And the day pressed on like crushing weights
For no man does it ever wait
Like memories of dying days
That deafen us like hurricanes
Bathed in flames we held the brand
Uncurled the fingers in your hand
Pressed into the flesh like sand
Now do you understand?
-'Savior' by Rise Against
I hated using my given name, especially at a convention. There, I wanted to be able to be a little more myself. Of course, the "self" I made myself into was a mask to the real world.
I always preferred being Lashanna ne'Drak, cosplayer and propmaker. Everyone else wanted me to be Terra Terrinsin (could my parents have given me a worse first name to go with the last?), art school graduate with a degree that was practically useless on the east coast, and until recently, convenience store supervisor.
I'd quit my job last week, after getting passed up for promotion again. Third time in 5 years. I'd been working there since I was 16, and as soon as I turned 18 I'd been made a supervisor. It was great, until the owner passed away and left her store to her son, Mark. He didn't care that I worked my ass off, he'd rather leer at it. When I'd refused to date him, he'd gotten belligerent. Ever since then, whenever an assistant manager position opened up, it didn't matter that I practically ran circles around everyone else. The job inevitably went to one of Mark's college frat bros, who he had hired and promoted within months, even though it seemed like none of them had any inkling what a job was.
I shook the thoughts of Mark and his cronies out of my head, and checked my makeup once more in the hotel room mirror, singing along with the music blasting from my music player.
Prosthetic elf ears? No blend marks, check.
June Vallaslin, painstakingly applied with light purple alcohol makeup? Dry, no smudges, check.
With the two things people would notice most out of the way, I took a moment to pop in my contacts, a pair of "dollies," lenses with extra big irises to imitate my favorite video game characters. Most of the time, dollies looked a little strange, since they were only meant to make your eyes bigger, not change the colour entirely. I'd lucked out when I found these. They matched my own blue-violet eyes almost perfectly, making them even more striking than usual. Hell, half the time without any contacts in at all people still asked me where I got my pretty eyes.
With that done, I took my hair out of the braid I'd put it in to keep it out of the way, and brushed out the thick black waves. I pondered for a moment, thinking of rebraiding it, but decided against it. Loose, it almost reached my ass, and it lent me a slightly wild look, which I thought was all the better for a Dalish elf.
I hadn't had a chance to play much of Dragon Age: Inquisition myself. Every time I tried, Tia, my best friend and roommate, would inevitably create another (elven) character, and hog the tv until she had played through, exactly the same way she'd done every other playthrough. I've never made it past the tutorial, and the initial stabilizing of the Breach, but I've seen her romance the egghead apostate-god (another name for asshole, in my book) countless times. I knew all the lore of the first two games, having played the hell out of them. We even owned the books, though I tended to prefer playing to reading.
I ran one last critical eye over myself, trying to see myself as a customer-slash-con-goer might. I wanted to look like a top-tier cosplayer, without being too out of reach to the cosplayers I wanted to sell to. I had on a pair of jeans, a plain black tanktop, a pair of greave-sandals that I'd brought to show off my sewing skills, and a set of bracers to show my cosplay armory skills. The greaves and bracers were actually made for Tia, to go with her Lavellan keeper cosplay, but since I was trying to drum up business, she was letting me bring them to show. If I could get any interest, I might be able to do this full time instead of getting a "real job," as Tia's parents put it.
With a sigh, I figured it would have to do. Today was only the first day of the con anyway, with 4 more after it. I could use today as a sounding board to get a feel for the cosplay scene here, and adjust myself in the coming days to present better if need be.
I turned from the mirror, and noticed that the orb I'd made to bring to the table was glowing on the desk. Just great. I'd asked my hotel roommate not to touch it, not wanting to waste the batteries unless someone showed interest in my work, but it seemed Sarai couldn't help herself. I looked for her for a sec, before remembering Sarai had left early to get her own artwork set up at our table.
I paused, frowning. The orb looked.... wrong. Or rather, too right. Don't get me wrong, I do damn good work, but there's only so close you can get when you're making a physical version of a video game 3D rendering, especially without access to, or money for, a 3D printer. My orb, I knew, had all the right swirls, and I'd made sure the lights I'd installed to make it "glow" were hidden well enough to not be noticed. But this orb didn't just have lights, it seemed to actually be radiating light. "What's going on here?" I asked the empty room.
I crossed the room to the desk, and I reached for it. Just as my left hand closed on it, I saw my orb, sitting on my bags, the way I'd left it last night.
And for one second, everything stopped.
That was the good part.
Everything after that was hell.
Pain ripped up my arm, feeling like every molecule was at war with its neighbor. I opened my mouth, thought I might have screamed, but I couldn't hear past the roar tearing through my head. A female figure wreathed in blue reached to me, and as she touched my hand lights began to flare in succession, red, blue, yellow, purple, green, over and over again. Each change accompanied by a twist, a pull. Finally, one last burst of green brighter than all of the rest exploded, and I tumbled to the ground in a jumble, rolling into a wall with a smack. Another flare of light, behind my eyes this time, and the pain made me retch.
Dimly, I heard shouting, and someone roughly grabbed my arms.
"What the hell is that?!" a voice muttered. I registered movement, someone trying to get me to stand? And then mercifully, everything disappeared into darkness.