“…Can’t you feel the sword at your neck?! They’re just waiting to end you - but if you let me in, we can change everything. We’ll do great things together, me and you! All you need to do is just - ”
“Mouse, buddy,” Firi interrupts him with a sigh, “I know a sales pitch when I hear one - and whatever it is you’re selling, I’m not buying it.”
For a moment, the man in apprentice robes stares at her, puzzled - and then, slowly, a smile creeps onto his face.
“Perhaps Irving was right about you, after all,” he says, all anxious trembling and whining notes suddenly gone from his voice. For some reason, this doesn’t surprise her at all; what does, however, is the mention of the First Enchanter’s name. Firi frowns.
“Right in what? - ” she asks, or rather means to ask; at this exact moment a flash of hot white light explodes before her eyes, burning away the blurry landscapes of the Fade.
“Simple killing is a warrior’s job,” Mouse’s voice echoes in her eard. “The real dangers of the Fade are preconceptions, careless trust… Pride. Keep your wits about you, mage; true tests never end.”
Then, darkness washes over.
…It feels like she’s been wandering these corridors for eternity. An endless maze of walls and doors, all painfully plain, no landmarks to track her progress or the lack of such. The only somewhat remarkable thing is the odd hole here and there, burrowed into the wall - but no matter how long she’s burned and chipped at these, they would not get any bigger.
Nothing tries to attack her anymore; normally Firi would take that as a good sign, but here, in the Fade, it means she’s just walking in circles.
Just keep going, she tells herself, but deep within irritation - and panic - begins to fester.
Countless minutes, hours, days, years later she collapses against the wall, exhausted, desperate. There’s no exit - there’s just - there’s none, no matter what she does, no matter what she says, thinks, tries, there is no way out of this hell.
Firi bites down on her lip, stifling a sob.
They’re out there, she knows - she can feel several presences nearby, demons and sleepers all sitting in the back of her mind, a constant itch in her thoughts. They’re out there. Wynne, Alistair, Zevran - they’re all wandering in the Fade just like her, close enough for her to sense them, but she just can’t find the way through. She can’t.
Greagoir was right; they should have just made her Tranquil.
Curled up with her own misery, she doesn’t even notice her senses beginning to fade away, until there’s only the hollow pain in her chest and the suffocating tears.
Something brushes against her leg, light and tickling; she jumps, startled, opening her eyes at once and scrambling to sit straight again. Wide-eyed, she looks around, but the corridor is still empty; then, she looks down and sees a sheet of paper resting at her feet.
Without even thinking, she picks it up; the handwriting on the page is eloquent and almost too perfect to be real.
Sloth never cared for power, it reads, but your people kept feeding and enticing him until his appetite grew enormous, and his ways twisted to suit their destructive purpose.
Now, he’s captured their souls and hid them within his domain, and I am deprived of the steady flow of sustenance your First Enchanter has supplied me throughout the years; this shall not stand.
Isphire Surana, I offer you this gift. In exchange, I ask only for one thing: end Sloth, and make this place peaceful again. Should you fail, however, I will feast upon your essence; hopefully, it will last me enough to wait Sloth’s reign out on my own.
Take it, and do what you do best: be small, be smart, and be everywhere.
Out of the corner of her eye, Firi catches the shine of something metallic on the ground - a wound-up mouse trap, with a cube of cheese put to serve as a lure. She looks back at the letter; it is unsigned, but the edge of the paper is marked by a line of tiny paw prints.
Despite the horrible situation, she finds herself grinning.
“Mouse,” Firi whispers. “You sneaky little demon.”
She sniffs, blinks the tears from her eyes and concentrates; the cheese cube rises slowly into the air, springing the trap - but there are no fingers or tail to catch under the metal. The cube levitates safely into her open hand.
How does the saying go? There’s only ever free cheese in a mouse trap?
She salutes the wall with the recovered bait, and, without thinking twice, pops the piece of cheese into her mouth; the word begins to twist and grow around, as floor tiles grow wider and the walls begin to seem truly enormous. One moment and it’s done; she finds herself suddenly at eye level with one of the small holes, and sniffs at it curiously, tail swaying from side to side.
The hole smells like humans. Firi doesn’t know why this makes sense, but it just does.
Wynne or Alistair? Let’s find out.
With a triumphant squeak, she crawls through.