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    Dragon Age: Blood Prophecy [Closed]
    Impatient Monarch

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    Dragon Age: Blood Prophecy [Closed]


    Blood Prophecy

    Closed thread between Pisces and SGP



    The moon laid is silvery blanket over the plaza, the stones shimmering with from the white light. The tree they had chosen was magnificent, a great old oak with many bright green leaves and healthy, strong branches. Already offerings were laid out around it, little clay statues at the roots and charms hanging from the top. He had seen vhenedahl in the city alienages, but none of them were as majestic as this one.
         “And the temples and the castle will be up there,” the other elf spoke as he pointed with his wine glass nonchalantly. The golden locks of his hair landed effortlessly around his eyes, in a fluent unkempt way, that still somehow struck his cheekbones perfectly in the moonlight, his green eyes sparkling like two little stars. “The Emerald Knights will have their conclave on the other side of the commons that way-“
         “The what?” Phoriden interrupted him abruptly, his eyes having doubled in size. “You can’t call them that, you’re going to start a war!”
         “Oh, come on, it will mean a lot that we honor our ancient protectors,” the man answered, almost spilling the drink in his glass as gestured. “I’m trying to make everyone happy, there’s a real divulge between the Dalish and city elves, this will make them feel united.”
         “And it will make the shems feel like you’re amassing an army. You can’t name your rangers the same as the enemies of the Orlaisan Empire. We finally have a place of our own, you can’t ruin it by pissing off the people in power. Do you think I like keeping mages locked up in towers? No, but without my zero-tolerance for blood magic, the King won’t trust me. Which means I have to endorse it.”
         “But, some of the old ways could be considered blood magic,” he intervened again, trying to get his agenda across with a sultry lip.

    The sword struck through the thin neck smoothly, her scream cut off but visible on her face as the light in her eyes disappeared. She was young, barely a teenager. Now she was sliding off the sword like cut fruit into a pool of her own blood, her long blonde hair, sticking to the horrified face. He kneeled down to close her eyes, something about corpses having open eyes unnerved him. It probably did not make a difference, but he could not just leave them there like empty shells. They had been his family.
         “Did you know her?” the warrior asked as he dried off his sword with a cloth. Phoriden answered only with a look. Of course he knew her. This tower was his entire world; he knew all of them. Her name had been Teresa, but that did not matter anymore. They still had to find the one most important to him, and now outside the First Enchanter’s study he feared the worst.
         Pushing his hands forward, a telekinetic burst sent the door flying off its hinges into the round room. But as soon as the dust settled, his hands flew to cover his mouth in horror. From the window the light shone into the dark room, encircling the scene before them. Completely unfazed by the explosion at the door, like a painting three dead bodies laid crumbled in blood-stained robes, and behind them a creature of mixed in blood and magic. The abomination looked from the bodies to the mage. He had been right. It was her.
         Passion and longing. A promise, a word. Was it just nothing? Just voided? “Everything we had. Everything we swore. Was it just nothing? Just voided?”


    “No, Seraphos,” he spoke, like scolding a younger apprentice at the tower. “No blood magic. It’s too dangerous. Much, much too dangerous.”
         “Ugh!” the elf exclaimed and finished his glass in one sip. “I didn’t know it would be this difficult.”
         “If you’re not up for it, tell the Council of Keepers to appoint someone else,” the mage answered. He had been the one to suggest Seraphos to the council in the first place, but he did not know the other elf as much as he wanted to. Now he was second-guessing himself, wondering if he had been enchanted by Seraphos’ beauty. “It’s not enough to make the elves happy, you have to please the shems. This city is still just a city in Ferelden, and if the king doesn’t like what you’re doing, he will stop you.”
         “You’re right, you’re right,” he said with a sigh, leaning against the ancient tree as if he was trying to banish a head ache, but then he opened his eyes under the golden locks, looking at him with a smirk. “I just thought it would be more fun.”
         “It can be fun,” he answered and leaned against the trunk also, closing the gap between them lightly. “Have you ever seen Grand Enchanter Vivienne argue with a grand cleric? It can get kinda heated.”
         “I don’t mind heat.” Seraphos moved his fingers to slide over the mage’s robe, stopping at the emerald sown into it. “I like heat.”
         “Magister!” They both turned their heads to the staircase leading to the construction site, an elf in white robes and braided hair running towards them with an open piece of parchment waving in her hand. “I’m so sorry, I didn’t know it was for you, the raven just delivered it, they couldn’t find you at any of the circles.”
         “Calm down, Shiranna,” Phoriden answered, setting off against the tree trunk to meet the breathless girl half way. “What is it? Is it important?”
         “Your friend, the hero, Kieran,” she spat out in between gaining her breath. “He’s alive!”


    _______________________________

    Night was swift. It came and swept away the light as if it was the dominant force to be reckoned with. The moon brought about a new theme to the lands of Ferelden, and creatures of the sunlight would hide away while the moon stretched out her long silver fingers. She was a tricky and fickle creature that only liked to enchant those who could bask in the cover of darkness. Rangers, thieves and other people that used the dark as a blanket to hide themselves of what the sun could expose them of.

    Yet, the parties were quite enjoyable.

    The tavern just a few miles outside of Redcliff was one of the only places that she would go to since she returned. It hadn’t changed much in stature; its outside garnished with the changes of the seasons. Dead leaves from the past autumn still clung to its newly thatched roof as if it had to remind those on the outside that death was just a part of life inside these walls. Warm yellow and gold light illuminated the windows but stopped just short of letting prying eyes see within- since the edges were caked with soot and dust. Smells of freshly cooking breads and meats mixed with the welcoming aroma of ale. This could only be contested with the sound of the laughter and music that only night children could produce.

    Inside was a hustle and bustle of drunks and women who had celebrated another day of surviving. Men sat with pitchers of ale and buckets of bread on their tables and women pressed to their side. Waitresses scuttled around carrying trays of food and drink to their customers. The night was young enough that this would not be ending any time soon.

    “..and then… out of nowhere fifteen mages appeared…!”

    A loud gasp, although somewhat over exaggerated, came from the five or so females that crowded around a blond haired young elven male. His hand gestures, to the untrained eye, should have suggested that he could have partook in too much ale- but she knew better. He was clan in green leather armor that was dusted with gold down to his brown Antivan boots. The golden locks were halfway tied back and his hazel eyes shimmered with mirth as he retold his tale. “Fear not, my dear ladies, for I am skilled and was able to dispatch the cowardly creatures!”

    The women fawned over him more and it was very clear that Zevran was enjoying every moment. He sat in the middle of the room, perched on top of a table, with his legs dangling off the sides like it was a steed ready for battle. People were coming and going as he told his story. She, on the other hand, preferred to remain in the corners where the dark could keep her hidden. That’s how Crows survived in their line of work. The small wooden table she sat beside had one empty chair to her left and a small cup of ale. Her bow was perched next to her and propped up on the table in front of her; the quiver not too far behind. Azaya learned forward, her forearms on her thighs, with a smirk on her face.

    He had always been quite the entertainer. She had attributed that to the years growing up in Antiva. Looking down, Azaya shook her head and went back to absentmindedly picking the dried blood and dirt from her fingernails with the head of one of her arrows. Taverns hadn’t been the same.

    Time ago…

    “He couldn’t even find his sword before the arrow went right though his eye!”

    There were more of them back then; most likely around ten or so. All different backgrounds, lifestyles, cultures and social status sitting at the same table laughing over the day’s battle. It had been so different back then. The Archdemon was only an illusion, a whisper that was being told like a legend, and there was only the thought of victory without loss. It was the first time they were together without anger or regret- Kieran had taken that all away from the group.

    Azaya was sitting in the middle of the long bench with a large grin placed on her lips. “His hands were shaking so horribly. I couldn’t let him suffer for long.” She leaned forward and placed her elbows on the table. With an extended pointer finger she jabbed it right at their leader’s chest. “And don’t you dare lecture me about honor on this one. You swept his legs out from right under him just as the arrow hit.”

    Kieran grinned, shrugged and took a large swig of his drink. “I am accompanied by you, Azaya. Honor left long ago,” he finished with a wink in the Crow’s direction.


    Blinking, she quietly came back to reality. “Are you dreaming again, my dear? Of me I hope.”

    Azaya huffed through her nose and flicked a speck of dirt from her nail with a sweep of the pointed edge of the arrow’s head. “If I was, I wouldn’t dare admit it to you, Zev.” She leaned back in the wooden chair and felt the limbs stretch with strain. “Besides, haven’t you had your fill for female companionship?”

    The male Crow grinned and feigned indifference. “None compare to you, milady.” Like his counterpart, Zevran leaned back in his seat and took up his mug. “What are you thinking about? You’ve been quite different since we returned.”

    “Different?” she questioned and jammed the arrow back inside the earth colored quiver. She shook her head and crossed her legs, one over the other, before turning her eyes back to face him. “I hadn’t noticed.”

    “Don’t lie. It’s doesn’t sit well with your features.” Azaya shot him a deathly glare to he could only respond with a shake of his head. “Is it bothering you to be back?”

    She kept her eyes forward. The mug reached her lips and sat there so her words could be drowned out by the hollowness of the glass. “It’ll never feel right. You know that.”

    Zevran was not sure if she was speaking about Ferelden after the death of Kieran or Ferelden after the realization that her Dalish past was tainted with more lies then either of them could count. The timeline of these occurrences were not too far apart, however it felt as if many Blights had passed between them. The male Crow had always regarded his companion as resilient though any situation. This, sadly, had weighed too heavily. “It could change. One day those feelings may pass.”

    “Maybe.” The response was unadorned; much like the look behind her eyes. The slip of paper that had been anchored by the heavily weight of the mug had slid enough for Zev to see the name on it. It was addressed in the way a Crow would- when they needed a job done. He smiled, wide enough for her to see it. “Might as well do something productive.”

    It was at that moment that Zevran noticed her stare had not been empty but rather focused. He shed his playful demeanor quickly and transferred his own eyesight to that of his training. Azaya had her eyes on a hefty man at the bar, his broad-sword still strapped to his back. His beard with peppered with gray and his eyes showcased his victory in many fights. The warrior was flanked by a few companions that he must travel with due to their garb was similar to their leader. Zevran knew instantly what she was doing: watching her target. “You’ll never get to him. Not unless we can get him alone. Even so, your arrows won’t pass through that armor.” When she didn’t respond he went back to watching the man eating and drinking the food and wine in front of him. “You aren’t going to slay him with a blade, are you?”

    The night before the final battle…

    They had camped out just outside where they needed to be that morning. The fire roared with towering flames of red, yellow and specks of blue. Many of their party was gathered by the fire with smiles and laughter. Fresh roasts and other foods were being passed around. Kieran looked around at his newly formed family and noticed that one was missing. He quietly scanned the area and noticed the lone figure sitting just by the cliff that overlooked the shoreline and made his way over. “The night is lovely.”

    “Almost as if she knows what is to happen at dawn.” Azaya’s head dropped away from the dazzling whitecaps of the water below, her hair tossed by the fresh sea breeze. “I don’t feel like celebrating something we haven’t won. It seems childish.”

    Kieran nodded in agreement. “Yes. I understand that.” He looked back, Azaya following the movement. There they all were as if nothing existed. No war, Blight, Archdemon… nothing but each other. “I get the feeling they aren’t celebrating victory.”

    She looked at him. “I think like a Crow, Kieran. We cannot afford any weakness. Having someone go into a battle with a belly full of ale isn’t going to help us walk away from this.”

    “They know that. Perhaps they get the feeling that they aren’t going to walk away at all.” He turned to meet a very confused look from the Dalish woman. She had never fathomed the idea that she wouldn’t walk away. Her mind had been so programmed to survival that failure wasn’t even part of her. “We all want to survive tomorrow, Azaya, but Maker only knows who will and who won’t. Let them be happy for this night, everyone deserves their final day to be filled with something besides death.”


    Azaya took a deep breath. “Everyone deserves their final day to be filled with something besides death,” she responded with the echo of Kieran’s last words to her. “He won’t wake up in the morning.” She finished by pushing the dark leather pouch in the direction of her friend and placing her mug down. Zevran picked up the bag and sniffed the inside quickly. It was a simple powder that would have the man’s internal organs give out in a few hours. One of the more expensive poisons for those who didn’t want to see suffering in others. She sprinkled it in his food and drink.

    Zevran placed the powder bag down and leaned over to place his gloved hand over hers. They said nothing and the air of laughter and entertainment hung over them. Sometimes the best thing to do was to just try and survive.

    That’s what a Crow always did.
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 11-07-2016 at 05:45 AM.

  2. #2
    The monster in the mirror.
    Pisces's Avatar
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    Prologus - Part I

    Three days later

    The mist was so thick it made it impossible to see more than a stone throw away. The grey clouds mixed with the fog so it was obscure where the ground ended and the sky began. To the dark-feathered raven it was almost liking flying in the blind, all he could do was trust his inner compass and hope he got to the shore before he got too tired, fell into lake Calenhad and drowned.
         After gliding on the winds for hours, the top of the Redcliff chantry came into view, dimly through the obscurity, offering a place for him to rest his wings at last. The market in front of the chantry was surprisingly busy, even as he could not see all the way to the end of it. Humans scurrying around, trading as if it was any other day. He guessed to anyone other than him, it was.
         Silently, he moved into the shadow of the stone building, landing safely on the wet ground. In a swirl of light and lyrium the little shape of the raven turned into the form of the elven mage, staff safely secured to his back, and package wrapped in brown paper in his arms. He realized he was holding it like a baby. It was not a child, but it was important.

    He had never seen so much blood as he had seen that afternoon. It was everywhere. On the walls, soaked into the carpets on the floor, covering his hands. Why did it go like that, why did the abomination explode into a blob of blood and guts? He had never seen a person’s intestines before. How had his whole world turned to gore?
         “You all right, mage?” the warrior spoke as he brushed off a liver from his shoulder as if it was everyday stuff. Maybe it was on the outside of the walls, and he suddenly became aware of how little he knew about that world.
         “I just keep thinking I’m going to wake up soon,” Phoriden said. He tried to was the blood off his hands by running it against a part of the carpet that had yet to be spotted, but it was too dry already and it kept sticking to him. And what about his robes? Would they ever be clean of the blood?
         “The hardest part is over,” Kieran said, kneeling next to the mage and putting his hand on his shoulder. “Now you need to rebuild.”
         “That’s not true.” He was not trying to be argumentative, but realized his words may have sounded crude. Still, he did not care much. “The hardest part is going to be to move on. Every inch of this tower is going to remind me of their deaths, their betrayal. How could I not have known…”
         There was a break of silence between them. If he closed his eyes it was just like it used to be. The wind howled through the top of the tower through the halls, a shutter banged against the stone wall. Silence and tranquility as if none of this had happened. But he could not walk around with his eyes closed. He already had for too long.
         “Maybe it would be better if you came with me.”
         Phoriden’s brow furrowed as he met the gaze of the warrior. For a dull moment he was sure he had misunderstood, but the serious gaze reassured him he had heard right. His mouth opened to answer, but then closed again. Finally he found a way to softly ask: “How?”
         “My dad’s kinda important,” he answered with a smirk. Phoriden found it peculiar how he could be in such a good mood being right in the middle of such a tragedy. “Gives me some leeway.”
         He would probably have given the same answer no matter what tragedy was behind him. Had he been asked a week ago, he would still have gone, simply for the chance to meet the Dalish, to see the alienages, to feel the sun on his face. But now he was even more motivated, all he wanted was to get away. “Okay.”


    He was brought back from the memory as someone excused themselves for bumping into him. By instruction he checked if his money bag was gone, but it seemed the encounter was just coincidence. He took a breath before he stepped forward into the crowd of moving bodies. Humans were so tall, he practically drowned in the sea of people.
         He would not have noticed her, if she had not taught him how to seek for the ones hiding in the shadows. He could not recall a time he had been this happy to see her face, neither had he even realized he had missed her. But when she showed up like a small light in the crowd, all other faces darkening around her, all he wanted was to embrace her and not have her stab him for doing so.


    “You’re nervous.”

    Azaya and Zevran had made their way back to Redcliff after their short stay at the tavern the night before. The common area just below the Chantry’s shadow was bustling with the usual nonessential motives that got them through their day. The female Crow was perched up against the wall, her back flat and one foot pressed snugly against the surface in case she needed to place it in a man’s skull. Her counterpart was languidly leaning against the door-frame just to her right; one foot crossed over the other with his arms loosely folded. “I am not,” she scolded as someone passed by their little cove.

    He only smiled and gestured to her hands. “You’ve been spinning that arrow in your hands for the past hour.” With a shrug he tucked his hand back across his chest. “You only do that when you’re nervous or contemplative about something.” Azaya could only roll her eyes before refocusing them on her hands. He wasn’t wrong. She had been twirling the smooth soft tree bark in her delicate fingers for a while. She slid her eyes upward and took another look at her surroundings only because Azaya would rather kiss a goat than admit he was right.

    The people of Redcliff had woken up to an uneventful morning. The sky trolled with dark clouds that tumbled across each other like toddlers. The atmosphere seemed to follow suit. People bounced around in their daily activities- buying eggs for their newest recipe, preaching the word of the Maker…

    Her eyes popped wide open and her arrow stopped dancing in her fingertips. It wasn’t the fact that she found him so easily. Who wouldn’t? He was dressed completely obscenely for a place like this. His outlandish robes stood out like a ray of light though clouds. She always felt he looked pompous like that. No- it was the fact that he wasn’t looking anywhere else but at her.

    Zevran quickly picked up on her uneasy look and followed her stare. His shoulders suddenly squared; the muscles tightening in urgency. He had never met the mage in person, but she had spoken about him enough times that imagery did the rest. Slowly his hands slid to his back were his daggers lay dormant. “Don’t.” Azaya’s voice was clear as she lifted a palm with an outstretched arm. Zevran dropped his hands. “He’s not going to do anything in public.”

    In the past…

    “I don’t like it Kieran!” Azaya exclaimed- throwing her arms up in a fit of rage. They had camped for the night, the fire blazing in between the two. The tents were their group had set up were scattered off to the side now with the addition of one more. It was the night after they had aided the mages in their tower as abominations ran wild like vicious beasts looking to devour anything they could smell. Kieran had insisted that they had gone to see what had happened. Needless to say, Azaya was none too pleased about it. “A mage. From the tower that just had demons… DEMONS,” she had to emphasize the word. Maybe then he would get it through his thick skull.

    The warrior, stripped of all his glamourous armor, sat cheerfully on a fallen over log with a cup wedged in between his thick fingers. Azaya always noted that he looked more defined without his armor and could probably move even more swiftly and be more deadly without it. She had offered to teach him how numerous times. He lifted his chin and she sucked in a small breath. His eyes had always been striking. “Yes, Azaya, you’ve reminded me at least a dozen times that there were demons. And that the mage could become a demon.” She went to go interrupt but he held up a finger to stop her words. “And that you don’t trust him and I should listen to you because Crows are trained on this sort of thing. But could you do me a favor?”

    She jammed her arms together and folded them tightly over her chest. With a hip jutted out slightly to the side, something she only did for him, she lifted her eyebrows and waited for his answer. Kieran only stepped forward and placed a gentle, ungloved hand on her shoulder. “Can you trust me?” Her eyes slid to the side, and the loss of tension from her shoulders meant she was at least thinking about it. “I know all about mages, but this one seems different. It was like he was lost when his Tower fell and maybe the Maker has something else in mind for him.”

    Azaya tilted her head to the side a little dramatically. “Please don’t start feeding me that garbage about the Maker. You know I don’t believe in all that nonsense.” She looked over his shoulder, past the licking flames of their ever growing fire and at the shape of their newly acquired companion. He sat with slumped shoulders and dark eyes that were replaying the past. Sadly she knew that situation all too well. She breathed in hard through her nose. “I trust you,” she said eventually after some thought. “But I don’t like it and all of his…” she untucked one of her hands and wiggled her fingers as if she was replicating how magic was conjured.

    Kieran broke out into laughter. “Magic? Don’t worry,” he said grinning. “I’ll make sure to protect you from the,” he mimicked her wiggling fingers and Azaya responded with a punch to his shoulder.


    “Then what does he want?” Zevran asked with a shrug. “We have to meet our contact for payment and I don’t want to wait for coin.”

    “I realize this.” Her Antivan accent had grown since her time back in Antiva, and sometimes it became thicker when she was thinking out her options. “But what would a mage in his position be doing in Redcliff?” She tore her eyes away from him and looked back at Zevran. “Besides, I don’t think he would do anything. He’s look like he’s seen a ghost.” She peeled herself away from the wall and faced her Crow companion with her back to the mage. She needed time to think and seeing him wasn’t helping anything at the moment.

    “What do you suggest?” he asked glancing over her shoulder at the mage. “We don’t have many options.”

    Azaya looked over her shoulder and took at second glimpse at him. He hadn’t changed much, but the robes seemed as if they had gotten more elaborate. Images of their last time together flashed through her mind and she winced as her heart seemed to contract with the memories. Her stomach turned and flipped over so many times that Zevran’s voice was the only thing that could remind her that her past was not her reality. “Let me talk to him,” she finally said turning back to face him. “I don’t think he’s here for us, but there is a reason why he’s looking right at me and hasn’t moved.”

    Zevran nodded but seemed a little uneasy with the plan. “I can trail you. If anything goes wrong,” he grinned with a leisurely shrug, “well, let’s just say that it won’t be easy to hide.”

    She nodded with a small grin tugged at the corner of her lips. Oh, Zevran. “I won’t be long,” she finally spoke, but it came out weaker than she intended; as if she had to push the air out with force. Azaya gave a curt not and stepped out into the crowed streets, away from her cover, and headed right toward the mage.


    He was uncertain how to proceed. He stood there a long time just waiting for her reaction. He did not want to intrude on her, or her friend. Crows were dangerous, and keeping his distance seemed the best plan at the moment.
         “Hi,” he said finally, as the woman he had travelled so many miles with approached him, but he was still not sure how to properly greet her. He did not speak much more, uncertain of how to continue. It could not be coincidence that she was there. “I brought his sword.”


    Each step toward him was a step backward into the past. Flashes of faces and voices ebbed and flowed into her mind. By now she realized that the mage was no harm, and she signaled to Zevran that he could take a breath. They were standing inches apart, but she could feel the unanswered questions looming over them. Both of them had spent so much time together, shared so many adventures, but didn’t know what to say.

    Azaya felt her stomach turn into a pit at the mention of his Kieran’s sword. He had used it so many time that he became an extension of his body. She only nodded at his words. “What are you doing here?” she asked softly, he words a mixture of joy and anguish. “No offense, but you’re the last person I’d expect to see in Redcliff.”


    “They sent word for me,” he answered her as if she would stab him if he did not, excusing his being there. Part of him wanted to just hand her the sword and fly back to the circle tower, still he held on to the package as if it was a lifeline. “Have you seen him yet?”


    “No.” The response was flat and toneless, but inside she was hugging herself to keep it together. It had only been a week that the whisper had reached her ears; the myth that Kieran was alive after all this time. She hadn’t believed it- she had not wanted to believe it- but the mage’s presence was not just a coincidence. Neither was the package that was resting carefully in his hands. It was all pointing to a truth she didn’t want to accept.

    Azaya cast her eyes downward at the sword and gulped down the lump in her throat. Her fingers twitched to reach out and embrace the weapon, as if by some miracle she could feel Kieran again if she did. She shook away the feelings and looked back up at the messenger. His eyes spoke of nothing but nerves, as if he didn’t believe any of this either, and she sighed. There was no point in a quarrel with him; even with their past. “I’m not going to do anything to you- if that’s what you’re thinking.” She glanced over her quickly over her shoulders then back meet the mage’s eyes. With her boots she seemed to just match his eye level. “C’mon. We should find some place to talk.”


    His face was unreadable for a moment as he evaluated the answer. Why was she standing around the market place if she had not gone to see him yet? If it was true that he had miraculously returned to life, he must be scared and he would have thought she of all people would want to take care of a scared Kieran. But he did not verbalize that.
         “Well, you never know with you people,” he joked with a smirk, already feeling old habits return. He would say she was too happy to kill, she would accuse him of blood magic, Kieran would-. “Right, let’s talk.”
         He had dressed for the Arl’s estate, not the local thieves’ guild tavern. He sat down at the booth as if he fitted in perfectly. It was not his first time he was in such a place, but he was beginning to regret his choice of clothes. Then he realized he was worrying about clothing when they had much grander things to discuss. How had he become this way? “Is your friend going to join us, or is he going to keep casually watching us?”


    “Well, you never know with you people,” she responded with a quirk of her eyebrow, her lips following suit. Old habits die hard. Zevran, who had surprisingly hadn’t said two words since the mage’s arrival, had sulked to a corner and was casually watching the pair. He was probably pouting because she was talking to someone else besides him which was a rare occasion. She was surprised he hadn’t tried to flirt with some of the women at the tavern. The two Crows connected by eyesight and she motioned for him to come and join them. “With all your blood magic you have stuffed up those fancy sleeves.”

    “I like them,” Zevran finally said breaking his own silence. He slid into his seat next to Azaya and smiled at the mage. “They speak of elegance and sophistication. My apologies if my silence offended you. Azaya has spoken of you before, but I like to make my own observations.” He looked at Azaya who had pursed lips indicating she was not exactly thrilled by his comments. He ignored it. “You can call me Zevran; Antivan Crow and warrior of the Blights.”

    He’s flirting. Azaya rolled her eyes. She knew that Zev’s taste in companionship changed with the sunrise and sunset, but she didn’t think for a moment that he would even entertain the thought of trifling with the mage that she spoke of in her stories. She leaned over and pinched his bicep. “Can you take this seriously for one second?”

    He grinned and shrugged before folding his arms behind his head. “As you wish, my lady. So…” his eyes suddenly transferred into a look of questioning. “I’m sorry. I don’t know your name. Azaya always regarded you as ‘the mage’ when she spoke of your adventure.”


    “Ah,” was his only response, once he realized who the third elf was. Elegance and sophistication, if he was actually portraying that, the costume worked, but he got the feeling Zevran was just telling him what he wanted to hear. Crows were sneaky like that.
         “I’m Phoriden, but the mage is fine,” he answered then, sending Zevran a soft smile, if only to piss off Azaya. Then he looked back at her amused. “I’ve been called worse.”
         “Have you talked to any of the others?” he said as he put the precious package right in the middle of them. He was curious if she would grab it and run. In all fairness, he had just taken it without any consideration as to who else might want it. But now it seemed it needed to be returned.


    “Would you like me to remind you of some of those names, mage?” Azaya said with a huff through her nose. It seemed that the boys were just playing a game since they had outnumbered her two to one. It wasn’t until Phoriden had placed the sword on the table between them that all the anger went away. Kieran had that influence over them. No matter what they battled about, verbally or physically, he had that soothing aura that just released all the tension. The woman sighed and let go of the tension in her fingers. She hadn’t noticed that her nails dug into her palms- leaving marks behind. She shook her head to release everything that sat in her head. “No, but this is the first time I’ve been back to Ferelden since...” she didn’t finish the statement.

    “I wonder if your other companions know of his return?” Zevran inquired, shifting his gaze between the two former travelers. “It seems that it isn’t highly spoken about.”


    “That’s what worries me,” he said, folding his hands on the table. “If the land’s greatest hero really returned to life, wouldn’t it be big news? Unless the Arl is keeping it a secret. But why would he do that?”
         He sighed as he leaned back in the uncomfortable wood booth. All of this seemed like a weird dream, but was it his own or hers? “Then again, maybe the others are there already, just waiting for the two of us to show up. I just don’t understand the need for secrecy.”


    Azaya thought for a moment. Why hadn’t she seen the rest of her traveling party up until now? Surely they would have sought her out by now. It made logical sense since there were others in their group where she had more of a connection than the mage. They would have told her about Kieran long before she heard it through the Crows. “Maybe there is more than we realize,” she spoke after some time. “I don’t think the Arl would keep this a secret for long. Especially after everything Kieran has done; he would want the people to know.” She took a sip of her drink. “They would feel as if they truly defeated the Arch Demon if he survived.”

    “To give the people hope,” Zevran countered thoughtfully. “That’s not a secret you’d want to keep for long. Unless he’s not... well enough to be publicly announced?” She sucked in hard breath. The thought of Kieran in any other form that what her mind conjured- the laughing, protective, warrior that he is- was completely out of the question. Zev quickly sensed this and shrugged, putting a soft hand on her shoulder. “But that’s a long shot.”


    His face tightened slightly as he looked between the two crows. The conversation was not doing anything to contradict his worst thoughts. “They would keep it secret, if they brought him back through dark magic.”
         He waited a moment before he continues, keeping his sight on his hands. “We know a certain witch that would maybe find a way to bring him back, but there’s something else that worries me. There has been whispers in the circle for as long as I can remember that the Arl is an apostate. It seems a tad odd that he was buried in Denerim, but he magically show up alive in Redcliff.”


    Her eyes narrowed quickly at the mention of blood magic, but it was Zevran who stopped her before any words could be said. “Those are not just whispers, my friend, but all truth.” Azaya looked at him with shock in her eyes. This was clearly not a tale that he has openly shared. She stared at him; waiting for him to continue. “Years ago, when I adventured on my first Blight, my companions and I came across a young man who was under the influence of a demon. He was the Arl’s son, Connor, but we managed to stop the creature before things got to out of hand.” Zevran smirked when he saw the expression that was on Azaya’s face. “It would not have gone so smoothly had I not been there.”

    It was met with another deft roll of her eyes with the gaze stopping on the mage. It seemed they both were thinking the same thing, but neither of them even wanted to say it. “That’s not a good sign,” she finally managed to say.


    He smiled lightly at the elf’s last comment. It helped a bit that someone was not taking the situation so seriously. And from someone who had survived three blights. Maybe things were not as bad as they seemed. “Well, we should still consider Morrigan might be involved. You must know her too, so she would probably know about Connor’s magic too?”
         “That might explain why they contacted me, thinking I might be lenient to blood magic,” he kept explaining, but quickly added with a hand gesture towards Azaya’s friend. “Which I’m not.”
         “And while Morrigan might be perceptive to certain…” he said, but broke off as he looked at Azaya, not sure how to continue. There were certain things they had never discussed. Certain things that might be even more touchy now. “…situations, that might cause you to be more lenient. Connor wouldn’t know any of that. So why would he contact you?”


    "We are assuming that it is Connor," Azaya thought out loud. Her lips pouted out of reflex when the idea of blood magic was even mentioned- only because it was something that tainted her life. She sighed and let her face relax. Zev knew about her run-ins with darker magic, but had always kept the conversations deftly away from the topic. Now, it seemed, they had no choice but to willingly consider the idea. "And we weren't contacted. We were here on an assignment."

    "That just happened to be in the same location as your friend? The one who traveled with you? And a week after you heard about Kieran?" Zevran shook his head and looked sternly at his counterpart. "I've known you for too long, and I know there isn't a second that you believe any of that nonsense you just spit out."

    Azaya pinched the bridge of her nose. He was right. There was too many roads that lead to the same destination. Which meant that there were supposed to be here for a reason. "We should double check where that contract came from," she said quickly to Zevran. "We've been so nonchalant lately that we forget to check who we are working for." Zevran nodded in agreement and fished the paper out of his pocket, the same parchment that they had been so used to, and slid it over to her under the palm of his hand. Even with the mage present, and the obvious past they shared, Crows never trusted anyone outside their circle. Quickly Azaya stuffed the paper in her pouch and looked back at the mage. "What do you think?"


    That did not make him feel any better. He was the only one who had been contacted? That was bad. Sure, he was the only one of them who had been so much in the public eye, that could be an explanation. If they simply were unable to find the rest.
         “Okay, here’s the plan,” he said after thinking for a moment. “You two should find out who got you here. If it is a coincidence, we’re lucky, but we need to know. I’ll go to the castle and investigate there. If it’s him or not, we need to know.”
         There was more he wanted to ask, but did not dare. What if it turned out it was blood magic? Would they let it slip for Kieran? If it brought him back to them, was it really so evil? Then there were the rules of magic the two crows knew nothing about. Something as powerful as that would have required a massive sacrifice. Who had died to bring him back? There were so many unanswered questions, but sitting here would not get them any answers. “They’ll give me a room. I’ll put a candle in the window, so you can see which one it is. You’re better at staying out of sight, so you need to sneak in there after the sun sets. Then we’ll discuss what we’ve found. Agreed?”


    The two Crows both side glanced at each other; the same looks sitting on their features. Though they were no experts in magic it had crossed each of their minds that the mage across from them might not be speaking the entirety of the situation. Dark magic was most likely a chess piece waiting to come out and be played. Azaya sighed. Was this way he was so eager to suddenly come up with a plan? Most of their correspondence had been limited, but even she knew he wasn’t too keen on sharing ideas on strategy. That was always left to Kieran or her since they had the mindset. Could it be that his fervor would lead both Zev and her into the same fate as their warrior leader?

    Azaya broke her gaze way from Zev; the electricity between their eyes fading when the connection was lost. Crows always had the capability to send lengthy messages with just gestures and glances and it seemed no different with these two. In fact, it was more powerful than anyone she had the honor of working with and it made her feel confident that he would have her back. The mage’s gaze was different. Unconnected but concerned, she wondered if her prior thoughts were those of her own worry. Maybe he was just as confused as she was? Could he really have an Antivan Crow’s best interests at heart?

    Had the previous journey blurred their lines of dislike for each other?

    Kieran. She would do it for him and no other- even if it was just for closure. Even if this was a lie and the hope of his heart still beating was nothing more than myth. The pain that she had kept so closely guarded, licking away at it like a wounded animal, had reemerged and it wouldn’t go away until she knew. Her eyes darkened and Zevran knew that look. Her blue-green eyes seemed to have the colors swirl together in intensity. She’d find out what happened and slit the bastard’s throat who dared to trifle with her. “I think you have a good plan.” It was Zevran who spoke, surprisingly, seeing the gaze. “I am sure there is more to this story than any of us know, but it would be better suited if we pool our resources.”

    She blinked the world back into focus; the words seemed to snap her back to attention. “Yes,” she exhaled the syllables. “Different skill sets and all that. We can be at your room when the moon reaches its zenith.”

    Zevran grinned, happy for the chance to lighten the mood. “He doesn’t speak Crow, Azaya, so stop being so fancy.” He turned to the mage. “She means midnight and she just wants to be dramatic.”


    What was that? What was that look? He had read of telepathic communication, but never among Crows. Still, they showed a lot more to him by not saying what they were thinking, than if they had. The muscles in his face stiffened. Maybe he should not be so eager to share either. Azaya was deadly, and he was sure Zevran was equally, if not more, dangerous. Had Kieran been the only thing that had kept them from feuding?
         “It fills my heart with joy to know that you like it,” he answered the older crow, but did not return the smile. He took the brown package from the table as he stood up and adjusted his robes, trying to remove some of the dust of the inn. Before leaving the two elves, he left them with a last remark: “And I know what zenith means.”
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 02-09-2017 at 08:31 PM. Reason: (via Threadmins and Group Moderators)

  3. #3
    Dragon Age: Blood Prophecy [Closed]
    Impatient Monarch

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    Prologus - Part II

    “That was informative, wasn’t it?”

    His comment wasn’t without jest. Zevran smiled coyly as the duo walked side by side out of the tavern. They had stayed behind for a while after the mage had left, and primarily talked of their next moves. Now, it seemed, her partner wanted to talk about something completely different. Azaya took in a sharp breath and rolled her eyes. It was something she was doing a lot of lately. “Depends on what you call informative. He basically told us nothing.”

    Zevran waved an arm carelessly has if to dismiss the thought. He could be overly dramatic when he wanted to be. “He told us everything.”

    “Oh? Did he now?” she responded flatly, another thing she had done a lot more of lately, and pulled an arrow from her quiver. She began make it dance in with her fingers. “We know that Kieran’s alive.”

    The two merged into a highway of people as they rounded a corner and entered the main marketplace. Azaya noted how crowded it had become in only a few hours, and she began weaving and dodging shoppers. The air was colder and crisper now that the weather had begun to shift from its dreary morning to clearer afternoon. “Mm,” was all he responded with before adding on, “And how do you feel about that?”

    She bit her lip and wiggled the arrow in her fingers. It was the same question she had been asking herself since she had seen his sword. Its weight sat on her shoulders like the pressure of the ocean and she couldn’t swim out of it. “How would you feel if someone you respected suddenly came back from the dead?”

    Zevran quickly side-stepped around a woman who was buying produce a local stall and slid back next to Azaya. He made it look so easy. The Elven were supposed to be lithe on their feet that it almost resembled walking on air. Azaya and Zevran were both taken from their families, their clans, when they were very young and never had the chance to fully engulf themselves in the culture and class of their people. Still, Zevran moved with the grace of their genetics far beyond any elf she had ever met. “Relieved.” She felt him smirk but kept her eyes forward. “But you aren’t using the correct terminology to describe the situation. So, therefore, I can’t properly answer the question.”

    That made her practically whip her head in his direction and send him a deadly scowl. It was only given a wide grin in return. The two turned down one of the alleyways, between the booths selling local grains and fruits, and into the shadowed world where only her kind thrived. The aura, she noted, seemed to change when they stepped away from the mundane world. The careless and nonchalant luxury that flowed outside these walls was choked out by anxiety, fear and heightened awareness that you had eyes on you from the dark. It only made her lips twitch in a smirk. “What door again?”

    “Three.” She nodded and walked down the thieves’ path lined with several wooden doors. Each of them were cracked in some way and marked with different colors. Blue. Red. Yellow. They were code for those in her line of work. The door the Zevran had mentioned, three, happened to be green and the site of their payment. By tradition and code, the messenger of the papers would also be sent for payment. Azaya stopped at the door’s frame. “You have the papers?”

    Zevran tapped on his satchel, leather as he preferred it to be, and nodded with one bob of his head. The payment wouldn’t be given without proof. He pulled out a long silver necklace; its edges branded in little dots of red and rust. The pendant, the symbol of Ferelden, sat neatly in his palm. Azaya reached for it, her fingers tingling with electricity. Her mind reminded her that the charm was of a man she had slain in the tavern by poisons and not Kieran’s… even though he had one just like it.

    They made eye contact once more; their silent communication resuming without fail, and knocked on the wooden barrier with force. It opened with a sickening creaking sound and they entered silently. The world of the assassins, thieves, bards and rangers was a place that didn’t make much sense, but it could be summarized by the surroundings of the small tavern they just walked into. Tables had figures seated at them that smelled of deception and secrecy as they passed papers through folded palms to another who was shrouded in armor. It wasn’t surprising to see warriors mingling amongst these creatures of shadow. In fact, that was how they got their coin most often; completing the jobs that they could not.

    Both Zevran and Azaya walked stride for stride as they headed toward their intended location. The table would be in the farthest back corner of the dive bar tavern, usually with the most minimal amount of lighting. This usually indicated that their contact worked for a higher power and didn’t really want to have attention. “So,” Zevran said as they kept walking. “How shall we handle this one?” He stopped a few feet away from their location and turned to face her. “Redcliff rumble?”

    Azaya placed her hands on her hips nonchalantly; the arrow sitting casually within her fingers. “Too messy,” she said with a shake of her head and then perked up. “Bait and switch?” she inquired with a shrug of one shoulder.

    Zevran shook his head deftly. “I don’t have the energy to be that dramatic today.”

    “You’re always dramatic, so I don’t really see the problem,” she said with a small smirk and tapped her lip with her index finger. Slowly she slid her eyes to the side to meet his gaze. “Fists of fury?”

    “That’s do-able.” As if on cue, Zevran’s mind and body switched gears and he strode up to the table with determination and deliverance in each step of his boot. Azaya was about two steps behind him, resuming the twirling of the arrow in her fingers, and watched as her fellow Crow strode up to their contact in question and punched him square in the jaw without remorse.

    “Talk about fury,” she muttered loud enough for both of them to hear. Zevran reached down and yanked a very confused man off the floor, his hand clutched firmly on his jaw. The shock of being struck so suddenly was still on his face but it was quickly being dissolved into anger. Zev hefted the man back onto his chair and forced him to sit. “We need to talk.”

    “What in bloody hell are you thinking?!” the man bellowed, rubbing at his face. “This is how you treat a paying contact?!” His breath was saturated with ale as was the front of his dark yellow shirt. He was dressed in typical gear for a man in his line of work. Dark earthy colors that were caked with dirt, blood and sweat with a splash of booze. He was probably a pick-pocket if she had to guess.

    Azaya took the chair on the other side of the round wooden table and spun it so that the back was now facing forward. She straddled the seat and rested her forearms on the back. “That’s the thing,” she began, her Antivan accent being showcased to remind this shadow bug who he dealt with. “You weren’t very honest. We appreciate honesty.”

    Zevran took the signal and slapped the paper on the table with a thud. “Your contract wasn’t clear on who we were working for.”

    The man spat. “You don’t need to know, and my contact prefers that this be kept out of public eye.” He smiled, unsheathing his yellow crusted teeth. Hygiene wasn’t on his to-do list. So, it was someone in the hierarchy of the world- probably with a title. It wasn’t rare that those of power needed dirty deeds accomplished, and it wasn’t unheard of that they reached out to the Crows through an outside source. “Besides, it’s not like Crows to inquire. You work for coin. Nothing more.”

    She opened her mouth to respond, a seething and stabbing response, but it was cut off when the man’s mouth shot open and he gasped for air. Zevran stood behind him with a look of malice in his eye. Even though most knew that Crows did earn coins from their job, there was a level of respect that was earned and given. Zevran did not like it when his family was insulted in any way, and the finely braided leather rope that was held tightly against the man’s neck was indication of that. She looked up at him. “Antivan leather?”

    “Only the finest,” he replied and then leaned in to whisper in the man’s ear. “While I would enjoy killing you because you smell and insulted us; you have yet to answer the lady’s question. And a true gentleman, even as one as foul smelling as you, would be wise to answer her.” The leather groaned as its grip tightened on the man’s neck leaving red tracks in its wake.

    “M-moth…” he spoke through exalted breaths.

    Exhausted by the entire experience at this point, Azaya rubbed the bridge of her nose. “Zev, can you?”

    He slowly let the leather rope loosen and air flooded the man’s lungs. Zevran did not retract the weapon completely, but just enough to let him breath out his response. “Mother. His mother.

    At that moment both of the Crow’s eyes met. Mother. Had they thought correctly back at the tavern? “Whose mother?” they both said at the same time.

    He smiled. With his back pressed firmly against the back of his chair, the rope wedged around his neck, their contact smiled. It was a winning smile as if he realized that he had won a game. “You… already know,” he gasped.

    Azaya’s eyes shot back up. “Connor’s,” she confirmed to Zevran- who just nodded. The pedant that she had taken from the man she killed sat heavily in her pocket. The crest it bore was that of Ferelden, and Azaya had a sneaking suspicion that the connection went directly to the Arl. Dots were suddenly being connected. Her brow furrowed in thought; the lines on her forehead creasing. Her skin prickled and she looked up to catch her partner’s gaze. He knew something was off-putting about the situation as well but that Azaya knew more than she was telling. “Outside,” she mouthed, and he returned to his task at hand.

    “Well,” Zevran sighed and whipped away the leather and looped it around the back of his own neck. “This has all been a wondrous experience.” He smiled as if nothing had ever happened between the trios, nothing of consequence anyway, and reached over to pick the dark-red bag form the man’s waist. He lifted it to his eyelevel and shook it to hear the rattling of coin. “It seems that this woman is generous.”

    “She should be, considering who she is,” Azaya commented and rose from the chair. She turned it around and tucked neatly back into its place. “And that probably means the mage was right. There is more to this story.”

    With a shrug, Zevran walked around the table and joined Azaya as they both turned to leave. The man had hunched over, elbows on the table, still rubbing the soreness out of his skin. “You can’t escape it, you know,” he wheezed causing them both to stop and look over their shoulder at him. His eyes were bloodshot from the amount of pressure the rope had applied, but they were daggers as they looked right at Azaya.

    “What are we trying to escape exactly?”

    His lips curled. “Fate.”

    The word sent a chill down her spine. Even the way he pronounced it, with such force and meaning, it almost made her stagger backward. It wasn’t meant for Zevran. There was an unspoken force that passed between the two of them, and Azaya remained motionless as she stared right back into the man’s eyes. It was almost as if he saw past the armor, beyond her intense gazes and into her Dalish roots. “Maybe I haven’t been trying to escape it.”

    And with that they both spun on their heels and left the tavern without another word. Once reaching the outside Azaya was glad to breathe in the non-toxic air. The wind blew away any remnants of the words and feelings from inside. “How is it that, in the last three hours, things have gone from absurd to insane?” she asked Zevran and they started to make their way out of the alley and toward normal civilization.

    “If you consider that insane then I wonder what you would think of my lifestyle outside of the Crows,” he smiled at her. “Though, I do agree that the mage might be right.”

    Azaya laughed almost sardonically. “Who would have thought?”

    “I knew it all along,” Zev sang out triumphantly and made a sweeping gesture as they reached the end of the alley. “It seems that we have someone to speak with when the moon reaches the zenith.”

    “You are never going to let me live that down, are you?” Azaya huffed and stuffed the arrow back into her quiver.

    “I like it when you’re dramatic.” And, with that, the two Crows exited the alley and swam into the sea of normality.


    Going from one extreme to the other, the guards at Redcliffe castle stood tall when they recognized him. Or recognized his robes. His travels had never taken him to this part of Ferelden before; he had only ever seen the castle in the horizon. He thought it funny how even guards of higher-ups would snicker at him before, look at him with distaste, the same way those crows looked at him, but now he was in magister’s regalia and suddenly it was all polished boots and salutes. He was uncertain which was worse: Honest dislike or fake respect.
         He stopped mid-step. He knew those moves. As if his steel armor weighed nothing, the warrior leapt from the ground to avoid a sword, flowing easily through the air to knock another opponent to the ground. The man met another sword swab from the former assailant with the protection on his knee, giving him the upper edge to knock the other man to the ground with a jab from his elbow. Phoriden knew those moves. With all the men subdued, he took the helmet off and revealed the face Phoriden feared and hoped to see. It was almost as if time slowed.
         First was the unmistakable strong jaw, adorned with dark stubble, and that characteristical smirk, that made him think of mischief. Then the straight nose followed by his hazel eyes. He was not sure what he had expected, weird demon eyes, maybe some cold soulless darkspawn eyes, not the same deep stare Kieran had always had. Leaf forest greens with light brown stars. Then at last the helmet was completely off, and he shook the sweat from his hair. He had expected him to look thin and pale, like the risen corpses they had fought together, but there he was; standing tall and strong, his hair cut to its signature length, eyes twinkling in the sunlight, smiling with that smile, that made it seem like he had never met hardships at all.
         “Phoriden,” he said as he put his heavily armored hand on his shoulder, but soon pulled the elf into a tight hug. He did not smell like corpse at all. He smelt like pine trees, the way he always had. He still held the package, and it was stuck between them. He had not expected himself to be so open, but familiarity took over, and his free arm went around the armor and hugged the human back.
         “How is this possible?” Phoriden spoke as he removed a tear from his eye. He had not wanted to get sentimental, he had wanted to interrogate him. He had wanted to be tough and relentless in finding the truth. Damned feelings and their traitorous ways. “We watched you die.”
         “I honestly don’t know,” Kieran answered, his hand still on the elf’s shoulder as he shrugged. “I just woke up one day at the shore, and some fishermen contacted the Arl.”
         How convenient. It would have been too easy if he had the answers himself. If Kieran did not have them, who did?
         “Look, I know you got questions,” Kieran spoke as if he had read his mind. “Let’s go have dinner, and we’ll talk.”

    There had been many courtesies following their arrival at the dinner hall. The Arl Guerrin and his mother introduced, the Orlesian chef presenting the over-extravagant meal, some sort of roasted bird. Phoriden secretly hoped it was crow.
         When he had been greeted by the Arl it had been as the elven magister. Kieran had whispered a question then. “Who are you trying to piss off with that title? Both divines?”
         It had made him smile. While the Orlesian chantry was insulted by a mage having the power to kick them out of the circles; Tevinter would be insulted by an elf carrying a title exclusively for their human nobility. Kieran understood; It was a silent middle finger to all the people that hated him. So he had answered: “And Lavellan.”
         “You know where she is?” Kieran asked so fast, it made Phoriden lean in the opposite direction. Something had flashed before his eyes, like the glare from a light. He did not excuse his retraction, rather his eyes scowled at the reaction. Kieran was not without passion, but it was not like him to show face like that. Was it even him in there, or was there something more sinister hiding in his skin? Maybe something that was after Azaya. But why would a demon be after a crow?
         “Yes, we really only knew what happened to you,” the Arl interrupted the silence and tried to ease the tension. “We figured you might know more.”
         “Is that why I’m here?” he asked the man across the table. He was big for someone obviously untrained in physical combat. Naturally very broad shoulders, but thin and pale. He looked like his mother, with big dark eyes. “So I can locate someone for you?”
         The Arl furrowed his brows, then looked to his mother. She was smiling, the kind of smile a snake smiled before attacking, trying to hypnotize its prey. “Of course not, magister, you were simply the only one we knew how to get a hold of.”
         “Really? You don’t think the king would’ve come to see his own son risen from the grave?” he answered quickly. There were holes in their story. From the looks of the spectacle in the courtyard, Kieran was more than capable of travel. Why was he still staying here? And why weren’t they answering. The Arl and his mother had looked at each other, then started talking about the meal.
         “Phoriden,” Kieran spoke, as if he was telling off a dog. “All will be revealed in due time.”
         “Oh, great,” he said and took a sip of the wine in his cup. “Why don’t we talk a bit more about the fucking weather then?”

    He had gotten out when the water had started to cool. Maybe he had been sitting in it too long already, he felt like he was steaming. One thing was the Guerrins lying and avoiding his questions, but Kieran supporting it with cryptic message was the drop that made his cup flow over. Everyone around him was keeping secrets. Crows, nobles, resurrected friends.
         The sun was just setting, and part of him wanted to casually forget to put a candle in the window. This day had been more action-packed than anything he had experienced since Kieran’s death and he was exhausted and it was still far from over. Now he had to wait for the moon to hit zenith.
         He was blowing out the match after placing the candle when he felt the fingertips of an intruder on the edges of his torso. He spun around, pushing his hand forward as an invisible force pushed the man away and flying through the room. He groaned as his back landed against the opposite wall before falling on his knees. “Arl Guerrin?! What are you doing here? Where are your clothes?!”
         “I thought we could spend some time unclothed,” he answered and licked his lips while looking at him in a way that made him cringe and make sure his robe was properly closed.
         “Are you brain-damaged or something?” he asked as he went back into the bathroom. He was going to throw a towel at the naked man, but he had moved from the floor to the bed. He was lying on his side, patting the spot next to him gently. “You must be.”
         “Awh, such hostility, why don’t you come relax,” the man tried again, running a hand through his red hair. “It could be magical.”
         “To what end, Arl?” he answered and threw the towel at him, like it could hurt him. “I’m not going to fall for your manipulation.”

    Passion and longing. A promise, a word. Was it just nothing? Just voided? “Everything we had. Everything we swore. Was it just nothing? Just voided?”
         The woman turned, but there was something off about her. The others had already become abominations, but there she stood, completely herself, except for the eyes. The eyes were black as night. Lyrium floated in the air around her, almost like a shawl, easily bent in the air around her. “Phoriden, you came.”
         “You didn’t exactly leave me much choice,” he answered her, his knuckles turning white from grasping his staff so tightly. “All the way up here, floor after floor, battle after battle, I hoped we would find you, I hoped it wasn’t you. But of course I was wrong.”
         “Phoriden, my lover,” she spoke and reached her hand toward him. He could feel the invisible hand against his cheek like a soft embrace. “Our love made you strong enough to get this far. Now join me, and kill these sleepers.”
         “You used me!” His voice echoed off the stone walls. He had been so happy when she had taken his hand. He remembered his hard his heart had been beating when she kissed him. She had made all his fears go away. “Guess, I wasn’t enough. I’m not going to fall for your manipulation.”
         He jerked his cheek free from her invisible grip and pointed his staff at his former lover. It was invisible, but his own mind sprung from the tip of his staff, attacking the monster with telepathy.


    “I can tell this wasn’t your idea,” he said then, with less anger in his voice. The Arl looked confused as to what to do next, no one had taught him how to seduce anybody. “Did Kieran put you up to this?”
         “No…” he spoke slowly. He looked at the door then, as if he was trying to measure if he would be able to run to it before he could be stopped. But he knew he could not. “It was my mom’s idea...”
         “It’s time you give me some answers, Guerrin.” He sat down on the edge of the bed, but the arl suddenly seemed less interested in him. Sternly he grabbed the humans head between his hands and forced him to look at him. For a moment his own eyes lit up with blue lyrium, but the light soon traveled from his eyes to the arl’s. The muscles in the man’s face seemed to relax, the jaw falling to leave the arl with an open mouth. “Why have the king not been contacted?”
         “’Cus he’ll kill me,” the arl answered montonely. As if trying to use the least amount of energy possibly, the mouth only moved in vowels it had to, otherwise hanging limbly from his face.
         “Why would he kill you?” Phoriden asked, holding the skull still and his eyes locked in an unblinking stare with his victim.
         “He knows I have magic.” There was a traction in his otherwise numb face, almost like he was seeing something scary. “If the prince is found alive here, he’ll think I used blood magic.”
         “Did you?” Phoriden’s voice grew intently, like he had to restrain himself from not crunshing the arl’s skull into goo.
         “No!” the shriek echoed in the room as the open eyes filled with tears. “But they’ll think I did, they’ll kill me!”
         He let go then. As if mirrored they both began rubbing their temples, then the arl looked at Phoriden, almost as if he was seeing a darkspawn. “What did you just do to me?!”
         “Run along, Arl,” he said as he got up from the bed, readjusting his robes again. “I’ll make sure no one comes for you.”
         It was not relief, exactly, that was on the arl’s face then. He was still terrified of what had just happened, but he when he got up from the bed, he at least nodded. He did verbally thank him, but he did at least smile.
         After the door had shut after the arl, Phoriden allowed himself to collapse back onto the bed. Night had fallen while the encounter had gone, and could not see the moon from the bed. He was tired. His eyelids felt heavy and his head felt like it had been torched by sunlight. But he would not have Azaya make fun of him for being in a bathing robe, so he needed to get dressed. He went to the dresser and opened it, but then his eyebrow aimed for his hairline. “Where the fuck is my robe?”
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 11-07-2016 at 05:27 AM.

  4. #4
    The monster in the mirror.
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    Prologus - Part III

    “This man is more fashionable than I am,” Zevran said as he casually went through the many elaborate clothing pieces that hung from the mage’s closet. The colors were a representative of his position and power and the symbolism on each matched the design. Zevran’s fingers wiggled as he deftly plucked out a robe from amongst the forest of clothing and spun to face Azaya. He held up the piece to just under his chin; his free hand outstretching the sleeve. “This one is nice, no?” he asked her with a slight tilt of his head.

    She was sitting on the windowsill of where the entered with her back up against the wall frame. Her knees were bent at an angle and her forearms rested lazily on top of them so she could pick at her fingernails with the head of her arrow. Slowly, she turned to look at her partner, and leaned her head back against the wall. Dark eyes scanned up and down before she smirked. “Yellow was never your color.”

    Zevran snorted and turned to place the clothing back into place. “I can pull off any color,” he retorted and waved a hand at her. “You’re just jealous that you can’t wear clothes like this.” He reached into the mage’s wardrobe and pulled out another piece, this time a light blue robe, and turned back around showing off the article of clothing in the same manner as before. “I know blue is your favorite color so don’t even attempt to lie on this one.”

    Azaya looked over and saw what he was holding. It was true, blue was her favorite color, but it held more of a meaning than just a childhood debate. Slowly, she exhaled through her nose to release the memory and she smiled. “That’s more of your color.” Her eyes shifted back to her nails but then popped up to check the bathroom door. The duo had arrived a little earlier than expected, but found that their mage had been drinking in the luxuries of a bath. Casually she wondered if he could even attempt to spend the night alone outdoors, and followed that idea with a plan to accidentally leave him alone in the woods. “How long has he been in there? It’s not like he ever gets that dirty.”

    “A man in his line of work is always dirty with secrets,” Zevran said while slipping on the blue robe and turning to take a look at himself in the mirror. The comment did make Azaya laugh and shake her head. “Besides,” he began as he fixed the robe so it sat properly on his figure. Who knew that they had similar stature? “Let him have his fun. It gives me more time to explore his things.”

    Her mouth opened to respond but snapped shut quickly has she heard the door handle move. Zevran and Azaya, both trained in the art of the Crows, simultaneously had vanished leaving not a trace of their existence there. Luckily, the window sill had a storage bench just beneath it and she tumbled into it effortlessly. The top sat a little ajar, just enough to let light and sound slip through, and enough to let her see the outcomes for herself.

    “Arl Guerrin?! What are you doing here? Where are your clothes?!”
    “I thought we could spend some time unclothed.”


    If he was going to get answers, this was not the way she needed to see it. Clearly, neither did the mage. His attitude and body language showcased that he was caught off guard and this was not the way that he planned on speaking with the Arl. That man, on the other hand, seemed to not care. She strained her eyes to look through the small opening of the bench. Zevran was probably having the time of his life watching this saga unfold.

    “Did Kieran put you up to this?”
    “It was my mom’s idea…”


    Her mouth went dry, her stomach twisted and her breath couldn’t escape past her lips. She had spent a good portion of the day trying to focus her thoughts away from him, but at each turn of this day she was reminded that he was walking around somewhere in these halls. Her hands were subconsciously balled into fists and she gradually unfurled them to reveal white knuckles and indented palms. This was more than Kieran. Now she knew that Connor’s mother wanted the Crows involved, needed her involved, but for what reason?

    “It’s time you give me some answers, Guerrin.”

    The voices from the bed called her back to the task at hand. Almost instantly Azaya regretted the decision to even look. It was no surprise to anyone who knew the female Crow that she was not an enthusiast of the magic world. There had been too many experiences, that ended negatively, that tainted her feelings toward those like the mage. When she saw his hands gripping the Arl’s head with such aggressiveness; Azaya almost fell back onto her heels. Then the blue color lit up his eyes. Lyrium, she thought with a wide stare. The Arl began to sing like a canary; the truth pouring out of him like water from a glass.

    Azaya felt her blood run cold; her heart working into overdrive and finally she shut her eyes and let her ears just listen. She turned her head away from the opening and let her elven ears hear the rest of the outcome. Finally, the Arl had left and the mage was alone, but Azaya couldn’t move.

    “Where the fuck is my robe?”

    “Here.” Azaya heard Zev step out from his hiding place, and she could feel the calming sensation wash over her. He somehow could do that to her. Slowly she took a breath in and let the sensation come back to her muscles, but her mind couldn’t face the mage at this moment. There was too much to digest. “It looks so much better on me, don’t you agree?” He was buying her some time, and by the sounds of it, Zevran had popped back into the mixture of clothes and camouflaged himself among them. It must have been expertly done if the mage hadn’t even noticed him.


    He was ready to defend himself when he heard the voice, but stopped before doing anything. It took him another moment to realize who it was that was prancing about in his favorite robe. But where he had been angry before, it brought a smile to his face. “How would you know; you haven’t seen me in it.”
         He did not move off the bed, but he did make sure the bathing robe did not leave him exposed. How long had he been hiding there? Where was Azaya? She could not be far behind. Like in a child, mischief possessed him, and he decided there was a way he could annoy her. He slithered off the bed and went to stand right behind the crow, so that his head popped out from behind him in the mirror, standing close enough that it would not take much fantasy to imagine the robe on him. “See. You’ll have to admit, that’s pretty alluring.”


    The grin only became wider on Zevran’s face. “I don’t know,” he retorted as he tilted his head to the side and let more of the mage’s features come into view. “My shoulders are much more convenient for this sort of outfit.” He turned and faced the mage; his grin transforming into a small playful smirk. “Perhaps I should see it on your to compare.”

    “Oh for the love of the Elven gods please don’t.”

    Azaya sat on the same bench she was hidden by. Her face was cradled into her hands; elbows planted firmly on her thighs. The comment was muffled through clenched fingers and she slowly peeled away her palms to reveal only her eyes. He had to be kidding. There they stood; two bodies pressed against each other as if they did this sort of thing often. Azaya withdrew one hand and pointed a finger firmly at Zevran. “You are not helping anything.”

    The other hand fell slowly from her face as she shifted her eyes toward the mage. Flashes of imagery came like fireworks every time she closed her eyes and they were all stained with the color blue. Unable to look at him, Azaya cast her eyes to the side. “Our contact was Connor’s mother,” she said through a hard swallow. Inhale. Exhale. She let her heart slow from a harsh slamming against her chest to a steady beat. “Can you please peel yourselves away from each other?”


    His hand had travelled to said shoulder and had just pulled a string when Azaya finally spoke up. He had to restrain himself from laughing and ruining the plot. As he walked away, he let his hand tread lightly over the other elf’s collarbone, just to annoy her a little extra. “Please, we both know you hold no love for the elven gods.”
         He could not help but smile as he sat back on the bed, crossing his legs as she told Zevran off. Few things were as satisfactory as getting under her skin, he was just happy Zevran had played along so well. As much fun as it was, they needed to get back to business. “That’s not good.”
          “Did you overhear the Arl’s confession?” he asked, but then realized that was stupid. Of course they had heard. How long had it taken Zevran to steal his garments? Was he going to wear his skin next? “They might’ve used shady ways of getting us here, but it seems they have their reasons.”
         Then again, maybe they did not realize what it was like to be in Connor’s shoes. They were not mages, they did not know what it was like looking over one’s shoulder like that all the time. What it was like to fear for your life whenever someone sneezed about blood magic. “If he had shown up just a few miles to the north and we’d be scourging the tower for the culprit.”
         He had not been trying to drag out, but it took him a moment to realize Azaya’s mind was probably nearing madness thinking about Kieran. “He doesn’t look like a corpse. He looks like he hasn’t been dead at all. He claims he doesn’t know anything, he just woke up at the shore, and the fishers brought him here.”
          “The Arl is a possible heir to the throne, and with that woman for queen, I understand why he’s scared,” he said. He had not expected he would be defending the Arl after his little show, but there he was trying to make them understand. “I don’t think we’ll find anymore answers here.”


    There were a few things that did get under Azaya’s skin, and Zevran knew of only a handful of ways. As he looked over to his counterpart, a small quip about to escape his lips, he stopped and bit back his comment. She looked worse for the wear. Her eyes were downcast and seemed lost in a thought far deeper than he could contemplate. He noticed that her hands were slowly moving up and down her arms, as most as if the touch was supposed to keep her grounded. Zevran, a man who could defuse any situation, was actually dumbfounded at what to do.

    He walked over to her slowly as the blue robe fanned out at his feet and sat gently next to Azaya. Her muscles tightened under his fingers as he placed a soft hand on the top of her knee, just above where her elbows rested. For some odd reason he wanted to comfort her in Elven but he resisted the urge. It probably wouldn’t help. “He’s alive,” he said soothingly. “No blood magic.”

    She only nodded in response; a slow bob of her head that felt ghostly. Her eyes wouldn’t look up from a spot on the floor. Zevran and Azaya always could read each others thoughts and movements; quickly becoming almost the same person. This however was something beyond him and he ached to know what she was thinking about. Azaya had become more than a partner to him at this point but that friend that was family. “Azaya?” he whispered.

    “I heard it all.” She croaked out the sounds. Her blue-green eyes finally unlocked themselves from the floor, looked at him and his hand slipped from her knee. The bright and mysterious eyes that he had laughed, fought and drank with were glossy. He felt her swallow hard and suck in a breath and he nodded. They both needed to leave. He stood first from the bench and her gradually after. Zevran looked over at Phoriden. “Our question still remains of why the Arl’s mother wanted two Crows to assassinate someone for her.”

    Zevran heard the movement next to him and saw that Azaya was pulling out something from her pocket: the amulet from her most recent job. She clutched the pendant in her palm and uncurled her fingers to reveal its shape. Slowly she moved her thumb over the smooth top and watched as the candlelight reflected off of its surface. “We might have more of a clue than we know.” Azaya tossed the charm over to the bed and he wanted it land with a tender bounce on the blankets. He noticed her eyes stuck on the small silver token. “It’s the symbol of the Arl, am I correct? Kieran,” she stopped. Had she said his name since they knew of his survival? “has one like it.”


    Again it was highlighted how different they were. Her behavior was uncharacteristic of her, and now he felt bad for teasing her. Even if that was not the reason for her reaction, they had not made it better. He was glad Zevran was there to take care of her. She looked like she was ready to fall apart.
          “It could still be blood magic, I just don’t think the Guerrins are behind it,” he explained, trying to make sure there was no misunderstandings. Lake Calenhad was wrapped in so many legends, it was more than possible that the water had magical properties, but even then someone would be behind putting him in it. “If they’re as scared as the arl seemed, it makes sense that they might have someone killed, just to get us here.”
         His fingers slid over the necklace. He had seen the chain before, but never noticed the amulet. “Why would Kieran carry around the symbol of the Arl?”


    She internally flinched at the thought of blood magic, but more so at the mage’s confirmation that blood magic still wasn’t out of the picture. Even though Zevran’s comfort was welcoming- Azaya knew better than to complete rule out the thought of darker magic. She sighed and let her hands fall down to her waste silently wishing she had an arrow to keep her fingers occupied. “He’s always had it,” she said, plainly, but with a little more color than before.

    Azaya recalled a time where she had heard the story of that necklace, but she knew it wasn’t the whole thing. Images flickered of moonlight talks behind her closed eyelids. She could see him, almost smell his scent of pinecones and windblown hair, as he smiled and her and explained the story of the charm. She listened, calling out his extravagant lies to bluster the story’s meaning, and they had laughed and would occasionally tease each other about it at random times. Yet, she remembered being enthralled by the true origins of the talisman. “He would spend time with Arl’s family during the summers. They were close.”

    “I wonder if it has further meaning,” Zevran questioned with a narrow gaze at the pendant. “My guess would be that they don’t just give out these things as a party favors.”

    It actually got her to smile and the tension subsided in her shoulders. “He was guarded when talking about that necklace.” She stopped and thought; her brows furrowing. “I just know it was given to him when he was young.”


    Unfortunately, he knew exactly what she was talking about. Kieran was usually open, friendly and honest about everything, but when it came to talking about his childhood he would close up like a clam.
          “But if they give these necklaces to people they’re close to, why were you sent to kill him?” he asked. Things were not adding up. He realized the necklace might be a piece of the grander puzzle, but they still had so few pieces that he could not figure it out.
          “On the other hand, it could be that they were so scared that they chose to get someone killed, just to get you here,” he said. There were people that chose other people’s death over their own. “That mother seems like just such a person. Maybe they wanted you here, and thought the mere rumor of Kieran’s return would bring you to the castle. The question is, why do they really want us here?”


    Zevran and Azaya exchanged glances, and she nibbled on her bottom lip thoughtfully. The mage’s final question was the one she had started off with. Why was she here? What purpose would the queen benefit from her? “Who was the man we killed, Azaya?” she heard Zev’s voice so far off in the distance, it seemed to echo off of in some detached reality. Her mind swirled with questions and possible answers. What had happened?

    “He was a guard of the Arl’s,” she said slowly. Suddenly, her vision began to blur and tunnel away; letting the clock rewind in her mind’s eye. The tavern’s smells and sounds invaded her senses and she tingled with the vibrations of laughter and irrational chatter. From a distance she watched herself move with grace, agility and speed- movements that were practiced time and time again. She slipped behind the bar, taking the mashed potatoes and rack of lamb and pushing it to the side.

    “Azaya…” Zevran called to her again, trying to take her away from her recollection. She felt her body wave him off, but her vision was recounting what she had done.

    She moved closer to him, to the man on the other side of the bar; her target. Booze and debris from his latest meal clung to his ragged beard. He laughed through his gut and his armor shook with mirth. She felt her eyes narrow as if she was telling her ghost to look at something she missed before; something her Elven eyes hadn’t fathomed to see then. There it was, the pendant, untucked from his hiding spot behind the heavy plating. “Reginald.” Someone had called the name and he turned, and there it was clear as day. The connection she was looking for.

    Azaya felt her heart speed up as if she had run miles without stopping. She looked up to see Zevran looking at her, mouthing words that she could not hear. The sounds were still trapped in her thoughts. The white noise had finally cancelled itself out just in time to hear him say someone was coming down the hall. “We need to go.” She finally heard him now and she turned her ears to the door. She heard it: the steps. The movement was with purpose but lithe in stature. It was a warrior’s walk- his walk and she knew it.

    Every muscle in her body froze as ice ran through her body instead of blood. The moment that she had wished for, ached for, ever since seeing his lifeless body on the ground next to an Archdemon was approaching. Time became a void and it moved with each beat of her heart. She cast her eyes downward as the door handle moved and her breath stopped.

    There he was. Kieran; her Kieran. The same lips that smiled at her when she would make a comment about magic, the same hands that steadied her before battle and the same dark eyes that would stare into hers from across the fire when no one else watched. The man that she knew she could never have; stood at the door way with his figure outlined with light. Azaya mused to herself how holy he looked like that, as if death really did take him and this was just his pure form. They both stood in silence, eyes locked on each other, as if neither of them expected the other would be there.

    “It…” Azaya felt her lips crack from being so dry. “How?” she whispered, as two small tears streaked down her face. Was it shock at this point or joy at seeing him? She wasn’t sure, but her mind couldn’t really tell if it was still replaying the past or staring directly into the future.


    He had knocked once, but not waited for an invitation before he grabbed the handle and pushed the door open. He was about to apologize for intruding, but then realized that the elf was not alone. His head moved quickly to see who the other intruder was, but stopped in his steps when he saw her.
         He stood there in front of her, unsure of how to proceed. Part of him thought he was asleep and only dreaming up an image of her, her blue-grey eyes enchanting him. He did not speak, he just stood there, clutching the parchment in his hand as if that would somehow keep him grounded to reality.
         For fear of what she might do, he said nothing and stared at her. She looked like she had seen a ghost, but then he remembered that he was supposed to be dead, so in a way she was. He opened his mouth to say something, but then he closed it again. She was the one to break the silence, even if it was just a word and a whisper. It was enough that it woke him from his petrification and his body awoke a new.
          “Azaya,” he spoke, almost as a whisper, almost like even uttering the name would scare her to fly away like a butterfly. He closed the distance between them, invaded her personal space and took both her hands in his. There was a breath’s pause as their skin touched, like an invisible force pulled them together. He let go with one hand and placed it on her chin to make her look up at him, locking his eyes with hers. “It’s me.”


    Sensations tingled in her fingertips; the only feeling her mind could actually register. Her eyes fell down to their hands, one in the other, when she finally realized her hands were trembling. Each breath that escaped past her lips were wobbly and insecure. He felt warm; his hands were calloused like she remembered them to be. A warrior’s hand he had told her once. Sparks itched to make their way up to the rest of her body, but her eyes were solely on their hands.

    Then, as if time had left them alone, his hand moved gently to her chin so she could finally look at him. All other sounds and people faded out of the room and it felt as if the Sun had kept them illuminated together. Had this been a dream? Did Zevan feed her some of that obnoxious drink and she fell asleep under the stars with wishes of seeing him again? Neither of them smiled; each lost in too many questions but no voice to ask them. She subconsciously felt him methodically moving his thumb over her knuckles. Was it for his benefit or hers? Were they both still wondering if this was even true?

    She had denied it for so long, his death and their unspoken love, that Azaya’s armor had grown so thick it was hard to shed it. The Crow was who she grew up as, walked as, talked as, and fought as. She was trained in the art of the kill. Kieran saw past all that and he was able to crack the armor enough for her to breathe. When he died it sealed shut again with such force even she doubted someone could open it again. Yet here he was. Azaya slowly took her free hand, incapable of releasing the other from his touch, and made a loose fist. Her eyes searched his, blue on green, for something that would tell her this was real.

    Her fingers unfurled themselves and with an unsteady breath she placed a gentle palm on his cheek. Their skin connected and Azaya’s exhale was almost like a silent cry of joy. The stubble was there and she felt it tickle her finger tips. His smooth lips smiled lightly and he turned his head toward her hand as to make everything more real. Movement startled her from the corner of her eye. Zevran had appeared out of his hiding spot, his kind eyes looking over her from Kieran’s shoulder. She quickly shifted to see Phoriden over the other shoulder with the same gaze. Her past, present and future all looking at her to make the next move.

    Zevran would say that she was never one to show any emotion but when she did it was fierce and with purpose. She never did shed tears for just anyone in her life, and smiles were gifts to those who had gotten to know her past her arrows. The Crow had prided herself on strength and vigor that anything else was weakness. The hand that was on his face withdrew and she looped it around his neck with tenderness, enough to bring her lips to his ear. She smelled him then, now that her brain started to work, and the forest pinecones delighted her nose. “Promise me this is true,” she whispered into his ear, their only private moment, as her eyes closed so she could shut out everything else but them.


    He had not wanted to admit it to anyone, not even himself, but his first thought waking up on that beach had been her. Was she alive, was she happy? Now he finally saw her, alive, and his thumb moved to caress her knuckles. It was not something he was used to doing, but he had done it. There had been questions he had wanted to ask, but now they all seemed to seep out of his head.
         He saw the doubt in her eyes. He knew her enough to know how his death would have affected her. There was a reason neither of them had never spoken about the feelings he knew they both had. Or at least had had. Even if it was like waking up from a sleep for him, he knew he could not expect the same. That was all that kept him from kissing her.
         He melted into the hand on his face. His mind would not quit from spinning. He remembered all the moments they had shared; every word she had said, every time she had touched his arm, every time they had been alone, stared into each other’s eyes and not dared to take the next step.
         He tensed up slightly when he heard a step behind him, but saw Azaya’s gaze past him. He had been ready to fend off an assassin, but trusting her, he eased up again. Whoever it was could wait.
         He bent over slightly, to allow her to reach his ear, but at the same tie he wrapped his arms around her smaller form and pressed her against him. Cotton against leather. He knew what she was asking him was not just words. She was asking for more than just of he was there. She was asking if it was him. Gently, but with knowing the significance of his words he whispered: “I promise.”
          “So, I know Azaya likes arrows,” Phoriden began trying to ease the tension that was building in the room by concentrating on the other crow, who had stolen his clothes. “What’s your preferred method of assassination?”
          “Sorry,” Kieran said and moved out of the hug, but not away from Azaya. He looked at Zevran then at Phoriden. “Is this your apprentice?”
          “No…” Phoriden answered, with a furrowed brow, but then realized that Zevran looked like a mage, wearing that. All he was missing was a shiny staff. But he would let the man introduce himself, it was not like he knew him.


    Zevran had only heard the tales of Kieran from Azaya. She spoke of their time together and how he was the only person in their group who had the uncanny ability to bring so many backgrounds together. He had calmed her, she once confessed, and walked through her built up walls as if they didn’t exist. One look at the two of them and he understood; the stories she told next to bonfires under cloudless nights finally coming to fruition. They were lost in their moment; arms tangled around each other like ivy reaching for sunlight. His eyes softened as she opened her own eyes just slightly, enough to see him, and he gave one nod before she was lost in his embrace once again.

    Had it always been like this for her? Even with his death looming over like a thick fog she had always demonstrated authority, so to see her like this was eye-opening. Kieran had pierced through the fog like a dagger of light and for a split second, only a moment, Zevran wished he could have done the same. They were siblings of battle, he mused to himself, and their bond was much different than the one Kieran was providing. While he could protect her from the outside, show her how to seal her heart and emotions away in favor of death’s hand, he was the one who could get her heart to beat again.

    “So, I know Azaya prefers arrows.” He turned to see Phoriden looking at him. A shadow of concern had passed over his face, but he dismissed it. The mage had known Azaya before and after the blight, and would be able to shed some insight. Plus, he did like his clothes. “What’s your preferred method of assassination?”

    He blinked, having never been asked such a question before, and turned to see Kieran ask if he was the mage’s apprentice. Slowly, he looked down at his wardrobe before looking up at Azaya through his long lashes. Zevran smirked; and he could see his Crow counterpart only return the gesture and shake her head. She knew what was coming. He took the bottom of the robe and extended it in a grand gesture, as if this garment was a part of a king’s attire. “I am Zevran, my good sir,” he started with a grandiose bow. “Master of the arts of aptitude, eradication and sensuality.” Zevran stood up and sent a wink in the mage’s direction. “I am here on behalf of your two companions as they called to me to aid them in their quest.”

    Azaya giggled lightly and shook her head at Zevran’s antics. Her eyebrows popped up as she looked over at the mage as if to tell him that this is just what he did. She looked back up at Kieran. His eyes were shining with the flicker of the candle behind her. “Kieran,” she said slowly, licking her dry lips with the swipe of her tongue. “Zevran is a Crow. We’ve been partners since I returned back to Antiva.”

    He’s been making sure I don’t shatter, were the unspoken words that hung in the air.

    Zevran smirked again and bowed his head. “Zevran Arainai, at your service.” He turned to face the mage. “And to answer your question, while I do not have a shiny magical light up stick like yourself, I prefer daggers to arrows.”

    Azaya tucked a small piece of hair behind her ear, and let her mind wander to her hand where their fingers were still interlaced. She committed that to memory, the sensation of his calloused skin against hers, and smiled softly to herself. How long as she wanted this? How petrified was she to lose it? “You need to speak with Phoriden,” she said after a few heart beats, motioning at the parchment he carried with a nod of her head. “Plus, the Arl would have us killed if he knew two Crows were here.”

    “And I don’t know about you, but I am rather fond of breathing at the moment,” Zevran said with a glace around the room. “Perhaps we should retire ourselves?”

    He knew that name. It took him a moment to realize from where, but recognized him from stories told by both of his parents. How strange that someone so important was there now. Almost too strange. What kind of partner was he to Azaya? A master of seduction fitted well with the image his parents had drawn of him.
          “Oh, yours doesn’t light up?” Phoriden asked. Kieran’s brows moved slightly closer together. In all their travels, he had never heard Phoriden say anything so charged with innuendo. He was always very quiet, and when he did speak it was with purpose. Was this him flirting? With Azaya’s lover? But then it clicked for him, and he realized what the mage was doing. Just trying to get under her skin. “That’s a shame.”
          “Stay,” he asked Azaya when she tried to leave and held on to her hand as he met her gaze again. It had not been an order, rather a plea. It was not just, that he did not want to let go of her small fingers, but now that she had strangely fallen into his life at the exact moment he needed her, he was going to take advantage of it.
          “Juleeya’s been kidnapped,” he continued to explain, before too long of a silence spread. He opened his palm to reveal the crumbled up parchment. “My father is asking for soldiers to be sent to Amaranthine and meet with the Chantry’s Templars. Soldiers are good, but they’re not us, I can’t let something happen to her. Will you help me?”
         Phoriden had not realized his mouth had been open until he closed it. This was all starting to feel like another oddly timed coincidence. He was not sure if it was the Guerrins or a third party, but someone was pulling strings. Was it just so they would stop looking at the strange coincidences in Redcliffe? Get them all together, then send them off into the wilds again, as if no time had passed.
          “Of course, I’ll come with you.” Again his mouth had betrayed him, and he had not realized he had been speaking until he was done. Still it was the truth. Kieran had saved him in more ways than he cared to dwell on. Even if he did not share the same bond with him as Azaya, they did have a bond. Not something put so easily into words, because he did not share the same relationship with anyone else. Brotherhood, maybe. He knew they would both fight for each other.


    “Oh my dear mage,” Zevran countered, his words practically dripping with sarcasm, “Just because mine doesn’t light up doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous.”

    Azaya’s face was completely unreadable. Urges to lodge arrows in both of their shoulders washed over her like an electric current and her fingers subconsciously flinched toward her quiver resting on the windowsill. She knew that the mage’s main purpose of even speaking to Zevran was just to irk her enough to make it feel like it was an itch she couldn’t scratch. Annoyingly and always present. What the mage wasn’t prepared for was Zevran’s uncanny ability to turn any situation into a game. She could see the smug look on his face; the unspoken challenge that he was extending. They were both so irritating.

    “Stay.” The word washed out the drama and anger that were brewing in the back of her mind and brought her back to the reality staring her in the face. Her eyes looked up at him and then back down at the gentle grasp; their knotted fingers. So many thoughts and questions raced through her mind it was almost too exhausting to keep up. Was this smart for them to stay, regardless of how much her heart yearned to? Inhale. Exhale.

    “Juleeya’s been kidnapped.” The words made her face harden slightly. She had only met his sister once, a time that she had spent so long blocking out, but her face was still very prominent in the Crow’s mind. A tear stricken and hiccupping young woman, eyes locked on a gravesite, standing next to her. Both of them had such a unique way of mourning, and she remembered how open his sister was with her emotions compared to a statuesque Crow who only cried in the solitude of night. Azaya cast her eyes downward at the crumpled paper still resting in his palm. “My father is asking for soldiers to be sent to Amaranthine and meet with the Chantry’s Templars. Soldiers are good, but they’re not us, I can’t let something happen to her. Will you help me?”

    The mage, naturally, was the first to answer his question. He openly, willingly and without doubt committed to joining the warrior prince’s request. She hated him even more for his lack of hesitancy. Her eyes flicked over to him quickly, daggers forming a within her dark pupils, but she blinked them away quickly. Without warning her mind began to calculate all of the ‘coincidences’ that were piling up like a mountain of leaves in the autumn. One did not matter when it stood alone, but as they began to form a greater image than they could not be ignored. Both the mage and two Crows, one of which had been part of the last Blight, stood together with their leader under mysterious circumstances. And, somehow, they all found themselves in the home of the Arl- learning that Kieran’s sister is now gone.

    Azaya’s brow knitted together in thought and consideration. Was she ready for this? Could she possibly shake adventure’s hand again, accepting the unspoken contract, knowing how much was on the line? Did she have the strength to agree, the intelligence to piece together all of the unknown elements and enough faith to pursue through? She swallowed, choking down all the uneasy questions she refused to discuss, and looked up at Kieran. His face was the personification of confidence to her; as if these thoughts didn’t have a place to exist. It was almost as if he already knew what she would say.

    Her heart played a tug-of-war with her mind. Images, flashes, fears and triumphs all dances around in the back of her eyes showcasing every right and wrong. Her fingers tingled again with anticipation and she intuitively flexed them to rid herself of the sensation. Zevran shrugged at her from over his shoulder. His decision was on the side of whatever she decided- as if it would ever waver. Their pact as Crows, as partners in war, never did falter. He would be at her side until the end.

    So it was left up to her then. Azaya’s shoulders squared and her fingers curled around Kieran’s hand. Slowly, thoughtfully, she took a deep breath through her nose. Her eyes, dark, thoughtful and caring looked back at him with a soft gaze. “Yes. I will always be there. You know that.” The words had multiple meanings. The spoken acceptance to his question for help; the silent challenge to survive another quest.

    “I guess this means you get two for the price of one,” Zevran added, with an indifferent shrug. “This still doesn’t solve the problem of remaining in the Arl’s home. Unless the mage is suggesting using me as a snuggle buddy?”

    “Besides the last comment, I would have to agree with Zevran,” Azaya said quickly before the mage could respond. This whole day had exhausted her and she did not have the patience to deal with either of them. She would most likely kill both of them first. “Is it safe for us to stay here? We didn’t exactly walk through the front door.”


    Phoriden was not oblivious to Azaya trying to kill him with her eyes. He just chose to ignore her. If her eyes could actually kill, he would have been dead more times that could be counted on two hands already. And he did not even know what he had done to piss her off. It was like his very breathing was offensive. But he was not about to apologize. There were two possible scenarios taking place at the same time. Either this was the real Kieran, in which case he would help; or, this was a trick, but even then it would be better to stay close.
         Kieran smiled then at the third elf. He had half-expected his two friends to agree. He had not been certain, things could have changed, but they had accepted. They would put their own lives at danger again. But to have Zevran follow along was more than he had expected. “Thanks, all of you. I don’t know what I would’ve done if you’d said no.”
         Phoriden had been caught halfway ready to respond back to Zevran, but was also glad Azaya had stopped him. He did not want to end up promising more than he was willing to do. And it was obvious from the way Zevran said it, that he had no intend of snuggling.
          “It’s no problem, I’ll just explain to Isolde,” Kieran continued to talk. He was about to ask about whether they needed to share a room, cleverly disguising the question of their relationship, but stopped himself. If Azaya and Zevran was together he would not be flirting with Phoriden. So he did not make an ass out of himself.
          “Good night, Phoriden,” he said as he went to the door and opened it. The torches in the hallway were dimly beginning to burn out. “We’ll leave when the sun reaches azimuth.”
          “That means you need to get out of my closet,” Phoriden said to Zevran, though he smiled at him still. He was getting tired, and his eyelids were getting heavier. He had gotten used to getting more than 4 hours of sleep a night, and already knew he would be missing his own bed. And then there was that feeling. It was not a feeling of doom, exactly. More like there was much more to be discovered. Like their coming together, fighting the Blight and have Kieran return was just the prologue of what was to come. But if all that was just the beginning, he feared for what would happen before the intermission.
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 02-15-2017 at 06:45 PM. Reason: (via Threadmins and Group Moderators)

  5. #5
    Dragon Age: Blood Prophecy [Closed]
    Impatient Monarch

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    Chapter I: Three elves and a human

    She couldn’t understand why people enjoyed living in such large places. Every time you turned what you saw was some unexplored location that echoed with unfamiliar voices and unknown rooms behind locked doors. While Azaya was no stranger to uncharted territory, and usually welcomed it with enthusiasm, the idea of this all this space being confined to walled up prison and lack of freedom was almost suffocating. No wonder the mage loved it so, she silently mused with a ghost of a smile behind her eyes, as his personality was so fitting for this.

    The two Crows, with Kieran’s help, had now been formally invited to spend the night in the Arl’s residence. She could only imagine how that conversation had gone, but since the outcome was in their favor she didn’t dwell on it much. Azaya and Zevran were now being escorted to their own personal rooms. Her eyes would glance around at the various artifacts that were part of the décor as they walked; taking in the history that they each supplied. A few items were from the same Blight that Zevran was a part of, as he would so penitently confirm.

    It had not gone unnoted that the two of them shared a very similar, almost frighteningly too similar, past, and they had spent a good part of their time together sharing stories and difference from their trials. Azaya had found that it was easier to deal with the scars when someone understood what they stood for, and Zevran always liked to be a storyteller in his own way. She could recall nights where they wouldn’t sleep simply due to the fact they couldn’t stop talking about it. For her, she explained, it helped deal with the nightmares and hauntings that she constantly dealt with. Zevran said it was simply because he could talk to her about it and she would comprehend without a question.

    Zevran was the first to depart for his room and Azaya was led to hers only a few doors down. Their escort had opened the door with a slight bow and muttered something that she quickly dismissed. She stepped inside and let her eyes drink in the room. It seems the Arl, or Isolde, was no stranger to luxury and her gaze bounced between the golds and reds that sat on plush quilts upon the bed to the tapestries that dangled from the walls. The door closed softly behind her and what came with it was all of the overwhelming thoughts and feelings crashed on her shoulders. Azaya strode to the window and flung the doors upon; her body leaning desperately on the edge, lungs gasping for air. Everything that happened today had the Crow swimming against a riptide and she couldn’t get out.

    Azaya leaned forward and ran her hands through her hair; raking her fingertips through each of her locks. Her body craved to sleep under the stars and to have that comfort of the wilds just at her reach. The Blight seemed black and white compared to the last six hours of her life. She felt her cheeks flush with frustration as her lips caught the salty flavor of sadness as they fell down her face. Azaya cursed herself mentally for the weakness she was displaying. This was not the time to fall apart.

    “Awake, my dear?”

    When she turned to look over her shoulder at him, Zevran’s face shifted to the same gaze they had shared when reminiscing about their past travels: understanding. He slipped into the room, shut the door quietly and gracefully walked across to sit with her. Azaya had turned and slid down into the bench down underneath the window and dropped her head into her hands. Moments later she felt his palm make small and soothing circles across her back and shoulders. “Your room is much nicer than mine. I will be leaving my complaints with the Arl.”

    Azaya sent out a small laugh through her fingers and learned back so that her head rested on his shoulder. “It’s not my fault he likes me better.”

    “I don’t think it’s the Arl who is smitten with you,” Zevran countered and leaned his cheek on the top of her head. “His feelings for you haven’t changed.”

    Inhale. Exhale. “Mine haven’t changed for him.”

    She felt Zevran smile and nod his head. “I know, and I know you all too well. Those aren’t just tears of happiness, I’m guessing.”

    Azaya closed her eyes. He did know her all too well, and she lost count of how many times he had called her out on things she tried so desperately to keep hidden. For so long she had kept the walls up, created barriers, to protect herself and those she loved. But with the pending adventure looming over her, Kieran’s sudden appearance and all of the answers questions she could feel the walls slowly gaining fissures and weaknesses. If this was going to happen, Azaya was going to need help keeping these walls up. “They aren’t.”

    The next day.

    The left at early dawn just as Kieran had said. Two Crows, a resurrected warrior prince and a mage had started their journey and were a few hours in. Azaya rode her ahead of the others; her hand absentmindedly stroking the horses’ main gently. The stable master had told her the horses’ name was Luna and the name perfectly suited the creature’s personality and looks. With a dark heather gray color dotted with cream color spots, and a gentle but unpredictable spirit, Azaya felt as if this steed was just as magnificent as the celestial object she was named for.

    She slowly looked upward and took in a deep breath of the wild air. She had tossed and turned in the soft and plushness of the bed, gaining little rest, and she felt as if her mind was in a fog. Yet, she perused onward as she always did because that’s how she worked and it’s what Kieran needed her to do. She would be useless if she showed feebleness. “I believe there is a river just a few miles east of here. Maybe we should think about taking a quick rest before continuing on?”


    Thank you, brother. He leapt from the tower’s edge, his sword sliding through bone and blood right in between the archdemon’s eyes. As it did, the lenses of blight drew back from the dragon’s eyes and revealed the reptilian yellow eyes. He felt the claws of the dragon wrap around him and tug him into an embrace. Flat against the cold scales, he heard the las beat of Lusacan’s heart as his own vision dimmed and blackened. She can hurt us no longer.
         He never felt himself land on the ground. He was surrounded by water. Completely divulged in the wet. His mouth was filled with water, his ears were blocking out the water from getting into his skull, his eyes hurt from the cold trying to invade. But there was no surface and no bottom. It was water as far as he could see in the darkness. He tried to swim, but he did not know which way, so he just tried whichever, but it he got nowhere. There was dim moonlight, but he was unable to locate where it came from. When he pushed out air from his mouth the bubbles did not flow to the surface, they just stood still in the water, like they were frozen in time. The clothes he was wearing made it difficult to swim, but they did not make him sink, he was just still in the lifeless water. He had to breathe and his lungs started to fill. He woke up drenched in sweat, so much he could have been swimming.
         He got out of the wet sheets and went to the nightstand to wash off. He could hear the waves crash against the cliffs under the castle. Isolde had given him his old room, overlooking the lake. It was supposed to be calming. He was not calm. He had been calm before. When he jumped off the tower and plunged his sword into the last of the old gods, he had been calm. He had known what would happen. He had been prepared. There were things he had not done because he knew how things would end. Now he was alive again, and the future was filled with possibility. Possibilities that scared him.
         Not sleeping did not help either. Before he could sleep anywhere, whether it was a fancy bed or the ground, but now he only got a few hours in before the nightmare came back and he woke up in a pool of his own sweat. He did not know if being dead meant he had been rested enough to live off three hours of sleep, but it would have to do for now. He had gotten used to only sleeping a few hours while traveling with Azaya and Phoriden, but he did not want it to impact his reflexes. He did not feel like death had slowed him down. He felt strong. Maybe even stronger than before. Like death had been a good long nap and now his body as rejuvenated and ready for use. His mind was another story.
         Mistakenly, the stablemaster had prepared four horses that morning. While trying to explain why, Phoriden walked out of the castle with a sour look on his face, as if called to explain why they only needed three horses. He did not respond to the prince’s greeting of a good morning, he stretched and groaned before he disappeared in a cloud of smoke and light and a large raven took off in his place. Kieran turned to face Zevran while straddling up on the white horse. “Don’t mind him, he’s not a morning person. You’re lucky if you get anything but rolling eyes out of him before ten.”
         They rode fast. Not full gallop, but faster than just walking. The trip was long enough that they would have to make a stop for the night, and even if time was precious, they could only travel so fast. And exhausting the horses now would not benefit them tomorrow. He had nodded to Azaya’s suggestion and smiled when the sunlight reflected off her hair with a shimmer.
         Phoriden had been keeping an eye on them from above, gliding on the winds under his wings. The sky was almost clear and the sun was hot. It was not too windy, so flying was easy. He remembered the first few times he had tried to fly, and how Kieran had laughed at him. It was not as instinctive as it looked, but eventually he had learned.
         It was little later than noon when he landed in a branch in the tree the horses had been bound to, with tall grass for them to eat from. Smoke and light transformed him back into his elven form, his feet dangling from the branch he was sitting on. His shoulder muscles hurt from the flight, so he began stretching them silently.
          “Phoriden, don’t you think you’re a bit overdressed?” Kieran asked with a smirk as he got the pan and some pieces of meat from the pack on his horse. He knew Phoriden liked nice things, but this was extravagant even for him. They were crafted from a tailor, who used to work for the Tevinter Magisterium. His robes were made for magister’s only, until he had to flee the imperium. The regalia was made from deep crimson silk, purple velvet and golden cord. The belt was bejeweled with emeralds and the robes were set with a large emerald over the heart. The flared sleeves had sigils woven into them, the gloves open-fingered so spells could be cast easier.
          “You see this?” he asked and pointed to the jewel placed in the middle of his chest. He was not going to go into detail about why he had spent so much on such clothes. Sure, the collar was obscenely tall behind his head, and the shoulder pieces were more decorative than actual protection, but there was hidden power in these garments. Because he did not ever want to be in a situation again where he could not save someone. “This is going to save you, when you have a dragon claw dug into your stomach.”


    “Can you please just go back to bird form so I can kill you with an arrow and we can roast you for dinner?” Azaya said dryly, rubbing her shoulder with her hand. The damn knot had been there since last night and the lack of sleep didn’t help. She shot her eyes up at him, sitting on a branch, and just rolled them before taking an arrow out of her quiver. “It was quieter, anyway,” she muttered, loading the arrow into her bow and pulling the string back to have her wrist sit at her cheek. Inhale. Exhale. Her fingers extended and the arrow flew fiercely though the air and jammed itself into the bark of a tree; just in the center of the knot she was aiming for.

    She rolled her head around her shoulders and tried to stretch out the muscles in her neck. Hopefully just being outside tonight would help. Azaya hadn’t slept so horribly since the first night without Kieran. And even if the aches and pains were still there; they were applied far beyond what she could tolerate. The outdoors, the blanket of peace and finality, could provide some solitude. The small group hadn’t been outside enough for the idea to take effect. For now, she just lodged another arrow into her bow and shot it off without another word.

    Zevran watched her as he leaned over to draw out something from his satchel hung from his saddle. The bags under her eyes were subtle but noticeable and the way she danced each arrow in her fingers before loading it let him know she didn’t sleep at all. He had offered to stay with her until she fell asleep, but she insisted that two sleep-deprived Crows were going to be useless in this situation. So, reluctantly, he retired for the night and left her to her thoughts and emotions.

    Quickly, he thought of their conversation just hours ago and how much she had said. Many of the words she spoke he knew of already, but it seemed that each syllable tumbled out of her mouth at such an alarming rate. It only meant that there was too much going on; too many uncontrollable circumstances that she was reeling. Of course, he knew exactly how she felt, to some extent, and was at least able to converse with her. It had lowed her anxiety it seemed. Still, he knew her all too well and those arrows she was currently letting fly were more of a metaphor than anyone else could see.

    He smiled and brought over some water that he drew from his leather bag. “Don’t be so harsh on him, Azaya,” he said handing her the canteen and looking up at the mage, “he just likes to be flamboyant.” Zevran caught a ghost of a smile from her before her eyes shifted quickly to Kieran. Above all else her thoughts would always be of him, and Zevran knew how lovely and dangerous that could be. He caught her eye again; their silent discussion resuming without fail, and his golden eyes asked if she had slept at all.

    Azaya’s eyebrows had popped up, explaining and confirming that she didn’t, and she turned to let her back face everyone and her eyes focus on the tree in front of her. Life seemed easier, simpler and clearer when she could focus on one thing: one idea. That knot, where the tree bended and wound around itself, a small target that seemed impossible to it; gave her the chance to be free. “Does flamboyant mean annoying?” she asked, the questioned muttered with exhaustion and took a sip of water. Azaya handed it back to Zevran before taking out another arrow. It twirled violently in her fingers, her blue-green eyes dark and intently fixated on the bulge in the tree.

    And she sighed. The arrow’s movements dulled to a small spin. “We shouldn’t stay long.” Suddenly, the woods never felt so suffocating and she wanted to move on. The faster the group got to his sister; the faster the knot in the tree was replaced by flesh.


    Though he was not about to let her kill him, he did turn back into hos flying form and set off from the tree, leaving the trio to deal with themselves. Sore wings or not, he was not going to stay around and be some murderer-for-hire’s punching bag. He had done nothing to warrant that.
         Kieran sighed slightly inwards. Those two. Some things surely had not changed in his absence. He had hoped they would have helped each other in his absence, but it seemed things were just as bad as he had left them. If not worse. He knew Phoriden would return once he was done steaming off, so instead he would concentrate on the other.
          “Zevran, do you think you could go get some wood?” he asked the elf. He suspected the elf would catch on to it not being an order, but an excuse for him to leave them alone for a few minutes. “I think we need to cook some food.”
         He put the pan down on the ground with the packaged fish in it and instead went to obscure the target practice, knowing full-well that she might decide to shoot him rather than face him. He stood there for a small moment, just looking into her eyes.
          “Hi,” he said simply, his lips crocked in a half-grin. He was not going to school her or take sides. He was not a parent of neither of those two. He wanted to talk to her because he knew her animosity was not about the mage. “You look tired.”


    There was a small internal flinch when she saw the puff of smoke and the flutter of wings from the corner of her eye. She never did get along with the mage, but that didn’t mean that she wouldn’t lay down her life to protect him if the time came. Her eyes closed and they felt heavy like lead; the weight of her actions causing her stomach to turn. Maybe if she had just had the chance to sleep, even an hour more, then she could have bit back her comments and save herself the apology she would have to mutter later.

    Zevran rested a hand gently on her shoulder and from a distance she could hear Kieran ask if he could go gather firewood. This meant only one thing, and Azaya didn’t know if she was ready for it. Her partner gave her should one last reassuring squeeze before departing, and her heart started to race. Heat and anxiety spread through her veins like wildfire. Her eyes shifted away. She hadn’t been alone with him, not yet and not since his death, and so many thoughts had pounded through her mind with each beat of her heart.

    “Hi.” She didn’t even hear him approach; her own thoughts and worries drowning out all the external noise. Azaya cursed herself silently before taking a slow and deep breath. She finally looked up at him. At the time, even though the mage said he looked the same, Azaya still saw him as a dream. His face, eyes, lips and figure were all there, standing before her, but she still had a difficult time accepting it. The woods made it seem more real because this is where they belonged.

    This was where they sat together, long after the others had gone to sleep, and whispered stories of battles and booze. This was where they would steal gazes of each other from across a flickering fire as others discussed strategies for the next part of their journey. This was where they could feel the stars outlining their story but only they could see what they were telling. This was where they silently fell for each other. This was where it became real and no longer a dream.

    “You look tired.” Azaya’s eyebrows popped up and her head tilted dramatically to the side as if to say: ‘you’re kidding right?’ She smiled then, from within her eyes, realizing that she only did that for him. Right through the wall, as always. Her shoulders eased away from tension, and her hands rested on her hips; her bow balancing on the bone. “I didn’t mean to snap at him,” she whispered. Azaya dropped her head, the strands of red-brown hair dangling over her eyes. The Crow sighed and looked back up at him with hair dancing at the corner of her eyes. “The lack of sleep isn’t letting me bite back my words as easily as I’d like to.”

    Inhale. Exhale. Their eyes locked on each other, and Azaya found herself lost within them. “There were so many…” she started and then swiped her tongue across her dry lips. The words, questions, thoughts were not stringing together as she wanted them to. She was too exhausted to think, but who knows when she would get the chance again. Inhale. Exhale. Her fingers tingled with anticipation. “I wished every night that I could see you one more time; just so I could ask you… talk to you…” She laughed at herself. “And now that I can… I don’t know what to say.”


    He absent-mindedly moved the lock of hair out of her face and fastened it behind her ear. Then he realized he had been doing it, and retracted his arm gently. He let her speak as he looked into her eyes. They looked like orbs of moving sea water the way the sunlight traced them through the leaves in the trees. He knew it was different for her. He had missed her the week he had been alive again, she had missed him for two years.
          “There are things I want to say too,” he confessed. Things she probably already knew. He needed to say them anyway. “But now’s not the time. When we get back we should go somewhere… And talk…”
          “You need to get some sleep,” he said as he went back to the fish and began to clean them. “I’ll be too worried if you’re not at your optimal. We don’t know what we’re up against. If you can’t sleep tonight, you should drink some of Phoriden’s sleepytime tea.”
          “It’s not magic, it’s just herbs,” he added quickly and pointed at her with one of the fish before she could object. Maybe it was stupid of him to talk about magic when she was already on edge, but this was how he usually dealt with it. He tumbled his way through her defenses and dealt with the issues at the core. “How’s it going with all that? Does he know?”


    For a brief moment she felt the trail of his fingers tingle along her skin long after he removed them. Internally she yearned for him to keep going, but her mind knew better than to wish for the impossible. This was not the time, as Kieran had explained, and Azaya just shrugged and followed him back leaving it all behind. She exhaled heavily and rolled her eyes when he mentioned the mage. That seemed to be the natural reaction when anyone mentioned anything about him. “If you think for one moment,” she started as she sat against the trunk of a near by tree, drawing her knees close to her so she could rest her forearms on them, “that I would trust anything that man gives me; you are sorely mistaken.”

    She cast her eyes to the side to avoid making direct contact with his. “I’ll be fine,” she muttered sourly. “Besides, we are outside and I always sleep better outside.” Azaya picked at her fingers and deliberately ignored his comments about magic, especially the question that followed. This was a topic that the woman did not want to discuss- even if it was Kieran who brought it up. Her eyes narrowed as she looked back up at him and her brows knitted together.

    Why was it always about magic? First, it was Zevran bringing up the idea of blood magic and the recollection of their conversation made her fingers curl. Blood magic, beyond its enviable infamous reputation, was a very sore topic to the elven woman’s life. Then, the mage comes walking back into her life without cause and just solidifies the whispers that Kieran was home. It wasn’t as if Phoriden and Azaya were enemies, but she found better company among others in the group. His sassy and overachieving attitude just gave her more of a just cause to dislike those with magic. She was far from that line of thought and didn’t how others could share his lifestyle.

    And now Kieran had to ask. It wasn’t enough that he could just ask her anything and she would willingly answer, was it? Was anything going to be enough? Azaya slipped her eyes to the side again. “Know what?” she said with her tone indicating that she didn’t want to talk. Inhale. Exhale. She closed her eyes and let her mind concentrate on her heart, the wind flowing through the trees; anything besides her own venomous ideas. “There is nothing to tell him,” she finally said with her words sounding much more like herself.


    “I meant Zevran,” he answered her, but not angrily. He knew she was angry, and he knew he was part of why, but he also got the feeling there was something she was not sharing with him. How was he going to make her comfortable enough to talk to him without prying? He just wanted things to go back to the way they were before, but something had changed. It was like blinking and the whole world had shifted.
          “He is the one who used to travel with my parents, right?” he asked and looked over at her. Rays of sun broke through the leaves of the tree she was sitting at as a breeze riffled through the leaves, almost like a higher power was trying to shine on her. Almost like the sunlight was trying to annoy her. So much that he had to look up and double-check that there was not a certain crow moving the branches.
         With the fish cleaned, but no fire to cook them on, he put the pan down and went to sit down next her. He drew up his knees and knocked one against hers. “Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the help. It just seems oddly coincidental that two of Ferelden’s heroes end up working together.”
         And now he was sounding like he was accusing her of something. That was not what he meant. “A lot of this seems strangely coincidental. You two seem close, though. Like you really understand each other. That makes me…”
         He lost his words again. He usually was not this inarticulate. How did his brain get so scrambled? Somehow he could only focus on the spot where his knee was connected to hers. “Ehh… Calm, I think. Like if I went to rest in peace now, I would be more restful.”


    It had been a long time, a very long time, that Azaya actually laughed. Her eyebrows popped up amplifying her amused facial features as he spoke. She had known him for so long that the way he was acting and speaking was so comically uncharacteristic that she couldn’t hold back. Azaya laughed softly and shook her head. “Zevran and I have an unusual bond.”

    She looked down at their knees, slightly touching, and closed her eyes. The sensation was one she had dreamt of for so many nights. “You know what it’s like,” she started, looking over at him. “We went through very similar things, some of them we don’t ever talk about, and fought beside each other for years. We are siblings in arms.” Azaya took a breath and studied his face. The softness of his eyes with a hint of sadness and desire swirling within his irises. His strong jaw that only softened when he smiled and his hands that were chapped with the scars of a warrior.

    It was then she realized that she had built up this image in her mind; a portrait of this would be king that she had shared so much with. Even when he was gone for those long two years, Azaya had never stopped believing that he this person she had always visualized would appear again. However, she did always think that would be when she met her own death and not by mysterious circumstances but she would not complain at the moment.

    The Crow took in a deep breath. She was never the one to explain things accurately with her words, always depending on her actions on doing the translations for her, and defining her emotions was proving immensely harder. Suddenly she felt her cheeks flush with heat. Quickly she looked down and rubbed the back of her neck. “My father,” she cleared her throat and looked over at him again. A surge of anger for being so childish about this surged through her veins but she was able to contain it much easier. It was simpler than if had been the mage.

    “My father,” Azaya began again, “in the few memories I have of him, would always tell me: ‘Life always has a path laid out before you by fate or destiny, but it is up to you to choose which path you decide to take.’” Inhale. Exhale. And, for the first time in forever, the woman built on pride, perseverance and strength did something out of her comfort zone. Turning her gaze away from him she took her hand and gently rested it on top of his knee that was touching hers. Then, without taking her eyes away from her resting hand, she delicately rested her head on his shoulder.

    “I think it’s pretty clear on which path I have chosen to walk,” she said after a few heartbeats of silence. This was the only way she could show him, prove to him, that even in death her alliance and more always belonged to him. “Besides if you went to rest in peace after all of this- I would find a way to bring you back, again, so I could kill you myself,” she said with much more laughter in her voice than she’d had in a long time.


    He felt his heart skip a beat when her hand touched his knee., but when it started beating again it was with the strength of a wyvern. It had not beat so hard since he breached the surface of the lake, and even if it was only a week ago, it felt the same. Like his lungs filled with air for the first time and even as he breathed in, the scent of her hair filled his nostrils as he felt the weight of her skull rest on his shoulders. It was like a key was turned in his back and the stiffness in his shoulder muscles were released so they could finally relax even as they supported her head.
         He was not ignoring her, but he was too entranced by the words she was not saying to respond. The paths they had chosen was something they never spoke of. Before he had promised his life away to save Thedas, but now things were different. Now they could walk the path together. He had died for the world once already, this time around he would not go hunting for archdemons. They had avoided this as long as they had known each other. They had to because his fate had been sealed. But it was different now. Gently he shifted so they faced each other.
          “I know I let you down, but it’s not like that now. This time I’ll never let you go,” he whispered as his gaze met with her swirling orbs of green and blue, but his eyes closed as his lips neared to hers.


    Breathe. Breathebreathebreathe. It felt surreal, dream-like even, to have this daydream that she had played over and over in her mind suddenly come to life. It was much more simple than she imagined it, but then again she had never fathomed mentioning about her father. Somehow it made it easier; better even. She turned to look at him when he shifted; her throat dry with anticipation. Daydreams were a lot easier to follow through with.

    Neither of them spoke for a minute but let their eyes do the speaking and the electricity flow between them. There was only one other person who could communicate silently with her, but even she had to admit that even Zevran couldn’t compete with Kieran. Azaya listened to him as he told her he had let her down and promised never to do it again. Her brows wanted to furrow together in anger but her eyes softened instead. How could he ever think that he had let her down? The thought never crossed her own mind. He had been faithful to his purpose, she knew and accepted that, and it had been neither of their faults that they felt the way they did…

    …before. That was before. Before he came back from the dead and before everything changed. That was before she had to build up the walls and have him tear them back down. What if she let him down? What if the girl behind the walls was nothing that he expected or wanted? Thoughts were suddenly replaced by emotions as the leaves rustled above them and wind swept them away. It was just them. It always would be just them, and suddenly Azaya didn’t feel so alone anymore. Together they learned in, eyes on eyes until finally they let the electricity speak for them to draw them closer.

    “Oh no…” Snap. Crack. Bang!

    Azaya froze. I. Am. Going. To. KILL HIM. Their lips were centimeters apart and the desire still hung in between their unfulfilled kiss. She swallowed hard and rested her head against his. “I’m sorry,” she whispered to him; though she felt as if she needed to for herself as well. Finally, reluctantly, she pulled back and looked over at Zevran dusting himself off. He clearly had not compensated for the branches weak spots, his own weight, and the undeniable bad luck that she had before crawling onto it and crashing into a moment she so desperately needed. “You,” she whispered though the tone was so terrifying she could feel the anger seep through the pores of her skin, “have three seconds to give me a good excuse of why I SHOULDN’T KILL YOU!”

    Zevran shrugged with indifference and smiled charmingly. “As if I would miss this show?” he finished with a grin thinking it would disarm her. He wasn’t all too surprised when the situation wasn’t instantly diffused but he had half hoped it would work. What he got in response was a very angry Crow woman who had stood up, dusted off her knees and marched over to her bow and quiver resting on a tree trunk nearby.

    He sighed. “Alright. I’m sorry,” he said mustering as much meaning as he could without sounding too sarcastic (not an easy thing if someone would ask Zevran). He shook his head as she leaned over and loaded up an arrow into the bow. “Azaya, I mean it! I just…” He looked at her; the blue and green eyes sparking with tints of red. They had spoken enough times, she had told him her suspicions, and it was an adequate indication that no amount of sass and charm was going to get him out of this. “You know why.”

    Inhale. Exhale. Her fingers tightened on the bow; the string groaned with the desire to release the arrow. Thoughts of killing and red ebbed and flowed through her mind like a wild fire. Azaya closed her eyes and thought back to the feeling she had moments before and the peace it brought before her fingers let go of her weapon and it fell to the ground with a soft thump. When her eyes reopened the tingle of read had receded back into the hues of green and blue, and her lips puffed up with a sigh. She pointed a hard finger at Zevran, her nails digging into her palms with annoyance, before turning on her heel and losing herself within the trees.


    Instinct told him to look at the disturbance, but when he saw the elf on the ground, he chuckled lowly, feeling Azaya’s forehead against his own. He shifted his weight back and leaned against the trunk of the tree, not having realized just how angry the crow had gotten at the interruption. He kept his tongue as he watched the interaction between the two, not oblivious to the masked words Zevran spoke.
         He was still surprised Azaya pointed her weapon at him. And something in the way she looked told him she was not kidding. As annoying as the exhibitionist elf’s timing was, it was not worth killing him over, especially not if she was as close to him as she claimed. He was about to get up to calm her down when he saw. Lines of red flickered in her sea green eyes, like little sparks ready to turn into a fire. But then she stopped and dropped her weapons.


    Zevran exhaled and rubbed his forehead before turning his attention to Kieran. “Well, if I go after her I will probably get killed, but if you go after her you’ll probably get laid. I think it’s safe to say you have the better odds.”


    “Yeah, well, I’m a lot handsomer, that’s probably why,” he answered the narcissistic elf with a smirk as he leaned against the tree trunk to get back on his feet. “I cleaned the fish, try to get the fire working, I’ll get her back.”
         She had gone further than he expected, but eventually he heard the sound of stone meeting the surface of water and he followed it to find her throwing pebbles into the river. “You know, with both you and Phoriden gone, I quite literally lost half my army.”
         He leaned against a nearby tree, close enough that they could talk, but without intruding too much on her personal space. “It’s probably better like this anyway. When I said it wasn’t the time, I meant it. I want it to be done right. Not shoved in between coming back from the dead and saving my sister. We don’t need to rush, we have all the time in the world.”


    He had initially decided to stay away for the remainder of the day. Not because he was afraid of her threat to shoot him, but because he was not going to get dragged into another argument just because she was unable to deal with Kieran’s return. He was not going to be her punching bag. There was nothing he could say to make her stop believing what she believed. But now his stomach was developing its own language from hunger, and while he could stay in his bird-form and peck out worms from the ground, that grossed him out too much. So he returned to the camp, he really had just as much right to be in as her, and transformed into his own self.
         He was ready for her word vomit, but found the place vacant except for her friend. He rethought again if he was really that hungry. Not that he knew enough about Zevran to have anything against him, but that was also why he hesitated. The only Crow he had ever met was her, and if he was as bigoted and spiteful as her, things could get very ugly, very fast. But, he had tried to defend him with Azaya, and that spoke for something. He stepped into the clearing, waving slightly as he spoke: “Hi.”
          “Do you want some help with that?” he asked as he saw the branches gathered but unlit. He sat down on his knees next to the dry branches, rubbing his hands against each other so a small glow formed that he threw on the branches. If Zevran was as much of a magiphobe as Azaya, then he would just have to get over it. Still, he smiled politely at the other elf, not wanting to seem too rude. Just rude enough. “Did they go off so they can look at each other longingly?”


    He didn’t mind the alone time, but in fact he welcomed it at this exact moment. Zevran had spent such a long time traveling with his counterpart that these moments of silence were almost a relief. He felt guilty for thinking it, even if she would probably tell him she had similar ideas, but sometimes it was trying to keep her together when he himself was a wind’s blow away from toppling over. What was funny, he mused, was that neither of them would admit this to the other. So, here he sat, trying with extreme failure to start a fire or not put blisters on his hand.

    Zevran heard the mage long before he spoke and he looked up with a small lopsided smile. Azaya had shared her stories, of course, but he always took that with a grain of salt because she was speaking about magic. It was easier for him to form his own story and he could see where Azaya could be annoyed by some of the quirks and the actions that he did. However, from his own observations, the mage wasn’t anything but a well-dressed individual who could tolerate a rather obnoxious woman and that was good in his book.

    “No,” he said with a small ghost of a grin. “Well, actually I don’t know.” He shrugged and leaned back on his heels; giving up on his futile attempts at starting a flame, as the mage stepped in to help. “She’s in more of a foul mood thanks to me, and Kieran went to go and try and calm her down. So I’m sure that’s involved somehow.” He laughed to himself. “I have that effect on her sometimes. I tend to drop in at the wrong moments.” Zevran motioned his chin in the direction of the large fallen branch that sat nearby as the piece of evidence. “Literally.”


    He looked to were Zevran was gesturing, but did not quite connect the dots as to what had happened. He thought they had used the fallen branches for the fire. To keep his hands bus he took the pan and placed it on top of the heating branches, and started to inspect the had been cleaned properly. “What did you do? Breathe in her general direction?”
         Something was different about him. He was still smiling, but it the carefree attitude he had projected up until now was gone. Not that he expected to be flirted with when Azaya was not around to be annoyed by it, but clearly, he was not unphased by his own spat with Azaya, still he had not gone for the hills after it. Instead he had stayed, and waited for the princess to calm down. “I don’t know how you deal with all her madness.”


    “You’d be surprised by how much madness we actually share,” Zevran countered with an arch of his brow. Those two were clearly black and white; polar opposites of each other, and they seemed to live to get on each other’s nerves. Still, he understood her more than the mage or prince, and these last few years they trusted each other more than any other soul currently present. It wasn’t surprising that he would stand up for her in her absence. “While I admit she is a little bit on the aggressive side, you have to admit that she has gone through just as much as you have.” He looked up and made eye contact with the mage. “If not more.”

    The lack of sarcasm and sass was so unlike the male crow’s normal personality that it even stunned him. Perhaps it was the lack of sleep or the previous events that caused this, and he rubbed at his eyes with exhaustion and looked back down at the crackling fire. It illuminated his face with a soft warm orange; the crackle from the burning wood caused him to think back. “Azaya will always joke and say we are siblings,” he smiled so softly it seemed almost invisible to the naked eye. “Yes, believe it or not the woman has a sense of humor. You just have to be patient enough to see through the bullshit.”

    He reached over and picked up a long stick and started to poke and prod the fire to move some of the pieces of wood around. “I understand what she’s gone through, so it’s easier for me to see though it all.”


    He was rolling his eyes before he could catch and stop himself. Phoriden did not presume to know what either crows had been through, but neither knew what he had been through either. And no matter the amount of shit she had been through did not excuse her biting his head off for existing. She should have seen by now that they were on the same side. Instead she acted like every mage-fearing village idiot.
          “Let’s agree on something,” he said as he poked the fire with a stick he had found on the ground. “I don’t presume to know what you’ve been through, and you don’t presume to know what I’ve been through, deal?”
          “And I’m not going to feel sorry for her, when she’s the one barking at me, so don’t even,” he added and threw the branch on top of the others on the fire. It was not that he had expected Zevran to talk bad about her. He was not trying to turn them against each other. He was not even sure why he was even talking to him to begin with.
         He tugged the cloak closer around himself. Not because he was cold, sitting near the fire. None of them were here because life had been easy on them. He may not have been in love with Kieran the way Azaya was, but he did love him. He was the only friend he had ever had. The only true one, at least. All the others he had thought were his friends turned into blood mages and tried to kill him. Not that he was not sure the life of a crow was not filled with betrayal as well, but that did not make it okay to snap at him. He stayed quiet and watched the sparks of the fire lift into the air.


    Zevran stayed quiet and continued to poke the fire with a little more aggression. He watched through the flicker of the flames as the mage spoke and pulled his robes closer. His eyes, usually filled with mirth, were expressionless. “You judge too easily,” he said slowly and lost his gaze in the bottom of the fire pit. “And just so you know, I don’t presume anything. But your body language seems you are little straightforward in your arguments.” He shrugged indifferently. “Maybe it comes with the title.”

    He stopped and sighed to himself. “Have you once stopped and thought to ask what was Azaya prior to your meeting or what happened in the time she was absent in your life? Have you thought the same for me?” His fingers tightened around the stick and jabbed it so that the mound of wood became loose and crumbled so the fire would have room to grow. Much like a stab of a dagger. “You say you won’t feel sorry for her, but what would you feel sorry for? It looks to me that you presume that the weight of Kieran returning is all that sits on her shoulders, but maybe it’s something else?”

    This was something that he knew well, and the words that he was speaking weren’t coming out rude or obnoxious but rather speaking from experience. He wasn’t going to fix any relationship between the two, that was not his purpose, but he was not going to be spoken to so negatively by anyone. He recalled the tug at the robe and remembered a certain someone who did something similar. It caused his eyes to fade. “Is something bothering you? You don’t have to tell me a thing, of course, but it would turn into a very boring conversation.”


    There they went again with the title. His eyes almost got stuck in the back of his skull. He had to take a very, very deep breath and concentrate on the fire rather than on the man for a while. “I don’t see what either of you going through before you met me, warrants yelling at me for no reason.”
          “What’s bothering me,” he started speaking slowly, not talking down to him, but more to keep himself from raising his voice. “Is that she snaps at me for no reason. Yes, I’m straightforward, I much prefer it to people who can’t say what’s actually bothering them, and instead says they want to kill people over what they wear. She’s just so- !”
         He had to stop himself again. He took another breath to regain control of himself, but moved his sight from the fire to the patch of grass he was slowly dragging from the earth. “She acts like I’m this horrible person. And I’m not going to pretend I understand why people assume mages are all evil to begin with, but it’s not like we just met. We’ve been through a blight together. We’ve battled together. We’ve gone through impossible things together. But she stills treats me like I’m some sort of villain. And I’m not, so I don’t know why she has to make me feel like one.”
         And then he realized what he was doing. In his stubbornness he had tried to argue that bluntness was better, and in doing so had opened himself up to a stranger and shared something he did not actually want to share. The stiffness returned to the muscles in his face, and he looked through the fire at the other man. “I don’t expect you to understand.”


    He watched him open up and then seal himself shut so quickly. If either Azaya or Phoriden took the time to realize how similar they both were than this constant drama would be at an end. The Crow didn’t say anything at first, and he thought through his words very carefully. He only had to do this for two others in his life and one of them he no longer had the pleasure of her company. “But if course I do,” he eventually said and looked up at the man through the tongue of fire. “While you have the displeasure of being known for your magic and looked down upon for such a great skill; I have the unfortunate annoyance of being a Crow and known only for killing and other unhappy endings. Which, I also do with great skill.” He poked the fire once and added, “It doesn’t make it easy to find friends.”

    His thoughts were lost in the crackle and color of the fire and they brought him back to a time long ago and rarely spoken about. Zevran had gone through his own Blight, shared countless memories with his fellow warries around similar fires and had to break through barriers, and lived through fights to celebrate victory and survive losses. To say that this had become his fate was an understatement. “You know she’s afraid of magic, don’t you?” he said with a hoarse voice; his words raspy with memories. “Did you ever think of why? She shows you only one side of herself because it’s protection.” Zevran looked back up. “I’ve done the same before; a long time ago.”

    Her voice hadn’t graced his mind in such a long time that it felt foreign and almost unwelcome; the recollection of her was the same. He could see her smile and the color of her hair as the edge of the fire’s flame seemed to outline her image for him. The bright eyes that kept him steady and melted away all his own walls and insecurities had looked at him through the flicker of red. The man hadn’t seen her in so long that he had almost ached to jump into the fire to be with her again. “To understand someone, a person has to look at them from all angles as if they were studying a work of art. That’s because you’re not trying to understand the piece itself but the artist’s thoughts and feelings. Who they are since they speak through their work.” He smiled sadly as the image in the flame seemed to disappear. Zevran turned his eyes away and twirled the tip of the branch in the dirt to make tiny patterns. “Someone had to teach me that lesson a long time ago.”

    Why had he so suddenly opened up like this? He hadn’t made mention of her since the early years of Azaya’s and his relationship. Still, Zevran had seen a small piece of who Phoriden really was so he returned the favor. It was only fair. “I hope that you and Azaya learn to understand each other before it’s too late. You’ve been through too much together to let a friendship like that go to waste.” The words with tinted with sadness because he himself wished he followed his own words of wisdom. It was true however, that age does make the mind grow wiser. Zevran smirked suddenly, the brightness in his eyes returning. “I’ve told her all of this before as well, mind you, but she is a stubborn pain in ass after all,” he finished with a wink and went back to tending the fire.


    He wanted to point out that he was not the reason she was a magiphobe. He wanted to point out that even if the Crows took children and taught them to be crows, it was not the same as being hated for something they were born with. Magic to a mage was as natural as running or breathing. It was an ability, not a profession. But he recognized that Zevran was trying to build a bridge, so he kept quiet.
         And then something changed in the elf on the other side of the flames. A shapeless emotion crept into the camp like a fog. His blue eyes looked straight at his brown, but Zevran was not seeing him. He was looking at something in the fire between them. He suddenly felt a great sadness in the man, and had he been closer he would probably have tried to comfort him. But then he reminded himself that they had barely just met, and such a thing would be incredibly inappropriate and definitely unwanted. So he stayed still.
          “You know, some might find stubbornness to be sort of a quirky, cute quality,” he tried to answer when Zevran had regained his composure, but the way he had looked before still haunted him. So quite unlike himself he crawled around the small fire and placed himself next to the other elf so they could look at the fire together. He did not speak at first, because he did not want to over-step. “Well, I know she didn’t teach you that. So who did? If it’s okay that I ask.”


    There was an air of understanding that hung between them; as if nothing else needed to be said. In a way they were both similar in their upbringing though how their world connected was a little obscure. Suddenly he felt his hands moved on their own accord, with the branch as an extension of his thoughts and fingers, and he found himself outlining something rather odd. Eyes. They had always stuck with him and he remembered how clear they were on a night similar to this. Zevran found himself smiling through his own gaze as his imagined the person who they belonged to.

    He wiped them away quickly with a flourish of his foot when he saw Phoriden approach and sit near him. It was a little bit of a quick reaction but the two hadn’t known each other for that long, and he wasn’t in the mood to reveal too much. Words were one thing, but images were another. To him they were much more personal. “Of course you may ask,” he answered, “but you already know of her.” Zevran turned his head to face Phoriden but his shoulders lacked their normal composure and confidence. “She was the Hero of Ferelden.” He chuckled slightly to clear the sadness from his voice and added, “Azaya and I have a lot in common besides bad attitudes and an aptitude to kill,” he finished with a wink.

    “I hated her at first: the hero,” he said turning back toward the fire and looking at growing flame. He half hoped she would walk out of it. “Since she was a noble and I despised most nobility. They always carried the air of entitlement with them. Well, the ones I dealt with anyway,” he said lifting a shoulder in a half-hearted shrug. “I judged her far too quickly and I just simply kept up appearances so I could have my hand in the Blight. I had to since she did ruin my attempts to kill her. Not a moment I am proud of, as it did take a hit to my ego, and it doesn’t happen often. But with her, well, with her it happened all the time.” Zevran dipped his head downward and looked at this dirt-caked hands. He spread his fingers wide and closed them into a fist. “She saw past everything and saw me. It took me a while before I let myself see her.”

    He smiled then, not a charming and self-confident grin, but an emotion that he just couldn’t place. Was this because he didn’t feel like this for such a long time that he couldn’t place the name? The Crow’s head lifted again and turned to look at the man sitting beside him. “She was my best friend and I miss her every day.” The words barely escaped his lungs, and Zevran realized it was probably because he had never admitted it out loud before. Not even to Azaya. Not even to himself. So why now? He cleared his throat again and turned his head so that he could rub the back of his neck. “My apologies. I did not mean to bore you with the tales of my past.”


    He did not have to tell him these things. He did not know why he was telling him these things. But as he did the carefree, joking, slightly annoying façade melted away and in case he was seeing the deep, hurt, slightly broken man behind it. He was not going to say he could relate. Even if he had lost someone to the grasp of death, all he saw when he thought of her was the betrayal.
         Part of him wanted to wrap his arms around him to try and make him feel better. Another part wanted to cry over the sadness in his voice. But both would be wildly inappropriate and selfish. Instead he took his hand and gave it a light squeeze. “Don’t say that.”
         He had expected the skin to be softer, though he realized how dumb an assumption that was. Obviously his hands were marked by his life as a crow. It was not soft, but it was slim and strong. He could slightly feel his heartbeat through the palm. He noticed the dirt on them, but it did not make him retreat his hand. Instead he squeezed it again. He wanted to say something, but he did not know what to say. He was not bored, but he also knew that as sympathetic as he could be to Zevran’s pain, he did not really understand it. Not the same way someone who had gone through the same thing could. Not the way Azaya could.
         But then the bushes ruffled and he heard the steps he instinctively knew belonged to Kieran and he retreated his hand to himself, beginning to dust the dirt from them. He was not sure Zevran wanted the whole camp knowing he had a vulnerable moment, and thus he pretended nothing had happened.
          “All right, I think we’re ready to eat now,” Kieran spoke. Personally he was glad the third elf had gotten over his pouting and decided to eat, but he knew not everyone was as happy about his return. And there was an odd tension in the air now. He knew his friend, and there was definitely something odd in the air. “Phoriden, are you ok?”
          “I just got some smoke in my eyes, would you relax?!” he answered quickly, rolling his eyes like never before. “It’s not going to kill me.”
          “All right then,” Kieran answered a little taken back by the reaction. But he shrugged it off and put the pan on the fire to start frying the fish. He looked over at Azaya to make sure she was still within hearing range. “There’s something we should probably discuss.”
          “I know this having someone return from the dead-thing is not without its drama,” he said as he looked to the girl in the armor. “So, I think when we get to the Turnoble estate, I should be under an alias. The woman leading the rescue mission is called Cassandra Pentaghast, but I suggest someone other than me talk to her. We get in, save Juleeya, then we can figure out how all this happened.”


    When Azaya approached a few steps behind and instantly felt something was not where it should be. Out of instinct she looked over at her partner sitting just by the fire. His eyes were very down cast and they seemed to be locked on his fingers and palms. She had seen that look once or twice before and knew that it meant something was amiss, but Azaya kept her distance and walked on the other side of the flames. Zevran looked up to meet her gaze and has always they just did what they did best. His eyes were lost somewhere beyond where Azaya could follow but she did have a sneaking suspicion of what he was reliving. She had similar gazes.

    It was almost as if it was in slow motion. Their eyes locked and she asked if he was alright through her irises. It took him a moment to respond but he gave her a slight nod of his head. She responded with her own nod and time resumed its natural speed. Azaya went and sat on the ground near the fire, while Zevran’s eyes went back down to his hands.

    The male Crow’s fingertips grazed over the place where he felt the mage’s smooth touch. It lingered there and he still felt the warmth sitting on his skin. The overall aura of this tiny army was one of disarray and Zevran mused to himself how all adventures of his seem to start off this way. It wasn’t until Kieran mentioned Cassandra’s name did he snap out of his fog-like daze. “Cassandra?” he asked out loud and looked from the young prince to Azaya who had the same shocked look on her face.

    “It wouldn’t surprise me given the situation,” Azaya said looking at Zevran and giving him a tilt of her head. “She would be the best person.”

    “Mm,” he responded and looked at Kieran. “I can be the one to speak with her.” His eyes then looked at Phoriden and he smiled softly. “I’ve known her for quite some time and so as has Azaya.” He sent his eyes over to the woman who nodded in agreement and he spoke back to Kieran. “I don’t mind. Besides she always says she’s a fan of my accent,” he ended with a flourish of his hand but Azaya noticed the lack of joy behind his eyes.


    This was better. No in-fighting, focusing on the task at hand. Even if he had been side-tracked and lost his focus for a moment, he still feared for his sister’s life. And they should not spend more time than necessary. The food was frying, and soon they would be done eating and could get moving again. There was just one issue. “I should have a cover name. Like Argus Deathblade.”
         “You don’t really look like an Argus,” Phoriden intervened as he was cleaning his nails with the pointy end of a stick. He looked momentarily over at the resurrected prince as if he was trying to assume his height. “You look more like a Schmoopie.”
          “Schmoopie Deathblade?” Kieran retorted back in disbelief. He most certainly did not look like a Schmoopie! He was fairly certain that was not even a real name, not even ancient elven would have such a name in it.
          “Maybe more like Schmoopie the Mute,” Phoriden added casually, but the smirk on his face gave off just how amused he was with himself.
          “You’re getting the smallest fish.”
          “It was worth it.”
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 02-15-2017 at 06:43 PM.

  6. #6
    The monster in the mirror.
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    Chapter II: Spark - Part I

    She always wondered how she got herself into these situations. Somehow fate’s hand and dealt her the same set of cards. It was always the same places she had to be at, the same type of people she had to find a way to rescue and the same impossible situations that she had to find an answer to. There was a point where she had hoped it would change after the Inquisition; maybe things becoming calmer or less dire. Yet when she went to see Divine Victoria and she saw her face it explained it all. Nothing had changed and that was the fate she had to accept.

    They had stationed themselves not too far from the princess’ location but it seemed like miles. The old temple was a crumbling coverage that was their only place to work out a plan. Cassandra had to not only work around what seemed to be blood magic but the constant threat of dragons that loomed over this place like a dark fog. It had put her people in more danger than she wanted and it was just another piece to this constant game of chess. Not to mention the ticking clock that Victoria, or rather Leliana, had placed on bringing the princess back.

    Cassandra sighed and leaned over and spread her palms flat against the surface of the dark wood table. Her eyes scanned over the countless papers, maps and other documents regarding the situation for what seemed to be the hundredth time. The words were beginning to blur together. How could she find a way? Cass barely heard a solider inform her that there were people here to see her before she dismissed him away with a curt nod. She pinched the bridge of her nose before extending her fingers to rub the exhaustion out of her eyes. The armor she wore groaned from the movement as if it was thankful to have the motion. “Maker help me.”

    “Here I am.”

    The voice was clearly not the Maker’s by a long shot and her shoulders sagged with a sigh. “I asked for help; not for a narcissist on two feet.” Cassandra looked up to see the tiny group approaching with Azaya just to his right and two others just steps behind. A few soldiers flaked them as they walked toward her for protection before melting back and staying close near the walls. “Who let him out of his cage?” she asked with a small smirk looking over at Azaya.

    “I turn by back for one minute and this is what happens,” she replied with a small smirk back and folding her arms over her chest before shrugging one shoulder. The crow had always liked Cassandra and they got along rather easily for someone she only saw every so often. Maybe it was the fact they both had dealt with Blights or maybe it’s the fact they both had to deal with Zevran? “We heard you might need some help.”

    “Good news travels fast,” she replied and straightening her back. Cassandra swept her eyes over the four of them and stopped at the two unfamiliar faces. “And, if I may ask, who has accompanied you?”

    “Ah, yes,” Zevran pipped up and turned slightly to introduce those standing just behind them. “This fine young mage is Phoriden,” he gestured with a small flourish of his hand and smiled at the mage. “I believe you might know of him already as he does have a very important title. And this here,” Zevran said quickly turning to the hooded Kieran, “is Argus Deathblade. As the name implies he is rather talented with weaponry, but he is rather mute about it. We usually call him Schmoopie.”

    Azaya sent out a small laugh before covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers to hide the rest of her smile. This was Zevran. The very same one who was so sad only hours before. How quickly he could change. She turned to see Kieran approach her side and stand just behind her right shoulder; his eyes just visible to her. She turned and mouthed the word ‘sorry’ before turning back to Cassandra. “I told you someone needs to keep an eye on him.”

    Cassandra, who was very used to the male Crow’s antics, only shook her head. “Try to keep an eye on him, Azaya. I don’t need him to spark problems because he can’t keep his mouth shut.” She took a deep breath before leaning over the table again and inviting the others to join her with a nod of her head. “Welcome, all of you. Thank you for the help.”


    He had thought most of the flight about how to deal with the up-coming situation. He was not a popular character within the Chantry. If his robes could cause such a reaction from someone who just found him annoying, what would it not cause the Templars to do? It made him want to hide in his cloak; obscure his face in shadow like Kieran was doing. But he could not. Freeing the circles of Templars was practically an act of war and if he showed even the slightest bit of weakness they would exploit it. He had to be completely arrowproof. So he joined the rest of the group when they entered the decrepit construction, a flash of blue light lighting them up as the raven turned into a person.
         He was not starting another argument, and stayed as far from Azaya without falling behind the group. He had not done it to piss her off, but there was a political game that he doubted the Crows even considered, and now was not the time to discuss it. He followed in silence.
         He was not sure if his display was the reason Zevran introduced of him like that, or of he was trying to push his buttons for other reasons. But then he could not help but smile when using Kieran’s new nickname. Kierean himself did not answer, he simply took a step closer to Azaya, but all three of them knew he was trying to keep his face straight.
         To his surprise, Pentaghast was only happy for the help. With the others, he moved to look at the different papers on the map. The big map in the middle was a mix-match of lines that had been crossed out, except for one. But it was not the direct route to the marked X, rather it seemed to be a detour to avoid something. He could only guess at dragons. He knew that before he was born the dragon population had been less than it was now. But now, the dragonbone wastes was filled with dragons of all sizes, a breeding ground for the dragons of Ferelden. It scared him that the culprit had chosen such a suicidal place to hide.
          “Do we know anything about who took her?” he heard Kieran speak from under his hood. He had wondered that too. Juleeya was important on two political stages: As a prophet for the chantry or as a princess of Ferelden. Which enemy had gotten to her? “And what kind if demands have they made?”


    Cassandra’s eyes looked over at the stranger and focused there for just a moment. It had an odd ping to it as if she had heard it before but couldn’t place the voice to a face. She knew Azaya and Zevran wouldn’t travel with just any company so she knew the man would be integral in this operation. “We only know a few things,” she finally said before turning her eyes back down to the papers below. “The princess was traveling from Val Royeaux back to Denerim when their caravan was attacked. Our sources say that it was one of the elven servants from within the grand cathedral.”

    Both Azaya and Zevran exchanged a quick look to each other. Each of them had begun to work out a plan, as Crows tended to do, and they did need to be on the same page. Out of the two of them Azaya was the more strategic one and her eyes were working through the map and information to see if she could find a way in. “What could a single servant do to get through all of those guards? And, how did you know she was brought here?” she asked not really wanting to know the answer. She had a feeling she knew where this was going.

    “Demons,” Cassandra offered plainly and pushed a set of papers at Azaya’s direction so she could work through whatever her intense gaze was indicting. She looked up at Phoriden and met his eyes. “He was a rather powerful blood mage. It seems that he was able to summon a lot of demons to keep people busy before taking the princess and escaping on a varterral.”

    “Fantastic,” Azaya mumbled while rolling her eyes and going back to her work. “Just fantastic.”

    Zevran nodded and looked over between Phoriden and Cassandra. “So you tracked the varterral then? That’s how you got here. Did anyone survive the attack?”

    Pentagast nodded in agreement. “No one survived but a few of the elven servants that he spared. It’s how we know most of what we know. It was a rather powerful set of demons that he summoned to kill the Templars traveling with them.” Cassandra looked between the others. “We don’t know what he wants.”

    “He has what he wants,” Zevran said folding his arms over his chest and letting out a sigh.

    “No he doesn’t.” Azaya’s said slowly; her thoughts still working through all of the pieces to the puzzle. She could feel them all looking at her with their inquisitive gazes, but her eyes remained on the papers on the table. “He could have killed the princess at any time he wanted, but he hasn’t yet that we know of. He’s keeping her for a reason because there is something else he needs.” She stopped and closed her eyes. “The question is what.”


    Just great. A blood mage had not only infiltrated the Chantry and kidnapped the prophet, now he was in Ferelden where Phoriden was supposed to have the mages under control. If this one turned out to be a refugee from his circles, he would have hell to pay. And Azaya might actually kill him. On the other hand, this could be the opportunity to make a public stand against blood magic, and people could quit japing at him.
          “A varterral?” both he and Kieran repeated in sheer surprise. One of the only things that could really challenge a dragon was a varterral. They were even more evasive than high dragons, and he knew very little of them, and what he knew was mostly shrouded in legend. It was said, that they were created by the elven god of secrets, and that they were created as guardians to specific objects or places. Someone riding one seemed not only fantastical, but scary. As if the demons were not enough.
         Kieran froze at Zevran’s comment. They did not know if she really was still alive. If he wanted a prophecy, what was there to stop him from killing her once he had gotten it? Phoriden remembered some of the stories Kieran had told him about her. How she alone had stood up against her mother and protected him from her wrath. He would never had lived to meet any of them had it not been for her.
         Still tense, Phoriden could still feel that Azaya’s reassurance that his plot was not finished made Kieran relax slightly more. Slightly. They needed to get moving, but not without a plan. And there was one way he could help, other than healing, even if some might not want to hear it, so he met Cassandra’s gaze, rather that interrupt Azaya’s staring. “Do we know anything about what kind of demons he summoned? Knowing that could probably help our attack plan.”


    “Would they know?” Zevran asked the add-on question in response to the mage’s. “To me, it would seem highly unlikely that they would even have an idea unless they had prior knowledge.”

    “I’d have to agree with Zevran,” Cassandra said. “We have asked those who were spared by the attack what they saw to get a better idea of what it could possibly be.” She looked over at the mage and shook her head. “I’m sorry that we don’t have a clearer idea for you. It would have been tremendous help.”

    Dragons and demons. Out of the two of them she would have gladly taken on a dragon and left the demons elsewhere. One would think, dealing with the Blight and all the chaos that went with it, that Azaya would have a better handle on dealing with demons. She took in a sharp breath through her nose. A blood mage, varterral and a stolen princess were some of the things that she had to consider in addition to the little X’s that marked the spots where they would have to avoid dragons. It would have to be a smaller party then, and hopefully Cassandra would agree to it just being the five of them.

    She would never admit it, but Phoriden was right. If they had an idea of what they were walking to into than the group would have a better fighting chance. Out of all of them, he would be one of their best defenses against the powerful blood mage that was waiting. If the group was to get inside, and avoid the dragons by some miracle, they would have to give Phoriden enough time to see what they were dealing with. If could do that, maybe Azaya could work with it and get them to the princess.

    “Too many variables,” she muttered to herself but Zevran and Cassandra over heard it and turned their attention back to the Crow. “There are too many unknowns.” She shut her eyes tightly; her hands clenching and unclenching as she worked through everything. You’ll kill them all, the unwelcome thought popped into her head making her fists close tighter. Then what? You’ll be the murder they all know you are.

    “Azaya?” Zevran called her back; her eyes refocusing on the pages. “What do you suggest?” He knew she was planning- taking everything into consideration and forming a way inside. She always did that, he noted, since she had the introverted characteristics and qualities that made her mind a master at working through puzzles.

    “It’ll be tougher than we want,” she started, her voice hoarse. “With the dragons surrounding the area we only have a few options. But they are too direct,” she looked up and made eye contact, out of all of them, Phoriden. “We need to find a way in where you can see for yourself what demons we are dealing with.”

    “And we can’t do that by just walking in,” Cassandra added on. “So how do we get around it?”

    “This way,” she said tearing her eyes away from the mage and back on the paper. Her fingers drew out a path along the tunnels and maps that Cassandra and her team had laid out. It zig-zagged away too much than she wanted it to, but it was the only way to come up and emerge at one of the tunnels that lead right into the back entrance of where they needed to be. It would allow them some element of surprise. “That could buy us some time. It would be difficult to do this with a large group,” she sighed placing her hands on the table and dropping her head down between her shoulders. “We need to be fast.”


    For the first time since they had met again, she looked at him like he was a person, and not like he was secretly trying to kill them all. It had always been like that. They would fight and argue, but when push came to shove they both knew each other’s value.
         “I’ll fly ahead then,” he announced as their eyes broke from each other. They needed some sort of idea what they were getting into, and he had hoped the Chantry’s spies would have gotten them more information, but now it seemed it would have to be up to him to get it. “They won’t notice a bird spying on them. If this is the path you’re taking I should be able to find you when I have some information.”
         He looked from Azaya to Zevran, his grey eyes meeting his brown. Part of him could not believe he was back at this, risking his life for the sake of Kieran. Why did trouble always follow that man? Now they were walking into dragon-infested territory to confront a blood mage with a varterral. They had survived a Blight, still this was an enemy they had never faced before. He knew he was the one who should be the one most suited to deal with this, but he was as scared as the others. The last blood mage he had met was her. And though the three of them had gotten through that without much damage, he did not know how he would tackle this one. Or if they were going to survive.

    _______________________________

    He wished he had better memory. He had stared at the map as long as he had time for, but he still could not remember the details, where the dragons were placed nor could he transfer the map’s information on to what he actually saw. So there was no way he could tell if the dragons he flew over were where they were supposed to be. He just flew northward until he saw the varterral standing guard in front of what must have been a building at some point. It definitely had the makings of civilized architecture, but it was so crumbled that it took a second look to realize it was not just part of the mountain.
         He flew past the tall varterral, noting in his head how large it was. Once he had made surveyed the place, he would have to fly back and warn the party. He hoped he would be able to find them, even as they snuck through the darkness.
          “Are you at it again? Seriously, it’s not going to work.” He knew that voice. He landed silently in the edge of the hole in the wall, an innocent bird watching the scene before him unfold. The room was tall, though the ceiling had long since fallen and was now only rock, but the debris had been cleared from around the altar in the middle of the room. A hooded figure was kneeling right in the middle of the room, and it reminded him of something that he could not place. She had faded into the background so much it took him a moment to realize where she was, lazily lying on a bench by the wall, shipping away dirt from under her fingernails. “I told you how it works, you’ve been kneeling there for two days, what is it you think will happen?”
          “Nothing is going to happen with your CONSTANT BLABBERING!” the man spoke as he got up from the floor. The staff in his hand looked like the ones the Dalish keepers used, but with red gems in between the swirling horns. “You never cease to talk!”
          “There’s no need for you to be rude, you’re the one who kidnapped me,” she said as she rolled her eyes, shifting her position so she was sitting more upright. “Look, you were there, you saw what happened. Do you really need me to teach you about blood magic?”
          “I didn’t bring you here to be snarky,” he hissed. His voice was horse, and there was something otherworldly about it. Not like a possessed mage, but there was something there. Like a crow cawing. The rubies in his staff lit up as his hands glowed with magic energy.
         The princess looked at him with one eyebrow raised over the other and a soft pout on her lips. “What, you’re going to kill me now? Put that away before you hurt yourself.”
         Why he stopped Phoriden could not dissect. He was glad she was unharmed, and had remained so for so long. What was his plan?
          “C’mon, quit being a bore,” she said and crossed one leg over the other, flicking a piece of dirt from her nails to the left of her. “Let’s play ask the seer.”
         His lips had pursed into a tight line. The part of his face that was visible looked like it would explode, but then he sighed and took a deep breath. “Why do I need him?
         She sighed so loudly a piece of rock fell from the ceiling. She rolled her head around her shoulders as if trying to get rid of a backache. “Really? This again?”
          “Just answer!”
          “Fine,” she said and put a lock of her hair behind her ear as she leaned closer, explaining with her hands as she spoke. “The lock is threefold, you need the blood and the soul and the magic.”
          “But you share the same parent.”
          “Yes, and if it was just the blood, we would both have been a lot less bored, but then you’re still missing the…?” she asked, leaving the sentence to be finished.
          “The soul and the magic,” he ended it, almost inaudibly.
          “Wow, your skills of deduction amaze me. Seriously, I got chills.”
          “How did this shemlen manage to steal all of that?”
         “That’s the crazy part about all of this!” she said, though her tone of sarcasm was gone, as if she was actually interested in the conversation now. “It’s all fate. He was born with all of it. He’s…”
          “Please don’t say it.”
          “Chosen.” Her smile showed her superiority, but soon she looked surprised, a look he had never seen on her before. Screeching two birds grabbed him by the wings, one white one crimson and smashed him into the ground between the two. “Oh, crap,”
         He was caught flat against the rock, and the grip from their talons were hurting him. In a flash of light, he grew too large for them and swatted at them before he cried out in pain. In a short moment he saw the mouth of the blood mage crawl into a smile, before the two birds turned into two elves wearing similar robes to their leader, but their faces were not covered. Their vallaslin were exactly identical, and apart from their eyes they looked like twins. One’s eyes were such a light shade of blue it looked crystalline, the other’s were so red they could be filled by blood.
          “Shit!” he heard Juleeya curse, before she was off the bench, heaving him up by the collar of his robe and dragging him with her. She avoided a thunderbolt as if she knew it was coming, and swiftly they were behind a fallen boulder. She quickly turned to him, her eyebrows knitted together in anger. “What are you doing here?”
          “We came to save you,” he said. A thunderbolt connected with the ceiling near the entrance, sending a cascade of bedrock down next to them.
          “Great, you can get to the saving part now!” The smoke from the fallen debris got them to cough. “Aren’t you supposed to have friends on the other side?”
          “I do, but,” he said and put his hands away from his body, one loosely grasping the other. “They’re broken.”
          “Oh, for maker’s sake,” she said and rolled her eyes before she put her hand on the gem woven into the chest of his robe. It lit up before she got up from their hiding spot, with her arm extended. A large white bolt of spirit energy flew from it, and met with the two mages. She was back behind the boulder with him, and sighed heavily with frustration. “Kieran better get his ass here fast.”

    _______________________________

    Shrouded in the dark of the night they had left the old building. Phoriden had taken off immediately. Kieran was worried about him being able to find them in the night, even if the stars and moon was lighting up the way partially. He would try to look up at the sky to try and spot him, but then Cassandra would look in his direction and he would hide in the cowl again.
         They had seen dragons on their way, but Azaya had guided them around them all. He was not sure exactly how far the building marked on the map was, but from what he could see, and with all the dragons they had to move around, they might not get there until morning. The sound of thunder warned of a storm rolling in from the sea, but the sky remained clear for the stars to light their way. Only a single cloud hovered not far ahead of them.
         They could only communicate in hushed voices, so the conversation was scarce. He hoped the elven mage would return soon with information. It made him nervous that he had not come back yet. They were at least half way through the dragon cemetery and still there was no sign of him. It was not the first time Phorden had scouted ahead of them. Ever since his mother had taught him how, they had used it to their advantage, and he always came back rather quickly. Where was he?
         He had not had much contact with Azaya since they left. He was protecting the rear, while she was leading the group. He was worried about her. He knew how she felt about magic, especially blood mages. And the red he had seen in her irises worried him. If it had not been for Juleeya, he would have insisted she stayed behind, but he needed her. And he would make it up to her when this was behind them.


    This was what she was built for- it was her life and how she could be of the best use. She knew the plan was far from flawless, and if she had another hour maybe she could have figured out a better, more efficient route. There was just no time, and she was very aware of what was at stake. Azaya walked diligently ahead of the group as their eyes; bow ready with an arrow nestled on the string. Her footsteps with light and purposeful as she maneuvered around rocks, bones and other debris with little sound. The cloak of night was just about perfect and she could see the rest of the group with the twinkle of the stars. It would give them just the cover they needed.

    Zevran was just behind her since he could read her body language and signals. She trusted him to relay the information silently to the others; opting to not speak as much as possible. This was the time she needed to strategize and keep everyone safe; not worry about things she couldn’t control. Cassandra’s map was memorized into her mind. Each turn, straight path, dragon and other obstacle burned into her mind’s eye to guide the group through the labyrinth as swiftly and carefully as possible.

    There was one that she was concerned about since he did not travel among them. Subconsciously her eyes turned to the sky- a single rumble of thunder coming from just behind them. She had no idea where Phoriden was, nor what he found- if anything, and she still needed hear what they would be facing once they reached the princess. Mages and magic were far from her comfort zone, but some clarity could at least provide her with some stabilization. Plus, there was a part of her that hoped he was alright.

    “Not too much longer,” Zevran whispered, and she responded with a shake of her head. They had conquered some distance but there was still more to do. The group approached the next bend, Azaya clearing the corner before waving the others on, and made their way around. As the map indicated, it was a bit of an opening compared to some of the narrow halls and spaces they had been waving through. Large rocks, boulders and dragon bones littered the floor and pebbles crunched loudly beneath their boots.

    She was the one that saw it first.

    Azaya stopped and turned to look in the middle of the space. Zevran followed her gaze, curious as to what she was looking at. She saw it before; the slight difference in color causing her to pause about it. It was hidden among the camouflage of the rocks and rubble. They watched as part of the large rock peeled away from itself revealing scales and a massive tail. The neck uncurled next, followed by the legs stretching the large trunk of a body upward and blocking out the diamonds in the sky form their view. Finally, the large yellow eyes turned and looked at the five unfortunate souls that dared to cross into his territory.

    “That dragon wasn’t on the map,” she whispered; her hands drawing out the bow completely and pointing the tip of the arrow at the creature.

    “It is now,” Zevran countered and the next thing they knew the dragon lunged at them.


    At first he had heard it. The sound of moving pebbles then the undeniable growling of the awakening beast. The heat from the beast’s breath as it sent a projectile of fire into the air met him, before it set its sight on the group, lunging at them from its nest. Instinctively the group scattered, jumping to whichever side away from where the beast was aiming for to avoid the sharp claws.
         This was when he needed to remember his training, his experience and his courage. It was the first real fight since he had died. He looked to Azaya for a fraction of a second. They had defeated an archdemon, they could defeat a regular dragon. And it would not cost him his life this time.
         He had his broadsword drawn from its sheath, running towards the part where its long neck met with its body as it struck its gaze on Cassandra, but he was suddenly shoved through the air by the force of its tail. He clashed against the bedrock so hard everything turned black for the blink of an eye. When he opened his eyes again, the dragon had Cassandra pressed against the ground beneath it. While the crows were trying to free her the dragon swapped Azaya’s arrows away while keeping Zevran at bay with its fiery breath. This was his chance. He grabbed the broadsword from the ground and charged.
         Something made both of them stop in their tracks. The dragon had turned to face him, its yellow eyes meeting his own, everything stopped around them. For a moment they only stared at each other, before the dragon made a sound with its neck he had never heard before. It was like the low purring of a cat, but because of the beast’s size it sounded like growling. He was not sure how he could tell the difference. Smoke came out of its nostrils before it released Cassandra and took off from the ground, flying off into the night sky.


    Fights and battles seemed to happen in slow motion. Time became a vortex and it swirled around her vision; sounds became little blips of moments that she would barely remember later. This was different. Azaya dove to the side at the dragon’s first movements- launching an arrow free as before hitting the ground in a roll. She pressed her back against the large rock and looked over her shoulder. Zevran was next to her with Cassandra and Kieran on the other side. Out of nowhere she could see him run at the creature, sword drawn and eyes fierce, before he was swatted away with minimal effort by a dragon tail. Her own eyes watched him crash into the rubble with unspeakable force, and his eyes roll backward into his skull.

    Her eyes went red.

    Zevran was already out from his hiding place before she could say anything and Azaya stood firing arrows- not aiming for anything in particular. She was so wild and uncontrolled with her shots that her instinct was screaming at her to gain some control. However, it was her emotions winning the internal tug of war. The Crow dashed between large boulders, angering the creature as she shot arrows at his face, eyes, elbows and stomach- any place where she could cause it physical harm. Her breath was as fierce has it ever been; her heart pushing the adrenaline though her veins so hard she could hear it in her own ears. From the corner of her eye she saw Cassandra pinned down thanks to the creature’s massive claw; Zevran trying frantically to get to her through spits of fire. In a split second she was on top of one of the massive rocks, bow drawn, and aimed without a shadow of doubt at the beast’s eye.

    Kieran returned and she saw him heading straight for the dragon, who turned to meet his next victim. No! she mentally screamed. The thought of losing him again caused her eyes to flare and she pulled back so hard on the bow’s string it nearly snapped from the force. If that creature even dared to touch him- the Crow would ensure that its brain would dangle from the arrow when it reached its final destination. She could feel her breath, see the arrow vibrate in her hands as she tried to keep it steady; hear Cassandra’s screams from the weight of the dragon and Zevran’s attempts to save her.

    Then it all stopped. The two, beast and human, were in an undeniable stare down, but the spark between them indicated that there was more happening than she could see or hear. Without bloodshed or violence, the creature turned away and departed from the area. Azaya blinked, the red from her eyes evaporating as quickly as the plume of air that left her lips. What just happened? What unspoken communication had she missed? She hopped down from the rock, landing quietly, and jogged over to help Zevran check on Cassandra. The woman warrior’s face was littered with a few cuts and there were some dents in her armor, but it wasn’t anything she couldn’t handle. Her body had been through much worse, and thanks to the two Crows distractions it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. “Are you alright?”

    “Fine,” Cassandra said through a hoarse tone; trying to position her body so that she could at least sit up to catch her breath. “I’m lucky it just left.”

    Azaya said nothing. She simply looked up and over at Kieran, who stood only a few feet away, with an unreadable look on her face. What could she say to him? Could she even ask what that was about? Would he even know? Slowly she exhaled. This would only make matters worse and there was no time to ask questions. They needed to get out of this quarry before the dragon decided to change its mind. “Can you walk?” she asked Cassandra, turning her blue-green gaze away from Kieran.

    “You know me, Azaya,” she grunted being helped to her feet by Zevran. “It’ll take more than that to keep me down.”

    She nodded quietly and plucked an arrow from her quiver; placing it in her securely in her bow. If they in countered anything else along the way- it wouldn’t make it two steps before it’s head would be pinned to the walls thanks to her arrows. “We need to keep moving.”

    Zevran watched as Azaya resumed her mental path calculations and moved forward. Cassandra had nodded at him a few times; insuring that she was fit enough to keep going. He glanced over at Kieran. “I’m not going to ask what that was all about, but I know she will later.”


    “That’s assuming she’s still talking to me,” he answered the Antivan. He hoped he would be able to give her some sort of answer. Right now he did not have any. It was bad. The questions were adding up, and he was losing faith that he could just smile his way through it anymore. In his mind, he had thought Phoriden would do some sort of magical examination and be able to decipher what had brought him back. And now he even scared off fully grown dragons. He groaned as he joined the team’s continued trek.
         He realized his hood had come off in the fight, and he realized Cassandra had now seen his face, even if it was dark. But she was not saying anything. As the warrior she was, she put the mission and people’s lives first. It was another to the list of people who would have questions. And with her came the Chantry. Being alive used to be much less complicated.
         The silence seemed strangulating now. The unanswered questions hang in air. They passed more dragons as they snuck through the rocky terrain. At first they had travelled slowly, but when Cassandra showed to be moving fine, they sped up. Avoiding two other dragons, they finally made it to their destination.
         It was barely a building anymore. Half pillars still stood at the one entrance, but most of the debris had stumbled to dust. There were remnants of statues placed along the walls, but it was impossible to decipher what they had once looked like. If it had not been for the crumbling foundation, the entrance would have been the only way in. From the rock the four were hiding behind, it became clear that the ruins eventually joined the mountain. The one thing that made it abundantly clear that this was the right ruin was the guard waiting at the entrance. Standing on five legs, so tall it would not have fitted through the opening in the wall stood a Varterral, eyes locked at the terrain in front of it. Kieran looked around again, but found nothing, and another unspoken question hung in the air. Where was Phoriden?


    As always Azaya was two steps ahead. The others had their backs pressed against the smooth surface of the boulder while her palms were the ones against the rock. Blue-green eyes darted back and forth between points of entry and the gigantic monster that blocked their easiest way in. Nothing ever went smoothly, could it? The Crow sighed harshly and turned away only to pace back and forth behind the confides of their little hiding place. This went beyond the maps and marks that were scribbled out on Cassandra’s table, and Maker only knew were Phoiden was. His overhead view would had been particularly helpful.

    Her mind raced through each of the locations she had seen. Which one would be the best? How could they get in undetected? Could they be quick enough? Mental questions had formulated a checklist that only left one answer, and she had a feeling Cassandra would not like what she was about to hear. Azaya looked over at her partner, noting the rather nonchalant posture as his shoulder leaned against the boulder and picked at his fingernails, and rolled her eyes before sending a playful smirk. At least he would like this. “Are you done pampering yourself? Or do you need a minute?”

    “I’m sorry, are you talking to me now?” he responded and flicked away a speck of dirt. “I’ll be done when you’re done being dark and broody.”

    Again, she rolled her eyes deftly before striding over and playfully punching him in the upper arm. “Look,” she said pointing over to a crumbling foundation of rubble, rocks and lost hopes. Its base was solid enough that it shouldn’t fall apart any time soon, and the incline was steep enough that they would need to use a rope to get over it. It was sturdy. The only negative to Azaya’s plan was that the very creature they were trying to avoid would still be within eye and earshot to the tiny group. However, there was no time for her to find an alternate route. “Think it can work?”

    Zevran, who was putting the pieces together in his own mind, began to have a grin spread across his face. She had always been this daring, and he had missed it since they had gone back to Redcliff and her reliving the past over and over. “It’s not a completely horrible plan. We’d have to be fast. You know I love a challenge, sweetheart, but this is borderline crazy.”

    Azaya’s eyes flashed with mirth, and she began to unclip her cloak and loosen the rope that dangled from her belt. “We can use the larger rocks for cover until we get close enough.”

    “You make this sound like a race,” Zevran chuckled as he followed suit and took of his own cloak and handed the extra rope over to the other Crow.

    She laughed and fastened the end of one of the ropes to one of her arrows and set the bow snuggly onto her back. “It’s only a race when there is competition.”

    “Excuse me,” Cassandra interrupted the banter. “But what are we talking about doing? We don’t speak Crow.”

    “It’s a sad but true fact,” Zevran replied with a shake of his head while Azaya just giggled with a smirk and finished up what she was doing. “It’s simple, my warrior friend. You see, Azaya and I will make our way over to that wall right there and she will shoot up an arrow and lodge it into the opening just at the top so we can climb it. I will ascend the tower first, since I am rather fast, and make sure it doesn’t break or move.”

    “I’ll remain at the bottom and signal for you two to come over when it’s clear since it’ll be too dangerous to have all of us out in the open at once. You two will climb up next and I’ll go last.” She looked at both of them. “It’s our only plan. We don’t have time to look for anything else.”

    Cassandra blinked as she digested the words that the two Crows just threw at her. After a couple of heartbeats, and gulping down the urge to scream, she looked at them. “That wall is too close to our friend over there.”

    “I know,” Azaya said bundling up her things and handing them over to Kieran. Her response, she found, was directed at him. Her eyes sparkled with anticipation and it seemed as the past events from the last few days had evaporated and was replaced by the lost sense of adventure that they both had shared long ago. “Like we said, it needs to be fast,” she told them, but it was a plea for him to be careful.

    Then, after their ritual count-to-three, the two Crows bolted across the open and boulder-scattered terrain. Azaya couldn’t help the little bit of laughter that escaped her lips as she leaped over some smaller boulders and pressed her back behind others to see if the path was clear. Adrenaline and panic ran through her veins like a wild bull and it was enough to push her over the edge and live for the moment. Zevran and Azaya practically danced around each other through the topography; proving how much their time together helped them sense the other’s movements and steps. They had certainly become siblings in arms.

    She skidded to a stop across the loose gravel first with Zevran right on her heels. Quickly she pulled the bow from her back, giving her partner a little wink, and launched the arrow with expertise. The attached rope fluttered in the wind behind it and dangled once its anchor had reached its intended location. Zevran pulled on it deftly, seeing that it was secure, and climbed up the tattered wall. Azaya had remained on the ground; her eyes switching between Zevran, the others and the door’s guardian.

    Since the building was torn and dilapidated as it was, it was inevitable that something would fall down as Zevran made his way up. She assumed it would be smaller fragments and she didn’t foresee the larger piece of rubble that had become dislodged and fell to the ground with a loud bang. The Varterral’s head turned to see where the commotion had started from, but there was nothing there besides the sway of a lone rope. Azaya dove so quickly behind one of the boulders that her shoulder and forearms were littered with cuts thanks to the jagged little rock pieces she landed on. Zevran had made it to the top and was currently pressed down on his belly and eyeing his partner through one of the holes in the walls.

    Think!, she yelled at herself as she got to her knees and watched the Varterral head toward the source of the noise. Her eyes scanned what was around her; her back pressed hard against the surface of the rock. Quickly she pulled an arrowed, loaded it, pulled back and sent it whizzing past the creature and slamming into the loosely stacked rocks behind it. She had to do it two more times before it dislodged the brittle but stubborn pillars and send them tumbling to the ground. The Varterral’s attention turned away and Azaya saw both Cassandra and Kieran make a break for the rope and the wall.

    Not the most ideal situation, she thought as she ran herself. The Varterral had given them some distance and time, but she still knew it would turn back toward them at any given moment. She got there just as Cassandra began her own climb, but she saw that Kieran had hesitated. “Go,” she said looping the rope around her hands to steady it for his climb. “I’m fine, really. I’m a faster climber than he is, remember?” she reassured him and he began his own climb. Azaya watched as the two got closer to the top just as Varterral had turned around.

    Azaya leapt onto the rope and scrambled up as fast as she could. She felt Zev’s hands grab her forearms and haul her over the edge of the wall. He cut the rope shortly after and it fell, laundering in a pool of twine on the ground below. She fell onto her stomach and peered over the edge to see the Varterral had turned, for whatever reason, and was now firmly planted back at its home base by the door. Azaya flipped onto her back, arm over her eyes, laughing softly at what just transpired.

    “Next time, I’ll come up with the crazy ideas,” Zevran breathed out a heavy whisper, his own back pressed against the wall’s edge, and kicked his partner lightly in the leg.
    Last edited by SunshineGreen Productions; 02-09-2017 at 07:28 PM. Reason: (via Threadmins and Group Moderators)

  7. #7
    Dragon Age: Blood Prophecy [Closed]
    Impatient Monarch

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    Chapter II: Spark - Part II

    Once they had reached the top of the wall, past the guardian of the gate, the rest of the trek seemed easier. Azaya had a feeling that whoever had taken Juleeya would assume that not many souls would have the abilities to get past the beast, let alone the additional dragons that littered the cave, so there would be nothing new to expect once they made it inside. If anyone did happen to accomplish what seemed to be the impossible, well, then that was the very person the kidnapper wanted to see.


    The Crow had also anticipated that it would be only one person he would be waiting for and not the tiny group of five. This would be a slight advantage in their favor, but if adventures like these taught her anything it would be: advantages never last long. The second she had her bearings, Azaya had her bow mounted and ready. Blue-green eyes, ringed with red, looked over her should at her partner. They would have to be synched, much like she and Kieran once were.


    Turning away, Azaya trudged forward and headed onward. Don’t you see? You think it yourself. He is not the same man you knew. Can you truly trust him? Can you bear to lose him again? She flinched and tried to shake the dark thoughts from her head. Now was not the time. Kieran would always have her back, and she would always have his. It’s how the world worked; how her world worked. Yet, her world had shifted. His recent behavior did cast a long shadow of questions and doubt. Neither of which she could assume any answers about anything.


    Zevran knew how she worked, moved, fired her arrows and how her thoughts flowed. There could be no reservations, and she needed to have something concrete to latch onto. He knew this because she could see it in his eyes. He was the anchor to hold her steady while a violent storm was brewing. Eventually, they both knew that he might not be able to hold her steady for long.


    Thankfully her thoughts were interrupted by what sounded like screams mixed with falling rubble and rocks. Azaya sprinted to the opening, bow drawn and ready, just at the end and looked inside. If she had more time, maybe a minute, she could have a better time at figuring out just how everything panned out the way it did. Phoriden and Juleeya were shielded behind a large rock with the mage looking down at his hands. Two others, twins she quickly saw, had their sights on attacking. The third was more toward the center of the situation and very clearly the one who was responsible for this whole mess. By their postures, faces and how they moved only one thought flashed in her mind.


    Blood mages.


    And it was like a flame was lit and it raged into a wildfire. With one blink the blue-green succumbed to the dark crimson that once only rimmed her eyes. Smell blood, do we? This time the thoughts were more open, like someone running to a warm embrace. Go on, then. Show them. Azaya’s eyes shifted to the mage and princess, her brows knitting together in annoyance. “Figures. I always have to save your ass,” she muttered to herself.


    She had two choices. Kill the leader or kill the stooges. There was no chance she could take on a more powerful blood mage alone, no matter how good she was, and it would be easier to kill the twins. Let the group work together to take on the third.


    “Once I fire be ready to move,” she said, deadpanned. Azaya aimed, took a breath, and fired at the red-eye twin with deadly force and accuracy. The projectile rocked forward and slammed into the red-eyes so hard that his head snapped back from the momentum. Blood pooled in the impact site as he slumped down to his knees and crumbled to the ground. Azaya stood away from the hiding place and sported another arrow. She walked forward, foot over foot, just as the other twin had realized what was going on.


    The arrow flew, true as always, but the second was too fast and he turned at the last moment to have the head of the arrow just graze his cheek to leave a streak of red behind. “Shit,” Azaya hissed, pulling out another arrow. “Doesn’t matter,” she said out loud as the others filtered out from the entrance. “I like a challenge.”



          At the same time as the cloaked demons charged towards the little elf, the three remaining party members hurled forward with their weapons drawn. Kieran took the lead as he lounged forward towards the nearest demon. His sword was met with a sharp slicer growing out of the thing’s back, but his foot met with its face and sent it hurling into its brothers.
          The demon got back on its feet swiftly, and he was ready to charge at it, but then it changed in front of his eyes. Growing in size, the cloak ripped apart until the horns of it reached the ceiling of the cathedral. How was it possible? He had defeated it. Before him, grinning like a monster the full-blown Archdemon stood. He stumbled backwards for a moment.
          “It’s not real!” Juleeya’s voice echoed over the roaring monster. “They’re just fear demons!”
          Just fear demons? The moment flashed before his eyes, his sword breaking through the skull, and them falling towards the ground. Whether it was a real archdemon or not, it was corporeal and huge. He had to get away from the rest of the group, if all of them zoomed in on him, they would have five large archdemons to kill. He quickly sliced quickly through the foot of the blight dragon, before he turned around and bolted for the end of the room that was not occupied.
          “C’mon, Juleeya, hurry up!” Phoriden snapped at the princess, as she was holding his broken hands in her own, the healing energy slowly running through his skin like heat. “Summon them if you need to.”
          She looked at him for a second in disbelief. But then she nodded. Wind blew from their spot in all directions as the gems in Phoriden’s robes lit up and four beings of pure blue light appeared around them, holding their hands over the princess’ hands. It took only a moment before they disappeared again, right as a demon jumped up on the boulder they were hiding behind, but now he was ready. Pushing his healed hand in front of them, the demon flew through the air back towards its master away from the mage.
          He stepped out from behind the boulder with a smile. They had incapacitated him for a while, but now he was back and he had revenge to take. While the demons were attacking the rest of the party, he began running towards the kneeling mage in the corner, covered over his dead brother. But then he stopped, when the blue eyes turned and looked at him. He got back on his feet, and next to him, the dead body of the blood mage rose in a possessed shell of his former self, Azaya’s arrow still sitting in the eye of the arcane horror.
          Kieran roared as he defended himself from the claw of the archdemon. His blade held back the sharp talon, much more than it would have the real thing. He needed to get to its head and sever it from the rest of the drake. He felt the wall of the cave against his back, and dodged another claw.
          Even if the soul of the elven blood mage was gone, all his abilities were present in the possessed corpse. The thunderbolt hurled from its hands, but was met with a shield of telekinetic force. The other threw a fireball, but he put up his hand on front of himself, pure cold emitting from them, enough to stop the fire before it even reached him. He had no time to rest, he saw the arcane horror move his hand down. He recognized that gesture. She had used it back then. He would not allow it this time. From his open palm a cone of pure ice flew like a dart and penetrated the horror’s skull with a cracking sound. He fell on the floor for a moment, but as the blue-eyed mage raised his arms a storm of pure fire began to rain towards him, and the horror got back up.
          But by then it was too late. With his palms raised in front of himself, he removed the gravity under the mages’ feet. The living one shrieked for a moment, but the dead one used the chance to send lighting hurling through the air. The pain, went through his shoulder to his arm into his fingertips, but his other hand moved quickly to send them both away with a telekinetic push.



    This is why I despise magic, Azaya mentally cursed. Fear demons were not something she was used to dealing with, and this was not the most ideal situation to start learning. Juleeya’s warning was only of what they were, not how to dispatch of them, and that was the answer she was really seeking. She watched as the demons began their assault on the rescue group, and she flashed her eyes over at Zevran. He stood ready and willing to fight; daggers drawn and shimmering with the thirst for blood. For a moment she felt this was unfair that he got dragged into this but then she remembered that he was a Crow. If anything, he would not want to be anywhere else.


    She turned to face her own demon, unsure of what to expect. Right now she couldn’t fathom feeling fear. How could this demon possibly faze her? It was as if the demon knew exactly what she was thinking, like he reached down into the depths of her inner being and fished out the very thing she would never admit still haunted her. She watched it shift in size and stared as the scales of an arch demon rippled and popped across its body. The Crow staggered back in disbelief. It couldn’t be. But one look into the creature’s eyes and she was certain.


    Azaya saw Kieran attack. Her heart pounded through her ears, the blood rushing so violently throughout her body that the arrow cluched in a tight fist shook from the shock of seeing the creature again. It’s going to kill him. You’re going to live through it all over again. Can you do that? Can you survive seeing him broken? Dead? Azaya’s eyes clamped shut. In that split second she relived all of it. His final lunge, their fall, her broken heart. Fear and anger swirled like a violent hurricane within her. Just give in. Stop fighting it and give in!


    She felt it at first. It was almost like flint being swiped across a rock; the spark needed to start the flame. Her eyes opened methodically as if she knew what to expect. The arrow in her hand was engulfed in flames; the orange tongue licking toward the arrow’s head as if it was hungry for blood. That’s what it would get. Azaya loaded it into her bow and launched it straight at the demon. Anger will always win over fear.


    The arrow hit its intended target, and the demon turned to see where the disturbance had come from. Azaya had already pulled another arrow into her hand. With a deft flick of her wrist, like it was a motion she had done before, the arrow ignited again but this time the flame’s origin was centered around the arrow’s tip. It grew in intensity as she placed it into the bow and let it loose. The demon snarled at her as it swiped the dart away. It's attention was now on her. “COME ON!” she screamed out at him; pulling yet another arrow and setting it aglow. “I won’t let you take him again!”


    “Azaya, no.” Zevran’s voice got lost in the chaos. He watched it all unfold in a matter of seconds. Demons brought out the worst in people, this was a tale he knew all too well, but he was strong enough to face it. She couldn’t do it. Not alone. Not in the condition she was in right now. This could break her; he was sure of it.


    “Zevran. Don’t. You can’t save her.”


    His blood curdled in his veins and he felt his heart stop beating. The voice; he hadn’t heard it in so long he nearly forgot how it sounded. Musical. It was like a soft lullaby that you could listen to and lose yourself in the melody. He didn’t want to forget it but time always blurred the edges of memories. Hearing it again nearly brought instant tears. The Crow turned, slowly, forgetting all about his partner. There she stood. His memories had not betrayed him this time, and her features were as sharp and prominent as he recollected. She smiled at him when their eyes finally connected. “You can’t save her.”


    Zevran tilted his head. Her image clouded through the salty tears that were starting to pool in his eyes. He blinked so they could fall and she would be vivid again. “I can. I have to,” he said as he finally found his voice.


    The Hero shook her head and took another step closer. “But you can’t. Much like you couldn’t save me, Zevran.”


    “No. No!” he bellowed shaking the tears away. “We had our choices. You taught me that. I couldn’t save you...”


    Again, the Hero stepped closer. He stood rooted into place; his muscles unable to respond and move. Night after night he ached to see her again just so he could tell her how sorry he was that he couldn’t protect her; how he should have been there for her. “Yes, Zevran, you could have saved me.” Her words pierced him through his heart. Guilt, regret and fear coursing through his veins like poison. “But you failed, much like you are failing to help Azaya. You can’t keep her safe.”


    “But…” He wanted to say more but the words evaporated before they could leave his mouth, and his lips were as dry as the desert sands. Maybe she was right. His best friend was already lost, and he couldn’t save his lover from the ultimate fate. Was there nothing left? He watched as the Hero outstretched her hand, his eyes drawn to the delicate fingers. Slowly he reached out to touch her own, his fingers inches from connecting with hers.


    Sending the twins away had left him vulnerable, and one of the fear demons took advantage of it. He did not see it, only felt its hands go over his eyes and suddenly he was somewhere else. Fires roared everywhere. What had happened? A choir of malicious laughter broke through the smoke as the scene revealed itself. He knew their faces; they were mages from the circle at Lake Calenhad. But the people bound to stakes in the middle were strangers to him, yet he recognized the Templar tabard. Around them four mages stood, and as they smiled their hands lit up and they set fire to the tree. “No!”
          Something was wrong. As the beast shifted its focus to Azaya, he expected it to shift forms. But it stayed the same. His eyes shifted to hers. He had never seen her like that before, her eyes gleaming with crimson. He had witnessed her bloodlust before, he liked it, but this was different. This was pure rage. He did not have time to analyze what that meant. He began a sprint from his position in a straight line towards the elven archer.
          Her arrows slowed the beast down slightly, but he still needed to be in full speed. Look at me. Her concentration was so on the beast, and the arrows, while angering the archdemon, it also made it halt over and over again. Whether it was because he was moving so fast or if she heard his thoughts, she suddenly met his gaze. He could hardly recognize her eyes like that, but she knew what he wanted to do and put her bow under her arm for half a moment. Only enough to cup her hands so he could step on them and lift him into the air.
          The lift gave him enough of a boost that he could jump over her head. Both his feet landed against the wall behind her, but before he lost the momentum he set off against the stone, sending him back into the air. An arrow on fire passed him as he turned in the air, grabbing his sword from the sheath on his back. There was half a second where his eyes met with the beast’s, but he was not afraid. He smiled as his legs locked around its long neck and his sword broke through the skull. There was a scream from the being as it vanished into thin air, making him loose his place and fall to the ground. It returned to its demonic form before it vanished into nothingness.
          He lost his breath when he connected with the ground. It was too familiar, falling through the air, but as soon as he regained air in his lungs, he put up his arms in the air. “I’m fine, I’m fine.”
         But he spoke too soon. The demon was gone, but an invisible force removed him from his spot on the floor, and dragged him through the air to the middle of the room. The twin mages blocked Azaya’s way of following him, fire and lightning coming together to attack her.
          Their screams were horrifying as the flames licked up their bound bodies. Phoriden was in a chair overlooking the scene, but his voice was overheard as the mages shrieked and danced to the beat of a drum. Madness was everywhere. He only now noticed, that some of the mages were not who he knew them to be, but abominations dancing side by side with the other mages.
          “Is something wrong, magister?” He looked to the side and saw Seraphos standing next tom him, leaning against the back of the throne. He had a wine glass in his hand. Was he drinking blood? As they burned the mad mages brought another man forward, pressing him on his knees.
          “We got him, dearest,” another voice spoke and he turned to the other side to face another glass of thick, red liquid. He knew who she was even before he looked up to see her face. She looked exactly like he remembered her. Clear eyes and wild locks of blonde hair framing her light face.
          “Adia?” was all he could say at first. The more he stared at her, the less it made sense. How was she back? Where were they? Why was Seraphos there with them? He had not met Seraphos until much after Adia had been killed. “How?”
         ”Shh, my darling, we are about to begin.” Her stare was locked unmoving at the figure on their knees. Like a shadow she moved from the plateau to the ground next to the flames. But as she grabbed the long dark hair and dragged the elf to stand, he realized it was not a man, but someone he knew. “Tonight it ends! Tonight the magekiller becomes the killed.”
          “Azaya!” He had not realized he had yelled or that he had stood up or that he his arm had spread out and from it flew a white spirit bolt that collided with Adia’s lifted hand to throw the dagger out of it. “Leave her alone, Adia!”
          The crowd were looking at each other like they did not understand. Though the situation was confusing him, he had caught on to something. “That’s an order.”
          She quickly regained her posture and was by him quicker than a normal woman could move. Her red lips were drawn into a smirk. She looked so like herself that way. Like he was lucky to even be in her sight. Like he was wanted.
          “How are you alive?” he asked, looking up into her eyes. Even in the light of fire and smoke, they shone green, like light. Like the darkness of the room was centered around her eyelashes.
          “If you can bring back Kieran, why wouldn’t you bring back me?” she said and slid onto the armrest.
          He had not looked away from her, still it was like he was looking at her again. He was so confused. How had it come to this? How was she alive? How could they have caught someone like Azaya? But he knew one thing. He had not brought back Kieran. And from that he deducted the rest.
          He kept his glance locked on her as he slowly moved his arms up and behind his own head. From one palm to the other lightning jumped, sparks flying between them. His vision flickered between the pretend-world the demon had created and the dark ruins of reality. The smell of burnt flesh disappeared as the demon behind him dissipated into dust.
          He shook the illusion out of his head and turned his attention back to the battle at hand. Cassandra was fighting off the demons admirably, but while Azaya and Kieran were fighting off a large brute, Zevran stood mesmerized still in his place as someone moved closer to him. But that was not a person. The demon could imitate a human but they were not human. He jolted for her, but she reached the other elf before he could get to her. His fingertips froze as the ice grew between his hands. With precision and speed the icicle flew from his grip through the air and penetrated the woman’s chest, like an arrow piercing the heart. Like pieces of a puzzle the shell of the woman fell to the ground and revealed the demon’s true form before it too disappeared into dust as if it had never been there.
          Kieran’s throat was caught in the tight grasp of the blood mage. How could such a little creature had the strength to hold him so far up above his own head that his feet were dangling to reach the ground. But he knew how to hold his breath and his fist went for whatever was hiding in that hood. But it was intercepted by his free hand, and as it was twisted around it made a cracking noise in his shoulder. His arm was forced out over the floor. He did not know where it came from, but like an invisible knife his wrist was cut open.
          As soon as the first drop hit the floor it started shifting. Like old bones coming back to life, the walls groaned as they shook. Kieran was cast aside as the round seal under the mage turned and disappeared into the ground. As fast as he had snatched Kieran from the ground as fast was the mage gone into the tunnel that had been unearthed.


    Freeing, isn’t it? Her inner voice called out tauntingly, like an adult addressing a child. When you let go? Fire and rage tingled through her fingertips like sparks of passion. Each time an arrow was pulled from her quiver, it was set alight; each time fast then the last. She was getting used to it, this untethered feeling, and her mind had released all of the worries and troublesome thoughts that had plagued her on the way here. The blood, the violence and the thought of feeling that earthshaking pain again was enough to release it all.


    Azaya could only really comprehend parts of what was happening around her, as if they were little portraits of time that had some sort of meaning to be committed to memory. The dragon’s scales. The fire arrows. The feeling of pure, unearthed rage. Kieran’s eyes. Everything was unhuman yet familiar at the same time. Her muscles understood their roles in battle and it was just retention for them to fire an arrow; kill a demon. Both she and Kieran had fought countless times together that her arms just knew what to do when he charged at her, and they knew what to do the moment he landed.


    Except they wouldn’t move. And she wouldn’t get the chance.


    All too quickly, his body jerked away from him and zoomed toward the middle of the room. Instinct took over and the Crow dashed after him with little concern; arrow ready and drawn. She was met, unfortunately, but the two twin mages, one of them still sporting a token of remembrance of how deadly accurate Azaya could be with an arrow. They shot at her, their combination of fire and lightening, but she quickly side-stepped out of its path.


    Bow still drawn out to its max, Azaya only could smile as she lowered it down. “You might want to think about removing yourself from that spot,” she told them, but her voice sounded foreign to her own ears. It was raspy and cold, but held an edge of sarcasm and mocking. “Trust me.”


    Neither of them responded and they body language confirmed to her that they were ready for another attack. So are we, her thoughts only laughed while a ghost of a smile displayed her inner thought. Azaya’s hands uncurled from the one object that was an extension of her own body. In a split second, her body charged at the twins with two dagger blades drawn and ready, but most importantly set ablaze. The Crow Assassin collided with the two mages with a spark as magic and steel began to rage in a war.


    To anyone watching it would resemble a dance between warriors. Dodges and quick steps were matched with hard and ferocious swipes of forged steel and flickers of light and fire. They were fast in their actions, but she was one step quicker in her responses. Their battle was a blur, and it looked to be no end in sight. She would never get to Kieran if she didn’t finish this. These two need to go.


    Suddenly one of the mage’s eyes went wide in shock and his mouth was agape as his lungs searched for air. Azaya’s hand was wrapped tightly around his throat, so much so that her knuckles began to turn white. Emerald eyes narrowed in disgust and she felt the fire and heat travel through her veins and into her fingertips. The mage’s eyes lost their color, and like a cup filling with liquid his iris color became that of ash. His skin started to scorch away as if it were paper lit on fire. And, in the blink of an eye, the mage’s head disintegrated and fell through her fingertips and piled on the floor.


    Azaya’s arm lowered as her own gaze followed the floating dusty remainder of his head. The rest of the body fell to the ground in a heap a moment later. The second mage had been dumbstruck by his brother’s destruction and stumbled back from the shock. The woman assassin had stood motionless for a moment, and the mage could see that she was drinking in the actions that had just passed- with a certain air of satisfaction. The mage, finally came back to reality, pulled his hands together in readiness for an attack of ice mage.


    Before he stalled.


    The hiccup in movement was enough time for Azaya’s left arm to shoot out and grab the second mage by the throat. And just like the first, her hand had conjured fire to burn away the mage’s head. Once his body had crumpled to the ground, her line of vision had revealed the reason why the mage had stalled. Zevran stood about 20 feet behind the mage’s body with Azaya’s bow in hand. She could tell by his face, eyes and body language that there was more to the story than him just firing an arrow to buy her time but there would be no time to talk about it now.


    The two Crows looked at each other for a moment. Azaya was the first to make a move, dashing toward the newly unearthed tunnel, snatching her bow from the air has Zevran tossed to her. Down the tunnel she sprinted, with her partner close behind, arrow drawn and consequences be damned.


    They were winning. Even though Kieran had been hurt, he had landed with his back against the wall, he was far from dead. Cassandra and Phoriden had made quick work of the last fear demons, and now only their leader remained, though he had escaped through the gaping hole in the floor. They did not know where the tunnel led to, but Juleeya was saved, and before they made their next move, they should at least discuss their options. That never happened. With blood in her eyes, Azaya jolted into the unknown darkness, the two men in her life not far behind her. He looked at Cassandra and exhaled sharply. “For fuck’s sake!”
          He and the Divine’s left and right hand followed after the cavalry into the dark. The air smelled old. Not like dust, but like rotten tree and dry stone. At first it seemed like a naturally made cavern, but as his fingers followed the walls he felt the indents of engravings. It was too dark to see what they portrayed, and they were scurrying through the hall too fast for him to register the images. It could have prepared them for what was waiting for them at the end.
          The old braziers flared alive so brightly after the total darkness that it stopped them from moving. Brighter than actual fire it spread from the braziers into the runes engraved on the floors and walls. The room was a hexagon, a six-pointed pedestal in the middle of the room with five orbs lying in a circle. On five of the walls, lightened in veilfire was the ancient depictions of elven gods, and just then did he realize why the mage looked familiar. Behind him, as he stood on the other side of the pedestal smirking, the image of the hooded Dirthamen shone brightly with the green fire.
          It was worse than the fear demons now. He was not sure if the others could feel it, or if they felt it as much as he did. The terror and the warning. Veilfire was an ancient art, and it conveyed more than just images. It was like a cold hand gripping his spine. It was so overwhelming he lost the ability to speak. He looked to his left to see both Cassandra and Juleeya with the same unspoken horror on her face. It slithered off the walls like it was a physical force, a kind of heat that made it impossible to breathe. But it only intensified when the mage put his hand on the orb.
    Inline Image       When the orbs lit up, so did every rune and fire in the room. The hooded elf and the orbs levitated into the air, the four remaining ordered by the first. His eyes lit up with pure light, like a spirit, and from the four orbs pure power radiated. They had only been there for a few seconds, but finally Juleeya spoke up: “Get back!”
          Kieran did not think twice then. When Juleeya said run, you needed to run. Before she could object ha grabbed the small elven woman around the waist and pulled her into his grasp. They were the last behind the group that fled through the hall, but he kept pace with them even with her in his arms. Phoriden and Juleeya used their telekinesis to carry the rest out at the end of the hole, soon followed by themselves. It was less than a second after Phoriden had landed on the floor of the ruins that the entire mountain roared.
          As if gravity was only a concept the earth broke open and began to swirl in orbit around the rising light that was coming out of the mountain, like a giant orrery. The roof of the old ruin lifted as if it weighed nothing and the tiles moved from the ground into the air as the space of orbit grew. They could have run, but blocking the exit was a green fire so tall it reached where the roof had been before. Crackling with thunder the sky began to fill with dark clouds, pushing away the light of the moon.
          “Prophetess!” the hooded mage spoke, as if the very winds of the mountain carried his voice. It echoed like an avalanche. “You said all six would be here, where is the last?”
          A smirk crept over Juleeya’s face then, and just then Phoriden grew afraid of what the woman would say. Cordially, as if the very ground around her was not tearing apart, she shrugged. “I lied.”
          Her smile was smeared away when one long, continuous bolt of lightning dug from the clouds, bent mid-air and collided with the prophetess, sending her flying through the green fire to the other side. Kieran instinctively moved to follow, but the fire intensified and pushed him back to the group. Something came over him then. There was a look in his eyes that Phoriden had never seen before. Kieran was known for his coolheadedness. His ability to stay calm and keep overview of the situation was what set him apart as a warrior. But now he had lost it and in his eyes was only pure, unfiltered rage. The metal from his boots sparked as they slid against the tile on the ground as he turned and got on his feet before he set off towards the bedlam of moving objects.
          “Kieran, don’t!” he yelled after him but it was too late. Kieran leapt from the edge of the floor into the air. Time seemed to slow as they watched in horror, waiting for him to fall to his death before he was intercepted by a moving piece of rock. And then he was lost as the rock floated through the air.
          Phoriden and Azaya did not even look at each other, but simultaneously they started to move. Kieran could not do this alone. They needed to weaken the mage before anyone would be able to take him out. Whatever those orbs were, they needed to be taken away.
          As he leapt from the floor, a light flashed as pure lyrium changed his body to that of a raven. He had aimed directly for the orbs levitating in a circle around the blood mage, but when he entered the space of orbit, he croaked loudly. As gravity had changed, so had the air and it sent him flapping his wings wildly before he met a floating column to land on.
          He looked around, but he could not even see where he had come from. Everything was swirling around the air at separate speeds and directions he could barely keep an overview of it. But nothing was crashing into each other. In all the chaos each moving object was moving in perfect synch. And then he saw them. The two ravens that had hurt him before, the twin mages that were supposed to be dead, flying to attack Kieran. He could feel it from there, it was no longer a demon that lived in their bodies. They were animated by the blood mages entropy magic. But by then he had seen how they flew.
          He spread his wings and took off, tilting himself so the center of the orbit was above him. Kieran could handle the two mages, even if it slowed him down. Phoriden needed to focus on getting the orbs away from the mage. Spiraling around the glowing mage, he became part of the orbit. As he passed in circles he saw the rest of the group jumping from object to object.
          But now the mage had spotted him. Large balls of fire began to hail from the skies into the turning world the blood mage had created around him. But there was something else there. As some of them rained against the others, some began to follow him in the air. How it was possible, he did not know, but the balls were made of both fire and ice. It should make them melt, but instead the frost and the fire moved and twisted around each other in perfect harmony, moving to hurt him.
          He turned upwards and as he moved closer to the center he gained speed. Keeping track of the others became impossible as they became nothing but lines and he moved to focus on his objective. He moved his talons to be ready before he crashed into the orbs floating around the mage.
          As soon as his talons connected to the orb, he felt a surge of power go through him. Suddenly his wings had the power to break through the power of the orbit and he made a straight line to the little bit of floor that was left. When he landed the light of the lyrium changing him to his regular for was brighter than before. When he came out if the transformation he held the orb in his hands. Even before he activated it he could feel the power echo from it. Instinctively, his magic connected with it and it began to levitate from his hand, blue light and lightning emanating from it, but that was not where its power laid. His own irises lit up with blue, and as he looked at the twirling madness he could suddenly feel everyone of the people inside it. The ravens that had been attacking Kieran had fallen to the ground, but with the orb he made them come alive again, but now he was their master.
          In their raven forms the two mages spiraled into the orbit until they were located at the two pieces of rock located closest to the blood mage. When they came out of their raven-forms their eyes were lit up with the same blue light that was in Phoriden’s eyes, even the way they smiled resembled the look on his face. Like wheels in a clock, the two dead bodies moved their arms before them and from their palms fire and lightning sprung to attack the glowing body in the middle. It was diverted into the clouds, but he could feel how it took away from the blood mage’s control of the environment. Lightning sparked in the clouds, but while the one mage moved to battle the electricity, the other kept his fire burning towards the middle. It was a small first step, but it was still a step in defeating him.


    Cassandra knew, the moment she entered the chamber, that they were all over their heads. The vibe that the room cast was a similar one that she had dealt with before and, quite frankly, one that she did not ever want to experience again. The mage had called forth old magic that seemed to control the room and everyone in it. They were a group, forged together for the same goal, but their ideas were different. If Cassandra had learned anything from past battles, it could end in disaster.


    She hated when she was right.


    She had seen Julyeea fly back from the lightening’s force and felt the heat from the vail fire. Her feet were rooted into place as her mind tried to calculate a move that could place them one step ahead. Upon her exhale, Cassandra turned to just in time to hear Phoriden’s warning and, still much to her disbelief, Kieran’s movement. It had not gone unnoticed that the dead prince had been fighting alongside her, but given the circumstances the multitude of questions she had, it would have to wait. She watched as he charged at the mage with such anger, one that she knew all too well, and was swallowed up by one of the orb’s magic.


    “What the fuck is going on?!” Zevran spoke loud enough over the roar of the flames and chaos that she could hear him. “Please tell me you have an idea because I am all out.”


    Cassandra shook her head. “Later,” she said spinning her sword in her hand. “Right now we need to get those orbs away from him.” She adjusted her shield and pointed the tip of her sword at one of the floating spheres of magic. “Can you do that?”


    “It seems I always find myself in situations where I must disperse a villain from his mysterious magic,” the Antivan retorted with a shrug and tightened his grip on the hilt of his daggers. “Do you have a choice of which one you’d like, dear? Flaming death orb or death by sparks orb?”


    “Shut up and do it, Zevran,” she screamed at him and turned to head into the fray of battle as she always had done.


    Azaya had moved herself away so that she remained alone. They were safer that way. Her steps were slow, methodical, as she made her way into the field of magical battle. Red tinted eyes followed the orbs of power as they were floating in their own calculated way. She watched the mage control them like a puppet and felt fire and jealously run through her. All of this power and he didn’t know how to use it. How blind he was to it all.


    Blind, yes. The voice came back lower and more powerful then she had ever felt it. You have only had a small taste of your true power and yet you know this one is no match for you. Azaya’s head twitched to the side; her eyes snapping shut hard in a failed attempt to block out his taunting calls. Don’t fear it. Take it.


    Take what? Azaya thought with a roll of her eyes and a dim of red. These devices were far beyond her knowledge, and she had sworn off magic when she was a child. It always seemed to follow her like a juvenile; an annoying needy youth that needed to cling to her for support and love.


    She cast her eyes around the battlefield and calculated options and made plans. Giant rocks and pieces of earth still swirled around the center of the room. Azaya thought. If she could get near it, get her hands on it, maybe the rest of them could have a better chance of defeating the blood mage. How though? There were other methods of defense and protection around it and the others were too far into their own tasks to think of grabbing the gravity orb. You know what to do. Walk up. Take it.


    Her teeth and jaw were locked in defiance but her hands moved back to pull an arrow from her quiver. The assassin lit the arrow on fire as if it had become second nature and pulled back on the string so it rested against her cheek. Her red-brown hair whipped around her face in a furious storm but her eyes sat like stone on her target. Wild heart beats pounded in her chest as her mind battled within itself. This is wrong, she thought. This magic feels wrong.


    Wrong? You are saving him. Protecting him. Azaya’s fingers twitched. The orb’s magic licked a tongue of green around its etched surface. Voices of her friends became battle cries of hope and desperate emotions as they tried to achieve the same goal as she. Azaya knew she could hit it. She knew the arrow would knock the magic device off its path and place it at her feet. The woman knew she could keep him safe this time because this time she wasn’t alone.


    Something flashed and sent a spark of magic at her causing her to dive to the side and slam her arm hard into stone. Azaya screamed out and pressed her palm flush against her upper arm. Shit, she fumed; feeling some blood trickle down. She would now have to be closer to get off a clean shot and dislodge the orb. Quickly, and without thinking, she ran into the sea of floating rocks at her target.


    Crows were taught, at a very young age, to use the environment around them to achieve their goal. Do not fight against it but embrace it. Her mentor used to chant that at her. This is what made her so deadly. It wasn’t the weapons or strength she possessed. It was because she was able to blend herself seamlessly into her world. Azaya raced between chunks of rock and bounced off of them like she had done with Zevran in the quarry at the start of all this. That seemed like years ago. In stride, Azaya lit the arrow she had in her hand aflame and slid behind a small bolder.


    She pressed her back level against it and took a quick look at her target. The Crow visualized where it sat, what it looked like and what surrounded it and imprinted it into her memory before sliding back into safety. It would become her only thought until the arrow flew. Her environment. Inhale. Load the arrow. Find the mark. Exhale. In one smooth motion, and with teeth pressed together in pain, she stepped out from her protection zone, pulled back on the bow and fired the arrow at the orb.


    There would be no doubt it would hit.


    Once the arrow collided with the globe, Azaya watched as it was dislodged and it crashed to the ground with a clang. It rolled toward her as if it’s destination was predestined and stopped at Azaya’s feet. Take it, it told her again. Her hands felt foreign as she reached down and picked it up without remorse. The surge that went through her was terrifying and wonderful at the same time. It warm and inviting as if she had felt it before but it only seemed like a distant memory. She wanted nothing more than to hide it away and keep it for her own.


    Reality hit her like the winter’s cold and Azaya came to see that her hands were shaking. “Phoriden!” she called out to the mage as she watched the other orbs fall from the sky. She noticed he was only a few feet from her and she pulled her arm back to toss the ball in his direction. “Here!”


    The rotating blocks of earth stopped in mid-air as Azaya removed the orb from the blood mage’s orbit. The dust that soared through the air as the first cliff crashed and broke against the ground made it impossible to see further than a hand’s reach away. But he did not need to. When Azaya’s voice carried over to him, he already felt the orb being thrown towards him.
          Like wheels in a clock the orb was sucked onto his palm and he felt its power surge through him. He knew the kind of magic it controlled. It was the same magic that made him able to move things with his mind. But it was more than regular force magic. It was like gravity itself was only a something he had thought up, and could disappear if he did not remember to keep it in check.
          His feet left the ground slowly. Feeling the life forces of his allies, he maneuvered the falling rocks away from them and protected them from the falling debris. He was unable to see them, but with the first orb he could feel their life force, pin-pointing them and guiding them through the maze of falling debris.
          With the playing field being back to a normal immobile cliff ground it was easier to get a hold of the elf’s orbs. The first he got came from Zevran. As if reattaching a long-lost limb, the orb circled around Phoriden, lighting up as it connected to the other orbs. It was a feeling he had never felt before. It was like his veins were filled with lyrium and the pure arcane power flowed through him like a conduit. He felt how the power glowed through the pores in his skin.
          Then Cassandra threw the fourth orb to him, and it curved around him along with the rest and the power surged even more. It was something primal that went through him. Something so natural he could not even stop himself. It was like the whole world changed and became nothing more than figments of his thoughts and he could whisk it all way with the brush of a hand. It was like he stopped being the mortal mage he had always been and evolved into something more. Like his body stopped being a body and became something else entirely. Like he became light.
          When the enemy mage sent out his commands to the earth, he could see the strings of magic move from the orb in his hand. Like watching sound, the magic moved through the dust and earth until it found its victims and up through the ground they shot like flowers. Five varterrals as large as the one in the front roaring at their full behest. But he was ready for them. As easily as thinking it he invisibly picked them up into the air and turned them on their head so they could not attack Kieran. And for a moment he thought about how easily it would be to pick off their legs, one after one.
          The chaos that had surrounded them had only hindered Kieran for a time. He had avoided boulder after boulder, never losing sight of his target. When the hooded figure fell out of orbit, and the sky began to rain with rocks, he had jumped from one cliff to the other, gaining closer to his victim. And that was what he would be. His blood would be smeared on the chainmail of his armor and he would feel how his heart still tried to beat in his hand.
          “Stay away from me, shemlen!” he hissed as he took a step back, moving the orb out in front of him as if it in itself was a shield. But as it powered up, the magic from Phoriden’s four orbs lit up and negated the magic in the fifth. But he did not need the orb to use his own magic.
          He pushed towards the towering warrior. Chainmail was no protection from magic as cuts began to form under the armor. But it did not stop him. Like a lash from a whip one big would opened up across his chest. But he did not stop. Pressure began to build in his skull to the point that blood gushed from his nostrils and ears. But he did not stop.
          As the blood flowed it began to glow like a small ember and his dark irises began to light up. The pain should have slowed his assault, but it only fed him. When he grabbed the little being by the throat his hand was more like a claw than a hand and when his thumb pressed against the artery, it drew blood. And the blood travelled from Kieran’s grip, down his pulsing arm and into the open cuts on his shoulders. With his claw he struck into the soft part of the mages stomach, swiftly drilling through intestines and muscle until he could grab his fist around the elf’s spine.
          Had they been hiding in the shadows, or did they manifest out of pure air? At first they were not there, but then they were, like they had walked right out of a dream. Like falcons they descended from the darkness and grabbed onto an orb each like they were gripping his liver in their hands. “Don’t play with things that aren’t yours.”
          And just like that they took it away from him. It was like the very force that kept him breathing was ripped from his chest and before he could get a proper look at the elves around him, the world went black.
          The way they moved was like a deadly force in its own. As Phoriden fell to the ground, one turned with his orb in hand and the two crows and Cassandra were lifted into the air while the varterrals were put nicely back on the ground before they disappeared back into the earth. With the obstacles out of the way, the huntress descended upon Kieran’s back, trying to drag his arm out of her comrade. But he was too strong, she looked back at her allies, her face changed from the stern assuredness. “He’s had the blood of the dragon!”
          It took nothing more to get her two allies to join her. Moving like strung arrows the two that were not occupying their enemies flew to her aid. While one only joined his ally in trying to pull the hand out of the blood mage’s stomach, the other had a better plan. The globe in his hand lit up with red lightning and his other hand grabbed Killian by the skull. And through the tint of the reaver’s glare shined the eyes of the elf as he commanded him. “Let go.”
          Kieran shook his head, but it was not enough to remove the grasp on his mind and reluctantly he withdrew his claw and let the puny creature fall to the ground, coughing up his own blood as he landed. A well placed kick from the raven-haired elf sent the powerhouse flying through the air right into his human companion.
          “This is bad, we need to do it now,” the elf leaning over the blood mage spoke and almost before he had finished did the woman throw her orb to him. It was all the time she had before she had to block one of Kieran’s lit-up claws.
          Without wasting time, the three men hoisted their orbs into the air. Swirling around the dying blood mage on the ground until in a flash he was gone. With green fire covering her hands she blocked every claw that Kieran threw at her. Orange power was met with green magic until a well-placed fist met his chest and he flew back once again. "Later, handsome."
          One jump backwards through the air and the four of them gathered together. With an orb in each hand, each lit up in a different color and flew away in opposite directions. Kieran looked up with a sneer his eyes set on Azaya for half a heartbeat before the orange light disappeared. He did not speak, but it was clear they all thought the same. What just happened?

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