Ellya Lavellan tapped her foot and shifted in her chair, the creaking of the leather cushion filling the silent room. Biting her lip, she let her gaze wander. Opulence and excess seemed to seep into and out of every crevice imaginable: gold and ivory wallpaper, gilded mirrors, intricately carved wooden furniture inlaid with pearls, and the plushest velvet cushion settees. Even the air was scented with sticks of floral incense that smoked quietly in the corner. It made Ellya’s skin crawl.
Shifting again, she waited. It had been six months since she had last seen Leliana, now Divine Victoria. Though several letters had been exchanged between them, they were always formal and impersonal, just as Ellya would expect from her former spymaster.
So, it had been a surprise to receive the latest correspondence: an urgent invitation for Ellya Lavellan, not Inquisitor or Herald, to come to the Divine's personal residence in the Orlesian countryside for a visit. The details had been deliberately vague, Ellya assumed, but she knew the matter must have been important for Leliana to address her without her usual Orlesian diplomacy. The request was odd and Ellya had been bristling with nervous anticipation ever since she had arrived to the large estate and been escorted into the sitting room to wait for the Divine.
A door handle clicked to Ellya's left, and she turned just in time to see Leliana duck through the frame and swiftly close it behind her.
Ellya quirked a brow and opened her mouth to speak, but Leliana held up a hand to silence her.
"My dear Herald, it's so good of you to come," Leliana spoke cheerfully. Moving to her desk, she tapped a finger to her ear. "I do hope your journey wasn't too tiresome."
Ellya's ears twitched, and she tilted her head just slightly, listening for any sounds of potential eavesdroppers.
"Not at all," she replied. "In fact, I find the Orlesian countryside very refreshing."
"It is quite marvelous isn't it?" Leliana's hands disappeared briefly beneath her desk and a slight shuffling sound could be heard against the wood. "Perhaps we could take a walk in the garden, then? The flowers are in full bloom this time of year, and I've been cultivating the roses myself, when my duties allow the time. Would you like to see?"
Ellya watched as Leliana tucked a folded parchment into the red sash of her Divine robes.
“Please.” She dipped her head and followed Leliana out of the sitting room, through the polished halls, and past the tall marble archway that lead to the back of the estate.
They walked in silence for a time, Ellya content to let Leliana lead of the conversation. It was obvious there was something important she wished to discuss, but she would wait until the time was right. When they entered the garden proper, Ellya momentarily forgot her curiosity and focused instead on the beautiful display before her eyes. Tall, green hedges lined a winding stone path that twisted and turned into the distance. Ellya could only assume it created a lush garden maze. To her right, vines and bright pink blossoms crawled up and across the wooden lattice of a large awning that provided shade for a secluded sitting area.
Leliana steered to the left, though, bypassing the stone path and moving her through low shrubs of carefully cultivated purple flowers that Ellya couldn’t name. They wandered among the soft grasses, occasionally bending to smell the fresh herbs and roses that Leliana had proudly pointed out, and spoke of inconsequential things: the grounds at Skyhold, the summer storms across the valley, and whether or not Varric had finished his latest romance serial.
Ellya knew that Leliana still had contacts within the Inquisition and most likely received regular reports on her actions and whereabouts. But, she played along with the charade as they continued their stroll.
It wasn’t until the reached the far end of the garden and the walls opened up into a large field of lavender, rows upon rows of lush purples bushes for as far as Ellya could see, that Leliana’s tone changed.
“I have been meaning to ask,” Leliana began, as they made their way down one of the several rows, “how have you been feeling these last couple of months. Are you well?”
Smirking, Ellya glanced to her left, knowing precisely what Leliana was implying. “Truthfully, it’s been a very long time since I’ve felt so at peace.” She sighed and plucked a long sprig of lavender and brought it to her nose. “With the voices under my control and the anchor surprisingly silent, I feel…” she paused briefly and breathed in the calming scent of the herb. “Well, I feel like myself. I feel whole and perhaps on my way to being happy once more.”
A beaming smile crossed Leliana’s face, as she listened to Ellya’s words. “That’s good to hear,” she whispered and clasped her hands. “Dorian, Varric, and the Iron Bull weren’t the only ones who worried after your health all those months ago. I wish you had let more of us help you shoulder your burdens.”
Ellya stopped walking and settled a hand against Leliana’s arm. “I knew you all cared. Please know that I did.” Turning her gaze away, she paused and bit her lip. “I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I didn’t want your help. Going off into the wilds...it was just something I needed to do. For myself.”
Leliana chuckled and squeezed Ellya’s hand. “Of course you did. We all have demons we must face in order to become strong enough to fulfill our fates.”
As they continued their walk, something in Leliana’s tone and words caused Ellya to furrow her brow.
“Is there something I should know, Leliana?” she asked, her voice hushed and worried.
With a sigh, Leliana glanced surreptitiously around but kept moving, farther away from the estate until they were well into the open field.
“There are a great many things you should know,” she finally replied when nothing but silent rows of lavender surrounded them. “I’m afraid the forces across Thedas have not been idle while you were away.”
Ellya frowned and her gaze darted to the sash across Leliana’s waist. “Which forces?”
“The obvious culprits, of course: Fereldan and Orlais, plus the traditionalists in the Chantry, but you need not concern yourself with them.” Leliana’s fingers dipped into her sash and pulled out the concealed parchment and offered it to Ellya. “My agents intercepted these. It seems Gaspard is growing tired of playing the puppet to you and Briala. He is organizing a cross nation council to address the power of the Inquisition.”
Biting her lip, Ellya snatched the papers from Leliana’s hands and tried to read the words as quickly as she could.
“And Fereldan is on board with this?” she asked disbelieving. She had thought her relations with King Alistair and Queen Anora had been on favorable terms, their trade and business thriving.
“Fereldan has not forgotten your actions to stop Corypheus,” Leliana said gently, “but neither have they forgotten what it’s like to have a foreign army occupying their lands.”
Ellya’s eyes darted back to Leliana’s face, aghast. “The Inquisition would never,” she sputtered, “I would never…”
“Don’t take it personally. It’s most likely that it’s the Bannorn that is pushing for action and not the Crown, but don’t underestimate their influence.” Leliana smoothed her white robes and bent down, pretending to inspect the soil. “If I were you, I would be more worried about Orlais, and what its nobles hope to accomplish.”
Ellya's eyes darted back and forth across the pages, absorbing the words and their intent. "They want to use me," she stated flatly.
Chuckling, Leliana snapped a few dead twigs from the brush. "Yes. The question is: will you let them?"
Careful not to crumple the papers in her hands, Ellya turned and strode a few paces away. Her mind whirled and tried to see every avenue she could take. "How could I possibly do that?" She said breathlessly over her shoulder.
With a shrug, Leliana stood and dusted off her hands. "It's not the worst fate to have Orlais as an ally. A union between The Inquisition and the Orlesian Empire would be enough of a force to give anyone pause."
Ellya scoffed and kicked the dirt with her toe. "I didn't supplant Celene just to go back to the Orlesian status quo: a favor for a favor. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours. If I let Gaspard and the rest of the nobility use the power and name of the Inquisition without discretion, who knows how far they could push? And what exactly would they hope to accomplish with that kind of force? I can’t imagine it’d be anything good." She swiped her hand through the air before quickly refolding the papers. "No, it's unacceptable. I can't allow the Inquisition to be corrupted for the sake of Orlesian ambition."
A small smirk briefly formed on Leliana's face before her features settled once again into seriousness, but she remained silent.
Ellya narrowed her eyes. "Is there something you'd like to say?"
Leliana smiled softly and wet her lips before speaking. "Simply that it warms my heart to see you so proud and full of conviction. Sent by the Maker or no, you have truly been a gift to the people and to our cause."
A comfortable heat rose to Ellya's cheeks. "I couldn't have done any of it without you and the others," she murmured.
Silence followed her words and Leliana’s smile widened, a steady beat of understanding falling between them.
Clearing her throat, Ellya handed the papers back to Leliana. “What are my options?”
Leliana gently tucked the papers back into her clothes. Eyeing Ellya, she plucked several sprigs from a nearby bush. “Disbanding the Inquisition to appease Fereldan is one avenue. Allying with Orlais is of course another, though you’ve made your thoughts on that very clear.” She smirked and pulled more lavender into her hands. “But these need not be your only courses of action. I will continue to monitor Gaspard’s movements, and the Bannorn, as well as the clerics who wish to see you denounced.” She moved to Ellya’s side and handed her the bouquet. “The Chantry still has great sway over the people. When the council convenes we could move to have the Inquisition absorbed into the Chantry, to act as an honor guard for the interests of the Divine.” She patted Ellya’s arm. “Neither Fereldan nor Orlais would dare move against you then. And it would settle the nerves of those who see you as an unpredictable outlier with too much power.”
Furrowing her brow, Ellya listened carefully to Leliana’s words and stroked the soft plums of the herbs in her arms. Another game. Another ploy. Another turn to keep her power in tact. Suddenly, she felt very weary. With a sigh, she turned from Leliana and walked further into the field. Wrapping her arms around her waist and closing her eyes, she let the scented air gently pull at her clothes and waft through her hair.
No. She was tired of playing.
“I appreciate your counsel, Leliana,” Ellya murmured, her eyes still closed. “But maybe Fereldan is right.” Opening her eyes, she turned back to her friend. “The Inquisition was formed to close the Breach and save Thedas from Corypheus. We’ve done that. It’s been a year since that battle, and the last reported rift was found and closed over three months ago.” She walked over to Leliana and pushed the bouquet back into her arms. “Why should I cling to power simply for the sake of having it? I don’t want it. I never did. I did what was necessary and now it’s done.” She drew in a deep breath and trailed a hand down Leliana’s arm. “Perhaps it’s time for me to go home.”
Leliana stared at her for a while, her brow drawn in and her mouth tight. It was clear she didn’t approve of Ellya’s course of action, but Ellya didn’t care. She needed to start down her own path again, one that didn’t involve being used as a pawn for the shemlen across Thedas.
“If that is how you feel,” Leliana eventually said, the creases around her eyes softening slightly. “I do not agree, but it is, of course, your choice.” She sighed and clasped Ellya’s hand. “Fereldan will be pleased, but I do fear for you in the wake of what Gaspard might plan when he realizes just how much control you are willing to relinquish. Perhaps a meeting with Briala would be prudent before any more decisions are made.”
Ellya nodded. She knew her choices would affect more than just herself and that Briala would need to be informed, but she still felt that disbanding The Inquisition was the right path.
As they started to walk back towards the estate, a thoughtful silence settled between them. It was clear to Ellya that a finality to their relationship was approaching, and while part of her mourned yet another loss, she was ready to start the next chapter in her life, hopefully away from the prying world and the burden of being The Inquisitor.
“Where will you go?” Leliana asked as they entered the garden again.
Ellya smiled sadly. There was nowhere to go, not really. With Clan Lavellan gone, there was no place but Skyhold to truly call home, but she had friends she could call upon for the time being until she figured it out.
“First Skyhold and the council,” she said with as much light-heartedness as she could muster and nudged Leliana with her elbow, a last act of friendship before the weight of their titles settled once more upon their shoulders. “After that?” She grinned, but it felt strained. “Hopefully, something quiet.”