Singing awoke her from her coma-like state. She groaned, trying to sit up in her bed before being pushed back down. “Don’t you dare.” The sarcastic yet concerned voice forced her to obey, her body willingly falling back into the cocoon of warmth and protection. Was that a fire rune in her blankets? Everyone around them was standing and walking towards the Herald, a song of faith and hope on their lips. All of the tragedies of the day had been replaced by a new faith in the Herald, the one savior who survived the trials of a Blighted God. The song was much more moving now than the game. The swells and desperation of the people truly reached her spirit, drawing tears to her eyes as she ignored Dorian’s request and sat up. She wasn’t able to see Rathein through the crowd of people but she knew that that was the moment where she truly was made Inquisitor, not in the proceedings done at Skyhold.
Solas was off to the side, leaning on his staff for support while watching the Herald, summoning her over once the song was complete and disappearing off to the side. Athena sighed, looking down at her body only to see her sports bra and bandages wrapping the entirety of her torso. A blush instantly came to her cheeks but she didn’t move to cover herself. The shock of seeing the small lines of blood across her chest and abdomen distracted her enough. “Dorian, it appears I’m no longer a maiden by your doing.”
The jest drew a snarky laugh from him. He turned to her and shook his head, bringing a jacket from a chest next to the cot and wrapping it around her. “Your other clothes were torn to shreds and bloodied. They made for terrible kindling but were burned just the same. It might be an improvement on your wardrobe. Pity about the bear skin though; I could of used it on my floors.”
She scoffed, pulling the jacket on and buttoning it up to the next to last button. Thankfully they had given her a set of heavy pants and were able to clean her boots. She slowly brought her legs to the side of a cot and fully moved into a sitting position. “You know, I hate not being invited to parties.” Athena tore off a piece of the bandages and re-wrapped the ends to fold into the lovely woven job Solas did on her abdomen.
She used this to put her frost-styled hair up into a messy bun. “What party did you miss, oh my sweet Tevinter?”
He chuckled and offered her a hand to help her up, a smirk never leaving his lips. “That pity party you were throwing for yourself before. It was so droll but still, no invitation? Tsk tsk. Bad form.” She raised a hand to smack him but he caught it and pulled her into a tight embrace, his cheek resting on the top of her head while she fell into the warmth of his body. “Don’t ever scare me like that again. Things would be terribly lonely around here.” He then put her at arm’s length, handing her an empty bowl and pointing over to the line where people were getting food. “Now go get yourself some food. You could use a stretch. Your body must be starving after all the magic we poured into it. Be careful of this one, he’s been growling at anybody that even looks at you wrong.”
Kain rose from the side of her cot and pressed his side against the back of her calf, looking up at her with pleased eyes. You’re better? A deep voice whispered into her head. She nodded in response, bending down and kissing him on the nose. He responded by licking her chin and nudging her towards the food line.
The general mood of the crowd was hopeful but bitter. The corpses of Haven had barely gone cold and they were left in the snow-capped Frostback Mountains. She was one of the last ones to get soup but already people were glaring at her and whispering a single name under their breaths. Witch. She clicked her tongue against the roof of her mouth, turning towards Flissa who was behind the serving table.
The poor woman dropped the ladle in the soup, her eyes widening not in fear but something else. Athena raised a brow at her, looking around. “What’s wrong?”
Flissa shook her head, regathering her ladle while scooping some meaty bits to put into her bowl. She spoke softly, as if she didn’t want the others to hear her praise. “Thank you for saving my life. The others. . .they have heard rumors but I am beyond grateful.”
She took a spoon and swallowed some broth, sighing as the heat rolled down her throat and settled in her stomach. “What rumor is that?”
The barmaid nervously tucked a hair behind her ear, looking around before whispering: “They heard you knew about Haven. That you just know things sometimes.”
Athena froze, slowly putting another spoonful of soup into her mouth. “I’m glad you’re doing better. Thanks for the heads up.” She then turned on her heel and attempted to walk back towards her cot but was stopped by a villager with a scowl on his face. She tried not to be afraid, casually putting a piece of what she assumed was pheasant into her mouth. It went down like a rock and that was due to the fact that not only the one man was standing, but a few others as well that were not drawn to the song of the Herald. She could feel the anger, the betrayal, coming off of them like auras. The man in front of her spoke through gritted teeth, the words spitting like acid upon her heart. “My son. . . his name was Daniel. He was one of the ones we lost and you knew.”
She shook her head, putting the bowl behind her on the table. “No-no you misunderstand.”
The punch was expected but the speed was not, it catching her cheekbone and whipping her head to the right. She stabilized herself on the table, pressing her left hand to where he punched her. There was no blood, thankfully, but before she had a chance to respond Kain snarled and cleared a space for her. He bared his fangs and raised his hackles, placing his body in between the crowd and hers. Words rang out through the small group, every insult causing her to wince like it was a wound. “Witch! Fade-Walker! That dog is cursed, it is!” A woman in the back shouted out, this bringing an angered flush to her cheeks and her hands to fists.
“I am so sorry for the loss of your family members! I tried to help everyone I could!” She cried out, tears threatening to come to her eyes but the anger of the crowd subdued them. She held one hand up in defense while the other hovered above Kain, trying to soothe him from attacking anybody. Somebody threw an empty bowl from the back and it struck the side of her face. Thankfully it was made of a light wood but it brought a reaction out of her anyways.
The anger, the flame that fueled her magic lit within her core. It brought a nearly wicked smile to her lips as she rolled her neck back to face him, stretching her shoulders to straighten after the attack. Her eyes suddenly felt hooded with blood lust as she licked the side of her mouth where the bowl had struck. The wound tasted of copper and she knew the strike was true. Mana sparked at her fingertips but someone pushed in from the side, his bravery storming with him. “That is enough!”
An unnamed soldier pushed through the crowd, placing his body in between the crowd and hers. Athena swore he looked familiar but she could only see glimpses of the side of his face and could hear the Orlesian accent on his tongue. “But ser-“
He turned, meeting eyes with the attacker and snapping: “Haven’t we lost enough today? Do you seek more bloodshed?” His words were full of hurt and remorse and his tone silenced the crowd more than his words did. Athena growled low in her throat, pushing through the crowd with Kain at her heel. She didn’t stop at the camp, ignoring Dorian as he tried to reach out for her. With a slide of her body she fit between the tents and began to run as fast as her body would take her.
Some of the superficial wounds reopened but the raw emotion, the rage that sat in the back of her mind urged her to keep going. The snow kicked up behind her as she made it to a full sprint, the camp becoming a distant image behind them. Kain was in full strides beside her, his eyes focused on her as they ran. She could feel him, feel the loyalty of his spirit, the beat of his heart, the smell of the forest. The connection to him rolled over her mind, it nearly turning her eyes white as they jumped over a fallen tree. Faster her body moved, attracting the attention of the rest of the pack that was scouting on the outskirts of the camp. Their spirits were one as they all fell into a run together. Every paw, every stride, every breath, every motion was in unison.
Athena felt something within her building. It was a strange pressure, a closeness to the wolves. It was filling her like a cup and the pressure made her feel like she was going to overflow and burst from the sensation. As they came upon a small clearing she jumped over the hill and allowed the feeling to overtake her. It was a tingling sensation that went from her crown to her feet, magic dancing along her skin and controlling her. In a smooth movement her body shifted midair and when she landed on the snow she landed on pure white-furred paws.
She panted, brown eyes looking at the ground to take in what happened. There was something heavy behind her, weighing her backside down. With a slow glance she looked over her shoulder and saw a long white tail wagging back and forth in rhythm with her heartbeat. The other wolves seemed delighted, giving small yelps of encouragement while running their bodies alongside theirs. “Friend!” They called out to her, nipping her skin with the front of their teeth to urge her to play.
Athena turned and put her front paws down, sticking her tail in the air and teasing them with a position she knew meant play. They rejoiced, taking off running back towards the camp in a game of tag. She took off after them, feeling the wind coarse through her fur. It was an exhilarating feeling, something that freed her from the burden that awaited her back at the camp. The logical side of her knew that this was a temporary escape, but at this moment her instincts took over and she needed to do what felt good. Kain ran at her side as her unnamed beta, his eyes constantly watching for threats while also enjoying the shared time with her.
They played for hours, the pack and her. At one point in the night they grew hungry. Athena had could barely eat a few bites of soup before the scorned family members threw their attacks. The grey alpha walked beside her, sniffing the ground before pointing his nose in the direction of a noise in the woods. It wasn’t a scurrying, so it was a larger beast. With her heightened senses, she could hear the chewing of dead grass and the crunch of snow underneath the target’s body. She growled softly in her throat, thinking to the others Ram? They all nodded in response, their bodies low to the ground as the pack began to spread out into an instinctually driven strategy. Athena, Kain, and the alpha were in a close unit at the front, their steps light and gaze hardened as they pressed forward.
In the trees in front of them was a mountain ram. It was finishing off its meal and hadn’t noticed them yet, its whole aura saying it was blissfully unaware of the fate it was about to endure. With quick movement Athena lunged forward, breaking into a sprint and triggering the rest of the pack to move. They all came in from the sides, essentially surrounding their victim who just began to realize what was happening. Athena was in front of its head and took the brunt of a butt of its horns. It pushed her back a little but by the time she returned Kain had already taken the thing to the ground and held it by his clenched jaw. The creature was still alive, its eyes wide and hooves helplessly kicking into the ground. She shook her head and walked next to Kain, somehow knowing where to bite her teeth into before breaking the creature’s neck.
The rush of blood into her mouth felt foreign. She stepped back and licked up some snow to clean out her mouth but the thrill of the hunt denied her human mind. With a slow gaze she looked back to the pack and the now dead ram. They were waiting for her, waiting for her to take the first bite so they could begin. Pride swirled within her heart because she knew of this gesture. They truly saw her as alpha and wanted her to eat first. Athena trotted back over the ram and winced while tearing through its hide, finding a piece of thigh to rip off before using magic in her paws to cook it. The pack yelped in delight, digging into their meal with ferocious intent.
Athena then felt a call against her mind, a cold wind through her fur that sent a shudder down her spine. A whine fell from her maw, her ears perking up as she looked to the direction of the call. It was strangely familiar and somehow she could feel that the call was full of concern. She whined to the others in a series of sounds, gesturing with her nose to follow her. The pack grabbed a mouthful of food before trotting along beside he, Kain keeping his position by her side. They made a V formation through the snow, Athena sniffing for some sort of trail and following the pull within the woods.