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The Line in the Sand

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Vivienne has survived many things.

She's seen the rise and fall from power of many people, especially within the Court. The Game is hers to play, regardless of what others may thing, and she is a powerful woman. She knows her strength, and knows how to use it to her best ability.

However, right now, none of that seems to matter. Her body is screaming in agony, and she's doing her best just to stay conscious. Left arm sliced up beyond usability, right leg heavily bruised from a rock fall, recovering from a Smite that's left her feeling weak as a kitten and voiceless, she can barely keep herself upright. Of course, her co-captive isn't helping.

Blackwall is bleeding sluggishly from his temple, his broad body lying sprawled in an untidy heap at the foot of a Behemoth that watches him with dull eyes, their only light a torch that's been jammed into its crags. Like her, he's barely awake, barely moving, and if she's any judge his arms have been both dislocated. The cave they're in is cold and damp, and his breathing is growing more ragged as time oozes inexorably on.

There's a string of laughter from the stairs leading down in, and Vivienne feels in herself the first real spike of true fear. The Templars she had known were never like these beasts, but she has the horrible suspicion that hers may have been the exception, not the rule.

The Templar that walks in is a pleasant looking man. Sandy hair, strong jaw, about the same skin tone as Josephine, he's perhaps the same age as Dorian and Cullen. He has exceptionally deep blue eyes, and the kind of smile that makes most women swoon.

She knows his type. She can recognize a viper when she sees one.

"Madame de Fer," he says with sickening fondness. His lackeys, mostly human still, all shift and sway on their feet like marionettes with drunken puppeteers. One of them carries a torch. "First Enchanter Vivienne. The Inquisitors prettiest lapdog."

The look she gives him has left lesser men dead.

"Knight-Captain Gervasio, formerly of Antiva City," he says. His accent is very well disguised, closer to highly polished Marcher than anything else. "I hope you don't mind our appointments. They are somewhat lacking, but they will do for now."

The Behemoth makes an odd, keening wail, and Gervasio is immediately distracted, walking over to gently pet the craggy face.

"Nohenn, Asher, feed our poor brother," he croons, and the Behemoth stumps away, following two of the more human knights. Her skin crawls as she watches it.

A faint noise of agony brings her attention back to Blackwall, who Gervasio is now surveying with a look of intense satisfaction.

"The Champion," he says with relish, and for a moment she thinks he's confused Blackwall for Hawke. But no, he's simply heard of the mans particular skill set, which Adaar has been loud in her praise of. Adaar, she thinks privately, is a good woman, if very young and far too enamored of burly men. Gervasio crouches down, chuckling slightly. Blackwall flinches, breath becoming more labored as Gervasio strokes the bloodied hair out of his face.

"Oh no, this will not do."

There's a short scream as one arm is snapped back into its socket with a wrenching sound, and a weak little wail that makes her shudder. A second snap has him sobbing in both agony and relief, and she risks a look back to see Gervasio smiling contentedly as Blackwall's tears run down his face, cleaning blood and grime away with them.

"Much better, don't you think?" he says sweetly, and one of the knights makes a rattling, hungry noise.

Gervasio rises, and they're left alone as he shepherds the others deeper into the cave, away from them. Vivienne is slowly getting her strength back, feeling for her mana.

"Ma'am."

His voice is rusty with pain, and she shudders again.

"Yes?"

"If you get a chance, please run."

She blinks. Blackwall's barrel of a chest heaves with every fight for breath, barely visible in the gloom. "What, and leave you?"

"Yes."

"Not a chance." She can almost feel her power again, just out of reach. "I don't believe in abandoning people."

A few ragged breaths, then, "I can't watch them hurt you."

She completely loses her grip on the tendril of power. "Excuse me?"

A cough and wheeze in the darkness is her only answer for a moment before he says, "I've met too many men like the Antivan. Give them a bit of power, they'll go a mile. They can take your magic, and let's face it, you're smaller than me. You'd starve faster. You have to run."

She will never admit to a trembling lip, and when she speaks her voice is perfectly even. "You're in no position to order me about."

He laughs brokenly and falls silent.

Vivienne closes her eyes, trying to reach deeper, and shudders as the magic slips away again. It's the mental sensation of dragging fingers down a chalkboard, skin crawling in distaste.

The light returns, and she opens her eyes as Gervasio returns to the room with one of the knights in tow. "Ah, Madame," he said with a tone of delight. "We really can't have that."

This time, the Smite is even harder, enough to make her cough up blood, and she gasps as she struggles to breathe. Gervasio saunters over, crouching down in front of her.

"You know what I like about mages?" he asks conversationally as she dry heaves, rage filling every fiber of her being. "I like how they think they deserve to exist. I mean, just look at you, Madame. Daring to believe you could fix the Circles, that a mage could be Divine, that you aren't worth less than a common mabari mutt."

The hatred blazes white-hot in her, and she slowly looks up at him, letting it show.

"I bet you came close," he says thoughtfully. "I've killed many mages at their Harrowings. Some of them were even possessed. I bet you learned what Pride can do. And then you learned the fine art of desire later. We heard all about the would-be court mage. You made them think you were powerful, instead of little more than a pretty diversion. What a clever thing you are."

He stands up, smiling. It doesn't reach those cold, blue eyes.

She decides then and there that when she becomes Divine, she will bring them all to her heel. Her people need protecting from what they could become, but she knows power corrupts. This, however. This was the truth, and she will make them pay. She will rip the very fabric of the Order to shreds, and remake them. And no one would murder her children again.

Gervasio turns away, apparently bored, and walks back over to Blackwall.

"A fine figure of a man, you are," he says mildly, nudging Blackwall's side with a boot. "You would have made a beautiful Templar."

"I've tried murder," Blackwall says, his voice a snarl she doesn't recognize. "Had enough of it for one lifetime, thanks."

He cries out when Gervasio kicks him, head lolling.

"Get the potions," Gervasio says, his tone bored as he turns to the knight. "And the others. We need them in good shape."

ooo

Elfroot is not pleasant to drink, but even less pleasant when she knows the outcome is that she's physically fit for whatever the Templars want. They've been pushed into a small cell, complete with locking door, and dignity went right out the metaphorical window when Blackwall quietly pleaded with her to curl up next to him.

They're huddled in a corner, a solitary, ratty blanket draped over them both. She's been healed, but Smited so regularly she can barely think, let alone speak. Blackwall is mostly healed, but his arms clearly still ache from the dislocation.

It's the first time she's been genuinely grateful that he's as broad and hairy as he is. Despite the blood loss he's warm, and the heat keeps the chill from sinking too deep in her bones. She's not as young as she was, and she'll happily keep her fingers from freezing off. Unlike Bull, with his soft curves and heavy muscle underneath, or Dorian's lean, wiry strength, Blackwall is solid and built like a brick from all the armor he carts around. He does not make a good pillow, but neither does she.

"If they-" Blackwall clears his throat. "If they decide to use me, I'll be alright. Won't be the first time I've had bad nights of it."

"That's not reassuring, darling," she says, her voice barely audible. If they hear her, they'll Smite her again.

"Doesn't matter. Better me than you." He tucks his head against hers, and she can feel the shaking. She hates the whole world at this moment, with such a crystal, perfect clarity. This is the moment when people make deals with demons- this is the moment when she will fight her way through a Behemoth, untold numbers of Templars, and an entire continent for one person. She never wants to feel him shake like that again.

"When we are home," she whispers, "we should perhaps speak."

"Perhaps."

The thump of footsteps make them both flinch, and a human knight appears at the door. Their food is shoved through a small flap at the bottom. Bread, two slices of meat, a hunk of cheese that looks exceptionally terrible. The knight pauses, considering Blackwall with glittering eyes, and smiles.

Vivienne's heart sinks.

This does not bode well.

They eat what they can in silence, and they've just finished when a cheerful whistling comes down the hall. Gervasio appears, looking in on them with a bright smile.

"Ah, so much better than before," he says, pleased. "Do stand up. I'd hate to have to drag you out."

Blackwall struggles to his feet, letting Vivienne help him, and clings to her hand as the gate opens. Gervasio waves them through, and they walk out, Blackwall limping heavily and Vivienne's back ramrod straight. They walk down the little hall back to the room they were first in, and her heart pounds. Seven knights, the Behemoth, an assortment of others, and all of them looking at them like a meal to be devoured.

"You may watch from above," Gervasio says, and she's pulled away from him to be planted on her knees above the sunken pit of a room to the side of the stairs down. A knight stands with her, and she watches with a sinking stomach as Blackwall is dragged down into the center, a rope looping around his neck and his arms bound behind him. He's forced to his knees, and she knows.

"No," she breathes, bile burning her throat.

Blackwall is still, wide shoulders seeming so small without the armor. Gervasio runs his fingers over his hair, snorting softly.

"I've never cared for the combination of beard and long hair," he says conversationally, before tangling his fingers in it and yanking back. "I've always thought it quite ugly. You, too, are quite ugly. Behind that ugly bush you might be a handsome man, but I rather doubt it."

She reaches for her magic out of instinct, wanting to throw the man away from him, eyes fixed on the horror before her. It's there, and only years of self control keep her from doing just as she wishes. The knight beside her is watching the scene below intently, a crystal spiked tongue slipping out to lick his lips. Her stomach rolls, and she focuses.

"A Reaver?" The Iron Bull says, smiling. "A Reaver mage is a blood mage, ma'am."

"But you yourself claim to not be a true Reaver, and use their techniques," she points out. They are drinking tea on her balcony, The Iron Bull almost comically large on her settee.

"Sure. But I have the dragon blood in my veins already," he says. "A Reaver is fire and death and hacking destruction. Not a good fit for you."

Her specialty is ice. She draws on the serenity of unfeeling as Gervasio lets go of Blackwall's hair and waves one of the more human Templars forward.

She sees Dorian and Bull together and thinks them terrifying. They pull on the death around them, Dorian's face a mask of fury as he slaughters his countrymen, pulling on the Fade hard enough her bones ache in sympathy. The spirits he pulls on grab the bodies, picking up sword and staff. She sees what he is then, under the kohl and pretty clothing. He is Death, centuries of breeding come to brutal fruition. He knows his place, knows command with every fiber of his body.

She is grateful he never had the opportunity to try for Knight Enchanter. Tevinter with him at the helm would be an unstoppable force for good or evil.

She learns from his techniques, compliments his clothing, and does not forget that he is as wild as any Qunari Reaver.

They laugh like hyenas when he chokes.

She sinks deeper into herself, eyes boring into the scene as fury boils, locked under a sea of ice.

Sera too is wild, but in other ways. She is wild with bow, with chemicals, with her love and her loyalty. They do not get along, but they do work together on one thing, and one they alone. Experiments.

"Quicksilver," Sera says, slamming the bottle on the table. "Piss. It's friggin impossible."

"Not so, we've seen it done," Vivienne mutters, vexed. They are having surprising difficulty getting it to work. "If only we'd kept one bottle."

"Yeah, well, we didn't."

"How does it feel?" she asks absently as she measures out sand for another experiment.

Sera considers for a moment. "For a little bit, 's like all I am is a storm," she says at last. "You know. The big kind, herkins?"

"Hurricane."

"That. But in me. Feels like I'm unbreakable, because I'm not one thing, I'm every thing and nothing all at once. You get all slow and I speed up, yeah?" Sera swings her legs, looking at the ground. "I feel like I can do anything."

Blood frenzy. Death siphon and despair. Quicksilver.

And finally, the last piece of the puzzle to make her untouchable.

The ice shatters, and she draws her sword.

The knight at her side is gone in a flash. She pulls on the spirit of the body, feeding off of it as the blood splashes her face and clothing. Gervasio is already reaching out, but Vivienne will not let that stand.

She winks out of existence and lands inside him, destroying him from the inside out. She feeds off of him as well, lashing out with despair as the Templars surge. The first four that had crowded him, dared to reach out and touch soft skin that would never belong to them again die first, her sword slicing viciously through bodies and red lyrium. She siphons the death, fuels the rage, reaches in her to the place that Sera described. She is nothing but lightning now, ice popping and snapping along her blade as she decimates the next three before turning.

The Behemoth roars at her, massive club arm rising.

"Not today," she hisses, and raises her hand.

The club is frozen by the sheer force of her will, a barrier warped to wrap around just her hand as she raises her sword, one handed, and begins to hack. The coppery scent of blood rests in her nose, dripping onto the formerly pristine white collar of her shirt, and she pulls on the fury again for faster work. Red lyrium shards fly, and with a ferocious yell she lets go of the barrier, puts her hand on the sword and slams it into the Behemoth's heart.

For a moment, she feels it. The perfect balance of rage and clarity, lightning filling her limbs, and her ice, her specialty, cocooning it all.

"This is where it ends," she hisses, and twists the blade. "This is the line in the sand."

The Behemoth crumbles, falling to the side, and she lets go of the blade. The magic dissipates, falling away into nothing. Vivienne, First Enchanter, closes her eyes and straightens her shoulders.

She turns when she knows she's back in control, and Blackwall looks up at her, emotion welling up. They did not have chance to make it a reality. Just wrapped hands around his neck, just touched. They did no further damage. She does not cry with relief, but it is a near thing.

"Thank you," he manages, and she helps him out of the rope.

They limp out of the cave up a rough ramp and wide stairs, blinking as they step out of the darkness to the sunlight.

It's a cool Ferelden morning, crisp with dew, and a stream is running nearby. The sun is cresting the mountains, bright and vibrant, no clouds to be seen.

"Do me a favor," Blackwall says as they lean on each other, limping to the stream.

"What's that, dear?"

"The next time someone tries to bully you, just fucking punch them for me."

Vivienne's laugh is something like a sob, and together they drop down into the icy water, ducking under the thin waterfall to scrub the worst of it off of themselves.

It feels like rebirth.