“I thought we had agreed,” my uncle looked at me, face neutral. I had known what his reaction was going to be, but I wanted it.
“I know,” I smiled. “But they look amazing,” I wiggled my now pink gel nails at him.
“No unnatural colors!” he threw his hands up. “Pink falls under that purview.”
“Come on! I've followed all the other rules. No cutting my hair, no coloring it, no tattoos, no piercings, minimal makeup! Why can't I just have this one thing? Just this one?”
He looked at me and I him. I felt myself getting frustrated. It was so hard living with him. Dealing with him and his never-ending nonsensical rules.
“Alright,” he nodded. “Alright. And don't think I haven't noticed your minimal makeup is slowly moving towards a full face.”
I smiled. I wore tinted lip glosses and sheer lipsticks, colored brow gel, and I had secretly been getting lash extensions. I did just get a bb cream. But it was unlike him to give in. I swung my nearly waist-length hair over my shoulder so I could braid it. I always wondered if it was my mother or father who had given me the strawberry blonde hair and dusting of freckles across my nose and cheeks.
“Really,” he smiled.
“I had my whole argument cued up and everything.” I was grateful I still had my boots on, or he would have noticed the matching pink gel toes.
“Would it have worked?” he asked, tossing another log on the fire and then leaning against the fireplace.
“No, it was rubbish,” I smiled. And then it hit me. He said when we go. “Uncle J...”
“Hmm?” he didn't look at me, his eyes still trained on the fire. His dark brown hair was greying at the temples more and more every day. But he still looked youthful. People confused him for my father all the time. But today he looked old. It was the way his broad shoulders were hunched forward.
“You said when we go,” I didn't finish my sentence on purpose. We had gone so long without a.... relapse? No, that wasn't right.
“We'll be going home soon,” he smiled. “Maker how I miss it.”
“This is home,” I took in a deep breath to prepare myself. It was going to be one of those nights...
“No little one,” he looked at me now, his brown eyes happy. “This is where we hid, where we survived.”
“Uncle J, you're sick,” I tried to soothe him, as I did whenever he got into these...episodes? I wasn't sure what to call them.
“Will you listen to an old man?” he asked, moving to sit in his chair. He motioned for me to sit as well. I debated it for a moment before agreeing.
“I'll listen, if you promise you'll listen to me after,” A nod was the answer I received.
“I've told you this story so many times since you were a child, you use to beg it of me. But now you are grown. A beautiful woman you have become, just like your mother” he smiled and I felt myself smiling despite the situation.
“It seems you have forgotten it, so busy with this loud place,” he waved his hand around. “And all it's distractions. So I will remind you.”
I had never actually forgotten it, how could I? He talked about nothing else.
“As you know, I am not your uncle by blood, but by promise. An oath I took to keep and protect you. One I have fulfilled for many long years.”
“I'm not that bad,” I giggled.
“Your mother, Elissa Cousland, the hero of Fereldan. She killed the Archdemon and stopped the fifth blight. She saved my life. You know, I thought she meant it when she told me she never wanted to see me again. But when she turned up at the small farm I had taken refuge in, babe in her arms, magic coursing through you so strong...”
He seemed to fade away for a moment, lost in whatever world he had imagined this all happened in. There were times when I wondered if I should tell someone, but it never seemed dangerous. Excessively daydreaming didn't mean you were crazy, did it?
“You were a miracle of magic,” he was looking at me now. “A female warden conceiving a child is rare. The blight taints the womb you see. It is similar with male wardens. But two wardens conceiving a child? Never before has it happened. But your mother did.”
“She made a deal with Morrigan, to survive killing the beast so she could live with her love, it was all very romantic. But what they didn't know about was you. The essence of the archdemon was supposed to go into Morrigan's womb. Only it had one closer. You.”
“So I'm the reincarnation of a scary archdemon. Thanks a lot,” I smiled. I had never heard this part of the story.
“This world has no magic,” he sighed. “But I can feel it in you.”
“So how did it end? Did my mother marry her love and live happily ever after?”
He shook his head no.
“Before she could tell him about you he...well he chose his duty to the kingdom. He married Anora and took his rightful place as the King.”
“Wow. What a prick. Why'd you make him my father in the story? I think I would have liked the elf Zevran or even Sten the Qunari.”
“I wish it were as simple as just changing the story. But it is what it is.”
“It's a good story. I'm glad you didn't talk about the darkspawn though, they always give me nightmares.”
He smiled as he stood.
“I'll feed the cookstove. Decide what you would like for dinner.”
“You know it would be so much easier if we just got electricity in here!”
“You will thank me when we go back to Thedas,” he called from out of the kitchen. I looked around at the small cabin I grew up in. Candles and oil lamps were are the only source of light, beyond natural. Going to school was like stepping into the future and I couldn't wait until I was 18. I could move out, go full time at the feed store and have all the modern conveniences I wanted. But a part of me worried about uncle J. What would he do? Would he dissolve entirely into this...imaginary world of his? I didn't like to think that I would have to report him to adult social services if he got worse. But I would, for his sake.
“Bree come quickly!”
I bolted to my feet, my heeled boots clacking loudly as I ran into the kitchen. Except he wasn't in here.
“Jowan?” I called, worry blooming in my chest.
“In here!” he cried and I hustled into his room. He was standing in front of the large mirror, an eluvian, as he called it. Only instead of his reflection, it was swirling.
“Grab your things! Quickly!”
“Is this some kind of trick or ?” I watched it swirling gently as my uncle dashed about his room, packing a bag.
“GO!” he bellowed and I did. Was I just humoring him? A part of me wanted to just leave. How had he gotten the mirror to do that? Was it some kind of chemical? Or a special effect? I was thinking so much I barely realized I was packing a bag. What does one pack when going with their borderline crazy uncle to a make-believe world?
“I've got your other bag,” he called.
“What other bag?!” I yelled back. I put a few books in my pack, a sweater, my iPod, makeup bag. A package of Oreos I had bought at the store earlier and kept on my dresser. I opened the drawer and noticed some of my clothes missing.
“Hurry girl!” he was in the doorway. “If you can't bear to part with it, pack it. You will never look upon this room again.”
“Is this going to take long? I have homework due tomorrow,” I mumbled as I zipped my backpack closed. He just laughed and took my hand. He was carrying two big packs but he didn't seem to notice the weight as he sprinted down the hall to his room.
“Hold fast,” he laughed as he continued to run towards the mirror. I tried to put on the breaks, not wanting to slam into the mirror going this fast.
I screeched as he reached it. But it didn't break. He pulled me through it and a sensation washed over me. Like a weight I didn't know I had been carrying was lifted. I opened my mouth to speak, to scream. Something. But nothing came. He kept going, and it was all I could do to keep myself from falling down in hysterics. There were so many mirrors in this place. The ground was uneven and covered in an unmoving fog. It was so still.
“There it is,” he pointed with his free hand. Another swirling mirror, identical to my eye. But I was reasonably sure I had passed out. Maybe we ran into the mirror and I hit my head. The cool sensation was back and I had to shield my eyes as we stepped out, the sun so bright.
“Welcome home,” he took in a deep breath and pulled me to his side. “Thedas.” He used the arm that wasn't around my shoulders to gesture to the beautiful scenery. Mountains with snow caps stood surrounded by clear blue skies, and nestled up to it was lush forest and green valleys.
“Uncle Jowan...” I whispered.
“It's real,” he assured me. “Unspoilt, beautiful. Do you feel it?”
I turned to look at him. He stepped away and closed his eyes. I watched as fire erupted into his hands.
“I've missed this,” he sighed as he looked at it. It burned away quickly. “I'll be needing a staff.”
“It's REAL?” I screeched, feeling my head swimming. “I thought you were making it up, I thought it was some kind of coping mechanism. Oh my god, oh my god.”
“No god, just the Maker here. And Andraste. “
My hands were shaking violently, fear clawing at me, stealing my breath.
“Calm down Bree,” he took my hands and let them go with a yelp. He looked at me for a moment before a grin broke out on his face. “I knew I could feel it in you.”
All the little hairs stood up on my arms before I heard a ringing in my ears. It was so loud I couldn't hear what my uncle was saying. My legs gave way under me and darkness swallowed me.
“Bree,” someone was calling my name softly. I opened my eyes slowly, the ceiling I was looking at was a grey color, some kind of stone. “Ah, there you are my child.”
I rolled my eyes to look at an elderly woman sitting in a chair next to me. She was holding my hand.
“What are you wearing?” I asked, looking at the tall red and white hat thing she had on.
“My habit,” she had a kind smile and soft eyes.
“Are you a nun?”
“I am the Divine, you may call me Justinia.”
“Bree Cousland,” I rubbed my aching forehead. “Where is my uncle?”
“He went down to Haven to secure lodging,” she got up and walked over to a pitcher and a strange goblet. She poured water into it and brought it back. “It is just water child.”
I sat up, thanking her as I took it.
“Such a pretty color,” she reached out and gently ran a strand of my hair through her fingers.
“Your mother is a redhead as well, though hers is darker,” she smiled.
“So where am I?” I asked.
“This is the Temple of Sacred Ashes, Jowan has explained your circumstances. An extraordinary tale. You will have to tell me more about your world sometime.”
“Is this real?” I took another big drink. The water was cool and clear. Was I dead? Or in a coma? Dreaming very vividly?
“Yes my child. I have a prior engagement that takes precedence, but I will be back to speak with you more. Feel free to walk about the temple, but do so with caution. And do not leave the grounds. Your manner of dress will make you stand out. Here you are protected.”
I nodded, for lack of something better to do. She left with a smile and I felt like screaming. Uncle J just left me here, in this weird temple full of strangers. What the hell. I saw my backpack leaning against the wall and could have cried in relief. I got up and rummaged around until I found my iPod. I plugged in and let Adele soothe me as I wandered to the door. It took me a minute to figure out how to open it, the latch was weird. I stuffed my iPod in the back of my jeans pocket and pulled my flannel closer around me. It was chilly in here. I could hear the sounds of my tan heeled booties clicking on the stone floor. I saw some people, in strange robes. They looked at me as I was sure I was looking at them, in wonder and probably strangely. I was glad my headphones were in. I didn't want to hear what they were whispering about.
I kept walking, no real direction in mind. I just let my feet lead me, and they seemed to know where they were going.
I awoke with a start that jarred me painfully. All of a sudden a dozen or so places on me began to ache, but nothing like my hand. It felt like there was...a crackle of green light startled me and I fell over, not realizing I was on my knees. I tried to catch myself but my hands were chained. A door opened and I could hear people coming this way. I sat up and watched as two women moved towards me. I was shaking, the room was so cold.
“Tell me why we shouldn't kill you now?” one of them hissed into my ear.
“What?!” I felt tears begin to bubble in my eyes now. Kill me?!
“The conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you.”
My mind raced to my Uncle J, and then to the kind woman, Justinia. Then it hit me. She was insinuating I had something to do with it. But what happened? How as I alive? I was walking in the halls, listening to my music....
“I didn't do anything!”
She roughly grabbed my hand up, pulling me off my knees temporarily.
“Then explain this!” and she threw my hand back down. I looked to see the green crackling light was coming from my hand. There was a wound, a cut in the middle of my palm, but instead of seeing fat and tissue there was this green pulsating light. It throbbed and beat with its own pulse. It felt like it was trying to tear my hand in half.
“I can't!” and I really couldn't. What the hell was that thing? How did it get on my hand? Better question, how did I get it off?
“What do you mean you can't?” she barked, her accent nothing I had ever heard before. They were both circling me now.
“I don't know what that is, or how it got there!”
“You're lying!” the short-haired one seethed and grabbed me by my flannel. She jostled me a few times before the redhead stepped in and pulled her away.
“We need her Cassandra,” her voice was calm, pleasant. But her face was just as angry as the others.
“Do you remember what happened? How this began?”
I licked my lips and thought.
“I remember walking in the halls...” and then it came rushing back. I was running in the dark and there were things moving. A woman was there, calling to me, she was bright, like a beacon in the dark.
“I remember running...things were chasing me...and then...a woman.”
“She reached out to me. I think I took her hand and then...” I was getting frustrated. How could I not remember? What happened to me? They began talking but I wasn't paying it any attention, still lost in my thoughts. What the hell was happening? Where was Jowan?
“My uncle Jowan, he was in Haven.”
“Jowan?” the redhead looked at me. “What is your name?”
“Bree Cousland,” I swallowed nervously as I looked at them. Something passed between them and the dark-haired one left.
“What is your mother's name?” she crouched down to look at me.
“Elissa Cousland. I don't know my father's name. Jowan never told me,” I heard her hiss of a gasp.
“Bree!” I heard my uncle's voice and I felt the tears begin to fall. He raced in and fell to his knees in front of me. He cupped my face as I cried, turning it this way and that. Then he looked at my hand.
“Maker save us,” he whispered.
“She says she is the daughter of Elissa Cousland. But she is far too old...”
“I did not keep her here nightingale,” Jowan got to his feet. “Time is not the same where we came from.”
“Outrageous!” the dark-haired woman cried. The redhead held up her hand.
“Do you have proof?”
“I have letters that Elissa wrote for Bree and one for the King.”
She nodded, moving forward to release my hands. Jowan reached under my armpits to help me up, my legs had that stinging feeling that let me know they had fallen 'asleep'.
I walked slowly at first, shuffling along the cold stone room. When the doors opened the light was so bright, I had to shield my eyes. I looked up for the sun and instead, I found a large, green vortex in the sky. It was massive and looked to be defying the laws of gravity by allowing large boulders and debris to seemingly float beneath it. I tucked the loose hair away from my face behind my ears when a watched what looked like a lightning bolt of green cracked out of it. My hand exploded and I fell to my knees from the pain.
“Oh sweet baby Jesus,” I breathed. It felt like that big green vortex was trying to pull my wound back into itself.
“We call it the breach,” the dark-haired woman looked down at me. “It's a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. It's not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave.”
“Demons?” but no one seemed concerned.
“Each time the breach expands your mark spreads and it is killing you. It may be the key to stopping this but there isn't much time.”
I felt light-headed. Killing me? I was dying?
“The letters are on the way,” Jowan and the redhead turned at the same time. The dark-haired woman helped me to my feet.
“I am Cassandra,” she nodded down at me. “Your mark may be the only chance we have to close the breach.”
“Close it?” I asked, mind falling apart. I chanced a glance around and everyone was staring at me. And not kindly.
“They have decided your guilt, they need it. They mourn the most holy, Divine Justinia.”
“I met her,” I whispered.
“What?” she looked down at me.
“When Jowan and I arrived. I...fainted. I think. And when I woke she was holding my hand.”
“You were with the Divine?”
“Yes, she said Jowan had told her of..well he told her everything. She was very kind to me.”
She said nothing, save to nod. She took my arm as she began to walk faster to catch up to Jowan and the redhead.
“She is Leliana. She fought with the Hero of Fereldan.”
It was my turn to say nothing. Jowan slipped into a small tent and came out as we arrived.
“I was going to give these to you when we arrived,” Jowan handed a thick pack of letters to Leliana. She was quick as she opened one and then another.
“She could only be thirteen,” Leliana looked at me and then to Jowan.
“It has been thirteen years. But time is different where we come from. We have aged quicker. I am only 36, yet I look ages older. Lack of magic, I believe.”
“Are we really believing this is the daughter of the Hero of Fereldan?” Cassandra asked.
“She certainly looks like her,” Leliana suddenly stepped forward and began to pull my flannel off.
“What are you doing?” I didn't fight her as she did it. When she got it off she turned me around and lifted my shirt. “Hey!”
“It is her,” I felt her touch my birthmark. “It is the same as her mother. She told me once her mother had it as well.”
My shirt was dropped and my flannel handed back to me. I slipped it on and crossed my arms to try and warm up.
Cassandra motioned for Leliana and they stepped away from us. I looked to Jowan and he smiled sadly at me.
“This was supposed to be the greatest day of your life,” he ran a hand over his face.
“Am I going to die?” I asked, not wanting to know, but asking anyway. He pulled me to his chest and I wrapped my arms around him. I felt sobs begin to wrack through me, but I couldn't stop it. He rubbed my back, trying to soothe me.
“You are stronger than you know,” he whispered. “There is a power within you, a power that is wholly yours. I can feel it, so much stronger than when you were a babe.”
“I don't know what you're talking about,” I mumbled. “I don't feel strong.”
“You will, and I will be by your side every step of the way.”
“Come, we will need to test your mark out on something smaller than the breach.”
A bald man with pointed ears grabbed my left hand and thrust it towards the smaller rift. Green shot out from my hand and into the smaller rift. Instead of feeling like my hand was going to be pulled off, it now felt full. Like I was pulling the rift into myself. It closed off suddenly, with a small crack. I pulled my hand away from the man and stared at it. It shook, but the pain that was there was ebbing away. Maybe the more I closed the less it would hurt? Made sense, sort of. Fewer rifts, less agonizing tearing at my hand.
“What did you do?” I asked him. He leveled a very neutral face at me. Not even his eyes had any emotion.
“I did nothing, the credit is yours.” His voice was soft, but not feminine.
“You mean this,” I waved my wounded hand.
“Whatever magic opened the Breach in the sky also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach's wake and it seems I was correct.”
“Meaning it could also close the breach itself,” Cassandra offered.
“Wait,” I put a hand up. “How did you come to that conclusion? What if this thing on my hand just exploded when it reacted with a rift? Or grew to the point of my death when it connected to another one?”
“It could have,” he nodded, his hazelly eyes pinned on me. I felt anger building.
“You endangered my life for theory built on bullshit?” the little hairs began to stand up all over my body. A bolt of lightning, dazzlingly white struck the rock face near where we were standing, raining debris down on us. Thunder followed it quickly, a horrible, cracking booming noise.
Everyone had crouched except for me and I realized how odd that was. Why didn't I drop? Baldy got to his feet slowly, looking at me with an expression of surprise and interest.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“Bree Cousland,” I replied. “Who are you.”
“Cousland?!” I turned to look at the shortest, and the strongest looking man I had ever seen. “As in Hero of Fereldan family Cousland?”
“Her mother,” Cassandra replied. He had a confused look on his face so she and Jowan filled them in on our particular situation.
“Varric Tethras,” he smiled and held a hand out for me to shake.
“Bree,” I don't know what I expected, but his grip was gentle.
“So...” he looked at me and I waited. “Mage?”
I looked to Jowan for an explanation.
“Practicer of magic. And yes, I suppose she is.”
“What does that mean?”
“Some conditions are surrounding her birth that are...complicated.”
“Heard a story about a ritual that was performed,” Varric looked at Jowan and then to me. “Saved the Hero's life.”
Jowan nodded. Nobody spoke for a few moments.
“You will need to explain this further when we reach the forward camp.” And then she was walking, Solas giving me one last look before following her. Jowan sighed and began walking as well.
“Shit,” Varric looked up at me.
“Yeah,” I nodded. “It's been a fucking day.”
He laughed and it felt...normal. The most normal thing so far.
“Let's go, kid,” he shook his head as we walked.
“Jowan?” I asked as we trekked through the hellishly cold mountain terrain.
“Dove?” he was using his pet name for me. He was worried.
“Tell me about the archdemon thing.”
I knew everyone was pretending not to listen, but I didn't care. I had a right to know if I was a reincarnated demon or something.
“Technically an archdemon is simply an old god that has been corrupted, so when Morrigan cast her spell, the corrupt part of it died when the vessel died.”
“Make sense,” I demanded.
“You have the soul of Urthemiel, the Dragon of Beauty inside of you. Worshipped once by ancient Tevinter he was considered to be the fairest and most graceful of the old gods.”
“So...do I have a soul of my own?” I asked. Solas and Jowan both turned their heads to look at me. “Or did this Urthemiel displace mine when he barged into my body?”
“I do not know,” Jowan shrugged. Solas's eyes found mine and I found I didn't really care for him. There was no real reasoning behind it. At least none I could think of. It was just a feeling.
After fighting demons, and by fighting I mean me hiding because they were horrible, leathery-looking flesh bags with weird shapes and the foulest smell.
“Another rift!” Cassandra yelled as we climbed the steep incline before the forward camp.
“We must seal it, quickly!” Solas yelled.
I would have rolled my eyes if I had time, but a ghost or something very similar appeared next to me. I backed away but it followed me, floating quickly, hands raised. I threw my hands up, willing it to go away. My palms felt warm suddenly and then a torrential stream of fire exploded out of them, red and orange flames destroying it. I closed my hands and they were gone as quickly as they had come.
“The rift!” Jowan yelled and it was enough to get me moving again. I lifted my hand and it immediately connected to the rift. They were attracted to one another. I closed my hand as I did with the fire and it closed quickly. I looked back to see Jowan and Solas examing the scorch marks I had left on the ground.
“It looks like a dragon's scorch mark,” Cassandra looked over to me. She didn't speak, and I felt uncomfortable with so many looking at me.
“Nice job with the fire,” Varric nudged me.
“I don't know how I did it,” I whispered to him. “I just put my hands up.”
“Saved your butt, it doesn't matter how it works, as long as it does when you need it to.”
“Thanks,” I smile down at him. “So...what are you?”
He looked up at me and laughed.
“Okay,” I nodded. Dwarves were a thing here. Alright. “What's Solas?”
“Wow. I am not impressed,” I replied. Varric burst out laughing again. “Tolkien and Peter Jackson have done me dirty.” At his quizzical look, I gave him a very brief overview of Middle Earth and the peoples therein. “So wow, I was expecting devastatingly handsome elves with long hair.”
“The disappointment must be crushing,” Varric sounded like he was trying not to laugh again.
“Let us go,” Cassandra commanded and we followed.
I survived the verbal lashing of Chancellor Roderick, or as I was calling him in my mind, Roderick the big prick. And the mountain pass where more demons and ghosts were waiting, along with another rift. And now I was standing in what was left of the Temple of Sacred Ashes. There were bodies still on fire, some petrified in their last positions on this earth. The sadness, the death. It was overwhelming. I had to choke back sobs several times as we walked through it, but I let the tears flow.
Cassandra said something about where they found me, but I didn't look. I didn't want to have to face my mortality in such a harsh light. Or question why I was here when so many were not.
“You made it!” Leliana called to us as she came around the corner. Solas began talking about reopening a rift that was kind of closed, but I was a million miles away. My heart was hammering in my chest, I was scared. Terrified. Of what though? The breach? The smaller rift? I moved with them when a voice rang out. Deep. Familiar. But from where?
I listened and tried to focus. But so many things were running through my mind. We just got to the bottom when I heard Justinia's voice.
“Someone help me!”
“Hey! What are you doing?”
And that was me.
“That was your voice. Most Holy called out to you...But”
All of a sudden shadowy images were floating in the air around us. Justinia was suspended, something red was holding her arms. A large dark figure with glowing red eyes was near her.
“Hey! What are you doing?” I appeared then, standing a few feet away from them.
“Run while you can! Bree, warn them!” Justinia looked at my ghostly self.
“We have an intruder,” the glowing-eyed man spoke. “Kill her.”
And in a flash, it was gone.
“You were there! Who attacked? And the Divine is she...? Was this vision true? What are we seeing?”
“Echoes of what happened here. The Fade bleeds into this place,” Solas replied. And then directed me to open the rift so I could close it again. Properly. A demon the size of a Tolkien cave troll came out and I swear it sounded like it was laughing. I found myself being guided by Leliana and Jowan. They kept themselves in front of me the entire time. It didn't take long before it fell to its knees and Cassandra was screaming for me to seal it. I did, but the second I connected I knew I was in trouble. The rift itself was closing, but the breach. It was big. To big. I could feel things, things bigger than the breach itself waiting, wanting to come out. I shook with the effort but I was getting weaker. I gave one more push, for lack of a better term before darkness swallowed me.
Something cold touched my lips. A few drops of water slid slowly into my mouth and I licked, trying to get more.
It was Jowan, I would know his voice anywhere. I slowly opened my eyes, blinking a few times. He was there, brow furrowed.
“Oh hey,” I smiled. His brow unfurrowed and he smiled.
“You had me worried dove,” he tapped my nose.
“Just taking a little nap,” I grinned and he shook his head. “Can I have some more water, my throat is so dry.”
“Can you sit up?” Good question. I braced my arms and scooted up. Nothing hurt, I felt pretty good in all honesty. He handed me a large wooden mug and took it, wondering at the heft of the thing. I took several deep drinks and sighed.
“So did it work?” I asked.
“Yes and no,” he was staring out the window.
“Ambivalent much,” I jabbed, getting to my feet. “Did it work or not?”
“It's stopped growing, as has the mark on your hand,” he turned to look at me. I smiled and he shook his head, closing the wooden shades and latching them. “You have been asleep for three days.”
“Rip Van Winkle nap,” I set the large wooden cup down on a desk in the corner and stretched. He watched and I could feel he had something to say. And it wasn't going to be good.
“The tension is killing me, just say it. Scream it, write it down. Something.”
“Leliana sent a message to your mother. She is aware of the situation. She sent this for you,” he was holding a thick envelope out to me. It was already opened.
“Did you read it?” seems like a very not Jowan thing to do.
“She instructed me too. It's in the letter. When you have finished, come to the Chantry. The largest building, to the left.”
I watched him go, a rock sinking into my gut. I sat down where I was standing and slid several pages out.
My beloved Bree,
So many things I could say will say. But this letter is not private so I will save it for when I see you with my own eyes. But know this daughter, I love you. I have never not loved you, I do not know how. Sending you away was no easy task, and I have missed you every day. Leliana says you have grown into a beautiful woman, that you share my likeness around the mouth and your eyes are as mine fills my heart.
Now for the current issue, I have been told you are the sole survivor of the explosion at the Temple of Sacred Ashes and that you carry a mark with the power to close the rifts. I am sorry this burden has fallen to you, if I could carry it for you, I would do so in an instant. As would I be there with you if I could. Though you are closer now to me than you have been in all these long years, I am still very far from you. I cannot falter in my search, for the fate of not only myself but of all the Grey Wardens balances on a razor's edge. I search for a way to stop the Calling, magic that preys upon our connection to the Blight and darkspawn and will lead to my eventual death.
All this upon your shoulders my beloved Bree, remember to take care. Trust your allies. Seek comfort in your friends. Be true to yourself and do what is right. You are a Cousland. You are my daughter, I love you with every fiber of my being, and I am proud of the woman you have become.
There were more pages, but it was a letter for Jowan, information about coins, which I assumed is money here, something about an estate.
I set them on the desk and decided it was time to head to the Chantry. I ran my hands through my hair, double-checked my clothes. A little dirty, but I'd survive. The damn door latch gave me trouble again but when I got it open I was greeted by people waiting outside. I shut the door quickly. What the heck!? Why were so many people out there? I ran to the window and threw open the wooden shudders. It faced another building but there was wood stacked high enough up that no one would see me. I hoisted myself up to sit on the ledge, but I lost my balance and fell out backward. The snow was cold but at least I wasn't hurt. I got to my feet and leaned in to close the shudders. Jowan said to the left, so I walked around the back of the buildings until it came out to a stone path. I looked to the left and could see the Chantry. I walked quickly out, not wanting to be noticed. But there were more people, dressed like Justinia waiting outside. I could hear them whispering about me, and the level of awkward was high. Someone opened the doors for me and I thanked them.
I stood there, in the doorway wondering where in the Chantry I was supposed to go, when I heard shouting. I followed it, marveling at the wooded structure around me. It was beautiful, but I had some concerns about the random candles just strewn about. Serious fire hazard. Two guards were outside the door, all in full knight looking armor. They nodded to me and one opened the door.
“Chain her! I want her prepared for travel to the capital for trial,” Roderick the big prick was going full force now.
“Disregard that, and leave us,” and sure as shit. They saluted Cassandra and left. I guess she was in charge here.
“You walk a dangerous line, Seeker,” Roderick moved closer to me and I stepped away.
“The Breach is stable, but it is still a threat. I will not ignore it,” Cassandra crossed her arms and leveled her gaze at him.
“I did what I could,” I reminded him.
“And yet you live. A convenient result,” he sneered.
“Should I have died? Would that have somehow made you less of a prick to me?” I snapped. Leliana stepped in and I listened to her tell him that he was a suspect right along with the others. Cassandra moved in now, telling him about the weird mirage image thing we saw at the temple. I realized they were looking at me and I had to think hard about what was said.
“I might be, I honestly have no idea.”
“The Maker does as He will. It is not for me to say,” Cassandra smiled. And the next thing I know Cassandra is slamming a heavy, metal encrusted book down on the table. I had been daydreaming about a bath and something to eat.
“We must act now, with you at our side.”
I looked into her face, her eyes.
“I'm scared, but I'll do what I can,” and I took her hand. She had a firm grip, but I had seen her swing a sword so it made sense.
“Your mother would be proud,” Leliana smiled at me.
“Let's hope so. What's next?”
“Tell us about yourself. Where you come from. Jowan has told us some.”
“Well, I'm seventeen..”
“Seventeen? Your mother was twenty when she began her journey,” Leliana sighed. “What skills do you have?”
“I can cook, I can read. Add, subtract, divide, multiply. I really might be useless, to be honest.” No one said anything and I sighed. “You know that where I come from I'm not even considered an adult yet. I can't drink liquor...”
“But you have magic,” Cassandra looked at me. “I have seen it. Lightning and fire. There are people who can train you. Solas..”
“I don't want to work with him,” I blurted out.
“Why?” Leliana stepped up. “Has he been inappropriate towards you?”
“No, he gives me weird vibes.” I got owlish stares. “Vibe means like...you know how you can get a feel for people? How they can make you feel certain things without ever having said or done anything? That's the word for it. Vibes. People can give off good ones, scary ones, sexy ones or worst of all. No vibe. And that's what I get from him. Nothing. And that's weird.”
“What vibe do you get from me?” Cassandra was smirking a little and it made me smile.
“Dedicated, strong, militant, practical. But you are also kind, caring. All in all, you are a good person.”
“You get all that from my vibe?” she asked, incredulous.
“Nah, your vibe is good. I got the rest of that from hanging out with you on the way to the breach.”
“Know where I can find food?” I asked, my stomach giving out a loud growl. Leliana told me to go to the singing maiden and talk to Flissa.
I ate and talked to Flissa and a few others. Herald of Andraste was weird to hear, so was just being called the Herald. I left, feeling a little crowded by all the people. And they just followed me. I didn't want to run because that would have looked weird. I saw Varric entering a tent and I beelined inside right behind him and held the flap shut.
He looked at me with wide eyes.
“They won't stop following me,” I whispered. He made a scooting motion and I moved over a little so he could peek out.
“Want me to shoo them away?” he looked up at me with a grin. “It would cause rumors though.”
“You ran into my tent sweetness, someone is going to talk about that.”
“Like what? I ran in here and we had super silent, super quick sex?”
We both started laughing and he opened the flap and I followed him out. “They won't bite, they just want to see the person who saved them. The Herald of Andraste.”
I nodded and put my best smile on. I shook hands, one woman hugged me and I hugged her back, for lack of anything better to do. But it was a lot of talking and smiling and reassuring them I was doing everything I could. I was exhausted when the last little group wandered off.
“You did great!” Varric handed me something dark in a smaller wooden cup.
“What's this?” I sniffed it experimentally. It was sweet-smelling, but I could smell a bitterness underneath it.
“Not old enough to drink,” I tried to hand it back. He hooked an eyebrow at me. “I'm seventeen. You need to be twenty-one to drink where I come from.”
“Well, you aren't where you come from, you're from here. At least try it. It's from my private stock.”
“Okay,” and I took a sip. It tasted like raspberries! I took a big drink, feeling it burn a little on the way down.
“Whoa! Slow down, sweetness!”
“Why do you call me that?”
He rubbed the back of his neck, looking a little sheepish.
“I've always done the nickname thing and they just kind of...you are nice to everyone. It fit.”
I shrugged, I could handle sweetness.
“What should I call you then? Hmmm....”
“I'm nervous,” he laughed.
“You should be,” I took another drink and then I was suddenly sitting on my ass. I looked over to Varric and he tipped his head back and roared.
“Can it hot stuff,” I grumbled and then fist-pumped. “Hot stuff!.”
“Hot stuff?” he looked down at me.
“This is good stuff,” I drank the last bit of it and handed the mug back. He took it and set it near his tent.
He took a seat next to me.
“So how you holding up?”
“I have no idea. It's been one thing after another. I found out I am not from the world I grew up in, that Jowan isn't crazy. I thought he was for years. I got blown up in the temple but somehow didn't die, I just crip walked my ass out of the fade, whatever that is. I have this thing on my hand that can close rifts and now everyone is calling me the herald of a divine being belonging to a religion I know nothing about.”
“Most people would have spread that out over more than one day,” he agreed. “Forgot the soul of the old god living in your body.”
“Oh yeah, can't go forgetting Urthemiel.”
It was silent for some time, and I let myself get lost looking into the flames of the fire.
“What's crip walking?”