At some point in time, hunger had gotten the better of her and she had her bowl to her lips, guzzling. She thought she'd heard a preposterous suggestion and she slowly placed the bowl back on the table, cleaning away the dribble. As if to erase the image of her eating sloppily, she sat up straight, folding her hands.
"I beg pardon? Try my hand at what, exactly?"
"That is exactly my meaning," unlike the others, she did not mind talking with bread crammed into the hollow of one cheek, "It would be good for you. Good practice. The skinny man said no weapons, so you will not die. Perhaps."
The young elf laughed nervously, fidgeting. "Y-You're serious aren't you? I'd be on the floor before I could blink. No one would take me seriously and I should probably thank them for that. I do not even posses talent in magic, how can you expect me to wrestle or spar or duel...I do not know the correct term."
Sulahn'nehn continued to spew excuses like it was not clear she had no desire to entertain the idea.
"How do you expect to learn without the trying?" Ghil glanced to Ulrin, nodding towards him. "Do you not agree?"
"Ah well," The elf glanced at Sulahn'nehn and nodded slowly, "You both make good points." He stirred his spoon in his soup, "But it is unfair Ghil to match her against you. She should face someone withing her skill- and size rang- first. What will she learn from a proper pummeling other than to avoid larger foes? She needs someone she has a chance against."
"You speak as though I cannot be gentle. Still, perhaps she would be more at peace versus a smaller fighter, like you." Ghil looked back toward Sulahn'nehn for her opinion, one eyebrow raised.
"I suppose I could face her, if she is well enough for it?" Ulrin also turned his attention toward the female elf.
She glanced between the two. While it seemed like a great idea to go for the much smaller individual, she doubted he had as much experience. From what she'd heard, Ghil may as well have been a master. "If I am to learn anything, and I mean no offense to you, Ulrin, I would like it to be with Ser Ghil."
Oh please let that be the right name.
"She has more experience, I think, and if she speaks the truth about handling me gently I may survive to tell the tale."
She smirked, clapping Ulrin on the shoulder. "Do not worry. You will be next."
Ghil stood up from the table, pushing her empty bowl and plate away towards the serving dishes to be collected when the slaves came to clean. She hadn't a clue where there was adequate room to practice hand-to-hand combat, but she was certain that with enough wandering they would find it.
"You must agree not to use your magicks on me."
"...delightful..." The elf muttered under his breath as the barbarian clapped his shoulder. He pushed his bowl away and opted to follow the women. If he was going to be next, he may as well get a look at what Ghil's 'gentle' side was like.
It would be a lie to say there was no regret in her decision. At the moment, it had settled in her stomach like a stone. "Y-Yes, Ser." she nodded her head, walking alongside the barbarian. "I promise not to use it. O-On purpose. It should be fine, I think."
"Do not be afraid. I am not going to pin you to the ground and punch your teeth out. That is best saved for others." She got tired of wandering once they reached the Great Hall, and she decided that the space here was good enough. Ghil paused to allow the two elves to catch up before gesturing for Sulahn'nehn to give her her hand. "I will teach you a thing or two, and that will be enough to practice with for now. Hold your arm just so. The thumb," She arranged the elven girl's hand into a delicate fist, "goes on the outside. Now, let me see."
She placed her hands on her wide hips and waited. She was expecting Sul to hit her.
The well spoken elf found herself with the ability to only utter one word.
What was she supposed to do, break her fist on the woman? She may as well have attempted to punch a wall. Or swat a fly with the way she threw her arm with no weight. Even she knew it was bad, turning red in the face. "This may surprise you, but I have not struck someone before."
Ghil's face held nothing but bemusement, "It is no surprise. Do it again. Do not let yourself fear that you will harm me. You will not. You must strike with force. And later, you must learn not to care if it hurts them."
She beat her fist against her own chest and nodded. "Again."
Ulrin had taken a seat off to the side to watch Ghil train Sul in the ways of combat. He leaned forward slightly resting his elbow on his knee and his chin in the palm of his hand. 'I think it would be more surprising to hear that you have before today...'
With a bit more effort this time around, Sulahn'nehn threw another punch, preferring not to aim at a woman's chest. Immediately after she retracted her hand, rubbing her knuckles. "Are you sure this is going to hurt anyone? I seem to do more damage to myself than you. Not...that I could bring any harm to you." She heaved a sigh, readying for another go. How foolish she must have looked.
"It is for the practicing," she said, between Sulahn'nehn's weak punches; she took time to correct her form and prevent her from overextending her arm, "One day, you will be pleased that you learned. ...Perhaps sooner than you thought."
Ghil nodded at the space behind the elven girl; Constable Davinius was approaching with swift steps. His expression was fiercer even than usual.
"Girl. Maleficar." He paused well away from the group, gesturing. "Come with me, now."
Ulrin lifted his head from hims hand as the blood mage approached. He wondered what the human wanted with her now? She was already healed, and he did not seem like her was in a pleasant mood. Not that Ulrin had ever seen him in one. The rough stood and started to walk over to them so he would not miss any of what was said.
Whatever the constable wanted with them was going to be worse than knocking her knuckles against the stone that was Ghil. Staying put was preferable to going anywhere the blood mage wanted her to be, but if she remembered correctly she was expected to obey him. The elf reluctantly followed after him as asked.
The rouge looked up to Ghil still frowning and muttered, "What did he want? Did he say why he is taking Sulahn'nehn from us?"
Thaedrin's gave Ulrin a look of disgust. "Get back. You aren't needed."
The Constable nodded to Sulahn'nehn, and then turned to lead her down the corridor, past the chapel, into the eastern wing of the fortress. It was an area the elven girl had never been in. Once they were well beyond earshot of the Great Hall, he spoke again.
"You are to receive proper training before you will be permitted to return to the field. Your magic left your control this morning. You could have killed someone. Your strength will grow while you are with us, and your magic will become more potent." He stopped outside a closed door, and turned to look at her. "So, do you understand why you must learn discipline?"
The further away the pair traveled from the rest of the Wardens the more uncomfortable she became. Things never seemed to end well when elves with magic were taken away by blood mages. Elves in general really. And the mutual distrust did not aid her feelings.
Sulahn'nehn shrunk listening to him. Of course he would not so easily forgive or forget her mishap. "Yes, Ser. I'm sorry, Ser. I understand, but-"
Thaedrin didn't wait for her to finish. He opened the door and waited for her to enter before stepping inside himself and shutting it firmly behind him. He locked it, as well, and the reason he did so was because within there was an elderly elven man tied to a chair, heavily sedated. He did not want to risk her attempting to flee.
"Sulahn'nehn, they call you. Is that correct?" The Constable gestured to the man in the chair, "I know you will fear for him now that you've seen him in such a state. He is of your ilk, after all. Don't be. The healers have assured me that he would have died within the month, regardless. And it is better to give one's life to a matter of importance than to a disease, or to the taint." He slipped his dagger out of its sheath and stepped behind the old elf. "I promise he feels no pain."
The blade sliced open his throat and his blood spilled in a red curtain down over his front, soaking into his clothes. A powerful aura surrounded the three of them and pulsed within the room, the very rock shuddering. Sulahn'nehn's blood surged in response to Thaedrin's sorcery, the pressure and the pain immense, until all of reality was swallowed up by blackness.
"Ah... I see it, now."
When Sulahn'nehn was next aware, she would find herself within a familiar place. The Fade. Brown crags floating in a wild green nothingness, a black fog obscuring whatever sun was offering its light. It seemed heavy, like ash. The Black City hung above, distant. Thaedrin was near, looking at something just behind her.
"I would have expected near anything but Sloth."
Her distrust was well founded, as soon as she'd laid eyes on the poor man she whipped around to face Thaedrin and demand an explanation. Those words, however were caught in her throat when she saw the exit being barred from her. What did she do that brought this on? It couldn't have just been a misfired spell. He meant to kill her, it must be the only reason to bring her so far away.
She screech, "No! Don't!", but it was far too late and the poor man's blood gushed forward. As quickly as she'd seen it happen, she was doubling over in pain, and when it subsided she was not where she was before. It was Fade and in front of her was Thaedrin. But if she was there, there was only so long before he would discover he'd been correct. As it turned out, it was not very long at all. There was no need to look behind her, the feelings was there and she knew the demon was there.
"L-Leave him be. He means no harm."
The lanky demon reached forward and drummed its bony fingers gently on the elf's shoulders, "Ah, it seems we have a visitor. Why do you disturb my lady? I can make you happy. Why not relax, would that not be better?"
"Do not waste your breath trying to turn me, demon." The look on the blood mage's face was neither fear nor anger... Perhaps resignation? "I have no intent of severing you from your host. Unless she desires it. Rather, I must do what you have not. Train her, teach her discipline. If you take issue with the girl gaining control over the power in her, then we must resolve it now."
Sloth's fingers curled, grasping onto Sulahn'nehn's shoulders as to protect her. "Oh?" quizzically, the demon tilted his head, studying the blood mage. It was hard to ignore the tension his host felt, but she made no move to attack what seemed to be a threat. Nevertheless, the demon kept it's eyes on the human. He spoke calmly and slowly, in no rush to reach the end of each sentence he spoke. "My lady wished to keep her power hidden away, quiet, forgotten. Happy to normal, everyone happy to eat, drink, and enjoy. You would take this from her."
"You slaughtered that man."
"I did." Thaedrin was in no mood to argue the ethics of his decision. His eyes flicked from the demon to the elf girl. "Would you have the death be a waste?"
The Constable stepped closer, crossing the hunk of rock towards them. "Hear me, for I will only say it once. I came here with a task, and we are not leaving until it is complete. Sulahn'nehn's life belongs to the Grey Wardens now, her talents are no longer a secret. I assume that the deal you made with the girl was one of symbiosis, correct? You hide her, and she lets you share in her earthly experiences? ...So, what I intend to do holds no ill benefit for you. I'm not telling you this to negotiate with you, mind. But I want you to be aware of what you'll be risking, should you attempt to interfere. Get in my way, and I will destroy you."
Thaedrin held out a hand to Sulahn'nehn, to help her stand. "And you, you must consent to my methods."
The demon laughed heartily. If anything, it was a treat to see a human with no fear behind their threat. But as expected of his kind, he preferred to avoid fights, finding them a waste of energy. He tilted his head once more, curious. "What does the lady wish?"
Ignoring the question, she spat out her words and wanted nothing more than to slap Thaedrin away. "You do not deny that you murdered that man and in the same breath you tell me not to waste his death before his blood can even cool! You-", she bit her tongue, not knowing if the blood mage bluffed or if he could trouble destroy them both and she did not want to find out what dying in the Fade meant for her mind and body.
The demon himself tensed. Not from fear, but in readiness to strike.
"No," she started. "I believe this was his intent. This...this-," there were many words that she wanted to call Thaedrin. All of them bitter and rude, but they stayed bottled up. "You are wicked. But I will not let his death be in vain."
"As you wish."
It was Sloth who then helped the elf to her feet. He then drifted away from them, never too far, never too close, simply watching.
"I promise you will hate me even more by the end of it."
Thaedrin's hand withdrew, since she was making a point of not accepting it. He nodded toward the demon, then gestured for her to follow him toward the center of the island.
"You must wonder why we came to the Fade, why you couldn't be trained classically. Time works against us in the waking world, it would have taken weeks to teach you restraint under duress. Here, you will know no fatigue."
As he led the elf further in among the crags, the world around them shifted at blood mage's coming. The rock flattened to the ground and became black marble floors veined with gold, the fog grew even more dense around them and became walls, a vaulted ceiling, paneled in rich woods. The décor was not unlike that of Sulahn'nehn's master. The same extravagance was prevalent. Even the Constable's appearance changed, from the blue and silver of his Grey Warden's uniform to robes befitting an Altus mage. His carriage and his disdainful expression, however, remained unchanged when he turned back to face her.
"The Fade has long been a tool of the magisters, to watch and control their peoples. The terrain is shaped by us, by our emotions and our memories. Your dreams, your essence, your soul..." Thaedrin pressed his palm to the elven girl's forehead, his power wrapping around her mind with a cold grip, "...all are on display."
She had seen the Fade transform around her before, but never in such magnitude. It had never taken the shape of anything that did not feel peaceful and now she just felt watched. Everything about it reminded her of her need to be cautious in the home of her master. Seeing another person warp was new to her and even more so was the feeling of her mind releasing hold of itself as memories flooded out.
The door to an room far too under decorated to belong to a magister flew open; A tall, bearded man in finery appeared to be walking towards an elf who sat before a looking glass. "The incompetence of the men here is staggering. Come here, sweetling. The fortress has been breached and I don't favor staying here to watch it fall." There was confidence in the man's voice as he beckoned her to follow him out. A white fog rolled over their images and they dispersed, causing a new scene to unfold. The same man who held his head high at the thought of darkspawn invading was now knackered and losing hope for victory. Almost all able and ready soldiers had fallen and the man could barely stand without leaning on his staff. The elf cowered behind him, nearly unscathed. The last of the spawn fell. A small break in waves or was it finally over? He turned to tell the young woman that the danger had passed, but there was something wrong. The way she looked at him had been different, a mix of things he could not read. But something shifted in the air a feeling he recognized as magic. Question rang in the few syllables he was able to speak. "Sula-"
Valathian was no more than a mass of flesh and jutting bone. The elf's face changed again. Was it right to do? She fled.
The fog appeared again, brightly shifting to a grand party, typical of the social class. She stood by her master, entertaining the social elite with well spoken words, manner, and beauty. They complimented her as if she were not standing there as one would a show hound. "Oh, isn't she darling?", "I wish mine were as precious.", "Isn't that the cutest little thing? She'd be nearly human if it weren't for those ears." The men and women laughed among themselves. She was later seen being guided towards an outlandish bedroom and instructed to wait.
The images distorted, a flash, and something new played out. A frustrated Sulahn'nehn paced the floor. She'd had to sit through yet another lavish party and listen to magisters brag. Her master in particular was rather proud of his family name, haven taken part in crossing the veil. So many of her kind slaughtered like cattle and for what? A curse. And the things he did? Despicable. She wanted to do something, anything to see him brought to justice and her inability to take action made her scream out her frustrations. As she did such, a shockwave erupted from her, destroying much in her tiny room. She panicked. Was that magic? How could she be a mage? She was passed the point where magic normally made itself apparent. The noise of course called for an investigation, a lie about a tantrum, and a punishment for destroying what was given to her was in order. That night she wept. She would be found out and then never seen again. She begged inwardly for someone to help her. Her call was answered.
It was the third person to have gone missing. Shortly after his magic flared and caught the attention of Valathian the male elf stopped being seen working the fields. Sulahn'nehn could hear the screams. Every time someone disappeared there were screams every night until one night, the sound would stop abruptly. She knew their life had ended. A terrible fate for being born with magic. She prayed they would be guided to the Beyond.
Valathian called on a girl to fill his cup and Sulahn'nehn obliged. He looked her over, not sure if she was a new girl or he'd always had her around. Surely he would have noticed someone like her before. He asked for her name, what her duties were, how long she'd been in service to him. The magister nodded his head dismissing her only to call her to his room that very night.
The flashes of memory stopped abruptly, Sulahn'nehn only just able to close her mind for whatever good that did. She remained silent. There was nothing that would fix what her mind revealed.
The images flashed past him in a blur, the landscape around them changing wildly between scenes, but he did not fail to comprehend. Thaedrin watched everything, felt everything. When the last memory faded, he could feel her hate for him, too, shining like a beacon. He struck her across the jaw with an open hand.
"Now we begin."
The blood mage vanished.
Around them, the splendor of the Davinius manor became the fortress at Ostagar, Sulahn'nehn left alone in the magister's bedroom. Just as before, the horde was flooding up the stairwell, bristling with weapons and thirsty for blood. This time, Valathian was not here to protect her.
"Defense," came Thaedrin's voice over the noise of the Darkspawn's ascent. "This is where you must begin. You will never cease to feel fear, or pain. So you must use it to your advantage. You have the power to move matter with a thought! Why should you let anything touch you?"
The swords and the axes and the spears could do no harm to her physical body beyond the veil, but the pain was substantial. Every time she experienced a false death, the backdrop would change and the danger would begin anew. The forest where she was found, Weisshaupt's halls, the burning watchtower. If her spells went wild or she failed to obey, lightning coursed through her body. Thaedrin would make success a habit if it took him all day.
"Meek little thing, go back to your gilded cage if you want to hide!"
She held her face where he struck her, she glared at the spot he'd been standing before he vanished. Her hatred deepened into loathing and she was sure he felt the same for her.
The elf was shocked to find herself going so quickly from feeling such malice to fear. As soon as pain came by the hands of the darkspawn she was sent elsewhere. Each time seeming to only do minimally better until she actually managed to stand her ground and defeat a handful before failing once more. If Thaedrin stood before her she would let loose a string of spells, however, he remained unseen. The bastard.
Sulahn'nehn rubbed her hand over her arm, certain that the wounds she received you be real at any moment. "You are the one who hides here!"
Sloth maintained his distance from the frequently shifting Fade, awaiting a change in his hosts mind.
When Sulahn'nehn was finally able to force the hurlocks to keep their distance, to knock them back, the forest dissipated around her and became Valathian's manor. Thaedrin was there; he slapped her across the face again, to gain her attention.
"You're still too wild. So, you can handle multiple enemies. How about just one?" His magic lashed out violently, throwing her back across lush rugs and into hand-carved furniture. The blood mage crossed the corridor quickly, as another spell surged around his hands. "Focus. When you battle the darkspawn, they will overwhelm you unless you can think clearly through your fear. Do you understand?"
He took a fistful of her hair and dragged her around the corner, down the stairs. He knew the elf had no memories of Valathian's laboratories, but it made no difference. He knew what his father's looked like. Thaedrin threw her down onto a stone altar, surrounded with trays of tools and jars of strange substances. Samples, perhaps. His hand gripped her by the throat and kept her down, his power slapping away her spells with no more effort than when he struck her earlier.
"Focus! Is this what you were afraid of!?" The blood mage shook her in frustration; he grasped a scalpel from the tray of tools, the weight of the metal so real in his hand. He showed her the blade, bringing it slowly ever closer to her lower eyelid with the intent to cut it loose. "Come on, whore, how will you strike me down if you do not focus!"
If Thaedrin wanted to make her blindingly mad, he succeeded. Funnily, getting slapped about after dealing with waves of darkspawn grew old very quickly. No sooner had the thought crossed her mind did she find herself across the room. She whimpered, pulling herself up from the broken bits of furniture. She didn't know if her vision was blurred, if it was a trick of the blood mage, or he simply deflected her attacks, but none seemed to land.
The elf cried out, grabbing at Thaedrin's hand as he dragged her along. As soon as they entered the room, she screamed and began to sob. "No! No, please!"
Sloth rose his head from a slumber, again ready to come to her aid when he felt the surge of distress from his host.
The mage thrashed against the altar, pleading to be let go. None of it was real, but she'd lost track of that fact. It became reality to her. Her struggle continued for a few moments more. Her eyes rolled to the back of her head and for a moment, she stopped moving.
Sulahn'nehn's hand shot up and pushed against Thaedrin's chest and a pulse launched him through the equipment. As soon as his hand left her, she got up to send down a great force to press him into the floor. "Do not touch me!"
Thaedrin's first thoughts were of alarm. Sulahn'nehn's magic threw him across the room, and he collided with the stone of the wall before falling to his hands and knees on the floor. There wasn't time for quips between her first spell and her second. Her force shattered what was left of his defenses and laid him out fully. The blood mage's shout of pain swelled into a scream as the pressure increased on his frame. He felt his bones shatter.
The magister's laboratory warped and dissipated as his consciousness slammed back into his physical body; he could no longer maintain the spell to trap her in the Fade. With sharp, gasping breaths, he stumbled backwards to support himself against the wall at his back. When he opened his mouth to speak, blood dribbled from his lips and over his chin to stain his collar.
He tossed the key to her feet and slowly sank to sit.