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 Battle of the High Reaches
 Posted: Jun 21 2018, 03:19 PM

Cassie took a slow, deep breath in, the cold air tightening her lungs. Aella’s silver-grey feathers were soft beneath her hands, her grip loose as she scouted over the land.

It was so strange, to be back in her homeland. Only it wasn’t hers, not really. It wouldn’t be for over a thousand years. But to be here, and for it to be a battle...

Dumat was in the High Reaches, possibly heading for Minrathous. They needed his blood; all of the Wardens had agreed on that. Without it the Joining failed far more frequently than it should. There was a reason all Warden Commanders carried some Archdemon blood on them when they were out recruiting.

So they’d put the word out. The Blight had been raging for nearly a century; the people weren’t strangers to war. They’d managed to pull together a sizeable force over just a few months – the best they were going to get. Their own little rag-tag band of time travellers had expanded to include a casteless dwarf, snatched from exile to the surface only to end up back in the Deep Roads, but exiled all the same. He wasn’t a Warden or connected to one, unlike the rest of them, but when they’d mentioned their plan to fight Dumat he’d signed up just like everyone else. There was an admirable bravery in that, she’d thought at the time. Especially when he was alone, with no one else to drag him into danger. He could have left, tried to find some quiet corner of Thedas that hadn’t been hit by the Blight yet, but he hadn’t. She just hoped it wouldn’t be the death of him. The death of any of them.

Of Neassa.

Stop. She’s fought a dragon before, she’ll be fine.

This is no ordinary dragon.

Cassie shook her head sharply, dislodging the thought and leaning forward to stroke Aella’s neck to distract herself. That’s why we got help.’

They’d gone to the Anderfels – or Orthland, as it was known currently – and reached out to the mountain people there.

The success of the Wardens during the Fifth Blight without the griffons had been amazing. The giant creatures had been key in all other battles against archdemons; letting them get in the air on the same playing field as the dragon, if not an equal one. While killing an archdemon without them was possible, it wasn’t easy. So they’d gone to the Orth people who had bonded with griffons and were friendly to anyone trying to end the Blight. They’d gone into the mountains, they’d gone into the weyrs – and they had emerged bonded with griffons. There were only a few of them, but it would hopefully be enough. It would have to be.

They’d spent a few months learning how to ride, all they could afford. No Warden-Commander would have let them loose with so little experience back in the previous Blights, but they didn’t have the luxury of time. They had made scouting far easier. Thanks to the griffons they’d been able to keep track of the location of the horde, above ground anyway. Dumat was always easy to spot. Bigger than Urthemiel, bigger, she was sure, than Andoral whose horns hung in Weisshaupt.

They were here to kill him. Temporarily if not permanently. They’d noted the direction of the horde, had forced themselves to listen in their nightmares, trying to gleam any snippet of information they could on the next location. The High Reaches. That was where they’d amassed their forces, where they were supposed to prove to the people of this Age that the Wardens weren’t just another foolhardy group claiming to do the impossible. They could end this. They could save them.

But he had to be here.

Cassie leaned slightly over Aella’s side, scanning. The darkspawn were milling beneath her, a heaving, featureless grey mass. Good. Their forces were a scant few miles south, the distance short enough that they shouldn’t be exhausted upon reaching the battle field. But there was no point wasting men against an endless horde when their target wasn’t in sight. The heavy clouds weren’t helping; her vision was restricted. They seemed to follow the horde, which meant they had to be in the right area.

Just where was he?

Beneath her, Aella twisted and screeched, banking hard left and diving.

Cassie’s breath was left a mile above her as she scrambled for solid purchase, hands tight on the reins, nearly leaving the saddle the dive was so steep and sudden –

Behind them.

She tilted her head back, looking straight up, and saw rotting purple scales and vicious talons scoring the air just feet above them.

Shit. Fuck.

She leaned forward as Aella twisted out of her dive, leaning with the griffon to help her turn. ‘Go, go, go!’ she shouted, unthinking, just needing to be moving faster. She’d not set out to be bait, but if it meant leading Dumat back to the waiting army and their time-travelling vanguard, alone and without the defence of the darkspawn, then she’d take it.

She just hoped the others were ready for her to have a dragon on Aella’s tail.

 Posted: Jun 22 2018, 12:57 PM
49 posts
38 years

Tevinter was the hellscape she had always imagined it to be. Some might say that that had less to do with the location and more to do with the army of Dark Spawn...but she doubted it.

Her new armor was not battle tested as yet, all the action it had seen so far had been in relatively small skirmishes with roaming groups of Dark Spawn. It had held up to whatever punishment they could dish out but their weapons were not dragon talons and their strength, though impressive, was not completely off the scale. Neassa wasn't a Warden and opted against donning blue and silver like many of those around her, sticking to the signature black she had worn as a Seeker. In this time she was the First and only Seeker, despite shedding the title, she retained the training and knowledge (and lack of humility). No one cared, of course, it was all just insignificant detail to a woman who should be among the first to succumb to the taint and perhaps she would have, if not for her Seeker training and the obnoxious amount of lyrium she had ingested in her time. There was already a sickness in her, no room left for the taint to take root.

Their ground forces were sizeable, bolstered with siege weaponry that had been carted across the land, one of the few benefits of the Blight’s duration meant that there were already defenses in place, they weren't starting from scratch when it came to resources. They had griffons but not so many that the entire army could swarm the beast in the air, their task would be to engage the spawn who outnumbered them by some ratio Neassa was not mathematically inclined to determine. The trebuchet should help to scatter and thin the herd, the ballista could be used to antagonise Dumat as much as those trying to hit him with it. But he was far larger than any Dragon she had seen, and she'd seen one other dragon. So, her pool of reference was bottomless.

A new kind of anxiety found her, she couldn't shake it. This wasn't her first battle, but even though it was the first against such a force, the Dark Spawn didn't frighten her. Never had. This wasn't her first Dragon either, but it was the first Archdemon. She had Nevarran blood, Dragons were sport and since she had no real world experience to refer to for an Archdemon, she would treat them the same. Besides, it had the word 'demon' in it and she was practically an expert when it came to slaying such things. So if it wasn't the Darkspawn, or Dumat, or the odds stacked against them then what exactly was it that had her so on edge?

She didn't give it voice but she knew that this time, she had something to lose. Neassa and risking her own life were common place, she wasn't precious about it. The only thing she had ever gained from living was regret, so, there would be no love lost when her end came to her. Cassie was a different story, not just because the task of killing her was Neassa's by default, but also because...her miserable existence would be even more unbearable without Cassie being in it.

Each time she lost sight of the Warden Commander, her dread spiked. This time, when she regained sight of her, hurtling through the clouds with a Dragon in pursuit, the dread remained instead of abating.

She groaned. For fuck sake...of course Cassie found herself playing bait.

Neassa grit her teeth, helping to load one of the ballista. Her griffon stood by impatiently, feet pounding the earth to make a point and remind her he was there. He was an absolute shit of a creature, she wasn’t taken in by the wonder of being able to see, touch and ride beasts that were long expired in her own time, because he was a bastard. And there was nothing new about that.

She was convinced he had chosen her purely to torment her. They shared many traits, aggression chief among them. Neassa was regaled with the names the others dreamt up for their winged shits whereas she could muster up only profanities for hers, Fuckbeak her go to.

He liked to play games, liked to barrel roll, liked to dive and buck. He was always testing her and she knew it, it's exactly what she did to anyone she met. Neassa wouldn’t be removed from her saddle so easily, not just out of spite, but also because she had fixed a rope to it that went around her waist. The only reason he hadn’t snapped her head off was because he knew hers to be the face of the person who always brought him food and groomed him to perfection.

Neassa could feel his eyes on her as she whirled the ballista around to aim at the encroaching dragon, heard his quiet but somehow mocking track of caws and knew he was waiting for her to miss her shot. It got to her so much she had to turn around and point at him in warning. “Don’t you start your shit Fuckbeak.” The 'brrs,’ became giddy, almost amused, then stopped altogether as he started preening himself. Neassa went back to aiming the ballista, Dumat dwarfed Cassie and Aella, a giant breaking through the clouds in pursuit of something miniscule.

She lined up the shot, still too far away.

The sound of war horns rung out across the battlefield at the sight of Dumat emerging from the clouds, those manning the other siege weaponry moving to action. Neassa could do nothing but watch Cassie be chased by an Archdemon. A ball of fire shot past her peripheral, catapulted into the air by a trebuchet. Orange streaked across the sky towards Dumat, the first of three more that followed suit from the others. Neassa settled on her aim, deciding something that big shouldn't be too difficult to hit. Once deemed close enough, she fired.

As the spear cut effortlessly through the air she began to think for a moment that she was going to hit Dumat right in the face, she even got excited. What a shot this would be, big bad Dumat nailed instantly by one single spear, she'd be a hero-

“Ah fuck.” Fuckbeak guffawed in clucks to echo her sentiment.

Instead of hitting Dumat, the spear collided with one of the projectiles thrown by a trebuchet, an even more unlikely target. The ball of fire seemed to explode as the spear pierced through it, a shower of flame lighting up the sky. Well maybe the flash would at least blind Dumat. Maybe that's exactly what she had intended. “Ok fuck it, I'll do it myself.” Neassa hissed, fixing the rope around her waist and mounting Fuckbeak. She had no idea what she was playing at thinking she could do any sort of damage at range.

She would have to get knee deep in this Archdemon’s rotting scales to make her mark.

 Posted: Jun 23 2018, 09:11 AM
34 posts
30 years

Carver Hawke was not afraid to die.

Ostagar, Lothering, Kirkwall, and then the tumultuous journey through the Fade into a life that was hardly even a shell of his own would have started to scrape away the enamel of a lesser man, perhaps make him choose a life that would not put him in the face of danger at every turn.

He didn’t want that life. The fact of the matter was, he lived for this—lived for the fragile successes because at least something he worked towards would have a solid outcome, one way or the other – the only relationship he’d ever had that worked was Bethany. In war, all of his anger, his misdirected strength and attitude could all be channeled into something that was far more effective than any dealings with other people.

Cassie wasted no time in creating a glorious mess out of the situation – not that it had the potential to be anything else, based on the end goal. The presence of the thing made him falter for a moment, and his mount picked up on it – wings that had previously beat with the same ferocity as Cassie’s griffon slowed with slight concern for his rider. Spot the Second was loyal, and was no replacement for the first Spot, but it was a decent start. He dug his heels into the beast’s sides to prevent the mixed signals from slowing them too much; he had to stay in line with the ongoing chase. Neassa’s ballista was off the mark, likely due to the acceleration of the Archdemon following Cassie. It was a welcome distraction for the monster—it needed to be brought down to the ground so it would no longer have the upper hand, and there was only one way to do that. They had to get close enough to disable its wings, and he wasn’t about to risk Spot’s life by flying that close to its hooked wings that could knock the griffon out of his flight pattern and perhaps even end his life.

It would have to be done much more intimately.

He steered Spot as close as he dared to the creature, knowing that he’d only have one shot with this or he’d plunge to his death: unless one of the others had the intent of catching him before he broke every bone in his body upon hitting the ground. Sheer adrenaline egged him on, now: Carver swung his left leg over Spot’s neck and released his right foot from the stirrup, gripping the horn of the saddle for stability. The scales were so close that he could see them, individually, black and glittering in the most gruesome way. The cracks between them were a different, ghastly shade, and another wave of nausea hit him from being so close to the Archdemon. It threw him off balance, unexpectedly so and he dropped before he was ready, the rush of wind catching up to him, forcing his eyes to narrow at the sheer speed of his fall. Spot veered off and away now without a rider—so he would be shit out of luck if he missed the drop.

Gauntlets reached out as he fell, flailing through the air to catch something—anything—and then he hit, the small spikes digging against his armor, and he veered off of one in pain and tried to get his bearings about him. It was so loud, and it wasn’t because of turbulence, something was moving and he couldn’t get—oh, fuck me. When he dared to open his eyes, he saw the reason he was moving so much and nearly let go: he was a few meters back from the base of the tail that kept beating to keep it in the air, in time with the wings.

He was going to have to climb.

Thankful, at least, that he was too small to be anything but a minor nuisance to the Archdemon at this point, he managed to get a foothold on some of the smaller spikes by his feet, and reached to grip the ones above him—Maker, it was far to the flat plane of the creature’s back. He leaned over the side of the dragon’s tail, a heavy retch spilling the contents of his stomach. The headache and accompanying feeling of dread didn’t recede—and they likely wouldn’t. He was such a new warden; chances were, Carver would have his work cut out for him.

Now lacking the ability to get a read on his companions’ locations, he had no choice but to start his slow, careful ascent up the beast’s tail—so long as he moved on the downward stroke, he had an easier time of keeping his grip. Six more spikes. Mid-climb to the fifth, the dragon veered sharply to the left, throwing him off balance since one of his hands was moving and he lost it, sliding off the side—he reached for the spike from where he’d come and gripped onto it with both hands for dear life. And now he was just angry—red was all he could see—he hadn’t come all this way just to fucking die.

What the Hell was Cassie doing? He had to get back on this thing—just so he could fucking kill her when this was over. His boots struggled to regain a foothold, continuing to scape against the edge of the tail and fall back to hang—he couldn’t get high enough to hook around the spike.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. He could only hope that someone else was close enough to see him.
 Posted: Jun 23 2018, 02:40 PM
8 posts
25 years

There were a lot of things that Oisin wasn't sure of just at that moment, as the party of adventurers and would-be heroes he had approached a few months ago stormed into harm's way to save the world, or something. First of all, he wasn't entirely sure he was quite the right fit for a griffon - it was what the good people of the Orthlands had called the runt but even so he felt like he'd be walking strange for a week (if he lived past this day). Then there was the whole flying thing. Was there anything more unnatural for a dwarf? He'd got more used to being on the surface as he'd travelled round - even been on the sea for a while - but flying on the back of this beast made his stomach roll. He was certain he'd fall into the sky any minute.

Griffon issues aside, he was also wondering exactly what he could bring to this fight. Everything he could do involved deception and distraction, sneaking by to land a critical hit in the squishiest part of his foe. Unfortunately, griffons were hardly subtle and archdemons didn't seem to have any squishy bits to aim for.

He had joined this band of time travellers because, so far as he could see, he would either die in this blight, helpless and alone, or he could try to stop it. His life in the future had never offered him many opportunities to play the hero so he saw this as a chance to break away from being the casteless nothing - not even important enough in the Carta to make waves or earn enough coin to feed himself. Even if he just became someone who at least tried - that would be okay. Well, so long as he lived to tell the tale. He hadn't dragged himself up all his life to die a thousand years, or however long it was, in the past.

He balanced on the back of his griffon, trusting the beast to keep airborne and going in the right direction (happily, it seemed to be a docile creature which at least meant Oisin was free to move from the standard straddled seat). Concentrating, hard on what he was doing, he patted his raider's jacket (it was new and great: so many pockets) and reminded himself of what he had in his arsenal: flasks that would disorientate, temporarily blind, stun and poison normal foes. Not, of course, that there was anything normal about facing off against an archdemon.

When he looked up again, all hell broke loose. The fight had begun and that dragon was looking awful big. Oisin took a long, deep breath.

"Ahhh Andraste's sodding smalls. Let's go ..." he growled to himself under his breath.

He bent low to his steed's neck and surged low, trying to blend into the griffon's dark feathers. Like a fly buzzing an annoying pattern, he flitted round, attempting to keep an eye on his hard-hitting companions, the massive projectiles fired in Dumat's direction and the dragon itself. When it looked like the great beast was about to take a swipe at one of the great siege engines that had been set up, he raised himself from Griff's (he wasn't so inventive with names) back and threw one of his flasks. It whizzed and popped into an almighty flash-bang approximately where Dumat's left ear would be (... if it had ears). Hopefully it would be enough of a distraction to save the machinery, but Oisin was not sticking that close to the dragon's head to find out. Insofar as it was possible on the back of a griffon, he dived down and towards the tail end and that strange speck clinging on to the beast's tail if he could get there in time.

Even if he couldn't wind this fight, he could make sure the others did - maybe that was the point?
 Posted: Jun 23 2018, 09:16 PM
44 posts
38 years

Nolani clutched her hand around the smooth, bronze stone as indecisiveness crippled her action, even as she marched forward with the ground forces. Ghanreyl walked delicately beside her, large amber eye cocked down watch her. The white and gold griffin chirped warmly, and Nolani smirked as a beak booped her arm. “Stop. It’s foolish, yeah? He doesn’t believe in gods.” She had scratched both sides of the flat stone with symbols depicting the elven gods of the Hunt and Protection.

Ghanreyl tilted her head, with a motherly attitude in it, as if questioning if such things really mattered between people who cared for the other. Nolani was overcome with the intelligence of these creatures, just as she had been with the mabari that had imprinted on her at Ostagar. Some part of her had missed having an intelligent creature around, since Fen had died a handful of years ago.

“If I was gonna give it to him, I shoulda done it last night. But I didn’t,” Nolani said, shoving the stone back in her pouch. Ghanreyl cooed again, around the same time a scout flew by, announcing the current distance to the horde.

Fear struck cold in her heart, and she knew she would regret into her afterlife if she didn’t give him the stone.

“Zevran!” Nolani charged among the bodies, the majority of them being much taller than she. He wouldn’t be far, but with the rogue team matched with the frontline warriors.

Spying him, Nolani crossed a straight path to him. “Zevran.” His name was a punctuation from her lips. Nolani hooked her fingers in his belt, pulling him into her as she stepped into him and her forehead thudded softly into his chest. For several seconds she stood motionless, unaware of anything else as he alone mattered. Not the shuffle of warriors moving around them or their nervous stench or uneasy murmurs or last second whispered regrets on the tongues who wished probable final goodbyes to loved ones and dear friends.

Their lives scrolled behind her eyelids. Eleven years, and they had done so much. Searching for the cure. The tear in time. Antiva. The Fifth Blight. The night before the fight. For fuck’s sake, last night even.

She had clung to him every night for the past week with her face buried against his shoulder. This Blight was worse. Much worse. There was no Morrigan to protect her soul from Dumat’s. The prospect of dying terrified her bones, but losing him would be...

“Here.” Nolani pressed the stone to his hand. Embarrassed, she shifted and looked at the space to the right of his head. “I wasn’t gonna do it, but then I couldn’t stand not giving it to ya.” Her fingers fidgeted with her gold earring. ”It’s Andruil. And Mythal.” Huntress and Protector. A wish for his strength in battle and a prayer for his protection. The way she behaved sometimes made it seem she thought the Creators were a foolish notion, but she believed in them whole-heartedly. Quietly.

“I…” Nolani’s mouth hung open. “You…” she managed. Her mind was vacant of anything worthy of saying to him that could make up for eleven years at her side. She lifted her hand and laid it over his heart. “Ma vhenan.”

Alarmed shouts rose up around them, as did a surge of fear. Nolani turned away from Zevran, looking first toward the front for signs of the darkspawn horde, and then up as she saw fingers pointing at the sky. “Shit. Fucking excellent, she said, excitedly. The Archdemon would be separated from the horde and they could avoid a massive, lengthy battle. Ghanreyl pulled up next to them, feathers ruffled as she bobbed her head concernedly, seeking guidance. Nolani hauled herself into the saddle. “With me?” she said to Zevran, her hand out.

Once spurred, Ghanreyl transitioned between trotting and hovering hops over the marching forces while Nolani bellowed preparation orders and for the archers to prepare.. Snatching her helmet off the saddle pommel, she completed her Warden armor ensemble - the very one she’d brought through time. Although she’d gained some respect among the recruited soldiers, she found it easier to assume command when she hid her ears.

“Bring it down, Cassie, bring it down.” Nolani could ride a griffin and didn’t mind scouting with them, but she was a ground fighter. The only useful weapon in the air was a bow and she was a fucking terrible shot. About as fucking terrible as whoever shot that ballista.

She brought Ghanreyl to a halt among the warriors. As she watched Dumat chase Cassie down, her blood began to sing with two calls: one the taint’s siren reacting at the closeness of Dumat and the second the dragon’s furious roar. Then someone dropped from his griffin and onto the Archdemon. “Fucking ballsy shithead idiot,” Nolani swore. So much for using archers and ballista and trebuchets. She slapped the reigns, not having given an order to attack nor for archers to loose.

Ghanreyl’s large wings shot them forward, close to the ground, toward where she projected Dumat to land. “Bring it down, come to ground,” she growled.

 Posted: Jun 24 2018, 06:36 PM
12 posts
38 years

It is not unlike Denerim, in the end.  It feels the same; that same slight panic that grows in his chest and threatens to overtake.  No matter the time or place, an approaching darkspawn horde tends to make people look the same - the gathered force tense with the approaching battle.  The only difference, Zevran supposes, is that most of these people had not rightly seen the destruction the darkspawn could cause.

He thinks of the horrors of that year, back during the Fifth Blight, and the darkened land and bodies black and dying

Zevran stands among them.  His time on the surface has been spent at Nolani's back, an ever watchful (and dangerous) shadow, depending on the situation. He'd kept himself busy, a driving force behind the Warden's efforts and his own personal preference for the shadows leaving him to work in secret, keeping his head down and his blades sharp.  Here, he walks among the soldiers gathered and listens. The horde approaches, and he can feel it in his bones.  He may not have the Wardens' sense for such things, but he's become quite familiar with the stench of darkspawn, and it's enough to choke.

Nolani's approach is not a surprise, his head turning to her as she draws closer and calls his name. He follows her easily, hands slipping to settle at her hips as she drags him by the belt.  He doesn't say anything.  He's felt heavy hearted ever since she'd asked for her favor, and while he has never been the type to want or desire to keep her from a battle, Zevran wishes this battle was not required of her.

Or, perhaps, that it was not her responsibility.  One archdemon wad enough, and more than most wardens saw in their lifetime. Why two?

The stone is a perfect fit in his gloved palm.  He closes his fingers around it.  "You have given me many things, My Warden. And I have cherished them all, just as I will this."  Andruil and Mythal are not his gods, but for the warrior before him, he would carry a token and believe if it meant returning to her side each night.

There have been many nights.

He knows the words.  He doesn't have a chance to voice his own in return - and o, he has so many, fine and delicate little things not meant for a battlefield, but since when had that ever stopped him?

The cry of battle swells, and Zevran hesitantly takes his place behind Nolani on Ghanreyl.  "The dark city itself could not keep me away," he promises.  "With our luck so far, we might very well end up there next, hm?"

Secure in his position behind her, he tips back to free his blades from his belt. It's too early to apply posion, so he takes watch, a bit stunned to watch the distant shapes above as the Wardens move in on Dumat.  He leans forward to put his lips to Nolani's ear and whispers, "Another for the stories, my dear?" and ignores how his stomach clenches.
 Posted: Jun 26 2018, 04:29 PM

Aella’s sides were heaving beneath her knees with the motion of her wings and the deepness of her breathing. Cassie turned to look over her shoulder as Aella levelled out, soaring well in range of the ballistae and trebuchets, drawing Dumat in.

Too close. And too smart – he needed distracting if they wanted to trap him here, where he was alone, rather than have him see the weaponry and circle back to hide in his horde. As powerful as she was, she doubted even her Force magic could drag an archdemon back if he wanted to fly away. An ogre she could manage. A dragon, not so much.

Though she did have options, if Dumat tried to escape. She just had to save them until he was clear of their army so she didn’t accidentally wipe out their side as well.

For now, she settled for the basics – a stone fist to the face. She was aiming for the eye, but hit his snout. It turned his head a few degrees, but other than that all it seemed to do was piss him off.

Okay. We can do this. If he’s angry he’s still following you.

She heard the projectiles before she saw them. Trusting Aella, Cassie leaned close over her neck and waited, hunched, hoping –

Something exploded. The direction was wrong for it to have hit Dumat, but the dragon screeched all the same as a burst of light turned Aella’s feathers briefly white.

Squinting over her shoulder showed Dumat was reeling, dropping back from her to give her some much-needed space but not trying to flee. Blinded, maybe. She’d take it.

She used the opening to circle around, scanning the field and giving Aella room to breathe. The siege weaponry was in full use, but the archers were holding back with the griffons in the air.

And they were – three of them at least. Neassa - whose mount was as much of a belligerent shit as she was and if it got her killed she was going to kill it, pluck it and turn it into a cape – Carver and Oisin. Nolani and Zevran were with the ground forces, making sure no one got itchy fingers and shot them full of holes while they were aiming for the dragon. The plan was to ground Dumat, get over there fast and rip him apart... preferably without losing any Wardens. Though that would mean Dumat rising again.

Not that it was likely something to worry about at this point. There were so few Wardens that simple statistics dictated that they were unlikely to land the final blow.

Dumat bellowed, furious and with his sight restored. Pity.

He saw the siege weaponry, responsible for his temporary blindness, and dove.

Shit. Shit. No –

A small figure swept past, daringly close. Something tiny glinted in the dim light –

Cassie ducked her head against her shoulder, hiding in the crook of her elbow to try and muffle her ears, and dug her left knee hard into Aella’s side just in time to avoid staring right at Oisin’s flash-bang.

She whipped her head back, squinting, to see if it had worked –

Dumat was screaming, thrashing in the air, his swipe at the trebuchet thwarted – but his flailing tail clipped it as he rose in the air to try and get away from the light and noise. Cassie winced. They didn’t have many – they couldn’t afford to lose them.

The high beam rocked, but held. From this distance, she couldn’t see if it had splintered or not. The team responsible for the weapon would know if they could continue to use it or not.

As Dumat levelled out, flying slower but still focused on them, not retreating, she tried to take stock. She’d seen Neassa – roped onto Fuckbeak – she’d seen Oisin. Where was...

Oh. Oh no.

Carver plunged towards the archdemon, landing off-mark but at least landing.

What was he thinking?

Cassie urged Aella forward, but saw Oisin and Neassa both darting towards him. They were closer, they’d get there first, though the idea of Neassa near that lashing tail made her heart clench.

In Death, Sacri-

Don’t you fucking dare.

She’d be fine. It was Neassa, she was always –

She’d be fine. She – they, Oisin was there too – needed someone to cover for them though.

That she could do.

She leaned, steering Aella back towards Dumat’s head. It was risky, getting this close, but what wasn’t?

She approached from behind, along the length of his neck – and drew her sword. The blade of light gleamed, throwing sickly reflections off the rotting scales.

As the crested his forehead and came into view, Cassie slashed down at his face.

The blade didn’t bounce. It thudded, and Dumat screeched. She looked back as Aella fled, trying to see if she’d hurt the beast. There was a nasty gash over his right eye, dripping black blood into it. It wasn’t as strong a strike as she’d hoped, but it worked. Neassa would be proud.

Dumat’s other eye locked onto her big, bright, very noticeable sword. Teeth bared, he beat his wings hard and soared after her, purple flames billowing from his mouth.

Cassie gritted her teeth, gripping the reins in her left hand and letting the blade stick out to her right side so Dumat had something nice and easy to chase after. She tried to keep them as level as possible for Carver’s sake, hoping he’d been rescued.

She looked over her shoulder, trying to make out if he was still on the tail, but all she could see was Dumat’s face and chest.

Shit. She needed to know when he was clear. She had a horn tied to her belt, and they’d already worked out the signals they were going to use. One to order an all clear, the other to sound an arrow volley. Once he was clear, the archers could fire, and while Dumat was distracted they could get to his wing and bring him down.

Some of the others had horns – Nolani definitely did. Cassie kept her ears open for the first horn blast, ready to get Aella out of the way.

She heard something, and was about to direct Aella into a steep climb only to freeze. She hadn’t heard it at all. It was in her head.

In her blood.

The horde was approaching. Not here yet, but close enough to be heard over the soft, insidious singing she’d only noticed after Dumat had ambushed her.

They needed to hurry. They had maybe half a bell, maybe.

She directed Aella into a shallow dive, hoping to lure Dumat nearer to the ground, but not so close that there was a risk of his tail hitting the ground and crushing Carver or a battalion of their men, or his flames reaching them. It would let the ballistae be more accurate, and might even let them land a hit on his wing. The archers would have a good shot at his underbelly and wings, so long as they were careful of his tail - if Carver was still on it. She just had to hope, and keep his attention.

She didn’t dare make a wall of fire, but she lobbed a fireball at his face to keep him angry with her and not focused on his tail.

 Posted: Jun 27 2018, 09:41 AM
49 posts
38 years

As was typical of Neassa, she hadn't given herself the time to decipher her feelings towards flying. In all the times she had taken flight with Fuckbeak, she kept her mind preoccupied with trying to anticipate his next improvised move. There was no time left to consider what it meant to be in the air, or that he was her only life line. Neassa looked down, only once, and saw the expanse of the Dark spawn forces in their entirety. Well shit, that was a lot, she might have to start taking this seriously.

She urged Fuckbeak to bank to the side of Dumat, heading towards the rear because she had seen Carver at one point and then she had seen Spot absent a rider moments later. The fresh Warden was a festering fool, they had a lot in common. Even if Neassa would never admit it. She could guess where his head was, what he was thinking. It was easy to predict the thought processes of someone who balanced the same delicate mix of brave and stupid. She spotted him losing grip on the tail, hurtling towards a painful end.

Fuckbeak was smarter than the both of them. He didn't want to get too close to Dumat, especially not close enough for her to rescue Carver. Neassa untied the rope around the handle of her saddle, where she was going, Fuckbeak couldn't follow, and she needed something to help pull Carver up with. This was all assuming she could make a half successful leap where he had failed. Given her luck with the ballista, there was absolutely no evidence she would survive this. It was stupid. Reckless. Suicidal.

It sounded exactly like something she would do.

Neassa had her sword out, held tight in one hand. Fuckbeak coasted on the cross winds Dumat’s wings kicked up, maintaining an unsteady hover as she manoeuvred herself to stand to one side of the saddle. The drop was...uh...well, it wasn't ideal. She almost changed her mind. Fuck Carver, he would hardly be a great loss, he had the charisma of a rusty nail. He had kept her from killing a full blown abomination and had been an unwelcome reminder of her lyrium fuelled days, worst of all his status as a fledgling warden combined with Cassie’s inability to ever stand idly by, meant that he had taken a lot of the Warden Commander's attention recently. But did he deserve to die? Undoubtedly. But like this? It was embarrassingly early into their campaign against Dumat. What would Cassie do?


Force magic. She would flex her fingers and an unseen force would pick him up and put him where he was supposed to be, all without risking her life or breaking a sweat. Neassa didn't have such skills, all she had was this rope, this sword and a deficiency in good sense so she had to make do.

She embraced the likelihood of failure and leapt from Fuckbeaks back, sword out. The griffon gave a mournful cry as she left him, or was she imagining that? The sound clamoured loudly against the rush of air past her ears as she fell, Dumat's scales rising to meet her at speed.

The good news was that she hit, the bad news was that she hit. Her armour kept the impact bearable but simultaneously dragged her down as she failed to find purchase in Dumat's scales, like a stone skipping over the surface of a lake. Only not at all like that and with more screaming. Her sword scored through rotting scales, sliding harmlessly over thick leathery skin, purple flakes of dragon scale flying off like the slats of a roof. She could see Carver below her, he didn't look at all comforted by her presence. At one point she cleared the tail entirely on a downward swing, just out in the air, left to gravity. It should have spelled death, but it was exactly what she needed. Neassa gripped her sword with both hands, building momentum as the tail came up again beneath her, she was near the top, almost at the base. This time the resistance of the hide gave way to the blade and she buried it almost to the hilt, effectively stabbing the Archdemon of the First Blight directly in the arse. Well, it was a big enough target, no wonder she hit-

Dumat gave a sharp cry, he had definitely felt that. She began a mantra of ‘fuck, fuck fuck,’ as she pulled the rope in to her, she had precious few seconds to recover her senses and move to action.

With the relative stability of her position established, she wasted no time on hastening Carvers rescue. Carver was still holding on, feet dangling in the air. She hurriedly tied the end of her rope in a secure knot around the hilt of her blade, this was fucking madness, she gave it a sharp tug, testing it. Would that hold? She had no idea, didn’t think about it too much, the second she allowed herself to process things would be the same second she realised this was a terrible idea. Instead, Neassa was up on unsteady feet and practically sprinting down the length of Dumat’s tail.

She kept low to the tail, skidding down until she reached Carver, luckily it was just the right distance to keep her from running out of rope before she got to him.

“STOP FUCKING ABOUT CARVER!” Neassa shouted, hoping her words would carry through the howl of the wind to berate him. For the first time, she looked at him, he looked both terrified and enraged, with himself...with the situation, with Dumat. That’s when she realised that she had never really looked at him before...well she'd seen him, but she hadn't taken any of it in, he wasn't relevant to her interests. He was just a man, no more special than any other man she had seen. But he was more substantial than Anders, larger than Zevran, clearly bigger than Oisin, she cursed, why couldn't it be the dwarf hanging off the side of the dragon? Why did it have to be this stupid slab of man? Neassa latched onto his chest plate, finding purchase beneath the neck as she heaved with all the strength she had in her, adrenaline masking the ache in her arms and shoulders.

Dumat could have been doing a Ferelden jig for all she knew, too focussed on pulling Carver up to join her on the upper side of the tail. He became easier to lift as she went, feet finding some purchase at his changing position until eventually, he was alongside her. “We need to discuss your diet, you brick shithouse.” She slapped his arm, ushering him to start climbing up ahead of her, now that he had the rope to help him, it should be a far easier task. Well, as easy as climbing a dragons tail could be when it wasn't both flattened or dead.

Well, that was one problem taken care of. Neassa spied Oisin flying nearby with Griff and gave him a wave to let him know they were secure. For now. He could fly clear and from where they were on Dumat, the archers could unleash a volley at him without worrying about hitting either of them. Wait, she had a thing for that...a horn. Neassa was rocked not so gently from side to side by Dumat's movements, rope holding her in place as she reached for the horn in her belt in a moment of realisation. She tried to think back to the many conversations the group had had before the battle, on the hours of horn etiquette, on what it all meant. She remembered...she...what...fuck. She didn't remember anything. Just Cassie saying words at her and Neassa being preoccupied with rehearsing which words to say to her privately on the off chance today would be her last.

In the end all she had said was ‘break Dumat’s leg.’ She should regret not listening more than she regretted that.

What was the protocol for 'shoot the big shit in the face,’ again? Uhhh, she yanked the horn free but lost her grip on the thing, hands shaking in what she decided was adrenaline rather than fear. Her eyes found Oisin, a flat expression on her face as the horn plummeted through the air, she hoped he could read the disdain from such a distance.

 Posted: Jul 6 2018, 11:56 PM
34 posts
30 years

Agonizing seconds turned into various scenarios that played out his untimely death, in the most gruesome of ways that would surely be sooner rather than later with the way this fucking demon wouldn’t stop moving. He’d always prided himself in his strength, but even champions had their limits—there always came a point where brains outsmarted brawn—even if it was just his own, in this instance.

He’d thought that he would have had more time. Maybe if he’d known that today was going to be his last, he could have done some things differently—but the only thing that really sunk in the pit of him was Beth. Alive or dead, he’d die without knowing. She called to him in ways that only twins could understand—he just couldn’t tell if it was because she was here, or because she was reassuring him to fall to his death, because she would be there, too.

Damn near having decided that when yet another thrash from the dragon broke his concentration, Carver became suddenly aware of two things: he wasn’t alone on the Archdemon anymore—

—and his savior was the woman he’d tried to kill.

Not to say that they hadn’t made up since that point, in their… silent, hardly acknowledging each other sort of way. Even so, that hardly justified Neassa being the one to climb down the tail, close enough to him that he was able to see what her plan was in full—the rope was a good idea. He could barely hear her over the heavy turbulence of moving at such high speeds through the air, and maybe the lack of the oxygen was getting to him but a sudden wave of exhaustion hit him—luckily just in time for Neassa to latch onto him and haul with more strength than he’d ever encountered from a female warrior before, to save his life.

Now wasn’t the time for thanks—she wouldn’t hear it, or care about that, right now. So he let her have her snide commentary, his gaze locking with hers for a moment with a reassuring nod now that they were both on an easier plane to navigate. Getting it down was going to be a piece of cake, now. Never mind the fact that Neassa had been able to haul someone over twice her size from the brink of death but couldn’t hold onto a little bugle. It didn’t matter—in his experience, the thick of battle was too complicated to listen to signals. There was just blood and swinging until no one came at him anymore.
The ground offense would get their signal, horn or not.

He passed Neassa’s blade, dug deep into the Archdemon, and yanked it out on his way up, passing it back to her. ”Tie that around you instead. We’ve got to get to the wings.” Carver wasn’t sure if she heard him or not, but she’d likely see him tying his own end of the role around his waist, double tight. At the very least, the added stability would give him the precious seconds he’d need close to the dragon’s body to not fall off.

Running up the back was easy—a walk through the Circle at the rate he’d been at before. His self-confidence all but returned now that he was back on his own two feet, his expression soured as he approached the plane of the wing—choosing to work on the right side. Aerodynamics would shift as soon as he punctured a big enough hole in the middle of it.

The leathery insides of the wings were supported by bone on the top and bottom—a hook on the wing tip proving to be a useful grip for his left hand, and footing was all but promised on the base of the wing.

Carver wasted no time—he was pissed. He plunged his sword through the center of the wing and dragged it down, hard—a black splattering of demon ichor flying back on his face and neck as he did so. He gathered the unwanted liquid with a small wash of saliva and spat—it was a wonder there was a point where it tasted better than lyrium to him. He carved down and then to the right, up and around again to make a square. It was just a matter of getting that piece out. A glance back to the rope and Neassa attached to it, searching her for a spear or something. No arrows, either. He wasn’t about to lose his blade just to get that piece down—there had to be another way.

”IDEAS?” He remained hanging on the wing, the wind actually not as abrasive to his face now that he was able to be shielded by the brunt of it from his covered stance.

 Posted: Jul 8 2018, 11:24 AM
8 posts
25 years

Although Oisin hadn't been with this group of adventurers from the future, he had begun to feel a strange kind of camaraderie with them as whole. It was nice to be around a group of folk that genuinely seemed to be aiming for the same goal and not simply to stab everyone else in the back at the first opportunity. This dwarf had been brought up and groomed in such an environment for far too long not to be completely paranoid, but it was a testament to his 'true character' that he was actually trying to muck in and help rather than skulk in the shadows until the fighting was done and he could guarantee his own survival. As it turned out, having the free will to choose to do this shit meant a lot to him.

His sudden desire to stand his tiny arse in front of a giant archdemon might also have stemmed from the fact that half of this group - or at least those that gave themselves wholly to the mission - were damned heroes, back home too apparently. It was utterly baffling that the likes of him was standing shoulder to shoulder (well, kind of) with these people at all, never mind staring the big ugly directly in the face.

Except he's finished with the face for a minute, and was surging towards to tail and that human clinging on to it. Bent close to Griff's neck, lest he be buffeted off by the wind, he made the foolish mistake of opening his eyes, the ground being so, so far away so far as he was concerned. He pulled up a few metres from the tail.

"Don't look down, don't look down, don't look down," he instructed himself, directly his eyes skyward instead to try to counterbalance the view downwards. It didn't help. He could practically feel himself being sucked from Griff's back and into the endless blue and clouds above. "Don't look up, don't look up, don't look up."

He growled at himself and yanked his eye back to the task at hand, kicking his steed onwards even as he processed that the human had been yanked up to the dragon's back. Well, that was good. He wasn't entirely sure what he was going to do when he got as far as Carver anyway (his little griffon probably wouldn't have carried both of their weights), but now he needed to reassess what he could do. He met Neassa's eye and raised both eyebrows in response, his eye flicking down as the horn thing fell from her grasp.

"Oh!" he exclaimed, his hands fumbling at the coat of many pockets. He remembered he'd been trusted with a horn - he wasn't sure why (still thought of himself basically as a common criminal - which was an improvement), but he had been. He manoeuvred griff over the dragon's back, its scaly hide hopefully thick enough to provide shelter from a hail of arrows. Once there he blew the signal to the archers below, the horn falling from his lips after the last blow as he saw the tail-dangling human launch himself at the wing. With any luck, the archers' volley would either avoid the wing or have finished before Carver began doing as the name suggested.

In a fit of paranoia, he flew himself above the same wing, ready to at least try to swoop down and save the man if he should come a cropper. Things seemed to go well, though. The dragon had screeched and attempted to barrel roll from the arrows, but some bright sparks had attached lines to their arrows - not enough to bring the bastard down yet, but enough to stop it from taking everyone out in one almighty swoop.

From his better vantage point, he saw the rope attached to Carver's waist, as anchored as it could be, from his perspective. He could also see the scored skin of the dragon - its blood, in fact, was what was spraying Oisin's face, and not a light misting of rain like he thought it was. Beautiful. "Need a punch?" he barked as he pointed Griff directly into the middle of that scored patch of thing wing skin. He cackled, trying to instil himself with a bit of the reckless bravado this human seemed to have in spaces and just went.

It was no time at all before Griff and Oisin both were punching through that wing, the surprisingly soft skin enveloping them like a blanket. "Shit," he growled, gripped the griffon between his legs as best he could while he took out his daggers and started slashing at the covering. Although he couldn't yet see it, the world was tilting and twirling, and the motion was most definitely downwards.

He hacked desparately at the skin around the griffon's wings as they went into a tailspin. "Shit shit shit."
 Posted: Yesterday at 07:53 am

Aella was getting tired. Cassie could feel it in the hitching strain beneath her knees as she drove her wings into another beat, could hear it in her laboured breathing, could see it in the way the griffon was reaching forward with her talons with each beat, as if she could claw herself faster through the air.

‘Hold on, Aella, please,’ Cassie whispered, casting another glance over her shoulder. Dumat was gaining.

Aella didn’t reply; her breath coming more ragged as if she’d gone to screech and didn’t have the energy. Keeping ahead of Dumat and dodging his volleys of flame had been exhausting; even Cassie’s back and core were clenching uncomfortably with each shift as she rebalanced to stay upright. She sheathed the sword; holding it out was only tiring her arm and Dumat seemed to have no problem pursuing them regardless.

Then she heard it. The horn.

She didn’t look to see who had blown it; just leaned back and drew the reins up, leading Aella into a steep climb. Aella responded; throwing herself into the manoeuvre with more effort than Cassie expected her to have. It put her almost horizontal for a moment; the ground a wide expanse beneath her back, waiting to rise up and shatter her.

She tilted her head back, looked at what should have been ‘up’ and was instead ‘across’ – straight at Dumat’s open maw, roiling with purple fire.

Fast as Aella was, she wasn’t getting out of range in time.

Cassie forced her protesting muscles to haul her up, lying close to Aella’s neck to streamline them, put thrust her hand out behind them, snow and ice gathering at her fingertips. Wide, it needed to be a wide shot, to try and catch it all –

Her Cone of Cold blasted out from her hand, swelling outwards, rushing to meet the billowing flames. Whether it would work against them she didn’t know, but it was all she had.

She tucked herself as small as she could against Aella’s neck and channelled all her power into the spell. Steam hissed and rushed; but so did the fire.

Heat rolled over her; her back, her hair, everything. At first it was just heat, that first suspended moment –

Then the blaze, the pain. Her back and shoulders. Skin blistering and bubbling, searing. She could feel herself screaming, thought she was falling until she realised it was her eyes rolling wildly with the agony. She glimpsed dark fire, still burning behind her. Her cloak; burning like Neassa’s had so many years ago. She threw ice behind her blindly, chilling, muffling the fire, killing it.

It still burned. The ice barely helped.

Aella was shrieking, but a quick glance showed only a few singed tail feathers. Panic, not pain. Cassie had taken the brunt.

Good. That meant they could still keep moving.

Breathing ragged, Cassie doused her back in cold, rueing her lack of healing ability. She could, in theory, it was in the Knight Enchater’s tome, but she’d never tried it. Now wasn’t the time. She’d managed so far without it, she’d do it again.

Just get this done. Get it done and you can heal.

She gritted her teeth, wheeling Aella around and looking down. The archers had fired true; only a few arrows had found their way over the beast, but she could see the glint of wire from those shafts that had reached to Dumat’s spine or beyond. As she watched, he tried to roll – more wires became visible, studding his side and underbelly, all straining, some snapping – but they stopped him. He levelled out, screaming in pain and frustration – and she spotted why.

Neassa. Neassa on his back. Carver on the bloodied wing – and a small, confused blur in the membrane that it took her a moment to recognise as a flailing griffon, Oisin on his back. Trying to cut through the wing; she could see the damage now.

Dumat was thrashing, agonised, but falling.

Towards their army. The western flank, but that was still several battalions of men they couldn’t afford to lose if the darkspawn reached them in time.

Do something.

Oisin needed help cutting. Dumat needed moving.

Maker, she was an idiot for even trying.

She couldn’t give it to the whole army – she’d kill herself trying – but their time-travelling vanguard? She could manage those.

Flames licked along swords and daggers alike, harmless to the wielder but decidedly uncomfortable for their enemies. Hopefully the fire would help slice through the membrane; cauterising and weakening the flesh at once.

Now for the dragon.

She snagged a mana potion out of her pack, downed it in one go. It might not be enough. It probably wouldn’t be.

She still had to try.

She seized her horn as the energy surged through her, revitalising, numbing the pain of her back better than adrenaline. She sounded the all clear, the get back to your griffons and get out of the way, then let the horn drop back to her side. She pulled her staff from her back; the wood charred but the focusing crystal undamaged.

She’d barely been able to restrain a resisting ogre, six years ago. An archdemon flying away she couldn’t drag. But one in free-fall? She could try. She had to.

She nudged Aella with her knees, driving her towards their western flank, beyond it. She spun in place, the sun behind her, and reached.

She latched onto the beast, hooked into the minute pull every creature exerted on the air, the... space around them. She could increase it, redirect it, manipulate it, but the larger the force the harder it was.

She breathed, frowning, then twisted it, away from the ground, towards her. Towards open ground.

Immediately she felt the strain. It was like trying to haul the deadweight of an adult qunari soldier with only a blanket underneath them to make it ‘easier’... times by a hundred.

She could feel tendons standing out in her arms, her neck, muscles bunching as if she physically had hold of him. The mana was flooding out of her, unable to sustain the magic.

Hang on, hang on...

Black dots burst in her vision, her hearing receded. He was still over the army, but approaching the limit. She could make out their forces moving, trying to get out from under it.

Just a bit further, just a little-

Something in her snapped. She had an instant of feeling like a loose tether, flying in the wind –

Then darkness rushed over her and she slumped in the saddle, starting to slide.

Beneath them, Dumat screeched as he crashed into the ground, his spines digging deep furrows in the ground as momentum carried him across the barren earth. A hundred soldiers couldn’t get clear in time, but better a hundred than five.

He staggered to his feet, right wing not only ripped apart but crushed by his landing. He turned to the army, to the griffon riders, and screamed his fury.

Then he unleashed his fire on the army.
 Posted: Yesterday at 04:11 pm
49 posts
38 years

As the horn blew, the sky filled with arrows. Neassa didn't rush to climb up to Dumat's back, certain she had the kind of luck that would see her catch a stray arrow to the face. At least back here she was safe. From arrows. But not the lingering threat of tumbling to her death. Luckily her rope held true, even with Carver yanking on it. She climbed slowly, purely because of the ache in her arms. The adrenaline had given her the pull she needed to lift such a man, reminding her of the incredible acts of strength and endurance she managed while taking lyrium. But this time it had been all her. There was a quiet voice that told her she had only managed it because she cared about him. Luckily, the dominant, bad tempered voice deficient in fucks to give strangled it to death for spouting such blasphemy before she could get too comfortable with the idea. She didn't even like him, let alone care about him. But he was a Warden, and they were pretty important in this fight. Besides, she had a habit of saving Cassie's recruits.

Dumat's back was essentially a wind tunnel, Neassa felt her eyes tearing up, straining to keep them open against the turbulence. Carver passed her back her sword. She tightened the rope around her waist, the idea of being attached to Carver was...uh...well he wasn't her first choice. She imagined he wasn't anyone's first choice and that was exactly the flavour of the chip on his shoulder. At the very least he was sturdy enough when he wasn't hanging off the side of an Archdemon so she found as much security in that as she could while he hacked away at the wing. There was little she could do but watch, turning her face away from the spray of black blood...because she wasn't actually immune to the taint and one day her luck was bound to run out.

Neassa shrugged to herself as he asked for ideas on how to knock the flap loose. “You jumped on this thing without a plan?! Ugh! That's you all over Carver.” She didn't even know why she was bothering, of course he had leapt to certain death with only the beginnings of a plan in mind, probably hadn’t expected to get this far.

Luckily, Oisin was there, offering a hand in the form of turning himself and his Griffon into a battering ram as he became the second person enlisted in helping make Carvers mistakes worth something. Soon a large square was cut and already she felt Dumat sliding away beneath her feet. The sound the beast made was unlike anything she had ever heard before, she would not soon forget it.

The Archdemon lurched to the side violently, twisting in a way she recognised immediately as an attempted barrel roll, one that was halted by the tightening of the wires around his form. Neassa stumbled forwards trying to regain her footing and failing, the back of her head met Dumat's scales with a thump that knocked the clarity out of her vision for a good few precious seconds. She didn't need to see to know that she was falling as she slid down Dumat's side, nothing beneath her but air. Her flaming sword marked her descent until she was painfully yanked by the rope around her waist.

Vision recovered, she glanced up but couldn't see Carver for the Archdemon. He had been in a far better position than her, holding onto the wing.

A second horn sounded and something darted past her eyes, a good distance from Dumat. Fuckbeak coasted nearby, some distance below.

The glint of the archers wires beckoned to her, Neassa had slipped through the gaps in between. Once again she had nothing but this sword, (now flaming), this rope and a deficiency in good sense.

She had never been sensible in her life, it wouldn’t make sense to start now.

She thought of Carver, thought of how he was going to get out of this, thought of her weight pulling him down and of the many times in which he should have rightfully died already, and hadn’t. He was like her, a cockroach; he would endure.

Still, she swore before cutting the rope and leaping to one of the wires, sword held between both hands as she rappelled down the length of it, gaining speed fast. Sparks flew off the wire, the magical flames chewing through it greedily. She could hear the sizzle above her, smell the burning metal ahead of the unmistakable snap that sounded seconds later. The wire sagged.

“FUCK OFF!” She looked back towards Dumat and watched the wire fall flat against his body.

Gravity welcomed her with open, conniving arms, seeking to crush her. It clawed at her, dragging her down through the sky, a tiny speck of human with a fiery tail.

Oddly, gravity also seemed to be armed with knives because for some inexplicable reason her shoulder exploded in red and her fall was momentarily stalled. Neassa cried out, looking up and finding feathers above her.

Fuckbeak had snatched her out of the sky, talons bypassing her shoulder guards to find flesh. He gave a shrill screech, pulling her up slightly, body beginning to tilt…

“Please, no-”

Too late. She was spinning. Her shoulder seared, she half expected her arm to come flying off and wave her goodbye on the way down, but it held. Fuckbeaks grip loosened and she was released, falling once more but only for a second before landing in the saddle after Fuckbeak had flipped her into the air.

Neassa opened her eyes, sitting back in the saddle, one hand knotted in the reins. She painfully sheathed her sword, feeling blood sliding down her arm beneath the armour and beginning to fill her gauntlet, felt her grip on the blade weakening. Magic swam around her, she could sense it reaching past her, stretching for Dumat. Overstretching.

As chaotic as things were, there were only a handful of mounted Griffons and Neassa didn't have to look hard to spot Cassie.

Fuckbeak shot towards her. It seemed Neassa's job here was less to do with hurting Dumat and more to do with damage control.

As Cassie succumbed to exhaustion, Neassa heard the clamour of Dumat's crash but didn't spare it a single glance, watching instead as the Warden Commander began to slide from her saddle; as drained as her beleaguered mount. She urged Fuckbeak to move faster, hoping he could at least match the pace of her heart.

Neassa reached her in time enough to grab her by the arm, pulling her back into her saddle, teeth gritting against the effort to engage injured muscles. She wasn't nearly as heavy as Carver, but Neassa hadn't just had the talons of a Griffon buried into her shoulder when she had pulled that stunt.

It was unheard of for her to ever let go of Fuckbeaks reins, but she did so then to better pull Cassie over onto his back, freeing Aella of her passenger. The Griffon should fare better now that she was a little lighter. Fuckbeak had the energy to tolerate two passengers, he hadn't just taken Dumat for a leisurely stroll across the skies of Tevinter, dodging fire all the way. Well, mostly.

As Fuckbeak landed, Neassa wasted no time in leaping from the saddle, the purest form of relief hitting her at the feel of solid ground beneath her feet. She lifted Cassie off next, immediately regretting taking the strain as her shoulder flared with fresh agony. Strength left her arm with the blood and she would have dropped her if not for how close she was to the ground already, staggering to lower her down. The sounds of battle raged on around her; but it would have to wait.

Neassa propped Cassie up against Fuckbeak’s side, the creature seamlessly transitioning to lie down. He had never been so agreeable.

She gave Cassie a little shake, the gentlest of her methods to wake an unconscious person. “I know you’re tired but, this is hardly the place for a lie down.” Neassa pulled the cork out of a stamina potion. She tapped Cassie’s face, hoping to draw her out of her exhaustion, if not just for a moment. It didn’t really matter. Neassa had force-fed countless hunger striking mages in the Circle. She tilted Cassie’s head back and poured the potion into her mouth, confident the reflex would do the rest.

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