A/N: I know what you're thinking. 'Oh, another self-insert, so original!' Then you're going to read this chapter to see if it's awful enough to be a trollfic. The difference here is that I'm going to put in effort. Everyone's going to be in character, VERY limited plot warping and… well why don't you stick around and find out for yourself?

Dragon Age: Origins is owned by Bioware and EA Game. The song 'Life on Mars' belongs to David Bowie, and the TV show Life on Mars belongs to the BBC. I am he is you are he as you are me and we are all together – I mean, I am me. Read on, dear viewer.

It's a god-awful small affair/to the girl with the mousey hair…

Life on Thedas

Prologue: Pilot

'Vexations. Piece for solo piano. Music of Erik Satie. Three lines of music. Tritones in every chord. Trés lent for a tempo marking. Thirty-four chords. One bass line to be played twice after that. Eight hundred and forty repetitions of all of the material. Maximum running time of approximately eighteen to nineteen hours. In its entire performance history, it has never been played by a single player. Those that tried had to stop due to hallucinations.'

I had just finished reading Mass Vexations and the sequel the night it happened. Looking back on it, it was such obvious foreshadowing I would have kicked myself upside my head had I known what was going to happen. I remember when I finished I looked up from my desk. I didn't have many PC games, but displayed prominently were Dragon Age: Origins and Awakening. I had recently finished a complete run of the game, Awakening and Witch Hunt included. I also remember what I said.

"Being inside Dragon Age would probably be cool too."

God, what a moron. I want to punch past-me in the mouth.

I remember what happened afterwards as well. I got a call from some friends. They wanted me to come and hang out with them that night. I accepted. When I got in the car, I looked in the mirror. The face that looked back had short dark brown hair and blue eyes, clean-shaven. It was a fairly uneventful drive, ironically enough. That was until I heard what sounded like a scream. I stopped the car so fast I thought the brakes would screech. I turned off the engine and listened.

I couldn't hear anything else. I turned the car back on and turned up the radio. I was only half-listening to it when I heard another scream. Louder. Closer. This time I reacted instantly. I practically leaped out of the car and stood in the middle of the deserted road. I stared intently into the blackness that faced me, trying to penetrate it. It was creeping me out.

I heard a noise behind me.

I turned, and suddenly the noise was coming from all around me. It was horrible, like a thousand insects buzzing inside my ear all at once. It sawed at my brain, and I clutched my ears. The noise built up to a fever pitch, and I looked up over the roof of the car. In front of me was something I never thought I'd see. It was as if the air had torn like a huge cloth. Something was inside the hole I physically couldn't focus on. When I tried, my eyes just slid away. I'd had enough. Hands over my ears, I stumbled backwards, anything to get away from the sound.

That was when the car hit me.

I had parked past a bend in the road. The night hid me until it was too late for the driver to stop. The infernal noise stopped me from hearing the car until it was right on top of me. It felt like a rhinoceros had charged me, and I felt myself roll up onto the bonnet of the car, bouncing off the windshield. I rolled back off and landed hard on the road, burning pain permeating every part of my body. I heard the car keep going. No witnesses.

I was fighting to stay awake. Darkness was eating at the edge of my vision, but the pain was excruciating. In my struggles I managed to roll over, and suddenly that weird rip was back in my sight. It was the last thing I saw before I fell unconscious. The last thing I heard? David Bowie on the radio.

But her mummy is yelling "no"/and her daddy has told her to go…

The pain was back, but not as bad as it had been. In fact, it seemed to have moved a little. I groaned, rising from my brain-addled sleep like I was trapped under a thick layer of tar. I shifted a little, wondering if anyone had picked me up and taken me to hospital. I took in a grateful breath of fresh air.

Then the smell hit.

It was the coppery smell of blood, coupled with the smell of rot and decay. What little food I had in my stomach rose with a vengeance. I rolled onto my stomach, raised myself onto all fours and hurled. It was then I realized that I was sitting on grass, not bitumen. I opened my eyes. Yes, definitely grass. Had I been moved to the side of the road. Then I looked up.

Bodies. Bodies as far as I could see. Men lay dead all around me, strewn about like a massive child had decided he'd had enough of his army men. They lay broken, smeared with blood and cut open like sacks of meat. The early-morning twilight made it hard to see, but it was a small mercy. The man next to me had his face frozen in a rictus of terror, and I started away from him. What the hell had happened here?

I looked again, realizing for the first time what the dead men were wearing – armour. Medieval armour, to be precise. Most were only in leather or chainmail, but I saw a few wearing heavier plate. Broken and bloodstained shields lay strewn around, as well as a few discarded helmets. I slowly crawled away, trying to find somewhere away from the bodies. It was then I realized something else. I was wearing armour as well. It was leather armour, boiled until rock-hard. I touched the part just above my injury and felt the leather had buckled. It was as if someone had hit me with a mace. I looked up, desperate to find anything that might explain where I was and how I got here. I got my answer.

There were ruins nearby. I knew what they were. I knew what they were called. My lips formed the word, but no sound came out.


But her friend is nowhere to be seen/Now she walks through her sunken dream…

I ripped off my helmet and ran my fingers through my hair, refusing to believe it. This is impossible, I told myself. This can't happen. You read about this in fanfics, but it DOESN'T HAPPEN! I was hyperventilating and this point – understandable, really. I slowly stood up, equal parts frightened and wary. I had no idea how long it had been since the battle at Ostagar. I didn't know if there were Darkspawn still around.

"Oh Christ, oh Christ what do I do?" I muttered to myself, hysterical. My armour was smeared with blood, and I was injured. Had I been part of the battle? Was I a different person in this universe? First things first, I have to get away from this place. Those bodies… I can't look at them.

There was a sword lying on the ground. I picked it up, and was surprised at how heavy it was. People are supposed to use these with one hand? I untied a scabbard from a dead man's belt, feeling dirty as I did. I stumbled away from the battlefield, feeling sick and alone. My thoughts whirled as I tied the sheathed sword to my belt. Barring the other questions, what was I here for? Was I supposed to join the Warden's party? If so, then I was screwed. The Warden ends up at Flemeth's hut after the battle, and then Morrigan guides them out of the Wilds to Lothering. I was stuck at Ostagar without even knowing which way was north!

I heard a metallic clashing noise. I stopped dead in my tracks, my hand going to the hilt of my stolen sword. It was coming from deeper in the forest. Whoever it was, it was company – something I needed. I dashed off towards the sound, my thoughts still whirling almost completely detached from my body.

How the hell am I supposed to get home?

To the seat with the clearest view/and she's hooked to the silver screen…

I finally came to the source of the noise. I was standing on top of a small escarpment just within the Kocari Wilds proper. Below me were five figures and three corpses. The corpses seemed to be Darkspawn, as were four of the figures. The fifth was human. He was wearing heavy chainmail and wielded a mace and shield. As I watched he battled the four Darkspawn. His movements were slow and jerky, as if he were wounded. He was jarred by several strikes to his shield, and countered with a crushing blow to the head of a Genlock. The small Darkspawn crumpled, something dark and wet leaking from its cracked skull. The warrior paced back, putting some space between him and his three remaining opponents.

The Darkspawn came on. I realized that there was a Vanguard amongst the attackers, wielding a massive greatsword. The blade was almost as long as I was tall! The warrior ducked a wide sweep and countered with a smash to the Vanguard's stomach. The Darkspawn's armour held, and it returned with a pommel-strike. The heavy piece of metal caught the warrior dead in the forehead, and he crumpled. I heard what sounded like a guttural laugh, and the Vanguard raised its sword.

"NO!" I yelled. The world was still and silent for a second that seemed to stretch forever. The Vanguard slowly turned to look at me. The Hurlock and Genlock accompanying it jeered at me, eager for another victim. I jumped down the short gap and drew my sword. It didn't make the impressive shing sound I was expecting. I held it up in both hands, my heart pounding in my chest so hard I thought it would burst out. A part of me was regretting drawing the Darkspawn's attention. The Vanguard seemed to order the other Darkspawn to go after me, and turned back to the warrior. There was a loud crunch and the Vanguard growled in pain. The warrior's mace was buried in its groin, one of the places with the weakest armour. The Vanguard toppled and the warrior hammered its helmet until it caved in, dark blood leaking from the eye slit.

That just left me to deal with a Hurlock and a Genlock. Without any prior experience with a sword. This was going to suck.

Take a look at the lawman/beating up the wrong guy…

I had to make a decision fast. I still didn't know if I could take them. I knew the Darkspawn at Ostagar were weak because it was the start of the game, but this was real life. Everything – even the unpleasant gory details – were so close to life I was having a hard time believing it came from a video game. More importantly, the Darkspawn were frighteningly detailed. The Genlock looked like a psychotic dwarf, ready to pounce on me and eat my head. The Hurlock was taller than me, its face a mess of sickly grey flesh and bloodstained fangs. They were going to kill me. My sword wavered and I was about to turn and run.

"Don't be afraid, boy!" the downed warrior called. "They bleed and die like any creature!"

Except their blood can taint you if it gets in you and then it turns you into a mindless ghoul or something worse and- STOP THINKING! I raised my sword, faking confidence. My thoughts raced. Genlocks had less health in the games, right? I should go for it first. I swung wildly at the Genlock, stepping to my right to get closer to it while moving further away from the Hurlock. The Genlock easily dodged, and I had difficulty bringing the sword up again.

"Parry!" the warrior bellowed. I spun, my sword flying up. By pure chance it collided with the Hurlock's twisted black sword, knocking it away from me. There were no dramatic sparks, but there was a jarring impact up my arm. I danced away.

"Press the attack, boy!" the warrior yelled. I swung reflexively and caught the Hurlock off-guard. It had been starting a swing of its own and hastily diverted to parry. It was a clumsy parry, one that left my sword close to its body. Lashing out, I scored a small cut on its right shoulder. Dark blood began to leak from it, but the Hurlock showed no reaction.

"Good!" the warrior continued, "Don't let your guard down!" I swung again, a wild backhand chop. It knocked aside the Genlock's shortsword and knocked it off-balance. I lunged and swung again. The weapon's length worked in my favour, the tip cutting into the Genlock's throat. Its eyes bugged out as blood pumped from the wound.

"Behind you!" the warrior shouted. I dived to the side, landing flat on my back. The Hurlock's thrust cut the air where I had been. I tried to get up, but the Hurlock was on me before I could move. It swung for my head and I hastily parried, but I lost grip on my weapon. The sword dropped to the dirt, but before I could grab it the Darkspawn kicked it aside. I kicked up desperately, my foot striking it square in the stomach. The Darkspawn seemed winded and staggered back.

"My shield!" I looked to my side. The warrior had slipped his arm free of his round metal shield and slid it over to me. I hooked my arm into the straps and lifted it up just as the Hurlock came back for another attack. The strike rebounded off the shield with an ear-splitting clang, jarring my arm. Another strike was blocked.

"Use your shield!" the warrior yelled. I took the hint, and slammed the edge of the shield into the Hurlock's knee as hard as I could. Too hard, apparently, as I heard a sickening crunchand saw the Hurlock buckle. I didn't try to get up – I just rolled over to the sword. The hurlock hobbled after me, its swings rebounding off my shield. I snatched up my sword as my right leg scythed out. The Hurlock toppled, and I managed to scramble to my feet. It was incredibly hard holding the sword and shield up at the same time, but with all the adrenaline pumping through me I managed it.

The Hurlock drew back its arm for a massive forehand swing. I charged, my shield high and close on my left side. I let out a strangled, hysterical yell and plunged my sword into the Hurlock's chest. It stopped, and blood oozed from the wound. I wrenched the blade out and staggered back, watching the Hurlock die. It held a hand to the wound and staggered towards me, arm still raised. Finally, it tripped and fell. It was dead.

At which point I passed out.

Oh man! Wonder if he'll ever know/he's in the best selling show…

"Wake up! Wake up, boy!"

I cracked open an eye. It was the warrior I'd helped, crouched above me. Great – I was still in Dragon Age. I groaned and sat up, my sword and shield suddenly feeling like they were made of lead.

"Next time, remember not to hold your breath," the warrior remarked. "It's the mistake everyone makes their first time."

I noticed the dark blood covering the blade of my sword. I wiped it on the grass, well aware of what Darkspawn blood can do. I sheathed it and looked over to the warrior.

"And to whom do I owe my rescue?" the man asked.

Crap in a bucket! I hadn't thought of this. Should it be an Aerith or a Bob? Think of a fake name, think of a fake name…

"My name is… V… Ventus," I stammered. What the hell? Why, of all the names I could have picked, I chose that one! Hopefully in a universe with names like Niall or Uldred…

"Good to meet you, Ventus," the warrior replied. "My name is Malcolm."

Phew, I'm safe.

"Please, call me Ven," I said. Oh God, next think you know you'll be sounding like Jesse McCartney. I stood up, and offered a hand to help the injured warrior. He refused.

"My wound's getting worse," he said. "Damn Darkspawn got me with a dagger while I wasn't looking. I've got bandages in my pack – it's over there."

So I guess health doesn't automatically regenerate after a fight anymore – and when someone says they need bandages they actually get them applied. I dug through Malcolm's backpack, past some food and water and found some bandages. I returned, and Malcolm showed me his wound. It looked pretty bad. Malcolm hoisted off his chainmail and his dirty tunic. I wrapped the bandages as tightly as I could and knotted it. I pressed my hands as hard as I could against the wound. Malcolm hissed in pain, but the bleeding seemed to slow.

"That actually feels a lot better. Thank you," he said. He put his armour back on and stood up, walking slightly unsteadily back to his pack.

"Do you have a map?" I asked, wondering if this was my way out of the Wilds.

"Don't need one," he replied. I was puzzled, then suddenly it hit me.

"Are you Chasind?" I asked.

"Smart boy," Malcolm said, shouldering the pack. "I'll be wanting my shield back, though."

I gave it to him. "You must be a great warrior. You killed five Darkspawn all by yourself!"

Malcolm shrugged. "It's what I do." As he said this, he wiped some Darkspawn blood off his face. It smeared, partially dry, and he seemed to get a little in his mouth. But he didn't seem to care. Did that mean… ?

"Are you… a Grey Warden?" I asked.

"Right again, boy," Malcolm replied. "The last one, it seems. Unless Duncan's new recruit made it out alive."

New recruit. It has to be the player character. The only question is, who is it? There isn't a canon Warden, unless you count the one in the Sacred Ashes trailer. At this point Malcolm took off his helmet, and I noticed he had a tattoo. It looked just like the one on the Sacred Ashes Warden. Wait, wasn't there supposed to be a Chasind Origin at one point? I'm actually looking at another PC Warden!

"Can I come with you?" I asked. "I have to get to Lothering."

"Sure, lad," Malcolm replied, patting me on the shoulder. "Just leave the Darkspawn-slaying to me. At least until you learn how to hold that sword."

Malcolm moved off. I followed him, thoughts whirling in my head again. What had happened back home? Were my friends worried? Were my family looking for me? How was I going to get home? Most of all, had I just fought two Darkspawn and won?

Welcome to life on Thedas, I thought glumly.

Is there life on Mars?