chalk lake

A Rogue’s Finesse

Chapter 1: Before The Inquisition

The first time the would-be Herald of Andraste slipped on the ice-covered lake, Cassandra chalked it up to nerves.

After all, the woman had just woken up from a state closer to death than life, had a strange, painful mark on her hand, and had been interrogated by Sister Nightingale. And Daniella had agreed; after all, she’d been bombarded with a flood of new information, had been accused of the murder of thousands of innocent people, and was in peril of having an angry mob stone her to death.

So slipping on the ice was just a minor blip in the day. Insignificant, really. No harm, no foul. Nothing damaged but her pride.

If only it had remained that way.

She’d made her way up the snow-covered slopes to where a bald elf and a stocky dwarf were furiously battling the shades and wraiths that fell out of the rift. Daggers in hand, stealth activated, it had been simple enough to dispatch the few remaining stragglers, and though it had absolutely confounded her when the elf had directed the mark on her hand to close the rift, she was silently proud of herself for being so lethal and efficient. Solas, she learned the man was an apostate, a hedge mage well-versed in lesser-known magics, and the dwarf - who’d immediately captivated her fancy with the wide, friendly smirk and the gorgeous crossbow on his back - was Varric Tethras. The Varric Tethras, whose books she’d read over and over; she’d wished that she’d been part of the Champion’s group as they battled evil in Kirkwall. And now, he was here, in front of her, and all she could do was gape at him.

“You’re Varric Tethras? The Varric Tethras? Author of Tales of the Champion?”

“Heard of me, then?” he laughed.

“I… uhhh… yes,” she replied hurriedly. “I’m a huge fan. I’m Dani. Dani Trevelyan.”

The stocky man winked at her. “Good to know. Autographs after we sort this shit out though.”

She laughed. “Deal.”

And then the four of them had pressed on, making their way to the forward camp where Leliana - the terrifying woman with the red hair and the ice-cold gaze - was waiting for them, when Solas yelled out a warning. “Demons ahead!”

Well. This was a chance to show off her skills to her favorite author.

“I’ll flank the bigger one,” she said, pulling out her daggers in a fluid motion. As she moved into stealth, a coat of strange magic fell over her - from the elven mage, no doubt - and she moved across the ice lake to where the massive shade was lurking, jaws dripping with a foul green-black liquid.

Taking a deep breath, she raised her blades and readied herself for the attack, when her foot slipped.

Surprised and startled, she gave a yelp that pulled her out of stealth, and limbs flailing as she desperately tried to regain her balance, she hurtled towards the shade, ramming head-first into its torso.

Lucky for her, her little mishap had stunned the demon into stillness, and even though she was sprawled out ungainly on top of the beast, it was easy enough to plunge her daggers into its neck. The shade exploded into a geyser of rotting blood and ichor - which then landed right on top of her.

When she pulled herself up, Varric was bent over double laughing. Even the stoic Cassandra and the composed elven mage had smiles on their faces, though the Seeker tried to cover hers up by letting out a huff of disgust. She ignored them, desperately trying to clean off her coat as best as she could.

“You’ve got some tricks there, Kitty,” Varric chortled, and Dani flushed beet red.

“Yes, well,” she muttered. “Didn’t quite plan on that, but I got the job done.”

“You keep doing that, and you might just surprise the Breach into closing itself,” the dwarf teased.

“Ugh,” Cassandra huffed. “We need to keep moving.”

She spent the rest of the time wondering about her sudden lack of grace. Where had that come from? Whatever it was, she hoped it was over and done with. The last thing she needed on top of everything else was to become accident-prone.

No one had ever heard of a clumsy rogue, and she wasn’t going to be the first.

Meeting Chancellor Roderick pushed her straight into a headache. The man’s loud rants, combined with the throbbing, painful pulsing of that stupid green mark, made Dani feel absolutely queasy - which resulted in her throwing up all over the Chancellor’s table, vomit and bile landing on his [surprisingly clean, given the chaos] robes.

If looks could kill, she’d have been dead twice over.

Unable to bear the agony of the Anchor, she opted for the direct route; given the amount of pain she was in, and factoring trecherous mountain passes and sheer drops, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to make it through them in one piece.

Thanks to the Maker, she made it past the rift and into the ruins of the Temple of Sacred Ashes without any mishaps - which was a good thing, because she’d looked competent and skillful in front of the Commander - the broad-shouldered, leonine man with eyes of bright amber that burned with fiery passion - and it had also given her some confidence.

Because now, as she stood under the giant rift that shuddered and rippled and trembled, she needed all the confidence she could get.

“The fuck is this,” she mumbled to herself. “What the shit. What. The. Shit. How did I get involved in this fuck up?” Dani cleared her throat. “Are you sure that I’m the only one who can deal with this? I mean, just look at it. It’s massive. And it was opened with magic. Do I look like a motherfreaking mage to you?”

The elven apostate sighed disapprovingly. “This is the first rift, the biggest. We have to close it. And, as you have demonstrated before, the mark on your hand is the only thing that can do so.”

“Right, right,” she nodded, “but can’t I just, you know, give you the mark so you can do it? Seeing as how you’re a mage and all?”

“Believe me,” Solas’ voice was filled with annoyance, “if it had been possible to do so, it would have been done.”

“Fine,” she muttered. “Let’s get this over and done with. I better get a fucking medal if I’m still breathing by the end of this.”

“You close that, Kitty, they’ll make a statue in your honor,” Varric grinned.

“That’s the least they can do,” she breathed out a forced laugh.

“The Breach is closed, but not properly. We must open it and seal it properly. It might attract attention from the other side,” Solas warned.

“That means demons!” Cassandra pulled out her sword, thumping the blade against her shield. “Everyone, stand ready!”

“I really hope it’s a teeny tiny demon,” Dani whispered hopefully as she connected her mark to the rift. “A small one. One that I can squish without any trouble. Andraste, if you’re listening, could you please arrange that for me? Please?”

The rift glowed brighter, and expanded, and seconds later a ball of Fade-flame thundered out of the tear, booming, menacing laughter echoing around the stone debris, and… a Pride demon unfurled itself, whips that crackled with sinister electricity clenched in its hands.

Well, fuck me. She joined Cassandra unenthusiastically as the Seeker charged towards the demon, leaping out of the way of the whip’s slice - only to land awkwardly on a rock and twist her ankle.

“Fucking fuck fuck fuckity fuck!” she swore loudly as pain exploded in the joint. She moved to stand, but her leg gave way and she fell to the ground again.

“Kitty, this is no time to be taking a break!” Varric called out, Bianca rapidly spitting bolts.

“It’s not like I want to!” she retorted.

“Solas!” Cassandra yelled over the din of the battle. “Can you help her?”

The elf was already by her side, fingers on her ankle glowing with a soft green light as he healed the swollen muscles. She rolled her foot, testing it. “Watch out!” Solas shouted, grabbing her arm and pulling her out of the way of the demon’s whip. “You are a rogue, are you not?” he chided. “You should be more aware of your surroundings!”

“Thank you for that,” she replied, half-sarcastically.

He ignored her. “Come,” he urged. “We must seal the Breach!”

Charge the demon, slice, strike, retreat, attack the rift, weaken the demon, charge again, repeat. It was an easy enough formula, but the execution was difficult. The ground was too uneven. The demon’s hide was too thick. The rift was too unpredictable. Dani was bruised and bleeding, and her hands trembled with the effort of attacking the Breach and the demons.

But she pushed through. They pushed through. They systematically wore the demon down, and finally Cassandra was able to make the killing blow, ramming her sword into the demon’s back, and it disintergrated into a puddle of demon guts with a deafening roar.

“Now!” Solas commanded. “Use the Anchor! Seal the Breach!”

“Right,” she nodded tiredly, and moved towards the green haze that surrounded the tear in the Veil… and promptly tripped. Again. And this time, sprawled out on the hard, rocky, blood-covered stones, she was half-tempted to just remain as she was.

“Maker, Kitty,” Varric muttered. “How are you still alive?”

She climbed to her feet as elegantly as she could, dusting herself off in a dignified fashion, and pointedly ignored the dwarf. Taking a deep breath, she let the mark connect with the rift, gritting her teeth against the agony of it, and willed it to close with all her might.

Her vision grew blurry, then the edges started to darken, and when the triumphant cries were raised she was already halfway to the ground, consciousness having fled.