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Daemon Ludens

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Lord Seeker Lucius' flesh was comfortable to wear for a time - but now I have discarded it, like battered old armour, letting it melt away into darkness, faded and forgotten. There is no interest in being him any more: he has long since moved on. They have all moved on, up to the very last Templar, having gorged themselves on the burning, blood-red lyrium upon my command. Another master, wearing his own Blighted flesh and yet able to jump between bodies the way a spirit would, has called them away to march upon Haven - and where the stony hallways once echoed with the thundering clamour of sharp-ended metal boots, dreary silence reigns, disturbed only by the whistling of the wind.

No, not quite. Not every Templar has left. There is one, still roaming the deserted redoubt - the green-eyed boy who refused to follow orders. When still wrapped in the formidable mantle of Lord Seeker's likeness, I had him locked in the dungeon for turning away the throbbing red drink; but now he has crawled out and, despite being weak and malnourished, keeps pursuing me down the empty passageways, relentless like a hound.

His determination is most intriguing; and he has quite a decent skull shape. I could study him; I could absorb and mimic his features, adjusting their fit on myself; I could seep into his thoughts and dreams, gradually filling them out till they become mine. But he does not let me.

When we face each other in the waking world, he swings at me with one of those clumsy, clunky weapons mortals use (he must have picked it up in an armoury somewhere after his breakout), until I am forced to retreat behind a protective barrier, which he does his utmost to bypass in the hours and days that follow, either by drinking some of the scant untainted lyrium that can yet be found in the fortress's storage rooms, or by seeking out a different winding passageway to approach me from behind (the wretch dares to know the redoubt better than I: I could never get used to everything being so... solid here).

And in dreams, in what is supposed to be my domain, a place where my hunter is to become my prey, I never manage to properly begin sinking my claws into him. The insolent human simply does not allow himself to fall asleep completely, always keeping the back of his mind awake in case I attempt to creep in; before allowing himself a bit of rest, he fiddles together all manner of bizarre water-filled contraptions to soak him through when he dozes off, and keeps reciting the verses of that annoying church song to prolong his vigil.

Thus, he eludes me, again and again and again. He is weak, this mortal, and his constant struggle with sleep, with only stale food and lyrium to sustain him, make him weaker still - and yet he eludes me. And this angers me. To the point when I claw at the stone walls and thrash myself against ground, hissing and snarling like a lesser, primitive creature molten out of rage.

But I am not primitive. I am not Rage - I am Envy. I am the one that watches, and follows, and mirrors, and spins, spins the intricate threads of illusion. And wins. I am the one that wins.

Those who think themselves better than me, wiser, stronger, more powerful - in the end, they all get turned into masks and robes for me to wear and toss aside when I tire of them. I always claim them, and consume them. I always, inevitably am the one that prevails. And so shall the stubborn little Templar be consumed, and I shall see the world through his bright green eyes, and raise his brawny arms to wield that clunky sword.

And once I become him, I shall seek out those who abandoned me in this fortress, and don and wear out their likenesses one by one. They brought me here, promising a glorious mask to wear and a gruesome tale to shape... But when that Herald turned away from the templars and sought out the mages instead, I was no longer needed. I was cast aside, like I cast aside my many faces - and that is something that only I myself should be allowed do. When it is done to me - that is a wrong that cannot be forgotten, or forgiven. For I am Envy. I am the one that remembers. The one that, as one of my mortal mirrors once said, keeps scores.

It is a good plan, shaping myself into this templar boy and then exacting my revenge... But this plan soon gets altered, and adjusted, the way I myself alter and adjust my very being. For unexpectedly, the silence in the hallways is broken.

The sudden arrival of more mortals, who step out of a swirling black cloud of smoke as one of them collapses the barred front gateway with explosives, fills me with utmost glee. So many new minds to study, so many new bodies to sculpt for myself. Like that Qunari in the lead, with a patch over his eye and shoulders so broad that he gets stuck in some of the narrower doorways... I can sense his fear, more delicious on my tongue than the sweetest wine I ever drank as a mortal. I am what he fears, I am the darkness and the madness and the stranger's face in the mirror - it would be sheer ecstasy to hold him in my grasp and boil him away till all of his strength and wit are mine.

Oh, and what about the pale elf who walks beside him? Her staff is shaped like a bow, but there is no fooling me: she is a mage. I can sense the warmth of the Fade coursing through her veins, and I can see her shudder, as she gets the very first inklings of my presence. A mage would be lovely to play with; they always make such delightful pets...

Hmm, and that young man with a rock-shaped maul is promising as well. The armour fits, but not always; sometimes, doubt surfaces within him, rearing its head like a snake from his homeland. I could lull his alert mind; I could offer him a boon, a chance to shape his body the way he wants it to be - and then wear my new garment all by myself.

And the dwarf who blew up the gate; he... No. No, no - why waste my time with these tiny slippery fish when the juiciest morsel is floating right into my net?

She is among them. The Herald... No, her memories whisper a different name now. Inquisitor. Inquisitor Lavellan, accompanying her faithful minions on a mission to clear out the haunted fortress.

Here it is at last, the exhilarating mind puzzle that I was promised all along. And I shall solve this puzzle - I shall pick out the key to her mind, and unlock it, and hoard all that is inside... For myself, and no-one else. The rules have changed now: they changed the moment the last of the red templars marched out of the redoubt and, moved by the magic of their Tevinter allies, the heavy gates locked themselves behind them.

When I am Lavellan, I shall not serve the Elder One. I shall be my own master, leader of the Inquisition, ruthless and fearsome, and never again cast aside. For I am Envy. I am the one that prevails.

'Thanks for tagging along, boss,' the Qunari says, the low boom of his voice resounding tenfold in the stone corridor. 'But looks like this place is pretty boring. Not a single red freak in sight'.

'We'll still have to do a thorough search, Bull,' the Inquisitor replies - and then adds in an apologetic voice, 'If you don't mind, that is. Who knows, there might still be people here. The ones the templars kept as prisoners, for example'.

Prisoners... The Inquisitor wants to find prisoners. I can even catch hazy outlines of their images that float before her mind's eye: bloodied desiccated husks left in the wake of torture and starvation and exposure to the ravenous red crystals. Very well, then - I shall give her prisoners.

Even though his mind has remained closed off to me throughout all this time, the young Templar's body should be fairly easy to shape. I have studied enough mortals to surmise that many of them seem to be affected by seeing their kin suffer some gruesome fate - so, to make lure more compelling, I suck in the human's stomach and melt off some flesh off his limbs, opening bleeding gashes across his chest (which I have bared of all armour to make the wounds more visible). Waiting for the moment when the little expedition walks up to a fork between two passageways, I appear at the further end of the narrower, darker one, and focus all will on making the Inquisitor turn her head. She is no mage - but in her palm, she carries a part of the world that was once mine, before I came to this bizarre, solid realm of delightfully vulnerable, wearable mortals. Through that little sliver of green, I latch on to her with the voracity of a leech, pulling and pulling at her mind - till finally, she stumbles on the spot, and looks away from her companions, who are all continuing to explore the broader corridor... And sees me. In every unsettling detail.

It is beyond fascinating to observe her as she beholds what appears to be a bleeding, skeletal young human with tear-filled, pleading green eyes. She starts, and claps her hands to her half-open mouth, and breaks into a run, hastening to get closer, to offer sympathy and help... So this is what she is like, Inquisitor Lavellan. This is what she feels. This is what she thinks. We shall see what remains when I am done with shaping her new self.

'Please... Aid... me...' I groan, as hoarsely and tremulously as I can, while watching the Inquisitor from beneath the watery bottom of the Templar's eyes. 'The Lord Seeker... he went insane...'

'Shh,' she whispers soothingly as she kneels next to me. 'Shh... It will be all right'.

With that, she reaches out to support me - and, seizing the moment, I lurch forward and grab her by the throat.

Thoughts are fluid like the torrents of the Fade; they fly faster than any motion of an earthbound mortal's body. As I plunge into the Inquisitor's mind, the solid world around us grinds to a halt. Half-frozen and sluggish, her heart will not even make a single beat before, taking advantage of the fact that, unlike the obstinate templar, she has been caught by surprise, I complete my study. Before I learn all about her. Before I am her. We are in my realm now, her and I - and I am Envy. I am the one that wins.

She is stunned and confused at first, landing in a misty maze of her own thoughts and memories - and this gives me ample opportunity to tug at the threads that, when woven together, make her who she is. When an image of her Inquisition's keep begins to take shape, assembling itself out of the floating, greenish-tinted stones, she starts and finally shakes off her numb daze.

'I... I am in the Fade, aren't I?' she mutters, fingering at her belt in search of a dagger. 'And that poor young man... He... You must be a demon in disguise! What have you done to him to steal his face? Is he hurt? Is he in here somewhere? Why would you something so awful? Solas says...'

'Young Delrin Barris is not here,' I say slowly, stepping towards her in the form of a black shade that I have crafted to resemble one of her... what was the word... dearest friends - the Nevarran Seeker, who looked so intently into my eyes in Val Royaeux. 'There is no-one here, except you and me. And soon, there will be just me. I will craft you for myself, to wear like a suit of armour, while you will be left to crumble to dust'.

'What...' she makes a small gulp, as I lift the ghostly likeness of the Seeker's sword and casually pass it half a hair's breadth away from her throat. 'What would you gain from being me?'

A good question - and a good exercise in mimicking her voice, her tone, her bearing.

Still hovering near her flesh, the sword melts into a dagger; and, stepping out of a Seeker garment once again, I finally wrap myself into the flesh of the Inquisitor. It is still wreathed in inky smoke - but it is merely a start. Soon, I shall copy her likeness in full colour, paying attention to the tiniest freckle. But for now, there are mind games to occupy myself with. Showing the elf a few visions will be a perfect way to determine the way she thinks - and then twist her thoughts so that they fit the future I have in store for her.

'What would I gain?' I repeat, lowering my dagger and whispering into her ear with lips that are just like hers. 'What would I gain? Everything!'

The keep's battlements rotate and flip and rearrange themselves, making way for a crowd of ghostly people - most useful minions, kneaded by me from the ever-shifting substance of the Fade. Having approached me and stopped at a respectful distance, they drop reverently to their knees, and begin to chant,

'Glory to the Inquisitor! Glory to her who conquered the whole continent! Who made the heavens tremble with the screams of the unbelievers! Who made the rivers flow red with the blood of her enemies!'

Upon their last outcry, the ground under the Inquisitor's feet (and mine, for I am ever close) rumbles and shoots upward, elevating to a small island, while all around it, a stream of rich, deep crimson comes flooding in, sweeping off the ethereal chanters; and long, sharp spikes come shooting out of the frothing red stream, a putrescent, flaky-skinned severed head mounted on top of each, maggots spilling out of the blackened sockets like glistening pale tears.

Shaking all over, the elf lets out a gagging sob.

'What... What are you showing me?! This is not me! I would never do these awful things!'

'Ah, but you will,' I insist, smiling. 'When I am you, all of Thedas will fear your name. My name. As it rightly should'.

'No...' she mouths, staggering backwards and almost falling into the river of blood. 'People shouldn't fear me! I never wanted them to fear me! I wanted them to know that I am here to make things better!'

Yes - I know that already. I have seen that in her mind. But I have also seen something else. Something hidden, something lurking beneath the surface, something borne of shame. Something that the Inquisitor has long been struggling with. Perhaps now it is time to mimic not a mortal, but one of my own kind. Desire.

'But that is not the hallmark of a true leader, is it?' I say, slipping my hand underneath her chin and forcing her to look at the red stream. For there are now different conjured shapes emerging from the scarlet waves among the spikes with the heads. Three women and a man, moulded out of large congealed clots of blood, tiny red trickles dripping off their fingertips.

'You have never been the kind of Inquisitor your inner circle wanted you to see,' I continue, circling around the elf while she stands petrified, her glassy eyes fixed on the four more figures from her memories. 'When I am you, I will merely right your wrongs. Submit to me, Inquisitor; let me be a better you. They will approve of that. They will approve of you, for the first time'.

I fall silent, giving the bloody apparitions a chance to speak - or rather, repeat what they have on occasion said to the Inquisitor.

'We have to spread our reach as far as we can,' the man says, touching his cloak's fur collar, which rests over his shoulders like the blood-soaked mane of a lion. 'Make them see our strength. I hope you understand that, Inquisitor'.

The first of the three women nods in accord, her eyes two deep-red holes underneath her hood.

'You may have managed to make everyone happy when you lived in seclusion with your clan - but the scope of our mission leaves little room for softness'.

'You must be more decisive with passing your judgement, Your Worship,' the second woman chimes in, her red quill darting over a stack of papers, bleeding ink into every word. 'The people trust in your wisdom'.

'You are the face of the Inquisition, my dear,' the third woman points out, gesturing emphatically with her long-nailed hand. 'And in these trying times, this face has to be one of a strong, undaunted warrior, not of a little girl fresh from woodland frolicking'.

'B-but... This can't be what they meant...' the Inquisitor stutters, after the red figures collapse back into the stream with a thick slurp. 'They want me to be a leader, not a... a tyrant!'

'You would have been a tyrant if I followed the Elder One's original plan; if I lead your forces to conquer Orlais with demons on your leash. But I have no wish to do that any longer; I wish to smite your enemies - the servants of the Elder One'.

The next image I unfold before the Inquisitor is the most detailed one thus far. Having skimmed through her memory and picked out an appropriate association, I have decided to use it to paint a scene of the new, bloody justice that I will disperse when I am her.

The tide of blood ebbs away, leaving behind the freshly scrubbed floor of the Inquisitor's quarters, so well-polished that it reflects the elf's wiry, long-legged figure with perfect clarity, like an unclouded looking glass wood. Except that it is no reflection, this image that appears on the floor, stretching out from underneath the Inquisitor's bare feet (she likes to walk shoeless when she is not out on a mission; an old Dalish habit - so her memories have told me... A trifle, perhaps; but for me, every scrap of knowledge helps build my new self).

It is no reflection, this second Inquisitor, who is an identical twin of the first, save for a darker, less saturated shade of her clothes and flesh, and the green flame burning in her eyes. It is me - resting at her feet, watching, probing, biding my time. And soon, I shall not be the second Inquisitor. I shall be the first, and only one. For I am Envy, and I do not tolerate competition from those whose skin I wear.

The door of the private chambers creaks open, and the sound of steady, rhythmical footsteps makes the elf stop gawking around in confusion, and turn to face the new vision I have crafted for her. The first face that surfaced when she heard me say 'servant of the Elder One'. There were some other associations too, tangled together in a bizarre knot, intermingled with some sort of... feelings that I do not quite understand. And if I don't understand them, they must be irrelevant - for I am Envy, and I am never wrong.

I command the apparition to come up to the Inquisitor as close as it can, for her to take a good, long, proper look at its blank, widened eyes with pinpoint pupils, and the tightly pursed line of its lips, with the corners perfectly aligned, pulled neither downwards or upwards. And, of course, the glaring sun symbol burned into its lined forehead.

During my long, thorough hunts for mortals to mirror, a few of my potential targets had their connection to the Fade severed before I could relish cloaking myself in their flesh. A most frustrating outcome - and quite cruel to one who had a whole plan in place for moulding a new body. So I fully intend to be just as cruel to others - and this 'servant of the Elder One' is quite a fitting test subject for a demonstration.

'I have brought you the papers you asked for, Inquisitor,' the sun-branded man says, in a hollow, even voice - and as he speaks, the elf's face gets covered with a sticky film of perspiration, and she reaches out to him shakily, apparently more stricken than she was by the sight of the river of blood and the heads on pikes.

'No...' she mumbles, her voice thick as her nose gets clogged up and her eyes brimming over with tears. 'I would never do this to you! Never!'

The last word comes out hoarse and sharp; panting heavily, the elf drops to her knees and looks up from underneath a dark line of knitted eyebrows. Suddenly, quite against my will, the ghostly copy of her quarters becomes flooded with orange-tinted light, like from a flame burning in the distance; I think I can hear faint crackling too, and throbbing heat encroaching upon me, as if I were in the presence of Rage. None of this is my doing; none of this is part of how the vision was supposed to progress. I am losing control of the realm of thought - of my own domain! This cannot be allowed to happen; I am the one who is casting this illusion; I am Envy!

The Inquisitor's dark reflection writhes in silent desperation; I writhe in silent desperation, wanting to rise up, to strike at the mortal that had the gall to disrupt my game... But I cannot. I am trapped, flattened, pinned under the Inquisitor's knees - while she lifts her arm, her fist rightly clenched and bleeding acid-grin light... And slams down at the floor so that it begins to crack.

She... She is banishing me! The wretch is banishing me! I refuse to be banished; her mind is my mind now; her body is my body! I shall not let these jagged, shattering cracks tear me apart! I shall not fall to her! I shall not let the dream end like this! I am Envy! I am...'



'One creepy-ass demon!' Bull declares, taking a huge sip out of a mug filled to the bream with that odd 'cocoa' drink he likes so much. He has insisted on brewing a hearty helping for Yavanna, too, saying that 'it's good for situations like this'; and she is now probing the piping-hot unknown beverage cautiously with the tip of her tongue, while wrapped in a woolen blanket.

'And I mean, creepy-ass! It was this weird, lanky thing with legs coming out of its head, like an oversized mosquito, only all covered in pink flesh - and with a bare baby butt sticking out! It came out of nowhere; all we did was lose track of boss here for a moment... And then there was this screech, and the next thing we knew, boss is fighting this butt freak!'

'She was kinda scary to watch,' Krem chimes in. 'Daggers flying up and down, face twisted... Almost turned the creature into minced pie by the time we came along to help. I've never seen her this angry...'

'I am... Not proud of that,' Yavanna says faintly, after swallowing a mouthful of cocoa (which, judging by her expression, followed by an enthusiastic grin from Bull, she finds quite enjoyable).

'Hey, no sweat, boss,' the Qunari reassures her. 'Sometimes even nice folks like you gotta lose it. And with what that demon looked like, I can't blame you'.

Yavanna gives him and faint, polite smile; then, drinks some more cocoa, and turns to Varric, who has busily been scribbling down the Chargers' account of the demon hunt.

'You've been out and about while Bull and the others were being so sweet with the blankets and cocoa and things... Did you happen to see where they took that poor young Templar we found at the redoubt?'

'Ser Barris, you mean?' this question does not come from Varric - but rather, from Dorian, who approaches the little gathering from the direction of Solas' rotunda.

'Strapping fellow, like most of his ilk; even after spending so much time in those rank dungeons with little to no food and water. Do not worry, Inquisitor: he is resting. We just had a proper consilium medicum on how to best safeguard him in the Fade after he deprived himself of sleep - Solas, Vivienne and I. Of course, each of us was convinced that they were the smartest person in the room - and as in my case, it is most definitely true, I gave my opinion and left the Enchanter and the lovely unwashed apostate to keep on arguing, slipping away to check on all of you. How are you holding up? I hear it was quite a gruesome battle'.

'We're all fine, I think,' Bull says, looking over his mercenaries, who all nod affirmatively. 'You, boss?'

'Oh, I think I've recovered; poor brave Ser Barris has been through far worse. I will see how he is doing as soon as...'

Yavanna sets down her mug and chews indecisively at her lower lip.

'Umm, Dorian... Since you are here... Could I ask you for a really weird favour?'



Huddled up at a writing desk in Skyhold library, Gereon Alexius scratches busily at the parchment below him with his somewhat rhinned-out quill, tracing line after line of neat, miniscule letters, punctuated by wavy lines and circles, which illustrate what looks like a series of complex spell patterns. Suddenly, as he pauses to review his writing and shift the parchment sheet closer to the little hovering wisp that serves him as a source of dimmed light, an invisible force jerks the quill out of his grasp. Floating away from him, it dances through the air, spitting out green sparks, which gradually form into a doodle of a male profile with a curling moustache.

'Fasta vaas, Dorian!' the researcher exclaims, hitting his desk with his open palm in irritation. 'This is not amusing in the slightest!'

The emotion in his voice is evident - so evident that, hidden from his view by a tall bookcase, Inquisitor Lavellan buries her face in her hands and quietly weeps for joy.

Chapter Text

Lord Seeker Lucius’ flesh was comfortable to wear for a time - but now I have discarded it, like battered old armour, letting it melt away into darkness, faded and forgotten. There is no interest in being him any more: he has long since moved on. They have all moved on, up to the very last Templar, having gorged themselves on the burning, blood-red lyrium upon my command. Another master, wearing his own Blighted flesh and yet able to jump between bodies the way a spirit would, has called them away to march upon Haven - and where the stony hallways once echoed with the thundering clamour of sharp-ended metal boots, dreary silence reigns, disturbed only by the whistling of the wind.

No, not quite. Not every Templar has left. There is one, still roaming the deserted redoubt - the green-eyed boy who refused to follow orders. When still wrapped in the formidable mantle of Lord Seeker’s likeness, I had him locked in the dungeon for turning away the throbbing red drink; but now he has crawled out and, despite being weak and malnourished, keeps pursuing me down the empty passageways, relentless like a hound.

His determination is most intriguing; and he has quite a decent skull shape. I could study him; I could absorb and mimic his features, adjusting their fit on myself; I could seep into his thoughts and dreams, gradually filling them out till they become mine. But he does not let me.

When we face each other in the waking world, he swings at me with one of those clumsy, clunky weapons mortals use (he must have picked it up in an armoury somewhere after his breakout), until I am forced to retreat behind a protective barrier, which he does his utmost to bypass in the hours and days that follow, either by drinking some of the scant untainted lyrium that can yet be found in the fortress’s storage rooms, or by seeking out a different winding passageway to approach me from behind (the wretch dares to know the redoubt better than I: I could never get used to everything being so… solid here).

And in dreams, in what is supposed to be my domain, a place where my hunter is to become my prey, I never manage to properly begin sinking my claws into him. The insolent human simply does not allow himself to fall asleep completely, always keeping the back of his mind awake in case I attempt to creep in; before allowing himself a bit of rest, he fiddles together all manner of bizarre water-filled contraptions to soak him through when he dozes off, and keeps reciting the verses of that annoying church song to prolong his vigil.

Thus, he eludes me, again and again and again. He is weak, this mortal, and his constant struggle with sleep, with only stale food and lyrium to sustain him, make him weaker still - and yet he eludes me. And this angers me. To the point when I claw at the stone walls and thrash myself against ground, hissing and snarling like a lesser, primitive creature molten out of rage.

But I am not primitive. I am not Rage - I am Envy. I am the one that watches, and follows, and mirrors, and spins, spins the intricate threads of illusion. And wins. I am the one that wins.

Those who think themselves better than me, wiser, stronger, more powerful - in the end, they all get turned into masks and robes for me to wear and toss aside when I tire of them. I always claim them, and consume them. I always, inevitably am the one that prevails. And so shall the stubborn little Templar be consumed, and I shall see the world through his bright green eyes, and raise his brawny arms to wield that clunky sword.

And once I become him, I shall seek out those who abandoned me in this fortress, and don and wear out their likenesses one by one. They brought me here, promising a glorious mask to wear and a gruesome tale to shape… But when that Herald turned away from the templars and sought out the mages instead, I was no longer needed. I was cast aside, like I cast aside my many faces - and that is something that only I myself should be allowed do. When it is done to me - that is a wrong that cannot be forgotten, or forgiven. For I am Envy. I am the one that remembers. The one that, as one of my mortal mirrors once said, keeps scores.

It is a good plan, shaping myself into this templar boy and then exacting my revenge… But this plan soon gets altered, and adjusted, the way I myself alter and adjust my very being. For unexpectedly, the silence in the hallways is broken.

The sudden arrival of more mortals, who step out of a swirling black cloud of smoke as one of them collapses the barred front gateway with explosives, fills me with utmost glee. So many new minds to study, so many new bodies to sculpt for myself. Like that Qunari in the lead, with a patch over his eye and shoulders so broad that he gets stuck in some of the narrower doorways… I can sense his fear, more delicious on my tongue than the sweetest wine I ever drank as a mortal. I am what he fears, I am the darkness and the madness and the stranger’s face in the mirror - it would be sheer ecstasy to hold him in my grasp and boil him away till all of his strength and wit are mine.

Oh, and what about the pale elf who walks beside him? Her staff is shaped like a bow, but there is no fooling me: she is a mage. I can sense the warmth of the Fade coursing through her veins, and I can see her shudder, as she gets the very first inklings of my presence. A mage would be lovely to play with; they always make such delightful pets…

Hmm, and that young man with a rock-shaped maul is promising as well. The armour fits, but not always; sometimes, doubt surfaces within him, rearing its head like a snake from his homeland. I could lull his alert mind; I could offer him a boon, a chance to shape his body the way he wants it to be - and then wear my new garment all by myself.

And the dwarf who blew up the gate; he… No. No, no - why waste my time with these tiny slippery fish when the juiciest morsel is floating right into my net?

She is among them. The Herald… No, her memories whisper a different name now. Inquisitor. Inquisitor Lavellan, accompanying her faithful minions on a mission to clear out the haunted fortress.

Here it is at last, the exhilarating mind puzzle that I was promised all along. And I shall solve this puzzle - I shall pick out the key to her mind, and unlock it, and hoard all that is inside… For myself, and no-one else. The rules have changed now: they changed the moment the last of the red templars marched out of the redoubt and, moved by the magic of their Tevinter allies, the heavy gates locked themselves behind them.

When I am Lavellan, I shall not serve the Elder One. I shall be my own master, leader of the Inquisition, ruthless and fearsome, and never again cast aside. For I am Envy. I am the one that prevails.

‘Thanks for tagging along, boss,’ the Qunari says, the low boom of his voice resounding tenfold in the stone corridor. 'But looks like this place is pretty boring. Not a single red freak in sight’.

'We’ll still have to do a thorough search, Bull,’ the Inquisitor replies - and then adds in an apologetic voice, 'If you don’t mind, that is. Who knows, there might still be people here. The ones the templars kept as prisoners, for example’.

Prisoners… The Inquisitor wants to find prisoners. I can even catch hazy outlines of their images that float before her mind’s eye: bloodied desiccated husks left in the wake of torture and starvation and exposure to the ravenous red crystals. Very well, then - I shall give her prisoners.

Even though his mind has remained closed off to me throughout all this time, the young Templar’s body should be fairly easy to shape. I have studied enough mortals to surmise that many of them seem to be affected by seeing their kin suffer some gruesome fate - so, to make lure more compelling, I suck in the human’s stomach and melt off some flesh off his limbs, opening bleeding gashes across his chest (which I have bared of all armour to make the wounds more visible). Waiting for the moment when the little expedition walks up to a fork between two passageways, I appear at the further end of the narrower, darker one, and focus all will on making the Inquisitor turn her head. In her palm, she carries a part of the world that was once mine, before I came to this bizarre, solid realm of delightfully vulnerable, wearable mortals. Through that little sliver of green, I latch on to her with the voracity of a leech, pulling and pulling at her mind - till finally, she stumbles on the spot, and looks away from her companions, who are all continuing to explore the broader corridor… And sees me. In every unsettling detail.

It is beyond fascinating to observe her as she beholds what appears to be a bleeding, skeletal young human with tear-filled, pleading green eyes. She starts, and claps her hands to her half-open mouth, and breaks into a run, hastening to get closer, to offer sympathy and help… So this is what she is like, Inquisitor Lavellan. This is what she feels. This is what she thinks. We shall see what remains when I am done with shaping her new self.

'Please… Aid… me…’ I groan, as hoarsely and tremulously as I can, while watching the Inquisitor from beneath the watery bottom of the Templar’s eyes. 'The Lord Seeker… he went insane…’

'Shh,’ she whispers soothingly as she kneels next to me, the sliver of green joined by turquoise ribbons of healing energy; the wretched substance of weakling spirits. 'Shh… It will be all right’.

With that, she reaches out to support me - and, seizing the moment, I lurch forward and grab her by the throat.


Thoughts are fluid like the torrents of the Fade; they fly faster than any motion of an earthbound mortal’s body. As I plunge into the Inquisitor’s mind, the solid world around us grinds to a halt. Half-frozen and sluggish, her heart will not even make a single beat before, taking advantage of the fact that, unlike the obstinate templar, she has been caught by surprise, I complete my study. Before I learn all about her. Before I am her. We are in my realm now, her and I - and I am Envy. I am the one that wins.

She is stunned and confused at first, landing in a misty maze of her own thoughts and memories - and this gives me ample opportunity to tug at the threads that, when woven together, make her who she is. When an image of her Inquisition’s keep begins to take shape, assembling itself out of the floating, greenish-tinted stones, she starts and finally shakes off her numb daze.

'I… I am in the Fade, aren’t I?’ she mutters, fingering at her belt in search of a dagger. 'And that poor young man… He… You must be a demon in disguise! What have you done to him to steal his face? Is he hurt? Is he in here somewhere? Why would you something so awful? Solas says…’

'Young Delrin Barris is not here,’ I say slowly, stepping towards her in the form of a black shade that I have crafted to resemble one of her… what was the word… dearest friends - the Nevarran Seeker, who looked so intently into my eyes in Val Royaeux. 'There is no-one here, except you and me. And soon, there will be just me. I will craft you for myself, to wear like a suit of armour, while you will be left to crumble to dust’.

'What…’ she makes a small gulp, as I lift the ghostly likeness of the Seeker’s sword and casually pass it half a hair’s breadth away from her throat. 'What would you gain from being me?’

A good question - and a good exercise in mimicking her voice, her tone, her bearing.

Still hovering near her flesh, the sword melts and stretches into a mage’s staff; and, stepping out of a Seeker garment once again, I finally wrap myself into the soft, pillowy flesh of the Inquisitor. It is still wreathed in inky smoke - but it is merely a start. Soon, I shall copy her likeness in full colour, paying attention to the tiniest freckle. But for now, there are mind games to occupy myself with. Showing the elf a few visions will be a perfect way to determine the way she thinks - and then twist her thoughts so that they fit the future I have in store for her.

'What would I gain?’ I repeat, lowering my dagger and whispering into her ear with lips that are just like hers. 'What would I gain? Everything!’

The keep’s battlements rotate and flip and rearrange themselves, making way for a crowd of ghostly people - most useful minions, kneaded by me from the ever-shifting substance of the Fade. Having approached me and stopped at a respectful distance, they drop reverently to their knees, and begin to chant,

'Glory to the Inquisitor! Glory to her who conquered the whole continent! Who made the heavens tremble with the screams of the unbelievers! Who made the rivers flow red with the blood of her enemies!’

Upon their last outcry, the ground under the Inquisitor’s feet (and mine, for I am ever close) rumbles and shoots upward, elevating to a small island, while all around it, a stream of rich, deep crimson comes flooding in, sweeping off the ethereal chanters; and long, sharp spikes come shooting out of the frothing red stream, a putrescent, flaky-skinned severed head mounted on top of each, maggots spilling out of the blackened sockets like glistening pale tears.

Shaking all over, the elf lets out a gagging sob.

'What… What are you showing me?! This is not me! I would never do these awful things!’

'Ah, but you will,’ I insist, smiling. 'When I am you, all of Thedas will fear your name. My name. As it rightly should’.

'No…’ she mouths, staggering backwards and almost falling into the river of blood. 'People shouldn’t fear me! I never wanted them to fear me! I wanted them to know that I am here to make things better!’

Yes - I know that already. I have seen that in her mind. But I have also seen something else. Something hidden, something lurking beneath the surface, something borne of shame. Something that the Inquisitor has long been struggling with. Perhaps now it is time to mimic not a mortal, but one of my own kind. Desire.

'But that is not the hallmark of a true leader, is it?’ I say, slipping my hand underneath her chin and forcing her to look at the red stream. For there are now different conjured shapes emerging from the scarlet waves among the spikes with the heads. Three women and a man, moulded out of large congealed clots of blood, tiny red trickles dripping off their fingertips.

'You have never been the kind of Inquisitor your inner circle wanted you to see,’ I continue, circling around the elf while she stands petrified, her glassy eyes fixed on the four more figures from her memories. 'When I am you, I will merely right your wrongs. Submit to me, Inquisitor; let me be a better you. They will approve of that. They will approve of you, for the first time’.

I fall silent, giving the bloody apparitions a chance to speak - or rather, repeat what they have on occasion said to the Inquisitor.

'We have to spread our reach as far as we can,’ the man says, touching his cloak’s fur collar, which rests over his shoulders like the blood-soaked mane of a lion. 'Make them see our strength. I hope you understand that, Inquisitor’.

The first of the three women nods in accord, her eyes two deep-red holes underneath her hood.

'You may have managed to make everyone happy when you lived in seclusion with your clan - but the scope of our mission leaves little room for softness’.

'You must be more decisive with passing your judgement, Your Worship,’ the second woman chimes in, her red quill darting over a stack of papers, bleeding ink into every word. 'The people trust in your wisdom’.

'You are the face of the Inquisition, my dear,’ the third woman points out, gesturing emphatically with her long-nailed hand. 'And in these trying times, this face has to be one of a strong, undaunted warrior, not of a little girl fresh from woodland frolicking’.

'B-but… This can’t be what they meant…’ the Inquisitor stutters, after the red figures collapse back into the stream with a thick slurp. 'They want me to be a leader, not a… a tyrant!’

'You would have been a tyrant if I followed the Elder One’s original plan; if I lead your forces to conquer Orlais with demons on your leash. But I have no wish to do that any longer; I wish to smite your enemies - the servants of the Elder One’.

The next image I unfold before the Inquisitor is the most detailed one thus far. Having skimmed through her memory and picked out an appropriate association, I have decided to use it to paint a scene of the new, bloody justice that I will disperse when I am her.

The tide of blood ebbs away, leaving behind the freshly scrubbed floor of the Inquisitor’s quarters, so well-polished that it reflects the elf’s curvaceous figure with perfect clarity, like an unclouded looking glass wood. Except that it is no reflection, this image that appears on the floor, stretching out from underneath the Inquisitor’s bare feet (she likes to walk shoeless when she is not out on a mission; an old Dalish habit - so her memories have told me… A trifle, perhaps; but for me, every scrap of knowledge helps build my new self).

It is no reflection, this second Inquisitor, who is an identical twin of the first, save for a darker, less saturated shade of her clothes and flesh, and the green flame burning in her eyes. It is me - resting at her feet, watching, probing, biding my time. And soon, I shall not be the second Inquisitor. I shall be the first, and only one. For I am Envy, and I do not tolerate competition from those whose skin I wear.

The door of the private chambers creaks open, and the sound of steady, rhythmical footsteps makes the elf stop gawking around in confusion, and turn to face the new vision I have crafted for her. The first face that surfaced when she heard me say 'servant of the Elder One’. There were some other associations too, tangled together in a bizarre knot, intermingled with some sort of… feelings that I do not quite understand. And if I don’t understand them, they must be irrelevant - for I am Envy, and I am never wrong.

I command the apparition to come up to the Inquisitor as close as it can, for her to take a good, long, proper look at its blank, widened eyes with pinpoint pupils, and the tightly pursed line of its lips, with the corners perfectly aligned, pulled neither downwards or upwards. And, of course, the glaring sun symbol burned into its lined forehead.

During my long, thorough hunts for mortals to mirror, a few of my potential targets had their connection to the Fade severed before I could relish cloaking myself in their flesh. A most frustrating outcome - and quite cruel to one who had a whole plan in place for moulding a new body. So I fully intend to be just as cruel to others - and this 'servant of the Elder One’ is quite a fitting test subject for a demonstration.

'I have brought you the papers you asked for, Inquisitor,’ the sun-branded man says, in a hollow, even voice - and as he speaks, the elf’s face gets covered with a sticky film of perspiration, and she reaches out to him shakily, apparently more stricken than she was by the sight of the river of blood and the heads on pikes.

'No…’ she mumbles, her voice thick as her nose gets clogged up and her eyes brimming over with tears. 'I would never do this to you! Never!’

The last word comes out hoarse and sharp; panting heavily, the elf drops to her knees and looks up from underneath a dark line of knitted eyebrows. Suddenly, quite against my will, the ghostly copy of her quarters becomes flooded with orange-tinted light, like from a flame burning in the distance; I think I can hear faint crackling too, and throbbing heat encroaching upon me, as if I were in the presence of Rage. None of this is my doing; none of this is part of how the vision was supposed to progress. I am losing control of the realm of thought - of my own domain! This cannot be allowed to happen; I am the one who is casting this illusion; I am Envy!

The Inquisitor’s dark reflection writhes in silent desperation; I writhe in silent desperation, wanting to rise up, to strike at the mortal that had the gall to disrupt my game… But I cannot. I am trapped, flattened, pinned under the Inquisitor’s knees - while she lifts her arm, her fist rightly clenched and bleeding acid-grin light… And slams down at the floor so that it begins to crack.

She… She is banishing me! The wretch is banishing me! I refuse to be banished; her mind is my mind now; her body is my body! I shall not let these jagged, shattering cracks tear me apart! I shall not fall to her! I shall not let the dream end like this! I am Envy! I am…’



'One creepy-ass demon!’ Bull declares, taking a huge sip out of a mug filled to the bream with that odd 'cocoa’ drink he likes so much. He has insisted on brewing a hearty helping for Sula, too, saying that 'it’s good for situations like this’; and she is now probing the piping-hot unknown beverage cautiously with the tip of her tongue, while wrapped in a woolen blanket of her own making.

'And I mean, creepy-ass! It was this weird, lanky thing with legs coming out of its head, like an oversized mosquito, only all covered in pink flesh - and with a bare baby butt sticking out! It came out of nowhere; all we did was lose track of boss here for a moment… And then there was this screech, and the next thing we knew, boss is fighting this butt freak!’

'She was kinda scary to watch,’ Krem chimes in. 'Spells flying up and down, face twisted… Almost turned the creature into a chunk of burned pie crust by the time we came along to help. I’ve never seen her this angry…’

'I am… Not proud of that,’ Sula says faintly, after swallowing a mouthful of cocoa (which, judging by her expression, followed by an enthusiastic grin from Bull, she finds quite enjoyable).

'Hey, no sweat, boss,’ the Qunari reassures her. 'Sometimes even nice folks like you gotta lose it. And with what that demon looked like, I can’t blame you’.

Sula gives him and faint, polite smile; then, drinks some more cocoa, and turns to Varric, who has busily been scribbling down the Chargers’ account of the demon hunt.

'You’ve been out and about while Bull and the others were being so sweet and attentive to me… Did you happen to see where they took that poor young Templar we found at the redoubt?’

'Ser Barris, you mean?’ this question does not come from Varric - but rather, from Dorian, who approaches the little gathering from the direction of Solas’ rotunda.

'Strapping fellow, like most of his ilk; even after spending so much time in those rank dungeons with little to no food and water. Do not worry, Inquisitor: he is resting. We just had a proper consilium medicum on how to best safeguard him in the Fade after he deprived himself of sleep - Solas, Vivienne and I. Of course, each of us was convinced that they were the most intelligent person in the room - and as in my case, it is most definitely true, I gave my opinion and left the Enchanter and the lovely unwashed apostate to keep on arguing, slipping away to check on all of you. How are you holding up? I hear it was quite a gruesome battle’.

'We’re all fine, I think,’ Bull says, looking over his mercenaries, who all nod affirmatively. 'You, boss?’

'Oh, I think I’ve recovered; poor brave Ser Barris has been through far worse. I will see how he is doing as soon as…’

Sula sets down her mug and chews indecisively at her lower lip.

'Umm, Dorian… Since you are here… Could I ask you for a really weird favour?’



Huddled up at a writing desk in Skyhold library, Gereon Alexius scratches busily at the parchment below him with his somewhat thinned-out quill, tracing line after line of neat, miniscule letters, punctuated by wavy lines and circles, which illustrate what looks like a series of complex spell patterns. Suddenly, as he pauses to review his writing and shift the parchment sheet closer to the little hovering wisp that serves him as a source of dimmed light, an invisible force jerks the quill out of his grasp. Floating away from him, it dances through the air, spitting out green sparks, which gradually form into a doodle of a male profile with a curling moustache.

'Fasta vaas, Dorian!’ the researcher exclaims, hitting his desk with his open palm in irritation. 'This is not amusing in the slightest!’

The emotion in his voice is evident - so evident that, hidden from his view by a tall bookcase, Inquisitor Lavellan buries her face in her hands and quietly weeps for joy.