a month ago - last edited Saturday
Gareth awoke to the searing pain of heat and smoke filling his lungs. Blinking away the haze which clouded his vision, he noticed the entire room was ablaze. The acrid smell of burning flesh greeted his nostrils, while his eyes beheld the horror that was unfolding. Grey Warden banners hung in strands, flames licking up the walls, the desk at his side nothing but charred ash. The sudden realisation of screams penetrated his thoughts, bringing him out of the shock that threatened to overpower him entirely.
“Gareth!” The voice cried out in panic. “Gareth! Get ou—“
Coughing away the fifth that dared to suffocate him, he made towards the shrieks of pain…a voice he recognised turning his blood to ice.
“Livia! Livia! I’m coming just---“the smoke shrouded his eyes, the heat of the flames so intense now his armour was buckling under the duress. Staggering his way through the engulfed doorway, he made for what seemed like a window. Grasping the hilt of his blade he battered away the glass, now slinging the shield over his back he jumped out landing awkwardly, his legs buckling under the fall. Scrambling away from the burning building, he collapsed on the grass. Soothing night air greeted his lungs, coughing and spluttering away the vile soot. Calling upon the strength that remained in his limbs he staggered to his feet, face blackened by ash, armour scorched and battered; at that moment he seemed like a figure from the fade itself. The headquarters Gareth had once commanded were now a beacon in the night for all to see. Glancing over he managed to take in what remained of the great standard that had stood as a reminder to all; The Rearing Griffon of the Wardens. Once a symbol of protection for the people of Rivain, it was nothing more than a charred out husk.
The panicked call for help came again. Steering himself away he rounded a corner which opened up to a path leading towards the market district. His mind hammered, the smoke stinging his now reddened eyes making it hard to discern the shadowy figures that stood before him. The presence of magic filled the air, Gareth, now drawing his sword of gleaming silverite made to lunge, but before he could gather his shield a streak of light hit him square on the breastplate, sending him to the ground. The hardness of stone met his fall, knocking the air from his lungs. Gareth gritted his teeth, urging his now battered body off the paved stone.
“Get away from her you *!” he roared, now gathering his shield, he knew there was only one chance left. Whoever these sorcerers were, he needed to deal with them quickly; having learned the many forms of combat taught during his years of training, Gareth readied himself in the stance which allowed for a steady defence, while allowing for a quick step if needed. Shield raised, sword low he advanced.
Three of the four figures remained, where the other had gone Gareth had no idea. Livia was the priority, nothing else mattered. A sinister voice pierced the slow hum of magic that cut through the silence of the night.
“You see Gareth, this is what becomes of those who meddle in the affairs of others that…well…just don’t concern a man such as yourself,” the voice said coldly. Those words hit him like an icy wind, a voice he recognised
“This whole affair could have been avoided if you’d only stuck to whatever it is you Wardens actually do. The order is no longer needed Gareth can you not see, you are obsolete now, an old relic that yet lingers in times where such things are surpassed by greater powers.” The voice said again. This time the shadowy man moved towards him holding aloft a staff that gleamed wickedly in the wan moonlight. At Gareth’s horror two others came from the shadows holding a figure, a face stricken with terror, eyes searching for his own, eyes he knew. Gareth’s blood turned to ice.
It was Livia.
“She has nothing to do with his!” he yelled with a voice which had pierced many a battlefield. Lowering his shield Gareth had drawn his blade up so it met the gaze of the man in black. His eyes just discernible under the veil that covered his features.
“Ahh Gareth…,” the man said again, matching his gaze “Just when you will realise that all actions, no matter how noble you may think they are, demand a reaction.”
With that a flare of brilliant green energy gathered at the staffs head, projecting forth a torrent of staggering force. Gareth, seeing this, managed to react just in time so his shield met the impact of the blast. The metal protested at the unnatural energy which now consumed it, screeching as it started to warp under the immense pressure. Grunting he advanced towards them now, knowing this had to be ended swiftly; having fought with and perfected the techniques used to defeat Dark Spawn emissaries, Gareth knew there was only a small window of opportunity where one could counter-attack. But he was no Templar.
Searing pain now racked his body, a dark energy enveloped him, tendrils dancing around suffocating the air from his lungs. The strength leaving his already tired limbs as his sword dropped, clattering on the stony path, the shield now nothing more but a smoking piece of distorted metal. On his knees, Gareth saw the world buzz around him, faces and shadows, voices, calling, sneering.
His already scorched armour began to crumple under the sickly aura that now grew darker and more menacing. Staring up at the man, hands to the ground so as to not fall completely, Gareth saw the satisfaction now gleaming in his eyes, as if he’d slain some mighty beast; the eyes of a predator. Matching his gaze, Gareth had seen that look before and it chilled him to the bone.
“You always were the damnable coward, Vetrenus.” He managed, each breath shorter than the last.
“Always hiding behind your magic - never one to face up to a real danger when we fought the Dark spawn - you insult the Grey Wardens with your lies, your words of venom…the words of a snake.” He finished coldly
Gareth was now spent, he had no more left in him. Try as he might, the hex that Vetrenus had placed on him was slowly crushing the life from his bones, and it wouldn’t be long now before the end came. Grief and anger struck him, a fierce rage that set his heart ablaze, one of his own had turned their back on the Order, and Livia…oh Livia, why have you been brought into this… the thought made his mind scream with fury.
They would not take her as long as he still drew breath, he thought. They will not have her.
Vetrenus stepped back as if wounded by the words, donning a grin that told otherwise.
“Here we go again about the Wardens… see this is why you’ll never understand—“but before he could finish the agonizing cries of two men cut him short.
It was Livia.
To Gareth’s utter disbelief, she’d managed to break free of the two men and was now burning them alive with one of their own staffs, eyes ablaze with the fury of a High Dragon defending its young.
Vetrenus stared incredulously, but remained composed all the same.
“And here I thought this was going to be another disinteresting affair. Well, girl, you most certainly proved me wrong,” turning to Gareth “Pretty, no?” and flared his own staff of brilliant green.
Gareth’s head swam, his eye’s shrouded by some form of veil, the scene becoming distant and twisting into itself. It was now like he were a spectator watching some duel at the Grand Tourney, yet his body lingered, motionless. He made out bolts of fire and spectacular green light, flashes from parallel magic’s colliding, sparks flying, coiling, as each placed a ward of protection around themselves. But the fire was fading and became weaker by the minute. Vetrenus had performed some ritual now drawing power from the two corpses that lay at his feet. Blood magic.
Livia’s energy was failing.
Gareth could do nothing but watch, his eyes fogged in this distorted reality, he now witnessed the horror that he was reliving. This nightmare he tried so hard to keep away, yet it lingered, always there, buzzing at his minds edge. Vetrenus had now finished drawing whatever power remained in those corpses and had turned to her, seeing the faltering shimmer of light which now collapsed under her now depleted body. Gareth knew what happened next. No matter how much he screamed, pain gripped his mind, his heart aching, all which remained of him fled in that moment, and a moment he wished he’d ever witnessed.
Vetrenus strode over with the ample pride of one who’d tasted victory time and time again, gripping Livia by the throat. Gareth saw the flow of dark energy coalescing around him even from where he was, his own body still lying motionless on the stone. The scene lurched again, projecting images of horror, faces, screams, and the all-consuming fire that now burned within. Banners flew, high over, now torn and spattered with the blood of his comrades. Faces he’d seen, lives flashed, fleeting moments of all the things he cherished now twisted into some contorted nightmare.
The first night they’d made love. The night after their joining.
A moment so precious, so innocent, so fleeting, now flashed before him. As quickly as it passed another image pushed its way in, a face, her face, the subtle brown of her eyes, her delicate features, and the smoothness of her hair all came before him sending a grief like no other. One of loss, and desire.
His eyes protested under the scene which now came flooding back. Vetrenus had now summoned the power within draining whatever energy remained in Livia’s now lifeless body.
“Ah Livia” the voice was distant but metallic, lost in the lurching haze.
“We could have been partners, you and I. Just think about the power we could have wielded together. No need for any of this Warden business, but you just had to fall into the trap that so many do. Love is a fool’s game.” The last words said as he searched for Gareth’s eyes through the convulsive light which illuminated the scene.
Gareth could feel those eyes upon his own, eyes as cold as the chill which now gripped his heart.
The scene had now dissolved, lurching and coiling upon itself until only what seemed like smoke remained. A new voice entered and a light shone through. One so distant, so lost, yet one he recognised.
“Gareth” it said, so soft, gentle were the words that now graced his ears.
“Gareth, you must return. Do not linger in a past where only sorrow lies. What has happened is but a distant memory now….this was never about me, “the voice seemed pained at those words. “The Wardens needs you now more than ever, they will need you before the end, Revasan. A great evil stirs in the shadows, figures are amassing, and the time has come.” The voice soothing, as if it some spirit had been sent to guide him into the beyond.
That name hit him like a blow. A name he’d long since left behind.
“Livia—I-I…how can this be,” stammering, searching for words that eluded him.
She spoke again in soft whispers. “Rise now Gareth. Hope yet remains. A blade long thought lost has awoken. A blade born of fire. All things have yet to be…Arise, champion. You know what must be done,” her words now lost in the dwindling light. He wanted nothing more than to follow her, to let his life end, but the words that resounded in his mind told him otherwise.
Another voice came now, one of panic, alarm, Gareth could feel the faint tug of hands pulling him away from the lucid dream that now vanished before his eyes.
He awoke to the pain of a hard slap across the face.
It was Ariel.