AUTHOR'S FOREWORD: I've had this idea floating around in my head for a long while now, interfering with some of my other writing and creating a desperate writer's block on occasion. Most stories where a person from our world enters the world of Dragon Age seem to have someone familiar with the video game as the protagonist. If done right, that's very entertaining, but it skews the perception a little bit.
So here's a story about someone who has no idea about Dragon Age's lore or storylines, thrust into that world head-first. That said, he has skills and knowledge that could greatly change things, but those will bring their own challenges and obstacles. It'll intersect heavily with DA: Inquisition's timeline, starting a good bit before those events, as I think that is the most interesting time for someone like this character to appear.
*DISCLAIMERS ABOUT CONTENT* No, this won't be a fic about a guy going around smiting everything with machineguns. Though obviously there will be a little of it, that's not really the point.
Also, a warning about the tone of this story. Bad things will happen down the line. That is why this story is marked M.
EDIT: This story now has a TV Tropes page, courtesy of Drgyen. Search for Outlander Fanfic on that site to check it out!
I hope you enjoy it!
Outlander: The Peacekeeper's Tale
This autobiography is part-confession, part-warning.
For readers from Thedas, it is the former. Among you, there are many who hate me, and many who seem to think I am some sort of hero. While not as famous as the Inquisitor for instance, almost everyone has heard of me to my eternal embarrassment. Usually by my title rather than my actual name. Both enemies and friends seem to assume things on the basis of falsehoods or the convenient bending of truth by either my enemies or supporters. So, for you Thedosians, I have decided to set down in writing my own account of what I have seen and done, to set the record straight. I also wish to entertain you, as more often than not, you have been hospitable hosts and brave comrades-in-arms.
For readers from elsewhere, this also serves as a warning. A cautionary tale about the dangers and inconveniences you'll face for trying to change things in Thedas. A certain group of horned zealots might learn quite a bit, but I doubt they can tear their heads out of their asses long enough to take heed. You can take it either as a guide, to steer you clear of some of the mistakes I have made, or as a discouragement against following in my footsteps. As you choose.
Volume One: Dragons and Other Oddities - Chapters One to Eight
Volume Two: Orlais - Chapters Nine to Seventeen
Volume Three: Rebellion -Chapters Eighteen to Twenty-Four
Volume Four: Revolution - Chapters Twenty-Five to Thirty-Six
Volume Five: Ferelden - Chapter Thirty-Seven onwards
Chapter One: Dragons
My first lesson about Thedas was a brutal one, and became something I have held onto closely over the years as I have tried to do my best. Needless to say, I could have had no inkling as to the full extent of its importance until my arrival on this continent. I have followed the principle to varying degrees throughout the course of my life thus far, sometimes failing to go far enough and at other times going too far, only to make things worse. Despite the failures, it's helped me survive against a myriad of threats, ranging from bandits and highwaymen through rebel mages and rogue templars all the way to darkspawn and the machinations of both the Inquisition and supposedly-dead magisters. My first real glimpse of this place I now call home pretty much trumps all of them regardless, as does my association with some of the most excellent people I have ever met.
Of course, the lesson is "Always expect the unexpected."
Unfortunately, the unexpected can completely blindside you, throwing you into circumstances beyond all planning. Watching a dragon pound towards me, shaking the ground with its every step and roaring, definitely qualifies for that category. This was a very new problem, as up until that point, dragons had existed only in stories and certainly did not roam around forests with broods of young, burning prey alive and eating them. Finding out they're very real first-hand is a unique experience to say the least. Had I been alone, or unarmed, needless to say I would have died very quickly.
I suppose at this point, before I get into the details of how I arrived, I should get the most unbelievable point out of the way, the reason why I am writing this account of my life. I don't know how else to say it, so I just will. I am not of this world.
I don't mean that I was just born outside of Thedas, although I pretended that was the case for a very long time, nor I am not some creature from the Fade in human form. I mean that before I was taken to this world, I lived in an entirely different one. Different perhaps is too weak a word, given just how many differences there are. My original world has many names in many languages, but in the common tongue of this world, it would be called Earth. How I travelled from there to here remains a mystery to me, although I do know the why and the Fade is involved, as you'll see.
On to my kidnapping.
My world, like this one, had many wars and conflicts. Politics naturally seems to cultivate them, regardless of the differences between the worlds in how they're fought. I found myself on battlefields, as a result both of my ambition and education. The job was as a "peacekeeper", which I can only say were closest thing we had to Grey Wardens. The title and what they do is probably familiar to all who know of me; our job was to protect civilians and foster peace, broadly speaking. Traditionally, these would be soldiers of different nations' armies. I was a new kind, one recruited directly by the organisation responsible for it, somewhat like how the Inquisition recruits.
It happened when we were flying into a village we were supposed to protect, using a machine called a helicopter. On Earth, we had many technological wonders like that, but they were so common as to be almost boring. The proof on that front is that I was not enjoying the ride. I had been ordered against my will to join the soldiers to watch over some people in a warzone. The problem was that the place was probably going to burn to the ground, and there was little I could do. I complained before we left to my superior, but the fat colonel in charge from a country that will remain nameless fobbed me off with a platitude about duty. I was sorely tempted to fob him off with my fist, or tell him to take his fat ass to the front, but I preferred to keep my job. And remain out of prison.
To add insult to injury, we were packed in pretty tight with big boxes of weapons and supplies. The company wasn't great either, the crew of the machine being preoccupied with keeping us airborne and the squad of soldiers along for the ride remained sullen and silent throughout. Didn't really blame either party for it though. Flying isn't simple, and the country we were in was just a big desert for the most part. Uncomfortably hot, and full of people that hated us. It was an hour's worth of travel, and boredom set in quickly. I took a nap, thinking I would need it. I was having a very nice dream about someone I had met back at the outpost too. Until someone decided to interrupt it.
The whole wretched machine started shuddering violently.
I woke up, my vision blurring slightly. The shaking was very rapid, so much so you could feel it in your bones. Yet it didn't throw anyone around, people could still stand up if they wanted to. I remember being at a complete loss as to what was happening as I woke.
"Are we under attack?" I asked the sergeant.
The soldier looked out to check for himself, and turned back with a dissatisfied glance towards me before getting out of his seat to talk to the one controlling the helicopter. So, he had no idea, I thought as I looked out the window myself. The first premonition that something truly catastrophic was about to happen ran through me, as the shuddering got progressively worse.
"What the hell is going on?" the sergeant asked the pilot, roaring the question over the noise of both the mechanisms and the knocking of metal.
"Turbulence?" the pilot replied, his answer far more of a guess than a statement of fact. Considering how low we were flying, the chances it was the air disturbing the flight was unlikely. There was no extreme weather when we started, just blistering sunlight. I knew that, because I had to for the job. I craned my neck to get a look at the pilot. He appeared to be panicking, which almost threw me into a panic. Thankfully, his crewmate was much more collected.
"If you're not buckled up, get your seatbelts on."
And so we all made sure we were strapped into our seats tightly, fiddling with extra belts and sending looks in the direction of the heavy boxes. It was like transporting raw lyrium. If they didn't explode, they could still crush us if they got loose. I tried hard not to think about either scenario, instead trying to figure out what was happening. A task which was getting more difficult by the second. Some of the younger soldiers were shouting, the sergeant screaming at them to shut up as they did so.
The entire machine was surrounded by a baleful green light, sparking like lightning but flowing like water. It covered the metal surrounding us and shimmered menacingly.
That was when everyone got scared. The sergeant, the pilots, the soldiers, all the faces I could see were twisted with fear. I can't help but admit that I myself would have given anything to get the hell out of there at that moment. The windows went dark for several minutes, and when the light returned, a sensation of falling rapidly hit us like a hammer-blow. The green light began piercing through the space, tearing small holes in the sides of the aircraft and missing our bodies by mere inches. I clenched my teeth hard, closed my eyes and waited for it to stop, unsure if I'd ever open them again but not wanting to look at the horrors.
I thought it was some kind of new weapon. I was wrong.
As quickly as it had started, the shuddering and green light stopped. The falling kept up only for the briefest time. The machine crashed hard, the force attempting to throw us around. I heard the groaning of the metal as the impact buckled the floor and a banging noise that was deafening for about a minute. The helicopter decelerated slowly after the impact, before finally coming to an abrupt halt with a crunching noise.
I raised my head, shaking off the disorientation of the crash as best I could. I smelt a mix of iron and plant-life, proving I was still alive at least. As I realised this, my chest started to throb with pain. I quickly removed the restraints of the chair and checked the damage. I was bruised everywhere, and it hurt badly, but I was still able to move. Great, you're alive, now what about the others?
I looked over to check. I found the soldiers groggily getting out of sitting positions, staggering around as they got their bearings again. They quickly began checking their weapons, a sure sign that they were fine. I breathed a sigh of relief. Being left alone to fend off attackers or the deadly environment was something I was very glad to be spared.
"They're dead," said the sergeant, "And I don't think it was the crash."
I looked at him like he had three heads, wondering who he was talking about. A nod directs my attention to the front cabin.
I turned my head, and find the crew. The the entire forward area was crushed and mangled, as if something had bashed and clawed at it. There was nothing left but a mesh of metal, with blood seeping out of it. I recoiled from the sight. How I had not seen it out of the corner of my eye, I do not know. It was so close that I could reach out and touch it from my seat, if I had wanted to. I stood up, and examined it further. It didn't look like there would be anything to bury.
"I guess we're not flying out of here," I said, returning to the sergeant.
"You haven't seen the best part yet," the man replied, his voice positively dripping with accented sarcasm. Making his way past the soldiers, he walked to the back past the cargo and handcranked open the large exit ramp. It fell to the ground with a thud, and revealed something truly astonishing.
Where there used to be a desert that stretched on for hundreds of miles, a lush oak forest stood. Birds chirping away and all. It was a paradise.
My first thought was that we had landed in an oasis of some sort, some artificial creation of a rich warlord he had created for his own amusement. However, when I looked out, examining the ground and the foliage, I could see no signs of anything remotely artificial to it. Trees wove around each other at random, the brush was thick and untamed, and there was absolutely no geometric pattern to the growth. There were also no men rushing us with weapons, or surprised civilians wandering to see why we'd crashed. My mind raced, as the lower ranked soldiers pushed their way past me. We have a phrase where I'm from, "to enter the twilight zone", which means to discover something so absurd that you think you are dreaming or have gone mad. It is the only thing I can think of to describe my thoughts as I stepped forwards.
The sergeant picked his helmet off his head, showing a shaved head that would have otherwise been balding, and walked out into the sunlight. I followed him, and immediately noticed the intense heat had disappeared. The air was more refreshing, courtesy of a light breeze. The sun wasn't bearing down on us from above, but was lower and the trees provided a good amount of shade. Some of the plant life was torn to shreds, probably by our landing. I stepped onto thick grass, and wandered around for a bit. The others were doing the same thing, examining the trees and ground not with the eye of a soldier, but almost like children. The group spread out, taking in the sights and smells for some time. Before the youngest soldier spoke out, his eyes wide with worry.
"Sarge, where are we?" he said, his voice almost breaking, "What was that green light?"
The spell of the new environment was broken, and the soldiers returned, their faces hardened again.
"Stow it, Patel," came the sergeant's reply, in a firm tone, "We're alive, that's what matters."
"Are we still in enemy territory?" asked another, a particularly tall one with the biggest weapon.
"We have to assume we are, no matter how weird things have gotten," the sergeant continued, "Davis, Murphy, get up on that outcrop of rock over there and set up a nest in case we have company. Bell, Hamilton, get the boxes out and bust open a couple, there should be a radio in one of them. Patel, you bring Miller and have a look around, since you're so interested in where we are. And be careful, I don't think the desert camouflage is going to be much use here."
The young soldier nodded rapidly, taking a gulp of air before taking a slap to the back that forced it out again. Apparently, Miller was enthused by the prospect of having a gander around the place. As I watched the pair walk off, weapons held at the ready, I felt an urge to go along. I began walking to follow, but the sergeant grabbed my shoulder to stop me.
"The name's Fraser," he said, with a big smile on his face, "And you're going to help me destroy the cargo."
We couldn't have known it, but he probably saved my life with that action. I didn't appreciate it however, and shook his hand off quickly. He was inferior in rank to me by all standards, but his smile sent a very clear message. Fall into line like the others, I am in charge here. Displeased by his presumption, I determined to poke holes in his plan. Never let it be said that I am humble.
"If we burn anything, that will draw the enemy to us," I said, facing him, "We'll be outnumbered and surrounded."
"Can't let the weapons fall into enemy hands," he replied insistently, "We destroy them and then move to high ground, try and get a radio signal."
A radio, for future reference, is a way of talking to people over long distances using alchemical means. However, it can be unreliable, and often works best the higher up you are. As for Fraser's plan, I had exactly zero desire to get caught in a glorious last stand, or a fight of any kind in a strange place with no backup. Without knowing where we were going, there was no way we would outrun an attacker, and we could blunder straight into an ambush. I wanted to live to tell someone about what had happened to us. Perhaps it was my dislike for the man's idea at that moment, but I thought him far too confident in his own abilities. I could see that simply repeating my concern about being discovered wasn't going to work.
"What happens if we don't make contact? We can hide the weapons in case we don't find anyone friendly out there," I said, changing tack, "I think I saw some decent sized caves under the outcrop, we can dump these into one, find our bearings and come back if we need to fight."
The sergeant put his hand on his chin, and glanced over at the rocks. I followed his view. The two he had sent to prepare a defensive position were busy piling up stones in a circle at the top for cover, one whistling as he did so. Remarkably casual of him, I thought at the time. Fraser watched them work for a little while, his eyes scanning the rock below them on occasion, before he finally returned his gaze to me.
"You're quite good, for a blue hat," he said, pointing to the light blue beret stuffed under my shoulder strap. I smirked. He had somehow warmed up to me, and I couldn't help but reciprocate a little. Though I think half of it was pleasure at getting my way. He marched over to a box, and handed me a better weapon than the one strapped to my hip.
"Here, make yourself useful," he said as I took it, "I'll have Hamilton help you drag these into the cave to the left there." He pointed to indicate where exactly he wanted to hide the supplies, before moving to the men in question, huddling around the radio equipment.
I sighed, slinging my weapon over my back. The boxes were far from light lifting. However, with Hamilton's help, it was easy going. We hauled most of the supplies into the cave, balancing them on our shoulders before placing them near the back of the cave, where they were least likely to be seen. I even took the time to bury them a little in dirt and vines. I was more than a little paranoid. I started second-guessing myself, thinking I might be killed by some fanatic using the weapons I had hid. I was still under the impression that this was still somehow the fault of a faction in my old world.
We were almost finished when the ruckus started.
It started with a thudding sound in the distance, like a deep drum very far off. It started slow at first, so much so that I had barely registered it. I nonetheless stopped moving, listening out of curiosity more than fear. A minute passed, and it still sounded like a drum, but it was getting closer.
"Gentlemen, take your positions," said Fraser, pulling his own weapon off his back roughly.
Everyone stopped what they were doing. The men who had built their little fort on top of the ridgeline crouched behind the rocks, pointing their instruments of death around for a target to hit. The others around me ran hard to join them, opting for the safety of the high-ground. I was closest to the noise, and waited for some sign. The beat stopped soon after, but I didn't get up from my hiding spot nor check if the others had. I had a gut feeling that it was the harbinger of something else. I was right. A screeching shout like nothing I had ever heard before came over the top of the trees. It almost seemed to go through me, grating the ear like glass being shattered. The thudding got faster and louder.
My eyes searched everywhere for the source, but I saw nothing. The range of sounds expanded as well, the booming joined by a scrabbling that seemed to punctuate each beat of whatever the hell was making the sounds. I couldn't get my head around what it was. No war machine in my world sounded like that on the move or on the attack, and the closest thing I could compare it with then or now was the sound of horses' hooves on soft ground. If there were a thousand of them. That theory didn't hold up past the first few seconds of it entering my head, and the vibrations off the ground started gaining too.
An acrid smell carried itself on the breeze, reaching my nose. Burning wood, mixed with something I couldn't identify exactly but could only be an incendiary. A bolt of fear went up my spine. Was the enemy attempting to burn down the forest to smoke us out? We wouldn't last very long against a large number of troops if we had to move out of where we were. The smell filled my mouth as I took a breath to steady myself, realising that I stuck out like a sore thumb in front. My original intention had been to catch whoever came to attack by surprise as they concentrated on Fraser's men, but that plan looked increasingly like a bad idea.
Along came Patel, sprinting at full pace, soaked with sweat and covered in dirt. His face was one of complete panic. His eyes almost bulged out of his head, as he swung it back and forth between looking where he was going and trying to see what was behind him. In other words, he was leading whatever the hell was chasing him right to us.
I stood up and waved him over, resisting the urge to shout at him for his stupidity. He ran over, panting almost like a dog. I grabbed him, and pulled him behind the rock I had emerged from using my full weight. He sat hyperventilating, his eyes rolling around in the direction he had come as he tried to get up again. I pushed him to the floor hard, and he cried out in pain. I grabbed his water flask off his belt and handed it to him, as an apology.
"What happened?" I asked, as he drank deeply, gulping down the cool liquid.
"Miller's dead," he rasped, "He's dead. It killed him, roasted him. It's huge."
He shook his head from side to side, hand clasped to the side of his helmet. I looked back at Fraser, who was watching intently. I mouthed to him that Miller was dead, adding in a cut-throat gesture to make sure he knew what I was getting at. Even from a decent distance, I saw his features harden. I turned back to Patel, and asked if it was some sort of war machine with a flamethrower device. He just kept shaking his head, throwing in a soft moan of "No" every few seconds. I thought he had lost it entirely, but I soon saw there was good reason to go mad. It swung into view through the treeline some distance away, gaining my attention by smashing through the trees themselves. I peered over the rock ever so slightly.
It was a dragon.
It was jet-black, except for a red tongue. Its head tilted around, as if curious as to where its prey had went. The beast had huge bones that grew out of the side of its skull and extended far past the back of it, shaped almost like bulls' horns. Its eyes were black too, and peered out over a snout containing a multitude of huge, knife-like teeth. Behind, a long, thick neck was attached to a lizard's body. It extended to a huge muscular tail. Grey wings sprouted from the shoulders of the thing on another set of black limbs. Huge claws tipped its other extremities, gripping the brown soil as it walked.
I sat back down behind the rock, numb with shock. The fear of death was there, but I had dealt with that before and overcome it. I still believed we could survive the encounter, however long the odds. Warriors of my world are mighty. No, what struck me almost to the point of uselessness was that I had realised what I should have immediately. There are no dragons on Earth. Tales about them were entirely the product of men's minds, no evidence of them had ever been found. They didn't exist, in other words. We were on another world, without any way of getting back. This was actually off the mark, as I would later discover, as I was further from home than even that. For a minute, all I could think about was how it was even possible. Instant travel between worlds was deemed impossible by our scholars, as far as I knew. The green energy that had stolen us from our home betrayed none of its secrets.
"It's a dragon," whispered Patel, tears and despair in his eyes. I don't think the young soldier had ever saw real combat, never mind a comrade in arms killed. I felt sorry for him, but I didn't need him attracting the damn beast either.
"Yeah, I saw," I growled back, "Don't move, I don't think it's seen us yet."
"OPEN FIRE!" roared Fraser, the others preferring the action to the words. The cliff-face erupted in a cacophony of noise and flashes, as the soldiers began to fight. Some might ask if that was a stupid move, attacking instead of hiding, but knowing what I know now, the thing would have found our scent pretty quickly. Except it would have been closer, and we would be fried. So my compatriots' actions were pretty much the
The weapons of my world are unlike anything seen in Thedas, with one exception. For lack of a better term, they are repeating firelances or handcannons. The types used by footsoldiers can mow down entire groups of men at a time, and hit individual targets at a distance that an archer or crossbowman could only dream of. And those are only weapons that are held by a single soldier. Larger firelances and cannons, often mounted on war-machines, can destroy entire buildings or entire armies with a mere handful of shots. The Qunari have at various times attempted to develop a firelance, a smaller version of their own cannons. My people's weapons make the Qunari look like a tribe of witless morons throwing rocks by comparison, and those are just the firelances. Three hundred Orlesian chevaliers could have charged us on horseback, in full armour of the highest quality, and Fraser's soldiers would have cut them down in a matter of seconds.
The dragon didn't get that message.
It began to march through the hail of the firelances, letting out a deep growl as the shots impacted its body. It did not relent a single inch. It closed its eyes and mouth shut, and waded on through the hellstorm unleashed against it. Dark ichor poured from handfuls of wounds, but it pressed on. I watched in horror, my confidence ebbing away with every step the foul creature made towards the cliff, replaced with the feeling of my heart attempting to escape my chest. Patel grabbed at me in terror, but I held him off. My eyes glued themselves to the dragon's approach, my head barely held high enough to see over the top. We were an easy target compared to the others.
The firing slowed. All but one of the soldiers began to reload their weapons.
The dragon reared up, and let out a huge roar. It had found an opening. It stretched out its neck, and its mouth gaped open. The soldiers ducked behind their makeshift wall, as a stream of fire sprayed out at them. The trees behind them blazed, the fire sticking, but it was obvious that the dragon wasn't close enough. The edge of the cliff protected against the flames.
When the dragon stopped, the soldiers rose again with a shout of their own, a mix of curses and incoherent noise. It began forwards again, responding to their challenge with a roar of its own. They unleashed their second barrage. It had walked close enough that I began to hear the bullets impact the body of the beast, wet thumping just barely audible over the firelances. It was getting very close indeed at this point, and I started to worry that it would see Patel and I in our hiding spot.
I pivoted from the carnage in front of me, searching for somewhere better. The helicopter, smashed against the cliff, was the only option and it was a bad one. It would have turned into an oven for us. The cliffs themselves cut us off from the directions we could have run, the rest of the forest being far too close to the dragon for comfort. The frustration overruled my fear for a moment, and I kicked the ground hard, almost hitting Patel. I glanced at the poor fellow as an apology, but found our salvation. He had it with him the whole time. That made me want to shoot him myself, but he was sobbing and calling for his mother quietly. He was done, or so I thought. I refrained from following my instinct, I peeked over the top to see if we'd have time to carry out my plan.
The shooting was taking its toll on the beast. It was wobbling on its legs slightly, as they had sprouted several dozen bloody holes in the minutes before. Worth a shot, I decided. I pulled Patel away from the rock and into the forest when I was sure the dragon wouldn't see. It pounded forwards, getting dangerously close to Fraser and his men. It seemed obsessed, as I had hoped for. "Just keep on moving along, little fire wyrm," I kept thinking, as I took the weapon off of Patel's back.
It was a rocket launcher, a far more destructive weapon than a firelance or even the rockets you occasionally see used by the Qunari Navy. It is the basis of the fireworks that many now enjoy, I might add, though enjoyment is far from its original purpose. Contained in a tube, the rocket was designed to punch through the reinforced composite armours of my world's war machines. No kind of flesh could resist it, not even dragonhide. I had no idea why Patel hadn't tried to use it before, and as I said, I was enraged at him for it. Unfortunately, I would discover that he never got the opportunity and I would be saddled with a guilt that I still cannot shake even all these years later.
As I readied the weapon, disaster struck.
The dragon rushed the last hundred yards, half-jumping and half-flying, landing right below where it needed to be. I watched from the side as it rose onto its hind legs, its chest level with the top of the cliff. I thought it would simply burn the men alive, but it dragged its huge arms across the top of the cliff, rolling them down onto the ground. I hurried, but knew I would be too late to save all of them.
The sergeant got up and used his firelance again, but the dragon responded with lethality. It tore him in half with its jaws, spitting out his upper half with quarts of blood. The others spread out, backing off while firing, somehow still determined to fight. The dragon summoned its breath one last time, and caught them all as it arced the fire from one of the poor souls to the next. I felt nothing at that moment, high with combat fever and filled with hate.
Their deaths gave me the opportunity to kill it.
As it stood still to attack, I shot the rocket at the dragon. The blast from its propellent boomed behind me as it left its tube, the cliff echoing it back to me. The rocket detonated into the dragon's body, just below the wings held upwards in a display of intimidation.
I cursed, tossing the empty launcher away to the ground. I had been aiming for the neck, hoping to choke it or suffocate it on its own blood. The dragon had hopped forward slightly to kill Murphy, just before I fired. However, it soon became apparent that I had hit something important. The wound began seeping blood at a rapid rate, the ichor almost like a waterfall over its scales. It turned in a haze towards me. It screeched at us, failing to summon more fire to turn me to ash. Patel joined me in staring it down, his weapon held at shoulder height. It took two steps towards us and fell, and started breathing heavily.
I walked towards the dragon, unslinging my firelance as I moved. As I neared, its head twitched towards me, and with a great snap, it tried to bite me. It missed, and slumped to the ground again. I smiled, probably closer to a snarl if I'm being honest, and levelled my weapon at its eye. It looked at me with resignation, but I felt no pity after what I had just witnessed. I shot it repeatedly point-blank. Its breathing stopped immediately.
I felt relief for only the briefest of moments.
Behind me, I heard another screech, far less potent but just as terrifying, followed by Patel shooting his weapon. I swivelled on the spot, firelance ready. The dragon had not been alone. From the brush behind, about six dragonlings were emerging from the brush and charging us down. The group were very much the offspring of their mother, being jet-black, horned animals with big claws, but almost all of them lacked wings. They were about the size of a wolf. I backed off, and shouted to Patel to do the same. The one that had the means to fly came right at me from on top of the very rock I had hid behind moments before.
I shot it on reflex, hitting its left wing. It flinched in mid-jump, and tumbled out of the air. I felt a sense of victory instantly, but I suspected afterwards that I was still buzzing on my fight or flight response. As if to piss me off, the winged one recovered before I could get another decent shot off, rolling over and getting back on its feet. The damned thing hissed at me as it dodged one way and the other. To make matters worse, its brother decided I was easier prey than Patel, and growled as it wandered over. Caught between the two of them, I was forced to act or get eaten.
Watching the newcomer in the corner of my eye, I charged at the winged one. Startled, it held still for a moment, unsure of what to do. I took the chance and shot it, getting about five good hits along its flank and one on its head. The headshot ricocheted off, which disturbed me more than a little, but the others turned the hissing winged lizard into a whimpering, dying creature. I delivered the coup de grace quickly with another burst from my firelance. The other one lunged at me ferociously while my back was turned. I barely escaped by jumping over the corpse of its sibling. A feeling of elation at getting away causing me to chuckle, as the newcomer tried to circle the body in its way.
I glanced over at Patel. He was holding off four of them through sheer will. Sure he was about to run out of things to shoot at them any moment soon, I readied myself for the inevitable assault. The second dragonling finally deemed it okay to jump on top of its sister's corpse. I pretended to flee, which was the first thing I could think of. The dragonling sprung forward in triumph, voicing its pleasure at my capitulation with an almost gleeful roar. I turned around quickly, and shot at its mouth. Some of the bullets burst through the side of its head, but one or two must have went down its throat. It plummeted to the ground mid-step, dragging itself through the dirt in the process. I stepped over its corpse with no small amount of satisfaction, and went to help the only other person left.
Patel had climbed on top of the rock we had sheltered with, as the beasts circled and attempted to jump on him. He had matched my two with two of his own, and the results laid still on the ground near him. They hadn't gone down without a fight though; his leg was bloody and getting bloodier. He sat, moving his weapon wildly and taunting the dragonlings to try again. He must have had some sort of epiphany in the wake of the mother dragon going down. He was barely recognisable from the sobbing, broken person that had sat beside me hiding. Eager to support the refreshed man, I took aim at the nearest target as he distracted it with his hollering.
I pulled the trigger, but my weapon did nothing but click at me. I had run out of shot.
What happened next plays in my head on the bad nights. I scrambled for the small handcannon I kept on my hip, but it would be too late. Patel's weapon was also spent, and he cursed loudly to signal it. The dragonlings sprung into action, as if understanding him.
Patel also had a backup weapon, and rather than duck away in terror, he leapt at the first chance. The front dragonling bit deeply into his arm, but he put his weapon to the creature's eye and shot it dead. He had copied what I had done to its mother, attacking its most obviously vulnerable point. I raised my own weapon to shoot, but Patel was in the way. The last of the dragons had crept up the rock behind him, and I dared not risk the shot. I shouted a warning, but in the end, I watched the jaws of the beast clamp down on his torso over his shoulder. There was a loud and sickening crunch as it broke his ribs, its eyes dead set on me as I could only watch in disgust. It released him, and jumped down from Patel's rock, bloodlust compelling it to try and kill me.
I stood my ground and shot at it with contempt. I had figured their kind out. It closed the distance, screeching as it did so. As it jumped to the attack, I sidestepped and I shot it where Patel had hit its fellow. It might as well have killed itself, the shot was so easy. It didn't have the experience to protect itself properly. I kicked the corpse as I passed, its death moan escaping as a cry.
I hurried to Patel, to see if he could be saved. I hoisted myself onto the rock. His sand-coloured, patterned uniform was awash with his blood, stained red. I couldn't see any of his insides, a fact I thank my lucky stars for daily, but I didn't need to. He was still conscious when I reached him, but unable to speak. It was obvious he wouldn't last long, no matter what I did.
"Thank you," I said. Without him, and the others, I would have been dead. I needed to express my gratitude to at least one of them. I'm not sure if he heard me before he passed.
I spent the next few hours burying the dead.
It was an uneasy task for many reasons. The fires spread no small distance, raising the temperature to uncomfortable levels again. That was the least of my worries. Handling the broken or burned people that had acted with complete professionalism in the face of a foe they could not have dreamed of the day before was hardest. They hadn't flinched for a moment. It was both glorious to watch and disheartening that they were gone. I also attempted to do something for the crew of the flying machine, but their bodies were too far gone. I had to burn what I could find. Our transport to Thedas remains their monument.
I took everything useful off of those who hadn't been burned, everything from weapons to boots, and put them in graves beside each other with personal items I found in their packs. Fraser turned out to have a set of writings on military strategy, which I kept. I filled in the graves and marked them appropriately. On the makeshift headstones, I wrote in black permanent ink their names and drew both the symbols of their country and each of their gods. It didn't take long, the ground was soft and porous.
And so I was alone.
Left with little choice, I followed my survival training. I searched everything, taking stock of what I had to use. As I had expected, the boxes were full of things more or less useless to me. Weapons, ammunition, armour, defensive implements, all the things you would need to fight a small war but no food or water. There was only one surprise in the lot; one of the boxes was practically a library, containing books on a very wide range of topics. I found this confusing, I had been told that only military supplies were being brought with us and that essentials for citizens were going later. Unable to use any of them to survive, I tossed Fraser's books in with the rest and sealed the container.
The contents of the soldiers' packs and the storage of the helicopter were more useful. A medical kit, various tools, compasses, some pre-cooked rations and bottles of water, and spare clothing were all on the go, though I couldn't take all of them. A large collection of maps from my world, mostly of the regions where we had been operating, suddenly had great sentimental value to me. Despite being of no use at all, I decided to bring some of them along, particularly ones depicting the entirety of my world. The weapons that had fought off the dragon I buried with their owners, as I had no shortage of things to defend myself with, with one exception. The larger firelance belonging to Murphy I wrapped up, and deposited at the very back of the cave. Considering I could take on a small army with it if I needed to, I had no intention of letting it rust away underground.
When the packing of both my own bags and the cave was complete, I was at a loss at what to do next. The land I was in was entirely alien to me. I couldn't stay at the battle site, there was nothing to eat and nothing to drink. But where to go? My training told me to seek high ground and get my bearings, but I was in another world. Simply looking around wasn't going to work.
In the end, I opted to stay and rest. I was exhausted both physically and mentally. I wouldn't be marching around anywhere on my own.
With nothing better to do but wait for sunset, I pulled the largest fangs out of the dragon's mouth. The things were easily the size of my forearm from root to tip, and felt almost like metal. One of them had a chip, where a bullet had struck it and deflected away. Having completed my revenge and gained some souvenirs, I went back to the helicopter, laid out a sleeping bag and decided to go to sleep without waiting for night. Which was a mistake, in all likelihood. Regardless, I fell into a dreamless slumber in no time at all.
I was woken from my sleep with a rough boot to my side, which restarted some of the pain I felt from the crash along my shoulders. In the heat of the battle, it had gone away. It came screaming back with a vengeance.
I opened my eyes to three thin swordpoints, pressing against my chest.
My annoyance at being woken so violently turned to resignation. I was too tired to be surprised at the discovery of other human beings. It was just another unpleasant surprise, that I could do nothing about. Except die, but I had no intention of doing that. I tracked the blades' edges to the hands holding them, and the faces looking down at me. I became transfixed on one, who eclipsed the others whom could only have been his subordinates in every meaning of that word.
A beautifully ornate golden mask stared down at me, mimicking a human visage with perfect features. The man's own face was invisible, even his eyes in the low light of the evening were covered. Yet I could feel the contempt pouring off of him, even through what must have been a cloud of perfume. Perhaps because of the perfume. As you have probably guessed, he was an Orlesian noble. At the time however, he just looked like a madman with a sword and too much money to me. Along with the two unmasked ones, he wore a gold-threaded blue robe and chainmail. His sword's hilt was also gold.
I began reaching for my weapon, but Goldie noticed the action and moved his sword to my neck, the pointy end just brushing my skin. He was ready to thrust at the slightest provocation. He seemed to be enjoying himself, the bastard, which was the second sign of trouble in as many seconds.
"Did you kill the dragon?" asked Goldie.
I was struck dumb by the question, but because of its content but the accent in which he spoke. It was the first time I heard an Orlesian speak. It was identical to an accent I was very familiar with. He sounded as if he was from a country in my world, one allied to my homeland and the land where Fraser's soldiers were from.
Goldie sighed, displeased at my silence. He applied a little more pressure for a moment, turning the sword as he did so. I felt the blood leak out of the wound he caused, but hardened my face. He was trying to intimidate me, I refused to play along.
"If I killed a dragon, shouldn't you be scared?" I mused, with the most cheeky smile I could muster.
The man snorted with derision at that, pulling his sword away.
"Get him up," he ordered, "Take his items too."
The two footmen held their swords at their waists, points towards me, as they hauled my tired ass out of the helicopter. Another dozen men-at-arms were on horseback, watching me or gawking at the dead dragon. The fires had gone out, and the damp smell indicated that it had rained heavily at some point. I wondered for a moment if the waterproof seals of the containers in the cave were working. Goldie's boys hadn't seemed to discover my little cache yet, probably because the tracks leading there had been covered by the downpour. There was a scribe of some sort as well, scribbling away as he walked.
The leader had his men push me to my knees, and then pointed at the fresh graves.
"I am not afraid of you because you did not act alone," said Goldie sharply, his heavy accent rising, "I shall ask you again, did you kill the dragon and its young?"
Sure they would kill me off-hand if I didn't answer, and given the evidence all around, I told the truth. With some omissions so they wouldn't think I was utterly insane.
"I helped kill the large one and half of the smaller ones," I replied.
"And the others?" Goldie continued.
I pointed at Patel's gravestone. "He was a brave man," I said.
He looked at it for a moment, then nodded to me.
"What is your name?" he asked.
"Clint Eastwood," I lied, thinking of the first fictional name to come to mind.
"Where are you from?" he asked.
"The Wild West," I replied without hesitation. No way I was going to tell him that I was from another world.
Goldie chuckled haughtily at that, as if it was a joke. I laughed along with him, because it was a joke. Clint Eastwood was an actor who played a bounty hunter in the west of my homeland, but he couldn't know that.
"You claim to be a foreigner from uncharted lands, yet you speak the common tongue. With a ridiculous dwarven accent, no less. You even look like a Fereldan bandit," he said, "You are a bad liar."
He was babbling at this point, so I decided to convince him. There were things from another world all around him. I thought it would be easy enough. Trying to avoid getting stabbed by his shiny sword was my reason for existence at this point. Surviving a dragon only to be killed by this twat would have been an irony too far.
"Look at my clothing, the wreck behind me, the symbols on my uniform and on the graves," I explained, carefully skirting the subject of weaponry, "Have you seen anything like them before?"
Looking from side to side, he scanned the crashsite one last time, before returning his gaze to me. He was silent for a moment.
"Perhaps not, but I am not qualified to say. For all I know, these things are the secret work of our enemies," he said, "You are a foreign apostate and you have admitted to a crime. You must be tried."
"Wait, what!" I shouted, rising to my feet. The footmen kicked the back of my knees, and I fell down again. I spat at the bastard, but he dodged in time. He shook his finger at me, and had me beaten for a moment.
Goldie waved, and two horsemen rode over to him, ready to receive orders.
"Take the cart, and bring him to the grand-parlement at Halamshiral," he said casually, "Let the authorities there deal with him. Bring the scribe and the apostate's effects as evidence, and give my regards to the judge. Maybe we shall be rewarded by the royal court, if the Empress has moved there yet."
"Should we dig up the graves, bring the bodies?" said one man, not relishing the prospect despite voicing it.
"No need, this one is obviously guilty," Goldie giggled, "I mean, look at him."
A sycophantic laugh went through the group like a plague, catching on like it was high fashion. I would have been pissed off, but I could barely stand on my own. My fatigue was still very much present, not to mention my injuries.
"You'll regret this," I said, "I swear it."
"No, monsieur, you will regret it!" declared Goldie happily, "I am just glad I caught you before you could do more harm."
The aristocratic bastard rode off with his thugs after he had another good look at the helicopter, and I was unceremoniously shackled and dumped in the back of a covered wagon. My pack and weapons were locked in a heavy chest and put on the back of it. It rumbled through the rough terrain for several minutes, before we reached something recognisable as a road. The guards closed the window hatch, probably to stop me seeing the exact road back. Every second took me further away from where I had arrived.
I considered attempting to escape, but the odds were too long. My guards were mounted on horses, I couldn't outrun them. Even if I could evade them for long enough, with nothing but the clothes on my back, tired and depressed, I would probably die quickly anyway. I couldn't think straight to begin with, or what any of what had happened really meant.
I still needed to sleep, so I did. The shaking and bumping of the cart did not disturb me.
I must have slept for more than twelve hours, because when I awoke again, it was afternoon. I received the same alarm call as I had before: A kick to my side. The guard jumped off the cart quickly, before I could grab him, and motioned for me to get out. I dragged myself up and hopped onto the cobblestone square outside.
What I saw when I looked up was yet more proof that I wasn't in my own world.
Halamshiral's Winter Palace stretched into the sky above the walls surrounding what I guessed was a prison, smooth blue and white stone rising to meet the sun. Gold and bronze ornaments sat on every part of it. It rose in stages, like a wedding cake, flanked by high towers and buttresses. Green vines clung to its side near the bottom; there must have been a large garden below. It struck me as an amazing feat of engineering, more than being simply beautiful. It was a skyscraper, to use the term I had in mind at the time. I did not know its name the first time I saw it, but it gave me a little hope for my situation. The people who designed such a thing could not be so primitive, or so I believed.
As I stared at the wonder, a bag was thrown over my head and I was pushed onwards. I cursed at them, but all I got in return was a hard slap on the back of the head. Not sensing that the moment to act had arrived, I clenched my fist and ate the insult. Another shove, and I paced forwards, directed by my minders.
Across the cobblestones, into a corridor, up a flight of stairs which I almost fell down, through another corridor and down another staircase. At this point, the guards stopped our travel and I sensed another two or three people in front of us.
"One from the south, murder, apostasy, insulting the dignity of a noble. Scribe will have the details later," said one of my captors, "Careful with him, he's very dangerous."
A dirty laugh erupted from in front of me somewhere. I could only ask myself what the hell they were talking about. Murder? I killed a dragon, not a person. As for apostasy, I was a foreigner, they could hardly expect me to know of and follow their religion. Of course, the law is a complicated thing, especially to someone with no knowledge of local customs. They had me cold on the insulting the dignity of a noble charge though.
"Good, we've been looking for one like this to soften up a hardcase," said a man in front, whom I assumed must have been a prison guard, "Won't tell us where the money she owes is. Looks like he can do the job."
"Just make sure he's ready for when the judge needs him," said my other captor.
"Oh, he'll have fun, don't you worry," said the gaoler.
I began to worry myself, as I was moved again. We reached a dark place that could have really used some fresh air. Definitely a dungeon. We stopped, and the guards turned me to the left. I heard metal creaking, the signal for a door opening. My chains were struck off, and they fell to the ground with a clank. I rubbed my wrists for a moment, which made me feel a little better.
Until they shoved me backwards into the cell, removing my hood just as I fell on my ass.
"Enjoy yourselves," snickered the guard, who turned out to be a rather short man with a balding issue. No need to guess why he wanted to be a prison guard, I could tell he was on a power trip from a single glance. I didn't take his meaning about enjoyment. His helpers were not small, and they put the chest with my equipment across the corridor in a storage room. I watched as he locked it, and waddled away with the henchmen.
With a feeble exhale of breath, I lay down on my back and closed my eyes for a moment, trying to work out some sort of plan. I was quickly reminded by the sound of shuffling feet on stone that I wasn't alone. Groaning, I opened my eyes to see what sort of evil bastard they had thrown me to, like a bone for a dog.
A beautiful woman stood over me, a pair of green eyes looking down at my face.
"Hello?" she said, with a raised eyebrow. Once again, I was speechless.