Through a thrashing sea and across plains aplenty over many a month, he had crossed.
From the depths of nothing he came forth, waiting. Just waiting. Waiting for that one moment to grasp onto, that one pulse amid a torrential ocean of life and magic. Only one had to make the correct move, only one had to thrust the doors open and bring him into the light. The opportunity had been fleeting, the shaking breath of a creature lying in the dirt with a gash, wide as a nettle leaf, riding down its side. The air was thick with death, sweat, and silenced pants, weighed with iron and a dissipating fear. Surrounding sound had been muddled through the haze, vision blurred as he remained caught between two realms.
But he had seen.
Had seen the party of three staring at their victory and turning on their heels to leave the creature to perish on its own timetable. He had seen his unwitting summoner before his pivot, standing strong with a cocky, tired face. The man would have been his ideal, but, he was no fool. Knew that he was too in-control for the moment, too confident in his own abilities. Wasted effort, he had surmised. At least for now. A pity to say the least, longing to see just what kind of power had yet to be tapped.
But he could wait.
As they crested over the hill out of sight, as the creature took a last, rasping gasp of air, he'd taken his chance. Into the bloodstream he'd leapt, a simple question asked: 'Do you wish to live?' A weak thump of a tail had been all he needed. Power ignited; sewing itself into blood cells and wiring through veins. For the first time in centuries, he could feel. He could feel the heft of fur soaked with blood, the sensation of a throbbing tongue bitten in the midst of anguish. He could feel the ringing torment of a side torn asunder and he relished in it. It burned, it ached.
It told him that he lived.
The effort had been extraneous, getting a dying wolf back and standing among its deceased pack. With paws heavy as stone and lungs constricted as parcels, he'd stayed. Waiting for powers to come rushing back, letting himself soak in the feeling of sun poking through wafting tree limbs high above him. A husk stood stock still, patient for the promise that had been given. With time came memories, with memories came processes fueled by purpose. A jolt rattled through the foreign body, a spark tepid as the summer tide flittered through the dripping wound. Nearly as painful as the laceration itself, skin stretched to reattach, disassembled nerve fibers finding one another and screaming of their reawakening. The body had jostled and balked, what little control the wolf had left dwindled, a whelp in the corner with its tail between its legs at such an onslaught. But he kept them still, tensing muscles and locking joints to keep situated for his spell to finish.
Like a tapestry, the flesh wove together and blood ceased pouring onto the soiled forest grounds. Numbed lips had curled and stained fangs shimmered in the afternoon sun. Faded vision burst back to clarity, the dapples of light and breeze-stricken reeds amassing into view. He wondered if the sky had always been so blue or if it had shifted over time. Claws pressed, delving through loose soil and a rumble of pleasure rang down an aching spine.
The gash closed and he had shivered, shaking the feeling of ineptitude from what was now his vessel. A simple stretch had given him all he needed, turning and racing towards the Northeast, hopping over the battered corpses of the wolf's brethren.
It had been indescribable, feeling air whisking through each strand of mangy fur, the strong flexion of muscle as he sped towards the waiting sea. The touch of dewy grass between footpads kept him awake and well despite the singing discordance of a wilting body. Spells can't stop the march of time and the hand of the Maker, and this wolf was no exception.
It hadn't taken long for the wolf's final breech of consciousness to fade out at last, overwhelmed with pain it could still feel and the monster that was shoving it down. As soon as tiny howls silenced, he knew his steps were numbered, feeling the irritable bite of spines crawling through his back and the incessant rage that remained restless in a mangled soul. Flesh decayed piece by piece, a macabre trail from whence he came.
But, it hadn't been hard to outsmart the Maker. From a wolf, he took to a bird to cross the sea, then from bird to a bear to ward off predators as he trekked across a vast expanse of land. From Ostwick to Markham, from there to Ansburg where he found a halla among the Green Dales. With ease, he traveled through Dalish land, silently denying their requests of companionship as he trailed to the outskirts of the fallen Arlathon.
Each step gave him another taste of what he had been, a moment of remembering his apex in this world. Thedas had changed considerably, was far more segregated than he seemed to recall. Never did it seem more apparent than as he set to leave the Dalish in his rotting hide, finding himself watching an assault between elves and the humans of Brynnlaw. It had been fascinating, his sagging antlers leaving his attention as he watched chaos erupt at the crest of his chosen hill. Insults and threats flew through the rigid air like so many of their flame-laced arrows.
Perhaps, he assumed upon hearing so many a familiar vicious sobriquet, it had always been so dangerously meshed. Perhaps such false memories were merely from what seemed an eternity pushed into darkness where all enemies became one and the same: Expendable.
But, he'd thought, that could come later. Healing took priority, as well as getting well out of sight of any creature until he was ready for his facilitative strike.
So, with cracking hooves he'd burst back off towards the East, finding himself yet another wolf to inhabit and stamping upon its neck. The transfer had been smooth enough, his easiest yet despite the splintered vertebrae. It only told him what he needed to know: That his strength was returning, and doing so with vigor. He managed to decimate the rest of the pack within minutes, turning with a ruby-laden muzzle to sprint across Antiva and well into Rivain.
With a broken, molting paw and the taste of intercepted adventurer fresh on his tongue, he reached the crest of a mountain with nary a hesitation as he began working his way up the steep hillside. Little deterred him from a straight shot to his destination: Out of sight and out of range. The fighting could come later, when he began his hunt at long last. The element of surprise was well on his side, and he knew he'd have to be a fool to ignore such an advantage.
Within hours he found himself three-fourths of the way up his chosen refuge, coming to a stop on a wide ledge and looking forward towards a sun dipping down to kiss the ground it shone upon. The air was silent, nothing but the trickle of weak snowflakes pattering against stone and fur. At last he could be himself, free from the ever-wary eyes of the populous.
Bit by bit, a man's form emerged from the split back of the wolf. Pale flesh stained red crept into the sunset's glow. Pure black hair sopped against his forehead, a lithe and tensed form jerked and heaved as a mere two legs had to recall their job at once. Muscle was atrophied and ribs poked through his torso like wood carvings. When at last a final foot was drawn, the stretched carcass collapsed into the snow with a sickening thud that seemed near-ethereal in the solitary atmosphere. Two shaking hands came up through the blood slathered across a finely chiseled face, flinging off excess to dye the untouched snow. Two fingers came back to his lips, a thin tongue darting through and tasting the staunch iron. Just the same as it always was. Some things, he supposed, never changed.
Eyes the dirtied shade of long-exposed bone were greeted with quivering flakes, two irises of pure, fiery red set straight back towards the Southwest. A slow, fanged grin crept up his face, a trickle of blood coming loose from his cheekbone and sliding its way genially down his neck and bending over his clavicle. All he had to do now was wait. Wait for that next opportune moment to make his move, a practice he was more than well-accustomed to.
But this time, he had a target. He knew exactly who he was waiting for among the chaotic range of lifeforce enveloping Thedas. Precision and patience, it was all he needed for the next step and the start of what he'd been anticipating for so long. And with the man he'd seen all those months ago, the man with the assuredness of steel unknowingly standing as his catalyst, he had a feeling that his delay would soon be over.