(( AUTHOR'S NOTE: Please help me improve by pointing out mistakes or making suggestions. ))


CHAPTER I

Marian Hawke and her three comrades sat in shadows at the edge of a trench. Large, mountain-shaped stone jutted from the cavern floor, giving the four questers considerable cover. Legions of darkspawn assembled at the bottom of the trench. Each wore scant armor on their corpses. Their blacksmiths forged the pieces from grainy obsidian, giving an aura of rawness to the pointed shoulder guards, guantlets, and grieves. They waved their swords and shouted praises to a draconian oddity on a platform; the archdemon, their god.

"So this is what it means to be a Grey Warden," Hawke muttered. "They really should've put this in the brochure." And in a more imbittered voice: "Duncan. Into what madness did you force me?" Morrigan shrugged. She rapped her nails on her bladed staff. Feathers and fangs decorated the weapon where the rough wood joined with the curved silverite. "Keeping the true nature of the Wardens a secret. 'Tis not surprising. Tales of legends are far more enticing than the grim reality."

"That's the archdemon?" Their dwarf grunted. "Baw. I shit things bigger than that." Hawke wrinkled her nose. "Thank you for that colorful image, Oghren. I'd say the edge of your axe is about the width of its neck. One good swing should do it."
"By 'axe' you mean my -"

"Stop right there, dwarf," Morrigan said.

"Hold onto hope," Leliana whispered into Hawke's ear. She sat closest to the Warden. Her leather armor creaked as she leaned in and kissed her on the lips. "We're wearing down, but we can push through the dark."

"Can we?" Hawke looked at the state of herself. The rounded lip of her one shoulder pad was already chipped. Her waist was freed for movement, covered in thin chainmail, while the breastplate was light. The armor at this point, though, strained her muscles. She had walked this far into the Deep Roads, far into the Dead Trenches. The grit and sweat on her skin thickened over these weeks, chaffing; she felt increasingly uncomfortable. 'Add anxious onto the list of nasty feelings.'

And so it came to pass that Hawke, Leliana, Morrigan, and Oghren escaped the notice of the archdemon, but encountered the old god's minions by the dozens on their journey through the labyrinth. Among these enemies was an ogre, once again the height of a grown man, armed by muscle and a pair of long horns upon its head. Hawke, being a rogue, took a place at its posterior, slashing away with dual blades. The ogre would turn to swipe at the pest, but Hawke would vanish, only to appear again and slice at those bulky thighs. Leliana, a rogue herself of the archer sort, stood on a rock a safe-enough distance away and fired flaming arrows at the ogre. The dwarf, sturdy and strong, taunted the beast at its front and took the worst of the hits. Morrigan shot icy spells at darkspawn. She froze two, dodged swings from the surrounding grunts, then used melee attacks to shatter the frozen; repeat.

The party reached its destination at the Anvil of the Void. The forge was on a stone outcropping, surrounded partly by a river of molten lava. There they met Branca the Paragon, who sought to use the power of the Anvil to forge golems. But there were golems already waiting within, already forged ages ago; and Branca had found the magical rod with which to control them. Oghren, who was Branca's former lover, pleaded for her to cease with the insanity. She was too far gone, and used the rod to make the golems attack. Hawke and company fought past them to Branca.

The Warden slashed the Paragon's throat, took the control rod, and told the golems to take a leap.

"Does anyone else hear ominous marching in the background?" Hawke twirled her daggers. She stood with the others at the center of the outcrop, surrounded by shattered golems, dead dwarves, and random rocks. Lyrium veins glowed to illuminate the areas outside the magma-light. "Where's it coming from?"
Leliana pointed to a crack in the wall. "From there, I think."

"How many more sodding golems do I have to carve through?" Oghren's axe blade stuck in the ground at his feet. Hawke worried he may leave it there and allow himself to die when more enemies arrived. Morrigan leaned heavily on her staff. "That lyrium. Can anyone else feel the vibrations from it?"
They turned to stand in a tight circle, facing outward, shoulder to shoulder. 'Do we have it left in us to fight our way back to Orzammar? I have my doubts. But mother and Bethany need me. I at least owe them a last effort.'

The marching drew closer. Metal on stone. And then it paused. The party held their breath for a few moments until an explosion of light and stone which issued from the breech. They snapped from their exhaustion, filled with shock and anticipation for this unique enemy.

Roughly human-shaped somethings in sleek armor marched out of a new entrance, three units wide. Their heads seemed to be melded to the tops of their torsos, and their limbs were strangely slender.

'Eliminate Republic Forces.'

'Prioritize Jedi Commander.'

'Roger Roger.'

"What the fudging hell?" Hawke shook herself. "Scatter to your positions!"

Leliana went for the nearest high place, while Morrigan went to stand off to the side. Oghren growled and took his axe up again.

The front three stepped aside for the next three, and within moments their numbers threatened to overcome.

Leliana fired an arrow at one. It made a 'clink' sound and bounced off. Hawke side-stepped and lowered to a stoop, preparing to rush between their flanks.
Several enemies opened fire at once. Bolts of light shot from their arms, aimed at Hawke and the others. One bolt grazed Hawke's gauntlet. The Warden dropped her dagger as a burning sensation pulsated from the wound. The dwarf fell onto all fours. Leliana toppled off her rock. Morrigan, however, had erected a magical barrier and deflected the cascade of bolts that had come for her, but the mage was nonetheless thrown back. Hawke tossed down a smoke bomb and grabbed Oghren's shoulders, dragging the dwarf backward toward a row of boulders that could serve as concealment. "Morrigan. Follow."

They found Leliana on her back, breathing rapidly and grasping at a hole in her shoulder. Hawke ripped away the leather there while reassuring her that all would be well. "It's burned shut. Can you move your arm?" The red-head whimpered as she bent her elbow.

"They missed anything too important in there." Hawke kissed her. She then looked to Oghren. It turned out that the bolt had been slowed by the blade of his axe, and moreso by his armor. He refused to take off the front plate. "I ain't got time to bleed." He lowered his head and sighed. "I know the legends of the golems. These could be some weird design from Carradin, but those weird metallic crossbows, glowing bolts? Pssh. By the tits of my ancestors."

The strange golems kept put, but fired at the cover, chipping off chunks. Smoke and dust spread in the air. Morrigan tapped Hawke's damaged gauntlet. "And what of you?"

Hawke grabbed her own wrist and cautiously tugged. Dull metal scraped at burnt flesh. She grimaced and forced onward until the gauntlet was off. She threw it down and examined her forearm. A small, blackened slice tainted her flesh, but nothing extreme. She bled from the cut where she had dragged the metal toward her wrist. "And that was without my rabbit's foot."

"What do we do? They overpower us." Leliana caressed Hawke's hand. "We accomplished what we came here to do."

"It's no good," Hawke answered. "We have to fall back." Morrigan moaned and touched her forehead. Her staff, beside her, rolled over on its own; then again, back and forth. "That thrumming. I don't -"

Hawke clicked her tongue. "Is that lyrium finally getting to you? I always understood the stuff to be a little dangerous, but I don't know what this is about." She frowned at the staff. "As I said, we need to escape. With you, preferably."

"I can feel it inside me," the witch said. She snatched up her staff and sat up, eyes widened and muscles flexed. She was filled by a phantom vigor. Hawke cleared her throat. "Thank you. The way I see it, we can make for the exit and use grenades to block a passage out of the Deep Roads."

"Wait," Morrigan said.

"Now what?" "This may sound odd, but... I can see our probable actions and the possible repercussions."

The crisp blasts of the projectile weapons suddenly stopped and the enemies marched again.

Hawke scowled. "More specific, less cryptic, would be nice."

Morrigan stared intensely at the Warden. "I can see what's about to happen in our battle with these constructs."

"From witch of the wilds to prophet. And here I thought I was supposed to be the special one."

"Jest if it pleases you, but be ready to act." Morrigan climbed up the cover and thrust out her staff. Lightning sprayed from the tip. "Command the dwarf to go berzerk."

Hawke stood and rose up on tip-toe. She saw the electrical bolt fork, hit several of the constructs, and branch off to fry others. Their march was halted for the present moment. "Oghren. Go do your thing."

"Gladly." Hawke watched Oghren round the rocks and rush the first construct to lower its arm to aim. He swung down at the offending arm and chopped it off. Sparks sputtered from the wound. While his axe blade pointed down, he pushed at the ground with his foot and rammed his shoulder into the damaged enemy, making it trip backward into one of its partners. The dwarf whirled about and raised his weapon again. "Be ready to throw your dagger," the witch called down to Hawke.

"Oh, are you the leader now?" Hawke crawled up the rocks to beside Morrigan, readying her weapon. A few of the metal things stopped and turned toward Oghren. He held the blade horizontally, drew it far back to gain some momentum, and swung at a midsection. SHRAAK! The blade was stuck. He gave a tug, found it to be quite wedged in, then looked up at the still-standing enemy. "Oh crap." Hawke threw her readied dagger.

The blade hit. Oghren covered his face with an arm for a second, and lowered it to see the hilt of a dagger sticking in the construct's head. The enemy fell and the axe handle slid from his hands. He looked over his shoulder to find Hawke. She winked at him, then slid back down to Leliana. In fact, the things were starting to move again, turning and firing at nothing in particular. Glowing bolts exploded on the floor and ceiling. A few were close to hitting Hawke and Leliana.

Oghren placed his foot on the fallen foe and pressed down, pulling the handle with his bulky arms. The axe came free.

Hawke picked up Leliana and ran for the forge exit, Morrigan and Oghren running after.