Hawke turned and looked back as he and Anders crested the latest hill in what would be their most arduous journey to date. Kirkwall was still visible in the distance, if only as a vague smudge on the horizon though he couldn't help but notice the smoke that still swept from the brutalized city.
He sighed, unsure whether his melancholy was from the loss of Luna, leaving Kirkwall, or the impending goodbyes once they reached their appointed rendezvous. He would not miss the title of Viscount, the Nobles could have it, all he needed would be traveling with him.
This would be their final gathering for an untold count of years … if ever again. It had been a struggle to convince Fenris to meet them at all, or so Varric had relayed to him. This saddened him given how fiercely the elf had battled by his side against the horrors unleashed that day.
Yet given the elf’s tumultuous history with Luna, it was hardly surprising he’d grown more distant with her death. Hawke was just thankful that she had seen to it that Anders survived the final battle. The ex-Warden had been tight lipped over the details, but he assumed she had given him a warning due to the visions she had been burdened with.
Anders had been busy very publicly evacuating the Chantry along with Varric when it exploded and Hawke knew this was what she had been so carefully preparing for the day she left the Alienage for good. Merrill agreed with his assessment, and he mourned the loss of her gentle naivete as she managed the Alienage during this crisis.
Of course what remained of the Chantry had placed the blame on maleficarum and Luna in particular for inciting a mage uprising. The Chantry had yet to realize they’d effectively martyred her for not one but three growing factions.
The Templars were itching to murder anything that even hinted of magic, though the acting Commander was doing everything in his power to rein them in. The Gallows was conspicuously empty of mages; having all fled in the aftermath though the Templars vowed to recapture and of course severely punish them all. Hawke had it on good authority that Cullen staunchly defended Luna’s sacrifice despite pressure to denounce her as a heretic. Hawke wished him the best of luck with that, he would need it.
I mean that don’t I. Will wonders never cease?
War was brewing, and Hawke’s hard earned life in the City of Chains had evaporated along with Luna’s remains. Still, he couldn't bring himself to be angry at her, especially because of her final request of his lover … no, that was inadequate. Anders was, undeniably, the love of his life. He could no longer imagine a life without the man; no more than he could imagine a life without air.
Luna had vehemently insisted they visit the Avaar should anything happen to her. Hawke didn't know if he could ever find the courage to face certain death like that; knowing that it was inevitable, yet standing to meet it regardless. Seeing the future would be no blessing.
It was a curse.
Her kidnapping of the vanished Tranquil and subsequent defacing of the Gallows tower was very public knowledge. The cryptic message she painted was repeated in every tavern, as was the theory that it was prophetic, and thus widely interpreted and reinterpreted. It was said the Right and Left Hands of the Divine were even discussing it behind closed doors.
Witnesses of course credited the unapologetic Luna with saving untold lives, but the normally boisterous Varric had become very quiet in the face of it all. The rumor mill had turned her into some strange, Apostate, elven folk hero. The 'Beyonder' was firmly established as legend. Her final battle had been embellished so often there was no longer a way to discern the truth … some even claimed she was the harbinger of ancient forgotten Gods.
That wasn’t how Hawke remembered her. To him she would always be the brave woman that he’d held bleeding in his arms on first meeting. She was the sarcastic, fierce, mage from another land, that had given him the courage to even approach Anders. He had never understood her, but he knew she had always been haunted, and driven to do the right thing, no matter how mad an endeavour. Her penchant for keeping secrets, terribly, had been endearing, if frustrating, but he would always remember her as his friend. An odd, extremely violent, friend but one he would recall fondly.
I’ll miss her elaborate cursing … now I'm just being ridiculous.
Fenris had spoken less and less the last few days. He seemed surprised to be alive and clearly grieved Luna’s death, they all did … again. Hawke hoped this trip would help the Lyrium Warrior to heal. Regret was eating at the elf and Hawke wondered if he should have pushed harder to tell the stubborn woman how deeply the elf had fallen for her. Would that only have further complicated the situation?
Second guessing everything would accomplish nothing. Hawke prayed that wherever she now found herself that their Luna had earned a little peace. Perhaps in the end … it would all have been worth it.
The alarm clock blared loudly, the aggravating screech piercing her brain with every shrill chime. Luna groaned into her pillow, hugging it tighter as she ignored the persistent wake up call. It was too much effort to hit snooze. The snooze button was a lie; a tempting candy like button that inevitably lead to her throwing the clock in frustration. Instead she snuggled the comforter closer as she tried to assert herself into wakefulness.
Ugh. Whoever invented this was a sadist!!! Fucking alarm!
She froze. The time-keeper-from-hell continued buzzing in the background as her thoughts unjumbled … There were no electronics in Thedas.
Her eyes strained to open, but she bolted upright nonetheless. Luna had never been a morning person. She could never understand why it was so hard for her to wake. Usually she stumbled from her bed still half asleep, clothes put on inside out, hair askew, and drool crusted on her cheek.
Real emergencies normally had her upright in seconds, but sometimes she couldn't open her eyes without using her fingers to pry them open as they steadfastly refused to function properly. She cursed morning people with their cheery disposition and put togetherness. It just wasn't fair.
Startled, and uncertain, she slowly took in her surroundings. Luna stared at the familiar environment open mouthed in disbelief. She glanced down at the worn comforter and gently traced the old coffee stain. It even smelled like her rathole apartment; old wood, and mildew that never seemed to go away. Everything was just as she remembered it. The nearby kitchen counter was cracked and the couch she lay on sagged on one side where the frame had broken during a misguided attempt to change the lightbulb.
Luna couldn't shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong. This couldn't be real. This apartment had burned to the ground years ago during one of her earlier escapes from the Shroud. The air conditioner had broken, and she couldn't afford to have it repaired. She had clumsily summoned one too many storms to cool the boiling apartment that summer. Tracking the weather pattern had been all too easy for her hunters. It made no sense for her to be waking up in a city she hadn't seen in fifteen years.
“I'm dreaming,” she whispered in elation and the alarm simply stopped along with everything else. It was as though the world had simply been paused. There was still something bothering her. Something else had grabbed for her attention, effectively pulling her into a lucid state, but she couldn't put her finger on it.
I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I haven't had a normal dream in years.
Luna's leopard print pajamas disappeared, replaced by her favorite torn jeans, comfortable t-shirt, and leather jacket. Curiously she noticed that she still wore the odd wolf ring on her right hand. The beat up radio in the corner came to life, one of her favorite songs drifting on the air. She walked to the nearby window and struggled to open the over painted wood. That window had always been tricky.
Dust danced in the streaming sunlight as she admired the horrible view of the dingy alleyway and rusty firescape. Smiling she crawled out the window, turning to see broken sidewalks and crumbling buildings with a strange sense of nostalgia. She had always liked this shitty apartment. It was more than its peeling wallpaper and warped floorboards. This place had been her first true taste of freedom.
"Av'ahn'su'vi'inadj, ” whispered a masculine voice. She could almost taste the word; more was implied in that single utterance than simple definition. He wasn’t speaking English, but that hardly mattered in a dream. He thought her a curiosity to be dissected and studied. The dismissive quality, or rather the emotional intent of the speaker, was like a slap.
Luna whirled around and was confronted with the view of a complete stranger. He was elven, clad in something she could only describe as ... finery. Certainly, she had never owned anything that beautifully tailored. The black cloth and silver embroidery painted him rather effectively as something cold and aloof. He stood at least two hands above her; his long silver blonde hair intricately braided to the waist. The air thickened with her emotions, all focus turned towards the interloper in a way only possible in dreams. This was an intrusion, his presence grated at her, a wrongness in an otherwise pleasant memory.
“Who are you,” she demanded angrily. He ignored her question, running a hand along the metal of the firescape before jumping five stories into the alley below. Physics be damned in their current surroundings. “Fuck!” The elf didn't spare a glance at her outburst, instead grimacing at the pungent smell emanating from the nearby dumpster and turning to examine the masonry. Luna tore after him.
This is MY dream dammit and he doesn’t have the right to rummage through it!
She smirked as she made a decent superhero landing, the pavement cracking explosively at her feet, blocking his path. It effectively interrupted his intrusive behavior. “Now that's just rude,” she chided playfully as she righted herself and settled her hands on her hips.
He raised a perfect silver eyebrow and waved a hand as though dismissing her. When nothing happened his haughty expression faltered and she wagged a finger. “Tsk tsk. And here I was willing to entertain a conversation.” The brilliant sunny day suddenly vanished; the sky darkening with furious storm clouds and ominous thunder. “My dream. My rules.”
"Em enas tel'iselenem,” he finally intoned as the sky opened and a deluge poured forth.
Ma anes Asha'banal'eal, Ma en’nuem el’vhenan i'mar banal."
“I wasn't expecting anyone at all,” she spat. “...and what the fuck does THAT mean?? I'm an NOT nothing!”
“Mar solas judalas ma in amahn'anor dunathe!"
Luna rolled her eyes at the insult and reached for the ethereal thread she knew was always present in her Astral journeys. The glowing, silver, lifeline suddenly hung in the air between them and she narrowed her eyes at her unwelcome guest. “Well. I think I'll wake up now.” Before he could stop her she grabbed the line and tugged. She could feel his indignant surprise as the dream disintegrated and she woke up with a triumphant grin.
Upon jolting awake she found that someone had seen fit to swath her in a simple but draping white gown of a material she couldn’t identify. It was certainly softer than anything she’d ever worn. Her ring was still firmly on her finger, as was the necklace Sandal handcrafted for her. Fragmented memories of her arrival on a distant shore, and subsequently being carried away, slowly returned to her. She was dizzy and fought to keep herself from simply passing out once more. Still, things could always be worse, at least she wasn’t dead.
Even if I distinctly recall dying...
She was a prisoner … again. Why had they neglected to remove her enchanted jewelry? A long, snaking, silver chain ending in an ornate anklet, kept her from exploring further than a few feet in her private cell. Whomever held her had faith in the power of that shackle to trap her.
There weren’t even any bars on the large arching windows. The room was spacious, if sparse, reminiscent of something from some ancient mediterranean fantasy. It was exceedingly more comfortable than she would have thought a captive would be afforded, but she was captive nonetheless.
I’ve had my fill of cages.
Luna scanned the delicate chain and was unsurprised as it flared spectacularly in her magesight. Complex sigils ran all along its length, but the majority seemed concentrated on the metals resting firmly against her ankle. She scoffed upon discovering the room seemed to be heavily shielded as well. Taking a shaking breath she checked her reserves, already knowing what she would find. Her mana was so dangerously near depletion she was amazed she was conscious at all, let alone still breathing.
How long has he kept me here?
It would probably have been prudent of her to study the magics that were determined to keep her contained. No one had yet accused her of having patience. She chose to kill two birds with one stone. Luna reached for the most powerful of the spells and simply drew the energy into herself. Almost immediately the spell unraveled and the metal fell away; the satisfying hum of its magic now settled comfortably within her.
"Ane’ir’on." The voice that interrupted her thoughts was deep and silken, but the flavor of the owner’s aura bled through that single word like a fingerprint. Two guardian spirits stood on either side of him, and she didn't like the implications of their presence.
Luna didn’t bother to suppress the growl that rumbled loudly through her chest. The insufferable elf from her dream stood just beyond the safety of the shield imprisoning her. He had an intricate Vallaslin she didn't immediately recognize, which meant he wasn't marked for Mythal or Sylaise. Those were the only ones she’d ever chosen for herself. She instinctively hunched lower, baring her teeth and claws defensively. “Let. Me. Out,” she demanded in Common.
“Hama en'an'sal'in da’banal. Ma ane ena'las'athe ma tuast ladaral Asha'banal. Arla vhenas aria harel'hama din. Ahn ane ma sul’vindhru?”
Luna stood upright with a groan, as he continued to rant at her in his flowing tongue. It appeared she could no longer fully understand him. She recognized a few words, but he spoke too quickly for a proper translation. However his emotions seemed to batter at her; unwanted context and foreign concepts seeking an entrance that she failed to fully grasp. Still glaring at the strange elf she switched to English.
“Well I’m smart enough to know that’s ancient Elvish and that’s my cue to leave this place. Thank you very much for your hospitality,” she deadpanned. Luna patently ignored them all then and placed a hand against the radiating magic impeding her. Just as suddenly she found herself flat on her back, having been thrown across the room to land roughly along the etched stone floor. The barrier changed color, dim red light tinging everything the color of old blood. “You have got to be shitting me,” she groaned while pulling herself upright.
The elf chuckled callously and she could feel his emotions pressing against her aura. It left her feeling particularly slimy as she realized he was projecting it on purpose. Not only had he invaded her dreams, now he prodded her in an empathic violation.
“Read THIS emotion BITCH. Let. Me. OUT!” Gathering all of her frustration and anger Luna flung them towards him … at least that’s what she tried to do. What emanated from her appeared as a tremendous ripple that struck him quite physically; tearing mosaic tiles from the walls. His spectral guards aimed their spears towards her threateningly and the elf reeled backward. Stumbling back he gripped his head and cried out in obvious pain. She watched in confusion as his hands came away from his pointed ears quite bloody.
He retaliated and Luna felt the press of gravity increase around her, forcing her to kneel. She was being suffocated, and she panicked as she realized he could literally crush her to death. Of all the beings to find her, it just had to be a bloodmage. Her luck was just as horrible no matter where she found herself it seemed.
“Ma ane on'ala. Ar ju'rahngirem ma'eal Andruil i've ma him nua'o gon’geron. As isathe sul on ghi'myal.”
Andruil. I know that name. That is a bad, bad name.
The elf was practically preening; gloating as she sputtered and choked. The press on her eased somewhat and she should probably have cooperated as his will implied. When had Luna ever done the sensible thing?
“Fenedhis!” she barked at him and was rewarded with a look of complete shock and outrage on his pretty face as she steadily absorbed the power from his assault. The mana fed into her with increasing speed and she rose to her shaky legs as his spell fell apart explosively; shattering the nearby furniture. The barrier held steady for the moment, but she sensed it had taken a quite a beating.
She fought a wave of nausea. Absorbing blood magic was disgusting, and it left her feeling queasy. At least he hadn’t used a true binding on her. Perhaps he didn't know how. "Last chance asshole. Drop the shield, and I may NOT break your skinny leg.” She cracked her knuckles for added effect while she readied herself. “Either way, I have a feeling Andruil is going to punish you for failing to stop me.” He of course ignored her and seemed to be trying to reinforce said barrier.
Luna reached for the energies of her cage again, this time focusing and absorbing every ounce of power from them. It was slow, frustrating work. The pain and emotional anguish used to fuel the magic was on a scale she didn't want to contemplate. Luna WOULD escape, it was only a matter of time. Her elven jailer seemed to realize this only moments before the complicated casting began to crumble. The shield shattered like glass, shards of sparkling magic cascading all around them.
Mana surrounded her instantly, and her earlier experience upon her arrival attempted to repeat itself. Here the air itself sung with power. There was nothing tempering the flow. She knew where she was now … or rather when. Her senses came alive, every smell, every sight a screaming puzzle that threatened to overwhelm her.
However this time, Luna was prepared for it, forced her racing heart to slow, and shaped it with her will as easily as in her dreams. The elf was babbling something at her again, and she didn't bother to parcel understanding from his words. Drawing on Flemeth’s exhaustive, prescient, tutoring; her being aligned with the energies of this new realm. An opaque, pearlescent mist surrounded her, obscuring her completely from view. Luna screamed as she felt her body begin to shift.
There was something right about the stretching of her skin; as though there had always been too much contained in too small a vessel. It was a strange experience as her bones and flesh rapidly rearranged themselves. She felt her face reform into a muzzle with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth. Fur grew along her entire length, but that too was satisfying and as the wind caressed every strand she shivered not in pain, but relief.
When her transformation was complete she stood on not two but four legs; each as large as the trunk of an oak. Five shimmering white tails fanned and danced behind her; always in motion. The lithe, enormous, vixen gave voice to her exhilaration and shook the room with an unearthly howl.
She huffed in amusement then rushed the stunned elf, promptly grabbed his leg in her jaws then bit down until she heard a distinct crunch. Luna smugly dropped the screaming figure with a thud. He frantically yelled for more spirits to subdue her while attempting to crawl away. Wasting no time for them to comply she sprung out the nearest window.
The roof was incredibly smooth, made of a polished marble like material. She lost her footing almost immediately; legs thrashing to keep her upright before she came to a less than graceful stop at the edge. The shining city beyond was a marvel to behold. All doubt that she was in some part of ancient Elvhenan vanished with the unobscured view.
There were glittering spires of varying heights all around her. Some towered much higher than any skyscraper she’d ever seen. Of course that could have been the fact that many of them were floating a considerable distance from the ground below. Winding paths stretched like sculpted ribbon between buildings and she could see moving platforms that held no discernable pattern in destination.
Luna’s eyes widened in astonishment. She had seen similar magic before; while traversing the Cross Roads in the Trespasser DLC. The glaring difference was the bustling Elvhen and Spirit inhabitants using them currently reacting to her obvious presence. She could see thousands of them in just the portion she occupied. There were also several large Eluvians along the main causeway. The sheer scale of it all was awe inspiring.
Earth’s cities were constructed along utilitarian lines. Functionality was chosen over any aesthetic concerns. Humans tended to build their cities like a hive. She tilted her head taking in the sound of music and the wave like thrum of distant conversation.
In contrast this metropolis boasted curves and structures that seemed to be constructed for the sole purpose of catching the light just right. Greenery grew throughout the floating city, incorporated into the design. She was also keenly aware of the lack of smog.
There were spacious boulevards and arching staircases designed to keep everything feeling open and sweeping lines reminiscent of a brush stroke. It was an artist’s rendition or wildest dream made reality. One section seemed to have conjured strategic fog just for the effect. It was beautiful simply for beauty’s sake.
She snapped out of her trance when one of the spirits nearly stabbed her. Luna searched for the quickest way to make her descent and leapt onto another rooftop. The moment she touched down on the slick surface mana poured into her channels and the structure beneath her began to quake as she traversed it. This portion was not shielded against her and she didn't seem to have control over her absorption ability.
With her next bound Luna forced her monstrous claws into the building to stop her from careening to her death far below. However she was not an adept climber and she only managed to precariously perch for a short time before being forced to jump again. The luster of the crystal continued to fade as she drained the magic keeping this section aloft … her mere presence was destabilizing the building.
She had no choice. Luna needed to quickly get away from this city, or risk accidentally killing its inhabitants as the constructs collapsed all around them. Already she could hear the startled shouts of the citizens below. Luna struggled to stop her siphoning off the power all around her, but it took tremendous energy to maintain her current form. She did manage to slow the damage she was causing.
She lost her grip on the next landing and yipped in alarm as she slid into someone’s terraced garden. Luckily it was large enough to hold her and seemed far more stable than her previous choices. Unfortunately, it was also occupied by a fancy party that she’d unintentionally crashed.
Several of the attendees shrieked and suddenly there was a stampede of bodies in her way. Trying to right herself quickly while avoiding stepping on anyone she gave a surprised yelp when she spied a familiar green clad Trickster lounging on a nearby chaise.
“You’re late,” Loki said smoothly, tilting a fluted glass as though toasting her. He then elegantly downed the glass of red wine with a satisfied smirk.