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Etheral-23: Co-author and Beta
Ghosts of the past
A low groan came from Miara's throat as she finally stirred along with Serana. Both slowly sit up, rubbing her eyes, the hidden dark elf sees she was in her Nightingale gear again. Turning her head she saw Neria, Wynne, Leliana, Morrigan, and Brianna wake up while Marcus and the others quickly came over to them.
The young Cousland knelt beside his elven friend; "You alright?" he asked with concern in his tone. "Is it finished?"
"It's done," Miara said as she got up with Marcus's help; "And I am never going back to that place again."
Serana stretches as she also stands; "That makes two of us, by the blood you were right on how strong that bastard was."
Wynne shifts her gaze to every one of the group; "How are the rest of you?"
Faren snorted; "Oh I feel like I need a lot of ale, and get shit faced drunk," he smiled.
"The tavern is right across the lake, thankfully" Zevran muttered as he rubbed his sore neck. It technically wasn't real, but the phantom pain lingered. "That... was a most unpleasant experience"
"Understatement" Brianna growled out as she sat on the floor, moving a strand of dark hair from her face. "Of the fucking millennium"
"I've seen demons and spirits of all kind. And secrets my mother wields" The swamp witch muttered with what could only be described as awe and reverence in her voice. "And yet I've never witnessed such a display of power and magic as what we beheld in the Fade"
Alistair groaned shaking his head; "I for one never want to do that again. Please tell me that monster will never come back," the senior Warden almost looked pleading to Miara.
"He will never come back again," Taking down her hood and mask, not bothering to hide herself via her illusion. She runs her hand through her raven colored locks. "Trust me, seeing him in my nightmares is bad enough."
Jowan absently rubs his chest; "Just glad we're alive."
Neria stands up with the aid of her staff as support. The whole ordeal had taken a lot out of her, out of all them really. She could see the exhaustion with lingering traces of shock present in the faces of her companions. "We should go to the top to see if Irving and the others are alright" She got various moans and groans of complaint.
"Aw come on"
"I could just fall down here and sleep, I don't care about the corpses..."
"Come on people" Miara announced, dusting herself off. "We're all very tired, but we still have a job to do"
"Our mission is not yet complete" The silver eyed Cousland agreed with a nod. "Come on" He urged his companions to move forward as he himself carried on.
The dark elf shifts her illusion back to 'Astrid' as the group went up through the tower. They saw the bodies of Abominations lying dead on the cold floor. Miraak's handy work when he had taken control of the demons that possessed the mages of the tower.
"It will take time to fix the tower," Wynne said absently looking mournfully at the dead; "Damn you Uldred," she cursed in a whispered.
Going up the second to the final flight of stairs, Neria looked wide eyed seeing a lone figure huddled by the wall; "Cullen..."
Standing on the corner was a templar, sandy blonde hair neatly shaved and stubble around his chin and mouth. His armor had more than a few scratches and blotches of blood. The cloth of his waist was torn, and he was missing his left gauntlet, showing a bloody bruised hand with various cuts, his nails dark and broken. His skin was pale and dry; there were bruises and burns on the visible parts, evidence of magical assault. And his eyes were wide with terror.
"Get back, get back!" He wildly waved a sword at them as he huddled closer to the corner. "You won't fool me, monsters!" He muttered to himself in a demented tone. "Bring down this prison; appear as friendly faces huh... I won't fall for it!"
The mages who knew him looked at him with sympathy and astonishment. The soft-spoken templar was... nearly deranged. There was just so much terror in his eyes. Suffering and pain lingered from whatever the blood mages and demons had inflicted upon him.
"Knight Cullen" The elder mage spoke with a matronly tone, soft and understanding. "It's okay; we're here to hel-"
"Stay away from me, devil!" He shouted, pointing his blade at her but not daring to come closer. Wynne raised her hands and slowly stood back.
"Cullen..." Neria's voice was filled with sorrow. What had they done to him?
"My mind is pure, my will is my own!" He cried out. "You won't take me!"
"Careful" Marcus ordered with a firm tone. "He's delusional, mostly like from torture, he's a danger to us right now"
Morrigan snorted uncaringly. "To you perhaps" She was not afraid of any leashed Templar dog, no matter how rabid they were.
Miara slowly took a step forward, drawing Cullen's attention. "Easy there" Good thing donned had kept her disguise once more, the last thing the poor young man needed was to see something that would spook him, like a foreign type of elf he's never seen before. She kept slow and steady steps. "We just want to help you"
His sword trembled in his hands. "They... They did things to me..."
"I know" She spoke softly. "But I swear to you, we are real. The ones responsible for this have been dealt with"
"H-How can I believe you?" The Templar demanded.
"You just have to trust me"
That seemed to be the wrong thing to say, as rage flared in his eyes. "No... No! You lie!" He waved his sword in a wide arc. "You all lie! I won't let you come any closer, demons!"
Okay, this wasn't working, Miara decided. She needs to calm him down before he did something stupid. She channeled a spell to calm his mind and stop any violent outbursts from exploding.
The Templar saw the green energy gathering in her hand, and his mind flashed to images of unimaginable cruelty and torment. Fear guided his actions. With a panicked cry, he brought down a Holy Smite upon her.
Miara gasped as if the air had been knocked out of her, the magic in her hand dispelled. Her steps wobbled and nearly lost her footing. Her form flickered, shifting quickly back and forth between her disguise and her real form. She fell to one knee and gasped, coughing violently as her grey elven features returned.
"I knew it!" The Templar cried out.
Before he could attempt to try anything to the now revealed dark elf, Cullen was struck by the back of the neck by Serana who phased in the form of mist and appeared right behind him. The Templar hit the ground unconscious while Miara slowly recovered and helped up by Gin and Neria; "What in oblivion was that..?" she rubs her eyes still trying to collect herself.
"Holy Smite," Alistair explains; "A technique of Templars can use that dispels magic as well as weaken and disorient mages."
"It dispelled your illusion" Brianna spoke up next. "You should be fine a few minutes."
"Effective enough to pull down Miara's illusion…" Serana mused, coming over to her friend.
The dark elf waved it off; "He caught me off guard." Truth to be told she felt like someone had simultaneously hit her in the stomach and the head with a hammer. Gods, her ears were pounding so hard and her chest felt so tight and constricted, it was hard to breathe...
"You're bleeding" The vampire pointed out tensely.
Miara blinked in confusion before she realized there was something warm sliding down her lips. She touched them with her fingers and saw them the blood in them when she pulled them away. Neria graciously casted a healing spell on her, easing the pounding in her ears and making breathing easier. The dunmer took a deep breath.
"That was... an experience" Not one she'd want to repeat any time soon.
"Maybe best to just keep your hood and mask up" Marcus said while Miara not so gracefully spat out some blood.
Agreeing with a nod, she puts up her hood and mask as she finally feels back to normal; "Thank you Neria."
The young elf smiled as the group left the unconscious Templar be and went to the very top of the tower. Opening the door Neria could not stop light tears riming her eyes as she saw First Enchanter Irving sitting on the floor with several others. "Neria," his wizened voice spoke in shock till grunting as the young elf ran over and hugs him tightly; "Easy dear, I'm not as young as I used to be."
"I'm so relieved you're okay" She said with a choked sob.
"Believe me dear, we all are. Though we have no idea what happened" The First Enchanter looked to his right, there in the center of the room stood the corpse of a bald mage, surrounded by Abominations.
"Is that...?" Brianna trailed off.
"Uldred" One of the Enchanters with Irving nodded.
The First Enchanter look to the young elven mage, taking notice of her Grey Warden robes. "I see you've accommodated into the Wardens well enough" The dark skinned elf carefully helped him stand up while her comrades helped the rest of the mages; "When I heard about Ostagar from Wynne. I..." He sighed, letting old worry finally leaving, making way to relief. "I feared the worst, child"
"We were fortunate to survive" Marcus said, walking up to the elder mage. "My name is Marcus Cousland and... well I suppose I am the acting Warden-Commander right now" He shrugged, making his metallic shoulder pads and chainmail clank. "We're looking for aid to stop the Blight, and we could really use the mages"
"You saved us all, of that I am certain, and so you have it young Cousland." Irving groaned as he popped his back. "Survivors?"
"Petra is looking after the others down at the first floor," Brianna said while glaring down at Uldred's corpse. "Greagoir is also alive," the apathy in her tone wasn't lost on Miara or Serana.
"Good to hear," the elder mage nods; "Shall we go then? Oh why did they have built this tower so high…?" Neria softly laughed as she helped her former master and father figure.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
"You want to what now?" Alistair shook his head as they made their way back down the Tower; "could you repeat that please?"
Brianna gave the man a dry look; "I want to join the Wardens."
The former Templar only blinks as he eyes Marcus beside him; "You certain of this?"
"You both have seen my skills, and extra mage could also help."
"Hmm" The Cousland pondered for a moment, running a hand over his dark locks. "We do need to refill the ranks as much as possible..."
"But will the Circle truly be alright with you leaving?" Alistair brought up. "They are in need of their people to help rebuild the Tower"
"They can spare a few mages, they are going to send every available mage to fight the Blight after all" The human mage retorted.
"True" The senior Warden conceded. "But the Knight-Commander might have an issue with that"
Her sapphire blue eyes twinkled with amusement as she chuckled. "Oh trust me; he won't have any issues with me leaving in particular. And if my argument fails" She shrugs. "Just use your Right of Conscription"
Alistair and Marcus shared a look. The senior of the two shrugging, having no other counter argument. But the Cousland wasn't satisfied. He saw intensity in her eyes, he felt eagerness, no, and a great desire in her voice to get join them. To get out of this place.
"Do you truly want to help us, Brianna Amell?" He used her full name with severity. "Do you truly wish to aid us against the Blight... or are you just looking for a way out of the Circle?"
"I am not going to hide the fact that I hate this place. The Chantry tore my family apart, just because we were mages. But at the same time the blight has to be stopped, and I won't stop worrying about Neria unless I'm with her," Brianna said with equal severity; "I have my priorities straight Marcus. We stop the Darkspawn."
Staring at one another for least a minute, the Cousland let out a long breathe; "Alright..."
"You won't regret it; I'll earn my keep while keeping an eye on Neria." The beautiful brunette fighting impulse to hug the man. Finally, freedom... Even if it came with a cost in joining the Wardens, she would accept it.
"We should speak with the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander" Alistair stated, looking at Marcus. "It's best if we're there while they discuss how much support they'll give us against the Blight and Loghain"
"We should" Marcus agreed with a nod.
Brianna smiled excitedly. "I'm going too. I need to clear up with them that I'm leaving"
"You just want to see the look on Greagoir's face when he's told..." The Senior Warden deduced with a dry tone.
Not far behind them, the mages of the Circle talked among themselves.
"So," Irving spoke, sparking conversation while walking beside Neria and Wynne; "Who are your companions my dear?"
"Interesting to say the least," the young elf snorts. She named off and pointed to each person as well as the faithful Mabari hounds beside them. The first Enchanter gave a curious gaze over to 'Astrid' and Serana.
"I have heard a fair few of tales of Tamriel."
"Anything over the top?" 'Astrid' asked while keeping her mask and hood up.
"Some said it is a land that was untouched and never received by the Maker's light. Some say they are dark lands, many rumors or theories. But I'd rather hear it from those who actually live there."
"If we had time First Enchanter I would gladly talk about it with you," Honestly Miara just wanted to leave this blasted Tower and never see it again. But she did find Irving rather pleasant to converse with. She could definitely see the near parental bond between him and Neria. "But I will be honest in saying Tamriel would not care much for the Chantry."
Surprisingly, least to Miara and Serana, the elderly man nods; "There are many facets of the Chantry I myself do not agree with and apologize if they have colored your opinion of our country."
"I cannot blame them for centuries of education and strict adherence to their teachings" Miara replied. "I believe your Chantry has colored the opinion of many regarding many subjects" She stated neutrally. "I admit; I find such dogmatism to be... less than appealing. Back in Tamriel we've had terrible experiences with such things which resulted in plenty of tragedies. We shed a lot of blood and suffered much to change those things"
"Nowadays the empire takes a more liberal stance with matters such as religion" Serana adds. "It can be difficult to keep the peace with so many people with their own believes and stances on different matters"
"How do you keep the peace then?" The First Enchanter curiously asked.
Neria also felt curious as well, beyond superficial aspects of the Tamriel Empire and its history, neither the dunmer nor the vampire had gone into much detail.
"Mostly trying to stop the mistakes of the past from repeating" The Nightingale replied. "And, by trying to foster a sense of civic duty and making sure the people are given enough of the essential so they don't have many complaints, much like any kingdom really. There is no easy or specific solution"
"What about magic?" Irving asked.
Ah, the crux of the matter. "Again, it varies from cultures and places. Some are very superstitious, some are open, and some prefer a certain type of magic and shun another. For the most part, the empire is pragmatic. We have several guilds dedicated to the studies and advancement of magic and how it can be used to better the lives of the everyday citizen" The dunmer didn't quite realize her posture straightened and she folded her arms behind her back, like a soldier standing at attention. Serana noticed how talking about the aspects of the empire brought out the legionnaire in her friend. She spoke with a sense of pride on being part of something they had fought so hard to build. "We also boast a proud martial history and mentality, as part of our civic duty, it is mandatory for all people of applicable age to serve a course of two years in the Imperial Legion. One such corps of our forces is the valued spell casters of the Battlemage Regiments"
Irving remained quiet for a moment; "You are soldier yourself aren't you my dear?" That made the hidden dark elf freeze up; "I am accustomed to the Templar knights and have met soldiers during the times I've been away from the Tower for certain situations. You posture and speech gave it away."
"More cunning than I thought," Seeing it was only them Miara stopped and pulled down her hood revealing her dark elf face and spoke with her real voice; "First Enchanter I ask of you not to speak of who I really am for the moment. My name is Miara Ellswyn, a General in the Tamriel's legion."
The elderly man only looked in shock before his memory soon sparked; "I recall Wynne telling me about you, the reports said you had fallen in Ostagar."
"As you can see I am very much alive. But if Loghain hears that I am alive..."
Irving nods; "He could throw the blame on your nation with the late king's death and the Wardens. My lips are sealed."
The dark elf smiles as she pulls her hood and mask back up and they resume walking. Going down another flight of steps, they find themselves back in the library. Mages had already come out from their hiding places and began scouring the Tower, fixing any damage they could find.
"Look at this mess," a familiar male voice gaining both Brianna and Neria's attention. "All the research I was working on and the books."
Both ladies feel their eye twitch as they all now see a young human man in red mage robes with short brunette hair fussing over the books. Not remotely caring about the fallen bodies at his feet.
"Finn hasn't changed much I see," the dark skinned elf dryly speaks. Of course it only has been a month or so since she left.
"Uhhhhhh" The young man, Finn, let a long suffering sigh. "It's going to take me weeks to re-organize all this. Maker I don't even want to think about the books we lost during this ordeal..."
Brianna let out a sigh as she rolled her eyes. "I believe the loss of books is the least of our problems, Finn..." Came her dry voice.
"Oh easy for you to say" The young mage snapped with irritation looking over. "You always were the one who traded her library assignments for snacks and candy that were smuggled into the Tower"
Both Irving and Neria slowly turned two pairs of deadpanning eyes at the human mage who just stood there frozen, mouth gaping in shock at the sudden revelation.
"How did you know that?!" She nearly screeched. It was then that she noticed Irving's look. "Uh... I have no idea what he's talking about"
By the first Enchanter's look he was not buying what she was selling. The elderly man just waves it off. Jowan, hidden by his ring only rolled his eyes, sounds like something Brianna would do.
Finally leaving the library, and Finn's ranting, Petra could not have come over fast enough to hug Neria and Brianna. Thanking any god listening they were alright. Many rejoiced seeing Irving alive and well, pressing on they soon came to the closed doors guarded by the Templars. "Greagoir! It's Irving, open the doors."
For a moment, nobody answered. The Wardens and their allies properly regrouped with their comrades as they waited behind the door.
Faren rolled his neck, working the cricks as he sighed. "Sure are taking their time..."
"They're being cautious" Wynne replied. "They're setting defenses in case we're demons"
Sten nodded in approval. "A proper measure, there's no telling what a demon in disguise can do"
Slowly, the doors opened, revealing a line of knights standing at their ready with their swords drawn and their shields at front. They relaxed the moment they saw the large group with the First Enchanter at the front.
"It is them, sir!" One of the knights exclaimed.
"Let me through" Greagoir's rugged visage appeared as the line of Templars broke and cleared the way. The Knight-Commander visibly relaxed and let out a breath of relief as he saw the elder mage. "Irving... Maker you don't know how good it is to see you again"
The First Enchanter allowed himself a small laugh. "I think that's the first time I've ever heard you say that, Greagoir"
Soon the knight-commander turned his gaze to Marcus; "You have my thanks Wardens, you have kept your word and saved the tower."
"All in a day's work," Faren smirks while Zevran snorts beside him. "Now excuse me, I'm going to go get shit faced drunk." The roguish dwarf made quite a few blink at his bluntness as went for the door, Sereda and Serana following in agreement with their comrade.
Shaking his head Greagoir turns his head to Irving; "I'll send word to Denerim. We can begin clearing up the tower."
"Knight-Commander Greagoir, First Enchanter," both shift their gaze back to Marcus; "I wish to conscript Brianna Amell into the Gray Wardens."
Both men looked shock till the commander spoke up; "I already allowed Neria out of the Tower after the incident with the blood mage."
Wynne gave Jowan a glare, the mage under the illusionary disguise nervously cleared his throat and avoided looking at the Knight-Commander. Miara noticed the look, and feared what could be going through her mind. She discretely approached the Senior Enchanter and harshly whispered into her ear.
"Not. One. Word" Though it was but a whisper, her voice still carried the same power that made Wynne shudder.
The elder mage no longer knew what to do. She feared Miara, she feared her greatly after what she had witnessed in the Fade. She dared not invoke the ire of this... being. So she held her tongue, there was nothing she could do.
Brianna dryly glared at the Knight-Commander till putting on a cheerful smile; "Think of this way Greagoir, you and I will never those delightful conversations ever again."
That actually made the man pauses and think. Which makes Gin lean to Neria; "Was it really that bad between them?" he whispers.
"Worse than it was with me."
"Very well," Greagoir let out a long breath; "Take Amell, she will be your problem now."
"Love you to Knight-Commander."
"You're not my responsibility anymore Amell" The Templar in charge replied curtly. "Now go on, leave and fight Darkspawn. At least it's one less source of stress around here" He turned and went back to his Templars, already assigning squads to sweep through the tower.
"Yes it is..." To their surprise, Irving had let out a sigh of relief as well. Neria stifled her laughter while Brianna openly gawked at him. The First Enchanter realized the words had escaped his lips without him intending too so he nervously cleared his throat and beckoned for the Wardens to follow. "Um, why don't we discuss the terms of our support to your cause. Come along young Wardens"
As Marcus and Alistair followed the mage to discuss their business with Greagoir. "Not a good sign that neither of your superiors isn't sad to see you go..." The Senior Warden drawled to the human mage as he walked away.
Brianna only adjusted the collar of her robe as she grumbled and decided following Faren's advice and leave the tower with Neria, Zevran, Jowan, and Gin joining her with Bran and Loke following.
Sten, Miara, and Shale watched quietly while Marcus and Alistair spoke with Greagoir and Irving. They absently hear Wynne speaking with Irving on joining Marcus's group till the Blight's end. While the First Enchanter looked saddened, he accepted it.
"Would your group at least like a night's rest here before leaving tomorrow?" Irving asked openly.
With that Miara politely spoke she was going to the pub for the night. Sten and Shale following.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
The Spoiled Princess pub was a decent place. Its ale wasn't that bad and had pretty good mead. Not much of a variety in drinks but it satiated one's desire for a stiff drink.
The usual patrons were found with an interesting sight that of a pretty full counter made up of a... colorful bunch of adventurers of all races. Including a big golem standing at the side.
Faren looked at his mug and then at the downcast gazes of his companions. No doubt they were all still feeling the effects of their horrible ordeal in the Fade. "So..." He said, trying to break the tension. "Anyone want to talk about it?"
He got a unanimous; "No..." Of stressed tired voices.
"Alright" He shrugged and went back to his mug, not before eying up a cute dwarven barmaid who worked there.
Brianna sighed deeply. "My first real drink, on the outside..." Her voice was heavy, it carried traces of deep emotions long since buried, slowly welling up to the surface.
"How long were you there," Serana asked sitting beside her.
The Amell gazed into her mug; "Since I was a child. I have siblings, but they were also taken to separate towers." her companions hearing the breaking in her voice start.
With her mask down but hood up, Miara looked at the young human mage; "Are you kidding me?"
The long dark haired human sighed. "I don't even know where they are" She chuckled humorlessly. "Getting out of there... this is the best thing that ever happened to me. You all heard Keili, that poor thing thinks we mages are the symbol of the Maker's hate" The hold on her mug tightened. "And then we hear that old coot Wynne's babble about the Circle being a good thing for us. She is no one to talk. I heard she first arrived she was a frightened girl who ate up all the bullshit the priests and Templars told her... She's nothing but an indoctrinated puppet with no will of her own"
She takes down a deep gulp from her drink, and let a deep sigh of satisfaction once she set it down. "I hate her so much... I hate how she says the Circle brought her peace when all it did for me was tear me off from the arms of my mother"
Luckily Neria was outside with Zevran and Jowan while Brianna spoke her thoughts openly. Morrigan lightly smirked; "T'is good to see you did fall under the Chantry's hypocrisy."
The beautiful brunette snorted; "Will gladly tell them where they can stick that Chant of Light ballcocks. I just wish Neria would open her eyes about it."
At that Gin shook his head; "That might take some effort. She's been trying to deal with this craziness." the elf points to Miara and Serana.
"We're perfectly sane," Even her longtime vampire friend gave her long dry look; "functioning insanity." Miara quickly corrected himself.
"I am in agreement," Sten stated standing by the table.
"The Qun would have us executed on principle wouldn't it?" Serana dryly quipped.
"Undoubtedly" The qunari bluntly replied.
The dunmer rested her chin on her palm as she leaned on the counter. "Well, good thing the Qun is not our problem"
"For now" Sten curtly said.
An elf stood up from her sit on another table, she paid her tab and left. All this time the group had been unaware that she had been keeping an eye on them all.
She had a report to give.
XxX ~ next morning ~ XxX
As everyone prepared to leave, Neria took a moment to properly say her goodbyes to Irving. The long bearded mage had a glint in his eyes that she had seen before when she had done her first successful test, when she passed her Harrowing. It was pride.
"I still remember frightened little girl who came to us, unsure of her fate" He said. "I watched as you grew, as your understanding of your own power grew, and became a better person for it. I remember when I took you under my wing to prepare you for the sharks that infest these waters we call 'Circle politics'" The elder mage softly chuckled. "I hope those lessons will help you in the outside world"
Neria remembered as well, those were some of the happiest moments of her life.
"Even if you path is with the Wardens, I am proud of you child," Irving said in a warm tone as he hugs his former apprentice.
A few tears strayed from Neria's eyes as he held her mentor/father figure. "I'll make you proud."
"And please be safe."
And so the group parted ways with the dawn's rising. Another important part of their quest completed, but their mission far from over.
The young Amell looked upon the great tower, taking in every detail and angle of its architecture. This had been her cage for so long, only the presence of her friends had made it a home.
But she was done. She would be bound no longer; her fate was hers to decide.
Looking at the Wardens, her newfound companions, she couldn't deny that a part of her felt tempted to just sneak away in the night and just leave. She couldn't say she felt very thrilled at the idea of fighting Darkspawn for the rest of her life.
But there were a couple of reasons she felt compelled to stay. Those Tamriels with them, she felt so very much intrigued by them. By the power they wielded... She would learn from them as they traveled. With their help she'd carve her own path.
And first and most importantly, Neria and Jowan were here. The loyalty Brianna felt for her dear friends was such that no promise of freedom, no treasure or reward could ever replace them in her heart. Oh indeed, she knew her original reasons were selfish; she had no problem admitting that. But if Neria wanted her at their side, all she had to do was ask and she'd follow them anywhere.
As Brianna looked upon their company, she smiled. This was going to be grand.
...Now if only Wynne could keep her mouth shut about the Circle.
Feeling a pat on her back she turned her head seeing Miara beside her; "Coming?"
"Does Wynne have to put on a speech again about the bloody Circle?" the beautiful brunette grumbled.
"Believe me I understand, all you can do is endure. Besides I'm sure chatting with Neria and Jowan will help."
Nodding, the young Amell soon paused; "Can I ask you something? After Ostagar you could have left back for Tamriel. Why did you stay?"
For the longest moment the dark elf was silent; "...I may have only known him a short time, but I came to know that Bryce Cousland was a great man, and was soon becoming a friend. Moreover I want vengeance against that little bastard Rendon for what he did. And finally, I will never abandon those in need," The hidden dark elf said with conviction; "There are plenty of people who just look the other way, or rather let the world burn as long as it did not affect their lives. Those people are nothing more than cowards. If there is a crisis, and if you have the power to help fight it, you do it. My teacher taught me that."
"Sounds like a great person"
Miara let out a short laugh. "Heh, it depends on your perception of 'great'. She is a complicated person"
"Like you;" The mage asked with an eyebrow elegantly raised. Miara looked at her expectantly, waiting to see where she was going with this. "At the Fade, what you told us you were. 'Dragonborn'" She said the word slowly, as if testing it. "I'm not sure I fully understand... or if you told us the whole story"
A throaty grumble came from the dovahkiin; "The Fade kinda forced a lot of matters open. I will explain everything while on the road and making camp."
"So this is a long tale," Brianna lifted a brow.
"Leli will be enjoying herself, I know that much." She knelt down as Loke came over to her; "You want to hear my stories too." The war hound barked happily.
"Yes, with a big juicy piece of venison."
The young Amell tilted her head; "Can you really understand him?"
"Of course" Miara said with so much certainty Brianna had to admit the dunmer was telling the truth, or at least she believed she was telling the truth. But after what she saw in the Fade, she wouldn't put it pass her abilities. "Even with magic, communication with animals is not simple. The simply lack the intelligence to convey the language of words" The dunmer smiled as she scratched Loke's ears, who joyfully rolled his neck as to guide her hand better. "Mabaris are a wonderful breed, they are exceptionally smart"
Brianna quietly asked. "How much do you know of magic?"
Miara chuckled. "Oh my dear, I know plenty of magics. I know things that shouldn't be taught to mortal men, and witnessed secrets that would drive many insane" She smirked at the mage with mirth. "So you could say I know a bit"
"...Can you teach me?"
"That depends" The dunmer replied. "What is it that you seek?"
Brianna pondered on her answer. "Power... So no one will cage me again"
"Ahhh" She seemed satisfied with it. And even look like she understood and related even. "I know that thirst for knowledge, for more..." Her tone was thick with emotion, melancholy. "You heart is more open to its ambitions than Neria. She has yet to even form ambitions of her own;" Red eyes turn to sapphires. "Power, I can give you"
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
Their journey for Denerim being a long one from the tower. Also being sure not to encounter Loghain's men it was best to take more secluded routes for the seat of Ferelden kingdom. While they did encounter only pockets of bandits, they were swiftly dealt with.
Then Brianna and Wynne got to meet Odahviing… that been a fun affair. The elder mage openly expressed her fascination. While Brianna, at first frightened, then became overcome by a sense of childlike wonder.
The campfire burned as the stars shined brightly in the night. Secunda and Messer glowed equally but the Wardens and their companions' attention was not on them, but rather they focused on what was before them right now as Miara she fully explained the about her Dragonborn Heritage once more..
Odahviing and Serana paid close attention to their Thedas companions as Miara spared no detail out of her words. Both could tell this was quite a lot to process for all of them.
"Gods, demons, and all types of supernatural creatures" Wynne's voice was nearly above a whisper. "Had I not witnessed yours and Miraak's power on the Fade, I'd be hesitant to believe you. There is truly more to the world than any of us can fully understand..."
"There is another thing I must tell you" Miara carefully said. "And it might clash with your views and believes"
"Oh..." Neria said in realization. That issue she learnt about in the Fade.
The Cousland sighed deeply from his seat on the ground. He leant back as to make himself comfortable. "Miara, with all you've revealed so far, I'm just about to believe Luna and Satina are made out of cheese"
Miara was confused from his words for a moment, until she remembered Luna and Satina were the names Thedas had for Messer and Secunda. "Technically, some people say they're the 'flesh' of a dead god. But that's not the point"
"'That's not the point', she says" Gin breathed out incredulously. What could she possible tell them now?
"Neria found this out while we were trapped in the Fade," Miara took a deep breath; "my mother is the Daedric Prince Azura, and I am a demigoddess." There was no point or purpose in beating about the bush.
There was nothing but silence save the fire and night incest buzzing in the forest. Shock would not be the appropriate word Serana could describe the expressions from the others save Sten who remained unreadable, only his brow lifting some.
"T-That's…" Leliana looked as if she could form the proper words she felt.
Zevran soon shook his head; "So when I call you the goddess I'm not half wrong?" That got the dark elf lightly chuckling.
"You're not half wrong" Miara confirmed with mirth.
The dark skinned elf sighed. "Still coming to terms with that" Though to her credit, Neria seemed to be taking it much better now than in the Fade.
Alistair laughs nervously and clears his throat; "How does, uh, THAT... happen?"
"Well, when a god and a mortal love each other very much... okay, ignore that. Love is most definitely not a factor in lots of cases. But thankfully mine was"
"Not that!" He blurted, feeling his ears burn. "I mean, just... How do you react to someone saying something like that?" He did a poor imitation of the dunmer's voice. "'Hi everybody, I have a dragon's soul and make the world tremble when I shout, I'm an assassin and committed high treason by murdering my emperor. Oh did I also mention I'm a demigod; Alrighty then!'"
"...I don't sound like that"
She glared over hearing Snickering and seeing Serana covering her mouth so not to laugh out loud; "Oh I don't know about that, let's get Vex over here and find out," the Nordic vampire said in between giggles.
Her crimson eyes shift to her Zeymah who only smirked at her in sheer amusement. Shaking her head she looked back to the group; "Anyways..."
"Are there others like you?" Morrigan spoke with an almost child-like fascination in her voice.
"There have been a few other demigods through Tamriel's history. I met a few myself;" Hircine's son coming to mind.
Wynne looked at her former apprentice who nodded; "I met Azura in the Fade when we were trapped there. She was helping us Wynne."
"Mother has a weird way of doing things" Miara shrugs. "Sometimes she takes a direct approach, other times she has no problem waiting for things to develop on her own, even if it takes thousands of years. Can't really help it, she sees things in a way mortals can't. Like watching time and fate as a string, tugging the string along until she sees what was and what will be. Or at least, that's the best way I can explain it to you"
Marcus looks at her in confusion. "You said you grew up an orphan, but all this time you had a god as your mother"
"That's where her way of doing things comes in" The dunmer explains. "It was for the best; I understand that and don't mind. As a demigod I am prone to being much... different from mortals" She got dry looks all around. "Alright, that's an understatement. Anyway, I needed to grow up as a mortal, to understand them, suffer as they do, feel joy as they do. If not, I would have grown to be very detached from them" Her gaze became downcast. "Believe me, there was a time in my life when I nearly let my dragon soul dictate my every action, had my mother not send me to mortal world when I was born... then it's very likely I would have become just like Miraak"
"How did you found out you were a Demigod?" Sereda finally spoke up beside Faren and Bodahn.
"When I met my aunt, the Daedric Prince Nocturnal on becoming a Nightingale. You should have seen my friend Brynjolf's and Karliah's faces. Hell mine to." The dark elf sips on a bottle of her honey brewed mead.
Brianna picked up on Miara's tone; "You were angry."
"For a while, don't think I ever screamed at someone like that when I met my mother the first time at her shrine. But like I said I grew to understand and accept it for what it was. In returned I have my mother, Alandro, and Rathuni in my life."
Jowan scratched his head; "And your father?"
"Nmeryn Redoran," Miara smiled fondly; "And his tales are even bigger than mine."
"If you ever want to hear the stories about him, forget it" Serana distantly said as she leant back on a rock. "The Blight would consume Ferelden by the time we're done. Not counting how long it'd take you to understand the extremely convoluted stuff that happened since his first life"
"His... first life?" Jowan warily asked.
"You see?" The vampire threw up her hands in exasperation. "That's what I'm talking about. Even I could barely understand a tenth of what went down during those crazy days"
"Let's say my father has a long, loooong history" The dunmer added with a soft smile. "He and mom go way back, like 'four thousand years' back" Shifting her gaze, the dark elf turned to Sten; "Does the Qun have any words on gods in general?" She was actually curious about it.
"The Qun does not discredit the existence of supernatural forces. But we rather not tie ourselves to any such being"
"I do apologize if this is a lot to take in," she meant that sincerely.
Sten only grunted as he drank some water. And indeed, she could see it in their faces. Marcus looked like he just about done with everything, at this point she was certain he'd rather be facing Darkspawn than be dealing with all this. At least Darkspawn were simple. Morrigan looked at her in fascination, the glint in her eyes was... disturbing. Like, Neloth's level of disturbing, she didn't want to imagine the thought process of dark and morbid curiosity that were filling her mind.
She doubted Flemeth had fostered a sense of 'ethical boundaries' when raising the witch. She'd keep her distance in case Morrigan wanted to conduct any 'research' to satiate her curiosity.
Brianna looked fascinated, rather than disturbed. There was a shock factor of course, but the mage had been presented with a fascinating piece of the puzzle, like one she had been looking for her whole life. Wynne just looked like she didn't know what to believe anymore.
Leliana, the poor thing's faith had been shaken; she was currently holding her Sword of Mercy necklace tightly, seeking comfort in her belief in the Maker. Hoping to one day have her answers. To what questions? The dunmer could only speculate. Perhaps answers to why he had been absent for so long. Miara already dreaded what that answer would entail.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
"Hi los sahlo..."
Her heart could not stop as it pounded in her chest. Darkness all around as Neria found herself standing on a large ancient stone bridge deep underground. At her feet lie the corpses of her friends, their bodies torn apart, blood and severed limbs scattered all around.
"Fin lein fent ag. Pah fent dir oi dii bah fen motaad fin lein ko faas..."
Looking over the bridge she could see darkspawn, their numbers beyond counting as they marched forward. Some roared, others laughed manically as they banged their shields.
"None shall stop me!" Neria turned and screamed as the Archdemon roared as it lunged for her.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
Neria woke up with a start, gasping for air as sweat dripped heavily from her forehead and the back of her neck. She rested her head on her hands, trying to ease her breathing and calm her racing heart.
Oh Maker, or gods, or whatever was out there... those nightmares.
The mage reached for a water-skin at the side of her bedroll, and drank with great thirst.
"Bad dreams huh?" The ever mirth-filled voice of Alistair said; she lowered the water-skin, ignoring some of the liquid dripping down her lips, to look at him with an angry glare. "Yeah, first times are the most intense" He was sitting on his own bedroll, armor long since discarded and wearing a simple linen shirt and pants.
"'Intense'" That's not the word she'd use. Haunting, terrifying, fit a lot more.
"You, Gin and Marcus must be starting to feel the 'Spawn properly if the nightmares are settling in more frequently" The Senior Warden explained. "Sensing the Darkspawn is like... hearing whispers" There was a distant look on his eyes. "Like a nagging feeling on the back of your mind"
Great, as if she didn't have enough with the demons... "There better be some trade-off for having horrible nightmares in return for sensing them"
"Oh there is" The former templar smiled widely. "A Warden's stamina is legendary. At the cost of a greater appetite. Gotta keep up with this metabolism"
"Huh" Neria mused, her violent eyes shifting. "I haven't noticed that before"
Alistair dryly replied. "You haven't noticed how during launch you devoured three pieces of breads, one stake and two apples" The elf blushed in embarrassment to which the bastard prince laughed softly. "Hey nobody judges you. Certainly other Wardens won't" His face lit up as if remembering something. "Oh right, another benefit; Resistance to toxins. Never really experienced this myself but Duncan told me about it. We pretty much took in physical EVIL into our bodies, and now as a Warden you're pretty much immune to nearly all bad poisonous stuff"
Well that was certainly useful. At least they wouldn't die if someone poisoned their meals. Neria rubbed her eyes. "When you have the nightmares..." Alistair gave her attention; "Do you see a massive dragon?"
"The Archdemon... That's how we knew this was a real Blight even before the horde came out marching out of the Deep Roads."
"Did the Archdemon speak to you?"
That actually made the former Templar blink; "It spoke?" While he gotten use to Odahviing, he never once heard of an Archdemon speaking. "What did it say?"
The elf shook her head; "It spoke in a strange..." she paused before shifting her gaze over to the ruby red dragon sleeping beside Miara. "It was speaking his language..."
"Only the most senior Wardens can understand the Archdemon, Neria" There was a serious edge to his tone she hadn't heard in a while. "And none of them ever said it spoke in any tongue as we understand the term... At least, as far as I've heard" Though a Senior among his fellow Wardens, his time in the order was still pitifully short compared to the true veterans'. "And you're saying it was speaking the dragon tongue"
"I know I doesn't make sense, none of this does" The elven mage sounded so lost. "The dragons here can't speak, yet somehow the creature responsible for trying to destroy the world can speak words that hold magical power I cannot even fathom. What I do understand is that the implications behind it are too terrifying to even contemplate"
Damn right they were. Alistair only rubbed his chin as he looked up to the sky. Once this mess in Ferelden was all settled and Loghain dead he needed to tell his superiors in Weisshaupt about this. But also... The former templar sighed as he rubbed his eyes; "Ever since Ostagar it feels like we've been through some bloody mad whirlwind."
"I think we're going to be in the whirlwind for a while" Neria spoke softly as looked over to Miara who somehow slept quite comfortably beside Odahviing.
"Well, I'll try to get some shut-eye" Alistair said, groaning as he stretched before laying on his bedroll. "After a while, the Darkspawn screaming in your dreams can get very soothing..." As usual, he spoke with his typical snark.
The darker skinned elf merely sighed, running a hand over face. She doubted she'd get any shut-eye herself any time soon, not after that nightmare.
"Bad dreams my dear?" The accented voice of their resident Crow (well, former Crow), spoke as he took the liberty of sitting next to her, even though Neria clearly did not approve of him taking such liberties. "Such a harsh look should not be on a beauty such as yourself."
The Elven mage only rolled her eyes; "Can I help you Zevran?"
"You looked like you needed the help. You were tossing and turning so fiercely I got worried."
Part of her felt this was just some excuse to try to charm her. But honestly she was too tired to care; "I'll be fine. And why aren't you sleeping?"
At that, the assassin smiled; "My turn to keep watch. Although even while asleep our goddess still looks alert," he thumbed over to Miara. Seeing the odd look from Neria he explained; "Only someone like myself or Leli would notice, it is an assassin trait we all have."
"I guess it takes a ruthless killer to understand another" She immediately regretted her words. It wasn't fair, to Miara or Leliana. Zevran though... well, she'd reserve her judgement on him for the time being. "I'm sorry. I'm tired and... and-"
"Why are you apologizing?" The tattooed elf wondered. "It is a fit description for someone in our line of work"
But then again, he made it so easy for her to judge him. "Do you feel no remorse?" She honestly couldn't understand him. Leliana and Miara had more to their persons than just their shady work. But Zevran... Zevran had been raised to be an assassin, and he made no secret that he enjoyed that life, he enjoyed killing. Not like a warrior who took pleasure in the glory of combat, Zevran took killing like an art. Neria honestly couldn't understand it.
"Remorse? Hmm, no" He didn't take long to answer. "No... Not remorse" There was... something to his voice. Pain?
She then understood. "You do feel remorse" Perhaps not from his life, but for something he had done.
"You'll forgive me if I do not want to share that with you"
Neria gave a nod, it wasn't her right to pry. But from hearing his tone, whatever it was hurt him. "Perhaps another time?"
"Hmm," Zevran rubbed his chin; "How about when you feel like lowering your guard around me?" he gave a knowing smile; "I know trusting assassins is not something that is easy, but believe me when I say I will not harm any of you."
"Hmph" Neria made a throaty noise. "I am getting tired of people telling me to 'trust them' as if it were so simple"
"You trust Miara;" Zevran points out.
"Miara is a different case, at least she has the excuse of her head being a mess that not even a demon would want to mess around with" They tried once, and the result was an unholy powerful being that nearly took over the Fade. "I know I trust Marcus' judgement" The Cousland was the most level headed of the group, and so far had made the best decisions out of horrible situations. "Just as I definitely know I don't trust Morrigan's intentions..." The fact that now Marcus and that witch were sharing a bed unnerved her. Though her magics were fascinating, the elf couldn't come to trust Morrigan's intentions.
That woman had an agenda, she just knew it. The fact that Flemeth had been so eager to put her on their company was too suspicious.
The elven assassin shifted his gaze to their beautiful Nordic vampire who rests beside her friend; "Serana"
"I'll never get use to her being a vampire. And she is only tagging along because of Miara, but she does want to help us." The elven mage shook her head; "The point is trust is not something that should be easy. You earn it."
"On that we agree," Zevran smirked; "however long it takes."
"By all means I shouldn't even associate with people like you" Neria softly replies. "You represent things I just can't agree with, that go against my morals, but it is not my choice to make. We need you, all of you"
"And if it were your choice, my dear?"
"...Good thing it isn't, I don't think I'd make the right choice" Neria admitted with self-deprecation. "I don't the guile or the flexibility to do what needs to be done" She just didn't know what she'd do. All the knowledge impetrated to her in the Circle, all the tutoring Irving had given her so she'd be able to navigate through the politics of the Circle, where were they now?
Irving had taught her to follow the code of the Circle, to use her magic to the best of her ability for the benefit of her fellow mages and the common people. But... was that what she truly wanted? To do as everyone else told her?
Maybe it was for the best. Gods knew she wasn't fit to make any decisions for herself.
"Ah," how he said that got Neria's attention; "You're trying to learn who you really are and what you really want. Something like that is never easy. But," the assassin winked; "it is quite rewarding when you do."
"And if I find out I am something I hate?"
"Better in being who you are meant to be than what people want to mold you as they want you to be. I am an assassin, a cut throat. And while yes I hate my former employers intensely, I will never hate the life I lead. I am me."
Neria only looked him in the eyes; "I'll never understand that kind of life." She truly couldn't. How someone enjoy a life of killing. How Miara, Leliana, and Serana when she finally revealed she too was a Brotherhood assassin. How they spoke with pride of being what they are.
"You don't have to," he said freely; "Just know our skills are here to help you. And friendship if you seek it."
"'Friendship' is a very strong word, Zevran" Neria replied.
"Doesn't stop you from being friends with some of our other companions"
The elven mage smiled mirthfully; "That's because I actually like them"
"That hurts, my dear" Despite his words, his voice was didn't sound hurt at all.
Neria chuckled; "But, if you are lucky, you may get my trust. Perhaps even my respect"
Zevran stood giving a very dramatic bow; "Than I shall endeavor to impress my lady." He turned walking away only making Neria lightly giggle while she shook her head.
She had heard Antivans were charmers, but honestly that man is just strange. And a little cute.
Bran, who had comfortably been sleeping next to his mistress, suddenly woke up. Ears perking up as he stood, sniffing the air. He let out a soft growl. Loke, away from his master for the night, stood next to his fellow mabari, growling at the dark as well.
"Hmm?" The elven mage looked at her companion in confusion. "What's wrong boy?"
Sten, ever watchful of their surroundings, felt his instincts warning him of danger. His hand slowly went for his soul as his purple eyes surveyed their surroundings; the rustle of leaves coming from the tree line could only be attributed to the wind. The fires of the campsite couldn't pierce deeper into the darkness between the trees.
"Something is wrong..." He warned his companions.
Alistair looked around, standing up in alert as he grabbed his blade and held up the shield Miara entrusted to him. Neria quickly scrambled to wake up Brianna and Wynne.
Faren looked up from his game of cards with Gin; the rogues looked on as the others seemed to arm themselves in preparations for something. Their eyes met and nodded, something was happening; they had to warn the others. Gin casted a look to Morrigan's secluded section of the camp, Marcus was with her, and they were too separated from them.
Odahviing grumbled as he woke up, he sniffed the air. He felt this... chill, this pressure. "Briinah, wake up" He shifted his body as to wake her and the vampire.
"Hmm" Miara woke up groggily. "What's wrong?"
The shadows around them moved.
Suddenly, there they heard a whistle through the air, and Odahviing felt something impact against his ruby scales, sticking close to them. It felt like slabs of stone, but they carried the touch of... magic.
Suddenly, from the stones that stuck on his right side of his body, runes of bright yellow shone. Streams of arcane energy shot from them and wrapped around his body like a web.
"What is this?!" Serana cried out in shock as her and Miara back away. The others in the camp, shaking off any sleep that still cling to them moved and readied themselves, but they all stared stupefied as the mighty red dragon was trapped in a net of yellow streams of magic.
Odahviing tried to stretch his wings, but the magical held strong regardless of how much he struggled, his maw was closed shut by those accursed stream of arcane power, rendering him unable to open his maw and Shout. He was helpless.
Miara hurried towards him, in her panic she tried touching the streams, but they shocked her like lightning. "Ugh!" She cried out in pain, looking at the palm of her hands.
"Death to the Dragonborn!" A female voice shouted, and from the tress emerged dozens of dark cloaked figures, brandishing deadly blades.
A powerful bolt struck one of the cloaked figures sending the person hard into a tree. Out of her tent, with her normally pinned up her raven hair loose and going down just below her shoulders, wearing as simple robe stood a very crossed looking Morrigan.
Lightning buzzed about her hands as her golden eyes glared angrily; "I do not like being interrupted during my fun..." She extended her hand sending another bolt of lightning.
She throws a look over her shoulders at the tent. "Are you still fumbling with your pants?"
"It is much more difficult to fasten a knot like this" Came Marcus' reply.
The swamp witch merely rolled her eyes and conjured up a wall of ice around her; the cloaked ambushers didn't stop the in time and run face first into it, stunning them momentarily. With a flick of her wrist, the ice exploded outwards, sharp pieces of ice pierced into their assailants, killing them.
Marcus emerged with only a pair of pants; he took a hold of his swords lying next to the tent and charged at one of the assassins, he idly noted he was much shorter than him. But pushed that thought away quickly as his opponent struck, wielding slim and sharp short swords.
Their weapons clashed swiftly with a shower of sparks, in a swift move, Marcus managed to trap his opponent's hand in a lock with his blades, pulling him close the Cousland headbutted the hooded figure. This one staggered and Marcus slit his throat.
Brianna looked at two assassins coming for her; with a burst of telekinetic energy she lifted them from the ground and into the air. Then with another powerful burst slammed against each other and then to the ground, the sounds of bones breaking and their limp bodies told her they had nod survived.
"Huh, just realized I've been killing people" She didn't remember quite well, but perhaps she had killed some blood mages in the Tower. She wasn't sure though, there was lot of chaos and confusion between the demons and all. Now she was certain those she fell had been people. 'And I kinda liked killing them in combat... Wonder what that says about me?'
This whole thing, despite the threat to their lives was... exhilarating. The drumming of her heart against her chest was a bit uncomfortable but not unwelcome. And how her enemies had been bested by her left Brianna with a sense of pride at her victory. Huh, she enjoyed fighting and killing in open combat, who knew? Had she known, perhaps she would have applied for Knight-Enchanter or Battlemage training.
Sten deflected several attacks by a hooded assailant with daggers, he was too fast for the qunari to get a good hit, till an arrow from Leliana's bow struck through the man's skull. The Qunari wordlessly gave a nod which the redhead returned as they attacked their foes.
A cold stone fist slammed into a hooded attacker as Shale sent the person flying into a bolder hard; "And here I was bored with the tedium of nighttime. Watching these packs of meat only breathing gets dull."
Striking with his shield and then slashing an enemy, Alistair only looked wide eyed at the golem; "You watch us sleep?"
Sereda using a boulder as she jumps and dropkicks a hooded figure as Gin stabs the man in the throat; "Fight now talk later duster!"
Wynne slammed her staff and conjured a solid physical barrier around her, arrows bounced off the shield before she twirled her staff and called for a glowing sigil before her, projectiles of pure arcane power shot forth and homed in to their targets. The impact blasted them away in small blasts of magical energy.
"Try to leave a few alive!" Serana called as she telekinetically grabbed one of the assassins, lifting him by the throat before slamming him head first on the ground. "We need to know who sent these clowns!"
Faren smirked as she saw a group of archer assassins lining up from the tree line, aiming their bows at them. He pulled out flask filled with a specially mixed alchemical concoction which had just the right amount of lyrium with the proper grounded up minerals. He shook the flask, and this one began shinning blue while shaking violently.
He hurled it at the archers, whose eyes caught sight of the object flying towards them but were too slow to dodge it. It collided with a tree and broke into a dozen pieces. In that instant, arcs of fierce lightning bolts struck at anything nearby. It scorched patches of grass and pieces of bark, while the assassins struck by the lightning shouted in agony as the electricity burned their skin and fried them from the inside. They died quickly.
A new figure stepped out from the trees, much taller than the assassins, than any of them really. Dressed in a dark hood with ragged pieces of dark metallic armor such as pauldrons and greaves. The figure looked down at the fallen assassin at his fist and snorted in disguise.
"Filthy low-breeds" The newcomer spoke with disgust in distinguishable male voice. "If you weren't useful in life than at least try to be useful in death" His gloved hands glowed with dark purplish flares of magic, he raised them dramatically in the magic in them bursted. The corpses twitched, and they rose once more, groaning with lifeless empty voices. "Now kill that dragon-blooded whore!"
"How about that guy?!" The dwarven rogue asked the Tamriels. "That freaky guy looks like he could know something!"
Slicing through a reanimated corpse with Ebony Akaviri sword, Miara glared hard. The hood man was tall, taller than a male nord as he sent a fire bolt at Neria who deflected with a ward. She charged for her target, not seeing Sandal running up to Odahviing who still struggled fiercely from his bindings.
His sapphire orb saw the joor grabbing hold of the first rune that touched his body. The ruby dragon's eye widens as he saw the miniature human dispel his bindings the rune stone fell off his scaly form. Stretching out his wings as he raised his head, his roar echoed shaking the earth with his rage as he breathed fire on several assassins; "You dare come for my Briinah, joorre?!" Twisting his body and using his tail as weapon he sent several reanimated corpses flying.
The tall hood man growled now seeing the dragon free; "That little dwarf..." he glared at Sandal he ran off back to his father. He soon saw his real target running at him at full speed; "Die!" he sent a barrage of fire bolts at the dark elf.
Miara didn't even bother blocking or even dodging the arcane strike. She wasn't even bothered her clothes got a bit burnt from it; she just took the brunt of the attack like it was nothing. The red eyed elf merely looked annoyed at the flames still licking her skin.
She gave the cloaked figure the most deadpanning look possible. "Seriously?" Her voice was filled with incredulity. "You tried to attack a DUNMER with FIRE? One with dragon blood no less?" She let her blade fall to her side as she relaxed her stance. "Like, you do know I'm the Dragonborn right?"
The warlock's figure stiffened, appearing panicked. He took a few steps backs, like realizing he had made a terrible mistake.
Miara rolled her eyes. "Oh gods. You know what, you deserve whatever is gonna happen to you" Without warning, she took a quick deep breath and Shouted. "Fus Ro Dah!"
The warlock was sent hurling through the air, his back painfully collided with a tree; he unceremoniously fell down to the base, limp and unconscious but not dead. Miara nodded to herself, knowing she did well not to put much strength behind that Shout, they needed one of them alive at least, and that mage looked like he could provide some answers.
Trapping him magical ice, binding him to the tree and preventing him from running away if he were to wake up, Miara quickly turned to continue helping the others.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
Jowan sigh as he wiped the sweat from his brow; "Was that the last of them?" He sat down on a stump beside Neria who also catches her breath.
Finally after the dust had settled at least four figures were bound including the tall hooded warlock. Bran and Loke both growled as they stood ready to strike.
The others held a weapon as the dark elf knelt down before one of the surviving ambushers; "Okay, so how do you bastards know about me?" She drew out the blade of woe; "I won't ask twice."
The hooded assassin said nothing. Miara growled in irritation and pulled down the hood to reveal angular features and pointy ears, a female elf of Thedas. "Again, who sent you?" She pressed the blade to the Thedosian's throat, but this one did not even flinch. "Playing the hard game huh? It's okay, I like that game anyway, makes things more... fun"
"You waste your breath, cursed-blood" The elf spat, uncaring of the danger she was in. "We serve a higher race, we will never betray the great masters"
A fanatic, how quaint.
"Hey!" Faren called, he and Zevran had been removing the hoods from the other dead assassins. "They're all humans with pointy ears"
Neria and Gin looked offended at that. "Elves" She stressed the word.
"So" The dwarven rogue shrugged. "Humans with pointy ears"
"...The dwarven resistance against magic will only protect you so much from me" The dark skinned mage promised.
"The mage of this group is awakening" The gruff voice of Sten called out from near the tree line as he stood next to the fallen mage. "Perhaps he could provide better answers"
Stand and walking over the tall mage by the tree. She heard him groan as Miara knelt down; "Now maybe you will talk some hmm? Who are you?"
The hooded mage slowly chuckled as he spat out some blood.
The Dragonborn harshly took off the man's hooded garment. Green eyes glared back with pure hate as the man's golden-like skin shone in both the campfire and moonlight. His hair was white and long but did not hide his Elven ears.
"What the hell?" Gin muttered in disbelief, a sentiment shared by most of their company if the soft gasps and exclamations of surprise were to be believed.
Marcus's memory jogged up in recognition, he vaguely remembered seeing flashes of similar figures through the fragments of the dunmer's memories in the Fade, as well as her tales of her kin in Tamriel. "Miara, is this-"
"An altmer" Miara finished softly for him, her red eyes gazed with scrutiny at the tall elf before them. "A high elf... Just what in the Void is one of you doing here?"
"Hmph" The elf sneered. "As if you haven't already figured out"
"Well, first guess that comes to me is that you're someone, or part of some group or other that hates me. But it's easier to count the people I haven't crossed over the years" She tilted her head, dark hair swaying as she did so. "But coming all the way to this place just for revenge? No, that doesn't make sense" The dunmer leaned in closer. "So why don't you 'illuminate me' further?"
The altmer male glared; "As if I'd tell you"
Both elves were silent till the dark elf raised up the high elf's left hand; "How many fingers should I cut off before you start talking?"
The Altmer said nothing as he glared in defiance. Shrugging Miara put the man's hand back down before and brought down her dagger, but instead of slicing off a finger, she cut off the high elf's entire hand. Quite a few flinched as the tall elven man screamed hard.
"You mixed blood whore! You said a finger!" the man roared in between his screaming.
"I am not in the mood to play," the dark elf's cold uncaring tone making a few of her comrades shiver; "Who do you work for?"
"Curse you!" He shouted in pain and rage, blood and drool dripping from his lips. "Curse you to the depths of Oblivion!"
And so she stabbed his leg, twisting the blade as she let the Blade of Woe's curse work, amplifying the pain.
Neria had to turn away; the sight of Miara torturing someone was unbearable. Alistair slowly shook his head, he didn't want to believe Miara was capable of this much cruelty. Brianna and Jowan looked positively green while Wynne's lip trembled.
Marcus and Sten carefully looked with a mask of stoicism, while Sereda watched on in disapproval. She'd seen the cruelty of the Darkspawn, but she that didn't make this any easier for her to watch. Faren had been used to watching the Carta shake up and torture people, but he still winced and hissed. Zevran for his part hoped the assassin-mage wouldn't die of blood-loss before he could speak.
"Do you want to talk now?"
The altmer's will was strong; she had to give him that, as he still refused to tell her the truth. "You think you can get away with what you did? That that poor excuse for an empire you helped forge will last? They'll be nothing but a footnote in history. Nay, less than that. We shall strike down those names from history as we claim our rightful place as masters of Nirn, and all the lesser races shall pay for their heresy!"
And with that, without knowing, he had told her who he was... who he served.
Miara pulled out the blade, blood dripping from the edge. Her face was hidden by her hair, but when faced him directly he froze.
The physical pain was nothing, the agony he felt paled in comparison to the sheer fear that now plagued his soul.
And all due to those red eyes filled with pure indescribable hate. His veins turned to ice, and her next words made his heart stopped for a short second.
"You're a Thalmor"
The sheer level of rage and hate in the dark elf's voice made even Marcus lightly shiver. But it had the opposite effect on both Serana and Odahviing who soon bore a matching gaze of rage as the ruby dragon growled so strongly the ground faintly trembled. The Nordic vampire strides over as cold mist formed in her hands.
"You're worse than fucking Skeevers," Serana growled; "can't you pieces of filth just die off already?"
The Thalmor said nothing with nothing as terror remained in his emerald eyes staring at the silent Dovahkiin. Her crimson eyes paralyzing him as he swore he could see his death in her gaze. "How many?" She growled out the words slowly; "and who leads them..?"
His lower lip trembled. "A-Around seventy officers lead our operations around Thedas, along with various regiments of altmeri soldiers" He no longer held back, he gave her everything she wanted to know. "O-Our forces also consist of many Thedosian elves as our agents and foot soldiers. They see us as superior and we promised them supremacy over mankind, so they follow us without question"
The elves of their company looked at him with anger. By the attitude of that elf they had interrogated it was clear these Thalmor treated them like slaves, inferior beings whose only purpose was to be used and discarded.
"How did you manage to form such a large force?" Miara demanded. "There is no way you could amassed such numbers in the time between the Dominion's fall and now"
His eyes shifted, as if hesitating, but he told her nonetheless. "We have actually been here for many more decades. Little after the First Great War, we had sent exploration ships undercover in order to form a new base of operations in case the worse came to pass. And we found this backwater lands. With political situation of Thedas, it was decided not to draw attention to ourselves so we worked in secret. Building our forces while keeping in contact with the Dominion, sending any useful info we could gather that would benefit our people, as well as receiving soldiers and resources as we needed"
He paused for a moment. "Swaying the hearts and minds of the elves here was easy, even in secret, it made our work simpler. They were our eyes and ears, sometimes poisoned blades as well. To further keep our secrecy, our branch had begun to employ a different name; The Executors"
Leliana gasped in shock, while Zevran's and Marcus' eyes widened in disbelief. "Impossible" The Cousland whispered. "The Executors are just a myth"
"Lofty title for fleas," Odahviing snarled as he eyed Marcus; "Explain."
"Random assassinations and acts of sabotage, as well as political manipulations throughout Thedas, we always assumed it was either work of Bards or the Crows. But we heard whispers of some hidden organization by the name of the Executors. Well trained and very good at their work," Leliana spoke up in the Cousland's stead. "Even the Bards thought they were myth."
"Then they did their jobs well enough to stay as myths to the masses," Serana glared down at the high elf.
Miara leaned in closer till she was inches from the terrified man's face; "Who is the leader?"
Slowly, the man swallowed hard as he felt his heart pounding in his throat; "Elenwen."
At the very moment that name fell from his lips, a chill could be felt in the air throughout the camp. Jowan could swear the nighttime animals and even the insects fell silent."...That bitch is dead" Her tone was as icy as the mountains of Skyrim.
The altmer gulped. "N-No. She survived the fall of Alinor. As I understand, you were not present at the moment of the attack on the headquarters"
That... was true. As much as it pained her to admit it, Miara had been needed on another front during the battle. All she heard was that the Thalmor headquarters had been burned to the ground, killing anyone inside. The corpses had been too badly burnt for them to identify most of the high ranking Thalmor officers. But their information had assured them that Elenwen had died alongside the rest of her ilk.
"Before the chaos of the invasion" He further explained. "She had been assigned to lead the Executors operations here. In order to continue building our power so one day we could reforged the Aldmeri Dominion"
Slowly her free hand wrapped around the Altmer's jaw; "Location..."
"There is a small base well-hidden is at the Storm Coast, in the dwarven ruins around the area. She is there right now" His voice grew more fearful as Miara's irises became slits. He let out a gurgled scream as Miara slowly used her dagger cutting deep into the man's throat.
She let out a roar as she stood ripping off the Altmer's head from his body. Blood dripped from her face, visible by the fire, as she seethed. However before anyone could utter a single word Shadowmere galloped out of the shadows with the dark elf leaping onto his settle.
"Where the hell is she going?" Gin said as he stared at the severed head of the Altmer; "And who the hell is Elenwen?!"
Odahviing only roared as he took the skies following his sister and overlord. Serana only watched for a moment; "She is the fucking high elf bitch who killed Kardryn." Her body exploded into bats as they flew away into the night.
Recognition came to Marcus's eyes; "Miara's husband," he whispered but was audible enough that the others heard. "She's the one who killed Miara's husband."
For a moment, the sound of the campfire was the only sound in the night.
"S-She'll..." Neria stuttered. "She'll be back right?"
Nobody knew the answer to that.
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
Miara galloped on top of her Void steed with steely resolution. Imagines of Elenwen's face, scarred like the last time they had met in person, flashed through her mind. Already she could see how she'd kill her, the number of ways she'd inflict pain upon her.
Perhaps first she'd burn her entire face, and then slowly carve up a nice web of scars with the Blade of Woe before-
Her ruby scaled brother landed before her path, making Shadowmere neigh and stop in his tracks. Sapphire eyes locked with hers. A band of bats appeared before them and Serana materialized.
"Do not dare stop me, zeymah"
"I am afraid I must" The great dragon rumbled.
"You would deny me my vengeance?!" Her voice made the world tremble.
"Hmph" He snorted as if finding the idea ridiculous. "Of course not, vengeance is yours by right" He tilted his head. "But I must stop you right now for a simple reason"
"And what is that?" She demanded.
"The Storm Coast is located on the north, you are marching east"
The dunmer fell silent.
"You have not even donned your scaled armor" The red dragon looked at her in disapproval. "And choose to ride on horseback, when you could simply asked me to take you there, you know it'd be faster"
Serana stayed out of the conversation, her eyes shifted from Dovahkiin to dragon.
Miara's gaze fell to the ground.
"And Paarthurnax calls me headstrong" His voice dropped an octave, filled with sympathy. "My sister, I ask that you merely stop for a second, to prepare yourself. Least you fall like a bear caught in a trap" He inched his head closer to her. "They will be expecting you, the moment you come close"
For what felt the longest moment, Miara took a deep breath.
She acknowledge his words with a simple nod. "You're right"
Serana placed a comforting hand on Miara's leg, staring up to the mounted dunmer she smiled warmly, letting her know she'd be with her all the way.
"Gather yourself, briinah" Odahviing spoke once more. "So you can properly claim your vengeance"
XxX ~ xx ~ XxX
With fire and rage, they had descended upon them.
Their brass colored armor, forged from refined moonstone could not resist the mighty dragon fire. The metal melted upon their bodies, the heat and flames burned their skin and left them as charred corpses.
The arrows failed to penetrate enough into the scales to do any lasting damage, magic seemed to bounce off the mighty bodies as they descended.
A lone altmeri soldier dragged herself across the ground, ignoring how a claw-like appendage pierced through the armor of another comrade, right through the stomach. She gurgled in pain before falling limp.
Another hefted into the air, he shouted before being caught in the maw of another dragon. The armor crumbled and his bones crushed with each bite.
Auri'El save him. He had to get away, away from this nightmare. If he could just reach the river he could let the current take him, hide him from this monster.
While his kin were slaughtered he silently dragged himself over the ground, his robes didn't make much noise, and the sounds of battle- no, the massacre, hid any noise he could make. He didn't even dare casting an invisibility spell in fear they might feel him.
He could already see the shore. Almost there… Almost ther-
A scaled greave stepped into view. He shakily raised his head and froze upon seeing death itself in the form of a dunmer donning the scales of her brethren.
In her eyes he saw hatred unlike any other. He thought he hated the lesser races, he thought he hated traitors to their kin… but he knew nothing of hatred. He understood that now as he stared into those ruby eyes.
The eyes of a mother who promised untold suffering, if anyone dared harming her children… And now she came for revenge, to rescue the progeny they had kidnapped.
"Where…" Her voice, soft as it was, dwarfed the sound of everything around them. "Is… Elenwen?"