The Outlander, Omega Dock, shortly after recovering the fake Shepard corpse
Tianna awoke in a sweat. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She could feel it like a restlessness crawling under her skin – the yearning of addiction filling her, driving her mad and making the blood in her veins run hot with desire, her body tingling in response, her very soul howling in naked need.
Tianna needed to… Embrace .
She fought down the feeling, regulating her breathing, establishing control over the desire to connect with another, to quell the aching loneliness that she felt, the devouring emptiness that she hid from the world. Her ever present Darkness.
Only in the depths of an Asari Embrace was there any solace to be found and only when she allowed her self-control to drop away and her true Ardat Yakshi nature be free did she truly feel a few fleeting moments of connection with another living being.
A few precious moments to be savored before their minds succumbed, overwhelmed by the power of her biotic psyche, leaving only a burnt out husk as yet another bitter memento of the price of fleeting solace…
It had been getting worse over the last while being part of a crew, being close and forming bonds with others and yet unable to open up, like being out on hot desert sands with the only source of water being a fragile crystal globe. You could break it to reach the life giving liquid within, but the crystal would shatter, spilling the liquid to the sand, leaving you with only wet hands to try and slake your burning thirst.
Tianna’s self-control was excellent. She had been mastering her mind and her loneliness for decades. Even when Siren had tried to bait her by orchestrating an Embrace between herself and Nymeria, she had managed, though she had ached with the strain. But if this continued, there may come a time when that control could slip…
It was time to take a risk, she felt. She had taken great pains to keep her nature secret over the years, but a potential opportunity had recently presented itself.
She had made her way down to the lower wards of Omega and she entered the building that Aria’s message had specified, and waited.
“Greetings, Tianna D’riari”. The words simply formed in her mind.
“Greetings,” Tianna thought back uncertainly”…sister?”
An Asari in priestess robes entered the room smiling warmly and sat down opposite Tianna. “You seem troubled” She stated. “How may we be of assistance?”
Tianna stared at the priestess for a long moment before lowering her gaze.
“I am…” she hesitated, suddenly unsure of her decision. But she had survived this long by following her instincts and they told her this was the right move.
“I am,” she repeated, “Ardat Yakshi.”
Her eyes met those of the priestess as she said the words and she suddenly felt a sense of relief and certainty flood through her as the other Asari smiled once again and said “Yes, you are.”
She wasn’t sure what sort of reaction she had expected, but the simple statement of acceptance flustered Tianna.
“I have questions about the Ardat Yakshi.” She blurted. “I… need help.”
“And I have answers for an Ardat Yakshi willing to listen” replied the priestess. “Ask your questions.”
“Do all of you feel the need to Embrace as emptiness? Loneliness? And how do you deal with it? You have a whole group here on Omega yet Aria does not seem concerned about multiple Ardat Yakshi victims drawing attention to you?”
“Our order is many generations old” said the priestess. “Since the first of us gathered together, we have sought to understand the nature of our… nature. Ardat Yakshi, as I’m sure you know, means Demon of the Night Winds in one of older Asari dialects. Sadly, the term is as outdated as the mainstream understanding of what our genetic expression actually is. Each of us does indeed feel the need to Embrace. Each of our sisters experiences it differently, but loneliness is not an uncommon description. It usually starts with the trauma of becoming an outcast to one’s own people through no fault of your own?”
The words came out in such a way that it could have been a statement or a question and it brought with it a sudden flood of memory of Tianna’s expulsion from the Asari Armed forces and her skulking away from Thesia to hide in the Outer Rim, far from the judgement of the Asari people who so reviled what she was.
Her jaw clenched at the sudden dull ache in the pit of her stomach and she pushed the memories aside as the priestess continued.
“We do not draw attention to ourselves because while a single Ardat Yakshi inevitably becomes a danger to herself and others, a group of trained priestesses has the means to sustain itself through the practices and rituals we have developed. As with any new species, alone we wither and die, while together we grow stronger.
But enough talk. You are a woman of action so let me show you what we can teach and then you may decide if it is something you wish to pursue or not.”
Over the days and weeks that followed, Tianna learned from the priestesses, expanding and developing her telepathic abilities to allow her to connect with others outside of an Embrace but still gaining a measure of relief from the threatening Darkness within her.
The priestesses held that the Ardat Yakshi existed to jump-start the Asari people’s evolution which had reached a plateau. A view Tianna found herself agreeing with in light of the new telepathic abilities she was learning.
Her new abilities allowed her to truly feel a part of the crew of the Outlander and for the first time since her Ardat Yakshi nature revealed itself, Tianna felt like she had a place where she belonged and people that were hers.
Stronger than any bond of race or clan, these were her people and she would do whatever it took to maintain and grow this connection, her salvation.
Not an easy task, given their collective nature and situation, but she had the beginnings of a plan and now she had the means to put it into action…