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Part Two: The Past Meets the Present

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     “Hey Varric,” Bull’s deep voice sounded from the back of the group, “do you think your girlfriend could very build me a weapon? Like an cleaver that shoots out fire? Or maybe something that’s made out of a dragon’s tooth?” Varric laughed, “Tiny, a dragon’s tooth? Wouldn’t you have to worry about it shattering?”

     Bull grunted, “A dragon’s teeth can crush a human in armor with hardly any effort, dull or no. I really want to see if it could do the same if I was wielding it.”

    “Why not a dragon’s claw?” Varric offered.

     Bull thought for a moment, “a claw would be interesting, but I think the tooth would look better. Plus it’ll sound more interesting when I tell the story of how I got the weapon in the first place.”

    “So what you’re saying is you wanna fight a dragon just to kill it and take it’s tooth, to be made into a weapon, so you can have an interesting story to tell?”

    “Why not?” Bull replied.

    Varric laughed, “That’s actually not a bad idea. We’ll have to convince Buckles to take us to one sometime. And maybe I can work the fight into a book.”

    “Hey Boss! What’d ya say? Can we fight a dragon after all this is over?” Bull called to her. But Sanna didn’t hear, she was too focused on the knot that had gown in her stomach. Her concern for her clan had tied it, then the thought of seeing them again tightened it, and now it felt like she was going to twist away to nothing.

 

    She hadn’t heard from them since the she left for the Temple of Sacred Ashes. Sanna knew that there were a few who weren't sad to see her go. She’d caused her fair share of trouble for the clan.

   

    They were nearing the edge of the Dalish territory, the thick woods had been silent since they left the small Inquisition camp. It wasn’t until Sanna noticed that the birds had stopped chirping that she signaled for them to stop.

    “Something’s wrong.” Sanna breathed, drawing her staff into her hands. Bull and Varric drew their weapons. Sanna could feel Solas drawing his magic to cast a shielding spell.

    The air was tense, and Sanna’s own magic was broiling under her skin. She hadn’t expected there to be Red Templars this close to the clan’s camp.

 

     They all stood ready, waiting for the attack.

 

     A branch snapped to Sanna’s right, an arrow shot into the dirt at her feet. She whipped her staff around, a large fireball went flying from the end, the heat warming her face. It hit a bush right where the sound had come from, setting it ablaze.

 

     “Damn it Sanna!” A familiar voice sounded from the trees. A tall and lanky elf stepped out from the underbrush, his hand frantically patting his left shoulder, a small bit of smoke was simmering out from the fabric of his tunic.

     “Aron!” Sanna said in surprise, letting her staff down. He blew pieces of his fiery red hair out of his face, the long curled fell back into the place, and scowled at her, “You could have killed me!” He shouted at her.

     “Really? And were you trying to kill me or the grass?” Sanna ripped the arrow out of the dirt and waved it in the air, “this is one hell of a welcome back.”

 

     Aron rolled his eyes and snatched the arrow out of Sanna’s hand, “It is good to see you back in one piece.” His eyes drifted down to her hands. Sanna resisted the urge to hide them, she hated when people did this, it made her uncomfortable.

     “Are you out here by yourself?” Sanna asked, drawing his attention away from her hands.

     Aron stuck two fingers in his mouth and emitted a shrill whistle. Others from the clan emerged from the trees. It was a large scouting group, six of them. Bull whistled, your people are good boss, I didn’t even sense them.

     Aron smiled triumphantly, “Belithiel has been working on her cloaking magic, I’ll have to tell her it was a complete success.”

     Sanna rolled her eyes before turning serious, “I was worried something had happened to the campn since we got so close before you showed up.” Sanna said.

     “We’ve tightened out patrols, the Keeper is worried that the Red Templars will make an attack soon, and he wants us all to be in range should we have to hurry back to the camp.”

     Sanna was surprised, usually the patrols were set a good mile or so away from the camp. But they had to be only thirty yards away. “Isn’t it dangerous to let them get that close?”

     Aron shrugged, “It’s better for us to be closer should one of them slip through. We’ve lost a few, so we don’t have as many to cover a larger radius.”

     Sanna noticed how official Aron spoke about the attacks on the clan. If she hadn’t known him before she would have believed that he was the perfect scout. All work and no play.

     Together they would often get into trouble, but Aron’s chubby round face and darling red curls got him out of most things. Now the baby fat was gone, replaced with hard muscle. He’d grown a head or two since she’d left as well, she’d never had to look up to meet his eyes before. As for his charming red curls, they were still there, darker than she remembered and a bit shorter. The one thing he hadn’t lost was the mischievous glint in his grey eyes.

 

     After brief introductions, Aron led the others back to the camp. When they arrived everyone was waiting on them. The clearing was full of curious and cautious faces. Eyes followed them, many of them widening in surprise when they caught sight of her companions. She and Bull seemed to attract the most attention.

     There were whispers as they passed by, some of the clan that Sanna knew well gave her small smiles and nods. Others didn’t even bother to hide their scowls. She had anticipated that there would be a few who weren’t happy to have her back. The Red Templar attacks were because of her, and indirectly the deaths of some of the clan’s own. Sanna hoped that she could clean this up quickly, it was an burden she hadn’t wished anyone to suffer.

 

     Aron led them to the Keeper's tent, the familiar scent of incense was wafting out. Cinnamon and myrrh.

     Sanna ducked into the tent, Solas and the others following closely behind. It was a tight fit with all of them inside the small tent, Bull having to bend nearly in half so his horns didn’t tear the top. “Sanna! I am pleased to see again.” The Keeper greeted her warmly, his eyes looking worriedly at the rapidly disappearing space inside the tent.

“Maybe Tiny and I should wait outside.” Varric whispered.

“It’s alright if you two would rather wait out there, just don’t get into any trouble.” Sanna answered.

“That’s more of challenge than you know Buckles.” Varric chuckled and stepped back outside, quickly followed by Bull.

 

     “Keeper Istrimaethoriel, those were two of my companions, The Iron Bull and Varric. This is Solas . . .another of my companions.”

     The Keeper eyed her suspiciously, a slight smile on his face, “It is good to see you again, Sanna. And to meet your companions as well. I only wish it had been under different circumstances.” The Keeper’s face turned sad as he gestured from them to sit.  Sanna noticed the dark circles under his eyes, and the wrinkles that weren’t there before. And his hair, which had been mostly salt and pepper had turned a complete silver grey. It was longer than when she’d left, well past his shoulders.

      Istrimaethoriel poured them each a small cup of tea, Sanna glanced at Solas as he picked his cup up and held it. She suppressed a smile, and sipped hers. The taste was familiar, sweet from the dried berries, and slightly floral from the oolong tea leaves. This was the Keeper’s favorite blend, Sanna had her fair share when she was still within the clan.

 

     “Now,” he lightly clapped his hands together, “pleasantries are out of the way, we discuss the matter at hand. The Red Templar attacks.”

     Sanna set down her cup, “How long have they been making attacks on the scout groups?”

     “A few weeks now,” the Keeper’s eyes turned dark, “They’ve even taken or killed a few others that have wandered too far from the camp. I fear that they will soon be coming for the clan in its entirety.”

     “Do you have any idea where they may be camped? Perhaps an unusual amount of them coming from one area or something the scouts may have reported.”

     Istrimaethoriel shook his head, “We’ve no idea where they’re coming from, the scouts reports say that the Red Templars are upon them in seconds, and then they are just gone. I have been to a few of the attack sights, searching for any traces of odd magic or other wise, but there is nothing. Not a single trace that they were even there, other than the destruction they left behind.”

     Sanna turned to Solas, “have you ever heard of magic that could make a group of people disappear entirely?”

     Solas thought for a moment before answering, “There is cloaking magic, which your clan is familiar with, but I know of nothing that would make someone disappear completely. Although we have seen what Corypheus and his agents are capable of. I think it would be wise to continue looking into the use of magic.”

     Sanna turned back to the Keeper, “We will figure out what the Red Templars are up to, Istrimaethoriel. In the meantime you can count on my companions and I doing what we can to keep the clan safe. I would let them know that they shouldn’t leave the immediate area, going to the river or the waterfall should be fine. They shouldn’t go alone though.”

     The Keeper nodded, “We have set up a curfew as well as warned the clan not to go farther than the scouts patrol. I will advise them on this again.”

     “Good, we won’t be far, there is a camp just at the wood’s edge should you. . .”

     Istrimaethoriel shook his head, “There is no need for you to travel back and forth between camps. I’ve made arrangements for you and your companions here in camp. There are tents set up near the river for you. They have been stocked with whatever you may need.”

     Sanna wiped the surprised look from her face before thanking him for his generosity. She moved to stand, “My companions and I will go and have a look at the last attack sight. Aron told me that he was there when it happened. He can show us the way.”

     “Sanna,” Istrimaethoriel reached out and took her hand before she could go. “If we could have a moment alone, Solas. I have something I wish to discuss with her in private.”

     Solas gave an understanding nod, “It has been a pleasure meeting you, Istrimaethoriel.”

     He slipped outside, leaving the two of them alone. Sanna sat back down and faced the Keeper.

     “It has been sometime since you left us, Sanna.” He said his face soft. “I hardly recognized you when you first came in.” Istrimaethoriel poured her another cup of tea, the steam ringing up into the air with it’s sweet smell. “Life has not been kind to you since you left. You’ve grown much more than I ever thought you would.”

     Sanna left her tea sitting on the table, “I have missed the clan,” she kept her eyes on the steaming cup, “I know that I wasn’t like the rest. I was always venturing out on my own, and spending more time in ruins than I did with you or the others. But I never intended for this to happen.”

     Istrimaethoriel nodded and gave her hand a slight squeeze, “No one could have predicted that this would happen when I sent you to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I do have to say that I have been watching the Inquisition since its formation in Haven. I am amazed at all that you have accomplished Sanna.”

     The Keeper smiled warmly at her, “You were always a troublemaker, and you will always be welcome in the clan as long as I am Keeper. But. . .” He released her hand the smile fading from his face, “there are some whose blame is misplaced, I have spoken out against it, but their minds are not so easily changed.” He sighed, “They will not do anything against you or your companions, just don’t expect a warm welcome from everyone.”

     Sanna nodded somberly, she had gotten the feeling that not everyone was glad she’d returned when she had entered the camp. “I should go now. We’ve got a lot of work to do.” Sanna stood and moved for the exit again before the Keeper called out to her once more. “That companion of yours. . .Solas, he’s a handsome one.” The Keeper was watching her carefully, a mischievous gleam in his green eyes. Blush rose quickly to Sanna’s cheeks, “I suppose he is, yes.”

     “Be careful with him.” Istrimaethoriel gave her a knowing look before turning his attention to a large book that sat open on the table before him.