The journey back was relatively quiet. Only Ronin and Duncan conversed, talking about his cure for what ailed him… or at least Ronin asked about it and Duncan provided vague answers, saying he needed to discuss things with the Keeper first, which was making the elf frustrated at the lack of answers.
When they arrived back in camp, they met the Keeper in front of her aravel.
"I'm relieved you have returned, da'len," Marethari said, smiling at the three elves and nodding to Duncan. "It is good to see you safe. I admit I did not expect you to return so soon."
"I was not expecting to return so soon either, Keeper. Your hunters and your First were very helpful in removing the darkspawn."
"There were darkspawn in the cave?" asked Marethari, her features grim.
"There is much to discuss, Keeper Marethari," said Duncan, his tone almost sorrowful. "I have learned a great deal since I was last here. Particularly, regarding your hunter, Ronin."
"Let us speak privately within my aravel then, Duncan," said the Keeper, gesturing to her land ship with a sweep of her arm. She then looked at Merrill, her features growing sharp. "Merrill, warn the hunters. If there are darkspawn about, I want the clan prepared."
"There should be no need, Keeper," interjected Duncan, stilling Merrill. "I sensed no darkspawn left at the cave and none around it."
"Nevertheless, they should know. Merrill?"
"Ma nuvenin, Keeper. Tamlen?" said Merrill. She turned on her heel and left in the direction in one of the campfires, where most, if not all, of the hunters were. Tamlen followed, tossing a look over his shoulder at Ronin's arm.
Ronin noted the look, as did the Keeper. She raised an eyebrow at the limb, which had been wrapped in the remains of his cloak and tied tight to his arm. She also noted the lack of armor outlines beneath the shroud and the fact that even his hand was covered. A look at Duncan had him nodding slightly, silently agreeing to speak about it later.
"Ronin, da'len," said the Keeper, speaking low and comforting as if to ease any fears Ronin had, much like she had done when he was young. "Allow me some time to speak with Duncan. Seek us out at my aravel, later, and we can discuss your cure. Follow me, Duncan. I am eager to hear what you have to say."
She left Ronin standing alone in front of the aravel, taking Duncan into her aravel and shutting the flap.
Ronin turned away, heading for the fire where Paivel had sat before he left the camp. Taking a seat at the empty log, Ronin let his head drop into his hands, rubbing his temples as a headache started forming.
How do I get memories about what the Keeper did when Ronin was a child but not about being a 'Second' to Tamlen and then hesitating in a high risk situation? What is going on?
"You return with the Grey Warden, but your mind remains troubled, da'len."
Ronin shot up as the elder sat at his side, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Easy, Ronin. You are usually not so jumpy."
"I have a lot of things on my mind, hahren," said Ronin, dropping his head again. I could say that again…
"Would you like to talk about it?" asked Paivel, a look of light concern on his face.
Hell no! Ronin shook his head before looking the elder elf dead in the eyes. "Ma serannas, hahren Paivel, but I believe this is something I must figure out on my own."
"…very well, Ronin," said Paivel, removing his hand. He shuffled forward, leaning on his knees. "I ask only one thing, if I may."
"This… Grey Warden… you have met him now, yes?" queried Paivel, staring at him with a somewhat stern expression mixed with curiosity. "Is he a good man?"
"He saved my life, Tamlen's as well, and he is a friend of the Clan," said Ronin with confidence in every word, though he was most certainly biased because of his prior knowledge of how badass the Grey Warden was… is. "He's treated us and the clan like equals rather than dirt, like the rest of Ferelden."
"Interesting." Paivel was surprised, to say the least. Ronin's contempt for humans was barely noticeable, yet still there, much like all Dalish. To champion a human, especially now that he knew how his father died, was a shocking thing. This will give me much to think on…
"What is it he talks to the Keeper about, I wonder," thought Paivel aloud, looking over at the Keeper's aravel. Very few humans had been welcome in their camp before, and fewer still were welcome in the personal dwellings of the Keeper. "Ah, none of my affair."
Paivel stood, stretching his back with the accompanying sound of cracking vertebrae. "I leave you to your thoughts, da'len. May the gods guide your path."
"And yours as well, hahren," said Ronin, inclining his head slightly in farewell. As the elder walked off, Ronin sighed and stood himself, cracking his neck.
He walked to the aravel he and Ashalle shared and removed the folded wolf skin from the back of his belt, where it had been protected from any damage beneath his cloak.
The tanning process, which –luckily for him- was one of the memories he'd received from his bodies' predecessor. The entire process would take at least a day or two before it would be finished, possibly a week if Merrill or one of the other mages were busy, but it would give him something to do for the next couple of hours, or until he saw the Keeper and Warden reappear from within the aravel.
Duncan settled onto the lush furs that sat in one section of the aravel, his swords unbuckled from his belt but within arm's reach should anything arise. He sighed as Marethari settled in her own pile of furs opposite of him, handing him a cup of some sort of tea. It smelled sweet enough, so he took a sip and found himself smiling at the taste. He'd tasted something similar in Val Royeaux, back when he had stolen to survive.
"I cannot cure him, can I?" asked Marethari, jolting Duncan out of his memories. He looked up, startled, to see the beginnings of tears in her eyes. "He won't survive."
Duncan put aside the tea and leaned forward to support his elbows on his knees. "There is no cure for the darkspawn plague available in the realms of magic."
"I knew it," she whispered, tears leaving her eyes and leaving tracts of moisture down her face.
Duncan sighed and leant back, trying to find a way of wording his next statement without revealing the secrets of the Wardens. He was in possession of a vial of treated darkspawn blood, most Wardens were, on the off chance he ever met an infected individual who was worthy of joining. He'd never had the chance to use it before, but now was as good as a time as any.
"That is not to say…" he began, making the Keeper look up sharply, teary eyes locking onto him immediately. "That the Wardens do not have a cure."
"I said your magic could not cure him, but the Joining can."
"The Joining? I've never heard of such a thing," said Marethari, intrigued by the prospect of a cure.
"It is a Grey Warden ritual," said Duncan, not explaining anything.
"But what does it entail? What happens-" she trailed off when Duncan held up his hand.
"Everyone has secrets, Keeper. The Grey Wardens are not allowed to give away any to those not of our order." Duncan sighed and ran a hand through his hair before rubbing his temples. This is the hard part, he thought. "I can cure your clansman, but I cannot tell you how."
"For him to be cured, he will have to become a Grey Warden?" asked Marethari, trying to get more information out of him. Duncan nodded, which had her slumping in relief.
"The life of a Warden is a hard one," said Duncan, holding up a hand to forestall any questions. "We have only been let back into the country for ten years, and we are treated with much suspicion. We are not the most welcome in these parts."
"The Dalish are in the same position, Duncan. He would not be unused to the feeling," said Marethari, chuckling lightly. "Will he be allowed to stay with us?"
"He may visit, but Wardens actively patrol the kingdom and report to Denerim when they are finished…" said Duncan, a twinge of sorrow making itself known. "A visit may last a week or a month at a time, but he will always have to leave sooner or later."
"At least he will survive," said Marethari, taking a sip of her own tea. She sat there for a moment, staring into the depths of her cup and thinking about what to do.
"Does he have any family?" asked Duncan, knowing it would be hard to leave loved ones behind.
"His parents died long ago, his father before he was born and his mother soon after," explained Marethari. "He was raised by Ashalle Elensar, who had been a friend of his mother."
"Forgive me for being blunt, Keeper," said Duncan, settling into the furs. "Unless you want to prepare a service for Ronin in the near future, he needs to join us."
She was silent, contemplating the choices before her. On the one hand, if Ronin joined the Grey Wardens, he was joining a life of constant alertness for darkspawn, of leaving his family and friends to become a guardian for the entire country. Especially to protect a race that routinely treated the elves as dirt, barely worthy enough to lick the dust from their boots.
On the other hand, not joining was a death sentence. Ashalle had been devastated at the deaths of Ellesar and Nessa Mahariel. Marethari doubted her ability to stay emotionally stable if she were to outlive her friend's child.
"Very well, Duncan," she said, having made her decision. "It will be up to him to choose whether he joins or not."
"Agreed. We prefer willing recruits, so if he chooses not to join, we will respect that."
"Which leads me to the next topic of discussion: Why was his arm covered in his cloak?"
Duncan shifted, trying to become more comfortable as he foresaw a long conversation ahead of him. "When he destroyed the mirror, something I've never seen before happened…"
Luckily for Ronin, one of the other Dalish mages was not busy and willing to help him with his wolf pelt, or else he would have only completed one step rather than several. The process, even with the help of a mage, had taken up most of the day, leaving only the process of neutralizing, oiling and breaking for the next day.
He groaned as he draped the skin over a rack, leaving it in a cool place in the aravel till the next day. He looked up at the steadily darkening sky, stretching out his arms before reaching back down to help his companion.
The young mage next to him smiled as she accepted Ronin's hand, helping her to her feet. She wore a green robe over top a light grey tunic, much like Merrill's clothing, though she went without the furry shoulder pads that marked Merrill as the Keeper's First. Her own staff was leaning against one of the aravel wheels, a white oak staff infused with lyrium, giving it a small sparkle and glow in the growing darkness.
"Ma serannas, Altáriël, for your help," said Ronin, smiling at the young girl. His memories showed him how she had come into the clan four years ago, leaving her clan to join the Sabrae in order to learn more advanced magic from Marethari. "I owe you a favor, lethallan."
"Ma nuvenin, Ronin. I will collect later," she said before walking away, headed for her own aravel near the Keeper's.
Ronin flipped his skinning knife in hand as he turned away, intending to walk into the aravel for some rest. He stopped short, however, when he saw Ashalle leaning against the doorframe with a smile on her face.
"You know she likes you, right?" she asked, pushing off the wall to stand beside Ronin, who had turned back to watch the elven mage. "She's been harboring that crush of hers for a long time."
"She's young, only sixteen summers. She'll grow out of it."
"You keep thinking that, lethallin," she said in a singsong voice as she walked into the aravel. Ronin shook his head and followed, hanging his weapons on their hook by the door. He immediately stepped back outside when she started walking back out, an ironbark rocking chair held in her hands.
"Going to be watching the stars tonight, Ashalle?" he asked, sliding into the aravel as she placed the chair on the ground with a thump. "The stars won't be out for a half hour at least."
"I am enjoying the silence, Ronin. Now, shush!"
Ronin chuckled under his breath as he removed his armor, stacking the pieces of what was left of his shoulder armor inside the torso armor. I'll talk to Master Ilen tomorrow about some new armor pieces, he thought as he reached into his trunk and pulled out a long sleeved shirt and a thin leather glove, his practice clothes for when he wasn't hunting. He also snagged a roll of wide bandages which he wrapped around the glowing lines and whirls on his arm, which would shine right through his shirt without a second, thicker shroud.
With a quick look at the flap of the aravel, he pulled off the cloak that covered his arm and stared at it, equally amazed and concerned at the sight of it. I don't know what this is, but I'm going to find out.
He threw on the shirt as he walked to the door, though stopped short as the sound of metal falling on wood was heard behind him.
The key Ashalle gave him lay on the wooden floor, a small key of iron that had a few holes bored through it but was otherwise unremarkable in its construction.
Ronin looked to the far corner, where he knew the black chest to be. It was a long, relatively flat chest, with a complex lock in the center. He knew it was complex because, when he was younger, he'd tried to pick the lock with his budding skills. Ashalle had caught him before he could do anything, so he'd given up.
He pulled the box out, struggling to get the awkward package out of the corner without knocking anything over. It was a foot and a half wide, six feet in length and six inches thick, reminding him of the box which had held his aunt's old archery set in his old life.
He snagged the key as he walked out of the aravel, awkwardly carrying the box –that was taller than him- under his arm. Time to see what's in here, he thought as he sat down on the steps of the aravel, placing the box on the ground before his feet.
"You're opening the chest?" asked Ashalle, looking over from her chair.
"Yes…" said Ronin, fitting the key into the lock. With an exhale, he twisted the key.
With a groan of unused hinges, the chest was opened. The inside was lined in a mix of furs, separating object from each other.
Inside it was a sheathed dar'misaan, among other things. The sheath was a dark blue, almost black, as was the handle. Drawing the blade a little, Ronin saw it was pale, almost white in color, though it was tinged with a very light yellow shade. He raised an eyebrow at it, especially when Ashalle told him exactly what it was. "You're father's blade. Made of dragonbone. He found it in an old tomb, when our clan was wandering north of Ferelden."
Dragonbone: Thedas' equivalent of mistarille or adamantium, thought Ronin, the info coming from his Dalish memories. Anything made from dragons were, when treated in the right way, unbreakable, or so the stories go. Dragonbone, for instance, when made into a tool or anything else, it could be bent greater than ninety degrees to its original position before springing right back. The problem was that once it cooled, about five times longer than silverite, it stayed like that for all of time…supposedly.
The likelihood of finding weapons like these was slim, much like taking on a dragon and surviving. Due to the scarcity of dragons nowadays and the complexity of the preparations for making such gear, it was a prized possession to all who owned it.
Ronin looked away from Ashalle and back down at the box, which held several thin books, ranging from half an inch to a full inch in thickness, an unstrung longbow that sported a stylized crimson paint job, a couple metal rings with holes bored through them at differing locations, a small, intricately carved, wooden box, and a dar'misu of the same style and material of the dar'misaan.
A quick flip through the first couple of pages showed crammed handwriting filling the yellowing pages, listing dates, places, and a slew of other things. I'll check this out later, thought Ronin as he placed the books back in the box and returned to examining the paired dar'misu and dar'misaan. A pair samurai of blades… katana and wakizashi pair. Excellent.
"Your father was a great hunter before he became a Keeper. He was always poking around ancient ruins wherever we went and he was always writing in those journals of his, especially after he found those blades."
"There will be time for more stories later, lethallan," said Marethari, appearing out of the shadows behind them. Ronin didn't move, while Ashalle nearly jumped a foot in the air. "You heard me coming, didn't you, da'len?"
"You let me, Keeper, slapping your feet like that," returned Ronin, his ears twitching slightly with each footfall. He turned around to look at the keeper, though paused when he saw the look on her face.
"…I am walking normally, da'len," said Marethari, looking both confused and thoughtful. She pushed aside those thoughts for now, as she had a purpose for being here. "But never mind that; Duncan and I wish to speak with you."
Ronin placed the paired weapons back in the box, locked it, and stood, leaning the box against one of the wheels of the aravel. At his nod, the Keeper turned away and walked into the shadows around the camp. Ronin followed, making sure his arm was hidden beneath the bandages, safe from the prying eyes of patrolling sentry.
"Keeper, Ronin," said the sentinel, stepping out of the shadows. The bow in his hand and the black lines forming a sort of book shape covering the forehead, like a book hidden with secrets, the complex markings of Dirthamen revealed him to be Theron.
"All is well, yes?" asked Ronin, fingering the handle of the hunting knife at his belt. Theron leant on the Fen'harel statue, his bow held in a loose grip with a few arrows along the handle while one was already nocked.
"All is quiet, lethallin."
"How is Master Ilen's bow?"
"A little more powerful than what I am used to, but I have adjusted accordingly," he said, smoothly bringing the bow to full draw in demonstration. "I was hitting too high, adjusting too little for the power upgrade."
"Come along, Ronin." Marethari's voice came from the bushes ahead, jolting Ronin back into motion.
"Yes, Keeper!" said Ronin, rolling his eyes in mock annoyance as Theron smiled before loping off towards where the Keeper had been. "Dareth shiral, lethallin"
Marethari's white hair shone beneath the moonlight, acting as a beacon for Ronin. They walked for ten minutes in silence before Ronin deemed it far enough from any of the watchmen for them to speak freely.
"Is this about my cure, Keeper?" he asked as he pushed a low hanging branch out of his and her path, revealing the armored form of Duncan sitting on a fallen tree. Clearly, Marethari was expecting him as she barely reacted at his appearance.
"Yes, it is, Ronin of the Dalish." Duncan stood, bowing slightly to the Keeper. "Your Keeper and I have spoken and we've come to an arrangement that concerns you. My order is small, and always on the lookout for new recruits. You are in need of a cure. I am leaving tomorrow, headed for Denerim to make my report to the rest of the Wardens.
"If you are to be cured, you must join us. You need not follow me at dawn tomorrow, you can finish the week among your kin, but when the week is over, you will have to travel to Denerim to meet with the rest of us," said Duncan, pacing in front of the two elves. "I believe you would make an excellent Grey Warden."
"Am I to become a Grey Warden, Keeper?"
"Yes, da'len," said Marethari, placing a hand on his shoulder. "Your life depends on it."
"The darkspawn taint courses through your veins," said Duncan, breaking in. "That you survived this long is a testament to both your will and the skill of your Keeper's magic. But, eventually, the taint will sicken and kill you, or worse… the Grey Wardens can prevent that, but it means joining us."
"I will not join out of pity," asked Ronin, feeling indignant despite knowing this was his only hope. The Dalish in me is coming out more…
"Nor do I ask that you do," said Duncan in a placating tone. "This is not simply charity on my part. I would not offer you this if I did not think you had the makings of a Grey Warden.
"Let me be clear," he said as his voice grew grim. "Joining us is not a light burden. We ask you to leave your clan and pledge yourself to defend the land against the darkspawn. You may see them again in the years to come, but you no longer have ties to just them. Grey Wardens owe no one country an allegiance, but all of them, whether they are human, elvish or dwarvish."
"Long ago, the Dalish agreed to aid the Grey Wardens in their fight against the darkspawn," said Marethari in a low tone. "I ask that you join them, not because we owe them, but because it pains me more to watch you die than for you to leave us."
The beginnings of tears were in her eyes as she looked him in the eyes. "This is your duty… and your salvation."
Ronin placed a hand on her arm in what he hoped was a comforting way before turning to Duncan. He slapped his covered arm to his chest, fist over heart and bowed his head. "Then I accept this honor, Duncan, if you'll have me."
Duncan crossed his arms and bowed as well, a smile growing on his face. "Then I welcome you into the order. It is rare to have a Dalish amongst us, but they have always served with distinction. The last Dalish in the Wardens was Garahel, the elf who slew the archdemon and ended the last blight.
"Now, if you excuse us, Keeper," said Duncan, looking Marethari in the eye. "Unless you wish to join the Wardens as well, I need you to leave."
"Very well, Duncan. I will see you later, da'len." With that said, Marethari strode off into the bushes, headed back to camp.
"If she stops, please tell me," said Duncan, making Ronin raise an eyebrow. Right… the Joining is a secret, thought Ronin as he strained his senses, easily finding the steady swish of Marethari's robe against the ground as she walked. "The process of becoming a Grey Warden is a secret, and it will remain a secret long after we are gone."
When the footfalls of the Keeper died away, Ronin told Duncan, who pulled a vial from within his armor. It was a heavy, black metal flask with many small etchings glowing with a lyrium blue.
"The Grey Wardens were founded near the end of the First Blight, when humanity stood on the verge of annihilation. So it was that the First Grey Wardens drank of darkspawn blood… and mastered their taint. As the First did before us, as I did before you. This is the source of our power… and our victory. Those who survive become immune to the taint, and use it to sense the darkspawn and slay the archdemon.
He held the vial out to Ronin, who took it uneasily, feeling the darkspawn taint through the layer of protective runes. "We speak only a few words prior to the Joining, but these words have been said since the First:
"Join us, brothers and sisters. Join us in the shadows where we stand vigilant. Join us as we carry the duty that cannot be forsworn. And should you perish, know that your sacrifice will not be forgotten. And that one day we shall join you."
Ronin unstoppered the vial and flinched away from the open mouth. The feeling of corruption and foulness emanating from the flask tripled as the warded seal was broken.
"You are called upon to submit yourself to the taint. From this moment on, you… are a Grey Warden."
Ronin smiled, bringing the tainted blood to his lips. "Salute."
It almost tasted like blood. It had a metallic tang to it, salty, just like the blood one would taste if they bit their lip or sucked on a small cut, but a disgusting aftertaste that coated his tongue and throat and refused to move when he swallowed.
Then the pain started, not in his stomach or throat like he would have expected, but in his head, a deep pounding that reverberated across his brain, each new wave of pain adding itself to the priors. The cumulative effect had his eyes rolling up in his head and his vision fading to black.
He found himself on the ground, knees smarting from hitting the ground. When he opened his eyes, he saw a familiar sight: white… in all directions.
"This crap again?" he asked, his voice echoing slightly. A look down showed he was still wearing the boots, loose pants, and long sleeved shirt he'd worn at the Joining rather than the clothes he'd been wearing when he took a knife to the chest. His ears were pointed as well rather normal rounded as before. "What is this pla-"
Whatever else he wanted to say was lost as the air in his lungs was driven from his lungs, helped by a fist to the stomach. His knees flared up again in painful symphony as they hit the ground once again, though the aria was now a duet, now complemented by an aching loss of breath.
"Ar'din nuvenin na'din, but if you do not tell me what is going on, ar tu na'lin emma mi!" shouted the man standing above him.
This seems to be a recurring habit, he thought as he looked up at Ronin, wearing the loose pants he'd been wearing before he went to sleep three days ago. I have got to stop thinking humans are the only thing in this world.
A savage kick to his stomach had him curling up again, folding himself into the fetal position. A look at the elf's face showed he was incredibly angry, the half black face with fury filled green eyes staring down at him. "Dirth, lethallin!"
He raised a hand in Ronin's direction, warding off further attacks as he struggled to his feet. "I have to know what you want to know, lethallin, before I say anything."
"Where am I?" Predictable… he's scared, in a room with no walls, floor or ceiling.
"I don't know." That was the truth, even he didn't know. "I was here once before, before I woke up in your clothes under the tree."
"Who are you?"
"…I don't know anymore…" he said, straightening from the crouch he'd been in. "One moment, I'm running to a job, then I find a woman who's about to be raped by three guys. I get stabbed, everything goes black, I wake up in this room, hear some voice that yelled directly in my head, and then I wake up with Tamlen kicking me, under a tree with a cloak as a pillow."
Before the Ronin look alike can open his mouth to ask another question, he cut him off with a raised hand. "My turn to ask a question: who are you?"
The elf stood up straight and glared at him, but answered him nonetheless. "Ronin Mahariel, of the Sabrae clan. I went to sleep one night and I wake up here. I see flashes… a cave… a mirror… foul creatures… an arrow in the shoulder… a shem named Duncan… something called the Joining… then… you appear."
"And hitting me was the best way to go around getting info?"
The ex-human walked over and slugged him in the stomach, sending the elf to the floor with a groan. As Ronin tried to stand back up, he was hit again with a knee to the jaw.
"Elgar'nan! What was that for?"
"Payback. Now… let's relax and find out why we're here."
~The path has not been walked. Two have entered, only one shall leave through the door.~
boomed the voice, sending both of them to their knees. Ronin was looking around wildly, trying to find the source of the voice. "Who is that?"
"I don't know. He, she, whatever… said I'm a warrior, and my work isn't finished," he answered, rubbing his temples to alleviate the pressure the voice just placed on his brain. "Lovely singing voice, don't you think?"
"I have a lovely singing voice!" said Ronin, a little louder than his usual tone of voice as he probably thought the voice went through his ears rather than his brain. "Whatever that was, it sounded like an army, all yelling at once."
"Wait… 'two have entered,' 'leave through the door…' I've read something like this before." This is familiar! Hope's Revival!
"How is it familiar?" asked the elf, growing interested as the pain across his mind faded to a dull ache rather than an intense thrum like a tuned string instrument.
"The characters in the book went back in time with some ritual using four magical artifacts. They went back to the beginning of the story and woke up in their own bodies of the time. Later on, they get in contact with their prior selves through meditation. They talk a bit and then they… join. Become one. Memories, habits, that sort of thing, all transferred and mixed and matched."
"Mythal… is such a thing possible?"
"Ronin, where I came from, you don't exist outside the realm of a role playing game that is written by my decisions. If you had gone through the events of the last three days, Tamlen would've died, disappearing from the cave never to be seen until the end of the game when he attacks the camp."
"Tamlen dying? A camp? What are you talking about?"
He relayed the tale of Dragon Age: Origins, telling him about the six origin stories, how Duncan's timely arrival saved one of them while the others died, the events of Ostagar and the betrayal of Cailan by Loghain, the quests for treaties made by the mages, dwarves and elves, the siege of Redcliffe and the search for the Ashes of Andraste, the Landsmeet, the slavery ring in the alienage, and the possible endings, either dying, sending a brother in all but blood or a hated enemy to die, or possibly delivering the soul of an Old God to Flemeth, an insanely powerful and quite possibly insane mage.
Ronin was speechless, to say the least. "My life…my friends, family, everything… it's all a game to you?"
"Not anymore… remember, I died. I took a blade to the lungs and drowned in my own blood. Now I'm here, and I think I'm here to change how things are going to end. If you were there instead of me, Tamlen would be dead!"
"So you say."
He reached out and wrapped a hand around Ronin's throat, fingers and thumb pinching on either side of the trachea. A push upwards with the occupied hand had Ronin standing atop his toes to alleviate the pain. "So it is!"
"I don't know why I'm here, but if I'm going to stay, we need to work together," he said as Ronin tugged at his fingers. "Alright?"
Ronin glared at him as he grabbed his pinky, trying to use it to force his hand away. A quick punch to the gut and across his face left the elf in the same position with a bruise forming on his face.
"Vir adahlen, lethallin. Together we are stronger than one."
"…fine," Ronin choked out after a minute. He dropped his hand and stepped back, allowing Ronin to rub his neck with breathing room.
"Another thing: you're left handed?"
"I'm not. Tamlen noticed."
"He's a hunter. We notice things like that."
~Decide quickly…your time grows short.~
The voice chose to speak again, making the very air around them vibrate, which transferred the reverberations across their brains. They finally shook the aches from their heads to pick themselves up off their knees to find a wooden door where there had been none before, made of a white wood that was brighter than the rest of the world around them.
"Well, this is turning out like I thought it would."
"What do you mean?" asked Ronin, looking at the door with interest. "What is significant about the door?"
"In this story I read, the two people inhabiting the body walk through the door at the same time and become one."
"Is that a wise course of action?" he queried, watching both the door and his invader.
"It's the only way we're both getting out of here," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. He looked back up to the elf, straightening his shoulders. "However, I will give you the choice: I stole your body, and for that, I apologize a thousand times over. Since this is your body, you can leave through that door by yourself, or we both can go. If we both go, you will have my skills, memories and bodily reflexes, and I will have yours. We'll become one. Is that what you want?"
Ronin was silent for several moments, hand stroking his chin in thought. While the elf was contemplating the decision, the ex-human noted the whiteness that surrounded them was slowly decreasing in intensity, becoming more 'white' than pure white. "If the voice was right, we don't have a lot of time."
Ronin sighed, shaking his head. "You saved the life of my best friend and, for that, I owe you a debt. I will not leave you here, to waste away, especially if you have knowledge that can help us in the future.
He smiled, twisting the lower half of his tattoos. "Besides, the voice says you've got a destiny. Let's go. We have a world to save."
With that, they both walked through the door, shoulder to shoulder.