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The Tailor of the Inquisition

Chapter Text

I was 17 when ‘It’ happened.

It was a normal day in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A pretty nice day, actually, if I remember correctly. The sun was shining, which wasn’t all that common so close to the coast so I was outside, taking a break from filling out an application for Emily Carr University to read ‘Life of Pi’ and trying to soak in as much sun as I could in our backyard.

Both my parents had gone into the city to work. I was supposed to go with them to meet up with my best friend Sarah, but we’d gotten into a fight the night before over some stupid boy and…

No one was expecting the bomb. There had been rumours about North Korea earlier in the year, but who really expects a Nuclear attack?

All of a sudden there was a blinding flash of light, and I remember thinking the sun was going supernova, that it was the end of the world. But then I scrambled to my feet and looked up at the mushroom cloud billowing up from the city. And my heart stopped.

My family, my friends, almost everyone I had ever known, was gone in an instant. I almost wished the sun had exploded.

Sound rushed towards me, and the shockwave of heat singed the skin of my forearms as I threw them up in front of me before all of a sudden… it was gone. The sound, the heat, everything just… stopped.

I lowered my arms slowly, opened my eyes even slower. And then my knees buckled and I fell to the ground.

I could see the wall of heat. Where it had stopped inches from me, the tree I had been sitting under less than a minute ago smoldering except...it was frozen.

“You are safe, Rebecca Tyler. Do not fear.”

I whipped my head around to look for the source of the voice and the most radiant woman I had ever seen was standing there. Her hair was long and flowing, the shade of radiant blonde every girl aspired to have, and she had lines around the corners of her eyes and mouth, as if she spent much of her life smiling. She was glowing and I heard myself whisper, “Am I dead?”

The woman smiled sadly at me, which made the lines around her eyes wrinkle just that little bit more, and knelt in the dirt next to me.

“Not as of yet,” she answered, her voice just as soft.

“But I will be?” I could feel tears come rushing to my eyes, an ache growing in my chest. Everyone was dead. There would be no more cooking with my dad. No more rearranging the furniture in the livingroom every month with my mom. No more family camping trips, or family dinners. Because they were probably dead. And I was going to join them soon.

Or so I thought.

“That depends on what you choose.” The woman took one of my hands in each of hers and squeezed them reassuringly. “I can take you away from here. To another world where you might have a chance at another life. Or, you can choose to stay here, on the world you were born, on the world your friends and your family died.”

The tears spilled over at her confirmation.

“And if I stay, I’ll die?” She pointed behind me at the wall of heat in answer. I shuffled further away from it and closer to her. “Where will I go?”

“Somewhere very different from here.”

“And I’ll be safe?” I asked.

She paused, and I knew the answer. More tears blurred my vision, and I felt warm arms surround me.

“I’m sorry, my child. But I cannot know that before the decision is made. There have been others I have saved who did not survive. However, I can promise you I will send you to a place where you will have the utmost chance of survival.”

“Why are you doing this? Why save me?”

She smiled again, her eyes lighting up. I felt the ache in my heart loosen slightly in response.

“There is a woman named Gwen Murray. The events that took place here are happening all along the eastern coast, and she is trapped further south. She has agreed to aid my cause, so that this destruction does not repeat itself. However, she cannot bear this burden alone.” She squeezed my hands quickly and kept my gaze locked with hers. “Gwen needs your help. Will you help her, Rebecca?”

With tears still dripping down my cheeks, I said a quick and quiet, “Yes.”

I didn’t hear the name Gwen Murray again for 5 years.

Chapter Text

The woman explained that she was sending me to a city called Ostwick in a land called Thedas in the year 9:36 Dragon. None of that meant anything to me at the time. But I had picked up my book, stood, and followed her.

It took me months to learn the language. It would have taken significantly longer if one of the sisters at the Chantry that had taken me in hadn’t spoken a reasonable facsimile of French.

Sister Emilie was a kindness that I needed desperately. She took me under her wing and taught me to read and write common when she realised I was, for all intents and purposes, illiterate. She was soft spoken and endlessly patient. And, it was through her that I came into the employ of Lady Evelyn Trevelyan.

Lady Trevelyan, unlike Sister Emilie, was loud and brash, and endlessly fun. Unlike others in the city who viewed me as a stranger at best and an Orlesian spy at worst, she embraced me instantaneously and, when she learned of my interest in designing and making clothing, hired me as her personal servant. Within a year in this new world, I had moved into the Trevelyan’s Estate and found a friend in Evelyn Trevelyan.

-

“Becca,” Evelyn called from her cabin across the hall. She had been ordered by her father to attend the Conclave in Haven, and, since I was her personal attendant, as well as her best friend, I found myself stuck on the flimsiest looking ship I had ever seen. “Becca, can you mend this for me? I think I caught the sleeve on a nail on the railing and its torn.”

I felt a chuckle bubble up from my chest. For a noble, Evelyn was the clumsiest person I knew. I stopped my packing and wandered into her cabin, curtsying obnoxiously low and saying, “Of course my Lady Trevelyan, whatever you wish.”

Evelyn let out a whine and pouted at me.

“You’re not still upset with me, are you Becca?” she asked. The tone of desperation in her voice making the corners of my lip twitch. “It’s been two days! You can’t punish me forever! I’m sorry I brought you along, but the ship will be docking soon, and then it’s only two day’s journey to Haven. Please say you’ll forgive me? I can’t stand another two days of formalities!”

“Who said it would only be two days?” I asked haughtily. “There's the entirety of the peace talks, not to mention the journey back.”

Her eyes widened and jaw dropped. The look of horror written all over her face was too much and I collapsed into a fit of laughter. Evelyn’s eyes narrowed and a huff escaped her lips as she fell back onto the bed.

“I’m sorry Ev,” I gasped, trying to control myself. “But the look on your face!”

“Yes, yes,” she answered dismissively, a grin spreading on her face and a hand waving at me. “Now are you finished torturing me? I really do need your support you know.”

I could feel the mood of the room shift from carefree and playful to something much more somber and serious, and sat myself beside her. She still smiled at me, but I could see the worry and nervousness that she tried to conceal and I took her hand in both of mine.

“Everything will be fine, Ev,” I said softly, trying to imitate the tone Sister Emilie always used. “The Divine will stop this ceaseless war, and we will both go home to Ostwick. Your father will be immensely proud, and everything will go back to how it should be.” I felt her sigh and she leaned towards me, resting her head on my shoulder.

“You’re right, as always.”

“Of course I am,” I answered cheerily. “Now, where is that dress you need mending?”

-

Haven reminded me of the trip to the Rockies my family went on when I was younger. My dad taught me how to ski and stayed on the bunny hills with me, even though they were way too easy for him, and my mom hated skiing but she met us at the bottom of the hill with cups of hot chocolate.

My heart clenched uncomfortably in my chest, and I had to take a minute to remind myself how to breathe.

Five years later and I still felt their loss like a gaping wound sometimes.

Evelyn must have seen my hesitance, or maybe I paused a tad too long, but she linked her arm with mine and gave me a smile before going off on a tangent about how her father was pressuring her to become a lay sister in the Chantry when all she really wanted was to become the best archer in Ostwick. I felt the wound seal over again and smiled with her, following her to where the mercenaries Lord Trevelyan had hired to protect us had set up camp.

“Will you be alright while I’m at the Temple?” she asked as we settled into our temporary home. Ev and I would be sharing a tent, her with a cot and me with a bedroll beside her. “I would much rather you came with us, but the Divine is being rather strict on who can attend.” She sent me a worried look and I responded with a smile.

“I’ll be fine,” I answered while airing out some of Evelyn’s dresses. “I can help out in town while you’re busy, no doubt there is much work to be done, and I can make sure things are ready for your return. Besides, I would feel lost with everyone at the Temple. I’d probably just get in the way.”

“You wouldn’t!” Evelyn protested. “You would keep me from falling asleep! No doubt this will be just as boring as any other Chantry meeting. You know how I cannot stand those.”

“With Templars and Mages in the same room? Not a chance!” I huffed and turned to her. “You can’t let your guard down now, Ev. This isn’t any other gathering!”

Evelyn hung her head and sat on herself down on the cot. I walked towards her and knelt at her feet. She wouldn’t meet my eyes so I reached out and took her hands.

“Evelyn Trevelyan, you are my best friend,” I said, my voice strong and clear. “I had lost everything before we met, and I cannot bear the thought of that happening again. So you will be careful, and you will stay with the guards, and you will not go looking for trouble, alright?”

I knew I had gotten through to her when she finally lifted her head and looked me in the eye.

For some reason, that made a pit form in the bottom of my stomach.

“I promise you Rebecca,” she said, turning her hands so she could hold my hands back. “I will come back. You have nothing to fear.” She followed it up with a soft smile and a quick kiss to my forehead before getting up and grabbing her cloak. “I best leave before all the good seats are taken. Wish me luck!”

I felt paralyzed, like a rabbit who’s seen a wolf. Evelyn stopped half way out of the opening of the tent.

“Everything will be fine Becca, you’ll see.”

And then she was gone.

Her words were supposed to be comforting but…

Why did it feel like they were a lie?

Chapter Text

Haven was rather larger than I had been expecting it to be. When I had heard ‘village in the Frostback Mountains’ I was picturing maybe three or four houses and a Chantry. But Haven was large enough to house hundreds of people, with a couple dozen houses, a Tavern and an Inn. The Chantry towered over it all, sitting at the very top of the village. It was beautiful, and as I made my way through the town towards it, I kept catching myself gazing at it.

This, of course, meant I ran head first into someone.

“Shit,” I gasped, steadying myself. “I’m so sorry! I wasn’t watching where I was…”

It took me a second to understand what I was seeing, and then another few to believe it.

So that’s what a Qunari looks like

The person I had run into was head and shoulders taller than me. Her skin was a lilac shade, and she had horns.

In the five years I’d lived in this new world, I’d never seen anything overly… New. I mean, sure, mages were something else, and templars, but elves and dwarves didn’t look overly different than the people back on Earth. Qunari, however, were definitely… New.

She looked like she was waiting for me to scream, or maybe run away in terror. And since I lived to be contrary, I gave her a small smile and brushed nonexistent dust from my skirts.

“I wasn’t looking where I was going.” I repeated, watching her eyes blink in confusion a bit. “I’m terribly sorry.”

“It’s fine…” she replied, still seeming suspicious, if nothing else.

I gave her a nod, feeling like I was lingering too long, and stepped around her quickly. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her join a group of other Qunari - bigger Qunari - and silently thanked whatever god was out there that I hadn’t bumped into any of them. I might have ended up on my ass instead of just slightly off-balanced.

When I finally walked into the Chantry, it was like walking into another world. The sudden silence was calming and the room was bright with candlelight. Lay sisters were walking to and fro, and the Revered Mother stood at the end of the long center aisle.

I wasn't particularly religious back home, and I didn't even want to start trying to reconcile Christianity with Andrastianism, but I owed much to the Chantry. They took me in when I was homeless, voiceless. The least I could do was help out every once in awhile.

I didn’t spend too long looking around before I walked up to one of the sisters and asked if there was anything I could do to help. She directed me down the passageway to the right of the golden statue of Andraste.

“Do you have much experience with mending?” she asked as we walked.

“Yes, quite a bit,” I answered, a smile on my face. “I work for the Lady Trevelyan, and I often have to mend her clothes for her.” When I realized what I’d just insinuated I backpedaled as quick as I could, even if she was clumsy. “Not that she needs more clothes mending than most! Just that…”

The sister chuckled softly in front of me and sent me a smiled over her shoulder. “Be calm, child,” she laughed. “I understand. Now.” She stopped before a door and pulled it open.The room was dark but I could just make out what were probably about a dozen mattresses in various states of disrepair. “We haven’t had cause to use these in a long time, however with the conclave and various refugees looking for sanctuary it has become prudent to repair them.”

“Understood.” I fought down the urge to push my sleeves up, and turned to the sister. “Do you have any needles and some thread?”

She gave me a relieved smile and pointed to the small basket in the corner.

I spent the better part of the day in that room.

-

The first thing I did was requisition some of the candles from the main hall. The room was one of the brightest I had ever seen outside of those illuminated by electricity.

Some of the mattresses were so poorly mended that I had to ask the kitchens for a knife so that I could cut the seams, reshape the pieces of fabric, and sew them together again. They weren’t particularly pretty, but they would last much longer than if I had just patched up the holes. The other mattresses were just torn in places. I refilled them with fresh wool and straw, and stitched up the seams.

After I was finished mending them, me and a few of the younger sisters took them out back. Two of us held them up while another would beat the dust and grime from them with a large stick.

It was just as we had started on the last one that the sky turned white.

The ground shook and a shock wave crashed over us, sending us toppling over. My mind flashed back to that horrible day five years ago, and my breathing hitched. I couldn’t feel my limbs, couldn’t get enough air in my lungs, couldn’t stop my hands from shaking.

It was happening again. Everyone would die again. The world was going to end again.

I could hear the screams from the village as if from a great distance, could vaguely feel hands on my arms helping me to my feet. But all I could see was the mushroom cloud. All I could feel with any distinction was the heat burning into my arms, leaving scars that still hadn’t faded.

It took everything in me just to try to breathe.

And then a sharp stinging exploded on my cheek.

“We have to return to the Chantry! Snap out of it!”

One of the sisters stood in front of me, Lydia I think her name was, and shook me by the shoulders. I brought my hands up and pushed on hers to get her to stop, and came back to myself. There were tears in her eyes, and it occurred to me that she was likely barely an adult. I took her hand in mine, noticing that the other sisters had already left us.

“Thank you for not leaving me,” I told her, voice shaking and quiet.

She nodded firmly, a tear dripping down her cheek at the motion, and started tugging me back to the front of the Chantry. As we rounded the building, I finally saw it.

“Andraste, save us all,” Lydia whispered, stopping short in front of me and staring up at the tear in the sky.

The Temple of Sacred Ashes was nowhere to be seen.

Chapter Text

My heart clenched.

There was nothing to be seen. The temple was gone, destroyed. Above where it once stood, a swirling mess of green.

Where is Evelyn?

“Though all before me is shadow, Yet shall the Maker be my guide,” sister Lydia murmured, eyes wide and never straying from the spectacle. “I shall not be left to wander the drifting roads of the Beyond. For there is no darkness in the Maker's Light, And nothing that He has wrought shall be lost.”

I took her hand in mine and dragged her into the Chantry.

-

Everything after was a blur. A blur of wounded men, crying children, the smell of blood and sulfur, and terrible shrieking. I somehow found myself with the children, singing songs Sister Emilie taught me from the Chantry and some silly ones the children knew, as children often did.

They grew exhausted quickly, from fear probably, and not a few of them laid their heads on my lap and fell asleep in the altar room.

An entire day passed like this before we got word from the Temple.

There was a single survivor.

“A Qunari,” Sister Lydia whispered to me as the children slept that night. “Everyone’s saying she did it. She blew up the conclave and ripped a hole in the veil.”

Something about that screamed False to me, and I shook my head.

“I doubt the answer is that simple,” I replied, resting my hand on the little boy closest to me. “It can’t have just been one person.”

“I suppose,” she answered while lowering herself to the floor beside me. “Either way, Sister Nightingale and the Seeker have taken her into custody. They’ll find out the truth of what happened.”

Days passed. We were told that those unable to fight should remain inside the walls of Haven, so I ventured out of the Chantry, seeing what I could do to help. I started with one of the townspeople’s cloaks that had a large rip in it. I offered to mend it for him, hoping the garment would keep him warm as I stitched, and the next day I had two others asking me to mend their boots.

“Caleb said his cloak was warmer than when it was brand new,” the younger one told me as I fixed the stitching around the sole. “Said you was the best he’d ever seen.”

I smiled as I handed the boot back to him. “There are tailors far better than I, I assure you. Now, how does that look?”

And then the prisoner woke up.

-

She was led out of the Chantry by the Divine’s Right Hand. I sat at one of the fires in front of the building, piecing together a pair of mittens for one of the town's children when the door creaked open.

Her hands were tied, her expression wary, and I wanted to hate her. I wanted to hate her so badly - for maybe destroying the temple, for coming back when Evelyn didn’t - but it was the same woman that I had run into on my way to the Chantry that first day. She didn't look like a killer, or some kind of terrorist. She just looked like she was in pain.

It was hours before anyone heard from the party that had gone with the prisoner to what everyone was now calling The Breach. After another blinding flash of light, the Breach calmed. Demons stopped falling from the sky, and the prisoner was carried, unconscious, back into the gates of Haven.

Many felt it safe enough to venture beyond the town walls again. I hurried after them, praying I got to Evelyn and mine’s tent before looters decided it was easy pickings. All of my belongings had been left in there when I'd gone to the Chantry, and I couldn't imagine not having them anymore.

When I found where our tent had been set up, I was flabbergasted to find it still mostly intact and looking fairly untouched. Others had been ransacked in the chaos, people likely looking for weapons, or protection, or trying to get away with some riches in the chaos where no one would notice. And while the tent poles had broken and the heavy canvas had fallen down, my travelling pack was still there along with Evelyn’s small trunk.

“Are your things still here?” Lydia asked from behind me.

“Surprisingly, yes.” I knelt in front of the trunk, reaching out to rest my hand on the lid. Before my palm could meet the surface, I froze.

My hand was shaking.

She's really gone. Isn't she.

I clenched my hand as my vision blurred. A lump formed in my throat, my chest ached.

Evelyn was dead.

And once again, I was still here.

“Rebecca?” Lydia said. I felt her hand come down tentatively on my shoulder and I couldn't stop the sob that tore itself from my lungs. I couldn't stop the tears, couldn't keep myself upright, couldn't stop.

My body slumped, forehead resting on the edge of the trunk, and I keened into the sudden silence. She was dead, and I wished I had gone with her. She was gone, and I could feel her absence in my chest. Evelyn had become as dear to me as a sister and I had lost my family again.

I don't remember Lydia pulling me into her arms, but when I finally ran out of tears I found my head on her shoulder and her cheek resting on the side of it. My hands fisted at the front of her robe, and her arms were wrapped around me, stroking my back like my mother used to when I was sick.

That memory brought fresh tears to my eyes but I swallowed them back. I had to stay together. I didn't have the luxury of falling apart.

After long moments spent in silence like that, Lydia asked hesitantly, “You lost someone at the Temple?” I forced myself to nod slowly and push myself back up.

I wiped the tears from my cheeks and looked toward the chest.

“That was hers,” I told her. “I didn't truly believe she was gone until…”

When I looked back, Lydia was smiling sadly at me. She stood and helped me to my feet as well before bending down and picking up the chest.

“Let’s bring this with us then. It can go in your room.”

“My room?”

“Of course!” she exclaimed, sending me a smile as I grabbed my travel pack and followed her back towards the town. “The Chantry is open to everyone in need! You won't be alone, of course, we don't have quite enough space for everyone to have their own room, but you are welcome to a warm bed and warm meals as long as you wish.”

As I wiped more tears from my cheeks and eyes, I realized everyone in the vicinity was averting their gaze.

“It's a sign of respect,” Lydia told me quietly as we continued. “Commiseration. They mourn for you, and with you. Most did not lose close loved ones at the Conclave. They were hired protection or colleagues of a sort. Those that were close died together. Everyone mourns the Most Holy, mourns our brothers and sisters, but only a select few mourn a personal loss.”

“They heard?” The thought of others knowing, of hearing my heartbreak, was discomfiting.

“We did,” a soft voice spoke from behind. Lydia stopped as I turned to the speaker. She was small and lithe, an elf I realized, and she wore a soft, sad smile upon her face. “Forgive me, I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I- well, I wished to- really everyone wanted- that is to say-”

I couldn't help but smile at her rambling. Her cheeks seemed to darken in what had to be a blush, and she brought a hand to the back of her head in a nervous gesture. I reached out and laid a hand on her upper arm.

“It's alright,” I reassured her. “You don't need to be nervous. Especially not with me.”

She took a deep, calming breath and let it out in a sigh that managed to dislodge a few strands of strawberry blonde hair, almost the same shade as my own curls, from the tie she had it in.

“We wanted to let you know,” she started again, slower and more sure this time. “The people I've spoken with, anyways, we wanted you to know you aren’t alone. You have support, if you need it.”

“Thank you…”

“Lyal!” she exclaimed, eyes widening in silent horror. “My name is Lyal.”

“Lyal, it's a pleasure to meet you,” I said, holding out a hand to shake. “I'm Rebecca.”

Chapter Text

I don’t know if it was by Sister Lydia’s design, or some kind twist of fate, but Lyal became my roommate. I was in the middle of looking through my travel pack when one of the other sisters, I think her name was Sophia, showed her in.

“Lyal!” I exclaimed, and I could feel a smile lighting my face on instinct. Sister Sophia didn't look like she approved, her mouth turning down into a grimace and her eyes narrowing at the both of us, but she simply turned on her heel and left us.

“Rebecca,” Lyal greeted, a soft smile on her face. “This is a surprise.”

“A pleasant one, I hope?” I asked, turning back to my unpacking.

“Without a doubt.”

We spoke quietly to each other through the afternoon. I told Lyal of Ostwick and the Trevelyan’s that I knew. Of the days spent with the kitchen staff when Evelyn and Lord Trevelyan were in meetings.

In turn, she told me of growing up with the Dalish. Not everything, mind. “The Keeper’d have my hide if I told everything to a Shem,” she laughed. But she told me about her parents, of her clan, people she considered family.

It was after the dinner bell rang and Lyal had left that I finally had the courage to unpack the last item from my travel pack. The pages had been singed, and the cover had faded quite a bit, but the picture of a tigers face was still recognizable, the title still legible.

‘Life of Pi’ by Yann Martel.

It seemed garishly out of place here - the colours still a tad too bright, the lettering completely foreign - but I had never been able to get rid of it. So, instead it had become a reminder. Of my life before, of everything I had lost.

I flipped to the inside cover and stared at the names there.

Patrick Tyler

Angela Tyler

Sarah Abbott

I hesitated before grabbing the quill and ink from the lone desk and adding to my list of the dead.

Evelyn

It was still strange to me, writing from top to bottom. I hadn't left enough room for her last name. It felt oddly right though to leave it as it was, so I watched as the ink dried and then closed the cover. I slipped the book between the mattress and headboard of my bed and left for dinner.

--

The next morning, I decided it was best to keep myself busy. The room was too dark to work, so I bid Lyal farewell and took my basket of sewing supplies and a few of the soldiers’ uniforms outside so I could work by the lake. A few of the townsfolk and soldiers waved to me, but I was largely left alone.

It was quiet by the lake. Other than the green glow from the Breach, everything looked and felt almost peaceful. It's something I sorely missed. Something I had been missing since I’d come to Thedas. It was something I realized I always took for granted, before.

That's what the majority of my life was now. Before. Before I abandoned my home. Before someone dropped a Nuclear bomb on my city. Before everything and everyone I grew up with had died.

My fingers tightened on the cloth I was holding as I tried to remember my mother's face. It was harder everyday. I knew the colour of her eyes, the shade of her hair, but her nose was gone from my memory. Her smile was fading away. How long until she faded completely? How long until I forgot about my world entirely?

How long before I started forgetting Evelyn?

It wasn't until I pricked my pointer finger with the needle that I realized I had stopped breathing. The pain forced a quick breath in, and I held it for seconds to keep myself from hyperventilating. I focused on the sting as blood dripped from the pad of my finger onto the snow by my feet.

“Oh, dear,” a voice exclaimed from beside me. It sounded different from any other accent I had heard. “Are you alright?”

I turned my head towards the voice and was met with a pair of hazel eyes framed by dark skin and black, wavy hair.

It was a woman, older than me by a few years at least. Her clothes were immaculate, obviously expensive, and very gold.

“Here,”she said after a moment, producing a handkerchief from somewhere in all those ruffles and holding it out to me. “To stop the bleeding.”

I blinked for a moment before taking the cloth and holding it to my finger. It stung a bit, but the pain helped to ground me further in the now, so I couldn't complain.

“Thank you, Messere,” I said softly, bowing my head. There was no doubt in my mind that she was someone important, if not a noble.

She shot me a smile and waved a dismissive hand. “Not at all!” she insisted. “I fear I may have snuck up on you in deep thought. It is the least I could do in recompense.”

“Was there anything I could do for you, Messere?” I asked. The thought of her looking for me specifically felt odd.

“That depends,” she said, and it felt like she was sizing me up.

I knew what she was seeing, a girl just out of adolescence with messy, curly hair and a slight figure. Ev used to joke that a strong wind would knock me over.

My father used to say that too.

“Are you the one who has been making new clothes for the town?” she finally asked.

“Not new,” I was quick to correct. “I've just been mending some clothes. I made a few pairs of mittens and boots for some of the children, but other than that I've just been mending cloaks and tunics.”

“Oh?” she asked, a smile playing around her lips. “That is not what the townspeople have been saying. From what I've heard, the cloaks you bring back are warmer than when they were new. And the boots let in less water, not to mention the cold.”

“You do me too much credit.”

“Not at all,” she answered. “You do not do yourself enough. Regardless,” she paused and leaned closer. “I have a proposition for you, if you are interested.”

I bit at the inside of my cheek, trying to figure her out. She seemed nice enough, but considering the Grand Game that frequently spilled into the Free Marches, I could never be sure. “What kind of proposition?” I asked hesitantly.

“A job of sorts,” she explained, coming to sit beside me on the dock. “The Right and Left hands of the Divine have decided it is… prudent that the Inquisition be reborn, in order to close the Breach and find out who murdered the Divine. They… in truth we, need people, good people to help us.”

Inquisition. That word reminded me of my own world’s history. Visions of witch burnings and torture filled my mind from textbooks.

“I have never heard of an Inquisition that didn’t have a bloody history,” I told her quietly.

“I understand,” she answered. “I, too, can only recall the bad that the previous Inquisition did. But that is not all they did. And if we are to learn from their mistakes, we must have good people with us.”

“Whoever killed the Divine… They also killed the closest thing I had to a sister, to any family, really.”

“The Lady Trevelyan, was it not?” she asked sadly. I nodded, refusing to look at her. I felt her hand come down softly on my shoulder and I couldn't help but subtly lean into it. “Then we will get justice for her as well. For all those killed at the Conclave. You have my word.”

Tears pricked at my eyes and I couldn't hide the sound of them in my voice when I asked, “Truly?”

She wrapped an arm around me and pulled my head down to her shoulder.

“Yes,” she murmured, stroking a hand through my curls. “Truly.”

“Alright,” I said after some moments. “Alright, I'll join you. Any mending or tailoring you need, I will do it.”

“Excellent!” she exclaimed, tightening her hold for a moment before pulling away to look at me. “You may call me Josephine. It will be a pleasure working with you mistress Tyler.”

I blinked in confusion. I didn't tell her my name...

“How did…”

“As I said,” the woman - Josephine - answered, a smug grin lighting her face. “The townspeople have been praising your work.”

Chapter Text

“Come now, Segritt, you must have something! The Herald needs a fitting wardrobe when she awakes!”

Being one of the only tailors of the Inquisition was… different. I still mended clothes and cloaks for the townsfolk, but I also made clothes for the recruits. It was something I’d always loved, what I would have gone to school for, once. It also meant pleading, cajoling, and straight up arguing with the merchants that had set up in Haven for the best fabrics at a reasonable price.

“I already tol’ ya Mistress Tyler,” Segritt said, an exasperated sigh loosed from his lips. “You bought up all my fabric the other day! I ain’t a mage, can't just conjure up whatever ya want!”

I stared at him a moment to see if he would break. When he didn't, I deflated with a sigh and reached into the coin purse that Josephine had given me. Producing two Sovereigns with a flourish, I dropped them on his table of wares and leaned closer.

“When you get more in,” I murmured, staring him down. “You come to me first, you hear?”

He flashed me a smile and pocketed the coins.

“Absolutely, Mistress.”

Haven had gotten even busier since the Breach had stabilized. People from all over Ferelden and even Orlais had come to catch a glimpse of “The Herald of Andraste”, even if she had yet to wake up. I'd heard all sorts of remarks, from whispers of Andraste herself sending her from the Fade, to low insults of ‘wild ox women’ and ‘murderer’. There had been a very few attempts on her life, Sister Nightingale having dealt with them directly. After that, most people stayed clear of the cabin surrounded by armed soldiers that housed the Herald.

I made my way from Segritt’s wagon to the Chantry, nodding to the soldiers stationed there as I passed. Many gave me a nod and a smile back, probably recognizing me as the woman outfitting them with warm clothes. It was as I was passing that a small woman, an elf I think, ran out with an awed look on her face. I stopped in my tracks, blinking at her as she ran past towards the Chantry. The door she had bolted from only seconds before creaked slightly as people crowded closer, and I whipped back around to see her.

Our saviour; the Herald of Andraste.

I don't think anyone had seen her yet, everyone else was still looking toward where the elf had run to. But she looked almost… afraid. The door was only cracked a few inches, and she barely peeked outside.

Our eyes met for a moment, and I smiled softly before dipping into the lowest curtsey I could and saying very clearly, “Oh, my Lady Herald.”

I could practically feel the others spinning towards me, feel the stillness in the air as they all saw what I had. And then they followed my lead, curtseying, bowing, and saluting in turn.

“Your worship!”

“Lady Herald!”

“Herald of Andraste!”

It became a cacophony of sound after that as more and more people came forward, no doubt wanting to catch a glimpse of the Herald. Guards hurried over, pushing the masses back to allow the Herald safe passage to the Chantry. I didn't even notice it happen until Ricker, a soldier I had met through Lyal a few days previous, placed a hand on my elbow.

“Sorry Miss Rebecca,” he said, startling me and catching my attention. “We have to keep the crowd away. Commander’s orders.”

I nodded and stepped back behind the line of soldiers with him.

“And I've told you already, it's just Becca.”

The little shit just shot me a crooked smile and said, “Of course Miss Rebecca.”

She seemed to have collected herself when I looked back. There was a lack of emotion on her face as she finally stepped outside, a blank stare almost as she turned towards the guards. The guard was just beginning to lead her towards the Chantry when there was a tap on my shoulder.

“Mistress Tyler?”

“Yes?” I asked as I turned around.

It was a recruit. Or maybe a scout, as I hadn't seen her before. She gave me a bland smile and slipped her arm through mine.

“Sister Nightingale wishes to speak with you at the Chantry,” she said, while leading me away from the crowd.

My blood froze.

Her arm around mine tightened.

She led me through the town, a less direct route to the Chantry. Instead of the front entrance, we entered through one of the side doors into a dark hallway, and down a long set of stairs. When we reached the bottom, she stopped and gestured me forward into the dimly lit room. When I hesitated, she nudged me softly, but not meanly, forwards.

“Sister Nightingale will be here shortly,” she said, before closing the door behind me.

I walked further into the room. It was cold, wet, hardly used, and I was glad I had worn one of my heavier woolen dresses today. There were chains on the wall. A set of manacles on the floor. In the center, a single chair was placed.

I didn't sit in it right away, I didn't want to be at any disadvantage when she finally came, but after almost ten minutes of waiting, I finally sat down.

Of course, as soon as I sat the door opened and a woman walked in. She stayed toward the shadows, but there was no doubt in my mind who she was.

Sister Nightingale.

It's what everyone called her. There were whisperings of her deeds even in Ostwick. They all said the same thing:

Pray you never encounter her.

“Forgive me for the wait,” she said softly from the door. “There were urgent matters to attend to, as you no doubt realize.”

“O-of course,” I stuttered, my muscles tensing.

“I just have a few questions for you,” she said while finally coming into the light of the torches. Her stare felt like it was piercing into my soul and I instinctively looked at the ground.

“Alright.”

“You say you accompanied Lady Evelyn Trevelyan to the Conclave?” she asked, circling around the chair I was seated in.

“That's correct,” I answered, my heart clenching at the sound of her name. “She died in the explosion.”

“Is that so?” The sister said, coming to stand in front of me. “Then why is Bann Trevelyan denying he ever sent his daughter, I wonder?”

It took a moment to understand what she was saying.

“But- What?” I asked, jerking my head up to look at her. “I was there with her!” I yelled, my heart racing. With anger or fear, I didn't know. “I saw her go up to the temple! How can he say that she didn't go, that he didn't order her to come?”

“And yet still he denies.” Sister Nightingale said, her eyes narrowing at me. “In fact, he denies having ever met you .”

The world seemed to stop.

The Bann had always been nice to me. Maybe not friendly, but pleasant. More pleasant than he had to be to someone in his employ. And now he…

“What?”

My voice came out quietly, breaking on the end.

Why would he…?

There was movement in front of me, and Sister Nightingale was suddenly there, within my eyesight.

“I see,” she said softly. “This is a great shock to you.” I nodded dumbly, looking down at the stone beneath us.

She was silent for moments, and I felt her stare on my head like a physical thing. When she finally stood, it was almost silent and all at once.

“You are either a very good actress,” she said, pausing and scrutinizing me again. “Or the Bann is hiding something. Either way,” She held a hand out to me, and pulled me up when I took it. “It will be easier to keep on eye on you here. And investigating the Bann will no doubt reveal the truth.” Her grip tightened around my hand to the point of pain, and I couldn't help but let out a wince and a little cry of pain. “But I will find out the truth. I always do.”

She released my hand without warning and I brought it to my chest, trying to shield it.

“You may go,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand.

“Y-yes, my Lady,” I stuttered, blood hammering in my ears. “Thank you, my Lady.” I did a quick curtsey and ran out of the room as quickly as I could. When I was finally up the stairs and out of the Chantry, I looked down at my hand and sucked in a breath between my teeth.

Black bruises licked their way around my palm and the back of my hand

Chapter Text

It was easy, really, to hide my bruise from Lyal. She was up and out before the sun touched the top of the mountains to train with the other recruits, and I made sure to be in bed by the time she returned to our shared room for the night. When we saw each other during the day, I would make sure to keep my hand under the piece of fabric I was stitching, or in the pockets of the woolen dress I wore. I didn’t need questions, and I certainly didn’t want Lyal to worry.

It was almost a week later that Sister Lydia found me by the lake trying to stitch a hood onto a cloak left handed. Suffice it to say, it wasn't working out too well.

“Maker's breath!” she gasped from behind me, making me jump. My bruised hand fell from my lap to the boulder I was sitting atop, and I couldn't hold in the whimper of pain. Lydia rushed around and lifted my hand up by the wrist. “What happened?!”

My breath came out shakily as I pushed through the pain. “I uh…”

Did I tell the truth? I shook my head a little.

“It got stuck between the Chantry doors,” I told her, forcing a self-deprecating smile on my lips. “To be honest, I'm surprised it took me this long to injure myself. I can be rather clumsy, I'm afraid.”

She didn't believe me, because of course she didn't. It hadn't been one of my most convincing lies, that's for sure. I could practically see her debating whether it was worth it to potentially ruin our fledgling friendship by pushing.

“You must at least come see the apothecary,” she finally announced, determination in her eyes. I sighed loudly, and accepted her help in slipping off the boulder.

The Apothecary, a curmudgeonly man named Adan, wrapped my hand with a poultice and told me to ‘try not to ruin it anymore than it already is’. But he was gentle when he tended to me, and I couldn’t help but give him a smile and a sincere ‘thank you’ as Sister Lydia walked me out.

“Now,” Lydia said, steering me to the Chantry. “Time for supper, I should think.”

--

I didn’t like the tavern much.

After the Herald awoke, it had become even more crowded. Not only were there more and more refugees congregating in Haven, but the Herald had recruited quite a few… characters… to the cause.

Sera wasn’t too bad, if you could get past the constant dirty jokes and innuendos. She was always in the tavern, usually with the dwarf and Warden. Both of whom I felt were intimidating, no matter what anyone else said.

The ones who really worried me though, were the Iron Bull and his charger’s.

He was just… giant. So giant that I was always a little irrationally concerned that, if I got too close, he might accidentally squash me. And his mercenary band was just rowdy. Nothing too bad, but you get that many men together, drunk… It was something I’d had too much experience with not to be wary. Even in the Before.

So, I tended to steer clear of the tavern.

But now, almost two months after she awoke, the Herald had taken most of the able bodied men and women to Redcliffe, to confront the mages. The tavern was almost devoid of soldiers, and it made it seem eerily empty.

Lyal waved to me as I walked through the door and I sent her a smile as I made my way to the counter. I got a tankard of wine, a bowl of stew and a hunk of bread from Flissa, and made my way back to Lyals table.

“Hello,” I said, a smile on my face as I settled into the chair across from her. “How was morning drills?”

“Ugh,” she groaned, dropping her forehead to the table, before shooting back up with a disgusted look at the table.

“That bad?” I asked, trying to hold back my laugh.

“With the veteran troops gone,” Lyal sighed, leaning her chin on a hand. “The Commander is working us twice as hard.”

“Not too hard I hope?” I asked, raising a brow. Everyone said the Commander was a decent man, but there were also whispers about his past as a templar.

Lyal waved my concern away and sat up straight. A serious look came across her face, and I slowly lowered the spoon of stew I had been about to bring to my lips.

“What is it?” I asked.

“I’m going into the field,” she replied, and my heart stalled.

“When?”

“Tomorrow,” she answered softly. “Just before first light.”

“How long?”

“Not terribly,” she said, a smile in her voice. “We just need to scout out the Fallow Mire.”

“You’ll write.” It wasn't a question, more like an order. Lyal chuckled softly in response, covering my hand with her own.

Ma nuvenin.”

“What?”

“It’s Dalish,” she said. “It means ‘as you wish’.”

“Well, good then,” I said, my heart warming slightly.

Lyal let out a long, loud laugh at that, and I had to break off a piece of bread and throw it into her mouth to get her to stop.

She’ll be alright, I thought desperately as I watched her cough up and stare in disgust at the piece of bread. She has to be.

Chapter Text

Two weeks and 5 days after Lyal left for the Fallow Mire, The Herald returned from Redcliffe. I tried my best to keep out of the way, what with the influx of mages. I’d never been good with large presses of people, and I was fearing Haven was starting to reach capacity.

I’d taken to staying in my rooms more. There was less light to stitch by, but no one bothered me. The one time I’d gone out to mend by the lake with the mages about, more than a few had been around, muttering and complaining to each other.

I wanted to shake some sense into them. There were worse things than having to sleep in crowded tents. Shouldn’t they have bigger priorities?

When they finally set out to seal the breach, I took my chance and hurried out of the town gates to the boulder that sat by the lake. I’d dubbed it my own personal work station. Most of the soldiers knew they could come to me with torn sleeves and haggard cloaks if I was sitting there. Some of the older ones even stayed to keep me company once in awhile, saying I reminded them of their daughters, nieces, granddaughters, sisters, the list went on.

“Would want someone to look out for my little Erica, if she was on her lonesome here,” a soldier named Willem told me once. “Wouldn’t be right, a lady bein’ on her own.”

“I’m not a lady,” I had laughed at him. But he just shook his head.

“More a lady ‘en some o’ them,” he said, resting a hand on my shoulder. “Either way, ya always go’ me lookin’ out for ya, Miss Becca.”

It felt… heavy in the town. Everyone worked quietly, looking up to the Breach every few minutes before going back to work. The atmosphere wasn't much better outside. None of the soldiers had much time to look away from their training, but the tension in everyone's bodies and faces was just as noticeable.

I let out a soft breath of relief when I made it to my preferred spot with no incidents, and got to work. A few new robes had be requisitioned for the mages, and I had cut out the fabric the night before, so I set to work attaching all the parts together. The sleeves were always the hardest for me. Attaching them was awkward, and they had to be sewed on tightly, and then if the measurements were slightly off it was a mess. I was just glad my hand had been able to heal a bit. It made manipulating the fabric easier, especially with the more complex pieces.

I wonder if Lady Josephine would be able to get a mannequin... I thought as I tied off the final stitch on the right sleeve. Shaking my head quickly, I dismissed the idea with a small frown. There were bigger priorities.

I was still there, sketching designs for a dress in a leather-bound journal Lady Josephine had given me, when the Breach disturbed the eerie silence in the valley. It crackled ominously and let out a flash of light like a shockwave that rattled the trees dangerously. I had to shield my eyes from the snow and pine needles that flew at me, but when I opened them… the Breach was gone.

--

It seemed too easy.

Everyone rushed around, preparing food and drink for the Herald’s return. People were already singing along as they worked, a vast contrast to how the day started, but I couldn't shake the unease. The nervousness.

It was too anticlimactic.

The clouds still swirled in a circle above the Temple eerily, even with the green light gone. It felt unfinished. Like there was still something there, something waiting to be allowed in. Or maybe out.

It was as I was frowning up at the sky by the blacksmith’s that one of Sister Nightingales scouts found me.

“Miss Becca?” the woman asked, coming up beside me. “Sister Leliana wishes to speak with you, if you please.”

“O-oh.” I was not prepared at all for another confrontation with that woman. She was terrifying in a could-murder-you-and-no-one-would-even-know-you-existed kind of way. But not meeting with her almost made me more scared. So I nodded to the scout and, forgetting my work basket, I followed her up the steps and into the Chantry.

I wasn’t led to the same room as last time. Instead, she led me to Lady Josephine’s office. I stepped in as the scout held the door open for me, and saw that both Lady Josephine and Sister Nightingale were there. I hurriedly dropped into a slight curtsey as the scout closed the door behind me. Lady Josephine always told me it wasn’t necessary, but one of the first things I learned in this world was where I stood in it.

“Y-you called for me, my lady?” I asked, cursing myself for the stutter in my voice.

“Yes,” she said, a grimace crossing her face. She shot Lady Josephine a look, who only raised a brow in response. I looked between the two. They reminded me of sisters, almost, the way they communicated without words. If I weren’t certain it would earn me a glare (and possibly another broken hand) I might have laughed. “I wished to… apologize. For my rough treatment. Since our last meeting, your story has been corroborated.”

She did not look happy about apologizing. I could only guess it was at Lady Josephine’s insistence, who looked particularly smug at the moment.

I paused. I had to accept the apology, it would be offensive not to. But accepting the apology would be to say that I knew she’d done something wrong. Something I was sure someone like Sister Nightingale would not take kindly to.

I bit my lip before finally bowing my head.

“There’s nothing to forgive, my lady.”

I saw her raise a single brow, a smile, not a smirk, spreading on her lips

“And that,” Lady Josephine exclaimed, jumping up from her seat behind her desk. “Is precisely why we will be sending you to Val Royeaux!”

“Wait, what?” I cried, looking between both women. “Why?”

“Ostensibly,” Lady Josephine began. “As the Inquisition grows, we will need to negotiate with more noble houses. That requires a certain...image to be presented. A certain wardrobe. And for a new wardrobe, we need new fabrics. Since you obviously know how to best use certain fabrics, you would be the best person to send.”

“What does that have to do with an apology?” I asked, forgetting to police my tone for only a second before bowing my head again. “And if that’s the ostensible reason, what’s the actual one?”

“So she is a smart one, then,” Sister Nightingale announced, moving next to Lady Josephine and leaning against her desk. “The Herald was successful in dividing the Chantry against us, but there are clerics still loudly denouncing the Inquisition, and the Herald in particular. We, of course, cannot let them sway the others.”

“Pardon my ignorance, but what does that have to do with me?” I asked. I couldn’t keep my hands from fidgeting. With my skirts, my fingers, even some of the curls that had fallen loose from the bun I had tied it into today.

“You have friends in the Chantry,” Lady Josephine announced. “Revered Mother Emilie, Sister Emilie when you met her.”

“Yes, but-”

“She will be your reason for visiting the College of Clerics,” Sister Nightingale said. “While you’re there, visiting an old friend, it would be beneficial to the Inquisition if you found your way into certain rooms. That is all.”

It couldn’t be that simple. Probably not anything violent but…

“And I suppose,” I started slowly, looking up at Sister Nightingale. “If I cleaned up a little, in these rooms, say, any loose pieces of paper, it would benefit the Inquisition as well?”

Exactement,” she smiled. “You catch on quick, mon chardonneret.”

I frowned, crossing my arms.

“I am not a little bird.”

If anything, that made her smile wider.

Non?”

I couldn’t stop my eyes from narrowing, but it didn’t seem to amuse her any less. Instead I sighed and looked to Lady Josephine.

“Is this an order?” I asked softly. I must not have been able to hide my worry as well as I thought, because she smiled reassuringly at me.

“Not an order, no,” she told me. “You are not a spy, or even a bard. However you would have more freedom to help us in this matter than the spies that Leliana has in the College. We will not force you to do this, but we would like you to consider it carefully before declining.”

“When do you need an answer?”

“Revered Mother Emilie will arrive in the Capital in two weeks time,” Sister Nightingale said. “We will need to know a week beforehand. You have 6 days to give us your decision, whatever it may be. Is that agreeable?”

“Yes, of course, my Lady,” I answered, relieved. A week. I had nearly a week to decide whether this was actually something I could do.

Bien, you’re dismissed.” I curtseyed, and as I gathered my skirts and turned to leave, Sister Nightingale called, “Oh, and chardonneret?” I paused and looked back to see a dark smile on her face. “Do make sure you don’t tell anyone of this little mission, d’accord?”

I sucked in a breath and nodded, waiting for her to nod back and look away before hurrying out of the room. I had only one thought as I scurried from the Chantry.

One woman should not be so terrifying.

--

It was dark by the time the Herald and the mages returned. I’d been dragged into helping with food preparation as soon as I’d rushed from the Chantry, and I didn’t even realize they had returned until the cheers went up. The Herald looked about as happy as I did. She kept glaring up at the sky, as if waiting for it to explode again, and I couldn’t blame her. I was waiting with dread for the same thing, after all.

I tried to slip into the Chantry early, wanting to just go to sleep and hope the world was still there when I awoke, but Jeremy, a young recruit who had taken to sitting with me during breakfast in the Chantry, had caught me trying to escape and coaxed me into staying out with them.

“You should be having fun,” Jeremy exclaimed. “We saved the world!”

“Alright, alright!” I laughed at his enthusiasm. “I’ll stay.”

Jeremy smiled brightly at me, hugging me to his side. I couldn’t deny that his excitement was infectious as he brought me to one of the fires and instantly twirled me into what could only be described as a Jig. Soon some of the girls around fire came up and we started our own, small, circle dance.

In that moment, I was happy.

Too bad it wouldn’t last.

--

I wondered, in some distant part of my brain, how many times someone could witness their world end.

Templars were attacking Haven. They were monstrous, deformed. Warped beyond all recognition, and inflicted with such a madness they didn’t hesitate to cut down anyone that came upon them. Idly, as I hid by the town gate waiting for an opening to slip through, I wished I had stayed with Evelyn. Or maybe that I’d never left my world. That I’d gone into town that day with my parents. This...this was too much.

I’d forgotten my basket outside the gates, and I would have just left it except…

Except.

Except it had the only thing I’d brought with me from home.

Except it had the only thing that proved my parents had existed at all. That Evelyn had existed. Their names written on the inside cover.

I couldn’t just leave it, even if it was stupid. Even if I would probably die trying to get it. God, what was I doing?

A noise stopped me dead in my tracks as I was about to look out the gates again. Something that had my heart quickening in fear.

A child’s cry.

I spun around wildly trying to find the source of the noise in all the screaming and clashing steel. I followed it as best as I could over to the Inn and found a little girl, maybe five years old, standing near the entrance sobbing. Her dress was torn in places and splattered with blood, and her entire frame was shaking. I ran to her, falling to my knees at her feet.

“Come on, sweetheart,” I whispered quickly. “We have to get to the Chantry. Everything will be alright.”

“They hurt momma!” she cried, her tiny hands coming up and covering her face. “I just want my momma!”

My heart broke. I reached out and picked her up, and she clung to me tightly. As I stood up, I heard a panicked voice scream, “Look out!”

It didn't happen in slow motion. Neither did it speed up. I turned towards the voice as fast as I normally would, and I saw the red monstrosity as quickly as I would have noticed anything else.

I had just enough time to turn around, taking a step forward and shielding the precious package in my arms with my body as the sword came down across my back.

I felt myself let out a whimper between pursed lips, but otherwise all I could feel was the line of fire running from my right shoulder down to my left hip. I hunched further over the girl, pressed her face to my sternum, and waited for the next blow on trembling legs. God, why was this happening?

There was a heavy clanging noise, and I saw the monstrous figure stumble to the side from the corner of my eye. Turning to keep myself between it and the child, I saw a warrior inserting himself between us with what looked like a giant sledgehammer in his hands. In a swift, graceful motion, he lifted it over his head and brought it down on the monster. I saw an explosion of blood a split second before I turned away.

The burning turned into a stabbing pain and I could feel the strength in my legs fail me. My knees buckled and I slumped to the snow.

“Hey!” the warrior called. His armor clanked slightly as he rushed over. “Shite,” he muttered when he came close.

I looked down to the girl to make sure she was alright and saw big blue eyes looking up at me with tears clinging to them. She needed to stay safe. That's all that mattered right now.

“Take… her,” I panted through the pain. I nudged her closer to him and had to brace myself with a hand on the cold ground. I could see red seeping into the snow around us.

“Twitch!” I turned to him at the yell. He had taken his helmet off to call to ‘Twitch’ and I was met with brown hair, closely cropped at the sides, and brown eyes when he turned back to me. “Everything's gonna be fine,” he said while taking hold of my elbow and upper arm. He helped me to my feet, supporting most of my weight if I'm honest, and quickly wrapped an arm around my waist behind my back. I slumped into him as another warrior ran up to us. “Take the girl, will ya?”

“Sure thing,” the newcomer answered and quickly picked the girl up. I noticed idly she wasn't wearing any shoes. I'd have to make her some.

“What's your name?” he asked as he started practically dragging me to the Chantry.

I blinked for a few seconds before the words made sense, the pain taking up so much of my attention.

“Becca,” I finally responded. “Rebecca but...everyone just calls me Becca.”

“Nice to meet you Becca,” he answered, a smirk tugging at the corner of his lips. “I'm Krem, that there with your little girl is Twitch. Nothin’s gonna happen to you with us around, so don't worry.”

“She's not mine,” I said, turning slightly to look at the girl in Twitch’s arms. “I just found her on her own. I think her mother was killed.” His arm tightened around my waist and I turned forward so I didn't trip on anything. It was surprising to see how close we had gotten to the Chantry in my pain filled haze.

I stumbled as we walked over the threshold, my knees giving out under me again. Black was eating at the edge of my vision and I couldn’t feel my fingers.

“Damn it,” Krem uttered quietly. The next thing I knew, I was on his back, his arms under my knees, and a sister was holding doors open and directing us down a hall. We ended up in the healers room, and Krem hurried to the back of the room where the only available bed was and deposited me on it softly. “Stitches, I got you a patient!”

“Aww, Krem, you shouldn't have.”

I tuned out the sounds as Krem helped me lay down on my front. Everything was just so… much, and I felt almost removed from it all. I couldn't feel the burning in my back anymore, couldn't feel the fabric under my hands.

The little girl was there, suddenly in my vision. Her face was blotchy with tears, and her lip still trembled. I tried to smile, tried to reassure her.

Tout va bien, mon petit,” I murmured, the French coming from my lips unbidden. It had been a few years since I'd had cause to use it. “Tout ira bien, ne pleure pas.

There were hands on my back all of a sudden, the pain intensifying, and tears leaked from my eyes as I held back the scream that wanted to tear itself from my throat.

Then a hand enveloped mine, and I looked up into Krem’s face.

“We’ve got ya,” he said softly while holding a vial to my lips. I drank it in one go, humming at the almost minty taste of it. My eyes started to droop and I felt the girl place a small hand on my cheek. I forced my lips to curve into a smile, before my world shrank and darkened.

And then there was nothing.

Chapter Text

The sun was warm on my face when I became aware of myself again. The grass beneath me felt soft and pillowy, like the grass on my aunt's ranch, and it smelt sweet. I could hear birds. A Robin somewhere behind me, a chickadee to my left.

“Wake up sleepy head,” a voice giggled, and I pushed myself up quickly, opening my eyes because that-...

“Ev…”

She was here, sitting on the grass in front of me, cross-legged, looking as happy and healthy as I ever saw her. I couldn't help the tears that pooled into my eyes and dripped down my cheek, and I launched myself at her.

“Oof!” she exclaimed as we fell back to the ground. She laughed as she wrapped her arms around me, “I missed you too, Becca.”

“You died!” I exclaimed when I was finally able to drag myself away from her. “You died and…” I took a look around, my aunt’s horses grazing a ways off, her stables back to the right. “...and this is a dream… isn't it.”

I'd left this place five years ago. And even if I hadn't dreamed since then, going back was impossible. It was destroyed.

“Not quite,” she whispered, shifting so she was behind me. She took my hair in her hands and brushed it with her fingers before dividing it up into sections and starting to braid it. “If it were, I wouldn't be here. Besides, you don't dream, remember?” At that, she tugged lightly at a piece of my hair. “You have a gift, my sweet.”

She nudged the back of my head when she got to the lower part of the braid, and I leant forward slightly. “You're really here? I'm not just having a fever dream or-” The pain in my back came rushing back, the girl, the templar, the soldier - Krem. “...I'm not dead?”

“Nah,” she answered, tying the end of the braid and pulling herself to sit beside me again. “I'd be a lot more pissed if you'd ended up here permanently so soon. You're just visiting.” I took her hand, just basking in the feeling of having it in mine again. She squeezed my hand softly, whispering, “I'm sorry, Becca.”

“I miss you,” I said softly, trying to keep the tears at bay. “You were like a sister to me, you know?”

When I looked up, the smile on her face was dazzling even with the tears streaming down her cheeks.

“I felt the same,” she said earnestly, strengthening her grip on my hand. “Did you know, I didn't even have the power to hire you? Lord Trevelyan was furious when I told him, nearly had a convulsion. But I'm so glad I convinced him to keep you on. You were the realest thing in my life, Becca.”

We sat together in silence for a while, just drinking in each others presence. I had tried not to think about it since that day I found her things, but the thought of losing her again when I woke up brought back that empty feeling in my chest.

After what felt like hours of just sitting together, Evelyn finally broke the silence.

“There's something I must tell you.” She paused, looking up at me sadly. “I'm not Lord Trevelyan’s daughter.”

“But-..what?” She was starting to fade, the whole dreamscape was. I held her hands tighter in my own, trying to stop her from disappearing.

“He hired me to fill in for his daughter after she ran off with the Carta. Whatever you do, do not trust that man.”

Chapter Text

I didn’t wake slowly or peacefully. I woke with a gasp, my back stinging and aching as I tensed.

I was lying facedown on a bedroll, furs bundled around me, and I could see the flickering of a fire from the slit in the opening of the tent I was in. There was a shuffling coming from the other side of me, so I lifted myself up and turned over, wincing. Maker, this was going to be a pain.

It was dark, but I could make out the small body bundled up on the bedroll next to mine. Brown hair was spread out in a tangled mess around her head, and she slept curled into a ball facing me.

The girl from the Inn, I thought.

I reached over, faltering slightly at a tugging feeling in my back, and laid a hand on the side of her head. She stirred slightly, opening her eyes slowly, and then all at once when she saw me.

“You’re okay!” she exclaimed, pushing herself up on her hands and knees.

“I told you I would be,” I croaked back. She bit her lip, debating, before shuffling over to my bedroll. I smiled and lifted the furs for her. “Cold?” I asked. She just shook her head and cuddled up to my side, her head in the crook of my neck. When I felt the tears on my skin, I shushed her softly. “It’s okay sweetheart,” I cooed, stroking her hair as she cried silently. “I’m alright. Everything will be alright.”

We fell asleep wrapped up together.

--

By morning, I was able to move out of the tent for breakfast with the others. Willem found me by a fire and insisted I sit wrapped in at least one fur while he brought me my porridge. “Don’ wan’ ta be losin’ no more good souls, Miss Becca,” he said when I tried to argue. My words faltered at that and I just nodded, letting him wrap the fur around my shoulders.

We’d lost Jeremy. When I’d asked after him, Willem told me he had been at the first trebuchet when the dragon hit it. Neither of us spoke for a while after that.

--

“What’s your name?” I asked the girl later that day. I had left her to sleep when I had breakfast, but she hadn’t left my side since she found me again. “I never got a chance to ask.”

“Mina,” she said. She looked up from where she was drawing with a stick in the snow. “And you’re Miss Becca. Momma said you made the bestest clothes in the whole town!” I smiled softly at her and stroked a hand down her hair.

“Maybe not the whole town. Especially not when Madame De Fer arrived with her own personal seamstress.”

“Really?” a familiar voice sounded from behind us. “That’s not what I’ve been hearin’.”

I whipped around, wincing slightly from the strain on my wound. It was the soldier. The one who had saved Mina and me. Krem.

“Oh?” I asked, my smile widening and turning a bit sly. “And what have you heard?”

He was handsome when he smiled, I idly noticed. Even with the little bit of colour darkening his cheeks.

“This and that,” he returned, walking closer. “Some have even said they’re sure you’re an apostate in disguise. They’ve sworn me ta secrecy. ‘Don’t want her getting in trouble none’ they said.”

“Me? A mage?” I laughed. “I’d have accidentally burnt myself to a crisp ages ago, if that were the case.”

He let out a loud, shocked laugh before covering it with a cough, and I smothered my chuckle as he avoided the eye of a couple of Chantry sisters who were sending him disapproving looks.

“I wanted to thank you,” I said a moment later as I wrapped an arm around Mina’s shoulders and pulled her further into my side. “For saving Mina and me in Haven. We would be dead if it weren’t for you.”

“It was nothin’, really,” Krem replied. I noticed his cheeks darken again and he raised a hand to rub at the back of his neck. “Just doin’ what any decent person would. Which reminds me.” He stood straighter and pulled out a vial from the satchel on his waist, handing it to me. “Stitches wanted me to give this to you. Said it would help with the pain. And it’s lookin’ like we’re gettin’ ready to move out soon, so I figured I’d help ya and the little one on one’a them wagons. Can’t have ya walkin’ ‘round too much with your back like it is.”

I sent him a smile and took the hand he offered to help me up. He picked Mina up and wrapped an arm around my waist, steering me to the closest wagon with some wounded soldiers and elderly Chantry sisters.

“There ya go,” he said when he set Mina on the edge of the wagon.

“Thank you ser Krem,” she said, in that serious, solemn way only children can.

Just as I leant forward and put my hand on the edge of the wagon to climb up, Krem turned to me. He placed his hands on my waist and lifted me up, turning and depositing me next to Mina.

His hands were warm through the wool of my dress and I gripped his upper arms for a moment, my mouth open slightly. My eyes staring into his. I watched as colour slowly made its way up his neck to his cheeks and he coughed before removing his hands from my waist.

“There,” he said, looking off to the side. “All settled.”

“Thank you,” I murmured back, still slightly dazed. I’m not sure he heard me before he spun around and walked off in a hurry. With one last glance at him, I downed the tincture he'd given me and found a comfortable place to sit for the days travel with Mina curled up to my side.