At age ten, Psyche had the bite of a lion and all the common sense of an irritable donkey. Which was to say endearing to her parents on most days but also quite heart attack inducing when she decided to take on certain tasks because inflated pride demanded it. This was all well and good when she went chasing fennecs with a wooden toy sword—not so much when she took on the likes of a wild ram because it wandered too far out of the forest and ‘Linus said she couldn’t’.
Linus says many a thing, all of which to cause some degree of mischief in the house, but that was a headache for another day.
Point is, this was how she ended up falling from the hilltop and breaking her leg. And Cullen will give her this: for all the pain she was experiencing and all his scolding, his eldest was in surprisingly good spirits.
“I would suggest wiping that grin off your face,” Cullen told her as he tightened the bandages secured around the wooden brace he had put on her leg. He made a deliberate show of refusing to look at her because Maker knows attention was just a prize for the cheeky child. “You’ve done absolutely nothing to be proud of, I hope you know. Giving me such a fright…”
Psyche pushed herself higher on the set of pillows probed up against her back and her grin grew, “Aw, but Papa, you should have seen it! I got him cornered like you said. If I had just bashed em up on the nose he would’ve gone down and—”
“And he would have kicked you and you would have smashed your skull wide open.” Cullen snapped and turned his old glare from his days of a Commander on the girl with all the heat that used to make season soldiers piss themselves in fear.
Which was exactly what she had wanted. Psyche laughed, her dark brown eyes alight as gems on the sunlight, “But I didn’t!” She sang playfully and Cullen knew that he was getting nowhere with her. Where she got this…tenacity he couldn’t even begin to guess. He sighed and, for good measure, roughly fixed the wood brace; at the very least that got a hiss out of the child.
Behind the door there was something of a ruckus; the others still crowded at the door, he assumed. After he had laid Psyche up in bed, he had sent the rest out of the room to get some peace of mind. Bridget had been in tears after seeing her sister nearly kill herself (which one would think she would be used to considering how rowdy Psyche was) and he didn’t have a free hand to calm her down. He had tasked Zander to do that and for his part the boy listened, shushing the little one out the door without much of a fuss. Linus, on the other hand, had been sent off to clean the stables for his part in this whole mess and for his sake, he had better have listened or Cullen was going to give him a punishment he’ll never forget.
There was an incomprehensible slur of wailing and hushing being done before the doorknob jiggled and turned. In came Farron, traveling pack and cloak still hanging from his shoulders, his attention immediately flickering from his father to his sister.
“Oi, you’re finally home!” Psyche exclaimed, waving him over, “Took you long enough.”
His expression flipped from mild surprise to a flat acceptance, rolling his eyes as he approached the bed. “That’s why Bridgy is all worked. What you do, fight a bear?” He asked as he put his pack down and climbed on the bed next to her. Cullen warned “Careful” as the mattress shifted under the new weight but it had gone on ignored as Psyche sniffed insulted at Farron.
“’Course not. It was a ram! A big one. Gave him a fight for his life. Had him scared out of his wits!” She explained as she flexed her arm—as if she had any muscle to speak of on it.
“Yeah? Then why are you in bed with a broken leg?”
Psyche shrugged, “Lost my footing, is all.”
Farron shared a look with his Father, unimpressed as he was but there was a small smile nevertheless. He muttered something under his breath, something Cullen was partly sure was ‘idiot’, as Psyche stuck her tongue out at him but he let it go in favor of the new soft set of footsteps coming through the door.
“Hello, love. Welcome home.”
“Hm.” Was all the answer Eurydice gave him, her focus on her daughter
Psyche went rigid at the sight of her mother, “M-Mamae.” She tried a light tone, her smile wavering, but she was having a hard time holding it as Eurydice’s eyes scanned the length of her braced leg. “It’s…it’s not as bad as it looks?”
Eurydice hummed again and looked towards Cullen. “What was it?”
“A ram.” Cullen sighed, rubbing his brow as he set Psyche’s leg gently on a pillow, “Nothing snapped but she won’t be walking for a while—magic or no.”
Eurydice nodded and turned to her son, “Duckie, go help your father with the others and dinner. I will stay here and heal your sister.”
Another pinch of fear went through Psyche and it was such that gave even Farron pause as he looked between them. Their mother was many things but a gentle—or even a moderately understanding—healer was not one of them. Exchanging a worrisome looked with his sister, Farron jumped off the bed and dutifully left the room just as two infants’ cries sounded from beyond.
“Papa, the twins are up!”
“Andraste’s knickers—it’s never-ending,” Cullen muttered. He shook his head and rubbed his neck, shouting out the door, “Don’t touch them!” As he passed his wife, he pecked a quick kiss to her cheek and closed the door, leaving Psyche alone with Eurydice.
And for her part, Psyche could only watch with a nervous air, little pointed ears twitching beneath her wild mane of curls, as her mother stripped off her traveling cloak and sat down on the bed on the child’s left side. Eurydice rolled up her sleeves, revealing one scarred right arm and one silver, steel carved left arm cold to the touch and clinked at the smallest movement–the prosthetic she only wore when training with Farron. She moved over Psyche to position the child’s head near her lap, the leg within arm’s reach of her. The action unsettled her brace and stabbed pain up the child’s thigh and along the bend of her spine, and she whined at it, her head thumping against her mother’s leg.
“Hold still. Still.” The palm of Eurydice’s right hand filled with a light blue hue, radiating hot and cold chills on Psyche’s skin as she set her hand on her calf. The magic spread from her knee to her ankle and threaded through the child’s skin like a needle, searching through muscle and tissue for the cracked bone. And it hurt but it didn’t and Psyche the roof of her mouth go numb and on her tongue was the taste of magic that always and only ever tasted like licking the root of a tree.
White bloomed between her eyes as she wiggled her limbs, squirming about until her head was in the right spot on Eurydice’s lap.
“Stop moving. Still, I said. Ha’mi’in.”
“But Mamaaaaae,” Psyche whined again and she reached this time for her mother’s left arm. She pulled it down to her forehead, shivering at the freezing palm, and held it there until her mother’s fingers began to comb through her bangs. Psyche breathed out then, relaxing in her mother’s hold even with the bad, bad taste and the gnawing pain of bone and magic meeting. She closed her eyes and felt her mother’s hair tickle her face.
Cause the healing was always, always bad but the best part? Mamae’s lap. Mamae’s touch. Mamae smelling like earth and harts and rain.
After a few minutes, she felt the magic find the crack and sink into her bones. She peeled her eyes open and looked up at her mother’s face, “Are you mad, Mamae?”
“No. Din. It is to be expected. It is your nature, little cub.” She said, her gaze far off toward the door and possibly beyond, “It is your father who is mad. …No, not mad. Worried. Very worried.”
Psyche puffed some air and pouted at her, “But all I did was do what he said.”
“And you failed. Your father teaches you with stuffed, harmless targets. You went and fought something real—and you failed. You are not ready. Do not act as if you are.”
A red hot flush burned Psyche’s cheeks and she tried to sit up, to prove her mother’s words wrong. “But I—I am ready! I just didn’t…”
Eurydice’s left hand fell against her chest and kept the child down on her lap. A small frown played on her mother’s face. “Think? Yes, think. You went and fought without a mind and hurt yourself—and a ram may be kind enough to let you be brainless but others won’t be. And that is why your father worries.” She said, then added. “You are young, cub. Too young to be hurt for being mindless.”
Psyche opened her mouth to say more but she could only really flap it uselessly before she fell boneless against her mother again. Scrapes of her pride told her to be offended by this. She hadn’t been mindless, she had only…she thought she was strong enough by herself. Rams aren’t hard to fight. Papa’s done. Mamae’s done it. Rams run off when they’re hit, too scared to use their horns for any good—and if anyone can kill a ram, then Psyche should be able to, too.
What she didn’t care to mention—not her parents and definitely not to her self—was when the ram bleeped and raised its hooves up, Psyche had been the one too scared to fight. She fell back, her foot going off the hill, and if she hadn’t fallen the right way, her head would have been cracked in two.
But she didn’t want to say that. She wanted to be strong.
Strong like Papa was, strong when he didn’t have his nightmares of things he wouldn’t tell her about, strong when he wasn’t tired and forgetting things like where he put a pot or what her Aunt’s name was.
Strong as Mamae—like Mamae was as Inquisitor Lavellan.
As strong as that but also not—she wanted to be better.
The quiet ate at the child as she pressed her cheek into the cotton of her mother’s dress, her mother’s nails racking gently over her skull. Silence let the guilt swarm into Psyche’s mind, her little adventure suddenly less of an accomplishment when everything else came into play. This was why she didn’t like the quiet—she thought of too many things and when she did that, it took away everything fun. But she decided that later she would apologize to Papa.
It was the right thing to do.
Psyche nuzzled her cheek against her mother’s skirt and spoke, “Mamae?”
“Tell me about when you fought Corypheus.”
“No.” Her mother said flatly, “I will not have a repeat of the last time I told the story.”
Psyche let out a little giggle at that. The incident in question was something of a weeklong fiasco of her running around the house yelling she was the Hope of the Inquisitor and using it as an excuse to beat up her brothers—but that was when she was six. She could handle it more maturely now, or at least she wouldn’t terrorize anyone with it. “Please, Mamae? Just once?”
Eurydice stared down at her, clearly weighing the pros and cons of giving in, and then she slumped her shoulders and seemed to relent. “Fine.” She finally said, twirling her fingers in her daughter’s golden curls. “Once more for you.”
“Yes!” Psyche cheered only to yelp out a small ‘ow’ when she kicked her legs excitedly and forget that one of those legs was currently indisposed. She beamed at her mother as Eurydice began to speak.
“I found out I was carrying you before the final battle with Corypheus. It was…a stressful time. Many things had happened. The loss of my eye, for one. I did not wish to think on it…on you…you were unpredictable and I thought I could pretend like you weren’t happening. It was…easier? Yes, easier.”
“But Uncle Cole said something, right?” She asked but already knew the answer. She remembered the entire story, start to end, but it was better from Mamae’s mouth.
It meant more when she looked at her and told her it. It was her story, then.
“Yes. He had heard you in my belly and he said… ‘Claws instead of nails. Biting already. A lion in the dark. She’s with you but she’s not with you. Not where you are. She wants to fight but she doesn’t know what fighting is. Out, out, she’s ready to live. She’s so young…I think she’s roaring’. I wasn’t happy when he did that. He made you real to me. You weren’t this thing growing inside me—you had a mind and you had desires. I could feel you…and I was scared.”
“Scared because you had to fight and you didn’t think I would live?”
“No. No, never. I knew you would survive. You were created to live—your first battle would not be your last. I was scared because…” Her mother faltered, lips twisting together with a secret Psyche could only guess at. That was something for another day—like Papa’s nightmares and why the name ‘Solas’ was only spoken in whispers. “It wasn’t important. I was proved wrong. Wrong. You proved me wrong. But I took you to battle with me, hidden behind my armor, with the assumption that I might not come back. I had made my peace with that. When I fought Corypheus, he had taken the cowards way out and cut me off from everyone else.”
Psyche sat up enthusiastically as she interjected with, “And then he hit you with a dragon right? Oh, but you had your own. A big white one!”
“…yes. Oh, well, also no. No, not at all. The dragons fought but they did not fight with us. They had their own battle in the sky—it was somewhat background noise.”
“Oh.” Psyche collapsed back disappointedly; why was it that whenever dragons came into play, they were always so boring? She’ll have to ask Uncle Bull for a more exciting dragon story when he visits.
Eurydice went on, “I digress; Corypheus broke the battle into pieces and had us alone when he fought me. I had imagined if it had ever come down to only me and him, we would die together. Or, the anchor would do that. Obliterate us. The magic almost did that a few times when it made contact with the orb. But then I…I felt you in me. Or, not. I do not know. It was as if you were beside me, fighting the battle with your own sword and shield. I was not alone. I had to be the last one standing because you were there to meet someday. So I defeated Corypheus and I…”
“Oh! Oh! I know this!” Psyche abruptly jumped up and, ignoring her screaming leg, tugged her mother’s sleeve while begging, “Let me say it! Let meee!”
The girl’s heart did a backflip when her mother smiled at her softly, “…go ahead.”
“You lifted the mark with all the magic from the orb and said, “You wanted into the Fade” and then you opened the fade and—BAM!” Psyche threw up her hands and kicked her one good leg, “He was gone and we won!”
“I won.” Eurydice corrected.
“Noooo, you said it yourself. I was with you. We won.” She grinned from ear to ear, laughing her head off triumphantly as her mother’s arm wrapped around her body and pulled her in for a hug. Their foreheads pressed together, Psyche embraced her tightly, her mother’s silvery hair a blanket around her.
“Yes, we won, my little lion cub. You were mine and we won.” She felt her mother’s kiss on her cheek, the healing magic on her leg laced so deep in her bones that the pain was finally ebbing into a strange numbness and she didn’t care.
Pride and love filled her heart, and her mother’s warmth enveloped her and they would stay hours later, when the memory of the story drifted her off to sleep and Psyche—with her lion’s bite and donkey’s common sense—would dream about having a story of her own to her mother one day.
One where she wasn’t mindless enough the break her leg.