I would like to dedicate this story to those who have been so generous and kind as to post reviews and comments to my other stories. I love to get reviews and look forward to each and every one. Additionally, my appreciation to those who favorite or subscribe, too.
A special thanks to alyssacousland (whose name I shall one day spell correctly, I'm certain of it!) for all that she has done for me. She's a dear lady, and I'm grateful for all that she has helped me with.
This story is based on the Dragon Age universe, which is the intellectual property of Bioware corporation. No infringement is intended or implied.
Part 1: Awakening
She could feel them; hideous, dark, and foul. They battered at her mind, driving her towards despair and madness. They hammered and pushed, seeking entry, and with it—domination.
So far, it had been only mental, this intrusion, this violating, this rapacious, cruel invasion. But she was beginning to wake from her slumber, the sounds of grating stone screaming across her eardrums like a dull knife sawing at delicate skin.
Something skittered and chittered out there beyond her chamber; something vile and reprehensible—something deadly, dangerous, and vile. It was coming for her. Seeking her like a beacon in the darkest part of night.
Whatever it was, it was utter darkness. It was depravity mixed with loathing and seasoned with violence.
This encroaching, rolling horde of… something… distressed her. Somehow, she knew it threatened her, and that it was her it sought. It was hideously primitive, a sort of sucking, raw hole that tried to drag her mind, kicking and screaming, into a painful abyss.
It was encroaching so firmly upon her that she could barely think. She could barely function. Some undying, intuitive sense inside of her warned her to flee—to escape before it was too late.
If they found her, she knew, they would rape her—mind, body, and soul. She would become… like them. She would be warped into a twisted and obscene thing of darkness, hate, violence, and fury.
So it was that Velistara stretched towards the top of her chamber, and began to dig through the ground. She went straight up, in hopes that the encroaching monstrous sea of perversity would be unable to follow.
She dug for months, resting and then digging again. While she was in stasis, she had been able to preserve her body, but now that she was awake, and engaging in physical exertion; hunger, the fast decreasing oxygen loss, and fatigue pulled at her.
The further she worked, the more distant the terrifying scrambling of the perversity became. Despite this, she began to fear for her life as her great claws dug their way through stone and dirt. The air that had followed her up from her chamber was running out. She had enough of the oxygen-producing lichen on her skin to keep her alive, but only if she were in hibernation. It was not keeping up, and it was being rubbed away or killed by her frantic digging.
She couldn't hibernate now, either, or she would surely perish. Not only because there was no longer enough lichen, but because her position put too much pressure on her internal organs.
So she pushed upwards in desperation, clawing and seeking. She could sense the surface nearing, and hope surged in her. But the air was running out faster than she could dig.
Suddenly, she wanted to live more than she wanted anything in the world. She wanted to live!
"Please!" she thought in deep despair, knowing there was no one to hear her, "oh, please, don't let me die! Not like this!"
Then she was gasping for air and felt the overwhelming sense of impending death. As darkness was beginning to overwhelm her, she thought she heard, "Huh? What?"
She was overcome with vaguely perverse amusement. How ironic. She was dying and she sounded like an idiot.
"Hey! I'm not an idiot, thank you very much…"
"Help me!" she cried, feeling the first sense that perhaps it wasn't her own thought at all… "Oh please, help me! Don't let me die like this!"
Alistair sat up, holding his reeling head. Ugh, what the hell? He'd had a lot of Darkspawn dreams over the last few months. He had even begun to think that perhaps he was going to have to go to Orzammar soon.
The thought had been a relief, and he'd actually started heading that way. But then he'd decided, for no reason he could figure out, to take a pit stop in the Brecilian Forest instead.
Now, he was running out of booze, his head was pounding, and he was talking to himself about dying.
And as usual, he called himself an idiot.
"Help me! Oh please, help me! Don't let me die like this!"
What in the Fade? He clutched his aching head and tried to shake the otherworldly feeling that was falling over him.
Suddenly, he felt his air cut off. He was dying. He dropped onto his bedroll and a powerful, deep terror gripped him. He saw strangely glowing dirt walls all around him, with vivid clarity.
He felt darkness closing in on him. It overwhelmed him and his heart roared in his chest, a slow, deep, resonant booming.
What in the Fade?
He suddenly found himself lying once again on his bedroll, gasping and choking and straining. He grabbed his chest, ignoring the beard that laid on it and felt himself. He was alive!
Then, he realized that something wasn't right. He picked up his sword and stabbed it into the stone of the plateau he was on. He began to dig into it with a frenzy he was totally unaware of. The sword dulled, but he didn't care. He dug and dug, ignoring the pounding in his head. When his sword snapped, he sought furiously in his pack, finding an axe that he'd taken from a bandit who had wanted the sword he'd just destroyed…
Hours later, sweat dripping off of him and weariness straining his muscles, he struck emptiness. He opened the hole further, trying to see what was in it, but night had come while he labored, and he could see nothing.
Yet the sense of urgency had left him, just like that. Staggering, he wandered back to his blanket. He'd made a hole big enough that, tomorrow, he could climb down and see what was there. It would have to do for now, as he was afraid he would fall into it if he tried to keep going.
She awoke, at first thinking she had perished and was in the Fade. But she could feel stone pressing around her, and she wondered in amazement. How could this be?
What was to her a brilliant light flooded down upon her, and she stared in astonishment. Then it struck her: Air! She had AIR! She struggled with the realization. A moment later, she realized the light was coming from a crudely dug hole beside her head, and that was why only one eye could make out the luminescence pouring in through it.
Gasping and heaving, she fought to free herself and dig further, but she had settled downwards after passing out. She couldn't dislodge her upper legs from where they were pinned.
She was trapped by her own weight.
She searched the area around her, hoping to contact again the intelligence—or almost-intelligence—that she'd felt before she lost awareness.
To her surprise, she found it, quite nearby, and obviously in a state of hibernation. She probed gently at it, but it seemed locked into hibernation, and she was unable to call it back to sentience. It was, she realized, walking in the Fade.
She closed her eyes and slipped into the Fade as well, following the wisp of intelligence she found in the hibernating mind.
Then she was there, and saw her savior for the first time-at least, she assumed it was he. It was, she was certain, a male. Human, the thought rose unbidden. She hadn't associated with the humans for nearly as long as the others had, but she was sure that was what he was, despite the hundreds of years since she'd last seen one.
She watched him. He seemed to be some kind of warrior or fighter. His hair was short, his chin covered in a light peppering of stubble. He seemed to be reliving some battle or other, in which he was the grand Hero. It was, she noticed, mostly fabricated.
She studied him further, convinced that he was indeed male. But it really didn't matter, she would simply model her form after his, and she would be able to crawl out of the hole he had made, she was reasonably certain. Then she would go back to normal, and be on her way.
It should be simple enough to copy him, she thought, and exited the Fade without informing him she was there.
Slowly, she sank into a pre-hibernation state, and began to speak to her body. It altered and reformed. She ignored the pain as it twisted, and much of her bulk was shoved into another dimension.
Then she was falling. She screamed and scrabbled for purchase, finally managing to catch herself. She cried out for help, but found that this time, she couldn't contact the mind outside.
Terror and desperation ran through her, as she felt her grip beginning to slip.
"Hello?" a voice said, bleary with sleep.
"Help!" she screamed, surprised to find that it came from her mouth, not from her mind. Was this how these creatures communicated?
A face appeared, covered in long, matted fur. Something unpleasant struck her, and she realized it was a foul odor coming from the furry face. She was grateful for the limited abilities of this body for the moment.
A hand grasped hers and she was dragged from the hole. It was incredibly painful, and she found herself making sounds of protest against her will. She had never felt anything like this!
"Whoa! What were you doing in there?" the male asked, then suddenly looked away from her, what she could see of skin around his fur changing color from whitish to pinkish. Somehow, she thought was significant as some long-forgotten memory stirred in her.
"What is wrong?" she asked the furry human.
"You're… you don't have any clothes on," he told her.
He rubbed his eyes with his hands. "Clothes? You know. Clothes." He said, and plucked at the fur-like, loose skin over his body.
"That is not skin?" she asked him.
"Noooo…" he drawled. "It's clothes."
"I have no such items," she explained.
"I noticed," he grumbled, and she was surprised to note that she only barely heard him. It should have been quite loud. What was wrong with her? Oh yes, human senses.
She decided that she should go back to her natural form, and tried to sink into pre-hibernation.
The discomfort of the body she was wearing kept intruding. She quelling a rising sense of panic.
"Here, take this," the furry man said.
He handed her some of the 'clothes,' and she began to turn it around and up and down. She found the largest hole and stick her head into it. Then she sought the other hole and, finding it, tried to jam her head into it.
Finding this to be immensely frustrating, she turned it over and tried again, this time poking her head through the small hole first.
"This is not working," she said after her fourth attempt, when she was trussed up like she'd been in the cave a few minutes ago, and couldn't move enough to pull it off again. "I do not wish clothes. Please assist me in removing it. It is offensive."
The furry man seemed to be conflicted between looking at her or not. Finally, realizing he would have to look at her to see what she needed, he did so. Then he began to make strange barking noises.
He was, this strange behavior confirmed to her, not very clever. She wished she'd found a more intelligent creature to assist her, but sadly, she had not.
"Please assist me in removing this. I am trapped once more, and it is most distressing."
He came over and started pushing and pulling on the garment. "You've got it on inside out, and you're supposed to put your arms into the armholes," he told her.
Arms? Ah, forelegs. "I do not wish to put my forelegs into holes," she told him. "This entire concept of 'clothing' is foolishness."
"You can't walk around without clothes on," he told her, his voice sounding strange and clipped.
"Certainly, I can. I was doing so before you insisted I put this silly item on," she replied, hoping that he wasn't the brightest of the bunch.
"You're… not entirely sane, are you?" he asked her, and this time she thought she recognized wariness.
"I do not understand this concept," she told him. "Therefor, I cannot answer your question at this time. I do not wish to keep this item on my body. My hind legs are getting caught in it."
"Listen, I don't mean to be rude, but you really should just say 'arms' and 'legs,' unless you want to end up in the Chantry asylum. And you should wear the robe. I'll try to take it up some if I can find something to tie it with. You're kinda short."
"Well, he must have been shorter than you, then," she replied to the furry man, thinking that she resembled the person she saw in the Fade. "Where is he, by the way?" she asked.
"The other human male. The less furry one."
"I don't know what you're talking about. But let's get you to the Chantry. Redcliffe Village isn't too far away."
"I do not wish to go to your 'Chantry'," she told him. "If I can get some time to sit and be still, I will return to my natural form and depart. Thus your clothes are not required, either."
"Somehow I doubt that. But go ahead, try it." He sat down and leaned back against a log across from her.
She sat down and began to try to enter the proper state again, but her new body was aching in the center. She found it surprisingly distracting.
"I think that I require sustenance," she told him after some time had passed.
"I'm sure that's all it is," he said, and she stared at him. He sounded… she wasn't sure what. Not nice.
"I tell you what. If I give you some food, and you still can't do it, will you wear the robe and go to the Chantry with me?"
"Very well," she agreed, certain that once she was no longer aching in the middle, it would be a simple issue to return to her natural form.