I startled awake in an awkward position, my neck and shoulders aching. It took me a few seconds to realise I was sitting down haphazardly on a wooden crate, leaning against a cold stone wall. Hence the awkwardness and neck cramps. I blinked with tired eyes and looked around. It was a corridor, dimly lit by evenly placed open flame torches stuck on the walls. Pushing against the crate to stand up, I felt an odd sensation in my chest, almost as if I had done something strenuous and pulled a muscle in a weird place.
The situation made no sense to my sleep addled brain. I had definitely fallen asleep in my own bed the night before. Glancing around, I hoped someone would pop up and tell me why I was suddenly in a medieval castle.
“Hello? Anyone here?”
My voice echoed off the halls, causing me to lift a hand to my throat. It was deeper than it was supposed to be. Maybe I had a cold? Yet, my throat didn’t feel sore. I blinked again, eyes still sleepy and partially shut as I glanced from left to right.
There was no answer, so I took a right and started walking.
It didn’t feel quite real. You know that feeling when you’re dreaming, and almost realise what’s going on, and the dream starts to slip away, it stops being real? That’s the only way I could explain it. Like there was something at the edge of my vision, something not quite solid, just out of reach. My head felt muddy.
“Someone, help me!” a woman’s voice pleaded for help. It came from behind a pair of wooden doors, only a short distance ahead of me. I broke into a run and barreled through the heavy doors.
The sight inside made my jaw drop.
“What the fuck is going on here?” I asked, my loud voice booming off the stone walls. Something about the setup felt familiar to me, but my mind was cloudy, unable grasp at the straws.
To my left stood people in plate armor, surrounding an elderly woman. She wore white and red robes topped with a weird hat, and her whole body was floating in air. The realization of how bizarre this was hit me, making my eyes widen. She was floating...?
“Run while you can, warn them!” the woman gasped, drawing my attention to the man who was standing in front of her.
Well, I say man...
The horrible apparition was made of flesh and bone, with impossibly long claw-like arms and fabric clinging to his arms and shoulders which vaguely resembled clothes. Sharp, flat pieces of what must have been some kind of red stone stuck out of its head, its wrinkly face being the only feature that vaguely resembled a human being. It snarled at my interruption, and I startled, taking a step backwards.
“We have an intruder!” the apparition said, glancing at me. “Slay the Qunari!”
I stared. “The what now?”
I was unable to wonder for long, because the woman took advantage of the distraction my entrance had caused and kicked something out of the hands of the monster who had just ordered my death. The glowing green ball fell down with a clink and rolled towards me with force. I instinctively caught it.
The ball burst with energy, causing me to scream in agony as pain started from my hand and traveled through my entire body. The undead monster charged at me with a growl. That’s when I finally connected the dots, realising why this all seemes so very familiar. As the power of the orb consumed me, I realised I had seen all of this before, albeit from a very different angle.
In one of my favourite video games ever... Dragon Age: Inquisition.
That was the last thought I had before the whole place exploded.
I woke up slowly. My body hurt all over and I felt vaguely disgusting, yet I was able to think more clearly. It was a sign that I was actually waking up this time, not just having crazy dreams about video games. It amused me to recall the dream I’d just woken from. It had been centered around the Divine and Corypheus, and somehow I ended up there in the Inquisitor’s place. Surely dreaming about Dragon Age was a sign I spent too much time playing video games and reading fanfiction.
Something bright flared behind my eyelids, and I opened my eyes. Only to see darkness... and green, sparkling light.
To my confusion, I once again found myself waking up in an unfamiliar place, even though I could swear I had gone to sleep in my own bed. I was kneeling on hard stone floor, my arms bound together by metal shackles. Green light lit up my left hand and I marveled at it. Only for a second though, because soon a wave of pain hit me, making me double over in agony.
It didn’t last long, and I tentatively uncurled myself, sneaking a glance at my hands.
I drew a sharp breath at the sight.
They weren’t my hands. Even in the darkness, I could tell that the skin color didn’t match. They were also larger than my hands had ever been. And the fingernails were sharper, almost claw like. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and at the edge of my vision I saw two guards dressed in very familiar green uniforms.
The door burst open, and I glanced up with wide eyes to see Cassandra Pentaghast stride in with a scowl on her face.
“You’re kidding me,” I stated flatly. My voice still sounded strange.
The famous Seeker stopped dead in her tracks, confusion clouding her face.
“Excuse me?” she asked, and I got the distinct impression this wasn’t what she had planned for her entrance.
“I’m still not awake?” I asked, shaking my head with a groan. Another woman slipped past the Seeker, her hooded face hidden partially by shadows. Her presence made me shook my head again. “How long can a dream this realistic possibly last?”
“You believe you’re dreaming?” spoke a soft voice. Leliana, the voice of deadly reason. “Why?” she inquired.
I stared at her, then turned to the Seeker, and then back to Leliana. “Uh, obviously I’m dreaming. You guys aren’t real,” I said, gesturing with my bound hands. The awkward motion caused the guards near the door draw their weapons. “None of this is real.”
Leliana gestured to the guards and they sheathed their weapons. She turned back to me with narrowed eyes.
Cassandra scowled and took a threatening step forward. “Explain.”
I looked up at her and weighed my options. “Nah,” I said, not feeling too threatened, since it was a dream. “It’s too complicated. Besides, according to dream logic, you guys are just gonna ignore whatever I say.”
The Mark on my hand flared up again, and I grit my teeth. “I could do without this though,” I said once I had my breath back. “What a shitty dream. I was hoping to meet Varric, at least.”
“Varric Tethras?” Cassandra uttered, voice laced with poison. “You know that insufferable dwarf?”
I guess you could say so. He’d been a favourite of mine ever since Dragon Age 2.
“Varric and I go waaay back,” I said with a laugh. Leliana and Cassandra exchanged glances. “He’s a fellow writer so I guess we were always fated to sync up. That, and the magnificent chest hair.”
Cassandra scowled. “We don’t have time for this!” she growled, and grabbed my shoulder. Which hurt, by the way. Note to self, don’t piss off Cass. “Everyone at the conclave is dead. Except for you. What. Did. You. Do?!”
“Okay!” I groaned out, “Geez, I’ll explain! Just stop, that hurts like a bitch!”
The Seeker released her grip, and took a step back. I caught a flicker of doubt crossing her face, but it was gone in a second. My shoulder was still hurting, and because of my bound hands I couldn’t even rub it like I would have.
“I think I’m supposed to say something about running, and spiders, and a woman?” I said and coughed awkwardly. “Sorry, we got so off track, I can’t remember my lines for this bit.”
Leliana and Cassandra stared at me.
“What,” Cassandra growled out.
Leliana stepped forward. “The soldiers who found you said you came out of a rift... They said a woman was in the rift behind you.”
That sparked a memory.
“Oh, right! That was like, the Divine, or her spirit, helping me to escape!” I said brightly, but my face fell at the expressions of the two women looming over me. “I think...?” I trailed off uncertainly. “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to remember that bit.”
Cassandra put a hand to her face in frustration. “He’s talking nonsense. Was there truly no injury to his head?”
Leliana shook her head, a calculating look crossing her face.
“Oh, I actually remember stuff. Like, I’m pretty sure this is ruining the whole plot!” I said and laughed. “Well, whatever, I wanna get out of here.”
The Seeker and the Nightingale turned to look at me with interest.
“Okay, so there’s this guy called Corypheus, who is sort of like darkspawn, I think? Anyway, he had this orb which he was going to use to rip open the Veil in order to enter the Black City!” I said enthusiastically. “He was about to do that in the Conclave, using the Divine as a sacrifice, when I burst in, the Divine kicked the orb out of his hands, I accidentally picked it up and BOOM!” I laughed, and both Cassandra and Leliana flinched. “Insane, right?”
They stared at me.
“You are right,” Leliana said flatly. “The apostate must have missed the head injury.”
My smile faded and I sighed. Of course they didn’t believe me. What a waste of good dream time. “Whatever. We should get moving if we wanna close those rifts,” I said and struggled to stand up. “Let’s go, I want to meet Varric already!”
My jailers exchanged glances once again, and had a silent conversation that I wasn’t able to decipher.
Finally, after what felt like ages, Leliana turned to me. “You will cooperate with us?” she asked.
I cocked my head. “Yeah, of course! What kind of asshole wouldn’t?”
Cassandra snorted. “As long as you do not run. We must get going, we cannot waste any more time.”
She unlocked the shackles on my arms, put a rope around them and helped me up. And up. And up. I was taller, practically towering over both of them. That made me pause. “Uh, I’m tall?” I pointed out.
Leliana, who had been about to slip away, paused and threw me an odd look over her shoulder. “Does that come as a surprise to you?”
Cassandra stalked ahead, and I stumbled after her. “I’m not short, but not this tall either.” This reminded me of my earlier panic, and I glanced at my hands. “Also, my hands look weird.”
“The mark on your hand is somehow connected to the rift,” Leliana said as an explanation, coming to walk beside me as we walked out of the dungeon and up to the main Chantry building. “We were unable to stop it from spreading.”
At the top of the stairs Cassandra turned to look at me. “And it is killing you. Unless we can close the Breach, you will likely perish with it.”
I was still staring at my bound hands, totally weirded out. “Yeah,” I said and glanced up at her. “Don’t worry. Closing the rifts and stabilizing the Breach should be a piece of cake with this on my hand.”
The mark glowed again as if woken up by all the talk about it. This time I was prepared for it, so I only screamed a little bit.
“Son of a bitch!”
Still hurt like hell, though.
Leliana hummed thoughtfully. “I must leave for the forward camp,” she said and gave Cassandra meaningful look. “I will see you two there.”
As my hands were still bound, I was unable to wave at her, but I did give her a slight smile, still reeling from the pain of the mark. “Bye, Leliana.” I think she didn’t expect me to know her name, because she stiffened a little, but kept walking. I looked at Cassandra and raised my hands with what I hoped was a meaningful expression on my face. “I would like to be able to wave to people, you know.”
Cassandra made that delightful ‘ugh’ noise that she always directed at Varric in the games and reluctantly cut the rope around my wrists. Then she turned sharply and stalked to the doors of the Chantry. I followed at a slower pace, absently rubbing at my poor wrists.
“There will be a trial,” Cassandra said. “I can promise no more.”
As the doors opened and daylight streamed in, I took a better look at my hands and body.
Yep. My hands were still huge, grayish in color, and those fingernails definitely weren’t human. It was also instantly obvious that I wasn’t wearing the normal starting gear of the game. The armor was still green, but it had several metal plates attached here and there for additional protection. There was also a corsetlike brown leather vest secured tightly with string around my waist, and a belt comprising of several empty pouches around my hips.
What a cool dream.
“So I’m Vashot,” I muttered.
“What?” Cassandra said, turning to look at me.
“Uh, just kinda surprised,” I said, giving her a tight smile. “This dream is weird.”
Cassandra shook her head. She glanced up at the sky, and I couldn’t help but follow her gaze.
Holy shit. The breach was nothing like in the game, where everything was sort of muted. After all, it was just a computer game. The real thing reminded me of a black hole, swirling and terrible, something that might eat everything around it in just a moment with no way to defend against it. And in all of its terribleness, it was beautiful.
“Wow,” I breathed out, and felt the first sliver of actual fear since the start of the dream. “I gotta close that?”
Cassandra nodded, and gestured for us to walk again. Haven was filled with people, coming out of their tents to glare at me. Some even threw rocks towards us, and I scowled at them. They noticed my expression and hastily backed away. Afraid of the big bad Qunari, huh?
“They have decided your guilt,” Cassandra explained as we walked. “They need it. The people of Haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, head of the Chantry. The Conclave was hers. It was a chance for peace between mages and templars. She brought their leaders together... And now they are dead.” She glanced at me.
“Sorry,” I said, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. “That sucks.”
Once again, her reaction to me was strange. “Let’s get moving.”
By now I realised that every step I took was shaky and uncoordinated. I kept stumbling, unsteady on my feet, like my legs and feet weren’t quite as I imagined them to be so I kept misjudging the distances. It really affected my balance, and Cassandra had to stop me from falling flat on my face a couple of times. Towards the end of the path, I had almost gotten the hang of walking again.
We cleared the first bridge/stronghold, and Cassandra yelled for the gates to be opened. We trekked up the path in silence, until I noticed the bridge ahead of us and remembered something.
“Wait!” I called out.
Cassandra stopped in her tracks underneath the bridge’s stone entrance. “What is it?”
“That bridge is going to explode!” I yelled to the soldiers standing on the other side of the bridge. “Stay clear!”
Cassandra must have heard something in my tone of voice, because she took me seriously and barked out a repeat of my order to the confused soldiers. Just as the last of them stepped off the bridge, several pieces of flaming rock descended from the Breach above and crashed into it. If anyone had been standing on it just then, they would’ve fallen down to the ice, along with the boulders which would have crushed them to death.
Cassandra whirled towards me, her jaw hanging open. “How did you know that was going to happen?!” she asked.
“It’s my dream, remember?” I said, shrugging, not wanting to get into an argument about her fictional existence.
Cassandra groaned at my response, and looked at the remains of the bridge with pursed lips. She gazed at the rubble and the frozen river, and suddenly spotted the demons that had fallen from the Breach. “We have to get down there!” she said with a grimace. “We cannot let those demons escape!”
We thought it best to climb down the side of the river, avoiding the ruined bridge entirely. Cassandra unsheathed her weapon and charged towards the two demons. “Stay behind me!” she commanded.
I shrugged. As Cassandra fought, I looked to my left towards the rubble, where I could see a large two handed maul leaning against a wooden crate. Huh, just like in the game. I wandered there to pick it up. It didn’t feel nearly as heavy as it looked, and I gave it a few practice swings.
“Drop your weapon. Now!” Cassandra barked from behind me.
I dropped it without a second thought and swirled to face her. “Oh, sorry!” I apologized.
Her face showed surprise. “Wait,” she said, contradicting her previous command. She sighed. “You should keep it. I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless.”
I shrugged. “Okay. I have no idea how to fight though.”
Cassandra looked at me, baffled. “I thought you were a mercenary.”
“And I remind you again, this is a dream!” I said with a laugh.
The Seeker made a disgusted face and muttered something under her breath about apostate elves. “Here, take this potion, just in case you’ll need it,” she said, handing me a vial of red liquid. Must have been a health potion.
I glanced at it curiously and stored it inside one of my many pockets.
We walked for a while until we came across more demons. This time there was three of them, and even though Cassandra was able to flank two of them, the third one noticed me and came straight at me.
“Shit!” I panicked, and swung the maul towards its head the best I could. Of course, since my hand-eye coordination was shot to hell at that particular moment, the swing missed the demon’s head by miles.
It kept coming and took a swipe at my shoulder.
“Motherfucker!” I swung the maul again, and was able to get a few good hits. It didn’t exactly seem to injure it, but at least I was able to keep it from touching me again.
Suddenly the demon turned to dust, revealing a scowling Cassandra, who must have attacked it from behind.
I panted slightly and tenderly clutched at my shoulder. That stung like a bitch. Wait. That hurt a lot. And before that, the mark had hurt me. And then Cassandra’s grip on my shoulder...
“This is a dream,” I muttered. “Pain is an illusion created by your brain. Technically there’s no reason you couldn’t feel pain in a dream...”
Cassandra strode over to me, looking pointedly at my injured shoulder. “Drink the potion.”
I glanced down at her, wide eyed and panicked. “This is a dream right?” I asked, my voice shaking. “Say something silly... no, I should count my fingers...” I mumbled, staring at my hand. My vision was getting fuzzy.
“We don’t have time for this!” Cassandra said with a groan. She dug her hand into my pocket, took the cork off the health potion, and handed it to me. “Drink this, it should help with the injury and shock both.”
“I’m not in shock, why would I be in shock, this isn’t real!” I said with a hysterical giggle.
Cassandra let out a frustrated sound, pushed the vial to my lips and gripped my nose tightly. It was an awkward angle, since she was shorter than me. Unable to breathe through my nose, I was forced to gulp down the red liquid.
As the vial came out empty, I pushed her away with a scowl. “What was that for?!” I asked, coughing.
“You were being hysterical,” Cassandra stated. “We cannot waste any more time here. We need to keep moving!”
I rubbed my throat and smacked my mouth, trying to stop the unfamiliar taste from lingering. “All right, geez... Let’s go.”
The Seeker stared at me for a moment with an unsure expression on her face, as if to make sure I wasn’t going to burst into tears. Then she nodded and we trekked onwards.
We came across some more demons, and the fights went in a similar fashion. Cassandra charged first, I did my best to distract the single straggler, trying not to get swiped by its claws, and as soon as she was done with the two, Cassandra saved my ass again.
As we reached the snow covered stairs, Cassandra sprinted even faster, leaving me panting slightly behind her. However, I wasn’t as out of breath as I expected to be. Must have been that infamous dream logic.
“We’re nearly there, you can hear the fighting!” Cassandra called out.
“Egg head and Varric,” I muttered under my breath, still pointedly ignoring my previous outburst of panic by burying it somewhere deep, deep down. “At least Varric is fun.”
“Hurry! We must help them,” Cassandra said.
And indeed, the closer we got more we heard steel clashing with something... organic. There was also the sound of lightening and strangely enough, frost. That must have been Solas and his magic.
Cassandra charged straight into the fight.
I hesitated for only a moment before jumping in with her, taking on the demon nearest to the rift. I hit it on the head and it shrieked at me. I dodged as it tried to swipe at me, and hit it from the side with as much force as I could muster. Suddenly it froze, totally covered in frost, and there was a thunk as an arrow embedded itself into the demon’s chest. It crumbled away into nothing.
I shifted to take a step back, but someone grabbed my arm and unbalance me in the process.
“Quickly, before more come through!” Solas urged and lifted my hand towards the rift.
I closed my fist as I had seen the Inquisitor do in the game countless times before, and felt a sort of tug at my navel. The rift glowed brighter for a moment before closing entirely. I stumbled back and scowled at Solas, who had unbalanced me, nearly sending me flat on my face.
“You shouldn’t go around grabbing people,” I pointed out as a greeting.
He tilted his head as if admonished. “I only wished to help,” he said, and turned slightly towards Cassandra. “Now we know there is a way to close the rifts.” Then he turned his sharp gaze back to me. “Whatever magic opened the Breach on the sky, also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorised the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach’s wake.”
“Which means, it could also close the Breach itself...” Cassandra said, giving me a thoughtful look.
“I told you so,” I said flatly.
Solas raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Yeah, I know everything,” I deadpanned, causing Solas to stiffen slightly. Oops, probably wondering if I knew his real identity. “Also, I’m like 90% sure this is still a dream. Pain proves nothing, since pain is a product of our mind. Ergo, our minds can trick us.”
“That’s an interesting theory, Tiny,” said a gravelly voice of God from behind me.
I swirled and grinned, truly happy since the beginning of this dream. “Varric!”
The author was wearing the same silken shirt as in the game, exposing his glorious chest hair. He gave me a confused look. “Do I know you?”
“Nope!” I said, still grinning from ear to ear.
Cassandra frowned. “You said you’ve known him for a long time,” she said.
“I never said anything about mutual knowing,” I said with a shrug. Not even Cassandra’s angry huff could ruin this moment for me. I took a deep breath, and grinned again at Varric. “So, that’s a beautiful crossbow you have there.”
He smiled crookedly. “Isn’t she? Bianca and I have been through a lot together.”
Cassandra groaned in the background.
I grinned. “I guess you could say I’m a fan,” I said, amused. “I’ve read some of your work.”
“A fan, huh?” Varric smirked, “Maybe after all this is over I can sign something for you.”
“It will become a family heirloom,” I deadpanned. Then I turned to Solas, who was watching our conversation with a upward turn to his lips.
“You’re the mage who kept me from dying, right?” I said, giving him a curt nod. “Thanks for that.”
He nodded back. “I am Solas, if there are to be introductions.”
“Okay,” I said. “Well, we should probably....” I started walking.
“What do you wish us to call you?” Solas continued, following me and ignoring my attempt at dodging the introductions.
I froze and glanced at Solas, then at Cassandra, and Varric. They were all looking at me with equally expectant faces. I sort of grabbed at my chest, just to be sure. Yeah. I know, I’m a weirdo.
“What are you doing?” Cassandra huffed at me, incredulous.
“Just checking,” I muttered. “My name is Kaaras Adaar. You can probably.... call me Adaar. That should be fine. Yeah.”
Solas and Varric, new to my particular brand of insanity, exchanged confused glances.
The Seeker just groaned. “Solas, you and Adan must have missed a head injury when you inspected him,” she said. “We have not been able to make sense of most things that has come out of his mouth since he woke up.”
Solas gave me a curious look. “There was no head injury. I did check, several times.”
“The Seeker thinks I’m crazy,” I said. “But to be honest, so do I. This dream has gone on for way too long now.”
Solas’s eyes flashed. “That is the second time you’ve mentioned you believe to be dreaming.”
“Yeah, because I am,” I said, smiling at him with half of my mouth. “I mean, look at me.”
The three of them regarded me as they walked.
“What do you see?” I asked.
“A Qunari mercenary,” Solas said.
“Vashot,” Varric corrected.
I shook my head at them. “Yeah. But the problem is, when I went to bed last night, I was human,” I said, deciding not to mention the gender thing. This was strange enough. And it wasn’t like I particularly minded.
“This is what I meant!” Cassandra groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “The Qunari is out of his mind!”
Solas just stared at me thoughtfully. “You were human?”
“Yup,” I said and strode past them, taking advantage of my long legs. “Now, are you coming or not?”
They scrambled to catch up with me.