sagacious_rage: (maebh)
[personal profile] sagacious_rage
Title: Prodigal, Chapter Three: The Third Betrayal
Canon: Dragon Age
Genre/s: Family, Adventure, Romance
Characters/Pairing: Alistair, Maebh, Leliana, Oghren, Bhelen, Branka
Rating: Chapter: T for violence Story: M, for consensual het sex
Warnings: drug and alcohol use.
Word Count: Chapter: 2,869 Story: 71,100
Story Summary: A mage with a terrible secret attempts to survive the Blight and the powerful people who would like nothing better than for her to disappear for good.
Chapter Summary: As the party travels further into the Deep Roads and dwarven politics, they discover ever greater horrors. An act of desperation leaves Maebh in the grip of an addiction that threatens them all.


It's Always Darkest


"I think I'm going to be sick."

Maebh flicked an irritated glance at Alistair. "Hold yourself together, we don't have time for that." She grabbed onto the anger like a lifeline that yanked her out of the depths of horror and disgust she felt at the sight of the Broodmother.

Mother is such a soft word, welcoming and warm. Comfort and love. Her own mother had been so beautiful, so kind, gracious and lovely and everything good. Maebh barred images of Mother from entering her thoughts. She could not let those few precious memories be tainted by this monstrous creature.

This thing, this corruption. This twisted abuse of feminine power and grace. This abomination. The Greagoir had lied. Whatever happened in the Fade could never produce anything so befitting of that word.

Focus. Analyze. Find a weakness. She fought the urge to run at it, to smash it with her bare hands and tear it to pieces. She pushed aside the unthinking rage and looked at the thing with a critical eye.

The creature was enormous, at least as tall as an ogre, with girth that spilled out of the crevice of the wall. Maebh could not determine how far back into the bedrock the creature extended. Nearly a dozen pairs of teats that leaked a puslike milky substance formed her front. At the top of the pile of grey protuberances was a bloated face, a disgusting reminder that this was once a woman. Her tiny dwarf arms flapped uselessly at the sides of her bulk. Slimy tentacles as thick as Maebh's waist and twice as tall as she wriggled and writhed from its droopy flesh. More tentacles burst out of the ground near where they stood. Maebh immediately cast a spell of tempest, shocking the wormlike growths into submission. She was nearly overwhelmed at the stench of rot and afterbirth. Focus.

"Any ideas?" shouted Alistair above the screams of the creature.

"I'm going to hang back and manage the tentacles, you get in their and just beat the Maker-forsaken thing!"

"Works for me!" Alistair, Oghren, and Leliana rushed at the creature, slipping on pools of excrescence as they charged.

Maebh cycled through all her wide-ranged spells. She shocked, burned, froze, and choked the creature. She tried to keep her eyes on her companions while dodging the shrieks and hurlocks that boiled out of the walls to defend the Broodmother. She slipped on the treacherous surface and fell flat on her face. Quickly she rolled out of the way of an Alpha's axe. Dear Maker, she wasn't serious. She didn't actually want to die, not like this. Not here. Not at the hands of this horrible thing.

A shield smashed the Alpha's face in, gore and brains splattering Maebh. She wiped her eyes and saw Alistair standing over her. He held out his hand, and helped her to her feet. "We still need you," he said, as he slashed at a quivering tentacle that had popped up beside them.

He charged back at the creature while Maebh retreated. Then, to her horror, she saw one of the tentacles wrap around Alistair and lift him to the Broodmother's mouth. Vile substances spewed out of her orifices at his face, as he choked and kicked to escape. Maebh petrified the tentacle, "OGHREN, HELP HIM!" she cried.

Oghren roared and smashed the frozen tentacle with all his might. Alistair was released from its grasp and Maebh rushed over to him. She placed her hands on his breastplate and willed a healing spell so strong it left her light headed. "We need you, too," she gasped.

She looked up and saw that it was over. Leliana was straddling the back of the monster's neck, both daggers buried to the hilt, as it quivered in its death throes. She used the daggers as leverage to launch herself into the air, and back flipped gracefully back onto the cave floor.

Maebh turned her attention back to Alistair when he stirred. "We won?" He asked weakly. She nodded, smiling. "We did? Yay!"

Maebh looked in her pack and realized she had used the last of the lyrium potion.

~*~


If there was one thing in this ugly, damp, smelly darkspawn-ridden place that Maebh was sure of, it was that Branka was completely insane.

After the second wave of darkspawn attacks was quelled, while Maebh and her companions were blocked from taking refuge in the camp and Branka ranted the workings of her diseased mind, she turned to Alistair in disbelief. "This is the paragon they're counting on to choose a new king?"

"I'm beginning to think your prettiest beard idea was the right way to go after all. Oh great, here's another wave. Oh! And an ogre, too! We are lucky."

Maebh darted over to an exposed bit of a lyrium. Touching it was enough to make her feel completely recharged and strangely hollow. She cast a glyph of paralysis at the choke point where the darkspawn where emerging from the depths. That helped Leliana to take out a few with arrows before Alistair and Oghren even reached the bulk of the force. The undiluted lyrium coursing in her veins, Maebh quickly froze and paralyzed the two ogres. She shattered one herself and let Oghren take the other.

During another lull in the fighting. Maebh ran to another exposed bit of lyrium. The rush was intoxicating. Everything seemed to be brighter, clearer. Her reflexes were quickened, her spells sang like birds. It was so beautiful she almost cried.

Time sped up. Once they finally got away from Branka and into the Forge, she burned through the traps like fire. "Hit the spirit anvils, they'll go for the eyes!" at one. At another, she sprinted around the room closing gas valves so they could attack golems without choking. By the time she finally got to Caridin and the anvil her pulse was pounding in her ears.

"This is important," she whispered to herself. "Pay attention."

Alistair shot her a concerned look, but said nothing. Maebh's pupils were dilated and she was shaking slightly, but she was concentrating on Caridin's words. His story of enslaving the dwarves as golems touched her deeply. She knew what it was like to be forced into a role she did not desire. She jumped when Branka ran in shouting, and involuntarily took a step back as if to hide behind Alistair before stopping herself. She realized that everybody was looking at her.

"I need to consult with my fellow Grey Warden," she declared. She turned to Alistair and whispered. "I'm not feeling... in my right mind."

"Yes, I can see that."

"I want to smash that anvil. Is that a good idea? I mean, golems would be useful, but..."

"No, I think smashing the anvil would be a great idea."

"Alright, then, if you're sure."

He nodded.

"I have made my decision. Sorry, Branka, but the anvil goes."

"NO!" And Branka attacked.

Maebh's ears buzzed as she surveyed the field. There were four of them, as Caridin was incapacitated somehow, and approximately ... a lot of golems plus Branka. "I have a great idea!" she said to Alistair, who looked unsure. Before he could say anything, she cast earthquake.

On one hand, it was a good idea as the shaking rock bed knocked over all the golems. However, it also knocked over Maebh and her companions. She glanced at the ceiling before crawling to her feet, and realized it looked much less stable than it had when they walked in. "Why did you let me do that?" she demanded of Alistair. "That was the worst idea I ever had!"

He simply shook his head as he got back to his feet. "Stay clear, and just cast ranged spells," he told her. She retreated beyond the reach of the aftershocks, and cast lighting and fire at the golems. Her power draining quickly, she frequently dashed to the ribbons of lyrium peeking temptingly at her from the walls.

"Maebh, stop!" Leliana yelled at one point. "Stop healing me, I'm fine! It's Oghren who's hurt!"

Maebh frantically searched for Oghren amongst the carnage. Finally locating him, she gave him a lifeward that was immediately spent. And that's when Maebh saw him cut down Branka himself. Her heart broke for him, and she sank to her knees.

~*~


Maebh stood in the middle of the Assembly. Her hands shook slightly, she was pale and wan. She looked at the dwarves she was to choose from.

Harrowmont was a good man, this she was sure of. But he was weak, and afraid of change. The dwarves were killing themselves by inches, clinging to their old ways. Harrowmont would do nothing to stop that tide.

Bhelen. Bhelen the traitor. Bhelen the brother-killer, the patricide. Bhelen was strong, Bhelen understood the necessity of change. Bhelen was not happy that she destroyed the anvil, but could move the dwarves forward to greater prosperity and equality.

"I choose Bhelen," she said, the words bitter in her mouth.

"Then as my first order as king, I shall have the traitor Harrowmont executed!"

Maebh shook her head. "Just be sure I get my army." She turned and walked out of the chamber.

~*~


Bhelen had put them up in lavish quarters in the royal palace, demanding that they attend his coronation feast. Maebh paced from one end of the apartment to the other, wringing her hands and feeling jittery. "Come here," Alistair said to her, looking troubled.

"I don't want to come here you come here," she said, still pacing.

He took her by the arm and stopped her for a minute. "Hold still," he held her face and tilted it toward the light. "Damn."

"What damn you not damn me I'm the pretty one."

"What's wrong with her?" Oghren grumbled.

"Nothing's wrong with me what's wrong with you?" she asked, insulted. "I feel...sparky..." she shook her head, trying to chase away the tingling feeling.

"She's been mainlining straight lyrium for a week."

Morrigan shook her head. "I told her to let me make more potions but oh, no, her great sorrow would protect her or some such nonsense. And then, she chose to leave me topside because she's such a marvelous mage who somehow does not know how to make lyrium potions..."

"Sweet Andraste make that woman shut up. Why won't she stop talking it's so annoying. Yes we know you're crazy and live in a swamp blahblahblah," Maebh's words tumbled out like marbles from a velvet bag.

Alistair looked at her, brow furrowed. "We're going to have to get her to a Knight-Commander. I think the closest one is Greagoir in the Circle Tower."

Maebh's eyes shone with tears. "Oh Greagoir yes let's go see Greagoir oh wait no he'll be so disappointed in me when he finds out about Cai-" she covered her mouth with her hand, "no no don't talk about him..."

"Why?" Leliana asked Alistair.

"He'll be able to detoxify her. She's lucky she's a mage, she won't suffer lasting effects. But too much lyrium is bad for anybody, even dwarves," he reached into his pack and pulled out a small pouch. He separated a tiny pinch of the dust on a small knife and held it up to Maebh. "Here, sniff this."

Maebh sniffed and coughed. "You fool!" Morrigan cried as she leapt to her feet. "How is that going to help anything?"

"It'll keep her steady until we can get to the Tower," he said unhappily. "It's the best I can do. How are you feeling?"

Maebh shook her head. "Better?"

He sighed. "Just tell me the next time you're feeling 'sparky', will you?" She saluted. "Come on, let's get dressed for this party."

Maebh was convinced that the entire population of Orzammar had been crammed into the throne room at the palace. Again she was confronted with the seeming impossibility of feeling so crowded by people that did not come above her shoulder. She sought out Oghren, who sat in a relatively secluded corner, drinking like a man with something to forget.

"Hey," she said, as she slid on the bench beside him. "I'm sorry."

"What for. She was barmy. And she wasn't going to come back with me anyway. Not your fault."

"Still..." she twisted the ring.

The dwarf grunted. "Thanks. You want some?" he pushed a tankard at her.

"I don't know. I've never had alcohol before."

"First time for everything."

She grabbed the tankard and drank most of it before slamming it down. Oghren laughed. "You don't go by halves, do you? My kind of girl."

Her head swam. "Is this supposed to make you feel better?"

"I think it's better at making you not feel anything. At least until morning. That's when you feel like bronto dung."

"I'll deal with that tomorrow, then," Maebh said grimly, and gulped the rest of the ale.

After two more pints she and Oghren were singing and telling stories like old friends. Maebh laughed until her belly hurt, and leaned over on the stone bench. "This is...comfy," she said and giggled. "Why is the...edges numb?"

"Edges?" Oghren asked as he pulled her back upright.

"Yeah, like the edges of my skin. Like just the outside."

"That means it's working."

She sighed happily. "Good. Oh no," she ducked under the table as Alistair walked over.

"Maker's breath," he cursed, "Maebh get out from under there."

"No! You'll be mad."

"I'm mad anyway," he knelt down and held out his hand. "Come on, it's time to get you to bed."

"Ooh, hehe," Oghren leered. "Didn't know I was intruding on your territory."

"She's not my territory! She's just in no condition to be in public. Maebh, I'm serious, get out from under there before you make a scene."

She crawled out, feeling sheepish. "Please don't be mad at me," she said, standing up and dusting off her dress.

"Fine. Done. I'm not mad at you, let's go."

He had to hold her up as they walked. "This was a bad idea, wasn't it," Maebh slurred.

"Yes it was. Watch your step, there."

"I'm sorry, I'm doing everything wrong," she sniffled.

"Oh, don't be like that. Even grief-stricken and lyrium-addled you're making better command decisions than most people would in their right minds." They walked in silence a moment. "Can I ask you something?"

"He called me 'Maybe' because when he learned out to read, that's how he thought it was supposed to be pronounced. He refused to believe that 'bh' was pronounced 'v' in the old language. And I pretended it made me mad but really I was happy because it meant he liked me better than stupid Nora."

"Stupid Nora?"

"Yes stupid Nora and her stupid yellow hair. And stupid farm."

"You know you could probably make a lot of money writing a book about all of Cailan's dirty little secrets." Alistair mused. "And while this is all very interesting, that wasn't what I was going to ask. What I was going to ask was, what is your problem with bridges?"

Maebh shook her head. "Don't like them."

"Yes, I figured that," he said wryly. "But why?"

"Something...bad happened to me on a bridge. Father... No can't tell you. Maybe later."

"Fair enough. Here we are," he led her into her sleeping chambers. "You'll have to forgive me if I don't take the liberty of changing you into something more comfortable." He lay her on her side. "Here's a bucket, should you need it."

"Wait," she propped herself up on her hands. "Alistair, has anybody ever told you you're very handsome?"

He blushed. "Well, there were some girls in Denerim but they were...not like you. Why do you ask?"

"Because you are," she flopped back down with a sigh. "I just thought you should know."

"Good night, Maebh. We'll leave for the Circle Tower in the morning."


~*~


Previous Chapters:

Prologue, Chapter One, Chapter Two, Chapter Three
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