I love all you silent watchers, but I wish you'd come say hi to me from time to time. I'll make cookies? :)
Forgot to mention last chapter, Rheaeni is a made up word for Zathrian clan. From my understanding most clans had a name, and I couldn't understand why one of Zathrian's size didn't have one too. Ah well, it doesn't mean anything, just looks and sounds pretty.
The whole group heard the howls, and Lyna had about half a moment to process the thought that it didn't quite sound like wolves before the beasts fell on them with abandoned. Massive things, the werewolves were, standing even taller than Sten; their bodies stretched into the proportions of men, but lacked the grace of the creatures they resembled. Instead they were gangly. Their arms were too long, legs twisted to stand on toes; they lacked the balancing tails and moved like men while running on all fours, throwing limbs out into extremes to compensate. Their faces were twisted with lips pulled away from teeth in permanent snarls.
Lyna had heard of them, sure. Legends of curses brought on by magic usually cast by wicked magisters or an angered god, but they were things of fantasy, impossibilities, not something that would ever exist in the real world. Or so Lyna believed right up until the moment when she was dodging snapping teeth and lethal claws.
The wolves overwhelmed them, more than enough to flank Lyna's band and then some. They may be werewolves, but Lyna had a Qunari at her back and the man was like a battering ram, slamming into the creatures with the huge two handed sword given to him. Yelps and squeals of pain come from his direction; she would never be ungrateful for freeing him of that cage all those weeks ago, but she couldn't pause to take stalk of how the rest were doing. Lyna whirled on a wolf before her, whacking his clawed hands away and slicing deep into the beast's chest. Zevran's training was paying off, even if it did usually end with her pinned in some way and blushing madly because she knew he was thinking something less than innocent as he whispered in her ears how she'd gone wrong.
A wolf bowled into her, and they both rolled to the ground. She kicked out, her knee smashing into its breastbone with a satisfying crack. With a twist and a roll to the side, Lyna slid a dagger into the wolf's back and it didn't rise again, but three more of the pack mates were on her an instant later. They snarled and shaped at her, foam bubbling from their lips, feral.
One thing she'd learned from the stories, and one she was quite willing to believe, was that a bite would turn another into one of them. Lyna was not curious about walking as a wolf, and even if she was, she'd have asked Morrigan. Dagger twisted in hand coming up under the chin of a wolf whose teeth came far too close to her face while she was beating off another. The beast fell to the side and stole the blade from her grasp but lay quite dead. Lyna went for her bow to even out her hands, another of Zevran's tricks he'd passed on to her. Held along his forearm the bow wood flicked out like a striking snake against jaws and swiping claws.
She spun with each motion bringing her blade in at random to keep the wolves of guard. The Dalish however, was not as practiced and the wolves had her giving ground fairly quickly. The river's presence was a roar in her ears, and the waterfall a constant nagging feeling in the back of her mind. They were herding her, she realized with each step snapping jaws forced her to take. They couldn't get in for a bite, and they tired, but she'd given them more than a fair few slaps to make them consider pushing her off the cliff might be a better idea.
A wolf came over the rise above them staring down at the battle with a grin, if wolves could grin. It, he rose up to his hind legs and howled. "Leave the humans alive, brothers and sisters!" He cried with a bark. "If the Dalish cannot be used for our means than she must not return to the clan!"
The wolves howled in unison. Lyna was stunned enough to mutter, "It talks?" and wonder why her, before a heavy body slammed into her arm, nearly knocking her bow from her grasp and left her balancing on her toes with nothing but sky at her back. Blade caught the beast in neck, Lyna pulled, the beast tumbled over the edge and she too almost went with it. Zevran was at her side in breath, forgoing a blade for just an instant to take her hand and pull her back to solid ground. They stood back to back with the precipice at their side as the werewolves snarled, drool dripping. The others were no help, so swarmed with the pack of werewolves, and they all had gotten wise; no werewolf stood long enough in front of arching steel or magical blasts to take serious damage. All the while they were pushed farther and farther away from the two elves.
The werewolf on the ridge grunted his annoyance at the elves and dropped from his perch. He towered over the elves, even over the other lycanthropes gathered. Dagger length talons came down and not even Zevran's quick skills could save him from the savage gash that opened across his armor and down his chest. He stumbled, just a moment and Lyna turned to defend, to give Zevran the moment he needed to recover, and the alpha wolf backhanded her across the face with a crack like thunder. She slumped. Limp like a puppet with no strings. She pitched from the force of the blow and fell.
Zevran grabbed her hand, but he could not stop her.
They fell together.
Lyna couldn't breathe.
She pulled her head from the water, floundered uselessly against the current. It whisked her away and it was all she could do to keep her head above the froth, to keep from being dragged under. Coughing and spitting, Lyna found she could touch the bottom of the river and scrambled to her feet. Somehow, she had still clung to her bow, but it was a useless thing now, the wood cracked in two and held together only by the string tied to both ends. The Dalish sighed and flung it towards the shore, she liked that bow.
A touch and a cough of his own, and she remembered Zevran had tumbled with her. Lyna's vision was quickly turning red and she touched her right eye, it was swollen shut and came away bloody. There was nothing for it, she splashed water on her face to clean it out and left it be. Zevran was not too far they both staggered out of the water and under the thick branches of a tree.
His leathers were torn across his chest and blood quickly – much too quickly - mixed with the water and ran down to stain the armor. Without a thought she pulled at the buckles and freed him of it. The tunic below was shredded beyond help and stained almost completely with blood, despite the water. Three cuts crossed the left side of his chest from shoulder to hip, the two on the edge were not so deep or so long, but the middle was deeper than her finger where it wasn't blocked by the bone of his ribs and covered her hands in blood within moments. Half of her couldn't help but notice that the marks just barely missed a sweeping tattoo that mirrored the one on his face and disappeared below his waist.
"Like what you see?" He winced and her smile was cut short. Lyna bit at the fingers of her gloves with her teeth, yanking them off. She hesitated for a moment, but if she didn't, he'd bleed out. There was no time to find a healer, no way the two of them would make it back to the Wynne and the others before he passed out from blood loss, and if that happened she wouldn't have the strength the carry him. No choice, she put her focus to the jaw-trap that was her connection to the fade and forced it open.
Healing magic sparked to life in her hands, setting them aglow.
"Warden- Magic?" Zevran couldn't help but be taken back as her hands drifted over the open wound on that ran down his chest.
"Shh-" She hissed both at him and from the spark of pain that stung her fingers as she forced the healing spell. His wound didn't close completely, but the bleeding slowed enough, and even the assassin had to admit he felt less dizzy from blood loss. Of course, Lyna seemed to have taken his symptoms on herself; her skin was pale and she seemed to sway even as she sat by his side. "Not going to bleed out, least not soon, but not sure if you'll make it back to the others."
Lyna closed her eyes fighting off what seemed to be a wave of exhaustion. "Stitch it." Zevran replied motioning to her broken bow. She frowned at the thought, but relented. She pulled a sprig of elfroot from her pack, how it had not gotten lost with their ride down the river, she could only thank the gods and shoved the leaves in her mouth to chew on, releasing the oils. In the mean time she snatched up her shattered bow, freeing the string and slicing off the loops with a dagger. The thread however was too large and so she set about carefully splitting it against the edge of her knife.
"S'waxed." She mumbled her tongue going numb from the plant. "S'wont hurt as much. But I'ven' done this 'fore, s'don't think it'll mean much." A sizeable splinter of wood was used as a needle, rubbed against leathers for a moment to smooth the rough edge and an arrow head provided a hole in one end for the twine.
"It'll be fine," He replied, but she pressed the elfroot to the wound anyway, it numbing the pain but it also cleaned the wound as much as was possible. It was another reason why the Dalish valued magic so highly, without it the clans wouldn't survive long. There are far too many wild things and even Lyna cannot count how many times she's been injured enough that the keeper had to heal her. It was one of the many prices for their freedom. Zevran stared as she worked, her hands moving with grace even if she stopped one or twice as if she'd forgotten what exactly she was doing.
She owed him an explanation, and talking would help her keep her focus. She bit her lip, unsure how to being. "…They say that in the days of Arlathan all elves had magic, and it was contact with humans that stole it and our immortality, did you know this?" Lyna mumbled softly as she worked, trying to keep focused.
"I have heard."
"There isn't a Dalish child, at least one in my clan, that doesn't have some shred of magic." More elfroot, she was surprised that he never once flinched in pain. Didn't she already think that thought? She shook her head, unsure and tried to keep working.
He didn't respond for a moment and she swayed, just slightly. Zevran realized his part in this. "Is that not dangerous? We are told that any mage can be possessed by a demon."
"The chantry, right? I've never been bothered by one. So I have to wonder…" She stopped to turn her un-gloved hands over, frowning at the burn marks across her index and thumb, the backlash when her connection had snapped shut. "The problem for us is how strong our connection to the beyond when we are awake is. I can only reach it if I force a connection, and the effort takes a great deal out of me. I'd have never turned to it naturally, not if the keeper didn't cox it out of every da'len when we are young."
"You cannot heal that?" He motions to the wicked damage done around her eye, and she shakes her head.
"Turning a healing spell on myself is beyond me, there's too many pushes and pulls. At best nothing happens, at worst..." She trails off.
"It felt like sunlight." Lyna met his eyes and she realized he was talking about her magic. All magic had a feel. Marathari's felt like a gentle wind, Wynne's felt like a splash of water, Lyna blushed faintly, returning to work. The few times Morrigan used her magic for healing instead of harm, it reminded Lyna of rich soil, not terribly rough but it stuck to one's hands from the moisture and didn't fade easily. There was only an inch or so left rendered flesh, but Lyna was losing her concentration far too quickly. "Does the Chantry know of the Dalish and their magic?"
"I wouldn't think they didn't. They know our keepers are mages, at the very least; it is why we travel so much, staying in one place invites slaughter. There is… no circle for the Dalish." Finally the wound was shut and she leaned back against the bark of the tree, glad for the chance to rest her eyes.
"That… does explain your reactions at the tower." It didn't help that she was quick to anger, a little more stress then she was completely able to tolerate, but Lyna wouldn't mention that out loud. There was silence between them, Lyna thought she might have dozed off a moment, it was hard to tell.
"… I am telling you a lot of secrets," Lyna mumbled softly, too exhausted by the magic use to bother with opening her eyes or making sure her words came out properly.
"Putting a lot of trust in an assassin, are you not?" Lyna could still frown.
"No, I put my trust in you. You're deserving of it, Zev."
"I did say I would serve until you released me."
Lyna scoffed at that, but her eyes still stayed closed. "As if I ever held you to that. You could have left in the middle of the night those first few days and I wouldn't have been surprised. Maybe a bit disappointed, but unless you came back to finish the job I would have been happy knowing I gave someone a second chance."
"That is… kind of you to say." He mumbled at length.
"For what it's worth, I'm happy you didn't, that you're here."
"Warden?" Her eyes flicked to find him hovering over her, sun glittered on his still-wet skin. Zevran touched a hand to her cheek and his lips met hers. He tasted of spices Lyna couldn't name, but they were hot on her tongue. When Lyna didn't protest Zevran's other arm wound around her waist, pulling her towards him. His hands were warm, hot like the rays of the sun; everything about him was warm, hot and shined like gold. She didn't know what to do with her hands at first, and then hesitantly touched his shoulder, ran his hands up into his wet hair and back down his sides. Prompted by her explorations his hand slipped under the hem of her armor and tunic, her skin was cold, she thought, it must be for his warmth to burn her so and send waves of heat across her body.
Lyna's hands avoided his back, knew the scars were there, but they trailed over his chest and reminded her of the still open wound.
"Zev-" She was breathless, he stole her words with another spicy kiss. Her heart pounded in her chest, half of her mind wondering what she thought she was doing, the other worried about him. "Zev, you'll hurt yourself-"
"More's the pity." He mumbled, but relented. The air was shockingly cold without him so close, she knew her face was red as an apple, and she couldn't find it in her to look him in the eyes. They both struggled, Lyna more so and more willing to show he effort, to their feet. Zevran's wound pained him enough that he pressed a hand to the makeshift wrapping as they walked. She felt herself fading in and out, black edged tinting her vision, but if she stopped she would sleep and she couldn't leave Zevran like that. "It seems dangerous. Why would your Keepers see fit to spread magic to all the Dalish?"
"Oh… that's easy," Lyna said her words coming slower than they should, "Elvish is written with magic, you can't read it without some understanding of it, of power no matter how small."
He seemed dumbfounded, or at least what she could fathom from her skewed perception. This was more then she should share, but it was something to focus on and she had meant what she said; he deserved her trust. "The spoken words used to carry magic too; every word was a truth and a spell. The ancient elves named the humans quick-children because they seemed so young and sped through life in earnest and suddenly… they too become quick children, the spell was cast even if not by intent. The humans came to us with no magic of their own, they learned from us, called themselves mages… as if there is a… difference between those who could… and those who could not… and another spell… was cast."
Distantly she was aware of just how much magic she had used to heal Zevran, with no practice, pouring so much energy into the wound had drained her and the lack of magic, no matter how faint, was something her body was not used to experiencing.
She was in a daze when, like sprites they seemed to step out of the shade of the trees and was dimly aware that they were Dalish, if only because something that sounded like Zevran's voice told her so. Another voice called her cousin and she thought the concerned look on the woman's face funny, her only cousin hated her.
It was too hard to keep track of what was going on after that, so Lyna just closed her eyes.
The birds woke her up. There was a campfire nearby, the crackle and hum of the fire was comforting in her ears. She could smell the elfroot and other herbs; they clung to the healing tents no matter… how long… they were aired out.
Had it been a dream?
She didn't want to move. Afraid that any disturbance would break the spell her mind had fallen under. No, things were too crisp to be a dream; images and conversations too vivid. Aches and pains that had only come from the constant fighting on the road. For a moment she wondered if she was in the illusions of another demon, but again no, this time it really was too good to be true.
It was a nice dream, while it lasted anyway.
"Warden," someone said, the cot she lay on dipping under his weight. "As beautiful as you look asleep, I imagine your presence will be required to settle this disturbance."
Lyna groaned softly, struggling to even open her eyes let alone sit up. Somehow, and this was rather usual for her, she managed the latter before the former to a deep laugh from Zevran. She could hear the argument, even from the opposite side of camp; the tones had hit a crescendo. Lyna jumped up in an instant, her hand went for her weapons, but only one dagger responded to her hand. None of this clan would know where she kept them as she slept, but how Zevran knew… Well, he didn't miss much, now did he? The Dalish glanced his way, with a thank you on her lips.
He had kissed her at the riverside.
Her face instantly colored pink, and the words were lost in her embarrassment. Creators, why did he have to give her that roguish smirk now, he knew what she was thinking. Zevran made no secret of his promiscuity, and Lyna knew where she stood next to the likes of Morrigan and Leliana. She bit her lip. It wouldn't have surprised her if the only reason he had cast his eyes in her direction was simply because the other women in the group had shot him down. Lyna was just too willing to listen to him praises her, no one had ever done so before and she couldn't help but take pleasure in it.
The thought made her feel like a child. Even if it was empty, even if he only wanted one thing from her, she wanted to hear it. Lyna sighed. She would want more, or course, but that would be as far as Zevran would want it. His way made sense; either of them could die tomorrow, or even today. By the void, they should have died just that morning, how either of them survived a plummet down a cliff and into a river was pure luck. Lyna was beginning to suspect that Zevran was the embodiment of it; luck. Should she really go on, hoping for something that might never come, or take what came to her and be happy that life saw fit to give her that much.
She couldn't see ahead, but the days before her looked grim, and every moment she pulled herself from her sleep she was thankful to have made it to another dawn. Any chance of real joy had been taken from her the moment…
The moment she and Tamlen had stepped into that cave.
Any chance of a future, she had thrown that away herself when she'd drunk of darkspawn blood and joined the Wardens and their cause. She was bound to their duty, committed to their cause, until the Archdemon was dead, or she was, there was little else that could exist in her life. Did she want to die without…
The human's, Alistair's, voice hit too loud when compared to the softer spoken elves. No time for this, she darted off leaving Zevran behind.
She was still tired and breathless by the time she reached the opposite side of the camp. One of the Dalish guardians' had her bow poised at the humans, one dog and one Qunari that clustered the border.
"What business could we Dalish possibly have with a group like yours?" She was saying, her voice hard. Lyna was between them, pushing the golden haired elf's bow out of harm's way; even as she turned to make sure her people were unharmed.
"They're with me, Mithra," Lyna breathed. She hadn't seen her cousin for years, but Lyna knew the instant that the taller, bronze skinned and golden haired elf was her. Mithra was always pretty, even when Lyna had last seen her. The mark of Mythal graced her cousin's face as well as her own, though Mithra had taken the marks farther under her eyes and down her chin. Lyna didn't stand quite as tall as the female elf. But she did her best, even though her cousin's mere presence made her want to run and hide in the forest until the she could leave again. Creators, what was she going to do if she had to speak with her uncle? "Please, cousin, let them through to speak with the keeper."
The guardian gave a snort in the direction of the humans.
"Fine," She said at length. "But our camp is not a store for your perusal, shemlen. Speak your peace with the keeper and be on your way. We have our own troubles without adding you to them."
The hunters gathered made way for the group of humans. Falonel barked happily running up to Lyna, his front legs bent and his rump in the air. The mabari barked again, and then darted into the camp circling around Zevran who finally saw fit to join them. It seemed the war hound had taking a liking to the assassin; Lyna had thought they were a one-master kind of breed, or maybe he was just thanking Zevran, the dog was smart like that. She was glad to notice, as Zevran pulled a new tunic over his head, that he only had a thin line of white scars from the wolf attack.
"Andraste's grace, you're alright," Wynne breathed from behind her. The woman was giving the two of them a cursory inspection, earning a smile from Lyna for her motherly affection. "And you Zevran?"
"Ah, I dare say the Dalish's talents could give you a run for your worth, my dear Wynne, but yours is still a bosom without compare." The elf grinned, as the elder mage scoffed.
"And to think for a moment I was worried about you," Wynne grumbled under her breath. She meant for it to be a quite thing, but Zevran laughed anyway.
"Terrible, I know." The elf shrugged his shoulders. "Warden, it seems my armor is beyond repair."
"Try talking to Master Varathorn," Lyna replied, motioning in the general direction of the aravel decorated by a carving that somewhat resembled an old man with horns. She couldn't meet his eyes, too many thoughts rolling in her head and she needed to concentrate. The Keeper of this clan Zathrian was a bigot, his view on humans being one of the more extreme of the clans that wandered Ferelden during the year. It was why Lyna wished to avoid this particular clan, though she knew they would have been easiest to find, among other reasons. She couldn't face him with half her mind somewhere else.
Zevran was smirking, catching on to her reaction, but let it be and followed her lack luster directions. Falonel followed him, maybe the hound caught on that this conversation wouldn't be pleasant, or maybe he remembered Lyna telling him how the Dalish appreciated dogs and wanted to see more of the camp. That must be it; the glutton was looking for handouts. Lyna caught a few words from the elf, directed at the mabari before he was too far for her to hear. "We have dogs in Antiva you know…"
"Keeper Zathrian," Lyna greeted when her large group in toe. The keeper took one look at the group and scowled.
"Lyna…" He muttered, tilting his head up so he could look down his nose at her. She was surprised he remembered her; it had been almost ten years sense he'd seen her last. Lyna would never forget him; in fact she could almost say she hated this elf. "I'm shocked to see you here; I thought Marathari already took your clan north."
She nodded, tensely. "She did Keeper Zathrian; I've joined the Grey Wardens."
"Maker," Alistair mumbled. "I can barely hear a word you too are saying, and I'm standing right here. For the sake of the rest of us, would you mind talking a bit louder? Please?"
He was trying to break the heaviness that had fallen between the two elves, Lyna knew. It wasn't a good time, Lyna knew that as well, but it didn't stop her from having to fight off a smile. "I've told you before elves hear better, now do you believe me when I say your snoring wakes me up from across camp?"
The keeper glowered. His lip almost visibly twitching at the friendly tone she took with him. "Ma dirth Elvhenlin'in? Ma dirth shemlen dar'falon. Felas da'asha."
"Do not speak just so that they won't understand," Lyna snapped back. It had taken her a long time, but she finally had accepted these people as her friends. For a second she was grateful to Zathrian, she hadn't realized that fact until the moment when he tried to belittle them in front of her. "They are my friends, and I treat them as such, as if that is any concern of yours. We are here to ask for aid of the Dalish, in accordance with the treaties we… t-they… have signed."
A smug look crossed the bald elf's face, and Lyna had to fight a sneer back. It had been a miss step of words, Lyna had come as a Grey Warden, not a Dalish, and the disconnection stumbled on her lips. Zathrian, however, took it as admittance that she did not hold to her Dalish blood. It burned Lyna that he could use her words against her. It burned her more that she had misspoke in front of the most xenophobic keeper Lyna had personally met.
"Yes, yes, I forget how much Mahariel and Marathari preached acceptance and tolerance," The keeper replied, off handed. He had his victory and seemed to be a bit more amicable to speaking openly. Lyna would take it; a wounded pride was nothing if it led to the greater good. "I remember the treaty we sighed with the Grey Wardens, but we are in little position to honor our agreement anyway."
They were lead back to the healing tents, and Lyna was ashamed to not have noticed how many of the clan occupied the cots. They were flushed, sweating from fever, some slept fitfully, and others fought groans of pain, curled on themselves for the smallest shred of relief.
"There have always been werewolves in these forests, and we have put down the beasts when they come." The keeper explained. For all the things Zathrian was, the suffering brought onto his clan stung him deeply. A Dalish female twisted in her sleep, her face twisted in agony. The keeper's magic washed over her and her she calmed, returning to something closer to peaceful. "This time however, the beasts have gotten wise. They've attacked every hunting party that has entered the forest, and been infecting the clan with their curse."
"They attacked us too, one of them spoke," Lyna replied quietly. It was chilling, werewolves were supposed to be mindless, the fact that one was capable of speech meant… She wasn't sure what it meant, really.
The keeper snorted his disdain. "They are mindless beast, and they need to be whipped out. If you go into the forest, Lyna, and find the source of the curse; a white wolf called Witherfang, kill him and bring me his heart. I can cure the clan of the curse."
"Is this the only way? If they can speak, then maybe they can be reasoned with; there must be some cause for them to attack like this."
"They are beasts trying to take the form of men, there is no reason to try and reason with them, da'asha. All that is required is that Witherfang is killed and every wolf is put down so the curse cannot be spread again."
"Ma nuvenin,keeper," Lyna was sure there was a better, way, but Keeper Zatherian would not be the one to speak of it with. She would try to speak to his first, Lanaya, and if that didn't work, she'd try the wolves. "We will leave at the dawn."
It was late by the time she finished speaking with the Keeper, the sun barely cresting the tops of the trees, and the Dalish had begrudgingly allowed the warden group to stay within their camp when Alistair sat next to her on the logs that bordered the fire. "So, about what happened…"
"Oh not this again," Lyna mumbled, she had lost her dagger and her bow in the earlier fight with the wolves and by the dread wolf, she wouldn't dare go out into the forest without her weapons. Master Varathorn was more than gracious, actually lending her and Zevran equipment with the promise that Lyna would bring back ironbark if they found any while in the forest. Of course Lyna agreed in an instant, knowing how valuable ironbark was to the clan. She sighed, sharpening her new dagger critically, it wasn't a cheaply made thing, Master Varathorn had given her a well-made blade and she suspected Zevran armor was just as good.
Varathorn remembered her father, his words had brought a sad smile to her face and memories of her clan that being Clan Rheaeni made painful. "What are you asking, Lethallin?"
Alistair seemed taken aback by the endearment, but she already had to share its meaning with him, it only took a moment for him to recall it. "Well, you called the elf at the border cousin, and it was kind of obvious that you and the keeper didn't see eye to eye…"
"It's a long story," Lyna said with a sigh. "Mithra is my cousin, her father Athras is my mother's brother… they…" She sighed again. "He didn't approve of my mother running off with my father. At the last Arlathvhen, a gathering of the Dalish clans, I met them and Keeper Zathrian. Things… didn't go well."
"You know," Alistair rolled his shoulders back, casting his eyes over his shoulder. "I bet the Dalish have a fine selection of cheeses."
"We don't have cheese, Alistair."
"Maker's breath, how do you people live?" The other Warden's attempt at making her smile was childish, but it worked. "Alright, alright. You lived with a different clan, why?"
Lyna was silent for a moment. It so close it hurt, talking about her parents constantly led to thoughts of her mother's abandonment. She was still bitter, still angry, still wounded by the thought that she wasn't good enough for her mother. Her eyes flicked in Zevran's direction, he sat on the next log over, it was strange not having him next to her, but it was probably for the better. "Marathari thought that maybe my uncle would want to take me in, she didn't know that he any my mother were estranged. Obviously that didn't work, so Marathari wanted Ashalle to pose as my family… We don't talk about the dead, much, it's better to let their spirits rest then drag up memories that would only lead to more sorrow. Zathrian broke that illusion before it even began; he was the one that told me my mother and father were dead, but the keeper stopped him before he could say more."
If not for him, Maybe Lyna could have gone on thinking Ashalle was her mother, and she would never have to question if she had been loved. Ashalle had done her best with her, but Lyna was always left feeling lonely watching the other children with their parents and knowing hers were no more, and never knowing why. "I think I just would have been happier not knowing."
"Abelas, Lyna. Ar dirth'in?"
The man speaking was Athras, her mother's brother. Lyna hadn't a clue why the man would wish to speak to her; he made it quite clear to Marathari that she wasn't wanted. The Dalish Warden eyed him wearily. She didn't want to be here any longer then she had to, she didn't need him to shoo her along any faster. "Speak Uncle, but so that my friends understand you."
"Abelas, I am sorry for the way we treated you, Dal'en. I was angry with your mother and I took it out on you." The elf sighed knowing his words fell on deaf ears. "I… need to ask you a favor."
Lyna bit her lip, trying not to spit out all the angry retorts that came to mind. "Go on uncle."
The man turn his gaze to those gathered around the fire, unsure of how he felt of the humans. He seemed to realize he would get nowhere if he spoke against them, and instead ignored their presence. "It is your aunt, Danyla. She was in one of the hunting parties attacked by the wolves. Keeper Zathrian says she is dead, but he won't let me see her. I… I can't trust his word, not in this."
"You want me to look for her."
The man was crestfallen, broken by the loss of his bonded and unable to search for her by decree of the Keeper. There was no one else he could ask for help. "The keeper will not let any more of the clan wander the forest; we have lost too many hunters to the wolves and the curse already. I just… I just need to know."
"Atisha, uncle. If she is out there, I will do my best to find her."
The dawn came too soon and the sun soon found them wondering almost aimlessly across the vast expanse of forest. They had decided splitting up wasn't an option and the whole of them trumped through the woods like an army. Lyna had to smile. None of her group save the dog liked the hike and it showed, yet she herself never felt more alive than she did here. She would miss it when they left, and it would be the only thing.
Their trudge disturbed a bear, but the beast was put down faster than most of her companions could pull their weapons, arrows lodged in the vital points of its neck.
"Give me a bear any day." She said with a laugh, and she didn't miss the sly smile that crossed Zevran's face. Lyna hadn't lied when she said she was used to fighting bears and wolves, why did everyone seem to doubt the Dalish? They were ambushed by a pack of feral werewolves, they didn't show the same tactics that the pack form the day before had, and none of them spoke. Instead it was as Lyna would have expected werewolves to fight, all teeth and claws and snarls. Her party was too large for the wolves to do any real harm.
Lyna really needed to take Sten with her more often.
They were far to the east by the time the sun sat overhead. A fog crept in, covering the ground at their feet so thick that Lyna could scoop it up in her hands. It boiled down from the hillside, from between an archway that could only be described as foreboding.
So of course, that seemed like the likely direction to go. "What do you say, that way?" She asked surprised to find it was Zevran that came to stand beside her. He was probably the least happy about crushing though the forest; even muttering that this was the reason he hadn't lasted long with the Dalish.
The assassin frowned crossing his arms over his chest. "I don't know it seems to me we would be asking for trouble going that way."
"Being this deep in the forest is asking for trouble; the whole place is haunted, the veil is thin here, or did you not notice the angry trees?"
Zevran gave her a skeptical look, a brow raised in her direction. "I noticed that you seemed quite capable of taking them down on your own."
"I might have spent a lot of time near this forest," Lyna shrugged with a sheepish smile and tried not to blush. With little way else to go, she pushed ahead. The fog rose up so thick she couldn't see her hand before her nose, much less her companions beside her. She felt like she was swimming, droplets clung to her armor and soaked her to the bone. Her hands groped for the walls, anything to steady her progress and tell her she was actually moving. Suddenly the fog lifted, or rather dropped back down to the ground and she found herself standing back where they began. Soon enough each of her group stumbled their way out.
Falonel turned and growled menacingly at the path they had taken before charging back in. Within a few minutes the fog spat him out again on the same side and Lyna had to grab his warn braided collar before he tried again. "It's no use; we'll never get through that way."
The dog huffed his disappointment, but she patted him on the head. "Don't worry, we'll find away. We're pretty lucky that way."
A quick measure of the sun told her they had just enough time to reach the Dalish camp before night fell. "Come on, let's go back. It's not safe to camp this far east, werewolves or not."
The group nodded their agreement.
It was near sunset, the camp not far when Falonel barked in urgency and ran off before Lyna could get ahold of him. Without thinking, she took off after the war hound, and found him on a small cliff, overlooking a copse of trees. The mabari stood over an unconscious and wounded Dalish. Lyna didn't recognize him, but then, she only knew a few of the clan by name. She called to Alistair from down from the ridge and he helped the wounded elf up. Wynne could do little for him, but after a little bit of healing magic he managed to gain some consciousness.
After that the going was slow, and night fell well before they reached camp. Mithra was waiting at the border and cried in joy when she noticed the Dalish elf they brought with them. Deygan smiled painfully as she hugged him and was helped by another hunter to the healing tents. Lyna thought there was something between them, but she didn't say anything. Deygan's golden eyes reminded her of someone.
Lyna sat before the fire, unable to sleep. She had to tell Athras she saw no sign of his wife in the forest, and the heartbroken look on his face and cut her deeply in return. She promised to try again, and her uncle thanked her for the effort and wondered off, dejected. It was a far cry from the man who she only remembered looking at her with disdain so many years ago.
There was another reason she couldn't sleep.
She held them tight in her hands waiting for the others to retire before she gave them to him. It didn't take long; they were all excused from the day long hike through the woods. Even he was turning in, but she caught his eye and he lingered.
"H-Here." She stuttered, handing him her gift.
He frowned at the sight, holding them curiously in hand. "Gloves? You're giving me gloves? What for?"
Lyna cleared her throat, turning away in embarrassment. "…They're Dalish… I know they're not just like your mother's-"
"Maker's breath… they are like my mother's." He ran his hand over the soft hide; the insides were lined with rabbit fur to keep the bite out, taking note of every detail. "These… were your gloves."
Lyna blushed pink. "Yes, I had to add some leather to make them fit your hands. I hope they fit. I can always fix them if they don't, but it wouldn't be too hard. I figured you'd want to use them, and it's getting cold so…"
His hand touched her cheek, forcing her to look at him, and he cut her nervous ramble off with a gentle kiss that turned her face a few shades redder. He had slipped the gloves on, and to her delight they seemed to fit well. "No one has ever… simply given me a gift before. Thank you, Lyna."
No one? That stung her heart just a bit.
"I- I'm glad you like them." His lips locked her in a second kiss, pulling her flush against his body. She was free of her thick leather armors; there was little need of it in a camp so large, not when someone else was taking care of the night guard. She was lost for a long moment his hands slipping under the soft woven tunic that covered her to touch her skin and set it alight again. Tantalizing his fingers brushed the edge of her waist band and her mind snapped back to reality. "Ze-"
He sighed, having seen it coming. "Too many ears, I take it?" Zevran chuckled against the curve of her neck, leaving one last kiss on her skin. "Some other time then, perhaps."
He left her standing there, freezing with his absence. She stumbled into her tent, huddling under the cover of her bed roll, and wished silently for the halla blanket she'd given Zevran. Or maybe just Zevran himself, she couldn't be sure.
Her new bracers were not as comfortable as her old gloves, but she only had to glance in Zevran's direction to know she'd done good giving them to him. Just seeing him wearing them was enough, but every once and a while she'd notice him admiring them and it swelled her chest with a little pride.
If only he didn't know she was watching him, but the assassin missed nothing and she couldn't hide her thoughts from him.
They had fought plenty of sylvan in the Brecilian Forest, so when one more came to life, it wasn't at all surprising. No, what was surprising was that it turned to regard the huge group and spoke. "This elder oak means you no harm; do not let the Grand Oak's words alarm. What manner of beast stands before this elder tree? Come closer creature and speak, do not flee."
It talked in rhyme, as if a talking tree wasn't strange enough.
"By the maker," Wynne mumbled under her breath. "The world is full of wondrous things."
Lyna had to agree as she stepped forward to address a tree. Dalish held trees very sacred, among most things in the forest; she wished someone would kick Morrigan for her when she muttered to kill the thing with fire. They were not killing things just to kill them, especially not something as interesting as the Grand Oak. "Never thought about it before, but it's kind of obvious that trees can't see. ...I'm Lyna, an elf?"
The tree seemed to chuckle, it almost seemed like it was the sound of two pieces of bark rubbing up against each other. How was it even speaking to begin with? Lyna couldn't even begin to guess. "An elf stands before me, and yes, it is quite true that trees cannot see. What brings an elf to the depths of this wood? There are wolves about, little elf, they'll see you as food."
The elf crinkled her nose at that. No, wolf food was not high on her list, but he must not be able to sense her group behind her. "The werewolves have attacked a nearby Dalish clan; we need to get passed the Veil to find their lair, you wouldn't happen to know how, would you?"
The Tree touched a branched hand to its wooden face in thought. "The grand oak may have a solution to your plight, but at the moment this tree is in dire fright. Dear elf, I have a favor to ask if I may be so bold, I have been robbed, my dear acorn I no longer hold. Without it I am empty, my seed is my being, I will surely wither, this tree is foreseeing. A reward the Elder Tree will give thee, a gift that will let you pass the forest free."
"Uhh, sure why not. What do I have to do?"
"Deep in this forest there is a man, take back the acorn from his hand. Bring my seed back to me, and you will see I do not lie to thee." The oak's arms bent back against his body, his head falling back and his legs became roots again. The tree slept.
Lyna smacked her lips once or twice. "That… was pretty cool."
They left the grove of trees, making their way to the areas they hadn't had the time to explore the day before. A wolf howl broke the morning's peace and the group had instantly drawn weapons, refusing to be caught off guard this time.
"The watch wolves have spoken truth. It seems we have not been so through with this one, my brothers and sisters." The Alpha wolf grunted his chest heaving with each breath he took.
"I'm a bit harder to kill then that." Lyna muttered darkly, and kicked herself for it. She wanted to talk with the wolves, not anger them more.
"It thinks to put us in our place," The wolf rumbled, sucking back the drool that dripped from its muzzle. "We are no longer simple mindless beasts; let that thought chill your spine. We will give you one more chance, run back to your clan Dalish, and tell them you have failed. We will gladly see the Dalish suffer the curse we have suffered for too long."
Lyna tried to calm her beating heart, she wasn't afraid, not as long as she could keep the alpha werewolf talking. "I only want to end the curse, if you as well if it is at all possible."
"Lies!" The wolf snapped, his teeth clicking together. "Zathrian sent you! He wishes only our destruction!"
"I am not of Zathrian's clan, if I can help I will, you need only let me try."
"You know nothing, do you? You have come far too late, little Dalish. The time for a peaceful solution has long passed. You are a fool, and we are done talking." With a feral growl lowered his flexing his clawed hands. "Run from the forest while you still can, little Dalish, we will not be so merciful the next time we met."
The parting yawl stung Lyna's ears, but the wolves did not attack and she was safe enough to put her blade away and rub at her ears irritably. "No one will tell me anything," She hissed to herself.
They were being followed; distant howls and yelps that could only come from the throats of wolves that were not wolves tracked their passage across the forest. Their presence set the group on edge, and there was no light hearted banter passed between any of them. Tense hours of walking went unfruitful and Lyna was sure they'd see the sea before ever finding a trace of the man who stole the Grand Oak's acorn.
It was around the time she had that thought that they stumbled into an abandoned camp. At least, she thought it was abandoned until a plume of smoke spilled ominously from a tree stump. "You're not a werewolf." The old man hissed when the smoke finally cleared.
"Tell me something I don't know," the Dalish said, rolling her eyes.
The mage seemed to ponder that a moment and replied, "The lions of Seheron pretend to be hurt by their cubs to build their confidence."
Lyna was speechless, almost speechless. "The… what's a lion?"
"He's gone mad dear, let it go." Wynne mumbled beside her.
"Okay, but someone is going to tell me what a lion is, right?"
"Later." Wynne promised.
Clearing her throat, Lyna turned to the old man. "I need to ask you something."
"Questions, always with the questions. Questions made me go mad, or so they say. Maybe it will do the same for you." The mad man snickered at the thought. "As a question and you'll get a question but give an answer and you'll receive one in turn. Oh, I do love games."
Lyna starched the back of her head, confused. "You… want me to answer a question?"
"Wouldn't I have to ask you a question first?"
"Isn't that a question?"
"Would you know a question if I asked it?"
"This is going nowhere." Lyna groaned.
"That isn't a question! And if it is an answer, it's an answer to a question I've not asked!" Lyna smacked her hand against her forehead in dismay. The mad man was giving her a headache. Stupid games, the muscle under her eye twitched from the tension.
"Zev," She whispered nice and low so that no one could hear save him. "Think he might have that acorn hiding in his magic tree stump?"
"Hm. It's worth a look. Allow me; it has been a while since I've shoved my hand in a dark hole. Long story, that one."
"Alright. Go on, show-off."
Zevran slipped to the back of the group, blocked form the hermits view by Sten's imposing form. Lyna wasn't convinced he wouldn't notice. That was when an idea struck her.
"Distract him," She told Falonel quietly. The mabari run up to the hermit's tent pointedly staring at the man and lifted his leg.
If dogs could grin.
The hermit flailed in distress and chased the mabari around camp who stopped periodically to threaten another one of the man's possessions, barking happily all the while. Within a minute or so, Zevran returned slipping a fair sized acorn into her hand with that roguish smile of his. "It was booby-trapped, but I'm ridiculously awesome."
The mad mage stopped his chase of the dog and turned his angry gaze on them. Magic bubbled up from the ground and Lyna could already mark the presence of several shades. "How dare you steal from an old man's home!" The hermit hissed, magic bubbling up around him.
"So much for being ridiculously awesome, Zev." She grumbled, drawing her weapons as the first of the ashen monsters attacked.
Zevran snorted in distain, kicking a shade cleaved by Alistair's sword through the chest and reducing back to the pile of dust it began as. "I am not guaranteed against magic, Warden."
The hermit would need an army of wrath to fight off a group the size Lyna towed with her, but he seemed to lack the power. Falonel stanched the man by the ankle and the Dalish knocked the staff from his hand. Before she could finish the man off, he staggered and slumped to the ground. Zevran stood behind him, pummel head about head height.
Lyna's head tilted in curiosity. "Why didn't you kill him?"
"We steal from him and we kill him?" The Antivan scoffed. "It left a bitter taste in my mouth is all, think little of it."
The Dalish couldn't fault him for that. If the assassin didn't like the idea, what would that make her to push it? The trip back to the Elder Tree was quite, more so of the calls of werewolves then from her party. The whitewood oak groaned to life and Lyna gladly handed the acorn to his waiting branches.
"You have returned little elf, and with my seed you bring to myself. A joy this day has been for me, to see my seed again I am with glee. Here is the gift that will let you walk the forest path, to find the werewolves and their wrath." The Grand Oak broke a piece of himself off, a small sprig with newly growing leaves, though they were the color of autumn and pressed it into her hand. "I wish thee well, my mortal friend. Thou brought my sadness to an end! May the sunlight find you, thy days be long, thy winters kind, and thy roots be strong."
Ma dirth Elvhenlin'in? Ma dirth shemlen dar'falon. Felas da'asha. lit; You speak (of) Elf-blood within? You speak (to) human to be friend. Slow little woman.
(You call yourself Dalish? You speak to the human as a friend. Stupid little girl.)
Ar Abelas, Lyna. Ar dirth'in? lit; I Sorrow, Lyna. I speak with?
(Excuse me, Lyna. Speak with me?)
Abelas. lit; Sorrow.
Atisha - Peace
Yay~ The elvish is back. I'm so happy. Not. :p
I love the Elder Tree.