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Blood Moon's Shadow

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Hawke turned and looked back as he and Anders crested the latest hill in what would be their most arduous journey to date. Kirkwall was still visible in the distance, if only as a vague smudge on the horizon though he couldn't help but notice the smoke that still swept from the brutalized city.

He sighed, unsure whether his melancholy was from the loss of Luna, leaving Kirkwall, or the impending goodbyes once they reached their appointed rendezvous.  He would not miss the title of Viscount, the Nobles could have it, all he needed would be traveling with him.

This would be their final gathering for an untold count of years … if ever again.  It had been a struggle to convince Fenris to meet them at all, or so Varric had relayed to him. This saddened him given how fiercely the elf had battled by his side against the horrors unleashed that day.

Yet given the elf’s tumultuous history with Luna, it was hardly surprising he’d grown more distant with her death.  Hawke was just thankful that she had seen to it that Anders survived the final battle. The ex-Warden had been tight lipped over the details, but he assumed she had given him a warning due to the visions she had been burdened with.

Anders had been busy very publicly evacuating the Chantry along with Varric when it exploded and Hawke knew this was what she had been so carefully preparing for the day she left the Alienage for good. Merrill agreed with his assessment, and he mourned the loss of her gentle naivete as she managed the Alienage during this crisis.

Of course what remained of the Chantry had placed the blame on maleficarum and Luna in particular for inciting a mage uprising. The Chantry had yet to realize they’d effectively martyred her for not one but three growing factions.

The Templars were itching to murder anything that even hinted of magic, though the acting Commander was doing everything in his power to rein them in.  The Gallows was conspicuously empty of mages; having all fled in the aftermath though the Templars vowed to recapture and of course severely punish them all.  Hawke had it on good authority that Cullen staunchly defended Luna’s sacrifice despite pressure to denounce her as a heretic. Hawke wished him the best of luck with that, he would need it.

I mean that don’t I.  Will wonders never cease?

War was brewing, and Hawke’s hard earned life in the City of Chains had evaporated along with Luna’s remains.  Still, he couldn't bring himself to be angry at her, especially because of her final request of his lover … no, that was inadequate.  Anders was, undeniably, the love of his life. He could no longer imagine a life without the man; no more than he could imagine a life without air.

Luna had vehemently insisted they visit the Avaar should anything happen to her.  Hawke didn't know if he could ever find the courage to face certain death like that; knowing that it was inevitable, yet standing to meet it regardless.  Seeing the future would be no blessing.

It was a curse.

Her kidnapping of the vanished Tranquil and subsequent defacing of the Gallows tower was very public knowledge.  The cryptic message she painted was repeated in every tavern, as was the theory that it was prophetic, and thus widely interpreted and reinterpreted.  It was said the Right and Left Hands of the Divine were even discussing it behind closed doors.

Witnesses of course credited the unapologetic Luna with saving untold lives, but the normally boisterous Varric had become very quiet in the face of it all.  The rumor mill had turned her into some strange, Apostate, elven folk hero. The 'Beyonder' was firmly established as legend. Her final battle had been embellished so often there was no longer a way to discern the truth … some even claimed she was the harbinger of ancient forgotten Gods.

That wasn’t how Hawke remembered her.  To him she would always be the brave woman that he’d held bleeding in his arms on first meeting.  She was the sarcastic, fierce, mage from another land, that had given him the courage to even approach Anders.  He had never understood her, but he knew she had always been haunted, and driven to do the right thing, no matter how mad an endeavour. Her penchant for keeping secrets, terribly, had been endearing, if frustrating, but he would always remember her as his friend. An odd, extremely violent, friend but one he would recall fondly.

I’ll miss her elaborate cursing … now I'm just being ridiculous.

Fenris had spoken less and less the last few days.  He seemed surprised to be alive and clearly grieved Luna’s death, they all did … again.  Hawke hoped this trip would help the Lyrium Warrior to heal. Regret was eating at the elf and Hawke wondered if he should have pushed harder to tell the stubborn woman how deeply the elf had fallen for her. Would that only have further complicated the situation?

Second guessing everything would accomplish nothing.  Hawke prayed that wherever she now found herself that their Luna had earned a little peace.  Perhaps in the end … it would all have been worth it.

******

The alarm clock blared loudly, the aggravating screech piercing her brain with every shrill chime.  Luna groaned into her pillow, hugging it tighter as she ignored the persistent wake up call. It was too much effort to hit snooze.  The snooze button was a lie; a tempting candy like button that inevitably lead to her throwing the clock in frustration. Instead she snuggled the comforter closer as she tried to assert herself into wakefulness.

Ugh.  Whoever invented this was a sadist!!!  Fucking alarm!

She froze.  The time-keeper-from-hell continued buzzing in the background as her thoughts unjumbled … There were no electronics in Thedas.

Her eyes strained to open, but she bolted upright nonetheless.  Luna had never been a morning person. She could never understand why it was so hard for her to wake.  Usually she stumbled from her bed still half asleep, clothes put on inside out, hair askew, and drool crusted on her cheek.

Real emergencies normally had her upright in seconds, but sometimes she couldn't open her eyes without using her fingers to pry them open as they steadfastly refused to function properly.  She cursed morning people with their cheery disposition and put togetherness. It just wasn't fair.

Startled, and uncertain, she slowly took in her surroundings.  Luna stared at the familiar environment open mouthed in disbelief.  She glanced down at the worn comforter and gently traced the old coffee stain.  It even smelled like her rathole apartment; old wood, and mildew that never seemed to go away.  Everything was just as she remembered it. The nearby kitchen counter was cracked and the couch she lay on sagged on one side where the frame had broken during a misguided attempt to change the lightbulb.

Luna couldn't shake the feeling that something was very, very wrong.  This couldn't be real. This apartment had burned to the ground years ago during one of her earlier escapes from the Shroud.  The air conditioner had broken, and she couldn't afford to have it repaired.  She had clumsily summoned one too many storms to cool the boiling apartment that summer. Tracking the weather pattern had been all too easy for her hunters. It made no sense for her to be waking up in a city she hadn't seen in fifteen years.

“I'm dreaming,” she whispered in elation and the alarm simply stopped along with everything else.  It was as though the world had simply been paused. There was still something bothering her. Something else had grabbed for her attention, effectively pulling her into a lucid state, but she couldn't put her finger on it.

I might as well enjoy it while it lasts. I haven't had a normal dream in years.

Luna's leopard print pajamas disappeared, replaced by her favorite torn jeans, comfortable t-shirt, and leather jacket.  Curiously she noticed that she still wore the odd wolf ring on her right hand. The beat up radio in the corner came to life, one of her favorite songs drifting on the air.  She walked to the nearby window and struggled to open the over painted wood. That window had always been tricky.

Dust danced in the streaming sunlight as she admired the horrible view of the dingy alleyway and rusty firescape.  Smiling she crawled out the window, turning to see broken sidewalks and crumbling buildings with a strange sense of nostalgia.  She had always liked this shitty apartment. It was more than its peeling wallpaper and warped floorboards. This place had been her first true taste of freedom.

"Av'ahn'su'vi'inadj, ” whispered a masculine voice.  She could almost taste the word; more was implied in that single utterance than simple definition.  He wasn’t speaking English, but that hardly mattered in a dream. He thought her a curiosity to be dissected and studied.  The dismissive quality, or rather the emotional intent of the speaker, was like a slap.

Luna whirled around and was confronted with the view of a complete stranger.  He was elven, clad in something she could only describe as ... finery. Certainly, she had never owned anything that beautifully tailored.  The black cloth and silver embroidery painted him rather effectively as something cold and aloof. He stood at least two hands above her; his long silver blonde hair intricately braided to the waist.  The air thickened with her emotions, all focus turned towards the interloper in a way only possible in dreams. This was an intrusion, his presence grated at her, a wrongness in an otherwise pleasant memory.

“Who are you,” she demanded angrily.  He ignored her question, running a hand along the metal of the firescape before jumping five stories into the alley below.  Physics be damned in their current surroundings. “Fuck!” The elf didn't spare a glance at her outburst, instead grimacing at the pungent smell emanating from the nearby dumpster and turning to examine the masonry.  Luna tore after him.

This is MY dream dammit and he doesn’t have the right to rummage through it!

She smirked as she made a decent superhero landing, the pavement cracking explosively at her feet, blocking his path.  It effectively interrupted his intrusive behavior. “Now that's just rude,” she chided playfully as she righted herself and settled her hands on her hips.

He raised a perfect silver eyebrow and waved a hand as though dismissing her. When nothing happened his haughty expression faltered and she wagged a finger. “Tsk tsk.  And here I was willing to entertain a conversation.” The brilliant sunny day suddenly vanished; the sky darkening with furious storm clouds and ominous thunder. “My dream. My rules.”

"Em enas tel'iselenem,” he finally intoned as the sky opened and a deluge poured forth.
Ma anes Asha'banal'eal, Ma en’nuem el’vhenan i'mar banal."

“I wasn't expecting anyone at all,” she spat.  “...and what the fuck does THAT mean?? I'm an NOT nothing!”

Mar solas judalas ma in amahn'anor dunathe!"

Luna rolled her eyes at the insult and reached for the ethereal thread she knew was always present in her Astral journeys.  The glowing, silver, lifeline suddenly hung in the air between them and she narrowed her eyes at her unwelcome guest. “Well.  I think I'll wake up now.” Before he could stop her she grabbed the line and tugged. She could feel his indignant surprise as the dream disintegrated and she woke up with a triumphant grin.

******

Upon jolting awake she found that someone had seen fit to swath her in a simple but draping white gown of a material she couldn’t identify. It was certainly softer than anything she’d ever worn.  Her ring was still firmly on her finger, as was the necklace Sandal handcrafted for her. Fragmented memories of her arrival on a distant shore, and subsequently being carried away, slowly returned to her.  She was dizzy and fought to keep herself from simply passing out once more. Still, things could always be worse, at least she wasn’t dead.

Even if I distinctly recall dying...

She was a prisoner … again.  Why had they neglected to remove her enchanted jewelry? A long, snaking, silver chain ending in an ornate anklet, kept her from exploring further than a few feet in her private cell. Whomever held her had faith in the power of that shackle to trap her.

There weren’t even any bars on the large arching windows.  The room was spacious, if sparse, reminiscent of something from some ancient mediterranean fantasy.  It was exceedingly more comfortable than she would have thought a captive would be afforded, but she was captive nonetheless.

I’ve had my fill of cages.

Luna scanned the delicate chain and was unsurprised as it flared spectacularly in her magesight.  Complex sigils ran all along its length, but the majority seemed concentrated on the metals resting firmly against her ankle.  She scoffed upon discovering the room seemed to be heavily shielded as well. Taking a shaking breath she checked her reserves, already knowing what she would find.  Her mana was so dangerously near depletion she was amazed she was conscious at all, let alone still breathing.

How long has he kept me here?

It would probably have been prudent of her to study the magics that were determined to keep her contained.  No one had yet accused her of having patience. She chose to kill two birds with one stone. Luna reached for the most powerful of the spells and simply drew the energy into herself.  Almost immediately the spell unraveled and the metal fell away; the satisfying hum of its magic now settled comfortably within her.

"Ane’ir’on." The voice that interrupted her thoughts was deep and silken, but the flavor of the owner’s aura bled through that single word like a fingerprint. Two guardian spirits stood on either side of him, and she didn't like the implications of their presence.

Luna didn’t bother to suppress the growl that rumbled loudly through her chest.  The insufferable elf from her dream stood just beyond the safety of the shield imprisoning her.  He had an intricate Vallaslin she didn't immediately recognize, which meant he wasn't marked for Mythal or Sylaise.  Those were the only ones she’d ever chosen for herself. She instinctively hunched lower, baring her teeth and claws defensively.  “Let. Me. Out,” she demanded in Common.

“Hama en'an'sal'in da’banal.  Ma ane ena'las'athe ma tuast ladaral Asha'banal. Arla vhenas aria harel'hama din. Ahn ane ma sul’vindhru?”

Luna stood upright with a groan, as he continued to rant at her in his flowing tongue. It appeared she could no longer fully understand him. She recognized a few words, but he spoke too quickly for a proper translation. However his emotions seemed to batter at her; unwanted context and foreign concepts seeking an entrance that she failed to fully grasp.  Still glaring at the strange elf she switched to English.

Well I’m smart enough to know that’s ancient Elvish and that’s my cue to leave this place.  Thank you very much for your hospitality,” she deadpanned.  Luna patently ignored them all then and placed a hand against the radiating magic impeding her.  Just as suddenly she found herself flat on her back, having been thrown across the room to land roughly along the etched stone floor.  The barrier changed color, dim red light tinging everything the color of old blood. “You have got to be shitting me,” she groaned while pulling herself upright.

The elf chuckled callously and she could feel his emotions pressing against her aura.  It left her feeling particularly slimy as she realized he was projecting it on purpose.  Not only had he invaded her dreams, now he prodded her in an empathic violation.

Read THIS emotion BITCH. Let. Me. OUT!”  Gathering all of her frustration and anger Luna flung them towards him … at least that’s what she tried to do.  What emanated from her appeared as a tremendous ripple that struck him quite physically; tearing mosaic tiles from the walls.  His spectral guards aimed their spears towards her threateningly and the elf reeled backward. Stumbling back he gripped his head and cried out in obvious pain.  She watched in confusion as his hands came away from his pointed ears quite bloody.

He retaliated and Luna felt the press of gravity increase around her, forcing her to kneel.  She was being suffocated, and she panicked as she realized he could literally crush her to death.  Of all the beings to find her, it just had to be a bloodmage. Her luck was just as horrible no matter where she found herself it seemed.

“Ma ane on'ala.  Ar ju'rahngirem ma'eal Andruil i've ma him nua'o gon’geron. As isathe sul on ghi'myal.”

Andruil.  I know that name.  That is a bad, bad name.

The elf was practically preening; gloating as she sputtered and choked. The press on her eased somewhat and she should probably have cooperated as his will implied.  When had Luna ever done the sensible thing?

“Fenedhis!” she barked at him and was rewarded with a look of complete shock and outrage on his pretty face as she steadily absorbed the power from his assault. The mana fed into her with increasing speed and she rose to her shaky legs as his spell fell apart explosively; shattering the nearby furniture. The barrier held steady for the moment, but she sensed it had taken a quite a beating.

She fought a wave of nausea.  Absorbing blood magic was disgusting, and it left her feeling queasy.  At least he hadn’t used a true binding on her. Perhaps he didn't know how. "Last chance asshole.  Drop the shield, and I may NOT break your skinny leg.” She cracked her knuckles for added effect while she readied herself.  “Either way, I have a feeling Andruil is going to punish you for failing to stop me.”  He of course ignored her and seemed to be trying to reinforce said barrier.

Luna reached for the energies of her cage again, this time focusing and absorbing every ounce of power from them.  It was slow, frustrating work. The pain and emotional anguish used to fuel the magic was on a scale she didn't want to contemplate.  Luna WOULD escape, it was only a matter of time. Her elven jailer seemed to realize this only moments before the complicated casting began to crumble.  The shield shattered like glass, shards of sparkling magic cascading all around them.

Mana surrounded her instantly, and her earlier experience upon her arrival attempted to repeat itself. Here the air itself sung with power. There was nothing tempering the flow. She knew where she was now … or rather when.  Her senses came alive, every smell, every sight a screaming puzzle that threatened to overwhelm her.

However this time, Luna was prepared for it, forced her racing heart to slow, and shaped it with her will as easily as in her dreams. The elf was babbling something at her again, and she didn't bother to parcel understanding from his words.  Drawing on Flemeth’s exhaustive, prescient, tutoring; her being aligned with the energies of this new realm. An opaque, pearlescent mist surrounded her, obscuring her completely from view. Luna screamed as she felt her body begin to shift.

There was something right about the stretching of her skin; as though there had always been too much contained in too small a vessel.  It was a strange experience as her bones and flesh rapidly rearranged themselves. She felt her face reform into a muzzle with a mouth full of razor sharp teeth.  Fur grew along her entire length, but that too was satisfying and as the wind caressed every strand she shivered not in pain, but relief.

When her transformation was complete she stood on not two but four legs; each as large as the trunk of an oak.  Five shimmering white tails fanned and danced behind her; always in motion. The lithe, enormous, vixen gave voice to her exhilaration and shook the room with an unearthly howl.

"DIANA ASH!"

She huffed in amusement then rushed the stunned elf, promptly grabbed his leg in her jaws then bit down until she heard a distinct crunch.  Luna smugly dropped the screaming figure with a thud. He frantically yelled for more spirits to subdue her while attempting to crawl away. Wasting no time for them to comply she sprung out the nearest window.

The roof was incredibly smooth, made of a polished marble like material.  She lost her footing almost immediately; legs thrashing to keep her upright before she came to a less than graceful stop at the edge.  The shining city beyond was a marvel to behold. All doubt that she was in some part of ancient Elvhenan vanished with the unobscured view.

There were glittering spires of varying heights all around her.  Some towered much higher than any skyscraper she’d ever seen. Of course that could have been the fact that many of them were floating a considerable distance from the ground below.  Winding paths stretched like sculpted ribbon between buildings and she could see moving platforms that held no discernable pattern in destination.

Luna’s eyes widened in astonishment.  She had seen similar magic before; while traversing the Cross Roads in the Trespasser DLC.  The glaring difference was the bustling Elvhen and Spirit inhabitants using them currently reacting to her obvious presence.  She could see thousands of them in just the portion she occupied. There were also several large Eluvians along the main causeway.  The sheer scale of it all was awe inspiring.

Earth’s cities were constructed along utilitarian lines. Functionality was chosen over any aesthetic concerns.  Humans tended to build their cities like a hive. She tilted her head taking in the sound of music and the wave like thrum of distant conversation.

In contrast this metropolis boasted curves and structures that seemed to be constructed for the sole purpose of catching the light just right.  Greenery grew throughout the floating city, incorporated into the design. She was also keenly aware of the lack of smog.

There were spacious boulevards and arching staircases designed to keep everything feeling open and sweeping lines reminiscent of a brush stroke.  It was an artist’s rendition or wildest dream made reality. One section seemed to have conjured strategic fog just for the effect. It was beautiful simply for beauty’s sake.

She snapped out of her trance when one of the spirits nearly stabbed her.  Luna searched for the quickest way to make her descent and leapt onto another rooftop.  The moment she touched down on the slick surface mana poured into her channels and the structure beneath her began to quake as she traversed it.  This portion was not shielded against her and she didn't seem to have control over her absorption ability.

With her next bound Luna forced her monstrous claws into the building to stop her from careening to her death far below. However she was not an adept climber and she only managed to precariously perch for a short time before being forced to jump again. The luster of the crystal continued to fade as she drained the magic keeping this section aloft … her mere presence was destabilizing the building.

She had no choice.  Luna needed to quickly get away from this city, or risk accidentally killing its inhabitants as the constructs collapsed all around them.  Already she could hear the startled shouts of the citizens below. Luna struggled to stop her siphoning off the power all around her, but it took tremendous energy to maintain her current form.  She did manage to slow the damage she was causing.

She lost her grip on the next landing and yipped in alarm as she slid into someone’s terraced garden.  Luckily it was large enough to hold her and seemed far more stable than her previous choices. Unfortunately, it was also occupied by a fancy party that she’d unintentionally crashed.

Several of the attendees shrieked and suddenly there was a stampede of bodies in her way.  Trying to right herself quickly while avoiding stepping on anyone she gave a surprised yelp when she spied a familiar green clad Trickster lounging on a nearby chaise.

You’re late,” Loki said smoothly, tilting a fluted glass as though toasting her.  He then elegantly downed the glass of red wine with a satisfied smirk.



Chapter Text

The God threw his glass behind him casually and it promptly vanished mid-air as he confidently rose to his feet.  Luna blinked, staring at him in exasperation when an elven woman ran through him as she fled. His image didn’t falter, but he was clearly not physically present. She heaved a great sigh and tried to express her dislike of his greeting but all that was emitted by her canine throat was a series of unintelligible growls.

Loki paused as another two figures passed through his illusory body. “I’m afraid you’re ill equipped to vocally defy me.  Perhaps you should have practised projective telepathy as your tutors insisted.”

What.  The. Fuck.  I can't TALK?!

He folded his arms expectantly.  She yipped and groaned at him in response, her voice thundering, and she stomped one of her great legs.  The building shook, the tiled courtyard cracking under the weight of her blow. This further frightened the panicking crowd.  It didn’t help her state of mind when she heard the familiar title of Fen’Harel repeated in babbling chorus.  

She tried to force her unfamiliar tongue and throat to form the curses she wished to hurl. It was no use.  Luna was unused to this new body, and her earlier escape had resulted in her less than graceful fumbling into this chaos in the first place.

 

We Will Rise by Twisted Jukebox

I'm not a WOLF!! Blind assholes!!!!

She snapped her jaws shut with a whimper and futilely pawed at her own face. It amused Loki the more frustrated she became. This only served to upset her further.  

I think you’re due …” Loki stopped. Spying something behind her; his relaxed posture shifted dangerously.  “Run.

Luna turned her neck to gauge what had alerted him and a great golden arrow sliced her ear with her sudden movement. She laid them back flat, baring her teeth in an instinctual reaction, hunching lower as she searched for her attacker. The weapon crackled with tremendous energy; sputtering as the tree it hit began to wither.

Loki brandished a staff that materialized in a defensive gesture. “RUN YOU FOOL!”  Luna could hear fear, true fear, in her God’s voice and needed no further prompting. The vixen ran. She could hear a woman’s maniacal laughter booming behind her as she bolted away.  Adrenaline and the focus of survival at all costs washed through her, a strange calm settling within her as her legs finally found their rhythm.

A large, shimmering, green barrier surrounded her just as another arrow was loosed at her.  The projectile embedded itself with enough magical force that the shield shattered with the impact.

Draw more power! I need more fuel for my spells!” Loki’s voice seemed to be coming from somewhere above her but she didn't stop to check. “LET GO!

The Earther obeyed without question.  Luna had experienced death, and once was more than enough. She let go of the control she had been cultivating to protect the foreign city.  The plants and spirits around her wilted as mana poured into her like an electric current.

*YES!!!* This time Loki’s voice seemed to emanate from all around her.  Another barrier, this time the color of midnight, surrounded her. The magic of his forcefield faded from view, but she could still feel its comforting thrum around her. She felt a weight settle onto her back with a jolt. Someone had jumped onto her and was using her as a mount.

A quick glance verified that Loki had twined his fingers into her fur and rode upon her back with a terrible smile.  He tugged painfully, ripping tufts until she took the hint, turning left as he guided her to an overhanging balcony. They wove through the city, dodging obstacles with an ease she found exhilarating. The growing anger of the Evanuris that hunted her only added to the excitement.

She didn't need to look behind her to know the city was taking a great deal of damage.  The screams and the continual roar of the crashing structures were painting a vividly horrid picture in her imagination.  The new shield took several shuddering hits followed by enraged shrieking.

Andruil is not having a good day.

*THERE! JUMP!* Luna eyed the approaching gap skeptically.  They were closer to the ground now, a great forest looming in the distance. He was steering her towards a drop that would likely kill them both.  The bustling market was full of elves she would not be able to avoid. He dug his heels into her shoulders painfully when she began to slow.

If she couldn’t trust her own Gods, then there was no one she could trust.  Saying a silent prayer, Luna leapt, her five tails flowing behind her like a curtain of silver wings.  As the ground came rushing towards her she knew with certainty that it would be a bad landing.

She stumbled again as she tried to avoid crushing the unfortunate elf standing in her way.  Her attempt to spare the obvious slave proved fruitless. He collapsed, eyes glazing in death, speared in the throat by the strike meant for her. Those chained to him in death gasped in shock when the magical bonds disintegrated; the spells falling apart in her presence.

The vixen had landed in a slave market. Their desperation and terror hit her like a tsunami. She made up her mind in that moment to wreak havoc.  If she was going to be mistaken as the Dread Wolf then Luna would make it worth the trouble. Never pausing her run she targeted Andruil’s guards with single minded rage. Jaws, teeth, and claws wrought bloody vengeance on the unfortunate slavers in her path.

Luna howled in satisfaction as she noticed the chained elves begin to fight back. She had no time to watch what true effect she was having on their plight. They might all die in this attempt at escape, but at least they would die free.

What a ridiculous waste the elves had made of immortality. Blood coated her once pristine fur but the familiar tang in her mouth only fueled her anger.  Shouts erupted all around her as the suddenly unbound elves murdered their captors with glorious abandon. It was a bloodbath.

Loki pulled her from her murderous rampage, with a tremendous effort, guiding her ever closer toward the obscuring trees.  He seemed to be weakening, she could not fuel him fast enough, her channels were strained. The General turned Goddess was frightening, her will pressing outwards, following her like some omnipresent shockwave.

Another tremor tore through her shield, this time causing it to buckle under the strain.  Luna growled and finally turned to meet her attacker despite Loki screaming in protest. As she expected; a beautiful elven archer, face clear of markings, glared at her.  The menace emanating from her was enough to give Luna pause, momentarily clearing her battlerage.

Ma tel'ane Fen'Harel.” Andruil gleefully drew back a bow that seemed far larger than should have been possible. “Ma ane da'lin or banal.  Ghilan'nain emen ha'lam'shirem ma felasil. Him a julseithe dialathe aron a on dhar.” Luna didn't need to speak elvish to recognize a threat.

The Sentinels that accompanied the crazed Evanuris did not approach. Luna knew that turning her back would be a death sentence. She tensed, preparing herself to act. All she needed was timing, and a little luck.

A huge explosion threw off the woman’s aim; momentarily distracting the powerful elf. Someone else was taking the opportunity to attack the city. Luna tore away from the standoff, taking advantage of Andruil’s divided attention.

Luna had focused only on reaching the trees. They flew past her with every bound but she couldn't tell you what any of them looked like.  She could only see the next step, the next clearing, the next fallen branch or tunnel. There was only her ragged breath, the pump of every stride, and the knowledge that if she were to make a single misstep it would be her last.

*She no longer gives chase.*

Luna ignored the chastising voice Loki projected into her head. Distance.  She needed to run farther. Instead of slowing she picked up her brutal pace.  Mana continued to flood in, the forest dying all around her. This would not do.  She was marking a clear trail for anyone to follow.

*Stop child.  It is time to regroup.*

The God of mischief floated some distance in front of her, incorporeal once more.  He gestured for her to slow, concern etched on his handsome features. Seeing him made her at once grateful, and bitterly angry.  The entity only used a form she was familiar with … perhaps if she imagined him as a hamster.

*That’s not how this works*

Loki quickly vanished when she peevishly stopped feeding him power though she could still hear him grumbling for a time.  Ignoring him she had continued to blindly run through the thick vegetation and willed him to be silent. She would stop when she had no choice but to stop and not a moment before.

She came to a panting halt by a large winding river, nestled in a vast picturesque valley several hours later. It was well away from the elven city and she hoped she’d traversed too far to easily track. It boggled the mind just how much of the world seemed untouched despite the size of the elvhen civilization.  Cautiously approaching the water's edge Luna huffed in exasperation when she couldn't figure out how to properly drink.

I am soOOoo thirsty. Shouldn’t some of this have just come naturally?

Luna simply could not get her tongue to cooperate.  Animals did this in the wild all the time! There had to be a trick to it that she wasn’t understanding.  Her muscles ached with exertion and her head was pounding in time with her heartbeat. Giving up she dunked herself in the swift waters and simply opened her mouth to drink.  

Water spirits fled in her wake, churning the current, and she gave them time to disperse. She supposed the Greeks’ description of nymphs applied to their appearance. They possessed forms of flowing, slender bodies that varied in size and scope. Some even reminded her of actual mermaids.  Though it really wasn’t clear if they had gender. They were beautiful regardless, semi-translucent skin echoing the environment they inhabited. It would be tragic if she were to accidentally absorb them.

Instead Luna floated along the shore, content to let her muscles soak in the surprisingly warm waters.  She was much too large to be swept away by their antics anyway and it effectively cleaned the remaining blood from her. Diving under the surface she tested how long she could hold her breath; which turned out to be substantial compared to her humanoid form.  She counted ten minutes approximately and surfaced with large splashes, losing herself in childlike wonder. Luna loved magic.

If only it could remain like this. Just a woman/vixen enjoying the light of the sun on a lazy afternoon. When had they lost their way? No war, no prejudice, no injustice, no complications; just balanced existence … such a world was impossible.

Life is easy … people make it difficult. And just like that, the joy is gone.

She paddled toward the shore, her melancholy seeming to weigh her down physically, even in the water.  Shaking herself free of droplets she reluctantly emerged. Luna collapsed behind a small gathering a trees and forced herself to relax. She had firmly clamped down on her mana absorption, but she could still feel that she was draining tremendous energy from all around her. Try as she might Luna could not revert to her original state.

At least the plants aren’t dying.  But I bet they can track … whatever it is I'm doing.  So. That was Andruil. Actively making enemies wherever I go.  Perfect.

Luna turned her thoughts away from the huntress. This world was vastly different from the one she’d known. Power, for one, permeated everything.  She needed to know the rules or she would be unable to anticipate the dangers. It was not the same as being on the astral plane, but she had to wonder, given Solas’ descriptions just how similar it might be.  Flemeth’s lessons would be invaluable.

Then there were the destructive results of her simply … existing here. She shuddered to think what would happen if she fell asleep without some kind of safeguard and quickly reviewed what she knew of wards. Letting go of her control had been similar to her experiences with Fenris’ markings.

Flashes of his secret smiles superimposed themselves over his enraged snarl in her mind’s eye and she heaved a great sigh.  The simple thought of him twisted in her heart and Luna ground her teeth against the tide of her emotions. She didn’t say goodbye.

No. Not that either.  I don’t have time for that shit. Just. Forget him …. Loki.  Yeah think about that. He was here. No. Actually HERE. And where has he gone?

She experimentally drew in a little more energy from her surroundings, calling for him, praying . Luna looked up expectantly, but there was no sign of the God.  He was either sulking or royally pissed she had shut him out … or he was somehow blocked. Why had Loki shown himself in this way at all?

How had he manifested? He had physically shielded her from harm. The Gods had not done anything of the sort in centuries back on Earth. Perhaps it was the nature of Elvhenan itself that allowed it. Luna probably deserved the silent treatment. She had been disrespectful. 

Without answers to her burning questions her mind ran in circles. Luna reasoned that she could more easily reach him while asleep but she only rested for a time, afraid of the consequences.  She sat watching the play of spirits as the sun set until she noted massive ships in the distance.

At least she was pretty sure they were ships. They were huge, barge like, and swiftly moving upriver. There were no sails; fueled instead by magic she could sense even from this distance. Unsure what the ancient elves’ standards, or even colors were, she slunk back into the shadows of the forest.

With her inability to communicate they were likely to mistake her for a mindless beast, and shoot without provocation. Or perhaps like Andruil hunt her for the sport of it. She was a giant fox with five tails after all.  Who also happened to be a distinctly, uncamouflaged, glaringly white target. Luna decided to leave Andruil’s territory first and foremost. These vessels likely belonged to her.

The most obvious solution was to find an opposing force. The question was … which way was that? Someone had attacked the city, but she had no idea WHEN she was. Thousands of years in the past … obviously. It was a little frustrating to realize she was essentially starting from scratch. This was truly the first time she’d little to no information to guide her since awakening in Thedas.

Well.  What did Solas say? Fen’harel was an insult he took as a badge of pride. Snarky bastard. He MUST have started his rebellion already.  Of course … where the fuck IS he from HERE?

Any direction she chose to journey in was fraught with peril. There was more than one would-be-God ruling here and only two even had a slight chance of greeting her amicably … maybe. Fen’Harel may just have her killed if she got too close to his hidden fortress. She stopped in her tracks as something occurred to her.

Mythal knew. She knew I would be stuck here. That sneaky … manipulative … BITCH!! Why the fuck didn’t she teach me ELVISH!

 

******

Her first taste of hala had been absolutely glorious. She had expected an aversion to raw meat but it had taken her over a week and a half to gain the skill necessary to even make a proper kill. By then she had been absolutely ravenous. Uncooked or not she had needed to eat. At first Luna had attempted to catch fish when hunger began to gnaw at her belly but the results had been … best left forgotten. Suffice it to say that the river had bested her.

In the end Luna chose to journey west.  It was easy enough not to go in circles using the sun as a guide post.  The river ran to the north and south but she had gambled that her new body would be able to sniff out needed water.  Game trails were plentiful and she felt avoiding encounters with any elves was in her best interest at this point.

She found that she required little sleep here; functioning without ill effect after nearly a week. Her shields seemed to be holding. Luna used this time to test not only her limits, but how to control her magics in her new environment.  As she suspected, her abilities seemed largely a matter of will. Believe it and it could be done, much like a dream.

Unlike the astral plane things took far more patience.  The range seemed limited only by how much energy she used to fuel it. That and overcoming her own doubt which was far more complicated. Doubt was an ingrained twenty-first century habit and the smallest mistake caused her spells to backfire or unravel.

Though she was fairly confident that with minimum effort she could put her long unused lessons in telepathy to effective use. How ‘loud’ she would be remained to be seen. As she was still hiding she would have to confirm this at a later date.

Giving into exhaustion Luna had dreamed. She found herself at the steps to a great Temple, each of the Gods of her people were represented in enormous, timeless alabaster. Every version of them she had ever heard of sat as smaller idols at their feet.  

She knelt, reverently asking for an audience … there was no response.  Soon after Luna ranted. Luna pleaded. Luna begged. They were lifeless and cold; no answers awaited her there.

Upon waking she found there was no life remaining around her. The trees were husks, brittle; their once lush leaves brown and decaying. Death surrounded her like some macabre barrier as far as she could see. Animals by the score lay unmoving. It was like a supernatural bomb had gone off. Her safeguards had failed.

Luna desperately tried to coax new life into the soil with a song, but she couldn't sing. Humming was difficult, if not impossible, and there seemed to be no tangible effect. She tried forcibly willing it into existence … nothing worked. Luna practiced shielding and wards for a solid month, lingering in the devastated perimeter until she had it firmly under control.

She left as soon as she felt it was safe. The spirits that inhabited the areas she passed through continued to avoid her.  They actively scattered upon her approach. Not that she could really blame them. What had the snooty elf called her? Asha’banal .

Asha is easy enough. ‘Woman’ as in Asha'bellanar .  Andruil called me a da’lin . Banal means … what? Come on think. Nothing … void? Destruction? So woman/child of … destructive void?  I’d stay as far from me as possible too.

When she finally did venture beyond the empty halls her dreams were truly amazing. Any and every environment she could imagine awaited her.  There were old pathways, familiar, and well worn leading to her favorite destinations. There were new paths, reflecting Kirkwall and her recent journeys.  Vast palaces, libraries, and even a jungle made of cotton candy and peppermint. But she was utterly and completely alone.

At least here she was on two legs. She had tried to conjure even the shades of old friends but the constructs were clumsy. They stood like empty shells, with no will of their own, acting only as willing puppets. These were lifeless dolls and she quickly tired of interacting with what amounted to badly rendered npcs.

Was this how the Fade appeared in Solas’ time? It didn’t seem to fit her expectations. There were no spirits to interact with, why would they be here, when they could explore the waking world after all. Perhaps … they were fleeing from her on this plane as well. 

It was too quiet, so she tried to fill the silence.  She recited poetry, enacted her favorite scenes from movies and plays. Luna screamed angry rock music from the top of Mt. Fuji and snowboarded down the Alps. She graffitied an art museum and dared anyone to stop her. Her mind was always searching for some sign of another presence. Nothing.

Night after night Luna performed her favorite pop songs at old opera houses and empty stadiums. Sometimes she deliberately changed the words, swaying her hips to the basest lyrics.  She even dreamed of a world made entirely of playdough. Music and art filled her nights but not her soul. The melodies felt hollow. Her sculptures meaningless without people to appreciate them.

It was the loneliness that finally pushed her to leave the safety of the trees. Six months of only her own, silent company, the occasional meal, and little sleep drove her to risk approaching someone … anyone.  

The lone vixen continued her trek for another few weeks.  Maybe there was a settlement or dwarves … or a sentient rainbow unicorn beyond the next rise. At first, when the sound of laughter carried to her on the wind, she was sure she was losing her mind. Still she couldn't help the hopeful fluttering of her heart and turned towards it.

She passed a large lake and her face fell when she noted the lack of a dock.  There were no fishing boats. No signs of a village or road. Maybe she had imagined it after all. She heard it again; drifting like the sound of a windchime.

Luna crept along the forest floor, afraid she was hallucinating, afraid that she was not. Every snapping twig forced her to slow. Every whisper of dry leaves left her breathless. She tried harder.

The muted sound of a woman’s voice was next and soon enough she came to the edge of the expansive wilderness she had been calling home. Just beyond the concealing foliage she spied a mother and child.

There stood a small house, humble, yet sturdy on the edge of the forest.  It was obviously elven, probably erected with magic, but simple. A small garden looked to be lovingly tended; just large enough to provide for a single family.

It was so … ordinary.  A small cart, pulled by oxen, was steadily being loaded.  The father soon joined them, a younger boy riding on his shoulders.  He gave the elven woman a quick peck on the cheek and lowered the boy to the ground, all the while chatting.

She couldn’t understand what was being said but she could FEEL it. Family. Love. Contentment. The elvish flowed fluent and sweet as the little girl was chastised for running with her large load of pelts. Luna flinched when the girl’s foot caught on a root resulting in a skinned knee.

The fox fought the urge to run out and comfort the wailing girl.  Instead Luna waited until the mother healed the wounds closed with a gentle kiss. The goods lay scattered but all that mattered was that their baby was hurt.

Luna watched until they finished their chore; the elven male driving the cart to some unknown destination.  Still she watched those that remained until they retreated inside for the evening. She slipped back into the forest with a heavy heart.  It was everything she had ever wanted and everything she feared rolled into one.

She wandered away, searching for something to eat, but inexplicably found herself back at the small homestead.  Twice more she shied away and twice again found her feet betraying her. Resolving to stay she searched for somewhere nearby to make her den.

Finding an enormous tree a safe distance away she curled herself at the roots.  She would dig it out tomorrow. Though she had slept only days before she felt her eyes burning.  Luna could not mourn in this form and so she sought out the solitude of her dreams. Once asleep she screamed into the emptiness that greeted her and wept.

Years of pent up grief manifested as a desolate, lifeless, martian landscape.  She raged, tearing the ground with her bare hands. She threw boulders as a sandstorm whirled around her drowning out the unforgiving sun.  Luna roared a challenge that no one would hear.

Marcus, Flynn … Fenris.  All lost. All gone. She was alone.

******

Issenril woke with a panicked start as the earth quaked.  A woman’s heart torn cries still echoed against her mind; bleeding from the Fade. A terror was clawing at the fabric of the world. The loss of a husband. The loss of a child. The loss of love newly kindled. The loss of everything that had ever mattered. She hastily wiped away her tears and rose from her bed.

The mother checked on each of her children; fearing for their safety. They slept still, but unsoundly, tossing in their beds as she soothed away their fears. Never before had she felt such terrible hopelessness and woe.

Reaching out she sensed no one nearby. Not even a whisper from the local guardians. The entity’s fury had been horrendous and astounding to witness. Gentle spirits had flown for their lives before an unfamiliar force.  Even Curiosity gave it a wide berth.

What despairing creature could leave so powerful an impression? She had been so sure they had fled far enough to go unnoticed by the warring factions for a time. Triple checking the wards she stood guard over her fragile family.  No harm would befall them. She would die first. The elven woman eagerly awaited her spouse’s swift, and safe return.



Chapter Text

The next morning Luna woke to find the area directly around her had been violently disturbed. Trees had been uprooted or splintered into kindling. Not all of them, but enough to cause concern. Her wards had held, nothing was simply dead or dying, but she had affected real change in the waking world with her tantrum. Surveying the damage she came to a decision. Luna did what she always did when overwhelmed by emotion. She buried it.

Survive. It’s what you’re best at.  No use crying over what can’t be changed.

Luna spent much of the next several days shifting dirt as a distraction.  She took the time to right the damage she’d done. Her great strength helped in this endeavour. She’d been surprised at how quickly she’d managed to dig out a hollow large enough to accommodate her, but any bit of luck was appreciated. The last thing she wanted was for her lair to be too obvious, and she scattered the excess earth near the lake.

Lair.  Befitting the monster I’ve become.  This won't end well. I should move on from this place. I’ll probably get that poor family killed.

The truth was that she didn’t want to.  Even if she never spoke to the family, just knowing there was sentience close at hand was calming. Knowing that someone was carving out a place of happiness gave her hope. Perhaps, if she took things slow and actively protected them …

What? They’ll let a thing like you near their kids? Fucking idiot.

Loki had yet to make another appearance. He was beginning to worry her, perhaps he was too drained after saving her life. Gods weren’t supposed to actively participate … at least that had seemed to be the case for her realm.  It disturbed her to know that in truth, she knew very little about WHY they had stopped interacting with humanity. That was one of a thousand questions she wanted to ask.

It was on one final sojourn towards the waters to bathe the dust from her fur that she noted she wasn’t alone.  The elven woman she’d observed the week before knelt on the shore, examining something. It was with a sinking heart that she realized it was a paw print in the soft, newly deposited earth. Her, enormous, paw print.

She backed away slowly, there was no need to frighten the woman, and Luna didn’t think she would react well.  The elaborately carved bow in the elf’s hand and the sword strapped to her side also looked rather dangerous. The deadly ease with which the woman moved with those burdens made Luna uneasy.

Oh, Luna would no doubt survive the encounter.  However, she had no desire to leave the woman’s children orphaned. Backpedaling she failed to avoid the rather large stick behind her and it broke with a loud crack. Luna winced at her rookie and completely cliche mistake. She noticed with a sinking feeling that the woman seemed to have vanished.

Shit.

Luna craned her neck only to freeze when the woman popped her head up from behind a fallen tree and their eyes met.  The elf didn’t even flinch, instead drawing her bow in a fluid motion and quickly taking aim. The air seemed heavy, charged with tension, but she continued to stare the elf down. Luna pushed with her mind, trying to communicate.

I MEAN YOU NO HARM!!

The arrow was loosed with no sign the woman had heard her, but Luna held her ground. The arrow struck the tree beside her, quivering with the impact.  Luna huffed in frustration. It had only been a warning shot but she took no comfort in the fact. The she-elf nocked another arrow, drawing mana into herself. Not a good sign.

They looked at one another in silence, gauging each other. The woman lowered her bow, watching her in confusion. Taking a chance, Luna knelt down, lowering her head in a submissive gesture. She had no idea if the elves observed predators the way earthers did, but perhaps their immortality had its uses … namely time to notice things.

Please.  Don't shoot me.  Please, please, please, don’t shoot …

The next arrow flew straight at her head and Luna growled in frustration; shielding herself. Electricity wreathed her and the arrow was struck to ash before it could reach her. Luna bolted away and quickly lost the hunter. Four legs were far superior at sprinting than two. She made sure to double back later in the day.

The annoyed vixen avoided the small family for a month after the less than peaceful encounter.  It was obvious they made their living on the hides of the local creatures so, taking a gamble, she began herding small game towards the family. She also started eating the large predators that wandered into her new territory.  The last having been some kind of sabre toothed mountain lion.

When she finally braved checking in on them she was pleased to see they had taken advantage of her efforts. She was less enthusiastic by the increased wards and the skittish behavior of the adults. They were obviously still freaked out by her presence.

Luna stayed just beyond the clearly defined perimeter. It was foolish to linger. They clearly did not want her sticking around, but what else was she going to do with herself? Luna was bored.

She smiled inwardly as she watched the children playing and teasing each other. They seemed oblivious to any danger. Their parents used magic to tan and preserve the hides and she did her best to memorize the spells.

It was fascinating how casually magic was used by everyone. Even the children used it for small spells to help in the garden, or to wash up. They animated small toys, and erected miniature castles for themselves to playact in. It gave her a small measure of confusion that the mother hadn't used any magic to truly pursue her.

She felt a little guilty continually spying on them but she couldn’t seem to help herself. It was on her third such trip that she was spotted by the little boy. Luna was at first relieved when he kept it to himself. Until he glanced around for his mother and stumbled closer with wide eyes.

The Earther had grimaced, slowly backing away, and making her way back to the lake. So much for people watching today. That suited her just fine; she would simply practice fishing.  The husband had taken to showing the children how to coax fish to the surface. Which explained the lack of a boat, they had no need. Luna wanted to see if she could manage with what she had observed.

It turned out to be rather easy and she enjoyed a full stomach of some species of gigantic trout. Figuring out how to eat it had been a messy endeavour involving side gnawing and sticky fur. She was enjoying a swim when she resurfaced to find that someone had followed her.

The foolish boy had managed to climb onto a large piece of rotting driftwood that hung out over the lake. He was startled when she burst out of the water and clung to it for dear life. The child looked to be stuck and cried out.

Okay. I know for a fact your mother has told you to stay away from the forest alone you little troublemaker.

Luna scanned the area, searching for his parents but they were a good distance from the house. He would lose his grip any second, and though the drop wouldn't kill him, she didn't know if he could swim.  She paddled underneath him which resulted in terrified squealing that made her ears ring. Seeing no other recourse, Luna simply waited for him to fall.

He landed, sprawled across her back, and she turned her neck to look him over.  She sniffed at him and inwardly cackled as he lay very still pretending to be dead.  He cracked an eye open, gasping as he stared into her own large slitted orb. When the giant predator didn't try to eat him he tentatively straddled her back holding her fur to keep from falling into the water.

How are you not dead already? Seriously kid, I could EAT you! It’s a good thing I’m what you ran into.

Nodding her head deliberately slow, she started towards his home. He giggled as she picked up speed, watching everything passing so quickly around him in wonder. Luna tried to keep from jostling him free. She only slowed as the frantic calls of his parents came into ear shot. He could hear them too, nestling down into her fur as though trying to disappear there.

Oh, no.  This is your problem.  You disobeyed, now suffer the consequences.

Luna slowed, at the edge of his family’s barrier, unsure what to do.  He sensed her hesitancy and shifted, deciding to climb down. She eyed the child dubiously.  He had no chance of scaling her fur to the ground without injury to himself. Sighing she grasped him by the sleeve of his shirt to stop him.

He blinked at her wide eyed, swallowing, but stopped struggling and nodded his head.

“Huran!!!!!”  The horror in their screams made her groan.

She could only imagine what they looked like and felt a jolt of pity for the distraught pair. No one was moving and she sighed in exasperation as they prepared to attack her. They stayed their hands for fear of what she would do to their idiot child.  Huffing in annoyance Luna firmly grasped his shirt, causing more hysterical screeching.

Cue sarcasm. This is going soOoo well.

Luna leaned down, holding the boy aloft at least a story in the air.  Raising an eyebrow at the armed elves she tossed the boy at his parents … hard.  The mother dropped her bow, diving to catch him, and Luna stood absolutely still.  She tried to project her calm as she had her anger while imprisoned. There was no discernable reaction.

They were babbling to each other again and she waited to see what they would do. When they made no move to attack she looked at the weeping woman. Luna snuffed, regaining their attention and gave an exaggerated, unmistakable bow.

Come on people, this is attempt number two. Kid’s alive, I’ve returned him to you.  Get with the program!

The male lowered his sword slowly and nodded in return. He also strengthened the wards. It reeked of dismissal but she didn’t care. Luna wanted to jump for joy. What a sight that would have made.

Bad idea.

Deliberately avoiding any sudden movement, she turned her back on them and padded back into the forest. Luna held her breath, preparing to shield herself. It was nerve wracking, but in the end they made no move to follow and she smiled.

******

Luna avoided the den and the little family for another few weeks, ranging across the wilderness in search of … anything. They were trading with someone out here. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for.  Luna only needed to be DOING something.

It wasn’t until she explored north, in the direction the elf had taken, that she came upon something interesting.  More elves were living in a secluded hamlet tucked between the mountains. The architecture was amazing even in what was obviously a small farming village.  Then again village wasn’t the appropriate descriptor.

Outpost would have been more accurate. She was forced to make her observations from atop an adjacent cliff. A physical wall had been erected about the entire property. It was heavily shielded, the crop of choice appearing to be some type of fruit. Guardian spirits patrolled the perimeter of the terraced orchards and she treaded lightly. Unsure what the range of detection might be she erred on the side of caution using her own abilities as a gauge.

A small eluvian stood near the edge and was more heavily guarded. The harvest traveled unassisted through it at a steady, exacting, pace. They appeared to be using bespelled containers that hovered on command. She observed more primitive transportation entering the strangely militaristic settlement.

The goods delivered from the surrounding countryside were taken to a small market rather than shipped out.  Presumably they depended on the little brought in from the wilderness. A small section seemed to be set aside just for such trade.

That’s a little strange. No. That’s a lot strange. Are all their farms like this?

Luna retreated. She would leave this mystery for another day. There was more than enough on her plate without making more people aware of her presence. She took the scenic route back towards familiar ground. That’s when she felt it.

She might have missed the thrumming of magic if not for the accompanying melodic voice. The signature was well guarded. Someone was singing nearby, and singing well. Their voice was rich, throaty, like velvet or dark chocolate, and obviously female. The song was laden with melancholy but also compassion and she couldn’t help herself; she changed trajectory to investigate. It was soothing, the voice, and the emotion behind the music.

It was not easy, wherever they were was obfuscated with magic, much as Luna’s own people had hidden their Sanctums. She opened her mage sight and searched for the pulse. There it was again.

The trees here grew in a wall forming a grotto of sorts she had circled twice. Checking one last time for an ambush she dared the paved stone path. The branches were close here but Luna had been learning what her body was capable of. She deftly maneuvered her way through the winding maze of limbs with no more than a whisper.  

The way opened to the view of a small waterfall cascading into a crystalline pool. She knew without a doubt that this secluded area had been purposely sculpted. The waters practically glowed with mana; warmth washing over her as if she stood in the sun.

However it was the elven woman bathing there that truly caught her attention. The statuesque elf was kneeling, the water concealing her from the waist down.  Luna held her breath. She had never seen so perfect a creature. Her dark complexion was absolutely stunning, like creamy mocha, the water reflecting every curve. There was not a single blemish and it suddenly made Luna aware of her many imperfections.

Embarrassed at the intrusion she started to back away when the woman stopped her song and turned to face her. She appeared intrigued, not at all frightened, and boldly strode out of the water. If Luna could have blushed she would have.

Ahn ina'lan'ehn ma ane! Ma' on'ala juea nan'mah ar unvena ara'len u.” The elven woman sounded breathy as she spoke, her manner tinged with ... admiration.

Unable to understand the nude woman Luna did the first thing that came to mind; tilting her head like a curious puppy.  This caused the gorgeous female to laugh, leaning her head back, in a gesture she found oddly familiar. The laughter was full, free, and completely terrifying.

I’ve seen … I've seen that somewhere before.

There was something dangerous about this whole situation but Luna could not bear to turn away.  The woman beckoned for her to approach and she felt herself take an involuntary step. Luna paused, hackles rising along her spine, as she grew more wary. She emitted a low, clicking, warning.

What is she doing to me?!

The woman only smirked, approaching closer, and Luna found herself relaxing.  It was impossible to ignore the serenity the elf was projecting. Logically she understood that she was behaving erratically, but she simply couldn’t stop herself as she leaned into the soft pat along her leg.

“Ar itha sil in mar inan'dunathe.  Ahnsul ema ma …” She continued to pet Luna’s fur as she spoke, suddenly trailing off as Luna felt the unmistakable press of her aura against hers. “Ma'esha'lin or da'len. Ra DEN ma’ehn athlanem em.”

Luna laid before her in defeat.  It just felt so … right. Her lids grew heavy as the woman hummed a lullaby tracing her fingers through the great fox’s matted fur. Perhaps she just needed a little rest.

******

She opened her eyes to an unfamiliar, luxurious room.  It was sinfully comfortable, the thin silken sheet that covered her sliding deliciously against her bare skin.  Luna was laying on a divan, surrounded by satin pillows, and she was not alone.

The woman she had come upon sat across from her on an equally comfortable throne. She chuckled as Luna raked her eyes over the elf’s regal, draping, gown. Smiling pleasantly the elf spoke. “Just as beautiful in the dreaming I see. Curious that you take on a more recognizable shape here. It is more often the opposite.”

They were dreaming together.  Luna couldn’t help the surge of excitement that melted away her anger. She rose to her feet, clothing herself automatically with her typically worn jeans and loose fitting tank top. The woman took her new appearance in stride.

“You manipulate the Fade as though born to it. Yet you are not one of The People ... quickling.” Luna didn’t miss the hint of suspicion in her hardening tone. Nor the identifying of her mortality.

“Then … this is the Fade?” Luna looked around herself in disappointment.  “But, this feels like what I see EVERY night. Why is it always empty?”

The she-elf laughed in that disturbing manner once again.  “Empty?! I think not. You have made quite a racket these past months. It is what drew me here.  You are fortunate that it was I that found you first.”

Luna turned her own steely gaze at her strange visitor. “You weren't. I … gave an archer a bad day.”

The woman rose from her seat, casually approached her and placed a hand on her shoulder. “So much pain.  I am sorry that you were accosted. Do not let one sour experience turn you against those that might assist you.”

Luna furrowed her brow remembering all her lonely nights. She began to pace uncomfortably. Was that why she wanted to trust this stranger so badly? “No one else has made themselves known. I am always searching, but no one is ever there.”

“I cannot promise that will change any time soon. You have made quite an impression on those that dwell here. Terrifyingly so.” She lifted an elegant finger to her chin. Every movement was graceful; purposeful. It drew her in like some hypnotic dance.

She shook her head to clear her thoughts. “How are you speaking English?”

The elf raised a brow.  “Is that what you hear? Curious. I’m afraid I speak no such tongue child of shadows.”

“I’m not a child. Shadows or otherwise,” Luna snarled. The look she was given made her regret snapping. She had only helped to prove the woman’s point. It was as bad as speaking with her former arcane tutor.  She deflected the conversation. “Why do I understand you perfectly. The other was still speaking elvish though I understood him.”

There was the smirk again. “Tis the nature of dreams and because they are not so powerful as I. Nor as practiced.”

Luna needed something for her hands to do and didn’t want to play with her hair again. She conjured her favorite dagger, the one she’d gifted to Alistair, and began twirling it adeptly. It was also a not so subtle threat. A feeling of surprise and giddiness overcame her and she finally realized the emotions were not her own.

You … sneaky bitch.

“Well it’s a handy trick, but having to sleep for every conversation will be … inefficient,” Luna sighed in annoyance.

Her elven companion smiled, revealing perfect, white teeth. “I may have a boon for you … a trade if you will.”

Luna narrowed her eyes.  “What … what kind of trade?” Deals were not to be made lightly in the Fade, or had that only been after the Veil sundered the world?

Still smiling the woman leaned in close enough for her lips to ghost across her own, her hand languidly trailing down Luna’s arm in a way that sent her senses reeling. “I’d like a kiss.”

The Earther’s breath hitched and she gazed up at the much taller elven woman with an uncontrollable blush.  She tried to speak, but all that came out was a squeak. Trying again she whispered, “Is that all? And in return?”

Her blushing did not get any better with the woman’s husky response.  “For now ... we’ve no time for more. Perhaps we can come to an arrangement. As to what you’ll receive ... likely a horrible migraine and the Elvhen tongue.”

Luna blinked in surprise at both the double entendre and the offer of an entire language. “You can do that?”

“With your permission. ‘Twould likely kill you without; little quickling. That benefits neither of us.”

The woman’s hand caressed her neck making it harder to think. “Why would you help me?” Luna could not hide the shuddering in her breath. She didn't want to.

“I admire you. Is that not enough?”

“Not in my experience.” Luna swallowed nervously, licking her lips, knowing full well that she was being observed. “I don’t even know your name.”

“Is that a yes?” The beautiful elf cupped one of Luna's breasts and her resolve crumbled; her dagger clattering to the floor.

“Yes …”

The kiss was searing, their bodies molded against one another in a parody of lovemaking. Luna’s hand wandered, grabbing a handful of the elf’s luscious behind, pulling her closer. The woman’s tongue traced her lips, questing for an entrance that Luna willingly gave with a moan. She could feel the elf everywhere, all around her, triumph mixing with wanton lust.

Pressure built behind her eyes as they parted with a sigh. A ringing started in her ears, loud, and growing louder.  The world was screaming at her and Luna collapsed. Concepts and language flooded her mortal mind like a tsunami.

*****

This was an unforeseen and all together exciting turn of events. The fool Andruil had no idea what talents she had almost squandered in her fit of pique. There had been precious little to garner her attention in millennia. The brat’s loss was her gain, and she couldn’t help but feel a little grateful to the bumbling Huntress.

She ordered her Sentinels to reveal themselves and carry her new prize. They enchanted the creature to float beside them. Just imagining the reactions the mortal would stir at court was enough to brighten her day. Not as she was now of course.

What she had gleaned from the girl’s surface thoughts and emotions were not to be treated lightly. Though powerful the little Dreamer was far too new to throw into that viper’s nest. No, first the mortal would need to filter through all she had bestowed on her. To that end she would have to leave her in the charge of a trusted ally. She had few of those left.

She had not lied to the girl. The mere fact the shifter yet survived was astonishing and attractive. However, their entire meeting had been staged from the start. Regular reports of the beast’s doings in the area had filtered to the Goddess almost immediately. Strange and beautiful landscapes had been painted across the Fade. Only the current war raging between Andruil and Falon’din had kept her safe thus far.

Music. Such music as she had never heard or dared imagine had echoed across her borders. Love, hope, humor, lust and more; drumming through the night. Spirits crept at the edges of the girl's terrible … absence. The child simultaneously attracted even as she repelled. Then despair. She had known then that this was no trap set for her. You could not feign such devastating loss. It had encompassed a pain so great she had almost been consumed by it; convinced it was her own.

Mortal emotions were more urgent as a rule. They had no time for the subtle, gentle, or furious emotions that took centuries to build or understand. They probably did not even have the words to describe them. What a terrible burden to live so short a life. They died barely more than the children they were born as.  It was fascinating. An accident of birth, cruel and pitiable.

They arrived at the small parcel of land she had once granted as a gift. Here dwelled one of her most trusted spies.  It had pained her to let her go, but she owed the woman much.

Two armed figures emerged as she casually dispelled the wards. They knelt respectfully but she noticed the way their eyes lingered on the burden her Sentinels deposited beside her.  Intriguing, there was recognition there.

“Issenril.  How often must I tell you.  You need no longer kneel. You have been released from my service.” She smiled warmly at the married couple.

“You shall always be my General. I shall always kneel.” She rolled her eyes in characteristic fashion.

“Such a contradiction. As always.”  They dropped all pretense and hugged one another. She waved away the Sentinels as they bristled. “I require a word alone with your spouse young man.”

*****

Issenril’s husband offered to get them drinks though he glanced back at them with some concern showing in his eyes. She sent him reassurance through their lifebond with a nod. “Brulaer's far older than I am. As you well know old bat.” She eyed the white furred beast warily. “What do you need of me? You know well that I love you, but I cannot resume my position, the children ...”

She forestalled more with an uplifted hand. “Nothing of the sort old friend. I need only ask a favor.” She gestured at the unconscious figure. “I have shielded her appropriately, she will pose no danger to you and yours.”

The spy turned mother sighed in obvious relief. “I had hoped twas so.  Though … why bring her here?”

“Because she is a catalyst for change. I would see her safely walk amongst us.”

“You mean she is a weapon.” Issenril grimaced. War was brewing as she feared.

“Train her.  When she is ready inform me at once. Do not take too long. She is mortal, and does not have years to waste. Be harsh, but not cruel.” It was not a request. Her General was too used to giving orders, and probably hadn’t even noticed.

Issenril nodded reluctantly and saluted. “As Mythal commands.”

Chapter Text

Issenril returned from her hunt empty handed once again. Game had grown scarcer these past months and she had needed to range farther than she would have liked. It seemed counter intuitive that the presence of such a large predator roaming about had encouraged the wildlife to linger near her home.

Unless…

Washing up quickly by the river she went in search of her charge. The scene that greeted her startled and frightened her until she saw her husband watching with a smile. Her boy Huran was playing a game with the great creature, dodging between five enormous white tails as they rhythmically swayed. Her daughter Sierhe sat atop the enormous head; braiding all manner of flowers into the fur there.

The creature lay contentedly, crowned in blooms, a smile playing at its lips even as the little elflings tugged in a way that was surely uncomfortable. Issenril raised a brow at Brulaer with her arms crossed. “And what goes on here my heart’s home?”

They all froze, turning to look at the new arrival with trepidation. Her husband’s mouth quirked at the corners as he answered in a serious tone. “Our beautiful, intelligent children seem to have tracked and tamed a terrible monstrosity, my desire. Truly they are destined to be excellent hunters.” The children being flattered giggled.

Issenril narrowed her gaze at them all; tapping her foot with her hands on her hips. “Little ones … we discussed this. We all have duties.” She waved at their furred guest. “Her most of all.”

Her husband folded his arms and sent her a look that meant this was not over. He had been insisting in the last weeks that she was being too harsh with the mortal. She had so far ignored his advice as she grew more frustrated with her appointed assignment.

To her credit the vixen looked thoroughly chastised. However as soon as the children had extricated themselves she said, *I finished your stupid lessons.  It’s not working Issenril. I was bored.*

The former spy pinched the bridge of her nose and heaved a great sigh. At least her grasp of their language had improved. “And why is that I wonder? It cannot be my tutelage, I have thoroughly explained the mechanism. Perhaps you enjoy being such a great brute?”

The beast rose to her legs with a huff of her own. *Yes the great Issenril could not possibly be at fault. You think I LIKE being stuck like this?*

It seemed to amuse the beast to try breaking through her careful reserve. She was entirely without discipline. It was amazing how like a young pup she sometimes behaved. Perhaps it was normal for quicklings but her behavior was reckless. At this rate she would need another sixty years of training!

Issenril cursed Mythal for bringing her this task. There was not enough time to shape this savage into an effective spy. The Goddess had not been appeased by her latest accounting of Luna’s progress. She had never disappointed her General and she wasn’t about to start now. Issenril prayed for patience.

“As a matter of fact I believe you do. It is the only explanation. Your other lessons have gone apace. Only in this do you balk.” Her family wisely vacated the training grounds. Judging by the giggling and her husband's posture they were unrepentant. She would deal with the repercussions later. Issenril did not appreciate being undermined by her own family.

Luna, as she had learned the creature called herself, managed to look insulted; quite an accomplishment considering she still possessed a canine head. A head full of razor sharp, enormous, teeth. She attempted to growl threateningly. It would have been menacing but for the flowers that still wreathed her head. Issenril couldn't help it, she smirked, much to Luna’s confusion.

Eyeing a stray bloom the beast gave the impression of a sheepish grin. *Don't be too harsh on them.  I must be a great curiosity.*

“Contractions are the sign of a sluggish mind,” Issenril said automatically.

*And a sluggish mind is not taken seriously.* Luna rolled her eyes as she completed the mantra. Issenril gritted her teeth to keep from snapping. This was all going wrong. She calmed her mind and tried to look at it logically.<

She is right. I have not examined my role in this. Luna is impertinent … but she has a point. Stop stooping to her level, one would think I was but a fledgling of a five hundred.

“Perhaps we are going about this incorrectly little one. There is nothing wrong with your skill but I cannot proceed with your lessons until you surpass this obstacle.”

*Why not explain the urgency. I might be inclined to try harder. I see no point in learning all this .... ridiculous Elvhen etiquette and POSTURING. Your family does not seem to use or need it.*

“My family is not expected to make an appearance before the Evanuris. Words are dangerous weapons and one misstep could mean your execution. I am doing this at great risk to myself and my family. I want you to survive and thrive here. Are you implying you have not given your task the full effort you claim?”

*No. Do not put words in my mouth. I cannot shift, I have been trying for months. You know this …* Issenril bit back an exclamation as the fox’s fear flavored her words.

“Luna … you are afraid.” Issenril sighed, not in frustration, but in sympathy. She came to a realization then. Luna was behaving more like an angry adolescent than a grown elf. How did one judge the age of a mortal … especially when in an alternate form?

The creature bristled momentarily but subsided as she forced herself back into a sitting position. *Yes …*

“What is it you fear little one? You are a gift. Surely you can see that your abilities are extraordinary. They would have to be; to have gained the attention of Mythal. It is a great honor to be invited to her Temple.”

*It is not … I fear what I may unleash. I fear losing control and hurting you … your family. I would never do so on purpose. I fear that I am a monster, but at least this way … in this form …*

The giant fox looked to her with eyes filled with grief. Issenril hated to admit she found it unnerving. She was just so very large, the power it must take to maintain such a form was staggering.

Issenril had been so sure she would revert simply from strain, but it showed no signs of waning. It was not unprecedented, but how was she expected to train such a powerful talent? Luna huffed the air at that exact moment and it suddenly became clear to her that she was part of her pupil’s problem.

“You … you can smell my fear,” she said in astonishment. If this were true then Luna possessed a skill few would ever match. Elvhen hid their intentions at all times. They schooled body language, tone, and emotion. One could not control the scent of one’s own body. Her charge looked away and it was all the confirmation she needed. “Luna.” Issenril placed a hand along the creature’s great jaw, patting it to calm her. “Look at me. I want want you to share my aura … in my feelings.”

*You said it was forbidden.*

“Unless by invitation,” she said firmly. “You must come to understand the difference between wariness, and what a person truly feels. I have given you cause to doubt my sincerity. Let me remedy this.”

Their auras met gently, Luna was hesitant, but Issenril grasped firmly in return. The connection was not one sided, and she was suddenly inundated with all the wracked emotions of someone who had long ago reached their breaking point. She hadn’t been sure the despair she had sensed those months ago in the Fade had been from her student. There was no doubt now, and Issenril cursed her mistake in not offering comfort sooner.

Brulaer is never going to let me hear the end of this.

Her mate was a compassionate soul, a stark contrast to all she had been forced to become in service to Mythal. Their match had come as a shock to most, but he tempered her most days. He saw simple truths where she searched for hidden meaning. She grudgingly admitted he might have been correct about her approach all along. He would not let harm come to their brood and yet had allowed them to PLAY on the giant predator.

She had maintained her distance, as was required of spycraft. It was the wrong approach entirely. Luna didn’t need an aloof and exacting taskmaster. No, Issenril knew the path to take now. This poor child had endured too much in too short a time. No wonder she didn’t feel comfortable in her own skin. She was using this form as a shield against the world.

Issenril allowed the keening fox to lean in and the elf buried herself in the soft fur at Luna’s neck. She could not tell specifics without delving deeper … and she would not. That was only something that could be offered. “I’m so sorry little one. I have been a fool. Forgive me?” Issenril withdrew her aura with a shudder. How was Luna still awake? Such pain would have sent her into utherena long ago. Perhaps mortals were made of stronger stuff than she supposed.

“I will allow the children to visit you … daily.”

*But …*

Issenril flicked Luna’s nose with a grin. “Trust me. A good teacher admits when they were wrong and I have wronged you.”

*I … very well. I will trust you.*

“That my dear, is a much better place to start.”

*****

The infuriating elf chased away her company. Luna was actually rather impressed with what she knew of Issenril. Her husband was much easier to talk to and had imparted a few stories to appease her inquisitive nature. They had begun conversing weeks ago. It had been his suggestion that she let the children near.

Luna reminded herself that she was acting a little ungrateful. Simply being among them was putting their entire family in danger. It was just the woman seemed to know EXACTLY what to say to get a reaction out of her.

Not surprising. She’s what, several thousand years old and survived spying for a living. Actually she kinda reminds me of a drill sergeant.

Luna continued to have dreamless nights. When she had first noticed the elvhen woman told her she was warded against dreaming for her own protection … and that of their family’s. They did not want anyone to know she was here. Rather than becoming angry Luna had seen it as a comfort. She had spent too many nights screaming into the silence alone.

Waking with the entire language in her head was not the cure all she had supposed. There was nuance, the aura was used in just such a way to convey meaning. Like an undeveloped muscle it took practice. Surface emotion was perfectly acceptable to read with permission but when speaking intent was everything. The same phrase could mean half a dozen things. She was gratified that sarcasm was alive and well in Elvhenan.

Luna was stunned when Issenril offered to let her read her emotions. It was an intimate act, something only permitted to family, or a lover. Sometimes even a lover was not granted the permission. Spies could not afford to be compromised because of a single flitting hatred. There were ways to force such a connection, but it was akin to mental rape, and used as an interrogation or torture technique. Luna had not hidden her disgust at the concept from her new mentor.

Issenril was an excellent teacher but had treated her with little consideration thus. Luna understood where she was coming from. The elf had been saddled with her education by circumstance, not choice. She was used to training elves who already knew the basics from infancy. Luna had no such background and Issenril had essentially been given a third child to raise.

Luna felt relief when she made contact with Issenril. The woman did not hate her. Her fears were born of caution, not in the belief that Luna was inherently dangerous. Sympathy poured from the woman and she realized it was a two way street. Issenril could feel her grief, fear, and her determination to survive.

It was another month before Luna started to feel comfortable again. When it finally happened the shift was so simple she looked back on her earlier difficulties with chagrin. Issenril found Luna wrapped in a blanket, cradling Huran in her lap, while his sister wove her favorite flowers into her long hair … humanoid once more. She had been surprised to see a change of clothing in Issenril’s arms. Of course she had known. She had been even more surprised when the elven woman sat beside her daughter, and helped weave another plait with a smile.

The children participated in her training from that day forward. They took joy in teaching her all they knew and found it amusing when she didn’t know something simple. Luna took it all in stride. She had not been born to this world after all. Even Brulaer lent his knowledge. In turn Luna would sing songs from her world for them. Though she did not translate; their meaning was clearer the more she grew comfortable with communicating as they did. Her ability to grow things remained intact much to their delight. Luna was treated as a member of the family.

She helped with the harvest every year after that and came to know each of them quite well. The children did not seem to grow in that time, and she learned they aged quite differently than she was used to. Sierhe celebrated her fifty sixth birthday the first year. Luna’s mind had trouble reconciling it with what her eyes told her was a nine year old.

She gifted the girl with a small ragdoll she had spent months sewing. Luna had not wanted to take their resources and had gathered the materials herself. Bit by bit, one small piece traded for a favor, or given up for trash, at a time. A preservation sigil had been stitched in silver thread on the back and carefully bespelled.

She had grown embarrassed by the gift when she learned the girl’s age. Yet Sierhe kissed her cheek and had taken it as though it were the finest treasure. She adored it and refused to let it leave her side. It saw many an adventure and was tracked through mud and twigs. The girl even slept with it. Luna was glad she had enchanted it.

They did not always keep her sequestered at the homestead. She and Issenril left on a pilgrimage over the mountains in a journey that took over a month. They arrived at a grove full of spirits, and the most enormous tree she had ever seen. It was awe inspiring and reminded her of old stories of Yggdrasil. It was easily as tall as a mountain itself; its branches and leaves lost amongst the clouds. Countless spirits dwelled there, playing betwixt the expanse of green. The spirits would not interact with her at first, but at least they lingered near. Many of them made the return journey home with them.

By the fourth year Luna could not imagine being anywhere else. Spirits followed the children and helped with their education. Curiosity finally braved speaking to her one evening and his child like laughter filled her days. She had many tales to offer him and her new family often listened in. Luna did not dream and she preferred it that way. Life was idyllic and as close to perfect as Luna had ever experienced. She could have died happy here.

Yet by the fifth year she started to catch them eying her with growing concern. They scrutinized her when they thought she did not see. Sierhe would cling to her doll and run away crying as she approached. Huron no longer pestered her with questions, choosing instead to keep company with his father. Luna searched for the reason but Curiosity would only shake his ghostly head and say it was not his place to say. The reason became clear one night as Issenril tended her hair before their sparring session. The elf loved her hair and styled it far more carefully than Luna ever would have alone.

“How old are you?” The elven woman’s trepidation laced each word, hesitant, as though Luna were a flame that might blow away with each breath.

“I am forty-two. Though I don’t look older than twenty four or so.” Issenril stiffened as the implications swam through her thoughts. She resumed her steady brush strokes and was silent for the duration of braiding her hair.

“How … how long do your people live,” she whispered despondently.

“ … it depends.”

“On?”

“Bloodlines. Health. How much punishment we put ourselves through. Generally women live longer.” She was avoiding answering knowing it would only make them both uncomfortable. Issenril slammed the brush onto the dressing table angrily.

“How long little one?” Her eyes were closed, and Luna could feel her growing distress.

“Eighty years on average. Though many of us live to be over one hundred,” she whispered. “I will probably have a little longer. Approximately ten to fifteen years longer. Issenril what is this about?”

“You are dying.” Issenril suddenly pulled her into an embrace and Luna returned it in complete confusion. “It … there is no more time. I have put this off for far too long already.”

Luna shrugged her off with a scowl. “You knew I was mortal when I came to you.”

“I did not realize your life was so short. You are the first quickling I have ever encountered. I thought them a myth.” Luna could feel the turmoil in her as they spoke and didn’t know what to say. She went into the training yard as they always did, forcing Issenril to follow if she wanted to continue.

Issenril drove her harder than ever before. It was little more than exercise now, every movement was a reflex, Luna’s skills had been finely honed. Surgical strikes had replaced her more aggressive, and often reckless, attacks. She was not as precise as the elf but the change was more than perceivable to her. There was something desperate in their fighting; something final. It was brutal. After the grueling bout Luna was covered in sweat, blood, and grime. They both were.

“So much for all that work you did on my hair.” Feeling more like herself she tried to joke with her teacher.

“You will always be beautiful little one.” Luna frowned. The elf’s pain had not lessened. Issenril’s mouth was set in a grim line as she spoke again. “We will lift the wards tonight. You are as close to being ready as time will allow.”

Luna felt Issenril’s pride at her pronouncement, she truly did feel her student had accomplished all they had set out to. However she was also filled with a great looming sadness. Her mentor was mourning her as if she had already passed, or more accurately, as if she had just received a death sentence.

It’s a little too close to the truth … isn’t it.

“I’m not dead yet,” Luna finally snapped. “I’m right here!” Issenril nodded but Luna knew that something was irrevocably changed between them. She stormed off to her room rather than face the elf. Luna was mortal, and Issenril had grown too attached. They all had. That the elves regretted it hurt. The pillow did little to muffle her curses.

Silence greeted her in the Fade and she stared around herself with a groan. Empty as she remembered … lonely. It was a reflection of their home. She wandered outside and headed for her favorite hill. Issenril sat awaiting her there; still wearing her soiled training gear. She turned to Luna with a sad smile.

“The spirits have fled. They fear what they do not understand. Something you will encounter often. Steel yourself against it but do not be disheartened. Curiosity would have stayed; had I not asked we meet alone this night. I feel he will follow you.”

Luna grunted in response and shifted her clothing to her favorite pair of jeans and a ragged tank top. Issenril raised a brow but did not comment on the change in her attire. Luna molded the scenery with little effort so that the hill was covered in seeding dandelions. A gentle wind blew and filled the air with them. Issenril did gasp at this, lifting a hand to capture one gently.

“Am I to receive the silent treatment little one?” She sounded so consoling and distraught it broke Luna’s resolve.

“You don’t get to call me that anymore,” Luna growled. “I am a woman grown. I have been since long before we met. It was an indulgence I should never have allowed. I will soon fade from your memory, along with my short lifespan.” She was being unfair but couldn’t seem to help her biting comments. Luna had always known what mortality entailed. It was simply a part of her existence.

Issenril shook her head as a single tear tracked down her cheek and Luna bit her lip in shame. She had never seen the elf lose composure. Issenril patted the grass beside her. “I could never forget you Luna. You are as a daughter to me and have filled our lives with light and laughter. You will forever be a part of us.”

Luna sighed as Issenril’s words stripped the last of her anger. This was not how she wanted to leave things. Being in her forties and still behaving like a feckless teenager was inexcusable. She sat beside the elf and leaned her head on her shoulder. “I am sorry. I thought you knew. I … I did not mean to hurt you.”

“The fault is mine. I tried to harden myself against it in the beginning … but you were too great a challenge. One I could not turn away from and as I grew to know you … well. Brulaer was right.  Who could help but love you?”

Luna snorted. “I am prickly, angry, and frustrating.”

“Yes.” Issenril lifted Luna’s face by the chin; forcing her to look her in the eye. “Also loyal, brave, determined, giving, and fierce.” Luna looked away towards the horizon. She did not like compliments.

“In your dreams.”

Her mentor smirked. “I am not dreaming Luna. I am very much awake.”

“Are all elvhen Dreamers then? I thought only they could walk the Fade in waking?”

“No. I cannot shape the Fade as you do little one. You were born to it … powerful. It is rare. I see why she warded you so tightly.”

“But that makes no sense. I only see it when I sleep.”

“The Fade permeates all things. Perceiving it while awake is natural. Do you notice water, or wind, only when dreaming? It is always there. The Elvhen and our Spirit brethren are present in both at all times. So too is it with you, though you have chosen to ignore it.” Issenril gestured to the dandelions. “Tis an illusory view you have crafted for yourself. When you wake you shall find this hill transformed as it is now.”

“I shaped the waking world?! But that means ...” Luna frowned, remembering the destruction she had wrought.

The elf nodded, “You have done it before. Not all your visions do so, only those you directed for that purpose. This is a lesson I have no time to teach.”

They both grew quiet at the reminder. Luna was not bound by oath or bargain to enter Mythal’s court, but she could not stay. It had all seemed so far away. Living here had been the most peaceful time in her life. Besides … Luna was curious about the world she now lived in. Never had she stayed in one place for long. She had no more excuses.

“Will you explain it to your children? That I was … mortal? I did not plan on abandoning them.”

“They already know. I think … they knew the truth of it some years ago. I did not see … because I did not wish it. Huron is not taking the loss of his new sister well, my husband has comforted him. Forgive me little one. I warded them away from the Fade this night.” Issenril sighed. “It wasn't my intention to cause you further harm. You’ve endured more than enough heartache.”

Luna smirked at her mentor’s mistake. She couldn’t help herself. “Contractions are the sign of a sluggish mind …”

The elf blinked in surprise then smiled warmly. "... and a sluggish mind is not taken seriously.” Issenril chuckled then kissed her on her hair. “Perhaps I have grown weary.”

“Will I ever see you again?”

“I do not claim to know the future. Mythal has use of you. She means to prevent a war. The People suffer as it is. However … I can hope.”

Luna sang for her. A parting gift. Songs of hearth and home. Songs of sorrow. Songs of joy. Songs of a brighter future. Songs of goodbye. The Spirits would echo them for her long after she was gone from this place.

As the dawn approached Luna watched Issenril call a wisp to her; coaxing it with gentle emotions and kind thoughts. The elf showed her how to craft a message spell. She spoke only three words for the wisp to carry away. “She is ready.”

Chapter Text

Luna knew this temple. They had not taken her to Arlathan but to the familiar structure she had seen before in the Arbor Wilds. Those remnants paled in comparison to what stood proudly now. She was not taken on the petitioner’s path as she expected. Instead she was led through a back entrance, swaddled from head to toe in layers of dark fabric, and concealing magics. The complex was larger than she had thought possible.

Two enormous statues of wolves lined the clearly marked entrance and Luna’s eyes widened as she realized they were expertly PAINTED to appear lifelike. Other statues were hung in actual clothing that billowed in the breeze. It was so beautiful and a stark contrast to how the surviving statues would appear thousands of years hence. She couldn’t stop to examine everything as she wanted. The Sentinels kept gently pressing her forward; silently rebuking her faltering steps.

This will become a ruin. How horrible it must seem to Solas and the others.

Luna stared up at the columns that held up the intricately carven ceiling in awe. Mosaic tiles made up the main causeway, and as she traversed it, she realized that it told a story. Everything in Mythal’s Temple gleamed, from polished crystal, marble, silverite, obsidian and gold ... those were the only materials she could easily identify.

Glyphs, and most prominently, magic surrounded everything. No surface was left undecorated and no weakness was left unshielded. It appeared the temple had been prepared for her arrival … much of it thrummed with Blood Magic. She felt a growing pit in her stomach at the knowledge. Only Issenril’s adamant explanations, that not all blood magic was inherently evil, kept her from bolting straight back out.

She was brought to a large chamber filled with ornate, comfortable, furniture. Everything was a work of art, from the cloth that lay on a nearby table, to the wood paneling of the enormous bed. Luna held her breath, afraid she might damage something simply by standing there. How was she ever supposed to relax in a place like this?!

Luna spun in surprise when she heard a familiar chuckle behind her. Mythal leaned in and carefully removed the cloth that still covered Luna’s head. The elvhen Goddess was as breathtaking as Luna remembered; even when doing something as simple as gently folding cloth. The elf was not alone, and Luna soon found herself hurried off by slaves to the nearby bathing pool. It was carved from white marble, with wide steps leading into the steaming water, presumably heated by magic.

They stripped her naked quite efficiently but Luna frowned in distaste as they attempted to attend her. She swatted away their helping hands, eventually growling for them to leave her alone. “I’m a grown woman not a baby. I can bathe myself!” They had been shocked, but left in a hurry at Mythal’s assured command.

“Surely you expected this. Issenril claims you completed your education.,” Mythal said with narrowed eyes. The pleasant smile never left her face, but the disappointment lacing her words were like a slap.

“Ye … yes.”

“You must BLEND in. No matter how we may feel about the current situation,” the woman stepped regally into the pool beside her, heedless of the water that soaked her expensive garments.

“I thought the whole point of my presence was to shake things up.”

She lifted Luna’s face to hers. “Change does not come swiftly to the People … but it WILL come. Patience child.” Luna closed her eyes as their lips met and silently chided herself.

Why do I keep letting her do that? It doesn’t FEEL like she’s using magic. I can’t possibly just be that horny! Get a hold of yourself woman.

Mythal left her to her bathing with the promise to return. Luna double checked her shields and layered another over her mind. She couldn’t be too careful. They had much to discuss and the Goddess claimed Luna was integral to her plans.

Luna looked at the clothing left out for her in distaste. It was some sort of lounging robe. The entirety of this place seemed sullied now. How much of what was created here had been done so at the hands of slaves? She decided to await her conversation with Mythal … the Goddess had intimated that she too wished it abolished. She would hear her out. Groaning in frustration she slipped on the hanging fabric, and grudgingly admit it felt wonderful against her skin. She had once owned an luxurious, egyptian cotton, sheet. This garment made it seem like a filthy rag.

She soon discovered that she was not permitted to leave the room. Two Sentinels, and probably more she could not see, were left guarding the door. There was little doubt that she could carve a bloody path in order to leave, but that defeated the entire purpose in coming here. So she lay on the bed, and took a nap.

*****

Luna had been stuck here for six months. The plan was simple. Luna was to be seen in public as Mythal’s ever present shadow. She would be glamoured to appear as one of the People, to conceal her true identity. If anyone asked she would reply that she was a devotee. A false Vallaslin would now be applied to complete the fiction. Luna had defied Mythal in private upon the suggestion.

“It had BETTER be false.”

“Do not be foolish. I will have one of my most trusted servants paint them for you daily. With a bit of magic they will be indistinguishable from the real thing.”

“Your most trusted SLAVE you mean. I do not see what the point of my staying here is.” The slave in question stood just beside Mythal, his head bowed, and she frowned at the image he presented. “And he need not bother. I can preserve his first application. What is the POINT?”

“So you feel I should explain? Are the moves of the game board too subtle for you to follow,” Mythal asked with a smirk as she lay a gorgeous purple dress across the bed. “This will match your eyes.”

“If you try to have me bound Mythal, so help me, I will rip this palace to the fucking ground,” she warned with a growl. Mythal was on her before she could blink, the elven woman’s fingers gripping her throat tightly. Luna could not breathe and dropped her shields automatically.

Energy began pouring from the Goddess into her, but her hold did not weaken. Luna was inundated by what seemed like an unlimited font of power. There wasn't even a trickle of emotion leaking from her attacker. Luna realized with growing terror that Mythal was much more than the shell she was housed in. It should have been obvious, but Luna had grown complacent.

“Do not forget little one; to whom you speak,” Mythal intoned with cold calculation, the force of her voice causing the room to tremble. Several priceless pieces of art fell to the ground and shattered. “I have tolerated your disrespect until now. Threaten me again, ever, and you will lay dead at my feet before your next breath. I will not have even the WHISPER of a poisonous rumor leave these chambers.”

Mythal released her and Luna gasped for air, hunched on the ornate tiles, in disbelief. “FINE,” she growled out sarcastically, rubbing her throat as she glared at the elf with a new found desire to eviscerate her. It only seemed to amuse the Goddess.

“So much animosity in a single uttered word. Perhaps you should voice your concerns.”

“You are wasting my talents.” Luna rose to her feet unsteadily with a cough. She was still defiant. Not for the first time Luna wondered if she were suicidal. “I am not a doll for you to parade around while we accomplish NOTHING. When will we DO something. I am mortal and time is wasting as you so enjoy pointing out.”

“Silly child. We have already begun the dance. Every one of your appearances was guided by reason. Your target will be at the banquet tonight.”

“My target? I am not an assassin.”

“A particularly vicious noble will be in attendance. He is mutilating his slaves and crediting it in my name. This will not be tolerated. You will get close to him. He is fond of music, therefore, tonight you will sing.”

Luna rolled her eyes saying, “SING? You want me to sing.”

“I am very aware of your otherworldly origins little fox and the power that entails,” she purred.

“Where did you hear that word,” she asked while clenching her fists.

“All in good time,” the woman grinned. It was a feral, terrifying, countenance. She leaned in and gently placed a hand on the bruises of Luna’s neck; suddenly appearing contrite. “I had not realized how fragile you are,” she murmured. “It will not happen again. You have my word. You will wear the dress I chose for you tonight.”

Luna was left to contemplate everything that had transpired in her chambers as the Goddess exited with a flourish. Mythal had seemed sincere, but the brush with death had left her shaking now that she was alone. She stood in a daze of confused emotion. This was not the first such encounter she’d had, only the first to erupt into violence.

Mythal made it clear at every opportunity that she was a pawn. Luna had contemplated leaving, but the chance that she might actually help the elvhen slaves kept her leashed. Mythal WAS freeing slaves, this much she knew for certain. Issenril was proof, but Luna had searched out more. Specifically she had snuck into her private, locked, study and copied the maps she had found there. Those copies she kept hidden in the false bottom of her pack.

Issenril would be most displeased with her if she found out. Luna could not message her as often as she liked but kept in touch via wisps as much as possible. Their messages were spoken using a book cipher. Her copy of said book lay safely inside a locked desk. Wisps were too easy to trace and intercept.

Luna had also found evidence of that Fen’Harel was working with the Goddess. She was certain of it. Parts of the Eluvian networks were identical to the paths in Trespasser. Now she wasn't even sure if contacting him was a good idea.

She desperately wanted to trust Mythal. The power imbalance between them however is staggering. No matter how much she wished it she does not in fact trust her. Mythal is as intrinsically tied to the system of oppression as any of the so called Gods. That she is considered the best of the Evanuris by Solas does not comfort her as it once did.

Mythal and Elgar'nan were entertaining Ghilan'nain, Dirthamen, and June tonight. They hadn’t even spared her a glance this evening. Luna had observed that the supposedly married elves spent much of their time verbally sparring. No love there. Luna didn't see him often and that was just as well. She had found him to be repulsive, indulgent, and cruel. She wondered what political pact had forced the two together.

She is trying. That has to count for something doesn’t it?

The banquet is dull, the false smiles, veiled threats, and brown nosing are not to her liking. It is like a pit of vipers this ... outwardly civil party. Well, mostly civil.

Luna found the elf she had been assigned easily enough. The pompous ass did not even try to hide the disdain he had for slaves. He is beating one as she approaches and she bites her tongue to keep herself from simply ripping out his throat. The elven woman is on the ground, not even whimpering, as he breaks her arm.

She smoothly interrupts his harsh treatment of the wine server, gliding up to him with a small, insincere smile. The injured woman is ushered out without comment by another slave. No one even pauses for a moment. It is as though she doesn’t even exist and Luna feels rage simmering beneath her calm exterior.

Luna recites her lines cheerfully despite feeling like she might choke on them internally. Issenril’s lessons were thorough and the false sweetness of her words and aura are flawless. There is no outward sign that her emotions are feigned. For all intents and purposes, Luna is one of them.

“My lord. My mistress has let slip you might enjoy a song from me.” She bats her lashes at him coyly.

“Your mistress,” he said trying to place her station. His eyes lit up hungrily as his eyes flicked from the lounging Goddess back to Luna’s bosom. The ridiculous dress was designed to lift her breasts enticingly; cupped by a layer of lace and satin.

Oh, gross. A SONG ya idiot not SEX. Shit she doesn’t expect me to sleep with this asshat does she?

She took his proffered arm gingerly, giggling like a brainless loon, as she leads him toward the minstrels. He was flattered by the attention, praising Mythal as he sat on the empty cushions that had been laid before him. The floor is cleared, and he frowns as the musicians take their leave. Luna, for her part, has chosen a song likely to get her killed. She wasn’t done testing her boundaries. Mythal had not specified what she was to sing.

Devil’s Playground - The Rigs

Luna reached for the music and the party stilled. Even the Gods that had ignored her presence turned to listen to the music she pulled from nowhere. She walked about the room as she sang tacitly calling out the revelers. The elvhen grew uncomfortable as they listened, the implied meaning of the lyrics as she spread her aura, rebuking them.

Come if you're curious to see
Pull the tricks out of my sleeve
All you find is yours to keep
Brave, are you brave enough to meet
The desires that you seek
Hold my hand, I'll set you free

Welcome to the devil's playground
You can tread where demons play
It's your Candyland where dreamers dance
And I promise that it's safe
Welcome to the devil's playground
You can look and you can touch
It's a real fine day at the black parade
And I swear it won't cost much

The elvhen noble began to choke after the second verse. He seemed unable to move and she soon saw why. A vine had erupted from his throat, the plant writhing about him as the music continued. He reached for them in a futile attempt to breathe. Luna could have stopped, but she chose not to. Mythal had asked for a song after all. Ivy and other decorative plants crept from their confines around the ballroom. She turned to the would be Gods with her next lines.

Come, pull up your throne and sit
Where good and bad cease to exist
Here your command is our wish
Feast from the fruit of every tree
You can bathe in every dream
These chains of freedom are yours to keep

Welcome to the devil's playground
You can tread where demons play
It's your Candyland where dreamers dance
And I promise that it's safe
Welcome to the devil's playground
You can look and you can touch
It's a real fine day at the black parade
And I swear it won't cost much

Spirits swirled around her; drawn in by her display. Mythal prevented her angry husband from throwing a spell that he wove. The other Gods appeared intrigued and she counted herself lucky to be alive. Luna looked at the corpse impassively. The sound of the cracking whip spurred her to continue despite the danger she was placing herself in. She was only pointing out the obvious. It wasn't her fault they couched their horrors in tradition and stifling rules of etiquette.

Welcome to the devil's playground
You can tread where demons play
It's your Candyland where dreamers dance
And I promise that it's safe
Welcome to the devil's playground
You can look and you can touch
It's a real fine day at the black parade
And I swear it won't cost much

Luna pulled her aura back in; returning to the illusion of meek elvhen maid. Just as the song had promised, fruit now hung from every corner of the room. Her victim was wreathed in grapes, and she reached out for a bunch in apparent boredom. The irony of promising it was safe, while an elven immortal lay dead, was not lost on her. Turning gracefully she approached Mythal and tossed the grapes to her. The Goddess caught them effortlessly; her steely eyes dancing in calculation.

“By your command,” Luna said with a glint in her eye; giving a respectful bow. “Was the entertainment to your liking?” Mythal laughed then, approval in every line of her, and delicately ate one of the grapes.

“Is her tribute not as wondrous as I said it would be my love?” Elgar'nan narrowed his eyes for a moment, but it was gone in the blink of the eye. Mythal clapped her hands together and Luna found herself surrounded by Sentinels. “Have her prepared at once. She’s perfect.” Luna did not like the way the other Gods were looking at her. They did not appear angry. No they were looking at her with jealous greed and in the case of Dirthamen, obvious lust.

Breathe … it's still all going to plan. Just breathe. Fuck I am in so far over my head.

The sentinels led her away, ostensibly to be given Vallaslin. She had seen others taken away in just such a manner. Some were never seen at the Temple again. Luna was to appear as though voluntarily entering Mythal’s service. Another pair of eyes watched her silently from the shadows, she had felt their aura brush hers, but when she turned to look there was no one there.

They took her back to her chamber by a secret route and she breathed a sigh of relief. Mythal’s slave arrived with his paints and she let him meticulously paint the false Vallaslin onto her cheeks. Magics were used to give them the feel and appearance of authenticity and Luna cast a preservation charm. No point in sitting through it again.

It was during the hour she lay there that she realized she knew the sentinel that guarded her. She would know that long nose and steely glare anywhere. He was called Siahe now, but later he would be known by a very different name. Abelas. He did not comment on her scrutiny but she could tell he did not like her one bit.

Because I’m a mockery of what he stands for. His blood writing is real.

Mythal arrived later that night and had clearly imbibed a little too much. It was obvious she had come directly from the banquet. She was still wearing the same outfit which surprised Luna. The Goddess changed clothing so often she wondered if she ever wore the same thing twice. Mythal examined the work on her face and smiled in approval.

“How did you get him to ingest a live seed,” Luna asked with a glare at the mirror. She did not like the delicate silver lines on her face. Fake or not she felt sullied.

“It was in the wine of course. It is why he was beating poor Deela. He nearly choked on them.” Mythal chuckled darkly. “Well, I suppose he DID choke in the end.”

Luna sat on her bed, disturbed, and angry. “I told you I was not an assassin.”

“And you were not. All you did was sing a song, at my request. You did not mark the target and you did not lace his drink.”

“Twisting things does not change that I am responsible for his very public death!” Luna ripped apart a nearby pillow. Mythal was unmoved by her tantrum.

“Let us examine that shall we? A dangerous, lecherous, fool is dead by the command of the Goddess Mythal. As far as they are concerned you did exactly as your God demanded. He was cruel, sadistic, and utterly devoid of compassion. Operatives are offering his slaves, MY slaves, freedom even as we speak.”

“All I have is your WORD on that. I am not a fool Mythal,” Luna paced the luxurious carpet with a scowl as she ranted. “You have painted me into a corner. Literally painted my face! I do not appreciate being left in the dark. You want someone dead, fine, I will murder an entire battalion if it is required. I will not even bat an eye but it WILL be on my terms and with full disclosure … or I leave. Dead or alive."  Mythal placed her hands on Luna’s shoulders to stop her fidgeting as she sat beside her.

“You are correct,” she whispered brushing the hair from her face with her fingers. “I apologize Luna. I have worked alone for so long … there has been no one I could trust. Please do not leave me.” Luna watched in shock as two gleaming tears fell from the elven beauty’s eyes. She caught them with her fingers, wiping them away, as she fought the urge to cradle the Goddess to her. She even cried prettily, it wasn’t fair.

Mythal made the decision for her, leaning into her warmth as she shook in her arms. Luna stroked the elf’s hair; at a loss as to what to do. She felt growing sympathy for the Goddess, realizing the woman is as trapped by the expectations of her station as Luna was by her lack of it. Giving into her own compassion she kissed away her tears, shushing her wordlessly.

Luna’s breath hitched when their lips suddenly met. The kiss was different, gentle, yet full of a desperation Luna could not deny. Her soft lips were such a contrast to her last lover, and still tasted of sweet wine. Luna knew what it was like to seek comfort in the arms of someone when all else seemed a disaster. It was like drowning in something forbidden and she boldly traced her hand along Mythal’s thigh.

The Earther tried to pull away. Mythal was not completely drunk but she was not going to take advantage of her. Her resolve faltered when the Goddess nipped at her ear, whispering the things she wanted to do to her. Luna grasped the woman closer, giving into her desire.

“Are you sure,” she whispered as she gently caressed her face.

Several slaves entered her chambers wearing golden chain that did little to preserve their modesty. They wordlessly stripped the Goddess of her formal trappings then turned their attention toward Luna. She did nothing to acknowledge them as she was given similar treatment. Mythal knew just how to distract her, touching her with just enough pressure, a well placed hand, the perfectly timed sigh.

She shouldn’t do this, shouldn’t give into the Goddess’ gentle caresses but she was so lonely. Mythal was practiced in seduction and obviously knew what she wanted. Part of her realized that’s what this was, but a greater part of her didn’t care. It had been too long since she had been intimate with anyone.

Luna was far too aware that she would continue to age. Who in this timeless existence would ever want her then? If she turned her away now she may never lay with anyone again. Who else would be safe to indulge with? Luna would never be comfortable using a body slave.

Spiced oils were rubbed into their skin and hair. The elves were trained to know just when to touch her and she was soon too lost in sensation to be concerned with their presence. Surely Mythal had ordered all this preparation and she let go of her trepidation.

Without a sound the slaves left as quickly as they had arrived and Luna stopped caring about anything but the sinful way Mythal’s tongue worked between her folds. The elf held one of Luna’s legs down; moaning with every pass of her lips. Just as Luna reached her second peak, elvhen magic enveloped her and the Goddess used her aura to heighten the experience in a way she had never imagined possible. For a moment it were as if there existed only Mythal.

Luna returned the favor without hesitation, flipping the Goddess onto her back with a feral snarl. Laving her tongue between Mythal’s thighs for the sweet taste of her; she pressed the elvhen woman into the mattress. She used her aura to caress her and Mythal’s eyes widened in surprise. Luna was a very quick learner. Soon enough she knew what the elven woman enjoyed and smirked as she continued to use this new aura trick.

As soon as Mythal settled from her first orgasm Luna pressed a finger inside the Goddess and delighted in the breathy sigh she elicited. She rocked her hand in time with her needy thrusting, settling her thumb to massage her anywhere but where the Goddess wanted. Mythal clung to her in true surprise as Luna kneaded her breast and reached for that emotional spark with the tenacity of a predator. Their auras collided and finally, finally, Luna could feel her completely. Magic washed through the room, causing ornate furniture to shake into pieces. Ceramic tiles burst into powder around them and still Luna did not relent.

“More,” she whispered softly, encouragingly, to the shocked Evanuris. “Let go.” Mythal shook with her release, but it was soft, not what Luna was truly looking for. These little waves were pale in comparison to what she knew without a doubt a woman’s body was capable of. Mythal tried to withdraw her aura but soon became incapable of coherent thought. They were awash with their desire and Luna had no intention of ending it so soon.

Hungering for more Luna added another finger, crooking it just so, as she watched Mythal’s pupils blow wide. She lowered her head again to her sopping mound with relish. Mythal lifted her hips with a gasp to meet her questing tongue and fingers as her aura pulsated with absolute bliss. Her surprise washed over her again and Luna smiled into her quim wondering just how inexperienced the poor Goddess had thought her to be.

She was getting a firsthand education as to just whom had seduced whom. Luna could feel her clenching around her fingers and latched onto the hooded nerves she had carefully avoided until now. The Goddess finally let go and the room shook violently as everything in the room was absolutely destroyed. Mythal’s cry as she shattered, and the explosive force, brought her Sentinels charging into the room, weapons drawn. Luna sat up with a frustrated growl, her lips still shining with Mythal’s release. Abelas, or whatever his name was now, looked at her in open shock.

“You DARE,” he growled, a glowing sword pointed at her throat. Mythal waved him away, her aura withdrawing, and her perfectly poised mask returned. He glared at Luna, stowing his weapon, but oozing disdain.

“For fucks sake.” Luna sprang off the bed, her mood completely ruined by the rude interruption. “Must you poke your pretty nose into EVERYTHING,” she snapped at him. Mythal, coming down from her receding high, glanced around the room as Luna stormed toward the bathing pool. Luna did not see the frightened glance she aimed at her Sentinel who covered her nakedness in a blanket immediately. A dozen slaves ran into the room, cleaning, putting things to rights with their magic. Furniture was quickly replaced and Luna snorted at the ridiculous attention to detail.

Mythal would not look at her and Luna frowned as she returned to staring at her own reflection in the hot water. So much for that then. The mortal submerged herself and screamed until she was forced to surface for breath. She hated this place, she hated the slaves, and she hated herself for giving into indulgence. Abelas was making it clear she had done something wrong ... again.

What’s the big deal. Mythal asked me to sleep with her from the start. That woman practically used sex as a weapon.

When she glanced around a few minutes later she was utterly alone. All trace of her lover had been removed. The room reeked of cloying, floral, perfume. Even the soiled bed sheets had been replaced with clean ones. Not a single reminder of what had transpired remained. Luna stumbled to the empty bed and flopped onto her back with an annoyed frown. What had she stepped in this time?

Chapter Text

This was certainly an unexpected turn of events. Merrill’s quarry had given her a merry chase over the last three years. That time had seemed to drag on with every failed attempt to pinpoint his location. It had taken far more time and money than she had anticipated to find him and each time the elusive Clan had slipped through her nets. Varric had schooled her in the proper way to use information to protect those under her charge; a number that grew daily. Truthfully he needed to correct her more often than she would like to admit. She was grateful that Varric had given her this lead and had chosen to follow up on it personally much to his chagrin. It had finally borne fruit so she considered it time well spent.

The rocky shore and frigid wind bit into the exposed skin of her feet and face but she was a Dalish Keeper and such things were easily remedied with magic. Merrill looked at the boy … no the man, standing before her with dawning understanding and quite a bit of shock. Why? Why had Luna not simply told her who she would be chasing? The moons shone brightly this evening, casting his features in playing light and shadow. Any reasoning behind her appointed task had not mattered to her much; only that it had been Luna’s dying wish. It was the least she owed the stubborn woman after all she had done for the People.

He was clearly a Dalish elf … but her mind reeled at that impossibility. His parentage was easy enough to see if one knew what to look for. The angled lavender eyes, dark waves of braided hair; the stern glare and curled lip reminded her so much of his departed mother. Luna was not elven … then how could her child be? It was his temperament and mannerisms that truly convinced her of the strange truth.

Merrill had frozen with the implications of it all and foolishly let her guard down. Dozens of deadly arrows were trained in her direction. No two Dalish Clans were alike and she was not naive enough to believe they would let her live simply by way of being Dalish herself. She was an uninvited intruder. The blade he held at her throat did not shake. His hands were steady; as was his resolve. That she was still alive could only mean he meant to question her. The elven hunter would kill her with no remorse if she did not satisfy his curiosity. Well … he would try.

“Why do you hunt us,” he asked with a deep mistrustful growl. Merrill felt a shiver run along her spine at the familiar sound. It was something no elven throat would be capable of making.

“I don’t remember pissing off anyone enough that they would track me through two fucking countries.” He was so much like her. Even his manner of speaking was the same though his accent was far less pronounced. Merrill left both hands open in front of her trying to show she was no threat. His eyes did not reflect the light as an elf’s should.

Interesting.

“A … a dear friend asked that I find and watch over you lethallin. All she gave me was a name and the vague location of a Clan where I might find you … and now I finally have. Although I was hoping for a more friendly meeting with maybe cake and less … pointy things.” Merril smiled up at him as she cleared her throat nervously. He was tall for an elf and she giggled at the startled expression on his face.

“M … Merrill?!” She blinked in surprise when he lowered the blade; staring at her in obvious recognition. So … he had inherited that ability as well. Luna’s curse.

Merrill held out her hand as her bright smile faltered. “Flynn.”

“Who sent you?” His countenance hardened as he refused her gesture. “How do you know that name?!” The other shuffled and murmured angrily. Perhaps she should not have revealed his name in full view of everyone?

How to answer? Simple is best or I may start rambling again. Simple … Nothing about Luna was ever simple.

“Your mother.” Merrill's attempt to continue smiling became wistful; her vision suddenly clouding with unshed tears. She frowned. This wasn’t part of the plan and she was sure to get an earful from the others later. Silence encompassed those gathered as the truth of her statement hung in the air between them. Her heart clenched as the painful memory of Luna’s loss bore down again. They say time heals all wounds … they lie. The hunters lowered their weapons when he did not refute her proclamation. They must have exchanged a signal that she missed. He swallowed, hanging his head, grief punctuating each of his next words. He knew.

“How did ... she die,” he choked out.

Merrill lost her composure as tears flowed freely down her cheeks; tracking along her Vallaslin. She could not answer … she tried but no words would come. That was a surprise. She had been so full of questions only moments before.

Her silent companion stepped out of the shadows of a nearby outcropping of stones and saved her the need to do so. The Dalish guards had not even known he was there. The white haired elf’s travel cloak was worn and tattered, scars lining his arms and face. The other elves drew back as his Lyrium brands flared in the night, illuminating his equally damaged ebony armor. He clutched something that hung from a silver chain around his neck as though it were a lifeline.

“Bravely,” came Fenris’ gravely whisper.

*******

Luna groaned in frustration and repeatedly thumped her head against the ornately carved bookcase as she tried to think. She didn't have anything against this particular bookcase. In fact she loved the vast library with its winding corridors filled with aging paper and parchment. She had to hand it to the elves; they knew how to make their structures beautiful. The curious woman could lose herself here amongst marble columns and artifacts hewn with magic and filled with tales a thousand years in the making … how could she resist? There were even vellum scrolls and handmade materials she had yet to identify.

They had strictly forbidden her from opening boxes unfortunately ... after the last time. She shuddered at the horrifying memory of what she had found within. Only her ability to absorb as yet unmeasured amounts of energy had saved her life. Luna was lucky they still allowed her in here given the state of the section she had unwittingly demolished.

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts. Like the emotional abyss I’m slowly falling into. Yup. Much happier. How did they even manage … no. Not going to think about it.

The available works were rather skewed towards the harrowing exploits of one Mythal ... with a splash of the other Gods, but it was thrilling to delve into more than just simple written text. Emotion, sight, taste, even sound could all be stored here and it was a brilliant way to impart information. Much of the available knowledge was directly linked to the Vir Dirthara if the spirit ‘librarians’ were to be believed. She had no reason to doubt them. It reminded her a bit of watching YouTube and made her a little nostalgic but even that technological marvel couldn’t compare to being fully immersed in your subject matter. The way her days had been playing out; she doubted she would ever be allowed to visit the wondrous place. She had seen it as a ruin in game. Just how much more impressive would it be intact?

Mythal had convinced her this was the best course of action but she remained doubtful. Mythal had not spoken, nor so much as looked in her direction outside of the Fade, in over six months. That she had not simply been executed was due to Mythal’s uncanny political and social maneuvering … not any action in Luna’s part. It had been made clear to her that she had committed a severely taboo transgression. Issenril had warned her over and over again but Luna had thrown away all caution in the heat of the moment. Now the Sentinels seemed to have made it their personal mission to make her life as miserable as possible.

It wasn’t the sex. Elvhen had sex with whomever they pleased, depending on social status, and bonded rarely. Conception of a child apparently took more than sleeping together for the Evanuris. A side effect of immortality and their ridiculous power she presumed. Binding oneself to a single partner when eternity was a very real possibility made the elvhen less likely to wed. Mythal had been tight lipped on the details but it wasn’t that hard to infer.

Luna had manipulated Mythal’s aura, an act strictly reserved for her bondmate in sexual relations as per their marriage contracts. The Gods had gone to war for far less and Luna didn’t blame Mythal for distancing herself in an attempt to cover the truth. Still the entire situation was infuriating. How many times would she endure the lecture of her being a lesser creature? Luna was rather proud of the fact that she had refrained from giving the Goddess EVERYTHING she wanted. She had also gained access to Mythal’s private study on more than one occasion and was slowly gaining a more accurate understanding of what she was dealing with. Issenril’s training had inadvertently given her more control despite her declarations to the contrary or perhaps it had been her plan all along. Whatever the case Mythal no longer seemed able to manipulate her as when they first met. The Earther kept secrets much to Mythal’s annoyance.

It didn’t help Luna’s mood that lately she seemed to be throwing body slaves at her with seeming desperation. Slaves. As though she were some pet to be bred for her finer qualities. Still, it had been a week since she threw the last one out, literally, to land on top of poor Abelas. She could never remember the name he insisted was his in this time. Not that she was stupid enough to call him Abelas. No, she had chosen several very colorful nicknames instead. Pointy eared bastard being the latest to his continued aggravation. He didn’t show it … but she knew.

Patience. Just … breathe. I’m building a map. Finding intel on my enemies and possible allies. This is good. Slow but good … ish.

Abelas, or whatever his name was now, had taken to shadowing her within the sprawling complex and his icy attitude toward her had not thawed in the slightest. He relayed his master’s commands daily with enough monotone that she was convinced the elf wanted her very dead. The Sentinel kept his emotions tightly under wraps so they were no help in determining how he truly felt. That’s where body language came in oh so handy.

Luna responded by being sacrinely polite. It seemed to get under his skin which made her internally gloat with glee. So the cycle had continued and she was growing tired of it. As he was immortal she wondered if she could whittle down his stoic mask.

The need for his presence was two fold and though she hated to admit it completely necessary. Several of Mythal’s ‘kin’ had taken an interest in her and there had been no less than three kidnapping attempts thus far. Gifts arrived daily with no clue as to their origins though she was assured it was a great honor to receive them … for her ‘owner.’ Luna ground her teeth at the thought.

The good news was that they had narrowed the culprits down to two. It was all part of the grand plan. Not that she was happy about being dangled like some forbidden prize for them to squabble over. Slave exchanges were standard practice and each was vying for the opportunity.

Her grumpy Elvhen bodyguard calmly informed her that it was time for their daily sparring match. She growled and threw the book she had been observing at his head. He said nothing as he easily caught the projectile and that suited her just fine. The truth was she was the one losing her mind by the day. These sessions were to showcase her supposed grooming toward a Sentinel position of her own. Another layer in an ever growing deception she saw no end to. She stomped towards the grounds with only one thought burning inside her. Luna was going to trounce the smug look off Abelas’ face if it were the last thing she did today. The elvhen had no idea what she was truly capable of but she saw no harm in showing him a glimpse.

Okay, that’s a lie but these people are getting on my last nerve. Fuck holding back.

She did not bother to pick up a practice blade and the inevitable tittering of onlookers began. Instead Luna stood in a deceptively placid stance, projecting boredom and impatience from her appointed space. It wasn’t hard to do considering she was undeniably bored. They had an audience of course. There was always an audience in this palace of veiled insult and scheming. Luna didn’t wait for her opponent to fully settle or give him a chance to make another biting comment. The Earther flung herself at him barehanded and furiously hooked her leg behind one of his; throwing him to his knee.

He made no sound, gave no indication of surprise, grappling her as she growled out a challenge. The crowd was silent, lurking, and sinister as always. She ignored them and made her next move reflexively. A distraction within a distraction. Luna swept out a leg in a feint that he ignored; his dagger rushing towards an opening only for her to box one of his sensitive ears. That got a satisfying reaction and she smirked as he reeled back clutching his head in pain.

She was faster now, much too quick for his fumbling counter attack. Luna shuffled out of his reach quickly; reveling in the flash of irritation across his porcelain features. It had been bothering her for a while now. The elvhen were more like living sculptures than living beings. Speak but say nothing. Feel but hide it. Look but don’t touch. Touch but never enjoy. They were like automatons with no drive; no lust for life. No … not all Elvhen were this way, only the nobility, and it sickened her to the depths of her soul. Even the slaves were segregated by a strict hierarchy. It was ludicrous. A slave was a slave no matter what label they were given.

Abelas drove the handle of the dagger against her ribs hard enough that she felt one crack. Their bouts were always brutal. What need was there for safety when healing magics were available. She crumpled to the ground with a cry and mentally smacked herself. There was no help for it, she was the one that had started fighting dirty. He fought using a kind of strict elvhen martial art. Luna fought with a far different philosophy … use what works.

Using the momentum of her fall she slipped between his legs as he rushed her then rolled back onto her feet. Her blade crackled, the flow of energy  disrupting as pain lanced through her.

Not good enough.

Luna clamped down on her focus as they circled one another; each searching the other for an opening. She pretended to favor her left side as he lunged for her. Too late he realized she was behind him. There was no indication of her intentions as there would have been had she cast Fade Step. Accelerate used her own internal energies and caused no ripples in the Fade. Luna landed two merciless punches to his kidneys before he recovered.

“You know what your weakness is you arrogant prick?” Luna was not above psychological warfare and egged him on as they circled again.

“I doubt you have discerned such from me ...” He didn’t say it but she could hear the implied insult loud and clear. Shemlen. Only he and Mythal were privy to her mortality. The slave who had painted her fake markings had inexplicably vanished overnight. Mythal assured Luna that he had left voluntarily … it did not comfort her.

Luna smirked and he narrowed his eyes in a moment she took gleeful advantage of. Using the skills Issenril had painstakingly taught she materialized her secret weapon from her previously empty hand. A blade of energy stopped mere millimeters from the elf’s startled azure eyes. She could summon dual arcane lances, but there was no reason for him to know that.

“You are predictable,” she barked in triumph. She did not wait for him to concede but turned her back to him regardless and withdrew. He charged her back but she was ready for it and side stepped easily; leaving him to skid to a halt in front of her. She did have to admit that he still managed to make the failure look rather elegant. Luna smirked at him and continued her snide verbal attack. “As I said. Predictable.” The crowd applauded and the smile slipped from Luna’s face to be replaced by her bland mask. She wasn’t here to entertain them. Luna returned to her rooms with a growing pit in her stomach.

Curse them all.

She rounded the corner before her emotional turmoil could be confirmed by anyone as she traced the healing Sigil across the bruising on her side. Her stride was swift and sure, heading towards her bedroom. There had been plenty of time spent wandering in this place that she could have traversed the entire way blindfolded. Suddenly she found herself flung into a nearby storage area as the door gently slid shut. She found herself pinned to the wall with enough force that she lost all her breath and hissed as her rib protested. Her immediate instinct was to fight her attacker but it was no stranger accosting her. Mythal looked down at her with a softened expression and gently ran the back of her hand along Luna’s cheek with a sigh.

“My poor dear. I have left you too long alone. Forgive me.” Luna made to protest but the Goddess’ mouth slotted over hers eagerly and she gave up the fight. She was no less lonely than the first day she had arrived in this time. It was selfish. It was foolish … but Mythal’s lips were soft and hungry and Luna was no less famished. It did not help that Mythal was many centuries more practiced than she was and soon had her feverishly reaching for her peak.

Where Luna’s hands seemed to clumsily cling for dear life; the Goddess left a lasting trail of desire that seemed to burn through her. Desperate; every caress was fleeting and harsh. Clothes weren’t removed so much as shoved aside as questing fingers sought sensitive flesh without pretense. Lips left sharp, quick, bruises as they lost themselves to their basest urges.

Mythal covered Luna’s mouth as she found her release, quieting her exclamations with a hand only for the tables to turn. Luna reversed their positions, her hand working frantically between the woman’s thighs. All too soon it was over and the panting pair were left staring at each other in the dark of the room. Mythal grimaced as Luna began to lick her fingers clean and cast a spell that erased all trace of what had transpired. Straightening her clothing Mythal turned to leave and Luna threw out a question in anger.

“That’s it? Just run along now like nothing happened?” Luna’s breathing was heavy from more than exertion. Her eyes burned with an inner fury as she flung the emotion at the Goddess in a fit of pique. “I am not a damn TOY … or have you forgotten this was supposed to be an ACT,” she hissed.

There was hesitation in Mythal’s poised stride as she reached for the handle of the door. Luna felt her next words like a slap. “It is only because of your impulsive nature that we are reduced to this. Can you not think beyond your narrow and primitive view for once?” The angered Goddess slammed the door as she left.

She quietly made her way to her rooms with growing doubt. Her heart felt heavy and yet she could not refute Mythal’s words. Luna hurriedly removed her clothing and threw it onto the glittering floor with a growl and shuttered the large windows. She wanted the little privacy they afforded. As she stepped into her bathing pool she congratulated herself on ruining another otherwise enjoyable encounter. The water was perfectly warmed as always and she found herself resenting that fact. Just because they kept the slaves from her view did not mean they weren’t still attending her rooms.

Gathering her mana she traced a Sigil of warmth, heating the water until it was almost painful to stand in. She had to admit the mana available in this time made everything much more tolerable. The room quickly began filling with floral scented steam. The cloying smell made her wrinkle her nose in displeasure. Examining herself in the nearby fogging mirrors she lightly traced the bruises and scrapes on her skin; healing them away with a snarl.

She winced as she lowered herself into the scalding water and laid her head back as she removed her braids. The long strands hung limply about her face as she bit her lip in frustration; staring into the water that came up to her breasts. She tensed as she heard the tread of bare feet against stone. Two pairs of feet. She stood up with a splash and turned to confront whichever Sentinel had invaded her space but the angry command died on her lips.

Two gorgeous elven men glided into the chamber. The first was dressed in a charcoal grey, open, robe that showed off the gruesome scar that encircled his torso and billowing silk trousers. Falon’Din … God of Death. The other was far more modest and was clothed in a high collared tunic of midnight black, a flowing overcoat and skin tight breeches; neatly covered from neck to toe. Dirthamen … God of Secrets. The twins often visited with Mythal in endless negotiation. After months of waiting they had finally shown their hand. She sent a mental nudge towards one of the wisps that tended to linger outside and hoped it would be enough.

Their features were identical save for their eyes. One’s right eye was a perfect reflection of the other's left, vibrant green, the opposites were a brilliant shade of blue. Falon’Din gently shut the door and leaned against it casually; effectively blocking her exit as he watched her intensely. Dirthamen was the first to speak, his silky voice making her blood run cold.

“Why dear brother of mine, did I not just see poor Mythal exit a closet, looking less than perfect?”

“I do believe so, dearest brother. And did my eyes deceive me, for I thought I saw a long since collared pet leave in a similar state.” Falon’Din sounded bored, but there was something in his eyes that set her on edge. They continued speaking to each other as if she were not standing nude less than three feet away.

“It must have value beyond its comely appearance. That lovely singing voice perhaps. Body slaves are easily replaced. Though this aura … ” Dirthamen slipped lazily into the water, his body swaying like a viper, and moved to stand in front of her. His eyes raked across her body but Luna had prepared for this encounter and tried to remain calm. Long fingers, sharp nails, brushed under her chin, canting it up slowly. His eyes dug into hers, trying to peel the answers from her as he studied her.

Falon’Din milled about the room finding her sufficiently subdued by his brother. He touched everything; moving brushes, sponges and soaps out of place. Her eyes involuntarily darted toward him when he knocked over several vials; breaking them. Dirthamen’s grip on her chin tightened.

“The Mother does seem to be quite taken with it. Strange that all offers have been rebuffed for one so young.” Falon’Din picked up a shard of glass as he spoke and slowly approached her as well. Luna needed to buy time.

“She is hiding something …” Dirthamen tracked a single finger along her painted face eagerly. She did her best to remain completely still and her shields just as steady. “Yet Mythal is beyond reproach. How often she is praised for her benevolence with even the lowest of her flock. We must have been misinformed, wondrous brother.”

Slip of the tongue. Informed. Someone told them, they didn’t witness it as they claim.

“True brother true. From whom might we seek clarification on this weighty matter?” Falon'Din had also entered the water and Luna began calculating her escape. Her heart was racing and they had noticed. The God of Death pressed his fingers to her neck and tapped out the beat of her pulse along the artery.

“Surely a lowly slave would not defy a God, let alone two on such matters.” Falon’Din sounded completely calm but there was a bite to his words she could not ignore. The shard of glass in his other hand winked in the light as he shifted his grip. Despite every instinct to retort she kept her mouth shut and prepared to blow her cover. Mythal wasn’t coming, and she was going to die in some weird twin fetishizing at this rate. She felt the glass gently graze her jugular and tensed as she prepared to act.

“Excellent point,” Dirthamen hissed as he reached for one of her breasts. “Though she has yet to thank either of us for deeming her worthy of our attentions.”

The door slammed open and Abelas strode in without announcing himself. He bowed, a hand over his heart, and addressed the two sodden Evanuris in even tones. Luna was giddy with relief.

“The All Mother has need of your wisdom my Lords. If you would please follow me.”

The twins were clearly angry but removed themselves from the pool. “We know the way,” they snapped in unison and left without another word.

Abelas swept away the broken glass with a wave of his hand. Luna left the water on shaky legs as he offered her a hand. That had been terrifying. She honestly hadn’t thought they would have killed her. Until the glass was against her skin. It would have incurred Mythal’s wrath. Yet she couldn’t be sure after that encounter that they wouldn’t have disfigured her in some way at least.

“About FUCKING time,” Luna said while glaring at her rescuer. “Were you waiting for them to actually damage me?!”

“Perhaps you would have preferred I not come at all?” He handed her a towel and she wrapped herself in it quickly.

“You know what …” she breathed angrily.

“Do enlighten me.” Abelas actually rolled his eyes at her. “I am sure you would do so anyway.”

Luna stood up on her toes and planted a kiss on the infuriating man. “Thank you,” she whispered. With a smirk at his stunned expression she went to her wardrobe.

Worth it.

*******

Luna was tired of parties. It seemed that Arlathan was one great celebration merging into the next. Each as vapid and soulless as the last. She could not even recall which holiday they were supposedly marking. Despite appearances no one in this farce of a court was here for the festivities.

No, this was a social battleground, each noble clawing over the others for a chance to reach the top only to lose the metaphorical crown through one treachery after another. Mythal’s victory over the twins was inevitable. They had allowed greed to cloud their judgement. Luna wasn’t the trap, not truly, it was the suspicion of Mythal herself. The goals were too far cast into the future for her to truly follow. She might well be dead before it bore fruit. It had been over a year since that horrid night and still they had faced no repercussions. She had not seen Abelas since … he had been reassigned. There were nuances to elvhen society that she would likely never understand. Still she recognized corruption easily enough.

To her credit Mythal would lean down, smiling into her ear, and whisper the unfolding plans that had taken centuries to come to fruition. Somehow it only left her feeling sick. One thing had been made abundantly clear to her as she watched the intricate play of polite smiles and whispered secrets. She did not belong here.

They were extravagant affairs, filled with dancing, wine, and song. Luna had on occasion indulged the elves, calling down the music of her homeworld at Mythal’s request. She had a great love of music. It was always met with a measure of fear as Nobles always checked to see if anyone had died. Of course she always chose songs designed to needle and annoy the elvhen. Mythal found it all quite hilarious but Luna wondered just how miserable everyone here truly was beneath the pageantry.

Luna smiled wanly at the slaves that silently filled her wine glass and tasted ash in her mouth. She looked them in the eyes, often fetching things for herself in a scandalous display of having her own hands and feet despite the increasingly uncomfortable clothing Mythal gifted her. She had been elevated among the other slaves and should only have moved if asked. For all the training she had received in Elvhen etiquette Luna could not hide her disdain for the opulent, shallow, lifestyle of her jealous lover.

Despite her best efforts, it was clear that Luna broke over half a dozen of these rules simply by sitting at the Goddess’ side. Mythal must have a reason for displaying her like that but it was beyond her. What chance did a quickling have against the machinations of the immortal? In an unveiled Thedas her now silent God had urged her to flee.  He had been afraid.

She was no match for mages that had thousands of years of experience she lacked. Her life was short in the scheme of things; a single raindrop in a storm. Mythal promised safety.  She would be cared for and adored until her dying day. So she stayed; caught in a loop of indecision and guilt.

She feigned interest in the conversations around her but the truth was that for all the comforts she received in Mythal’s company she felt adrift. There was a huge problem with her on again, off again, relationship with the elf. Luna did not love her and Mythal likely only saw her as a pleasant distraction.

The sex was … exciting; unlike anything she’d ever experienced. The things that woman could do with her tongue were sinful. Yet as she understood it she’d only been allowed the barest minimum of intimacy, a few quickies by any standard. The longer she indulged the more empty she felt. That they were forced to hide the trysts made her even more uncomfortable.

Mythal raised an eyebrow when she let out a sigh and Luna only shrugged. What could she say? She was drowning in boredom and would likely get another earful when safely in her quarters. Luna parroted pleasantries at the current Noble that was trying to get into her pants. Of course most of the inquiries were directed to Mythal who politely declined.

Luna left the dias to the now familiar mummers of disapproval. How long could she keep up this charade? The cream colored cloth she was draped in tugged with every step. Mythal had ordered its creation just for this occasion. It was all floral lace and intricate beading. The loose material flowed behind her as she made an effort not to trip. Luna hated it.

She gazed out the window with a sour expression. How many slaves had labored in the making of a gown that would be destroyed when she inevitably took it off? There was no way to remove it otherwise. She had been sewn into this monstrosity. How had she let Mythal convince her this was a good idea?

She was about to return to her seat when she caught sight of a familiar face and stopped in open disbelief. The very God she had been lamenting strode through the crowd; his eyes never leaving her. He appeared Elvhen, his attire matching the role he played, but she would recognize him anywhere.

Ignoring the elves between them she wove her way over to him; eliciting insults and whispers she didn't register.  His easy smile as she neared only made her angrier. He called out to her cheerfully causing the room to go quiet as even the band stopped playing.

“LUNA! There you are!” Luna was shocked at his boisterous greeting but his eyes glinted with amusement. “Did you miss me?” The smirk he wore made her bristle.

“Where. Have. You. BEEN,” she hissed in an angry whisper, her fists clenching despite her effort to maintain decorum as instructed. Loki only leaned down at her with a grin. She was so tired of being shorter than everyone.

Whether by Mythal’s order, or some universal elven rule on observing confrontation; the elves had backed a considerable distance away to give them room. Luna and her God were standing conspicuously alone.

“About.”

“It’s been almost SEVEN years,” she whispered, trying to keep her emotions tightly reined.

“Time is relative.” He was still scandalously loud.

“Not for me,” she sneered coldly.

Loki bowed slightly his hand outstretched; smirk still firmly in place. “Dance with me.” His British accent was both pleasant and jolting. It had been so long since she had heard English spoken aloud by anyone. It was likely drawing more negative attention.

Luna stared at him in shock as she responded in kind, her volume rising with the secrecy it provided. “SEVEN. Fucking. Years. LOKI. Why ... would I EVER dance with you. I don't dance anymore.” Let them be confused by her harsh native tongue. “There are trained dancers for that.”

Easier- by Mansionair

He snapped his fingers and music began to play. “Because I will only answer your BURNING questions IF … You dance with me.” He nodded once and offered her his hand once again. Luna groaned in frustration. Setting her hand in his she nodded her acceptance of his terms. “Excellent.”

As they settled into position she found herself wearing a crimson, shimmering, dress. The flowing, shin length, skirt was split up both her thighs, perilously close to being indecent. Her sleeves were of a soft, gauze like material with a tight fitting bodice of sheer red lace and pleated satin. He left her barefoot.

Loki’s attire shifted as well, the elvhen finery replaced by a black tailored suit over a red vest, silk shirt, and black tie. It was strange to see something so blatantly from her past in her current surroundings. Luna raised an eyebrow at her dress but the God merely swept her closer. His hand gripped her waist tightly, just shy of painful.

Well someone feels like showing off. Out with it,” she growled.

Did it never occur to you that a little respect might garner a more favorable reaction? Perhaps I should take notes from this … Mythal.  She seems to have cowed you well enough.

Luna attempted to pull away angrily, but he somehow adapted the motion, sending her into a twirl that lifted her skirt, displaying her legs, to the amusement of all present. He pulled her firmly back against him with the hint of an expensive cologne in the air. The scent could only be from Earth and she felt a pang of nostalgia.

Relenting she sighed saying, “Apologies you’re majesty.” He ignored her sarcasm. “Seriously. Where have you been? I thought I’d never see you again.”


Exploring … and searching for you pet.” Luna’s eyes narrowed at his backhanded endearment.

Really,” she deadpanned. “ I find that hard to believe.” They drifted together as Luna tried to match his steps.  It wasn’t a waltz and not quite a tango, he seemed to be shifting as the mood took him. His fingers traced the thin layer of cloth at her back, bunching it as he made the dance more daring. Her heart raced the more his touch lingered.

You are as a grain on a beach of diamonds.  Finding you was … difficult.” Loki turned her away from him, their bodies pressed close. As she turned to look at him, still swaying to the song, she was surprised to see his face so close to hers. This was quickly becoming a far more dangerous game.

Swallowing she tried to appear unaffected by his antics. “Did you just call me a diamond?” She chuckled at the ridiculous metaphor.

No. You are fade touched adamantium and far more precious.” She shivered as Loki’s hand found her thigh, his clever fingers blazing patterns as he reached just under the line of fabric that had gathered there.

Adamantium doesn't exist here Silver-tongue.” Luna knew there would be no explaining her behavior. He was a God, her God, and she knew better than to think he was seriously pursuing her. There was a rising tide of tension in the room. It was not her own feeling. Loki was working the crowd, but to what end?

Neither did WE.” He was getting bolder, scenting her neck, daring her to stop him. “Yet here we are.”

She grasped his hand, putting some distance between them as he swirled her again. “What are you playing at,” she hissed in annoyance. They were crossing lines with this dance that the elves would never accept.

He didn't answer immediately, instead he dipped her, his face slowly grazing over her taught form. When she was upright again she tried to slap Loki only for him to catch her wrist, his thumb caressing her palm.

Luna caught Mythal’s heated glare and wondered just what was going through the Evanuris’ mind. He chose that moment to slide his other hand along the front of her dress as he pulled a moan from her. Facing one another again, her face burning, she broke into Elvhen, “Are you TRYING to piss me off?!”

The God smirked, leaning into her and continuing in Elvhen as she had. “That isn’t what you’re feeling dearie.” He pulled her against him hard; both of them breathing heavily. Not that she thought he needed to breathe, it was all an illusion, a part he was playing. “I’m reminding you of who and what you are.”

“And what am I,” she whispered dejectedly. 

He looked deeply into her eyes, holding her close and declared, “An oncoming thunderstorm.” He lifted her, spinning them both before growling in her ear as he set her down. “A caged predator.”

“I see no cage.” Her blood was pounding, her head swimming with the feel of him pressed against her.

“Not all cages are cold bars and shackles little fox.” Suddenly he stopped. Loki lifted her chin, bringing her lips close to his own. He leaned in gently and gave her a soft kiss. It was like a feather’s touch, so ghostly as to have never happened at all. It left her breathless and aching for more.

“And now they know. You are MINE.”  He radiated possessiveness and cold fury that filled the room. Luna felt her anger sweep away her ardor. Her mood shifted violently with his declaration.

How DARE he.

Luna retrieved her dagger and swung it at him with a roar. He artfully dodged the attack, thoroughly enjoying himself as he disarmed her. She had known he would do so but still it rankled. The dagger was left embedded in the stone floor in one smooth motion. Luna was furious.

“I BELONG TO NO ONE!!!” The carefully crafted glamour on her form crumbled with her roar.  Luna stood exposed; her furred ears, scars, claws, and tail announcing her foreign nature.

“There you are.” Loki smiled in triumph. Luna blanched as he faded away from view leaving her alone on the dancefloor. She frantically searched for him as the gravity of her error hit her.  

Luna had openly declared herself free. Free to choose. Free to leave. Free of Vallaslin. Free of Mythal.

His smug voice echoed from all around her. “You’ve sat on your laurels long enough. Watch for me in three nights. Kitsune.” The music droned its last notes but she did not hear them. She didn’t hear anything.

The Goddess had risen to her feet;  sorrow etched into every line of her. Mythal could no longer protect her without losing face. All their plans lay in ruin. She stormed out of the Grand Hall and Luna did not follow. Loki had effectively sabotaged her place here … and she had let him.

Luna left the party in a swirl of her rematerialized elvhen skirts and did not bow her head. She was not ashamed. The glares of the elves could no longer harm her. Gone were the arrogant smiles that saw her only as a plaything or novelty. Luna had shown them she was not only dangerous, but that they knew little about her that was real.

They parted for her and she was surprised to see true fear on many of their faces. Luna could not help feeling the thrill of casting off her mask. Entering her chambers Luna tore the offensive garment from her body with a smile as she realized … she was no longer bored.

“Cheeky Trickster.”

Luna dressed quickly, grabbing a pair of breeches and a loose fitting swordsman’s shirt from the wardrobe. The map of Elvhenan she’d copied from Mythal’s study weeks ago was easily tucked into her sash. She was in a rush but grabbed her small pack as well.

Leaving unseen was easy enough with her necklace. Timing was everything, the spell lasting only a few short minutes. Lifting herself onto a rooftop she glanced back at the Temple she had called home these past years. It was still as beautiful as when she first glimpsed it and she committed it to memory.

With a pang of regret she lifted her gaze to see Mythal watching her from on high. There had been no time for farewells, the others saw her as a suitable target now. She summoned a wisp to convey her sorrow and gratitude to the Evanuris. There was still hope that with her gone Mythal could control the aftermath of Luna’s mistake. It would have to be enough. She forced herself to turn away … there was a rebellion to aid.

 

Chapter Text

Loki found her as promised beneath a grove of fruiting trees three nights later. She wasn't familiar with this particular type ... something between a mango and persimmon. He materialized behind her with his usual stealth and she jumped when his hand found her shoulder. The fruit dropped from her fingers as she whirled to meet her assailant.

“Fuck,” she breathed as she lowered the arm she had nearly punched him in the face with. The God ignored her profanity, retrieving her map and marking a glowing green circle with his finger on the crinkled parchment. “What is this supposed to be,” she asked as he handed it back to her.

“That is the main front in the war between Ghilan'nain, Andruil, and an as yet unidentified third party,” he said with amusement, floating over her shoulder as she examined the map. “We shall investigate … and hinder.”

“The rebellion?”

“Perhaps … perhaps not.” Luna shoved the map back into her sash with a growl.

“A straight answer wouldn't kill you.”

“Nor would it be FUN. I shall see you there?” He vanished and Luna debated not proceeding as he wished but dismissed the idea. She had no other solid leads on the rebel forces … it wouldn't hurt to at least check. Plucking another fruit she tore into it with gusto as she turned from her original path.

*****

The last of the elvhen scouts fell over as her blade left his body with an audible squelch. It took him longer to die, glaring up at her in astonishment as his lifeforce faded. She watched to be sure he in fact perished, and shook her head sadly. What a waste. There was no telling how old he had been. Hundreds of years older than she at least … it was only bad luck that had him assigned to this sector; her hunting ground. Could they have been friends? Had he left a lover? Children? The Vallaslin of Ghilan'nain lined his handsome features and she reached to close his eyes.

She wiped the blood from her daggers and searched the soldiers for anything useful. They carried little, but she did find a number of provisions, a few better blades and a good whetstone. Her last victims carried a map … encoded as usual but she took it as well. She trekked for many miles, checking and double checking that she was not followed before finally making for her camp. It amused her that despite the many months she had hounded both sides of this war, always guarding the innocents of the villages caught between, that they had yet to change tactics.

Both Generals were too consumed with their grievances toward each other to notice a handful of elvhen from their supply lines continually going missing. She didn't count on that always being the case but the war was vast, and she but a single player amongst hundreds of thousands. Still, it was time to move on. The few rebels she had encountered, while grateful, kept their distance. Trust was in short supply.

Loki appeared this night. He had done so a dozen or more times to leave her cryptic messages and small hints since her departure from Mythal's Temple. She was tired of riddles and had laid a small trap for him. It had taken over a month for her to work out the intricacies; testing half remembered lessons about summoning circles. He searched to and fro as the barrier and Sigils flared around him and gave her a smile … of pride.

“Interesting combination ... dóttir. Most impressive.” He did not seem distressed in the slightest and she narrowed her eyes at him.

She waved away his praise as she prepared the latest catch from her snares.”You promised me answers, long ago trickster. Answers for a dance. I had to get your attention somehow.”

“It was you who failed to specify the timed release of said information,” he smirked, laying a hand along the barrier that sizzled against his palm.

Skinning the hares as she spoke she threw the hearts and livers into her small stewpot, burying the entrails and offal she found unpalatable. He watched her practiced movements as she worked, seemingly comfortable inside his magical prison. His interest in her bloody task did not seem feigned. Loki crouched, leaning toward her with a growing smile that sent chills down her spine. She cut a portion of the best meat from her largest kill and walked toward him, balancing the morsel on the edge of the knife. Luna noted his eager posture with interest.

“You have need of sustenance now … or just the blood,” she asked curiously. “I have no altar …”

Loki shook his head with a laugh. Luna tossed it in his direction; through the barrier that flashed as she allowed it to pass. She was unsurprised as he slurped the raw meat up in seconds, licking his fingers clean of the remaining blood with relish.

“INTENT … is all that is required dóttir. You have paid tribute, now what would you have of me?”

“What are you up to?”

“A little broad, wouldn't you agree?” He leaned against a tree within the confines of his circle.

Luna rolled her eyes. “Why have you brought me here?” She finished butchering her meal and threw the remains of some sad vegetable into the pot.

Loki tutted, a finger held aloft in admonition. “Ah, ah. We have already established … WE did not bring you to Thedas.”

“Stop being an ASS and just answer the question, you sneaky …” Luna forced herself to stop and took a calming breath and tried again. “You dissolved my position at Mythal's court. Yet, I have been traipsing through the forest at your behest for nearly a YEAR. Why!?”

The God's eyes turned to her and she froze on the spot as he stepped through the barrier and toward her like it wasn't even there. Blast, he deciphered the key when I gave him the offering. He came to a stop, his face inches from her own and menacingly whispered, “Because I wished it.” Loki reached up, and tucked a braid behind her ear, making her shiver. “Because you were drowning. Because you are as I made you. Untamed, clever ... murderous … and your, nay, our goals DEMANDED it.”

“Those being?"

“Survival … at all cost.” The God looked into her eyes and she felt the weight of his unfathomable gaze steal away her breath. She refused to look away, despite the steadily growing fear of the entity before her. Loki studied her face, his eyes softening with some unnamable emotion. He turned away imperiously, kicking clear the markings that made up the holding circle with a laugh. “I came to warn you. One of the Evanuris has finally noticed your presence. She comes for you. Best eat, then be on your way.” He vanished.

She swore and quickly devoured the simple soup with a growl. As soon as it was gone she doused the fire, cleared all evidence of her camp, and took off running. Nothing eventful occurred until the first hour of her jog had passed.

According to what she could decipher of the map, she should have been running opposite the direction of Ghilan'nain's army. So it was with complete surprise that she ran smack into what appeared to be a vanguard of the Goddess’ elite warriors. She was also hit with a strange wall of force the knocked her over. Trap!

Two of them corralled her within moments, faster than anything she had fought before. The glint of their beautifully engraved armor as they lunged for her was the only warning she had. Their eyes glowed an eerie red and she noticed their auras appeared to have been tampered with extensively. They did not need to communicate, and she was immediately put on the defensive. There appeared to be about six of them in total and she carefully avoided the enormous mauls carried by the elvhen that easily looked the size of a … no they WERE Qunari. They were ALL Kossith!

She didn't have time to contemplate this development. Luna desperately stabbed one between the chink in his armor and would have breathed a sigh of relief as he fell if she had been given any time. She could hear someone laughing as she took a blow to her back, falling end over end to the ground. Her pack was all that spared her devastating injury. Rough hands, large and burning hot, clamped down on her legs, arms and neck, holding her down.

She snarled, struggling against the unbelievable strength of these engineered soldiers, even as the amused laughter continued. Luna attempted to pull energy from the Fade and grunted as she found herself blocked. They had obviously prepared the location for her. The woman wrenched one leg free, catching a grey skinned warrior in the face with her claws, blinding him. Using her momentum, she managed to straddle the shoulders of another, twisting her thighs around the ram-horned brute to break his neck. She rushed back to her feet and took off running.

Luna had only made it a few paces when she was tackled to the ground again. This one backhanded her three times, leaving her dazed enough for them to bind and drag her by her legs. Her captors ripped her pack away and tossed it aside to be searched as they disarmed her. They knelt, throwing her at the feet of someone that lounged easily on a Sedan chair carved to appear like a swarm of Halla. Slaves to either side stood ready to lift the hefty throne, and the personage it was meant for, with bowed heads.

“This … is the creature Dirthamen has been searching for?” The haughty Evanuris slammed Luna back to the ground with her golden sceptre, the unrelenting force of gravity slamming into her again. Luna had glimpsed a tall woman with porcelain skin, white hair, multiple sweeping horns, and short pointed ears. Clearly she had modified herself as well as her minions. “You have caused me quite enough trouble little poacher. Let me look at her.” Her contempt as she spoke buffeted her mind. Luna was grabbed roughly by her hair and forcibly sat up before the Goddess. The Evanuris wore enchanted plates of bone armor, bleached, and etched in golden runes.

Ghilan'nain traced a delicate finger across Luna’s swollen face. It was not an idle gesture. Luna could feel the magics of the Evanuris as she probed her physical form, measuring, thinking, as she gave a sinister grin. “Ah. So THAT is why. You are … exquisite. Collar her,” she commanded with a snarl at the men who held her. Luna growled as the carved Lyrium was brought to her throat and swiftly drained it of all mana. To the Goddess’ surprise, she then snapped the ropes that bound her.

Luna ripped out the throat of the nearest Kossith and set to work on the others. The Evanuris lashed out with a cord of power, intending to strike her down, but Luna had already opened her channels to absorb the fearsome attack. It hurt, seizing through her like a barely contained inferno, but it had worked and she redirected that mana to char broil the guard that gave chase. She whirled over the crispy body of the dead soldier, intent on bringing her final target down swiftly.

Luna plunged her energy blade downward, just missing the Goddess’ eye socket. The Evanuris caught Luna by the throat, slamming her into the ground repeatedly as she reached for her bleeding cheek with a snarl.

“Gods don't bleed,” Luna choked out with a laugh as she spit to clear her mouth. She was pretty sure she'd chipped a tooth. Several slaves glanced fearfully at the angered elvhen mage as she healed away the cut along her cheek. Unfortunately she saw their curious looks.

“You DARE?!” The Goddess’ body began to shift to something larger, stronger, and heavier as she bore down on Luna's prone form. The slaves fell over, dying under the sheer press of the transforming body, but also as their lives drained away. Luna watched in disgust as the Vallaslin performed its true function, feeding power into the angered elvhen mage.

The Evanuris roared as her jaws snapped angrily, filling with sharpened, dagger like teeth. Ghilan'nain’s glistening hide stretched. Bone and sinew rearranged themselves, incorporating the armor into the shape she took, as enormous wings sprouted with a wet crack. Bits of canvas clung to her body, tangling on one wing. *Your corpse will just as easily provide me with the knowledge I seek wretch,* Ghilan'nain projected in fury. The weight on Luna's chest increased with each passing breath. The roar that erupted from the throat of the white dragon shook the forest and the increasingly terrified Luna.

This is how I finally die. Luna scowled at the her pathetic thought as she braced her claws against the grip that held her in place. Loki’s earlier words burned in her memory. Survival at all cost. Not today. Not like this! A flash of green flew by, drawing the dragon's attention for a single moment. A moment was all Luna needed to start the shift.

Battle for the Hill of Ash - Trevor Morris

She tore her claws into the unyielding flesh that held her. The dragon attempted to shake her off but the angry vixen was already climbing her, hooking her fingers into the giant scales. Luna knew from her own experience how much energy was required to maintain such a large visage. So she pulled, tearing open her already bruised pathways for one last gambit. Running was not an option. The angered Evanuris wasn't interested in capturing her anymore. It was time to show the elvhen what she was really capable of.

Ghilan'nain attempted to crush her, even as her own mana fed Luna's transformation. She made her way toward the inhibited wing, power pouring into her as she dropped all semblance of control. Luna became a vixen in truth, Kumiho, five tails whipping behind her. The dragon was still a third larger than her, and seriously pissed off.

The fox's enormous jaws clamped around the entangled wing with a sloppy crunch and Luna viciously shredded the vulnerable membrane. She gnawed at the protruding bone with great groans and the lapping of her tongue. Blood and power flooded her senses, unimaginable, awesome and overwhelming. Her vision swam.

The dragon's glimmering scales were quickly bathed in red as it ripped Luna away with a screamed challenge. Great talons sliced through Luna's leg as it threw her into range of the next attack. Snarling, and hissing, the beast snapped its great tail, flinging the Vixen through the trees that splintered into kindling. The Goddess’ cruel laughter echoed in the Vixen's mind.

Luna limped to her feet, searching for an opening to exploit. She used Healing Hands to staunch her own bleeding as she dove away from the rampaging elvhen Goddess. Luna's teeth raked across the Dragon's snout, her fangs catching on its outer lip hard enough to gouge a bloody tear.

The dragon flailed in anger, pinning Luna with what would have been a fearsome glare had she not been covered in blood. The raspy rumble deep in the dragon's throat, however, warned her of what was coming. Luna swallowed down the hard won bit of raw flesh, dashing away from the beast as she taunted it. *Come and get me you oversized Gecko!*

Ghilan'nain twisted her snake like neck to follow the bounding fox as it circled through the forest. Luna searched for something, anything that might shield her from the Goddess’ wrath, finally finding a large boulder lined depression. Fire rose from the dragon's chest and throat in a sweeping arch as trees burned brightly in Luna's wake.

She was forced to roll, frantically putting out the flames that licked at her tails, whilst tucking into her hiding spot. A small river ran here, giving her a small reprieve as her fur became soaked with mountain cold water. The heat of the air itself was unbearable, like a blast furnace, and she held her breath long past the margin of safety. Only when she felt she might black out, and the fiery burst came to an abrupt end did she dare to take in a breath of hot, ash ridden air. Even the ground around her seemed to burn as small puddles of flaming liquid pooled across the forest floor.

Luna dodged under and over the burning timber as she sought a safe place. Using the last of a burning oak as a springboard she settled on a thick rock. It was more than likely a large chunk of mountain or cliff face considering her current size. The mass of stone shielded her some from the immediate flames, but not the smoke or heat. She scanned for a way out, but it looked like charging the dragon herself was her last option.

Fuck it.

The hissing dragon turned to meet the Vixen, stomping her feet and furling her last good wing. Luna dove under her opponent and raked her claws along the underbelly. She pushed up with a defiant roar, trying to flip her enough to get her jaws around ANYTHING. The force was enough to unbalance the she-dragon, causing her to tip to her right.

Fate could really be a cruel BITCH.  

As the dragon fell, her softer neck caught on the jagged remnants of an enormous tree. With the dragon’s own weight behind her, the flaming stake was driven in, and through, Ghilan’nain’s throat. The Goddess struggled, giving wet gasps for breath as her claws tried to find purchase on the unyielding wood. Her eyes were wide in disbelief. Luna’s ears pinned back as she watched the dragon fight for her life. This wasn’t how she had wanted it to end. She had wanted vengeance for the lost slaves. She had wanted some sort of victory … not an ACCIDENT. This … this was just pitiful. Luna snarled at the Goddess as she edged closer. If she walked away now, the bitch might still live. A quick death would at least be a sure death.

The vixen crept up to the weakening Dragon, cautiously, approaching the stilling form. Luna bared her teeth; preparing to sink them into the hide of a being she had deemed unkillable only hours before. She yelped in pain and surprise as its tail whipped around her wounded leg, dragging her close to the dying beast. Ghilan'nain smiled a toothy, fearsome grin, and used her talons to bear down on the fox's limb ... shattering the bone.

Luna wasn't sure how she did it. She certainly had not planned it. The desperate fox turned to snap at the Goddess, fear, pain, and anger torn from her canine throat. The air rippled, a blast wave that tore scale, and hide, rending open the great dragon's ribs. Luna desperately lunged, digging with her snout to find the vulnerable heart. Her mangled leg hanging uselessly to the side; her blood mingling with that of Ghilan'nain.

Still the Goddess refused to die, flicking her tail, and slashing at Luna's matted fur. The haze caused by the ingestion of so much dragon’s blood caused the vixen to voraciously tear at the wound, clamping onto the still beating muscle with a growl. This was no simple organ, but a final sanctuary, etched in runes and brilliant veins of Lyrium. Luna reached then for the aura of her enemy and pulled. She would drain this bitch DRY.

Ghilan'nain groaned as much of her remaining power was leached away. She was still in painful denial. How could so lowly a creature, one not even as powerful as she, have brought her low? All her plans, all her years, all her scheming, everything she was ... had fallen beneath the tantrums of a mortal CHILD. The dragon struggled to stay alive, pathetically swiping at the vicious animal even as its teeth finally pierced her heart.

The Goddess stopped moving. Her visage was slowly eaten by an inky black that started from Luna's snout and moved over her dying body. She froze in place, like a great statue, blood, and small bits of her floating away from her blackened corpse like vanishing motes of ash. Luna, for her part, was still latched onto her like some giant suckling pup. Her eyes glowed red, growls and huffs filling the air as she refused to let go. Power tore through her. Too much power. She could feel her channels straining, and collapsing, but there was no choice. The Goddess MUST die here, NOW, or Luna was as good as dead anyway.

Loki's maniacal laughter filled the decimated clearing. He appeared above her, framed by the still burning forest, reaching to pet her snout with a disturbing smile. The God’s magic surrounded her, like an embrace and the bloody minded fog around her thoughts faded quickly. She eased her jaws loose with a whimper. Luna was in a great deal of pain very suddenly. “Well done Luna. Well done indeed.” His voice fairly dripped with pride. He examined her leg, tutting to himself as he reset it with a wave of his hand and a horrendous crack.

The fox howled in pain, the grinding bone still not having slipped back as it should. Loki did something she didn't quite follow then, and she felt herself reverting to her humanoid form. Ghilan'nain also shrank to become elvhen though still seemingly carved from slowly crumbling charcoal. Luna was upset to discover her leg was still very broken as she traced a healing Sigil with a shaking hand. In fact her entire body was quaking uncontrollably now.

Loki surprised her, tearing his green cloak as he reexamined her leg and bound it. His frown did nothing to ease her concern. “You've taken quite a beating,” he said, probing it with his magic. Luna sighed in relief when the pain began to ease.

“Will it heal,” she asked dejectedly. She had seen the unnatural angles of bone before he had wrenched them back into place. This wasn't a simple stab wound. Bone would need to knit together … in multiple places. She had cracked a rib before but that was nothing compared to the damage Ghilan'nain had deliberately inflicted. This hadn’t been meant to kill. It had been meant to cripple.

“You surprise me,” Loki suddenly muttered. He blinked, clearly not having meant to speak aloud. Loki grinned as he conjured a simple splint for her. “I had thought you would serve as the distraction, and I would slay the tart.”

“Maybe you should have.” Luna gritted her teeth when Loki tied a knot a little more forcefully than necessary. He looked distracted, peering through the flames in concern.

“What do you see?”

Loki chuckled. “Is it a reading you seek? Can you not feel it yourself Seer?”

Luna shook her head. “I sense nothing.” He frowned as his hands hovered over her head. She felt something cool press against her ... easing her headache. He patted her on the cheek. He frowned … it was as she had thought then. She had severely damaged her pathways.

“Andruil carves a bloody path.” He helped Luna to stand despite her protesting hiss. “You have handed her a hollow victory. A leaderless mob flees before her forces. Death feasts this day.”

“My heart weeps for her,” she drawled sarcastically.

“All joking aside, they come for you. Flee. Now.” A portion of the flames extinguished as he shoved her forward. She didn't have time to ask why. The flames reignited, forcing her to limp ahead to avoid being scorched. She cursed every step of the way.

Loki turned towards the still dying Goddess as soon as Luna was out of sight. He smirked, leaning his face down to gloat. “I SEE you.” He plunged his arm into the body cavity of the paralyzed Evanuris, ripping a glowing green sphere away, with a growl. His arm dripped with black, viscous, fluid as he examined the remnant of an immortal. Her husk disintegrated into glowing dust. The sphere shrank, smaller, and smaller betwixt his fingers. He placed in it a small jar he stoppered with a laugh and tucked away.

Loki looked off in the direction he had sent his favorite mortal. “That will do nicely.”

*****

Luna wasn’t sure how long she had wandered before falling into a field of wildflowers. Though it felt like she had run for days without rest. The broken leg was throbbing, stiff and hard as a rock. It had not mended well, and she was sure she had aggravated it with her need for escape. Even magic could not fix everything. Especially in a rush job. The healing sigils were working overtime, but she knew something was terribly wrong. Luna’s last conscious thoughts were of a small elvhen girl that loved braiding blossoms into her hair.

It was a miracle she wasn’t promptly found by what remained of Ghilan'nain’s fractured forces. Then again Andruil would be rather intent on exterminating or bringing them to heel. Luna hoped some made it to the rebels, but the chances were minuscule. She had yet to earn their trust in the months she had hounded the Evanuris.

When she woke it was to the quiet shuffling of a single individual. Her mouth was dry, her lips cracked, and her throat layered with a foul tasting paste. She appeared to be in a small, rough hewn dwelling; the wounds along her leg and scalp itching terribly. It was well kept though sparse.

She examined the stitching she found on herself as dispassionately as possible. The lines were meticulous and even. Her bed was clean, and judging by the sterile implementation on the side table she had been well treated. The room smelled of herbs and surprisingly alcohol. Very strong alcohol.

An elvhen man with shorn hair and soft brown eyes entered the room without a word of greeting or snide remark. He patiently helped her to drink an herbal tea that cleared the foul taste from her tongue. Her rescuer disturbed her in a way she couldn’t put her finger on at first. When it finally registered she did her best not to recoil. He may not have worn the sunburst brand of the Chantry, but he was unmistakably Tranquil.

There was the same wrongness about his aura she had first sensed in Kirkwall. Luna wasn’t sure why his presence surprised her so much. Dreamers were a reality in Elvhenan, and with so many factions at war, it stood to reason that Tranquil existed. They were the inevitable result of a severing from the Fade and Dreamers had been known to use it as a weapon. It was jarring.

She watched as he cleaned his hands before touching her. He was methodical and the soft sounds of his movements comfortably filled their shared space. “Why are you helping me,” she asked as he expertly wrapped her arm some minutes later.

He stilled his motion, staring right through her, hesitant. Now that she found interesting. Tranquil were strictly logical, his hesitance must therefore have a logical reasoning behind it. The Tranquil seemed not to have bargained on her actually speaking to him.

“Do you have a name,” she whispered hoarsely, trying to coax something out of him. Maybe there was some rule about them speaking in this Era?

“I did. Once.” His voice would have been pleasant if not for its emotionless texture. It rasped from disuse though it didn’t seem to bother him. He did not elaborate and Luna bit her lip in annoyance. The language felt stilted, wrong, without flavor, or intent. They were only words. She wondered if this was how she had first been perceived by the elves upon her arrival. He searched her face, as though analyzing it and chose to continue. “I no longer need it. I forgot.”

“Well. I can’t very well call my timely rescuer ‘hey elf’ now can I?” He did not respond to her snark. She hadn’t expected him to. He continued his work in silence. Luna cleared her throat, uncomfortable in the growing quiet. “Should I name you then?”

He didn’t respond of course, switching his attentions instead to her poor leg. Luna sighed as she catalogued the damage. Scars were the least of her worries and she attempted to distract herself. “Well then Bob. Pleased to meet you.”

“If you wish.” He wiped her leg down with clinical precision.

Luna hissed against the burn of the alcohol. “I’m Luna. So. Why are you helping me?”

“You needed assistance.”

“Chatty, aren’t we. And if those that put me in this condition came looking for me?” Luna closed her eyes and leaned her head back onto the table. There was no need to look at him. His responses would all be in that same, lifeless monotone. There were no deceptions to analyze; no body language cues to be read. She was reluctant to admit that it was somewhat relaxing after all she’d been through recently.

“They will not come here.” His certainty was interesting.

“And why is that Bob?”

“I disturb them.” Luna sat up gingerly and looked at him again despite his hands trying to keep her still.

“Uhh … because of what you are?”

“I am hollow. They fear to become as I have become. They do not understand how I still live.”

The Tranquil … they just ... what ... abandon them like lepers??

Luna allowed him to finish and abruptly leave before she tried meditating. It was easier to simultaneously draw in energy and heal herself this way normally. It took more effort than she liked with no tangible result. Her channels were not functioning properly. They were metaphysically damaged and only time would heal them again.

IF they ever heal right. Fuck what was I thinking taking on that bitch?

She frowned as Bob returned with a bowl of food. It appeared to be boiled barley and some kind of roasted beans. Luna wasn’t picky. She thanked Bob for the meal, and finished the tasteless mess quickly. He only responded that he would return later.

Luna tried to stand while he was gone and ended up in a heap on the ground. Her loud curses eventually brought him back and he helped return her to the cot. She realized it was his only bed later that evening when he lay on the floor to sleep. Now she truly felt horrible.

The next several days repeated much as the first minus the embarrassing fall. Bob cared for her, brought her meals, and largely ignored her presence. Luna wondered how long he had been like this. His home did not appear ancient. She did finally get Bob to elaborate on why the elves refused to come here.

“I paint the Fade wrong. It does not sing in my vicinity. Others will come soon. You will leave with them.”

“That’s rude Bob. What if your friends and I don’t get along?” Luna wasn’t sure why she bothered. It wasn’t like he would be able to appreciate her jokes.

“Unlikely. You are pursued by hostile forces. Logically their enemy will take you in.”

Interesting … also cryptic. Which enemies? I've accumulated so many recently.

“What if I want to stay here with you?” Luna’s cheeky smile was lost on him. She did not let it dampen her spirits.

The elf had gone quiet again then; contemplating her words. “You will leave with them. I am hollow. I am insufficient to your needs.” The Tranquil was not arguing; only stating what he knew to be fact.

He fashioned a brace for her. Her leg would not hold her weight without it. She had known it would not heal properly but it left her feeling even more wretched. As she healed, Luna discovered that she was not dreaming. It was disappointing but she was more curious if it was because of her injuries, or because of Bob.

Her first view outside the small building she had called home for a month left a bitter taste in her mouth. She was effectively living with a hermit and he may as well have taken a vow of silence with how quietly he conducted himself. Luna was grateful however and decided to make the best of it.

Another month passed and Luna helped with the chores and took to staring at him for long intervals. Luna was torn by the knowledge that she might heal his condition. At a cost she had no way of quantifying, true, but it was still within her power. The question was if it would make things worse. She was not equipped to care for a raving lunatic.

Bob had no magic as expected, and she noted there were no spirits in the vicinity. They appeared to avoid him as well. She wondered if that was why he remained tranquil. Did she possess knowledge of a cure the elvhen did not?

Luna was stronger now, even with the limp, and had noticed that it was becoming colder each day. The smell of an approaching snowstorm caught her off guard. It was the first time she had seen extreme weather since coming to this time and pestered Bob about it. “That might actually be a blizzard. I didn’t know it could storm here.”

“We are far from Arlathan.”

“It’s artificial? I hadn’t realized.” Luna thought back to her time amongst the elves. Had she truly never left the range of this weather magic before now? Bob left for long periods for the next several weeks, always returning with foraged mushrooms, nuts, or ferns. She harvested everything she could identify closer to the hut, setting snares, and chopping firewood. He showed her how to store everything but she knew she was growing restless.

He in turn was becoming adept at reading her despite his own emotional deficiency. “They will come soon. When I sow the garden,” he said suddenly. This was not the first time he had engaged her without prompting.

Of course THAT would qualify as SOON to an immortal.

Luna helped him to bring in his final harvest of fall vegetation and store it safely in the cellar. It was more of a pit really, with a heavy mat as a covering. The foodstuffs were not as varied as she would have liked but would have to suffice. She looked at the small hut with a frown. How long were the winters here?

The Earther made improvements to his cottage, sealing leaks and drafty walls with a simple mortar of mud clay. She felt it was the least she could do … the very least. Bob watched her attentively never having seen these things done without magic as an aid. Her time on Earth, patching their cabins, came in handy. Luna had taken one look at the smoke hole in the roof and made the time to build a proper fireplace of earthen brick. It was time consuming, but simple.

It had taken little convincing when she explained how a flue worked. Then again, as a Tranquil he would follow her direction without question. It wasn’t that his home didn’t function, she simply knew how to make it more efficient. Without magic he had largely survived through trial and error and she was actually rather impressed. Did the elves even have a period where magic had been unavailable?

The first snows covered the house but it was bearable with the roaring fire she kept tended. Reluctantly sharing the bed made a huge difference. Body heat was glorious. The cold made her leg ache and it was far better than freezing to death because he gave her the creeps.

It had been another month when she noticed their meals grew smaller as the days passed. He had not accounted for a second mouth to feed before she arrived and they were running lower on provisions than safe. The fact he had stretched it as long as he had was surprising.

“Why didn’t you tell me? Why risk this at all,” she asked angrily.

Bob stirred the coals to stoke the fire and answered calmly without facing her. “It is what I would have done … before.”

“That’s illogical.”

“I am aware.”

Luna managed to snare a few small squirrel like creatures after that. The traps usually lay empty and she fought down her growing fear. Bob accompanied her, watching her attempts intently. On one occasion she caught a wild hare with a well placed electric charge. The mana here was sluggish, almost like it was sleeping. Bob confirmed it was like this because of his Tranquility. Her head rang for days after the small use of her magic but the supplemental stew had been worth it.

Despite their efforts they both began losing weight and she knew it could not go on like this. She had precious little left to lose and Bob was thinner than she was. Determined to eat something fresh she had taken a handful of beans and a sack with her outside. The weakening woman hobbled a good distance from the house while Bob slept. She did not want him caught in the side effect of her magics. They were both sleeping more lately; dangerously so.

It took her an hour to clear enough space in the ice and snow to reach the soil beneath. She prayed the lost calories would lead to fuller stomachs. Cold and tired Luna hummed a small tune, forcing her channels open to coax the plants to sprout. Despite preparing she emitted a small whimper as they slowly tore open. That’s when she heard someone fall to the ground behind her with a gasp. Bob was AWAKE … and had FOLLOWED her.

“I … FEEL … how ...” He seemed to be having trouble breathing normally.

Luna fully turned to look at the poor man with a stab of guilt. How could she have been so careless? “I’m so sorry Bob. I didn’t think you’d follow me. I didn’t want to risk ...”

“Please … whatever this is. Do NOT stop.  I …” He rocked away in confusion, head in his hands as he began to weep. Luna watched to be sure he didn't suddenly lose his mind. Unsure how long the effect would last she continued to hum a meandering melody; the bean plants behind her forgotten. Cutting him off seemed cruel, but continuing did not alleviate her concerns. He was wracked with sobs and she tentatively put a comforting hand on his shoulder.

Bob flinched at her touch and she quickly let go; ready to defend herself. It proved unnecessary. He made no move to harm her. She hummed a few more bars but could feel herself tiring. The elf looked up at her through red rimmed eyes and raggedly whispered, “It … it hurts so much.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to stop?” Luna felt herself tearing up as well. She awkwardly draped an arm around him and he shook his head, though he continued to cry. She sat in the snow with him, humming for nearly an hour. Her mouth grew parched and her throat ached. She lost feeling in her fingers and toes but she didn't stop. Luna could not bring herself to. Finally she felt her channels faltering; the pain of overuse growing to be too much. Her nose began bleeding, the red splotches sitting starkly against the snow.

“I’m sorry,” she said hoarsely. “I … I must stop.” He nodded mutely as she drew her aura back in; shutting that part of herself away. Her skull felt like it was on fire. All trace of his emotional turmoil subsided and he quietly stood then walked passed her. The change was a sudden one and she watched in growing uncertainty as he harvested what she had managed to grow. It was substantial. They would be able to eat for at least a week … probably more.

Luna used her sleeve to staunch the flow from her nose. The tangy salt of her own blood gagged her. She was not looking forward to coughing out the inevitable blood clots. Bob handed her a spare bit of cloth and refused to let her carry their harvest. The march back left her feeling emotionally and physically worse. She may as well have tortured him and he was still caring for her.

Once safely inside they sat staring at the fire as their meal boiled when he finally spoke. It was so loud in the still of the room she was startled. “Emma’drin.” She tilted her head in confusion, hand still firmly on her nose. He looked her in the eyes for the first time since they had met. “My name … is Emma’drin.”

******

Luna grew sicker even though winter neared its end. She had managed to keep them fed, but still lost over half her muscle mass. The magic she used was an agony but it bought them time for her snares to supplement their meager diet. He didn't look much better; his robes sagging off his bones as they slowly starved.

Emma’drin did not ask her to sing for him. He was however present everytime she risked it. It was at least a much shorter walk now that she wasn’t hiding it from him. He did not always cry and she started looking forward to seeing his reactions. His first taste of emotion had been turbulent, but she found him to be soft spoken, generous, and with a wicked sense of humor.

He assured her that it was enough. They must survive the season first. All else could be discussed later. When she finally collapsed during a session he declared it was the final crop. His worry for her mounted as he carried her into the cabin to sleep only to be replaced with ruthless efficiency. He would not take no for an answer from her, though in truth, she was too weak to take a stand. Emma’drin had grown capable of simple argument the more she used her ability around him.

He checked the snares, tended her health, and foraged for anything remotely edible. She didn’t question it when he somehow procured enough meat and vegetables for a thick broth. There was only the wracking cough, the painful shivers, and the food that barely stayed down. His clothing had been filthy, and she should have noticed, but she was unmoored. Her fever rose and he kept her cool with packed snow. She caught a chill and he spooned against her to stop her shivering.

Luna did as he asked without question, her mind fogged by illness, and hummed him something one night at his insistent request. It was the first thing that came to mind … a simple lullaby. He cast a spell she did not recognize and urged her to continue in a desperate voice and so she struggled to do so. She did not protest when he fed her something new that sent her drifting into a deep sleep ... Until she found herself unable to wake. She walked the Fade fully and observed him wrapping her tightly in enchanted cloth.

Where did he even get that?!

Emma’drin was performing a ritual for her. It was something he had no business doing; had not been capable of until she sang for him. Several glowing elvhen she did not recognize knelt by his side. He had sent her into Uthenera … and she was not an elf. This was an unexpected development. As his visage vanished she knew he was Tranquil once more and she wondered if her body would even survive. She seemed so still, it was with relief she saw that it was still breathing, albeit very slowly. Would she ever wake? She called to Loki, but he did not answer. Typical.

Luna was being moved. That is to say her body was moving somewhere. She would explore the Fade a short distance and periodically be tugged back to its new location. The scenery had changed again, first an unfamiliar wood, then a rolling plain, again hovering over a river, and finally an equally unfamiliar fortress. There were elvhen everywhere she turned though none acknowledged her presence. Some glowed in her sight, the brightest emanating from a tower in the distance, others were dimmer. It occurred to her that Issenril had been such an elvhen, her glow subdued so as to hardly be noticeable. She had thought it a trick of the moonlight at the time, but in hindsight realized that it had been the Fade itself. It stood to reason that the brighter the glow the more powerful their soul.

Luna knew that Emma’drin was present at times. It comforted her, even as she cursed her condition. He had been trying to save her life after all. The elvhen reacted with hostility and disgust to something that was clearly not visible in the Fade. At other times they would converse with this same nothing, always keeping it short, and seeming uncomfortable. She supposed it could be another Tranquil, but deductive reasoning told her it must be HER Tranquil ... her Bob. Perhaps it was just wishful thinking.

The Earther could not see their features clearly. They seemed blurred though she could sense their emotions. Their voices as they spoke to one another were similarly warped. Did they speak a dialect she did not know? Her questions only grew daily. The Fade was not exactly her area of expertise and Mythal had kept her dreams heavily shielded at the temple. She wasn't sure, but hypothesized that as she had never truly met these people, some part of them was obscured from her mind. Then again they could simply be doing it as a precaution around her foreign spirit.

It was with great dissatisfaction that she found herself trapped in a small room that warded her spirit from leaving. That they laid her in state on top of what seriously resembled a large, carven, stone coffin laced with Lyrium brought with it the disturbing thought that they had literally entombed her. At least they gave her a matress. An entire day of cursing and threatening those that came near proved fruitless. She did have a few visitors, but they never communicated, and they never stayed.

The elvhen cared for her flesh, feeding, bathing, and grooming her. She had looked away when they tended her abused leg. Each dressed identically, in grey, hooded robes. They also took great care with her hair for some strange reason. As an outside observer she had to admit the way they left it to fan out around her was quite beautiful. The attendants even filed her nails and cleaned her teeth for her. It was unnerving to watch so many hands touching her on any given day; powerless to prevent it. Luna refrained from reshaping the Fade around her body at first. She did not want to kill herself by accident after all.

However the growing loneliness and extreme boredom soon had her practicing at every opportunity. Issenril had told her she could affect the waking world. Now was a good a time as any to test that claim. Her ultimate goal was to unravel the enchantments on the the vault that kept her caged. She had spent an entire week trying before she realized they were layered from the outside. Her attempts to drain power from them appeared to be a dead end. Her separation from her body also seemed to have disabled the ability.

Luna did not let it deter her. She took pleasure in altering the space on a daily basis. Small things at first, a loose tile here and broken jar there. The changes were eventually noticed, but were seemingly ignored. Soon she took on larger changes, like flower petals scattered across the floor. One particular elf had stooped to pick them up, carefully storing them. She took the time to memorise his signature and started looking forward to his many visits.

After many more months she shifted the very stone; creating a lifelike bower of stone branches and twining leaves. Living, flowering, vines blanketed the complicated sculpture. The key, had been for her to sing. The surprise from the elvhen when they entered to find every surface decorated with intricate art, carvings, and statuary had been completely worth the few weeks she spent unable to move after.

Her curious elf had taken the time to braid her hair with the numerous blooms she had conjured. She had watched him in return as he scanned her body with his magic, though he left off for other pursuits, seeming disappointed. He spent many hours studying her work, running his hands along them with a reverence she could feel. Luna grinned in satisfaction; finally some progress.

It took a full two weeks before she managed to create a sound in the waking realm. She knew she had done so accidentally before in her grief. This was different, a conscious direction that seemed to slip from her grasp just as she thought she had managed something. She delved her memory for old science lessons on how sound waves functioned.

Luna laughed herself silly when she scared the daylights out of someone with a piercing, shrill, banshee like scream. The bored woman had been going for nails on a chalkboard but she wasn't particularly picky. She had gotten a result! Luna wondered if this was what ghosts on earth were forced to contend with. Luna would lay pranks for him and looked forward to his amusement and surprise.

For many years she lay in that room, communicating with difficulty with the elf that worked to mend her daily. She knew he was more powerful than he let on; glimpsing it on occasion. Why the subterfuge? Or was it simply another side effect of her condition? She no longer thought her imprisonment was deliberate, something had obviously gone wrong. Uthenera was not meant for mortals. 

The elf was thoughtful, bringing her gifts, including a range of books they laid on stands, turning one page every thirty minutes for her. They even gave her updates on the ongoing wars. Andruil, drunk on power after her victory, was laying siege to Dirthamen's holdings. She assumed this was tasked to Emma'drin as the books and scrolls seemed to move on their own during a portion of the day. It alleviated her boredom greatly.

She noted with growing fear that she was not able to draw energy as she once had and the elf warned her to conserve her strength. She never learned his name, he cheekily promised to tell her when she awoke, and to think of it as motivation. Luna only knew that he was kindhearted, diligent, and very aware of her plight. Not for the first time she wondered what he looked like. She knew something was wrong ... he seemed so sad whenever he watched over her. Why could they not speak properly?! It was infuriating. Luna did not understand why they could not wake her. He would only tell her he was working on it.

Luna had watched him throw a full fit once; breaking his belongings when he examined her again, trying some new spell. He had spoken to the nothing that brushed her hair, dejected, defeated, heartbroken. The last she did not understand, but knew he grieved. They were her only real friends here after all.

The Earther watched in growing horror when she understood the problem. She was AGING as she lay there. Fine wrinkles lined her peaceful face. Time did not care that she was not awake. She had stopped calling for Loki long ago. Luna also began to lose chunks of time, as if she slept within the Fade, or rather her twisted version of it. One day he stopped coming, though she sensed his true regret, he was needed elsewhere. He spent an entire week with her; saying goodbye. If she had to guess a full eighty years had passed. Luna prepared herself to die. It wasn't such a bad way to go. She was pampered, given all she could read, and had people who cared for her.

Luna was beyond surprised when one day, a new visitor entered her chamber. He felt … different. It was like a raging cyclone had been stuffed into a small box that could barely contain what was within. He ignored her body, and finally spoke, while looking directly at her. He was clothed as they all were, in simple draping robes. She had been sitting on a stone bough and nearly fell off as he addressed her.

“Enjoying your nap, Lokisdóttir?” When he gracefully removed his hood she grew absolutely livid.

“You son of a bitch,” she growled. The God only laughed, long, and loud.

Chapter Text

Luna moved to stand before the God. She had nothing left for Fade tricks. Her body was failing; the last vestiges of her power was the only thing keeping her alive. She didn't speak. Luna didn't trust herself to. However her arm moved of its own accord. It shot out like a whip, and as her fist collided with his jaw, she snarled at the trickster. It felt amazing. She had half expected her fist to pass through him.

Loki took the hit like it was nothing of course, his head snapping to the side before he turned it slowly to look back at her. Luna hit him again to wipe the pity from his eyes. She could tell he wanted to say something, and peevishly she said the first thing that came to mind … just to interrupt him.

“Why the fuck do you have a beard?”

Loki blinked at her in actual confusion before bursting out laughing. “Eighty-seven years, and the first thing you ask, is why I have a beard,” he asked incredulously.

“Has it been that long?” Luna shrugged, feigning nonchalance, breathing heavily. It wasn't real. Her body lay dying at the center of this tomb but it felt nice to pretend she was having a true reaction to the anger she felt. That she had thrown him for a loop was just icing on the cake. “You explain nothing of importance. I learned to stop asking.”

He contemplated her words for a moment, looking a little sheepish. “I felt a change in appearance was appropriate … given a fair amount of time-”

“A FAIR amount,” she growled angrily.

“Mortals appreciate a sense of continuity … so I had gathered.” He subsided and they stared at one another for an uncomfortably long period.

“My whole LIFE was spent in this room Loki.”

“I am aware … and for that I am sorr-”

“Don't,” Luna shook her head and stalked over to her body. “Save it. It will all be over soon. Have you come to snicker at the waste I made of my insignificant life?”

“On the contrary. I came to offer you a solution to your ... problem.” Luna didn't look at him. She just started laughing. He waited for her to finish before speaking again. “I did not abandon you little one.”

“Whatever you say my LORD,” she snarled.

Loki pulled her around to face him. “I did NOT abandon you.” She set her jaw stubbornly. “Foolish girl. It took quite a bit of time for me to fashion my gift for you. How was I to know you would trap yourself for nearly a century?!”

“You’re a fucking GOD!”

“I am not INFALLIBLE,” he roared. “Why is that concept so difficult for mortals to grasp? I knew you were alive! It took longer-”

Luna smirked at him as he lost his temper. That felt good too. “Clearly.” Loki took a deep breath to calm himself. Luna was all out of fucks to give. “Better hurry it up. Pretty sure I'll be dead in an hour … tops.” She folded her arms and waited.

The God held out his hand to her. Resting on his open palm he held a single, golden, fruit that hummed with power. “Do you wish to live?”

“Is this a trick question,” she asked angrily. “What. The. FUCK. Is that?”

“A date. Obviously.” He rolled his eyes at the stern glare she fixed him with. “A very special date I have spent a great deal of time, and energy, procuring, and cultivating for YOU.”

“And …”

“Really is this the best time for twenty questions? Consume it and you shall awake.” He loomed over her menacingly but desisted when it did not garner a reaction from her.

Luna wasn't convinced by his posturing. “Yes. I think this is the perfect time. I'm alright with dying Loki. I made peace with it years ago. Besides which what good is waking to a frail and useless shell? What I find interesting is that you began working on this before you even knew I was trapped?”

“Well … you see ...”

“Oh, no. I'm not playing this game.” Luna pointed her finger in his face. “Explain. Now. And I shall consider your offer, based on the merit of what you say.”

Loki ground his teeth. She had backed him into a corner and he knew it. “Survival. At all costs Diana, if you recall.” He straightened, debating with himself, before swallowing his pride and finally confessing. “I am … BOUND to you.”

Luna/Diana ... stared at him. “Yes. I already knew that. I am bound to five Gods.” He shook his head at her misunderstanding.

“Has it never occurred to you to question why the others haven't shown themselves in all the years you have been here?”

“Well … yes,” Luna said, curiosity peaked. It had been so long since she’d had a real conversation with someone. Even an angry one. “But you vanished … you are Gods. I am mortal. I figured if it were important that I live, fulfil some ordained purpose, I would have been given answers by now.”

“They do not know you are here.”

“What …” she deadpanned.

“I stole you away. Obfuscated your presence … even from myself.” He answered her glare with one of his own. “With the help of Flemeth.”

“Go. On,” she growled.

“Do you have any idea the length these confounded elves have gone to hide your presence? It took nearly three years for me to locate you.” Loki sighed, sitting down, and drawing her into his lap. She did not have the energy to fight him. Even though her self image remained youthful, her lifeforce was tied to her body and it was weakening further with this conversation. It was the most she had moved in a long time. He still held the fruit between his fingers, gently aloft, before her.

“I used Mythal's thread of Fate, and the explosions in Kirkwall, to guide your spirit back in time. It was ultimately a logical decision. She remembered you very clearly despite her shattered psyche. Therefore I had already done so. I created a new body for you, fashioned from the only thing I had available to me when you foolishly martyred yourself. The Void, and the raw power you had absorbed.”

“You … remade me.” Luna grew quiet as she processed this new information. She was a piece of the FUCKING VOID?! All this time the elves had been telling her …. and she had not understood. “Why?”

Loki sighed, and kissed her cheek. “LIFE … my survival, little one, and yours.” He clarified, carefully, as though she were a child. From his perspective she likely was. “If you die. I die.” Luna nodded slowly, as everything seemed to click into place. The bond was a two way street. The Gods, her Gods, existed in Thedas ... only through her. She was their raft, a lifeline, against their own extinction. It confirmed her suspicions after her encounter with Alon. It was overwhelming … terrifying.

“The power I carry … the reason I was able to tear open a gateway to this realm ...” Luna felt small. The weight of her new knowledge seeming to tire her more. She wasn't sure she wanted to know the answer.

“The accumulated power of generations. Magic from the bloodlines of a thousand tribes. Ambrosia given a single, mortal, form.” He was completely serious … and that scared her more than anything she had yet faced. This … it was too much. "Shaped by your life, yes, but also by our will."

“What am I,” she asked, grateful that her voice did not break despite her inner turmoil.

“A vessel. A being created to contain unimaginable power.” Loki sighed uncomfortably as he unburdened himself. “A demi-God in the truest sense. Ours. We made you for the expressed purpose-” She shook her head in denial. She could not accept that Alon had the right of it. He had been her enemy! “Surely you must realize they existed. The stories came from somewhere after all.” Luna swallowed, steering the conversation to something more palatable.

“And the other Gods?” She knew that if she was in her body she would be panicking right about now.

“They yet live. Thanks to your continued existence. For the time being.” He looked significantly at her sleeping form. “Did you know the elves have named us the Forgotten Ones … rather poetic I thought. What is a God that is not remembered after all?” Luna's eyes widened further at the declaration and Loki smirked at her. Her mind reeled, trying to think in a thousand directions at once.

Calm yourself. One question at a time. Quickly before he changes his mind!

“Why would you hide-”

“Like you … they had accepted their fate. I had not. You may have observed that we do not always ... agree.” Luna rolled her eyes at his understatement. There were thousands of stories of the Gods warring amongst themselves. Not to mention she had witnessed Loki antagonizing the others for herself.

“And the date?” She picked the fruit up from his hand and she felt Loki tense. He held his breath. Luna looked at him uncertainly. Her choice in the next few minutes carried the weight of his very existence. It was a heady experience. It was insane. This whole thing was completely crazy.

“What remains of Ghilan'nain,” he whispered solemnly. “She is, quite literally the seed of your renewal. It is only energy now … a complicated, multi-layered, spell. No personality remains. I am truly sorry it took me so long to perfect it my dear.” He did in fact sound rather contrite.

"Why a date?"

Loki raised an eyebrow, his lip twitching in the parody of a smile. "Would you have preferred a cherry? Perhaps a grape? An apple would be too large to swallow ... Golden or not." Her gaze snapped back to the precious item she held at his hint.

“This doesn't just wake me up does it …” She looked up at him in wonder, laced with suspicion, and cunning. “This will-”

“Make you immortal.”

“...and by extension YOU.” A heavy pause hung between them. She set her jaw stubbornly, if he were to test her will, he would find that she would win in this instance. It proved unnecessary.

“Yes.”

“Well then.” Luna surprised him in that moment. She swallowed the fruit whole, pit and all.

Loki laughed. His relief, and elation, passing through her. She understood him completely for a few precious seconds. He congratulated himself on having chosen her well. She had no damn problem with the idea of immortality, or the freedom he offered from this place. Luna felt only a fool would pass up such an opportunity on their deathbed. Still, he had been worried. It wasn't really even a choice as far as she was concerned. She had so much more she wished to accomplish.

His grin was a match for hers. He gently carried her as she slumped in his arms settling her soul over the aged shell. She drifted, feeling the rush of pumping blood, the weight of gravity, the sweetness of an intake of breath, the complicated firing of synapses at the drifting scent of incense. It felt like she was burning, not painfully, but like a heat flash or standing in the sun for too long.

The clock wound backwards. Time, retreated from her body, and with that retreat she regained her lost youth. She became bound to this realm, weaving into the natural order of things. Finally, she was no longer a stranger, drifting in a foreign sea. She felt her connection to the Fade as it was truly meant to be; a part of her. Like the remnant of a melody stuck in your head, finally releasing, as you finished the song. Her fragile, sagging, skin tightened. Limp, grey, brittle hair whitened, and curled to frame her fresh face. Thin lips, plumped, opening in a gasp that startled the elvhen guards outside the room.

Luna woke up and began to laugh hysterically.

*****

Emma'drin was the first to enter the room after she calmed down some time later.

“Hello Bob,” she said without looking up. His presence was easy to discern and her tight schedule had not changed in decades. She was sitting on her favorite perch, holding an aged treatise, and marveling as she touched the pages. “It is strange … to miss something as simple as touch.”

“You are awake,” came his familiar monotone.

“Observant as always I see.” The Tranquil elvhen surprised her then, pulling her down to face him as he examined her. She stared at him. Had he always been so … touchy? “It is good to speak with you again my friend.” He was as ageless as she remembered, not a scar, nor blemish marring his handsome features. She smiled as she gently moved aside his now braided locks; no longer cut short.

“It is an opinion not shared amongst my kind. You are … different.” His stare, while still disconcerting, only made her happier.

“There is much to discuss. You have cared for my body these long years. Loyalty of that kind deserves a reward I should think.”

He shook his head in denial. “I did as I was instructed only. I do not feel loyalty, Luna. I do not feel anything. You know this.” Luna scoffed.

“Was it logical to send me into Uthenera as you did?” He blinked at her, continuing to look through her.

“No. You …” Luna noted his pause with interest. “You changed me. Like a knife. You cut through the dark. Even as you slept I would glimpse myself as I had been. It was selfish. They do not understand. I tried to explain.”

They were interrupted by the clearing of a throat. Luna spun around to see an amused looking elvhen, armored, and armed. His violet eyes looked her over with a seriousness not reflected in his posture. The Vallaslin of Mythal curled prettily along his handsome face. She wondered, not for the first time, if Thedas was incapable of creating an unattractive being.

“Our mystery only deepens. Good morrow little one. You are much improved since last I glimpsed you.” His voice was pleasant, lilting, and his aura exuded amusement. Luna didn't care if it was rude, she scanned him closely, but frowned in disappointment. This was not her longtime elvhen caretaker. The elf did not appear to have taken offense, his easy smile only growing larger. He gestured for her to follow and she didn't need to be asked twice. Emma'drin trailed her, like a shadow, and was ignored by all they passed.

“Where do you lead me?” She had missed this. The gentle nuance of her words flowing through her aura as she spoke.

“I should think you would want as far from that place as possible,” he replied. Luna frowned. It was not an answer.

“You have no idea …”

“Yet you remained after you awoke.”

“A century of habit I suppose.” She glanced around the corridor and drank in the decorative tiling. It widened gradually, columns of equal beauty holding up the great ceiling. Luna gasped at what she saw. It was remarkable. Every surface of the large room was expertly painted, and she realized with some awe, that she was the subject of it all. He watched her reaction calmly; giving her time to examine them. Perhaps he was only curious.

It was surreal to see what amounted to a great work reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel, or some other great renaissance masterpiece centering on herself. The story of her arrival. The changes to her tomb. Her care, and subsequent aging. Emma'drin was included; always standing by her side, painted … oddly. His blank stare left no doubt as to his condition. All were preserved by a careful hand and her face must have shown her shock.

“You must realize …” he said quietly, “... what you have done is impossible. You should have died.” He looked at her intensely when she did not respond. “Little mortal …”

Luna shook herself from her rapt study of the paintings that surrounded her. They were breathtaking and she fought the urge to touch them. “I am no longer mortal,” she said fiercely, looking the jovial elf directly in the eyes.

“You admit it freely?”

“Do I have something to hide? I am at your people's mercy. I have been for quite some time.”

“So it would appear.”

“You doubt me?” Luna laughed then stepping into his personal space; looking up at the much taller elf. He tensed, his hand twitching, over the hilt of his sword. The false smile dropped and she smirked at him, still chuckling. The elvhen mage could not hide his glow in the Fade from her. Despite appearances it was his magic that made him truly dangerous; not the blade at his side. Someone must have warned him of her abilities for him to rely on a physical attack. He seemed to be increasingly wary of her but there was a rising tension between them as she awaited his reaction. She smirked when he refrained from attacking her and chose to speak.

“Not doubt. I see the evidence before me after all. The question is not if you are immortal … it is how.” He cleared his throat, running a hand through his long auburn hair. The smile returned, less forced, and she wondered if she would ever be looked at without suspicion. Would she ever be able to drop the many threads of subtext and social maneuvering? The elves seemed to thrive on intrigue.

“I am called Luna …”

“We are aware. Come.” He began walking again, not bothering to see if she would follow. She thought it odd he did not reciprocate, but she was hardly in a position to make demands. Luna reached for Emma'drin's hand. Her Tranquil obliged; allowing her to pull him along with her. He was familiar and she took comfort in that. Her escort said nothing of the behavior but she knew he was observing her actions closely.

She was surprised when he led her to a spacious sitting room. It was familiar, the stylized paintings in this room were more in the elvhen technique she was accustomed to seeing. An open balcony overlooked great rolling hills and she snickered suddenly. Releasing Emma'drin she confirmed her suspicions by taking in the spectacular view. 

“Strip weed …” She knew where she was now. Leaning over the stone railing she glimpsed another tower in the distance. “To what do I owe the honor of being ensconced within Fen'Harel's secret eluvian network?” The Evanuris of Rebellion must know of her presence in his halls. Then again who knew how many such Sanctuaries he had throughout Elvhenan?

“Quite the assumption from a single glance outdoors.” She could feel his surprise. He was not as adept in controlling his emotions as she was used to. Were the Evanuris and Nobles the only ones so tightly controlled? She owed Issenril and Mythal a thousand times over for their lessons.

“I have seen this place before.”

He narrowed his eyes for a moment before replying. “Impossible. You would be remembered. You are unique; easily recognized. Not many have graced the halls of the Evanuris to be outed as a spy and left again without reprisal.”

“Still a fact. I have seen it … and more. So much more than your pretty head can imagine.” Luna chuckled then, unable to contain herself at the absurd situation. She clarified her mirth. “I have lain unconscious, crippled, for eighty-seven years. I was put in such a dire position by the hand of Ghilan'nain herself. Dragons can be ever so spiteful.” His aura clamped shut at the mention of the dead Goddess. Despite her inability to read him now; the act of blocking her out in and of itself was telling. “DEFEATING her was hardly without consequence. Though I will admit a certain satisfaction that I yet live and she does NOT.”

“So it WAS you …”

“I'm sure Mythal created a suitable scapegoat,” she huffed dismissively. He did not respond … so she was sure she was correct.

“You are crippled no longer,” he said instead. He was right, her leg had been well attended to during her long sleep. The elf narrowed his eyes at her for a moment before the smile returned again. Not that she bought for a moment that he was as friendly as he appeared. Too bad. I like this elf. “There is much you know … that you should not.”

Luna whirled on him. “Drop the act,” she said harshly. “I have no patience left for it. If you mean to interrogate or test me I prefer we do so honestly. Think of it as a consequence of my ordeal … and origins.”

“And what might those be?” There was a long silence as she debated how to answer him.

Fuck it.

“Otherworldly,” she whispered significantly, her eyes never leaving his. “And royally pissed off. Be not afraid. I have no quarrel with the Dread Wolf. In fact, I applaud his efforts. The Evanuris are drunk on privilege.”

“You would have me believe you were not sent here as a ploy by those same forces? You speak the name of the Mother as if it were your right. By all means, let us give you a tour! Perhaps you would care to chat with our illustrious leader?!” His sarcasm only made her feel more at ease.

“It’s only a name. She is not all knowing and she is not a God.”

“You would claim to know the difference,” he snarled. She laughed at this. Oh, if he only knew. He stared at her as though she were mad.

“I will prove myself a friend if I must ... but first …” Shaking her head she stepped back toward Emma'drin. She took his hands in hers, a genuine smile on her face, and did something extremely dangerous. Perhaps even short sighted. Luna was done second guessing herself. “Time to wake up from this nightmare.” Luna knew there would be a price, and still she began to sing.

Feel it all - Andrea Marie

The gentle, foreign music, that echoed around them then had the elves watching, stunned by the feeling of her aura spreading out to encompass the entire tower. She would free Emma'drin from his prison.

You try to shape the world
But you don't understand
You try to reach out
But you have empty hands

I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel the world
I wanna feel the world

Emma'drin shook in her arms. Tears falling from his eyes as he reached to hold her close. They sank to the floor together as she poured more of herself into the song. This must be a permanent change. She opened her soul for him, focusing on her intent with all she had, her voice joined by an ethereal chorus. Her words held as much meaning for herself as the implications of singing them to someone cursed with Tranquility.

You try to give it all
Your riches and your wealth
You try to numb the pain
Of your lifeless heart

I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel the world
I wanna feel the world

She felt something break away from herself, encompassing her friend. The elvhen man behind them watched with ever widening eyes, entranced by not only the music, but at the sacrifice she made to do this. He called out for her to cease, but she ignored his warning cry. For a moment she understood his concern as she felt something rip away in the creation of this magic. It was too late. She would stand by her decision. Luna could not stand idly by and watch another person close to her suffer when she might heal it. She had stood still for a lifetime. Surely it was time to move … to make choices, even stupid ones. Luna knew she had lost something important, but could not recall what it may have been.

I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel it all
I wanna feel the world
I wanna feel the world

Luna looked into Emma'drin’s grateful brown eyes and decided she didn't care what she had given up. The way he sobbed into her shoulder, thanking her as his connection to the Fade flared, and mended, made up for it she was certain. She would not hold him to the shaking vows of thanks and companionship; his promises to always stand by her side. Luna knew he meant it in that moment, but he was newly free. It would be unjust to take them seriously. She only ran her fingers through his hair, whispering her understanding, and that all would be well.

*****

The woman possessed a connection to some unforeseen, ancient, and powerful force. This ... this was what the Evanuris coveted. This was what Fen'Harel used to keep the others fighting amongst themselves as he evacuated the People in droves beneath their noses. This power was why Andruil had become obsessed with piercing the Void.

He watched in fascination; listened with a growing sense of wonder. Her aura gave no sense of hostility; only a deep rooted focus, and a fierce sense of purpose. She was unlike anything he had felt before. Just what WAS this woman? It was a question that had haunted his steps while watching over her deteriorating form. All his years of magical training did not prepare him for what came next.

He could not believe what his senses told him. She was making the Tranquil … whole; reweaving his connection to the Fade through herself. It was as the broken shell had claimed for years … she had healed him with the magic of her voice. Beneath the simple singing were layers, upon layers, of complexity. Creative forces, destructive forces, LIFE.

It was with horrified realization that he watched the woman go beyond the small hope that had kindled, in what should have been an empty puppet, some eighty years ago. Emma'drin her companion called himself … clinging to a name he should have long before discarded. Another anomaly in a string that followed her doggedly.

She cut away a portion of her own soul without hesitation, giving up some precious piece of herself in the remaking of something all wisdom said was beyond repair. He cried out for her to cease, only to be repulsed by some invisible force. His calls to stop her went unheeded. He watched as the tragedy of it vanished from her face and aura to be replaced by calm serenity. A memory had been torn from her very being … lost … and she would not even be aware of what was gone. It was done, and he mourned for her, as the realization of what she had just torn asunder faded from her mind forever.

Fen'harel would not be pleased with his next report … of that Felassan had no doubt.

Chapter Text

The vixen moved with surprising stealth, slinking between the ornate columns to coincide perfectly with the elvhen patrols. She measured her breathing, keeping her magic tightly coiled inside her, to avoid detection. Fellesan would be furious when he found out she had ventured out alone again. He could suck a wolf’s dick for all she cared.

Luna pulled her hand from the chest of the unfortunate guard as silently as possible. Despite her best efforts it squelched slightly and she grimaced as she smeared the blood on a nearby tree. She needed to be sure he was the last. Sniffing the air, and using her magic to scan the area, proved there were no more hostiles in the immediate vicinity and she relaxed, striding out into the magically lit square as she continued to flick the gristle from her hand. Glances of surprise greeted her but she was pleased by the lack of fear.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, I've come to free you,” she said with a bow and jangled the crystalline keys to their collars with a smirk. “I'd ask for silence, but we all know you have been rendered mute. So instead, I ask for patience. Follow quickly and you won't DIE. Cause a ruckus, or otherwise become a nuisance endangering us all, and I will not hesitate to execute you for the good of the whole. Any questions?” There was unanimous head shaking and she set to slowly setting them free from their shackles.

She tried to detach herself from the situation as she triggered the required spell. The young girl she knelt beside looked up at her with a heartbreaking glance and Luna bit her tongue. The boy beside her clung to the girl's hand. There was no telling if they were siblings and Luna dismissed her urge to hypothesize. First she needed to get the slaves out of this corral. Dirthamen was not known for his even temper and speed was of the essence.

Leading them out was far easier now that the guards were deceased. Her charges were skittish, but she only gave them enough of her attention to ensure there were no stragglers. They approached the barrier and she waved for them to stop. She reached into her pouch and glanced at the slip of paper for the second time that night and whispered the passkey. The opaque barrier turned translucent and she ushered them through quickly.

Every sound set her on edge and she was getting irritable. The children in the group were having trouble keeping up and she scooped up a child, setting the boy on her hip in a habitual gesture. The others followed suit quickly and at first she mentally applauded the sense these people had retained. Until she realized … this behavior was abnormal. She would have expected at least one of them to be causing a fuss at this point but they were strangely obedient. Her earlier threat could not explain the behavior alone … these people had already been broken. It angered her.

Of course things never went smoothly for Luna. Plans were an ephemeral concept meant to be destroyed by the slightest hiccup. She was beginning to think the universe held a personal grudge against her mental wellbeing. This one came in the form of a guard, returning from the water closet, and sounding the alarm while simultaneously casting a whip like tendril of power in her face.

Luna reached for it instinctually, absorbing the brunt of the attack, and gently set the child behind her. She cracked her knuckles at the elvhen man's disbelieving stare. Accelerating she threw him over the dozen slaves behind her and watched in grim satisfaction as he slammed into the barrier. She wasn't worried that his agonized cries rang out as he was cooked against its surface. Their cover had already been blown … that just meant she could cut loose.

The vixen set her aura free, encompassing her charges, and announcing her presence. She rushed forward; toward the small ‘loading dock.’ A small eluvian, used to bring the latest ‘stock’ into the Temple was now surrounded by a dozen guards. It was obscured by an archway covered in vines, likely to hide it from the slaves once they were brought through. Luna, had used it only a few hours before and it was still hard for her to pinpoint. They had masked it using the Fade, much like the necklace she still wore around her neck.

“One chance. RUN,” she growled, allowing her voice to drop, the rumble resonating through them. They ignored her warning of course, charging her with the spears used mostly to goad their prisoners into compliance. She caught the first blow one handed, wrenching it from the guard and slamming into him. The force was enough that he was launched into the next closest elvhen so hard that he was knocked unconscious.

“Go through the moment it opens,” she barked in command then eviscerated her target. She didn't wait for acknowledgement, skewering another guard, this one female, and leaving her pinned to a tree before turning toward her next victim. Several of the men turned and fled as she projected her confidence and murderous intent. Her eyes began to glow. She could taste their fear, smell it in the air around them, as she wreathed herself in electricity. Those that stubbornly remained were caught in the tremendous blast that emanated not only from her open hand, but from the sky, that roiled black with the storm that suddenly brewed above them.

Stalking over the charred remains, she approached the eluvian that now stood unobscured. The barriers had fallen before her onslaught as she simultaneously absorbed them to fuel herself. Double checking the mirror, she was relieved to see it still functioned, despite several bodies literally having melted against the frame. She reached into her shirt to pull out an ornate orb. Silver metal wove over the glowing surface. This one was only the size of a pool cue, but what it could do never ceased to amaze her. Another lecture from Fellasan would be incurred due to her having lifted it off one of their agents.

The eluvian flashed to life as she lifted it, keying the spell that wrested the gate toward another, safer path. Without it, the portal would have led them straight into the heart of Dirthamen's territory and toward further conflict. She had no intention of getting them all slaughtered.

“Now,” she cried, shoving the little boy through first. She stood back, giving the reluctant slaves no chance to disobey. Until she felt something slam into her from behind. That had not been magic … something STRUCK her. That's when the portal began to destabilize. Her vision wavered as she reached for her own skull, and she peered in shock at the amount of blood that came away. Snarling she picked up the SHIELD someone had thrown at her. She promptly threw it back at her attacker, knocking him from his feet and decapitating him. “Hurry!” There were only two slaves left so Luna dove through, knowing they were just behind her.

She rolled to her feet smoothly and turned to watch as the mirror stopped glowing. The horrified cries of the rebels that had met them echoed her own wretched thoughts. They had not all made it … one of the slaves behind her had been bisected, his remnants sliding free of the polished metal with a disgusting slurp. His glassy eyed stare, or perhaps her head wound, made her lose her stomach contents in the bushes. The heart torn cries of denial from his mate echoed in her mind and Luna shrugged off the offers of help with her injuries. Tears stung her eyes as she approached the new widow, freed from the effects of Dirthamen's magic, her first words of freedom ... heartbreaking cries of denial. She didn't know what to say, and simply stared into the eyes of the man she had failed.

*****

The newly arrived refugees appeared to be in shock. It was not uncommon given the conditions they were usually freed from but the two men observed as Luna was struck by one of the surviving women in fascination. Luna could easily have dodged the attack. No one would have faulted her for retaliating, or defending herself in some way, but she stood as though transfixed by the corpse of one she failed to rescue. It baffled him … the newly immortal woman had managed to save nearly twenty men, women, and children. Even with a dozen of his soldiers, they could have reasonably expected many more casualties.

“She feels the loss as though it were her own,” the taller of the two elvhen muttered.

“To what purpose,” Fellesan grumbled in response. “Her results are remarkable. She is a clear asset.”

“She treasures each and every life-”

Fellesan laughed without humor, interrupting him. “I have seen her rip someone in HALF with her bare hands, old wolf. Not unlike the unfortunate soul at her feet.”

Solas sighed at his friend’s calculating observation. “Only the deserving.”

“You would allow her to make that distinction?”

“I ALLOW nothing. She is free to do as she wishes, as are you.” Solas raised a brow at him, reluctantly turning away from the drama below. There were more pressing matters to attend to.

“Free to do as I wish? Then I wish to speak freely, and for YOU to do the same with HER.” Fellessan’s jovial tone irked him. “How long has she been in our company? Consciously? A year or more? She has asked after you. Well … not only Fen'Harel, but rather the shadow of a man she cannot fully recall …” He leaned against the banister casually. “You watched her for ages as she slept. You watch her still, but you do not approach. Why?”

“I have more to attend to than one woman's desire for an audience,” Solas griped as he pretended to be uninterested in the direction of this line of questioning. Fellesan grinned at him then and Solas turned away, marching off the balcony and into the war room. He leaned over the construct; shifting the illusions to reflect her latest victory.

“You are avoiding her. Like a small child with his first crush.”

“YOU are reaching for what is not there.” Solas shuffled the latest reports, ignoring the stare of his suspicious friend.

“Perhaps.” He did not appear to believe him. “She is unique.”

“She is ...” Solas pinched the bridge of his nose and indicated the ever evolving war table. “Have you heard back from Jaron's scouting party?”

“They reported back an hour ago.” The smile dropped from Fellesan's features. “They fared much worse than she. Gheron … will be missed.” He strode around the table, frowning, and indicated the ever shifting lines. “We are losing on all fronts, old wolf. There are simply not enough of us. Might I make a suggestion?”

“Has my disapproval ever stopped you before,” Solas asked, rolling his eyes.

“Unleash her. Do as she asks. We have several viable targets she could easily eliminate.”

Solas frowned, recalling the wash of red that had stained Luna's back, and the turmoil in her aura. “No. We proceed as planned. The risk-”

“So you DO care,” Fellesan smirked. “Others have taken notice of her. It was inevitable. Too long and you will miss your oppor-”

“She has shown no interest in ...” Solas hedged and ignored Fellesan's gloating.

“Clearly your interest in her is PURELY academic,” came the sarcastic reply. Solas refused to rise to his bait.

“I am cautious. Her abilities are foreign ... dangerous. What she did to herself when she awoke-”

“She goes regardless. With or without your approval. Why should she listen to a General that refuses to even meet with her? I am running out of viable excuses.”

“I will meet with her …” Fellesan looked happily surprised until Solas finished his statement. “... in time.” He fished out a particularly nasty report from the edges of Falon'din’s territory. “Assign this to her. Tell her I was impressed.”

“Tell her yourself,” Fellessan muttered, but sharply saluted his instructions. “As Fen'Harel commands.”

Solas made a face at the sarcastic use of his title. Fellesan was more upset than he had realized. He contemplated his advice and shook his head to clear it. Now was not the time for needless entanglement. The People needed him to focus if they were to succeed.

Besides which Fellesan was a hopeless romantic. Every few centuries the insufferable man would encourage him to seek out a dalliance ‘for his own good’ or some such nonsense. The woman was unquestionably attractive, her abilities fascinating, but Solas had no interest in Luna beyond that of a Commanding Officer. There was time to puzzle her out after the Evanuris were dealt with. Afterall … they were immortal.

*****

Luna had taken the first opportunity she could to bathe and heal. The look on the woman's face as she had slapped her was still burning behind her eyelids and the vixen had abandoned the notion of a nap. She leaned over her desk in concentration, fiddling with the latest iteration of a spell that held great meaning for her as the last tones of her song faded from the air.

There were advantages to having been trapped for a century with little to do. A silver lining to an otherwise tortuous experience. Luna had been given plenty of time to THINK. Much of that thinking had been about her situation, but more time had been spent thinking of her son.

She heaved a great sigh as she traced the final sigil, the weave stabilized, and she smiled at her handiwork. The orb she had ‘purloined’ now carried a specialized modification of her own design. A carved emerald was now firmly embedded within the structure … and keyed to her son's auric signature. Now she only needed to leave it somewhere she knew it would survive the rigors of time … and grave robbing … and probability. The probability of one boy in all the world coming into contact with an ancient artifact left specifically for him. She gritted her teeth at the thought of the odds.

They were separated by THOUSANDS of years. The violence in her life meant there were no guarantees she would actually survive into the Dragon Age. She hoped. She hoped that the timeline was following rules she could understand. She remembered being in Kirkwall. She remembered fighting slavers, and helping to put Alistair on the throne. She remembered Hadriana’s tortures … and Fenris. Though often she wished she didn't. Ergo … events WOULD unfold as she recalled ... many years into the future. All of it. No matter what she did.

She had debated warning Solas for months after she awoke. His subsequent dismissal of her presence had edged her toward silence … but the guilt of her knowledge was beginning to weigh on her. She had decided she would never allow these people to die because she simply hadn't acted. If he would only SPEAK with her.

The vixen sighed again and rubbed her temples to stave off a headache. The refugees would likely want nothing to do with her now. Not that she could blame them. No matter how she looked at it … she had fucked up. Luna was startled by the opening of her door and was relieved to see it was Emma'drin; not an assassin.

“You saved their lives,” he whispered as though reading her thoughts.

“Another day … another bloodbath …”

He stepped in fully, gently closing the door, and settled behind her. She wordlessly handed him her brush. Emma'drin wanted to say something, she could feel it, but he expertly removed the knots with his fingers and let her think. The smooth strokes of the boar bristles through her curls was comforting.

“Always so dour. Always carrying more than you will say.”

“I am not DOUR,” she hummed as he began plaiting her hair.

“Brooding, gloomy, morose ...” Luna side eyed him angrily. “I know … GROUCHY.”

“Ass.”

“You did your best,” Emma'drin said soothingly as he finished braiding her hair.

“It wasn't enough,” she sighed.

“Only in your eyes.” He moved from her hair to massaging her shoulders and she hissed as he found the knot at the base of her neck. Luna gave him a disbelieving grunt.

“Pretty sure that widow disagrees.” She gave a happy groan as his touch heated with magic and resolutely refused to absorb the power. “You literally have magic hands …” Emma'drin chuckled as she slumped forward, allowing him more access to her spine. He carefully worked her strained muscles and she was eternally grateful as the first of them finally released.

“You cannot be everywhere, Luna.”

“I can try,” she said stubbornly. She squeaked as he spun her around to face him. She tensed, likely undoing some of his work.

“If you did anymore you would kill yourself. You are not sleeping. You barely eat-”

“If I eat anymore, we'd run out of food in a few months. Going out there means I can hunt, which means less strain on our supplies.”

“Except you have no time to hunt while in the field of late” he said with a crooked smile. “You rush into danger to ensure more of the People are free. Always you give. Who gives to Luna I wonder?”

“Were you always this snippy?” she asked petulantly.

“You bring out the best in me,” he said with a grin that made her blush. She was saved from answering by an urgent knock on the door. A cursory scan revealed that it was Fellesan. Emma'drin withdrew and rose to leave immediately.

“You can stay you know. You're not my damn SERVANT.” Emma'drin only nodded and gave her a sad smile she could not interpret before opening the door and allowing them some privacy. Fellesan glared at his retreating back and she wondered if they would ever tell her why they despised one another. His lack of Tranquility didn't seem to endear him toward Fen'Harel's first officer.

He gave no preamble and got straight to business. Luna eyed the report Fellesan settled into her hands with a grimace. He looked, and felt, rather uncomfortable about delivering it.

“This is babysitting duty,” she growled. ” She threw the sheaves in Fellesan's face. How he calmly addressed her after that was beyond her. He had an endless supply of patience that only seemed to irritate her.

“Fen'Harel has asked me to relay his congratulations on your latest suc-”

“May the Dread Wolf take it up his ass.” He gaped at her before barking out a laugh.

“I shall relay your … disappointment.”

“You can relay that I am sick and tired of him dodging me. What must I do to prove I am NOT a spy!”

“NONE of us believe that you ARE.” He said it with such sincerity that it made her gape up at him in astonishment. If they didn't think she was a spy, why were they hampering her efforts?

“Then why-”

“You are not INVINCIBLE, young one,” he chided.

This again … they think I'm still a child!

“I never claimed to be!”

“Be that as it may. Today you went alone, without planning, without reinforcements. You stole a vital artifact from someone whose mission is now delayed. You were injured.”

“A fucking scratch. It's already gone … and I am never truly alone.” Fellesan frowned at her cryptic statement. She was of course referring to her connection to Loki who had conveniently vanished again. Not that she had any intention of explaining any of that.

“You were insubordinate. An army cannot function without order. Command. Rules.”

“Maybe if he were out there himself he would understand the need to break the rules every now and then!”

“And those rules may have kept the unfortunate man that followed you alive,” he snapped. It was a low blow and he regretted it as her face fell. Her guilt quickly heated into anger.

“Maybe if the GREAT  Fen'Harel had taken the threat seriously!”

“You do not believe such …” Fellesan sighed in disappointment. Luna could feel him lecturing her without a word and hung her head in shame as it began in earnest. “Fen'Harel is more than my General. He is my friend. He bears a responsibility few could. None I know would wish to. We do not have the resources to rescue everyone!”

“So we reduce it to numbers?!”

“He makes sacrifices for the greater-”

“Fen'Harel thinks he is the ONLY one fighting for your people to be free,” she snarled and stormed off. Fellesan knew better than to approach her when she was this angry. ‘Your People’ … she had illustrated the problem succinctly with her own words. He would give her time to cool off before reminding her of her departure in the next few days. It had all become so predictable in the last year.

Luna would do something rash. In doing so she would accomplish the impossible. She would demand a meeting with Fen'Harel. Nothing would change, and she would grow angry, precipitating the cycle anew. She didn't want to admit that she was getting tired. Acknowledging that would mean she would have to admit they had a point and that somehow felt like losing.

Maybe he doesn't want to meet me because I'm being such a pain in the ass. Ever think of that you arrogant bitch? Great … I'm insulting myself in my own thoughts now.

The elvhen all avoided her. Only Fellesan and Emma'drin seemed to brave her presence and she was disconcerted by how lonely it felt. Alone in a crowd was lonelier than actual solitude she found. She went to the training yard and beat a dummy into indiscernible bits until she could no longer ignore her hunger. Luna yawned, stretching, and wondering if she could put off eating for another day. Her stomach gave such a loud, embarrassing rumble, that she pressed down with her hand when she heard someone behind her chuckle.

“Still eating people out of house and home?” Luna smiled widely at the familiar voice.

“Issenril!” She ran up to the elvhen woman and gave her a bruising hug.

“Little one,” Issenril ran a hand over Luna’s bleach white hair and tucked a strand behind one ear. “Much has changed I see,” she breathed.

“Oh,” Luna bit her lip. She had not communicated with her in many years; not since she had left Mythal's service. “I'm sorry … I should have done a better job keeping in touch.”

“Using contractions again I see.”

“Weak mind, blah, blah, blah. That's me.” Luna snorted saying, “Well I am not exactly welcome at court any longer.”

“So I was informed …” Issenril clapped her on the back in a gesture of camaraderie and Luna felt her smile grow larger.

“I seem to have developed an insatiable appetite. Fellesan thinks it has something to do with … my immortality.” Her mentor's eyes widened at the casual declaration.

“I had thought … this was a progression of your … aging!” She tugged on a lock of Luna's hair absently.

Personally Luna had compared it with the Warden reputation from Origins. She had begun researching and experimenting with her abilities. Knowing her luck it wasn't a coincidence, but so far there seemed to be no other side effects to her longer lifespan.

“Oh, no. Trust me. Aging is MUCH uglier than this. Wrinkled skin, withering flesh, weakened bones. Joints that refuse to bend as they once did. Diminished senses … I should already be dead actually.”

“You make mortality sound like … being trapped in a walking corpse …” Issenril made a face of distaste. Luna had never seen her so open and thought it odd. Her old teacher gestured abruptly toward the mess hall. “I look forward to the tale. I have one of my own, though not so … happy as this news. I have yet to eat, and only just discharged my missive. Would you … care to join me?” The two friends chatted amiably as they left for a well earned meal. Issenril noted the eyes that followed them and stepped a pace away from her pupil. She did not intend to offend those that watched.

They found a secluded table in the shade of a large tree. Luna favored this particular spot as it reminded her of the Vhenadahl in Kirkwall. It took quite a bit longer for Luna to catch Issenril up on the last eighty some years than she thought it would. The elvhen woman nodded at the appropriate intervals though she made little comment. Luna ate double portions but noticed that the elvhen seemed to barely pick at her food. She reached out with her aura, asking for an invitation, and was surprised when she was gently rebuffed.

“What is it?”

“I do not wish to share this burden little one,” her mentor sighed, looking more haggard by the minute. “You have been through quite enough. I regret having thought to come to you with it ...”

“Don't give me that,” Luna said in real concern. “I get enough of that shit from the rebellion. You're my teacher. More importantly you're my FRIEND.”

“Yes, and as such, I am loathe to add to your troubles.” Luna pelted her with a vegetable much to the woman's disbelief. “Honestly. Still a little savage I see. How do they put up with you,” she asked with a strained chuckle.

“One day at a time. I am very persistent. You should hear Emma’drin’s complaints when I disappear for a week. You'd think I'd never been left alone to my own devices.”

Issenril raised a brow. “I would suggest … that perhaps he knows exactly what you are capable of without guidance. It gladdens me that you have people that care for you.”

“Ugh, not you too.” Luna swirled the mashed … actually she wasn't sure what it was. It tasted like days old wheat germ. “Oh, no, you're not getting out of this. Tell me what's wrong.” Issenril sighed, pushing away her meal, and Luna gaped as a single tear rolled down her teacher's cheek.

“My children … they've taken my CHILDREN,” she said forlornly and released a choked sob. Luna gripped her eating utensil hard enough that it bent in her grip. Her anger flared, her aura lashing out, and caused the tree beside them the to give a tremendous crack. It had split down the middle with her rage. All activity ceased. All eyes turned to her. She swallowed, preventing herself from shifting. A loss of all control would help no one.

Where,” she snarled.

*****

Luna didn't bother checking with Fellesan. She did have the presence of mind to write a note for Emma'drin to find, detailing where she had gone and why. They would all have noticed her outburst by now and so she took only her small pack. The quartermaster would be under strict orders not to provide her with anything. Issenril awaited her at the eluvian, looking nervous, and Luna couldn't blame her.

The image of Issenril's brood, beaten, or worse plagued her thoughts. Luna had witnessed the many atrocities committed by the Evanuris. There was nothing they could not do. No depravity was beyond an elite faction drunk on power.

She approached the eluvian easily enough though some looked askance at the elvhen woman that accompanied her. They had merely waved the report Fellesan had assigned her and were given free passage.

Issenril gestured toward the open portal with a grim nod. She reciprocated, and at the last moment, raised the modified orb to redirect tbe portal. Issenril ran through first. The shouts of alarm behind them silenced as she entered the swirling gate.

*****

Flynn, Merril, and Fenris had begun the long trek towards the nearest port weeks before. The clan had been reluctant to see him leave, but had understood his decision … mostly. From there they would visit Kirkwall. A chance for him to reconnect with his mother in some small way. Merrill had insisted it would do him good to see the city she had guarded with her life.

He found he liked their company and every night he would listen as they wove a picture of a woman he would never know. He had his memories of course, but they were the recollections of a child. The mother he had known. The woman … she was more than a parent. She had been fearless. How was he supposed to live up to that?

What they stumbled upon … it was an accident. Their route had been a fluke. Pure chance. Coincidence. His mother had always insisted there was no such thing. He believed her now.

They had taken shelter near a small cove and he had turned in earlier than usual. Something felt … off. He had tossed and turned, something seemed to be nagging at his senses. Something he had pushed away as indigestion or nerves. Finally after several hours he had risen … and followed the feeling. He felt each step keenly, like deja vu, or the echoes of a dream.

Fenris had roused Merrill and they followed him when he did not answer the elf's probing questions. He walked as if in a trance. The hike took nearly half an hour. There was a buzzing, growing louder as he approached, and he came to a stop in front of what appeared to be a sheer cliff.

“Something is … calling me,” he whispered with a frown.

“NOW you choose to speak,” Fenris complained.

“There is old magic here.” Merrill's voice was tinged with growing excitement. She turned toward Flynn curiously and he answered her unspoken question.

“I REMEMBER … ” Merrill stayed silent, vigilant, and curious. He reached for the cliff face and walked through with no resistance closely followed by his companions. The trio stared in awe at what awaited them on the other side; an ancient, crumbling ruin, of ancient Elvhenan.

Two wolves guarded a pedestal on a rising platform at the center. A curving feminine statue stood in the background, features worn away by the falling water. Sunlight shown over the centerpiece, through large cracks in the ceiling. Water had carved a path into the cavern some time ago, allowing a cascading waterfall to partially submerge the path. They approached cautiously and Fenris drew his sword. Ancient places tended to be guarded by more than statues.

There appeared to be nothing to confront them however and Flynn cautiously stepped into the knee-deep water. It was clear, cold, and he turned to offer Merrill a hand. The stones were slippery and she smiled at his kind offer. Hand in hand they ventured closer, Fenris watching for anything unexpected.

Suspended above the pedestal was a silver orb, and his heart raced as he recognized the similar patterning. Approaching closer his breath caught in his throat and he dropped Merrill's hand. The hum of magic sang in his blood … an auric signature thrummed around and through him, and the sphere settled gently into the depression that had been made for it. It was his own. He reached out toward the center of the emerald carved into a shape he easily recognized.

“The Triforce,” he chuckled in disbelief. “That's impossible ...” His trembling fingers touched the stone. This was a symbol from Earth. No one in Thedas would have created such a thing. No one here had known of his childhood obsession.

A pulse of power blasted outward and they all stumbled back as a barrier surrounded the platform. Then the music started.

Temple of Time

A ghostly figure materialized in front of the pedestal and he choked back his raging emotions. Fenris was not so careful as a stricken gasp escaped him. Merrill was whispering under her breath. It sounded like she was praying.

The woman was unmistakably his mother. She was leaning over the orb, fiddling with it. The room she was in was small, but richly appointed. He had seen similar surroundings before, but it was impossible.

Her brow furrowed and Flynn watched her fingers move in patterns he recognized; the weaving of a spell. He noted the differences in her appearance immediately. Her long, unruly hair was bleached fully white, her pointed ears covered in fur, a sharp canine visible as she bit her lip in concentration.

She was humming. His mother was humming the song that echoed all around them. She had made this … for him.

His mother wore silver armor, cut in an fashion that equally baffled him, and smiled in sudden elation. She turned and looked right at him, straightening her posture.

“Hello Flynn ...” She spoke common, though she had an odd accent.

He gasped in a shaking breath. It was her. He knew that voice. Every lullaby, every word of comfort, every angry lecture seemed to flash through him at once. Her next few sentences made his mind go blank.

“I don't know when … IF you will ever see this message. The chances are,” she sighed as though in great pain, “ … astronomical.” She chuckled and made a wide gesture. “The song. I chose it deliberately. Not only because of your obsession with Zelda.” Her eyes twinkled as she spoke. She returned to the orb and lifted a ghostly version of it, and walked out onto a balcony. The view was … unbelievable.

Crystal towers rose through the giant trees, and elvhen architecture opened onto an elaborate training yard. Hundreds of elves were gathered around a large eluvian and walking through it. She returned the orb to her work table. “The orb is yours. Keep it with you. No matter what you've heard … I survived. Unfortunately more than geography now separates us. I love you … and I will FIND you.” The music faded, and the vision with it, as she shut off the orb.

The trio stood quietly, as though transfixed. Flynn reached for the orb but it suddenly flashed again and his mother reappeared. The gruesome display was a horrifying contrast to her earlier heartfelt message and it made his blood run cold.

She was bound, her arms and legs held wide, to some sort of rack. His mother was SCREAMING. A sinister looking elf, in flowing black robes, also appeared by the orb. Lifting its ghostly twin he strode over to the ruin of his mother. She was being tortured … with lyrium. Fenris growled a curse in Tevene as the view of her wrecked face and limbs grew clearer.

Fenedhis lasa Dirthamen. Ar judala ma,” Luna weakly growled, and spit a globule of her own blood in the elf's face. Her words, though pained were in perfect elvhen. Merrill gasped and stared at the cruel, bare, face of the elf she named as Dirthamen. He casually wiped away the blood with a smile that made Flynn want to reach into the illusion to murder him. The elf ignored his mother completely, facing the orb, and gloating.

Ma itha mala Fen'harel. As is emma. Ma ema’laim ga.” His voice was beautiful, seductive, but it only made Flynn shake with fury. Merrill and Fenris looked just as murderous and all of them seethed as they watched. His joy at seeing his mother had been completely destroyed.

Dirthamen set the orb down and walked closer to his victim. The elf grinned, digging his fingers into an open wound as she struggled against the bindings that glowed red. He waved a hand and her blood mixed with the lyrium, coalescing into a recognizable pattern across her ravaged skin.

“NO!!” Fenris roared.

Verema ma'vallaslin. Sul'ema. Rahngirem.” His mother's eyes glowed; flashing in tandem with the vallaslin as it finished burning into her flesh. She stopped struggling, going limp, and the elf caressed her cheek. He turned back to the orb in triumph. Merrill froze, tracing a hand along her own blood writing, looking crestfallen. “Ar ema enasalin min. Mar josh Fen'harel,” he snarled and the imagery abruptly vanished.

Flynn grabbed the orb, clutching it to himself when nothing more appeared. Fen’harel … he knew that name. The wolf statues could not be a coincidence. The care they had been interred with was not the work of Dirthamen. He trusted his mother and he knew ... she had trusted the Dread Wolf. Flynn turned to the others. He was furious but he had something he had not had before entering the ruin. Hope.

“She's ALIVE,” Fenris whispered into the silence. Merrill nodded mutely, her thoughts a jumble.

“She WAS …” Flynn gripped the orb tighter. Merrill pulled them all into a tight embrace. He finally braved asking and she haltingly translated the elvhen for him. The words only raised more questions and he prayed for the first time since he had first lost his mother. He prayed to the Earthly Gods of his youth and later that night, in the Fade, she ANSWERED .

Chapter Text

Time - Hans Zimmer

Luna tried walking to pass the endless monotony of this new existence, if one could call it that, but her perspective was always fixed. Endless gray for as far as she could perceive. Neverending twilight on an empty canvas.

There was no hunger here. No need to sleep. No need to breathe. No NEED. There was only herself and time to kill. Seemingly endless time and oppressive stillness. Not even a whisper to cut the sameness of it all.

She could not manipulate her surroundings. There was simply nothing for her to shape or grasp. Her body seemed illusory. Luna spent a great deal of that time trying to control her panic as the gravity of her situation became clear. There was no power here, not even the echo of some long forgotten spell or wellspring of energy.

“Something in between …”

She could not recall why she was here. The last thing she remembered was the all consuming anger of Issenril's family being in danger. She had stepped through … then … nothing. She was here. Alone.

She examined herself and had been more baffled. Lines of scrolling Lyrium ran up her exposed fingers on one hand, wrapped her wrists, and disappeared beneath her black armor. Her other hand was covered by a wicked looking gauntlet. Further examination of herself proved she was fully geared in unfamiliar elvhen armor. None of it explained where or how she found herself here.

Had her modifications to the orb malfunctioned in some way? Luna had never felt so helpless. She no longer trusted her own mind. The gaps in her memories in Kirkwall … now this.

She was trapped. It was akin to being buried alive. How long had she been here? The only thing she had was a feeling. A lingering sadness she could not explain … that she had been betrayed. Broken hearted.

The image of Issenril and her family flashed over her waking eyes. She ground her jaw against the stabbing of her heart. Did she even really have one here? It did not beat in this place. There was little chance they would survive the creation of the Veil without her help, and even if they did their descendants were doomed to mortality.

Even while fighting with the rebellion she had always kept the future of Thedas at the forefront of her mind. If she were ever to see her son again, then the Veil needed to exist. She meant to change things. The duality of that desire ate at her. How was she ever going to see Flynn again if she was trapped? It was driving her mad.

She raged for a time, but that lost its appeal all too soon. This was worse than her time alone in the Fade. This was a living HELL. She could not leave. There was no silver strand to lead her to a body. This was not some mental prison. Luna was physically STUCK in this place.

Luna searched for a seam, a crack, or an imperfection. She meticulously examined her surroundings; scanning a centimeter at a time. There was no way to gauge her progress. Nothing to mark the passage of time. Still she persisted, there was nothing else for her to do.

Years. Countless years. There was no respite; only the ceaseless torment of a wakefulness without end. She delved into the recesses of her own memory to find any kind of reprieve. Flynn … and the cycle of hopelessness renewed.

Practice makes perfect they say. Luna reviewed every spell, every technique, every misbegotten lesson ever drilled into her.

Patience is a virtue they say. She searched for a reprieve from despair… but Luna ran out of songs. Then she ran out of poetry. Old stories were repeated until she hated them. She hated everything. She hated herself.

Eventually she simply stopped trying. She wasn’t sure how long she remained standing in place. Only that she never felt the need to rest. Minutes, days, months, years, centuries … millennia.  What use were these concepts here?

Giving up she lay on her back and waited … and waited … and waited. She had no more tears to shed, not that she could cry, and slowly went numb to it all. Luna could not DIE here. Nothing changed and she prayed for madness to claim her. Perhaps it had.

She stopped speaking … but she could not stop thinking. There was nowhere to hide from her own circling thoughts. Luna ran out of ideas … and then something happened.

It started as a small rumble and so she rose to her knees, eyes wide as she searched for the source. She did not dare to hope. It would not be the first time she had hallucinated.

The rumble became a quake and Luna rose to her feet. Her heart raced and she honed in on it … it was beating again! Luna almost fell as everything shook. There! A crack!

The gray shattered with the force of a hundred bombs and Luna found herself sprawled on a green rocky surface. The air rippled with mana and she drew it in with a relieved sigh. However it was the swirling maw above her that told her where she was. This was the Fade; Thedas’ Fade. She didn't trust her own senses. It took a moment for her to react.

The Breach! At least … I think. Yes, it must be. That’s what it’s called.

She could feel its terrible pull even from this distance. Luckily she was nowhere near it, though technically she could still be drawn there. Up and down didn’t work the same way in this fractured world. Everything was a reflection or distortion. She fought to keep a grip on her sense of gravity, thoughts were dangerous here.

She held her breath … breath? Luna was breathing! Every muscle also ached and it took her some time to recover. She felt woozy and lightheaded … so very tired. Righting herself; she looked around and glimpsed a nearby rift.

RIFT. A way out.

Luna stumbled towards it blindly. She had to reach it. Freedom at last! Spirits fled in all directions, but the jagged portal pulled several into it as she watched. It was chaos on this side of the Veil and she too was sluggish to save them. The spirits screamed as they were twisted and shredded against their will.

Poor bastards.

The sound of combat reverberated through the tear; warping and echoing strangely. Thedas was within her grasp once again. She wanted; she NEEDED to be free. The world beckoned her and she answered that call with a vengeance, tearing over everything and anything in her path. There was fighting just on the other side. She could hear PEOPLE.

Her mind ran in circles; listing everything she missed. Laughter. Pain. How she missed even pain. Family. Flynn. Her son. The one thing she held onto in her years of captivity. Flynn was out there, just on the other side. All she needed to do was reach it. Luna cursed her limbs as they struggled to remember how to function properly. She fell, stood again, fell again.

Work damn you!

It was so close. Only a few more steps and …

*Quickly! Before more come through!*

The rift slammed shut with a deafening snap.

“NOoOoo!”

******

*My name is Solas if there are to be introductions. I am pleased to see you still live.*

Solas’ was the only voice she heard now that the rift was sealed. It made sense the Dread Wolf would leave a lasting impression on this realm despite the Veil interfering. If she concentrated she could make out others through the artificial barrier but it was difficult. Had he sensed her and aimed to keep her trapped? Was he that CRUEL? She had assumed he would trust her.

There was still time. Luna scanned her surroundings desperately as she catalogued everything. The terrain was recognizable. This was a reflection of the path leading to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Luna sprinted with all her might. She knew where the next rift would be and must reach it before them.

It was found easily enough, but she was disheartened to find it teeming with demons. One or two of them she might handle alone, but she was still terribly weak from her ordeal. She gasped with the effort to remain standing.

Even if she were to try absorbing them it would leave her vulnerable to the others. There was also no guarantee the ability functioned as it once had. Luna had no choice, she must wait or find a way around. Exploring would take too long.

The mountains here were more immutable than in Elvhenan; reflecting a more solid reality. She was also here physically. If she chose to mold it she might actually change location, and finding another rift would be time consuming. Luna knelt behind a boulder. She had been forced to learn a measure of patience.

*Another Rift!*

*We must seal it! Quickly!*

Solas sounded so desperate she almost believed it. Was it an act, or had things really gone so far off track that he was rattled? No Evanuris could be trusted, they all had minds of twisting gears ... but he had renounced that title. Leliana probably got along with him famously.

Demons poured through the fissure, not in waves as the games, but as a rioting mob. She could hear the Herald’s party struggling to defeat them and strode into action. Conjuring her twin energy blades she deftly murdered a fear demon with a growl. She cleared the ridge, taking two despair demons down as she landed in a roll.

This was taking too long. She edged closer to the rift; grateful only lesser demons appeared to remain. It seemed to work as a siphon, pulling her closer as she gutted another. She could hear the others gaining ground when she was hit in the back. Luna instinctively absorbed the demon who’d attacked her. Grateful the ability had worked, and feeling rejuvenated, she struggled towards the opening.

*Hurry, use the mark!*

“No! Please wait!”  It was no use, the power of the sealing tear rippled outward, scattering the denizens that had once crowded it. Luna struck the nearby fortification in frustration. “Let me OUT YOU SON OF A BITCH!!!!!”

She was exhausted and dispelled her weapons. There was no way she could run again but she would not give up. Luna missed the world. She missed the wind in her hair, the smell of woodsmoke, and the taste of food. Most importantly, Luna missed the company of others. She craved it.

Her feet knew where to go. Taking the time to heal herself Luna shivered as her muscles relaxed and the ache in her spine lessened. Her pace was steady, and she was widely ignored by any remaining spirits. They had forgotten her.

She was in no condition to take the mountain path but she wouldn't give in. There was another rift she recalled on the direct route. Luna grasped desperately for her memories of a game that had become hazy and unreal.

Disintegration- Eric Serra

It was eerily quiet as she made her way to the demolished temple. The damage was unspeakable even from this distance. It appeared the Fade had taken a larger toll than in waking Thedas.

Sure enough she found another rift, this one was too well guarded. Terror demons and a revenant. She skirted the perimeter, hiding her presence by willing herself unseen. The Fade was very responsive to her suggestions. There was a moment of hesitation when she heard Commander Cullen shouting orders.

He can handle it. If I don't hurry I’ll miss the last rift in the area. Soo … tired.

People were burning. Spirits … were BURNING all around her. They did not see her, they did not care except to play out the tragedy that had pressed itself there. Trapped. Lyrium, RED LYRIUM, was growing here as well, and it FELT WRONG. She had managed never to run into the stuff until now, and it was nauseating. Black, corrosive energy leached all about the Temple ruins. Luna ignored it all in favor of taking the shortcut down into the crater. She could not help them.

She inwardly cursed when she spied the Pride Demon and ducked behind a crumbling wall. How had she forgotten about that obstacle? It started laughing; its deep rumble sending a chill up her spine. At first she was afraid it had spotted her, but it appeared to be watching whatever was transpiring on the other side. Several lesser demons stood just out of its range, shifting nervously as the beast paced.

*Now is the hour of our victory. Bring forth the sacrifice ...

... Keep the sacrifice still.*

Pride was SPEAKING. Luna watched in equal parts fascination and horror. The DEMONS were reenacting this? It was eerie. Moments she had seen a hundred times before play acted for an invisible audience.

*...opening it will likely attract attention from the other side.*

*That means demons. Stand ready!*

The rift sputtered to life and the demon vanished, drawn into the waking. Luna broke cover, charging at the portal and ignoring the spirits that attempted to hinder her. She would not fail this time. The desperate woman dove through the pulsating tear with an agonized yell.

Luna materialized much in the way pride had; a flash from the Fade and she was there. Demons followed closely in her wake. She threw up a barrier just as several arrows flew at her. Typical. Turning to Pride she called out in Common.

“Go back to the Fade, Pride. There has been enough death today.” Her voice croaked with disuse and she fought the cough that rose in her throat.

Pride trained its gaze on her, giving the beleaguered heroes a chance to regroup. She ignored the forces still trying to hit her, their arrows would take time to batter down the shield. There was just enough power; pouring from the breach.

“Your time is over. I shall never return.”

Luna sighed. “So be it.” She wondered what the Inquisition forces were thinking. Her armor and speech would hopefully discourage them from attacking her again. Pride laughed, cracking his energy whip at her.

Luna raised an arm, grasping the electric whip with a grimace. Electricity licked at her skin and Pride grunted as she swiftly drained his power to fuel herself. “Last chance spirit. Flee and I will let you live.” She noted the arrows were no longer targeting her but the smaller demons. The others attacked it again taking advantage of her distraction but the demon charged her with a roar.

“Look out,” someone cried out.

Luna Accelerated out of the way at the last possible moment. The demon searched for her in confusion but Luna was already behind it. Casting Draconic Might she clumsily climbed her way up its back. It roared in pain and anger as it was hounded from all directions.

She winced as Pride backhanded the Herald, sending him flying. Luna wrapped her legs about its neck and grasped a horn to steady herself. Barely hanging on with one hand, Luna peeled a gauntlet off with her teeth and drove her hand into the Spirit to grasp its spine. Pride roared in pain and disbelief.

“You should have run,” she lamented.

Its shell blackened, radiating from the wound as she devoured the energy from its physical body. It slumped to one knee with a crash; growling but unable to move. Luna held on and snarled as it weakly tried to dislodge her parasitic touch.

Sulahn-

Ir abelas, solas ,” she said with great sorrow.

Its body began to crumble into motes of black dust; forcing Luna to roll to safety. She could barely stand, the only thing keeping her upright was the adrenaline and magic. Luna stared at its disintegrating form with a heavy heart. Pride was not evil, not unless twisted out of all proportion. She took comfort in the fact she had given it a chance to flee.

Luna was ignored in favor of closing the Rift and she noticed the flow of mana was suddenly diminished. The Herald, a Dalish elf by the look of him, collapsed as he was thrown by the shockwave. Her vision blurred but she fought to stay awake. Luna didn't want to miss anything, just in case this wasn’t real. Something to cling to in the endless torment and loneliness should it return. Her back was still turned away from them but she had not been attacked further. She forgot they were even there.

The Breach was no longer expanding. The power it yielded was so much lesser than in Elvhenan. It ached, like searching for a piece of herself just out of reach. Her barrier faltered and she felt a wave of dizziness. She needed to use lesser abilities here or risk being weakened it seemed. Regenerating naturally took more time but she could still feel her connection to the Fade. She was tethered firmly to it despite the Veil. A consequence of how she had been remade. Luna would need to absorb energy the old fashioned way or wait. She was tired of waiting.

Luna stood unmoving, staring at the Breach, counting her breaths. So strange, breathing. In then out. In and out. She held it when she noticed it. How had that insistent rhythm never bothered her before? So many things needed to function in tandem to keep one alive. She felt … confined, in her own skin.

She could feel Solas fiddling with the mark as he tended the fallen elven Herald and she side eyed him to see if he recognized her. Luna could FEEL the ancient elf … and there was something about his aura that nagged at her memory. She instinctively reached for the familiar thrum of an elvhen aura when he suddenly slammed his shut. He was filled with so much regret and self loathing. Both her rude intrusion and his reaction gave her pause. Luna sighed. This new world … It was like being assaulted by too much physicality while losing another sense completely.

She had never seen The Dread Wolf in person. Though she had managed a few glimpses from a distance. Perhaps he had never even cared about her existence. She had been with the rebellion for only a few years after all. Fen’harel had always been an enigma, distant, and called to a higher purpose than his foot soldiers. Those of low rank had no need to see the General up close.

His current clothing certainly was not flattering. The projected demeanor of lowly elf was convincing … though with hindsight she could see the cracks. It was smart. Few people appreciate what a simple haircut and change in wardrobe could accomplish. People liked to think they were observant. The truth was that most made assumptions within a few seconds of meeting you. Vivienne and Dorian were outclassed; too blinded by outward packaging.

Cassandra’s clipped accent demanded to know who she was. It was clear she was frustrated. They had been yelling at her for some time. Then again, Cassandra had always been frustrated from what she recalled. Their words were hollow things; nothing lent in their utterance to convey meaning. Empty sound in a world of shattered dreams. Luna knelt to lift a handful of dirt/ash in her bare hands, crumbling it betwixt her fingers. The texture was odd, different … Different was good.

The Seeker’s aura was locked away like the Templars she recalled. Luna looked at her clawed fingers, lost in thought, before rising again. They were asking her what she was … threatening her. Things were so … quick here. She knew she should say something. It had already grown awkwardly quiet as she struggled to recall the niceties. It was so hard to think, as if the rift had tangled something inside her, or maybe she had already been like this.

“Easy Seeker. Let us catch our breath before you start stabbing books. Am I the only one that saw what they did to that demon?” Luna stiffened as Varric's voice sent her emotions into turmoil. It was her first discernable reaction to them and caused more tension. Solas glanced her way as she tried to rein her aura in. She hadn’t anticipated that.

Cullen and his men approached, battle worn, but unscathed. He was older than she remembered. Fine wrinkles that hadn’t been there before … he had lost weight. He glanced at the others, nervous about her blatant scrutiny. She had forgotten how greedily time snatched away a mortal’s essence. She had been surrounded by the ageless elves for so long. Loki had stolen such considerations from her. A gift … so he had claimed.

Ignoring the intake of breath, and the growing circle of sharp steel aimed her way, she lifted her hands to her elaborate helm. Luna dropped it to the charred ground beside her with a careless thump. It was strange to be relieved of its weight. Still her head felt too heavy in this realm. Her white hair tumbled out, the long, woven strands reaching far past her waist. Cullen lowered his sword, brows furrowed, as he took in her appearance. His jaw dropped in shock as he paled.

“You … that’s IMPOSSIBLE.” He appeared stricken, his emotions written clearly on his features. A lifetime among the guarded elves made him easy enough to read despite his Templar aura and her now limited power. Templars … those would have to go. This sickened world ... it was wrong. It didn’t matter, she had no interest in their petty politics.

Better to … to what? Start over? No that is a terrible idea.

“Commander Cullen. I see you found Haven,” she sighed, her voice rasping with disuse. She fanned her aura out as she spoke, a centuries old habit, and frowned when she saw no response in him. Of course there wasn’t. How silly of her. How had she lived like this? Disconnected, broken … empty.

The Common felt clumsy on her tongue, her accent still as pronounced, but different. It was flavored with the elvhen she had used for so long. This only caused more confused whispering as the Seeker called for steady hands while they questioned her. Luna slowly turned to face the others while maintaining Solas in her sightline. One could not be too careful. She did not truly know him and he was dangerous.

He is a good man.

He is a fanatic.

He will doom us all.

He will save the world.

Which is it? Both? All? That makes no sense. Does it? No … shit. I AM fucking crazy. No, that can’t be right. If your crazy … can you know you're crazy?

“Hello Varric,” she whispered. Varric was easier to deal with. He was her friend. Luna had never seen that particular brand of shock on the dwarf’s face before. She would treasure it forever. “I remember you.”

Luna was no longer the same person that had fought by his side those many years ago. So much longer for her. Millennia. Would he accept her as she was now? Would she even want him to? Her time in Elvhenan gave her new eyes. The dwarves were cut off from the power of his ancestors. An army of broken dolls; slowly winding down. There had been no dwarves … no humans, no Kossith ... only the elvhen. Until they were created for expediency.

“Shit.” Varric shut his eyes; shaking his head.

“Dwarf. Surfacer … Hanged Man … Hawke. Orzammar failing. Species extinct soon.” Varric frowned and she realized she had spoken aloud. She should feel something, was feeling something, but she could not define it.

Was this pain? Perhaps guilt or confusion mingled with the joy of finally being free? It was all so new, yet so eerily familiar, so strange to feel anything at all.

Was this how Emma'drin had felt when I freed him ?

Luna swayed on her feet with a tired groan. She began peeling more of her armor off, discarding the blasted slag, twisted, and intricate metal into the crater around her. Everything was so HEAVY.

I will not pass out.  I will not pass out. I will not pass out. I will NOT … I won’t.

“*Timey whimey, whibbly, wobbly,” she said with a hysterical chuckle as she threw the last of the elvhen metal to land in a puff of ash. “Trapped for so long . Weighs too much here.” Varric did not notice the nuance she tried to express with her words; her amusement, exasperation, disbelief, and exhaustion. Solas was watching her far too closely. He looked … calculating, and wistful. Why did he look at her like that? “Fadewalker gets it,” she muttered.

The mortals did not have the capability to understand her. Her tone of voice had been all wrong. The dwarf only continued to stare at her. How had Solas learned to cope in only a year? Luna felt dejected. “Dur’genlen. I am alive. Kirkwall did not end me.” He didn’t believe her, she could almost see the many other scenarios he fashioned. Varric stared at her as if she might turn on him at a moment’s notice. He was right to do so.

“You know this woman Varric,” a smooth Orlesian voice asked from behind her. Luna knew her at once. That did it finally and Varric nodded grimly.

“Seeker. Nightingale. Despite the new look … this appears to be Lady Luna Söng. Ambassador of Ferelden. The biggest pain in the ass I ever crossed paths with apart from Hawke … my friend.” He looked at Luna with pity in his eyes. “You probably know her as the ‘Beyonder.’”

Cassandra’s eyes widened as she looked her over again. She grabbed Varric by the collar violently. “You little liar! You told me she was dead!”

“I told you what I knew! Ask Curly, he was there!” The dwarf angrily extricated himself from her clutches.

“I do seem to have died more than would be considered natural … three times … or is it four now?” The mortals all stared. Luna took a steadying breath and looked back at the Commander who was still gaping at her. She was only dressed in her Elvhen mail and boots now. The lyrium in her skin was … uncomfortable. She could feel each line with every beat of her heart.

She quickly divested herself of those as well leaving her barefoot and clad in soft, shimmering, silver cotton. They looked at her like she were an apparition or Demon but she didn’t care. She would relearn what she had forgotten. All that mattered was that she was here.

“My safeword is *Soylent.” She held out both hands to him in a gesture of trust and surrender. Cullen approached slowly … carefully. “Do you think these little rings can STOP me toy soldier,” Luna questioned while she was cautiously taken prisoner. The Lyrium shackles singing a broken song against her skin. It hummed against her markings.

The immortal woman offered no resistance. She reached to calm it and the pulse of the Lyrium steadied to match her. Luna played with the ashy dirt with her toes, reveling in the textures against her skin.

“Are you really Luna,” Varric asked. He had steadily gotten closer to inspect her and was almost close enough to touch.

There’s something I should do to make him feel better about this. Right?

Luna lifted the corners of her lips in the parody of a smile. “Old friend. We ran together to free slaves. Drank in darkened, smoke filled, corners with bloodstained cards. Toppled a monarchy with the written word. Do you now come to offer aid …” Varric only looked more disturbed. What had she done wrong? The smile faded from her face. Cullen led her away personally, though not gruffly, Varric beside him. He was suspicious and ... suffering. There was a reason for that … what was wrong with him again?

Oh ... Yes. Now I remember.

The ex-Templar caught her staring and she tilted her head before charging, then clinging, to him. Cullen was startled but ordered everyone to remain calm. As she looked into his honey colored eyes she remembered to blink and whispered for his ears alone.

“Lyrium. One. More. Drop. The call is stronger, but you stopped listening.” The Commander clenched his jaw, tugging at her chain a little harder than necessary, so that she fell away from him. She nodded saying louder, “Good. It sings a bad chord.” She giggled as she followed him. Walking was interesting.

“She rambles like Sandal now,” Varric muttered.

Cullen shook his head sadly. “You mean she sounds completely mad.”

“Keep an eye on her Curly. You didn’t see what she did to that Pride demon.” The dwarf adjusted his hold on Bianca as he eyed her uncomfortably. “She’s nuttier than an Orlesian fruitcake.” Varric looked at her in growing concern.

“I hear you whispering my memory,” she singsonged. They glanced at her nervously. Apparently they hadn’t meant for her to hear that.

They were passing Solas as the Herald was being loaded onto a makeshift stretcher when she stopped. The elvhen Mage appeared haggard but deemed his patient stable. Cullen was yanked backward and he was about to yell at her when he registered her expression. Her face was a mask of pain and confusion.

The Red Lyrium they had neared was screaming in her mind. It felt like her skull was in a vice and she fought to urge to throw up as nauseating tendrils suddenly sought her. Too close. She was too close!

Luna closed her eyes against the sight before her; willing it to go away. She clutched at her ears, heedless of her snapping bindings, and her bloodied wrists. She tried to drown out the deafening, tormented, call of the Blight.

Cullen was speaking to her but she did not hear him. Luna crouched low as she stared at their Herald; caught in the whirlwind of magic and her own deteriorating sanity. She started to shake as she clung to the image of the elven Herald that lay before her.

“I … I know his face.,” she gasped as she was caught between laughter and tears. Carefully tended by the Dread Wolf, who had turned to watch her warily, lay someone she knew. The Herald of Andraste, yes, but there was something else. His face was aged but it was familiar. “Seal the Breach. So many paths, why this one?”

“Leave her alone,” Varric growled as he defended her from angry soldiers. “Curly we have to destroy the Lyrium! Get her away from it ... You know what she was capable of. We need to keep her calm or there’s gonna be a whole lot more dead bodies up here.” Cullen, who had been staring at the remnants of her shackles ordered his men to smash the Crystals. It bought her the time for her flailing mind to grasp the edges of her sanity and pull.

“Breach … unafraid!” Luna forced herself to stand as she screamed at no one in particular. That caught everyone's attention instantly. “Into the darkness unafraid. We are ONE.” Luna pulled at her hair as the song poured through her.

 

Into the Darkness - The Phantoms

 

Everyone jumped as the sound of a drum shook the air. Her eyes began to glow as she swayed to the beat and the ruins echoed with her music. Cullen urged everyone to calm as he helped shield her against them. Varric was yelling that he had seen this before and that it wasn’t an attack. Conflicting commands rang out as the Seeker argued for her execution. They were stunned when the beat dropped and the voice she sang with was not her own. The Herald sat up, his eyes glowing with an inner light that matched, he joined the song.

Something’s coming
Something’s on its way
Mountains are crumbling
Like statues of clay -

Somethings on its way

Into the Darkness -

We are one
Into the Darkness -

We all must run
Into the Darkness -

We'll burn a light
Into the Darkness -

We all must fight, we all must fight

Varric scribbled the lyrics into a small book frantically, the wind whipping his hair and the parchment. Bianaca was forgotten at his side. The red light of the Lyrium dimmed as Luna drained every drop of power from them. Her markings glowed red. The Red Lyrium became lifeless, grey crystal, power swirled around herself and her companions. As it entered her the dingy red gave way to electric blue and Luna a being of deepening shadow. Void given form.

War is coming
War is crying out
The World is shaking
The sky is falling down -
The sky is falling down


Into the Darkness -

We are one
Into the Darkness -

We all must run
Into the Darkness -

We'll burn a light
Into the Darkness -

We all must fight, we all must fight

A pinprick of light within her exploded into the blinding brilliance of a sun that knocked everyone off their feet. The Herald falling limply back. Luna’s aura withdrew and the light receded leaving her kneeling on a bed of grass. She hummed the outro again feeling somewhat better than she had. Her mind was not so out of focus and her markings returned to their natural shade.

“So that is what it feels like,” Leliana said in awe. Every wound she had sustained had vanished and the ashen ground around them was covered in blooming wildflowers. None present were injured any longer, save the Herald who remained unconscious. Every corpse within sight had also vanished. No trace of the Red Lyrium crystals could been seen.

“She destroyed it all,” Varric whispered, wiping the smudge of ink on his face absently as he stowed away his notebook

Solas knelt in front of Luna and she felt Cullen settle something on her shoulders. She frowned up at the elven mage while speaking. “ Ir Abelas Hahren. Ar unelana din te'diana ma .” She brushed her aura against his, trying to convey how badly she needed his forgiveness. “ Ir Abelas. Ga del . Ir Abelas.

Shhh, da’len. Tel'dirtha. Ma nuem ma. Da'Mis sil ane emma ma. ,” he whispered in return using the same language. The feather light touch of his aura made her shudder. “ Ar den del. Tel Abelas. Luna sobbed in relief as the press of his aura returned hers, filling her with his own sorrow, as she nodded. She bit her lip to keep from speaking. Solas had asked her not to and he was the only thing that made any sense here. He was her General. It was her duty to obey him … or was it to betray him?

“What are you saying,” Cassandra asked, her eyes filled with suspicion. “Speak a language we can all understand.”

Solas lifted Luna in his arms, swaddled in the Commander’s cloak. No one seemed to notice how effortless it appeared for him. “She is apologizing Seeker. Ir Abelas . It means, ‘I am sorry.’ She repeats that she tried to prevent … this.” Luna snorted into his chest. Ever the wordsmith. He had not lied at all.

“You're damn right she did,” Varric said with a sudden growl as he reached up to poke the Seeker on her Chestplate. “Maker knows everyone tried to tell the Chantry she was a hero. I tried to tell you people. Luna threw herself into that rift to defend Kirkwall. She saved thousands of lives.” Luna winced as Solas’ grip on her quickly grew tighter with Varric's tirade. “She warned us, sacrificed herself, and what did you people do? You demonized her. Well. Here we are Seeker. Just as she predicted.” The dwarf pointed at the still marred sky. “She even painted us a literal picture. I know the Chantry put the pieces from the Gallows back together. Andraste's everloving tits … just look at her?!”

Cullen surprised them all by agreeing. “He’s right. She did predict this. A true Seer. She told me she would see me again … here. I did not believe ...” The ex-Templar seemed to carry a heavy weight as his shoulders slumped. “I failed her. She asked so little of me ... but I didn’t understand.” Luna felt Solas’ grip loosen around her. She witnessed the many questions flash across his features in seconds before his neutral mask obscured it. Luna did not miss his suspicious glance directed at her.

“Commander,” Leliana’s tone held a warning. “Perhaps this should be discussed somewhere more private.” Many of the gathered soldiers were kneeling around them. Some were praying to Andraste and others asking for forgiveness from the Maker. The Commander took control of the situation and began shouting orders. They did not need a break down in discipline.

Solas brushed the hair from Luna’s face as she sighed into his embrace. She was barely awake, but had not spoken since he had asked her to be silent. He glared at the markings of Dirthamen that marred her features. “You are real …” he whispered. His aura said volumes more, filled with loneliness, self recrimination, anger, but also hope. Whether he said it to confirm her existence for her, or reassure himself, she didn’t know. Luna closed her eyes; too exhausted to refute him. She did not think to question the last emotion he flooded her senses with … relief.