Narrative: 1. Rebirth Who: Elsa Zerbino Vargas Where: In the home of a fisher-family on the coast of Ferelden, and in the Fade. When: Spring 9:45 Summary: A mage is never alone in her dreams. But what if you have forgotten that you are a mage – what dangers then await you in the Fade? Rating: A for amnesia
The ocean had spat her out and she lay shivering and cold on the beach. The fisherman and his family were simple people, used to the hard winds and changeable moods of the waters that fed them. They were even used to sometimes, even if their religious views were strict, to salvage what could be found on wrecked ships. But they lived far from any other city, indeed Highever was hours away, and they made their own law and their own living. Despite this, they were not cruel people, only salt and sturdy, and when they found Elsa, they carried her to their little cottage and tended her. The fisherman’s wife soon realized that this was a lady that had been in the family way, but lost her little one, and it made the good woman send the men folk out of the room and leave only her daughters. Together they cleared away the blood and cleaned and dressed her wounds, all the while she moaned and tossed. They tried to wake her at that point, but she slept like the restless dead. She was a pretty lady, far softer and prettier than any they had ever seen. Conversing in low tones between themselves they came to the conclusion that she must be some sort of foreign, fine lady. Her hands were too soft for a commoner and her dress, although of a no nonsense cut, was expensive wool, finer than anything they had ever seen before. Reverently they brushed her hair, matted by salt and blood, admiring its sheen. But still, she would not wake up.
She was walking. The cliffs had funny shapes as if they were made of smoke and not stone, swirling under her feet. She felt light, as if she was made out of smoke too. When she turned her head there was someone that was walking next to her. At first she didn’t realise it but after a second she saw that she was walking next to herself. Never had she realised that her nose was that exact shape or the irregular pattern the freckles on her face formed. She supposed she was pretty, but it was disconcerting to discover it by walking alongside yourself. Yet the feeling felt vague somehow, diluted, but she could find no reason for this. “Hello Elsa,” the figure next to her said, unleashing another wave of confused thoughts. Was her name Elsa too, since they looked alike? Or did they have similar shapes but different names? “Elsa Zerbino Vargas, that’s you. You didn’t know that, did you?” She didn’t. Elsa didn’t. She tried the name, tried to think of herself as Elsa, and the name fit, sliding into one of the empty slots in her mind. When she thought about it, there seemed to be very many of those. Stopping and closing her eyes, she tried to remember, tried to recall who she was, or where she was, but nothing came up. Her mind was blank, her memory a smoky dance of shadows that held nothing, not even her name. The second Elsa next to her laughed, and even thought she had never heard herself laugh, somehow she was certain that it didn’t sound like that. It was a cold sound, with a metallic echo that fit ill the red lips it issued from. And then she disappeared and there was only one Elsa, and a man instead. He was taller than her, smiling down at her, his eyes dark and unreadable. His hair curled around his ears and Elsa found her hands twitching to reach out and touch him, even though as far as she could tell, she had never met him before. His chin was covered in the dark shadow of a stubble and his smile was all arrogance, a slight curl of one corner of his full lips. “Elsa,” he said, his voice smooth and warm and it sounded as if he knew her. Stunned she stood there as he stepped closer, lifted a hand and caressed her cheek. Warm. Soft, with a slight hint of strength and hardness behind it. Familiar. The last thought shook her to her very core and she stepped back, staring at him in shock and confusion. “Do I know you?” she asked him, unconsciously lifting a hand to trace the remaining warmth from his caress, while at the same time discovering the sound of her own voice. It was not what she would have expected, but then how could she have expected anything at all? Had she ever heard herself talk? Had she ever spoken before? Searching inwards she only found a maze of questions, but no answers to guide her way. The man didn’t react at her question, just keeping up that steady, warm gaze that unsettled her so. “Elsa,” he said again, stepping close to her again. Looking into his dark eyes she found she could not think, could not move, could not do anything but stand there, watching his face and his lips approach hers. The kiss felt wrong and familiar both, the second their lips made contact. At first she still couldn’t move, and stood there, eyes open, unmoving as his lips caressed hers. When she suddenly somehow found the strength to, she moved back, unsteady on the rough surface of the smoke-rock. “Who are you?” she challenged him, again in that husky voice she did not recognize. It hit her then, the sudden realisation that she recognized…nothing. Her heart sped up; her breath clawed its way through her throat. She was empty, there was no memories, no knowledge, no recollection of where she was or why or who. Elsa took another few steps backwards, staring at the man in front of her with wide eyes, before turning to flee. But confusion made her movements slow and rather then running away from him, she ended up at his feet, one of the insubstantial smoke-rocks suddenly real enough to trip her. She went down with a gasp and found she could not do more then lay there and try to breath. Everything was so confusing, so completely bewildering that she could not even begin to unravel the mysteries inside and out. In the swirling fogs that made the sky she could see a distant shape looming, hanging in the heavens like a floating palace. It only added to her detachment.
A hand appeared in her line of sight. It was a good sort of hand, she thought as she studied it, it looked strong and rough, the knuckles lightly dusted with some sort of white powder. “Now there, carita, let me help you up.” The voice went straight to her heart, bypassing everything else. She moved before even thinking about it, taking the hand. She was on her feet again in a second, looking at a man, no taller then she was, and with an oddly insubstantial air about him. His hair was grey, but his eyes kept changing colour, from brown to blue and back again. His shoulders were broad, but he seemed like an old man, with the hair and the deep creases on his face. Yet, as she looked at him, she knew she knew him. She could not say how, could not explain it in any way, but her blood and her bones recognized him, even though her mind did not. She took one step towards him, before something told her to stop. He cocked his head to the side and looked at her. Again that wave of unfamiliarity hit her and she faltered altogether. A cruel smile spread on the lips of the man, a smile that did not seem quite human. It looked like an animal smiling, like death and cruelty and it banished the feeling that he was someone she knew. Smiling like that he was not familiar, he was not even humanlike. “Never mind,” he said, the cadence of his voice making her insides ache for something she could not recall. “There are other nights…” This time when he changed, she caught it, her eyes registering that his shape was altering in front of her eyes. It was unsettling and it felt deeply wrong, as if it was more than a change, as if he was stealing shapes out of thin air. The man who now stood in front of her was different. Very different. Blood was spilling slowly out of his mouth, a wound clearly visible on his chest and his face blackened as if he had been burned by lightning. He didn’t speak, he only stood there for a long, horrible minute, while the blood started pooling around his feet, spreading impossibly quick. He didn’t speak, but his eyes were accusing her and it scared her that she did not know why. Had she killed him? Did he blame her for his death or had they been close at some point? She had no answers, only questions and just as she was about to tell him so, he spoke. His voice had a wheezing, gurgling quality, as if somewhere inside him, more blood was trying to find its way out. “You will never escape us.” It made no sense to her, but yet it chilled her blood. She looked down at the ground in order to avoid looking at the gaping wound in his chest, but looking down she only saw the pooling blood. “They will come for you…”
She woke up with a gasp, not aware until the moment she sat up in the slim, hard bed of a cottage she did not recognize, that she had been sleeping at all.
Later they brought her the bag they had found washed up some distance from her and explained how they had found her. Was it her, did she recognize anything in it? It contained a large ring, too large to fit on any of her slim fingers, a batted leather book with empty pages, a water bottle, and a slim knife. Looking down at it she could almost see blood staining it, even though it was pristine, washed clean by the ocean. The bag held no memories, even though it obviously contained a murder. Smiling, she nodded and thanked them. But there were more questions, the mother and her daughters’ sitting around the bed, eagerly wanting the story behind her mysterious appearance. She didn’t know anything but the things they had told her and what enigmas she had encountered in her dreams, but she tried to give them what they wanted to hear. In her story she was a foreign princess, fleeing from her cruel father who wanted her to marry his advisor, who was a man she could not abide and probably quite evil at that. They were all staring when she was done, but she figured it was a good thing, that she had made one afternoon of their lives a little more magical.
The fisherman and his family offered her to stay, they were good folks after all, but she declined with a smile. Before she left she was gifted with a thick grey shawl and provisions to last her to the next village. She supposed she ought to have declined, seeing how little they had for themselves. But she didn’t, instead she felt a surge of relief, that she at least had the power to influence people to like her and do what she wanted. She waved at them from the last rise before their small cottage disappeared on the horizon, and then she turned and walked south. The rain started after a few hours, the sky suddenly darkening and wet drops started to fall. At first she didn’t understand what was happening, the wetness felt so unfamiliar. But then the wind picked up and blew the scent of spring at her, wet leaves and fresh young things growing. It made her smile despite the discomfort of the rain, and after a moment she lifted her face towards the sky, feeling each drop hit her skin. Cold pinpricks on her skin, the opposite of tears, it was the sky that was crying, not her. She stood there a moment, taking deep breaths, eyes closed, body relaxed. Behind her was one beginning, the awakening with all its confusion and turbulence. This moment, right here on this lonely heathland she felt reborn. Her past was empty, but at least her future was spread out in front of her. She had to make do with what she had and make sure whoever was hunting her didn’t find her.
Clutching her gifted shawl closer around her she started to walk south. It was as good a direction as any after all.