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Old 01-18-2013, 03:08 PM   #21
Drizzt Do'Urden

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 48
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

“The Brecelian Passage,” Quinn looked into the deep forest. The trees swayed in the wind, gently whispering as the branches danced and tangled amongst one another. “If we go through here, we can cut several days of travel to Denerim, rather than going around the forest.”

“We should not venture through the woods,” Navah looked from Quinn, then to William. “If the things that Quinn said is true… the woods may prove too dangerous to pass through. Darkspawn is one thing, you can sense them William. But werewolves, from the stories I have heard, are cunning hunters, and hunt in packs. We would be foolish to try and cut through the woods.”

William looked at Berik to see if the Rivainian Elf Assassin had anything else to add. The assassin smirked, “What do I care? If we go in the woods, we fight some big wolves. If it gets too bad, I just slide into a shadow and make my get away, right?” Though he had said it with a smirk, and a hint of humor in his voice, William could not tell when Berik was joking and when he was telling the truth. Some of the stories Berik shared were so outlandish that it became difficult to tell when he was just telling a story of some grand adventure or some highly exaggerated tale.

“Let’s go around,” William finally said. “It will take us a few extra days to reach Denerim, but it will be safer.”

Following the western side of the Brecelian Forest, between the dense woods and the mountain range, the trek proved to be slower than they had anticipated. The Brecelian Forest reached out, directly against the mountain range, forcing them to climb upward, into the mountain range itself.

The chill of winter bite deeper the higher they climbed. On the third night, Berik returned from scouting. “You’re not going to believe this, but I saw smoke not far from here. That means some form of village or something.”

“Out here?” Quinn asked. “There’s no villages that I know of out here in these mountains.”

“Well,” Berik shrugged, “I don’t know what to tell you. I saw smoke. Which means fire. Which means warmth. It beats shivering in these caves, taking shelter from the snow.” Berik smiled, “And besides, civilization means finding someone to share a warm bed with.”

“I hate to admit it,” Quinn muttered, “but I wouldn’t mind a soft bed to sleep in, if there’s an inn or something.”

Two guards, adorned in bright chainmail stood proudly as William and the others approached. “What business do you have here?” One of the guards asked, his hand moving to the hilt of his blade.

“We seek shelter from the snow and cold,” William answered, stepping forward. “I am Grey Warden.”

“You, nor the Grey Warden are welcomed or have any jurisdiction here,” the guard replied.

“This is Ferelden land,” William said more firmly.

“We do not consider ourselves Fereldians,” the second guard retorted. He approached the first guard and put his hand on his shoulder. “However, we do not want any trouble. If you promise to remain within the Inn and leave at dawn’s early light, I see no problem with you being here.”

“Understood,” William acknowledged, still scowling at the first guard who eyed him with great disdain.

As they approached the building that had been an Inn, pointed out by the second guard, Quinn quickened his pace as much as he could, while leaning heavily on his staff. “There’s something wrong here,” Quinn whispered. “I have never heard of a town called Nahash. I am well read, well versed.”

“I know,” William muttered with a smile. “Relax, Quinn.” William placed his hand on Quinn’s shoulder reassuringly. “Look at this place. The wood work and stone work look new. And judging by the guard’s reaction, they have probably made no indication to make their presence known to the general public of Ferelden because they’d be forced to submit to a Bann or Arl in the area.”

“And why do they have an Inn, if they don’t allow anyone within their walls?” Berik asked, walking behind William and Quinn. “That seems kind of strange, right?”

As they entered the Inn, William looked at the others and approached the Innkeeper who looked somewhat disheveled. “Innkeeper, if I may ask a question?” William began.

“Yes, yes, of course Grey Warden,” the Innkeeper smiled, trying to comb back his hair by continuously running his hands through it. “What can I do for you?”

“We were wondering,” William started the question, “why is there an Inn, when my impression from one of the guards outside is that strangers are not welcomed here within Nahash’s walls?”

“Not welcomed?” The Innkeeper laughed. And laughed. Quinn immediately thought that the Innkeeper wasn’t truly laughing because he was amused; he was laughing to buy himself some time to think up a lie. “Strangers are indeed welcomed here. However, with this cold winter and reports of Darkspawn and a Blight… the Inn has sort of fallen short on making money… so I have been forced to let people go. I can’t afford them if folks are too frightened to travel.”

“But my friend over there,” William gestured to Quinn who sat at an empty table, holding onto his staff, dark shadows looming over his eyes, his cowl pulled over his head. Even as the lanterns and candles flickered around the inn, nothing seemed to penetrate the darkness that lingered on his face. “As you can see, he’s a mage. He enjoys explaining how well versed and educated he is,” William chuckled, as if this was all a casual, normal conversation, “and he says he’s never heard of Nahash. I said it’s because the buildings look new. And the guard outside, pretty much gave me the impression that those of you here may not be that excited about being under the thumb of some Bann or Arl, who would not doubt expect taxes out of you.”

“Indeed,” the Innkeeper laughed merrily.

“Then how,” William’s tone suddenly grew cold and serious, “do you expect travelers to ever find you? The only travelers who would wander this way, are those who skirt the edges of the Brecilian Forest, as we have done.”

“We don’t enjoy the idea of a Bann or Arl ruling over us,” the Innkeeper replied, seeing that this had been a set up to learn more about Nahash. “But there were enough travelers who stumbled across our town, just as you have, who skirt the edge of the Brecilian Forest, for fear of the rumors that the forest is haunted and plagued with werewolves. So rather than house strangers within our own homes, or Church as we had been doing, we built an inn. It was prosperous at first, with people traveling and following the river to Denerim, until they reached the Brecilian Forest, which they would always skate around, and eventually come across us in the mountains. Many were adventurers, some were families, some were merchants. We had all kinds. But ever since this Blight and Darkspawn thing emerged, no one travels anymore. I don’t think anyone has stayed at this inn for many moons passed. You can imagine my surprise when I was notified that we had… guests.”

Berik walked past William and leaned against the counter. “So, then I don’t suppose you have a Home of Harlots?”

“A what?” the Innkeeper asked, bewildered.

“Evening entertainment? Prostitutes?” Berik explained.

“No,” the innkeeper looked at Berik with disgust. “No. We do not have harlots here.”

“Shame,” Berik shrugged and returned to the table to sit with Quinn. “It would probably dramatically increase business. Not to mention, guards like the welcoming committee out front would be less… agitated.”

William stifled a laugh and looked at the Innkeeper, “We would like four rooms.”

“Unless she wants to share a room with me,” Berik leaned forward and looked at Navah, who blanched at the thought and immediately looked out the frost covered window. Berik looked back at William, “Ah, sadly, four rooms it is.”
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:08 PM   #22
Drizzt Do'Urden

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 48
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

William set his helmet on the dresser and stared at himself in the mirror for a long moment. What was he doing? What was he going to do when he reached Denerim? Demenad that Teyrn Loghain pay for what he’s done? In Denerim? Where Teyrn Loghain no doubt had already had the time to spin his tale in favor of his actions and convince the nobles that what he did was the logical choice.

He fought the yawn that he felt rising up, his eyes stung. His body ached terribly. Sleep would do him some good. Just as he sat on the edge of the bed, a gentle knock came to the door. William’s hand moved beneath his pillow where he felt the welcomed cool, steel of his dagger that he had always kept close by. “Who is there?” he called out.

“It’s me,” the soft voice replied. William was puzzled. What would Navah want at this house? Moving across the small room he opened the door slightly and saw that Navah stood there, her large green eyes looking at him, pleading that he open the door and let her in. He stepped aside and let her come into his room. “What is it, Navah?”

She wrung her hands several times, her eyes now averting his. “I realize I have been, difficult,” she stammered over the words, “and that I have not been easy to get along with always… you walk a much darker path than my own… one I have a difficult time following sometimes… but then… I have seen… that sometimes,” she continued to fumble, hating that she sounded foolish in front of William. “I have learned that sometimes,” she looked up and saw his gaze transfixed on her, and she immediately looked away, “Sometimes there are difficult choices. Choices that are a step into the darkness; but the end of that path – there is light. Great light.”

“What’s this about?” William asked.

“Quinn. You. Both. Me,” she wasn’t sure how to answer it. “When you were dying… Quinn made me decide if your life should be saved by using Blood Magic, by draining the rest of Crusant’s life… Crusant was willing to give his fading life force to save you, and to redeem himself… I knew Blood Magic was evil… I knew it… I still know it,” she added softly, “but to lose you… felt worse than agreeing to Blood Magic.” She looked up at him, and this time met his gaze and held it. “I was suddenly afraid of what it would feel like to lose you. Forever.”

“What I am saying is,” she took a step closer. She could feel his warm breath. She put her hand on his chest, felt his heart beat beneath his shirt. She looked at her hand, then up at him. “What I am saying is…”

At that moment, there was an explosion and a wave of heat followed by shouting from Quinn. William pushed Navah aside gently and grabbed his sword and swung the door open, only to be welcomed by more searing flames.

“Maker’s Breath,” were the only words that escaped William’s lips as he saw men rise, even as their flesh was ablaze with fire.

“We’ve got trouble,” Quinn laughed as he launched another wave of flames at the men who advanced. “Lots of trouble,” he added, when the men did not fall, and continued their steady march towards Quinn.

Berik’s door flew open and three dead men fell out. “Is that really your best?” Berik laughed. He jumped out into the hallway. “You know, I was thinking,” Berik smirked, “my life was very exciting as a member of the Broken Hand. Now, I see I wasn’t living until I traveled with you, Grey Warden.”

“What’s going on here?” William asked as he charged the three men who were advancing on Quinn.

“Snuck into our rooms through the closet,” Quinn said. “They thought I was asleep. I knew something was wrong. I feigned as if I were sleeping and they emerged from the closets!”

“Same,” Berik said. “Except I was asleep and they woke me. Sounded like an arch demon coming from the closet. Of course,” Berik added with his charm, “I have exceptional hearing. Broken Hand training, and all. And perhaps some of that Elf Blood in my veins gives me an advantage!”

William hacked down the three who were advancing on Quinn. Quinn kneeled down to examine the men. “This one,” Quinn pointed, “it’s the pleasant guard who greeted us at the gate.”

“How did they even survive the flames you were burning them with?” William asked, as he searched their bodies for clues. He turned and faced his own closet. “Why didn’t they come for me?”

“Perhaps they thought a Grey Warden might be too much for them,” Berik shrugged. “I guess they didn’t expect a Blood Mage and an Assassin. And I guess they didn’t go for her because, well, looks like she was in your room, huh? Guess we only needed three rooms after all?”

William shook his head. “If these men were sent for us – then someone else must be expecting them to come back.”

“We should prepare for more,” Quinn nodded. “I will need to regain my strength. Navah, you may wish to avert your eyes.” Quinn did not wait for her to look away, he began chanting and speaking the twisted words of dark magic! Suddenly the bodies of the deceased began to glow faintly; then shiver; then blood trickled out of their pours and into the gash in Quinn’s hand that he had cut with a ceremonial dagger. Suddenly Quinn doubled over, clutching his stomach.

William immediately went to Quinn’s side. “What is it?”

Quinn looked up, but his pupils were gone. His eyes were white. William stared in disbelief; it was the same look he saw in the two others that had been with him during the Joining.

“Their blood,” Quinn’s voice was there, but it was echoed by a deeper voice. “Is tainted.”

“Tainted?” William asked, although he was uncertain who he was speaking with.

“Their blood, gives them their resistance, their power,” Quinn’s voice echoed that of some other being.

“Maker’s Breath,” Navah gasped, “What has happened to him?”

“I’ve never seen this before,” William answered.

“I’d worry about yourselves,” a voice said from down the hall. William looked and saw the innkeeper and several others. This time they were armed with weapons, rather than relying on stealth.

William stood between the innkeeper and Quinn. “This doesn’t have to end this way.”

“Oh,” the innkeeper smiled, “but it does have to end this way, Grey Warden. We wanted to get them out of the way first. We knew you would be a tough one to handle. If we got rid of your help, we would eventually get you through sheer numbers.”

“What’s the meaning of this?” William asked.

“You will find out soon enough, Grey Warden,” the innkeeper laughed. With a gesture, the men behind the innkeeper charged forward.
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:08 PM   #23
Drizzt Do'Urden

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 48
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

William watched as the men charged up the stairs. There was something going on here. William’s hand was on the hilt of his blade. He could cleave through these men with no problem. But what was Quinn talking about? Their blood being tainted? He could kill everyone who stood in his way – but then he would know nothing of what was happening.

“Stand down,” William looked at Berik. His eyes went to Quinn who was still clutching his stomach on the floor. William looked at the innkeeper, “We will go peacefully.”

“When has a Grey Warden ever gone peacefully?” the innkeeper laughed. “Don’t mind if we take your weapons. Just as a precaution. I am sure you understand.” William hated the idea of being defenseless, but he had to discover what was happening. Could the taint in their blood have anything to do with the Darkspawn? If so, why couldn’t he sense them? Why couldn’t he sense the taint within them?

Something deeper was at work here. Something perhaps, more sinister.

The men quickly flocked William and shackled him. Though Berik continued to fight, a stern glance from William, and Berik surrendered as well.

“Get up, Mage!” one of the men shouted as they grabbed Quinn.

“He’s ill,” William answered. “Be gentle with him. He can barely stand.”

The men had little care for Quinn, and forced him to stand, shoving him forward. The only one they did not shackle was Navah, whom they circled around tightly in case she tried to run.

As they walked through the snowy village of Nahash, William looked at the innkeeper, “So what is the meaning of this?”

The innkeeper cast a side glance at William, but did not answer. William looked at the others and saw one of the men shove Quinn again. Quinn stumbled over his staff, barely able to stand. From beneath his cowl he shot the man a scathing glance; with a look that promised the man’s death at Quinn’s hands.

“Gentle,” the innkeeper said, turning towards the man who continued to shove Quinn. “You know that she does not like her dinner guests to be dead before they arrive.” The innkeeper smiled strangely. William was no idea. He knew what the innkeeper meant; they were to be dinner somehow; for something.

Berik said from the back, “You know, if this is about dinner, I’m rather full. The innkeeper servers a delicious stew, and I had my fill last night. If I could just be let go to lay down at the inn?”

“Shut up,” another man said, shoving Berik forward. Berik stumbled over his own feet but managed to keep his balance. Berik smiled at the man who pushed him, “The last person who pushed me like that lost their hand.”

The man pushed Berik again. “Yeah, I’m not worried about it,” the man grinned.

“The last man who pushed me twice lost both hands,” Berik said, glancing over his shoulder.

“Yeah?” the man laughed, “So what happened to the man who pushed you three times?”

“I cut off his head and spit down into the empty cavity of his brain,” Berik said.

The man laughed, but stopped immediately when he saw Berik’s scolding look.

They walked through the winding, empty streets of Nahash until the reached the side of the mountain. Standing against the elements stood a Stone Elemental, whose Ruby Eyes looked forward into the abyss of the unknown. William would have thought it was a statue before, but as a newly recruited Grey Warden he had been educated on the power of a stone golem and how they were renowned for their powerful strength and incredible endurance.

“Yam hes viel verofer,” the innkeeper spoke directly to the stone golem. The words immediately grabbed Quinn’s attention, who looked up, his brows furrowed together. He understood the words – but wasn’t sure if he actually believed them.

The Stone Golem activated, rock joints creaked to life as the animated creature turned and slowly pulled a large boulder out of the way.

The innkeeper gestured and forced William and the others into the cave. Stepping in after them, he looked at the Stone Golem and said, “Eth Gradon Lilw Irse.”

The door creaked shut as the stone golem worked to close it. William watched as the last bit of light faded away when the door closed. The innkeeper walked to the wall and ignited a torch and began to lead his men forward. Berik stumbled into Quinn, who shot Berik a cruel glance. “Watch where you walk, assassin.”

Along the passage he could see scattered bones in various states of decomposition. William tried to see the others, to see how they were doing, but the flickering torch provided too little for light. He thought he heard something, but couldn’t make it out in the darkness.

“Death,” William muttered, licking his lips.

“It’s all around.” Berik was looking at Quinn, shaking his head, “You know you get a little sick and you become extremely testy, Quinn.” Berik collided into William who had been forced to stop as the innkeeper held the torch to the stone wall and pressed a certain rock, revealing a hidden passage.

Up ahead, he could hear strange noises; noises and sounds he had never heard before. Roaring sounds. And yet some sounded like birds, chirping for food from their mothers. Then, the Innkeeper placed his torch on the wall and he could see stalls; and within them, something moving. Something with skin that flickered and reflected the torch’s dying light. Something longer than a horse. Bigger than a horse.

“Dragons,” Quinn said, finally. “Their blood is tainted by Dragon Blood. The words he spoke to the Stone Golem is the fabled tongue of Draco.”

“Shut up, and get to moving,” the man said, shoving Berik into Quinn.

“I warned you,” Berik whispered.

“You’re bound,” the man laughed.

His laughter stopped when he saw a glint of steel in the shadows coming at him. He felt a cold blade across his throat, immediately followed by the warm sensation of blood oozing down his chest. He collapsed to his knees, suffocating and drowning in his own blood.

“By the Dark!” the innkeeper shouted, when he turned and saw everyone was free.

“Funny thing about us Broken Hand members,” Berik smiled, holding his dagger firmly in his hand. “At a very young age, we are hand cuffed and thrown into a deep pool with stone blocks shackled to our feet. We sink to the bottom of the pond very quickly. It’s surprising how quickly you learn to unshackle yourself when your life depends on it.” Berik shrugged, smirking, “Sure, it’s a bit of a rough childhood. Easy to lose friends who aren’t as quick. But then, it trains us to have that emotional detachment that we need to do our jobs.”

The innkeeper stared at William and the others. The innkeepers men had been rendered unconscious or killed, either through Berik’s silent methods, or by the prick of his dagger, which was laced with crippling poison.

The innkeeper shook his head. “You’re foolish. These drakes are under my command. With a snap of my finger,” he held up his hand, and just then Berik was behind him, as if teleporting through the shadows, and grabbed the innkeeper’s wrist and severed it, throwing the discarded hand into one of the pens with the drakes. The drake immediately began feasting on the flesh. The innkeeper buckled to his knees, holding the stump of his hand.

“I guess we just don’t let you snap your fingers,” Berik said with a coy smile.

The innkeeper watched as his arm bled. He looked at Berik, anger burning in his eyes. The innkeeper suddenly stood and grabbed Berik by the throat and held him. Berik wheezed the words, “A little help here…”

William grabbed the fallen guard’s sword and ran it through the innkeeper. The innkeeper’s blazing eyes turned on William and flung Berik into him, sending the two of them crashing to the ground. The innkeeper pulled the sword out of his gut and stared at them.

“Well that didn’t go exactly as I saw it in my head,” Berik coughed, as he rubbed his throat and struggled to stand.

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Old 01-18-2013, 03:09 PM   #24
Drizzt Do'Urden

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 48
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

William leaned against the stone as he stood up. His human eyes peered through the darkness of the cave. Despite all he had seen in the brief time he had become a Grey Warden, he was not prepared to see a man run through with a sword, and still be standing. Then to watch that man remove the sword from his own body and stand ready to fight.

“It’s the Dragon Blood,” Quinn whispered into William’s ear. “It enhances their strength, dexterity, as well as their threshold for pain.”

“I can see that,” William muttered. “Rather than telling me all of this, could you tell me how to defeat someone whose blood is enhanced by Dragon Blood?”

“It would be the same as fighting a dragon,” Quinn replied, “or so I imagine.”

“Had I ever fought a dragon,” William growled, “I am sure that would have been a helpful piece of information.”

“I say we stab him until he bleeds to death,” Berik shrugged. “Human, Dragon, Darkspawn – they all die when they run out of blood to bleed.”

The innkeeper, whether a reaction to Berik, or something else; suddenly turned and fled down the passage from which the sounds were coming from.

William took this opportunity to turn and look at Quinn. “What else do you know about these Dragon Cults? Not even the Grey Warden have much information on them.”

Quinn used his staff to brace himself. Just as he was about to say something, it was Navah who spoke up. “In 9:28 Dragon, Brother Florian notated in a book entitled ‘Flame and Scale’ what he had managed to piece together about the Dragon Cults.”

“He had noted that, though these dragons were cunning, they hardly seemed self-aware, or had any true language of their own. After all, there had been no recorded history of any dragon ever attempting to communicate with a human. Whether it was for trade, or if the dragon was engaged in a battle with a mortal,” Navah said. “But then he asked, ‘how can one explain Dragon Cults?’ After all, one or two might be explainable as people who simply worship dragons. But Dragon Cults are far more spread than most people realize.”

“She is right,” Quinn nodded. “It was through the same writings of Brother Florian, that I know what I do. There is no doubt some sort of worship from as far back as the ancient Tevinter Imperium, with the Old Gods. What has puzzled historians, is how these Dragons ever struck a deal with people of the land? If they have never been recorded as being able to speak – how do these humans come to worship these dragons? Because,” Quinn looked at William, “it’s not simply about worshipping them. As I mentioned, there have been people, through history, who have been enhanced by Dragon Blood, as the people of Nahash have been.”

“But where are they getting the Dragon Blood?” William asked. “They’re clearly not killing the Dragons to drink their blood.”

“According to the scriptures and notes from Brother Florian,” Navah was now the one who continued the story, “That is the part that he found most puzzling. He had discovered that the worshippers of the Dragon, these Dragon Cults, often lived in or around, the same area as the Dragon they worshipped. He learned that these Dragons had turned to mortals to defend their young. In exchange, the Dragons had permitted the cultists to destroy several eggs, each season, to allow them to drink the blood of a dragon.”

“Some do not believe Brother Florian’s writings,” Quinn said. “Especially those within the Circle. They think it’s all nonsense and fabricated. While there’s no denying that Dragon Cults exist,” Quinn gestured down the hallway, “clearly,” he said with a smile, “the speculation of the Dragon allowing humans to kill its young, is what is questioned. After all, why would a Dragon turn to humans to protect its young? Why would a Dragon need a human’s help? And if the humans are selected to protect the Dragon’s young, why would the Dragon allow them to destroy some of its eggs, so that they could have these powers? A lot of things don’t make sense.”

William looked down the cavern that the innkeeper had run. “No doubt there’s other cult members down there,” William sighed. “And dragons and drakes and who knows what other horrors. Strip the guards of armor and weapons, use it for yourself. Bind the guards.” William stared down the long, dark hall ahead of him. “We need to put a stop to this.”

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Old 01-18-2013, 03:10 PM   #25
Drizzt Do'Urden

Join Date: November 24, 2001
Location: Neverending Nights
Age: 48
Posts: 634
Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

Quinn spoke the twisted words of magic, gesturing with one hand as the other clung to his staff for support. The words seemed to float between reality and dream, becoming almost ethereal sounding as they fell from his lips. When Quinn clenched his fist shut, the spell came to an end, and a small light appeared at the tip of Quinn’s staff.

The bleak caverns now illuminated by Quinn’s magic sent shadows dancing across the wall, like rats scurrying away from the light.

Seemingly melting out of the shadows, Berik suddenly appeared next to Quinn. “I found them,” Berik said with a certain amount of lack of emotion. “There’s lots of them.”

“Lots of who? Or what?” William asked, trying to get Berik to be more specific.

“People… and drakes… and… a dragon,” Berik said the last bit with a great amount of hesitation.

“A dragon? In here?” William asked, astonished. It made sense, where else would these people be getting the blood of a dragon?

Berik led them through the twisted maze of caves; his experience as an assassin allowed him to track anyone.

They soon came to a portion of the cave that widened. Standing there was none other than the innkeeper who William had run through with a sword. The innkeeper was there, holding the very same sword in his hand.

“I know you’re there,” the innkeeper said. “Just as I know the assassin snuck past me. I can smell you. Come – there is more to this than you know. There does not need to be any more fighting.”

William was about to take a step forward and come out of the dark, when Quinn placed his hand on the Grey Warden’s shoulder. “What are you doing?” he whispered frantically.

“Going out there,” William answered.

“This could be some kind of trap,” Quinn replied. “The innkeeper may be standing there, but there could be drakes ready to pounce on you at a moment’s notice.”

“We shall see,” William answered. “If anything happens, you know what to do.”

Quinn shook his head and released his hold on William’s shoulder.

William walked out into the light and stared at the innkeeper. “You say there is no more need for fighting, yet did you not try to abduct my comrades from the inn?”

“There was a reason,” the innkeeper assured him. “We believed you were here to slay the dragon. We needed to capture your comrades to use them to make you at least hear us out.”

“I am listening,” William shouted back.

“There is another who could explain things much more than I could,” the innkeeper said. “If you would all just follow me.”

“Follow you? Into a trap? Not likely,” William shook his head, folding his arms across his chest.

The innkeeper threw down his blade and kicked it across to William, putting his hands in the air. “I surrender myself to you. Put that sword to my neck, and sever it from my body if we ambush you. I merely wish to take you to someone who could explain things.”

William kneeled down and picked up the blade and put it to the innkeeper’s neck, who offered no resistance. William signaled to the others who came out of the dark.

The innkeeper led them through the dark tunnels, the same path that Berik had taken to find them. The cave opened up to a larger room, where there were rows upon rows of stables, all with drakes of varying ages within them. Some of the stables still had dragon eggs. As they continued down, there was a room where there was a dead drake, and the blood from it was being siphoned into seemingly countless vials.

The innkeeper led them into a circular room within the cave, where at the far end, a throne adorned in jewels rested; more startling was the dragon that laid its body around it, and a human who sat in the throne.

The human stood. “Hello, Grey Warden.”

William released the innkeeper by shoving him away. “What is the meaning of all of this?”

“All of this?” the human who sat at the throne smiled and gestured around him. “All of this as you say… is about immortality.”

“But,” the human added, folding his arms behind his back. “That was not always the case. In the beginning this was about finding my place in the world when the Blight ended.”

“The Blight has not ended,” William corrected. “If anything, it is more powerful now than it ever was before. Ostagar has fallen to the Darkspawn. Teyrn Loghain has betrayed the Grey Wardens and turned on us. Claiming we are the ones who betrayed King Cailan who fell in the battle of Ostagar.”

“Teyrn Loghain?” the human seemed to take the name into consideration. “I know not who this Teyrn Loghain is. Or King Cailan.”

“How can you not?” William asked. That’s when William took note of the human’s armor. He wore the symbol of the Grey Wardens. But one… William had not seen before.

As if reading William’s thoughts, the human touched the emblem on his chest. “Ah yes, I was a Grey Warden once, much like you. My rise came during the time that Zazikel awoke.”

“Zazikel?” William asked, confused. “That’s impossible. Zazikel was the Rise of the Second Blight. That was…”

“A long time ago,” the human nodded. “Yes. I remember when we got the reports that the Darkspawn had obliterated Nordbotten. I remember aligning with the Free Marches and Orlaians to help defend them against the Darkspawn under the command of Emperor Kordillus. I remember, as if it were only yesterday, the victory at the Battle of Cumerland, and the true, final battle in Starkhaven. I remember the Thaw Hunt afterwards. Chasing the fleeing Darkspawn into the Deep Roads. We slaughtered every Darkspawn we came across.”

The human, as if suddenly aged, sat down on his throne. He looked up at William. “But what then? What do you do when you have found every last Darkspawn? What do you do when your whole life was being a Grey Warden? What do you do when you no longer hear the Calling within your head? The silence… it was deafening. Almost… maddening!”

“I needed a new purpose to my life,” the human said, standing up suddenly. “I began hunting down dragons.”

Then it struck William. If this human was indeed from the Second Blight, and the Dragon Hunter who had become known in the Grey Wardens… “You’re Gabriel from the Grey Wardens…”

“Ah,” Gabriel smiled. “So my name was remembered.”

“You became renowned for your dragon hunting, after the second Blight,” William said, almost disbelieving the words of belief were falling from his own lips. “Some have gone as far as crediting you for the reason so few dragons exist now.”

“Yes,” Gabriel sat down again, resting his arms on the jeweled throne. “That was before I saw my error. The dragons have attacked man, because man hunted down dragons. The Dragons are peaceful. They seek to only exist as we do. They hunt as we do. Granted,” he shrugged, “they have been known to prey on our farm animals… but they are hunters, just as we are. We have gone about this all wrong. We could have a symbiotic relationship with the dragons. Could you imagine their power behind the Grey Wardens?”

Gabriel clenched his fists. “We would be unstoppable.” Gabriel seemed to come back to reality and looked at William. “But you’re no doubt wondering how I can still be alive… after so long?”

Gabriel smiled. “When I killed the first dragon after the Second Blight, I duplicated the Joining Process – but with the Blood of the Dragon I had slain. I thought to myself, if drinking the Blood of the Darkspawn allows us to hear their Calling; perhaps I could drink the blood of a Dragon and hear them.”

Gabriel seemed to drift off into thought, recalling those days now long gone. He smiled again, then looked at William. “As it turned out… I could hear them. This led me to dragon after dragon. I killed each and every one of them. But it was not until I came across Diskeria,” he gestured to the Dragon behind him, who raised her head slightly, “that I truly heard the Dragons. I… had not realized that each time I heard the Dragons… I could do what no one else could… I could understand them. Their roars were … words to me. But in the heat of battle… I did not listen… not until Diskeria.”

“The Dragons are not evil,” Gabriel shook his head. “They have only attacked after countless years and centuries of man hunting them down… just as I had. Diskeria showed that to me. She was the first that could have killed me… after years and years of killing dragons… I was wearing down… she could have killed me so easily… instead, she pinned me beneath her claws… I waited for her to rend my flesh from my bones… instead, she spoke to me… told me to listen to her… to truly listen.”

“She told me that they were not evil… she shared her thoughts… she’s… thousands of years old… she showed me how man has hunted her and her children… slain them… because they perceived dragons to be evil… to be dangerous… she said she wanted to use me as an avatar, so to speak… to be the human that reaches out to others… to show them that we have nothing to fear from Dragons…” Gabriel explained. “So when a band of survivors fleeing a Darkspawn attack nearly froze on these mountains, it was Diskeria who told me of them… she sensed them on her mountain… I went to them, and helped them… brought them to Diskeria’s lair… to show them… they took part of the Joining, using the Dragon Blood, so that they could hear her… understand her… and so Nahash was founded.”

Gabriel frowned. “Admittedly, much like the Grey Warden Joining… there are some who… do not survive the process. There have been others… whose bodies… changed, because of the Joining. But over all, it has been successful. As the years turned, imagine my surprise when I found… I was not aging. Something in the Dragon’s blood that allows them to live centuries had carried over into mine, from when I had originally done the first Joining process with the Dragon’s blood.”

Gabriel rose, “As these others have, that you see before you. Some of them, though they look no more than a mere twenty years of age, are well over two hundred years old.” Gabriel began to pace back and forth, “As an added bonus,” Gabriel continued, “the song of the Darkspawn Calling began to subside as the years went on. The Dragon Blood had… cured me, for lack of a better word, of the incessant sound of The Calling.”

Gabriel heaved a deep sigh, smiling contently, “So in short, it has cured me of the Calling… it has granted me immortal life… or at least a very, very, very extended life… it has allowed me to understand the Dragons… do you not see, Grey Warden, all the benefits there is to this mutual relationship that we have developed with the Dragons?”

Gabriel looked over the group and stopped when his eyes met Quinn’s. “If you don’t believe me, ask your Blood Mage friend there. I can hear the blood in his veins. Comrades, it would seem, who you defeated and killed… and he did his magic to absorb their blood… to strengthen him… and it has done so, has it not, my friend?”

William turned to look at Quinn questioningly. Quinn’s eyes went from Gabriel, to William, and back to Gabriel. “It’s true,” Quinn said. “Already I can feel the Dragon’s Blood healing my body.”

Gabriel sat down on the jeweled throne again. “My apologies for our rough beginning,” Gabriel gestured to the innkeeper, “but when he saw the emblem of the Grey Warden on his chest, he assumed you were here to put an end to our utopia. We merely sought to capture your comrades, so that you would at least give us a chance to explain ourselves. So what of it, Grey Warden? Will you join us? Or leave us in peace? Or will you seek to destroy us?”

William paused.

He knew not what to do…
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Old 01-18-2013, 03:10 PM   #26
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Default Re: Dragon Age: Life Begins With Death.

Gabriel paced back and forth, his long blond hair tied neatly into braids. He looked up at William. “We can help you against the Blight,” Gabriel said. “But I am need of your… services.”

“My services?” William was somewhat taken aback. “What could I possibly help with that you could not?”

“I mentioned… those that survived the Joining process… whose bodies… changed,” Gabriel said, stopping his constant pacing to look directly at William. “I need you to dispose of them.”

“Dispose of them?” William looked more confused than ever. “Why is it that you and your people do not do this? It would seem, between how the Joining has enhanced your bodies, and the aid of a dragon and several drakes… these abominations could not hope to stand up against you.”

“They have burrowed deep into the mountain,” Gabriel answered. “Through tunnels and small crevices that neither drake nor dragon can fit… and as for us… just as we, as Grey Wardens, could once hear the calling of the Darkspawn… so too can these abominations hear us… so when they do… they scurry, hide, and prepare traps… They will not be able to hear you… Only your Blood Mage, and the amount of Dragon Blood he has taken in through his black magic ritual is minimal at best…”

“I don’t trust him,” Quinn whispered, standing behind William. “Not that I won’t fight these things, just to fight… but there’s something else he’s not telling us.”

Navah looked between Quinn and William and added, “William, we should do as he asks. I have heard about ‘ghouls’… they say it’s people turned by the Darkspawn… but not completely… these… people… not creatures… need to be put out of their misery. They’re suffering.”

William looked to Berik, who smiled and shrugged. “Hey, look,” he said with a coy smile, “I don’t mind shoving my dagger between someone’s shoulder blades, if that’s what you want to do.”

William sighed and turned back towards Gabriel, who had seated himself back upon his throne made of deep mountain stone. “What is it we’re looking for?”

Gabriel signaled to one of the men who left, only to return moments later dragging what appeared to be a male human back into the room. A trail of blood followed. Navah was horrified when the guard kicked the body over. It was, perhaps, at one time – a human male. But now his skins, has tiny small, scales that glimmered even in the poorly lit torch filled room. It’s teeth, once normal, were replaced by what appeared to be perhaps hundreds of small, razor sharp teeth. The human’s eyes, once normal, had expanded into large, round eyes, with scales around them; where there was once a pupil, there was an eye that resembled that of a tiger’s.

Navah kneeled next to the creature, placing her hand on his bloody chest, feeling no heartbeat. She, in aghast horror, looked at Gabriel. “He has been tortured.”

“Yes,” Gabriel said nonchalantly, waving away the notion that it was some horrible act that had been committed. “Unfortunate, I agree. We normally put them out of their misery as soon as we find them. But they have been raiding our stocks outside, in Nahash, stealing our sheep for food… We captured that one and tried to get information from it about where they are nesting… the thing refused to speak and tell us. I will say this,” Gabriel added as an after thought, “their pain threshold is something to be admired.”

Navah looked at William, horrified. He could see in her eyes, everything she had said only moments ago, had now been reversed. Where she once sought to put these things out of their misery, she now felt deep, compassion for.
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