Thin atmosphere still clung to the chunks of moon that Maeve clung to with one hand, a heat-twisted dagger gripped tightly in the other. Black blood clung at the blade, the alien blood too thick to drip off in such low gravity.
“We’re almost there,” shouted Cassandra from Maeve’s earpiece. The warrior was ahead, slamming her shield into the skull of a wraith, the energy sword in her hand sizzling from the thing’s blood.
They were inside what was left of the temple now. Blasted rocks spinning lazily as though they were in zero-G, even though a tentative nudge had offered slight resistance. Maeve wondered what was holding them in place, although now was not the time to worry about gravitational disruption. Just so long as the rocks didn’t come crashing down whenever she and the elf closed the blasted rift, Maeve didn’t care.
“There, just ahead,” Solas said walking through the forest of charred bodies. Some, the Templars, had fused with the rocks, the metal of their armor melted enough to hold them in place. Others, the Magi, were pillars of ash, barely holding together. Varric had brushed against one a ways back, and it had crumbled into dust, leaving a lingering cloud. Since then, most of the party had been careful to avoid the ashen bodies. The elf however burst through them if they were in her way, and was left plastered with the stuff that was once people, glued to her by the blood of the demons pouring from the rift.
Even with her disregard for most people, the thought of treating bodies so… casually made Maeve press her lips into a tight line behind her helmet. It was, perhaps a bit of disregard for the woman that bled into her actions instead of the other way round, a small voice whispered into the back of her mind, but she ignored it. There was a job to do.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to open the rift in order to seal it properly,” the apostate advisor said, pointing up at the green tear in spacetime that twisted and shuddered in front of them. “That may allow more of these demons to make their way through.”
A bolt of energy flashed over their heads, vaporizing the face of a twisted green horror that had started to claw its way over to the expedition.
“We shall provide cover,” Nightingale said through Maeve’s comm, and the assassin looked over to a ridge of moonrock to see the other woman fire off another round from her rifle. “Maker Guide your steps.”
The Maker’s help wouldn’t hurt, if he was real at all, but she’d prefer to rely on herself. Maeve grit her teeth as she darted forwards to get closer to the breach, ducking under the outstretched arm of a shade and pushing herself off a hunk of blasted temple and ignited the thrusters on the back of her pack. Shooting up out of the demon’s reach, she thrust her hand to the sky.
“Now,” she shouted at the elf, looking for where the damn woman had gone. Pain arced from her hand through her body, electrifying every nerve she had and stripping away distractions. Maeve bit the inside of her cheek hard enough to taste blood, and kept her hand lifted at the Breach, feeling a thrumming of energy start to build, echoing back and forth through the arcing light that danced like lightning between her hand and the hole in space.
The detonation was deafening even in such little atmosphere and the force knocked her from where she hovered, throwing Maeve to the shattered ground.
She lay there for a moment, coughing down a gasp of air into bruised lungs before she rolled onto her hands and knees.
Deep sinister laughter rumbled her way, and Maeve looked up to see a massive, armored demon pulling itself through the rift.
“Can we close it before that thing gets through?” Maeve asked, swallowing the blood in her mouth. The sharp copper taste helped her focus. She’d never brought down something that large before… and the energy bolts from Nightingale’s marksmen were barely making a dent.
“No,” the apostate said, stepping forward and lifting his staff. “But we can once it’s dead. Varric, would you mind lending this woman your knife? I feel she might be able to make better use of it at this point in time.”
Right. Just needed to kill the giant demon who was now fully through the rift, static sparking from the bony growths on its arms towards its hands.
“Catch,” Varric said, tossing the carbide dagger to Maeve hilt first. She caught it mid-step, already running.
Hallucinations were common in oxygen deprivation patients. Haylan had heard of seeing loved ones, bugs, dancing lights and more. She had never heard of seeing Antivians with facial tattoos, however. She blinked, staring at the man before the freshly oxygenated air he brought with him reached her lungs. Gasping, she pushed Gavin towards the hatch, insisting that her fellow Hounds go to safety first. She was a healer after all. She could heal…
“No place for heroics, mi corazón,” the Antivian said, reaching in and grabbing the small woman, forcibly pulling her out into a bright airlock and ignoring the weak protests and thwaps of her hands. There wasn’t enough oxygen in her blood yet to put any force behind the strikes, and soon Haylan found herself dumped on the steel floor, sucking in air. Someone else was there, a tall woman who was helping Gavin out of the hatch with more grace than Haylan had been given.
“You’re safe now,” the woman said quietly, holding out a bottle of water to him. Haylan, vision clearing and strength returning to her muscles, pushed herself up onto her feet unsteadily. Fallon was last out of the escape pod, eyes rolled back into her sockets and body limp.
“No,” Haylan rasped, staggering forward and pushing their ‘saviour’ aside to check on the unconscious woman’s vitals. “Breathe, come on,” she whispered, throat getting tight as she felt for a pulse. Not Fallon too… Biting her lip, Haylan let out an exhausted sob of relief as she found what she was looking for. It was weak, but getting stronger.
“Thank the Maker, thank the maker,” the healer pressed her hands against Fallon’s cheeks and closed her eyes, drawing energy to force more air into Fallon’s lungs, more oxygen into her blood and to her brain. Call it magic, call it science, Haylan called it a miracle when she felt her friend stir under her fingers.
“Ngh,” Fallon’s eyes fluttered, eyes starting to focus first on the ceiling, then on Haylan. “Hey kiddo,” she said with a frown. “We dead?”
“No, for I saved you!” the man who called himself Zevran said. Haylan looked up, rubbing at her face with the back of her hand to look at him. Elvish, but he lacked the bioluminescent tattoos of the Dalish. Instead the curved lines on his cheek were dark green, complementing the faint mint colour of his skin. He was grinning, hand over his chest.
The taller woman, black hair short and eyes ice blue, looked calm…but relieved.
“Well, we saved you,” the elf said, glancing at the woman. “But I did most of the dashing part. So feel free to shower me in grateful kisses, caresses or-”
“That’s enough, Zev,” the quiet woman said, and held out a hand to help Haylan up, unbothered by the blood that was still congealed on her hands from trying to help Faulkner. “Ry, glad to see you three pulled through. Are any of you hurt?” she asked, eyeing the blood.
Haylan shook her head, taking the hand and standing again, this time finding her legs steadier. She tried to say that it wasn’t theirs, but no real sound came out. Faulkner was gone. She’d failed her commander, and if she didn’t have a duty to attend to… crawling into a dark corner would be the only thing she wanted to do.
“No Ma’am,” Gavin said, walking over to Haylan and wrapping his arms around her. “We lost our CO. What in Maker’s name is going on?” He looked at the Fereldan armor that the woman wore, then at the Antivan who was dressed in a hodgepodge of gear.
“And who are you?”
“Thank you,” Haylan said, gently untangling herself from Gavin to help Fallon to her feet. “Thank you for finding us.”
Rythlen’s lips tugged up ever so slightly but the almost-smile didn’t quite reach her eyes. She nodded to the small Hound, familiar in theory with the shock troops of the Free Marches, but until now she’d never come across them in person. Perhaps that was working to her favor.
“We only did what was right,” she said, and motioned for the three to follow her. “Come, it might be easier to explain on the way towards the bridge. I don’t think you’d believe me otherwise.” Leading the way, she gave Zevran a meaningful look, and he held his hands out to the side as if to say ‘who me?’ He’d leave the shell-shocked troops alone for the time being but Maker help them when they were well enough to fend off the Crow’s attentions.
“But who are you?” the man asked. Gavin, according to the name etched into his armor. “I mean I appreciate the rescue but we’re on a mission. We need to report to … to a ser Ruther as soon as possible.”
Rythlen paused, halfway up the ladder to the second tier of the ship she’s ‘commandeered’ from her nation’s armory. She looked over her shoulder at the man, eyebrows slowly lifting.
“Ruther?” She asked, before turning back to the rungs and continuing up to the main deck. “I don’t know a Ruther but I remember meeting a captain in the Nights Templar named Rutherford once…” she murmured, reaching down to help the Hounds up if they looked too wobbly. The man and the small woman seemed alright but the other one, Fallon, seemed to be shaky on her legs still.
“That might be him. Would you know where we could find him?” the small woman asked, blood smearing her nameplate. Rythlen pursed her lips for a moment before she sighed. “I used to, now I’m not so sure. He was supposed to be arriving at the conclave,” Rythlen said, pointing towards the bridge. On the main screen was the ruins of the Temple of sacred ashes, with small pinpricks of light showing where brave souls were still fighting back the tide of demons.
She looked at the three, their faces ashen and grim.
“But I do know how to find out where he is,” she added. “Merrill, if you don’t mind, would you see if you can get Leliana on comm?”
Next to the pilot’s chair, a dalish elf looked over her shoulder with large grey eyes. She smiled slightly, lifting fingers and wiggling them at the new arrivals. Her tattoos pulsed silver, slow and steady in time with her heartbeat. The woman at the helm turned as well and looked the three haggered hounds over. Dark curls were pulled back by a bandana, and she tongued the piercing at her septum.
“Short one’s cute, isn’t she Daisy?” she asked, turning back to the task at hand of navigating through wreckage towards the safety of Haven. The station was enough distance away that the scattered survivors could regroup.
Rythlen cleared her throat to cover the sound of sputtering from the small Hound.
“Let’s focus on getting to Haven safe and finding out if Rutherford is still alive, shall we?” The pilot coughed and it sounded suspiciously like ‘priss’.
Choosing to ignore it, Ry looked back at the three hounds.
“He… he’s improved quite a bit, I hear,” she offered awkwardly to them.
Knife buried into the chink of two bony plates in the Demon’s shoulder, Milliara hung on tightly, feet braced against its back. The monster swung its arm in a devastating arc, catching the Seeker and flinging the woman off her feet and into a chunk of Temple a dozen metres away.
“It would be real nice,” Milliara said, slamming in her second makeshift weapon into the Demon’s neck. It screamed, and reached back to try to knock her off. “REAL FUCKIN NICE,” she repeated, holding onto the knives and letting herself fall flat against the demon’s back to avoid the hand. “If you could distract the fucker for more than a second,” she said, grunting as the marked hand slipped off the twisted spar of metal she’d been using as a second dagger.
“What do you think I’ve been doing?” Snapped Maeve, rolling by the beast’s leg and whipping Varric’s knife out to slice the Achilles tendon. The knife skidded off the bony armor and bit deep into the demon’s calf instead.
“All this arguing is making me homesick,” Varric muttered over the comm. “I remember Anders and Fen-”
“Shut up Varric,” both survivors said at the same time.
Milliara braced her feet against the demon’s back and levered herself off him, the hilt and shard of sword coming free with her. Twisting, she landed with a grunt on all fours.
“Fuckit, maybe this shit hurts it as much as it hurts us,” she said, and lifted her right hand. “Shemshit, hand. Wormhole.” The green light sparked from the elf’s hand out to the breach and she shuddered, biting her tongue to keep from crying out. She heard a matching gasp from the human as the arc of energy linked to her hand as well.
The demon laughed, lifting it’s fists up to smash down into where Milliara knelt. She winced, willing the energy to speed up whatever it was doing, and flinched as the fists came down, smashing into a shimmering barrier.
“It’s alright,” the aspotate elf said, looking over at her and his lips pulled into a small sad smile. “Please, focus on disrupting the energy of the breach. I believe it was working.”
Milliara nodded, lifting her hand and making the connection to the twisting green rift once more. The pain was intense, and her eyes started to water, but she held her hand up through it all. The energy began to thrum, and Milliara could feel the rift burst, exploding in energy that knocked both her and the Demon flat. Somewhere, Maeve had managed to stay on her feet, staggering back to find a Knight steady her by the arm.
“Glad to see Cassandra was right about you,” the Knight said, hefting his shield and charging towards the fallen monster.
“Let them finish it off,” the elf apostate said to Milliara, crouching by her and running a hand through the space over her Marked arm. The ache and fever in her veins eased, and she sagged in relief for a moment of luxury. “You, you and the human have done enough today.”
Milliara shook her head, pushing herself to her feet.
“No, we haven’t,” she said, picking up the shattered sword once more. “Not until that thing is dead and the breach is closed.”
And she was damned if she was going to let the shem slit the thing’s throat after all they’d just been through. This was her kill.
Chapter 4 >