Any Sufficiently Advanced Technology...
Fenris awoke several hours later. It was still dark and at first fear gripped the elf because of his unfamiliar surroundings. Sleep still fogged his mind as he tried to remember where he was. It didn’t smell anything like Tevinter or Kirkwall. It didn’t smell familiar at all.
Then Fenris heard Anders’ soft snoring coming from somewhere nearby and his panic began to ease, as he recalled the events from the day before. While Anders wasn’t necessarily a friend, he was familiar. Fenris craved familiar right now and so he slowly crawled onto the floor towards the soft sounds of snoring, dragging his pillow and blanket with him. Trying not to wake Anders, Fenris curled up next to the mage, breathing in his familiar scent, allowing himself to drift back to sleep once again.
Anders awoke as the daylight began to seep into the room he was sleeping in, and slowly he began to realize there was a warm body wrapped around him. Anders tried to remember who he could be cuddling with when he looked down and saw a head of white hair tucked under his chin. Fenris? Why had the elf crawled off the more comfortable couch in order to curl around him?
Anders quickly realized the only reason Fenris might have done so was because he woke in the middle of the night in unfamiliar surroundings, and that Anders was probably the only thing familiar to him. Fenris was drawn to him only because he was the only thing the elf knew in this strange land they found themselves in.
A wave of sympathy came over the former mage, and he couldn’t resist giving Fenris’ hair a comforting stroke.
Anders knew that Fenris had a rough go of it since they arrived here, being wracked with constant pain, yet another harsh reminder of what Danarius had done to him. While Anders felt crippled without his magic, and he missed Justice’s presence, but he knew it couldn’t compare to the pain and fear Fenris must be going through.
Anders had been deprived of his magic before, being dosed on magebane almost continuously while in solitary confinement at Kinloch Hold. However, this time it was different. It was one thing to be cut off from your magic, it was quite another for the magic to be completely gone. He didn’t even know how it was at all possible for him to be cut off from the fade like this and not be tranquil, although he was grateful for it nonetheless.
It was almost as if he was back to being his old self, who he was before his powers had manifested themselves when he was twelve. He could still remember a time he hadn’t had access to his magic yet, hadn’t felt it or his connection to the fade, had been just a normal boy with normal dreams and goals.
Anders had decided years ago that the boy he had been died the day the Templars dragged him off to the Circle in Ferelden. Now he was confronted with the reality that perhaps that boy still existed, and he would now need to reacquaint himself with who he might have been if his magic had never manifested. Who was he, without his magic?
All the while Anders was lost in thought, he had continued to absentmindedly stroke Fenris’ hair. Slowly Fenris began to stir, and before he came full consciousness, he started making contented little noises at the comforting touch. Anders smirked down at the normally cantankerous elf, knowing that Fenris wasn’t fully awake yet. In a move Anders would never have dared when Fenris was able to literally rip his heart out of his chest, Anders placed a soft kiss on top of Fenris’ head. This elicited another contented hum from the elf.
At first Anders thought he was just having a bit of fun at Fenris’ expense, but when his lips connected with Fenris’ head, Anders was surprised at his own reaction … letting out a low moan and feeling a clench in his chest.
Anders’ moan helped to rouse the elf closer to consciousness, and all of a sudden Fenris was scrabbling back, away from Anders, embarrassment making his face and ears flush several shades of red.
“M … my apologies, I hadn’t meant to curl up so closely to you,” Fenris stammered.
“It’s quite alright Fenris, I rather enjoy waking up with my arms full of handsome elf,” Anders teased lightheartedly, a lazy grin on his face.
Fenris blushed even redder at the compliment and headed back to the safety of the couch. Anders couldn’t help staring at Fenris, some long suppressed feelings having been stirred by the elf’s recent closeness.
“Mage,” Fenris growled in warning.
Anders was snapped out of his contented, sleepy fog by the sound of the old, familiar insult on Fenris’ lips. “Don’t call me that. Not anymore. Without magic I am no mage. I’m merely a man. A mundane. A useless cripple!” Anders rolled over to turn his back to Fenris in indignation.
Fenris sighed. “Fine, Anders. You’re right. I can no longer call you something you are not. It will just take some time to get used to you not having your magic anymore.”
Anders didn’t respond and at first Fenris thought perhaps the … man … had fallen back to sleep, when he noticed Anders’ shoulders shaking a bit. Fenris soon realized that Anders was silently weeping.
“Fasta vass! Anders, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” Fenris said softly. He walked back over to Anders and coaxed the distraught man up, as he sat back down onto the floor. Fenris cradled Anders, not really sure why he was trying to comfort him, just knowing it felt like the right thing to do.
“I’m sorry, Anders,” Fenris apologized.
Anders took a deep breath, trying to control his sobbing, “Y … you mean that, Fenris?”
“I do,” Fenris said sincerely. “The last few days has been very difficult for both of us. I don’t know where we are, or if we will ever be able to get back to Kirkwall. Right now all we really have is each other. It won’t do for us to resume our petty squabbles.”
Anders laughed at that. In the light of everything that had recently happened to them both, their arguments did appear somewhat petty. “Alright, let’s call a truce. At least until we get back to Kirkwall … if we ever get back. Agreed?”
Fenris looked down at the man in his arms. “Agreed.”
At that moment, Henry walked in, dressed only in a pair of long, loose fitting breeches. “I thought I heard voices coming from out here,” he said rubbing his eyes. As he opened them, Henry’s eyes widened, seeing Fenris cradling Anders in his arms.
“Woah, wait a minute, aren’t you two supposed to be mortal enemies or something?” Henry asked.
“Back in Kirkwall, we were,” Anders nodded, sitting up and disentangling himself from Fenris. “If it weren’t for Hawke we may have killed each other long ago, assuming we’d have ever even met.”
“And here?” Henry asked
Anders looked at Fenris and blushed a bit, “And here, we really only have each other in terms of anything familiar, which is what’s causing us to gravitate towards each other.”
“It also doesn’t hurt that he’s no longer a mage nor an abomination,” Fenris said with humor in his voice.
Anders lightly punched Fenris in the shoulder for that.
“Ow!” Fenris said in mock pain.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to hurt you. Are your markings still causing you pain?” Anders said apologetically.
Fenris smirked. “That hadn’t actually hurt, you silly … man. The markings are hurting much less today as well.”
“Well that’s a relief,” Henry said. “Let me make us some coffee and then we can figure out where we’re all going from here.”
Anders all of a sudden got a pained expression and looked at Henry “Do you by any chance have a chamber pot handy?”
Henry looked confused for a moment before realizing what Anders was asking. “We call them toilets. Go down the hall, second door on the right,” Henry explained.
Anders made his way as directed. It was dark inside the small room and at first he wasn’t sure how he was meant to use this toilet in the dark, until he recalled how Henry had made the living room light up and darken the night before. He felt along the wall near the door until his fingers found what felt like the sort of switch he’d seen Henry use and he played his fingers over it until he figured out how to make it move, flooding the small room with light, momentarily startling Anders. “How is this not magic?”
Then Anders heard someone running down the hall as Henry came up to him quickly before he’d had a chance to examine the room further. “Wait, I’m still not sure if you’re not just playing me or not, but just to be clear, that’s the toilet, and that’s the trash can,” Henry pointed at two very different looking objects in the room. “When you’re done, push down this handle, please.”
Anders’ nodded and Henry left, closing the door behind him. Anders looked at what Henry had called a toilet. It was all shiny, white porcelain, in the shape of a bowl with what clearly was a lid sitting open. He pulled down the lid and then lifted it again, realizing there was also another partial lid as well, one that seemed to form a sort of seat over the bowl and that could also be lifted up. Anders quickly surmised the purpose and then remembered his urgency. He made sure to lift both the lid and the seat completely up before untying his breeches and relieving himself into the bowl. When he was finished and all tucked away again, he pushed the handle down as instructed, and was startled at the noise from the toilet, seeing a powerful swirl of water taking away his issue and leaving behind clear, clean water again.
“Maker, more magic. All so practical too. This is truly a wondrous place!” Anders thought to himself, feeling saddened again by the loss of his own magic.
Anders then set upon exploring the rest of the room discovering another bowl that made him think of a wash basin. It had handles that allowed water to flow, one for hot water, one for cold. When turned on at the same time the temperature had a pleasant warmth. He set about scooping some of the water up to splash upon his face before turning them off again.
Anders then checked what was behind what looked like a curtain, hoping to find a window to look outside, but was surprised instead to find what looked like a bath tub. It wasn’t as fancy as some of the large Orlesian tubs he’d seen, but he understood the purpose. He then noted that there were more handles and they could be used to easily fill the tub with water. Anders hadn’t had a bath in ages. He would have to ask Henry later if he could indulge himself.
Once the room was thoroughly explored Anders headed back towards the living room, where Henry was serving up cups of hot, steaming coffee. At least this was something familiar, albeit a luxury rarely found in Ferelden. Fenris then asked to excuse himself, following the path down the hall that Anders had gone, having had an explanation of the facilities from Henry while Anders had absent.
“This land … it’s all so strange. You keep saying there is no magic here, but all I see around me is magic.” Anders said, looking at Henry.
Henry smirked at that. “A very wise man once said, ‘Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.’”
Anders considered those words for a moment. New technology was rarely invented in Thedas. They had mages and magic, although both were utilized poorly in the Southern lands. In Tevinter, he’d heard, that they used magic to better everyday lives … well, for the magisters anyway. Had the existence of magic in Thedas stopped forward technological progress?
“If all these things that appear magical to me are just technological innovations, can you show me how they work?” Anders asked.
“Yes and no. I know how some things work better than others,” Henry explained. “I could tell you exactly how my car works, for example. I could even show you the engine and explain every part in it. Other things, like my smart phone, I could tell you some things about how it worked, but there is a lot there I don’t understand myself.”
Anders nodded. That was not unlike mages in Thedas, as not all mages had the same level of knowledge or even magical abilities. Each mage had more of an affinity for one particular branch of magic over another and none ever mastered all the branches.
Fenris returned and Henry handed him a fresh cup of coffee.
“So, yesterday you kept talking about games and mentioning something called ‘Dragon Age,’ and yet you claim there are no dragons here,” Fenris said, looking at Henry. “Would you care to explain?”
“Well, it might be better if I showed you,” Henry explained. “Come with me.”
They followed Henry down the hall into another room. It seemed to be set up as some sort of office or library, with bookshelves lining two walls and a desk along a third. Sitting atop the desk was another strange rectangle, much larger than the one Henry kept in his pocket. Henry bent to touch a black box underneath the desk and all of a sudden the large rectangle flared to life, causing Anders and Fenris to jump a little. They were starting to get used to these occurrences, but it was still unsettling.
Henry then began to move a small object upon the desk, making occasional clicking sounds with it. Soon something began to appear on screen … first the letters “EA,” followed by what looked like a dragon made entirely of blood, and then the word “BioWare,” before finally settling upon what looked like a woodcut that resembled Orsino and Meredith, facing off with each other with the words “Dragon Age II” between them.
“What? What is that?” Anders asked.
“This is the game, Dragon Age 2, I was talking about. This is how I know about you both,” Henry explained, before clicking again several times before stopping and Fenris and Anders breath caught in their throats. “Hawke! That’s Hawke! Why are there three of them? And who is that female?”
“There’s only one Hawke, but in the game you get to choose who your Hawke is. Hawke can either be male or female, and Hawke can either be a mage, rogue or warrior. Depending on what the player chooses, it also determines whether or not Bethany or Carver dies at the hands of the Ogre during the Darkspawn attack on Lothering,” Henry explained, “Your Hawke, I assume was male? Was he a mage, rogue or warrior?”
“Rogue,” Fenris supplied. “So Hawke could have been a woman?!”
Henry nodded and then selected the male rogue Hawke and a scene began to unfold. Anders and Fenris cried simultaneously “Varric!!”
Then Anders spat in anger “a Seeker! What do the Seekers want with Varric?!”
“Woah, calm down Anders. I told you, it’s just a game, none of this is real,” Henry explained again.
“Well it’s real to us! You can’t expect me to believe that everything I’ve been through in my life didn’t really happen!” Anders said angrily. “I have the scars to prove they did happen, as does Fenris.”
“Indeed. This may all just be a game to you, but that’s our lives you’re talking about,” Fenris added.
Henry switched off the rectangle and sat in quiet contemplation for a moment. “Well, clearly you both believe you’re really from Thedas and I have no way to prove you aren’t,” Henry sighed. “Alright, let’s say for the moment I believe you. How is it even possible for you to be here? When we play the game in our world, are we actually manipulating your world? Creating alternate realities? I don’t understand any of this …”
“All we know is that we got here through Merrill’s Eluvian, and somehow it reacted to the Fade energies in our bodies. Clearly when we crossed the threshold from our … reality … into yours, all of Fade energies and abilities were stripped from us, because it seems the Fade doesn’t exist here,” Anders said.
“Well, with no Eluvian in our world, or any magic or connection to your Fade, I don’t know if there is any way to ever send you back,” Henry said apologetically.
“I feared as much,” Fenris said, nodding solemnly.
“Well, I think you both need to blend into our world a bit better. I need to get you both some different clothes to start with, and some shoes,” Henry said pointedly, looking at Fenris’ bandaged feet.
“Hmm, yes. I never liked the idea of wearing footwear, but I see now why they can be useful,” Fenris nodded.
“Do either of you have any money?” Henry asked.
Fenris and Anders pulled out the silver coins they carried, giving them to Henry. “The merchant we came across the other day refused to take these as payment. Do they have any value here?”
Henry looked at the coins. “Are they pure silver?”
Anders nodded, and then pulled an earring from one of his pockets. “This is also pure gold, if that has any value?”
“Yes, gold is very valuable right now,” Henry nodded. “OK, here’s the plan. I am off work today, so I will go out and exchange your silver and gold for our local currency. Then I’ll go buy some less conspicuous clothing for you both.”
“What shall we do?” Anders asked.
“For now? Stay here. You can watch some television, it might help you become a bit more acquainted with our world.” Henry suggested, taking them back out to the living room and handing Anders a device with what looked like buttons on it. “Push this button to turn it on and off, these buttons control how loud it is, and this button lets you change what you’re watching. I’ll explain it all later, just keep in mind that a lot of what you will see is either technology, or it’s fake, so don’t believe everything you see, OK?”
Henry then headed back down the hall, presumably to change from his sleeping breeches into his clothing.
Anders sat on the sofa and just stared at the ground for a while, trying to process everything. Fenris sat next to him, similarly lost in thought.
“Anders,” Fenris began.
“That’s not my name,” Anders said softly.
“What?” Fenris asked.
“Anders. It’s not my real name, you know?” Anders said. “It’s just what they called me at the Circle because I came from the Anderfels. I refused to tell them my real name. In my mind, who I had been before the Templars dragged me off had died, so I never wanted to use that name again.”
Fenris felt a twinge of sympathy for Anders in that moment. He reached out and grabbed Anders’ chin and forced him to look at Fenris. “So, what should I call you, if not for mage or Anders?”
“Andreas. My real name is Andreas Bauermann,” Anders said, tears welling in his eyes at the memory of his name, hearing in his mind the voice of his mother when she would call out his name when it was time for supper.
“Well at least you still know your real name,” Fenris said, a little more bitterly than he had intended. “I do not know what my mother named me when I was born. I only know Danarius named me Fenris, because I was his … ‘little wolf.’” Fenris shuddered at the memory.
Fenris snapped his head up at the sound of Henry’s voice, standing up to face the man. “What did you say?”
“Leto. That’s your real name Fenris. Everyone who has played through Dragon Age 2 knows that,” Henry said. “That means you got pulled through the Eluvian before Danarius finally caught up with you in Kirkwall, or you would know it too.”
“Leto … that does feel … familiar,” Fenris said.
“Well, we can talk more about that when I get back,” Henry said, grabbing his keys and heading for the door. “I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
After Henry left, Anders looked up at Fenris. “So, what do you think? It seems you and I are stuck here, and without any of our special abilities. You and I will need to find a way to build a new life for ourselves.”
“Yes, I suppose we will. We cannot impose upon Henry’s good graces indefinitely,” Fenris nodded.
Anders smiled at that. “We? I like the sound of that. Do you think you can tolerate me enough, that we can stick together? I don’t relish the idea of facing this world completely alone.”
“We’ll see,” Fenris smirked.
“Well, in the meantime, let’s see what this television can show us about this world. Come sit with me?” Anders asked.
Fenris came back to the sofa and curled up next to Anders. The former mage pushed the button Henry showed him and the television flared to life and this time Anders and Fenris were not startled by it. They fiddled with the loudness and the channels until they settled upon one with the letters ‘CNN’ in one corner. It looked as if they were reporting on happenings going on in the world, and it reminded them a little bit of the town criers they’d heard of from far-off Orzammar.
When Henry returned sometime later, he found both had drifted to off to sleep with the TV still on. Anders was sitting up, his head flopped at an odd angle on the back of the couch, with Fenris’ head resting in his lap. Henry smiled at that and moved quietly passed them into his office, deciding not to wake them yet.