“It’s never who you were meant to be with, it’s who you found yourself engulfed by, and how when you found them you didn’t realize until it was too late for good judgement, and you were already done and drowned. I slipped into the river from right at the edge of its banks, peering in and as bold as I was childish. I plunged maybe, more than slipped. Thought she was a pretty face with all her teeth and a few less knocks of sense in her head than I’d care to admit even now. We met in a tavern, in a surface town called Lothering. It’s gone now, though not entirely irrelevant. Used to be a stop along the Imperial Highway, somewhere to piss in a pot or spit in one, maybe drink from one. Or, you know, a place to stop and pray.” She stops herself from speaking more on the subject of prayer. “She knew we were out to ‘save Ferelden’ or whatever it is you want me to think of it as. Guess she smelled it on us minute we entered town.”
Lothering really was as much a shit-stain on the surface as any dirty corner of Dust Town ever was in Orzammar, though perhaps the dire situation made it more akin to the visibility of the poverty line nobody even bothered to tread upon delicately back at home. Maybe losing her Stone sense wasn’t so bad, as she seemed to lose sight of the inevitability of her own home’s harsh social castes in the more ideal surface world. “Sod it,” Kera spat, manifesting her own frustration in a swift kick at an ant hill near the village’s bordering walls. Conveniently, the scurrying ants scattered, not at their impact point, but in a great arc across Alistair’s armored leg. “Good thing you’re all tight and chain-mailed, lest those ants crawl in and bite your crotch, Alistair.” She giggled, a little forced, a little too loud, and as they pressed on, Alistair grumbled, nearly bemused by his own insight, “It’s splint mail, Kera.” Light poured from every direction across the tarnished armor, as Kera realized her error. “Sorry, Alistair,” she choked out, unsure of herself. “It won’t happen again.”
“I knew it wouldn’t stick, but I really had apologized to him for everything—the Blight, the death of his friends, the awkward and probing questions, every time I tried to pick his pocket as we coursed through the Wilds, reckless as dogs. I even wanted to apologize for the batty maleficar who saved our hides and nearly frightened the poor young man half to death.” Her words were chucked as she tossed her wet bangs aside with one cool hand, small beads of moisture gathering on her fingertips. She rose, naked and stern-willed, and when their eyes met, he felt the stone move beneath each round toe resting on the hard ground.
A lot of time may have passed, down in Lothering, but nobody really knew the scope of it. There was very little definition to the floundering sensation each traveler felt in their deepest caverns and highest pillars atop impregnable emotional forces. The onslaught was tight and focused, from Kera to Alistair, Alistair to Morrigan, Morrigan to Alistair, and seemingly to the Dog as well. They manned their individual walls, keeping vigilant watch over what slipped and what did not in the methodic conversations they had.