Chapter 16

"What's that you're reading?" AJ's mother asked, sitting at the foot of AJ's bed as she lay down in the embryo position.

AJ said nothing in response to her mother, allowing her blonde hair to slightly fall in her eye as she read Anders' book gifted to her on her birthday.

"Still not talking? I don't see what the problem is, to be very honest. You had a lucky escape in my opinion"

"…" The teen refused to speak, shuffling her feet around.

"You have not spoken to me for the entire day, Daughter, please. Talk to your mother" The woman placed her hand onto AJ's leg, only for her daughter to flinch and quickly pull her leg away. "Fine. Have it your way. I will be going to work soon. If you're still upset about that man, I suggest you not allow him to get to your head. You're a vulnerable child. I care about you… He's what we parents call a 'bad crowd', my child"

"You have no right to prevent me from seeing him. He's been my best friend since the Deep Roads. My only friend. You're never home. We help one another"

"What a load of sh-…" The woman took a deep breath before directing her gaze back at her teenage daughter "I am out, working. Providing for you. Getting things prepared, for you"

"And when I'm with Anders, you know I'm safe" AJ sat up and looked her mother straight in the eyes "We're a two man team. He's the closest thing I have to a father."

The hooded mother stood up, facing her daughter. Furiously, with her eyes widened, she clenched her fists.

AJ looked away from her mother, shocked at the new found bravery she had. The teen took a deep breath, readying herself for the reaction the woman beside her was going to give to her. But the reaction was never received. Her mother walked out of the room and left AJ in the room alone.

The girl threw her head back upon her pillow, her hair spread out; making her look like the centre of the sun, tears streaming down her face. Pure sadness was pouring from the girl's heart. She just hoped Anders felt this, too.

AJ felt safe and was ready to go for a nap. She closed her eyes, hoping she would be able to fall asleep with nothing much on her mind. A moment later, she felt her head being jerked back by a sudden, pulling force. AJ screamed and held on to her hair, trying to ensure her hair was not being torn out of her head. She called for her mother, only to hear nothing. The young blonde grabbed at the hands dragging her across the floor, dragged through her mother's make-shift kitchen, AJ tried to reach for something in her vicinity. She tried her hardest to use her power, but she had trouble due to the fact she was so scared. She struggled to conjure up a simple spell in her head having never been in the position to use her magic whilst distracted. She was being pulled through Darktown, with townsfolk coming out of their beds to see what was happening. At that moment, AJ decided to try and concentrate; she stopped all movements and cleared her head, everything she needed to do in that moment needed to be focused on magic. After a moment of silence, grabbing onto the hand, she found her resolve and grabbed at it in her head, and heard a groan. The groan caught her by surprise and caused her to lose concentration. There was now a burn on the hand of the one pulling her. All the work, concentration and energy, screaming and using magic drained AJ, she passed out whilst being dragged down a flight of stone stairs into a darkened dungeon.

Merrill woke, shivering on the floor, her naked body scarred from the brutal scratches she gave herself whilst trying to scrub herself clean. The young elf dragged herself across the floor to where the mirror sat, with pieces missing. She ran her hands across the glass, drawing blood and still continuing, hoping the loss of blood would either kill her or leave her fatally wounded.

Ok, Merrill. She thought to herself. It's a natural thing, you wouldn't have chosen anyone better to do it with… you wouldn't have chosen to do it with anyone; if he hadn't drugged you. But… She didn't want to think anymore. She'd been having this exact conversation with herself in her head for the entire day. It changed nothing. She felt contaminated. Altered. Different.

A sense of rage began boiling up inside of her and the glass of the mirror in front of her showed cracks in the places that she had put it together. She saw herself in this mirror and smiled. Feeling that she knew she had a purpose. The cracks in the mirror reflecting her made her feel like she was seeing herself properly, broken but fixed. She heard a hissing sound; an eerie whisper, as she sat there and felt herself get angrier at the world. The sounds got louder. She got angrier. The sounds, feeling like they were in her head. The loud whispers began to become more distinct, words beginning to form. Merrill listened.

Alice, Fenris, Carver and Varric sat in the back room of the mansion they had just cleared. The four of them were sitting down in a circle, all having a glass of wine from the wine cellar.

"Gee, this place was just as riddled as you said it would be, Fenris." Alice took a sip of wine and looked at the elf.

"Hmm, I did say that. I'm just surprised that you have such reliable friends. And at a great short notice." Fenris said, his eyes meeting with Varric's.

"Listen, we've all had a problem with our pasts, didn't mind helping you clear yours." The dwarf held his glass up towards Fenris and took a sip. "Wine. What a woman's drink."

"But this is not the end. Denarius will return, he wants me back as his slave." Fenris held his head in his hands and he sighed, the elf was clearly troubled. However, his stoic demeanour made it hard for anyone to want to become friendly with him.

"So… this master of yours wants your markings back? Skin and all?" Carver interjected into the frozen atmosphere.

"I've had… altercations with a few of his hunters. That's what they told me. Unwillingly." Fenris responded.

"So why not cover them up? Wouldn't that make you harder to find?"

"Let them come. I am not one to hide."

"Technically, you are hiding… But still, if it were me…"

"It's not."

Alice cleared her throat as she hinted that it may have been time for the gang to leave and allow Fenris to get some rest. She hugged Fenris goodbye, only for there to be an awkward pause, the two of them unsure about whether or not a kiss goodbye would be fitting, considering their very first encounter.

AJ slowly opened her eyes as she felt the pain from her headache beginning to throb. The light hanging from the ceiling of the dimly lit room shocked her, causing her to close her eyes and whimper a little. Her hands were bound behind her, tied to the chair that her body was also tied to. She wriggled, with her eyes closed, only to then feel a shadow block the light from her eyes. She squinted, opened her eyes and saw that hovering over her was a blurred figure, with white clothing on their torso and a blue head scarf.

"You awake, Blondie?" Isabela asked with a cheerful tone in her voice.

"Who are you?" The young girl's eyes were watering.

"No one important. I'm just the middle lady." The pirate took a chair and sat down, facing AJ directly.

"So why is it you have me here, if you're not important?"

"Because you're a witch" Isabela smiled "And it seems the Boss has an excessive interest in you that warrants your capture until further notice."

Anyone notice what I did there? Anyone? Anyone at all?