Warning: Battle violence and gore ahead. There’s no torture or that kind of violence, but there is a lot of description of injuries and monster death. If this bothers you, please read no more.
I want to read Chapter Two.
Liberties taken with the PC in this story. He’s Orlesian, not Ferelden. Why? No real reason, except I thought it might be an interesting variation that the entire group died at the Joining, and Alistair had a different Warden with him at Ishal.
The Wolves of War
by E.H. Garner
Chapter One: The Lady’s Guard
“You’ve been bitten. Bitten by a werewolf. Now you will become that which you have hunted so passionately.” Shuler Hensley (as Frankenstein’s monster) – Van Helsing
Louis braced his feet, weight on his back heel for stability, and put his full power behind the sword thrust as it as he plunged it into the gut of the werewolf. Pulling his lips back in a mask almost as feral as the beast trying to kill him, he felt internal organs and muscle yield in the path of deadly star metal. He followed through, muscles burning with comfortable familiarity, to the hilt of Starfang. Blood fountained crimson over his gauntlets.
The werewolf screamed a jarring, primeval shriek which sounded far too human, and gore splashed against the visor of Louis’ helm. As the stench of battle, hot fur which reeked of musky rotted meat and copper invaded his nostrils, he was almost beginning to feel homesick for the terrors of the Orlesian Courts. Grunting to himself to blot out mental distraction, he braced one foot flat against the monster’s carcass, and yanked the two handed weapon out. Great, more coming. Happy days, he thought with biting, arid sarcasm.
Spinning and keeping his balance by grace of practice in a slick of mud and spatter, he half sensed, half saw, another grey and brown furred body plummeting toward him. “Oghren!” he yelled, catching sight of the others in their group as he hefted Starfang across his body defensively. His own voice nearly deafened him with the visor shut. “Help Wynne!”
Their healer had managed to stun a cluster of the pack into place and they were reeling unsteadily on hind paws or crumbled to their forelimbs. Experience fighting with her as part of his group had taught Louis it wouldn’t last long enough for her to retreat far enough. The werewolves were too fast and stronger than any of them had thought they’d be, and it was like trying to combat blurring tornadoes of claws and fangs.
“Go!” Half pivoting, he caught sight of his fellow Warden, backing up from a tangled mountain of fur as it toppled to the side. “Alistair! Get my back!”
The familiar, half drunken battle shout of, “here comes Oghren!” belted out above the din of snarling howls and the dwarf swung his sword in an upward arc, sending a blank eyed, shaggy head with a muzzle streaming lines of foam into the trunk of a tree. It hit with a sickening wet sound, and he tucked his chin down in a duck as fire flew from the end of Wynne’s staff. “Hey, watch where you’re pointing that thing!” he shouted, and swept his blade across the back of one of the werewolf’s legs, cutting out the tendons behind the knees.
Sodding thing didn’t stop, even when it hit the ground, and the business end whipped around, almost crushing bone as its jaws clamped down around Oghren’s bicep. Although dwarven armor stood up against the test of teeth, the hunk of drooling fur was shaking the dwarf like a dog with a rat. His shoulder wrenched in a world of barely felt pain as the Beserker talent exploded behind his eyes in a thin veil of red. “You want some of this, you sodding rug!” he bellowed triumphantly, “come and get it!” He rammed the pommel of his sword into the beast’s eye, rupturing it.
The werewolf might have ripped his arm completely out of the socket, but Wynne’s concentration was solid as stone. Her arms crossed over her torso for a moment and she released a spell, pummeling the shaggy creature with a rock fist. It distracted the flea bait long enough for Oghren to yank his arm out from the vice of teeth. Once both his hands were wrapped around the sword hilt again, he added one more to the list of gruesomely piled bodies he’d been tallying up since coming to the surface.
“Got it!” Alistair called out simultaneously in recognition, slamming his shield into the face of one of his adversaries. It bellowed in mingled pain and rage, slapping paw hands over it’s bleeding nostrils. The weres had advantages in speed, size and the power behind their blows was staggering, but in spite of Morrigan’s insinuations, Alistair wasn’t completely stupid. Maybe he didn’t always think things through and hadn’t seen a lot of the world, yet, but he had moments of good clarity. Templars didn’t recruit anyone who was truly dumb, as he’d once insisted.
After the first fracas with the werewolves, he found out they had weaknesses too. Their muzzles were more delicate and far easier to hit than breaking a man’s nose, and when upright, they weren’t as stable as down on all fours. Preferring to be able to use their claws, they tended to spend a lot of time reared up. When they were, they could be outmaneuvered or temporarily blinded.
He felt an alternately cool and warm wave brush through his entire body as Wynne’s familiar healing spell cascaded through him, although he hadn’t suffered anything worse than a badly bruised wrist and a tear across the arm from a claw which got past his templar armor. Someone else in the group obviously hadn’t had his luck and she’d sent the spell for all of them at once.
Not able to check on Wynne and Oghren, Alistair rammed his sword upward, sending it through the bottom of a werewolf’s jaw and through the top of its skull. Wrenching it back out, slinging bits of blood and fur from the edge, he fell back to try and keep the pack from Louis. “Maker,” he breathed, “there’s so many!”
Louis didn’t even bother to offer his in-eloquent grunt which passed for conversation. Had all Duncan’s new recruits not died in the Joining, he wouldn’t have found himself far from home and full of fleas in a country which reeked of garbage and wet dogs.
The Blight had to be stopped, and as the months were wearing them down it was obvious his Orlesian brothers were either being stopped from lending aid by Loghain, had given Ferelden up, or a both. It was almost refreshing to be hated because he was human rather than Orlesian when they’d tried to make civil contact with the Dalish, but it hadn’t mattered with Alistair. He’d followed with an almost blind loyalty since they’d lost Duncan, but at least he took orders well.
Unfortunately, Louis had almost as little Grey Warden training as Alistair, and had been sent to Ferelden because of that incident back home… Damn tattoo was permanent. Of course he’d been pissed when he sobered up. It was supposed to bring him luck and keep him from harm, which in a twisted, ironic way, it had.
Because he was one of the rawest recruits, his own mentor had curtly informed him he’d be punted “where he was needed.” Duncan had sent him with Alistair to light the signal fire because they were the greenest. Now an Orlesian was trying to save Ferelden. What a screwed up world.
Claws skittered across his cuirass with a screeching sound to make teeth grind as Louis stepped back, throwing his weight and blade into an arc which swept across the werewolf’s belly, spilling parts of it which shouldn’t have ever seen daylight. Alistair had another down, blade going through the matted throat in a fast, efficient swipe, and Louis jabbed his sword behind him. He had to twist his head around so far it almost threw his neck out of alignment to be able to see with the limited visibility inside a heavy helmet, but he rammed the point all the way through the hairy hide and back out the other side.
Because he was blind over his opposite shoulder, he never saw the charge until it hit him worse than the time an Ogre hurled a boulder a them. For seconds without end, he didn’t know what had happened, and he was borne down to the ground with tusks of teeth trying to grab through his armor. Pressure crushed around his neck so that he was having a hard time breathing, and Starfang was knocked out of his hands.
Reeking, rancid grey fur jammed into the visor slit, poking into his eyes so he could see nothing, and he groped to grab a handful of hair and muscle as he futilely tried to shove the monster, or get one of his legs in front of himself so he could utilize the strength to push it off. “Need some help!” he bellowed as the werewolf cranked back one of its tree trunk thick arms and slashed downward, hooking a claw into the crevasse of the pauldron. Ripping it off with brute force which made the leather straps dig into his skin through the underlying padding, it flew off, giving the beast a chance to bury its snarling muzzle, worrying its way through Louis’ cuirass. Sheer brute force and a hurricane of frenzied, rabid lupine insanity was thrown into the ring against fine dwarven armor, but the metal was losing.
“Alistair!” Wynne cried in alarm, unleashing a paralyzing spell onto a werewolf so it was frozen almost comically midair, teeth splayed, claws reaching, trying to get at her throat. “Behind you — it’s Louis!” She rallied her magical abilities to try and do what she could to help their leader, ignoring her own peril because the spell on the suspended mountain of viciousness wouldn’t hold it indefinitely. Tapping into a lesser and more personal healing, she threw the spell toward Louis, feeling a well controlled sense of concern start to rise through her breath.
Overwhelmed by sheer force, Louis was helplessly pinned beneath the brute, and it was Orlesian blood spilling the ground rather than lupine.
Alistair whirled, throwing his shoulder behind his shield and launching all his weight against the werewolf which had his fellow Warden down. He might as well have hurled himself headlong into a solidly rooted tree. The impact rattled his bones and barely distracted the hulking creature as it finally found meat, and buried its snout over Louis’ shoulder, audibly snapping his clavicle and rooting for his throat. Wynne’s spells didn’t stop the scream out of Louis, nor the spew of profanity which was right behind it, although as his bone knitted almost as soon as it was broken. He hit the monster in the jaw with the heel of his hand, aiming for the nose, but missing and doing little more than knocking its teeth together as its massive head lashed back.
“I’m comin’, Lou!” Oghren yelled, hoisting his sword back, but narrowed eyes shot through with gold and red were riveted on him. The lead female of the pack wrinkled her muzzle back from her teeth, snarling a low, keening menacing growl. Her legs coiled under her, muscle rippling beneath her pelt, and she launched herself into Oghren before the intended blow could fall on her mate. Her fangs snapped, scratching harmlessly over linked metal plates as they rolled over each other, scattering leaves and blood, trying to maintain an advantage long enough to kill. Oghren didn’t hale from the most nimble race, but he was strong and so well wrapped up in the Beserker frenzy that he was managing to hold admirably.
“Die already!” Alistair fumed at the top of his lungs, flipping his sword over in his hands and plunging it downward, trying to hit the heart of the werewolf savaging Louis. It had taken only seconds, but Louis was being torn to pieces in front of all of them as teeth as long as human fingers were digging into skin, ripping him open as easily as wet cloth. “Maker, no…” he breathed as jaws clamped around the front of Louis’ ribs and he thought for a moment the Warden’s heart was about to be extracted. Wynne’s petrification spell took effect almost simultaneously to Alistair’s sword strike, trapping his blade into the stone wolf, although through their combined effort, it rolled over to its side, dead.
Grabbing a dagger out of his boot, it was hardly Alistair’s first love at close range, but he hadn’t any choice. The spell had to wear itself out before he could recover his main weapon, and he poised himself next to their leader. Louis had lost his helm along with other parts of his armor, and was blanched pale as a shroud. An unhealthy tinge of grey shaded around his eyes and lips which was prominent against his black hair and neat beard. Alistair gulped on a dry throat, not having time to think or letting himself. Louis had survived the tower of Ishal, so no mere werewolf would kill him … would it?
Oghren, by some miracle, had actually sprung the female’s jaws apart, breaking the lower as he crushed her nose in one armored fist and grabbed her bottom teeth with the other, prying them apart. “Crazy dusters don’t know when to quit,” he spat disparagingly, and scrambled out from under her bulk to decapitate her. He offered up a liquor ripe belch, spitting out blood as he pulled his helm off. Most of it wasn’t his, and after Wynne had dispatched the creature trapped in bands of paralysis, the dead she-wolf was the last.
Wynne flung herself to Louis’ side, dropping to her knees across the Orlesian’s body from Alistair. He’d already stuffed his hands into his pack, yanking out bandages and poultices as Wynne tried to stop the bleeding which sheer ferocity had overwhelmed her earlier healing spells. If not for magic, the man surely would have fallen already, but he was managing to cling tenaciously to life by a few threads. “Louis. I want you to focus on my voice.”
Alistair pulled a stoppered bottle from a tangle of bandages and yanked the cork out with his teeth, thrusting it to Wynne. She propped Louis’ head back and forced it down his throat. “Swallow this, it will help you.” Tilting his head back farther to open his throat and let gravity help snake the potion into the Orlesian’s body, she anxiously rallied her weary pool of mana, trying to scrape out enough to push another healing spell into their dying leader.
“Are you doing that?” Alistair asked in an incredulous, low voice, his hands frozen over one of the worst gouges which had turned Louis’ torso into a chaotic field of bloody furrows. He tilted his head to one side, brown eyes fascinated in spite of himself. Poised midway in the process of putting pressure on the wounds to help stop the bleeding, he withdrew, staring as muscle and tissue knit almost before their eyes. Places where bone was lain bare had begun to rapidly heal, and Alistair closed is fist lightly over the clump of medical supplies.
“No…” That gave Wynne the greatest reason for alarm since she’d almost died to defend the children of the Circle, and the color drained from her cheeks. “Alistair, we need to get away from him,” she ordered in a firm, calm voice. “Immediately.”
“What!” The word was a full goblet of disbelief and injury that she could begin to suggest such a thing. “He’s wounded, Wynne, he could die! We have to help him!” Surely he’d not heard her say what he thought she had.
Rising with her staff in hand, the vast damage torn through Louis was rapidly reducing into superficial splashes in his hide, and she shook her head slowly. “He’s been bitten and infected with the Curse.” They’d come across Danyla, a Dalish elf who had suffered the same rapid infliction not two days before, and her story had been alarmingly now familiar. During an attack, she’d been wounded so badly the Curse spread with record speed compared to her brethren ailing in the elven camp.
“What do you mean, ‘infected with the Curse,’” Oghren demanded. “You’re not telling me he’s about to turn into one of those things are you?”
“If he is, then we need to help him,” Alistair insisted, a note of panic starting to creep into the edges of his argument. He refused to stand up, and remained kneeling beside Louis.
Louis’ dark blue eyes snapped open, dilating and infusing slowly with a golden green color as his head lazily rolled toward his brother Warden, and he clamped his teeth together as someone loosed a fire through his veins. Squeezing his eyes closed, he jerked upright, and felt his teeth moving in their sockets. A primal scream wrenched itself out of his gut and exploded through the forest, sending a flock of birds out of the trees with a flurry of feathers.
“Get… get … away from me!” he bawled, rolling to his hands and knees. His spine arched and bones snapped under his flesh, pressing in painful, visible angles under his tanned skin. Losing control, he shuddered violently and his entire body began jerking spasmodically. Half growling, spit flew from between teeth which were cutting into his lower lip, and his tongue was elongating without room in his mouth for its residence. “No,” he panted in abrupt contradiction. “Kill me!” he pleaded in the next second as his fevered mind finally managed to understand what was happening to him.
“No!” Alistair shouted back at him, bouncing to his feet and shaking his head furiously. “We ca–“
“Do it! That’s an order!” the Orlesian screamed so loudly his throat vibrated. He thrashed his head around to pin Alistair with feral golden green eyes. His skull was reshaping itself, pushing expanding fangs forward, dark furred ears tapering up to points through shaggy hair. The wounds had almost killed him, he presumed, surprisingly calm about it considering the blazing rage and thirst to tear Alistair’s throat from his nape to guzzle down meat. Muscles boiled like hot lava beneath his flesh, shredding what was left of his clothes and straining out of the remainder of his armor. Claws pushed out from his fingernails, popping out like a bloody birth, and black fur churned out of his flesh in damp, uneven patches.
“No!” Alistair’s voice almost cracked in anguished indecision as he yanked his sword out of the corpse of his last kill. He couldn’t dispatch the only other Grey Warden in Ferelden, his best friend and last link to Duncan’s memory. He couldn’t….
“He’s right,” Oghren said in a graveled, somber voice. “It’s too late. The Curse is taking him and changing him. We owe it to him to put him out of his misery.”
Turning to Wynne, Alistair’s eyes pleaded with her as his fingers convulsed on the hilt of his sword. “We can’t…” but the argument was losing potency. Louis’ back bowed higher, and feet were stretching while his femor was shortening, reshaping his hind legs like hot wax. He yelled again, trying to communicate, but nothing which came spitting out of his blunt muzzle was any more articulate than a rabid howl.
“I’ll do it,” Oghren volunteered with a long, depressed sigh, and twisted his grip on the handle of his sword, ready to make sure it was clean. He owed Louis that much, and he’d be sure it was quick. He’d have no more suffering and would be let go the way a warrior should, not ending up mad and turning on his own friends.
Louis was fully beast, his tongue lolling out as he pulled one leg up beneath him, and Oghren lifted his blade. When the werewolf swiveled it’s head, the dwarf could almost swear he saw intelligence and recognition, waiting for the end. Oghren raised his weapon, and Louis closed his eyes in silent submission to a blow which never fell. Alistair rammed into Oghren with his shoulder, and even as well centered and strong as the dwarf was, it threw him off balance enough that he never delivered the final, fatal stroke. “Hey!” he protested furiously, turning a shade closer to the red in his ponderous mustache, “what do you think you’re doing!”
“I can’t let you!” Alistair threw back at him, and Louis pulled himself to full height, his feral eyes meeting with Wynne’s as she summoned the magical forces at her command to stop him. For a moment, while Warden and warrior bristled, werewolf and mage stared at one another in understanding. What was left of Louis’ human brain snapped to a decision, and Wynne’s talents were never launched. The massive werewolf dropped to all fours and in a blur of black and grey pelt, and he flung himself into the forest, paws kicking grass up behind him. The pale greens and dimming evening shadows swallowed him as neatly as it had all the others of his new kind, taking him in as one of their own.
“Way to go,” Oghren spat hotly. “Now he’s going to out there, suffering, or worse, turned into a mindless killer. He may be the one who is tearing us up next, did you think about that? You really think that’s doing him a service?”
Desperately grasping at straws, Alistair knew better than to take Oghren’s flared challenge. It would do none of them any good, and the Warden backed down. He shoved his fingers through the thatch of hair which stuck up over his forehead, trying to keep himself calm enough to think in a straight line. “If we find Witherfang, we can end the curse. Isn’t that what Zathrian said? Right? That’s what he told us, wasn’t it, back at their camp? We have to get Witherfang’s heart and it will save their warriors. It will save Louis, too, right?” Babbling as he was prone to do when under too much stress, he deliberately cut himself off. “We just have to find this Witherfang and we could save him. We have to save him!” He hadn’t gone so wild with the feeling of walls closing in on him since he’d thought Louis was going to die at Flemeth’s hut. Everyone he cared about had been gone, Duncan leaving the worst pain behind, but it also would have meant he would have been forced to deal with the entire Blight alone. Although there were others with him now, Louis had always been the one who made the decisions, and Alistair preferred it that way. He was no leader.
“Then we must find Witherfang,” Wynne told them both quietly and reasonably. There was no use in crying over spilled milk, as the saying went. Perhaps Alistair was correct, and they might actually find a way of rescuing their young leader, but her hopes were not nearly soaring so high. They were too beset with the burdens of reality and grim possibilities. They’d all been fortunate thus far, and hadn’t lost any of their small number, but there had been close calls. It might only be a matter of time before one of them fell beyond healing magic, or already had. Oghren was sadly correct, and although some of the werewolves spoke, Louis might just as easily be next to attack them. “Where do we go from here?”
Stunned, Alistair twisted his neck to look at Oghren then back at the Mage. “What? Me? No… no, no, no. I can’t lead! Bad things happen when I lead! We get lost, and the next thing you know I wake up stranded, without any pants!” It popped out of his mouth automatically as a joke as he cleaned his sword and put it into place on his back. “I can’t possibly lead,” he protested more seriously when no one laughed, waving his hands in front of him in negation.
“You don’t have a choice, Kid,” Oghren told him, wiping his own blade across his hand in a pile of leaves before stowing it. “You’re the Grey Warden around here.”
“So what do we do?” Wynne pressed kindly, folding her arms over her chest, not budging an iota. “How do we find Witherfang?”
“I – I … How should I know?” he insisted helplessly in frustration, pushing his hand through his hair again, trying to ward off the threat of an oncoming headache.
“You’re going to have to make a decision.” Wynne might have never counseled a reluctant Grey Warden, but she’d had many experiences with a variety of different personalities in the tower. Obstinately refusing to step into the leadership role, she patiently waited for Alistair to collect himself. There was much potential in the young man, although he seemed reluctant to embrace it. Unfortunately, circumstance had forced his hand, and although stopping the Blight was something they all wanted, it was the Grey Wardens who were always at the front. Alistair’s moment of truth had arrived, if he wanted it or not.
Taking a deep breath, the young Warden dropped his hands to his side and swallowed, his face contorting like he’d just tasted straight Deathroot. “All right, but don’t blame me if we end up lost,” he warned, trying to find a lighter side, but for once, failing miserably. “Louis was taking us to look for whoever stole that talking tree’s acorn. We’ll keep going east and see if we can find whoever that is.” The entire Blight was resting on a talking tree and Alistair’s decisions. Great. No pressure or anything.
“Then hopefully it will get us through that barrier…thing.” Alistair lacked the vocabulary for the ward so filled it in with the only one he had handy. At least Morrigan wasn’t present to mock him about it. “We know the werewolves lair is on the other side, and they’re protecting Witherfang. Let’s do that.”
Feeling like someone just dropped the volume of the Circle Tower on his shoulders, the Grey Warden bent down to turn over Louis’ armor. It was too ponderous to carry with them, but he took the shed weapons. Starfang, in particular, was something Louis would want back if … when, Alistair adamantly corrected, trying to convince himself, he was cured.
* * * * * * *
I’m done, and now I want to move on to Chapter Two.
* * * * * * *
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction written by a fan for fans from the games Dragon Age Origins. The setting and all characters except Louis belong to Bioware. No infringement is intended.
You may not copy my work, publish it in any form, or post it on another web site in whole or part without my permission.