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The Gift

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Do you accept the gift that I offer?

They burst into the Harrowing Chamber right as the mage on the floor at Uldred's feet twisted and changed, growing and deforming into an abomination. The man had been tortured and tormented until such a thing was a welcome release, and the new abomination rose to its feet as the group drew near. No longer a mage. No longer a man.

"Ah... so the little bird returns to the nest at last," Uldred's voice as the group of abominations and lone standing mage turned to face the approaching group made Tannusen stop, mid-step. The others continued on for a few more paces before realizing that their leader had halted without warning.

Tannusen hardly noticed. His heart was hammering in his chest. While he'd heard Uldred speak before, it had never been directed at him. Never that he could remember. For some reason... for some reason...

"You killed all my servants," the mage continued, chiding, "but I suppose it is just as well. They weren't very good anyway. And now that you are here, I will have two generals! Irving... and you, my pet."

My pet.

Tannusen shook. He lowered, slowly, to one knee. The mage's fingers tightened around the Litany in his hand, barely feeling the aged parchment crinkling in his grip.

His Master.

He'd forgotten how thick, how vivid, how beautiful the scarlet mist was as it closed over his mind. It made the voices of the others distant and unimportant as he crawled forward on hands and knees, past the shocked Antivan, Qunari, and elder mage, and kissed the toe of Uldred's waiting boot with shaking lips.

Tannusen was kicked onto his back, and the toe of that boot pressed down onto his throat as he stared up at Uldred's face, transfixed, blood pounding in his ears as the pressure cut off his breathing. The bald mage smiled a nasty little smile that made Tannusen's heart race even harder, and his Master glanced aside at the abominations shuffling closer.

"Perhaps we will wait a bit to change you," Uldred mused almost idly, "so many... possibilities with your current body..."

The elf let his gaze follow his Master's, spotting the nearing abominations. He shuddered, and the mist closed in further, blanketing his reservations--

Tannusen barely saw the flash of steel, but he heard the whoosh of the huge greatsword slicing through the air above him, forcing the weight off his throat as his Master took a step back to avoid Sten's attack. The mage rolled up onto his knees and flung a spell out, lightning catching the creeping assassin behind his Master's back before poisoned blades could touch him.

Zevran cried out in surprise and pain, falling back, searing energy crackling over him as he staggered and then fell. Sten spun, and then froze, paralyzed by a glyph quickly-formed by Tannusen as he climbed to his feet, readying a blast of-- it didn't matter, because something huge and unforgiving hit him in the back, and sent him sprawling breathless onto the floor at his Master's feet again. Wynne's stone fist, he knew very distantly, the information barely echoing through the curtain of red in his mind. He could taste blood. The shouting in the harrowing chamber was faint, muffled...

Tannusen shook his head, quick and hard, and pulled himself up to his feet, standing unsteadily. He turned and fired an arcane bolt back in the direction the magic-created boulder had come from, and only peripherally noticed Sten collapsing under the barrage of the abominations around him. A blur of dark leather and tanned skin dove under another lighting blast from the healer, and gloved hands grabbed the forgotten Litany from the floor.

Behind him, his Master changed; grew. Tannu couldn't help but turn to look, stunned as the human became something enormous; something... awe-inspiring. A Pride demon, but not just any Pride demon. His Master.

The words being shouted in a thick Antivan accent finally penetrated the fog, and drove the mist out of his sight as though punctured by a stiff breeze. Beautiful and amazing suddenly became ugly and horrifying, but Tannusen barely had a second to register the change before the abomination's huge fist impacted with his chest and sent him flying.

He lay on the floor where he landed, crumpled on his side, his eyes only half-focused. The sounds of healing magics and battle roared into his hearing, suddenly there, and he spat out a mouthful of blood onto the stones and struggled back up onto his hands and knees.

Wynne's healing magics were joined by Tannusen's, first on himself so that he could see straight enough to cast further, and then on Sten as the Qunari struggled to stay on his feet.

The fight went far smoother after that, and when the giant abomination finally crashed to the floor and stopped moving, Tannusen leaned against his staff and wiped the blood off his lips with his sleeve, staring down at the dead blood mage.

Dead.

Tannusen smiled. Bitter and sharp-edged, but a smile nonetheless.