There’s a crack of brilliant green light flashing across the sky. Blue eyes flutter open. The sky is gone, and the only thing above is a dark ceiling crafted from weathered stone. Body shivering, a prisoner sits up, pulling his back off the damp floor of his cell. Every inch of him feels like ice save his left hand. He looks over at it and gasps. The same shade of green he saw in the sky appears to come from the palm of his hand. He holds it out to peer at it, unsure if it is real or some figment of the concussion he surely has with a headache as bad as the one he could feel brewing between his eyes. Cautiously, he holds his hand out, and makes to touch it with the index finger of his right. Before contact can be made, he hears a squeaky metal door open quickly, allowing two figures into his dimly lit cell.
“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now that the conclave is destroyed? Everyone who attended was dead except for you.”
The man’s eyes squint, barely able to make out who was speaking the words. But the thick, northern accent, that’s familiar. It’s a voice that had worried him, months ago.
Cassandra Pentaghast stares daggers right through him. “Explain this!” she near shouts at him.
This woman, a Seeker, had spent several days in his own home interrogating one of his closest friends and confidants, Varric Tethras, while he hid in the shadows. She had wanted him, the Champion of Kirkwall, to come to the very conclave that she spoke of to try to find some peace between the mages and the Templars. When she came to his home, she found it as he had left it – abandoned yet open as a hub for any of his former companions who needed it. Varric, one of his few friends to remain in Kirkwall, had stopped by when he heard whispers of his return. But as soon as the dwarf made it within a few meters of the Hawke Estate, the dark-haired and no-nonsense Seeker essentially dragged him inside and held him hostage while she tried to extract any information she could about the notorious Archer Hawke.
Hawke remembered hearing the commotion at the door, readying his long sword to ward off any intruders. But when he saw that Cassandra simply wanted information from the dwarf and not to harm him, Archer lay low and listened to his friend fabricate a somewhat alternative version of his time in Kirkwall with Hawke, doing his best to try to throw her off of his path. Archer had heard stirrings of an upcoming meeting between Chantry officials and various scholars and nobles in Thedas in some attempt to settle the issues between the mages and the Templars, but he had no intention of going there. For the past three years, Archer Hawke had done near everything he could to strip him of his past self, mostly out of necessity and not by choice. But he wondered if he could go as someone else.
Archer’s thoughts jump back to the present as Cassandra barks at him again. “Do not make me repeat myself again. Answer me! And who are you even?”
He looks at his hand and shakes his head. For the first time he feels it ache right at the center of his palm. “I don’t…I don’t know what happened,” he admits. Archer is no medical professional, but he wonders if he is in shock. Does she not know who I am? Cassandra and Archer have never met in person, but he is sure that she’d interrogated enough people to recognize him when she saw him even despite his valiant attempts to change his appearance.
“I’m-“ As he starts, the other figure who had come in with Cassandra makes herself visible. His eyes widened as he recognizes her. Lady Nightingale, better known to most as Leliana the bard, peers down at him, and she carefully shakes her head back and forth out of Cassandra’s view, asking him to cautiously calculate his answer. Archer thinks quickly about who he had sat next to at the conclave. “I’m Archer Trevelyan.”
Leliana and Cassandra both share a questioning look between each other before looking back at him. Archer had panicked. In all these years of trying to be someone else, he hadn’t had to actually craft another identity for himself. He laid low, following a trial he wasn’t supposed to follow. Other than changing the style of his hair and having the tattoo which partially circled his right eye removed – painfully removed – he hadn’t had to do much.
“I knew the Trevelyans were coming from Ostwick, but I do not recall an ‘Archer’. I thought Bann Trevelyan’s youngest was named Lex or Alex-“ Cassandra is cut off before she can continue, possibly to make the connection to this man’s less than average name he shares with a certain Champion.
“The Bann is my uncle,” Archer lies. He recalls sitting next to the Bann’s son, Lex, during the conclave. They exchanged some painfully dull small talk before the procession began. From what little he can remember, the Trevelyans hailed from Ostwick, as Cassandra made mention, a port town in the Free Marches east of Kirkwall on the Waking Sea. The family appeared to be quite devout to the Chantry, and Lex had been promised to the Templar Order despite his own wishes. In this recollection, Archer realizes what a mistake it is to pretend to be a part of a family who seems to side with a group he hates so much. Well, it’s not like I wasn’t always a disappointment to my original family; why not be the black sheep of the Trevelyans as well? “I came with my cousin to share my own voice. I don’t always see eye-to eye with my family, and we differ on our views of mage rights. I’m the lone member of my family who does not agree with the Chantry’s historic approach.”
Cassandra narrows her brows as he speaks. “You are against the Chantry? Against our beloved Divine? You – you broke the sky. Killed her!”
Archer rises to his feet, unsure of what she speaks of, but always ready to defend himself. “I didn’t kill anyone! I was just there…at the conclave, and then-“ It all comes rushing back to him. He sees himself, trying to escape horrible monsters chasing him up – up what? The side of a cliff…mountain? He sees a brilliant white figure. He knows it’s speaking, but he can’t make out what. Was it him? Was it the one he’s been trying to find for three years?
“Cassandra, we have no evidence that he brought any harm to Justinia,” Leliana says, her voice calm and melodic. “Tell us what happened, Ser Trevelyan.”
He shakes his head. “I heard a fight, and went to see what was going on. The Divine was arguing with someone, and some metal object – a ball – rolled to me. I picked it up, and then it was dark and green…everything green. I was trying to escape, and then a figure saved me. Then I woke up.”
Cassandra grabs Archer by the arm and pulls him out of the cell through a corridor that leads them from the make-shift prison to the outside. Cold air stings his face, and he sees snow below him. He feels the smallest smile form on the edges of his lips. Ferelden was his home from childhood, and he hasn’t been back here until a few weeks ago when he arrived to make way to the conclave. It’s colder here than the rest of Thedas, and he always missed the icy chill of winter’s breath. He doesn’t have many happy childhood memories, but playing in the snow with his siblings is one of the few things he has been able to hold onto.
“Look up,” the Seeker demands, breaking his attention from the white powder at his feet.
He does as he’s told, and his jaw drops. There’s a hole in the sky, so large it must be several kilometers in length. Bright green light, just like that on his hand, surrounds the hole, and a beam of equal appearance juts down with from it, seemingly through the horizon. The sky around it blends from green to a dark navy blue, and, if it didn’t invoke such unfamiliar terror, it may just be considered beautiful.
“Andraste’s tits…what is tha-“ he’s cut off by groans of pain escaping his lips. He falls to his knees as the mark on his hand starts to burn. Archer feels tears well up in his eyes, and he’s unsure if it’s entirely from the pain. How is it that he always ends up in such absurd situations? Why can’t he just have something normal happen to him for once? His mind rushes back to that unknown white figure reaching out for him. The Divine is dead, and there’s only one person he knows who could do such a thing while managing to save him. Anders…can’t I just love someone normal?
Leliana helps Archer to his feet as the pain from the mark on his hand starts to subside. “Cassandra, escort him to the Temple. I need to scout back to Haven.” She gives Archer a small, weary smile before she leaves them.
Archer looks to Cassandra and feels his stomach sink. It is no secret that he gave Anders his full support after the Kirkwall Chantry was destroyed. They left the city together, and no one doubted that their plan was to help the mages to continue to rebel against Circles around Thedas until all mages were free. Cassandra may have wanted him to be a voice at the conclave, but it would she really be able to believe that he or his apostate lover – former apostate lover – came there to be peaceful? With the Divine dead and with himself as the primary suspect, Archer knows that his survival is based on Cassandra never knowing who he truly is. He desperately hopes that Anders got out alive.
“Come with me.” Cassandra looks him over. “I need you, but I don’t trust you.” She starts to walk way from Archer and towards the green beam of light in the distance.
“You’re not the first woman to say that to m-“
Archer is cut off by a bash to his chest with a round wooden shield. Cassandra presses into him, sneering up at him. “You had best tread lightly, Trevelyan. The time for jokes has long past.” She pulls herself back but continues to stare at him while he coughs, attempting to recover from the blow. “Follow me, silently,” she says. “And grab a sword. The road ahead is overrun with demons.”
Demons? He thinks to himself, having not regained quite enough confidence to dare ask out loud. He looks over to a rack of swords near the entrance to the prison, and he reaches for a steel greatsword. It isn’t a surprise to him that the one he carried with him to the conclave is nowhere to be seen, but he aims to gain enough of Cassandra’s trust to ask to have it back again.
Archer jogs several paces forward in an attempt to catch up with the seeker, but she immediately rushes forward with a loud cry. In the distance, he sees a swarm of rage demons edging towards her, the snow melting under their fiery forms. He stares up at the sky again and then back down at the demons. It’s not just a rip in the sky; it’s a rip into the Veil. He leaps forward, drawing his sword up with both of his hands. As he makes it towards Cassandra, he tears through one of the demons with a single powerful blow. The seeker looks over at him as she pulls her sword out of the remains of one of the beasts. Both warriors share a look of determination and move on to eliminate the rest of the demons.
After fighting their way over snowy hills and pathways for what seemed like ages, they make it to a smaller break in the sky, one that Archer had not seen even at a distance. His left hand grows warm, but this time it does not hurt. It feels like a tingle, almost as if all the circulation has left from it. Suddenly, he feels slender fingers wrap around his wrist, and his hand is raised up towards the small break in the sky. A stream of green light shoots out from the palm of his hand, and Archer watches, wide-eyed as the light connects to the break in the sky. The temperature of his hand rises and rises, and he can feel an intense pressure pushing back against him. A hum coming from the sky crescendos until there’s a crack so loud that it causes Archer to jump on the balls of his feet, and then the break disappears along with the light from his hand. Only then does he look at the man holding his wrist.
“Apologies,” the bald elf says calmly as he lets go of Archer. “I thought that anchor on your hand may be what was needed to close the rift. I am Solas, and this is,” He gestures towards his left, and Archer’s eyes follow them down to a dwarf. If he had anything in his stomach, Archer knows he would throw up right then and there.
“Varric Tethras,” the dwarf continues. “Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally unwelcome tag-along.” Their eyes are locked on each other, and both, possibly for the first time in either of their lives, are at a loss for words.
Cassandra walks closer to them. “This is Archer Trevelyan, the only survivor of the conclave. I need to get him back to Haven so we can figure out what happened and how to fix the sky. Solas,” she says, turning towards the elf. “I need you to accompany me. And Varric,” she turns to the dwarf but fails to look directly at him. “I no longer need you here.”
Varric scoffs. “Seeker, I didn’t want to be here in the first place, but, now that things have gotten interesting, I think I have to stay. Might make for a good book, even.”
“Varric, really, I don’t have time fo-“
The dwarf cuts Cassandra off. “I’m staying. Besides, with all these demons pouring out from the sky, I think you could use a little extra help.” He pulls a wooden crossbow from off of his back and pats it. The seeker rolls her eyes and starts to head uphill, knowing full well that the dwarf is going nowhere.
Solas follows Cassandra, and Archer turns to look at Varric. “It’s good to see Bian- a crossbow…a great crossbow.”
Varric shakes his head and starts to walk the path behind the elf. “I can’t wait to hear how in the Void all this went down.”