Prologue

"Fear is a reasonable response to life." – Welcome to Night Vale


Cassandra Pentaghast is a woman hard-pressed for answers. It can be no surprise; The Conclave is destroyed, leveled, and everyone around it for miles is dead. There is Cassandra, there is Leliana, and there is a mountain of unanswerable questions in front of them. People are restless and rightfully so. Down the mountain, in Haven, their fear gives way to anger. There's fighting for food and shelter among other things. People gathered around to watch other refugees roll around in the muck like animals to beat each other senseless. At times like these she is eternally grateful for Cullen, whose years in the circle make him accustom to crowd control and everyday stupidities.

It allows her focus on more pressing matters, down on the outskirts of town where no one will think to look if they're focused on petty squabbling. The Templar guards see her approaching and step aside from the entrance into the cabin so that she may enter. Inside is warm, the hearth lit, windows sealed tight with magic, and for that she's relieved. Outside is such a bitter, oppressive cold that leaves little hope for adjustment. The mage is still working, sitting cross legged by the bedside in the same way she left him nearly half a day earlier. That he's still at work which could mean one of two things: that he has discovered something of value and saw it advantageous to work through the night, or he has found nothing and the girl will die.

Cassandra frowns.

Without the girl there are no answers. It's unpleasant to know the outcome of potential failure falls on one life. Nearly three days she has waited and now her patience grows thin.

"Solas."

The mage, Solas, turns and offers a neutral expression. He is guarded and little known about him, but he is a healer, and a proficient one. To turn him away would have been a fool's errand at a time such as this. Leliana's people watch him; there are Templars stationed outside. His staff has been taken. Solas is not trusted to roam free, but he is useful. She will not bar him from the help he can offer.

"Good morning, Seeker. I trust all is well."

"No," she says, "certainly not well, but I'll survive.

He turns away from her, attention focused back at his work. He flips the girls hand in his own, palm up – bleeds his magic into it.

"Ah, yes of course. In times such as these one could hardly blame you. Though I am certain you have not come to see me this day to exchange pleasantries."

"You would be correct."

"Then what can I do for you?"

She steps closer, farther into the room for a better look at their suspect. Some of the color has returned to her face – no longer a sickly grey but tanned, with thick dark hair that plasters to her forehead with sweat. Even still she's far from healthy. The mark on her hand pulses – lights up the room in an ominous green glow, and Cassandra takes a step to the right, away from the young woman while still keeping both party members in view.

"That," she points to the mark. "It's been nearly three days. What progress have you made with it?"

Solas chuckles, mirthless, places the girl's hand back on her cot and stands to walk to the hearth where he conjures enough magic to stoke the dying fire back into a full blaze.

"You ask that as if I'm not dealing with completely unknown circumstances, though I do understand your weariness. I have stabilized the Mark though only temporarily. It is connected to the Breach in the sky and until it's stabilized the mark will remain unruly, unpredictable."

He tosses some of the dried herbs upon the mantle place into the fire – filling the room with a strange pungent smell.

"A fortnight ago you retrieved a satchel from her person. Might I ask what was inside?"

Cassandra shifts, puts all her weight on her back leg.

"Sweets of some sorts, mostly." She says vastly unimpressed. "There were other more…peculiar objects: sticks of some kind, two of them, craved. And a journal which should provide helpful. Anything else I will not share."

Solas nods at the small bit of information given and offers a short hum.

"We are getting off subject, though. Is there anything else I should know?"

"Yes. She awoke momentarily last night and – "

"What?" Cassandra snaps. "You were instructed to send word immediately if she awoke!"

Solas places his hands behind his back, inclines his head; a picture of calm in the face of her wrath.

"It was brief I assure you. By the time I'd thought to fetch someone she had already lost consciousness. Nothing she spoke was coherent, and therefore useless."

"By no word but your own!" She scowls, angry and at her wits end. "You say the Mark is stabilized?"

"…For now, yes."

Very well, then. She backs up; returning to the door in three easy strides and throws it open. The Templars at the door jump so far into the air it would be comical in any other situation. Right now it only adds to her frustrations.

"You," she barks, "fetch Leliana and Cullen. Tell them that they are needed now. We are moving the prisoner to the dungeon."

"Y—yes Seeker Pentaghast, right away!"

She slams the door in his face.

Solas is a mask of careful indifference.

"You'd place her in a cell even after what I've told you?"

"I'm putting her there because of what you told me. That mark is dangerous and most likely the cause of all this; for all we know she's placed it there herself. If she woke up once she could wake up again. I won't have that girl wondering around here."

He's quiet for a long moment. What would his word mean in this situation? An apostate with an opinion means nothing. Even still…

"I ask that I still be allowed to observe the Mark. Until she awakens, that is."

"Very well, then."

And with that their conversation is over. Just in time it would seem – the door opens and Leliana's there, stone-faced and at the ready.

Solas sighs.

It's out of his hands now.


AN: So…here we go! The first chapter of anything I've posted in…forever. Since maybe around 2010, so things could be kind of rusty. Still, I hope that some will find the premise interesting enough to stick around for and maybe even offer a little feedback. Anyway I wanted to use this first part as a sort of jumping off point, so yeah.

Thanks for reading!