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Lowell, a Coterie assassin, perched himself behind a few strategically placed large crates, carefully concealing his rather bulky frame from any prying eyes. If everything went as planned, his work would be over and done by midnight – that is if the Orlesian Ambassador, Lord Henri, kept his usual midweek appointment. Earlier in the week, the assassin had charmed a serving maid he knew worked for the noble’s wife to have lunch with him, skillfully wheedling from her information about the lord’s “habits”; and if the wench was correct, the Orlesian would be leaving through the back alley door of the brothel straight across from the hidden Coterie member, with minimal security in tow, in a quarter of an hour’s time.
As the minutes ticked by, Lowell started feeling impatient. Where was the Orlesian? The maid had said Lord Henri was infamous for his brevity. Hearing the sound of voices somewhere nearby, the assassin felt his breath catch in his throat. Did somebody know he was there? Had the maid become suspicious because of all his questions and alerted the City Guard about him? Was he possibly being set-up?
Grasping his blade in his hand, Lowell waited on baited breath as the voices drew nearer. Peering through a crack in the crates, the assassin found his vision obscured by a large inanimate object. What in Andraste’s name was going on?
Lowell felt his heart almost burst from his chest when he heard a man say, “This won’t do. Move those boxes.”
Boxes? Lowell thought. The crates?! With a sinking feeling, the Coterie member felt for sure he had been set-up. Tightening his grasp on his knife, he made a decision: Kill or be killed. With that resolution in mind, he leapt from his hiding place.
The last thing he saw before everything went black, or white really, was a small male elf sitting atop a donkey-drawn cart.
“What’d you do that for?” Paxton shouted at his uncle, perturbed. “Don’t you think that was a bit overkill? I mean…the guy’s dead! There’s smoke coming off of his body!”
Unconcerned, his Uncle Osric shrugged. “A mere side-effect of being struck by lightening. And it’s not my fault the man’s dead. He attacked me. I only acted in self-defense.” With his mage’s staff in hand, the elf climbed down from the wagon and went to stand beside his nephew.
“What are you going to do with that?” Paxton eyed the staff. “More destruction?”
Osric ignored his nephew and said, “Please turn the body over.”
“No, I don’t want-”
Osric shook his head and cut in. “These weak elven hands are not meant for hard labor.”
Paxton got down on his knees and said, “That ‘I’m an elf’ excuse is getting old.” Forming his hands into a shovel, he quickly slid them under the body and flipped it over onto its back.
Osric approached the body and began gently prodding it with his staff. “You know,” he said after a few moment’s of examination, “this specimen-”
“Please don’t refer to it as that,” Paxton interrupted.
“This specimen,” Osric began again, “is still in quite good condition. It would be a very valuable resource for your aunt and her studies…as well as to myself, of course.”
Paxton let out an audible sigh. “There is a dead man…A life-”
“An extinguished life-”
“A life you took. And now you want to turn it into a cadaver.”
Osric banged his staff onto the ground. “Enough! He attacked me. And he was clearly a…thug. Now, load him into the cart.”
Paxton looked over at their wagon; it was already full with other supplies. “I can’t. That weight would be too much for Old Grace. Besides, I don’t want a dead body touching our other things.”
Osric inhaled deeply, thinking. After a few moments of deliberation, he said, “Very well.” What the elf did next, his nephew did not see coming at all.
Closing his eyes, Osric, in an almost lazy fashion, raised his free hand in an upward motion. Simultaneously, the body started to rise; first sitting, then standing on its own two feet once again.
Paxton’s jaw dropped and his eyes bulged. “Wh-Wh-What-”
“Stammering is not flattering, Paxton,” Osric reprimanded.
Paxton forced himself to regain his composure and growled, “I’m sorry, but you just raised the damn dead! How else am I supposed to react?! For all these years, you’ve been preaching about the evils of Blood Magic, and…Look at this!” The young man waved his arms at the body hovering creepily before them.
Osric held his index finger up and said in a rather elitist sounding voice, “Technically, this isn’t Blood Magic. It is a part of the Spirit School. Taboo, yes, but as long as one is among the responsible few who are using it for practical purposes, like myself, it is fine to perform. You, however, may not.”
“I don’t want to,” Paxton said, crossing his arms.
“Well, then,” Osric said. “We’d best be going.” And he climbed onto the cart once again. Then, in an off-handed way, he added, “Give the corpse something to carry. Even the dead must pull their weight.”
Paxton rolled his eyes in irritation. “Not to mention we don’t want to arouse any more suspicion than we probably already have tonight.”
“Right,” Osric agreed. “Now come, I want to reach Ostwick as soon as possible. No rest for the living.”
“No rest for the dead either apparently,” Paxton mumbled, handing the corpse a package.