Kat’s BioWare Contest Entry: Somniari’s Sleep

Kat’s BioWare Contest Entry: Somniari’s Sleep

DA2LogoAs everyone knows, BioWare is my favorite game developer in the world.  In my eyes they can do no wrong.  I can even enjoy and love Dragon Age 2, despite its flaws.  Also, you may know that I enjoy writing.  So when I heard that BioWare was hosting a writing contest based on the Dragon Age universe and featuring mages and templars, I absolutely had to enter.  And I really wanted to win.  Unfortunately, I didn’t, but I read some of the entries that placed and I can kind of see why.  They all had something that made them really stand out, made them emotional.  Gave that special feeling to the reader.  Mine, as you’ll see below, is more based on action.  I definitely see now ways I could have improved.

Anyways, below is my entry for the competition, entitled Somniari’s Sleep:

 

As a templar, my motivation is supposed to come from the desire to follow the will of the Maker, to protect the innocent from the havoc a mage could cause.

It does not.

Rather, my driving force comes from a place deep within my soul, a bitter seed that has left me desiring one thing: revenge.  Revenge that is well deserved; revenge on a rogue mage.

A mage who happens to be my identical twin sister.

Tasked with rooting out mages who never joined the Circle, it is Candra I search for among the apostates.  I hunt rumors and legends; often following trails that have long since grown cold.  She is the one I hope to confront every time I track an apostate.

As I approached Knight-Captain Reyes in a small alleyway off the market within Ansburg, my heart thrummed, quickened by the news I brought.  I was eager to gain his approval for my next task.

“Knight-Captain?”  I asked.  He was the templar I treated with deference, as he was the one who took me seriously.  After my mother died, I sought to join the templar order, craving a purpose and a chance at revenge.  Being half elf, half human, I was laughed at and thrown out.  Only Reyes had recognized my passion, allowing me to work for him privately as a templar hunter.  Officially, I was akin to a mercenary.  But in my mind, I was a templar.

He turned, and I bowed my head.  “Evaine.”  His dark features and lilting accent established that he had come to the Free Marches from Antiva.

“I recently heard of a dangerous apostate, and I’m looking for your favor to find her.”

He lifted an eyebrow while his coal colored eyes studied me.  “Go on.”

“There have been strange happenings in northern Ferelden, near Highever.  People being pulled into the Fade against their will.  Hauntings.  A woman going mad.  A mage was thought to be the cause of it, and it stopped after she disappeared.”

Reyes’ mouth tightened as I spoke of the mage’s deeds.  “Where is she now?”

“She was seen heading west, stopping in Orzammar,” This was all the information I would present, and now I would await his decision.  I doubted it would result in anything other than finding her, but I needed his blessing all the same.

“Strange that an apostate would travel so close to the Circle Tower.  And that she would choose Orzammar, of all places.  The dwarves have no magic in their blood.”  He ran a hand through his hair.  Nervously waiting for an answer, my fingers began to grow cold.  Surely this wouldn’t be considered too dangerous a job for an unsanctioned templar hunter?

Finally he nodded.  “Bring her to the nearest Circle, if possible.  Nullify the threat, if not.”

I acknowledged this with another bow and turned to go.

“And Evaine?”

I looked back.  His brows were creased.

“I’m not sure what type of magic this is.  Be cautious.”

 

Reyes may not have known the type of magic this apostate was using, but I did.  It sounded all too familiar to me.

Somniari.  A dreamer; someone who could enter the Fade at will and manipulate it, driving others into the Fade, attacking people in their dreams, destroying their minds.  Even killing them through their dreams.

It was rare magic, thought to be extinct in all but legends.  My throat tightened as I thought back to when my parents were alive and my mother wasn’t emotionally scarred by the horrors my sister had wrought.  Candra inherited the magic bloodline of our elven ancestors, while I was simply a half breed with no magical talents.

I was young when Candra began having nightmares.  Our parents were concerned, because she told them of demons who called to her.  But who could they turn to for help?  My mother, a Dalish elf, had abandoned her tribe to marry the human she’d met on an expedition in the Brecilian forest in Ferelden.  My father was disowned by his family in Denerim for wedding an elf rather than a noble.  They were afraid of bringing her to the Circle, as they might never see her again.

It became difficult to wake her up.  She would sleep through the morning, not rising until mid-day.  Eventually nothing could wake her.  It terrified us.

I stopped my thoughts.  I was standing at the entrance to Orzammar, being sized up by a sour dwarf.  Garbed in loose robes, with a hood pulled low over my eyes, I was dressed for anonymity.

It was early in the morning.  Although there was a circle of trading stations set up in front of the doors, most of the traders were still in their tents.  Those that were awake were blearily setting out their wares, paying us no mind.

“What do you want?” spat the dwarf, his voice as icy as the wintery air.

“To get inside,” I replied sardonically.  Before he could respond, I drew my dagger and pressed it against his throat.  “Let me in, or I’ll take your tongue and feed it to a nug.”

He grunted in distaste, but the intimidation worked.  He opened the doors, muttering about hoping darkspawn would eat me.

I was closer than ever to the goal of finding my apostate twin, and was both elated and terrified.  It had been over a decade since I’d seen her, back when I was 15.  I was now 29.  Yet I could still picture the last day I saw her, the day mother and I fled for our lives.

Passing through the entrance hall, I entered the Commons.  I was struck by the impressive architecture, the dedication that went into carving the entire city from stone.  While I admired the craftsmanship required, I also felt oppressed.  The lighting provided by lava and flickering torches felt unnatural, casting a ruddy hue on the surroundings.

I took in the view, and then moved to cross the bridge over the bubbling lava.  Alert, I scanned the other side in the off chance I caught a glimpse of her.  Seeing only dwarves, I wandered on the stone street.  I overheard conversations about the death of a king, and arguments over his successor.

Walking towards the dingier part of Orzammar, I felt a change in the atmosphere as I crossed over; the air itself was heavier.  Knowing that eyes watched me, I kept my hand near my blade.  Feeling the stirring of movement behind me too late, my knees were suddenly kicked out from under me, my hood thrown back, and a blade pushed against my throat.  Ironic that I’d just done the same thing to a dwarf.

A voice raged in my ear.  “What’s a surfacer doin’ here in Dust Town?”

“Let her go!”  The command came from my right, but I didn’t dare turn my head with the knife resting against my neck.

You,” the dwarf sneered.  But the blade lifted, and he backed away.

I was on the ground with my hand against my throat.  It was disconcerting to think I might have been moments away from meeting the Maker.  A shadow fell over me, and I looked up to see that the voice belonged to an elf.  His brown hair was streaked with red and fell into his gray-green eyes as he studied me.

“Candra, what are you doing?  I thought we agreed you’d stay inside.  Come on, let’s go.  That dwarf will be getting his friends right now,” he informed me, wrapping an arm around my waist and lifting me up.  My heart leapt within me when he mentioned her name.  He hadn’t even realized his mistake.

He guided me to an abandoned structure, of which the door had been ripped off its hinges.  The front room was empty, but as he drew me into a room deeper within the hovel, he moved aside a broken chair and rug to reveal a hatch in the corner.

“Are you hurt?” he asked as he helped me down the stairs.

“Just shaken.”  My voice cracked convincingly.  I was standing at the bottom of the stairs, which led to a tunnel, into which many passages emptied.  He closed the hatch, and put his arm back around me.  I leaned on him, under the pretense of shock.

“If you thought to be less conspicuous in that outfit,” he stopped to chuckle.  “You only made yourself stand out more.  That dwarf thought you were a prime target.”

We took a left at one of the passages.  I hadn’t seen any signs of life, and I was getting anxious.  I glanced at the elf supporting me, noticing he was looking me up and down, frowning.  “Where did you get that outfit…?” he asked slowly.

“Elin!”  A voice stopped us.  He released me so abruptly that I stumbled.  We had turned a corner, and there she was.

Candra.

It was like looking into a mirror, how similar we appeared.  Blonde hair like gold, deep navy blue eyes, a sprinkling of freckles on the nose.  The lean build of an elf, the stature of a human, and the slight point in the ears.  Except she looked exhausted.  Her shoulders were slumped, dark purple circles like bruises marked her eyes, her eyes themselves were dull, and her face was pale.

As I stared, I saw a parade of emotions cross her face.  First, annoyance for Elin, then suspicion as she looked at me, giving way to shock, then sadness, ending with confusion.  I drew myself up, wearing the most spiteful glare I could muster.

“Candra,” I greeted.  I paid no heed to Elin, who was glancing between us, dumbfounded.

“Evaine,” she breathed.  Her eyebrows drew together.  “But I thought… you were dead.”

“Still living and breathing.  No thanks to you.”

She seemed to realize my anger.  I was trembling with emotion, barely keeping myself contained.  I wanted to scream at her, I wanted her to answer my questions, I wanted her to feel the pain I’d felt.

“All this time, you’ve… been alive… I can’t believe it,” she whispered.

I couldn’t believe her tone, which sounded like she cared after all she’d done.  It tore me apart.  “Yes, I have.  Do you know what you did to father?  How mother was left heartbroken by your actions, that her mind couldn’t comprehend it, how I had to care for her until she died?  That is, after we fled for our lives because you almost killed me.  She repeated ‘Somniari’ over and over, one of the only things she would say for the rest of her life.”  I stopped, breathing hard.  She had let me speak, but her face was crumbling as the accusations hit.

“I hate myself for what happened.  Father was trapped in the Fade because of me, and I thought I’d killed you.  I understood why mother ran.  How far away from an abomination was I, that I was capable of such things?  I should have been made tranquil, cut off from the Fade.”

It took a moment to process this information.  I thought she’d had no regret, that she’d done what she had because she’d wanted to.  It never occurred to me that maybe she’d been as horrified as me.

She continued quietly, “I begged them to take me to the Circle Tower.  They decided against it.  I knew something wasn’t right, but I thought, even if they made me tranquil, at least… they’d have you.”

I was stunned.  I reached for something that wouldn’t rend my whole basis for becoming a templar.

“Why Orzammar?”

The pained look returned.  “I was trying to control my abilities, and found a Dalish tribe who was sympathetic to me.  But they knew of nothing that would help, aside from killing me outright.  At that point, Elin wouldn’t allow it,” she smiled faintly at him, and he moved to her side.  That could be problematic, two against one.  “I left before anything happened, and Elin came with me.  I tried forcing myself to stay awake, to not allow myself in the Fade, but that was impossible.  I failed miserably in Highever.  Then I thought of Orzammar.  Maybe, since the dwarves have no magic, I wouldn’t be able to affect them.  I want to stop hurting people.  Evaine, I’m… sorry for what happened.”

It was too much.  I didn’t believe her, couldn’t believe her.

“That can’t be true,” I muttered.  “Because of what happened, I became a templar.”

Candra’s face was unreadable, but Elin growled, “Why can’t you see she has a good heart?  She doesn’t mean for anything bad to happen.”

“The problem is that bad things keep happening.  One way to solve that problem is to become tranquil,” I replied sharply.

“I deserve nothing less,” agreed Candra.  Elin looked startled.

“What?  No.  No!”

“Elin,” she said, touching his face gently.  “You have to let me go.”

Tears formed in his eyes, and he was clenching his jaw.  In a sudden movement, he leaned forward and kissed her.  I was surprised by the tender display, but turned, as the moment felt intimate.

I heard Candra gasp and whirled around.  Elin was backing away, tears running down his cheeks.  Candra was clutching her chest, from which a knife’s hilt protruded.  Blood was seeping onto her clothes.  She fell to her knees.  I moved without thought to her side.

“I won’t live in a world where you have been made tranquil,” I heard Elin whisper.  “I can’t.”  He bolted past me.

Astonishment rooted me there.  Gingerly, I touched where the blade had struck, feeling her blood on my fingers.  My mind was trying to come to terms with what had happened.

She was dying, and not by my hand.  But then, she wasn’t what I had expected.  If I had killed her, would it have haunted me?  Or would I be more upset that I hadn’t been the one to strike her down?

It was incomprehensible.  The fury was waning, unsure of how to react.

“Evaine,” she swallowed with difficulty.  “I’m sorry for the way things happened.  Please… forgive me.”

I looked into her blue eyes and saw my reflection.  Here we were, twin sisters reuniting; so alike, yet so different.  One twin, a dreamer, everything a templar would fear, but in her heart, remorse for the suffering she’d caused and a desire give up her abilities.  The other, a templar hunter, who had lived in the shadow of what her sister had done, who held on to bitterness all her life, spent it searching for the one who had wronged her.

“I… ” The words stuck in my throat.

Tears slid past her temple, dripping to the ground.  A sigh escaped her lips.

She was gone.

 

I am Evaine, a half breed with a heavy heart of regret, who wasted years on a misguided idea.  I am still an unofficial templar hunter, but my motivation does not come from the Maker.

It comes from the need to give others a second chance.

 

-Kat

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