More information was trickling in by the minute, but it wasn’t enough. Reports were patchy, first suggesting that it was the Divine who had survived, then it was the leaders of the Night Templar and Magi, then it was two unknowns. Leliana had sent that last report herself.
Rythlen ran a hand over her face, looking at the video loop for the hundredth time. Recovered from one of the less damaged orbital ships, it showed a zoomed in view of the Temple of Sacred ashes. Templars and Magi arrived, milled around before entering the temple. Then nothing for a couple of minutes before the video slowed to a near frame-by-frame crawl.
The explosion started in the back of the temple, green light flaring out through the temple’s windows and arches before it burst apart. The force of the explosion was beyond anything Rythlen had seen before, sending deep cracks into the moon’s surface, and then the video turned to static… and began again.
“Have you eaten?” Rythlen looked up from the screen in front of her, her face softening as she saw her husband in the doorway, a plate in one hand and mug in the other. His face was creased with worry as he looked at her, walking into her office and setting the plate down in front of her. He smirked, reading her slight hesitation as she looked at the sandwich.
“I didn’t make it, I promise,” he said, holding a hand over his heart. “I asked Wynne to, since she was fussing around already. You should eat,” he said, nudging the plate towards her.
“Well, tell Wynne ‘thank you’,” Ry said, pulling over a chair for him to sit. Though… she took the coffee from his hand first, taking a long sip before she set the mug down and reached for the sandwich. She had priorities. “Leliana’s been busy, but she’s managed to send over a bit of information. I just wish there was more we could do.”
With a small sigh, she reached for the sandwich and took a bite.
“I know,” Alistair said, reaching for her mug of coffee to take a sip of his own. She swatted his hand, narrowing her eyes slightly at him. “Sorry… sorry,” he said with a grin, holding his hands out to either side. “I wish we could do more too, I hate having to hold the press releases when I want to be there, helping. I’m better at hitting things with a heavy object than I am talking about how tragic the loss of life was.”
The grin had faded into a frown as he settled back into his chair, eyes shifting from her to the looping video and then back.
“You feel the same, I know you do,” he said quietly. Rythlen nodded, reaching for his hand.
“I feel…” she hesitated, setting the sandwich down and picking at it with her other hand. “I feel useless here,” she admitted. “Ten years ago we’d have been in the thick of it, but what are we doing here?” she looked at the video, and paused it midexplosion.
“Reigning over a planet full of dogs and hairy men,” Alistair said. Though the joke lacked his usual snark, Ry still smiled at it. At him.
“Well, I like my dog and my hairy man,” she said. “Are we really though? Ruling I mean. I feel like we’re just figureheads for the council. They could do the work while we go help…” she trailed off, knowing that wasn’t an option.
Alistair reached out, gently pulling her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her and resting his chin on her shoulder. She relaxed into him, taking comfort in how strong his arms were and the way he smelled like home.
“I know. I’m sorry,” he said, kissing her cheek.
Rythlen wondered how upset he was going to be when he’d find out what she had done. What she was going to do. Curling up into him a bit tighter, she held him close, letting out a soft sigh.
“I’m sorry too,” she said.
Peanut squinted at the screen in front of her, braid floating behind her as she leaned forward, zooming in on the small blips of red that had caught her attention. Huh. Those didn’t look good. At first there was only a few, but as Pea scrolled over the radar screen, she saw more… and more…
“Tin-tam?” she shouted over her shoulder so he could hear her from where he was working on resetting the gravity-whatsit. She could hear his clanking and grumbling from down in the belly of their little cutter of a ship.
“Could you maybe focus on the engines and let the gravity drop?” she asked, looking out the window of the cockpit, squinting to see glowing ….things flying towards them. Sort of like the things she sometimes saw when dreaming. Then she blinked, and giggled.
“Heh… drop. Like… gravity…” she murmured, unbuckling herself from her seat and reaching for her space suit.
“Why?” Tanim asked, his fluffy head poking up from the trapdoor he’d crawled through. He blinked, spotting the specks heading their way. “Uh, Pea, what’d you do?” he asked, looking from the window to Peanut who was already half into her suit.
“Nothing!” she said, tucking her hair under her collar and reaching for the mask that would let her keep breathing. Helmets and horns didn’t play nice, but there were benefits to being Qunari… not exploding in vacuum was one of them.
“Kay, gonna go shoo them away. Let me know soon as you fix the ship,” she said with a smile, sliding the mask over her face and grabbing her staff from where it hung on the wall.
“On your own?” Tanim asked, frowning as he watched her ‘swim’ her way down the hall toward the airlock.
“Well, yeah, for now. But work fast please!” she said over her shoulder before she closed the airlock doors behind her. She took a deep breath, checking that her mask was working before she pressed the ‘release airlock’ button and shook out some of her nerves.
It’s okay, she could do this. She’d been trained at the Circle Academy and stuff. Sure she’d specialised as a healer and she’d only ever used fire spells for cooking and making yummy flambés, but it was the same idea, right?
Same idea, just… bigger.
The hatch opened, and Peanut pulled herself out, twisting to plant her boots against the ship’s hull. With a clunk, the magnetic soles activated, holding her steady before she climbed up towards the nose of SS Cookie, and looked out at the demons that were swarming towards her.
“Oh,” she said quietly. They looked a lot bigger out here. She took another deep breath and planted her feet against the Cookie’s hull. Twisting her staff in the vaccuum, she closed her eyes, muttering each step to herself as she went. “Gather the energy, focus…. Focus,” she could feel her staff start to thrum as she exerted her will on the weave of space.
Stepping forward, she swept the staff up and around, before thunking its butt into the Cookie’s hull. She could feel the plasma arc out from her, and Peanut opened an eye, cringing a bit as she watched the flares engulf the nearest wave of demons. They twisted and clawed at themselves, trying to stop from burning up.
Okay, that wasn’t so bad.
Rolling her shoulders back Peanut launched a wave of pressure forward. Debris and dust that had started collecting by the Cookie slammed into the burning demons, sending some careening away while a couple of the smaller ones exploded into dust and wisps of green themselves. As she watched, the surviving demons circled around and started coming at her again.
“Tim-tam?” she said into the speaker of her helmet. She wasn’t sure if the communications were working yet. “Hurry the butts up.”
“This one’s got one too.”
“Both? But how …” calm, thoughtful. Water to the first man’s gravel and rock.
“Ow! She just hit me.”
“Enough.” A third voice. A woman, strong and sharp. Steel. “We do not have time for this.”
“A moment, let me stabilise them or they won’t be of any help to us.” Water again. Milliara was too tired to open her eyes, but she listened. The pain in her hand and throat was far away. So too was the gentle touch of warm fingers on her throat, before it was gone. The pain eased, and she slipped back into darkness.
Maeve blinked, squinting in the bright light of a medical ward. She tried to sit up, but something was holding her back. Gritting her teeth, Maeve looked down and pulled at the cuffs that held her to the medical bed.
“Good, you’re awake,” Maeve looked up to see a tall woman step into the room wearing armor. Dark close-cropped hair framed a hard face, with a fresh sutures up along one cheek to eyes that could cut steel itself . Dressed in grey and purple armor with a flaming eye emblazoned across her chest plate, the woman stepped forward to the base of the bed. Maeve froze, looking from the symbol up to the woman’s face.
“Do you know who I am?” the woman asked. Maeve started to shake her head when a very rough, very concerned groan was heard from off to her left. Looking over, Maeve saw an elf in a similar position. It was hard to tell if her skin was normally so pale or if it was due to the wound Maeve had left in her shoulder. Maeve clenched her hands, wishing she’d had the sense to stick the knife deeper. She’d been sloppy, and now everything was fucked.
“Ugh,” the armored woman looked from Maeve over to the elf then back. “Why were you and a dalish elf working together? Did you plan to stage a coup once you’d killed the divine?”
Maeve blinked, looking away from the elf to the interrogator.
“I don’t know her,” she said, gritting her teeth. “I don’t know anything. I don’t remember what happened. The elf over there had attacked me and next thing I know I’m stuck in here being interrogated by some… ”
“By the Right hand of the Divine, actually,” a soft, cultured voice said. There was the faintest click-hum of a plasma pistol charging, and Maeve looked back to see the Elf half-free from the bed, staring down the sleek pistol of a redheaded woman.
“Hello Darling,” the redhead said, lips pulling into a slow curl. “I love your new look.”
Her throat was still too damaged to speak, not that Milliara particularly felt like talking right now. Glowering, she crouched behind a rock, hands still empty despite repeated (gestured) requests for a pistol or even her knife back. The Seeker was informing them about the Breach, that the things attacking everyone were demons. Or. Whatever.
At Leliana had let Milliara patch her suit, the duct tape over her shoulder holding the rip closed and the air in. That didn’t cheer her up much. The other prisoner crouched behind a hunk of ship next to the Seeker. Maeve. The woman who had attacked her and stabbed her, only to Lie to the Nightengale. Of course the bard was right there, in the thick of things. Of course.
Milliara poked her head over the rock, glaring at the debris field that waited for them ahead. There was a smaller tear between them and the path to get to the temple, and she could see some of the Seeker’s soldiers fighting… and losing against the horrible things that had crawled out of it.
Fuck Elves too. They were why she’d had to come to the fucking temple in the first place.
She wasn’t just going to wait for the twisted horrors to come get them. With a half-hearted shrug, Milliara vaulted over the rock and jogged forward, picking up a couple of sharp bits of steel from the wrecks.
“What are you- Stop!” The seeker was shouting, but hey. Fuck everything.
It wasn’t a knife, but it’d work enough. With a running leap, Milliara threw herself onto the nearest demon, sinking the scrap metal deep into its back and wrenched it to the side, severing the thing’s spine. Letting go of the first shard, she hopped off, and turned to see Maeve already on the demon next to her. The human slammed a sharp rock into its skull, punching through bone and dropping the monster like a stone.
“Quickly!” a man said, and Milliara felt a strong hand grab her wrist, lifting her hand up and pointing it at the tear in front of them. Pain ripped through her, and Milliara opened her mouth in a silent cry as static fire leapt from her arm out through her palm. Eyes watering, she staggered, watching as the tear in space shuddered and throbbed.
“Both, they both need to do it,” the man said, face hidden by a battered helmet. His voice… familiar. Water.
“Come on, as Chuckles said,” a stocky man shouted, his voice Gravel. Milliara watched as he grabbed Maeve’s hand and lifted it towards-
The Pain flared, flashing through her as the rift shuddered and collapsed into itself, and then into nothing. Blinking water from her eyes, Milliara yanked her arm from Watervoice, cradling it against her chest.
“Thank the spirits that worked,” he said, head still pointed towards the sky, when he turned, Milliara could see luminescent grey eyes crinkle in what must be a smile behind the helmet. An elf. “I’m glad to see you’re well. I am-”
Milliara shoved her hand (still glowing) at his face, pointing at it, then at the large Breach angrily.
“Yes, the mark closes the rifts,” ‘Chuckles’ said, his brows drawing into a frown.
MIlliara glared at him for a long moment, then grabbed a handful of ‘Chuckles’s suit, yanking him down to her eye level and glared even harder at him. With a small shove she pushed him towards the Breach and started after him, pausing only to pick up a mostly-sharp knife from the burnt body of a Templar.
“Uh… That’s Chuckles. I’m Varric… Pleasure to meet you survivors and all that,” The gravel voice said. “What’s wrong with her?”
“She’s psychotic.” Milliara heard Maeve say. The elf threw a rude gesture over her shoulder, and kept marching forward.
“Well, at least Chuckles made a friend,” Varric said laughing.
Fuck humans. Fuck Elves. Fuck everything.
Even using the relay gates, the Hounds were only just reaching Haven station after a full day of ravel in the cramped frigate. Haylan sat in the bunks, pouring over the information they’d received from the surviving Templar forces.
“Still studying?” Gavin asked, laying on the bunk above her. His head appeared over the edge, hair falling down over his slightly pointed ears as he looked at her.
“I want to get the apostates that did this,” Haylan said with a frown. “The Divine’s dead, there’s demons running loose al over the system. Of course I’m-”
The ship shook, and the warning klaxon sounded.
“Atmosphere leak,” Fallon said over the intercom. “I’ll try to stop it-”
Faulkner’s voice buzzed overtop, superseding their fellow mage.
“Get your gear on. Now. Hostiles in the area. Get to Haven. Find Ruther-” A second impact hit the ship and it shuddered, and the lights blinked off. In the dark, Haylan scrambled to get her space suit on, breathing a sigh of relief when the auxiliary power hummed on, lighting the interior of the ship in a pale green glow.
Yanking her helmet into place, Haylan grabbed her bag and staff, jogging after Gavin to the escape pod. Fallon was already there, her suit splattered red and hands fluttering angrily over the body of Faulkner, who lay in the hall in front of the pod.
“Lana!” she snapped. “Fix her! Fix her she’s bleeding.” Fallon’s voice was hitching, yes already thick with tears behind the visor of her helmet. Haylan looked from her squadmate to their leader, the woman who’d raised them all… who stared lifelessly up at the ceiling.
“I-” she stammered, and felt Gavin shove her forward, throwing her into the cramped hold of the pod. Fallon was dragged in after, screaming and hitting him as he pulled her inside and hit the emergency launch switch.
“We can’t!” Fallon gasped, “We can’t leave her. Lana you can save her, WHY AREN’T YOU SAVING HER?”
With a hiss, the exscape pod launched, firing it’s thrusters to get them away from the mass of Demons that descended on their ship. And on the body of Faulkner, left behind.
Time stopped making sense. They drifted, hollowly staring at each other for what might have been hours, could have been minutes.
The comm crackled and a woman’s voice came through.
“Emergency beacon 72, this is FYR-302, I’ve got a lock on your signal. I’ll be there to pick you up shortly. Are there any injured on board?”
Haylan watched as Gavin shifted to the comm, pressing the button to reply.
“N-no. No injured.”
Through the small porthole Haylan watched a Ferelden ship pull into view. She jumped at the clunk-lunk-clank of the magnetic tethers shooting out and connecting to their pod, and hugged her knees as she felt the ship slowly reel them in.
How far had they drifted? What if the demons were going to attack this ship too?
She hunkered further into herself, chin on her knees as she waited, listening to the docking station latch onto their pod and the hiss of oxygen as the escape pod’s hatch was opened from the other side.
A tanned elven head popped in, twin lines tattooed down his face pulled into a crease as he grinned.
“It is I, your saviour,” he said with a thick antivan accent. “Zevran.”
Chapter 3 >