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When Worlds Collide, Legends Rise

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CHAPTER ONE

 

Fate and destiny are often intertwined. Many are taught that they are the same but those many are wrong. Fate is to destiny as a body is to soul. One is never far from the other, true. And yet, if looked at closely, they two have variation. Fate is simply the conclusion that several steps have led up to. Destiny on the other hand, is merely something that was and always is meant to happen. Fate is a tapestry of certain events that led to a conclusion while destiny is unavoidable and a set course. Those very few that learn this simple yet profound thought, truly understand that nothing happens in life without some form of purpose. Be it setting up the next step or something that has always been. And all one can do in life, is accept this and let fate and destiny work.

This lesson had been practically burned into John’s mind over the years. 

Was it fate or destiny that brought him to where he was now? Was it fate that brought him to Elysium? Was it fate that brought him to the Normandy? Was it destiny that brought him to beat Saren and the Collectors? And perhaps the most common question: was it his destiny to have defeated the Reapers and saved the galaxy? Or was it just a matter of fately steps that led him to that course? These were the questions the galaxy asked after the day was won. Those were the questions the eternally grateful  galaxy asked after Commander Shepard disappeared. 

 

Everything was black. Blacker than the darkest night. All around him, the darkness was clutching him, crushing him. He knew that he had stopped the Reapers but some sixth sense told him that he wasn’t dead. Something had happened before he had faded to black. What that something was, he had no idea. 

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a faint glimmer of neon green light off in the distance. Even though he didn’t think he was moving, the light seemed to be getting closer at a tremendous speed. He shut his eyes from the almost blinding light and then opened them a moment later, only to find himself falling out of something. He threw his hands up at the last second to help soften the fall. Luckily it wasn’t a very far fall before he hit the ground with a grunt. What was left of his shields stopped any major injuries but the impact was still enough to hurt. He’d say the armor helped but it really didn’t; not when it had been all but destroyed by that final charge to the relay beam. 

He groaned, struggling to rise to his feet. He had just fought through hell and his body was finally crumbling under the strain of pushing on. It practically screamed at him to stop and yet, he knew he had to get up. To stay down now would mean his death. 

Blinking from the sudden light after the endless darkness, he looked around at his surroundings. There were trees all around him. Nearby, he could see an old stone tower of some kind. Judging by the slant of the ground, he was on the verge of a hill. At the bottom of the hill, he could just about make out what looked to be a dirt road. Then he looked up and immediately stepped back, nearly losing what little balance he had. He blinked, staring in both confusion and fear. Above his head was a hole the same color green that he had seen earlier. It was like someone had just cut through the very air and left an enormous hole in the sky. 

The hole was constantly erupting, sending what looked to be fireballs, flying down to the earth below randomly. And whatever it was, even at first glance, he could tell that it was slowly spreading across the sky. 

Hearing what sounded to be a small explosion going off, he jumped and swung around only to gape at a smaller hole in the air a few feet from where he stood. This one was merely around the size of a door and yet it acted much like the larger one up above. It crackled with some type of energy. Maybe biotic? 

As he watched, the hole flared up, sending several blasts of energy out around him. From these energy blasts came a number of creatures he had never seen before. They were hunched over, with long arms and long necks. Small mouths and eyes were set on the end of their small heads. And they appeared to be wearing rags on their lower body. 

They screeched as they turned towards him. He went for his shotgun and then cursed when he realized it had dropped during the final charge. All he had was his Carnifax pistol and that barely had a round left. He set his jaw determinedly. Then he would make each bullet count. And if that wasn’t enough, he still had his biotics. 

He whipped out his pistol, took aim at the nearest creature and shot, the noise from the shot echoing off in the distance. The bullet passed cleanly through the creatures head and the creature simply disintegrated into a pile of ash. Seeing their friend die apparently spurred the rest of the creatures on as they chose to rush him. 

He fired off six more shots, killing five of the things and wounding another. But there was still at least seven more coming at him and he he was dangerously low on ammo. With the last of his bullets, he killed three of the seven, leaving just four left. The thermal clip empty, he dropped his pistol and raised his hands, his Omni-blades coming out with a hiss. 

The first creature to reach him lunged at him with sharp talons just barely grazing his left shoulder before he jumped back, slicing the thing’s arm off with his blades. The wound on his shoulder didn’t hurt but the cuts were deep enough to draw a little blood. In the back of his mind, he wondered why his shields hadn’t absorbed the blow. 

The thing screamed in anger and swiped at him but he sidestepped it and jabbed his Omni-Blade deep into the side of its neck, killing it. It crumpled to a pile of ash, as all the other ones he had killed had done. 

The remaining three creatures charged at him all at once unlike the previous one had. There was no way he could defend himself from all of them with just his Omni-blades so he retracted the blades and let loose a powerful biotic blast that disintegrated the creatures on the spot. 

He didn’t relax until he looked around to make sure all of the creatures were dead. Then he swung his head to look back at the hole they had come from. For the moment, it didn’t appear to shoot out anymore. Even still, he didn’t want to be there when it did. 

He had to find a safe place. Seeing no better place than the old tower, he picked up his pistol, retrieved what bullets he could from the ash piles and made his way over to the tower. Grunting from the pain in his shoulder and really, everything, he slumped down against the stone wall. Every ounce of fight left in him was gone, used up in his fight with those creatures. He still had no clue as to how he ended up in a forest when he had been on the Citadel but at that point, he was too tired to care. He needed to rest. If only for a while. 

His eyes already dropping, he loaded the pistol and held it in his hands as he closed his eyes to rest. 

In the middle of his sleep, he felt something poking at his belly harshly. It felt like...a stick?

Then he heard someone speak. “Is he dead?” The voice definitely belonged to a woman. 

Another poke with the stick, painfully jabbing into his stomach. He moaned in pain.

“Sera, quit poking him with the stick. He’s obviously not dead.” Another voice said, this one male. 

“Well how should I know if he’s dead or not? I’m not a frigging healer!” The woman named Sera said in a huff. 

He weakenly opened his eyes, his fingers clutching the pistol just in case these people were not friendly. Although if they weren’t, he wasn’t sure he could fight them off at his current strength. 

He opened his eyes and blinked in surprise as the woman stepped back. She was short and skinny with a red shirt and yellow pants. On her back was a longbow and a quiver. She had short blonde hair that was cut wildly and light blue, almost grey eyes. The thing that had surprised him though, was the fact that she had long pointy ears. Sort of like a vorchas. Or an elf? 

She stuck her tongue out at him. “Eww, he’s not dead!”

“Of course not you idiot. But he’s damn close.” The male voice said. 

He turned his head and flinched. The man that had spoken wasn’t a man at all. He was easily several heads taller than a man, with large horns protruding from his chiseled head. His ears too, were pointy. His skin was gray and he had an eyepatch over his left eye. He wore no shirt, putting his abs on display. He held a huge battleax in his right hand. 

The horned man backed up when he raised his gun at him. 

“Great. Your ugly mug scared him.” Sera said.

“Not helping Sera.” The horned man said to her before looking back at him. The horned man raised his arms peacefully after dropping the axe with a thud. “Easy now, friend. We aren’t here to cause any trouble. You’re hurt really bad.”

He coughed, struggling to rise to his feet. “I’m aware of that.” He said, his throat burning. 

“Bull?” Sera asked nervously. 

“I got this.” The horned man named Bull said. “Put the weapon thing down; we’re not gonna hurt you. Listen, if we don’t stop that bleeding, you’ll bleed to death. A mage will be here shortly to patch you up.”

A mage? What?

“Who are you? What mage?”

“I’m Bull and the elf that woke you up is Sera. We’re part of the Inquisition.” Bull said calmly.

“What, you mean like the Spanish Inquisition?”

“Ha this guy is a looney!” Sera said with a snort.

“Shut up, elf. He’s obviously been through a lot and is confused. I’ll explain later. Just put down the weapon calmly and let me check out those wounds.” Bull said as he took a hesitant step forward. 

The pistol dropped from his hands. If they had wanted to harm him, they wouldn’t have checked if he was alive. That, and he couldn’t keep his hand up any longer. He dropped. 

Bull drew near and knelt down besides him, struggling to take his armor off. He weakly brought his hand up and pushed a button on his chest piece which allowed the armor to be taken off. Bull quickly took off the chest piece and flinched at the sight. The man had numerous tiny holes in his chest and cuts, as if he had been pelted with arrows. His left shoulder was slashed, clearly by talons. It was a miracle the man was still breathing. 

“Alright. What’s your name?” Bull asked as he tore off a piece of his pants to try and stop the blood. 

“John. Commander John Shepard.” The man replied weakly. “How bad is it?”

Bull grimaced. “Bad. Real bad. Sera, go back and tell the Boss and Solas to get their asses over here.”

Sera nodded and ran off, back towards where John had fought those creatures. 

“No, don’t go that way! There’s these creatures that-.” John suddenly coughed up blood, unable to finish his warning.

Bull snickered. “Don’t worry about them. They can handle a few demons.”

John blinked, his vision getting blurrier by the minute. “Demons? What?”

Bull cursed. “Damn, the loss of blood is really getting to you. Just hang on man, Solas will get you patched up soon.”

As John slowly lost consciousness, he groaned. “What happened to the Reapers? Did the Crucible work?” 

Bull frowned. “What are Reapers?”

John mentally cursed before he passed out. Well shit, that can’t be good. 

 

John gasped awake, his body feeling like someone had supercharged it. He felt better than he had in months. 

“Ah, good. He’s awake.” Someone said. 

John lifted his head to see who had spoken. A bald elf was sitting beside him, some sort of energy seeping out of his hands. 

That’s just great. Another elf person. John dropped his head back down, sure that he was going insane. 

“How is he, Solas?” 

John raised his head once more and sighed. Finally, a human. 

The man that had spoken was a little on the short side with a lean but muscular body. His dirty blonde hair was wild and unruly. Mischievous, slightly childish, blue eyes shone brightly from behind a thin beard. He had a mix of light and deep scars on his face but none of them were outrageously long or wide. On the man’s back were two large daggers and he was wearing light armor. He was probably the leader of the small group of oddities. 

The bald elf, Solas, nodded. “As you can see, he is up. Very lucky for him that we were in the area, otherwise he would have likely died from his injuries. He had a number of small hole-like wounds all over his chest and stomach, with several lacerations. Then the slash on his left shoulder, from a Shade I would say. All seem to be healing nicely.”

The man grinned down at John. “You are lucky to be alive, John, was it?”

John nodded. 

The man extended a hand and John shook it. “Pleasure to meet you, John. My name is Maxwell Trevelyn, but you can just call me Max. And definitely don’t call me the Herald of Andraste. I hate that.” 

John blinked. Well at least some of that made sense.

Max knelt besides him, a mix of concern and curiosity on his face. “So here’s a question I bet you didn’t see coming: What in the world compelled you to fight a bunch of Shades when you were already injured? We saw the signs of a fight and the blood trail after we investigated a noise that sounded like thunder. Which I’ll get to in a moment. First, I want to know what you were doing.”

John sat up, noticing his armor had all been taken off of his body. It was laying in a pile along with his gun a few feet away. He scratched the back of his head, feeling some bandages wrapped over a bad knick he hadn’t realized he had. 

“I don’t know. One second, I had just stopped the Reapers and the next second, I’m falling out of a green hole in the air. Which reminds me, what the hell is going on to the sky? Why aren’t you all not more concerned about that?”

Max nodded, thinking. “I don’t know about those Reapers you mentioned but from what you’ve said, I’d gather that you fell through a Fade Rift. Much like I did. But wait, you don’t know what the Breach is?”

“Not in the slightest.” 

Max whistled. “Well, shit. I don’t know what to tell you then.” 

Solas, who had been staring intently at John during the whole conversation, spoke up. “John, if I may. When were you born?”

“On April eleventh in 2154. Why?” 

Solas snapped his fingers. “So I thought. Herald, I believe this man isn’t from here.”

Max laughed. “Obviously Solas. I mean look at his armor and that weapon of his!”

Solas studied John, making him a little uncomfortable. “Something must have happened to you on your end and then the rift dragged you through to here. Fascinating.”

“So he’s what, some kind of space time traveling human?” Bull asked as he and Sera walked up, after just having checked their surroundings to make sure there weren’t any more surprises. 

Sera looked at John with a newfound wonder. “Really?” She snorted. “Is he a crazy magy guy?”

Solas shook his head. “I detect no magic from him. Although, I thought I did at first but then I realized he has no connection to the Fade like any mage would.”

“Anyway.” Max coughed. “That big hole in the sky is called the Breach. It’s a massive tear in the Veil, which is like an invisible barrier between our world and the Fade, the world of demons and spirits. If it’s not closed then it will eventually swallow the world. We are part of an organization called the Inquisition which is trying to close the Breach, stop the demons from coming over, and bring some peace to the world. That small hole you came from is a Fade Rift, like a smaller Breach. The things you fought were lesser demons called Shades. Oh and you might have noticed this scar on my hand? We call it the Mark. It allows me to close the holes and ultimately, will allow me to seal the Breach. Afterwards, we figure out how the Breach got there in the first place. But that’s well down the road. Any questions?”

John stared blankly at Max, causing the others to laugh or chuckle in Solas’ case. “All I got out of that is hole in the sky that will destroy the world, demons, and you can save countless lives with a scar.”

Bull smirked. “You got a quick mind there.”

John shrugged. 

Max helped John to his feet. “In any case, we were on our way to a village to meet up with some potential allies but now, I’m not so sure. I don’t want to leave you here by yourself, especially since you came through a rift from who knows where.” His face lit up. “Ah! Here’s an idea! Since you aren’t getting home anytime soon, how about you join the Inquisition? We can make sure you don’t get killed and while we’re at it, we can help find a way to get you back to where you came from! So how about it?”

John thought for a moment. He had no clue how he got there. He had no idea what half of what was being said about demons and holes. He had next to no ammo left and his armor was perhaps beyond repair, at least in this place. And as far as he knew, he had no way of getting back home. 

He grit his teeth. It’d be suicide to not take Max up on his offer. And he’d already been on one suicide trip; he wasn’t keen on dying out here. Max and the others were his best chance at figuring things out while not dying. 

The two shook hands in agreement. 

Max beamed. “Great! Bull, I want you to take John back to Haven. Get him settled there and introduce him to the others. Take the side routes. I don’t want any normal folk to see him and his things.”

Bull nodded, picking up John’s armor like it weighed nothing and bringing it over to some horses. “And what will you be doing Boss?”

“Sera, Solas, and I will continue to Redcliffe and talk to Fiona. We’ll follow you once that business is dealt with. We’ll see you back at Haven.”

Bull grunted in acknowledgement, gesturing for John to follow him. 

Bull eyed him. “Ever ridden a horse before?”

“Nope. I’ve only flown a few ships here and there.”

Bull roared with laughter. “You’re shitting me! You got flying ships where you come from? That must be nice.”

John grinned at the giant horned man. “It's a lot faster than riding a horse, that’s for damn sure.”

Bull chuckled. “Probably a smoother ride too. Come on, let’s you to Haven. Oh, and some warning: if a smartass dwarf wants to play a card game with you, decline

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

 

It took all of ten minutes before John fell off the horse as he sat behind Bull. Since Bull and the others only had four horses, one for each person, they couldn’t spare another horse for John to ride on. So he simply sat behind the giant horned man and clung on, with his armor and weapon tied to the saddlebags. Or at least he did before he lost his balance and fell.

Bull reined the horse in, slowing to a stop as he twisted around to look at the now bruised man laying on his side.

“For someone that seems to be a decent fighter, you sure don’t have good balance.” Bull said with a laugh.

John growled as he got to his feet, wiping the dirt off. “Of course. I can shoot tiny practice slugs with a sniper on a very windy ledge overlooking the Presidium with cars flying by just fine, but I fall off a horse at the smallest of jumps. Makes sense.” He muttered to himself as he climbed back on the horse.

Bull snickered as if he had heard him but said nothing. He clicked his tongue and the horse continued moving, only at a slightly slower pace than before. They soon reached a stone road and began to follow it.

“I’m guessing you don’t have Qunari back where you are from.” Bull stated as they rode.

John snorted. “No. No we do not.”

“I figured as much. But don’t worry, I don’t blame you for being wary when you first saw me. I must have looked pretty menacing.”

John grinned. “You weren’t too bad. I’ve seen much worse than you before.”

Bull gave a short laugh. “Oh I doubt you’ve seen anything like me before.”

They were silent for a few minutes until they came across a couple houses lining the road. All were badly damaged and on fire, the support beams barely holding together as they burned away violently. There were several still bodies around the houses, their bodies nearly burnt to a crisp, although their armor still remained. Others were more fresh looking and many had swords still impaling them. A couple of the bodies looked to be young as well.

John went to get off the horse to go check for survivors but Bull grunted. “Leave them. They’re all dead fools anyway.”

“There could be survivors.” John retorted.

Bull shook his head, his huge horns nearly swinging back and hitting John in the face. “There never are in a skirmish like that.”

“A skirmish? This looks more like slaughter.”

“Oh, it is a slaughter. This is what the Inquisition is trying to stop. Blasted fools.”

John stared at the corpses as they passed by. He wasn’t shocked that people could do that to one another, not after seeing what he’d seen.

“Who were they? Some of them were wearing armor of some kind.” He asked.

“Templars and mages. See, Templars are sort of like the mages protectors and prison wards. Any normal mage is sent to the Circle where they can learn their magic in peace, without worrying about any accidental fires or the like. Templars are like their guards, making sure they don’t hurt anyone or get possessed by a demon. The two sides have always had a lot of tension between them and recently the mages rebelled to try and gain their freedom. Templars weren’t too happy about that and the two sides went nuts trying to kill each other. This area we are in right now, called the Hinterlands, is a war field for them.”

John nodded, stowing the information away. It seemed like wherever one went, people found a way to be cruel and oppressive.

“So what do you think happened here?” John asked as they reached the end of the line of buildings.

“My guess is that the rebel mages killed the older group of Templars and then a different group of Templars came through and killed the mages. So like I said, they’re all just dead fools.”

As they rode on, they came across many other sites like the first one. The area was indeed a war zone. Luckily though, they didn’t come across any live soldiers.

They made small talk as they rode until nightfall, mainly just asking questions about what was going on and the Inquisition. John said little about where he came from, thinking the less these people knew, the better. Besides, he didn’t want to confuse anyone as he was growing confused. But Bull was very patient and eager to explain things and answer any questions John had about this world, which was many.

Eventually, when it got too dark to continue riding, they broke off the main road a ways and made camp. Since they were in a dangerous area, they didn’t bother making a fire. Instead, they made do with the light from the moon.

As the two sat eating a light dinner of bread and a couple apples, John looked up from his meal at Bull. Studying the eye patch over his left eye. “How’d you lose the eye?”

Bull snorted. “I like to think I traded it for a friend’s life.”

John raised an eye, nodding in approval. “I’m sensing a story there.”

Bull shrugged. “A simple one, sure. I took a blow to the eye to protect some random guy in a bar that eventually became one of my closest friends and second in command to my Chargers. To ask for a more heartfelt story, you’d have to ask Krem.”

John nodded in understanding. He’d taken plenty of blows for his friends too.

Bull gestured towards John’s head. “How about you? How’d you get that beauty on your face?”

John chuckled. It was about time he asked about the scar over his right side. The scar, though light, went from his right ear all the way to just under his right eye. He had got it as an Alliance recruit, right before he figured out how to properly use an Omni Blade. He learned how very quickly after the Blade nearly sliced his face open.

“Early on in my military career, when I was still a wet nosed recruit, I was fumbling around with a retractable blade. Damn thing almost took my face off before I learned how to use it.”

Bull gave another one of his hearty laughs, then took a big bite out of the bread he held. “See, at least my reason is a noble one. You just got yours for being stupid.”

John grinned. “Pretty much.”

John took a sip from the water sack, missing the Normandy. On the Normandy, there was always good food and not just simple bread with apples. And even more important, there were comfy beds on his ship, unlike out here essentially camping. But either way, it was a nice change to be sitting down under the stars instead of up amongst them.

“So Bull, what can you tell me about the others? Max, Sera, and Solas?”

Bull shrugged. “Well you’ve met them already so you know what they are like. Solas is a wise mage. Sera is a goofball but good with that bow of hers. And the Boss is well, the Boss. Not much else to say.”

“Why do you call him the Boss? Besides the fact that he’s in charge of the Inquisition.”

Bull laughed again, almost choking on his food. “The Boss isn’t in charge of the Inquisition. That’d be like having a child in charge of explosives. Nah, he’s more of a figurehead for the Inquisition. Aside from him being the only person able to close the rifts, most people think he’s the Herald of Andraste so having him walk around doing stuff makes the Inquisition look good.” When John looked at him blankly, Bull explained. “Andraste was the human’s top prophets who was killed and became the bride of the human’s Maker, or their god. I’m not much of a religious person but the vast majority of people think Max is Andraste’s Herald cuz he came out of the Breach and survived an explosion that leveled a mountaintop. But that’s a whole other thing. I’ll explain that later.”

“Anyway, no Max isn’t the leader of the Inquisition. At the moment, five people sort of make most of the decisions. They’re Max, Cassandra, Cullen, Josephine, and Leliana. I’ll introduce you to them once we reach Haven. But for right now, you should get some sleep. I’ll keep first watch.”

John nodded and laid down, propping a blanket up behind him as a pillow. He hadn’t realized how tired he was. It made sense though given what had happened to him in the last few hours. Within minutes, he was asleep.

The two traded watch every two hours and when the sun rose at dawn, they set off riding again. They rode for several hours before stopping to let the horse rest. Feeling naked without it, John decided to strap on his damaged armor. He reasoned damaged armor was better than no armor. He hitched his gun to his side and breathed a sigh of relief. Though the armor was chipped, he felt complete now. He felt Bull wanted to ask about the armor but John told him to tell him, would mean a lot of explaining.

Out of the corner of his eye, John saw a glint of metal among the trees. He whipped out his Carnifax, whispering a warning to Bull who swiveled over in the direction of the metal, bringing his massive battle axe off of his back and holding it in his hands effortlessly. Bull reminded John of a krogan about to charge.

“What’s the play here?” John whispered, taking deference to Bull who was more at home with situations like this.

“I count six Templars. They’ll come at us at the same time, with swords and shields. They’ll probably try and disrupt your magic.”

“But I’m not magical!” John hissed.

“Doesn’t matter to them. You do look magical with that fancy armor of yours, in their defense.”

“Great. So now you are defending the people that will try and kill us.”

Bull smiled. “Just making conversation. Stay close World Man; here they come.”

The six Templars, sprang out from behind the trees and rushed them. Four of them carried a large shield with their swords and all of them wore the same type of armor. The four went for Bull, the clear threat, who met them head on with a vigor that rivaled that of Grunt’s. The two remaining ones ran at John.

Not wanting to waste what precious ammo he had left, John’s Omni blade sprang to life just as the first soldier reached him, the man’s sword making an arc towards his head. Raising his own blade, the searing blade easily slicing right through the sword. The soldier jumped back in shock and fear, shouting, “Magic! He’s an apostate!”

The two raised their hands and some form of energy flowed out of them. “Quickly, dispel his magic!” The second man barked.

When nothing seemed to happen, John grinned at them. “Sorry to disappoint you but I don’t have magic; I have science.”

The first man snarled and lunged at him, screaming, “Die, apostate!”

John sidestepped and sliced off the man’s left arm. He screamed in agony until John stuck his Omni blade into the man’s side, killing him. Then he ducked under the second man’s sword as it swung at his head. He stepped forward, closing the distance between them and struck the man in the chest. The man crumpled to the ground without a sound.

John rolled his shoulders. It was almost like he had never gotten slashed or shot after Solas did his magic healing stuff on him.

The enemies in front of him dead, he turned to see how Bull was faring. The horned giant had killed two of the soldiers but was having trouble with the remaining ones. He couldn’t get past the two large shields, no matter how hard he hit.

As John watched, Bull swung his axe at one but the man blocked it with his shield while the other one shoved his shield into Bull’s exposed side, knocking him down, his axe being wrenched from his grip. John had merely seconds to act before Bull was run through. His biotics surged within him, propelling him across the battlefield and slamming into one of the soldiers that was about to strike the killing blow. Landing just as quickly, he exerted his biotics, picking up both of the men and tossing them in the air before hurling them back to the ground. The impact broke their necks.

When the threat was gone, John stumbled for a moment, the effort of using his biotics when he still wasn’t fully recovered from using them earlier making him momentarily dizzy. He shook his head to clear it off and helped Bull up who was staring slack jawed at him and what he had seen.

“How-. You just-. What-. How did you do that?” Bull asked, completely in awe of what had just transpired.

John smiled. “My biotics. Where I come from those are pretty normal.”

Bull shook his head, whistling. “Damn. Is everyone where you come from that deadly with them?”

John laughed. “Not everyone. But trust me, I’m not the best with them. There’s a race called the Asari where even the youngest of them are still ten times more efficient with their biotics than I am with mine.”

Bull whistled again, retrieving his axe. “Well it’s damn impressive. If you hadn’t been here, I’d have died.” Bull extended a hand and John shook it eagerly. “Thanks for saving my ass. I owe you one.”

John shook his head. “Nonsense. Consider us even for helping to save my life yesterday.”

Bull grunted. “Fine, but when we get to Haven, I at least owe you a drink.”

“Depends on what you have.” John said as they checked the horse.

Bull grinned wolfishly. “Golden Scythe 4:90 Black. That stuff will knock out a baby dragon.”

John coughed, nearly choking. “Hold on, you have dragons here?”

Bull laughed. “I know right? Aren’t we lucky?”

John frowned. “I think I prefer Thresher Maws to dragons.”

Bull swung his legs over the horse and John jumped up behind him. “What’s a Thresher Maw?”

“Something I never thought I’d miss.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

 

Haven was not at all what Shepard had been expecting it to be like. Instead of some large castle or fortress with towers and maybe a moat around it like he thought it would be, Haven was instead essentially a decent sized church looking building built into the side of a mountain with several smaller buildings around it. Surrounding the establishment was a simple wall made of tall wooden spikes and a ledge or two. A couple trebuchets were placed strategically on all three sides and before the town, for it was just a small town, was a wide frozen lake. The town was in valley, with mountains surrounding it and a forest on the northwest side. From a soldier's point of view, he had seen entire solar systems that would be easier to defend than this place that was ironically named Haven.

Maybe it was named Haven because it was the only spot of civilization for miles, John thought as they neared the front gates.

It had taken them a little over a week to reach Haven, traveling through forests and up snowy mountain trails. And while John froze whenever he took off his armor to sleep, Bull seemed to be fine wearing only a harness over his chest. It was a marvel he didn’t die of hypothermia from not wearing some form of a shirt. It was even more of a marvel that they didn’t come across any other Templars or bandits or the like, especially given that the Hinterlands were now notorious for bandits and ruffians according to Bull.

And despite the town not looking that impressive, John was looking forward to an actual bed, a hot meal, and a roof over his head. While it definitely wasn’t the Normandy, it would still beat sleeping out in the weather.

As they got closer, John noticed several dozen people in the same outfit training, the sound of metal hitting metal and the barking of the instructors could be heard even at a distance. Off to the right was a stable and next to that was a forge, where blacksmiths were busy hammering out armor and weapons. A number of tents were sprawled out on the left side which John assumed was where the Inquisition’s troops slept. The huge front gates of the enclosure were wide open, with several people walking in and out with supplies or papers. And overhead, the Breach seemed to be larger, making up a sizable portion of sky. Which made sense as Bull had told him that the Breach had formed over a mountain not far from the town.

As they reached the town, Bull swung off the horse followed by John. Bull handed the reins to a stablehand that had come up to them and the young man led the horse off to the stable, ensuring that the horse would be cleaned and fed.

Bull slapped John on the back and despite wearing his armor, John nearly stumbled from the force. They big guy didn’t always know his own strength, as John was unfortunately finding out the hard way.

“Welcome to Haven! It’s not much but once you get used to the cold and the huge hole in the sky shooting out demons, it’s not all that bad.”

John snickered. “So far it's not that impressive.”

“Don’t worry, it’ll grow on you. Now come on, let's introduce you to the top dogs.”

John frowned. “I was hoping to rest a little first.”

Bull laughed. “All in good time. Besides, I’m sure Leliana’s scouts have already informed her of our return. And I’d rather not keep her and the others waiting.”

John shrugged mentally. There wasn’t a good reason he could come up with to not see the leaders. He just hoped they’d be nice like Bull and the others have been so far.

Bull led the way up some stairs and through the main gate. They passed through the town and John held his head high as the townsfolk gathered to see the newcomer wearing strange armor that Bull was walking with.

If only my armor was still in top notch. Then they’d really have something to gawk at. He thought.

They rounded a corner and were suddenly at the largest building which Bull said was a Chantry, or a church for the Andrastians. Inside was simple yet elegant, with carved statues and a fancy ceiling. It was lit by torches and candlelight and had a few rooms off to the sides. Small altars were placed beside the walls, where many priests knelt, praying to the Maker and Andraste. John had seen more of these priests outside helping with the wounded or sick. So clearly, they were cut from a different cloth than the various types of priests back home.

A burly man wearing heavy armor greeted them as they entered. He had thick black hair and a bushy beard that covered half his face. At his side was a sword and on his back was a metal shield in the shape of a griffon. He spoke in a deep voice with a heavy accent. “Glad you are back,Bull. And this must be the man from another world. Shepard, right?”

Bull nodded. Good to be back, Blackwall. But wait, how’d you know about Shepard already?”

Blackwall gave a light chuckle. “The Herald sent a letter before you got here. He explained what had happened and a little of who John was. I’m not going to lie and pretend I know what any of it is about but I’m glad to have another soldier join our cause.” Blackwall said as he shook John’s hand.

Blackwall turned to Bull. “They’re waiting at the war table. A little warning; they aren’t all on the same page with Max.”

Bull snorted. “Are they ever?”

John followed Bull to the end of the hall and they entered a smaller room with a large table making up most of the space. Four people were waiting for them. Bull had briefly described the four of them before reaching Haven. One was pacing back and forth impatiently on the left side of the table. She was average height with short black cropped hair and her hazel eyes shone confidently. She had a long scar across her left cheek and a smaller one under her right eye, adding to her beautiful yet highly intimidating look. She wore dark armor with a white symbol on the chestplate. On her back was a shield and at her side was a longsword. This lady matched Bull’s description of the Seeker Cassandra.

Closest to Cassandra was a redheaded woman wearing a blue cowl. Her bright blue eyes stared at John curiously but John could sense wary hostility behind the curiosity. Although she carried no visible weapons, John would have bet a million credits that she had plenty of hidden knives or something on her. When they entered the room, she had been crouched over the table studying some papers but she stood once she saw who was at the door. This woman had to be the Leliana person Bull mentioned earlier.

At the middle of the table stood a man with styled blonde hair and light brown eyes. He had a thin scar over his lip a look in his eyes that told John that he had been through a lot. He wore armor lined with reddish fur around the neckline and he fiddled with the hilt of the sword at his side. Cullen, John guessed.

The last person in the room must be Josephine. She was tan with amber eyes and almost a mix of black and brown hair that was tied neatly in a bun. She had a small mole under the corner of her mouth and had a kind gleam in her eyes. She wore a bright yellow skirt and shirt with a necklace. Off the four, she was the only one that jumped slightly when Bull threw the door open.

“Everyone, this is Commander Shepard who’s come to help the Inquisition from another world. And no need to introduce yourselves; I already told him a little about you all.”

Four eyes were now on John. And unlike with their first meeting with Max, they all saw the same thing. They all saw a handsome man with unruly light brown hair and strikingly electric blue eyes. He had a scar from his right ear to his right eye, as if something had just grazed him but left permanent damage. Light stubble covered the lower half of his face. He wore a strange looking set of armor, damaged as it was. It shone in the candlelight and had strange patterns on it. Over the right side of its chestplate was the faded letter “N” and the number seven. Whatever the armor was made of, it looked impressive. At his side was what looked to be a thin metal box, which they assumed was the weapon Max had told them about in his letter. The man had a powerful sense of leadership about him, but they could also sense just by looking at him that this was a powerful man, on or off the battlefield. The only thing that the four of them saw differently was his personality. Cullen and Cassandra could see the warrior which was all too apparent inside him. Leliana saw the thinker in him. And Josephine saw the kindness in his eyes that was obvious to anyone.

Cullen, having finished sizing him up, crossed his arms. “Commander? Commander of what?” He asked.

Instead of having him explain, Bull answered for John. “Shepard here is the commander of a platoon back where he is from, so he’s told me.”

Cullen nodded in approval. “I’m not even going to get into the different world thing Max was telling us about. All I care about is that he can fight. I take it you know how to use a sword?”

John smiled as he let his Omni blade appear, startling the four of them. “Not really. Where I come from, most races, even humans, haven’t fought with a sword in thousands of years. Instead of swords though, we do sometimes fight with blades like this one.” He explained before retracting the blade.

Bull grinned. “And fight he can. Hell, he saved my life on our way here.”

Leliana raised an eye. “So now we are believing him when he says he came from another world? Isn’t that a little far fetched?”

Bull laughed. “Well Solas and Max seem to think he is. Besides, he came through a rift apparently and even if you disregard that, how do you explain his armor or weapons? Not even dwarves could make that shit.”

And this is just standard N7 equipment with a few personal touches. John thought with a small grin.

Leliana pursed her lips. “I still wish to do a full interrogation soon. With both Max and Solas present.”

“Of course. I don’t mind at all. I’ll comply with anything you want.” John said in a gesture of peace and goodwill.

Leliana’s mouth twitched in what he thought was a grin as she answered. “I wasn’t asking for your permission.”

Josephine, who had been quietly listening up until now along with Cassandra, sighed. “You don’t have to be rude, Leliana. Max, Solas, Sera, and Bull have all said they vouch for him. I say we give him a chance. He did kill a bunch of demons according to Max and Bull did just say the man saved his life a little while ago. Besides, if Max says we can trust him then we can trust him.” She said with a thick accent.

John nodded his thanks and she curtsied in response.

“I agree.” Cassandra said. “If the Herald wants him to join the Inquisition, then he joins.”

“Me too.” Cullen said. “If he wants to prove his worth then he can help the Herald out in the field is he so desires.”

“After I interrogate him.” Leliana added in.

John gave a salute, not entirely knowing the appropriate response. “Thank you. I’ll do whatever I can to help. Especially since even though I’m not from here, I’ll still die if that big hole in the sky keeps growing. Or so Bull has been telling me.”

Josephine smiled, taking a quick glance at Leliana and Cullen before looking at John. “You two can do your interrogations and give assignments after he gets some rest and gets accustomed to his new surroundings.”

Cullen rubbed the back of his head. “I suppose he can sleep in an extra soldier’s tent?”

“That’s fine. Any bed or cot is preferably to sleeping on the ground.” John said with a smirk.

Josephine shook her head. “Nonsense. You can sleep in my room.” Then, as her cheeks reddened, she quickly added, “I hardly use it anyway so it wouldn’t be any trouble. Plus, I’m sure you would rather sleep on a decent bed than the stuff cots the soldiers sleep on.”

John scratched his chin. “Thank you, that’s very kind of you Mrs Josephine.”

“Ms not Mrs.” Leliana said, earning a heated glare from Josephine and a curious glance from. Cassandra.

Josephine coughed. “I’ll show you to your room then, Commander Shepard.”

“Just John please. No need to use Commander here since my uh, platoon isn’t here with me.”

“Of course, John. If you will follow me?”

John followed her out of the room, leaving the others to themselves.

“Bull, can you come with me and give me a full report on his capabilities?” Cullen asked, also stepping out of the room with Bull. When they were gone, Leliana turned to Cassandra, smirking at her while the Seeker glared back.

“What?”

“Oh, I just noticed that you froze when Shepard came into the room.” Leliana teased.

Cassandra puffed out her chest, holding her head high. “So did the rest of you.”

Leliana nodded. “Yes, of course. We also remained frozen for the majority of the conversation and kept staring at him as well. We all also looked to have gotten a little jealous when Josephine offered up her room. Or was that just you?”

If looks could kill, Cassandra would have killed Leliana right then and there with the scowl she gave her.

“And how could you possibly tell that?”

Leliana laughed. “Because, Cassandra, I wasn’t Justinia’s Left Hand for nothing. Plus, it was obvious. In your defense though, he is a very handsome man.”

Cassandra’s checks reddened despite her best efforts.

Leliana winked as she left the room. “But don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone you were checking out the new guy.”

Cassandra grunted. “I wasn’t checking him out.” She said to no one.

 

“Here’s my room. Or more accurately now, your room. I can have someone make more room for you if you’d like?” Josephine said as she ushered John into a decent sized bedroom. A queen sized bed was in the corner with a nightstand beside it. A footlocker was at the end of the bed and the room even had a dresser in it or something similar at least. A small desk was a few feet from the door, covered with papers and a couple books. Candles were attached to the walls, providing light to the whole room.

“You don’t have to do that, the room is fine just as it is. I appreciate you letting me use it.” John said with a slight bow of his head.

Josephine smiled, clearing away some of the papers on the desk. “It’s no trouble. I rarely sleep in here anyway. Just give me a moment to gather up some things and then I’ll be out of your hair.”

John chuckled. “Don’t bother. Something tells me I’ll rarely use the room for anything except sleep anyway so there’s no reason you have to pack up. Besides, I don’t want to disrupt anything for you.”

Josephine blushed. “Why thank you.” She placed the papers back on the desk exactly where she had picked them up and then pulled a loose strand of hair back. “Is there anything I can do for you? Food, perhaps? We don’t have much for luxury out here but it’ll fill you up all the same.”

“Actually, it’d be nice to get a change of clothes. Do you…”

She nodded. “Of course. I'll see if I can’t find some fresh clothes for you.” She said before exiting the room.

John took his gun off of his side and inspected it as he waited for her to return. He popped open the thermal clip and sighed. He had only eight bullets left. Eight more bullets and then his gun would be worthless to him as he highly doubted that there was anyone within a thousand miles that could make more for him, let alone know what a gun is. At least with his armor, someone might be able to patch it up. But until then, he’d rather not make himself stand out too much. Otherwise, he’d be pelted by questions from everyone and that would get annoying immediately. He got pestered enough by Khalisah al-Jilani back home.

He heard footsteps and turned back around to the door just in time to see Josephine returning, carrying a set of clothes.

“I hope these suit you; I didn’t know your size but these should be fine.” She said, handing him the clothes.

He put his gun down and took hold of the clothing: a simple blue overshirt along with pants and shoes. She eyed the weapon as he placed the clothes down onto the bed.

“So you really do come from a different world, don’t you?” She asked curiously. And here she was thinking that the Breach was the weirdest thing she would see in her life.

“Yep. Though it’s not too different from this one. It doesn’t have magic or dragons but they have their similarities.”

Josephine stared in wonder. “I’d love to learn more about it sometime.”

John smiled. “I’d be happy to tell you about it. Here’s hoping I can return to it one day.”

Josephine nodded in understanding. She couldn’t even imagine what that must be like, suddenly being thrown into another world without any easy way of going home. He must feel so lost and lonely. I know I would if I was him. She thought to herself.

John coughed, bringing her out of her thoughts. He was smiling at her expectantly and holding the shirt.

She jumped. “Oh, yes! You were going to change!”

He laughed and she couldn’t help but blush, feeling more than a little stupid for just standing there while he waited. “I’ll let you be then. When you are finished, I can give you tour if you’d like? Better me than someone like Bull or Cassandra.”

He nodded his thanks. “Sure. I‘d like that. I’ll be out in a few minutes.”

She curtsied and backed out of the room, closing the door behind her.

John carefully got out of his armor and placed it beside the bed. Then got out of his Alliance clothes. They were more tattered than the armor was and there was no point in keeping them other than for sentimentality sake. He nearly folded them and set them aside.

He then put on the clothes Josephine had gotten him and was surprised at how light but warm and comfortable they were. He guessed they had to be, considering where he was.

He retrieved his gun and it attached itself to his pant legs, just like what it was designed to do. His Omni tool was still on his arm and he left it there, although it wasn’t activated at the moment.

Ready, he opened the door and stepped out. Josephine was across the hall talking to Leliana. Before he could walk over to them, Cassandra marched by. Leliana waved at her and Cassandra scowled, turning to John. “I was not checking you out!” She shouted angrily before stalking off in a huff.

Leliana burst out laughing while Josephine frowned at the exchange.

John blinked, completely confused. I wonder what that was all about?

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

 

The rest of Haven was both simple and serene. Aside from the Breach, the recruits training, the cold weather, and the tavern. The Chantry had several other rooms in it, varying from storage to offices to bedrooms and even had a jail in the basement. It didn’t appear anyone used it often. He had met the enchanter Vivienne before leaving the building. She was both beautiful and cold. And it didn’t take a genius to see that she didn’t trust John at all, which he understood. But she was still quite civilized. So much so that she reminded him of the Council.

Outside the Chantry was the main courtyard where Leliana operated as well as where the quartermaster could be found among some tents. Below the tents were some small cabins where Josephine said some of the Inquisition’s elite slept when they weren’t out and about. On the other side of the town was where the apothecary could be found, as well as the magical healers. Outside the gate was of course the stables, the forge, and the many tents where the Inquisition’s soldiers slept and trained. Strategically, John could take the town with only Wrex and Miranda. Hell, Wrex could probably take the town himself. But that being said, the Inquisition seemed more than capable of repelling an attack, even if Haven wasn’t.

Their final stop on John’s tour was of course the tavern, which was called the Singing Maiden. A name made ironic since John doubted there was any maidens inside the establishment much less ones that were sober enough to sing. Even still, he preferred a tavern over the Chantry. At least the tavern was livelier.

While everywhere else was cold and serious, the tavern was warm and filled with laughter. Plenty of people were inside playing cards, drinking, or both. Only a few of them looked up from what they were doing when Josephine and John entered the building. Probably because without his armor on, John looked just like any other human.

Josephine moved closer to John when they went in, almost like she wasn’t completely comfortable in a tavern.

“Now would you look at that!” Someone whistled at them. John turned to a dwarf that was sitting at a table. He had dirty blonde hair, tied back in a small ponytail with playful but clever eyes and a very thin beard. He was wearing a low cut coat, as if he was purposely putting his excessive chest hair on display. And propped up against his chair was an odd looking crossbow.

Sitting beside him was a woman with long blonde hair that came down to the middle of her back. She had on robes similar to those worn by mages and a staff was leaning on her side of the table. The woman had the same mischievous blue eyes that Max had. In fact, she bore a striking resemblance to the Herald, except she was frowning.

“I never thought I’d see the day!” The dwarf said as they stepped over to the table. “Lady Josephine in a tavern.” He said with a wink towards John. “And with a man! Wonders never cease.”

Josephine roller her eyes but couldn’t hide the blush that crept to her cheeks. “Oh hush, Varric. I’m simply giving the Inquisition’s newest member here a tour of Haven.”

Varric raised an eye. “You must be pretty special for a new guy, to get Ruffles out of the office.”

Josephine nodded. “Yes, he is.  This is John Shepard. You’ve read the reports, I assume?”

Varric chuckled. “I read them alright. Not sure I can believe it, but I read them. Is there cards where you come from, Shepard? Wicked Grace?”

“We have cards, of course. But I’ve never heard of Wicked Grace.”

Varric clapped his hands. “Perfect! How about we play a round or two before Josephine here returns to her office?”

John shook his head. “No thanks. Bull warned me about you and cards and I’d rather not lose the few things I have left.”

Varric laughed. “Damn it. Eh, worth a try.”

Josephine turned to the other woman. Goodness, where are my manners? John, this is Lady Evelyn Trevelyn, Max’s older sister.”

John smiled. “I figured as much. It’s a pleasure to meet you.”

Evelyn peered at him, taking a drink from her mug. John held her gaze, still smiling.

“How’d you get that ugly scar across your face?” She suddenly asked.

Without missing a beat, John said, “I tell people I got it from my time using my weapon but I actually got it fighting a horde of Klixen on Tuchanka with a group of Blood Pack soldiers breathing down my neck.” He lied.

Evelyn held his gaze for a few moments before smiling happily and laughing. “Yeah, I think you’ll fit in just fine here. Welcome to the Inquisition, Shepard. Try not to steal all the pretty women with that look of yours while you are here, okay? Leave a few for me.”

John chuckled. “Can do. I’m not here to steal anyone though; I’m here to help.”

Josephine smiled, readjusting her loose strand of hair again. “Well I’m sure you’ve stolen at least someone’s heart already.” When Evelyn glowered at her, she cleared her throat. “Anyway, if you will excuse me. I should really be getting back to my duties. I will see you later, Commander.” Josephine said with a bow before leaving.

Varric raised an eye, watching the exchange and noticing both Josephine’s blush and Evelyn’s piercing stare aimed at John, who had been completely oblivious to the whole thing.

“What did she mean by see you later?” Varric asked.

John shrugged. “I’ll probably see her later in our room.” He said bluntly.

Evelyn practically choked, nearly coughing up her drink. Which in turn, made Varric explode with laughter. “Well, shit! You sure do work fast!”

John opened and closed his mouth, realizing how that had sounded. “No, I didn’t mean it like that! I meant we are sharing her room.”

Varric continued laughing. “That doesn’t necessarily make it sound better, Commander.”

John tried to ignore the look of pure unbridled rage that Evelyn was now giving him. Although it was quite hard, as it felt like her stare was stabbing his chest.

“All I meant was that Lady Josephine offered up her room to me because I didn’t have a place to sleep. All I’m going to be doing is sleeping in the bed- which she said she never uses since she’s always in her office. So chances are, I won’t even see her when I’m in the room.”

Varric paused, suddenly getting serious. “Of course she is letting you use her room. I mean, it isn’t like she’d ever allow someone like you to sleep out in some tent with the common rabble. Don’t worry, we’re just messing with you.”

Evelyn snorted. “I’m not.”

Varric snickered. “Ah, you are just jealous Ruffles didn’t let you have her room.”

Evelyn held up her head. “Oh shut up, dwarf.” She said before getting up to go to another table.

Varric chuckled, taking a swill from his drink. “Don’t mind her. She’s as hot headed as her brother. In another hour, she’ll be back to her usual self.”

John shrugged. “I don’t even know what the fuss is about. It was just a simple act of kindness on Lady Josephine’s part.”

Varric smiled to himself. Andraste’s ass, this guy is as dense as Maxie boy is.

“Well that’s the Trevelyns for you. Those two are a strange duo.”

John nodded in agreement. “Max seems like a smart man though.”

Varric snorted. “Clearly you haven’t known him long enough.”

 

Later that night, John was sitting in his new room, fidgeting with his dog tags. Aside from his armor and pistol and his tattered Alliance clothes, his dog tags was the only other thing he had from home. Granted, this world looked like it could be an Earth-like planet that he just hadn’t been on yet. But if that was true, then why was no one aware of the Reapers or more modern?

The Reapers.

His once decent mood changed the second he thought of them and home.

In the past few days, he had been in survival mode. Too preoccupied with traveling with Bull and being on the lookout for any more demons or bandits. He hadn’t had a moment to sit down and let his mind wander until then. But now, he wished he still hadn’t. Now, a wave of emotions and thoughts ran through him.

He had no idea what had happened to everyone once he stopped the Reapers. If he had actually stopped them. If the Crucible worked or not. For all he knew, the Crucible had failed and the Reapers had won the war, making everything he had sacrificed, meaningless. What if all of his comrades and friends had perished?  What if there was no home to go back to? What if he had failed? What if-.

He choked back tears, forcing himself to not break down and cry. He needed to be strong. He needed to have faith that he’d return one day.

He shook his head, wiping his eyes.

“Looks like I came at the perfect time.” Bull said, knocking on the door John had left ajar. The Qunari held a bottle in his other hand.

John quickly stuffed his tags back under his shirt and stood up. “Sorry, didn’t see you there. I was just-.”

Bull grinned. “No need to apologize. Figured you might want a drink after the crazy week you’ve had.”

John nodded. “Have any ryncol?”

Bull laughed. “No idea what that is but I have some strong stuff that will knock you on your ass all the same.”

John grinned. “Excellent.”

Bull came in and sat down at the desk, pouring two drinks. “Don’t worry about finding a way home. Give the mages and thinkers some time to do their thing and you’ll be back home in no time.”

John smiled, taking a sip from the glass. Finding it not as dry as he thought it’d be, he took another sip. “While I’m eager to get back, my first priority is to do everything within my power to help you all fix at least some of the problems in this world. I don’t know much about the Breach and magic, but I can kill bad guys with the best of them.”

Bull laughed, his laugh bellowing and perhaps even echoing throughout the hall. “That you can. You are a force of nature on the battlefield! I almost wish I had those biotic stuff you have.”

John grinned. “Biotics are very useful, yes.”

Bull nodded enthusiastically. “Hell yeah it is! Which reminds me, next time we are ass deep in bandits and bastards, you can do that blast thing you do and knock everyone up in the air. Then I’ll knock them down with my axe and really let ‘em have it!”

John raised an eye, swilling down another glass. “I have a couple friends back home that would love that idea.”

“And who would they be?”

John laughed. “Grunt, Jack, Wrex, James, and probably Garrus as well. They’d do that idea wholeheartedly.”

Bull gave a chuckle, raising his second glass up to his lips. “I like them already. Can you tell me about them? Might help to talk about home for a little bit.” Bull being the seasoned spy, he had seen the Commander holding a necklace of some kind and wiping his eyes. Which either meant he was feeling homesick or had an odd relationship with his jewelry.

It didn’t take a Tal-Vashoth to figure out which one it was.

John smiled, thinking back fondly over many memories of his friends. It was odd. Even though it had only been at least a week since he had fallen through that rift, it felt like another lifetime. Perhaps his brain had taken in too much new information too quickly.

He sighed, taking another drink. “Maybe next time we share whatever this drink is. I did only seem a week ago but-.” He closed his mouth. He didn’t need to be venting his stress out on anyone, least of all Bull.

Bull prodded him with his glass. “You are worried about your friends.” It wasn’t a question, but a statement. A blind nug could see that the Commander was stressed out.

Shepard nodded. Seeing that there wasn’t really a way to keep things from someone like Bull, he let down his guard a smidge or two.

“The moment before I fell through the rift, or did whatever happened, was not a good one. The world was at war. My entire galaxy’s fate hinged on my choices. I chose. Yet, I have no way of knowing if I made the right choice. I don’t even know if anyone is still alive back home. The only way I can find out if I stopped the war, is to go home and that isn’t going to be possible for who knows how long. So I guess in the quiet moments, like this one, I start to doubt and worry.”

Bull nodded, soaking the info in. “Sounds to me like you think too much. You know, I think you and the Boss could learn a thing or two from each other. You need to learn not to fret about stuff that is out of your control. And the Boss needs to get serious from time to time. Which by the way, if you see Max sneaking out of any room, assume he has some kind of prank in the room and steer clear. We’ve all had to learn that the hard way.”

John laughed. “I’ll take that into consideration. Thanks for the talk, Bull. And the drinks.”

Bull nodded, knowing when someone wants to be left alone with their thoughts. He stood up, grabbing the glasses as he did.

“Anytime, Commander.” Bull said before exiting the room, closing the door behind him.

John wearily took off his overshirt and pants and climbed into the bed. The mattress was soft and light. And while it wasn’t what he was used to, there were several warm blankets to keep the cold from coming in. He wrapped himself in them and closed his eyes, quickly drifting off to sleep.

About an hour later, as he lay there sleeping, Josephine stepped into the room carrying a pile of documents . She shut the door and turned around, jumping at the sight of someone asleep in her bed before remembering that it was Shepard. She took a moment despite herself, to study the sleeping form before her.

On closer inspection, Shepard had a few tiny freckles under his eyes, barely visible if you weren’t paying attention. He even had slight dimples, at least when he slept. His well toned chest, which was clear even under blankets, rose and fell softly in his sleep. The scar on his face almost looked like it was glowing in the dim light of the candles.

She blushed, placing the papers down on her desk. He was very handsome, and definitely nicer looking than any other man she had seen. Granted, most men she had met in her life were nobles of some degree but one look at John and she knew he was different from most men. He had a kindness to him that was quite rare among people lately. She had stumbled upon a kind and forgiving soul, she knew. Of course, it helped that every time she looked at him, she felt as if she could study his features forever.

Finally prying her gaze away from him, she sat down at her desk and continued to work, albeit a lot quieter than she had in her office.

Glancing once more at the sleeping Commander, she smiled. I might have to just return to my office. Otherwise I won’t get any work done tonight.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

 

John was woken from his dreamless sleep by someone knocking on the door to the room. He groaned as he sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. He swept his legs out from under the blankets and got up out of the bed. Still half asleep, he shuffled over to the door and opened it, remembering he was only wearing his briefs only after the door was fully open.

“Commander, I have news from-. Oh, Maker!” Cassandra said as she almost barged into the room before realizing he was partially naked. She forced herself not to blush, but couldn’t help but see all the muscle that had previously been hidden from her under his clothes. He had scars all over his body, ranging from long cuts to small holes. She could tell from the way they had healed, that he had several scars he had were from broken bones. Judging from all the scars, this man was a man that had gone through the Void and back. Sort of like Max, she thought momentarily before shaking her head. She didn’t want to waste her time comparing the Commander to that childish buffoon.

She finally averted her eyes, gesturing to his body as he scrambled to cover himself. John quickly threw on some extra clothes Josephine had brought him and laughed nervously, embarrassed and feeling stupid for not thinking to put on more clothes before he opened the door.

“Sorry for that, Lady Pentagast. I was half asleep and didn’t think before I answered the door.” John said with a slight bow of apology.

Cassandra merely grunted, pretending not to care. She must be cursed with bad luck, for this to happen twice, once with Max and now with Shepard. She hoped it wouldn’t become a habit.

“The Herald has returned from the Hinterlands and thought that you might like to be present for his report. You can follow me to the advisors room or you can go back to bed; I don’t care either way.” She felt the need to add, just to make it clear to him that she didn’t care she had seen him half naked. Even though secretly, she hadn’t entirely disliked it.

He nodded. “I’ll come along then. Besides, it isn’t like I’m going to get any more shut eye after that.”

Cassandra snorted. “Fine by me.” She said before turning and walking away. John nearly trotted to catch up with her after closing the door behind him.

They headed into the meeting room to see Max, Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen already waiting. Max was still wearing his traveling attire, his stilettos still on his back. He smiled once he saw John.

“I hope Cassandra here didn’t wake you up too roughly. Her usual wake up call involves a lot of shouting and shoving.”

“Actually, all she did was knock on the door a couple of times. You don’t know rough wake up calls until you have an 800 pound krogan jump on your bed.” John said with a snicker.

Max frowned. “Wait, so she didn’t break your door down and scream at you to get up?”

Cassandra smiled almost evilly. “I save that way specifically for you.”

Max glared at her. “Gee, thanks. Don’t I feel special.”

Cullen coughed. “If we could get to why we are here…” he said impatiently.

Max swallowed. “Err, yes. About that.”

“Well? What happened with the mages at Redcliffe?” Cullen asked.

Max sighed tiredly. “Very well, aside from the weird magic stuff going on there. Grand Enchanter Fiona has allowed a Tevinter magister named Alexius to take charge of the rebel mages. They kicked out the Arl and his men. And according to Alexius’ son and his old student, he’s messing with some kind of time magic. Alexius has kindly invited me back to Redcliffe Castle so that we may bargain for the aid of the mages in peace. Which is obviously a trap.”

Leliana nodded. “Yes, he’s asked of you by name. It is most definitely a trap. One that we can’t risk losing you to.”

John pursed his lips. “What’s so bad about a magister?”

Max laughed. “I’ll explain later. But I agree with you Leliana. It’d be stupid to walk right into his trap. And it isn’t like we could force our way into the castle and take the mages that way.”

“Which is precisely why we should just go to the Templars for aid.” Cullen said. “The Templars must help us close the Breach. The order was founded to fight magic.”

Leliana crosses her arms behind her back. “We must first convince the Lord Seeker to bring the Templars out of exile.”

Cullen turned to her. “We’ve received word from a knight-recruit. They gather at Therinfall Redoubt.”

Cassandra frowned. “It has been abandoned decades. Why go there?”

John shrugged. “If I wanted to look powerful and in control, I wouldn’t move my men to an abandoned place. It seems every leader of every group aside from the Inquisition is up to something.”

Josephine tilted her head to the side. “We must approach the Lord Seeker again to get anywhere; we can ask him then.”

Max rubbed his chin, hoping the action made him look smarter. “If we present a plan to seal the Breach, the Templars may ally with us.”

“First we must prove ourselves a more attractive prospect.” Leliana interjected.

John leaned over and whispered in Cassandra’s ear, “Do you even have a plan to seal the Breach?”

Cassandra’s mouth twitched in a smile and she shrugged. “If you call sicking Max and a few of the Templars on the Breach a plan, then yes.”

John snickered. He’d come across worse plans than that before. And most of them were his.

Josephine smiled. “If it’s status the Lord Seeker seeks, the Inquisition will approach him after allying with the noblest houses in Orlais.”

“They’ll come with us to Therinfall and demand the Templars help close the Breach.” Leliana said confidently.

Cullen was less so sure. “You believe that will work?”

Cassandra stifled a laugh. “Even the Lord Seeker would find it difficult to ignore so many nobles on his doorstep.”

Leliana smirked. “Yes. Especially when led by the Herald of Andraste.”

Max coughed, trying to look confident. “Is it my good looks you need, or my winning smile?”

Cassandra rolled her eyes, grunting in disgust while John chuckled.

Leliana looked at Max, a glint in her eye. “Rumors you were saved from the Fade by Andraste have grown legion among the Templars.” She informed them.

“We’ve done our part to encourage them.” Added Josephine.

“A Herald with a few companions may be dismissed. Easily set aside.” Leliana explained. “That same Herald returning with noble support will be reconsidered, as will the power of the Inquisition.”

Max raised an eye. “So am I inspiration or bait? Cuz it sounds like I’m being used.”

John laughed. “You are in a position of authority. Get used to it.”

Cassandra glared at Max. “Perhaps you will also be able to sway the Lord Seeker from the mania that has seized him.”

Cullen snorted. “With respect, after his appearance in Val Royeaux, hang what the Lord Seeker thinks.”

Leliana shrugged. “We do not need the Lord Seeker. We need his Templars, with or without his approval. The Breach will not wait for our differences to settle.”

Cullen looked to Max. “In any case, who do you want to go with you? It’ll take some time to get word to the nobles so it’d be best to warn who is going now and give them time to prepare.”

Max nodded towards Shepard. “Want to tag along? I would love to see that uh, biotic stuff in action. Plus, something tells me you are used to being out in the field.”

Shepard grinned. “Sounds like a plan.”

Leliana couched. “Actually, he can’t.”

Max frowned at her, pouting. “Why not? He’s part of the Inquisition now isn’t he?”

“Yes, but I have yet to interrogate him and learn more about who or what he is.”

Josephine sighed. “‘Interview’ him, you mean. He isn’t some evil magister.”

Leliana blinked. “Isn’t that what I said?”

Josephine groaned. “I’ll join you in interviewing him then. Just to make sure you don’t torture him. Remember, Leliana: niceness before knives.”

Leliana growled. “Alright, fine.”

Max grinned. “Okay, but he’s coming with me next time. I’m seeing those biotics one way or another.”

John raised an eye. Then he raised his hand and focused on some papers on the table. They floated up in the air, surrounded by the usual blue energy. He balled them up and flung them at Max, who ducked under them, his eyes shining with curiosity. “Awesome!”

“There you go. You’ve seen some biotics.” John said with a smile.

“Well that can't be all you can do! Can you pick me up with them? Can you pick us all up with them? What else can you do?” Max asked excitedly.

John tapped the side of his nose. “You’ll have to wait and see.”

Max frowned. “You ass.”

John grinned before turning to look at Leliana. “Lady Leliana, if I might propose something?”

Max laughed. “Leliana is many things. But a Lady, she is not.”

Leliana rolled her eyes. “What’s your proposal?”

“How about we just do the interrogation now? That way, all of the leaders of the Inquisition can be present and I can answer any of their questions immediately.”

Cullen nodded. “I don’t see anything wrong with that. Especially since we are all already here.”

Leliana relented. “Fine. Please sit down, Shepard. And just know, if you lie, I’ll see through it.”

John sat down at what so happened to be the only chair in the room, and got comfortable; he knew how interrogations went. But he suspected this one would be a lot nicer than the one he and Thane had with Kelham. Less threats and guns.

Leliana cleared her throat before speaking. Max and Cassandra leaned against the wall to John’s left while Josephine and Cullen remained standing tall. Leliana came forward to stand in front of him.

“Let’s start with the basics. Name, place of birth, age, etc.”

“Simple enough. My name is John Shepard, or to most people, just Shepard. I’m the Commander of my uh..flying ship called the Normandy. I’m an N7, the First Human Spectre and the Hero of the Citadel, Destroyer of the Collector homeworld, and the list goes on. I was born on April 11th, 2154 on a colony called Mindoir. And I’m either twenty-nine or thirty-one, depending on who you ask. But I tend to lean more towards thirty-one. You all still with me? Or should I backtrack?” He said, taking notice of all of the confused stares.

Max giggled with laughter. “Honestly, I lost you at flying ship.”

Leliana sighed, rubbing her temple. “This is going to take a lot longer than I thought it would.”

 

The stars twinkled high above the Asari as she sifted through the rubble on the Citadel where her  friend had vanished. They had found Anderson’s body a day earlier, in some sort of inner control room in the Keeper tunnels. The Illusive man’s lifeless body was close by, with a bullet wound in his head. Suicide, apparently.

But for all the time spent searching, no one had found Commander Shepard’s body. No one even knows if he had indeed died, only that after he did whatever he did to stop the Reapers, he disappeared entirely without a trace. Billions of people all over have looked for him but with no luck. A few have given up and yet, people continue to search. They have to. They owe him at least that.

The Asari shook her head frustratedly and heaved aside a large price of rubble, fearful that this was the one that her friend’s body was under. It wasn’t.

She kept digging as she heard the footsteps of several people come up behind her. She knew they were there of course. She just ignored them and kept digging, desperate.

“Liara.”

The Asari froze. “What, Garrus?”

“Liara, please. Take a break. Eat a meal. Sleep a little. Do something else for a little bit. Something.

“Has he been found yet?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll continue to look for him.” She replied, returning to her rubble digging.

“Liara, you need to take a break. He’d understand; you need your rest.”

“No.” She growled, lifting another huge chunk of metal with her biotics. “What I ‘need’, is to find him.”

“At this rate, you’ll kill yourself looking for him. Liara.”

She ignored him, throwing the chunk of rubble a few yards away, shaking the ground slightly when it landed.

“Liara. Liara, look at me!” Garrus barked at her.

“What?” She screamed at him as she turned around, tears forming in her eyes. Which only formed faster when she saw that everyone was with Garrus.

It had taken him a couple days to find everyone and make sure they were alright, them being on all different fronts to the war. But he had done it. They were all gathered. Everyone in the group that had survived. He had gathered them all up: one, because they were family and two, because Liara desperately needed them.

Aside from himself, there was Tali, Kieran, Wrex, Grunt, Miranda, Jack, Samara, Jacob, Zaeed, Kasumi, James, Steve, Javik, Samantha, Joker, and even EDI who had somehow managed to reboot herself.

“Do you think he would like this? If you worked yourself to death trying to find where he went?” Garrus asked her.

“I don’t care.” Liara said icily.

The Turian sighed. “We all miss him, Liara. And I doubt any of us is going to stop looking for him. But we all have limits and you are pushing yours. He’d never forgive us if we let you burn yourself out.”

“Not like me. You don’t miss him the same way I do.”

“We all love him, Liara. He’s family-.”

“You didn’t love him like I do.” She cut him off. “How dare you all? How dare you come here acting like he’s already dead. He isn’t! He’s stronger than that. He wouldn’t do that! He wouldn’t leave me like this! He wouldn’t-.” Liara choked, letting the tears fall freely as she crumpled to the ground, clenching her fists.

Zaeed leaned over to Kaiden and whispered in his ear, “Were they even sleeping together?”

Kaiden shook his head slightly and whispered back while elbowing the other man in the gut. “You know how Shepard was; he was completely oblivious to everything like that. Now shut up!”

“I won’t stop searching for him. Ever.” Liara said.

Garrus stepped over to her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. “And we aren’t asking you to stop. All we are asking is that you don’t throw your life away trying to find his. We don’t want that and I’m sure as hell Shepard doesn’t want that either. But don’t worry, we will find him. If that’s the last thing this crew does together, we will find John. Wherever he is.”

Liara threw her arms around her friend, hugging him as she cried.

Garrus patted her shoulder, unsure of what to do next.

Tali walked up and gently guided Liara away towards where she could find a hot meal and a bed. All except Miranda followed, leaving Garrus with her.

Miranda eyed him curiously. “Do you really believe that?”

Garrus nodded confidently. “Just about every person that survived this war has been looking for him for weeks. Even if his body had been crushed under a building or he had escaped somewhere, someone would have found him by now. Which means one of three things happened. Maybe someone did find him and is lying about not finding him. Maybe he did in fact die and we just simply haven’t found his body yet because it’s still under debris.”

“Or?” Miranda asked.

Garrus met her eyes. “Or maybe something we can’t explain happened to him.”

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

 

“Sword up.” Blackwall barked at John as the two sparred. John had asked the Warden to teach him how to use a sword. Granted, John was still going to use his Omni blade and his biotics in a fight, but he figured there was no harm in knowing how to fight with a regular sword. It couldn’t hurt to know how to handle one, if the situation ever arose. And should that situation ever come, John wanted to be prepared.

“I said sword up!” Blackwall shouted once more.

John raised the practice sword up just as Blackwall lunged forward and hacked at it. John desperately tried to party each blow but a few got through, making a loud smack when they made contact with his skin and leaving bruises.

“Pointy bit up!” Bull called from the sidelines. He and his second in command, Krem, were watching the lesson. Each eager to see when the Commander would break and give up.

John clenched his sword tighter, determined to block all of Blackwall’s next barrage of attacks.

John watched his eyes instead of his sword, knowing that the eyes always gave away an attack before it came. Or at least, he thought they did. Blackwall, on the other hand, did no such thing.

His eyes didn’t give away his next assault, which was an overhead sweep that would have struck John’s head had he not have ducked to the side. Shepard dropped to one knee and drove his sword forward, aiming at Blackwall’s exposed chest. In the blink of an eye, Blackwall had let go of the sword in one hand and caught it in the other, the blade falling to meet and deflect John’s own blade.

Shepard’s sword clattered to the frozen ground, losing his grip from the unexpected resistance. He cursed. “Damn. I never considered that you were ambidextrous.”

A grin split Blackwall’s bearded face. “Always consider the unexpected. That way, you’ll be able to adapt when the unexpected happens.” He said as he stooped to pick up the other practice sword.

John nodded. It was good advice.

“I hope you realize that if I had been using my biotics, I could easily toss you aside like a rag doll.” Shepard said with a smile.

Bull laughed on the side. “I can attest to that. Shepard and his biotics are a thing to behold.”

Blackwall shrugged. “I’ll take your word on it, Bull. Should we continue?”

John rolled his left shoulder, which was a favorite place of Blackwall’s to hit. “I’d say I’ve had enough of a beating for one day. Don’t want to get too banged up before we head out.”

It had been decided that John would join Cassandra, Varric, and Max when they leave for Therinfall Redoubt. After his interview, Leliana had found no reason to distrust him, even though it had taken several hours to explain many things about himself and his home. He didn’t get too personal however. While he liked his new friends, he wasn’t comfortable enough with any of them to go sharing anything too personal. He had too much baggage for that.

While he was excited for the chance to get out and help, he wondered why he was going in the first place. If he had been Max, he wouldn’t have wanted him to tag along on a mission so soon after joining. Especially not one as important as this one.

“So when do you leave for Therinfall?” Blackwall asked as he put up the wooden practice swords.

“As soon as the nobility sends word that they are leaving. They’ll meet us at Therinfall, so Leliana says. All we are waiting on is for Josephine to get their letters.”

Bull smirked. “And how is our Lady Josephine doing? I hear you two now share a room?”

John didn’t notice Blackwall tense up at the mention of the shared room but Bull did and grinned to himself. He had had his suspicions but now he knew for certain that Blackwall wasn’t extra nice to Josephine just for the sake of it.

John rubbed his shoulder, trying to ease all of the soreness out of it. “I haven’t seen her in the room much. I’ve really only been using the bed in it but she’s never there when I am.”

Bull snickered. “‘Course she isn’t. She wouldn’t want to make it obvious.”

John raised an eye. “Make what obvious?”

Bull winked. Or blinked. Shepard couldn’t tell. “Oh, nothing.”

John mentally shrugged and took his leave, heading back to his room to slap some Omni gel onto his shoulder. He still had quite a lot left. Not enough to throw it on every time he got banged up, but enough to ease some of his pains.

When he reached the room, he shut the door and went over to the bed. He got down on his knees and pulled his N7 armor out from under the bed frame. He touched the N7 marking, remembering all the memories that went along with it.

Then he shoved it back under the bed where it was safe and stood. He took his shirt off, careful not to strain his shoulder muscles. He then quickly applied some Omni gel onto the shoulder. Within seconds, it felt better. Although the bruises would take a little longer to heal, the worst of the soreness was gone. Just as he was finishing up, there was a knock on the door.

“One moment!” He called out. And learning from the last time, he made sure to put his shirt back on before answering the door. Part of him missed the doors back home but he was glad that people actually knocked here. Most people on the Normandy just barged into his quarters like they owned the place so it was a nice change of pace.

Unsurprisingly, it was Josephine at the door, carrying a pile of documents. She smiled at him as he opened the door.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything?”

John shook his head. “I was just checking on a bruise I had. I can leave if you want some peace and quiet?” He offered.

“No!” She said hastily. Then coughed and changed her tone. “I mean, I don’t mind. In fact, it’d be nice to have some company while I work.”

John smiled. “Great! Then I’ll hang out here for a while, maybe see what kind of work you do.”

Josephine laughed as she came in, sitting down at her desk. “Politics isn’t as exciting as what you are used to, but it has its own thrills.”

John grinned as he sat down on the bed. “Well either way, it’s better than all the politics back home. Hell, if they were easier to deal with, the Reapers might not have had such an easy time strolling on in.”

Josephine looked up from her papers to stare at him questioningly. “You’ve mentioned those before. Reapers. Who are they?”

John snorted. “What were they, you mean. To put it as simply as I can, they were evil. They were synthetic A.I, or um...creatures made of mechanical metal with minds of their own. They were enormous, easily bigger than most mountains. And there were thousands of them. Their whole purpose was to annihilate all intelligent organic life in my world every 50,000 years. And they had been doing just that for who knows how long.”

Josephine was silent as he spoke, getting both sadder and more horrified with each sentence.

“The Reapers tore through my world’s defenses at first. For every second they were on my homeworld, thousands died. And billions upon billions more died over the course of the war with them, which only lasted a little over a year. If you can call it that. It was more of a slaughter than a war. All intelligent life would have been eradicated if every species from every planet- er, world- hadn’t fought together. I arrived here in your world seconds after I stopped them so I don’t know how many people survived.” He didn’t add that he didn’t even know if his home was still there.

Josephine simply stared at him, unblinking. Her hands were frozen over her papers and her bottom lip trembled slightly.

“Was that too much? That probably wasn’t as simple as it could have been. Are you alright? Josephine?” He said, a little worried that it had been too much for her to handle.

After what felt like hours, Josephine finally moved. With tears brimming in her eyes, she stood and walked over to him. Without hesitating, Josephine wrapped her arms around his body and hugged him so that his head was placed gently on her shoulder. John, confused as to what was happening, didn’t move.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered softly.

Shepard tried to focus on anything other than her perfume as it wafted over him, filling his nostrils with a scent he wasn’t familiar with but still rather pleasant. He could feel her warmth through their clothes and could feel her hair brush up against his neck.

“I can’t even imagine what that must be like. What it was like to live through something as awful and horrendous as that...I’m so sorry, Shepard.” She said gently, crying for both all those lost lives and crying for him and what he must have gone through.

“If you ever feel the need to talk about it, about anything, just let me know. Please, I want you to know you can come to me.” Josephine said, pulling back to look him in the eyes.

“Thank you Josephine. But I’m fine.” He lied.

She stared at him. “I think we both know that isn’t true.”

He mentally cursed. She clearly could see through his bluffs, just like Liara and Garrus were able to. At this point, he thought it might just be that he was a bad liar.

He forced a smile. “I can cope. I have to.”

“Even still...Promise me that you’ll come find me whenever you feel the need to talk about it though. Please?”

John smiled for real, grateful. “I promise.”

He doubted he ever would feel the need to talk about this kind of stuff. He wasn’t known for being good with his feelings. He never knew quite how to process them. But he was grateful for Josephine’s kindness.

Josephine stepped back and returned to her desk. “Good then. In any case, I would very much like to hear about your home sometime- if you don’t mind telling me, that is.”

John lies down on his back, stretching. “Ask away whenever you like. Just be ready for a long answer.”

“Oh, that’s fine. I have nothing but time nowadays anyway.” She said as she dipped her pen in some ink to sign a document.

John sat up, surprised. “Was that sarcasm, Lady Montilyet? I didn’t know you had it in you!” He teased.

She held her chin up high as she replied. “Of course I do. I work in politics after all.”




Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

The road to Therinfall was long and rough. John and the others rode through miles of both mountain passes and forests. John rode with Max while Varric rode with Cassandra, as both didn't know how to ride a horse. They made good time, riding for many hours before taking an hour long break so the horses could regain their strength before riding some more. Once nightfall hit, they’d make camp and rest until morning when they would repeat the cycle. John quickly discovered that Max and Varric loved to screw around and mess with Cassandra. John found it difficult not to laugh at her expense. He respected her but at the same time, thought she could do with a little levity.

Which Max and Varric definitely brought. Almost nothing was serious to them. They reminded him of Joker, except with a more colorful vocabulary.

“So this nug humping asshole reaches for a knife after I ‘politely’ told him to leave the serving girl alone. And what else can I do but stick him to the wall? So now he’s stuck to the wall and still threatening me. Finally I walked up to him and knocked him out. Then I paid the girl a nice tip and then walked out just as the Breach exploded. The second I saw that hole in sky appear, I thought to myself, ‘Aw shit, not again.’ Then Cassandra comes running up to me and practically drags me out to the frontlines and the rest is history.”

Max laughed, slapping the dwarf on the back as they sat around the campfire. “No shit! I’d pay to have seen the look on that guy’s face when you stuck him with a bolt. He must have just about pissed himself!”

Varric chuckled. “By the smell, he just about did.”

From her place on the other side of the fire, Cassandra grunted with disgust. Those two were annoying. She looked past them at Shepard who was at the edge of the camp, sitting on a fallen log with his back away from them. He appeared to be looking at something in his hand that glimmered in the light of the moon. 

Cassandra stood and walked over to him, leaving the two idiots to joke with each other. 

“Is there room for one more on that log of yours?” She asked him. He jumped, quickly putting what looked to be some type of necklace back under his shirt. 

“Sure, be my guest. Welcome to my humble log. It’s not much but it’s home.” Shepard said, sliding over to make room. 

Cassandra smiled as she sat down beside him. “So why are you over here by yourself?”

Shepard grinned slyly. “I’m not here by myself anymore, remember? The population of planet Log has increased by one.”

Cassandra snickered, something John was finding out didn’t happen often. “I meant why were you here by yourself before I came over.”

John shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I like my space.” He said with a twinkle in his eye. 

Cassandra nodded. “And what were you looking at?”

John sighed, taking out his tags. “At my old dog tags. They’re about the only thing I have left from my world that isn’t either broken or almost useless.”

Cassandra peered at the tags. Essentially they were just a simple metal beaded necklace but on closer inspection, she noticed that they had symbols and words engraved on them. She didn’t understand what most of the words were but she could make out ‘Commander John Shepard’. 

“What are dog tags? Collars?” She asked, intrigued.

John chuckled. “Not quite. They’re for soldiers. They have on them the name, rank, affiliation, etc of the soldier who owns them. Sort of like a way for others to know who you are.” Shepard tried to explain.

Cassandra nodded. She liked the idea of being able to identify soldiers just by looking at their..tags. “It seems like its an efficient way of identification. Are they important to you?”

Without hesitation, Shepard nodded. “Very. I’ve had these for years. I lost them when I di-.” He coughed, nearly letting slip that he had been dead for two years. He wasn’t certain how people would react to that news and so he didn’t want to risk it. 

“Anyway, I lost them for a time before a good friend of mine found them for me. They mean more to me than any amount of planets.” 

Cassandra frowned. “You’ve said that word before. Are you trying to say plants?”

John laughed. “No, I don’t mean plants. Planets. Do you know what those are?”

She shook her head. He wasn’t all too surprised though. It wasn’t like anyone here had a telescope or something.

“Planets are giant uh..worlds. Like this one. They’re like giant spheres made of hundreds of different elements. Some are mostly rock and water, like this one probably is. Others are just huge masses of gas that can be freezing or molten hot. There are hundreds of thousands of planets all spread throughout the universe.”

Cassandra blinked at him. “And what’s a universe?”

John scratched his head. He wished he had a big dictionary. That would make describing things a lot easier. 

He pointed up above them. “See all of that? All of those stars? All of that, well, space? All of that goes on forever. With who knows how many galaxies. Which are just clusters of different stars and planets, usually around a sun.”

Cassandra laughed. “But there’s only one sun.”

John grinned at her. As difficult it was, he was enjoying teaching her. “There’s plenty more than one. My homeworld has one. So does every other species’ homeworld.”

Cassandra shook her head in disbelief. “This is just too much. It’s incredible. How do you know all of these things?”

John smiled. “Most of this is common knowledge back home.”

“What’s common knowledge?” Max asked as he suddenly just appeared behind them. He had been watching the two converse from his spot at the fire and had noticed the two seemed rather close. So without even entirely noticing it, he had gotten up and sneaked up on them. He didn’t really know why, but something about the two talking made him jealous of Shepard. 

Cassandra huffed in annoyance. “John was just explaining some things to me about his home and about the stars. Nothing to concern yourself with, especially since you aren’t smart enough to understand what he is saying.”

Max laughed. “Not smart enough, huh? Well you are probably right. I’ve never studied the stars and constellations so John has that on me.”

“He’s also a leader. You are more like the group’s source of entertainment.” Cassandra said icily, annoyed that Max had interrupted her conversation with John. 

Max raised an eye. “What? Do you not think of me as leader material? I mean, you are right but still.”

Cassandra snorted, shaking her head. 

John shrugged. “I don’t know, I think you have potential Max. People tend to follow individuals like you.”

Max grinned, making a ‘There you go’ gesture. “See, Cassandra? The Commander here thinks I’d make a good leader.” 

“No, he said you have potential. There’s a big difference.”

“I beg to differ.”

“Ha! Don’t be absurd.”

John smiled as he got up, leaving the two to bicker. Something told him they’d be there a while.

 

John whistled once Therinfall Redoubt came into view. He hadn’t seen an authentic castle like this one in years. Hell, most castles he had seen were just pictures in history books and yet, here was one in another world. And this one was a fortress alright. There was a bridge that went over a moat and several courtyards that built upon themselves. A few watchtowers were spread out around the edges of the fortress. Light rain fell around them as they arrived. And loads of Templars were walking around meeting with all the nobles that John and the others had met down the road. 

Max led the way over the bridge until a nobleman stopped him. He let the others go on ahead as the man eagerly said, “The Herald Of Andraste!”

Max sighed. He hated it when people called him that. But he wasn’t about to stop them if it meant the Inquisition could grow in favor. 

“Lord Esmeral Abernache. Honored to participate. It is not unlike the second dispersal of the reclaimed Dales.” He said as if that meant something to Max, which it most definitely did not. As he was speaking to him, Max felt the eyes of someone else on him. He shrugged the matter aside. It was probably just another noble aiming to see the infamous Herald.

Meanwhile Abernache was becoming all business. “The Lord Seeker is willing to hear our petition about closing the Breach. A credit to our alliance with the Inquisition. Care to mark the moment? Ten Orlesian houses walk with you.”

Max snickered. “Yes, because never before has a group of loyal and paid nobles gotten together. Should I expect a knife in the back now, or later on after you all have bettered your public image by aiding the Inquisition?”

Abernache frowned. “Hmm yes, quite. Though I imagine the Inquisition will still take our help.” He gestured for Max to walk with him. They walked across the bridge and up a dirt path, towards another smaller bridge. 

“Speaking of which, I don’t suppose you’d divulge what finally got their attention? Rumor will if you won’t.” Abernache said as they walked. “The Lord Seeker won't meet us until he greets the Inquisition ‘in person’. Quite a surprise after the spat in Val Royeaux.”

Max raised an eye. “That’s probably not good news, Lord Abernache.”

Abernache grunted. “A meeting is a meeting. Get his ear, see if you can’t bend it to something advantageous. Ah, here we are! Therinfall Redoubt!” He said as they came to the main gates where the others were already waiting. 

Abernache pointed to a Templar who was waving at them on the far side of the bridge, which was filled with a crowd of both nobles and Templar recruits. “It appears they sent someone to greet you. Present well. Everyone is a little tense for my liking.” He said as he walked away heading to the Templar waiting for them.

Max turned to Cassandra, Varric, and John who had been waiting for him before they went any farther. Varric had his arms crossed while Cassandra was peering at the Templars. Shepard looked as if he was analyzing the defenses with a serious look on his face. 

Varric snorted with laughter. “It screams ‘I hate fun and kick puppies.’ Doesn’t it?”

Max pursed his lips. “The Lord Seeker changed his mind about us rather quickly. Is he known for that?”

“Attack of conscious? It’s been known to happen.” Varric snickered.

Max sighed and led the way across the small bridge of nobles and recruits to the full fledged Templar waiting next to Abernache and some other noble who announced the Templar when they got near. 

“I present Knight-Templar Ser Delrin Barris, second son of Bann Jevran Barris of Ferelden.” The presenter said before turning to Abernache. “Ser Barris, may I be so honored as to present Lord Esmeral Abernache…?” The presenter trailed off and eventually just left as Ser Barris stepped past both of them upon seeing Max and the others. He was a strong looking man with dark skin and a shaved head. Light stubble was sprinkled over his face and serious eyes shone determinedly. He wore a Knight-Templar’s armor and carried a shield on his back with a sword at his side. 

“Herald!” Barris said urgently. Max groaned. He hated it when people called him that. 

Barris gave a small bow before jumping right into why everyone was there. “I’m the one who sent word to Cullen. He said the Inquisition works to close this Breach in the Veil. I didn’t think you’d bring such lofty company along with you.”

Max and Varric both snickered. 

“Barris…Moderate holdings, your family. And the second son?” Scoffed Abernache.

Barris sighed, ignoring the comment. “This...promise of status has garnered interest from the Lord Seeker. Beyond sense. He clenched his fists. “The sky burns with magic, but he ignores all calls to action until your friends arrive.”

“I wouldn’t call them ‘friends’.” Muttered Varric. Which earned him a glare from Max. As much as he disliked nobility, he knew that the Inquisition needed them. For now.

“Cassandra, should a Seeker lead the Templars this way?” Max asked his resident Seeker.

Cassandra frowned. “In an emergency, if there’s no other recourse. But his goal should be to restore them to order.”

Barris’ jaw set grimly. “He has taken command. Permanently.”

“If he feels there is a Holy Mandate…” 

Barris nodded. “That is what the Lord Seeker claims, and our commanders parrot him.” He sighed and stepped up to Max. “The Lord Seeker’s actions make no sense. He promised to restore the Order’s honor, then marched us here to wait? Templars should know their duty, even when held from it.”

Varric snorted. “A Templar that remembers duty? I didn’t know that happened anymore.”

Barris looked Max in the eyes. “Win over the Lord Seeker, and every able bodied Knight will help the Inquisition seal the Breach.” He almost pleaded.

Max raised an eye. “Something tells me I’ll need more than luck to do that.”

Barris pursed his lips, clearly angered by what the Templars were doing, or lack thereof.

“We’ve nene asked to accept much, after that shameful display in Val Royeaux. Our truth changes on the hour.”

Abernache cleared his throat. “Don’t keep your betters waiting, Barris. There’s important work for those born to it.”

Max could tell Barris wanted to say something else but Max held up a hand. “Just take us to see the Lord Seeker.” 

Barris nodded and turned, heading into the main courtyard. Cassandra, Varric, and Abernache followed close behind. Max was going to follow as well but stopped as he noticed that Shepard was staring up at some scaffolding that was next to the ramparts. The Commander had been oddly silent since they arrived at the fortress. And during the entire conversation with Barris, the man had been frozen in place, simply staring at the wooden beams. 

“You alright there, Shepard?” Max asked him, poking him on the shoulder. Shepard blinked, shaking his head. “Oh uh, yeah. I’m fine. Just got lost in thought. You go on ahead. I’ll be right behind you.”

Max nodded and walked away. 

John turned back to the scaffolding. He rubbed his eyes but he indeed, was not seeing things. On the way over the initial first bridge they crossed as they arrived, John had seen a young man in tattered clothes among the group. He had dirty blonde hair and grey eyes and wore a large brown hat. A man who John hadn’t seen before when they met the group of nobles earlier. 

That same young man was sitting cross legged about halfway up the scaffolding. He had been watching Max the entire time during his conversation with Ser Barris. And John has been watching the man watch Max. 

As he turned back and looked up at the beams, he caught the young man’s eye. The young man stood up, pointed up above him, and then vanished in the time it took to blink. John frowned, rubbing his eyes again in case they were playing tricks on him. But no, the young man had just vanished into thin air. His eyes drifted above where the young man had sat and he flinched slightly. 

On the beam above where the man had been, perched a black raven. Except this one was easily the size of a Keogan’s head. The thing had bright green eyes that almost seemed to ooze out thin wisps of green smoke, sort of like a rift. It too, seemed to have been watching them. It gave a caw and flew off, to some of the higher ground of the fortress.

John sighed. He had seen some pretty odd stuff over the years but that boy and the raven were just plain creepy. He shook his thoughts away and hurried to catch up to the others as they walked into the meeting room.

Just as he stepped inside, a small group of other Templars stepped in on the opposite side of the room. These ones looked normal aside from the red glow around them. The leader stepped up to Max who was standing at a table. 

John caught the leader’s eye and could instantly see the madness in them. Something wasn’t right about the weird red glow too.

“You were expecting the Lord Seeker. He sent me to die for you.” The man said. 

Abernache snorted and stepped away, “He is not well. Clearly.”

The man chuckled. “This is the grand alliance the Inquisition offers?”

Max raised an eye. “Barris, I’m right in saying the Knight Captain here has seen better days?”

John slowly made his way closer to the table, already seeing how this was going to turn out as he saw the red Templars tighten their grips on their weapons. 

“The Lord Seeker had a Plan but you spoiled it by coming too quickly. I didn’t have time to finish preparing.” The man raved.

Barris frowned, confused. “Knight Captain Denam, I must know what is going on!”

The Knight Captain growled. “You were all supposed to be changed! Now we must purge the questioning knights!” He snarled, grabbing his sword and swinging his shield out in front of him. The other Templars brought their own weapons out and charged Max and the others. 

“The Elder One is coming!” The captain yelled. “No one will leave Therinfall who is not stained red!” Max jumped back as the Templars rushed them. There was no time to get his daggers out in order to defend himself. He watched as the captain’s sword came swinging towards him.

And then all of the Templars were suddenly floating in the air, held there by some blueish force field. Max turned around and saw the same blue coming from John’s hands. 

John closed his fists and flicked his wrists to the side, throwing the Templars against the walls like rag dolls. Most of them died on impact, the crushing biotics being too much for them. But the Knight Captain survived; he was just knocked unconscious. The act had been done with barely any effort from John’s part. 

Max and the others stared in awe at John. One of his Omni blades came out while his other hand continued to glow with his biotics. 

Varric whistled. “Who votes we have Spaceman here lead with that next time?”

And four hands went up in agreement.

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT 

 

They fought their way up to the top of the fortress, killing any red Templars that they say and helping any normal Templars when they could. The group rushed up a long set of steps leading to two large red doors. A man was waiting for them, with his back turned. He had dark hair tied in a ponytail and he wore armor similar to Cassandra’s. He could only be the Lord Seeker that everyone had been talking about, John reasoned. 

As they reached the top, the man didn’t move even as Cassandra and John slowly went to the sides of him while Varric and Barris stayed back. Max cautiously stepped up to the man. 

The man, with almost inhuman speed, twisted around and grabbed at Max. Max grabbed his arms and shoved him towards the door behind him. John saw the man smile and say something and before he could do anything, there was a blindingly white flash as Max pushed the man against the door. 

The flash blinded John momentarily but he recovered quickly. He thought he saw that young man as the light went back to normal but his mind had to be playing tricks on him. He blinked and then blinked once more in shock. The red door had broken, falling apart as some thing crashed through it. The creature had just replaced the Lord Seeker in a second, as if it had been there the entire time. 

The creature was almost human looking, except with two long skinny legs and four  arms and a long lean body that was as pale as a ghost. It’s skin was wrinkled like it had been outside way too long. It was easily twice the height of a normal person though. And if that wasn’t a hint that it wasn’t human, it’s head looked like a big finger almost. A salivating mouth made up most of its face and it had no nose. Instead, two large pulpy eyes made up the rest of its face. It looked like it had come straight from a nightmare. Or like if a Banshee had a baby with a really big worm. 

It fell on its back but got up quickly, it’s head flexing under its body unnaturally. With a screech, it burst into some kind of smoke and floated away, behind some force field at the end of the hall. Which was thankfully, filled with normal Templars. 

Barris led the way into the hall after the creature. “The Lord Seeker!” He shouted.

Max stepped up beside him, scratching the back of his head. He looked mentally strained, as if he had just seen things far worse than the creature. 

“No, an imposter.” Max said. 

Barris groaned. “That monster ensured we weren’t prepared. I still don’t know what we are up against.”

Max looked around, clearly searching for someone. “Did anyone see a young man appear beside me? Or was that just me?”

Barris frowned. “What young man?”

“Cole. He was pale. Strangely dressed. Seriously? No one else saw him?” 

John blinked. “Wait, you can see him too? I saw him watching us earlier on the scaffolding but I thought I was just imagining things. You saw him just now?”

Max breathed a sigh of relief. “Oh thank the Maker, for a second there I thought I was imagining things.”

Barris raised an eye. “I saw no one. The Lord Seeker was alone when you revealed his true nature.”

“That was no man. That was an Envy demon. Apparently I caught it’s fancy.” Snorted Max.

Cassandra gasped. “Envy! Then the Lord Seeker…”

Barris sighed, bowing his head in a moment of silence. “Is caged or dead. Maker.” Then something dawned on the Templar. “It used the red lyrium to corrupt the Order, didn’t it? I knew that miserable stuff was risky! They often give us new kinds of lyrium. Our Commanders...some used the red stuff first, to prove it was harmless. The Knights would have been next. That demon turned our leader so we couldn’t question when this started!”

Max snickered. “I can tell you firsthand, it’s a clever liar. Bring your best to stop it.”

Barris thought for a second. “Our best…” He turned to the Templars. “Templars! What is Envy?” He asked.

“A coward, brother!” Someone answered. “It studies, makes less mistakes. But most of all, it hides.”

Barris nodded, satisfied with the answer. He turned back to Max. “We need our veterans. Our Commanders have turned, but the lieutenants may still be fighting. We’ll hold the hall, Herald. You find the lieutenants and the uncorrupted stores of lyrium. Bring them here, and I’ll give you Envy.” 

Max nodded, always glad to have someone else come up with the plan. “Sounds good to me.”

“And Herald? Show those things no mercy.” Barris said to them as they headed towards one of the side doors, leading out from the main hall. 

Max stopped at the door and nodded at John. “After you, Commander.”

John grinned and pushed open the door, stepping through it into another hallway. It was almost a relief to lead a squad again after what felt like ages. It was an odd combination; part of him was tired of fighting yet the other part of him was always itching for a good firefight. 

Checking for danger and finding none, he opened the door the rest of the way, letting the others into the hallway. He quickly but quietly jogged to the end of the hall and peered around the corner into a courtyard of types. He could see several of the red Templars and lyrium distorted ones walking around, patrolling. He ducked back behind the corner and turned to the others, taking charge, something Max was more than happy to allow even though he was the ‘Herald.’

“Alright. I count ten hostiles in the courtyard around the corner. Six of them are patrolling on the ground, four on the left side and two on the right. Two are up on a barricade of some kind carrying bows. Two others are guarding their backs. Err, yes?” John said as Varric raised his hand. 

“Hostiles?” 

John sighed. “Do you not have the hostiles in this world? It means bad guys.”

Varric smirked. “Oh no, we have the word hostiles here. We just don’t use it the way you did.”

John shook his head but he was smiling. “Alright, there’s ten bad guys around the corner. Is that better?”

“Perfect, thank you.”

“Anyway, here’s the plan: Me and Max will take the four on the left and Cassandra, you take the two on the right. Varric, while we are charging out, give us some cover fire and take care of the two archers up top. Then if the other two come at us, try and take them out as well. Any other questions?”

Max raised his hand but John turned around on purpose and his right Omni blade hissed out. Without a sound, he ran around the corner and feeling the usual tingly sensation he felt when using his biotics, charged at the four red Templars on the left. As he flew towards them, he wished he still had his shotgun. If he had, he could have killed them all in a matter of seconds right after he reached them. Unfortunately, he didn’t have his trusty gun and so when he slammed into them, he merely threw them off their feet. He had to quickly jab two of them in their chests and then block one of their swords with his blade as the remaining one lunged at him with claws extended. His blade sliced through the sword and he slashed the red Templar’s throat before jumping back, dodging the horror as it clawed at him. His biotics flared up and he picked the thing up and more or less threw him over the walls of the courtyard. Then he turned his attention to the archers and noticed that Varric still hadn’t taken them out so he threw up a singularity, suspending them up in the air. 

Seeing that the two soldiers on the right were still there, John charged over, knocking one against a wall and slicing the arm off of the other before stabbing it in the gut. He turned back to the one he had knocked into the wall but he was slumped, his head having hit the stone wall a little too hard. John shrugged. One less hostile to deal worry about. 

Finally he turned to the remaining two soldiers that had been guarding the archers. They were running at him, their swords glinting in the sunlight that creeped behind the rain. Without thinking, John ran at them as well, bringing out his second Omni blade as he did so. Meeting them halfway, he slide by them, slicing their legs. Not enough to cut them off but enough to cause a lot of pain. They snarled as they fell and John leaped back to his feet and quickly stabbed both of them before they could recover. 

The whole fight had lasted maybe a minute in a half. 

He retracted his blades and looked back at the others who were all staring at him slack jawed from where they stood, just a few feet from the hallway. 

John frowned. “Thanks for the help you guys.” He growled at them. He had done all the work while they had just watched, apparently.

Varric recovered from the initial shock and amazement first as he looked up at Cassandra and chuckled. “Seeker, are you blushing ?”

Cassandra blinked, snapping herself out of it and looking away with a huff. “Of course not.” She said, while still blushing.

Max swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. “Andraste’s flaming ass, John! That was- that...that was just...Holy shit, that was insane!”

John then got a little embarrassed, unused to such praise. Most people back home just sort of expected him to fight like that or had seen him fight enough so that they were used to it. It had been awhile since anyone was that impressed by him. Aside from maybe Tali and James who were still always impressed whenever he fought. 

“Well, why didn’t any of you help?” He asked.

Varric snorted with laughter. “‘Cuz we were too busy being shocked by how quick and easy you made that look.”

Max shook his head, beyond impressed by Shepard’s obvious skills. “To be honest, by the time we all rounded the corner, you had killed half of them so I think we all just unconsciously assumed you’d be fine without our help.”

John waved it aside. “Just promise me next time to not let me do all the work.”

Max snickered. “No promises.”

The hostiles taken care of, they were free to look around. They soon found a door leading to a side room. Max, Varric, and John stepped inside while Cassandra stood watch. 

In the middle of the room was a stone bust of a woman wearing a crown on top of a desk. Scattered all around the floor was pieces of paper, as if someone had tried to get rid of them by simply tossing them off the desk. A knife was sticking a note onto the bust, right between the woman’s eyes. 

When they got closer, the young man John had seen earlier, the one Max said was named Cole, appeared behind the bust. 

“The Elder One wants her dead.” Cole said.

The information meant nothing to John as he had no clue who either the woman was or who the Elder One was. Though judging by the crown on the woman’s head, she must be some kind of noble. Luckily, Cole went on to explain, although rather cryptically. 

“Empress Celene. He hates her, haunts her, wants her dead, but hides why. He hid other things, too.”

John’s and Max’s attention was drawn to Varric who ripped the note off of the bust and reading it quickly. When they looked back, Cole was gone again. 

Varric whistled in surprise. “So, a plot against the Empress. These guys don’t think small, do they? And who is this Elder One fella?”

Max shrugged. “No idea. But I wonder why this ‘Elder One’ wants her dead.”

“That can wait until later. Right now, we should focus on finding those lieutenants and that normal lyrium.” John said, back in business mode.

Cassandra grunted from her place by the door. “Humph. I’m glad you are in charge.”

Max coughed. “Excuse me? What am I then?”

Cassandra grinned evilly at him. “The Inquisition’s source of entertainment.”

Max frowned. “You know Cassandra, that hurts.”

Cassandra smiled as they moved on. “That was the point.”

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE 

 

After they recovered the normal lyrium stores and rescued three of the lieutenants from horrors and red Templars, they regrouped with the rest of the normal Templars holding the main hall with Ser Barris. When everyone was gathered and ready, the Templars joined Barris in the middle and drank some of the blue lyrium vials. Meanwhile, John and Varric took one side of the barriers while Cassandra and Max took the other as hostiles would no doubt rush to defend Envy. 

Energy flowed out of the Templars and erupted the barrier. As the barrier exploded, Barris snarled, “The beast! End it!”

The Templars fell to their knees, apparently dispelling a barrier like that took a lot out of them. 

John snorted to himself. A few shotgun blasts and maybe a warp or two would have taken care of that barrier easily but he figured he’d do things this world’s way.

“Here they come!” Max shouted a warning as red Templars and horrors alike rushed through the hall. Thankfully there weren’t many of them and they were easily taken care of. 

Now it was Max’s turn to take the lead as the four of them moved out onto a large balcony of some sorts. The Breach could clearly be seen far away in the sky, but it was also clearly spreading. As they walked out, they heard Envy’s laugh, taunting them despite being cornered. 

Max stepped out onto the grassy balcony, looking around for the demon as it spoke. “I touched so much of you. But you are selfish with your glory. Now I’m no one.” It hissed as it appeared out of the ground in front of him. It easily stood twice as tall as him and yet Max stared it down. Briefly though, John could see that Max was shaking, almost quivering. Then Max got ahold of himself and the shaking left. It only lasted a second or two but John had seen it. 

Huh. I’ll have to ask him about that later.

Suddenly Cole was beside them, staring angrily at the demon. “Dark and desperate, death to make yourself alive. I used to be like you. I’m not anymore. You shouldn’t be, either.”

The demon screamed in rage and attacked. Max ducked under its claws and jammed his dagger into it’s side. The wound seemed to only piss it off as it grabbed at Max and tossed his aside before moving on to Cassandra. She blocked with her shield and shoved back when it suddenly dropped, sweeping her legs out from under her and leaving her exposed. Before it could hurt her though, Varric shot two bolts into its chest, drawing it’s attention away from the Seeker. Instantly, he regretted his decision as Cassandra cursed at him that she had been fine without his help, and as the demon set its ‘sight’ on him. 

“Shit!” He yelled as the damn thing fell through the ground and rose back up under his feet. It grabbed him and forced him down. It raised an arm to slash his throat when Cole simply appeared over the dwarf and stabbed two daggers into the demon’s chest. It screeched in anger and reached for Cole but he was no longer there. 

Seeing his opportunity, John rushed into the fight. He barreled into the demon and was surprised at how stocky the thing actually was as it barely moved a foot when John crashed into it. Instead, John was the one to momentarily lose his balance. Immediately, the demon slashed at him, and if his shields hadn’t still been in place, he would have had a nice long new scar. The force of the blow still hurt like hell through. 

John grimaced from the blow and then grinned at the demon, that had expected him to fall after it’s attack. “My turn.”

John’s Omni blade came out as he thrust forward, the searing blade easily slicing off one of the demon’s smaller arms, clean at the base. 

The demon screamed in pain and sank back into the ground. 

As they regrouped, they heard it talking, imitating Max’s voice for some reason. “What could you gain from being me?” 

“Everything!” It shouted as it came back, lunging at Cassandra and Max. 

Cassandra blocked its initial attack while Max darted around her, striking at it on its weak side. He was quick enough to cut off its other small arm before jumping back as it slashed at him with its larger arm. As they did that, Varric shot it when he could while John began to circle the demon, looking for another opening. 

Cassandra managed to swipe at one of its legs, causing it to limp slightly. The thing was nearing its end. 

Cassandra bashed forward, knocking it to the ground with all her strength. Max pounced instantly, stabbing at any skin he saw, puncturing it until it was full of stab wounds. John used his biotics to keep it down as Max quickly backed at the demon’s neck until half of it was detached from its body. Cassandra stepped over and with one great sweep of her sword, cleaved it’s head off. With one last hiss, Envy dissolved into dust and even that was washed away by the light rain. 

Max grunted as he got up. He dusted himself off and looked over at Shepard. “So why didn’t you take care of this one by yourself? I imagine you probably could.”

John grinned as he replied. “I thought it was only fair to let you guys have this one since I did most of the work getting us here.”

Max went to open his mouth and then paused. As much as he hated to admit it, John had been a huge help. Without him, they still could have stopped Envy, it just would have taken a little longer. 

Varric chuckled. “So did anyone else see the demon shove me down and then just leave me alone? Or was that just me?”

John blinked. For some reason, only he and Max were able to see Cole, or whatever he was. Before he could think more about it, Max started to walk back to where the Templars were walking out of the fortress. Apparently they were all feeling better after not helping in the fight against Envy.

John and the others joined Max with the Templars. Barris stepped to them, obviously impressed by what they had done. “The demon is dead. Andraste be praised, she shielded you from its touch.”

“Funny, I didn’t see anyone named Andraste helping out during that skirmish.” Muttered John.

Barris looked back at the Templars gathered. “We’ve numbers across Thedas, but we let this happen. Our officers either failed to see it or were complicit.” He turned back to Max. “The Templars are ready to hear what the Inquisition needs of us.”

Max raised an eye. He looked behind him at the Breach and then back at the Templars. “If that thing hanging over our heads doesn’t terrify you, you are braver souls than I. Help us close the Breach. Fast. Preferably before it kills everyone.”

Barris nodded. “You speak truths we never should have ignored. But the Order is leaderless, gutted by betrayal. We must rebuild it.”

Max sighed, bringing his palm to his head. “Ahh, Evelyn is going to kill me for this but...Rebuild as our allies. Uh, your Order is a symbol that holds the people’s respect. That cannot die today.”

Cassandra nodded in approval while Varric shrugged. John for the most part, agreed. The Templars would be a good help. As long as they didn’t get into any fights with the mages the Inquisition has under its belt. He had seen what the two groups do to each other on his way to Haven and he had no desire to see that again. 

Max continued. “We offer you an alliance! Supplies, weapons, grounds to shelter you. All we ask in return is you help us close the Breach.”

Shepard grunted. Max, surprisingly took to leadership quite well. 

Barris turned to the Templars. “Do we take the Inquisition’s terms, brothers and sisters?” He asked them.

The Templars pounded their chest in typical soldier bravado and many nodded. Which was the end of it.

“The Templars will come. I hope your stronghold is ready.” Barris said while shaking Max’s hand. Max shook back and out of the corner of his eye, saw Cole sneak away and gave a snicker. “Oh don’t worry. I think we’re expecting company.”

 

After the events of Therinfall, the group returned to Haven. The return was largely uneventful, much to the disappointment of Varric who felt that ‘enough shit hadn’t happened’. As they traveled back, John had asked Max about the demon. It seemed odd that the demon gave off the impression that it knew Max and the thing about it touching Max so much was curious. It was especially odd since their interaction with Envy had been so short.

Yet Max’s explanation was less to be desired. And all it did was pose more questions for John. 

“Well I guess the easiest way to explain it is um...Okay, so that bright light you all saw when I pushed the ‘Lord Seeker’ against the door was actually Envy..pausing time or something? It trapped me in my mind so everything around me in the real world was going really slowly while Envy had me trapped in my head, trying to learn everything about me so that it could become me. But apparently the more I ‘moved’ around in my head, the more things Envy had to make and that tired it out enough so that I could kick it out of my mind. But when I did, it lost its former shape which was the Lord Seeker and the form we killed was its original look.”

All John got from that was that magic and demons were confusing. Although bits and pieces of that experience reminded him of syncing up with the Garth consensus. Except in this instance, Max was the consensus and the demon was like John. As confusing it was for John, it had to be twice as confusing for Max to have lived it.

When John attempted to pry more out of Max, he grew quiet, a clear indication he had no desire to say more on the subject. And John was happy to drop it. He of all people knew what it was like to have things you couldn’t talk about. 

When they arrived back at Haven, they immediately headed over to the war room to give their report. Well, Max and Cassandra did. As John and Varric weren’t part of the leadership, they didn’t have to attend the meeting. Which John was glad of. He’d had enough meetings with leaders to last a lifetime. Two, in his case.

Max on the other hand, was not used to these meetings and thus, was not a big fan of being dragged, quite literally, to one by Cassandra. But once that iron grip locked around your wrist, you went wherever Cassandra went.

He definitely didn’t like meetings where everyone was at least just a little bit pissed off at you, evidence by how rough Cassandra had been and by how mad she sounded.

“Officers betraying their soldiers, Templars without leaders, a demon imitating the Lord Seeker…” she snarled.

“Which the officers knew about.” Max added.

 “We should have taken them to task. The crimes they've committed…” Cassandra finished.

Cullen glared at her. “Were committed by their officers. The soldiers of the Order will serve.”

Leliana looked across the table at Max, who almost looked away. She was terrifying when she was mad.

“These charges put them at our mercy. Yet the terms of this alliance do not benefit the Inquisition as they should.” Leliana said pointedly. “You should have consulted us, Herald.”

Max snorted. “That would have taken a while. I could hardly make the Templars wait around for a raven to fly letters back here. We’d have been there at least another few days if I had. Besides, it doesn’t matter. We need to prepare for them. I have uh, contacts in the lyrium trade. Regular lyrium that doesn’t make the user completely insane.”

Josephine nodded. “If you’d be so kind as to put me in touch with them, I’ll secure funding. How many Templars are expected?”

“A few dozen veterans ahead of the rest, to help seal the Breach.” Leliana answered. 

“How soon until these veterans arrive?” Max asked. 

He jumped back when a cloud of smoke suddenly exploded over the table. In its place, crouched Cole, who had helped him escape Envy. He was toying with some kind of trinket.

As he appeared, he peered closely at it and said, “They’re almost here. Templars don’t like to be late.”

“Maker!” Cullen said in surprise as both he and Cassandra drew their swords and pointed them at Cole.

“Wait!” Shouted Max, as he stepped in between them and Cole who simply looked up at them. 

“I came with you to help. I would have told you before, but you were busy.” Cole said, blinking from under his hat.

“That’s fine, Cole. You just startled us, appearing out of thin air.” Max said calmly. 

Cole blinked again. “I wasn’t air. I was here. You didn’t see me. Most people don’t until I let them.”

“Call the guards. This creature is not what you-.” Cassandra started to say as Coke jumped down from the table, almost like a cat. 

Leliana cleared her throat. “A moment, Cassandra. I would like to hear why he came.”

Cole looked at Max. “You help people. You made them safe when they would have died. I want to do that. I can help.”

Max turned to Cassandra. “Cole saved my life in Therinfall. I couldn’t have defeated Envy without him.”

Cassandra still looked uneasy. “But what does he want now ?”

“I think he really is trying to help.” Max stated, vouching for Cole who beamed happily. 

“I won’t be in the way.” Cold promised. “Tiny, no trouble, no notice taken unless you want them to.”

“You’re not honestly suggesting we give him run of the camp?” Scoffed Cullen.

Josephine shrugged. “Not freely, perhaps but it seems a waste to- hold on?” She said as Cole seemed to have vanished again. “Where did he do?”

Max grinned. “It’s a good trick. You get used to it.”

Leliana smiled. “He must teach my agents it sometime. Don’t worry. I’ll have people watch the boy, but let’s not be distracted from the Breach.”

Cullen nodded in agreement. “We’ll need your help when the Templar veterans arrive. Take some time to prepare while you can.”

Max chuckled. “You mean, ‘take some time to get some sleep and relax before it all goes to shit.’”

Cullen laughed. “Pretty much, yeah.”

Max smirked as he opened the door. “Don’t have to tell me twice.” 

He stepped out of the room and passed by John as he was heading into his room. “Commander.” Max said with a nod and a chuckle. 

John nodded back and went into his room to take his armor off. When it was off and he had cleaned up a little bit, he stepped back out into the main hall. He watched as Josephine was talking to a dwarf. Every time he saw a dwarf, he was just reminded of volus’. Except with a lot more body hair.

He made his way over to them and stepped up just as they were finishing their conversation. 

“I'll take my leave. Good day.” The dwarf said with a bow before walking off. 

John eyed Josephine. “Who was she, Ambassador?”

Josephine smiled at him. She had missed Shepard’s company. “A merchant. I thought we should reach out to the dwarves to secure lyrium for the Inquisition’s Templars. According to Lady Korpin, it’s raised the ire of the Chantry.”

John frowned. “How?”

“Access to lyrium makes us rather more formidable than they anticipated. We are becoming a challenge. Sadly, the remaining grand clerics appear to be consolidating the Chantry’s power instead of comforting the masses.”

John’s frown deepened. “From what I’ve heard of the Chantry, it’s basically a church. If so, then the Chantry should be a place of hope, not another group scrambling for answers.”

Josephine nodded. “That must be it’s strength again. The Chant did much to bridge nations.” She said as she stepped into her office, followed by John. “Little but the Chantry ties Orlais, Nevarra, Ferelden, Antiva, and even Rivain to a common cause.”

John sat down on a bench, leaning on his arms. “Has the Chantry truly promotes such peace?” He asked.

“Andraste’s Chant is familiar across kingdoms, a source of many shared customs.” Josephine explained. “ That is the crucial point. Common ground is the start of all negotiations.”

John snickered. “So if everyone listens to the Chant and prays and sings, things will go as smooth as silk?” He teased.

Josephine rolled her eyes, noticing his teasing for the harmless thing it was. “I did say commonality is merely a beginning, but it’s an important one. We must learn to think beyond our own wants to secure peace in Thedas.”

John was taken aback. He didn’t think he’d ever meet a politician that wasn’t dirty and thinking about only themselves or their own country. In his own experiences, politicians were about as trustworthy as a Blood Pack leader. But he was both surprised and intrigued by Josephine as she was the first politician he had met that actually cared about people as a whole, instead of one nationality or another. He got the sense that she genuinely wanted peace and that alone, was worthy of his respect.

He grinned up at her. “How did someone so lovely and selfless go into politics, Lady Montilyet?”

Josephine couldn’t help but jump slightly at the compliment. She felt her cheeks burn as she blushed almost immediately. The Commander had just called her lovely . She mentally slapped herself in order to calm down and regain some amount of composure but it didn’t work. 

“Well. That is- Really, you give me too much credit.” She said as she unconsciously adjusted the strand of hair that always hung loosely over her eyes. 

“Or not enough.” Snickered John, truly impresses by her. Hell, if Udina had been even an ounce more like her, he might not have shot the man.

Really blushing now, Josephine covered her cheeks and abruptly left the room so that she wouldn’t embarrass herself anymore in front of the strapping Commander.

John looked after her, confused. First Cassandra and now Josephine. Seriously, what is it about women quickly walking away from me like that?