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These Particulars Are Not My Measure

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"Aislinn."

A wolf can act but like a wolf, lethalin. 

The old proverb fell, stern, from Keeper Zathrian's lips, but the words became tangible things, flowers, then gems. She bent down to retrieve a glittering sapphire nestled amongst the leaves on the forest floor, only to have it transform in to a striking snake. 

"Aislinn!" 

She jerked awake, right in to Amjad's grip. Instead of the serpent's countenance she saw her brother's face, his eyes boring in to hers. He'd crawled into her narrow bed with her, doubtless to try and shake her out of her foul dream. Her bed. The tower. She smelt the fresh ink in the pot on her desk, the vellum sheets stacked neatly beside. She put her hands out to brace herself, and the worn embroidery of her cradle blanket rubbed against her palms. 

Ah, Falon'din. You have seen fit to spare me. 

"Oh, brother. I..."

"Shh, you are safe," he soothed, laying her with the utmost gentleness against her pillows. He stood and found another quilt to cover her with. The shuffle and murmur of mages at their task above helped her breathe easier. This felt real. "Your wounds are healing quickly, thanks to Regina. Do you feel any pain?" 

She took a moment to assess her physical state, the remnants of the dream making it difficult; Creators, but the shock yet lingered. 

"Only a dull ache. It is nothing. Surely I have felt worse during my moon cycles." 

"Heh. A thing I do not miss." He came to sit on the edge of her bed, his deft fingers combing through her hair. Those hands that had killed so many, now so gentle, tender for her. His profile revealed his secrets, as if drawn with the quill pen. A stroke here, long and thin. Pensive. A quick swipe, up and tight, the line bold. Tightly controlled anger. Around the eyes, the artist had come in close, subtle, carefully indicating frustration and worry for those who knew to look. 

"Brother, why have you come?" 

"Other than my love for you?"

"Exactly so."

"Decadence has breeched our stronghold as you well know, and to do so..."

In that moment, it needn't even be said. 

A key. Of course she would need some weakness, some way to open the door. 

"Fenedhis." She whispered. 

"I'm afraid so." Amjad confirmed. "In a candlemark's time, I will lead a party out in to the wilderness in the hopes of finding an artifact that will strengthen the Veil here all the more. Hopefully it will keep her out for awhile. You and Solas dealt her a serious blow as well; she'll lick her wounds for some time." 

"She won't attack mindlessly. She might not think the way you or I do, but she's cunning if nothing else. She will wait and watch for what she considers to be a worthwhile opening and then she will strike, and only then."

"She'll make our lives a living hell is what she'll do," Amjad muttered, gritting his teeth. "if Corypheus can't attack us directly here, he'll send minions such as she is. There are things much worse than a direct assault and we must be prepared." He fell silent for a long moment. Aislinn waited without filling the space between them. By his hunched, tense shoulders and stormy expression, he needed the time to wrestle with his thoughts. If she interrupted, he would retreat into himself and never reveal what was on his mind. "But...I am not sure it's possible to prepare for something like this, sister. And they all look to me to protect them. Their sanctuary has been violated, and they are terrified. Even Cullen, the commander of my forces. He is my stalwart shield, my unbreakable sword. I've never seen him like that. And it is I who must restore him. And not just him. Everyone in Skyhold. Everyone in the inner circle."

She put her hand on his wrist. He turned to look at her and she met his gaze. 

"My brave brother," she said softly, "with the whole world on his shoulders. They trust you, and with good reason. Look to Mythal to guide you, the best of Her kind. If Decadence should challenge you, become as terrible as she; remember the story of Mythal and Andruil." Sometimes she truly did think Amjad so powerful he could mimic the tale; an insane Andruil subdued by Mythal in serpent form, Andruil finally defeated after three days and nights of unceasing battle. 

"If she goes mad, become a serpent and fight her?" Amjad laughed. It did Aislinn's heart good to hear something so simple and good as a laugh from him. Creators, but it felt like a rare thing in such trying times as these. 

"Aye, if it pleases you. You are the Inquisitor, who holds mastery over the Fade itself. Who knows the limits of your powers?" 

"Still curious?" He said. They never spoke about it directly -- well, only under very specific circumstances, in the witching hours, if they'd had enough to drink, if they were mimicking childhood, hidden away in a blanket fort or cuddled up in bed together -- but they needn't. They knew.

"Always." She wondered if she should tell him about the Fade, how easy it was to take the wolf's form there. Did it mean something? Did it speak to some quality deep within her, a curled up wolf-self dormant yet like a pup waiting to be born? Or was it simply a superficial affinity because of what had happened to the clan? 

"A question for another day," he said, shaking off the gloom and lowering magic that often came along with the subject at hand. "I must go. Bless my path, sister."

She reached up to embrace him. 

"Oh, Mythal. Born of the ocean, glittering in the moonlight like a jewel, beneath the shadow of death. Look towards Amjad Brangwen, oh dragon-headed, on this side of the sea. Mythal'enaste." 

He sighed, and clasped her tightly to him for a moment. 

"Thank you. Sylaise heal you quickly." 

Then he was gone, only the soft whisper of his scent to remind her that he'd been there at all. 

She looked down at her hands, folded in her lap. She wore only a light shift, and she could see the outline of her legs and stomach through it. She could recall the thick scars on her thighs as she moved and the fabric shifted, reminders of all the failed spells she'd tried, desperate to change herself and escape her old body, Aled's prison. The demons she'd encountered in the course of so much forbidden magic whirled past her mind's eye, the beautiful ones the most terrible of all. 

Creators, what if I'm the key?