Currently writing another Dragon Age Fan Fic. Three – Four chapters go up a month. Here’s the first three! As always I love your feedback so give it to me! You can also read this over on Archive Of our Own
Synposis: Simone Durante was living a normal life in the “real” world when something utterly fantastical happened – she’s pulled into the world of Dragon Age Inquisition. Now, everything she once thought was fiction is real. There’s no dialogue wheel, no saves, no redos. Simone has no choice but to learn how to survive, trying to balance the knowledge she has of how the story will go, and deal with the consequences of what will change when she makes choices she can’t take back. Worse still, Simone realizes that past choices have effected the lives of characters she thought were pure fiction, who are now real flesh and blood, characters that she’s falling hopelessly in love with.
I use to live in a world where magic was so hidden only the mundane persisted. Lot’s of people called it, “The Real World.” What happened to me shouldn’t have happened. I still don’t know how it did. I don’t know if it was a weird government experiment that hit my house one night or if I just willed myself away because I was so damn tired of being in a place where I felt like I didn’t belong. And not just a, you don’t fit in type of feeling, mine was soul deep. Don’t laugh. Feeling like the world you live in is wrong on fundamental levels you can’t explain is maddening. Wanting to change it and not knowing how, sinking into a depression you can’t explain either… ugh. Life was just tough for me, for reasons I couldn’t articulate to anyone. I had yet to find my tribe and I didn’t have the energy to go looking. I was a hermit in a beautiful home, going through the motions of living because what else was I to do? I was trying though, I really was. To remember who I was, to find happiness in my purpose and all that jazz.
It was on a Monday, just another boring Monday when the most absurd fucking thing happened to me – I got transported? Teleported? Into Dragon Age Inquisition.
I was sitting in my home office, drinking coffee and dragging ass through shit I needed to get done in hopes that I would somehow have enough energy to work on projects that actually mattered to me, that hopefully would one day make me the money I needed so I could stop dragging ass through shit I needed to get done. That fucking cycle, am I right? Anyway, there was nothing out of the ordinary happening. It was raining outside, a nice summer thunderstorm. I remember stopping what I was doing and turning to look out the window. Thunder hit, loud and dramatically. A crack of lightening followed and I remember in that moment how intensely I did not want to be where I was. That feeling filled me up, consumed and overwhelmed me. I wanted so much to be in a place where I felt like I belonged, where I was fighting for something that could actually make a difference…
The thunder boomed again, so loud it shook the house. The crack of lightning that followed was just as ear deafening to the point it startled me. That’s when I started to feel funny. My palms got clammy, my heart was racing and my whole body felt wrong. It set off alarm bells in my head and I briefly wondered if I was having a heart attack or about to pass out or something. Which I did; pass out. One moment there’s the rain and the storm, the next everything is fuzzy as hell, a feeling of pressure closing in around me on all sides bears down on me, and it all happens so fast I don’t have time to panic. Then, nothing.
You want to know where I woke up? In the fucking Fade ya’ll. The Fade.
A strange smell was the first thing that assaulted me. No, not strange, fucking gross. It was smokey and tainted, like something foul was burning. I groaned, because my head was pounding and slowly opened up my eyes. I thought I was dreaming. Stuck in a nightmare, truly, because what I was seeing could not be possible. I was standing on a rocky slab. It was moist. There was this weird green tint to everything and I could hear whispers. Creepy, horror movie like whispers in surround sound and I couldn’t make out what they were saying. Not that I particularly wanted too. At this point, I was in full blown panic mode. My breath was coming fast and hard, my heart was beating so violently against my chest I worried I really might have a heart attack. I snapped my eyes shut again and started willing myself to wake up.
It didn’t work of course. When I opened my eyes the environment persisted. I couldn’t see much in the distance, there was this thick green like fog keeping it all hidden. Slowly in the back of my brain something started nagging at me, a sense of familiarity with this place. In the next breath it slammed into me all at once. I had played Dragon Age Inquisition so many times. This was the starting point. Character creation spot. My brain didn’t want to register to this. My panic started rising and now I was questioning my sanity, because it was utterly impossible. I was hallucinating. Straight up tripping. I grabbed my head, a full on sob breaking free.
“Get your shit together, Simone,” I started talking to myself. “This isn’t real. This is not real.”
I was proven wrong in a horrific manner. There really are no words for experiencing a story and then actually living the story.
The unfamiliar voice boomed out. I heard pounding footsteps. The splash of water. And behind that, I heard this horrible clicking/chittering sound.
I jerked my head up, dropping my hands. I knew that accented voice. It was Divine Justina. Which meant the sounds behind her…
She came into view, and looked exactly like she had in the video game. But there was panic on her face, a fear in her eyes, along with a kind of bravery and determination that I did not feel at all. Because when I saw what was behind her – the giant spider like things, I freaked the fuck out. I realized I was screaming, because it started ringing in my ears and I turned around and hauled ass my fright/flight instinct kicking in. I stumbled up a cliff face, vaguely registering how familiar this was, and I knew at the top was a doorway. In fact I could see the light. I pushed hard, and felt the muscles in my legs burning along with my lungs. Exercise life was not mine. I was an ass in chair kind of woman so all this abrupt movement was a sudden strain on my body but the adrenaline kept me going.
I reached the top, stumbled again, but managed to stay on my feet. The doorway, all bright blinding light coming out of it was right there.
I halted because I remembered Divine Justina was behind me. Mustering up a small measure of courage I looked behind me and saw her. She was right at the ledge, struggling to get up it. I hesitated. I’m not proud of it, but I did. I went over to her though, bending down to grab her hands and tried to help pull her up, categorically refusing to look at what was behind her. It was bad enough that I could hear it and that alone was scaring the crap out of me.
I got her up to her feet, something I was proud of in that moment. “We must hurry,” she said to me.
I didn’t need to be told twice, I hauled ass towards that doorway again. I had almost reached it when I heard her scream.
It was a horrible sound. The most blood curling thing I’d ever heard in my life, born of pure terror and it ripped right through me. I looked over my shoulder and they had her. It had her. This horrible spider like thing was on her back, it’s tentacles wrapping around her body.
“Run!” She shouted at me. “Save yourself!”
I wish I could tell you I suddenly turned into some hero and saved her. But, the truth of the matter was I was frozen in fear until I saw another one of those things run around Justina at me, and with another scream of terror I ran through the doorway and into the light.
A very quick note if you have never played Dragon Age Inquisition before (omg go play it!) there are some story spoilers in this chapter you may not want to know. You have been forewarned.
I remember passing through the white light. I don’t think I was completely conscious. It felt like being stuck between that moment right before you wake up, when you’re still mostly asleep. I was propelled along and during that weird journey a sudden pain began to manifest on my left hand. It grew stronger and stronger, and became utterly excruciating to the point I was screaming again. Then I felt like I was falling, and apparently I was because in the next breath I hit the ground hard, more pain lancing up my arm and shoulder. I looked up, and saw two men standing above me. I think I asked them for help, before I passed out again.
I don’t know how long I was out of it. I came awake violently, jerking upright, heard the rattling of chains and shivered because I was freezing. Fuck. I looked down and saw that my wrists were shackled to the floor. I had never been chained to anything. The metal cuffs were heavy and closed tightly around my wrists. Moving my hands too much caused the metal to rub against my skin and to say that was an uncomfortable sensation was an understatement. I shivered and tried to get my bearings as awareness returned. I knew where I was and a bit of panic started rising again. I was in the cell. Beginning of the game. Cassandra and Leliana would come in here soon. And my hand… holy shit.
I looked down at my left hand, which felt hot and achy in the center and was glowing a very faint green. The mark. “Oh you’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” I muttered out loud and then opened up my hand. There it was. This horrible looking circular scar was burned into my palm and somehow a faint green light was coming out of it. Either I was having the best/worst hallucination ever or somehow no matter how impossible, I really was in Dragon Age Inquisition. I mean the universe was a vast place, multiple dimensions, all that stuff right? It was possible I supposed. But if I was now here in this world how the hell was I going to get home? Even more pressing, how the hell was I going to survive it?
It was a lot to process. To deal with. I abruptly remembered Divine Justina and how she’d died and well, I sunk back onto the floor, hugged my dirty, jean covered knees to my chest, pressed my forehead against them and started crying. I was not a public crier. I didn’t like anyone to see me upset, I didn’t like being vulnerable in front of people like that, letting them see my pain. In this moment though, I couldn’t help it.
I was so into my pity party/emotional breakdown I heard the cell door opening but I didn’t really register the sounds of two people entering.
“Are those tears of guilt?”
That was the first thing Cassandra ever said to me.
I dragged my sweatshirt covered arm under my nose and then over my eyes, looked up and forgot how to breathe. I cannot fully articulate how imposing Cassandra Pentaghast truly is. She is the epitome of a silent, intense, feminine strength and this regal grace that speaks to her lineage rolled up into this incredibly hot badass of a human being. Standing next to her, in a very Sith like getup, was Leliana. She was the reason I couldn’t breath. The game hadn’t done her justice. It just hadn’t. The sight of someone literally stealing my breath away had only happened once before and I’d loved that person very much once upon a time. I had the world’s biggest crush on Leliana when I was back in my world, playing the game. I had romanced her in Dragon Age Origins and been bummed as fuck when she wasn’t available in DA:I. Now she was real. Not two feet from me and I didn’t know how the hell to process that. Leliana was looking at me from underneath her cowl with a very intense unreadable expression and I could not stop staring at her. She radiated confidence, power. It was more subtle than Cassandra’s making them a perfect match standing next to each other.
Suddenly, decisions I’d made in Dragon Age Origins slammed into my mind. Oh my god. I killed the Warden in my last play-through. Romanced Leliana, and then left her without her love. Did that carry over here? Had I unknowingly written pieces of her life?
“Have you nothing to say?” Cassandra asked, coming closer to me in a very menacing manner. Not gonna lie, it was a little arousing, but also very disconcerting. This wasn’t a video game. There was no dialogue wheel. I had no idea how things worked here and if I fucked this up, I had the very real feeling that Cassandra would pull out her sword and run me through, or Leliana would torture me and both of those thoughts made my hands tremble.
It took me a second to find my voice, and it trembled too. “I didn’t do this. What you think I did. The explosion. The Divine…” Tears formed in my eyes again as I remembered Justina and I struggled to make my brain work (it was hard, Leliana standing there was distracting as fuck despite my fear). I needed to play this right. Carefully. I had a lot of information in my head about what was going to happen but, I didn’t know how to tell them or how to use that information to my advantage. I also needed to figure out how the hell to get back home, which meant I was probably going to need the council of Dorian, Viviene or Morrigan. Actually Morrigan might know better than any of them what had happened to me. But, that was a ways to go in this story and if I was going to get that kind of help I needed to figure out how to survive this and actually get to that point. Then there was Solas. That lying motherfucker was the reason all this was happening in the first place. Anger shot through me.
While I was doing all those mental gymnastics, Cassandra circled around me speaking angrily. “You claim innocence? The conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you. And…” she roughly grabbed my arm, holding up my hand. The stupid mark started sparking, which hurt by the way. “Explain this.”
I could explain. Everything. But I was not entirely certain she and Leliana would believe me. And if Solas got wind that I could forsee events, if he suspected that I knew who he was that was another set of problems entirely. Shit. I wracked my brain again, thinking. If I could make it to the part right before Haven, when we got back to the destruction, they would hear Corypheus and have an enemy. But, I’d have to survive the journey there. Fuck. I didn’t want to lie to them. Either of them. I knew they were hurting and a sudden sadness ripped through me and more tears spilled out of my eyes. I looked up at Cassandra’s furious face, then Leliana’s, trading my eyes between the two of them. “I didn’t hurt them. Anyone. The explosion – that wasn’t my fault. I swear to you both it wasn’t.” It was all I could give either of them just now.
My words made Cassandra snap, and even though I expected it to happen, being the target of Cassandra’s fury is not fun at all. I could feel her anger and I felt no shame in the fact that I was truly afraid of her in that moment. She surged at me, grabbing the front of my sweatshirt and growled in my face, “You’re lying!”
And just like it had happened in the game, Leliana was quick to act, breaking Cassandra away from me. “We need her, Cassandra.” She looked back at me and said pointedly. “For now.”
I wasn’t dense I read the threat loud and clear in those words, even if I was slightly distracted by the sheer sexiness of Leliana’s voice. That feeling was enhanced by the fact that Leliana’s gaze stayed on mine for another heartbeat before she looked back at Cassandra. Her added words were different than the games dialogue though. What happened here wasn’t going to follow the storyline 100% to the letter I realized. Which meant that maybe the things I knew weren’t as reliable as I thought they were. That presented another host of problems I didn’t have the mental capacity to deal with just then.
Cassandra gave Leliana a nod. Leliana let her go and turned around to face me, while Cassandra continued circling around me like a tiger waiting to pounce.
“Do you remember what happened? How this began?” Leliana asked.
I wanted to be honest with her. I desperately wanted that. But I needed them to trust me over Solas, and just trust me in general. I was going to have to earn it. I paused and hoped she didn’t think it was because I was lying. Leliana knew how to read people, she was very, very good at it. I was hoping that would work in my favor. “I was in the fade, I don’t know how I got there,” I paused, my brow pinching as I remembered Divine Justina again. “I think Divine Justina was with me. We were being chased by these horrible…” my hands started shaking harder as I remembered, the chains rattling. Cassandra had stopped pacing and both were watching me intently now. “Creatures. They….” I swallowed. “She didn’t make it and I couldn’t….” Fuck today really. I was crying openly now and I couldn’t stop it, and I hated that I was crying in front of these incredibly strong and dangerous women. “I’m so sorry. I’m not a fighter. I don’t know how, I really don’t. I couldn’t save her. She told me to run and I did.”
“You saw Divine Justina? In the Fade? And you do not know how you got there?” Leliana pressed on.
I felt like my heart was breaking. I knew how close Leliana was to Justina. Their history. This was someone else that had been taken from her and I wondered if I would have been able to save Justina in that moment if I’d only tried instead of running like the big coward I was. It took me a moment to find my voice, “Yes. And No.” And then I said so very quietly, “I’m so sorry.” And I cut myself off before I said her name.
Leliana kept staring at me now and I felt so very small underneath the weight of her gaze. Cassandra broke in after a moment, putting herself in front of Leliana and guided her back to the door. “Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take her to the rift.”
Leliana went with Cassandra’s motion but she still looked at me. “What is your name?” Leliana asked.
“Simone,” I answered.
“And your families name?”
“Durate.” I knew she was filing that information away. She would search for it. I wondered briefly what the consequences of that would be.
Leliana left the room and Cassandra walked over to me, removing a key from her belt to unlock my chains. Cassandra took a good look at my clothing. “You are… dressed strangely. Your clothes do not look like they will be enough for the weather outside.”
With everything else going on, I had momentarily forgotten the fact that I was so cold. Cassandra’s words reminded me and I shivered. “If you have a coat or cloak or something that will fit someone just slightly taller than a dwarf I’ll deal.”
She turned sideways into the doorway, so she could keep an eye on me and called out to one of the guards, exchanging words with him. I was both dishearten and slightly amused that she thought of me as a threat even though I completely understood why. Cassandra could have squashed me without breaking a sweat. That thought reminded me that there were battles to fight ahead. There were no save points here. No redos. At least I was pretty sure there weren’t, this all felt too… real. But maybe if I did die here I’d wake up back home? Or maybe I’d just die. I wasn’t ready to take that gamble.
The guard returned with a thick coat that I’m sure was probably for a dwarf. Cassandra tossed it in my direction and I put it on eagerly. It was incredibly warm if not a bit heavy but I would deal with weight. “Thank you,” I said to her quietly sincere and then held up my hands. Cassandra studied me in silence for a moment before she bound my wrists with a thick rope. She turned and walked down the hallway and I followed her.
The Guards we passed looked at me furiously. I could feel their intent and I knew that if Cassandra hadn’t been there, they might have taken a few swings at me because they thought I was to blame for what happened. I can say with certainty that it is a horrible, horrible feeling to have that kind of pain and anger projected at you, especially when you know you are innocent. I swallowed back a lump in my throat and reached up, managing to pull my hoodie from underneath the coat and put it over my head like some kind of protective barrier.
A blast of cold air swept towards us from the open doors that Cassandra strode through. I kept up, another little shiver hitting me as we stepped out into the cold. Immediately my eyes turned towards the sky and I gasped. The game hadn’t done the breech justice either. It was downright terrifying and brought me to an abrupt halt. Never mind that I had literally walked into a medieval village (Renaissance Faires had gotten things close, but being in the real deal holy shit) the sky was fucking broken. In the center of it, a bright green tear cut a circle in the dark, and cast a funnel of light down towards the ground. What looked like debris levitated around it. It was utterly unnerving.
“We call it the breech. It is a growing rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour,” Cassandra said, looking at it and then back at me. “It’s not the only such rift. Just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave and unless we act, the breech may grow until it swallows the world.”
I knew this speech of hers by heart, and I was barely listening. I couldn’t stop staring at the breech and I did not feel at all in control of my fear. The mere thought of demons terrified me in my world, now I was in a place where they were real. I was going to have to find a way to fight them and survive – it was too much again. I felt nausea rising, the bile pushing up into the back of my throat and I stumbled away from Cassandra towards the side of the building we’d just exited and vomited. I hadn’t eaten anything today, whatever day it was, so all that came up was the coffee I’d been sipping before all this had happened. Cassandra stood near, watching me. Likely assessing what a freaking wuss I was and realizing how screwed they all were that the fucking mark was on my hand of all peoples.
That thought must have been the breech’s queue or something because the sky sparked and so did my hand and it fucking hurt. A white hot, searing pain exploded in my palm, the green light emanating. That pain shot down my arm, making me feel like my nerve endings were literally on fire and I cried out. Whimpering, falling to my knees and more tears from the sheer pain of it pushed themselves from my eyes. Cassandra knelt in front of me, grasping me by my shoulders to keep me up right. “Each time the rift expands -”
“I know! So does this fucking mark,” I snapped at her, my pain and fear overwhelming me in that moment.
My words caused Cassandra to stare at me in renewed suspicion. “So you know-”
“The sky exploded and then my hand did. I’m a wimp but I’m not dumb,” I grumbled, lifting my arms to wipe the tears from my face again. “You need my help. You need this thing to close these rifts don’t you?” I knew the answer of course.
Cassandra studied me a moment longer before she nodded. “We think your mark may be the key to closing the breech. Something we shall find out shortly. It is our only lead and our only chance. And yours. It is killing you.”
It was killing me, I could feel it and that too is a terrifying sensation. I was being taken to heights of fear today I had never experienced before in my life. It’s so easy to make the choice when your playing the game – living the game, it didn’t feel like a choice. It felt like desperation, like the only way out and it sucked. I drew in a watery breath and met her steely, assessing gaze. I was honest with her, “I’m going to help, Cassandra. I’m not the enemy here, but I’m definitely not the hero. I’m terrified, as scared as I’ve ever been in my life. I’m going to be the weak link in this and I’m sorry for that.”
The tight features of Cassandra’s face softened a little at my words. I couldn’t help that it felt like a small victory. “You are not the only one who is afraid. But, your willingness to help will not be forgotten.”
That was something at least. I nodded at her and clambered to my feet. She assisted me and led the way down the road. The village people we passed were as furious at me as the guards were, just like in the video game. I kept my head down and followed Cassandra. The intensity of the environment didn’t give me much time to think about my situation, which was a small blessing I suppose.
I was in a war zone. We passed by burning debris, soldiers running past us and shouting things I couldn’t quite make out. Green balls of light hurtled themselves from the breech in the sky and when one struck near us, I could feel the reverberation in the ground. The mark on my hand sparked twice more as I trudged up a snow hill, the second time the pain of it brought me down to my knees, and Cassandra help me up. I was terrified, I well and truly was. What if this thing killed me before I got to the rift at the Conclave? Or something worse?
Something worse – we were crossing a wooden bridge. Memory sparked and panic followed, we were going to fall, because- “Cassandra look out-” Right as it said it, one of those green balls came tearing out of the sky and slammed into the bridge in front of us.
I knew what came next. Shit.
Anyone who has ever fallen on ice knows it fucking hurts. Not only did we fall, but the debris of the bridge came down around us. I was glad the coat I was wearing was so thick because it padded my landing somewhat, but I still made a loud sound of pain as we hit the ice and then covered my head with my hands as the pieces of wood and whatever else was on the bridge fell down around us. A board smacked into my shoulder, which hurt, and I felt other little pieces rain down around me.
No sooner had that stopped then I heard the sounds. I wanted to curl in on myself, but instead I felt myself pushing the board off me, sitting up amdist the broken bridge debris and saw them on the ice in front of us; fucking demons. The game hadn’t done them any justice either – they were terrifying. Their eyes glowed this unnatural yellow color like a possessed cat. Their torsos were almost human like, but with an unnatural looking brownish tinge. They had long freakishly thin arms, but at the end of those arms were claws that looked razor sharp.
“Demons! Stay back!” Cassandra shouted at me, her sword and shield already in her hand. She went charging forward like the badass she was. I wanted to run. My flight instinct was strong and just looking at those things was giving me this terrified sensation at my back, crawling up my spine, my heart was racing and a cold sweat clung to my body.
I don’t know where the third one came from. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to my surroundings. My view of Cassandra taking on two of them was blocked by one right in front of me. I flat out screamed. It screamed back at me, the difference being the sounds it was making were terrifying, the sounds I was making probably resembled that of a dying animal.
“Cassandra, help!” I shouted for her, and scrambled backwards. I couldn’t get my feet underneath me, but the glint of a knife on the ground within reach caught my attention. Great. Apparently this world had decided I was going to be a Rogue. I had no fucking idea how I was going to pull that off, but it didn’t matter because I was going to die. I was positive. Still, I picked up the knife. The demon surged forward, closing the distance faster than I could scramble and then it was over me, and I was certain I was going to pee in my pants I was so scared. I was crying and blubbering when it took a swipe at me and I shrieked and rolled to the side, and kept rolling and praying and finally I felt snow. I stumbled to my feet and whirled around just as it came at me and took another swipe at me with it’s clawed hand. This one ripped the fabric of my coat and my sweatshirt and I felt the scratch across my skin. It stung and I could feel trickles of blood running down my side but I wasn’t going to die thank small miracles. I realized quickly if I didn’t fight back I probably was, so fuck it. Screaming more, this was no battle cry it was literally just a sound of desperation I fought against every instinct that told me to try and book it and flung myself at the Demon, shoving the blade into it’s chest. Getting that close to it, I vaguely registered that it smelled horrible, like some dead thing. It made that scratchy shrieking noise and pulled itself off my knife, stumbling back then dissipated in this hazy smoke that left pieces of itself on the ground.
“So not looting that,” I muttered, breathing hard and sinking to my knees. I was trembling, probably the adrenaline. My hands were shaking violently. I’d just killed a demon. Literally just killed a monster. And I was still alive. I didn’t know how to feel about that. Proud of myself maybe, but I was still really scared. And cold. And my body hurt. And my hand.
Dragon Age sucked.
“Drop your weapon!”
I looked up when I heard Cassandra’s command and saw her standing near with her sword now pointed at me. I dropped the dagger without hesitation. “I don’t even know how to use that thing!” I shouted at her.
“That much is apparent. You could have easily been killed.” Cassandra sheathed her sword.
“Well, you were busy and I was out of options.” I was still trembling. I wrapped my arms around myself and winced as the motion irritated my side.
I watched Cassandra’s stern face soften slightly. “How deep is the wound?”
I shook my head. “Not terrible. I’d be crying more about if it was, trust me. I’ll live.”
Cassandra went over to the knife I’d dropped and picked it up. She hesitated and then she cut the ropes around my hand and offered me the blade. “Here. Keep this. You will do better to try and flank a creature I am fighting. Stab it in the back quickly, then get out of it’s range. You are small and quick and you can use this to your advantage.”
“That’s me. Mini, wimp, ninja.” I sighed and reluctantly took the knife from her, getting back on my feet.
“You are not a fighter, but you are not a wimp. Not many have fought a demon and lived to tell the tale. Come.” Cassandra gave me a pat on the shoulder and we continued on.
I knew Cassandra wasn’t one to give false praise so I went ahead and basked a little in what she just told me. It helped to take my mind off of, everything else.
“We need to test your mark on a smaller rift before we reach the conclave,” Cassandra said and had broken into a light jog down the snow covered path. I was keeping up as best as I could. In the near distance I could hear the sounds of fighting. I knew what was ahead – another rift, Varric… and fucking Solas. Now I had new concern – what if Solas realized what I was somehow?
I didn’t have an answer for my concern. And I needed to focus on the fact that I was going to be in another fight. The sounds ahead grew louder, and I could see the green glow hovering above the fighting pair. Rifts are strange looking up close. It’s like a ball of green water the way they move and simmer but that’s right before things like demons come flying out of them in little balls of light. They splatter onto the ground, and you hear them before they begin to take shape. Then the rift above them solidifies, no longer water but takes on this strange geometric shape, as if uncut emeralds were hurled chaotically into a hole.
Cassandra pulled out her sword again. “Remember, flank them. Strike hard and fast.” She charged forward, smashing her sword against her shield, the loud sound drawing the attention of the demons.
“Right. Hard and fast,” I can’t say I suddenly got a huge boost of courage. Just the sight of those demons sent waves of fear clawing through my body, my heart was racing, my palms were sweaty and I stood standing there for I don’t know how long. But I took some strength in the sight of Cassandra, and Varric and for now even Solas going toe to toe with those things. I climbed down the broken wall section, holding my knife in hand and eyeballed the battle field ready to –
“That’s the last of them,” Varric said just as his cross bolt tore through the head of a demon.
Right. Apparently my standing there being afraid had been a lot longer than I thought, or the three of them were just that good. Probably both.
“Quick, use your mark to seal the rift!” Solas came over to me, taking hold of my hand and dragged me closer to the rift.
I had no fucking idea how to use the mark. I mean in the game it was a point and click situation. I pulled my hand out of Solas’s grasp (mostly because I didn’t want him touching me) and well, I thrust my hand very dramatically up at the rift.
Guess what happened? Not a fucking thing. There I was, standing with my arm outstretched, and it’s possible I was trying to look as cool as the Dragon Age Inquisition artwork and wasn’t coming close. There was nothing but awkward silence, the trio looking at me, then the rift with wary eyes, still combat ready.
I huffed, lowered my hand and looked at Solas. “How do I use this mark?”
“I am not certain. I had hopped just being in the same vicinity as the rift would cause some kind of connection,” Solas said. “Do you have any magical teachings?”
Gee thanks, I thought but I shook my head. “No, I’m not an apostate.” I looked up at the rift and then down at my hand. Maybe I could… will it out? It sounded stupid in my head but what the hell else was I going to do? So, fuck it. I raised my hand again towards the rift (a lot less dramatically this time) and focused on my palm. The moment I did I felt this fuzzy sort of awareness and my hand started tingling, my palm especially. I pushed. That’s the only way I can describe it, I could feel the energy in my palm and I pushed it outward. At first it felt like pushing against a door that’s jammed. I could feel it moving by degrees, little by little. I started huffing, then grunting, and I could hear around me-
“It’s working,” Solas’s voice.
“That’s it, you’re doing it,” Cassandra’s.
“Doing what exactly? Is that safe for her?” Varric’s voice.
“We do not have a choice,” Cassandra’s.
I tuned them out, which wasn’t too hard. I was close, I knew I was close to something, and with a grunting sort of shout I pushed as hard as I could and felt the burst. My hand felt hot, but a lot less achy. The mark was like a weight in my palm and suddenly I felt that weight being projected outward and connecting with the rift. The connection jerked me backwards, it felt like running into a wall. But I kept pushing and felt the give again. It was a weird sensation closing the rift. I could literally feel the dimension being stitched back together, piece by piece and then it simply gave away. As it did, I stumbled, then fell to my knees, wincing because it felt like the power of the mark slammed back into my hand, and that dull weighty ache returned.
I was breathing hard, sweating despite the cold. I was also bone tired and I knew we had a much longer way to go. This mark was draining me. The bigger the breech was growing the more I felt like my energy was just being sucked out of me. It’s a terrifying thing to realize you’re on borrowed time.
“You all right?” Varric asked, walking over to me.
Cassandra reached me first, offering her arm down to me and when I looked up at her, the expression on her face was a combination of maybe a touch proud and a lot more relieved. I took her arm and let her help me back to my feet, nodding at Varric. “Yeah, yeah, I’m okay.”
“How did you do it?” Solas asked me.
I glanced over my shoulder at him. I didn’t want to tell him shit. I know who you are Fen’harel, I thought but I kept that to myself and hoped my features weren’t giving my feelings away. “I pushed,” I said honestly. “I can focus on it, and when I do I can feel it’s power. It’s weird. And then I push and it connects with the rift. The pushing is the hard part.”
“I suspect that may get easier. At any rate, I am Solas.”
Lying ass liar, I thought but I didn’t say that either. I just nodded and let the introductions take place.
When that was done, and Cassandra and Varric had their little bicker (Cassandra making her disgusted nosies at Varric is a thousand times more hilarious in person) we continued on.
I was useless in the fighting so I did what I could to pretty much stay out of the way. Cassandra, Solas and Varric worked seamlessly, and very effectively at taking out the demons and wisps things that we passed. Cassandra only had to shield me once, a green floaty bastard sent a projectile at me and I realized I wasn’t going to be fast enough, so I just tucked in, squeezed my eyes shut, hunched up a shoulder and braced for impact. In the next breath Cassandra’s frame bumped into mine, knocking me back into the snow and her shield caught the blast. Solas finished the thing off with a blast from his staff.
“Thank you,” I said sincerely, offering her a tiny smile, got myself to my feet and continued on. I closed the next rift faster, feeling the need to contribute in whatever small way I could, but still felt pretty drained after wards. Nonetheless, I pressed on, keeping up as best I could. I didn’t have a choice. Cassandra moved at a brisk pace, Solas at her back. Varric stuck with me, and I was grateful for the hands he extended when I got so winded that climbing through another snow bank, or up another set of stone steps felt impossible.
When we finally reached the forward camp, passing through the big wooden doorways, I was thankful. I found the first barrel I could put my ass on and sat, elbows on my knees, head in my hands and just worked on breathing and trying to ignore all the aches and pains in my body.
I was so involved in this I didn’t hear her come up to me. To be fair, if Leliana didn’t want you to hear her coming, you wouldn’t. I finally realized someone was in front of me and when I dropped my hands and raised my head she was crouched down and her eyes collided with mine.
I couldn’t breath again. Her eyes were so incredibly blue. They reminded me of winter, silent and deadly. Something that could be beautiful or terrifying. “Wow,” I whispered and then realized I had said that in my out loud voice and could not stop the blush that colored my neck.
She heard me, I know she did because I watched her mouth move in the barest twitch of perhaps amusement. She offered me a flask. “It will warm you. I am told you were wounded?”
“Thank you,” I didn’t realize how parched I was. I unscrewed the top and took a healthy swallow. No idea what the hell I was drinking, all I knew was that it was warm and spicy. I lowered it after a moment, and nodded. “I was, but it isn’t bad.”
“May I check? We have a vested interest in keeping the woman who can close the rifts alive.”
I nodded, my perspective on the situation widening again. I was the one who could close the rifts. The only one. Oh, fuck. The enormity of that came crashing down on me. I knew what happened if the rifts didn’t get closed. If Corypheus didn’t get stopped. The Redcliff quest line went shooting through my mind. I didn’t want to go through that – I didn’t want my companions to go through that. I didn’t want Leliana to go through that. The thought of what they’d do to her in that alternative reality made my heart clench painfully and a lump form in my throat.
Leliana had lifted my coat and sweatshirt up, briefly baring my skin to the cold to check my side. She glanced up at me and through my information haze I saw concern suddenly move into her eyes as she looked at mine. “Are you unwell?”
“What? Shit. No. No. Just… it’s a lot.” I tried to explain, lifting my hand with the mark on it to indicate what I was talking about. “I don’t want to let you all down.”
“You have not so far. Cassandra says you handled yourself well,” Leliana let my sweatshirt drop and tucked the coat back around me. And I mean that, she took hold of the lapels and literally pulled it closer to me. My chest did funny things again and I prayed my mouth would not vomit out more embarrassing words.
“Cassandra means I hid well,” I said with a self deprecating smirk.
“You did what you could, instead of acting foolish and or recklessly.”
I chuckled. “Give it time.”
Her mouth twitched again, like she wanted to smile at me and this video game crush that I had on Leliana was now a full blown real thing, because she was a real thing. I felt dizzy with it. I took another healthy drink from the flask, but kept my eyes on hers. She hadn’t looked away yet either.
Commotion finally drew our eyes apart. I looked to the right and saw Chancellor Roderick storming over the bridge, Cassandra flanking him with an utterly annoyed expression on her face.
“Fuck,” I muttered under my breath.
Leliana cast me a brief expression that I swore was amusement before she stood up, facing the man. I clambered to my feet as well. My feet protested this, they had very much liked sitting.
“Chancellor Roderick this is-” Leliana started.
“I know who she is,” Roderick cut her off. “As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry-”
“Yeah, that’s not going to happen,” I interrupted the speech of his I knew was coming. “I have to close the breech, because I’ve got the mark and the sooner you deal with that the sooner we can get on with the business of doing it.” I don’t know where this bravery came from. As soon as the words left my mouth I felt unsure about them. What if he did arrest me and had me executed? What if Cassandra and Leliana couldn’t stop him?
“Enough,” Cassandra said, and I was pretty sure I heard amusement in her tone. “She is right. We can stop this before it’s too late.”
“How? You won’t survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers,” Roderick said. Some of the bite had gone out of his tone and I could tell by the look on his face he was genuinely scared. I understood that feeling deeply.
I was going to push a line here with my foreknowledge but it was time I put some of the information I had to good use. “But, they will.” I insisted and looked at Cassandra and Leliana. “Have your forces charge as a distraction and we’ll go through the mountain pass.” I pointed upwards.
Leliana snapped her gaze to mine. Her eyes bore into me, and I knew there were many questions swirling in her head. Even so she said, “I agree.”
“We lost contact with an entire squad on the mountain pass. It’s too risky,” Cassandra said.
“They might just need our help, Cassandra,” I said to her. “What if we can reach them in time? If we can sneak into this that will be better. Especially with my lack of combat skills.”
Cassandra considered this a moment. She sighed. “All right. Leliana, bring everyone in the valley. Everyone.”
I took a deep breath, pulling my gaze from them and looked up at the mountain pass. I suddenly realized what I had just agreed too. Fuck. I was afraid of heights and I was going to have to climb a mountain. It would be some kind of irony if I had survived my first fight with demons only to slip off the damn mountain. I tried to steel my courage, what little of it I had, what else could I do and started to move forward to follow Cassandra, Varric and Solas.
Leliana touched my arm. I offered her back the flask and she shook her head. “Keep it, and be careful.”
I knew that Leliana’s concern was born from the fact that I had the mark and they needed the mark. That didn’t stop my chest from doing funny things again. Or me from briefly touching the top of her hand on my arm. “I will. You be careful too.” I offered her a smile.
She just looked at me for a second more, released her grasp on my arm and went in the other direction. I took a deep breath, another swig from the flask, tucked it into the coats pocket and hurried to catch up with my companions. I had a mountain to climb.
Oh, who was I kidding, Cassandra was probably going to have to carry me.