[Story] Story a Week 41

[[ Prompt: A romance that ends in tragedy

I’ve been wanting to write my Dragon Age Warden, Raleth, for a while. As he picked the (spoilers!!) ending where he chooses to sacrifice himself, I figured he’d fit for this prompt. It doesn’t actually happen in this story but whatever. ]]

The archdemon opened its jaws and screamed, a sound so shrill and un-nerving that Raleth could feel it in the ground beneath his feet. Panic seized him and he could do nothing but stare as the monstrous thing snaked its head toward him, its eyes burning with sickly flame. It roared again, this time so near that the force of it pushed him back, like a gust of wind in a storm. It smelled rancid, the stench of fouled meat and damp caverns. He turned and ran, the dead leaves kicking up underneath his feet, dodging the thin, black trees, slimy with moss and lichens. Raleth didn’t dare look, but he could hear the flapping of the leathery wings close behind, feel the rush of air as they flapped and stirred the leaves from the ground. He didn’t know where he was going, but somewhere, anywhere away from it. Maybe there was a cave he could duck into, but couldn’t it smell him? It had found him here, after all, somehow. Far ahead, wreathed in fog, Raleth could see figures silhouetted there and it briefly gave him hope. He was saved, someone was here to drive the monster off him and send it back to its fetid pit beneath the earth. But they weren’t people, he realized, as the shapes drew closer. Their bright eyes cut through the fog, leaving sharp lines of light. They were spirits of the fade, warped and twisted, and they weren’t here to help him. Not at all. Raleth gasped, and nearly stumbled over the root of a tree. His robes were wet and muddy from the forest, he could see the hem unraveling. How long had he been out here? The pause was all the Archdemon needed. It reared back its serpentine neck, and struck.

Raleth awoke with a start, and for a few moments he believed he was actually dead, until he realized that he was breathing heavily. Dead people don’t breathe, he was sure of that.

“Dreaming again?”

The bard’s features were outlined by the embers of the dying fire. It was her watch. Of course it was. Raleth felt his ears darken with embarrassment.

“Yes,” he said, gathering up his pack and blankets. He had strewn them off his sleeping mat. The dreams were bad enough, having to explain them was worse. He was sure he sounded crazy.

“Was it a bad one?” asked Leliana, stirring the fire with a stick. She lay a small log on it, and it flickered weakly into life again. “When I had bad dreams, they used to tell me to think of something else after. Something nice.”

If it were that easy, Raleth thought, he surely would. But they were so vivid, so real, unlike any he’d had back at the Circle. Almost if they were something else, prophetic, perhaps. But he knew that sounded crazy too. Still, he appreciated that she was trying to help. And it would probably be some time before he could sleep again. He could still feel the archdemon’s roar echoing in his ears. He wrapped one of the blankets around his shoulders and moved over to the fire to warm his hands. It wasn’t yet winter, but the nights grew very cold, especially at this late hour. She smelled nice, like some kind of flower. Raleth couldn’t identify it, but he knew it wasn’t the one he’d found for her in the woods. That one had been light and delicate and simple, unassuming. The one now smelled more exotic and fancy, like somewhere in the city. He thought about asking what she’d done with it, but decided not to. It would be awkward, even more awkward than things were presently. He thought, sometimes, that maybe there was something in the way she smiled, but he was probably just imagining it. Back in the Circle there had never been any girls who liked him that way. But he saw how they acted around boys that they did like, and he thought it might be similar. Or maybe she was just friendly to everyone. It seemed so. He didn’t want to make assumptions where he shouldn’t. Besides, he was an elf. He knew how that made him look to others. Especially someone who’d travelled so far and seen so much. She liked to tell of her homeland, and how opulent it was. What interest could she have in an elf from the poorest part of a city that stank?

“Are they from…?” she trailed off. Raleth knew what she meant. The demon’s blood that now ran through his veins, was part of him. Whatever it was that had marked him and set him upon this path, one that he couldn’t step off of no matter how much he wished to. He would have been happy to go back to the Circle, even with all its rules and templars, and forget about all of this. But then he wouldn’t have met her, would he?

He nodded. “They’re so real. I don’t know if they’re meant to show what will happen or –” Raleth paused, frowning. “Something else.”

“I have them sometimes,” Leliana said, her expression growing more serious. “Not like yours, I’m sure. But visions.”

Raleth nodded, he remembered. She’d said that she foresaw his arrival in a dream, that it was a sign from the Maker that she was to join them. Raleth believed in the Maker, dutifully said his prayers every day in the Circle chapel, but he didn’t consider himself especially religious. Still, how did he know it wasn’t true? Maybe it was. Stranger things had already happened to him. “Did you  have any recently?” he asked. About me, was what he wanted to know, but he didn’t say it.

Leliana paused, and he thought he saw a hint of a smile. What did that mean? “I’m not sure yet,” she said. “Sometimes their meaning isn’t clear at first.”

“Oh,” said Raleth. Of course he wanted to know what she meant, it was frustratingly vague and — he guessed — intentionally so. But he could hear others beginning to stir. It was close enough to dawn that it would be useless to try to go back to sleep now. Soon they would be cooking and packing up the camp and preparing to move. Streaks of pale light brushed the horizon. Whatever chance he might have had to say something was gone.

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