The Good Hunter woke in a room he did not recognize with his hands bound, surrounded by guards wearing unfamiliar uniforms, with a glowing hand that burned like a fire in his bones.
Not the strangest place he’d ever woken up, but it was definitely on the list.
He didn’t have much time to gather his surroundings (flame-lit stone walls, cells like a prison but he wasn’t in one. No windows, sturdy doors and his weapons were missing. Fantastic.) before two soldiers came in. One wore armor, and the other robes like a scholar, but with the gait of a fighter.
The one in armor approached first. “Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now. The Conclave is destroyed, everyone who attended is dead. Except for you.”
The Hunter remained silent. A Conclave? Some sort of meeting that apparently went wrong?
The woman grabbed his lit hand by the shackle as it sparked again, bringing a new wave of fire. “Explain this.”
“What do you mean you can’t?!”
“I don’t know what that is, or where it came from.”
“You’re lying!” The soldier moved as if she was going to strike him, but the other held her back.
“We need him, Cassandra.”
“I don’t understand,” the Hunter said slowly. “Where am I?”
The robed woman approached. “Do you remember what happened? How this began?”
“I don’t. I was running from something, but I can’t recall what. There was a woman?”
“We we’re both running, I think. I’m not sure.”
“Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take him to the rift.” Cassandra moved towards him.
Leliana simply nodded and left.
Cassandra removed his manacles, replacing them with a rope.
“What did happen?” He asked hesitantly.
“It will be easier to show you.” She led him up a set of stairs (he almost stumbled, which worries him. He felt odd, lighter than he should be) and through a building that looked like a chapel of some kind.
When the front doors opened, he had to shield his eyes. Sunlight. Actual, direct sunlight. It had been so long, and it showed. Even once his as had adjusted as much as they could, he was still squinting in the light. His mask was, unfortunately, missing, but he still had the rest of the armor Eileen had given him the badge for.
The sun, however, wasn’t the only thing in the sky. There was a large green hole in the clouds, swirling with large chunks of rock slowly spinning under it. Cassandra must have noticed him staring, and started to explain. “We call it the breach. It’s a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. It’s not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave.”
“An explosion can do this?” It looked like something that belonged in a dream. He only knew he was awake because of the sharp, biting cold and clear, sharp details that were not often present when he dreamt.
“This one did. Unless we act, the breach may grow until it swallows the world.”
His hand sparked again, and he couldn’t help the noise of pain he made before he could stop himself, but he successfully remained on his feet.
“Each time the breach expands, your mark spreads, and it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this but there isn’t much time.”
She looked hopeful, if still unsure. “Then...?”
“I’ll help you in any way I can.” It wasn’t like he could die here. He might as well do what he could for the people here. This clearly wasn’t Yharnam, and these mountains had a different shape than the ones surrounding the Castle Cainhurst, so he was far from where he was before. Maybe this was another dream after all.
The two walked between the buildings. People lining the paths stared as they walked past.
“They have decided your guilt. 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. Now, they are dead.”
Most holy. A religious leader, then, with a title he hadn’t heard of. The Chantry must be the Church, then. But Mages and Templars? Magic users and... what, knights? This sounded more and more like a fairy tale.
They approached the gate, and then left the village.
“We lash out, like the sky, by we must think beyond ourselves, as she did. Until the Breach is sealed.” She pulled out a dagger and cut the ropes around his wrists. “There will be a trial. I can promise no more.”
At least she was honest.
“Come. It is not far.”
“Where are you taking me?”
“Your mark must be tested on something smaller than than the Breach.” Not a full answer, but enough of one. The two continued along the path.
They continued along a path, over a bridge and through a large gate that Cassandra commanded the soldiers to open.
At the top of the next hill, the mark on his hand flashed again, brighter than the last time, carrying a deeper burn with it. The Hunter hissed through his teeth and used is other hand to grab a low wall nearby to avoid stumbling.
“The pulses are coming faster now. The larger the Breach grows, the more rifts appear, the more demons we face.”
He nodded, and the pair continued.
The next bridge they passed over collapsed under them, a green bolt from the Breach striking through it. They both fell onto the (thankfully) frozen river below. Another bolt struck the ice ahead, and from the light came a tall, sinewy creature, slopes and fluid.
Cassandra charged ahead. “Stay behind me!”
This only worked for a few seconds before the ice ahead of him started bubbling black, another one of those creatures rising from it. He glanced around for a weapon, finding a pair of daggers. Not perfect, but better than punching the thing to death. He’d only had to do that a few times before, but that was enough to decide he didn’t like it.
The creature was thin, but clumsy and slow, worse than those first few beasts he’d had to fight. He easily ducked away from it, and then circled to stab it. The fight was over in under a minute. Looking over, Cassandra had also killed hers and was headed back towards him.
“Drop your weapons. Now.”
“I need these. What would I do if this happens again when I’m unarmed?”
After a few seconds of tense eye contact, Cassandra sighed and sheathed her sword. “You’re right. I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless.” She started to walk down the path, but then paused and looked back. “I should remember you agreed to come willingly.”
The two followed the path further into the snow. They were cut off several more times by more of these creatures (demons, he supposed) but they were hardly any trouble.
As they crested another hill, Cassandra turned to him. “We’re getting close to the rift. You can hear the fighting.”
And he could. Metal armor clanking, swords hitting something (demons probably), and there were occasional flashes of light.
When the fight was visible, they immediately joined, and it was over in a matter of minutes. There were two soldiers, wearing the same uniform as the others he had seen, and two who were not.
One was the shortest man he had ever seen, wearing a thick jacket but a low cut shirt, and the other was in robes, holding a staff that glowed at the tip.
The man with the staff (and pointed ears? What?) approached. “Quickly, before more come through!” The man grabbed the Hunter’s wrist (who had to resist the urge to strike at the sudden contact) and thrust it towards the rift. It immediately lit up, weaving a beam of light to the rift, which shrank and then disappeared. It felt like lightning agony, and he nearly collapsed this time, but stayed up on shaking legs. He hoped it wasn’t noticeable. Weakness would be a bad thing to show right now.
“What did you do?” the Hunter asked.
“I did nothing. The credit is yours.”
“So I can help after all.”
“Whatever magic opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark on your hand. I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach’s wake, and it seems I was correct.”
Cassandra spoke up. “Meaning it could also close the Breach itself.”
“Possibly.” The man turned to the Hunter. “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”
“Good to know!” The small man walked up to the group. “And here I thought we’d be ass deep in demons forever.” He turned specifically to the Hunter and gave a mock bow. “Varric Tethras. Rogue, storyteller, and occasional unwelcome tag along.” He winked at Cassandra, who scowled.
“That’s a nice crossbow you have.” It had remarkable craftsmanship.
“Isn’t she? Bianca and I have been through a lot together. Nice outfit, I’ve never seen one like it.
It wasn’t too unusual for hunters to get attached to their weapons and name them. He never had, but supposed he understood, and smiled at the man. “Thank you.”
“Absolutely not.” Cassandra glared at the man. “Your help is appreciated, Varric, but-“
Varric cut her off. “Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore. You need me.”
The taller man turned to him. My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions. I’m pleased to see you still live.”
“He means,” Varric chimed in, “he kept that mark from killing you while you slept.”
“Then I owe you my thanks.”
“Thank me if we can close the Breach without killing you in the process.” He turned. “Cassandra, you should know, the magic here is unlike any I have ever seen. Your prisoner is no mage. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power.”
“Understood. We must get to the forward camp, quickly.” She and Solas started down the path.
Varric glanced at him and smiled. “Well, Bianca’s excited.”
And off they went.