Cullen’s entire world was one giant headache.
Pain shot through the bridge of his nose, as though his head had been pierced by an arrow. Or rather, his head felt pierced by the scream that rent the air. The narrow canyon held that scream close to Cullen’s ears, and made the sound reverberate through his skull. Without the hum of lyrium to soften it, the cry rattled all the way down to his bones.
As Cullen watched, his enemy fell with a loud ‘thud’. And though he felt his hands shaking, Cullen did his best not to show his fear. Instead, he knelt, and calmly as he could, wiped his bloodied sword on the grass.
“T-that was a demon, ser,” one of the soldiers stammered. The voice was young, and held the hint of an Orlesian accent.
“Indeed,” Cullen replied, dryly. And it was dead. That was one victory at least. But this oncoming migraine was nothing he could fight.
Before Cullen, the demon’s remains began to glow. Then its body turned to ash and hissed off on the breeze. Cullen held up his hand to keep the demon-mist from going up his nose. It wasn’t like one could inhale possession, but he’d smelled enough fade-stench for one day.
“It possessed them wolves,” another of the soldiers whispered.
Cullen did his best not to roll his eyes. It was obvious that the pack had been possessed. Anyone who had lived through the last blight knew that Ferelden wolves only behaved like this had when demons were involved. Then again, Cullen realized, these soldiers probably didn’t know that. They were mostly foreigners, and all much younger than he. Morris was the oldest person present, aside from Cullen.
The thought made Cullen feel very old.
And this headache was making him feel nauseous, Cullen realized. He sheathed his sword in his scabbard, and pinched the bridge of his nose with his thumb and forefinger. The pressure from without did little to remove the pain from within.
“Ser?” Morris asked, his voice sounding distant beyond the ache. “Are you alright?”
Cullen let his hand drop.
“Fine,” he lied.
He’d dealt with demons before, of course, but this one had been so unexpected, it had startled him beyond reason. Leaping out at him out of a perfectly clear autumn day, it reminded him how thin the Veil was, how vulnerable they all were. Even the most pastoral of farmlands was a potential demon spawning-ground. As if he needed more reason to feel paranoid about the creatures.
Well, never mind that, Cullen thought. Shaken or no, headache or no, the troops needed their commander to show strength. He set his feelings of fear and weakness aside and lifted his chin.
“Back to camp,” Cullen called out. It was a terse order, but the soldiers fell in line behind him at once.
“Protectin’ the wilds against demons,” one of the soldiers muttered at Cullen’s back. “Wasn’t exactly what I planned on when I signed up, you know.”
“Who else is gonna fight ‘em?” another soldier replied. “This ain’t the Free Marches. No champions out here.”
Indeed, Cullen thought. Though given his experience with city champions, that might not be a bad thing.
Cullen and the soldiers walked out of the wolves’ den and into a narrow gorge. A creek flowed swiftly through the canyon, then out of sight. As Cullen walked along the creek’s banks, the rush of water still seemed to echo the demon’s dying screams.
Cullen shook off that thought. He refused to succumb to fear, nor to think overmuch about how raw and tired he felt. So instead, Cullen instead reviewed all the other work he had to do today. There were still the watchtowers to inspect and the patrols to arrange. Now that the wolves were gone, he would need to speak to Master Dennet. The Inquisition had upheld their end of the bargain by dealing with the bandits and wolves. Now Dennet would provide extra horses as he’d promised. For if the Inquisition was to become a proper army, they were going to need a cavalry. Though Maker only knew where they would keep the creatures at Haven, Cullen thought. Maybe Dennet would be willing to stable them for now.
And now I’ll have to learn to ride one of the beasts, Cullen mused. That seemed the most daunting prospect of all. But even as he thought that, he remembered Kate’s reply: if she had to learn to fight, certainly he could learn to ride.
At the thought of Kate, Cullen grew both wistful and somber - wistful because it seemed like ages ago that he and Kate had spoken about Chantry history in that farm field. And yet, it had happened only yesterday. But that was wartime for you, Cullen supposed. Battles had a way of making a man feel years older in a matter of hours.
As for the somber attitude, Cullen found himself concerned about what would happen when Kate returned with news about the mages. Kate hadn’t returned from Redcliffe yet, and Cullen had waited up for her most of the night. Well, ‘waited up’ was probably too strong a term for it. He’d finished his reports very late, then gone to bed. Leliana had arrived in the morning as expected, but Kate had not. He hoped that when they reached camp…
The sound was like a tree splitting in half, and at first, Cullen looked up to the forest on the banks above. But then he saw a flash of light and something like a shard of green glass popped into existence before him. It hovered over a small waterfall for one peaceful moment, then it threw out spindly green lines of lightning.
A rift. Blast. Cullen looked around desperately, even as the soldiers shouted in panic. On either side of the stream, the hills rose up sharply. There were a few spots to climb the embankment, but it was too steep to provide a quick escape.
Cullen drew his sword at once. He had not seen an open fade rift since the time Kate had rushed to temporarily close the breach. Now, this lines of green began to shimmer and shift, drawing up bubbling magic as if from the river itself. The next thing Cullen knew, a scream poured from the rift, and so, too, did the demons.
Maker save us, Cullen thought, bringing his shield up. Beside Cullen, Morris hefted his huge blade and pointed at one of the creatures.
“One of them witchy-ones, ser,” he said. “I don’t like their screams.”
Cullen didn’t like those screams, either, but his soldiers were counting on him. So he steeled his resolve and did a quick assessment of the battlefield.
There were only eight of them, and Dennet’s farms were just up the rise to the right. A village full of refugees lay in the other direction, and the demons could easily head up the gorge and re-take the wolf pack. In short, Cullen thought, he and his men might be able to make a run for it, but that would allow the fiends to wander free to terrorize the newly-reclaimed farmlands. The demons might confine themselves to the river, but could he count on that?
No, he could not, Cullen thought. There was no question as to what he must do.
“Run to the farms and send word for the Herald!” Cullen shouted to the youngest soldier, an Orlesian fellow who had proven faster than the rest. “The rest of us will keep the demons contained until she can come and close the rift.”
Maker speed Kate, Cullen added in a silent prayer. He hoped she was done with the mages at last, for it seemed Kate was their only chance for a rescue.
The young soldier dashed away toward the farms, and the remaining soldiers looked after the messenger enviously as the demons began to prowl around under the rift. Cullen motioned his men into position: infantry behind him, archers to the higher ground. To their credit, the recruits jumped into place as if they’d done this a thousand times. It humbled Cullen to see it. These people trusted him. More than that, they’d actually listened to his training, which was encouraging beyond measure. They might actually keep this rift contained without injuries. Maybe.
Cullen readied his sword and took a step toward the demons.
Ser Delrin Barris stalked into the room and threw his sword onto his bed. It was not the way to treat a weapon, but he felt too frustrated to care. The past day had been like a visit to the Void.
After Trevelyan’s attack, Barris had done what he could for Ser Stanhope’s injuries. All the while, Stanhope had insulted Barris in front of the recruits and promised Barris all sorts of punishments.
Barris shuddered to think of what Stanhope would cook up next. Barris was already on reduced lyrium rations. His last draught had been meager - and two days ago, for the Maker’s sake. How on earth had Stanhope expected Barris to find the escaped prisoner when Barris felt so dizzy he could scarcely see straight?
Still, Barris had done as he was told. He had searched the castle high and low with the junior templars. They’d been at it all night, and found no sign of the man except that there were several meat pies missing from the larder. Barris resented that. Trevelyan had left them nothing but bread and water for their supper. Meanwhile, the senior members of the Order didn’t seem to care about dinner at all. They’d all gone off to some meeting in the great hall, and still hadn’t come out. It was worrisome.
More than that, it was hopeless, Barris thought. He yanked off his gloves and tossed them onto his bed beside the sword. He’d searched all morning - on an empty stomach and without lyrium, too. There was no sign of Trevelyan, and the blame for the prisoner’s escape would surely be laid at Barris’ door.
It was odd, though, Barris mused. It was like Trevelyan had knocked Barris down from a distance, then disappeared into thin air. But of course that couldn’t have really been the case, Barris assured himself. The far more likely explanation was that somehow, and in his lyrium-withdrawn state, Barris had slipped and started seeing things.
It was all due to the lack of lyrium, Barris thought. As soon as the officers were done in the great hall, he would petition his superiors for a draught. Of course, Barris thought with a sneer, they would probably give him that nasty new red stuff. It had a strange smell to it, but he supposed that was what the current war had done to the lyrium trade: reduced them all to taking the dwarves’ worst offerings. But he could hold his nose and drink it, he supposed. Barris figured he’d have to. If he didn’t, he’d be suffering from full-body shakes by tomorrow evening.
Maker, Barris thought. He pressed his fingers to his temples in frustration. This - all of this - was madness. Things had been wild for over a year now, but he had thought the arrival of the Lord Seeker in Val Royeaux would be the end to his uncertainty. Instead, in the quiet of Barris’ own mind, he had to question…
He questioned nothing, Barris told himself, sharply. His training jerked him back from the edge as if with a bit of rope. Questioning wasn’t for templars, Barris reminded himself. The faithful remained faithful in the face of all doubt.
And yet, these proverbs rang hollow. For what if Trevelyan was innocent? What if Stanhope did know something about what had happened in Haven? Trevelyan had certainly known things - things about Barris that Barris had never told anyone. So what if Trevelyan was right about Stanhope, too?
It wasn’t for him to say, Barris thought, running his hand over his close-shaved head. His only concern here was…
Maker, he hardly knew anymore. He couldn’t help but wish that he’d gone with Seeker Cassandra and the Herald back in Val Royeaux. But the Lord Seeker himself had ordered Barris. Should he have turned his back on everything he ever knew, because of a doubt that would not leave his mind?
“Yes. Yes, you should have.”
Barris froze, his hand on the back of his neck, and looked up at the ceiling. He almost thought he’d heard a voice whispering from the rafters, but it must have been his imagination. For a moment, his eyes lingered on the patch of light streaming in from the high window.
Just then, Barris heard a soft ‘snick,’ like that of a door closing gently on its frame. And as he turned his head, he heard another, far more familiar sound: the raw ‘creak’ of a bowstring being pulled to full draw.
Barris whirled around, and then he froze. In spite of his headache, in spite of his sudden fear, Barris almost felt - relieved? For there was one question answered. It seemed that the prisoner had not disappeared into thin air after all.
“Trevelyan,” Barris said, quietly.
“Hullo again, Ser Barris” the young man said. The words were exceptionally polite, especially considering that Trevelyan had a bow in his hands, with an arrow pointed right at Barris’s heart.
“Were you hiding in here the whole time?” Barris couldn’t help but ask.
“Here? Oh, no. Just poked about the castle, rummaging for supplies. Found a poultice for my face, not that you can tell.”
Trevelyan jerked his head, as if to indicate his swollen eye and bruised cheek. Crusted blood still clung to his chin, and his clothes were dirty.
“You look awful,” Barris muttered. This fellow might have killed two templars down there in the dungeon, but Barris couldn’t help but pity him a little.
“Your templar friends brought me to this state,” the young man replied, still keeping the bow trained on Barris.
“Ah,” Barris said. “So you’re here for revenge? Or just to scavenge more weapons?”
And could Barris possibly reach his sword in time to defend himself, he wondered? Or perhaps he should lunge for the opposite wall, where a spare shield lay in the corner, propped up against the stones.
“I don’t see why I couldn’t do both,” the prisoner replied. “Though you needn’t bother with ‘Trevelyan.’ ‘Robert’ will do well enough. As they say, torture breeds familiarity and familiarity breeds… Well, you know.”
The shield first, Barris decided. Against a bow, he’d need a shield. Then he could lunge for the sword.
“Oh, come off it, Barris,” Robert said with a snort. “Cole’s already taken your sword, or didn’t you notice?”
Startled, Barris turned sharply, and found that it was true. His bed was bare.
Barris stared at the blankets for a moment before turning to Robert with a startled: “Where…?”
“Up there,” Robert said, nodding upward. “And your gloves. And the dagger you had hidden in your boot, too.”
Barris looked at the window sill above his head. Sure enough, there was the pommel of his sword, far above his head, and presumably all his other gear, too. It suddenly occurred to Barris that his left boot felt looser than it should.
“How did you…” Barris began.
“Cole,” Robert replied. He managed to shrug without compromising his aim at all. “You can’t see him. He’s a mage or something. And he’s the one who killed your templar friends, not me. Good on him, I say.”
“A mage?” Barris stiffened at once. “You have a mage for an accomplice?”
Well, Barris thought. That did explain it. If Trevelyan had acquired an enchanter for an ally, then that was how he’d knocked Barris down and made his invisible escape.
“How did a mage manage to sneak in here?” Barris wanted to know.
“You know,” Robert said, looking genuinely curious, “I have no idea. I thought he came from further in the dungeons, but…” He broke off, then looked up in the direction of the window sill, high above.
“Oh, really?” Robert asked the window. “I see.”
As Barris looked on in confusion, Robert snorted and looked back down at Barris. “That does explain it then.”
“What?” Barris demanded.
“He says he’s a spirit,” Robert said. “And that’s why you can’t see him.”
Barris stiffened. A spirit? There could be a demon at work here. Or perhaps Robert had gone completely mad down in the dungeons.
Or, Barris thought a moment later, it was entirely possible that both these things were true: a demon had driven Robert mad, then aided him in killing the other templars and escaping. After all, something had stuck Barris’ swords up there on the ledge, and it sure hadn’t been Robert. Unless…
“Or maybe you’re a mage,” Barris said aloud. A mad mage, he added silently.
“Ha!” Robert laughed. “Do you think I would have survived to adulthood if I was a mage? I don’t have the discipline my cousin Katie does. I would have set myself on fire a long time ago now, or succumbed to a desire demon and ambominated myself away. Abominated,” he mused. “Is that even a word, I wonder? It should be.”
The young man’s cheerful tone took Barris off guard. He didn’t entirely sound like a madman. And then there was the strange consideration about Robert’s cousin. For this ‘Katie’ he spoke of was surely the same Kate Trevelyan, Herald of Andraste, that had come to Val Royeaux just a few weeks ago. And yet, Robert didn’t seem to know about all that. Well, if Robert was a traitor, it would be best for Barris to keep this information to himself.
“My cousin has become the what of what?” Robert gaped at Barris, and yet, in spite of his surprise, he didn’t compromise his aim at all. “What on earth does that mean?”
“What?” Barris blinked.
“They’re calling her ‘the Herald of Andraste’?” Robert snorted. “Sounds like something a frilly Chantry sister would make up. I bet Katie loves it, too.” He chuckled, as if this was a great joke.
“How did you do that?” Barris demanded at once. “How did you read my mind?”
“I didn’t,” Robert replied. “Cole did.” He nodded again at the windowsill.
“The spirit is reading my mind?” Barris repeated. There was an unpleasant thought.
“Unsettling, isn’t it?” Robert agreed. “He does it to me all the time and… Yes, of course,” he added, looking up. “I did say it was alright, didn’t I? I’m not angry about it now.” He shrugged and looked back down at Barris. “Eh, you get used to it.”
Barris watched in confused fascination as Robert once again considered the silent windowsill, as if a voice were speaking in the sunlight up there.
“Truuuuue,” Robert said at last. He drew this word out, until it was almost three syllables long.
There was another silence, and then Robert said, “Well, that is why we’re here, isn’t it, Cole? You said the other templars were beyond saving, but Barris isn’t.”
Robert paused again, then said, “Red inside, is it? Alright. Whatever that means.”
Robert dropped his gaze from the window and gave Barris an apologetic smile, as if to say, “Spirits. Am I right?”
It occurred to Barris that even if he couldn’t reach his sword, he did have templar powers at hand. Then again, as lyrium-starved as he was, he was far more likely to give himself a headache than hurt Robert with a holy smite. Still, such a blast might knock Robert down. It would also neutralize any demons in the area and act as a beacon to all the other templars.
“Do you really want the other templars to come running?” Robert asked, frowning at Barris. “I thought you had lost your faith in them.”
“H-how did you…?” Barris stammered, but could get no further. Robert had already explained how he was reading Barris’ mind. Barris just didn’t quite believe it.
“Look,” Robert said, “I’m going to rest my arms a bit, but know that I can shoot you dead before you reach me.”
“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” Barris asked.
“No,” Robert replied, carefully letting the bowstring go slack and then letting his arms drop to his sides. “It’s supposed to…”
But Barris had enough of this. It was all too much: the lack of lyrium, the headache, the threat of a madman and possibly a demon. So he lunged for the spare shield by the opposite wall. But no sooner had his bare fingers brushed the shield, than he fell heavily to the ground.
“Oof!” Barris gasped.
Barris landed on his stomach on the stone floor, his armor clattering. But when he rolled over, Robert remained by the door, his bow once again at the ready.
“I did warn you,” Robert said, sighing.
“Cole,” Robert said, as if this should be obvious. “He knocked you down.”
Or maybe I slipped, Barris thought. Or maybe Robert really was a mage and was toying with Barris. Either of those possibilities seemed more likely.
“Well of course he doesn’t believe us,” Robert said to the empty air above Barris’ head. “We sound like lunatics. Well, I sound like a lunatic, seeing as I’m the only one he can hear.”
He’s mad, Barris thought, closing his eyes against his headache.
When the world’s gone mad, sanity looks strange. The thought went through Barris’ mind like a whisper. Barris’ eyes shot open, but he saw no one there.
“We don’t have time for this,” Robert said. And then, “Alright fine.” All of this was addressed to the air.
“Cole wants to save you,” Robert said, looking down at Barris. “Say’s he doesn’t want you ‘dying in your doctrines’”
“What does that mean?” Barris wanted to know.
“Damned if I know,” Robert replied. “But he asked me to come talk to you. Says you need our help.”
“I need your help?” Barris blinked. “The help of a murderer?”
“Come now,” Robert frowned. “You don’t need to be insulting. Cole’s quick with a blade, true, but he’s also really sensitive. It’s alright, Cole,” Robert added to the windowsill. “I still like you.”
Absolutely mad, Barris thought.
“I’m not mad,” Robert sighed. “But you aren’t going to believe me, are you? I mean, what’s one voice of reason against every singing tongue of the Order? We’ll then, I’m off.”
“To Haven?” Barris asked.
Robert shrugged, but he didn’t deny it.
“You plan to join the Inquisition?”
And even as Barris asked that, he felt a pang in the center of his chest. For even now, he realized that he regretted his choice in Val Royeaux. He wished he had found the courage to stand up to the Lord Seeker and go with the Herald and Cassandra, and…
They were traitors, he reminded himself. Hadn’t the Lord Seeker said so?
And yet, Barris mused, hadn’t people once called Andraste a traitor, too?
Barris blinked. That thought hadn’t come to him from outside whispers. That thought was a stowaway, hiding within him all the way from Val Royeaux. Perhaps it had been hiding within him far longer than that.
“Join the Inquisition?” Robert was asking, even as Barris’ gaze went unfocused. “What Inquisition? The only Inquisition I ever heard of was in boring Chantry history lessons where…”
Robert paused there, and again glanced at the windowsill. Barris almost thought he heard something then. Or rather, it was like he felt something. It was like longing and hope was radiating from the sunlight, the way heat flows from a fire.
”‘Voices raised in memory of song,’” Robert said. It sounded as if he was repeating someone else’s words, but Barris heard only Trevelyan’s voice. “‘The mistake’s mistake makes the world right.’”
Then Robert snorted and shrugged. “Eh, I don’t know. Does that mean anything to you, Barris?”
“Not really,” Barris replied.
“Nor me,” Robert said. “Half of what Cole says doesn’t make sense. But then, suddenly, it does. I think that worries me more than anything else.”
If not mad, then very close to it, Barris thought to himself.
“Well then, Barris,” Robert said, still with his bow at the ready. “What’s it to be?”
Barris frowned. “What are my options?” he asked. “Come with you as a hostage or die here? Either way, I’m going to get an arrow in my throat.”
“No, no,” Robert replied. “Those are templar options you’re talking about. Good thing I never took vows. I’m still a novice in the ways of brutality. As I said before, I have no quarrel with you. Not even after what happened in the dungeon. I’m just here to extend Cole’s invitation.”
“You’re asking me turn traitor?”
“Asking you to come to your senses, more like.”
Barris glared. Robert’s teasing goaded him far more than he wanted to admit. When Robert said that templar options were brutal, well, Barris ought to consider that an outright lie. That shouldn’t have the ring or truth to it.
Barris kept himself still as stone, even though his heart stirred within him. But he couldn’t tell if he was fighting to get out, or fighting to keep himself contained within.
“Right then,” Robert sighed, obviously disappointed.
He let his bow drop, and with his bow and arrow in one hand, he reached into his grubby jacket. Barris grabbed the shield beside him, and scrambled to his feet, but Robert just drew something out of his pocket and held it out. In the filtered sunlight, it winked a bright, cool blue.
“Is that…?” Barris gaped, his mouth going dry at the sight.
“Lyrium,” Robert said, raising a brow. Or that would have been a brow-raise if Robert’s face wasn’t so swollen. Instead, the young man just grimaced a little.
“I bought it off a smuggler in Amaranthine ages ago,” Robert went on. “And Freddy never found it in all that time. Oh? You hid it from him, Cole? Ah, good thinking. Though you might have saved my coin purse from him as well.”
Robert chuckled and shook his head, and looked down at the vial.
“Ironic, isn’t it? A castle full of templars who crave this stuff, and it was in my pocket. The one person here who didn’t want it. Well, other than Cole. But now…”
Robert trailed off and looked up at Barris.
“Cole says he saved it for you.”
“You intend to buy my loyalty with a bit of lyrium?” Barris scowled.
Though he feigned anger, that was mostly to cover his fear. For Barris was tempted by that lyrium - sorely tempted. He could almost imagine he heard a hum coming from the vial. Just a taste of it would banish this headache. The entire draught would flood his veins with power and ease these nagging doubts.
“This isn’t a trade,” Robert told Barris. “It’s a gift from Cole.”
“What?” Barris blinked. Surely he hadn’t heard that right. Even receiving the regular doses required a recitation of vows.
“Just take the beastly thing,” Robert told him. And with this, Robert tossed the vial at Barris. Barris instantly dropped the shield in order to catch the lyrium vial in both hands. He breathed a sigh of relief the moment his hands closed around the glass. Then shot Robert a dirty look.
“Have a care with this,” Barris said. “Do you have any idea how dear this stuff is?”
Robert wasn’t listening.
“But it’s not our problem, Cole,” the young man was saying to the air above Barris’ head. “You can’t help someone if they don’t want help. Well yes,” he agreed a moment later. “But you can’t force redemption on someone. If it’s not chosen, then it isn’t redemption, is it?”
“Sorry,” Robert shrugged, turning to Barris with an apologetic smile. “Beastly rude leaving you out of the conversation like that. But Cole says most templars can’t see him. The lyrium ‘sings too loud’ or something. He says when you really want to see him, you will.”
Barris didn’t know what to make of this. Of any of this. But even as he thought that, the lyrium’s hum called to him. His eyes slid down to study the vial in his hands. It was so fragile and precious, Barris thought, like bottled moonlight. Yet for all its cool glow, it felt warm to the touch. It even had a pulse to it.
Barris tried not to swallow at the tremor that ran through him, but couldn’t quite help it. Lyrium had always reminded him of touch, of connection, of passion and safety. Maker help him, Barris thought, it reminded him of a lover’s arms, though such memories had gone cold with over the years. Lyrium brought to mind all those things he’d given up years ago, when he traded his vows for his first taste of this liquid wonder. He would never speak such things aloud though. Even thinking them had to be a sin.
Barris looked up from his reverie to find Robert had nearly escaped again. The young man had opened up the door was peeking out into the hall. As Barris watched, Robert closed the door and leaned against it.
“So wait another minute then?” Robert asked. By now, Barris knew well enough to understand that Robert was not addressing him. This was confirmed a moment later when Robert glanced over at Barris - meeting Barris’ eyes with his one unswollen eye.
“Want to come with us?” Robert asked. “This is your last chance.”
“I…Nuh…” Barris couldn’t even manage a full ‘no.’ All he could manage past his lips was the first sound of the word. His tongue longed for the lyrium only.
And how long would this draught last, he wondered? Sooner or later, he’d be forced to take the red lyrium like the other officers. And when he did, what then? As much as he wanted to ignore it, there was clearly something wrong with that stuff.
No, Barris thought. He had his orders. He had the recruits to look after.
Well, actually, he amended, he didn’t have any recruits to look after. He’d been relieved of his rank by Stanhope. As it was, Barris scarcely had any standing in the templars at all.
And that was precisely why he should stay here and regain what he had lost, Barris told himself. As they had said to him in Val Royeaux, he was called to a higher purpose. He should not question the Order.
“Suit yourself,” Robert said. “As for me, I’m making my escape. Or maybe I’m about to follow a demon off into the wilds and get abominated there. But,” he added, brightly, “Whatever I do, I’ll be doing it as far away from Freddy Stanhope as I can get.”
With that, Robert yanked the door open. “Coming with, Barris?” he asked.
“I…” Barris murmured. “I can’t…”
“Take care of yourself, Barris,” Robert said over his shoulder, “And next time you see Freddy, kick him in the stones for me, will you? There’s a good chap.”
With that, Robert slipped out the door.
Barris just stood there, alone in the room. He had stayed true to the order, he thought, clutching the vial in his bare fist. And yet, he never felt a traitor until now.
Barris glanced over at his bed to find that his sword, dagger, and both of his gloves were laid neatly side by side on the blankets.
Barris jumped as he heard - actually heard - a voice whisper in his ear. He spun around, and for the briefest moment, he thought he saw a glint of blue - like the iris of a wide, staring eye. But then it was gone.
Barris didn’t know if that blue was an illusion or not. He didn’t know if the voice had come from without or within. And he wasn’t sure if he felt tempted to leave for Haven because he wished to do the right thing - or merely because he wanted more of the blue lyrium. But whatever the reason, Barris shoved the lyrium into his pocket. With shaking hands, he drew on his gloves, buckled his sword to his hip and returned his dagger to his boot. He grabbed the shield from the floor and strode from the room. As he hurried down the hall in the direction of the stables, Barris prayed to Andraste that this was not a horrible mistake.
“Please,” he murmured to himself, “For once, let me take the right path.”
You have, came the whispered reply. You are.