I know Caleb probably isn’t going to be crazy about the idea, but I can’t just leave Vaellen and Briall hanging in this situation.
“I know it’s a lot to ask,” Vaellen rushes to say, misinterpreting my pause. “We don’t know each other, and I already owe you-”
I hold up a hand to stop him. “I get it,” I say, remembering the way his grandfather embraced him when they were reunited. “Briall would feel responsible all over again. And you…” I sigh, shaking my head. “I can’t even imagine what it’s like to have demons hunting me in my sleep.”
“I never disliked being a mage until my powers as a dreamer starting manifesting themselves,” he says, giving me a grim smile. “Mages are more vulnerable to the temptation of demons, but being a dreamer adds a whole new layer of shit to the mix.”
“We’ll watch over you,” I say, and I can immediately see his relief. Once he hears this, his whole body seems to relax. “If anything happens, we’ll do our best to help you.”
“Or stop me,” he says, determined. Hearing his resolve, I realize it’s not that he doesn’t fear death. He just doesn’t want to be the cause of it for other people.
I give him a firm nod. “Or we’ll stop you,” I say, but I hope it doesn’t come to that.
“Thank you,” he says.
“You’re welcome, but you may not be thanking me later,” I say, heading for the door. “You should stay with Sylas for the time being. Sharing a room with someone is the best way to go about this.”
I hear him laugh dryly behind me as we go out into the hallway. I knock on the door of the room across from mine, hoping Sylas is still awake.
“You sure I shouldn’t stay with Caleb?” I give him a sideways glance, and catch a slight grin curving his lips. “He probably wouldn’t mind killing me, if the need arose.”
I laugh, shaking my head. “We can’t have him stabbing you every time you roll over in bed.”
Sylas answers the door, and I explain the situation to him. It isn’t long before Caleb has been filled in, and word is sent to Briall, so he doesn’t worry.
I return to my room, and fall onto the bed. Exhausted, I throw an arm across my eyes, desperate for a good night’s sleep.
With Briall’s connections, it’s only a matter of days before we find Jeremiah’s hideout. It’s tucked away in the outskirts of the city, in a quiet area.
Briall and Vaellen enter from the back of the building, while Sylas and I sneak in the front. Caleb finds a way into a second story window, and looks for a position to rain arrows down on people.
Sticking to the shadows, Sylas and I manage to navigate the hideout without being noticed. We have to incapacitate a few of Jeremiah’s mercenaries along the way, and I worry a little about Briall and Vaellen being on their own. Briall assured me they’d be fine, but never having been on a mission with them, I’m still uneasy. I try to take the relative quiet of the hideout as a good sign.
Making our way to a large room, towards the center of the building, we find a group gathered around a table. They seem to be looking at maps, planning something out.
I spot Jeremiah easily. He’s as handsome as I remember him, dressed in a black mage coat and pants, but I’m completely unmoved for once. I see that he’s still wearing my pendant, and I’m filled with an uncomfortable mix of loathing and regret.
I catch sight of Briall and Vaellen in the shadows of a hall at the opposite end of the room, and breathe a sigh of relief. From my crouched position, peering around a doorway, I signal them. Drawing my swords, I rise to my feet, and step into the room, making sure I have everyone’s attention.
His gaze locks on me the second he hears my voice, and I see his hand tense on his staff. There are at least a dozen mercenary Blades in the room as well, and they start towards me, just as planned. Magical energy charges the air as Briall and Vaellen step out and begin picking them off from behind with spells.
Shouting fills the room, chaos breaking out as Sylas joins me, and we charge forward. As I fight my way towards Jeremiah, the others focus on the mercenaries. Arrows whiz by from the shadows of a loft above, and Sylas helps clear a path forward for me, clashing with anyone who would stop me from reaching my goal. Bolts of lightning fly through the air, hurling men off their feet.
Jeremiah sends deadly shards of ice shooting through the air. I manage to deflect or dodge most of it, but his magic still tears into my limbs and body. Sharp, slicing pain cuts into me, but it’s not nearly enough to distract me as I finally reach him, lashing out at him with both of my blades.
He’s forced to block with his staff, and shoves me away.
“Ilara, wait!” he growls, obviously thinking there’s still some chance he could possibly talk me down. “It doesn’t have to be like this!”
“You betrayed us!” I shout, leaping at him again.
Jeremiah scowls at me, managing to hold me off with his staff again.
“Watch out!” I hear Vaellen shout, and a magical shield falls over me just as Jeremiah’s hands begin glowing blue, and he drops one from his staff to slash at my middle. Instead of impaling me, the spike of ice he had conjured shatters harmlessly against the shield, and I leap away.
Jeremiah curses, at a disadvantage suddenly, having to rely solely on his staff for close combat. He still gets several good hits in, blocking my swords to the side on my next attack, and cracking me in the ribs with his staff. The wind is knocked out of me, and I stumble.
Pressing his advantage, he lifts his staff high, ready to bring it down on me. I barely manage to roll to the side in time, and spin to slash across his middle with both of my blades as I leap around him. I hear his gasp, and immediately turn to bury one of my swords in his back.
The fighting dies down around me as Jeremiah’s men are defeated, and he slumps to the ground at my feet. Most of his men are dead, but the others left a few alive for questioning.
Reaching down, I tug my pendant off Jeremiah’s corpse, and drop it to the ground. I crush it beneath my boot, and take a deep, calming breath. My body aches from the fight, and I can feel a hundred little cuts throbbing all over my body from Jeremiah’s ice shards.
But I also finally feel at peace again.
Sylas joins me, laying a hand on my shoulder. “It’s over now,” he says, giving me a reassuring squeeze before releasing me.
Caleb and Sylas watch our captives while the rest of us split up to search the hideout for evidence. It doesn’t take long to find proof that Jeremiah framed me, and that he’s been planning on changing the Blades into mercenaries for a while.
The only loose end now is Karinn.
After clearing our names with the Silent Blades contact, we regroup at the inn, in Sylas’ room. Sylas wants to stay and help with bringing down Karinn, while Caleb just wants to get back to the Blades and start re-building.
“The relic Vaellen mentioned wasn’t there,” Briall says, glancing at his grandson.
Vaellen’s expression is unreadable, but I can tell he’s troubled. I can’t say I blame him. I wouldn’t like the possibility of somebody crawling around in my head either.
“Karinn must have it,” Sylas says.
“Fantastic,” Caleb grumbles. “And let me guess, we’re going to put off going home to get it?”
“Not that I don’t appreciate your concern,” Briall says, completely ignoring Caleb. “But don’t you already have enough on your plate with the Blades?”
“More than enough,” Caleb says, crossing his arms.
“And what about the demons plaguing Vaellen?” Sylas asks, shooting a glare at Caleb.
Throughout all of this, Vaellen doesn’t comment. His expression is carefully blank, but that only serves to worry me more.
Needing some liquid patience if I’m going to listen to Sylas and Caleb bicker their way through this, I excuse myself for a moment to get a drink from the tavern attached to the inn. The others wave me off, content to argue amongst themselves for the moment. Stepping out into the hall, I rub at the pressure building in my temples.
The door creaks open behind me, and I turn to see Vaellen slip out of the room too. The others are still discussing, but it seems like he wants to talk to just me for now.
“What do you want to do?” I ask, studying him in the quiet hall.
“I have to go after her,” he says immediately. “But I understand if you can’t help this time. It sounds like Jeremiah has turned the Blades upside down, and they need you right now.”
I tilt my head at him, considering. “Between Briall and all his friends in Tevinter, you have the advantage on her, relic or not.”
“You’re right,” he says, his gaze never wavering from mine. “But I don’t know those people. I know you. You’re the one who made the decision to free me, and the one I fought beside today.” He shrugs, as if it’s no big deal, but I can tell it is. “I’d rather put my trust in you, than in people I’ve never met. Please, help me free myself from her, once and for all.”
I hesitate, not entirely comfortable making this decision without the others here for input. This concerns them too.
“Let me buy you a drink, my friend,” Vaellen says with a faint smile. “We can discuss it further, with less shouting.”
(What do you choose?)
~ I can’t turn my back on him now. Help Vaellen. (6a: Facing Demons)
~ Briall and Vaellen will be able to handle this. Right now, the Blades need me more. Don’t help. (6b: Separate Paths)
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.