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 Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea

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Nethra Lavellan
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PostSubject: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   15/6/2015, 03:44

Maybe it was the snow blowing in her face, or the bite of the wind that passed right through her leather armor, or even the blanched white sky that seemed ready to fall - but whatever it was it put Nethra in a foul mood.

She did not like trudging through the snow drifts, wet up to her thighs. It reminded her too much of her harrowing flight from the ruins of Haven, and fear rose in the back of her throat like bile at the memory. Still, she grit her teeth and sloughed forward, trying her best to stay in the deep footsteps of Bull in front of her.

The tips of her ears were red with cold, as where her cheeks, the dark of her freckles all but hidden on her wind scratched skin. She couldn't feel her toes, and the cold metal of her daggers chilled her fingers to the bone when she was forced to grip them.

Go to the Emprise Du Lion, her advisers had said. It'll be good for the Inquisition to make their presence known and capture the fort there. She would think twice the next time they gave her advice. Did they know how miserable it was here? Surely they must, as none of them had offered to come along.

Who would build a fortress out here anyway? There was nothing but snow and mountains and the dreadful cold. And the veins of red lyruim that rose from the ground and cliff sides like deadly crystals. She shuddered as she looked to the distance and saw the faint scarlet glow even now. The area was not a welcoming place, and not for the first time she wished for the warmth of her chambers in Skyhold.

She wanted to be back there. That's where Keerla was, and...well, that's where home was now. The other reasons that fluttered through her mind as she begrudgingly put one foot in front of the other kept her heart warm, at least. There was a lot worth getting back to at Skyhold. First, though, she had to make it through this awful snow.

Nethra had made the mistake of letting her thoughts wander too far, and soon suffered for it. The ground beneath her booted feet shifted, giving way and swallowing one of her legs up to the thigh. Unbalanced, she tried to compensate with her other foot, but found no purchase in the powder all around her. She stumbled and fell forward, arms reached out to catch her herself but only sinking into the snow. All at once her face was wet and coated with fine white crystals, and the leather of her armor was beginning to soak up the moisture. She cursed under her breath, lifting her head up and shaking the snow out of her hair.

“You alright there, boss?” Bull had heard her and turned, ready to walk back and help if needed. That was the last thing Nethra wanted.

“I'm fine. Just keep going.” She waited until Bull shrugged and continued plowing the way forward before attempting to rise from the ever shifting snow. A gloved hand took hold of her arm before she manged to get to her feet, and helped pull her up.

“Up we go, tumbles.” Varric gave a weary smile and let go of her arm. Nethra thanked Mythal for him coming along on this trip – his company had proved one of the few things that kept her from turning around and heading right back to Skyhold. That, and the responsibly that she would never truly abandon.

“Thanks.” She ineffectually tried to brush the snow off her armor, shivering. Then she looked to Varric, seeing him in much the same condition. “Are you doing alright?”

“You mean besides being frozen down to my feet? Yeah, I'm doing alright. Could use a bit of Dorian's fireworks about now, though. Where's the mage when you need him?”

She grinned, knowing that had the mage been along there would be twice as much complaining. “Warm and comfortable in Skyhold no doubt.”

As she spoke she glanced behind Varric and saw her last companion making her way towards them. Niamh had her head down against the wind, having just as much trouble as the rest of them. The two of them had hardly spoken since their first meeting in Skyhold, and yet when it was suggested the hunter join their expedition Nethra was left with a bad taste in her mouth. The elf had done nothing to her in the months she had been in the castle, but still she felt a burning unpleasantness when faced with the thought of spending weeks on the road with her. Nethra couldn't place why – which was not entirely true, but better not to dwell on the past. The hunters knowledge would hopefully prove useful, though, and thus here she was.

Nethra's expression hardened while she continued to look back, and Varric caught on to it quickly. He cocked an eyebrow, and motioned back to Niamh, “Be easy on her. She doesn't want to be here either, you know.”

He was right, of course. She sighed and ran her fingers through her hair again, catching on the damp knots. “Niamh,” she called out, voice whipping in the wind and nearly getting lost. “Are you doing ok back there? Do you need to stop a moment?”
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Niamh
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   15/6/2015, 22:28


Niamh had been lagging behind, always five or six steps away from the party or, rather, as far from Nethra as possible without losing them completely, in case the Inquisitor got it into her head to talk. She’d been fighting with her since they hit the road and that was weeks ago now. The farther the distance between them the better.

She had tried to keep busy for a while, acting as a lookout in case of an attack from the back, but the wind stung her eyes, carrying snow dust like sand in a desert and she had to hold the folds of her hood up at times so it did not enter her nose and eyes. She did not much mind the cold; in fact she was better equipped for the current terrain than any of the others. It made wonder where all the cloaks and coats she and Bellen had been hunting for had gone. After the missing ram incident, she always made sure personally that everything was used properly; that the clothes were made and given to the troops. And while there was not yet enough for everyone, there had been a shipment for the Inquisitor and her inner circle. Seeing Nethra and the others now made Niamh question if the apparel had been properly delivered. Her own cloak was lined with fur and it flapped and flew behind her as she walked. The ends of it had got wet, as did the bottoms of her high boots, but while not entirely dry, she was at least perfectly warm. She could even keep her bow at the ready the entire time, while gloves protected her fingers from frostbite.

In truth she was not entirely sure why she was there, which made her increasingly unhappier to be there at all. Nethra had sent only a courier, who did a poor job explaining why the inquisition should need Niamh for something other than hunting for them and she was too proud to ask at this point. She thought at first they were a rogue short of a stealth mission, but looking to the front of their party and a very conspicuous qunari at its head, she resigned to reject that theory.

Speaking of, she knew him just by what she’d heard from his chargers; back in Haven, they and her hunters would on occasion sit together for drinks. The Iron Bull she’d met only on one such occasion, but she doubted he remembered her. The dwarf, Varric, Niamh had not been acquainted with before, but since then she found him to be surprisingly easy to talk to. In turn it took him about three seconds to read her, ask questions without prying and give her a suitable nickname based on her response. Niamh thought it was silly, but somehow it did not bother her.

Still she was far from comfortable in their company. They had all been through as much together as she had with Bellen; and now she was alone. It was her and them. A hunting trip would’ve been so much nicer and an entirely better use of her skills. And she and Bellen could’ve set their own pace and found the best use in the terrain. It was a long way from, but promising in game. Niamh had already seen several august rams and snoufleurs and she was sure she’d heard bears and wolves too. If she could bring the hunters here and organize a good route back to Skyhold, soon there wouldn’t be a shortage of winter apparel. As it was, she was left to guess at her purpose there.

A noise in the front made her look again and she snorted at Nethra face-down in the snow. Not very light-footed for an elf and certainly not as Niamh remembered her; Nethra must have been spending too much time in castles and camps and too little in forests and fields.

The next gust of wind wiped Niamh’s smirk right off her face; unconsciously she lowered her head while she pushed against it. She was forced to grip her hood again to keep it from slipping. She only lifted her eyes again when through the whistle of the wind and the warm fur against her ears she heard someone calling her name. What came after it made her raise an eyebrow at the Inquisitor and Niamh promptly shouted back to her: “Worry about yourself; we’ll never get anywhere if you keep falling like that!”

She picked up her pace as if to prove she was better off than Nethra, using the wind’s changing course to receive a little boost and easily passing the dwarf and the other elf, marching in straight after the qunari. She’d nearly passed him too when the wind suddenly changed again, making her stumble. She thanked her gods for keeping her in balance this time and spoke again, a little to Nethra, a little to everyone and no one in particular. “Do you even know where we’re going?”
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Nethra Lavellan
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   17/6/2015, 02:48

Nethra could barely make out Niamh's words from behind her, the wind catching hold and blowing them away. Her tone was unmistakable though – biting as the wind, and mocking.

“I-” She started, about to tell the other elf just what she was going to worry about, but quickly shut her mouth when Varric gave her a warning look. Being the Inquisitor apparently meant getting along with everyone. It wasn't something Nethra had much trouble with under usual circumstances, but this was far from ordinary. “Just keep up. We don't want to get separated.”

Niamh seemed to take her words to heart, or at least be annoyed enough with them to race ahead, passing Nethra easily. She only stood, knee deep in the snow, and watched her pass. It was still a strange sight for her, seeing her childhood friend out here, so very different and unfamiliar. Even after weeks of traveling together Nethra had to look twice at times when she saw the lines on Niamh's face and was transported years ago to a different place and time.

Nethra was about to start walking again when Niamh called back to her, accusation in her voice. She took a few steps forward, getting closer to the other woman so her words could be heard better. Standing close to her, Nethra could see the scorn clear in Niamh's eyes, and the way her fingers never left her bow for long.

“How many times are you going to ask that?” Nethra asked coldly, annoyance creeping into her voice despite her effort to check it. “If I didn't know where I was going I would tell you, and ask for more of your advice. That's what you're here for. Did you see something that looks wrong, or are you wondering if we are lost because you yourself can't figure out where we are?”

She hadn't meant her words to come out so rudely, and indeed she never truly meant to be anything but neutral, if not pleasant, to Niamh. It was harder each passing day, though. Every time she saw Niamh old feelings were dredged up, and adding that to her ever climbing level of stress and discomfort did not make it easy to play nice.

“Hey boss,” Bull's deep voice cut through the rising tension and claimed Nethra's attention instantly. By now she was more than used to fighting besides the qunari, and knew when he was about to joke around or, in this case, when it was imperative to listen. “You two might wanna stop your cat fight and get ready for a real one.”

Following Bull's gaze, Nethra spotted what he had already seen, and she had been too distracted to notice. She cursed herself under her breath, vowing to not let her emotions get the best of her next time. Uncomfortably close, the forms of four red templars were steadily approaching. The crystals of red lyrium that jutted from their flesh glowed with an otherworldly aura, and Nethra shuddered despite herself.

Her hands were already clasping the hilts of her daggers when the men turned monsters reached them, and in one swift motion she slid them from their sheaths, over her shoulders, and out in front of her to meet the deadly blade of one of the templars. The clash of metal upon metal rang in the quiet of the snow covered land, and all at once Nethra's thoughts were focused entirely on the fight breaking out around her. She ducked low to avoid another sweep of the longsword, quickly side stepping after it passed over her head, close enough that she felt her hair whip forward with the breeze it created. The dagger in her main hand struck out, searching the for the weak points in the templar's armor. It found contact behind his knee, and Nethra felt the warmth of fresh blood wash over her knuckles as she withdrew the blade and rolled to the side – not as quickly as she would have liked, as the snow caught in her boots and slowed her momentum. The blade of the sword glanced her shoulder, and she gritted her teeth as the pain washed over her. Damn this snow, she had time to think as she sprung back to her feet, weapons brandished in front of her.

She stood ready, watching the templar in front of her as he stumbled forward. Weak on his injured knee, but not close to giving up. Andruil grant me patience. Nethra stood her ground, standing lightly on the balls of her feet. One more step...

As the templar cast of his feigned slowness and rushed her, Nethra slid to the left, using the slickness of the snow to help her this time instead of hinder. With a lightening quick jerk of her arm and a small leap, she was clinging to the back of the large templar, one arm wrapped around his broad chest while the other effortlessly reached around to draw her dagger across his throat. Blood, red as the lyrium now shining in Nethra's eyes, cascaded from the wound, steaming in the cold air. As the templar fell Nethra jumped from his back nimbly, landing on her feet and sinking into the snow with the force.

She was breathing heavily, blood covering her hands and seeping from the wound in her shoulder. With a quick breath to steady herself, she looked around her, checking on her companions and gauging where she was needed. Bull was handling his templar easily, even laughing as he swung the huge axe he wielded. He was fine on his own. Nethra shifted her attention from him to scan the battlefield, looking to see how Niamh and Varric were faring.
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Niamh
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   18/6/2015, 00:34


Honestly she’d tried to keep track of time since their last fight, but that was way too boring and everything else was too distracting. Felt like it might have been about three hours though. Niamh was sure Varric was keeping note; she’d try to remember to ask him what their record was, once they were done with all of this, whatever this was. She was almost glad for it when Nethra spoke, throwing herself over it like a cat on a mouse, doing her best to catch it by its tail and play with it a little before it died. “Hey, you’re right! I can’t figure out where we are, you know why? There’s nothing around us for miles except snow,” she kicked it with her boot as if to prove her point. “So fuck you very much, but I’m not here to walk around in circles until you freeze to death! Maybe if you’d done your job right you’d be able to give a proper answer!”

Varric spoke this time before Nethra could, “All right, Snippy, take it easy.” She made a face at him, wondering why he even bothered at this point. She wasn’t half done yet; if they all died because they didn’t gear up properly it might even come to back to bite Niamh in the ass. Next they’ll be saying she didn’t give the inquisition enough fur coats on purpose. String her up and light the pyre, ‘least she’ll burn and feed the fire! Fucking hilarious.

It was Bull’s warning that made her shut her mouth and stand to attention. For someone she had no chance of knowing very well, his tone drew a reaction from her almost too easily. Before giving herself time to think about it, Niamh disappeared from immediate sight, leaving only shallow footsteps in her stead. Moving as quickly as she possibly could without disturbing the snow too much, she let the others keep their enemies occupied while she snuck all the way to the side and onto higher ground. By then two Templars had reached the group; she focused on the ones keeping a distance, at ranged weapons like hers. She strung up her bow, one Templar fell under Bull’s blade, the arrow flew, hit its mark. The second was close to ground as Nethra danced around him. It was frightening to watch, really, so Niamh promptly focused back on her own target. Her arrows continued to fly and the third man too spilled into red.

She did not wait to see if Varric had brought down the fourth; the other two could do that and Namh was in a good position to keep watch on the distance. She picked up her eyes towards the endless white, wiped away the tears caused by the sting of the wind. She spotted five, no, six dots moving at speed and in their direction. “Don’t let your guard down just yet, they’ve got friends!”

The closer they got, the more vulnerable she felt standing on a hill in plain sight. With this many coming their way, she slid back closer to the others, silently cursing herself for losing her nerve so quickly. “Oh this is great. If we keep moving now, every Templar in the area is gonna know we’re here. Might as well leave a trail of breadcrumbs.” “Did anyone ever tell you, you talk a lot when you’re nervous,” Varric chuckled. Niamh shook her head at him, the corners of her lips tugging at a smile, “Gods no, must be the weather.” “We’ll be fine. It’s only one and a half to one.” “See I don’t think it works like that.” “Sure it does.”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   19/6/2015, 03:44

It was over in mere moments. Or at least Nethra thought it was until she heard Niamh's voice call out from somewhere in the distance. More templars on their way, probably part of a patrol with the ones they had just left bloody in the snow. She squinted her eyes against the burn of the wind, trying to make out more than the blazing white of the ground. Off in the distance, rapidly gaining, were another six figures, headed straight for them.

She should have known this was going to happen. They had seen the occasional group of templars during the last few days, as they drew closer to the keep, but had been able to escape their notice or else pick off those that traveled in small numbers. That approach didn't seen likely this time, though, judging by the way the figures on the horizon rushed towards them. They would have to fight again – now tired and cold, and against more than they were ready for.

“Can you two be serious for a minute please? I need to think.” Nethra snapped back towards Varric and Niamh, who seemed to be treating the situation as a game. Nervous laughter, maybe, but laughter nonetheless. Varric's nonchalance and easy humor was familiar to her, and often it did break the tension of situations just like this, but right now she found it grating.

Doing her best to remain calm, she surveyed their surroundings, looking for anything that might get them out of their vulnerable position in the snow field. We should be close, she thought, unconsciously tightening the grip on her dagger in frustration. Maybe Niamh had been right – maybe they were lost. That would be just the thing she needed; another mistake to be gloated over, another slip in her authority.

But no, no, there is was. Off to the west, obscured by drifts of snow and the flakes that blew in the wind like mist: a cliff side, rocks jutting out and covered in hanging icicles bigger than Nethra herself, and at the base a shadowy indent. It was right where it should be, and Nethra allowed herself a slight smile at knowing they were right on course. She turned to face the others, standing taller than she had before.

“There should be a cave at the base of that cliff over there. If we can make it there we'll have a more defensible position. It's no use fighting out here in the open.”

She looked to Bull for confirmation, trusting his battle instincts much more than her own. While she had grown quite proficient with her weapons, tactics were still hard to wrap her heard around. He gave her a nod and a grin, shouldering his axe and getting ready to move on her command.

“Ok.” Nethra was on the balls of her feet now, itching to move and make it to the cave. With any luck they would reach it in time to take the templars down one by one as they followed into the hopefully narrow entrance way. There was only one way to know for certain, though, and really no other option than to retreat.    

“Go on, hurry! I'll be right behind you.”  She motioned for the others to start running, weapon still drawn and held out in front of her as she pointed her arm out towards where the cave was located. She waited until each of them started moving towards their destination, letting them get ahead of her before she followed. From her position in the back she could make sure none of them veered off course, or if something were to happen she could reach them and help. She was not about to lose anyone today.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   24/6/2015, 00:26


“Come on stiff, you have to admit it’s a little funny,” Niamh said and shared a look with Varric, but it looked like all humour had abandoned him too. “Fine. But think fast, ‘cause they’re – how are they moving so quickly with all that armour on I don’t get it.” She was really just talking in order not to panic now, though at the same time she felt excitement build up at the prospect of a fight against the odds. “We could just fight them I mean – I’ll take one, you take one, Varric can take one and Bull can probably take four.” Reason suggested that there might be more coming even after those six and that Nethra was probably right; they’d been walking in the snow for ages, retreat wasn’t a bad idea at this point. With the wind changing course at every second, she and Varric would have trouble shooting and Nethra looked frozen to the core.

But it’s not like Niamh could just admit that Nethra was right.

She followed Nethra’s gaze and saw the cliff, but wasn’t convinced. A cave sounded like a terrible idea to Niamh or at least worse than taking their chances with the templars. “Are you crazy? We’ll be trapped in there, they’ll slaughter us like rats!” Her mouth flew open at Bull’s grin. “You’re agreeing with her? Oh fuck it.” They were already moving, following Nethra’s command, no questions asked. Niamh wondered at their trust in her; envied them for it, even.

She started after the Iron Bull and Varric, moving as fast as she could against the wind. Something kept bugging her though and she kept throwing her head back, checking if Nethra was indeed following close behind. She wasn’t. Niamh cursed after her breath; she’d heard that line before. What was the Inquisitor thinking, letting them run off and staying so far behind? Wasn’t she the important one here? Weren’t the rest of them expendable? “Oh fuck, seriously.”

Turning on her heel, Niamh stood back in shooting stance just as the first templar appeared over the hill. The wind changed and her arrow flew right past Nethra and into the templar’s neck. He staggered, but did not fall; the part of him that was no longer human keeping him going. Niamh waited until Nethra reached her before she turned to run again. The cave was still a way ahead of them. “I really hope you have a plan.”

Varric and Bull had stopped at the mouth of the cave, waiting for them. The dwarf had his crossbow aimed and Bull held his axe in hand, both ready to assist the other two if need be. Niamh stole another glance behind them and then nearly fell over trying to push Nethra to go faster, “Come on, come on, they’re getting real close!” An arrow missed them by inches. And another. The third caught the end of Niamh’s cloak; she was tugged backwards, but recovered swiftly; pulling the arrow out of the snow and her cloak, using her own bow to fire it back at the enemy. They were so close now-

“Andruil help me,” she breathed, raising her bow once again. How many arrows did she have left? She couldn’t afford to miss. She couldn’t fight from the cave. They were too close.

Niamh released an arrow into the first templar; the same one she’d shot earlier. He was nearly on her by then, charging with his sword pointed as he was hit. She waited for him to fall forward; she had her small hunting knife, she could slip under him and cut his throat, probably. Just like fighting a bear. And then?

Her feet left the ground before she could consider her options. She let out a startled cry as she was lifted, her stomach hitting something hard. Realizing only then that she was not hit or pushed, she watched the ground from a height and the distance between her and the templars increase; Iron Bull carried her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes, running at full speed towards the cave. Arrows flew over their heads and Niamh kicked the qunari, demanding she’d be let down. “Come on, what’re we going to do from inside that cave? Huh? No- nonono, don’t-” She landed as she was thrown, none too gently, onto the cold floor of the cave. The other two followed them in quickly, standing guard at the mouth even as Bull turned to join them. "You just... stay here," he'd grunted at her.

Niv found that she could not move. Her fingers still held tightly to her bow, she stood behind the others inside the cave, her eyes moving wildly over its interior. The walls seemed to be pulsating; she thought they might close in on them. She no longer knew what was happening in front of her. At once her body spasmed and she flew to the nearest wall, running gloved hands over the surface. They were trapped. This was a tomb. They couldn’t escape anywhere now.

She’d dropped her bow.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   26/6/2015, 19:38

Running in the snow was even worse than walking in it. It piled up in front of her, slowing her movements in ways she couldn't afford. What she wouldn't give for the open fields and rolling grass of the plains, or even the twisted and over grown forest floors. Those she could race through almost without thought, and losing the enemy behind her would prove no more difficult than turning a corner.

Here, though, she could sense more than see the new group of red templars gaining on her. They charged forward with brute strength that Nethra lacked, barreling through the snow like forces of nature onto themselves. Raising her head despite the wind that blew into her eyes, she could make out the outline of the cliff and cave still some distance away. Panic surged through her when she realized she wasn't going to make it, not before the monster behind her caught up and ran her into the ground. Her palms were slick on the daggers she gripped, getting ready to turn and slash out in one last desperate attempt to defend herself. Before she was able to pivot in the snow she felt her hair whip past her cheek, a gust of wind that felt out of place with the flurries and icy chill she had been suffering from all day. It was only when she hazarded a backward glance did she realize the wind had been artificial; an arrow had shot by so near that she had felt the air displaced as it continued its momentum. The templar nearest her was struck in the neck, neat and precise.

She could have hit me! Given the way Niamh had been acting Nethra couldn't shake the feeling that perhaps that had been the goal, and only the changing wind had saved her. There wasn't time to contemplate, however, as the arrow sticking from the monster's neck caused it to stagger for a fraction of a second, giving Nethra the advantage she needed. She redoubled her effort, heart pounding in her chest as she sprinted forward, increasing the distance between her and the templar. Soon she was close to where Niamh stood, bow raised and standing still long enough to shout accusations.

Why was it up to her to have a plan? She didn't know what she was doing, not really. Bull and his chargers had likely been in situations like this before; why couldn't he tell her what to do? Even Niamh probably had a better grasp on how to handle this situation, loath as she was to admit it. Yet it was Nethra who had to make the call, and the others who had to obey, albeit none too gracefully in the other elf's case.

“Fenedhis! Just go! Worry about hating me later!” She yelled out the words as she raced past, furious at Niamh for picking now to continue to showcase her doubt. Could she get no reprieve from her scathing comments? It was hard enough to be responsible for the lives and safety of those traveling with her, but to have her decisions questioned at every turn made it near impossible.  

They were running together now, Niamh constantly urging her forward until the mouth of the cave was finally within reach. Nethra didn't have time to watch Bull fling the struggling elf inside. She already had her daggers out, busy with the templar who now had two arrows jutting from his flesh. She made short work of him – a quick feint to the left, then a slash with her off hand that cut through his armor like silk.

There were two more templars close behind. By then Bull had returned, and the two worked together to eliminate the threat. Fluid and sinuous, moving together like a well oiled machine, Nethra waited until Bull had both templars on him, distracted as they did their best to block his massive strikes. She slid in from behind, taking them out easily with lethal strikes from her daggers.

“That's how it's done!” Bull laughed as a spray of blood from the slumping body of the dead templar hit him. He clasped his hand over Nethra's shoulder, causing her to stumble and nearly fall forward before returning his grin with a weak one of her own. There were still three templars closing in, but for the moment the small group had time to breathe.

“Inquisitor, we've got a problem over here.”

Nethra turned her back on the horizon, and looked towards where Varric was standing deeper in the cave. Her gaze shifted to what he was indicating: Niamh, no longer on the floor, was pressed up against the wall, her hands running over them frantically. Her bow was laying discarded, a sight that alerted Nethra something was wrong more than Niamh's odd behavior.

Reaching down, she picked up the bow and walked over to the other woman. She wasn't sure what the problem was, but judging by the bright fervor in Niamh's eyes, it wasn't good.

“Niamh! Calm down, and take your bow!” She stepped up to Niamh, losing the harsh tone she had used on the other elf since their journey began. She didn't get along with her, that was true, but that didn't mean she wanted to see her suffer. Nethra had seen enough of that to last a lifetime. “You're ok, it's ok. Everything's fine, now just take this -” She took hold of Niamh's hand, pressed the bow into her palm “And take a breath, lethallan.”

The word passed her lips without thought – an endearment used often to those she cared for. The sight of the distraught elf, once considered a valuable friend, had loosened the grip of anger and long held grudges. Perhaps she had judged Nimah too harshly.

She stood silent, still holding the bow out towards Nimah, waiting.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   26/6/2015, 21:49


She was taking in sharp breaths; her vision still clouded and seeing only the stone cold walls. She was under, alone; the lid was heavy and locked. There was no room to move, she hugged herself, arms pressing tight; to breathe, her heart tore at her chest; no control, her fingers scraped at the walls; how long this time, before next time, before she saw light again. It was him, he trapped her in here, he’d told her she’d never be free, never free of him, he’d said so.

“Don’t touch me!” she lashed out at the vision, words and arms. Her bow, yes, she was not defenceless, not like before. Fingers curled around the wood, gripped at the familiar curve; her weapon was her voice now, the arrows were her words. Take a breath, lethallan. She blinked and breathed and strung up her bow- he deserved no less than this. Take a breath. She breathed; she only needed to let that arrow fly. Lethallan. How strange, he did not call her that. Worthless, yes. But never this. Never in the tongue of her brothers and sisters. “You’re not- you’re not-”

Her eyes focused, seeing Nethra in place of the man, her sister in place of the shem. Her hands trembled, she nearly dropped her bow again; instead she let it fall to her side, away from the other elf. Niamh looked and saw Varric and the Iron Bull, with their weapons trained on her; realized they would have acted if any harm had come to their Inquisitor; felt sick and still and so angry that they should have seen her like this. “I’m fine. Leave me alone,” her voice came out thick, her expression had become steel.

She turned away from the other three; sheathed the arrow, but kept her bow in hand. Looking around the cave it was like seeing it for the first time. It wasn’t big, really, there was some space at the mouth, but then at the edges it shrunk and it looked like the further in it went the narrower it became. Even the ceiling seemed lower there. “Are they all dead?” she asked, glancing back at her party. She’d seen the blood on their blades, but couldn’t tell whether it belonged to the first group or second. “Another three,” said the Iron Bull, still eyeing her warily. She couldn’t look at any of them, her eyes found the floor of the cave. “The others will retreat if they’re smart. Archers can’t shoot in this weather, can’t hit us in the cave. Short range won’t be coming in alone, with the four of us waiting.”

“Shit, looks like you got something right,” Niamh spoke again before stopping to think; before clearing the bitter taste from her mouth. The Inquisitor had made the right choice and what did Niamh do? Nothing. This is your worth. “Well then,” she said, speaking over the voice in her head. Couldn’t keep standing still for long like that either; she moved around the cave again, cautiously as if she expected it to disappear into the underground trap again; restlessly looking as if she hoped to find some other exit apart from the way they’d all come in. “What does our brilliant leader propose we do next?”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   26/6/2015, 23:38

Nethra was caught by surprise when Niamh lashed out, grabbing onto her bow and shouting to let her be. She complied, taking a nimble step back as suddenly there was an arrow strung and notched, aimed directly at her. She could see the two others out of the corner of her eye readying their weapons. She gave a slight shake of her head – no, not yet. Let this play out.

When Niamh's eyes really caught and focused on Nethra all the fight seemed to drain from her. She mumbled, almost incoherent words that made little sense to Nethra without context. The bow dropped, Nethra able to blink again. She ran a nervous hand through her hair, shaking only slightly, glad for the drama to be over for now.

But no. Nethra had been right. Not a minute had passed since she had helped calm the other woman down before she dug her teeth into Nethra again. That was it. One last straw added to Nethra's back, already overloaded and ready to crush her. Months of being in charge, of constant stress with so little reprieve, and the comment that finally broke her was mouthed by someone she had once trusted.

She rounded on Niamh, livid. The green in her eyes sparked, and suddenly she looked taller, bigger, more fierce than she was. “Do you think I wanted this? Is that it? Do you imagine I left our home and thought hey, let's become a figurehead for the shems? Is that what you really think? Unlike you, I didn't want to leave! I never wanted this, so maybe you can stop acting like you're the only one here who knows anything and show a little respect.”

Nethra set her jaw, clenched her teeth together. Her expression slowly cleared, becoming a blank slate. Her breaths slowed, fists unclenched at her side. That had been a mistake. There was nothing to do about it now, though, as Niamh began to shout back at her with the same amount of force. As much as she wished to counter with her own insults, jabs at just how well Niamh was handling the situation and did she think she could do better, she knew it was fruitless to continue. Once again Nethra was in a situation where she was barred from speaking her mind, not because she was unable; Mythal, was she able, but because as Inquisitor it was demanded of her to remain civil. She had already slipped up a moment ago, and was now suffering the consequences.

She glanced towards the others, worried to see how they were responding to the two of them fighting yet again. Bull was studying them, no doubt taking in each little movement and comment and analyzing it with his ben hassrath training. Not for the first time Nethra wondered just how much he had already surmised of what connection there was between Niamh and herself. Varric, on the other hand, was casually watching, a slight turn of a smile on his lips. Fine. Let them watch. Let them judge. She wasn't a damn Tranquil – she had emotions just like everyone else.

It was then that something else caught her attention. Her ears perked up at the new sound: hollow, echoing, close. She shut her eyes, trying to focus on the sound that was familiar if she could just figure out where it was coming from.

“Niamh, stop.” Her voice wasn't loud at first; she was still trying to hear over the noise and didn't wish to add to it. Niamh didn't heed her, as was expected, really, so she tried again. Still the other elf spoke on, pacing in the cave oblivious to anything else. “For Mythal's sake, stop moving and shut your mouth!” Nethra finally had to bark, opening her eyes to watch as the other elf finally stopped her pacing.

The noise stopped. Nethra, ignoring every one around her now, took a step. There is was again. She raised her foot, planting it back onto the cave floor with force this time. A hollow echo answered. A grin began to spread across her face, and she jumped, landing deftly on both feet. Yes, yes this was it.

She turned back to the Iron Bull, confident once again. “Bull, smash this floor in.”

“Hey, you know I'm all for hitting things...but is there a reason you want me to do this or...?”

“It's open air down there! Can't you hear it?” She looked from one companion to the next, passing Niamh's eyes quickly. Surely they could hear it, too. “There's got to be a cavern down there. We can get into it, look around. Maybe it will lead us out, and-”

“And we can avoid the rest of the templars and make a daring escape. Nice thinking, Tumbles.” Varric backed away from where Nethra was standing, leaned against the cave wall.

“Thank you.” Anything would be better than going back into the snow. It was her turn to back away, now, as Bull moved in with this ax and started going to work on the cave floor.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   27/6/2015, 01:01


Niamh might have laughed, but there she was at last; not shrugging her shoulders and ignoring her insults, no, standing tall and taking initiative. This was a keeper’s second, not an Inquisitor raised by shems, as she so well put it. “I don’t give a shit what you wanted,” Niamh spoke, a shit-eating grin threatening to consume her lips. “Nobody out there does either. I joined the inquisition because it was the right thing to do. If you don’t care for leading these people, then what the fuck are you still doing here?”

No wonder Nethra could spare soldiers and have a couple of hunters lost in an avalanche. She didn’t care for them. She never cared for shemlen, so why should she start now? “It’s clear as day on your face. But guess what, princess, it’s you they look to. So you might want to throw them a fucking bone every now and then.” There were too many lives depending on her to say she didn’t want them. Niamh thought she understood; every time she hunted or fought over lost game, she thought she understood what was at stake. Not here. Not where Nethra made orders Niamh could not follow. “I’m telling you I don’t know. What the fuck do you expect me to do? I am not one of your soldiers. You had no right to bring me here!”  

She watched Nethra make herself calm and felt disappointment bubble up at the back of her throat. Had she so little fight inside her that so quickly she kneeled before a challenge? If that was the case, Niamh wondered how long she could keep acting as the Inquisitor before breaking under pressure. Was this the same woman who could seal holes in skies? Niamh refused to believe it.

“Come on, stiff, you can do better than that,” Niamh followed her gaze and found the dwarf and the qunari at the end of it; theirs was the opinion Nethra cared for these days. With a disgusted shake of her head, Niamh moved around the cave again. There was no way she could sit here and wait until Nethra made up her fucking mind; she kept pacing around like a wild animal trapped in a cage.

“You really have no idea what you’re doing,” she spat; at this point it was no longer a question. “You’re not even equipped for this snow, for fucks sake. I did my job, at least, I made sure you all got coats and shit.” She only half-heard Nethra shushing her, but made no attempt to stop speaking. “So you drag me out on a fucking mission, but you don’t even remember to take your coat. Help me out here, ‘cause I have no idea what the fuck you’re thinking.” Nethra shushed her again and Niamh opened her mouth, “Well I-” only to close it a second later and stand quite still.

She watched as Nethra kicked the floor, having realized what was underneath them. Even as Nethra ordered Bull to smash through stone, Niamh paled and crossed the cave over to Nethra. “You’re insane- you want to go further down? We don’t know how deep this thing goes!” What Nethra and Varric were saying made sense, but Niamh couldn’t- she couldn’t- “Nethra,” she begged for attention as she followed the elf to the wall. Niamh hadn’t realized it, but she’d called the other elf by her name for the first time since they’d met in Skyhold. She wouldn’t let fear show easily, but she was sure her eyes betrayed her. “There’s got to be another way.” Chances for that were slim, at best, she knew; and they all agreed already, they listened, Bull already worrying his axe, bringing it down with great force. It didn’t take long at all for him to create an opening, big enough to let them all through. “Ladies first,” he nodded towards them, stepping away from the hole so they could inspect the cavern below.

Niamh had to make herself come closer and she moved towards the opening as if it would grow larger on its own and swallow her. She thanked the gods for night vision, for the cavern seemed very dark indeed. It also looked bigger than the cave they were in now, though Niamh did not trust it by far. More likely Nethra had some great idea to lead them through tunnels, only hoping that they led out somewhere.

Well, only way Nethra would get her down there was if she forced her. Niamh thought she’d much rather die trying to face the Templars than willingly drop herself into a deathtrap. She said nothing as she moved away from the opening, looking to the mouth of the cave as if it held salvation. On her own she might make it through stealth, sneaking past the enemy and creating enough distance to keep on moving undetected. She could probably last a couple of days; find a shelter of some sort by then, find a way back to Skyhold and Bellen and hunting. Things she knew helped when she did them. Things she knew.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   27/6/2015, 16:55

Niamh had no way of knowing what she was saying, now only half heard by Nethra, was cutting deeply. She kept her face stony and clear, staring at Bull as his muscles worked. It was a tactic she had picked up early in life – when feeling something strong, so strong if you let it free others may think you weak – she set aside all outward tells, and became impassive. It had been helpful when, after her parents died, she was forced to keep hearing about it. It was invaluable now that she needed a strong front for the Inquisition.

Behind her focused gaze, though, her mind was a storm.

How could Niamh know what it felt like to have people willing to die for her? For a cause she somehow was the leader of? Watching people throw their lives away to protect her, to sacrifice themselves at her command. How many wasted souls were now neatly penned on a list with her name on the top, responsible for nothing more than ending their lives. The thought kept her up at night, kept her pulse always a beat too fast. Some days she felt she was suffocating, drowning in the blood of those who believed in her – and for what? For the chance, the slim hope, of victory over evil.

She cared for those people. She cared for every man and woman she didn't have the time to learn the names of. Niamh said she joined the Inquisition because it was the right thing to do; Nethra joined because it was the only thing to do. She was the only person who had the chance at saving these people, and for that others had to die. That did not mean she didn't suffer over the piles of parchment with tallies marking the number of dead, reduced to a line on a page. How dare Niamh suggest she didn't care. How childish and arrogant she must be to believe she was the only one who felt things.

Nethra continued to stare at Bull, deigning even to take notice of Niamh when she followed her and continued her ranting. When she answered her voice was even. The voice of the Inquisitor, steady and authoritative. Nethra had time to wonder when it started happening that she could pull it up from nowhere, when she finally became the person every one expected her to be. “You're right. You're not one of my soldiers. So if you want to go find another way,” she motioned towards the mouth of the cave, where outside snow was beginning to fall. “Go. Just know you disobeyed the Inquisitor's direct orders and I am certain there will be a lot of people out there that do believe in me, that know I care about them, that will not take that lightly.”

She pushed herself away from the wall, walked past Niamh without even a glance. The hole in the cavern floor was large enough to climb into, even for the Bull, and Nethra easily began to lower herself down. It was hasty, she knew, not to inspect the hole more closely, to get an idea of what was below, but she could not lose her momentum now. She was determined to appear confident and sure, not to let Niamh see her constant second guessing. Her fingers were gripping the stone edge still, her feet finding little purchase below her but air, when Varric caught her eye and frowned.

“Aw, shit, come on. We can't just let her go out there.”

“Yeah, those templars will get her, and when they do she'll talk – tell them where we are. No offense.” Bull looked over to Niamh and shrugged.

They made sense. Of course they made sense; they knew what they were doing. They had done this before. “Fine.” She looked back to Niamh, still hovering near the mouth of the cave. “I'm sorry, I know how terrible it must be to be around me, but you're going to have to act like an adult for once and deal with your problems instead of running away.”

She didn't wait for a response before lowering herself down. As her fingers let go of the  rock and she felt nothing but air all around her, she thought she had made a huge mistake, but no, her feet made contact with more rock, firm and solid beneath her.  She dusted herself off, readjusted the daggers on her back. It was dark down here – they would need torches. She stepped out of the circle of light falling from above, and did her best to examine the cavern. It was large, much larger than the one they had entered. The walls were slick with ice melt, floor uneven and treacherous in spots where ice remained. Nethra ventured as far from the opening as she dared before the others descended, stopping when she discovered the cavern narrowed into a passage that started to slowly descend.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   30/6/2015, 02:27


Niamh’s brow held the slightest of creases as she stared into the white outside the cave. What Nethra had said sounded more like a threat than she perhaps realized. Whatever respect the Inquisitor demanded, Niamh found she could not give it; whatever orders Nethra gave to her men, towards Niamh she never seemed to act like an Inquisitor, not precisely. The image of a saviour Niamh might have held herself, only months before learning who it was, had all but disappeared into cold despair.

She could quite not believe it still. Nethra was so very different from what Niamh had imagined the Inquisitor would be. Should be. Nethra, who had reacted well in favour of her sister and tried to extend the same courtesy to Niamh. Nethra, with her close circle of supporters and crowds of broken men; perhaps thinking she should care equally for everyone, but failing when it came to action; offering her soft words in one blink of an eye and damning all shemlen in the next. Even now she spoke one thing but seemed determined to act upon her own decision. And now she’s pulling rank on me, but an order laced with warning. Nethra was the last person Niamh would have thought capable of demanding obedience through fear. It made her stomach turn.

Bull’s words reached her and she turned very slowly to face him. Her eyes narrowed in such a way that her expression seemed almost feral; she stood very still, looking at the qunari as if he’d dealt her a physical blow. “I would not,” she said, her voice exercising control it had lacked before. This was different. She had given her loyalty. Her thoughts on individuals had nothing to do with that. “Whatever you may think of me, I would sooner die than betray the Inquisition. You should remember that.” She did not say that she well thought that in the event of being captured at all. She could not afford a doubt of her own skills, not out loud.

Pinching the bridge of her nose against a coming headache, feeling that she was going to come to regret her decision, she walked away from the exit and took to pacing around the cave again. “I suppose you know,” she said as Nethra disappeared into the darkness below. “Make you think twice next time.” Again she peered inside the hole; retreated swiftly and with a curse under her breath. If this were a problem, as Nethra had put it, Niamh might have found a way to solve it. In face of her own fears, however, she felt quite helpless.

“You do still remember how to light a fire,” she called in question, barely able to see Nethra any longer; she had moved further into the cavern. “Without the help of magic, that is?” The dwarf shook his head and began his descent after the Inquisitor. Moving up and around the opening before it was her turn to climb down, Niamh caught the Iron Bull watching her. “Oh what is it?”

The qunari looked as if trying to find some fault on her; some outward sign that she was broken in some way, not working properly as he expected an elf should. At last he spoke, “I thought your kind could see quite well in the dark.” She made a face at him, fists clenching and unclenching as she fought to calm her breath; it was her turn to go. “That may well be, but it does not make us all equally fond of it.” She had not meant to say it, but the words had been fast past her lips; she thought he might laugh at her. Instead the Iron Bull offered only the slightest nod of his head, as if to say he understood perfectly. “You won’t be alone down there,” he said, taking her completely off guard. She had not thought about it like that; didn’t think there was any reason to.

With a sharp intake of breath she caught hold of the rock and started down into unknown.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   1/7/2015, 06:23

Nethra was too drawn in by the curious way the tunnel sloped downward and the faint wafting of air that flowed from it – warm, almost reminiscent of campfire and ash – to take full offense at Niamh's comment. She hardly even heard it, if truth be told. Now that she had made the decision to lead her group through the caves and tunnels her full attention was on studying the area around them.  

When the others finally made it down, all of them worse for wear from the dust and loose rock, she turned back to where the dim circle of light held them. Varric had produced a torch, and she followed suit lighting one of her own. The flame licked the walls with its light, throwing shadows that played and danced as if they held a life of their own.

“There's a passage this way,” she motioned towards the far wall, now illuminated with dim light. “It looks like the only one, but I can feel the air stirring, so it should be ok. Come on.” With one hand holding her torch and the other loosely gripping her dagger, Nethra made her way to where the wall opened up enough to allow the group to walk through one by one. She didn't wait to see if they followed her; she knew Varric and Bull would, knew that trusted her as she trusted them. Niamh she knew had no other option now. It was not the way Nethra would have liked to have her come along, but it was what is was. Let her fume and make her out the villain here; as long as it got her to follow them into safety, Nethra could put up with it.

The ground beneath her feet was uneven, littered with rocks and for a while, ice. It descended steadily, though, and soon the ice melted, forming rivulets that ran off into the darkness as the passageway began to open up. Soon two of them could walk side by side, and before long there was room for them all, if they were so inclined. Nethra kept herself ahead of the others, torch held in front of her like a beacon. She didn't wish to take part in the conversations behind her. She was too worried the moment she spoke her voice would give her away, alert the others that with each downward step she became less and less sure of herself.

She could feel the tons of rock above her, layers of solid defense from the world beyond. It was almost comforting, like being somewhere safe. She could imagine why dwarfs led their lives down here, in places where the real world could search and search but never find you. It would be so easy to wander off, to leave all the responsibilities she had acquired throughout her lifetime somewhere miles above her. The Inquisitor, unfortunately lost underground. It was the thought of those that trailed behind her that kept her pace steady, her path straight and true. She couldn't let them disappear down here, not like she could let herself.

It felt like hours before the tunnel began to level out. Then all at once it once it opened up into a large chamber, the light of their torches barely reaching the ceiling far above and dimming into darkness in the distance. The ground turned from rocks and rubble to slabs,  set evenly and precisely, smooth from centuries of wear. There was a stillness here, a quiet that permeated everything. Nethra tread carefully, her footsteps making no noise in order to preserve the silence that dominated.

Her curious steps brought her far from the others. There were statues lining the far edge of the path, and when she reached them the shine of the light revealed stone carved into perfect renditions of armored dwarfs, with writing all around the base. She edged in closer, studying them and marveling at the craftsmanship. When she shone her light farther ahead she could the row of statues continue on until it was engulfed in darkness. There was only one place they could be.

“Varric,” she called out, remaining where she was until the dwarf reached her. She knew he had been in places like this before; she had heard him tell the stories, read it in his book. If any of the four of them knew for certain where they were, it was him. “Are we....are these the Deep Roads?” She kept her voice quiet so the others wouldn't overhear.

“Sure looks like it to me.” He scowled, looked around him in what Nethra thought was a mixture of fear and loathing. “Maker's balls, I swore I would never come back down here again.”

“They're amazing.” She ran her hand over the statue, feeling the age and history against her skin. For years she had read about the Deep Roads, heard stories of what they once were, and what they now held within them. Never had she imagined she would find herself within them, amongst the ruins of what was once a vast and great civilization. The knowledge made her at once giddy and terrified. She wanted to rush off and explore, to experience all she could while she was here. The other part of her knew that was not possible. She had a responsibility to get her friends out of here, and whatever she personally wanted was of no matter.  

“This is good news though, right?” She turned back to Varric, a sigh on her lips as she focused back on the task at hand. “The histories I've read say they all connect. We can find one that leads us out, back to the surface somewhere.”

“Yeah, maybe a thousand years ago. Now you're more likely to find cave ins and monstrous spiders than a clear route.” The anxiety must have shown on her face, as Varric hurriedly changed his tone, clasped her on the shoulder and offered a smile. “Hey, if anyone's got what it takes to get us out, it's you, Tumbles.”

Nethra only frowned and continued on.

They walked for hours more. The ruins around them shifted and changed, at times nearly intact and others little more than stacks of crumbling stone, the mortar holding them together long since gone. There was no sign of life, no skittering of creatures or sounds to disturb the now stale air. Nethra tried not to focus on the fact she could no longer remember the way back, nor could she tell just what direction they were heading. Despair threatened to overwhelm her if she concentrated on that; she could only keep moving, and pray to the gods she could find a way out.

Just when Nethra thought she could go no further they  stumbled into a crossroads, with paths leading out in four directions. There was an open spot in the middle, with a statue larger than they had seen yet. It towered above them, its head only faintly discernible in their meager torchlight. If they had to spend a night here, this was as good a place as any.

“We should stop here for a while and get some rest. We can probably get a small fire started, nothing too big just in case...” She trailed off, uncertain of what she was about to say. There had been no sign of monster nor man, yet the tales of darkspawn were not far from her mind. Choosing instead to say nothing more, she dropped her pack and got to work making a fire and setting out her bedroll.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   10/9/2015, 16:31


Niamh felt light headed, almost as if she’d held her breath while walking through the tight passage, her breathing only becoming easier once they were out of the strictly narrow and more into the wider areas. Her body shook as the shadows moved around her, unable to keep them from spilling anguish into her mind, but she did not carry a torch of her own; she needed both hands to use her weapon and she wasn’t about to occupy them otherwise. She tried not to think about the ceiling and the amount of rock that might crush them if it broke anywhere. It was very hard to keep panic from her throat down here, but as Bull had said she was not alone, not this time, and she kept repeating this to herself as she walked, doing her best to keep her focus on the large qunari presence behind her.

How long they went like this Niamh didn’t know, but at long last their feet stepped on the floor of even stone and the air around them opened into space. She lingered next to a statue as the other three spread out to observe the new surroundings. When Nethra suggested that they might be in the Deep Roads, Niamh felt faint again. Just great. “I just don’t see it,” she muttered to herself. Dwarven craftsmanship was pretty wicked, sure, but she wasn’t convinced there was anything good about them being down there with centuries old statues.

“If it’s just spiders, I’m so okay with it,” Niamh dropped in, moving closer to Varric. “Go on, then.” Again Nethra took lead, steering them through tunnels and at times pausing where there were pairs of passages until she could see a light or feel a breath of fresh air and know it was the right way forward. Niamh had to hand it to her; she kept a perfectly cool head about it all. If it had been up to her, she was unsure that she could keep still enough not to make any rash decisions. She’d never feel at ease down here, but at the very least she found comfort in those around her.

Unfortunately, even that newfound consolation seemed to disappear the longer they stayed down there. Weary and agitated from hours spent in the half-dark, Niamh too was grateful for a short rest. As much as she wished to be out on the surface again, she needed to recuperate before she could keep moving.

She looked around for anything flammable that might help in keeping that fire and carried it over where Nethra and Varric had placed their torches. They’d used three or four other since lighting the first ones and these too were nearly at their end. Niamh tried not to think what would happen if their fire went out completely. Shrugging her pack from her shoulders, she dug through it in search for her waterskin. After putting out their bedrolls, Varric had busied himself cleaning his crossbow and she caught the Iron Bull looking at her with a raised brow. “Alright?” he asked and Niamh offered a shrug in return. “Alright.”

She took a proper glance in Nethra’s direction then; in the light of the fire and bloody from the earlier fight the Inquisitor looked quite dreadful. There was a cut in her shoulder Niamh hadn’t noticed before. The cold must have closed the wound some, even numbed the pain, but at some point it had surely started to hurt again. Again Niamh consulted her pack, this time in search for bandages or a healing salve or something; most of the time she forgot to pack stuff like that, but Bellen never did and if he hadn’t checked her pack before she left she’d eat her own bow.

“Mind if I take a look at that?” she asked as she moved closer to Nethra. Then, adding as Nethra looked up at her with suspicion all over her pretty face, “Your shoulder. I got some elfroot poultice that’ll relieve soreness?”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   11/9/2015, 01:16

Nethra sat apart from the others and while she busied herself with cleaning the build up on her daggers she kept a steady watch on the others from the corner of her eyes. They looked exhausted, and indeed the way they let their packs fall onto the stone reaffirmed how sore they must feel. She furrowed her brow in worry and sympathy; she hadn't meant to push them all so hard. They listened to her though, and followed her lead. She still could not decide if that was a good thing or not.

So intent was she on her own private thoughts that she flinched in surprise when Niamh approached and spoke to her. “Oh,” she quickly focused on the other elf, ashamed that her suspicion was the first thing to show on her face. She replaced it with a somewhat blank mask and even tone. “Ok, yes, go ahead”

With her opposite hand Nethra reached over and pulled the leather of her armor and the cloth of her tunic away to reveal the flesh of her shoulder. The cotton stuck to it at first, hardened blood gluing it to her skin, but she gave a small tug and it released its hold. She winced at the pain it caused and the way it tore what scabs were already forming, causing a weak flow of fresh blood to spout. She hadn't yet examined it herself, and now that she looked down at it she scolded herself for waiting so long. The skin around the wound was red and angry, the wash of freckles that coated her body standing out with striking clarity on the areas slightly away from the wound where her skin looked ashen and pale by comparison. The slice the templar's blade made was deep; deep enough that when she looked she could clearly see the two walls of the cut, her flesh parted between them like a chasm in stone. The muscle within was red and inflamed, though luckily Nethra did not see the gleam of white that indicated it had reached her bone. Still, it was not something she should have ignored, nor was she certain how she had managed to fight through what pain it should have brought. Adrenaline and fear, she guessed. Only now, and with attention brought to it, it was becoming over powering.

She did her best to keep her expression clear and calm as Niamh carefully cleaned the area and applied the strong smelling salve. A slight narrowing of her eyes and a bite of her lower lip betrayed her pain, and she hurriedly looked away into the deep shadows to avoid Niamh's gaze. To show weakness now would only serve to give the hunter ammunition later.

Or perhaps it wouldn't. The other elf had been uncharacteristically quiet during their march in the depths, and even now she seemed somehow subdued. Nethra chanced a look back to her just in time for the hunter to finish up her task and move slightly away from Nethra. There was something in her face that Nethra could not place, but it certainly wasn't the fire she had most of the time they were together. Again she was struck with the thought that maybe she had been too quick to judge, as she often was.

“Thank you,” she started, and even gave Niamh a rare smile. “Niamh, listen, I'm-” A sudden shift in the air, a deepening of the shadows and silence around them, alerted Nethra and halted what words she had been about to speak. Her eyes darted to the edges of the firelight, straining to see past it and into the cavernous halls and towering archways beyond. She felt more than saw the change: a quickening of her pulse, a tightening around her heart. Something wasn't right. They were being watched. “Something's coming.”

Her whisper cut through the idle noises the others were making and both Bull and Varric rose from their positions nearby, weapons already rising. Nethra wondered if they could sense it too, the lurking fear and heavy weight of what felt like living darkness surrounding them. The meager fire they had made began to flicker violently, it's flames lengthening out into nothing but smoke to be blown through the air that now moved with a breeze that had not previously been felt. Nethra stood as she shrugged her injured shoulder back into her armor and reached for her daggers that lay on a nearby rock.

It happened faster than she could comprehend. One moment they stood together, warily looking about them, and the next they were staring down monstrosities the like of which all but Varric had never seen. Creatures who grew and thrived in the deep, dark and lonely places beneath the world surged from each cross road and in towards where the party stood. Black ichor dripped from open mouths barring razor sharp lines of teeth, flesh darkened and hard clung to visible scales and bones. A hum was building in the moving air, a crescendo that threatened to blot out all over sensations.

Creators help us
, Nethra prayed, raising her daggers before her.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   19/9/2015, 21:04


Niamh was never a healer, but she could wrap up a wound well enough. That Nethra let her do the work in silence made things easier. Her fingers moved deftly and with purpose, cleaning the wound with the water from her waterskin to the best of her ability. She noted then how deep it really was. “It’s no good. I’ll have to stitch it up first.” When no protest came from the other elf, Niamh retrieved her pack again. She did not have the tools of a surgeon, but the thread and the bone needle she used to mend clothes would do just as well. She kept her hands steady, working slowly, as neatly and thoroughly as she could manage. Nethra would have a scar but her shoulder would mend. Finally she applied the poultice generously over it and wrapped it all up in a fresh bandage. With luck it would help keep out the pain and inflammation. If nothing else, it should keep until Nethra got proper treatment.

She wanted to say you don’t have to hide it hurts, she wanted to say you don’t have to be so strong, but there were the dwarf and the qunari, so depending on Nethra’s strength and Niamh understood that her stubbornness matched her own. So she let Nethra bite her lip to keep from crying out and she let her look away and pretended she hadn’t seen any of it. Like a tranquil she rose and focused on the next task; her waterskin was now empty, perhaps there was another cavern nearby with a pool where she could refill it, she thought her nose caught the scent of wet stone. Perhaps she could look. And they were all hungry undoubtedly, they would have to check their rations and eat a little and sleep, if they could, before moving on. Niamh shivered, despite the warm fur of her cloak. How long before they were out of this tomb?

Nethra was talking now. Niamh chanced another look at her and as if the shift in the air had affected her personally furrowed her brows and quickly said, “Just don’t get used to it, stiff.” Then she was all attention where the Inquisitor had halted and picking up her quiver and bow where she had dropped them. There was the cold again that set not upon her skin but started from somewhere further within her heart. The fire went out. The darkness that swallowed them threatened to stretch out its arms and pull them into its embrace, never to wake, never to see light again. She saw the glint of Nethra’s eyes and despite being quite able to see in the dark herself Niamh shook like a woman struck with high fever.

They were- they were unlike anything Niamh had ever seen, surely, but whatever she’d heard about the darkspawn before, as she and Braeden and so many others did their best to avoid the horde, could not have prepared her, not for this. Besides, the Blight was already ten years in the past. She’d never once thought that she’d be stuck down in the Deep Roads, where these creatures still crawled around in dust and darkness. She told herself breathe, breathe for they were creatures of flesh and they bled and died like all others.

They stood very still, each with weapon in hand, and then the first arrow flew and the darkspawn hissed and spat and moved in on them with swords and blades just as sharp as Bull’s axe or Nethra’s daggers. Niamh moved back as much as she could, standing with Varric and focusing on ranged enemies while the others fought ahead. Weary though she was she aimed and shot with swiftness and precision. Somewhere beside her Nethra fought with her daggers, undoubtedly damaging the shoulder Niamh had just so carefully wrapped. And then she saw it. A sort of mage among its kind, wielding a staff and muttering a spell; she fixed her arrow on it, too late. The ground beneath her feet crumbled and she fell, deeper still, away into the underground. Then, for a while, it all went black.

When she came to it was quiet, very quiet and she was alone. She thought she was, until she saw Nethra lying further ahead. But neither the dwarf nor the qunari were with them and there was no sign of darkspawn. Niamh could see a hole through which they must have fallen, but it was high up and all was silent. They must have fallen a long way.

She lifted her body from the floor with some effort; she hurt all over, but no important bones seemed to be broken, a couple of ribs perhaps for it hurt to breathe. She moved over to Nethra, jaw set and teeth clenched and lips set into a thin line. The Inquisitor was alive but unconscious, as Niamh herself had been. She tried shaking her and calling her, but Nethra did not stir. She tried not to think about Varric or the Iron Bull, or whether they still lived.

There was a strange glow in this cavern that came from strange twisting fungi and they lighted up a small pool that Niamh had wished for not so very long ago. She might have laughed. Instead she went over to it and removed her gloves and soaked her hands in the icy water. She washed her face and she drank and then she took her small knife from her boot and sliced a piece of her undershirt. She soaked it in water and wrung it out and placed it on Nethra’s forehead. She took of her cloak as well and covered Nethra with it. Then she sat alone in the dark and she waited.  
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   25/9/2015, 23:03

She was back in the forest. The cool air of the night was all around her, the last of the spring rain dripping from the leaves and onto her face. Through the trees she could see the edges of the lake, its calm surface glimmering with the moonlight's reflection. Everything was peaceful and quiet, and it felt like home in a way that she had thought she would never feel again.

Someone up ahead was calling her name, urging her to join them by the lake. She desperately wanted to see them, so she increased her barefoot dash through the underbrush. The drops of rain dampened her face and trickled down her neck. She tried to raise a hand to wipe them away but hissed in pain instead. She couldn't move her arm and now the pain was spreading from her shoulder down and out, encompassing the left side of her body. A flash of green lit up the dark forest, emanating from her hand and engulfing her fist with its crackling heat.


Nethra woke up to the very same flash of green, the same shooting pain in her shoulder. The anchor on her hand flared once, then dimmed until it was indistinguishable from the dark of her skin. The pain, however, remained.

She groaned, doing her best not to move and jar her shoulder until the fog of dreams had fully passed. It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim light, and even longer for her to make sense of where she was. The area around her was illuminated in faint blue light that cast tall shadows on the rough-hewn walls, reaching high up towards the ceiling of the cavern. As she squinted her eyes she could just make out the jagged edges of a hole in the stone above her, far out of reach.

The rain she felt in her dream was only a wet strip of cloth resting on her forehead, and with her uninjured arm she reached up and removed it. Gritting her teeth against the pain she knew was to follow, Nethra pushed herself up into a seated position. Her head swam as she did, blackness threatening to over take her yet again. She would not go down that easily though, and took long steadying breaths until her vision cleared and the awful falling sensation in her stomach settled.

It was then she noticed Niamh sitting beside her. She turned to face the other elf, grateful she wasn't alone. “What happened?” Her voice was thick with sleep, her throat dry from who knew how long without water. Still, she was alive, and so was Niamh. That was a start. “Are you ok? Can you walk?”

As she spoke Nethra took a mental inventory of her own wounds: her shoulder still throbbed with each pulse of blood through her veins, and by the feel of it she had undone all of Niamh's careful work. The whole of her body felt bruised and heavy, but nothing serious, and by now Nethra was more than used to dealing with cuts and bruises. She could taste the lingering metallic hint of blood in her mouth and was not surprised to realize she had bit into her cheek sometime between the darkspawn attack and now. All in all it was better than she could hope for, and Niamh didn't appear to be suffering from any life threatening injury either.

With no way of knowing how long the two of them had been unconscious for Nethra had no notion of when the attack had taken place. It could have been only moments ago, or it could have been hours. So far underground her sense of time was failing, as was her confidence. With another groan she managed to stand up, her legs shaking at first but still able to hold her.

She ran her good hand through her tangled mass of hair – a nervous tick she hoped Niamh didn't remember. As she looked around the room it dawned on her that there was no sign of the others of their party; Bull and Varric were missing. Again she looked up towards the hole in the ceiling and this time cursed under her breath. The two of them had likely fallen and got separated from their companions when the floor somehow gave way. The thought of the two others alone and hurt, possibly already struck down by the darkspawn, was another sharp pain to add to that of her shoulder.

“We've got to find Bull and Varric. Those things could come back at any time and they might be hurt.”

Nethra wasted no more time and started to search the cavern for a way out, and with any luck, up. She felt her heart thudding in her chest while she worked, the slight shaking in her legs as dismay threatened her. She had to remain calm. There was no room for panic – if she let the rising fear bubble up in her that would be the end. She had brought them here, she had been unable to keep them together, to get them out in time before the darkspawn found them. This was her fault, and thus it was her responsibility to fix it. She had to remain calm. So she focused on her task with cold intensity.  

In her search for an exit Nethra approached one of the cavern walls. The dark rock was wet to the touch, rivulets of water falling down its surface and giving the walls a faint shine in the luminescence from the odd plants. She ran her hand over it, the cold water doing much to sooth the scrapes on her skin The rock itself was rough, though, and showed no signs of carvings or the delicate care that the corridors and chambers above had. “The walls are different here...I don't think this is part of the deep roads anymore.”  It was obvious when she said it, and surely Niamh already knew that, but saying something, anything in the unnatural hush of the cave was reassuring.

A few more paces brought her to an opening in the rock. It was wide enough for the two of them to pass through side by side, but what lay beyond it was doused in darkness. There was no guarantee it would lead them back to the Deep Roads, or to anywhere at all. It was possible it might even bring them deeper into this cave system, to lose them forever in the silent depths. What choice did she have though?  
     

“Come on, I think we can squeeze through here.”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   26/9/2015, 01:44


She sat with her knees drawn up and with her arms around herself, her eyes looking blindly in front of her. She’d fought off the darkness for as long as she could and then she couldn’t anymore and it was too quiet and she was alone. Alone, alone, the lid is heavy and locked, there’s no room to move at all; how long this time, one, two, three; don’t be afraid, four, five; don’t cry, don’t let him hear you cry, one, two, three; one, two-What was that? He’s coming back. Be very, very quiet; don’t let him hear a sound. He must have heard you, he’s coming now and he’ll punish you again; why couldn’t you just keep quiet, why don’t you ever do what he tells you? It’s your fault you stayed in the forest so long, it’s your fault you don’t love him enough, it’s your fault, it’s your fault-

It wasn’t his voice. She could hear it now, the faintest noise, but it wasn’t him at all. She tried to listen, but she couldn’t understand what the voice was saying. It was so far away, above her somewhere, after all she was in here and she couldn’t get out, how could she hear anything? It was too long and she was lost and Nethra- Nethra? Why would she think of her, she hadn’t seen her in years, why would she be here? No. Look up. She’s right there. Up, up was just the lid of this desperate hole in the earth. No. Listen. She’s calling you.

Her entire body hurt, but it wasn’t from beating, not this time; no, she had fallen, she remembered now. She blinked and blinked and the cavern came back into focus, and there was Nethra. It was her voice that bounced off the lonely walls of the cavern. She seemed to be moving alright as Niamh watched, but she said something again that Niamh could make no sense of. Slowly, shakily she stood up, one arm outstretched to keep balance on the wall and she stared, as if in wonder, at the elf on the other side of the cavern.

Her feet moved over the cold stone, the noise in her head persisted, she caught bits of words. Come and through and here. Where? “Nethra?” Not there, not into more darkness. No air, can’t breathe. She drew back, she couldn’t go, couldn’t breathe. She was drowning in her fear and there was nothing to hold on to, no one to help her. Maybe you’ll die here. Good riddance.

“Shut up!” she yelled, one hand flying up, clutching at her head. “Stop it just stop! You’re wrong, that can’t be the right way!” Was she yelling at Nethra or the voice in her head? She couldn’t tell anymore. This was wrong all wrong. “Everything you say- everything you do is wrong. What the fuck are you doing?” Go where? They weren’t going anywhere, there was nowhere to go. “You,” now she was addressing Nethra, her eyes flaring up with recognition at the Inquisitor. “What have you done? It’s your fault, this, all of this, what have you done?”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   27/9/2015, 00:15

The first set of words Niamh hurled at her caused Nethra to jump in surprise. She had her back to the other elf, who she assumed was just now standing up to follow her. Instead when she turned to face her she saw Niamh frozen in the middle of the cavern, eyes somewhat glossy as she stared ahead.

What in the creator's name was she going on about now?

And then Niamh's eyes focused and the worst of the insults Nethra had suffered from her one time friend hit her.

This is all your fault.  Nethra's own thoughts were screamed back at her, louder and even more painful to hear than to think. They slammed into her with a near physical force and she had to steady herself on the wall behind her to keep from slumping to the floor.

It was her fault. They were going to die down here, her and Niamh and Bull and Varric, all because she had pretended her way into having people depend on her. She didn't know what she was doing; how could she save anyone? The faint flame of confidence she tended to so carefully was being extinguished. Wave after wave of doubt and failure was dosing it completely. What had she done?  She had killed them all.

She hadn't just failed her companions either – she had failed everyone. All of Thedas relied on her and she had failed them. She couldn't protect anyone, she couldn't be what everyone needed. All she could do was lead them to their doom while pretending to know the answers. She wasn't an Inquisitor, or a Herald, or even a hero. She was only a girl who let everyone down.

Then, when she had all but succumbed to the overwhelming force of her defeat, the face of her sister flashed before her eyes. Keerla, bright and laughing, waiting each day for her to return from her mission in the Emprise du Lion. She would never know what happened to Nethra. She would be left alone to face the fate of the world, her sister's promise of always being there to protect her broken. Anger began to heat Nethra's blood, to fuel the determination that rushed back into her. She was not going to die here.

Niamh was right, though. She was right to be angry. The fault was Nethra's, but that didn't mean she had done the wrong thing. Maybe she wasn't able to save them all, maybe she didn't know what to do and what was the best choice to make, but she damned well was going to try, which was more than the other elf was doing.  

“I've done what I have to! I've done what is expected of me! I've at least tried!” Nethra pushed herself away from the wall, found her legs no longer shook beneath her. Her words echoed around the lonely cavern, the walls shouting her voice back at her. When was the last time she sounded so angry? When was the last time she lost control of her meticulously guarded feelings? It felt good. It was a release to scream out the demons that nipped at her insides and tore holes in her heart. It was cathartic to blame someone else, even though far back past the fury she knew it was wrong. “But you wouldn't know anything about that, would you? Rather just run away instead of dealing with your problems? That's what you do isn't it?”

Nethra turned from Niamh for a brief moment, her throat aching from yelling and the thirst plaguing her since waking. They didn't have time for this argument. Their situation was becoming more dire by the moment, as each second they spent screaming at each other was a second the others might be in danger. She took a deep breath and then two steps towards Niamh. When she spoke her voice was ice cold again, laced with more rage and distaste than any of her shouting. “You should thank Andruil I am not as selfish as you are – I actually care about my family; another thing you must know nothing about.”

She took two more steps towards Niamh and now she was close enough to reach out and touch her. Niamh didn't trust her? Didn't want to go through the tunnel? Fine, but that wasn't going to change Nethra's plan of finding a way out. “I'm not leaving without you even if I have to knock you out and carry you through this fucking cave myself.”
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   2/12/2015, 03:46


Niamh stared back at Nethra; now silent, now open-mouthed, now shaking her head. She took a step back, away from her words. And another from the physical form in front of her. What Nethra said was true and hurtful and it felt like a slap in the face, but it woke Niamh right up from the lingering of the nightmare. “You tried? A novice mage tries to cast a spell, you, you’re the Herald. No, that doesn’t matter, but you’re the, you’re someone, you can do things, supposed to get things done!” What did Nethra know anyway? Sometimes running was the only option. If Niamh didn’t, she might have been dead by now. But Nethra, Nethra – wasn’t Nethra the Inquisitor? Wasn’t she their leader? She could- she could do things, not like Niamh, right, not like running away things; real things like saving people and closing rifts.

Again Nethra moved forward and Niamh stumbled backwards; too close, she was getting too close and she was angry, that was never a good thing. Words didn’t seem to work with Niamh’s brain, thinking Nethra could, well. Instead she kept pushing her away, spitting insults, yelling disagreements but not helping at all, not working with her for just a moment. Niamh felt disconnected from her, from herself, as if, gods, as if the voice had taken over her mouth and all she could do was hurt someone else.  “I suppose telling yourself that helps you sleep at night. Remind me, where were you while shemlen slaughtered your parents?”

She could almost see the hand flying up, not Nethra’s, maybe, she couldn’t tell, but it was there and the threat was there and that was usually enough. “Don’t touch me,” she half-hissed, half spoke in a frightened whisper, the words catching somewhere in the back of her throat. It didn’t matter that the intent was saving her stupid backside, so wrapped up in her panic all Niamh heard was a promise of violence and a curse and the hand that accompanied them. “Stop, you can’t-” And why not? After saying such a thing, Niamh was sure she deserved it. She still wasn’t going through that tiny opening.
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PostSubject: Re: Three Rogues, a Bull, and a Bad Idea   29/5/2016, 19:36

The anger in her died as fast as a flame being doused. In the dim, flickering light of the torch her face paled, leaving it ghostly white. With just a few simple words it felt like Niamh had stabbed her clean through the heart. Even the throbbing in her shoulder faded away to make room for the throbbing in her chest. She stopped dead in her tracks, stood deathly still, feet from the other elf, who was now huddling into the cave wall.

Where had she been when her parents were slaughtered? Out with Taevan, maybe. Living her life like it wasn't about to change forever. She hadn't been there, to help them. Or there to die with them, like she should have.

Niamh had no right to bring that up. To speak about it as if it was her tragedy to share. In fact, what right did she have to bring anything up that she'd been yelling all day? Just because she had known Nethra once, long ago, didn't mean she knew her now. Maybe if she had stayed with the clan, maybe then. But now? For Niamh to act like she could speak of the clan and her personal history like it was still her own, that was unforgivable.

It hit Nethra then, all at once. The woman in front of her was a stranger. With half a life time spent apart they now knew less about each other than they had ever even known. She didn't want Niamh speaking of their old life, and it was safe to assume that went both ways. Maybe she had been wrong to yell. Maybe they had both been wrong. The tension of the mission, the looming threat of death – it put everyone on edge. No wonder they had lashed out. Taken whatever hurtful things they could and flung them at each other.

The fight in her was gone, the anger at who she thought Niamh was, gone. The woman in front of her was just another woman. A woman that right now needed her help. She truly looked at Niamh for the first time since entered the Deep Roads. She was terrified; it showed in the pallor of her skin, the wideness of her eyes. Was she even thinking clearly? Something here frightened her, and in doing so it likely made her unable to truly think through what she was saying. Nethra couldn't be mad at her for that. Whatever reason she had to be so scared, it didn't matter. What mattered was getting her out this situation.

Letting her arms fall to her sides, the torch flame licking the stone floor, she approached Niamh slowly.“I can't what, Niamh? I can't help you get out of here? Would you really rather stay here and die? Because that's what's going to happen. It's out this way or not at all.”

Her voice was quiet now, no longer filled with venom but just the low sound of desperation. She had lied in her anger – she wouldn't hit Niamh, not even to save her. She couldn't do that. But she did need her to move. She hadn't been lying when she said she wouldn't leave without her.

“Hate me later. Yell at me all you want when we get out, tell me it's my fault my parents are dead and the world is falling apart. Believe, I've heard it all before.” She held out a hand to Niamh, one that shook more than she wanted, but was offered nonetheless. “But for the Creator's sake, please, let's get out of here.”
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