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Of Beasts and Kin

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"Damn, blighted snow. Damn, blighted mountains. Damn, blighted rifts!" 

For miles, Evelyn muttered to herself as she trudged through the frigid cold of the Frostback Basin towards a rift that had been sighted by one of the hunters of Stone-Bear Hold. In the two years since dismantling the Inquisiton, she had gotten tired of lounging around her estate in Kirkwall—taking care of run-of-the-mill bandits and smugglers on behalf of the guard really didn't take much effort after fighting dragons and would-be gods every other Tuesday—so when she received word from the Thane about rifts appearing in the basin, she was equal parts curious, excited and terrified. 

Throughout the history of Thedas, a lot had happened in the basin, and where historic events occur, the veil tended to be thin, so it was possible that a small rift had formed if a particularly strong spell was cast in the area. In such a case, she would likely be able to close it even without the anchor thanks to having studied rift magic from her trainer—Your Trainer? She was never quite certain how to refer to the woman when speaking to others—and from Solas. Of course, that had been before his name left a bitter taste in her mouth. And before he became the other suspect for why rifts were reappearing. 

In any case, the letter from Svarah gave her an excellent excuse to finally get out of the city, away from Varric's well-meaning but oft annoying spies and to escape the parties and galas thrown in Hightown for a few months. 

Before her thoughts could spiral for too long, though, she felt the uneasy scratching sensation crawl under her skin, signaling a rift nearby, and for a moment, she was surprised to not see an eerie green glow appear in the left edge of her vision. It had been years since she'd last seen a rift or possessed the mark, but she would never forget the feeling. 

Slowly, she edged towards the sensation, looking over a hill and spotting it just below. It wasn't large and wasn't spewing demons, but she knew that could change quickly. 

Taking a breath, she slid down the bank and drew on her magic. 

Since she'd closed all the rifts that had been sighted in Thedas before the anchor had taken her arm, she never had to use her own magic to attempt to close one, and while using the magic of the rebel mages had enabled her to close the Breach the first time without causing any more damage, she worried that her magic alone might not be enough to close the rift. Or worse, that her magic would just make it expand. 

All during her trek down, she'd corresponded with Dorian, discussing the problem at length via sending crystal. They tried to come up with a theory that would work, that would adapt what they had learned from the strategy at Haven all those years ago to be able to close a single rift without causing more damage. 

Unfortunately, theories only went so far, and the next step was to start testing. So, she stilled her mind, felt the weight of the pouch of lyrium potions at her hip and pulled out her staff. 

"Here goes nothing." 

Then she pulled. 

Like tugging a tablecloth out from under dishes without dumping them all to the floor, she yanked the veil away from the rift as quickly as she could with a despell. Once the air all around her and the rift felt as bereft of magic as the Hissing Wastes did of water, she speared it with her rift magic. She tried to keep her force spell as tight and solid as possible, not wanting the magic to disperse and restore the equilibrium of the veil just yet. 

But then she heard a shout from behind and her concentration snapped, and her spell snapped with it. 

Her magic dispersed as sharply and suddenly as the sound of a cracking whip, giving her vertigo in its wake for just a moment, but in that moment, the rift woke and demons were pulled through. 

"You've got to be kidding me," she muttered as she threw up a barrier just in time to deflect an arrow. 

Avvar, obviously not of Stone-Bear Hold, were attacking her. Demons were closing in. And she was alone. 

"You've got to be kidding me!" 

She dodged another arrow and cast a fire wall between herself and the avvar, hoping to buy herself a moment to take care of the demons. Fortunately, there were only two shades. Unfortunately, they were much too close. 

She rolled out of the way of a swipe of the first and stabbed the second in the gut with her staff blade. She considered downing a vial of lyrium since she was already running low on mana thanks to her spell gone wild, but she thought better of it. She didn't have any supplies at her camp to make more, and she didn't want to have to trek all the way back to Stone-Bear Hold in order to get her hands on some more. 

Instead, she tore the blade out and immediately forced it back into the creature's face before using the grip to block the swipe of the other shade as her barrier fell. 

"Maker, I forgot how awful you smell." 

She spun away and shuffled backwards, trying to get out of reach before throwing a small fireball at the closest shade, hoping it would at least distract it long enough to give her a little more space, but then she felt her firewall give out. 

Just to make sure she noticed, apparently, an arrow whistled past her head and into that of the shade not currently shrieking from flames. Evelyn wasn't sure if the arrow was meant for her or the demon, but she wasn't going to complain yet, as the creature gave a warped cry of agony before dissolving back into the ether from whence it came. 

The remaining shade had evidently recovered from the light toasting, so it set its sights back on Evelyn. As had the avvar. 

She had just enough mana to cast another barrier, and she only just felt the tingle on her skin that gave her the soothing, protective warp of the veil before she lunged forward, spearing the shade. It gave a cry and flailed out, slashing its too-bony fingers across her thankfully-protected face before it dissolved like the other. 

The loss of its resistance sent her to her knees, but she rolled with it and recovered to her footing just in time for her side to be on the receiving end of the swing of a maul, cracking the last of her barrier as she hit the ground again. She rolled to her side, barely managing to miss the second swing, but then a rogue popped out of seemingly nowhere and threw powder in her face. 

Evelyn didn't even have a chance to choke out a curse before the knock-out powder pulled her from consciousness. 

 


 

Shouts nearby pulled Evelyn from the blackness, and she tried to roll over to tell Bull and Dorian to shut it until she realized she couldn’t move. It took more effort than it should have to finally open her eyes, and it was immediately evident she wasn’t in her own bedroll at an Inquisition camp, surrounded by her friends and allies.  

Maker’s hairy balls. She unhappily discovered that her ankles were tied together with an uncomfortably tight knot—thankfully, not enough to worry about lack of circulation just yet—and her hand was tied to a post above her head. More happily, she realized she still had access to her magic, but she didn’t want to provoke her captors just yet.  

She was reminded of the dungeons beneath Haven, with Cassandra and Leliana circling her like creatures on the prowl. Maker, I need to stop getting into these situations. 

“—Risk bringing her back to the hold,”  

“So you want to keep her here?” She heard a woman’s voice scoff. “You saw her throwing spells. We won’t be able to keep her.” 

“Then hurry up and slit her throat before she wakes,” the first voice, also a woman’s, responded with a harsh whisper. 

“We don’t know what she’s done! Or how. We can’t just kill her until we know how she—” 

“Enough. Lowlander’s awake,” a harsh male voice declared, and then she heard movement behind her until three figures moved into her line of sight.  One of the avvar, the man, she recognized as the one who had nearly smashed her head into pulp. He was tall, broad and could almost be mistaken for Qunari had he been wearing less clothing and had less color in his cheeks. The other two, one nearly the same height as the first and the other much more of a slight build, were both as blonde as the first and wore the same stony expressions. 

Evelyn didn’t have another moment to assess them before a fist was in her shirt, pulling her off the ground with one harsh yank. “What were you doing to the Lady?” The man asked, voice low and steely.  

Other than a quick breath, Evelyn didn’t let her surprise or concern show as she met his eyes.  

“Release me, and I will explain.” 

The man’s eyes narrowed, but his hand released and Evelyn fell back onto her knees, unable to catch herself with her hand still latched to the pole behind her and her ankles tied together, but she managed to right herself somewhat before looking back up at them. 

“I was trying to heal her. Those wounds? I know of them as ‘Rifts,’ a tear in the Veil. I’ve been investigating and trying to seal them since I’d believed all of them to be over two years closed,” Then Evelyn allowed herself a frustrated frown. “If you hadn’t come along and made me lose my concentration and made my magic go wild, I believe I would have succeeded.” 

The trio still frowned, but at least two of them seemed slightly less likely to slit her throat than they had been a moment before. 

“What would you know of healing the lady?” the smaller woman asked, not keeping the incredulity or venom from her voice, and Evelyn resisted the urge to sigh. Three years of being the Inquisitor, trekking all over Thedas to kill cultists and close rifts, and she was back to square one: random apostate found at the wrong place at the wrong time and in the hands of people she wasn’t sure she could trust. Suddenly, she missed Cassandra very much. 

“I studied and closed a few of the rifts that plagued Thedas a few years go. I would not see them spread again.” She wasn’t sure if it would be safe to explain everything to them since she didn’t know what hold she’d been captured by or its relationship to Stone-Bear Hold, so she hoped that the understatement of the ages would be sufficient to make them trust her enough to let her go. The fact that she wasn’t dead, at least, she chose to take as a good sign. 

The man and the taller woman shared a look, seemingly skeptical but disinclined to kill her. Then the woman pulled out a knife and freed Evelyn’s hand as the other woman scoffed her disgust and walked away. Evelyn barely managed to keep herself from sighing with relief as she shook out her wrist.  

“We’ll take you to our Thane,” the man explained as Evelyn’s ankles were also freed from their bindings. “He’ll judge the truth of it.”