Another chapter I wrote mostly by myself while my Brain was on holiday. Short, but the next chapter(s) are going to be really good!
The Bard’s Dream
The Fade darkened, and Bannon wondered if this was going to be another nightmare, like Zevran’s. What did he really know about Leliana and her past? She claimed to be on a mission of mercy assigned by the Maker Himself, yet Zevran had said that Orlesian bards were thinly-disguised assassins in their own right. Who knows what the mysterious redhead had been up to in her past?
They felt the music before they could actually hear anything. It rumbled through the ground, the bass notes so low they were nearly inaudible. Then ahead, just as it was growing too dark to see a hand in front of one’s face, there came a glow. A golden light splintered into rainbow colours, cast from towering windows made of jewel-like chips in black latticework. The windows defined a Chantry, but like no Chantry Bannon had ever seen. It was huge, stone, turreted like a palace. Song broke over the little group as they ascended the steps, an angelic choir delivering praises up to the Golden City of heaven.
Inside, the vast hall was lit with candles, hundreds of them. They lined the walls in towering wrought-iron candelabras, they hung in tiers from chandeliers overhead. Every inch of the grand Chantry was bathed in light. There were no shadows, only overlapping areas of deeper gold.
The pews were lined with Chantry Sisters, each bearing a three-tined candelabra. Their eyes looked heavenward; their throats swelled with song. The pure notes enveloped Bannon and his companions. The elf walked slowly down the aisle, afraid to break the enchanted moment. He felt distinctly grubby and hoped fervently that his footsteps weren’t about to blacken this holy place. He spied Leliana at the front of the chapel, kneeling at the altar.
Behind him, Morrigan sighed. “Enough nonsense. Let us slay these demons and be gone.”
Bannon whirled and shushed her. “No! Bad idea!” he whispered loudly. “We can fight fifty demons with Leliana or fifty demons and Leliana.”
“I hardly see how that makes much of a difference.” The witch sniffed haughtily. “We have three–” She stopped and shot a glare down towards the mouse– “make that two and one-eighth mages.”
Wynne came up on Morrigan’s other side. “We can’t attack while she is enmeshed in the dream. It might do irreparable harm to her mind.”
“I hardly see how that would make much of a difference, either.”
“Morrigan, it’s called ‘strategy,'” Bannon growled.
“Very well. But don’t expect me to play in this farce.”
“Fine, wait back here. Niall…?” He looked around for the rodent; the talking mouse was a good way to prove this was a dream. The mage had abandoned his toy horse, however, and was scampering to the front of the cathedral. Bannon followed quietly, hoping the rodent wasn’t love-struck by one of his female companions yet again.
Niall was looking up at Leliana with worship in his beady little eyes. “Dear child….”
Leliana looked up. “Maker?”
“Uh, no. I’m down here, child,” the mouse said.
“You’ve come down amongst your people once more? It is a blessed day indeed!” She leapt up, causing the mouse to scurry back for cover. “I must tell the Revered Mother!” She strode off before Bannon could talk to her.
“Did you tell her this is a dream?” he asked Niall.
“Uh… no, I didn’t get a chance. She seems to have mistaken me for the Maker.” The mouse looked sheepish.
Bannon palmed his face. For a moment he wondered if he could just have ‘the Maker’ explain the demons to Leliana, but that would just create more complications. He followed after the wayward nun as she went to speak to the Revered Mother. Wynne and Morrigan followed silently.
“And He told me that He has come once more among the people. Surely this is a blessed day, Your Reverence.”
“Nonsense,” the severe, dark-haired Mother said.
Leliana seemed taken aback by this short dismissal. “But… but you believe me.”
The Revered Mother rolled her eyes. “Nobody believes you, child.”
“But I….” Leliana’s voice cracked slightly. She turned back and looked at Bannon, and the others as they caught up to him, in confusion. “They don’t?” She sounded like a lost child.
“Yes we do!” Bannon insisted. “The Maker sent you to help the Grey Wardens.”
Her sea-storm eyes looked at him blankly. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
“It’s me, Bannon. The Grey Warden? The Hero of the Blight?”
“Hero? You hardly seem the hero type to me.” She drew in on herself, crossing her arms over her midriff defensively.
“What? Because I’m short, dark and handsome?” the elf snorted. He tossed up his hands in annoyance.
Morrigan gave one of her impatient sighs and just cut to the heart of screwing up the matter. “He doesn’t believe you,” she told Leliana flatly; “He just wants to use you.” Bannon slapped his face, harder this time.
“Morrigan?” Leliana recognized Morrigan? And not him? The Chantry Sister faced the witch. “You think that everyone is like you. You care for no one but yourself!”
“And if I do not? Who shall care for me, if not myself?”
“Not everyone is so selfish. Good people can see beyond their own grasp; they can understand that we are all in this world together. They know that extending aid to others also strengthens them.”
“And they become easy prey for those who would use them.”
Leliana blew out a strong breath in frustration. “I do not know what happened to you, Morrigan, to make you believe ill of all people. But it is not the truth of the world. Yes, I can admit, there are those who would deceive you and use you, but that is not everyone. There are many with kindness in their hearts. There are people who believe in the Maker and His works.”
“And then there’s this charlatan, who’d let you continue to believe you are conversant with a deity, when in fact, you are talking to a mouse,” Morrigan said. Leliana looked baffled.
Bannon scowled. “That’s not true!” He’d already discarded that as a bad idea.
The witch shot a cat-eyed glare at the mouse. “Niall, tell her.”
The mouse-mage tiptoed forward, his little twig staff clicking against the floor. “Uhm….” He stood on his hind legs and waved his free paw sheepishly. “I’m afraid you’ve mistaken me for the Maker, miss. B-but I’m quite flattered!”
“I don’t understand?” Leliana looked between the mouse and Morrigan.
“He’s a mage too stupid to regain his true form.”
Niall slumped in shame.
Wynne said, “That’s enough, Morrigan.”
“I’m only telling the truth. Does not he Chantry preach that truth is divine?”
“The Chantry does a great many good works,” Wynne said, taking umbrage at Morrigan’s sarcastic tone.
“Oh, is this the same mage who was prepared to annihilate ‘Chantry fools’ just a little while ago?”
“I did not mean everyone associated with the Chantry,” Wynne insisted. “You misrepresent my words.”
Morrigan started in on the Templars. Bannon glanced at the Revered Mother, who had a smug smirk on her face. “Hold it!” the elf interrupted the heated debates. “None of that is the point, here.” He turned to Leliana. “This is not your Chantry– it’s the Fade. That is not a Revered Mother; it’s a demon.” Bannon jabbed a finger at the creature. “Please, Leliana, try to remember. The Maker showed you a vision of the Blight. You left the Chantry to join the Grey Wardens– me and Alistair– to fight it. That demon in the mage tower, it trapped us here.”
She turned away from him, her face creased in confusion and doubt. “How can I tell what is real?”
The Revered Mother touched her arm. “Listen to your heart, child. It knows the truth. Do not be fooled by these demons. Keep your faith strong.”
“Leliana, we’re not demons! That’s the demon!” Bannon argued.
“Just what a demon would say,” the Mother said haughtily. “Look how they’re trying to trick you– with the false voice of the Maker.”
“That was just a misunderstanding.”
Leliana whirled on the elf. “You don’t believe in me! You don’t even believe in the Maker!”
“Yes, I do!”
“You do not believe that any person could be so close to the Maker!”
“Believe me,” Bannon growled; “I’ve never been so close to the Maker as I am now. If you could just break free of this dream, we could walk outside and see the Blackened City in the sky! I pray I never get this close again, at least until after I’m dead.”
“How can I believe in you?” Leliana shook her head. She turned towards the Revered Mother for comfort.
“I believe in you, child,” the demon purred.
Bannon didn’t know what else they could do, aside from sticking the priestess with a sword. Wynne stepped past him. “My dear– Leliana– please listen to us. Surely you remember fighting in the Circle Tower? We are still in that fight.”
“Leave her here, if she can’t see the truth,” Morrigan said coldly.
Leliana shot her a glare. “Truth is not what you see, Morrigan!”
“You remember Morrigan,” Bannon said. “Why don’t you remember the rest of us?”
“That was… so long ago.” The redhead’s brow wrinkled.
“Banish these demons from your mind, my child.” The Revered Mother came up behind Leliana and grasped her shoulders. She smoothed her hands over the young woman’s arms. “They will not trouble you again.” Leliana’s eyes grew stormy.
“Listen to me,” Bannon jumped in. “If we were demons, we would have read your mind, and we’d have been what you wanted to see. I’d be some tall, gleaming, broad-shouldered, blond hero– hell, I’d be Alistair! But I’m just me. I’m real.”
“And the Revered Mother, the peaceful Chantry…. Everything I wanted–!” Leliana’s eyes widened. “That’s how the demons would tempt me!”
Leliana turned, shaking off the demon’s grasp. “Begone, spirit of deception! And trouble the faithful no more!”
The demon shrieked, but it was a hollow echo. It’s form unraveled; it blew away like a cloth on a strong wind. All around the group, the Chantry demons were speared by the light they carried. They vanished like flames blown out.
Bannon blinked. He had no idea one could banish demons with just… faith. Judging by the looks Wynne and Morrigan were giving Leliana, it was news to them, too.
“We still have not defeated this Sloth Demon,” Morrigan pointed out, before anyone got too jubilant at their easy victory.
Leliana nodded. “We must needs do this, and return to the Circle.”
“Quickly, Sister; take this string.” Niall scampered up to her and held out the toy horse’s tether. Leliana took it, with a baffled look. In the next moment, she started to vanish. “Hold on!” Niall warned them, hopping onto the wooden horse.
Wynne grabbed Bannon’s arm and crouched down, reaching for the toy. Morrigan did the same, across from them. And then they all began to fade out of existence.
1000 more Bloodsong Points to you, if you recognized the Reepicheep quote!