The world came apart into visions of green and black, rending the air around Kaia Lavellan. For what felt like hours her consciousness rolled and twisted, failing to fade, before settling on the sounds of inhuman chatter around her. What was moments ago the Frostback Mountains became a hazy mist rolling over jagged rocks surrounding where she lay, and a single great staircase to a gash in the viridescent sky, guarded by a great beast glowing bright white.
Without thinking, Kaia felt herself begin to move toward the staircase, dragging her limp body faster as the chatter grew louder around her. The beast above glowed brighter and changed shape, becoming a humanoid figure, who’s features Kaia couldn’t discern.
“I suspect you have questions, da’len, but they will have to wait for now, you cannot linger here.” The voice emanated from all around Kaia, but somehow she registered it as belonging to the figure, which seemed to nod in turn.
She stepped closer to the figure, now on the same platform as it and the strange gash in the air, but she could no more perceive its features than before. She attempted to speak, but no sound came out, and she could not be sure her mouth moved at all. The chatter grew louder again, and at the bottom of the steps, several shapes emerged, many legged and eyed, clambering up the stone stairs.
The figure placed a hand on Kaia’s back and guided her to the gash in the air, “Be wary, da’len, of arrows shot to the sky long ago, coming to land.”
The beasts below reached the platform, and the white figure pushed Kaia at, and through the gash.
Green was replaced by gray, chatter by shouting voices, before the world again turned to blackness.
Kaia Lavellan awoke to the sensation of cold stone against skin, the weight of iron on her wrists, and waves of searing pain in her left hand.
Her vision returned agonizingly slowly, gray blurs turned to armored figures, and a single unarmored one knelt before her.
Another wave of pain hit, and sickly green tendrils of energy shot from her hand, their light illuminating the knelt figure’s face. It was elven, middle-aged, and furrowed with concern and frustration. Kaia couldn’t stifle a gasp of pain and the elf’s gaze shot to hers. He stood and faced the armored figures, who she could now make out as humans, soldiers. “She is awake, I’ll send for your seeker,” the elf said, and departed from the room. She attempted to speak, to call after him, but no sound came from her numbed lips.
Through the haze of pain and confusion, Kaia felt cold fear claw up her spine as she processed her situation.
Humans, armed ones, had captured her. Where they elf hunters? No too well armed. Soldiers? Possibly. Or worst of all, Templars? She squinted to make out the insignia on their breastplates, and her stomach dropped. Every breastplate was adorned by that symbol she had grown to fear: the sword piercing flame of the Templar Order.
She was going to die.
What had happened to Mahanon? Elanna? Rin? Were they captured too? Were they killed? Had they ran? What happened?
She wanted to scream, but her body still lagged behind her brain, and all she produced was a pathetic whimper, a sound that caused the soldiers to jump back, a few throwing their hands on the hilt of their blades.
Another wave of pain, enough to tear Kaia’s eyes from her captors and stare at the offending hand. The same green tendrils shot from it, and waves of energy rippled through her fingers and palm, where a single glowing laceration seemed to be the source of the energy. It was magical, without a doubt, but it was unlike any kind of she had seen in or outside of her clan. Even the most sinister blood magic didn’t appear so alien.
There was little time to inspect it further however, before the door to the room burst open, kicked by another armored human; a woman in Templar armor, with a disconcerting amount of blood on the curved blade at her hip. Behind her another woman entered, this one hooded, with no visible weapons an equal sense of foreboding. The surrounding humans snapped to attention at their entrance.
The pair paused before Kaia, scrutinizing her coldly. The Templar spoke first, towering over her as she did. “Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now.” Her voice was low, with an accent Kaia couldn’t place, and laced with venom. “The conclave is destroyed, and everyone who attended is dead, except for you.”
Kaia felt her heart leap into her throat, but did not respond. Dead, all dead. That can’t be true, they’re lying, shemlen always lie.
The Templar seized her by the wrist and brought it up to eye level, the glowing mark staring back at Kaia. “Explain this!”
“I… I can’t,” her voice cracked from disuse. The Templar released her and glared, eyes filled with hate, a hand resting on her sword.
“What do you mean you can’t.”
She racked her brains for some placating lie, but none came, “I don’t know what that is, I don’t know what's going on, I don’t-”
“-You’re lying!” the Templar snapped, seizing her by collar. The restraint was gone, replaced by a singular rage.
The other woman stepped forward and pulled the Templar back, a gloved hand firmly gripping her arm, “We need her Cassandra.”
The hooded woman then knelt to face Kaia, her expression unreadable. “Do you remember what happened? How this began?” she said, her voice coated in a thick Orlesian accent.
She tried to recall the conclave, but it was all blank. She arrived, poked fun at the shemlen with her kin and… “I remember running, running from something. There was a staircase and… a man? I’m not sure.”
“A man? Who?”
“I don’t know, he reached out to me and…” Kaia sighed as her memory failed her. A look of disappointment even flitted across the Orlesians face as she stood and nodded to her compatriot, then left the chamber. Cassandra pulled her to her feet, took a key from one of the soldiers, and removed her shackles.
She gathered her courage and asked what she wished no answer to.
“What did happen?”
Cassandra paused at the question, and for a moment she braced herself for the Templar’s ire, but none came. Only a tentative voice, laced with apprehension.
“It will be easier to show you.”