A Dragon Age Story - Overhauled from previous.

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  • A Dragon Age Story - Overhauled from previous.

    Set in the Dragon Age Universe

    Additional Note: These are not the first four chapters of my story but later ones without being a spoiler. The reasoning behind this is because I have a lot of pre-written (on paper) back story and text to collect and find which will then need to fit to be typed up. Thank you for understanding.

    Set in the Dragon Age Universe

    A Wardens Tale

    The Gorge of Amgeforn

    “Gareth!” Ariel had seen the dark speck on the opposite face of the ravine, now climbing at a frightening speed.
    “What is it?” Gareth called over, clinging to the rope which now held him from the tangible void beneath, his dark hair plastered to his forehead from exhaustion.
    It had been far too treacherous to take the alternate route but as it turned out, this one fared no better.
    “Beneath you!” she called.
    At her hesitance he squinted down into the abyss trying to discern whatever creature existed - and much to his own despair he saw the pale eyes, and those ghastly grins.
    ‘Dark spawn…’ he murmured darkly.
    Being the Warden Gareth was, the sight of the wretches was no less horrifying; they defied all laws of nature, and what gripped him most was the fact that they were actually nothing more than people in their most terrifying, decaying form.
    Where there is one he thought to himself, there are always more.
    Ariel had now removed the bow she carried and drawing her finest arrow up to her chin, released it in a resounding twang as it glided through the air seamlessly before plunging into the creature’s neck. Down it fell until it could no longer be seen through the abyss. As quickly as it had gone three more came, motivated by their kin below, as they scrambled up with hideous calls and evil chants until it blocked out all other noise. As though the darkness beneath beckoned to them.
    “We need to go now! Gareth,” Ariel bellowed, releasing yet another arrow at the creatures below, “Just push off the ledge and fast, I will not be able to give you much time once they all start climbing!”
    By that stage the droning and twisted cries only grew louder, and more potent - until then, like the calm before a storm the chorus simply stopped. The ascent had begun.
    Ariel watched in horror as the Darkspawn raced up the gorge like ravenous beasts at the scent of a blood trail. Gareth at this stage was still on the other side trying so desperately to push himself off, but to no avail.
    “The rope,” he yelled at the top of his voice, the sweat beading down stinging his eyes, “The damned rope is caught, I can’t get off this blasted thing!” Noticing it had somehow lodged itself in the crevice above. Desperation, kicked in.
    And in all his years training, Gareth knew that death smiled upon all Wardens, as the corruption within eventually sought to take them over completely. But this day at least, it was not going to end in some grim ravine, not like this he thought. Ariel watched in despair as the Darkspawn streamed up towards him like a swarm of enraged hornets defending their nest; but like Gareth, in all her years training as a Bard of Orlais, she knew of only one thing, a clear mind and a deft touch is all that was needed, and she had just the answer.


    “Gareth!” She cried, “I’m going to fire an arrow with rope attached into the crevice near your hand, once there you must secure it!”
    Gareth protested, “You’re going to do what!?”
    But before he could protest any longer Ariel had plucked her heaviest arrow, nocked it, and fired directly into the crack only inches from his face.
    A fine shot she noted, brushing aside the amber hair which veiled her eyes.
    Gareth stared bewildered at the shaft of wood now inches from his nose, but he was out of options and saw no alternative. He fastened the arrow until the rope was as taut as a bow string, whilst Ariel too secured her end with many loops around a small boulder on the opposite side. Now steeling himself on wards he grasped the rope and began to shift his way forward, feet wrapped around tight as he dared not glance below.
    The Darkspawn were furious now, they snarled with fangs of death and wicked hearts, and Gareth could see them clambering up with even more ferocity, a fire smouldering in their eyes. For every one Ariel shot down three more replaced its fallen comrade, and she could not keep them off for much longer as the continuous twanging of her bow radiated off the walls. Time was of the essence.
    She noticed Gareth was struggling on the rope as he scaled across, the heavy armour didn’t help, but she could not believe he was still carrying that shield which only vexed him further.
    “Forget the damned Shield!” She yelled pleadingly, “There is no time.”
    Gareth considered this for a short moment, but the creatures who had now scrambled their way onto the rope made him act quickly, and much to his own heartache had thought it was best. Even a gift from the First Warden himself had no relevance down here it seemed. With great regret he unfastened the shield from his back and let it plunge into the abyss, never to be seen again. Another gift for the Darkspawn to use, he thought grimly.
    As the beasts scurried their way up the gorge face, Ariel thought it best to unleash her remaining arrows in a volley, casting down many back into the shadows below. The ravine was now crawling with them, snarling and taunting as Gareth reached the other side, breathing hard from the sheer amount effort it took. He had lunged forward, and only just managed to get a foothold on the ledge as Ariel held him by the strap of his chest plate, before cutting the rope in one swift motion, sealing the fate of those who tried to follow.
    “Here your hand,” she clasped his arm. With one final effort Gareth hauled himself up onto the ledge above, Ariel grasping desperately at what remained off the knotted rope, so to not fall over herself.
    Scrambling they made towards a row of boulders avoiding bolts from devilish looking crossbows as they whistled by on the rocks ahead, splintering like icicles.
    “My shield would have been very handy right about now,” he laughed bitterly, as they jumped behind the largest boulder.
    “What a cruel twist of fate,” he added, sweating profusely through his armour.
    Ariel stared daggers at him, not enjoying the satirical humour of it all, but ignored him otherwise. And it was only when she glanced back from peering over the boulder, did she see a deepness in his blue eyes, a sincerity even, the hard features of his face revealing of some greater loss, but she said not a word. Now was not the time for such thoughts, they had to move.
    Peering over the boulders, they witnessed the mass of creatures that stood where they had been not moments ago. The Dark spawn, much to Ariel's surprise, had lost all their blood lust and were now aimlessly wandering, like sheep without their shepherd. It was as if some unknown entity had subdued the beasts, so docile they seemed.
    “What in the Maker's name has happened to them, why aren’t they attacking?” Ariel whispered, a puzzled expression on her face.
    Gareth meanwhile was so lost in prayer that all else seemed but a distant memory. She noticed he clasped something - a small metal like object with horns… an Elven Halla - and at that moment she could feel the presence of magic.
    “So let it be,” he murmured, before facing Ariel. “It is time we left this cursed place.” Gesturing towards an orifice that was not but fifteen strides ahead of them.
    “Quietly now, and keep low, I am unsure of how long the beasts will be subdued.”
    Ariel was lost for words.
    “Are you not going to tell me what you just did there,” she said, keeping quiet enough so as to not draw attention as they made their way towards the opening.
    “Put simply,” he whispered, “They cannot sense me nor can I them. I broke the connection, albeit temporarily that a Warden and a Darkspawn feel when in close proximity to one another’. And
    with that Gareth stepped through the opening, leaving Ariel bewildered. Just what he was hiding she knew nothing of, before following in after him.


    Of Things not Lost

    Their narrow escape from the Darkspawn had been a lucky one, and knowing this they made sure there would be no more surprises. They continually took regular watch shifts when stopping for a rest or setting up camp, only sparsely nibbling at some dried meat or hardened bread. But despite all this continued alertness, Gareth and Ariel were now starting to make up decent headway. They had passed many a treacherous cavern, journeying through parts which would have had them scratching their heads if not for Gareth’s Warden Sense; but ever since venturing down here and in the time which passed, he had always felt something, a presence which lingered but kept to the shadows watching, always watching. The feeling had made him edgy, his hand instinctively grasping for his sword at the slightest sound or faintest movement.
    They ventured further, deeper into the beyond, unknowing of where they were actually headed, until they came across what seemed like the first bit of civilisation they’d laid eyes upon for some time. Only it wasn’t civilised. A desolate structure greeted them, with pillars of stone and paths of shattered rock as the sudden realisation dawned. It was the fabled Deep Roads, now nothing more but a place of defilement and sorrow.
    The old Dwarven highway was nothing ruin. It was said they spanned all over Thedas, even rumours of such roads crossing into unknown lands. But for now it had been long overrun with Dark spawn filth and any attempt to reclaim them futile. The Wardens knew this; any attempt would have always ended in slaughter.
    The Dwarves tried long ago but to no avail, only fragments can be recovered now; scattered Thaigs and memories from centuries past.
    But as Gareth and Ariel journeyed them, they became to understand the plight of the Dwarves, a pain which could never be healed, ghosts forever wandering these dark halls in search of peace, but never given the honour of a proper burial. Corruption ruled this place now, the walls covered in lichen, the pillars veiled behind layers of tainted filth. The beauty that was once the pride of the Dwarves dwindled like the ashes of a fire long since burned. The taint ruled this place, and there would be no other.


    Ariel suddenly stopped, her eyes alight with awe, taking in the colossal figure which stared down indomitably, guarding the crossroad which appeared before them. A proud defiance above all that was corrupted here. The great statue stood, taller and much grander than anything she had ever seen. Gareth had walked alongside her, taking in the sheer size of the colossal being.
    “Yes, they are remarkable structures indeed,” he said as his eyes took in its sheer size. It was the first time anything had been said between them since the ravine, so as to not draw unwanted attention, and partly because of Ariels frustration towards Gareth’s refusal of revealing the magic he used earlier.
    She gazed upon the mighty structure, having read about such things in her time as a Bard, but seeing it first-hand was something else altogether.
    “Incredible, it is hard to believe they still stand after all this time. I cannot begin to imagine the hands which crafted these,” she said, letting curiosity get the upper hand as she strode towards the base of the figure, tracing her fingers against the smoothness of the cold stone.
    After a moment Gareth had too joined her at the statues base.
    “Remnants of an age long since passed,” he spoke, keeping his voice low, “and sadly forgotten,” he placed a hand upon the stone as if trying to discern the figure it represented.
    Ariel had immediately wondered what Gareth meant by ‘forgotten’. Surely such things were not lost to history - were they? After a time absorbing in the might that dwarfed these halls she decided to ask the question.
    “How?" she now looked at him, an impassive look strewn across her face,
    “How can such history and tragedy be forgotten when it clearly stands here before us,” she watched Gareth as he fell silent, staring off into the passage ahead as if caught in some trance or distant memory.
    He looked at her now, eyes cold and dark like he had seen something unpleasant, before speaking.
    “Perhaps not forgotten,” gesturing towards the great ceiling it was holding up.
    “But ignored, and people have just simply chosen not to think about such things as though they were nothing but an idle fantasy. You see, only when the Darkspawn rise upon the surface do the people start to care and realise that horrors actually do exist. But once they’ve disappeared below the surface again and the Archdemon is no more- to most, after some time, the Darkspawn become myth again…bedtime stories for young children. Much like the Grey Wardens.” the last words leaving a bitter taste in his mouth. But he continued on.
    “Little do many know of the happenings beneath their homes and cities? Of course we cannot always live in fear of these wretched things. But for the Kings and Queens, Emperors and Empresses, whomever they are, it must always be a concern, but is rarely mentioned. I’m afraid the ignorance of a few will be the downfall of many.”
    “And the Wardens? Do they not seek to reclaim the roads?” She responded.
    “It is impossible, no empire would dare risk such an expedition, let alone the Wardens. There are not enough of us now to stem the tide and the cost would be too great.”
    “And what of the cost to lives?” she now argued, a deep flare in her eyes, “Is that no reason enough? How many people must die from the taint each year simply for going about their daily business? How many more will continue to suffer!”
    “It cannot be done!” he turned on her suddenly, anger filling his voice, “No matter what you might think, it just isn’t that simple. Do you not think all has been considered?” she now stood back defiantly, ready to launch her counter-attack. But Ariel could see the saddened expression which now washed over him, no matter how much he tried to cover it up, and so decided that enough was said on the matter. Could things really be as bad as what he described? Do the powers of Orlais, and Tevinter even, not take the threat of Darkspawn seriously? A silence fell upon them both, as Gareth moved on from the figure and was now studying the walls, while Ariel looked upon these relics with a much renewed interest…and sorrow.
    After some time, Gareth approached her with some news.

    “I believe I may have found a way out of here,” he motioned towards some glyphs that were set into the stone wall below, as his eyes searched her own in an attempt to apologise for his previous outburst. She simply nodded.
    “Going by these markings,” he continued with a renewed interest, “there appears to be multiple routes running out of this crossroad further down, now if we take the left path here,” indicating to an odd looking mark “it is possible we may reach an exit within 2 days” he said, “Solid walking of course.”
    Ariel now followed him over towards the wall, eyeing the glyphs as she went by.
    “And what of the Darkspawn,” she questioned, doubt creeping in “There is no saying we won’t encounter more,” at her words Gareth looked away, an unreadable expression written upon his face.
    “Well yes, there is that, which would only delay us further. But Maker willing I hope to avoid them as much as we possibly can. See here?” gesturing towards the glyphs again “These markings may lead us to one of the very few safe passages the Dwarves built in for quick evacuations. Now whether they still exist or not is another thing, but right now, we’re out of options. It is a risk we must take.”
    The thought of what lay ahead brought a dampened atmosphere to the air, like an unbearable weight which loomed above, waiting for the opportune moment to crush its unworthy victims. What if there were none of these so called safe passages left? And even if they found one what then? There was no way of knowing how far they’d actually come, not knowing exactly where here actually was in this Maker cursed place.
    The air became thick and musty, stifling the thoughts from Gareth’s head as he tried to study the remaining glyphs. Ariel watched on dubiously, not knowing if he could truly understand them or was merely making assumptions, both thoughts making her edgy. After sometime she decided to take a look herself, applying whatever knowledge she had gained through both the University of Orlais and the Bards.
    “So…” she said suddenly, now nibbling on a dried chunk of bread she pulled from her satchel, “can you interpret the meaning? Because I’m having no luck at all.” Gareth looked over, observing that she too was also trying her hand at deciphering them.
    “Not exactly, but from what I can gather these ones here are only meant as a guide, and can sometimes be misleading to the untrained eye,” he responded, his gaze now focused on some unseen object in the passage beyond.
    “So what are we looking for exactly?” she asked again passively.
    “Something that doesn’t quite match up with what we see here, whether it be a rune out of place or written out of proportion or even a letter, just anything really that might suggest the unthinkable,” turning his gaze back to the wall below.
    “The unthinkable? Such as…this one?” she called out, her eyes now locked onto a small looking glyph bearing odd markings.
    Ariel at that moment saw the faintest flicker of hope in his eyes as he wandered over in a cadenced step.
    “Exactly like this!” he laughed to himself, tracing the rune with his forefinger.
    “And this tells us?”
    “Well,” he continued on eagerly, “usually these runes appear before a guardhouse, being the check-in point for newcomers who traversed the roads. Now all these passages must link up to someplace, and so the Dwarves decided to mark them with these unique looking glyphs for any who lost their way. Of course one had to be able to read such things, which many did of course back then…but now though, it has sadly become a lost art.” Turning his attention back towards the runes.
    It was then he noticed something odd. On one of the glyphs a strange inscription was made, of the likes he’d never encountered.
    Ariel noticing his confusion wandered over to take a closer look. This glyph, he thought, was entirely segregated from the rest, along with a unique looking symbol which looked oddly like…a rearing Griffon.
    “Impossible… this, it just cannot be,” Gareth exclaimed. Ariel saw it too.
    “Is that what I think it is,” dropping her bread in disbelief.
    “The symbol of the Grey Wardens, yes - yes it is.” Gareth finished in a stunned tone. Ariel could hardly believe what she heard.
    “Why in the makers name would the Dwarves have even included their Symbol on this inscription,” she asked carefully, not wanting to pin her hopes just yet.
    “That is beyond my level of knowledge, but if true, then this could change many things,” he stood tall now, it was as if the sight of it renewed the vigour in his limbs, a steely determination flashed through his eyes. “From the parts that I can read, it tells of an outpost, one where Men, Dwarves and Elves could come freely…,” he let the words hang in the air. Ariel motioned towards the passage ahead “You mean to say out there lies a - Grey Warden Outpost?” she stammered out, almost not believing her own words.
    “Yes, down here. It is almost unheard of, we can only assume it has been abandoned for many decades, if not centuries,” but at that moment Gareth felt a sensation as cold as a winters wind blow over him. Something was here, lurking in the shadows, he could feel its presence. The presence he’d been feeling had returned.
    “Hold,” he spoke suddenly, keeping his voice low, “we’re not alone, I fear what I felt earlier has returned. We’ve been watched this whole time,” he immediately drew his sword. Ariel had now taken out her twin silverite daggers, she kept them close, her fingers going white as she gripped them in a bear like vice, scanning the impenetrable darkness beyond. She spoke up, cautiously.
    “What do you feel Gareth?” a wave of panic gripped her. No amount of training had prepared her to fight like this, in these dark depths, against monsters of unspeakable terror. She felt as if the shadows beyond were beckoning, eyes always watching. The torches they’d acquired earlier were beginning to lose their strength. Gareth hesitated for a moment, sword in hand, trying to make sense of this hum he now felt penetrating his thoughts.
    “I cannot say,” he responded in a hard tone, “but whatever lurks out here is also aware of us too. I can feel it.” Gareth then knew, with all the pain and fear within his heart, only one option remained.
    Striding towards a disused torch sconce that dotted the passageways, he now used what little fire was left of his to reignite it. After a moment, Gareth pulled out some supplies from his satchel, before facing Ariel.
    ”I’ve left you enough rations to last you for at least a couple of days, “He began, an urgent force taking hold. “Now if I do not return by then you must leave according to the path I indicated before.” Ariel didn’t know how to respond.
    “Ariel, please you must do this. Promise me you will.” The presence grew stronger now, beckoning to him in the shadows beyond.
    “But I don’t understand!” she stammered out, a fierce look in her eyes, “You’re just going to leave me here after all we’ve been through! In the depths of this wretched place!” her face was flushed, as Gareth watched painfully, two large tears now falling upon her cheeks like the dew upon a rose petal.
    “Ariel, I’m doing this for your safety,” he spoke softly, trying to ease her grief, “now there’s something out there I tell you, of the likes I’ve never felt before, and it’s after me - it senses me. And may the Maker be my witness I’ll do whatever it takes to return but you must promise me - you must – Tell me you won’t linger here in the dark like the ghosts which still haunt this place.” He took her in a strong embrace, feeling the warmth of her face upon his neck, the tears which now soaked through his under-tunic.
    Promise me.” He whispered again, his lips upon her ear.
    Ariel gently released herself from his grip, brushing down her leather battledress and wiping the droplets from her face, before she spoke in a strained voice.
    “I promise Gareth - now go -.” She eventually managed, the last words stirring an unwanted pain.
    Gareth saw the stricken look upon her face, but gathered himself knowing there could be no other way. He straightened the strap of his satchel and with one last fleeting glance towards Ariel took off into the passage beyond, shadows dancing in his wake as Ariel watched on in despair, hearing the faint falls of his boots and seeing the last light of his torch slowly being swallowed up by the endless abyss.

    A Grave Discovery

    The air was dense, as though the stone above was compressing the oxygen from his Lungs as Gareth made his way through what seemed like an endless void. His torch had already burned more than half its wick, with no way knowing if he’d find anymore. Only once had he encountered what seemed like the faint reflection off a lichen covered wall, the stone gleaming with a damp look, but even then, Gareth was not convinced. It were as if he were a lone star travelling amongst the darkest of nights, relying purely on his sense of direction and the faint light his torch now offered. Gareth had wondered just how long he’d been down here; Hours. Perhaps…even days? Even time it had lost all meaning down here, wherever here actually was. He had often wondered about Ariel after taking off; he had sworn to the Maker that he’d return, but Gareth imagined the sentiment only to be a small comfort when down in a place such as this.
    Would she be there if he returned? Was she safe? What if it had been days?
    It didn’t matter, he thought again; if he did manage to somehow return within the time then she’d be waiting for him, but if not, she would be gone. It was that simple. Somehow that sense of isolation gave him a grim form of comfort, knowing it would only be himself who perished down here. As it should be.
    All these thoughts plagued his mind, and brought with it a deep melancholy he was unaccustomed to, but the knowing of her leaving this pit regardless of his life, was enough to push him through.
    He ventured on, through the depths of this darkened place; littered with crumbled columns and statues of a by-gone age, causing him no small amount of trouble to manoeuvre over the obstacles which dared to block his path. The presence still drawing him ever deeper. It wasn’t long before he noticed the corruption seemed to lessen somewhat, the walls appearing more like their original make with only strands of moss hanging loosely. And it was when the passage began to narrow, did he soon realise the wall which blocked his way. A hole which was punctured through the stone ahead told him of something more. It was barely large enough for a single man, as he strode towards the opening, the grinding of loose earth crunching under his heavy boots.
    “Gods,” he exclaimed, “How am I meant to pass through that?” He got down on his hands and knees, blowing away the webs which covered the tunnel. He then decided to place his satchel through first, and then his sword followed by the stub of his torch. Gareth started head first, worming his way through the earth which encompassed the circular passage, pushing his items ahead one by one. His face covered in dust and grime as the air thinned, causing him to draw shallow breaths, the small flame of his torch also struggling for life. His armour made it all the more gruelling, but he would rather die first before ever giving it up. After several minutes of shifting and manoeuvring, his sword suddenly wouldn’t go ahead any more. He pushed again, but only the sound of metal scraping upon rock greeted him.
    “Blast it!” he swore, cursing himself for being drawn into this trap. He stiffly tried to move the torch ahead in hope of revealing some other option, but was only welcomed by a grey old stone. The lack of air was beginning to stifle his mind, causing him to become light headed. The thought of perishing in this worm hole made his instincts kick in, and with all the strength he could muster, began pushing on the rock, exerting all his energies into one final thrust of his arms. And like the opening of a cork the rock gave way, making a large crash as it landed on whatever lay beneath. A vacuum of air suddenly rushed through as he sucked in the essence of life, the cool breeze which made him shiver from the sweat off his body. He managed to push his satchel and sword out, which clattered on the stone below. But what greeted him next though truly took his breath away as he exited the tunnel. The flicker of his torch renewed at the vast amount of oxygen, revealing walls carved with varying reliefs; of imagery and works of stone the likes of he’d never witnessed before. Dragons as monstrous as an entire city were displayed, their wings fanned out in a huge arc, armies from a by-gone era were also depicted, lined up in battle formations. It was as though they told a story, some hidden secret that was yet to be revealed.
    “Maker…” he breathed out, eyeing the impressive sights. It was though this place had been kept hidden from the corruption which penetrated all other depths, only the layers of dust which caked the room described the age within. Gareth brought his torch up to a small brazier, the ashes of it long since cooled, but within moments it sparked to life, casting the room in a pale glow, revealing yet more items of interest; Old pots of bronze, disused hammers and chisels lay strewn along the stone floor, but it was nothing compared to the horrifying scene before him, a look of dismay now upon his face; Bones. Many bones in fact. Whole skeletons left slumped on the ground, skulls tilted to one side as though studying the intruder before them. Long gnarly fingers clasping the remains of what seemed to be old pickaxes and yet more stone working tools. Gareth felt helpless anxiety wash over him as he realised they were trapped in here, worked to the very last inch of their life to create the stone carvings which lined these walls, and not only that, he thought grimly. This was no hallowed chamber or joyous shrine – no exit, no door - only one thought came into his mind as the light of his torch revealed a dark rectangular object towards the back room. A sepulchre. I’m standing in a tomb.
    Gareth turned away in shock. Hurriedly he retraced his steps, knocking over caskets of bronze and crunching on the weary bones of those despondent souls. He had almost reached the tunnel before a sudden clamour stopped him short, sending a chill down his spine. It was coming from the halls outside the tunnel, like a soft buzzing which only grew louder, amplified by the wormhole below. Gareth cautiously drew his sword, the rubbing metal against his scabbard magnified by the sudden silence that ensued. The presence he’d been following had returned, even stronger now it felt as he glanced through the tunnel.
    “Reveal yourself!” he shouted, his voice echoing as it travelled into the halls outside, but all that returned was silence. Only the laboured sounds of his breathing could be heard, as the air became dense and stale. Frustration threatened to overtake him as he slammed his boot into an old pot, sending it against the wall in a loud crash, before sheathing his blade in anguish. But Gareth decided to try again, restraining himself this time to speak in a more even tone.
    “Show yourself!” he pleaded into the hole yet again, “Please, I have followed you all this way, through the darkest depths of this cursed pit. Come forth, and into the light!” desperation met those final words as Gareth staggered back, the air now becoming almost unbreathable. He lay there now, his back against the tunnel, his torch fading as he saw those lifeless bones staring at him, their sardonic grins adding an eerie air to the already dreaded feelings within him. The sweat beaded down his forehead, dripping listlessly onto is chest-piece of silverite, the metal now tarnished and scratched from the gruelling days and weeks before. And at that moment his vision began to waver, staring blankly at the sepulchre ahead as his body slowly began to shut down from the lack of air. It was then that Gareth, who could feel his life energies leaving him, began murmuring the motto he’d only too well remembered.
    “In War, Victory.” Gareth strained, “In Peace, Vigilance. In Death, Sacrifice.” he gasped, now drawing his sword one last time, before placing it on the stone beside him. As his eyes began to veil over, a sudden luminescence appeared, setting ablaze the walls in a spectral shower of gold. It moved ever closer, now only but a hairs breath away as Gareth’s squinting eyes caught the subtle shape of a figure, before his vision darkened completely.

    Revelations
    Ariel’s mind raced as she began to think of all the Grey Warden books she’d read, anything at all that may help in deciphering these runes upon the stone. She had felt apart of herself sink when she saw Gareth charge into the shadows, a sudden fury engulfing her heart at the fact of being left alone in this pit. And now, as she began to exert her mental energies into this new dilemma, she had wondered just how much more time she could spend down here as the thought of leaving brought another bitter taste.
    Steering herself away from such thoughts, she continued translating the other runes, hoping to uncover something of interest. Picking apart her brain from a past she had not so easily forgotten herself.


    From a young age, Ariel always enjoyed learning about history. No matter what kind, whether it be Dwarven or Elven, she had loved the ancient stories and mysteries which surrounded them. Her time at the University of Orlais gave her much to enjoy, from text studies on the ‘Secrets of the Dwarves’ to travelling as a group to learn about the ‘Lost tales of the Elvhen'. Once, she became so enthralled by it all that she had almost convinced herself to seek out these lost treasures personally in hope of making some monumental discovery; That was, of course, until she had realized how foolish and treacherous such an undertaking could be.
    It was only when Ariel had joined the Bards, had her appetite for exploration been regained. Being a Bard was not only knowing how to twist nobles into your favour, but also required a deep understanding of history and how all things came to be, which she revelled in.
    And then there came the great Orlesian game.
    Although Ariel's travels had taken her to many a nobles Chateau, or grand villa, she had never actually been to any real historical sites. Until now.
    Her Bardic duties had merely just scraped on what she thought existed, books are one thing, but experience is another.
    Assassinate some noble at a grand Chateau, gather intelligence from some villa dating back to an age centuries past. All impressive sights, she thought.
    But not the mystery she had been looking for. Still, Ariel had performed her duties with crisp efficiency, taking some pleasure sending some unworthy noble family packing out of their century’s old villa.
    That was until she’d been given the task that would ultimately end up as her grandest, and last Ariel recalled bitterly as she leaned against the hard stone, letting blissful sleep wash over eyes.

    “Ariel! How many times must I tell you there can be no sightseeing, no unnecessary undertakings and no stealing of the lavish finery whatever they may be? Just how many times must you insult my respect with the nobility by not doing exactly as you’re told?” Lady Marquette stormed in, eyes ablaze like a ravenous demon, her dark hair tussled, and her face like that of carved stone.

    Ariel couldn’t understand what she’d done wrong. Having had completed the task given to her with the usual subtlety and craft performed by the Bards of Orlais, she was totally taken aback by such a tirade, hurt even. Glaring back at her now, Ariel thought it best to not react with the same intensity.

    “If I may, Lady Marquette, I cannot understand what has—“but before she could finish, Lady Marquette cut her off with the fierce yet crisp manner of the Royal Court.
    “Don’t you question me, girl, you think you have any right to ask in your position? I know what you did, don’t think there is anything you can say that would change what already cannot be undone…” she finished, the last words met her with a piercing gaze as Lady Marquette moved to the window beyond, gazing into the darken sky as strands of moonlight passed through the soft curtains. “Ariel,” she now turned, her face somewhat calmer than before. “You’re one of my best,” she continued evenly, “But from what I’ve been informed there was an item of particular interest which happened to disappear on the same night you were also missing.” Ariel felt a lump in her throat, knowing exactly where this was going. “If this is in-fact true, then you will leave me no choice but to expel you from the Bards, and so I’m saying this now only to end the grief.”

    Ariel thought she was in some bad dream, not only was she accused of insulting the Lady’s respect…but accused of stealing too? Something that carried severe ramifications? She knew there were others who had something against her, but she dismissed them as nothing more than competition. But to actively plot against her? Well that was one line nobody crossed, and at that moment she felt like the world was suddenly crumbling in around her. “But Lady,” Ariels eyes flashed, “you have been misinformed, I cannot and would never have stolen anything without your approval! You know this surely-“But Lady Marquette had already made her choice as she raised her hand, stopping Ariel short. She grasped a small needle like object between her fingers whilst Ariel could hear faint footfalls behind her, setting her senses alight.
    “I’m sorry Ariel.” She spoke, shimmers of tears threatening to overtake the Lady’s hard demeanour as they sparkled in the pale of the moon. Ariel instinctively drew her daggers, now holding them close. Lady Marquette immediately nodded behind, as those steps treaded even more quickly, but Ariel turned in an instant, and no sooner too as the reflection of the moon glanced off the dagger now only inches from her face. She immediately sidestepped, before knocking the hooded figure off balance with a sharp kick to the ribs, resulting in a muffled cry of pain. The second figure emerged no sooner than the first, this time wielding a pair of finely ornamented knives. Ariel tried to make for the door but the assassin lunged just in time, knocking Ariel into a side draw as they both tumbled to the ground in a frenzy. She could feel the weight of the figure upon her, as she desperately tried to free her daggers, but just at that moment she saw the glimmer of a vase where the table fell. Scrambling with all her reach she grasped it and with all the force she could manage, slammed it upon the assassin’s head as it shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, as the figure went limp. Ariel clambered up quickly as she could now grasping her daggers as she turned and faced the other assassin. Oddly she noticed Lady Marquette had disappeared but immediately returned her thoughts back. Ariel noticed the hesitance in this one’s step, obviously fear, she thought.
    “You don’t have to do this,” Ariel insisted, “Just leave and forget about all you have seen. There is nothing for you here.” She went to make for the door. But it was then she heard the crunching of the vase and in an instant knew of their choice. She turned, stabbing her dagger up under the assassins armpit in one swift motion killing them instantly, as the light in their eyes vanished, now slumping to the floor in a pool of crimson. Ariel shook her head as a saddened thought passed through her mind, now wiping her dagger clean. It didn’t have to be this way.
    Ariel raced through the door now, as she broke into a sprint hearing the piercing calls of alarm ahead. Continuing through the corridor, Ariel suddenly heard the clatter of armour and the thud of heavy boots racing upstairs.
    The guards had come. Quickly she managed to slip herself inside a closet, leaving the door ajar so to not draw attention. She saw them charging through; Chevaliers from the Orlesian Royal Guard, the single yellow feather that adorned their helms fluttering in the speed of their movement. Of course, Lady Marquette only had the best. Their silverite swords were drawn, gleaming a pale blue in the lamplight as they hurried past her at a crisp pace, stride for stride.
    Hearing the distant sounds of clanking metal, Ariel slipped out and made her way towards the lower room, stealthily stalking the stairs as a lioness hunts prey. Silently, she strode across the finely embroidered Antivan carpet noting the delicate features sown into the piece. The door was only meters away when she heard a shout.
    Spinning on her heels, she once again drew the pair of silverite daggers at her waist, beautiful they were, as they shone in the warm lamp light. One of the Chevaliers had stayed behind it seemed, and had now too drawn his blade, shield raised high, in the typical Bear mauls the Wolves stance.



    Like two territorial rams, they circled, glaring into each other’s eyes. Ariel knew she couldn't be drawn into a full melee, she had neither the time nor the strength to match. He knew this too. But having always kept her fighting skills in tune, Ariel didn’t necessarily have to kill the man, but just wound him enough so she could make a break for it. She made the first move.
    Lunging, Ariel made a strike to his gauntlet, expecting this the Chevalier dropped his stance so that his blade met the force of her strike glancing off uselessly. Diving forward she emerged behind him, fingering the dagger she now held it aimed directly behind his lower leg whilst driving her other dagger into his left calf, sinking deep; although she may not have had the power to match him in a full confrontation, a quick flight such as this played into her hands.
    Agony reached his lips, grunting under the limp he now possessed. Rolling up Ariel engaged again this time feinting a blow to his shield. Unaware of the move, the Chevalier went to parry the strike, over-committing his stance, and just as he did so she dove under his attempted deflection, with her dagger in hand she sank deep into his other calf. Searing pain reached him, dropping now, the Chevalier managed to keep himself from completely collapsing with his shield. Ariel flipped up, blood dripping, as she sheathed her daggers.

    “I will not kill you, Chevalier, but know when this duel is lost,” Ariel said, breathing hard. “Find it within your honour to know such a time, do not attempt to stop me now.” With that she went to make for the door only to be stopped by the muttered words of the wounded man. “It won’t stop with me—, “the man replied grimacing, “the Lady, she’ll send more after you. Just what have you done girl…” staring up at her now the Chevalier gave another grunt of pain before inclining his head in a mutual respect, as all do after such a duel before sheathing his blade. She returned the gesture. What I must do, she thought.
    Racing out the door, Ariel made for the path ahead, the moonlight illuminating the shadows that danced across as she sped past the many statues that dotted the villa; Great beasts were set upon the lawn, figures of Wyverns with their fierce teeth, monuments of a by-gone era recalling the glory that is Orlais. Seeing the path ahead, she gave one last look to where’d she’d been not half an hour ago, the villa stood tall among-st all else; its elegant windows and imposing columns gave the look of luxury of whom one would mistake for the Emperors himself. The life that had seemed irreplaceable to Ariel was now the image of some dreaded nightmare, a dream she had hoped of never waking from. Gritting her teeth, she made her way towards the only direction which seemed hidden. Sweating profusely from the warm autumn night, she sped off into the forest ahead, shadows trailed her every step.

    Startled, Ariel awoke to find she’d fallen asleep, her eyes bleary from the lack of light. The torch she’d held earlier now lay beside the wall, with only the faintest embers of light remaining. The spark it offered was barely enough to keep the shadows at bay.
    And as she lay there on the cold stone thinking about the past of a yet more troubled life, something strange caught her eye. More glyphs, she thought. Had she not been at ground level, she may have missed them altogether. Excitement growing, Ariel carefully brought the remaining embers of her torch over, hoping to reveal whatever secret this carried. The gleam shone a brilliant but faint blue, and all along the substance lit up to reveal new runes.
    “Incredible,” she whispered. “Lyrium...these glyph s were protected, hidden from all.”
    Her heart from leaping out of her chest, Ariel witnessed the runes which Gareth had merely thought as directions manifest into something obscure, the words revealing themselves in a luminescent light as she began to read the century’s old inscription.
    Here we stand. Let it be known. All we protect. Beneath the stone.
    A Champion will rise. When all hope seems lost. With a sword forged long ago. At the evils fatal cost.
    The Bane of the Spawn. Who led the hearts of men. Shall be reborn anew. In the first light of Dawn.
    The People will gather. United as one. Then will they realise. All that can be undone.
    Then Banners will fly. And all shall band. With blades drawn high. At the Grey Wardens last stand
    A stone born of fire. People will see. All will admire. Hope shall never flee.
    Ariel sat there shocked, unable to comprehend the sheer weight this revelation carried. All this time thinking they were merely directions, and yet they happened to be one of the greatest if not chilling inscriptions she had ever seen. It was as though this whole journey led to this faint little inscription upon the wall. And it was then Ariel knew immediately of the choice she’d made. Grasping what little left she had of her torch, she unpacked her satchel, took out some paper and began tracing the inscription using the charcoal that was on hand.
    Once finished, Ariel quickly packed what little she had taken out, and threw her travel bag around her should. A determined gleam was in her eyes as she stared off down the passage, now breaking into a fast walk. The same passage Gareth had raced down days ago. Ariel knew what she needed to do, and she wasn’t leaving him behind in this pit.
    I must get to Gareth, she thought, and sped off down the passage as her own light, like Gareth’s only days ago, was swallowed up into the mysterious void.


    Beyond the Shadow of Doubt

    Gareth awoke to the intense pain of heat and smoke filling his lungs. Blinking away the haze which obscured his vision, he noticed the entire room was ablaze. The acrid smell of burning flesh greeted his nostrils, while his eyes beheld the horror that was unfolding. Grey Warden banners hung in strands, flames licking up the walls, the desk at his side nothing but charred ash. The sudden realization of screams penetrated his thoughts, bringing him out of the shock that threatened to overpower him entirely.
    “Gareth!” The voice cried out in panic. “Gareth! Get ou—“
    Coughing away the fifth that dared to suffocate him, he made towards the shrieks of pain…a voice he recognized.
    “Livia! Livia! I’m coming just---“ but the smoke shrouded his eyes, the heat of the flames so intense now his armour was buckling under the duress. Staggering his way through the engulfed doorway, he made for what seemed like a window. Grasping the hilt of his blade he battered away the glass, and now slinging the shield over his back he jumped out landing awkwardly. His legs buckling under the fall. Scrambling away from the burning building, he collapsed on the grass. Soothing night air greeted his lungs, coughing and spluttering away the vile soot. Calling upon the strength that remained in his limbs he staggered to his feet, face blackened by ash, armour singed and battered; at that moment he seemed like a figure from the fade itself. The headquarters Gareth had once commanded were now a beacon in the night for all to see. Glancing over he managed to take in what remained of the great standard that had stood as a reminder to all; The Rearing Griffon of the Wardens. Once a symbol of protection for the people of Rivain. It was now nothing more than a scorched out husk.
    The panicked call for help came again. Steering himself away he rounded a corner which opened up to a path leading towards the market district. His mind hammered, the smoke stinging his now reddened eyes making it hard to discern the shadowy figures that stood before him. The presence of magic filled the air. Gareth, now drawing his sword of gleaming silverite made to lunge, but before he could gather his shield a streak of light hit him square on the breastplate, sending him to the ground. The hardness of stone met his fall, knocking the air from his lungs. Gareth gritted his teeth, urging his now battered body off the paved stone.
    “Get away from her you bastards!” he roared, now gathering his shield. He knew there was only one chance left. Whoever these sorcerers were, he needed to deal with them quickly; having learned the many forms of combat taught during his years of training, Gareth readied himself in the stance which allowed for a steady defence, while allowing for a quick step if needed. Shield raised, sword low he advanced.
    Three of the four figures remained, where the other had gone Gareth had no idea. Livia was the priority, nothing else mattered. A sinister voice pierced the slow hum of magic that cut through the silence of the night.
    “You see Gareth, this is what becomes of those who meddle in the affairs of others that…well…just don’t concern a man such as yourself,” the voice said coldly. Those words hit him like an arctic wind, a voice he recognized
    “This whole affair could have been avoided if you’d only stuck to whatever it is you Wardens actually do. The order is no longer needed Gareth can you not see, you are obsolete now, an old relic that yet lingers in times where such things are surpassed by greater powers.” The voice said again. This time the shadowy man moved towards him holding aloft a staff that gleamed wickedly in the wan moonlight. At Gareth’s horror two others came from the shadows holding a figure, a face stricken with terror, eyes searching for his own, eyes he knew. Gareth’s blood turned to ice.
    It was Livia.
    “She has nothing to do with his!” he yelled with a voice which had pierced many a battlefield. Lowering his shield Gareth had drawn his blade up so it met the gaze of the man in black. His eyes just discernible under the veil that covered his features.
    “Ahh Gareth…,” the man said again, matching his gaze. “Just when you will realize that all actions, no matter how noble you may think they are, demand a reaction.”
    With that a flare of brilliant green energy gathered at the staffs head, projecting forth a torrent of staggering force. Gareth, seeing this, managed to react just in time so his shield met the impact of the blast. The metal protested at the unnatural energy which now consumed it, screeching as it started to warp under the immense pressure. Grunting he advanced towards them now, knowing this had to be ended swiftly; having fought with and perfected the techniques used to defeat Dark Spawn emissaries, Gareth knew there was only a small window of opportunity where one could counter-attack. But he was no Templar.
    Searing pain now racked his body, a dark energy enveloped him, tendrils dancing around suffocating the air from his lungs. The strength leaving his already tired limbs as his sword dropped, clattering on the stony path, the shield now nothing more but a smoking piece of distorted metal. On his knees, Gareth saw the world buzz around him, faces and shadows, voices, calling, sneering.
    Confusion reigned.
    His already scorched armour began to crumple under the sickly aura that now grew darker and more menacing. Staring up at the man, hands to the ground so as to not fall completely, Gareth saw the satisfaction now gleaming in his eyes, as if he’d slain some mighty beast; the eyes of a predator. Matching his gaze, Gareth had seen that look before and it chilled him to the bone.
    “You always were the damnable coward, Vetrenus.” He managed, each breath shorter than the last.
    “Always hiding behind your magic - never one to face up to a real danger when we fought the Dark spawn - you insult the Grey Wardens with your lies, your words of venom…the words of a snake.” He finished coldly
    Gareth was now spent, he had no more left in him. Try as he might, the hex that Vetrenus had placed on him was slowly crushing the life from his bones, and it wouldn’t be long now before the end came. Grief and anger struck him, a fierce rage that set his heart ablaze, one of his own had turned their back on the Order, and Liviaoh Livia, why have you been brought into this… the thought made his mind scream with fury.
    They would not take her as long as he still drew breath, he thought. They will not have her.
    Vetrenus stepped back as if wounded by the words, but donned a grin that told otherwise.
    “Here we go again about the Wardens… you see Gareth, this is why you’ll never understand—“but before he could finish the agonizing cries of two men cut him short.
    It was Livia.
    To Gareth’s utter disbelief, she’d managed to break free of the two men and was now burning them alive with one of their own staves, eyes ablaze with the fury of a High Dragon defending its young.
    Vetrenus stared incredulously, but remained composed all the same.
    “And here I thought this was going to be another disinteresting affair. Well, girl, you most certainly proved me wrong,” before turning to Gareth “Pretty, no?” and flared his own staff of brilliant green.
    Gareth’s head swam, his eye’s shrouded by some form of veil, the scene becoming distant and twisting unto itself. It was now like he were a spectator watching some duel at the Grand Tourney, yet his body lingered, motionless. He made out bolts of fire and spectacular green light, flashes from parallel magic’s colliding, sparks flying, coiling, as each placed a ward of protection around themselves. But the fire was fading and became weaker by the minute. Vetrenus had performed some ritual now drawing power from the two corpses that lay at his feet. Blood magic.
    Livia’s energy was failing.
    Gareth could do nothing but watch, his eyes fogged in this distorted reality, he now witnessed the horror that he was reliving. This nightmare he tried so hard to keep away, yet it lingered, always there, buzzing at his minds edge. Vetrenus had now finished drawing whatever power remained in those corpses and had turned to her, seeing the faltering shimmer of light which now collapsed under her now depleted body. Gareth knew what happened next. No matter how much he screamed, pain gripped his mind, his heart aching, all which remained of him fled in that moment, and a moment he wished he’d ever witnessed.
    Vetrenus strode over with the ample pride of one who’d tasted victory time and time again, gripping Livia by the throat. Gareth saw the flow of dark energy coalescing around him even from where he was, his own body still lying motionless on the stone. The scene lurched again, projecting images of horror, faces, screams, and the all-consuming fire that now burned within. Banners flew, high over, now torn and spattered with the blood of his comrades. Faces he’d seen, lives flashed, fleeting moments of all the things he cherished now twisted into some contorted nightmare.
    The first night they’d made love. The night after their joining.
    A moment so precious, so innocent, so fleeting, now flashed before him. As quickly as it passed another image pushed its way in. A face, her face, the subtle brown of her eyes, her delicate features, and the smoothness of her hair all came before him sending a grief like no other. One of loss, and desire.
    His eyes protested under the scene which now came flooding back. Vetrenus had now summoned the power within draining whatever energy remained in Livia’s now lifeless body.
    “Ah Livia,” the voice was distant but metallic, lost in the lurching haze.
    “We could have been partners, you and I. Just think about the power we could have wielded together. No need for any of this Warden business. But you just had to fall into the trap that so many do. Love and all its calamities.” The last words said as he searched for Gareth’s eyes through the convulsive light which lightened the scene.
    Gareth could feel those eyes upon his own, eyes as cold as the chill which now gripped his heart.
    The scene had dissolved, lurching and coiling upon itself until only what seemed like smoke remained. A new voice entered and a faint light shone through. One so distant, so lost, yet one he recognized.
    “Gareth” it said, so soft, gentle were the words that now graced his ears.
    “Gareth, you must return. Do not linger in a past where only sorrow lies. What has happened is but a distant memory now….this was never about me, “the voice seemed pained at those words. “The Wardens needs you now more than ever, they will need you before the end, Revasan. A great evil stirs in the shadows, figures are amassing, and the time has come for one who will stand when all others appear shattered.” The voice soothing, as if it some spirit had been sent to guide him into the beyond.
    That name hit him cold.
    “Livia… no it cannot be,” he hesitated, ‘What trick is this? Some foul demon no doubt. Where am I? In the Fade?’ He demanded, spinning on his heels and drawing his sword as he made to find the beast. ‘That name no longer exists. Ever since that day I have been nothing but a shell, a husk that only withers more and more by the year. All that I ever loved was taken from me and yet each day after I tried to find reason, faith, but I only come back with hatred, a fire that burns so fiercely I feel it may engulf me forever.’ He looked around aimlessly, straining to see any evidence of the woman he once loved, or the demon which he was convinced had taken her form. Was he in the Maker’s arms already? Or was he in the realm of demons and wraiths, a place where none but a few have returned.
    The voice came again. “I know this is hard for you Gareth. Whatever it is you may think, I know your suffering, your hatred but do not let it consume you. What happened that night cannot be undone, cannot be altered no matter how much it hurts.’ The voice wavered at those words as Gareth stared around in dismay. Subtle green flashes were emanating above and to his left a pulsating light appeared, one so bright it almost blinded him.
    ‘Stay back!’ he cried, as he made to strike the being inching its way towards him. ‘I have never wanted this, this burden that I now bear. The burden of hatred and pain that has made –‘but the words escaped him. The sword dropped from his callused hands. Its handle disintegrating into ash, as the being took on its true form, the shower of gold which veiled it clearing.
    ‘Gareth listen to me.’ It spoke, Gareth staring in disbelief. ‘This is no trick. Your mind is caught between two worlds. Your body yet remains but your spirit has drifted. The nightmare you relived was one of those two choices. A realm where only hatred and fury lie. A place where all your troubles reside, can you not see? That is where the demon lives, it wishes to access the darkest depths of your mind and turn it against you. I am the second of those two choices.’
    Gareth was transfixed, his eyes refusing to comprehend her. Livia. Her eyes of amber so intense like that of which the morning sun illuminates. The flowing hair of chestnut brown. The features of her face determined yet soft. All brought back chilling memories but not only so. Something else stirred deep within his thoughts.
    ‘If this is this true?’ he said softly, ‘How am I to believe all this. Would it not be easy for some demon to manifest itself into my greatest weakness?’
    Livia took his hand in her own.
    ‘Yes… it would be. But not all who linger here wish only death and destruction upon the world Gareth. The demons of pride, of desire, of rage, and of despair. They feed upon these emotions that hide beneath us. But there are others who would not share these views.’ She gazed deeply into those eyes, those eyes that have witnessed so much agony and loss. And it was at that moment she could see the faintest of glimmers in them. One of hope.
    ‘My spirit is all that lingers in this place Gareth, as do many. These spirits take on many different forms and are often of those traits we deem worthy of what makes it good in this world. Justice, valour, wisdom, these are just some of the feelings that they possess.’ She gestured for him to follow, as the realm around them began to take shape. Floating islands of rock and old looking structures drifted around aimlessly, others began to piece together as the road before them paved its way.
    ‘The fade…’ Gareth responded, a look of astonishment growing upon him.
    ‘Where all our deepest thoughts and dreams lie.’ Livia replied. ‘You know this. You know the choices that threaten to tear you apart. This is where they reside. There is a demon at the edge of your mind Gareth that threatens to take you beyond reason, beyond duty, and turn you into its greatest weapon. A weapon it wishes to command once unleashed.’
    Gareth stopped suddenly, a look of doubt strewn across his face.
    ‘Just what are you saying exactly? That a demon wishes to use me to what – further its own ends?’ Gareth retorted. Livia gave him a serious look, to which he took a step back. ‘You must understand, I’m finding this all very unnerving.’
    ‘I can see that. But in order for me to make you see Gareth, I need you to have confidence in me. That I am me and no other. That is where your greatest fault lies. You don’t trust anyone…’ Gareth thought for a moment. Could all of this really be possible? That the spirit of Livia yet lives and a demon threatens to overpower him? He had no answers. But he had no choice. If he was to ever regain his true self again and re-enter the world where his body yet lies he needed to co-operate, whether that meant it was Livia or not. Although part of him somewhere whispered it to be true.
    ‘Yes.’ He eventually said, ‘Yes I do believe you are here. But tell me something. Just what are you?’ Livia’s back remained turned as a subtle aura illuminated her, green waves coalesced in the air above as a slow twisting hum reverberated.
    ‘I am a spirit of hope. When my life ended that night, an apparition appeared before the dark consumed me. It was so beautiful and yet when it happened I felt changed.’ She turned to face him now, her eyes glowing a brilliant gold.
    ‘I am not the same as I once was Gareth. A burning desire for revenge threatened to take me on that cusp of life and death. That was my choice, to become one of them, or to still try and make a difference in this world. The spirit embodied my soul and here I stand now. In a world dreams and nightmares.’ Gareth felt the world go still around him, this world, whatever it was.
    ‘I think I am beginning to understand now.’ He said, bending down and picking up a blackened stone. ‘This world, the fade. You know I never did believe the stories… or those mages.’ He walked closer to her now, until he was standing directly beside her, the aura that had first engulfed Livia began to diminish. ‘When that night happened, all that filled my heart was rage. I opened myself up and promised to never rest, to never forget, to never let myself feel again. And now you say a demon is on the brink of possessing me. Out of all this I…‘he hesitated momentarily, his face dejected.
    ‘You do not believe it possible?’ Livia broke in, ‘and yet here you stand before me, at this point of all places. At the crossroads of a life that you never managed would lead you to such decisions, to such anguish.’ She faced him, and pressed her hand upon his chest plate. A warmth began to course throughout his body as Gareth looked up suddenly, his dark beard prickling his face, this foreign energy engulfing him.
    ‘Livia?’ he said suddenly. Panic began to grip him as visions began to manifest themselves before his eyes.
    ‘Do not fear, Revasan.’ She responded, ‘you will soon see.’ Tendrils of light began to dance throughout the air. Livia’s eyes shone with such an intense light as Gareth watched his feet leave the ground. Spectres appeared, their forms distorted and their voices inaudible. But it was then a new being emerged, darkness began to overtake the light and Gareth saw in that moment the shadow that lay within. But only a shadow it remained, inching closer and more menacing from the air above. An unspeakable horror it seemed to Gareth, as eyes began to form; cold black beads.
    Revasan…’ a sinister voice reverberated within his conscious. ‘So that is it. Is this what all the whispers were? And her…’ the shadow peered down thoughtfully,’ ah yes, of course, it all makes sense now…’ Gareth felt the rage he had kept so concealed begin to emerge. His hand instinctively went to draw the sword he only remembered no longer existed. And in that moment the shadow withdrew, fading back into the air as those cold beads gazed menacingly at him before it vanished entirely, the light returning and the warmth pulsating throughout him again. It was then he began to descend back towards the ground, his boots once again meeting the crunch of loose rock.
    ‘Now do you see?’ Livia said, seeing his darkened look as the light disappeared entirely. ‘This demon saw its opportunity in that precise moment so many years ago and acted upon it. Saw your heart torn open. In that moment it changed you, it lingered in the depths, waiting for its time to strike.’
    Gareth’s mind was filled with torment. He had wanted so much to not believe those stories; the mages he had encountered often telling him of such encounters. Something they had to deal with on a daily basis…but him? No, he had never thought it possible, a warrior with no connection to magic and all its machinations. Only what he beheld with his own eyes spoke truth, and of one only.
    ‘What is it must I do?’ he asked, facing Livia.
    ‘Out there lies the hatred’ she replied, ‘the fury, this demon which lies inside you but never reveals itself completely.’
    ‘It spoke to me, within my mind.’ He said, ‘I can no longer deny it. It seemed to repeat the name Revasan, almost as though it answered a long hidden truth for it. But why the name, you know the last one to carry it vanished decades ago.’
    ‘And it is the reason why it fears you…that is why I said it. Now it knows why.’
    ‘Fears me?’ Gareth retorted, ‘why in the makers name would it fear a dead title. One that lost all meaning years ago.’ Livia’s face became troubled.
    ‘And do you honestly believe that?’ she replied, shooting him an accusing look. ‘Did you not once believe in freedom for all? That name still carries weight in certain parts of this world.’ Gareth took a deep breath, composing himself as the anger within threatened yet again.
    ‘It fears that if it came to possessing you wholly it would never have the control it desired.’ She continued, pacing towards him. ‘It doubts. Just as you have doubted this place, my spirit and all other things.’ a fiery determination was in her eyes. ‘It fears what you will become if tested. There is a fate for you Gareth that only some here have whispered. But that whisper has grown. The demon knows this, but you mustn’t doubt any longer.’ and as if by some illusion she generated a sword, one of the purest craftsmanship. Gareth looked up, his eyes alight awe.
    ‘End it Gareth. End the rage, the doubt. You must do this in order to take the step to become what is destined for you. Thedas lies on the brink of devastation. Although it may not seem that way now you know it in your heart to be true…’ she paused, as she strode towards him and presented the blade. ‘As you know I am true. It must be ended now.’
    Gareth. The Lone Warden, the outcast, the man who had lost all stood in silence as those words pulsated throughout him. Those determined eyes, of hope, of love gazing at him now with such intensity. Slowly, he brought up his arm, his rough fingers were slow, as they graced the razor sharp blade. So cold and yet so comforting; runes were carved upon it in a dialect he had never seen. He moved down towards the hilt, its grip warm and sturdy and the pommel of polished Ironbark? Or was it some other unknown material? But at its end it was missing something, a blank socket no larger than a pebble. Livia noticed his curiosity.
    ‘Yes.’ she said, watching Gareth with interest, ‘it is missing a final ingredient, but do not doubt its keenness. That is something you will have to recover for yourself in due time.’ he then brought his hand up towards the handle again and clutched it, holding the blade aloft.
    ‘Maker!’ he exclaimed, testing its reach and swinging it abroad, the metals sheen reflecting the un-natural light. ‘Incredible…it’s like I’m wielding nothing at all.’ Gareth thought for a second, seeing that majestic blade within his grasp. At that moment he believed, and belief is a powerful weapon. ‘Will it be enough?’ He questioned suddenly.
    ‘Enough to end the doubt and the shadow which lurks within?’ She smiled, as they both made towards a mysterious staircase which opened up onto the murky plains below. ‘Yes, and much more than that.’ Livia now produced a large rounded shield. The trim was clad in gold whilst the targe itself gleamed of polished silverite. Gareth stood back in awe, the embossment it carried bringing back fond memories as the rearing Griffon, its wings unfurled and clad in silver flashed before eyes.
    ‘How?’ he whispered, almost to himself, ‘By the maker, how did you retrieve it?’ his voice was full of sentiment as Livia strapped it upon his arm.
    ‘It does not matter Gareth. It is yours once again. A gift from the First Warden does not so easily vanish, no matter how dark these depths may be.’ Her eyes contemplated him for a moment. ‘Look after it.’ She stood back now and admired the sight she saw; A man. Battered, shaken, perhaps even on the brink of collapse…but not broken. His heavy armour bore the many trials that were thrown upon him, but the sword he now grasped, and the shield he had thought lost were now in his hands, and Gareth knew this to be true. He sheathed the blade, threw the strap of his shield over his back and began to descend into the plains further down before Livia gave him one final message.
    ‘It will test you.’ She announced, watching him stop. ‘It will use whatever tricks and lies it can to deceive you Gareth. To turn you upon yourself…upon us all. Remember this. I will await your return.’ Livia then nodded as Gareth turned and with one last fleeting glance towards her, headed down the road, uncertain at what he was about to encounter. Livia watched on, the crunching of loose rocks from his boots fading as he disappeared into the murky air.
    A Touch Amiss
    – Weisshaupt
    The unforgiving winds, dry and harsh they blew from the desolate plains of the Anderfels. They continually battered the ageless fortifications which had stood for many a century. It was the height of summer and the sun with all its potency scorched the already baked land which surrounded it. There it was - Weisshaupt fortress - its walls of dense stone standing upon the precipice that overlooked the surroundings - the pride of the Wardens. A rider appeared on the dust covered road which led to the mighty gates of hardened oak; Built by hands that no longer grace these lands anymore, if ever again. A sentry spotted the figure winding its way up the narrow pass and with an acute whistle, alerted the men at the gates. Immediately they began to heave the mammoth planks that barred them from the outside, three in total, and with a mighty swing the doors parted with a resounding boom.
    The rider appeared at the entrance, their black steed pawing at the hardened dirt before they dismounted, took their companion by the halter and lead them through. The two guards gave a sceptic look towards the arrival as they wandered by; only being told to allow the one whom wandered upon a dark stallion to enter without delay. The figure remained hooded as they hitched their mount to a post within the stables, gaining odd looks from the hands who cleaned them. They continued their way towards the fortress itself, the few trees that dotted the interior gave little shade as they approached the main entrance, the leaves blowing listlessly along the stone. The figure removed the dust covered cowl which obscured their features, revealing long hair the colour of late autumn walnuts which immediately caught in the breeze, covering their delicate face and eyes as green as the purest emeralds. The two Wardens at the entrance were immediately entranced by this sudden apparition as they opened the doors within the mighty structure.
    ‘We have orders to accompany you to the First Wardens quarters.’ Said one whose voice was muffled beneath their heavy helm.
    ‘That won’t be necessary,’ a voice broke in suddenly as they both turned towards the hall beyond. A man was approaching, his strides sure and long as his weighty boots resounded with a distinct authority, the cape which adorned his armour trailing in his wake.
    ‘You may leave us now,’ he gestured to the men as he approached the woman in the entrance. ‘You have arrived quicker than we expected, although I’m sure you may think otherwise.’ He gestured for her to follow him, his long greying hair was tied to the nape of his neck and his beard was well kept. Certainly someone of higher ranking here, she thought.
    ‘I certainly seemed expected, if that’s what you mean. But my business is with the First Warden alone,’ the woman eventually replied, as they made their way through the hallway which soon led to a staircase. She looked around, admiring the many frescoes and paintings which dotted the walls, armoires holding ancient swords and polished chest plates stood.
    ‘The First Warden is currently away on business’, he responded, noticing her blank look, ‘but he has left me with the charge of Weisshaupt in his stead. He informed me that a rider would be approaching on the eve of the next full moon baring some rather important information.’ They continued up the stairwell before they reached a solid looking door. The man took a large grey key from his belt and unlocked it, they both entered. The room was furnished with many tables holding all matter of messages and manuscripts. But apart from the odd drape and cup, it was quite sparse. The Warden gestured for her to sit as he began to pour himself some wine.
    ‘So to the information at hand then. What is it that you have brought us?’ he asked, retrieving a second cup and offering it to her, but she politely refused.
    ‘To the information at hand.’ She said incredulously,’ yes, but before we get to that, you have not even told me who you are. All’s I know is that you are filling in for the First Warden.’
    The man gave an amusing look. ‘No I haven’t.’ he smiled, ‘my apologies. You may call me Danath. I am the Chamberlain here. And while we’re talking names,’ Danath added, a frown creasing his brow, ‘you have yet to tell me yours?’
    Telana’ she replied after a long silence. ‘I’m sure you already knew that and this was just some security procedure you must follow, but now I know you, can we just get to what’s important here?’
    ‘Of course,’ said Danath, now leaning back in his chair.
    ‘As you may already know,’ Telana started,’ The First Warden hired me personally to track down a certain individual. This individual was one of your own, a Warden by the name of Gareth.’ Telana saw his grey eyes widen slightly at the name, clearly he didn’t know all the details, she thought. ‘I was not told of the reasoning behind this, and I didn’t need to. My only objective was to find this man and report his whereabouts to the First Warden.’
    ‘And so you have his location?’ Danath asked uncertainly, ’you know exactly where this man’s residing? The late evening light began to seep through the drapes, igniting his worn features.
    ‘Well I was only informed to report his last known location. Of where he his right at this moment could be anyone’s guess. But from what I gathered, this Gareth was last seen travelling through Rivain, and he wasn’t alone. There was another accompanying him, or so I have been informed. And that is all I know.’ She answered tentatively, watching Danaths expression darken.
    ‘Gareth…’ he murmured, ‘and another you say? Do you have a description them, anything at all?’ Telana felt uneasy. Danath now stood over her, his unforgiving eyes seemed to be boring holes right through her. It was though he was trying to will the information he wanted from her mind, but she held firm and didn’t give in to his unprecedented intimidation.
    ‘No, as I have told you. That is all I know.’ She replied coolly, holding his gaze. He studied her for a brief moment, trying to catch any hint of a lie before he turned and walked towards a drawer, took out a small pouch of coins and tossed it at Telana.
    ‘I assume this is what the First Warden promised you?’ Danath said sternly as he watched her counting the coin within. Telana simply nodded and made for the door, but there was one last thing she needed to know. Turning she saw the chamberlain preparing some documents, his mood seemed changed ever since the mention of that name.
    ‘I know this shouldn’t worry me,’ she said,’ but may I ask where the First Warden has gone?’ Danath looked up with a glowering look.
    ‘What happens here is none of your concern, you’ve been paid. Now leave.’ His harsh tone left no room for argument. Telana held his gaze for a brief moment before stepping out the door, a sudden apprehension seized her as she trudged down the stairwell. Whatever it was, something here wasn’t right. His reaction to Gareth’s name, albeit subtle was evidence enough to her that things were not quite as they seemed, his obvious intimidation… and whomever this Gareth was. The First Wardens disappearance? Well that was another cause for alarm. Were the two linked perhaps? A thousand different plots ran through her mind, not only because she thought something was amiss, but she was trained to watch emotions, reactions, any sort of subtle movement that may betray a person’s real reasoning. And in that meeting she saw all that she needed to witness…but why? She thought again, making her way through the large hall as guards nodded their respects. Why should she be at all concerned about what happens here? Her objective was complete and she had been paid, but why the doubt, the need to intervene? The air at long last had cooled when she exited the fortress and made for the stables. Her lovely stallion, as black as the darkest of nights greeted her warmly, nudging its head in an affectionate gesture. She caressed its combed mane, staring into those large thoughtful eyes.
    Banal’ras my friend,’ Telana whispered. The horses’ ears pricked up in acknowledgement, ‘where do our paths lead now? Of what road should I follow? You are all that I have and with this coin, opportunity awaits us both, only…’ she trailed off, staring into the setting sun through the planks of wood as it fell beneath the mountains, its last rays filtering past the thatched roof. After a moment’s thought, she decided it was time to leave. Unfastening the bridle from the post and leading her companion out into the dusty path towards the gate. But the apprehension came again, like a gnawing hunger that only grew in immensity the more she moved. It was then, as she was about to alert the gate guards of her departure did a voice appear. Telana kept walking, thinking it was only the sentries rotating their shifts but it came again, sharper this time.
    ‘You.’ The voice whispered. Telana turned abruptly and noticed a man standing in the shadows of an old portico, an urgent expression was evidently upon him. Telana was only a few strides from the gate as the guards began to remove the planks. In that moment she knew she had a choice. A choice to change her life, to perhaps have some meaningful purpose in this place or world which didn’t only consist of dubious odd jobs for even more questionable clients. As the last beam began to lift she immediately signalled for the guards to stop, her stallion stamping impatiently, lifting clouds of dust into the chilled air.
    ‘Leave that.’ She burst out, ‘but it seems I’ll have no need of leaving tonight. I’m sorry for the sudden change of heart.’ She added, noticing the confused and irritated looks of the men before leading her steed in the direction of the shrouded man.
    Last edited by Ragnar Hawke; 05-27-2019, 10:06 AM.
    Ally Code: 467-291-777

    'All things in this world are finite
    What one man gains, another has lost'
    'So let it be'

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