A/N This is the sequel to Sensible Creatures. A lot of this probably will seem . . . odd, if you haven't read it. If you haven't, I'd suggest you start there first, to avoid confusion.
It is a stink on her skin and everywhere in the air like a living thing; or a dead thing she just can't resist. Her own blood, his blood, the black poison blood of the darkspawn sings into the air, flies from the tip of her sword. She twists her body, a spark along the glimmering silver blade, crackles though the air like lightning.
Her sword flies out in an arc, the hurlock's head parts from it's twisted neck with a thick, wet sound. Collapsing to the soaked earth with a thud and then screaming. Loud, hideous, inhuman keening that makes her head want to split open.
Her own voice.
In the place of her home, the place where she thought she would have a moment of peace, there is now a gaping maw of destruction, of horror. It is worse and better than she hoped it would be, this homecoming.
Battle and blood fill the hole in her chest that Loghain's absenceleft behind. She knows horror, she breathes her own kind of fire. She will be as he made her; she will be as she promised. Bitterness has no place on a bloodied blade. And if only that were really true, Loghain would have been healed of his old wounds long before he drank darkspawn blood and became her brother. Her brother, and her lover both.
But that is over now. For better or for worse, she is alone in this battle. The battle for her life; she spins, parries a wicked black blade, sends fire into eyes that melt like ice in the sun. The battle for her soul will take longer. It may take forever.
She shrieks and it is then she knows a moment of calm behind her eyes. This a battle she can win; in other battles there is only surrender. There is only acceptance and it cannot be bitter; she will not let it be.
She is a Grey Warden, that trumps everything else. Even love.
Grey Wardens do whatever is necessary. Sometimes, blood and battle are necessary. Sometimes they are the only things to hold on to when everything else has been taken away. When left with nothing but duty . . . and a promise to keep . . . she must do whatever is necessary.
"By all that's holy," Kya spat, "If the three of you don't stop bickering, I swear I will cast a glyph of paralysis on you and leave you here for the darkspawn."
Oghren snorted and gave her a dubious look. The others did not know her well enough to determine if she was serious of not, and at least Mhairi had the decency to look nervous. Anders, on the other hand, looked unimpressed.
Kya unsheathed her sword and pointed it at Oghren.
"Don't test me," she growled. "Not this time." Amazingly, he said nothing and only nodded. Then again, Oghren knew she was half serious, after all.
The battlements were up ahead, and the taint in Kya's blood was screaming at her. She knew whatever had done this, whatever thing was responsible for ravaging the Vigil and killing the other Grey Wardens, it was up there. It was waiting for her.
And it was going to die, no matter what it was. A dying soldier told her it was a darkspawn that talked. Kya couldn't even begin to fathom what that meant. And they were organized, and although she didn't understand it, she knew what that meant. This wasn't a Blight; that felt different. It meant that something else was leading them.
A little part of Kya wondered if she hadn't really ended the Blight after all. The soul of the old god was in . . . Loghain's child. Somewhere in the wilds, Morrigan was carrying the bastard child of the Hero of River Dane, and Maker, what if it had consequences they hadn't expected? Kya shook the thought away. There would be time for self doubt later. Now there were darkspawn to kill. The taint sang in her veins.
"Come on," she whispered, and they followed. It was awkward though. She missed the easy grace she'd developed with her companions during the Blight. She missed Loghain, she missed Zevran and Maker help her, she even missed Alistair. Whatever else he was, he was handy to have in a fight. She knew she could trust his sword at her back, even now when she knew a part of him wanted to put his sword through her back.
With the exception of Oghren, these others didn't understand her. Anders thought he did; he remembered her after all. But he remembered a child still not yet Harrowed before his last escape. He remembered a little girl who followed the rules of the Chantry, and who hadn't learned secrets that they wished had remained lost.
In the dark ruins beneath the Brecilian Forest, she'd learned her skills from a mage's soul trapped in a glittering gem. A soul so long parted from breathing that it was more mad than human – or elven – she was never quite sure. This was a skill no mage should know, no more than fueling her spells with her own blood. She was a warrior fueled by magic instead of strength and this was as taboo as her blood magic. These were skills that sent an ancient mage to slumber, locked into a prison he could not escape and skills that sent Jowan to his death.
Anders was going to be unhappily surprised.
But it didn't matter. Whatever the Chantry or anyone else might want to say about her, she was the sodding Hero of Ferelden and if they sent their Templars to take her as a maleficarum? Well, she wished them luck.
Perhaps this was the best thing that could have happened, in a twisted way. As she ran, she recognized nearly nothing of the keep that had become her home, and Loghain's home. Whatever horrors awaited on the battlements, whatever carnage, this was not the same place she'd shared with him.
It made it easier somehow.
It also made her a sick, selfish woman maybe. But at the moment, Kya didn't care. Battle washed away her pain, and that was good enough.
"Andraste's knicker weasels," Anders swore. "What was that? Blood magic? Are you mad?"
Kya sighed. "Probably. What's your point?"
"I mean, I'm grateful that you spared me from the Templar at the gate, but I . . . ." his voice trailed off. He looked beyond flustered, tucking and untucking an errant lock of hair behind his ear.
"Listen," Kya said sternly, "If you are going to be of any use as a Grey Warden, there are things you have to accept. We do whatever we have to destroy the darkspawn. Sometimes it isn't pretty." She sighed again. "Besides, I'm hardly the first Grey Warden to use blood magic."
"That doesn't make it right!" he snapped irritably but then his face crumpled. "I'm not sure I like any of this Grey Warden thing . . . . poor Mhairi."
"No, it doesn't," she replied. "But it's no more wrong in the eyes of the Chantry than being an apostate. And as far as the Grey Warden thing is concerned, remember that you'd be lucky to be in Aeonar, instead of dead, if you hadn't joined us." Kya watched as he sat down hard on the edge of the makeshift desk they'd found for her. He looked pale under his tan. "And someday, we'll join Mhairi too. But if no one was willing to make the sacrifice, then we'd all be dead. Or tainted. Or something worse."
Anders frowned a little at that. "You do have a point there."
"I know I do," Kya continued. "Besides, I've never used my blood magic on anyone except an enemy. You don't need to worry that I'll be tapping your blood to fuel my spells. My own works just fine."
"I'd really like to believe that," he said. He ran his hand through his hair again. "I just . . . I heard what happened to Jowan, and I knew he was your friend. I thought that maybe . . . ."
Kya cut him off. "I know exactly what happened to Jowan. I was there for all of it," she spat. "His escape and his execution. I was also there when he went into the fade and saved a child from a demon. Blood magic . . . it isn't evil Anders, and using it doesn't make someone evil. A person can be evil, all on their own, but magic can't. Magic just is. You should know that."
He nodded. "I suppose I do. I guess I'll just have to trust you then, won't I?"
"You will," she said. "I don't care what you've done before, and you'll need to feel the same way about me if we're going to get through this. You're a Grey Warden now; its forever."
Anders grinned. "Pretty and pragmatic. I like the way you think."
"Don't get your hopes up," Kya smiled, shaking her head. "I know how you are."
"Oh?" he said, quirking an eyebrow at her. "And how is that?"
"Don't you remember?" she laughed. "When I found you and what's-her-name in the broom closet? I couldn't have been more than thirteen at the time. It's a wonder I'm not scarred for life."
"Ah yes, old what's-her-name," he snickered. "I remember her well."
If there was one thing she knew about Anders, it was that he was apparently an excellent lover – if you didn't mind that he forgot your name by morning. She hoped he would make a better friend and a better Grey Warden than that. She was in desperate need of both. There were three now at her disposal; Anders, Oghren and herself. And something was brewing here, under the keep and along the coast. Kya knew she was going to need all the help she could get, and so far, they were it.
Maker help them all.
"Commander?" a voice came from the door. It was Varel, the seneschal that the senior Warden from Weisshaupt had instilled while she was away. He seemed a decent enough man, steeped in duty as he was. But he had kind eyes and he hadn't once contradicted her orders. Of course, she assumed her saving his life from whatever the sod that talking darkspawn thing had been was part of that.
"Yes Varel?" she replied. "What is it?"
"It's not a rampage of twenty year old virgins is it?" Anders offered from behind her. She threw him a dirty look over her shoulder and he just shrugged. Varel had the dignity to only acknowledge it with raised eyebrows before clearing his throat and continuing.
"I'm afraid not," he replied. "I know that you are exhausted, after all that has happened since your return. But there is one more urgent matter to attend to before it gets worse."
Kya closed her eyes. "Are you sure it can't wait?"
"I suppose it could, but we are so short of men that I cannot justify wasting one to guard duty in the dungeon," Varel explained.
"We have a prisoner?" Kya asked, surprised. It seemed unlikely. They wouldn't capture a darkspawn alive; and who else would be foolish enough to come unwelcome into a keep full of Grey Wardens?
"Yes," Varel said quietly. "They thought he was a thief, but certainly no ordinary one. We don't know who he is, but it took four Grey Wardens to capture him." He pursed his lips. "Some of them even suggested that he might make a good recruit; skilled and completely mad."
"Huh," Kya replied. "Sounds like a Grey Warden to me."