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A Purpose Sought

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Bobby is by no means a morning person. She likes sleep, and warmth, and all the things not associated with working early in the morning.

 

So, when she has to get up at 2’am after getting to bed at 10:30, she is understandably not happy. The standard 5 alarms, each followed by a 4-minute snooze, pass and finally, after groaning and smacking her head into the pillow for the nth time, she decides to get up.

 

Slowly, she worms out of the cocoon of throw blankets, blinking at her ceiling light when she has to find the clothes she set out the night before. Her shower is quick, save for the 5 minutes of just staring blankly at the wall while she regains cognitive function.  Long, dark hair is towel dried and then put into twin dutch braids, still wet.

 

After dressing, she creeps down the stairs, careful not to wake her mother who was still asleep when she herself went to bed. She silently walks into the living room, navigating by memory and the soft light of her mother’s salt lamp.

 

A double cup of Banana Foster coffee is made, sweetened by way too much creamer and Bobby flops down into her computer chair, ready to play a few days of Stardew Valley before she has to catch the bus to work.

 

“What in the City’s name are you drinking?” A voice interrupts her first sip of coffee.

 

Bobby will say later that she did not scream when Sulevin walked out of the living room, staring at her. She will deny that she threw the cup at him, that she (rightfully) freaked out when he waved his hand and banished the hot coffee from his clothes.

 

This does not negate the fact that she did, in fact, do so.

 

“Who the hell are you?” She screeches, falling out of her chair. The elf just gives her a look while he watches her scramble back like an angry crab.

 

“I am Sulevin, servant to Mythal. I am also, against my will I might add, your guide to Thedas” He gripes, perching his ridiculously tall body onto the arm of her brown cat-scratched couch.

 

Bobby squeaks. “Thedas?” She chitters and Sulevin rolls his eyes.

 

“Yes, Thedas. Did you not read the contract before you agreed to it?” From his belt, he pulls out-

 

“Is that the Dragon Age amulet I got?” She says, incredulously. She had bought it off Etsy, from a creator who specialized in Dragon Age inspired jewelry. “How is that a contract? Also, how the hell did you-”

 

“Would you shut up and let me explain?” Sulevin snapped, making Bobby blink. “When you bought this, there was a condition. ‘Whosoever buys this amulet agrees, under pain of death, to further the survival of Thedas and all of its inhabitants. Shall they agree, they shall be awarded a gift of power in order to aid them in achieving their goals. They shall also be awarded a guide until which point they meet the Hero they have chosen.’” Sulevin quoted, before tossing her the amulet.

 

She fumbled with it for a moment before it lay flat in her palms. The shiny, blackened metal glimmered for a moment, and the stone in the middle pulsed in time with her racing heart. She then stared at Sulevin.

 

“Are you crazy?” She stood suddenly, surprising Sulevin. “I'm a cashier , not a, a soldier! I can barely stand getting yelled at without crying, how am I supposed to fight someone?!” She shouted. All pretense of trying not to wake her mother disappeared the moment Sulevin brought out the amulet. She was tired, she was hungry and she was pissed .

 

Sulevin eyed his charge. He had wondered what kind of person would buy the Amulet of the Rift. Most chose the Blighted Hope or the Bloodied Feather. Each came with an opportunity, a chance for them to aid their hero.

 

Many died before they had that chance.

 

“There is a chance you do not have to fight” Sulevin soothed. “The Amulet is only an aid to get you to your Hero. What happens after is your choice. But, you must accept the chance.”

 

“Or?”

 

“Or, you will cease to exist. All traces of you will be erased from this world and you will be stuck in the Void until you accept” The elf said, bluntly.

 

Bobby breathed shakily. I have no choice she realized. Part of her wanted to scream, and rage and cry at her stupidity. Why didn't she think before she bought it? Contrary to Sulevin’s words, she had read the terms before putting in her debit cards numbers. She just hadn't thought anything of it.

 

“Can I say goodbye?” She whispered and Sulevin nodded.

 

“You have until sunrise to prepare” He confirms. “But, your mother will not wake until after we leave. It is a clause of the contract” He watches her face fall lightly and winces internally. “You can, however, write her a note if you would like.”

 

He watches her silently as she prepares. A rucksack, made of rough cloth and sealed with a pull string, is tossed onto the couch and then filled. He sees her put, along with a warm set of clothes, matches, candles and a few, small random things into the bag. A large knife is slid onto her belt after she changes, exchanging the thin slacks and collared shirt for a thicker pair of jeans and a dark long sleeve with a black leather vest zipped up over it. She brings no coat, and her jewelry is put into a smaller black bag, save for the amulet and a necklace with beads made of light colored wood and carved bone.

 

She writes her note last and he offers her a cloth to dry her eyes when he sees the tears on her face. She accepts it with a soft, watery smile and takes his hand.

 

They disappear from Bobby’s world with no other trace than the note and a soft gurgling pop.

 

Her mother never stops searching for her.




Chapter Text

The only way Bobby knows she is alive is the feel of Sulevin’s hand in hers.

 

The elf says nothing as they pass through the Void, the utter blankness making every sound and sight too bright to comprehend. They pass others, some willingly led, others dragged kicking and screaming.

 

They all wear the same glowing amulet she does.

 

Eventually, they arrive in Thedas, and Bobby is not prepared. All at once, the endless blankness becomes green grass, trees and the somewhat familiar scent of flowers.

 

Bobby also has a minor freakout when she realizes that they are in the Hinterlands.

 

“Of all the places!” She shouts, startling Sulevin and a large crowd of birds nesting in a tree. “My chance is the bear-infested hellhole! ” Her voice echoes as she motions wildly, clearly agitated at the thought of bears and Sulevin sighs.

 

“You should be grateful. There is a young man in a cave in the Fallow Mire. Would you rather be there?” he says dryly, picking up the rucksack she dropped in her ire.

 

That shuts her up.

 

“What now?” Bobby asks, taking the bag. Her gaze sweeps the small field around them and the small copse of trees in the distance.

 

“Now? We walk” A staff appears in the elf's hand and he motions her forwards. Bobby eyes the wood and nods, leading the way. They walk for hours, hiding when they hear armor or fighting. It’s hard to tell exactly when they are, other than it's after the Conclave. The Breach can be seen from even here, the glow making the stars hard to see near the mountains.

 

They sleep curled up near a tree, Sulevin having the foresight to have a tarp for sleeping on. The hardest part, so far anyway, is hunting.

 

Bobby isn't squeamish, not by a mile. It is, however, hard for her to kill and skin a nug when it squeals and thrashes when she stabs her pocket knife into its skull. Sulevin teaches her the basics as they journey, him citing that ‘there is not much time left’. As they walk, he asks her what languages she can speak. English had been her first, but she had learned American Sign in high school. The smattering of Thedasian Elvish has him smiling, and she surprises him with the few words in Qunlat she knows.

 

It's entertaining to watch him trip when she perfectly pronounces ‘Var lath vir suledin’.

 

But, eventually, their journey together comes to an end.

 

It is Bobby’s seventh day in Thedas, and she wakes to find Sulevin standing above her with a blank expression.

 

“It is time,” he says and offers her a hand up.

 

“What- wait, are you leaving?” She scrambles up on her own and he pulls her up using her bicep. “You can't leave! I haven't-”

 

“The Herald is arriving tonight” Sulevin interrupts her. “He will come with his companions, and if I stay, Solas will kill you” His expression and words make Bobby gape at him.

 

“Why?” She takes the staff he holds out to her with ginger fingers, finding the indents where Sulevin’s fingers were.

 

“Because of the Evanuris. I was once a slave to Falon’Din, and I did not leave him until it was too late” Sulevin winces at the memory and Bobby frowns. “As such, I am an enemy to Fen’Harel as he is. You are an enemy by association” His expression softens as Bobby looks up to him and he cups her chin in his hands.

 

“Are you in danger?” Her fingers adjust on the staff and she looks worried, not for herself, but for him.

 

It makes him want to stay.

 

“I am stronger than I look Roberta” He presses a kiss to her forehead and they share breath for a moment as he lingers. “Goodbye little hero”

 

And then, between blinks, Sulevin is gone.

 

Bobby refuses to cry.

 

Instead, she prepares for the arrival of the Herald. Sulevin gave her no inclination about their gender, race or temperament. Were they kind? Or angry?

 

So many choices and Bobby is honestly scared for all of them.

 

She climbs a tree while she waits for the Herald. Her rucksack is hung on a branch just above her, within reach just in case, and she leans against the bark.

 

Then she begins to sing.

 

________HERALD_________

 

Nikolai Cadash thinks himself a fair man, a dangerous man, and a man of nature.

 

His companions disagree.

 

“Herald, what exactly are you doing?” Solas sound exasperated as Nikolai rifles through yet another Templars pocket.

 

“Finding things!” The dwarf shouts back. “That little elf lady we met lost her husbands ring. Thought she might want it back.” He pulls a pouch of coin from the inside of the Templars armor and he can hear Cassandra cradle her face in her palm.

 

“Herald, we found that three hours ago ,” The Seeker says. “We are on our way back to give it to her”

 

“Oh, we are?” Nick tilts his head and smiles joyously at the woman. “I had forgotten”

 

“And you wonder why I call him Pup” Varric remarks, passing the other dwarf. Cassandra glares at him, mouth opening to make a remark when suddenly, a voice comes along the wind.

 

I feel like I'm losing hope

In my body and my soul

And the sky, it looks so ominous

 

And as time comes to a halt
Silence starts to overflow
My cries are inconspicuous

 

A woman's voice echoes over the hills and the companions exchange glances before Nikolai ignores his companions and races to the song.

 

Tell me, God, are you punishing me?

Is this the price I'm paying for my past mistakes?

 

This is my redemption song

I need you more than ever right now

Can you hear me now?

 

He arrives to see a girl, no more than twenty, singing the melancholy song. Soft, pale skin is lit by the sun, filtered through the leaves of the tree she is perched in. He barely notices his companions coming up behind him, Cassandra only stopping when he puts his arm out.

 

Cause we're going to shout it loud
Even if our words seem meaningless
It's like I'm carrying the weight of the world

I wish that someway, somehow
That I could save every one of us
But the truth is that I'm only one girl

Maybe if I keep believing my dreams will come to life
Come to life...

 

The song continues on, and Nikolai feels such sorrow coming from the girl that when the song ends, he says nothing until her eyes open and meet his.

 

“You have a beautiful voice my lady,” He says, as soft as he can.

 

She still falls out of the tree.

 

“Son of a bitch!” She shouts, landing with a hard thump on the ground. Beside him, he hears Varric snort at the woman’s rough language. Nikolai laughs along as he carefully approaches, her dark eyes narrowly watching him.

 

“Voice of a bard and the tongue of a sailor” He jokes and smiles. “What else can you do little lady?”

 

“Kick your ass is what” She bites back and stands. He finds that she is barely taller than him, and evenly built under the black vest she wears.

 

“I would recommend standing back Herald” Cassandra steps up and puts a hand on her sword. “She has a weapon” The woman blinks and raises a brow.

 

“So do you missy” She responds, motioning to Cassandra’s waist. “All of you are armed, and I’d be blinder than a bat not to notice you have a mage” She nods to Solas, who nods back.

 

“Does such a thing come from experience?” Nikolai watches Solas say back. “You carry a staff yourself, and have the magic to use it”

 

For a moment, her expression changes. Surprise, shock and then sorrow all follow close together before she smiles again, this time much tamer.

 

“Magic, yes. Training though? Not so much” She turns her back to them and scales the tree. Nikolai sees Cassandra tense next to him, but instead of more weapons, or casting something, she comes down with a rough looking rucksack slung over her shoulder.

 

“Where’s your camp Songbird?” Varric says and the woman blinks at him.

 

“Songbird?”

 

“You sing and you like trees. I call them like I see them” Varric smiles at her and a small laugh escapes Songbird. “Besides, you haven’t given us your actual name yet” The pressure is heavily implied and she inclines her head in agreement.

 

“Call me Bobby. And you are?” She prompts back.

 

“Varric Tethras, rogue extraordinaire” He gives a little bow and Nikolai sees Bobby’s lips twitch.

 

“As in the author?”

 

“The very same. Good to know people read my stories where you’re from”

 

“Oh?” Bobby’s tone changes slightly, to something a bit firmer. “And where is that exactly?”

 

Varric’s own smile gets sharper, and not for the first time, Nikolai is glad Varric is on his side. “Not quite sure Songbird, but it isn't Ferelden” The two stare each other down before Cassandra rolls her eyes and steps in.

 

“I am Cassandra Pentaghast, former Hand to the Divine. May I inquire as to why, exactly, you are in a war zone?”

 

Bobby gives her blank look in response. “The entirety of Thedas is a war-zone right now” Bobby stands straighter and looks the Seeker in the eyes. “I'm afraid you will have to be more specific”

 

“I am sure the Seeker means to ask,” Solas steps in smoothly, “As to why you are not with either of the Mage factions” He gets a nod, which is a lot better than either of the others got from Bobby.

 

“Neither appeal to me, honestly. One half insists on killing others, the others cannot see the world before them” Bobby sighs and Nikolai watches her massage one of her temples. “I need a place that is willing to aid those in trouble, not cause more” She grouses.

 

Then, Nikolai does something stupid.

 

“Then join the Inquisition” He suggests and all of his companions turn to stare at him as Bobby opens her eyes to look at him.

“Oh? You think they would take me?”

 

“Given the fact that I’m the poster boy for it, I would say so” He holds up his Marked hand and watches as, for a second time, sorrow flickers across her features.

 

“Then, would you allow me to join your group?” She suggests lightly, hesitation coloring her tone.

 

“On one condition” Cassandra steps forwards, and Bobby eyes the emblem on her armor.

 

“What condition?” She inquires.

 

“Solas holds your staff and the Herald holds your knife until we reach camp” She nods to the (fairly large) knife on Bobby’s side and Bobby’s eyes narrow.

 

“Knives yes, staff no” Her dark eyes soften when she eyes the pale wood. “It was a gift from my teacher”

 

Cassandra sighs. “Fine” She grits out and Bobby hands over the knife to Nikolai, sheath and all.

 

They head to the camp with Cassandra and Bobby leading the way.



Chapter Text

There is a lot of things that could have gone wrong, Bobby realizes as she walks alongside Cassandra. The group could have mistaken her for an enemy, someone could have gotten to her first, Solas could have recognized something about her.

 

But instead, she’s in the care of Inquisition with Herald Nikolai Cadash chattering at her.

 

Now, Bobby didn't know exactly what to expect from the Herald, but it isn't this. Nikolai is young , a mere 16 years old and his exuberance shows it. His olive skin is unmarred by scars, and his dark eyes are bright with curiosity as he and Varric ask her about her homeland.

 

It's fucking adorable, and she might have to adopt the Herald, her own age of 22 be damned.

 

She weaves around the questions, giving enough of certain answers to satisfy parts of their curiosity. She tells them she used to live with her mother, that she lived near the coast and misses the taste of spicy food. She’s pretty sure Cassandra thinks she is a danger to the Herald, and frankly, she can tell the older woman is already protective of him.

 

Solas is hard to read, and other than his stare burning into her skull, the man does nothing.

 

She’s definitely gonna stay away from him, at least until she can tell what kind of magic she bears. Sulevin had clarified that the Gift was different for each bearer of the Amulet, and it was hard to tell what it was until it activated on it's own.

 

Ugh.

 

They arrive at camp without molestation by outside forces and Bobby gets her first view of the real Inquisition. Most of the soldiers are human in this camp, and she can see a few of them eyeing her from afar.

 

She is so sleeping in a tree tonight.

 

“So Songbird” Varric interrupts her thoughts, “What brings you to the Hinterlands anyway?”

 

Bobby pauses her chewing for a moment. The roasted nug isn't the worst she’s had so far and Sulevin wasn't the best cook.

 

“I came to help, I guess” Bobby measures her tone carefully and Varric raises a brow.

 

“Help? Help who?” Cassandra questions from the other side of the fire. Her features are cast in bronze by the firelight and wow Bobby is more gay than she thought.

 

“The little people” the younger woman responds, swallowing. “The war affects everyone, and so, the people who are in the middle need help. I was in the area already, so I thought I would come and do what I can”

 

“That is very magnanimous of you” Solas murmurs, drinking a cup of something warm. There’s no nose crinkle, so it can't be tea, unless he’s hiding his dislike.

 

Nonetheless, Bobby snorts. “Magnanimous? Not really. Practical, more like. If people realize that this war is useless, it's more likely it will end sooner”

 

The fire is silent after her little speech and Bobby bids them all a good night before leaving the fire. She ignores the looks she gets when she climbs into a nearby oak tree, Sulevin’s tarp tied to the branches to make a cradle so she doesn't fall out.

 

She keeps a hand on her taken-back knife while she sleeps and dreams of a lazy Sunday with her mother.

 

Noise awakens her first and she keeps her eyes closed until she identifies the clanking of armor below her.

 

“Who’s the mage?” A rough voice murmurs below her.

 

“Don't know yet. The Herald brought her into camp yesterday” A second voice says before she hears a fist lightly hitting metal. “Come on, Scout Brynn will kill us if we don't get food ready before morning patrol” She listens for the sound of them walking away and only gets down from her branch when they are far enough away.

 

Thank the deities that the camp is next to water.

 

Quietly, she finds a hidden spot near the edge of the water and strips down, keeping her clothes and bag within sight. Sulevin’s staff is placed gently next to it and not for the first time, she wishes the grouchy elf was with her.

 

She bathes quietly, relishing the fact that she can in fact do so. The bar of soap she grabbed from home is wrapped in a washcloth and she begins to rub her skin raw when she hears rustling in the bushes. She lunges for her knife and has it unsheathed as Cassandra, naked as she is, comes out of the brush.

 

Both women stare at each other for a moment, before Bobby clears her throat as a blush comes across Cassandra’s cheeks.

 

“Apologies Serrah,” Cassaandra says, hesistant. “I was unaware you were bathing”

 

Bobby snorts as she wades gently over to her gear, placing the blade lightly on top of her clothes. “Don't worry about it Seeker. It's nothing either of us hasn't seen before” She keeps her eyes on her own things as the two of them bathe, and she doesn't know how to feel about Cassandra sneaking glances at her until the Seeker opens her mouth.

 

“Are tattoo’s normal for your people?” Cassandra’s tone is edged with curiosity, but with enough lee-way it still seems like a friendly question.

 

Bobby considers for a moment before making a see-sawing motion with her hand. “A bit? It’s getting more common as a body decoration goes, and a lot of people get them when they come of age” She responds, finally getting out of the pool.

 

“And the, um, piercings?” Bobby pauses at that and nearly bursts a vein when she realizes exactly why Cassandra was staring.

 

Her nipple piercings.

 

They had been an impulse when she had broken up with her first boyfriend, and her bestie had suggested going out for drinks. Bobby had woken up the next day with gold bars through her nipples and a wicked hangover.

 

“Those are not so common” Bobby clears her throat and begins to dress after drying. “I was younger, and made the decision while drunk”

 

Cassandra gives an awkward hum and Bobby hear splashing as the Seeker gets out of the pool herself.

 

After dressing fully, Bobby takes the Amulet from her bag. It had been in her bag after the second day, Sulevin citing it had already done most of its job. Slipping it over her head, then hiding it under her shirt (because hobo mage) and putting in her nose stud, she feels ready to take on her first official day with the Inquisition.

 

When she and Cassandra arrive back at camp, she gets a lot of stares. But, Nikolai clearly doesn't care about her accessories, because as he spots them, he waves wildly to have them come over to the fire.

 

“I like your stud” He bursts, handing her a slice of dark, thick bread slathered in honey. “Me and my sister have piercings too” He tucks a lock of honey blonde hair behind his ear, revealing a series of three hoops in his left ear.

 

Bobby is slightly jealous of the gold tragus piercing.

 

“Thanks hun.” She bites roughly into the bread and nearly moans at the sweet taste of molasses and honey. “What’s on the agenda for today?” She grunts around her breakfast and Cassandra sits next to her, sword already on her hip.

 

“There is a cult in one of the castles nearby. It is important we investigate the situation” Cassandra accepts her own slice of bread from Nikolai with a muttered thanks. “Do you have all you will need for the journey?” She eyes Bobby’s rucksack and the younger woman smiles at her.

 

“Ready when you are Seeker” She responds, before stuffing the rest of her bread in her mouth. The look Cassandra gives her makes her feel like a demented chipmunk, which is enhanced by Varric walking up to them with steaming cups of something.

 

He blatantly stares at her, uncomprehending until she motions to the cups.

 

“Need some tea to wash that down Songbird?” He eyes the bulge in her cheeks and offers one of the cups, which Bobby takes eagerly.

 

“T’nks” She swallows the bread and washes it down with the tea, and wow she can tell why Solas hates it so much if this is all they have. The tea has a bitter edge and a floral aftertaste that is not sweet.

 

She wonders if there are chamomile seeds in the wild flower mix she brought.

 

“Here Chuckles” She hears Varric say and Bobby looks up to see the elf. His eyes are narrowed and she can see his ears are slightly closer to his head than when she went to sleep last night. The thing that really makes her bite her tongue is the bright red pillow crease marking his cheek.

 

Who knew Mr. Dreamer got hard-core pillow scars?

 

“No, thank you Herald” Solas mutters as Nikolai offers him some bread. “I am not hungry at the moment” His far-to-awake eyes land on Bobby next and her own cup of tea. “Did you rest well?”

 

“I did Messere Solas, thank you” She chews her lip for a moment before deciding to fuck it. “Are you aware you have a pillow scar on your cheek?”

 

Varric scoffs into his mug as Solas blinks. “Pardon?”

 

“Your cheek” Bobby pulls out the small compact in her bag, and opens it to show him. The mirror makes him pause for moment but the frown that jumps to his face as he rubs at the mark is worth it.

 

“Thank you,” He says after he makes a pulse of mint smelling green roll across his cheek. “May I ask where you got that mirror?”

 

“It was a gift from my mother. She got a new one and let me have the old one” She shows him the chipped edges on the hinge, and the worn surface. “It's pretty beat up, but hey, it works”

 

Solas accepts her explanation without any more questions and within an hour, the four of them are making for the cult.

 

All is calm for a while. Nikolai is eager to get to the cult (The Shallow Breaths quest, along with the Lovers) and Bobby has a little bit of pride in seeing him wanting to help others.

 

The Templars change that.

 

They ambush them from the side and Bobby can feel something happen to the air. Suddenly, the world is too-vibrant, too-much and she can hear Solas cry out next to her.

 

A Smite then.

 

Nikolai and Cassandra have their hands full with their own Templars and Varric looks like he's just trying to stay far enough away not to get hit with a sword while he shoots. The factors all lead to none of them coming to help when a wild-eyed man charges at her and Solas.

 

The other mage is twitching and Bobby can barely see, the world too much for her to handle. But, nonetheless, the blade on her belt is swung out and as the Templar tries and overhead swing, she lunges.

 

The blade catches for a moment on the chainmail he wears, then it slides into his gut with no warning. He makes a choked noise above her, dropping his sword and Bobby yanks up, letting the serrated back of the knife do the work. His belly splits as she watches and suddenly what was in is out, and Bobby is barely holding in the sweet bread Nikolai gave her. The man, barely older than her, falls as she wrenches the blade from his body and looks around for another Templar.

 

Instead, she gets Cassandra dispatching the last of them, red splattered on her face and armor. Nikolai is already rifling through armor, along with Varric and Cassandra joins them on her own body. Solas, though, is staring at her and she has to turn away from him as she loses her meager breakfast next to the man she just gutted with a machete.

 

When she finishes, a hand gently touches her back and she startles violently, knife (still covered in blood and oh god, what has she done ) at the ready. But instead of a threat, Solas is kneeling next to her, his hand a warm weight between her shoulders.

 

“Swish, don't swallow” he quietly instructs as he hands her a small waterskin. Bobby takes it with shaking fingers and follows his instructions as he watches, rinsing the bile from her mouth.

 

“Thank you Solas” she croaks and then when he presses the waterskin further into her hand, she drinks fully.

 

“Shit Songbird,” Varric says from the side, and Solas sees the full body twitch echo through her body. “First kill I'm guessing?” His tone is gentle, and her nod has him wincing.

 

“Come along Bobby” Solas helps her up and she has to hold still as her vision swims, greying out on the edges. “Easy, follow my voice” He guides her to Cassandra, who takes one looks at them and offers them something vibrantly blue.

 

“NO” Bobby shies away like a frightened horse, stumbling as she bolts out of Solas’ arms. The group gives her strange look when she shakes her head. “No lyrium”

 

“Bobby, Cassandra is only trying to help” Nikolai reassures her and Bobby sucks air through her teeth.

 

“I appreciate the effort Lady Seeker” She says sincerely. “But I have not had good experiences with lyrium and would rather not have to deal with it again”. The lie is easy, and Cassandra’s face softens at her words and she simply hands the vial to Solas, who drinks it in one swallow.

 

They continue on at a much slower pace, Varric and Nikolai giving her looks as she treks onwards. The blood had been washed from her hands after Solas had taken the lyrium, but she can still feel the red all over her hands, and she tries to keep the rising panic out of her mind, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.

 

Soon enough, they are at the cults doors.




Chapter Text

The Speaker is even creepier in real life and when Nikolai and the others head to close the rift, Bobby takes the opportunity to hide away. She gets looks from the people she passes as she feels her breath coming faster and faster until she is curled in a corner, hyperventilating and shaking. Her mind is swimming, thoughts full of blood, and red, and blank eyes rising and falling in her mind's eye like waves.

 

Then as sudden as the thoughts began then just

 

Stop.

 

Because there's someone in the room with her. His hands are gentle as they pull her to his chest and Sulevin pulls her into his lap, murmuring softly in Elvish.

 

“Shhh, da’len .” He soothes, hands stroking her hair as she shakes. “Breathe for me. Follow my breaths” And she buries her head into his chest, listening to his heartbeat and breath and lets her own follow until finally, she is calm.

 

“Sulevin?” Bobby croaks, pulling away lightly. Her brow is furrowed and Sulevin gently wipes the tears from her cheeks as she looks at him. “What are you doing here? What about-”

 

“The Wolf is busy fighting demons” Sulevin reassures. “Even he is not omnipotent” Bobby nods and relishes in the quiet the older mage grants.

 

“I killed someone” She admits and his hands tighten lightly. “He was going to hurt us and I killed him” She can feel the shaking start again and Sulevin pulls her gently away from him and makes her look at him.

 

“You had to” He affirms. “If you had not done so to him, he would have killed you and not even lost sleep for it. That is the way of this world now. The most you can do is hope you do not have to, but you have to be prepared to kill” The words make Bobby wince, but Sulevin is not finished.

 

“If you wish to be kind, then show kindness. But mercy? That is saved for those who would not kill you for simply existing

 

“Like Solas?” Bobby retorts and now Sulevin flinches. “You said it yourself. Solas would have killed me in a heartbeat if he thought I knew. And yet, you don't advocate for his death” She stares hard at Sulevin, who meets her gaze with a wry smile.

 

“Of course. I had to get the idealist” He chuckles. Then he winces as a wave of something echoes through the castle. “Hmm. It seems like our time is up Roberta” He stands gracefully, and pulls Bobby with him until they are standing chest to chest. His breath ruffles her hair as he disappears, making Bobby a little more pissed than before.

 

“What? No answer?!” She whisper yells into the air, arms flailing. But still, she no longer feels like she's drowning and she makes her way down the ladder to see Nikolai and the others speaking to Anais, who looks starry-eyed at the young dwarf.

 

Nikolai is clearly dithering on what to task the people with and his companions are no help, talking over each other. Bobby sighs and walks over, placing a hand on Niko’s shoulder.

 

“Niko” Her voice is firmer and the boy blinks up at her, clearly surprised. “Didn't you say we need people to help the Inquisition?”

 

Anais, who is clearly easily influenced, jumps on the suggestion like a cat on a string toy. “Lord Herald, is it your wish for us to spread your word? I have many people who would be happy to make the pilgrimage” She gushes and Nikolai blinks before standing a little taller.

 

“It is. Please send as many as you can to spread the doctrine of the Inquisition and what it stands for” He says and Bobby has to hide a smile. “However, there are refugees at the Crossroads that need aid. Would you spare some to help?”

 

The Speaker agrees readily and as she walks away with a crowd of people following her, Niko’s shoulders drop from ‘Herald’ to ‘exhausted teen’.

 

“I'm guessing sealing rifts takes a lot from you?” Bobby asks gently. Niko nods and rubs his palm gently.

 

“The Mark causes stress to his muscles” Solas explains, walking to Niko’s side. “It acts like a physical malady, and as such, needs constant maintenance to prevent loss of motion in his lower arm” He stares at Niko who shuffles his feet. “Maintenance that the Herald has clearly not been doing if he is so sore after closing only one rift”

 

“I forgot” Niko defends, looking petulant. “It takes too much time, and we-”

 

“You did not think to ask for help Herald” Solas rebutts, looking like an exasperated older brother. “Will you do so in the future?”

 

“Yes Solas” Niko agrees and Bobby squeezes his shoulder gently.

 

“Solas? Since it looks like I'm going to be with the Herald for a while, would it be possible for me to learn how to help?” She suggests and Solas considers it before nodding.

 

“Of course Bobby. We will begin lessons after we next make camp. Now, I believe there were people the Herald wanted to speak to before we left?” He looks pointedly at Niko, who nods.

 

“Yup. The nug-humper who left his mother unable to breathe and the other half of the lovebirds” Niko describes. “Ancestors, I want to hit that kid” He gripes.

 

“What happened?” Bobby asked as Niko began to walk, the others following closely.

 

“Kid has a medicine that helps his mother” Varric steps in, looking irritated. “But he neglected to leave some, or even how to make it, for his father before he left. Now she can't breathe and his father has no way to stop it”

 

Bobby hummed, even though she knew all this. “And the lovebirds?”

 

“A woman was going to meet up with a Nobleman who is living here,” Cassandra said, frowning lightly. “But she died before she was able to make it. The man doesn't know.”

 

“And you want to break the news” Bobby sighed. “Yeesh”

 

Niko huffed. “Understatement. I do not want to have to break that news. But I can't just let him think that she's still coming” His eyes looked sad and Bobby wondered.

 

“How about I do it? I'm used to having to comfort grieving people” She suggested and the group blinked at her.

 

“Are you sure Songbird? Not everyone takes grief well” Varric eyed her slight form dubiously. Bobby shrugged.

 

“I’d like it if someone came with me, but I can deal with it pretty well alone,” She said, only to have Cassandra shake her head.

 

“No need. I will go with you while Varric and Solas go with the Herald” The others murmured their agreement as the group split up,

 

“It was good of you to step in,” The Seeker said as they walked away and Bobby raised a brow at her. “When the Herald was speaking with the cult leader” She clarified.

 

Bobby hummed. “Meh. The rest of you were talking, thought I might speed things up a bit” She brushed off as they climbed the stairs.

 

“Even though you lied?” Cassandra said carefully. “The Herald said no such thing about aiding the Inquisition”

 

Rolling her eyes, Bobby directed a look at Cassandra. “How about we talk about this later, when we aren't surrounded by people and I'm about to tell someone that the person he loves is dead” She hissed, surprising Cassandra, who looked around that the curious faces turned lightly in their direction.

 

“As you wish. We are looking for a young man named Berand” The two looked around for a moment before Bobby spotted the man near the balcony, looking worried. The Seeker watched as she made her way over, touching his arm lightly.

 

As expected, the man did not take it well. Cassandra watched as the man, presumably Berand, broke down, sobbing. Bobby was quick to comfort him, mindful of his grief.

 

What was most curious though was that as Bobby and Berand spoke more, the Noble stood taller and more serious as the woman spoke until finally, the Noble saluted Bobby, who gave him a wide grin before leading him to Cassandra.

 

“Seeker Cassandra” Bobby motioned the man standing beside her. “Meet Lord Berand. He was Lady Vellina’s lover. He has volunteered to lead a contingent of soldiers and aid the Inquisition if we would take him” She said smoothly and Berand nodded.

 

“I want to make sure nothing like this happens to others” He affirmed. “Lady Roberta speaks highly of you Seeker”

 

Cassandra stared at Bobby for a second before addressing the Nobleman. “It is good of you to do this. May we speak for a moment about your men?”

 

Cassandra and the young Lord spoke for a while as Bobby explored the upper level of the tavern, finding the Bottle of Thedas that was lying out in the open. No one even looked at her as she slipped the bottle into her rucksack.

 

After a few minutes, Cassandra and Bobby led Berand out of the tavern, to see Niko leading his own group out of the tower Bobby had broken down in earlier.

 

“Looks like you were successful” She commented, eyeing Hyndel. The boy blushed under her gaze and Bobby’s brow furrowed before she turned back to Niko. “This is Lord Berand. He’s volunteered himself and a few of his men to help the Inquisition”

 

“Ah. I am sorry for your loss Lord Berand. But I am grateful that you are able to aid us. Would I be able to trouble you for a moment?” Niko smiled at Berand, who snapped to attention.

 

“Of course Your Worship”

 

“Perfect! Would you mind escorting this young man back to the Crossroads? He is a healer and has an important mission there” Niko gave Hyndel a gentle push and Berand smiled at both young men.

 

“I would be honored Your Worship,” He said, before turning to Bobby. “And thank you, Lady Roberta. I am glad the Maker has put you in my path” He said before turning away with Hyndel by his side.

 

“Lady Roberta?” Varric questioned, looking slyly up at Bobby, who glared back.

 

“Oh shut it. There’s a reason I go by Bobby. Now, let's get out of here before I get hives from all these stares”

 

Cassandra made a noise. “Agreed”.

Chapter Text

There's something so perversely wild about the Hinterlands that is so different from home.

 

It makes sense, in long sight though.The Hinterlands is pure, untamed wilds, with beacons of civilization scattered throughout. Even the homes, built with blood and tears soaked into their timbers, are wild in some way, with elfroot vines growing like a virus up their outer walls.

 

But, still, Bobby finds herself missing home when they settle in for the night, the sun long having set. Cassandra and Solas move about in the cabin, while Niko sharpens his knives and Varric scribbles in his notebook, occasionally nibbling on the end of his quill. It’s nice to see even he gets writer's block, even when surrounded by nothing but inspiration.

 

None of them even glance at her when she slips out the glass-less window and wanders away.

 

She knows, rather intimately, that there are things in the woods that would like to take a chunk out of her, mentally or physically. Templars still wander, for all that the others (and she herself) have killed, along with the bears, wolves, and demons that wander too far from near-forgotten spawn points.

 

Eventually, she gets to a spot that she can see around. It’s probably dangerous to be out this far, away from them and in perfect sight of an archer, but Bobby can't find herself to care.

 

Because beneath her, she can feel something screaming. It's not full of joy, or sorrow or pain, but simply a scream, as if they simply wanted to be heard.

 

It had begun after they left the cult, and became louder and louder with every splash of blood on her hands. The other’s had noticed her twitchiness, but she had held back the ‘do you not hear that?’ comment, for fear Cassandra would call her an Abomination.

 

But, would she be wrong?

 

Her hand went to the necklace under her shirt, feeling the grooves of the replica Orb, feeling the pulse that echoed her own.

 

Part of her wants to throw in Solas’ face and scream, wondering what he would do. The other part of her wants to throw it in the lake next to their cabin, wonders if the Spirit of Valor in the lake would take it as a gift.

 

Her mind wanders as the stars above her circle, and the twin moons rise, their light unpolluted by streetlights and neon signs.

 

“You know, I’ve tried throwing the damn thing away before” A voice echoes to her left, making her jump. “Doesn’t do a damn thing, I’ll tell you that”

 

Bobby turns quickly, ready to either run or fight, only to find the person in front of her is... average. He has a face that once would have killed women, now weathered by time and battle. Salt and pepper hair is pulled back, draped over his shoulder in a loose braid. The twinkle in his eyes is what sells her, a bright, but soft, blue-gray that matches the pendant draped around his neck, held up by an armored hand for her perusal.

 

The blue of his pendant pulses in time with the green in hers, and she knows .

 

“Please tell me you have a weapon I can learn” She blurts and he laughs, lines cradling his smile.

 

“Sorry, my dear. I fight with my hands, not with metal. Now, what are you doing all alone out here? Did you guide leave you to meet the Herald?” He inquires, leaning against one of the trees, and Bobby flushes when she realizes just how exposed she is.

 

“Actually, I already met the Herald. I just needed some alone time” she tapers off when the man looks at her incredulously.

 

“You do realized there are demons around?” He straightens and walks over to where she is perched. “Along with Templars and bandits?”

 

“You try being one of the only women in a cabin full of men, including a sixteen-year-old” She bites back, feeling fighty. The look he gives her is blank and he shakes his head.

 

“Come on girl. Let's get you back to them” He holds his hand out for her to climb down and she almost takes it before realizing that this man could literally be anyone. He could have been a murderer or a rapist, or-

 

“Hey,” He says, noticing her hesitation. “I'm not gonna hurt you. I’ve been in your shoes before. All I want is for you to get back safe” She eyes him for a moment, chewing her lip.

 

“Tell me your name first, so I can curse you to the Black City if I die”

 

“He clearly swallows a laugh at her attempt at black humor and nods, saluting her the traditional Ferelden way. “Names William. You can call my Willy if you’d prefer” Willy raises a brow as if to say ‘Now, you’.

 

“My names Roberta. But I prefer to be called Bobby if that's okay” She slips her pale hand into his older, weathered one as he helps her down and gives him alight bow. “Now, I’m starting to freeze out here. Shall we?” She nods her head forwards and he motions her forwards.

 

The journey back to the cabin is quieter than expected, Willy only speaking when he has to warn her of a root or branch in her way.

 

“Willy? I have a weird question to ask you” Bobby says suddenly, breaking the silence as they creep closer to the cabin.

 

“Ask away kiddo” He replies easily, helping her around a particularly large log.

 

“Can you hear the thing beneath us?”

 

Willy stops in his tracks immediately and turns to her with wide eyes. “Excuse me?”

 

“The screaming” Bobby winces at the look he’s giving her and shakes her head. “You know what, nevermind. Let's just keep walking” She starts forwards, and Willy’s hand lashes out, gripping her forearm tight.

 

“Bobby, wait” He pulls her close to him and his other hand tips her chin up to look at him. “Has your Gift presented yet?” He prys and sees the clench of her jaw. “I'm going to guess that's a no? Have you told anyone?”

 

“No” She whispers. “The only reason I said something was-”

 

“Because you knew I had a Gift too” He finishes, and watches her nod. A sigh escapes him and he looks like he wants to hit something. “Listen to me very carefully. Just because you and I come from the same place and have the same motivations, does not mean everyone else does. I've met people assigned to the Warden, and to Hawke, and not all of them were good people.”

 

“How bad?”

 

“One helped the Arl of Denerim’s son torch the Alienage,” He said bluntly. “He killed the Warden-to-be, allowing for another to become it. But, he was not a good man, and he died by the true Warden’s hand when he challenged her in a fight. He fulfilled his destiny, but at a terrible cost” Will said, solemn. “I was lucky to meet the Warden when I did. My Guide, bless her, dropped me in the path of Bodaihn and Sandal. I became their muscle, and left them when the Warden left Redcliffe for the last time after saving Connor”

 

Bobby winced and swallowed. “Then, I really can't tell anyone can I?”

 

William curled his arm around her shoulder and pulled her close. “Not really kiddo. Not until it fully manifests at the very least, and even then...”

 

“Even then I might not be able to say anything” She finished and shuddered. Her head thumped gently against his breast-plate. “Fuck me with a chainsaw”

 

Willy snorted quietly and mussed her hair. “Now, come on. It's getting late” He took her hand, firm but gentle in his gauntleted grip, and soon enough, they could see the cabin.

 

Bobby just sighed and winced as the scream got louder.

Chapter Text

When the two of them finally arrive back to the cabin, the lights are on, and Bobby can see figures moving inside, the lack of actual curtains making it easy to see Cassandra’s tall silhouette pacing inside.

 

Willy gives her a reassuring smile before hiding to the side, not wanting to make a scene when she comes back with a strange man in the middle of the night.

 

But when Bobby knocks on the door and gives their little signal, a blur is all she sees before she is slammed into the wall next to the door and there is a dagger digging into her back.

 

“I knew I shouldn't have trusted you” Cassandra snarls into her ear, pushing her bodily into the door. “Dropped in our laps, like a gift. A pretty girl, with a smart mouth and magic? What better way to get into our good graces?” She asks sardonically, and Bobby can hear Niko protest inside, only to be shushed by Varric.

 

“I don't know what you're talking about!” Bobby protests and yelps as her arm is yanked further up her back, dangerously close to dislocation.

 

“Oh? Then, please explain why you left without telling us, in the middle of the night?” Cassandra pushes. “And why, when we went to look for you, you were speaking with a bandit?”

 

“Cassandra, wait! It’s-”

 

“Not what I think? Then please” The Seeker pushes the dagger harder into Bobby’s back and she can feel it pierce her skin, wetness running down her back. “Explain”

 

“It was my idea” Will says suddenly, coming from behind the corner. Bobby can feel Cassandra’s grip tighten on her arm and it takes everything she has not to whine. “We wanted to get a good look at your group, see what your real intention was. We meant no harm by it”

 

Cassandra scoffs then, and Bobby can hear the people inside begin to talk, Varric’s low tones a bitch to hear against the wood. “No harm? And when the rest of your people show up?”

 

“No, no more people” Will reassures. “Just us”

 

“Are you local?” Varric has come out of the cabin now, and Bobby can practically feel his gaze on her, heavy and piercing.

 

“I am. Kid’s not though. Found her in the forest a few weeks ago. Looked lost, thought I could help” Will’s reply is easy and Bobby clenches her jaw, forcing herself not to cry as Varric hums.

 

“We need assistance getting to Dennett's farm, the horse master? Think you can help?” He suggests and Cassandra hisses at him.

 

“Varric. What are you doing?”

 

“Taking advantage of the situation. We have a local, who knows the area, and leverage. We take them both, chain them and have them lead us to Dennett. If they really aren't looking for trouble, they’ll be fine. If not, then we take care of the issue” Varric is calm throughout his explanation and it's takes Bobby almost nothing to remember Varric is a rogue for a reason .

 

Cassandra is silent for a moment before she presses Bobby harder into the wall with a snarled “Do not move”. Bobby stays, even though she is shaking and the scream she has been ignoring is back, full force.

 

Then the scream raises pitch and volume as ice-hot shackles are placed on her wrists and she screams with it, knees buckling. She can hear Will try to step forward, only to be met with the cocking of a bolt in Varric’s crossbow.

 

“You too. I can put them on, or you can” He says, as Cassandra pulls her up by the collar of her shirt and pushes her into the cabin.

 

The figures inside are blurry and Bobby’s mind is having trouble focusing, but she can see the impassivity on Solas’ face. But what cuts more, if the betrayal on Niko’s.

 

She turns away as Will is placed next to her and Cassandra pulls up a chair to watch them. Varric shoo’s Niko back to bed with a stern look and it takes no coaxing for Solas go back into his bed-roll, breathe slow and steady within minutes.

 

At one point she can hear Will speaking to her, reassuring her that they’ll be fine. But Bobby is too tired, and she burns like Cassandra filled her with liquid nitrogen. So, she scoots away from him, further into the corner and sleeps .

 

She has no dreams, and she does not know if that's better or worse than her dreams before.

 

In the morning, Cassandra wakes them with rough shakes and Bobby is slow to wake, mind black and full of noise.

 

“Cassandra, did you have to put the Silencing shackles on her?” Niko says, and walks closer to her. “She looks like she's about to fall over”

 

“She’s a mage Herald” Cassandra replies easily, and pulls Niko back with a hand on his shoulder. “She is not the person you thought you knew. Remember this”

 

‘But I am!’ Bobby wants to scream, and she can feel her arms twitch in rage. ‘Please let me go!’

 

But Niko can't hear her, and does nothing as Cassandra pulls him away. The group wanders around the cabin for a moment, and she can feel someone drape her rucksack over her shoulder along with Sulevin’s staff, tightening the strap so it doesn’t fall off.

 

Then, soon enough they are in the sunlight and walking.

 

She can see Willy looking back at her occasionally from where Varric walks with him. She wonders what he sees, because all she knows is that Cassandra hasn't let go of her cuff’s since they left the cabin. The Seeker is brusque and just keeps Bobby walking, uncaring if she stumbles over a root or branch.

 

But, before they can reach Dennett’s farm, things go south.

 

It happens instantly, and Bobby’s foggy mind can barely comprehend the next few minutes. In one moment, they are there, readying their weapons and then the next, she and Willy are alone, chained and defenseless.

 

She can hear the booms of magic and shouts as they fight but Willy is the only thing she really pays attention to, as he begins to move, standing with an ease she is jealous of.

 

“I'm so sorry kid” He says and looks at her with eyes that say he is definitely not sorry. “But I gotta help them. Stay here, I'll be right back okay?” He runs one of his chained-together hands over her head, and she flinches at the kiss he presses to her forehead. Then, in a snap of his arms, his cuffs are no longer chained together and she is forced to watch as he stretches, smiles at her and runs in the direction of the rift.

 

Leaving her alone and too dazed to move when Despair comes to visit.

 

The thing is about Despair, is that it knows , even when you don't, that you are alone. It comes, shambling into her vision not long after Willy leaves it and she can tell already that she has to re-evaluate her worldview.

 

Because the thing before her would never have been made by mortal minds, and it shows.

 

The hands reaching out of it's cloak are frost-bitten and skeletal, with waxen skin covering what isn't clearly necrotic flesh. The cloak itself is a farce, ripped and torn and thrashing in wind that does not exist. It's face, though, is the thing that makes Bobby’s mind finally work.

 

Rotted rows of teeth line it's maw, a thing that stretches across its face in a grimace, the downward points ending beyond where a humans jaw should. There are no eyes, simply crinkled holes that drip clear, acidic fluid that splashes on the farce of a cloak, burning holes that repair themselves before she can blink.

 

Bobby tries to scramble back, only to have the demon screech at a pitch that makes her ears ring and lunge forwards. The thing doesn’t just crawl towards her, instead, it scuttles like a bug, mouth a gaping slash in the waxen flesh.

 

Alone ” It whispers, coming closer. “ Such despair comes from you. First your home and your family, then your friends?” Eventually, it's resting at her feet, and she whimpers at the feel of the acid eating through the fake leather of her boots. “I can make it all go away” It's mouth gapes wider and now Bobby can see it's eyes, hidden in the back of it's throat, like some Beetlejuice parody . “Let's begin, shall we?”

 

The demon’s hand lands on her boot, and suddenly Bobby can feel, can’t see as the cold of it's touch goes through her boot, into her skin, into her bones . And Bobby, she-

 

Screams .

 

There’s no word in her mind for the feeling that echoes through her, as her scream goes beyond sound and into something else, something harsh and wild. The Despair demon goes flying as stones pierce it's body, and it's screech of pain is silenced quickly when another slab cuts off it's head, turning it's temporary body into blue/black sludge.

 

Bobby sobs as her scream stops and she marvels as the stones, instead of leaving, cage her in, supporting her weakened body as she catches her breath. But the scariest part is when she spots the lines in the stones, and a small, glowing crystal is dropped in her hands.

 

Each line and crack in the stone is filled with glowing, raw, lyrium.