Other: mind control
Believe it or not, this actually started out even shorter than it is. :X
Closing the Circle
Bannon groaned and pushed himself up off the floor. The others were doing the same. Uldred had moved from the center of the chamber, perhaps to go among his prisoners and select a new victim. Or, more worryingly, to rally his thralls and abominations to fight. Did he realize yet that Sloth was gone?
Bannon turned and tugged Leliana over to him. “Come with me, we have to find Niall. The rest of y–”
A short, brown-haired mage scurried over to them. “Quickly, come with me!”
“Niall!” said Wynne. “Thank goodness.”
Bannon held out an arm to forestall her going to the mage, having a sudden worrisome thought that Sloth’s words about the mage’s form might have had a different meaning. “You look somewhat like a mouse,” Bannon told him.
“I said, you look somewhat like a mouse.”
Niall frowned. “We don’t have time for personal remarks. Master Uldred won’t be distracted for long.”
“Right. Lead the way!”
Niall turned, and Bannon moved as if to follow closely, so he could snatch the scroll that was tucked in to back of the mage’s belt. Then he steered Leliana aside and stopped. “Read this out,” he told her in a low voice as he put it into her hands. “And no matter what happens, don’t stop.”
Leliana nodded and unrolled the scroll. “Adralla Litiania,” she began in a strident voice.
“No!” Niall turned back, a flame appearing at his fingertips. Bannon threw himself against Leliana to knock her out of the way as the mage unleashed a gout of fire at them. They staggered and collapsed to the floor.
“Alistair! It’s the demon!” Bannon’s companions closed in on the mage. “Don’t stop,” he reminded Leliana as he shifted so his body covered her. She’d faltered when they’d landed, but then she continued.
Bannon looked up across the chamber. He could see some of the imprisoned mages shake themselves and begin to fight back. Some of their guards staggered, clutching their heads.
Another burst of flames erupted somewhere behind Bannon’s left shoulder. The hiss of ice and the crackle of lightning answered. Spells started flying amongst the mages, people started screaming, demons started roaring.
Bannon got to his feet and helped Leliana up. Her eyes and attention didn’t waver from the scroll. Her chant filled the air, but with the cacophony of battle going on, Bannon wasn’t sure it was reaching the far corners of the chamber. He guided her towards a pocket of mages that had broken free of their energy prison. It must be Leliana’s faith in the Maker that allowed her to concentrate while death and destruction rained down all around them. Bannon prayed the Maker made him worthy of her trust. He didn’t want to die.
He switched his grip so he had Leliana around the waist with his left arm, and his sword in his right. He couldn’t go about stabbing mages since he had no idea who was on which side until they attacked him, but it made him feel marginally more useful.
The circle of mages absorbed him and Leliana into their midst. “We need t– We need to get to the center,” Bannon called, between explosions.
“This way,” an older man said. He cleared a path with an arc of lightning.
An elven woman turned to Bannon and Leliana, casting a glowing halo over each of them. Then a magic bolt caught her in the back. She screamed and went down. Bannon twisted so Leliana was away from that direction.
An abomination trundled towards him, and Bannon stabbed at it gamely. It stopped short of his reach and began conjuring a fireball. The lightning mage blasted it before it could finish.
Bannon tugged Leliana on after the man, feeling as if he were in some crazy dance. Leliana began reading the litany over again. “This is not the way to the center,” Bannon complained, as they moved in fits and starts and pitched mage duels.
“It’s towards the First Enchanter,” Ser Lightning Mage said. “And where Uldred is heading.”
Thunder shook the unseen ceiling, and rain began sheeting down. Bannon was grateful, for it would dampen those fireballs. He guided Leliana around a trio of smoldering corpses. Then a blinding flash of lighting struck nearby, followed instantly by thunder. That part worried him. He wondered briefly where the rest of his troops were– Alistair, Morrigan, Wynne; did Zevran know his target was in this direction? He thought about calling them, but they were no doubt busy. Besides, anyone could tell where they were by following Leliana’s chant of the Litany.
They came across someone lying on the floor, screaming. Bannon halted, his mouth dropping open. It was an elf, a young male, not even a full adult. He writhed and clawed at his face, drawing blood. He was ripping his own eyes out and crying like a wounded animal. What evil blood magic was this?
“It’s a thrall,” the lightning mage said. “Keep moving.” He steadily fought to clear the way.
The elf suddenly sat bolt upright on his knees. “Master?” He turned his ruined, bloody face up into the rain. “Master?” he pleaded, his voice full of worship and loathing. “I will. Where are they?”
Bannon whipped his head around. Leliana was just behind him; she too was staring at the thrall in open-mouthed horror. And she’d stopped chanting. “Leliana! The Litany!”
She snapped her attention back to the scroll. “Adralla Litiania!”
“NO!” The young elf screamed and grabbed his ears as if to rip them off his head. After what he’d done to his eyes, Bannon had no doubt he’d succeed.
He stepped forward and drove his sword through the elf’s body. Bannon grimaced; he’d aimed too low as not to hit the ribcage, which meant he should have angled up to hit the heart. The young mage didn’t die right away. His hands blindly, gingerly quested along the steel blade sticking through him, as if trying to comprehend what had happened. His fingers brushed Bannon’s hand on the hilt. “Thank you,” he whispered. Blood flowed from his lips, and he fell back. Shaken, Bannon pulled his weapon free of the body.
He stumbled away from the corpse, but not far enough. The body jumped as if seized by a puppeteer’s ungentle hand, then exploded in a geyser of blood. Bannon was thrown back and knocked to the floor. He scrambled to his hands and knees, now thoroughly soaked. “Leliana?” He spit, tasting blood. It probably wasn’t his own. He flicked his head and wiped his eyes. He crawled a few feet to the blood-soaked body of the Chantry Sister. “Leliana!”
She sat up with a groan, much to his relief. “The scroll….” Bannon retrieved it from the floor nearby. Blood was soaking the parchment from the back, blotting out the words.
“No, no, no,” Bannon muttered, trying to find something– anything– clean and dry to blot it with. He wasn’t going to find anything within a five-yard circle of the blast.
“It’s all right,” Leliana said, taking it from his hands. “I can recall it well enough.” She leaned on him as she got to her feet. Her legs were shaky, but her voice was not. “Adralla Litiania!” she called defiantly. The chant rang like a battle cry in challenge to the Blood Mages.
Bannon got up, gritting his teeth. Uldred wasn’t going to enslave any more elves or mages, not while Bannon still had breath left in his body. The rainstorm was letting up, leaving him still painted in blood.
They’d lost most of their escort mages, but they picked up a few more that Ser Lightning Mage had freed from one of Uldred’s force prisons. The wedge, surrounding Leliana, pushed forward.
The demons and abominations grew thick. If any slipped through the cordon of mages, Bannon attacked viciously. He always fell back to Leliana’s side. He couldn’t help protect the mages; she was the top priority.
The tide of battle ebbed. They’d reached another magical prison and half the mage escort broke off. “Irving!”
Bannon didn’t pay attention to what they were doing, for he spied Uldred across the body-littered floor. There was a figure kneeling at his feet. From the long blonde hair and slight build, Bannon thought it was a woman, but as the figure threw its head back, he saw the long, pointed ears. It was a young elven man.
“I… will… never…,” the elf started shakily. The Litany of Adralla bolstered him. “I will never serve you again!”
Uldred’s face twisted into a sneer. “I own you! Your death will serve just as well.” The Blood Mage extended a hand, clenched his fist. The elf yelped as he was pulled aloft, his back arched as his limbs dangled. Uldred jerked his hand back as if tearing something from his former thrall, and indeed, the heart seemed to rip itself out of the elf’s chest, fountaining blood in a crimson explosion.
Instead of being thrown back by the force, Uldred stood firm and let the crimson wave wash over him. He spread his arms, and the stream of blood began circling his body. His demon lieutenants pressed in around him. In unison, they raised their arms, and the blood funneled into a cyclone overhead. Flames from the demons ignited it, turning it into a raging firestorm.
Uldred lowered his gaze, leveling it right at Bannon. No… right behind Bannon. The Blood Mage roared a curse and unleashed the storm at Leliana.
Bannon dropped his blades. “Get down!” he yelled, if anyone were capable of heeding his warning. He turned and caught Leliana around the waist, tumbling her again to the hard floor. He didn’t think the flames would pass over them this time. He straightened his arms so he wasn’t lying on her, but had a gap that he hoped would buffer her. Someone was desperately yelling, “Shield! Shield!” and Bannon hoped his body did just that.
The flames washed over him in an instant, and he was screaming. The world filled with red-gold light, and then went black.
His fingers brushed Bannon’s hand on the hilt. “Thank you,” he whispered.
— Take 10,000 Bloodsong Points if this ever happened to you in Thief 2.
I can’t being to scratch the surface of the evil that is Uldred. If you are interested in gut-wrenching details, you should look up Aroihken’s Silver and Scarlet on An Archive of Our Own. Be warned, it contains very graphic adult content.