Chapter 1: Author's Intro
Legal Disclaimers- I do NOT own anything from the Dragon Age Franchise, or any of the songs used in future posts, if I did my life would be very different, I earn nothing from this except getting to play with a sexy but seriously scary former Bard turned Spymaster.
Massive Author's notes contained in this "chapter"
Firstly I'd like to thank everyone for stopping by my attempt to play in Thedas. I just want to throw out there that if Leliana was a real person I'd gladly become a Grey Warden for a chance with her. Then again I wish she had been a romanceable character in Inquisition. That's what this is. I'm not writing this like a story, I'm writing this as though it was a play through of the game. In some chapters I will be relying heavily on in game dialogue, cause quite frankly...If it ain't broke don't fix it. In others I'll be using game dialogue, just not in the same order as the published game. Those chapters will be named after inner circle and Inquisitor's path quests. Others are completely out of my own twisted little mind, full of "what if", "if only" and straight up "I wish" moments, as well as missing scenes or scene expansions of things I felt could have gone in another direction. I even have a few chapters inspired by song lyrics which I will splice in and rework to fit my outline and story flow.
Next, this is a M!Trevelyan/Leliana endgame fic and a slow burn because if you've ever played the game you know romance achievements aren't just handed out. you have to earn those suckers gradually.
First and foremost Bioware for creating Dragon Age. The last 9yrs have been amazing can't wait to see what's next, and major props for your constant support of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Next I'd like to thank the writer behind the Dragon Age Transcripts tumbler account, that was a huge help.
Also special thanks to fellow fanfic writers MarkRulez711 for his article on the Dragon Age Wiki (Josephine's Birthday)
PrettyFrog (Age of Dragons: Inquisition) FanFiction.net story with excellent use of in game dialogue that has become an invaluable resource for me
Those song lyric inspired chapters I mentioned? So far I'd like to thank:
Florida Georgia Line,
Get Set Go,
and Ellie Goulding.
If anymore pop up beyond later I'll add a quick thanks in that chapter.
Bare your Blade and Raise it High!
Thanks for reading!
Chapter 2: The World So Far
A general summary of how Thedas got here
A/N- If you play Dragon Age then you know you can edit a world state to import from Dragon Age Keep into Inquisition, and since I'm writing this like a game play through, it's only fair I add a "story so far" world state. Just be advised I will be purposely vague in this posting because I need to be in order to set up flashbacks in later chapters. I will however add the year when I can because that can actually be sort of important.
The Dragon Age, 9th age of Thedas. Our story begins as most do, with a secret plot. Several actually.
Dragon Age Origins-
9:30 Dragon- The 5th blight has begun. Duncan, Commander of the Grey Wardens in the Kingdom of Ferelden, conscripts a young noble named Aedan Cousland after the Cousland estate in Highever is attacked, leaving Aedan's family murdered by Arl Rendon Howe of Amaranthine.
Duncan takes Cousland to Ostagar. There our second plot comes to light. Loghain Mac Tir, the father of the Queen, betrays her husband the King and withdraws his army from the battle field, leaving the King and several good soldiers to die.Barely surviving the field were Garrett Hawke and his brother Carver, who returned to their home in the village of Lothering back to their loving mother Leandra and sister, Carver's twin Bethany.
Back in Ostagar, Cousland and the only other living Grey Warden, Alistair, are aided by the Witch of the Wild, Flemeth, and her daughter Morrigan.
The Wardens set off on a quest to end the blight before it consumes the whole of the world, joined in their journeys by Morrigan, Senior Enchanter Wynne from the circle of Magi, Zevran, a member of the Famed Antivan Crows, a disgraced drunken dwarf , a lost warrior called Sten, Cousland's faithful war dog and a bright young former Bard turned Chantry sister.
The group uncovers a series of evil turns headed by the Queen's father, discovers the find of an age and ends the Archdemon, ending the blight before it had a chance to even truly begin.
9:31 Dragon- Now called the Hero of Ferelden, Aedan Cousland is named Commander of the Grey, and gifted the Arling of Amaranthine by the new King, as a place for the Grey Wardens to grow and prosper, but all is not well.
The Chant teaches that the Maker turned his back on man after seven Magisters from Tevinter entered the Golden City over one thousand years ago, becoming the physical embodiment of sin- the first darkspawn and the cause of the blights.
One of those seven, calling himself "The Architect" plans to awaken the last of the old Gods. The Warden and his new companions stop this ancient being but was it worth the costs? In his new journeys Cousland gets word of the location of the witch, Morrigan.
Now he must choose between the two women that love him, his decisions being felt for years after.
Dragon Age II-
9:30 Dragon- Brothers Garrett and Carver Hawke return from war to the village of Lothering in time to gather their mother and sister to flee before the blight takes their home. Escaping South, the family meets fellow survivor of Ostagar, Aveline Vallen and her husband, Templar Knight Wesley, who sadly doesn't make it out of Ferelden with them. Nor it seems does young Carver Hawke, sacrificing himself to save his family from a darkspawn ambush.
With the aide of Flemeth the small band make their way north to the Free Marches and the city of Kirkwall, where Leandra is from. Leandra's brother gambled away the family home so Hawke and his sister work for a mercenary band for a year to repay the loan used to get them into the city. Aveline works her way up the ranks of the city guard, eventually remarrying several years after Wesley's passing.
9:31 Dragon- The Hawke siblings befriend surface dwarf and businessman Varric Tethras and help him and his brother Bartrand fund an expedition to the deep roads after meeting former Grey Warden and fugitive Mage, Anders. During the expedition Bartrand is overcome by greed and double crosses the Hawkes and his own brother, locking them in an ancient dwarven vault. Left to find their own way back to the surface, they are attacked by darkspawn and Bethany contracts the very fatal 'Blight Sickness'. Luckily Anders knows of some nearby Grey Wardens who are able to save her life. She joins their ranks, going on to serve with distinction in the coming years. Reaching the surface, the tales of their exploits makes Hawke a very wealthy man. He buys back his mother's childhood home. Sadly a blood mage uses her in a sick ritual, leaving Hawke alone.
9:34 Dragon- Hawke quells the attempted Qunari invasion of Kirkwall, earning the title "Champion of Kirkwall". Anders, while pleased for his friend, starts acting strangely.
9:37 Dragon- The reason for Anders' odd behavior comes to light after he blows up the Kirkwall Chantry, killing Grand Cleric Elthina and several others. This leads to the fall of the Kirkwall Circle and the beginning of the Mage rebellion. Hawke takes Anders' justice into his own hands, ending his life after the discovery of his conspiracy. However, the damage has been done. Knight-Commander of Kirkwall orders the death of all the city's mages. Hawke learns that the Knight-Commander has been corrupted by the same substance that led Varric's brother to betray them. Challenging her to open combat, she is defeated and Ferelden survivor, Knight-Captain Cullen Rutherford is promoted to Knight-Commander while Hawke is elected Viscount of Kirkwall. He didn't even campaign for it.
9:40 Dragon- Three years of fighting between the Mages and Templars have led Divine Justina V to extreme measures. She sends Left and Right Hands to find either the Warden or the Champion, but the Warden has vanished. They go to Kirkwall in search of Hawke, finding only Varric. The Right Hand also recruits Knight-Commander Cullen, and seeing that their plans may well be the best chance for peace in Thedas, Cullen joins readily. The Left Hand goes to Orlais to recruit her dear friend and Ambassador from Antiva to the Imperial Court, Josephine Montilyet, who also joins, knowing the unrest in Orlais and Ferelden has the potential to take the world.
9:40 Dragon- Divine Justina V calls for an Exalted Conclave, a chance for peace. Leaders from the Templars and Mages as well as influential families from all regions flock to the small village of Haven, where during the blight ten years prior an Urn containing the ashes of the Blessed Prophet of Andraste was discovered in an ancient temple by the Warden and his party, which then included the King of Ferelden and The Left Hand of the Divine.
This is where our story begins, in a war torn land full of heroes long gone. Evil machinations of ambitious usurpers fueled by greed, and an unlikely hero who stands on the edge. He alone will become the last beacon of hope in a world gone mad......
Chapter 3: Chapter 1 Enter the Ranger
Our Story Begins
A/N- This chapter is basically filler. It's my mostly canon compliant explanation of why my lead character is even involved in this story. In Dragon Age Inquisition the beginning of the game is character creation. As a human you can play one of three classes - warrior, mage or rogue. If you play warrior or rogue, then it is said you are at Haven to represent your family's interests. So I decided to use that to set up for why exactly my human noble was at the Conclave to begin with. Enjoy!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Ostwick - The Free Marches
Etrigan Trevelyan, the worst kept secret in the Marches. The youngest of the Bann's five children, Ety as his friends called him, had license to do virtually anything he wished. His eldest brother was the heir, his eldest sister was being courted by some high - born Ferelden noble, and the twins were well into their careers with the Chantry. Just what made Etrigan the "worst secret in the Marches"?
Well... many years ago the Bann was himself a Templar Knight. As the second born son, Victor Trevelyan was expected to serve, as was his only sister Seline. Their elder brother was taken by illness. Victor retired from the Templar Order and took his place as head of his family. Soon after he married a lovely young girl from Orlais and their union was of such joy that the Maker blessed them with four children.
Tragically, the Maker called Bann Victor's wife to his side shortly after the birth of their twins.
Many years went by and the Bann never remarried, but he did hire a tutor for his young children. He didn't mean for it to happen and he wasn't actively looking for it. Neither was she, but as things tend to go, Victor found comfort for a time in the arms of his children's tutor. He found that he loved her dearly, though he would not be ready to marry again soon.
Fate, it seemed, decided for him. Shortly after the twins' 12th birthday, the Bann's lover vanished. He spent a year searching for her, only to remain without the answers he desired. His children grown and living their lives now, the Bann fell into a deep depression.
Nine years after his lover vanished, the Bann was visited in the night by a strange woman, and with her was a small boy. The Bann knew him at once.
9:41 Dragon -
Ask anyone that met him. Commander Etrigan was simply the greatest ever. The young man had no regard for greed. He and his band of Rangers lived by meager means. All the coin they made went to funding Holy trips to the Grand Cathedral in Orlais or the Temple of Sacred Ashes in Haven. After using as little as possible to resupply themselves, the sell swords gave generously to charity.
That's how Etrigan was raised by his father. Since going to live with his father at only eight years old, he had been taught that the only way to be seen as a good and virtuous man was to be loyal first to the Chantry and second to his family. It worked out nicely if you asked him.
The most important people in his life were his father, Bann Victor and his aunt, Grand Cleric Seline. Next down his list were his brothers Max and Gabe, then his sister Evie and his best and oldest friend Josie. "Quality not quantity my boy", as his father used to tell him.
When Father asked him and his men to escort Aunt Seline to the Most Holy's Conclave in Haven, of course he agreed. Then Father pulled him aside and gave him a second task. With Max away helping with the rebuild in Kirkwall, someone needed to represent the interests of House Trevelyan. This war was simply very bad for business.
Now here he was standing in his best armor. It had become a game for him to mark the plating of his left arm with all the allegiances he had made. The engravings reached down almost to his elbow from the tip of his shoulder, including the great seal of the Chantry, The circle of Magi and the Templar order. He even managed an uneasy truce with the Dalish clans of the Marches and an accord with the Dwarves of Orzammar, each adding another stamped plate to his arm. The singe plate of his right shoulder was marked only with his rank of Commander of the Rangers and the seal of his father's house.
Tonight he was unarmed, accompanying Aunt Seline to the reception of The Most Holy Divine Justinia V. Etrigan had worked with her for years before she became the Divine, when Justinia was Grand Cleric Dorothea, Left Hand of the Divine. He had been gifting her with coded reports hidden in copies of the Chant since he founded the Rangers, a relationship he continued with the new Left Hand who he knew only as Sister Nightingale. He had been corresponding with her for five years now and still had no clue what the woman looked like. That is a mystery for another day however. His attention shifts when he hears Seline call his name.
"Most Holy, may I present Commander Etrigan of the Rangers of the Free Marches. It is my honor to bring this young man before you. He has dedicated his life and his blades to defending and guiding the faithful safely to their destinations during their pilgrimages."
Kneeling before the Divine, Etrigan flusters under his Aunt's praise. "You humble me with your kind words, Grand Cleric. My men and I simply follow our calls to do the Maker's work." Feeling a shadow behind the Most Holy, he chances a glance up as the Divine addresses him.
"Stand, child, for yours is a cause of the utmost virtue."
Rising to his feet, he watches the shadow while never taking his eye from the Divine, "It is our privilege to act in service to the Maker's will, Your Perfection."
The Divine smiles at him and recites a verse from the chant, "Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just. Blessed are the Righteous, the lights in the shadow," Laying her hand on Etrigan's head as he bowed it during her recitation, "You have ensured that the Maker's children arrive to their homes or to the Holy places we hold dear. I have heard of your deeds, often funding the journeys yourself, offering charity to those in need of it. On your next journey to Orlais, come before me at the Grand Cathedral and I will grant you official sanction to work as an agent of the Knights-Divine. That should allow you to expand your ventures while continuing your good works."
Etrigan couldn't believe what he was hearing. "Thank you Most Holy. I will strive to assure your faith in my men and the generosity you bestow upon us are not wasted."
At her nod he takes his leave, finding the cause of the shadow. A woman, in the armor of The Seekers of Truth, a tanned complexion and short dark hair with a single braid wrapped around her head like a crown. He knows her from his Aunt's descriptions...The Right Hand of The Divine. Bowing slightly to his future employer, he turns on his heel and begins to leave the hall. The next thing he sees makes his breathing stop and his heart race.
He catches himself as his steps falter, bowing low and looking up to a woman with the clearest eyes he has ever seen, the shade of blue the heavens took after a storm that belied the soul-consuming fire held within, and Maker preserve him he wished he were a bolder man because he wanted to play with it. As she inclines her head slightly in return of his bow he sees her hair that had been covered by her cowl. He thinks he's seen that vibrant a red before...Oh yes, the sunset in Bloomingtide held the same shine.
She passes him and their moment is over. He is almost to the door when he freezes at whispers of "Sister Nightingale." He spun around, trying to see if anyone responded to the name. Seeing no one, he left the hall to prepare for the evening meal with his Aunt. Hours later he excuses himself from the company of his relations and heads deeper into the temple, hoping to find the Left Hand or at least the woman from before. Nearing the room of the reception, he hears a woman calling out for help. There is a bright flash of strange light, a loud booming noise and searing pain in his left arm, then darkness and nothing.
Coming to his senses, he wakes in a nightmare. Pain, Maker's breath, the pain. "Where am I?"
A woman's voice haloed in light, "Quickly, run, the demons!"
He runs up a large stone staircase, a flood of shadows behind him. The woman is now behind him, and she pushes him through an odd green tear. He thinks he has entered another dream, one of death and ruin. The pain in his arm causes him to think his hand is glowing, and unable to stop the scream of agony, he falls to his knees before the blessed darkness takes him.
See you (hopefully) next week!
Chapter 4: Chapter 2 The Nightingale's Report
This is one of those missed chances I mentioned before. We all know Leliana always knows more than she lets on. Best guess, in game she had already thoroughly investigated the Herald as soon as they appeared in Haven. Parts of this chapter bleed into chapter 1 and set the tone I hope to take into chapter 3. As an added bonus, I designed a little insight as to what my beloved Bard has been up to since Origins.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Finally the gates of Haven come into view. Leliana remembers well the last time she walked the roads of this village eleven years ago during the blight, finding the Cult of Andraste. She and her companions fought against them to stop them from poisoning the Urn. They underwent the trials, being found worthy of receiving a pinch of ashes from the Maker's Bride. She often thought of those she traveled with back then. Alistair, the reluctant King- even he has had to admit to growing into his role as sovereign. The surrogate mother to all in their group, Senior Enchanter Wynne- one only knows where she has cloistered herself during this madness. Zeveran, the elven assassin- still her dear friend and often used ally.
She lost touch with those that sided with the Warden by default but she still missed them, especially Morrigan. That is the memory that wounds her. They had at first bonded over being the only women in the group, but when Wynne came, their bonds moved to commiserating over being used by those they trusted most. In the end however, their strongest bond was the one that destroyed them. The Honorable Arl of Amaranthine, Bann of South Reach, Commander of the Grey. The Hero of Ferelden, Aedan Cousland. Part of her is glad she and Cassandra couldn't find him, as the wounds are only just now healing.
He loved them both, she and Morrigan, and in turn they both loved him. Where Leliana tempered and soothed his broken soul, the Apostate stoked the fires of his rage and delighted in his darkness. After the blight's end he chose Leliana, or so everyone thought. They were together for five years, and 4 of those years he lied to her everyday. She wonders if she had known about Morrigan's ritual if she would have stayed.
Five years ago they were at his family's estate visiting his brother Fergus when rumors of an apostate woman matching Morrigan's features was spotted in the mountains. He ached to give chase and finally told Leliana everything- the ritual the night before the final battle, the child born of it. Leliana had warned him that no matter how much she loved him, if he left she could not be there if and when he came back. The next morning she woke in their chamber alone, a note on his cold pillow. She packed before even reading it, removing the engagement band he had gifted her only weeks before placing it next to his near perfect script 'I'm Sorry.' As a single tear found its way down her cheek she whispered, " Me too."
That was six years ago. She left for Val Royeaux that day and agreed to Justina's request as soon as she had arrived. Her former mentor had been hounding her to become her Left Hand.
Since that day she has watched out for signs of them. The Warden hasn't been seen in five years. Morrigan, however, appeared in the court of Empress Celene of Orlais four years ago, with a young boy. Seeing him, there was no denying his father. That didn't explain where the Warden was, however. She kept agents on the pair both as a precaution and as a courtesy though she was never sure which was the stronger reason.
Shaking herself from her memories as the carriage stops, she falls into step beside Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast, the Right Hand of The Divine to her own place as Left Hand. They make their way to the Temple of Sacred Ashes and Leliana is stopped by a Sister she knows of being in service to the Grand Cleric of Ostwick. The young woman hands her what appears to be a copy of the Chant and she smirks under her cowl. The cover looks to be from the Chantry in Rivain this time. Justinia had given her the cypher for the tomes when she accepted the position and took control of the Divine's network of spies and informants. It would seem a man calling himself 'Shadow Drake' had spent the better part of the last ten years freely offering information in the form of coded messages hidden in books made to look like various Chantry texts with the covers being a hint as to where the information was sourced from.
Cassandra stops when she no longer feels Leliana behind her. "Another one?"
Nodding, Leliana holds it up for the Seeker to see, "Copy of 'The Trials of Andraste' in Rivaini. It would seem my unofficial agent has recently returned from the east."
The Seeker waited for her counterpart to catch up. "Do you think your mystery source will be at the Conclave?"
"Honestly, I don't know. I would like him to be, if only for the sake of thanking him for all the very useful scandals he has sent my way."
Their conversation ended as they entered the reception hall, Leliana staying to the shadows as was her trade while Cassandra went to her customary place directly behind the Most Holy, stifling a chuckle. "She would use that one." Leliana didn't bother to mask her amusement at Justinia blessing a Ranger Commander and his men for protecting travelers to the Temple and to the Grand Cathedral. "Oh how she does love the Benedictions." Watching the exchange, she listens to the boy speak. She has heard of his band of fighters. Nobles pay for protection to holy sites, and the Rangers then invite the less fortunate on the next journey paid for by the nobles. Whatever is left is given to healers and orphanages.
As she watches Cassandra approach to inform the Divine of their arrival and the presence of their new Commander, she thinks back to the man that traveled with them from Kirkwall. Former Templar Knight-Commander Cullen Rutherford, she first met the man when he was being held prisoner by blood mages in the Ferelden Circle tower near Redcliff. The next time she met the man, he had been given command of Templars that had been kidnapped by mages and had taken over from a woman that had been corrupted by a strange strain of lyrium. She wondered if his luck would ever change. Her thoughts then shifted to their other traveling companion. Officially he is an apprehended witness of the Seeker. Merchant Guild Deshyr Varric Tethras.
Justinia has dismissed the Ranger so she makes her way forward. She arches a brow as the..young man, not a boy...nearly trips over himself in her presence. Always a way to make a lady feel better about herself when a man of such a young age is struck frozen by a woman's passing glance... Her smirk only grows as one of her agents approaches her and his head spins upon hearing the agent address her.
She says nothing as the young man searches the room. She isn't sure why she hurts for him at the look of disappointment that crosses his features, but she nods to her agent when he leaves. "You've news?"
"Yes Mistress, from Ostwick. Neither Bann Victor nor his eldest son Maxwell are attending the Conclave. A young Trevelyan believed to be the Bann's bastard son has accompanied the Grand Cleric to Haven." The agent hands a stack of papers to Leliana.
"What is this?"
"Everything we have been able to acquire on the youngest Trevelyan."
"Well done, you may go." Looking at the rather small stack of information a name jumps at her- 'Josephine Montilyet' in his known associates. "Very interesting." She makes a mental note to speak with her old friend when she arrives. She quickly updates the Divine on the imminent arrival of their new ambassador, then heads back to the village with Cassandra to read the reports she knows have piled up in her absence.
Leliana ended up having her evening meal with Josephine who had arrived several weeks earlier than planned. Soon after they finished eating Leliana invited the young Antivan noble to share quarters with herself and Cassandra. The hands of the Divine helped the woman get settled and then offered her a quick tour of the village when the world turned on its axis with an ear shattering bang, followed by the very sky itself ripping open.
"Cassandra, the Temple..."
Tears staining the Right Hand's face, "Most Holy, the Grand Clerics..."
Their grief quickly turned to anger as Cullen came running to them. "Reports coming from the site of the blast.. a rip in the fade and a man falling from it, some are saying a woman was behind him but he emerged alone. He is alive but only just."
Soon after, Leliana is pulled away when guards inform her that an elven mage has turned himself in to Chantry forces and surrendered his staff.
I understand our first order of business must be to investigate this bizarre breach in the sky and protect people from the demons descending. While my search continues, I wish to draw your attention to a new arrival at our camp: an elven apostate calling himself Solas.
Solas entered the camp voluntarily, surrendering his staff to Chantry forces without protest. He is not Dalish and says that he has never been part of the Circle, claiming instead to have studied magic peacefully on his own... particularly magic tied to the Fade.
While I suspect you will be reluctant to accept the help of an apostate, Solas did come to us freely. Witnesses saw him in a nearby village at the time of the blast, so he was likely not responsible for what happened at the Conclave. However, he has described the effects of the Breach in enough detail to convince me that he knows more about the Fade than anyone else present.
Solas has requested permission to study the lone survivor and one of the smaller rifts, in hopes of finding a way to seal the Breach. He has correctly guessed that it is growing, and believes it will destroy the entire world unless we find a way to stop it. Unless you object, I will allow him his studies—under proper observation, of course.
That was eleven days ago. No angry reply from Cassandra, so she decides to supervise the ordeal herself. Now as she comes to the bedside of the sole survivor, she notes that it's the young man from the reception. The reports say he wasn't wearing armor when he emerged from the fade. She watches as this Solas tries to stabilize the prone man, leaving Leliana to her thoughts. She wonders how this man survived a blast that annihilated the Temple, killing everyone inside. Memories of what remained there would haunt her the rest of her days. Her hands trembled as she again read the report on the elusive Trevelyan she now knew to be the man laying before her. As the door opens, she doesn't even look up as she extends her right hand to just above her shoulder, offering the report to Cassandra.
Before the Seeker reads the information she has to ask, "Do you believe he did this?"
Shaking her head, Leliana replied, "Truly I do not know, but no, I don't think he did. There is nothing for him to gain by causing such chaos."
Cassandra sighs deeply, "Unfortunate for him that he is our only lead, and for most in the village, the only suspect." The seeker sits at the table across from the former Bard and reads the report Leliana's people found..such as it is.
Etrigan Trevelyan Born 29th Haring 9:13 Dragon Location Unknown
Father- Bann Victor Trevelyan of Ostwick
Mother- Unknown, presumed dead
Brothers- Maxwell b.8:96 Blessed
Gabriel b 9:01 Dragon
Sisters- Evelyn b 8:98 Blessed
Aislyn b 9:01 Dragon
Notable relations- Grand Cleric Seline of Ostwick died at Conclave
Lady Osher Lotharn Trevelyan Bayart
Philliam Bernard Aloicius Travelyan- Orlisian Bard
Several familial connections to Chantry and Templar Order, cousins among ranks of Royal court of Nevarra
Known Acquaintances - Faren Thatchersen of Ansburg
Lady Josephine Montilyet, former Ambassador to the Imperial Court of
Orlais as ordered by His Grace, King of Antiva.
The report goes on to state that Lord Trevelyan simply appeared at his father's home shortly after his eighth birthday and a petition to have him legitimized by the Chantry was filed by his Aunt, then Revered Mother Seline, and was approved by Divine Beatrix III in early 9:26 Dragon. Also listed are the assignments of his brother, Knight-Captain Gabriel and his sister, Mother Aislyn.
Cassandra sets the report down and looks at Leliana, "There is no more?"
Leliana shakes her head, prompting the Seeker to continue. "He has remained hidden even after being recognized as a legitimate heir of his father. Where has he been for the last ten years?"
That Leliana can answer. "At seventeen he founded a band of Rangers that made a name for themselves offering protection to travelers on holy pilgrimages."
Cassandra abruptly stands and heads for the stairs, "I am going to train."
Leliana almost feels sorry for the poor training dummy that is about to be brutalized. She waits only a moment before following and catching the Seeker. "Cassie talk to me, if not now, soon. I know you are hurting. We have both lost too much, and I will NOT lose you as well. For the last six years we have worked together as two halves of the same being. In that time you have become a trusted ally and a dear friend, and I will fight to keep you with me, from external machinations or from your own darkness."
The Seeker could only nod, afraid that if she tried to speak the grief would follow and for the moment she needed to hold on to her anger as vehemently as she held her shield.
Leliana knew this and finished her thoughts. "Perhaps when we have a chance to breathe we will have our own service for Justinia, small and simple, private, no?" Again the seeker could only nod. Leliana hugged her friend tightly and let her go.
This seems to prompt Cassandra's voice. " Yes that will be lovely, but for now I must train." At Leliana's raised brow and amused smirk the warrior added, "It helps me think."
As they started to part a messenger came running to them. "Seeker Cassandra, Sister Leliana." The boy doubled over trying to catch his breath. "The prisoner, he stirs."
Cassandra's look becomes positively murderous and the boy visibly flinches under her gaze, but it is Leliana that speaks. "He is waking up."
The boy nods. "Yes my lady. The elven apostate says it will be anytime now."
The boy is dismissed and the hands of the Divine go back into the Chantry to tell the guards to alert them the moment the prisoner is awake. Leliana will let Cassandra lead the interrogation. Though she believes the survivor to be innocent, he is however their best chance of gaining any insights to what actually happened in the Temple the night of the explosion
Until next week!
Chapter 5: Chapter 3 The Wrath Of Heaven
Here we are! Finally getting in to the bulk of the game. Notice the title of this chapter? That is actually the name of the first real quest of the game. This chapter backtracks a little bit simply because it's needed, a lot of the game is based on the PC's recollection of what happened before the game even begins, this is my spin on that to tie chapters 1 and 2 together
Etrigan wakes up lying on the ground. "Where am I?"
All around him, the air crackles with magic and danger. Standing up and looking left, he sees a long stone staircase, and at the top a figure bathed in pure light. He starts to make his way towards the stairs when he hears a sound behind him, giant spiders, running at him.
Etrigan starts sprinting up the stairs. He hears the figure calling to him, "Quickly, the demons!"
When he reaches the top he sees the figure is a woman. She pushes him towards a green light, but as he turns to reach for her she is overrun by the creatures and she pushes him through the tear. He leaps through and falls to his knees in agony before soldiers surround him and darkness takes him.
When next he wakes, he is on his knees, chained to the stone floor of a dungeon. Four guards stand ready, swords drawn and pointed at him. He is startled awake fully when his left hand pulses in pain with a strange green light.
A door opens and two women enter. Through the haze of his pain he can tell at least one of them wants his head. The other merely observes, and he knows that's the one he should fear.
Someone once told him that silent women were always the more dangerous...who was that...fairly certain he knows them from somewhere. He can't escape the fog in his mind long enough to recall where from.
The taller woman is wearing armor a shield strapped proudly to her back. With a death grip on her sword, she steps to him and grabs a fistful of the shirt he is wearing.
"Tell me why we shouldn't kill you now. The Conclave is destroyed. Everyone who attended is dead. Except for you."
Flashes of things come to his mind. He knows but says nothing. 'My name is Etrigan Trevelyan, my father sent me to Haven, with his sister the Grand Cleric of...Oh Maker Aunt Seline, wait did she say dead? But I'm here? The Divine? Andraste's Ass, The Right Hand of The Divine thinks I murdered Most Holy and my own kin, if she doesn't have me killed Father will.'
Having been taken by raiders before on his travels he remembers now...Max taught him never say anything first. Eventually your captors will get angry enough to tip their hands.
Use that to gather information and you'll live another day. He stays silent as the Seeker paces around him, her armored boots echoing on the stone floor.
He counts the moments and the Seeker does not disappoint, grabbing his manacled hands as the mark on his left flares, "Explain this!"
The prisoner shakes his head, "I..I Cant."
This only seems to anger her further, "What do you mean you can't?"
Finally he looks at her, trying to keep his face as neutral as possible. "I don't know what that is or how it got there."
She drops his arms and rears back, ready to strike him. "You're lying!"
Her arm is caught on the down swing by the hooded observer, "We need him, Cassandra."
The prisoner hangs his head, speaking softly to himself, though his unwilling savior hears him, "I cant believe it, all those people..dead."
Looking up he asks her, "So what happens now?"
Rather than answer his question, she asks her own. "Do you remember what happened? How this began?"
The prisoner closes his eyes tightly, trying to sort through the flashes of things invading his memories. "I remember running, things were chasing me..And Then...A woman?"
Having questioned the soldiers that found him, the hooded woman knew there had been reported sightings of a woman but, "A woman?"
She played her part well to hear this man's version of events. The prisoner shook his head and kept going, "She reached out to me, but then...."
The Seeker cut him off, "Go to the forward camp, Leliana. I will take him to the rift."
The Seeker he now knows beyond doubt is Cassandra Pentaghast, Right Hand of The Divine, hauls him to his feet. He chances a question, "What did happen?"
Cassandra removes the chains, binding his hands with rope, "It will be easier to show you."
She takes him down a dark hall and up a set of stairs. He had no idea that Chantries had dungeons in them..She leads him outside, as his eyes adjust to the change in light, he looks up to get an idea of what time it is, freezing when he sees the massive tear in the sky, the one that looks just like that strange mark on his hand, "Sweet Andraste..."
Cassandra places a guiding hand on his arm, "We call it 'The Breach'. It is a massive rift into the world of demons that grows larger with each passing hour. That is not the only such rift, just the largest. All were caused by the explosion at the Conclave."
The prisoner stared at her in shock, pointing towards the breach. "An explosion can do that?!"
"This one did. Unless we act the Breach may grow until it swallows the world." As if to illustrate her point the breach grows, sending the prisoner to his knees in pain as his mark flares.
Cassandra kneels in front of him and places a hand on his shoulder, "Each time the breach grows your mark spreads."
She waits until he looks up at her, "And it is killing you. It may be the key to ending this but there isn't much time."
The prisoner notices her hesitation. "You still think I did this? To myself?"
She glares back at him. "Not intentionally, something clearly went wrong."
The prisoner decides to match her defiance. "And if I'm not responsible?"
Cassandra pulls him up and starts leading him again. "Someone is and you are our only suspect."
She stops and answers him honestly, "You wish to prove your innocence? This is the only way."
The prisoner nods, "I understand."
"I'll do what I can. Whatever it takes."
They start walking again and the prisoner notices the angry stares of the townspeople, as does the Seeker, "They have decided your guilt, they need it. The people of Haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, Head of the Chantry. The Conclave was hers. It was a chance for peace between the Mages and Templars. She brought their leaders together. Now they are dead."
She nods to the guards at the gates, who move to open them. "We lash out, like the sky. But we must think beyond ourselves, as she did. Until the breach is sealed."
Cassandra turns and takes a step forward, pulling a small dagger from its place at her back. He is afraid only a moment before she steps back to him. "There will be a trial," she tells him and cuts his bindings, "I can promise no more."
The prisoner nods his understanding as he massages the feeling back into his hands. Cassandra motions behind her with her head. "Come, it is not far."
He follows. "Where are you taking me?"
She pauses only a moment, "Your mark must be tested on something smaller than the breach."
She continues and he quickly catches up, falling into step behind her as she leads him into the valley.
Chapter 6: Chapter 4 Convincing the Seeker
OK...Game prologue part 2..Crazy right? I ended up breaking this part of the game into a few chapters just because if you've played then you know it takes almost 2hrs to play through it and it cant be skipped so I decided to expand a few key scenes of the pre show. That and I wanted a few moments to give a few glimpses as to the kind of guy the hero really is
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Previously- "Come, it is not far." "Where are you taking me?" "Your mark must be tested on something smaller than the breach."
Cassandra leads the prisoner through the village gate to a bridge. Though she would never admit it, it does soften her to him to see his reaction to the carnage. As they pass the gate guards, the prisoner immediately goes to help a wounded soldier carry his wounded companion to a small stack of crates, bearing most of the weight of both fighters as he helps to ease them down to sitting positions. Kneeling down, he tears strips of cloth from their torn uniforms to bind their injuries, asking if there is anything else he can do for them and promising to send a healer as soon as he can find one.
Cassandra watches him move forward to a gathering of commoners and nobles alike gathered around a Chantry brother, taking a knee and joining them in prayer for those lost. His next stop is to a Chantry Sister taking information of the dead wrapped in canvas, bound with ropes, not even trying to mask his tears and sorrow. The Seeker watches him as he speaks to the woman, "At the base of this ridge is a small villageand just outside is a camp. There a band of Rangers from the Free Marches can be found, four dozen stout men and their officers, they will come. Their commanders will insist that they offer their services to escort your fallen home safely."
The woman taking notes sends for a messenger, "Thank you, Messere."
Doubt of his guilt begins to creep into Cassandra's mind and she hopes for a chance to continue questioning him on the journey to the rift. They come to a second gate where more guards are standing sentry. "Open the gates, we are heading into the valley." The guards salute and head for the heavy wooden doors. Cassandra leads her prisoner through and turns left onto the path into what the chantry has called 'The Valley of Sorrows' leading to the Temple. Watching the prisoner as they go forward, she sees him take in the graduated barriers set up on the path requiring anyone wishing to pass them to weave through.
The only sounds are the clash of steel and the frightened screams of soldiers and innocents alike, a wounded soldier running past her holding his arm and shouting, "Maker, its the end of the world!"
Not hearing steps behind her, she turns to face the man whose guilt she doubts more with each passing second, standing, tears flowing freely from his face as his head hangs solemnly, she almost misses his whispered "How long?"
She walks back to him slowly, as one would approach a wounded animal, "What do you mean?"
He looks up and gestures towards the breach, "How long between that and.." motioning around them "..all of..this."
The Seeker sighs deeply, carefully considering her words before answering him. "Eleven days." What she sees next both cements his innocence in her eyes and breaks her heart.
"Why me?" He shouts to the heavens, "Maker, why me? All those people, and I'm the one that gets to live?" He turns to the nearest solid object and strikes it with his fists as quickly and as hard as his broken and battered body can, "How is this mercy? How is this just? There was no dignity in this, only chaos." He falls to his knees screaming out his rage and grief, and Cassandra has to catch herself from weeping for him as she remembers Leliana's report on the man. He lost at least a dozen of his kin in the blast.
As quickly as it began, she sees him pull himself together, though as they progress along their path up the hill she sees the fire in him, his rage simmering just below the surface as they pass more wounded and dead. His compassion is evident whether it be mage or Templar, his heart breaking for the innocents. They get to the crest of the hill and the breach expands once more, dropping him yet again to his knees in pain.
She helps him back up. "The pulses are coming faster now. The larger the breach grows, the more demons we face."
"How did I survive that?"
"They said you...stepped out of a rift, then fell unconscious. They say there was a woman behind you in the rift. No one knows who she was. Everything in the valley was laid to waste, including the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I suppose you'll see soon enough."
They come to another bridge with both a dead mage and a dead Templar. It is impossible to tell if they killed each other or if the breach claimed them. On the other side of the bridge is a small unit of forces with a wagon. As they get halfway across, a meteor falls from the breach, destroying the bridge and killing the soldiers, sending Cassandra and the prisoner to the frozen river below. A smaller meteor hits the river not too far in front of where the Seeker stands. A shade demon forms and charges her. Drawing her sword and shield, she yells to the man behind her, "Stay behind me!", surging ahead to fight the demon.
As she moves a second shade forms behind her, and looking to his left the prisoner sees a bow with a half-full quiver and a short sword. He grabs the lot and nocks three arrows, firing at the second demon. They make quick work of the demons. When the fight ends he has nocked another arrow as a precaution and approaches the Seeker, looking around to be sure. "Its over."
When he looks up to her, he finds himself staring down the business end of her very sharp long sword, her gaze pure fire, "Drop you weapon. NOW."
In an effort to stay alive a little longer, he makes a dramatic show of taking the arrow off the bow, "Alright, have it your way. I'll disarm." Moving slowly, he goes to set the bow and quiver down. Then, keeping his hands where she can see them, he moves to set the short sword down as well, until he hears her release a tired breath.
"Wait.." She rolls her neck to alleviate some of the tension threatening to over take her, "..I cannot protect you and I cannot expect you to be defenseless. Your life is in danger enough as it is and I should remember you came willingly."
He picks the bow and arrows up again and she hands him several small vials. He recognizes the red liquid in them as health poultices, "Here, take these potions. Maker knows what we will face."
He nods and pockets the vials. Cassandra then watches as he makes quick work of scavenging the area and the fallen soldiers near by, coming back with two full quivers, another short sword and a gear belt. After he has geared up, such as it is, he asks her, "Where are your soldiers?" Falling into step beside her.
"At the forward camp, or fighting. We are on our own for now." She notes he stops along their way to say a quick prayer for the fallen that they find their way to the Maker's side and scavenges armor from them, effectively making himself a set of sniper's armor, his left arm from shoulder to wrist now covered in steel plating. He also cuts wild herbs she recalls healers using. His last stop he found a steel bracer for his right hand and a pair of leather gloves which he proceeded to cut the fingers off of and cut a hole into the palm of the left hand.
At her questioning look he simply shrugs "Archery is as much about being able to feel the bow and the shaft of the arrow as it is about being able to line up a clear shot to your target." He gets an almost wistful smile. "Mother taught me that."
She wants to ask about that but as they reach the next hill he gets to prove his point. Three demons stand over the body of a dead noble. She watches as he nocks three arrows and tilts the bow's angle to better control the arrows, then lets go, an arrow hitting each demon. Drawing her sword, Cassandra begins her approach, "Watch out, if we flank them we may be able to gain the advantage."
He gives her a curt nod and fires one more arrow to the right, then moves left, drawing the short swords he now carries, leaving her to go center. She is impressed to see him handle the swords so well with the heavy armor on only one side, though her anger rises after the fight when he kneels to loot the body of the dead noble. He ignores her rage and continues, "For some, Seeker, a proper funeral is a luxury. All are equal under the Maker's gaze and welcome at His side. This man can afford in death to give to those he would not have helped in life."
They fight their way to a stone staircase through debris and demons. As they climb,sounds of battle get louder, and the Seeker picks up her speed. "We're getting close to the rift. You can hear the fighting."
He catches up to her, "Who is fighting?"
"You'll see soon, we must help them."
They jump over a ruined wall and up a small slope. The Ranger rolls his shoulders as he draws the short swords and jumps into the fray, taking the head of a demon that almost had an Elven mage unawares. He feels the wind shift and takes a knee right as a crossbow bolt sails past where his left ear used to be, hitting the wraith that appeared behind him. He stands, turning to look behind him, and sees a dwarf with a double action crossbow with a wicked blade attached, obviously a custom piece he thinks. He gets to return the favor when the Ranger takes off in a sprint then slides under a shocked Seeker, spearing a demon that formed next to him. He makes his way back into the fight as the dwarf takes a sniping position.
As the last demon falls, the Mage grabs the Ranger's wrist, "Quickly, before more come through!"
The Ranger watches as the Mage aims his hand at the rift. A flash of green light erupts from his hand and into the rift, closing it with an audible pop. Wrenching his arm back from the slim elf's deceptively firm grip, he shakes the discomfort from his hand, "What did you do?"
The Mage smiles with a slight bow, "I did nothing. The credit is yours."
The Ranger shakes his hand out again, "I closed that thing? How?"
Picking up his staff, the Mage explains, "Whatever magic created the Breach, also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorized the mark may be able to close the rifts and it seems I was correct."
It's this statement that catches Cassandra's interest. "Meaning it could also close the breach?"
The elf nods. "Possibly," he turns back to the Ranger, "It seems you hold the key to our salvation."
A new voice, the dwarf with the crossbow, chimes in. "Good to know! Here I thought we'd be ass deep in demons forever."
Adjusting his coat as he approaches the Ranger, hand held out, "Varric Tethras, rogue, storyteller and..." he throws a wink at the Seeker, "occasionally unwelcome tagalong."
Cassandra rolls her eyes and makes a disgusted noise.
The Ranger shakes his hand, "Etrigan. Are you with the Chantry or....?"
This causes the mage to laugh slightly. "Was that a serious question?"
Varric smiles and shakes his head. "Technically, I'm a prisoner, just like you."
Still scowling, Cassandra shouts out, "I brought you here to tell your story to the Divine. Clearly that is no longer necessary."
Unmoved by her temper, the dwarf fires back, "Yet here I am, Seeker, lucky for you considering current events."
Etrigan nods. "Pleased to meet you, Varric."
The mage grins. "You may change that stance with time."
Feigning hurt, Varric looks to the elf. "Aw, I'm sure we'll become great friends in the valley, Chuckles."
Turning to Cassandra, the Ranger asks, "So I closed the rift. What now?"
She motions upriver, "Now we meet Leliana at the forward camp."
Varric reloads his crossbow, "What a great idea, Seeker."
"Absolutely not. Your help was appreciated Varric but..."
Varric doesn't even let her finish, "Have you seen the valley lately, Seeker? Your men aren't in control anymore. You need me."
Cassandra makes another disgusted noise and storms off towards the camp. The elf bows slightly to Etrigan, "I am Solas, if there are to be introductions. I'm pleased to see you still live."
Varric laughs. "He means he kept that mark from killing you while you slept."
Etrigan returns the bow. "Etrigan, Commander of the Rangers of the Free Marches." Holding up his marked hand, "You seem to know a great deal about it all."
Cassandra notes he didn't claim his nobility. "Solas is an apostate, well versed in such matters."
Showing no offense to her comments, Solas continues, "Technically all mages are apostates now, Cassandra. My travels have allowed me to learn much of the fade, far beyond any circle mage. I came to offer what help I can give with the breach. If it is not closed, we are all doomed, regardless of origin."
Etrigan considers him a moment. Unlike any Dalish he has ever encountered before, his instincts tell him to be cautious. "That's a commendable attitude."
The elf tilts his head, "Merely a sensible one, although sense appears to be in short supply right now."
Cassandra watches as the gears move in Etrigan's mind, weighing every word carefully before engaging in further conversation. "And what will you do when this is over?"
"Like you Ranger, one hopes that those in power remember who has helped...And who did not." Turning to the Seeker, the mage gives her the results of his studies, "Cassandra, you should know, the magic involved here is unlike any I have ever seen. Your prisoner is no mage. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power."
She nods curtly. "Understood. We must get to the forward camp, quickly."
The party sets out with Varric slapping Etrigan on the back. "Well, Bianca's excited.." giving his crossbow a loving pat.
Etrigan's brow shoots up in confusion, "You named your crossbow 'Bianca'?"
The dwarf smiles. "Yea..She's one of a kind."
Cassandra comes back and starts towards the river below, "This way down the bank, the way ahead is blocked."
The four make their way long the banks in silence, eyes and ears searching for dangers, Solas and Etrigan trading off on gathering herbs for the healers and scouting ahead, both being sure to stay in sight of the party. Solas sees them first. "We must move, demons ahead."
Varric readies his weapon. "Glad you brought me now, Seeker?"
Ending the wraiths quickly, the others can barely track Etrigan's movements as he scavenges several cabins along the banks. When he comes back he hands Solas and Varric both a few satchels containing herbs, potions and anything else of use he managed to find. The satchel he handed Cassandra was smaller, however she noticed its weight and looked inside. He had handed her whatever gold and valuables he had scavenged.
The silence gets to Varric first. "So Ranger, You're actually from the Free Marches?"
"What gave me away?"
"Accent. I'm from Kirkwall, but you...Farther east maybe?"
"You just..listening to me talk feels odd. Is this another kind of interrogation?"
"Oh, I'm sure Cassandra has done plenty of that. So..Ansburg? Ostwick? This is going to bug the shit out of me."
Before Etrigan can answer, the mark flares, almost bringing him to his knees. Cassandra catches him as he tries to breathe through the pain, "Hold on. We haven't much further." Another sharp breath with a grunt of pain. "I know it is difficult but we must keep moving."
The party climbs a wide set of snow covered stone stairs and Varric just can't help himself. "So...Are you innocent?"
Etrigan bites back the sarcasm since the Seeker is listening. "I don't remember what happened."
"That'll get you every time. Should have spun a story."
Another scowl from Cassandra. "That's what you would have done."
Yet without missing a beat, "Its more believable, Seeker. And less prone to lead to premature execution." The group continues northwest along a winding path and at the top they are attacked by more demons.
"I hope Leliana made it through all this."
"Nightingale is resourceful, Seeker." The dwarf's comment got Etrigan's attention but he focused on the wraith in front of him.
Solas sends a blast of ice magic towards it, making it easier to kill. "We will see for ourselves at the forward camp," the elf motions to his left, "We're almost there."
Etrigan feels the mark on his hand start to spark up again and takes off in a sprint in the direction Solas just indicated.The others dash after, trying to keep up, Cassandra ready to tackle him for a moment, believing he was trying to escape. At the top of a small hill, she stops and sees him vault over a smashed wagon and crumbling wall, "Another rift."
Solas stopped short to avoid crashing into her. "We must seal it, quickly."
By the time the others arrive, Etrigan has already pulled the injured soldiers away from the field when another calls out, "They keep coming! Help us!"
After two more waves of demons from the rift, Solas moves to aide the injured and throws back over his shoulder, " Hurry, close it, use the mark!"
Glancing at his hand, Etrigan thrusts his left arm up, mark facing the rift. He feels the energy ebb and flow between the mark and the rift until a flash of light and a loud crack signal the rift's close. Cassandra starts towards the guards, "The rift is closed, open the gates."
They both salute in the standard Ferelden manner, right hand fisted at their left shoulder, arm across their armor. "Right away, Lady Cassandra!"
Solas falls into step with Etrigan, "We are clear for the moment. Well done."
Varric comes up on his other side. "Whatever that thing on your hand is, its useful." Etrigan nods in agreement as the party walks through the gates and into the forward camp.
I'm late posting. Sorry, I had a couple of family birthdays to go to.
Chapter 7: Chapter 5 So who IS in charge here?
So now the hero of this story knows the woman that kept the Seeker from breaking his face is the Left Hand of The Divine, and speaking of the Seeker...Why didn't she call him out on not claiming his nobility??? Stay tuned kids!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Upon entering the forward camp, the first thing Etrigan does is take all the bags he gathered from his companions and head to the supply caches to start sorting his efforts into the appropriate piles. He quietly asks the man guarding supplies if there was an officer or anyone really taking up coin to help the families of the fallen, and after being directed to a nearby Chantry Sister, he unloaded the last of his bags. Heading back to the supply piles, he lingers only long enough to refill his borrowed quivers.
A glint of steel catches his eye, and following it, he sees his second, Stitch, and their men have arrived. After ten years of traveling and fighting together the two Ranger commanders have gotten very proficient at speaking to each other without saying a word. Seeing the other man's flinch towards him, Etrigan gives an almost imperceptible shake of his head, alerting his men not to approach him. A movement catches his eye, and glancing over he sees Sister Leliana watching him. Looking back at his second he effortlessly conveys to his men that they should ask the former Bard for orders for the time being.
Seeing a few bits of scratch parchment, Etrigan takes them and finds a decent piece of burnt wood. He quickly scribbles out a couple of coded notes, one to his second - She is the Nightingale. Follow her orders or escort the fallen home- and one to the Left Hand - Until I can lead them again, the Rangers are at your disposal, lest they escort your fallen to their final rest-
He marked both with his alias- when he started 'gifting' information to the Chantry, he adopted the name 'Shadow Drake' to distance what he was doing from his family as much as he could. Only his second knew about his essentially third life, as they never called each other by their given names in front of the men, only their codes. Eyes darting around quietly, Etrigan makes sure no one saw him pen the notes and heads to the table his men are crowded around, seeing his second has laid out his personal weapons. Slowing his pace by the table, Etrigan trades his scavenged weapons for his preferred pieces, all custom made for him by his second's mother and her brother's son. He chooses not to switch to his own armor, wanting to conceal his identity from the masses for as long as possible. He slips his second the orders for their men and, indicating Leliana again, palms the other note at the wrist of his gloved hand, suggesting that's where his second drop it for him. It was a tried and true method, one they had success with when the Divine herself had been the Left Hand.
Etrigan heads to join back up with Cassandra and overhears an argument between Leliana and a man in Chantry robes best described as a swollen horse's ass. Stitch has discreetly passed him his brother's dagger, now tucked into its usual home at his left wrist. His grip tightens on it, though his first thoughts of the hooded woman made him smile. 'If she is the Left Hand, we'll all be dead before I could even think to draw a blade.'
"We must prepare the soldiers." Anyone could hear the stress in Leliana's voice.
The Horse's ass, however, seemed to think he was the general of Andraste's armies. "We will do no such thing."
She replies, keeping her voice level, "The prisoner must get to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. It is our only chance."
"You have already caused enough trouble without resorting to this exercise in futility."
Leliana's eyes go wide in shock, the incredulity evident in her voice, "I have caused trouble?!?"
Etrigan was tempted to bag an arrow through the finger currently hanging in front of the woman as the man continued his tirade, "You, Cassandra, the Most Holy..Haven't you done enough already?"
Leliana's patience had run out, "You are not in charge here."
That point only seemed to anger him further. "Enough, I will not have it."
He turns his gaze to Etrigan and Cassandra as they approach, "Ah, here they come."
Relief floods Leliana's features as she sees her friend safe again, "Thank the Maker you made it. Chancellor Roderick this is..."
Now Etrigan really hates this guy when he rudely cuts off a lady. "I know who he is."
Leliana has to turn her head to fight her smile as she hears Etrigan mumble, "I seriously doubt that."
It doesn't go unnoticed that Roderick raises his voice to get more attention and seem more important as he points at Etrigan, "As Grand Chancellor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux to face execution."
Cassandra is having none of his self aggrandizing, "You? Order me? Your are nothing more than a glorified clerk, a bureaucrat!"
Again the man tries to make himself bigger than he is. "And you are nothing more than a thug. But a thug that allegedly serves the Chantry."
Leliana steps in before Cassandra can use him as a new hilt for her sword, "We serve the Most Holy, Chancellor, as you well know."
The blustering fool loses his own argument with his next comment, "Justinia is dead! We must elect a new Divine and follow her orders on the matter."
After listening to the three of them argue back and forth, Etrigan decides to throw his coppers in, if anything just to shut the foul man up for a minute, "First, I have a name," he motions between the three of them, "So...No one is actually in charge here?"
Well, Etrigan thought as the Horse's ass starts yelling again, "You killed everyone who was in charge!" that didn't work. Roderick turned his attention back to Cassandra, "Call a retreat, Seeker. Our position here is hopeless."
Undeterred, Cassandra looks at a map of the valley located just of them, "We can stop this before its too late."
Shaking his head, Roderick continues his begging, "How? You won't survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers."
Cassandra traces a path through the valley along the map in front of her, "We must get to the Temple. It's the quickest route."
"But not the safest," Leliana points towards the mountains, "Our forces can charge as a distraction while we go through the mountains."
The Seeker shakes her head, "We lost contact with an entire patrol along that path, its too risky."
Etrigan was following the debate and eyeing the map until the mark flares again, "Argh. Damn it!"
Roderick uses the moment to try his cowardice one last time, "Listen to me. Abandon this now, before more lives are lost."
The breach expands again as does the mark Etrigan bares, and as Leliana helps her bring him back to his feet, Cassandra asks him, "Ranger. How do you think we should proceed?"
Still reeling from the pain in his arm, his reply is a bit more sarcastic than he wanted, "Now what I have to say matters?"
With a knowing smirk, Leliana points out the obvious, "You have the mark."
Etrigan sees she is holding his note, but can't think on if she has read it yet as Cassandra requires his attention, "And you are the one we must keep alive."
The Seeker looks almost pained as she continues, "Since we cannot agree on our own..."
Etrigan runs the fingers of his right hand over the glowing mark in his left, weighing the severity of all the options, then softly but boldly, he tells them his choice. "I honestly don't give a damn as to what any of you do."
In his peripheral he sees Stitch and their men gathering close by, "I was hired to do a job. The explosion ensured my failure." Looking to Leliana, he holds up his marked hand, "This thing will kill me before I can be made to blame at any farce of a trial, so I'll take my chances with the soldiers. Whatever happens, happens now." He returns Roderick's sneer before addressing Leliana again, "Just make sure he sits before my father and brothers when you tell my family what happened to me."
He nods to Stitch and hears the rally call, "RANGERS! FORM UP!" Removing the scavenged armor pieces, he takes his own from his second, "If I am meant to die today, it will be as my Father's son." Slipping into his own armor is like adding a second skin for him, the colors of his house standing in contrast on the steel, the same material, though not enhanced with runes, as his blades. Stitch opens a small chest and holds it out to Etrigan, in it, a final gift from his aunt, Grand Cleric Seline-- a new archer's gauntlet, marking him as an agent of The Divine. It adds to his long list of allegiances, the pauldron on his right shoulder marked with his rank within the Rangers and his family crest. On his left arm from his pauldron to his elbow are hand-engraved marks noting his alliance with the royal courts of Nevarra, Orlais, Antiva and Ferelden. His right arm is mostly free of armor under the pauldron, save for a steel bracer to match his gauntlet, marked with the seal of the Chantry, the Circle of Magi and the Templar Order.
Stitch stands next to him holding his helmet, making sure their men didn't hear them but that the three Chantry members did, "Commander Trevelyan, the men are ready and waiting for your orders."
Motioning towards the map, Etrigan shares his plans, "Have two of our Captains take all but the scouts and head into the valley. Pull the wounded and dead off the field, try to save as many as possible, I'll be soon behind them. You take the other two captains and the scouts here," he points out Leliana's mountain path, "a small contingent of their forces have been cut off from communications. It's a search and rescue, possibly recovery. When you return any further instructions will come from Sister Leliana. She'll tell you where to go."
Letting out a shrill whistle, Etrigan calls his men to him. He looks around at his rangers, his second family. "If this is where we make our stand, I wanted you all to know, it has been an honor to fight at your sides, and never doubt for a moment that it has not been my highest privilege to be your Commander. You have your orders. MARCH!" Etrigan calmly walks back to the Hands of The Divine and the Chancellor, "Ready when you are Seeker."
Cassandra snaps from her stupor at the drastic change in the younger man, "Leliana, bring everyone left to the valley. Everyone."
Leliana nods and heads to her task, and Etrigan motions for his scouts to follow her. Roderick, leaning heavily on the map table, offers no comfort, only a parting shot at Cassandra, "On your head be the consequences, Seeker."
Walking past the final gate as Cassandra leads the way onto the field, Etrigan draws his short swords, the mark on his hand adding even more power to the already enchanted blades and attracting demons. Solas draws his staff, "Be ready, another rift!" and casts a barrier around them.
Varric loads his crossbow, "How many of these things are there?"
Before she can even hazard a guess, Cassandra's blood turns to ice in her veins as she sees Etrigan roll his shoulders, staring down the demons that have focused on him. She knows her fear stems from her realization that he knows the beasts can hear him say, "You want me you sodding bastards? Come and get me." The anger she saw in in his eyes before is now blazing like an inferno as he charges into the fray, heading straight for the rift, freeing the legs from two shades and liberating the head of a wraith as he passes in a single campaign.
Solas steps beside her casting another barrier on the Ranger to protect him from demons using spirit magic. "We must seal it if we are to get past!"
"Quickly then! Cover him so he can get to the rift!"
Solas moves to join Varric, providing ranged defense while Cassandra moves into step behind Etrigan to give close cover, and for his part Etrigan throws his hand towards the rift sealing it. "Sealed as before," Solas notes, "You're becoming quite proficient at this."
Varric nods as he comments, "Lets hope it works on the big one."
A clearly battle hardened man runs up to the party, "Lady Cassandra, you managed to close the rift? Well done."
Cassandra shakes her head. "Do not congratulate me, Commander. This was the prisoner's doing."
The Commander regards Etrigan closely. "Is it? I hope they're right about you. We've lost a lot of people to get you here."
The weight of the other man's words are not lost on the Ranger, "You're not the only one hoping that."
"We'll see soon enough won't we."
"I cant promise anything but I'll try."
"That's all we can ask." The Commander turns back to Cassandra, "The way to the Temple should be clear. Leliana will try to meet you there."
The Seeker nods, "Then we'd best move quickly. Give us time Commander."
"Maker watch over you," the Commander falls back, helping an injured soldier hobble away, "for all our sakes." With one last look at the path behind them, the party heads for the Temple.
So so sorry I'm late!
Chapter 8: Chapter 6 The Temple of Sacred Ashes
How bout that "Come at me Bro" moment by Etrigan huh? Yea our boy is mostly humble and calm but dude will slap the taste out of a pompous ass' mouth (looking at you here Roderick)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
As the party climbs the stairs into the ruins, "The Temple of Sacred Ashes.." Solas breathes almost reverently.
Varric looks around, "Or whats left of it."
Cassandra points to the point with the most damage, "That is where you walked out of the fade and our soldiers found you. They said a woman was in the rift behind you. No one knows who she was or what became of her."
Etrigan walked to an area that had been another room before the blast, the very room he recalled escorting his Aunt to. Kneeling slowly, he began to sift through the ash and debris with his hands, not really looking for anything but hoping just the same. As he was getting ready to give up, a glint of metal caught his eye. Madly digging into the ash, he pulled a ring from the ground, and his heart dropped like the bone fragments that fell with the dirt. Aunt Seline's signet ring, he would know it anywhere. Before, he had hope she had gone to the village instead of lodging in the Temple with the other Clerics, but this- this find made it real. His family had just lost near two dozen of its members, "Well...Shit."
Hanging his head and releasing a deep sigh, he makes to stand when the light catches another glint. Etrigan grabs at his throat, "No, it couldn't be." There in the dust and rubble lay his mother's medallion, all he had left of her in the physical world. Picking it up and holding close to his finds, he stands, taking a moment to gently blow the ash off of them, feather light touches to his prize.
He never heard Cassandra come up behind him so he didn't think to hold his tongue. Mother's medallion gripped in his fist, he spoke to his aunt's ring as though her spirit could hear him, "Forgive me Aunt Seline," giving no care for the ash still on the jeweled band, he gently kissed it, "I am so sorry I failed you." Adjusting the clasp, he adds the ring to his chain, closing it once more and slipping it back home around his neck, tucking it lovingly into his shirt.
A sound behind him has Cassandra jumping from him as he spins, arrow drawn and nocked, breathing out his tension at the sight of Leliana jogging to the Seeker. "You're here!" She hugs her friend quickly, "Thank the Maker!"
Ever the pragmatic one, Cassandra begins handing out orders. "Leliana, have your men take position around the Temple." The former bard nods and heads to lead her men that now, Cassandra notes, contain several of Etrigan's rangers.
Varric looks up and lets out a long whistle, "The breach is a long way up."
The Seeker rolls her eyes at the dwarf, turning to face Etrigan, "This is your chance to end this. Are you ready?"
He nods, "I'm assuming you actually have a plan to get me up there?"
Solas, who until now had been quietly observing, which if anyone asked him made Etrigan's skin crawl but they didn't so..."No. This rift was the first and is the key. Seal it and perhaps we can seal the breach."
Cassandra nods, "Then lets find a way down. And be careful."
Etrigan and Leliana take point and scout positions, followed by Solas who is flanked on either side by Cassandra and Varric. As they circle the ruins to find the safest path down, Etrigan's mark flares and they hear an unknown voice, "Now is the hour of our Victory. Bring forth the sacrifice."
Cassandra tightens her grip on her sword, "What are we hearing?"
Solas pauses his steps, "At a guess, the person who created the breach." They pass a few of Etrigan's men along the way, and he taps each one quickly on the back as he passes.
Varric notices a mass of large glowing red rocks forming around the ruins, "You know this is red lyrium, Seeker."
"I see it Varric."
"Yeah, but what's it doing here?" Everyone else chose not to acknowledge the tremor in the rogue's voice.
Solas has a theory, "Magic could have drawn on lyrium beneath the temple, corrupted it..."
Varric cut him off, panic evident in his voice. "That shit is evil! Whatever you do, don't touch it!"
Another flash from Etrigan's mark and the voice begins again, "Keep the sacrifice still."
"Someone. Help me."
Unable to contain her shock, Cassandra blurts out, "That is Divine Justinia's voice!"
As the five make their way farther down into the ruins, the whispers get louder, "Someone help me!"
"Whats going on here?"
Cassandra turns on Etrigan, sword drawn, "That was your voice. Most Holy called out to you. But..." and the three most devout of the group will all later swear it was the work of the Maker, but the whispers they all heard collided into a single point, resulting in the purest light Cassandra had ever seen. Etrigan dropped to one knee, believing this to be a test of his faith. Leliana however, was brought back to her memories of her last trek through these halls, and the gauntlet of trials that deemed her among the worthy within the Warden's band of misfits, during the blight. Their thoughts ran wild until the light converged with the whispers and began to create coherent images. What they see will change everything....
Divine Justinia is floating, being held captive by a strange red energy wrapped around her arms. A large dark figure comes into view, its features warped, eyes glowing with the same energy as the Most Holy's bindings, looming over her. Etrigan enters the room "Whats going on here?" The Divine turns as best she can while bound, "Run while you can! Warn them!" The dark figure turns its gaze to Etrigan, "We have an intruder. Kill him, Now!"
Another flash of light and the echoes fade. Cassandra spins on Etrigan, grabbing him by the shoulders, slamming him into what was once a wall, "You were there. Who attacked? And the Divine, is she...? Are these visions true? What are we seeing?"
He offers no resistance to her assault, only hanging his head at his own failure, "I...I don't remember."
"Echoes of what happened here," Solas says as he moves towards the pair cautiously, "The fade bleeds into this place." The elven mage places one hand on Cassandra's arm and his other at Etrigan's back to pull him from the wall, keeping his voice level to attempt soothing the distraught Seeker, "The rift is not sealed, but it is closed, albeit temporarily. I believe with the mark, the rift can be opened, then sealed properly and safely." The mage notices Leliana step slightly in front of the Ranger to block him from the Seeker's rage, so he steps in front of them both and continues, "However, opening the rift will likely draw attention from the other side."
Leliana, eyes wide as she realizes the implications of the elf's words, turns to address the soldiers as she draws her bow, "That means demons. Stand ready." The archers draw, taking aim under the rift, while the ground troops ready their shield. Varric has taken up position with the archers, 'Bianca' ready for her dance. Cassandra lashes her shield to her arm as Solas casts a barrier on Etrigan, who is standing directly under the rift. Leliana has chosen to stay with him. Tactically its his best chance, giving him time to focus. The part of her that helped to end the blight ten years ago figures it also doesn't hurt that he is deceptively armed quite well for wearing such light armor, so if need be she can always borrow a few of his arrows, or maybe a blade, she's counted at least four.
Looking to Cassandra, Leliana nods her ready, and when the Seeker returns it, she taps Etrigan lightly twice at the base of his neck with her bow. The Ranger takes a deep breath, closing his eyes, and lifts his left arm towards the rift, palm out. When he feel the spark of energy, he pours all of his will into demanding the mark to open the rift. He doesn't open them again or lower his arm until he feels the shift in the air and the crackle of raw power around him.
Cassandra shouts, "Now!"
As he glances around quickly he sees the archers and Varric taking on the wraiths and the soldiers going two against one on the shades. Drawing his short swords, he flanks behind Leliana to give her easier access to his quivers, a silent thanks for her protection till this point. A loud crash catches his attention and he finds himself facing the largest pride demon he has ever seen. His shock ends quickly as the beast roars, showing rows of teeth, sharp as blades, the light glittering off of them just the same. Etrigan had to dive into a roll as the demon raised one of its massive spiked legs and slammed it back down. He feels it connect where his side meets his lower back regardless, thanking the Maker 'That would have ended me had I been closer to it.'
Glancing back, he sees the blighted thing is chasing him, "No! Absolutely not! I refuse to die being flattened by a creature that looks suspiciously like my siblings' Aunt Agatha!" He hadn't realized he had spoken aloud until he heard Leliana's chuckle. He flashes her a small smile in spite of himself, regaining his focus quickly upon hearing Cassandra shouting orders, "We must strip its defenses. Wear it down!"
Leliana takes a chance to glance back at Etrigan, hand out for one of his quivers, and as he hands it to her she yells back to him, "Quickly, disrupt the rift!" taking the arrows and adding another volley into the fight. He flanks back behind her for better cover and shoots his hand up, willing the flow of power from the rift to break if even for a moment. The pride demon drops to a knee, and Cassandra notices the weakness, "The demon is vulnerable. Now!" The archers take out the smaller demons while those with blades focus their energy on the massive beast.
Etrigan darts around the fighting in case he needs to disrupt the rift again, attracting attention from overwhelmed soldiers where he can. Behind him, Varric yells out a warning for the archers in sniper positions, "More coming through!" as half a dozen shades come out of the rift, but the archers were ready and ended the lesser demons before they could attack the others. Etrigan has moved back to the rift, and a slight pressure at his back has him turning. His impression of Leliana decidedly higher as she took his short swords from his back, he's sure now the slight pressure was her giving him notice.
He draws his bow and stands ready as the former Bard makes her way to the Seeker and watches in awe as the Hands of The Divine work flawlessly to end the pride demon. He turns to do a fast head count and scout for any lingering danger. The pressure just as light as before, he knows his swords are back. Closing himself off from any other thoughts, he aims the mark back at the rift as Leliana's voice with its light Orlesian accent floats up to just behind his right ear, "Now Etrigan! Seal the rift!"
He has to use his right hand to help keep his left steady as he feels more power flow between the mark and the rift than any of the others he's been able to dispatch so far. Feeling himself falter, something is at his back, solid yet it gives way a bit. A small smile graces his lips as he looks to Leliana and hears Cassandra yell from somewhere else, "Do it!"
His vision clouded, he can't help a poor excuse at flirting, "This is twice now, Nightingale, that you've caught me and I've not yet managed once."
Back in Haven, another loud crash in as many days terrifies the townspeople as they look to the sky, but the doom never comes. Instead they see only a flash of light where the Temple used to stand. In the temple however, the flash is near blinding. Etrigan tries to ask Leliana if she is hurt when he hears her call to Cassandra for help. At least he's pretty sure he heard her, and he thinks he tried to ask, but no words come. Leliana's hands are at his back under his arms and Cassandra's at his chest as his world spins. They only just catch him and lower him gently to the ground as Varric says his name. His last thought as the pain dies, "Maker, not again," and darkness claims him once more.
Bonus chapter since I'm 3 days late on posting
Chapter 9: Chapter 7 The Hands of The Divine
Ground work Time! I plan to build a really strong friendship between the Seeker and the Ranger. I may blur the line a bit at times but the endgame is now and will remain Etrigan/Leliana. There is a method to my madness, just enjoy the ride. This one is a little longer but it's all mine, no game dialogue or info to work from, and if you've played then you know there is 3 days between when the herald passes out after the rift at the temple and when the game shifts back to the village, so here is most of that three days from Cassandra and Leliana's view.
Leliana moves to the Ranger and slides his unique and clearly well-loved blades back to their sheaths at his back, leaning in, her head almost resting on his right shoulder. "Now, Etrigan! Seal the rift!"
His hand is held up, his mark flaming to life with magic of unknown source pouring both out of and into him. She sees him stagger and grab his arm with his free hand, and braces herself against him to help hold him up and smirks at his terrible pickup line, "This is twice now, Nightingale, that you've caught me and I've not yet managed once."
'Cheeky boy..' She shields her eyes from the flash of light that erupts when the rift seals, just in time it would seem as he is no longer staggering but falling forward. She grabs at the gap in his armor under his arms, calling out to the Seeker. "Cassandra, quickly!" Looking back at him, she sees a look of confusion and concern on his face. As Cassandra catches him and braces his chest to keep him from lurching forward, it looks like he's attempting to speak. Leliana does her best to soothe his worry, "Shh, it's alright. It's over for now. Just rest."
They lower him to the ground and Leliana moves around Cassandra, starting to remove his armor as soon as possible. She felt the dent in his lower right flank, and thinking back to when he dove and rolled under the pride demon, she knows how he was injured. Once his chest plate is off, his breathing is no longer as labored.
Cassandra takes her dagger and cuts through his shirt to check for wounds. What the women see stalls their motions a moment. They know his age, yet his scars tell a much different story- the worst of which is a long and jagged monstrosity that starts at his right shoulder just above his bicep, slicing across and down his chest, almost reaching his left hip. Both can tell this was his first. All his other scars layer upon this one.
Cassandra has gathered his armor, and she wonders if their blacksmith can repair the damaged plate without destroying them. Truly, she wonders what type of material the armor is even made of. It's some of the finest work she has ever seen. Perhaps she can look into recruiting the original craftsman to make pieces for the senior members of their endeavor. She hears Leliana call out to the only mage they have with them, "Solas, quickly, he lives!"
The elf moves swiftly. "My knowledge of healing magic is limited, but I will do what I can."
Leliana removes Etrigan's helmet, then tears material from her cowl to clean the wounds on his head, where the large gashes from the explosion have reopened. "We have healers and surgeons at Haven. We just need him stable enough to make the journey." She raises her head, turning her gaze to call for a stretcher, but sees the rangers all dumping their packs and beginning to tie their bows together. Four of them soon come in, each hauling a stout tree limb. The Hands of The Divine watch in fasination as the rangers lay out the tree limbs with practiced precision, then tie on the planks made of bows, followed by several tents folded just so, and finally a dozen bed rolls, the last open and waiting for its cargo.
Leliana looks back down at the Ranger Commander and stares at the ring and medallion as they rise and fall in a subtle fashion on his chest. She can't help the flood of memories that take her back to another man facing insurmountable odds, death at hand as his head lays cradled in her lap.
Solas gives the OK and the rangers gently move their leader to the stretcher. Leliana bolts up and in her rush to leave Cassandra almost misses her parting words, "I will make for Haven to alert the healers to be ready."
The Seeker knows the other woman heard her reply though, "Have accomodations prepared. Etrigan Trevelyan is no longer our prisoner."
Cassandra was tired. That was the simple version, but the honest version was she was so exhausted that it seeped into her very core. It was night fall when they made it back to the village. If anyone ever asks her opinion of the Rangers of the Free Marches, she will gladly tell them she has never had the honor of meeting a finer company. Her own soldiers, she decided, were also of superior stock. She had dismissed them at the Temple but was pleased to see they instead surrounded the Rangers, taking Honor Guard positions as they offered several times to give respite to the battle weary Marchers, but their reply was always the same- a polite refusal, offering only, "Our Brother, our Commander, our burden to bare."
Waiting for them at the gate was an impeccably dressed woman holding a note board with a lit candle and ink pot at its top and several pieces of parchment attached. No introductions were made, but the woman started directing the flow as soon as she saw the weary travelers. "All arrangements have been made for Lord Trevelyan. Commander Cullen offered the bed from his quarters and has returned to the tent barracks with the soldiers. Sister Leliana has asked that nothing be sent to his family until more is known of his condition," turning to the rangers, "The cabins on either side have been set aside for your use. It was assumed you would wish to stay near your Commander."
Stitch stepped up to speak for the Rangers, "2nd Commander Faren Thatchersen mi'Lady," introducing himself with a slight bow, "We'll hold up well enough, worry not on us." A soft groan had him looking at his long time friend, "We are in service to Lady Nightingale. Should the worst befall him, I would ask her leave to notify his Father personally."
Cassandra takes her leave, needing to remove the day from her person. As much as she despises Roderick, he is in fact right. If Etrigan takes a turn, his death is on her head. She cannot allow herself to dwell on these things. Heading into the Chantry, she takes a knee at the statue of Andraste, sending up a soft prayer for Etrigan's hasty recovery. As she stands, she notices that the chamber Cullen used to sleep in has been converted into an office, most likely for the ambassador that Leliana has recruited. Turning right, she enters the room she shares with the former Bard, seeing a third bed has been brought in, presumably for the ambassador as well. As she removes her armor and changes into her night clothes she watches Leliana's bed. She knows that's where her friend is, and she knows she isn't really sleeping, but just as Leliana didnt push her to talk after the explosion, she will not push now. They will speak to each other when they are ready. Once she is ready she digs through her things to find the book she has been trying to read for months now, and settles into her bed. Opening the book, she flips through until she finds the last part she remembers reading, willing herself to get lost in the story, hoping that the morning will have brought her rest and good news.
There is something to be said for a good night's rest. Leliana however couldn't say one way or the other about that. She is fairly certain she hasn't had a full night of restful sleep since before she left the Lothering Cloister eleven years ago. She feigned sleep when Cassandra came in. She knew the Seeker could see through it, but loved her dearly for not attempting to speak. A few hours later, Josephine came in and quietly cried herself to sleep. Leliana hated having to tell her friend about Etrigan getting hurt. At this point in her life though, it's just one more regret added to a list of many. Getting out of her bed, Leliana decided against her light armor for now lest she wake the other two women up.
She silently crept from the room and out of the Chantry, needing the cold night air to clear her mind. She had no real plan as she wandered the village, but she isnt really that surprised when she ends up at Etrigan's cabin and she sneaks past his guard. The healers removed the shreds of his shirt and while she saw his scars at the Temple, it's the tattoos on his arms that grab her attention. His left bicep has a particular design belonging to a Dalish clan that was near Ostagar during the blight. Then again, she had heard one of their number was currently living in Kirkwall's alienage so... His right forearm has the markings of a clan of surface Dwarves that fled Lothering the same time she did.
Her years of working with Cassandra have taught her a lot about learning people just from observing them. The prone man's skin tone tells her he is only half Marcher- too tanned to be from Kirkwall like Varric, not tanned enough to be Antivan or farther west. Even his name sounds like it should be a clue to his origins. The medallion he wears has a sword etched into it that she is fairly certain is the exact weapon she used to tell the children of Lothering stories about. Still though, it's the scars that capture her interest above all else. She too has more than her fair share, but being set up as a traitor and left for dead will do that. The largest of his scars she knows beyond reason was his first. She knew that in the Temple. It's jagged in places as though the person that inflicted it upon him had no knowledge of how to hold a blade. If Leliana had to guess, judging by the deep groove, she would say it was a great sword that had caused it. Her report places his age at 27, her own range in age from her 19th yr to the blight. This massive wound looks roughly the same age as her oldest scars, but who would dare to take a great sword to the chest of a small boy? And a Noble's son at that?
She wonders if he possesses the same shame she does in anyone seeing them. Even when she was with the Warden, she never let her former lover see the scars. Once she knows Josephine is calmer she will have to ask about his family. She remembers seeing him at Justinia's reception the evening of the explosion. Then, he was clean shaven and his face didn't have the wounds it does now. She smiles slightly at the memory of feeling flattered by his tripping over himself because he was watching her instead of where he was going. She thought he was just a boy then, but now, a fortnight later, he looks his age with the day's stubble growth and the inevitable scarring. Her more fashionable side notes he needs a haircut, and from more than a hand mirror and dagger with awkward angles.
On her wandering she had stopped at the Quartermaster and snagged a few armfuls of arrows, so she begins to busy herself by refilling his quivers. That done, she used the scraps of his shirt and the water basin next to him and cleaned his blades. Her next task was to find some parchment to make a list of things he would need when he woke up. She spoke out loud as she made her list. It was a bad habit she picked up while with the Warden, trying and often failing to get him to talk with her. The older she gets, the more she wonders what she ever saw in him...
"A new shirt is a definite must," She looks to the unconcious man, "We'll get Josie to tell us your required measurements,no?" Shaking her head with a chuckle, "At least you have a reason to ignore my attempts at conversation." Seeing his breeches laying near the fireplace, "Might as well get a new pair as well, and perhaps a new coat since your Rangers shredded yours to make your stretcher." She makes a few more notes on her list, then as quietly as she got in she leaves, taking the excess arrows with her and back to the Quartermaster.
Her next stop is to the Blacksmith where Cassandra dropped Etrigan's armor off to be repaired. Finding the unique armor on a stand, she shrugs and takes both back to his cabin, setting it all up between the bed and the fireplace. As the sun started to rise, she made one more trip out of the cabin, this time to the Chantry kitchens. She made two plates of warm sweet breads and fresh fruits, leaving a note asking the kitchen staff to deliver a pot of tea to the Ambassador's office, where she dropped off one of the plates. The other she took back to Etrigan's cabin, leaving it at the small table along with a note for Cassandra, knowing the other woman would be coming here rather than to any form of morning meal. Hearing the door start to open, she shimmied out the window, leaving no trace of her presence. She stayed to the early morning shadows to get to the tent she had claimed as her work space, sorting through the messages left overnight into the piles of who they are most useful to and distributing them accordingly.
Cassandra wakes to an empty room. Dressing in training leathers rather than her full armor, she goes to the chamber they have been using as their war room and gathers piles of messages Leliana has left for her, along with requisition forms and various other reports that need her attention. She also grabs a sealed ink pot and a quill and heads for Etrigan's cabin so that his defenders can get some much needed rest and a hot meal. Taking the long way around, she stops at the tavern where a variety of breads have just come out of the oven. The Seeker gathers a few loaves and some dried meats, pulling some coins from her coat to pay for the foods she was getting for the Rangers. The barmaid refused to accept payment telling Cassandra, "Its my honor to feed the defenders of the Herald of Andraste."
Knowing that could be useful to them, she thanked the girl and went on her way. Along the path she was relieved of her burden by one of the Rangers, the unit grateful for her efforts. She enters the cabin and has to laugh. "Of course she was here."
The Ranger Commander's armor is on a stand near his bed, repaired and shined. His weapons are hanging from a chair, cleaned, and his quivers refilled. But the thing that made her laugh was the small table set under the one window in the cabin, with a plate of sweet breads and fruits along with a note from Leliana.
You will need to eat if you plan to keep vigil
Cassandra got her work set up at the table, leaving for a moment to get some tea for herself. After she sets to work her vigil is only interrupted once, by the woman from last night, who she learns is Lady Josephine Montilyet, their new Ambassador and childhood friend of Etrigan.
Josephine shares that the two met at her 9th birthday party and again at his, and had been friends ever since. They had not seen much of each other since she left for for school in Orlais at 15, but they stayed in touch as best they could by writing letters, often just missing actually being able to see each other by hours.
Cassandra tells the younger woman the story of how her opinion of his guilt changed, sharing that he scavenged herbs for healers and stopped to either pray with the wounded and scared or for the dead. "He stopped to ask absolutely everyone we passed if there was anything he could help with."
Josephine smiled, "That does sound like the sweet boy I knew. As I recall, one year, he talked his two elder brothers into giving up their birthday celebrations and petitioning their guests to aide the local farmers whose lands had been ravaged by drought and fires. Max and Gabe thought it was a wonderful idea and I had never seen Bann Victor so proud of his boys."
Cassandra could only imagine. "His Aunt was among those lost at the Conclave." She adds solemly.
The ambasador sighs, "Yes, Grand Cleric Seline, Bann Victor's only sister. When her duties allowed for it, she was like another mother to Ety. His passed when he was very young, and he once told me he has no memory of her, just her voice singing him to sleep. Seline on the other hand was a force of nature. She used to teach him lessons hidden in stories of the Chantry's history, and he hung on her every word. The clan Trevelyan has always been very connected in the Chantry. Several of his relations were among the lost as well."
Josephine stands and goes to her friend's side, brushing a stray lock of hair from his face. "Maker guide you home, Ety, wherever that may be." Releasing a deep and weary sigh, the Ambassador leans in and brushes a kiss to his brow, "I lied, please be well my friend." Bidding the Seeker a peaceful day, Josephine leaves to finish writing letters to the families of their fallen soldiers.
A short while after the younger woman's departure, Cassandra is reading Leliana's report on him. She knows in her heart that her understanding of the man has changed. From what she has seen of him and what she has learned from one that has known him most of his days, there is no doubt in her mind that he is simply not capable of being her villian. She walks over to his bedside and gently lifts the Chantry ring that bears his family's crest, offering both her own prayer and a promise to his fallen kin, "This young man has devoted his life to Your work since childhood, risking death near daily for the last ten years. If this is Your will, If you have sent him to us in our darkest hour, I will be his shield. Your purpose for this man will be protected as long as I draw breath."
What Cassandra doesn't know is outside the window, another prayer is being sent up as well as another vow, this one far darker than any the Seeker would like to be aware of. She goes and rebuilds the fire, gathering her completed work, and heads out, patting Stitch on the shoulder as he passes, the rest making him look much better.
At the window, Leliana had listened to Cassandra's plea and offered her own. "Maker, you gave me visions of the blight ten years ago, and those sights led me on the path to this point. I have done dark things in your name. I will not allow harm to come to him. If Cassandra is his shield I will be his blade."
Letting herself back in through the window, she watches him sleep. She had spent the day researching that medallion. The last writings of the medallion were rumored to be owned by Andraste's daughter, Vivial, but the Chantry has no records of her. Andraste herself destroyed them. It's entirely possible it's just a symbol of his faith that he had made after listening to his Aunt's stories like Josie had said. Another bad habit of hers, nature of her job really, always looking for secrets where none lie. For now all there is to do is wait. She's already ordered the clothing items for him. She has had her agents start to encourage the 'Herald of Andraste' rumors. It may make a few people angry, but all the better to draw out the conspirators of the explosion.
She leans over Etrigan's prone form, just as Josephine did earlier, "Worry not, Ranger. Cassandra will keep you from harm, and I will bring the wrath of heaven upon any who try." She found herself wondering if he had a lover somewhere that was worried about him. Sadly for her, thoughts like that led to memories she didn't want anymore, taking her back to the worst nights of her life.
Denerim 9:35 Dragon
Leliana had been reunited with her love for days now. She had joined him in Amaranthine and they traveled to the capital to see their dear friend and Ferelden's KIng, Alistair Therin. He said he had an urgent matter for Aedan, she wanted to see Wynne again as well, and if she was perfectly honest she wanted to show off her engagement ring a little. In her bags were a collection of letters from the recently elected Divine Justinia V, the woman who saved her when she was a Bard rotting in an Orlesian prison and helped her find her faith, which led her to her Warden.
She just couldn't shake the feeling something was wrong with her love. He always walked as though the weight of all of Thedas was on his shoulders alone. Truly, this was the worst she had ever seen him. He went to the King as soon as they arrived at the palace. On her own way out to visit Wynne, she heard shouting coming from the throne room, though she couldn't make out what was being said. Walking through the Market district, she stopped by to see Arl Eamon and offer her condolences on the passsing of his wife and their infant daughter, also inquiring on his son and his studies at the Circle. Their visit brief, she promised to stop by again next she was in the city.
Meeting up with Wynne, they had tea at a lovely new cafe. Wynne, being in service to the King as Arcane Advisor, had known only that letters between the Wardens had of late been very angry, telling the younger woman, "Alistair actually yelled at Aedan last time he was here recruiting for the Wardens. I didn't hear what they were fighting about, but Alistair informed him 'if you dont speak the truth, you sodding cowardly bastard, I will.' Aedan left that night and is only here because as Chancellor of Denerim, if he is beckoned by the King he cannot refuse."
That did nothing to ease Leliana's mind, other than to tell her that this was not a recent argument, and Alistair never yells. She wasn't even sure he knew how to raise his voice.
Returning to the castle, she saw Aedan heading towards their rooms. She followed him and when they entered she stood at the door, knowing he could move her but wouldn't lest she be hurt. "Something troubles you, my Love, it pains me that I cannot help you. But I cannot try to help you unless you tell me, No?"
What he would say to her next would destroy everything she thought knew about the world, "You wanted to know how I survived the Blight. When a Grey Warden kills the Archdemon, it's meant to kill us both. The taint will kill me, unless I find the cure I seek. The night before Fort Drakkon, I was presented with another option. I had lost my family, I didn't know Fergus was alive. I sacrificed everything, Liana, every fucking thing that made me Aedan Cousland, all to die in a single campaign. It wasn't fair."
Leliana went to sit next to him on the bed,"Love, I don't understand. What are you saying?"
When he looked up her heart broke. He was crying, "I've lied to you by ommission every day since the blight ended. I was selfish because I wanted to stay with you. My actions will cost me regardless."
Confused, Leliana wondered what had he lied about. "Aedan, what are you...?" "
Morrigan offered a way out and I took it, Maker forgive me, I took it." He stands and begins pacing, "The night before the final battle you were in the library with Wynne and Zev. Alistair and I had our metting with Riordan. Duncan never told us how the Wardens end the blight, just that we are the only ones who can. Riordan told us that when the Archdemon is slain, it just jumps into the closest darkspawn and starts over. The beast can do this because darkspawn have no souls, if a Grey Warden does it, well then the Archdemon soul enters the Warden's body instead. A body can only house one soul, so both are destroyed...That's why she came with us. She and her witch of a mother knew what we faced, but I was so desperate I agreed. She proposed a ritual that would create a vessel for the Old God soul, allowing the Warden that took the killing blow to live." "
Ritual? What ritual? Will she try to harm you? Has she come back?" "
The damage is already done. Her ritual required a Grey Warden to lie with her. The union would produce a child and a beacon for the Archdemon's soul..."
I t was Leliana's turn to pace now, "Please, Aedan, tell me you didn't."
He at least had the decency to look apologetic, "Riordan wouldn't hear it, and I just made Alistair King. It had to be me. There was no other way."
She would be hurt later. Now she was just angry, "Why? Why wait five years to tell me? Did you ever plan on telling me?"
He shook his head, "No, I didn't. Alistair forced my hand. Whispers in the Frostbacks of a woman matching Morrigan's description have been floating around for months. With her is a small child, a son. My son. I mean to go after her, and take the boy. Even tainted as I am, I'd be better for him than her. I mean to depart tonight."
Anger gave way to rage. "Are you honestly listening to what you say? I look at you and I no longer see the man I love. If you had told me from the beginning...Well I can't say, because you didn't. But I can say this, If you leave tonight and go traipsing after that Witch, Aedan Cousland, I will not be here if or when you should return. I cannot continue to share you with her Aedan. I have done so for far longer than I thought I had already endured. I want to be married to you, even if the taint will claim you. I want the time we have to mean something, but now.."
She sits back on the bed before she can fall. Where her Warden would have run to her side to offer comfort, this strange man in her Love's skin just left her alone in the room, crying out the pieces of her broken heart. She is unsure when she fell asleep, but the next morning when she woke her world ended. Aedan never came to bed. Where his head should have been was only a bit of parchment. She wrote to Justinia that moment, telling her that plans had changed and she would be in Val Royeaux within the month. Next was a letter to Aedan's brother, asking if she could visit for a few days as her business in Denerim would be done by week's end. She moved her things from their room...his room in the palace and back to the rooms she took after Alistair's coronation.
As a Cleric of the Chantry, she had access to a lock box in any city she desired. Most of her travels had been in Ferelden as of late so she kept hers here in Denerim. Retrieving her box, she took the entire contents to Master Wade. He was the first to know of her new appointment. He melted down everything she gave him, fashioning a new bow and matching daggers from the drakescale armor she had not worn since the blight. He wouldn't let her pay him for his masterworks, saying it was his honor to be the blacksmith that armed the sword of The Divine. Once the weapons were done, she went back to the palace, to his room, leaving the ring he gave her next to his scripted 'I'm sorry' on his pillow. Leaving the room for the last time he would never hear her reply, "Me too."
Haven 9:41 Dragon
Shaking the memories away. She recalls he either failed or found the witch and abandoned her, too. Three years ago, Morrigan appeared as the new Arcane Advisor to the Empress of Orlais, and Leliana kept tabs on her and the boy. Aedan had become a decent Bard, even taking the name 'Dark Wolf' so she knows he found out she went to Orlais, but there have been no sightings of him in over a year.
Looking at the man on the bed as he lets out another soft groan, she recalls the stories Josie told her of her dear childhood friend that loved books, languages, and histories. Josie had said he always wrote her, even when he had to travel for his work. He made sure to write her just to let her know he was alive and well, that he missed his friend and thought of her often. Raised by a pious father and Grand Cleric Aunt.. "You wouldn't lie with another woman would you? If you hold my dear Josie's heart and you hurt her, I will kill you myself."
She shook herself out. Bitterness towards the Warden was effecting her temper. She needed to go..Now! Back out the window and to her workspace, tonight she will work until thoughts of sodding coward Wardens no longer plagued her mind. Almost to her space, she changed her mind.. She needed Cassandra. She turned, heading for the training yard, feeling bad for the poor training dummy that bore the brunt of the Seeker's ire.
Cassandra looks up, seeing Leliana waiting. Sheathing her sword, she nods, and Leliana begins walking, knowing that Cassandra will follow. She leads into the Chantry and down to the dungeons, knowing that since there was no longer a prisoner, there would be no guards and they could speak in peace. As soon as Cassandra shuts the door she starts, knowing from where Leliana came, "The healers say he will live, though they cannot say when he will wake."
Even with her forehead against the door, Cassandra knows the face Leliana is making. "You should be resting, Cassie."
The Seeker nods. "The same could be said for you Leli." Only when it's the two of them do they resort to the shortened names, a sign of trust between them. Cassandra moves to sit on a small bench. Leliana goes to sit next to her and Cassandra lays her head on the other woman's shoulder. "There are too many questions and no answers to be found."
Leliana gave her friend a small hug, kissing the top of her head and chuckling darkly. "I'll see your crisis of faith and raise you, the broken hearted memories of a woman I'm not sure I know how to be anymore. In the Temple I saw so many similiarities I could hardly breathe from it. For a moment I almost thought it was him."
Cassandra looks up in confusion, so Leliana decides to tell her a story. "Did I ever tell you I was here in Haven during the blight?" At Cassandra's shocked look she nods, "Oh yes, I was part of the misfit band of travel companions that journeyed with the Hero of Ferelden, before he was the Hero,even before being named Warden-Commander." She smiles, "Back then he was just 'My Aedan' and the King of Ferelden was just another Grey Warden named Alistair. We traveled here at the request of Arl Teagan, who was then Bann Teagan, younger brother of Arl Eamon. The Temple hadn't been discovered yet, it was only a myth. But still we came, if the Temple really did exist then the Urn of Sacred Ashes did as well."
"Our party had a Senior Enchanter from the Ferelden Circle, a drunken dwarf warrior, who is now a Lieutenant in the Grey Wardens, a disgraced Qunari who had lost his sword trying to find answers... I heard rumors he is the Arishok now, an elven assassin who wanted a new life and an apostate from the Kocari Wilds. Only then, Haven was inhabited by a cult that believed Andraste had returned, as a High Dragon no less. After we dispatched the cult, a few of our number wanted to kill the dragon as 'practice' for the Archdemon but Aedan as our leader put it to a vote. We did not kill the dragon, instead we crept past her sliently with a Chantry scholar named Brother Genitivi. We found him in a secret room of the Chantry being held prisoner by the cult. Once we got to the Temple we again voted as to who would go through the Temple trials. It was an easy choice- Aedan, Alistair, Wynne and...Me."
Leliana closed her eyes, smiling at the memories of a better time, even in the midst of a civil war and a blight. "We were after all the only ones in our group that even believed in the Maker and Andraste. We stepped foot in every part of the Temple. There was a spirit guardian. He was the last of a contingent of knights sworn to protect the Holy Andraste in both life and death. I'll not tell you the trials, only that at the end of it, if I had ever doubted my faith before there was no doubt when we saw the Urn."
Leliana pulled a small leather pouch from her tunic, "In this pouch is an actual part of the Blessed Prophet. We were each granted a single pinch, as a reward for our faith."
Cassandra could hardly believe it, but Leliana had never lied to her. "The Temple of Sacred Ashes," she whispered, "you are actually among those responsible for discovering Andraste's final rest?"
Leliana nods as she tucks the pouch away again, "We voted again and decided not to tell Genitivi that part, and the guardian thanked us. It ended up not mattering anyway. Once the blight was over the Urn disappeared, guarded by a league of soldiers, and she was gone. Wynne once told me that she believed the Prophet's true defenders moved her, lest others learn about us taking a piece of her with us. I went back once and asked the Guardian. He would only tell me to have faith that the Bride of the Maker was safe."
She shrugged, "Perhaps we were allowed our boon because we did not want to gain fame through her discovery. Alistair used his to bring Arl Eamon back from the edge of death, and Aedan gave his to Alistair. Wynne and I, however, kept ours, as a reminder that no matter what comes we once held tangible truth that all we believe in is true. It's a physical reminder that our faith may bend, but it will never break." Looking at Cassandra, she gives a sad smile, " but please, can we change to happier topics?"
The Seeker nods. "Perhaps it is time to discuss our private service for the Divine..." The pair spend the next several hours into dawn making plans, going to bed just after daybreak, hearts feeling lighter.
They had agreed to meet after the evening meal in the war room. Cassandra had invited Cullen as the Divine had met the man and was fond of his dedication even after all he had suffered. Leliana invited Josephine, having introduced her to Justinia a multitude of times. The four each lit a candle and recited a verse from the Chant for the departed, each offering a silent prayer for something on the turmoil to come. Cassandra prayed for guidance, Cullen, a miracle, Josephine prayed for peace and Leliana prayed for hope...Maybe this night the Maker once again listened to his children, without them knowing in a few short hours, for good or ill, their prayers had been answered.
Chapter 10: Chapter 8 The Humble Hesitant Herald
For the record I love the Wardens, I really do, but for this story to work, Cousland HAS to be an asshole. I'm not proud of what I've done, I just need to be able to hate him for a bit.
Etrigan tried to open his eyes and pain shot through his entire body. 'If this is death, then Aunt Seline lied. Everything fucking hurts!' That thought triggered one of his brother Max's lessons in his mind.
"Pain is how you know you're alive, Little Brother, now get up and try again."
"But Max it hurts."
" Of course it hurts, Ety, failure and sometimes even success ends in pain. Now. Get. Up. And. Try. Again!"
This time when he tries to open his eyes it works and he slams them shut again, groaning at the bright light. A startled gasp has him sitting up and coming face to face with a young elven woman, who has dropped the box she was carrying. "Oh! I didnt know you were awake I swear."
The woman dropped to her knees, making him feel really weird. "Dont worry about it. I only..."
The woman bowed, her head touching the floor, "I beg your forgiveness and your blessing. I am but a humble servant."
Etrigan was confused. "Is this this another prison?"
Sadly, so was the elven woman "I...No? I mean I don't think so."
He was starting to get a headache, "Then where am I?"
Poor thing started to ramble. "You're back in Haven, my Lord. They say you saved us. The breach stopped growing, just like the mark on your hand. It's all anyone has talked about for the last three days!"
Now Etrigan was really confused, "So you're saying...They're happy with me?"
"I'm only saying what I heard. I don't mean anything by it." The elven woman slowly stood and backed towards the door, clearly afraid she had done something wrong. "I'm sure Lady Cassandra will want to know you've wakened. She said 'At once.'"
He tried talking slowly, as one would a wounded animal, "And where is she?"
"In the Chantry with the Lord Chancellor.' At once' she said." She quickly turns and flees the cabin as Etrigan swings his legs over the bedside.
"Oh ow, OK not so fast." He warns himself while looking down to take stock of his injuries. Reaching a hand up to run through his hair, he feels a bandage wrapped around his head. "Well that explains the dizziness." Slowly he starts to look for his clothes, or at least his pants since the healers left him in only his small clothes.
As he begins his search in earnest, the door to the cabin opens, and Stitch walks in laughing at him, "Maker Ety, you terrified that poor elven girl." He says as he tosses a satchel at his friend.
"I wasn't trying to, I only asked what happened." Etrigan opens the satchel and reaches in, finding clothes, but raises a brow at the other man who holds his hands up in surrender.
"Don't look at me, Sister Leliana delivered the bag yesterday, said it was things you would need when you woke up, all I did was agree to make sure you got it."
Sitting on the bed, Etrigan scratches the back of his neck and yawns several times, "Only man on Thedas that can apparently sleep for three days and still be tired." Looking around the cabin, he sees his armor has been cleaned and the dent from the pride demon fixed, as well as a couple of new additions-- a new cloak with a latch made to look like the same seal Sister Leliana wears on hers, and on his left arm plate the seal of the Seekers of Truth. He pulls the clothing from the bag to get dressed, throwing the black tunic over his head, then slipping his legs into breeches made of what has to be the most sinfully soft leather he has ever felt he thinks 'Leliana has fines tastes, definitely Orlesian,' greatful for the soft material as he stands to pull the waist over his very bruised hips. He adjusts the tunic to get his arms in the sleeves and notes it's loose but fits his build. Reaching into the bag again, he finds a pair of woolen socks and new boots, as well as a sleeveless leather Rangers coat in the same shade of green as his father's crest.
Seeing the coat, Stitch let out a low whistle, "Figures the Sister has seen battle, that looks like its been made to fit over armor."
Ety nodded, "It is, my brother once told me that sneak thieves prefer the sleeveless versions for better range of movement in their arms and," he opened the coat to show the multitude of interior pockets, "twice as many pockets."
Stitch nods with a small hum of agreement, "Speaking of Sister Leliana, she forbid any communication with your family until you woke."
Confusion was still evident on Etrigan's face. "So...Three days?" he asked, rubbing his chin, thinking someone did a fine job cleaning him up, "What happened while I was gone?"
Stitch smiles and regales his friend with a tale, starting the moment he passed out at the Temple ruins, sparing no detail in the Chancellor's seething over Seeker Cassandra 'releasing' him as a prisoner, or how both the Seeker and the Sister took turns spending hours watching over him as well as some Antivan woman he thought the others called their Ambassador. Reaching into his own coat, he gave Etrigan a small leather book and a piece of graphite wrapped in twine.
While Stitch told his tale, Etrigan took notes in the journal. Afterwards he had to ask, "So how many did I add to my collection?"
Stitch laughed, "Three, and all on your face, but don't worry it adds to that whole 'Tortured Rogue Noble' thing you have going for you," his tone turning serious, "there's something else, Ety, me and the boys have been keeping the locals at bay. The soldiers with us at the Temple were the same ones that found you after the explosion. They watched you live when you should have died. Twice. Between that and the mark, there have been whispers about you being chosen by the Maker himself to right the world, and that maybe the woman behind you in the rift was Andraste, blessing you and protecting you from harm, choosing you to be her champion."
"They are calling you the Herald of Andraste."
Etrigan rubs his temples 'yea, definietly getting a headache.' Thinking a moment, he pulls his Aunt's ring from his shirt, "If Father were here, he would tell me 'It's not ours to question the will of the Maker, if this is His demand, you are honor bound to see it through'. If Aunt Seline were here she'd say it was the most blasphemous thing she had ever heard." Pinching the bridge of his nose and taking a deep breath to center himself, "So I hear the Seeker is in the Chantry. Father did teach me to never keep a Lady waiting."
As the pair exit the cabin, Stitch takes point while two of their captains flank Etrigan. He recognizes the pattern for protecting high profile targets, and when he looks up he sees why. Soldiers line either side of the path leading to or from the cabin, all standing at full attention, saluting when they see him. Moving deeper into the village, there are more people lining the paths, soldiers saluting, citizens dropping to their knees and clergy praying, but its the faceless whispers that reach him, the echoing voices that give him pause.
"That's him, that's the Herald of Andraste. They say when he came out of the fade Andraste herself was guiding him."
"Hush! We shouldn't disturb him."
"Why did Lady Cassandra have him in chains? I thought the Seekers knew everything."
"It's complicated. We were all frightened after the explosion."
"It's not complicated. The Maker chose him. Maker be with you Herald."
"Blessing upon you, Herald of Andraste."
"Walk safely Herald of Andraste."
His mind spinning and headache in full force, he doesn't think to stop the Chantry Sisters from taking his hands and leading him inside, instead giving into muscle memory and dropping to one knee and bowing his head before the statue of Andraste holding the eternal flame as they pray over him. He hears his Mother's voice. "Hope is the most dangerous weapon in all the world, my little love, and only the strongest may wield it."
Then he is sure he suffered a head injury because for a moment he's pretty sure he just saw his Mother, calmly leaning against the base of the statue, smiling at him. Standing, he asks where he can find the Seeker. The Sisters sigh and point him down the great hall, so he asks a couple of guards nearby. Laughing, they tell him to "follow the yelling." He does and soon is standing before a large door guarded by two sentries in blue steel armor. He kneels before them and announces himself, "Forgive my intrusion Knights-Divine, but I believe Seeker Cassandra is expecting me." He stands as they lead him to an ante chamber where he overhears a discussion between a few clerics.
"Chancellor Roderick says the Chantry wants nothing to do with us."
"That's not his decision Sister."
"Most of the Grand Clerics died at the Conclave, who will lead us now?"
"Andraste was alone and she did just fine."
"You expect us to be like Andraste?"
"Someone must, go in peace Herald."
"Maker guide you."
Another deep breath and Etrigan recalls one of his Aunt's favorite lessons. "Symbols are but the foundation, Child, the book of the Chant? A symbol, these staues? A symbol, even the very Chantry itself is a symbol of past changes. It's the men and women that built them that were the tools of the change they represent, Boy. The Maker will show you the way, that is the precipice of change. Your actions to do his work, that is how the change happens."
The Knights-Divine lead him to another door where he does indeed hear raucous yelling, "Have you gone completely mad? He should be taken to Val Royeaux immediately to be tried by whoever becomes Divine!"
'Ah the pompous ass is here.' he thinks darkly.
Then he hears the Seeker, "I do not believe he is guilty."
"The prisoner failed, Seeker. The breach remains, for all you know, he intended it this way."
"I do not believe that."
"That's not for you to decide. Your duty is to the Chantry."
"My duty is to serve the principles on which the Chantry was founded, Chancellor. As is yours."
Hearing enough, Etrigan opens the doors, the Knights guarding while Roderick and Cassandra argue. Upon seeing him enter, the Chancellor changes tactics. "Chain him. I want him prepared for travel to the capitol for trial."
Etrigan wasn't sure if he was going to hit him or just mouth off until another voice chimed in, "Disregard that and leave us." His head shoots to the shadows, 'I didn't know she was here, then again of course I wouldn't.' The guards salute and leave.
Roderick turns his ire back on Cassandra, "You walk a dangerous line Seeker."
"The breach is stable but it is still a threat and I will not ignore it."
Etrigan steps up, "I did everything I could to close it. It almost killed me."
Roderick crosses his arms over his chest, puffing up in his smugness, "Yet you live. Rather convienent, in sofar as you're concerned."
Cassandra's voice takes a dark edge as the two men continue to stare each other down, "Have a care Chancellor, the breach isn't the only threat we face."
Etrigan seriously considers punching that rather pleased smirk off Roderick's face before looking at the Seeker, "So I'm still your suspect? Even after what we saw?"
Roderick jumps at the opening. "You absolutely are."
Cassandra confronts the Chancellor, leaving no room for debate. "No. He is not."
Leliana comes to stand next to Etrigan, and he fights to school his features. 'Now is not the time for this battle.' He focuses instead on his distaste for a man his Aunt often described as "a professional bootlicker" when Leliana speaks, "Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave. Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with the others, or have allies that yet live."
Etrigan almost laughs at the offended shock on Roderick's face when he addresses Leliana, "I am a suspect?"
"You and many others."
"But not the prisoner."
Leliana takes a slight step forward. "I heard the voices at the the Temple. The Divine called to him for help."
Wisely, Roderick took a step back, "So his survival? That thing on his hand? All coincidence?"
Cassandra, who had been silent, steps in, "Providence. The Maker sent him to us in our darkest hour."
Etrigan doesn't bother to hide his shock, "So you've changed your mind about me?"
"I was wrong. Perhaps I still am. I will not however pretend you were not exactly what we needed when we needed it."
Etrigan closes his eyes, "Though all before me is shadow, yet shall the Maker be my guide."
Cassandra finishes her explanation, "We lost everything, then out of nowhere, you came."
Leliana places a hand on Etrigan's shoulder to get his attention, "The breach remains and your mark is our only hope of closing it."
Roderick chose that moment to remind them he was in fact still there, "This is not for you to decide."
Cassandra steps away and comes back, slamming a large latched book on the table. Laying her hand on the book, she glares at Roderick, "Do you know what this is, Chancellor? A writ from the Divine, granting us the authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn." She backs him into a wall, poking him as she continues, "We will close the breach. We will find those responsible. And we will restore order. With or without your approval."
Roderick raises his hands in resignation, storming out of the room, leaving Cassandra to pace. Leliana lays her hand on the tome, "This is the Divine's directive. Rebuild the Inquisition of old, find those who will stand against the chaos." She turns to Cassandra, "We aren't ready. We have no leader, no numbers and now, no Chantry support."
"But we must act now," Cassandra stops pacing and turns to Etrigan, "With you at our side."
He looks at the book, then at Leliana, "When I woke up, I certainly didn't picture this."
Leliana gives him a small grin, "Neither did we."
"If you are truly trying to restore order..."
"That is the plan."
Cassandra steps towards him, arm outstretched, "Help us fix this before it's too late."
He looks at both women and hesitates only a moment, again recalling his Aunt's lessons on change, before grabbing Cassandra's hand and shaking it. "Alright, Seeker, you've got me. By week's end you'll have the whole of the Rangers of the Free Marches."
The next several hours went by in a blur. Etrigan went and briefed Stitch on their new job and the Commanders wrote letters to all in their company, giving each man a choice to join the Inquisition or go home with no ill will should they chose to leave. If they chose to stay on, then their orders were to report to Haven as soon as possible. By first light, they had all the replies and Etrigan prepared a roster list for Cassandra compiling names, ranks, field names and specializations of every member of the Rangers. The officers were all in Haven already with about a dozen soldiers that signed up readily, but they had a few reserve units in Ferelden and Orlais to hear back from, all totaled, two Commanders, four Captains and forty-eight soldiers.
In the Chantry while the Rangers made their lists, Cassandra and Leliana brought Cullen and Josephine up to speed on what had happened. Together the four penned the official proclamations declaring the Inquisition. Leliana left to send messages to the leaders of both the Mages and the Templars, offering the Inquisition as a neutral party should they want to try peace talks again. Josephine leapt into her role as Ambassador, feverishly writing to potential allies all over Thedas. Cullen went to post the proclamations around the village and even a copy on the Chantry doors. Cassandra walked the village after watching training drills that now included the Rangers as they arrived, soldiers stopping their tasks to salute as she passed on her way to the Chantry. At the steps were assembled the ranking officers that would make the War Council of the Inquisition. As the banner dropped over the Chantry, they made sure everyone could see them, then broke to get some much needed rest. In the coming days the real work would begin
Since coming to Haven, just saying his dreams were strange would be a vast understatement for Etrigan, so he was actually quite relieved to be woken up at first light by a messenger with a stack of letters for him. Having only just returned himself from seeking out the Ranger reserves, Stitch stayed behind offering the maps Rangers used and possible contacts. He was quite pleased with his results. Of his four dozen members only eight declined the offer to join up. He wished them well and good fortune in their endeavors, then headed back. Pulling his lists out, he updated the recruits and declines, still smiling through his yawns as he thought back to his return to the village two day prior.
Riding up on his borrowed horse, Etrigan sees Leliana and Cassandra waiting for him, "If both of you are here, then I must have done something really bad."
The Seeker scared him when she actually laughed, "Normally I'd agree with you, but no, we have a bit of a surprise for you."
"For me? You shouldn't have."
Leliana grinned at him, and he really didn't want to think about the knots in his chest that happened every time she did, "Well it's just something we had lying around in the Ambassador's office."
The Ladies walk him to his cabin and point to the door. He gives them a look but goes in anyway. His shock staggers him into dropping his bags, "Josie? Maker's breath girl what are you doing here?"
"It seems we finally caught each other, Ety."
A few long strides across the room and the childhood friends are reunited, Josephine screaming as Etrigan picks her up and spins her, "Put me down you brute!"
He puts her back on her feet but hugs her tighter, "You wound with your words but you're still my best friend so I forgive you."
The four had their evening meal in his cabin that night, sharing stories of their travels and intrigues after explaining exactly how Joesphine and Etrigan met and how they were almost related.
Spending all day yesterday catching up with Josie was exactly what he needed. He truly loved her as his sister, even though she teased him mercilessly when he admitted to finding Leliana both captivating and terrifying. While he traveled he had written to everyone in his family except his father about the explosion. Telling them he was deeply sorry for the loss, and vowing to stay with the Inquisition and until answers and justice were found. For his brothers and eldest sister he included a small personal note, for his youngest sister he offered nothing, instead asking Josie to write it or have someone else do it, leaving the room soon after. Once Josephine explained that there was a great deal of animosity between the siblings, though she didnt know the cause, only that neither would discuss it, Leliana offered to write the letter for him. Also waiting for him was more of the clothing Leliana had gotten him when he first woke up after the Temple. He had mentioned off handedly that he liked it, only wishing it came in sleeveless as well. After his first trip out a box with several colors, both with and without sleeves, was sitting on his bed. Sadly, as he got dressed for the day, he realized it was the first time in his life he could honestly say he had more than two friends. Kicking Stitch as he went about getting ready, the other man got up and around as well. This morning was going to be their first war council. They had to wait until replies to their many letters and recruitment trips came back before they could begin to proceed with making any plans.
Etrigan left for the Chantry early, as was his habit since age 12. He wanted a few moments of peace before his day really began. As he had done every morning since writing to his family, he stepped into the Chantry, moving to one of the smaller statues. The Sisters called it 'his statue' and no longer removed the candles, one for every memeber of his family lost at the Conclave, and every day he came in at dawn and lit all twenty one candles. When he was finished he turned to head for the war room and saw Leliana waiting for him. His new habit, however, is either touching or staring at the mark on his hand.
"Does it trouble you?"
He shrugs, "If it wasn't enough to close the breach what use is it?"
"You did everything we asked of you."
"And it didn't work."
"What's important is that your mark is stable, as is the breach. You've given us time and Solas believes that a second attempt might succeed..provided the mark has more power. The same level used to open it in the first place. That is not easy to come by."
"What harm could there possibly be in powering up something we barely understand?"
Leliana chuckles lightly, "And to think, I call Cassandra a pessimist."
They both smile and head into the war room. Cassandra is already there, "Leliana had briefed you?"
Etrigan nods, "Oh yea, we're at war with forces unknown and you clearly have something in mind."
He waits until she looks up at him so she can see he's only half serious, "Yes, I've seen the plans, piss off the big bad while dangling me as bait and hope it doesn't eat me. Sounds like fun."
The Seeker laughs at him, "Hold on to that sense of humor."
Stitch comes in with Josephine and a man Etrigan remembers from the valley. They all take a place around a large table where a map has been set up with several key points marked. Etrigan is in the center with his back to the door, Cassandra is to his left, Stitch to his right. Across from him is the warrior from the valley. Leliana is across from Cassandra and Josephine, holding her ever present note board, is opposite Stitch, who is also acting as scribe for the council sessions. Etrigan pulls out his pocket journal, and now that everyone is here Cassandra starts, "We've all met informally but may I present Cullen Rutherford, Commander of the Inquisition's forces."
Cullen bows his head slightly and offers his report, "Such as they are, we've lost a great deal in the valley and I fear we will lose many more before this is over."
Etrigan scribbled a few notes into his journal, then looked to Cassandra again, "Lady Joesphine Montilyet, our Ambassador and Chief Diplomat," Josephine gave a quick nod and Cassandra continued,
"And of course you know Sister Leliana."
The woman in question offers a slight bow, "My position here requires a certain degree of..."
She is cut off by the Seeker, "She is our Spymaster."
"Yes," Leliana rolls her eyes, "tactfully put, Cassandra. It's been mentioned that the mark needs more power," Leliana points to Redcliffe on the map, "Which is why we must approach the rebel mages for help."
Cullen chooses Therinfall Redoubt on the map, "I disagree, the Templars could serve just as well."
"We need power Commander. Enough magic poured into that mark-"
"Could destroy us all. The Templars could suppress the breach, weaken it so-"
"I was a Templar. I know what they're capable of."
Josephine diffuses the moment by voicing the real issue, "Unfortunately, neither group will even speak to us yet. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition, you specifically Etrigan."
He leans against the table, pinching the bridge of his nose, "Well that was fast, from mass murderer to heretic in less than a month."
Cullen's grip on his sword tightens, "Shouldnt they be arguing over who will be the next divine?"
Ignoring him, Josephine continues, "Some are calling you the Herald of Andraste and that frightens the Chantry. The remaining Clerics have decreed it blasphemy and we heretics for harboring you."
Etrigan is pretty sure he's going to punch a certain boot licking, pompous, self-important horse's ass but Cassandra givies it voice, "Roderick's doing no doubt."
Josephine nods," It limits our options. Approaching the mages or the templars for help is currently out of the question."
Knowing he'll be expected to make a contribution soon but wanting to review his options, Etrigan makes a suggestion, "Why don't we break here for now, so that cooler heads may yet prevail?" With a playful smirk he adds, "and as I've only eaten a handful of times in the last few weeks, this map and the Commander's sword are looking like quite the snack."
Everyone laughed, then Leliana asks when they should reconvene. "Why not for the evening meal? That way we can all complete our tasks for the day and we can reassess our emergent needs?" With everyone in agreement, the council splits to complete their duties and make notes for their working meal later.
Chapter 11: Chapter 9 The Threat Remains
This picks up several hours from where the last chapter leaves off. It sort of got away from me so I had to stop and give myself a break.
Just after sundown, Etrigan had received word that the working meal with the council would be held in the tavern at nightfall. He was quite pleased with himself for his progress for the day. He had spent time in the Chantry library researching what they knew so far about the conflicts they planned to take on, and had made notes in his journal on various points he wanted to bring up or questions he wanted to ask, as well as assignment recommendations for the Rangers. Finally, he made his way back to the cabin to make another futile attempt to write his father.
A knock at his door, "Come." Thinking it was either Stitch or Josie, he bawled up another piece of parchment and threw it in the general direction of the fire.
"What is all this?"
He froze at the melodious Orlesian accent and looked into the eyes that haunt his dreams of late. "A spoiled Lordling's poor attempt at writing a letter. "Father sorry your only sister and I were blown up. She died but bright side I'm still alive and you've twenty-one less birthdays to remember.' " He shook his head, "I apologize, that was uncalled for. After I was sent to live with my father, he and I have always enjoyed a close relationship built on blunt honesty, shared faith and mutual interests."He sighs, "For the first time ever, I'm finding writing him difficult."
Leliana had busied herself cleaning up a bit of his fire hazard, "It's all right, your troubles are quite understandable. Perhaps you should stop for now and let things happen naturally. The words will come to you when you are ready."
Tossing his quill on the table and capping the ink "What an excellent suggestion," he runs a tired hand through his hair, making a mental note to get it cut, "to what do I owe the pleasure of you company thins evening, Spymaster?"
Leliana gives him a playful glare at his use title, "I wondered if you would care to walk with me to our meeting? Josie always spoke fondly of you, and while I know of the deeds of 'Ranger Commander Etrigan', I find I know precious little of the man behind him, and wish to correct that mistake in a non professional capacity."
Standing to stretch the kinks from his back, he flashed her his boyish grin, "Why mi'Lady, it would be my honor." He finishes with a purposely dramatic low bow, gaining him a giggle from the Spymaster, grabbing his coat a thought comes to him, "I've meant to say thank you."
"Oh, whatever for?" "Josie informs me I have you to thank for, as she calls it 'the drastic improvement' to my wardrobe."
That got him a full laugh, "I highly doubt your choices were ever poorly made."
Shaking his head he laughs, "Josie has tried to get me to be a 'proper high born lord' since we were children, it hasn't worked. I travel often so prefer function to fashion."
"Well, in any case, you are most welcome, I am pleased you enjoy them."
As they exit the cabin, Leliana starts to turn left towards the Chantry instead of forward towards the tavern and says, "If its alright with you, I thought we might take the longer route."
With a shrug and years of etiquette training, Etrigan offers her his arm, "A star lit walk through a quaint village with a lovely lady? Only a fool would say no."
During their walk, Leliana learned that everyone close to Etrigan called him 'Ety' except his youngest sister Aislyn, a Chantry Sister in Amaranthine, formerly of Ansburg, who prefered to not speak to him at all. She knew he had other siblings and when asked he had only complimentary things to say about all of them, even Aislyn who ran an orphanage. He mentioned his eldest brother, Max, was his hero and the one he wanted to emulate most.
As much as Leliana wanted to push and ask questions, she didn't when Etrigan said his first adventure was a hunting trip with his mother the winter before her death, then quickly changed the subject.
She did ask about his relationship to Josephine though, he said they were just really close friends and that he knew she was related to his elder siblings but he wasnt quite sure how, but he could recal vividly the first time her met her at her 9th birthday celebration then when they were actually introduced at his a few months later.
He told Leliana about how he had been accepted to the University in Orlais at the same time as Josie but couldn't stand the thought of leaving his father all alone at the family estate, so he stayed behind, instead becoming a squire for his brother Gabe, while he was stationed with the Templar unit in Ostwick, which is how he learned his combat skills.
He met Stitch while traveling with his brother between Highever and Antiva, he and his brother had found the remains of Stitch's father and returned his personal effects to his family, soon after the two formed the Rangers, gifted with their armor and weapons, all crafted by Stitch's mother, who he was pretty sure was the only person in the whole of Thedas that still called her son 'Faren'.
Leliana for her part shared she was raised by the Orlisian noblewoman her mother had worked for after her passing but her mother was Fereldan so she considered herself Fereldan as well, she trained as a within the Imperial Court, later being betrayed by her Bardmaster, she admitted to traveling with the Wardens during the blight but glossed over most of her relationship with the Hero of Ferelden, who she learned Etrigan didn't care for much at all after he cost the younger man's brother a marriage among other things.
Their walk while very brief felt like hours , Leliana knew the younger man so much better now by her estimation so she took a chance "Forgive my boldness, but why do you journal everything during important meetings?"
"I don't mind. Riding accident when I was 10," he answered happily, "Max is 17 yrs older than me and Evie is 15 yrs older. They were trying to teach me to ride and I wanted to show that I could do everything they could, instead I spooked the horse and got thrown into a rock bed."
"The notes are a habit, I suffer short-term memory loss, Josie knows so I suspect she or Stitch will take notes when I cant do it myself."
As they get to the tavern, Etrigan dashes forward to get the door for Leliana, pausing before he opened it, "What I said before, about people calling me 'Ety', I hope to someday count you among them."
Before she could replay he opened the door with a small flourish, not daring to voice his internal struggle in her closeness. Walking in behind her, Etrigan notices no one else is there yet, instead Leliana leads him to a staircase hidden behind the bar,inclining her head, "This way."
"Clever" They climb down into the room and he sees they are in fact the last to arrive, Stitch ready with quill and parchment in hand so that he can focus on the meeting.
Etrigan sits next to Josephine and is pleased to see Leliana sit across from him, he pulls his journal from his pocket flipping through the pages until he finds his notes and questions, then leans over to place a chaste kiss to Josie's cheek and speaking to her in Antivan "You look lovely this evening, Sister. My soul sings to see you for I have missed you terribly , Old Friend."
She happily returned his affectionate greeting "Indeed Brother, our letters were never quite enough to explain the ache in my heart for you"
Leliana only picked up a few words of their conversation, she would have to ask Josie later, no matter what he said their relationship was, that sounded deeper than 'just friends' and Herald or no, if this boy hurt her friend she would end him, her musings cost her though, because she missed Etrigan asking Josephine in flawless Orlisian "Is Leliana spoken for by anyone?"
The Antivan woman could only shrug and he switched back to the common tongue "Damn," he sighed, "Oh well, to business then." Sadly for him, that was an admission, so his first and oldest friend was already plotting.
"Is there anything I can help with, Josephine?"
"Yes actually, your father, I'd like to dispatch a courier to ask the Banns of House Trevelyan to align with us. What are your thoughts? Should we approach your family for their formal support of the Inquisition?"
"Wow, pardon my speech," Etrigan looked around the room, "way to start with the ball buster there, Josephine, but sure, they're all very devout, if they believe me truly touched by Andraste, you'll have to beg them to stop sending money. However, I'll ask my Father, its my duty and he'll respect the request more if it comes from me."
Flashing his boyish grin again, "Now about this 'Herald of Andraste' business?"
Cassandra sees the statement for what it is and helps the subject change, "People saw what you did at the Temple, how you stopped the breach from growing. Then there is the tale of the woman in the rift where you were first found, the faithful believe her to be Andraste."
Leliana took a sip of her wine and added , "Even if we tried to stop that view from spreading..."
"Which we are not."
Glaring playfully at Cassandra, Leliana continues, "The point is, everyone is talking about you."
Cullen grins "Its quite the title isn't it? How do you feel about that?"
Etrigan takes a long draw from his drink before answering, "Its..A little unsettling actually, I'm not sure how I should feel about it."
"Sadly, The Chantry has decided that for you, its seems"
Leliana adds her opinion to the Commander's, "People are desperate for a sign of hope. For some you are that sign."
Josephine lays her hand on her friend's hand resting on the table, "And to others, a symbol of everything that's gone wrong."
Etrigan turns his hand over, giving hers a gentle squeeze, before asking the commander, "Will the Chantry attack us?"
"With what? They have only words at their disposal."
Josephine counters, "And yet, they may bury us with them."
Etrigan weighs their words, "So if I wasnt with the Inquisition?"
Cullen rolls his eyes, "Lets be honest, they would have censured us no matter what."
Leliana waits until Etrigan is looking at her "And you not being here isn't an option."
He nods giving her a grateful smile, then checks his notes for his next question, "Arent they more concerned with the breach? The actual threat?"
Cullen fields this one, "They do know that it is a threat, they just don't think we can stop it."
Josephine sighs "The Chantry is telling everyone that you'll make it worse."
Leliana sees that Etrigan has crossed off all of his questions and started a new page, "There is something you can do. A Chantry Cleric named Mother Giselle has asked to speak with you. She is not far and knows those involved far better than I. Her assistance could be invaluable"
Scribbling quickly in his book Etrigan looks up, "She asked for me? What would someone from the Chantry help a declared heretic?"
"I understand she is a reasonable sort. From what I know of her, she is a kind soul and not the sort to involve herself in violence. Perhaps she does not agree with her Sisters?"
"Alright, I'll go hear what she has to say"
"You'll find her tending to the wounded in the Hinterlands near Redcliff."
As Etrigan makes writes his notes Cullen makes a suggestion, "While you're there, looks other opportunities to expand the Inquisition's influence."
Josephine nods adding, "We need agents to extend our reach beyond this valley and you're better suited than anyone to recruit them."
Cassandra decides that is too much for only one man, "In the mean time, let's think of other options. I wont leave this all to the Herald."
Etrigan gives her a dirty look, then smiles. The rest of their evening is spent planning scouting missions, sorting requisition orders, personnel training, scheduling and making arrangements for potential allies. Etrigan made sure to plot Honor guard routes to safely guid the rest of the fallen home.
In the end it was decided that Cassandra, Stitch, Varric and Solas would go with Etrigan to the Hinterlands to seek Mother Giselle as well as any chances to prove they weren't the band of monstrous heathens the Chantry was branding them as. When the council broke for the night they had all agreed that they stood on the brink of the Holiest of wars, with the very soul of Thedas at risk. Only history would show if they became saviors or savages.
Chapter 12: Chapter 10 Into The Hinterlands
There are so many side quests in this area that it would be madness to try and cover them all, plus in game this area gets a few trips so I'll cover a few more side quests each time.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Two days after plans were set, Leliana sent her forward scouts to the Hinterlands to assess the situation for meeting Mother Giselle. Etrigan sent Stitch along with one of their Captains, code-named 'Ghost', and the bulk of their scavengers. The Council agreed with Etrigan's terms of communication, anything written to or by him would use his Ranger code 'Hunter', whereas if it was about him or the breach 'Herald' was fine, simply to keep the risk to potential allies and refugees contained by not announcing that the Herald had left Haven or if it did get out, where he was at any given time. Leliana was currently reading the list of code names Etrigan had written for everyone involved with this trip and has to laugh at Cassandra's..she was going to hate it.
Leliana - Nightingale
Etrigan - Hunter
Cassandra - Princess
Solas - Dreamer
Varric - Storyteller
Mother Giselle - Cleric
Scout Harding - Stonedotten
Faren - Stitch
Thom - Ghost
She had asked about Ghost, all Etrigan would say is that he was a good man that had been an orphan and he would prove himself quite useful. Cassandra and Etrigan were set to leave at first light the next day. He and Stitch decided to use the staggered arrival to hunt game to feed the refugees and gather as many useful supplies as possible, hopefully endearing themselves and the Inquisistion to the people. Currently, Leliana was alone in the tent she had claimed as her work space, just outside the Chantry, when one of her ravens landed on her shoulder, "Good evening, Your Grace." She said without even looking at him. Her agents hated this particular bird, but Baron Plucky was her fastest. Etrigan and Stitch seemed to get on just fine with him though, if the message she recieved from the Rangers' advance party was any clue.
Thank His Lordship for the speedy delivery. Rangers and forward scouts have secured area to best of our abilities, it's worse than our original intelligence reported. No longer Mages against Templars. It's apostate against rogue templar against whatever poor sod gets stuck in the scuffle. Scavengers set loose to gather desperately needed supplies for refugees, already exhausted what we carried with us. Cleric is alive and safe, snipers in place to keep it that way until Herald arrives. Permission to break off and lead hunting party when soldiers arrive? If we can spare it, blankets and tent materials would be much appreciated in the area and would do well to win hearts in our favor here. Maker guide you
She heads into the Chantry to show the message to Cassandra and coordinate with Josephine and Cullen for more supplies if possible, when she is stopped just inside the door by the Seeker. She opens her mouth to ask why when Cassandra shakes her head and points to the statue of Andraste that Etrigan has visited everyday since the Temple. What they witness next reaffirms their choice to work with the young man whose faith could well rival their own.
Etrigan has placed a wood block at the base of the statue, placing both of his short swords and his dagger, blade down into the wood. His bow hangs from the hilt of his swords. He is wearing his coat but his arms are bare. The Hands of The Divine watch him remove his boots and lower himself to his knees, touching his head to the base of the statue for a moment. He then rises up, still kneeling, and removes his coat, leaving his feet and torso bare, clad only in simple black linen breeches. He begins his prayer barely above a whisper but they hear him in the echoes of the empty hall, "Andraste, Blessed Prophet, Maker's Bride. I come to you, a humble man laid bare. If it was your grace that spared me, then I am thankful and I swear to do my best to be worthy of your faith in me to carry out the Maker's will."
He bows his head and says no more, taking comfort from quiet meditation before what is sure to be a trying journey. Leliana goes back to her work space long enough to add a note to Stitch's report to find her with Josephine, silently slipping back in and placing the report on his coat. Etrigan makes no movement or sign that he noticed her there so she slips away, taking Cassandra with her to the Ambassador's office to update them both.
As Etrigan finishes his plea, a scent comes to him on the breeze, rose oil and well loved leather, the Hands of The Divine. He decides to finish his prayers silently, not wanting them to hear his doubts given voice. Rose oil right behind him now and ink. Then the scents are gone, and all that remains is the insence and wax that permeate every Chantry he has ever been in.
Finishing his prayers, he stands and puts his boots back on. Pulling a shirt from one of his coat pockets, he finishes dressing and straps his gear back on, heading to Josie's office while reading the report from Stitch. Tapping on the door twice, he lets himself in without waiting for a reply, purposely sitting on Josie's desk, in her way to stop her from working. In the weeks since the Inquisition's declaration, he's found his friend asleep at her desk at least three times a week, so he had a cot brought in to goad her into sleeping like a normal person and when that doesn't work, he acts like the brother she claims him to be and simply annoys her.
He smiles at her when she tries and fails to shove him off of her desk, then holds the report up to Leliana before handing it to Josie to read, "His Lordship is a perfectly lovely bird, I don't know why your people are afraid of him."
Cassandra makes a disgusted noise, "Because the three of you are the only people that beast has yet to attack."
Etrigan smiles when Leliana laughs, "Ready to depart at daybreak, Seeker?"
"Yes, half the soldiers will leave with us and the rest will leave the next day with relief supplies for the refugees."
"Good. What exactly is our goal with the Cleric? Are we wanting solely information or another agent?"
Leliana considers his questions a moment, "Why not both? I see no reason why we could not broker an alliance of sorts with her. We aid her relief efforts and she tells us what she knows of the players."
Josephine had been writing a reply to Stitch for them, but paused to add," Additionally our aid to her cause will help to spread good will towards our own."
"Well then, Ladies, I shall take my leave of you. Seeker, I'll see you at first light," Etrigan hops off Josephine's desk and heads for the door, pausing, he turns back to the room, "And Leliana, please see that Josie doesn't work the whole time I'm gone? I mean since I won't be here to annoy her...Or pick her up and force her to eat."
He leaves when Josephine throws a balled up piece of parchment at him, his laughter echoing down the hall after she swears and calls him a 'vile brat' in Antivan. Cassandra can see Leliana's envy rolling off her in waves though she is unsure of who it is directed at. Still, she asks the Ambassador the question that has been on her mind for days now, "Lady Josephine, how well do you know the Herald?"
"We met as children, I am actually related to his elder siblings through our mothers. Our fathers arranged many visits since we are so close in age and after they saw how well we got on, I adore him as dearly as either of my brothers."
"So the two of you never.."
"Lady Cassandra, did you not hear me say he is a brother to me? Ety was always a sweet boy but neither the Free Marches or Antiva are large enough to contain his potential, even if he himself cannot see it. I only hope he one day finds balance between his heart and his duty." At the confused looks of the other two, she continues, "His family is very connected within the Chantry, and has instilled a very deep sense of duty to it into him. But when he loves he loves completely, so any woman that wished to have his heart would have to understand that she would need to share him with his family and his faith. Such a woman would also have to share his passion. I give him books about either history or languages for his birthday every year, and everywhere he has journeyed has been for the protection of those that wished to enrich their faith. His band uses the coin they charge the nobles to fund trips for the less fortunate or to make sure those who hunger are fed. If my dear friend were to find a woman that believes as he does, for her he would capture stars and conquer kingdoms."
Cassandra changed the subject and soon after excused herself when the topics turned to gossip and fashion. On her way to bed she decided that Etrigan Trevelyan was a man she would be proud to call her friend and she would attempt to know him better while they traveled.
Just after first light, the second wave for the Inquisition gather at the gates of Haven to begin the two day journey to the Hinterlands. Solas had admitted to being a poor rider so he would be riding in a wagon with Varric and the supplies. Cassandra was already geared up and on her mount when Etrigan, still yawning and with his hair wrecked, stumbled over and placed his armor in the wagon behind Varric, covering it with a tent.
For the trip he was dressed as a scout, wearing the cloak Leliana had gifted him. Just as they had planned, no one outside the council or those recruited by Etrigan or the council would know who the Herald was, the exception being Leliana's contact in camp. A surface dwarf and Redcliffe native, Scout Harding was made aware of the plan while in the field so she knew who to look for.
After they set out, he tried to keep his promise to stick close to the Seeker but he got restless and darted off a few times to scout ahead and get some hunting done. Having a lot on his mind to work through, a letter to his father to still write and feelings he really didn't want to deal with because nothing good could come of them, he needed to do something. Tracking helped him think so he went tracking game.
Just before nightfall they stopped for the day and made camp. Etrigan was rather pleased with himself- for only a few hours' effort he bagged several large rams and enough rabbit and fennec for the entire travel group to have their own. Nothing wasted, he showed the soldiers how to get the most out of every kill, save some fat for traps, smaller bones for arrows, larger ones for bows and sword grips, fur and skin for clothing and blankets. With watch rotation set everyone settled in for the night, full bellied and a little wiser.
Cassandra sat next to Etrigan by the fire as he made notes in his journals about the game trails he found for future use, "Useful skills you taught the men today."
Without even looking up from the map he was sketching, he answered her, "Good if it helps them to survive, better if it helps them save someone else."
She had in fact learned a few things from his lessons, "If I might, who taught you?"
Looking up he smiles, "My father, I was sent to live with him after my 8th birthday. A few months later he and my brother Max took me 'camping.' We never left the estate gardens but I was in awe," chuckling, he continues, "Max promised me a proper camping trip when I was older, that ended up being the Solace after I turned 13 and a proper hunting trip as well. Father, Max, Gabe and me. Plus Josie's father and her brothers. While Father , Uncle Yves and Gabe tracked and hunted the large game, Max taught us boys to snare the smaller game and to fish. As the oldest of the boys and his brother, Max taught me to start fires with curved glass, in case my flint got wet."
"Life saving and invaluable when trekking through mountains and harsh climates for a living." Focusing on the Seeker gave him a better chance to read her. He props his arm on his leg, resting his head on his fist, using his free hand to scratch his stubble, his facial wounds still too new to attempt shaving, "So when do you intend to ask me what you really want to know, Seeker? Promise the worst that will happen is I decline to answer." At her shocked look he laughs, "I read people and my surroundings for threats as a living, to me you're about as subtle as a bronto."
"It occurs to me I don't know much about you, I could ask for the full report from Leliana but I'd rather hear it from you."
"So what do you want to know?"
"Where are you from?"
"Honestly? I don't know. I don't know where I was born. My mother died when I was 5. I stayed with a guardian in Starkhaven until First Day, just after I turned 8. She took me to Ostwick where my Father lived, where I met him for the first time. The guardian gave him a sealed letter from my mother and stayed until he read it. Father dropped to his knees, hugging me and saying 'Welcome home son' and when I turned around my guardian was gone. That night Father wrote to my siblings to recall them home. At first all four hated me, to them I was living proof of his shame, though their mother had passed twelve years before I was even born. My eldest sister, Evie, warmed up to me first, then my brothers. My youngest sister tolerates me, but only just, and only to keep the peace for our Father. What of your family Seeker?"
Cassandra sighs, "I am a Pentaghast, the royal family of Nevarra. My parents died when I was very young, leaving my elder brother to the care of our uncle. My brother was killed by apostates while hunting a dragon. I went to the Chantry, begging to become a Templar, and instead they gave me to the Seekers. It was there I found purpose, and reaffirmed my faith."
Etrigan leans farther into the log he had been sitting against, "Aren't we a pair? Just a couple of Noble born orphans, refusing our blood claims to answer the Maker's call."
"There are worse ways to live."
"Fair enough, but for now enough dark and depressing. My whole life I've only ever had two friends and I'm currently half way between them, let's change that. What does Lady Pentaghast do when Seeker Cassandra isn't around?"
"Truly?" She nods so he keeps going, "Any favorites?"
A wistful sigh, "Too many to choose only one."
"I prefer languages, I wanted to learn Antivan as a boy to further befriend Josie, so she gifted me a children's book that she had translated for my birthday that year to help me learn."
"Do you speak any others?"
He nods, "My work requires it. I'm fluent in Antivan, Orlesian and Rivaini and conversationally proficient in Elven and Dwarven, at least the Marcher dialects."
Cassandra feigns offense, "No Nevarran?"
"Sadly," he laughs, "No, I've not traveled there nearly as much as I'd have liked, someday though. When Max takes over for Father, he and I plan to travel the whole of Thedas. We share a love of history and want to see all the places we've only read about in books, together as scholars."
Cassandra smiles, "That sounds wonderful."
So does Etrigan, "It will be."
The pair lapse into a comfortable silence until, "Did you ever wish to court Lady Montilyet?"
Etrigan couldnt stop the bark of laughter that escaped him, "Oh Maker, no! Our fathers did try to work something out but her mother put a stop to that pretty quickly because noble blood or not I'm, in her words, 'still just a bastard'. It wouldn't have worked anyhow, my love for her is brotherly, she is my oldest and closest friend. Truly, I cling to her as I do because she was my first friend. Before living with father and meeting her, I had never been around other children."
Cassandra was quick to offer, "I apologize then."
He waved her off. "No need, though that does explain the nasty looks I get from Leliana, guess I'll have to prove Josie isn't my type."
Cassandra gapes at him. "You have a type? Josephine made it seem as though you are a monk."
He levels his gaze at the Seeker, "In a way I am, I won't say I've never had a lover, because I'd be lying, but I was young- well, younger- and it was a mistake and we both knew it. No, I want the dream I cannot have, a woman to know my past, my beginnings, and to want me because of it, not in spite of it. She would also have to possess a very dry wit, or in the presence of my Father and eldest brother she would be easily offended, and maybe willing to live more than a little dangerously. And Maker challenge me, I'm not perfect, I know I'm wrong sometimes, tell me. Accepting weird pets is a good thing too. I once tried to keep a Drake as a pet, until he set fire to Father's study. Find me that woman and I will stand on top of the Grand Cathedral and profess my love."
Cassandra doesn't say it but she is certain he unknowingly just described Leliana to her. They spent the night making idle chatter and by the time they were both ready to get some sleep she was on the list of people that could call him 'Ety'.
With the dawn and the breaking of camp, the playful boy Cassandra had befriended last night was replaced with the task-oriented man. The route the Ranger scouted for them had the party arriving at the Inquisition outpost several hours ahead of schedule.
Corporal Vale took over keeping the area secure and Stitch took the scavengers out on other paths to hunt and gather more aide suppilies for the refugees.
Off to the side was a dwarven woman holding a longbow, waiting for Cassandra and Etrigan to drop their gear, "Seeker, Inquisition Scout Harding," she nods at Etrigan, "pleased to meet you, Hunter."
Etrigan steps into a nearby tent to change into his armor but is still within earshot of the Scout, "Welcome to the Hinterlands, we've located and made contact with Redcliffe castle's former horse master, Dennet. He offered us a few mounts to aide in your travels but won't officially offer support unless we can offer a few assurances of our own."
A Ranger walked into the tent, the Herald walked out, brow furrowed. He had an idea but needed to run it by Cassandra since they had agreed in Council she is the field Commander, "Seeker, why not split up to better our chances of success? You go be your 'charming' self with the horse master and I'll go deal with our new 'friend' the cleric. I mean ideally we'd like to help everyone but with limited resources at the moment we can't expend them playing politics. Unfortunately, we have to pick and choose."
Cassandra had also switched into her armor, "True, very well, I'll go to Dennet. And as you say 'charm' him."
Scout Harding hands Etrigan a map, "When you're ready, Mother Giselle is roughly two leagues northwest of us in an area known as 'The Crossroads." She hands a map to Cassandra, "Dennet is roughly two leagues east. Stitch and the Rangers have been clearing up the problems plaguing the farms so he might be a bit more willing to listen this time." Turning back to the Herald she offers one more piece of intel, "On a personal note, I grew up around here, most of these folks are good people and they're trapped, cold and hungry. Thanks for bringing the supplies Herald."
Etrigan nods and places a hand on her shoulder, "Is your family safe?"
"Yes, I begged them to go to Denerim back when the fighting first broke out."
"Good." She notices his coat, "And nice coat, its appears to be one of my Mother's better pieces."
"Nightingale gifted it to me when mine was destroyed at the Temple. I plan to order a few more for my 2nd and our Captains."
"Mother would love that."
Etrigan turns to the rest of the party, "Rangers with me, Varric you too, Solas the caves you were interested in are on Cassandra's path."
The elf and the dwarf both nodded and Cassandra gave orders to her unit as well, they had the longer journey and left soon after. Etrigan and his party left as soon as he sent a report to Leliana updating the others on the current situation.
Made contact with Stonedotten. Princess heading to old Horsemaster for accords, Rangers may have made him useful. Herald heading to meet Cleric. Hope all is well at the nest with few ruffled feathers. Will update after meetings. Please impart my gratitude and admiration to His Lordship
Maker watch you
Etrigan watches the sky as Baron Plucky takes flight, putting his cloak back on he takes to his new horse 'this is truly a fine beast, good luck Cassandra' he saddles up. Taking point with Varric close behind in the first wagon and another behind him with all the supplies they've gathered, they set out down the path.
So I'm back...There will be more chapters added tonight, at least 2 maybe 3 depending on when my eyes start to cross
Chapter 13: Chapter 11 A Sister's Love
I decided I wanted to do a chapter that sort of explores the friendship between Leliana and Josephine while that last chapter sort of built up the friendship between Cassandra and Etrigan. I promise the set ups I'm weaving will be worth it. PS be ready for Josephine acting like all kinds of meddling sister here....
While Cassandra and Etrigan were in the Hinterlands, Cullen planned to focus on establishing a better daily drill routine for the soldiers, Leliana and Josephine decided to combine their efforts and work from the war room since a lot of their daily tasks overlapped and it was just easier than sending messengers out to each other all day.
Of course if they were being perfectly honest, it had been some time since the old friends could just sit and chat while they worked so they wanted to take advantage ot the opportunity to catch up.
As they traded reports and couriered messages they held a lively debate on the latest fashions, filled each other in on all the newest scandals and gossip. Josephine even updated Leliana on all the goings on of her family, the most telling, was when Leliana asked simple questions about Etrigan's family.
The Ambassador herself a former Bard knew what her friend was doing though, seemingly innocent questions, meant to seem like idle chatter, but to someone who dealt in secrets and politics like they did, there was no such thing as an innocent question in the Grand Game.
While they were in Orlais, Leliana had always been open with her, then the blight came and slowly her dear friend changed, became more closed off and didn't smile as often. While she didn't know details, Josie knew the Warden was behind it, Leliana was happy with him, then completely heartbroken. If she were a lesser woman she would send Ety after the bastard, but that life was behind her now.
Now she decided she wasnt going to let Leli hide from her anymore, "Leli, you have always been a true friend and never held back with me. I think I would be offended if you were to start now. Why not just ask what you want to ask and say your true thoughts.?"
Not really shocked at being caught, Leliana leaned her head on the war table a moment to collect her thoughts, "Even after so short a time," she sighed, "I consider Etrigan a good friend. I worry for him, Josie. I've seen events such as these break the strongest of men. It would pain me to see him lost to us from this darkness that he must face. And I fear I owe him an apology, our first conversations was not pleasant, he saw me in a moment of weakness and I was unkind to him. Still has born me no ill will and I will try to be a better advisor and friend to him."
Josephine asked what Leliana was talking about and Leliana described a scene where her faith wavered and she like the villagers had lashed out at Etrigan.
Etrigan has a question to ask Leliana but it is forgotten as he hears the sorrow in her prayers " 'Blessed are the peacekeepers, the champions of the just. Blessed are the righteous, the lights in the shadow. In their blood the Maker's will is written.' Is that what you want from us? Blood? To die so that you will is done? Is death your only blessing?"
Noticing Etrigan is with her, "You speak for Andraste, no? What does the Maker's prophet have to say about all of this? Whats his game?" "
How is this a game?"
She stands and cannot hold back her anger "Do you see the sky? What about the Temple ruins? The bones lying in the dust? Even if you didn't support the Divine's peace you wouldn't call this right. Who could? So many innocent lives...The faithful murdered where the Holiest of Holies once stood. If the Maker willed this, what is it if not a game or a cruel joke?"
He did not rise to her anger but nor did his reply calm her, "Don't ask me! I'm as baffled as you are. I speak for no one but myself , and I have no answers for you."
Sighing sadly Leliana continues, "Then we can only guess at what He wants. The Chantry teaches that the Maker abandoned us. He demands repentance for our sins. He demands it all. Our lives. Our deaths. Justinia gave Him everything she had and He let her die."
She almost wanted to hit him hearing the sympathy in his voice, "I'm sorry. Her death has clearly hit you hard."
She spun on him, "Not just me. All if us. She was the Divine. She led the faithful. She was their heart! If the Maker does not intervene to save the best of His servants, what good is He? I used to believe I was chosen, just as some say you are. I thought I was fulfilling His purpose for me, working with the Divine, helping people. But now she's dead. It was all for nothing. Serving the Maker meant nothing."
Etrigan's heart broke for the woman, "Maybe you have another purpose. I could help you find it." "
No, this is my burden. I regret that I even let you see me like this. It was a moment of weakness. It wont happen again. Come. To work then. We will speak later."
Leliana turned her back to Etrigan leaving no room for further conversation, he regarded her for a moment before turning and leaving her as she so clearly wanted to be. Alone.
Josephine considered her words and decided that Leliana could help her, "I have known Etrigan Trevelyan since we were 9 years old, even with distance and duty, our bond has not faltered. Truly, I most likely know him better than he knows himself. His single greatest adversary is his own doubt."
She waited until Leliana was looking at her, "I meant it when I said there was nothing but sibling affection between us, though our fathers did try to create a betrothal, my mother ended the talks before they began. It is her words that haunt him."
Curious, Leliana asked her, "What did your mother say?"
Josephine sighed, "Mother adores Ety, really she does, but the old ways stick with her. Nobles in our circles call him the 'worst kept secret in Ostwick' and that concerned Mother, so she wouldn't allow the talks to happen because she would not allow any of her children to 'marry a bastard even is he was of noble blood'. We were 12 when she said that, he said nothing but I saw his pain, that was the moment he realized that no matter what he did with his life, all anyone will ever see is Bann Victor's motherless bastard."
She thought back to her letters and her life with the Herald, "Did you know you and Cassandra missed meeting him in Kirkwall by only a day?"
Leliana was shocked, "Truly?"
"Oh, yes," Josie explained, "The Prince of Starkhaven and The King of Antiva hired the Rangers to evacuate the remaining clerics from the Kirkwall Chantry after the explosion and get them safely to Orlais, I received a letter from him , thanking me for his birthday gift and telling me where he had left mine in my residence in Orlais, then I had seven pages of complaints about how he missed getting a chance to possibly meet and work with the Hands of The Divine."
Leliana shook her head, "We do what must be done. Our work is not that exciting."
Josie laughed, "It was to him, 'The Hero of Orlais' and "The Bard of the 5th Blight' , especially you, Leli"
Josie decided to give a little push, though he gave it no name, she knew Etrigan was well on his way to being in love with the Spymaster,she placed a small stack of parchment on the table knowing Leli saw it, at worst he would have another very dear friend, at best she had a wedding to plan. "As someone who fought beside people of all stations, yours is the voice that can sway him. Of course he listens to me about matters of diplomacy and he respects Cassandra and the Commander as military tacticians, but on matters that give him pause, he understands you will not speak falsehoods, knows your words will be measured on the issues."
To say she was stunned would be far less than Leliana actually felt, "Thank you, Josie. I will be sure to have a care with my words."
The pair fell into silence until Baron Plucky arrived bringing a report from the Hinterlands, reading the message, "Your work is most appreciated, Your Grace."
Leliana chuckles while handing the note to Josie, grinning when she hears the younger woman's disgruntled huff and pens her reply
The nest is well, though Quill's feathers are in fact ruffled. Excellent find for Stonedotten and good travels for Princess. We wish the Herald luck in his endeavors and safe journeys to you all. His Lordship thanks you for your praise.
Go in peace
"Josie, I'm off to send the reply. I'll see you in the morning. Please don't work too hard."
Josephine nods but doesn't look up from the letter she is writing, though she does see Leliana take the stack of parchment she had planted.
Outside the Chantry, the Spymaster sends Baron Plucky on his way, then heads to Etrigan's cabin to read the notes she borrowed from Josephine without interuption.
At first glance she sees two separate sets of handwriting creating several silent conversations between the childhood friends, some of which Leliana herself seems to be the focus of
Have I done something to make Lady Leliana cross with me?
I am not aware of such an offense, why?
In as many days since our reunion, I've noticed dark looks from her
You are aware she does not speak Antivan?
Oh then I am being rude? I shall endeavor to speak Orlisian, though I find I am want for practice.
I'll find you a book to translate
Leliana remembered watching the exchange and being quite cross but it wasn't about their reunion though she cant say why the thought of them being lovers vexed her so, honestly the little she knows of him and the stories she had seen of the Herald, she believed him to be a fine man.
Her cross feelings came from him stopping the death of a traitor that cost her one of her best agents.
Hours after her emotional outburst Etrigan had remembered what he wanted to ask her and thought to try again..Not this time either, an agent had arrived just before him and gave Leliana a troubling report, "So its true. Butler has turned on us. I hoped my hunch was wrong."
The agent nodded, "You knew him well?"
"Not as well as I thought. Show me the report."
After she reads it she hands the report to Etrigan who leans against a post as he reads it, being on the Council makes him a ranking member of the Inquisition and he would have seen the report soon anyway, she continues before he can ask questions, "There were so many questions surrounding Farrier's death. Did he think we wouldn't notice? He's killed Farrier. One of my best agents. And he knows where the others are." she turns to her agent, "You know what must be done. Make it clean. Painless, if you can. We were friends once."
Etrigan interrupts, "Wait. What are you doing?"
She didn't bother to look at him when she answered "He betrayed us. He murdered my agent." "
And you'd kill him? Just like that?"
Finally turning to face him "You find fault with my decision?"
He has stopped leaning against the post in the center of her tent "We cant solve our problems with murder"
" And what do you suggest? Leave him be? Butler's betrayal put our agents in danger. I condemn one man to save dozens. I may not like what I do, but it must be done. I cannot afford the luxury of ideals at a time like this."
Etrigan gives her a bitter smile, "Now is precisely the time for ideals."
Leliana narrows her eyes as she regards the young man, "You feel very strongly about this," it wasn't a question but he nods anyway she sighs, "Very well, I will think of another way to deal with this man."
Turning back to her agent, "Apprehend Butler, but see that he lives." Glancing over her shoulder at Etrigan, "Now if you're happy. I have more work to do."
She kept reading when she found another missive that featured herself
Feel free to kick me again, but what is that wonderful aroma coming from the Spymaster?
Well since you offered. Its rose oil and...You know I'm honestly not sure I've never asked.
'That explains his yelp of pain during Council sessions but why did she kick him the first time' Leliana laughs as she reads his reply
Firstly..OW! Do you have the Seeker's armor on under that skirt? Secondly, if one were to wager a guess, perhaps rose oil with undertones of beautiful Orlisian?
You think her beautiful?
"He thinks I'm beautiful?!" Luckily Leliana was alone, she could not contain her shock. Yet another difference between the Warden and the Herald. Etrigan was quiet, reserved and seemingly quite shy, Aedan was bold, direct and often very forward. Still though, her breath caught in her chest at his reply
I have sight, Josie. I see as she speaks with passion in her eyes and conviction in her heart. I have ears to capture the glorious melody that is her laugh, rare though it may be. Most importantly I possess sense enough to realize hers is one of the sharpest minds I have ever encountered.
You should tell her these things, even if nothing comes from it, Ladies love compliments
Leliana's heart breaks for him as she reads the next part
I could never be so bold Why not? She is the Left Hand of The Divine, Josie, and a Courtier, where I am now and have always been a Marcher Noble's bastard.
You are more than your birth, Ety
I'm not but I'm glad you think that
You will find love one day I know it
I wont but thank you for believing in me
Why do you not believe it?
I am nothing, Josie, I am battle broken, no woman would want me, a Noble's scarred bastard offering no social standing or rank. This is my fate, I have accepted it.
No, current scar count, 14 on my legs, 43 on my torso and now 4 on my face
Leliana sighed, if she was being honest with herself, she didn't find the Herald completely unattractive, quite the opposite really, even if he is 10yrs her junior. His lightly tanned complexion from years of travel, the deep russet hair he kept short but just long enough to run her fingers through, not that she has thought of doing such things. Only to herself would she admit to a fondness for his impish grin whenever he teased or annoyed Josephine. Maker she even found his scars appealing. His eyes though, that showed her his heart.
In his eyes, Leliana could see everything the battle tested Ranger felt. Merciful Andraste, not again. Leliana decided to fight her attraction to the Herald for as long as possible and hope it would just go away. She didn't think she could survive the joy finding and heartbreak of losing a love during a war again.
Gathering her things and heading to her work space, she could have kicked herself when she got there, another package, the rest of the shirts and several more pairs of the trousers she had ordered for him. How in the void was she supposed to fight her feelings for him if she kept ordering him clothing that accentuated everything she fancied of him?
Sighing in frustration she takes the package to her room and settles into bed trying desperately to will away thoughts of dark blue eyes full of mirth and misery.
Chapter 14: Chapter 12 See You At The Crossroads
I got nothing here except this picks up where 10 left off with our Hero riding out to meet with the Chantry Mother. Though we do go back in time a bit, those sections are marked.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Etrigan and Varric made excellent time to the Crossroads, greeted by grateful refugess who eagerly helped to unload the supplies they had brought with them, a few even cried at the prospect of feeding their families that night.
This was what Etrigan lived for, helping people that truly needed it. The village elders pledged to the Inquisistion when they were told that more supplies were coming in the nest few days and soldiers were in place to help secure the area.
Varric stayed back to talk to the people and entertain the children with stories of his travels with the Champion of Kirkwall. Etrigan went looking for the Cleric, he had met her briefly a few times during stop overs in Jader so finding her was easy.
He stayed back as he watched her comfort a young man, soothing him enough to allow a nearby mage to use healing spells on the worst of his wounds. "Mother Giselle? I am told you sent for me."
An older woman in Chantry robes stands and regards him, "I did. I wished to offer my condolences to House Trevelyan on the passing of Grand Cleric Seline, and others lost during the Conclave."
"On behalf of my kin, I thank you and will send your regards to my Father. But we both know that isnt why you called me here at least not the main reason. Sister Leliana believes we may be able to help each other."
The Mother smiles, pleased to see the peoples faith not lost on a boy but instead placed in a man, "To business then. I know of the Chantry's denouncement and I am familiar with those behind it. I wont lie to you. Some are grandstanding hoping to increase their chances of being the new Divine. Some are simply terrified, so many good people taken from us."
Etrigan nodded, "Truly, what happened was horrible"
"Fear makes us desperate, but hopefully not beyond reason. Go to them, convince them you are not a demon to be feared. So far they have heard only frightful tales of you. Give them something else to believe."
Etrigan wasnt sure he heard her quite right, "You want me to appeal to them?"
"If I thought you incapable I would not have suggested it."
"Will they even listen to me?"
"You don't need to sway them all, just make some of them doubt. Their power is in their unity"
Etrigan takes a knee "Thank you for this Mother"
The Cleric places a hand in his head, "Whether you see it or not, you have the power to rally the people and they will heed your call. Your potential could either deliver us or destroy us." She places her hand on hsi shoulder encouraging him to stand, "I do not know if you are truly touched by the Maker but I hope." Her words shook the young man to his core, she offered him a small hug, "The chaos must end. I will go to Haven and give Sister Leliana a list naming those that may be willing to speak with you."
Etrigan said nothing but bowed his head as she walked away, oulling out his journal to make notes of key points to send back in his report. He decided to stick around a bit and see if he could help the village at all, he ended up playing hide and seek with the children and for several hours helping the villagers set up the tents sent by the Inquisition and getting fire going to stave off the bitter cold through the nights
Giving Varric the signal, they left the village heading back to their camp. Etrigan had a great deal on his mind and had aplogized for being poor company. When he joined the Inquisition it was to seek justice for his family and those killed at the Conclave, hearing the Mother's words, steeled his resolve, whether he wanted it or not, people saw him as a symbol. It was up to him if it was a symbol of hope or a symbol of hate.
During the trip back to camp he decided he needed to hold himself to a higher standard, help everyone he could even if it meant something as simple as speaking with them or teaching them a skill he possessed that would help them to survive until order was restored. As they got back to camp only one though prevailed in his mind, 'Oh Maker what'd I step in?' It made him think about his Mother and one of the walks they took before she died
Free Marches 9:19 Dragon
A beautiful blonde woman with piercing blue eyes is wearing dark scale armor walking next to a horse with a little boy riding it. Behind them the woman's protector is driving a horse drawn covered cart that acted as their tent as well through the heavy snow. The little boy is wide awake his mother knows soon he will start asking questions she cannot answer, simply because he is too young and will not understand the truth yet, she smiles in pure adoration when she hears his voice, "Mother why do we only travel at night?"
" Because my little love, You've a destiny to grow into, so I must keep you safe."
The little boy is obviously aggitated by this answer, "But what of you Mother, should you not be safe as well?"
She stops the horse, lifitng her son off the beast and carries him to the covered cart, tucking him gently into a bed roll within, "Listen to me my darling, I will sense the danger long before it comes, someday you will have a form of this sight as my gift to you, and when the time is right it will serve you well. Until then all little warriors must rest, so that they moy grow strong, I love you my precious boy. Sleep well."
"I love you, Mother" With a yawn the boy is fast asleep, the woman goes to her protector before mounting the horse her son was just riding, "No matter what happens to me, keep him safe. He is the key." "
Yes, Lady" Soon as her mistress has started to ride the guardian looks back to the sleeping boy, "Pleasent dreams Lord Etrigan"
Hinterlands 9:41 Dragon
Etrigan woke with a start, he had dozed off waiting for Cassandra to return so they could compare notes for the report to send back to Haven. Falling asleep wasnt what bothered him, dreaming of his mother did, it was dangerous. He had spent years perfecting the image that he didnt remember her, but he did. The skills her inherited from her had kept him alive on more than one occasion.
He was born with the ability to read people, a cousin at the Ostwick Circle told him he could sense their aura, whatever that meant, he just knew that like his mother he always seemed to know what was coming, at least as a child, thats how he got his first scar, he woke from a dead sleep as the sword his sister holding was about to liberate his head from his shoulders.
Father was so angry, but he left her punishment to Aunt Seline, who sent her to Amaranthine, since sending her to Ansburg seemed to only delay her attempts on him. He couldnt bring himself to hate Aislyn though, she was still his sister.
As he got older, Mother's gifts changed in him, now he could see great distances, even at night, hear almost half a league away and pinpoint smells down to the base layer, if two people wore the same scent he could say beyond doubt who was who.
Seeing Cassandra riding up he sets out to meet her half way so they could talk, when a sound catches him, he readies his bow and lets out a whistle, one of the soldiers with her readies theirs as well and Cassandra lights a torch, Scout Harding and Varric came running weapons ready at his signal, with the Seeker in the middle the four archers stood ready, Etrigan leading them to the source of the noise, wolves squaring off against a single wildcat cub, killing the wolves the party follow the cub back to its den where they see a demon controlling the wolf pack, they've killed the cubs mother and the rest of the litter.
Etrigan takes one of his rune enchanted short sword and hurls it like a spear at the demon killing it instantly, though Cassandra takes its head just to be sure.
The rest of wolves try to run but Varric and Harding fire off a few shots killing them.
Picking up the orphaned cub, Etrigan sees a strange glow around it and realizes its much larger than a normal cub, "Fade touched? Dont worry little one, I lost my mother as a cub too. You can stay with me, I'll keep you safe so you can grow, then when you're older you can return the favor, yea?"
The cub which the party determined was a boy, simply mewed and burrowed into his cloak. When they get back to camp they see Solas had returned. Etrigan places his new pet on his bedroll just ouside his tent when the elf approaches and confirms his guess, "Your new companion has been touched by the fade Herald."
Solas backs up quickly though when the cat bares his teeth and takes an attack stance, "Very well, I mean you no harm little one, good night Herald."
Etrigan absently pets the cat as he reads Varric and Cassandra's reports to short hand them in with his own back to Haven
Herald's meeting went well. Cleric coming to Nest. Princess was successful Horse master coming as well. Storyteller picked up new contacts. Party aquired three new agents. Stitch staying behind to guide Cleric. Personal note, made a new friend, scares Dreamer, bringing him back to nest, Quill will be cross.
My best to His Grace
After sending the Baron off, Etrigan goes into his tent, the cub close behind, coming back out with a crude small game snare, he sets the snare just at the wood line of the camp hoping to catch a little breakfast for the cub over night, the dryed stuff they have in camp will do for now but he'll need fresh if he's going to survive.
Setting another trap near his tent he tells the cub, "If you hear it snap, grab it. Its your food, yea?"
Another mew from the cub, the Ranger gets his new furry friend set up on the bed roll with a couple extra bits of fur to keep him warm then takes off his chest plate and bracers, finally he crawls into the cot that was set up in his tent, instead of his mother, his head swan with thoughts of steel blue and shadows.
With the Dawn, Etrigan and Cassandra decided their work was done for now, and opted to go back to Haven, Solas found an old elven ruin he wanted to study so Cassandra had a few soldiers stay behind to guard him Varric detached the wagon from the horse he had been using so he could keep up with the Seeker and the Ranger.
The cub was secured into Etrigan's pack on the horse with him and the three were off deciding to ride straight through if they could but they had bed rolls just in case. They rode until sundown when they encountered a rift at the base of the mountain, two waves of demons later, Etrigan closed it and they decided to make camp, Varric got the fire going while Etrigan went to catch dinner for four and Cassandra gathered wood.
Varric had last watch so he went to grab some sleep, Cassandra dozed off with a purring Wild cat in her lap gently petting his head. Etrigan took the silence as an opportunity to write the letter he had been avoiding for weeks
I am so deeply sorry it has taken me so long to write to you. There are no words to describe my sorrow at Aunt Seline's loss. Even now I struggle to believe any of the events have happened at all, much less that I was there. I have no recall of the explosion itself. I remember Aunt Seline presenting me to the Divine, the night before the Conclave was to begin, and dining with her and our kin soon after. My next memory is being questioned by the Right Hand of The Divine and being informed eleven days had passed. The Hands of The Divine do not believe me to be involved, however, the explosion left me marked, Father, my left hand has a mark that reacts to the tears in the sky caused by the explosion. Father, before her passing, Most Holy reformed the inquisition of old, The Right Hand means to use it to find those responsible for the murders at the Conclave. I have joined, Father. The rouge Templars and rebel Mages are no longer just attacking each other, they're hurting innocent people. I can help them, Father. Seeker Pentaghast has sworn to protect me from those that believe in my guilt simply because I survived. Evben if I were not under the protection of the Inquisition I would stay to kee Josie safe, she has joined as their Ambassador. Father I have recovered Aunt Seline's ring and with your blessing I would keep it with me, as I find myself missing her council. I will write as often as I am able. I am so sorry I failed you, Father. Please forgive me.
Your loving and dutiful son
Sealing his personal letter he then write a quick letter seeking formal support of the Inquisition from House Trevelyan. Once both are done, he makes a note to have Josie send them by courier to his father as soon as he gets back to Haven. With his heart no longer as heavy he wakes Varric and settles into his bed roll to get some sleep.
Several hours later, Etrigan cracks an eye, having the unmistakable feeling of being watched and finds himself nose to nose with the cub and a laughing Seeker, "There is a stream nearby, Varric has gone in search of our first meal . Solas has caught up to us and is out gathering herbs ."
Nodding, Etrigan lifts the cat off him yawning, "Get off me you brute. Wonderful, guess I'm up now" Varric came back soon after with several fish and a few extra for the cub, after breaking camp they got back on the trail, Solas riding with Varric, if they kept their pace they could be back in Haven before nightfall.
I purposely cut Chapter 10 in half just so I could use this song title as a Chapter listing...Bonus points if you know the artist whose song I used for this title
Chapter 15: Chapter 13 The Evil Twin
Fair warning there will be some Ety/Leli almost feels here cause I like to torture myself. I'm still using game dialogue but I'll start breaking away from the stuff I think is stupid or not what I think Etrigan would say
The gates of Haven! Never in his almost 28 years has Etrigan ever been so happy to go back to one place, but the longer he stays and the more he allows himself to just be, he feels more at home here with the Inquisition than anywhere he has ever been.
He is more than a Mercenary protecting Holy Pilgrims. He feels purpose and he has friends and is on his way to more. Truthfully, he likes it, sure he misses his father, but here he isn't Victor's son or Maxwell's brother, he can be his own man.
Jumping from his horse he hands him off to a stable hand. Happy but tired beyond measure, he was thrilled when Cassandra told him to go sleep and she would update the Council. Getting to his cabin he sees a package sitting on the table with a note on it
The rest of the clothing you asked for as well as some other things
He chose to skip opening the package for now, after all he and the cub needed food and sleep. Taking the cat from his pack he held him up to eye level, "We still need a name for you don't we little one?" He considered options for a moment before laughing at his own joke, "Well if I am to be the 'Herald of Andraste' you are to be my Aegis, I shall call you 'Havard', you my little friend are now named after the first disciple of the Blessed Prophet. Welcome to Haven, Havard." the young cat mewed his acceptance as he placed the floor before curling up on Etrigan's pack and falling asleep, "Very well then, stay here. I'll go set some traps and get us some food."
Luckily his cabin was at the wood line, he set six snare traps not expecting anything to trigger them until first light, then headed through the village. A quick trip to the tavern later and a really awkward discussion with the barmaid, who thought his request for raw meat was a solicitation for a bed fellow, he was back in the cabin, he had borrowed an extra wash basin and filled it just under half way with snow placing it near the fire along with the plate of raw meat, he used his dagger to stick the meat in the fire long enough to take the chill off, which woke Havard up from his nap, the cat happily gnawing on his prize.
Etrigan set up a pile of furs and his spare bed roll near the plate and basin, then went about taking off and hanging his armor preparing to pour himself into bed after eating his own food which was supposedly some kind of stew. Fed and thoroughly tired, he had changed into a pair of the simple linen breeches, Leliana and Josie got for him and was almost in the bed when a knock stopped him, with a groan he went and answered the door to find Josie standing there, "You could have at least said hello before locking yourself away."
He said nothing as she breezed past him in her tirade, instead he just closed the door and went to lay in the bed, he knew she wasn't really made just worried, so it was best to let her go, until she squealed, "Josie! Was that forsaken sound really needed?"
"You got a cat?"
She had placed Havard on the bed, "Yes, he's an orphan, his mother and litter mates were killed by a pack of wolves manipulated by a demon, I've named him Havard. And since your here, until he gets big enough to travel with me safely will you keep an eye on him for me?"
She had been petting the cub the whole time. "Of course, I'm sure Leliana will help me, she loves animals."
Nodding while his eye tried to close of their own will. "Good. Love you mean it, now will you please go so I can sleep? Or I can hug you and I'm pretty sure I smell."
Josephine wrinkles her nose, "Yes you do," she kisses the top of his head though, "Good Night Ety, I'm glad you're back safe."
Her only reply is his snoring.
Come morning Etrigan decided he had had enough of the new hair and scruff look he had going on and asked around to see who if anyone could be trusted with a razor, or at least he did until he heard a loud voice screaming around the village that she was looking for her boys. He knew that voice anywhere and if she was here, well, Maker help the blacksmith. He made himself comfortable on a wall looking out into the valley while Havard ran around. When the woman passed him he said nothing til she started scaring the soldiers.
"You know, I have it on good authority if you keep making the same face over and over again, it'll stick like that."
The woman looked up to his perch ready to rip him to shreds "Now you listen here you wet eared, nug herding farm boy, I ought to...Etrigan Trevelyan, you sodding imp! Get down here and give us a squeeze."
He was quick to hop off his wall and comply. "Yes, ma'am."
Giving the woman a hug, his voice softened quite a bit, "Its good to see you, Tova."
"You too Ety, now where is that son of mine?"
Hitching his head towards the tavern, "Come on, I just woke up, let's get some food and I'll tell you everything and maybe if you're feeling generous, I need a haircut."
They walked into the tavern and the soldiers that the woman had yelled at breathed a sigh of relief. One of the guards ran to find the Seeker and when she found them Etrigan was sitting on the floor of his cabin with a dwarven woman standing over him cutting his hair.
"Alright boy, now you look normal, I swear to the stone, the things you and my Faren get yourselves into, but you're good boys so I forgive you."
Etrigan just holds his head still and smiles, "Finished, now you smell like a bronto's ass. Go bathe Boy."
"Yes ma'am, but first. May I present Seeker Cassandra of the Inquisition," turning to the Hand of The Divine, "Cassandra, this is Stitch's Mother. I'll be back."
He leaves them in the cabin to go find a bucket of hot water. "Tova Feddic, formerly of Orzammar."
By the time Etrigan got back to the cabin, Tova had emptied his snares for Havard and been recruited to the Inquisition as the blacksmith for the Council and Rangers, "So what did I miss?"
Tova shows him a letter, "Finishing this up to see if Bodahn'll send Sandal here."
"If he agrees I'll have a few of the Rangers go fetch him. He knows them, should be safer that way, but speaking of letters I have one that needs to be couriered to my father and we have Council. Tova please don't scare anyone while I'm gone."
The dwarven woman just laughs, "I make no promises."
The humans leave to head for the Chantry, Havard follows his master.
As Cassandra and Etrigan near the Chantry they see a large group of people gathered out front. They go to Leliana's tent to watch the assembly in case they need to jump in as it seems to be a confrontation between a former templar and a mage, the templar shoving the mage "Your kind killed the Most Holy." The mage staggers but readies his staff as the templar grabs for his sword, "That's a lie, you let Most Holy die."
Cassandra gets ready to draw her weapon but Etrigan stays her hand, leaning calmly on a stack of crates, arms crossed over his chest, nodding his hello to Leliana, "Does it not warm your heart, Ladies," he makes sure to raise his voice enough to be heard over the crowd, "to see a crisis bringing everyone together?"
Cassandra stands next to him her hand scratching Havard behind his ears while Leliana comes up behind him Baron Plucky on her shoulder, she decides to play along, "Oh indeed, my Lord, it is so refreshing to see such unity in this time of turmoil, no?"
Cassandra on the other hand goes for the blunt method, "Most Holy would find your behavior shameful, enough have died, you are not the Circle or Templars anymore. We are the Inquisition."
In the distraction they cause Cullen used the opportunity to break up the assembly, "Back to your duties. All of you."
And to the shock of no one, Roderick was on hand to incite the few that Lingered, "I'm curious Commander, how your Inquisition and its alleged Herald will keep its promise and restore order"
Cullen's grip on his sword tightened, "Chancellor, back already?"
Etrigan decides to keep up with his playful antics refusing to let the horse's ass ruin his good mood, "Cullen I leave you alone for a week and here you go making all kinds of friends."
Leliana thinks the game is fun so she chimes in, "We really aren't sure whether to be worried about his tastes or just proud of him for trying."
Etrigan flashed her a wicked grin, "A little of both I think, though I'm sure our Commander can do better than 'pompous boot licker', unless he just has low standards."
Leliana shakes her head, "Too bad we're having a private party, Cullen dear, sadly your new friend can't come."
Etrigan had her giggling with his conclusion to their game, "And I'm putting you on restriction young man, You can't stab him like the wild boar he is after drills either."
Not to be out done Cassandra asked," Can I?" which had Cullen and Etrigan losing what little composure they had left and the four headed to the war room laughing, leaving a seething Chancellor behind.
As they walked the hall to the war room Etrigan paused at Josephine's office in time to catch a courier, "You there. Do you currently have an assignment?"
"No, my Lord"
"You do now. This letter must be placed into the hands of Bann Victor Trevelyen in Ostwick, the only other person that may touch it is his son Maxwell. You will wait there until a reply is given and return to the Ambassador, understood?"
"Why are you still standing here? Go." Etrigan tosses the courier a few coins, "Now."
The courier takes off running as Josephine walks up, "Did you have to frighten her?"
Etrigan nods, "Yes, that was a letter to my father, so yes I did."
She hugged him and headed to the war room, Etrigan following close behind.
As they entered, he sees Leliana was true to her word, a tranquil mage is sitting in a corner of the room at a small desk with ink and parchment prepapred to take notes.
Cassandra started with a full report of her meeting with and eventual recruiting on Redcliffe's former horse master, "He should be here any day now since the Rangers and our forces have secured the area."
Etrigan was next with a report on the meeting with Mother Giselle and the various item Varric had heard in the Crossroads ending on a note for the Spymaster, "She'll be here tonight, knowing Stitch."
Leliana noticed that Etrigan and Josephine were having their silent conversations again, except the more either of the wrote the more agitated Etrigan became, until finally he threw his quill across the room and wouldn't look at her anymore. He just stared at a point on the wall between herself and Cullen while the rest of the updates were given. It was decided that the travel party for Val Royeaux would be Cassandra, Etrigan, Stitch and Leliana.
The Spymaster wanted to be on hand in case Etrigan was right and it was a trap, she had a set of keys to the dungeons of the Grand Cathedral at her home in the city, where they also planned to stay while they were there, the rest was dependent on what the Cleric said when she arrived so they chose to break until then.
As soon as the words were out of Cassandra's mouth Etrigan fled the room, Josephine hot on his trail.
Leliana followed in case it was a matter she needed to step in on. She trailed the pair to Etrigan's cabin taking her preferred hiding spot at the window in back. Cracking it just a bit, she heard part of their argument, "Are you out of your mind Josie?"
"I did it to help you."
"You invited my sister Aislyn here? The same Chantry sister that tried to kill me when I was 11? You do realize the second it comes out that I was ever suspect in the explosion she will try to kill me again right?"
Leliana chanced a peek into the room and saw Etrigan pacing, rubbing the wound that started at his shoulder, Josie trying to calm him, "Ety..What do you mean Aislyn tried to kill you?"
"Didn't anyone ever ask why Aunt Seline sent her to Ansburg, and less than a year later sends her to Amaranthine?"
Josephine sat on the bed, "Ety, what happened?"
"She tried to poison me at my 10th birthday, but Max ate the treat instead, it didn't kill him only made him sick. When Father questioned me about it, I told the truth, that Aislyn said she made it special for my birthday but I didn't like what she made it with so Max said he'd eat it so her feelings wouldn't be hurt. Father confronted her and she swore it was an accident, that she read the bottles wrong. Aunt Seline didn't believe her and sent her to run the orphanage in Ansburg. Her next trip home she 'borrowed' Father's greatsword. I woke up right before she took my head, and screamed for Father and Max. Evie got there first and took me with her back to Starkhaven, telling Father she wouldn't bring me home until Aislyn was gone. He disowned her and Aunt Seline banished her to Ferelden. Amaranthine was as far away as she could send her at the time."
Etrigan had finally calmed down enough to sit but he was still visibly agitated. Josie hugged him, "Oh my sweet Brother I had no idea, I'm so sorry."
"She's the one who told your mother about my birth, Father was content to let everyone think he had adopted me, the result would have been the same, no true rank beyond 'Noble born' , she's tried to kill me every chance she gets, but she is still my sister..."
Leliana left before anymore was said but she would make sure this 'Sister' Aislyn knew who she was dealing with in Haven, Etrigan was under the protection of Hands of The Divine, after all.
Cassandra was waiting for her at her tent when she returned, Leliana filled her in on what she had heard and they agreed that Sister Aislyn was not to be left alone with the Herald at anytime, or even have direct access to him, they also decided to keep her away from Chancellor Roderick just to be safe.
Back in the cabin, Etrigan finished his thoughts "...she is still my sister and I still love her, I'm just bloody terrified of her."
Josie hugged him again, "Ety, I'm so sorry if I had known.."
"No one did, Father wanted to tell everyone but I begged him not to. I was so happy to be a part of a family that I didn't want anything to tarnish it. Maybe I shouldn't be here when she comes, I could go back to the Hinterlands or something."
Josephine stayed with him until the tension left his body and he fell asleep, she told Havard to keep watch over him and left to find Leliana and Cassanadra, there had to be a way to make this right. When she returned to her office, Cassandra was sitting on a nearby bench and Leliana was leaning against her desk with a letter in her hand, offering it to Josephine she asked "How is he?"
"I didn't know. If I had I never would have invited her to come escort her family's remains back to the Marches."
The others nod while she reads the letter it has a Templar seal so everyone assumes it's another rejection of peace with the mages or alliance with the Inquisition, they're wrong it's actually two letters one official and personal.
Ambassador Josephine Motilyet
I have received news of my Aunt's passing at the Divine's Conclave and offer my condolences to the Hands at their loss. It is with great honor then that I send a caravan of supplies to aide your efforts. My Commander assures me that when the time comes the Templars of Ostwick will stand with the Inquisition and as I am personally connected by many threads have been chosen as diplomat, all future correspondence will be with me and me alone
Maker guide you
Knight-Captain Gabriel Trevelyan
Josephine handed the letter to Leliana as she read the second letter which was a bit longer and far more emotional
Thank the Maker you and Ety are both alright, Max and I got his letters and wept openly. Aunt Seline will be missed but please don't let that goofy little brother of mine beat himself up over this. Father understands why he hasn't written yet and doesn't hold him to blame. Evie is on her way home now and said if need be she'll go to Haven first and kick his ass if he blames himself or lets the Pompous Bootlicker blame him. Along with my official letter from the Order and this letter is a small chest of aide supplies, a few of my Templar brother and sisters threw in with me, there is a false bottom to the chest, there should be around a hundred sovereigns in there, Max is sending more as soon as he talks to our various relations. The official pledge will come from father soon enough but House Trevelyan stands with the Inquisition. As for me, I'm so very proud of you both and honored to call you my kin. Do as you always have and take care of each other. Please remember to relax once in a while, both of you. I'll write Ety soon, maybe even take leave and come to Haven if I can.
All my love to you both
Walk in Peace
Josephine let Leliana and Cassandra read the second letter as well, the Spymaster checking the chest and finding the false bottom filled with coins as promised, the question remained still what to do about Aislyn. "I will send my agents to return her to Amaranthine, or perhaps route her to the Anderfels."
"Leliana..." Josephine was ready to talk her out of that before Cassandra cut her off, "That is acceptable, if she was disowned by the family and a living Trevelyan is here, there is no reason for her to have accepted the invitation other than to cause trouble. Draft your message Leliana, I will second it."
Leliana took three sheets of parchment from Josephine's desk and wrote a message to her agents telling them to collect Sister Aislyn and send her to Denerim as a prisoner if she would not return to Amaranthine, a second message was written to King Alistair, asking her old friend for a favor in that if a Chantry Sister was brought in as a prisoner to let her know so she could come deal with it personally, and the final letter was written to Sister Aislyn informing her that the Hands of The Divine were revoking her invitation as they had been made aware of her exile from House Trevelyan and they did not wish to offend the family of Grand Cleric Seline with her presence.
It was added that she would be transferred to a cloister that required a vow of silence should she disobey the Hands' directive and travel to Haven, if she was not imprisoned on suspicion of conspiracy first as being exiled and having so many members of one family at the Conclave made her a decent looking suspect.
Leliana signed all three letters Cassandra signed the last and a messenger was called to have them all delivered immediately.
The three women then parted to finish their daily tasks, Leliana went to her work space to control her network of agents hoping there would be no more foul news that day and try to figure out why the thought of sibling rivalry upset her so much.
The next morning, Etrigan Cassandra and Leliana headed out for Val Royeaux, Cullen was put on alert to arrest Sister Aislyn as a suspect in the explosion, whether she was or not made no difference, she actually did have a decent motive.
The trip would take roughly three days through the mountains, Varric was coming along as well, to check in with some of his network, officially he was a part of the Inquisition as an ally, between his network and her own which now included the Rangers of the Marches, Leliana was in control of the singles largest spy network in Thedas, that would prove useful in the months to come.
Etrigan took his usual place scouting ahead and doing some light hunting, Varric drove the cart with all their supplies, trading off with Leliana for look out shifts, Stitch stayed behind in Haven to catch up with his mother.
Etrigan left Havard with Josie but Tova said she'd handle the traps so the little furball could eat. The party made it through the worst of the mountain path when they decided to make camp for the night.
Cassandra wasted no time trying to get more survival skills out of her new friend since there was still some daylight left, "Ety, are you still going to show me how to start a fire with a spyglass and a mirror?"
"Hmm? Oh yea sure, let me just finish setting up the trip wires around camp and I'll show you."
Varric took the twine from the Ranger, "Go ahead, Hunter I've got this."
Nodding to the dwarf Etrigan went to his tent and pulled a small hand mirror and his spyglass from his pack.
"My brother taught me this, most men travel with a small shaving mirror, it can be done without it but it takes longer," He made sure Cassandra could see every step as he removed the large curved glass from his spyglass, "Really all the mirror does is focus the sunlight through the curved glass but I should be quick with this since we're in a clearing."
He angled the glass over the kindling, "It should look like there is a very bright candle over the pile, don't stop until you see a flame, smoke only means its starting," a small tendril of smoke rises from the piles, followed by the barest hint of flame, "If you're running out of daylight like we are once you see the smaller flames, blow gently into the largest of your flames," he leans carefully over the small flames and blows into the sparks which get larger, he adds more dried leaves and small sticks, until a decent fire had started, "Now just add your firewood but do it slowly so that the flames don't get smothered, and done. Fire without flint."
He handed the spyglass to Cassandra and watched as she tried to copy him, he only stepped in once to correct her angle, "Quick study, well done Seeker."
Adding her smaller flame to the fire, he packed up his supplies. He thought about the letters Josie had told him she had received from his brother and pulled out the one he got from Maxwell that he hadn't shared because it was from his brother, not from Comte Trevelyan, choosing to stay in his tent to read it. No sense in letting the others see him go from their Herald to a simpering little boy.
Maker's Balls, Boy. You had us terrified, word of the explosion came and Father openly wept, though I understand Sister Leliana's intent to allow you to notify us, that was kind of her to control the gossip. If that Horse's Ass keeps barking about you being guilty, Father said pop him in the mouth. He knows it wasn't you, Ety. He loves you dearly, we all do, the words will come. As for this Seeker, perhaps we should let her and Gabe meet? Do tell me more of Sister Leliana, any woman that has caught the attention of Etrigan Trevelyan must indeed be a fine woman. As for you and Josie, I know you'll take care of each other, just be safe. The Chantry will always be corrupt, Aunt Seline knew this, that's why 'Grand Cleric' is all she would ever be, she remembered the old ways, in your darkest moments remember her lessons and be guided. I'm headed back to Kirkwall by month's end, I should warn you though, I told Madam Tova where to find you and Faren. I'm sorry, well sorry I'll miss the ass kicking she's going to give you both for scaring an old widow. Write me again soon Brother and know that no matter what you do and where you go, you will always be my brother, I will always support you and I'm so very proud of the man you're becoming. The Inquisition is lucky to have you.
Your loving Brother,
Max wouldn't lie, not about this. Father wasn't angry, they were proud of him and grateful he was alive. Etrigan tucked the letter back into his bag, deciding to write him back in Val Royeaux, for now he grabbed his book, and old copy of 'The History of Thedas' that Josephine had found for him in Orlesian, she had translated the first half leaving him the second so that he could practice the language.
He left his tent and settled by the fire, occasionally asking Leliana and Cassandra what certain words were to help with his translations also asking for the words in Nevarran, at Cassandra's questioning look he just shrugs, "I don't know that one yet, I mean to learn."
Cassandra made a note to find a book to help him. He started scribbling in his journal a few key phrases he wanted to learn to say without stuttering, he knew them in Antivan and Rivaini, someday he hoped to be the man who got to say them to Leliana but he wasn't going to hold his breath on that fantasy, instead he kept working on his letter that he would never send, listing everything he found captivating about her beyond what could be seen by a passing glance.
Like how her faith was admirable even when it wavered, he stole glances at her across the fire, well he thought he did, Cassandra and Varric both saw, and scribbled more notes into his journal including a few sketches. Cassandra was writing a letter to Josephine, she hated to admit it but the Ambassador was right, but she would not aide in her meddling, she would however give a gentle push every now and then.
Etrigan excused himself and went to get some sleep, Varric would be waking him up in a few hours for watch.
And so went their journey, days spent practicing languages with Cassandra and Leliana or idle chatter between Varric and Etrigan, turns out the two Marchers had several mutual friends and interests the current journey just bonding them farther.
At night in camp, Leliana helped him work on his Orlesian, and then Cassandra would teach him the same phrases in Nevarran, if this kept up he would be conversationally proficient in Nevarran by the time they got back to Haven.
Last night at camp they were only about an hour or so outside the city, during his watch, he recited the same poem in every language he knew wishing he could say it to the person that inspired it.
When they broke camp in the morning, Cassandra caught him staring at a grove of wild flowers, as he was about to start grabbing the large blue flowers in the patch she casually strolled behind him and whispers "She's allergic to the blue ones." She almost laughed as he just missed cutting himself in shock of being caught, instead she just raised a brow at his stuttering and openly laughed when he ran to mount his horse and get their journey moving again.
She did hand Leliana the very lovely orange bud he had cut, delighting in the many shades of red he turned at seeing it in her hair.
Arriving in the city, one of Leiana's agents was waiting for them, after the brief update Varric went with Leliana to her apartments to drop off their things then meet with clerics from the list Mother Giselle provided while Cassandra went with Etrigan to the market to confront the assembly waiting for them.
Standing on a small stage is a lone Templar and a Chantry Mother posturing for the crowd "Good people of Val Royeaux, Hear me! Together we mourn our Divine, Her naive and beautiful heart silenced by treachery! You wonder what will become of her murderer. Well, wonder no more! Behold the so called Herald of Andraste! Claiming to rise where our beloved fell. We say this is a false prophet! No servant of anything beyond his own selfish greed."
Etrigan felt the eyes of everyone in the square watching him so he decided to use a bit of that diplomacy Josie is always pushing, "I have never claimed to be a prophet, nor a Herald, that title was given to me, and I have no control over who chooses to use it. I am now as I have always been, a simple man that believes in the Maker and wants to help others. I didn't come here to argue, I came here hoping to find a Chantry that wanted to face the real threat to our faith and our world."
Cassandra backs up his claim, "Its true. The Inquisition seeks only to end this madness before it is too late."
The Chantry Mother gets a wicked gleam as a battalion of Templars approach, "It is already to late. The Templars have returned to the Chantry! They will face this 'Inquisition' and the people will be safe once more!"
The Templar leader walks past the Mother giving one of his men a slight nod, the Templar then hits the Chantry Mother, just behind her left ear, knocking her to the ground, the Templar that was standing with her readies to help her up Etrigan already has his hands on his blades, the leader places his hand on the chest plate of the lone Templar, "Still yourself, she is beneath us."
Etrigan was the nephew of a Grand Cleric and Brother of a Templar, this was unacceptable, "What is the meaning of this?"
"Her claim to 'authority' is an insult, much like your own."
Cassandra steps up "Lord Seeker Lucius, it's imperative that we speak with.."
He cut her off with a sneer, "You will not address me"
Cassandra couldnt hide her shock, "Lord Seeker?"
"Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste's prophet. You should be ashamed." He turned towards the crowd. "You should all be ashamed. The templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the mages. You are the ones who have failed. You who'd leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear. If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late. The only destiny here that demands respect is mine."
This guy was starting to make Roderick look good, Etrigan went to a different tactic, "Templars, one of your own Commands the Inquisition forces. Join us, as he did."
The Lord Seeker didn't give any of his men a chance to reply, "Your ties are worthless. They're all made traitors just by being in your company."
A young man with a Fereldan accent shook his head. "But Lord Seeker..." He glanced at him. "What if he really was sent by the Maker? What if -?"
The man who'd struck the mother stepped towards him. "You are called to a higher purpose. Do not question."
Lucius continued speaking, addressing them now, rather than the crowd. "I will make the Templar Order a power that stands alone against the Void. We deserve recognition. Independence. You have shown me nothing, and the Inquisition..." He smirked. "Less than nothing. Templars. Val Royeaux is unworthy of our protection. We march."
They stood for a moment, watching the templars leave. Leliana and Varric had seen the last of the exchange. Varric folded his arms, "Charming fellow, isn't he?"
Cassandra looked confused, "Has Lord Seeker Lucius gone mad?"
Etrigan watched as they marched out of the market square "Who is he?"
"He took over the Seekers of Truth two years ago, after Lord Seeker Lambert's death. He was always a decent man, never given to ambition and grandstanding." Cassandra shook her head. "This is very bizarre."
"Do you think he can be reasoned with?"
"I hope so. If not him, there are surely others in the Order who don't feel as he does."
Against his better judgement and knowing his Aunt would never forgive him if he didn't, Etrigan went to the aide of the Chantry Mother, who quickly shoved him off and snapped at Cassandra, "This victory must please you greatly, Seeker."
"We came here seeking only to speak with the mothers. This is not our doing, but yours."
The Mother was sitting up now, "And you had no part in forcing our hand? Do not delude yourself. Now we have been shown up by our own Templars, in front of everyone. And my fellow clerics have scattered to the wind, along with their convictions." She turned on Etrigan, "Just tell me one thing: do you truly believe you are the Maker's chosen?"
He knew his answer could make their cause or end it so he went for honesty "Truly, I don't know."
"That is..." The Mother admitted, "More comforting than you might imagine. I suppose it is out of our hands now. We shall see what the Maker plans in the days to come."
Etrigan checked the wound on the Mother's head, "There must be a way to make this right to the benefit of everyone."
Realizing the man before her wasn't the threat after all, "I hope against hope that may be the case." She nodded at him before allowing the other clerics to help her up and walk away.
Varric had picked up an arrow with the first clue from a friend of Red Jenny, a messenger gave Leliana a letter that invited 'The Herald and Guest' to a private party and Cassandra got stopped by both a merchant wanting to join up and the leader of the Mage rebellion herself Grand Enchanter Fiona.
Etrigan looked at his companions a headache forming, "One tense meeting with the powers that be and suddenly I'm the most popular man in Orlais"
A movement in the shadows caught his eye, he handed Cassandra his blades, it was a little girl and he didnt want to scare her more than she already looked slowly so she could see he meant no harm he approached the bench she sat on pointing at the empty side, "May I sit here with you?" when the little girl nodded he sat down, his augmented senses heard her stomach rumble so he pulled his pack from his back and grabbed a piece of dried meat and bread from inside, making sure he had enough for the girl, "Would you like some? Again the girl only nodded, he smiled when she took the food from him and tried talking to her again, "My name is Ety, its OK if you don't want to tell me yours, but after you've eaten please let me walk you safely to your mother."
The girl swallowed her food and spoke very softly, "I don't have a mother, Ser, or a father."
Etrigan nodded, the girl couldnt have been 5 or 6 at best, "I lost my mother when I was 5," he told her, "I know its scary being alone."
The little girl had tears in her eyes as she told Etrigan her tale, "I went to the Chantry like Mama said but they said I had to go to the circle because Mama was an apostate who ran away."
His own gifts let him see the auras of mages, this was just a scared little girl, his blood was boiling but he kept his voice calm to keep from frightening her further, "Do you see the two ladies over there with the dwarf?" he continued at her nod, "They're my friends, how would you like to go with us? And tonight you can have a nice warm bed instead of cold stone."
He stood up and held out his hand, smiling when she took it. They walked over to the companions and in Orlisian, Etrigan told them what had happened, Cassandra falling back to tell Varric.
They took the girl with them to Leliana's and got her a bath followed by a warm meal and bed, once that was done Etrigan took off for the local Chantry.
He came back later after having yelled at everyone there Varric and Cassandra had gone hunting red jenny.
Leliana greeted him with food and a large drink both of which he accepted gratefully, "I just don't understand, How could they turn a child away, one they knew wasn't a mage, neither was her mother, but when she left the circle without permission they branded her an apostate. They let her die. When did the Chantry turn from helping people and spreading the teachings of Andraste to fear mongering and grasping for power?"
Leliana had no words for him as he hung his head running his hands through his hair, "She has no one, Leliana. No that's not true, she has me. My sister has always longed for a child, she had an infection when I was a boy that left her unable to carry, perhaps Evie will adopt her, I'll write her in the morning, and we'll take the girl back to Haven with us in the meantime."
Leliana placed her hand on his shoulders, "If we take her back with us she will need clothes beyond the rags she had before." Etrigan got up from the table, he grabbed his pack from by the door, digging through it until he found his coin bag, tossing it to Leliana, "Will that be sufficient?"
"Yes, I have some as well, but it will have to wait, tomorrow you and I are going to a party, we will get her pretty thing to wear on our way back so that she may go with to chose her clothes."
Etrigan nodded taking his bed roll into the room with the little girl setting up on the floor next to her.
When Cassandra and Varric came back they had acquired a new agent, an elf named Sera, who had already left for Haven.
Leliana told them what Etrigan had learned about the girl, who still hadn't told anyone her name. Hours after everyone else had gone to bed, Leliana looked into the room and saw the girl had crawled out of bed and onto Etrigan's back since he was sleeping face down in the bed roll.
Taking the blanket from the bed she covered them both and went to get some sleep herself.
Tomorrow they played the Game.
The party went about as well as Leliana had hoped, A spoiled noble became an ice sculpture temporarily thanks to their host. at least Etrigan didnt kill anyone, their 'gracious' host Madam Vivienne was the former Arcane Adviser to the Empress, and played the Game almost too well, she had pledged to the Inquisition but both Leliana and Etrigan knew she was up to something, they did however accept her joining, they had things to do though and excused themselves before another noble ended up as an ice sculpture or Leliana let Ety kill one or even worse than that, she did it for him.
In the market they couldn't agree on what to get the girl, who over morning meal told her new friend Ety that her name was Marissa, but her mother used to call her Mari, to wear, they each picked out a few things and finally it was decided to just get all of it and let her pick what to wear when they went shopping.
When they returned to Leliana's apartments, Marissa had managed to get Cassandra to play with her and worn the Seeker out, and Varric was no fun anymore because he ran out of stories.
Leliana helped her get ready for bed and told her several of the stories she used to tell the children in Lothering, this time though Etrigan was ready for her, he borrowed another bed roll and used a few blankets to make a tent out on Leliana's balcony.
Cassandra and Leliana both watched all the troubles melt from him as he let Marissa win their sparring matches, both had to agree Josephine was right, whoever married that man was going to be infinitely happy.
Leliana would wish it was her come morning.
Shopping, oh how she loved it. Leliana was in her element here, she pretended not to see when Etrigan bought a small bow promising to teach Mari to shoot, they both went a little overboard on books, but most were for Marissa's education, they split up for a bit, she took Mari to get a few dresses and many pairs of shoes, Etrigan had disappeared and returned with several dolls and a rather large stuffed mabari, as well as a sketch book and colored pencils, it was a long trip back to Haven after all.
When they met up again, Mari was complaining of being hungry and tired. Etrigan just nodded and said "me too" to all of her complaints then made her laugh by picking her up and setting the girl on his shoulders, Leliana promised they would go to a cafe as soon as she finished her errands but bought Mari a spun sugar treat since she had been so well behaved while they shopped, she walked a step or two behind them as they chatted about colors and different birds flying near by, every now and then Mari would pinch off some of her treat and hold it to his nose "Ety your turn" and he'd turn his head just slightly to accept the treat.
Leliana gave up correcting people, since she and Etrigan had chosen not to wear their armor today most of the people they saw assumed they were just a normal family buying new clothes for their young daughter, it got worse when they stopped at the cafe, Mari sat on Etrigan's leg so she could see over the table to eat, Leliana smiled fondly as whispers of "so nice to see a young Lordling take such an interest in his child" she couldn't help but picture him as a father, especially when her bought Mari cake for finishing all of her vegetables, though he ate half of the baked good himself.
Then it was back home, they had to get plenty of rest to be ready to leave for Haven at first light.
Varric was off at the tavern to see if any good rumors popped up, Cassandra was securing a few needed items for the Inquisition, that left Etrigan and Leliana with Mari, he kept his word, showing her the letter he wrote to his sister and promising the child "Even if I'm not meant to be your Uncle, I'm your family now, you'll always be safe with me."
If his physical attributes hadn't already appealed to her, the way he was with Marissa would have made Leliana melt. Currently they were in her guest room and Ety was reading yet another story from one of the books they had gotten Mari, not really sure what it was about, if she guessed Leliana would say they were making up a new story as they went along with the pictures.
Soon though, Marissa was asleep freshly bathed and fed, Ety came out of the guest room in just those damned linen breeches why did she ever get him those breeches, he knelt down to gather and pack the toys he had gotten so they could load the wagon when Varric got back. It was getting harder to deny her attraction to him, she'll never know why she did it, but she took a chance.
"People in the market kept commenting to me on how beautiful my family is," keeping her voice level as she watched for a reaction, "and how refreshing it is to see a young Lord take such an active roll in his child's life."
That made him pause, without looking up and barely above a whisper, he finally replied, "She could be," he stood slowly still not facing her, "And if you desired it, I'd give you more." When he turns to her his eyes are closed, "I'd proudly tell the world I had fathered your child, I'd even raise another man's as my own if it gained me your favor."
When had she moved closer to him? Or had he moved closer to her because she is pretty sure the table currently holding her up has always been there. When he opens his eyes she knows she is lost, she sees two things warring for dominance, she is used to seeing want in the eyes of men, as a bard it was occasionally her trade, seducing secrets from nobles, but the other emotion is what fuels her, its been so long since she saw need in a man's eyes and the way Etrigan was looking at her now, she was sure that if she touched him, his heart would beat.
Who moved first she cant say but soon they were crashing into each other, their kisses hungry, his hands sliding from her hips to the backs of her thighs lifting her on to the table she had just been leaning against, stepping into her space as his lips descend to her throat leaving a trail of fire in his wake, ripping gasps from her as her fingers clutch for purchase in his hair, she cant contain her mewling as his hands slip under her tunic, ghosting up over her abdomen to the base of her breasts, across her ribs and down her back gripping her hips tightly to bring her closer to him. She is almost certain she heard a knock at her door.
Chapter 16: Chapter 14 Lace Got A Stitch
Even though the main pair is Etrigan and Leliana, I've got a couple of back round pairings, one I'm getting ready to set up and the other I'm just going to layout here. After I do this "How they met" chapter its done and life will go on. Seriously..Super short really only to establish a minimal pairing then I'm done.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It would just figure the day after Etrigan leaves for Val Royeaux a message comes in that an entire patrol unit had been kidnapped and held hostage by a mad man wanting to fight the Herald.
The challenge was issued by the son of an Avvar chieftan calling himself the 'Hand of Korth' Stitch went to Commander Cullen with an idea.
"I'm half Avvar and know their customs. Let me go in Etrigan's place, they've never seen the Herald up close."
Cullen didnt like it but he agreed, there was no time to waste either waiting or pulling Etrigan back. This was there only option. Word was sent to Harding that everyone in camp was to refer to Stitch as 'the Herald' until the threat was handled.
Within hours Stitch was on his way along with the Ranger captains and the new agents, a Warden named Blackwall, the enchantress Vivienne, and the Qunari as well as the Bull's chargers. A caravan of people that liked to break things.
The small force found Harding's camp easily. The dwarven scout waved Stitch over. "Thank you for coming. Maybe you can solve this mess."
Stitch had already told her he'd do anything for her, "Why cant we ever meet anywhere nice?"
Worry was written on Harding's face. "Our missing patrols are being held hostage by Avvar. Barbarians from the mountains."
"They arent all bad, but then I'm only half." Stitch shook his head "What are they doing in a bog?"
"That's the thing. Their leader..." Harding folded her hands behind her back. "He wants them to fight the Herald of Andraste."
"What do they have against Andraste?"
"Well..." Harding shrugged. "The Avvar think there are gods in nature. As in, the sky has a god, and the forest. The Avvar say you're claming to be sent by one, and they'll challenge the will of your god with their own. I think their leader's just a boastful little prick who wants to brag he killed you."
"I'm beginning to see why my father left"
"Getting to our troops won't be easy. You'll have to fight your way through undead -" She grinned. "You're not squeamish around the undead are you?"
"Not my favorite monsters but I'm not letting the Avvar butcher the Inquisition's people."
"I appreciate it." She touched the map. "The Avvar are holed up in the castle on the other side of the Fallow Mire. Maker willing, the Inquisition's people are still alive."
Harding had chosen to come along so that the team would have an archer and because Stitch admitted Etrigan was a better scout than him. They headed out marking every rift they came across for Etrigan to deal with when he came back.
The sight that greeted them when they were closer to the castle almost scared Stitch he told Harding that the man was twice the size of his father then the man spoke "My kin want you dead, lowlander, but it's not my job. No fears from me."
"Why aren't you with the other Avvar?"
"Trying to figure out this hole in the world. Never seen anything like its like." He leaned against his massive warhammer "They spit out angry spirits. Endless. What the sky's trying to tell us, I don't know."
"They're caused by the Breach in the sky. It was some kind of magic gone wrong."
"I know that, lowlander. I'm talking about the Lady of the Skies. Do you not know her? Can't you see the warnings she writes through the bird flocks in the air?"
Vivienne scoffed "Preposterous superstition"
The massive Avvar scoffed back, "Preposterous is what you wore to a bog, Orlesian"
Stitch got the mans attention back on him "I thought the Avvar wanted to fight me." If he remembered his father's lessons this man was a Skywatcher, a priest to the Lady of the skies.
"Our chieftain's son wants to fight you. I'm called in when the dead pile up. Rites to the gods, mending for the bleeding, a dagger for the dying. That's what I do."
He gave a disgusted shake of his head. "I don't pick up a blade for a whelp's trophy hunt."
"The other Avvar kidnapped an Inquisition patrol. Are they all right?"
"A few were injured in the skirmish, but they were alive. Last I saw them." He leaned on his hammer. "Someone's trained them well. They killed more of us than I thought they would."
A league away they found the ruined castle. Running past the undead horde Bull led the charge to the gate controls. Stitch took out the Avvar. Now its the big one's turn. "Herald of Andraste! Face me!" The man yelled "I am the Hand of Korth himself."
Harding started taking out the Avvar archers, Vivienne fell back to supply barriers and healing when needed. Bull just started swinging his ax and Blackwall covered Harding. Stitch held his own against the Avvar using the skills his father had taught him and the greatsword his mother made him. It took some doing and his arm is going to need patching up but after a very long fight they won. Bull took over fighting the big guy after his hammer connected with Stitch's arm when he heard Harding yelp.
Probably not a good idea to be in a fight near her anymore if he cares enough to be distracted. Blackwall busted the door their people were locked behind down "Herald of Andraste!"
Blackwall whispered behind him about exploring the ruins before they left.
"We dealt with the Avvar." He entered the room "Is everyone all right?"
"I can't believe the Herald came for us."
"I told you he'd come."
Blackwall was smiling when they met up the ruins were once a Warden outpost he'd found a few treasures. He carried a banner over one shoulder while he carried a book in his other arm.
I know...I know..I'm a very bad man. Seriously though, sorry again for the delays, real life caught up with me again.
Chapter 17: Chapter 15 Even Nightingales Dream
So I just chapter 13..Not really, this one bleeds into it and has more Ety feels from House Trevelyan. I swear the teasing will stop soon, maybe.
Soon though, Marissa was asleep freshly bathed and fed, Ety came out of the guest room in just those damned linen breeches why did she ever get him those breeches, he knelt down to gather and pack the toys he had gotten so they could load the wagon when Varric got back. It was getting harder to deny her attraction to him, she'll never know why she did it, but she took a chance.
"People in the market kept commenting to me on how beautiful my family is," keeping her voice level as she watched for a reaction, "and how refreshing it is to see a young Lord take such an active roll in his child's life."
That made him pause, without looking up and barely above a whisper, he finally replied, "She could be," he stood slowly still not facing her, "And if you desired it, I'd give you more." When he turns to her his eyes are closed, "I'd proudly tell the world I had fathered your child, I'd even raise another man's as my own if it gained me your favor."
When had she moved closer to him? Or had he moved closer to her because she is pretty sure the table currently holding her up has always been there. When he opens his eyes she knows she is lost, she sees two things warring for dominance, she is used to seeing want in the eyes of men, as a bard it was occasionally her trade seducing secrets from nobles, but the other emotion is what fuels her, its been so long since she saw need in a man's eyes and the way Etrigan was looking at her now, she was sure that if she touched him, his heart would beat.
Who moved first she cant say but soon they were crashing into each other, their kisses hungry, his hands sliding from her hips to the backs of her thighs lifting her on to the table she had just been leaning against, stepping into her space as his lips descend to her throat leaving a trail of fire in his wake, ripping gasps from her as her fingers clutch for purchase in his hair, she cant contain her mewling as his hands slip under her tunic, ghosting up over her abdomen to the base of her breasts, across her ribs and down her back gripping her hips tightly to bring her closer to him. She is almost certain she heard a knock at her door.
He turns to look at the door but she grabs his head and kisses him again, "Ignore it" scraping his bottom lip with her teeth. All thoughts of hospitality lost as he lifts her again, her legs wrapping around his waist, his voice low and near predatory in her ear, "I hope you're a screamer, but not tonight the girl needs to sleep." nipping at her neck just below the shell of her ear as he carried her to her bed.
Hours later, they lay spent, limbs tangled, clothes everywhere, Leliana is staring at the ceiling thinking about her night while her Ety slept soundly using her as a pillow. He saw her scars, traced each one with his hands, kissed them all. Maker his hands, those same calloused hands that held his blades and mastered arrows had also been so gentle and loving while doing deliciously wicked things to her body, so why did he get to sleep while she lay there thinking about all the reasons this was a very bad idea as she ran her fingers through his hair.
"I can hear you thinking, Leli, go to sleep."
"I cant. Ive too much on my mind, and your tickling me."
He sighs deeply, softly kissing a trail up her stomach, "I know you think this was a bad idea, and can never happen again. But right now, I'm in a sinfully comfortable bed with a breathtakingly beautiful woman whose bosom I intend to keep using as pillow until morning, all whilst I commit to memory all of the spots that make her giggle and groan, since I'll be yet another in a long lone of regrets."
He lifts his head shaking it slightly before kissing her and settling back into her chest, "No, let me have tonight. Worry and regret me in the morning."
They lay in silence she hears his breathing even out as he falls back to sleep, she follows soon after, damning Aedan Cousland.
When she wakes, the sun is in the wrong place to be her room, she cracks an eye. A tent? Mari is telling her Cassandra would like to know if she wants tea with first meal. It was a dream? Well that's just not fair. She gets up putting her armor on and leaves her tent, Etrigan has already started breaking camp, when he sees her watching him he gives her a shy smile and goes back to his task, then she remembers...the knock on her door.
She throws Cassandra a dirty look, not that its her fault, it really would have been a bad idea, but merciful Andraste, she can still feel his hands burning into her skin and taste his lips, and oh Maker, Josie is going to kill her.
They'll be in Haven by nightfall and Josie is going to kill her...and she will let her, Cassandra can help. Once camp was broken, Marissa was riding with Etrigan, they were listing different types of tress and flowers as they passed as well as animals, they slowed for a bit so that the girl could get comfortable in the wagon, where Leliana bundled her up and she quickly fell asleep.
When he thought no one was looking Etrigan kept touching his lower lip or a spot on his shoulder, she had been having the dreams for two days now, was he? He must because he looks like he wants to murder Cassandra with her own sword.
The rest of the trip is very quiet, Etrigan looking around constantly, she's pretty sure she heard him muttering about finding an ice cold lake or something, of course now a new problem has popped up, every time she talks to him, he stutters when he answers.
And curse it all if that doesn't make her want to kiss him again even more. If she is lucky Josie wont kill her, just hurt very badly then maybe she can talk Josie into helping her with Ety.
Haven, sweet merciful Maker, he's home! This stutter thing is really getting old, he needs to write Max for advice on this, he sent his brother a letter from Val Royeaux along with another for Father and the letter for Evie asking about Marissa, in his letter to Max he added a few of his sketches of Leliana to show his brother just how ruined he is now. He wrote his brother 'I will never covet another the way I covet her, I am well and truly ruined for any other woman. If I pursue her and she says no, I'm hanging up my blades and becoming a monk.' They both know he was exaggerating but still.
At the stable Etrigan gently picks Mari up and takes her to his cabin, they had run into one of Leliana's scouts yesterday and asked her to charge on to Haven to ask Tova to scrounge up something for the girl, when he gets to the cabin he is not disappointed, a child sized bed and dresser have been added as well as a chair made with a boost so she can see over it.
Someone even got Havard a bed.
He gets Mari tucked into her new bed "Ety where are we?"
"We're in Haven, Little Bird, this is where I live, and you until we hear back from my sister, right now though, little girls need to be sleeping, I'll be right here, I promise."
She snuggled in to her bed with her mabari toy and fell back to sleep, he got the door before the stable boys could knock, motioning that they needed to be quiet, all of her things got brought in.
With a sigh Etrigan got himself ready for bed falling face first into the pillows and smiling as he dreamt of kissing the Nightingale.
The dawn brings with it more than the promise of a new day, in the days following their trip to Orlais, Tova got to mother another orphan, Cassandra ran sword drills with Cullen and their forces, Josephine set meetings with more nobles and Leliana surveyed it all waiting for the reports from her agents, Val Royeaux was a needed adventure, but it will be the last time she goes into the field for sometime, her agents are her eyes, her ears and if need be, her blade, if she weren't here at the hub then the Inquisition is blind, and Etrigan, well, he headed to the Storm Coast, there was a Merc band that offered a sample of their services, his last report was both troubling and useful,
Made contact on coast. Merc band everything they say. Leader is Qunari, Ben-Hasthrath, we're getting their reports. Informed our new ally nothing gets sent before you see it or he gets to be Princess' new training dummy. Found missing patrol in mountains. Killed by Blades of Hessarian. Challenged leader, new agents acquired. Bulk of Merc band coming to nest, leader staying with me for now. Rumors of rifts in Hinterlands, leading Herald back that way. Will report when we arrive. Tell Stonehammer to enjoy the dragon scale, almost got roasted trying to get it.
Sadly that had been the normal way of things since their almost moment in her apartments, when he didn't think she was looking Etrigan would watch her, with a shy smile, she almost felt like he was avoiding her, but as the Herald he did have quite a bit to do.
Leliana knew they needed to talk, so did Etrigan, but right now neither one had a clue on how to approach it. And what in the void is that sodding fool doing fighting dragons? She gave up fighting how she felt, so if the dragon didnt kill him she was going to but for now she had a favor to ask since he was headed back that way.
If a dragon roasts you, I can think of a very small list of people that will be very cross with you, though Stonehammer thanks you very much. Quill and Princess are quite vexed with you as am I. While your in the Hinterlands again look for a Warden named Blackwall, he may know something or at least be useful. Court Mage has insisted on being at Redcliffe meeting, will meet you there, sorry. Birds want return to nest after.
Etrigan read Leliana's message and sighed, First Enchanter Vivienne had evidently been driving everyone crazy since she arrived at camp, the Warden fellow wasn't so bad, when they found him he had been teaching local farmers how to defend themselves, he had copies of the Warden treaties with him, those got sent to Haven with a few dozen recruits, now he was walking around Redcliffe village with Blackwall and Stitch, the rifts here were very strange, Vivienne seemed to think that time itself was altered around it, even weirder was no one knew they were coming.
An Inquisition soldier rushed up and bowed. "We've spread word the Inquisition was coming, but you shuold know that no one here was expecting us."
"No one? Not even Grand Enchanter Fiona?"
He nodded. "If she was, she hasn't told anyone." He gestured. "We've arranged use of the tavern for the negotiations."
"Alright, back to your patrols, ears and eyes open and notify the Nightingale"
The scout nodded and ran off, a few minutes into their explorations an elven man walked up to them "Agents of the Inquisition, my apologies. Magister Alexius is in charge now, but hasn't yet arrived. He's expected shortly." He gestured. "You can speak with the former grand enchanter in the meantime."
Etrigan led Blackwall, Vivienne and the Iron Bull to the Tavern, along the way several mages voiced their concern with the goings on of their leaders. Etrigan also confronted a smuggler hiding in plain sight as a Chantry sister, giving her the option of joining up with the Inquisition or facing a very pissed off Cassandra, Tanner very wisely joined up.
Upon entering the tavern, the hairs at the back of Etrigan's neck stood on end and every instinct he had told him being here was a very bad idea, if this went south he'd head for Therinfall Redoubt and gather the Templars, ideally he'd like both if for no other reason than to stop the fighting.
"Welcome, agents of the Inquisition." Fiona greeted then looked shocked see who traveled with the Herald, "First Enchanter Vivienne."
"My dear Fiona." Vivienne's reply left a lot to be desired in winning favors "It's been so long since we last spoke. You look dreadful. Are you sleeping well?"
Fiona chose to ignore her and asked Etrigan "What has brought you to Redcliffe?"
Etrigan looked confused, "Your joking right?" replying with a raised brow, "We're here because of your invitation back in Val Royeaux."
"You must be mistaken." Fiona shook her head. "I haven't been to Val Royeaux since before the Conclave."
Etrigan stared at the elven woman, "If it wasn't you who invited me here, who was it?"
"I..." Fiona started "I don't know. Now that you say it, I feel strange...Whoever...Or whatever brought you here, the situation has changed. The free mages have already..." She hung her head, shoulders hunched, "Pledged themselves to the service of the Tevinter Imperium. As one indentured to a magister, I no longer have the authority to negotiate with you."
Vivienne was less than amused "Fiona, dear, your dementia is showing."
Blackwall remained silent and Etrigan rubbed his temples, "Out of the pan and into the sodding fire this is bad..This is very bad." He looked up rubbing his face muttering "Im far too sober to be hearing this."
Fiona just looked angry "What choice do we have? All hope of peace died with Justinia. This..." She faltered "Bargain with Tevinter would not have been my first choice, but we had no choice. We are losing this war. I needed to save as many of my people as I could."
Before anything else could be said a man dressed excatly how Etrigan remembered Magisters to dress walked in, "Welcome, my friends." The man had his arms spread wide like he was waiting for a hug or more likely, a cheering crowd, "I apologize for not greeting you earlier."
Fiona took a step, and bowed her head to the Magister "Agents of the Inquisition, allow me to introduce Magister Gereon Alexius."
He inclined his head "The southern mages are under my command." But never took his eyes off Etrigan "And you are the survivor, yes? The one from the Fade? Interesting."
They sat at a nearby table neither man wanting to tip his hand too soon, but the Magister cracked under the silence, "Felix, would you send for a scribe, please? Pardon my manners. My son, Felix, friends. Containing the Breach is not a feat that many could ever attempt. There is no telling how many mages would be needed for such an endeavor. Ambitious, indeed."
Etrigan decided to play it up "Oh, well, you know how it is with giant holes in the sky go big or go home, right?"
The Magister looked up as his son was coming back "There would have to be.."
Before he could finish Felix staggered and fell, Etrigan's reflexes had him catch the young man, who slipped a note into the Heralds glove.
"Felix," Alexius helped Etrigan stand his son up
"I'm so sorry. Please forgive my clumsiness, my Lord." Felix leaned heavily on his father "I'm fine, Father."
"Come, I'll get your powders." Magister Alexis started to lead Felix away. "Please excuse me, friends. We will have to continue this another time. Fiona, I will require your services."
"I don't mean to trouble everyone," Felix called back as his father pulled him from the tavern.
"I shall send word to the Inquisition." Alexius said without preamble, "We will conclude this business at a later date."
Etrigan kept his eyes on the pair until the door shut behind them then made to read the not from Felix, 'Come to the Chantry. You are in danger.'
Handing it to Vivienne and the others, "Well that doesn't sound like an ominous trap at all"
On their way out, Etrigan spoke to a Tranquil who told them the Magister had arrived two days after the explosion at the Conclave, proclaiming to be their only option since everyone would blame the mages, then chased Arl Tegan out of the castle, The tranquil added that everyone with no magic had been threatened save the servants the Magister had use of, he then offered his services as an Alchemist, which Etrigan accepted along with anyone else who wanted safe passage out of Redcliffe.
On the path to the Chantry Etrigan spoke with one Mother who had refused to leave the faithful behind, and he promised her he was doing everything he could to right this insanity. Walking into the Chantry they found a Mage taking on a wave of demons and a rift all by himself.
He glanced towards them. "Good. You're finally here."
Oh goodie, Etrigan rolled his eyes another Tevinter as the mage continued "Now help me close this, would you?"
The five of them finished the demons quickly and Etrigan closed the rift, the newcomer couldnt contain his excitement "Fascinating. How does that work, exactly?" but before Etrigan could answer him "You don't even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers, and boom. Rift closes."
Etrigan raises a brow, "This blighted day is really starting to annoy me. Who are you?"
"Ah. Getting ahead of myself again, I see." He bowed "Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous. How do you do?"
Etrigan was losing his temper, "Stop speaking like your waiting for applause and get to the point."
The mage feigned offense, "What no applause? Very well then, Magister Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable..as I'm sure you can imagine."
Etrigan scratched the back of his head, "Definitely too sober to hear this. You're betraying your mentor because...?"
It was Dorian's turn to roll his eyes "Alexius was my mentor. Meaning he's not any longer, not for some time.Look, you must know there's danger. That should be obvious even without the note. Let's start with Alexius claiming the allegiance of the mage rebels out from under you. As if by magic, yes?"
Etrigan had to concede that "That is a bit odd considering I was invited here by the mages less than a week ago the Conclave was months ago"
That seemed to be what Dorian was waiting for "Which is exactly right. To reach Redcliffe before the Inquisition, Alexius distorted time itself. The rift you closed here?"
Dorian gestured behind him "You saw how it twisted time around itself, sped some things up and slowed others down. Soon there will be more like it, and they'll appear further and further away from Redcliffe. The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable, and it's unraveling the world."
Etrigan pinched the bridge of his nose, "You have to have something better than that..I'd like more proof than 'magical time control. Go with it.' I do have people to report to after all"
Dorian's voice was laced with frustration, "I know what I'm talking about. I helped develop this magic. When I was still his apprentice, it was pure theory. Alexius could never get it to work. What I don't understand is why he's doing it? Ripping time to shreds just to gain a few hundred lackeys?"
"He didn't do it for them." Felix's voice came the entrance.
"Took you long enough. Is he getting suspicious?"
"No, but I shouldn't have played the illness card. I thought he'd be fussing over me all day." He turned to Etrigan "My father's joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves 'Venatori.' And I can tell you one thing: whatever he's done for them, he's done it to get to you."
Etrigan had to laugh, "And here I didnt get Alexius anything."
"Get him a fruit basket, everybody loves those." Dorian deadpans the turns deathly serious, "You know you're his target. Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage. I can't stay in Redcliffe. Alexius doesn't know I'm here, and I want to keep it that way for now. But whenever you're ready to deal with him, I want to be there. I'll be in touch."
As he was leaving he offered one final comment, "And Felix? Try not to get yourself killed."
Felix just sighed, "There are worse things than dying, Dorian." Then he too left the Chantry.
Etrigan looked at the others, "We need to get back to Haven," As they exit the Chantry an Inquisition runner comes up to Etrigan hands him a message and runs off again, "but Therinfal Redoubt first, I cant wait to see who else tries to kill me."
Meanwhile back in Haven the Council was arguing over how best to approach the Templars, Cullen taking it hard, "Its a shame the Templars have abandoned their senses as well as the capital"
Cassandra counted "We had to do something and now we have an opportunity."
Josephine nodded, "Yes, and we have the opening we need to approach the Mages and the Templars."
Cassandra continued, "Etrigan is in Redcliffe now, but do we? Lord Seeker Lucius is not the man I remember."
Leliana added, "True. He has taken the order somewhere, but to do what? My reports have been...Very odd."
Cullen became more determined, "We must look into it. I'm certain not everyone in the order will support the Lord Seeker. The Templars must help us close the breach. The order was founded to fight magic."
Leliana remained calm "We must first convince the Lord Seeker to bring the Templars out of exile"
"We've received word from a knight recruit, they gather at Therinfal Redoubt"
Cassandra is stunned "It has been vacant for decades why go there"
Josephine is undeterred "We must approach the Lord Seeker again to get anywhere, we can ask him then"
Leliana cut in "But first we must appear to be the more attractive option."
Josephine had a brilliant idea, "If it is status the Lord Seeker wishes, then Orlais will deliver, I will write to the nobles and convince them to demand he speak with them, and we offer the Herald as their voice."
"After his display in Val Royeaux, hang what the Lord Seeker thinks" Cullen shouted.
Cassandra ended all discussions, I will go meet Etrigan at Therinfal Redoubt, Ambassador, do what you must."
"I will help her" Leliana nodded. A quick message was written for Etrigan, and their plans were set in motion.
Chapter 18: Chapter 16 Champions of the Just
My original game dialogue source ended way too soon so now I'm relying on you tube and other fic authors, mostly you tube, so we will breaking farther away from game dialogue unless its something really important. Also this one is kind of short, I wanted to bring in the templars that weren't total asshats but I agree with the message boards in that siding with the mages in game is more organic..and for where I need to go with this story it really is
Traveling to the Templar stronghold took only a day and Josephine knowing Etrigan like she did had amassed an army of nobles to demand an audience with the Lord Seeker.
Cassandra was waiting for him when he arrived, "Ambassador Montilyet and Leliana have been working tirelessly and have arranged ten noble families from Orlais to join us."
"Good, not sure how much pull, the 'bastard brother of a Marcher Templar Captain' would get us." he filled her in on Redcliffe letting her send the report to Leliana while an Orlisian Noble approached him, "Ah, The Herald of Andraste!"
The man bows "Lord Esmeral Abernache. Care to mark the moment? Ten Orlisian houses walk with you."
Hating politics but fearing Josephine, Etrigan plays along, "Oh of course my Lord, as both the son of noble and brother of a Templar, I welcome this chance to be back in my rightful place."
Abernache smiles pleased with his answer and leads him through the crowd of masked nobles. When they reach the keep a Templar-Knight is waiting for the, after the introductions are made Abernache wears out his welcome for Etrigan when he talks down to Ser Barris, "Barris, moderate holdings, and the second son, you would do well to not keep you betters waiting."
Etrigan sneers at the man, "Have a care my Lord, I am my father's third son, and one of my elder brothers is a Templar Captain."
That seemed to shut him up until they were stopped in the courtyard by Ser Barris, "The Lord Seeker has asked that you complete a ritual that all Templars must complete," pointing to a series of flags behind him, each represents a moral objective, there is no right or wrong answer. It is simply the measure of the man who completes it."
Abernache starts to make a snide comment but Etrigan cuts him off, "My brother told me about this, the first flag is Andraste, the second is for the people and the last is for the order, and each is raised by its importance to the supplicant, I'll perform the rite."
Shocking no one, Etrigan raises the flag for Andraste the highest, the for the people and didnt touch the flag for the order at all. Barris then too them to meet with the Knight-Captain, a man named Denam, at once Etrigan knew something was off, his eyes had a strange glow to them, "This is the grand alliance the Inquisition offers?"
As the noble starts to introduce himself Etrigan calls out, "Barris whats wrong with him? Abernach, step back."
The Knight-Captain runs Abernache through with his sword and orders the Templars filling the room to attack, Barris joins the fight using his tower shield to block arrows meant for Etrigan while he fires off his own. Working their way through the keep went the same way, every now and then they found a Templar that was still sane, until finally they get to the Lord Seeker, who grabs Etrigan and pulls him through what looks like a rift.
When Etrigan opens his eyes he's alone, he hears a voice say the same thing over and over again, "I will know you" part of him wants to draw his blades but something deep down tells him that would only make things worse, through a small grove he sees Cullen and Josephine standing there staring blankly, Leliana walks up to him, "Is this shape usueful? Will it let me know you? Everything tells me about you, so will this, watch."
Leliana stand behind Cullen drawing a knife and slitting his throat then goes to Josephine and slits hers as well, Etrigan knows where he is now, he's had this nightmare before, "Am I meant to be impressed demon?"
"Being you will be so much more interesting than being the Lord Seeker."
He keeps moving until he is confronted by echos of memories, but they have been twisted to gain a reaction from him, the strange voice gets more and more angry as he resists. He finds a room that looks like his room at his Father's there he meets a boy who tells him "the demon has trapped you inside your own head"
"So how do I get out?"
"You must go up, the higher you go the less conrol he has"
When he turns around again the boy is gone, but he follows his advice, the demon throws things at him to get reactions or force him to attack, the boy appears again "He wants you to attack him so he can learn you and take your face." the demon screeches "GET OUT SPIRIT"
"You must keep going up" Etrigan makes his way to the top of the courtyard steps where this all began and is pinned to a door by a shadow of himself that tries in vain to copy his voice, "Unfair unfair! That thing kept you whole, kept you from giving me your shape!"
Etrigan fought against the demon's hold, "What could you gain from being me?"
The demon tries again " What could you gain...What could you...ugh..We'll start again. More pain this time. The Elder One still comes."
The boy is standing behind the demon "Its frightened of you"
"Get out of.."
That was the distraction Etrigan needed to break the demons grip and get away from the door, another bright flash and he was back, everyone seeing the envy demon where the Lord Seeker had been.
The demon ran into the great hall and hid itself behind a barrier, leaving the Templars to hold the hall with Vivienne and Bull, Etrigan took Cassandra and Blackwall to find the Lieutenants and uncorrupted lyrium for the Templars to break the barrier, by sun down they had the barrier broken, by twilight they had defeated the demon.
Etrigan gave the remaining Templars a choice, "Your order is broken, your leaders betrayed you, used you. Join the Inqiusition and when this is over and the world is right again, rebuild, grow to be what the Templars were always meant to be."
Few of the Templars agreed, most just wanted to go home, so Etrigan let them, the ones that joined would go with them to Haven, in total they were taking four lieutenants and less than a dozen Knights, as an agent of the Inquisition working with the Right Hand of the Divine, Etrigan could have conscripted them all and forced them to join, but he chose not to, he had just witnessed first hand the corruption his brother feared within the ranks.
They arrested Captain Denham, to be dealt with later, after it was discovered that the Knight-Vigilant had been murdered, Ser Barris helped Etrigan and Cassandra search the Knight Captain's office, what they found was very troubling, this Elder One must be stopped, sitting at the Knight Captain's desk, Etrigan set his elbows up, closed his eyes and rested his head in his hands, the Inquisitions list just got bigger, opening his eyes he happened on a calendar.
Josephine's birthday was next week and his own was in a few months, for the first time, he actually wasn't sure if he would live to see either.
Cassandra had asked him about what he had seen in the fade a few times but he didn't answer, instead shutting down.
He knew if he spoke at all right now it would break him. the last words Cassandra heard from him for the next few days?
"Lets go home"
When they got back to Haven, Etrigan still said nothing, he had sent Marissa to Josephine and closed himself off from everyone, getting up every morning and hunting, attending council but not participating beyond taking notes, then going back to the cabin, going to bed and repeating it the next day.
The only reason anyone knew he still had his wits about him is he had sent notes to both Leliana and Tova about Josephine's birthday, he had asked Tova if she still had any of the dragon bone he had sent back from the coast, sadly she didn't, so he took off with Blackwall and Iron bull to go get more.
Leliana's people found him with the Warden and the Qunari warrior in the northeastern most section of the Hinterlands, all three had smoke billowing off them and were laughing, sitting on the remains of the high dragon, her hatch-lings bodies surrounding them.
They cleaned out a few old fishing barrels they found and filled them with the dragon's blood and another with the blood from the hatch-lings, as well as scavenging anything else the alchemists would find useful.
They made it back to Haven the morning of Josephine's birthday she was planning on hitting him until he smiled, hugged her and handed her a small package wrapped in silk, "Happy Birthday Josie!"
When she opened it she found a set of jeweled hair clips that looked to be hand made, she looked up at Etrigan and he shrugged, "Couldn't make it to Orlais to go shopping so I asked Blackwall to teach me how to carve things myself."
After she hugged him she still hit him though not as hard, he then went to apologize to Mari for being a bad uncle and gave her a smaller set of combs to match Josephine's just in different colors and no jewels.
Blackwall had even made a set for Mari's dolls.
Looking up towards the Chantry Etrigan saw Leliana watching from her tent, he have her a slight nod and she read his 'I'm sorry' in it her reply was an incline of her own head 'We'll talk later'.
Cassandra punched him, he just laughed said deserved it and he was sorry, then went off to clean up for the party he had planned for the night.
In the tavern basement they had been meeting once a week for evening meal and work. Tonight was no work allowed because tonight they celebrated their Ambassador for her birthday, in that room with the drinks flowing and music being played by the minstrel, there was no 'Etrigan' only 'Ety' even if he was giving Bull's Lieutenant dirty looks for flirting with Josie all night, he was practically her brother after all, that's what he was supposed to do.
It did make him happy to see her relax for a night so he figured he couldnt hate Krem too much, he'll just get Leliana to help him threaten him later, speaking of, he looked around the room and noticed a certain Spymaster was absent, and he skipped his armor and wore his best shirt too, well he was going to have to fix that, he had been hoping for a dance.
Excusing himself he went in search of Leliana and Maker help him when he found her, he was frozen, she was an absolute vision, it was just a simple dress, but he would swear his heart stopped.
Purposely he snapped a twig so she would know he was there "G-good ev-evening, my Lady, your absence had been n-noted, might I escort you t-to the tavern?"
She smiled softly at him as he offered her his arm, "Thank you Ety, that would be lovely."
They walked in silence getting more than a few stares as they went through the village, so much they both wanted to say to each other but neither quite ready to go down that rabbit hole yet, when they arrived back at the party, Etrigan almost fainted when she kissed his cheek and thanked him again, instead he just nodded and found the nearest seat before his legs gave out, he attempted several times to get up and go talk to her, but he always sat back down.
Finally he was saved by a very sleepy Mari, who demanded her own bed, in the few minutes it took him to gather her things and say good night she was asleep on a table, he picked his little bird up and carried her back to the cabin, tucking her in and kissing her head.
It was going to hurt when she went to live with Evie in Ostwick but at least he was able to do this one thing for his sister and Marissa would be safe and loved, he had gotten the letter from home the day he left to go dragon hunting Evie was already on her way.
After he got himself ready for bed he read his father's letter again
My sweet boy, I never once thought you responsible for the events at the Conclave, I'm only sorry your Aunt isn't with you to tell you that herself. You have my blessing to keep her ring, Son. Keep it until you can come home and then we will celebrate Seline's life as a family. Evelyn has already left for Haven, its a wonderful thing you have done for the child and our family, please inform her that her new Grandfather is beside himself waiting to meet her. Gabriel has heeded your warning about this 'red lyrium' and warned his brethren as well, they have all taken the Lord Seeker's behavior as means to depart their stations and go home, when Order is restored the Templars will return. You've done well, Boy. Maxwell tells me you're besotted with a woman, good for you, Ety. We've been keeping track of your exploits through the various travelers that pass into Ostwick. None are so vocal as the pilgrims that watched you be harassed by frightened sisters in Val Royeaux. I must warn you Boy, watch yourself around that Madame De Fer, she spent her formative years right here in Ostwick, during my years as a Templar, she is never NOT up to something and generally for her own benefit. She may very well help restore the order but she will make damned sure she gets something out of the deal. Also I've spoken to Yves, and he is thrilled your keeping an eye on Josie. Talked to the entire family, sent Josie an official declaration of House Trevelyans alliance with the Inquisition, if anyone asks us your our voice in Haven, but the whole family knows my son is the Herald. I know this isn't what you wanted Ety, but if the Maker chose you, then you'll be fine son. I'm so very proud of you. Write soon if you can.
Always your loving Father
His niece sleeping peacefully and his family supporting him entirely, too bad he was a coward and didn't ask Leliana to dance tonight, he'll never forget that dress though, that's the memory he'll call on when people ask him when he knew beyond reason he was in love with her. With a smile we left the table leaning down to scratch Havard's ears and went to bed
Chapter 19: Chapter 17 In Hushed Whispers
I'm just going to apologize now for all the Ety/Leli angst i'm about to throw down, its actually the cut scene in this quest of the game that inspired the entire story, trust me, you'll know it when you see it...Just know, I'm really really sorry, we're going forward in time a little bit, we ended on Josephine's birthday which is in the middle of the 9th month of the Thedan calendar so her 15th of Kingsway. it was her 28th birthday if anyone cares, I'm bumping us up about 3 wks cause if you've ever played this quest, a specific date isn't given but a month is
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It only took almost the entirety of the last three weeks but Etrigan finally stopped stuttering every time he tried to speak to Leliana, and she was smiling at him more, they still haven't discussed the incident in Val Royeaux even though the dreams about it were driving them both insane.
Etrigan was a bit down for a few days after his sister came to collect Marissa but Evie had met everyone and ended up staying almost two weeks, on their last night in Haven she pulled her brother aside and told him what she really thought and Evelyn Trevelyan was not a woman many people wanted to cross, especially her youngest brother.
"So its the red head isn't it?"
Etrigan knew where this was going as he walked the path near the river with his sister but really didn't want to have this talk with her, "So whats the red head?"
He stopped walking "Evelyn..See I can do that too"
Evie turned back long enough to cuff the back of his head then kept walking "You are far from stupid little brother, the woman that will keep my youngest brother from ever living in the Marches again, the red head right? Leliana, is it?"
He ran to catch up with her "Shh..say that a little louder, I'm not certain Great Aunt Lucille heard you."
"Oh this is too much, its absolutely precious. Ety's in love" even in the low torch light she could see the dirty look her brother was giving her so she took pity on him "I'm sorry Ety, I really am happy for you, if she hurts you though Spymaster or not, I can still use a blade, and quite frankly I've missed picking on you."
At his grin she turned a bit serious, "I've spoken with her,"
"Oh no Evie.."
"Not like that you big baby, as a person not as your elder sister trying to frighten the woman my brother fancies. I like her, if things work out she'll be good for you, Josie says Leliana picked out all your clothes, and I agree with her, it IS an improvement..."
She was going to pick on him some more before he hit her with a snowball, as he laughed at her shock he took advantage of his longer legs and ran when she screamed, "Etrigan Trevelyan, you need not worry a demon will kill you. I'll do it first."
At the gates Josephine had dragged Cullen Cassandra and Leliana to watch the siblings, the four greatly enjoyed their snowball fight until Ety brought them into it as well, ending up in Cassandra Cullen and Ety against Josie Evie and Leliana.
Cassandra betrayed them and the men were beaten...badly, with Josie sitting on Ety as Evie stuffed snow down his breeches into his small clothes, Cullen unable to contain his howls of laughter.
Now almost a week later Varric had declared Etrigan's nickname was 'Snowball' he just hung his head and laughed on his way to the war council to discuss the Redcliffe matter, the Magister had finally made a move "We don't have the manpower to take the castle."
Cullen shouted. Cassandra's fist pounded on the war table "Redcliffe is in the hands of a Magister. This cannot be allowed to stand."
Josephine pointed her quill at Etrigan "The letter from Alexius asked for the Herald of Andraste by name. It's an obvious trap."
"Oh, how kind, and what is my new best friend saying about me?"
Leliana answered, "He has been so complimentary that we are sure he wants to kill you."
"Not this again." Josephine sighs
"Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Ferelden." Cullen was beginning to sound like a Tranquil from all the repetition "It has repelled thousands of assaults."
He pleaded with Etrigan "If you go in there, you'll die. And we'll lose the only means we have of closing these rifts. I won't allow it."
Leliana was getting angry again "And if we don't even try to meet Alexius, we lose the mages and leave a hostile foreign power on our doorstep."
"Even if we could assault the keep, it would be for not." Josephine pointed out "An 'Orlesian' Inquisition's army marching into Ferelden would provoke a war. Our hands are tied."
Cassandra started "The magister -"
"Has outplayed us." Cullen finished.
"So that's it then. We're done before we even begin?" Etrigan asked angrily.
Cassandra agreed. "We cannot accept defeat now. There must be a solution."
"There has to be a stealth way to get me into that blighted castle."
"There's nothing I know of that would work," Cullen shrugged rubbing the back of his neck.
"Wait." Leliana shouted looking excited as she drew several maps "There is a secret passage into the castle, an escape route for the family. It's too narrow for our troops, but we could send agents through." she explained as she pointed to key areas on her maps
"Too risky." Cullen argued "Those agents will be discovered well before they reach the magister."
"That's why we need a distraction." Leliana looked to Etrigan "Perhaps the envoy Alexius wants so badly?"
"Focus their attention on Trevelyan while we take out the Tevinters. It's risky, but it could work." Cullen said looking at the maps Leliana had drawn.
The door to the war room slammed open and a mage waltzed in followed by to worried looking guards "Fortunately, you'll have help."
One of the guards spoke up his tone apologetic "This man says he has information about the magister and his methods, Commander."
Etrigan smirked at the dramatic announcement "Dorian" He bowed low his voice dripping with sarcasm, "Wont you join us and enlighten the council to your knowledge"
"Your spies will never get past Alexius's magic without my help. So if you're going after him, I'm coming along."
Cassandra had a small vein popping out of her forehead as Cullen continued "This plan puts you in the most danger. We can't, in good conscience, order you to do this. We can still attempt to make do with the templars we have if you'd rather not play the bait. It's up to you."
"If these Venatori are behind the breach, we'll need magic more than suppression to stop it, even still we need to be ready for anything, I'll give him my presence, Cassandra, be ready. We'll take Varric and Blackwall too. After another day of planning and two of travel the party had arrived at Redcliffe castle.
The poor servant that had to receive them looked terrified that Etrigan wasn't alone, "The Magister's invitation was for Lord Trevelyan alone. The rest will wait here."
Etrigan shook his head, "I am the Herald of Andraste, they go where I go. Or I leave."
The man seemed to consider which option would get him in more trouble for a moment before leading them to the throne room "My lord magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived."
Alexius greeted him with the same false joy as in the tavern weeks before "My friend. It's so good to see you again." his performance faltered at the sight of the others "And your associates, of course. I'm sure we can work out some arrangement that is equitable to all parties."
Fiona stepped forward from the shadows "Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?"
"Fiona, you would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives."
Etrigan couldn't wait to slap the smug look of the magister's patronizing face "If the Grand Enchanter wants to be part of these talks, then I welcome her as a guest of the Inquisition." Etrigan threw in, "After all this discussion effects her and her people far more than it does either of us"
She inclined her head to him "Thank you."
Etrigan returned her gesture Alexius huffed but agreed and made himself comfortable in his stolen throne "The Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach, and I have them. So, what shall you offer in exchange?"
Etrigan shrugged, "Not a damned thing," he laughed, "actually I mean to just take the mages and leave"
Alexius' calm mask slips, "And how do you imagine you'll accomplish such a feat"
Felix leaned towards his father "He knows everything, Father."
"Felix, what have you done?" Alexius almost looks scared
"Your son is concerned that you're involved in something terrible."
"So speaks the thief." There was nothing but hate in the magister's voice now "Do you think you can turn my son against me?" He stands "You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark..a gift you don't even understand..and think you're in control?" He was completely livid "You're nothing but a mistake."
Etrigan took a chance "What do you know about the Divine's death?"
Alexius started screaming "It was the Elder One's moment, and you were unworthy even to stand in his presence."
Felix stepped forward "Father, listen to yourself." Concern pouring from the younger man "Do you know what you sound like?"
All around the room Venatori guards were arming themselves then just as quick being replaced by Inquisition agents
"He sounds exactly like the sort of villainous cliche everyone expects us to be." Dorian drolled
"Dorian." Alexius spat the name in contempt "I gave you a chance to be part of this. You turned me down. The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes."
Etrigan tried again to get some answers "That's who you serve? The one who killed the Divine? Is he a mage?"
Alexius looked down from the platform as though speaking to an insolent child "Soon he will become a god. He will make the world bow to mages once more. We will rule from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas."
"You can't bring my people into this," Fiona cried.
Dorian tried to reason with him "Alexius, this is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen. Why would you support this?"
Felix laid a hand on his father's shoulder. "Stop this, Father. Give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach, and let's go home."
Alexius faced Felix, tears in his eyes "No. It's the only way, Felix. He can save you."
"There is a way. The Elder One promised. If I undo the mistake at the Temple..." Alexius whispered
"I'm going to die." Felix said "You need to accept that."
Alexius spun to face Etrigan "Seize them, Venatori. The Elder One demands this man's life."
Only it was the Inquisition that emerged "Your men are dead, Alexius." Etrigan gestured around the room
"You..." Alexius pointed "Are a mistake. You should never have existed." Alexius held up an amulet as magic crackled around him
"No." Dorian sprinted ahead of Etrigan using his staff to attempt a counter spell.
The room spun and went dark.
"Blood of the Elder One."
Etrigan was standing in what looked like a prison, filled to his ankles with water.
A noise revealed Dorian standing nearby, but no one else.Two heavily armored men moving towards them.
"Where'd they come from?" One asked as he pulled a sword.
Etrigan nocked his bow and dropped the first while Dorian tossed a fire ball at the second then looked around the room as though it held all the answers
"Displacement? Interesting." He waved blindly "It's probably not what Alexius intended. The rift must have moved us...To what? The closest confluence of arcane energy?"
Etrigan scavenged the guards and found a set of keys, and a bow. "The last thing I remember, we were in the castle hall."
Dorian looked thoughtful "Let's see. If we're still in the castle, it isn't..." Dorian's eye widened "Oh. Of course. It's not simply where - it's when." His hands moved as he spoke like we was working the figures out "Alexius used the amulet as a focus. It moved us through time."
Etrigan's head shot up at the implications, "Did we go forward in time or back, and how far?"
"Those are excellent questions." He tapped Etrigan with his staff "We'll have to find out, won't we? Let's look around, see where the rift took us. Then we can figure out how to get back... if we can."
They headed to the exit it took Etrigan a minute to find the right key for the door "What was Alexius trying to do?"
Dorian followed through the dungeon. "I believe his original plan was to remove you from time completely. If that happened, you would never have been at the Temple of Sacred Ashes or mangled his Elder One's plan. I think your surprise in the castle hall made him reckless. He tossed us into the rift before he was ready. I countered it, the magic went wild, and here we are. Make sense?"
Etrigan had no clue where they were going and picked a direction at random "It should probably concern me that it does"
Dorian side stepped a body "I don't even want to think about what this will do to the fabric of the world." He continued his explanation at Etrigan's concerned look. "We didn't 'travel' through time so much as punch a hole through it and toss it in the privy. But don't worry. I'm here. I'll protect you."
Etrigan though that wasn't nearly as comforting as it was probably meant to be. But what of the others "There were others in the hall. Could they have been drawn through the rift?"
"I doubt it was large enough to bring the whole room through." Dorian considered a moment. "Alexius wouldn't risk catching himself or Felix in it. They're probably still where, and when, we left them. In some sense, anyway."
They came to a metal bridge that was guarded by three men, each standing in front of a door, Etrigan nocked his bow and fired a single shot into the throat of each man
"Alexius mentioned an 'Elder One' in the hall. Do you know who he was talking about?"
"Leader of the Venatori, I suspect." Dorian sneered "Some magister aspiring to godhood. It's the same old tune. 'Let's play with magic we don't understand. It will make us incredibly powerful.' Evidently it doesn't matter if you rip apart the fabric of time in the process."
Etrigan went to the door on the left first "And what happens if we can't get back?"
Dorian hung his head "Then we get comfortable in our new present."
Down a hall Etrigan heard the Chant being recited "The light shall lead her safely through the paths of this world and into the next. For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water" and started running
"Cassandra!" in a cell sitting on her knees was the Seeker, looking older and radiating the same energy as the Templars that had attacked them at Therinfal Redoubt
"You've returned to us. Can it be? Has Andraste given us another chance?"
Etrigan's hands shook as he tried to find the right key to open the cell door, almost ripping it off its hinges once he had it open and hugging his friend as she cried into his shoulder
"Maker forgive me. I failed you. I failed everyone, the end must truly be upon us if the dead return to life."
Etrigan just hugged her tighter, "You didn't fail me, you could never fail me. Are you hurt, Maybe I can help."
She pushed away from him and shook her head, "There is nothing you can do for me now. I'll be with the Maker soon"
Dorian started thinking out loud, Alexius sent us forward in time. If we find him we may be able to return to the present."
Hope started to sound in Cassandra's voice, "Go back in time? Then..can you make it so none of this took even took place."
Etrigan didn't want to dash her hope but had to be realistic, "If Dorian is right and can actually reverse the spell. Then..yes."
Cassandra decided to tell him what happened so Etrigan could stop it, "The papers we found at the Templar stronghold, they are connected to this. Alexius's master...After you died, we could not stop the Elder One from rising. Empress Celine was murdered. The army the swept in afterwards...It was a horde of demons."
Etrigan hugged her again kissing the top of her head, "I'm so sorry I wasn't there Cassie."
She buried her head into his shoulder, "You're here now, brother."
Once they had a moment to pull themselves together, Dorian found a chest that held all of Cassandra's weapons and armor, after Etrigan helped her to strap on her gear he was in awe of how she stood taller even in her weakened state.
The trio started back out into the main corridor, going straight across to the last door.
Muttering down a darkened hall led them to another cell, Cassandra saw him first "There."
Etrigan nodded as the prisoner yelled "I hear you"
As Etrigan unlocked the cell Blackwall pushed himself up and against the rear wall "Andraste have mercy. You shouldn't be here. The dead should rest in peace." He had aged considerably like Cassandra but he looked rough, even for a Grey Warden
"Are you all right? You don't look so good." Etrigan asked opening the cell door.
"Am I dreaming this? The dead asking a dead man if he's all right?"
Dorian had already found the chest of Blackwall's things and handed them to the warrior glancing at Etrigan "You skipped over too much. Look at the poor man."
He spoke to Blackwall "Alexius's spell didn't kill us - it sent us forward in time. That's how we survived."
"Forward in time?" Blackwall put on his armor and left the cell "I don't understand."
Etrigan tried to explain the mission "If we can get to Alexius, we can go back to the moment we left and stop all of this from happening."
Blackwall almost looked like he believed it "Maybe I've just gone mad. If what you say is true...Then this... everything I've been through, everything about this nightmare, is a mistake?"
Etrigan hung his head, "I'm sorry my friend, I should have been here," He helped the Warden strap on his shield "But we'll set things right."
"Now I know I've gone mad. To set all this right...You can't imagine the things that happened after you died. The Inquisition was crushed. Anyone who refused to convert was killed. There's nothing left out there."
Etrigan spoke with more determination than he felt "I will fix this. Once we go back, none of that will happen."
There was still one more door to check, so he lead the group out "I hope you're right." Blackwall said as the went "If we make Alexius pay for his crimes, that's enough for me."
Through the last door and down the hall they heard humming, Etrigan ran and made quick work of the cell door
"Andraste's sacred knickers. You're alive?" Varric shot to his feet. "Where were you? How did you escape?"
"We didn't escape," Dorian said. "Alexius sent us into the future."
Varric looked at Etrigan "Everything that happens to you is weird."
He laughed as he nodded "You might be right about that."
"I'm always right." Varric grinned as Cassandra handed him his beloved crossbow "And when I'm not, I lie about it. So what are you doing here? Or did you come back just to trade quips with me?"
Etrigan gestured to Dorian who had been staying at the main door keeping watch, "We get to Alexius, and I just might be able to send us back to our own time. Simple, really."
Varric smiled "I'm pretty sure you're crazy. Or I'm crazy. Either way, it's a nice thought. You want to take on Alexius? I'm in. Let's go."
Etrigan found comfort that Varric seemed incapable of change, even when the world was inside out The more they explored, the more they found.
Fiona was in a cell a few levels higher, almost completely encased in red lyrium, saving her wasn't an option but getting information out of her could still be
"Fiona," Etrigan asks "What is the date? I need to know how much time has passed."
Dorian rushes the cell, "Yes, quickly its very important."
The mage takes a deep shuddering breath, "Harvestmere, Nine Forty-Two, Dragon."
Dorian pales, "Nine Forty-Two? Then we missed two entire years?"
Etrigan notices something that makes the whole thing worse, "Fiona, is the red lyrium growing out of your body?"
She nods weakly, "The longer you are exposed, you become this. Then they harvest your corpse for more"
Etrigan turns to Dorian, "We have to go back. We have to fix this."
Before Dorian can respond Fiona continues, "Please, stop this from happening. Alexius' master, The Elder One...More powerful than the Maker, no one challenges him and lives."
Etrigan cracks his neck, "Never fought a God before, at least if I die I'll get a ballad or two out of it."
Dorian chooses to ignore him "Our only hope is to find the amulet that Alexius used to send us here." Dorian tried to keep the fear from his voice "If it still exists, I can use it to reopen the rift at the exact spot we left. Maybe."
Breathing was becoming harder for Fiona, "Good" she nodded
"I said maybe." Dorian sighed. "It might also turn us into paste."
What the Grand Enchanter said next both froze Etrigan's heart and made his blood ignite in rage "You must try." Fiona said weakly. "Your spymaster, Leliana... she is here. Find her. Quickly... before the Elder one... learns you're here."
Etrigan had taken off running before she even finished speaking, the others trying desperately to catch up to him Another level higher and two twisted halls later Etrigan followed the sounds of voices
"How did Trevelyan know of the sacrifice at the temple? Answer."
"Never." Etrigan closed his eyes a moment to try and quell his rage his eyes snapping open and all focus lost when her heard her scream followed by her captor's taunting
"There's no use to this defiance, little bird. There's no one left for you to protect."
It made him love her more that she was still fighting even through her pain "You're wasting your breath."
"You will break."
"I will die first."
Cassandra did the honors of bashing in the door as Etrigan nocked an arrow letting it loose into the hand of the interrogator who spun to face him.
Leliana took advantage of the Venatori's distraction "Or you will."
Using her legs to grab him by the throat, after a struggle the unmistakable sound of his neck snapping echoed through the room, she looked into Etrigan's eye to make sure it was really him "You're alive."
He nodded as he released her from the shackles catching her as she fell to her feet "You're safe now."
"Forget 'safe'. If you came back from the dead, you need to do better than 'safe'.You need to end this." Leliana went to the chest that had her armor in it and Etrigan almost smiled at seeing she had been using his bow when she was captured, she eyed him again "Lets go. The Magister's probably in his chambers."
Dorian looked confused "You... aren't curious how we got here?"
Leliana didn't even look at him "No."
Dorian it seemed talked when he was nervous "Alexius sent us into the future. This. His victory, his Elder One - it was never meant to be."
Etrigan looked around the room and thought he saw a glimpse of Cullen's armor and the barest hint of Josephine's blue and gold coat, he closed his eyes briefly praying to whoever could hear him that it wasn't them Dorian started talking again "We have to reverse his spell," looking at Etrigan "If we can get back to our present time, we can prevent this future from ever happening."
"And mages always wonder why people fear them..." Leliana's voice was pure venom "No one should have this power."
Dorian tried to defend magic "It's dangerous and unpredictable. Before the Breach, nothing we did -"
"This is all pretend to you, some future you hope will never exist." Leliana cut in "I suffered. The whole world suffered. It was real." without another word she turned to head for the throne room.
As the group made their way through the castle Dorian kept trying to engage Leliana in conversation she kept shutting him down even calling him out on being afraid of silence, finally Cassandra threatened to kill him if he didn't shut up.
They came to what was once probably the formal dining hall and right into a rift, as they killed the demons, his mark flared, it felt different but he said nothing Etrigan almost felt like they could survive this and make things right as he fought with his family of misfits until Dorian broke the silence again
"This is madness." he said as he avoided red lyrium growing from the walls "Alexius can't have wanted this."
Stepping out into a courtyard he saw what the sky would look like if he failed though that did explain the strange feeling in the mark "Used to be, it was only dwarves who were afraid of the sky."
Varric quipped. "Now, it's just good sense."
Leliana took the lead walking through the castle she was familiar with it from her time here as a guest of Arl Eamon during the blight.
Dorian tried and failed several times before finally asking her "What became of Felix? Do you know?"
She didn't look back "Yes. I know."
He waited a moment before "And you're not going to tell me?"
She stopped for a moment cutting her eyes at the Tevinter before she kept going "You'll find out soon enough."
They found another rift and several glowing stones Dorian assumed they would need them to get to Alexius.
Etrigan gave his friends every potion he had on him and went scavenging for more while Dorian worked on the door, still after almost a dozen all he wanted to do was take Leliana and Cassandra and run as far as he could get them away from all this
"Got it." Dorian exclaimed as the seal to the throne room broke.
As soon as they walked in Etrigan gave Leliana the quivers he had scavenged and confronted the Magister "Look at what you've done, Alexius. All this suffering, and for what?" Alexius was at the fireplace staring into the flames his leaning with his arm on the mantle.
"For my country, for my son..." he looked to the blight infected creature chained to the floor a few feet away "But it means nothing now. I knew you would appear again. Not that it would be now. But I knew I hadn't destroyed you. My final failure."
"Was it worth it?" Dorian ask him "Everything you did to the world? To yourself?"
Alexius replied defeated "It doesn't matter now. All we can do is wait for the end."
Etrigan silently pulled his blades motioning to everyone else to take position, Leliana had disappeared into the shadows "What are you on about? What's ending?"
Alexius laughed though there was no humor to it "The irony that you should appear now, of all the possibilities. All that I fought for, all that I betrayed, and what have I wrought? Ruin and death. There is nothing else."
He turned to face the Herald "The Elder One comes: for me, for you, for us all."
Leliana came up behind the chained creature pulling it to its feet and her dagger to its throat "Felix," Alexius cried out
"That's Felix?" Dorian was horrified. "Maker's breath, Alexius, what have you done?"
"He would have died, Dorian." Alexius looked at Felix. "I saved him."
He begged Leliana. "Please, don't hurt my son. I'll do anything you ask."
Etrigan was stunned, he had to get back, he had to make this right "Hand over the amulet, and we let him go."
Alexius reached into his robes "Let him go, and I swear you'll get what you want."
Leliana tightened her grip "I want the world back," And she did the merciful thing cutting Felix's throat.
"No!" Alexius shouted, throwing Leliana across the room with a single energy blast.
Alexius it seemed decided to take the world with him if he was going down, tearing open the veil and summoning demons through rift while throwing a barrier around himself.
For every rift Etrigan closed Alexius had ripped open another.
After the sixth rift, Etrigan used the mark to disrupt the rift and Alexius' magic, Varric used the disruption to pin the Magister to a wall with a bolt from his crossbow the tide turned in their favor Alexius went to tear another rift open but Etrigan slid under Cassandra, just like their first fight together and knocked Alexius' feet from underneath him then immediately moved and his crossed his blades over the Magister's neck, before Etrigan could read what the broken man had planned, Alexius shifted his body to one side and lifted his head causing both of Etrigan's blade to pierce his throat, he heard Dorian cry out in anguish as his former mentor bled out and ran to his body
"He wanted to die, didn't he." Dorian, crying looked at what was left of Felix "All those lies he told himself, the justifications...He lost Felix long ago and didn't even notice. Oh, Alexius..."
Etrigan placed his hand between Dorian's shoulders "I know you cared for him."
Dorian gave a sad smile "Once he was a man to whom I compared all others. Sad, isn't it?" Dorian searched Alexius' remains until her found what he was looking for "This is the same amulet he used before. I think it's the same one we made in Minrathous. That's a relief."
He stepped away from the corpse. "Give me an hour to work out the spell he used, and I should be able to reopen the rift."
"An hour?" Leliana yelled "That's impossible. You must go now."
A loud Screech rattled the castle, Leliana gasped "The Elder One."
Varric looked to the door "There's a reason they won." he shared a look with Cassandra and Blackwall who nodded back "We'll go on ahead, take out as many as we can. Leliana, you're the last line of defense. Give them what you've got."
Cassandra hugged Etrigan before going off with Blackwall and Varric.
Etrigan stepped behind Leliana trying to reason with her "I cant let you kill yourself for me. There must be another way..."
Leliana turned to face him "Look at us. We're already dead. The only way we live is if this day never comes."
She looked to Dorian "Cast your spell"
She started to walk away but turned back to Etrigan, "My only regret is that we never got to finish what we started" he held on for dear life as she kissed him, leaning her forehead to his as he whispered "I love you" she gave him a bitter smile "You have as much time as I have arrows."
Then walked to the door nocking an arrow Dorian started the spell, the energy around the amulet causing it to hover above his hands. At the door Etrigan could hear his friends fighting, Leliana was reciting the Chant "Though darkness closes, I am shielded by flame."
The door burst open Etrigan felt sick as Varric's lifeless body was tossed just inside the door Leliana fired an arrow, and then quickly began firing more. "Andraste guide me. Maker, take me to your side."
Etrigan drew his blades, twitching to help as Blackwall was thrown into a wall dead and more Venatori started to come through he actually did scream out his pain when Cassandra followed soon after, Dorian grabbed his arm. "You move, and we all die."
He almost threw his enchanted blade but thought better of it in case it disrupted Dorian's spell work, but Maker it was killing him to watch helplessly as Leliana kept up a relentless volley until Venatori sent an arrow back, taking out her shoulder so she couldn't hold the bow properly anymore, Dorian had to grab him again as a warrior grabbed her and held her as a terror demon stepped forward, her eyes met Ety's briefly as the terror demon tore the spymaster open
Etrigan screaming "Leli, No" as the amulet surged Dorian pulling him back into the rift..
They were back in the throne room. Everyone was exactly where they had been when Alexius cast his spell Dorian grinned at him "You'll have to do better than that," Alexius dropped to his knees.
Etrigan had a blade to his throat in seconds, "That the best you have? Drop all claim to Redcliffe and you'll live, for now."
"You won." Alexius hung his head "There is no point in extending this charade." He looked to his son "Felix..."
The younger man kneeled by his father "It's going to be all right, Father."
Cassandra pried the short sword out of Etrigan's hands as Inquisition soldiers moved to take Alexius away.
Next to her, Dorian sighed "Well, I'm glad that's over with."
Behind them a loud crash and the sounds of marching armor "Or not."
After the procession of soldiers two people wearing gold trimmed armor walked in, the man looked sad when he saw Fiona, the woman however looked furious as she spoke "Grand Enchanter, we'd like to discuss your abuse of our hospitality."
Fiona hands clasped tightly in front of her looked terrified "Your majesties."
The Queen's temper only seemed to get worse as she continued "When we offered the mages sanctuary, we did not give them the right to drive our people from their homes."
Fiona stepped back when the King inched forward "King Alistair, Queen Anora, I assure you, we never intended..."
"In light of your actions, good intentions are no longer enough." the King took a step forward,
The Queen however was relentless "You and your followers have worn out your welcome. Leave Ferelden, or we'll be forced to make you leave."
"But..." Fiona looked heartbroken "We have hundreds who need protection. Where will we go?"
Etrigan stepped forward "You'll be leaving with the Inquisition"
The King looked relieved the Queen even more angry, "And what are the terms of this arrangement?' Fiona asked.
Dorian spoke "Hopefully better than what Alexius gave you. The Inquisition is better than that, yes?"
The agents of the Inquisition offered their opinions "No one fights well for their captors." came Blackwall
"I've known a lot of mages." Varric shrugged. "They can be loyal friends if you let them. Friends who make bad decisions, but still. Loyal."
Cassandra however "I suggest conscripting them, they've proven what they'll do given too much freedom."
Fiona answered with a resigned sigh. "It seems we have little choice but to accept whatever you offer."
Etrigan had known many good and devote mages in his travels, and Leliana had made some good points in her arguments "We would be honored to have you fight as allies at the Inquisition's side."
Cassandra was less than amused "We'll discuss this. Later"
Etrigan turned back to the Grand Enchanter as she spoke "A generous offer."
Fiona sounded cautiously optimistic "I'll pray that the rest of the Inquisition honors your promise, then"
Etrigan continued "The Breach threatens all of Thedas. We cannot afford to be divided now." he held out his hand "We can't fight it without you. Any chance of success requires your full support."
Fiona looked at his offered hand then glanced to the King "It's a generous offer." King Alistair told Fiona. "I doubt you're going to get a better one from us."
Fiona nodded "We accept." shaking Etrigan's hand "It would be madness not to. I will gather my people and ready them for the journey to Haven. The Breach will be closed. You will not regret giving us this chance." she quickly ran from the room to gather mages.
As Etrigan started to follow her the King stopped him, "My Lord Herald, a word if you will?"
Etrigan inclined his head to King Alistair, "Of course your Majesty"
The king led him upstairs to a study, "Leliana made this happen, I know that, so give her my thanks," he held up a hand as Etrigan was about to speak, "She writes to me still, you and I have some things in common, we're both motherless sons of ranked fathers and a brother whose shadow we cannot escape," again the King stilled him, "I know who you are Etrigan Trevelyan, I've a favor to ask, given what you saw downstairs, I'll be shocked if you don't hit me when ask..Fiona is...special to me, not in any untoward way mind you. Please keep her safe, Anora wouldn't understand, but then when she calms down maybe she would, just please..."
Etrigan bowed his head and cut the King's rambling short, "Your Majesty, I would kill to have my mother look at me again the way Fiona looks at you, but that dream is two decades dead, mine was murdered and here you are banishing yours. Worry not on her, I'll protect her, even from you if required. Now if you'll excuse me, there is a Seeker waiting to kick my ass because I refuse to take hundreds of people prisoner for being taken advantage of by delusional Magister"
Alistair nodded but asked, "If you'll give me but a moment, I just need to add a final few words to my reply to Leliana, I feel you to be more secure than any messenger"
Etrigan bowed his head again and waited while the King scribbled out his missive. Sealing it and handing it to Etrigan who tucked in in with his dagger, Giving one last shot to the King, Etrigan took his leave "I'll make sure Conner is safe as well"
He heard the King's sad sigh as he went back to the throne room to gather the others, jerking his head behind him towards the main doors, "Lets go home."
The trip back to Haven was quiet, which was exactly how Etrigan wanted it. He chose to travel with the mages to ensure none of the Inquisition soldiers got any bright ideas, and to avoid Cassandra, she had been trying to speak to him nearly every waking moment since they left Redcliffe village, he knew she had questioned Dorian for the official report but he really didn't want to talk about it, how does one discuss seeing your friends die?
Especially when two of them are increasingly important to the sanity of the one that had to watch them fall, if this is what Josie and Evie felt every time he strapped on a blade, he owed them both an apology.
Traveling with the mages took three extra days simply because there were so many of them and several of them were children, it gave Etrigan time to think, he couldn't sleep, every time he did he saw them, Cassandra's lifeless body being thrown across the room by the terror demon,
The look of realization on Leliana's face as her luck ran out and his screams as the same demon ripped her open, the few times he dozed off, Fiona was sitting next to him hand raised, she had cast a sound barrier which he was grateful for, the little they spoke on the journey, he hinted that he knew her secret, and when he saw the fear in her eyes at his knowledge he told her the truth, "Mine was stolen from me when I was 5, you protected him as best you could, I'd give anything to have for only a moment what he chooses to throw away. You have nothing to fear from me."
On the last day of their travels, Etrigan purposely fell back, he needed more time, the guards would think nothing of him not arriving with the mages, by now everyone in Haven was used to the Herald disappearing for days on end.
He looked up when he heard a flutter in the tree he was sitting in, "Good Morrow to you Your Lordship." Baron Plucky tipped his beak and cawed at him, "Bored are you?"
Etrigan pulled the letter from Alistair from his belt and offered it to the bird, "Will you take this to your mistress for me? I need a bit longer before I go back."
The raven turned and allowed Etrigan to attach the letter before taking flight coming around for Etrigan to thank him "I'm eternally grateful you Grace" with that the bird flew off to Haven and Etrigan went back to sitting in the tree staring out towards the village from his perch.
The council was getting worried, the mages had arrived the day before, without the Herald.
Hours after the mages, Baron Plucky came with a letter from Alistair, Leliana hadn't read it yet, she wanted to hear about this future Etrigan had seen, she was not surprised to hear that the other version of Cassandra called Etrigan 'brother' or the the other version of herself had kissed him, in her thoughts of late both of those things were natural, the Tevinter, Dorian, said Etrigan had whispered something to her but he hadn't heard it in all the commotion she listened as Cassandra raged about then supported his alliance with the mages, explicitly ignoring the knowing look Josephine was giving her,
Cullen was furious and she was sure the argument would start again as soon as Etrigan came back, right now she just wanted him to come back, but she knew he wouldn't until he was ready which is why here she sits in her tent reading the letter from Alistair again
Thank you for returning my family's castle to them. I met your man Trevelyan and I have to tell you..you're wrong. He is nothing like that bastard Cousland. He is a far better man. If you must compare him to a Warden, then he is more like me, a noble bastard stuck making the best of a job he hates. Keep in touch and sneak off to visit sometime. I miss my favorite adopted sister
All my love
As she was getting ready to reply to his letter the bells sounded that something was approaching the village, she stood and looked out towards the gates, as the rest of the council came to stand beside her they all breathed a little easier, Etrigan was back and he was looking right at her, and to her side.
She glanced to where he looked, Cassandra gave her a confused look, Leliana shrugged. People tried to speak to Etrigan but he just moved past them, he saw them, he saw her. He had to be sure they were real, that they were unharmed. He needed to be sure they were alive. He just kept moving until he was in front of the Chantry.
Everyone watching held their breath as Etrigan slowly looked up to the statue of Andraste on its roof, then he bowed his head, lips moving but know one heard what he said, then he turned, took three steps to stand directly in front of Leliana and Cassandra, looking them both in the eye before dropping to his knees grasping at them both until he had an arm around them both with his head buried between them.
They both looked at each other in shock until they felt his shoulders trembling, Cullen ordered everyone away while Josephine came to stand behind him her hands on his shoulders to comfort him and shield him from prying eyes when the crowd died down the three woman heard his muffled cries, "Thank the Maker. You're real, you're here, you're alive"
Cassandra placed an arm around his shoulders and Leliana rand a hand through his hair until his breathing became less erratic, then he released them both and while still on his knees he hugged Cassandra, forced him up to his feet and hugged him back just as fiercely, Josephine hugged him as well and kissed his cheek whispering "its alright brother, you're home now and we are all safe thanks to you."
Then she helped him sit in a nearby chair when his legs started to shake again.
Then there were two, he stayed sitting in the chair in Leliana's tent while she completed her tasks. When she was done she stood next to him tapping his shoulder until he stood, leading him away from the Chantry, they said nothing as they walked, she led him to his cabin, opening the door and lightly pushing him inside.
She knew they needed to talk and she knew how she felt but at the moment he was catatonic and looked like he had neither slept nor eaten in days, today would not be that day.
Guiding him to his bed she pushed gently until he sat down on it, the entire time he had yet to move his eye from her, she kneel slowly and removed his boots, then standing helped him out of his weapons and armor.
Finally she helped him remove his shirt.
She took her own armor off, leaving herself in only the soft linens she preferred under the chain mail and using her own leg she nudged his apart and stood between them, reaching for him she hugged him to her, leaning down to place a kiss on the top of his head and resting her cheek there soon after
"Dorian told us what happened" with her softly spoken words the damn broke within him and his arms encircled her in a near crushing embrace,
"The Grand Enchanter told us you were there, I stalked the whole of the dungeons until I found you, they were torturing you and you hated me. Maker, Cullen and Josie were dead and their bodies in a pile and then I had to watch you die you didn't hate me anymore but I couldn't save you...you were right fucking there and I couldn't save you"
Leliana let her own tears fall knowing that what he went through was straight from his darkest nightmares, slowly she shifted so that she was sitting on his bed and maneuvered herself so that she could lean against the headboard, coaxing his head into her lap she started humming, nothing particular just random melodies, running her hand through his hair and as far down his back as she could reach.
It took some time but gradually she felt his breathing start to even out and his body relax.
Josie came by with food for them both, leaving quickly to come back with another blanket, since it was obvious that he wasn't moving anytime soon, they traded off for a short while so that Leliana could go change and Josephine managed to get him changed as well while she was gone.
Cassandra came back with her holding a few books and the three kept their vigil, while he slept, taking turns as his pillow while the other two slept themselves or went to get more food.
Evelyn had informed Josephine that Ety called their little band of council and companions a family of misfits and that they gave him his strength...but there was only so much any one man could take so now the family would rally around their strongest member as he had a much needed break down and when he was ready, his family would build him back higher.
Until then they would all hold him up.
I did do a quick edit to this chapter(7/26). After completing a few later chapters I realized I need to edit this one a bit to fit my timeline.
Chapter 20: Chapter 18 The Sound of Silence
There is a 2day jump here, I'll go back to when Ety came back to Haven if the story takes me there but mostly that was me wanting people to remember that games leave things out, our PCs are actual people, at least digitally, and when we do these game parallel fics we often forget we have the liberty to let them feel things, so I went there. His glimpse of the dark future showed him his family destroyed the people he cared about dead because he wasn't there to fight with them, and he needs to deal with those emotions in order to be the hero he is destined to be. This chapter got its name because its mostly filler between main quests but its things I wanted to add and it has very little dialogue, I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could do a decent sized chapter that had very few spoken lines. I think I managed to pull that off here.
When Etrigan woke up the sight that greeted him would make the heart race in any normal man, leaning comfortably on a mass of cushions against his headboard was Leliana, who he had been using as a pillow it seems. Josephine was still asleep wither her head in his lap curled up at the foot of the bed and Cassandra appeared to have dozed off while keeping watch of the door. He owed them an explanation, that much was given, but first he needed to clear his head, slipping from the safety of his guards he dressed quietly and scribbled a note asking them not to leave if they woke before he got back.
Hunting had always been Etrigan's passion, the natural simplicity of it, man versus beast. Both fighting for survival, if the beast wins it lives another day man goes cold and hungry, if man wins then he is fed and clothed for a time. Man must always thank the beast for its sacrifice, that's what Etrigan's father and brother taught him, man cannot survive without beast, they kull the land so that vegetation may grow and serve as food if the hunt is good.
Etrigan has a new prey to hunt now as he stalks through the woods around Haven. This Elder One, he knows he isn't ready yet but he wants him, this is the creature that murdered Most Holy, Seline and hundreds more. Evidence would say this thing is also responsible for the breach, the echoes from the temple the Elder One called Most Holy 'the sacrifice' that means everyone else that died was just collateral.
As twig snapping catches his attention, large ram, forty yards away, and about twenty feet down from his perch in the trees, nocking an arrow he offers a silent apology to the animal, and lets his arrow fly hoping his shot is true. A muted thud and the beast falls, leaving his tree Etrigan goes to prepare the ram to cart it back to Haven, usually he would do a crude cleaning and bury the parts no one will use but Havard is a growing cat and what humans wont eat he will so the whole beast is going along, leaning over the ram with he checks to see if he made a kill shot, pierced the heart, instant death, "Thank you for your sacrifice, many will be fed and live another day."
He isn't really in any hurry, the Rangers hunt daily so this was just for him, he needed to think, to go over what he saw in the future
A loud Screech rattled the castle, Leliana gasped "The Elder One." Varric looked to the door "There's a reason they won." he shared a look with Cassandra and Blackwall who nodded back "We'll go on ahead, take out as many as we can. Leliana, you're the last line of defense. Give them what you've got."Cassandra Hugged Etrigan before going off with Blackwall and Varric. Etrigan stepped behind Leliana trying to reason with her "I cant let you kill yourself for me. There must be another way..."Leliana turned to face him "Look at us. We're already dead. The only way we live is if this day never comes." She looked to Dorian "Cast your spell" She started to walk away but turned back to Etrigan, "My only regret is that we never got to finish what we started" he held on for dear life as she kissed him, leaning her forehead to his as he whispered "I love you" she gave him a bitter smile "You have as much time as I have arrows." Then walked to the door nocking an arrow
Dorian started the spell, the energy around the amulet causing it to hover above his hands. At the door Etrigan could hear his friends fighting, Leliana was reciting the Chant "Though darkness closes, I am shielded by flame." The door burst open Etrigan felt sick as Varric's lifeless body was tossed just inside the door Leliana fired an arrow, and then quickly began firing more. "Andraste guide me. Maker, take me to your side." Etrigan drew his blades, twitching to help as Blackwall was thrown into a wall dead and more Venatori started to come through he actually did scream out his pain when Cassandra followed soon after, Dorian grabbed his arm. "You move, and we all die." He almost threw his enchanted blade but thought better of it in case it disrupted Dorian's spell work, but Maker it was killing him to watch helplessly as Leliana kept up a relentless volley until Venatori sent an arrow back, taking out her shoulder so she couldn't hold the bow properly anymore, Dorian had to grab him again as a warrior grabbed her and held her as a terror demon stepped forward, her eyes met his briefly as the terror demon tore the spymaster open Etrigan screaming "Leli, No" as the amulet surged Dorian pulling him back into the rift..
The entire way back from Redcliffe he had tried to convince himself that none of it was real, that it was all just a really bad dream, but he knew better. The part that troubled him was that it hadn't happened yet, but to him it had, it was real, Josephine died and he didn't get to say goodbye. Cassandra died before he could tell her how important she had become to him and that she made him want to be better, stronger than the things that hold him back. And Leliana, dear Maker Leliana, she was almost dead before he could tell her how he felt, and when she kissed him..They were his family, his sisters and his heart and in that future he had failed them. As he sat next to his kill and ordered his thoughts a calm came over him. He would work harder, train more, learn more. What he saw at the castle could not happen, he would tell them, his family, everyday if he had to that they mattered to him, they gave him strength, his reason to keep going. As a Ranger he trained mostly in defense, that would have to change, Cassandra could teach him that. From Cullen her would learn military tactics and how to combine Cassandra's offense with his defense to make him a force to be reckoned with. He'd have to do more blade work and lay off the bow, it was his crutch, distance saves nobility but close combat wins battles. He was ready, he didn't want to be the symbol of the Inquisition, but he was so he would own it. Lifting the ram up onto his shoulders and starting back to the village he spoke to the heavens as much for the Maker and His bride as for himself "I will be what you need. I AM the Herald of Andraste."
Josephine woke first, in a mild panic she woke the others. Cassandra found his note and left long enough to get them all something to eat and lots of tea. Leliana wondered how much he would share, if he shared anything at all. They didn't have to wait long, soon after Cassandra returned Etrigan walked in, face flushed from the cold and smiling brightly. "Good you're all still here, so how long was I out this time?"
Cassandra shook her head and laughed at him, "Only a day. It was near sundown when you returned, you slept all of yesterday" He nodded sighing deeply, "I suppose you're waiting for an explanation."
Leliana stopped him, "Only tell us what you feel you must. Dorian told us enough, but we understand your version may be different."
Etrigan smiled sadly and shook his head, "No his version was probably correct other than he doesn't really know any of you so it wouldn't hurt him like it did me. He only knows Felix and his father. I'll tell you but I ask that you forgive me if I must pause."
They all nodded and he related his tale from the moment Alexius opened the time rift, fining himself and Dorian in the dungeons. Finding the Cassandra Varric and Blackwall corrupted by red lyrium, and Fiona growing the lyrium from her body. His voice started to shake when he described finding Leliana in the torture chamber, the seething hate in her eyes causing him to look away which was when he found what remained of Cullen and Josephine.
"They wanted to know how I knew about the ritual at the Conclave, I swear I didn't" he told them.
He skipped nothing about seeing people he knew from Ostwick among the abominations and blood mages. He had to stop and breathe as he explained watching the Arl's nephew kill himself rather than be possessed again. Leliana felt tears fall then, she knew Conner as a boy, his possession wasn't his fault, he was a child that wanted to help his father while his mother we terrified the circle would steal her son. Etrigan went on with his story, in the throne room the defeated Alexius who had chosen to kill himself on Etrigan's blades rather than face his master.
Then the final battle, his friends saying goodbye to him, though he skipped his moment with Leliana, the two of them would discuss that privately. Varric and Blackwall being tossed aside like a child's toy already dead when the Venatori breached the throne room, his anguish at seeing Cassandra be killed by the terror demon, the arrow to Leliana's arm, still he smiled when he described their final stand "After the arrow hit her arm, that version of Leliana was still a force to be feared. Using the bow as a pole arm, then vaulting over a grunt as she bashed another. But the last one bested her and grabbed her round the neck, I made to go help but Dorian pulled me back saying if I left the sphere of the spell we'd all die, I even thought to throw one of my blades but choose not to because of the enchantments on the metal. I'd never been so helpless" he hung his head and Josephine leaned on his shoulder, he tilted slightly and kissed her head, he finished his tale with what everyone else knew, that they came back through a time rift and that the King spoke with him privately, though he didn't share what was said, as much as he disliked the man, that was still Leliana's friend.
Once his tale was done, Josephine and Cassandra both hugged him and said they'd see him later, leaving him alone with Leliana. He knew that they really needed to talk, so did she if he was reading her right, but he also knew he wanted nothing more than hide under his blankets and kiss her all day just to be sure she was there. Instead he just sat there as she sipped her tea.
Leliana wanted to talk to him, she wanted to ask what he whispered to her in the future he saw, she wanted to admit to him her attraction along with her fear and apologize for comparing him to another man, which wasn't fair to him. Instead she went for the safe option, "Alistair asked you to keep his mother safe, didn't he?"
The look of shock on Etrigan's face told her what she needed to know, "I was with him when he found out, Anora doesn't know. Their marriage was political at first but they have learned to love each other but when he learned the truth she would have used it to destroy him. Its the only secret he keeps from her. Officially his mother was a serving girl at Redcliffe Castle that died during childbirth, that truly happened but it wasn't King Maric's child, it was Teryn Loghain's."
She smirked at his raised brows, "I've been doing this work for many years. Your actions at the castle served a dual purpose, Alistair is now in your debt, Anora would have forced him to banish the mages and most likely execute Fiona for treason. You saved him from having to make that choice, he's a good man, Ety..." Etrigan nodded his understanding adding "He just has shit job, still though...what I wouldn't give to have my mother still around, even if she had to watch me from a distance to save me," he was thoughtful a moment before continuing, "Or maybe I got the better bargain after all, I was there when she died, I never had to question what I knew to be truth, there was no need, i was witness to it."
Silence hung in the air before Etrigan broke it with his truth, "I told you 'I love you' in the future, that's what Dorian saw me whisper, you told me that you're only regret was not finishing what we started then you kissed me goodbye and I told you my feelings right before you died.." He stood from the bed and started pacing, "I know I chose a horrid time to do this but, I didn't really chose did I?"
He turned to face her carefully weighing his words before kneeling in front of her, "The Conclave was a tragedy, I'll not argue that. But it brought me to you, and when the breach is over and done with, I'd like to start again, proper this time, though I confess I will not stop now, I'd been trying to gather the courage to do this for months." he takes her hand in his, "I meant what I said in Orlais, and in that blighted vision of the future. I wont push, but I wont give up either."
He stands and kisses her cheek, "Stay as long as you'd like, I've asked Cullen to help be become better at offensive fighting and must be off."
He leaves before she can reply, he has one stop to make before meeting with the Commander. Tova is waiting for him at the forge when Etrigan arrives, "Alright Boy, whats this about new armor?"
He hakes his head, "Not new, complete. Being an archer isn't enough for me anymore, I need to be better than my best. I'm going to start focusing on my blades, I'll need armor to match that endeavor."
The dwarven smith nods and pulls out her tape, "Bout time, arms out, I need to measure for adjustments."
She has him stay a bit in case she needs to measure again but he spends his time waiting writing to his father
Hope all is well at home and Mari is settling in nicely, I miss her and Evie terribly. Since embarking on this endeavor I have seen a great many things that I am simply to believe and go upon my way, I simply cannot go on like that anymore. In meeting with the Magister that had taken control of the mages in Redcliffe I learned a few things. Firstly, the Conclave was no accident, it was orchestrated by a being that both he and his followers refer to as 'The Elder One' I've yet to meet him but he fancies himself a God and I've bested him twice now. Father what I'm about to tell you may seem strange but I implore you, humor me for it now haunts my waking moments as well as my nightmares. The Magister used an amulet to focus a spell meant to expunge my very existence from time, instead it sent me forward two years and showed me what will happen if the Inquisition fails. If I fail. I will be haunted by what I saw there for some time. Secondly, I've set aside my fear to openly pursue Leliana, I've told her of my intentions and that I will not push her, but I wont back down either. Father, I watched her die in that dark future. I watched everyone now close to me die for our cause. I cannot fail. I will not fail. I will see this 'Elder One' fall for the pain he has wrought upon our family and upon Thedas as a whole, he and his followers will learn what happens when the Maker's faithful are tested. This I swear to you Father. I will not allow anyone to threaten the world that my niece will grow in. As the dwarven merchant I travel with would say 'Enough doom and gloom' I met the King and Queen of Ferelden, The King seems a decent fellow, wanted to give the Queen a foul look but I noticed she already had one about her. It only got worse when I offered the mages an alliance with the Inquisition, they were tricked Father, after Cassandra met with the Grand Enchanter in Orlais, we travel to Redcliffe at her request, only to be informed that the Magister had been there and in charge since two days after the Conclave. His own son sided with us in ending the madness in Redcliffe, but I remembered what you and Gabriel taught me, magic is no more dangerous than a blade if handled properly. The Templars had gone mad at Therinfal, the few that were uncorrupted are here with us, and the mages just want people to understand that not all of them were responsible for Kirkwall, the ones that came with us came willingly, I informed their leaders that while they are our allies, they are only free until they are not, if they become a danger to themselves or others Commander Cullen will take action. They readily agreed to my terms, mostly I think because here they wont be hunted while trying to have a meal, rogue templars didn't care who they killed and looted from neither did the apostates. I hope history judges me kindly Father.
Your loving son
After sealing his letter, Tova informed him she was done. Finding a courier took a little doing but soon his letter was off and he was on his way to meet with Cullen for training.
Cullen extended his hand which Etrigan shook. "Glad to see you've returned to your sense, but I understand, what you saw...I can almost sympathize, I've had my mind attacked by magic, its nothing like what you saw, but.." the Commander scratched his head, "What I mean to say is I understand you needed some time to gather your wits and remember whats real in the here and now."
Etrigan laughed, "Thank you, Cullen. I've had my quiet to gather my thoughts and written my father to banish my dark thoughts and now I come to you ready to better my skills in offense, I may not have wanted to be the Herald but it doesn't change the fact that I am so I must be the very best I can, if I am to be their beacon I must also be their example."
Cullen grinned and nodded tossing a pair of wooden practice swords at him, "Alright then, you wield dual blades, that gives you both an offense and an aggressive defense, lets begin"
Cullen pulled his shield and a wooden long sword as they stepped into the sparing ring. A crowd gathering as the men traded test blows, Cullen only correcting Etrigan's stance once "Your brothers taught you well but I see where they ended. Did your father not approve of your training?"
Etrigan dodged a shield bash, "No, my eldest brother bettered my skill with a bow. My younger brother taught me to defend myself with a sword during my time as a squire for the templars, his whole unit pitched in really, hard to nail down a fighting style when being taught so many at once."
The two spared a while longer until Cullen ended their match, "I've seen enough, we'll meet every morning if you wish before drills, and when you travel if Cassandra is with you she can help you , as well."
And so it went for several weeks, Etrigan trained with Cullen every morning and with Cassandra while they traveled to seal the rifts that Leliana's scouts reported. More and more of the Rangers were also training with the Inquisition forces as there were less fallen to escort and they still wanted to be useful. A few had actually gone off to Therinfal Redoubt with the Bull's Chargers after his Lieutenant Krem had heard rumors the Templars that didn't join were still there. Krem caught up with Etrigan after one of his training sessions, he and Leliana had talked, if Bull betrayed them then they would try to protect the Chargers as best they could.
"Nice work at Redcliffe. I could help the mages learn to work with Inquisition soldiers, if you like." He shrugged "Not that the chief has any apostates in the group."
"Of course not" Etrigan smirked nodding, "I take it you have an idea?"
"Some templars have holed up in Therinfal Redoubt. No idea what's happening inside." He gestured towards the rest of the Chargers "I could have some of the boys poke around. If nothing else, we'd get a better look at the land."
Etrigan genuinely nodded, "Good idea, take some of the Rangers along as well a little scavenging never hurt. I'll let the council know."
For his final test, Cullen arranged a surprise for Etrigan, facing him in the sparing ring were a dozen Inquisition soldiers and just when he thought he was done, he had to face Leliana, though she prefers a bow she had used dual blades during the blight.
Etrigan saw the look in her eyes and didn't hold back, nor did she.
In the end he took his ass kicking with a smile and a list of things to work on. Using moves that the Spymaster had used on him, he broke four training dummies.
Tova finished his new armor and he had the perfect chance to test it out when a letter from the crossroads arrived, now that the Inquisition has dealt with the apostates and the rogue templars, bandits and mercenaries have moved in to terrorize the already battle weary civilians.
Etrigan grinned, he was just itching for a way to test his new skills. Armed with his lighter full rogue armor and his blades he Blackwall Varric and Cassandra had gone to deal with the problem. They also stopped by Master Dennet's farm to gather the promised weapons for the refugees now that the watchtowers were completed. On their way out of the Hinterlands Etrigan found a small hand carved Andraste figurine, he ended up bartering for it, the merchant's wife was in need of a few dozen furs for blankets and coats for their family, and Etrigan just happened to have a cart full, as well as several pounds of meats, his final deal was the figurine a chess set and lovely hand crafted lute in exchange for the cart of furs and half the meat they carried.
Etrigan then told the merchant and his wife that the Inquisition often traveled through the area and willing to trade, "We cant solve every issue as much as we'd like to but we do what we can, besides we need supplies too" He shook hands with the man and headed back to Haven again.
The morning after every trip out Leliana had been finding little things waiting for her in her tent, she knew who left them, she had to admit, it was sweet. He was true to his word, he never pushed but he hadn't stopped either, everyday he was in the village there was at least a flower waiting for her, so far her favorite had been the dagger made from drake stone he had found near a rift and had Tova craft into a wonderfully beautiful piece with a dragon bone handle, the balance on it was perfect really Tova accidentally gave it away when she came to measure her hand but still seeing the finished work was breathtaking.
He out did himself this morning however, sitting in her chair was flowers a lute and a small figurine of Andraste, along with a note, that part was new, though she laughed when she saw he had written it in field code as though he were just sending in another report
Herald found these on the road and thought you might like them. He caught you singing, said it was the best thing he had ever heard. Never any music finer he said. As for the flowers those he got sappy, 'nowhere near as comparable to her beauty but they'll have to do'. The figurine well that one I cant explain beyond 'the Herald is a Marcher' what do you expect? In his defense though, he's a man and you have him as nervous as a boy holding a sword for the first time
She knew he was around somewhere, watching, he seemed to enjoy watching her blush at his gifts. At least Josie said he did, he had been caught watching her find his offerings by nearly the entire council.
At their weekly working meals, she was a little upset he stopped trying to sit next to her until Tova mentioned he had told his almost adoptive mother that he couldn't think properly when she was that close to him and he couldn't touch her.
Under her table was a small lock box, she pulled it out and opened in adding the figurine to the collection of things Etrigan had gifted her, he had already won, she was going to say yes, but they had both been so busy lately with preparing for the breach, that mages were almost ready, then she would tell him, until then she would let him play his games.
It frightened her agents to see her smiling and blushing one moment then brutal and calculated the next.
Sparing Butler had proven useful, his new alliance had hatched a plot to assassinate the King of Ferelden, she let Alistair have him after that.
A flash of green and high pitched laughter caught her attention so she turned. Etrigan's good mood seemed to rub off on everyone, right now he was in the Chantry yard playing with the children that came from the village with the mages, most of them were non magical just abandoned when the circles fell and the mages took them in, when he was in Haven he tried to make time for them as well.
Blackwall had taken to carving toys and Varric told stories around his campfire.
Etrigan had even enlisted a few of them for help in delivering his gifts to Leliana, when he was late and needed a distraction, so he could get them to her tent before she got there.
Even now his senses told him she was watching him, so he chose to lose valiantly to the onslaught he was at war with, several of the kids tackling him into the snow, he was going to retaliate, when a courier interrupted, "Lord Trevelyan?"
Etrigan held up his hand, "I am known by that name, among others."
The courier handed him a crate "Delivery from the Trevelyan estate in Ostwick, Bann Victor said 'your hands only' my Lord"
Etrigan nodded and apologized to the children for having to cut their game short promising to play again as soon as he could, taking his package he headed to his cabin.
Using a dagger to pry open the crate he saw it was actually several deliveries, letters from all of his siblings and a reply from father, a couple new journals and a small travel art kit from Evie, new care items for his weapons and armor from Max.
The most useful to him was a journal from Gabe, full of notes on his dealing with mages and how to spot symptoms of possession by demons and an amulet that templars were given to help them ward off possession themselves.
Father sent him more history books with notes lining nearly every page.
Marissa even sent him a letter telling him how much she missed him and Havard but thanking him for her new family and how happy she was in her new home.
The letters from his siblings made him roll his eyes, all three of him giving advice that he didn't ask for.
It was the letter from Father that had him sitting down,
I believe you, no one could survive what you have and not be changed for it. That being said my son, you must remember that the future you saw is not what WILL be, only what COULD be, and you have already set yourself on a path to prevent it, I have heard of this Commander Cullen, you'll learn much from him. I'm proud of how you are handling what you saw, I can see in your words you plan to take this vision and use it to bolster your resolve. Were I a younger man my blade would be there beside yours. King Alistair is a decent fellow. Former Grey Warden, had been trained as a Templar as well. Queen Anora is the daughter of a traitor. Loghain Mac Tir, the reason Alistair's brother was killed in the blight, the damned Hero of Ferelden conscripted the traitor to the Wardens. As for you dealings with Leliana, I approve, Evie says she is a fine woman and will keep you guessing. Evie also mentioned she likes your new friends. I know you're a grown man of your own making Boy but I am still your father and I still worry for you, so it does an old man's heart well to know his youngest has friends that care enough to fight by him and for him. I read those books you found in Redcliffe village and your notes, I found a few that either support or deny your theories and have included them. The Ostwick Chantry was attempting to raise money for the Inquisition and sold books from the circle tower, I had the relations buy them up. they will be delivered once the breach is dealt with or I fear you may get distracted in your reading. In this crate is a special gift, from father to son. It was made the year you were born, when you see it you will know it and why I had it made, your siblings know not of its existence, and since its purpose was never fulfilled I gift it to you. Lastly my son, I thank you for stay with the Inquisition to find answers for my sister's murder, I have notified our relations of your findings and more donations to the cause have been sent to Josie with a formal letter from the whole of House Trevelyan. You do us a great service in your work there, Etrigan. The letter I recieved from your mother the night you were brought to me said she felt in her heart that you were destined to do great things. I have never agreed more with her words than I do now, and I have always agreed with her when it comes to you.
Your loving Father
Mother, Etrigan's thoughts had been going there as of late. Then again, she was always at the back of his mind, shaking himself from his melancholy he went digging through the crate until he found a small leather pouch, when opened he could tell it was lined with velvet, his heart stopped when he emptied the pouch into his hand.
Had his mother not fled, he wouldn't have been a bastard, Father genuinely loved her, possibly still does. Smiling to himself Etrigan puts the set back into the pouch and tucks it into his belt.
He'll carry it as a reminder to watch for the right moment.
Now though he wants to be a bit of a prat, time to go annoy Josie!
Slipping through the village sticking to the shadows, he's learning, but he knows if he doesn't let her know he's there, she'll likely kill him.
Feeling a small rock hit her foot, Leliana looks up to find Etrigan grinning at her, at her raised eyebrow, he darts forward kissing her quickly then with a wink he's gone again, but not before she sees him grab a handful of snow from the ground and head into the Chantry.
She closes her eyes and waits for the scream, and opens them to see Etrigan running while laughing like a mad man as Josie chases him swearing in Antivan.
She doesn't see any snow on Josie's face or hair, so she does wonder where until she sees the younger woman shaking out the back of her skirts she turns away, tears stinging her eyes as she fights her own laughter "Oh poor Josie"
Ever since their play war when Etrigan's sister was in Haven he had been attacking Josephine with snow for helping his sister stuff his breeches, so far he had climbed to the roof of the Chantry and dumped a bucket of snow on her, given his pet Havard a bath and turned him lose in Josie's office where the beast promptly shook himself dry soaking Josie in the process.
For betraying him and Cullen, Cassandra had been pranked as well, Etrigan had had a copy of her sword made and the hilt cut off just enough that it wouldnt fall from the scabbard and switched it on the Seeker.
The look on her face when she drew..well nothing really..was priceless, at his laughing Cassandra looked up and Etrigan waved her real sword at her before taking off.
He did have to stay hidden for a while after that one, at least until Cassandra calmed down then even she thought it was funny.
A few minutes after Josie goes back in to the Chantry, Leliana peers over her table to the ledge where tents are set up below, "She's gone back inside now, Ety"
His head slowly peeks up complete with his signature impish grin before hauling himself up and quickly making himself comfortable leaning back in the chair she leaves for him with his feet up on a crate.
"I'll probably leave her alone now, at least for a little while"
He tells her as she walks over to him, "Probably a wise decision" she nods as she runs a gloved hand through his hair.
He grabs her other hand and pulls her to him long enough to steal another kiss. They still haven't really talked about whatever this is between them he declared his intentions and left, but he doesn't care, his playful antics make her smile and laugh, for now that's enough.
The smile falls from his face as he sees the seriousness in hers, standing he turns to see what has taken her attention, a little stunned to see her there "Grand Enchanter? Is everything alright?"
Fiona nods but the seriousness remains, "The mages are ready, we await only your command"
Etrigan and Leliana share a look, its time, with a deep sigh Etrigan thanks Fiona and turns to Leliana, "I'll go tell Cassandra and Cullen"
She nods heading in to tell Josephine. Minutes after arriving at the training yard a messenger comes to tell Etrigan Cassandra and Cullen they will meet at daybreak at plan the assault on the breach.
Etrigan goes to grab his gear and head for the Chantry, its going to be a restless night and he wants his pre battle rituals complete beforehand.
Chapter 21: Chapter 19 Back To The Breach
In this part of the game is actually one quest but I'm breaking it up into 2 chapters because I want to have the chance to play with it a bit more really, that and the back half of this quest while I'll be true to the game I will be playing fast and loose with the houses money so to speak
Etrigan ran to tell Cassandra and Cullen that the mages were ready, telling them he'd meet them at the Chantry. He then ran to his cabin to gear up, the sooner this was dealt with the better. He did have evening meal by moonlight plans to prepare after all.
After getting into his armor and making sure his blades were ready, Etrigan headed to the Chantry to meet with the council. Walking in he really shouldn’t be surprised at what greeted him, the others were arguing...again. The tension was positively oozing from Cullen throughout his tirade, "It’s not a matter for debate," the Commander was pacing between Cassandra and Josephine, "there will be abominations among the mage and we must be prepared"
Josephine tried her best to diffuse the livid Commander, "If we rescind the offer of an alliance it makes the Inquisition look incompetent at best, tyrannical at worst"
Cullen noticed Etrigan had come up behind Josephine to stand next to Leliana in front of him. "And you. What were you thinking? Turning the mages lose with no oversight?" He points in the general direction of the breach, "The veil is torn open."
Etrigan was ready for him, "I was thinking there is a giant fucking hole in the sky and the mages aren’t the ones who tried to kill me. No, that pleasure belonged to a supremacist Magister and fanatical templars." Etrigan hung his head eyes closed, fighting with Cullen would solve nothing. Taking a deep breath, he offered a solution, "Let them have their freedom. If they prove they can’t handle it, impose restrictions. It’s not as though they have anyone fighting us for the chance to play host."
That only seemed to make Cullen dig in further, "And how many lives will be lost if they fail?" With the veil broken the treat of possession..." the Commander's thought trailed off as he remembered Cassandra and spun on her, "You were there Seeker! Why didn’t you stop him?"
Cassandra remained calm, "While I may not completely agree with the decision, I support it." she inclined her head to Etrigan who offered a grateful nod of his own, "The sole point of the Herald's mission was to gain the mages aide and that was accomplished."
Dorian walked out form the shadows behind Cassandra, "The voice of pragmatism speaks." He leaned on a wooden column. "And here I was just starting to enjoy the circular arguments."
Cassandra rolled her eyes, "Closing the Breach is all that matters."
Etrigan was about to give up one of his bigger secrets, hopefully no one would mention this to his father, "Closing the breach will require a lot of magic and that means lyrium. I have contacts who can help."
Leliana raised a brow, "Contacts meaning smugglers?" at his nod she continued, "Send them word. We need ever advantage."
Cullen was almost grinding his teeth, "We have legitimate lyrium supply lines."
Leliana glanced at him, "And they need not hear of this." Josephine agreed, "Keep it under the table and I'll do what I can to quiet the rumors." Both women were giving Etrigan a look that screamed he would be explaining himself later, he at least had the decency to look properly chastised.
"We should look into the things you saw in this 'dark future'." Leliana thought about what Dorian and Etrigan had told her, "The assassination of Empress Celene? A demon army?"
"Sounds like something a Tevinter cult might do." Dorian offered. "Orlais falls, the Imperium rises. Chaos for everyone."
"One battle at a time." Cullen started to pace again. "It's going to take time to organize our troops and the mage recruits. Let's take this to the war room." He gripped his sword smiling at Etrigan. "Join us won’t you. None of this means anything without your mark, after all."
Etrigan sighed dramatically, "And here I was hoped to sit out the assault on the breach. Take a nap, maybe go for a walk."
Cullen's smile only grew "What’s that they say? No rest for the wicked"
Josephine started towards the war room "Meet us there when you're ready." Etrigan nodded at her as she walked away.
"I'll skip the war council, but I would like to see this Breach up close, if you don't mind." Dorian said as he stood.
"Then you're..." Etrigan looked a bit shocked "Staying?"
Dorian laughed "Oh, didn't I mention? The South is so charming and rustic. I adore it to little pieces."
Etrigan smirked "There's no one I'd rather be stranded in time with, future or present."
"Excellent choice." Dorian clapped his hands together "But let's not get 'stranded' again anytime soon, yes?"
Cullen realized he had been out voted on the matter, "I'll begin preparations to march on the summit. Maker willing, we have enough to grant us victory."
Etrigan nodded and started to leave, he needed to get to the village gates, he had a woman to see about some lyrium. Etrigan knew she'd follow him sooner or later so he went to Leliana's tent to wait, he wasn’t disappointed, "My contacts are already here in Haven. Once I tell them what we need it won’t be long" He turned to her, his head hung low, "Its a 'Shadow Drake' thing" expecting her to be angry at him he was shocked at her smiling at him when he looked up at her.
Leliana stepped into Etrigan's personal space, "I know" kissing him softly she added, "Tova likes to talk. You got the name from Maxwell, once he knew you two would be alright on your own, he gave you and Faren both the title and all his contacts, you in turn used the name to serve the Chantry as a way to pay penance for what occasionally had to be done." She kissed him again "I knew about the information gathering, not the smuggling."
Etrigan shrugged, leaning his head on her shoulder, Leliana running her hand through his hair, "That’s Faren's side, he wouldn’t let me near it even though I knew of it, always telling me 'bastard or not, the Lordling needs to keep his hands clean, especially with a templar for a brother.' I guess it was his way of protecting me."
Leliana ran her had through his hair once more, "Go do what you must, I'll see you in the war room." He hugged her quickly before stealing a final kiss and running off leaving her to head back into the Chantry trying to figure a way to help him keep this secret.
Etrigan found Tova and Stitch in the old alchemist's shack outside the village, after finding the notes the apothecary had been searching for, the Rangers had taken over the shack as their base and as the hub for all things Shadow Drake, as far as the men were concerned Tova was still the boss, only the Captains knew the truth. When Etrigan spoke his voice was deeper, stronger, the spy title was just another form of armor for him "We have a thing, the mages are ready to attack the breach, that means lyrium, as much as we can get as soon as we can get it" Two of the captains, Bones and Ghost, smiled at each other before Bones spoke up, "Already covered, Hunter. That job you sent us on with the Qunari's misfits, damned templars had the red stuff everywhere but we found a few dozen caches of pure and uncorrupted as well. We snagged it all while the Chargers were busy playing tag with the templars." Etrigan smiled "Excellent, take it to Lady Leliana...quietly" turning to Tova he adds, "Just in case, we need to be ready with more." At her nod he left and headed back to the Chantry.
Josephine was finishing up with a dwarven woman when Etrigan approached the dwarf nodded when she saw him the turned back to Josephine. "I'll take my leave. Good day."
"Who was she, Ambassador?" Etrigan decided to play stupid, she was one of Tova's nieces.
"A merchant. I thought we should reach out to the dwarves to secure lyrium for the Inquisition's mages. According to Lady Korpin, it's raised the ire of the Chantry."
"Of course it has, I forgot to ask their permission first."
"Access to lyrium makes us rather more formidable than they anticipated. We are becoming a challenge." Josephine gave him a look meaning she was irritated "Sadly, the remaining grand clerics appear to be consolidating the Chantry's power instead of comforting the masses."
Etrigan rolled his eyes "The Chantry should be a place of hope, not another group scrambling for answers."
"That must be its strength again." Josephine opened her office, motioning for Etrigan to enter. "The Chant did much to bridge nations. Little but the Chantry ties Orlais, Nevarra, Ferelden, Antiva, and even Rivain to a common cause."
"How long has it been since the Chantry truly promoted such peace?" Etrigan sat on desk
"Andraste's chant is familiar across kingdoms, a source of many shared customs." Josephine leveled her gave at him "That is the crucial point. Common ground is the start of all negotiations."
"I suppose a shared faith can be useful when talking with strangers."
"Precisely. And these similar interests are merely where we begin. We must learn to think beyond our own wants to secure peace in Thedas."
For a second he almost believed her "Planning to steer the history of the world, Ambassador Montilyet?"
"I believe the Inquisition is already charting that course. Which brings me to a question, if you have a moment." She showed him a piece of parchment, "The remaining grand clerics sent a missive inquiring about events at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. They demand to know whether the Inquisition officially claims that Andraste saved you from the Breach. If it were up to you, how would you reply?"
"Will my answer change your reply to the Chantry?" He asked her as he read the letter from the college of clerics.
"If Leliana, Cassandra, Cullen, and I could agree on our official stance, I could answer that." Josephine sighed "We should decide soon. The revered mothers don't seem to know what to make of you."
"My faith has been tested so much the last few months." Etrigan shrugged. "I don't know if a miracle from Andraste saved me any more than they do."
"Yet, as rumors you're Andraste's Herald grow, the grand clerics may not believe such a humble reply. A difficult situation, and I thank you for your answer."
Etrigan nodded giving her a quick kiss on the cheek before leaving her office. He decided he needs a walk to clear his head before going to the council for the final details, as he was walking through the village he found Cassandra being yelled at by a senior enchanter. "And what are we supposed to do, exactly?"
Cassandra didn’t even look at the man. "What you always do: complain."
"We've already spoken with Commander Cullen. No one listens." He kept going as though she hadn’t spoken at all "We want better quarters. We want the templars kept at a distance, and some respect for -"
"This is not the Circle. You mages are our allies, not our wards. Act like it."
"How are we supposed to-"
"Deal. With. It." He stared at Cassandra then huffed and stalked off at her reply. When she saw Etrigan she shook her head and sighed "It never ends, evidently."
"Is there an issue?"
"The mages are here as equals. They need to get used to what that means." Cassandra started walking towards the Chantry. "It is your doing, after all. You created this alliance."
"I'm sorry, I really wasn’t trying to make things worse"
Cassandra stopped walking “Oh. I do sound like I'm blaming you, don't I?" She placed a hand on his arm "I don't disapprove. In fact, you did well. You made a decision when it needed to be made. And here we are. I wish I could say this was my doing."
"We wouldn't be here at all if you hadn't stood up against the Chantry."
"You're being kind."
"You're discounting your role in this."
"Let's close the Breach." Cassandra looked completely flustered. "Then we can say how successful I was."
Fiona was waiting for them at the Chantry with a list of volunteers for the journey to the Temple, Cullen had gathered the few templars they had to keep watch while spells were being cast. It was time.
When they got to the temple Cullen had the templars form a perimeter around the ruins ready to suppress any excess magic.
Fiona led the mages into the lower levels using the pattern Solas had designed for optimal flow to the mark on Etrigan's hand.
Once everyone was in their place Cassandra called everyone to attention "Mages!" she gestured to Solas who stepped up.
"Focus past the Herald." He used his staff to create a focal point for the mages just under the breach. "Let his will draw from you." he turned to Etrigan and nodded.
The mages dug their staves into the ground kneeling, muttering their spells, focusing all their energies on the point Solas created.
Etrigan stepped into their sphere of light shielding his eyes from its intensity as he lifted his marked hand as high as he could under the breach. Closing his eyes and centering his breathing he willed himself to accept the power coming to him from the mages and allow it to leave him through the mark.
All while focusing his mind, trying desperately to visualize the breach closing as though it were a simple rift, gritting his teeth with a grunt of pain he pulled his left arm down slightly, hand balled into a fist, then shot it back up hand open wide.
He couldn’t contain the scream as the power surged in him and he fell to his knees. The final surge of power throwing Etrigan Cassandra Solas and the first wall of mages back and off their feet.
In Haven Leliana and Josephine watched from the gates as the flow of light grew brighter starting from the temple ruins then racing towards the breach, they along with the villagers and Inquisition forces left behind had to turn away when a world shaking boom echoed through the valley and the light became blinding, the women held each other up both whispering the same prayer 'please bring them back' then nothing. The blast of power sent a wave through Haven. Soldiers raced to reignite torches and fires before people could begin to freeze.
Back at the temple the mages ended their spells, the sphere of magic dying down. Etrigan focused on his breathing, allowing his senses to expand around him, oiled leather and incense, Cassandra.
He tried to stand on his own but fell back down, Cassandra once she picked herself up, was at his side instantly hauling him up by the back of his armor, "Are you alright?"
He leaned into her heavily and nodded.
"You did it," she told him as she wrapped an arm around him to help him walk.
The Inquisitions forces letting out a cheer as they turned.
Fiona quickly coming up along his other side, catching him as he stumbled and gently sending a soft burst of healing magic into him. The two half-dragged Etrigan out of the temple, having to stop several times.
Fiona explained that she had to be careful how much magic she used on him, even healing magic could do more harm than good right now, if it was too much power. Cullen had sent a wagon which Etrigan was grateful for.
Cassandra climbed up pulling him in after.
Once Fiona was in they set off for Haven once more.
He actually voiced his thought before closing his eyes, "At least I didn’t pass out this time" Cassandra pulled him closer so he could lean into her.
The sound of her laughter the last he heard before falling asleep.
Chapter 22: Chapter 20 In Your Heart Shall Burn
Act 1 of the game is almost done!! Seriously there is like 2 more chapters maybe 3 before Act 2 starts, I'll have to look into that.
Waking up in Haven is always a bit of an adventure for Etrigan, there are so many variables, will it be a prison cell? The cabin? Who will be there when he wakes up? How long has he been out? Does he have pants on? All very important questions, but not this time, his mind comes around before his eyes open, his senses reach, something cool on his arms and across his chest. The scent of rose oil, "There has got to be a less painful way to have you undress me Spymaster"
Leliana just smiles at him as he cracks an eye to look at her, "That would be less stressful for us both, no?" He smiles back as he tugs her hand causing her to tumble into him, spinning her slightly he wraps his arms around her and buries his face into her hair breathing deeply. She giggles at his antics, "This will not help you to recover."
"Oh but you're wrong, "He says pulling her closer, "I feel better all ready" Placing a kiss to her temple. She lets him have his moment, lacing her fingers with his but sadly all good things must end. "When you are ready the others want to see you, and the villagers have begun celebrating" He chuckles from behind her sending a shiver down her spine, "Well then, I'm good right here." She bats his hand away and gets up. Walking over to the chest he keeps his things in she opens it and picks up a shirt, inspecting it a moment before throwing it at him.
"No, you must go, Josie is beside herself." She laughs as he grumbles but puts the shirt on, grabbing his coat as they head for the door. She kisses him near breathless before telling him she has to check on a few of her agents and will see him later, with a grin he heads for the Chantry getting stopped every few paces and cheered on by villagers and soldiers alike
Sometime later, Etrigan is standing on the small ledge behind Leliana's work tent, one foot propped up a crate from the quartermaster's space leaning on his knee, watching the festivities. Even Cullen seems to have relaxed a bit. "Solas confirms the heavens are scarred by calm." Cassandra walked up behind him, "The Breach is sealed. We've reports of lingering rifts, and many questions remain, but this was a victory." She stood next to him nudging his shoulder a bit, "Word of your heroism has spread."
"You know how many were involved." Etrigan shook his head "Luck put me at the center."
Cassandra smirked at him "A strange kind of luck. I'm not sure if we need more or less." Joining him in watching the village, "But you're right. This was a victory of alliance. One of the few in recent memory." She faced him again "With the Breach closed, that alliance will need new focus."
Cassandra noticed his focus seemed to be beyond the village. Etrigan appeared to be staring into the mountains, as she was about to ask him what he was looking at she heard the village bells and Cullen shouting "Force approaching. To arms."
"What the...?" Cassandra grabbed Etrigan's arm "We must get to the gates." At his nod they both jumped off the small ledge and ran through the village.
"Cullen?" Cassandra called as they got to the gates joining Leliana and Josephine
"One watch guard reporting." He pointed roughly to where Etrigan had been staring moments ago. "It's a massive force, the bulk over the mountain."
"Under what banner?" Josephine asked.
Cullen shook his head grimly "None."
Josephine's eyes widen in shock "None?" she asks in disbelief. Etrigan moves to the gates, reaching out with is senses, for anything that will help them when something hit the door, a voice in his head, "I can't come in unless you open," the boy from the Templar stronghold?
Etrigan moved to open the door. A juggernaut in Venatori armor was coming towards him. The armored assailant got only a few steps before the sound of metal piercing metal rang out. falling forward the armor revealed a young man in a broad-brimmed hat a dagger in each hand. The young man quickly put away his blades "I'm Cole. I came to warn you. To help." he stepped forward, Cullen moving to block him until Etrigan help up a hand to stop the Commander. The boy continued "People are coming to hurt you. You probably already know."
"What is this? What's going on?" Etrigan asked, "Who's coming?"
"The templars come to kill you," Cole said standing slightly away from Cullen before going on "They are not alone, the Venatori come as well.
"Templars?" Cullen looked at Cole the asked Etrigan. "Is this the Order's response to our talks with the mages? Attacking blindly?"
Cole was now almost hiding behind Etrigan "The red templars went to the Elder One. So did the mages that joined the Venatori. You know him? He knows you. You took his mages." Cole pointed up at the mountains exactly where Etrigan had thought he saw movement "There."
At the top of the hill stood two figures, one a human man holding a glowing red sword, the other a creature that looked like something out of the tales Max used to tell him to scare him as a boy and almost twice as tall as the man next to it “I know that man..." Cullen said. "But this Elder One..."
"He's very angry that you took his mages," Cole told him
"Cullen." Etrigan didn’t like these odds "Give me a plan. Anything."
"Haven is no fortress. If we are to withstand this monster, we must control the battle. Get out there and hit that force. Use everything you can." He gestured towards the trebuchets. He turned back everyone gathered gate, giving orders. "Mages. You-" He drew his sword "You have sanction to engage them. That is Samson. He will not make it easy." The soldiers begin scramble into their positions as Cullen continued. "Inquisition. With the Herald. For your lives. For all of us."
Etrigan ordered the Inquisition forces to fall back and get the villagers out, the Rangers stayed with him and headed for the trebuchets, Varric only a few steps behind to offer some ranged defense and expertise on dealing with red lyrium corruption. The templars were waiting for them, red glowing crystals in their weapons and armor Andraste's ass, some of the templars had the crystals growing from them, Maker, he's going to be sick. The templars that joined the Inquisition were shielding the mages from ranged attacks while the mages used everything they had to hold the barrier they had created to guard the soldiers firing from the south. Etrigan noticed the team to the north hadn’t fired yet, he shouted orders to split the templars and mages into two groups the bulk staying where they were, the rest went with him and Varric to the north.
When they arrived the forces manning the trebuchet were besieged by templars, Fiona called down lighting and two templars shielded her Etrigan swore in a few languages as he vaulted over them and into the fight. It felt like hours but at best was minutes, brutal to the last, Etrigan told his men to get the wounded out, keeping a watch on the soldier aim the weapon, he shouted back to him "Aim for the mountain itself, I'll cover you" a quick nod and the man went to work. Releasing the latch, a stone launches into the hillside, slamming into it, for a moment nothing, then a low rumble of a slide. Etrigan clapped the soldier on the back as the mountain began to bury their attackers.
Above him on the outer wall Etrigan turned to see Leliana leading the archers in a vicious volley against the stragglers of the forward assault. He almost smiled at her until he saw the color drain from her face. Turning slowly, he saw something that made his heart turn to ice, he barely had time to move out of the way before Bull shoved him narrowly avoiding a burst of red energy slammed into the trebuchet destroying it.
"Shit!" Varric yelled coming to stand next to Etrigan "Who ordered the end of the damned world?" Above them coming around to strike again was a dragon, it screeched again as it breathed its red beam into another unit of soldiers, Etrigan gathering his senses, "Move dammit, move." Everyone running back towards the village
Cullen was holding the gates waving people in "Move it, move it." He looked once more praying he hadn’t missed anyone before Etrigan helped him close the gates "We need everyone back to the Chantry. It's the only building that might hold against...That beast." He shook his head "At this point..." He started towards the Chantry. "Just make them work for it."
Etrigan and Bull made their way through the village with Leliana and Varric showering their path with arrow trying to round up as many wounded as they could, when they made it to the Chantry, Roderick was at the door ushering them in "Move. Keep going. The Chantry is your shelter." He faltered as they ran past him. Cole caught him, putting Roderick's arm over his shoulders.
The young man told Etrigan rather matter of factly "He tried to stop a Templar. The blade went deep. He's going to die."
"What a charming boy." Roderick said as Cole carried him to a chair and set him down lightly.
The Chancellor made eye contact with Etrigan, whatever feud was between them was over now.
"Herald." Cullen was standing behind him. "Our position is not good. That dragon stole back any time you might have earned us."
"I've seen an Archdemon." Cole spoke up while kneeling next to Roderick. "I was in the Fade, but it looked like that."
"I don't care what it looks like." Cullen paced "It has cut a path for that army. They'll kill everyone in Haven."
"The Elder One doesn't care about the village. He only wants the Herald." Cole looked to Etrigan.
"If it will spare these people, he can have me" Etrigan cringed internally hearing both Josephine and Leliana gasp at his words.
"It won’t," Cole shook his head, "He wants to kill you. Mo one else matters, but he'll crush them, kill them anyway. I don't like him."
"You don't like..." Cullen was getting frustrated. "Herald, there are no tactics to make this survivable. The only thing that slowed them was the avalanche. We could turn the remaining trebuchets, cause one last slide."
"We're overrun. To hit the enemy, we'd bury Haven." Etrigan nodded knowing where the Commander was thinking
"We're dying, but we can decide how." Cullen added sadly "Many don't get that chance."
Cole speaks up looking at the rear of the Chantry, "Yes, that. Chancellor Roderick can help. He wants to say it before he dies."
The Chancellor stood "There is a path. You wouldn't know it unless you'd made the summer pilgrimage. As I have. The people can escape. She must have shown me. Andraste must have shown me so I could..." His breathing weak. "Tell you."
"What are you on about, Roderick?"
"It was whim that I walked the path. I did not mean to start - it was overgrown. Now, with so many in the Conclave dead, to be the only one who remembers... I don't know, Herald." He placed his hand on Etrigan’s shoulder. "If this simple memory can save us, this could be more than mere accident. You could be more."
"What about it, Cullen? Will it work?" Etrigan glanced behind him
"Possibly. If he shows us the path."
Cole helped Roderick up again the Chancellor speaking once more. "Herald... If you are meant for this, if the Inquisition is meant for this, I pray for you."
"If he wants me, I'll make him work for it"
"And when the mountain falls what about you" Leliana grabbed his hand, he couldn’t meet her eye
"Perhaps you will surprise it, find a way..." Cullen offered a small shred of hope moving towards the soldiers he gave them their moment "Inquisition. Follow Chancellor Roderick through the Chantry. Move."
Before turning back to Leliana, he took his hand from her grasp, reaching into his armor he pulled out his chain, the rings from his father added to mother's medallion and Seline's ring. He pushes Leliana's hood down then takes the chain off of his neck, slipping it on to hers, "Hang on to this for me, I'm going to want it back" he kneels down to Havard who has come to sit at his side.
"Go with her, help them keep people safe. I'm counting on you, when it’s all over I'll catch up, you'll guide me. I know you will." He touches his head to the cats before standing again.
Facing Leliana, its killing him to see the unshed tears in her eyes as she fights to be strong, "Maker why am I only brave enough to do this before one of us is about to die?"
At her confused look he surges forward his hands at either side of her head, fingers buried in her hair, crashing their lips together as though that alone could save the world. Reluctantly they parted when air became an issue, he pressed his forehead to hers, "My only regret… is that eternity wouldn’t have been enough time."
He leaned up kissing her head, breathing deeply trying to commit her to memory, as he pulled her cowl back up he whispered into her hair, "I love you, Leliana"
Before Leliana could reply he was already back at Cullen's side, the commander offering what little tactical advice he can "Keep the Elder One's attention until we're above the tree line. If we are to have a chance-" His speech faltered "If you are to have a chance - let that thing hear you."
Varric offered to come with him but Etrigan refused, He had to order Stitch to go with the others, instead it was the four Inquisition soldiers that were to load the trebuchet and the six Rangers that had recently contracted the blight sickness turning to the Inquisition soldiers he ordered them to go as soon as they had loaded the stone, he didn’t dare order his men to leave, mostly because they would have disobeyed him anyway, but because of the blight, they were already dead, at least this way they could die with honor.
Trebuchet loaded and anyone not slated to die today evacuated, Etrigan aimed the machine for the mountain side above the village, he froze a moment before the hair on the back of his neck stood on end. He dove off the platform only seconds before the dragon's breath flowed, sending him and the Rangers flying to the ground.
When he looked at his men, they were gone, "Maker guide you home"
Through a wall of fire, the dark creature emerged, behind Etrigan the dragon landed shattering the outer walls of Haven. He turned as the beast advanced on him screeching loudly but it didn’t attack.
The dark figure spoke. "Enough," raising its arms to create a wall of fire around them and the dragon, "Pretender. You toy with forces beyond your ken. No more."
"What are you? Why are you doing this?"
"Mortals beg for truth they cannot have. It is beyond what you are, what I was"
"Whatever you are, I am not afraid."
"Words mortals often hurl at the darkness. Once they were mine. They are always lies." He moved forward "Know me, know what you have pretended to be." Extending his hand that looked like it had been fused into strange claws "Exalt the Elder One. The will that is Corypheus." He pointed one at Etrigan. "You will kneel."
"Not bloody likely. You're forcing this fight for no reason."
"You will resist. You will always resist. It matters not." He something in his other hand. "I am here for the Anchor. The process of removing it begins now."
The object in his hand glowed, and Etrigan fell to his knees the pain in his mark unbearable.
"It is your fault, 'Herald'. You interrupted a ritual years in the planning, and instead of dying, you stole its purpose. I don't know how you survived, but what marks you as 'touched,' what you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very heavens."
His entire hand glowed green "And you used the Anchor to undo my work. The gall."
"What is this thing meat to do?"
"It is meant to bring certainty where there is none. For you, the certainty that I would always come for it."
Rising up through his pain Etrigan challenged the creature, "It's a boon from Andraste. She saved my life."
Corypheus smirked almost impressed by the mortal's determination, "Then your Lady wished me to kill you, for Her 'boon' is a beacon I cannot let escape." He hauled Etrigan up by his wrist and into the air gazing at the mark, "I once breached the Fade in the name of another, to serve the Old Gods of the empire in person. I found only chaos and corruption. Dead whispers. For a thousand years I was confused. No more." lifting him until Etrigan was looking Corypheus in the eye. "I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own, to champion withered Tevinter and correct this blighted world. Beg that I succeed, for I have seen the Throne of the Gods, and it was empty."
He flung Etrigan into the trebuchet. Picking himself up Etrigan saw a sword laying on the ground, he grabbed it as he rose, shaking the dizziness from his head.
Corypheus turned to face him, "The Anchor is permanent. You have spoiled it with your stumbling." He moved towards Etrigan, the dragon right behind him. "So be it. I will begin again, find another way to give this world the nation - and god - it requires. And you. I will not suffer even an unknowing rival. You must die."
A flash caught Etrigan's eye, the signal, they made it.
Leveling a glare at Corypheus, "Your arrogance blinds you, that’s good to know. If I'm dying… it’s not today!"
He kicked the trigger to the trebuchet, the stone sailing through the air into the mountain.
Corypheus was watching the stone, Etrigan dropped the sword and ran hearing the impact behind him.
He heard the dragon screech as the avalanche took out the village, saw the shadow above him as the dragon carried its master away.
He only just dove into an old mine shaft as the mountain reclaimed the village.
As Etrigan fell he collided a few times with lose beams and landing hard on the ground, before he passed out.
Chapter 23: Chapter 21 Ghosts Of The Future
There isn’t much more in Act 1. Then we're moving on. I'll be setting up a major break from the game at the end of this. So, yea...Anyway, lots of learning to be had here.
Etrigan groaned as he opened his eyes, hazarding a glance at the mine shaft he dove into. Attempting to take stock of injuries before trying to move, in case anything was broken, feeling a lot of pain in all his limbs was a good sign. He thought about trying to sleep off the worst of it since the cold wasn’t so bad here but decided against it. There was no telling how long he had been out and how much of a lead the other had gotten, he struggled to get himself standing when he heard something,"...er”, a whisper on the wind, “...der", a voice he'd know as well as his own, “...ander" . Following the sound, “. sander" it got louder and clearer as he went until he was standing at a crossroads in the old mine facing something he thought long gone. Disbelief etched his features, "This isn’t possible..." followed by anger, "You can’t be here I'm not dead..." quickly replaced by fear, "Am I?"
The figure that faced him smiled and addressed him in a way no other had as if to prove its existence, "Hello, Lysander. No, you are not dead."
"Mother? How...You can’t. I saw you die" This couldn’t be happening this whatever it was had to be lying to him, she was dead, if he was seeing Mother that meant he was dead too, didn’t it?
"Indeed, I am very much dead, you however, my little love are not, and I plan to keep it that way, I've been watching over you the whole of your life, and I have called you twice by names reserved only for me, that even your memories will not let you hear."
He knew she spoke the truth, for a moment he allowed himself to be a little boy again "I blew up a mountain" she nodded as he added sheepishly, "It fell on me"
His mother laughed, "I know, that’s why I'm here, to guide you back. Your beast is fade touched and your friends have prayed for your return. I am here to see they have those prayers answered"
Etrigan's anger returned to him at this, "And what of my prayers? Hmm? Twenty-three years of wondering, my own kin almost murdering me twice, so many questions left wanting. Am I to get my satisfaction as well or will you forsake me again?"
Her head tilted to the side sadness gracing her features, "I will answer what I can, but you must understand, there are somethings I left this world not knowing. Come we must move."
Before he would go anywhere with her he had to know, "Why did we hide?"
She sighed deeply, "There were those among my own blood, distant though they were that would have killed you had they know of your existence, they believed themselves to be the chosen of our blood. The Chantry itself knew not of our line though it is older than the Chant." She reached for him hoping he would follow.
He had told both Alistair and Fiona that there was no price he wouldn’t pay for what was currently being gifted to him, shoving aside the wounded boy that was angry his mother left him he took her hand, offering a weak smile in return to hers. He only had to let go once when they came to a rift, but it would seem the magic used on him by the mages gave his mark new skills. As he went to disrupt the rift long enough to find a weapon, a burst of energy came from the mark instantly killing the demons, "Well...That’s new" He closed the rift and they started on their way again
She picked up his hand to examine the mark "Does it trouble you?"
Etrigan shook his head, "Only when I'm near the rifts or anything that comes out of them"
"You have many questions, you should ask them"
He sighed, "That name you called me, it is not my name."
She only smiled at him, "It is, but I was the only one that ever called you by it. You were born 'Lysander Etrigan' last of your house, after I died, my protector had only ever referred to you as 'Lord Etrigan', your poor sweet father assumed that was your name"
"There are no more of House Etrigan?"
"No, my father was an only child as was I, technically the name died with me, since your Aunt had you legitimized. But should you ever decide it the name is yours to take. You are noble born and it can be proven. Sadly, I lied to Victor on a great many things by simple omission." She stopped a moment looking around as though trying to choose a direction then continued forward.
"You know I was hired to tutor Gabriel and Ayslin, yes?" when he nodded she continued, "When he and Seline hired me, I introduced myself as Carina, and told them I was from Markham. I lied, truly I had been living in Markham, but I was born farther Northwest, the same place you were born actually, a village the coast of the Anderfels, Tallo. My father was a distant cousin of the King and was granted a Dukedom, at least in title, father had no real duty.
"Did Father ever learn you true name?"
"No, and you may tell him if you wish. I was born 'Talia Etrigan', I gave him a copy of your lineage in my letter to him, but I confess I left out key points." She stopped again when they came to the exit of the mine, closing her eyes, she turned her head slowly before gesturing to the right, "This way, come." She took a deep breath, "You are only half a day behind them, however we must hurry, a storm is coming, and you will not survive the cold."
"Did you know Father wanted to marry you?" that stopped her
"He. He did?"
A second voice joined them "Of course he did girl"
Etrigan figured he was dying from the cold anyway so why not accept he was seeing dead relations "Hello Aunt Seline"
"Hello Boy, quite the mess you've found yourself in."
Etrigan just nodded.
Somehow he ended up between the two spirits, or visions before his death, whatever they were, as they argued so he had some time to think, if he survived this he'd get Stitch to check into this 'House Etrigan" business, maybe after everything ended he'd quietly slip away and use the name to have his privacy, but damn was it getting cold, and he had left all his supplies in the cabin, pulling what remained of his coat around him he started marching through the knee deep snow, "If you two hens are going to keep clucking pardon me as I go get lost in a snow drift." Talia and Seline stopped and apologized to him.
"I'm sorry, Boy" Seline started, "I've just been so angry for you for years it got the better of me. Let’s us talk about you, hmm? It was a good thing that you did for the mages."
Talia agreed, "Very, I had the gift of foresight. I could see things that would be, if there was a chance it could change I would not see it. Part of that gift has passed to you, your senses are greater than most men, and have served you well."
Seline only laughed, "Hang that woman, I wanted to hear about this lady friend of his."
He was about to reply when the world around him changed, instead of trekking through deep snow he was in a city.
Somewhere in Orlais if he had to guess, a merchant greeted him "Good Morning Comte" nodding her head slightly, out of habit he returned it, his mother smiling at his confusion. He was going to ask her what was happening when he was approached by a very weary guard captain.
"Pardon me, my Lord Comte, but I must speak with you about your children"
Etrigan's face still looked confused "My children? he knew he wasn’t going to like this when the guard continued
"Yes, my Lord, your children, I'm afraid they seem to think nailing the small cloths of visiting dignitaries to the Chanter's board is amusing" Etrigan knows he's heard a similar story before, looks as he runs his right hand over his face, noticing the metal band on his left hand.
"My most humble apologies, Guard-Captain, if my children are still in your care please put them in my care and their mother and I will deal with this at once."
As soon as the words are out of his mouth two young children about 7 or so and possibly 5 if he guessed came running up to him almost squealing in delight and speaking rapidly in Orlesian "Father we missed you so much!"
"Yes Father, are you home for good now?"
"Mother was quite sad without you Father."
"Did you bring us anything from your travels Father?"
His head was spinning, "Slow down, one at a time."
A red-haired boy the younger of the two climbed up him and rested his head on Etrigan's shoulder, "Mother was sad without you home, Father"
The older child, a little dark-haired girl hugged Etrigan tightly pinning his left arm to his body, nodding with her brother.
"Yes, Father, Mother said she would be very sad if you missed the special day" her face had scrunched in confusion, "Whatever that means."
Etrigan closed his eyes for only a second but when he opened them he was back in the snow. spinning around searching furiously, he could still feel the weight of the boy on his arm. His boy. His son.
He turned to his mother shouting "What happened? Where did they go?"
Talia remained calm through her son's temper, "That was but a glimpse of what will be, but you must survive."
Seline was standing at the remains of a camp fire, "Surely you've noticed that you are farther along now than before, Boy."
Etrigan couldn’t hide his joy at what he saw, "They're mine. They'll be trouble"
He wanted to see more but Maker he was tired, and his body ached. A howl in the distance. He just needed a moment to rest, just a moment.
Opening his eyes again, he was back in the Orlesian city standing in front of a rather sizable estate, "Husband, how nice of you to join us, did you forget again that this is your home as well?" A woman he couldn’t see but in his heart, he knew her asked him.
He could tell there was no true venom behind her voice. "No Wife, I remembered, however an adventure is something I simply cannot pass, you being my greatest."
He shook himself awake again, "No, I am my own man. This is not real, both of you are dead, only demons taunt with man's darkest wishes, leave me spirits."
The forms of his mother and aunt vanished but he knew they were still near.
Another howl, smoke on the distance, he looked up towards the direction the smoke was coming from, and saw a light in the hills, just beyond a narrow path, "Just keep moving Etrigan, you can rest when you see they are safe, just keep moving"
The light he saw was in fact the survivors of Haven, the council had stayed close together but not speaking since they made camp, all of them worried about Etrigan, all of them silently blaming themselves and each other, for not doing more to save him. Or stop him.
A few feet away Tova was trying desperately to calm her son, Stitch was pacing and muttering furiously, the only words anyone could make out? "Stupid... Sodding... Noble... Bastard... Blighted... Hero" When he got to the last one he dropped to his knees and cried, praying to ever God he knew, the Dwarven ancestors, the Avvar guardians, Andraste, all of them. Tova could only hug her son and hope the sweet Lord-ling she loved as dearly as her own flesh was going to come back to them.
Anyone who still thought him guilty of the Conclave prayed forgiveness, promising to use the chance given to them by the Herald's sacrifice to better themselves, do more for others, generally be worthy of his gift.
Cassandra and Cullen took turns hitting things and yelling at anyone who got to close.
Varric tried to keep the children distracted, Fiona helped as best she could using magic to illustrate the stories he told. She had sworn to herself, if the Herald survived she would mentor him as best she could, if he allowed it of course, in the short time she had known him she had become impressed with his hunger for knowledge, it seemed no topic was too mundane, she would strive to teach him all she could, just Maker bring him back.
Bull and the Chargers stood geared and ready, just waiting for the storm to die down so they could mount a search party. Blackwall waited tensely with them, even Sera wanted to go though her reason she said was "Because the Herald doesn’t think I'm crazy"
Vivienne and Dorian kept arguing over who was more at fault, fanatical Tevinters or fanatical Chantry mages.
Solas slept, walking the fade searching for Etrigan but something was blocking him, he had made it back to Haven but there was no trace of the Herald anywhere, only the anguished cries of those lost.
Josephine cried uncontrollably, her sweet friend. Her brother. How would she tell his family? What would she tell his family? Only months after Seline's death, this would break them. She burrowed deeper into Leliana and cried some more. Leliana wanted to cry, to scream. Not again, she held his chain around her neck, willing the tears not to fall.
When Josie had cried herself out, Leliana covered her with a blanket and slipped away, into the trees but still within their camp. There alone in the dark she cried, dropping to her knees and praying, begging the Maker, "I have never asked you for anything. I have done everything that was asked of me. I am asking for this, pleading for this. Bring him back to me. You cannot be so cruel as to offer the means to heal my heart only to rip it away."
Pulling herself together she goes back to the camp, a wolf howls in the distance another howls closer. She joins Cullen and Cassandra making lists for search parties, to retrace their steps for any sign Etrigan made it out.
Suddenly Havard jumps to attention all his senses alert, Stitch runs to the wild cat, "What is it cub? Is it your Master? Do you sense him?"
Everyone can see the cat wants to run in the direction that has his attention but Etrigan ordered him to stay and protect the den, which agitates the poor animal.
The light is getting brighter, he can smell fire and food. He is really looking forward to that fire, so cold, so tired. "Keep moving Etrigan just keep moving" At least it had stopped snowing, he had to stop twice during the storm.
Looking up he was sure he could see every star in the sky, that was pretty, the moon too, another howl.
"If you plan to attack me wolf, do it already, I'm cold and tired. I'm sure I'll think differently later but right now death is an improvement" He was starting to go numb, breathing hurt. This was bad. Looking up again he though he saw dancing flames, thought he heard voices.
Etrigan dropped to his knees, "I can’t... I hurt too much" his last thought before succumbing, "At least death is warm"
Cassandra and Cullen led a small band with Havard as their guide, another wolf, and someone shouting at it? Havard attacked the wolf before it could pounce a figure falling into the snow, the heard the figure speak.
Cullen knew that voice, "There that’s him!"
Cassandra rushed forward with two torches handing one to Cullen "Thank the Maker"
They all watched as Havard curled protectively around his Master, Etrigan was alive but only just, he seemed to realize what was covering him but at the same time not be aware of anything at all
Not dead, he really thought he was dead this time.
Etrigan saw Talia watching him, feeling warm fur curl around him "Havard? I knew you'd guide me. I'm so tired, if you're here then I can rest"
As his eyes closed he kept them on his Mother, trying to thank her for not listening to him when he told her to leave him, she just smiled sadly, whispered she loved him and faded away.
Chapter 24: Chapter 23 Shadows Of The Past
This will be the 2nd to last chapter of Act 1...I've added some depth of background to the Herald and this is the payoff for everything I've set up in previous chapters. Like the last one I did break away, actually more in this one last one the Herald just treks through a lot of snow and passes out. Here I took a major plot point from a character and gave it to 1 of my OC's
In game Solas is the one that tells the PC about Skyhold. That won't be the case here. While I'm usually ok with giving away a line of dialogue or 2 to add more depth to a scene, I tend to avoid major alterations. Sadly, this one is needed for where I plan to go with the story.
Talia stayed in the camp, masking herself from both the elf mage and the creature called 'Cole' she had to make sure he lived, trying to soothe him as only a mother could she let him see more hints at his future, he asked if he could stay a while and just talk to her, in the end they didn’t need to speak, but did anyway, they just sat in her shrouded corner of the fade and enjoyed watching the stars and she enjoyed regaling his exploits to him and telling her son how proud she was of the man he became.
They knew it was time when the voices surrounding him got louder and started pulling him back. She hugged him, and he held just as tight, "Even if you never use the name again, my little love, always remember, I love you, Lysander Etrigan and I am so very proud of you."
With a flash of a grin and nod her boy was gone from her side. A figure bathed in pure light stepped beside her, a question echoes in her mind she answers, "No, you were right. He wasn't ready before. He is now."
Etrigan started to open his eyes but his racing heart changed his mind instead focusing on the voices that woke him up, best to stay still in case he was a prisoner again.
"What would you have me tell them? This isn't what we asked them to do." his heart slowed that’s Cullen
"We cannot simply ignore this. We must find a way." The Seeker
"And who put you in charge? We need a consensus, or we have nothing." Cullen sounds angry, that probably added to the headache Etrigan is feeling, well it doesn’t but if he keeps yelling he's blaming him
"Please, we must use reason. Without the infrastructure of the Inquisition, we're hobbled." Merciful Andraste, Josie!
"That can't come from nowhere." Yes, definitely blaming the Commander for the headache
"She didn't say it could." Etrigan's heart stopped then raced again, Thank the Maker, Leliana
Etrigan sits up as Cassandra yells, “Enough. This is getting us nowhere." He had half a mind to yell at all of them. "Well, we're agreed on that much" Cullen shouts back before storming off
"Shh," a voice from his side. "You need rest." Etrigan turned to Mother Giselle "They've been at it for hours."
"They have that luxury, thanks to you." Giselle said as she handed him a water skin "The enemy could not follow, and with time to doubt, we turn to blame. Infighting may threaten as much as this Corypheus."
Etrigan accepted gratefully and took a long draw "Do we know where Corypheus and his forces are?"
Giselle smiled sadly. "We are not sure where we are. Which may be why, despite the numbers he still commands, there is no sign of him."
Giselle offered him some bread. "That, or you are believed dead. Or without Haven, we are thought helpless. Or he girds for another attack." She offers him more food which he declines "I cannot claim to know the mind of that creature, only his effect on us."
The next water skin however that was accepted.
"The only thing yelling gets us is a headache.” Etrigan corrected himself as his skull throbbed again, “Another headache"
"They know. But our situation- your situation- is complicated. Our leaders struggle because of what we survivors witnessed. We saw our defender stand..." She glanced towards the fire outside the partially open tent "And fall." She turned back to Etrigan. "And now, we have seen him return. The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear. And the more our trials seem ordained." Giselle pat his hand. "That is hard to accept, no? What 'we' have been called to endure? What 'we', perhaps, must come to believe?"
"I escaped the avalanche." Etrigan sat up. "Barely, perhaps, but I didn't die."
"Of course, and the dead cannot return from across the Veil. But the people know what they saw." Giselle nodded. "Or, perhaps, what they needed to see. The Maker works in both the moment, and in how it is remembered. Can we truly know the heavens are not with us?"
"You saw Corypheus. What do you think of his claims of assaulting the heavens?"
"Scripture says magisters, Tevinter servants of the false Old Gods, entered the Fade to reach the Golden City, seat of the Maker. For their crime they were cast out as darkspawn. Their hubris is why we suffer Blight and why the Maker has turned from us. If such is the claim of this Corypheus, he is a monster beyond imagining. All mankind continues to suffer for that sin. If even a shred of it is true, all the more reason Andraste would choose someone to rise against him."
"Mother Giselle, I just don’t see how what I believe matters." Etrigan stand up, " Lie or not Corypheus is a real, physical threat. We can't match that on hope alone" He walks to the tent entrance and leans dejectedly on the support post. He looks out and see Cullen pacing near Cassandra as she pours over a map but not really seeing it. Over by a fire Josephine is sitting on a cut log, head hung low, while Leliana is sitting on the ground knees pulled up to her chest, arms resting on them and her head hidden in her arms. Behind him the cleric stands, head bowed, a last offer of hope for the Herald in his crisis of faith.
"Shadows fall and hope has fled. Steel your heart, the dawn will come." Etrigan was confused, Mother Giselle was singing. She passed him out of the tent, hands clasped in front of her voice low " The night is long, and the path is dark. Look to the sky, for one day soon the dawn will come."
Leliana raised her head, her eyes light up at seeing Etrigan awake and standing and joins in the song. Her voice, sweet, and soothing to the troubled man "The Shepard’s lost, and his home is far. Keep to the stars, the dawn will come."
Around the camp, survivors of Haven and Inquisition forces start to sing as well, even Cullen " The night is long, and the path is dark. Look to the sky, for one day soon the dawn will come."
Everyone singing started to move closer to where Etrigan stood. Some kneeling as they approached, and others bowing their heads. "Bare your blade and raise it high. Stand your ground. The dawn will come."
At the edge of the camp he could see the Rangers singing as well " The night is long, and the path is dark. Look to the sky, for one day soon the dawn will come." The rest of his companions coming from their tents staring in shock that he was still alive.
Etrigan looked around at the faces gather near him, tears falling down his face, he had failed, Haven was destroyed but they still believed in him. They still believed he could save them, that they could win this. It made him believe, he won’t fail again. Mother Giselle turn back to him.
"An army needs more than an enemy. It needs a cause." With that Mother Giselle walked away from Etrigan.
The crowd dispersed as Solas came up behind Etrigan, "A word?" He nodded and followed the elf.
Solas led him a short way from camp but still in sight lighting a torch with a wave of his hand. "A wise woman. Worth heeding. Her kind understand the moments that unify a cause. Or fracture it."
The elf sighed deeply before continuing. "The orb Corypheus carried, the power he used against you. It is elven. Corypheus used the orb to open the Breach. Unlocking it must have caused the explosion that destroyed the Conclave. I do not yet know how Corypheus survived..." Solas seemed restless, this news was obviously troubling him. "Nor am I certain how people will react when they learn of the orb's origin."
Etrigan looked to the camp before leveling his gaze on Solas “All right, what is it, and how do you know about it?"
"They were foci, used to channel ancient magicks. I have seen such things in the Fade, old memories of older magic." Solas finished. "Corypheus may think it Tevinter. His empire's magic was built on the bones of my people. Knowing or not, he risks our alliance. I cannot allow it."
"This whole mess is confusing." Etrigan lamented "I can see how elves might be an easy target."
Solas nodded "History would agree. But there are steps we can take to prevent such a distraction." The elf offered his own advice "By attacking the Inquisition, Corypheus has changed it. Changed you." Leaving Etrigan to his thoughts he went back to camp.
Waiting until he was sure he was alone Etrigan called out "I know you're still here" Talia walked closer but stayed in the shadows, Etrigan took her silence as an invitation, "So a delusional being believes himself to be one of the seven that lay siege to the Golden city woke up after sleeping for a millennia and gets his hands on an elven artifact that’s probably older than known time, plans to make himself a God and wants to kill me because I accidentally stopped him ," He scratches the back of his head, "That sound about right?"
"Why couldn’t I have just died, then?"
Talia raises a brow at her son "That would have been the easy option" "I didn’t die when my sister tried to poison me at age 10. I didn’t die when she tried to cut off my head less than a year later. I didn’t die in a massive explosion cause by the crazed magister but managed to level a twelve-hundred-year-old building," Now Etrigan was pacing, "And I somehow miraculously lived through a confrontation with the magister and what I'm fairly certain is an Archdemon that he is keeping as a pet. No one's luck is that good, Mother."
Talia took pity on her son, "Do you remember asking me why we always traveled at night?" he nodded, "Do you also remember my telling you that you had a destiny to grow into? Again, Etrigan nodded. "It’s time, Lysander." She points back towards the camp, "Those people adore you, they look to you. Scout to the north. Be their guide." Etrigan looked at her. "There is a place that waits for a force to hold it." She smiled "There is a place that where the Inquisition can build... grow..." Etrigan walked to his mother who put a hand to his cheek, "Somewhere deep down, my little love, you've always known this was coming. That you were meant for more. It is time, my son"
A gust of wind and the torch is out, when he turns back she is gone.
Making his way back in to the camp he heads straight for the map Cassandra had been pouring over, looking north from Haven he searched his mind for anything he could have read that would be there. Finding nothing he shook his head and went to find Tova.
He found the dwarven woman cleaning his armor, "I can do that you know, some angry woman taught me when I was a boy." He pretended not to notice she was crying when she hugged him.
"Don’t you ever do that to me again Etrigan Trevelyan, I'm an old woman, my heart can’t take it"
"I'm sorry Tova, but I need a favor, a 'Shadow Drake' favor" He had her undivided attention now, "Do you have any contacts in the Anderfels?"
"A few why"
"In my rooms at my Father's is a collection of personal effects bearing the crest of the family my mother named me after, if rumors are true then the family died out roughly thirty years ago and I'll keep the items as a lovely little find, but if any of them yet live I'm duty bound to return their belongings"
"What do you know"
"House Etrigan, the last known member was a daughter named 'Talia', her father was a cousin of the King and given a title but no duties, Duke Etrigan was an only child with only one child. the rumor is the daughter had a child. If any records exist of that child, his name is 'Lysander Etrigan', I'll need those records. I'll pass it off to the Nightingale if it’s true, maybe we can use my finds to make new friends for the Inquisition."
"I'll see what I can do"
"No rush, it’s just a project I've had on my mind" he can tell she doesn’t fully believe him, but he knows she won’t press him further, a flash of chain mail catches his eye, Leliana. "Night Tova"
"Night Ety" Tova watches him walk away, and writes a quick letter sending it off on her own messenger bird 'It’s time, he knows.' Her husband was part of the group that had failed his mother, twenty-three years ago, she had been so happy to see him alive when he showed up on their door step with Thatcher's things, the boy had no clue who he was, what he was. Faren kept him safe as best he could, but he was only one man. This Inquisition of his was about to get a lot bigger.
Etrigan stalked through the camp silently following Leliana, she knew he was there of course. It was obvious to him she wanted him to have seen her. She entered a tent at the very edge of the camp, with a quick glance behind him, Etrigan followed.
Etrigan could hardly wait to get her alone. His skin itched with the desire to hold her, to touch her, to reassure himself physically that she was whole and unharmed and in his arms. He let those emotions be seen on his face and felt satisfaction when he saw Leliana understand what he was thinking as he watched her.
As soon as Etrigan closed the flap of the tent to retain the heat of the small fire within, she was on him, her arms coming up under his to rest on his chest. Her head pressed against his back. He put his hands over hers, bringing one up to his lips to kiss gently. He decided to try for a joke just to kill the tension, "I told you I'd be back for that chain"
The dam burst at his words and he could feel her tears soaking his shirt. Without breaking contact, he turned in her arms to hold her just as tightly. Etrigan let go but he didn’t pull away, at her confused look, he grinned and pulled off his torn and wet shirt, "I'm here, I came back. Until the Maker calls me, I will always come back." He took her hand and placed it on his heart, "I'm here." Leliana could feel the heat of his skin and the beat of his heart through her gloves but it wasn’t enough, ripping them off she put a hand back on his heart. She started tracing the scars on his chest, his eyes never leaving her, even as hers followed the trails her fingers took. She wanted to look at him, needed to really, but if she did she was scared she would cry again. He lifted his hands and genteelly dragged the backs of them across her cheeks to her cowl slowly pushing it back.
Leliana knew what he was doing, every move calculated to see if she would tell him to stop. She knew he would if she asked. She knew they really should, but her heart needed to know he was still alive, as much as his needed to know she was safe. Turning them, she walked him back to the stack of crates in her tent, the trunk of his effects among them. Leliana kept going until his knees hit something solid, she pushed on his shoulders.
Etrigan took the hint and sat down, pulling her into him and burring his head into her stomach, it was his turn to fall apart. Leliana tangled her fingers in his hair, kissing his head. "You did it. You saved them. You saved me."
Leliana needed more, her next step would change everything. Keeping her eyes connected with his, she released the clasp that held her cowl to her armor, letting the dark material fall to the ground.
Etrigan ran his hands up her sides finding the buckles of her chain mail, quite adept at them with only one hand on each side. She closes her eyes at the gentle pressure of his touch. His hands falling to the latches lower down, those too, give way to his fingers. She steps away from him only long enough to remove her now open armor. When she opens her eyes to look at him, Etrigan has bowed his head. Does he think she means to stop this? To stop him?
She leans down to remove her armored boots, kneeling to take his as well. Her blood boils at the shiver of desire her touch sends through him.
Catching his eye again, Leliana slowly takes the edge of her tunic up as she moves, infinitely grateful she had gone shopping in Val Royeaux, after all, lover or not a woman likes to feel pretty, the sight of his midnight blue eyes, now almost black with want, when she lifted her top over her head, watching her, like a hunter watches its prey. Taking his hands in hers she guided him to her waist, moving her own hands to the ties at her front, then back to him coaxing his hands downward, taking her armored leathers with them.
Etrigan was losing any hope of rational thought, Maker's breath this woman, he felt the tremor in her hands. He was not fool enough to believe himself her first, but had she not allowed her former love, the Warden, see her in such a state. To him she is living beauty, he would not lie say he didn’t see her scars, but they brought her here, to this moment. To him, they were as lovely as she.
Ghosting his fingers back up, he stopped mid-thigh, his grip almost bruising as she stepped from her clothes and grinned wickedly at him when she kicked them away. His hands continuing their ascent up her legs.
Thank the Maker, he thought, before his hands slipped over lace, to draw her against the rigid length beneath his breeches. He slid his hand over one curved hip, over the smooth skin, slipping the lace down over it. Sliding his hand up over her chest, he drew the lace away. There was nothing between them now but his own leathers.
It had been so long, Leliana craved, needed to be touched…His hand slipped between her thighs and she cried out in a half sob of pleasure as he touched delicate, aching flesh.
All Leliana could feel was his touch, all she knew was the heat that moved through her, the need. She was speechless, nearly mindless. Maker, she did love him, even though she’d convinced herself, after so painfully waiting for Aedan to return to her, that she’d never love again.
Her heart was pounding now, so hard that it felt as if it might actually break free of her chest. She couldn’t seem to catch her breath. She braced her hands against Etrigan's chest, bent over, and kissed him gently.
Fueled by a desperate need to reassure herself he was alive, Leliana started working the ties of his leathers, sliding her hands around his waist. Pulling him to her as she slid the breeches over his hips, her thumbs hooking into the band of his small clothes dragging them down as well. Her nails lightly scratching his legs as she stood.
Etrigan reached for her but Leliana with a coy smile she pushed him back. Bracing himself against the crate with his hands, he watched her movements with a raised brow.
Leliana dragged her palms up her belly to her breasts, kneading them. Etrigan stared at her with dark, hungry eyes, creating a wave of desire in her that arched down her back, landing hot in her groin. She licked her lips, let her eyes wander him, his fit though scared chest, the tapered waist. Etrigan closed his eyes with a moan, Leliana pushing him to sit on the crate as she straddled him. His arms circling her waist instantly.
They both knew it was time. He held their bodies together. They shared a deep kiss and then separated to look each other in the eyes. She leaned down, their foreheads touching.
Neither moved their faces away from each other but both closed their eyes as she slid down on him. Both were still for a moment as their bodies adjusted.
She slowly moved her hands to his shoulders, sat up, and began riding him. He moved his hands to her slim hips to help set the rhythm and she ground down hard on him, trying to get a much friction as possible.
He could tell she was close but that she was holding back. He gripped her hips a little tighter and told her, in his deep, lust-filled voice, exactly what she needed to hear. "I'm right here" And with that, she ground down hard a few more times and he felt her walls tighten around him and digging her nails into his upper arms as she let go.
The sight and feel of her release threw him into his own. He thrust deeply into her one more time and felt the ecstasy wash over him as his seed raced into her womb with a low primal growl.
Etrigan picked her up and walked to the cot in her tent. Before he laid her down she took his chain from around her neck, slipping it back onto his own, claiming his mouth again. They both knew their emotions had been running high, but the night was very young.
Once he put her down Leliana pulled him back into her, tumbling onto the cot. Etrigan started to pull away, but she stopped him, "Shh, rest. I'm not done with you this night."
"As my lady wills it." He reached for the thick fur at their feet pulling it over them and settling into her, both asleep almost at once.
After a while, they woke and spent the rest of the night in whispered sighs, mapped scars and unspoken promises.
His every touch telling without words that as long as she would claim him, no other woman would have him. Her every quivered breath begging him not to abandon her like the others did.
Neither knowing when sleep pulled them only that when it came they were entirely sated and welcomed it.
Chapter 25: Chapter 23 From The Ashes
And so ends Act 1. We'll start with a quick little flash back, and then just like chapter 18, little to no dialogue. No real reason, I just like to challenge myself by telling entire scenes by visual clues and emotions alone
Talia took pity on her son, "Do you remember asking me why we always traveled at night?" he nodded, "Do you also remember my telling you that you had a destiny to grow into? Again, Etrigan nodded. "It’s time, Lysander." She points back towards the camp, "Those people adore you, they look to you. Scout to the north. Be their guide." Etrigan looked at her. "There is a place that waits for a force to hold it." She smiled "There is a place that where the Inquisition can build... grow..." Etrigan walked to his mother who put a hand to his cheek, "Somewhere deep down, my little love, you've always known this was coming. That you were meant for more. It is time, my son"
When Etrigan woke, he couldn’t stop the smile from spreading. Leliana was still asleep, arms tight around him, she was draped half across him, one of her legs over his, her head on his chest. If this is how he got to wake up after dropping a mountain on himself then the risk was completely worth it.
He seriously considered going back to sleep for a while but the directions his mother gave him weighed on his mind. If there was a safe place to take everyone where they could rebuild after Haven then he had to let the council know, they had to take the risk. a voice broke him out of his musings.
"You think too loudly upon waking, Ety" Maker her voice drove him to madness normally but heavy with sleep set him on fire.
He chuckled lightly into her hair, "I most adamantly apologize my lady" When she sat up to look at him his heart skipped, "Maker, your beautiful." He whispered before pulling her down into a languid kiss.
She took advantage of her position, wrapping her leg behind his and flipped them, pulling him over her, "You're warmer than I am."
Smiling as he looked down at her "We're meant to be meeting the council at daybreak" He said as he leaned down the tail feather light kisses along her jaw.
She giggled as he nuzzled into her neck, his stubble tickling a particularly sensitive spot, "I think we're going to be late."
He had worked his way down her neck and across her shoulders, her hands starting to roam his back. He lifted his head to look at her, "Probably" starting all over again in his explorations of her. Anyone passing her tent would have only heard her laughter, as they weren't really trying to start something they couldn’t finish until nightfall, they simply wanted to enjoy the little while before dawn as Etrigan and Leliana, instead of the Herald and the Spymaster.
When they finally did make it to the tent where the council was meeting, Etrigan noticed Josephine staring at him, he raised a brow at her as a way of asking 'what'. Her eyes cut to Leliana quickly, before telling him in Antivan "I wasn’t aware Leliana was a biter", He grinned like a fool even though his face was bright red.
"No wonder Cullen can’t look me in the eye" he replied, the old friends then couldn’t help themselves and laughed at the flustered looks the Commander was giving in every direction but him or Leliana. Etrigan gets serious for a moment though, "And don’t think I haven’t seen how Bull's Lieutenant, Krem, follows you around like a lost puppy, as long as he treats you like the lady you are, I'll stop Leliana from killing him."
He throws a wink at Josephine as she turns as red as he was before switching back to the common tongue and telling the council his plan, leaving out all details of the 'rumors' coming from the spirit of his dead mother.
"I've heard rumors of an abandoned stronghold, to the North, I can't say for certain it’s there but at this rate anything is better than sitting around waiting to freeze to death"
Cassandra had been following his path along the map, "What do you suggest?"
"Today we send the Rangers out, hunting and scavenging, after we tell everyone the plan. Then at sunrise we set out. As long as there is daylight, we move. If we have to stop for camp, we do it at sundown and scavenger parties go out, back by dusk with fire wood and fresh game. We'll find an empty fortress or end up on the other side of the mountain in Orlais"
He gave them all a minute to consider his offer before adding, "Now I leave to send my Rangers out for food and you to decide, since I'm just the one who gets blamed when the world goes to shit" He gave Leliana's hand a quick squeeze under the table and left.
It really didn’t take long for them to decide to accept his offer, he only nodded when Cullen told him the news. While the rangers were out, Etrigan took Havard out to scout ahead a bit, he was traveling light, his bow, two quivers, and a pouch full of this awful dwarven snack made from ale-soaked bread that was seasoned then allowed to dry before being busted up in small pieces. He was always afraid he'd break his teeth on the stuff but in a pinch, it was food. All of the Rangers carried it in their packs. Mostly this scouting session was to find out where North even was, and he needed to think.
He loved Leliana, that was a given, he'd marry her now if he thought she'd say yes, no he was thinking about that future his mother showed him, the boy looked just like him but with Leliana's fair skin and hair, the girl was her mirror but with his eyes and darker hair. Once they found wherever they were going, and settled, he would tell her everything, he wouldn’t make the same mistakes that Mother did, granted he hadn’t been lying. He honestly didn’t know or remember.
Now he does though, and with what they do, who they are. He and Leliana deserve to have one person they can trust with everything. He wants her to be that for him, his unmatched equal, no one will know him better than she will, and he wants to do the same for her
He sat while Havard lay next to him both enjoying the warmth provided by the boulder they perched on. He had found North hours ago, he was just taking advantage of the first true peace and quiet he'd had in months and admiring the view, which was a very lovely view in deed, with his enhanced sight he could see through the break in the tree line to where Leliana was directing her agents as she lovingly stroked Baron Plucky's head. He had felt both the tenderness and the strength in those hands, if he was lucky his back would scar. Watching her work fascinated him.
As he watched he thought about her past, he knew some of it that she had been with a Warden for some time, but it ended, luckily for him, he had to laugh bitterly, a man that’s already half dead swearing to die for a woman is cheap. No last night when he went to her he promised her something much harder, he, Etrigan Trevelyan, promised to live for her. Mother was right, dying is easy, once you’re dead its over for you. It’s the ones left behind that suffer and if he could help it, he would never cause her any level of pain, but that isn’t how life works. Instead he could only try his best to never intentionally hurt her and always fight to get back to her.
Movement behind him, the Rangers are back, decent haul. Good. They grab up their snare traps on the way back to camp, even more caught. Everyone will eat tonight, perfect. Etrigan makes sure to make a lot of noise heading into camp so the guards know its them.
That night while he lies in the cot. Leliana was behind him, but wrapped around him again, her excuse was that he was flame wrapped in skin, he whispered softly asking if she was still awake. When she kissed his shoulder, he told her about the fever dreams he had after waking up in mine shaft, and how he had asked Tova to find any information if it existed. Leliana told him she didn’t know what to say, his reply was simple enough, "Nothing, say nothing. I just wanted to have one person in my life I don’t have to hide things from"
She pulled him onto his back "And you will never have to from me" kissing him deeply, before burrowing back into his warmth and them both falling asleep.
Morning came and with it, Etrigan's plan. They set out North his enhanced senses finding old trail markers in stone. The mages weaved into the people and the Brontos casting mild fire spells to stave off the bitter cold. Etrigan was covered just fine thanks to Tova, she had spent all the whole of the previous day using furs and old leather scraps to make him a suitable scout coat. He made sure to tell everyone this stronghold was not a certainty but as he climbed up a set of boulders to get a better view he looked behind him, Leliana and Josephine were smiling at him, the people. There were no more villagers, mages, templars or soldier. They were the Inquisition Cullen and Cassandra flanked him used to the brutal pace he was setting from their years of service.
Just like Etrigan said, at sundown they stopped for the day and made camp, the Rangers took off to gather what they could, the council had gathered all their tents together with a large canopy connecting them. By that fire is where Etrigan could be found scribbling away in his journal. He had gone digging through his trunk for the older ones and handed them all to Leliana, telling her a lot of what’s in there was what he remembered, some of it was sketches or just random things that popped into his head. He asked her to start with the marked page and waited across camp while she read it. He had given her the list of everything he saw in her and everything about her that captivated him. She asked why the pages after it were blank, he just shrugged and said that the list wasn’t finished yet and Maker willing it never would be.
From her spot by the fire Josephine was watching them, she sighed dreamily at her dearest friends. She definitely had a wedding to plan.
And so, it went for weeks, the Inquisition as a whole awake at dawn and trekking North until sunset. Camp would be set, scavengers would go out and people would eat and rest.
Etrigan would choose more of his past to share with Leliana and get another story of hers. He couldn’t help but wonder what he would do first if he ever met this Warden, thank him for being the biggest fool in Thedas, or rip his heart out for being such a selfish bastard.
On the twenty second day of their trek, Etrigan found an old trade road, that was a really good sign. Kneeling down and getting almost eye level with the dirt, he could see this road hadn’t been used in a very long time, but it had been used enough before that the vegetation never grew back, and animals still used it. It was also covered in the trail markers he had been following. They stuck to the road after that, making travel so much easier for everyone.
Again, at sundown they made camp, Baron Plucky flying overhead, let out a caw as he landed. Etrigan's ears perked up, no one else heard it but he did, the caw echoed. That night he told Leliana about his enhanced senses, and he proved it to her by sending an arrow into a tree, eye level with Sera who had been trying to prank Cullen. The elven woman promptly screamed and ran back to her own tent yelling something about ghosts stealing her bit.
Mid-morning on the twenty third day Etrigan found a narrow pass on their roadway, at one time it had most likely been wider and suffered a rock slide or something, climbing up the rocks and slipping through he almost fell off the rocks. There in the distance just over the next ridge. A stronghold, it’s here. Its real. He whispered a thanks to his mother and a soft breeze whispered back, "Welcome to Skyhold, my little Love."
Cullen jogged up to see what had stopped Etrigan in his tracks only to find the man grinning like a fool. He put a hand on the younger man's shoulder. Etrigan just looked at him smiled wider and pointed ahead, watching Cullen's face as he saw the keep, the two men smiled at each other then started laughing, by nightfall they'd be in their new headquarters.
The Commander started yelling for troops to start clearing the blockage in the road, so they could get through, the mages helped as best they could while Etrigan sent the Chargers and the Rangers on ahead just in case there was anything big and nasty in the keep.
It was just past nightfall when they arrived, tents were set in both the upper and lower courtyard. In the morning work would begin. For now, they rest.
They were home.
Chapter 26: Chapter 24 The Inquisition Reborn
And now we're in Act 2! Just wow, personally I'm shocked my attention span has held out this long but here we are. Have some major twists lined up in this act to replace some of the more mundane side quests I chose to ignore completely. Plus, lots of fluffy Ety/Leli goodness. So, stick around this'll be fun
Bit of a time jump in this one, but I tried to set it up nicely since in game there is no definitive time frame for when they arrive at Skyhold to when the bulk of this chapter happens.
When they first arrived at Skyhold, the council claimed a tower to work from and live in until the rest of the keep was usable. Etrigan chose to tell the council about his enhanced senses, within reason, he also told them about what he had tasked Tova with
The templars they had on hand worked tirelessly to prepare another tower for the mages and one for themselves. The Rangers went out daily for food except Stitch who stayed behind working with the engineers on repair and construction efforts.
After the first week, all the rangers had officially joined the Inquisition, so Etrigan formally and proudly disbanded the Rangers of the Free Marches.
Though they had not had another night like after Haven, he and Leliana never spent a night apart and true to their words, they had spent those nights banishing all secrets between them. Leliana knew more about him then even his own family, and he in turn knew more about her than anyone ever had.
Now nearly a month in, they were starting to see results, Etrigan and Cassandra had found a small Chantry off the gardens as well as a blacksmiths forge. They also found that within the walls of the stronghold was an entire village, and once repairs were made it would be fully functional. Even when the war was over, if they chose no one would have to leave, they could build lives here. Etrigan would see that these people never fear losing everything again, even if it killed him.
He spent his days helping clear debris after council meetings often leaving before they were even finished, when there was nothing for him to do he sat vigil on the battlements extending his senses out as far as they would go. Their Herald. Their protector.
That was how Cassandra had found him at the start of their fourth week at Skyhold, sitting on the walls of the battlements, looking out over the village. Etrigan hadn't gone out with any of the parties, instead staying behind to help where he could. She stood next to him, leaning on the wall, watching with him for a few moments before breaking the silence.
"They arrive daily from all settlements. Skyhold is becoming a pilgrimage." When he said nothing she continued, "If word has reached these people, it will have reached the Elder One" Etrigan jumped up ready to start planning a fight but she stopped him
"We have the walls and numbers to put up a fight here, but this threat is far beyond the war we anticipated." She regarded him and smiled at seeing every trait she and the council had been discussing earlier, "But we know what allowed you to stand against Corypheus, what drew him to you."
Etrigan held up his marked hand, "This is all because of Andraste's blessing, it’s that simple"
She shook her head; does he really think so little of himself still? "Yet did her blessing grant worthiness or was it given because you were already worthy?"
Etrigan ran his fingers over the mark, "Corypheus called this 'the anchor'. He came for this and now it’s useless to him, so he wants me dead."
Cassandra nodded, "The anchor has power but it’s not why you're still standing here. Your decisions let us heal the sky. Your determination brought us out of Haven. You are the creature's rival because of what you did, and we know it. All of us."
Etrigan started down from the battlements to the lower courtyard, Cassandra following, "Corypheus will never let me live in peace. He's made that clear. He intends to be a God and rule over us all. He must be stopped."
Cassandra guided him to the upper courtyard, "The Inquisition needs a leader." She takes him up another set of stairs, "The one who has already been leading it." At the top of the stairs Mother Giselle and Leliana are waiting. "You" Etrigan looks at Cassandra, his face stunned, "Its unanimous? You all have that much faith in me?"
"All these people have their lives because of you. They will follow."
"That wasn't the question, Seeker"
"I will not lie. Handing this power to anyone is troubling. But I have to believe this is meant to be." Cassandra gestures behind her, Mother Giselle stepping forward holding the Writ of the Divine. Leliana is holding a sword, the hilt looks almost like Cassandra's save the very intricate dragon wrapped around it.
Mother Giselle holds up the tome as Cassandra continues, "There would be no Inquisition without you. How it will serve, how you lead, that must be yours to decide."
Etrigan isn’t sure what to do, he puts his marked hand on the writ and look to Leliana who gives him a gentle smile nodding her head slightly. Looking out over the courtyard he sees the survivors watching with rapt attention to see what he does, at the very center Cullen and Josephine smiling proudly at him.
He looks back to Cassandra, "I will restore what Corypheus could never destroy. I am but a servant of the light." When Leliana raises the sword a bit higher towards him, he takes it. Turning it slowly in his hand, "The Inquisition belongs to the faithful."
Cassandra stands a little taller, "Wherever you lead us" She steps forward to address the crowd "Have our people been told?"
"They have," Josephine steps forward smiling. "And soon the world." Cassandra nods, "Commander, will they follow?"
"Inquisition. Will you follow?" Cullen questioned everyone behind him erupted in cheers. "Will you fight?" Another eruption of cheers as the crowd grew "Will we triumph?" The Inquisition roared as Cullen drew his sword while he rallied the people. "Your leader. Your Herald." He turned back to Etrigan blade held high. "Your Inquisitor."
Cassandra and Leliana each step up to either side of him as Etrigan raises the sword high above his head. The crowd below cheering wildly, Etrigan had to laugh when a loud cheer came from Josephine, who quickly covered her mouth with her hand embarrassed at such a display.
At sundown they celebrated their survival and the ascension of the Inquisitor.
The sword he now possessed had been in the hands of the Divine since the first Inquisition ended almost nine hundred years ago. Etrigan asked Leliana to put it back during a late meeting to discuss the hierarchy of the Inquisition as it stood now. He would still wield the sword but only during formal events.
By nightfall they had decided that as Spymaster, Leliana should also act as Seneschal, at least officially, since she was well respected in the courts of both Orlais and Ferelden, unofficially however the advisors of the war council were equals, Etrigan insisted on that.
"Leliana, there is no finer Spymaster in all of Thedas, by our alliances alone you control the largest information network the world has ever known." Next, he addressed his oldest friend.
"Josephine, you are the youngest ambassador to ever be appointed to an assignment, and you have done more to keep us running than I could ever hope to." The Commander was next.
"And Cullen, our forces would fall apart without your guidance. While Josephine keeps us running and Leliana finds our threats, it’s you who keeps us safe." He looked at all three of them
"Every decision I have made has only been possible by your words, all of you. I cannot do this without you." Turning to Cassandra he finished "Or you, it’s your belief in me that keeps me alive out there. I can’t sit around doing nothing while our forces risk their lives for our cause, but I can stand with them knowing you're there to protect me." He puts a hand on her shoulder.
"You are still our field commander. I will have it no other way." Pulling her back to the table, he looks around at his advisors, "The five of us started this, and all five will see it through or we are lost."
They all felt confident in their choice at his words, nodding in reply, "Inquisitor"
Etrigan's boyish grin was back, "Now that the boring part has been settled, how is everyone?" Leliana moved from her place at the table to his side laying her head on his shoulder, the mood shifting from work to an evening in the company of dear friends. They spent the rest of the night until they all retired chatting about everything and nothing. Come the dawn they had promises to keep.
After the engineers cleared out the rubble, it still took a few tries for Etrigan and Cullen to get the door to the main structure of the keep open. When they did however, the council entered what was once a very fine great hall. Josephine started writing lists of repairs at once. Cullen looked around.
"So, this is where it begins." Leliana gave Etrigan's hand a subtle squeeze before walking past him
"It began in the courtyard." Leliana said stepping over a fallen chandelier "This is where we turn that promise into action."
"But what do we do?" Josephine said while adding more notes to her lists "We know nothing about this Corypheus except that he wanted your mark?"
Cassandra looked to Cullen "Corypheus wants to restore Tevinter. Is this a prelude to war with the Imperium?"
Cullen shook his head "I get the feeling we're dealing with extremists, not the vanguard of a true invasion."
Josephine added. "Tevinter is not the Imperium of a thousand years ago. What Corypheus yearns to 'restore' no longer exists." She rolled her eyes sighing heavily. "Though they would shed no tears if the south fell to chaos, I'm certain." Etrigan thought a moment before looking almost scared.
"Corypheus said he wanted to enter the Black City, that this would make him a god."
"He is willing to tear this world apart to reach the next." Leliana added darkly. "It won't matter if he's wrong."
"What if he's not wrong?" Cullen wondered. "If he finds some other way into the Fade..."
Leliana shrugged. "Then he gains the power he seeks or unleashes catastrophe on us all."
It was time for the really scary question, Etrigan asked it "Could his dragon really be an Archdemon? What would that mean?"
"It would mean the beginning of another Blight." Leliana looked like she was going to be sick at the thought
Josephine noted. "We've seen no darkspawn other than Corypheus himself. Perhaps it's not an archdemon at all, but something different?"
"Whatever it is, it's dangerous." Cullen griped his sword "Commanding such a creature gives Corypheus an advantage we can't ignore."
Etrigan looked at him concern rising "Someone must know something about Corypheus"
Cullen tapped his fist against a wall "Unless they saw him on the field, most will not believe he even exists."
"We do have one advantage: we know what Corypheus intends to do next." Leliana smirked. "In that strange future you experienced, Empress Celene had been assassinated."
"Imagine the chaos her death would cause. With his army..." Josephine was almost panicked.
"An army he'll bolster with a massive force of demons, or so the future tells us," Cullen shook his head sighing.
"Corypheus could conquer the entire south of Thedas, god or no god." Josephine lamented.
Leliana nodding in agreement. "I'd feel better if we knew more about what we were dealing with."
A runner came with a request from the mages, Cassandra excused herself to see to it
"I know someone who can help with that." They all turned towards Varric. He walked towards them. "Everyone acting all inspirational jogged my memory," He said while gesturing randomly, "so I sent a message to an old friend. He crossed paths with Corypheus before and may know more about what he's doing. He can help."
"I'm always looking for new allies." Etrigan grinned "Introduce me."
Varric looked behind him, pausing as though asking permission "Parading around might cause a fuss. It's better for you to meet privately. On the battlements." Behind Etrigan, Leliana and Josephine exchange a look. "Trust me. It's complicated." The dwarf headed back outside.
"Well, then." Josephine started an entirely new list "We stand ready to move on both of these concerns."
"On your order, Inquisitor." Cullen stated
Leliana was still looking at where Varric had been standing "I know one thing: If Varric has brought who I think he has, Cassandra is going to kill him." Etrigan chuckled and nodded.
When Cassandra came back the five split up to explore the great hall. Cassandra found another access point to the gardens. Cullen found a larger forge under the keep. Josephine found a stairwell that led into a tower that she deemed would be Etrigan's private chambers, most likely Leliana’s as well. Leliana found a large council chamber with an anteroom large enough for entertaining, that Josephine promptly claimed as her office.
Etrigan smiled at all of them from above as they shared their finds until he whistled to get their attention, they looked up to see him leaning on the rail of a balcony overlooking the hall.
"That’s all well and good, excellent finds all of you, but I believe…" Josephine would later swear she'd never seen him so smug, "I win." he pointed to the door below on his right. "Through that door, is a rather large round room, go left and up the stairs, I'll meet you in the library."
He was waiting for them when they got there, smiling wildly and rubbing his hands together as though he was about to open birthday presents. "Before anyone says anything, follow me.
He led them up another set of winding stairs to the top of the tower, then turned to face them arms open wide, "This keep came with a proper rookery. So, did I win?"
The look on Leliana's told him that he very much did. After plans were made to repair their finds, Etrigan decided to check in a few of the people he had recruited, mostly to see if they were still on board since this wasn’t what he sold them when they signed up.
"So, Inquisitor." Sera was standing under tent in the courtyard. "It's Inquisitor now, right?" She threw up her hands. "Remember that war we talked about stopping? Full of little baddies I can stick with little arrows? That's not a frigging Archdemon, is it!" She started pacing "Andraste, what'd I step in?"
"I've been asking myself that since I left the Free Marches" Etrigan smiled, "But yes Corypheus was a surprise"
"No, a surprise would be, 'oh, I stepped in dog shite.' No one says, 'oh, a magister god monster. I'm surprised.' Impossible things aren't surprises." Sera continued her rant.
"The ancient thing trying to kill us seems pretty real."
"Don't get me started." Sera stopped and turned to him. "Oh, wait, too late, right? A magister who cracked the 'Black City.' It's dream, right? I mean, if it's real, then the seat of the Maker? Real thing." She was getting agitated. "A seat needs a butt, so the Maker? Real thing. Fairy stories about the start and end of the world? Real things. It's too far, innit? I just want to plug the sky hole rubbish, so I can go play."
Etrigan laughed "Keep calling it nonsense. That perspective will keep the Inquisition grounded."
Sera smiled. "Oh, I can do that. Sure, could use a few more people shouting 'no.' We fight, the bad things go away, everyone calms down, and everything goes back to normal." She hugged Etrigan "A nice, well-paid normal."
"You're starting to not sound completely crazy."
"I know. Scary, innit?" She smacked his shoulder. "So, bring 'em on. But first, food. I'm starving." She ran off.
"So, this is Skyhold." Blackwall was looking around. "Come. Let's walk the ramparts. I want to examine our fortifications."
Etrigan led the older man to his favored perch on the battlements “We'll be able to see Corypheus coming from miles away." Etrigan nodded, looking out to small camps that had cropped up between Cullen's checkpoints in the valley.
"Corypheus thinks we're beaten. By the time he finds us, we'll be legion."
"I know soldiers. I know our soldiers. Corypheus made a hundred enemies when he kicked down our door." He punched a hand into his palm. "Let him come. I swear I'll take the twisted bastard down, even if I have to die to do it."
"I'm grateful for your support."
"It's my job, isn't it?" He said, "Killing darkspawn?" His mood sobered. "Look, in spite of it all, there is hope. The people flock to your banner. They believe in you." The older man looked at Etrigan "Tell me honestly: are you what they say you are? Andraste's chosen?"
"I honestly don't know. There is still so little I remember about it all"
"Don't you see what you are to them? Without you, they'd be consumed by despair. We all would." Blackwall waved over the courtyard. "They need you to be Andraste's messenger. It gives them hope. The truth doesn't matter." He shrugged. "Ah, listen to me talk. Your time is valuable, and I've wasted enough of it."
Etrigan patted the warden's shoulder. "Giving me things to consider and reasons to push myself harder are never a waste, thank you."
The old warrior nodded and walked away.
Down in the lower courtyard an argument between Vivienne and Solas caught his attention, so he headed down to see what was wrong "This thing is not a stray puppy you can make into a pet. It has no business being here."
"Wouldn't you say the same of an apostate?"
When he got to where the mages were going back and forth Cassandra was looking like she wanted to be anywhere else, she almost cried when she saw Etrigan "Inquisitor, I wondered if Cole was perhaps a mage, given his unusual abilities."
Solas explained. "He can cause people to forget him, or even fail entirely to notice him." He leaned on his staff. "These are not the abilities of a mage. It seems that Cole is a spirit."
"It is a demon." Vivienne glared.
Etrigan half expected her to stomp her foot The elf was not moved by her. "If you prefer, although the truth is somewhat more complex."
A spirit, that would explain a lot.
"Cole warned us about Corypheus at Haven. He saved a lot of lives."
Vivienne's face was set in a scowl at the Inquisitor. "And what will it’s help cost? How many lives will this demon later claim?"
"In fact, his nature is not so easily defined."
Cassandra shook her head. "Speak plainly, Solas. What are we dealing with?"
"Demons normally enter this world by possessing something. In their true form, they look bizarre, monstrous."
"But Cole looks like a young man." Cassandra glared at the elf. "Could it be possession?"
"No." Solas shook his head. "He has possessed nothing and no one, and yet he appears human in all respects." He turned to Etrigan. "Cole is unique, Inquisitor. More than that, he wishes to help. I suggest you allow him to do so."
"In my studies, demons either possessed something from this world or were summoned and bound." Even Etrigan was starting to doubt the elven mage "They almost never look like something you'd mistake for a person."
"Normally, you would be correct. But Cole has willfully manifested in human form without possessing anyone."
"The demons who came through the Breach, or through the rifts, weren't possessing anything." Etrigan stated
Solas sighed. "Those demons were drawn through against their will, driven mad by this world. But Cole predates the Breach. From what we can tell, he has lived here for months, perhaps years. He looks like a young man. For all intents and purposes, he is a young man. It is remarkable."
"I should hear what Cole has to say for himself." Etrigan turns back towards where Cole had been only a few minutes ago. "Where is he now?"
Cassandra began looking around. "If none of us remember him, he could be anywhere..."
Solas nodded towards the infirmary. Etrigan slowly approached the boy. "Haven. So many soldiers fought to protect the pilgrims, so they could escape." Cole was watching the injured soldiers "Choking fear, can't think from the medicine but the cuts wrack me with every heartbeat. Hot white pain, everything burns. I can't, I can't, I'm going to... I'm dying, I'm..." The one he had focused on took a shuddered breath "...dead."
"You're feeling their pain?"
"It's louder this close, with so many of them."
"Would you like to go somewhere more comfortable?"
"Yes. But here is where I can help." Cole moved to another soldier. "Every breath slower. Like lying in a warm bath. Sliding away. Smell of my daughter's hair when I kiss her goodnight. Gone."
"Cracked brown pain, dry, scraping. Thirsty." Cole filled a cup with water and brought it to another of the wounded. "Here."
The wounded woman rasped out a thank you as she drank. He told Etrigan "It's all right. She won't remember me."
"You're using your powers as a spirit to help people?"
"Yes." Cole stood. "I used to think I was a ghost. I didn't know. I made mistakes..." Etrigan could see how sad this memory made Cole "But I made friends, too. Then a Templar proved I wasn't real. I lost my friends. I lost everything. I learned to be more like what I am. It made me different, but stronger. I can feel more. I can help."
Etrigan wanted to give him a chance "If you're willing, the Inquisition could use your help."
The boy almost smiled "Yes, helping. I help the hurt, the helpless, there's someone..." He kneels next to another soldier. "Hurts. It hurts, it hurts, someone make it stop hurting, Maker please..." pulling a dagger from his belt "The healers have done all they can. It will take him hours to die. Every moment will be agony. He wants mercy. Help."
Etrigan grab his wrist to stop him "You say he won't die for hours yet, but you can't know that for certain."
"His body is failing."
"He could recover. Or the healers could find another way to help him."
"How do you know?" Cole looked up at him.
Etrigan sighed, "I don't. And neither do you. That's part of life."
Cole looked back to the soldier "Try." He nodded and stood up. "I want to stay."
Cassandra was waiting for him as he left Cole "Have you met this 'friend' of Varric's, Inquisitor?" Cassandra looked angry, Etrigan just scratched the back of his head "Not yet, no."
"It had better not be who I think it is." now he knew she was angry "I will wring that little bastard's neck."
"Why? Who do you think it is?" Etrigan already had a fairly good idea of who he was headed to meet
"Someone Varric claimed he could not contact." Cassandra nearly snarled "Someone the Inquisition - indeed, all of Thedas - desperately needed." She took a deep breath to center herself. "I'll reserve judgment until I know for certain. No need to have that rogue screaming 'persecution' yet again."
Etrigan nodded at her and stopped at the temporary desk Cullen was using.
"Send men to scout the area. We need to know what's out there." Cullen was intently studying the map before him
"Yes, ser." the soldier he was speaking to saluted and ran off as another came up behind him "Commander. Soldiers have been assigned temporary quarters."
"Very good. I'll need an update on the armory as well." Cullen raised a brow as the recruit just stood there. "Now."
Cullen laughed at his own antics before seeing Etrigan “We set up as best we could at Haven but could never prepare for an Archdemon-" He sighed "Or whatever it was. With some warning, we might have..."
"Cullen when was the last time you slept?"
"If Corypheus strikes again, we may not be able to withdraw..." looking down over his maps "And I wouldn't want to. We must be ready." He handed Etrigan a few reports on repair progress and a duty roster "Work on Skyhold is underway, guard rotations established. We should have everything on course within the week." Cullen's face a wall of determination "We will not run from here, Inquisitor."
"How many were lost?"
"Most of our people made it to Skyhold." Cullen looked to the infirmary "It could have been worse." He grinned. "Morale was low but has improved greatly since you accepted the role of Inquisitor."
"Inquisitor Trevelyan. It sounds odd don’t you think?"
Cullen chuckles, "Not at all"
Etrigan raises a brow "Is that the official response?"
This time Cullen laughs, "I suppose it is, but it’s the truth. We needed a leader; you have proven yourself." He puts a hand on Etrigan's shoulder "You won't have to carry the Inquisition alone." Cullen assures him "Although it must feel like it."
"Thank you, Cullen." Etrigan saw the line of people waiting for the commander, "I'll leave you to your work"
A messenger brought him a note from Varric "Helped delayed. First thing tomorrow, Northwest tower."
Well since his afternoon is now free, might as well go stare at something pretty Making his way into the keep Etrigan nodded to Solas as he passed and made his way up to the rookery, as he went through the library he saw much to his surprise the Tevinter was still here. He stopped a moment leaning against a beam watching the man.
Dorian was pulling books off the shelf reading the titles and tossing them into piles or putting them on other shelves. "Brilliant, isn't it?" He tossed a glance to Etrigan "One moment you're trying to restore order in a world gone mad. That should be enough for anyone to handle, yes?" He started rearranging books again "Then, out of nowhere, an Archdemon appears and kicks you in the head. 'What? You thought this would be easy?' 'No, I was just hoping you wouldn't crush our village like an anthill.' 'Sorry about that! Archdemons like to crush, you know. Can't be helped.'" He turned, seeing Etrigan's bemused look "Am I speaking too quickly for you?"
"You don't need to worry about me. I can keep up."
"Yes, I noticed that."
"Certainly. If you were a slack-jawed yokel you'd already be dead." He shook his head "I always assumed the 'Elder One' behind the Venatori was a magister, but this... is something else entirely. In Tevinter, they say the Chantry's tales of magisters starting the Blight are just that: tales. But here we are. One of those very magisters. A darkspawn."
"Who does the Imperium say started the Blight?"
"You know how it is. 'Not us.' They say darkspawn were always there; magisters and the Blight aren't even related." He tossed a book over the railing getting them a startled yell from Solas.
"Is that a surprise? No one wants to admit they shit the bed. But if Corypheus is one of the magisters who entered the Black City and he's darkspawn..." Dorian stopped what he was doing and turned to look at him. "What other explanation is there?"
"Why does that make you angry?"
"Because the Imperium is my home. I knew what I was taught couldn't be the whole truth, but I assumed there had to be a kernel of it. Somewhere." He leaned against the table he had been piling book on "But no. It was us all along. We destroyed the world."
"You didn't do anything. Those men did. A thousand years ago."
"True, except that one of them is up and walking around right now." He turned back to the books "Not to mention I have idiot countrymen who would happily follow him down that path again. No one will thank me, whatever happens." He turned back again. "No one will thank you, either. You know that, yes?"
"I wasn't counting on it"
"I knew there was something clever about you." Dorian hung his head sighing deeply. "All I know is this: Corypheus needs to be stopped. Men like him ruined my homeland. I won't stand by and let him ruin the world." He picked up a stack of books and started to sort them. "Oh, and congratulations on that whole leading-the-Inquisition thing, by the way." Etrigan laughed as he left, nodding to everyone that greeted him, making his way up to his heart's lair.
"I'm sorry." Leliana took a scroll from Cullen.
"So am I." Cullen passed Etrigan on the stairs. Etrigan glanced back at him before going to Leliana.
Leliana was looking at the scroll now in a case as though it held all her answers. She looked to him "The names of those we lost." setting it on the table, her voice cracked. "You must blame me for this." Etrigan was by her side in an instant.
"We all saw who attacked us. We know exactly who to blame." He held her to him
"I keep wondering if I could've done something different." Leliana escaped his hold then walked to the window. "When the first of my lookouts went missing, I pulled the rest back, awaiting more information. If they'd stayed in the field, they could've bought us more time." She hung her head crossing her arms. "I was afraid to lose my agents, and instead we lost Haven."
"You look out for your people." He came up behind wrapping his arms around her "That’s' a good thing."
"Is it?" Leliana let her hands fall to his. "My people know their duty. They know the risks. They understand that the Inquisition may call upon them to give their lives."
"Our people aren't tools to be used and discarded. Your instincts were right. Their lives matter."
"Can we afford such sentimentality? What if Corypheus -"
Etrigan turned her to look into her eyes "We are better than Corypheus." He stayed in the rookery cracking bad jokes trying to make her laugh and when that failed he pulled her cowl down after borrowing a feather from one of the ravens and ran it across the back of her neck until she smiled. It was just the two of them there, so she sat on his lap, his arms around her waist and chin on her shoulder as they read reports.
A runner came to find him a few hours later, not even flinching at the sight of the Spymaster sitting on the Inquisitor, for two such private people, they were both incredibly open about their affection for one another, though the details were kept to the inner circle of the organization simple things like what the runner saw were normal occurrences in the keep "The arcanist has arrived, Inquisitor." Leliana thanked the runner and sent her away as Etrigan buried his face in her neck failing to suppress her giggle at his childish moaning
"Do I have to?" She simply nodded a shiver coursing through her as he trailed light kisses down her neck "I don’t want to leave" He propped his chin back on her shoulder, "You be the Inquisitor today."
Leliana put her hand on his cheek turning his head to face her, "Well then, I must leave" His grip at her waist tightened
"I don’t like that either" She kissed his nose making his face scrunch up.
"I am sorry my Love, but duty calls" He huffed but let her go so she could stand.
"Fine" She took his face in both hands scratching his stubble, leaning down to kiss him properly.
"I promise, work now" running her nails down the back of his neck into his tunic, "Play later" Grinning wickedly as his eyes went from her new favorite shade of blue to almost black and a shudder wracked his whole body.
Etrigan stands kissing her deeply, "You will be the death of me woman"
"But an enjoyable way to die, no? He smiles at her leaning in for another kiss before he departs. only to return a moment later
"I love you" he fixes her cowl and steps back before he won’t be able to leave her
"And I you" She watches as his entire face lights up at her words and he darts back down the stairs, a few minutes later she hears Etrigan and Dorian laugh as another pained yell comes from Solas. She chuckles to herself as she finishes sorting through the field reports
Etrigan makes his way to the undercroft where Tova has set up shop, when he and Cullen first showed her the massive forge under Skyhold they were fairly certain she was going to cry. As he gets down there now however, she still looks emotional but it’s an entire different set.
"The Arcanist has arrived?"
Tova looked absolutely murderous "You should see for yourself."
He walked down the stairs and looked around, not seeing anything he looked back to Tova until a really perky voice spoke up
"Hello there." Etrigan raised a brow. The Inquisition's Arcane Advisor is a dwarf?
"Well, don't just stand there slack-jawed, let's figure out what you need."
"You're the magical advisor?"
"Oooh, you're him. The Inquisitor." She exclaimed while grabbing his marked hand "I'm Dagna. Arcanist Dagna. It's an honor, Your Worship." She stared at his mark turning his hand in her smaller ones "Is that it? The hand-Anchor-mark? It's pretty. The Breach was pretty, too. In a... 'destroy everything' sort of way."
"You're not quite what I was expecting. You're a dwarven 'arcanist'?"
Dagna laughs, "The only one! When you learn things, everyone says you can’t you get to be the first! I don’t need to tell you."
"I welcome you to the Inquisition and look forward to your contribution."
"Me, too! I've heard some impossible things. I love impossible things. Those are the best to make, well, possible. I've looked at Tova's devices. The precision is fantastic, but typical. Mundane. Old thinking."
"It's what now?" Now Tova was really mad
"No disrespect meant to the classical trades," Dagna called out quickly "But you need a new perspective. I've made adjustments. As long as I keep making them, you can craft just about anything. Almost safely."
"Where does a dwarf go to study magical theory?" Dagna was now officially the most fascinating dwarf Etrigan had ever met
"Get out! I asked myself that question for years." Dagna got really excited. "Turns out, not in Orzammar. I had to start at a Circle. I had help, though. A Grey Warden, and I am forever grateful. With that sanction, I visited a half-dozen Circles." She smiled. "The wonders I have seen. And with an objective eye, I can spot where they overlap. That's a surprise for every teacher."
Etrigan looked over a few of Dagna's projects, "Your years of study have paid off."
"Oh, yes. The mages said I brought a valuable perspective. I've even presented my work to the College of Enchanters. I wanted an exchange. The surface could learn about lyrium-smithing, and Orzammar would gain knowledge of magic. But now there's no college, and so far as the Shaperate is concerned, I'm casteless." Dagna's shroud of happy faded but only for a moment. "So, you're getting my best work, Inquisitor." She was smiling again. "Let's make some great stuff."
"You gave up so much. Left your home. Was it really that amazing?"
"Yes." Dagna nodded. "I left my home and my family, but I knew - I just knew I could be more than a smith. I wish my people weren't stuck in the past, and I regret that my father couldn't imagine another life for me. But I don't regret what I did."
"You seem impressed by the anchor. What does it look like to you?"
"I heard what everyone says what you heard Corypheus say. That’s a long chain of 'who said what’ to me it says 'key’, but keys do a lot of things" Dagna moves to stack of boxes and starts unpacking, "Open. Lock. Switch. Some open one thing. Some open everything." She pauses a moment, "It sounds like Corypheus made it to open, it looks like you can use it to close." She goes back to her box, "It may be that simple." She adds after a beat, "It sure is pretty. I wish I could see through it"
"What is it you do exactly?"
"I was born to the forge. That’s literal in the smith caste, so the hammer and tong? That’s like a heartbeat. But!" Dagna points to Tova, "You've a woman for that already, and a great one. I'm here because of my passion for magic." She sighs almost wistfully, "Magical study, magical theory, magical enchantment, and through it the manipulation of masterworks. I studied it all with an objective eye. No secrets. No fears. That lets me apply principles like no other." She shakes her head, "Well, maybe one other but I don’t have that wonky of a mind so I still kind of win"
"You mentioned a Grey Warden who helped you start your studies?"
"Not just any Grey Warden. The Grey Warden. He's a hero in Orzammar too. It's incredible that someone like him would stop to help the little people. Literally." She giggled.
"The Warden affected you in a special way."
"Talk to anyone, they'll say the same. It was a dark time. He was our light. He saved us. Ooo and Sister Leliana too even more really, she saved me." She started getting excited again. "The warden wasn’t going to convince my father or talk to the circles at all until Leliana talked him into it" Etrigan smiled, his love truly was amazing.
"All right, rein it in. You have work to do."
"Right, sorry. I get carried away when I think of it. Ready when you need me." Etrigan made Tova promise to play nice before leaving to check on the others not knowing a plot was being made against him
Josephine waited until she was sure Etrigan wasn’t coming back anytime soon before approaching Leliana, "I need your help with a very important personal matter"
That had the Spymaster's attention, "If I can I will"
"Ety's Birthday is coming." the ambassador starts pacing, "And I have no idea what to get him" to herself however, Josephine knew exactly what she wanted to get him, but they weren’t ready for that yet and they would kill her
Leliana did some quick math in her head, her love's birthday was coming, and soon, "Have Cassandra recommend some good Nevarran language books for him to study, he kept pestering her for lessons on the trip to Orlais"
Josephine hugged her friend, "That’s a wonderful idea thank you" As quickly as she appeared the ambassador was gone again, Leaving Leliana to think of her own gift for Etrigan.