Dragon Effect

Chapter One

When Artemis Hawke woke up that morning, everything was just as it should be. Her mabari was snoozing at the foot of her bed, she was snuggled up under her soft covers, and there wasn't a Templar or blood mage in sight. A good night's rest was hard to come by these days, especially now that she was the Champion of Kirkwall. That title came with a LOT of responsibility, and it was almost too much for her lone shoulders to bear, especially after she lost every member of her family that she was ever close to, one way or another. All that was left was her uncle Gamlen…and he could hardly be considered family. At least she had this one moment to just relax, and enjoy her own company…

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end.

"Why am I always the one getting dragged into these things?" Artemis muttered. Aveline had come barging into her house once again, practically dragging the poor Champion out of her soft bed, yelling about the First Enchanter and the Knight-Commander in yet another argument. Things were bad this time, or so she was told, so she wasted no time in getting dressed and rounding up her team. The three people she kept close to her were Anders, Varric, and Fenris…though, she had a feeling that, even though everyone was technically coming along, bringing the mages' rights activist along would prove to be a bad idea. Artemis glanced at the blonde-haired man out of the corner of her eye. She loved him with everything that she was, but sweet Andraste was he impulsive! Honestly, she blamed Justice. The two of them never got along (especially with her occasionally use of blood magic), but he was making Anders miserable, and that only made her hate the spirit even more.

Anders glanced back at her. He didn't even give her a smile…he just a sad look before he turned away. He had been acting…empty lately. Frustrated. But no matter how much she begged, he refused to tell her why. "I must bear this burden alone," he'd insisted. "There's no way I'm letting you get caught up in this." She gripped her staff tightly in her hand. What he didn't understand was that she wanted to get caught up in it! He'd faced too many things on his own…she didn't care what he'd done, she wanted to be able to help him through it! …Their love was falling apart. She could see it, and it killed her, knowing that there was nothing she could do or say to make Anders himself again. She knew that nothing would change…and she didn't want to leave him, but somehow, she had a feeling that she would have to. She never regretted loving him, but being with him like this was tearing her apart inside.

Hawke sighed deeply. She couldn't think about that now. There were much more important things to worry about… Her companions faithfully trailed behind her as she made her way through the darkened Kirkwall streets, following the sound of yelling until she came upon the very scene she expected.

"I will have the tower searched, top to bottom!" Meredith snapped.

"You cannot do that! You have no right!" argued Orsino.

The Knight-Commander and First Enchanter faced each other, each with a small group behind them—mages with Orsino, and Templars with Meredith…including Carver, her younger brother. The two leaders stared each other down with eyes full of hatred. Oh Maker, here we go again, Hawke thought wearily.

"I have every right!" Meredith huffed. "You are harboring blood mages, and I intend to root them out before they infect this city!"

"Blood magic!" Orsino threw his arms in the air. "Where do you not see blood magic?! My people cannot sneeze without you accusing them of corruption!"

"Do not trifle with me, mage; my patience is at an end." Meredith's voice was low, her blue eyes flashing with the madness that everybody knew was within her.

"A wonder that I never saw it begin," Orsino retorted sarcastically. Artemis rolled her eyes and ran up to them.

"This needs to stop," she said, putting her staff away and glancing between the two of them with a frown.

Carver's arms were folded across his chest. Looking at her with that same disdainful scowl, he said, "Well, look who decided to show up." Oh, not now, Carver! she thought.

Meredith turned to face her. "This does not involve you, Champion." The hell it didn't! She was involved in everything in this city, and not always by her choice! If the two of them would just admit their love for each other, they could ease some sexual frustration and everyone would be happy. But nooo, they've got to be bloody stubborn!

"I called her here," Orsino drawled, folding his arms across his chest. "I think the people deserve to know just what you've done."

"What I have done," Meredith hissed, "Is protect the people of this city, time and again. What I have done is protect you mages from your curse and your own stupidity!" Uh, hello? Mage, right here. Why does everybody seem to forget that I'm a mage too? "And I will not stop doing it, I will not lower our guard, I dare not!"

Hawke glanced at Orsino.

"And what if she does not find what she's looking for? How much further will she go to root out something that isn't there?" The gray-haired elven man stared Hawke straight in the eye. His gaze bore into hers, almost pleadingly. Stop her, they said, She's gone mad! Artemis knew that all too well. Everyone could see how crazy the Templar leader was, how deeply she had spiraled into darkness over the years. But the woman was stubborn, blinded by her craziness. She honestly doubted that she could stop Meredith with mere words.

Meredith turned to Orsino. "The Champion knows better than anyone how deep the Circle's corruption goes. I must find the source!" Ouch. Hawke winced, feeling a pang in her chest. She knew exactly what the Knight-Commander was talking about, and it did not please her to have it brought up.

Artemis rubbed her temples, feeling a wave of exhaustion wash over her. "There must be some way we can work this out," she insisted.

Meredith's eyebrows furrowed, her expression twisting into one of anguish. "What other option do we have? Tell me, Champion, that you have not seen with your own eyes what they can do! Heard the lies of mages that seek power!"

Hawke swallowed hard. It was true. She had seen many a corrupted mage in her time…not that she was any better. But that didn't change the fact that this was wrong. "Some of us want exactly what you want, Meredith. We're not the enemy." She resisted the urge to make a series of sarcastic comments…somehow, she felt that humor would not make this situation any easier.

Orsino stepped up beside her. "You would cast us all as villains, but it is not so!" he said, his expression a mix of anger, frustration, and despair.

A sad look fell over Meredith's face. "…I know," she said softly, "And it breaks my heart to do it." I call bullshit. "But we must be vigilant! If you cannot tell me another way, do not brand me a tyrant!"

"This is getting us nowhere," Orsino muttered. He turned around, beginning to walk up the Chantry steps. "Grand Cleric Elthina will put a stop to this."

Meredith grabbed Orsino by the shoulder, stopping him in his tracks and pulling his shoulder to the side. "You will not bring Her Grace into this!" she growled.

Artemis opened her mouth to say something, but stopped when Anders walked up beside her. "The Grand Cleric cannot help you!" he said loudly. His voice sounded…strained, like he was fighting a battle within himself. And, knowing Justice, he probably was.

Meredith stormed up to Anders. "Explain yourself, mage!" she commanded.

He pointed at her accusingly. "I will not stand by and watch you treat all mages like criminals—" He slammed his staff on the ground, "—while those who would lead us bow to their Templar jailors!"

Orsino recoiled. "How dare you speak to—"

SLAM!

"The Circle has failed us, Orsino! Even you should be able to see that!" His eyes glowed blue for a brief moment, cracks of blue light appearing on his body before he turned around, squeezing his eyes shut, and they disappeared. And this was going so well, too, she thought sarcastically. "The time has come to act. There can be no half-measures."

A chill settled in Hawke's gut, and she felt her skin go pale. Something about the way he was talking didn't sit right with her…something was terribly wrong. "Anders," she said slowly, "What have you done?"

He refused to look at her, but she could clearly see the despair, and fear on his face. "There can be no turning back," he said softly.

Just as he said that, the ground below them started to rumble, shaking hard enough to nearly throw her off-balance. This…cannot be good, she thought, her blood running cold. Suddenly, a large beam of red light burst from the middle of the Chantry, shooting up into the sky and sending parts of the building flying. A look of pure horror settled on Hawke's face as more and more beams shot out of the Chantry in different directions, lifting up bits of the church. In one loud BAM, the entire building exploded.

And red light was the last thing Artemis saw before her world turned black.

ELSEWHERE

"Sir, there's no way we can do this!"

Dr. Richards exhaled deeply out of frustration. This underling was getting on his last nerve. "You said that about the Lazarus Project as well, Tony, and look how that turned out."

"This is different." Tony frowned up at the tall, dark-haired Cerberus scientist. "How do you even know this relay will lead to another universe? Maybe it just leads to the middle of nowhere, or it could even lead to where the Reapers live!"

"That's a risk we'll have to take." Richards stared sternly down at Tony. The assistant was young, barely in his mid-twenties, but although he sometimes questioned Cerberus, the young man was an asset to this laboratory. He was a bright lad, very smart, which was why Richards couldn't understand why Tony was so against this.

Three weeks ago, a Cerberus patrol stumbled across a new, unmapped relay. It was on the far edge of the Artemis Tau cluster, and when the patrol reported back to HQ, the Illusive Man sent Dr. Richards and a large team of both scientists and soldiers to check it out. It resembled the Omega 4 relay, but the red light of the relay was swirled with purple. It was very mysterious, and to some of the team (like Tony), it was frightening. But if humans hadn't been willing to risk travelling through the relays, they never would have discovered the galaxy beyond.

"I'm sending a team through the relay, Tony, and there's nothing you can say to—"

Richards was interrupted when the floor suddenly started to shake.

"What the hell…"

"Sir!" Tony pointed at the observation window. "Look! The relay…it's powering up!"

Richards hurried over to the window. Pressing his face against the glass, his jaw dropped in amazement as he watched the strange relay get brighter and brighter, until a red beam of light shot straight through the Cerberus station. He heard the sound of an explosion, and alarms suddenly began blaring. "Hull breach in Sector 12," an automated voice cried overhead. "All available units please investigate."

"Sector 12?" Tony's frown deepened. "Isn't that the mess hall?"

"Come on, let's go see what that relay dropped off." Richards didn't even wait for Tony to respond. Making a beeline for the mess hall, an excited grin stretched across his face. He knew that relay held something in store for them…

But what he found was not what he expected.

The mess hall was covered in scientists and soldiers, the soldiers working hastily to patch up the giant hole in the wall while some of the scientists were making their way towards the medical bay, hauling something along with them. Putting on their oxygen masks, Tony and Dr. Richards jogged up beside them. "What's the situation?" Richards demanded. "What did the relay bring us?"

"It's a…a person, sir," said one of the scientists. He blinked.

"A person…?"

It was indeed a person. A human woman, dressed in the strangest clothes he had ever seen. Covering her chest was a plate of dark grey metal, and fur covered her shoulders. Her stomach, under the metal, was covered in a jean-like material, which was what her pants were made out of, and she wore a belt with a small pack attached to it. Her right arm had a large piece of spiked metal on the upper part, while her hand and forearm were covered in a metal gauntlet of some sorts, with her elbow and every joint on her hand spiked. Her other arm was mostly uncovered, with the mail that was under the metal on her other arm cut off just below the shoulder on her left arm. Red markings were shown plainly on her arm, and she wore a black, fingerless glove over her left hand…which was tightly gripping a long staff of some sort. It was a purplish-red, with a large crescent shape at the top, and a smaller crescent seemed to be floating inside of the larger one. On the other end, was a long diamond shape, with the bottom tip sharpened to a very fine point…it would most definitely prove to be deadly if she chose to stab any of them with it. As for the woman's facial features…she had short, jet-black hair, with a lock lying on her fair-skinned face. There was a red mark of some sort brushed across her nose…it almost looked like blood. She had a strong, yet still feminine jaw, and full lips. It would be impossible to tell what her eye color was until she awoke…

The scientists gently laid the woman's body on one of the cots. "Who do you suppose she is…?" Tony asked softly, staring intently at their unexpected guest.

"I soon hope to find out," Richards replied. A secret smirk stretched across his face. Oh, the Illusive Man will be very pleased when he hears about this…

A/N: Hello there! This is the author speaking. I hope you liked the first chapter of my crossover! The idea has been circulating in my brain for awhile now. XD Please review! I'd love to hear your thoughts!