She can’t breath. Not properly.
If that hadn’t awakened her, the door-to-wall violence would have. A man lurched towards her, hand raised and threatening. Even disoriented the suddenness already placed the low bed she had been lying on between them. The dagger under her pillow was missing, her long staff nowhere to be found, Duncan’s sword suspiciously absent.
Her mind was filled with lists and words and power. Nothing, not even a basic Arcane Bolt, answered her call.
Wooden floors chilled bare feet. There was a window in the –not tent but- room, night beyond glass and a moon without its proper size. Sidekick must be dead(1). This was all so very wrong and that pressure on her chest was quickly becoming pain.
The intruder had taken two heavy steps towards her and stopped. “Calm yourself.”
Brontoshit. Her panic was warranted. The last time she woke up in a place unexpected Very Bad Things had been afoot. In the dark there wasn’t much to see of her apparent kidnapper but for the height, which was significantly more than her own across the room, and the shine of metal plate. The motion of his legs were hidden by a length of cloth and that feeling of wrongness, of soul-wounded nausea, increased.
“Be still and I’ll harm you none.”
Bastard. Teeth bared she looked for a way out, a weapon to fell the giant before her. There was nothing in the room but the bed and a small chest, wood in origin. Long, long strides had the armored be-sworded nightmare directly in front of her. The words, when they came, were strong but the pitch was too high and her “be gone demon!” only increased the fear and panic felt.
She didn’t want it to consume her, because she had spat in the Archdemon’s eye and this was nothing compared to the terror of facing the Harvester alone, so she tensed and sneered for if nothing else she would fight with what strength her body granted.
A commotion beyond the door gave her an opportunity, just long enough to check a secret pocket or two. She had them sewn into all her gear, here and there. A hansom eleven assassin had given her the idea. A bawdy tale of daring and seduction that had her in stitches from its punchy beginning. While the lone pocket at her hip has yet to save her life, others made a handful of misadventures easier to survive. A small phial of lyrium for when things get despite. All together she had the equivalent of two draughts secret away from armor to brazier and she carried them always through habit.
A habit that unfortunately yielded nothing.
Battle robes were slept in while they made their way back from another patrol of Kal’Hirol, but it seems her robes had gone the way of her weapons. The demon turned back to her and though she wanted it not out of her sight, disbelief had her looking down. The robes were gone, this was surprising in and of itself. The fade bequeathed her with subtle abilities to draw upon its power, to change or mold as seen fit(2). In a dream – for despite the substantial surroundings this could be nothing else – she would at the least appear as she was. And what she was included weapons, be they blunt or sharp or liquid.
Her appearance was unprecedented, for it existed in a diminished state. She had noticed the hands, her hands, first. The pads were unadorned by calluses, the nails were longer and smoothed, the skin a color that matched what she knew her stomach to be, and not even a single scratch marred the stubby, pudgy things. Theses were hands belonging to another; they just couldn’t be hers. Long browned fingers, short brittle fingernails, ash tucked underneath, heavily protected worn skin used to labor, used to struggle and battle and blood. Those were her hands. But these… these were the hands of a child!
Her body was that of a child.
The cry of dismay ripped from her throat was that of a child!
The demon had crept close, an impossibly large hand rested on her head and she wanted it off. Right. This. Minute. Her own child-small, child-weak hands grasped for leverage to push him away, to push herself away. It did nothing. Nothing at all.
She had no reach for her blows, bare toes harmed none but herself, and there was nothing for her to bite. Half broken babble, desperate prayer, curses magical in origin and mundane in fact were the only true outlet she was allowed.
That fear and panic from before?
Back three fold.
This was nothing like she had ever known through deed or story.
The Templar, for that was what the towering demon appeared to be, barked a “Desist!” she headed not. Darkness inked her vision quicker than an unsuspecting Sleep and hard floor met pretty much all of her.
A hand was smoothing both forehead and hair, the nausea was gone but the soul-wound of a broken fade-connection had edges now jagged with poison. Angry, hushed whispers sounded as if muffled by distance or half submerged in water. Blurred specks, like points of concentrated light, interfered with what she could see of the room. It was different, the room, changed to one that included everything from fixtures to furniture in mockery of a communal den. Chairs hard, chairs soft, a table and a tightly woven rug, knickknacks and windows and doors and blankets crumpled in a heap.
There was a droning echo to everything, each cry or armored clank. It was the familiar scrape of metal that had her jerk and the lap she was on shifted. A comforting touch she almost couldn’t feel slowed, stopped. Her attention was drawn above, to the hovering, too large face.
There was a small mirror in a frame she kept for banquets, when it was required to show the masses pageantry and the glory of Ferelden Grey. She cared little for the invaders beyond the nuisance of having to leave her ivory staff behind and quietly takes revenge making faces where rules of polite society would have her painting lips. It was used, instead, after missions full of campfire and endless drilling to fix what was possible after the inevitable dagger-sheared haircut.
The mirror itself was no larger than the dimensions of a book, a fracture line half it’s length and an ever widening, shallow webbed ring. It had seen some travel and more than enough rough handling to be put aside for something better, if not for sentimentality staying her hand.
A gift of parting from long ago and a friend time had taken.
Her moments of vanity were far between but there were as many nights obsessed with the looking glass as days spent willfully ignoring it. Mostly the mirror sat discarded on a side table, three candles merrily reflected for ambiance. She had spent enough time before it, however, and knows the face that quickly identifies her. For a mage could part with iconic staff; a Warden could be anyone. She knew well the plans of her face, both before and after distinguished scaring. Its shape and color a familiar presence confirmed at a glance.
So when she looked up to the woman whose lap she lay in, even with blurred wisps and floating particles of concentrated light vying for attention, it was easy to see there were far to many similarities present for any logical explanation.
Beyond, of course, the cry of demon-demon-kill it!
She felt lethargic, drugged, as if gravity had a greater grasp on her body and her thought process was not only funneled but clogged. Templars were the only ones able to inflict the combination with such brutality. Actual Templars. Demons were unable to cause the same gut wrenching soul-wound, jagged-edge poison-coated Holy Smite she was now suffering.
Her sense of the fade absent as before and her body was still that of a child.
Trouble is what this all leads to.
Or death. That was a possibility.
Two looming larger-than-life chantry-thumping armor-wearing Templars came into view. Hands on sword and tension controlled postures. The one from the before looked most displeased. A third man, who seemed to be there for the sake of it, gestured to the woman.
“It has to be done Mara.”
“It doesn’t, you know it doesn’t. She hasn’t hurt anyone.”
“It’s for her safety as much as ours.”
“That’s not true!”
“You know we can’t control her.“
“She’s just a child- you have to give her a chance.“
“She mightn’t have harmed that boy this time but-“
“-Nobody ever gets it right the first time!“
“What happens the next time? When she actually tries?“
“Temperance comes with practice, Gamlen-“
“-And what happens till then, wife? What do we do with her while she’s dangerous? Tell me!”
The conversation was over with a roar and a sob.
The woman, and subsequently the much-softer-than-the-floor lap, was gone. The man came closer, haggard face and tired eyes were the one now far too large. A giant’s hand lifted towards her cheek, the warmth of a moment’s contact grounded in a reality that seemed impossible.
“Whatever you think of me child, I do love you.”
The child – who wasn’t a child Maker take you! – kept silent. She needn’t be a genius to see how this scene was to play out. He leaned forward, a kiss to her brow, shoulders held fast with both of his hands. The action might have been reassuring. In fact, if this scene were minus a few Templars and the man and woman hadn’t just argued, it was the very picture of a devoted parent comforting his distraught daughter.
Oh. Well then.
“Remember that.” Her body shook with the force of his hands, as if physical repercussion was needed to cement the idea, and she was thrown back into the one sided conversation with and additional “I love you.” His words and tone intense. “And whatever happens, you will always – always – be an Amell.”
Andraste humped a nug and the Maker can shoot lightning out of his ass; this was not where she’s supposed to be.
Her objection, though little more than mental blasphemy, spurred the man into action once again. He hugged with the unconscious force of a Sten, it was uncomfortable in the way there was so much of him and not a lot of her.
“Shhh, it’s going to be alright Little Lona.”
She absolutely hated that moniker. Always had really.
“It’s going to be alright.”
And she has a terrible, terrible notion as to why now.
Though she wanted to brake down with the suddenness of everything – wrong, impossible, dream dreamdreamDeny – that had just gone on, the Archdemon-eye-spitting, Broodmother-squashing, Evil-Be-Wary Commander of the blood Grey Wardens portion of her brain held her back. Cautioned restraint and discipline and much holding of the tongue.
And so Solona Amell -who had no memory of this event, these people, or this house- played narrowed eye spectator and waited.
Dream or demon enchanted insanity, mistakes would be made and she would spot them. If she was actually a kid again, and damn Ogren for whatever he mixed into her drink, then these people mattered little and their over-dramatic parting mattered less. What she needed was magic, and if nothing else, she would be allowed to call upon the fade in the Tower.
She just needed to survive the trip.