Adventurers of the Inquisition: A Dragon Age RP (started)

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"Heh, nothing to worry about. Jacques will translate, you will perform, Von and I will keep watch. You will aid your friends and this town, right?"

"No need for thinly veiled manipulation," Ash replied, his tone at least partly jokingly, and got up from the bed. Staying in it was just going to tempt him further. He took a moment to sound less tired, and felt a bit amused by the whole situation. "But yeah, I get it, I get it. It was a nice... minute, or so, but I suppose I have duties to tend to. Odd duties, rituals that I'm not sure I can perform, but I'll try at least," he stretched, yawning, his pale hair already something of a mess. He grinned, sheepishly, though it was a strange look for someone who was towering over most of them.

The bed was warm, I hope it's not going to be too cold downstairs.

"Now, if anyone wants to discuss something more in secret, let's do it quickly, because I'd need either sleep or food to do some sort of ritual, and apparently there's no sleep for a cute little mage like me," he chuckled, rubbing as much sleep as he could out of his eyes. It had, sadly, done little to deal with his usual visions, but at least he sort of... maybe... felt a little bit better?

"Unless people think this is a bad idea, of course," he added, but more as an afterthought. Ash didn't see why they couldn't at least try.

"Then... I suppose we can keep discussing the ditches," he said, winking at Nola to make it clear that he meant no harm.

"I think it best to leave the matters of this inscribed ritual to Jacques an' the others," Berund spoke up. It was clear none of them were exactly experts on the matters of demonology. The subject had already circled back around to letting the inn's resident mages come up with a solution. Berund was more concerned with the corporeal threats. "We can scratch our heads at the writing until the nugs come home, but what we need to do is start fortifyin' this place, an' a couple more homes nearby. Let whatever comes come to us. We simply don't have the numbers to defend all the town, so we must focus on protectin' what we can. If the mages are this abomination's main target, as helpful as they may be, we can't have them outside our reach. We spread ourselves thin, an' surely we will fall. I propose we turn this inn into a keep, an' the surroundin' buildin's will be our walls. Have every able-bodied man arm themselves an' help fend off the material threats. Keep the mages close, an' they can handle the unfleshly matters."

"Finally, someone with sense." Nola said happily. "Better idea than I had to be sure." Nola had followed the group up still thinking. When Berund spoke the growing weight on her shoulders had been lifted. Fortifying she could do. "I say we get started on this now, the sooner our fortress is ready the safer these people will be. And the sooner we can get back to the Inquisition and get payed."

"Then... I suppose we can keep discussing the ditches,"

She returned the wink with a smile. "Nah don't worry about it big guy. Berund had the right idea." She turned to Jerrett. "I also say we let Ash get some sleep. As far as I now a sleep deprived mage is usually a dangerous thing. Let the guy-whose-name-I-can't-pronounce worry about this ritual. Between the rest of us and the townsfolk we should have enough muscle to get this inn set up to last against just about anything. Plus with me and Berund, that would include darkspawn. Now those bastards are worse than any Abomination. I figure compared to them, keeping demons out won't be much of an issue."

"I think it best to leave the matters of this inscribed ritual to Jacques an' the others."

"I also say we let Ash get some sleep. As far as I now a sleep deprived mage is usually a dangerous thing. Let the guy-whose-name-I-can't-pronounce worry about this ritual."

Raising his heads to his companions Nola and Berund, Jarrett had been caught off guard, his mouth agape. Everything seemed wrapped up to him. "...huh." It took him a moment to regain his composure. Closing his eyes and chuckling warmly he begin moving out of the room. "Ah, so be it."

He shook Berund's shoulder but before he left he held the note in his open palm. "All I ask is that you accept the consequences." Dropping the note on the floor for them to use or ignore he waved off his companions. "I'll be downstairs if you need me. Rest well Ash"

"Hm... is this suitable everyone?"

Nestled within a chair at the back of the room, Von resisted all urges to go to sleep. "Y-yeah ... tis, fine ..." His voice trailed off, his closing eyes betraying his intent, even if Jarrett glared at him in serious expectancy. The lure of sleep cradled the Templar, with one a swipe of his hand, the large cloak was wrapped around him. If Von hoped for anything, is that he would want to dream of the real city, the one paved with gold, where he may meet those that meant something to him.

Of course, he knew he would not. The betrayal he delivered would be remembered by body and mind, it would not allow him much pleasure. Yet, the most comfort Selthen could take part in is his memory. The most pleasant one contained a beaming sky, the humid summer wind, and flax coloured hair that was apart of a girl. This former boy only wondered where that girl is, and he hoped she had not been punished by a bad fate.

Opening his eyes, Von let out a silent groan. He had missed the discussion, but he could not care. The only goal he wanted was the safety of the people in this town. Death was his enemy, and yet he used him like a tool. "Could we possibly break this meeting up. Today was ... busy." Von said to the group, his tone tired, and his face looked likewise. Rejecting a small smile, he remembered that this attitude was like his father.

"Nah don't worry about it big guy. Berund had the right idea. I also say we let Ash get some sleep. As far as I now a sleep deprived mage is usually a dangerous thing. Let the guy-whose-name-I-can't-pronounce worry about this ritual. Between the rest of us and the townsfolk we should have enough muscle to get this inn set up to last against just about anything. Plus with me and Berund, that would include darkspawn. Now those bastards are worse than any Abomination. I figure compared to them, keeping demons out won't be much of an issue."

"All I ask is that you accept the consequences. I'll be downstairs if you need me. Rest well Ash"

"But now I'm already up..." Ash replied. He felt like it'd be rude to say that he didn't want to sleep when he very clearly had insisted on doing so earlier. And he was exhausted. However, Jarrett's note had triggered his curiosity, the little he had understood of it made it clear that it was a very interesting one. And a ritual, too, he had never done anything like that.

But what do I say?

He looked at Von, who was almost asleep, clearly struggling not to drift into slumber as he spoke. Normally, he'd say he felt the same, but right now, he was too busy trying to look like he wasn't that tired. That meant, at least partly, fooling himself.

"Could we possibly break this meeting up. Today was ... busy."

"Besides, Von needs the bed more than I do. I mean, I'm tired, but Von, he's--" he yawned. "Von's basically already asleep." Walking over to Von, he examined him for a brief moment, then picked him up and carefully carried him over to the bed -ignoring what exhausted struggling the other did- before putting the (former?) Templar down in the bed.

"So, now that he's in the bed, I can't use it."

Ash picked up the note, addressing the others before going downstairs. "We might as well have it translated," he muttered, and looked to dwarves. "If I can do it, I'll forgo on the sleep, I could always just... ehm..." he scratched his ear underneath the left horn. "I could just sleep later, it's not like they're here yet. And I asked Marsha to make me food, and---" He smiled, feeling a bit foolish as he looked at Nola and Berund, who had both said to let the fancy mages take care of it. Finally, he admitted why he was trying to make up excuses.

"I'm just really curious about the ritual now. I want to try it out. Or at least know what it does. I appreciate the thought of letting me sleep, and I realize that I'm not allowed to complain that I'm tired after this, but it's just... I think it's the best bet we've got, and Jarrett doesn't seem to want to do it without me." With that, he followed Jarrett, and handed the note back, making an effort to keep himself from yawning again.

"I'll do it, just get it translated. I don't really get well along with other mages."

"I'll do it, just get it translated. I don't really get well along with other mages."

"...Very well. Perfectly fine." Jarrett was caught off once again. He thought he should stop letting that happen. No harm since he was surprised by what he saw as maturity from Ash. "I'll speak with Jacques, memorise any possible translations and meet you outside. Pick somewhere visible but safe." Pointing Ash towards the door his quick movement showed he still wanted to be dominant in the conversation but there was something uncanny about Jarrett didn't quite reflect that.

Walking up to Jacques, Jarrett awkwardly patted him for attention. "Ah, uh... ahem, sorry but can you only give me the translations? I know you have people to take care of anyway. Might want to keep watch though, just by the door if you can, in case things take a urn for the worse, right?" Standing in place he waited for the mage to give him what he wanted, whether it be spoken or written.

Marsha handed Ash and Jarrett each a bowl of stew and a chunk of slightly hard bread as he arrived downstairs, nodding to him before heading up to the others with a small platter of more of the same. There was enough for each of the party, though the portions were not large it was at the very least hot.

"Eat up," she said "you lot especially need your strength."

She sighed "Some folk are starting to arm themselves, we've scarcely got a blade in this town but we've got arrows," she shook her head "foolish, they should leave such things to you trained warriors, but try and tell them that."

She looked up, suddenly bearing a stern expression "you ought to give them something to do, if you've got a plan they ought to know, there're plenty of them waiting downstairs."

She sighed again and her expression calmed "don't mistake me as ungrateful, we'd be lost for certain without you," she said "perhaps I need rest as well. Enjoy your meal."

With that she turned and headed back downstairs to tend to her establishment.

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"Ah, uh... ahem, sorry but can you only give me the translations? I know you have people to take care of anyway. Might want to keep watch though, just by the door if you can, in case things take a turn for the worse, right?"

"If you wish," Jacques said "I doubt the demon will attack until nightfall though, the darkness is just too great an advantage for it."

He took the note almost hesitantly, seeming somewhat confused by Jarrett's secretive demeanor. He sat down and began to scratch out his translation on a spare sheet of parchment. After a minute or two he seemed to have made some progress, though he was continually going back to revise earlier bits of his translation.

"Ah, this might take a while," he said "perhaps even an hour, more to get the materials together though thankfully I don't spy anything difficult to come by. Maker knows we'd be in trouble if it called for large quantities of lyrium or the like. It'd help if the Avvar didn't have their own names for each variety of elfroot and the like."

He wiped some sweat from his forehead "I will give you the translation when it is finished though, you needn't worry about that," he said "I may even work faster if you aren't hovering over me like a hawk."

While the others nattered on, and planned, Kari rested. Things like tactics and attack planning were never her strong suit; she was more of the 'hit it until it dies, and if that's not working hit it harder' type, and was more than willing to leave the decisions up to others. Chuckling quietly to herself as Ash stuffed Von into the bed he'd previously occupied, she decided to follow the mage's advice as well. Crossing her hands across her stomach, she closed her eyes where she sat and drifted off to sleep.

Ash smiled brightly when he was handed some food, even if it wasn't that much. Then again, he supposed it was his fault for skipping breakfast, even though it was because of his... well, issues.

Next time I should just force it in.

Even if he saw eyeballs in the soup, or teeth, or---

No thinking, just eating.

That was probably the best idea of them all.

"...Very well. Perfectly fine. I'll speak with Jacques, memorise any possible translations and meet you outside. Pick somewhere visible but safe."

"Or," Ash replied, eyebrow a bit raised at Jarrett's suggestion of him waiting outside. What if it took longer than a couple of minutes? It was cold outside, and Ash was hungry, having already started eating as he walked, chewing and swallowing before continuing.

"I'll wait inside, and when the translation is done, you can give me a fancy signal or something, so that I don't have to freeze my horns off while the fancy mage take his time making sure every inch of the translation is correct. I bet he'll proof-read it twice, just because. I'll be sitting over there--" he pointed over at the seat the closest to the fire.

"So you know where to look for me. Simple, yeah?"

Of course, it didn't turn out to be quite that simple. For starters, Ash was correct in that it took longer than a couple of minutes for the translation to happen. As a matter of fact, it took more than 15 minutes, which was about the amount of time it took Ash to finish his food, and sort of fall asleep, only to have his senses snap him back, fully alert, because of some sound no one else seemed to have heard, which put him in sort of a foul mood. And the translation had still not been finished.

His curiosity compelled him to move closer, then a bit closer again, until he was close enough to glance at Jacques note every time the older mage was looking elsewhere, trying to figure out what it was for. Finally, he did something he would normally dread -even if he was aware of that the world had changed in quite a small amount of time- and spoke to Jacques.

"So... what kind of ritual is it, actually?" he asked, as Jarrett hadn't really told him.

It was apparent that the planning had concluded, with a few members already nodding off. Berund made his way downstairs to the welcoming bowl of stew. He allowed himself time to eat and get comfortable, and by the time he was soaking up what was left with his bread Marsha was already talking about making preparations.

"...you ought to give them something to do, if you've got a plan they ought to know, there're plenty of them waiting downstairs."

Thinking he may as well be the one to inform the townsfolk of what they could be doing, Berund quickly wolfed the rest of his meal and walked towards the crowd. He stood on a chair and cleared his throat. He soon realized that even on a chair he wasn't a great deal taller than some of the patrons. He'd just have to hope they'd hear his voice all the same.

"All right, everyone," the dwarf began. "I have some good news an' some bad news. Bad news is there's an abomination lurkin' around with ill intent. It plans to kill an' consume every livin' body in this town. We suspect it is the cause of the wolf attacks an' the drake's presence. There's no tellin' what else it's got in store, but I've no doubt we'll see that in the very near future. Now, the good news? This isn't all that terrible of a place to hold. But if we wish to hold this place, we'll need every able-bodied man and woman to arm themselves.

"We'll also need to fortify this inn and the buildings on either side. So go to yer homes, grab yer tables, yer benches, every loose plank ye can. The windows need to be boarded an', if it can be managed, a decent path from here to the two closest buildings. From what I understand, there's a few archers among ye. Fetch yer bows an' all yer arrows an' bring 'em upstairs. Find a window, that will be yer station. The others will have to keep here in the mess and protect those less able.

"Some volunteers to station in the other two buildin's would be helpful. I'd like to keep an equal number of mages under each roof as well. There's no sense in puttin' all our eggs in one basket. Any hunters would do well to find some places to lay traps in an' around the town. The less we have knockin' on the doors, the better. As for our group, it'd be best to split among the three points of defence. We may not have long to prepare, as there's no tellin' when the abomination will come. So let's get to work, shall we?"

"So... what kind of ritual is it, actually?"

"It's ah, it's a summoning of sorts," Jacques said "it's meant to let the shaman performing it contact a specific spirit, to speak with it, perhaps channel it for power."

He shook his head "The circle deemed it too close to possession to research," he continued "though the Avvar have precautions against becoming abominations in their rituals, it still seems a risky venture. I for one, while I find the practice fascinating, would never perform such a ritual, though it seems at this point we could use every advantage possible."

He frowned and looked up, examining Ash for a few moments before turning back to the translation "I wouldn't have taken you for a mage at first, though I can't see why else you would choose to ask about the ritual," he said "If you intend to perform the ritual I wish you luck, maker knows we'll need it."

With that he went back to scratching out the translation, occasionally pausing to wave over one of his students to ask them to fetch some object or herb.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

"Some volunteers to station in the other two buildin's would be helpful. I'd like to keep an equal number of mages under each roof as well. There's no sense in puttin' all our eggs in one basket. Any hunters would do well to find some places to lay traps in an' around the town. The less we have knockin' on the doors, the better. As for our group, it'd be best to split among the three points of defence. We may not have long to prepare, as there's no tellin' when the abomination will come. So let's get to work, shall we?"

Berund's speech was met with applause by many, though some murmured worriedly about the prospect of leaving so many buildings undefended, or of having to fight so closely alongside mages. Still when it came time to get to work there was little in the way of dissension, and the people quickly went to work distributing what weapons they had, setting up traps, and building barricades. The mages for the most part chipped in with the effort, through magic or simple physical effort.

Soon enough the small area they had decided to fortify was looking rather secure, wooden barricades blocked up the space between some buildings, and through ladders mages and hunters wielding bows had taken their places on rooftops. As the sun grew lower in the sky the mages set about generating simple magic lights to keep the encroaching darkness from growing too deep.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

A bit over an hour had passed when Jacques made his way over to Jarrett, carrying a small basket of various plants in one hand and the translation in the other. He nodded at the elf and set the basket at his feet before offering the parchment.

"There, it is done as best as I can manage," he said "the plants are not harmful, perhaps not even necessary, but the ritual calls for them to be burned as a part of it, the rest is fairly simple for any mage to attempt though I cannot be certain of the potential dangers of it."

He sighed "if you intend to perform the ritual then now would be the time, I doubt the abomination will wait much longer."

As if in answer to this statement the braying of wolves could be heard in the distance, echoing over the mountains. Some hunters began to mutter that they could see predatory eyes lurking in the woods. Still nothing had attacked yet, and the calm, however tense, was maintained for the moment.

Ash listened intently as Jacques spoke. While he still didn't like the other mage -or any of them, really- he had to admit that Jacques knew what he was talking about.

"It's ah, it's a summoning of sorts. It's meant to let the shaman performing it contact a specific spirit, to speak with it, perhaps channel it for power."

"So it's an Avvar form of spirit magic? Or is it closer to---" he trailed off, he had forgotten himself for the briefest moment, and then shut his mouth.

"The circle deemed it too close to possession to research. Though the Avvar have precautions against becoming abominations in their rituals, it still seems a risky venture. I for one, while I find the practice fascinating, would never perform such a ritual, though it seems at this point we could use every advantage possible."

Of course not. That's why I have to do it.

Well, he didn't have to do it, but he wanted to try it out, make sure that they exhausted every option. Unlike the others, he could do little to prepare, perhaps carry items around for those physically weaker, or prepare himself, but there were enough people for physical work and he didn't need much to prepare, it took about a minute to prepare his armour and another to put it on, seeing as it was only a couple of pieces.

"I wouldn't have taken you for a mage at first, though I can't see why else you would choose to ask about the ritual. If you intend to perform the ritual I wish you luck, maker knows we'll need it."

"Well, I..." Ash started, trailing off. He hadn't expected the other to pick up on that fact, not because of Ash's curiosity. It was a mysterious -well, not so mysterious now that he knew what it did, but still- Avvar ritual, how could he not want to hear about that? Regardless of if he was the mage or not. A feeling spread inside of him, one of uneasiness and the need to defend himself, to get away from the situation and distance himself from everything, more so than he already did.

"Maybe I am a mage, maybe I'm not. It's not like someone showing interest in this kinda thing is proof of anything," he continued, evasive, pouting a bit as he spoke. "So don't go around making assumptions."

Of course some circle mage would say it like that.

For a bit, he kept holding an eye on the translation process, but his mood made everything shift around him, blurred, aggressive motions and shapes that only he could see, both due to that he felt like he was in danger, and something else. Ashtalan left not soon after, going back to where he had left his armour, putting it on before heading outside to help with the preparations. Jarrett would come find him when he was needed, it wasn't exactly hard to miss him. Besides, he needed to cool down, remember that it wasn't dangerous, that he wouldn't get harmed by these people.

Not unless I let them know about the truly troublesome magic.

At least, if he did the ritual, it'd make up for him not using his more powerful magic. Provided, it worked, of course.

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It started getting darker rather quickly, and when Ash was done helping as best as he could -still waiting for the ritual to be ready- he leaned against a wall, looking at the sky. Perhaps it was due to the darkness, or the stars that had started appearing in the distance, but his mind was calmer, clearer. The same couldn't be said for what he felt of the fade, it seemed restless, anxiously waiting, or perhaps preparing, for something to happen.

The ritual has to be translated soon.

If not, what was the point? Standing around, summoning spirits while the abomination was chewing on villagers? Ash closed his eyes, waiting for something to happen. The cold was refreshing, albeit, he still didn't care much for it.

After an all too brief nap, Kari joined the others in preparing the village for what was to come. Using her brute strength she helped drag barricades together, and once that was done she began running those villagers with hand weapons through some basic weapon drills. It probably wasn't going to make all that much difference in a real fight, but it helped keep their minds occupied.

At the sound of the baying, she sent her charges to their positions on the barricades before returning to the inn. Going to where she'd left her gear, she applied a new layer of vitaar. "I do believe things are about to get...interesting." She said with a smile to no-one in particular. Vitaar applied and drying she climbed to the top of the largest barricade, her sword resting on her shoulder like a polearm. "Alright." She said loudly, her voice carrying across the defenders. "Mages! Watch your fire spells. The wolves burn pretty good, but so do the barricades; if any of you know spells that cover a wide area try and cast them as far back as you can manage. If and when they hit the walls, stick to single target stuff. Archers! Don't waste shots on 'maybes', also, stay alert for anything that gets over. If you can't deal with it from up there, call it out and we'll deal with the leaks."

"if you intend to perform the ritual then now would be the time, I doubt the abomination will wait much longer."

"My sincerest thanks. This is not doubt stressful, but rest assured, while I breathe, I will do everything I can to aid you all." Sternly looking at Jacques, Jarrett picked up the basket and translation. Respectfully bowing he made his way to Ash. It was obvious that he especially looked distressed among those at the inn. "Ash." Calling him as he made he walked to grab his attention, Jarrett had let his metaphorical mask down and looked as stressed as anyone else, perhaps more so. "Last chance to back out. Before you answer, do you know why I asked you to do this ritual instead of say, Jacues? I feel a tension here that I want removed if we do this."

"Mages! Watch your fire spells. The wolves burn pretty good, but so do the barricades; if any of you know spells that cover a wide area try and cast them as far back as you can manage. If and when they hit the walls, stick to single target stuff. Archers! Don't waste shots on 'maybes', also, stay alert for anything that gets over. If you can't deal with it from up there, call it out and we'll deal with the leaks."

Ashtalan couldn't help but smile as he heard Kari's voice. She was doing a great job explaining what the villagers and mages should do. Not only because she was Qunari, like him, but because it was a reassuring voice to hear, hearing her speak put his mind off the fade and the hallucinations and all that, for the briefest moment.

"Ash."

Ash turned towards Jarrett, examining the other. He looked as if he was stressed, but then again, so did most others. Ash too, a bit less than before, though. The Qunari held back a remark about it being about time, and smiled instead.

"Last chance to back out. Before you answer, do you know why I asked you to do this ritual instead of say, Jacues? I feel a tension here that I want removed if we do this."

"There's a tension?" Ash laughed, a bit sheepishly, before nodding. "Well, I suppose there might be something. I'm mostly concerned about the attack, the fade feels... anxious, I suppose, and it's making me a bit anxious. As for why you asked me, I assumed that was because Jacques isn't the kind of mage that would attempt apostate magic, and I seem like the type who would. Or, I'm simply more expendable than he is, one or the other." He reached out for the translation, and read through it, smirking.

"Hm, yeah, I'd be able to do this. And I am going to, regardless of why you asked me, because I still think it's the best bet we've got."

As he waited for replies, standing up straight as he read through the instructions again, eager to try it.

With eyes slowly closing to the black dream, Von was surprised with the sudden movement. Struggling weakly, Von sighed softly as he was placed on the bed by the mage. Yet as his mind struggled to stay awake, his body told him that this was the most comfortable place he has laid on in months. Feeling like himself during his fifth summer of life, Von abandoned all hope of avoiding the sleep where his certain nightmare awaited him, and took pleasure in his current comfort. Finally shutting his eyes, Von's mind drifted to the Fade.

In front of him, his vision remained vivid. Golden fields surrounded him, being blown by gentle winds. It remained lifeless until his eyes met flax-coloured hair and a smile that could break his soul. This was not the nightmare that awaited him, it was the continuation of the dream. Once told in reality, a very long time ago. This began in his sixth summer of life ...


Body lurched forward, face covered with blush. Von's mind came out of sleep with shock. That was not his ordinary rest, it did not contain the visions that had plagued him many times before. Slowly looking around, Von wanted to see if anyone was with him, yet, the room was empty, leaving him to hear his own ragged breath. "That was ..." He huffed, mind reminding him of that dream. Shaking his head, Von remembered that time was long ago in a land that was before the latest Blight.

Rising from the bed, Von's body buzzed with energy, waiting for the new day of adventure and death. Looking down, his eyes met his armour, still covered in Drake blood and whatever ooze that came from the demon-kind. Unequipped the metallic suit, Von left himself in casual wear, with his unique dagger at his side. Organizing his supplies in the room, he spent the next couple of minutes cleaning his equipment, and entering a new entry in his journal.

Blonde fields awaited weary eyes.
Giving escape from the hunters that followed.
All forgot, except the two from that day.

"It was her."

Shutting the book with a satisfied thud, Von nod as he placed the journal back within his bag, and left for downstairs.

Berund's ears were met with the familiar sound of wolves. The moment they had all prepared for was drawing near. He was ready himself, his armor secured and maul in hand. He hoped the fortifications would be enough to keep at bay whatever the abomination intended to throw at them. Then there were the townsfolk to consider. He didn't think many of them to be experienced fighters, even with Kari's training. Sure, they could swing a sword with less disarray, but there was no telling how they'd fare when their lives depended on hitting their mark. The dwarf couldn't help but feel that he may have sentenced some of the people to their deaths by having them fight. Though he reasoned that surely they would rather die protecting their livelihoods than simply submit, and cast his negativity aside.

Taking position on the roof of the inn, Berund was allowed a clear view of its surroundings. With any luck, the cry of a beast getting caught in one of the traps would warn of their advance. It was only a matter of time before the enemy would be in sight. Next to the dwarf was a man looking over one of the fashioned barriers. He was shaking, and Berund didn't think was due to the cold. "Breathe deep, friend. It helps." For some, the wait was the real killer. The wait could cause blades and bows to waver. The wait could break spirits and minds. It was this wait that the dwarf had become very familiar with. His hands did not waver.

"Hm, yeah, I'd be able to do this. And I am going to, regardless of why you asked me, because I still think it's the best bet we've got."

"I've got you're back. We may have minutes but do be careful." Unsheathing his daggers in case of attack or the ritual went wrong, Jarrett's stance was uneven as the stress started getting to him. "Let's take this calm, keep ears and eyes out for attack Ash." While he said that to the made it was to comfort himself as he began taking deep breathes to steady his heart. With some semblance of momentary peace Jarrett bean walking back and forth, keeping guard.

"I've got you're back. We may have minutes but do be careful."

"Yes, I will," Ash replied, wondering whether Von would join them or not. Perhaps it would be a good idea, but they had no time for waiting. Would the Templar sleep through the encounter? He hadn't seen him yet.

I hope the lure of the bed isn't too strong.

Ash certainly knew how easy it was to fall asleep from just that.

"Let's take this calm, keep ears and eyes out for attack Ash."

"I will," Ash repeated, smirking, and started setting up the ritual. "So, I need to burn the herbs..." he started, muttering to himself as he followed the surprisingly simple steps to something he'd not consider that simple. Mutters kept happening as he did, and while he kept what Jarrett said in mind as he worked, he couldn't help but want to rush. It was a careful, considerate rush, but still, he couldn't imagine what he'd do if there suddenly was a demon in front of him while he was in the middle of a ritual.

Well, that's not completely true, I'd zap it.

But if he suddenly had to finish it in order to match the intruders... what would happen if he accidentally skipped a step?

Kari was tired of waiting, and the shifting howls were beginning to grate on her nerves; and after a second time around the barricades checking on the villagers she'd had enough. Moving back to the main 'wall', she climbed to the top of the pile then dropped down to the other side, much to the horror of the villagers.

Striding away from the wall she stopped, facing the woods, just inside effective range of the bows of the hunters and spells of the mages. Her blade still resting across her shoulders like a polearm, she bellowed into the darkness. "C'MON YOU FLEA BITTEN NUG HUMPERS! I'LL TURN YOU INTO A MATCHED SET OF WINTER CLOTHES!" She was no longer standing still; instead she was pacing back and forth, eyes still locked on the woods. "AND YOU! PUPPET MASTER! I'M GOING RIP YOUR ARMS OFF AND BEAT YOU TO DEATH WITH THE WET ENDS!"

The villagers stood, as ready as they might ever be, and when the dreadful howl went out sending chills through their thick furs then scarcely waved. This might be the last night of some of their lives and to their credit they would not spend it cowering in fear, though it had to be said for some it was only Berund's reassurance or liquid courage that kept them standing at their posts nevertheless they were ready for what might come. The first mournful howl was joined by other voices, and the sound grew steadily more and more unnerving and unnatural, as if projected by throats twisted beyond hope of making even simple animal noises. Now for some their courage faltered, but they still held their posts, muttering prayers to the maker to see them through this night. Finally the attack came, fur and claw and twisted flesh rushing down on the walls they had built, meeting with a hail of arrows and magical lightning, or in the case of a few unfortunates the steel of Kari's blade as they found the Qunari's words more than backed up by strength.

The barriers held for the first assault, and many of the demonic wolves stumbled back, dazed from the impact, though others clawed at the walls trying to clamber over them. Elation spread among the defenders, if this was all the demons had to bring then they would see the dawn easily! Then there was a terrible crash, fire erupted from one of the barricades and it collapsed as a rage demon emerged beneath it, the snow at the monster's feet hissing into steam as it oozed forward an evil chuckle emerging from it as it proceeded to blast a villager from his perch with a gout of terrible flame. Elsewhere another barrier shuddered and began to collapse as a monstrously twisted mountain bear slammed into it, the hasty construction no match for the beast's enormous girth.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________

The ritual was simple enough, even familiar in a way to Ash. Reach out into the Fade to contact a spirit it wasn't as if he was inexperienced with communing with such beings after all. As the magic flowed around him what glimpses of the real world he had faded away, replaced by a battleground strangely devoid of bodies. All over the rock and trees of the mountain were scarred by enormous claws or crushed to dust, and dozens of weapons and traps of all sorts, though mainly constructed of stone or bone, were strewn about. In the center of this desolate field stood a single ethereal figure, striking the image of a proud barbarian warrior clad in thick furs and armed with an enormous splintered club.

"Greetings Shaman, I am Duty," the spirit said "though I have failed in mine. You will understand."

As the spirit spoke feelings of pride and shame washed over Ash, a sense of understanding of what had taken place here in the fade. The warrior had fought the demon, held it in place and fought it, though slaying it had been beyond his strength. Yet it had somehow escaped him, fled into the realm he had been tasked to protect, and the spirit's source of pride, his irrevocable duty, was tarnished.

"Now, for what purpose have you come before me?" the spirit asked, this time his voice carrying only the single question.

"Hold yer posts!" Berund bellowed after the demon and bear crashed through the barriers. Surely the sight of the thing would strike some of the townsfolk with crippling fear. The dwarf could only hope they had enough sense to fight through it. "Hit 'em with all ye've got, they're naught but flesh 'neath the fur and fire! They'll fall, all right!" The dwarf ran to the edge of the roof towards the rage demon and leapt from atop the inn. The fire grew bright in his eyes, the maul stayed steady in his hands, and the air was brisk against his cheek as he flew through the air. All throughout his motion, he roared loudly as he prepared to strike the fiery fiend with the flat of his hammer. "HYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!"

With a thick, meaty 'thud', the maul connected with the beasts jaw. Berund followed through with the motion and aimed to strike it on its side. As he turned, the demon recovered and deflected the incoming second blow. It readied another blast of fire before the dwarf could try for another attack. Berund dove to the side just as it unleashed its flame. He felt the heat at his back as he tumbled in the snow. Getting back to his feet, Berund charged a second time, his weapon at his side and readied for a powerful swing.

Reaching out to the Fade wasn't a hard task for Ash, nor did anything about the battlefield strike him as wrong. This was the spirit's place, not the sloth demon's, and it was a welcome sight compared to what he was used to. In the sky he could see the black city as he could elsewhere in the fade, but the ground was battered, trees bearing claw-marks, and a number of what one would call primitive weapons and traps were scattered everywhere. There was no one there but the spirit, a barbarian warrior with a simple club.

"Greetings Shaman, I am Duty, though I have failed in mine. You will understand."

Ash felt the feelings of the spirit, pride at fighting the demon, keeping it in place and protecting the mortal realm. At its duty and its role. Then there was the shame at having the demon escape, the duty tarnished. He wondered how it had happened, but knew that it was not what he needed to ask about. He needed help with defeating the demon, aid in some form.

Still, this is certainly as remarkable as I thought it would be.

Perhaps even more. And not half as threatening, that was a relief, though he knew better than to become too secure in his position, too sure of himself. He knew far too well the consequences of that.

"Now, for what purpose have you come before me?"

"My name is Ashtalan," Ash started, not sure whether he should tell his name to a spirit, but figured it was only proper, seeing as the other had introduced itself. Likely, the spirit already knew, though, at least if it was anything like a demon.

"And I am here to ask you about the demon you have battled, as we now face it in on the other side of the veil. There is a village... and it is about to attack, if not already attacking, with other demons and the likes." He examined the spirit, calmly, wondering if it would have any reaction at all, or if it was simply there, the duty it represents its only defining trait.

"We need help. Is there any way you can aid us?"

Kari was grinning like a mad woman as the wolves rushed. Quite a few fell as they entered the range of the hunters and mages, but more kept coming; those that tried to overwhelm her tasted the steel of her sword, and her heart sang at the thrill of the fight, but even as she cut them down she knew there were others streaming past her.

In short order the wolves abandoned their suicidal attacks on her and concentrated on the walls, sure they'd managed to get a bite or slash of their claws in here or there, but all those did was to spur Kari on. Looking back to the village, she was hearted to see the walls holding, though when the rage daemon punched a hole in the barricade she was afraid the villagers would falter.

"Hold yer posts! Hit 'em with all ye've got, they're naught but flesh 'neath the fur and fire! They'll fall, all right! HYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHH!!"

She laughed as Berund leapt at the daemon, and was about to go assist, when she heard the crashing and bellowing of a bear that'd been twisted by daemonic corruption. As it broke through, and the defenders fell back, she came charging up behind it, sinking the tip of her blade into the beasts flank. "OVER HERE YOU OVERGROWN RUG!" The bear roaring in anger and pain, swung about faster than Kari was expecting, and caught her with a massive paw. She let out a loud OOF as she was struck, and was knocked through the door of a house. Before the bear could move in for the kill, it was distracted by a barrage of fireballs from a mage, drawing it away from the stunned Qunari. She lay on the floor of the home for a moment or two, catching her breath and letting her vision re-focus. Getting to her feet, she spotted a bottle of ale left behind by the owner. I'll owe you buddy. Pulling the cork with her teeth, she downed the bottle, then left; stepping back outside, she saw the bear clawing at the side of a building, while the hunters and mages above peppered it with shots. "OI! Over here flea-bag!" She hollered. "I ain't done with you yet!" Rushing the massive animal once more, she raked its side with a powerful slash as it turned towards her.

Nola cut down a wolf with a grunt, it's twisted body falling beneath her ax blade. She turned to see Kari keeping the great bear occupied. She should be enough to keep it off the villagers. I guess I'll help with the sentient lump of lava. She thought turning to face the rage demon. "Ha is that the best you demons got? Fire? I'm smith and a dwarf besides, a little heat ain't nothin to me!" She called towards the demon, clashing her ax against her shield. "C'mon, your nothin but fuel for my forge!" She circled the creature.

Jarrett continued guarding Ash as the ritual continued. However the sounds of battle became all too loud for Jarrett. He was momentarily torn but made up his mind. "...arrgh, balls to it. You hearing this? You have a minute." He wasn't quite sure of how long it would take for the battle to reach Ash but he hoped the pressure could help. Rushing to the battle with what subtlety he could Jarrett saw some of his companions in the thick of it. Moving to what grabbed his attention first he prepared a hidden strike at the rage demon confronting Nola.

The rage demon roared in after Berund's second charge struck it, striking out with its burning claws it managed to drive him back and raised itself up fire even more intense than before gathering around its claws when Nola caught its attention. Enraged by her taunts it flung the blast of fire at her, most of it catching on her shield, spraying off the the snow and ground around her. All the while Jarrett made his way silently around the monster, unnoticed by it.

The bear bellowed at Kari, though it seemed only inconvenienced by the slash rather than truly hurt. Roaring it reared up on its back feet, turning to fall on Kari and crush her beneath it's weight.

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________

"We need help. Is there any way you can aid us?"

"There are ways, I could lend strength and prowess to a willing shaman," the spirit said "The experience would be brief, and your strength and spells would be enhanced by my own for the duration."

For a moment the spirit seemed to be considering this, then it cast its club aside and turned away from Ash. For a moment it seemed different, the air around it felt cold and the entire battlefield seemed to be engulfed by a sudden chill. When it spoke again its voice was filled with grief and despair.

"Assisting you is not my duty though," the spirit said "I have failed in my duty, I must seek a new one. Without it I am nothing, no, worse than nothing."

An all too familiar voice whispered into Ash's ear, though if he turned to look for it he could see nothing more than a faded shadow. The voice sounded friendly and relaxed though a sinister undertone could be felt under every word. Duty also seemed unaware of the presence, though if this was due to its hidden form or the spirit being distracted by it's own misery was impossible to say.

"You went to him for help first? I'm hurt, so very hurt," it said "look at him, he's practically a demon already, why not let me help instead? After all we're friends aren't we?"

"There are ways, I could lend strength and prowess to a willing shaman. The experience would be brief, and your strength and spells would be enhanced by my own for the duration."

"That's not anything like possession, right?" Ash asked, but the question was ignored. The feeling around the battlefield and the spirit grew colder, and the spirit felt wrong. Something was not right, was it because of Ash?

Don't tell me I've messed up already... this might have been a bad idea.

He didn't exactly have the best qualification when it came to speaking with things in the fade either.

"Assisting you is not my duty though. I have failed in my duty, I must seek a new one. Without it I am nothing, no, worse than nothing."

He could feel the grief and despair from the spirit, and tried to cheer it up. "Well, you could--"

"You went to him for help first? I'm hurt, so very hurt. Look at him, he's practically a demon already, why not let me help instead? After all we're friends aren't we?"

Yes, and the Qunari loves magic.

Ash thought, sarcastically. Part of him told him that he should be horrified, worry about the fact that the sloth demon had found him this quickly. The other part thought that it was annoying, though he knew it wasn't just a mere inconvenience. Looking at the duty spirit -it seemed unaware of that the demon was there- he addressed the demon in a sharp breath.

"This isn't any of your business, go away," he whispered, making sure the spirit couldn't hear. "I would never ask for your help."

Then, he tried to think of what to tell the spirit, hoping it was not too late to bring it back to its senses. If the sloth demon was correct, if spirits could just turn into demons like that... it would explain the eerie feeling from it. And the last thing Ash needed was another demon in his life.

"As I was going to say, did you really fail your duty? Could this battle of yours not be taken beyond the veil?" Ash asked, examining Duty. He hoped the spirit wouldn't end up becoming a demon, not only for his own sake, but for the spirit's.

"If your duty was to keep it from harming mortals, you still could. Help me, and you'll be able to protect Thedas from the demon, same as always. If not... well, make that your duty. Protect those who cannot fight against the demon the way you can, the weak and the powerless, I can't think of a better duty to have than that. I'd say it's a duty that anyone, spirit or mortal, can feel pride in."

Oh this could be going better... Kari thought, as the massive bear reared up. Her attacks had intending to cripple or at least slow the animal, but all they seemed to do was piss it off; and the hunters and mages may as well have not bothered for all the effect their attacks seemed to be having. Rolling aside as the bear dropped, she raked its opposite flank with another powerful slash before diving clear of its claws.

Standing once more, she found herself below a group of hunters. "HEY!" She called to the roof. "Any of you got a jar of pitch?" "I got a few...here!" Came the reply, and a moment later a preserves jar with an oily rag stuffed into the top plopped into a small snowdrift that was pushed up against the building; the bear had got itself sorted out now, and was heading her way, she'd have to make this quick. Snatching up the jar, she lobbed it at the bear, the pitch splattering all over its muzzle as the jar broke. With pitch in its eyes, it stopped to paw at its face is a vain attempt to get the sticky mass out of its fur. "FIREBALL ITS HEAD!" She shouted, and in moments, a couple of fireballs and a handful of flaming arrows struck the bear's head and neck, setting the pitch ablaze.

The spectacle of the battlefield, it included many things, both awe-inspiring and bloody ugly. Sparks were struck, metal battled against metal, and the fires struggled to match the ones that burned internally in each and every human. It was familiar to the Templar, his memories requested emotions, but his body demanded strength. Von's body moved with speed like a hawk, and his armour groaned as he performed difficult maneuvers to reach his objective.

By the Maker, why did no one wake me?! Von thought. His speed was only matched by the amount of worry that plagued him. Where is he? He inquired about Ash, suddenly dashing by three objects, one that looked like a living fireball, and two smaller people that battled it. Knowing the strength of both Nola and Berund, and the fact that together they could best many things. Shying his head away, hiding the loathing for himself, Von slowed down to a halt. This was no demand he could ignore.

Coming to a stop meters away from the alive inferno, Von smelled the familiar scent of burning, and only turned around to see a large flaming creature. "Holy mother ..." His voice trailed off as he witnessed the sight. Spotting the large figure of Kari and noticing that most of his allies were in a fight, Von nodded to himself. "Sorry, did I oversleep?!" Von yelled to everyone around him, and ended with a chuckle that begged for a fight.

Holding his blade downward with one hand, Von held his unique dagger in the other hand and held it upwards. Closing his eyes, Von could feel the power that he called for. "Maker, heed my name. I call upon your power, to bless our blades and to best our foes!"[1] At that moment, the two blades within his hands glowed with a white aura. After this, surrounding weapons of his allies started to glow too. "There. Now has anyone seen the mage?!" Von said as he turned to the flaming bear, unsure how to approach it.

[1] Blessed Blades ability activated.

Emerging from the shadows Jarrett pushed his daggers deep into the rage demon. Ensuring he did the most damage to it, he barely dodged it's counterattack. Retrieving his daggers Jarrett jumped back and tried to signal Nola. His attempts to evade the demon were interrupted by a yell.

"Sorry, did I oversleep?!"

"YES!" Jarrett yelled exasperatedly, nearly being clawed by the demon now focused on him and not Nola.

"Now has anyone seen the mage?!"

"Ash's opposite here doing the ritual! Help h- ur!" The demon grew closer with it's surprising speed, causing it and Jarrett to grow a precious small distance away from Nola. It was now within range that Jarrett would have to parry to avoid being struck. "Enough!" Jarrett wouldn't wait a second more. His posture transformed and he began rushing the demon with countless strikes in an unforgiving chain, chuckling in a deranged manner doing so.

"If your duty was to keep it from harming mortals, you still could. Help me, and you'll be able to protect Thedas from the demon, same as always. If not... well, make that your duty. Protect those who cannot fight against the demon the way you can, the weak and the powerless, I can't think of a better duty to have than that. I'd say it's a duty that anyone, spirit or mortal, can feel pride in."

"Pride, ooh, much better than despair," the sloth demon whispered, its voice fading away "if you're going to let him just have you might as well aim high."

Then the shadow and its voice was gone, still unnoticed by Duty, who had fallen silent considering what Ash had said. The air around him grew still, the emotions in the air gone for the moment. Then he looked at Ash and spoke with a steady even tone.

"Perhaps, perhaps you are right," it said "aiding in its destruction could make amends for my failure, but... once it is slain I will need to find a new duty."

The spirit seemed agitated, torn between hope and worry. Its being depended on having a task to pursue after all. Its gaze focused on Ash suddenly, judging, trying to assess his worth.

"First amends will be made," it said, voice harsh "you are lacking but will suffice, at any rate you are stronger than the mage who accepted the demon's bargain."

For a moment an image washed over Ash, the demon and Duty locked in combat when a cry for help pierced the veil. A mage trapped under a blanket of heavy snow, buried alongside the corpses of men in templar armor, cold and hungry and dying. Duty had tried to hold it, but the veil was thinner now, the hole in the sky stretching it all over, and it had slipped through.

"My aid may resemble possession, but it is not, it is only a temporary affair and I have no interest in being bound to your mortal world," Duty said "Take my hand and for a time we will be one, I will empower you and negate the demon's strength as best I can, I am familiar with his tricks."

Forcefully the spirit thrust out a hand, waiting for Ash to take it and seal the bargain.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

The demon roared in pain, but it grew weaker under the rain of blows. Already damaged by the dwarves assault Jarrett alongside Von's power left it collapsing to the ground. The snow hissed into steam around it as its cries faded to murmuring and then were silent. Meanwhile the bear crashed into buildings, blinded by the fire that clung to its fur. While it was much more durable than the rage demon it too had its limits, and under the assault of spells, arrows, and blades it finally collapsed crushing the wall of the house it fell against.

Cheers went out from the defenders, but the fight was far from over. The victorious cries were silenced as the howling of wolves renewed, the beasts charging through the destroyed barriers as wisps drifted in behind them pelting the defenders with fire magic setting rooftops ablaze. At the back of the pack of enemies the abomination could be seen, armored in ice and surrounded by whirling snow. It set its gaze on one of the defending mages, pointing with an accusing finger and sending a blast of ice at the unfortunate soul blasting him off of the rooftop to the ground below where the demonic wolves began to leap at him.

"Pride, ooh, much better than despair. If you're going to let him just have you might as well aim high."

You're wrong.

Ash thought, biting his lip, happy to see the sloth demon disappear, but annoyed with its words.

I'm not going to let him possess me.

Even if Duty had decided to do so, Ash would at least be able to feel comfort in one thing; the sloth demon would have been denied what it had spent years preparing. Of course, it would be better if it never happened at all. He wanted to live, desperately so. As if the sloth demon had never been there, Duty spoke, causing Ash to wonder if the demon had ever been there.

"Perhaps, perhaps you are rights. aiding in its destruction could make amends for my failure, but... once it is slain I will need to find a new duty."

Ash's heart sank as he saw the mage who had become the abomination. Pitiful, cold, hungry, tired, dying, calling out for help. Trapped. It almost hurt to watch it, while he seldom approached mages, he still knew that any mage had more in common with him than he dared admit. It reminded him of what felt like an eternity ago, towards the end of the fifth blight.

He had been 16, hiding in a cave with no way out. Darkspawn were nearby, though he couldn't tell how many, all he knew was that there was a lot, and they kept coming. He was too tired to run, it had been many days since he had managed to sleep, whenever he closed his eyes nightmares plagued him. The demon's grip on him was relentless. He had run out of food as well, and apart from a small water source, he had nothing where he sat. Ashtalan was curled up, staring into the mountain wall. The young Vashoth couldn't even talk to himself to try to give himself hope, because someone, or rather, something, could find him. Would find him.

He had wanted to cry, but he didn't even have the energy to do that. Besides, whatever tears he had, ran out after the first three days, waiting. So tired, so alone, he wanted to be home, he wanted someone to find him and help him, tell him that it would be fine and take out the darkspawn. Rescue him, comfort him, protect him from both the darkspawn and the fade.

"Please."

He wasn't strong enough to fight on his own, he barely knew a lightning spell, and he needed to sleep. Sorely. Sometimes, he thought he had managed to do so, only to realize that his mind had gotten confused again, that whatever he would expect to find in a dream had escaped into the real world, almost as if it was mocking him.

"Please leave me alone. Please let me rest."

He wanted to sleep. He wanted the power to protect himself. He wanted the nightmares and the demon to go away, that was all he had wanted back then, even as he took the offered power. They never did.

"My aid may resemble possession, but it is not, it is only a temporary affair and I have no interest in being bound to your mortal world. Take my hand and for a time we will be one, I will empower you and negate the demon's strength as best I can, I am familiar with his tricks."

Ash felt a lot more weary after thinking about his past, and he nodded. He was vary and unsure of if the spirit was speaking the truth, but right now he didn't care. He wanted to make sure that this was all over, take out the hunger demon and finish the job. Rest, if he was allowed to.

"I'll allow you to help, then," he said, and took the spirit's hand. "And then I'll help you find a new duty."

Wreathed in a stinking cloud of burnt hair and charred flesh, Kari jumped on top of the dead bear, and added her victory cry to those of the villagers. "POSITIONS!" She hollered as the wolves came in, sending the villagers back to the walls; a cry of dismay caught her attention and she saw a mage tumble from a roof.

Arriving moments behind the wolves, she gutted one that was about to crush the poor mage's neck, and skewered another that was close behind. Grabbing the collar of the mage's robes with a free hand, she yanked him to his feet and threw him back against the wall of the house he'd fallen off of. "Stay behind me!" She ordered as more wolves rushed her in a snarling furry mass. Her giant blade flicked, twisted and thrust with incredible speed and accuracy, cutting through the wolves with ease; but no matter how good she was, Kari was badly outnumbered.

One got through her defences, and she let out a surprised yelp as its powerful jaws clamped onto her leg; fortunately the boiled leather greaves she wore were treated with vitaar like the rest of her armour, and stymied the wolf's attempt to crush her leg. With as much force as she could muster, she slammed the pommel onto the top of the beast's head, until there was an audible crack and it collapsed with a crushed skull. As with before the surviving 'pack' held off for the moment, possibly waiting for greater numbers before trying again. "Are you okay?" She asked the mage, never taking her eyes off the animals. "Andraste's puckered asshole my knee hurts..." That wolf had still managed to wrench the hell out of her leg before it'd died.

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