Monday 25 September 2017

Chapter Nineteen: Pride and Shame, A Dragon Age Fanfic

Chapter Nineteen


Step after step. Foot after foot. The Fade itself was considered to be infinite, at least as large as the known world. Getting around was not impossible though. She had been in the Fade before, of course. Every qualified mage had, during their Harrowing. She remembered hers vividly. Woken up in the early hours of morning, taken to the Harrowing Chamber under escort of four Templars, where Irving and Gregoir had been awaiting her. Being told she had to go into the Fade and come back, and that was all she needed to do to become a full-fledged mage of the Circle.

Waking up in the Fade, bare-handed, finding a talking mouse, and accompanying him as he led her around. He was a mage too, he said, or had been once, except that he had never been able to complete his Harrowing and hence had remained confined there. He had become a mouse to stay out of sight of the demons in the Fade, hiding away from them until she had arrived. Together they had faced some minor wisps and, then, even a rage demon. There had even been a sloth demon, but he had proved too lazy to fight. Neria had dispatched them all. Still, the Harrowing was not over, still she remained in the Fade.

“This is what they do,” the mouse had said. “They leave us here because they hate us, but you are special! You can get out of here on your own, and take me with you! You are the most powerful mage I ever saw!”

That was when she had realised that the wisps and the rage demon had never been the true test. It had been the mouse, all along, whispering in her ear, telling her how powerful she was, how brilliant – feeding her pride.

Neria lashed out against it, and the mouse quickly transformed into a Pride demon, but it did not attack her, no. It laughed.

“We shall meet again, you know,” it mocked, “and then you shall know I told no lie.”

Before she could respond, it was over. She had rejected Pride, and stood before Irving in the real world.


So she knew that to get out of the Fade, back to the real world, she would have to defeat Sloth, as she had defeated Pride in her Harrowing. Kill him – it, whatever it was - ideally, or in some other way, force it to end the spell that kept her in this world. She had a feeling it would come to a kill, though. Sometimes a girl just knew.

Other things, she had to remember from her lessons at the Tower. The Fade was divided by rifts, you could not actually walk from one end to another like you could on land. To navigate from one section of the Fade to another, a mage had to arrive at a point that magical theory termed as a ‘Fade Pedestal’. It would typically be a magical trigger allowing the walker to move to the next-nearest pedestal. Who had put the pedestals in the fade? The demons themselves? The fade spirits? Or Mages who had been there before? No one seemed to know. But exist they did.

She found herself walking through the distortion of Weisshaupt Fortress, looking for something, anything, that could take her away. After walking for what seemed like hours around the massive, storeyed castle, she saw the pedestal at last, in the middle of a training court. She tried to run towards it, and though her steps were slow, it was there, it was in front of her, and then she was in it, in the pedestal, light surrounding her, blinding her, fettering her and then releasing her.

She shook herself and got to her feet. Whatever section of the Fade this was, it was an astounding distortion. Doors hung in mid-air, the floor curved like an uneven meadow, there was even some water in the distance that was a strange yellow colour.

“Do I know you?”

She started. The last thing she had expected was a familiar voice. She saw him, nestled behind a mound and next to one of the floating foors – Niall, a mage who had finished his Harrowing a few years before her.

“Of course you know me! It’s Neria,” she said, walking towards him.

Niall had droopy black hair, a permanent frown and a drawn-out voice that resembled treacle being most unwillingly poured into a funnel.

“Oh, it’s you, is it?” he said sadly. “The Templar’s plaything.”

“I’ll have you know I slept with a lot of mages too,” said Neria, rather hurt. She had not been consciously discriminatory in her dalliances, but clearly resentments lingered in the Circle Tower.

“How did you end up here?”

“Same way you did, I suppose,” she said, with a shrug of her shoulders. “Tried to help the other mages, ended up captive of Sloth. Have you figured out where he is?”

“What’s the point? We’re all going to die,” said Niall, dejectedly.

“No we aren’t. I’m getting us out.”

“You can’t get us out. No one can. He’s powerful. He’s very powerful. He has other spirits guarding him too, powerful ones. This whole section of the fade is his domain, and he’s made it a labyrinth, a perfect labyrinth. We can’t even get around to most of it. I’ve tried.”

Neria pursed her lips. This sort of talk was leading nowhere.

“Why?” she asked.

“Some places we can only go through mouse-holes. But we aren’t mice, are we? We’re people. But if we were mice – which we aren’t – we could. But we aren’t, so…”

He was meandering, so she slapped him. While a stunned Niall remained looking after her, she walked away from him and towards a shimmering, floating door. It looked like a fade rift, and anything was better than hanging around chatting with the man who seemed to be the Fade’s resident pessimist.

She was now in another uneven-floored area, again with floating doors – and standing two feet from her was a rage demon, flinging random spells at nothing in particular.

Almost lazily, she cast Winter’s Grasp, freezing the creature of fire into place. A swing of her staff and it lay shattered at her feet.

There didn’t seem to be anything else in the whole area. She wandered around what seemed to be a floating island. That was when she heard the squeaking.

Neria might have been – indeed, she was – one of the most powerful mages her age in Thedas, but she was as frightfully scared of mice as any other woman. Instinct took over, and she looked around for a stool, chair, table or a man – anything she could jump on and get her feet off the ground. It took a few seconds for her to realise there wasn’t any. With a sigh, she unclenched her hands and began to look for the source of the squeaking. That mouse would burn! Shrivel to a cinder! Become a fried crisp mouse.

“Ahoy, you, girl! Don’t shoot!”

It took a few moments for Neria to recall her Harrowing, and realise that in the Fade, even a mouse was a spirit, and this one was the spirit of a mage. Back at the time of her Harrowing, it had been a pride demon. She had no idea what this one could be. Her staff remained in her hand.

“Ah shoot, it’s probably too late. I think that creature got me good.”

Neria approached slowly. The mouse was, indeed, lying on the ground near the remains of the rage demon she had dispatched a few moments before. She was no expert in rodent physiology, but it seemed rather the worse for wear, significantly charred, down to the skin.

“You were a mage? In the Circle Tower?” she asked.

“Mage, yes. Tower, no. Sloth got me a long time ago. Became a mouse to hide from him. Hid in the mouseholes. I don’t know how long. Years, I suppose.”

“This sounds very familiar. I am not falling for this again!” said Neria, who had knelt down to speak to the creature. She got back on her feet and raised her staff. The blue crackle of a lightning spell was already visible around the peacock-tail head of the staff. “Rise and fight, demon.”

“I’d change back and prove myself a dying man, if I could, but it will be the last thing I do. I’ve been a mouse so long, I might as well die as one.”

“If you did turn into a man, would I be able to learn how to become a mouse myself?” asked Neria.

“Would that help you?”

“I’m sure it would.”


Transformation. She had known a lot of people who wanted to transform. Elves who wanted to be human, humans who wanted to be Qunari, Dwarves who wanted to be…well Dwarves rather liked being themselves. Templars who wanted to be mages; mages who wished they were warriors, men who wished they were women, women who wished they were men – there had even been a girl in the Tower, sadly now long since tranquil – who had really desperately wanted to be a wolf, and tried blood magic to do it. But not Neria. She would not have chosen to be anything other than what she was, most of the time.

And yet, here she was – Neria Surana, one of the most beautiful (and proudly so) women in Ferelden, who had been the subject of so many jibes from her travelling companions for her dedication to always looking her best even in the most trying circumstances, peering closely at a dying mouse to learn how to become an ugly vermin.

Yes, transformation. Apparently, it was a thing.


She found that being a mouse was not difficult. She was a small girl, and being a mouse just meant being smaller. She could scamper through little mouse-holes, finding paths that others had not, going where demons could not follow her.

But running only got you so far, and the Fade was too interesting a place to encounter only as a rodent. There were little chests of raw lyrium mixed with other elements, the compounds having astounding effects on her, leaving her stronger, hungrier, increasing her energy reserves. She encountered many lesser demons in the fade, and approached them like an arithmetic problem to be solved, rather than creatures to be feared. From time to time she would run into Niall again, and the poor sod was on his knees, amazed by her, astounded by her progress.

She would have been familiar with the expression on his face had she paid more attention to the peasantry of Lothering whom she had saved. It was the look of a person who had given up all hope, realising that miracles could happen, and that she – she – was the miracle-maker.

She found a room with a burning ogre and exploded it into a thousand chunks, slimily dripping down walls.

She found a room full of crazed apprentices, boys and girls she had known, and watched as a mouse until they killed each other. She revealed herself to the last one standing, and dispatched him as he said her name.

She found a room where darkspawn chased Templars and tried to save them, but could not. The last Templar whispered to her as he died, telling her the secrets of the burning woman’s form. It was easy enough a spell, and with it, Neria found herself engulfed in flames, flames that swirled around her but affected her not at all – and why would they – was she not a creature of fire herself?

She had a sense this magic would not work outside the fade, but as long as she was there, she knew herself to be invincible.

She killed golems, shades, crazed Templars, ensorcelled mages and lost darkspawn, her powers waxing with every moment in the Fade. She faced the servants of Sloth and defeated them, one by one.

“You’ve got them all now,” said Niall. “I counted, yes. You’ve killed all his servants but Yavanna, Sloth’s most powerful Lieutenant.”

“Then I suppose I should find Yavanna,” she said, and stepped back into a Fade rift.


It took a while, but she finally found herself face to face with the Desire demon, Yavanna, magnificent, resplendent, more beautiful than anything she had seen outside of a mirror. Floating a few inches above the ground, her skin a light-purple, naked but for a few thin gold chains and rings piercing her skin, Yavanna was somehow distinct from the other desire demons she had seen.

“Catch me if you can,” laughed the creature, running away and disappearing into a wall, and Neria followed, crazed by lust, though whether it was for the demon or the anticipation of battle, she knew not.

From chamber to chamber Neria chased Yavanna, but the devil was too fast even for her, fire spells and cold spells, spirit spells and poison spells all dissipating into the walls moments after the demon had been there, mocking her.

Finally she tracked her down, through a mouse-hole, coming into a chamber with a marble-like floor inscribed with pentagrams, and transforming into her own self moments before a rage demon singed her mouse-body.

Yavanna looked on with an approving smile while Neria polished off the rage demon and stood panting before her.

“My my, you’re beautiful! Sloth doesn’t often send me such a creature.” Yavanna laughed, her voice clear and tinkling. She extended a long-fingered hand, caressing Neria’s cheek.

“You’re beautiful too,” said Neria, placing a finger on Yavanna’s cheek in turn, “I don’t often get to kill the likes of you.”

The demon’s skin was soft as silk, purple skin glowing white where Neria touched her. It sent sparks up the mage’s arm, an effect which Neria filed away for later study.

“I do like playing with my food, and you’re a feisty one,” said Yavanna. “Kill me? Really? I could destroy you with a single twist of my fingers.”

Neria felt fingers close around her neck, icy cold fingers, but the demon’s breath was still sweet and warm.

“You’d burn the moment you moved,” shrugged Neria, deftly closing the distance between herself and the demon, her staff now pressing into Yavanna’s back. She caught her breath as her body pressed against the demon’s and the icy cold of its body ran through hers. The cold skin of Yavanna’s ample breasts pressed against Neria’s body.

“You’re certainly resourceful,” admitted the demon, her fingers now leaving Neria’s neck and caressing her shoulders. Neria shivered.

“It seems we’ve got each other in a stalemate,” she ventured.

“I like this stalemate,” Yavanna grinned, showing pointy white teeth. “I could stay like this forever, if you’d let me.”

The demon was sliding down now, her hands stroking Neria’s stomach, her face buried in her neck. Neria flinched, expecting a bite. Instead, she felt a tongue pressing against her, cool and wet, sending a surge of heat up the Elf’s body.

“I have to get to Sloth,” Neria whimpered.

“There’s more than one way past me,” Yavanna replied. She was down on her knees now, arms clasped around Neria’s waist, smiling.

Neria saw the hunger in the demon’s eyes and felt it mirrored within herself. She clutched the creature’s shoulder and tried to push her away, but the demon had unfastened her robe. She tried to raise her staff and strike, but her hands fell to her side as Yavanna’s tongue slid inside her. She wanted to be something other than yet another victim of a desire demon, even if it was someone as powerful as Yavanna, but her mouth only formed the words, “Yes, oh Maker, yes!”


She did not know when she woke up. She had not expected to wake up at all, which was why she felt extremely strange when she found herself lying on the floor, naked under a blanket made of a strange fur.

“You were cold.”

She turned, to find Yavanna floating a few feet off the ground, a little above her head. Neria sat, cross-legged and looked up at her, blinking. Never had a desire demon looked so spectacular. Yavanna’s purple skin seemed to shine translucently, her horns seemed polished and smooth, her arched feet seemed to dance where she lay.

“Why am I alive?” she asked the first thing that came to mind.

“You’re alive because I have no desire to harm you,” Yavanna replied, levitating down to the floor, sitting cross-legged opposite Neria, lightly as feather.

“How long?” asked Neria, groggily, shaking her head. It seemed full of memories of what seemed like hours of love-making, of freezing and thawing, of burning and cooling, of leading and following, of being challenged and challenging in turn.

“There is no time in the Fade, my little Elf,” said Yavanna, smiling.

“What did we – did we really?” Neria asked, amazed at her own memories. “How did we even…? I don’t do that! You’re a woman!”

“You know we did, love,” said Yavanna, earnestly, leaning towards Neria. “You know we did. And I am no woman, I am more, and less than that.”

“Your kind does not love,” said Neria, “You have a need and I fulfilled it for you, perhaps. So I ask again, why am I alive?”

Yavanna sat back, a thoughtful look on her face.

“I have ravished – and ravaged - your kind for centuries of what you call time, but you’re different, aren’t you? I’ve never been answered as you did, I’ve never felt a body respond to me as yours, and I’ve never felt such heat, such life, as you gave me.”

Neria sank her gaze to the floor. She could still see the tips of Yavanna’s feet, ending in a hooved point.

“What now?” she asked simply.

“Stay with me,” the demon pleaded. “Stay, and we will carouse together for an eternity.”

“I must get to Sloth. I have friends in danger. I must defeat Sloth, and the other demons he has in his realm, however powerful they are.”

“None more than me,” scoffed Yavanna. “If I help you release your friends from the Fade, will you stay with me?”

“I cannot,” said Neria. “I have a duty. I have to end the Blight.”

“I will not let you go!” Yavanna rose to her feet.

“You will have to kill me, then,” said Neria, head bowed.

“Or else?”

Neria rose to her feet, head still bowed. She dragged her feet to the center of the largest pentagram. If there was a way out, it would be by activating it, she knew. She walked from edge to edge, looking for a key to the spell.

“It only activates if I will it,” she heard Yavanna’s voice behind her.

Neria turned and looked at her.

“Help me, then,” she said. “Help me, and let me go.”

“Stay a while, just a while! Your Archdemon won’t run away! You can end the Blight later. Just give me a little while more with you!”

“But then Leliana will die,” said Neria.

The desire demon floated up alongside Neria and gazed at her, eyes piercing into the depths of her soul.

“You care for this Leliana.” It was a statement, not a question.

“More than I can say.”


“She is good, she is beautiful, she is a creature of the light, and she is a friend. A friend who joined me for no other reason than to do good, not because she felt it was a duty, or because someone forced her to. Leliana is the best of us, the best of what mortal-kind has to offer – and she is dying.”

Yavanna turned around. Neria gazed longingly at the curved back, the delicate shoulder-bones, the smooth folds of skin and muscle. Suddenly the corners of the pentagram lit up, and Neria felt a surge of energy dragging her into it.

“Go then. Don’t regret me later,” came Yavanna’s voice, bitter and cold.

“Will I see you again?” she screamed as the desire demon’s form flashed before her eyes.

She did not hear an answer.


When Sloth asked her how she had killed his minions, she did not bother to correct him. If Sloth ruled this part of the Fade, he surely knew of Yavanna’s betrayal. If he had killed the lovely desire demon, Neria did not want to know about it.

She had found Alistair in a dream, in a dream of having a family who loved him. She had found Wynne in a nightmare, a nightmare of having failed to protect the children under her care. She had found herself aching for the touch of a demon who had shown her that desire did not have to be only a physical feeling.

Oh, and she had found Biscuit too, but he was only dreaming about legs of mutton, as far as she could tell.

And now here they all were – young mage, old mage, an almost-Templar and a warhound, looking upon a Sloth demon, the most powerful creature they had ever faced.

“The same way I’ll kill you, I suppose,” she said.

“Fool! I gave you everything you wanted! I gave you a dream to make you happy! And you reject my world!”

“You’ll never know what you gave me,” she smiled wistfully. “Alistair, SMITE!”

The demon reeled. Biscuit leaped at it, the longest, most astounding leap in mabari history and brought the demon to its knees. Neria blasted a fireball at its head.

She allowed herself a small smile as Sloth’s head burned.

“That’s done, then,” she said. “We should be out of the Fade, and…”

“Behind you!” she heard Wynne shout, just before she felt the force hitting her, sending her off her feet, spinning through the air. It was Sloth – not the one she had killed, not the rotting flesh, but an Ogre now, though she knew it was Sloth all the same.

She should have died, but Wynne was there, Wynne the miracle-worker, Wynne the healer beyond compare, and Wynne brought her back to the living, even as she watched Alistair flail at the ogre ineffectually.

“Stand back!” Neria called out, and both Biscuit and Alistair began to run, so she unleashed the Inferno, which the slow-moving ogre had no escape from. It screamed as it tried to run, but wherever it went, a stream of fire rained down upon it, melting its eye, scorching its body, pushing it to its knees, making it claw its own skin in a gruesome, desperate defiance, until it died, body twitching pathetically.

She sank to the ground, relieved. With all she had put into the spell, she had no energy left, physical or magical. It had been the most powerful spell she had ever unleashed; the one that had taken out the would-be bounty hunters of Lothering had been like a gentle admonishment before the fury of this.

And then she saw Sloth rise again, this time as a Shade.

Biscuit leaped again, with what reserves of courage and strength she did not know, but he was brushed away. Alistair ran, and the Shade sent a cold spell after him, slowing him down, dropping him to his feet. Neria fumbled in her belt, finding a vial of lyrium potion. Wynne was casting an arcane bolt at Sloth, but she knew before it hit that it would be ineffectual. The demon turned and advanced on Wynne. Neria took a draught of the potion, then another, finishing off the vial’s contents. She knew she was not fully recovered from the draining effect of her last spell, but she flung a fireball at Sloth anyway.

She was too late to save Wynne. Sloth’s claws had sunk into Wynne’s body, and she fell in a bleeding mess onto the floor. But Neria’s fireball had distracted Sloth from decapitating her.

“Alistair – save Wynne,” Neria shouted. “Biscuit, throat!”

Half-frozen and struggling to put a foot right, Alistair staggered towards where Wynne lay, his cold fingers pressing on a healing potion.

Biscuit responded to his mistress’ call, making a leap at Sloth, and this time, perhaps because the demon’s eyes were still on Neria, it didn’t see him coming. In an instant Sloth was on the floor, and Biscuit was tearing his neck out, gristle and bone snapping under the Hound’s teeth.

Alistair collapsed, three feet from where Wynne lay.

“Is it over?” he murmured.


But it was not, for the creature rose again, an Arcane Horror this time, standing tall over Biscuit, casting a freezing spell on the Hound. Alistair’s eyes watched as Neria ran towards Biscuit, but Sloth stamped the faithful dog into the ground. Neria was firing a barrage of spells now, giving it all she had, but Sloth was gliding, weaving, avoiding some, and shielding himself from the rest. Alistair saw Neria being flung twenty feet through the air as Sloth swung his powerful claws at her. She staggered to her feet and began to hit Sloth with spells again, weak one’s he knew, but Sloth was wavering now, astounded, perhaps, at her resilience.

But she was tiring now, he could tell. With his face crunched on the ground, Neria looked taller than she was, but Sloth towered over her. He heard Biscuit’s whimpers come to an end. He did not see what Sloth did to Neria, but he heard her screams, loud and pathetic, as Sloth’s arms went up and came down upon her. He saw his fellow Warden fall, her back broken, her body a mangled mass on the ground. He saw Sloth unleash a blizzard spell for no other reason than that he could – no one stood against him now.

The monster trudged to the centre of his domain as Alistair felt his last breaths come through. His pulse was slowing, the cold spell that had hit him earlier on top of the Blizzard now was taking out what little of life force he had left.

Sloth turned. He seemed to notice Alistair. For a moment the Warden thought he saw a hint of alarm in the demon’s eyes.

With an effort, Alistair pushed his hand against the ground and tried to raise himself.

That was when he saw Wynne. Limping, half-bent over, clutching her side, Wynne. Her eyes moist with tears of pain, her lined face looking even older than she was, but still alive, Wynne. Blood staining her robes, her staff supporting her frame, but standing all the same, Wynne.

Sloth was close. She hit him with a poison spell. Sloth was closer. She hit him with an arcane bolt. Sloth was on her, and she turned quicker than he would have thought possible, and she directed the spell at him, at Alistair.

He saw Wynne collapse before Sloth even hit her. That she had been able to stand was surprise enough. But her last spell – it had saved him, he knew. It was healing as he had never felt it before, it was like a wave of lightness all over his being, and though his wound still bled, he couldn’t feel the pain any more.

Sloth was looking at him. Sloth waited to see what he would do. Sloth made no move.

Alistair lunged, his sword flashing, gleaming in the reddish sky of the fade.

And Sloth caught his sword, turning the blade, pulling him, only he had expected that, and brought his shield full into the demons’ face. Sloth staggered, but did not let go its grip on the sword. Alistair brought his shield down again, once, twice, thrice, but the demon tore his sword from his grasp, wrenching it with a force greater than Alistair had yet felt.

Alistair winced as he felt the hilt scrape his fingers. Balling his hand into a fist, he struck out, his fingers ramming into the creature’s ribs.

With a roar, Sloth threw him, pushing against his shield, and though he staggered back, he kept his feet. Sloth strode towards him, but Alistair, weaponless, continued to step away. Sloth was slow now, slower than before. Something had hurt him, Neria’s spells, or Wynne’s, or maybe even the few blows he had struck himself.

But Alistair did not think it had been enough. He was hurt himself, hurt and bleeding, as the effects of the healing spell had begun to wear off. Sloth gained on him, by inches first, then feet. He thrust the shield at his enemy again, but there was no force in his blow, and Sloth pulled away the shield too.

That was when he saw her – a glint of purple from the corner of his eye, closing fast, right behind Sloth, lifting off the ground, with a smile and a moan, and sinking her teeth into Sloth’s neck, making him roar and turn, and then with a lazy flick of her wrist, unleashing waves of the Desire Demon’s most dangerous spell, the Cursed Dance, all on Sloth, first slowing him down, then stopping him and then leaving him paralysed.

She floated back, and picked up Alistair’s sword.

He shuddered; bracing himself for whatever horrors this demon was to visit on him. Though she had stopped Sloth, he had no illusions that she would stop short of killing him as well. Maybe this is how it was in the Fade. Demons taking advantage of weakness in other demons to become rulers of their little corners of it themselves.

He brought up his shield, preparing for the worst.

She held the sword out to him, hilt first.

With hesitating hands, he gripped it. She pointed at Sloth, still unable to move. Alistair stepped forward, dropped his shield and held the sword in both hands. The left side of Sloth’s neck was bleeding where the desire demon had bitten him.

He swung, and Sloth’s head flew into the air.

Panting, he threw down the sword. Smiling, she held out a healing potion towards him. He had dropped it himself, earlier. He drank it, and could breathe again. She leaned over Wynne, and pointed to her injuries. He bent over her and felt her pulse, it was strong as ever. He left her there, she would be conscious soon. The old mage was hardier than he could have imagined, but her fainting before Sloth struck her a fatal blow had saved her life nonetheless.

Biscuit’s injuries were severe, but the dog still breathed. A potion in his mouth and a poultice tied around his wounds set him right, or would eventually.

Keeping his eye on the desire demon, Alistair limped to where Neria’s mangled body lay. Her left knee was twisted, her back broken, and a gash had opened across the upper part of the taut stomach and those breasts she had been so proud of. The golden hair were matted in pools of black-red blood. Her cheeks had been scratched, and her nose – that beautiful nose – he looked away, he could not bear to look at her face. Only her eyes remained as they were – large, green, beautiful and now, vacant.

The Desire Demon bent over her too. Alistair was uncomfortable aware of its sharp-featured face; the resemblance to what Neria had looked like, while alive, was poignant.

“She wanted to know if she would see me again,” he heard the demon say.


“She. The mage. She wanted to know if she would see me again. Why was I late? Why did I not come sooner?” it was almost a wail.

Alistair looked at her in shock.

“You…you know her?” he asked.

“She is special – to me.”

“She was, to me as well,” said Alistair.

“Go now. The Fade pedestal is ready, it will take you back to your world. When you touch it, your hound and the old mage will join you.”

Alistair nodded.


Back in Kinght-Commander Gregoir’s office in the Circle Tower, he sat against a pillar, head buried in his knees, until Wynne came to, and sat beside him.

“What will you do now?” she asked, not un-gently.

“Carry on, I guess,” he said. “You can come and help us with Leliana.”

“First we have to get Uldred.”

“Can we?” asked Alistair. “Without her, I mean. Can we?”

“Do we have a choice but to try?” came Wynne’s response.

At the other end of the room, he heard Biscuit woof.

“What about the dog? Will he follow us with his Mistress dead?” wondered Wynne.

“He may not. Dog’s imprint on their humans. For all we know he will sit here disconsolate until he too wastes away. We will move her body, of course. When this is over. If it’s over.”

“When what’s over?”

They both jerked to life, the young man and the old woman, staring, shocked, no – stunned, at the one who had spoken.

Neria was looking down at them, a smile playing on those perfect lips, a twinkle on those green eyes, a naughty twitch on her sharp nose. Her cheeks glowed, her hair shone, her legs struck a pose, and her stomach and breasts were as alluring as ever in the poor excuse for a robe that she wore. She tossed her staff from one hand to the other. She oozed not just health, but power.

“Who are you?” he asked, at last. “I saw Neria dead. Who are you?”

“I am Neria,” she replied in a voice that was still hers, but more intense, somehow. “I am Neria, and I am a Mage of the Tower, and a Grey Warden of Ferelden. And I am Yavanna too, I am desire made alive in our world. I am the power of a desire demon contained in mortal vessel. I am what I always knew I would become.”

“Are you...possessed by her?” he asked.

She smiled, and it was Neria’s smile, warm and loving.

“She gave herself to me, she did not take me for herself. Whatever I have become, Alistair, I am more than what I was before, and that can only help us in this world.”

“And in the Fade?”

“In the Fade, I am me and she is she and we are bound, by lust, by desire and…by love. But there is no fear and no force.”

“So what now?” asked Wynne.

“Well, don’t just sit there. We have work to do.”

A/N: For game players – Play the Tower first, and your characters comes out relatively overpowered with all the stat bonuses in the Fade. But I thought random stat bonuses in the Fade make no sense. And even if they do, it felt like a better way to power-up Neria in this, rather unconventional manner.

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