Chapter 2- So you’re not a mage?
The trip down the mountain was done in silence. The dismal sky and frigid air were uncomfortable until Miranda pulled on a pair of gloves to ward off the chill. Large sickly green fireballs fell from the breach reeking of evil and corruption. They smashed into the ground and mountains with no remorse and spawning demons from their landing.
Miranda was in the lead as she deftly skipped down the snowy incline, idly twirling her staff like a baton. The rest followed her with caution. Cassandra placed herself between Elariel and Miranda with the two males trailing behind them.
Near the bottom, Elariel made the first move. “Miranda I was wondering, why is your hair like that?” The tiny elf asked curiously.
Miranda paused for a moment and looked over her shoulder. “I made a mistake when I was younger. I got cocky and picked a fight I wasn’t able to win. As a result, I was betrayed along with a friend of mine. The hair is a side effect of that betrayal.” She turned back and cocked her head to the side before she stopped.
The others stumbled to a halt as well, watching her curiously. “There are demons ahead.” she informed them, turning back and shifting so her staff was ready as a weapon.
“How do you know that?” Cassandra demanded suspiciously, her eyes narrowing.
Miranda sighed and pointed to her hair. “This stuff isn’t just for decoration. It acts as both an inner ear and as an extra sensory organ that specializes in echolocation. I can literally hear them from here.” She told the Seeker with an exasperated voice.
“Inner ear?” Elariel asked uncertainly, looking at the woman.
“Helps with my balance and echolocation means that my hair is essentially extra ears and eyes. They help me ‘see’ with sound. You make a noise and that noise tells me where you are. Though that is an incredibly basic explanation.” Miranda explained shifting her weight. “How do you want to do this? I’m useful as a melee fighter.” She told Cassandra, watching at the Seeker with a blank expression.
The warrior woman scowled at her but turned to look at the others with a calculating expression. “I want the mages to use whatever ranged attacks you have. I’ll handle the demons up close,” She commanded. The others nodded and readied their weapons while Miranda looked at Cassandra expectantly.
“And me?” She asked the woman. Cassandra turned back to look at her.
“Like I said, mages to the rear.” She replied tersely.
Miranda sighed. “I’m not a mage, I’m a Jedi. There is a difference. I’ll help you in the front,” She told the Seeker, determination in her eyes.
Cassandra’s face became stony and she glared at Miranda with fury in her dark eyes. “You will do as I command. Mage,” she snarled.
Miranda met the furious glare steadily. “You cannot hold the demons back on your own and I am trained for melee combat. I will be helping you protect the ranged fighters whether you like it or not,” She replied calmly.
Cassandra opened her mouth to reply, but Miranda turned away sharply, looking to Elariel and Solas. “Do I have a Fade connection?” She demanded of the pair. Solas stared at her with a neutral expression, while Elariel cocked her head to the side.
“No,” the bald apostate replied curtly.
“It’s almost like the Fade’s afraid of you even,” Elariel added, confusion on her face. “That’s odd, everyone has some degree of connection to the Fade, even non-mages,” The young Dalish added, uncertainty in her voice as she stared at Miranda.
Miranda turned back to Cassandra. “I will help you in the fore. I give you my word on my life and the Force that I mean no harm to you and yours unless you harm me,” She vowed. The two warriors stared at each other, dark eyes meeting light. The moment stretched, time elastic for a moment until the Seeker broke it. She nodded, her face set into a scowl as she turned sharply away.
“Come, we must reach the forward camp,” She commanded. The quintet ran down the final incline. Three large shades and a handful of wraiths waited for them. Cassandra charged forward with a roar, sword swinging and shield up. She crashed into the first shade like a battering ram, sending the demon
Miranda leapt after her, staff moving in a blur. She fell upon her target from above, using the momentum of her Force jump to increase the strength of her blow. She brought the weighted end of her staff down on its shoulder like a club. The lead filled engraved mithrill made contact with a sickening crunch that made the demon howl in pain. As she leapt up in a spin to gain momentum.
Out of the corner of her eyes she saw the other three standing on the bank raining magic and arrows on the wraiths that tried to overwhelm her and Cassandra. One wraith fell as it was consumed by a wall of fire and another to a blast of lightning. Then she finished her spin refocusing on her prey.
She landed lightly on her toes and using the momentum from her spin whipped her staff around her head, still griping the end.
The shade had no time to recover as the metal slammed into the side of its head, making it stumble as its far arm clutched its now shattered shoulder. Sliding the staff to grip the middle, Miranda lunged forward. Striking the shade square in the sternum, the Force of her blow caving in part of its chest. The shade dissolved into green smoke with a wail and she turned to intercept the claws of the crested shade that had snuck up behind her.
She held the staff up, holding the claws away from her face. She smirked and brought her right foot up and snapped out a kick. If her opponent had been human the kick would have landed on his groin, as it was the shade was knocked back by the Force enhanced blow. She advanced on it, her staff twirling around her to build up speed.
She tilted her head to the left as a flash of light passed by her ear as and slammed into the shade, who screamed in pain as lightning crawled over its sickly hide. Miranda reached the shade a second later and belted it over the head, crushing its skull. It slumped soundlessly to the ground and dissipated. She turned in time to see Cassandra pull her sword from the shade with a grim expression.
Miranda looked around and saw the scorched patches and spent arrows from where the mages and Varric had taken care of the wraiths. Cassandra looked at her with a calculating expression.
“You didn’t use magic,” She remarked following Miranda as she walked away.
Miranda smirked. “I’m a Jedi, not a mage!” She told the Seeker jauntily. She cheerily wandered over to what appeared to be a pile of sludge and began to poke at it with her staff, sifting through to look for anything interesting.
“What’s a Jedi?” Elariel asked from behind the two women. Miranda bent down and picked up the small shiny object that sat amongst the sludge.
“The Jedi are an order of peace keepers. Our job is to defend the innocent and the oppressed. We are diplomats in times of peace and generals in times of war,” She explained, straightening the small trinket in her hand as she shook the gunk free.
“You’re a diplomat?” Cassandra asked, surprise in her voice.
“And a General. I served during the Great Galactic War, the Cold War, the second Galactic war, the rebellion against the Eternal Empire and the Clone Wars. I was a particular favorite of the public. The Storm Bringer and Sith Killer they called me,” Miranda remembered a faraway look in her eyes. The others stared at her as she shook her head, as if to break free of her memories.
“Anyway, shall we continue? Questions can wait until after the breach is sealed yes?” She asked. She gave her assembled audience a pointed look before turning and striding over the frozen river toward the path on the other side.
“What is a galactic and clone?” Elariel asked her companions.
They all shrugged and Solas frowned. “Even in the depths of the Fade I have never heard those words, nor have I heard mention of an Eternal Empire. Perhaps those words are for some form of magic” The elf theorized looking peeved that he didn’t know something.
Cassandra looked after the strange woman in consideration. She knew the look that had flitted through Miranda’s eyes when she spoke of those wars. She had lost close friends and maybe even family in those wars. It was a look she recognized from herself and Leliana. It was one that could not be faked even by the most talented actor.
Cassandra remained deep in thought as the traveled over the rough terrain. Elariel took the lead as they crossed the river and slogged up the opposite slope. “So are you innocent?” Varric asked into the awkward silence.
Elariel gave a small shrug, not looking behind her as she stumbled. “I don’t remember,” She admitted as she righted herself, her voice subdued.
“That’ll get you every time. Should have spun a story,” The dwarf told her sympathetically.
Cassandra let out a disgusted snort the topic pulling her mind back to the present. “That’s what you’d have done,” She deadpanned from just behind the young elf.
“It’s more believable,” The dwarf protested, “And less likely to result in premature executions,” He added.
Miranda smiled and shook her head. “Memory is a slippery thing and it is easily stolen by those who know how.” She commented, ignoring Solas’ frown.
They reached the top of the steep hill to be greeted with a path full of more shades and wraiths.
Miranda sprinted forward with Cassandra and spun around the shade they were aiming for. Arrows and magic once more filled the air and she could here Varric’s crow of glee as his shot struck true.
Cassandra hit it head on and Miranda hooked her staff around the shades left arm. A swift jerk snapped its bones and rendered the arm useless. Cassandra smashed her shield into its face, knocking it back. Miranda jumped away and ran to meet another shade as it glided swiftly towards her.
They met with a crash. She batted away a strike with her armoured left arm and leapt spinning around to fall into a lunge that ended with the end of her staff smashing into the shades right shoulder. The demon wailed in pain and she used her staff as a lever to flip over her opponent. She turned quickly, her staff spinning and shoving the shade forward. She pressed her advantage and managed to knock it to its knees.
Quick as a hawk on its prey, she fell upon the shade and in a swift movement plunged her hidden blade into the back of its elongated neck. It dissolved and she spun away. The blade retracted as she fell into a kneeling position, right hand extended as she blasted away the final shade with the Force. It hit the cliff face with a crash and she doubled the pressure sending a compressed ball of the Force at the pinned demon.
The blast stuck it in the chest and it was flattened as splinters of stone were blasted loose. In the silence afterwards, she stood, dusting the snow off her knees. Sensing their stares, she looked up at her companions who all had looks of complete astonishment on their faces. “What?” She asked looking at them curiously. “Is there something on my face?” She added shifting her staff back to her right hand.
“What in the Maker’s name was that?” Varric asked, awe on his face.
“I’ve never seen such magic, even telekinetic attacks never look like that,” Cassandra exclaimed, her hand gripping her hilt a little tighter.
“You didn’t use magic,” Elariel gasped, her breath coming short and her complexion far paler than was healthy. “It felt like you were using life to do it.” She added, wiping the sweat off her brow. Solas’ face had become grim. He stared at her with a dark expression in his eyes.
“I used the Force. The Force is life. It is in everything and everyone. As a Jedi, I have access to the Force and it aids me in battle.” Miranda explained calmly extending her hidden blade to see if she needed to clean it.
Unfortunately, the blade was covered in a thick black ichor that stank.
Grimacing, she pulled a rag from her small pouch and began to clean the blade and hand. “What is that?” Cassandra demanded staring at the razor sharp blade protruding from under her wrist.
“It’s a hidden blade from the assassins. Good people, though I wish I had picked up a hook blade during my time in Constantinople,” She explained, though the last part was more of a mutter to herself.
Cassandra closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose before opening them and looking at Miranda with resignation. “I’m not even going to ask anymore. Let’s just kill the demons.” She muttered and stalked away.
Miranda smiled and jogged after her, “Great. Onward!” She cried and the others followed with slightly confused expressions.
“I hope Leliana made it through this.” Cassandra worried as they struggled up the slick slope, her face now a mask of concern.
“She’s resourceful Seeker. She’ll be fine,” Varric assured her and Miranda
“She has reached it even now,” The Jedi told Cassandra. The Seeker looked back at her and nodded, taking the words as comfort. As they continued up the hill, Miranda began to feel nauseous. Her senses telling her that a rift was nearby.
“Hey!” She called to Cassandra and Elariel. They were once again in the lead, despite her increasing number of stumbles and the lines of exhaustion now settling into her face.
They turned to look at her and she pointed ahead. “There’s another rift ahead,” She informed them. Cassandra nodded looking grim. Elariel traded places with her so that Miranda and Cassandra were in the lead. They turned around a bend in the path and were greeted with the sickly emerald glow of another rift blocking the gate.
“Quickly we must seal it!” Solas bellowed as they all sprinted toward the rift.
“Elariel, focus on closing it. Ignore the demons, we’ll keep them off you!” Miranda commanded before she and Cassandra charged the shades. Miranda took the left most shade and brought her staff up in a crosswise motion. The weighted bottom end swung up and hit the shade’s protruding face, knocking it up and back.
She wasted no time kicking out. She struck it squarely in the chest before she picked it up with the Force. She began to throw the shade around, bashing it into the close walls and its comrades. With a jerk she raised it high and brought it down hard, repeatedly smashing it into the ground.
Still not satisfied she lifted it high again before brutally bringing it down on the sharpened points of the wooden wall with a sickening crunch.
Then without another thought, she viciously seized the shade that was creeping up on Cassandra and smashed it into the shade Cassandra was battling. The momentum threw the pair away from the warrior and the two women advanced on the tangle demons.
Miranda drew her sword and held it at her hip. Using her staff, she backhanded one of the shades with her staff as it started to rise and spun, using the momentum to sever its head with her blade.
Cassandra arrived a moment later as brought her heavy sword down on the others shoulder, cleaving it from neck to hip. Elariel gave a cry of pain as her hand pulsed and the two turned weapons ready, but it was unnecessary.
The rift pulsed again, tearing another cry of pain from Elariel. Miranda gripped her staff and sword tightly, fighting the pain that was coming from the closing rift.
The Force writhed in agony and she swallowed harshly to avoid vomiting from the discomfort. Then with a bone jarring thud, the rift seal. Miranda breathed out a sigh of relief before she looked back at the Seeker beside her.
The two looked at each other and Cassandra nodded, sheathing her sword and holding out her hand. “You have my thanks,” She told Miranda. “I think that I have misjudged you,” She added.
Miranda nodded her head in return, returning her blade to its sheath. Her was face unusually serious as she grasped the Seeker’s forearm in a warrior’s handshake. “And I you,” She replied looking into the Seekers face. “I will serve with you until this catastrophe is over. May I fight with you?” She asked, her voice and eyes somber.
Cassandra nodded and the turned their attention back to Elariel. The young elf was trembling. Her face was pale and a sheen of sweat covered her face despite the freezing wind.
Miranda hurried over to Elariel and wrapped and arm around her, giving support and warmth to the shivering girl. Cassandra spoke with the guards at the gate while Miranda helped the weakened elf to walk.
The mark was clearly sapping her strength and she had been weak after her battle to return to the land of the living. The party was quiet as they crossed the threshold onto the bridge.
The only sounds were the quiet mutters of the soldiers and the dreadful cracking sound of the breach. To Miranda’s hearing she had a clear picture of the entire valley.
She heard the cries of the wounded and the dying, the shrieks of demons and the sizzling of the rifts. The mountains were so full of sound that she had an excellent sound picture of the battle, and it was looking grim.
Elariel stumbled and Miranda supported her across the threshold. Elariel protested feebly but Miranda ignored her, continuing to support the weakened girl across the bridge.
Cassandra had turned to look at Elariel with concern on her face. “She was exhausted before she started this journey and the mark is sapping her strength,” Miranda told her quietly as they rejoined the warrior. As if to corroborate that statement the mark flared a little, drawing pained whimpers from Elariel.
Cassandra’s face was grave and she nodded as they hurried to where a plump man in white and red robes argued with a statuesque woman in a purple hooded vest over knee length chainmail as they both stared at a map.
“Ahh here they come,” The man sneered straightening.
The hooded woman looked up as well and hurried around the table. “Good you made it,” She breathed, relief evident in her voice. “Chancellor Roderick, this is…” she began but the man cut her off.
“I know who she is,” He growled glaring at the elf who now stood between the taller frames of Miranda and Cassandra. Miranda inclined her head to the pair placing her right hand on her heart.
“However you do not know me,” She stated, locking eyes with the woman who could only be Leliana. “I am Jedi Master Miranda Starsinger. I was directed by the Force to aid you in your endeavor of closing the breach. I bring no resources but my skills as a fighter, General and Diplomat. I hereby ask that you allow me to join your cause,” She intoned, confident but humble at the same time.
Leliana stared at the strange woman. She was tall, at least six foot if not a little over, and her eyes spoke of experience. The Bard glanced at the woman’s hair and did a double take. At first glance they looked like the dreadlocks she had seen on many Qunari and sailors but on closer inspection they were segmented and gleamed like an insect’s carapace.
Her sharp eyes returned to Miranda’s and the two of them stared, each trying to read the other.
After a time Leliana nodded. “I accept your offer of assistance, what is wrong with her?” She decided, turning her attention to Elariel.
“It doesn’t matter!” Chancellor Roderick interrupted glaring at the elf before turning her attention to Cassandra. “As grand Chancellor of the Chantry I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux to face execution!” He demanded pointing at Elariel.
Cassandra’s eyes flashed and she took a step forward. “Order me?” She sneered. “You are a glorified cleric! A Bureaucrat!” She scoffed at the shorter man.
He puffed up his chest in outrage. “And you are a thug, but a thug who supposedly serves the Chantry!” He growled and Leliana stepped in.
“We serve the most holy chancellor,” She glared before bowing her head in sorrow. “As you well know,” She added in a more subdued tone.
“JUSTINIA IS DEAD!” Roderick roared before he scowled. “We must elect a replacement and follow her orders on the matter,” He grumbled.
Miranda glared at the three of them. “The sky is torn and the world is falling apart but you think that petty grandstanding is more important?” She demanded stepping a little ahead of Elariel, partially shielding her from view.
“You should focus on returning peace before you go back to your games of figuring out who is in charge,” She scolded him, her face impassive.
The chancellor turned on her like a wounded Bull. “SHE KILLED EVERYONE IN CHARGE!” He bellowed pointing at the pained girl at Miranda’s side.
“Enough!” Miranda told him forcefully. Her hair had puffed up and was buzzing quietly in warning. She drew concerned and fearful looks before she turned to Leliana and Cassandra.
“We will get Elariel to the breach and seal it. We will restore order in a world gone mad. We will find the one responsible for this and end their sorry excuse of an existence.” She snarled, her fangs flashing in the light of the breach as she bared her teeth at him as her eyes flashed. The chancellors blanched and took a step back in fear.
She focused her attention on Leliana, her hair quieting down as her calm returned. “A frontal assault is too risky. Elariel is in no shape to handle a war zone. Is there a safer way to the temple proper?” She asked the hooded woman.
Before she could answer the breach heaved and split, shaking the ground with its force. Miranda gave a strangled gasp and clutched her head in pain as the Force cried out at the violation. A column of green light spiraled down from the breach like lightning. Elariel’s hand flared and sparked, causing her arm to jerk. She keened in pain.
Miranda blinked the spots from her vision and shook her head to recover. She wrapped her arms around the elf as Elariel’s knees buckled and she thrashed. Miranda turned her eyes to the two women again her expression serious even as she battled with the pain and nausea brought on by the breach.
“There is a path through the mountains,” Leliana told them, looking up at a peak that loomed over them.
“But we lost contact with a squad on that path. We have no idea what’s up there” Cassandra warned, looking at Elariel in concern.
Miranda nodded looking down at Elariel who nodded mutely. Her right hand clutching her left wrist as if applying pressure would ease the pain.
“We need to take it now and work together. If we don’t then we will all die,” Miranda told them bluntly and Cassandra nodded.
“Leliana, bring everyone left in the valley. Everyone,” She commanded.
The Bard nodded and hurried off yelling orders. The soldiers began to rush to obey, filling the air with shouts and the sounds of armoured boots. “On your head be the consequences Seeker,” Roderick sneered after them.
“We must hurry,” Cassandra ordered, ignoring the man as she began striding toward the entry to the mountain path with a determined look on her face. Miranda looked at Elariel who nodded shakily, grasping her staff like a life line.
As they left the bridge to begin their hike, Miranda pulled her hair stalks over her shoulders and flicked up her hood to ward of the coming chill of the mountains. The snow became progressively deeper the high they climbed. Miranda found herself blessing her height and strength once again.
She and Cassandra had been contracted to the front, each taking turns to break the trail through the thick white powder as it went from ankle deep to above the knee. Elariel went just behind them with Varric and Solas bringing up the rear.
The wind began to blow more steadily as they left the relative protection of the lower reaches behind. Snowflakes began to swirl more thickly through the air. The wind seemed to find the seams easily to worm through and chill the skin beneath.
Solas looked miserable but then a bald head and bare feet must be uncomfortable in these conditions. Soon they passed the tree line and they were forced to pick their way along ridges that had been scoured free of most of the snow by the unrelenting wind.
Eventually after an hour and a half hard slog up the mountain, they reached a series of ladders and lifts for a mine. Miranda and Cassandra looked at Elariel in concern as the tiny elf gripped the large rungs and began to laboriously heave herself up.
Miranda quickly secured her staff to her back using a leather tie before she followed the elf up the ice slicked ladder.
“The tunnels should be just ahead. The path to the temple lies just beyond that” Cassandra called up from behind them as they climbed up the second ladder.
“What manner of tunnel? A mine?” Solas asked curiously from the back of the party.
“Part of an old mining complex. These mountains are full of such paths,” Cassandra answered.
“Great, so we have missing soldiers and a mountain full of tunnels. That’s just asking for trouble!” Miranda told them all, her voice carrying well over the wind.
“We shall see soon enough.” Cassandra reminded them as they heaved themselves over the last lip.
Elariel was bent over with her hands on her knees as she breathed heavily. Miranda pulled a small flask of water from her belt and handed it to the elf. “Here, it’s probably freezing but at least it’s something,” She said offering it to Elariel.
The elf nodded gratefully and took a deep drink from the icy water inside, gasping as the cold burned her throat. “Thanks,” She said, handing back the flask which vanished back into the seemingly bottomless pouch.
Once they were all gathered on the ledge, they set out again entering the arched opening. They were instantly greeted by a shade. The cursed creature lunged at them with a feral snarl.
Cassandra jump into its path and Miranda joined her. Its claws screeched across the metal surface of Cassandra’s shield as Miranda flipped over the pair, landing and spinning so she faced its unprotected back. She drew her sword and struck just as Cassandra threw the shade back.
The curved elven blade entered the shades back like a hot knife through butter, demonic flesh unable to stand before elven steel. She drew the blade to the right and down, cutting it free of the demon as if screamed in pain.
In this moment, Cassandra’s sword slashed across its chest before stabbing it through the heart. It dissolved with a gurgle and Miranda had only a fraction of a second’s warning as the wraith behind her threw a bolt of magic. She brought her sword up and over her shoulder, catching the spell and flicking her sword to discharge it as she spun.
A bolt from Bianca flew past her ear and struck it between where its eyes should have been. It too joined its brethren back in the Fade and they all looked around warily.
“Nice catch by the way Ice,” Varric told Miranda who looked at him with a smile.
“Thanks, why Ice?” she asked him curiously.
The dwarf shrugged, returning Bianca to her place on his back. “Your eyes. They look like ice,” He explained a smile tugging at his lips.
Miranda cocked her head to the side before she nodded. “It’ll do, but I expect a better one later,” She informed him as she followed Cassandra through the frigid tunnels. Varric’s chuckle echoed off the stone walls as he followed her.
The tunnels were poorly lit by sputtering torches that looked like they were on their last legs from the scout team. Miranda’s eyes and echolocation pierced the gloom well, though.
She had taken the lead, guiding the party through the dark. They moved carefully, weapons drawn and in silence so as to hear what lay ahead.
They passed by balconies that offered a dim view of crevasses and shafts descending into the mountain. The turned a corner and stealthily moved up a set of broad stairs only to be confronted with two shades and a wraith.
“Get behind me!” Miranda hissed. The others obeyed and she dropped her staff, lunging up the final steps to the landing. Once there she held out her hands and let loose a powerful shock wave. The blast struck the demons and tossed
them away like leaves before a wind.
The wraith screeched in pain and she lunged at it. Her wrist extended and the hidden blade flicking out, piercing its translucent throat. She barely spared a thought as she held out her hand, summoning her staff and spinning it to crush the scull of a downed shade. A blast of magic struck the second shade and it ignited, wailing before a bolt from Varric silenced it permanently.
They mounted another set of stairs and suddenly were back in the freezing fresh air. Unfortunately, they had emerged at the scene of a battle. Bodies clad in armour similar to the soldiers in the valley lay strewn about before the entrance. Some looked to have been mauled by something with large claws whilst others had been relieved of their limbs or head.
The frozen blood crunched underfoot as they picked their way across the blood soaked path. “I guess we know what happened to the soldiers,” Varric sighed, his eyes sad.
Cassandra looked over the massacre and frowned. “That cannot be all of them,” She protested shaking her head in denial.
“Perhaps they are holed up further ahead,” Miranda offered. Cassandra nodded and they set a quick pace down the incline.
“Our priority is the breach. Unless we seal it no one is safe,” Solas reminded them as they hurried along the path.
“I’m leaving that to our elven friend here,” Varric told the surly mage practically before ignoring him.
Miranda looked at said elven friend and frowned in concerned. Elariel did not look well. Her face had taken a grey tinge and she stumbled often, exhaustion clear in her movements.
She looked over and saw Cassandra with a similar expression. Their eyes met and a look of worry was shared as well as the acknowledgement that they needed to hurry.
They turned a bend and saw another rift surrounded by a group of soldiers struggling for their lives. “Lady Cassandra!” One of them cried in relief at the sight of them.
“Lieutenant! You’re alive!” Cassandra answered before charging the shades that were harassing her troops.
Miranda looked to Elariel. “Ignore the demons remember that. We’ll handle them. Just close the rift,” She commanded before joining Cassandra in the fray.
She hit the shade from behind, looping her staff over its head as she leapt onto its back and with a heave she crushed its neck. The shade thrashed but didn’t die as she leapt off and drawing her sword slashing at its extended arm.
The limb fell to the ground and dissolved. The shade gurgled past its choked throat. Her sword swung as she twirled and severed its neck before she turned to engage the next foe.
Cassandra was next to her in a second as they tag teamed the next shade, striking its blind sides until Cassandra landed a killing blow.
The rift thudded but didn’t close. Miranda turned in time to see two spindly limbed figures spawn from the ground. They stood over nine feet and each had a long prehensile tail that ended in a wicked point.
She looked at Cassandra who nodded and they rushed the left most demon together. Miranda leapt right while Cassandra rolled left both aiming to flank and distract the demon. Miranda’s staff swept under its leg, knocking it off balance.
Cassandra pounced, slashing at its undefended side, scoring a deep cut along its emaciated ribs. The beast screamed in challenged before crouching and vanishing in a circle of green light.
Seconds later it leapt out of the ground at Miranda’s feet. The Jedi had sensed and leapt, but too late. The demon backhanded her hard. She went flying, landing on her back and skidding. Her staff rolled from her grip and her sword skittering in the other direction. She gasped for air as she rolled to the left just as its claws struck where her head would have been.
She continued her roll and scrambled to a crouch, drawing a pair of long daggers from her boot and stabbing one down into the creature’s arm as it reached for her. With a violent jerk, she dragged the demon forward.
In a smooth move, she slit its throat from ear to ear before jabbing the blade into its temple, finally killing it. Rising from her crouch, she looked and found Cassandra wrestling the other demon to the ground. She repeatedly smashed her shield into her foe’s face, screaming in inarticulate rage as she did so.
Her sword lay on the ground where it had been knocked from her hand. That didn’t stop the enraged Seeker. She lifted her shield high over the prone demon and brought the edge down hard, crushing the demons neck to the point that its head popped off. Miranda stared at the Seeker in astonishment. The blood spattered woman looked up and met Miranda’s eyes. The rage slowly fading from her gaze.
“Remind me not to make you mad anytime soon,” Miranda quipped and a sardonic smile tugged at Cassandra’s lips.
“Too late for that,” She answered. Miranda shrugged, grinning unrepentantly. The rift gave a shudder and finally closed, leaving Elariel swaying on her feet. Varric got to her first and supported her over to a large stone where she sat heavily.
“Thank the Maker that you arrived when you did my lady. I don’t think we could have held out much longer,” The scout leader said as Cassandra pulled her to her feet.
The Seeker nodded toward where Miranda was examining her sword for damage as she leaned on her staff. “Thank her. She insisted we take this path.” The scout looked at the hooded Jedi in confusion as she looked up and nodded with a smile.
“It was the right choice,” She said kindly. “I’m Miranda by the way.” She added before sliding her sword into its sheath and holding out her hand.
The scout took it and shook. “You have my sincere gratitude. I’m scout lieutenant Wright,” she said and Miranda smiled.
“Good luck to you then,” She replied before she inclined her head.
Pleasantries done with, she strode over to where Elariel shivered and clutched her staff. “You ok?” The voice pierced the haze of pain and exhaustion that clouded Elariel’s mind.
She looked up to see Miranda hovering over her, a concerned expression on her face.
“No,” She shook her head. “It’s getting easier to close them but I don’t have much left in me to keep going,” The elf admitted, closing her eyes.
“Hey, hey stay with me,” Miranda called shaking her shoulders gently. “If you fall asleep now there is no guarantee you’ll wake up in time,” The Jedi told Elariel. The girl nodded and forced her eyes open.
Blinking blearily, she heaved herself up and swayed before she leaned heavily on her staff. The scouts left them, going back to the forward camp and Cassandra joined them as they looked down into the valley.
“The way appears to be free of demons as well,” Solas remarked, leaning on his staff.
Cassandra nodded and gripped her recovered sword tightly. “Let’s hurry before that changes,” She replied tersely. Miranda nodded her head and, with one last glance at Elariel, followed Cassandra down the slope.
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