Hi Dragon Age fandom! This is my first Dragon Age piece, but it's one I've been thinking about for a while. There's a world-state in mind, but hopefully I'll be able to communicate it through the prose rather than in an author's note. Please note that the prologue is in the present tense on purpose. Please also note that I'm positively dreadful at maintaining chaptered stories, but so far this one feels like I'm playing the game myself. Let's hope it stays that way. Please enjoy!

Inquisitor Nessa: Prologue

I won't say life was wonderful after the Blight, but when the Hero of Ferelden calls your alienage home, relations with the shems are a bit more easy-going than they would be otherwise. Kallian and I grew up together, of course. Well, she was a few years older than me, and – Okay. I knew her peripherally at best, but she gave my family and I her wedding money on the day the Arl's son came through, so we didn't have to find servant positions with the army at Ostagar. And she saved most of the alienage from the Tevinters who tried to convince us there was a plague of some sorts but were really rounding us up to be sold into slavery. Most of the alienage – she saved my uncle, but my dad, well... But she did save the whole world from the Blight, which is why she's called the "Hero of Ferelden." Because she's a hero.

"A bit more easy-going" is a funny thing for an alienage elf. After the blight, Shianni was made "Bann of the Alienage," in addition to Elder, and was given real power to make some changes. That shop that my parents set up with Kallian's 10 silver? Mum and I moved it to the Market in 9:31. Did pretty well for ourselves, too, until the shems decided they'd had quite enough of that and put the torch to it. That was in 9:37, when I was 22. The landlord was kind enough not to charge us for the damage. Kallian had long moved on, as her girlfriend had been made Left Hand of the Divine, and she wanted to roam Thedas looking for a cure to the Calling. With no Kallian around, Shianni's title became more and more ceremonial.

So, it was back to the alienage for us. The Chantry sisters, always looking for more converts among those of us with more angular features, provided a good deal of the coin that comes into the alienage by way of wages. I was hired on as a maidservant to Revered Mother Perpetua, and she brought me with her when she was promoted to Grand Cleric after the last one – E something, I think – finally keeled over. To ask the other servants, you'd think I'd been given the keys to the Golden City. Honestly, I really don't care if it's a Grand Cleric's or a lay sister's ass you're wiping, they all stink. But there I was in 9:41, Maidservant to the Grand Cleric, setting out on the North Road to attend the Divine Conclave, riding clear across Ferelden along the Waking Sea, through bandits, the occasional Darkspawn, and Mages and Templars trying to kill each other. Now, I'd always been pretty handy with a knife – you kind of have to be if you grow up in the Denerim Alienage getting into some of the trouble I got into – but I wasn't sure I'd have wanted to be taking on Hurlocks or Templars if it came down to it. Good thing the archers we'd hired kept things uneventful.

Haven was an absolute madhouse when we got there. Sisters and mothers and clerics of all manners of grandeur were being shuffled about from house to house, with the bulk of the servants and other assorted knife-ears staying in tents. Tents. In the Frostback fucking Mountains. Grand Clerics, however, had room for their servants indoors, so I was toasty warm and well fed. Not a bad situation for a knife-ear who wiped ass for a living.

The first day of the Conclave was when it all went down. I noticed Perpetua had left her prayer book in her chambers while I was tidying up, so I ran up the mountain to the temple to give it to her. I knew the conclave itself was to be held in the inner sanctum where Kallian had found Andraste's ashes ten years prior. But the temple is huge, so I wandered around looking for whatever room they'd assigned Perpetua for praying or whatever. The next thing I know, there was this crazy dream where I was being chased by spiders, and this glowing woman reached her hand out to me to save me from them. Which led me to a dungeon in Haven, with my left hand on fire with some sickly green light, coming-to either going to get my face bashed in by Kallian's shemlen girlfriend, who also happens to be the Left Hand of the Divine, or have my throat slit by her rather handsome partner. Either way, I wasn't going to leave this world without getting one last dig at the shems.

"I don't know what Kallian's told you, Sister, but not all of us knife-ears like it rough."

Chapter One: What's Going On Here?

That smack did come, although it wasn't hard enough to do any real damage. Stung like a son of a bitch, though.

"Just where do you get off speaking to the Left Hand of the Divine that way, you insolent bitch?" Leliana asked. "And don't you dare talk about the Hero of Ferelden."

"Maybe if Kallian took some time to visit Val Royeaux more often, you'd learn to relax a little, sister." I replied, earning myself another smack on the face and a sword that began to draw a trickle of blood along my throat.

"One more joke, murderer," the dark-haired woman breathed into my ear. "Tell us one more joke, please. We can write a rather convincing confession on your behalf about how you couldn't live with what you've done."

It was right there that I began to realize exactly how serious they were. First of all, Leliana was far too important a person to involve herself in a little sport knife-ear hunting. Plus, with her relationship with Kallian, that's probably not something she'd do, anyway. And this lady with the sword didn't seem the type to joke about anything. So, apparently, I was being accused of murder. And with this kind of interrogation, I could also assume that the murder in question was pretty high profile.

"I didn't kill anyone," I said, adding a note of gravity to my tone.

"Then explain this," the dark-haired woman said, grabbing my shackled left hand.

"I can't."

"The Conclave is destroyed," she continued. "Everyone is dead. Except for you. You were the only one to survive the blast. If you value your pathetic life, elf, I suggest you start talking."

Well now. The entire hierarchy of the Chantry was destroyed, and some elven servant is the only survivor? Sword-lady was starting to sound like my best option. I've heard being stoned to death is pretty painful.

"I'm not your murderer, lady," I quipped. "But from where I'm sitting, 500 dead shemlen sounds like a pretty fucking good start."

Sword-lady let out a primal scream and drew her sword-arm back, while I closed my eyes and said a quick prayer to any deity that might have been listening at that moment.

"Cassandra, no!" Leliana shouted, and that final blow never came. "We need her, remember? The apostate thinks she may be the answer to the breach."

"You're right," Cassandra answered, pulling me up by my shackles. "Come. We shall see if Solas is right about you."

A door opened, and light flooded into the room, hurting my eyes. I must have been out for quite a while, because my legs were nearly too weak to support me. Leliana took off for the "Forward Camp," while Cassandra led me through what could very well have been the stoning mob I'd worried about.

"They need someone to blame," Cassandra said as the crowd grew louder. "But, for what it's worth, I believe you. There will be a trial. More than that, I cannot say. But I must apologize for my actions earlier. Justinia was a- a wonderful woman, and we have lost her to treachery."

"I didn't know that Good Guard and Bad Guard could be the same person," I muttered under my breath. Cassandra let out a frustrated groan.

"But I might kill you anyway if you can't learn to keep your mouth shut."

We were a few hundred yards past the mob when she removed the shackles from my wrists. Almost immediately the green glowing thing on my hand flared up, and I cried out in pain.

"Andraste's tits! If the shackles were preventing that, maybe you could just leave them on." Cassandra looked at me, and for a moment I thought I saw some pity in her eyes.

"That mark on your hand has been spreading for the last three days, as has the breach. We are headed to the Forward Camp. There is an elven apostate there, Solas, who believes this mark on your hand and the breach may be related, and that the mark may be the key to closing the breach entirely."

"The breach?" I asked. Cassandra pointed to the sky. It looked like a cloud formation gone very, very wrong. And green. The same glowy algae green as the mark on my hand. Perhaps this Solas was on to something. I gulped nearly audibly.

"I'm guessing that's not just a pretty sunset."

"It is a hole in the veil. Demons are falling from rifts caused by this hole all over Ferelden and Orlais."

"I don't have much of a choice in helping here, do I?" I asked.

"I would think that even for you, a trial would be preferable to being mauled to death by a demon," Cassandra replied. And for the first time in years, there didn't seem to be an appropriate one-liner response.

We were crossing a bridge over a frozen river when I got my chance to see if this was true. There was an explosion. The bridge collapsed underneath us, and we tumbled onto the river. When I looked up, I saw a demon – a kind I would later know as a Terror Demon. And I'll be damned if it wasn't doing its job that afternoon. Cassandra, of course, was right on top of things. I bobbed and weaved for a bit until Cassandra had the demon's full attention, and then looked to make my escape. I thought for a split second about trying to escape the whole situation but running from every arm of Andrastrian martial service while dodging demons falling from the sky sounded like a bad idea, so I simply tried to stay out of the way of this demon, and hope Cassandra and her sword could take care of things.

Now, I'd never been much of a Chantry type, but Divine Providence or no, what happened next was an inexplicable bit of good fortune. There had been a crate on the bridge, and this crate had cracked open. It was full of weapons – swords, shields, bows and arrows – hell, there was even a staff in there. I picked up two knives and tentatively walked towards the demon. It was bigger up close, and thinner. It was going to be hard to find a good stabbing point. I, on the other hand, was rather squishy, wearing nothing resembling armor but my thick winter coat and a smart mouth. Stabbing points all over the place. Or, from the demon's perspective, places to claw.

I dodged one swipe by the demon, rolling out of the way. Its ankle was free, and I got a good slice into what I hoped was a tendon. That leg buckled for a moment, and that gave Cassandra a chance to aim for its head while I jumped out of the way. She managed to get a good chunk of the arm it put up as a defensive move, and I took a swipe at what looked like its spine. The demon then whipped around towards me, flailing with its impossibly long talons. At one point it took a nick out of my coat right by my neck. But the demon's singlemindedness was its undoing, as Cassandra took another shot at decapitation, and this time, she didn't miss. Neither did the demon slime, which managed to splatter all over my clothes. I barely noticed, however. The creature was dead, and I wasn't, and that's what was important.

Cassandra, of course, was a veteran of many such fights, and wasn't really fazed by it all. Which is probably why she pointed her sword right at my heart about thirty seconds after lopping the demon's head off.

"Drop your weapons. Now."

She may or may not have seen my contributions to that little scuffle, but at that moment, it didn't matter. I put the knives down on the ice and held my hands up in surrender, hoping that she wouldn't kill me just for the fun of it.

"Yes. Of course," I said. "Putting the weapons down."

She took a moment, looked at me, and then surprised the hell out of me with her moment of rationality.

"No, you need them. You should be able to defend yourself in case we run into more demons."

"Wait – seriously?" I asked. "I mean, thank you. I'm not going anywhere, believe me."

"I know," she replied. "You did come willingly, mostly. And you seem like you know what you're doing. Just – be careful. We may need that mark on your hand, after all. And it probably will not work if you're dead."

I stared at her blankly for a moment, and she chuckled.

"You're not the only one who can make a joke, Nessa Ghilani."