Anonymous: Isabela, how would you use your powers if you were a mage? Would you have any specialisations (shape-shifter, healer, blood)?
If I were a mage, what would I do? I haven’t really thought about it. I mean… I’ve always been curious as to what being a mage is like. I’ve been told that it’s very hard to explain, so I asked an expert on the topic.
When I first asked, Hawke simply shrugged and said it was like trying to explain what pink was to a person who’d been blind her whole life. From what she’s told me, being a mage isn’t something you do, like being a pirate or being a blacksmith. Being a mage is something you are, just like how I’m a human or Varric is a dwarf or Aveline is a mannish ball-buster. But then she thought about it a bit, and told me this.
Hawke described the mage’s ability to consciously feel the connection to the Fade as a constant tickling in the back of your mind whose intensity waxes and wanes. In order to actually harness that power, it’s like flexing a muscle that only some people had the control to consciously flex, sort of like being able to curl your tongue, or being double-jointed.
But that isn’t all of it. It isn’t random when the tickling comes and goes. It can open up like a flood, especially when using blood magic or lyrium, and threaten to set your every nerve ending on fire unless you release it somehow. The stronger you are at flexing that muscle, the more powerful your magic becomes. If you use those other means to enhance your magic, it’s like a sudden rush, not unlike a powerful narcotic. They allow a mage to push beyond her normal limits and it can be just as intoxicating, which is why so many mages can become addicted to lyrium after a few uses.
The worst part of it is that the tickling can take a sinister tone to it, since the strongest mages are the ones under the loudest temptation and whispering from the demons in the Fade. The stronger a mage you are, the better and closer your connection to the demons, and the more they desire you. Demons are constantly watching and whispering - she tells me that they hold no concept of time, so they can coax and promise indefinitely. All it takes is a single moment of weakness, just one opening in the mental defenses, and the demon can squeeze itself through directly into your mind and take over. In the process, the demon tears an even larger opening to the Fade, empowering itself in your body. Once that happens, you’ve become an abomination, and may the high ones have mercy on you then.
I’m honestly not sure I’d ever want to be a mage. Sure, it would be fun to have that sort of power, but I’m not sure it would be worth the headaches or the constant feeling of being driven insane by voices and whispering in my head for the rest of my life that come with it.
Anonymous: How should a woman go around asking specific people she is interested in for casual sex when emotional intimacy and relationships are the last thing on anyone's minds and the only things she knows she really wants?
I’m not sure if I am understanding this right, my lovely. I think you have it backward. In my experience, most people feign the looking for the emotional intimacy and relationships in order to have the casual sex, and not the other way around.
Asking for a midnight docking is actually quite easy. You really just have to have the confidence to approach someone and make it abundantly clear exactly what you’re after. The only real trick to it is that you may not always get a ‘yes’ answer from anyone you ask. Some potential lovers don’t have the time, have someone else already, or just aren’t interested in what you have to offer. And that’s perfectly alright - nobody can be everything to everyone. If a pleasant evening of bent-over bumping is your goal, cast a wide net. Ask around until you find someone, and don’t be too picky. I’ve been called many things not repeatable in polite company while on the hunt, but I don’t let it bother me. If your goal is just to find a partner for an ungirded grindfest, I’m sure you’ll find success if you do the same.
It sounds like what you want, however, is to involve all those pesky feelings with someone. I must caution against it. Dealing with feelings and that emotional stuff is already quite complex, far more than sufficient to make a girl’s head spin on its own. But complicating things even further by using your honey pot to entrap a casual paramour into a relationship at the start? That’s a recipe for disaster! Believe me, I’ve been in (and caused) more than my share of emotional shipwrecks. The core of any sort of emotional intimacy is trust, and that’s already an enormously complicated feeling - that’s why I would tend to avoid it before Hawke came along. But to try to start such a relationship by misrepresenting what it is you want? That’s even worse, because you’re starting off with a lie, and that’s virtually the antithesis of trust. If you’re ever discovered, it will likely tear any trust your partner has for you apart by the roots.
It isn’t even that good an idea, because you’d be screening for crew entirely from the wrong pool of recruits. If you want a relationship, why in the void would you choose from those who don’t wish one? You wouldn’t go hiring for pirates from among fishermen. You might get lucky and find one, but you’ll have to sift through a lot of coal before you find a gem. And if you’re telling them you’re looking for a fisherman when you actually want a pirate, you’d be in even worse shape once they discover what they’re in for. That’s the sort of thing that can cause mutinies.
If your real goal is to find and build a real relationship with someone, my experience is actually rather limited. She found me, not the other way ‘round, after all. But I will say this - try to be honest about what you want, and don’t take rejection too harshly. Remember - if you are rejected, it isn’t because there is something wrong with you. It’s just that your destination and theirs don’t happen to line up. There’s nothing wrong with that, it just means you need to keep your eyes open for someone who does.
It all started with some of my favorite words in the world.
"I have a present for you," she declared as we finished putting the plates in the kitchen. She led me by the hand up the stairs and into her bedroom. I peppered her with questions as we made the journey.
"Ooh, what could it be? Is it the satin underclothing I had been eyeing?"
"No, it isn’t."
"Is it my favorite candied Nevarran dragonfruit that I’ve been dropping hints about?"
"No, you can’t eat it."
"Shall I keep guessing, or do you want me to force you to answer?" I replied, cupping her ass quite firmly.
"Present first, celebrate after," she said. I could not fault her logic.
When we arrived, she revealed a laquered wooden box wrapped in a pink satin ribbon from her armoire and handed it to me.
"I had these made just for you," she added as I pulled on the ribbon.
I folded the ribbon carefully (“I’ll make sure to use these later”), and opened the container. A lovely pair of shoes were inside, bleached white.
I pursed my lips. There was something odd about these.
"Hawke, what in the world are these?"
"They’re shoes, Isabela. They go on your feet."
"I know that much, you goose. But why are there these spiky things on the backs under the heels?"
"It’s all the rage among the nobility now. They’re high heels."
"But… why would you want to put these under your heels? Wouldn’t that get uncomfortable?"
"They change your posture, and make your legs look even more appealing."
"Don’t think I didn’t notice how you cleverly inserted that ‘even’ in there."
"I have a very clever tongue. You know that. Now try them on."
I didn’t have to be told twice. I stood in them, a bit uncomfortably.
"It’s like standing on tiptoe," I observed.
I admired myself in a large mirror. She was right, as she so often is. The raised heels made my legs look longer, and stretched other parts of my body.
I took a step and nearly lost my balance.
"Bloody minge-chomping sea serpents in a chamber pot, these things are dangerous!"
She sprawled out on the bed and crooked a finger at me, beckoning. I looked at the short distance between us and then down at my shoes.
"If you’re going to accompany me to these gatherings, you should keep abreast in the latest fashion," she said.
"But I can’t run or fight in these!" I complained, steadying myself again. It was a bit like walking a tightrope… something I hadn’t done in quite a while.
"I think what you need is some incentive," she said. She patted the empty space on the bed next to her.
I took a careful step in her direction.
She loosened her tunic and let it fall from one creamy shoulder. I grinned wickedly.
It was like relearning to walk. I had to take small, mincing steps in the shoes to keep my balance, rather than my usual pace. I also needed to keep my weight more carefully distributed on the balls of my feet, since any leaning would cause me to wobble. I certainly wouldn’t be able to jump or duel in the things, but I was learning. Each step I took caused her to drop or lower another article of clothing.
It didn’t take me long before I reached the bed, where a fully nude lover awaited me.
"Aren’t you taking them off?" she breathed.
"After all that work? They stay on, sweet thing."
She giggled a bit afterward.
"You’re a quick study," she said, running a finger up my arm.
"I had a good teacher," I replied.
I gave her ass a tweak.
"And the right incentive," I added.
"So will you wear them when we go to Lady Jocelyn’s dinner party next week?"
"If you buy me those underclothes I want," I replied.
"Very well," she said with a sigh.
"Don’t be like that. You’ll be enjoying them too, sweet thing."
She gave me a playful swat.
"You know, I was thinking…"
"These things are pretty to look at, accentuate your looks, and require a sense of dexterity and finesse to wear without falling over and making a fool of yourself…"
She nodded, her eyes closed.
"If you try to force your walk, you’ll end up falling over, possibly hurting your legs, and making a fool of yourself," I continued.
She yawned as she nodded again.
"Who did you get to craft these? I’m going to get a pair for Aveline."
Donnic grunted as he smashed his shield into the body of the largest of the smugglers. He pushed forward, bowling his target over, but a smaller, agile member of the gang struck him from behind. He felt a sharp pain in his lower back, followed by his knee. His armor blunted the force of the blow, but he buckled and fell. He tried to scramble to his feet, but an armored blow to the side of his helmet set his ears ringing and sent him sprawling to the floor.
He looked up, dazed, to see his one-eyed assailant leaped onto him. The villain led with a wicked-looking stiletto and he barely stopped the sharp-pointed blade scant inches from his face.
The two men struggled for a moment, both breathing hard and vying for the upper hand in a life-or-death battle for supremacy.
And then she was there, an angel of muscle and fury and steel. With a roar that shook the alley, his captain, his wife, wrapped both armored arms around his attacker and lifted him into the air. The villain struggled, stabbing at her with his knife, but could break neither her solid steel armor nor her vise-like grip.
She let out a guttural scream as she strained ever harder, and her cry was matched by the unfortunate man who was trapped inside the steel clamps that held him steady. As screamed louder, so did he.
Finally, Donnic heard a loud crack as the struggling criminal finally went limp in his wife’s arms. She tossed the unfortunate hoodlum aside like a sack of potatoes and was at his side in an instant.
"Are you alright? Did they hurt you?" she asked, her cheeks flushed from exertion and worry.
"Maker, you’re beautiful," he said.
I had a rather odd experience a few days ago. I was alone, on my way back from meeting a certain smuggler contact I knew at a secret inlet along the Wounded Coast after making a deal. It was for some special cargo, an enchanted dagger that had once belonged to a legendary duelist known as the Red Thorn, and I wanted it as a present to myself for turning a certain age. It isn’t terribly important. In any case, I was on my way back from the meet, when I got caught in a sudden downpour. Big, fat droplets of rain threatened to soak me to my skin, but I managed to find a small cave along the coastline and I took shelter in it from the rain.
As minutes turned into hours, I settled in to wait the storm out. I managed to find enough dry roots and old driftwood inside the cave to start a fire, and I warmed myself. When the fire began to crackle and warm the place up, however, I noticed I was not alone.
My hand went to my blade by reflex, and I hissed when I saw the cave’s other occupant. It was a qunari, but not just any qunari - the horned giant had enormous iron pauldrons adorned with chains on her shoulders, and held an enormous bronze mask over her face. She had broken chains at her wrists, and long-term marks on her ankles where she had been shackled before. It was one of the horned mages, and it was alone! I readied myself for a fight, and wondered if I’d live to see the next sunrise again.
But she didn’t attack. She retreated further away, and huddled low as if frightened. And then I began to notice. She was far smaller than any oxman I’d seen before, and if the size of her arms and legs were any indication, she was only about the size of a full-grown human woman… or a very young qunari. She trembled, whether with cold or fear I do not know. The more I looked at her, the more I could see how scrawny and pale she looked, and how her body language screamed fear… she was hunched over and kept her hands up in front in a gesture of defense.
"I’m not going to hurt you," I offered. "Come share the fire if you wish."
I sat, moving slowly and deliberately so as not to frighten her.
She slowly inched forward, slowly and cautiously. The warm fire pulled her in as surely as if she were a moth.
I unwrapped a bit of dried jerky I had brought with me, and chewed on one end. Travel provisions, you know. It wasn’t one of Hawke’s feasts but it was enough to help provide a bit of energy.
Her stomach rumbled, and she looked frightened yet again, backing away a bit.
The eyes behind that bronze mask looked so sad.
I sighed and tore the jerky in half, offering the larger piece. I took another bite from the smaller one.
She grunted a low rumble and took the proffered piece of meat. She started carefully tearing tiny little strips from it. I watched in curiosity as she would take the slivers of meat and bring them up underneath her mask. I could hear grunts and muffled chewing noises. Soon, the meat was gone.
She grunted a few more times, inclining her head at me. It wasn’t anything like the regular qunari speech. I looked carefully and spotted it when she reached up to feed herself. Her mouth had been sewn shut.
She sat, gangly limbs and all, and hugged her knees to her chest. Her enormous mask was unwieldy, but I think she didn’t care. She finally relaxed and dozed a bit, belly full and warm. I watched her sleep for a bit, before falling asleep myself.
When I woke, the cave was empty and the storm had stopped. I readied my gear to continue my journey home, noticing that some more of my travel rations had been taken. None of my other things were, however, and I found a single purple gemstone left with my travel pack. I suppose she wanted to pay me however she could.
I heard stories later that a band of Qunari warriors had been seen seeking the little runaway in the area. She had managed to escape from their special Qunari mage pen and run for her life. Unfortunately for anyone they came across, those who had seen or interacted with the runaway in any manner was to be killed for fear of demon corruption. The runaway was to die as well, for the same reason. Most people out there wouldn’t know the first thing about dealing with a Qunari, and the way they treat people is just horrific. They view us as little more important than a turnip or a rock by the roadside. Killing any of us matters as much to the Antaam as squashing a mosquito or eating a haunch of venison. We simply don’t mean anything to these creatures.
Rumor has it that the group of oxmen ran afoul of the Dalish clan at Sundermount, and that there was a bloody battle fought between them. Another rumor says that the oxmen were successful, chasing down the escaped one and returning to their enormous warships victorious. I don’t really give one much credence over the other, but I would like to think that the little runaway is still out there somewhere and has managed to elude her pursuers.
Anonymous: Can you tell us if you keep a diary l have just started to keep one up todate
You mean a journal where I write about my thoughts, feelings, and life? A place where I can talk about my friends, lovers, enemies, and tales? The sort of thing that I might try to put out for all you fade spirits to read on a daily or near-daily basis?
Hm, I wonder.