Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Elissa Cousland, Alistair, Nathaniel Howe. Alistair/f!Cousland.
Spoilers: Not really
Notes: Written for trope_bingo, for the squares "Animal Transformation" and "Curtainfic". Thanks to justira for the idea of turning "curtains" into a pet bed.
Also on AO3.
The sun beat down on the Vigil's Keep courtyard, where Nathaniel Howe stood alone, off to the side, taking a bit of archery practice. He had just set aside his bow and was starting to collect arrows for another run when he was distracted by the opening of the gate and the appearance of Warden-Commander Elissa Cousland: dusty, tired, and most surprisingly, alone but for her mabari. He set down the bow and went to meet her as she walked toward him with weary steps. "Commander! Are you all right? We expected you two days ago. Where's Alistair?"
Elissa shook her head. "I'm all right. Nothing a good rest and a hot bath won't cure. As for Alistair..." She took a quick glance around, then leaned in close, voice low. "Look down."
Only then did Nathaniel notice Elissa's companion was not her hound. It was a wolf, reddish brown with a pale muzzle, leaning up against the back of Elissa's legs. The wolf looked up at him with too-bright hazel eyes, then whined. Nathaniel's hand flew to his mouth in horror. "It cannot be!"
"Oh, but it is." Elissa's lips set into a hard, grim line. "Seems our intelligence about the pack of bandits in the Wending Wood neglected to mention the hedge witch in their employ. She transformed Alistair before he could smite her, and I killed her before she could change him back. When she died, the spell didn't revert."
"So... this transformation is permanent?" Nathaniel looked down at the wolf who had been Alistair with a small shudder. He had almost gone on that expedition in Alistair's place. If Elissa had not insisted that he take charge of the Keep instead...
Elissa sighed. "Maker, I hope not. But I just don't know. I've only really known one mage who employs shapeshifting magic, and she didn't exactly leave a forwarding address. Can you dispatch a messenger to the Tower? Perhaps someone there will know what to do."
"Of course," Nathaniel said with a swift nod. "May I offer any further assistance?"
"For now?" Elissa shrugged. "I doubt it. But thank you."
Nathaniel reached down to give the wolf a comforting pat, but the sideways look that he received in response was enough for him to back away. "I'm sorry, friend," he said, softly. "I will do what I can to help fix this."
The wolf opened his mouth in an approximation of a smile, and Nathaniel risked a light scratch behind his ears before heading back into the Keep in search of a runner. As he left, Elissa dropped down to her knees beside Alistair and rested her hand on top of his back.
"Well, I suppose we should do our best to make you comfortable in the meantime. Let's start in the kennels-- honestly, Alistair, I'm not going to cage you!" she added hastily as he drew his ears back and glared at her. "We'll find something more comfortable. And you'll need food, too."
An hour later, Elissa trudged down the hall to her quarters, hauling a box of supplies, Alistair still trotting at her heels. When she opened the door, he bounded ahead of her and jumped up on the bed. Elissa balanced the box on her hip and glared at him, shaking her head. "Get off of there." Alistair lifted his head with a whine, but she held firm. "Your paws are muddy. Off!" She pointed at the floor, and he obeyed, head hanging. "I got you your own bed for a reason. Here." After setting down the box, she pulled out the sheepskin that the kennel master had given her, and she laid it out between her bed and the window.
With a quick yip, Alistair jumped onto the skin, turning around twice before settling into a furry circle, tip of his tail draped over his nose. Elissa smiled, then went to her ewer, where she filled the bowl she had gotten him for water. She also had a collar, enchanted for battle, but she left that aside for now. Instead, she pulled out one of the selection of bones, a hambone that still had a few scraps of meat on it, and turned to Alistair with a questioning look. "You hungry?"
Alistair lifted his head and tilted it to the side, with a thoughtful expression that reminded Elissa so much of both a mabari and Alistair's usual self that she found tears pricking at the back of her eyes. She glanced away with a hard swallow, then looked back to see him shaking his head.
"All right," she said. "I'll get you some fresh meat later." She sat on the floor next to him, and he lifted his eyes to hers -- they were still hazel, still Alistair -- and barked softly. Then he butted his head into her hand, a reassuring touch, and she smiled.
"I should be the one trying to make you feel better," she said.
He barked again, then panted in an approximation of a smile before moving his head into her lap. She scritched him behind the ears, and his smile broadened. His fur was thicker than Dog's, and much softer. And whatever would Dog make of all this, she wondered, her eyes drifting across the room to his empty kennel.
She decided to worry about that later. For now, she leaned her head back against the wall, hand buried in Alistair's fur, and let herself relax. Things would work themselves out. They usually did.
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