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Candlelight Child

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Maker, how did they get so far into this mess? Lost within a vast network of caves, a labrynth, an infuriating maze! With spiders and unnatural beings lurking soundless within every shadow, around every turn. Watching from every corner. So completely trapped within the dark, the coming twilight dimming the sunbeams slipping through cracks in the earth above. Their final hours surely approach.

Varric carries on to Bianca in idle chatter with forced calm, clearly a facade seen by everyone's eyes. Though a dwarf, he was afraid when all lights go out. And he knew it was coming, that black would swallow them whole when night finished descending. Carver fiddles with his sword as he sits on the rocky floor of the cavern, face tight with irritation. His eyes are aimed at his sister, constantly casting his vote on who's to blame for this. He is tired and worn, and ever more grouchy than usual. Aveline paces through their midst, hand to her chin, desperately trying to get her mind to come up with something. To figure this riddle out and keep their efforts organized. Anders stands, staggered off at the groups fringes, eyes to the ground and hands frosting themselves over with ice magic. He rubs away the frost from his skin with his fingers and let's it seep over his hands again, repeating the pattern. And Fenris, he stands, arms crossed, looking to Hawke with his persistent glare that everyone has come to accept as his neutral expression. Just waiting for her to figure this out and take them back to Kirkwall.

Marianna let out a sharp and bitter laugh, absent of any glee. Of course, she *could* possibly do *something* that *could* lead them home. But her own silly feelings were getting in the way. What would they think of her after? Would they be afraid? The fact she was a mage already excluded her from all but Anders' capacity to understand her. How much worse could the other's lack of ability to comprehend would *this* make? Especially in Fenris's eyes. Would he deem her akin to an abomination, a freak? And what of Anders, would he consider her the same for having magic outside of the normal classifications? She just didn't know, her companions tended towards all sorts of unexpected things.

They didn't have long to wait before they would be swarmed by impatient shadows stalking their every step. Already they could hear the scratching of large hairy legs, scurrying across the walls of stone. Carver was aware of her talents, knew she could use them. As his stare grew more piercing by the moment, Marianna was well aware she had little to no choice in the matter. He would wait for but a moment longer before he confronted her on this, holding it back all this time with spite, surprisingly. Perhaps he understood how serious and difficult this was for her, even if he didn't seem the type.

Her chance to speak for herself, and explain came and went. Her emotions keeping her secret locked inside despite the vanity in the attempt. Carver leapt up, nearly pouncing on her, patience at a complete end.

"Why are you still dawdling! You could have fixed this long ago!"

Everyone's attention is now fixed squarely on her. His accusations seem misplaced at first, the others don't know. She wished she could point out that her magic *could* help them escape, that it was not a definite concept. But, that would only be confirming herself guilty in the eyes of the others.

"Damn your stupid pride sister! The past is the past, and you revel in it, holding back, meanwhile leaving us to suffer in the present!"

Aveline places a hand to his shoulder, but he'll not have it. Jerking free of her grip, he comes nose to nose with Marianna, stature almost threatening.

"Stop being a bloody coward and do something for once! All this time since Loathering you could have made things easier, could have eliminated so many of the threats we've faced. And you don't because a stupid boy made you afraid."

The sting of his disgust for her is made worse by revealed pieces of the past she wished never to hear of again.

"We're about to get eaten, and you still enforce such unneeded control. Won't father be so proud! Such a waste." Carver sneered.

That did it, that was the blow that teetered her fear over into anger, setting in motion her temper.

"How dare you!- How dare you!-" Hawke screeched.

She is beyond enraged and she can feel the soles of her feet begin to singe the dirt beneath them. Any second they will all know, they will all see.

"You know as well as I what that 'boy' did! What he took from us! How dare you throw that part of the past in my face! Father- he-"

Her flesh is beginning to take on a glow about its edges. Tears threaten to spill, but they would only evaporate into steam by this point. He wanted her over the edge, to do everything for them. Fine! It was too late now anyway. Marianna let her soul bleed out, embracing the change.

Form emblazoned, the patterns of her veins were visible just beneath her skin at her hands, feet, eyes. Surging with molten blood, her chest too bright to look upon, a furnace raging in her heart. Her short, pixie cut, hair wafted as though caught in a breeze, its length extended as it blended into flames at the ends. Her amber eyes went from leaking small firelight sparks to burning coals, the irises lost in their torrent of heat. And all other eyes watched her, wide and uncertain. Carver had pulled away, feigning superiority that he had won when, in reality, he worried he may have gone too far.

Beyond them, their predators decided to take the chance despite the threat newly presented. They came upon the group like lions upon sheep.

"You want me to fix everything, fine.... But, don't you ever speak to me again!" She hissed, the passion of rage fueling her fires. Tendrils of flame laced around her form, streaking across it and away from her and colliding with the beasts that hunted them. And in that instant, they reatreated, favoring their burns and plotting to try again once recovered. In mere seconds they were safe again, but Hawke remained dressed in her infernal light.

Carver looked away, saying nothing. She didn't want him to, and, as long as she was doing something about their situation and taking it seriously, he was happy to oblige. Aveline called to the Maker, still in a bit of awe. Varric was cautiously shifting forward, stashing Bianca away, having only fired a single shot at the monsters before they were banished back again.

"Easy there, Hawke." He soothed, attempting damage control between her and her brother.

And Fenris- he simply stared. No words, no grunts, no gestures. Just nothing but sharp eyes boring into her body. All the while, Anders pushed forward, bewildered and babbling as though he'd just seen a wonder. A miracle.

"An inferno! A bloody inferno!"

His eyes are watering from her radiance as he stares, but he refuses to turn his gaze away.

Still heated from the argument, she growls, "What of it?"

"Your kind are rare, VERY valuable to the damned Templars. What in Thedas are you doing here? Kirkwall is the most dangerous place for you to be. It is the most enforced city in the Free Marches."

He is concerned for her, not judgemental. Not afraid, but enchanted by the sight of her embedded nature.

"Would anyone care to explain what's going on here?" Aveline retorted in the confusion.

"Hawke is *special*," he says it as though she were a gift.

'Special', she repeats within her mind. An understatement in its own right.

"She is an Elemental Child. A vast step above an elemental mage. Her control over an element is much more refined with greater potential than others. Unlike with your usual primal powered mages, they aren't simply resistant to elements, they're utterly immune to their particular element. You could cast her into a flaming pit and keep her imprisoned there as long as you'd like, no harm will come to her. As a matter of fact, you'd only be supporting her natural power."

"So they're practically indestructible...." Varric mutters.

"No," Hawke cuts in, "Everything has its weakness. Fire has always been weak to water. Making ice magic a danger to me."

"An Elemental Child's magic centers around one of the four elements in particular, and nullifies their ability to work magic of the opposing element. It is said they are the essences of nature given flesh and blood."

"Perhaps we should discuss this later," Aveline tells them, "Our 'friends' have returned."

True to her words, the various filth crawling within these caves were creeping back, still starving for their blood. Blades are drawn, both mage staves at the ready, and Bianca throws the first punch in this brawl. Their three accompanying warriors throw themselves forward with abandon, determined in taking up the challenge. And, behind them, Anders and Hawke unleash the fury of their minds, Anders with ice and stone and she with greater blazes. Anders had more options available to work with, but Marianna had greater concentration of power and dominated the largest portion of the battlefield in her spreading energy. Both worked hard, seamlessly interchanging their attacks between the sword strikes of those in the front ranks. Arrows taking care of whatever remains afterward.

Aveline and Carver are focused, minds in the battle. But, Fenris is distracted by the hot ribbons and massive sparks raining down upon his targets. Hawke had always used fire magic to ward his back and aid in keeping foes at bay. But, this was different, things had changed. these were not the fireballs he was used to, and she was not the normal mage he'd been led to believe. This was not blood magic or demons, no, but was it any safer? These comets slithered through the air like fiery vipers, they moved in ways he'd never seen fire move, as though they had a will of their own. And the source of it was one inhuman mage with a dangerous temper.

'An essence of nature'. The nature of fire was to burn, simple as that. To destroy and wreak havoc when not confined. A force that was always hungry for more to feed on to keep from dying out. What of Hawke? Was that in her nature? Did she struggle for control against the desires of those racing beacons? He could imagine her turning on them, out of control, a sudden pyro maniac just wanting to watch things burn. And he trusted her even less than before to be at his back. Mages were heathens to begin with.

His distractions brought his downfall. He was carelessly knocked aside by a great cave spider, slamming the air from his lungs. In the light of the fires he feared, motes of dust sparkled until shadowed by that same arachnid looming over him. And, though his lungs were empty, he could not draw a breath, anticipating what comes next. There were no tendrils to coil around his attacker, no sparks to rain down leaving craters in its skin from impact. The deadly opponent was suddenly just consumed by a twister of heat waves and flame. It did not char the spider, or merely cook it within its own flesh, but, reduced it's entire form to ash that smudged all over Fenris's face, pelting his hair and clothes. He sucks in the breath he could not take seconds ago, thrashing into a crouch, his line of sight sweeping to her.

Marianna was coming for him, all aflame like a rage demon. The comparison bred more fear, and he scrambles to get his blade back within his grasp. This was it, he knew he should have never have trusted her this far. There was little he could do against the wildfire racing to meet him. His eyes bled all the hatred chambered within his every fiber, and he willed it all on her. But, as she approached, the lethal light flowing about her parted, arching around him. Never touching him. He freezes up before he can leap forward and make the defending cut, mystified.

Still in a crouch, she relinquishes to his level, her eyes meeting his. Her face is now empty of anger, replaced by concern instead, clear as daylight at high noon. He had assumed only fury could keep these flames lit, after all, didn't the concepts of rage and fire always go together. Seeing no obvious injuries taken to his body, she reaches her hand forth and presses it to the base of his blade. Threads of amber radiance spire around and up the blade, inscribing sigils up the center on both sides and giving it a dull gleam. He studies the effects, suspicious. Maybe she did not intend to boil his blood from his veins, but what did she think she was doing to *his* sword? As though she could hear his thoughts echoing within her own skull, she answers.

"Now you shall be able to weild the fire to aid and defend you directly."

She had enchanted it with her own vibrant energy, that did not bode well. Her intentions unknown. If it reacts to her will, she could bring him down using his own blade in a fit of upset. They'd only just met little more than mere weeks ago. And his trust did not come easy if at all. He would be ever wary of her, not knowing what to expect. And that put him at great risk.

By the time he stood, the battle was over. And, though the flames receded back, Hawke's light still did not go out. He begrudgingly sheathed his blade, wanting to drop and leave it where it lay instead. Yet, not enough to make himself powerless against any other vicious onslaughts awaiting them ahead. He looked to Marianna, who was attempting to conform to Carver's wishes, vying to free them from this madness. Glittering sparks, small, even delicate, flitted about the air.

As they pressed onward, she used them to try and 'feel' their way out. Letting them flicker and dance on ahead and down every path they came across, searching for dead ends and clear passageways. The gimmick works, and the extra sensory guidance her magic offered her lead them out of the winding caverns and back onto the sands of the Wounded Coast. The moon high overhead.

"I don't know about the rest of you," Varric perks up, still at Hawke's side. He'd been there since the end of their last conflict. Comforted by the brightness she eminates, pushing back the darkness. "But I could really use a drink."

Marianna's blazing glory finally fades off, leaving a perfectly human looking figure behind, no signs of the magic to be seen.

"Agreed," she sighs.

"And a better explanation." Aveline regards the two mages as she speaks.

With that, everyone heads for the tavern.