Disclaimer : Anything you read here that comes from the Harry Potter books is not mine. If it comes from the Dragon Age games then it also isn't mine.
Note 1 : HP Canon up to and including book 5 of Harry Potter is observed. Anything after that is for the most part ignored. As previously stated HP movie canon is ignored.
Note 2 : Dragon Age Canon is mostly based around DA:Origins – beyond that I make no guarantees. I haven't, for example, played Leliana's song so I may inadvertently contradict it somewhere.
Remaining Authors Notes are at the end of the chapter.
As he slowly regained consciousness the first thing Harry became aware of was the music. It started with the flowing melody of a cello dancing across his consciousness, the soft sounds unobtrusive and barely registering on his sleepy mind. Then the harmonic tones of a bagpipe joined in, offsetting the cello's melody with a syncopated counterpoint. It wasn't until a mellow tenor began crooning along that Harry finally recognized the Weird Sisters ballad for what it was and it was that realization which finished pulling him to full awareness. Once awake he spent several minutes trying to relax and pretend he wasn't, in the hopes that he could fool himself into falling back asleep, but it was hopeless with the music simply too loud and too insistent to be ignored. Bracing himself, Harry opened his eyes and rolled onto to his side to hunt for the source of the disturbance but when he did so an emphatic hissing sound issued from the vicinity of his feet. Looking towards the foot of the bed he found himself confronted with what appeared to be a thoroughly annoyed cat which had at some point decided to drape itself across his ankles.
"Sorry, mate. I know exactly how you feel." Harry offered the oversized ball of ginger fur, sympathizing with its plight. He hadn't been ready to wake up either.
It sniffed at him, unimpressed by his apology, and continued to glare contemptuously. He wasn't sure if it was his movements that it was objecting to or if it simply disapproved of his general existence but either way he found it amusing. He suspected the cat had been aiming for intimidating because it just glared even harder when Harry's lips drew up into a smirk. Apparently having had enough of his disrespect the feline issued a plaintive yowl of discontent, nipped his big toe through the sheets as punishment, and then ambled to the edge of the bed and hopped to the floor, most likely headed off in search of a midnight snack. Harry discarded the vague thought that the cat was oddly familiar and instead refocused on his original mission.
Even with the world slightly out of focus it only took a moment for him to suss out the source of his troubles sitting innocently on the dark mahogany bedside table alongside his forgotten glasses. Groaning, he stretched out his arm and tried randomly smacking the muggle alarm clock a few times to no effect. When that failed to deal with the annoyance he fumbled with his glasses and shoved them onto his face. Finally able to make out some of the controls he spun the volume dial all the way to the left. Expecting silence he was caught off guard when instead he could make out the sound of bare feet shuffling along thick carpet. Rolling to his back again he found himself strangely unsurprised when he recognized the room's other occupant.
At some point Cindy had left the bed and slipped on his black and yellow quidditch jersey and the garment hung on her frame, precariously held together by the few buttons in the middle that she'd bothered to do up. Harry could clearly make out the curves of her firm breasts as his eyes wandered over her tantalizing form and he wasn't sure for a moment if he'd rather she take his shirt off, or keep it on, something about her choice of wardrobe arousing him out of proportion with the amount of exposed skin. In her hand she held a half empty bottle of firewhiskey and she lifted it up and swirled the amber liquid inside before offering the bottle to him with a sultry smile.
He reached out and accepted the whiskey absently but let it settle to the mattress unopened, too focused on the way her hips swayed as she walked to spare much though for the alcohol. Slinking around the bed Cindy undid the jersey one button at a time, pausing on the last of them until she was sure she had his full attention. When his roaming gaze finally settled on her hands she began slowly sliding the jersey to the floor with Harry's eyes following it all the way down and admiring every inch of her slim, athletic figure as it was exposed. His eyes continued to follow her as she slipped beneath the green and silver sheets to lounge contentedly on her side, watching him patiently in return.
Her hair, he noticed, seemed longer than he remembered. That afternoon it has been fairly short, not reaching past her shoulders, and he had the vague thought that it ought to be comically frazzled for some reason. Instead it reached past her hips, straight and silky, and at some point she must have decided to colour charm it because what had once been blonde hair was now a royal purple. She dragged one finger slowly up his chest and he focused instead on the smooth skin of her face and her entrancing hazel eyes. Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips, tempting him to move closer and taste them with his own.
"What are you waiting for?" She asked. When he began to roll towards her she pulled away. Lying back on the bed Cindy stretched, arching her back enticingly, and his eyes were drawn to where her stiff nipples dimpled the sheet. She moaned and his gaze slid again to her lips. "Take a drink."
Frowning, Harry nonetheless obediently propped himself up against the head board and turned to the forgotten bottle. He took it in his left hand and began to twist open the cap with his right but then he paused, some niggling discomfort prompting him to put the bottle back down unopened. "I think I've had enough. I can barely remember what happened yesterday, anymore and I may start calling myself Merlin and try to start a house-elf rebellion."
Turning back towards her Harry found that she was again lying on her side and he reached out and cupped her face with his left hand, his heart skipping a beat as she then sucked his thumb into her mouth, her tongue swirling around it for a moment before she let the wet digit slide free.
"Don't be ridiculous," she murmured, taking his hand in her own before kissing his palm and then guiding his hand back to the firewhiskey. "You remember everything."
And suddenly he did. The darklord had died when the ritual was interrupted early leaving little more than a puddle of blood and liquified flesh. Harry had watched in morbid disgust as Howard literally stopped to tap dance in the remains, blood soaking into his pants almost up to the knees by the time he was done. The crazy auror had been laughing while he did it. Then Cindy...
Coming back to the present he found himself leaning against the headboard again with the bottle in his hand, raised before him and the cap somehow removed though he didn't remember doing so. He stopped himself with the opening to his lips and instead lifted the bottle up and took a closer look at what he was about to swallow.
The label clearly declared the contents to be Hagrid's Finest Firewhiskey in large block letters written above the picture of a blast ended skrewt with fire spewing out of its arse. The liquid inside was the right shade of amber for the beverage but as he peered into its depths Harry realized for the first time that there were coiled flames roiling throughout it and before his eyes the fire changed colour, the flames becoming instead a strange sickly green ribbon of light that reminded him uncomfortably of the killing curse.
"I think there's something wrong with it." He muttered, the idea of drinking it unsettling. If he drank the firewhiskey he was sure he'd regret it but if he didn't... he shook his head and looked over at Cindy, wondering where he'd gotten the idea that having her and drinking the firewhiskey were somehow inexorably linked.
"Come on Harry," Cindy murmured and he felt her skin sliding across his own as she wrapped herself around him. She leaned close, lips brushing his ear as she purred to him, "Take a drink and I'll show you such a good time. "
Her tongue slid along the shell of his ear and he shivered from the sensation even as a voice in the back of his mind began shouting at him that something was wrong, demanding that he pay attention. Looking down at where her hand was pressed against his chest he found himself wondering about her nails. It took him a moment to figure out why he had focused on them, to understand that they were too long, far too sharp, and painted a very disturbing black colour that seemed very out of character. He looked back to the bottle of firewhiskey and felt his resolve harden. "No. No, I really think I'd rather not."
His head split open and he cried out in agony. He wondered briefly if there were a miniature herd of hippogriffs rampaging through his skull but then he noticed for the first time that Cindy's bedroom didn't have any walls. It ought to have walls he realized, and a ceiling for that matter. One after another all the discrepancies that his mind had somehow ignored began to jump out at him. He became aware that the ground on which the bed sat was a flat rocky plateau and that above him was only a swirling miasma of grey and green smoke. Instead of the sun or moon a black city hovered ominously in the sky, suspended atop a barren island far off in the distance. The city was cold and foreboding, projecting an impression of ominous intent and yet he felt the sudden urge to be there, in that place. He knew it was important somehow that he go to it. Cindy clutched at his shoulder with clawed hands trying to draw his attention back to her but he knew then that whatever was in bed with him it wasn't really Cindy. Cindy was in New York and Harry...
He shook off the creature violently, not turning back to see what it truly looked like. Standing up he felt his dragon-hide robes materialize around him, settling on his shoulders like armour, and his wand appear, vibrating with power in the grip of his right hand. He could sense the creature's influence reaching to pull him back under its spell but it was futile - whatever it was it had caught him unaware, weak and unprepared, but with his will renewed its magic now battered ineffectually against his own. Harry could hear the creature scream at him with Cindy's voice but dismissed it as unimportant. He knew that he had to leave and he knew where he had to go. He turned with deliberation and, holding an image of the distant city firmly in his mind, punched a hole in reality and forced himself through it.
Harry woke up in the guest quarters at Redcliffe Castle with the sun streaming through the small windows and his heart pounding in his chest.
The journal lay innocently on the table while Harry sat slumped in his chair, wondering what to do about the vile thing. The wraiths, as it turned out, were the proverbial foot in the dimensional doorway and the rest of the ritual was all about taking the crack they formed and forcing that door wide open. They weren't there to provide power, he'd gotten that all wrong - they were there because the very fabric of reality destabilized when they were created. Finding a substitute for a magical power source had been plausible. Finding another way to destabilize reality? Harry suspected that was far beyond his capabilities but unless he figured it out the rest of the ritual was useless to him and the contents of the journal were nothing but malevolent temptation. Of course that was only his first problem.
Looking down at the second book, this one open in his lap, Harry scrutinized again the only other useful resource he'd acquired from the dark lord, "A Treatise on Dimensional Realities". There were two authors credited and both of them had come as a bit of a surprise. Emblazoned below the title was the name Gerald Tobias Grindewald and Harry had immediately wondered if there was any relation to Gellert Grindewald, the most prolific mass murdering wizard of the modern era. Gerald had been credited posthumously and the second author Priscilla Prewett had apparently taken it upon herself to publish the work in 1578, sometime after Gerald's death.
Flipping the book to the fifth chapter Harry tried to understand Grindewald's obvious enthusiasm. A world without oxygen? Giant amoebas? Grindewald briefly mentioned that two of his assistants had died investigating that particular dimension. The first hadn't gotten a bubble head charm up fast enough and had suffocated while the second had become dinner for one of the natives. The casual dismissal of both their lives as unimportant made it clear why this particular book had never landed on the shelves of Flourish and Blotts.
Harry flipped to the next chapter. This one described a dimension ruled by some kind of vampire-like creature on a world where humans existed but were treated like cattle. Three more assistants had been lost there. He flipped ahead again and found himself reading about a world that had paralleled Earth exactly until the time of Merlin at which point alien parasites had invaded and taken over. One assistant had apparently gone through the portal, had a slug crawl into her brain, and tried to come back and conquer yet another Earth. Grindewald had been thrilled. The assistant, Harry imagined, had probably been less so.
It kept going like that. A dimension that was a barren wasteland without any signs of life was followed by a dimension from which an entire group of assistants he'd sent through returned completely and utterly mad and babbling about tentacles. There was a dimension filled with nothing but dementors and there was another one where the world was an endless dessert inhabited by giant worms that moved fluidly beneath the sandy terrain. Grindewald had devoted hundreds of pages to dozens of dimensions that he'd studied and every one of them was worse than the last. He also provided all the necessary information to target each and every one of the discussed dimensions, just in case the reader was feeling a bit suicidal and needed some help offing themselves.
What Grindewald didn't do was write about how to actually create a doorway between dimensions. He claimed that there were dozens of viable methods and Harry felt he could assume that at least one of them didn't involve creating monsters. Unfortunately, in the same paragraph, Grindewald indicated that it was delicate work and insisted that it should be left to the professionals. Grindewald also didn't once write about his own dimension, which also happened to be Harry's dimension. Not including instructions on how to target home in the event that you were stranded on the wrong side of reality was,in Harry's opinion, more than a little bit short sighted.
Still, Thedas might be strange but at least he could breath the air. Harry had yet to run into any giant amoebas or mutated vampires and so far most of the inhabitants seemed fairly sane so he doubted he had any imminent worries on those fronts either. If the world became overrun by darkspawn it might become a less hospitable place but Leliana had told him that they'd been driven off before and there was no reason to think that the darkspawn couldn't be dealt with again. Regardless, until he could figure out a substitute for the wraiths and a way to target his home dimension he wasn't going anywhere.
Flipping to the afterword Harry immediately noticed the change in writing style and he suspected he was now reading the work of Priscilla Prewett. The afterword described how Grindewald had found a dimension where magic was somehow more powerful and thought it so ripe with potential that he had insisted on exploring it himself. She then claimed there was some kind of accident with the portal and that Grindewald had subsequently been stranded on the wrong side and that none of his remaining helpers had the knowledge or power required to reopen the doorway. It sounded to Harry like some enterprising assistant had simply wanted to increase their life expectancy and shut the thing down on purpose and if so Harry very much applauded their initiative.
Harry, on a whim, reached into his main library pocket and tried desperately to imagine a book on dimensional rituals. A heartbeat later a thin, hardcover book materialized in his hand but when he pulled it out and looked at the cover he was unsurprised at the unhelpful title, "How To Get Lost And What To Do When You Get There, second edition." He dropped it on the table and tried again and this time he found himself with a well read copy of the third year standard book of spells. If Harry had known at the time that the robes he'd bought were illiterate he might have found a better way to organize his collection than by dumping the entire thing in a single pocket.
Feeling a bit depressed, Harry shoved the two books back into his robes, but in a different pocket this time. He used one that was either fairly empty or half filled with camping supplies but either way it wasn't the library pocket, which he suspected he'd be working his way through, bit by bit, in the hopes of finding something helpful to his present circumstances. Harry cleaned up the rest of his research, checked to make sure he hadn't left anything lying about, and left his room in search of some sort of sustenance that didn't come in a sealed wrapper.
The kitchens took him a bit of effort to find but a few servants had happily pointed him in the right direction and so he got there eventually. It had at first taken him by surprise how friendly everyone was being but he supposed that the word was out - Arl Eamon was recovering and it had been Harry and Leliana who had arrived with the cure.
They had been having a breakfast of granola bars and water that morning and making plans when Bann Teagan had come to share the news himself. He'd been joyous when he reached them and, after barging into Harry's room, had engulfed a surprised Leliana in a giant hug that had left Harry feeling vaguely irritated. Then the Bann had turned and given an equally exuberant hug to an even more surprised Harry which had just been awkward and uncomfortable with nothing vague about it. The Bann had gleefully informed them that his brother the Arl, as well as Eamon's wife, Isolde, would like to meet with them after mid-day to express their thanks and discuss recent events. He'd also mentioned something about rewarding the duo but Harry hadn't given it much thought. He suspected that the things he needed most were all far outside the Arl's reach.
Discarding thoughts of breakfast Harry glanced around the busy kitchen and tried focusing on his more imminent need for lunch. The kitchen was sizable and clearly intended for preparing entire banquets and he could make out where giant pots could be hung inside any of the half dozen oversized fireplaces. There were an equal number of giant brick ovens lining another wall and servants could be seen moving around from counter to counter chopping vegetables and filleting fish, preparations for a dinner fit for the reawakened Arl. He was glancing around the room to see if there was anyone that he could trouble for a spot of lunch when he felt a presence moving up unexpectedly behind him. Survival instincts kicked in and Harry spun, his wand dropping into his hand and a curse on his lips. He was a breath away from banishing the poor woman down the corridor when he recognized her from the previous evening. Standing before him, looking somewhat bemused, was the servant that Leliana had insisted would try to sneak into his room during the night.
She looked at his wand curiously, clearly unsure what to make of the polished rod before dismissing it and nodding to him politely. "May I help you my lord?"
Harry relaxed his stance and sheepishly hid the wand back up his sleeve. She watched as it disappeared but didn't question him on the oddity and Harry smiled at her gratefully. She smiled in return but hers was somewhat strained and he realized he hadn't yet answered her question. "I was just looking to get something for lunch."
Nodding she looked around the kitchen for a moment before heading towards a storage bin sitting on an unoccupied spot of counter and removed the lid to reveal a selection of cheeses. She pulled out a good sized orange wedge before placing it on a cutting board and grabbing a nearby knife. "Did you sleep well last night, my lord?"
Harry stifled his impulse towards a cursory reply when he noticed the sudden tension in her frame. She'd asked the question so very casually but there was something intently interested in the way she'd had glanced at him when she did so. Bloody Hell, Harry thought with realization. He'd been sure that Leliana was just teasing him the previous night. Rejection was one thing but being ignored stung far worse and if she really had shown up he'd undoubtedly slept right through her knocking on his door. Feeling no desire to hurt her feelings Harry chose his reply carefully. "I slept like the dead. I'd had a rough couple of days."
"Truly, my lord?" she asked and her posture relaxed slightly. She cut several more slices of cheese and placed the lot of them on a wooden plate grabbed hastily from a nearby cupboard.
"First, I could be wrong but I'm pretty sure only nobles get called 'lord'. Call me Harry," He told her as she grabbed a bowl of fresh fruit off a counter and selected a couple of apples and a handful of grapes to add to his plate. She was putting quite a bit more food on it than he expected he'd be able to eat, "And yes, I spent the night before last outside, waiting for something to show up and try to eat me. Not at all conducive to sound sleep."
"By the quality of your apparel and the Bann's good favour I had assumed - forgive me then Harry, my name is Erlina." She buttered several slices of bread and put them on a second plate. Pulling a pair of mugs out of another cupboard and setting everything on a tray she proceed to fill the mugs with some kind of white milk and Harry wondered briefly what animal it had come from. She then led him over to a small table in the corner, set the tray in the middle, and sat her self down in one of the available seats while looking at him expectantly. "May I join you?"
It looked like she already had but Harry didn't mind the company so he simply nodded to her and sat. He then picked up one of the slices of bread and laid several pieces of cheese over top of it before taking a bite. The bread was thick and fresh, the cheese slightly sharp, and the butter creamy. As lunches went it wasn't bad at all.
Erlinea smiled at his agreement and leaned forward over the table. "That does sound a horribly uncomfortable way to sleep Harry. It must have left you very stiff. I know how an uncomfortable night can leave one's muscles sore for days."
"I..." Harry stumbled over his words uncomfortably and floundered for a response. Her words were innocent but her tone was sly and suggestive and they'd caught him by surprise. Harry had the vague suspicion that she was about to offer her help in dealing with any lingering aches, probably in his room, and most likely with very limited clothing. Flustered he responded without thinking. "I was a bit but, you know, warm bath cleared it right up."
"But you did not take a bath. I offered to send for one and you refused." She frowned in thought and took a drink from her mug, pondering a moment before her eyes lit up as she drew some unintended meaning from his words. Whatever conclusion she'd come to led her to sit back and pop a grape into her mouth before giggling. All sense of seduction vanished from her in a moment and when she continued her voice carried only amusement. "I understand how it is now. I do not know why you hid it though - nobody here would have judged you."
Harry took a large bite of an apple to cover his confusion. She was right, she hadn't drawn him a bath, he'd just used his magic to conjure one up. A moment of pondering and he remembered that one bath had been drawn - it just hadn't been in Harry's room. He swallowed abruptly, realizing just what she thought had happened. He opened his mouth to refute the belief only for Erlina to switch topics.
"I'm sure you have been thanked many times but I would like to thank you as well Harry. You and your lady both. You have no idea what returning the Arl means to Redcliffe. He is a great man and the village has been through difficult times. We will all need his wisdom in the coming days."
"I did notice that everyone in the castle seems to think highly of him," Harry replied. Still feeling inclined to correct Erlina's assumption he then tried to continue. "But Lel..."
"You had not already heard of him? He is well known throughout most of Ferelden as a good and fair man. I suppose your accent is a bit strange. Perhaps you are not from Ferelden but instead fare from the Free Marches?" Erlina asked the question innocently and unknowingly steered the conversation into dangerous waters. Suddenly protecting Leliana's reputation seemed far less important. It probably didn't matter anyway. Given the way she'd giggled at Erlina's behaviour the previous night, if she found out Leliana would undoubtedly find the entire misunderstanding endlessly amusing.
"Something like that," Harry replied vaguely. He'd have to find a better answer to those kinds of questions for the future. Trying to explain to everyone he met that he was a traveller from a far off dimension was just asking for trouble and incredulity in equal measures. Unfortunately all he knew about the Free Marches was where to find them on Leliana's map.
"What an odd reply. If not here in Ferelden and not in the Free Marches then perhaps you were raised by the dwarves then for they speak the common tongue with much the same accent as we." She chuckled, obviously amused with the idea, "Is this your first time on the surface Harry? Have you spent your life looking up at a stone sky?"
While she was enjoying herself with the theory she was still looking at him speculatively and he suspected she was going to keep trying to ferret the truth from him. That was just bound to get awkward fast. Searching for a distraction he blurted out the first question that came to his mind.
"If I asked you about a black city, would that mean anything to you?" Harry asked before taking a drink of his milk. The city had seemed so real in his dream and it had continued to plague his thoughts throughout the day. He'd nearly asked Leliana about it over breakfast but had changed his mind when it occurred to him that she'd undoubtedly find a way to pry the details of the rest of the dream out of him.
"The black city?" The question came not from Erlina but from a cook who had been walking by. She was an older lady with greying hair and wore a brown apron covered in white powder, probably flour. It was also clear that she enjoyed sampling her own cooking. Her dishwater blond hair was mostly contained by a hat and her face was round and would probably appear warm and friendly when she wasn't frowning in consternation. "Maker, why would you ask a question like that?"
Harry looked between Erlina and the cook and realized that his simple question had garnered him an excessive amount of attention.
"I had a dream." Harry admitted and an instant later both Erlina and the cook were staring at him with wide eyes. Wondering what he'd said wrong Harry decided that the only way to go was forward. "I know it sounds ridiculous but I just can't get it out of my head. There was a black city floating on a rocky island. The sky was this smokey green colour and..."
"Why would you tell us this? Is this your idea of a joke? If so it is a horrible one," Erlina whispered.
"Maker watch over us. Look at his face Erlina. He's not making fun." Hearing the cook Harry began to suspect that he had just stepped in something that was probably going to stick to his boot for some time to come. "An ignorant child, that's what he is. He knows nothing of anything."
"Is this true Harry?" Erlina examined his expression before biting her lip. "How could you possibly have grown up not knowing the story of the black city?"
The cook appeared ready to crucify him and Erlina just looked stupefied. "If I knew what it was I wouldn't have asked. I'm sorry if I've upset you."
The cook looked around and seeing that no one was paying attention sat in one of the empty chairs. She leaned close over the table and spoke in a low voice. "The black city was first the golden city, the city of the Maker. The golden city was where He brought our souls to rest"
The cook watched him carefully for sign of recognition and when she saw none she continued. Erlina, her face now pale, simply listened. "Then the vile Imperium defiled it. They sought to make it theirs, to touch it with their unclean hands. For their crime we were all cursed and the defilers came back as the first of the darkspawn. The city has been blackened ever since."
"At least," Erlina murmered, "That's what the Chantry claims. They claim many things."
The cook scowled at her.
"It is the Maker's own truth," the cook insisted. Erlina let the comment go and focused on Harry.
"But if you have had such a dream then you are a mage Harry." Despite the milk Harry had just swallowed his mouth suddenly felt bone dry.
"I'm not a mage," Harry stated with a frown.
"If you have seen the city with your own eyes then you have walked the depths of the fade. This is where the black city is found," Erlina replied.
Fade. The cook's scowl deepened and it took Harry a minute to place the word. Leliana had mentioned it when he'd first suggested the idea that he was from a different dimension. He had to concentrate for a moment to remember her words.
"Two worlds, separated only by a thin veil," Harry whispered, "Bloody hell. It wasn't a dream was it?"
"No, Harry, it was not," Erlina replied. Where the cook had clearly developed an instant dislike for him Erlina seemed only concerned. "We all enter the fade unaware in our dreams, or so it is said, but only mages find themselves deep enough within its borders to be put in danger. If you had the dream you describe then you are a mage. There can be no doubt. But this, like the rest, you should already know."
"Beware, Mage. Beware. When you walk the fade the demons will walk it with you," the cook warned before standing back up, "If it weren't for your service to the Arl I'd already be searching for the nearest templar."
"Tilda! He has done nothing to deserve..." Erlina began only for the cook to shush at her with a frown. She considered Harry for a moment.
"If you are here in a week I will tell everyone what you are. Everyone will know that you are an apostate. We've had enough of demons at Redcliffe, we don't need more so begone with you."
With that Tilda left and Harry turned to Erlina. She sat quietly for a moment before looking down and beginning to gather the remains of their lunch. He barely remembered them eating it but at some point they'd polished off everything except for a couple of grapes.
"I don't know how your ignorance comes about or how far it extends but I can tell you this much, demons in the fade will try to tempt you into giving yourself over to them. If you don't wish to abide within the confines of the circle then seek out an apostate, they may be able to teach you how to protect your sleep." She said and then looked up, searching his eyes for some hidden fortitude. "Be strong, Harry the mage."
"Wizard," Harry stated, "I'm not a mage."
"I have never heard of a wizard." An uncomfortable silence hovered over them for a moment before Erlina broke it. "Are the two different?"
"I'd thought so," Harry replied. He now knew the truth, that Mages were at best tolerated, but clearly nearly always feared. He wondered what the templars were and what they would do if they got their hands on him.
Erlina nodded, though she clearly didn't understand. She stood up, the tray held in her hands, and asked, "When will you leave?"
"Tomorrow, I expect." Harry replied. Where Tilda had been hostile Erlina simply looked sad. She leaned forward and kissed him gently on the cheek.
"Fair well then wizard. May the Maker watch over you." She nodded to him before moving towards the counter with their tray. She stopped and looked back. "You should tell your lady of this if you have not already. She does not strike me as someone who would forsake you but she deserves to know of the danger."
Smiling sadly one last time she turned back to the counter and while her back was turned Harry fled the room with only one question burning in his mind.
If the creature pretending to be Cindy had been a demon, then just what in Merlin's name had been in the firewhiskey?
"Templars?" Harry asked and Leliana jumped away from the door she'd been closing and spun around with a dagger in her hand. Harry wondered briefly where it had come from, knowing she hadn't been holding it when she opened the door.
"Harry?" Leliana asked and the notice-me-not charm around the bench he was sitting on collapsed. After his enlightening conversation with Tilda and Erlina he had decided he ought to start practising his concealment spells – it was beginning to look like he was going to need them. Harry had spent some of his time while waiting for Leliana to get back pondering how hard it would be to establish his very own statute of secrecy. It might be a bit lonely on his own, but then again he could probably sell the idea to some of the local mages.
Of course he could always just go exploring. If the reach of the templars didn't extend beyond Thedas there might be an entire planet out there that they had never heard of them.
Relaxing, Leliana made the dagger disappear again before closing her door and letting her new backpack slip from her shoulder. She'd headed to the village that morning intending to replace her lost supplies while Harry had stayed behind to continue with his fruitless research.
"I think you left something out of your story last night," Harry mused from his seat, leaning against the wall, and she nodded hesitantly.
"It is a topic I have been unsure how to broach." She walked across the room and sat down beside him. "I knew it could not wait endlessly but last night - I did not wish to darken our evening."
"This is the real reason you thought I should keep my magic quiet isn't it?" Harry commented glumly.
"Most in Thedas believe that it is unsafe for mages to have too much freedom," she answered and Harry couldn't help but notice that Leliana had avoided giving her own opinion on the subject.
"They're scared of them."
"Yes, but not for what they can do." Leliana turned to sit sideways on the bench, facing him. "The true source of their fear is..."
"Let me guess," Harry interrupted wryly, "Some poor mage falls asleep and instead of dreaming properly finds himself in the fade. An enterprising demon notices, tries to play some head games, applies a little temptation, and if the demon has its way then when the mage wakes up... Well, I suppose he doesn't wake up at all, the demon does."
"I, well yes," Leliana fumbled, "but how did you..."
"Oh Leliana - I had the strangest dream last night," Harry drawled.
"The fade ... " she breathed, her eyes widening
"The fade. I'm pretty sure some demon tried to entice me into giving her a ride in more ways than one. But the way she did it, I had no idea what was going on." Harry frowned. "It would have been really useful to know that could happen beforehand."
"I am so sorry. I thought that if you were not truly a mage that you would be safe from... wait...she...ride?" Leliana eyed him speculatively. "How exactly did 'she' seek to entice you?"
"Right." Harry cleared his throat. "Now that I know what I'm up against I can deal with the demons. The part that worries me is these templars. What do they do to mages Leliana?"
Leliana grinned at his obvious avoidance. "I will have the truth of this from you."
Harry rolled his eyes, "Templars, Leliana?"
She sobered, and hesitated a moment and Harry knew he wasn't going to like the answer. "If captured apostates are cooperative they are forced to join the circle of magi. I suspect that those who resist are shown no such mercy."
"You did say they were the ones with the big magical library," Harry commented.
"Yes, but once you have joined they will never let you leave again unless on circle business and escorted by templars, they would certainly never help you return home," Leliana said and it was about what Harry had expected. It sounded like the circle was some sort of prison with the templars playing the part of wardens.
"But how to do the templars capture the mages?" Harry mused, "I can't imagine many of them come quietly."
"I do now know for sure, this is not something that is talked about but it is clear they have their methods." She took a deep breath. "Harry there is something else you should know."
"Please forgive me for I have been selfish," Leliana admitted solemnly, "Val Royeaux is the heart of the Chantry. This also makes it the heart of the templars. There is no place in Thedas more dangerous for an apostate and it would not be wise for you to accompany me there. I should have realized this sooner I just..."
Harry finished when she couldn't continue. "Didn't want to go alone?"
They sat in silence and Harry thought over their planned excursion, now equating it to walking right up to the headquarters of a group of magic-hating militants and practically knocking on their front door. It sounded like a clear violation of the Hogwarts motto to him. Watching Leliana's face he could tell that she was once again resigning herself to making the journey on her own but it wouldn't, he thought, be a safe journey for her either. He tried to imagine her in Orlais alone, with no one to watch her back, captured, tortured, and then buried in an unmarked grave for the crimes of her teacher and he felt his blood run cold. Not bloody likely.
"So when do we tickle the sleeping dragon?" he asked casually and Leliana's face instantly lit up, having caught his meaning. He grinned in return, some sayings didn't need an explanation.
"If someone here has threatened to set the templars on you then we should leave with all due haste. The Arl would protect you as much as he is able, we have earned that from him at the least, but it would be best if we were elsewhere should they come for you."
Leliana nodded. "But first, we still must meet with the Arl."
Harry had expected to be led to the main hall, so he was surprised when they were instead shown to the Arl's personal study on one of the upper floors. Like the rest of the rooms Harry had seen it favoured small glassless windows with wooden shutters but it made up for it with the wide open double doors which led out onto a terrace facing the lake. There were several occupied book shelves and a comfortable looking couch but what dominated the room was the large desk constructed of dark wood which, from the delicate scroll work carved into the legs and frame, had obviously been made by a master at their craft. Both the Arl and his wife sat behind the desk and upon entering Harry and Leliana had been offered the two chairs sitting opposite them. Teagan had remained standing, propped against the wall.
The meeting started off on a friendly note.
"I have been told that I have you both to thank for my recovery. Unfortunately my brother has told me little else about you except that one of you travelled with Marcus Cousland who has apparently become a grey warden. I am Arl Eamon Guerrin and this is my wife Isolde." The Arl and Arlessa turned to look at Harry expectantly and he found himself thinking that they were an oddly matched couple With silver hair and beard Eamon at first appeared older than he most likely was, with his strong bearing and only mildly age-lined skin Harry was fairly sure the man couldn't be any older the fifty. Isolde, he suspected, would normally look to be ten years his junior, but recent events had taken their toll. Her face was gaunt, her light brown hair was pulled back into a severe bun, and she also hadn't smiled once since they'd entered the study. She nodded to them when her name was given but didn't speak.
Harry waited, expecting Leliana to take over their end of the conversation, but she too turned to look at him, her expression slightly amused and one eyebrow raised as if to say 'what are you waiting for?'
He cleared his throat and replied awkwardly. "Harry Potter - and this is Leliana..."
Leliana had never actually told him her last name he realized. It made finishing the introduction somewhat awkward. Before he could say anything more he noticed that everyone else in the room was now looking at him with varying expressions of confusion.
"A Potter? Truly?" Arl Eamon Guerrin questioned, frowning at Bann Teagan, "My brother indicated that he believed you to be a scholar,"
The Bann shrugged in reply, wearing his own look of general befuddlement.
"But it is perhaps somewhat appropriate that a potter would bring to us the urn." Arlessa Isolde pointed out to her husband and Harry realized the cause of the confusion. "A humble vessel carried by a humble petitioner,"
"I'm sorry," Harry interrupted, "Potter is just my family name, not my profession."
It quickly became clear that no one knew what to make of that statement either. Maybe, he thought, the reason Leliana had never used her last name was because she didn't have one.
"How strange." Isolde commented when the silence had drawn on too long and she then turned to Leliana. "And you Leliana? What brings you so far from home?"
Isolde had clearly come from Orlais as well, her words carried an accent similar to Leliana's but had been diluted by many years spent living in Ferelden.
"Like you, Arlessa, I have chosen to make Fereldan my home. I may have spent my childhood in Orlais but it was from Fereldan that my mother came and it seemed only fitting to return here."
"And what of you, Potter who is not a potter?" The Arl asked. Harry mused that getting thanked by the Arl was beginning to feel an awful lot like an interrogation. "There is no noble family with such a name in all of Fereldan, do you come to us from the Free Marches?"
"I'm not a noble," Harry briefly wondered why everyone was so interested in where he came from. "I'm just a man who took his father's name."
"And one who clearly does not like to answer questions." Bann Teagan mumbled with a grin but everyone heard him clearly.
"Enough." The Arlessa interrupted sharply before looking first Harry and then Leliana in the eyes. "Please, tell us how you came to be here with the urn when it was the warden who promised it to us."
So Leliana told them an abridged tale of her journey. She told them of her travels with the warden from Redcliffe to Denerim to Haven and then on to the tomb of Andraste, and then she told of the warden's betrayal and his intention to desecrate the ashes. This, unfortunately, was where her tale fell apart. Despite her attempts to gloss over Harry's arrival and how it was that they had escaped with the urn and made there way to Redcliffe it was clear that the listeners were dissatisfied.
"A scholar appeared in a hidden tomb, rescued you unarmed, and then you both somehow escaped a deadly swordsman, a qunari warrior, and a witch?" Leliana flinched at the Arl's admonishment and Isolde placed her hand on his arm.
"Does it matter husband how they came to be here? They brought you back to me, surely that is all that is important."
The Arl shook his head and stared at Leliana. She stared right back, unflinching. His voice when he spoke again had become cold and threatening. "There are other factors of import. Perhaps they retrieved the ashes by murdering the warden and his companions and made their way here to claim a reward. What of Alistair, Leliana? Is he dead?"
"She hasn't lied to you." Harry spoke calmly and Eamon redirected his ire.
"And how then did a scholar find himself in the depths of a tomb lost for centuries at the moment of her execution?" Eamon demanded, truly angry now he slammed one fist onto his desk.
Why the Arl was so invested in this Harry couldn't imagine. The warden had callously killed the man's son so even if Harry and Leliana had truly conspired to murder the warden there was no reason for the Arl to do anything but applaud. Regardless, there was clearly only one way out of this scenario which didn't involve submitting to the man's dungeons or slaughtering half of his guards.
"Magic," Harry stated, relaxing into his chair, "And I never said I was a scholar."
Leliana turned to him in shock and he looked back and shrugged. "What?"
"Harry..." She began but he interrupted her.
"He was half way ready to lock you in the dungeon and you told me earlier that he owed us too much to call the templars on us," Harry responded before turning back to the nobles, "I'm not a scholar, I'm a wizard."
"A mage?" the Arlessa asked, her voice tense.
"Not exactly," Harry responded. If people lumped him in with the mages they were probably more likely to summon the nearest templar. Better for him to be an unknown variable than a known threat. "My magic seems to work differently. Where I'm from there are no mages, just wizards."
When no one interrupted him Harry continued. "I arrived by magical accident in the tomb about two feet from the edge of a bottomless pit and I had no idea where I was. When I found Leliana..."
Harry shook his head as he recalled the events.
"Even after she was disarmed she wouldn't hand over the ashes." Harry looked the Arl in the eye, hoping the man could see the truth in his gaze. "She was praying when the warden tried to kill her. I didn't know what I had walked into the middle of but I couldn't stand by and do nothing."
Leliana giggled breaking the somber mood. "What was it you asked after you had relieved him of his sword? Whom you should eviscerate first?"
"Too much?" Harry asked
"No, it was perfect. Not one of us knew what to make of you and you stood there, unarmed, arrogantly implying that you could kill every last one of us if we didn't give you reason not to," she smiled at the memory, "Of course not one of us believed you could do so."
"I was only trying to threaten them - it was clear you were the innocent victim. Even so I may have bitten off a bit more than I could chew," he admitted sheepishly.
"And yet you felled all but the witch and her I dealt with myself. Two great warriors, and a Mabari hound bested by one man, it is something to be proud of." The warmth in her eyes brought a flush to his cheeks.
"Tell us more," the Arl demanded, still appearing sceptical but no longer on the edge of calling the guards.
In answer Leliana launched back into a more detailed retelling of events after Harry's arrival. She told of the fight as she witnessed it from the top of the steps. She talked about Harry's disfigurement of Sten's sword as if it had been an intentionally clever tactic and she described how he had sacrificed himself to the witch's spell to bludgeon the warden before he could take Leliana's life. The way she told it seemed far more heroic than Harry recalled but her listeners quickly became fascinated so he didn't try to correct her.
Then she told them of his fight with the dragon.
"It is the truth. Unaided he beat the high dragon into unconsciousness with magic the likes of which I had never even imagined. I have no doubt that had he not been exhausted he could have finished the beast himself but instead he spirited us away while the monster tried to free itself from the ground, its wings useless and its sight stolen from it."
"When you say spirited..." Teagan ventured. Leliana paused and Harry wondered if she'd tell them of the apparition and the dark night that followed.
After an internal debate she chose another response. "He has a broom. And it flies."
Silence followed her pronouncement.
"Of course he does." Isolde finally said, laughing and smiling for the first time since Harry had seen her.
The nobles had been surprisingly accepting of Leliana's revised tale but Harry still found himself proving some of her claims to them. He'd conjured a kitten right on the Arl's desk to illustrate how he'd created the lions and everyone had been suitably impressed, but it was when Harry pulled the firebolt from his pocket and sat it hovering in mid air that any lingering doubt had vanished. The Arl for some reason continued to be very interested in the warden that Harry had yet to meet, Alistair, but Leliana had insisted that he was unharmed last she saw him and that the two wardens would undoubtedly still be travelling together.
"I am in your debt." The Arl later told them. "Both of you will always be welcome guests within these halls. But tell me, is there anything more that I can do for you?"
Harry and Leliana shared a glance before Leliana replied, "Only to allow us to travel on to Val Royeaux with the urn. I feel it is my duty to see it to safety and Harry has graciously agreed to aid me in this."
"I do not intend to interfere with your task," the Arl acknowledged leaning forward, "But surely there is some other way I can repay you. I owe you my life."
"Arl Eamon," Harry replied after careful thought, "I am stranded in a world that is not my own. I have no home, and few friends."
Harry glanced at Leliana who was watching him intently.
"If there is anything I truly need it will most likely be a place to come back to," he continued looking into the Arl's eyes.
The Arl looked surprised for a second but then his expression resolved and he stood slowly. Harry briefly wondered if he'd violated some local custom. Eamon walked around the desk and Harry and Leliana had to rise as well to meet him. When Harry found himself facing the Arl without the obstruction of the desk he couldn't help but note the somewhat satisfied look on his face. Eamon reached forward and placed one hand on Harry's shoulder. "I have already told you that you are welcome here but if what you need most is safe harbour then, I give my word, you will have it at Redcliffe castle."
Eamon released Harry's shoulder and from the pleased grin on Leliana's face Harry figured he'd just done something right. The Arl turned again to Leliana. "And what of you Leliana? You have not yet requested anything which is not already yours."
"I suspect," Leliana glanced at Harry, "that if Harry seeks shelter here that I will be seeking it with him. For the moment our paths are joined together."
"Ah," the Arl looked between them slyly, "then the talk amongst the servants isn't entirely idle. I understand."
Leliana's eyes widened briefly in confusion but she quickly gained control of her expression.
"Now. I understand that preparations have been underway since mid-day for a veritable feast," the Arl continued, "I am told I haven't had a proper meal in well over a month so I am very much looking forward to it. We can speak more of your plans over dinner."
"It sounds wonderful," Leliana replied and like that the decision was made. They would be delaying their departure until the following day.
As they were leaving the study Leliana leaned towards him and asked quietly, "Harry, why would the servants believe..."
Harry shook his head. "Not a clue."
"So anyone wearing a mask is a noble?" Harry questioned. They had kept up a steady stream of conversation for most of the trip as Leliana tried to prepare him for the intricacies of Orlesian society. She had described the constant game of one-upmanship among the nobles, an often deadly tug-of-war where they fought with Machiavellian plots over power and influence simply for the sake of having it. She had also described to him the 'chevaliers' – an order of Orlesian knights that claimed to prize their honour over all else. It had sounded to Harry a somewhat dubious sort of honour that allowed them free rein to abuse the peasantry however they wished, a supposed privilege of their status.
"Not always," she answered and despite the wind blowing past them he was sure he could feel her breath brushing across his ear. It was surprising how intimate a conversation held several hundred feet in the air on a flying broom could be. "The servants of nobles often wear masks as well – a lesser version of that worn by their master or mistress so those who see them may know whom they serve. I should warn you, many of them are in extremely poor taste."
"Ah, so I take it I should try not to laugh at the poor sods wearing the worst examples,"
"While it is true that some are difficult to not ridicule, this is not the sort of mask I was remembering. Once, there was a noble who decided to style his mask after a Hurlock believing he would then intimidate all those who saw him with his fierce and terrifying guise. But alas, his craftsman did his work too well, and when two of his loyal servants made the mistake of wearing their own matching masks after nightfall they found themselves slain by drunken chevaliers who mistook them for darkspawn. It was all that anyone talked about for a month."
"So did you ever have to..." Harry began.
"On several occasions. Imitating the mask of a noble can make for a convenient disguise," Leliana answered, "One must however be very careful not to get caught when doing so. The response to such an affront can often be unpleasant."
"Ah. Pisses them right off. Got it." Harry nodded. "Either way it shouldn't come up. I have my own means of sneaking around that seem to work for me."
When Harry didn't elaborate Leliana slipped one hand under his robes and then poked him in his side. Harry did his best not to flinch in response and send them twenty degrees off course. "You cannot finish there. What secret wizard ways do you have of disguising yourself? Or perhaps you simply turn yourself invisible and walk past those who would seek to obstruct you."
"Closer to the second one actually. The first takes a potion and I couldn't bring any with me. Too volatile for storage in my pockets," Harry admitted. There was a beat of silence behind him.
"You understand that you will be demonstrating this talent to me in Orlais. Or... is this how you surprised me in my room yesterday? I was so sure it was empty when I opened the door but then you were just there as if you had always been."
"No, that was something different. I charmed the bench with a..." Harry began but Leliana suddenly leaned around him and pointed at something ahead on the road they were following.
Their journey had taken them north around the top of the frostback mountains and from there they had turned to follow a road leading west and slightly south parallel to what Leliana had called the Waking Sea. The area they were travelling through, while now part of Orlais, had once been called the dales and was made up mostly of grasslands and wooded areas. Harry had been surprised when Leliana told him that the dales had all once belonged to the elves before Orlesian troops had conquered them and annexed their lands, something Harry had found disappointing for more than one reason. He suspected that he'd have enjoyed experiencing a true house elf city and his musings on the idea had led him to imagine a sturdily built village of identical pristine houses, each exactly half the size it ought to be.
They'd seen little sign of habitation on the main road except for the occasional group of travellers and what Leliana was pointing out to him at first appeared to be another such group. Slowing the broom as they approached he could make out a horse drawn wagon pulled off the road and dragged to the top of a shallow hill. There was a small gathering of people huddled near it and a troop of perhaps two dozen armoured soldiers surrounding the hilltop. Bodies littered the ground around the soldiers and shapes continually emerged from the nearby woods to rush up the hill only to be cut down as well with little effort from the defenders.
"Darkspawn!" Leliana hissed in his ear and he realized she was right.
"I thought we left that trouble behind in Ferelden," Harry grumbled.
"They are gathering in great numbers in Ferelden but the darkspawn may appear anywhere, there is nowhere they cannot reach from the deeper roads." She replied.
"It doesn't look like they need our help," Harry said only for Leliana to point again but now further into the woods.
"There, amongst the trees, there are more of them" she stated.
He saw it then, the flickering of far off forms glimpsed between leaves and branches, the occasional group of trees shaken from the thunder of feet pounding on the ground below. "Any idea how many?"
"I do not know but... I would guess there to be at least a hundred. Harry, I have seen what you are capable of and your presence may turn the tide of battle. We cannot leave them to be slaughtered," she pleaded.
"Me? What about that bow of yours?" he smirked, "You may want to hold on tighter."
"Why would I wish to..." Leliana began only for her to squeal when he accelerated rapidly towards the group. Leliana's arms held on to him like a vise but after she got over her surprise she began laughing for the sheer joy of it and Harry made a note to show her what the firebolt could really do after they were done with this little distraction. He approached the ground almost vertically and at a breakneck pace, pulling up at the last possible second. His landing was time so that he set down in an unobserved spot near the back of the wagon while everyone was staring either outwards or towards the woods where the latest batch of darkspawn was approaching from. Both Harry and Leliana were on the ground with the broom hidden in Harry's pocket before anyone could notice their presence.
The main defenders were a group of twenty armoured men and women, each of them wearing matching plate mail with oversized shoulder plates and wielding a sword and shield. Three men in chain-mail had joined the defensive circle, also armed with swords and shields but their equipment was clearly of lesser quality. Huddled near the wagon were a middle aged couple, well dressed and in decent shape but clearly not prepared to defend themselves and there was also a pair of shackled figures kneeling on the ground, slumped against one large wagon wheel. The first of the prisoners was a plainly clothed man who looked blankly towards the darkspawn, seemingly unconcerned about their arrival, but it was the second of the prisoners that captured Harry's attention.
Even hidden beneath the light blue robes it was clear the prisoner was thin, almost unhealthily so, and her features were so delicate that they sat on the border somewhere between alluring and alien. Her long hair was so pale it was nearly white and standing up she probably wouldn't top five feet in height and while Harry couldn't tell her age he doubted she was any older than twenty. When she noticed their presence she looked up, her eyes narrowed in suspicion, and it was then that Harry finally saw her ears, oddly tall and pointy, and he briefly wondered if she was the victim of a badly brewed potion.
The sound of steel ringing against steel filled the air. Harry turned to watch as the darkspawn were again cut down by the soldiers and found himself impressed at their discipline and skill. When more darkspawn failed to emerge from the woods some of the soldiers began to relax their formation and a pair of them left the circle completely to turn and approach the group in the middle. Now able to see the front of their armour Harry took careful note of the symbol embossed in the centre of their breast plates, a burning sword standing upright, and wondered what it meant.
"Merde," Leliana whispered, "Templars."
One of the two templars approaching was a tall woman and when she removed her helm it revealed hair the colour of burnished copper and cut so that it was barely more than an inch long. Her face, Harry decided, had a severity about it that suggested she was not a person fond of whimsy or disobedience. The man beside her seemed plain, though powerfully built, and the pair made a daunting impression. Several of the soldiers guarding the perimeter turned to watch, all of them looking surprised at the unexpected company.
The woman shouted something at Harry and Leliana in rapid french as she approached but her words were beyond Harry's ability to decipher. All he knew was that she sounded suspicious and angry which was not a good combination in any language. Leliana answered the her in french as well and then the templar growled back something in reply before turning to Harry, apparently waiting for him to respond.
"Harry," Leliana said quietly, "She wishes to know who we are and how we got here. I have told her we saw they were under attack and came to help but she does not believe me."
"Did you mention that we're about to have more than a hundred more darkspawn come down on our heads?" Harry responded.
"No. She did not mention additional darkspawn," The templar replied in a deep accented growl. Her English was perfect but spoken with a heavy french accent.. "Explain."
"We observed them as we approached, deeper in the woods and coming this way. I suspect they will be here shortly and they will not be so easily fought as those you have already slain. We could have continued but thought to come to your aid." Leliana stated and the woman snorted.
"If there are as many as you say then we are already dead. " She looked them up and down, eyeing Leliana's bow speculatively but dismissing Harry quickly. "Nevertheless archer, we can at least take many of them with us when we die. You will find the best vantage on top of the wagon."
The templar looked Harry over one last time and shook her head in disgust. "Can you handle a sword scholar?"
Harry shook his head. "I'm sorry. Not with anything resembling skill."
"Then you should not have allowed your escort to convince you to stop. Make your peace with the Maker and I suggest you do not let the darkspawn take you alive," she turned and moved back to check on her troops, the second templar following at her side.
"You should let them go," he called out and the woman he'd decided must be the leader turned back to him with a frown. "If you're a templar then your captives are mages. Their help against the darkspawn could make all the difference."
"The man is untrained and useless," she growled in response, "the elven apostate killed two templars when we were apprehending her. I will see her hanged for that crime and she knows it – I would no sooner trust her at my back than I would a blood mage."
She then turned and continued to walk towards her soldiers.
"Did she say... elf?" Harry asked, turning to look back at the chained woman. The mage returned his gaze with challenge and he began to suspect that was how she responded to everything.
"Yes," Leliana ventured in reply.
"She's not an elf."
"Of course she is,"
"Huh. Where I'm from elves are tiny with big floppy ears and they love to clean things. Their preferred form of clothing is a tailored tea towel." Harry mused.
"I would not let an elf hear you say so," Leliana commented and Harry nodded in agreement. "If we defeat the darkspawn the templars will not let you leave, not once they know you for what you are."
Harry waved his hand negligently, "I've got a plan. Go ahead and set up on the wagon before she gets crusty."
"Very well. But if I must sneak into the Circle of Mages to rescue you I will not be well pleased," Leliana warned.
The wagon was fully enclosed with a flat, solid, wooden roof that was most likely meant for additional storage and she was easily able to climb atop it. The pair of horses that pulled it had been hobbled to keep them from running off but to be safe Harry cast a pair of petrification curses at them, timing it so the brief flash of light was unnoticeable to the soldiers now waiting while anxiously staring out into the woods. He hadn't gone completely unobserved though, the elven mage having seen his spells and there was a look of dawning realization on her face. Harry winked at in acknowledgement and then turned his focus towards trying to figure out how to prepare for an attack by a small army of homicidal monsters in the little time he had remaining. The first order of business, he decided, was to come up with a plan. Leliana might get upset with him if she found out he'd been lying through his teeth.
Most of the dead darkspawn were on the side of the hill closest to the woods and while some of the soldiers were spread out covering the flanks most of them were arrayed in a line along the main avenue of approach. Some suitable obstacle might slow the darkspawn down and make them easier to kill and it fortunately looked like they didn't have the restraint to circle the hill and attack from all directions. Looking around at what he had to work with the promised plan began to come together in his head, though whether he had time to implement it or not he wasn't so sure. Best to get started then, he decided.
"Excuse me," Harry said approaching the templar leader and she turned and looked askance at him. He found himself admitting that while not beautiful in the typical sense of the word her features were certainly striking when she wasn't scowling or frowning - her nose was a little too long for her face and made her look slightly hawkish but it did give her character. She was almost half a foot taller than him and if she walked around wearing suits of armour all the time he could only speculate that she was probably made of pure muscle.
"What do you want scholar," she asked impatiently. The man she had been conferring with muttered something in french and she smirked.
"First, not a scholar, which is good. If I were a scholar I probably wouldn't be about to save your life." Harry wondered briefly if he should start disillusioning his glasses just to get a little respect around Thedas. Then again, he wasn't sure if disillusioned glasses would still work right. Something to experiment with at another time.
The templar blinked several times and he wondered for a moment if her English wasn't as good as he'd thought it was. When she finally appeared to have made sense of his words she laughed, short and abrupt, before finally responding.
"And how is it that you plan to do this?" she asked incredulously. Harry supposed her scepticism was justifiable and chose not to take offence.
"I'm a wizard. Which means I do magic," her eyes widened and her arm began to reach for her sword, "magic which I can use to save all our lives if you don't go off your trolley."
She hesitated and he carried on, figuring he might be making headway.
"So if you wouldn't mind, I was hoping you could just tell your friends to let me go about my work without stabbing me in the back. Or the front for that matter," Harry ventured. She let her hand drop and paused in consideration, before finally issuing a long statement in french to her soldiers. Some turned to look at him uncomfortably, a few nodded their heads, but the only members of the defenders who actually looked happy at whatever she'd said were the men dressed in chain mail. Harry suspected they'd been travelling with the wagon and not with the templars, probably mercenary guards of some kind.
When no one moved to do anything and the templar leader just stood staring at him Harry decided to take her inaction as an agreement. He nodded to her, walked past the perimeter, and then continued down the hill about thirty feet in the direction of the woods. Then, wand out, he began laying down the first of his magical defences. The templars watched as he walked a semi circle around the hill waving his wand in the air and chanting under his breath and he heard a few of them begin to laugh at his antics. Better they think him a fraud than a threat he supposed but he knew they'd re-evaluate that opinion when he put down the next layer.
Finished with the first set of traps he lifted his wand and drew a rune in the air that burned with purple fire. Then with a final sharp prod of his wand the rune shot down and etched itself into the ground. Behind him all sounds of jocularity had vanished and Harry mentally patted himself on the back for his accomplishment - he'd made believers of the small army of magic-hating bigots gathered behind him with sharp pointy swords. Bloody brilliant. Harry continued with his work and drew three more of the runes and sent each of them into the earth so that they roughly defined a rectangle after which he incanted a final charm aimed at the centre of that space and watched as it slowly filled with a faintly visible golden mist. The runes holding the fog in place faded from view and nodding in satisfaction Harry moved on to do it again and then again after that. He continued like that until the entire area along one side of the hill was filled with that faintly glowing mist almost all the way back to where the now nervous templars stood watching.
When Harry was finished the templars' leader peered suspiciously at the golden fog. "What will this accomplish mage?"
"Wizard," Harry corrected, "Step into it and find out."
She turned on him, "Do you truly think I can be trapped so easily."
With a sigh Harry shook his head and then stepped into the mist himself. Standing in the fog he raised a challenging eyebrow at her and he didn't have to wait long before she felt compelled to finally walk into the mist beside him. When she crossed the boundary she stumbled, her world turning on her and Harry knew exactly how she felt. She was hanging from the ground with her feet, the sky below threatening to pull her from the earth towards an endless fall to her death, and Harry watched as she collapsed, her hands digging desperately into the dirt. Grabbing her arm, Harry stepped out of the mist while dragging her with him and it was no easy task as the armour really did weigh a ton. When they emerged he couldn't help but notice that several templars had inched closer and that they all had their naked swords in their hands and angry looks in their eyes. He suspected that they might have attacked him then if their leader hadn't motioned for them to return to their positions.
"What sorcery was that?" she asked calmly and Harry was impressed by how quickly she had regained both her feet and her composure.
"Confuses your inner ear," he offered and when it was clear that explanation hadn't been sufficient he continued. "It makes your mind think that up is down and down is up but its all in your head. If you're ready for it you can ignore it. I figure any darkspawn that comes through that mist should be worthless in a fight. Keep your templars right at the edge of it so they can attack the darkspawn while they're still in the fog."
She nodded hesitantly and he turned to his next task, assuming she'd follow through with his suggestion. Looking around at the dozens of darkspawn corpses he had to work with he started levitating their weapons away from their bodies and into a pile in front of him. In the distance the cries of the darkspawn could be heard getting closer and he did his best to hurry. There wasn't much time left.
After he was finished he climbed up onto the wagon with Leliana. When he stood beside her she reached out and briefly squeezed his hand. "I had thought for a moment that she would attack you and be done with it."
"You'd have shot her before she could pull her sword," he replied. When she didn't respond he turned to her, "You would have shot her, right?"
"Perhaps," she answered playfully before sobering, "I suspect there is a weak spot in the armpit. The first arrow would have gone there while she was drawing her sword. I would, however, not have enjoyed doing so – she is a servant of the Maker in her own way."
Looking down at the still chained mages he found it hard to care what reasons the templars thought they had. The elf gazed back at him beseechingly and he nodded to her ever so slightly. Her eyes closed briefly in relief and then she nodded back. The first of the darkspawn broke the forest boundary then and he looked up briefly to watch them turn towards the hill. Unconcerned with the attack Harry then knelt and began inscribing tiny runes near the end of each of the wooden planks that made up the roof. He started working his way down one side, a set of five runes for each board, each one meticulously cast.
"Harry what are you doing?" Leliana hissed, her bow raised and an arrow knocked, "they are upon us."
"I'm putting together our exit strategy," he responded, continuing his work.
Spotting their prey the darkspawns' bestial cries filled the air and they poured forth from between the trees. Harry continued to inscribe while keeping one eye on his work and one eye on his enemies.
The first of the darkspawn shouted and growled right up until a troop of at least ten genlocks ran onto an area of grass and vanished. They, as well as the thin layer of turf they'd stepped on, had disappeared into the thin muddy quicksand below. The darkspawn following them couldn't stop their mad rush in time and fell in as well, silent and unseen as they suffocated beneath the muck.
The mad rush of the darkspawn cut to either side of the trap only for yet more pits to be discovered and at least a dozen more of the creatures died. The attackers did not stop but did continue forward more cautiously, their thirst for blood outweighing any sense of self preservation. A group of genlocks with bows stopped to fire at the defenders but the templars were well protected by their armour and shields and none of the arrows reached beyond them.
Few additional darkspawn fell to the pit traps after that but their momentum had been stunted and those that entered the mist were slowed even further, faltering as their senses failed them. Pausing in his work, half way done inscribing runes into the opposite ends of the roof boards, Harry stood up and watched. Without taking the time to count he suspected that even after the pits there were still nearly a hundred of the creatures. Harry waited patiently for every last one of them to finish crossing into the boundaries of the mist before he lifted his wand and waved it in the air with a flourish as if preparing to conduct a symphony.
The weapons of the fallen darkspawn that he'd charmed rose into the air as one. Swords and daggers, spears and maces, all thirty seven of the deadly implements that he'd gathered into a pile, spread out and hovered at the edge of the mist. With a final flourish of his wand the weapons came to life and shot forward, flying clumsily at the attacking darkspawn. Roughly animated the weapons had no finesse as they attacked acting as if they were held in the hands of invisible humans who'd recently indulged in a week long pub crawl. Normally, without superior numbers, the weapons would have been easily batted away but the darkspawn were disoriented and surprised and they were in no way prepared to defend themselves.
"This is why I allow you to travel with me," murmured Leliana teasingly as she watched the unfolding massacre, "it is endlessly entertaining to see what unusual method you will next use to defeat your enemies."
Harry turned to her, the dying cries of the darkspawn continuing in the background. "Now I feel used. "
Leliana patted him on the shoulder and he took a moment to glance at the templars who were staring in fascination as the darkspawn continued to be slaughtered by the hovering weapons. The mercenaries on the other hand were more obvious in their appreciation of the display and they openly began cheering and whooping in glee. Some of the darkspawn managed to make it past the death trap only to stumble from the mist and find themselves summarily cut down by the defenders. As the darkspawn numbers dwindled the charmed weapons started teaming up on them and Harry shuddered as half a dozen swords simultaneously impaled the head of a single genlock only for its cranium to dissolve in a shower of gore as the weapons pulled themselves free. He knelt back down to etch the last of the runes into the wagon roof.
"Do not despair Harry," Leliana said while smiling, "I did not say it was the only reason I allow you to travel with me. But perhaps you should retrieve your broom? We should be gone from here while they are still distracted."
"Right. About that..." Harry twitched his wand and the manacles holding the mage prisoners vanished. The elven woman pushed herself to her feet against the wagon while the man simply continued to sit on the ground, unmoving.
"Harry, what are you doing?" Leliana hissed but he was too busy motioning for the elf to join then to respond and, after only a moment of hesitation, the mage pulled herself quickly to the top of the wagon. Realizing that something untoward was happening the merchant couple ran, most likely not wanting to get in the middle of a fight between templars and mages. Some of the templars finally noticed what was happening and started shouting but Harry ignored them for the moment to instead yell down at the man on the ground.
"Last chance to escape." Harry called out to the second mage but the man had no expression on his face. He was untouched by the events around him.
"He is already lost wizard. Whatever you intend you must do it now!" The elf shouted. Leliana simply stared at Harry incredulously and he began to worry that he'd broken her.
"Mage!" He turned and noticed that the darkspawn were now all dead and the templars were moving to array themselves around the wagon with their blades still drawn, many of them covered in blood. Their leader was once again doing the talking and she spoke carefully in measured tones once she realized that she had his attention. "You must come down now. While we most likely owe you our lives you must realize that it is our duty to take you with us to the tower in Val Royeaux."
She turned to stare at the elf standing beside him and Harry did as well. The mage's face was twisted with hate and she had both of her palms cupped around a red glow which was clearly aimed towards the templars.
"And the apostate beside you is a murderer, I will see her tranquil or dead before the week is out."
Harry reached out and gently lowered the elf mage's hands and she turned her head to glare at him. He shook his head and after a brief staring contest she unhappily clenched her hands into fists, extinguishing whatever spell she had been preparing to cast. Harry looked back at the templars calmly. "I'm sorry but it sounds like self-defence to me, not murder. I can't let you have her."
"Then you leave me no choice," she turned and nodded to the templars who all began to move towards the wagon. Leliana cursed and lifted her bow while the mage again raised her hands but before anyone could die Harry whistled as loudly as he could. The piercing sound startled everyone and they all froze, pausing long enough for the army of charmed weapons to fly from the battlefield and drop down to hover threateningly between the wagon and the templars. A few of the templars looked nervously at the implements, all of which were dripping blood, but most of them appeared surprisingly contemptuous of the implied threat.
The leader closed her eyes and clasped her hands together as if praying and Harry was surprised to see a bright blue glow begin to form between her palms. When the light seemed too bright for her to contain any longer she then spread her arms outward and let the glow burst forth engulfing everything on the hilltop. Harry reflexively threw up a protego but the light just washed through it undeterred. Afterwards the templar opened her eyes and looked expectantly at the darkspawn weapons only for her expression to turn to one of surprise when nothing further happened and Harry couldn't help but wonder what exactly she'd just tried to do.
"How in the Maker's name..." she murmured.
"Right," Harry drawled, unsure what had just happened, "I think we're going to leave now."
"Do you think we will merely let you walk away mage even if it costs us our lives to stop you?" the templar looked up at him and growled.
Shaking his head Harry silently drew one last symbol in the air with his wand and then hammered it into the centre of the wagon roof. He then knelt down, pulling his two startled companions down with him, and placed his hand on the spot where he'd just spelled the control rune.
"For the last time templar, I'm a wizard," Harry admonished, "And wizards rarely walk anywhere."
The wooden roof tore itself free from the wagon, hovered for a moment, and then hurtled into the sky taking its passengers with it.
Authors Notes :
So there you have it. It was a much harder chapter to write than the last one, and not just because it ended up being longer, but I think it turned out ok.
My thanks to everyone who reviewed whether it was to share your in depth thoughts on the chapter or just to let me know that you're enjoying the story and offer encouragement. As always I'd love to hear from you so please – keep the reviews coming.
I'm not sure how long it will take me to get chapter 6 out – but I'd guess between 2 and 3 weeks. Fyi - I occasional post status updates on my profile if anyone is ever curious. If I haven't updated the profile recently that probably means I haven't been writing either.