“We’re not murderers,” I say, watching Vaellen carefully. I’m still not sure what to make of him.
He doesn’t seem possessed.
Vaellen frowns slightly, knuckles going white as he grips the bars of his cell. “Please, don’t-”
“We’re not leaving you here,” Sylas quickly says, knowing my intentions. I would never leave this man caged here.
Caleb lets loose a stream of profanity, throwing his hands in the air. Something about Andraste and flaming underpants, but I’m barely paying attention to him as Sylas unlocks the cell.
Vaellen stares at the open cell door like he doesn’t know what to do about it. Even though he doesn’t react otherwise, or say a single word, I notice that his breathing has picked up. He seems overwhelmed, but whether it’s relief, happiness, sadness, or any combination of those, I can’t tell.
He lets go of the bars, looking to me. “You’re releasing me?” he asks, disbelieving. It’s the first strong emotion I’ve seen from him, and somehow it makes my chest hurt.
“I’m taking you to your grandfather.”
There’s a short pause, and then he nods. “I remember him,” he says quietly, finally stepping out of the cell. “We must hurry. The demons are always watching. It won’t take long for her to find out I’ve been released.”
“Great! Wonderful! Give me more good news!” Caleb says in a harsh voice. If we were anywhere else, I know he’d be shouting. “Why don’t we invite them along too? We could just hold hands and skip out of here together. Fantastic idea! I like it!”
Vaellen pauses, glancing at Caleb with a hint of a smile. “I suppose, if you’re into that…”
Caleb’s jaw drops, and I quickly hold up a hand, circumventing whatever retaliation I know he wants to give. “We have to keep moving.”
While Caleb isn’t amused at all, I hear a faint chuckle from Sylas’ direction.
We leave as quietly and quickly as possible, pushing the bookshelf back in front of the hidden passage, and replacing the papers and ledgers we had moved. The longer it takes for Karinn to realize someone’s been here, the better.
As we move through the shadowy, deserted streets, I can’t shake the unsettling sense of being watched. I remember Vaellen’s warning, and it’s as if those demons are right at my heels in the darkness. The grip I have on my swords is so tight my hands throb, but I don’t dare relax.
I have to steady Vaellen a few times along the way when he stumbles. I can see that he’s weak from being in that cell, and who knows what else Karinn has done to him. All the while, I urge him on.
“We’re almost there,” I whisper, and he only nods in response.
It feels like it takes forever to get to Briall’s home. It’s close to dawn, and there’s a single light shining from a downstairs window when we finally get there. I had promised him I’d come back this night, although none of us were expecting that we’d find Vaellen so quickly.
I knock against the front door, and after a moment I hear someone on the other side, scrambling to open the locks quickly. The door swings open, and the four of us rush in.
Briall closes the door behind us, but he can’t seem to tear his gaze away from Vaellen. They stare at each other for a long moment, and nobody says a word.
“You look so much like your mother,” Briall finally says, his voice rough with emotion. He steps forward, and hesitates, unsure.
Vaellen watches silently, but I can see that his hands are clenched. He doesn’t seem to know what to do either.
Briall closes the distance between them, throwing his arms around him. “I’m so sorry I wasn’t there to protect you.”
Vaellen awkwardly hugs him back. “You sent someone for me,” he says after a pause. “That’s all that matters now.”
Feeling like we’re intruding, I head for the door. “We’ll return tomorrow,” I say, smiling gently at the two of them. They need time to themselves right now.
Briall releases Vaellen, but keeps a hand on his shoulder as he turns to us. “Stay,” he says in a wavering voice. Clearing his throat, he gives us a teary-eyed smile. “Please, you’ve been gone all night. I have spare rooms. Let me do this much for you.”
I look to the others and they nod. We’re all exhausted. It would be better, and easier, to just stay.
“Thank you,” I say, smiling gratefully. “Where can we rest?”
Briall shows us to his empty rooms on the second floor, on the opposite side of the house from his. His home is large, and warmly furnished, accented in shades of blue, but I’m far too tired to notice much more about it as I trail down the hall behind him.
I’m happy to find I can have a room to myself, and quickly bid goodnight to the others. I lock myself in, and don’t even bother to fight a yawn. So tired I can barely keep my eyes open, I’m tempted just to fall onto the bed in my armor and sleep immediately. I really don’t care right now.
Somehow I manage not to injure myself getting out of my armor, before falling into a deep sleep.
The next day, we meet in Briall’s study, and I fill him in on what we found at Karinn’s. Seated around a table with the others, the atmosphere is heavy. The more I describe what I found, the more murderous Briall’s expression becomes as he quietly listens.
“Why would she do this?” Briall asks after a tense moment of silence, looking to his grandson. “Why would she keep you caged like that?”
“She wants to walk in the Fade, as I do,” Vaellen says, and I feel the little hairs at the nape of my neck stand up. “She wants to be able to shape it, and control the demons there.”
“Fool,” Briall growls, rising from his seat and pacing angrily. “She’s not a dreamer. What does she expect?”
“She believes she can take control of my mind,” Vaellen answers, and Briall stops pacing. The silence is heavy as we listen. “And that she can eventually take my power for her own.”
Caleb is the first to break the silence. “Don’t worry, old man,” he says, clapping Briall on the shoulder. “I have a feeling that killing Karinn has recently been added to the top of Ilara’s list of things to do while in Minrathous.”
“I will deal with Karinn myself,” Briall mutters, shaking his head. “Knowing she had Vaellen, I couldn’t openly make a move against her. Now, she will pay.” His tone is hard and cold, and I’m glad I’m not the one he’s talking about. “But first, I will keep my word to you. I will help you find Jeremiah.”
“Thank you,” I say, rising to leave. I’m thankful to have him as an ally. “Send for us when you’ve found something. Until then, we’ll continue searching as well.”
We spend a long day searching for more information, but again, come up with nothing.
I sigh as I make my way to my room at the inn that night. I can only hope Briall has more luck.
Exhaustion is eating away at me as I lock myself in my room. I still don’t feel fully recovered from the previous night’s ordeal. I’m just about to begin removing my armor, when I hear a soft knock on my door.
Frowning slightly, I grab one of my swords. I open the door just enough to see out into the hall, and find Vaellen there. Breathing a sigh of relief, I open the door wider and motion him inside.
“It’s late,” I say, raising an eyebrow at him as I set aside my weapon. “Why aren’t you at Briall’s?”
“I couldn’t sleep,” he says simply, watching me with a curious expression as I close the door. “I needed to talk to you.”
I lean back against the door, tiredly rubbing at my heavy eyes. “This couldn’t have waited?”
He shakes his head, giving me that weak smile again. “Let me stay with you, and help find Jeremiah.”
I’m stunned into momentary silence.
“I can help,” he insists. “And I owe you a debt for rescuing me.”
I shake my head. “It’s too dangerous. Karinn will be looking for you, and Jeremiah may be as well, if he’s working with her.”
“There is… another reason, besides simply wanting to help,” he says, glancing away from me guiltily.
“You want to ask me for something?” I raise an eyebrow, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Karinn has this relic,” he says, reluctantly meeting my eyes again. “I can feel it when she tries to slip into my mind. Who knows if she actually could, between the power the demons give her and what she gets from the relic. I need time to learn how to close my mind to her.”
“You don’t trust yourself?” I ask, hearing the frustration in his tone.
“I don’t,” he admits, and it’s clear his concern is genuine. “Even staying with my grandfather, I’m not sure it will be enough to keep the demons at bay.”
I keep my expression carefully blank, knowing what he’s getting at. “You want me to be the one to stop you if they manage to possess you.”
He nods, and I’m not sure how I feel about his admission, or his obvious worry that this could really happen. “I don’t want him to have to do it,” he says, and I almost think I hear a hint of sadness in his low voice. “He’s been through enough.”
I sigh. Why can’t things be simpler?
(What do you choose?)
~ Allow him to come along. Having both Briall and Vaellen as allies will help. (5a: New Friends)
~ Bad idea. He’s better off with Briall. (5b: On Your Own)
~ I want him to come along. I don’t know why, but the idea of parting with him bothers me a little. (5c: Someone Mysterious)
For easy navigation, and do-overs. ~ DA FF: Blades (Chapter Master Post)
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, lore, etc. are the property of BioWare, and their respective writers. The only things that are mine are the original characters and plot of this story – DA FF: Blades. I am in no way associated with BioWare. No copyright infringement is intended. This is for entertainment purposes only.