Athena’s blood ran cold, eyes widening as suddenly all sound faded from her ears. Sweat dripped down the side of her face and she knew that she probably looked like she had seen a ghost, or something akin to it.
Rathein waved a hand in front of her face, flicking her in the forehead. “Hey, did you hear me?”
She cleared her throat and closed her eyes, pinching the bridge of her nose to try and gain control of her emotions that were screaming for her to run. This did not happen in the game. Alexius was not supposed to know about her. If he did, that meant he had a plan for her. Somehow, someway, Corypheus knew of her and wanted to use her. How did Corypheus know about her? She didn’t steal his mark; she didn’t get in the way of his plans.
Shit this was bad.
“I heard you, just not happy about it. What’s the next plan?”
The group started to move towards the Chantry and Rathein grabbed her shirt to drag her along. “We got a message to go to the Chantry. Come on.”
With a grunt of disapproval Athena moved with the group, a cautious gaze looking for the large church building in the middle of town. Thankfully on the inside of it was her favorite Tevinter mage who could probably match her in sarcasm. Unfortunately meeting him meant that a large series of events were about to take place and it left her with little time to do things. Little time to help. Little time to save at least one life that was lost in the games.
The moment they opened up the Chantry, they were met with the sound of spells firing, a suave dark-haired mage turning around with a smile on his mustached face. “Good. You’re here. Now help me close this, would you?”
She relaxed in her posture and smiled, spinning her staff in her hand before walking over to his side. The rest of the party was hesitant at first but jumped into the fray. The rift in the center of the Chantry was threatening to tear apart the building, demons popping up in every corner with thunderous roars. Wisps came from the rifts, floating near Dorian and Athena. In almost a unison motion they both summoned flames and dissipated the demon into dust. He hummed in amusement giving her a glance before spinning his body and staff to where he made a flourish of attacks towards another shade.
Oh a challenge, eh?
Already he was making her feel better, momentarily distracting her from the daunting tasks ahead of them. She turned on the ball of her foot, nearly mirroring his movement but adding a flare of lightning into her spells at the end. He rolled his eyes in a sarcastic fashion but their little dance drew a grunt of disapproval from Blackwall, who had just knocked over a terror with his shield. “Stop dancing around and focus!”
Like a child, she giggled at his bossing her around, sticking her tongue out while throwing a barrier politely over him while he charged onto the next target. Dorian murmured under his breath as he snapped a fireball towards a wisp hiding in the corner. “Oooh he’s angry.”
When Rathein closed up the rift with a smirk on her face, Dorian was suddenly in awe of her mark and how it effortlessly closed the rift. “Fascinating. How does that work exactly?” The Herald, eloquent as always, shrugged in return while rotating her hand to get a better look at the mark. This caused the new mage to laugh as he put his staff away. “You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and Boom! Rift closed.”
Rathein chuckled, putting her own staff away while checking the Chantry one last time for anymore enemies. “And who are you? Did you send the note?”
He nodded, giving a small bow to the party. “Dorian of House Pavus, recently of Minrathous. How do you do?” He looked to Athena and gave her a playful wink, this surprisingly drawing a frustrated “hmph” from the resident elf Fade expert behind her. While Dorian and Rathein continued to talk, she on her heel in a full 180 and crossed her arms while giving Solas a curious look, as if asking “what was that?”
He shook his head and looked off to the side, there being no indication of embarrassment on his face. “Just felt inappropriate for the current situation.”
The Tevinter caught onto this, his own face smirking in almost a smug response. “Such suspicious friends you have here.” Athena squelched the urge to elbow Solas in the chest for his reaction. She looked to Dorian with a half-smile, shrugging.
“Well since Alexius is from your land its only rationale to throw every Tevinter in there with him, considering it’s the country where everything big and bad comes from.” Her words were emphasized with sarcasm to make her point, throwing in a wink back to him, which thankfully brought a sarcastic laugh from his lips.
“I suppose you’re right.” He cleared his throat before continuing in a more serious tone, his eyes meeting Rathein’s. “Magister Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable – as I’m sure you can imagine.”
The Herald nodded, crossing her arms across her chest while looking the mage up and down. “Where’s Felix? I was expecting him.” While the pair continued to talk back and forth Athena took the time to wonder around the Chantry, slowly sipping on a particularly bitter lyrium potion while looking at the stained glass at the back of the hall. It showed Blessed Andraste looking like something akin to Mother Mary in her world. Athena was never a religious person in any sort, so seeing people fall so blind to a belief made her almost uncomfortable in a way. It was something she would never understand and she wasn’t sure if she wanted to. A cool draft caught her neck, sending a shiver down her spine while Solas came up to her side.
His face was still covered with a veil of uncertainty so she made a small sound of acknowledgement when he arrived. “Are you Andrastian?” He eyed her coolly, clasping his hands behind her back.
She couldn’t help but chuckle in response, shaking her head while thumbing through a book that was on the altar in front of her. “Is that a serious question?”
He responded with his own chuckle, hands relaxing at his sides. “No, I suppose not.”
A smooth voice carried through the Chantry and caught the elf’s attention: “Alexius distorted time itself.”
Solas whipped to the side, his lips twitching while his face showed features of intrigue. He retorted quickly, his voice carrying through the Chantry. “That is fascinating if true. . . and certainly dangerous.”
Dorian nodded, continuing to explain how the rifts created in this area were a result of the altered time magic. When he stated that some things were sped up and others slowed down, the group then looked knowingly at Athena, who only gave them a “see I told you” look of smugness. “The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and its unraveling the world.” The silence in the room was palpable as the realization set in.
Rathein bit her bottom lip, scraping her boot on the rug while thinking it over. “You’re asking me to take a lot on faith.”
Dorian then nodded, finally confessing that he was one of the people that helped develop the time magic. The real question was why Alexius was suddenly using it now. Athena let out a soft sigh, turning her back from the conversation to hide her facial features. It was difficult acting surprised in all of this. She knew this; she had played this story line countless times and basically knew the lines by heart. Instead of listening in on the conversation, she began reading passages of the Chant of Light that was handwritten in the book before her.
Felix entered the Chantry, his voice so grim it cut through the silence with ease. “He didn’t do this magic for the extra troops.”
Dorian seemed to cheer up at his presence, prodding him with a small verbal jab. “Took you long enough.”
Felix, the son of Magister Alexius, turned towards Rathein with concern worrying into his features. “My father’s joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves “Venatori”. Iron Bull instantly bristled, an angry grunt coming as he cursed: “Fucking Vints” again under his breath in frustration. The Herald shot him a cold look that gestured for him to shut it before turning back to Felix. He continued on, ignoring Bull’s obvious jab towards his people. “And I can tell you one thing: whatever he’s done for them, he’s done it to get to you two.”
Athena froze, a shudder shooting up her spine while she whipped around to look at the boy. Rathein sighed, rubbing the back of her neck while taking everything in. “What does he want us for?”
Felix shrugged, looking back and forth between the two women. “They’re obsessed with you, but I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because you survived the Temple of Sacred Ashes?” She gestured to argue that she wasn’t at the temple but then fell into a silence, her eyes glued to the blood-covered rug on the ground. The Herald finally found her voice, looking to the young man with a new determined confidence. “What are your suggestions?”
Dorian spoke up first, giving a slight smile to the situation. “Knowing you’re a target is the first step in turning it to your advantage. I can’t stay here, but whenever you want to deal with him: I’ll be there. Stay in touch!” With a flick of his hand he disappeared through the back of the Chantry, Felix leaving through the main door. With the party left all by themselves, they all let out noises and sighs of frustration.
Iron Bull spoke first, finally putting his large axe away on his back since the Tevinters were gone. “What do you want to do, Boss?”
Rathein gave him a small smile, shaking her head back and forth while muttering small curses under her breath. “This is really a shit situation. I think it’s better if we go back to Haven and discuss it with Cullen, Cassandra, and the others. We need to all agree on whatever we do next.”
The trip back had been anxiety inducing for Athena. Every day she was worrying about what plans Alexius had for her. If she was dragged into the future with Rathein, she would see the fate of all of their companions. She would see their bodies flung lifelessly to the side, red lyrium infecting every pore of their body. If she didn’t go, there was a chance she would be doomed to live the fate of the worst times of their lives, being some pawn for Alexius and Corypheus to use at their will. It left her nearly silent on the entire way home, immune to attempts from Rathein and Solas to try and cheer her up. The only solace and escape in all of this was when she went to the Fade.
Wisdom was showing her face more, discussing the future and what Athena knew. She paced back and forth in the fade, the energy moving around her in frantic pulses. “I am not prepared for this type of thing. I know every other alternative, every other ending, but this? I am at a loss. How can I help now when I don’t even know what is coming?” Her words were dry, panicked as she tried to seek console from the ever-patient friend in the Fade.
The spirit sat with her hands resting in her lap, softly glowing gaze following the anxious girl as she went back and forth. “You must trust your companions, Athena. There are few of them that trust you, have put their faith in you.”
She cried out, her magic flaring like flames from her body as she threw her hands in the air and flicked a small burst of flames from her hands like it was water. “I know that! I have betrayed that trust with my dishonesty. They are all looking up to the Herald and she is so strong, my friend.” She looked to Wisdom with weak, tired eyes, tears streaming down her face. “She has the burden of the whole world on her shoulders and I can’t help her.”
Wisdom shook her head, standing up and rubbing her hand on Athena’s back. “You are to her what we are to you, guidance. She looks to you to help her make decisions that will change the world. Unlike so many others, you can help her.” She began to sob, tightening her hands into fists while turning her face straight up into the Fade-tinted sky. Wisdom removed her touch, patting her on the shoulder. “You are much stronger than you give yourself credit for, dear. Keep that in mind in the days to come.” The spirit vanished from her presence, probably to go speak to Solas in his own dreams. She continued to break down, her body shaking with every rack of cries. It was an uncontrollable anxiety, her breaths were coming in quick pants and her vision was becoming blurry. The overarching feeling of dread was indescribable and it was constricting every thought in her head. Logical thought was nowhere to be found but thankfully a pair of soft arms wrapped around her, a kind cheek pressing to her back.
Inspiration had followed in Wisdom’s steps, stroking her back with soothing touches and soothing words as Athena fell onto her knees in anguish. The spirit then began whispering the lyrics of a song they had sung together weeks ago, a smile coming to her lips as she did. “Keep holding on, just say strong.” Athena turned around and buried her face within her friend’s shoulder, desperately clinging onto her as the Fade turned to black.