First off, sorry for the delay AND the sort of filler chapter. I'm a horrible person. Second, I'm going to start writing about some of Volyn's antics in Skyrim, if anyone's interested in that.
It was a cool, moist day and storm clouds were gathering on the eastern horizon. According to Hawke, the Warden was camping in a cave between the West Road and Crestwood village, and now they found themselves at that point.
Velthorn took a look around to gauge the area. Most of the land was flat up to the mountains and the lake was on their right.
"If this is correct, we should be here," the elf said, checking the map, "And Crestwood is directly this way. We're in the right area, so let's start looking. We only have a few hours of daylight left."
"Nothing to complain about," Volyn said under his breath. Even overcast as it was, the light was hurting his eyes.
The main group left the horses with the scouts they'd been traveling with and said their good-byes. It wouldn't due to have their horses tied up just outside the Warden's hiding place, after all, and Crestwood wasn't too far off anyway.
The Inquisitor's party of nine headed out, making their way off the road and into the field, which had been left to grow wildly. The grass was browning as the autumn neared, but was still chest height for Volyn. It was more manageable for the humans of the group, but Varric had to follow closely behind Cassandra and Dorian.
"You know, this is probably the best trap I've ever seen," Varric said, "In grass this tall, just about anything could be hiding out there. Plus, people could be lost for days."
"Dwarves, at least," Cassandra said.
"First you'd have to get them to stop being afraid of the sky," Dorian added.
"Okay, joke all you want," Varric said, "But this has potential."
"I like it," Sera said, "Nice and simple. Just fill it with bugs. Lots of nasty bugs."
"Dung beetles?" Volyn suggested.
"Little beetles that roll up balls of dung and lay their eggs in it," the vampire answered, "You might not have them here."
"That's disgusting. Why would they lay eggs in it?" Sera asked.
"Dunno. I'll ask the next time I come across one," Volyn said.
"Oh, sod off."
They reached the end of the tall grass, which was a relief to just about everyone. Varric's comment about anything hiding out there was completely accurate and a surprise attack was never good. The grass was much more moderate around this area, and it was surely thanks to the herd of druffalo Velthorn spotted to their left.
There was a mountain in front of them, perhaps a half-mile from where they stood. Velthorn figured that had to be a good place to start and began walking. The rest of them followed suit.
It took another hour to find the cave, and the only reason they saw it was because Hawke was already there and waiting for them.
"Glad you could make it," he greeted them. "Stroud is in there and expecting us."
"If you don't mind, I think I'll remain out here," Volyn said.
"Why?" Solas asked bluntly.
"I doubt this Grey Warden will react warmly to me," the dark elf explained, "and if I were to perhaps search for a place to camp or make sure there are no others approaching this place, you can have your conversation in peace."
The party looked to Velthorn, who took a moment to think, then said, "Fine. But don't go far."
Volyn nodded. "Of course."
Hawke looked at them inquisitively. "Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"I won't cause any trouble," Volyn assured him, "and I'll be back by sundown. I'm afraid I'm often more of a distraction when meeting new friends."
Varric added, "Besides, it's usually better to just let him do what he wants. He does it with or without permission."
Velthorn internally sighed.
The mage answered, "If you say so. Are the rest of you ready, then?"
The party followed Hawke into the cave and the vampire watched them disappear around a corner.
That gave Volyn about two hours to himself. He planned on spending it wisely.
Two men were playing cards by the light of a lamp. The game was played on a small crate they'd pulled between them, probably coming from the keep Volyn saw to their right. Each was wearing leather and, presumably, iron armor. One had an axe attached to his beltloop, while the other carried a quiver and a short sword. A bow was leaned against the crate, strung and ready for use.
Carefully, Volyn sat his pack down amongst the rocks and started his approach. A few deliberately heavy steps on the loose stones caught their attention and the archer was the first to rise, short sword drawn. With a small smile on his face, Volyn pulled his own sword.
"What in the Maker's name are you?" the larger man asked, sounding more offended than anything else, as if Volyn's existence were an annoyance.
The archer moved in, dodging Volyn's first strike and attempting one of his own. One fluid motion took the vampire out of the way and he stabbed out at the opening left by the archer's attack, sword sinking through the hardened leather and into flesh thanks. The man fell groaning to the ground, a four-inch-deep wound in his side.
His companion rushed the vampire, but that was a mistake on his part. Volyn ducked beneath the swing of the man's axe and shoved his sword upward and into the big man's lung. He dropped the axe and looked down at the sword in his chest, just before it was withdrawn with a grisly crunch. Brown eyes rolled back into his head and he collapsed.
The archer was attempting to get back to his feet, but Volyn kicked him square in the chest and held him against the ground. A glare came his way, but the vampire ignored it, leaning down over the man.
"You're going to die. Face it with some dignity," the dark elf told him.
The blond-haired archer spat at him, causing some recoil, and attempted to stab him. Volyn caught his wrist and broke it, instantly making the man drop the weapon. The vampire threw it away from them, hearing it clang against the side of the cliff.
"What kind of demon are you?" the man asked.
"No demon," the vampire replied, "Just a monster."
Lightning fast, Volyn went for the archer's throat. He felt a hand on his face, trying to push him away and get at his eyes. Screams were deafening in his ears. A hand over the archer's mouth helped.
At some point, the human lost his strength to fight. By the time Volyn left him, he was struggling to breathe and there were tears running down the sides of his face.
He couldn't hear the whistling breaths of his friend anymore and knew he'd died. Even his attacker had left him, snuffing the light from the lantern on his way out.
The archer realized he was going to die alone.
The night was closing in.
Wolves howled in the distance.
He would have cried, if he'd had the strength.
After making camp that night, Velthorn explained what exactly was happening regarding the Wardens, and Volyn told everyone what he'd seen while scouring the countryside.
"Red Templars are camping by a cave northeast of here. Not too hard to spot, considering they apparently grow red crystals from the ground everywhere they go," the vampire explained, "And bandits are to the west, holed up in some old keep."
"What are Red Templars doing all the way out here?" Cassandra questioned.
"And how much farther is this damn lyrium going to spread?" Varric asked, mostly to himself.
Volyn shrugged. "They seemed to be mining veridium from the cave, but I'm not sure why they'd do it here, of all places. Surely there are larger deposits elsewhere."
"Whatever their intentions, we'll have to take care of them while we're out here," Velthorn said, "We'll head into Crestwood tomorrow and establish a base of operations, then see what we can do about the bandits and Templars."
With that decided, dinner got underway.
Velthorn hesitated before he approached Dorian and sat next to him. They hadn't spoken much since the day in the Skyhold garden, which the elf hated. He liked all of his companions, and Dorian's friendship was one he valued most.
Even in his Clan, Velthorn had always been a bit different from the other boys. He'd been curious about everything, questioning everything he was taught by instinct. While others had been busy wrestling or practicing archery or other such activities, he'd been digging into the books obtained by their traders.
Despite their very different upbringings, the elf knew Dorian was the same. Velthorn had never known anyone quite like him.
"Inquisitor," Dorian greeted him.
Velthorn gnawed his lip nervously. "I…wanted to apologize. For the way I treated you. I've had a lot on my mind lately, but that's no reason to snap at you and I'd understand if you're rather cross with me."
Dorian regarded him for a long moment. "You…think I'm angry with you?"
"Well, I'm not entirely sure. I've never been very good with…people. Human, dwarf, elf…I've always tried my best, but I'm never certain about anything."
Dorian laughed. "If there's anything I've learned about people, is that nobody can really tell what another is thinking." He turned slightly to look at Velthorn. "I'm not angry with you. I didn't even know if you wanted to talk to me."
The elf blinked. "I like talking with you. You…understand things that others don't. I'm met very few people like that."
"And what exactly is it that I understand?" the other mage asked.
"That the world isn't just what we see, and that we know next to nothing about it," Velthorn said.
It started raining sometime during the night, hindering their progress toward Crestwood. That turned out to be the least of it. As they came over the hill separating them from the village, they saw the vast expanse of the lake, and the mysterious green lights coming right from the center of it.
"That looks like it's going to be a problem," Varric said.
"Is that what I think it is?" Bull asked.
"If you're thinking of a Rift in the lake, then yes, I believe it is," Solas replied.
Nothing can ever be simple, Velthorn thought.