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The Prowling Shadow

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Prologue: The End

High upon the peak of the Throat of the World a storm is ending. Snow eddies twist and swirl weakly, valiantly attempting to obscure the scene below. A strong gust of wind parts the dying eddies briefly, allowing a fleeting glimpse of several hulking silhouettes staring down at a small figure lying crumpled in the snow. The scene fades as quickly as it comes, hidden by a heavy curtain of snowfall. The snow is falling slower now, the howling of the storm puttering down to a quiet whine before dying completely. All is silent, save for the whooshing of air being slowly breathed in and out by the massive silhouettes no longer hidden by the storm.

The dragon looming above the figure twitches slightly as the figure below begins to stir and mutter feebly, breaking the unnatural silence that had descended upon the dragons. As though the stirring figure was a signal, the dragons unfurl their wings and take to the sky with a bugle of triumph; all except the dragon who continues to watch the figure at his feet.

At the deafening roar the figure on the ground leaps to her feet, hand going instinctively to the bow on her back as she scans the skies; hand stopping as she observes the roaring dragons with a questioning tilt to her head.

“Dohvakiin,” The dragon who had remained spoke, causing the woman to yelp and whirl around sharply, bow drawn. He paused at this reaction, and gave a deep, rumbly chuckle. “I did not think we had parted so long for you to forget my laft, my face.”

The woman sheepishly put her bow away on her back and lowered her hood and cowl, eyes closed as she tilted her face to the sun that had peeked out between the departing storm clouds. She did not answer immediately, basking in the feeble rays as the dragon waits patiently at her side. A last playful gust of wind from the retreating storm blew strands of midnight black hair across her slightly tanned face, revealing pointed ears, and into her slightly open mouth. The woman splutters, pale green eyes opening angrily as she forces the hair back behind her ears with a quiet curse. The dragon chuckles quietly, though the woman could feel it through her feet, rumbling through the earth.

“Drem yol lok, Paarthurnax.” The woman finally replied with a small smile, “From the party the dragons up there are having shall I assume that you already know?”

“Drem yol lok Dohvakiin.. your Dohvahzul has improved.” Paarthurnax rumbled, all traces of levity fading from his eyes. He exhaled sadly, “So, it is done. Alduin dilon. The Eldest is no more, he who came before all others, and has always been."

“You don’t sound very happy about it.” The elf woman said quietly, searching Paarthurnax’s eyes for anger or blame.

“Happy?” Paarthurnax repeated, “No, I am not happy. Alduin was once the crown of our father Akatosh’s creation. You did what was necessary.” Here he paused, glancing up at the jubilant dragons flying above. “Alduin had flown far from the path of right action in his pahlok – the arrogance of his power.” He explained at the elf’s questioning look. “But I cannot celebrate his fall. Zu’u tiiraaz ahst ok mah. He was my brother once. This world will never be the same.”

Paarthurnax blinked, coming back to himself, and noticed for the first time the intense stare he was receiving. “Nid, Dohvakiin.” He began, stopping at the slight frown that passed over the woman’s face. “Krosis Reia, mal vukon.” The woman ceased frowning and grinned at the dovah’s endearment he had given her months ago. “Reia, I do not blame you for following your dez, your fate. Alduin wahlaan daanii. His doom was written when he claimed for himself the lordship that properly belongs to Bormahu – our father Akatosh.”

Paarthurnax rose to his feet, slowly unfurling his wings as Reia continued to watch, feeling a secret relief that the dragon she admired most did not blame her for killing his brother.

“Rok funta koraav. Perhaps now you have some insight into the forces that shape the vennesetiid... the currents of Time. But I forget myself. Krosis.” Paarthurnax apologized, briefly resting his snout on Reia’s head. “So los mid fahdon. Melancholy is an easy trap for a dovah to fall into. You have won a mighty victory. One that will echo through all the ages of this world for those who have eyes to see. Savor your triumph, Dovahkiin. This is not the last of what you will write upon the currents of Time." He rumbled with a conviction that Reia could swear she felt in her very bones. She really hoped he hadn’t just given her another prophecy.

Paarthurnax roared, wings now fully extended, and leapt into the sky, thankfully interrupting Reia’s thoughts of unwelcome prophecies and rudely dispersing the rather more appealing thoughts about a hot meal.

“I feel younger than I have in many an age.” He roared, now circling above Reia as she raised her hand above her eyes to see him through the brightness of the sun. “Many of the dovah are now scattered across Skyrim. Without Alduin’s lordship, they may yet bow to the vahzen … rightness of my Thu’um.”

Paarthurnax paused, hovering above Reia with great sweeps of his wings that sent the recently tamed bangs flying across her face once more. She didn’t bother to fix them this time, waiting for Paarthurnax to speak.

“But willing or no, they will hear it! Fare thee well, mal vukon!” And on that slightly ominous note Paarthurnax took to the sky in earnest, gathering the still celebrating dovah’s attention with a sweep of his tail and began flying northward, the rest of the dovah following one by one until only one remained.

The red dragon lazily circled lower before landing with a boom that would have sent Reia flying if she had been unused to the feeling. Reia glared up at the red dragon, who, she noted, was looking rather disappointed at her continued vertical existence.

“Odahviing.” Reia greeted with a smile, sauntering towards him with an air of forced nonchalance.

“Mal vukon.” Odahviing returned mockingly, eyeing her continued approach negligently.

“From your exuberant landing I assume you’re delighted that I have returned safe and sound?” Reia asked with an air of solemn gravity, as she stopped directly in front of him, giving his snout a harsh flick in retaliation. Odahviing flinched back, and growled lowly as Reia simple tilted her head coyly. Deciding to ignore the indignity of the nose flick he straightened up, and looked down on her imperiously from his rather advantageous height.

“If you had lost to Alduin I would have been insulted that your Thu’um bested mine. Nid. I am impressed.” Odahviing rumbled seriously, dipping his head to a surprised Reia.

“I wish the Old One luck in his… quest.” He continued, lifting his head and looking Reia in the eyes. “There are still many powerful dovah missing, and Paarthurnax must be looking for them as well. But I doubt many of the dovah will wish to exchange Alduin’s lordship for the tyranny of Paarthurnax’s ‘Way of the Voice.’ As for myself, you’ve proven your mastery twice over. Thuri, Dohvakiin. I gladly acknowledge the power of your Thu’um. Zu’u Odahviing. Call me when you have need, and I will come if I can.”

Reia blinked, overwhelmed at this acknowledgment of power coming from Odahviing, but feeling rather pleased all the same

“What will you do now?” She asked curiously, fingers idly playing with the hilt of the Blade of Woe on her left hip.

“I? I am unsure at the moment.” He replied indifferently, “But the skies call out to me, and I would be remiss to ignore the call, so this if farewell for now.”

“I see.” Reia said softly, head lowering as her thoughts flashed back to her first, and only flight. Odahviing gazed at her steadily for a moment, taking in the slight, wingless physique and bowed head.

“However, I would be willing to take you with me up to the sky before I depart.” Reia’s head whipped up in astonishment. “It is sad that a dov of your power cannot take to the sky… and know so little of the Dohvahzul.” He added slyly, and Reia chuckled at that, amused that he managed to fit a barb rather expertly within the nice gesture. “Come. Let us know the freedom of the skies to celebrate this victory!”

He lowered his head, allowing Reia to grasp one of his spikes and pull herself into the same spot she sat in on their journey to Skuldafn. An idea came to her then, and she smiled slyly as Odahviing unfurled his wings and launched them into the sky.

“Well, since you are the one who brought up my lack of knowledge regarding Dohvahzul I suppose you will just have to teach me.”

A large gust of wind blew by, cutting off the vehement refusals of the dragon and the pleas of the elf as they flew through the sky, encouraging the lingering storm clouds to swiftly depart. The sun now shone fully, reflecting off the black hair flowing in the breeze and glinting off blood red scales as the pair continued to argue; flying higher towards the sky bereft of clouds.

Chapter Text


 

Dappled sunlight shone through the thick branches of the city tree Falinesti, falling on a group of Bosmer children as they listened intently to the woman sitting on the branch above them.

“… finally after Jarl Laila ‘Law-Giver’,” the children giggled at the title and the story teller gave them a tiny smile, “finished her eighth glass of wine she passed out cold.  And I, wishing to remain in her good standing, chivalrously returned her to her Hold.  However, I alone was unable to protect her fully and when she awoke there were a few select valuables ‘mysteriously’ missing from her person, much to my chagrin.” The children, unable to contain themselves any longer, burst into loud peals of laughter while the storyteller on the branch idly played with a gold ring with a suspicious likeliness to the valuable described earlier in the story.

“Another Reia, another!” The boldest of the children cried, bright amber eyes staring beseechingly at her, the rest of the children clambering to agree.  Reia sighed indulgently, as she tossed the ring towards the child who had spoken.  He grabbed it from the air and admired it, holding it up to the sky with a superior smirk on his face while the children around him oohed and awed in jealousy. 

“Now you know you will be sharing the money with the rest of the children, right Aranis?” Reia chided gently as she swung herself down from her branch.

Aranis rolled his eyes, but flinched when Reia appeared right in front of him.

“Right, Aranis?” She repeated with false innocence, a hand clasping itself to his shoulder as the other was placed on her hip.  Aranis snorted at her intimidation, but nodded.  Reia smiled genuinely this time, and ruffled his light brown hair teasingly as the rest of the children giggled in the background.  Reia would never harm her little brother, and both he and the rest of the children knew that.  She smiled to herself as Aranis fought to free himself from the hair ruffling; receiving the teasing from the other children with ill grace.  She really was too soft on these kids.

Pathetic.” A voice, cold as winter, hissed into her ear.

The hairs on the back of her neck stood straight up as she immediately spun around, hand flying to the dagger on her hip as she scanned her surroundings, looking for the source of the voice.  The children were gone.  A cry behind her reminded her of Aranis and she whirled once more, her smile no where to be seen.  The forest had vanished; a vaguely familiar dark, imposing fortress had taken its place.

“Aranis!  ARANIS!”  Reia yelled, eyes scanning the courtyard desperately for a glimpse of the young boy.  A faint niggling in the back of her mind whispered that something was wrong; she had been here before.  A faint cry came the interior of the dark grey fortress, its jagged spires piercing the heavens.  Reia’s head whipped towards the cry like a bloodhound and immediately began running.  She burst through the large doors and ran through the darkened halls, feet slipping on the smooth stones in her haste.  The cries were getting louder as she rounded the corner, eyes latching onto the door, the last barrier between her and that cry.  She tore open the doors and found herself in another courtyard, but this one wasn’t empty.  There was Aranis, desperately backing away from a prowling humanoid shape, a hood covered its features in shadow.

“Stay away from me!” He cried, but the figure ignored him and prowled more swiftly towards him.  Reia growled low in her throat, and tensed her muscles to leap at the figure when she heard the sound of wing beats, dull thuds that caused the very air to shiver.  A roar swept through the courtyard, freezing all the figures in place, the thuds growing louder as the dragon flew around the fortress and into the courtyard.  The dragon was black as night, protruding spikes covering most of his body with two magnificent horns drawing attention to his cruel face.  Reia paled in horrified realization as pale green eyes met deep red eyes so cold they burned, narrowed with wicked amusement.

The dragon was Alduin.

She kept her eyes glued to his form, bow drawn and arrow knocked waiting for him to swoop lower.  How he was here she didn’t know, he had been slain by her in Sovngarde.

He shouldn’t, couldn’t be here.

“Ah, Dohvakiin.  Had you thought yourself my Qahnaarin?  Such…  arrogance.”  He hissed down at her, wings thudding leisurely as he remained out of range.  His words seemed to linger in the air after he finished speaking, and fear skittered down her spine.

Rax wah ruus!” Reia spat at him, angrily shoving her fear to the back of her mind, hand tensed to release the straining arrow at the slightest opportunity.

Alduin’s eyes glittered at the threat, “So you have learned more of our tongue?  How amusing.  Do you now take the name of Dovah for your own?”  He swooped suddenly and landed in the courtyard with an earth shattering boom.  Reia tried to jump out of the way but found herself frozen in place, bow still pointing at the sky.  Alduin slunk towards her, every step tearing gouges into the courtyard.  His red eyes narrowed in amusement as Reia’s breaths became quick and shallow as she desperately tried to remain unaffected by his proximity. 

She wasn’t having much luck with that.

“Do you think you are deserving?  I have feasted on many greater than you.” He rumbled coldly, voice so deep that she felt the very ground tremble beneath her.  He circled behind her, fading from her sight.  “You, the ‘dominant Dovah’ who cowers at my Thu’um?”

His face was suddenly inches from her own and slyly purred, “Who can’t even protect the most defenceless of mortals?” he moved out of her gaze and she realized with dawning horror what he meant.

She had forgotten Aranis.

The cloaked figure had a dagger held up to Aranis’ throat.  He was gasping in fear, tears pouring down his face as he reached desperately towards Reia, the golden ring she had tossed to him earlier falling from his hand and landing on the cobblestones with a light clatter.

“You cannot prevail against me; I will outlast you, mortal.” Alduin rumbled with a confidence that shook Reia to her core.  He paused to allow his words time to sink in, and gestured with his snout towards the figure, who nodded at the unspoken order and promptly slit Aranis’ throat.  

“NO!” Reia screamed, finding herself unfrozen at last, and hurtled herself at the figure as it tossed Aranis negligently to the side, Alduin’s delighted chuckles fading as she focused completely on Aranis’ murderer.  The figure stood still, offering no resistance as she swept its ankles out from underneath it, sending it hurtling to the ground and landing painfully (she hoped) on its back.  Reia quickly straddled the hooded figure, dagger to its throat.  Rage fractured her usual iron control over her features, twisting them into a mask of hatred.  The figure below her made no move to fight, simply laying still with a vague detachment, as though it wasn’t apart of the proceedings at all.  A slight movement caused Reia to glance to the side just in time to see a fully alive Aranis shakily getting to his feet.

“Aranis!  You’re ok!”  Reia called out, shocked, but relieved that she hadn’t been too late to prevent his death.  Aranis glanced at her, eyes widening in fear, before bolting from the clearing, the gold ring lying forgotten on the cobblestones.  Reia frowned.  Why had he fled now that his attacker was down? Alduin’s ice cold voice chuckled behind her, sending a shiver down her neck. 

“Why do you think he’s afraid?” Alduin questioned, as the figure beneath her reached up, ignoring the knife at its throat completely, and removed its hood.

Erei un grind.” Alduin rumbled, unfurling his wings and leaping into the sky as Reia continued to stare down at the figure below her in stunned disbelief.

It had her face.


 

Reia awoke with a gasp, heart galloping madly in her chest as her eyes darted around the room, fearful of what she might see.  When nothing jumped out to attack her she relaxed, swiping a hand over her sweaty face.  She loathed nightmares; they always left her with a sense of… of helplessness that she couldn’t escape.  And she hated feeling helpless.  It was just a nightmare, but it felt so vivid; the glint of the gold ring, Alduin’s cruel amusement, the children’s joyful laughter.

“The children are safe.” Reia whispered sternly to herself, annoyed at her weakness.  They were still in Valenwood, enclosed within the protective forest and far away from the threat Alduin had posed.  “And he is dead.”

But you didn’t absorb his soul in Sovngarde.

Reia lay in bed for a long time after that thought.

Finally, she freed herself from the twisted blankets and began methodically donning her armor.  She didn't particularly need it around High Hrothgar, but donning her armour was soothing.  And right now, she needed a sense of normalcy.  First came the slightly padded under-armor to avoid any uncomfortable chafing.  Reia winced at the thought as she stepped into it; you only made that mistake once.  Second, she donned the scale-like cuirass with its purposefully jagged bottom that came to a stop at the middle of her thighs; the arms stopping just above the elbow.  Thirdly, she pulled on the gauntlets that reached just below the elbow, and bent down to strap on her greaves.  Reia flexed her hands, ensuring that her gloves were comfortable, and continued.  Fourth came the boots; high enough to encompass most of her calves and part of her greaves, yet supple enough to provide no discomfort.  Usually the hood would now be flipped up and the mask (resting slightly higher on the nose and dipping down below the hollows of the eyes) would be the last step.  The final step wasn’t needed, as she had no issue with remaining mask less among the Greybeards.

Reia walked briskly from her room, feet stepping silently on the cobbled floor.  Nocturnal never did tell her what exactly the Nightingale armor had been crafted from, and truthfully, Reia wasn’t sure she really wanted to know.  Knowing the Daedra’s penchant for the dramatic, Nocturnal would cloak herself in writhing shadows and whisper that it was crafted from only the darkest of mysteries in the dead of night.  Reia rolled her eyes at the thought.  The armor itself was an unreflective flat black, with delicate dark silver details running throughout the entire piece, including the top of her hood and parts of her mask.  The Nightingale armor had once been aptly described to her as ‘forged midnight’; a comparison Reia found most flattering.  It was perfect for hiding in the shadows without being seen, mask and hood cloaking her features and making her unrecognizable to anyone who may happen to catch a glimpse of her.  Which wasn’t likely.

She pushed the nightmare to the back of her mind as she focused on the day ahead of her and the lessons with Odahviing…

Which she was late for.  Shit.  Odahviing was going to kill her.

Never having been so glad for her armor as she was in that moment, she took off for the courtyard doors, hoping none of the Greybeards were around to scold her about her lateness.

They had an unnatural fondness for tsking and shaking their heads at her.


 

After dodging the anticipated fireball from Odahviing (although it was rather larger than usual, he must be grumpy this morning) they settled themselves in the Greybeards’s courtyard and continued from where they had left off the previous day.

After needling Odahviing into being her mentor five months ago, she had progressed unnaturally quickly.  Even Odahviing thought so, though he never told her outright.  She was quite pleased with herself, assuming that she had a gift for languages.  However, a few weeks into the lessons the greybeards joined for a couple days, trying to learn the language.  They soon realized that they were unable to retain any of the words, and spent the rest of the day sulking, or ‘meditating’ they termed it when she called them on it.  Odahviing told her then it was her dragon soul that allowed her to grasp the language so naturally.  She had pouted at this, bemoaning the loss of her ‘talent’ to Odahviing who had cuffed her sharply on the head in reply, knocking her to the ground.

Good times.

Today’s lesson was progressing as usual, Odahviing would rattle off phrases and words quickly while Reia scrambled to write them all down.  Today, however, she was understandably distracted.

“… To say ‘my kill’ would be ‘Kriil’.  When our words end in an ‘ii’ sound you add the ‘l’ sound to the end of the word, but if the word doesn’t end with ‘ii’ then you add a short ‘i’ sound at the end of the word.  Bahi is an example of this.”  Odahviing rattled off swiftly, Reia struggling to keep up. 

Reia translated quickly in her head.

“’My wrath’?”  Reia asked Odahviing doubtfully.  He nodded shortly, eyes narrowing at her unusual hesitance as he gazed down at her.

“Is there something you're trying to tell me?”  Reia joked nervously, hoping that he wasn’t going to launch another fireball at her.  He liked to attack her occasionally, “keeping her senses sharp” he’d say, though Reia suspected he just liked having an excuse to knock her around.  It did wonders for her swearing vocabulary; she was almost as fluent as Odahviing in curses these days.

He continued to eye her with his narrowed gaze, and she watched absentmindedly as his eyes paused at the dark hollows beneath her eyes before flickering to her hand that she just realized had been trembling throughout the lesson.  She forced her hand to lie still.

“You look sahlo,” Odahviing growled bluntly, sniffing the air around the stunned Reia.  “You smell sahlo as well.  What troubles you mal vukon, and why have you not sunk your claws into its neck?”  He truly had a way with words.

Re flinched at his words.  “I am not weak.”  Reia snarled as she stood up and stomped away from him, his words were nastily coincidental to her nightmares, twisting the dagger that it had plunged in her.

She had only the brief warning of a low growl before Odahviing’s tail swept her feet out from under her and pinned her to the uncomfortable ground.  He settled down beside her, ignoring her breathless curses.  His tail was surprisingly heavy.

She had forgotten that Odahviing disliked having his questions ignored.  Temperamental bastard.

Geh, you are weak.”  He repeated; Reia narrowed her eyes at him.  “You have grown complacent on Monahven.  Your claws have grown dull.”

Reia temper snapped.  She did not appreciate Odahviing's scorn.  She gathered her Thu’um; a tumult power that twisted and writhed inside her, whirling faster, power growing, until she felt that she would be torn apart at the seams if she didn’t release it.

Fus Ro Dah!”  She shouted, power submitting to the shape of her words, and Odahviing was flung off her into the sky.  Reia shakily stood; she hadn’t used her Thu’um for a few months, focusing only on learning the language.

Odahviing caught himself in the air, and with great flaps of his wings he slowly lowered himself back to the ground, a pleased glimmer shone in his eye.

Nid.” He rumbled when he landed softly beside Reia.  “You are dovah, you cannot be weak.  But this place,” Here he glanced around the Greybeard’s temple with a sneer. “has made you soft.  Now speak of your Paal.”

Reia, feeling better from her shout, told Odahviing of her nightmare.  His eyes didn’t leave hers throughout the story, they narrowed when she finished with the memory she had after she awoke; that she had not absorbed Alduin’s soul.

Reia, feeling better from her shout, recounted her nightmare to Odahviing.  His eyes didn’t leave hers throughout the story, and they narrowed when she finished with the memory she had after she awoke; that she had not absorbed Alduin’s soul.

He grumbled, tail stirring up the snow in his agitation.  “You should speak of this with Paarthurnax when he returns, he knew Alduin better than most.” Reia nodded her agreement.

He continued seriously, “You are not weak, were you so easily bested you would not have defeated me.” his words bringing a small smile to Reia’s face.  “Had you battled with one of your fron at stake your talons would be sharp enough to sever the strongest of necks.  Even I know this.  It is foolish to let dreams affect you in such a manner.”

“Odahviing…” Reia began, moved by his belief in her, but was cut off with a sharp look.     

“But I spoke the truth, your claws have dulled mal vukon.  When was your last krif?  You have not left Monahven in many an age; you have grown stagnant.  That is not the dovah’s way.”

Reia realized with a jolt that he was right; she hadn’t left the Throat of the World since she had returned from slaying Alduin, and there were no enemies to fight up here (besides the mock battles she had with Odahviing).  She still trained, but she trained with the intent to keep up her skills, not to improve them as she had done in the past.  Had she really stayed here for several months?  She had never remained in one place for so long after she had left Valenwood; it made her antsy, eager to be travelling.  Perhaps that had been her dovah soul influencing her actions even before she learned the truth about herself  Yet she had remained at Hrothgar for months, realizing now that those urges remained, but she had pushed them aside in order to learn.  Odahviing was rather perceptive, or perhaps he knew of her yearnings, having experienced them himself.   

Reia laughed softly to herself, amused that Odahviing was the one who slapped her sense back into her.  He detested these kinds of 'feeling' talks.  But he did talk about killing enemies, possibly the only reason he had been able to make it through this little heart to heart.

“You are a wonderful fahdon.”  Reia said with a smile, Odahviing blinked in surprise and rustled his wings uncomfortably.  “You helped me get my perspective back, thank you.”  She smiled at him genuinely, and jumped up to wrap her arms around his neck in a parody of a hug.  Odahviing took a startled step back, then huffed and rolled his eyes at her (one of the annoying habits he copied from Reia; he even tried some of her seasoned deer meat once, deeming it ‘adequate’) but accepted the hug nonetheless.

Odahviing shook her off his neck after the moment stretched too long.  They passed the rest of the lesson with no further incidents, and Odahviing flew off when the lesson was done.  Reia stretched, cramped from sitting for so long.  She felt lighter after their conversation, the oppressive weights of her fear and anxiety crumbling away.  Really, why had she neglected her training to such an extent?  Starting immediately, it was back to the grindstone.  She would become even stronger.

And sneakier she thought, as she she collected her papers and walked towards the Greybeard's home.  As she passed beneath the arching side doors of High Hrothgar shadows concealed the devious smile that flickered across her face as she thought of the all the ways she could train; the nightmare now truly forgotten.

 

Chapter Text

The following weeks were a period of terror for the residents of High Hrothgar.  Reia had returned to training with a vengeance; the source of their terror deriving from her stealth exercises.  Everyone was a target.  The Greybeards began to avoid the most shadowy corridors and even Odahviing became cautious; but this only upped the challenge, and increased the thrill. 

The sun was setting on the second day of the third week since Reia had begun training again, pale shades of oranges and reds streaking the horizon as Reia finished gathering her arrows from the targets in the courtyard.  She placed them back in her quiver, and glanced back towards Odahviing who appeared to be in a deep sleep.  Reia knew better.  Odahviing was trying to bait her, tempting her with a seemingly easy target.  He was still rather upset at her for stealing one of the small red scales covering his snout. 

In his favour it had been rather nerve wracking; it took days of her loosening the scale a little at a time whenever Odahviing went for a short nap.  She now wore it on a thin piece of black leather around her neck, telling Odahviing that it was her new good luck charm.  He had rolled his eyes at her, simply snarling at her to get back to work.

He really was a big softie.

Deciding to play with him, Reia channelled her magic into her hand, forming a tiny ball of compressed lightning that writhed in her palm.  Then, with a sly smile on her face, she tilted her hand slightly, aiming for the exposed leathery skin where she had stolen his scale, and released the lightning.  It shot off almost quicker than her eye could follow, but Odahviing raised his wing almost as swiftly, concealing his face from the element.  The lightning collided with his wing with a soft crackle, dissipating quickly and leaving no damage.  He lowered his wing negligently and shot her a look out of the corner of his eye. 

“Oops, I guess I need to work more with my magic!  Sorry about that Odahviing.” Reia said with a cheshire grin that contradicted her words.  Odahviing rolled his eyes at her (really, she was a terrible influence on him) and stood up with a languid stretch, almost like a cat.  She smiled slightly at the comparison.  Cats liked getting their ears scratched, right?  She should offer to scratch his horns for him sometime. 

“How tiiraz, mal vukon.  It seems your prowess has waned over the past month despite your training.” Odahviing replied scathingly, eyes glittering with triumph as he crawled over to her.  He knew that she aimed there on purpose, but he just couldn’t pass up an opportunity to mock her. 

“Hmmm.” Reia hummed, purposefully taking out the red scale from underneath her armor and playing with it idly to remind Odahviing of her skill.  Odahviing’s eyes narrowed and he looked away with a huff, tail twitching with embarrassment.  He glanced back toward the scale in her hand and for a moment she thought he looked almost… pleased? 

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to figure him out, Reia thought displeased, as she tucked the scale beneath her armour.  He was just too full of contradictions.

They let the topic drop, and began meandering towards High Hrothgar. 

“Will you continue to terrorize the Greybeards tonight?” Odahviing rumbled questioningly, glancing at her in time to see the wicked grin on her face

“Well, I wouldn’t call it terrorizing.” Reia replied with mock seriousness, “That’s such a harsh way of putting it.  It’s called training, and I’m sure the Greybeards understand.  Besides, they scare much too easily.  I’m helping them just as much as they’re helping me.”

Odahviing snorted at that. “Be cautious mal vukon.  Only Argneir is truly proficient with his Thu’um.  The others require more training.” They reached the door then, and Reia turned towards him. 

“Do try not to make the Greybeards destroy their own territory.” He said with a rumbling sigh, as if believing that outcome was already inevitable.

Reia’s eyes widened, “Did you just make a joke??” she asked in disbelief.

“No.” He replied so flatly that Reia knew it was true.  Odahviing told a joke.

She was so proud.

Ignoring her proud gaze, Odahviing looked up towards the darkening sky.  The sun had almost finished setting and a few pockets of stars began to emerge, twinkling in the gloom.  

“You are better now mal vukon.  Your training has given you a purpose once more.” He rumbled without glancing at her, eyes still glued to the distant horizon.  With a soft sigh, he continued, “There is nothing left for me to teach you.  Your mastery of our language is most impressive.”  Reia swallowed thickly; this was starting to sound like a goodbye.

“You’re not leaving are you?” Reia asked swiftly.  At Odahviing’s questioning glance she hastened to add, “I mean I’m sure there’s still much that I could learn from you… if you stay a little longer.” she finished quietly.  As selfish as it was Reia wasn’t ready for Odahviing to leave.  He was her only friend up here, and she had nowhere else to go.  If he left now she would have to face that fact.  Before leaving for Skuldafn all those months ago she had been unsure if she would be returning, and left the leaderships of the Dark Brotherhood and the Thieves Guild to Nazir and Brynjolf respectively.  They probably thought she was dead by now, since she hadn’t made contact after Alduin’s defeat.

But she had always disliked leadership, and having the mantles of command thrust upon her (unwillingly) rather than seeking it out herself merely solidified that.  No, she would not be returning to those guilds.  Where she would go…

She didn’t like thinking about it.

Odahviing was still looking at her curiously, his bright green eyes practically burning a hole into her. 

Nid, I do not plan on departing for some time yet.”  Reia breathed a quiet sigh of relief, hoping that Odahviing hadn’t heard.  “I will remain until the Old One returns.”

“Oh!” Reia exclaimed, she had rather forgotten about Paarthurnax’s journey to teach the Way of the Voice to the dovah across Skyrim, “willing or no”.  That still sounded ominous.

“When is he back?” Reia asked; she didn’t remember Paarthurnax saying anything about when he would return.

“Soon I believe.”  Odahviing replied, eyes returned to the horizon which had shifted into true night while they had been talking.

“Ah.  That’s… good.”  She wasn’t sure what she should be feeling.  She would be happy to see Paarthurnax again, but she didn’t want Odahviing to leave.  Paarthurnax was a mentor, someone who she could go to with her problems and receive wisdom in return.  Odahviing helped her as well, but he was… he was fahdoni.

“Go inside mali vukon.”  Odahviing rumbled softly to the distracted Reia who nodded and mumbled a quick goodnight before stepping inside.

She didn’t notice the change.


 

Reia slept restlessly that night, vague dreams causing her to twist and turn throughout the night, and she woke with a sense of loss lying heavily in her heart.

This was stupid.  Odahviing hadn’t even left yet and she was already depressed. 

Deciding that she needed a rousing stealth exercise to lift her spirits she quickly donned her armor and slid silently out of her room.  Arngeir would be just the challenge she needed this morning.  He was perceptive, as were the other Greybeards, but he would be unlikely to freeze anything or set something on fire if she startled him, which the other Greybeards actually had done.  While that would certainly make her laugh until her stomach ached she wanted the thrill of a successful hunt, not hilarity.  Arngeir it was.

Judging by the light purple and pale dustings of orange that she could see through the window she judged that dawn was nearly over.  Arngeir typically awoke at daybreak to meditate at certain locations within Hrothgar for an hour or so.  Since dawn was nearly over, he should be moving to a new meditation spot right about now.

She slunk quietly through the halls, melding with the slowly receding shadows as they were exposed to the dawn.  Reia pulled her hood over her eyes, shielding them from the stray rays of light that would give away her position if they managed to reflect off her eyes. 

Her footsteps made no noise as she prowled along the smooth cobblestone floor, breath deepening as the world sharpened around her.  Time to hunt.

She glided through most of the side corridors, Arngeir no where to be seen, before arriving at the main hall.  Making sure she was still covered in shadows she peered around the corner, and there he was, kneeling with his head slightly lowered in meditation.  She leaned back slowly.  One false move and Arngeir would be immediately aware of her presence.  Her eyes darted around the area, looking for weaknesses she could exploit, but finding none.  The only way way into the main hall was through one if its few entrances, and she couldn’t just walk in.  Arngeir would notice her for sure…

Unless she was invisible.

She sighed, but gathered the spell into her palm.  It pulsed gently in her hand, a condensed ball of dusky purple tinted with a few streaks of pale orange within the sphere.  With a small flick of her hand she cast the spell, dark purple smoke with a pastel orange core erupting where she stood.  The haze cleared, and she was nowhere to be seen.

I really need to figure out how to cast that spell without the damn smoke, Reia thought to herself, irritably waving the remaining smoke from her face.  She blinked tiredly, feeling suddenly lethargic.  The invisibility spell was extremely difficult to master, not to mention the severe drain on her magic, which made it one of her most rarely used spells.  It was rather useful though in certain circumstances (like now) when no other options were available to her.  This was the first time she actually needed the spell during her stay at High Hrothgar.

Arngeir should be honored.

She prowled silently into the main hall, eyes remaining fixed on the bowed figure of Arngeir who hadn’t moved from his position.  Slowly, she made her way to one of the shadowy pillars behind Arngeir where she cloaked herself in shadows and waited for the spell to fade.  Ultimately, she preferred relying on her own physical skills for stealth rather than her magic.  It was much more exciting that way.  She would, of course, use her invisibility spell when the need arose (she wasn’t an idiot) but she wanted to finish this hunt with her physical prowess, not her magic.

The spell faded abruptly; her body flashing back into existence with a tiny burst of dark purple smoke that was swallowed by the shadows.  Stifling a sneeze, Reia glanced around the main hall, eyes coming to a stop on the large stone pillar a little way behind Arngeir.  If she climbed that she would be in the perfect position to jump at him from above.  She smiled deviously as she stealthily made her way to the pillar, keeping to the shadows.  As she reached the pillar she froze as Arngeir shifted suddenly, coughing into his hand, before becoming still once again.  Quickly, before Arngeir decided to get up, she scaled the stone pillar (careful not to disturb any small stones) and settled into a crouch at the top.  She let out a soft breath of relief, it was going well so far.  As that thought crossed her mind, Arngeir began to stir once again and Reia was certain that he would be getting up this time.  She tensed her muscles, calculating the distance between the pillar and Arngeir, and leapt. 

She landed on Arngeir’s shoulders gracefully (albeit a tad heavily) just as he was beginning to stand, causing Arngeir to let out a shout of surprise before collapsing back to the ground with a heavy thump.  Reia jumped off his shoulders before he fell, and now crouched before him with a satisfied air.

“Gotcha!” She crowed, jubilant, as Arngeir sighed and slowly sat up.

“That was well executed Dovahkiin,” Arngeir said in his low, gravelly voice.  Reia preened at the comment. “Had I not seen you poking your head into the hall I would never have noticed your presence.”

“Ugh.  Shit.” Reia moaned, wilting in embarrassment.  How did he even notice her!  He had his head bowed the entire time!  At least he didn’t sense me after that she thought, trying to salvage some of her pride.   

Arngeir chuckled as Reia dropped from her crouch to lounge on the hard floor, tracing nonsensical patterns on the stone, determinedly not looking at him.

“Why did you target me Dohvakiin?  I believe you derive much greater amusement from my fellow Greybeards than myself.”  He asked her curiously, eyes sharp. 

Reia stilled her hands and, still looking at the floor, replied. “Their reactions are funnier than yours, true, but you’re a much more difficult target.”

“Hmmm.  You were seeking to distract yourself then?”  He asked, causing Reia to look up in astonishment.  He tsked at her and shook his head.

The bastard.

“It is obvious to those who observe, Dovahkiin.  It is, however, understandable.  Your destiny has been fulfilled, the first of many, and you have been struggling with the void left behind.”

Reia gaped, surprised at how easily he had seen through her.  “What do you mean, ‘the first of many’?” Reia asked with a frown.

Arngeir smiled at her, eyes crinkling at the corners.  “There are many destinies Dovahkiin.  Don’t tell me you thought you had only one?”

“Well… yes.  Not anymore though.” Reia muttered quietly, as Arngeir continued to look amused.

“Some have many destinies, others have none.  You have great power and skill, and the authority to choose.  You are the hero who defeated Alduin, but will you be a hero who is remembered in song throughout the ages?  Or will your name be a curse to future generations?  Or will you merely fade from history, unremembered?  Let the Way of the Voice be your guide, and the path of wisdom will be clear to you.  Your future lies before you.”

Reia simply stared at Arngeir as he finished his speech solemnly.  Wow. 

So no pressure or anything.  Got it.

“I don’t think I’m a hero, Arngeir.” Reia said quietly.  Really, she only fought Alduin because she was the dragon born, and thus had the power to oppose him.  She didn’t fight to protect the masses of Skyrim, like heroes were supposed to do; she fought to survive because she would surely die if Alduin succeeded. 

No, she wasn’t a hero.  And she didn’t particularly want to be one.

Arngeir gazed at her steadily, as though reading her thoughts on her face despite its impassivity. 

“Perhaps not,” Reia blinked in shock, as Arngeir continued. “but you cannot deny your actions were heroic, and that is something to take pride in, whether you believe yourself a hero or not.  You know what you are best, but you do not yet know what you may be.”

“I know that I am what I choose to become!” Reia snapped back at him, disliking the direction this conversation was heading. 

“Precisely!” Arngeir beamed at her, leaving Reia feeling rather wrong-footed.  She had missed something here; she was sure of it.

Damn cryptic Greybeards.

“What continues to trouble you, Dovahkiin?” Arngeir asked kindly, as Reia tried to parse through his destiny speech, and failing.

After a lengthy pause, Reia asked quietly, “Is Alduin really dead, Arngeir?  I didn’t absorb his soul when he died.”

Arngeir frowned thoughtfully.  “Perhaps, perhaps not.  Dragons are unlike mortal creatures, and Alduin is unique even among dragonkind.  He may be permitted to return at the end of time to fulfill his destiny as the World-Eater.  But that is for the Gods to decide.”

Reia chewed on her bottom lip.  Hopefully the end of time was a long, long ways away.

She had a feeling Alduin could hold a nasty grudge.

“It is plain to see that you are still wrestling with something, Dovahkiin.  Would you care to discuss it?” 

Reia sighed heavily.  The talk about destiny was interesting (and slightly terrifying), and knowing that Alduin was probably not going to come back for a long time made her relax, but it didn’t soothe her fear of what she would do once Odahviing left. 

Attempting to distract herself, (and hoping Arngeir could help her) she relayed her fears to him about what would become of her in the future.  She neglected to mention how Odahviing played into her fears.

But that was for her to deal with, not for Arngeir to analyze. 

“Hmmm.  The unknown creates great fear in many, Dovahkiin.  However, the future can be somewhat predicted by looking to the past; that is where the seeds of the future were sown.” Arngeir stood up suddenly, and Reia scrambled to follow him as he walked sedately towards the corridor.  “Your vision will become clear once you look deep within yourself.  Those who look outside dream, yet those who look inside awaken.  Breath and focus, Dragonborn.”

Reia stopped walking, simply staring at his retreating back.  Arngeir, as though sensing she had stopped following him, turned back towards her and bowed his head, before moving on to his next meditation spot.  Was it a Greybeard requirement to be as mysterious as possible?  She wandered dazedly towards the courtyard doors, not sure if Arngeir’s talk had helped or just confused her further.

As Reia pushed open the courtyard doors, sunlight streaming thickly across her body, she contemplated whether his beard made him wise or if his wisdom created his beard.  A question she was sure would forever remain a mystery, unfortunately.


 

 

The courtyard was completely empty.  Odd, since Odahviing was usually there before her.  Not thinking much about it, Reia began her warm up stretches, trying to erase the chill that had sunk into her bones.  Reia had begun to grudgingly adjust to the chill from living in Skyrim, the land of constant, unending snow.  It had been a major shock when she first arrived in Skyrim.  All that cold fluffy snow; she had been enchanted!

She wasn’t enchanted any longer.  The cold had managed to knock that out of her system fairly quickly.  Stupid snow. 

Reia finished her stretches, (was she feeling a bit warmer?  Probably just wishful thinking.) and unhooked her bow from her back as she stepped towards the closest target.  She rolled her shoulders, loosening them up, and took aim.  Thwump.

Her release was smooth, and her aim true.  She had hit the target dead center.  Archery was a Bosmer’s favorite among the other forms of battle.  She lined up another shot, and released it.  Thwump.  This one landed directly beside her first shot.  Reia smiled; time to pick up the pace.

The Bosmer were famous for their archery, specifically their ‘snatch and release in one continuous motion’ technique.  Young Bosmer were taught this technique from a young age, creating deadly archers as they grew.  The deadliness of this technique was the high amount of arrows that could be shot in a short time, since they didn’t waste time lining up the shot or taking aim, having been drilled to do that automatically before they even reached for an arrow.  And Reia had become extremely proficient at this technique before she had even left Valenwood, adding daggers into her arsenal as she travelled, not to mention her vast reserves of magic.

She was a very difficult opponent.

Thwump.  Thwumpthwumpthwump.

 As she fell into a rhythm, she found herself thinking more on her home land.  She missed the humid jungles of Valenwood; the moving city trees Falinesti and Silvenar, the comfort of being surrounded by others of her race, and she missed Aranis most of all.  He would be a young man now, probably beginning to prepare for his own journey outside the familiarity of Valenwood.  He was strong, Reia knew, and didn’t need his older sister hovering around him, but still she worried.

She wondered if he missed her.

Thwumpthwumpthwumpthwump.  Thwump.

Reia’s hand grasped at air; she had shot all her arrows while she was spaced out.  She peered at the target; its center looked like a pincushion.  Good. 

As she walked towards the target she felt the air shudder from the disturbance of wing beats.  Odahviing was on his way, finally.  She gathered her arrows swiftly, and had just finished wrestling the last arrow from the target when Odahviing arrived.

“Hey, you’re late!” Reia shouted at him, as he landed with a boom, spraying snow all over Reia.

Krosis, mal vukon.” Odahviing rumbled amusedly as Reia spluttered and wiped the snow off her face.  “The Old One delayed me.”

“Paarthurnax is back?!”  Reia asked with equal parts of excitement and dread as she scrubbed the last of the snow off her face.  Odahviing nodded silently, and Reia’s stomach twisted unpleasantly.

“He wishes to speak with you.  Come.”  Odahviing flicked his wings impatiently.  He seemed almost nervous.  On edge even.  Had he and Paarthurnax fought?

Reia climbed onto his back with the ease of familiarity, settling comfortably in her spot.  Odahviing rose up with a sinuous movement, and leapt into the sky.  Reia’s hand flew to shield her eyes from the sun’s glare as her hair whipped around her face.  Odahviing was flying leisurely, seemingly in no hurry to answer Paarthurnax’s summons.  It seemed Reia wasn’t the only one he liked to annoy.

They climbed steadily higher before bursting over the top of the mountain, all of Skyrim spread out before them; and there was Paarthurnax, perched on his stone wall, the guardian of the Throat of the World.  Odahviing descended towards him slowly, landing gently, and lowering his head to shorten the drop for Reia.  She clambered off Odahviing and dropped to the ground with a muffled thump, analyzing Paarthurnax as she did so.  It had been many months since she had last seen him, and he looked mostly the same.  His wings were a bit more tattered now perhaps, but his eyes glimmered more brightly, and he held himself differently.  More confidently, maybe?  Mostly, he seemed younger.

Paarthurnax had been analyzing her in turn, eyes narrowed.  He nodded once to himself, and rumbled, “Ah, mal vukon.  Much time has passed since last we spoke.  You feel strong.  Good.  There is much we must speak of.”

Reia smiled up at him, walking towards him with Odahviing shadowing her steps.  “Paarthurnax!  I’ve missed you too.  Did Odahviing already tell you about Alduin?” She asked, assuming that’s what he wanted to talk to her about.

“Alduin?” Paarthurnax questioned, confused.  Reia paused, gaze flickering to Odahviing who was standing stiffly, as though uncomfortable.  What did Paarthurnax want to talk about then?

“What do you wish to know?” Paarthurnax recovered smoothly, but the seed of suspicion had already taken root inside Reia.  Hesitatingly, she told him how Alduin’s soul had disappeared after she had defeated him, rather than being absorbed by her, and Arngeir’s own theories.  Odahviing appeared to be listening intently as well.

“Arngeir is correct.  Every world has an ending, and Alduin is this one’s.  Rok los lein naakin, but he will not return before the end of time.”

“Well that’s… comforting.  I suppose.”  Reia muttered, feeling relieved.  Now that Paarthurnax had confirmed that Alduin was gone, (mostly) she could hopefully move on from that chapter of her life to focus on her future. 

And now she was worried about the future again.  Wonderful.

She glanced at Odahviing out of the corner of her eye.  He still sat stiffly, tail brushing across the ground in agitation.  Maybe… he wasn’t looking forward to his departure either?  Maybe he wouldn’t leave after all.  Reia felt a small blossom of hope sprout in her chest, and she quickly stomped it back down.  She didn’t need to get her hopes up only to have them crushed.

She turned her attention back to Paarthurnax, who was gazing contemplatively at the sky.  Slowly, he rumbled, “Mal vukon, have you ever wondered about the existence of other worlds?” Odahviing twitched.

“Other worlds?”  Reia repeated slowly, suspicions rising rapidly.  “You mean something like the Oblivion Gates?”

Nid.  The Oblivion Gates are simply a bridge between the Mortal and Daedric planes.  I mean a different world entirely, not other planes within our own world.”

“Then no, I haven’t thought about it.”  Reia said, starting to feel resigned.  She had a feeling she was about to find out a lot more about these other worlds than she wanted.  

Paarthurnax turned the brunt of his gaze on her.  “Would you like too?”

Reia paused for a moment.  “Possibly.  The concept sounds interesting, but why would you want to teach me specifically about other worlds?”

“Not ‘worlds’ mal vukon, world.  I have a… favor to ask of you.”

Nid.”  Odahviing snarled loudly, tail lashing furiously in the snow drifts, and causing Reia to startle violently.  “Rek los bo! Daar los meyus, Paarthurnax, ahrk rutkei. Waan hi vust ni inkoraav nii, vir vust rek?”

“Drem, Odahviing. Nii los pruzah wah koraav vir pogaas hi ulaak fah Reia, nuz daar los ek komaan, ni hin.”  Paarthurnax growled lowly in reply.

Reia had missed most of what was said, their conversation too swift for her to catch all of it.  What she did catch was Odahviing snarling something about her not going somewhere dangerous, and Paarthurnax replying that it was her choice.

“Wait, wait, wait!” Reia shouted, turning Odahviing angry gaze towards her.  “You’re talking too fast.  What is going on?”

“It doesn’t matter.”  Odahviing grumbled lowly, eyes shooting daggers at Paarthurnax as he slowly rose to his feet.  “You won’t be apart of it.”

“That is not your decision, Odahviing.”  Paarthurnax rumbled back, eyes narrowing.  “I will ask her, and she can decide for herself.”

Odahviing snarled again, but sat back down, moving closer to Reia.  The mood between them was tense; one poorly phrased comment would have Odahviing at Paarthurnax’s throat.   

“Alright.” Reia started, feeling rather lost.  “Please explain, Paarthurnax.”

“As you wish.”  Paarthurnax replied and, ignoring the glare Odahviing was shooting him, settled himself more comfortably on his wall.

“Many ages ago, before Alduin was lost in time, there were several dragons who managed to suppress their draconic instincts before even I.  Why, and how, they did this is unknown to me.  But once they had done so, Alduin viewed them as a threat.”

“Why would he view them as a threat?  Wasn’t he the most powerful dovah in Skyrim?” Reia interrupted curiously.

“Alduin was complicated, mal vukon; he acknowledged and valued power, but disliked being threatened.  Those dovah were no longer bound to their instincts, and would not bow to his rule any longer.  Yet, Alduin viewed killing them as a waste.  Amongst the seven, there was one dragon who was almost his equal, whom Alduin would possibly have been unable to kill if he had tried, so great was his power.  Thus, Alduin banished them from this world with an unholy shout, and they have not returned.” Paarthurnax finished with a deep rumble.

“Why haven’t they returned?  Couldn’t they have just used the same shout Alduin did to return?” Reia asked, now very intrigued.

“… I know not.  It is possible Alduin’s shout could not be copied, or that it was forgotten upon its utterance.  I have travelled to that world searching for them, but I was unsuccessful.”

“If you were able to travel to this ‘world’ using a different shout than Alduin, couldn’t they have done the same?” Reia questioned again, attempting to ignore the furious Odahviing at her side.  It seemed he didn’t share her interest in this other world.

“Again, I do not know.  There are many possibilities, most morbid, yet I believe they still live somewhere, but are trapped, perhaps by Alduin’s shout or something unknown to me.”

Reia was getting an inkling to where this was heading.  She sighed, she should know by now to trust her suspicions implicitly.

“And what’s this ‘favor’ you’re trying to ask me?”

Mal vukon,” Paarthurnax began, staring at her beseechingly.  “I would ask of you to go to this world and help me find our lost dovah.”

“What makes you think I can find them where you failed?” Reia asked, fingers idly tracing patterns along her armor.  She heard a snort from beside her, and turned to see Odahviing rolling his eyes at her and rustling his wings meaningfully.

“You have certain advantages that we… lack.” Paarthurnax rumbled tactfully.

Right.  It would be difficult for a dovah to gather information with them being all… dovahish. 

“Ah.  Gotcha.”  Odahviing snorted, and went back to glaring at Paarthurnax.

“I have already questioned the dovah that reside there, but…” Paarthurnax trailed off with a heavy pause.

“But?” Reia prodded, now tapping a rhythm along Odahviing’s scales.  Surprisingly, he let her.

“I will not allow my own perceptions to dilute your own.”  Paarthurnax said, closing the subject with finality.  Reia frowned at that, what was so bad about these other dovah?  “I have exhausted my options of searching; there is only so much information you can gather from the air, and the mortals fled at my presence.”

Reia couldn’t imagine why.

“Only you can succeed where I failed.  Please, mal vukon.”  Paarthurnax rumbled, eyes returning to the sky as he awaited her answer.

Honestly, she was intrigued.  Searching for dovah who even Alduin had been wary of was rather exciting.  It wasn’t as though she had any iron clad plans for her future, and this was a challenge. 

Mal vukon,” Odahviing rumbled beside her, breaking her trail of thought.  “you cannot be so reckless to just leap into another world.  You know nothing about it!”

“I know that Odahviing, but after you leave I’ll have no where else to go!” Reia snarled right back at him, stuttering to a halt at his widening eyes.  Shit.

“Besides, I want to help Paarthurnax, and this other world sounds interesting.” She said quietly, embarrassed at Odahviing’s continued silence.

Mali vukon.” Odahviing rumbled softly, causing Reia’s head to whip around in shock.

My little shadow.

“If you are sure in this action, then I will accompany you.”

Nid.” Paarthurnax interrupted, and Odahviing snarled, curling his lip.  “You cannot accompany her Odahviing.  You would only hinder her mission.”

Odahviing growled loudly, claws digging into the snow.  Reia, shocked silent at what he had called her, found her voice again.

“I’ll be alright Odahviing,” She said with a smile, happiness welling inside her at the protectiveness Odahviing had displayed.  Reaching under her armor she pulled out the shimmering red scale. “I have my good luck charm after all!”

Odahviing’s growls cut off abruptly as he stared intensely at his scale in her hand.  His eyes softened, and he nudged her head with his snout.

Zu’u Odahviing.  Call me when you have need, and I will come.” 

“Odahviing…”  Paarthurnax began warningly, but was cut off my Odahviing’s snarl.

“I am not letting her travel to another world with no offer of assistance.” He hissed at Paarthurnax before turning back to Reia.  “Call me, mali vukon, whether you have need or not, and I will come.”

“Odahviing….” Reia’s words choked off, unable to say more through the rising tide of emotions in her chest.  Odahviing seemed to understand, since he rumbled softly and nudged her once more.  

“Are you prepared to leave?”  Paarthurnax asked after a pause to allow Reia to get her emotions under control.

“Right now?” Reia questioned, surprised.  It seemed rather sudden.

Geh.

Reia could actually leave at this very moment.  She had her armor, her bow and arrows, and her two daggers.  That’s all she really needed.  But…

“Hold on a moment!” Reia dug into her bag she had brought with her, filled with paper, and ink.  She grabbed the quill, dunked it in the ink, and hastily penned a letter.  Once she had finished, she placed it back in the bag and put it on one of Odahviing’s neck spikes.

“Can you make sure to tell the Greybeards to have this letter sent to Valenwood?” Odahviing blinked slowly at her in assent, and she beamed up at him.

“Are you prepared, Reia?”  Paarthurnax asked seriously, and Reia nodded.  Paarthurnax breathed in deeply, and shouted a series of words on the ground.  Reia gazed at the foreign letters for a moment, before absorbing their meaning.  Lein Wundun Thedas was the first phrase, and Lein Wundun Tamriel was the second.

“The first shout is too travel to the other world, ‘Thedas’ it is called.  The second is for you to return to Tamriel.”  Paarthurnax paused, gazing at her seriously.  “Please find them, mal vukon.”

Reia nodded seriously, but inside she was a vortex of nerves.  Was she really doing this?  Travelling to this other world… to ‘Thedas’ was probably the craziest thing she was ever going to do, and probably one of her hardest challenges.  She had always craved excitement, stalked danger, in order to prove that she could.  To prove to herself that she was both cunning and strong.  And she truly did want to help Paarthurnax; he had sounded so sad, so unlike himself.  She would do this.  She had defeated Alduin, surely she could find a few dragons lost in a different world?  Probably.

Ok, no more doubts.  Time to do this, but first… Reia leapt at Odahviing, wrapping her arms around his scaly neck.  She couldn’t leave without one last neck breaking hug with Odahviing.  He huffed, amused, and let her dangle from his neck unhindered.  Eventually, she let go, making sure no tears were visible as she landed in the snow.

Vah Su’um Ven.” Paarthurnax growled deeply, eyes glittering with pride as he nodded towards her.

Erei un grind, mali Vukon.” Odahviing rumbled softly in farewell, bowing his head to her so she wouldn’t see the sadness in his gaze.

Reia smiled once more, before turning her back to the dovah.  She was fairly certain she shouldn’t be shouting in their direction.  She closed her eyes as she breathed in, and out.  Focus.  Slowly, she pulled her mask over her face, tugging at it to make sure it was secured, and lowered her hood.  She touched each of her weapons; her Blade of Woe, Mehrune’s Dagger, and her Nightingale Bow.  All accounted for.  She was prepared.

She concentrated inward, calling to her power that answered with a rush.  It tumbled eagerly inside her, ready to obey her commands.        

Reia’s eyes snapped open.

Lein Wundun Thedas.

With a blinding flash of green light, Reia vanished from Tamriel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

Reia’s return to consciousness was abrupt, without any of the languid relaxation one could enjoy.  Instantly she was aware of several things; she was manacled, sitting on a stone floor, and she wasn’t alone.  She kept her breaths deep and even, maintaining the facade of unconsciousness.  She opened her eyes cautiously, then with more confidence as she realized her lowered head and hood hid her eyes from any prying gazes.  The first thing she saw was her manacled hands lying still in her lap. 

They reminded her strongly of the manacles she wore on the cart ride to Helgen.  Hopefully things would play out a bit differently here. 

Beyond her manacled hands she could see the gray, cobbled floor she was sitting on; the only illumination from flickering torches.  She could feel someone sitting directly behind her, their breaths rising and falling steadily against her back.  Asleep then, or feigning unconsciousness as she was.  As her eyes opened a bit wider she heard the soft clanking of armored feet as they shifted from side to side, and glimpsed the tip of a sword pointing directly at her.  Lovely.  So, clearly, she (and the mysterious person behind her, male she thought) were in a cell and being treated as enemies, two things that usually went together.

But this time, she had no idea how she had wound up here.

She frowned slightly, her facial expressions still hidden from view by her hood and mask.  Had her shout sent her directly into a prison?  With her luck she wouldn’t be surprised, but there was a specific blankness to her memories that hinted at unnatural, as though she had been forced to forget.  Her eyebrows furrowed further as she strained her memory, recalling only the bright silhouette of a woman, vague features of a man, and the feeling of desperation.

What happened?

A sputtering hissing noise cut through her thoughts, causing the sword pointed at her to tremble, and was accompanied by an eerie green glow that illuminated the dark cell before fading.  The sound had originated behind her, directly where the now stirring figure sat. 

What the hell was that?

Reia’s hand twitched, instinctively reaching for her dagger on her hip which was, unsurprisingly, missing.  After a quick inventory she concluded that while her armor remained, all her weapons and gear had been taken from her person, except for her back up lock picking kit she kept in a cleverly hidden boot compartment.

Paranoia had its perks.

Ok, so she could pick the manacles and get free, but that didn’t solve the next immediate problem; the owner of the sword pointed straight at her.  Reia listened intently, she could hear four people breathing quickly, nervous perhaps, and the slow breaths of her fellow prison mate.

Four guards were hardly a problem; she could knock out three of them and get the fourth to take her to her weapons and gear.  Simple enough, but should she take her fellow prisoner with her?  They were obviously a part of the reason for her imprisonment, since they were contained together.  Perhaps they remembered what happened.

It was decided; she would take this person with her when she escaped, get all the information she could, and send them on their way.  She didn’t need these kinds of distractions right now.

And Odahviing was going to kill himself laughing if he learned of her first moments in Thedas.

A deep, masculine groan came from the figure behind her (so the mystery person was male), that quickly morphed into a pained gasp as the green light flashed across the cell once again.  So, he was awake then.  Time to set her plan into motion.

As Reia began to maneuver her shackled hands closer to her boot she heard a door behind her open with a bang.  She froze immediately as two sets of footsteps entered the room; one heavy and clanking, the other light and stalking.  The sword pointed at her was sheathed, as the solider stepped back to make room for the newcomers.  The man behind her fidgeted slightly as the footsteps grew closer, echoing on the cobblestone floor.

Reia raised her head slowly as she caught a glimpse of one of the newcomers in her peripheral; discarding the illusion of unconsciousness in favor of having full use of her sight.  A woman came into view; short black hair with a braid wrapping around her head, tanned skin, scars marking her austere face, severe eyebrows currently furrowed in a frown over hazel eyes that bored into Reia as she clanked around her.  The torchlight glinted off her gauntlets as she finished circling the pair.

The woman bent down between them as Reia’s sharp ears heard the lighter footfalls approach.

“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill the both of you now.” The dark haired woman asked with a light accent, severity coloring her tone.  Reia felt the man behind her stiffen slightly as the woman straightened up and walked out of Reia’s view.

“The conclave is destroyed.  Everyone who attended is dead.” The woman’s voice broke slightly on the last word, but rallied almost immediately.  “Except for the two of you.”

Reia had no idea what was going on.  She had been at a conclave?  Or they assumed she had at least.  It would probably be best to remain silent until she had more information.  And on that note, how could she even understand what these people were saying?  She hadn’t given it much thought, but she had assumed there would be a language barrier.  The fact that there wasn’t one was distinctly odd, as was the fact that they were speaking the common tongue of Tamriel.  Was it their main language as well?

“You think I’m responsible?” A smooth masculine voice interrupted her thoughts.  So, her presumed partner in crime speaks!

“Explain this.” The dark haired woman growled, and Reia heard the rattling of chains as the green glow accompanied by the hissing, crackling noise from earlier lit up the room.  So, the crackling green glow came from him… somehow?

“I can’t.”  The man stuttered out nervously as the green light faded.  The soldiers who were previously guarding them shifted restlessly, spooked from the green light Reia assumed.

“What do you mean you can’t?” The same woman as earlier demanded, and walked to stand directly in front of him.  As she did so Reia heard soft footfalls as the other person began to circle the pair.  She was a woman as well; fair skinned with short coppery hair mostly hidden by a hood, and ice blue eyes with a gaze that matched the color. 

“I don’t know what that is, or how it got there!” He reiterated, smooth voice rough with nerves.  The copper headed woman continued to gaze at her piercingly, and Reia was strongly reminded of Astrid.  They both seemed to have a way of looking right through you.

You’re lying!” The dark haired woman snarled, and grabbed the man, shaking him slightly and knocking him into Reia.

The copper haired woman darted around Reia, who twisted her neck to see what was going on, and grabbed the dark haired woman; pushing her back from the man.

“We need him, Cassandra.” The copper headed woman said smoothly, her lilting voice devoid of emotion.  Reia’s ears twitched nervously. 

The dark haired woman – Cassandra – spoke quietly, anger in every hushed syllable, drawing the copper haired woman into an argument as Reia became aware of eyes gazing at her curiously.  She flicked her eyes to the side to find warm brown eyes staring curiously at her.  It seemed her fidgeting had caught his attention at last.

He was an elf, Reia realized with surprise; she had assumed he would be human; Nordic perhaps.  He had messy golden hair that fell into his dark brown eyes, which seemed even darker when compared to his pale skin, and was currently sporting a puzzled look.

“You look familiar.” He said quietly, dark brown eyes staring intently into pale green.  Reia merely blinked back, but thought that he looked vaguely familiar as well.  The man from her hazy memories perhaps?

He gazed at her intensely. “I can’t believe it.  All those people… dead?” He asked her sadly for confirmation, assuming she knew what he was talking about.

She didn’t.

His comment caught the attention of their two interrogators who walked back towards the pair.  The elf gave her a small smile before twisting back around to face the two women.  Reia twisted her body as well, but remained with her back to him; she didn’t want to miss anything, but she didn’t think the guards would be very understanding if she just got up to sit beside the other elf.

“Do you remember what happened?  How this began?” The red head asked the elf.  Actually, now that she thought about it, most of their questions and remarks had been mainly directed at her prison mate.  Did that have something to do with that green light?    

Glowing things were usually important.          

“I remember… running.  Things were chasing me, and then… two women.  One light, the other dark,” Reia tried desperately not to react as she felt two gazes burning into her.

Two women?”

“They reached out to me, but then…” his voice trailed off as his memory faded, but the copper haired woman continued to stare at him.

“Is the woman behind you one of the women you saw?” She asked, a calculating gleam to her eyes.  Reia realized with a jolt that she had said they needed him, not them

To them, she was expendable. 

“I… I think so.  She looks familiar.” He said, turning to look at her once again.  She met his stare uncomfortably.  “I think she… helped me?”

The two women exchanged glances, and Reia let out a soft sigh of relief.  They wouldn’t risk alienating him if they needed him, and to this other elf she was not expendable.

She needed it to stay that way.  For now.

Cassandra stalked over to her then, and Reia felt a pang of dread as her hand reached out to her mask.

“I do not trust someone who’s face I cannot see.”  She said severely, hand brushing against her mask… which triggered her lightning ward.

“Maker’s breath!” Cassandra swore (was that a curse?), shaking her hand from the sting.  Her eyes narrowed angrily, “A mage.” she hissed. 

“Perhaps, Cassandra.” Reia’s eyes flickered to the red head as she spoke, who’s eyes were narrowed in thought.  “But that was an enchantment, not an actual spell.”

“Hmph,” Cassandra snorted, glaring at Reia as she shook the last of the shocks from her hand.  “Remove your mask.  Now.”

Reia’s eyes narrowed in turn.  She would not be ordered around, and she wasn’t naïve enough to bare her face to potential enemies.

“No.” Reia’s first word in Thedas… that she could remember at least.  It seemed rather fitting.

Cassandra’s face twisted with anger, as she took a menacing step towards her.  “You will-

“Stop!” The male elf said forcefully, sliding himself between Cassandra and herself.  Reia let the Thu’um she had been building release slowly.  That would have been rash of her; she owed him now.  Or maybe they were even?  Memory loss wasn’t enjoyable.

“Why does it matter if she removes her mask?  She’s an ally.”  He said with confidence.  The three women just stared at him.  How sweetly naïve of him.

He would learn.

Cassandra released her anger with a sigh, hand dragging through her hair as she turned towards the red head.

“Go to the forward camp, Leliana.  I will take him to the rift.”

Them to the rift.” He corrected her brightly, already starting to stand up.  Reia’s mask hid her amused smile.

Them to the rift.” Cassandra finished stiffly, as though she had not been interrupted.  Leliana nodded, casting one last searching glance towards Reia before leaving the cell.  Reia relaxed slightly; Leliana was one to keep an eye on.  Cassandra stalked back towards them and began undoing the male elf’s manacles.

“What did happen?” He asked Cassandra seriously.  She helped him up slowly before answering.

“It will be easier to show you.” She helped Reia up next, but without removing her shackles.  With a glance towards the other elf Reia saw that he had his hands tied with rope.  He caught her eye and shrugged at her.  This was fine, it wasn’t like she couldn’t overpower Cassandra and the guards without the use of her hands. 

All she needed was her voice.

Cassandra nudged the pair in front of her as they exited the cell, two guards accompanying them.  As the two elves walked together Reia noticed they were the same height.  Odd, for a male Bosmer (if he was one; he didn’t look like any Bosmer Reia had ever known) who were known for their short height.  The fact that he was the same height as her (5’9, and that was above average for a female Bosmer) was intriguing.

Reia stopped suddenly, causing the other elf to bump into her.

“Keep moving.” Cassandra growled at her, nudging her forwards, but Reia held her ground.

“I need my weapons.” Reia said, turning to look Cassandra in the eye.  The other elf watched them with a curious tilt to his head.

“Absolutely not- “Cassandra began, but Reia cut her off swiftly.

“You can hold onto them, but I refuse to leave if my weapons remain here.”

“Then sta-” Cassandra began, and was cut off by the other elf this time.

“What’s the harm, Cassandra?  She’s manacled,” He paused here, his displeasure at that fact obvious. “and would hardly be able to overpower you and take her weapons back.”

Ah, such a naïve boy.  But Cassandra seemed to consider it, and nodded at one of the guards who split off down a side hall.

“Very well.” She relented, and nudged them to get moving again.  They walked through the dungeon; Cassandra clunking at every step, the other elf stalking softly, and Reia slinking noiselessly through the halls.  They reached the front doors with no further conversation between them. 

As the front doors opened the guard from earlier came rushing back, arms full with Reia’s weapons and pouches.  Cassandra nodded her thanks, and strapped Reia’s two daggers and pouches to her left side; opposite of her sword, and attached her bow and quiver to the other elf’s back, much to their mutual surprise.

“I have no room to carry a bow alongside my shield.” She answered their unasked question, though it was easy to read on the other elf’s face.  “You defended her, so she is also your responsibility.”

With that said she nudged them out the doors, the cold biting into them as their feet crunched in the snow.  Foreboding mountains loomed in the distance, but what caught Reia’s eye wasn’t the mountains; it was the giant green hole in the sky.

Hoooooly shit.

“We call it the Breach.” Cassandra’s comment drew Reia’s attention back to the ground, and at the other elf’s openly shocked face.  “It’s a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour.” 

Demons?  Was that their word for daedra?  Because that giant hold in the sky looked like a massive Oblivion gate, except it was green rather than the blood red color the books described Oblivion gates as. 

Cassandra gazed at the Breach as she continued to speak.  “It’s not the only such rift.  Just the largest.  All were caused by the explosion at the conclave.” Cassandra walked towards them as she finished speaking.

“An explosion did that?” The other elf asked, finally tearing his gaze away from the sky and towards Cassandra’s somber features.

“This one did.  Unless we act, the Breach may grow until it swallows the world.”  As though to emphasize her words the breach pulsed, and the other elf’s left hand lit up in the same shade as green as the breach.

Now she knew for certain where that green light came from.

The other elf collapsed to the ground in a shout of pain, but Reia caught him automatically before he fell, holding him steady as his hand glowed.  Finally, the light faded, and Reia set him down before taking a step back, unnerved by her reaction.

Cassandra crouched down next to the elf, who was staring at his hand in a daze.  “Each time the breach expands, your mark spreads… and it is killing you.”

Reia and the other elf stiffened at her words.  Reia took a step towards the stunned elf, and stopped herself.

“It may be the key to stopping this, but there isn’t much time.” Cassandra finished.  Wasn’t much time until what?  Until he died, or until the breach was too big to stop?  And why did it matter to her if this man died?  She had only known him for a couple hours, but there was something about him… His innocent curiosity, his naivety, his implicit trust in a woman whose entire being practically screamed danger, danger, stay away.  He was… bright, like the glow of his hand.  He intrigued her. 

She hadn’t met a soul like his in a very long time.  And this world would sully it… like hers had done to Aranis. 

Maybe that’s why I care this strongly, Reia thought as she stared impassively at the other elf who was questioning Cassandra with fervor.  With that woman – Leliana – around his brightness will surely dim, Reia didn’t have the power to stop that.  But she could protect his life until he was safe; after all, she owed him for convincing Cassandra to bring her weapons.

And that’s why I’m not stealing my weapons back and bolting.  The only reason, Reia tried to convince herself.

“I understand.” The other elf said to Cassandra as Reia tuned back into the conversation.  Cassandra’s eyes shone with hope.

“Then…?”

“I’ll do what I can.  Whatever it takes.” The elf swore to Cassandra solemnly as Reia watched.  What a fool.  Reia thought, but he’s an earnest fool.  He already has Cassandra’s trust. 

They stared at each for a moment, and Cassandra carefully helped him too his feet before gently nudging him forward.  They reached Reia and Cassandra nudged her along as well, not as gently as she had for the other elf Reia noticed.  They fell in step beside one another with Cassandra bringing up the rear, and he smiled at her, brown eyes crinkling.  He had dimples.

The trio was met with angry muttering as they walked through the town, people staring at them with accusation in their eyes.

“They have decided your guilt.  They need it.” Cassandra explained to them over the hisses of the crowd.  “The people of Haven mourn our most Holy, Divine Justinia, Head of the Chantry.  The conclave was hers.”  Cassandra’s voice wavered almost imperceptibly on the name Justinia.  Someone she knew well then.  A friend, perhaps?

“It was a chance for peace between Mages and Templars.  She brought their leaders together.  Now, they are dead.” Cassandra paused here, as they arrived at the town’s doors and waited for them to be opened.  “We lash out, like the sky.  But we must think beyond ourselves.  As she did.  Until the breach is sealed.”

The doors opened at those words, and they stepped through onto a stone bridge.  Reia’s mind was working furiously; this Divine Justinia sounded very important, with enough power to call a temporary halt to a war between Mages and Templars.  Templars, Reia frowned in thought, were something she had never heard of before.  They must be powerful though, to wage war against Mages.  And Cassandra, friends with a woman with enough power to assemble a conclave, was more than she seemed.

As they reached the middle of the bridge, Cassandra turned towards the male elf.  “There will be a trial, I can promise no more.” With a quick movement she slashed the rope binding his hands together.  “Come.  It is not far.”

“Ahem.” Reia coughed lightly as the other elf rubbed his chafed wrists.  Cassandra frowned at her as she held out her manacled hands meaningfully, giving them a little shake for good measure.  With a sigh Cassandra pulled out a key and unlocked her shackles, but left her hands tied together.

“I can’t really fight like this.” Reia said slowly, giving her tied hands a meaningful shake.

“Then don’t.” Cassandra replied severely, walking towards the end of the bridge.  Reia rolled her eyes, but followed anyways, the other elf walking beside her.

“So,” He said, startling Reia slightly. “What’s your name?”

“My… name?” Reia clarified, and he nodded with a smile.  “Why do you want to know that?” She asked suspiciously.

“Well I can’t keep thinking of you as ‘masked mystery lady’, it doesn’t really roll off the tongue.” He replied, smile remaining bright.  Reia just stared at him.  “All right, all right.  I’ll go first.” He told her as they reached the end of the bridge where Cassandra was waiting impatiently.  He stopped and turned towards her, hand outstretched.

“Hello, my name is Mahanon Elgara Lavellan.” He introduced himself seriously, hand still outstretched. 

Reia smiled, her eyes crinkling slightly at the corners.  “And I am Reia,” She paused as Mahanon looked at her expectantly.  Was she supposed to give a last name?  Out of all the Bosmer in Tamriel only a handful had a surname, but if it would help her blend in here…

“…Vukon.” Reia finished, shaking Mahanon’s outstretched hand with her tied ones, smiling privately to herself.

“Pleasure to meet you, Reia Vukon.  Now lets not keep Cassandra waiting, if we’re nice maybe she’ll cut those ropes off quicker.” He said with a cheeky grin as they started walking towards the impatient Cassandra.

“Your mark must be tested on something smaller than the breach.” Cassandra said as they walked to the end of the bridge and passed through the doors.  There was a path leading up the mountain, littered with barricades, one of which was on fire.  They walked swiftly past the defences, Cassandra in the lead followed by Mahanon, with Reia trailing him like a shadow.  As they walked around the bend in the path the mark on Mahanon’s hand burned suddenly, in time with the pulse of the Breach, and he collapsed with muffled curse. 

Reia crouched beside him, unable to help him up with her tied hands, as Cassandra aided him instead. 

“The pulses are coming faster now.” She said as she helped him to his feet, Reia standing up with them.  Cassandra hesitated, and patted Mahanon reassuringly on the shoulder before taking the lead. 

They were jogging lightly now, Reia keeping her balance easily despite her tied hands.

“The larger the Breach grows, the more rifts appear, and the more demons we face.” Cassandra told them as they passed over another stone bridge littered with wounded soldiers.

“How did we survive the blast?” Mahanon asked Cassandra, eyes fixed on the Breach.

“They said you… stepped out of a rift, then fell unconscious.  That woman,” Cassandra glanced at Reia, “is said to have followed you out of the rift like your shadow personified; or so they say.  Another woman was in the rift behind you.  No one knows who she was.”

“Her name is Reia.” Mahanon said absently, eyes now landing on Cassandra.  She said nothing, continuing to walk along the bridge.

Reia followed along in thoughtful silence.  So, the people who saw Mahanon and her exit this rift described her as a ‘his shadow personified’?  Flatterers, but she would have to find them and get them to clarify what they actually saw.

The Breach flared violently then, a meteor bathed in the green light of the Breach collided with the bridge they were standing on, destroying it in an instant and sending the trio tumbling down onto the frozen river below.  Reia fell on top of Cassandra, banging their heads together as Cassandra tried to get up and Reia tried to roll away.  Another offshoot of the Breach came flying at them, landing a couple meters in front of them, and opening some kind of… portal?  It had to be a portal.

Reia rose slowly to her feet as she examined the green portal, intrigued.  She stopped being intrigued rather quickly when a large creature erupted from the portal with a screech that chilled her blood.

“Stay behind me!” Cassandra ordered the elves as she drew her sword and shield, rushing at the creature with ferocious intent.  Cassandra looked like she had it covered, so Reia went to stand by Mahanon, idly testing the rope that bound her hands.  Cassandra could tie a mean knot.

She spotted movement out of the corner of her eye and quickly swiveled around to see two more creatures rising from the ground.  Mahanon shoved her behind him quickly as he squared up against the threat.

“Stay out of the fight!” He told her, before he dashed towards an abandoned sword and shield, and threw himself at the creatures. 

Did he seriously expect her not to fight?  She had fought 3 dragons at once in Skuldafn; she was fairly certain she could handle a ‘demon’, as Cassandra called it even if her hands were tied... or she could just cut the ropes off.  As Mahanon began fighting two of the creatures at once Reia’s eyes darted around in search of a weapon.  Finding none she realized what she had to do.

Cassandra probably wasn’t going to be very thrilled.

With a plan in mind Reia darted swiftly towards Cassandra who was still engaged with one of the creatures.  As she lifted her shield to bash the demon, Reia’s hand darted to her exposed side and snagged one of her daggers, pulling it from its sheath and dashing back to Mahanon (and away from Cassandra’s enraged shout).

Thankfully, she was still fighting the demon and couldn’t take a swing at her, yet.

Reia slunk silently towards the back of one of the creatures, feet gliding smoothly along the ice as she cut the rope from her hands.  It remained unaware as she approached, focussed on clawing Mahanon, and Reia stabbed it in the back with no opposition.  With a scream, it folded in on itself, disappearing in a puff of black smoke.  Reia spun her dagger (the blade of woe, she noted) ridding it of the black ichor of the creature as Mahanon defeated the remaining demon with ease.  He smiled amusedly at her, and shook his head.

“It’s over.” He said with a sigh, walking towards Cassandra.  Reia reluctantly followed, giving her dagger one last spin to get rid of the remaining blood.

“Drop your weapons.  Now.” Cassandra snarled at the pair of them.  Mahanon nodded at her and laid down his scavenged sword and shield.  Reia, however, was not so accommodating.

“I couldn’t let Mahanon fight two dae-demons by himself when I could easily assist him.” Reia replied forcefully, hoping they hadn’t noticed her slip up.

“You don’t need to fight.” Cassandra growled right back, and Reia’s hand tensed on her dagger. 

“What if Mahanon had been overwhelmed while you fought the other demon?” Reia questioned.  Cassandra’s eyes widened in realization as she glanced at Mahanon.  Would that mark work if its owner died?

Cassandra sighed.  “You’re right.” She didn’t sound too happy about it.  “I cannot expect you to be defenceless, and having more fighters will increase our odds.” She unbuckled Reia’s daggers and pouches from her belt and handed them back to Reia.  As she strapped her blades back into their proper place, Cassandra continued, “But do not attempt to run… Reia.  There are many things we need to question you on.  The both of you.  I will be watching you.”  On that ominous note, she turned smartly and began walking to the other bank.

Mahanon handed her bow and quiver back, and she nodded her thanks as he stooped to gather his own weapons.

As they began walking behind Cassandra, Reia glanced towards Mahanon thoughtfully.  She would stay with the two of them until they were reasonably safe, and then she would leave.  She didn’t want to be dragged into another quest to save the world; she had already done her time in the world savior’s box back in Tamriel.  Paarthurnax needed her help, and she would not be side tracked by a boy who reminded her of Aranis. 

The dovah needed her.

They continued to travel along the mountain path, quickly dispatching any demons they came across.  As they travelled, Reia’s eyes kept fixating on the Breach.  It looked menacing, and Reia felt the hairs on the back of her neck stand up when she looked at it too long.

She kept her gaze firmly ground level after that.

As they climbed a particularly steep part of the path, Cassandra broke the silence. 

“We’re getting close to the rift.  You can hear the fighting.” Reia had heard the fighting a while ago, but hadn’t given it much thought.

“Who’s fighting?” Mahanon asked, picking up the pace.

“You’ll see soon.  We must help them.” Cassandra replied seriously, as they made it to the top of the path and began running towards the noise.  Reia fell back slightly, grabbing her bow as she ran behind Mahanon. 

They jumped down a ledge and found themselves in the middle of crumbling stone buildings, where the fight was taking place.  With a shout, Cassandra dashed into the fight with Mahanon hot on her heels.  Reia, however, was distracted by the large eerie green crystal that was floating in mid air.  That wasn’t sinister.  At all.

Turning her attention back to the fight Reia slowly knocked an arrow and let it fly, hitting her target in its head.  Or what she assumed was the head… it collapsed, so the head it was!

She sent another arrow flying at a demon that was creeping up behind the bald Bosmer (he looked too fair and tall to be one, but he didn’t look anything like the Dark Elves or the Thalmor) who was swinging his staff expertly.  Reia slowly (slow for her, anyways) knocked another arrow, careful to ensure that she didn’t use her full skill.

It was always better to be underestimated.

As Reia took down demon after demon, she heard Mahanon’s shouts, the whizzing of a crossbow (she couldn’t see who was firing it) and the sizzle of magic in the air.  Once the last demon was destroyed, the bald elf from earlier rushed towards Mahanon and dragged him to the green portal.

“Quickly, before more come through!” She heard him shout, as he grabbed Mahanon’s glowing hand and directed it at the portal… which closed with a loud crackle. 

So, his hand could close the portals, poor kid.

“What did you do?” Mahanon asked puzzled, as he examined his unassuming left hand.

“I did nothing.  The credit is yours.” The bald elf replied in a smooth, deep voice.  It was rather pleasant.  Reia stalked away from her location at the edge of the battlefield and set about collecting her arrows, one ear listening to their conversation as she worked.

The bald elf was explaining that the magic that created the breach was related to the magic in Mahanon’s hand, which Reia had already suspected.

“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.” He finished, a trace of self-satisfaction coating his tone lightly.

“Meaning it could also close the Breach itself.” Cassandra interjected hopefully as she moved towards the two male elves. 

“Possibly.  It seems you hold the key to our salvation.” The bald elf said solemnly to Mahanon, who was looking rather overwhelmed.

Reia grabbed her last arrow, shaking most of the ichor off, before placing it back into her quiver.  She would leave now; Mahanon had Cassandra and this other elf who was very skilled in magic to protect him.  He was as safe as he was going to be with a hole in the sky, but she felt sorry for him.  Being the world’s only hope was a terrible situation to find yourself in, one to be avoided if possible.

Reia slunk slowly to the edge of the courtyard, where a small drop led down to a trail, but stopped as someone else began speaking.

“Good to know!  Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever.” A sarcastic voice interjected, as the man stepped into Reia’s view.

Correction; not a man… he was a Dwemer!  A fucking Dwemer.  When Reia had imagined what a Dwemer would look like she had always pictured a short, stocky man with a long tangled beard and a wise demeanor; not a roguish looking man with sharp eyes and – ahem – abundant chest hair.

Maybe that’s why he didn’t have a beard?

The Dwemer went on too introduce himself.  “Varric Tethras: rogue, storyteller, and occasionally, unwelcome tagalong.” He finished with a wink at Cassandra, who scowled.  She seemed to do that a lot. 

Reia had to shake herself out of her stupor as Mahanon asked him something about a chantry.  She couldn’t be distracted by a Dwemer with fantastic chest hair.  And now Mahanon was even safer with this Varric tagging along.  Time to leave.

This time a deep chuckle distracted her, and her eyes flitted to the bald elf.  “Was that a serious question?” He asked, amusement coloring his tone.  Reia vaguely heard Varric say something about being a prisoner, but her focus remained on the bald elf.  She scrutinized him from top to bottom; his clothes looked ragged, torn in some places, with a wolf jawbone dangling from a strip of leather.  Travelling for a long time perhaps?  But his eyes, a stormy blue color, were sharp as he looked at Mahanon’s hand.  He held himself negligently, and had an unassuming air about him, as though attempting to direct attention away from himself.

But Reia was good at seeing beyond what was presented, and what she saw… made her nervous.  This man was strong, powerful, with sharp eyes which she most definitely didn’t want focused on her. 

Now it was time to leave.  Reia didn’t want to give him, or any of the others, the chance to analyze her.

Reia brushed Odahviing’s scale for luck, moving slowly along the thin layer of snow.  The four of them were still deep in conversation; if she could just make it out of sight they wouldn’t be able to track her. 

Just as she reached the pathway, Mahanon ruined everything with a shout. “Hey Reia!  Where are you going?”

Reia stopped dead, turning around slowly and attempting to radiate an innocent aura.  Mahanon was looking curiously at her, Cassandra was scowling with her hand on her sword, Varric and the bald elf were both looking at her in puzzlement.  They didn’t know she was with Mahanon in the Fade then?  Good.  The less people interested in her the better.

“That’s Reia Vukon,” Mahanon introduced her with a beaming smile, and Reia had a terrible premonition of what he would say next. “she helped me in the Fade!”

At those words the bald elf’s attention fixed entirely on her, eyes sharp as he scrutinized her.  Varric gave her a small wave, the curious look in his eyes deepening.

“Just what were you doing?” Cassandra asked her menacingly, as she began to stride towards Reia, the other three following close behind.

Honestly, at that moment Reia felt very overwhelmed.  Here she was, not even a couple hours in her mission for Paarthurnax and she had already gotten tangled in some world changing events.

Odahviing’s scale was not lucky.  The bastard.

“She was in the Fade with you?” The bald elf asked Mahanon slowly, his eyes never leaving Reia as he stalked towards her.  Mahanon nodded. “When I saw her shackled behind you, I wasn’t informed that she had been there with you.” He shot a glance at Cassandra, who ignored him.  “Hmmm.  Interesting.”

“What were you doing Reia?” Mahanon asked curiously, his head tilted to the side as the quartet reached her.  Cassandra stood with her arms folded, suspicion etched in her rigid stance.

“Scouting.” Reia replied, with a vague wave of her hand in the direction of the pathway.  Cassandra continued to glower, and Reia let her hand fall limply back to her side.

“Oh, well why didn’t you just say so?” Mahanon asked with a laugh, and Reia tensed as he slung an arm around her shoulders, dragging her towards her planned escape route.

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions.” The bald elf – Solas – said with a small smile playing across his lips, his gaze piercing enough to nail her to a wall.

Reia nodded weakly in reply, and Solas fell in step on Reia’s Mahanon free side as they jumped down to the path that would no longer lead to her escape. 

“Well,” Varric said, as he jumped down ahead of the disgruntled Cassandra, giving his crossbow an affectionate pat as he landed. “Bianca’s excited.”

Reia was now completely, and utterly lost.

Chapter Text

Reia was feeling rather uncomfortable.  Mahanon, on her left, still hadn’t removed his arm slung familiarly around her shoulders, and Solas, on her other side, was standing next to her on the mountain trail, boxing her in.  They had paused briefly once Cassandra had joined them in order for Solas to examine the mark on Mahanon’s hand.

“It seems to be stabilized for the time being, but I do not know how it will react once we near the Breach.” Solas said, straightening up as he released Mahanon’s hand.

“You seem to know a great deal about it all.” Mahanon said blithely, without any of the suspicion Reia felt, shaking his left hand slightly as the fingers on his right hand drummed annoyingly on Reia’s shoulder.

“Solas is an apostate, well-versed in such matters.” Cassandra stated simply, gaze flicking to Solas briefly before returning to Reia, who was starting to become very irritated.

“Technically all mages are now apostates, Cassandra.” Solas said, clasping his hands behind his back as he turned his head to look at Cassandra.  “My travels have allowed me to learn much of the Fade, far beyond any Circle mage.”

Reia tuned out at this point, mulling over what she had just learned.  The mages in Thedas had some kind of ‘Circle’, similar to the College of Winterhold maybe?  If it was, Reia would love to visit one, just to compare how much the magic in Thedas differed from Tamriel’s.  But that likely wouldn’t be happening anytime in the near future if all mages were being treated as apostates.

How disappointing.

Reia glanced at Solas who was still conversing with the others.  Solas had apparently been an apostate before all the other mages were labelled as such.  What had he done that was terrible enough for him to become an apostate?  But the way he spoke about the Circle gave her doubt.  He spoke of it disdainfully, but not the knowing disdain of having experienced something and found it lacking.  It didn’t sound like he had even been apart of this Circle at all.  Reia was mystified, but decided against questioning him.  She didn’t want to appear ignorant; it could be used against her.  It was also probably best not to use magic until she understood the dynamics of mages in this world.

“Your prisoner is no mage,” Reia snapped back to the conversation as Solas spoke those words.  “Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power.” Solas’ gaze flicked to Reia as he spoke, as though attempting to gauge her reaction.  

“Are you sure, Chuckles?  You did notice the magic shooting out of his hand right?” Varric asked, his eyes glinting teasingly.

“Understood.” Cassandra said, ignoring Varric.  “We must get to the forward camp quickly.”

“Alright!” Mahanon exclaimed, startling Reia slightly.  “Lets get moving then.”

Mahanon took the lead, Reia forced along as he had yet to remove his arm from her shoulders.  Cassandra and Varric walked behind them, and Reia could feel the intensity from Cassandra’s gaze piercing the back of her hood.  Solas walked closely on Reia’s other side.

Reia sighed resignedly, clearly the other three in the group hadn’t bought her ‘scouting’ excuse.  Not that she had expected them too, but it would have been nice.  Solas’ arm brushed lightly against hers then, and she flinched back, knocking her elbow into Mahanon’s side.  He gave a small huff, his arm tightening around her shoulders as he continued to walk along the rocky mountain path.

Reia’s eyes narrowed.  Being this familiar with someone she barely knew was something of a rarity for her.  She disliked most forms of closeness, allowing only a few to get close to her, such as Nazir and Brynjolf, and it had been months before she had become friends with the both of them.  Aranis was a given, and surprisingly, Odahviing had become a close friend, possibly her best.  Not that she would tell him that.

So three people, and one dragon made up her circle.  That was all she needed.

Reia subtly tried to maneuver out of Mahanon’s grip, but all that did was cause him to tighten his hold on her.  Abandoning subtlety Reia glared up at him as she gave his side another elbow, ignoring Varric’s chuckles from behind them.  Mahanon winced slightly, and looked at her with a sad earnestness as he tightened his grip further.

She rolled her eyes, but stopped trying to get away.  Mahanon beamed brightly, but Varric’s chuckles in the background caused Reia’s eye to twitch as she gave up with ill grace.  Holding on to her probably made him feel a sense of normalcy.  She was familiar, wrapped up in the mystery of the acquisition of his glowing hand.  Reia could cut him a little bit of slack.

“You two seem quite chummy.” Varric commented them from behind once his chuckles had faded away.  Reia saw Solas’ head turn slightly towards them.

“Well, there are just some things you can’t do without becoming friends.” Mahanon said dramatically, clutching at Reia even tighter than before in his mock drama.  Reia twitched uncomfortably, and she could swear she saw an amused smile on Solas’ face before he turned to face the pathway again. 

“Physically being in the fade together, getting locked up together, and fighting demons together are just a couple of those things?” Varric asked straight faced, but Reia could hear the undercurrent of amusement in his tone.

“Exactly!” Mahanon said with a beaming smile as he turned his head to look back at the dwarf, who was smiling indulgently.

“Hmph.  You were hardly a prisoner.”  Cassandra muttered behind them.  Reia rolled her eyes at the emphasized ‘you’.  It was the start of a beautiful friendship between the two of them, Reia could just tell.

“Now, now, Seeker,” Varric cajoled her, “I’m hurt; I thought I was your favorite prisoner.”

Reia didn’t have to turn around to know Cassandra was glowering. “You are hardly-“

“Demons ahead!” Solas shouted, staff already in hand.  They had been walking along side a frozen lake when a group of demons landed in the midst of one of the Breach’s green meteors (crashed was more accurate). 

“Glad you brought me now, Seeker?” Varric asked smugly as he grabbed his crossbow off his back.  Cassandra didn’t acknowledge him however, as she charged toward her opponents, sword and shield drawn.  Mahanon swiftly drew his own, finally releasing Reia from his grip, and ran after her. 

Reia rubbed her sore shoulder before grasping her bow.  The other four had already begun to fight; Varric was shooting expertly, his crossbow at home in his hands.  Reia arched an eyebrow, impressed; he was better than some of her fellow Bosmer with his crossbow.  Cassandra and Mahanon had flanked a pair of demons and were systematically taking them down.  Solas was firing bolts of magic at a green spirit, his staff dancing under his hands.

They were all quite impressive.

Reia breathed in, knocked an arrow, let it fly straight into one of the green spirits’ heads which collapsed in a haze of green smoke, and breathed out.  This was easy, the repetitive movements sharpening her mind, and Reia had to consciously hold herself back when she found herself shooting too quickly.

The fight finished swiftly, Cassandra and Mahanon wandered back to the trio, panting slightly from exertion. 

“Lets move on.” Cassandra nodded her head towards the crumbling stone staircase on the opposite side of the frozen lake.  Mahanon murmured in agreement, and took the lead, Reia quickly moved to walk behind him, taking the chance to keep herself out of arms reach. 

That may have been preferable, Reia thought when Solas fell in step beside her instead.  Reia ignored him, and took the chance to look around interestedly.  There was a cottage to their left that was on fire, the heat melting the surrounding snow into small puddles of water.  The mountain range surrounding them was quite beautiful, not as impressive as the Throat of the World, but still worthy of admiration.  Reia’s ear twitched at the sound of snow crunching under Mahanon’s feet as he walked up the snow covered stairs, and Reia consciously made her feet crunch in the snow as well.  She glanced at Solas’ feet, wrapped in some kind of cloth, hardly making a whisper of sound as they sunk softly into the snow.

“So… are you innocent?” Varric asked, apropos of nothing.  Reia watched as Mahanon’s shoulders tensed noticeably. 

“I don’t remember what happened.” Mahanon said stiffly, his feet stomping into the snow as though they had caused him a personal grievance.  As the silence stretched, Reia glanced back at the dwarf who was looking at her with a raised brow.

“… Nor do I.” Reia caught Solas glancing at her with some unidentifiable glimmer in his eyes.

Varric chuckled.  “That’ll get you every time.  Should have spun a story.”

“That’s what you would have done.” Cassandra said, and Reia could practically feel her eyes rolling.

“It’s more believable, and less prone to result in premature execution.” 

Reia glanced back at Varric, and he gave her a sly wink.  She rather liked this dwarf.

The stairs ended, transitioning to an uphill mountain path… that was littered with demons.  Reia sighed and grasped her bow as Cassandra and Mahanon charged forward.  This was starting to get irritating.

Reia knocked arrow after arrow as she thought about the ‘Fade’.  Had she arrived there, or had she arrived in the midst of that conclave and then forced into the Fade?  Reia cursed her lapse of memory, was this even the correct world?  No, it had to be.  As long as she Shouted correctly, which she did, she was in the land of Thedas.  Her eyes strayed to Mahanon, who had just run one of the demons through with his sword.  She needed to question him, get everything he could remember, if only to ensure that her story was similar to his. 

Reia’s attention was dragged back into the battle as one of the green spirits shot some kind of spell at her, which she simply side stepped before firing an arrow between its eyes.  Too easy.  

“You’re quite good with a bow.” A deep voice spoke softly behind her, and she pivoted around to see Solas placing his staff on his back, examining her curiously.  She nodded curtly in acknowledgement, and began walking towards Mahanon, Solas walking easily beside her.

“Are you Dalish, by chance?” He asked as they reached the rest of the group, whose heads swivelled towards Reia, who was starting to feel like she had entered dangerous waters.  She didn’t even know what a Dalish was.

“You’re Dalish?  Why didn’t you tell me!” Mahanon bounded toward her, hands coming to rest on her tensed shoulders.  He frowned, “I haven’t heard of the Vukon clan though.”

Reia gritted her teeth.  “I am not Dalish.” Solas’ eyes were narrowed in calculated thought, and she had the sneaking suspicion he had questioned her in front of the rest of their party on purpose.

Mahanon practically wilted in disappointment, running his hand through his unruly hair and pushing it off his forehead briefly.  Reia caught a glimpse of a lightly colored tattoo on his forehead before it was concealed by his golden hair.

“It would have been nice to have another Dalish around.” Mahanon sighed forlornly.  Clearly, Mahanon was ‘Dalish’ and part of a clan… clan Lavellan, perhaps?  He had thought her improvised last name as a clan name, so it was safe to assume the same applied to him.

Mahanon’s eyes widened, “I don’t mind that you’re not a Dalish elf, Reia!” he said, probably thinking he had offended her in some way.  “I don’t have anything against clan-less elves.”

Reia froze, as Solas’ eyes sharpened in interest.  “Why did you call her an elf, Lavellan?” He asked quietly.

“Because she is an elf?” Mahanon replied slowly, his voice rising higher questioningly.   

Cassandra looked interested as well, but in a way that hinted at imminent misfortune for Reia.  “How did you know?”

He looked around, “It’s obvious!”

No, no it wasn’t.  Unease slithered down her spine as she met Mahanon’s warm brown eyes, she had underestimated him, and garnered unwelcome attention.  She turned away from the group, but could still feel Solas’ piercing stare as she began walking up the mountain trail, certain that the others wouldn’t let this new information about her go unquestioned. 

“So,” Varric interjected, falling in step beside her and proving her right almost immediately. “you’re an elf?”

“Yes.”

“But not a Dalish elf?”

“No.”

Varric chuckled, “You’re quite the chatterbox, aren’t you?

“Why was a city elf at the Conclave?” Cassandra interrupted, eyes boring into Reia as the rest of the group caught up to them.  Mahanon looked guilty, as he should, for bringing Cassandra’s ire back down upon her.

Realizing that Cassandra would be relentless until she got an answer, Reia swiftly thought up a response.

“For a friend.” Reia said shortly.  It was the truth, in a way.  She did come here for Paarthurnax… just not specifically to the Conclave.  Cassandra and the others didn’t need to know the specifics.

“That was very kind of you.” Mahanon spoke loudly, interrupting the slew of questions that Cassandra had no doubt been ready to release upon her. 

“Indeed.” Solas agreed, but Reia caught the doubtful flicker in his eyes, he obviously doubted her story.

Or knew she was concealing something.

Reia flicked her fingers nervously; Solas didn’t know anything.  He might suspect, but he had no concrete information to support his suspicions.  Her reluctance to share information about herself would make anyone wary, if they were smart.  Solas was just more intelligent than most.

Hopefully that’s all it was.  She would be stepping lightly from now on.

They reached the top of the path with no further conversation, which surprised Reia, and Mahanon gasped in surprise as his land lit up in a luminescent green glow.

“Another rift!” Cassandra shouted, as they reached the crest of the path, the rift coming into sight.

“We must seal it!  Quickly!” Solas commanded, staff already in his hands as he began firing at the demons who were beating on a stone building’s doors. 

“They keep coming, help us!” A solider cried at us, as one of his fellows was downed by a slash of claws.  Reia quickly shot an arrow through the demon’s skull before it could finish off the feebly stirring solider beneath it, eyes searching for another target.

This battle was bloodier, more fast-paced than their previous bouts with demons.  Were they stronger when next to a rift?  This one was larger than the rift where they had met Solas and Varric.  It was something to consider.

“Hurry-use the mark!” Solas shouted as the last demon fell with a scream to Mahanon’s sword.  Mahanon nodded, and ran to the rift, Reia drifting closer to observe.  He shoved his left hand at the rift, palm open, as a beam of green light shot from his hand and into the rift.  It crackled and hissed, quietly, but gradually louder as though protesting its closing.  As the sound reached its crescendo, it exploded in a shower of green slime (which Reia jumped back to avoid, she just knew that would be a bitch of a stain).

“The rift is gone!  Open the gates.” Cassandra shouted towards the guards, irritably flicking the green slime off her armor.  Reia supressed her smile with difficulty.

“Right away, Lady Cassandra.” One of the guards said respectfully, as his fellows ran to help the wounded littered across the battlefield.  Cassandra nudged Mahanon forward, placing herself beside him as the gates opened.  Reia slunk behind Mahanon, slouching slightly to conceal herself behind him. 

“We are clear for the moment.  Well done.” Solas inclined his head towards Mahanon respectfully, whose eyes lit up, before placing himself on Reia’s left side.  She tensed, but forced herself to relax, hoping he hadn’t caught that.

“Whatever that thing on your hand is, it’s useful.” Varric commented offhandedly as he wandered over to Reia’s right side just as the group walked through the battered gates.

A stone bridge laid behind the gates, cluttered with ramshackle crates and scattered weapons.  It looked like an improvised command center.  As Reia took it all in she caught the sounds of a heated argument, her gaze zeroing in on a religious looking man swathed in heavy robes of white and red gesturing furiously at a red haired woman who stood with her arms crossed – Leliana.

Reia heard Cassandra make a soft noise of relief, as she herded the group towards Leliana.  Reia tried to become as inconspicuous as possible.

“Ah, here they come.” The religious man said scornfully as the group approached him.  At a closer look, Reia saw threads of gold interspersed throughout his ensemble, with a black head covering overlaid with an intricate gold design.

“You made it.” Leliana said with relief, her gaze sweeping over Cassandra. “Chancellor Roderick, this is –“

“I know who they are.” Chancellor Roderick sneered, his gaze flicking dismissively to Reia before returning with force to Mahanon, who’s back stiffened sharply.  Reia crossed her arms, leaning most of her weight on her left foot.  Solas, she noted, stood humbly, his hands clasped in front of him.

“As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take these criminals to Val Royeaux to face execution.” He continued, dismissing them with a sweep of his hand.  Reia’s eyes narrowed, her hand inching towards her dagger.  Pompous religious fools with inflated self importance irked her the wrong way, and she was strongly reminded of the zealots of Talos back in Skyrim.

“’Order Me’?” Cassandra sneered, “You are a glorified clerk.  A bureaucrat!”

Reia had to stifle her surprised laugh; maybe Cassandra wasn’t so bad.

“And you are a thug, but a thug who supposedly serves the Chantry!” The Chancellor said angrily, as he turned his attention towards Cassandra.  Reia saw Solas roll his eyes at the proceedings.

“We serve the Most Holy, Chancellor, as you well know.” Leliana interjected coolly.  Reia took a small step forward, brushing a hand softly along Mahanon’s too-stiff back.  He twitched in surprise, glancing back to meet Reia’s cool green gaze, before facing the arguing trio once again, his back less stiff.  He needed to hide his emotions better, he was too transparent.

“Justinia is dead!  We must elect a replacement, and obey her orders on the matter!” Roderick said furiously, his gaze challenging Leliana. 

“So none of you are actually in charge here?” Mahanon asked nervously.  Reia thought it was a good question, if none of them had authority then she and Mahanon couldn’t be prosecuted.

“You killed everyone who was in charge!” Roderick shouted angrily, Mahanon flinched away from his voice, hands clenching at his tunic.

Roderick waited for Mahanon, or possibly Reia, to refute his proclamation.  When neither did, he continued in a softer tone. “Call a retreat, Seeker.  Our position here is hopeless.”

“We can stop this before it’s too late.” Cassandra replied, voice full of iron clad conviction.

“How?  You won’t survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers.” The Chancellor said despairingly, Reia twitched at the implication, offended.

“We must get to the temple.  It’s the quickest route.” Cassandra began to stride towards the opposite gates, intent on getting started.

“But not the safest.” Leliana grabbed Cassandra’s arm before she swept past her.  “Our forces can charge as a distraction while we go through the mountains.”

“We lost an entire squad along that path,” Cassandra argued, but didn’t pull away from Lelian’s hold. “it’s too risky!”

“Listen to me.”  Roderick interjected pleadingly.  “Abandon this now before more lives are lost!”

As though confirming his words, the Breach flared violently, green lightning flashing across the sky as Mahanon’s hand lit up once more.  The power in his hand caused his arm to shake, and he had to steady it with his other hand before the glow faded away.

Cassandra turned her back on the Chancellor and faced Mahanon.  “How do you think we should proceed?”

Reia was rather impressed at Cassandra’s audacity.  They were both from this ‘Chantry’, yet she still asked for Mahanon’s opinion.  A foot nudged her calf, and she glanced to the side to see Mahanon’s miserable features.  He had no idea what to do.  Reia shook her head, this was his decision, not hers.

This was only the beginning for him.

Mahanon closed his eyes, bracing himself, before turning back to Cassandra.

“You’re asking me what I think?” He asked incredulously.  It was rather unorthodox to ask your prisoners to make decisions for you.  

“You have the mark.” Solas interjected with a small smile.

“And you are the one we must keep alive.  Since we cannot agree on our own…” Cassandra trailed off meaningfully. 

Reia felt a pang of sympathy, Mahanon looked completely overwhelmed.  His brow was furrowed and he was gnawing on his bottom lip as he considered the options.  Reia wanted to help, nudge him out of the way of the responsibility and expectations thrust upon him, but if she did that now he would never be able to make it on his own.

Reia knew from experience, but that didn’t quell the heaviness in her chest.

Mahanon took a deep breath, “We charge with the soldiers.” he decided.  “Work together.  We all know what’s at stake.” He began walking towards the opposite gate, gracefully side stepping the furious Chancellor, whose gaze latched onto Reia as she tried to follow.

“Leave the other prisoner here.  If he dies, someone needs to be questioned on what happened here.” Roderick said, eyes focused on Reia.  She stopped, slowly turning to face the foolish man, eyes narrowed into furious slits.  As she met his eyes she allowed a small amount of her Thu’um to rise inside her, projecting her intent through her eyes.  Roderick met her eyes and paled, hands twitching as he quailed under her gaze.  She did not shout, she had no need too.

“She is coming with us.” Mahanon stated simply, and that was that.  Reia released Roderick from her gaze, and continued following Mahanon, cursing herself for getting swept up in her anger at the man’s attitude.  She caressed her dagger, to the others it would seem as though she had merely intimidated the man, no need to get jumpy.

“Leliana, bring everyone left in the valley.  Everyone.” Cassandra said solemnly, as she too walked past the shaky Chancellor who gave one last parting shot.

“On your head be the consequences, Seeker.”  


 

The group travelled across narrow pathways covered in snow, Mahanon in the lead with Reia following directly behind him.  It would be a cosmic joke if he managed to slip and fall off a mountain now.

They arrived at another gate, the courtyard filled with soldiers, many injured.  Reia nudged Mahanon as he slowed, as though to attempt to help the injured, but continued on at her urging.  These soldiers had their own medics, and they couldn’t afford to waste time.

Reia, couldn’t afford to waste time.

As they passed through the gate, Mahanon’s hand lit up like a beacon.

“Another rift?” Varric sighed, hefting his crossbow into his hands.

And indeed there was, soldiers were spread across the field engaged in battle with demons.  Mahanon and Cassandra jumped into the fray whilst Reia, Solas and Varric stayed at the outskirts.

“How many rifts are there!” Varric shouted, shooting an arrow at a demon that was attempting to flank Cassandra.

“We must seal it if we are too get past!” Solas yelled in reply, staff whirling as he froze a demon in its tracks, allowing Mahanon to shatter it with a well placed blow.

Reia was silent as she fought, arrow after arrow finding their homes in her enemy’s skulls.  The demons were relentless, wave after wave pouring out of the rift, only to be massacred by the waiting soldiers. 

When at last there were no further demons, Mahanon lifted his hand to close the rift, only to be thrown back by a new demon.  Reia had already fired another arrow as she examined this new creature; it was tall, green, with spindly limbs and sharp claws.  Its tail swept a solider off his feet, silencing his cries with a slash of its talons.

“Attack!” Cassandra roared, as she and a slightly dazed Mahanon charged it.  Reia fired two more arrows in quick succession, hoping no one would notice the dramatic increase of her draw as she focused on bringing the creature down hard.  Both arrows went through its skull, and it collapsed onto its knees with an eerie screech, shaking violently as Cassandra delivered the finishing blow.

Reia ran swiftly to Mahanon, who was shaking slightly as he closed the rift.  She examined him critically, but he seemed unharmed.  His shield was dented from taking the brunt of the attack.  

Solas joined the two elves by the remains of the rift.  “Sealed, as before.” He panted slightly, before recovering his breath.  “You are becoming quite proficient at this.”

“Let’s hope it works on the big one.” Varric said as he joined them, eyes on the Breach.

“Lady Cassandra,” Reia heard an unfamiliar male voice rasp, and she turned to see a blonde human clad in armor and furs talking to Cassandra. “You managed to close the rift?  Well done.”

“Do not congratulate me, Commander.  This is the prisoner’s doing.” Cassandra replied, nodding towards the group.

“Ah, I see.” The Commander said, as his eyes darted from Reia to Mahanon. “And which prisoner…?”

“The one with the glowing hand, Curly.” Varric said dryly, as the Commander’s gaze fixed firmly on Mahanon, allowing Reia the chance to fade slightly into the background.

“I hope they’re right about you.  We’ve lost a lot of people getting you here.” He said seriously, approaching Mahanon with no fear, even after witnessing the power he possessed.  He was a veteran, Reia realized, possessing an intimidating presence.  Difficult to phase.

“You’re not the only one hoping that.” Mahanon joked weakly, shaking off the ichor from his sword before sheathing it. 

“We’ll see soon enough, won’t we?” The Commander said, the barest hint of a threat hidden beneath his words.  Reia hoped Mahanon picked up on it.

“The way to the temple should be clear.  Leliana will try to meet you there.” The Commander said seriously to Cassandra, who nodded in return.

“Then we’d best move quickly.  Give us time, Commander.”

“Maker watch over you – for all our sakes.” The Commander finished, and went to help an injured soldier who was limping back towards their makeshift barracks.  Mahanon approached a small drop and jumped down, Reia and the rest of the group following.    

Reia blinked in shock, and almost drew her dagger as she took in the scene before her.  Ash swirled through the air, burnt corpses littered the ground, frozen in ghastly poses that looked like they were trying to find shelter.  She closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them, her gaze blank.  This was not the worst sight she had ever seen, but that didn’t make it any less horrific.

Solas broke the heavy silence.  “The Temple of Sacred Ashes.”

“What’s left of it.” Varric muttered, subdued by the carnage they walked through.

“That is where you walked out of the Fade, and our soldiers found you.  The both of you.” Cassandra amended with a glance at Reia.  “They say a woman was in the rift behind you, no one knows who she was.”

Reia exchanged a glance with Mahanon as they walked through the charred temple, as a memory of a bright woman flashed through her mind.  Was that the woman they saw in the Fade?

They rounded the corner, and Mahanon slowed to a stop, shock written all over his face.  This temple was completely destroyed, stray columns of stone and a handful of railings the only remnants.  And further still, in the center of a clearing, was the Breach.  It was massive; Reia followed the green eddies of magic that connected this rift to the hole in the sky.  Lighter green tendrils of magic circled the rift, slowly growing larger as the Breach pulsed.

“The Breach is a long way up.” Varric said, as he stared up at the sky, the green magic reflected in his eyes.

Reia turned around at the sound of approaching footsteps, and was confronted with Leliana and a few soldiers.

“You’re here!” Leliana ran towards the group, relief written across her face.  “Thank the Maker.”

Reia listened with half an ear as Cassandra asked for Leliana’s soldiers to take positions around the temple, focusing instead on Mahanon’s pale face.

“You alright?” Reia asked softly while the others were distracted.  He looked at her in amazement, possibly shocked that she had initiated a conversation. 

“…Yes.” He said after a pause, focusing on her rather than the Breach.  “It’s just… a bit overwhelming.” He waved his hand at the Breach, as though trying to show just how large it was. 

Reia laughed softly, and Mahanon’s eyes practically bulged out of his head.  “It will be fine, Mahanon.  Don’t lose hope before you’ve even begun.” She turned away, a tad embarrassed at her attempt to give a motivational pep talk, and missed the reassured smile Mahanon shot her way.  Her gaze landed on Solas… who was staring straight at her in a considering manner.  Reia immediately looked away, missing his amused smile, as Cassandra approached her and Mahanon.

“This is your chance to end this.  Are you ready?”

“I’ll try,” Mahanon said nervously, and Reia felt another pang of emotion. “but I don’t know if I can reach that, much less close it.”

“No.  This rift was the first, and it is the key.” Solas said softly, his gaze captivated by the Breach.  “Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach.”

“Then let’s find a way down.  And be careful.” Cassandra said seriously.

Varric found a staircase, or what was left of one, that they climbed down cautiously.  Reia was tense, wound up at the thought of what would happen next.  As soon as this Breach was closed Reia would leave, hopefully everyone would be too caught up in their celebrations to notice her absence.

And if they tried to stop her again… Well, was she the Dragonborn or wasn’t she?

Reia followed Mahanon as he made his way carefully down the unstable walkway.  A slab of stone was on her right, green lights interwoven in the stone.  It had to be from the Breach, and Reia reached out her hand to touch it –

Now is the hour of our victory.  Bring forth the sacrifice.” A deep voice, devoid of emotion, echoed throughout the ruined temple.  Reia jerked her hand back from the stone.

“What are we hearing?” Cassandra asked, a tad nervous Reia suspected, as she drew her sword.

“At a guess: the person who created the Breach.” Solas said, tearing his gaze away from the Breach and looked at his surroundings in morbid interest. 

Jagged spires of stone interspersed with that green magic lined the pathway, as did eerie red… crystals?  They looked like crystals, and Reia drew closer to investigate.  They gave off a high pitched hum that grated against Reia’s ears.  

“Stop!” Varric yelled, panicked as he grabbed Reia’s arm and hauled her away from the red crystals.  She glared at him until he released her arm, running a shaky hand across his face.

“This – This is red lyrium.  Stay away from it.  It’s evil.  Whatever you do, don’t touch it.” Varric cautioned, prodding her to his other side away from the lyrium.

“What’s it doing here?” He mumbled softly to himself, giving the red lyrium an accusing glare.

“Magic could have drawn on lyrium beneath the temple, corrupted it…” Solas offered, startling Reia as he quietly appeared at her other side.  She felt unnerved, the lyrium must be making her twitchy. 

Keep the sacrifice still.” That same awful voice from before echoed again, and Mahanon cursed quietly under his breath.

Someone, help me!” A feminine voice this time, pleading for help.

“That is Divine Justinia’s voice!” Cassandra gasped, overtaking Mahanon as she ran down the steps.  Solas and Varric joined her, as Reia looked at the frowning Mahanon.

“Do you remember anything?” Reia hissed quietly.  She did not want to be overheard right now.

Mahanon blinked dazedly at her.  “I-I don’t know.  There’s nothing there.

Reia felt a chill run down her spine, that description fit her missing memories perfectly.

“What about when we were in the…Fade?  Anything you forgot to mention to Cassandra and Leliana?” Reia ploughed on, as they walked down the stairs and approached a small drop that led into the Breach’s courtyard.

“No.” Mahanon frowned, looking at her intently.  “Do you?”

“…No.” Reia replied, slightly dejected.  She had wanted answers before she left.

They jumped down and approached the giant rift, where the others were gathered.  The magic surrounding it pulsed and writhed, it felt almost sentient.

Someone help me!” The woman’s voice from before, Divine Justinia’s, pleaded again.  Mahanon’s hand glowed as he drew nearer to the Breach, Reia shadowing his every move.

What’s going on here?” A familiar voice – Mahanon’s voice – asked, echoing throughout the courtyard.

Cassandra looked stunned.  “That was your voice. Most Holy called out to you.  But..”

The Breach pulsed again, and shadowy images erupted from it, taking shape.  A handsome woman, hair white with age, and wearing robes similar to Chancellor Roderick was bound by magic.  Her face pleading as she faced a menacing form concealed in shadow, except for his glowing red eyes.  A shadowy Mahanon took form from the haze and ran towards the pair. 

What’s going on here?” He asked, brow furrowed as he took in the situation.  Reia could only stare, a sick feeling in her stomach.  Would she be shown as well?

Run while you can!  Warn them!” Justinia called out to Mahanon, desperation coloring her tone.

We have an intruder.  Slay the elf.” His eyes were scorching, intent on the eradication of Mahanon.

The Breach flashed again, and the scene they had been watching faded away into nothing.

“You were there!  Who attacked?  And the Divine, is she..?  Was this vision true?  What are we seeing?” Cassandra demanded, as she glowered at Mahanon, who shook himself out of his shock.

“I don’t remember!”

Cassandra suddenly turned on Reia.  “And why didn’t we hear your voice?  Surely you would have been near Lavellan in order to be sent into the Fade.”

Reia had no answer.  “I don’t recall.”

Cassandra made a disgusted noise, turning sharply away from the two elves.

“Echoes of what happened here.  The Fade bleeds into this place.” Reia glanced at Solas, who was gazing at her as he spoke, a curious tilt to his head. 

He turned towards Cassandra.  “The rift is not sealed, but it is closed… albeit temporarily.  I believe that with the mark, the rift can be opened, and then sealed properly and safely.”

That sounded too easy.

“However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side.” Solas continued, and Reia nodded to herself.  That sounded more like it.

“That means demons.  Stand ready!” Cassandra ordered the soldiers that had surrounded the walls while they traversed the crumbling pathways.  Reia gave them a cursory glance as they ran to their positions; they shouldn’t be too difficult to escape from.

Once they were in position, Cassandra nodded curtly at Mahanon, before drawing her sword and shield.  Reia followed suit, her bow hanging loosely at her side as she waited.

Mahanon raised his left hand to the rift, a beam of green magic connecting to the Breach.  The air was humming with power, and Reia’s nerves were tested as she awaited the outcome.  As the noise of the Breach became overwhelming, a beam shot out of it, expanding until a large, vague shape could be seen.  The green light vanished abruptly, and the demon was revealed.  It was large, with spiky skin and too many eyes.  It landed on the ground with a boom, magic crackling around the beast as it stood.

“Now!” Cassandra called out, and a barrage of arrows hailed down upon the creature, who swatted them away in annoyance.  The demon laughed, deep and menacing, as lighting crackled around it.  

Mahanon and Cassandra had already engaged the demon, their shields minimizing most of the damage from its sharp claws.  Leliana had joined them as well, showing that she was no slouch with a bow.  The soldiers around them focused on the smaller demons that erupted behind the large one, attempting to thin the herd.  The demon walked towards the archers on the walls, every step causing the earth to shake.

“We must strip its defences!  Wear it down!” Cassandra snarled, as she cut at the demon’s legs with her sword.  It growled lowly, and swept its arm at her, but was blocked by her shield.  Mahanon called out to her, but once he saw that she was alright he resumed his attack with ferocity.

Reia shot arrow after arrow, but it appeared that they were a mere annoyance to the demon.  She didn’t stop though, taking care to aim at the appendages Solas had frozen to maximize damage.  It seemed to work, as the demon roared out in pain as one of Reia’s arrows shattered part of it’s frozen spikes.  Reia met Solas’ eyes, and gave him a nod, before focusing on the fight once again.

It was long and brutal, the demon used a whip made of lightning (which, not used to attack her, would have been very cool to see) that caused serious damage.  Reia was running low on arrows, but the demon seemed to be weakening.  Just a little farther…

And suddenly, everything went to shit.

With a roar, the demon swung his arm at Cassandra, knocking her across the field while swinging his electrical whip at the distracted Mahanon, hitting him dead-on.  Mahanon shouted, electricity coursing through his body as he collapsed on the ground.  The demon roared again, and lifted its foot to crush Mahanon underneath.

Reia didn’t think, she simply acted.

With all the speed and skill she had been hiding, she flew across the field in a heartbeat, daggers drawn as she jumped up the demon’s body, using its spikes as stepping stones.  The demon felt her for a second, before she reached its neck and sunk both daggers into the back of its skull, giving them a twist for good measure.  Reia jumped off gracefully, landing with a roll, as she dragged Mahanon away from the demon, who fell directly on top of where Mahanon had been lying. 

Mahanon groaned, eyes opening weakly as Reia helped him too his feet.  The fighters in the courtyard were silent as they watched the elven duo approach the rift.  Mahanon looked at Reia for only a moment, before raising his hand to the Breach.  Once again, the green power flowed from his hand and into the Breach, crackling and hissing until the power dispersed, creating a shockwave and sending debris flying around the courtyard. 

Mahanon swayed slightly, before collapsing onto the ground.  Reia caught him, and lowered him gently onto the ground, staying crouched by his side. 

What had she just done?  She risked her own freedom to save this man.  This man, whom she had known for only a few hours.  It was unlikely that she would be able to slip off, unnoticed, after that display.  She glimpsed Leliana and Cassandra a short distance away, both staring at her.  She couldn’t tell what they were thinking.  Varric was smiling, and gave her a quick thumbs up before placing Bianca onto his back.  And Solas…Solas was looking at her in a way that made her incredibly uneasy, as though she were a puzzle he was determined to solve.

She could use her Thu’um to get away, but… Reia glanced down at Mahanon, who had a rather peaceful look on his face as he slept.  His hair had been swept off his forehead from the fall, and Reia could fully see the tattoo hidden beneath.

It was beautiful; intricate lines of pale gold swept across his forehead, coming to a point in the middle of his nose.  She wondered why she hadn’t noticed that part of his tattoo earlier, but the color was so pale, the details so delicate, she wouldn’t be able to see it unless she knew it was there.  She looked at it for another moment, and realized it resembled a tree.

It was rather fitting.

Reia heard the soldiers moving slowly towards her, and turned her head slightly to look.  Cassandra and Leliana were in the lead, trailed by Solas and Varric.

This was her last chance to flee, if she stayed they would surely make it difficult to escape.

Her eyes flickered to Mahanon’s unassuming left hand.  The key to stopping this Cassandra had said.  The world’s only hope.   A world’s savior.  That sounded awfully familiar.  He would be pressured, betrayed, fooled, lied too; he would be exposed to the worst things people were capable of.  He would never be the same.

He didn’t deserve that fate.

Reia hesitated, there was nothing she could do to stop it, but… perhaps she could still try to protect him.  She didn’t have enough information on the missing dovah to launch a search immediately.  She needed to research, she needed answers, and while she did that… why couldn’t she help Mahanon ease into his mantle, while maintaining who he was.

Things could be different this time.  Things would be different this time.  Mahanon wasn’t Aranis, and Mahanon wasn’t her.

She would protect him to the best of her abilities, until she collected enough information on the missing dovah.  They were still her priority.

Reia rose to her feet slowly, and turned to face Cassandra and Leliana, eyes devoid of any telling emotion.

This was only the beginning.

Chapter Text

The next few days passed by incredibly slowly.  After being arrested by the dour Cassandra and a suspiciously cheerful Leliana she had been escorted, under heavy guard, back to Haven.

Really, it was all a bit much.  She was cooperating, they didn’t need to make a spectacle of her. She certainly wouldn’t be forgotten, escorted by the intimidating Commander Cullen, the annoyingly inquisitive Solas, the wise-cracking dwarf Varric, and a dozen armed soldiers would certainly leave a lasting impression.  Reia hated being ogled, and spitefully ignored the inquisitive stares and gasps of the people of Haven.  Was that Leliana’s plan from the start?

Reia frowned, unwillingly impressed.  It was annoyingly clever of Leliana.  Now she would be remembered, and would make escaping rather more difficult had she wanted to.

She had been placed in a different cell, a normal one this time.  It gave her a semblance of privacy, and allowed her to take off her mask when she ate by facing the stone wall, away from the prying stares.

It was the dawn of the third day she had been imprisoned (deduced by the frequency of meals; today’s breakfast was oatmeal) and Reia laid sprawled across the dungeon’s cobble floors, ignoring the bed she had been provided with.  She sighed tiredly, stretching languidly before she sat up swiftly, startling the guards who were watching her.  Reia smiled, she had to get amusement from somewhere.

Since Reia had been interrogated, only once by Leliana and Cassandra, she had a lot of free time.  The questions were rather straightforward; why had she been at the Conclave?  Who was this friend of Reia’s?  Why had they wanted her to come to the Conclave?  Had she met Mahanon previously?  Reia kept her story relatively simple; her friend was a mage and wanted to know how the Conclave would impact the mages, and Reia offered to help.  No, she had never met Mahanon before in her life.  Simple, and not completely a lie.  Paarthurnax was, after all, somewhat magical.

After that she had been left to her own devices, along with a handful of guards to provide amusement.  Well, to watch her actually, but she interpreted their presence her own way.

Reia folded her legs underneath her and leaned against the bed, eyes closed.  She had been sleeping restlessly, her dreams disturbingly vivid.  It wasn’t enough to actually fatigue her, but it was rather irritating.

Reia fiddled with her mask, pulling it away from her face slightly before releasing it with a snap.  The guards always fell for it, eyes eager as they anticipated the reveal of her face.  One of the guards, angered by Reia’s silent taunting, had tried to remove her mask as she slept, and was promptly electrocuted for his trouble.

Reia knew it vexed them, vexed Leliana, that they were unable to see what she looked like.  It was an amusing way to pass the time when she was tired of thinking.

The fact was she had literally no information on the dovah she had been sent to find.  Absolutely none.  She knew there were several and that they were friends with Paarthurnax.  That was all.

It was odd that the information Paarthurnax gave her was incredibly vague.  Had he done it on purpose, and if so, why?  Or had he forgotten his friend’s appearances and names in the millennia they had been apart? 

The latter was unlikely.  A dovah’s name was not entirely their name, but rather a title given to reflect their deeds.  Some dovah remained nameless until they performed a feat worthy of gaining a title.  Odahviing, for example, translated into snow hunter wing, and Alduin was destroyer devour master.  Reia clenched her hand before giving it a small flick, angered at the small pang of fear Alduin’s name inspired. 

Perhaps these dovah now went by different names, and that was why Paarthurnax was unable to call out to them.  That… was plausible.  It would also explain why he had given her no names to search for; for their previous names were no longer who they were.

Reia opened her eyes slowly, the torchlight reflecting off her eyes as they widened.

The first step she needed to take was to find a dovah, any dovah in Thedas, and question them.  Any good dovah was keenly aware of potential threats and typically kept an eye on powerful dovah, which Reia assumed Paarthurnax’s friends were.  She rubbed her hand slowly over her armor, right on top of where Odahviing’s hidden scale lay, and felt her stomach twist slightly.  She was looking forward to meeting Thedas’ dovah.

Reia’s ear twitched as she heard a pair of soft footfalls approaching slowly.  She glanced at the guards, who were looking rather bored.  Human ears were ridiculously dull.

A figure rounded the corner then, features hidden in the shadow of the corridor, but Reia knew who it was.  As the figure approached, one of the guards nudged another and they stepped forward to confront the intruder.

“Prisoners off limits for anyone other than-“ The guard’s drawl was interrupted by a sharp elbow.

“That’s the Herald of Andraste!” The other guard hissed vehemently at his companion.  Reia felt a pang of relief, Mahanon was alright after all.

“Oh!” The first guard stuttered, flushing in embarrassment as he looked at the smiling elf.  “My humblest apologies Herald.”

“It’s nothing, really.” Mahanon soothed, still smiling as he looked over at Reia.  “I would like a few words with my friend, however.  If you would be so kind…”

“Ah, but only Lady Leliana –“

“Of course Herald!” The second guard had shoved another elbow into the first guard’s side, cutting him off. 

The guards stood staring at Mahanon, awe in their eyes.  Mahanon was looking rather uncomfortable.

“Uhm, I would like to speak to her privately.” Mahanon said, as the guards continued to stare.  Reia chuckled softly at his discomfort.

“But Herald-“

“Of course!  We will wait further down the corridor, Herald.” The first guard had received another elbow for his trouble, and was ushered down the hall along with the rest of Reia’s guards.

Once they had left, Mahanon visibly relaxed.  His straight posture became slouched and he ran a hand down his face wearily.  He looked drained.  Was he still exhausted from using that foreign power?

“You alright?” Reia stood and walked quietly over to the bars that separated them.  He straightened a little, and waved a hand negligently.

“I’m fine.  Still a bit tired, but I should be fine in a day or so.”

There was obviously more to his weariness.  “Rather overwhelmed as well, I should expect.  Right, Herald?”

Mahanon flinched slightly, but chuckled at the teasing glint in Reia’s eyes, the only part of her face he could see.  “Please, just Mahanon.  If you start calling me Herald too I might start believing it myself.”

He paused, his smile looked a bit strained.  “It has to be a joke.  An elf, the Herald of Andraste?  Who doesn’t even believe in the Maker?  No one could write a twist like that.  Well, maybe Varric could, but still.”

He was rambling.  The Maker?  A god, Reia suspected, but not the one Mahanon worshipped. 

“It is rather ironic.” Reia agreed, bullshitting for all she was worth.  “Our gods must be preparing to smite you as we speak.”

Mahanon looked at her oddly, before laughing.  “I suppose I should thank the Maker that the Creators are unable to smite me at the moment.” He joked back, eyes laughing.  The context of the joke was entirely lost on Reia, but she laughed anyway. 

So, Mahanon’s, and presumably the rest of the elves’ gods were called the Creators?  Good to know.  If she was going to pass as a Thedas elf she needed something to go on.

“So,” Reia drummed her fingers idly along the bars. “can I get out of here now?  I’d kill for a bath.”

“Oh yeah!” Mahanon exclaimed, rummaging through his pockets for something.  Reia took him in; he looked more at ease after talking to her, regaining his energetic aura as he searched his pockets frantically.  He was wearing the same armor as earlier; a moss green light armor tunic with silver shoulder pads, black armored leggings and thick beige boots all lacking in splattered blood.  Someone must have cleaned his armor for him.

She was glad he was ok.

“Got it!” Mahanon pulled a large tarnished silver key from the depths of his pockets, and ran to the cell door, unlocking it hastily.

“… Why didn’t you do that in the first place?” Reia deadpanned.

“Well, I got distracted by talking to you!”

He was blaming her?  The brat.

Mahanon ushered her through the door, Reia breathing a small sigh of relief once she passed through the door.  She vowed she would never go back into that cell again.  Hopefully.

“Your weapons are with mine, Cassandra stored them together.” Mahanon told her as they walked by the guards.

“That was kind of her.” Reia said, as she glanced at the guards.  Reia couldn’t resist; she turned her head back as they walked past, pulling her mask one more time before it snapped back to cover her face, much to the disappointment of the guards. 

“What was that?” Mahanon asked, confused as he glanced back at the disappointed guards.

“Just a game I was playing.  They all want to see my face so badly.” Reia replied as they reached the stairs.  Reia couldn’t wait to go back outside. 

“Can I see your face sometime?” Reia glanced sharply at Mahanon, who was smiling hopefully back.  She considered his request, in all honesty she wouldn’t be upset if Mahanon saw what she looked like.  The others… Reia repressed a shiver as a pair of inquisitive stormy grey eyes flashed across her mind.  Definitely not the others, especially not Solas.  Not any of them, until she was positive they would not be a future threat to her.

“Perhaps.” Was Reia’s vague reply, and Mahanon’s smile blazed across his face.  She smiled back, but Mahanon couldn’t see it.

They stepped through a door and into the main hall of the building.  Candles lined the rows, and small alcoves housed people bowed in prayer.  She had been imprisoned in a church?  That was… not that surprising now that she thought about it.

They walked through the hall and stepped outside, frost crunching under their feat.  Reia tilted her head up, eyes closed, as she breathed in the fresh air.  Slowly she opened her eyes, and froze.  There, amidst the cloudy sky was the Breach.

“Why is the Breach still there?” Reia asked, turning to Mahanon in rare confusion.  She thought Mahanon had closed it.

“So, we’re the Inquisition now.” Mahanon said, apropos of nothing.

“…Excuse me?” The Inquisition?

“The Inquisition!” Mahanon repeated, echoing Reia’s thoughts. “Our goal is to restore order and close the Breach.  All I did was stabilize it.”

“Ah.  Well, at least it isn’t growing any larger.” Reia said absently, her mind spinning.  So, Mahanon was apart of an organization now?  The Herald of the Inquisition, a figurehead to rally behind. 

She would have to ensure he didn’t become a martyr.   

Glancing at Mahanon’s guilty expression, Reia added softly.  “It’s not your fault you couldn’t close it entirely.  At least it’ll be stabilized while we search for a way to close it completely.”

“We?” Mahanon asked hopefully as he turned the force of his gaze on Reia as she realized her mistake.  Shit. 

“Thank you!” He cried, as he glomped onto her, hugging her tightly.  She choked slightly, attempting to pry him off her, but he was surprisingly strong. 

“Hey, Herald!  Bright Eyes!” A familiar voice called, and Reia’s head turned to see the short figure of Varric walking towards them, accompanied by Solas.  They looked much the same, a bit cleaner and not looking at all like they had spent the past few days locked in a prison cell.  As they drew closer Reia tried not to twitch in Mahanon’s grip as Solas’ gaze zeroed in on her.

“Aren’t we in a good mood this morning?” Varric teased, taking in the sight of the two hugging elves as he reached them, and Reia blushed in mortification, extremely glad she was wearing a mask.

“Bright eyes?” Reia finally managed to choke out as she wedged an elbow between Mahanon and herself to get some much needed air.

“Well that’s the only part of you I can see.  Got any disfigurements or weird moles I could call you by instead?” Varric asked innocently; or as innocently as a dwarf could be with that much chest hair on display.

“No.” Reia said immediately.

“Hmm.  Too bad then.”

“We’re celebrating!” Mahanon said, somewhat put-out, as Reia finally managed to squirm out of his grip. 

“Celebrating becoming the Herald?  I suppose it is a momentous occasion.” Solas spoke up, the barest trace of amusement in his tone.  Reia frowned at him, and he gave her a small smile in return.

“Of course not!  We’re celebrating Reia’s release, finally.  Getting permission from Leliana was the first thing I did as soon as I woke up!” Well, that was rather surprising.  Especially since it sounded as though Leliana gave Mahanon her cell key without a fuss.   

Varric stood in front of Mahanon, arms crossed with a gleam in his eyes.  “Hmm, so that’s why you rushed straight past me like there was a horde of fanatic worshippers chasing you.” There was a beat of silence. “Oh wait, that was exactly what it was.”

Mahanon blushed, his messy blonde hair and wide brown eyes making him look like a mischievous child. 

“Of course not!” He blustered, “I was just excited to see Reia again!”

“Well I appreciate it.” Reia interjected before Mahanon overheated.  “Now if one of you could point me to my weapons, I would be most grateful.”  She also desperately needed a bath.  As much as she loved her armor, it still had dried blood and… unmentionables caked on. 

“Sure!” Mahanon grabbed Reia’s hand and tugged her after him, taking three steps before stopping abruptly.

“Damn.” Mahanon muttered, releasing Reia. “I was supposed to go talk to Cassandra!”

And without a backwards glance, he went sprinting back into the church.

Varric chuckled.  “I like that kid.  I have to talk to the lovely Seeker myself.  Chuckles, do you mind giving Bright Eyes the tour?”

“I would be happy too.” Solas said smoothly, clasping his hands behind his back as Varric followed Mahanon, albeit at a slower pace.  Reia was left feeling rather wrong-footed.

“Shall we?” Solas asked, turning towards her and gesturing to the town with a sweep of his hand.

Reia masked her displeasure.  She had rather hoped she would be able to avoid Solas, not go touring the town with him.

As they walked, Reia looked around interestedly.  She hadn’t had the opportunity to examine the town when she had been with Mahanon and Cassandra.  Directly in front of the church were a few tents, and Reia caught a flash of red disappearing inside one.

She would be avoiding those tents in the future.

“How have the past few days treated you, Reia?” Solas asked politely, once they had passed the tents.

Reia looked sideways at him.  “Not bad.  I’ve experienced worse.”

“Hmm.  I attempted to visit, but the guards would not grant me entry.” Reia stiffened, as Solas glanced at her to observe her reaction.

“Thank you.  It is… appreciated.” Reia replied carefully.  Solas gave her another polite smile and lapsed into silence.

Solas had attempted to visit her?  Reia felt rather relieved that he had been turned away from the guards, but why did he want to visit her?  She had no idea, and that was making her nervous.

They walked through the town in silence, Solas in the lead, until they arrived at a set of heavily guarded gates. 

“Open the gates for Ser Solas!” One of the guards called out as he spotted Solas strolling towards them.  Reia observed Solas discreetly, unlike Mahanon he didn’t seem uncomfortable by a title.  Rather, he seemed accustomed to it, greeting the title with a straightening of shoulders as his head tilted up slightly.  He looked completely different from the humble Solas she had first met, but Reia admitted to herself that this suited him more.

“Argh!” One of the guards started as he finally caught sight of Reia, hidden behind Solas’ form. 

“Thank you.” Solas said, striding swiftly through the open gates with Reia strolling easily behind him, giving a little wave to the flustered guard.

A vast forest spread out before them, accompanied by the sounds of shouts and swords clashing.  Reia’s eyes swiveled to the noise, and saw rows of militaristic tents with training soldiers interspersed wherever there was space.  Striding among them, giving advice was the striking figure of Commander Cullen.  As though sensing her gaze, he turned his head to look at the pair, the widening of his eyes the only indication that he was surprised.  He gave them a sharp nod, gaze lingering on Reia, before returning to his soldiers.

The pair walked past the tents and into the forest, snow crunching under their feet.  Reia smiled, her hands trailing along the bark of the trees.  She had missed the forests, and this environment reminded her strongly of the Throat of the World. 

She could do without the snow though.

“Odd that a city elf can find such peace within the forest.” Solas said, breaking Reia from her preoccupation.  She released the bark at Solas’ sharp smile.  “Did you live with the Dalish for a time?”

Reia ignored the shiver of trepidation that slunk down her spine; it was unnerving how much he had gleaned from her already.  She would have to choose her words carefully.   

“No, I did not.” Reia said slowly.  “Isn’t it rather odd for an apostate to be out of hiding?” Reia was, hopefully, bluffing accurately.

Solas wasn’t the only one who could pry.

“Hmm, I suppose it might seem that way.”  Solas was looking away from her, towards the trees that were beginning to thin.  His response gave nothing away.  “You must not have lived in the alienage for long then.” He stated, turning the focus of the conversation back onto Reia.

Reia frowned.  The alienage?  The only alienages she had seen in her life had been the Dunmer and Argonian alienages within Windhelm.  They were disgusting places, filled with waste and despair.  Reia was shocked when she had learned what an alienage was, and the conditions they had been forced to live in.  Why segregate others based on race?  Reia had never understood the compulsion.

She hadn’t minded taking Ulfric’s head after that.

“No, not long at all.” Reia said simply, conveying nothing through her statement.  Solas glanced at her keenly, but thankfully didn’t press.

As they wound through the towering trees, Reia wished she could remove her mask to fully breathe in the fresh mountain air; but even with the covering she felt invigorated. 

Odahviing would like it here, it was, so similar to the environment back in Tamriel, and the animals, from the glimpses of the local wildlife flitting through the trees, were much larger.  Odahviing would appreciate that. 

She was surprised by how much she missed Tamriel already.  There she was respected, feared, and admired, even though she didn’t wish to be idolized.  While she had disliked the fame, she had unashamedly taken advantage of the perks that came with the title.  However, in the few days she had been in Thedas she had been imprisoned.  Twice.  Astrid must be rolling in her grave by now, and Reia could only imagine the ribbing she would receive from Nazir and Brynjolf.  Not that she would be telling them, and she would most certainly not be telling Odahviing.  She had witnessed his smug face whenever she would mess up her Dovahzul enough times to have the image imprinted in her brain.

Reia glanced surreptitiously at Solas, who was strolling with his hands clasped behind his back, a peaceful expression adorning his face.  For a moment, Reia considered asking Solas about the dragons in Thedas, but immediately discarded the idea.  He was intelligent enough to question why she wanted to knowIt would be much safer, and smarter, to question Mahanon.  Or to get her hands on some tomes; she was sorely lacking in knowledge about this world.

Perhaps she had been a tad reckless, jumping into another world without a plan.

As for gaining knowledge… Well, no one was immune to flattery.

“Your quite skilled in magic, Solas.  Who was your teacher?” Reia asked.  She was actually interested in his answer; she had never seen the type of magic he wielded.  If she had to guess, she would say it belonged under the Destruction branch… but that didn’t feel quite right.

“No one.  I taught myself.” Solas waved a hand at a leaf that was drifting precariously close to his nose, sending it spiraling towards the ground.

“Really?” Reia’s brow lifted in interest, and she didn’t have to fake her admiration.  To teach magic to himself, and to have survived the process, was remarkable.  Magic could be incredibly volatile if you lacked the necessary knowledge and patience.  Much like a temperamental lover.  “That must have been difficult.”

“Indeed, but it was all the more rewarding in the end.” Solas said with a reminiscent smile, before his sharp eyes slid to Reia.  “You are quite skilled as well.  Such mastery of the bow and dagger is difficult to achieve on your own.” 

Reia dodged the veiled question.  “I had a lot of practice.” Reia replied vaguely. 

“You often practice leaping upon a pride demon’s back and eviscerating it with naught but two daggers?” Solas’ amusement was almost tangible. 

Reia stepped neatly over a protruding root before dodging his implied question with equal finesse.  “Only in the afternoons.”

Solas chuckled low in his throat, it was deep and bright, and much too short.

As Solas’ chuckles faded away into the forest, Reia decided that a bit of truth here might be beneficial.  “I had a few teachers when I was young, but I taught myself the rest after they hammered the basics into my skull.” She said with a rueful laugh.  “If you have some time later, I would be very interested in learning more about your magic.  It’s fascinating.”

“Do you know much about the Fade?” Solas asked abruptly, as the pair slowly began to circle back towards Haven.

Reia faltered.  “Not as much as I would like.” She said truthfully.  Wasn’t the Fade where she and Mahanon had met?  

Solas’ eyes rested heavily on her.  “Not many do, but to understand my particular field of magic, you must have extensive knowledge about the Fade.”

Reia was becoming very intrigued.  Learning more about this ‘Fade’ place, along with his magic was an even better outcome than she had hoped. 

“The Fade sounds very interesting, Solas.  I would enjoy an opportunity to learn more.” Understatement.

Solas’ eyes lit up.  “Excellent.  We shall discuss it at a later time.”

The rest of their walk was done in a companionable silence.  Reia was feeling rather smug, she had managed to snag an opportunity to learn more about the magic of this world.  They arrived back at the gate rather quickly, and as Solas strolled through the gate Reia looked at the training soldiers.  The Commander was no where to be seen, but the soldiers weren’t slacking off.

Solas continued to stride forward while Reia lingered, and she had to rush to catch up.  A flash of orange on Solas’ tunic caught her attention.  Her hand shot out, grabbing the crisp leaf and tugging lightly on his dangling sleeve as she did so.  The material was surprisingly soft.

Solas turned around, eyebrows raised in a silent question.

“Er-” Reia stammered, she could feel her ears burning as she swiftly released his sleeve.  “There was a leaf.” She thrust the leaf towards him as evidence.  Solas, eyebrows still raised, plucked it deftly from her fingers and twirled it between his fingers.

“You have my deepest gratitude, Reia.”  Reia could feel her ears burning even hotter at the blatant sarcasm.  “Indeed, I don’t know how I may be able to repay your generosity.”

“You could show me where I’ll be sleeping?  And a bath.”  She wasn’t just attempting to change the subject, though a subject change would be most welcome.  She felt disgusting.

Solas’ eyes ran up and down her dark figure, as though evaluating just how badly she needed a bath. 

“Follow me.”  Solas turned and began to stride quickly up a set of stairs.  Apparently his assessment had proven her request as dire need.  Reia couldn’t help but be a little offended by that. 

They passed by a few wooden buildings, and what Reia presumed was a tavern judging by the slight smell of alcohol that invaded her senses as she passed the building.  They climbed up another set of stairs, arriving on a small plateau with three buildings.  Solas stopped in front of one of the buildings, waving her inside.  Reia strode in, eager to peel herself out of her tarnished armor and sink into a bath.

The interior was unremarkable; a small, uncomfortable looking yellow sofa sat in the middle of a plain sitting room, flanked by two small tables with a couple candles resting on top.  A squashy looking set of armchairs (one was a dark blue and the other was a mint green) faced the sofa, flanking the fireplace.  Reia mentally claimed the midnight blue armchair as hers.  A set of stairs led to the upper level, and a small hallway branched out of the sitting room; one door resided at the end of the hallway and another was placed halfway into the hall.  Reia hoped one of them was a bathroom.

“This is where we will be staying.” Solas explained, breaking Reia roughly out of her examination of her new abode by the ‘we’.  “Leliana assigned us to this house, and once Mahanon learned of it he decided to stay here as well.” Solas’ face was blank; Reia couldn’t decipher what he thought of the shared accommodations with herself and the Herald.  Surely Mahanon could have had his own place? 

“It’s fine.”  Reia lied.  She would have preferred her own place, now she would have to be extra careful.  “Which room is the bath?”

Solas pointed to the door at the end of the hall, and Reia took off without a second thought. 

She burst into the bathroom, and nearly cried in relief when she saw the bath.  They had plumbing!  Thank the – er, the Creators- for plumbing.  She kicked the door shut behind her and swiftly stripped out of her armor, feeling rather exposed after she peeled off her mask.  She pulled the lever for hot water, and waited impatiently as the tub filled agonizingly slowly.  As soon as it was full, Reia jumped in, groaning in bliss.  The hot water felt magical.

She immediately tore her hair band out and flung it across the room, before scrubbing her lank hair with a soap that smelt of lavender, dunking her head repeatedly under the water to get rid of the accumulated grime.  The process was incredibly cathartic; tension she was unaware of having was swirling away with the grime from her body.  She scrubbed the rest of her body swiftly, eyeing her armor with displeasure.  She would have to clean it fairly soon.

Regretfully, Reia pulled herself out of the bath and began hunting for a towel.  She paused in front of the mirror, staring at herself curiously.  In the back of her mind, she had thought her looks would be different somehow, changed by travelling to a different world, but she was still the same.  She traced her ear idly with a finger as she examined herself.  Same pale green eyes, the same lightly tanned skin, the same long black hair.  Her hand drifted down to the left side of her rib cage, tracing the pale scar.  Of course that would linger.  She leaned forward and flipped her hair back, her bangs falling messily to the left.  She needed to cut her hair soon.

With one last lingering glance at the mirror, Reia resumed her hunt for a towel, finding her discarded hair band along the way.  She dried off swiftly, tying the band around her wrist lazily.  She didn’t feel like doing anything with her hair now that it was finally loose for the first time in days. 

Someone knocked softly on the door, startling Reia.

“Ah, Serah Vukon, I have some clean clothes for you if – if you want them.” An unfamiliar feminine voice floated through the door.  “I’ll just leave them here.” Reia heard scampering footsteps, and then silence.  The girl hadn’t given Reia the chance to reply.

Reia approached the door slowly, opening it just wide enough for her to peer down the hall.  No one was there.  Reia darted her hand out through the opening to snag the bundle of clothing, before slamming the door shut with a bang.  She barely noticed the sound, too preoccupied with the monstrosity dangling limply between her fingers.

The shirt and pants matched; an obnoxious yellow dominated the cloth, interspersed with brown in what looked like a plaid design.  She let it drop from her fingers.  This had to be someone’s idea of a joke.

Draff.” Reia cursed, staring at the clothing in horror.  She wouldn’t be caught dead wearing that. 

Reia glanced at her grimy armor, and back at the bright yellow cloth.  Maybe there were more clothes in one of the rooms?

Reia inched the door open, one of her eyes peering through the slit while her ears strained to pick up a whisper of sound.  Hearing nothing, Reia tightened her towel, and slunk out the bathroom and into the other door in the hallway, closing it softly behind her. 

She was in a bedroom; a small bed was wedged into the left corner of the room with a very familiar bow and quiver leaning against it with two daggers lying on the sheets.  Reia paused at the peculiar way they were placed, chalked it up to Mahanon’s eccentricities, and left it at that.  The rest of the room was bare, besides the small dresser that sat beneath a window.  Reia moved towards the dresser and began rifling through its contents, pleased when she unearthed a black, sleeveless tunic that was deceivingly heavy, and a pair of blood red pants with a matching hood.  At least it wasn’t yellow.  Further digging revealed a breast-band and underwear, which she swiftly donned before putting on the unfamiliar clothing.

She dug through the rest of the drawers, disappointed at the lack of valuables, before closing them.  She placed her bow and quiver beside the dresser, and attached her daggers onto her waist.  Reia sighed happily, being armed made her feel much better.  She quietly slipped into the hallway and back into the bathroom to grab her mask and boots.  Once she was fully dressed, she examined herself in front of the mirror to ensure the hood wasn’t too revealing, pushing her hair behind her ears to ensure it was hidden by her hood.  The mixture of colors was rather reminiscent of her old Dark Brotherhood attire. 

She swept out of the bathroom and plopped herself in her armchair, sinking into the cushions.  Reia smiled, it was indeed squashy.  She slid a little lower in the chair, her arms crossing as she fought vainly against her heavy eyes.

Was Mahanon done talking to Cassandra yet?  What were they even talking about?  As Reia’s eyes closed she decided to do some reconnaissance of the church and the town later, she needed a way to eavesdrop on the important meetings.


 

“Reia.  Hey, Reeeeiiiaaaa.  Reia!”

Reia groaned, ignoring the dagger digging into her side as she burrowed her head further into her arms. 

“Get up!  I’m starving, and I know you missed lunch!”

Someone was poking her repeatedly in the side.  Reia squirmed, trying to avoid the irritating fingers to no avail. 

Reia swatted the persistent poker away with a garbled, “Stopit.” and slowly sat up, rubbing at her eyes with a bare fist. 

“I like the outfit!  You should wear more colors.” Mahanon, because who else would it be, said.  Reia blearily opened her eyes to see Mahanon grinning approvingly at her. 

“Hmm.” Reia hummed, looking down at her tanned arms, bare for the world to see.  It was rather unsettling.

“C’mon, lets go get Solas!  Varric and Cass are waiting for us at the tavern.” Mahanon grabbed Reia’s arm, dragging her limp form behind him as he climbed the stairs. 

Reia allowed herself to be dragged along absently, too focused on the fact that Mahanon was touching her bare skin.  His hand felt rough, she could feel the callouses on his palm where they rubbed against her arm.  Reia was frozen by the casual gesture.  It had been so long since she had experienced gestures without malicious intent.  She had become jaded, leery of friendly casualness, knowing that they were not for her, but for the Dragonborn.  Mahanon, unaware of her title, was attempting to be her friend with no ulterior motive. 

Why?

The stirrings of panic rose swiftly in her chest before she crushed them ruthlessly.  This was fine, she just wasn’t used to this.  Wasn’t used to people.

Maybe it was better that way.    

The upper level had only two doors, Solas and Mahanon’s rooms Reia suspected.  Mahanon walked past the first door and, with a surprising display of tact, knocked politely on the door.

“Solas, lets go!” Mahanon called out, negating his previous politeness by opening the door without waiting for consent.  Reia looked around curiously as she was dragged into the room behind Mahanon.  It was almost exactly the same as her room downstairs, the only differences being the staff that leaned against the wall and the bald elf who was looking rather disgruntled at the intrusion.  He looked like he had been sleeping as well.

“Herald, Reia.” Solas greeted them stiffly, eyes lingering on Reia, who forced herself to remain still under the scrutiny. 

“Time to get up Solas!  We’re off to the tavern!” Mahanon said cheerfully, walking up to Solas.

“I’m afraid I must decline, Herald.  I was in the midst of-” Solas was grabbed by Mahanon and pulled forcefully from the room with Reia.  She couldn’t hold back the small laugh at Solas’ expense as he looked perplexed at the state of events.  Her laugh drew his attention, and he looked beseechingly at her.  Reia ignored him gleefully, it was nice to have someone else besides her being manhandled.

Mahanon marched them out the door and down the steps before he finally released the pair.  Reia subtly rubbed the spot Mahanon had grabbed, privately deciding she would never wear anything sleeveless again.  It was also surprisingly cold without sleeves, or maybe that was due the scant rays of warmth from the setting sun; night was nearly upon them.  She had slept most of the afternoon away in that chair!

She couldn't really bring herself to regret it, that chair was sinfully comfortable.

Mahanon pushed open the tavern doors, striding into the establishment with confidence.  Reia glanced at Solas, who looked incredibly put-upon, before following Mahanon into the tavern.  The place was filled with humans who bowed their heads to Mahanon, murmurs of “Herald.” following in his wake.  A few humans noticed Reia hovering in Mahanon’s shadow, recognition flaring in their eyes as they nodded respectfully at her, while the rest ignored her.  They barely acknowledged Solas at all. 

Finally, after a couple of elbows thrown by Reia, they arrived the table where Cassandra and Varric were holding court in silence; well, silence on Cassandra’s behalf.  Varric was talking and joking, while Cassandra ignored him.

Varric glanced up at them, a smile spreading across his face.  “Take a seat!  Order whatever you like, I’ll let you put it on my tab for tonight only!”

“How do you already have a tab?” Reia asked dryly, claiming the seat next to Varric.  Mahanon followed her, sitting on her right while Solas sat across from her, next to Cassandra.

“Where else am I supposed to spend my day?” Varric got up and ambled towards the bar. “I guess you don’t like yellow, hey?” Varric called back at Reia, before darting out of reach.

Reia glared at the retreating back.  She would get him back for that. 

Reia scratched her knuckles nervously, an awkward silence settling in around them now that Varric had left.  She examined her hands intently, desperate for something to do other than staring at the other occupants of the table.  A small scar across her thumb knuckle caught her eye, a diagonal slash that swept across the entire knuckle.  She remembered getting that one when she was practicing spinning her daggers around her fingers.  She was young, entirely focused on the whirling daggers, oblivious to Aranis who had snuck up behind her to startle her.  He succeeded, and the slash across her knuckle was a remembrance to happier times.

Reia tightened her hands, the pale scar vivid against her tanned skin. 

“You seem well.” Cassandra’s stiff voice broke Reia out of her reverie.  She glanced up to see Cassandra looking incredibly awkward.    

“I’m fine.  The accommodations were surprisingly comfortable.” Reia said slyly, noting how Cassandra’s brows twitched towards a scowl, before Cassandra maintained her composure.

“Yes, well, it was necessary at the time.” Cassandra said firmly.  Solas was looking amused at the exchange.

“No harm done, Cassandra.” Reia replied sweetly.  She wasn’t angry at Cassandra, but it was fun to watch her trying to apologize so awkwardly.

“Why did you guys put Reia in prison again anyway?” Mahanon asked indignantly as he butted into the conversation.

“She was still an unknown-“

“But you saw her fight!  Obviously she isn’t a threat!” Incredulous silence met Mahanon’s words as Reia turned to glower at him, insulted.

Mahanon backtracked hastily.  “Not a threat to us anyway!” He said with a smile at Reia, who had turned her attention back to her clasped hands.

“She fought with us.  She saved me.  Why would you lock her up after all that?” Reia clenched her jaw at the blatant trust in his tone.  How could he have such trust in her so quickly?  It was baffling.

Cassandra was looking incredibly uncomfortable by now.  Warrior she may be, but in social situations she was clearly out of her depth.  “Her motives are vague, Herald.”  Reia didn’t miss the present tense in that statement, and neither did Solas, if the glint in his eyes was anything to judge by.  “And after her… display, it was important to see where her priorities lay.”

“But you trust her now, right?” Mahanon asked insistently, as Varric made his way back to the table with a pitcher of what Reia would bet her mask on was alcohol.

“I trust her more than I did before.” Was all Cassandra had to say to that.  It seemed that the fact that Reia hadn’t fought the imprisonment had won her some points with the prickly Seeker. 

“So, what’s your story, Bright Eyes?” Varric asked curiously, as he sat down at the table and poured himself a drink.  “Cassandra was tight lipped about it; she wouldn’t even confide in her favourite prisoner.”

Cassandra made a disgusted noise at that, and poured herself a drink as well.    

“Why were you at the Conclave, Reia?” Mahanon turned towards her, giving her the full brunt of his attention.  Reia was acutely aware of the scrutinies of the others sitting at the table boring into her.

“I was there for a friend who couldn’t attend.” Reia said vaguely, eyeing the pitcher longingly.  She could really use a drink, especially after the surreal past few days.

“Oh!  Why couldn’t your friend make it?” Mahanon asked curiously, accepting the drink Varric had poured for him.  Reia smothered the pang of disapproval that arose at the sight; she wasn’t Mahanon’s mother

“He… wouldn’t quite fit in at the Conclave, so he asked me to attend in his stead.” Reia had to smother her laugh at the thought of Paarthurnax sitting in at a Conclave.  He would have ended up being the wisest of all the leaders that attended.  The humans would have been scandalized. 

Varric tapped her arm, and Reia forced herself not to flinch.  “Are you from Rivain, Bright Eyes?  You have the complexion for it.”

“Hmm, that was a good guess.  You're sharper than you look.”  Reia teased.  Varric huffed, crossing his arms over his chest.  Inwardly, Reia was groaning.  Now she had to look up this Rivain country to back up her implied claim.

“Rivain?” Cassandra asked, studying her arms as well.  Apparently, this was an open invitation, and everyone at the table began examining her bared arms intently.  Reia fought the urge to scowl.

“They have no Chant in Rivain.” Cassandra said, staring contemplatively at Reia’s tanned skin, before fixing Reia with her steely gaze.  “Do you believe in the Maker?”

Reia was panicking on the inside, but no outward trace of it appeared.  She was in way over her head.

“.. No, I do not.” Reia replied truthfully.  She didn’t believe in any gods, from Tamriel or Thedas.

“But you were in the Fade!  Andraste guided you, how could you not believe?” Cassandra looked shocked.  She must be a staunch believer of the Maker then.

“No one knows what happened in the Fade, Seeker.” Solas interjected, smiling mildly at Cassandra.  “It is unjust to force one’s beliefs onto others.” 

A strained silence fell over the table.  Varric looked immensely entertained, as he glanced from Cassandra’s glowering face to Solas’ mild features.  Reia was obviously missing some important context.

“Your skin is so pretty, Reia!” Mahanon informed her seriously, apparently oblivious to the tense silence around him.  “I bet your face is pretty too.”

For the second time that day, Reia felt her ears burn hotly.  Cassandra broke their stare-down to shoot the oblivious Mahanon a disbelieving look, while Solas merely arched an eyebrow at the comment. 

Varric grinned widely, slapping his hand down on the table.  “A wager, hmm?  Well then, I bet that Bright Eyes over here is hiding a scar under that mask.” 

A light hearted debate broke the silence, Mahanon defending his claim of Reia’s beauty while Varric made increasingly outlandish suggestions.

Solas leaned forward, hands clasped in a mirror image of Reia’s, with his gaze fixed firmly on her.  “Your friend was a mage then?” Solas asked, returning to the previous discussion.  She met his stare, but was unable to discern the look in his eyes. 

“Yes, he is.” Claiming that Paarthurnax was a mage was the simplest lie to tell, and it was believable that a mage wouldn’t want to risk himself with the unstable political climate.  Why mages were hated in the first place, Reia had yet to discover.   

Solas continued to stare at her, searching for a tell that would betray her lie, before closing his eyes briefly.

“That is... kind of you.” Solas said softly, accepting his own drink from from Varric. 

“You should invite him to join the Inquisition!” Mahanon exclaimed excitedly, turning towards her and completely missing Cassandra’s blanching features.

“I don’t think the Inquisition would be a good fit for him.  Besides, he’s busy with other matters.”  Like attempting to win the allegiance from the dovah of Tamriel.  Reia wondered how that was going.

“Matters more pressing than the Breach?” Cassandra asked incredulously.  Reia couldn’t really blame her skepticism.

Reia shrugged, unclasping her hands to tap her fingers on the table.  “He’s a busy guy.”

Varric laughed, interrupting Cassandra as he stood up to head back towards the bar.  “I think we’re done questioning the poor girl for tonight.  Who’s up for a game of Wicked Grace?”

From the curiosity in Cassandra's and Solas’ gazes the matter was far from dropped, but for now, Reia was grateful for the reprieve.


After a rather blatant attempt to get Reia to remove her mask by tempting her with food, and a few terrible hands of Wicked Grace, which Solas won handily, the group parted for the evening.  Solas and Mahanon walked in front of Reia, as she attempted to balance the food she had brought with her.  She hadn’t eaten at the tavern, it was still much too early in the groups liaison to trust them that much. 

If it were Mahanon, Reia thought wryly, he wouldn’t even wear a mask in the first place.

Reia walked leisurely, enjoying the stillness of the night.  She glanced up, her eyes lazily tracing the twinkling stars spread across the inky blackness of the sky, and almost dropped her food in surprise. 

The stars were different.

After a brief pause, Reia resumed walking, her gaze fixed on the heavens.  Where was The Thief?  The Shadow?  The Ritual?  There wasn’t a trace of her constellations in the sky.  Unnerved, Reia quickened her pace to catch up to Mahanon and Solas.    

The trio reached their house, walking into the dark building silently.  Solas flicked his fingers, and the candles abruptly flickered to life.

“Well, I’m going to bed.  Good night Mahanon.  Solas.” Reia said, walking swiftly to her room.

“You mean you’re going to eat, right?!” Mahanon called after her, amused.  Reia faintly heard Solas’ accompanying chuckles before she closed her door.

Lying neatly on her bed was her armor, her clean armor.  Reia frowned, dropping her food on the small dresser to examine her armor more closely.  It was completely clean, not a speck of blood to be seen.

Reia slowly gathered her armor and set it inside the first drawer of the dresser, shoving the other clothing aside to make room.  Whoever had cleaned her armor had done a spectacular job.  She would have to thank them, before yelling at them for touching her armor.

With a soft sigh, Reia sat down onto the bed, one hand pulling her mask down as the other grabbed at the dresser for food.  She was surprisingly exhausted.  Her stints at undercover work had always been short, like the time she had impersonated The Gourmet to assassinate the Emperor.  Sure, that Emperor had been a decoy, and she had been betrayed by Astrid, but other than those details her operation had gone smoothly. 

But this was an entirely different mission.  Here, she had to pretend to be someone else in a world she had no knowledge of.  It was immensely more difficult than pretending to be a cook. 

It would be easier if she could just tell these people the truth and get them to help her, willingly or not.  But people feared the unfamiliar.  If they learned that she was from another world, and had the power to communicate with dragons and tear the world asunder in the same breath… Well, it would be unpleasant for Reia.    

Reia tensed, ears twitching as she heard Solas and Mahanon talking quietly as they climbed the stairs.  Slowly, she relaxed, pulling her hood off roughly as she began to eat.

She could do this; it was just another mission.  Tomorrow, she would start.

Chapter Text

Solas’ first glimpse was Reia the prisoner.

A tense silence permeated the air, a soft crackling of a glowing green hand was the only sound.  Solas’ crouched bulk blocked most of the shining green light from view, casting warped shadows on the cell walls.

A single drop of sweat dripped down Solas’ face, dangling on his jaw for a mere moment before falling with a soft plop on his shirt.  Solas didn’t notice, his attention firmly fixed on containing the magic – his magicfrom taking over this elf’s body.

Solas’ hands were wrapped gently, almost possessively, around the boy-elf’s glowing hand – it was his, his magic! - He tilted his head closer to the oh so familiar hum and delicately wove his magic through the boy’s hand – slowly, so so slowly – gently grabbing the tendrils that were slithering up the boy’s arm, and maneuvered them back into the boy’s palm.  

Solas could not afford to make another mistake.  This boy must live, if only long enough to help fix Solas’ error – foolish, so incredibly foolish, all his fault –

But in the end, it would kill the boy.  His magic was not for mortal hands.

Solas gently guided the last tendril back into the boy’s palm, his magic – the Dread Wolf’s magic – swirled and writhed chaotically.  Solas narrowed his eyes against the green glow, and with a last pulse of his magic, erected walls around the chaos, containing it – holding it back.

It would break down eventually, but it was the most he could do with the magic he was currently able to wield.  

Solas looked at the face of the being who was both blessed and cursed to bear his mark as a bright flash of green illuminated the cell, casting the room in stark relief.

Solas’ lip curled slightly at the sight of the vallaslin this boy wore proudly before flinching back as though stung.  It was Mythal’s vallaslin.  Solas closed his eyes against the sight.

With an inaudible sigh, Solas released the boy’s hand and rose gracefully, his face inscrutable once more.

“It is done.”

Audible sighs, whether in relief or anxiety Solas didn’t care to decipher, filled the once silent room.  

“Thank you, Solas.” The red haired woman, Leliana he remembered, said softly, her gaze focused unerringly on the boy.

“Well, that’s enough creepy magic stuff for one day.” Varric, the dwarf, cajoled as another flash of green light illuminated the room.  

The Seeker raised an unimpressed brow. “There are soldiers outside who could use your help at one of the rifts, accompany them.”

“Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t I just say I was done with the creepy magic shit?”  The two continued to bicker as the Seeker – Cassandra – manhandled he dwarf out of the cell.

“It was no trouble.” Solas replied once the cell returned to its silence, his eyes still fixed on the now dark hand.  

“What about the woman?” Leliana prodded, gaze flickering to her other, less relevant, prisoner.  

“What about her?” Solas asked, uninterested.  His mind was already flitting from one thought to the another.  Would this boy even be able to wield his power?  If he could not, well…

It wasn’t as though he hadn't resorted to drastic measures before. 

“Does she have traces of that same magic within her?” Solas narrowed his eyes, his gaze now moving to the dark clothed girl, as Leliana continued. “We must make sure, whether she does or not could drastically affect what comes next.”

“Very well.” Solas moved towards the unconscious girl and crouched down.

“Once you are finished, please meet Varric at the doors.  Your experience with the Fade will help us tremendously.” Leliana said as she swept from the room, not waiting for a reply.

Solas’ face remained inscrutable, revealing nothing of his irritation at the abrupt dismissal.  He turned his attention towards the girl, who he noted with surprise wore a mask and hood that obscured most of her features.  Solas furrowed his brows, how odd, why hadn’t they been removed?  Slowly, he ghosted his hand mere centimeters from the woman’s mask and felt the familiar hum of an enchantment… yet, it struck discord within him.

“I would suggest that you do not attempt to remove this woman’s armor,” Solas said distractedly to the guards lining the cell walls, “it is enchanted.”

Irritated grumbles were their only response.  Apparently, his advice had come a touch too late.

Solas frowned further as he continued to study the woman.  She was dark skinned, from Rivain or Antiva perhaps?  Her eyelashes were long and dark, brushing gently against her cheekbones.  She was either human or elf, but he was unable to confirm which due to the obscuring fabric.  He leaned closer, and felt the familiar lilting of the Fade.  Solas raised a brow in surprise, he had not been informed that this girl was in the Fade as well, and yet there was something else, something… more.  The familiar hum of the enchantment was there, yet not.  The magic, if this power could be called such, felt both familiar yet vastly different.  

Had this girl been changed by her journey in the Fade?  Solas traced his lips with a single finger as he thought, still staring hard at the girl.  If so, why did the boy not feel like this?  Was it because she was a mage?  He slid his gaze down her armor, looking for any anomaly that could condemn her to being a mage.  Singed armor, or discolourations along the sleeves were most likely. 

Nothing.

Solas’ fingers moved to his chin, stroking softly.  Even without physical evidence, he was positive this girl was a mage.  It was slight, but he could feel soft eddies and streams of magic flowing within the girl, too complex to be the work of an enchantment.  However, being a mage wouldn’t explain the unique feel of this girl’s power.  He was missing something; something crucial.

Solas’ attention was drawn back to the girl’s face, which was scrunched up as though she were displeased.  Solas lowered his hand from his lips, and slowly ghosted it around the girl’s dark form.  This magic was both comforting and jarring.  And yet, there was something deeper still, flitting on the very edge of his senses.  Something that his instincts were warning him away from, but his curiosity refused the very thought of retreat.

How utterly fascinating.    

He wished to continue studying this strange magic, this strange girl, but to his displeasure, a cough from one of the guards interrupted his study.

“Is she like the elf, then?” One of the guards asked, pointing at the boy.  

“Is she a mage??” A different guard asked with a nervous sneer at the girl.

Solas frowned, no longer able to contain his irritation.  “She is not like the boy,” Solas shot a glare at the first guard, who looked rather sheepish.  Solas paused here, darting a quick glance at the unconscious girl.  She was most likely a mage, though the evidence was lacking, he was certain.  But should he tell them his suspicions?

“... nor is she a mage, and I would remind you that the explosion at the Conclave killed just as many mages as non-mages, if not more.”

The second guard looked suitably chastened, and embarrassingly relieved.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me.”  Solas said, casting a last glance at the mysterious girl beside him.

He most likely lied for this woman, but he did not regret it in the least.

She was his mystery to solve.  

 


 

The second time, Solas saw Reia the warrior.

Solas staff spun expertly in his hands, his spells hitting every target. Senses honed in countless battles forewarned him of the enemy at his flank, and he pivoted elegantly, bringing his staff up to unleash a devastating spell, but there was no need.

An arrow was lodged neatly in the eye socket of the demon, who seemed just as surprised as Solas.

Another demon popped up in its place, but not before Solas realized that this arrow was not one of the dwarf’s.

The rest of the battle was fierce, but was decided swiftly once their reinforcements had arrived.  

The tear in the veil - the veil that he should never have created - filled the silence of the battlefield with a hair raising hissing and crackling.  

“Quickly, before more come through!” Solas shouted, as he grabbed Mahanon’s glowing hand and directed it at the portal… which closed with a loud crackle. 

Solas gave a small, albeit relieved smile amongst the cheers of the others.  

At Mahanon's question, Solas smoothly explained the relation between the magic in the boy's palm, and the magic that created the Breach, without stopping his scan of the field for the bow wielder.  It had to have been the girl.  

He spotted her the same moment as Mahanon called out to her, his eyes practically shining with faith in this girl.

How had she inspired such trust so quickly?

The girl - Reia, a name he had never heard before -  glanced towards them from the edge of the clearing - was she trying to leave? - stiffening slightly.     

Her armor was peculiar, black as night interspersed with the silver of the heavens, light with no unnecessary bulk or metal.  Either she was arrogant enough to disregard more protective armor, or confident enough to realize she had no need for it.

Was it arrogance or confidence?  Solas could never decide.

“That’s Reia Vukon,” Mahanon introduced her with a beaming smile, and Solas saw Reia stiffen further. “she helped me in the Fade!”

Ah, so she was in the Fade.  How delightful.

It was then, that the pair locked gazes for the first time.

A piercing, bright green gaze bored into him relentlessly, like a challenge - and he never could resist a challenge - 

His instincts whispered that those were the eyes of a predator.

“She was in the Fade with you?” Solas asked Mahanon slowly, his eyes never leaving Reia as he stalked towards her.  Mahanon nodded. “When I saw her shackled behind you, I wasn’t informed that she had been there with you.” He shot a glance at Cassandra, who ignored him.  “Hmmm.  Interesting.”

The others continued to talk, but Solas was too focused to pay much attention. 

“My name is Solas, if there are to be introductions.” Solas said with a small smile playing across his lips, his gaze not once leaving Reia’s as he fell in step beside her.

She nodded rather jerkily, but remained silent.  For a girl obscured from head to toe, she was rather easy to read.


 

The third time, Solas saw Reia the avenger.

Solas startled as Cassandra went flying past him, distracted for a mere moment.  He swiftly returned his attention to the demon, only to see the heart stopping sight of Mahanon about to be crushed by the demon.

His moment of distraction would ruin everything.

A blur of black swept across his vision next, and Solas’ eyes widened as she flew towards the demon with predatory grace.  Reia’s cloak billowed out behind her as she ran, wreathing her in a black shroud.  Her footfalls, if she made any sound at all, were swallowed by the challenging roar of the demon, and left no impression on the snow she glided across.

A caress across his senses made his gaze sharpen to a knife point.  He could feel it again, that magic-but-not-magic was seeping into the air around Reia, making her presence seem larger and more grand, impossible to ignore.     

Solas’ hackles rose, as did his confusion.  No mortal had inspired this type of reaction within him before.  Not the dwarf with the equally sharp mind and tongue.  Not the Seeker with her quiet ferocity and steely resolve.  Not the red-haired spy with her cool gaze and impressive history.  Not any of the mortals from his past.

– Who was she? –

She was powerful, - practically bled with it - powerful enough to cause him - the Dread Wolf - to sit up and take notice.  

Solas slowly placed his staff on his back, unable to tear his gaze away from this girl who took down the demon with nothing but two daggers and sheer skill.

He joined the amalgam of individuals who were quickly striding towards Reia, lingering in the background as they reached her.

He smirked to himself as he brushed softly past her, her gaze narrowing at the action.  Solas felt a shiver of anticipation race up his spine.  He would push and pull, rip and tear, smile and cajole until her every secret was laid bare to him.

After all, she wasn’t the only predator here.