Harvest Her! [complete]

((OOC: 01 Drakonis, 9:35 Dragon; early morning; The Deep Roads with and ))

The toll of months in the Deep Roads, of the battle with the templars, including Henri-Julien’s intrusion, and their foray to address the broodmother situation piled up and left Velanna needing significant rest. That rest took more forms that simply sleep, and replenishment of strength and magic. There was sleep in abundance, for sure, but there was also days spent outdoors, relishing in the new spring growth and incoming warmer weather, such as it was. She spent time with her journal, tucked into the bifurcation of a massive tree on the grounds, and took the liberty of using her magic for something other than violence. She encouraged grass to grow, and coaxed little tendrils of flowering trees to stretch and yield their blooms. She said a prayer to the gods to guide the dead and allow their souls to find rest in the Beyond, and planted a sapling in honor of Seranni. It was the least she could do for what felt like a failure to protect her sister, her first and possibly only friend. This was the only show of grief she allowed herself.

Of course the idyllic life could not last, and Warden duties called once more. Reports had come back of something massive causing disruption in the Deep Roads, something with powerful blood magic. Velanna was not opposed to blood magic entirely—like any magic she supposed it was the mage and not the magic itself that decided the morality of the spells cast—for certainly some of her own magic could be argued to be more dangerous. This was different, she knew, and whatever the source, it would need to be dealt with, the sooner the better.

Commander Berlra once again tasked her and Henri-Julien with handling this, and they put together a squad with the skills needed to take down such a mage. Despite what some might believe of her, Velanna did not by default assume that all mages were sacred beings. There were those who were dangerous, and they needed to be dealt with accordingly. Together with a newer warrior Alessandra, they were likely enough to handle a single blood mage.

Nothing could be simple. Their journey once again took them several grueling hours in before they stopped for rest, and they walked long through what Velanna assumed was most of the night. If she’d judged the passage of time properly, they were in the early hours of the new month, and well underway to the last reported sighting of their quarry.

“We should stop here for rest and food,” she announced. Deeming herself having proven her worth to the Wardens, she did not balk at using her magic around Henri-Julien. With a lift of a hand she tugged a root system from the wall and wound it around until she had a fair tuffet upon which to sit. She crossed her legs primly beneath her, as if lounging in a garden rather than in the bowels of the earth and removed a portion of her rations from her pack. “We are not far from where they were last seen.” If the mage in question had stayed closeby, they would need to be rested for what might possibly be a battle.
It was difficult to be smug in the face of blood magic. Yet, as with every challenge in his life, Henri-Julien was intent on conquering that particular struggle. The sheer horror of what he had witnessed during the earlier expedition into the Deep was pushed firmly to the very edges of his mind. He hoped that his steadfast refusals to dwell on what they had discovered in that forsaken cavern would eventually lead to the memories decaying entirely. He could go his entire life without encountering such perverse abominations ever again.

Hence the smugness. Even as he returned into the Deep, for what seemed to be the third time in as many weeks, Henri-Julien asserted his Maker-given gift of always being right. Was this not precisely what he had warned Commander Berlra about time and time again? Magic was dangerous. Those who possessed even the slightest ability required constant watch - and not by Grey Wardens. All magic casters should be confined to secure locations and monitored by Templars. Yet the lackadaisical nature of the Grey Wardens meant that there was a new report of a blood mage wreaking havoc close to the vicinity of that-which-shalt-not-be-named. Naturally, being the only Templar within the Fereldan ranks, it was Henri-Julien's responsibility to be a part of the group sent to investigate and destroy the abomination. 

And apparently, that did not mean Velanna. Henri-Julien planned to have a very frank conversation with Commander Berlra upon his return to the Keep. It was unacceptable that a Dalish Keeper not have restrictions placed upon them. He would make it very clear to the Commander that he must take action, or Henri-Julien would be forced to speak with the Revered Mother personally.

It was ruminating on this fact which helped to ease the hardship of travelling. The Deep, for all the ancient Roads carved through them, was never an easy route to travel. With his muscles beginning to ache from the strenuous demands, even more so than when traversing through the Frostbacks on the trail of an apostate, Henri-Julien was close to calling a halt.

But someone else beat him to it. "We should stop here for rest and food," decreed the apostate. He gritted his teeth as she deliberately taunted him, summoning magic to create - Andraste light his pyre - a seat twisted from a large root. Then, as though this were merely some pleasant jaunt through the Pilgrim's Path, she perched upon said seat with her legs crossed, reaching into her pack for some rations. "We are not far from where they were last seen."

"Nothing is casting here," Henri-Julien sniped, sparing a caustic glance towards her, "except you." That did not mean the blood mage was not nearby; just that there was no suggestion of them building their reserves for some all-out attack. But Henri-Julien was not about to acknowledge the finer details when he could remind current company of his superiority in matters of magic.

His lips thinning, he looked to their more junior companion. "What about you? Do you also need to rest or can we carry on?" His lips twisted into a smirk. "I can't imagine a warrior is as unfamiliar with physical exertion as a forest-wanderer."
"What about you? Do you also need to rest or can we carry on?" His lips twisted into a smirk. "I can't imagine a warrior is as unfamiliar with physical exertion as a forest-wanderer."

Lessa had been bringing up the rear, her thoughts her own. No one had seen fit to tell her why she was here, only that she was to accompany the two senior wardens. Velanna, well she had walked with the Hero of Ferelden, one of his, post blight companions from what she had been told, and she was a mage, a Dalish mage but a mage never the less, one to be treated with caution. As for Henri, well she had heard enough of him to last her a lifetime, his arrogance, once of the other junior wardens had told her, knew no limits and no bounds. Well if she had pissed the Warden Commander off at any point then this was as sure as hell a way to punish her. 

It wasn't that Lessa feared magic, she tended to keep an open mind about it, more so since she became a Grey Warden a little over a year ago, it was just that she didn't understand it and she didn't want to understand it. It was just another thing to be wary about when she was deep in the earths bowels, she expressed this by taking a little step back as Velanna made her seat, and almost didn't hear Henri's snide remark. 

"I don't know Ser Barrows, with the hot air blowing out of your mouth you might replenish our energy for us? and I believe Ser Velanna is the senior warden of the three of us? Considering who she walked with, she deserves a bit more respect," Lessa looked around and sat herself down on a rock, not the most comfortable of places to sit but it would suffice. She took out her sword and began to clean it "Would someone mind filling me in asto why we are here? I was told to come with you and i would like to know what i am getting myself into.

The Deep Roads were vast broken remnants of the once mighty Dwarfen Empire and yet. as vast as they were, Alessandra always felt a little claustrophobic and, if the dwarfs were terrified of falling into the sky, she was not keen on falling into molten lava. 
Henri-Julien, of course, objected not only to their stopping but Velanna taking a moment of comfort in her rest. "Nothing is casting here." he snapped, it being clear who his words were aimed at, "except you."

One perfectly-groomed eyebrow lifted on Velanna’s forehead. Given his templar training, it seemed he would know as well as she that it meant nothing. The lack of presence of a pull of magic was no guarantee that no mage was around. Simpleton.

Barrows did not stop his barbs with her. He turned to the warrior in their party, a woman whose name was Lisa or Lessa, she was unsure. What mattered was the woman held the strength to help them in their task. Except to Barrows.

"What about you?,” he asked her. “Do you also need to rest or can we carry on?" The way his full mouth twisted underscored his irritable words. "I can't imagine a warrior is as unfamiliar with physical exertion as a forest-wanderer."

Velanna let a heavy groan of exasperation. “Forgive me for wanting to ensure our party is in best form.” Unless their encounter with the undeveloped broodmothers taught him nothing.

Their warrior companion was not having any of his bluster. "I don't know Ser Barrows, with the hot air blowing out of your mouth you might replenish our energy for us? and I believe Ser Velanna is the senior warden of the three of us? Considering who she walked with, she deserves a bit more respect," she said, drawing a duck-lipped smirk from Velanna. A practical woman of good sense, for a shemlen.

Velanna held her tongue on what sort of respect her time with Aedan had earned her.

"Would someone mind filling me in asto why we are here?” Elissa or whatever continued. “I was told to come with you and i would like to know what i am getting myself into."

Velanna shot an icy look to Henri-Julien. She was certain it had been his responsibility to fill her in. It seemed she could not rely on the man to do anything without being directed to doing it with explicit instructions. Useless shemlen man. A waste of a sharp jaw and adequate hairline. Her stomach recoiled at the involuntary thought.

“Then I imagine stopping was a wise decisions.” Velanna dusted nothing from her lap and turned her large, bright green eyes to the warrior woman. “On a recent mission we encountered signs of blood magic. Since nothing good or practical can come of it being used this deep without Warden knowledge, we are hunting them to gain said Warden knowledge on Commander Berlra’s orders.” She pursed her lips before adding, “I am not naive enough to believe that it will not come to a fight we need to be prepared and,” she turned the knife’s edge of her words to the shemlen pup too eager to hunt and potentially end the life of a mage, “rested for.”

Barrows had at least demonstrated, in her humiliating capture, that he had the requisite skills for the mission. Not that it raised her esteem of him any. “I know he will at least be useful should it come to that.” She turned back. “I assumed that your selection to accompany us indicates at least a passing experience with blood mages.”

It seemed unlikely they would come across anything as dangerous as the Baroness she’d faced in the Blackmarsh with Aedan. Honestly, who traveled to a place called the Blackmarsh and didn’t expect trouble? Aedan Cousland, that was who.

Her gaze snapped across the space to Henri-Julien once again. “I like to know I can trust those who fight beside me.” She was not yet sure she could claim as much of Barrows, but was willing to give this woman a chance to prove herself worthy of it.
Henri-Julien shot a withering glare towards Velanna as she delivered her pointless retort, before the warrior, a relatively newly Joined Grey Warden by the name of Lessa, made clear her allegiances. 

"I don't know Ser Barrows, with the hot air blowing out of your mouth you might replenish our energy for us?" The full force of the insult hit against the armour of his self-confidence, leaving not so much as a scratch.

However, what the words did do was to establish the allegiance which Lessa held. And it was not in favour of the might of the Chantry and their loyal Templars. Henri-Julien offered a thin smile, noting that this was yet another fool who had joined the ranks. Why did he maintain this hope that one day, just one day, he would meet another Grey Warden who truly understood the persistent danger posed by the recruitment of these magic-wielders? Clearly, no one else had the wits to recognise the threat which loomed each and every day.

But whereas her initial response had only served to irritate him, it was Lessa's follow-up which succeeded in garnering his full attention. "And I believe Ser Velanna is the senior warden of the three of us? Considering who she walked with, she deserves a bit more respect."

Although Velanna herself remained tellingly quiet, Henri-Julien could not hold back the derisive snort. It exploded from him as he rounded on the woman, undeterred by her superior bulk and strength. What was physical prowess in the face of righteousness? "I hold position directly below the Commander, Junior Warden." That Velanna was also a Senior Warden by virtue of her Joining was accurate but she had yet to be recognised by the Commander as holding any significant responsibility beyond that of time served. Henri-Julien was determined that Commander Berlra not make such a misguided decision. "You will address me with the respect I am due." It irked him that he did not know which of them had been Joined first, but he was not about to reveal either his irritation or the specifics. He had no knowledge of Velanna beyond her annoying appearance the month before.

Fortunate that Lessa opted to change topics. "Would someone mind filling me in as to why we are here? I was told to come with you and i would like to know what i am getting myself into."

Predictably, the apostate darted one of her pointed looks towards him, the silent barb needling at him. Given his sharp rebuke about his position of command, he could hardly point out that she had received the same briefing as he had.

"Then I imagine stopping was a wise decisions," she drawled. Idly, Henri-Julien wondered if her ability to condescend every one and thing was an innate ability or something purposefully mastered. She devoted her full attention to Lessa; something for which Henri-Julien was oddly resentful. His rolling of the eyes only worked if there was an audience. "On a recent mission we encountered signs of blood magic. Since nothing good or practical can come of it being used this deep without Warden knowledge, we are hunting them to gain said Warden knowledge on Commander Berlra’s orders." Her lips drew into a pout as she considered. "I am not naive enough to believe that it will not come to a fight we need to be prepared and," Henri-Julien sensed the rythm of the conversation focusing back on him specifically, "rested for."

"Remind me to inform the many Templar trackers who detain apostates," he muttered beneath his breath. Rest was not a luxury which any Templar could afford when locating those who had strayed from the strict path the Maker had set out for their sinful souls.

Velanna carried on as though he had not spoken. He rolled his eyes, confident that the gesture would not be missed, even if it was not commented upon. "I know he will at least be useful should it come to that." She returned her focus to Lessa. "I assumed that your selection to accompany us indicates at least a passing experience with blood mages."

With a slight jolt, Henri-Julien felt the full weight of Velanna's glare upon him once more. He met it with one of his own, a tussle of wills playing out between them with nary a word. "I like to know I can trust those who fight beside me."

His lip curled into a sneer. "I will never trust you." The words were fuelled with a deep instinctive hatred that had been nurtured since his childhood. Yet the ferocity of his feeling surprised even Henri-Julien and he swiftly moved away into the flickering shadows, concealed from the two women while he took a little food and water to replenish his energies. It was apparent that they would not be continuing until they had all rested, no matter his protests. 
"I hold position directly below the Commander, Junior Warden. You will address me with the respect I am due." 

Lessa arched a slender eyebrow and looked around her then snorted a little. Yup what she had heard about Ser former Templar wassisname was completley true. It was true that magic, concerned her too, but not for the same reasons Burrows had. Dalish magic was not one you messed about with. With a sigh she rolled her eyes and her finger as if to say "yeah yeah" and went to sit down for a moment, one of the flattened rocks looked like it might be slightly more comfortable than its brethren. 


"On a recent mission we encountered signs of blood magic. Since nothing good or practical can come of it being used this deep without Warden knowledge, we are hunting them to gain said Warden knowledge on Commander Berlra’s orders. I am not naive enough to believe that it will not come to a fight we need to be prepared and,rested for."

Well that was refreshing, one of them at least deigned to let her know what they were doing. a but then the man of the group, had to say something even if it was under his breath.someone who had to have the last word it seemed. "Remind me to inform the many Templar trackers who detain apostates,"

"And a good job they do too." Lessa murmured, respectful to the Templars and thier duties at least, "but Chantry business is not Warden business, day you became a Grey Warden is the day you left the life of the Templar." She rubbed her nose a little and rested her chin on the top of her shield. The words of her mentor ringing in her ears when she was first joined to the order a year or so ago. 

"I know he will at least be useful should it come to that." Velanna commented and returned her focus to Lessa. "I assumed that your selection to accompany us indicates at least a passing experience with blood mages."

Lessa shook her head "No Velanna, i have never encountered Blood Mages, Darkspawn magic during the blight and circle mages magics but never blood magic." despite the neutrality in her voice she couldn't suppress the slight shudder that made its way through her spine.

"I like to know I can trust those who fight beside me." Velanna added, Lessa raised her hand a little to say she would watch her back, her mind still going over the revelation that there might be blood magic afoot. 

"I will never trust you.

Well that did not surprise Lessa in the slightest and she rolled her eyes once more, seriously, she had been placed with a mage and former Templar who did not like each other. This was going to be a fun journey, not. Lessa did not like being down here at the best of times, she found it too claustrophobic. Yes she was a Grey Warden and yes, it was expected that some of her duties would take place down here. she still didn't like it. Too many shadows where things could jump out, like those Genlock rogues or Shrieks, Andrastes Knickers she hated Shrieks. 

"Then you had better start learning to trust each other." she sighed "Cause i expect you both to watch my back as you expect me to watch yours." She rose from where she was sitting and heaved a sigh "What a lovely bonding trip this is, I'll take watch





"I will never trust you."

It wasn’t the words themselves which shook Velanna deep in her chest where her survival instincts dwelled. It was the ferocity with which Henri-Julien said them. A cold ran through her, shattering her calm, such as it was.

"Then you had better start learning to trust each other." the other Warden said with a huff of air. "Cause i expect you both to watch my back as you expect me to watch yours. What a lovely bonding trip this is, I'll take watch"

A woefully inexperienced Warden, and Barrows. This was the team assembled to send them after the blood mage. If it had been anything more than a single mage they’d spotted and avoided before, Velanna would have marched them all straight back to the Keep. The Wardens, and her sanity, could not take another devastation like had happened in that cavern of broodmothers.

“No need to take a watch. Warden Barrows is right. We should move on.” Velanna unbound the mass of roots upon which she’d been sitting and put the remainder of her rations back into her pack. “It’s obvious the mage isn’t here, and we want to follow before the trail fades.” Not bothering to bite her words back, she added, “I hope we can trust a tracker to pick up the trail at all.”

The truth was that she did not trust him. If she’d not proven her allegiance to at least the Order when she’d tried to save his life on their last mission, then she was never going to be anything more than a nuisance and a danger in his eyes. His words still echoed in her ears, and she wondered if she needed to watch her back rather than just defend it. Fortunately she did not need his approval, and Velanna had been on her own quite enough over the years to know when she could rely on others. The short answer there was that she couldn’t.

On they forged, keeping whatever pace Borrows saw fit to set. He was keen to be the leader, then he could lead for all she cared, even if he’d had yet to demonstrate himself capable of it. He certainly couldn’t follow orders, could he? So high was he above all others!

The tunnel ahead of them split in twain, and irrespective of who was in charge, a shudder in the Veil pulled Velanna’s attention. “This way,” she ordered, heedless, and set off to explore it. Given the choice to wait for Barrows to argue his way around to accepting this needed looking into and running off to potentially face a blood mage alone, she opted for the obvious. She did not wait for them to follow. The further away she got, the more she realized what she was feeling was less a shudder in the Veil, and more a tear. A violent one, too.

Her elven eyes having adjusted to the dark she slowed, not keen to miss anything, and unwilling to tempt the other side with unnecessary magic just yet. The boundary between the realm of dreams and magic and this one hummed as if in pain, a telltale sign of blood magic used carelessly.

Blood magic, in Velanna’s option, could be used in a careful way. While she’d never resorted to it herself, the theory of it was taught to her by Ilshae all that time ago. Whoever had been working it here had no such respect for it. Slowly, one step landing carefully before she committed to the next one, she advanced. The smell of copper caught her nose before her toe nudged against something which should have been softer than it was. She lit the top of her staff, the flickering light casting sickly shadows, and reflecting off of what she quickly realized was spent blood, in a coagulating pool around a body which looked as though it could have been feasted upon.

“Over here,” she called to the others. The weight of mana pressed upon her in a way she did not like. “The Veil is practically in tatters here.” Perhaps an exaggeration, but not much of one. The green of her staff’s light reflected and made her eyes look alien and black as she turned to them, the level she held it making the shadows reach like fingers over her cheekbones and jaw. “Something was yanked through here, and I do not think it was particularly pleased about it.” She stuttered a step back, bumping into whoever stood behind her. She’d been trained to resist those from the Beyond, those spirits across the Veil, but that did not mean she was foolish enough to think she needed no assistance. Still, she cursed the flicker of vulnerability in her voice as she said, “Stay close.”
His outburst brought forth a world-weary sigh from the junior Warden. "Then you had better start learning to trust each other." Her voice filled the void which stretched between the trio. "Cause i expect you both to watch my back as you expect me to watch yours."

Only the fact that Henri-Julien was still rattled from the pure venom in his words spared Alessandra from a swift rebuke over her remarks. That, and the harsh reality that even if there were other Wardens watching their comrades' backs, it did not guarantee survival. That accursed den of broodmothers have proved as much.

Rising to her feet, Alessandra added, "What a lovely bonding trip this is, I'll take watch."

However, miracles of miracles, Velanna had been forced to see sense. She quickly dismissed the other Warden's offer. "No need to take a watch. Warden Barrows is right. We should move on." Wasn't he always right? Yes. But some people clearly had difficulty in comprehending the truth of it. "It’s obvious the mage isn’t here, and we want to follow before the trail fades,” she went on, returning her rations to her pack and releasing the magical hold she had on the roots. "I hope we can trust a tracker to pick up the trail at all."

He grunted. "Picked up your trail, didn't I?" Either she was some gifted apostate who had tested his very mettle, hence proving the superiority of his skills... or she was a mediocre apostate who had been lucky to evade capture so long, hence proving the inferiority of her skills. Either way, Henri-Julien remained the worthier individual.

Regardless, he was gratified to finally be permitted to make full use of his abilities. Much of his self-confidence rested on the irrefutable fact that he was, in fact, a gifted tracker. That the Chantry had managed to hone the necessary skills - keen observation, sharp wits, steel-forged tenacity - into the pursuit of apostates and abominations was merely a matter of chance, though Henri-Julien no longer possessed the unshackled imagination to construct a life beyond the tenets of the Chant.

Of course, Velanna could not help herself. Despite Henri-Julien leading the trio directly towards the location of the apostate, following what he could only describe as nicks in the Veil: small slices of minor damage which acted as a beacon to his lyrium-infused senses, acting as tiny flickering beacons in the dark, the Dalish suddenly broke away as he paused momentarily to confirm what his senses told him. There was a significant tear in the Veil nearby.

"This way," was the only advance warning she gave before taking to her heels down one of the tunnels.

Growling beneath his breath, Henri-Julien looked to Alessandra. "Weapons," he ordered. "Do not wait for the apostate to strike; take your opportunity as soon as it reveals itself." Really, the Order of the Grey badly needed to organise recruitment directly from the Templars. How else were they to nullify the threat which magic posed without assistance from his former brethren?

Something had forced Velanna to slow her steps. "Over here," she called to them. "The Veil is practically in tatters here." When the faint green glow of her staff fell across her face, it created an eerie yet ethereal appearance. "Something was yanked through here, and I do not think it was particularly pleased about it." With a faltering step, she fell back until her shoulder bumped against Henri-Julien. Without thinking, his gorge fighting against the glimpses of torn flesh scattered around the cavern, the former Templar reached out to steady her, his touch gentle as his fingers clasped around her upper arm. It was only when he heard the thickness in her voice as she advised, "stay close," did he remember himself, abruptly snatching his hand away. 

"This is not the work of only a blood mage." The damage of the Veil burned Henri-Julien as though it were injuries inflicted upon his own skin. Yes, each and every blood mage was an abomination, but they could not possess this amount of power without losing themselves entirely. Whoever the blood mage might have been, it was that no longer. "I suggest we," his gaze flicked involuntarily to Velanna, recalling how this had played out only a matter of a week ago, "split up. I have more chance of surviving a face-to-face encounter." His Templar abilities would afford him a protection which his companions could not claim. "While I distract it, you two work together to destroy it." His jaw tightened. "We cannot spare its life. Agree this now or decide another plan. I will not risk my life to save what can't be saved."
Lessa didn't say much, truth was she didn't know what to say and if there was anything that needed to be said and when she saw the body parts scattered about even she had to swallow several times less she spill her lunch. However she readied her shield and drew her sword slowly and quietly less thier quarry be nearby.  

"This is not the work of only a blood mage." The former Templar spoke, "split up. I have more chance of surviving a face-to-face encounter." Well that made sense, he had been a Templar and if what Brother Bernard had said to her when she was young, then those abilities were not to be scoffed at "While I distract it, you two work together to destroy it. We cannot spare its life. Agree this now or decide another plan. I will not risk my life to save what can't be saved."

Lessa nodded her agreement when it came to magical serial killers she was way out of her depth here, something caught her eye and swearing loudly and long she pulled Henri back as something, she didn't know what, skitted towards them then darted down one of the tunnels. It was small. squat and certainly like nothing she had ever seen before. She had been told the stories of the Children from her friends who had survived the plague of Amaranthine, and, judging by thier more descriptive words, this was way more grotesque then them. 

"What the fek was that!" She hissed she began to wonder what other horrors lay down here. 

Lessa had heard the stories of the broodmothers from other wardens. Women of any race, bloated and changed and constantly giving birth to these, things. and once again she prayed that her mentor and best friend was not one of them. 

"Theres something bad down down here. really really bad." she muttered and put her helm on so that none of them could see the slight paleness of her face.  What or whoever those body parts belonged to, really wasn't going to bode well for them. 
"I suggest we," Barrows looked at Velanna, his eyes taking on the same black quality hers had, "split up.” Yes because that worked so well the last time. “I have more chance of surviving a face-to-face encounter." That she could not claim otherwise, even if that chance of surviving was almost zero. "While I distract it, you two work together to destroy it." Then, because he obviously craved the sound of his own voice, "We cannot spare its life. Agree this now or decide another plan. I will not risk my life to save what can't be saved."

“Would my word hold any weight with you?” Velanna snapped back under her breath. He could not have it both ways. Either he trusted her or he didn’t. It was a useless question when they had more pressing matters to attend to.

The other Warden with them seemed to tend toward the skittish. Something, no doubt drawn by the fresh meal they’d stumbled upon, brushed by, unidentifiable in the dark but very much there. "What the fek was that!"

“Not the worst of what we could find here,” Velanna noted. The way the Veil thinned here was not a good sign and certainly gave her pause, but being a Grey Warden who was scared of the dark? Well, that sounded ridiculous. Not to mention dangerous.

"Theres something bad down down here. really really bad.”

That was one way to put it. “That’s what I’m afraid of,” Velanna said quietly.

Since they were to split up, Velanna motioned for the other woman to go with her, and they set out in the opposite direction of Barrows. “The good news is that we have not lost the trail.” She put on a grim smile. “The bad news is there is another dismembered person here.”

She could only surmise that whoever this was had traveled with a group under some pretense or another only to turn them into fodder. “There might have been a party, but I would wager they are alone now.”

The tunnel sloped downward, judging by the direction the blood had flowed and it wasn’t long before. A few steps later and a sensation ripped across Velanna’s skin, that subtle hum of blood magic was near. With a few steps more she got them to a position where they could see past a convenient pile of rocks which had broken free and settled at exactly chest height. She crouched, motioning for the other woman to do the same, and peeked around.

Velanna had seen some horrible things in her years, and worse things after she’d joined the Wardens. If The Mother and the broodmothers were not enough, then this thing before them certainly would haunt her. All she could compare it to was just a pile of meat on legs, one foot dragging as it walked. Even disfigured though it was, she could see that they’d found the rest of the remains, arms and faces all held together by gristly tendons. There was nothing human left here beyond what they could see. “There’s no hope for this. We must kill it.”

Velanna channeled a burst of mana through her staff, making the weapons of the other warden a protective coating of flame, not hot to the wielder of said things, but deadly against flesh and bone. Now they waited for Barrows to cause the distraction.
To his abruptly issued condition, Lessa was quick to nod her agreement. Though there was a flurry of swearing and agitation from all three as they each glimpsed the skittering of something through the shadows. At least they were all in agreement: whatever accursed thing existed here, it required being destroyed. 

While Velanna led Lessa down another of the tunnels, Henri-Julien found his own separate way around to where he could sense the abomination. He could feel further tearing of the Fade as the creature made yet more calls upon its magic, but he was in no way prepared for what he was about to witness. Creeping into the shadows, Henri-Julien felt his gorge rise as he saw a movement up the body of the grotesque thing. Horror washed over him as he realised it was the head of the damned thing, complete with its own distorted limbs, climbing atop its perch. When united, the two abhorrent parts created a single grisly whole. Never in his life had Henri-Julien glimpsed anything so foul - and he had only recently destroyed a broodmother lair.

A tell-tale tug on his lyrium revealed that Velanna and Lessa were nearby, readying themselves for battle. Forcing himself to calm his breathing, Henri-Julien turned his focus on the matter at hand, searching for the inner peace which he had honed since his very first vigil. If he was to ensure that he did not inflict a severing of the Fade for Velanna, he would have to be very careful about where and how he released a burst of cleansing magic. That meant getting in front of their position but he would have to judge the timing perfectly so as not to impede their own attacks. Just as well that he was responsible for this. Someone else would have gotten it wrong.

Bursting forth from his hiding place, Henri-Julien combined a flurry of daggers with a well-aimed dirty kick, putting out of his mind how his foot sank into the putrid flesh of the creature. The body itself was slow and lumbering compared to the skittering speed they had all seen from the head. However, for the moment, the two parts remained a unified whole. He danced backwards, confident in his abilities to dodge and defend. Once the monster had spun around from where he was confident the two women were hidden, Henri-Julien ducked back around and unleashed his lyrium abilities at close quarters, ensuring the blast was focused forward so as to minimise any effect on the currently lesser of two abominations.
Lessa was not sure what she was more shocked at, the flame that suddenly appeared before and around her, or the thing that was shuffling its way towards Henri. She had to ignore the fact that such a disgusting abomination of a creation would haunt her dreams for a considerable amount of time. Drawing her sword and her shield she leapt the wall and landed on the other side of it to where the Templar...former Templar was. Alessandra moved out the way of the arms, everything about this screamed foulest blackest magic. and the body parts on the floor was testermoiunt to that, with a kick she booted the smaller skittering thing across the floor hoping to stick it into the flames or whatever Henri was doing. 

Unfortunately that thing seemed more interested in her now and skitted towards her. she slammed her shield down and swung it in an arc connecting with the creature but to her horror it went up in the air and landed on the body once more. 

"Oh really" she groaned to herself and turned to face it. her sword cut down and up making a squelching sound, but she did cut into it, although withdrawing her sword took her more effort than she thought. she ducked under a clumsy swing and cut the other side, only to slip on something unsavoury. the thing made some sort of noise and looked then rolled away. Getting to her feet once more she readied her sword and shield, the things arm hanging 

"Whatever you are going to do, do it!" she yelled 
Since her days of traveling with Aedan it was not often that Velanna could claim surprise at the things she saw. After all, little could surprise a person who had seen talking, sentient darkspawn, an impossible number of broodmothers. Then there was the fiend who had won Seranni’s loyalty. That what she saw now horrified her beyond any of those was certainly saying something.

Once it was apparent that Barrows, judging by the shudder in the Fade she felt, had drawn the attention of the creature, the woman warrior added her sword and shield to the cause, getting a few good hits in before she slipped on some part of the creature or another. She recovered, her stance at the ready again.

"Whatever you are going to do, do it!" the other woman yelled.

Velanna did not need to be told twice. Close quarters fighting such as this meant that launching fire into the fray would hurt as much or more as it helped. The cavern shook as lifted her arms, commanding more than coaxing the scarce roots that could be summoned this far down. The first tendril lashed out, catching the creature about one of it’s gruesome legs. Another wound about an arm bent at an incredible angle. Velanna grunted, closing both fists and holding them together, the roots obeying and growing tighter. Then, with a gutteral shriek she pulled her arms apart, rending the appendages asunder so fast that the monster did not have time to react to her attack. Another loop of roots caught about another horrific limb, but now she’d lost the element of surprise. The creature tore at the roots, but the damage from their rogue and warrior hindered its ability to get free. It was bound almost still in moments.

Satisfied that it was secured, Velanna drew back, grasped her staff, and launched a barrage of arcane bolts.
Between Lessa inflicting her own hits and Velanna - belatedly, in his opinion - attacking with roots, the horrific creature was soon overpowered. At least for the moment. Its limbs were stretched beyond what was natural, half suspended in the air. While Velanna shifted to launching arcane bolts, Henri-Julien tipped a brusque acknowledgement towards Lessa, silently communicating that it was for them to finish this thing.

Famous last words.

While the body itself was restrained, the head was not. Screeching, it leapt from atop the body, sprawling against the hard rock beneath their feet. It slipped and slid on its... arms? feet? ... before rushing into the darkness, swallowed by shadows. Yet, somehow, the lumbering remains of the body still retained strength, fighting against the restraints as best it was able given the damage Lessa and Velanna had dealt it.

"Fire," Henri-Julien gasped. He spun around to face Velanna. "Burn it!" he yelled, face contorted in his urgency. "Before the head comes back, burn it!"

He lunged towards Lessa and hauled her backwards, just as the uninjured arm wrenched the roots from the ceiling, swinging out towards where the two Wardens had been stood. "Keep it away from the mage," he ordered Lessa. "I'm going to try and see where the head went." Clearly, it would be futile to try and destroy the wily foul thing, but they at least needed to know it would not circle around and block their exit.
"Keep it away from the mage," Henri-Julien ordered Lessa. "I'm going to try and see where the head went."

Go and see where the head was? was he fricking serious?  Lessa thought to herself but she said nothing twirled her sword round in her hand and raised her shield. Whilst Velanna was busy hitting it with the fire that manifested from her staff. Lessa had heard about what the Wardens mages could do, unbound to the same laws as those in the Circle and with no Templars at thier backs to watch them, but it was an entirely different thing to see it.

"Join the Grey Wardens, be a hero to the people of the world, end the Blight and be held up as a hero of your nation." She muttered to herself. "Fight the darkspawn, cut them down until there is not many left to start a blight but tell no one about the other monstrosities that are lurking down here, cause that would look bad on a Warden Commanders resume"  

She blocked the arm with her shield, or at least what passed for an arm and moved back, running on adrenalin now and alternating between her sword and her shield, just as she had been taught by her mentor. Alessandra dodged several times but mistimed the last step and slipped and that was when this thing swung and caught her a glancing blow on the side of her head. had she not been wearing her helm, she'd have been out cold. as it was she had to shake her head several times to clear it. 

Cursing and snarling under her breath she managed to right her stance and with a yell born of horror and desperation she sliced her blade through the wound she had already caused it severing it. Breathing harshly, she raised her shield and rested her sword on the top. angling her shield a little to protect her face, less it did something else unholy like spit acid out of its arse or something. She narrowed her eyes and waited for a chance to strike again but kept herself between Velanna and the thing, less it start seeing the Elf as a tasty morsel.