Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age (Bioware) or the Elder Scrolls series (Bethesda). My characters are mine.
A/N: I want to apologise for the lateness of this update. I've been bogged down in a lot of university work and other projects I've been working on. Many of you will know how it is, you're working on something and six ideas smack into you at once for completely different fandoms or your own fictions.
Enjoy this next chapter, for your viewing pleasure.
Nothing hurts the heart like an accusation, or a curse thrown in ignorance.
"What matter of abomination are you?!"
Whatever Reman had expected, to be called an abomination by the red-robed Breton was not it. Once his presence as the Dragonborn had been unveiled and his reputation had spread beyond the bounds of Whiterun, beyond the bounds of Skyrim… he was adored. He could admit that it had gone to his head at times, but for someone who had come from the unforgiving and hard sands of the Alikr, it was a strange and welcome change. To be named a monster again, as an aberration; it struck at him more than it should have.
Yseabal sighed as Lily steadily backed away from the Redguard, who was visibly glaring at her. Rubbing at the bridge of her nose. "If he is an abomination Lily, then why isn't he completely insane, horrifically deformed and trying to feast on our innards?"
"Maybe he seeks to corrupt us as pleasant thanks for you releasing him?! 'Foul and corrupt are you/Who have taken My gift/And turned it against My children.'" Her face was a genuine mask of fright, the unwavering stare levelled against her not helping in the slightest.
Jowan gulped and moved away a little. "I-I don't think quoting the Chant to him will help, dear. Maker knows it's what got us into this in the first place."
Yseabal stifled a giggle at this, causing Reman to look at her curiously. It broke the tension and even Lily looked a little more relaxed at this thought, but Jowan seemed to unconsciously feel a part of his robe near his hip, which Reman picked up on as the action of fingering the hilt of a knife. He ignored it for the moment, but remained on guard. The Chantry novice still looked nervous and her eyes danced with rings of open fear.
Reman smirked, his eyes cold. "I don't take kindly to being called an 'abomination'. I am a professional with a set of certain skills that I use to the best of my ability. I hunt monsters, for honour, for profit, for the sheer pleasure of ending such wasted creatures, whether those monsters be beast, man or mer." Without a word of warning, he leapt towards Lily, making her gasp in surprise. "So you can imagine that I might be rather… sensitive when it comes to being called such names, Breton. I'd watch what I say in future."
Jowan was surprisingly, the first to respond. "N-Not as hard-skinned as you'd thought then?" This drew a withering stare from the others, save Yseabal whose pleased grin belied her amusement.
"Apparently not," she said with an easy humour. "But abomination or not, he did clear the way to what should be the phylactery chambers, if we've read the lay of the building right that is. I like to think I'd appreciate someone who did that for me, regardless of whether his soul is intact or not. We need to get going before Greagoir notices we're not in the dormitories. Let's get what we came for and get out of the Tower."
She set off down the corridor revealed behind the heavy bookcase, soon disappearing into the black. Jowan and Lily looked at each other with a little panic and then to the seeming giant of a man who was staring at them. They took off after Yseabal with all available speed. "Amell, wait up! Don't leave us here with him!"
Reman was now left alone in the room, surrounded by artefacts he could not make head or tail of. The air was cold enough that in his sweat-soaked state he was starting to shiver. Movement might dry him and he could swear that the female statue was staring at him. It was getting quiet, the sound of the novices' footsteps moving away at speed. Reman sighed and started walking after the wayward apprentices.
The stone corridors weren't any warmer than the artefact room, so he stripped off his chainmail, stowing it away safely in a crevasse in the wall where it would be hidden from prying eyes. He didn't expect to need it and thought that it wouldn't be hard to retrieve it should he pass this way again. It was unnecessary at the moment and he needed to stay warm, not knowing how long he would remain down here. Taking off his shirt he quickly dried himself with fabric sitting on a table, before replacing his shirt, shivering as the cold, sweat-soaked linen stuck to his skin.
He made his way after the apprentices as quickly as possible, wincing with the cold as he went. Skyrim was the epitome of the frostbitten chill, but he had always covered himself in furs when he went outdoors, just like every single person with a bit of sense. He wasn't a Nord; he couldn't stand the chill like they could. Hearing a commotion up ahead, he searched his belt and drew Dragonbane from its sheath, the familiar singing of the blade's enchantments as they left meet the air. The sight of the novices battling against an unfamiliar kind of spectre brought back fond memories as he charged his way in with a happy laugh.
Parrying the phantom blade of one of the two smaller ghosts off to the left, Reman plunged his blade straight through the torso of the largest one. It was defiant though and sought to bat him away to the side. He ducked away from the ball of fire that shot from Yseabal's staff. His attuned senses picked up a strange displacement as the flame impacted the face of the creature and caused it to vanish completely. The magic felt strange, but he didn't dwell on that as he turned to engage the last of them, Lily and Jowan having with another.
The four of them made quick work of the last ghost before making their way up to the table of phylacteries due for transfer to Denerim. It was now that Reman felt again the strange displacement that Yseabal's fireball had created. These vials of old blood stank of magic, a different feeling magic and not a pleasant one at that. Jowan made his way forward to destroy his own phylactery when he felt Reman's hand on his shoulder. The sympathetic smile was enough to make him pause.
Jowan made to say something and stopped. He looked back to Yseabal and Lily. They both shrugged, and then he followed suit. He stood back behind the Redguard, who stood still beyond steadying his feet. The fire came without a warning.
It burned everything on the wooden table and then the table itself caught aflame. The mages felt a shift in the Fade as all the apprentice phylacteries turned to ash. To Reman it felt a little liberating. Jowan and Yseabal however, it felt different and provocative. The Redguard didn't notice the wary looks the two apprentices gave him before he turned to face them. Jowan did however, have a genuine smile on his face.
"I apologise if I startled you. The fires of the Thu'um are more powerful than the flames you were both throwing around earlier. I wanted make sure your liberty was indeed secured, along with that of your compatriots. No-one should be ruled by fear, least of all those imprisoned for a quirk of birth." Igniting his own hand with flames, he drew a surprised gasp from Lily. Removing the fire, he smiled at them. "I would seek to spare you from responsibility in this. I could do no less for a fellow mage. Suspicion haunts us all, we must stand united in response."
Yseabal smiled tentatively back, still unnerved by the destruction of the phylacteries, her own among them hopefully. If not they would have to travel to Denerim and take care of it as soon as they got out of the tower. "If I knew we'd have the support of a dragon, I'd have felt a lot more confident." This drew a strange smile from Reman in return.
"The Voice has many applications. I'll tell you about it another time, but I believe you were saying that time is of the essence?"
This seemed to sober the apprentices, who looked apprehensive, understandably so if their tales of templars held strong. Reman practically threw himself up the stairs after the apprentices, anticipation fuelling his every step. It was the same before every fight, a tightening of his back and the feeling of power in his arms and legs. A burning in his blood and a terrific grin split across his face.
The flight of stairs they climbed up took them into a wide entrance hall decorated with tapestries and statues, where a group of about a dozen heavily armed men awaited them. Their armour was heavy plate in what looked like steel, with the stylised design of a sword surrounded by … flames? Steam? Something similar. It looked heavy and expensive more than anything else. Reman may have been wearing a linen shirt, now deeply regretting leaving his chainmail coat in the corridor, but he still felt confident in the ability of Dragonbane to slice through it like a butcher's knife should it come down to it.
An older man in the same armour, his helmet missing, and an elderly companion in robes stepped forward from the group. "I thought we would find you here Apprentice Jowan. You are accused of destroying your phylactery, engaging in a forbidden affair with a Chantry novice and of practicing blood magic." He thought it not only strange that the man had apparently written him off as not being a threat or hadn't noticed him yet, despite his stature and appearance, but also a little wounding to his ego as well.
Yseabal stood forward, her eyes filled with anger, glaring at the robed man. "Shut it Greagoir." The templar commander looked angered by this. "Do you support him Enchanter? Would you make Jowan Tranquil without cause because of doubt? I asked you to help me help him, sir, and you betrayed me." This caused a gasp from Jowan, who looked at Yseabal with more than a little fear and anger.
The First Enchanter looked to her with a look of regret, but that was all he did.
"Your wishes are irrelevant, Amell. As Jowan's accomplice you will be brought to trial, where you will be found guilty of aiding and abetting a known maleficar. You will be sentenced to death for crimes against the Circle, against the Chantry and against mankind. Novice Lily here will be taken to the Aeonar where she will spend the rest of her days in chains, should you not surrender. You can save her that punishment at least. As for your … mercenary here, he will be brought to trial as well. I know not how he gained access to the Tower but he must be removed forthwith." Greagoir drew his sword and motioned towards them. "Take them."
Reman spotted Jowan's hand moving for the knife and grabbed it from his robes. "What were you thinking lad? Slicing your wrists won't do any good here. I take it these are your templar guard dogs? The mage slavers and gaolers?" The hallway was silent, the templars still as Greagoir stopped them. Lily was silent throughout, looking on in the same despair as Jowan now was.
Yseabal stood straighter, glaring at the templars. "Yep, those are Greagoir's hounds alright. Not a decent soul among this number here. Greagoir has always hated me and the other apprentices. Security risks he calls us because of our inexperience, then he pretends to care for our wellbeing while his dogs would put us down at a second's notice. Irving is supposed to look after us and teach us to avoid demons and possession, to control of our powers. Apparently though he doesn't care enough to not betray us to men who want us dead."
"Be quiet you mage freak!" The templars looked to one of their number and shook their heads. Greagoir glared at the transgressor.
"Knight Foldor, you will hold your tongue lest I cut it out." Reman could feel the sneer from behind the helmet. He saw an opportunity and took it.
"These are the men who watch over you? Their armour is untested, new as the day it was made, you can practically see the marks of the forge still on it. Their manner is unprofessional, their stances weak to an opponent and though their leader is a veteran their own inexperience is glaring. I'd wager they haven't killed a man beyond the odd unarmed novice, claimed they were being possessed and killed them for the thrill of the power over their weaker man." Foldor sneered directly at him, making Greagoir more wary of this mouthy mercenary who was always smiling, despite his situation.
"And what matter of abomination or demon is this? You've really outdone yourself this time Jowan, a demon summoning and enthralling said demon as well as your supposed best friend and lover, who by the way is a Chantry novice. Well I'm not standing for this blasphemy any longer! Templars, arrest them! Kill them if they resist!" Foldor drew his sword.
Greagoir stared at the Knight. "Foldor, stand down! I'm placing you on report!"
Foldor's sneer turned to his Commander. "You're a weak old man Greagoir. Your age has made you soft. The Order dictates!" He charged at Reman with a cry.
Reman moved. The singing of Dragonbane reached the ears of the templars just before it parried Foldor's blade. Reman's left fist dented the Knight's helmet inwards with the force it hit. The templar was knocked onto his back, scrambling up and charging again, nose bloodied but his anger not even blunted. The second charge was his last. No-one saw the blade move. Foldor fell past the Redguard, his body bisected by the heavily enchanted dragonslayer's blade at the exposed waist. The templar cried out in exquisite agony for a long moment before falling silent, choking on his own blood, his shredded innards littering the floor. The hall was silent, save Greagoir's shout of anger.
The other templars charged with angry war cries. Reman's smile was near ecstatic. Nothing but blood was on his lips, but his rational mind held firm for the moment. The templars had hesitated to attack until he had killed their comrade. He did not want to kill men for their loyalty, especially rational men. "IIZ SLEN NUS!"
A blast of icy cold air shot from the Redguard's mouth at his Shout, flash-freezing all Templars in front of him. That made the rest stop cold, not unlike their comrades. Greagoir gaped at his frozen men. A blizzard conjured by the entirety of the Circle's Senior Enchanters and Irving wouldn't have done that. Irving stopped still, giving the Redguard a calculating look. The three apprentices quickly moved behind Reman, preparing their magic or in Lily's case the knife Reman took from Jowan.
The Redguard then raised his hand towards the group of frozen Templars. A small red glow formed in his hand, then grew larger and larger. "Foldor was right to be scared of me, Greagoir, after all you have threatened those who I pledged my service to. I am not an abomination or a demon in human form. My power is a legacy. It is my inheritance. The ancestors of mankind fought a war against creatures that destroyed and enslaved their homes and their people. Great winged dragons fell upon them, burning armies and slaughtering nations. Yet those monsters now fear me and my lineage."
He took a single step forward. "In their tongue, they call us Dovahkiin. To you and all of yours, I am Dragonborn. Remember what happened here today and learn. I am not to be trifled with, templar." A seething wave of fire surged forth from his hand, torching the wall hangings and carpets, anything flammable. The intense heat thawed out the templars, disoriented as they were, they knew to avoid the flames. It blocked the doors from templar view as Reman and the apprentices fled through the Tower's doors towards the open, polluted expanse of Lake Calenhad.
"Run to the jetty! Go! Flee!" The Dragonborn pulled them into the darkness outside and down the hill towards the boat before the templars started to come after them. The templar guard at the docks, Ser Carroll, didn't see Reman's fist hit him in the back of the head and didn't feel the water of the lake when the punch knocked him into it. The spare winter boat that Kester kept on the tower dock was put to good use, the four of them rowing to put the tower behind them as quickly as possible.
"I-I can't believe we just left the tower. We're apostates! Illegal mages! We'll be killed if they ever catch us… I'm sorry I dragged you into this Yseabal." Jowan looked utterly dejected. Yseabal laughed happily.
"Are you joking Jowan? I'm free from the tower, the Circle, Greagoir, this is the best present anyone's ever given me! Anders himself couldn't have planned this better or gotten luckier. We're free Jowan. No templars watching me at every hour of the day, no Tranquil mages to warn me of stepping out of line, no bloody Wynne telling me what I should and shouldn't feel! I can't thank you enough Jowan, Lily." She stopped rowing and fell silent. She leapt forward and hugged Reman from behind, making him freeze in surprise. "Thank you Reman. You've saved us all."
The Redguard turned back to look at them. He smiled. "My pleasure. Keeping rowing." The red head mage blushed sheepishly and put her back into it once again. Upon reaching the shore the apprentices made off towards the rear of the inn while Reman searched the dock side for anything of use. A crate of thick woollen cloaks were most welcome, followed by some packs they could use for storage. He took advantage of an open barrel of fresh water to drink and wash his face before taking the cloaks and distributing them along with the packs.
The thick grey and hooded cloak were ideal for their purposes, needing to remain concealed and inconspicuous. Reman suggested they quickly get supplies from the inn, but was dissuaded by Yseabal. "My friend Anders told me that no-one inside has any sympathy for mages or travellers who have no money. The templars use it a lot more than you might think and the barman was told to keep an eye out for escaped mages. He makes a report every week apparently." It was good to have this kind of knowledge, even if it was second hand.
They gathered some sticks from the bales of firewood at Lily's insistence, disguising themselves as pilgrims heading to Denerim. They made for the open countryside, where anyone would need to be mounted to outrun them. If they stuck to the road and went north, Lily said, they would end up in the lands of the Bannorn before coming to the city of Amaranthine before reaching Gwaren and Denerim. The Bannorn was divided amongst noble lords and families, not ruled over by the templars. Logically, fewer people would be looking for them there. Reman agreed, wondering where the apprentices had gotten the confidence and wherewithal to make decisions like that.
He was the outsider here, with a distinct lack of knowledge in how to move through the local places unseen. A Redguard would stand out here like a sore thumb here, with their large stature and darker skin. "We should stick to the Imperial Highway. It's the safest way to Denerim and the most travelled. We'll blend better among the caravans and travellers than among the fields of the Bannorn's farms." That made good sense to Reman, being a general of armed forces. The open heath made them an easy and conspicuous target for rangers and scouts.
"How long have you three been planning this escape? You seem to have everything save that bookcase covered in your bright young heads." His laughing smile was contagious.
Jowan shrugged. "Not more than two days or so. Yseabal was only harrowed the day before yesterday but when I wasn't called as well, Lily and I began to suspect the worst. There was nothing in the archives about the basement beyond the main doors, so we spent our spare time looking up routes away from the tower. Couldn't go west to Orzammar or south to the Wilds, we'd never make out it alive. Can't go north, there's no ports big enough. Denerim is far safer for a couple of escaped apostates, as strange as it seems."
At Yseabal's curious look he hastened to explain, "You were still unconscious Yseabal, we had the time while Wynne and Macha were cleaning up after Herron and Cal's alchemy experiments went wrong again." At this thought, he grew quieter. "Hard to believe we'll never see them again."
Reman smiled. "Not a bad plan considering your time constraints, though you may have forced Greagoir's hand with your burglary stunt. I don't recognise some of the references you made, Orzammar, Yseabal being harrowed, but I take it Denerim is a major city, a hold capitals, that sort of idea?"
"Denerim is Fereldan's capital city, where King Cailan and Queen Anora live. Amaranthine is the nearest major port, and the biggest after Denerim. We considered going there instead but that would mean going through a major pilgrimage town, which means more templars than Denerim. Orzammar is the great city of the dwarves and though they wouldn't care about mages, it means crossing the Frostback Mountains on our own."
Reman paused, before shaking his head and moving on. "Did I just hear you say a city of dwarves? Dwemer, here after all this time…? This truly is a world of wonders if the Deep Elves have returned from Lorkhan knows where."
The bright light Masser and Secunda shone down on the Imperial Highway as the rogue mages and their Chantry chaperone made their way away from the hated tower as quickly as possible. The night felt long, put putting distance between them and the templars was more important at the present moment than sleep. If needs be, they would sleep in the day under watch and under cloak in bushes in they had to.
So it was that Reman suggested making camp close to dawn on the first morning of their escape, under the arches of the highway, hidden from travellers moving above. The fire was warm and appreciated, small though it was, just enough to lessen their discomfort. Reman and Jowan took the first watch.
Reman turned to Jowan and asked in low tones so that Yseabal and Lily wouldn't be disturbed. "What does it means to be harrowed, whelp?"
The young apostate and would-be blood mage sighed. "The Harrowing is the last trial undertaken by apprentice mages before they receive any duties of meaning. The templars force mages to face the temptations of demons and Maker knows what else inside their own heads. If they pass they are freed from the trial. If a mage fails he is cut down where he kneels by a templar apprentice, apparently to teach them mercy. Those expected to fail before being harrowed are made Tranquil."
Reman wasn't sure he wanted to know. "Which means, Jowan?"
"Tranquillity separates a mage from the Fade and removes any chance of demonic possession. It also removes all emotion, essentially killing the host's soul. They become humourless walking corpses the like of which cannot be made up. I wish to the Maker that they were."
The Redguard general felt the flames of anger igniting in his chest as Jowan began to spin his tale…