The farther east Anders and Fenris traveled along the roadway, the more the mountains encroached, forming steep cliffs on either side. Ultimately, the pair was forced to walk along the side of the roadway itself. They were both wary of the speeding carriages that flew past them, and more than once Fenris was regretting his lack of footwear, as the side of the roadway was strewn with sharp, jagged rocks and pebbles.
Sometime after midday, one of the many carriages flying past them slowed down and pulled out of the roadway to the side that seemed designed for carriages that needed to stop. Fenris and Anders had passed several of these already, but this was the first time they’d seen a carriage make use of one.
The carriage remained still in front of them, the lights on the back of it glowing an angry red. They slowed down and eyed the carriage warily, wondering if they had done something wrong.
That’s when one of the carriage doors opened and out came a young man, who couldn’t have seen his twenty-fifth name day yet. He had a slim build, dusty blonde hair and wore clothing that appeared strange to Fenris and Anders. His breeches were blue and were worn loosely. His shirt and jacket were of an odd weave, softer than the standard rough spun they were used to seeing in Thedas, and the jacket had a hood not unlike those sported by some mages, and closed by some strange means that didn’t appear like the normal laces or buckles, but instead some kind of metal strip.
The young man approached them amiably, not bearing any weapons. “Hey, sweet cosplays! Do you guys need a ride?” The young man asked.
“Cosplays?” Anders asked. “I am unfamiliar with that word.”
“Your costumes? You’re heading to Denver Comic-Con, right?” The young man asked.
“Is that the name of the nearest city? Denver Comic-Con?” Anders asked, forming his mouth around the strange words.
“Well the city is named Denver, yeah,” the young man said, confused. “Comic-Con is just a big convention for cosplayers like you. Isn’t that were you’re going?”
“Um, well we’re … new in this land. We were just trying to get to the nearest town or city,” Anders explained.
“Well, it’s still another one hundred and fifty miles into Denver. You sure you don’t want a ride?” the young man offered again.
“A ride would be appreciated,” Fenris spoke up, looking at the soles of his cut up feet.
“Woah, yeah you better get that taken care of. Where are your shoes?” the young man asked.
“I generally don’t wear any, but I have never traversed terrain quite like this before,” Fenris admitted.
“Well get in, I’ll take you into the city,” the young man said, guiding the two over to the strange carriage. “My name is Henry by the way. What are your names?”
“I’m Anders, and the elf is Fenris,” Anders offered.
“Woah, you two are really into the whole role-playing thing, aren’t you? Right on, I can respect that,” Henry said as they all got into the carriage. Anders opted to sit next to Henry in front, while Fenris took a seat in the back.
As Henry began to pull back into the speeding flow of carriages, he said “don’t forget to buckle up!” before he was speeding along at impossible speeds along the roadway.
At first Anders was terrified at how fast they were traveling, visibly shaking. Fenris wasn’t doing much better in the back, actually ducking down and crouching low behind the front seats.
“Hey guys, are you two alright?” Henry asked.
“W … why … are you traveling so fast?” Anders managed to get out, his face white as a sheet.
“What do you mean? I’m just driving the speed limit. It’s 65 along this stretch,” Henry replied.
“65 what?” Anders gasped.
“65 miles-per-hour of course,” Henry replied. “Man you two are really weird. You guys on some kind of drugs or something?”
“Drugs?” Anders asked, clearly still confused.
“Drugs! You know, like illegal medicine?” Henry explained “what are you two trippin’ on exactly?”
Anders sighed. “I think we are confused because we are from another land, another place. Where we come from, things are very … different.”
“Well take a deep breath and calm down you guys. It shouldn’t take long to get into the city as long as traffic keeps going smoothly,” Henry explained. “Here, let me put on some music.”
Henry pushed a button in the center of the carriage between himself and Anders, and all of a sudden they were surrounded by the thrumming beat of whatever it was that Henry considered music. It sounded odd to their ears, with harsh drum beats and otherworldly sounds of instruments. The bards sang with a rough melody with words and phrases Anders and Fenris could not easily make out.
“Gotta love Imagine Dragons, right? They just fuckin’ rock!” Henry yelled over the loud music, tapping his hands on the wheel in front of him, in time to the driving beat of the music.
“Those are dragons?” Anders asked, shocked.
Henry looked at Anders like he was starting to wonder what kind of crazy people he had let into his car.
Anders decided it was probably for the best that he didn’t say anything else until they reached the city.
They drove along with the strange music continuing. After what seemed like endless mountains, they finally crested a hill, and the mountains opened up to a wide expanse of plains and … the most magnificent city Anders had ever seen.
“Fenris,” Anders breathed in wonder. “Do you see this?”
Fenris had remained tucked down in the seat, still too frightened of the speed they were traveling to look out of the window. He peeked his head up to see the skyline of a gleaming, glittering cityscape. Spires that looked like they were made of stone, glass and metal rose up from the flat plains surrounding it.
“Welcome to Denver!” Henry said, still a bit wary of these two very strange men.
“It looks more wondrous than Arlathan!” Fenris breathed.
Henry let out an exasperated sigh and turned off the radio. “Look, I get it. You two are really into your Dragon Age role play, but come on. Drop the act please? I love those games as much as the next geek, but this is really too much. Heck, even you two gotta admit, Dragon Age 2 wasn’t even that good!”
Anders was about to mumble something when he spotted something in the sky. “Look Fenris, it’s another one of those strange dragons, and there’s another one! They seem to be headed for Denver. Quick Henry, we need to hurry. Fenris and I have some experience dealing with dragons.”
“Without our weapons, your magic or my lyrium abilities, there is not much we can do Anders,” Fenris huffed.
All of a sudden Henry pulled his car to the side of the roadway. “Alright that’s enough. You two weirdos get out. I was trying to be nice but I can’t deal with you two being stuck in your role playing.”
“We’re not playing, Henry,” Anders started to say. Then all of a sudden Fenris let out a groan of pain, dragons and all else forgotten.
“The healing potion, it’s worn off,” Fenris said through gritted teeth.
“Shit, are you going into withdrawal or something?” Henry asked.
“No, his lyrium markings. Something has happened to them when we were transported here. It’s causing him pain. I only had a couple of healing potions left. Do you have a means for making more? I couldn’t find any elfroot while we made our way through the forest,” explained Anders.
“Elfroot? There is no such thing. But if you really need something to help the pain, I can take you to a pharmacy. Hang on I know one close to here.” Henry said as he restarted the carriage and continued along the roadway.
Soon Henry exited the roadway towards a smaller one until they arrived in front of brick structure with large windows, showing a well-lit interior, not unlike the small shop they had frequented the night before.
“You two stay in the car. I’ll be right back,” Henry said firmly.
Fenris continued to groan in pain, curled up on the backseat of the carriage … car … while Anders looked around, fretting. He wondered how soon those dragons would begin their attack, while they sat there, helpless and unable to do anything about them.
Soon Henry returned with his purchases. He quickly opened a white bottle with bright colors, tearing off what looked like a thin metallic film over the mouth of it and extracting cotton fluff. He then took out two small, round objects and handed them to Fenris with a bottle that looked like it was filled with water.
“Here, take these. I hope these can help with the pain. I couldn’t get you anything stronger without a prescription,” Henry apologized.
Fenris eyed the two objects suspiciously at first, but was then wracked with pain again and hurriedly grabbed them and swallowed them along with half of the bottle of water.
“I had a feeling you both would be thirsty after trekking along the interstate like that,” Henry said, handing another bottle to Anders, who took it gratefully and began to greedily drink it.
“I also grabbed some stuff for your feet, we’ll need to get those cuts cleaned up and bandaged, and I grabbed a cheap pair of flip-flops since that’s all they carry at this store. They’ll at least keep your feet from getting more cut up.” Henry explained as he gestured to the white sack he’d brought back into the car with him.
“I’m guessing you guys don’t have a place to stay, right?” Henry looked at them pointedly.
Anders shook his head. “No, we don’t. We weren’t exactly planning to be … here.”
“Alright, look. I’ll let you both crash at my place for tonight. We’ll figure something else out tomorrow.” Henry said, making the car come to life once again. They were now going along smaller roadways and moving at slower speeds than before. Fenris felt less terrified and was able to sit up and watch with wonder as they sped past strange architecture and even stranger clothed people.
Fenris began to note that he didn’t see a single elf, dwarf or qunari among all the people they passed, only humans.
“Is this city only populated with humans?” Fenris dared to ask.
“Well, our entire planet is populated with humans, what’s your point?” Henry asked.
“Where are all the elves? Dwarves? Qunari?” Fenris asked pointedly.
“There are no elves or qunari and dwarves are just really short humans, often born with a genetic defect,” Henry explained, deciding to just play along with their delusions for now, explaining things as if they really came from a different world.
“No … elves? Where in Thedas are we that there are no elves?” Anders asked.
“You’re not in Thedas. Thedas doesn’t exist,” Henry said with irritation. Whatever these two were tripping on, it was bad.
“But … I’m an elf. If there are no elves, how do you explain me?” Fenris asked.
“You’re not an elf. You’re just human with make-up on. Either that or really extreme body modifications, if you really are that far into deluding yourself that the world of Dragon Age is real,” Henry said sternly.
Fenris growled. “I am not deluding myself. I may have no memory of what I was before Danarius put these markings upon my flesh, but I know I was most certainly born an elf!”
Henry turned into the smallest roadway they had seen yet and pulled over, turning off the car.
Anders feared they would be once again threatened to be kicked out on the roadway again, and he knew they very much needed Henry’s help. “I apologize. The elf can be quite prickly at times, don’t mind him, please,” Anders pleaded.
“Look, we’re here. This is where I live, ok? Let’s go inside and we can talk,” said Henry, looking exasperated.
“What about the dragons we saw heading for the city?” Anders asked.
“Those weren’t dragons, the city is safe,” Henry said, before turning around and heading away from the car.
Anders and Fenris followed Henry into a large building that looked to have several dwellings inside, not unlike many alienage apartments. Anders let Fenris lean on him as walking for the elf had become difficult. They stopped at one door and Henry pulled keys out of his pocket and opened it, letting himself and his very strange companions inside.
“Alright you guys can crash in my living room tonight, but I think I want to make some things really clear first, ok?” Henry began, indicating the two should seat themselves on the sofa. “I don’t know what kind of real-life role-playing game you guys are playing, but it really has to stop. I don’t know if you’re on some kind of drugs or escaped from a mental institution or what, but you cannot be from Thedas. You are not Anders and Fenris from the Dragon Age 2 game. Please drop the act, or I will kick you both out right now, got it?”
Anders took a deep breath. “Henry, I know you don’t believe us, and we’re really confused right now ourselves. Can I tell you how we came to be walking along that roadway that you found us on? Maybe things will make more sense then?”
Henry rolled his eyes. “Fine.”
Anders related how they had been summoned by Merrill, how she had asked them to activate their unique Fade energy powered abilities, to see if it could activate her Eluvian. He explained how, when he and Fenris touched the surface of the Eluvian, it had sucked them in and the next thing they knew was pain, followed by waking up amongst the trees near the roadway.
Anders then went on to explain how they had found their way to a merchant at a crossroads, before continuing along the roadway until Henry came upon them.
“Until the day before yesterday, we have never been here before. We certainly have never heard of a magnificent city named Denver nestled near mountains as breathtaking as the Frostbacks,” Anders said as he concluded his tale.
Henry stared at them for a few moments. That part about the Eluvian certainly was never in the game. If they were role-playing, they were doing so with some very vivid imaginations. He also noticed that Fenris’ markings were the wrong color.
“If you’re really Fenris, former slave from Tevinter, your markings should be white, and you should speak fluent Latin, which you would call Tevene,” Henry said.
“My markings were changed after we came through the Eluvian. I don’t know why but I think it’s the reason I have been in such pain.” Fenris explained. “Quid ergo dicemus quod persuasero, Henry?”
“Woah, wait, was that Latin?” asked Henry.
“It was Tevene. I asked ‘what can we say that will convince you?’” Fenris replied.
“Hang on … say it again … more slowly,” Henry requested, pulling a small rectangle from his pocket, that lit up in his hand. Anders and Fenris both jumped back at the sight, hitching their breaths.
“What type of magic is that?” Anders breathed in reverence.
Henry sighed once again. “It’s not magic, it’s technology. It’s a smart phone. Look, just say that Tevene phrase again Fenris, more slowly.” He held up the glowing technology up near Fenris’ face, who looked at it with severe trepidation.
“Quid … ergo … dicemus … quod … persuasero?” said Fenris, slowly.
The technology … smart phone … began to speak in a strange feminine voice. “Quid ergo dicemus quod persuasero? Language: Latin. Translation: what can we say that will convince you?”
Fenris jumped back, crouching on the sofa like a wild animal at the sound of the disembodied voice and information it provided.
“How can … that … speak?!” Fenris asked in fright. “Have you trapped a demon with it?”
“No, there’s no demon. Like I said, it’s technology.” Henry sighed again and then scrutinized the pair. Their costumes … clothing … were both in-game accurate down to some very fine details. He could clearly see that Fenris wasn’t wearing make-up. His markings were clearly burned into his skin, and his long, pointed ears weren’t fake either.
“Look, I’m starting to think I might be wrong about you two, but it’s getting late and I’m really tired from driving all day. Let’s take care of those torn up feet of yours Fenris, and have some food and sleep. We can talk more tomorrow,” suggested Henry. “You both look like you could use a good night’s sleep.”
Henry handed the bag to Anders, “do you think you know how to clean and bandage his feet without your healing powers, which I assume you’ve also lost?”
Anders nodded and looked at what was in the bag. “Yes I can make use of this.”
Anders motioned for Fenris to stretch out on the couch and he took Fenris’ feet onto his lap. He slowly pulled the part of the leggings that came down over the arches of Fenris’ feet back to expose the elf’s feet. He then took the bottle labeled ‘alcohol,’ and poured some on the gauze he found.
“This is going to hurt Fenris, especially since I have no elfroot or healing magic, so please try not to kick me,” Anders cautioned. Fenris nodded in acknowledgement. As Anders slowly wiped the bottom of Fenris’ feet clean, the elf clenched his teeth through the pain.
As Anders was tending to Fenris, Henry went off into another room. Once Anders had cleaned and bandaged Fenris’ feet, he fished out a couple more of the medicine that Henry had given Fenris earlier, and handed Fenris his half-finished bottle of water to go with them. Anders tried to read the label on the medicine bottle, but couldn’t understand much outside of “pain relief.”
Fenris looked at Anders, and sincerely said “Thank you.” It was difficult for him to thank the mage, after their long history of hating each other, but he was truly grateful for both his presence and his deft work on bandaging his injured feet.
Anders nodded, “You’re welcome, Fenris.”
Anders had never hated Fenris, but he had become fed-up with Fenris’ constant snide remarks against mages over the years. He knew that Fenris had just cause to hate mages, but his stubborn insistence that all mages needed to be locked up like common criminals wore on his good graces, no matter how handsome the elf was.
Henry came back with some bowls of what looked like soup, with lots of noodles. “Sorry, all I had in the kitchen was some ramen.”
Anders and Fenris took the bowls gratefully and greedily ate the salty noodles and broth, having not eaten anything since the merchant they had encountered at the crossroads nearly a day before.
Henry then went off and brought them back some blankets and pillows. “Here you can use these. Sorry one of you has to sleep on the floor.”
“That’s quite alright. We’re quite used to sleeping on the ground,” Anders nodded his appreciation. “Fenris, you can have the sofa. You’ve been worse off than I have since we arrived here.”
Fenris looked at Anders oddly, but nodded in acknowledgement.
“G’night guys,” Henry said, turning off the lights and heading into another part of the apartment.Fenris and Anders settled in, removing the more uncomfortable parts of their armor, before curling up and drifting off to sleep for the third time in this strange land.