Fenlin’s head ached and throbbed. Even though she wasn’t unconscious for long, the hit had been hard enough to leave her dazed, and unable to focus on what was happening. Something strange was snapped into place around her neck, and it was heavy, holding her head down and rubbing her neck raw. There was shouting.
Hanin threatening that his mother would seek retribution, Rahlen trying to calmly talk to whoever had taken them.
Nothing had worked, because the next thing Fenlin knew was that she was dumped into a longboat, landing in water that had settled along the bottom. Her head throbbed, and Rahlen climbed in after, forced to kneel next to her. She tried to push herself up, but her hands had been shackled behind her, hampering any attempt to straighten.
She blinked, things still too fuzzy to focus on. They were moving, the boat bobbing on the waves. How easy would it be to roll over the edge of the boat and shift into a fish? Fen eyed the gunwale, and realised it was too high to reach in her current state, not without one of the slavers grabbing her.
She closed her eyes, trying to steady her thoughts, and stop the throb of her head. When she opened them again, it was because one of the larger slavers had picked her up and tossed her over his shoulder. She watched, feeling ill, as he climbed up the rope ladder to the ship, watching Rahlen and Hanin sitting in the longboat below. Hanin had a split lip now, and Rahlen was just watching everything, seemingly unbothered.
“This is the one that was injured?” a calm, cultured voice asked as the slaver reached the main deck. He slung her over, setting her down surprisingly gently. Fen blinked, looking up through bleary eyes as a new man crouched by her, examining her face. Then he moved her arm to get a look at the slash down her side.
“Yessir, the only one to try to fight back too,” the slaver said, scratching at his beard. “Well, at first. You’ll see the other two, one won’t talk much and the other doesn’t shut up.”
“Bring her to the surgery, I’ll treat her there. The other two can go to th cargo hold with the rest. This gash needs to be seen to or we’ll lose her before we get very far.” Fen shifted, trying to squirm out of the slaver’s reach, but he was quick and strong. Soon she was back over his shoulder and being carried below decks.
The cultured-voice man, wore Tevinter style robes and his hair was greying at the temples. Fenlin got a good look at him as he followed, and despite one of her eyes so swollen it was nearly shut, Fenlin glared at the robed man as hard as she could. She wasn’t sure if he was one of the dreaded Magisters but she was prepared to think of him as one. She was in a dangerous situation, until she knew more about these slavers she’d have to assume they were as dangerous as possible.
Because you’re so small, because you’re an elf, everyone will think you are less dangerous than you are. Her mother’s voice echoed in Fenlin’s head. Do not make their mistake.
“I can already see the fight in this one,” the magister said with a slow smile. “I look forward to seeing what she can do when she is fully healed. You said she reached for a blade?”
“Aye, the first to react. Didn’t get a chance to see if she was any good with it though,” the slaver said. He set Fenlin down on a wooden table that had a few…concerning bloodstains on it. Waiting patiently, Fenlin watched as the large man unshackled her wrists.
Seeing an opening, Fen sat up and swung at the slaver’s jaw as hard as she could. It connected, but the man’s jaw felt like she was punching rock. He grinned, catching her small wrist in his massive palm and pressed it down to the table, buckling a leather strap around it. He did the same to her ankles and other wrist, before clipping the collar around her neck to something that was out of her line of sight. Spread out on the table, Fen tried to move, to see how sturdy the restraints were.
“She’s awfully…quiet,” the magister remarked, rolling his sleeves up. “Does she not talk?”
The slaver shrugged. Fenlin felt him pinch her side. She arched, a silent cry of pain on her lips as the scab burst, weeping blood. Though her body tried to shout, to scream, nothing came out. Falling back with short sharp gasps, Fen spat at the slaver. It landed short, somewhere beyond the table. Retribution for the punch? Her knuckles still hurt. The small gratification of watching him rub the rest imprint on his face helped soothe her ego, at least.
“Looks like you’ve got a Mute, Master Polonius. If you don’t want her, I’ll take her.” The slaver grinned. “I like ‘em with fight.”
The magister known as Polonius looked back at Fen again, and she could see thoughts and gears starting to turn. Not something she particularly was interested in seeing the result of.
“How interesting. I’ll consider it Favus, but I believe she’ll suit my needs just fine. Go get the rest of the cargo settled and tell the captain to set sail. I must attend to the wound you so thoughtfully opened up.”
The slaver nodded. With a grin and wink at Fenlin, he disappeared through the surgery’s doorway.
“This is a mess,” Polonius muttered. He leaned over, examining her side. He clucked his tongue, and Fen felt him start to cut away the bandages. “But we’ll have time to sort it out. I have plans for you my dear, a wild elf, and a mute? I am a lucky man.“
Fenlin grit her teeth, unsure what that meant. Why would a tiny, mute elf be more important than a prince? Or the heir to the inquisition?
“You’ll regret this,” Hanin shouted hoarsely, spittle flying from his lips. Rahlen watched as the large slaver who had carried away Fenlin, held Hanin in place as two others chained the elf’s wrists to the chain that ran along the side of the ship’s hold. Rahlen waited patiently behind, watching the proceedings with a half smirk.
“Hey,” he said over his shoulder to the guard who stood behind him, sword drawn. Rahlen at least had no intention of starting a fuss, not when he’d seen the large man shrug off a spell like it was nothing. Templar slavers, who knew? “The little female elf, she’s not down here…”
The man narrowed his eyes, and Rahlen shrugged.
“I just want to make sure she’s okay.”
“Why do you care about an elf?” The guard asked. “She your pet pocket or something?”
Rahlen wasn’t familiar with the term, but he got the meaning of it. Wasn’t this man… delightful. The Prince shook his head.
“No, she just got hurt trying to help us. I want to know if she’s alright. I don’t plan on causing trouble, but…” he trailed off, arching his eyebrows. He was taller than this guard by at least half a foot. Staff or no staff, Rahlen knew he’d be able to knock out at least one of the guards, maybe take on one of the others before the large slaver got involved.
“My mother will-” Hanin’s shouting was cut off, replaced with muffled and wheezy gasps. The templar must have hit him quite hard. Rahlen made a note to stay out of the large man’s reach in future confrontations.
“The Master’s stitching her up,” the templar said. “Polonius doesn’t let his cargo spoil. Now.” He rubbed his knuckles. “Are you going to get into place politely or will I have to force you, like your friend?”
Rahlen smiled, relieved. At least Fen wasn’t tossed over the side. She was their best hope for escape at that point. The slavers didn’t know she was a mage. If she could shift into a bear and take on the templar… Rahlen and Hanin could easily handle the rest of the slavers.
“No need, just point me to where you want me to go,” Rahlen said with an easy shrug.
Before long, Rahlen was sitting on the bench next to Hanin, hands chained in place. While comfortable for now, Rahlen imagined that by the end of the day his arms and back would start to ache. He waited, watching the templar and extra guards leave, then looked around the cargo hold. There were others, scruffier looking and Rahlen wasn’t sure how long they’d been there. Some a few days maybe, others, weeks?
“Bastards,” Hanin croaked. “They’ll pay.”
“Buddy,” Rahlen said under his breath. “Just relax for a bit. Shouting won’t make much difference. And if you’re who you say you are, your mom’ll be on the path to find you before long.” His would when she heard what happened. And Maker help anyone who stood in her way. It was a comforting thought, but almost immediately replaced with one that was less comforting.
Everyone around them, they had families too. Fenlin probably did, though as far as he knew Dalish never travelled alone. Could they expect a rescue too? Troubled by the realisation that the answer was a ‘no’, Rahlen frowned. He’d find a way to help them too, his Mother would have.
“It’s… insulting. This collar,” Hanin said, getting his breath back slowly. The red and purple bruise forming on the elf’s bare chest told Rahlen the Templar had hit his solarplexus. Hard enough to drive the air from Hanin, but not hard enough to damage the man. “Like some sort of slave.“
“Maybe we’re going to be sex slaves,” Rahlen said, wiggling an eyebrow. “I mean, not likely but a man can dream.” He wasn’t particularly sold on that idea either. His reputation in Orlais was inflated, not that he’d minded much. Still, Rahlen had little interest in being someone’s plaything.
“No talking in the hold,” the guard snapped.
Rahlen closed his eyes, settling back to rest. Wherever they were going, it was going to take a while. He might as well rest when he was able to. Sleep didn’t come quickly, but eventually it did over take his tired body, leaving him standing in the fade. Here, on the ocean, the fade took on the shape of an impossible ship, winding staircases and boardwalks over open water. A small green spirit flitted around him, darting towards his leg and then away.
“It still hurts,” the thing said softly. “Pain, sharp. so red. Red. Too much red. She tried but not done. Not done.”
Before Rahlen could ask what the spirit meant, the healing sprite flitted away, disappearing behind a door that Rahlen knew he wouldn’t be able to open. He tried anyways, but something strong refused to let the Prince bend that part of the fade to his will.
Another dreamer, which meant that there was a very strong mage on the ship.
That wasn’t good.
Polonius was skilled at healing, though he didn’t bother to ease the discomfort of cleaning out the slash along Fenlin’s side, scraping out grit and pus. By the time that was done, Fenlin could scarely breathe, eyes screwed shut against the pain. And then…. she felt a cool magic spread over her side, knitting angry and red flesh back together. The pain was gone, leaving only an itch that she was unable to scratch due to the restraints.
Eyes watering, Fenlin let out a long breath, releasing the knotted air in her lungs as the pain subsided. Polonius cupped her jaw with one hand, holding her in place, and pressed a waterskin to her lips. Wary, but thirsty and too tired to resist, Fenlin drank.
“There,” Polonius said, wiping his hands clean. “There’ll be a scar, but it’s rather impressive on your skin. It suits you.” With that, he called for Favus. The world was getting soft, and Fenlin realised that the water had something in it. Mild… mild something. Her mother would have known. Something to make her lips prickle and her body unresponsive.
Daw…n flower? lotus. The pretty one that grew in the swamp that she used to make flower crowns with. She used to make pretty things, flowers like red and black for friends… Blinking Fen realised the large Slaver had returned and was in the middle of undoing her restraints. Funny, she’d barely felt it. Scooping her up in his arms, Favus carried her out of the surgery and down the narrow wooden hall to a cabin. She tried to bite him, but the drug in her system was strong enough that she just sort of, awkwardly bumped her head into the man’s shoulder.
He laughed, saying something about being time for that later if she was still interested.
Opening a door with his shoulder, the large man carried Fen into a cabin that had a cot on one side, lashed trunks, a table and in the corner, a small bedroll spread on the floor. It was the bedroll that Favus set her down on, and Fen was only barely aware that he was tying something to the heavy collar around her neck.
As the drug wore off slowly, Fen discovered the rope was long enough to stretch to the chamber pot in the corner, and not much further. Bastards. She stayed on the bedroll, dozing until the door to the cabin opened and the maybe-magister walked in.
“Do you know why you’re here and not below decks?“ Polonius asked, walking in and pulling off the heavier overcoat of his robes. Underneath he wore a tunic and leggings. He was more fit than Fenlin had expected, but that didn’t make her hate him any less.
She stared at him as Polonius readied for bed, jaw clenched. Then, minutely, shook her head by way of answer.
“Because I see something in you that i don’t in the others,” Polonius said, watching her, or at least the way her eyes shone back in the dim lamplight. “A killing instinct. Sure, the two you were taken with, maybe they’ll survive. Some of the others. The Avaar if they make the voyage. But you…” he sat on his cot, fingers brushing over his beard. “They’ll love you out there. I can tell.”
Fenlin frowned. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to be flattered or not at this point. Who would love her? Future masters? She rather thought not. At least not once she turned into a bear and bit off their faces.
“Even now, if you were given the choice between killing me and freedom, I don’t believe you would hesitate,” Polonius said. He was right, but Fenlin didn’t give him the satisfaction of knowing that. “Hold onto that little elf, you’ll need that in the ring.” He smiled, not unkindly.
They arrived in a port a week later, Polonius leading Fenlin off the ship before the rest of the ‘cargo’ had been offloaded. The air was hot and the sun strong over head. Fenlin squinted, barely able to see after so long spent in the dim cabin. Hands shackled behind her, she stumbled after Polonius, down the ramp to the dock where vendors were shouting prices for fish, supplies, taxes? She frowned, hearing Tevene spoken as often as common.
Surely they weren’t-
“Come girl, you have lost strength on the voyage. We need to recoup that and prepare you for the ring.”
Fenlin glanced over her shoulder as the rest of the ‘cargo’ began to surface on the ship’s deck, but she only saw a glimpse of them before the magister tugged on her leash and she was forced to follow deeper into the docks quarter of wherever they were.