nagia: (da2; adder; facepalm (adder rivalry +15))
YOUR CHILDREN DESERVE LEXCORP JETPACKS ([personal profile] nagia) wrote in [community profile] terzarima2011-03-26 02:29 pm

Dragon Age 2; Rated M; "The Dreams Where You Fall" [3/???]

Title: The Dreams Where You Fall
Fandom/Pairing: Dragon Age 2; f!Hawke/Fenris
Rating: ESRB Rating of M for Mature
Summary: They built this city on rock and roll. And now it's crumbling in the face of heathens, fanatics, and serial killers.
WARNING: Violence abounds. Also spoilers. But there's even more violence than there are spoilers.

The Dreams Where You Fall
two: recently mine have been tearing my seams

"Could she truly not find this Coterie?" Cassandra raises a scornful brow, but she offers him a canteen of water.

The woman's a puzzle. He's not so busy recounting history that he can't try to piece her together, but she certainly doesn't make it easy.

"Hawke? No. Hawke was a smuggler. Finding the Coterie was never the issue. It was getting in touch with them without pissing off all her old smuggling contacts."

"But you say Athenril was a small fish in a big pond, compared to the others."

"She was big enough to bribe the right people to turn their heads, that first year. And fortune hadn't exactly frowned on Athenril."

Cassandra stares at him. He takes a long swig of water.

"So she had grown in importance?"

"Just the way her hired apostate did. But Hawke got a message to her. A few dozen sovereigns convinced Athenril that Hawke was chasing something nasty, and Athenril should keep her nose out."

"And Athenril stayed out of it?"

"Hawke and Aveline played rough when they had to. Those few dozen sovereigns were a gift to help Athenril bail three of her best boys out of jail."

The Seeker can't stop a smirk at that. That's the moment Varric knows he's getting through. Addelaide Hawke is finally taking shape in the Seeker's mind. She's not some milk-bland, blood-painted Champion of Kirkwall anymore.

She's a refugee, a sister, a daughter. A friend.

The Coterie and the Carta both operated out of Darktown. Why they bothered with the place, Adder was never sure. Darktown was the last refuge of the penniless, frequent prey for Templars bribed away from Hightown and guardsmen on the take.

Of course, it was also a haven of thieves, scoundrels, and muggers. Lowtown had vandals and whores, mostly, but Darktown was something else. And in the midst of all the seedy, smelly "commerce," neither Coterie nor Carta stood out.

She'd have ventured in with just Aveline — she used to rove these passages with only Carver at her side — but Varric and Fenris had both stomped that idea.

"It's been three years since you were down there. The name Hawke won't carry the weight it used to with those thugs. Maker's sake, the ones you knew are probably dead by now."

Fenris's argument had been shorter: "Say anything you please. I'm going with you."

And so she found herself with two too many people behind her as she stared down a Coterie barker. The tiredness hiding in the woman's tone suggested she hadn't had a profitable day.

Considering the expression that crossed the barker's face when she caught sight of the ex-smuggler, it seemed Adder's reappearance only made her day worse.

Well, they could agree on something. The barker would want her gone, and Darktown wasn't even a nice place to visit. Adder wanted herself gone just as much as the barker would.

"So I hear you're selling the assets of Javaris Tintop?"

"Limited contracts, limited districts. Means everything's nice and separate from the start," the barker replied. She narrowed her eyes, gaze casting toward Aveline, before she added, "Keeps any messy arguments from springin' up. You lookin' to buy?"

"I might be looking to go in shares." Adder smiled wide. "Or I might not be. Tell me what there is to buy."

"Not much. He had a meager lot. Only reason we're botherin' to sell is he left with dues outstanding."

Exactly what Adder'd hoped to hear. From the way Varric's breath hissed into a chuckle, he'd suspected.

"Sounds like he's made some friends. Can one of them point me his way? For a price, maybe?"

The barker's eyes narrowed even more. Adder hadn't thought that possible. "Ask that about anyone else, and I'd toss you out. But this one owes us."

Adder drew a line with her hand, palm up. "Don't mind me, I'm just waiting for an answer."

"He left in a hurry. Didn't say where he was going. But fees the size of his still oustanding, he'll be in Smuggler's Cut. I can almost promise."

Adder liked Smuggler's Cut even less than she liked Darktown. And that was saying something.

For one, she felt like she should be wearing her smuggler's leathers. For another, she'd never come here without Carver.

For a third, it had a damned infestation of Carta.

Adder slung her staff from her back, took a deep breath. She swung the staff overhead, focusing on building mana.

A sharp jab toward one of the Carta sent a bolt of lightning straight for him. He jolted and quivered, teeth chattering so loud she could hear it over Fenris threatening people in Tevinter.

She heard movement behind her and dodged forward just before a dagger would have paid a visit to her kidneys. Adder spun around, lashing out with the staff. The staff's blade caught the rogue in the stomach, and then the lightning struck.

He shook wildly, but there was no telling if it was the belly wound, the shock, or a combination of the two that made him slump to the ground.

After that, Adder got lost in the rhythm. Swing, buzz, chatter, gurgle. Swing, buzz, chatter, gurgle.

Carta thugs went down. Blood ran in rivulets along Fenris's arms, flecked onto Aveline's face. Only she and Varric stayed relatively clean.

It ended quickly. One moment, she was electrocuting a thug while Fenris brought his greatsword down in an overhand swing. The next, they were the only ones standing in the Cut.

Fenris twisted his wrists, shaking the blood from his blade, before he sheathed it. Aveline wiped her sword down carefully with a cloth she carried just for the occasion.

"This is why I hate Darktown," Varric sighed. "Always half a dozen angry dwarves looking to kill you. May I suggest we never come back?"

Fenris stared at him. "There were more than twelve."

"Details, details."

Aveline looked over at her. "And you wanted to come with just the two of us."

"It would have been a fantastic day on the town! Better than having your feet massaged and covered in mud by under-dressed, underpaid Orlesian boys."

Aveline snorted. "As if either of us would stand for that."

"You're going to have to get over your Orlesian thing someday, Aveline."

Aveline gave her a reproving look. "Not by having my feet massaged."

Just like he had the first time they'd met, Javaris had hired shoddy guards. Between the four of them, the guards were short work.

Adder shouldered her staff and watched a head roll by Aveline's foot. It stopped at the crest of a small sand dune, unable to roll uphill. Adder'd expected it to roll right over the tops of Aveline's boots, considering the guard captain's swing.

Javaris scuttled backwards, cringing.

Adder spread her arms wide, as if she wanted a hug. "Javaris! Is that any way to greet an old friend?"

"You? Granny's garters, she would hire you," the dwarf hissed. "I can't buy a break on discount."

"Discount certainly hasn't served you well. Have you tried paying people what they're worth?"

Javaris ignored her. "You know what? Go ahead. Take my head and pike it back to that sodding elf. I could use the rest."

"That sodding elf?" She raised an eyebrow. "You realize you're standing in front of an elf who just busted somebody's ribcage with one swing? If he wanted your head, he'd be holdig it."

"Different elf."

"Then what in blazes are you talking about?"

"You don't know? So yo're, what, tracking for the Qunari?"

"And the viscount!"

Javaris mumbled something. Adder couldn't catch any of it.

"Ah, I didn't think he was your burglar." Varric chuckled. "We're not climbers."

Fenris looked up, finally taking interest in the convesation. "He's running for a reason."

"My life, maybe. Look, I'm minding my business, same old, same old, and out of the blue some elf tries to kill me."

Adder arched her other brow.

"She says she's got the Qunari powder and I'm her cover. I slipped her, hired some bodyguards, and ran for it. And now you're here! My year is complete."

Aveline folded her arms over her chest. "If you're lying, Tintop..."

"You'll never find me if it comes to that. But I'm telling the truth, here."

"Then why are you the only person we see here?" It was Varric who asked, stealing the question before she could voice it.

"Leaving her behind was the first step in running away. I'm sorry if that's inconvenient. But if you have to drag dark into light, I had a man follow her. She's in Lowtown."

"I want an address," Adder said. "And if people die because you lied to me, Javaris, what I do when I find you won't be pretty."

"Sod it, woman, I'm not lying. I just want to get out. With my dead guards. Thanks for them, by the way."

"Then it sounds like you've got a very long way to go, hopefully."

"Right. Got me a wonderful future to plan out. Probably starts with selling some boots."

"Before you do anything, you write that address down. Make sure you're neat, so you can't pretend we misread." Varric's tone was hard, angrier than she'd heard him since the Deep Roads fiasco.

"And he just gave you the address? Just like that?"

Varric has to laugh. "We killed our way through Smuggler's Cut — which he had to know was full of angry Carta — and then cut down all his guards right in front of him. He'd have sold us his mother if he thought that'd get him out alive."

"And was he telling the truth?"

"Well, I'd like to think so. He's long gone now, so there's certainly no asking him."

Cassandra's eyes narrow.

Adder had to stop and think about the last time she'd snuck out of her home. Had she ever? She had nothing to hide in Lothering, and then when they arrived in Kirkwall, she hadn't needed to sneak.

Well. Hadn't needed to sneak out. She'd learned very quickly how to open the door and enter home quietly to keep from waking her mother and Gamlen.

Carver had been terrible at it. Maybe it had been the weight of all that muscle. Maybe it had been the huge Fereldan boots.

Subtlety simply hadn't been his strong point. Not until the end, when he'd hidden —

Adder dropped to the ground. She wiped her hands on the backs of her trousers, smearing away any dew from the ivy she'd climbed down.

"You'd go alone?"

Only her pride kept her from jumping. "Not 'would go,' Fenris. Am going."

"You may wish to," he replied, "but you're not going alone."

Darktown and the Carta were one thing. But people gone mad and a poison gas on the streets was an entirely different game. One she didn't want anyone else playing.

"This is too dangerous. I'm not taking you. I'm not taking anyone!"

"Then you aren't going."

That startled her into speechlessness. She opened her mouth, trying to find something to say.

Fenris talked over anything she might have come up with, anyway. "Saar-qamek is nothing to trifle with."

"This would be me, not trifling. I'm going alone because it's so dangerous."

"You risk being driven mad, being killed by the people you mean to save, being killed by the gas itself." His brows drew down, lips curving into the sorrow he wore so well. "Trust me in this."

Well, bells of the Void. Maker's breath, he knew how to manipulate. When had he learned how to manipulate?

"If you die on me, I'll bring you back wrong just so I can kill you myself," she said.

Rather than get angry over the threat of blood magic, Fenris simply looked flatly at her. His expression vanished completely, becoming a blank mask, for an instant.

And then he looked sadder.

"You want to talk about guilt as a motivation?" Varric sighs. "That was it, right there."

Cassandra's eyes narrow thoughtfully. Then she nods. She crosses the room, pulls a basket from some hidden corner.

Varric's mouth waters. He drains the canteen in another few sips.

Cassandra offers him a hunk of bread and an entire chicken leg.

He almost doesn't know which to tear into first.

Adder led Fenris through the twisting streets of Lowtown. It had been her stomping grounds for a year, and she'd learned it well. Far better than he knew the tiny side-cuts and alleys and confusing maze of hexes.

She could get to Dirkstreet Hex without ever going near the Hanged Man.

Adder sidled down a staircase so narrow and steep she could have sworn her nose brushed the other wall. The lack of space meant Fenris pressed in immediately behind her. His gauntlets and greatsword scraped stone; the sound almost covered the click of a crossbow cocking.

And she couldn't even draw her staff. Or switch positions with Fenris. Damn it! Casting without a staff was a damnable pain.

"Hawke, Fenris, that you?"

Varric's voice. The crossbow she'd heard cocking was Bianca.

Well, she wasn't about to die in some tiny half-alley, unable to defend herself. That was a start.

"Fenris, you went behind my back to arrange —"

Somebody chuckled. "Hawke, would you have thought to bring us if he hadn't?"

Fenris had gone behind her back to bring along Varric and Anders? Was she dreaming? Was this the Fade? Had she died and wound up being tortured in the Void?

"I thought you were bringing Sebastian." She could hear the frown in Fenris's tone.

"I changed my mind. If we're dealing with poison gas, we'll need a healer and you know it."

Fenris growled something in Tevinter, but he quieted quickly.

The group was quiet as they made their way through backstreets. Maybe it was the seething anger that radiated from Fenris and Anders. Maybe it was the slippery, dark silence on the streets.

For once, thugs weren't roaming in tight-knit bands.

In the stories of Remi Vascal, the forests always grew still when something evil was afoot. She wasn't Remi Vascal, and this was no forest. But Aveline had been right, three years ago: paying attention to what wasn't there was just as important as paying attention to what was.

And these streets were too quiet.

But as she turned onto Waltham, just three corners and a blind alley from Dirkstreet Hex, noise returned. Not the noise of blades drawing or muggers trying to stalk prey.

These were the sounds of desperate people. Children cried. Women argued shrilly with men, with other women, while men shouted at each other. She heard the sound of flesh striking flesh.

Two words flashed through her head, circled over and over: Too late. Too late. She'd been too late.

"All of you, I can't fight the damned air! I can't stop this anymore than you can!"

Adder picked up the pace. She kept a hand on her staff, ready to draw it in case anyone outside Dirkstreet Hex had contracted the crazies.

"You want to live, stay out," a city guard was saying.

Anders made a choked sound. "Is that the best you can do?"

Adder swept a hand out to keep Anders back. The guard was doing the best he could. There was no fighting air. She'd have to charge in and hope to the Void there was a way to stop it all.

"Yes, stay out," she told the crowd gathering around the guardsman. "Now, if you'll excuse me."

There was a momentary pause.

"Wait! Messere Hawke!"

Adder stopped, turned to face the guard. She raised an eyebrow.

"Maker, please," he begged. "The street is death. There was a cloud that drove people mad, and now a seeping mist that kills. All I can do is warn people!"

"Kills how?" Anders cut in. "Do they simply fall over or cough? Tell me!"

"The ones who don't go mad retch themselves to death. Please, messere Hawke, if someone like you dies on my watch, I'm right stuffed!"

Adder looked at the guard a moment, took in the desperation, the terror around them. She quirked her lips into a hint of a smile.

"Well... hold your breath."

"B-but — oh, shit."

The very air burned her throat worse than darkspawn blood. It tasted sickly-sweet. There was an undercurrent of smoke, of rotting fruit. She half expected flies to be buzzing around, eating up the stench.

But there weren't any. Maker's breath, was it even killing the flies?

Adder closed her mouth and covered her nose with her hands. The scent on the wind made her think of that pear Carver had once taken a single bite of and then hidden underneath one of Gamlen's loose floorboards. Petty revenge for the old man cheating him at wallop.

"Ugh, Maker's breath. It's everywhere. And I don't think there's any saving any of them." Anders pointed to a tangle of bodies.

It wasn't the only pile of people who had simply collapsed. Puddles of vomit stank along the street, with people — sometimes multiple people — curled with their faces still in it.

"Those barrels," Varric said. "It's coming from those barrels. We've got to close them."

Children. There were three children curled around a pool of something she didn't want to identify.

Adder stepped over them. She dug in a pocket and pulled out a kerchief, which she tied over her mouth and nose. Better safe than sorry if she was going to go anywhere near those barrels.

She strode toward the nearest one, side-stepping bodies as she went. The lid was open, but looked like she could close it if she pushed down hard enough.

No matter how she dug in, though, it wouldn't close.

Adder had to turn away to gag, to cough, to try and suck in air that wasn't tainted.

When she could speak again, she looked up. "Fenris? Varric?"

They stepped foward, but even between all three of them, the barrel wouldn't close.

Anders uncurled, gracefully, from his posiion over the body of a child. "I thought she was moving," he said, softly, and the sorrow on his face was genuine.

Adder nodded. He'd become a healer to help people. This had to be painful for a him, a stinging failure.

She'd come here to help and there was nothing she could —

Something metal glinted in the moonlight. What was that? She moved toward it, pressing the kerchief closer over her face with one arm as she knelt to pick it up.

Some sort of latch, it looked like. Adder turned it over in her hands.

"Bet you could close those barrels with that," Varric said.

She tossed it to him. He turned and worked its latch magic on the nearest barrel. The lid shut with a snap and a loud click.

Somewhere in the hex, somebody coughed. The cough turned into a horrible, gurgling gag, but the gag became a rasping laugh.

Anders spared her half a glance before dashing deeper into the mist.

Fenris swore in Tevinter again, but he was hard on her heels when she raced to follow Anders. From the sound that echoed through the cloud, Varric waited only long enough to draw Bianca from his back.

"Baby," a woman slurred. "Baby, come to mother."

After that the woman let out a gurgling sob, sounding almost like a child. She was curled up, leaning theside of her head against a barrel. One armed reached out fitfully, hand open, fingers splayed.

She was beckoning a tiny body that lay facedown in a sticky pool of dark red.

Anders's hands started to glow blue-white. For an instant, Adder smelled growth and healing in the air, not corruption and death.

"Happy birthday, Carroll," the woman sobbed, but then the sob turned into an unstable giggle. "I gave her the best, exactly what she wanted. Something sharp and shiny!"

That was the moment the woman caught sight of Anders.

Adder saw the woman wobble to her feet. A heartbeat later, a knife flashed silver and red. She slung the staff down.

The woman flew back. Something skittered across the pavement. Varric stopped it with a boot.

"Kitchen knife," he said. "Bloodied. Crazy woman probably did turn the damn thing on her kid."

"She killed her own daughter?" Anders couldn't conceal the disgust in his tone.

Fenris went tense.

The woman started to giggle again. She sucked in a deep breath. It sounded thick and wet in her throat.

Adder threw a fist forward, sweeping the staff in a practised motion. Anders swung his staff at the same time. Lightning and ice both struck. She heard the hiss of steam, a sound like glass shattering.

Bone cracked.

The woman's body bounced along broken cobblestones. Her head struck the wall of a building. There was another crack. The woman's hand flopped, limply, as she finally came to a stop.

Varric knelt to inspect something else that glinted in the moonlight. He stood with a latch in his hands.

Anders was the one to close the barrel, this time.

Adder could only stare down at the pair of bodies. One bent and broken, the other tiny and torn.

"Fenris," she found herself asking, "will they all be like this?"

Fenris was silent a moment. "Most," he said at last. "A few may still be sane, but most are beyond saving."

He turned away, stepping carefully around dark and bright splotches on the streets.

Adder followed, trying not to look down.

They swept through the streets. The mist had cleared a little, with two barrells closed.

Anders turned in a circle, then closed his eyes. He swung his staff down, murmuring under his breath.

Fire blossomed in the air around him. It raced along the poison cloud, sparking and hissing.

Some of the air cleared even more. Adder lifted the kerchief and took in a deep breath. There was still an undercurrent of rotten pears, but now she could almost breathe.

"There are more barrels," Varric said, looking at the mist that still seeped into the hex.

Adder stared down the street, strained to hear the hiss of air escaping one of the barrels. There was nothing. "Then let's find them."

They split up. Varric grabbed Anders before he could follow her and headed in the opposite direction. Adder took Fenris deeper into one of the side alleys.

He drew his sword as they went, frown deepening. He looked angry, this time, rather than sad.

Someone coughed. She caught a mumble, and then someone — maybe the same person — began to chant, "Make the powder, blame the oxmen. Make the powder, blame the oxmen!"

Fenris moved to put himself between her and whoever's talking.

Two doors opened at once. A tiny, glassy-eyed elf stumbled out of the door ahead of Fenris, while a man in armor staggered out of another door. The elf couldn't have been older than mid-teens.

And held a bloodied length of wire in her hands.

"She said some of us would die," she says. "Not all of us. Not so many."

"What happened?" Adder raised her staff between herself and the teen. "What did you do?"

The elf stared at her. "I killed. Of course I killed. What else do you do when the world goes mad?"

"I find in those situations, I usually try to make sense of things."

The elf smiled dreamily. "The wire made perfect sense."

Right. Crazy. First threatening move she made, Adder was going to send her into the wall with a stone fist.

Fenris backed away. His eyes were on the man in armor, who still hadn't said a word. The man seemed to be watching Fenris, but his eyes were so glazed there was no telling what was going through his head.

"You handling him?" Adder asked out of the side of her mouth.

Rather than reply, he angled himself at the armored man. His opponent continued to stare.

"The wire made sense?" She asked the teen.

The teen's smile only widened. "I didn't know how at first. But it's easy, so easy! Not when they're expecting it, though."

The teen went tense, her smile stiffening.

Adder jabbed forward with the staff.

Cobblestones rattled and the elf reeled backward. A block of stone struck her in the jaw and she crumpled to one knee. She jerked her wrists, flexing the wire in her hands.

Adder swung the staff sharply, three times, and then pounded the staff's tip against the cobblestones.

Lightning arced over the crazy teen's body. It crackled blue and white and left bright green afterimages in the air. The teen twisted and writhed, eyes rolling up in her head.

And then, at last, she went still.

Adder turned abruptly.

Fenris had sprung forward. He hooked an ankle around the armed man's shin, but his opponent had the presence of mind to step out of the lock. Fenris snarled and brought the greatsword up, neatly blocking one of the man's wild swings.

Adder cast a nameless lightning spell. It struck the man in the side, sparked and sparkled. White light danced in reflection along the flat of Fenris's blade.

Fenris kicked out. The ball of his foot connected with the man's knee. Despite his knee guards, there was a horrible crack.

Adder watched the man's mouth open in an o, just before Fenris brought his greatsword down on the man's neck.

His head didn't fly off. It didn't even separate completely — it only rocked to one side, tilting almost fully off the neck.

"Left the spine intact," Fenris observed. "Not my best work."

"I really don't think he's in a position to care."

"Hm, true enough. Let's keep moving."

This time, she followed him. There was another barrel at the deepest part of the alley, and a discarded steel latch.

Adder crouched to pick it up. As she stood, she looked first one way, then another. No telling when more crazies would appear.

She closed the lid on the barrel and pulled lightning from the air. It arced around her, racing along the gas in thin pinprick chains. More of the gas evaporated.

They passed the fallen teen on their way out of the alley. Adder stared down at the bloodied wire.

"How did she get blood on that? I thought strangling people was bloodless."

"She probably sawed the wire along the throat. Amateurs often do."

Adder shuddered. "Let's just get back to the others. Maybe they've found —"

Somewhere in the hex, a door slammed open. Metal rang against stone, most likeing from striking a wall.

They didn't even have to look at each other. Instead, they ran in the direction of the sound.

An elf woman — tiny, blond — stood at the top of a staircase, flanked by masked mercenaries.

Anders and Varric stood at the bottom of the staircase. Ice wreathed around Anders, swirling in white-cold points along each end of his staff. Varric had Bianca out and ready to fire.

Adder readied her staff.

The elf woman laughed.

"So! Your fault, I presume?"

"Are you — Serah Hawke?" The elf's eyes narrowed. "You have enemies."

Adder decided not to point out that she was well aware. Pretty obvious you had enemies when people made a habit of trying to kill you.

"I'm glad it's you, really. These poor people! No-one will care. But you! You make a much better target."

Ah, a lunatic. That explained everything.

"Care to explain your particular brand of crazy?"

If she even could. This woman seemed farther gone than anyone Adder had met to date.

"Qunari take my people! My siblings forget their culture, then go to the Qun for purpose. We're losing them twice!"

Anders's eyes glowed blue-white. "And so you kill them? You are a fool and a madwoman."

"So, I get some help from your people. We'll take the Qunari thunder, make some accidents, and make them hated!" The elf's expression pitched down into sorrow. "But this... this is all wrong."

Adder could only stare up at her. "You were going to kill people anyway? That's..." But there was no joke, no pun that would make any of this better. "Not funny at all, really."

"It can still work. They are hidden in your city. They'll enrage the faithful, and make sure the Qunari are blamed! Me, I'm finished. I just need a few more bodies. Just a few."

Too much happened at once: Varric fired Bianca three times in a row, swearing. Anders dodged to the side, just barely avoiding an arrow to the throat. Fenris zipped forward, glowing.

Adder dropped into a crouch, spinning her staff along the ground. The earth pulled at her, at the staff, like a lodestone. Standing again was difficult, but she swept both her left arm and her staff up as she did.

The mists left in the air swirled together. Pinpricks danced along her spine, up and down her arms, like she'd touched her tongue to a rune.

The sky roared.

Thunder rolled.

Hot white light snapped and crackled in the air. It caught the elf's hired thugs. One bolt struck the elf, who threw her head back and howled at the burn of it.

Varric shouted something at them and fired off another three rounds. One of the mercenaries took a shot to the throat. Another took a hit to the knee.

Anders followed Fenris. Ice flowed from his staff, freezing the madwoman and two of her mercenaries in place.

Adder followed. She slammed her staff down against the stairs, then jabbed forward with it. A thrust of her left fist made the cobblestones rattle.

Anders's ice trapped the madwoman. She couldn't even rock back from the force of Adder's stone striking chest. And around them, the tempest snarled and raged, catching thugs in the mana-driven lightning.

A bolt struck her. Adder felt her eyes roll up at the whisper of her own magic against her skin, but she pressed forward. She gestured with the staff, miming strikes, and watched more lightning splinter and arc over the fanatic and her goons.

Another three bolts of lightning finally blasted apart the ice encasing the fanatic. She screamed in fury, charging at the first of them she could reach: Fenris.

Fenris stepped into and under her reach. His arms shot up, trapping her greatsword against the flat of his own. Metal shrilled.

Adder winced.

She gathered mana and lightning with one hand, pulling it toward herself, and then sent it flying out. Her grip on her staff twisted, but she kept hold.

Light bloomed from her fingers, raced for the fanatic. Lines of it traced the darkness around them, bursting like fire, and then spread from the fanatic to her hirelings.

Fenris ducked out of the woman's range. The edge of her sword scraped along the flat of his as he moved.

Varric stopped her from keeping up the onslaught with a well-placed bolt. It struck the elf in the thickest part of her armor, sent her flying back. She hit a wall with a crack.

And didn't rise again.

Adder cast another lightning spell. It twitched along the woman's body, but the woman gave no response.

Anders spun around, trapping the last pair of mercenaries in a wave of ice again. He jabbed with his staff, blasting them with fire.

Skin crackled, hissed. Adder had to breathe through her mouth at the scent of burning flesh.

Anders slung his staff back over his shoulder.

The hex was silent but for the sound of distant coughing.

Spare me your judgments and spare me your dreams,
'cause recently mine have been tearing my seams.
—Mumford & Sons, "Thistle & Weeds"