Maeve woke to the steady chirping of medical instruments, and for a moment, hazy, she could almost mistake them for birdsong. But it had been a long time since she had heard live birds instead of holo recordings. Groaning, she reached up to feel for the injury the damn elf had given to her face, the other hand gripping the railing of the medbay bed to pull herself up and sit.
The beeps turned to shrill alarms as wires disconnected from her hand and pulled free from the sticky pads stuck to her chest. Frowning, Maeve pulled the rest free and swung her legs down from the bed. She was still staring at the clothes that someone had changed her into when the door opened and an short woman strode in. Fluffy hair bounced against her cheeks with each step, almost hiding the dark circles under the magi’s hair.
“You should be resting,” the woman said waving her hands at Maeve with a slight ‘shooing’ motion, The energy backlash nearly killed you when you…” she paused, lips pressing together. “Did whatever you did to stop the breach from growing.”
Maeve looked over at the other beds shoved into the small room. The Elf was still knocked out in one, though she showed signs of stirring, her hand drifting up to press against her ribs. Good, Maeve thought a bit bitterly. She hoped it still hurt, the fact that the elf had gotten her with her guard down still rankled. The other two beds held soldiers who suffered far worse injuries, and were notably lacking limbs. Both appeared to be in a state of coma, based on the long pauses between the beeps of their heart monitors.
“I’m fine,” she said, looking at the woman, then squinted slightly. Why was this mage in Templar-armor? “What was your name?” Maeve asked the woman. “I’m Maeve, Maeve Trevelyan.”
“Haylan, just Haylan. And you might feel fine but you should be resting. We’re not sure what-“ but Maeve was already on her feet, wobbling for a moment before pulling herself straight and smoothing down the taupe flightsuit she now found herself in.
Maeve closed her eyes for a moment, muttering a small prayer to the maker, or whatever gods may exist, that the elf would go back to sleep.
“Haylan,” the fluffy mage corrected, glancing over at the groggy woman. Of the two she’d been slightly more injured, though the broken rib had been mended with Haylan’s help, the internal bruising was significant. It was a wonder either of the two survivors were awake.
“Hay-land,” Milliara groaned, “Agrarian. Gotch- gotcha,” Milliara grunted, having pushed herself up to sit, arm wrapped around her injured side. The glowing ink on the woman’s face dimmed for a moment, before resuming its faint shimmering pulse.
“Well,” Maeve said, glaring at the smaller survivor, who was now plucking wires off her lilac skin. “I’m not staying around here now she’s awake. Do you know where I can find the Seeker Pentaghast, Haylan?” she asked looking back to the Healer who dipped her head in reply.
“Last I saw she was discussing something with Commander Rutherford,” Haylan said, and Maeve noticed a slight pause at that name. Odd. “She did say she wanted to speak with both of you once you were awake. I can… I can show you where they are if you’d like,” Haylan offered, glancing between the two women. “Since you were both unconscious when they brought you in here.”
Maeve tamped down on the annoyance of having to spend more time near the elf. The only proximity Maeve wanted to have with Milliara was Maeve’s fist in the elf’s face, but the sooner they met with the Seeker, the sooner that particular proximity might occur. That, more than anything, helped Maeve focus on the task at hand rather than the lingering bitterness of being caught off guard back in the temple. Although watching the elf fight at the Breach, Maeve grudgingly admitted they were evenly matched in skill, though Milliara was too rash, too reckless. Maybe it’d get the elf killed and oh no wouldn’t that be terrible.
“Alright,” Maeve said. “Lead the way.”
As the doors hissed open, two guards who had been standing by the door turned around and snapped to attention, heads bowed, fist to chest in a salute. Maeve paused, eying the soldiers then looking at Haylan who just shrugged. Whispers travelled down the crowded hall though Maeve could only pick up a few words.
“They saved us.”
Stepping out of the room, Maeve saw that the halls were lined with soldiers and civilians alike, each with their fist pressed to their chest.
“…the chosen of Andraste…”
“Walked right out of the breach…”
Shoulders squared, Maeve nodded to the people, running her thumb across the mark on her palm and wondering just what had happened while she and Milliara were asleep. The mark was still there, buzzing with energy that seeped all the way into her bones.
Haylan led the way through the station to the Chantry, now makeshift base of operations for the rescue and defense of Haven. The small courtyard before them was filled. The injured were laid out, but still watched as the three women passed. Those able to sit, did, those able to stand leaned on those able to walk. Familiar faces lurked in the crowd, Varric near the chantry doors looking amused, while the tall elf apostate was a few layers of people behind, watching the proceedings with guarded curiosity.
“This is weird,” muttered Milliara, striding past both Haylan and Maeve to open the large Chantry doors. A building inside the station, built to resemble old stone relics, it felt odd, or maybe it was a little too similar to the Temple of Ashes for Maeve’s taste. But while she’d rather be out in the courtyard, the elf was through the doors and away from the saluting populace.
Once the office of the local chancellor, the war room was retrofit with a holomap table which was already pinging with updates as new rifts were reported by Leliana’s information network. Rythlen watched as green markers popped into life across the solar system. They clustered tightly around planets and moons, even stations. Anywhere where they would do the most damage, there they were.
“Maker’s breath,” Cullen said, staring at the map from the adjescent side of the table. He’d propped his hands up on the edge, and his pale eyes were flicking back and forth from their current location to Fereldan, then Orlais… and back.
“How do we stop them?” Rythlen asked, looking to Leliana who was relentlessly tapping away at a tablet. Every now and then she’d flick a finger across its surface and a new rift would appear in the holo. Even years since they’d last seen each other hadn’t seemed to age the bard, not physically at least. But this was not the bubbly woman who used to love braiding Ry’s hair while they shared stories at camp.
Icy eyes looked up at Rythlen and for a moment, softened.
“We can’t,” she said. “We can only do everything possible to ensure that those who can are able to get to the rifts before there is a greater loss of life.” And like that, the softness was gone, replaced by ruthless efficiency. “Are you sure you should be here? It is not that I doubt your abilities, but you have… other responsibilities these days do you not?”
Ry winced internally, and covered the expression with a frown. Both Cullen and Cassandra looked uncomfortable, and were intently studying the map to avoid getting drawn into the discussion.
“And to whom will I have those responsibilities if the rifts swallow Ferelden?” Rythlen asked, crossing her arms. “My place is here, helping you and helping these… Heralds.” If she hadn’t seen video of the two closing the breach herself, the Warden might not have believed it. Magic tied into their hands the way the Ritual had tied the blight into Rythlen’s blood. Did they even understand the enormity of the task ahead of them?
Further discussion was stalled as the door to the war room opened, and the elven woman peered in, looking around at the gathered council before she stepped inside. Lilac skin flickered with luminescence, and in the dim light of the War room, the elf’s eyeshine was prominently silver. Behind her followed Maeve, the human of the two. Taller, muscular, freckled and scarred, Maeve might as well have been the exact opposite of the elf. Yet here they were, each with a glowing mark on their hand. Milliara’s on the right, Maeve’s on the left.
“Hi…” Milliara said, “Seeker you wanted to talk to us?” she asked, but her eyes were fixed on the map. Vallaslin creased into a frown, and Milliara walked right up to the Holomap, mouth opening slightly as she took in just how widespread their problem was.
Maeve wasn’t far behind, but the human’s face was tighter, less visibly horrified.
“I think, perhaps, introductions are in order,” Leliana said, watching the elf with an expression that Rythlen couldn’t quite figure out. “This is Commander Cullen Rutherford, in charge of our forces-”
“Such as they are,” the man snorted, pushing himself off the table and nodding to the two survivors. Rythlen blinked, wondering when Cullen had developed a sense of humour. Or, was that something that had been buried under all the trauma he’d lived through? Something inside her chest twisted painfully at the thought.
“And I’m Ry,” Rythlen said, heading off Leliana’s introduction on the chance it might out her true name. “I’m here to help. I’ve never seen these rifts before but I know Leliana from years ago. She knows that I’ll be able to protect you both long enough to get to the rifts and close them.” Ry very carefully ignored the warning glance from her friend, and offered the two Heralds a tiny smile.
“Small world,” Milliara murmured. “I’m Milliara, I- I’ve met Leliana before, but I wouldn’t call it friendly,” she added in a low voice, those silver eyes flicking towards the Bard who just smiled icily. “I was sent to spy on the conclave. That shit isn’t affecting just you humans you know,” Milliara continued.
“Bullshit,” Maeve said, crossing her arms. “You were here for a target, why else would you set a trap for me?”
The elf lifted an eyebrow before she turned to face the other Herald fully. Rythlen glanced at Leliana who seemed both amused and annoyed.
“Perhaps this is not the best time-” Cassandra said, clearing her throat.
“No, this is the best time,” the elf said, placing her hands on her hips and stepping up to Maeve. Shorter, slighter, but there was something unsettling about the way elven eyes glowed at night, the way they could look at you through dim light and darkness, letting you know that they saw you. Rythlen wondered if perhaps she should keep Milliara and Zevran from ever meeting. They’d either become fast friends or they’d kill each other, and Ry wasn’t sure which was more likely yet.
“I want to know who I’m stuck working with,” Maeve said, head turned towards the Seeker but eyes still on Millie. “Since it seems we’re stuck on this mission until the rifts are closed. It took both of us to close the Breach.”
“By all means,” Milliara said, unblinking. “I struck a deal to do recon, find out what the Conclave was about. What was going to happen, what the fallout was. Thing is, I made some people deeply unhappy back when I knew Nightingale here. I thought that they’d found me, sent someone after me. You are an assassin aren’t you? You went straight to the kill, quick and quiet. I think that I’m allowed to be paranoid when an assassin tries to kill me.”
Yes, Rythlen thought. Best to keep Zevran and Milliara away from each other then.
“You were lying in wait for me,” Maeve said, frown deepening. “Why else would you have active camo set? I neutralized a threat, self-defense. You’re one to talk about killing; you almost got us both killed at the Temple.”
“That is quite enough!” Cassandra said, stepping between the two women and pushing them away from each other. “We have a larger threat at hand, and I will not sit and watch idly while you two fight. You are our only hopes for closing these Rifts and stemming this tide of demons.” Cassandra levelled a hard gaze at first one Herald then the other.
“Kill each other after the Breach is gone for good,” Leliana agreed. “For now we have a common foe, and it will be in no one’s best interests to fight amongst ourselves.”
Maeve stepped back first, nodding her agreement and sullenly rubbing the mark on her hand. Milliara’s glare lingered but she too stepped back, let out a sigh and nodded.
“Where do we even start?” the elf asked, looking over at the map. Rythlen, following her gaze, noticed she wasn’t looking at the main Thedan Planets, but one of the smaller moons orbiting Orlais. The queen frowned, dredging up the memory of what that moon was called. The second smallest, green and thick with- Emerald Graves. That was it.
“We start in the Ferelden hinterlands,” Leliana said, and zoomed into the continent in question on Fereldan’s surface. “We have a contact there who will aid us in establishing peace with the Chantry, but she’s in an area that’s seen heavy fighting.”
“We also need ships and supplies,” Cullen stepped in now, shifting the map with a twist of his hands. “I know a man, ship builder and designer, Dennet. I’ll give you the information on his last known whereabouts but communication is spotty due to the intereference of the rifts.”
Rythlen nodded, she’d heard of the man before. A veritable savant when it came to ship building, Dennet had designed and built some of the personal ships for the Royal family… not that she was about to volunteer that information to the two Heralds just yet. It seemed that there would be some time before they two learned to work together. Morrigan and Alistair had managed to not kill each other, Rythlen remembered with a tiny smile, and she had faith these two would as well.
“I can accompany you,” Rythlen volunteered, ignoring Cullen’s rather… pointed… look at her. “I’m familiar with the area, and from what I can tell a Crow and a Bard wouldn’t be used to Ferelden customs.” The looks on the Heralds faces was priceless, both caught off guard and then hiding their surprise behind a stoic mask. They were alike, two sides of a different coin. Maybe the Maker had chosen them for that same reason. Forcing elves and humans to put aside differences for once and all… it was a nice thought, but Rythlen didn’t believe it just yet.
“How-“ Maeve started to ask and Rythlen shrugged. Leliana tried to cover a giggle with a cough, and went back to studying the map.
“I travel with a Crow, though I hope you’ve retired from their organization or you might find him to be rather hostile,” Ry said to the assassin, before looking to the elf and waiting for a protest. Instead Milliara just glanced at Leliana, no doubt assuming the other Bard had told Rythlen how they’d initially met all those years ago.
She’d be right, on that count.
“Regardless, we can’t do this alone,” Rythlen said, looking at the two women. “Your friends, the Dwarf and the Apostate will be helpful, but we’ll need more able bodies for the fights to come. There’s hundreds of people here that have very directly seen what you two did to save them. I’d suggest looking around for people you feel you can trust.”
After a bit more discussion, the Heralds left, followed by Cullen and Cassandra, leaving only Rythlen and Leliana.
“As much as I’ve missed you, do you really think it is wise for you to be here?” the spymaster said, looking over the map to Rythlen. “He’s called five times since you docked. Sooner or later I need to reply or risk him thinking you’ve died.”
Rythlen sighed, running a hand through her short hair. It still caught her off guard when her fingers reached the end at the nape of her neck. So short, after so much time wearing it long.
“I’ll call him, do you have a secure channel?”
Leliana just handed over the tablet, the call already connecting. The video window popped open, showing Alistair’s confused face.
“Ry? Are you alright? Why are you on Leliana’s comm?”
“I’ll leave you to it,” Leliana said, and stepped out of the room, giving her friend privacy.
The SS Cookie had docked for the final time that day, smaller by far than the Ferelden ship next to her, but having done no less than three search missions out into the debris field. Tanim stayed with the ship to nap, while Peanut and Theseus helped the injured into Haven station proper. The Qunari and the human had an injured mage between them, the poor woman’s legs badly damaged by a demon’s claws. She’d survived by locking herself into a small escape capsule, but was dangerously low on blood.
“Thanks for helping Theseus,” Pea said, smiling up at him. “It made a big difference, especially with carrying everyone around.” She was of course, strong enough to carry the woman they were helping on her own, but with all the healing she’d been doing having help was a wonderful thing.
The Templar blinked and looked at her, surprised that a mage would be so warm and friendly. Especially with the war that had been raging for over a year now. He smiled, though it was genuine, it didn’t really reach his eyes.
“Of course, I just wish…” that they could have helped more people. So many lost, so many people who would never see their families again. The Chantry was shattered, Justinia and all the- He swallowed. It was almost too much to think about right now.
“We helped a lot of people,” Peanut said gently. “And we can keep helping.” Theseus nodded again, and pointed ahead at the doors to the overcrowded medbay. The walking wounded leaned against the walls along the hall, some sitting on the floor, cradling their injuries.
“Looks like we’ll have a hard time finding space for her,” Theseus said with a frown. Out of the doors stepped a small elven woman, her lilac skin glimmering with luminescent tattoos and silver mohawk sticking out wildly from her scalp. She looked around, eyes hollow and haunted by the injuries in front of her. Theseus could sympathize, no doubt he had a similar look in his own eyes. How Peanut was able to manage all the horror with a gentle smile was a gift from the Maker himself.
The elf spotted them, and motioned them towards the doors. She had a bandaged torso, and right arm herself, but she seemed more mobile than many others in the hall.
“Bring her to my bed, I don’t need it as much as she does,” the elf said, holding the door open for the three of them.
“Thank you,” Peanut said with a smile. “That’s very a-door-able of you to help.” Theseus looked over at the Qunari; not sure if she’d meant to make a pun. From the smile on her face he was sure that, yes, it had been intentional.
As he glanced back at the elf, Theseus tried to figure out if she was about to laugh, or cry. The way the day was going, he wasn’t sure which he was about to do either.
“Yeah, I choose you,” the elf said, waving them through.
“Choose… for what?” Peanut asked before Theseus had a chance. “Is this a bad thing? Or a good thing?”
“I… don’t know yet to be honest,” the elf said, leading them down a hall to a room where there were two empty beds. More spacious and well stocked than the other rooms they had passed, Theseus wondered why there were any empty beds at all with everyone that needed help. A fluffy haired woman was tending an unconscious Templar in the back of the room, and stood as they walked in.
“Hey, Hayland, I found more people that need help,” the Elf said, directing Theseus and Peanut to the leftmost free bed.
“Sure, Hayland. I’m giving her my bed.”
“You know what? Just call me Lana,” grumbled the fluffy woman to the elf.
“I’m sorry,” Theseus said, gently lifting the injured mage into the nearest bed and winced as she groaned in pain. “But… who are you? My name is Theseus Trevelyan, I-” he stopped, noticing elf woman was making a face.
“Is that a common name?” she asked, glancing at him then to Hayland. Wait, Haylan? “Trevelyan, I mean.”
“Well, sort of. It’s a rather large family,” Theseus said awkwardly. “Why…?” He glanced at Peanut who just shrugged amicably, busy wiping her hands free of blood onto her apron. It was white with frilled lace along the edge. Well, it had been white, now it was covered in dirt and blood from the people they had helped.
The elf seemed to relax a bit at that.
“I just had the… pleasure of meeting one of your cousins and or sisters and or whatever. I’m Milliara,” the elf said, and held out her right hand. Under the bandage, something green pulsed faintly, and Theseus hesitated to take it. Luckily Pea saved him yet again as she leaned in, taking the elf’s hand and examined it, plucking at the bandage to peer under it.
The Qunari gasped, and the elf winced, gently trying to pull her hand back.
“What is this? This is like that big hole in the sky,” Pea said, poking a finger at the mark. The room flared green, and the elf –Milliara—twitched like she’d been shocked with an electrical current. Peanut’s hair was noticeably fluffier now, and Theseus was relieved he hadn’t shook that hand after all.
“Yup…” Milliara said, “Please… don’t do that again.”
“Sorry, I’ve just never seen anything like it before,” Pea said with a sheepish smile. Then her eyes got wide. “Wait. That means, were you one of the ones that closed that thing?” Theseus froze, looking over at the elf. Did that mean she’d caused the explosion too? But- no, from the look on her face… the horror he’d seen earlier, that wasn’t the face of someone who was guilty.
“Um.” Milliara glanced over to Lana but the fluffy mage seemed disinclined to help.
“She almost got herself killed doing it,” Haylan said, glancing up from cleaning out the wounds on the woman she was working on. “She SHOULD be resting but no. Neither of them will stay still.”
“So you are!” Peanut said, looking intently at Milliara’s hand again. Noticing, Millie shoved it into the pocket of her flightsuit to keep it safe from more prodding. “What happened? Did you really see the Fade? What was it like? Or are your memories a little Faded about what happened?”
Milliara cleared her throat.
“I don’t remember much, to be honest. But look, we – the Inquisition – will be going to try to find out who was responsible and how to stop the rifts. There’s more. Many more like the one out there, but thankfully smaller,” she said with a gesture towards the nearest porthole. Theseus felt his stomach sink and he glanced out to see the large swirling green scar in space. It might have been a very small nebula, but no, it was a tear in spacetime. Reality. And demons were pouring out of it… or had been until the elf in front of him had stopped it.
“Let me help,” he said, stepping forward and to one knee, fist to his chest. “The Templar order is shattered, and what we were doing before- it was horrid. Let me help put the world right again, make it safe for everyone.” That’s all he’d ever wanted to do, was to help people. Next to him Peanut nodded, clutching her apron.
“Me too, I can help. I can’t just wait here and not do anything,” the Qunari said. “Am I also supposed to kneel?” she asked, glancing at Theseus and then back to the elf.
“Um, please don’t, just…” Milliara gently took Theseus by the shoulders and lifted, urging him to stand up again even though he towered over her. “Yes, help would be wonderful. I’m sure Maeve will complain but…”
“Maeve?” Peanut asked. “Oh! I didn’t introduce myself, I’m sorry! I’m Peanut Adaar. My brother Tanim’s on the SS Cookie right now. He’d probably help too!”
“So remember how I said that I’d just met another Trevelyan…?” Milliara said with a tired sigh. “The other Herald.”
Chapter 6 >