Chapter 8Mature

'Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him.

Foul and corrupt are they

Who have taken his gift

And turned it against his children.

They shall be named Maleficar, assured ones.

They shall find no rest in this world

Or beyond.'

-Transfigurations 1:2

The air smelled damp, my head pounded as I pushed myself lightly from the ground. Trying to lift myself up, I felt pressure on my waist. Groggily, I twisted around onto my back. With half open eyes I could see an arm slung over me, the arm was half tanned and the skin was tight against the muscle. Reaching out I ran my hand over the small hairs that tickled my skin. Without warning the arm tightened around me, I gazed down at a sleeping man. His mouth was hanging slighting open, as his chest rose up and down; I could feel his chilly breath against my arm. I took me only a few seconds to register who this man was. Panic curdled in my stomach as I tried to recall what happened last night. I could remember the visit from Anders; and how I wanted to hurt him as much as he hurt me. I could remember the tears that stung my eyes; I could remember not wanting to be alone. But why couldn't I remember seeking out Alistair? As on cue, Alistair stirred beside me, I watched him as his eyes slowly opened. He made a strange sound with his mouth as it opened and closed. I forced a smile as I watched the expression on his peaceful face grow into curiosity as he realised someone was with him. The smile faded as I realised he was looking up at me, his eyes danced with amusement and confusion, I saw that he was trying to remember how I got their as well.

"Well, don't you look rough?" He breathed. I could feel his finger tickling my stomach. A lump formed in my throat and I couldn't shake it away while he was watching me. Leaning up on my elbows, I glared down at him.

"Oh…gee thanks, Alistair." My voice was hoarse and I immediately regretted speaking, I clutched at my throat, which felt like it had been ripped open. Alistair sat up with me; his slung a comforting arm around my shoulders.

"What happened Cam?" He took one of my hands in his, his thumb stroking my knuckles. His concern quickly relaxed me . I wanted to cry on his shoulder and have him tell me everything would be ok. Instead I pulled my hand away from him, his open hand stilled on my thigh. I knew he was hurt but I couldn't let him deal with my problems on top of his own.

"It's nothing." I moved away from him and rested on my knee's facing the exit. "You don't need to worry about what's going on with me." I whispered; my head hung as I felt his hands on my shoulders.

"Oh come on, I'm a big boy now. I'll worry even if I don't need too." His thumbs started to massage my shoulders. I could feel the tears wanting to start up again; I fought them away by clenching my fists from the force of my grip my knuckles turned white. Alistair seemed to notice this as he sighed deeply. His hands didn't leave me as I tried to gently wiggle away from him. "Cameron." He seemed frustrated as he said this. I chewed on my lip contemplating and what to do. Annoyed at myself for turning a nice morning into an awkward moment, I twisted around and faced him. I was unable to look at him yet, so I focused on shaking. Alistair noticed this too as he placed his hands on top of mine. "You can tell me anything Cameron. Tell me why you came to me last night." He was calm but his voice held concern. I lifted my head up to look at him; I focused my gaze on the scar near his eyes.

"Anders." I said as if one word said it all.

"What about him?" He pressed. I frowned, confused at why he'd need more than just a name. I dwelled on how to carry on just as a high-pitched scream sounded outside the tent. On high alert both Alistair and I crawled from the tent into the clearing. I picked up my daggers that I had left outside the tent the night before. Alistair stayed by my side as we observed the scene before us. Decapitated bodies sprawled across the camp, I held in a sob at the sight. I covered my mouth as sick urges curdled my stomach. I looked sideways at Alistair who seemed close to tears. I ground my teeth together and narrowed my eyes. I ran around the camp looking for any signs of life, I could hear Alistair close behind me. After a brief look I noticed none of the bodies belonged to mages. Despair gripped me as I heard loud sobs from behind me. I turned round to find Alistair staring at a body. I followed his gaze to see Cassandra, still intact but in the centre of her stomach a large hole was burning. I choked back the sobs and fell to my knees. Her eyes followed me, making me recoil from her. Realising she was still hanging on to life I shifted forwards.

"We…wasss." She breathed. Her face winced in pain. A tear rolled down her temple and into her hair. "Betrayed." Her voice broke. My heart raced as her eyes started to close.

"No, Cassandra don't close your eyes." I gripped her shoulders and shook her fiercely trying to force life back into her. Her body was limp as I held her in my arms, but I kept shaking her, willing her to wake up.

"Cameron." Alistair was bent down behind me, his hand on my arm. I stopped shaking and let the tears fall. I didn't know her very well. In fact I didn't like her much either. But she was the one who demanded me to come out from hiding; she brought me back into the land of the living. She wanted nothing more than to rid this world of evil and war. She had believed in me when I wanted nothing more than to spend my life regretting every moment of what I had done.

"This can't be happening." I growled as he took Cassandra from my arms and placed her on the floor in front of me. I stood up abruptly, making Alistair jump. He stood up too and wiped the wet from his cheeks. My head shot up and my voice was just lower than a squeak. "Riona." I ran to her tent that she had set up not far from mine. Her tent was shredded to pieces; blood had stained the sheets. A gasp from Alistair's lips spurred me into action. Running towards the destroyed tent, I realised no one was there. I heard a small whimper, snapping my head around I saw Riona knelt beside a tree clutching her arm that had blood oozing from it. I couldn't move. "Alistair?" I gasped. At my voice he ran towards her.

"I'll take care of her, you go see if there is anyone else." He ordered. I nodded, and then ran back towards the clearing. Now I was alone, questions stabbed at my brain. Why was this happening? Who did this? Why was I still alive whilst people were dying around me? I counted the bodies as I walked around the destroyed camp; there was less than half of what there was. Where was everyone? I hadn't seen Tomas or Zevran. In fact I hadn't seen any mages including Anders.

I stood in the same spot as I did the night before with Tomas, observing the bodies that were laying in pieces around the camp. Trying to look for a sign that wasn't there. My stomach lurched, and I was violently sick. I ran back to where I left Alistair tending to Riona, they were sitting awkwardly beside each other, silently waiting for my return.

"Everyone is dead." I sighed, crossing my arms over my chest. Alistair's face cringed in anger and his fist punched the floor. His mouth opened and closed but no words escaped him. I shook my head knowing what was going through his head. "No, we are going to distance our selves from this place." Alistair stared at the ground, not really listening to me. "Now!" My voice was almost a shout.

I felt bad for leaving Cassandra and the other dead bodies behind. But I knew there was nothing else I could do for them. We had to support Riona for about two miles before she could run on her own.

We ran for a long time, no words were spoken and we hardly acknowledged each other. By the time we got to a nearby village, we were freezing, hungry and extremely irritable. We headed straight for the Chantry. People stopped to glare down at us as we walked by. I tried to ignore the whispers. I tried to approach the peaceful looking villagers but they recoiled away from me. I glanced back at Alistair who frowned to himself. I caught his eye and he shrugged, took both Riona's arm and mine and led us towards the Chantry.

This village looked a lot like Lothering once did, except it was much bigger. Each house seemed to have a farm of it's own. There were a dozen stables in each farm. Grass covered the ground, but the years of people walking across it had worn it down. I could smell the nature here better than anywhere else and it soothed my pounding headache. Inside the Chantry I left Alistair and Riona awkwardly sitting next to each other as I went in search for help. Walking through the aisle I admired the mountain of candles near the front of the room. A movement caught my eye and I noticed the man praying in front of them. As I got closer I realised he was shaking, and I saw the white blonde hair that fell around his elven ears.

"Zevran?" I reaching out to grasp his shoulder, he jumped up in shock and cowered in fear. I recoiled from the shock of his features. His nose was bent in, as if it had been punched repeatedly with incredible force. His bottom lip was split in two and his eyes were bloodshot.

"Ca-?" Spit came out of his mouth as he tried to speak to me. Relief flooded his eyes but I couldn't share his feelings. Fear cascaded over me, and I immediately threw my arms around him. Seeing such a brave person in this state gave me no hope.

Riona screamed when she saw Zevran, the first sound she made in days. Instead of recoiling she threw her arms around him and led him to sit down beside her. She tended to his injuries like a mother tended to her child, she was gentle but I could see her hands slightly shaking. Alistair stood up when he saw Zevran frozen in place. I could see in his eyes that things were getting too much for him so I went to him and took his hand in mine. "We will get through this." I whispered as I led him away from the couple.

"It's happening all over again." His voice broke; he brushed at his face to rid himself of the tears. I turned into him and slid my arms around his waist. I didn't have to ask to know what he was talking about. Ostagar had scarred him for life.

From a weak translation from Riona we had learned the mages had turned against everyone at the campsite. The attack had been planned from what she said. I had asked her if Anders had been amongst those mages his hesitation gave me the answer. I had sworn silently to myself that I'd get revenge on him. The Revered Mother helped us, graciously, in return for our help against bandits who had been killing the local livestock. She tended to our wounds with special healing herbs and we found out we were on the boarder of Nevarra and the Free Marches. Riona had stayed by Zevran's side constantly, it had become clear to both Alistair and me that their relationship had develop into a romance. She still didn't speak to me and I didn't try to speak to her in fear of her ignoring me.

Two days after our arrival I heard a demonstration outside the village tavern where we were staying. I had dragged Alistair from his slumber outside, to finally get fresh air into his lungs. He had been too upset to leave the room. It was clear day, the clouds were no longer in the sky, and the wind caressed our skin. I held Alistair's hand tightly to me as we watched. I knew he didn't want to be there, but I also knew it was because he wanted to go back to Ferelden. The Revered Mother had informed me of his secret meetings with her to send a messenger to Denerim to get help. Unfortunately for him, we had no money; no recourses, and we wanted to wait until Riona was fully healed.

"Evil! Evil has befallen us once again. Blood mages are rampaging through our cities. We must stand against them!" This was the only part that had gotten my attention. I gazed at the stocky demonstrator and knew he had to have more information. I left Alistair by the Chantry steps as I headed over to interrogate the man. As I got closer, he noticed me coming and walked away. I followed him into an alley. He leant against the wall and eyed me curiously.

"Who are you?" He asked.

I stepped closely up to him, trying to make myself look intimidating. I raised my eyebrows at the smug smile he gave me. "That doesn't matter. What does matter is what I need from you." He rolled his eyes and spread his arms out in front of him.

"What is it you need, baby?" He was being cocky, and it irritated me. I pushed his shoulder back as I glared at him.

"You said cities have been rampaged by mages. What ones?" I tried to stay serious, as he looked shocked from me being physical with him.

"Oh. Most of Orlais, but I do hear Kirkwall is next." He raised a hopeful eyebrow and I sneered at him, then I smiled gratefully, turned on my heel and ran back to Alistair. He looked bored and jumped up as I walked over to him.

"Well?" He asked.

"I'm going to Kirkwall."

Alistair hesitated then frowned at me. "Are you crazy? He looked at me as if I was losing my mind

"Bethany is in danger, Alistair. I have to save her." I knew full well she'd be in danger. She'd never succumb to murder. She'd be the one protecting everyone. Which meant she was in danger.

"Well, you're not going alone. You do know this wont be easy?" I gazed into his eyes and realised. I never have to be alone. Not anymore.

"I'd tear down the sky if it would save her." I gazed up at the sky and made my silent promise.

The End

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