Chapter 6 – Dragon Blood

Kana was going to have a heart attack. Before her stood the three great figures of the Dragon Age. The Hero of Ferelden. The Champion of Kirkwall. The Herald of Andraste. She wasn’t sure what she was doing among them. Athewen shook hands with Mira.

“You must be Lavellan.”

“Ah, just call me Mira.”

“Okay, Mira. Then I insist you call me Athewen. Pleased to meet you.”

“Pleased to meet you.”

Hawke was swung her sword twice in the air. “Not to interrupt…” she said, “But I do think our readers will elope if they don’t see any action in this chapter.” Mira put her hand on Hawke’s shoulder. “I’m sorry I left you behind here, Hawke. This time, we’re all going home together.” Hawke chuckled and said, “That might be a bit harder than expected. Don’t look now, but I think the real fight is about to begin.”

The ground of the Fade trembled under the thundering of thousands of demons massing around them. Each of the four saw their own respective fears surrounding them in thousands. Each demon on its own was insignificant in the face of the powers that had assembled. But in such huge numbers, they were capable of overwhelming them, regardless of how powerful they were. Athewen activated the magic that made her body shimmer and glow. Just like last time, her entire body and her weapon were transparent. “The Way That Leads To Victory…” Lavellan said, her eyes widening in surprise. Kana turned to her with a confused look on her face. “Ancient elvhen magic. The practice was thought to have died out long ago. My own Knight-Enchanter magic has its root in this magic but this is the original magic as it was practiced by the ancient Elvhen… How did she gain this knowledge?” Kana was looking back and forth between Athewen and Mira. “Alright.” Athewen said, “We’ve got two mages, a tank and a rogue. We’ve got a proper party now. Lavellan, you take one side. Hawke, you take the other side. I’ll stay in the middle and take care of healing. Kana, stay with me. Stab anything that comes near me. I CAN cast my spells while taking a beating but I’d rather not.”

The demons rushed in from all sides. Lavellan walked confidently towards her half of the perimeter.  Kana looked on tensely. For whatever reason, Athewen was a mage who fought in massive armor. But Lavellan was wearing normal clothes. How was she going to protect herself? She made no attempt to cast any sort of protective spells or magic shield. Instead, she generated a giant blade of energy in her hand. When the first five demons came within her range, she slashed forward in an arc. In an instant, all five were sliced apart. In that same instant, Kana saw a layer of faint blue energy enveloping Lavellan. “Knight-Enchanters are frontline fighters.” Athewen explained, “Just like me. My magic is Arcane Warrior magic. I believe her magic is the result of the Chantry’s studies on the practices of the ancient Arcane Warriors. It’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? I’m an elf who has lost all connection to the ancient elves. Yet, I ended up with this ancient knowledge… And Lavellan, who is a Dalish Elf, ended up becoming a Knight-Enchanter. Interesting… the spectral blade she summons automatically cloaks her in a considerably powerful barrier each time she damages someone with it.” Lavellan continued to attack. She placed glyphs of fire on the ground in front of her which exploded violently when enemies stepped on them. The heat and force of the explosions were incredible. Tens of enemies incinerated themselves in their mad rush. All the while, Lavellan swung her Spectral Blade, enveloped in her encasing of faint blue energy. Any attack that did hit her simply bounced off, repelled by the energy. Lightning zipped across the battlefield, reducing waves of enemies to ash and bones. Bolts of lightning flew out from her and bombarded several enemies at once. It was clear that as long as Lavellan stood, no demons would get past her.

A scream rang out from the other front. “Mistress Hawke!” Kana said as she turned around in alarm. But it took her a few moments to realize it wasn’t a scream she had heard. It was more akin to a roar. Lavellan had killed an impressive number of enemies. Kana saw that almost just as many enemies lay dead at Hawke’s side too. She had done all of that with just her sword and shield. This was not Hawke at all. The woman was in a frenzy, slicing enemies left and right. For some reason, just being near her seemed to hurt the demons. Hawke was covered in blood. The more the demons attacked her, the stronger her attacks became. The more she killed, the faster she moved. Soon, it was hard to even keep track of her position. She was just a blur of red and steel, dashing across the battlefield like a shark in its element. It was as if she was feeding off the heat of the battle itself. “Ah, how nostalgic… This takes me back to the time when I fought side by side with Sten.” Athewen said as she readied a spell in her palm, “Hawke is a Reaver. I don’t know how to explain it but they drink the blood of a high dragon and gain their ferocity. The more blood they lose in battle, the stronger they get. At this moment, she’s dancing with death. The demons will hit her. They will draw blood. But each drop they draw spells their own doom. She also emits an aura of pain. By sacrificing her blood, she constantly deals damage to everything around her. Of course, you can see the obvious disadvantage with this… If she keeps this up, she will die when her life force is depleted… Which is where my job becomes important.”

Athewen released her spell. Hawke’s posture changed almost immediately. She looked as though someone had suddenly mended some broken bone in her body. “Thanks for that!” Hawke shouted to them and turned to face the demons again. “Pretty badass, right, Kana? At this very moment, Hawke is nothing less than a high dragon in battle. As long as I keep healing her, she will keep cutting through everything around her like a hot knife through butter. Just don’t get too close to her. Otherwise, the same force that is harming those demons in her vicinity will hit you as well. That’s part of the reason why I spread our team out so wide. What’s the point of getting hit by friendly fire and doing the enemy’s work for them?” On Lavellan’s side, it appeared as though she was momentarily overwhelmed by the number of enemies. Kana was about to run to her when Athewen held her back. A dome of energy suddenly extended from Lavellan. Every demon that was within its radius was instantly slowed to almost a halt. It wasn’t just demons. Everything within the dome, except Lavellan, had stopped moving. Time itself was struggling to breathe within the dome. Lavellan promptly sliced everything within the dome and turned her attention to other enemies. When the dome’s effect subsided, pieces of what used to be demons fell to the ground. Kana berated herself internally. She was just a serving girl and she had the audacity to think she could contribute meaningfully in this battle of titans. Even if she had officially given up the title, Lavellan was still the very same Inquisitor. She was a peerless mage who had fought and defeated an ancient Tevinter Magister who had threatened to destroy the entire world of Thedas. There was no way she needed any help from the likes of Kana.

“Everyone has their place, Kana.” Athewen said while keeping an eye on Hawke, “You have an important role to play in this fight. This is still just a side dish. The main course hasn’t attacked us yet. He’s waiting for us to slip up. Hawke and Mira are indeed powerful. As am I. But if either one of them slips up, the Nightmare Demon will use that opportunity to strike. My job is to make sure neither one of them runs out of steam before the rest of our allies get here. That is why I must focus completely on healing. That is why I am not spending my mana on any other spells. By extension, that makes your job the most vital. You’re watching my back. My armor is impressive enough… but armor doesn’t protect against all harm. And knowing that fact certainly does nothing to improve my focus. But if you’re watching my back, I can leave myself vulnerable and focus completely on Hawke and Mira. I know I can count on you, Kana. You have good senses. Just believe in yourself and be my shield.” Kana fought back tears. She rubbed her eyes and made a determined face. Athewen nodded and returned her complete attention to the perimeter. “The Hero of Ferelden needs you!” Kana told herself sternly, “Divine Victoria tasked you to be her bodyguard! You’d be a lousy bodyguard if you let some stupid demon kill her in the Fade!”

Hawke felt a gush of warmth well up inside her. It was a familiar sensation. It was a heal spell just like the one Anders would cast. When she had turned herself Tranquil, she had given up hope of ever seeing him again. But things were different now. She was not alone. All the spiders surrounding her meant nothing. She was cutting down all her fears. There was nothing to be afraid of. She would see her friends again. No amount of beady eyes, hairy legs and otherworldly screeches were going to going to change that. Stay alive. All she had to do was stay alive. Purpose was back in her hand now. The promise she had thrown away had returned to her. Maybe it was because of her newfound hope or maybe it was because of the familiar feeling of cutting through things with her sword or maybe Athewen’s heal spell did more than just healing… but whatever it was, she felt a rush of excitement she had not felt in a while. But it was more than just excitement. It was a feeling of superiority. Invulnerability. Her armor felt like any arrow and any blade would bounce off it with a defeated clang. Her sword was cutting through enemies with far less effort than ever before. She was just a tiny bit faster. Each swing took just a bit less effort than they used to. “I have GOT to ask her what spell she used.” She thought to herself as she continued culling the numbers around her.

Kana was observing the perimeter with as much vigilance as her senses allowed. Watching these two figures of legend fight would make anyone feel inadequate. “That lad with his knives is impressive, right?” Athewen commented, referring to a young man fighting alongside Lavellan. Kana nodded. Then, she frowned. “The man… since when- how long has he been here? When did we notice him? Who-what is he?” He seemed to fade in and out of existence, appearing at precise moments to stab enemies that could potentially slip past Lavellan. Kana tried to concentrate harder on him, to remember when he joined the fray. “I- I don’t understand.” She said, “Who is he? And why can’t I remember when he appeared?” Athewen looked confused for a few moments. “Ah, I see…” she said, “This must be Cole. For several reasons, there are not many who know of him. Leliana told me about him. Cole was one of the core members of the Inquisition when it was operating. He is a good friend of Lavellan… And he’s a spirit. A Spirit of Compassion, to be precise. He has a peculiar ability that makes him slip in and out of our perception and memories, which explains why we can’t quite remember when he got here. I heard he disappeared into the Fade when Mira disbanded the Inquisition, promising to show up whenever his friends needed his help. Don’t worry about him. As you can see by his actions, he is here to help us.”

When the ancient Tevinter Magister Corypheus was still a threat to the world (good times, good times), the Inquisition had allied with mages to bring him down. Not long after Leliana became Divine Victoria, she ordered a complete dissolution of Circles of Magi everywhere. Long had she felt that mages deserved to be treated with dignity and understanding. No more would they be imprisoned in Circle towers. Under the leadership of the once Grand Enchanter Fiona, the free mages had formed a unified, independent College of Enchanters. However, things changed once the Inquisition was brought to an end. A core member of the Inquisition, Madame de Fer (Lady Vivienne to her friends) had taken advantage of the ensuing chaos to form a Circle, with her as the Grand Enchanter. Lady Vivienne was a greatly respected individual who was a fearsomely masterful player of the Game. In the Orlesian Court, there had always been a position for a mage. That post held as much political power as Court Jester. However, Lady Vivienne had turned it into an actual position of authority. Being a Knight Enchanter herself, she had no shortage of influence among the nobles of Orlais. So when she called for the formation of a Circle with her as its Grand Enchanter, some mages actually chose to follow her. As a result of her key role in the Inquisition as well as her political reach, her Circle became a formidable competition to the College of Enchanters headed by Fiona. These two institutions then spent their days wearily eyeing each other and vying for power whenever the opportunities presented themselves. It would not be an understatement then, to state that if the two Grand Enchanters ever entered the same room, sparks would surely fly without restraint. However, both of them understood that the current situation strongly called for them to set aside their differences and work together for the greater good.

Fiona was an elf with no normal past, considering she had once been a Grey Warden. What was even more anomalous was the fact that she left the order. The taint of the Blight in her blood was mysteriously erased during an event that may or may not have resulted in the conception of a certain Alistair Theirin, the present king of Ferelden. But that is supposed to be classified information so you did not hear that from me. No one knows what exactly happened that night. I myself suspect it has something to do with the dragon blood running coursing through the vessels of the members of the Theirin bloodline. Dragons have been known to be resistant to the Blight. At the moment, it is all mere speculation. Regardless, she returned to a Circle shortly after and eventually rose through the ranks to become Grand Enchanter. The rest is history. She stood before Divine Victoria and spoke confidently, “We have the best and most talented mages who have studied Rift Magic, Your Worship. They have examined the rift. They assure me they can widen it and hold it open indefinitely, provided they receive the required supply of lyrium.” The Divine nodded and replied, “Thank you for your work, Grand Enchanter.”

The two Grand Enchanters walked side by side towards the rift.

“Do you intend to enter, Grand Enchanter Vivienne?”

“I do, Grand Enchanter Fiona… Is there an issue that must be brought to my attention?”

“No, it is nothing. I just never thought I would see the day we would be working together like this.”

“Of course we are working together, my dear. This was a direct request from the Divine herself. But even that is secondary. We both owe Lady Lavellan a huge debt.”

“So you are willing to set aside your conventionality and physically enter the Fade itself? Even though you have no experience in the matter?”

“Oh it is not a matter of opinion, darling. I have the utmost confidence in your mages. You have been so vocal about your… progressive approach to the study of magic. After all that talk about independence, it would be quite the harsh blow to your dignity and reputation if you failed to hold the Rift open.”

“Did you know it is technically possible for me to restrict the return passage of specific individuals through the Rift once they have passed through it?”

“Quite interesting, my dear.”

Next chapter (Enemies from the Deep)

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