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In Our Hearts Shall Burn

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The Breach is closed, but he can’t seem to relax. His mind turns to what they’d seen in that horrific future, whoever this Elder One is, he is out there and still a threat.

He’s glad that Alexius is out of the picture though, at least the magister can’t go back in time and undo them closing the Breach.

Conkus considers going to talk to the man for a moment in his cell, but remembers that some of his friends had sternly ordered him to have fun and they would likely roast him alive if they noticed him leave the festivities.

So he stays, but he keeps his eyes on the horizon, searching for the next threat as if it will come pouring through the hills any moment.

It turns out he wasn’t waiting for nothing, they have an army marching to their doorstep.

He can hear Cullen shouting at the troops to get them moving. He finds the other heralds and groups up.

They go to the gate together. The man they meet speaks strangely, telling them that the Elder One is coming with an army of Templars.

Cullen springs into action at this information, telling them to split up and help the soldiers man the trebuchets.

The fight is bloody, the Templars don’t go down until there is little left of them, he’s glad Dorkona, Deimos, Cassandra, Dorian and Varric are with him. He hopes the others are fairing alright.

He sees the other trebuchet fire just as theirs is finished prepping to fire, they are holding their own then. They fire and the boulder hits the side of a distant mountain, starting an avalanche that rolls down onto the incoming army.

He hears people around him begin to celebrate but he keeps his eyes on the hills, unconvinced that this was enough.

He hears the dragon before he sees it, the roar so loud his bones vibrate, and he wonders if he’ll go deaf.

He jump out of the way as the dragon destroys the trebuchet with some kind of cursed fire.

“Everyone back to the gates!” He shouts and starts to run back down the path to Haven.

He vaguely notices as they slam the gates closed behind them.

“We need everyone back to the chantry. It’s the only building that might hold against that beast,” Cullen shouts, tone quieting into something sardonic, “At this point, just make them work for it.”

Before he can formulate any kind of reply or react a scream rings out. All of the heralds and our companions turn to the source of it.

“The townspeople are in danger, we’ve got to help them.” Olivia runs off in the direction of the sound. No one bothers to disagree with that statement, unsurprisingly.

They rescue who they can on the way back to the chantry at the top of the town.

They make it to the chantry in one piece, thankfully. Rodrick is there talking some kind of rubbish that Conkus doesn’t bother to listen to. Oh, he’s dying, what a pity.

Conkus will have time to truly feel sorry for the dead and dying later, right now he’s assessing their position.

They’re trapped in a building with a dragon bearing down on them, they need a plan and fast.

Cullen tells them what they already know, but he says nothing, waiting to see if the man has a plan.

The stranger, Cole, thinks that the dragon might be an arch demon. Fantastic, this day couldn’t get any better.

The Elder One is here for them, of course he is.

“I don’t care what he wants. How do we stop him?” Dorkona asks Cole.

Cole’s reply would be humorous under different circumstances, but with so many lives at stake it frustrates him almost as much as it seems to frustrate Cullen.

“Heralds, there are no tactics to make this survivable. The only thing that slowed them was the avalanche,” Cullen confirms his fears, “We could turn the remaining trebuchets, causes one last slide.” Death is their only option? Truly?

“To hit the enemy, we’d bury Haven.” Deimos says incredulously. Conkus agrees that it’s not the best idea he’s ever heard.

“We’re dying, but we can decide how.  Many don’t get that choice.” Cullen sounds both grim and sure of himself.

Cole interrupts them, Roderick knows something.

“There is a path, you wouldn’t know it unless you’d made the summer pilgrimage as I have.” A possible escape route, he could kiss Roderick! Well, the man is dying and they hate each other, so he won’t, but he’s never been more glad the man was around.

The man stands, though it seems to take a lot of effort.

“The people can escape. She must have shown me, Andraste must have shown me so I could tell you.” Nevermind, Roderick is the same man as ever.

Still, a way out for the people? They'd need a distraction, surely…if the Elder One is here for them, then perhaps he should get them.

He glances at the others as he replies, confirming they are of the same mind.

“If that thing is here for us, we’ll make him fight for it.” He sees their expressions harden into determination.

“And when the mountain falls, what about you?” Cullen’s eyes flick to Natalie.

Silence blankets them all, they know their chance of survival.

“Perhaps you will surprise it, find a way.” Cullen suggests.

He pauses looking at them all for a moment longer, eyes flicking back to Natalie one last time before he sets off to order everyone through the back of the chantry to the path.

Roderick speaks again but he conveniently forgets to listen. It was something about divine purpose to a god he doesn’t believe in anyway.

They send their companions with the others, all of them are good fighters that the Inquisition will need.

Cullen sends four soldiers with them to load the trebuchets and they walk back out of the doors into the cold.

They make as much noise as they can fighting, using flashier spells and shouting words to catch the dragon’s attention.

They make their way to the second line of trebuchets that are surprisingly undamaged. They fight what feels like waves of Templars as the soldiers slowly prepare to fire.

Just as he thinks they are ready a truly huge mass of red lyrium lumbers out into the clearing. Mythal save them, that thing is three times his height.

The six of them with the help of the soldiers manage to take it down, but as it goes still he looks at the broken bodies of their troops, they would have died anyway but seeing them fall had not been easy.

They turn the trebuchet around to face the mountain behind Haven, just as they get it into position he sees the dragon coming in.

“Run!” He warns them all as they duck out of the way of an incoming fireball. The blast sends him flying back several feet. He feels a small bit of relief when he fears groans of pain from either side of him.

A figure steps through the flames. He gets up, pain coursing through his side and stumbles back as the dragon lands beside them.

“Enough!” The Elder One shouts and does some kind of spell that washes over him harmlessly.

“Pretenders! You toy with forces beyond your kind no more.”

“What are you supposed to be?” Dorkona asks at the same time as he asks, “Why are you doing this?”

The Elder One seems to ignore Dorkona’s insulting tone and continue on with his monologue.

“Mortals beg for truth they cannot have. It is beyond what you are, what I was. Know me, know what you have pretended to be.” The Elder One was mortal, but is no longer?

“Exalt the Elder One, the will that is Corypheus.” Okay, a little dramatic but a name is good, if they manage to survive the next five minutes.

Corypheus raises his hand and Conkus prepares for some kind of attack, but none comes.

“You will kneel.” That’s not going to fly with any of the others, is all he has time to think before five voices are crying out variants of ‘hell no’ and ‘go fuck yourself’.

Corypheus makes a sound that might be a snarl, Conkus isn’t sure, and then raises a strange spherical object. Said object begins to glow red.

“I am here for the anchors, the process of removing them begins now.” He says, once again ignoring them.

He thrusts his hand forward, red magic swirling in the air as Conkus feels the mark flair. He grits his teeth at the pain he hasn’t felt since they closed that first rift at the Temple.

“It is your fault heralds, you interrupted a ritual, years in the planning.” Good, he thinks vindictively as the pain grows.

“And instead of dying you stole it’s purpose.” Corypheus gestures with his arm and the mark feels like it’s clawing at him, or perhaps that is Corypheus’s spell, he can’t tell.

“I do not know how you all survived, but what marks you as touched, what you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very heavens.” It certainly sounds dramatic, but Conkus is in too much pain to formulate any kind of reply.

He falls to his knees in sudden agony, he hears the dragon behind him. Is this how they die?

“And you used the anchor to undo my work. The gall.” He’s angry enough to find his voice, despite the searing pain.

“What is this thing even meant to do?!” He asks, tone a mix of frustrated and pained.

“It is meant to bring certainty where there is none, for you the certainty that I would always come for it.” A useless answer.

Corypheus lifts them all with magic and brings them close to himself. Apparently wishing to continue his monologue as uncomfortably close to them as possible.

“I once breached the fade in the name of another, to serve the old gods of the empire in person. I found only chaos, corruption and dead whispers. For a thousand years I was confused, no more. I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own. To champion withered Tevinter and correct this Blighted world. Beg that I succeed. For I have seen the throne of the gods, and it was empty.” Corypheus releases the magic holding and sends them flying away from himself.

Conveniently, they land against the trebuchet. He pushes himself up enough to make eye contact with Aftell, who’s landed next to the firing mechanism. They nod at each other.

Corypheus apparently isn’t done, Conkus didn’t know there were this many words in common until now.

“The anchor is permanent, you have spoiled it with your stumbling.” That’s something at least, he supposes.

They all get to their feet shakily, Conkus searches the horizon for the sign from Cullen, they can’t wait much longer.

“So be it, I will begin again. Find another way to give this world the nation and god it requires.” Is Corpheus still talking? Does the man ever shut up?

Conkus sees the flare in the distance and meets Aftell’s eyes to confirm she’s seen it. He hopes the others are ready to run for their lives.

“And you, I will not suffer even unknowing rivals. You must die.” Not today, he thinks.

He steps slightly forward, drawing Corpheus’s attention, hopefully giving Aftell the chance to ready the others.

“You’re an arrogant fool and it blinds you, good to know.” He says with a sneer. He hears Aftell move behind him.

“If we’re dying, it’s not today!” He says as she fires the boulder past them at the mountain.

He waits long enough to see it hit before turning and running. They all run as fast as they can, jumping the remains of Haven’s defences. He can hear a rushing sound in his ears and runs all the harder. He jumps over a fence just as a huge force of snow hits him in the back, he twists through the air and falls down, down, down. Pain explodes across his sense just as everything goes black.

-

He wakes to a feeling of pain in his shoulders and back and when he opens his eyes it’s dark.

He creates a light with magic and it illumines some kind of cave ceiling above him. He hears a groan to his left and remembers the others. He sits up and sees Olivia doing the same.

“You alright?” He asks her.

“As alright as I can be after falling down a hole.” Fair point.

He looks around and finds Deimos, Natalie, Dorkona and Aftell unconscious on the ground around him.

He gets to his knees and shuffles over to Natalie, the closest one to him. He checks her over, she doesn’t have any physical sign of injury and with some gentle shaking, she wakes.

He goes to Deimos next, as Olivia is waking Dorkona. Deimos is similarly alright, no major injuries to speak of. Olivia wakes Aftell just as Dorkona starts to complain about the pain spread across the entire left side of her body.

They’re certainly all going to be bruised, but they’re also alive, so he’ll take some bruising.

And possibly a broken rib, he thinks as he stands up.

Yes, definitely at least one broken rib.

They carry each other through the cave, encountering a small group of demons. Dorkona raises her marked hand and some strange kind of rift appears that tears apart the demons. They all stare at her. She shrugs.

“Was just instinct.” Is all the explanation they get.

It doesn’t take them long to find the entrance to the cave. There’s a snow storm raging outside, of course, because nothing is ever easy.

But they decide to brave it, as both Natalie and Aftell need medical attention, as does he, not that he’s mentioned that to the others.

They walk in the direction they hope the other went, following the trail left behind.

The storm beats down on them harder and harder as time goes on, he starts to wonder if they’ll even make it, before it finally lets up.

They find a fire pit with still burning embers just as he thinks they might drop, and they make it the last few meters to the pass between the hills. Olivia collapses with Aftell and he signals the camp, hoping someone will see them.

He hears Cullen and Cassandra’s voices approach them but can’t grasp their words, the world goes black.

 -

He’s glad everyone is alive and getting the treatment they need, but he also doubts anyone in the camp can sleep, with their advisors arguing so loudly. He has half a mind to tell them to go shut up so that everyone can rest and recover.

He stands at the same moment someone else in the tent does. He turns to look at Olivia. He sees the same frustration he feels mirrored on her face.

“Thinking of going over there to tell them to shut up?” He asks knowingly.

“Yeah, it’s annoying the fuck out of me.” He chuckles at her language.

Mother Giselle makes her way over to them.

“With time to doubt, we turn to blame.” She says looking over at the Inquisition’s leaders.

“It’s still pointless.” He says. Her gaze turns on him, piecing in it’s intensity.

“Or leaders struggle because of what we survivors witnessed, we saw our defenders stand, and fall. And now we have seen them return. The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear. And the more our trials seem ordained.” Not the herald rubbish again, please.

“That is hard to accept, no?” She asks, as if reading his thoughts.

He looks at Olivia.

“I’ve never believed and that hasn’t changed.” She answers.

“Me neither.” He agrees.

Mother Giselle says nothing and silence falls. He realises that the arguing has stopped, their advisors all sit separate from each other, argument clearly unresolved.

The last thing he expects is for Mother Giselle to start singing.

But before long the whole camp has joined in.

He hears someone walk up beside him and sees Deimos, he nods to the man.

A moment later Natalie joins them supporting Aftell. He wants to tell them to go back to bed, they need more rest, but is distracted by the crowd forming in front of them.

They begin to kneel one by one as they sing and he feels incredibly uncomfortable. He says nothing though, simply watching it all unfold.

Once the song finishes he finally tells Natalie and Aftell to go back to resting, enlisting Deimos’s help to get Aftell back to her cot.

He is intent to do the same, until Solas walks up to them.

“A word?” He says to the remaining three of them.

They glance at each other silently in question as they follow him to the edge of camp.

“The humans have not raised any of our people so high for ages beyond counting. Their faith is hard won.” Solas is right, of course.

“Worthy of pride, save one detail,” Solas pauses, “The threat Corypheus wields, the orb he carried, it is elvhen.” Solas doesn’t stop talking but the revelation shocks Conkus to the core.

“Coypheus used the orb to create the Breach, unlocking it must have caused the explosion that destroyed the conclave. We must find out how he survived. And prepare for their reaction when they learn the orb is of our people.” Perhaps it is the strangeness of the events of tonight, or just some lingering Dalish bitterness in him, but he doesn’t know why his next words come out as harshly as they do.

“Even if we defeat Corypheus eventually they’ll find a way to blame elves.”

Solas gives him a look of acknowledgement.

“I suspect you are correct.” He allows.

“It is unfortunate, but we must be above suspicion to be seen as valued allies.” He says to Conkus and Olivia,” Faith in all of you is shaping this moment but needs room to grow.”

“By attacking the Inquisition Corypheus has changed it, changed you. Scout to the north, be their guide. There is a place that waits for a force to hold it. There is a place where the Inquisition can build, grow.” Solas is starting to sound impassioned by his own speech.

Conkus isn’t sure if he believes him, but they have no better options. It’s Dorkona who asks the question on his mind.

“What place?”

“Skyhold.” Solas says with more gravity than Conkus thinks is necessary, but Solas has always been weird like that. It also doesn’t remotely answer the question, but at least now they have their next course of action.

The long trek begins.