|bethen avilla ; the circle mage (bethe) wrote,|
@ 2010-08-16 00:03:00
The makeshift barricade of furniture against the front door is an exercise in futility; an old armoire will not be their savior as the family huddles in the back of the small house. Nevertheless, papa continues to stack chair upon table upon chair against an equally fragile wooden door that everyone knows won't hold. Sweat beads draw together into small streams over his tanned skin as he desperately struggles to lift every object in the room that isn't nailed down. Mama would help, but she's busy trying to get her children to stop crying, for fear that the sound will draw the attention of the beasts outside sooner. Not that it makes a difference, because everyone in the room, even six-year-old Ramon, knows that death is coming for them tonight. It has taken the form of a man-shaped creature, twisted and rotting and perhaps even more foul than their young imaginations can conjure up, for everyone their age has heard stories of the darkspawn. But those were myths, tales to frighten little boys and girls into good behavior. This is real, and somehow it isn't. Any second now, Bethen expects to wake up, startled, but safe and sound. As she watches the door and her papa, she takes an inch of skin between her fingers and pinches as hard as her small fingers can.
The pain in that second is not enough to stir her from the slumber she had been wishing for. Neither is the pain that comes an hour later, when the wooden barrier splinters apart and gives way to their attackers, and she finds herself pinned to the floor by the end of a shriek's poison-tipped blade, slipped between her ribs and through her heart.
One minute, she's struggling to pay attention to the diagram that Enchanter Arvin is drawing on the chalkboard because Cornelia and Sally won't stop whispering to one another, and the next she's struggling for her life in the midst of chaos. Soot and cinder coat the inside of her lungs, smoke smothering her nose and burning her throat as if that, too, had caught on fire in the explosion that scattered the class without warning. The skin on the left side of her face, the direction from which the hurling ball of flame came, is almost as black as her singed hair as she lays face down on the hard floor of the library. If she's bleeding somewhere, she can't tell, because everywhere either hurts or feels completely numb. Bethen tries, but can't wiggle the fingers on her right hand, though that might be because it isn't attached to the rest of her small body any longer. It makes little difference, though, because even if she could move, there would be no where to run.
Abominations are swarming the narrow aisles of the room. She can't see them from where she is trapped underneath a broken table and an avalanche of shredded books, but she can hear their march and the anguish of the other apprentices as they are descended upon. Beth tries to lay still, but her inability to breathe catches up with her and she begins to cough far harder than a dead body should. She doesn't have to wait very long before the contorted once-mages catch on; her coughs are silenced when she feels the fine pin-prick of nails rest against her back before being rammed in completely, piercing her chest and lungs.
The shock kills her before she can feel the claws rip the rest of her apart and she becomes nothing more than a mass of charred flesh, unrecognizable as a little girl by the time the heroes come swooping in.
Irving's faith in her readiness for this test is misplaced; Bethen fought hard and fought well, but ultimately, she was no match. But the virtuous are easy prey for demons of Pride -- thinking oneself to be too willful and too righteous is still a sin, after all. But her loss to hubris is only a temporary gain for the malicious spirit, since as soon as it opens her eyes, it -- and she, trapped behind an invisible barrier of control -- see a row of well-armed templar lying in wait to strike. There is one who stands in front of the rest, a dark-haired man the girl mage knows and calls friend, even if such a descriptor is discouraged in their ranks. The demon watches him as it sits this body up slowly, but it doesn't have very long before those gathered recognize it as an abomination. His bearded jaw is set in a grimace, though his eyes look softer than the rest of his set expression.
He's apologetic, but determined, and Beth is glad it's him over anyone else who brings his sword up to strike her -- and not her -- down. He does so with no malice, but equally without hesitation, for this is his duty and not even something wearing a friend's visage will deter him from following it. In some strange way, her failure strengthens his conviction and makes him a better soldier. Even in her last moments, she finds the light in a dark, dire situation. That she can do so irritates the demon briefly, but not long enough before the blade of the holy warrior forces it back through the Veil and takes the girl's soul with it.
After Alderic removes his weapon from the apprentice's prone figure, Greagoir clamps a heavy hand on the younger man's shoulder with pride.
Aurin Demarc is the first and the last thing she sees when she opens her eyes. Though the details of his face are blurred out by the tears that have welled up in her vision, the normally fearless man looks back at her with an absolutely horrified expression. He whispers something that sounds like her name, but she can't quite tell -- she feels like she's being held underwater, all her senses drowned. She opens her mouth and tries to apologize for everything, for how she'd lied to him earlier, how she'd been lied to, and how she should have known and done better by both of them. For how absolutely wrong she was, and how right he had always been. But no words come out, and she can taste iron and salt in her mouth, spilling out between crimson stained lips. Of course, it's difficult to speak when one's vocal chords have been slit; a deep gash runs across her throat, sticky and hot, red liquid pooling on the ground and soaking into the canary yellow of her robes. Vaguely, she remembers how it had come to this, the way the demon leered at her before bursting from the confines of the Fade, empowered by the sacrifice of a mage's blood. Death comes for everyone, but she never expected it to come at the hands of her closest friend. His betrayal cuts deeper than the silver dagger against her neck.
Everyone knows he shouldn't, but the other knights-templar allow Aurin to hover over her in her final moments, battle-rough hand gently brushing back the dark hair that clings to her pallid face in a feeble attempt to soothe her. His touch, his sympathy, only makes her feel more guilty for wanting to know where Constans is now, even as her life slips away because of his actions. She wonders if she'll see him on the other side soon, because she knows that it's too late to stay here, and that Aurin won't rest until she's been avenged. He's a better friend to her than she will ever get the chance to be, and she wishes she could say as much before everything goes black.
Aeonar was not designed as a prison, but the cell she's been living in for the last four or five or maybe nine months, maybe a year, was well-made to prevent self-inflicted asphyxiations. Or maybe their jailors learned after many attempts and successes, and that's why no bars here can hold a steady knot in a bedsheet and there's no moveable furniture to kick from under her feet. Once they found the sliver of sharpened rock she'd been using on the walls to keep track of the days -- at least what she thought were days, but the hours blend and mix when there's no sunlight, only a rotation of guards and a meal of slop thrown her way -- they took that, too. The Chantry has ensured that there are no escapes from this fortress, physical or otherwise. There are no releases, not even for a crime not committed, only accused, and never proven. But they don't care, they won't listen no matter how many times she sits through their interrogations. Sometimes she thinks she'll lie and tell them what they want to hear, that she knew what he was up to, that she helped him bring the demon through, but that would change nothing about her life sentence. Damned if you did, damned if you didn't.
But today might be different if she plays her cards right. There's a new sentinel parked outside the bars; Beth can tell by the way he stands in his tin templar suit, uneasy and twitching, hands hovering by the hilt of his weapon, that he's not used to this place. That he believes it's as haunted as they say it is -- not that they're lying, because after six months, she started seeing a familiar young man in her cell who eggs her on in these schemes. Whether it's really the remnants of his soul or just a manifestation of her guilt, she can't tell, but he's been her constant companion, just as he had been in life. And he's whispering in her ear now that this is her chance. He laughs as she lets out a shrill scream, drawing the guard's attention and his sword. It happens fast, but as soon as he opens the door to check on her body, she reaches out and snatches his gauntlet. The struggle is brief, but the results are satisfactory: she pulls, he pushes, and the errant blade finds its way into her belly and out the other side.
The shade of the young man she once called friend continues to chuckle, until she realizes that the sound is really her own breathless wheezing, echoing in the chamber until her body becomes as cold as the stone beneath her.
Her nerves have only grown tenser as she watches each person down their concoction and subsequently quiver and fall to the ground. The ratio of survivors to victims is dauntingly low -- what chance is there for her to wake up from a nightmare when stronger, better men and women hadn't? There is no backing out now, though, the Warden-Commander and his lieutenants made that message abundantly clear. And for all that she fears about taking the drink, she has greater fears about what may happen if she doesn't. Failure only comes as a result of trying in the first place. The ritualistic speech delivered at the beginning of the ceremony was a message she already understood. Sacrifice is necessary in a war, and even if this is just the start, their actions now may contribute to its end. And what does she have to lose, anyway? Only if she succeeds will she actually make an impact; she imagines that there is no consequence to the world if it loses one young mage who's spent most of her life isolated in a Tower. She takes the chalice after her name is called and brings it to her lips, having already promised her life and her death to this cause, regardless of whether or not it will come sooner rather than later.
The bitter, acrid flavor makes her gag, and she's rather glad that she had no appetite earlier that day. But the contents of her stomach are such a minor, trivial thought in lieu of the subsequent pain that seizes her body and causes her to crumple like a rag doll. She has never known a pain like this, one that grabs at every inch of her flesh, burrows into her bones, and threatens to burst forth from her skin, turning her inside-out. It is as if she is being flayed alive, and her fragile form can't handle any of the searing agony.
Bethen screams until no air remains in her lungs and more refuses to enter; this is the last sound and last breath she takes before her sacrifice is complete and yet another soldier fails to rise from their challenge.
No one would have expected her to be the last one standing, not even she herself, but this is where she finds herself now, her comrades fallen or preoccupied, struggling to survive against the endless waves of darkspawn. Who would have thought that the destiny of a meek librarian from the Circle Tower would one day be the destruction of a great evil? But this is the only moment to strike, and she is the only one capable of delivering the final blow while the beast lays on the ground, on the brink of death, though for the benefit of mankind, not quite there yet. An abandoned sword lays at her feet; it's heavy and clumsy in her hands, not her weapon of choice, but the one that will finish this war. She stops and stands before the creature's large head, her entire body barely stretching to the same length. The archdemon is more beautiful and terrible up close than it was even in her visions; it sings to her as they lock eyes, a cacophony of glorious sound striking her mind, washing over her and attempting to lull her into complacency. The sweet noise almost works to twist her mind, but her determination to see this through is greater than the hypnotic force of the dragon's requiem. She will be able to rest when this is done.
Bethen pauses only to survey the battle around her one last time, to catch a glimpse of the faces she will never see again, for she will not even go to the Fade or the Maker's throne after this. It breaks her heart to leave her friends and loved ones behind, but the only way to ensure that they will remain is to complete her task. She wishes them well, wishes joy, and peace and longevity in their lives, and the chance to forge new ones. She prays for a brighter future as she lifts up her blade and plunges it into Razikale's skull, using all of her might to push through hide and flesh and bone and brains. No one has even noticed her motions until this moment, when immeasurable power bursts forth from the Old God, encasing her body in light and heat, a beacon of hope for all who are witnessing the battle.
The magic that is released in the transference of souls burns through her, and for a moment every nerve in her body is on fire as their spirits meet, until the pain subsides and she feels herself leaving this mortal vessel and all the realms in between.
And then, the sheer freedom of nothingness.