5. From Dreams
Cognates of Heaven
Disclaimer: I do not own Dragon Age, LOTR, the Silmarillions, the Unfinished Tales, and other published and un-published works of Tolkien. Also, many thanks to the essays of the Silmarillion Writer's Guild and the essay Warm Beds Are Good for giving me a better understanding of Tolkien's works.
Chapter 5: From Dreams
Codex Entry: The Fade
The study of the Fade is as old as humankind. For as long as we have existed, we have walked its twisting paths, sometimes catching a glimpse of the city at its heart.
The Tevinter Imperium spent fortunes trying to unveil the secrets of the Fade, to little effect. However, there is one undeniable fact that we all know. The Fade is where mages draw their power.
- Dragon Age Origins - Ferelden Circle First Enchanter Irving -
There is no Fade here.
The thought was alien to Hawke. It went against her most basic of training. The Fade was everlasting. The Fade, where her dream self walked the twisting paths every night, where the demons prowled. The Fade, the root of all mage's powers.
Yet this was the truth.
This was not the Fade. This space around her.
What she saw now as she stood there was the golden sand of the Wounded Coast, the blue waves lapping at her bare feet as she walked, and the rolling greenish brown hills that made up the famous jagged silhouette of the coast. The sea spread itself far... much, much further than the real life thing. There was only one object in the horizon. The nose end of a boat, bobbing up and down the waves. Isabella's drowned Siren.
Two days ago, this was an empty white space. Two days ago, the Memory Shard she sent out at the cost of the Blue Wizard's death came into contact with someone, and through this disruption, she was able to break free from the dream for the first time.
The sand beneath her feet undulated as Hawke propelled herself forward with only the strength of her will. She swam in the air. The world quivered around her. She was the only real thing here. This world existed on the power of her thoughts alone.
How ironic. The very prison Sauron created for her now kept him out as much as it kept her in. She was shielded from the repercussion of her break-out attempt simply by falling asleep, knowing that Sauron dared not hurt her body.
This was not the Fade. That twisting paths and labyrinthine landscape of the Fade would never let her force her will over it so easily. The demons and spirits alike that prowled its hall would come in waves at the merest hint of her power, hungry for human flesh. But none of those were here.
This realm was of Hawke's make, and she alone ruled its land.
Without warning, the end of her dream came upon her. A simple line in the sand, stretching over sea and hills. Beyond it was a great white expanse. The dream land Hawke made for herself stood on this side of the line separating her thoughts made physical and the great emptiness.
She stood there on the precipice, gazing out to the never-ending space before her. For one moment, she hesitated, unsure whether her plan would work. In the next moment, she reached out over the line and into the great emptiness. The dream world poured forward, like liquid into an empty bowl, forced by her will to break beyond the prison bars. Sea water and sand and rocks and whole hills rolling forward, falling down the open crevice beyond the dream line, filling its invisible bottom, giving shapes and colors to the place where there was none before.
There was resistance, but Hawke worked her way around and over them. It was hard without Anders. It was no secret that he was the better spirit mage, between the two of them. It showed, whenever they traipsed the paths of the Fade together. He was her teacher, her friend, and lover.
But now, Hawke would have to do without him. It helped that her power was freakishly strong in this new world, unchained by the constant need for mana and lyrium dust.
An eternity passed, or at least, what felt like an eternity. Time did not flow in this dream limbo. The sun and the moon both orbited the skies. Hawke was not yet strong enough to make them move. But that would soon change because finally, she felt something give. As if an invisible veil had been pierced, her dream collided with another dream. The sea of the Wounded Coast rushed and fought with the incoming waves of Lake Calenhad. A tower rose from the deep like a magical beanstalk. The glorious morning skies of Hawke blended with the deep cobalt blue of night skies above Kinloch Hold, otherwise known as the Circle Tower, home of Ferelden Circle of Magi.
Among those who followed her, many counted themselves among Kinloch Hold past residents, it being the very first Circle to be granted autonomy via the Hero of Ferelden's request. But few of them truly held Kinloch dear to their heart. There were, but two, that Hawke knew, who viewed this tower not as a prison but as home and safety, and had the power of mind to erect it whole and pristine in their own dream world.
The two foremost among among Ferelden Circle mages: First enchanter Irving, and Archmage Wynne.
Hawke stood upon the precipice that divided her dream and the other dream, unwilling to intrude into what was the most private place of either one of her two most powerful and dearest friends. Instead, she projected a ghost of her mind into the other dream, an echo of her will, with just enough power to signal to the owner of this dream Kinloch that someone had come knocking on the door.
From the tendrils of her arching mind, she sensed another out there, in the tower, a deeply feminine consciousness sleeping in the heart of her own dream.
Wynne. She supposed she couldn't call what she felt then as surprise. The Archmage and Spirit Healer made no secret of her love for the Circle Tower.
Hawke can hear the sound of the lake crashing onto shore, a deep, event rhythm, like the breaths of a sleeping mind. The tower loomed above the lake, dark and quiet. Mere stones without life.
"Wake up..." She called, her words carried in echoing whispers above the waves of Lake Calenhad and deep into the heart of Wynne's dream. "... my friend, my sister, wake up. The time has come." Her whispers broke the waves. From the windows of the Circle Tower, came light.
The initial plan was for Elrond to cross the secret elven path beneath the Misty Mountain and bring the news immediately to Lothlorien, the greatest city left to the elves this side of the sea, and to the greatest elven minds to walk this land, the lady and her husband. But one elf prince's plea changed that.
"My land is besieged in darkness." Said the prince of Mirkwood. "It was once known as Greenwood. Now my people cannot even walk the forest unarmed. Whatever new power the Dark Lord has at his beck and call, I cannot help but feel it is my home that will be the first to taste it. I beg of you, let the warning be sent to my home first, for it is the most vulnerable of all elven kingdoms."
Sound logic that he couldn't deny. Lothlorien enjoyed the protection of Galadriel and Nenya. Thranduil's palace under the mountain enjoyed no such thing. And so Lothlorien changed to Mirkwood. It took Elrond four days to cross the path of Ettenmoore and over the mountain range. From there, he rode upriver, towards Framsburg under the shadow of the Grey Mountain. Over the great river Alduin was Mirkwood, the dark forest. He only needed to cross the water at its thinnest and shallowest to enter it, but Mirkwood did not gain its name for nothing. The paths that went through the forest were treacherous ones, even to the Silvari forest elves, and the Old Forest Road, once thickly traversed by dwarf merchants now lay abandoned. Instead, he followed the river to the fork just before Framsburg, then crossed the field to a smaller branch of the Alduin and followed it into the forest.
This smaller river did not have a name, except Forest River, for it was the only one to cross the shadow of Mirkwood. The home of Thranduil Oropherion lied at its tail end. Once, when Mirkwood was not known as Taur nu Fuin, the Forest of Fear, but Greenwood the Great, Thranduil and his people lived in a much brighter place in the heart of the forest.
For three days, he travelled unaccosted, a great surprise, for even in the faraway halls of Rivendell he had heard of the troubling reports of orcs and Shelobspawns that populated this part of the forest. In the fourth day, he slept the night away in the shade of an old oak tree steps away from the river bed, only to wake up to the sound of the Shard humming, thumping to the beat of his heart. Amilro the mare stood a good distance away, with her rope pulled taut, staring warily at the black Shard in his hand.
From there on, it wasn't hard to formulate the theory that the Shard... and its creator... had something to do with his so-far unmolested journey.
He set on forward on the fifth day morning, riding on the trail beside the river, his mind riffed with thoughts. In all his years, Elrond had never felt so unsure before. He was two days ride away from the home of an elven king who, at best, held tenuous relation with his own elven fiefdom, preparing to deliver what was to be the greatest warning and call to action since the war of the Silmarils. A warning which he himself hardly understood.
He held the Shard in his bare hand as he considered it. After the first few days, he had gotten over the initial reluctance of handling it. Lord knew he would not be allowed to show even a smidge of uncertainty in his 'presentation' of the Shard to the peers of Middle Earth.
It was warm in his hand, and if he put a mind to it, gently giving off the faintest hint of vibration. But other than that, it looked just like any other pebbles taken from the bottom of the river. And yet, despite its common appearance, neither Elrond nor Gandalf the Obfuscated knew a thing about it aside from the fact that it served as a storage for the Magi Champion's memories.
…. and that it apparently had enough power to put a dent to the strongest of the Three. Hard to accept, but there it was. He still wore Vilya on his finger, but the Ring was a shade of its former self. This was the main reason he didn't leave it with Glorfindel. It would be but a useless bauble in the hands of the elven lord. Before the Shard, Vilya served as the foremost defense of Rivendell. With it, he was able to weave cloaks around his home, hiding it from those of impure hearts. But not any more. From now on, Rivendell would have to stand on its feet, and bolster its borders.
"It is a strange fate that we should suffer so much fear and doubt over so small a thing. Such a little thing" He muttered absent-minded as he turned the little rock in his hand. He knew the Shard held secrets yet unknown to him and Gandalf, and he had little choice but to wait for the creator of the Shard to reveal them to him one by one. He just hoped it would not be too late.
In the night, he slit his palm and let his blood fall down on the Shard and watched it guzzled up by the rock. He eased his mind from its mental defense and, very slowly, very carefully, connected with the thoughts stored inside the Shard.
Hawked turned her head, very slightly to the left, and looked out the window to the bronze-cast skies outside where something had willed itself into her world. The dreamself of the woman she was holding stirred at the disturbance.
"What is it?"
"Nothing. Go back to sleep." Hawke coaxed her ward gently, making the air around her quiver a gentle rhythm. The chamber she was sitting in took the form of a nursery, with beds and cots strewing the ground. Initially, she had thought this dream world limit itself to only mirroring places its creators had seen before. The creation of this nursery disproved that theory of hers.
Outside of this room, the dream world she and the others had built was slowly but surely taking up shapes. She rocked the woman in her arms, singing softly to her. Wynne, who sat across her, approached and, without a word, held out a glowing hand "Sleep, Ilsa, sleep." and finally lulled 'Ilsa' back to sleep.
Hawke let out a breath, blowing air in a careful, constrained move through her nose. She let the sleeping Ilsa down slowly on the bedding underneath, taking care not to disturb her three months old belly. When she turned up, Wynne was looking her in the eye.
What was it? Those eyes seemed to ask. Wynne too had felt the disturbance.
Hawke gave a tiny shake of her head.
Then she stood up, and walked out the door, stepping over the slumbering bodies of a dozen or so similarly pregnant women. She opened the door noiselessly. If this room were like the real world thing, the door would have creaked and cracked, as all well-used wooden doors were bound to. But this room was created from her imagination, drawn from her own idea for the nursery she once wanted to have for her and Anders's children, a place of safety, of protection. Under its creator's will, it forsook its real-world noisy demeanour for a near perfect silence.
She waited for Wynne to follow her. Outside of the nursery room was Wynne's botanic garden, right on top a secret balcony on the side of the Circle Tower. A stone bridge led away from the tower, stringing from the balcony over Lake Calenhad down beneath to connect to the hills of the Wounded Coast.
In the far horizon, deep within Hawke's dream, a strange greenish ball of light hovered near the water edge. Wynne eyed it warily.
"That's not one of ours." The Archmage decided after a full minute of contemplation, turning to Hawke. "What is it?"
"The mind of an inhabitant of this world, the very one who broke me out of my prison." Hawke replied without missing a beat.
Of course, in the wake of far more urgent matters, she had neglected updating the others on their situation. Well, that could be easily corrected.
"Walk with me. I'll show you."
She led Wynne from the tower, and over the bridge. They cleared the divide separating Wynne's dream and hers in minutes. The air of her own realm washed over them in ropes of roiling sea wind. Wynne's world was far calmer, reflecting the tranquility and inner peace of her age. Hawke's world, being far younger, reflected the opposite. In the skies, a fat, round sun hung lazily, a testament to her growing power and consciousness of the waking world.
Hawke had given this world time. She moved the sun and moon.
"Have I told you why we are here?" She began.
"I thought that was apparent." Came the reply. "That... abomination..." There was a new zeal, a new weight to the word 'abomination'. Hawke had never heard that much... hatred... coming from the usually gentle Wynne before. "... trapped us here, in this dream world, while he... harvests... our bodies."
Harvest... what a word. But Hawke supposed it wasn't very far off from the truth. What else could they call it? Mage husbandry? Mage domestication? Mage breeding? Not even the most callous slaver would use such words. Yet it was the truth. While Hawke and her most powerful magi slept away, Sauron had made breeding stocks of her people. It wasn't hard to figure out why. The mages that had endured Sauron's corruption thus far was of the Covenant, the blood pact she and Anders created in an attempt to protect them from demonic and blood magic influences, Sauron's included. To make weapons of their power, he needed fresh mages, newborn mage children unbound and unprotected by the blood Covenant, soft and ready for his influence.
The thought alone made Hawke burn.
The skies overhead darkened, streaked with lightnings. The sea churned violently, reflecting the current of her thoughts. She thought of Ilsa and the pregnant women in the nursery, reduced to a state where she had to lull their mind to sleep, preserve whatever sanity was left of them, and take them away from the terror inflicted on their bodies, all so that they might have a chance at survival once the time came.
She stopped when the ground began to quake under her feet, and the air filled with rumbles of something trying to claw its ways up from the deep. Will, and mental restraint. Her father had trained her in both since her childhood, and this was not the first time she had experienced or seen cruelty. But even that did not make it any easier.
When she finally regained control of her emotions and her dream world finally turned quiet, she opened her eyes to Wynne looking at her with barely restrained worry.
"You have grown stronger." Commented the spirit healer. The trust between them was born of shared hardship and impossible situations. Wynne did not doubt her control over herself.
"This world has no veil." Hawke said simply, picking up her pace as if nothing had happened. "Nothing stops us from taking power from... I supposed I can't say the Fade either, since there's no Fade here."
"It's a strange world, but I'm not complaining." Wynne concurred. "Except for our imprisonment, I have never felt better. If we were in Thedas, I think I would have... returned to the Maker by now."
It was true. This land had a rejuvenating effect on them all. Wynne looked like she had dropped twenty years on the way here, and while Sauron tortured and besieged them mentally, he kept them relatively healthy and hale. They might only be breeding stocks to him, but they were irreplaceable, and therefore valuable. Again, she felt her blood boil in its veins. She took hold of this anger, and kept it close. She would need it, soon.
"I swear to you, Wynne. I'd do anything to get us out of here, all of us."
And she would. Wynne needed not say anything. They both knew the length Hawke would go to to protect her people.
"Let's go. Now that we have the time, I will tell you the whole story." She resumed her trek. She could have simply willed herself to the spot where the alien consciousness was hovering, but this was her world, and in here, Wynne could not do the same.
"We've been here for two years." She started.
"Has it truly been this long?" There was a hint of disbelief in Wynne's voice, a faraway look in her eyes. "I would... I never thought. When my body was awake, a day was as long as a century. How could two years have passed so fast?"
"Do not dwell on it. I need you with me Wynne. You are the best healer we have now, and after this, our people would need all the healing in the world. Maker knew I can't heal as much as a gash."
"Of course, Hawke..." There was a pause as Hawke let the old woman digest this. "We ran away from our world in hope of a better future, but I can't really say this world is any better than our home. The Templar may have kept us prisoners for centuries, but even they can't do what the abomination is doing to us. Do you think, perhaps, that we should never have come here?"
"Wynne!" Hawke snapped, but the old mage was unfazed.
"Have you never thought of it then? I know you have. It doesn't matter how that place mistreated us for centuries, it is still our home. We all look back, one way or another."
Hawke went quiet for a second. "I have wondered the same, yes." She said finally, looking into the far distance, past the curving coastline to the far beyond, where Kirkwall once stood in her old homeworld. Home, and hearth. A family, someone waiting for her, the promise of a child, of future and a life not spent on running away.
She stopped suddenly, looking the old mage in the eye. "I left him behind... to die... so I can take you all to a different place, to a better place. Do you not think I regret it as much as you do?" She said, her words coming out slow and heavy, the effort painful. There was no need to clarify who 'he' was. They all knew. It felt as though she had rent herself from the inside. "I miss him so much it hurts." Her dream world went still. The wind stopped blowing. The waves stop rolling. The sun froze its descent. Colors bled out from the skies. The whole world stopped.
Wynne stopped too and something must have shown on Hawke's face, because the old mage went pale. "Hawke, I..."
"No." She cut in before the old mage could apologize. "Whatifs are no use to us now. We must go on. If we look back, we spit upon the sacrifices of those who ensured our passage here." She held out a hand, and in a flash summoned her own memories of their run across Thedas to get to the mirror gateway, and the people that died along the way. She remembered each of them. "I am tired of running. This time, I will fight. I will make my home... our home... in this world. Maker helps those who stand in my way."
Wynne had no answer this time. The archmage had gotten her point. Hawke turned away, and once again, resumed their walk towards the alien consciousness. Only one more hill to climb. This conversation was harder than she thought, but necessary. Sauron was not an enemy they could face with their heads and hearts pointing to their old homeworld.
"We will not be alone in our fight. Sauron has enemies, powerful ones."
Now that was a surprise, at least to the old mage.
"How did you know this?" Said Wynne, unable to hide the incredulousness in her voice. Hawke did not fault her. They knew nothing when they first came to this world. And Sauron, in his bodiless state appeared a dark god to them. They thought he reigned in this world and that there was nothing out there but his realm. A misguided view he had taken great pains to maintain.
But Hawke knew different. The so called Dark God was merely a spectre, not even at his full strength. He was a dangerous force, but not an invincible one. And this wasn't the first time she had had to pit herself to a force previously thought unconquerable.
"The other side contacted me." She said simply. "There is a war in this world, one that has gone on for millennia. Don't you think it's strange that someone as powerful as Sauron would need to make weapons out of our unborn children? If he were truly the reigning god of this world, why then does he need our power?"
Realization dawned on Wynne's face. There was a flicker of newfound hope in her eyes.
"Sauron's enemies are numerous and ever watchful. They found out about us."
"How did they even do it? I have never ever seen anything in this land but those monsters."
"They found out through the corrupted mages." She got right to the point. "When he found out that only the unhallowed would bend to his corruption, Sauron had already done irreparable damages to them. They were barren, and could not function on their own. They were not the beginning of the mage army he wanted, but still powerful, so he used them as shock troops to terrorize his enemies and push them back. He bolstered them so that they would last longer on the battlefield. Still, some of them fell to the other army eventually."
There was pain on Wynne's face.
"I tried, Wynne. I tried reaching out to them once they were out of Sauron's grasp on the battlefield, hoping to free them of Sauron's control, but they were not included in the Blood Covenant. They were not protected. There was so little that was human in them. I tried as hard as I could."
She watched the archmage turn her head away, go quiet for a minute. "When we first debated the necessity and rules of the Blood Covenant, I fought you. I thought I had spared the young ones from blood magic influences. I never thought... I as good as killed them, didn't I?" Wynne said finally.
"Do not let grief cripple you, Wynne. There are many who still need your help. We do not have the right to mourn right now."
"Of course, Hawke." A pause, then... "Thank you."
She nodded wordlessly, before carrying on. "There are mages on the other side too. Their power is... different... from ours. They defeated a corrupted mage and found me deep within his mind, trying to protect the last of his humanity. From there, they followed me to this prison. They knew the kind of danger we'd pose as pawns of Sauron. They couldn't simply stand aside, so they sent one of theirs, a wizard, to me. Through him, I learnt of this world as it truly is and not as Sauron would have me believe. I know then that I had to send a plea for help outside. The wizard helped me. He sacrificed his life and distracted Sauron while I created a message and sent it out."
"A plea? Do we even speak the same language?"
"We don't. The Blue Wizard, as he called himself, was gifted in mind arts. He spoke directly into my mind. But those skilled in mind arts are few in this world."
"Then the plea must be able to pass through the need for languages at all."
"It did. I created the message with my own memories. Powerful images that need no words to explain them. I infused them into a rock on the ground of my prison cell." Hawke turned to face Wynne as she said this. Such feats were only feasible through the use of blood magic. Wynne had always been the most vocal of her followers to argue against the use of blood magic. But extreme time called for extreme measures. Hawke had learned this lesson the day she saw her mother's head stitched onto a body composed of dead women parts, and given un-life through the blood of others.
This time, she saw no disapproval on the archmage's face. She smiled a little at this. It seemed she wasn't the only one changed by this world. "I used the Blue Wizard as a template and laced this rock with enchantments, to ensure that only those similar to him could understand the message and those that don't would feel an unrelenting and subconscious imperative to deliver it to those who can. I then took control of a group of dead orcs and installed a last directive in their primitive mind to deliver this rock to the closest establishment of Sauron's enemies. They were already dead, so they were best suited for the task."
Just in time, they arrived at the beach where the alien consciousness hovered. "It took one year for the rock to be delivered to one of the same blood as the Blue Wizard. This is..." The consciousness felt deeply masculine. "... he."
Shortly after finding Wynne's dreaming mind through the link created by the Blood Covenant, they had set out to find the others, awakened them, brought them into their fold, and protected them. Each and every one of Hawke's brood had come into this dream world, theirs and hers and Wynne's, fully formed as they saw themselves.
This mind, on the other hand, appeared only as a glowing wisp.
"Why does he... look like this?" Wynne observed the wisp, walking in circle around him for a better look.
"I'm not sure, but I think it is because our magic and mind is as strange to him as his is to us. Their magic is something that is... " She paused, temporarily at a loss for words. "I cannot comprehend their magic at all. It is a very strange kind of magic. I have never felt something like it before."
"Me neither." Wynne gave her conclusion. "Irving may have better chance than us. Maker knows that man has read the Circle tower library inside and out. And he's dabbled in more... esoteric magic in his youth. Magical systems and theories are right up his alley."
"Agreed." Hawke said succinctly. "He's still too weak for me to bring him out of the men's nursery now, but once his mind has recovered, I will bring him here."
With her observation of the foreign mind done, the archmage turned her attention back to Hawke, a look of guarded curiosity on her face. "What did you show them?"
"I showed them our powers. I showed them the potential destruction we are capable of. I showed them our stories, our follies that supposedly turned the Golden City black and unleashed the Blight on our homeworld, and that if need be, we would kill even gods."
There was silence between them now. Hawke held her gaze, waiting.
"I suppose it's too much to hope they'd help us out of the goodness of their hearts." The archmage said finally, her voice thin and weary.
"We are in the midst of Sauron's stronghold, which had stood its ground for millennia, through wars and disasters alike. Armies stand guard at the gate. We are prisoners of a Dark God that is growing more powerful by the second. I doubt even the most good-hearted among them would attempt this suicide task, let alone leaders responsible for the safety and welfare of their people." Hawke said simply.
"The Blue Wizard gave his life for us." Said Wynne, not as argument, as a reminder.
"And for that I am forever grateful, but even he came because he knew he could not simply let us be turned into weapons in Sauron's hand. His help is not without motive."
Wynne sighed, looking at the ball of glowing wisp. "Are you sure they won't simply send someone to kill us off? That is far easier to do and accomplish the same thing."
"I don't know. They may." Hawke answered. "They may decide to save us... or to kill us. Either way, they will still have to send someone and disrupt Sauron's hold over us. That is already a chance at freedom, and I'd take any chance right now. The only way we'll lose is if nothing happens and we are left to fight our own battle against Sauron alone. As far as I know, the power balance of this world is a delicate one. The addition of our power would not tip... but shatter it. Sauron knows this. Before my message to them, his enemies did not. Now that they've seen what we are capable of, they will not be able to stand aside and do nothing. They will have to interfere."
"I suppose that is all we can ask for, then." There was a look of acceptance on Wynne's face. "And what shall we do now, as we wait for this interference?"
"We prepare..." Said Hawke. "... for war."
End Chapter 5