Author's Notes: Hi everyone! This is it! The last chapter...I feel like a big part of my life will be missing, seeing as I've worked on this story in bits and pieces for well over a year. I've always known how it would begin and how it would end-the hard part was weaving everything in between. Some stuff was cut, some stuff was added, but overall, I couldn't be more pleased with the story overall. I wanted to take this time to say thank you to everyone who's been a loyal reader. This story has been my first step into the Dragon Age universe and I've met some great people thanks to their reviews on my story.
I hope this chapter brings you all to the same level that I was at once I finished it. Please don't forget to let me know what you think, be it positive, negative, neutral, whatever. Your comments and questions always help me focus my writing, and help me to become a better writer! :)
Thayer guided his companions through the large doors before them. They walked through a short, dimly lit corridor that spilled into a much larger room with a high, seemingly endless ceiling. He urned one of his hands upward and ignited a fireball within the palm of his hand that helped bring things into focus around them.
"I don't see anything," Velanna said. She growled quietly. "Where's the exit from this room? Where are we supposed to go?"
The elven mage stepped further into the cavern, igniting the tip of her staff to help guide her way. She whipped the enchanted flame around her in an attempt to find their way out. When she turned her light on one of the upper corners of the room she let out a surprised gasp.
Thayer looked up where Velanna was pointing. Standing next to Seranni was a strange looking darkspawn and a dwarven woman with sores on her face and dark circles around her eyes. Odd company to keep, considering she had been trying to help them escape not but a while earlier.
Seranni, the darkspawn and the dwarf all began to retreat into a hole within the wall that must have led to a hidden tunnel. He began to focus on a paralysis spell that would hold them in place.
Velanna's voice broke his concentration. Before he was able to send the spell at the trio, they disappeared into the tunnel. The darkspawn demolished the visible entrance, leaving them seemingly trapped within the cavern. That couldn't be the only way out, could it? Thayer hoped not.
"Maker's breath! Dragons!"
Alistair's sudden shout sent Thayer's attention reeling. "Dragons? Where?"
"Over there!" Velanna screamed, her staff's light shining bright on a pair of dragons perched higher within the cavern.
The two dragons moved like clockwork together, both leaping from their roosts and landing roughly on the stone floor beneath them. Their immense weight sent shockwaves through the ground which nearly toppled Velanna over.
Thayer suddenly felt terrible for not having brought a staff with him. What a stupid move to make.
"As if what we've been through wasn't enough," Alistair said with a groan. He brought his sword up and readied his shield. "How are we going to—"
He was cut off by a loud screech sent forth by one of the dragons. Velanna's enchanted fire had caught its attention. It spread its leathery wings wide and reached forward, attempting to knock the staff from her hands.
"Blasted beast, away with you!"
Velanna blasted a wide-arcing flame that hit the dragon full on. The sheer power emanating from her spell sent rippling heat waves through the cavern, dazzling light seeping into every corner. Thayer had never seen a spell so powerful before; he couldn't help but stare in surprise.
Unfortunately for them, the spell did nothing but upset the dragon further. It roared angrily, letting out a flash flame from its mouth that Velanna dodged—though just barely.
Alistair took the second dragon head on. Under the cover of his shield he went right for the dragon's underbelly, using the tip of his blade to draw a long lash from the side. It was a rare hit to pull off, and he paid for it with a powerful kick from the dragon's hind leg that sent him flying across the floor.
With one of the dragons dazed by the powerful blow, Thayer had only a moment to summon a powerful spell to help them out. He saw Velanna engaging the other in battle while Alistair lay on his side, trying to recover from the hit. Both of them were sufficiently distracted. They surely wouldn't notice…
Thayer took a deep breath. Using one of his fingernails, he broke the skin on the underside of his left arm. Crimson blood trickled out, giving him the power he needed to cast a spell that would turn the tide in their favor. He closed his eyes and focused on the temperature of the room, absorbing any and all lingering heat in the air. A cold wind began circling on the ground beneath them, picking up speed as it traveled upward to the rocky ceiling above them. Thayer felt his magic waning, but his blood provided the extra boost of energy he needed to take the spell beyond its normal capacity. As the chilly tendrils of air whipped through the cavern, a thick grey cloud formed above.
He gave Velanna one warning:
The grey cloud burst with a howl of wind that sent chunks of ice and frost swirling through the air. The dragons stopped in place and looked up at the sudden blizzard, appearing uncertain as to how to rectify the situation. Thayer used their momentary confusion to run toward Alistair and help him up. To his surprise the warrior was already lifting himself off the ground by the time he'd arrived.
"I'm up," Alistair said, using his shield to block himself from a blast of ice that nearly toppled him over.
"Come on, let's try and find cover," Thayer suggested.
"No, we have to use this time to take them down for good. Watch out, I've got a clear shot!"
Alistair didn't wait for Thayer to reply before he went head-on toward the dragon he'd injured before. The creature screeched in surprise as the warrior's blade dug into its thick, scaly hide not once, not twice, but three times just behind its front legs. As it collapsed to the ground Alistair spun around in front of it. With one clean cut he decapitated the beast, slinging his blade through the air to hit its head toward the other dragon.
The frost from the blizzard had burned the other dragon's wings beyond repair. It shrieked in pain every time it tried to spread them, and Velanna used this to her advantage. The stones beneath the beast shattered as large roots burst their way from the dirt beneath. Each root sprouted large, sharp thorns that wrapped and curled around the dragon, piercing its rough hide all over. Velanna lowered her staff and the roots enveloped the dragon, choking it as they brought it down against the dirt. It let out one last cry before taking its last breath.
Thayer, Alistair and Velanna waited a few moments to ensure that both dragons were done for. The blizzard's power eventually subsided, but the cold air lingered, with frost sticking to the tips of their hair and noses.
"It would seem they're gone," Velanna said.
"The dragons? Of course they are. They better be gone if they know what's good for them!" Alistair muttered.
"Not the dragons, you moron. Seranni and the other two. They're gone!" She turned to Thayer, her eyes hard and jaw set. "We need to find them, together. Let me join your Wardens. Please. In exchange for what powers your group can offer in helping me find my sister, I pledge my magic to you."
Thayer instinctively looked to Alistair, who wore a blank expression. He certainly had an opinion on the matter…why did he look so disinterested?
He turned back to the elf. The more help they had, the better. And mages…he would be stupid to turn away their help. It would help keep the trade route clear.
"You're welcome to join the Wardens. Come back with us to the keep and we can see what the future holds. For now, let's find our way out of here. We have a long way back home."
. . . . .
Goblet in hand, Thayer approached Velanna. She straightened up and looked him straight in the eye, her own alight with focus. Something about her still scared him a little—he couldn't place a finger on it. He didn't want her to know that, not having seen what she was capable of.
"Here, Velanna. Drink from this goblet. But know that in doing so, you risk your life to join the Wardens."
"I do so honorably. Whatever I can do to get my sister back and aid you along the way."
Thayer extended the goblet to her, and watched and she drank deeply from within. He took it back from her and waited. His stomach turned when she fell to the ground, but he reminded himself that he had to hold back. She needed time to handle the magic that she'd ingested.
Velanna writhed around on the floor for a few moments before she stilled. Her eyes, which had just turned milky white, slowly regained their deep brown color. Her cheeks flushed. She groaned.
She was alive.
"Welcome," Thayer said to her, reaching down to help her up. Inside he breathed a sigh of relief.
"Thank you…" Velanna wobbled upon standing. She regained her footing over a few moments' time. She ran her hands over her face. "The taste is disgusting. How did you all handle it? How do you get rid of it?"
"It goes away after a while," Anders said. He had been there in case she needed any healing after her Joining. With a grin, he added, "Looks like the taint agrees with you."
"What do you mean by that?" she snapped. The male mage turned bright pink and shook his head. Velanna let it drop in favor of asking, "Tell me more about the Wardens. What makes you all so special?"
Thayer had a feeling that Velanna was used to being upfront. He didn't know exactly how to respond to her.
"Wardens are the only strong line of defense against the darkspawn," he stated. "Only a Warden can truly defeat an archdemon when they start a blight."
"You'll come to understand in time," Alistair said curtly. He pushed off the column against which he was leaning, bringing himself to stand beside her. "For now, the most important thing to you will probably be filling your stomach. New Wardens are always insatiably hungry."
"I feel just fine."
"Yes, now, but give it time. Everyone gets hungry." The warrior folded his arms over his chest and headed for the door. "If anyone needs me, I'll be in my quarters. I'm tired, so if I'm asleep, get me later."
Thayer raised an eyebrow at Alistair's comment. What surprised him more was how quickly his lover had removed himself from the situation. Usually Alistair remained to make sure that the new recruits handled things all right before leaving them alone. Then again, Thayer was there, as were Anders and Seneschal Varel. Velanna wasn't alone.
Velanna didn't seem pleased with the information given to her. She tutted beneath her breath and folded her arms over her chest. "'Everyone gets hungry'. Mm-hmm. Well, fine. Where am I staying in this keep?"
"I'll show you the way. Come on."
Thayer guided Velanna out of the throne room and across the grounds to the living quarters. Once inside he showed her to one of the spare rooms on the second level.
"You can claim this room as yours," he said. "It's not much, but it has a bed, a window and an armoire for your clothing and other materials." He paused while she looked around the room. When it seemed she'd settled, he turned to leave. "If you need anything, don't hesitate to come to the main building of the keep. The eatery is across the grounds from the living quarters, and the bathhouse is beside the market area."
Velanna looked troubled. "My sister. You'll help me find her, right?"
"I fear for her safety. If she's traveling with the darkspawn, I don't know how long she'll last. We must find her immediately."
"We have many things we need to do," Thayer said. "My first priority is to try and get the keep functional again. We lost many people in the darkspawn raid…and with their persistent presence here, they are the biggest issue we face."
Though Velanna made a face, she didn't disagree. He could tell she understood, begrudgingly. "I agreed to help you. And I will. But don't forget your promise."
"I won't." He smiled. "Dinner is soon. Come to the eatery and join us."
Velanna smiled as well. It warmed and softened her normally hardened expression. "Sure."
Thayer left Velanna to her own devices, heading to his room upstairs. He, too, was tired, but now was really the only time he had to relax. Dinner was when he planned to recap what happened on the Pilgrim's Path and in the mine, which would undoubtedly lead to late-into-the-night planning as to how they would rectify the situation.
Unsurprisingly, the door to his bedroom was shut. When he slipped inside, Alistair wasn't lying on the bed—rather, he was staring out the window that looked over the grounds of the keep.
When Thayer closed the door behind him he expected Alistair to turn around but he didn't. Instead he called, "Hey."
"Hey," Thayer said, scratching the back of his head. "So much for resting, hm?"
Alistair didn't reply. He brought his arms closer to his chest.
"Everything all right?"
"Everything's fine," Alistair said. "What are you doing up here? I thought you were helping Velanna."
"I got her all situated in her room. She wanted some time to herself before dinner."
Alistair just nodded.
Thayer was under the distinct impression that everything was not all right. The sudden change in behavior was unexpected; Alistair had seemed just fine a few hours ago when they'd arrived back to the keep. What had changed?
He sat down on the bed for a moment, moving to lie back with a sigh. He closed his eyes and put his hands behind his head.
"Come join me?"
Alistair muttered something under his breath.
The mage opened his eyes and turned to look at his partner. Alistair was staring out the window so hard that his eyes looked as if they might bug out of his head.
Thayer got up and off the bed and walked over to Alistair. "All right, what's the matter with you?" He reached out to put his hand on Alistair's shoulder. The other jerked away from his touch and launched himself toward the center of the room, creating distance between the two of them.
"What's going on?" Thayer asked. His heart skipped a beat. What was wrong with Alistair?
Finally, Alistair looked at him. The distance and anger in his eyes was unparalleled—he looked almost betrayed.
"How could you?"
Thayer paused. Any accusation made him feel uneasy. He promised himself he would remain calm and collected until he got all of the answers. "How could I what?" he asked curiously.
Alistair threw his arms up and opened his mouth. However, he seemed to struggle getting out whatever was inside him. The moment Thayer approached him, he stepped back and blurted out, "Blood magic!"
Thayer's heart sank into his stomach. Blood magic. That could only mean one thing: Alistair had seen what he'd done in the mine to help turn the battle in their favor. He swallowed. Two options lay before him: he could deny it, or he could finally own up to his actions and hope for the best.
How he'd dreaded this day…
"Well?" Alistair said, voice rising. "What do you have to say for yourself?"
The words formed thick, impassable lumps in Thayer's throat. He spoke softly at first, but repeated his words so Alistair could hear. "It's…true."
Alistair growled. In his rage, he knocked over a display of books on their writing desk. "How could you? How? Blood magic! Right underneath my nose!"
Thayer couldn't think of anything to say. He wanted to defend himself, to defend his choices, but the look in Alistair's eyes crippled any sensibility within him. He should have at least been able to talk back, but even that proved difficult.
"I—I was trying to fix—"
"I don't care what you were trying to do! It was blood magic!" Alistair shook his head, letting out an incredulous laugh. "The one person in the world I'm supposed to be able to trust with my life, and he goes and does the very thing we'd both sworn to prevent. You—you know what blood magic has done! You've seen it firsthand! The damage, the destruction!" Alistair continued angrily, "How could you lie to me so boldfaced? How?"
Thayer didn't have a chance to reply before Alistair said, "I can't believe you!"
Only one thing felt appropriate to say.
"You're sorry? You're sorry? Sorry won't fix the unfixable, Thayer! You've broken this!"
Alistair's harsh words lashed into Thayer like red hot whips. He closed his eyes, feeling an immense pressure building within him. He knew his magical energies were reacting to the situation but he had to keep control. He couldn't let go, or he'd blow the room up. He lifted his heads to his head, holding it like a vice grip.
"It's unforgivable, Thayer. And I can't stay here any longer. Not knowing what you've done."
That was the last straw. Thayer's throat constricted, making it harder and harder to breathe. He opened his eyes and looked at Alistair, feeling tears well up in the corners of his eyes. He wanted to stop him, wanted to explain himself, but every time he opened his mouth he felt that pressure trying to escape. He had to focus more now on controlling rather than defending himself.
"Whatever you choose to do now is your own doing. Hopefully Amaranthine won't fall under your command."
Thayer watched as Alistair moved swiftly around the room, angrily throwing together what looked like a satchel of his most important belongings. Once he gathered everything he wanted to take with him Alistair moved to the door, stopping only briefly to say, "Goodbye."
The sound of the door slamming reverberated in Thayer's ears, washing over him like a powerful wave. He closed his eyes again, taking deep breaths where possible. The whole fight had happened so quickly—it almost felt like a dream.
Maybe it was. Maybe it was a really bad dream that he had yet to wake up from. As he worked on calming himself down and bringing his magic back under control, Thayer finally opened his eyes. He had to think sensibly. This wasn't a dream. He knew what dreams felt like, and this was far more painful.
He reached up to wipe away the tears that had run down his cheeks. Their salty taste lingered in his mouth from where they'd touched his lips. He could breathe better now, but that mattered little. The indignation he should have felt at the heartless and cruel condemnation had quickly surfaced and was bubbling its way out of him.
Maybe what he'd done wasn't right. He knew that. But sometimes hard decisions had to be made and Maker knew that Alistair wasn't going to be the one to do it. Thayer had been thrust into position of leadership that he'd never asked for. He'd been made a Grey Warden without the knowledge that his life would be drastically shortened. He'd given so much of himself to their cause…
He was going to prove Alistair wrong. What he was doing wasn't the same as what they'd seen in their travels. He was trying to save lives. He was going to use this moment as a catalyst to help him finally achieve what he'd been trying to accomplish for ages now.
Somehow, some way, Thayer Amell was going to reverse the Calling.
Author's Notes: Don't hit me! XD I promise, there's a good reason for things ending the way they did. The story will continue, but I wanted to split it up because what happens next sort of leaks into DA:2. Tell me what you think! ;) Thank you all again for being such great readers!