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Heretic Child

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Ears ringing, pain coursing through her veins, but at least it wasn’t hot. The sand, where was the sand? It was supposed to be hot. The smell of wet stone filled her nostrils and she became acutely aware of the discomfort of kneeling on it, but it was nothing compared to the pulse of agony that forced her eyes open. After her eyes adjusted, she realized she was in a dungeon, her hands shackled, with four guards standing around her, swords drawn and pointed at her.

Well, at least Cassidy wasn’t in Afghanistan anymore.

Shit, Afghanistan. Quickly, she looked down, leaning back. What the fuck was she wearing? This hideous green thing was not her combat uniform, but it wasn’t bloody either, and her gut wasn’t full of shrapnel. She was in no immediate threat of death, then, but where was she? She looked up as the door to the dungeon swung open and a woman stormed in. There was something familiar about the cropped black hair, same style as Cassidy’s own strawberry blond locks, except Cassidy didn’t favour the braid.

Wait a second, she had seen this before. Her little brother had played a video game that looked like this. What was it called? Dragon something? The Spanish Inquisition? She had only stuck around to watch the first scene. This woman, her name was Cassandra. Was Cassidy dreaming? What was going on?

“Tell me why I shouldn’t kill you now.” Cassandra snarled, clearly displeased. Well, Cassidy was in no mood to play nice, but she would play along. If she was dreaming, she wasn’t too intent on making it a bad one. She opened her mouth to speak, but let out a cry of pain as whatever was causing the pain in her hand flared up. “Fuck!” She grunted, “What the hell is going on? What is this?”

Clearly, Cassandra did not like this response. Cassidy could barely understand what was being yelled in her face, her ears ringing. “Look,” she mumbled, “I’m telling you, I’ve got no fucking clue what’s going on. You’re not even supposed to be real, okay? I’ve got to be dreaming.” “You’re lying!” Cassandra lunged for her, but a second woman in a hood stopped her. “We need her, Cassandra!” Cassandra turned her back and sighed. “Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take her to the rift.”

Oh boy. That’s right, she was in the position of the main character of this video game. This was gonna be one hell of a dream.

This was about the point where Cassidy had kissed her brother’s head goodbye and left, so after this, she didn’t know what happened. She hoped it wouldn’t be one of those weird dreams where peoples’ knees turned backwards and spiders crawled out of their teeth. She shivered at the thought. Cassandra pulled her to her feet and replaced the shackles around her wrists with rope, then led her out into the cold.

Odd, she didn’t usually feel temperature in her dreams, but she certainly felt this.

Cassidy stared up at the massive swirling glowing hole in the sky. It was unlike anything she had ever seen. “What is that?” She asked, astounded. “The Breach,” Cassandra answered. “The explosion at the Conclave triggered it.” “The Conclave?” Cassidy raised an eyebrow in question. “The war between the mages and Templars is out of hand. This Conclave was a meeting between them, in hopes of peace.” Cassidy nodded, “well, clearly that didn’t work.” Cassandra gave her a look of pure disgust. “So mages, that’s pretty self-explanatory,” Cassidy didn’t pay her look any mind, “but what are Templars?” Cassandra seemed surprised. “You don’t know?”

Cassidy didn’t get the chance to answer. A pulse raced out from the Breach, and her mark reacted, sending pain through her body in waves. She cried out and collapsed to the ground, cradling her hand to her chest. “Fuck! Pepper spray has nothing on this,” she growled, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. Cassandra knelt beside her. “With each pulse, the Breach grows, your mark spreads, and it is killing you.” Cassidy almost rolled her eyes. “Fantastic.” She let out a sigh. “Is there anything I can do to stop it? I don’t know shit about magic, but that definitely doesn’t look like a good thing,” she gestured towards the Breach. Cassandra, looking slightly pleased, nodded. “Perhaps there is. An apostate, Solas, believes that your mark might be able to close the Breach. Come, I will take you there.” She untied Cassidy’s hands.

They walked through the little village, and the people there were clearly not pleased to see Cassidy. Cassandra commented, “they have decided your guilt. They need it. They mourn the loss of our Divine, the Most Holy Divine Justinia. The Conclave was hers.” Cassidy kept her gaze focused forward. “Divine, so that’s like your Pope then?” Cassandra blinked, “what is a Pope?” Cassidy sighed, “alright, so I’m just gonna say it, I’m not from this world. All of this,” she gestured around, “is foreign to me. You’re gonna have to explain things pretty in depth if you want me to understand. As for what happened with this mark on my hand, I don’t remember a thing. The first thing I know of being here is waking up in that dungeon.”

Cassandra nodded slowly, but she seemed to believe Cassidy. “Alright. I will explain along the way. The first thing you must know is that after the explosion, you stepped out of a rift from the Fade. The Fade is the world of spirits and dreams, and the source of magic.” As they jogged through the valley, Cassandra explained about the Chantry, what a Templar was, how mages worked, and who she was, a former Seeker and hand of the Divine.

Their conversation was interrupted by something flying out of the rift and landing not too far from them. A dark, twisted thing crawled from the crater in the ice. “Demons!” Cassandra shouted. “Stay back!” She drew her sword and went after it.

The ice in front of Cassidy began to bubble. She looked around for something, anything, to hit it with, and spotted a sword and shield lying next to a broken cart. She dove for them, strapping the shield to her arm. The sword was a bit awkward in her hand. She wished she had a gun. Still, it would have to do. The demon came crawling after her. She brought the sword down like a baseball bat, not really bothering to try and hit it with the sharp sides, and kept beating it until it died.

“Drop your weapon!” Cassandra snarled, her sword now pointed towards Cassidy. Cassidy rolled her eyes, was she serious? “Alright, alright, but do a better job of keeping the demons away. I’m not too intent on being eaten, or whatever it is they do.” She held out her sword, but Cassandra sighed and shook her head. “No, keep it. You are right. I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless.” Cassidy, relieved, held onto the sword.

They made their way through the valley, fighting various demons; Cassidy was rather clumsy with the sword and shield. Her combat training had never involved them. It was marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat. This whole medieval sword thing was difficult. The shield was helpful, especially when the demons were twice her height and bashing down on her.

“Is there fighting up ahead?” Cassidy asked, hearing the sounds of a scuffle. “Yes,” Cassandra broke into a run. “We must help them!” Cassidy was growing tired of the awkward mercenary garb she was dressed in, and the boots were horrible! She missed her combat boots. Still, she soldiered on, running after Cassandra, leaping into the fray.

Seeing a rift up close was a startling experience. It was green mass of sheets of light folding in on itself with demons crawling out of it, some of them being dragged out of it, and her hand seemed to pull her towards it; she didn’t like it one bit. She fought off the demons swarming a very short, stout man firing a crossbow. Then someone grabbed her wrist, “quickly, before more come through!” She made eye contact with a thin man with pointed ears. He thrust her hand towards the rift.

She felt as if she were playing a violent game of tug of war. Finally, with one last pull, the rift closed, and she stumbled back. “What the FUCK?” This kept getting weirder and weirder. “How did you do that?” She asked the man. Elf? He looked like an elf; she had seen Lord of the Rings. She loved Orlando Bloom. He had wonderful cheekbones. She admired this elf’s cheekbones. He smiled, “I did nothing. The credit is yours.” “You mean this,” she looked down at her hand. “I theorized the mark would be able to close the rifts,” the elf said, “and I was correct. It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”

Fuckin great.

“And here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever.” The short one said, adjusting his gloves, his crossbow strapped to his back. He only came up to Cassidy’s ribs, if that. Was he a dwarf? This was a fantasy world, perhaps it had dwarves. That made sense, as he didn’t quite look like just a midget, but he didn’t have a majestic beard.

“Varric Tethras,” he introduced himself. “Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally, unwelcome tagalong.” He winked at Cassandra, who grunted in disgust. Cassidy held out her hand, “Cassidy Halloran. Soldier, boxer, and very lost in the wrong world.” Varric laughed and shook her hand, “that sounds like an interesting story.”

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions,” the elf introduced himself. “I’m pleased to see you still live.” “He means,” Varric added, “I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.” Cassidy turned to Solas, a smile on her face. “Thanks then. I owe you one. So, how do we seal that big thing up there?”

“We get to it first,” Varric stated. “Oh no, you are not coming! Your help is appreciated, Varric, but-“ Varric cut Cassandra off mid-sentence, “have you been in the valley recently, Seeker? Your men aren’t in control anymore. You need me.” Cassandra scowled, but didn’t press the issue further.

“Well, Bianca’s excited.” Varric gestured to the crossbow on his back. Cassidy grinned a bit at that. Lots of men named their weapons. When she was a kid, she had named her first revolver Darlene. She followed the three over a rock and down into the frozen riverbed, since the road was blocked. They’d have to rough it through the valley.

“You said you were lost in the wrong world?” Solas questioned in between fights with demons. Cassidy nodded, rolling out her shoulder. She was not liking this sword. It was awkward, especially in one hand. “Yeah. I don’t remember anything about this one before waking up in the dungeon. Before that, I was in a very different place.” Solas looked thoughtful, “how unusual. If true, this presents so many possibilities I had never even imagined.”

They made it to a set of gates with a rift in front of it. Cassidy was exhausted by the time that battle was finished, and closing the rift sapped a lot of her energy. She was bleeding a bit from several small wounds. Cassandra handed her a small glass vial with a thick red liquid in it. “Here, drink this. It will restore your energy and heal some minor wounds.” Cassidy took it, swirling it around a bit. “Oh boy, drugs.” She popped the cork off and downed it. It wasn’t too bad, and did certainly make her feel much better. That, and Cassandra was right. Most of her minor wounds stitched themselves together.

Long story short, Cassidy had little patience for Chancellor Roderick, and pretty much ignored him when Cassandra made it clear that his opinion didn’t matter. “Charge with the men,” Cassidy said. “We don’t have much time, and getting lost in the mountains isn’t a good option. We shouldn’t waste any more lives.” Cassandra nodded approvingly, and they prepared to head out.

They made it down to the valley just below the Temple of Sacred Ashes, where a ferocious battle was being waged. Men were charging in, men were running away, men were crawling a way, and in it all, Cassidy felt an uneasy sense of familiarity. She gripped her sword and rushed right in. She would not let this go on longer than it had to.

She rushed past men facing down demons three times their size. As much as her heart ached to stop and help each of them, she knew better. They would only be replaced with more. She saw a man ahead being swarmed with multiple, just below a rift. “How many rifts are there?” Varric shouted over the fray. “We must seal it if we are to get past!” Solas called out. Cassidy nodded, and leapt into battle. Though she was tired and clumsy, she had the advantage of the initial blow to the back of the first demon, and took it out with relative ease.

The man she fought beside was clearly no stranger to battle, and they fell into a rhythm of fighting back to back while Solas and Varric picked off the demons from the outside. Cassandra was fighting a little further back, trying to spare some of the soldiers from gruesome fates. It was a long battle, and just when they thought they had defeated all the demons, more came through. Finally, Cassidy had a long enough moment to seal the rift. She fell to one knee, taking a few deep breaths.

“Sealed, as before,” Solas approached. “You are becoming quite proficient at this.” “Let’s hope it works on the big one,” Varric commented lightheartedly.

“Cassandra, you managed to close the rift? Well done.” The man Cassidy had been fighting with spoke to Cassandra, who shook her head. “Do not congratulate me, Commander. This is the prisoner’s doing.” Commander? Cassidy resisted the urge to salute. They probably didn’t do that here, not like she did anyway.

“Is it?” The Commander turned to her. He was ruggedly handsome, with slicked back blonde hair and stubble across his face, but his golden eyes were edged with exhaustion. “I hope they’re right about you,” he said. “We’ve lost a lot of people getting you here.” Ouch. Cassidy deflected the sting of his comment the same way she always did, humor. “Pal, you and me both.” “We’ll see soon enough, wont we?” He clearly wasn’t in the mood for humor. He turned back to Cassandra. “The way to the Temple should be clear. Leliana will try to meet you there.”

“Then we’d best move quickly,” Cassandra stated. “Give us time, Commander.” It was a grim request. The Commander glanced at Cassidy once more. “Maker watch over you, for all our sakes.” He then left, going to help a wounded soldier off the field.

Cassidy felt the weight of their expectations then. They were heavy.

They made a run for the Temple, climbing over the charred rubble. There was something vaguely familiar about it. The bodies, forever burned into their last expressions of terror, shook Cassidy to the core. “Huh, I wonder if this is what the Fat Man looked like,” she muttered to herself, trying to shake the fear clinging to her. “Pardon?” Cassandra asked. Cassidy shook her head, “nothing. Something similar to this happened in my world, but it was a long time ago, before I was born, and it was much more destructive. It didn’t tear a magic hole in the sky, and no demons came out, but there were other consequences.”

“Did they find who did it?” Cassandra asked. Cassidy laughed a bit, “oh, my country did it intentionally, and we did it twice. Whatever it takes to get an unconditional surrender, right?” Cassandra looked horrified. Cassidy shook her head, “that was when the whole world was at war, and at that point, it just needed to end. It was terrible, yeah, but necessary. Besides, it’s not like we were unprovoked. They bombed us first.”

“I think we should change the subject,” even Varric looked a little uneasy. Cassidy nodded, swallowing. Her mouth felt dry. They entered the Temple. Making their way down, they heard voices, echoing what had happened there. Cassidy heard her own voice, and a woman calling out to her. There was this red glowing stone growing out of the walls, and it hummed. Varric called it red lyrium.

They made it to the bottom. “Most Holy called out to you,” Cassandra was bewildered. So was Cassidy. “I met your Pope?” She let out a breath. “Well hopefully that proves my innocence. Any ideas on how to get me up there?” She pointed to the Breach. Solas shook his head, “you shouldn’t have to. This rift here is the largest, and the first. Seal it, and we might seal the Breach.” Cassidy nodded, “let’s do it.”

“You’ll have to open it to seal it properly. Doing so will likely draw attention from the other side,” Solas calmly explained. Cassandra called out to the scouts posted around the Temple, “that means demons! Stand ready!” Cassidy wiggled her fingers, and opened her palm to the rift. It opened, and out came this massive thing. “Shit,” Cassidy muttered. She readied her sword. “Get fucked!” She shouted, charging the thing. She was just about done with this whole damn day.

This demon did not go down easy. Cassidy would have killed for a hand grenade. She bashed and battered at the beast, rolling out of the way of its electric whip, and going for its ankles. She found that taking a moment to weaken the rift also weakened the demon's defenses.

The demon hit her hard, its massive talons striking her shield and knocking her flat on her back. Winded though she was, she got back up, but she had lost track of her sword, so her fist would have to do. Fortunately, she was wearing gauntlets. She knew that the thing’s hide was stronger than the metal her gauntlets were made of, but her sword had already created a gash in the back of its leg. She came up behind it and drove her fingers in, gripping, and pulling down. It let out a roar of pain. “Yeah, how do you like that, you ugly bastard?!” She growled, spitting as its blood sprayed on her. It kicked at her, but she rolled away. She ran back, lifted her shield, and drove the point into the back of its knee. It howled and fell to its knees, growling and swiping at those attacking it from the front.

“A sword, somebody!” Cassidy shouted, her voice booming over the noise. The Army sure had taught her how to use her voice. She caught a knife thrown to her by a scout on the ledge. It would do. She climbed up onto the beast’s back, abandoning the shield when it hindered her grip. The skin was covered in plenty of horns and ridges, so she didn’t have a hard time. She made it to the thing’s head just as it stood again. She began driving the knife into its eyes, one by one, swearing delightfully the whole time, adrenaline coursing through her veins. Finally, it fell, still breathing, but mostly dead. She grunted as she fell with it, jarred. She took that opportunity to close the rift.

She blacked out after that, but she blacked out grinning. “Take that, you son of a bitch.”