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Finding Joy

Chapter Text

Nehn perched herself on a rock outcropping near the frozen lake outside the village of Haven. If there wasn’t a swirling green hole in the sky, she might have considered trying to enjoy the sunset. Instead she looked out over the lake, imagining that she was home in the Free Marches watching the clan’s children play in a creek. Allowing her mind to wander to thoughts of her family and friends had helped her stay sane through the last two days. She had awakened two days ago chained and falsely accused of causing an explosion that had killed hundreds along with the leader of the Chantry, the human’s primary religious organization. Not only that but her left hand had been marked with some foreign magic that caused excruciating pain each time the breach in the sky expanded.

Now she was being lauded as a hero and asked by the humans to help with an investigation into the causes of the explosion. The strange mark on her hand still hurt, but it was tolerable. It had proven useful as well. The large hole in the sky, called the Breach, was accompanied by smaller tears, called rifts, throughout the area that spewed demons. The odd magic in Nehn’s hand allowed her to seal those rifts between the real world and the Fade, a place of spirits, demons, and imagination. After closing the first rift that had formed at the site of the explosion, the large Breach had stopped growing and stabilized. The humans were going so far as to call her “The Herald of Andraste” which was ludicrous because she was a Dalish elf that neither believed in their god the Maker or Andraste his prophet and bride.

Nehn tensed when she heard footsteps behind her. Perhaps the capricious humans had already changed their minds about her and would put her back in irons. The stern faced woman named Cassandra seemed like a particularly dangerous zealot. She had menacingly interrogated Nehn and then dragged the elf to rifts to see if Nehn could close them. An elven mage named Solas had theorized that Nehn’s mark might be able to repair the rifts. Upon encountering him the first time, he had grabbed Nehn’s left hand and shoved it toward a rift willing his magic and her own to close the tear. His touch had not been gentle, and her wrist bore bruises from it. Still he had shown her how to fix things, so she tried to reserve judgment.

Instead of the thickly accented voice of the Seeker Cassandra, Nehn heard a gravely voice belonging to the dwarf, Varric Tethras. Of the people Nehn had encountered in the past days, Varric seemed the most affable. He, too, had been a prisoner of Cassandra and like Nehn was very resentful of the treatment he had received. “Mind if I join you?” he asked.

Nehn motioned for him to sit down. He instead squatted next to her and asked how she was coping with going from being seen as a mass murderer to a messianic figure within a day’s time. Nehn snorted and said, “It’s all bullshit,” which seemed to garner the dwarf’s approval as he sat down beside Nehn and offered her a drink from his flask. Nehn took a sip expecting the earthy ale most dwarves preferred and instead tasted a fine liquor which burned her throat. Coughing in surprise at the strong drink, Nehn smiled and passed the flask back to the dwarf.

“Thinking about running?” he asked after taking a drink of his own. “You might want to consider it. I’ve written plenty of stories about heroes, and in this kind it never ends well.”

Nehn held her hand out for the flask and gratefully took a long drink from it. “It’s crossed my mind, but that bitch Cassandra would just track me down.”

Varric chuckled. “She’s not as good at finding people as her ‘Seeker’ title would imply. You might have a chance.”

Nehn’s gaze returned to the frozen lake and then down to her glowing left hand. Holding her glowing hand palm up, she said, “This doesn’t leave me much choice. If I can help fix things, then I have to stay. What about you? Cassandra released you. You could go.”

“I could, but I find myself wanting to see how this story plays out.” Varric countered.

“Thank you,” Nehn said and briefly touched the dwarf’s forearm.

“Don’t thank me just yet. You may tire of having me around.”

“Not if you keep this flask full I won’t,” Nehn joked as she took another drink.

“I don’t even know your name. Am I right to assume that you aren’t fond of ‘Herald of Andraste’ or have the Dalish reversed their opinion of the Chantry?”

“I’m no Herald - particularly not of Andraste. I am, however, Nehn Lavellan,” she said while shaking Varric’s hand.

“Nehn, huh? It will do for now. I’ll have to give you a nickname eventually. ‘Daisy’ is taken, but if you have a favorite flower I’ll take it under advisement.”

“I’m allergic. I’ve yet to meet a flower that doesn’t make me sneeze. It’s terribly inconvenient as the clan’s First. I was expected to collect herbs for the Keeper. I got used to having a constantly runny nose. Don’t start calling me ‘Sneezy,’ though.”

“So you’re a First then? I should have guessed that when I saw you throwing spells around at those demons. Daisy was a First, too. How’s your sense of direction?”

“My sense of direction?” Nehn asked with confusion What does that have to do with being a First? “It’s very good - why?”

“Oh, Daisy was always getting lost in Kirkwall. I even gave her a big ball of yarn to unravel as she walked around, so she could find her way home. It worked as long as she remembered to anchor the yarn to her front door.”

“What was a First doing living in a human city?”

“I said she was her clan’s First. They tossed her out.”

“Sabrae Clan then. Merrill,” Nehn guessed.

“The very same. You knew her?”

“I met her once at Arlathven - our meeting of the clans. She was quite unique and had unusual ideas about magic,” Nehn recalled.

“Unique is one way to put it.”

“I don’t think she had started with blood magic at that point. She was just very intrigued with spirits and determined to reconstruct an eluvian. Did she ever manage it?”

“Daisy could never get the mirror to work. Eventually, she smashed it much to our relief. I think she resented all that it had cost her.”

Nehn nodded. Merrill’s clan Sabrae was cursed. The Dread Wolf had surely caught their scent as calamity after calamity had befallen them - losing young warriors to a Blight tainted mirror, having to leave their typical region of Ferelden for the Free Marches, losing their herd of halla to a mysterious illness, and having a Keeper that became a demon possessed abomination. Nehn hoped her clan would never capture the Dread Wolf Fen’Harel’s ire as Sabrae had.

“I visited Sabrae once. Our clan was in negotiations to give them some of our halla. Merrill had left by then. Their Keeper Marethari told me her story as a warning not to be tempted by blood magic. I was shocked when we heard what later happened to her. Marethari was very kind. Is Merrill okay? Where is she now?”

“Daisy has become a de facto Keeper now - looking after Kirkwall’s elves after the mess Blondie started.”

Nehn and Varric sat in companionable silence for awhile watching a fennec stalking some prey that was too small to see. Varric took another drink only to find that his flask was empty. “Allergic to flowers, but you don’t want any allergy related nicknames. This might take me awhile. See you around, Nehn.”

“You, too, Varric.” Nehn answered while thinking that maybe her time in Haven would be bearable after all.