"Knight Commander Cullen, we searched the western ruins."
"No survivors. Everything's been obliterated."
"And the north?"
"Still covered in debris. We have men posted trying to loosen up some rubble. Perhaps someone was trapped inside..."
"Good. Carry on, then." Cullen waved to dismiss his scout, his gaze lingering after him as he returned to his duties. He didn't have the heart to tell the man that his efforts were likely wasted. The fragile hope in the young man's eyes - on all his soldiers' faces - pained him. He'd seen a part of the explosion from a distance. Even from miles away, the ground had trembled. He doubted anyone could have survived this mess. And to think that he'd nearly been present at the Conclave. He raised his hand and rubbed the back of his neck, frustrated. Death - it seemed to follow him like a plague wherever he went. First, at the Circle in Ferelden, then the tragedy at Kirkwall, and now this.
Maker, why? Not all Mages followed your way, but the Templars did. And the Divine...to allow Most Holy to die like this...
He glanced at his reflection in his shield, rubbing the most recent scar on his face. Not too long ago, he'd taken part in a vicious conflict between his own Order and a group of Mages. He'd tried to stop his comrades from attacking the casters who they'd found on a patrol. The Mages were refugees fleeing from persecution. He'd pitied them, but his companions had not. Despite his express orders, they'd attacked the Mages camp and killed every single one, even a young boy who had just come into his magic. At night, dreams of the encounter still haunted him. After that, he knew that he couldn't remain a Templar, no matter what his vows and faith dictated.
"How is the search progressing?" a familiar voice asked, splintering his thoughts. He turned to see Cassandra approaching, looking about as haggard and weary as he felt. Her tanned skin was covered in dirt in some places, her armor stained with blood and ashes. She'd been with the men most of the day, turning over bodies and charred corpses in the hopes of finding a clue to what had caused this massacre. He didn't envy her; he'd done more than his share of digging through battlefields.
"You know how," he replied, crossing his arms over his chest. For a moment, a heavy silence stretched between them. They were both practical and logical people. Only Leliana still insisted that there might be survivors. Perhaps they all hoped she was right, but inwardly they knew she wasn't.
"Were you praying just now?" the Seeker inquired. Cullen didn't reply, unsure of what to say. For the third time in his life, his faith had been badly shaken. He'd recovered before, but he wasn't certain that was possible any longer. The armor he wore still belonged to the Order, but his heart did not. In fact, every time he saw the crest on his shield, he wondered why he didn't just throw it away. Except that tossing it aside would mean throwing away years of service, years of devotion, and years of belief. Cassandra placed a hand on his shoulder - a firm, warrior's hand. He sensed that she understood his inner turmoil. He wondered how she was weathering this storm. She had always been strong, so much stronger than any woman he'd ever met. Not even something like the Conclave could divert her from her faith, a path she believed had been ordained by the Maker himself.
"Cassandra...I know why you're here, but I don't have an answer for you."
"Leaving this life behind isn't so simple."
"You've already left it," she observed. "You are just clinging to what you know because you are afraid of change." Not many people would have dared to say such things to his face. Cassandra was one of the few who had the right. They'd been friends for too long.
"Just give me some time to think..."
"We don't have time," she shook her head, pointing upwards. "Divine Justinia is dead, hundreds of people have been killed, whatever hope we had for peace is lost, and..." she trailed off. He looked towards the sky, where a great gaping hole hovered like an ominous void above the countryside. With each hour, it expanded, drawing more and more of the landscape into it. Rocks, land, and trees were being pulled up into the chasm. Time, she'd said. Indeed. The sight reminded him of an hourglass running backwards. "I've never seen anything like it," the Seeker murmured, her eyes shadowed.
"I have," he said gravely. "But not on this scale." Memories took him back to that day in Ferelden. He recalled the horrors he'd witnessed in the Circle Tower. Back then, he'd watched in terror as both Mages and his fellow Templars were slaughtered by demons and abominations. This light in the sky had the same eerie green glow that usually preceded the appearance of such creatures. He could feel the tingle of magic on his skin, ever present when he was in the chasm's vicinity. He'd been a Templar long enough to construct his own theory on the matter. Clearly, whatever happened here had tampered with the Veil. The only thing he didn't understand was why nothing hostile was coming through. "It's a part of the Fade," he concluded.
"What?" Cassandra asked with wide eyes.
"I can't explain it, but it seems that the Explosion didn't just damage the surroundings. It tore the Veil as well."
"An astute observation," someone cut in from behind them. Not recognizing the voice, Cullen glanced back to see a man standing a small distance away, a weathered staff in his hands. He was dressed in simple clothing, almost like a traveler. His features were hidden by a hood. Around his waist hung various vials, pouches, and something he recognized as a spell book. A Mage! Automatically, Cullen's hand flew towards his weapon, his fingers curling around the hilt of his sword. He would have drawn it had Cassandra not stopped him with a gesture.
"Who are you?" the Commander demanded, his jaw clenching.
"My name," the stranger began as he drew down his hood,"...is Solas." The elf answered calmly, seeming unperturbed by Cullen's open discomfort.
"If that is how you wish to see me, then I cannot stop you. Hostility will not help our cause, however, and I warn you that that hole in the sky will destroy us all unless we do something quickly." There was no emotion in his voice, not even a tremor of fear. Yet the words he'd just spoken sounded like a prophecy of doom. This contradiction did nothing to reassure Cullen's suspicions; he kept his stance rigid, ready in case the stranger began to cast.
"What is the meaning of this, Cassandra?" he ground out.
"He can help us," she replied in a tone he rarely heard her use. She sounded desperate and exhausted. "None of us know what that thing will do. We need someone who understands the workings of magic."
"So you brought an apostate here?" He lowered his voice. "You know that they may well be responsible for this."
"I must say, I don't believe that's the case," the elf suggested. "Look there," he pointed to a distant spot in the crater before them, the center of the explosion. A colossal clump of what looked like oozing green crystal hung suspended by invisible strings. "That is the place where the Veil was torn. Your earlier observation was partially accurate on that account. What we are seeing is parts of the Fade pouring into our world and in return absorbing it. If we do not somehow seal that tear, then our realm will be consumed."
"You don't seem too concerned," Cullen answered.
"I assure you I am. Otherwise I would not be here."
"So tell us what you know," Cassandra demanded. "If we need to seal it, then tell us how."
"That, I cannot say. Can we not move closer to the rift itself? It might help if I could study the tear in more detail."
"Why is it so quiet?" Cullen interjected. "Shouldn't there be demons coming out of there?"
"I suspect there will be soon, which is why it's imperative that we hurry if we are to accomplish anything." He suddenly stepped forward, startling Cullen into partially drawing his weapon. As though he didn't notice the Commander's agitation, he rushed past him. For the first time since he appeared, the elf's delicate features moved into some sort of expression. In this case, grave concern. "Look. It has already begun." Cullen's eyes snapped to the center of the crater. There, the crystal began to morph and shift, giving off green sparks that resembled lightning. A silence covered the ruins. For a moment, Cullen couldn't even hear his own breathing. Then, a piercing screech nearly brought him and Cassandra to their knees, the sound so ear-splitting that he thought his skull would crack with the intensity. The Mage didn't waver. He stood tall and serene, his demeanor giving no hint to his emotions.
"What's going on?" Cassandra shouted over the growls and shrieks that followed. The wind picked up speed, pelting Cullen's face with snow and debris. The trees around them began to sway and bend. Above, the gap grew wider.
"I suspect that the tear is causing this realm to become unstable," Solas said. Cullen could barely make out his words, so powerful was the wind. He tried to shield his eyes with his hand when he saw the elf begin to cast. Fearing that his suspicions of the Mage were justified, he drew his sword with blinding speed and jumped in front of the still kneeling Cassandra. Then, as abruptly as it came, the snow and wind disappeared. Cullen stood dumbfounded for a moment until he realized that the Mage had cast a barrier around them. He saw a bubble shimmering around the three of them as the wind bent and twisted around the magical wall. Spots of bright blue appeared in the places where the snow hit it.
"Fascinating," Solas breathed. He pointed all around to various places where lightning arced from the crystals in the crater to other parts of the ruins. "The tear is trying to balance itself by creating smaller rifts in the vicinity." Either the elf was underestimating him or he was too engrossed in what he was seeing to care that Cullen had nearly run him through.
"What does that mean for us?" Cullen demanded with a frown.
"It means that you'll soon need that weapon, Commander."
Solas turned out to be correct. In less than an hour, the ruins of the Temple of Sacred Ashes were overflowing with demons of all shapes and sizes. Cullen grunted as he pulled his sword out of a shade demon, gagging when some of its blood splattered in through the visor of his helmet. Behind him - one by one - his soldiers were dying. And was it any surprise? None of them were trained to fight monsters like this. Mages, perhaps. But fighting mortals wasn't the same as fighting creatures who were empty. Souless and full of rage, the monsters didn't hesitate to throw themselves at his men in droves. They feared nothing and felt nothing, spreading terror among his fighters. He tried to tune out their screams as they were cut down, focusing on staying alive.
"How do we stop this?" he muttered under his breath.
"We must reach the center," Solas shouted. Cullen still didn't trust him or his motives. The magic he used looked nothing like he'd ever seen before. Somehow, he was using some sort of force to push and pull the demons every which way. The firestorms he threw down around them weren't orange and red, but emerald and blue. He built up barriers around entire groups of soldiers without breaking a sweat; even in battle, he looked as serene as a statue. Beside him, Cassandra let out a battle cry as she rammed her shield into a greater shade, sending him toppling to the ground. Cullen took full advantage, leaping up and driving his sword down into the beast's black heart. As it hissed and turned to green ash, he whirled around and blocked a massive blow from a rage demon that would have hit Cassandra. She nodded in gratitude and sliced off one of its fiery arms.
"This is endless," she groaned, her forehead gleaming with sweat. "We need to go around this rift. At the rate that it's spitting out demons, we'll die before we make it anywhere." There was no fear in her voice, just powerful conviction. Give the Seeker a goal and she would always find a way to reach it.
"Sound the retreat," he agreed. "Tell the men to pull back. We'll find another way."
"No," Solas interrupted, his voice booming out above the chaos. "This is the fastest way to the Breach. We must take this path."
"We will die here!" Cullen snapped, furiously slashing at a demon of despair that got too close. As it fell, the rift before them seemed to take a breath. It morphed and distorted like a bubble of vile poison, folding in on itself. The flow of demons stopped. All Cullen could hear were the pained sounds of his men trying to regain their footing.
"You have no faith, Commander," Solas observed. The words stung Cullen to the core. He knew that there was no way that the Mage could have known about his inner turmoil, yet the phrase seemed to aim right at the heart of his doubts. Something was off about this man; he just couldn't understand what it was. Even through this enmity, he understood that they needed the Mage. Without magic, he and Cassandra wouldn't stand a chance. "We must go now, while its recovering. We only have moments," the elf said in a rush. Lifting his staff, he leaped over some fallen rocks with unnatural grace and bounded down the narrow hallway in front of them.
"What should we do?" Cassandra asked.
"We follow. It's not like we have much choice." He turned and gestured to his men. "Pull back! I want what's left of the company to proceed to Forward Camp. There's nothing more you can do here." As the soldiers nodded and hurried to follow orders, Cassandra stepped in front of him, her eyes unreadable. "They're just going to die for this foolishness," he grimaced. "Cassandra, I hope your plan works. This Mage better know what he's doing."
"That's not what's bothering you, is it?"
"That apostate is right. I'm not sure how much faith I have left...after everything that's happened, I - " he trailed off, standing up and squaring his shoulders.
"Then join us - me and Leliana. We need you, faith or not."
"And stand with you for something I'm not sure I believe in any more?"
"No. This isn't about the Maker or the Divine. It's about doing what is best for the people of Thedas."
"This isn't the time," he concluded. "Let's go."
In the center of the crater, at the place Solas had taken to calling "the Breach", things were even more chaotic than the smaller rifts. The storm that had picked up when the Breach first showed signs of movement had turned into a full blown maelstrom. Blinding snow and piercing wind whirled in a cyclone around the emerald crystals of the large rift, the howling so intense that Cullen could hardly hear his own thoughts. As demons assailed them, Cullen struck out with his sword and nearly missed his target. He could barely see more than a few meters in front and around him, conditions that didn't bode well for his survival.
Cullen wasn't sure how much they could accomplish with all the demons that were flooding out of the tear in the Veil. As it was, all they could do was keep fighting. At least, that's what he chose to focus on for the moment. He wasn't sure there was anything anybody could do about the tear at this point. This kind of disaster seemed so overwhelming, so unreal, that thinking about the ramifications of its consequences left him dizzy and terrified. Such emotions did not belong on the field; he knew that if he wanted to somehow live through this, he needed to keep a strong focus. He told himself that he wouldn't go down like a dog; he would die like a warrior, on his feet and only after he'd done everything he could to protect those around him. He and Cassandra stood back to back, their shields as impenetrable as battlements of a keep. Together, they protected each other from Wraiths who hurled magic their way. When they could, they emerged from their guard and struck out at larger shades and rage demons.
Strike, dodge, parry, block.
Blade, hilt, pommel, shield.
Over and over again, he repeated the movements, cutting and carving into demon flesh until each strike and each sound turned into a familiar rhythm. Claws scratched like dry branches against his armor. Some bounced off, others tore into the vulnerable seams. He smelled blood - his own or Cassandra's? There was no time to ponder it. All that existed now was the rhythm, the dance of death and the steps of the waltz to cheat it.
Strike, dodge, retaliate, riposte.
Block, cover, kick, bash.
How much time had passed? Both he and Cassandra were trained for stamina, but no warrior would be able to hold out for much longer with such overwhelming odds. He'd lost sight of Solas some time ago. He still saw his magic flying in all directions; at least he hadn't perished yet. In fact, if it wasn't for his dispelling magic, they all may have done so long ago. Though it could not affect the rifts, his dispell heavily damaged most of the lesser demons, killing some outright.
A sound caught his attention. Overhead, arrows blotted out whatever light there was as they rained down upon their foes. He heard a familiar voice crying out in the keening wind. As a wave in front of him was cut down, Cullen squinted through sweat-soaked hair and swirling snow to spot the bright red of Leliana's hair. Standing up above on a scaffold with a company of archers, she waved her arms at him with some agitation. She'd come to help them, the fool. Did she actually think any of them were going to make it through this? He saw her trying to shout something to him, but she was much too far away for him to hear a thing except a jumble of syllables. Finally, she simply pointed upwards. He followed the direction of her hand and felt his heart stop.
The Breach was opening. Just like before, the crater was suddenly drowned in an unnatural and deafening silence. The wind slowed and stopped; the snow hung in the air, moving in slow motion. It was as though time itself had stopped. Demons shrieked and wailed as they were ripped apart by unseen hands, their remains sucked back up into the tear they came from. Cullen raised his shield, preparing himself for the worst. Wider and wider the tear grew until all Cullen could see before him was darkness. Beyond, behind the thin curtain of the Veil, hundreds of eyes glowed with malice. Demons - hungry and eager for blood - prowled there, ready to strike. Cassandra said something behind him, but he was too lost in his own chaotic thoughts to understand her. Then, nothing.
Darkness took him. He felt the world tilt and shift beneath his feet, felt his body hitting something with painful force. A concussive blast, he realized. The tear had exploded again. His ears roared as though he'd been submerged into a foaming ocean in the middle of a storm. He coughed and tasted blood. Maker, is this my end? Is this how I will die? Without accomplishing anything at all? Against all odds, he did not lose consciousness. Instead, he saw the rift above him twist and shift, no doubt preparing to grow even larger. Will you allow this world that you created to simply fall into the darkness? Will you reward us for dedicating our lives to you by destroying all that we love? Disoriented and dazed, Cullen drifted through the worst memories of his life. First the Circle, then the night when the Chantry had exploded in Kirkwall. Just like then, he now felt helpless. Just like then, all he could do was watch the world he had come to love burn.
Someone. Help us.
Within the rift, he thought he saw a shape, a figure of a woman. She had no features, for her form consisted entirely of pure golden light. Though she had no eyes, he knew she was looking at him - into him.
What would you ask of me? - a voice whispered in his mind. An illusion? He no longer cared.
Help us. Don't abandon us. Let us see the Dawn once more.
You have lost your faith, righteous soldier. Yet you still ask the heavens for assistance?
Not for myself. For our world. When she hesitated, he tried to lift his arm and failed. Broken. Just like the rest of him. Please. I do not care what happens to me. But this world must not perish. For a long while, she stared at him; so long that he thought he might slip away before he heard a response.
If salvation is what you seek, then I cannot help you. But I do know of one who can. I will return the Dreamwalker to you. I hope that this time, the mortal world will not break her as it has before.
When she turned away and began to fade out, he cried out desperately: Are you Andraste? Are you the Maker? Who are you?
I am what you make me...
That isn't an answer! Damn it! Answer me!
It was all he could manage before everything went dark.
When Cullen next opened his eyes, he saw that night had fallen over the land. Above, the Breach still hovered, larger now than he had ever seen it. He expected to feel the agony of broken bones, and was surprised when his arm obeyed his commands. After testing his limbs, he gingerly sat up then worked to stand. As he did so, piles of freezing slow slipped from his armor. He caught a glimpse of his own face reflected in the metal of his shield. The Templar crest seemed to mock him. He flinched away from the sight of it. Bitterness filled him. He'd survived yet again.
Immediately, his eyes sought out Cassandra. The scaffold above them where Leliana and her archers had stood was collapsed, now nothing but a pile of rubble. He tried to reassure himself that Leliana was alright, that she'd somehow made it out of there safely. She had been much farther from the explosion than he and Cassandra, after all. Perhaps she'd managed to slip away. He blinked a few times to clear his vision. Everything was covered in a thick layer of snow. How long had he been unconscious? Now that the battle was over and he wasn't fighting for his life, he felt the piercing cold of the weather. His fingers felt frozen, the skin on his face icy and his lips chapped. Desperate to find his companions, he called out their names.
"Cassandra! Leliana!" As he took a step forward, his leg sunk into snow that was knee-deep. That's when he spotted it - a piece of what looked like the Chantry symbol in the middle of a human sized pile of snow. Moving hurt, but considering the fact that he'd been sure that he'd suffered a fatal wound, he supposed it was manageable. Shuffling over to what looked like his friend - a woman he had known and respected for many years - he fell to his knees and brushed snow off her and her shield. Moving it aside, he noticed that she'd managed to protect herself from the brunt of the explosion. A spot of blood on her temple worried him. Careful lest she was more injured than she appeared, he shook her and called out her name. After a moment, he breathed out in relief when she groaned and opened her eyes. The hazel orbs were dull with pain.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
"What...happened?" He helped her sit up then stand.
"I don't know, but it seems like the demons have disappeared."
"A miracle..." she breathed, eyes focused on the pulsing tear in the sky. Cullen hesitated. He remembered the woman of light and her words, but wasn't sure if that hadn't been some crazed hallucination. The bump on his head suggested that it might have been, but his heart wanted - needed - to believe that it was more than that. He glanced back at the rift then around the field, feeling uneasy. Whatever miracle had sealed away the demons had bought them some time. They needed to take advantage and get away.
"We need to find the others," he murmured feverishly. "Solas, Leliana, the soldiers...I don't know how long this thing will stay closed..."
"What's that?" Cassandra suddenly inquired, pointing some distance away. He followed her gesture to what looked like a faint glowing orb. As the sphere expanded, he felt adrenaline flush his veins. Not again.
"Let's move. It might be another rift." Just as he said that, the sphere popped, transforming into a tear. He raised his shield, expecting another wave of demons. Instead, an arm came through. A very human-looking arm. "What in the Maker's name...?" A shoulder followed, then a torso with a head. Everything was glowing and shimmering so much that it was hard to see what exactly the thing was.
"It looks like...a woman..."
"Impossible." Yet before Cullen's disbelieving gaze, something humanoid stepped out of the rift. One of its hands was glowing the same color as all the other rifts - an emerald green. The figure wavered on its feet for a moment before falling to the ground. The impact kicked up a cloud of snow.
"Cullen. Tell me a woman didn't just step out of that rift. Tell me I imagined it."
"If you did, then we are seeing the same dream."
"I saw it too," came a voice from beside them. Cullen whipped around to see a battered-looking Solas standing so close to them that he had to wonder how the Mage had snuck up on him without his noticing. Yet another strange thing about this man that he had to note. Whatever his proclaimed intentions, the Commander didn't trust him in the least. "It's a woman, though I can't tell if she is an elf or human."
"Could it be a demon?" Cassandra volunteered.
"Possibly," Solas answered. "It looks injured."
"Where are you going?" Cullen snapped when the elf started making his way towards the figure.
"We won't know what it is if we just stand here."
"Cassandra, stay here. If anything happens, try to find Leliana and get away." Cullen didn't wait for her to argue. His heart raced, beating so quickly that he felt short of breath. Visions of the woman made of light filled him, as did her words. The Dreamwalker, she'd said. The one who could offer Thedas its salvation. Impossible. Impossible. He chanted the word like a litany in his mind with every step until a walk turned into a run. He reached her just as Solas did. He knew he should be drawing his sword, pointing it at the demon's throat, keeping his shield up in case it came alive and attacked. But it seemed that all of his instincts had fled, replaced by a delicate, fragile, thread of hope.
Maker, please...please...Cullen didn't even understand what he was asking for. A sign? Some kind of divine intervention? Evidence that the Maker hadn't abandoned them after all? What he saw instead was a small elven woman with plum black tresses that spilled down in waves to her waist. Solas had been right; she was injured. Her arm - the one with the glowing hand - was splayed open from wrist to shoulder.
"I don't understand," Solas bent down and placed his staff on the ground, running his hands in the air over the girl's unconscious form. "She is mortal, like you and me. At least, from what I can tell. However, she clearly stepped out of the rift..." his brow furrowed, "...and survived. This is... unprecedented." At that moment, the girl seemed to regain her senses. She groaned and winced as she opened her eyes. Golden eyes - like the color of the sun. Her lips moved, but Cullen did not understand what she said. The language sounded elven.
"Uthenera...nuvenin...emma vhenan..." she murmured.
"What is she saying?" Cullen asked. Instead of responding, Solas whispered something to her in elven in return. They exchanged some words, the girl looking dazed and confused. As she spoke, the intricate tattoos on her face moved and shifted, looking at though they were alive. "Solas," he urged, feeling frustrated.
"She speaks of - "
"The sky is torn," the girl cut in, still dazed. "The sky has been ripped open. Is this a dream? Is this the Fade?"
"No, lethallan," Solas replied. There was almost a softness to his words, a strange tone that Cullen never heard him use until now.
"Where is the Archdemon? I split him with my blades. I tore through him and drove him away. Have I failed?" Those words immediately caught Cullen's full attention. He looked down at her armor and frowned. She was dressed in soft blue and grey chainmail; the symbol of a griffon decorated the plates on her shoulder. The armor was battered and torn, burned in some places as though the girl had run through a fire.
"A Grey Warden," he whispered. "Is that what you are? A Grey Warden?" She shook her head, desperately trying to sit up.
"No. No. The taint isn't mine, though the duty always will be." Her voice suddenly grew panicked. Her eyes widened as though she realized something. "Anders. Justice...no, it can't be..." She looked around, pushing herself to her feet. Blood leaked in alarming quantities from her arm, but she didn't seem to feel the pain. "I failed. I tried to stop him, but...where? Where are you? Where are you? Anders!" She dropped back into elven, shouting something with such desperation and agony that Cullen thought he could feel her pain as though it was his own. He looked at Solas to try and gage his reaction, but the Mage was as unreadable as always. Cullen was at a loss. For the first time in his life, he had no idea what to do. The girl had somehow gone into the Fade in physical form and survived, but it appeared that the journey had driven her mad. None of what she said made sense. The strange glowing mark on her hand pulsed.
"What's going on here?" Hurried footsteps broke him out of his confusion. Cassandra approached at a run, stopping to kneel by his side. "Who is she?"
"It's difficult to tell," Solas answered. "She is confused."
"Is she the one responsible for all of this?" the Seeker asked, her tone dangerous.
"What?" Cullen gasped, incredulous.
"She came out of the rift and survived. That mark on her hand is the same as the rifts. Something isn't right here." A beat. "Do you understand what she's saying?"
"Anders..." the girl cried out. "Anders, I'm so sorry..." Cullen felt Cassandra tense beside him. Before he could anticipate what she would do, the warrior drew her sword and leaped towards the girl.
"What did you say?" she demanded, her voice suddenly furious. "That name again! Say it!"
"Templar..." the elf murmured. "No...stay away!" She raised her hands and raw magic sprang forth to blast Cassandra back. The Seeker was prepared for it, however, and negated the energy with her shield.
"You know that man," Cassandra ground out, her face livid. "You know the one who destroyed the chantry in Kirkwall."
"What did you say?" Cullen stood up.
"Anders is the name of the Mage who started all of this. I knew it. She must be at the heart of this disaster," Cassandra ranted. "Tell me what you know or Maker help me I'll cut you down where you stand."
I hope that this time, the mortal world will not break her as it has before...a voice whispered in his mind. As the Seeker sprang forward, fully prepared to do the girl serious harm, Cullen's body moved on its own. He lunged forward, bringing up his own shield and deflecting Cassandra's blow, staggering from the force of it.
"Wait, Cassandra," he pleaded. "We don't know anything about her. If you kill her, we may never know."
"Stay out of this, Cullen," she growled. "You aren't a part of this. You said so yourself."
"I am now," he answered, his voice strong and free of doubt. His words gave the Seeker pause. She lowered her guard and stepped back.
"What did you say?"
"I said I'm a part of this now. I..." he wanted to tell her everything he'd experienced - the woman made of light, the mysterious words she'd spoken - but something held him back. Cassandra may be faithful to the Maker, but even she wouldn't believe him. "I'll join the Inquisition, be its Commander as you've asked. Right now, this woman is our only clue to understand what happened. She came out of the rift, but she also closed it."
"I agree," Solas interjected. "We must try to speak with her."
"Nobody asked for your opinion, Mage," the Seeker snapped.
"Yet I will give it nonetheless. I came here with the intention of fixing this..." he gestured to the Breach. "I am offering my opinion because I feel it will work towards that goal." He stood up and nodded his head. "For now, please put away your weapons. You are frightening her." Both Cullen and Cassandra turned to the girl, now crouched down on the ground looking as pale as the snow itself. She wasn't looking so much at them as she was at their shields and the symbol of the Order branded there. Solas carefully padded over to her, whispering things in elven that Cullen had no hope of understanding. It took some time, but the girl finally responded. Her voice was full of sorrow and pleading.
"Sahlin era," Solas said as he touched her cheek. A faint light covered her skin for a moment before she closed her eyes and fell forward, unconscious.
"What have you done?" Cassandra exclaimed.
"She is dying," Solas answered, lifting her into his arms. "We must treat her immediately or she will be dead by morning."