Afflicted

Cunning blue eyes meet the brown ones of her elven companion. He returns the look, eager to explore the strange cave that they had discovered. The two elves scan the area, excited though nervous. Curious brown eyes return to the ruins and he studies them. The blue eyes of his companion return to the ruins as well, and she casually flips her blonde hair. The blonde waves reach her upper back and her hair is a honey-gold color. It's tangled after their run through the forest, and her skin glistens with sweat.

"It was probably opened by a cave in... No matter though, let's check it out so we can report back to the keeper." The elven woman says, her eyes returning to her male companion. He smiles and shakes his head, amused by her eagerness.

"After you, Tinuviel." He sweeps his hand forward, gesturing towards the ruins. She rolls her eyes and begins the descent, walking slowly and carefully. The gnarled roots of trees protrude at odd angles from the ground and it doesn't seem overly stable. Her companion follows, and their hands inch closer to their weapons as an unnatural silence descends upon them. The two Dalish soon reach solid ground and the slope gradually levels out. Stone ruins surround them, and the silence becomes more oppressive.

"Tamlen, you don't think elves lived here... do you? The shems found that artifact but... this doesn't look elvish to me." She asks, looking at her male companion. He shrugs before looking around. Tinuviel takes another step forward and massive spiders descend from holes in the cracked and filthy ceiling. She screeches, grabbing an arrow from her quiver and nocking it quickly. She draws the powerful longbow, steadying herself before shooting at the closest of the three. The arrow pierces the head of the giant beast and it writhes before curling up as the life leaves it. Tamlen draws his sword, shield already at the ready. He steps forward, engaging the second spider. Tinuviel draws her bow and fires again at the third, not killing it with the shot. In her haste she fired a bit high, piercing the abdomen of the thing. It skitters towards her and she drops her bow, drawing her twin blades. She finishes off the wounded spider quickly before sheathing her blades as Tamlen finishes off the last of them.

"By the Dread Wolf! Those were huge!" Tinuviel says in a surprised tone. She shudders, having a deep seated hatred of spiders. Tamlen nods before looking around once more.

"We can't leave though. This ruin could contain our history, and that is worth a few giant spiders." He looks at her with solemn eyes. Tinuviel nods, relenting.

"Yes, I suppose we had best press on." She sighs heavily and the two of them continue on through the ruins. A few more giant spiders threaten them, though the two Dalish hunters dispatch them with relative ease. Easily able to predict the movements of the other, the two Dalish are a force to be reckoned with. They press on, finding little in the early parts of the ruins.

"This place makes me nervous..." Tamlen says, looking at Tinuviel. She stops walking, turning to face him. His eyes dart about the empty corridor skittishly, and she cocks a brow at him.

"So talk, if that'll calm you down." Tinuviel replies easily. She leans back against a sturdy stone wall, crossing her arms and looking at her companion. Tamlen studies her tattoos once more, admiring the curving patterns. They grace her forehead, curving up in a twisting pattern like the delicate horns of a halla. They also curve down around her eyes and across her cheekbones. They brush her full bottom lip as they move down her chin and frame her mouth. Her smooth features are accentuated by the light tan of her skin, and her thick eyelashes meet her less significant lower lashes as she blinks lazily, feigning complete disregard for the situation at hand. Tamlen sucks in a quick breath, taken by the beauty of his soon to be lover. He silently praises the Creators that she agreed to Bond with him, and suddenly three whole weeks seems like far too long a time for him to resist the blonde-haired beauty.

"I suppose so..." He says almost breathlessly. "Hey, weren't you supposed to be assisting Master Illen today? How did you end up coming with me?" He focuses on the question, trying to keep his wits about him. A smirk graces the lips of the daring young huntress, and she moves forward swiftly. He finds himself face to face with her and she smiles sweetly in feigned innocence.

"I wanted to be with you, of course." She says in a sultry tone, her full lips pouty and her blue eyes gazing into his brown ones. The danger posed by the situation makes his heart race and he wraps an arm around her waist.

"I thought that might be the case." Tamlen says as his lips descend upon hers, leaving a faint kiss upon them. "I'm glad" He finishes in a low tone. Their lips meet again and her hands come up to encircle his neck loosely. His other hand splays across her back as the first curls around her hip. She breaks the kiss after a long moment, a light blush on her cheeks.

"Not here, Tamlen." She breathes against him. Her eyes search his for understanding that she finds with ease. She offers him a teasing grin and slips from his arms, leaving him with a fading whiff of her sweet, earthy scent. He nods, relaxed, and they press on through the ruins. A few turns and spiders later they come across a worn statue made of polished stone and gold accents.

"I can't believe this." Tamlen says reverently. "You recognize this statue don't you?" Tamlen examines it and recognition flickers in her mind. It looks familiar, and is definitely of elvish origin. She sifts through memories of the history she was taught, and it clicks.

"It is a statue built to honor the Creators. If that is indeed the case though, these ruins date back to the time of Arlathan. Tamlen, this could be a huge discovery if there is more deeper in. So much of this was lost to us..." She gazes upon the statue reverently and with unabashed respect. She gently reaches out and gently runs her fingers over the smooth, worn surface.

"This looks like human architecture... with a statue of our people. Can these ruins really date back to the time of Arlathan?" Tamlen stands beside her, looking upon the statues in a fascinated manner. Both elves are well versed in what history was known to the clan, and speculation about the long forgotten past was a common topic between them. Tinuviel shrugs, and turns around to the door behind them.

"Imagine what else could be preserved within these ruins. Artifacts from our past, and perhaps even relics of our people." Tamlen turns and stands by her. He steps forward towards the door and suddenly she pulls him back.

"Stop!" She hisses. She points to the floor and whereas he is first just taken aback, he soon notices the slightly raised stone circle on the floor. She crouches by it, disarming the trap with relative ease. The pair hear a slight noise off to the side and freeze. Both turn slowly, only to see the skeletal remains of a long-dead person begin to rise. Horror and revulsion fill them and they draw their blades, Tinuviel not even bothering with her bow. Two others rise and begin to shamble towards them. They hold blades in a grip of iron, death allowing them a stronger grip than normal. The frightened duo move back to back and engage their adversaries, managing only minor blows. As Tinuviel parries a sloppy blow from a greatsword she smashes the hilt of her sword into the skull of the skeletal creature. The ancient bone shatters under the force of the blow and the creature drops, a pile of bones once more.

"Go for the head, Tamlen!" She says hastily, ducking a swipe from the other one attacking her. She uses quick riposte to push the sword out wide before kicking the skeleton in the ribcage. It is shoved back and hits the ground hard, its skull cracking. She quickly moves over it and crushes it's empty skull with the heel of her boot. She hears a sickening crack behind her and turns to see Tamlen crush the skull of the final beast with his shield. They reconvene, moving closer together, then scan the area with wide eyes and hasty glances.

"By the Creators! What were those things?!" Tamlen says, fear in his voice. Tinuviel struggles to speak for a moment, mistrustful of the ruins now. She takes a deep breath, composing herself.

"Those... things are unnatural. There is dark magic here... Let's go, Tamlen." She says, pleading with him. She is on her toes, hands on her swords that are barely in their sheaths. The oppressive silence sets in and she shivers. Tamlen shakes his head.

"We have come this far, Tinu. I want to see this through, we're sure to find something in a place like this." He looks at her with those begging eyes and she looks pained. She nods her consent and he turns towards the door. He takes a deep breath before opening it and the powerful duo walks into a large, circle-shaped room with a large raised dais taking up most of it. Roots protrude from the walls and a mirror sits upon the dais. The elves stare at the mirror for a long moment, before a loud thud snaps them from their revere. They move as one, turning to look at the source of the noise. A massive bear-like creature lumbers out from behind the mirror, and then it turns to look at them. Spikes protrude from its patches of fur spliced with swollen skin. Its bloodshot eyes stare them down coldly and it raises up on its hind legs, roaring its dominance over the intruders. It crashes back down and charges Tamlen, as Tinuviel rolls out of the way. She positions herself behind the beast as it lunges at Tamlen.

The beast swipes at Tamlen with a massive front paw and Tamlen barely gets his shield up in time. The impact of the blow staggers him and the beast lunges, fangs bared. Tinuviel sinks both blades into its flank, making it roar in pain and rage. It turns on her faster than she anticipates and bats her aside as if she were a doll. She hits the wall hard and manages to regain her wits before diving out of the way of another attack. She rolls to her feet, blades still somehow in her hands, and enters a hunters crouch. Tamlen bashes the massive thing with his shield, knocking it off balance before swiping at its hind leg with his sword. It sinks in deep, cutting through muscle and tendon. The beast falls back and she quickly take advantage of the situation. She leaps astride the bear and drive one blade into the beast's skull. It roars and Tinuviel twists the blade, silencing it. It collapses and she retrieves her blade, wiping it on the bear's fur.

"Go deeper, he said. We're sure to find something, he said." Tinuviel says with a glare aimed at her companion. Tamlen frowns before noticing a gash on her arm.

"You're hurt." He reaches towards it and she pulls away. He pauses and looks at her, silently chastising her and she relents with a sigh. She extends her arm and he examines the cut thoroughly.

"I'll bandage that. That thing looked diseases so we should clean it out as soon as we can." Tamlen takes his pack off his back before rummaging through it. He pulls out a bandage and Tinuviel pulls her arm away.

"Tamlen, I'm fine." She keeps her wounded arm close to her chest and he gives her a look. She doesn't relent this time, matching his stare.

"It's just a scratch. Leave it alone." She stubbornly refuses his help, not wanting to seem weak. He puts his pack down, bandages and a poultice in hand. He advances on her slowly, as though she were an animal. In a way, she was more of an animal than a person at times. She let him come closer, though she turned a bit away.

"Please, just let me help. You'll be no good to the clan for at least a week if that gets infected." Tamlen works on getting her to see reason, knowing that she hates feeling inferior or weak. She finally relents, allowing him to apply the poultice and bandage the wound. He gently touches her chin, and her eyes meet his.

"You should be more cautious of the diseases of this land. Surely you remember when Fenarel's wound got infected last winter. He couldn't hunt for two weeks. Surely you don't want to risk such a thing." Tinuviel finally nods, acknowledging his point. He smiles slightly, stepping away from the bear but staying close to her.

"I don't know what I'd do if something happened to you..." Tamlen says seriously. Tinuviel smiles teasingly before she replies, her eyes filled with mirth.

"Wander about aimlessly I expect! Stumble into all sorts of things and constantly get into trouble." Tinuviel pokes him gently, a grin lighting up her features. Tamlen rolls his eyes.

"I get into enough trouble as it is. Though I'm not complaining. You, my dear, are worth it." Tamlen leans in and kisses her sweetly and she kisses him back almost instantly. The kiss is not too long, and soon their eyes turn to the mirror. It stands tall and unscratched, despite the presence of the bear. Tamlen steps up onto the dais, staring at it intently.

"Look at this... it could be what we've been searching for. I wonder what this writing is for... Maybe this isn't- hey, did you see that?" He speaks distractedly, and seems more interested in the mirror than what he's saying. She steps up as well, a bit behind him. He focuses on the mirror, and something within it. He stares intently, as though entranced.

"Get away from it Tamlen... I have a bad feeling about this." There is a warning in her tone that goes unnoticed by her companion. Tamlen rolls his eyes, disregarding her words entirely. Her heartbeat quickens as adrenaline begins to run through her body.

"Hold on, I just want to know what it is. Don't you see it? Look! There it is again!" Tamlen speaks excitedly, staring intently into the mirror. Small colors flash within it, obscuring the images and reflections. The colors flash and recede, moving and writhing inside the glass. Tamlen moves closer to it.

"Can you feel that? I think it knows we're here." He brushes the glass with his fingers, peering into it as the colors become more prevalent. They take up more space now than the reflective part of the mirror, and she grabs his arm. He pulls away and touches the glass.

"It's showing me places... a city, underground?" He continues to stare and presses his palm to the mirror. His eyes widen and fill with fear.

"It saw me! Help! I can't look away!" There is panic in his voice and Tinuviel tugs on his arm in an attempt to pull him away. A wave of energy extends from the mirror, throwing her back. Her head connects with a wall and everything goes dark.

Her vision fades in and out as she sits up. There is darkness in the room, an evil presence. She begins to crawl, moving towards the exit weakly in an attempt to flee the presence. She finally reaches the entrance and as she crawls free of the cave she collapses, overwhelmed by a feeling of sickness and the bright light of the sun. She recoils, curling up and everything goes dark once more.

Tinuviel sits up with a gasp, sucking in a breath as she regains consciousness. Panic and dread fill her, the feeling of wrongness pressing down on her confused mind. She looks around, recognizing her surroundings. She's in her ahravel. Nothing looks to be out of place, and she struggles to remember what happened. Tamlen, the mirror, the creatures inside the cave, it all comes rushing back and she feels sick. She stands shakily and dons her armour, grabbing her bow and swords as well. Her twin swords press against her hips, sheathed on her sword belt. She opens the flap to her ahravel and sunlight strikes her square in the face. She blinks rapidly as her eyes adjust.

"You're awake! You've the god's own luck, lethallan." She turns and catches sight of Fenarel, who stands at the entrance to her ahravel as though guarding it. His relief is evident, though concern mars the expression when he notices how pale she is.

"You're back at camp. Everyone is worried sick about you. How do you feel?" Tinuviel looks at him silently, as though she doesn't understand the words as he speaks them. Memories rush through her mind and she looks away distractedly. Fenarel tries to hide his concern, though fails as he observes the actions of his friend. Her eyes return to him and refocus, though there is something off about them.

"How did I get here, Fenarel?" She asks quietly. Her voice is almost distant, as though in a dream.

"A shem brought you back two days ago. You don't remember him?" As he speaks, her eyes stray from him. She struggles to remember, and fails to.

"No..." She trails off, lost in thought. She thinks of Tamlen, and the mirror. She was right, there was dark magic. Darker than she had dared to believe.

"He was a Grey Warden, and appeared out of nowhere with you slung over his shoulder. You were delirious with fever. He said he found you outside a cave in the forest, unconscious and alone. He left you here and ran off again. The keeper's been using the old magic to heal you." The word alone snaps her out of her daze. She looks at Fenarel, her eyes alert and full of mixed emotions. Though she doesn't remember the shem, she does remember Tamlen.

"Is there anyone looking for Tamlen? He could be in grave danger..." There is a sharp edge to her tone, and her words are almost rushed in their haste. Anger at Fenarel's apparent lack of concern burns in her mind, and her eyes narrow.

"Of course!" He says hastily. "Most of the hunters are off looking for him right now." That calms her down some, though Fenarel watches her carefully. Such behavior is not like her, and he is kept on edge by it.

"But the keeper wanted to talk to you as soon as you awoke. Stay here, I'll go get her." Fenarel is hasty to make his escape from the volatile huntress, walking quickly. She is left alone with her thoughts, and is soon lost in them. She does not even notice the approach of the keeper, which clues her in to how unnerved the huntress is. The keeper gives Tinuviel a relieved look despite the obvious mental discrepancy.

"I see you are awake, da'len. It is fortunate Duncan found you when he did. I know not what dark power held you, but it nearly bled the life from you. It was difficult even for my magic to keep you alive." Keeper Marethari's words put Tinuviel on edge. She remembers the dark presence, and knows that it was the dark power that held her. But to threaten her life so suggests that it was more powerful than she dared assume.

"Duncan... is that the shem that brought me back?" Tinuviel asks, looking at the wise old woman. Marethari nods.

"Yes, he introduced himself as a Grey Warden. Duncan thought there may have been darkspawn creatures inside the cave. Is that true?" Tinuviel thinks back to the walking corpses and tainted bear.

"There were walking corpses and a strange bear creature. It looked diseases, and had spikes sticking out of what fur it still possessed. It's eyes were dark and crazed." She shudders and looks down at her arm. Marethari healed the wound, leaving the skin as good as new. Tinuviel's eyes return to the keeper, who frowns.

"Walking corpses? Dark magic, but not darkspawn. The bear you speak of sounds like a tainted creature though. A bereskarn, or blighted bear as they are more commonly known. There may be truth to his words. What else did you find? What is the last thing you remember?" Marethari studies her intently, searching for hints as to what may have occurred inside the cave.

"There was an elven artifact. I think it may have dated back to the time of Arlathan. But the last thing I remember is a mirror. There was light moving inside it, and Tamlen said it showed him places. He touched it and there was a wave of energy. It threw me back and that is all I remember." Tinuviel's eyes take on a haunted look. Marethari sighs.

"I was hoping for answers when you awoke, but there are only more questions. Do you feel well enough to show us the way, da'len? Without you we will not find it." Marethari's eyes return to Tinuviel's, who nods. For Tamlen's sake, she could ignore her pain.

"Of course, keeper. I feel fine." Tinuviel says, lying through her teeth. Marethari gives her a skeptic look but relents.

"I am relieved to hear it. I am ordering the clan to pack the camp so we can go north. Take Merrill with you to the cave. Find Tamlen, but do it swiftly." Tinuviel nods at the command.

"Go quickly, for Tamlen's life hangs in the balance." Tinuviel pales at the words, not wanting to think about losing her soon-to-be lover. She turns and begins to walk towards Merrill, dread twisting knots in her stomach.

"Tinuviel" She turns, catching sight of Ashalle. The older elf beckons her over, and she obeys the request. She stands before Ashalle, eyes dark and skin pale. She looks at Ashalle with sad eyes tinged with fear.

"By the Creators, it is so good to see you whole and well. I was so worried!" Ashalle wraps her in a tight hug before holding her at arm's length, pity-filled eyes scouring her face to discern what she feels.

"Aneth ara, Ashalle. It is good to see you as well." Ashalle dotes over Tinuviel as a mother would a daughter, though Tinuviel's parents died long ago.

"Fenarel told me all that he could. I promise, da'len, Tamlen will be found. I know how much he meant to you, and we will find him and bring him home." Ashalle holds Tinuviel's hands in her own, trying to reassure her.

"I cannot imagine losing him, Ashalle. But I must face the fact that I might. I will prepare for the worst, and hope for the best." She levels her gaze bravely, and Ashalle watches with sympathetic eyes.

"If only your mother could see you now... She would be so proud of her little girl. You've come so far, da'len." Ashalle smiles sadly at Tinuviel, trying to comfort her.

"You never talk about my mother, Ashalle." Tinuviel takes to focus off of her, focusing instead on her parents whom she never knew. Ashalle sighs.

"Please tell me of her, and my father. We Dalish strive to learn out past, so let me learn mine." Tinuviel looks at her with pleading eyes. Ashalle sighs once more, and begins to relay the tale.

Thus begins our tale. Thank you for reading and review to let me know what you think! Tatty bye dear readers, I shall update when I can.

-Goddess out