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Burn The Witch

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It was pretty hard to misinterpret “Cleansed By Fire,” particularly when the scout who’d escaped had four arrows sprouting from his back. Any shreds of doubt they may have had were extinguished when the column of smoke came into view between the tree branches. If the red haze of his rage were any less, he would be spitting every curse he knew at the damned zealots. As it was, he just ran.

The outskirts of the village were empty. The thick smoke rose near the center of town. Bull ran. Noise -- someone shouting prayer to Andraste. Last Rights. An arrow took the woman in the throat before Bull could finish closing the distance. Funny thing about a charging qunari: they moved deceptively fast and carried a lot of momentum. When a man tried to block his path, Bull cleaved him in two at the ribs, leather jerkin and all. Someone was shouting in rage -- Adaar, that was Adaar. She wasn’t far behind him, sounded nearly as gone as The Bull himself. Reaver blood, dragon blood, she understood.

The door would be locked. He didn’t bother trying it. Flame had weakened the wood, and he had more than enough weight to throw around. As bad as it had looked on the outside, inside was worse. Burning straw lining the walls produced thick, sickly smoke and blazed in near painfully bright flames. The walls themselves had caught, licking orange up toward the rafters. Barn. It was some sort of barn; the barely recognisable shape of a collapsed hayloft on his left. Had there been people under there? Not important. He could hear the shrieking over the loud cracking of fire splitting wood. He wasn’t in Fereldan anymore. The forms huddled as far from the walls as their binds would allow were too small. Their grey skin was burning black where the fire touched. High voices --

No. Not there, not here. He shoved the sight of the memory away. Saw instead the Inquisition agents. Later. Later.

Someone had gotten a barrier up. The orange shone off a barely-there blued shell, turning somehow to yellow in the smoke. Could barriers keep smoke out? He skidded to the nearest scout -- elven woman, he knew her face somewhere in the thinking part of his mind. He dropped his axe in favor of one of his dirks. The edge wasn’t made for cutting rope, smooth rather than serrated, but he had more than enough strength to force it. He shoved the blade into her freed hands, pulled the sister blade from his belt and moved on to the next. The air was screaming in his lungs. No to the smoke then. Or, no, this close the barrier was barely there, keeping only the worst of the heat away.

The mages were collared. He learned it as he encountered not rope but chain at a pair of wrists. He followed the body up. Found the collar. Found instead of a lock a piece of iron bent into a crude circle. He wasn’t going to be able to pry it open. He moved on to the next body. He’d lose time coming up with a solution there, he could save more if he left them. He’d come back to them if he could.

Three mages. The last ripped him straight out of the fugue. Dorian watched him back with calm, tired eyes, panting where he lay on his side. The yellow blue orange reflected mirror bright in his eyes; he was the one maintaining the barrier. It took every scrap of Bull’s will to move on to the next scout rather than go to him. A moment later, Sera very nearly slammed into his shoulder. She was yelling something -- to get the chains. She and the other scouts hurriedly freed eachother’s bonds. She was coughing. They were all coughing. Several were dragging limp forms toward the door. The haze of rage had kept the fear at bay. Now, he wanted to scream. Three mages, there was really no choice in who he went for first.

The collar was attached to a chain. The chain was attached to one of the beams that had been the side of a stall. It was similarly jammed shut. All at once the heat eased. The barrier humming slightly brighter. Necromancy. They’d lost one of the scouts, then. Orange far too close, smoke far too thick. The agents not already out would be succumbing to it -- smoke or heat destroying their lungs. That Dorian was still conscious to even attempt to cast through a suppressing collar was practically a miracle. Necromancy again, likely. Healing as fast as he burned. His breath was coming in thin, wheezing gasps. His eyes had fallen shut. There was no way to pull the chain free of the collar. A hazardous glance back. The scouts were all clear. Flickering light reflected on the glazed over eyes of one of the other two chained mages. Dead. The other, he’d missed under the rage, had been gone even before Bull had reached them; partially out of the barrier’s circle with fallen, charred debris denting part of his skull. The first death that had allowed Dorian to pull up his ghost of a barrier? The barrier that was fading into nothing even now. They were out of time.

Bull braced a foot on the base on the beam Dorian was chained to. He pried with his full weight, leaned into the rage trying to rise above the terror. For a moment he thought it would lead to nothing, that he’d have to find his axe in the smoke and try with that. It wasn’t made for chopping wood, how long would it take? Then the beam cracked and splintered, flames above having weakened it. He landed hard on his ass from the sudden lack of resistance. Scrambled over to Dorian. Grabbed him. Ran.


It was like learning how to breathe again; The clean air very nearly burned. He’d done something to his knee somewhere in the mix; it hitched wrong and tried to give out three times. Didn’t matter as he nearly hacked up his lungs. Someone -- Sera -- was scrambling at Dorian in his arms. Was he breathing? She was shoving a potion into his mouth. Bull sank slowly to the ground before his knee could try to give again.

He was breathing. Shit, he was breathing. Relief was dizzying. His breath still came in short, shallow pants, but it was there. Finally, Bull let his awareness spread from the narrowed point of need. Adaar was pummeling someone into the ground with her shield. Some of the scouts had joined in. Varric was picking off the zealots who tried to run. Sera was swearing at the manacles on Dorian’s wrists, unconcerned with the happenings. The battle was practically over, near everyone down on the ground -- dead or surrendered. Bull would’ve been practically useless anyway, hurts he’d ignored finally making themselves known. He knew when Sera freed the lock when she chucked the manacles away as hard as she could. She was gone again, darting into the mess of people. Bull finally checked over Dorian properly.

Grey ash clung to his hair and skin. A rasping lingered in his breath. Ugly burns circled his wrists where the manacles had heated against bare skin -- skin that was visible healing from whatever potion Sera had given him. And then Sera was back, shoving a new vial into Bull’s face. She snapped something about him being useless without lungs. His token resistance was ignored.