For the weekly Zevran prompt: Sacrifice (meaning not the ultimate sacrifice but a sacrifice for love)
The face of Owen hovered in Nemain's sluggish thoughts. The smith of Redcliffe stood in the door's frame, his expression one of sadness and despair, as the thugs stormed the little room and clubbed Nemain senseless. And Zevran.
The dwarven warrioress moaned in her half-dream state, her whole body feeling as if an ox cart had been driven over her instead of carrying her. The voyage stopped, furs were torn away, Nemain felt herself dragged from the cart and thrown to the floor. Blindfolded as she was she could only assume her surroundings. Many men, a dozen at least, with metal armor and weapons. Laughter and the smell of booze penetrated the air. Another moan besides her, Zevran was alive at least. A hand tried to secure a rope at her ankle. Nemain kicked him, but other men held her fast. The rope secured they pulled away the blanket around her body and the blindfold.
Blind for a few moments her eyes slowly accustomed to the sudden light. A clearing in a forest, a small trek, nothing she knew. She wore nothing besides handcuffs and the rope around her ankle, the other end strung around a tree. Zevran stood not far away in the same condition. He tried to smile at her and Nemain reciprocated with a look at his genitals and a broad smirk as if she would like the situation.
Now, what have we here? Isn't it beautiful? A knight stepped thru the ranks of the soldiers around, his face vaguely familiar to Nemain. The armor was shiny silver without any dents from former battles, the blond hair well groomed, and the smell of orlaisian soap around him. He smiled but it never reached his eyes, the eyes of a cruel and slightly mad man as Zevran could clearly see.
I was very pleased as I saw you start your little night excursion. Before that I pondered how I could lay my hands on you both but then … he smiled anew, while Nemain shot a glance to Zevran. It had been her idea to spare the night in Owen's shop with the castle full of envoys from the dwarves, dalish, mages and bannorns. It should have been the last night before their journey to Denerim and start the landsmeet. The last night they wanted to spend in intimate togetherness. I had been her fault.
Loghain will be very happy about my small present. His reward for a living warden is outstanding. Nemain clenched her teeth. Loghain anew, she should have known, but she felt secure in Redcliffe, especially in Owen's house. What did your men with Owen, the smith? Is he dead? The knight shook his head. No, was not needed to shed blood. A knife at his daughter's throat and he was more than willing to cooperate.
The knight went closer to Nemain, stopping closely out of her reach. But that is not your concern now. We have something to discuss. I'm Ser Amrun. You don't know me, but you have known my brother, Ser Imrek. Studying Nemain's face and realizing her inability to remember the name, Ser Amrun explained further. Perhaps you've never known his name, but you've killed him, you and your little pointy-ear.
He signaled and a soldier stepped forward. Nemain remembered him; he had been with the envoy of Loghain, trying to get entrance to Ozrammar as her group arrived weeks before. A furious dispute arose and at the end a fight. With their leader and his mage killed, some of the soldiers fled. At that day Nemain held her companions back, allowed the soldiers to save their life. And now one of them returned to help this knight extract revenge.
What do you want from us? Kill us? Ser Amrun smiled cruelly. No, that would be too easy. And Loghain wouldn't be happy. He wants to speak with you. But for speaking you only need to live, a tongue and ears. All other parts belong to me. The cold words send even Zevran a shudder down his back.
To start the fun I would really like some whipping. A soldier tossed two whips on the ground before Zevran and Nemain, long horsewhips with narrow leather bands, surely able to cause great pain and cut the skin. You must be mad. How could you think that we … Ser Amrun pulled a knife from his belt. It is very easy. I want to see 28 lashes from each of you done to the other. And no wussy ones but dealt with full force. You wonder about the number? It is the quantity of your finger bones. For each lash you hold back I cut away a finger bone from the other. It is your decision, you lash or I cut.
Nemain's thoughts raced, how could she persuade him to … *crack* A sharp pain pulled her out of her puddled mind, a narrow line of blood tracing along her right shoulder. It is your fault. *crack* Always your fault. *crack* Perplexed Nemain looked at Zevran, the elf talking himself into a rage. *crack* what you've done in Ozrammar, that you killed the Paragon. *crack* the deaths in Redcliffe, in the magi tower. *crack* Every time you made stupid decisions. Line on line of blood and cut skin arose on her shoulders and upper body, numbing her in the pauses only to send a new shower of pain thru it. As if far away herself Nemain pondered about Zevran's behavior, her mind separated from her body which writhed in pain and her voice yelling and moaning in reaction to the hurting stings.
Zevran sooner than her detected the madness in Amrun and reacted accordingly, tried to pull her into rage herself. But she could not give in. Oghren taught her how to draw onto her rage but with 28 full rage lashes she could kill Zevran. *crack* Fifteen. The number only partially reached her numb mind. *crack* She scrutinized Zevran's face, the gentle bow of his cheek, tears running freely down the tanned skin. The full lips she often kissed as if dying of thirst, now speaking hurting words never reaching her ears. The hands which so often dealt her delightful pain in their massage hours. *crack* Twenty. *crack* Warm emotions run thru her heart, never had she felt closer to Zevran than in these minutes as he forced him to do the madman's will and save her from sharper harm. Twenty-six *crack* Twenty-seven *crack* Twenty-eight Nemain wasn't sure that he would see her smile, hear her whispered I love you. The whip dropped on the floor, Zevran slumped onto his knees.
Forced frostiness gripped Nemain's heart. She tried not to see Zevran in front of her but some other one. Loghain, Branka, Bhelen. Each face melted away to be replaced by another on while she dealt strike on strike. At last her own face appeared before her inner eye. Row on row of shackled dwarves appeared before the anvil of the void she secured for her people. Every time a dwarf was hammered into a golem, Nemain lashed out, dealing pain to Nemain-Zevran. Her mind was far away, only half recording the counted numbers. *crack* twenty-eight. Without thought the arm dropped the whip, no emotion shown on her face as Nemain was led to a blanket to rest for the night.
Someone was pulled to the blanket beside her and thrown down in moans of pain. Nemain needed minutes to draw back from her frozen state, to realize that it was Zevran beside her; the elf nearly unconscious but trying hard to smile. You see, mi amora, ropes, manacles and whips, all we need for a little night of pleasure. Nemain dragged Zevran to her, ignoring his or her pain, embraced him and kissed him deeply. Tears flowing from their eyes and blood tickling from their wounds escorted them into their sleep.
A splash of ice-cold water awoke them. A new day, a new joy. Numb from the pain all over her body Nemain looked up, Ser Amrun not standing far away. Rays of the sun warmed their bodies, birds were singing, the water from a creek purled. You have luck. I'm in a very good mood this morning, so I've decided to let this elf run away. May he hide in some filthy hole. Amrun smiled coldly. But before there is a last deed to be done. Not allowed to kill you I want a compensation for your murder. And a trophy. Something to look at when I'm at home. Staring a few moments in the puzzled faces of Nemain and Zevran he pulled his knife and thrust it into the ground in front of them.
You're both accomplished fighters as I know. So you will fight for the right to keep your hands. The winner decides who will keep his hands and who not. And he has to cut off the right hand of the loser. That will be fun. Their jaws dropped, all blood escaped their faces. You must be completely mad. You can't really expect us to … Amrun smiled, shaking his head sadly. No, you can't really expect me to leave you a choice in this. You fight, you cut off a hand. If not I will slowly cut you both to pieces. An ear, an eye, the nose. There so many pieces you don't need.
Mi amora, I'll have my freedom. I don't need both hands. In spite of his try to steady his voice Zevran was much shaken. No, I can switch weapon and shield arm, I don't need a hand for my shield. You need both hands. Nemain's eyes lingered on Zevran's hands, the fingers which caused so much pleasure to her in the past. Zevran tried to persuade her anew, while an idea shot thru Nemain's head.
You said the fight decides who will lose his hand, yes? It has not to be the loser's hand? Zevran comprehended Nemain's idea long before Amrun and went to attack the dwarf, but this time Nemain expected the move. Solid as a rock she resisted the attack, gripped Zevran and threw him to the ground, her heavy and muscular body pinning him to the earth only split-seconds later. No, Nemain, no … a fist like a ham hit him in the face two, three times. Nemain pulled the knife from the earth, forced the grip into the hand of the nearly unconscious elf, gripped his wrist and pulled his hand forward, the knife resting above her own right wrist.
This will count, Amrun? Promise me that this will count and you will let him go without further plays and anything? With eyes full of glee and madness Amrun watched the scene, saliva dropping from his mouth. Yes, it counts. Do it now. With wide eyes he stared at Nemain. The warrioress took a deep breath, tightened the grip around Zevran's hand and knife and forcefully cut thru her right wrist. The last she saw was her hand falling to the floor, the last she heard was Zevran's cry.
Had it been hours or days? Nemain didn't know. Half-delirious she laid on the cart now alone. Zevran was gone. One of the guards, his face full of pity, had been compassionate enough to tell her that Amrun held word and released the elf.
Nemain awoke anew, this time from some deep roar. A giant clad in plate armor, a massive greatsword in his hands, furious rage in his face, stormed thru the soldiers, cutting them down like wheat, an especially vicious slash cutting Amrun's head from his shoulders. Sten? It was only a whisper, perhaps even less.
Nemain awoke with a cry full of pain and despair, trashing wildly, pulling apart the tent around her, needing long moments to register it was Zevran who tried to hold her down. Calm down, mi amora, calm down. You're with me. With a sob Nemain leaned against his shoulder, embraced him as if her life would depend from it, tears running down her cheeks. Zevran hugged her, padded her shoulder.
Recuperating slowly from the dream Nemain pressed a smile, tried hard to stop the tears. With a weak smile she looked at Zevran, padded his cheek. With horror she stopped the move, looking at her right hand. Or better looked at where should be her right hand, her arm ending in a stump, cloaked in a leather shelve.
The nightmare had only begun.