Obvious: DAI Spoilers
In-Game Video Below
She knelt in the center of room, swords raised to her chest from every direction. She didn’t remember how she got there. The air was frozen stale, cold from the lack of movement in the dungeon. The prison cells were covered in cobwebs. Aria didn’t remember the last time she’d seen so many small spiders crawling about. She shuddered. Spiders gave her the creeps. Her hand flashed green. The pain rose up her spine and she bit her lip to keep from crying out.
The iron door swung open.
A woman entered. Her armor tailored to fit and her hair cut short. Her heels clicked the ground with precision towards her. Her face was tanned, scarred, and her eyes as dark as her demeanor. She spoke.
“Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you right now.” Her face bristled with a bitter resentment. “The conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you.”
Aria remained silent, glancing towards the door. Another woman stood in the door with her arms crossed. Listening. She hid her face behind a hood. Her lip pouted quietly; she gave nothing away and that silence spoke enough for her. She was guarded, but not unwise. Her eyes glowered at Aria’s hand and then her face. She knew the expression.
A dalish, the red head woman pondered; would the Maker speak through her?
Aria’s hand shot out green fire at being grabbed away from her. The flames burnt cold against her skin. It didn’t hurt just raw. The same feeling after using one of the Keeper’s salves wore away the wound leaving the clean fresh skin behind. She bent her fingers and turned her palm over. Even when it wasn’t bursting into flames, her hand felt foreign. Numb from pain it may as well not have been attached to her body. How was she supposed to hold a bow? Aria looked at her accuser.
“I- “I can’t.”
“What do you mean you can’t!”
“I don’t know what it is, how it got there.”
“You’re lying!” the cloaked woman grabbed her friend’s hand before it struck. “We need her Cassandra.”
“Whatever you think I did, I didn’t. I’m innocent!”
Aria’s eyes darted from one to the other. Which one had captured her? Which one had she fought with before being taken by surprise? The armored woman stepped back. Cassandra looked formidable enough, but her weak points were too visible. Even if she struck at close range, she’d be too slow to catch her. The other one stepped forward, seeming to take over the interrogation. Aria scanned her outfit. It was well formed, easy to hide multiple weapons, and designed for stealth. She felt a heat rise in her chest. Suddenly, she was glad she had convinced the Keeper for her to come alone. There may have been more in this prison with her if she hadn’t.
“Do you remember what happened?”
She was Orlesian. Even more likely, Aria thought bitterly, thinking of a response.
“I remember running,” Aria started. That felt true enough. “There were things, chasing me and then-” She spoke quickly, assuredly. “A woman.”
“She reached out to me, but then…” As the reality of the prison sank in, her vision of where she had been before this faded. The last memory she could grab was arriving at the conclave disguised as the hired mercenary, only a Dalish spy. Climbing the tower window, and then, Aria sighed, nothing.
“Go to the forward camp Leliana,” Cassandra said. “I’ll take her to the rift.”
Aria barely saw Leliana leave. She clicked her mouth, staring at the vacant doorway. She knew she was quick. It must have been her.Cassandra unlocked the chain binding her to the floor and lifted her up. Aria felt coddled. Cassandra held her like a precious artifact or kill after a hunt. She tried to pull away. The grip tightened. Aria huffed as Cassandra pulled her to the doorway.
“What did happen?” Aria asked.
“It’ll be easier to show you.”
Cassandra led her out. Aria felt blind in the sunlight, but her eyes took longer to adjust. The air smelled fouler than the prison. Smoke rising out of the mountain and into the sky around her. The snow looked more grey than white.Aria walked further. Her shoes were heavier than normal. Each step pushed her further into the ground. Only, she looked at her footsteps. The weight of death creeped up on her. It wasn’t just snow. It was ash.
“We call it the breach.”
She looked up. The creators had taken a paintbrush and opened the sky to green fire and lightning, dusting the clouds into a frenzy. The clouds swirled against each other. The center pulsing the same green light as her hand, only the lightning seemed to touch the ground where the smoke did not. Aria felt an immediate sense of dread. Everything she knew vanished. Something was beyond it. Aria could feel her hand pulse. It wanted to grasp it, to go back. She shuddered from the thought. There was more than she could see.
“It’s a rift that spews demons that grows larger with each passing hour, and its not the only one. It’s only the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the conclave,” Cassandra explained.
Nothing the Keeper had warned her could have prepared her for this. If only the First or Second could this. Aria laughed nervously inside their head. Maybe they’d enjoy seeing another ruin to explore.
“An explosion can cause this?” Aria bit back the fear in her voice.
“This one did,” Cassandra said. “Unless we act, the breach will grow until it swallows the world.”
“Ah!” Her hand erupted in tiny green flames. It stung like a thousand hot needles. This would not be the report the keeper had in mind. Cassandra rushed over despite her instincts. This dalish elf couldn’t be trusted. She couldn’t afford to die either.
“Each time the breach expands, the mark on your hand will grow. It is killing you.” Cassandra recited. Aria would have preferred a bit more “weight” behind the phrase “it is killing you.”
“It may be the key to stopping this, but there isn’t much time.”
Great, any minute I’ll fall down dead and all she has to say is “there isn’t much time.” She rolled her shoulders back. I feel loads better. She stared directly at Cassandra.
“You still think I did it. To myself?”
“Not intentionally. Something clearly went wrong. You wish to prove your innocence? This is the only way.” Cassandra spoke with a harsh kindness, as if her words for intended for another. There was only one choice.
“You,” Cassandra couldn’t hide her genuine shocked. Had their positions been different, Aria would have laughed.
“I will do whatever I can to stop this breach.”
Cassandra expected to twist this girl’s arm into helping her, Maker’s blessing or no, and fight every step of the way to the breach. That’s what should have happened- the Seeker leading her charge to atone for their crimes. This? Aria stood up. She was older than she looked, Cassandra realized. Maybe there was no crime to atone for. She drew her knife.
“There will be a trial. I can promise no more.”
Cassandra turned away. The villagers moved back for her to pass through. Aria looked at her hands and the mountain path below. It would be so easy to slip away. The villagers stared at her every movement following Cassandra. One misstep, they would be upon her. She could feel their hatred. It gave her goosebumps, and she had to forcefully relax. It wouldn’t do any good to look tense. She slipped into the careful demeanor of her training as a human infiltrator. She breathed.
No matter how close she got the villagers stood their ground. They were scared, but they were hateful. One spat at her foot. She kept walking.
“They’re frightened of you,” Cassandra finally spoke as they made their way to the bridge.
“Frightened of me?” Aria feigned ignorance. “What did I do?”
“This was a chance for peace between mages and templars. The divine gathered the leaders of both factions and now they are both dead.”
Priceless. She thought. And it’s not even because I’m dalish. A small child ran behind his mother’s legs. He tugged at her skirt, pointing towards her face. Maybe it was. Aria looked ahead to the soldiers. At least a part of the reason. One of many reasons they must have to glare in her direction and whisper angrily, not hiding their callous remarks and sallow faces. They wanted her to see them. They wanted to make sure she knew how terrible she made them feel, even if they turned away when she turned to them and smiled. If the shemlen think you anything, da’len, have them think you coy. The Keeper had warned. They do not understand an elf that shows a smile.
“Open the gates!” Cassandra shouted.
Their path was covered in fire and debris. The breach touched the ground in the distance, as the storm threatened to take over the entire chasm. Aria ran through the mountain path followed by Cassandra. She could hear the pulses in her head. There was a sense of urgency in her footsteps. She looked behind her, then a shot of pain ran up her spine. The green flames covered her hand.
Aria collapsed on the ground. This time she felt them. They were hideous. Cassandra ran to her aid. She held her hand tightly. It was a part of her. She felt the weight of her hand against the other. It was spreading.
“The larger the breach gets, the more the mark on your hand grows.” Aria picked herself up. Cassandra spoke as if reciting from a text. “You have to try your mark on something smaller first. To see if it can close the breach.”
“What did happen?” Aria looked at Cassandra as they moved slower up the mountain. Her eyes were confused and frightened. All of this damage and she couldn’t remember any of it. She hated not knowing more than she hated being accused of feigning innocence.
“They say you stepped out of the breach. There was a woman behind you. No one knows who she was. The entire temple, well,” Cassandra paused as they came to the bridge. “You will see for yourself.”
So she remembered as much as anyone else here. The breach pulsed again. Aria kept her hand from mimicking its cries. She grew tired of it already. Her shoulders tensed. The ground shook. She moved back instinctively, but collapsed as green lightning shot the bridge beneath her feet.
They tumbled to the frozen river below. More flames shot onto the ground. Demons.
“Stay behind me!” Cassandra drew her weapons and charged. Demons soon surrounded her. Aria couldn’t just stand by. A bow sat lopsided against the fallen caravan. She grabbed it, testing its strength. Arrows, she needed arrows. Cassandra made brutish noises. Aria turned around. Hm. If there was one thing that woman could do, it was fight. Aria found the quiver and struck. The last shade fell disappearing back into the Void. May the dread wolf see you back.
Cassandra turned her sword to Aria.
“Put your weapon down.”
Aria cursed herself for taking so long to shoot. She needed Cassandra to fight alongside her, not against her. She held the weapon in front of her, ignoring the bristling of her sore skin against the edges of the bow. She would have to get used to fighting all over again. Cassandra couldn’t stand by and let her watch.
“If you’re going to lead me through demon infested territory, you’re going to have to trust me.”
Cassandra glowered at her. She seemed offended by her words. Aria kept her guard up. The warrior seemed capable of anything, and with her hand, she wasn’t sure she could fight at maximum speed. Cassandra sheathed her sword.
“You are right,” she conceded. “I cannot protect you. I should remember that you came willingly.”
Cassandra ushered her forward. Aria placed the bow behind her back staring at the foothills of the mountain. Finally, she ignored the breach as best she could; something I know. She ran ahead.
Festering spirits clung to their path. Cassandra slid onto the river ahead of her, keeping them occupied as Aria shot arrows from above. These demons felt twisted and hungry, brought into this world against their will and crying out to something or someone, Aria thought, but they didn’t know who. The Keeper had described spirits as curious. They watched over the clan’s hunts, their campfires. The protected each other as they protected the clan’s gravesites and ancient temples. Aria wished she had payed more attention to the Keeper’s stories. No matter how much she loved their old rituals, Aria wanted to see the past for herself. She struck another wraith back to the heavens. Not like this.
The frontlines were just ahead. A smaller rift hovered about a foot above their heads. Shades attacked the soldiers from all sides. She couldn’t tell who was winning and who was losing. Cassandra dove between a dwarf and a shade that had snuck at him from behind. She fought with the same protective stance of a guard. Aria hadn’t seen her stop since the fighting begun at the river.
Aria lifted her bow against the wraiths. Their attacks felt cold as they brushed against her skin. It was an eerie sickness. She struck faster. One down. She notched an arrow to the one at her left, now encased in ice. She blinked and struck anyway. Two. An elf fought against a Shade in close range. Hahren, Aria thought instinctively; but he was not marked of the Dalish. He wielded the staff as a sword, dodging the demon’s claws with one end, attacking in kind with the other. An elven mage. . . She notched another arrow and let it fly past his head. The shade disappeared back into the Void.
He turned without looking, “Quickly! Before more come through!”
He grabbed her hand and raised it against the rift. She took a step to steady herself. The rift pulled at her lungs to cave in. The pressure of the storm matched the cold pressure pulsing from her hand. The rift began to shut itself. She felt the air grow fuller around her head. Her chest rising and falling in rhythm. His hand pressed against hers to keep it steady. When she could finally breathe again, the rift closed. He dropped her hand and faced her.
The girl was Dalish. This was worse than he thought. She looked at her hand with the fiery spite of child receiving a toy they never knew they wanted. Her eyes held a small glint of understanding. Aria realized she touched the veil.
“What did you do?” she demanded of him.
“I did nothing,” he thought it best to smile. “The credit is yours.”
She looked triumphant. Her hand was her own again. If this was a skill, she would learn to master it.
“At least this is good for something.”
She grinned at him. The markings made her face dirtier than it was. The prison walls had done nothing for her complexion. Yet, he paused, there was a brightness to it.
“I theorized the mark might be able to close the rifts that opened in the breach’s wake,” he stepped back holding his hands behind his back for fear he’d give away his countenance by throwing them up in joy. Finally, proof that he could be trusted.
“Meaning it might be able to close the breach itself,” Cassandra sounded hopeful.
“It seems you hold the key to our salvation,” he grinned. Even if she was Dalish, he was pleased he’d been correct about the mark. Her eyes shone up at him. She looked happy to see him.
“Good to know,” the dwarf spoke. “Here I thought we’d be ass deep in demons forever.” He adjusted his glove with a nervous smirk. He looked dressed for warmer climates. His casual air softened by the gravity of his demeanor. Aria saw the same look in his eyes as the oldest hunters. He had seen someone die, and he had wanted them to.
“Varric Tethras,” he introduced himself. “Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally, unwelcome tag along.” He winked at Cassandra. She glared at him. Aria wanted to hear this story.
“Are you with the chantry?”
The elf laughed, “Was that a serious question?”
“Technically, I’m a prisoner,” he adjusted his gloves again with an anxious smile. “Just like you.”
Another prisoner with another bow. She looked at Cassandra mimicking Varric’s casual expression. It seems Cassandra had a type. From her sore expression at his words, and the scoffed noise she made, Aria judged she didn’t care to be reminded. Anyone that kept Cassandra off her case was a distraction worth keeping.
“It’s good to meet you, Varric.” Aria bowed her head.
“You may come to reconsider that stance in time.”
“I’m sure we’ll become great friends in the valley, chuckles,” Varric bit back at the elf half-heartedly. He was used to bad first impressions.
“Absolutely not,” Cassandra said. We will not be friends, Aria thought as they argued. She forced back a laugh. They looked like her clansmen already, fighting over dangers they didn’t understand around a campfire. She felt the breach in her palm. Some campfire.
“You need me.”
It seems Varric won most of these arguments. Aria felt her neutral smile turn more genuine. There was an air of camaraderie here that she hadn’t realized she missed. She took in a deep breath. She couldn’t think of her clan. Not now.
“My name is Solas,” the elf pointed towards himself, “If there are to be introductions,” not wanting to be outdone. “I am pleased to see that you still live.”
“He means he kept the mark from killing you as you slept,” Varric added.
Aria felt her hand again. That explained the balmy sensation she had upon waking. Never in pain. She turned her hand over and over trying to get used to it. There was pressure inside of it, but it waned. It was becoming a part of her. She remember how he, Solas, held it. Outward and forward like a spear.
“You seem to know a great deal about it all,” she said.
“Solas is an apostate,” Cassandra answered for him. “Well versed in such matters.”
Aria eyed him cautiously. An elven mage without a clan? She did not trust that Cassandra knew what that meant. Had he been turned away without the vallasin? She could not think of a Dalish mage worth trusting that turned their back on their clan.
“My travels have allowed me to experience much of the Fade, far above the experience of any Circle mage,” Solas argued. “We’re all apostates now, Cassandra.”
He turned his attention back on Aria.
“I offer any help that I can,” he started. “If we don’t close this breach, we’re all doomed, regardless of origin,” he lifted his hands for some sort of emphasis. It’s like he didn’t know what to do with them.
Aria held her face still, as her mind softened to his words. Maybe there was no clan to speak against him, and if he was not first or second marked by the vallasin, than maybe his travels were not as dangerous as the Keeper made them seem. The breach hovered in the sky. It felt too close.
“And what will you do once this is over?” Aria asked.
Solas could feel the fire in her spirit. Her eyes were untrusting and unassuming. She took nothing at its word, so he chose his words more carefully.
“One hopes those in power will remember who helped,” he spoke, “and those who did not.”
The corners of her eyes softened like she knew what he meant. She didn’t, of course; how could she? But he smiled in spite of his better judgement at her audacity. She was a prisoner who had the power to save the world. He stopped himself from thinking more. It almost made him glad she was an elf.
Aria let her expression falter. This man had kept her alive enough to have this conversation, to prove his own innocence. That even if she did not know where had been, she knew where he was now.
“Cassandra, you should know the magic involved here is unlike I’ve seen. Your prisoner is no mage; indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power,” Solas spoke gravely. Cassandra nodded, leading them towards the temple.
“Well,” Varric turned to his new companion, “Bianca’s excited.” He followed.
Aria stared after them, holding the key to the breach in an ungloved hand. She wished it felt cold even, with the air, but it remained numb to everything around it. Yet, she looked at the elf again. Solas, she thought, and he held it like a weapon against the tide of destruction. She saw whatever power she now held seal a rift and save the few soldiers left standing. If this was good for something, let it be at least that – a weapon. A weapon she could master. A weapon she could control. She held the fist to her chest.
Wait, Aria ran to catch up after them.