A vaguely disturbing little Merrill POV, triggered off by a sentence which floated through a recent dream. The irony. Big thanks to my superb beta Lyrium Flower, for she is the queen of hyphenation and saviour of blinded deer everywhere.

Tainted

Merrill sits on the edge of her sagging cot and turns the Arulin'Holm over and over in her hands. Every now and again she gets a flash of green eyes in the blade of the dagger, a cold and accusatory gaze – she does not know whether it is Pol's or hers - she has given up trying to decide. She rests the blade on her knees with a sigh before eventually settling onto her side, cradling it finally to her chest. The light from the dying candle on the corner table catches in the smooth surface of the Eluvian, casting strange, shifting patterns onto the walls of her tiny room. Sometimes she fancies shadows caper in the darker corners and she waves to them with a small smile. Shadows no longer frighten her, not these days, for darker things lurk at the corners of her vision and she knows, she knows that in her desperation she is beginning to beckon them closer.

Her eyes drift shut and she feels the brush of fading image behind the closed lids. Sometimes as she is descending into sleep she thinks she hears a voice, female and melodic, calling to her from the darkened mirror. Speaking to her of the Old Gods and a reckoning. A flash of yellow eyes…

Merrill dreams.

In her dreams she dances. In her dreams she is lithe and graceful, weaving the tendrils of the Fade around her, no longer the skinny, babbling outcast. Her clothes are fantastical, beautiful, all who see her look upon her in wonder and despair. When she deigns to glance at them she sees eyes shining with love and awe. She leaves no footprints, her feet do not touch the base earth. In her dreams cities and civilisations are built and ruined for her amusement and pleasure, the music of the Fade is a rhythm that bends to her will and twists her body in joyful dance.

Sometimes she wonders if she could always walk so freely in the Fade, if it was an ability she'd overlooked somehow…but she knows she is no Somniari, the Keeper would have sensed it long before now. It's the Eluvian she thinks, cleansed and inactive though it is - either way, she decides, she doesn't much care because in her dreams she's powerful. In her dreams she's no longer alone.

There is a room with many windows which pulls her in when the false eddies of the Fade lose her interest, loose their hold on her. As always, she hesitates in front of the elaborately carved entrance, tells herself it is A Wrong Thing she is doing but loneliness and a deeper instinct she cannot yet put a name to pull her onward. She creeps inside and is herself again, walking to the nearest window, a small, smeared pane of glass. She peeks through and sees herself lying on a filthy cot, thin limbs like sticks curled around a shining blade, her face is hidden, her hair in disarray. She smoothes her hair distractedly and turns away towards a larger window, made of wrought iron, sturdy and plain.

Aveline.

Aveline's dreams are nearly always the same and this never fails to surprise her. The Guard Captain sits in her office writing, writing, writing, face set in concentration. Occasionally a man in Templar armour stands at her left shoulder, face pale and watchful, hands tightly clasped in front of him. Aveline's head always turns slightly when he is present as if listening, her hand stilling briefly over the parchment. Sometimes Merrill calls to her to turn around and look at him but she never does, her hand continuing to move quickly over her reports after the slight hesitation. Other times Aveline sits with a book in front of her, open at a particular page. Merrill cranes her head to see it, it looks like a child's book, she can almost make out the pictures. Aveline sits with her hand resting over the page but never turns it, staring fixedly ahead, a soft curl at the corners of her mouth.

Today she is writing and after watching for a little while Merrill turns away.

The next window is cold stone shot with a glittering material she does not recognise. She bites her lip a little and moves forward, resting a hand on the cool lip and leaning forward. Sometimes she likes Varric's dreams, for, being a surface dwarf Varric can dream. His are all colour and music, loud explosions and him and Bianca cutting through swathes of mercenaries and raiders. His asides make her laugh out loud and clap her hands, in these dreams he's her hero, the one who calls her Daisy and is kind and gentle.

This is not one of those dreams.

She sees him standing on a battlefield. Bianca is sheathed against his back and he is watching. Men, women, elves and dwarves fight an unseen foe, she thinks she glimpses one or two of their companions, maybe even herself, in the melee before they are swallowed by spells and smoke. People are dying around him, but he simply watches, arms folded, eyes moving dispassionately over the fallen. Eventually the battle is over and he moves amongst the bodies with a large battered book, pressing bloodied hands against the pages, folding trinkets into its spine. Merrill shivers a little at his expression in these dreams, intent and twisted with a strange avarice. He does not look like her Varric at all and she steps away, discomfited.

The next window she passes quickly, averting her eyes. It shimmers a liquid blue and seems to draw the mists of the Fade towards itself. She has only looked into the mage's window once, glimpsed him tethered half naked in a dark room, face puffy and bruised. She remembers she tried to call out to him and he moved weakly against his shackles in response, glancing up at her with a fearful expression. Then, and her head throbs at the memory, a sudden light…and pain…and eyes brighter than a thousand suns, a burning touch thrusting her backwards and away. Sometimes when she is near Anders she feels him watching her carefully and wonders whose eyes move over her so suspiciously.

She moves to the next, stroking the porthole lightly with a finger. She had expected…a certain type of dream from Isabela, at first steeling herself and blushing slightly as she peered through. But mostly Isabela dreams of her ship, with her standing at the prow and looking out over a cerulean sea, eyes closed, stretching her limbs languorously in the sunlight. In those she is tall and proud, a captain, an adventurer. Other times Isabela dreams of her bed at the Hanged Man, limbs flung carelessly over an indistinct, ever changing figure, male and female, tall, short. Once she thought she recognised herself and felt her face flame scarlet in response. All these bed partners hold Isabela with a strange reverence, a tenderness which makes Merrill's throat tighten and tears prick at her eyes. These dreams of love make her sad.

She moves on. A black curtain covers the next space on the wall and she strokes the velvet gently, resting her head where Bethany's window would have been. Oh, my sweet girl. Too young, so innocent. It should've been me down there in the Deep Roads.

She trails her fingers along a porcelain frame, idly tracing the white-gold filigree. She blushes a little before carefully casting a glance through the lightly stained window casting coloured patterns onto the stone floor below. He never sees her, of course. Sebastian is prostrate on the floor as usual, knees curled beneath him and forehead resting on his clasped hands. The candles laid in front of the statue make interesting patterns on the walls, unmistakeably female figures curve and weave sinuously around him. Merrill passes a tongue over her lower lip. He is naked as always in front of his Andraste and as she eyes the huge statue she can't help thinking it looks a little like Hawke. She watches him for a while longer, pulls a little of the Fade around him to make the shadows dance faster and is rewarded by a soft moan. Your Maker isn't here, little Prince she thinks slyly and twirls away, eyes closed, spinning slowly on the spot.

She pauses beside a black frame, all sharp edges and dragonbone. Fenris' dreams are those of a hunted man, all flurried movement and threats in the shadows. He runs from an unseen enemy, his steps slow and unco-ordinated, fighting against an invisible current. Sometimes Hawke is there urging him onward, a single bright flame dancing a little ahead of him, always just out of reach. He dreams of slavery, humiliation, of magic and mages and she can taste the hatred woven into the tendrils of the Fade. Her mouth curls slightly. She could twitch aside the curtain that surrounds him if she wanted to, the thin veil of the Fade lying over the lyrium in his skin. She could give him back the memories that slip away from him in his waking hours, show him what he really was, what he did. If he's mean enough to her she might well do it, destroy him.

She smiles grimly at the thought and moves to the last window, traces its delicate, curling frames of gold.

Hawke dreams of fire, of fleeing Lothering, of the Deep Roads. Sometimes she dreams of Bethany and a young man who shares her eyes. In these dreams she saves them. She always saves them, from monsters, from contagion and they stand together afterwards holding each other, laughing and crying. Hawke's dreams are beautiful. Hawke is beautiful and Merrill sighs to herself and smiles, watching them. Hawke dreams of her friends and Merrill feels a pang occasionally when she sees her own face through Hawke's eyes, so innocent, bright with enthusiasm. Hawke doesn't see the face that Merrill glimpses, reflected in the Eluvian every morning when she wakes. The sly, hungry version of herself, eyes darting covetously over the mirror, thrilled at her own daring.

But Hawke dreams of Fenris also - a touch, a smile, a hand cupping her jaw gently - and Merrill aches with jealousy. She wants so much for Hawke to dream of her, to reach out to her with the same tenderness, that softness behind her eyes. She could make her, she thinks longingly. It wouldn't take much. Just a little blood, just a little push. No-one would know and Merrill, awkward, secretive Merrill, a constant source of amusement and disdain would no longer be alone…not here. And then, maybe, after Hawke has dreamed of her touch and endless devotion, in the Real she would…

She shakes her head. No, not tonight. Tonight Hawke dreams of her father, a strong arm around her shoulders as she struggles to keep pace with him, her 6 year old legs skipping to keep up. She watches and smiles, leaning forward on her elbows and resting her chin in her hands.

Merrill dreams, the blade cradled tightly against her chest, the light from the candle fading. Its tip pricks at her skin, slow crimson trails along the bright surface, sinking in, drinking her greedily as it has done every night, feeding her power in pale swathes.

In her sleep, Merrill smiles.

END