Disclaimer: I don't own Dragon Age or any of its related characters. This is just for my own enjoyment and the potential enjoyment of other fans like me, and no monetary gain was expected or received.
Spoilers: Takes place immediately after the events of Dragon Age: Origins.
A/N: I can't say I really know where this is going. I've had the idea of the transplant to a different realm for a long, long time, but this is the first time I've tried it in a non-crossover format. What this means from a practical standpoint is that I have no set structure for the story. Now that's not necessarily a bad thing, I rarely work with structure and tend to do better without it (The Return had no structure whatsoever). But I don't have the best feeling about this attempt, as I haven't had the best feeling about anything I've tried to write since my father died. I feel as if I've got to try anyway, so you might say this is my attempt to get back on my feet, and I'm posting it despite my misgivings because this will make me feel more compelled to continue with it even if I want to quit. I'm still struggling to get back into In a Nearly Perfect World and Strange Bedfellows.
Chapter One: Evil Knows My Name
The first thing he became aware of was pain. Excruciating pain, spread throughout his entire body. The slightest movement caused broken bones to grind together, and sent pain signals through frayed nerve endings in pulverized tissues. As proof of life, it couldn't have been better. And that was a problem.
Because he wasn't supposed to be alive.
The second thing he became aware of was a sense of panic. If he was alive, then that meant the Archdemon must be, too. And if the Archdemon yet lived, then the Blight was not over. Tension flooded his muscles and brought more pain, mind-altering, blinding pain that overrode emotion temporarily. There was clearly no way he was going to move, much less make it to his feet. Whatever was happening with the army and the Blight, it was going to have to happen without him. He had failed. It left a bitter taste in his mouth. That and the blood.
Through the pain and the panic he slowly became aware of other things. He was cold, and he was wet. Surely he hadn't fallen in the river. It was conceivable, barely, for the Drakon flowed but a few streets below the towers of the fort. But if he'd been blown that distance and fallen that far, how could he possibly have survived? It made no sense. And if he was still in the city, why didn't he hear the battle? Why didn't he smell the fire and the rank, fetid stench of the darkspawn? To his ears came only the sound of gently flowing water and the loud whisper of birch leaves. In his nose was only the smell of moist, brown earth and green growing things. He could not be in the city. Where then was he, and how had he gotten here?
It hurt even to breathe. He slowly opened one pale blue eye; the other one didn't seem to want to respond. His vision was cloudy. He saw grass, very close by his face, and a small beetle crawling up one blade, too tiny even to bend it. He blinked and the world came into better focus. He saw beams of light that broke through the leaves of overhead trees like the fingers of the Maker. He saw at the furthest edge of his vision a placid stream bubbling over smooth, polished stones. Wherever he was, it was a beautiful place to die. He closed his eye again.
Perhaps he faded out of consciousness for a time. The next thing he knew, he felt hands on his shoulders and back. He was quite familiar with the feel of magical healing, power that passed from the conduit of the mage's hands and into the body. This was nothing like that. Instead it felt almost as though these hands reached into him and took hold of each broken bone and damaged organ, remolded it, and moved on to the next. The power in these hands didn't come from elsewhere, like all magic he was familiar with. This power seemed part and partial of the hands themselves, an ancient, eldritch power. It left him weak, but whole. Exhausted, he lost consciousness again.
He woke again when his body was jostled. Someone rolled him over, with strong hands under his arms and on his legs.
"He's been beaten badly. The nymph must have healed him. Funny she would do that for a human. Let's take him back to the settlement. He'll die if we leave him here."
"Is that such a bad thing? He's human," someone else said.
"Hush. Humans aren't all bad. If the nymph took the time to heal him then he must be worth saving."
"How do you know she did? Maybe he's just ugly. And naked."
"Stop talking back and do what you're told."
He opened his eyes and saw several elves gathered around him. They loaded him up on some sort of travois without further speech, and he didn't even think of speaking to them. He was simply too tired. He closed his eyes again, and felt someone drape a cloak over his body. He appreciated that. He wondered what had happened to his armor. He realized he'd been naked since the first time he wakened. Could the blast have blown him right out of his armor and the clothes he wore beneath it? That made about as much sense as anything else in this situation.
He felt his body bump and jostle over the ground. He kept his eyes closed and let the world pass by beneath and around him unheeded.
"Are you sure he's still alive?" someone said.
"He's alive. He just needs someplace safe to recuperate. He was near death."
"How do you know?"
"The wood spoke to you, didn't it? The wood spoke to you of this human. That's how we found him. It was no accident you turned us from the hunting trail to the nymph's glade."
"The wood told the nymph to heal him, then told you where to find him. Is he god-touched?"
"Not all the gods are benevolent, you know."
"Enough. Just walk."
The pace of the travois was slow, probably pulled by hand rather than by an animal. They'd probably brought it along to carry the kill, if they were a group of hunters, but he would have expected them to have a halla to pull it. Perhaps the white deer were too sensitive to bring along on a hunt. He thought about it in short bursts, as he lapsed in and out of sleep throughout the journey. Every bump seemed to jerk him awake. Though he was no longer in excruciating pain, every muscle was tender, his body one giant bruise. He thought about what he considered a curious lack of halla more than he thought about that curious conversation he'd overheard, where they spoke of nymphs and gods. The Dalish had their own gods, he knew that, but it made no sense that one of them would think he'd been somehow touched by one of them, and nymphs were creatures from fairy stories. But then again, when he was a child, dragons were extinct and the darkspawn had been permanently defeated. The world had ways of surprising you.
It was a long time before they finally stopped, and the moment they stopped he lapsed into a deep sleep. He was wakened once, when they moved him from the travois to a straw pallet someplace inside, but as soon as he was settled he fell asleep again and did not wake for hours. It was almost as though he slept to make up for all the sleep he had missed over the past year.
He awakened slowly, to the gradual realization that he needed to urinate. Without thinking, he tried to get up. There was no strength in his body and he barely managed to lift himself a fraction of an inch off the pallet. He groaned involuntarily, and someone responded.
"Don't try to move. You lost a lot of blood."
He opened his eyes, and saw an elven face, pale-skinned and fair-haired. He couldn't tell straight away whether it was male or female, but the voice was female. His sallow cheeks flushed red.
"I need to make water," he said.
The elf handed him a small wooden bucket. "I trust you can manage on your own?"
"I certainly hope so." He pulled the blanket that covered him partway off and put the bucket underneath the part that still covered him. He cautiously urinated into the tipped container and righted it before he pulled it back out from under. His cheeks blushed redder as he handed the partly filled pail to the elf.
"Don't worry about it. I take care of a lot of sick and injured people, although I have to say you're the first human. What happened to you? You took quite a beating, it seems."
"I don't really know what happened. I was supposed to die," he said.
"You nearly succeeded. This wasn't a suicide, was it? I don't want to come in here and find you've finished the job with a shirt lace or something."
"No, it wasn't suicide." He struggled to sit up, and the elf helped him prop himself against a couple of buckwheat pillows. Up close, he could tell for certain that it was a female. "I knew what I did would mean my death, but it had to be done."
"What is it you did? Tell me the story," the woman said.
"Sorry, Gray Warden secret."
"What's a Gray Warden?" she asked.
"You don't know? I thought the Dalish had a relatively good relationship with them."
"What's a Dalish?"
"You're not…Dalish?" he said.
"I'm a sylvan elf. What's a Dalish?"
"It's…an elf…who lives in the woods."
She laughed. "All elves live in the woods."
He looked around himself. He'd thought he must be in an aravel, but it did look more like the interior of a house than a wagon. "You don't know about the Dalish? Is this…am I not in Ferelden?"
"I've never heard of Ferelden. Is that where you're from? This is the wood of Aulden, in the land the humans call Lindroh, although we're many miles from any human settlement. Which begs the question, how did you get all the way out here?"
"I don't know. I've never heard of a place called Lindroh, or the wood of Aulden. No place I know in all of Thedas. How did I get here? I have no clue. It must have something to do with the Archdemon. It sent me here, wherever this is. Somehow. It makes no sense, but nothing does right now."
"Archdemon? Not a god? Because somebody told me you might be god-touched," she said.
"I don't know what that means, but the Archdemon was a god, or at least it was worshiped as such a long time ago," he said. "Do you know aught about darkspawn here?"
"No. What are darkspawn?"
"An evil scourge. Count yourself fortunate if you don't encounter them here. Tell me, am I still in Thedas at all?"
She shook her head. "Afraid not, or at least I've never heard of any people that calls this place Thedas. I can't believe you traveled far in your condition, so maybe you crossed planes? The Elder might know what plane you're from, he's learned about other worlds."
"Planes? Like the Fade? This couldn't be a Fade dream, could it? Of course, that would make you a demon, I suppose, and a demon wouldn't tell me the truth."
"There are lots of different planes. You have no reason to trust me, but I'm not a demon. Just an elf."
"I don't really think you are a demon. I've never been in this much pain in a dream."
"Yes, you're going to be in pain for awhile. You probably won't have to be in bed for very long, though. The nymph did a good job of healing you. Nothing left but lots of bruises and blood loss."
He looked at her with one eyebrow cocked. "An actual nymph, eh? Spirit of the forest or what have you. Where I come from, they're just fairy stories."
"Well, they're real here. They don't usually give their time to humans, because your people aren't one with the wild places of the world, but she healed you. Maybe she felt sorry for you, all beaten up, or maybe the wood told her something about you."
"The wood speaks, to those with ears to hear it. Not many people can hear the voice of the wood. The nymph can, of course - all the fey can hear. They're part of the wood to begin with. But a few of the elves of our clan can hear, and there are others in other clans. The wood told one of our hunters where to find you. It isn't often the wood takes an interest in mortal affairs. You must be special. That's why we thought you were god-touched. If one of the gods put you here, for good or for ill, then the wood would look out for you."
"Why would it look out for me if I'm here for ill?" he asked.
"The wood would know you're god-touched, not for what purpose the god put you here. Being god-touched is a very special condition. You could be here to work great good…or great evil."
He blinked, once. "I am not evil," he said. "But evil knows my name."
"I think most of us can say that. What is your name? I am Sayela."
"My name is Loghain."
"Well, Loghain, I've got some soup on the fire. Are you hungry?"
"Ha. I'm starving. I haven't eaten in several days. I was too keyed up, and there wasn't much time."
"Well I'll go get you some. I'll be right back."
She left the room. Loghain looked around himself and took in his surroundings completely for the first time. The walls, floors, and ceiling were wooden, which had helped with the impression that he was in an aravel, but on further inspection he saw that part of one wall was in fact the trunk of a very large tree. There was some simple furniture, a twig-back rocker and a small wooden table with a metal candlestick on it. Sayela left with the piss bucket and returned with a wooden bowl of something steaming hot.
"Here you go. It's potato and cheese, I hope that's all right," she said.
"It's just fine. Smells delicious. Do you grow the potatoes yourselves?"
"Yes. We don't have much space for agriculture, but we make good use of what little we've got."
She handed him the bowl, and he spooned up his first mouthful. The soup was rich with herbs and tasted heavenly. The first bite awakened his hunger and gave him a visceral reminder of the privation of the past few days. Food had been available, but he hadn't had the stomach for it. Apart from everything else, the heavy stench of darkspawn did nothing for the appetite. There was no sense of them here, not even the slightest tingle in his blood. He wasn't even entirely certain he was still tainted. Perhaps it was simply that he was anemic, but there wasn't the faintest flutter of taint in his veins. Maybe that was because there were no darkspawn in this place, but he doubted that the taint ever stopped feeling strange. It was something foreign inside, and the body fought it continuously.
He forced the thought of darkspawn from his mind long enough to enjoy his soup. There was too much to think about to dwell on it now. Where he was, how he was going to get home, what had happened with the Archdemon and the state of Ferelden, all of these were questions he could not answer for the moment. When he was stronger, when he could sit up on his own without wanting to faint, that would be the time to start worrying about the big questions. Right now, smaller questions were all he could deal with.
"I hate to impose upon you further, but I have to ask," he said. "Is there any chance you might have something I could wear?"
"The crafters are fixing you up some clothes," Sayela said. "There's nothing in the village that would fit someone your size, so they're patching things together from old pieces and fresh hides. It will look a bit piecemeal, I expect, but its better than nudity, right?"
"Much better, thank you."
"I don't suppose you can explain why you were naked when they found you?" she asked.
"I can't. The last thing I remember before I woke up here, I was fully dressed and armored."
"Well, that supports the idea that you crossed planes. People who get knocked from one plane to another quickly and against their will don't come across with everything that's in their possession at the time. The Elder might know why that is, but I don't," Sayela said. "Would you like another bowl of soup?"
She took the bowl and disappeared. Loghain lay his head back against the pillows and closed his eyes until she returned with another steaming bowl of potato soup. He ate it, and then she helped him lay back so that he could get some more sleep.
"I'll leave you alone now," she said. "Get some sleep, and when you wake up there should be some clothes for you. The herbalist will have some medicines ready for you by then as well. We'll have you on your feet soon."
"Thank you," he said.
He closed his eyes but didn't sleep. The questions circled round in his head and kept him from it. He hoped it would start to make sense when he found someone knowledgeable to explain it to him. Right now it all seemed like a particularly crazy dream. Crossing planes, nymphs, gods…it was too much to contemplate. He forced himself to think of other things, since there was nothing he could do yet about what he didn't know. He thought about Anora, and wondered if she still had a nation to rule. He wondered if they'd found his armor and if they wondered what had happened to the rest of him. He thought about the battle, and how strange it was to obey while others commanded. He wondered if he'd ever get back. He wondered if he really wanted to go back. This was a place where no one knew who he was, or what he'd done. There was appeal in being anonymous.
Eventually Sayela returned, a ceramic bottle in her hand. "You awake? I've got some medicine for you, it will help you with the anemia. The herbalist said you should drink all of it."
"Thank you. We have blood-replenishing potions where I come from. I've drunk down many of them in my time, but I've never been able to get used to the taste."
"Coppery, like blood," Sayela said.
"Yes. Curious that it should be the same. I wonder if it comes from the same ingredients? I've never known what they're made from, so I doubt I would recognize it if you told me."
"My philosophy on that sort of thing is that I'm generally better off not knowing."
"I feel the same way."
She helped him to sit up and then handed him the bottle. He took it and tipped it at her in salute. "Cheers," he said, and drank it down in a gulp with a grimace. "I don't know what the worst part is, the taste or the texture. It's almost frothy."
"Have you ever actually looked at it?" Sayela asked.
"No. I really don't want to, either. I have a funny sort of feeling that it might be red."
"I think it is. The herbalist always has red on his apron after he makes a batch."
"Unpleasant to think about."
Sayela cocked her head to one side in a listening gesture. "I think I just heard a knock at the door. That's probably your new clothes."
She left the room, and returned in a few moments with garments in hand. "Here you go. They did the best job they could on them. They're a bit piebald but they're well-constructed. They'll serve you until you find your way to human lands where the clothing will fit you. Are you ready to try them on?"
"If I have the strength to stand."
"I'll help you."
"Thank you, but I would prefer to do it on my own."
"I've seen what you look like under that sheet, you know," Sayela said.
"I know. But that was when I was too weak to fight about it."
"Very well, if you think you can manage it. I'll just be in the other room." She put the clothes down on the floor by the pallet and disappeared out the door. Loghain levered himself up off the pallet and shakily pulled himself into a standing position. He leaned heavily on the small end table while he pulled the patchwork trousers up over his legs. They'd gone to some effort to make the castoff pieces presentable, with decorative stitching and the different-colored patches complimenting each other as best as possible. The shirt was the same, with a high collar and a deep laced neck. The trousers fit a bit tightly but it was bearable. He lowered himself into the twig-back rocker and breathed a sigh of relief.
"I'm done," he called, and Sayela came back into the room. She eyed him critically.
"They didn't do a bad job, considering what they had to work with and the time it took them. Of course elven craftsmen are the best, that's undebatable. How are you feeling? I bet you're glad just to be sitting in a chair."
"I am. I don't feel too badly. I've always been a quick healer. I just need to catch my breath, and then I can get out of your hair. Perhaps there's something I can do for you in thanks for your help."
Sayela laughed. "Tired of my conversation already? I don't think you're quite ready to get up and go. Give it another day of rest and medicine before you fly out of here."
"I can't stand to lie around vegetating."
"I know. You're a man of action, it's easy enough to tell. Tell you what, how would you like to get out of this room and go sit on the front porch? The fresh air would be good for you."
"I would love to, thank you."
He stood up, with only some slight difficulty, and she led him through the rest of the small house to the front door. "I've got some cleaning to do," she said. "There are chairs out there for you."
He nodded, and opened the door. Instead of a low wooden deck a few inches off the ground he found himself looking out at the forest from halfway up the trunk of a gigantic tree, with a porch that turned into a ramp leading down to the ground. There were other houses in sight that hung on to the trunks of other trees, all well-constructed and beautifully ornamented with intricate carving, all perfectly blended into the surrounding forest. He walked to the edge of the railing and looked down into the clearing, a good seventy feet below. He could see the cultivated land, in the middle of the clearing where the sun reached it, and he saw that it contained a preponderance of wheat. It was unlike any settlement he'd ever seen before, but he had to confess he liked it. It looked as old as the forest itself, as though it had grown organically from the wood, and it looked like a place that war had never touched, whether true or not. He lowered himself into one of the chairs on the porch and watched time stand still. It was peaceful, but it didn't take long before he started to feel a sort of itch in his feet. He wasn't cut out for a peaceful life.
Evidently he wasn't the only one. With a whoop, someone swung in on a rope, cleared the railing, and touched down a few feet away from where he sat. An elf, of course, far more muscular than Sayela but no less female, with pale skin, yellow hair, and large, oddly wolfish eyes. She turned these on Loghain and he saw some ferocity there.
"When are you leaving?" she asked without any preamble.
"Hello to you, too," Loghain said. "In answer to your question, soon. My keeper says I need more rest and more medicine."
"I'm going with you when you leave," the woman said.
"You are, are you? And why is that?" he asked.
"You'll need me to show you the way to the human settlement. And I need to get out of here."
"Is the forest too small for you?" he asked.
"No. I just need to go someplace where nobody knows me."
Loghain stood up and took her measure against his own height. "You're tall for an elf, aren't you?" he said.
She crossed her hands over her chest. "Yeah, and you're thick for a stone, aren't you?"
"I suppose I am," he said. "What's your name?"
"I don't care," she said.
"Friendly, aren't you?"
"I'm not out to make friends."
"Fortunate. Neither am I."
"Fine. I'll see you later, then," she said, climbed over the rail, and swung herself away on her rope. Loghain watched her go, shook his head, and sat back down.
About a half an hour later, Sayela came outside and sat down in the chair next to him.
"Enjoying it?" she asked.
"The fresh air is nice, but I have to admit I'm tired of sitting around," he said.
"It won't be much longer. The herbalist will have another dose of medicine for you in a few hours, and then some sleep to give it a chance to work. I'd expect you'll be on your way this time tomorrow."
"I've never made a very good patient."
"I met one of the townsfolk. Elilia."
"Oh really? Did she tell you the plan?"
"She told me in rather an abrupt manner that she's going with me when I leave."
"She can be a bit…gruff. She's a good person, though."
"Is she entirely elven? She's rather tall."
Sayela hemmed a bit. "Well, it isn't really my place to say anything, but she's mostly elf."
"Well, it's none of my business of course. Just idle curiosity."
Sayela slapped her thighs and started up out of her chair. "Want me to make you a sandwich? You can eat it out here."
"Thank you, I am a bit hungry."
She disappeared into the house and returned in a few minutes with a wooden plate and a particularly fine wooden goblet. "Don't get too excited, it's just cranberry juice," she said. "You haven't had anything to drink in awhile so you don't need alcohol to dehydrate you."
"Cranberry juice? Where's the bog?" he asked.
"Miles away. We trade for the berries with the group of rock gnomes that works it."
"Rock gnomes, eh? I'm afraid to ask."
"You're not familiar with gnomes? They're a lot like elves, only a lot smaller. They're good people, most of them."
"They're not made of rock?" he said.
"No, they're not. I think the name comes from the fact that they dig their homes out of the rock underground."
She handed him the plate and goblet. He took a sip of the tart juice and set the goblet aside on the flat arm of the chair. He turned his attention to the sandwich, a term he'd never heard before. He considered it a clever innovation, a variation on the bread trenchers he was familiar with. The extra piece of bread on top of the pile of food made it easier and cleaner to eat with the hands. Inside the sandwich he discovered white wild turkey meat with herb stuffing and cranberries. He picked it up and took a bite.
"Delicious," he said, after he swallowed. "You're an excellent cook."
"Thank you," she said. "I do my best."
He finished off the sandwich and the glass of juice. "Thank you, that was excellent," he said.
She took the plate. "Would you like another glass of juice? Water, perhaps?"
"Water, thank you."
She went back into the house and returned with the goblet full of water. "Here you go," she said. "I was wondering if maybe you weren't ready to talk to the Elder. He might be able to tell you how you got here, and from where."
"And how to get back, hopefully."
"If there is a way, it won't be easy," Sayela said. "I doubt you'll find your way back from here. There are places where the distance between planes is lesser. This isn't one of them."
"I got here somehow, there must be a way back. You have a lovely home but I don't belong here."
"I hope you find your way back," she said. "It can't be easy to be picked up and put down in a strange new world. But I hope you live well if you find yourself stuck here for a time."
"I can survive."
"Well, I'll go talk to the Elder. He'll probably come to you. Are you all right to sit here for awhile longer?"
"I'm fine. Thank you for taking the trouble."
"I'll be back in a bit," she said, and headed down the ramp to elsewhere. Loghain sat where he was and felt the itch of boredom close back in around him. It was quite some time before Sayela returned, followed by a white-haired elven man more powerfully built than elves Loghain was accustomed to seeing. Rather than being willowy, this man was as solid as any strong human, albeit shorter.
Loghain stood up and offered his hand to the man. "You are the village Elder?" he asked.
"I am. My name is Ardenal."
"Loghain Mac Tir."
The Elder sat down in the other chair, and Loghain sat back down as well. "Tell me about your homeland," the Elder said. "By the unique details I may be able to tell you what plane you come from."
"I hardly know what might be of use to you," Loghain said.
"Well, here is a detail that tells much: does your realm know of magic?" the Elder asked.
"Yes, we have mages."
"Mages. That is telling. Not everyone can use magic where you live?"
"No. Do you mean they can here?"
"Here and on many planes. Specialized magic is rare, and often seeps into an otherwise magicless plane from another plane of powerful magic. It is drawn to certain people and not to others."
"Our magic is said to come from a place called the Fade, where all humans and elves go when they dream. Dwarves don't have a connection to the Fade, and none of them can use magic."
"Is that what the native denizens of that plane call it? The Fade?" the Elder asked.
"As far as I'm aware. Not having a connection to the magic myself, I'm not much of a draw to the demons that live there. I haven't really encountered any, not when I was awake, at least."
The Elder nodded thoughtfully. "There are several planes that I know of which draw their magic from other planes, some of which are home to what could be termed demons. These are powerfully magical creatures that are often drawn to the magical connection made by these people from the other, more material plane. Is there anything about your world that is strange or unique?"
"Well…there are the darkspawn."
"Darkspawn? Tell me more."
So Loghain did. He told the Elder everything he knew about the Old Gods, about how the Maker cast down the Tevinter magisters that invaded the Golden City, about the darkspawn, and about the Archdemon. He didn't bother to worry about Grey Warden secrecy, he considered it moot in a place where there were no darkspawn and thus no reason for the Grey Wardens to recruit. The telling took a good hour even in his terse version, and when he finished the Elder sat and thought for a time.
"I can't say I've ever heard of creatures like you're describing, but they must be the giveaway detail for someone who is more familiar with other planes than I. It is clear you are from another plane. This Old God, the Archdemon, must have sent you here. The wood told one of our hunters where to find you, and likely told the nymph to heal you. That is something the wood would most likely not do unless you were god-touched. Gods can cross planes as easily as men can cross streams. I believe this Archdemon, this Urthemiel, crossed into our plane when it died in yours, and brought you with it, either by accident or design. The fact that you were jerked out of your clothing makes me suspect it was an accident, as though perhaps you were caught up in its wake."
"But…you think the Archdemon is dead, then? Even though I survived."
"You said this other Warden, Riordan, that he told you your soul would be destroyed. That was a foolish thing for him to say. The soul cannot be destroyed, only the physical vessel. It is likely you would have died if you had not been brought to the nymph's powerful healing magic. Probably this is what happened to your predecessors, who killed Archdemons and were slain in the process. You survived perhaps because you are a bit more vigorous than they were, or because you, unlike they, were carried to this place where healing was possible. In your world, the Archdemon is no more. I believe it has found new life here, in our realm. Possibly in another form, possibly only as energy. It had a connection with this world, or with the nymph's glade perhaps."
"It was a beautiful place. Urthemiel was supposedly the god of beauty once upon a time, before it went mad."
"I think it likely that you have hit upon the connection. Any place associated with a nymph is a place of great natural beauty."
"I don't suppose you know how I might get back to my plane, do you?" Loghain asked.
The Elder shook his head. "I am afraid not. Crossing planes is difficult or impossible for ordinary people, and harder still is it to choose which plane you cross to. There may be a way, but I do not know it."
"Well, thank you regardless. You've put my mind at ease a bit regarding the state of things back home. If I'm stuck here, at least I'm somewhat assured that I haven't left a big mess behind me. At least, not a mess I had any control over in the first place."
"I hope you can find your way back home," the Elder said. "I hope that you find a home here if you cannot."
"Thank you. I don't think I'm in the market for a new home, but part of me does think it is perhaps for the best if I'm trapped here for what remains of my life. I suppose I will have to find a place to stay, in one of the human settlements. I would imagine there are plenty of those, though they are likely far from so wild a place as this."
"My people live in the primordial forests," the Elder said. "We live within our environment. Humans create their own environments, as far as they are able. They cut down the forests and plow up the grasslands. It is their way. We keep to our places and protect them when we must, for humans spread like locusts. That, too, is their way. You won't find it difficult to find a human settlement, you have only to leave the forest. Getting that far may be difficult, but we will give you a weapon, and you will have Elilia - a competent hunter."
"I met her. She's clearly not the talkative type. Is there any particular reason I should know why she wants to leave her people?"
"It is nothing, only the whim of an impetuous young woman. She has a home here waiting for her if ever she wishes to return."
"The wood isn't big enough for her," Loghain said.
"It would seem that it is not."
Sayela descended the ramp and returned in a moment with another ceramic bottle. "Your next dose is here," she said, and waggled the bottle in the air. "You'd better take it now, and maybe get some rest."
"All I've been doing is resting," Loghain complained, but he took the bottle and swigged it down. He grimaced and chased it with the last gulp from his water. "Agh. Well, I suppose. It was good of you to talk with me, Elder. I thank you."
The Elder stood up, and so did Loghain. The men shook hands and the Elder turned and headed down the ramp to wherever he'd come from. Loghain allowed Sayela to chivvy him back through the house to the back room, where he lay down on the straw pallet.
"You should be stronger by the time you wake up," Sayela said. "Two potions is generally the most anybody needs to make a full recovery. I know you're anxious to be up and about. You'll look like a flat-eared dark elf for awhile longer, but you should be on your way tomorrow if you want."
"What's a dark elf?" Loghain asked.
"You don't have dark elves where you're from? A dark elf is an elf that lives underground. They have very dark skin, grey or blue-black, like your bruises."
"I didn't know there were different races of elves. There's only one, as far as I know, where I'm from."
"Well there's several races here. There aren't too many differences between most of us but we rather keep to ourselves by and large."
"Cultural differences?" he asked.
"Yes, though I suppose a human wouldn't see much difference, since there can be such varied differences in human culture that you war with each other."
"The big problem with all the different human cultures is that we all think our culture should be the only one, and try to force it down the throats of other peoples, human and otherwise," Loghain said.
"Is that the way you feel, too? That your culture should be the only one?" Sayela asked.
"I can't deny it. It's a human thing. There's only one group of people whose throats I'd like to ram anything down, however, and yours isn't that group."
"What group is?" Sayela asked.
"Back home, there is a nation that stands next to mine. Long ago, when I was a boy, they were in control of us, and tried to force their culture upon us. There was a war, and we finally managed to shake their grip off of us. Fears that they one day would conquer us again led me down a bad road."
"How bad?" she asked.
"Bad enough that I very nearly destroyed everything I worked my entire life to protect."
"Was it really so bad, having to live beneath their culture?" she asked.
"They believe that anyone not born to wealth and power is for the using, whether they want to rape you or kill you for no good reason. That's the way they treat their own people, you can imagine how badly they treated us."
"I can understand why you'd be fearful that would happen again."
"I let my fear get the better of me."
"Are you going to stay fearful for your country's safety even here?" she asked.
"I am. There may be nothing I can do about it even if I manage to make it home, however, so I will try not to let it rule me."
"I listened to what you told the Elder. I think I understand what a Grey Warden is now. But I didn't need to hear your explanation to know you were a soldier. Do you think you will stay with that profession if you have to live here?"
"I have nothing to fight for here. I suppose there's always work for a man with a strong sword arm, though. I owe a debt that I haven't completely repaid. I'll do what I can to help people until I leave this place or breathe my last, whichever comes first."
"I hope you're telling the truth. I can't say I have a lot of trust for humans, but I believe you. If nothing else, you strike me as a man who doesn't waste time on lies."
"I lie when I have to, but for the most part you're right. Lying is a waste of time and energy. I have nothing to gain from a lie anyway, since I'm not particularly concerned about your opinion of me. I'm grateful for the help you've given me, and indebted to you, but I don't think you have to like me."
"I have an idea you're a hard man, maybe a hard man to like. I do, though. I'm glad I was able to help you," Sayela said.
"I don't think you would say that if you knew me better. I appreciate it, though. It can't be easy to say you like any human, all personal issues aside. We don't engender such amongst other races by and large, or even our own."
Sayela moved towards the door. "I'll leave you to rest, now. Tomorrow we'll see if you're ready to leave us. I think you will be."
"I think you'll be glad to see the back of me. I would still like to do something in repayment before I leave," Loghain said.
"We need for nothing, but we'll wish you well as you go."
She left the room, and Loghain lay back with his hands behind his head and stared up at the wood plank ceiling. He thought he wouldn't sleep, but, perhaps because of the medicine or only the fresh air, in a very few minutes he dropped into a deep, dreamless slumber.