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Old 01-18-2013, 04:04 PM   #13
Vaprakgruumsh
Drizzt Do'Urden
 

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 47
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

Sunrise was just beginning to peak over the mountains to the west. Rays of gentle, orange light warming bones that ached from the evening’s frost. The land was green and lush, drops of mist falling from the tall blades of grass in the field, as if fleeing the sun’s warmth.

A small walled town rose up against the mountains, a stark contrast to the gentle feeling of the wildlife around them. The fortified wall that surrounded the town was jagged, a wooden maw whose fangs rose from the ground. A muddy path led to the front of the gates where two guards stood.

“Welcome Cherathin,” the first guard said, as William and the others approached. “You will have to surrender your weapons. No magic within the walls,” the guard went on to say, staring at Quinn.

“I respect your laws,” William countered, “but we shall not be surrendering our weapons.”

“Then you shall not enter Cherathin,” the guard stated matter-of-factly.

William pulled the cloak back, revealing the crest of the Grey Warden. “I am a Grey Warden.”

“I don’t care if you’re the song of Borgen, you’re not getting in here with your weapons,” the first guard insisted, his hand on the hilt of his blade.

“I’d strongly recommend against that,” William said, his voice flat. He made no reach for his weapon.

“Listen,” the second guard said, placing his hand on the first guard’s shoulder. “He’s a Grey Warden. I am sure we can make a… exception, this one time.”

“You should listen to your friend,” William said.

The first guard glanced between the second and then to William. After a long moment, he took his hand off the hilt of his blade. “Fine. But still no magic. Don’t cause any trouble, Grey Warden.” He seemed to spit out the words as if they were poisonous.

As they walked past the guards, Quinn kept stride with William. “Well look who just got some backbone,” Quinn chuckled.

William took a long side glance at Quinn, but stopped suddenly as he saw people gathered. “What’s happening?”

Quinn gazed ahead, “A hanging by the looks of it.”

William began making his way through the crowd. At the front, a woman from the Chantry stood next to the man who was to be hung.

“Blessed are they who stand before,” the woman chanted.
“The corrupt and the wicked and do not falter.
Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just.
Blessed are the righteous, the lights in the shadow.
In their blood the Maker's will is written.”

“What is this man’s crime?” William shouted.

The stunned woman gazed at the onlookers and saw William. He stood out from the simple farmers that had gathered around to see this man hang. Gasps and questioning looks rumbled through the gathered.

“He assassinated Bann Vrock,” the woman replied. “Bann Vrock’s brother, Orlen is in jail for hiring the assassin.”

William took a step closer, cutting through the crowd. “How do you know that Orlen is the one who hired this assassin?” William gestured to the short elf, whose skin was a gentle copper toned color, marking him as someone who was not from Ferelden. “Did the assassin confess?”

“No,” the woman said, growing uncomfortable. “But Orlen has long hated his elder brother, Bann Vrock. Ask anyone here!” She gestured to the crowd who all muttered their silent agreement.

“So this assassin did not confess to this crime, nor did he confess to who hired him, even if he did commit this crime,” William asked loudly, “yet you’re ready to hang him and have the assassinated Brann’s brother in jail?”

“The man is wicked,” the woman answered. “You can see it in his eyes! What is he doing here if he is not the assassin? It couldn’t be pure coincidence that Bann Vrock was assassinated the same day this stranger showed up.”

“Set him free,” William barked the command.

“William!” Navah grabbed his arm. “This is Chantry business. You should not get involved!”

William looked at Navah then back to the woman who stood. “I said set him free.”

“By what right do you have to tell us what to do with this assassin?” the woman shouted.

“By the Right of the Grey Warden,” William responded, opening his cloak to reveal the crest of the Grey Warden. The crowd gasped. News of Ostagar had reached Cherathin. “Release the assassin to my custody,” William continued. “We shall find out if Orlen truly hired this assassin to kill Brann Vrock.”

“William, I plead with you, the elf is an assassin,” Navah grabbed William by the arm again, looking into his eyes.

“For once,” Quinn said with a wry smile, “I agree with Navah. The Elf is an assassin. But then, if it further bothers her, I’m all for bringing him along.” He smiled at Navah who stared at him as if he had just cursed the Maker. “Although,” Quinn gestured to the woman standing next to the accused assassin, “we did find you a Chantry. Run along now. Go with your bigoted friends.”

Navah looked away from Quinn, then back to William. “William, I beg of you – do not get involved. If the Chantry believes this assassin is responsible for that man’s death, they must have good reason.”

William looked at Navah, though his face was hardened, his eyes seemed as gently as white cloud lingering in the sky. “We need every able body to fight the Darkspawn.”

Navah pointed at the assassin as the onlookers watched. “He’s an assassin!”

“And I am a Grey Warden,” William retorted, though his voice was gentle. William looked at the assassin who watched with interest, as this new development began to unravel. William pointed to the assassin, “He can be released to my care. If he tries anything, he knows he’s as good as dead. And a hanging would be a much more merciful death than what I would give him. As a Grey Warden, I demand that he be released to my care.”

The assassin looked at the woman from the Chantry who was about to give the command to have him hung and smiled smugly. “I would do as the Grey Warden, says no?” the assassin smirked, his voice thick with an unfamiliar accent. The onlookers switched their gaze from the Grey Warden to the woman from the Chantry who was ready to hang the assassin.

The woman scowled at William before turning to the other, “Fine, cut him down. He is to go into the custody of the Grey Warden.”

The assassin smiled at the woman from the Chantry and bowed, “It was a pleasure, no? Perhaps we can do this again? I’d like that.” With that, he placed his hand on the edge and jumped down, landing gracefully, like a cat in front of William. With a deep bow, the assassin smirked as his brown hair fell over his single eye, the other covered by a patch. “A pleasure, Grey Warden.” He looked past William and saw Navah and quickly walked past him, to bow before Navah. “Ah, I may be an assassin, no, but you; you are a thief. How quickly you steal my breath away, no?”

Navah blanched and took a step back, instinctively hiding behind William. Quinn, amused, merely shook his head. At least the company of this assassin promised to quickly rid themselves of the annoyance of Navah’s constant prattling of the Chant of Light.

“Easy there,” William put his hand on the assassin’s chest. “Take a step back. For now – you are in my service. You will do everything I say. Disobey me and I threw you back to the Chantry, is that understood?”

“As clear as your gentle eyes, Grey Warden,” the assassin smirked.

The onlookers stared and growled. Some had come to see the assassin hung; because they believed he was responsible for the crime. Others had wanted to see the assassin hung for their own enjoyment. Either way, William could cut the tension with his sword. “Let’s move to the tavern.”

Inside the tavern, the assassin sat down on the chair. “I must thank you for your timely arrival,” he smirked. “That whole thing was beginning to turn into a pain in the neck if you know what I mean.”

“That accent,” William gestured towards the assassin, as he signaled for a round of drinks. “Where are you from, assassin?”

“My name Berik,” the assassin smiled, “since you asked so nicely. I hail from Rivain.”

“You’re far from home,” Quinn noted aloud, knowing that Rivain was northwest of Ferelden. “What are you doing all the way out here?” Quinn asked as he took a drink. “Surly business isn’t so poor in Rivain that you’d need to seek employment in Ferelden.”

William looked at Quinn, then back to Berik, to see if the assassin would answer. Berik was silent for a long moment, as if lost in his thoughts; or perhaps deciding which lie he should tell to his new “allies.” Finally, he answered, “I come from a guild of assassins known as the Broken Hand. We specialize in the deaths of political figures.”

“The death of?” Navah spat the words. “You mean the assassination of.”

“No, pretty one,” Berik retorted calmly. “I mean the death of. A good assassin never has to use his blade to kill his mark.”

“Then how do these political figures you’re hired to kill die, if it’s not you who strikes the killing blow?” William asked, now leaning forward with interest.

“Seduction,” Berik answered. “Usually the person or persons who hire us, know the mark very well. They tell us everything the mark likes in a person. What they like. What fetishes they enjoy. Da Broken Hand sends along someone who matches that description and can play the part. We integrate ourselves into their lives, become their whole world, and then leave them or expose them, ruining their lives. You’d be surprise how many are prone to suicide when their hearts and lives are shattered and broken. It’s much cleaner that way, you know. That way when they take their own life, there’s no suspicion on the ones who hired us, and we don’t get that much trouble for it. You’d be surprised how many political figures have a dark side to them…”

“That’s despicable,” Navah spat.

“So you’re responsible for Bann Vrock’s death then,” William pointed out.

“Indirectly I suppose,” Berik shrugged. “It would seem that Bann Vrock had a thing for younger male elves, if you know what I mean. So I became his plaything for awhile, he even provided me with a little cottage out in the woods where he used to take other, younger male elves. Then I threatened to expose him to his wife. I spoke with her, she confronted him, and he took his own life.” Navah was horrified, she sat back trying desperately to quell her churning stomach. “As I was leaving to meet the one who had hired me,” Berik continued, “I was spotted and blamed by Bann Vrock’s wife. It would seem she has a vested interest in keeping Bann Vrock’s name in good standing, or she might lose the land she’s inherited if the people of this town turned against her.”

“So who hired you,” William asked.

“Can’t say I know the man,” Berik shrugged. “He made his contacts, which eventually reached the Broken Hand. I was supposed to meet him just outside of this,” he gestured with the tankard in his hand, “idiotic town.”

“Did you ever talk to him?” William asked.

“Once, but it was night, in an alley, and he wore black,” Berik shrugged. “He definitely did not want to be seen. Kept his distance.”

William stood. “Do you think if you heard his voice again, you would know it?”

“Undoubtedly,” Berik said. “An assassin, after all, pays attention to detail. A careless assassin is a dead assassin.”

“Is that how you got the scar across the eye,” Quinn asked, standing.

“I did,” Berik replied, pounding his drink back and wiping his mouth with the back of his sleeve. “I got careless. Fell in love with my mark. I told her what I was – she was furious. Cut me across my face. Cost me my vision. I won’t let it happen… ever again.”

William took the lead with Forodin faithfully at his side, Navah behind him, and Quinn and Berik behind her. Navah continually wrenched at her hands nervously. “William!” she finally said with some authority. William turned to face her. “I must go to the Chantry. I must pray to the Maker.”

“About time,” Quinn muttered from behind.

“I wish you the best from here,” she said, placing her hand on his. “I hope that I see you again one day and that you find your path through the darkness, back to the light of the Maker.”

William said nothing, only nodded. He looked down as she walked away and took a deep breath. Slowly he raised his eyes and looked at the other two who watched him with piqued curiosity. If they were waiting for a sign of weakness, he gave none. Instead he spun on his booted heel and continued his walk with determined strides.

Inside the prison, William approached the guard. “We’re here to question your prisoner. The one named Orlen.”

“What’s your business with Orlen,” the guard asked, standing. His chainmail armor clanked as he moved to stand between William and the gate.

“We are here to question why he may or may not have hired an assassin to kill his own brother,” William explained matter-of-factly.

“Oh, he did it all right,” the guard laughed as he sat back down. “No one is surprised, either.”

“What do you mean?” William asked, looking at the guard.

“Orlen has been in love with his brother’s wife since the day they were wed,” the guard laughed. “Everybody knew it. He hated how his brother Bann Vrock treated her. He made no secret of his affection for her. I mean, he never did anything to jeopardize their marriage, but he certainly never hid how he felt.”

“So Orlen had feelings for Bann Vrock’s wife,” Quinn nodded. “Men have certainly killed for less.”

“That does not mean he did it,” William countered. He looked from Quinn to the guard once more. “How long were Bann Vrock and his wife married?”

“Nearly fifteen years,” the guard said, as if recalling that day clearly.

“Fifteen years and he just decides to have Bann Vrock assassinated?” William shook his head. “Possible, but there may be more to this. Would you mind if we spoke with Orlen?”

“Sanara, from the Chantry, told me you might be coming by,” the guard nodded. “You met her. She was the one that was going to hang him,” the guard eyed Berik, then back to William. “She said that you should not be permitted to speak to Orlen, but I see no harm in it. Go ahead,” he threw the key to the door to William.

“Thank you,” William nodded and unlocked the door, walking through the cool, dark, dank halls until he reached Orlen’s cell. “Orlen,” William said.

“Who are you,” Orlen stammered. Whether frightened or simply frigid from the cold, William was unsure.

“My name is William, I am a Grey Warden,” William answered.

“Wait, I know you,” the man looked past William and at Berik. “You’re the bastard that was with my brother!”

William looked at Berik, then back to Orlen. “You know him?”

“Yes!” Orlen snapped. “I followed my brother one day! I suspected him of being unfaithful! I just thought he was with another woman! Not this elf in a cottage! I tried to tell her! But she wouldn’t listen to me!”

“She probably thought you were breaking them apart to move in on her,” William answered.

“That’s exactly what she thought!” Orlen sighed and slumped in the jail cell.

“So you didn’t hire him to kill your brother?” Quinn asked coldly.

“What? Kill my brother? Listen, I loved her, but I also loved my brother! He infuriated me with how he treated her! But I would not kill my own brother! My own flesh and blood!” Orlen wept.

“Then who would,” William asked.

“I don’t know,” Orlen admitted. “He… had a lot of enemies. A lot of people knew he had fetishes… No one knew to what degree. Even when I found out, I did not tell anyone! I did not want to shame my own brother!”

“Didn’t want to shame him, or hurt his wife’s feelings,” Quinn muttered.

“Both,” Orlen confessed, “if you must know. If there’s anyone you should be questioning, it’s probably that witch of a woman, Sanara.”

“From the Chantry?” William asked, curious.

“Yes,” Orlen muttered. “My brother, who was a Bann, as you know, opposed the arrival of the Chantry. Said his little town didn’t need the Chantry or the Chant of Light.”

“No doubt because he feared they might learn of his perversions,” Quinn noted.

“Perhaps,” Orlen nodded in agreement. “But there were times that he and Sanara would get in shouting matches in the middle of the town. She’s crazy.”

“She’s probably just loyal to the Maker,” William corrected.

“No,” Orlen said, firmly. “I have seen those loyal to the Maker, and she is something else. She’s almost… fanatical.”

“Thank you, Orlen,” William nodded. He stood and looked at the others. “Seems we shall be having a talk with Sanara and the Chantry.”

“Oh goodie,” Quinn muttered sarcastically. “Maybe we can have a little chat with Navah while we’re at it?”

TO BE CONTINUED
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