Like a breeze they moved through the forest, their steps light and silent as shadow. The buck they were tracking was unaware of its impending doom, but its meet would go far in the clan, its hide, its antlers and even its bones would find use among the Dalish. Of course all creatures feared death, a fact of living, but the hunters would be sure to make its end painless and quick. Bow strings where taunt in their hands, just a moment longer and…
The massive male deer's head shot up, ears twitching before it bolted. "What in the name of..?" Lyna began, letting the bow slip back into a relaxed position her unused arrow sliding back into the quiver on her back. Her companion hushed her gently with a light touch on her arm, his gaze drifting in the direction the buck had turned. Without a word they drifted towards whatever it was that had spooked their quarry and before long their sensitive elven ears caught the sounds of voices.
Humans. Shemlen; Quick Children. Three men wandering far closer to their camp then any Dalish would be comfortable with. The barest of nods where shared between the two hunters before they faded off in opposite directions; they had been side by side for years and knew what the other was thinking without the need to voice it.
The shemlen needed to be shown out of the forest.
The three men jabbered between each other, alternating between mumbled words, slightly too loud exclamations and frantic hushing. Lyra wondered from their strange behavior if they'd known how close they'd gotten to the Dalish camp. They did seem excited about something. Maybe they were off to tell their town or their masters that Dalish were near. Lyna felt a growl in her throat. Humans, their souls where poisoned with greed and they probably expected to make some coin off the information.
Two arrows dug into the ground by the men's feet and they screeched in panic, running off. The huntress grinned, not as rewarding as a buck, but at least the hunt was on.
Like cattle they ran, Lyna easily pacing them from the trees, arrows smacking the ground to herd them on their way when they strayed a little too far. Didn't these humans realize if she truly wished them dead, they would be? Those first shots would never have missed if she was actually aiming for them. The humans crashed through the forest like only humans could, no animal would ever make such a racket, even in chase and no animal would fall so easily off the side of a hill.
Lucky for the shemlens it was a small hill. Not so luckily, her partner waited there for them, arrows drawn and bow taunt.
"It's a Dalish!" One shouted rather rhetorically, his gaze turning to Lyna as she slid in besides her partner, her own bow trained on them.
"Look Lethallan, bandits in the woods." Tamlen growled, the point of his arrow twitching when one of the three made too sudden a movement.
"Honest Dalish. We didn't mean no harm, we didn't know these forest were yours." One of the humans pleaded, his common laced with a thick accent and poor grammar of only the remote and poor.
"These forests are not ours; you've come too close to our camp Shem'." The reply came like the strike of a viper.
"We was just looking for some treasure, that's all."
"Treasure?" Lyna asked, her voice much sweeter than the grunts and growls of her companion. "Where would you find treasures in a forest?"
"There are these ruins you see." The humans quivered, shuffling slightly in her direction; obviously she was the nice one. "Off to the east, honest there are, you can see them for yourself."
Tamlen never took his eyes off the three, and inclined his head in her direction. "So you are more akin to thieves not bandits. What say you Lethallan, what do we do with them?"
Lyna rolled her eyes, shaking her head. Tamlen and she shared very different ideas about the shemlen, and he knew that all too well. While Tamlen was content to kill them and be done with it, Lyna never liked such corporal punishment and preferred to show kindness. They never saw eye to eye on the subject. The fact that he was leaving the decision to her might mean that he didn't want to fight with her and she had an idea why.
She was so frustrated with Tamlen; from his brother's lips she'd learned of his plan to ask her to bond with him and the thought nearly made her blush pink. She loved him for years and hoped dearly that he would ask. Lyna had given him more than enough opportunity, Creators; she was blowing off Master Ilen to be here even now.
The thing was they'd never even shared a kiss.
Maybe Feneral was playing a prank on her.
Lyna bit her lip hard, the Dread Wolf take Fenarel if he was; she'd serve him up to Fen'Harel herself it that was the case.
With a sigh, knowing he wouldn't like it, Lyna shook her head. "Let them go, they've done no harm and it'll only fall back on us if we hurt them."
"You're too soft, Lethallan." Yes well, she thought with a huff, it was his fault for asking for her opinion. The grateful looks on the humans' faces where enough to tell her she'd made the right call. With a motion of his bow, Tamlen bid the humans off. "Run back to your village, and do not return to these woods until we Dalish have moved on." He threatened and the three quite wisely scattered.
There was a moment of silence between the two of them, Tamlen obviously trying to decide if he should be regretting bending to Lyna's whim by letting the shemlen go. She watched the nit in his tattooed brow for long enough before sighing, breaking the silence.
"That's for future Tamlen to deal with." Lyna added helpfully, with a quirky smile that made her companion laugh and shake his head. Of course she knew what he was thinking, there was little that they could hide from each other. "Do you want to go back to camp?"
Tamlen seemed to ponder the idea for a moment, before shaking his head. "No, I think we should check out these ruins first, there might be something valuable."
"I still think it might be better to return to the Keeper with the news first."
"If we go back now and there are nothing fruitful in the ruins, then the Keeper will probably punish us for wasting the clan's time. Or did you forget why I was out here in the first place."
An exasperated sigh passed Lyna's lips. She couldn't force the issue now; their relationship was give and take after all and unfortunately that meant it was her turn to give into his will. "Alright, alright. But just long enough to see what's about."
A slightly proud looking smirk crossed his lips and he motioned her in the general easterly direction. "Lead on Lethallan."
They found the ruins quiet easily. Too easily, to Lyna's taste. "Has this been here before? I would swear we've been around this area."
"Maybe a landslide opened it up." Tamlen replied absently slipping his lithe body down through the hole and into the vast cavern beyond.
"I'm not so sure…" Lyna replied, sliding in after him and landing gracefully on her feet.
"Or maybe something in these old stone walls gave way and opened up the path." The hunter added, this one seemed slightly more plausible and casting discerning gaze towards the opening they'd just passed and the theory seemed to solidify.
The ruins seemed empty, but they were not devoid of life.
Whatever possessed the Creators in their infinite wisdom to make giant spiders, Lyna will never understand. It's not that she didn't like spiders, well she didn't, but the little ones she could handle and their only folly was to crawl into boots at night. Spiders however got progressively bigger ranging in sizes from fist size, to bird-eating.
And then there were the Giant Spiders.
"Ar isala'din." She growled stabbing a dagger into the swollen abdomen of the last spider in the latest group that attacked them. "Giant Spiders. I hate them."
Tamlen chuckled under his breath. "I bet there are bigger ones, somewhere out there."
"Elgar'nan, with my luck their probably are!" She gasped throwing her hands up in the air. "Monstrous Spiders bigger than this room! I just hope someone is creative enough to not just call them Monstrous. That wouldn't do these things justice, I wouldn't settle for less than 'Horrifyingly Monstrous Spider'. Maybe I used up my bad luck with just their existence, if I actually had to fight one I might just quit."
Tamlen leaned against the stone wall, his hand on his stomach from laughter from her rambling, granted she wasn't half as bad as poor little Merrill. When the First began rambling it was like her mind drifted off as her lips kept moving, at least Lyna knew when and how to rein it in. This place had her on edge even before they faced the pack of spiders. She could see it in Tamlen too, and was glad she could ease his worry even for a moment.
"Come on; let's see what else might be here."
Tamlen chuckled. "I thought you wanted to go back and tell the Keeper."
"Oh Lethallin, I'm not completely devoid of curiosity. Besides, we are already here."
Lyna was the first to find something of note, mostly because she'd turned right when Tamlen had gone the other way. They hadn't noticed the statue standing off to the side, probably because of the pleasant distraction of grotesquely over-sized spiders, but there was something vaguely familiar about it.
"Tamlen, do you know what this is?"
Her partner frowned, crossing his arms in front of his chest in thought. "It's one of the Elven pantheons; I recognize it from one of the books the Keeper never lets us read."
"And you got a hold of this book how?" Lyna asked a quizzical look shot in his direction.
"Merrill?" The reply was sheepish.
"Tamlen! You're going to get her in trouble!"
"She didn't get blamed..." Tamlen tried to defend himself, touching his head to his heart, a Dalish motion for surrender. His eyes were elsewhere however, and he went on. "But, these ruins look human, what would our gods be doing in a human building?" Lyna could only frown and shrug. None of the answers that came to mind seem plausible.
They turned their attention back to the empty room, scouring it for clues. The floor had wide open holes, but it wasn't safe to try to descend deeper without fear of being trapped below. The two hunters decided it was best to keep their explorations to the main floor and leave any deeper diving to those that would be prepared for such a task.
For a while it seemed like there was no more of interest. There was another large chamber, equally infested with spiders as the last had been, but Lyna found nothing of note. She was about to ask him to turn back when Tamlen suddenly sucked in a breath.
"Lyna! This is… written Elvish."
"How do you- Right book. But now I'm more confused than ever, there hasn't been written word since Elvhenan… Could this place really be that old?" Not to mention they were very far south from the ancient Elven homeland. It didn't make sense to either of them. Almost like random bits of the past had been spewed into these halls by something.
"I am beginning to have a bad feeling about this place… it almost seems wrong."
Lyna rolled her eyes. Now he got the bad feeling. She's been having one this entire time. "There is only one room we've not checked, should we go back?"
"No, one last room." He paused a moment, staring at her heavily and it froze her in place. "You were supposed to be helping Master Ilen… why are you here with me, Lethallan?"
Lyna could only smile faintly, unable to keep his gaze. "Why do you think? To be with you." She replied. Maybe Fenarel was right. Maybe he would ask.
"I… thought as much." Tamlen replied shuffling nervously. "I'm glad…"
Lyna could kick herself. She wouldn't, she'd much rather kick Feneral, but she could. They said nothing after that. The corridors were silent, only echoing their foot falls as they walked. One last door loomed before them. Tamlen moved to shove open the door.
Lyna realized too late it was a trap.
She yelped at him to stop, but the chocking smog already filled the small passage. They both gagged and pulled backwards. Something was wrong and both her blades fell into her hands and crossed above her just in time to block the downward swing of her attacker.
Long dead flesh hung from aged bone. Its hallow gaze locked on her. Rotten teeth opened, and hissed at her. With a cry of shock she kicked out, her boot shattering the fragile ribs in the thing's chest.
It looked down with what could only be mild annoyance as it stumbled back and was on her again.
She parried a blow, twisting behind the skeletal creature; it took her far too long to realize what it was and went to stab it in the back.
Of course, the thing was already dead and had no lung or heart to puncture.
Lyna growled in frustration, hooking the thing's leg against hers and slammed it on the back with the pummel of her dagger, knocking it forward. The blade in her other hand came up as it went down and its head tumbled free. For a moment she was afraid that wouldn't be enough, that it would continue to stand and fight until it was in hundreds of pieces on the floor.
It didn't. "Tamlen! The head!" She warned or tried to, but the miasma was in her lungs and cut her words off in a cough. Tamlen had taken off the arm of another of the undead only to have it switch its sword hand and face him again. His shield smacked into the thing's chest, shattering old and brittle bones into a million pieces. That stopped the attack too.
The third and final skeleton fell to his sword, falling down to the ground nearly cleaved in two. They both fell against the wall, panting hard to regain lung function as the cloud of gas finally dissipated. Tamlen's eyes were as wide as she'd ever seen them, and she had a feeling her expression mirrored his.
"Living dead-" He coughed, "Dark magic."
Their reprieve was short lived as something slammed against the door they had attempted to enter. Lyna and Tamlen both slid the bows off their back, watching as stone and wood crack and splintered under the force of the thing on the other side.
The old wood gave way a moment later.
The creature wasn't like anything Lyna has ever seen. It looked like a bear, or had once been. Its body was covered in vicious spines that looked as if they'd erupted spontaneously from beneath its skin. Blood dribbled down its coat in rivers plastering the fur in thick clumps. The smell was noxious and indescribable and it was almost a blessing to the two hunters that they could not yet breathe well. Two arrows hit the corrupted bear on either side of its neck but it shook them off without flinching. Lyna was forced to duck and roll, dropping her bow completely her daggers snapping to her grip. Six inch claws swung for her face, but she was too quick and behind the creature Tamlen smacked a shield into its flank, knocking it off balance and drawing its attention.
The two hunters had worked together for years. They knew each other's thoughts and tactics. Tamlen buffed a blow from those wicked claws with his shield and Lyna was there in an instant to deal a wicked wound to the tender flesh exposed by the creature's reach. It would turn to regard her and it would be Tamlen's turn to deal a devastating wound to its exposed flank.
The beast was formidable, but after what felt like a life time it let out a grunted cry and slumped to the floor.
The hunters breathed in relief Lyna stumbling a bit from a miscalculated claw mark on her leg as she went to retrieve her bow. Her gaze drifted to the beast they'd just felled. What was this thing? It wasn't natural whatever it was. She was about to ask Tamlen when she realized he was not at her side.
Lyna found him in the room were the beast had come. Before him was a massive mirror, eerily pristine in the dilapidated condition of the ruins it called home.
"Can you see it?" Tamlen asked, climbing the short steps to where the mirror sat. "There it is again!"
Lyna saw nothing, though she stared into the reflective surface. No, that was wrong, this mirror did not reflect, she realized as she approached. "Tamlen I-"
"There's a whole city… underground… I can see…" He whispered under his breath reaching his fingers brushing the mirror's surface. "I… I can't look away! It's got me! Lyna! Help!"
She took a step.
It was all that was given to her.
A bright light seared her eyes and she was vaguely aware of screaming Tamlen's name.
A sensation of falling and then nothing.
Ar isala'din: I need (this) not. Or; I don't need this.
– An attempt to make sentences out of the fracture that is elven language.
Elgar'nan: Elven God of Vengeance.
Dragon Age Origin Play though because it's just short of a self-insertion and everyone is doing it! I fell very much in love with my sweet loving warden from Petrichor and Applewood, and couldn't let her sit in silence in that one drabble. So here it is! As far as content go, it's more about characterization then story, simply because we all know how the story goes and I will endeavor to not regurgitate game dialogue unless absolutely necessary.
I hope you all enjoy!