“She awakes. Inform the Seeker.”
Metal clacks, feet shuffle. A door opens. Slams shut.
A ringing begins in my ears. My head pounds. An ache spreads up my arm. Metal presses into my flesh, grips me and hauls me to my feet. I reel. Falling to my knees, hands pressed into the floor, I empty my stomach. Bile, watery and pungent, tinted red. At first I assume it is blood, but an acrid aftertaste tells me it must be wine.
Did I drink too much? Is this a hangover?
I try to recall the events leading up to this moment, but they are fuzzy. I don’t remember drinking. I remember sitting on my couch. I remember reading.
Did I fall asleep? Is this some crazy dream?
I try looking around but the light pierces my eyes. I instead examine my body, hoping to find some clue as to what is going on.
Armor? No, not armor but something similar. I have pauldrons, yes, but the rest of the clothing is green, soft fabric.
My head lolls and my eyes close again. My stomach aches. My arm is inflamed. My head is dizzying, both in thought and swelling with some unknown ache.
“On your feet prisoner. We have no time to waste. You will face the hangman’s noose soon enough. Then you can rest as much as you like.”
The metal hand grips my arm again. It lifts me to my feet but I am forced to lean on the iron encased body.
Now, that is armor.
I open my eyes. The face in front of me is familiar but I cannot place where or when I may have met this man. “I know you?”
Anger spreads across his face. His jaw ticks. “Not likely, prisoner.” He turns to the other two armored men in the room. “Open the door. I will take her to the Seeker.”
Seeker? Prisoner? What? No! This can’t be.
The guards standing before me push open the wooden door.
My mind begins to race. I roll my left hand over, still clutched into a tight fist. I do not want to see what I already know is there. An explosion sounds in the distance and I know it heralds the jolt I am about to feel coursing through my body. I brace myself, but nothing could have prepared me for the excrutiating imbalance my body is thrown into. I lean heavily onto my guard but he shoves me away, causing me to collapse, once again.
“She hasn’t eaten in three days. She can barely stand. Maybe we should try feeding her before attempting to haul her up to the temple.” The guard still holds the door to my makeshift prison.
“What do I care? She’s a prisoner. We do not coddle prisoners. She will be taken to the Seeker now,” he growls.
The second guard refuses to back down. “Seeker Pentaghast wants to question her. She can’t do that if she passes out again.”
“Fine.” He shoves me into the other guard. “You feed her. I will let the Seeker know why her arrival has been delayed.”
The second guard takes my arm, guiding me back inside and to the bed.
To my left there is a table stocked with potions, bread, meat and cheese. A jug sits on the far corner next to a goblet. The guard fills the goblet and breaks off a piece of the bread. He hands me each and turns to the potions. He examines a few before deciding on a stoppered reddish bottle. He breaks the seal and hands it to me as well.
I place the opened bottle on the nightstand and sniff the contents of the goblet, only to retch once again. This is what had come out of my stomach earlier.
“I know it isn’t much but it will help. You must drink it if you plan to be on your feet again.”
The kindness of his words makes no sense. I know what he must think of me. “Why are you being so nice?”
“Call me a forward thinker, or maybe I’ve overheard too much. I don’t know what happened to you but I was there when you fell out of the Fade. I’ve been here while that mage has examined you. I’ve heard what they’ve said about you and I’d like to give you a chance to explain what happened. People have been very quick to jump to conclusions around here. I just want to know the truth.” He pushes the goblet to my lips. “Drink.”
I take a sip and find the diluted wine quite pleasant. Herbs have been mixed in and they linger on my tongue. I take a small bite of the bread, not trusting my stomach. It is stale but my body welcomes the nourishment.
Too soon, the wine and bread are gone, but my head starts to clear and my limbs regain some of their strength.
The guard holds the unstoppered potion out to me. “It’s a regeneration potion. It should help you regain some of what you’ve lost.”
“Thank you.” I try to smile but fear my nerves have only allowed a grimace.
He chuckles, “Don’t thank me yet. You have not met the Seeker.”
I can’t help but laugh. I know what is coming and I try to recall all of the proper responses as he leads me out to be questioned.
Leliana and Cassandra storm through the door. Cassandra hell bent on having me pay for what she can only assume I’ve done. I remember to show compassion. I remember to plead my innocence. I remember to tell them about the woman in my “vision”. They debate over me for a moment before Cassandra hauls me up like the guards a few moments before. She tells me she is taking me to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. She’s going to show me what they assume I’ve caused.
I make my way through the crowd, glares and hisses trail in my wake.
Cassandra explains that these people need someone, anyone, to blame for what has happened. She turns to me cutting the binding from my wrists. “There will be a trial. I can promise no more.”
I tell her that I understand, remembering that will garner her approval. We walk to the gates leading to the temple. She commands the guards standing by to open them. They comply. Roughly, she pushes me through them and we follow the trail.
However, before we can make any progress, my mark pulses, sending shockwaves of pain throughout my body. I collapse but she is there, lifting me, steadying me.
“The pulses are coming faster,” she states.
I am surprised to see concern mar her features. As quickly as it comes, it is gone. She pushes me ahead, this time almost gently.
We are now racing forward. She explains what happened and why I am here. She says an explosion rocked the Conclave, killing all but me. She tells me the soldiers who found me saw someone else in the rift, a woman.
Just as she is about to tell me more, the bridge we are on explodes in a burst of green flame. We fall. Debris falls around us as we try to regain our footing. Demons spill from the sky. I start to panic but remember looking around will garner me a weapon. I hadn’t thought about that until now. I have no idea how to fight. In the game it’s a series of buttons mashed in succession. I have no real combat training. I turn to find the weapon I know will be there and freeze.
It’s a staff.
I’m a mage.
How can this be? I have no idea how to harness energy. I don’t know how to throw fire. This is insane.
I pick up the staff. I know the abilities in the beginning of the game are flashfire and chain-lightning. If I slam my staff down, that should activate the chain-lighting spell.
Okay, I try again. This time focusing my thoughts on the two demons in front of me. I think chain-lighting, picturing the bolts arcing from one demon to the next.
Next, I focus on my staff. Pushing thoughts of fire through the staff and into the oncoming demon. I think “flash” moments before it reaches me and shove my staff in its direction. Fire pulses from the end of my staff and sends the demon skittering off for Cassandra to finish.
I can’t help but smile. All the years I’ve spent reading about and playing the games have paid off. I know how to use magic.
My excitement is short lived as Cassandra approaches, blade drawn. “Drop your weapon.”
I consider acquiescing but decide to take the bolder route. “Do you really think I need a staff to be dangerous?”
She steps fractionally closer, her blade raised to meet my staff. “Is that supposed to reassure me?”
I stand a little taller, placing the bottom of my staff on the ground. “I haven’t used my magic on you yet.”
She sighs, blade falling to her side. She shakes her head and her eyes fall to the side. “You’re right. You do not need a staff, but you should have one.” She sheathes her blade and reaches into her pack. “I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless. I should remember you agreed to come willingly.” She hands me a few bottles. “Take these potions. Maker knows what we will face.”
I place the red bottles in my pack and we move forward, pressing on through the mass of dead and demons. I ask her about the soldiers and she tells me we are headed straight for them. Quickly we fall into a rhythm. I attack from a distance while she charges in. Flashfire, chain-lightning, a blast of my staff, a swing of her sword.
We crest the stairs to find Solas and Varric fending off demons as best they can.
Oh, no you don’t. Not my dwarf.
Energy pulses through me and I send out the most powerful chain-lighting spell I’ve produced yet. The demons fall, as one by one they are hit with the fracturing curse. Bianca finishes off the last one still standing.
Before I can get too excited about being face-to-face with my favorite dwarf, Solas grabs my hand.
“Quickly, before more come through!” He shoves my hand toward the rift.
Green light exudes from my proffered palm. The energy ripped from me. Whatever he had done, it made the pain subside and the heat abate. I now realize where the Herald’s, my, next question stemmed from. “What did you do?”
He gives me the credit for closing the rift, as I knew he would. I know to ask about the mark, garnering Solas’ approval. Not knowing whether I should care to gain his approval.
“It seems you hold the key to our salvation.” He gives a slight bow and I try my best not to scowl.
I see you, Dread-Wolf.
I am saved by Varric’s introduction. I tell him I like his crossbow, knowing he will appreciate it. He and Cassandra bicker for a moment before she turns, accepting his presence but not liking it.
Solas then introduces himself. With each word, I want to scream, “Liar!” but I know it will benefit no one to reveal his true identity.
Cassandra explains that, unlike me, Solas is an apostate.
Solas replies, “Technically, all mages are now apostates, Cassandra. My travels have allowed me to learn much of the Fade, far beyond the experience of any Circle mage. I came to offer whatever help I can give with the Breach. If it is not closed, we are all doomed regardless of origin.”
I fight not to roll my eyes, knowing it will gain me nothing and probably only piss off Cassandra and Solas. In my silence, they proceed to speak of me as if I am not standing right in front of them. All agree we must proceed and we make our way to the forward camp.