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Of Poncy Assassins and Manipulative Frenemies

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Upon arriving in Val Royeaux, Evelyn’s team split up for a few days. Wanting to avoid controversy (and the potential of a lynch mob), Blackwall chose to stay out of the capital. Although she owned an apartment in the city, Cassandra remained with Blackwall to elude the many clerics in Val Royeaux that wanted to draw her into Chantry politics. The two warriors joined the Inquisition soldiers and scouts that would be continuing to travel with the team at a temporary camp on the outskirts of town. Vivienne went north to visit her Duke in Ghislain taking Dorian and Bull with her. Sera left with some of her Red Jenny contacts hoping to make both mischief and money.

The remaining party members stayed in the city proper. Cole, Solas, and Varric took up temporary residence in Leliana’s home. Cole was particularly enamored with Leliana’s pet nugs and spent his time playing with them. Varric found a tavern that he could tolerate and pretended he was home at the Hanged Man in Kirkwall. Solas mainly slept although he claimed to be exploring the Fade. Cassandra gave Cullen, Josephine, and Evelyn keys to her apartment, so they had workable if somewhat austere accommodations in the city.

While Cullen met with one of Celene’s generals, Evelyn and Josephine followed up on the murder of Josephine’s courier. As Cullen opened the door to Cassandra’s apartment, he immediately knew there was a problem - a big one. The apartment smelled of lemons and bleach and there wasn’t a trace of dust anywhere. The floors glistened as if the tile had been mopped and polished. Everything gleamed. Evelyn had been cleaning, and she only did this much sprucing up when she was furious.

Taking off his boots before crossing the newly mopped floor, Cullen called out that he had returned. Evelyn appeared around the corner polishing Cassandra’s silverware. “Thank the Maker you’re here. I’ve been losing my mind.”

Cullen weighed how to respond. Should he acknowledge he knew as much from the state of the apartment or play ignorant? He went with the safest option - silence coupled with a raised eyebrow.

Evelyn launched into a description of Josephine and her meeting with the Comte. Cullen was feeling a bit confused by the end of Evelyn’s tale.

“So he was actually an assassin not a Comte? And he was notifying Josephine that his guild plans to kill her as a what - a professional courtesy?” he asked. “Most importantly where is Josephine? We need to get her to safety.”

“Josephine is with Leliana’s agents on her way back to Skyhold. I sent word to Blackwall, and he is returning with them along with Cole. I think she will be safe although I will feel better when I get the raven confirming she made it unharmed. I’ve sent word to Leliana. She’ll be increasing guards on Josie.” Evelyn meticulously polished Cassandra’s flatware as she spoke.

“So what’s our plan beyond that?” Cullen asked. “Can we pay them to cancel the contract?’

“See you are a reasonable person. That’s what I suggested, and I offended the assassin with the insinuation his guild could be bought off,” she said then pointed the fork she had been polishing at Cullen. “An assassin, a murderer for hire, lectured me about the importance of honoring contracts. They’ll take money to kill someone - no problem. But dare you suggest that they take more money NOT to kill someone, they’re offended,” Evelyn went back to angrily polishing the fork. “Oh and don’t forget the part that the particular contract is over a hundred years old, and the people that drew it up are long since dead. Damned Orleasians make me crazy!” she exclaimed while tossing the fork in a drawer.

“Did you kill him?” Cullen asked.

“No, I thought about it, but I decided it would be better to let him go. He was polite to share his plans rather than kill her outright. Besides Josie would have been upset if I had, she actually thanked him for the courtesy of telling her. Am I the only person that thinks this is nuts?”

“Not in the slightest. Did Josephine have any ideas how to deal with this?”

“She had a convoluted plan to elevate some distant relatives of the people who made the contract to a position of authority in hopes they could annul it.”

“What?” Cullen asked in utter confusion.

“Exactly my thought.” Evelyn fumed. “Anyway, I think we should just hire the Crows to kill everyone in the guild.”

“Evelyn, you can’t be serious. You can’t finance a war between two assassin’s guilds.”

“Fine. Can I just send your troops to destroy their headquarters?”

“No. I can’t march Inquisition troops into the capital of Orlais. Not to mention that type of strike would be ineffective against assassins. They aren’t going to just sit together in one place, and wait for us to finish them.”

“Well, Leliana better have a plan, or I’m contacting the Crows.”

After a few days, ravens arrived from Skyhold announcing that Josephine had arrived safely and guards had been increased. Leliana sent a proposal to have her agents break into the guild headquarters, and destroy the contract. Her letter assured Evelyn this would release the guild from its obligation to hunt Josephine while allowing them to maintain their reputation for honoring contracts. Asinine, arrogant Orleasian assholes. Evelyn thought. Josephine also wrote stressing her preference for solving the problem through diplomatic means. The decision required little thought for Evelyn. She did not have the time or patience to follow Josephine’s plan. Leliana’s method was quick and effective. She sent a raven authorizing Leliana to act.

******************

With their business in Val Royeaux concluded, Evelyn, Varric, Solas, Cassandra, and Cullen traveled north to rendezvous with Sera and the others at Vivienne’s estate. Sera had sent word that she would arrive two days later than Evelyn’s party. The Inquisitor didn’t want to travel to the Samson’s base with only one rogue, so the team rested at the enchanter’s enormous manor until Sera could catch up.

Dorian and Cullen were in the study engaged in a game of chess. Iron Bull was stretched on a nearby chaise tossing around a glass paperweight for entertainment. Evelyn sat in front of the fireplace reading Inquisition reports and returning important correspondence.

Vivienne entered the room gracefully and noticed what Bull was doing. “Iron Bull, that is not a toy. You will put it down immediately,” she corrected.

“Yes, ma’am. I’m sorry, ma’am.” Bull responded while he gently returned the paperweight to its proper place on the Duke’s desk.

The Enchanter’s effect on Iron Bull fascinated Evelyn. In nearly every situation, Bull was a dominant personality. One harsh word from Vivienne,however, and he was a submissive as a pup with its belly exposed. Evelyn had wondered how the older mage exacted such control over the hulking man until learning that the mage’s horned hennin hat and demanding demeanor reminded Bull of the strict tamassrans that had raised him. Even knowing that, it still struck Evelyn as odd every time it happened.

“Inquisitor, I would like to speak with you privately. If you would wait for me in the solar, I would be grateful, my dear.” Vivienne commanded.

Evelyn felt a wave of dread wash over her. For a moment, she felt as if she was back in the Circle being called to the First Enchanter’s study for another reprimand. I guess Bull isn’t the only person Vivienne gets to. Evelyn realized.

“Certainly, Madame Vivienne.” Evelyn replied politely while collecting her reports and placing them under the paperweight Bull had been tossing before.

Once Evelyn had left the room, Dorian began to question Cullen. “So are you and the Inquisitor arguing?”

“What? No or at least not that I know of. Why did she say something to you?” Cullen responded with increasing worry.

“No, she’s said nothing. I just noticed that she switched place cards for our dinner tonight. You were to be sitting beside her, but she changed your card for Cassandra’s.” Dorian explained.

Cullen sighed with relief. “I know what that’s about. Maker, I thought I had talked her out of pursuing it further. I should have known that she wouldn’t relent so easily.”

“Now I am intrigued.” Dorian admitted leaning toward Cullen. “What idea has fixed itself in our dear Evelyn’s pretty head?”

Cullen weighed whether he should tell Dorian and decided it was harmless knowledge, “You are likely aware that Evelyn mistrusts Bianca Davri.” Dorian and Bull both nodded vigorously. “Well, she has decided that Varric needs to find a new love interest. I jokingly suggested Cassandra, and she has latched on to the idea rather strongly. She probably moved the place cards so those two would be sitting together.”

Dorian played with his mustache while considering the idea with a bemused grin. Bull began to laugh but then grew pensive. The Qunari eventually commented, “The Boss could be right. You turn the anger that simmers between them to lust, and you might have something worth exploring.”

“That’s Evelyn’s assessment. I just can’t imagine it happening.” Cullen admitted.

Dorian gestured toward Bull, “There are odder couples in the Inquisition already. At least their countries haven’t been at war with each other for centuries. Well, I’m relieved to hear that there’s no trouble between the two of you regardless.”

“That reminds me. I have a favor to ask of Bull and you.” Cullen began describing his idea for Evelyn’s birthday present and recruiting their assistance in seeing it come to fruition.

“Brilliant idea, Commander. I would have never thought you such a romantic. Of course, I’ll be happy to aid you by any means.” Dorian responded.

“Me, too, Cullen. I like your plan, and I think she will also.” Bull added.

When she finished speaking with Vivienne, Evelyn returned to the study and noticed the three men speaking conspiratorially. “What’s going on here?” she asked. Although none of the men responded, their guilty grins told her their scheming involved her.

“Fine. Don’t tell me.” she said when no one offered an explanation.

“Cullen, I need to speak with you when you’ve finished your game.” Evelyn said while collecting her papers from the desk and setting down in front of the fire.

“Don’t bother getting settled. This game will be finished soon.” Cullen said with a smirk.

“What?” Dorian protested. “We only started recently.”

Bull walked over and examined the board. “Cullen, you might as well go talk with the Inquisitor now. Dorian, he has you in two moves.” Bull showed Dorian his error while Cullen gloated quietly.

“Vishante kaffas!” Dorian cursed while Cullen’s face broke into a self-satisfied grin. “How do you put up with his insufferable arrogance, Inquisitor?” Dorian whined.

Evelyn laced her arm through Cullen’s. “It isn’t arrogance if you can back it up, Dorian.” Cullen’s chest puffed like a rooster’s at her statement.

Dorian groaned, “Maker’s breath, woman, you’re only making it worse.”

Cullen looked at Evelyn. “You needed to talk?”

Evelyn thought about suggesting they leave for somewhere more private, but she knew where Bull’s mind would go with that idea. She wasn’t up to being teased at the moment. “Vivienne wanted to show me my room as well as give me the key to yours.”

Cullen took the key Evelyn held out to him. He could tell Evelyn was seething, but he couldn’t figure out the cause. “Okay...but she needn’t have prepared separate rooms.”

“I’m sure her servants did the work. That isn’t the point. She made it clear that as a loyal member of the Circle that she couldn’t be seen condoning any sort of relationship between a templar and a mage.” Evelyn said through clenched teeth. Even with his weakened abilities, Cullen could feel Evelyn’s magic crackling.

“Hey, Boss, do you want us to leave?” Bull offered.

“No, it’s fine, Bull.” Evelyn answered while starting to straighten trinkets and books on the shelves in the room.

“Maybe that would be best.” Cullen said as he gave Bull a concerned glance before returning his attention to Evelyn.

Bull made to leave but Dorian wasn’t budging. “Come on, Tevinter, nothing to see here.” he urged.

“Quite the contrary, but I shall go nonetheless. You should both know that Vivienne has joined Mother Giselle on my list of cackling Chantry hens that I despise.” Dorian said as Bull pulled him toward the door.

Cullen put his hand to Evelyn’s cheek. “Don’t let it bother you. I’m a grown man, and I shall sleep where I chose. Vivienne is just trying to flex whatever muscle she has left.”

“There are plenty of others that would agree with her.”

“To the Void with them.”

“It isn’t that simple, and you know it. When we defeat Corypheus... when I no longer serve a function... people will be calling for me and the other mages to be put back in our place. I won’t go back to a Circle, Cullen.”

“Evelyn, you have more influence than that. No one would be foolish enough to try and cage you.”

“But they certainly would other mages. I won’t abandon them.”

“Of course not, and the Inquisition will not either. Evelyn, things are changing because of you. You are allowing Thedas to see mages in a better light. I don’t believe Vivienne and her kind have the power they once did. If the Circles return, they will not be what they once were neither Leliana nor Cassandra would allow that.”

Evelyn closed her eyes tightly and let out a long breath. “What would I do without you?”

“You’ll never have to learn.” he answered while holding her close to his chest.