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UNBOUND

Here on Unbound, our plot follows four different timelines, set throughout the canonical history of the Dragon Age. The events following Trespasser, the time of the Inquisition, the rise of the Champion of Kirkwall and the quest of the Warden against the Fifth Blight.

And So is the Golden City blackened
With each step you take in my Hall.
Marvel at perfection, for it is fleeting.
You have brought Sin to Heaven
And doom upon all the world.

-Threnodies 8.13


 
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 History Repeats, Cassie & Neassa/13 August, 9:44 Dragon
as played by Hez

156" posts

group

Mage

‘Warden-Commander!’ There was barely a knock on her door before a Warden ran in, out of breath.

‘Commander, there’s a been a Deep Roads cave-in; it’s opened up a new route into the Roads. We just got a runner from Morton; happened yesterday.’

It didn’t take that long to get here from the little village, even on foot. Prioritise. ‘How big?’ Cassie asked, already rising.

The Warden grimaced. ‘Big. The runner called it a fissure.’

Cassie sighed and grabbed her staff. She should have known – if it was a small thing, they would have brought the matter to her Warden-Constable. ‘Great. Any casualties?’

‘No, thank the Maker. May not stay that way though – there was a group of mercenaries or looters passing through. They headed over to investigate early this morning. That’s when they sent the runner.’

Cassie groaned. Of course. ‘Okay, find Jorren, get him to put a team together. We leave in an hour.’

* * *


It was only two hour’s ride from the Keep to Moreton, where they were pointed in the right direction for this ‘fissure’ before the town started to evacuate to the Imperial Highway.
Cassie had hoped the term was an exaggeration. Jorren had wisely brought three other mages, one a healer, just in case, but still she’d hoped that they would arrive and find the opening to only be a few metres wide...

They crested a hill a quarter-hour after departing Moreton and reined their horses in, staring.

‘Fissure’ was an understatement. The earth was split and collapsed for at least a mile, the pale heath ripped apart and stained with soil.

The darkspawn were already here.

They hadn’t spread too far – they seemed to be clustered around the widest opening, scrambling up over the rocks, climbing out into the sunlight.

There was a struggle going on – people down there, fighting, keeping the darkspawn’s attention. Must be the raiders the runner had mentioned. The fighting was too thick for her to make out how many people were left standing.

Twelve Wardens. Four mages, four warriors, four rogues, plus two Warden-Recruits acting as runners and whoever was down there.

‘We deal with these first. Hilda, Líadain,’ she called, the two runners riding level with her. ‘Scout the length of this thing, see how far it goes and if any darkspawn have broken through in other areas. Do not engage if you can help it, and report back to us as quickly as possible.’

‘Yes Commander.’ The two women saluted before riding off in opposite directions, along the crest of the hill, their horses’ tails flagging in the wind.

‘Sound the charge,’ Cassie ordered. With so few Wardens it was less for their benefit than to announce their presence. If the darkspawn were so distracted by their battle, the horn would catch their attention – and then they would realise the Wardens were here. Hopefully they would abandon their prey to deal with the larger threat – which would give their horses more room to hit their ranks.

Jorren drew his warhorn and blew, the Wardens rallying into formation behind them. Cassie, Jorren and Cair led the charge down the hill, the horses closing into a tight wedge.

The darkspawn noticed. A large Hurlock – an alpha – screeched and turned towards them, leading the darkspawn in a run towards the horses.

Thankfully they weren’t that bright without an Archdemon pulling the strings.

One of the mages cast ahead of them, a ripple of air that settled into the ground just below the closest group of darkspawn.

They all stopped dead, paralysed, and conveniently grouped for a cavalry assault.
The horses ploughed into the unmoving mass, warriors and rogues slashing with their blades as they went. Cassie and the other mages looked ahead, focusing on the darkspawn not captured by the spell.

No earthquakes; that could make the cave-in worse. They were too close to the people by the mouth of the new cave for flames to be safe.

Someone to her left chose lightning, the bolts leaping from one darkspawn to the next.
Cassie reached out a hand, squeezed, and lifted.

Five darkspawn were yanked into the air, then thrown fifty feet to crunch into the ground and not get back up. To anyone who knew her, it was something of a calling card.

‘Get to the others!’ she bellowed over the shrieks of darkspawn, the pounding of hooves and shouts of effort.

The horses drove on, slowing in the crowd but unfazed by the battle around them. The Wardens were getting closer to the raiders, close enough to make out individual faces. How many left, how many survivors-

By the void.

A familiar dark head of hair – shorter than when she’d last seen it – and an unmistakeable glower at the inconvenience of darkspawn near the Deep Roads.

Neassa. She hadn’t seen her in over eight years, after leaving the Keep in the middle of the night, with no word since as to whether she was alive or not, or if she’d shaken her lyrium addiction fully.

Cassie was going to save her. Then she was going to kill her.

NEASSA SÉVERIN

Oct 19 2017, 04:01 AM
as played by NNNG

16" posts

group

Warrior
This outing was quickly turning into a disaster.

The only saving grace had been that the Darkspawn were slow to act following the cave in, their numbers scattered. She and her men had managed to work through a good portion of the newly exposed cave system, taking what wasn’t nailed down, working from dawn. They had encountered small groups here and there, nothing to be too concerned with.

Few of them had ever seen a Darkspawn before let alone fought one and it was with trepidation that they followed their leader into the depths, but she had assured each of them the monsters they fought were just mole men. Not the insidious Darkspawn they had feared growing up. Whether they believed her or not was up for debate, but they followed all the same, nothing better to do.

It was only when they tried to leave that they encountered a problem, or several…

Where there had been only a few bleary eyed and shuffling Darkspawn a few hours ago, there were now gangs of the beasts, trying to block her exit. Trying being the operative word.

Neassa triumphed in a tug of war with a Hurlock who was intent on keeping her sword after she had rammed it into his gut, her men each locked in their own struggle. With a boot to the chest she saw her sword freed, a streak of black blood splattered across the ground as she moved to cut through the next. Less battle worn Mercenaries waded through the wake she left behind, wide eyed and clutching sacks straining with whatever treasures they had dug up.

The scuffle had distracted her enough for her to forget entirely where she was. Even with the August sun beating down on her back, she took to the climate more easily than some of her men, who wheezed in heavy armour with sweat streaming down their faces. For her, it was home, for them, a circle of Hell.

Her mind failed to make the connection until the Darkspawn all around her flew up into the air, suspended by invisible threads that swiftly dropped them from a great height. A pitter clatter of fleshy raindrops slammed into the ground around her, making great big black splashes of blood. Magic hung heavy around her. The sounds of war horns were but a whisper compared to the sudden realisation that hit her. The ingredients were all here, the place, the time everything aligned to bring Neassa’s past back to bite her.

The Wardens had arrived and Cassie would surely be with them.

She glanced this way and that, finding the scared and pitiful faces of her untested rookie mercenaries looking back through layers of grime and sweat. Was it too late for a quick exit? She clocked one of the greenhorns prone on the ground, trapped by the corpse of a Hurlock and behind him more Darkspawn clambered out of the darkness. He caught her gaze and read her expression, bleating out with desperation, “Please don't leave me!”

Neassa had no issue leaving the pathetic whelp to die, it was the bag of dwarven artifacts he had clutched to his chest that she was most interested in.

He breathed easy as she booted the Hurlock off of him, putting a hand out expectantly and frowning as her hand bypassed his and went for the sack of golden goodies instead. By the time she had wrestled it out of his grasp, she knew it was all too late for that quick exit. Neassa secured the bag over her shoulder and as she turned to face the Wardens, they had already arrived, meeting the fray with the vigour of layabouts who existed purely for this single reason.

The blonde hair, blue eyes and moral superiority were all present and accounted for, Cassie may as well have stepped straight out of a memory. The only difference was her armour, it was more prestigious. She was not just any Warden anymore.

“You spend all day waiting for a Warden and then the whole keep shows up at once!” Neassa wordlessly ushered a few of her men to disengage, motioning for them to load up the cart with what goods they carried. There was a Warden for every Darkspawn that challenged them, those who could moved precariously between conflicts.

Neassa herself continued to fight, with only a very lightweight leather armour set and without a shield, the Eye of Truth nowhere to be seen on her person. She weaved out of the way of a Hurlocks falling blade, almost tripping over the broken bodies of the Darkspawn who failed to launch. The magic had felt familiar, she realised then that Cassie had been the one to make them fly, ever so briefly.

“You missed a few Cassie!” As was proven by the one she was irritating beyond belief by just dodging his every strike and harmlessly prodding him each time she ducked under his sword arm.

CASSIOPEIA SOPHRONIUS

Oct 19 2017, 12:06 PM
as played by Hez

156" posts

group

Mage

It had only been a few seconds and already Neassa was getting on her nerves. Deliberately, no doubt. So sorry!’ she snapped, sarcastic and knowing better than to point out Force Magic wasn’t the easiest magic to wield with finesse. Instead she snatched up the Hurlock Neassa was harassing and catapulted it across the chasm in the earth. Better to put the poor thing out of its misery.

With the small gap in the fighting that provided, Cassie rode through – she wanted to seize Neassa and throw her onto the horse, get her out of there and hope her men would follow – but one of said men were down and Neassa showed no inclination to help.

So she hadn’t changed that much then. Still only looked out for herself. And here Cassie had been stupid enough to hope kicking the lyrium would change her for the better.

That was if she had kicked the addiction. She might have gone back to it once Cassie hadn’t been around to keep her away from it.

Cassie reined her grey horse in beside the man who had been trapped under a Hurlock. He had just managed to get to his feet, but was clutching his ribs and didn’t seem able to fight his way out. Cassie held her hand out to him. ‘Hurry,’ she said, using her magic to help swing him up onto the horse behind her.

He shrieked, then clung onto her as Cassie turned her horse towards the thinnest part of the crowd.

Three darkspawn in the way, grappling with one Warden. An arrow from Cair and a spell from the edge of the field put an end to that. All the raiders other than Neassa had fallen back to their cart.

Jorren fought his way to her side. He’d dismounted his horse at some point, the better to use his greatsword. He was sweating, blood trickling from a small cut on the side of his head. Flying debris, probably.

‘We’re holding our own. Orders?’

Cassie probed her mana reserves. Enough for this, and to help close the cave-in later. ‘Get them to fall back. I’ll finish the rest.’

Jorren gave her a short nod.

Cassie turned to Neassa as he drew the horn. ‘Fall back to your cart, Neassa. You don’t want to be caught up in this by accident.’ If she didn’t listen, Cassie knew from experience she could pick Neassa up and move her where she needed to be without lifting a finger.

Two short, sharp blasts on the horn. Cair and the mages laid down covering fire for the warriors and rogues to disengage and clear out of the way.

As soon as all people were out of her range, Cassie lifted her hand towards the centre of the darkspawn group and squeezed.

They were all yanked in, flailing and shrieking in confusion. With them held tightly in a knot in the centre of her field, crushed against each other, Cassie clenched tighter. And tighter. She felt real resistance now, bones and rudimentary armour harder to get through. Keep going, crush harder, harder, harder-

The screams reached a fever pitch then, with a sickening pop, the darkspawn imploded.
Blood and ichor splattered out, no doubt killing the grass in this area for ten years or more.
Cassie breathed through the slump of mana, staving off the momentary light-headedness.

She felt the man behind her shrink into himself, as if trying to make himself less noticeable despite his increasingly tentative grip on her waist. It tightened when she nudged her horse into a trot over to the cart, where she helped him swing down to sit in the cart bed.

‘Gather the horses together, let them rest, then get the mages over to start sealing this up,’ Cassie said as she dismounted and handed Alcippe’s reins over to Jorren, who gave her a quick salute before wandering off to find his own charger.

With some semblance of order restored, Cassie turned to Neassa, arms folded. ‘What the fuck were you doing down there?’

Oct 20 2017, 01:08 PM
as played by NNNG

16" posts

group

Warrior
Neassa’s exuberance for the situation waned as her dance partner was so rudely fired halfway across the wide fissure. She watched him go, a glint of sadness in her eyes as he experienced something few ever did, unless they were a bird or a dragon. Her spacial awareness told her she could even afford to wave him farewell without having to worry about receiving a sly knife in the back from one of his colleagues, all of which lay in several different degrees of darkspawn mush around her.

Cassie didn’t play games anyway, that was for sure. Well, not with the Darkspawn.

Eight years and still Neassa could predict what the woman would do next. She audibly huffed as the Warden used her magic to scoop the fallen Mercenary up from the dirt.

“Ugh, really?” She came riding in on her horse and thought she could rescue Neassa’s own men? “If you do everything for them they’ll never learn how to help themselves!” This had always been their issue, different strokes, opposite ends, pages in completely separate books in libraries that were continents apart.

The woman raised her hands in surrender, sword and all, as Cassie barked out an order for her to fall back. “I will, but only because I was going to anyway.” She stepped over the mess of corpses at her feet, keeping her eyes on Cassie as she went. “Not because you told me to.”

As she reached the cart, her men stopped staring at the show the Wardens were putting on and went back to haphazardly packing it up with whatever loot they had managed to wrench out of the pit. Neassa offloaded the sack of gold artifacts and hoped for as little questions as possible from the rag tag bunch.

“You know each other?”

Neassa almost never got what she wished for.

She plucked a waterskin from the group's supplies and chewed the cork free, giving herself time to formulate a concise reply in her head during the course of a prolonged swig. All that came to her was an irritated nod as her cheeks were filled with water and her eyes rolled out of her skull.

“She’s coming over.”

Of course she is, Neassa thought, wishing she had filled her waterskin with something stronger.

Considering how many times she had rehearsed this in her head, she should really be prepared for this, if not overly so. As she gulped down the mouthful of unsatisfyingly warm water, Neassa wiped the dribble that had missed her mouth from her chin and had absolutely no idea how she was going to handle this.

“I’ll handle this.” The words came out with the kind of self assured confidence they had come to expect from their fearless leader, each nodding between themselves as they finished securing the cart.

Just in time for their injured brother to swap Cassie’s horse for the uncomfortable bed of assorted goods, his expression sheepish, as if being rescued by a Warden Commander was the last thing he had expected to happen to him when he woke up this morning.

“You made it!” Neassa slapped his knee jovially. “Knew you would.” His entire point of living right now was to serve Neassa as a distraction from what she imagined would be a blonde mage angrily glowering at her the moment she made eye contact.

Neassa tried not to think about the many vulnerabilities she had exposed to Cassie during her time spent with the woman all those years ago, but the memories lingered mockingly as she finally turned to meet her furious query. Maker, she should have killed the woman.

Instead she had let her live with all the knowledge of her weaknesses, a witness to her unravelling.

“I mean, I don’t think that’s really any of your business…” she started strong and with a measure of conviction, but as the words went, her voice cracked. “But if you must know, we were responding to a cave-in several hours before the Grey Wardens, apparently.”

Eight years and eye contact was still the hardest thing.

"I think our efforts should be rewarded."

Oh God. Why did she say that.

Oct 20 2017, 02:23 PM
as played by Hez

156" posts

group

Mage

‘No thanks to you,’ Cassie said as Neassa greeted her abandoned subordinate. More glib acting, more smokescreens for what she actually thought.

When Neassa finally looked at her, Cassie couldn’t bring herself to do anything other than glare. You’d think after spending months in a Warden Keep, after hearing all the stories Cassie had told her when she returned from missions – after facing darkspawn herself – that Neassa would have heard about the cave-in and turned her crew in the opposite direction. Who knew how many of her men had contracted the Taint? How many would begin the slow change into ghouls, and have to be put to the sword?

Her anger – her disappointment must have shown, because part way through another of her excuses Neassa verbally backpedalled, eyes roaming anywhere except Cassie’s face. But still that thoughtless, idiotic humour. That entitlement.

‘That is utter bullshit and we both know it,’ Cassie snapped. ‘Do you think I’m blind? That is the only reason you were down there risking your men’s lives,’ she said, pointing at the haul the injured man was sitting on. ‘Tell me, Neassa, when your men’s veins are turning black, when their eyes cloud over, when they become slaves to the spawn that have to be cut down – will it be worth it? Did you even warn them what could happen if they went down there?’

She was willing to bet not. It was Neassa. She only worried about herself, the vain, stupid, selfish-

Why am I getting so mad about this? It shouldn’t surprise me.

Because I was naive enough to think that she had changed. That her behaviour was because of the lyrium. I should have known better.

No, I thought I could fix her. Make her better. I’ve never been used to failing. That’s why this hurts. That’s why it feels like a betrayal. You built up an idealised picture of what she would be once she was better in your head and now you’re facing the reality. She was nevergoing to be anything else. The lyrium just unhinged her further. It did jack shit to who she was as a person.

I still shouldn’t feel like this. Not after everything she did for all those years. How did a few months change all that?

Cassie took a deep breath, shoving her doubts out of the way. She had to prioritise, as usual.
She hadn’t been exaggerating about Neassa’s men. They could pose a real danger should they turn and not be dealt with in time, not to mention the chance of them spreading the Taint.

‘You and your men will return with me to the Keep for a few days, until I can be sure none of you have contracted the Taint. This is non-negotiable, Neassa. I won’t have them carrying the blight to innocent people,’ she said firmly, anticipating an argument. ‘You get food and board for a few days. That can be your reward,’ she added, looking her up and down and unable to keep the edge of spite out of her voice.

Since when was I the spiteful one?

Since she put people at risk for nothing but her own profit. I’d say that warrants it.

Dec 12 2017, 06:54 AM
as played by NNNG

16" posts

group

Warrior
Neassa had expected that the woman would be angry but this...this felt different somehow. In the past Cassie had always had such control over her emotions, it was something she had had to keep a handle on because of her force magic. Her ability to remain level headed at all times was one of the things that had frustrated Neassa most about it, what lead her to try and test those limits. She had seen her angry before, like when Neassa had confessed her crimes to her, but this wasn't the same kind of fire.

Neassa was an expert when it came to anger. This was the sort that came from being hurt. She should feel guilt but instead she felt hopeful, this could only mean Cassie still cared.

The feeling was short lived though, Cassie wasted no time tearing into her and Neassa’s instinct was to go on the defensive.

Was she serious? These were mercenaries, men you could pay to kill their own mothers, they weren't helpless children following her into the dark. She hadn’t forced them, they were capable of making their own choices and each of them had decided the reward was greater than the risk.

Neassa unconsciously changed her stature to lean in on Cassie as the woman bludgeoned her with her words. “They all knew the risks...and I was right there with them.” The men around her shifted uneasily, concerned looks passing from one to the other as the Warden Commander’s words hit home. Simply telling them of Darkspawn had not been enough to dissuade them from the potential fortune that could be won, but only Neassa truly knew what it meant to do battle with them.

Whether they had trusted her or their greed overcame their self preservation was a conversation for another time. If they lived. As the guilt trip neared a close Neassa ran a hand through her hair and shrugged. “Well then I guess there will be a greater share for those who are left.”

If there could have been some sort of visible gauge that measured whether people approved or disapproved of her actions, her uncaring remarks would have seen it fall off a cliff towards the latter. Even her men stopped mumbling between themselves and all that could be heard was the clink of gold coins as they came pouring out of the hard fought sack she had just tossed onto the cart moments ago, seams bursting.

Neassa met Cassie’s non-negotiable order with an agitated huff. “Come on, is that really necessary? We all know how to shower.” Except for Boyle, who always managed to smell like stale ale. Her tone became scathing as she prodded an accusatory finger into Cassie's shoulder. “Maybe we wouldn't have to be so scared of contracting the taint if someone didn't decide to splatter Darkspawn blood all over the damn place with her magic-” someone grabbed her by the arm, pulling her back in warning. Her body language apparently aggressive enough to warrant a few swords being loosed from their sheathes and arrows knocked in bows by the Wardens gathered around. Each of them ready to cut down the aggressor if necessary. But Neassa couldn't see them, she was so caught up.

They kept tugging at her arm, forcing her to break away from Cassie for a second. She violently freed herself from their grip, spitting an angry “What?!” In their face. Neassa was still holding her sword, knuckles white. She looked around, reading the faces and could guess where and who the archers were aiming at in a single glance.

Her jaw tensed, the swell of anger abating just enough for her to understand how this looked. She heard one of her men mention how hungry they were and sighed in defeat. Neassa relaxed her shoulders, fixing her sword in her belt to assuage the concerns of the Wardens. “Fine. I think I left my favourite undershirt in your room anyway.” She hadn't, and even if she had the chances of it still being there were slim to none. She just wanted to throw Cassie off, at the expense of further confusing her men as the mystery of how their leader knew the Warden Commander.

Neassa stepped over the small puddle of gold coins at her feet, “Pick that up and get ready to move out.” In total there were six of them, including Neassa. But only three horses. Two to pull the cart and one for Neassa but with one man taking up the space of two on the cart already it would be a tight squeeze and a more uncomfortable journey than usual.

“If the Warden Commander would be so kind as to let me share her horse one of you can take mine so Jamieson can keep that leg elevated.” It was a risky strategy, she was entirely certain Cassie would tell her to walk, and Neassa would. For miles. “Or I could walk, visit that charming little village between here and the Keep for a few refreshments.”This, she knew, was the exact opposite of what Cassie would want someone who had been exposed to Darkspawn to do. There was a more obvious solution in her sharing with one of her men but the only thing they shared were spoils.
Dec 13 2017, 11:00 AM
as played by Hez

156" posts

group

Mage

Despite Neassa’s insistence to the contrary, her men didn’t look so certain now they’d heard what may happen to them, when Cassie glanced their way. Not the reaction of people who’d heard it all before.

Cassie shook her head, drawing back from Neassa in something close to disgust. Disappointment maybe. ‘You’re incorrigible.’ No regard for her men’s lives. No compassion. What else had she expected?

Not this.

Her anger rose as Neassa’s finger prodded again and again, but she stood firm. Lightning crackled a warning around her hand, but she didn’t have the chance to shove said warning in Neassa’s face, too busy gesturing for her men to hold on their defensive attack. Of the group only Jorren and Cair hadn’t drawn their weapons, but even they looked unhappy with Neassa’s treatment of her. ‘And if someone had used those brain cells she insists she has, they wouldn’t be in the position to contract the Taint in the first place!’ she snapped, lightning flaring but not unleashing.

Having her people at her back, while unnecessary, made it easier to calm her spiking temper. Cassie waited patiently for Neassa’s man to draw her attention to the threat, coolly watching the woman she thought she’d known until she knew she had Neassa’s attention. ‘Yes, it’s necessary,’ she said simply, dousing the lightning to make a point. She didn’t need to use it.

‘No you didn’t.’ If she had, Cassie would have had some hope she was coming back. That she’d vanished in the grips of a highly-belated hallucination and would come staggering back when lucid again. The absence of all Neassa’s possessions had been what convinced her that she’d left, purposefully and permanently.

If Cair or Jorren breathed a word of what she’d said that night, of how much that had hurt her, she’d send them on an early Calling.

She treated Neassa to a withering look as the woman blatantly manipulated things to her advantage. She could tell her to ride with one of her men. But Neassa’s horse, while sturdy, was no Warden charger. Alcippe would tolerate two riders far better than Neassa’s beleaguered mount. For a brief second Cassie considered telling her to ride with Cair or Jorren – until she caught their eyes and they gave her identical flat looks that said they knew what she was thinking, and categorically refused. Traitors. Fine. ‘I would. Once we’re ready to move out, I’ll let you know.’ She turned her back on Neassa, beckoning to her three mages and leading them over to the fissure. Better to start with this section.

The four of them spaced themselves evenly along the length of the cavern mouth. Together they raised their hands, sought out the displaced rocks and chunks of land and lifted, the earth rising, imbued with a Fade-green glow.

Cassie breathed through the strain, tendons in her neck standing out, sweat trickling down the side of her face as she manoeuvred the tonnes of earth back to where it belonged – blocking all access to the surface from the Roads.

The breach sealed, all four mages slumped – one keeled straight over, mana depleted. Cassie leaned heavily on her staff, but forced her suddenly leaden legs to carry her over to the toppled mage. The youngest of them, least experienced. She shoved a lyrium potion into their hand, supervised them drinking it to make sure they didn’t choke. She followed it up with a stamina potion before doling more out to the other two.

‘What about you, Commander?’ Cair asked, having wandered over.

Cassie waved him off, breathing through it. ‘I’ll be fine. Saving them in case Hilda and Líadain come back and say there’s more entrances.’ Speaking of which.

Cassie turned to scan the hill they’d rode down for her scouts. No sign yet. Hopefully they wouldn’t be much longer. That would signal a much larger fissure than first thought.

While she worked she made a point of ignoring Neassa. Her world didn't revolve around her anymore. Never had, but for a while Cassie had put her first, and got nothing for it. Never again.

Feb 2 2018, 02:58 PM
as played by NNNG

16" posts

group

Warrior
“I’M NOT THEIR MOTHER, THEY’RE ALL BIG BOYS. IT WAS THEIR RISK TO TAKE.” Neassa spat back, refusing to be held accountable in any way shape or form. She wasn’t buying Cassie’s concern for their wellbeing, these were killers and scoundrels from all walks of life, the same kind of men who would take up a Bounty Hunting contract for a fugitive mage from Tevinter.

The magic made her skin itch and only served to agitate her further, the anticipation was the worst part. She knew Cassie wasn’t going to actually strike her down with the lightning, she didn’t have to. Just conjuring it was enough to make Neassa reconsider, along with the interruption of her men, which is exactly what Cassie was hoping for.

“YEAH, I DIDN’T.” Neassa shrugged, the woman hadn’t arrived with much in the first place. She knew well enough that the only thing she had left behind had been Cassie herself. She wanted to apologise for vanishing like she had but this wasn’t the place or the time and something told her Cassie didn’t want to hear it.

Neassa tilted her head, she had been expecting the back of Cassie’s hand across her face more than the easy compliance she offered, it caught her off guard. She was almost disappointed at the lack of bite, the defeat or...the...indifference? Neassa’s grin faltered, she could only nod in reply before Cassie was already off attending to other things.

She crossed her arms and leaned her back on the cart as she watched Cassie and three other mages work to close the gap, chewing at her bottom lip. Why was this bothering her so much? What did she expect? Her disappearing act left little option for a warm welcome, the lack of contact since had exacerbated it. Dismissal was the best she could hope for but felt like the worst.

As she watched Cassie, she felt herself growing less confident by the second. The years had barely left a mark on her, a far cry to what they had done to Neassa. Cassie worked alongside her mage underlings to reshape the landscape and fill in the gap left by the cave in, Neassa couldn't look away. It wasn't the spectacle of it that drew her attention, she gave the floating blocks of earth little thought, pondering none over how such hefty things seemed so effortlessly displaced and instead her eyes stayed fixed to the Warden Commander. She took in each detail, old and new, as if refreshing her memory. The new armour fit perfectly, the long blonde hair remained unchanged but styled practically, as ever. And her eyes, they seemed brighter than ever. Neassa couldn't tell if it was the magic making them seem so or her own infatuation.

Shit. This was going to be harder than she thought.

Feeling the heat, she opened the collar of her arming jacket, a sheen of sweat starting to build on her skin finally from the exertion of the fight and the August heat. She shifted uncomfortably, feeling her undershirt clinging to her skin.

“IS THAT TRUE NEASSA? ARE WE GONNA TURN?”

"HUH? WHAT?" Neassa tore her attention away from the Warden Commander and looked over her shoulder at Jamison, the injured rookie lumped in among the meagre spoils of foolhardy mercenaries on the back of the cart. “I TOLD YOU TO WAIT OUT HERE JAMISON, WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING.” He refused to maintain eye contact, a wobble to his chin. “NOW LOOK.” She slapped him lightly on leg and he winced.

Her men waited patiently for their next order once they had the cart and the horses set to go, Jamison’s frequent whimpers the only complaint they gave. Neassa weaved through the gathered Wardens as she made her way over to where Cassie was, pausing only at Jorren who she shook hands with and muttered some words of greeting to. He didn’t really know how to take her but as far as she could remember, he had always been that way with her. There was always a chance he was just being civil because she had saved his life once, but she’d take it.

“MY FLOCK OF INNOCENT CHILDREN LACKING IN FREE WILL ALREADY SCOUTED THIS WHOLE AREA. THIS WAS THE ONLY OPENING,” Neassa stood a few paces off away from Cassie and Cair. "LOOK -- ARE YOU GONNA BE MUCH LONGER? JAMISON NEEDS A HEALER.” It was easier to look at Cair than to look at Cassie, but Cair wasn’t the Warden Commander. He couldn’t answer her. “UNLESS SAVING PEOPLE SO YOU CAN PROLONG THEIR SUFFERING WAS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WERE GOING FOR, IN WHICH CASE, TAKE ALL THE TIME YOU NEED.”

Feb 3 2018, 11:32 AM
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