Disclaimer: Dark Souls and its characters are the intellectual property of From Software. No copyright infringement intended.
Spoilers for Dark Souls 2, obviously.
This fic takes place, I suppose, in an AU in which the Emerald Herald was not a failed experiment.
Shanalotte stands, and gazes across the waves, and a question comes to her.
When was it that I first set eyes upon a human face?
When Shanalotte was a child, she would watch the Drakekeepers as they kept their vigil at the shrine. She would hide herself behind corners, and conceal herself in the shadows. She would crouch down among the rocks and the reeds, and gaze at those queer, dark creatures as they marched about under the sun, their armour clanking and clanging through the shrieking winds. Great, bulky black shapes, two arms and two legs, hefting about their swords and spears and hammers and shields.
She could never see their faces. The Drakekeepers kept their helmets on, always. Lord Aldia made certain of this.
"The child is not to see what lies beneath the keepers' armour," Aldia told his lieutenant, once. "Your men will never, ever, ever allow the girl to see what lies beneath their mail. She will not be allowed a single glimpse...not one – single – solitary – glimpse."
When Shanalotte was a child, she spent her days surrounded by dragons – remarkable, fantastical, impossible creatures, flurrying above her head and soaring through the clouds – and yet, nothing was more fascinating, more intriguing, more strangely exotic to this little girl than those peculiar, stout figures in their heavy black onyx armour.
The Drakekeepers kept watch over the shrine, and the surrounding aerie. Sometimes, they would retreat to mysterious sanctums hidden deep within the depths of the shrine. There were ceremonies that took place, rituals that were carried out. The Drakekeepers would pull the doors shut, and fasten the bolts, and Shanalotte would not be able to follow them.
They are much like you, the dragon told the little girl. Beneath their metal shells can be found creatures not much different than you. Mortals. Humans. They have blood that flows in their veins. They have hearts that beat in their chests. They have eyes, and noses, and mouths, and ears, and arms, and legs, and fingers, and toes. They were children once, small and weak, and then they grew to become large and strong, much as young Shanalotte also will.
Much like her, the dragon said.
Much like her...young Shanalotte crept about her hiding places, and peered at the Drakekeepers, and wondered what this could mean.
Shanalotte sits on the shore, and watches as the tide crashes against the rocks, and then another question drifts into her mind, quite unbidden.
When was it that I first heard a human voice?
How old was I when I first heard a man or woman speak? Seven years old? Eight years old? Nine?
Shanalotte ponders this a moment, and then gives a faint laugh.
What importance did time have to a child reared by dragons, really? Years, months, weeks, days, hours, moments – such things held no meaning for an eternal creature.
The dragons never saw fit to celebrate the day of their little girl's birth.
How long did Shanalotte live until she first heard human speech?
When she was young, Shanalotte would try to get close to the Drakekeepers. She was a scrawny, raggedy thing, dressed in hides and furs, and she would sneak about the shrine, determined to steal as near to the Drakekeepers as she possibly could.
She squeezed through cracks and scrambled over rubble. She leapt over voids and bounded up walls. Young Shanalotte would have made a fine thief. She was lean, and quick, and quiet, and strong. The keepers never caught her – they seldom knew she was there. The winds were always screeching. The dragons were always flapping about, the beat of their great wings concealing the girl's scratchings and scrabblings.
Shanalotte drew close to the Drakekeepers. She inched towards them, slowly, silently, and they never felt her presence. She crouched down on her hands and knees, and hid in their great shadows, and waited for them to speak.
She wished to hear their voices.
She knew that they could speak.
She knew that they could speak.
She tried to catch a single sound. She waited and waited, and listened and listened, but there was never anything to hear at all.
Lord Aldia had decreed that his men were not to utter a word whilst in the presence of the child. "Your men are to remain silent at all times," he instructed his lieutenant. "Utterly silent. From the moment they leave the mansion – the instant they set foot upon the aerie – they are not to make the smallest sound. The girl is not to hear their voices. She is not to hear one single syllable."
The Drakekeepers stood guard at the shrine, and never said a word.
Shanalotte knew that humans could speak. She knew what happened when human beings filled their lungs and forced their breath back out through their mouths.
When Shanalotte was a child, sometimes she screamed.
She took a deep breath, and screamed.
She screamed and screamed, and her tongue flicked and twisted about in her mouth, and Shanalotte wondered at the sounds she made.
Shanalotte climbed to a high rock, and screamed as loud as she could.
She screamed and screamed, for hours and hours.
Sometimes, Shanalotte has a particular dream.
In her dream, she is a small girl once more. The dragons are gone. One moment, when young Shanalotte was not watching, the dragons all took to the skies and flapped away into the distance, never to return. Shanalotte watches them fade away into the haze, and then she is left all alone, among the rocks and the stones.
A little girl, high above a sea of white mist.
A little girl, all by herself, far, far above the ground.
A little girl, crawling over rocks and trudging over rope bridges.
A little girl, the winds rushing around her, wondering why the world is suddenly so empty.
In Shanalotte's dream, the Drakekeepers are still there. They stand ready at the shrine, silent black sentinels.
Shanalotte tries to speak with them. She tries to form words with her mouth, but nothing comes but garbled groans and gurns and nonsense. The Drakekeepers simply stand there, and do not acknowledge her at all.
Young Shanalotte was present at the hatching of many, many dragons.
Roars and cries from the adults would begin to sound, and the little girl would know at once what was happening. She would scurry across the aerie, hurrying over the bridges and along the paths. She would scamper into the caves, and hunch down beside the nests.
The adult dragons showed this girl remarkable indulgence.
Cracks would spread across the surface of the egg. The shell would be forced apart, green-yellowish goop oozing from the holes, and a newborn would emerge into the world, and meet Shanalotte's wide, enchanted eyes.
Often, Shanalotte would be the first human being that a dragon would ever see.
Shanalotte always understood that she was different. She knew that she was, in many ways, unlike these dragons, the inhabitants of this aerie. Oh, of course she knew that some strange, indistinct sort of kinship existed herself and these creatures. She knew that she was connected in some crucial way to these beings. But there were so many things that set them apart, also. Things that they did not hold in common.
Where did I come from? Shanalotte asked the dragon, once.
The dragon was silent a while. Nothing strange about this; young Shanalotte knew well that the dragon took a long time to decide upon how a question should be answered.
At last, the dragon spoke.
All comes from you, it said. All comes from you.
Young Shanalotte's most prized possessions: feathers, which she occasionally scavenged from around the aerie.
The dragons ignored the birds, mostly. They were too small and unimportant to warrant much notice. Occasionally, a bird would be burnt to cinders by errant flames.
Sometimes, a feather would flutter through the air, and come to rest upon the rocks up on high, lying there for a young girl to find them.
Shanalotte gathered her feathers in a little corner. A hawk. An eagle. A raven, a goose, a vulture, though she didn't know the names at all.
Shanalotte peered at her treasures, carefully turning them over and over in her fingers, gently brushing her skin against them. She imagined having wings of her own. She imagined taking flight, and sweeping and soaring through the skies, flying away to faraway lands.
Shanalotte had known these dragons for as long as she could remember. She knew what it meant when they behaved in a particular manner. She knew what significance it had when they acted in a certain way. Shanalotte was gifted with a deep intuitive knowledge of dragonkind, but there was one thing that she could never, ever, ever understand.
Sometimes Shanalotte watched the dragons gliding through the air, and wondered:
How can you all bear to remain among these rocks, when you all have such beautiful wings?
Where did I come from?
Where did I come from?
It's ironic, really.
Throughout her entire childhood, Shanalotte was tormented by that particular question. Where did I come from? Where did I come from?
I do not have wings. I do not have red, scaly skin. When I gulp down air and push it out, no flames come, only screams and moans.
Where did I come from? Where did I come from?
All comes from you, the dragon would tell her. All comes from you.
All comes from me.
Drangleic is in ruins. Its once-proud people are shambling and shuffling about their shattered streets, all groaning, mewling Hollows. Vendrick is prowling about in the shadows, and there he will remain for all eternity. There's not a single spark of humanity left in that king.
It doesn't matter.
Lord Aldia is dead. He was torn apart by his own imprisoned test subjects, deranged by the years of torture and agony that he inflicted upon them – but at least his work did bear fruit. All the suffering and misery that he visited upon his captives, all the horrors to which that cursed mansion bore witness – seems it all served a purpose, in the end.
The Undead curse has no effect upon Shanalotte.
The blight of Undeath is spreading across the land. Mighty kingdoms are collapsing into rubble, powerless to resist the advance of the legions of Hollows. In only a few years' time, there will be few that remember how Things Once Were.
But it doesn't matter.
Aldia succeeded in his quest. Humankind will survive this scourge.
Shanalotte's issue will begin to spread throughout the land. They will wander through the world. They will face great challenges and terrible dangers, and they will overcome them, as humans inevitably do. They will multiply in number. They will establish dwellings and communities. They will build farms and hamlets, and these will grow to become towns and villages, which will in turn grow to become cities and great, sprawling kingdoms.
Shanalotte's descendants will inherit the world. They will build their armies. They will construct castles and fortresses and temples and cathedrals. They will found their domains upon the ruins of the old world, and to them, the terror of the Undead will be naught but a myth, a legend – a faint, remote memory.
It will take a long time. Years, decades, centuries, millennia...though, ah ha ha ha, what meaning does time hold for a woman raised by dragons?
Eventually, Shanalotte will be forgotten. The matriarch, the original, the mother of the new line of humanity, will fade into obscurity. Her name will be lost. All records of her existence will decay to nothing. Stories of her will become muddled, and jumbled up with other stories, and she will vanish into oblivion.
Shanalotte doesn't mind. She doesn't really mind at all. No one ever knew that there was a scraggy, bony, stringy little girl, living all alone in the skies with the wind and the rain.
She wonders, though...
There will come a time when the descendants of Shanalotte begin to ask themselves a question.
Where did we come from?
Where did we come from?
At the beginning of the new civilization, there was a child, trapped among the columns of stone, high above the earth.
Such a lonely, solitary child. When was it that she first set eyes upon a human face? When was it that she first heard a human voice? When was it that she first encountered another of her kind?
Many years later, when she was an adult, Shanalotte walked through the ravaged halls of Aldia's mansion. She saw the cages in which were kept all the wretched creatures upon which he conducted his experiments. She saw the instruments with which he meted out torment upon his victims. She saw his archives, the records of his research, the accounts of his crimes, recorded in detail.
Shanalotte knows that she could have spent her entire life within the walls of this mansion. She knows that could have found herself locked within one of those cages, subject to the whims of a man who sought to save the human race but thought nothing of warping and mutilating them in the process.
Instead, Aldia placed her in the aerie. Shanalotte supposes she should be grateful.
But such an emptiness Aldia left in her.
Does Shanalotte hate Lord Aldia? Perhaps. Possibly. Such an impoverished childhood he imposed upon her. Such a void he left in her heart. A great gaping hole in her chest.
Will this emptiness endure through her descendants, Shanalotte wonders?
Will Shanalotte's children inherit her loneliness, as they will inherit her blood? Will their children inherit it in turn?
A solitary child, high above an ocean of mist. A lonesome child, raised by creatures among whom she does not truly, properly belong.
Will this child's memories of unhappiness, of discontent, somehow endure through the centuries, and the ages?
In the end, is this Lord Aldia's true legacy? A people tormented by a desolation that they cannot quite explain? A people troubled by a discontent in their souls of which they cannot quite rid themselves?
Shanalotte ponders the future. She wonders what lies in store for her kin, and inwardly she shudders.
Shanalotte hopes that her children are not as lonely as she once was.
Once, a child of a dragon, sequestered away from the world, imagined a world of boundless possibilities from the mere sight of a feather.
Shanalotte is loose in the world, now. Drangleic is far, far behind her. She will never return. She never wishes to see it again. She has explored many lands on her travels. She has learned the names of many kingdoms, though these names will soon be remembered only by her.
More and more, the world is a dangerous place. Much of humanity huddles fearfully behind the city walls, now. The roads are plagued with bandits and marauders, though even the outlaws and criminals are becoming increasingly cowed in the face of the encroaching Hollowed.
Shanalotte is careful. She knows to avoid unnecessary confrontation. Of course, she is the student and prodigy of a dragon. Should a brigand take a liking to her possessions, or should a Hollow decide to show interest in this seemingly harmless wanderer, they will find her rather more formidable than she first appears.
Shanalotte roams around the world. She wishes to see as much of the human realms as she can, while they still remain.
At some point, she will need to end her journey. She will need to decide upon a more permanent home. A place where she might possibly find peace with herself.
That time will come, of course.
There are sights to see. Lands to visit. Adventures to be had.
All comes from me, Shanalotte thinks to herself.
All comes from me.
Thank you for reading. Not bothered if the fic doesn't exactly match up with lore - this is just something I had to write the moment the words "raised by dragons" left Shanalotte's mouth.