"It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done. It is a far, far better rest I go to than I have ever known."
Sydney Carton, in "A Tale Of Two Cities".
The Legion of the Dead entered Ortan Thaig from the south. Long, narrow tunnels of cobwebs and grey stone brushed Rilian's memory with the lightness of moths. She remembered Loghain's stories too - and realised the far-eastern tunnel leading past the grave of Wilhelm Trialmont that had held his blade Topsider's Honor must be where he and Maric had entered all those years ago. The spiders both she and Loghain had faced had not yet returned; nonetheless, the tunnels echoed with pounding feet. Rilian could sense the weight of the horde descending, like thunder in her bones.
All was quiet till they reached an enormous statue of a paragon built into sheer rock. It stood nestled within a twisting column of stalagmites that reached all the way to the cavern ceiling, like a god holding up the world, and Rilian was reminded of nothing so much as the branches of the Vhenadahl. She caught Sarela's eye in a moment of shared reflection. But it was here that the peace ended. Clearly, now, they could hear the drum-beat - smell the hot, tar-like stickiness and rank atavism of taint...and Rilian and her Wardens could also sense the deep inward prickle as the web of the hive-mind roared to life.
"They are moving toward West Hill," she said flatly.
"We will hold them here," Kardol told her. Rilian stood in profound silence. Was the Legion heroic or insane? Who would ever be able to judge this absolute sacrifice?
Sarela, strangely, was smiling. "This is where the paragon Caridin was born. A pity the horde spoil the view. We won't be able to really appreciate it."
As her fellows remained silent and uninterested, she snapped: "You're in Ortan Thaig! Wake up! Think how long our people have dreamed of this!"
"We're about to face the darkspawn front lines," Kardol said sourly, "The paragon smith will have to wait."
Sarela turned white with anger. "It's that kind of defeatism that has brought our people to this! Orzammar is already lost inside your heads, but you've got to fight anyway, whether you want to or not."
"Shut up, Princess!" shouted one or two voices, "If your brother wants us to defend his city, let him treat us like normal soldiers!"
"You're a bunch of whining nuglets! The whole time I've been with you, you've done nothing but whine. If you had chosen to accompany the Warden to the Anvil, we might have had some golems for our trouble! I could have "persuaded" her, I'm sure! Still, you'll fight, whatever the cost, and I'm the one who's telling you - because you have no choice. There's no other way."
She might have been Loghain, Rilian thought sadly, fierce patriotism etched in stone. He had told her the motto of the rebellion: sooner dead than changed. She thought he would have liked Sarela. People who have embraced one idea and one idea only could live only by that idea. Beyond it, they had nothing but their memories.
Kardol stood up. "Yes, Sarela, we'll fight - because we can't stand the idea of defeat any more than you can. And because we're already dead. There is no other way - not for me, anyway. I'm part of a machine that operates a certain way, and a certain way only - and I've been a part of it for too long."
The cause that Kardol spoke of was Rilian's own. She knew a strong sense of solidarity with them, and could think of her own inevitable death without too much flinching - a soothing veil that would fall slowly over her and all the horrors of the recent past. Her head seemed to be filled with a milky fog, which was without joy, but which suddenly made everything easy. Did the Legion feel the same? Rilian wasn't sure - but the calm acceptance seemed general.
They marched through the grey cavern, its layers of cobwebs weighted by dust of ages, to the dark, dank river that flowed a mile beneath. Two curved, sturdy bridges were the only way across.
"This," said Kardol, "Is where we hold them. This is where we fight. This is where they die! Earn these shields, boys! Give them nothing - and take from them...everything!"
They had about an hour to prepare before the spawn reached them, and set up the portable wooden barriers packed with Blackpowder. The crossbowmen dug in - loosing from the windows of stone ruins. The front ranks gathered several rows deep at the two access points, in testudo. Unable to join that formation without her head sticking up over the top, Rilian left it to Oghren, who for once saw the necessity. She set up Dworkin's crossbow several metres behind the rear ranks, joined by Carver and Alim. They had but one ballista, which bore the impact of many darkspawn blades. The Legion had often rescued the old machine from contests that were too unequal, and held it in respect for the service it still performed.
Kardol and Sarela had made up their differences; Rilian heard the two low voices overlaying the tapestry of incessant sound. They agreed that death at Ortan Thaig would seem a relief and a release - a more orderly end then death in the warren-like maze of tunnels further on. The pounding of the darkspawn march was a background through which everything else was filtered, like rain. They even managed to snatch mugs of hot water with some stale bread.
"And to think," Sigrun muttered, "I volunteered for the food." Rilian smiled at her, recognising the brand that marked her as casteless. Sigrun had added to it with her Legion tattoos: turning what to Orzammar was a mark of shame to one of pride.
Rilian was just biting into her share when the hot, wet stink of taint exploded through her senses. The others didn't need the warning. The almost sluggish mass of Dwarves stood up in a single movement. Those lucky enough to have already received their food wolfed it down hastily. The spawn descended like a river of moving earth vomited from the deeps. The ballista crew concentrated on the ogres. Each time one fell it took the surrounding darkspawn with it, in a cacophony of shrieks that echoed and re-echoed, bouncing off the arcs, curving walls, statues and houses in the Thaig. Blackpowder explosions flared in the unreal half-blackness, lit only by two enormous stone braziers by the paragon statue. Up and down alternated to the rhythm of the flames that slashed the darkness. Rilian concentrated on dropping the emissaries; Dworkin's crossbow bounced off the first couple of glyphs, but the glyphs always ran out before her ammunition did. When they exploded, they showered the tableaux with sparks bright as day, reducing the luminous brilliance of the Blackpowder explosions.
The front ranks of the Legion fell, arms flung outward and sightless eyes fixed for the last time upon the dust-shrouded stone ceiling. Sigrun had carefully set up her own crossbow from a position in the ruins of a Dwarven house, no more than three feet high. From time to time, she brushed her bangs of dark hair from her white face with the back of her hand. She was calm. No matter how intense the grief caused by the deaths of particular comrades, the expression on her worn face never changed. Rilian understood. She, too, was filled with horror like water in a barrel. When the barrel was overflowing, all the torments in the world had no power to add to its capacity.
Three ogres clambered over the corpses in front, while Rilian and her Warden archers fired over the heads of the second rank. Carver was almost as skilled with his bow as he was with his greatsword. Alim – whose arrows were given wings by magic - rained ruin down as Shartan must have done. All the while, he hummed an obscene Elven ditty that Rilian did not know but rather wished she'd had time to learn. Oghren and Sarela worked in tandem - an odd but inspired pairing - and brought down the first ogre Alpha. Rilian blinded the second with a bolt through the eyes; it spun in a crazed, blind circle. The third hurled a boulder large as a horse. It crashed with sickening inevitability upon the space where a mass of the Legion fought - unable to escape through the press of bodies all around them. Rilian would forever hear the screams that rang through the demented confusion of roars and flame. The survivors swarmed round the monster, hamstringing it, breaking kneecaps with hammers, dragged it down like a slowly toppling column.
Rilian only felt numb - unable to grieve for the fallen while all their lives hung in balance. For the others, the battle went on. Everything that still possessed a shred of flesh-and-blood or mechanical life continued this final stand. The rest - the merely wounded or dying - watched with glassy, burning eyes that stared with strange fixity as the chaos. The buildings to the south and east were used as makeshift hospitals. Ortan Thaig lived once more, within the swirl of flames, the cobweb-darkened ceiling, the throb of darkspawn feet, and the terror.
The hours went by. To Rilian the sounds of battle drowned out all the noises of the world - her mind was empty beneath her filthy helm. She had the inchoate sense that, after this, nothing of her would remain. Ortan Thaig was the tomb of her life, with only the infinite beyond.
It was in this state that she became aware of Sigrun's shout of warning - and of Kardol's order: "Bring that thing down!"
Incredibly, the danger came from behind them. Rilian whirled to look - the gracile, skeletal form approached with horrible inevitability. Every missile she and Sigrun loosed at the Architect merely bounced off the creature's wards.
"Do not kill me. I wish no more death than is necessary."
"Necessary!" Rilian spat, "As if you have ever done anything else!"
"If you will not accept my aid, you will die here - and what you mean to do will be left undone. Let me help you."
"Help me!" Rilian screamed wildly, half-laughing, "Help me where? Into the Void?"
"Precisely." The calm assurance was like water thrown over her hysterical levity. "I know you mean to kill Urthemiel. That is my goal too - has always been my goal. Instead, I became the dragon's liberator and poisoner. But together we can do what one alone could not."
"Don't do it, Warden!" Sigrun shouted, "Allying with this creature just reeks of stupid!"
Rilian's voice held a granite certainty - but the hand she put on Sigrun's shoulder was confiding, binding. "If I don't stop Urthemiel now we will not be able to hold the spawn back. I would never ally with the Architect's goals - but I don't see as we have much to lose, now." She smiled without humour. "What's the worst that could happen? This...thing cannot make of me what it made of Boann and Duncan: I can become neither a Broodmother nor a Father. The worst I could become is a darkspawn - and what's one more?" She turned back to the Architect.
"How?" she asked.
In answer the emissary held up a curious object: the black brooch it had shown her at Ostagar. It glistened and writhed like an inky pearl - or a black poppy. Rilian remembered how that brooch had hidden Wardens and darkspawn from each other, and understood.
"Then why?" she finished.
"Because you showed me I cannot create life from death. What would you do in my place save try to serve life in the only way you could?"
...We Elves may be a dying breed - it may be true that humankind will reap the whirlwind, the future dreams and life on Thedas. Should I care that my descendants will have rounded ears and heavy bones? No. The best part of us: the stories, the honest purpose, the honour, goes on....
"The sons of dreams outlive the sons of seed."
Rilian slowly put out her hand - her right hand. The left bore Nelaros' ring and Boann's bracelet. The Architect slipped the brooch onto a chain around her wrist.
Kardol stared at her without comment, dark eyes lifeless in his white, sweat-streaked face. He said only, "I will send Sigrun to Orzammar - the Last Of The Legion - to warn them to be ready if you fail."
Rilian chose to send her surviving Wardens to Denerim for the same purpose. Alim and Carver were walking wounded – a single ogre missile had splintered Alim's left side and Carver's right. She suspected Oghren had sustained hidden wounds, though her friend waved away help with grim, stoic determination.
"I'm not going anywhere, Warden."
"I can't be a mad scientist – or serve Ferelden's army. They'd never put up with me. I'm not cut out for marriage. I'm staying put."
Rilian had always thought Oghren capable of adapting to anything, in his usual inimitable style. Now he seemed to be saying he could live only for the city that had already cost him so much.
"You took a drunken disgrace of a Dwarf and made him a Warden," Oghren went on – and she realised it wasn't for the city of Orzammar at all. "When from the blood of battle the Stone has fed, let the heroes prevail and the blighters lie dead. As one of the blighters, I sodding salute you. We'll show them our hearts – and then show them theirs."
She left him standing beside Kardol and Sarela, part of the grim wall of the front rank, weapons bristling in anticipation of the next surge. She saluted them, and Kardol and Sarela responded with a brief nod. They would know how to die, because they had known how to live in the Legion. She didn't worry about it.
The tunnels beyond were timeless. Rilian seemed to float through them alongside the Architect, like a shadow or her own ghost. She had the curious sense that she had died - left her body behind at Ortan Thaig. One moment it was all that world: the noise and screams and confusion - the stink of darkspawn in her nostrils - their fetid breath as they rushed her. Now the creatures passed by as if she did not exist - or were one of them. There was an odd itching upon her right forearm, but it was too dark too see. Her stomach rumbled - stale bread did nothing for the Warden appetite - but she had never felt less like eating. She merely followed the Architect deeper through the mass of the horde - into the tunnel at the northern end of the Thaig, where she had once fought giant spiders. Beyond, two roads stretched before her. Caridin's Cross led to Orzammar to the north and on to the Trenches to the west. They took the western path, and her strange ally led her down a maze of side-tunnels that had been too dangerous to traverse as a mere mortal. Now, she was becoming - something else...
Ever since she had put it on, the brooch had seemed to her a living thing, something that knew her - waited quietly but with terrible awareness, like a stalking darkspawn that has caught a scent. Its mere presence made all her nerves and sinews feel tight-strung: a black beating heart that only she could hear. Faint air-currents from long-ago Dwarven shafts fluttered her hair like cobwebs, brushed past like a murmuring, insubstantial crowd. She hurried, blind, after the one who led her, running her fingers lightly over the taint-slick stone. A light was out of the question - would have made her recognisable as not-theirs.
Dream and reality seemed interwoven - the shut-in, thick, breathless dark awash in chittering ghosts. Once, a darkspawn passed within a few feet of her, its rotting arm brushing hers in the dark. The Song was inside her now, in everything. She could hear Urthemiel's unearthly music - and, fainter, the Call of Razikale and Lusacan, unrisen. When they passed closer to the Blightwound where the Archdemon rallied the spawn, she recognised the deeper touch of warmth against her cheeks and eyes. She remembered the lava that had flowed beneath the Trenches, like a red-gold river. Now all colours seemed faded; the only tones remaining were red and black. There was a film between her and the universe, as though everything were covered in grease.
She remembered the thrill of terror when passing this way with Alistair, Morrigan and Wynne...remembered the exhaustion and the hastily-bolted rations. Now, she needed neither rest nor food. As she trudged along, her head seemed full of seductive poisonous music: the memories of the dying hulk that slipped from its decaying mind like febrile bubbles. They called the horde - not consciously, but simply by their nature as the only light the spawn could know. Their distant ancestors had once been men - some buried part of them yearned for that light as a candle lures moths from darkness, inhales them to consuming heat. And, conversely, when a critical threshold had gained the surface, the dying creature would follow them, driven by the will of its disease to congeal like droplets of blood.
For many months she had heard this music only in darkspawn dreams, but now it came in her waking hours, driving away even the chittering noises that were her constant companions in the darkness. Her life was little more than echoes and shadows, cold stone, and the tapping and scraping of her own footsteps. But the Song lived - and somehow its life was more powerful than her own. She wanted to be near it.
The realisation brought her out in a cold sweat - she almost tore off the brooch.
"This!" she cried - not aloud but in the silence of the link she shared with the Architect, "I am going through my Calling!"
"But don't you see: I might not be able to make the Ultimate Sacrifice this far into the cycle of infection! As a darkspawn, the creature will rise again, through me."
She sensed, rather than saw, the curiously human movement of the Architect's head - tilted up and a little leftward. It considered this. Then sent back something that astonished her.
"Speak to me of love," it said.
"The images you showed me - of your former life. The way of the Alienages seems to be based on the survival of the greater whole. That is so with us. But as I understand your way, such service to individual members of the collective may sometimes evolve into what I will call...for want of a better word...dedication. And from that dedication may sometimes spring love."
Rilian felt a pang of pity. Such tortuous reasoning to arrive at a conclusion which a person would come to naturally! Oddly, she thought of her conversations with Morrigan about this very thing...which led her mind, unwillingly, to Alistair. After everything that had happened, her mind was numb to that betrayal - but this talk of love... And why should she now think so strongly of the child?
Then she had it. Rilian's strict Andrastean beliefs insisted the child had a soul from the moment of its conception. But Morrigan had told her that what was relevant to its fate was not soul but self-awareness. The child would not have had enough to clash with the Archdemon. She did. She smiled, suddenly realising that the Architect's question had made her a person once more. It doesn't matter how corrupted by taint I become...I have thoughts and hopes and dreams...that will be enough. She wondered, as well, how best to answer the question. This creature denied any chance for love deserved at least to understand it - to have all that was possible for it to have. She organised the random thoughts and images spilled by her mind into some semblance of cohesion, thinking of the bubbles of light within Habren's paperweight...and the way they were held together by something fragile as glass, to form a radiant whole.
"I grew up with my cousins, Soris and Shianni..."
The final twist of tunnel opened into a cavernous space - a universe where ground and sky seemed to have changed places. The ceiling was stone. Far beneath them lay a glittering expanse of heat and light brighter than stars and sun. The river of lava flowed, on and on, heating the air around in endless warm currents. There was the genesis of the horde - a seething mass of sluggish life that writhed, decayed and spawned all within a year, before the tiny, tainted lives winked out of existence. To be replaced by an endless succession. Avernus' and The Architect's words told her their ancestors stretched back across time as well as distance - back to the moment the Elves of Arlathan drank of the Tree of Life and birthed the taint...droplets that waited for a living host...carried to Thedas within the corrupted bodies of Corypheus and his magisters. And Corypheus had been captured and bred by the original Wardens of the Anderfels...used as a means to defeat the Tevinter Blood Magic and bring the nation to its knees. From this Order, the Inquisition had split...to continue the war by other means. And even those that continued learned at last that the cure for Blood Magic was worse than the disease. They could combat the First Blight because they had helped create it - and from this necessity the Wardens had been born.
Urthemiel was perched high, upon a bridge of rock many miles across. Above the dragon, a yawing mouth of stalactites swooped down like the teeth of gods. Shadows boiled on the colourless spread of black wings...serrated edges that reared like towering waves. She did not flinch, did not flee, though she knew they would annihilate her when they crashed. The dying mind flickered like a failing candle in a bitter wind.
She realised - in a moment of soaring rapture - I am not afraid... It was better than music or maps or swordcraft - it was immortality...
Strange, how the dream had come true. Alistair and Loghain were not with her in person but she sensed them nonetheless - fighting their own battles. And the fourth figure - obscure as her own shadow - the cold and sickening sense of kinship - that had come to pass also. She stared at the Architect and sent:
"The stalactites - if we could get up there..."
"I can. You must draw the Old God's attention..."
"How!" Rilian thought wildly, "Dance for it? Sing to it?" The levity choked as she remembered something: remembered the Litany of Adralla that had worked against demons and might work against darkspawn too. It was a crazy gamble - but not as crazy as trying to take on the monster toe-to-claw.
"Hurry," she pleaded.
The Architect rose on the wings of its magic, like a black angel. She felt the power of cataclysm building...building...the heat and light that turned even rock to diamond.
She stepped out, shaking, onto the bridge where the dragon waited - high above the marching minions. She was a speck - a mote of dust - and to dust she would return. The vast space swooped around her...she remembered her words to Loghain and thought, joyfully: I was wrong. This feels like flight...
The brooch shielded her from the dragon's notice - without the rage and jealousy of the taint-maddened for the living, she knew she showed up as no more than an unimportant insect - one of the mass that surged below. She could only hope the surprise of the Litany would enmesh the Archdemon before it changed its opinion. She felt, strangely, that this was a song she had been born to sing - and could never sing so well as now, with the Call engulfing her mind like a silver ocean. She was subsumed in the alien melody. For this moment, she and the dragon of beauty were one.
Rilian did not need to sing aloud. Her mind - linked with Urthemiel's - produced a range her throat could not hope to match: a wailing harmony where melodic lines and strings of dissonances and wry accidentals melded subtly into rich-textured resolutions. But she experienced it as sound. Slowly and tentatively at first, feeling her way through unfamiliar territory - scattering atonal spatters of notes like largess, delicate chromatic inchings-forward. As the great refracted eyes - the black orbs of a vast spider - fell on her, but did not challenge, her progressions grew swiftly surer, her singing more complex. As Urthemiel's mind slid into hers and she felt the burst of brilliant silver, the music spilled out as if she had been saving it for a long time: a wild, splendid, glittering fall. A silver rain that chimed like an orchestra, syncopated and precise, somehow trapping a more-than-symphonic meaning in the command behind it. She sang in her mind with delicate melody - the way she sang aloud - but she also sang with a power that could shatter stone, break the bones of the world. The Litany, like the Song, was something alive that she merely released from her caging mind, something that might turn on her if she relaxed her concentration. Relentlessly, she poured it out: a torrent of bright music, asynchronous weavings, low-voiced and high. And the aggregate net that had trapped demons and stopped abominations went taut as her command began to solidify - the dragon immured like an insect in amber. She knotted up loose ends, wove the net tighter, a seamless web. A silver mesh, through which the dark spaces of taint were squeezed out into strange fragments, alive but in locked rooms. By the time the Litany slowed, the final harmonies resolved and final chords stretching themselves to silence, the Architect was in position. She breathed in mingled terror and joy as the cataclysm wrenched the stalactites like spears from the stone ceiling - brought a dozen roaring downward to pierce the jagged spine. The force split the stone bridge upon which Urthemiel stood - flung her backwards like an insect toward the great wall of stone. But she felt the Architect's magic cushion her from destruction, like an unseen, gentle hand. He caught her and she floated with him, to land upon a shattered column.
The falling body of Urthemiel had driven the rest of the bridge downward to crush the horde below. The broken, dying dragon writhed and shifted, smearing purple blood upon the rock. She could land on its back, she realised, and drive Maric's blade deep into the twitching neck. She raised her sword high - that silver blade etched with bright runes. Against the engulfing dark, it glowed like the first rose of dawn.
Each moment free from fear makes an Elf immortal...
Then, suddenly, she was caught fast by the grip of magic. She struggled frantically - but she might as well have been encased in ice.
"Maker damn you, Architect!"
The thought he sent back to her was unrepentant: "I must know."
"Whether I have soul enough to be destroyed."
Then the Architect floated down in eerie silence, balanced like a pale flying creature upon the twisted back, murmured words that turned his staff to a conduit of white lightning, and hard as diamond, and drove it downwards with all his weight behind it.
He screamed - shrilly - Rilian had never heard a scream like that before. Crying in agony, she would have pressed her hands to her ears if she could move - but the spell still held. Both forms seemed to meld and crawl and change like the melting wax of a candle. She saw the images of both distorting - their selves horribly pulled and torn - the dragon collapsing inward like a deflating skin and the thing that had been the Architect trying to grow, as if something struggled to burst from the captive frame. A darkspawn shedding its larval form...
But the Architect was more than a darkspawn - and Rilian was drawn into the titanic struggle - as if giant colours and weights drenched or tore her...
...Lost, I'm lost, I'll be dissolved, I'll wander as a ghost forever...
...Terror...terror...defiance. Rage, rage against the dying of the light...I must know...
...Spirit once, seduced by the worship of the flesh-bags...fallen to earth...now cursed to be entombed in earth forevermore...
In that moment, Rilian was all of them: the scrawny Alienage Elf who'd always yearned for the Spark - that note of unearthly music she caught at the corners of her mind...the being born from filth and suffering, watching his brethren struggle and howl and fight...tasting the salty tang of predation, of unity...hearing the vast low hum of chittering voices among whom he was forever a stranger...and the timeless being who had once been, like the Elves of Arlathan, a part of the Source. The Source: worshiped as the Maker - though it seemed to her now that all such views were a fabulous, intricate riddle representing a truth that could not be grasped.
...She felt her musculature and skeleton fluidly rearranging themselves. It was like discovering a forgotten freedom - or immortality. She spread her wings and soared...
The Old Gods, once part of the Source, had been seduced by the worship of the Tevinter magisters. Better to reign over flesh than serve as spirit. They had helped create the first forms of Blood Magic, the Reaver powers of the dragon cults...now twinned eternally with the taint created by the Elves in their attempt to resist, harnessed by the original Wardens for the same purpose. Taint and Blood Magic: forever two sides of the same coin. The demons that had once been Elves had refined and enhanced the original blood magic - offered it to the magisters as a poisoned chalice, to draw them to ruination and possession as they had ruined and possessed Arlathan. But beyond even their will, the will of the taint itself had moved with the blind instinct of disease to spread and multiply, carried by Corypheus and his descendants.
Except - the Architect was more than a host - and what he was overcame his origins. The vortex of pain and horror was changing now...becoming something brighter...she felt the Architect's soaring rapture as he received his answer...and felt, at the same time, the column of light burst out of the poisoned, decaying hulk.
She wondered, now, how she had ever thought her Litany such a masterwork. Against this radiant interweaving of harmonies, it grated. Urthemiel sang no words, but poured forth melodies that built through wild fugues of unimaginable complexity, crashing masses of chords like thunder, poised on the line between dissonance and harmony. The voices were multitudes, but they swirled around a single column progressing upwards, until nothing could be heard but the great unity of sound, weaving around Rilian in an ecstasy of terror and wonder and anticipation.
The light grew brighter; Rilian squinted as it expanded. When the ice spell released her, she slumped weakly to her knees. Whiteness thinned her world to an infinite nullity - she fought to stay conscious because she couldn't bear to stop hearing. She listened to the rising chorus as the dying darkspawn below and the Architect - multitudes added to multitudes - wove around the single bell-like voice that showed them the way in endless upward-mounting ascents of song. This is what he truly sought, she thought, what he died for... If this was death? It felt more like life. Up and up the sound scaled, in pitch and power; till the chords, for all their tremendous size and weight of voices, drove into her brain as piercingly as the stalactites. Innumerable voices, drawing closer and closer together, chords resolving, twining, into a single strand that would have broken the hardest heart, forged into one terrible ecstatic union.
Then, rising as though out of the rock itself, came Urthemiel, on glowing silver wings. A spirit again; flesh no more. The Architect and the horde joined it as together they soared into the light. Only Rilian was left outside, in profound silence. Though her eyes and ears worked perfectly, she was blind. She was deaf. She saw the brooch she had worn had melted away - taint burned by the cleansing light - that the patches of corruption on her skin were burned away too. She had been part of a realm of unbearable beauty, only to find herself, once more, cast down into the grey dust-shrouded earth. All that remained of those glorious creatures were the misshapen monstrosity that had died half-way through its failed transformation and the decaying hulk in its silent boneyard. She knew they were dead because she couldn't hear the Song anymore.
An eternity passed before she recovered enough sanity to pick her way, slow and stumbling, across the rubble, moved by blind instinct to retrace her steps. She could sense no darkspawn, and the inhuman vision she had possessed was gone. She held up her left hand and Boann's bracelet lit the way.
Crying for the Song that was no more; her thoughts echoing in wells of silence.
For Duncan's life tapering to the grave.
For Boann's anguished screams.
For the Children who would never sleep, never dream, never love.
With Maric's blade in her right hand and Boann's bracelet in her left, Rilian turned her back on the Deep Roads and their horde of sleepless dead.
- Fin -
Song inspirations were:
Rilian's Journey: Depeche Mode - Waiting For The Night To Fall
The Ultimate Sacrifice: The Cult – Black Angel
AN: After some thought, I've decided to end this story here. It feels right that the deaths of Urthemiel and The Architect should be the climax. The reunions, political machinations, Landsmeet et al will form the first chapter of the sequel.
Yes, Kardol's lines in Ortan Thaig are a shameless rip-off of Leonidas' in 300! Couldn't resist :)
The Sons Of Dreams will focus on a larger group of characters, including Ril, Loghain, Alistair, Anora, Morrigan, Leliana, Jowan, Ser Otto, Aveline, Carver, Rylock, Wynne, Channon, Fergus, Nathaniel, Zevran and Anders. It will cover:
DA2 with Nathaniel Howe as Champion.
The birth of the mage-Templar community in the Temple of the Ashes, and how they deal with the ripples of the mage-Templar war begun in DA2 and Asunder.
The "missing years" between Leliana as we know her in DAO and the Chantry Seeker we meet in DA2. She didn't get enough screen-time in DATM and I regret that.
The conflict between Ferelden, Orlais, The Qunari, and Tevinter.
The Templars and Wardens uniting against the darkspawn.
And most of all it will be the story of Rilian and her "Wardens of the Grail" and their search for a cure for taint and the ending of the Blights. It will take them to the Vimmark Mountains, Weisshaupt, Tevinter, the ruins of Arlathan, and further.
I can't believe that what started as a four-chapter Landsmeet retelling has taken two years of my life! :) Words cannot express how much I have appreciated your support, reviews, faves, alerts and PMs. I particularly want to thank:
Arsinoe, who has been with me from the first chapter to the last.
Josie Lange. Congratulations on the birth of Alexis Grace!
Shakespira - for her brilliant "Dark Stewards" theory from The Lion's Den.
Tyanilth - I can't wait for you to update "Hour of Prophecy"!
analect and icey cold: two partners-in-crime who will be, as the Terminator put it, back :) I've loved bouncing ideas!