Chapter 1 – 6 re-rewrite
Inspiration: Middle of Nowhere by Wyolake (a fantastic story, do yourself a favour and read it).
Info: will be novel length, and Harry won't just be following the Warden through the game plot. Canon may never be the same. No type of romantic relationship will feature majorly. There will be no explicit scenes but sex may be alluded to in dialogue.
Story warnings: coarse language, violence, crude humour, unreliable/mad narrator. This chapter is the weirdest in the story, so if you can handle this, you'll survive.
*It is a strange book, unlike any other in Thedas. The content is certainly abnormal, but there is a whole series out there, somewhere. No, this was the first, and because of that it is different. The book is the deepest black and made from an undeterminable material. Certainly, it is far too rigid and glossy to be leather or cloth, but it is of obvious quality. The unnaturally thin pages feel more like leaves as the reader gently thumbs through them. They pass incomprehensible notes, rough charts and graphs. Much of it cannot be read. The runes are unfamiliar, perhaps another language or code. Doubtlessly, those runes hide the more important research, but that isn't what the reader is looking for. The reader reaches the point where the foreign runes and tables abruptly stop and a steady stream of tightly-packed words takes over. In places it is rushed, erratic and hard to read. But they try anyway, for better or for worse.*
Day 14 – Afternoon, Dalish camp
Note: a couple long days behind me, no sign of anything but long days ahead.
I get that a lot. Well, every now and then.
It's a relief to write it down. Any longer with this contained in my head and I may have damaged something. It probably would've come down to fire, and that really isn't a good idea around this much foliage density.
Speaking of… fourteen(?) days ago may have done something colossally stupid. Actually, that I did something isn't under question, and that it was probably inadvisable goes without saying – it's whether I'm going to regret it that has yet to be determined.
Right, to begins. I haven't done that yet, have I? I can't recall.
This is a mess. Merlin, even I don't understand half of what I'm writing, which doesn't exactly surprise me. It's a bloody hurricane up here.
It's just my luck that I ended up some place without basic headache cures.
I should explain, regardless of whether or not I already have. One can never have too many explanations. It may help me to give my thoughts some semblance of order.
I woke up with a killer hangover, so I was hardly astounded to find myself horizontal and contorted into a supremely uncomfortable position. But I was still wearing pants, so the situation was, by default, not the worst that has ever come my way.
What caught my attention was the smell of fresh air. I hadn't dealt with pleasant air in, well, it'd have to be about a century. The breeze was indeed very lovely, but more pressingly, there was a subtle undercurrent of power that was almost wilful in its own right. I didn't recognise it at first; it was niggling just at the edge of my senses, but undeniably there.
Earth was grey and beautiful and to me it was empty. This place felt different; something inside me woke from a deep sleep, uncoiled and relaxed in the presence of that power, and I felt good in a way I'd never been able to truly appreciate.
Which brings me nicely to the point I was trying to make. I had a killer hangover, and how refreshing that was! Some huge weight that had accumulated over the years was gone. My attempt at standing was unsuccessful, but the carpet of leaves gave a cushioned landing. If there were also sticks and rocks jabbing uncomfortably into my chest, well… that's superfluous.
To be clear: don't know where I am, don't know how I got here. Not all that concerned.
My memory of the days before my arrival is blurred. I was adding to my research notes on the Veil. I remembered opening the whisky, I can see where my notes start to get wobbly, and then… oh dear, I didn't, did I? I'd entertain such thoughts numerous times, sure…
Oh hell, it appears I may have gone through the Veil of Death.
That question of where just got significantly more vast. Like, from which forest to which dimension to which time period.
Well, at the very least that is one hypothesis confirmed: Veil of Death is a bit of a misnomer. Probably. Maybe for the average mortal it'd fulfil its title… but perhaps… could Sirius have come through here also, I–
I really must stop getting of track.
So I lay on the ground, scrabbling in the leaf litter, and a giant bowtruckle stomped on me. It bloody hurt. It deserved the paralysis spell I cast on it. I was still unaccustomed to the energy dancing readily at my fingertips; I may have over done it slightly, but, well, trees aren't meant to move anyway.
The shadows descended from the treetops and night fell in the forest after a few hours. It was tedious to stumble along as a human, but my animagus form had much less trouble. Immediately upon changing, things got simpler, smoother in my head, and I raced through the trees, revelling in stretching my legs as a stag after so long.
I didn't see any people. There was nothing to bother me, not even the wolves patrolling the area. They seemed curious but they didn't close in. There were also angry rodents and large white deer with pairs of intertwined antlers. They were quite beautiful to behold, I admit I was a little jealous. My presence seemed to make them uneasy – a mark for their intelligence.
About a week was spent this way, running, eating occasionally, exploring the vast forest. I'm not entirely sure, I lost myself a little in the strange sensation of the area; in some places it almost feels like the Veil back home. At one point I imagined I could still hear the whispering voices, but when I concentrated there was nothing.
I met the Elder Tree as a deer, but it saw through me right away. It spoke in riddles and rhyme, everything had double meaning. It spun great tales of the forest, described both the blessed and horrible history it had witnessed. I suspect it is even older than I am, and far more mature, although it did like my dirty limericks.
The E.T. taught me that in this place, the Veil is a barrier between the world and the Fade. Because of the great many deaths in this forest, the Veil is weakened and has torn in some places, allowing spirits like E.T. to pass between realms more easily. Coincidental synthesis of terms? Doubtful.
I'm sure that explains how I, too, got in this particular stretch of the woods, but what does that make me then, I wonder?
Existential crises aside, by my count, thirteen days after my arrival, I found my first evidence that people existed in this place. Three women, two men, an elf, a giant and a dog. Reminds me of a joke I heard once.
I followed them and watched for a while as they cut their way through to wherever they were going. They ran into just about every potentially dangerous thing possible, the poor sods. Bears, wolves, trees, evil vaguely goblin-like creatures, and I think I saw a few zombies enter the fray at one point. They were gloriously effective with their blades, bows and magic. Magicians and muggles working together. Weird.
The next thing I knew, the dog picked up my scent, a woman in an improvised loincloth identified me as a shape-shifter, and I was being threatened at sword-point.
The leader was a thickset fellow with dark brown hair and a smooth tan. His broadsword was probably as tall as I was. I haven't been disembowelled before, but I have been stabbed. It was not pleasant and I'm not keen to broaden my horizons in that direction. I complied with his oh-so-gracious request to show my true face, but not because I was intimidated in any way.
Thankfully, they opted to talk first. Their language was the old form of English I'd grown up with. I was out of practice. "Good morning," I started nicely, widening my eyes innocently, because who said youth couldn't be a tool?
"Why are you following us?"
"My name is Harry Potter. I'm lost. Haven't seen people in ages. I just thought…"
For some reason, this made the leader role his eyes heavenward in apparent despair.
I got to my feet and dusted off my pants, mindful of the sword at my throat. Their eyes narrowed as they took in my strange clothes. The robes were a little eccentric, but you get over feeling self-conscious with age.
"So you decided to follow a party of armed travellers accompanied by a man in Templar armour?" said the blond man incredulously, gesturing to his armour.
"Templars?" I prompted, figuring that term, or at least the fancy dress, was meant to mean something to me.
"You are a mage."
"Magically inclined, yes."
"You should probably know that the Templars are an order that hunt mages outside the Circle," blondie mutter sarcastically.
"Oh." Sounded interesting.
"'Oh'," the cave-witch parroted, golden eyes narrowed, "How you managed to survive past infancy I will never guess."
I just shrugged. Some weapons had been lowered, evidently not deeming me a great threat. "Right, well, this may be too soon, but where am I? I asked the trees, but they couldn't give me much beyond 'big old woods."
The leader answered, "The Brecilian Forest."
As if that'd help me. "Country?"
"Ferelden," the red headed women answered slowly, exchanging one of Those Looks with her companions.
I scoured memories of history lessons… didn't ring a bell. "Ok, imagine I grew up under a rock."
Their expressions assured me that they had already. "Southern Thedas."
Dimension travel was looking more likely.
"Where are you from?" Red asked in a soft tone that belied my mental state. I fought to keep a straight face.
"My aunt and uncle raised me in with my cousin," I decided to keep my sob story between a mix of memories and necessary embellishments. Easier to remember that way. "The nearest settlement was a town called Whinging, I think, but I never went there. My family didn't tell me much about the world. They were afraid of magic. There were a few weird accidents, though of course I didn't understand what was happening. I learnt magic, got away, and it hasn't been my home since."
"You taught yourself? Truly?" The cave-witch sounded doubtful.
I nodded, "Oh yes, magic was all quite easy once I knew what it was."
"Enough. Let us move on," the giant turned away and trundled up the path.
The leader sighed exasperatedly, "Sten, we've talked about this!" and set off after him. I stood about uncertainly for a while, but as they drifted off, I followed.
I slowly folded myself into the group. I was welcome after I applied feather-light charms to all their packs, bar the giant's (he growled at me when I came too close).
Aedan Cousland and Alistair, the human men, are Grey Wardens aiming to stop the Blight. The two were satisfied when I didn't hold this against them, and then flabbergasted when it became clear that the reason for this was because I knew nothing of anything.
Unflattering to be seen as a simple child: yes. Useful for getting answers: again, yes. Also: fun.
Cousland's dog is a war hound, one of Ferelden's trademark Mabari. Morrigan is the scantily clad witch. Sten is a Qunari, a race of usually horned giants. Leliana, the red head, is a minstrel turned priest turned kickass archer, who was sent by the Maker's own guidance. Wynne is an elderly healer who decided to tag along with them after they rescued the Tower from a swathe of demons. More new places, religions, and races than you could shake a stick at.
Zevran, the elven Antivan Crow, was the latest edition; he was recruited to join the group not a week ago, after he failed to assassinate them. That was quite apparent in how he was treated, but he didn't seem to care, and he continued to lighten the mood and divert attention by flirting outrageously.
"So, Harry of the secluded walks of life. You have been on the run for how long?" he asked, falling into step beside me.
"Over six years," I answered after a moment, "Why?"
"I imagine you would not have had many chances to indulge in the pleasures of youth while travelling without female companionship. Or male companionship, perhaps that is what you prefer?" he practically purred.
I smiled, trying to keep it amiable instead of giving away the game, "Oh, on the contrary, just the other week I saw this doe, a splendid creature – you could not imagine the hindquarters on that animal. Lean and muscular, yet perfectly proportioned, it defies belief! Really, what was I to do? She was wild, carnal and –"
Alistair, within earshot, stumbled and walked into a tree. The sound was remarkable – like several dozen pots and pans bashed together.
Zevran stopped. Amber eyes narrowed suspiciously, "You are having me on."
I tried, really I did, but Alistair's face was too much. I cracked a grin, "Maybe."
"Rascal! You almost had me there, though, now I admit I am intrigued with the possibilities. Say, Morrigan–"
"Oh, dear Maker. Warden, there are two of them!" Alistair clanked loudly as he ran to get far ahead.
It was a fun day.
Ah, dinner is ready, prepared so graciously by the resident hag because the elves won't feed us.
That sentence calls for elaboration. I'll finish this another time.
Day 15 – Morning, Dalish camp
Right. Hag: Wynne. Stubborn elves: camp of Dalish. Up to speed? No, of course not.
The forest was being unhelpful and kept turning us around. The type of magic responsible was beyond my experience and defied my fiddling. It was uncommonly irritating.
At one point we got pretty far, but then we were beset by werewolves. There were many and they fought tactically, not like the mindless beasts I knew of.
Too bad I will likely have to wait for answers. Leliana was bitten in the attack. One snuck up behind her and took a chunk out of her shoulder. She should be fine if the Warden ends the curse, but it's a nasty wound, and werewolf bites are notoriously resistant to healing. They now have a time limit for their ghost hunt. Really. Apparently it can be cured if the right beasty is killed. I certainly don't recall any sort of simplicity in lycanthropy. There must be more to it than that.
The party split. Leliana had to return to the Dalish camp, Wynne went to keep her as healthy as possible and Sten trundled along for protection. I was ordered to go, probably to separate me from Zevran.
I like the elf. Yes, he is an assassin. Proud of it, even. But the constant riddling kept the atmosphere light. You really notice his absence when you have to travel for a whole day with a semi-comatose musician, an old hag and a stoic warrior giant. But at least Sten is quiet. Honestly, if I have to hear one more variation of 'you are an untrained disaster in the making', I think I will set. The forest. On. Fire.
I would've already, but I suspect she'd have a field day. I can feel my ears ringing in anticipation.
Solution: I took up my animagus form and trotted ahead until the blanketing leaves muted Wynne's nagging about illegal magic.
We got to the Dalish camp before sundown. The Keeper had left for the forest, but his apprentice allowed Leliana to be treated with the rest of the infected. The elf made a great show of how gracious we should feel, as if she was going out of her way to let the Wardens save her clan.
I had a look around a bit, tried to talk to the elves and learn about their culture, but the welcome was… frosty into the range of liquid nitrogen. So they don't like humans. Noted and ignored.
Well, it was ignored until I had a sword thrown at me. How was I supposed to know asking about their tattoos is akin to cross-cultural suicide? No one tells me these things.
Really, if Wynne has to talk, can't she at least make herself useful by mentioning these things before she has to stitch my arm back together, instead of prattling on about the demons that want to eat my soul.
*The reader notices a side note in the margins: 'Have heard much (too much) about these demons, must find out what they are. So far only sounds like a terminal magic disease, but doubt this is the case.'*
The novelty has quite worn off by now, I need something new to occupy my mind. Maybe I will see if I can produce a dagger from somewhere and learn how to fight. It's been a while since I pursued a new skill, and I usually excel at the physical ones. Whittling– now that was a disaster, but polo was a great choice of pastime.
Speaking of… perhaps if the elves removed the branches from their arses, they could be persuaded to play? It was made stringently clear to me that they don't usually ride their deer things, but I think I can wear them down.
Then again, maybe not.
Day 16 – Night, Dalish camp
Wynne has taken it upon herself to 'correct my education'. She cornered me and played on my reluctance to attack a little old lady to get my compliance.
If she tries to tell me how connect with my magic again, I will dash my moral reservations entirely.
I picked up whatever she taught me without much difficulty because I have had centuries of experience with similar things. If nothing else, it helped my claims of being a remarkable shape-shifting prodigy.
I hadn't used a staff before. That, at least, was something new I could play with. Of course, that was only when Wynne had her back turned, because a staff would be too powerful a weapon for a young man with no formal education.
Magic is just so easy here. Truly, like a breath of fresh air. At Hogwarts the magic was harder to grasp, somehow restricted, but here it is eager at my fingertips – with enough focus I don't even need the spell or hand movements to shape the willpower.
Oh, there is a commotion at camp, lots of shouting. I can't rightly tell if the disruption is good or bad, but it sounds exciting.
Day 20 – Lunch, a road in the forest
So the infected people recovered. I was quite relieved to see the colour return to Leliana cheeks. But she was a little woozy. "For a moment, I think I felt the Maker watching over me. He lead me to the quest, guided me to the Warden, but it is comforting to think He might be observing still."
I still quite like her, even though I'm now quite sure she's a few fists short of a melee. She picked up on that. "You think I'm crazy."
"I never said that was a bad thing." I'm liberal with my opinions on the insane. My criticism would only be hypocritical.
I haven't spent much time with her for a few days. I've been running. Running and hiding until the group returned.
Note for the curious: do not ask an elf to instruct you in Dalish dagger fighting unless prepared to have that elf try and shove a knife somewhere the sun doesn't shine, which you will only evade if you are sufficiently skilled in the art of legging it from psychotic females. Luckily, married life taught me something.
The Keeper died to protect his clan and end the werewolf curse, and the werewolves reverted to people who are now loose in the forest. The elves among them were welcomed back, the humans left to figure it out for themselves.
Oh, and it seems Morrigan ended up with a magic staff made of Elder wood. That stupid stick gives me the tingles if I get too close. I am now determined to avoid Morrigan even more than I would usually. She keeps giving me funny looks, like she can't decide whether I would serve her dastardly purposes better if I was roasted or fried.
I tracked Aedan down after dinner last night. They are going to Redcliffe next for some Arl's army, via some towns for supplies and to the gauge the federal situation.
"Can I come with you?" I asked without preamble. Interesting things happened to them. I can't think of a better way to sightsee the world.
Aedan's eyes were shadowed. "Wynne approached me earlier. She asked that we escort you to the Templars so that you can get safely to the Tower."
"The same Tower that was only recently relieved of its demon infestation?" I made face.
"That'd be the one," the man grimaced.
Whatever the Warden decides, I will not be going to some prison. I might study there, but after it's put back in one piece and the Templars are no longer so… twitchy. "You already have one apostate with you, what's another?"
"I trust that Morrigan's mother, as wacky as she may be, taught her about the dangers of demons. You had no instruction," he pointed out. Granted, I didn't know about demons, but I've gotten the basic demon tempting lecture twice already since we've been on the road. Now, if I do end up in the Fade (good luck to it if that be the case) I sincerely hope I'm not stupid enough to fall for someone promising the world without repercussions. At my age, that'd be embarrassing.
"But you have the old preacher travelling with you. I'm sure Wynne wouldn't hesitate to lecture me at every possible moment."
My arguments seemed to lessen his resolve some. "I'll speak to the others," Cousland decided. "You can travel with us for now, and if necessary the Templars in Redcliffe will give you safe passage over."
"Good enough," I smiled disarmingly, and flounced away. Upon spotting Alistair arguing with the dog over the best way to carry a pike, I changed trajectory and went to watch the show.
Day 21 – Morning, a road someplace else
The light rain woke me bright and early. It reminds me of old England. The seasons alternate between rainy and snowy.
I had to place a very effective water repelling ward above my paper, which was almost challenging without a wand. After all my muttering Alistair thinks I've started a cheese-demon cult. I may have led him on a bit but… guilty as charged.
Still, the storms are refreshingly random. I can't bring myself to be irritated at unpredictability; they come from seemingly nowhere and can hang around for minutes or hours, but the land afterwards always smells alive.
'Alive' smells a lot like wet dog.
The novelty won't wear off quickly, especially because Wynne disapproves of my unnatural tolerance of miserable, freezing, torrential downpours.
It makes sleeping a chore, however, since there are only four tents. I transfigured a tarp to shelter Zevran and myself. The assassin is uncomfortable enough; they still bind his hands and tie him to a log all night. He just leers, jokes crudely and puts up with it. Either he's biding his time, in which case he's certainly taking his damn time, or he can't be such a bad guy if he doesn't contest that indignity for their peace of mind.
I wonder why they bother continuing the practice. I'm pretty sure that it only takes him a moment to loosen the knots. Maybe a little longer if they're Leliana's.
I should be wary of him, given his line of work, but I misplaced my self-preservation in 2069. If I've read the assassin correctly, Zevran is a survivor; assassinating his protectors would be daft move. Still, if anyone here could mislead me, it'd probably be him. He's dastardly cunning.
I wonder how long it will take him to work around the wards on this book. Leliana has tried already, poor girl. Her hair stayed frizzy for hours.
Let me know when you do, Zev, I'm a curious guy. I wonder if you'll make it this far or if you'll only get through the first entry and then proclaim me either mad or dangerous?
I do hope not. This way of life agrees with me. My legs are sore, and thanks to Wynne my ears are just about bleeding, but I haven't had such desire to just live in a long, long while.
Day 21 – Night, a random roadside camping spot
You would not believe how difficult it was to get this book out of my bag just now.
Packs are a hassle, especially when the days are long and a little bit dull, and cloth tends to induce unpredictable side effects with spells so playing with them is interesting.
Animating objects isn't easy; it requires a high level of concentration and control. It is harder than most magic mainly because there are no set spells, it is more of a learned skill that a vocabulary list. Even as I held the material in my fingers, I expected it to go at least little wrong. But the manageable kind of wrong. Maybe turn into a herring, at worst.
I didn't mean to make it sentient. If I had, I certainly wouldn't have given it such a disagreeable personality. I had to threaten to pick it apart at the seams to get its attention. It doesn't like me very much.
"That was weird," I admitted. Probably not the vote of confidence they needed to hear.
Leliana was thrilled anyway. She named it Shmeebles, of all things. A bag.
I only found out later, when it came time to wrestle my book from it, that the bag preferred its name. It's either very uppity or conspiring against me. Wouldn't release my book until I said please. I gave in with as much dignity as could be gathered in short notice; far better to let them to cling to some hope that I know what I'm doing, after all.
Day 22 – Night, camp
Well, I'm still unbound. That's a surprise. Morrigan confronted me about suspicions right in the middle of camp, and, you know what, it's probably easier to write it this way:
"Tis a strange thing. You are not so young in years as you seem, but neither are you possessed by something older." She prowled around me much like I imagine a tiger might've.
The gig was a bust. I drew myself up to my full (miserably short) height. She was still taller.
"I'm just older than I look," I hedged wearily. Morrigan's comments had drawn the whole crowd.
Then, as if marvelling over the weather, she said; "You are more than that. Death clings to you like a blanket."
How in Merlin's baggy underpants did she work that out? "More like a limpet." Swords were drawn. "Please don't cut off my head, that would be most uncomfortable."
"For you or for me?" The Warden wisely asked. See, that's why he's the leader.
I allowed a rue grin. "Me, mostly, but it depends on how well you handle emotional trauma. The sight usually drives people to therapy."
"Who are you, really? What are you doing here?" Wynne demanded, staff levelled threateningly.
"Harry Potter, wizard. Most of what I've told you already is downright truthful. I'm here because I am bored, not to spy or sabotage."
Leliana's fingers twitched on her bowstring. Such impatience. "You are omitting something."
I could have fought my way out if necessary, but that would've been arduous, and twisted word games and keeping track of lies annoys me. "Only several hundred years of my life. I lost count; it's depressing after a while." That floored them. It shouldn't have been so amusing.
"You do yourself an injustice. With a lovely face like yours, you cannot be more than seventeen, surely?" tsked Zevran, sounding flippant, but amber eyes narrowed thoughtfully.
I shrugged, "The elves were immortal once. Surely the concept isn't too foreign?"
"You are not an elf, so why you?"
"My life is a cosmic conspiracy. Remember when you were a teenager? The mood swings, the constant drama that you perceived your life to be, your frequent stupidity and immaturity? Well, I am cursed to be a teenager forever."
"That does it. Young man, you are going to the Tower. No, don't you dare contradict this Aedan, this boy is a perfect example of why some mages must be removed from society to avoid harming themselves," Old Hag interjected, her voice set in a preachy manner.
"Young man? Fine, don't believe me, see if I care." The advantage of telling the unbelievable truth is that they usually don't press for more. Then, only immature insolence is necessary to affirm disbelief.
Aedan interrupted me before I could really get rolling, "How can you prove it?"
"How would you like me to prove it?" I find it hard to care one way or the other. I suppose I don't want them to think ill of me, but they will, with good reason.
"Let him throw himself at the Archdemon, test his immortality then," Sten interrupted.
Aedan rounded on the giant, "Hey, I recruit the lunatics."
"He is clearly insane, he fits your criteria. Let us move on."
I'm glad it didn't come to blows. They probably would have succeeded in hacking me to pieces, and they're really persistent, so the process would have repeated itself several times with increasing more creative methods until they accepted that they couldn't kill me.
I hope at least Shmeebles would've tried to avenge my suffering.
Day 23 – Night, The Horse's Breath inn
Last night sucked. I thought I'd put them firmly on the thought train that pegged me as being a little psycho, but in the way that is more likely to send me off hugging bunnies than dancing through entrains under the moon.
I wasn't as successful as I'd thought.
They tied me up for the night. To the assassin. They even gave him firm instructions to "deal" with me if I lost control.
Poor Zev. Gone was the casual companionship, instead there was an influx of suspicion and worry. I wouldn't like to be tied to a mad person either. The idea is about as appealing as being tied to a twitchy assassin.
It was a looong night.
It didn't get much better.
"Shmeebles! Where are you, you fruit basket?"
Yeah, that was my morning.
I eventually found that pest, but not before coaxing it out from where it was snuggling up to Alistair's pack.
The battle was only half won by the time I got it out in the open; I then had to get it on my back. It kept squirming, trying to get away, which was really disconcerting.
"I know I smell, you don't have to rub it in," I grumbled, causing Leliana to giggle and lighten the atmosphere somewhat.
All day, I made a point to act no differently than I'd been all trip. I annoyed Alistair, tried to get a response out of Sten and debated the necessity of learning Chantry laws with Wynne. They were… frosty around me, to say the least. Hours of determined normalcy later, they thawed slightly, reassured by my harmless nattering.
It really is innocent until proven guilty around this lot.
Leliana is the only one who speaks to me about my claims to immortality. If I didn't know any better, I'd think she wasn't just humouring me. Maybe she's crazier than I thought.
"I have been wondering something."
"Yeah? Lay it on me, then."
"Are you long lived, eternally young or unable to die?"
Now that would be a good philosophical discussion. "I am six-hundred-some years old and I haven't changed since I was seventeen so I assume I cannot physically age. Technically, I have died a few times."
"Oh? This should be good," the elf butted in.
"Quiet, Zev. You can poison me if you must, but painlessly if you please. I've drowned, had my soul kicked out, been bodily dismantled, been plain old stabbed – funny story, actually, I'll tell you that one later – oh, and I do not recommend being burnt alive."
I'm quite apathetic to my past, to most things, actually. It's probably unhealthy, but it doesn't feel like my story, I find it too hard to relate to now.
"Immortality sounds horrible! How did you get yourself into such a situation?" Oh Leliana, always sympathetic.
I didn't want to answer. That particular story is still painful, even after all this time. "Pace yourself. I can't tell you all my secrets at once. You'd grow bored of my stories and then who would I enchant with the good ol' days?"
My smile probably looked as fake as it felt.
Day 25 – Night, under a tree
As a group, we're pretty conspicuous. Apostates, giants, war dogs, foreigners, and two Wardens that appeared on every wanted board in the towns we passed. Only Leliana, Zev, Cousland and the Mabari went within the borders. The rest of us remained outside. A bit of reconnaissance, resupplying, alley skirmishes, and we moved on.
It was making the Wardens jumpy. I don't blame them for being appalled at the wanted posters; the lack of quality and effort was simply astounding. And the bounty? Insulting. Loghain has got them pegged for betraying the King, enabling a foreign conspiracy and all but causing a Blight, but from the reward you'd think he doesn't really want their heads parted from their bodies all that badly.
I wonder what I would have to do to get one higher…
Now that's a dangerous train of thought. Must desist. Like, right now.
The Warden got another tent, at least. He seems to have forgiven Zevran for the whole attempted murder incident. It only took… ooh, about a month, by my count.
I explained the knifing incident to them. I could answer all Zev's gruesome questions – I remember exactly how it feels to have the cold steel pass between my ribs and to bleed out until the colours fade into black.
After that, he was more interested to hear about my supposed six-hundred-some years. He is either closer to believing, or he's intrigued despite himself and convinced that I'm a very good liar. I'm both, I'll have you know. Even for all my experience, my stories would be boring without some properly applied embellishments.
Day 26 – Night, back of a barn
Just did my first bit of serious fighting. Darkspawn exude some presence that's just pure malice; it's enough to rot the ground they stand on. And their teeth. But maybe that's less from the evil and more from their diet. Still, their teeth are dreadful.
These darkspawn were just the "little ones", though I don't know how that flies, because quite a few were over six feet tall. Still, even without ogres or emissaries, two score is nothing to laugh at.
The more warrior-like of our group charged in, swords literally blazing (note to self: must learn how to do that, win major points for presentation). I was told to hold back with Morrigan, Wynne and Leliana, but my long range arsenal is significantly less damaging than my in-your-face spells, so I took this as more of a suggestion than an order.
The Warden yelled at me about it. Almost got stabbed for it, too. Tacky, letting himself get distracted like that.
Without a wand I am forced to be more confrontational. Stunners, binders, disarming spells, even most jinxes just won't cut it – the energy just splutters out after a few metres and the adversary laughs in your face (don't want that, their breath is foul). To get any sort of use out of those spells, I'd need to be touching them. And since those spells are the ones I'd use to stop things getting near me, it kind of defeats the purpose.
Luckily, medium range spells – incendio, impedimenta and diffindo – extent my reach, so I didn't have to resort to calling the Wand to me. I also make a mean ice sculpture. Confringo and reducto can be useful, but if the thing I want to blow up is fleshy and right beside me, blasting curses are definitely a last resort. Do not want to be picking pieces of darkspawn out of my hair.
I charred some, sliced others, by the time we were finished, there was a small pile of brutally slashed and still smoking corpses and me in the centre of it, grinning a little scarily.
"So, I'm very good for someone that's been learning for only seventeen years, right?" I'm too old to be properly affected by awkward silences, but I inflict them like a boss.
Get this – Wynne disapproved. Maybe because my magic was effective in a way her professors didn't teach and her religious profiteers didn't sanction. The Warden yelled at me some more; I forget why.
No matter. Zevran has conceded my brilliance. As per out bet, he has to wash my dishes for the rest of the week.
Still. It occurred to me that I had weakened in my resolve to learn to wield blades. I may be immortal or the next worst thing, but I'm no masochist – getting hurt irks me. Such occurrences are much easier to avoid when one can intercept an attack with something other than one's own flesh.
I'll see if I can wheedle dagger lessons out of Zev. He's sure to make me let him out of dishwashing duty. Bugger.
I should stop with the switching of topics, I get that. Blame the malady of your choice. Or the sugar; Leliana just gave me a cookie. I haven't had any in years, it's such a rush to the system. I don't know what she was thinking.
Day 26 – Not much later
Annnd Zevran is out of dishwashing duty. Can't be helped. He's looking very thrilled at the prospect of sparing with (read: thrashing) me. Currently, he's sitting by the fire, so the warm glow falls over the contours of his muscles just right, while sharpening a dagger. The whole effect is emphasised by the ominous glint in his eye.
He's practiced that look, I'd put money on that.
I get the impression he is not going to be a kind teacher. Well, they are fond of the idea that it's only fun if you get a scar out of it.
I do not scar easily anymore. What does that say about my prospects, I wonder?
Still Day 26 – the world of pain
The leather hilt was rough and felt warm in my grip – a grip that was apparently wrong, if we are to judge from the number of times the assassin corrected it.
I didn't get much warning – he was darting away one moment and swinging for my side in the next. My reflexes brought the short blade up in time, which was just as well, because his method of teaching involves a lot of learning from mistakes and accumulated injuries.
"Bueno! But move your feet, now brace, yes, flex your knees. You have danced? This is not so different."
The blow reminded me of how it felt when the nasty tree kicked me. The angle was awkward, and as a result my wrist nearly buckled. Zevran exploited this by wrenching his blade and my grip was easily broken. My dagger landed in the grass a meter away, and a swift kick sat me on my arse in the dirt.
Another student may have expected the teacher to stop then, allow them to get to their feet and give some pointers.
I've had nastier teachers, so I wasn't surprised when the evil taskmaster kept coming, leaving me to deal as I could; roll, scramble, block. He was deadly fast, striking with the speed and finesse of a snake. After a desperate and brief grapple, I ended up kneeling with him looming over me, dagger poised a handbreadth away, only kept at bay by my trembling arms braced against his. He wouldn't have stopped: we have a healer, anything short of mortal injury is fair game.
He grinned, showing an intimidating amount of gleaming teeth. "Oh, this will be most fun."
There was none of the usual humour in that smile. He was enjoying himself, for sure, but fighting and killing was something of a serious point. That smile was all shark.
"So how are you going to break this stalemate, hmm? The dirt is loose, it would be quite unwelcome in my eyes, I should imagine," he suggested mildly.
Except predictability is the most crippling weakness of all. Instead of trying to force against him (an exercise of utter futility) I slid my legs out from under me, drove his hands into the dirt and rolled backwards.
I didn't really get the drop on him – his fighting style was far too adaptable for that – but he seemed far more interested than mere seconds ago.
Summoning the dagger the brief distance, I managed to catch it without impaling myself and meet his downward slash with my blade instead of my forearm. Bonus.
Muscle memory at a high level fades quickly, but if it is done enough, an echo is retained for a long, long time. My reactions were sluggish, my reading of his movement out of practice. But the very basics of duelling are still there, and they translate across reasonable well to this new demanding skillset.
This brought back memories – the thrill, the danger, how I'd missed it.
I grinned then, and it may have been a tad feral.
"You have done this before," the assassin accused, fending off a clumsy strike with careless ease. I still haven't got the stabbing motion right, it is a little different to brandishing a wand.
"Something similar, long ago."
We continued for much longer, until I was shaking from the exertion and Morrigan yelled at us to keep it down. Right now, I can barely hold my pen, let alone keep my eyes open. I feel good, clearer somehow.
Passing out sounds divine.
Day 27 – Afternoon, Redcliffe
I'll be brief, seeing as I have been recruited to help deal with a mysterious monster infestation.
I ache all over, but it is the good, satisfying kind. I woke up with my muscles on fire, and then we had to walk through the morning to get to this accursed city. It doesn't smell as bad as Denerim in the way of manure, but there's this pungent undertone of rotting flesh.
Cousland is annoyed. He was muttering something earlier about how no one can wait until after he's gotten his treaty acknowledged to kill each other. It's terribly inconsiderate, I quite agree.