Among the Ashes

By Jackie Almasy

Merrill cried out in shock at the sound of her door being kicked open. Dropping her cup of tea to the floor, the timid elf shuddered as she raised her hands over her head without turning around.

"Take anything you want though I do not have much to offer! I swear I won't cause trouble! Not that I mean I won't do as you tell me!"

"Kitten! We need your help!"

Quickly looking over her shoulder, Merrill's eyes widened in horror as Isabela and Fenris rushed in with a screaming Hawke in his arms. The rogue's leather armor was cut and tattered as blood dripped from multiple cuts. Rushing foreword, Merrill came right up to Hawke's side.

"By the Dread Wolf, what happened? Oh!" Merrill covered her mouth with her hands in shock. Lodged deep Hawke's chest, a single crossbow bolt was dangerously close to her heart. Covering the area around the wound were tattered cloths, trying to soak up the blood and a foul smelling substance through the sodden material.

"Hawke! Oh my goodness! U-Um, Fenris!" Merrill looked up to the intimidating elf, shuddering at the sight of his cold gaze. Seeing him tighten his grip on the shoulders of the distraught woman, Merrill did all she could from not fainting at the sudden scream of pain and horror that escaped her lips.

"Maker Above, it hurts!" Hawke gasped out through her lips. Suddenly reaching up, Hawke gripped Fenris's armor as hard as she could. "Make it stop! Andraste's mercy, please!"

Swallowing the huge lump in her throat, Merrill took a quick breath. Opening them, her heart flared with a swift rise of bravery that she needed. Hawke was her friend and in her time of need, Gods allowing, she would be there for her.

"Fenris! Put her on my bed! I will examine the wound momentarily!" Pointing to the door, Merrill gave Isabela a shaky glance.

"Isabela, I need you to run to Darktown as fast as you can! My healing capabilities are no where near the skills of Anders! Please, get him and bring him here!"

Nodding in agreement, Isabela was out the door in less than a moment. Shutting the door in hopes of containing Hawke's screaming, Merrill silently prayed to the Old Gods that the city guards would not hear and come investigating.

"Get it out! Fenris, rip it out!"

Rushing into the back of her home, Merrill quickly grabbed a wooden bowl of cold water and a large tattered cloth. Putting the bowl down on the wooden floor by her bed, Merrill gently pushed Fenris to the side.

"Hawke, look at me!" Merrill cooed to Hawke as gently as she could, struggling to hide her own shakiness and fears of not being able to help. Bringing both her hands to Hawke's face, the blood mage forced the panicking woman to look into her eyes.

Trembling horribly underneath Merrill's grasp, Hawke struggled to keep her heart from bursting out of her chest. Her body temperature felt like she was on fire and her vision was becoming blurry at the increasing seconds. Beads of sweat began dripping down her face as Merrill began to notice a paleness overcoming her normally healthy glow.

Ignoring the deep grunt of disapproval from Fenris behind her, Merrill smiled down at her friend.

"You're going to be alright. We won't let anything happen to you okay? Now try and be as still as you possibly can. I'm going to try and stop the poison from spreading any further."

Looking over her shoulder, Merrill sudden sprang into action. Taking off the bloodied cloths from around Hawke's wound, the mage examined it as best as she could.

"I've seen wounds similar to this back in my clan. Sometimes the hunters would come back from hunts with open cuts and gaping holes with stingers in it. The principle is similar."

Ripping the cloth she brought with her into tattered sections, she began dabbing the wound around the area with cold water.

"With the hunters, we held them down enough to pull the stinger out. It hurt like the Void from what they told me but it stops the poison at the source. Fenris, I need your help! I will hold her down and with your strength, I need you to pull the bolt out as best as you can."

Scrambling to her feet, Merrill came to the top of the bed and grabbed Hawke's shoulders. Holding her down, she looked up to the glaring man.

"Once you get it out, I will use my magic to halt the poisoning!"

"I will let you do no such thing to her!" Fenris stalked foreword, grabbing Merrill by the arm and pushing her away from Hawke. Looking up to him in shock, Merrill looked back and forth between Hawke and her dominant protector.

"We don't have time for this! If I do not stop the poisoning now with my magic, she might not make it long enough for Anders to get here!"

"I have less trust for you blood mage than I do for that abomination!" Kneeling over Hawke, Fenris grabbed the cold compress and dabbed the sides of her face. His gaze momentarily became concerned, filled with a tenderness Merrill had never seen in Fenris's eyes before. It was then that she noticed the red fabric tied around his arm.

"I will get this bolt out! But if you so much as lay one magical spell on Hawke, I will kill you where you stand."

"Potions and herbs won't work fast enough like my magic can!" Merrill looked to him in disbelief, stalking foreword closer to the side of the bed. Her worry only worsened as she saw Hawke's eyes barely open and retaining consciousness. She was dangerously close to falling unconscious and this argument certainly wasn't helping.

Merrill suddenly felt a rare thing start to grow inside her. Clasping her hands tightly, Merrill's confused face turned to one of anger. She had the ability to save her friend with the powers that had cost her so much already. Her clan mates had turned her away, the Keeper had exiled her from her family, and as a result, Merrill had felt more alone before than ever before.

However, Hawke had accepted her help over the last four years without any nasty comment or snide remark about her powers. Even if they seemed foolish to her, Hawke had stood by Merrill through thick and thin. She had offered a hand of friendship and no one was going to stand in Merrill's way now that she could repay the kindness Hawke had given her without asking for anything in return.

Merrill suddenly grabbed Fenris by the arm, pulling away from Hawke's side and shoving him into the wall across the room. "You have said so many cruel things to me in the past three years!"

Her voice raised an octave, expressing the sudden amount of anger and fear.

"Not once have I responded to your threats, snide remarks, and countless cold glares in my direction! I let them go because Hawke cares for you more than anyone else in this group!"

She suddenly grabbed his mid arm, bringing the red cloth into their view.

"And now that I have the chance to repay her kindness, you stand in my way with your tainted memories and shallow declarations of hatred! I will stand for this no more!"

Letting go of him, Merrill pointed at Hawke's nearly unconscious body.

"Now either you help me pull that bolt out and allow me to work my magic or so help me, not even Anders will be able to piece you back together after I am through with you! Dread Wolf help you if you stand in my way now!"

She glared right into his eyes, feeling no fear even under his angered gaze and lighted up lyrium scars.

"Now either help me or get out!"

Looking straight into her eyes, Fenris clutched his hands together in anger. As he was about to say something, Hawke's pained moan caught his attention as he looked up towards her. Gritting his teeth, Fenris took a deep breath before looking down to Merrill.

"For the sake of Hawke, I will let you do this only under my watch. If I see one wrong move made on her soul or mind blood mage, I will end your life myself."

"Fine! Now come over here and help me!" Running back to Hawke's side, Merrill resumed her position of holding down the rogue's body as well as she could.

Fenris quickly followed, kneeling once again on the bed by Hawke's side. Bringing one hand to her cheek, Fenris met the woman's gaze.

"F-Fenris…" Hawke weakly reached up, clutching his tunic once again as she struggled to keep her gaze on his face.

"This will hurt Hawke." Bringing his free hand to the bolt, Fenris grasped the material as firmly as he could. "I am sorry."

Merrill shuddered at the sound of flesh being ripped and opened as Fenris yanked the bolt out as efficiently as he could. Tossing it to the side, Fenris immediately brought his hands to her face as Hawke screamed out in agony. Her red blood began flowing freely from the round wound, tainted with a light green mixture from the weapon.

Holding her down, Fenris traded placed with Merrill as he placed both hands on her shoulders. Watching intently, his gaze never left Merrill as he watched her hover her hands over the open wound.

Looking up momentarily at Fenris, she pleaded quietly to the man.

"Please, do not tell anyone of what you are about to see. Not even Anders."

Closing her eyes, Merrill suddenly began chanting in elven.

"Mythal, Great Protector of the Elvhenan, guide me during this time of need. Grant me the strength to protect my clan and cherished ones. Help me remove the corruption from this lethallan." Trembling in fear of letting Hawke down, Merrill's last words shook as she spoke them. "Help me protect my friend, please!"

A warm tingling soon began spreading over her palms, slowly spreading out until it seemed to cover her entire hands. Widening her fingers over the wound, Merrill concentrated on channeling the magic into Hawke's body. Her mind raced with memories of the Keeper's instructions on working the magic of the Old Ones. There were no guarantees it would work but, Falon'Din willing, she could halt the poison long enough for Ander's healing abilities.

Gasping in shock at the sudden energy drainage soaring through her body, Merrill stopped herself from slumping foreword onto Hawke's body as the spell ended. Opening her eyes tiredly, Merill looked over Hawke's body. While the wound was not closed, the green substance seemed mostly gone.

"What did you do mage?" Fenris asked, his tone neither accusing nor curious.

Looking towards her friend's dominant bodyguard, she smiled lightly as she brought the cold compress to Hawke's wound. She sighed in relief, seeing Hawke not trembling or whimpering as much. Whatever she had done had worked well enough for now.

"That is for me to know and you to never tell."

Sitting at the table hours later, Merrill ran a hand through her hair as she groaned silently. She felt drained and exhausted but relieved above everything else. Sitting across from her Isabela tapped the table impatiently, biting her lower lip in worry. Leaning against the wall by the open door frame to Merrill's bedroom, Fenris folded both arms over his chest.

Merrill looked up towards Fenris in curiosity. His gaze was different than the one she normally received from him. Neither kind nor malicious, Fenris looked at her as if he was trying to figure out what he had just seen. As if he was trying to solve a mystery he had no possible explanation for.

"So, what happened?" Merrill asked Isabela curiously, holding onto her cup of water gently.

"Carta thugs." Isabela responded bluntly, cursing under her breath. "Bastards took us by surprise as we were trying to get to Gamlen's house. We managed to beat them but not before a scout caught us off guard. Before I could throw a dagger into his head, he shot a bolt at Hawke."

Tired of sitting still, Isabela stood and walked to the door. Looking inside, she watched as Anders stood over her unconscious body and worked his magic to heal her wound.

"She moved away just in time for it to not directly hit her heart. But by the time we realized it was poisoned, she was already reacting to it." Turning her attention back to Merrill, a small smile of appreciation spread over her tanned skin.

"You did good Kitten." Winking at Merrill, Isabela chuckled at blush spreading over the elf's cheeks.

"I-I did? I mean, of course I did!"

Walking into the room, Anders let out an open sigh of relief.

"I don't know what you did Merrill but she'll be just fine thanks to your quick thinking." Grunting as Fenris shoved past Ander's body, he staggered back a few steps at the elf's sudden walking into the room.

Glaring in annoyance at the elf, Anders turned his gaze back to Merrill. A look of relief washed over his face.

"The poison is known as Andraste's Penance. It's rare in these parts of the Free Marches but is well known in Antiva, the only country it is legally allowed in. I've seen a few victims fall to it's potency in less than an a few hours but you managed to halt the poison before it reached her heart."

"Hawke owes you a big thank you when she wakes up. For now, I suggest moving her back to her estate in Hightown so she can get some proper rest. I,"

"Move mage."

Cradling Hawke's unconscious from in his arms, Fenris moved through the small crowd for the door.

"W-Wait, you can't just do that!" Anders protested, attempting to stop the elf from moving any further.

"Touch me and I break your arm." Fenris warned, stopping at the door to the small hovel.

Huffing in anger, Anders shook his head in annoyance. Turning to Isabela, the healer motioned to the elf over his shoulder.

"Follow our broody gallant knight over there to make sure she gets home safely. I don't trust him."

"The feeling is mutual mage." Turning around, Fenris caught the gaze of Merrill. There was an awkward silence between them before turning his body foreword again to walk out the door.

"Merrill. Though I do not agree with your decisions at all, I do recognize that Hawke is now alive because of your magic. For that reason alone, I thank you."

Nearly coughing up her water in shock, Merrill placed her cup down before spitting most of it all over herself.

"I-uh-well, you're welcome. I think."

Watching Isabela and Fenris walk out of her home, she turned to Anders before he walked out the door.

"Have you changed your mind about me?"

Stopping suddenly, Anders took a deep breath to speak.

"I still don't approve of your blood magic and I never will. Nothing good ever comes from demons." Looking over his shoulder, Ander's frown turned to a small smile.

"But that doesn't change the fact that you saved Hawke's life. For that, I am eternally grateful. Thank you."

Shutting the door behind him, Merrill stood there silently as a full smile spread over her face. Even if it was as little as this, the words of appreciation did more for her than the blood magic ever could.

And for now, knowing they were grateful for her actions of saving Hawke's life meant the world.

Merrill was always be one of my favorite characters from Bioware. This one-shot was inspired by hunting down the gangs at night in Lowtown in Act 1 and 2. I kept noticing my rogue Hawke running around with arrows and bolts in her body and got this idea.

Also, I wanted to experiment with the idea of Merrill and Fenris interacting when it came to Hawke's safety.

This piece was written to the musical score "Final Conversation" by Christopher Lennertz from the musical album "Mass Effect 2: Overlord."

Till next time,

Jackie Almasy

Dragon Age II is copyrighted by BioWare and Electronic Arts. I own nothing.