There were ten of them. There had been ten in threadbare clothes and mismatched armor with nothing but malice written on their faces.
Three were warriors—one, here, still burning. Two more, broken and bloodied by the Iron Bull.
Two were mages. She glanced to her left. One bobbed lifelessly in the stream, riddled with yellow-fletched arrows. No—there, make that two.
Two archers, both down. One half-blinded and bled, the other crushed by fade-summoned stone.
The others had slipped into shadows. Now one lay on the dirt of the bank and stared up at the sky with his skull caved in. Another lay scattered in thawing pieces across the once-green clearing.
It had gone silent as the last crumbled. A moment of calm before the carrion birds came to feast. Bull and Sera were already cleaning weapons, retrieving arrows, looting the nearest bodies. She looked over as Solas uncorked a small vial of lyrium.
But there were not ten.
Athi spun in a hasty, broken circle, glancing wildly, counting, combing bodies for the one she must have missed.
“Hey. You okay, boss?”
A glint of sunlight on metal where metal should not be, and Solas staggered sideways, eyes wide, making mirrors of hers. She surged forward to catch him. Sera’s bow was up, an arrow nocked before he started falling. She let it fly as he fell; it met its target where he had stood.
And that made ten.
Athi whispered soft comforts in his ear as she did her best to ease him gently to the ground. You’ll be all right, she said, I have you, but her eyes ached with unspilled tears and she couldn’t breathe. I have you, but her hands were not the healing sort.
He looked up at her in confusion.
“Bull!” she screamed. Bloodied, trembling fingers already finding the places where his clothes came apart. Too gentle, maybe, too slow, but better than doing it wrong, better than hurting him.
“What are you—” Solas tried to pull her hands away. “I’m all right, vhenan, just”—he tried to sit up and winced—“my side aches a bit, that’s all.”
“I’m sure you’re right, Solas.” Bull’s arrival had barely registered, but his voice was a relief, soothing in its authority. “But how ‘bout you let us make sure.”
Then he took over. Athi wiped her hands on her tunic and crawled over to cradle Solas’s head in her lap. She curled herself down to him, pressed salty kisses to his lips and nose, and stroked the planes of his face with her thumbs. If only she could sink healing into his skin by wanting to. If only she was better.
“Athi?” His brow was still furrowed in confusion.
It’s okay. The panic thumping in her heart spread, frayed her nerves, nipped at her fingertips, crept into her voice. She hoped he couldn’t tell. I have you, not sure when the tears had shaken loose.