The sent of pine overruled the different smells of the forest. To one passing threw the forest it was enough to make the difficult walk very pleasant, to one such as me who was trying to hunt in this god forsaken forest it was wise to not rely on smell, or even your ears would catch something that was echoed along the trees. I was relying on sight, and my tracking abilities to find my way around the different trails trying to find some sort of wild game to bring back to the Clan so that I could mask the reason why I wasn't in the camp right at that moment.
I did not want to be around the Elders any more that I had to, because they were talking about how Merrill and Tamlen would soon be bonded. I felt sick to my stomach from their petty gossip so I made a quick excuse to leave the camp so that I could be alone. Merrill and Tamlen were my best friends, and I wished them all the happiness in the world, but I was dreading this day. The day that they would pursue their love for one another and leave me all alone. The Clan shunned me; everyone in the Clan shunned me. They saw me as an abomination, and let's face it, I was one.
My mother had given birth to me, but I was not a full elf, in fact I was half elf half something else. I didn't know what the other half of me was, but it certainly was not of my so called father who was supposed to be an elf. It turned out that he must not have been, considering that most elves don't have dragon horns, diamond pupils, scales, claws, or four foot long tails. They couldn't smell rain from miles away, couldn't drag a Aravel that five Halla couldn't even make budge, they couldn't climb and glide from tree to tree, or see the distances that I could see. I had a small amount of the Gift, but that did not matter to the keeper, she still took Merrill as her apprentice.
There were only three people in the Clan who even would look at me, Merrill who could chat the ear off of a gossip, Tamlen who was my favorite hunter to hunt with because of his wit and charm, and Ashalle who had raised me and cared deeply for me. The Clan had acted like they had cared for me, but one day a group of drakes had attacked the Clan. We had came too close to a dragon's nest and they had attacked.
The drakes had stopped when they saw me and they talked to me. I had thought that I was going mad because there was no way that they could speak elfish or even common, but I was told later that I was speaking the mad hisses and growls of a dragon. I thought that I was speaking a regular language, but I was speaking dragon. I had convinced the drakes that we meant them no harm and they had left us alone for the rest of the stay, and from that moment on the whole clan had stopped looking and talking to me. I had saved them, but to what end? I would always be shunned, but this was the only world I knew.
I looked at my hands, they were covered to the elbow with golden scales, my nails or supposed nails were more like dark gold claws, they could rip through steel and even ironbark. My legs were only four toed, but the fourth toe was more toward the heel of my foot. I didn't actually stand on my heel, I was more comfortable with standing on my other three toes because of the ridge there, they were the feet of a dragon. My toes were very thick sharp claws that made it easier to dig into things with, so far the only thing that I couldn't pierce with it was the hide of a drake, and given enough time I could eventually pierce it. It just took time. Don't even get me started on the tail, it was at least four feet long, and right now it was wrapped around the tree branch giving me some sort of balance as I scanned the forest for prey.
I saw myself for who I was, someone that would never fit in, or even have a mate. I would be something that would never stop trying to fit in, so I would try to buy their own friendship with more meat that any other hunter could bring in, and with my amazing ability with the bow I was a force to be reckoned with. I had self taught myself the proper fighting techniques for hand to hand combat if by some chance I was attacked by someone with a sword.
Not that anyone would spar with a— I stopped with my self pity when I heard a snap of a twig. I looked down scanning the forest floor for the thing that had snapped me out of my own thoughts. I saw it, trying to move stealthily but failing horribly at it. Tamlen was trying his best; he was following the almost invisible trail of mine, while trying to be stealthy.
"Lethallan, please come down!" He called, I looked down at him. He had found the tree that I had climbed up in my haste to get away from it all. He could not see me because I was so high up in the tree, but he knew that I was up this tree. Both he and Merrill had joked that I only climbed trees to be closer to the sky.
"Come down Lethallan! Merrill is worried because you left in such haste!" He called, I slowly looked down at him and my eyes zoomed in on his face to see it etched with worry.
Damn the creators! I looked into Tamlen's face; he knew how to do the eyes just right to make me do whatever he or Merrill wanted me to. I sighed in defeat, and I uncoiled my tail from the branch I was on, and I lightly sprang from the tree that I was perched on. It was like flying, well with the wind rushing threw my hair and it lightly tickled my horns that curved around my face. It like so many other things was over far too soon and I landed lightly behind Tamlen. I didn't make so much as a sound as my body lightly touched the ground. If I had done it with more style I could've not let Tamlen see me and I would've been able to sneak up on him.
"Merrill should not worry about me, I caught the scent of deer in the air and I wanted to restock the Clan's stores before we moved on." I stated, keeping a straight face, not showing any of the self pity that I had brooded over in the last few hours of sitting in the tree.
"Your job right now is to be resting because you just got off of a half a day patrol. It's Fenarel and my patrol now. You go back to camp and if you don't feel up to sleeping, then I want you to help Merrill." Tamlen said, his eyes and voice were firm as he stared up at me. I felt myself sighing.
"Only you, Lethallan could make me cower like this. I will do as you say." I told him, he smiled and clapped my shoulder and I did the same to him. I was glad that he didn't flinch like the others when I touched him with my hands.
I turned and walked away from him, and I silently slipped back into the forest paths. I had to admit it, I was not at happy at the prospect of going back to the clan, but I did want to catch up on some sleep, and Merrill would help with that. As I walked into the Camp a small time later, after I decided to take a few detours and pick some roots, and herbs for Merrill, I felt my usual stone mask slip back onto my face as some of the Hunters that were standing at the edge of came stopped their conversation and glare at me.
They were still angry that I had become a hunter. I had the Vallaslin not imprinted on my face, but around my arms and legs. I didn't want anything that would make me out to be an elf when I was not one, as they kept on so happily reminding me. I walked through the group to see that they parted for me today, but I was short lived with getting away without some torment. A sharp pain traveled up my spine as I felt one of them stomp on my tail and I let the offender's foot stay on my tail. I turned my head to look at him with the stone mask hiding my pain and my anger.
"Would you please remove your foot from my tail, falon?" I asked the hunter in a kind voice. I saw his face turn dark.
"You think that we are falons? You are sadly mistaken abomination!" He hissed as he put more weight on my tail. I sighed and then yanked my tail out from under his foot without moving an inch and watched as he toppled over right on his back.
I was right above him as soon as his back hit the ground. He started up at me, this time there was more fear than hate in his gaze. He moved to get up but I was faster. I trapped his arms under my feet, digging my claws into the soft dirt on both sides of his body. He grunted but his struggles were futile. It was like a mouse struggling against a dragon.
"Then I will treat you as someone who is not my falon." I replied to him as I drew the bow from my back. His friends had not moved from their spots surrounding me, I believed that they were too scared to even make a move.
"Where's your quiver, little monster? You cannot harm me with just that!" He sneered to hide his fear of what I was going to do to him.
"Monsters don't need arrows to harm, just as dragons kill those who are not their friends." I told him as I slowly drew back the string of the bow. They all took a step back when an arrow formed in the bow.
"You still ready to not be my falon? Hmmm?" I asked his now letting the anger flow into my stone mask of a face. He now was swimming in his own fear, he was staring death in the face, and death was not happy. I pulled the string back further letting him hear the bow in my hands creak.
"Lethallan! Stop this right now!" Came the stern voice of Merrill from behind me.
I whipped the bow up pointing the arrow at the sky and let it loose. There was a piercing scream of a dying bird before it dropped right next to the Hunter's head. He looked at the giant pheasant with wide eyes. I slowly got off of his arms and sheathed my bow back onto my back and took the dead bird giving him one monstrous glare I turned to Merrill. She had the look that told me that I was going to be scolded.
I sighed and mentally prepared myself as I walked to her. I gave her the bag that held the roots and herbs and I walked over to the Aravel that the Dalish kept their food in. I dropped the pheasant in the back of the Aravel, I took the arrow out of the bird and watched as it slowly vanished. Merrill then decided to start scolding me. I walked as she was behind me talking about how I had scared her when I had ran out of the camp, and how she had told Tamlen to come and get me back. How I was being a child because I had attacked the Hunter for stepping on my tail when they were just trying to see if they could get a response from me. During her rant I had gone to my little Aravel that I shared with Ashalle and I had grabbed my bedroll and nodded a greeting to my foster mother who smiled at the ranting Merrill who was tailing me. I walked across came ignoring the eyes of the elves who watched us, I walked a small ways out of camp where Merrill liked to train. I strapped my bow to a tree and I rolled out my bedroll to slip into it to catch a quick nap before Tamlen came back.
I felt Merrill sigh and she sat next to me to examine the herbs that I had brought her. she was still muttering under her own breath and I reached out and touched her hand. She looked up and I smiled at her, a rare thing for me.
"Congratulations, Lethallan." I whispered to her as I slipped off to sleep. It was enough to make her stop muttering and to concentrate at her current task at hand.
I woke up to an almost dark camp. Merrill who should've been making poultice was no where in sight. I sighed and slowly got up and rolled up the bedroll, and grabbed my bow from the tree. When I entered the camp, the tension and sorrow hit me and I felt myself knowing that something was wrong. I quickly ran to the Aravel and threw my bedroll into it and then I searched for Merrill. I found her by scenting her discrete flower smell, and I found her outside the Keeper's Aravel.
I felt my blood turn to ice when I saw that the Keeper and a Shem were holding the struggling wailing elf, tears were splashing the ground as Merrill wailed in grief. Something had happened, and I had a feeling that it was about Tamlen. The Shem had an interesting look and smell to him, but I was more concerned about Merrill. I did have a few instincts of a dragon and dragons didn't like their own people being restrained. Lets just say that one snarl was all it took for them to release Merrill. Merrill looked up at me in shock, but then she remembered whatever she was crying about and ran straight to me and threw her arms around my neck and buried her head in-between my boobs.
I glared up at the Keeper and the Shem who was staring at me. I slowly wrapped my arms around her and I whispered comforting things. I spoke them in Drake so that it would piss the Keeper off, and make the Shem really confused. I felt her knees give out a moment later and I swept her off of her feet to carry her bridal style to a log that was not far from the Keeper's fire.
"Tell me what has made your heart break, Lethallan." I whispered to her switching to common, she sniffled and took a shaky breath.
"The Shem brought back Fenarel on his shoulders, and Fenarel was sick with a sort of taint. He told us it was from a mirror that Tamlen touched, and that he had blacked out. He died shortly after that. The Shem and Keeper also won't let me search for him; I know that he is alive! I just know it, Lethallan!" She began to wail again as I looked sharply up at the Shem.
"You would not let her go and search for her mate, Keeper?" I hissed at the Keeper, and she flinched against the anger in my voice.
"You do not understand, Da'len, she is my First and she must stay here. I cannot risk her in a foolish search that will just break her more." The Keeper said in a small voice.
"Then send me in her stead. I will not be missed." I told her firmly as I stroked Merrill's hair as she sobbed against my Dalish armor.
"Do you think that is wise? It will break her more if she looses you along with Tamlen." The Keeper said, keeping eye contact with me. I decided to break my stone face.
"Fuck you; don't act like you care about me." I snarled at her. Her face was one of shock, I had never been disrespectful to anyone in my whole life, I may have made silent threats, or even verbal warnings, but I had never cursed to an elder. She was stunned into silence, so the Shem spoke up.
"Your Keeper is right, you will not find anything of the man you knew as Tamlen, all you will do is cause both of yourselves more pain," He said.
"You have no right to decide that for either of us, just as you don't all of a sudden know me. I will go if she tells me to go, and you cannot stop me. Either of you." I said. I looked down at the now silent sobbing Merrill. She looked at me through bloodshot eyes.
"Bring me back something of Tamlen… please Lethallan." She begged me.
"Ma nuvenin, my Keeper." I whispered to her. She let me go and sunk to the ground to now stare at the fire. I got up and started to walk to the edge of the camp, the other elves stared at me and it didn't escape my notice that the Shem was following me.
"You know that this is foolish!" He whispered to me as I walked the camp.
"Then let me be a fool, I would rather that then a coward." I shot back as I walked into the woods. I looked at a sizable tree, and then I glared back at him.
"If you want to follow me, then be prepared for a run. I won't wait for you, and if you fall behind then it is your own fault." I hissed softly as I then dug my claws into the tree and climbed to the top within mere moments. I glanced at the night sky and I cursed my bad luck. I was going to rain soon, so I had to move quickly so that the trail wouldn't grow cold. I then pushed off the top branch of the tree to glide to the next one.
Soon I had a pace set and I was following the faint scent of Tamlen that curved through the woods. I found a stronger sent of both him and Fenarel further up a trail. I also found the bodies of three Shems around that place. They had been killed by the elves.
As I followed the trail I came across the body of something that I had never seen the likes of before. The smell of its evil rotting flesh had me almost bring up the lunch that I had several hours earlier. I notice that this kill was made a small time ago. I hissed and continued up the rocky trail, every so often I found new kills of the creatures until I found a cave. I walked into it to come to ruins of some sort of civilization.
There was a smell of dust and of those things that smelled of rotting flesh. As I walked into the cave I found a number of traps, and more of those corpses. They all lead to a door which had this tainted smell, I had smelled the same scent on the Shem. I slowly opened the door to be blinded by a white light. When the spots cleared from my vision I glared at the Shem that was standing over the remains of a shattered mirror.
"Next time, warn me before you intend to blind me with your stupidity, then I will close my eyes." I said. There was a ring of fresh corpses around him and he looked wearily at me and raised an eyebrow at me.
I walked slowly into the room and searched around, smelling. He watched me and I shifted ever so slightly so that I could reach the bow in case he chose to try to restrain me like he did with Merrill. He raised his hands to try to say that he meant me no harm; I still didn't relax until I was certain that Tamlen was not in the room. Then I could smell it, the rain had started. I cursed in Drake and slammed my hand into the wall. I put no strength into it, but the wall still cracked with the force of impact. The Shem looked at me, astonished.
"It stated to rain. Now I cannot follow the trail." I stated for the Shem's benefit.
I jumped when I felt a hand on his shoulder, not used to being touched by anything. "I am truly sorry for you loss." He said to me. I closed my eyes feeling the sadness of his statement well up inside of me, he had been right, and I owed him and the Keeper an apology when I got back. I turned to the door when something roared, and I could smell the overpowering order of wet bear.
"Prepare yourself, something big is coming down the hall." I said as I unsheathed my bow. He did the same with his swords.
I gasped when I saw them come in. Beasts that looked like bears, but had thorns and other things sticking out of furless bodies that were crimson and spotted with sores. I drew back my string feeling an arrow come into the string and I took aim as the Shem shot passed me. I checked my aim and shot the eye out of the first one that came through the door. It roared and the Shem slashed at its legs. I took aim at it again, when the second one charged me. I tossed aside my bow and dug in my feet into the stone as it rammed into me. I didn't budge an inch, and it reared up on its hind legs and managed to slash its claws across my abdomen. I snarled at it and plunged my claws into its blighted body. Blood splashed and fell like rain. Its blood burned the places that were exposed from the Dalish armor, and I felt white hot pain when the blood oozed into my own wound. It snapped its jaws at my throat and I managed to take it and flip it over with my claws still dug into its underbelly. I wrenched them down, effectively making its insides spill out of its underbelly. I held back a gag and then was caught off guard when the Shem's bear ran at me and jumped on me. I opened my mouth to roar at it when my mouth was filled with a hot trail of the things blood. I tried to spit it out, but I ended up swallowing a small amount of it instead. I coughed and shoved it back at the Shem. I didn't check my strength and it flew and hit the stone wall with a crunch and it didn't move again.
My throat was burning and I sank to my knees as I felt the white hot trail slowly move down my own throat to settle in my stomach and to burn through my veins. My wounds stung with the same fire that now was taking over my own body. The Shem was next to me in an instant his hands on my shoulders; I shoved him off and slowly crawled to where I had thrown my bow. I picked it up when I saw a glint on one of the bodies. I took it and I saw that it was a pair of rings. Tamlen's rings for himself and Merrill. I slowly got to my feet and took deep breaths trying to ignore the pain that I felt with each step. I instead went to a place that would make the pain seem less than what it was. I half sunk into the Beyond, making my body take me back to the Camp, but not feeling the pain that it caused me.
The rain did nothing for the burning, it just washed away the blood from the battle, and with each step I felt the throbbing of the pain intensify. I made it to the entrance of the camp before I slipped and I felt the Beyond take its chance and grab me before I could stop the fall. The last thing I felt before I slipped into the dark abyss was me clutching the rings so that they could be delivered to Merrill.
I slowly opened my eyes to see the large green ones of Merrill staring back at me. I gave her a slow smile and slowly I lifted up my hand to show her the rings that were clasped in the golden claws. She gave a sob and then threw her arms around me as she started to cry again. I rubbed her back for a short time then I convinced her that I wanted to get out of the stuffy Aravel. She gave me some room, knowing better than to try to help me up. As I walked out of the Aravel I slowly felt my limbs start to feel less shaky and more coordinated as I stretched them. There was a problem though, I knew that my wounds had been treated, but I could still feel the small cramp of something evil twisting in my core.
After I had ran around and climbed one or two trees I slowly ended up sitting next to Merrill as she was crushing Elf Root in a round bowl. The glint of both the rings could be seen around her neck. We both looked up when the Shem and the Keeper walked over to us. Merrill gave me a sad look as she got up and stormed passed the Keeper. The Keeper for her part looked a little sad as she watched her First storm into her own Aravel and slam the door behind her.
"Yes?" I asked them as they stood over me.
"The Keeper and I have come to an agreement of sorts that concerns you." The Shem said. I was about to open my mouth to tell them both to shove it when the Keeper gave me a furious look.
"You will listen to him Da'len, or creators help me I will silence you." She said in a low voice. I snapped my mouth shut and looked back at the Shem.
"You can feel the sickness from the bear inside of you that is called the Taint. It will eventually grow worse and it will kill you. The only cure for the Taint is within the Order of Grey Wardens, which is what I am." He started. I looked at him, I knew who the Grey Wardens were, and I just never thought that I would be meeting one in person.
I opened up my mouth, ignoring the Keeper's glare. "So that thing that I fought was a Darkspawn, correct?"
"Yes. My order is in need of aid, and you are in need of a cure. When you leave here for the cure, I have one price. You will become a Grey Warden." He said. I looked at the Keeper to see if he was serous, and the line of her frown was enough for me.
I slowly lowered my head to my hands and started muttering all the curse words that I knew in Drake. The Shem looked at the Keeper with a questionable look in his eyes. "What is she saying?" He asked.
"I don't know, she's speaking in Dragon." The Keeper said, trying to keep the irritation out of her voice. After a few minutes, and after repeating every curse that I knew twice over did I look at the Keeper again.
"Does Merrill know?" I asked her, she looked taken aback.
"Yes, Merrill is aware that you are leaving us." She said, I looked at her pleading in my eyes.
"Why can't you just give me the cure?" I asked him, he sighed.
"Only the Grey Wardens have the answer, and getting the cure would mean joining us, it is unlikely that you'll ever return here." The Shem said.
"I will not abandon Merrill, not now. I am sorry Grey Warden, but I would rather take my chances here." I said after a moment of silence.
"Long ago, the Dalish signed a treaty with the Grey Wardens; I will have you honor that treaty." She said, and I then shot to my feet. My anger was now apparent in my voice as in my face.
"Don't you dare act like you believe that I am one of your precious Dalish! You have shunned me my entire life! I will choose if I will go or not because it will be my choice! If I choose to die then you have no right to take that choice away from me!" I roared at her, and she flinched away from me.
"Lethallan, stop this!" yelled a tiny voice to my right. I looked hesitantly at Merrill. She had come out of the Aravel and she had tears in her eyes.
"Merrill, please don't tell me that you are going to send me away too." I said softly as I walked over to her. She threw her arms around me and hugged me close.
"I don't want you to go, but I cannot loose you like I lost Tamlen. I want you to live Lethallan, live for Tamlen and for someone who cannot loose another friend." She whispered. I felt her trembling, trying to be strong.
"When do we leave?" I asked in a defeated voice.
"Immediately." The Grey Warden said.
Merrill slowly stepped away from me and she took my hand to lead me to my Aravel. Ashalle was waiting there form me and she was trying not to cry in sorrow as she handed me my pack, bow, and then she pressed a traveling cloak into my arms. It was expensive with fur trimmings.
"You must be strong, my child, come back to us one day." She whispered into my ear and I hugged her back.
"Momma, I will." I whispered so only she could hear me. I felt her then break in front of me as she wailed. I looked at Merrill for help as Ashalle clung for me for dear life. Merrill soon walked over and separated the elf from me and then slipped something over my head. I looked down at the two rings that I had gotten for her.
"Merrill, these are your momentum for Tamlen, I can't—" I started but I was cut off from saying anything else as she looked at me.
"These are your memories of your friends. Remember us when you are saving the world from evil, and be sure to write now and again." She said, and then pushed me to where the Grey Warden was waiting for me.
I took a deep breath and walked to the Warden. He nodded to me and we set off.