”
“I'm sure you can.” There's only the tiniest bit of sarcasm in her voice. Only the smallest bit. And he definitely has caught on to it. “But this has pointy, sharp...crescent-y shaped bladed things. Better for stabbing. You know, useful for not getting chewed on by giant spiders.” And, luckily, he seems to be more or less okay after that, if still a bit paler than normal. But he hasn't fallen over dead from poisoning yet, and it's been a bit of time, so she's going to hope that he's all right. It's not like she can really do anything if he isn't; it's not like she's a healer.
“Sweetheart, I've been stabbing things since before you were born,” he says, and that is definitely some sort of euphemism. “I know a thing or two about stabbing.”
“Oh, my, you must be much older than I thought, if you've been stabbing things that long.” She gives him a rather cheeky smile.
“Oh, will you two just stop talking already?”
“Aw, impatient to go kill more darkspawn?” Hawke asks, rising to her feet and wiping her hands over her pants to get rid of the traces of blood that have stuck to them.
“Impatient to find a way past all of this rubble,” he says. “Come on. The sooner we do this, the sooner we can get back to Varric's brother.”
“Joy of joys,” Varric says, and they begin to walk again.
As a couple of added questions, what do you think of how I'm using Hawke's first name? Is it too jarring to switch back between 'Hawke' and 'Ismat' based on whose point of view its from? Also, in terms of updating speed for this, do you all prefer long chapters with a longer time in between, or shorter chapters with quicker updates?