|Origins Written in Blood
Author: shutterbones PM
Some things were best left forgotten, while some should have never been remembered. I remember slipping, falling. Blood. Andraste help me, I was being devoured by the Fade itself, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to fight it anymore... BloodMage/CullenRated: Fiction M - English - Drama/Horror - Surana & Cullen - Chapters: 52 - Words: 131,805 - Reviews: 13 - Favs: 20 - Follows: 21 - Updated: 12-24-12 - Published: 06-02-10 - id: 6020383
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"G-Goldanna?" I murmured as a blur of shapes and light swirled into my vision. I forgot my own words in an instant, fumbling between a lost haze of distant memory and sobering sensation of cold stone beneath my face. I felt a padded foot shove me hard in the side. I groaned.
"Get up, you stupid oaf," her voice snapped me back to reality. Great, what a way to be awoken after a traumatizing experience. But was it traumatizing? I couldn't really remember anymore.
The others were coming to as well, Morrigan first, then Wynne. Isthalla was careful to help the old woman to her feet, but left both myself and Morrigan to our own devices. Such a chivalrous witch, wasn't she? Wincing, I pushed my stiff and sore body to a seated position and blinked, adjusting my eyes only to find the decapitated head of some horrible creature at my feet.
"Maker's BLOOD!" I yelped, scrambling to get away from the seeping skull. It was still smoking with an unseen attack, the hot blood spilling across the floor inches from where my face had just been. It took all my willpower not to vomit at the thought it might have gone in my mouth.
"Calm down, it's only a head," Isthalla spat rather irritably while helping Morrigan to her feet. For the moment, I ignored that she had, again, opted to intentionally leave me for last.
"Calm down, calm down?" I shrieked, gesturing to the hissing, seething mass of blood and guts and skull at my feet. "What is that?" I demanded, eyes wild and heart ready to explode out of my chest. I looked again at the horrible thing; it's eyes were now sightless, though filled with a dreadful evil that sent instant shivers up my spine. I choked as the overwhelming stink of it's foul blood filled my nostrils.
"H-How-" I stopped myself, now becoming slowly aware of fresh blood that surrounded us. These were not bodies that had been here when we entered - they were new. Creatures I did not recognize were littered across the chamber at twisted, mangled angles. Blood covered the entire floor, fresh and stinking blood that reeked in my nose. My expression crinkled.
"Oh, augh, what a stench-" I coughed while holding a sleeve to my face. I looked up to find Morrigan extending a frigid hand to me, and took it without a word. She grunted as I rolled to my feet and stood. "Maker…" I breathed as I took in the sight, then turned back to Isthalla.
"W-What-" I tried, but couldn't find the words.
There was a certain bitterness in her gaze, something I could not quite place that hadn't been there before. Her eyes were dull; expression empty. Yet I couldn't help but feel a sense of unnerving fear as she looked at me without a flicker of expression and said, "I took care of it." and moved on. My entire body was on edge.
"I took care of it".. what does that mean?
Tension gnawed at the back of my mind, accompanied by a quickly-adopted awareness of my surroundings as I stepped closer to Morrigan and placed a nervous hand on my sword belt. She let out a slightly annoyed tsk and stepped ahead of me, putting me at the back of the line. I ignored her for the time, a newfound doubt gripping my chest as I stared after Isthalla, watching her become tense and rigid the closer we came to the chamber steps.
"Here." she announced as she stopped at a door. The rest of the party fell in step behind her, Wynne abruptly pulling her staff from over her shoulder.
"I sense a dark energy behind this door.." she murmured, turning warning eyes to the rest of us standing behind, blankly waiting for orders. I could see Morrigan visibly tensing as well. Isthalla stood at front, and although at attention - I saw a sudden shift of panic overtake her as muffled noise came from the other side of the door.
Before anyone could stop her, she burst through the door - dropping her staff - and sprinted into the room.
"Isthalla!" Morrigan started after her, jolting me into movement as we streaked after the blasted, absolutely insane woman.
"She's lost her mind!" I shrieked as we rounded the corner, all coming to a dead halt as we witnessed the source of her panic. Isthalla stood frozen, her expression petrified and full of shock as she looked upon what appeared to be a magical field that reached the ceiling. I looked up, finding no opening, before returning my gaze to her. Something didn't feel right-
"C-Cullen?" she choked out in a voice I didn't recognize. Something told me I should know that name, but no spark of memory threaded through my subconscious. Instead, I turned dumb and blind eyes to where she had her entire attention locked. There, in the middle of the magical prison crouched a templar splattered in blood, his head tucked and armored hands shakily pressed together in prayer.
"Isth-" I started, but a cold and unusually brisk hand from Morrigan jerked me back without a sound and shot me a wild look of fear. I fell silent, completely bewildered, and returned my gaze to the strange scene. Wynne hadn't said a single word, yet I could feel my nerves on edge. I swallowed the tension in my throat, waiting for someone to say something - anything.
"Maker help me," the man croaked. He was fervent, lost in a crazed hysteria as he recited incoherent mumblings over and over into his shaking hands. I could see the blood staining his armor - none that was his - and briefly caught the wildly terrified gaze of the man before it ducked back into prison of his arms with newfound fear. Recognition finally connected in my mind as I remembered the man that the demon had showed me.
Cullen, the templar.
He moaned, a painful and shocking sound, and began to rock back and forth. "How far they must have delved into my thoughts," he cried, his voice beginning to crack again as the hysteria overwhelmed him. "Tempting me with the one thing I always wanted-" he groaned again, struggling for control, "b-but could never… have." He labored for breath, trying to withhold whatever private feelings he battled with. "Using my shame against me, my ill-advised infatuation with a mage!" He looked again, and this time I knew who he was watching - I knew who he meant - and I felt a sudden knot in my throat. He immediately returned to the safety of his clasped hands.
"You broke the others," he sobbed, "but I will stay strong, f-for my sake.. for theirs!"
Maker, he was crying. I felt like I shouldn't be here, like I was walking into a far-too private and shameful moment between them both. Despite my burning cheeks and burrow filling my throat, I stayed to my spot, glancing in shock from Isthalla to the faceless templar I remembered from the demon's visions. A knowing, guilty look filled Morrigan's face as she pressed her lips together and kept a tight hand on my shoulder, preventing me from intervening. It was starting to make sense.
I turned aghast eyes back to her as I saw Isthalla fall to her knees, tears in her eyes.
"I'm so tired of these tricks, t-these games-" he continued on, choking on his own breath as he tried to hold back another wave of sobs. He leaned forward into his hands, quietly collecting his breath, and broke back in with another cry. "Please," he begged. "If anything left in you is human, kill me now!"
His shout filled the hall with terrifying weight. He said no more after that, recoiling back into his arms to stifle his sobs. I felt so utterly lost and injured by the sight, unsure of what to do or how to react. An instinctive sensation twisted in my chest, one I couldn't place. I wanted to help him, the poor man was suffering so terribly… Yet why- My mind begged the question. I turned my disbelieving eyes to the source of his hurt, the bitter elf and vengeful witch Warden crouched in front of him like a terrified child, the tears still shining in her eyes.
What did you do?
I wanted to be angry with her, though I didn't know why. I didn't know what she had done. This was the same man shown to me by the demon, yet I felt a certain uneasy and tempered sadness over the way they were looking at one another. He'd finally broken from the prison of his arms to raise reddened, bleary eyes to look at her face. He looked stunned, then confused as she began reaching out a shaking hand for him, and suddenly recoiled with a shout before jumping to his feet.
"NO!" he snarled. I watched Isthalla respond in shock from the sound, then slowly get to her feet as well. Injury filled her expression as she looked upon him in terror and found a hate burning in his eyes.
"Get back, all of you!" he warned, raising out a shaken, bloodied hand to us all. I stepped back on instinct with my hand now testing the edge of my belt, yet Isthalla stayed rooted to her spot. Morrigan passed a look of worry to me, which I returned with a nod. I adjusted my hand to the hilt of my blade. My jaw ticked.
"Demon, I will not listen to you! I said GET BACK!" he shouted. Isthalla was on the verge of stepping through the barricade - I began to go after her in alarm - and instead witnessed Isthalla stopped by Wynne's hand.
"Isthalla, no-" she warned in a heavy, serious voice. I wondered if she was considering not listening as I watched an expression of unbridled, wild anger flash in her eyes before she turned back to Cullen in despair.
"C-Cullen, it's me," she whispered again in that completely foreign tone that knotted up my throat. My heart jumped at the sound, and stomach twisted slightly. I wasn't sure why. "P-Please," she added, though she didn't move per Wynne's insistent, gripping hand on her arm.
I was not used to the fear in her voice, that unbidden, child-like softness that sounded nothing like the intimidating elf witch I knew and loathed. I didn't like it; it made me feel uncomfortable and squirmy. I wanted to leave.
"Still here," he murmured to himself breathlessly, razed with insanity, and eyes searching. His eyes clouded over with confusion. "B-But that always worked before!" He was searching for answers, now uprooted by an entirely new fear I had not figured out.
He must think we're an illusion..
I ticked my jaw at the memory just a half-hour earlier of the demon forcing me to look upon the private emotions of the Warden I'd believed to be as hard and cold inside as on the outside. I hated seeing that weakness now, and hearing it in her voice now, Maker's breath, of all things. It was unsettling as it was unnerving. I didn't like seeing her in such a personal and painful light.
"He's exhausted, Isthalla… I don't know how long he's been in this state," Wynne murmured.
"I'm here now, you're safe," Isthalla croaked, turning to the templar. I looked away, wanting to watch anything else. This was too much. I felt anger budding in my chest, but knew it to be misplaced. I had nowhere to put it, only confusing, swirling emotions that were fighting to the surface at the worst time.
"NO, get AWAY from me, you MONSTER!" he snarled. I whipped my gaze back to find Isthalla stumbling away, retracting a petrified hand to her chest. She had tried to reach out to him again. Now I saw the tears springing in her eyes once more, glistening and raw. Wynne clutched her by the shoulders.
"That is enough!" she barked. "Now, Cullen," she turned to him, "We have come to help, and if you will not cooperate we shall continue on without you. Where are the others?"
Sometimes Wynne could be a frightfully good negotiator.
The templar seemed to regard this threat, and straightened back into his armor with a bitter frown on his lips, no longer looking at Isthalla.
"Why bother, as you can see they've done enough damage already," he sneered at the old woman. Wynne paused for a moment, calculating his words, before setting Isthalla to the side - who still hadn't said a word - and stepped up as close to the magic prison as she could.
"Now you listen to me, Cullen," she pointed a rigid finger at him. "This was our home, and anyone left still alive is worth saving! I would have thought you of all people would agree." She sized him up, then stepped back. "Sadly, I was mistaken," she added with bitter afterthought.
"And look what they've done to it!" he shouted, throwing his arms in the air. I turned to glance at the walls, which were covered in the same pulsing flesh I'd seen devouring the mage-girl. I was revolted by the sight. "They caged us like animals, found ways t-to.. break us," he paused, lingering on a private memory - a nightmare - and continued, "I'm the only one left." Anger overtook him again.
"They deserve to die! Uldred most of all!"
A sharp, familiar pain struck my chest as I realized what he'd just done.
Isthalla came storming forward once again, full of a fury ablaze as I'd never seen. Wild anger gripped her snarl as she stepped right in front of Wynne and flung her arm out at him, spitting fire.
"How could you, Cullen!" she screamed, gripping the fabric of her robes with the ferocity I'd witnessed earlier. Tears were springing in her eyes, and mouth contorting into a pain I hadn't seen before from her. She choked on her breath, unwilling to yield such overwhelming emotions, and stepped back to try and collect herself. The damage had been done. I saw the tears slip down her face, quickly wiped away with a shaking hand as she looked at the stone floor and shook her head in quiet fury. "I trusted you," she murmured with such bitter hate I felt the wound in her voice clench my chest.
Her display had not phased him, had not even so much as ruptured him as it had the rest of us. I was as visibly shaken as Morrigan, to be sure, as we witnessed the sight of her anger, her fear, and many other theorized emotions bursting from the seams of her lips and in sobs for breath. Maker, Isthalla was actually crying.
The man I remembered from the visions, the same templar I saw look at her in a way I didn't think possible, looked as indifferent as a stone statue before her. His expression darkened just slightly, and his lips pulled as he stared past her - through her, even - and spoke to the weight of the empty room instead.
"You must kill everyone up there," he growled in a strict and controlled voice prior unheard. He was shutting down, turning into the wall of stone templar I remembered so well as a child in the Chantry. The Revered Mother always said it was both a granted strength and terrible weakness for the templars; and could easily wound those with gentle hearts, if they weren't careful. My throat felt dry and bitter knowing this was the first time I'd actually seen it happen, and at the hands of my leader.
In that next instant, Isthalla exploded from whatever invisible chains that had been holding her back.
"I WILL NOT HARM THEM FOR THE SAKE OF YOUR ANGER!"
The vindictiveness, the hate in her voice sent my hair standing on edge, and my nerves completely throttled as I stepped back, physically shaken, and watched a light glow beginning to engulf her. My heart skipped a beat in alarm as their voices escalated to terrifying shouts at one another, all the while that same, alarming glow growing brighter with each second Isthalla's anger rose.
"I'M SAVING THEM!" he snarled back.
"NO!" she yelled, jumping forward, all teeth and claws, and backed him down by the sheer willpower of her gaze. He recoiled with a snarl. Her lips pulled into a disgusted frown.
"You would murder them, you disgusting coward," she shook with intensity, her white-knuckled grip twisting into her robes with restrained force. I took a slow, nervous step away as I saw a different glow beginning to fill her hands. She was ready to fight him - and I wasn't looking forward to being within a mile's distance when it happened.
"And you would have me murder them, to ease your conscious?" she spat, her lips twisting back into a snarl as she regarded him with a shake of her head and fiery glare.
Just when I expected all hell to break lose, again I watched as Wynne bravely stepped between the two, now livid with her own anger; between Isthalla's spitting fury and the templar's shaken rage, I hadn't noticed. I suppose I'd been to busy watching the fire ready to explode from the Isthalla's burning hands. As if a natural ailment to their wounds, the glow faded from Isthalla's body the moment Wynne stepped between the two. I felt the breath rush out of my lungs with a great sigh of relief.
"Enough," Wynne spoke. Though even, I could hear the quiet temper in her voice that left no room for arguing. She looked between them both, her hands raised in questioning, waiting to see if they would go against her authority. Satisfied, she dropped her hands at her side and turned to the templar - Cullen.
"This is a discussion for another time," she chided them both in a low and forceful tone. Isthalla still refused to look at him. Her hands were back at her side, gripped and shaking, though no longer lit with vengeful magic.
Morrigan, to my surprise, stepped forward and placed a quiet hand on Isthalla's shoulder. I half-expected her to turn on instinct and plunge her fist into the woman's face, but instead she only bristled.
"We must make haste, Isthalla…" she murmured to the angry, shaking Warden. I glanced once more to Cullen and saw his hateful eyes boring into Wynne. We resumed our journey as Wynne filed behind Isthalla, who had wordlessly turned and headed for the upstairs chamber. As we rounded up the stone staircase, he left us with a bitter prayer that sounded more like a grim boding of death. It made my skin crawl.
"Maker turn his gaze on you.." he recited in a dull, flat voice full of bitter contempt. I glanced down at him, still following closely behind the others as we climbed to the top of the stairs. He stared at the floor.
"..And pray that you haven't doomed us all," he finished. I saw something flicker in his gaze as the doors swung open and Isthalla - at front - stepped inside without a word. I could have sworn it was fear.
Maker save us..
I shut my eyes as we entered into the chamber and heard the barrage of fresh screams ringing through my ears.
Maker watch over us.