Chapter 1: Be Careful What You Wish For
Running down the dimly lit street with her hand over her forehead trying to keep the downpour out of her eyes, lightning flashes becoming more frequent and to close for comfort. She squinted her eyes trying to find shelter from this tempest before she herself became a crispy critter. Looking down the street she saw that most of the structures had boards covering the windows and doors, clearly this street was abandoned, looking further down she spied a dilapidated brick structure without the door being covered by the offending pieces of cheap lumber. As she approached the structure she noted the stained-glass windows, and a cross over the entryway. An abandoned church…. great she thought as she tried the handle and let out a sigh of relief as the door opened, creaking loudly as it was pushed inwards, beckoning her in from the unexpected squall that had snuck up from behind her outside. Opening the next set of double-doors she looked upon the forgotten chapel, pews in disarray, a couple of leaves blowing around the room. Rain dripping in from roof and a few of the large decorative windows missing large pieces of the colored glass panes, which colored the floor with every flash of lightning that shined through. An elevated pulpit at the other side of the chamber with a large Bible sitting open across the alter, which had lost its shine due to the obvious neglect.
Wanting to be out of the dark, she walked up towards the pulpit and found some candles, examining them she found that a few of them were still serviceable, digging through her backpack she found her lighter and lit a few. Sitting down on the stairs of the pulpit she looked at the room and frowned at her predicament, she was cold, wet and had no idea where she was. She had gotten off the bus at the wrong stop and wandered through a part of town she was not familiar with and now found her lost in this long-forgotten place of worship. Though not religious herself, she looked up at the alter and thought to herself… I know I am not a follower, but thank you for the shelter… Hoping that if there was a deity out there listening they would not take offence to her intrusion. Sitting down upon one of the steps she opened her backpack and pulled out her cell phone hoping to check the weather report. Looking at her screen she frowned as she saw that she had no signal in this room. Talking to her self she quietly muttered “I guess signal is too much to ask for…” She put her phone back into the front pocket and pulled out her e-reader and a granola bar and ate in silence as she wanted to escape her reality for a moment, living through the adventures of someone else… who was preferably warm and dry.
She loved the idea of magic, and dragons, knights in shining armor and had often wished that she was anywhere else but here… being a boring college student in her late 20’s kicking herself for not jumping into college right after high school. Working her crap job as a part time stocker at one of the mega chain stores and going to a community college to study… something… she was not sure yet. Taking basic classes as she tried to make up her mind what she wanted to be when she grew up… sad that sorceress was not an option. Finishing her snack, she sat her e-reader down for a moment and looked at the room shivering a bit form the cold… but glad she had worn her work boots to school today. The steel-toed boots had kept the rain out so at least her feet were warm in dry… the rest of her not so much. Her jeans on the other hand were still soaked, her hooded jacket had shielded her shirt from the rain but her legs were freezing… why did jeans always take forever to dry? She grumbled to herself wondering just how long this storm was going to last… the thought of spending the night here in this church sent a chill down her spine.
Getting back into her chapter she lost track of time until she thought she heard a deep male voice speaking. Snapping her head up, she saw nothing and then heard a loud crackling sound. Grabbing her backpack and shoving her e-reader in the open pocket as she dove behind the pulpit like the coward she knew herself to be. Taking a deep breath to calm herself closed her backpack and put it over her shoulders. Taking a peak from around her hiding place she saw an eerie green light form in the middle of the room. She just stood there frozen in place for a moment not believing her eyes… only moving towards it when she heard a woman cry “Someone help me”. Another male voice came from the green light as she walked closer, passing the first pew and walking mindlessly towards the glow, her curiosity like a sirens call drawing her ever closer to the phenomenon. It was then that she felt herself getting pulled against her will towards the light… she grabbed onto one of the pews hoping to stay where she was when the pull became even stronger. Holding onto the pew tightly with both of her hands, her feet were being lifted off of the ground, the force of the phenomenon trying to suck her into the glowing portal. She held on as long as she was able, until her hands could not fight it anymore, releasing against her will causing her to be sucked into the light, screaming as she flew across the room.
Screaming… running… something chasing her… the sounds of pincers rubbing against each other as they caught up to her. Being pushed through something as she tried to grab someone else’s hand and falling unceremoniously onto the ground covered in ash, with the smell of burned flesh around her. Looking back up she saw a man fall out after her, a glowing woman standing there holding out her hand... looking concerned for her safety. She squinted harder trying to get a better look as she heard the rapid footfall coming towards the two of them, raising her arms over her head and curling into a fetal position trying to protect herself instinctually as the world around her faded to black.
Carrying a torch, Lady Cassandra walked down the chantry steps into the depths of its dungeon cells, hearing the echo of her armored boots made as they contacted the stone floors as she descended. Making it down to the end of the dimly lit hallway she placed her torch in the holder as she walked to the elven apostate she had known as Solas observing the two prisoners monitoring their conditions.
Stopping right behind him, she asked “Is there any change?” glaring silently between the two sleeping prisoners.
Solas looked up from the unconscious man, still curious about the green mark sparking on his hand, causing him obvious pain with every flare up while he slept. Getting off of his chair he turned around and addressed the Seeker “We seemed to have stabilized the mark on the man… the elf on the hand just seems to be unconscious, I think she will come around soon enough.”
Cassandra looked at the small elf with the unusual clothing, red hair braided down her back covered with a hood of a jacket from a material she had never seen the like of before. Pale skin, freckles across her cheeks, with a strange marking on her left wrist that she could not identify… a tattoo of some sort but she had no idea of its meaning. Wearing pants of a stiff blue colored material she had also never seen before and a pair of very sturdy looking boots laced up passed her ankles. She had a satchel with her that took them a few minutes to figure out how to operate the sealing device. She and Leliana had gone through several times trying to find out some clue to the identity of this mystery girl without much luck. Inside they found few books written in some script she had never seen before, a hair brush, a strange book bound with a wire circling it multiple times with thick blank pages with several drawings and a small folding hand mirror that held some sort of skin colored powder… Josephine had speculated this to be some sort of face make up. The rest of the contents of her satchel had confounded them all… frustrated that her investigation just led to more questions than answers as to what had happened at the Conclave.
She then turned her head and observed the man, he was muscular with sharp features. Short brown hair and the beginnings of a beard growing in from the days he had spent unconscious as Adan and Solas worked to keep him alive. Leliana had been able to identify this man as the youngest son of Lord Trevelyan, he had much training in the use of sword play and often competed in the tourneys. As for his inclusion to the Conclave neither she or her spymaster friend could find an answer to, yet again leaving her with more questions.
Without any change in their conditions she asked Solas “I sense magic from the young elf… but she does not appear to be Dalish or of any circle… do you think her to be an apostate or a demon perhaps?”
Solas looked over to his other charge and pondered… there was magic there, though not strong. Not strong enough to summon the breach in the sky. He replied “I sense her magic too, but it is but a quiet whisper… she lacks the facial markings that the Dalish are so proud of, but if she had been in the circle her magic would feel more controlled. With her it feels untamed… as far as her being a demon, I would say no… that would have already manifested by now if that were true.” He was quiet for a few moments then remembered his investigations from earlier and gave the Seeker his report “Leliana brought me the book you found in her satchel earlier to see if I could make anything out of it. Alas I cannot, it is not a language I am familiar with. We shall have to ask her about it when she wakes.”
Cassandra replied “Thank you for your assistance Solas… I will let you observe them both further.” She started walking out of the room but paused in the doorway, looking behind her, she asked “Let me know if there is any change and if I need to summon the templars to assist you.” Continuing her exit through the hall way she punched one the stone walls and gritted her teeth in frustration… so much death and destruction… Most Holy missing and a hole in the sky that spit out more demons with every passing hour with only the two of them found at the center… someone will answer for this…
She opened her eyes and found her face laying against a cold stone floor. Letting out a loud groan as she tried to get herself up, but had difficulty as she found her hands were bound together. Finally arranging to get herself sitting, she looked around with the dim lighting noting the torches on the walls… beyond a set of very imposing bars locking her in. She was caged… oh shit she thought as the realization hit her. Trying to free her wrists from her binds grunting with her struggles as the binds dug further into her wrists. Groaning again in frustration she let her back hit the wall behind her, sliding back down to the floor. Lifting her head up to look up at the ceiling, she talked to herself “Fine mess you got yourself into…great… just great…” and started to feel the traitor tears swell up in her eyes, threatening to break free. It was then that she heard the faint sound of footfalls echoing towards her. She sniffed a few times, rubbed her eyes the best she could on her shoulders and looked towards the sound of the steps. She saw torch through the door and heard the whine of the metallic doors squeak as the main cell door opened. Curling her legs to her chest she was able to squeeze her knees in her arms behind her wrists binds.
The man placed the torch in its holder on a pillar in the middle of the room and quietly walked towards her cell. Looking up at her captor she noticed his unusual clothing, shoes with his toes sticking out bare onto the ground, bald head and long pointed ears…. she could feel her jaw hang open as she stared at the strange man unable to say anything due to her bewilderment.
The man pulled up a chair in front of her cell and sat down, chuckling quietly under his breath as he looked at the small woman in front of him. Trying to sound as soothing as possible, he greeted “Ir abelas, da’len.” He watched her as her expression went from scared to confused. He shook his head and tried speaking again “I am sorry, I did not mean to startle you.” Trying to keep a calm and apologetic expression has he observed her reaction.
This, she actually understood, standing up she placed her hands on the bars and replied “Thank goodness for small miracles, we speak the same language. What was that first thing you said?”
He shook his head a few times and stood up to look at her more closely, answering “I had assumed that you would have at least learned some basic Elvan, but it appears I was mistaken. My apologies.”
She had to do a double take on hearing that. She looked over at his ears again… yep her eyes were not playing tricks on her… pointed ears and he said Elvan… She snapped her eyes back up and quickly replied “Whoa… hold on a second you said elves?” She looked over at him and he simply nodded. Her voice rose up in tone as she answered him much more franticly “Elves don’t exist… well they do in stories and movies and such… but they are just a fairy tale. Like magic and dragons…”
He tilted his head with a puzzled look upon his face as he asked “You mean to say that you have never seen magic before?” She quickly shook her head in response. He rose his hand and summoned a small fire in his palm lighting up the room.
Her eyes widened at the display as she shrieked and flew back to the wall of her cell breathing in quickly as she chanted to herself “This isn’t real… magic doesn’t exist… this isn’t real… there are no elves… I am at home in my bed dreaming… yes! That has to be it… this is all just one weird dream and I will be back in my boring life soon enough!” Sliding down the wall of her cell as she could not contain her fears, bursting into tears sniffing loudly into her knees as she rocked back and forth.
He looked down at the cowering elf, wanting to calm her down. He squatted down in front of the bars and placed his hand between them in a friendly gesture offering it to her, holding it within her reach. She stopped her rocking and looked up at him and took his hand with one of her restrained ones, shaking it. He nodded and answered “Da’len… I guess I have much to explain, if you are willing to listen. But where are my manors… my name is Solas. May I have yours?”
She released his hand to wipe the tears from her eyes with her sleeve, looking at his calm demeanor feeling slightly embarrassed from her loss of composure. Taking a calming breath and swallowing, she calmly replied “Gwenevere… though I prefer to just be called Gwen.”
Nodding again, he answered “Now that introductions have been made, I am sure you have questions… feel free to ask and I will answer to the best of my knowledge.”
She rattled her brain for a moment for her first question… her eyes jumped to his ears and she just had to know… she asked him “Your ears… those are real right?”
He nodded and replied “Yes, they are quite real… as are yours.”
She gave him a puzzled look and took her hand up to feel her own ears… they were a bit larger with a point at the end of them. Gasping at her findings, she pinched one to make sure this was not just some joke. She crawled towards the front of her cell her knees until she was holding onto the bars trying to put her hands through them. He nodded in understanding, bringing his head closer and turned it toward her. Gwen took her fingers she touched his ear, noting that it was warm to the touch like her had been. She pulled her hands quickly back in the bars and sunk back to the floor placing her hands on her lap. She quietly asked “So elves… they are real? Not just a legend?”
He asked back “You have never seen an elf before?”
She sighed and answered “Not a real one… we have stories and legends about them… but I guess where I am from elves do not exist.”
He hummed a bit in thought as he asked his next question “And from your earlier reaction I gather that you have never seen magic before?”
Looking down at her hands she quietly replied “Not real magic… there are stories… to me I guess magic was a concept not an actual thing.”
He thought about this for a second for replying “Then it seems we will have to show you how to use it… you have magic in you as well.”
She snapped her head up at him and questioned “What? Me have magic?” He nodded yes. She asked another question “Does everyone have magic here?”
He chuckled quietly and replied “No, not everyone does da’len.”
She pondered his response, raising one eyebrow and questioning “Is it only an elf thing?”
Shaking his head and giving another quiet laugh he replied “Magic is a gift not exclusive to elves, though many of our people have the gift.” It was then another set of louder footsteps approached the dungeon, Solas had looked up to see who was coming. Seeing Cassandra enter, he addressed her “Seeker, it seems our young elf is now awake. No change in the other as of yet I am afraid.” As he said this the mark on the man’s hand from across the room flared up, shining a bright green light as he groaned sharply in obvious pain while it flared. As soon as the flare up ended he stopped moving and returned to his motionless state.
Gwen looked across the room with horror in her eyes again… she was going to have to stop getting surprised… her poor heart could only take so many freak outs in one day... and she was sure he must have passed that quota already. She quickly demanded “What the fuck was that?!?!” After seeing the eerie green light and watching the other prisoner’s body contort into something that did not look natural.
Casandra looked over at the short redheaded elf kneeling on her knees with her hands on the bars, before she walked over and took the chair that Solas had in front of the cell, loudly running its legs against the stone floor as she scooted it closer before sitting down herself. Huffing quickly as she tried and failed to rein in her menacing glare. She turned her head to the redheaded elf in the cell and commented “So she speaks I see… who are you? What happened at the Conclave? What happened to most Holy? What is that on his hand?” Pointing at the other prisoner as she drilled her eyes into the elf in front of her.
Trying to get some of her courage she tried to glare back at this woman with a strange accent and short hair… swallowing before responding to her slew of questions. “I am Gwenevere Johnson… I have no idea what the conclave is… no idea what most Holy is and that green thing over there… I have no no fucking clue…” Not dropping eye contact trying to not let this woman bully her.
Squinting her eyes more to intensify the glare, she grabbed the girl by her shackles bringing her to standing in her cell looking into her eyes more as she demanded… “What do you mean you don’t know what most Holy is?”
Solas cleared his throat to get the Seekers attention, getting the glare she held on the small elf now pointed at the apostate. “Seeker… if I can explain. I do not think she even knows where she is at currently. She has never seen magic before now. Where she is from I was about to ask… now Da’len, where are you from?”
The Seeker dropped her hands and pointed her eyes back at hers as she waited for her to reply. Gwen muttered quietly “I am from The United States of America…” hoping that any answer at all might get this woman to be less angry.
Cassandra glared even harder as she replied “I have never heard of this America… where is that?”
Gwen guessed this would be the case… sighing she answered “Northern Hemisphere, Earth… 3rd planet from the sun, milky way galaxy…” She hoped that her sarcasm would not get her into trouble with this woman before she asked a question of her own “Where am I anyway?”
Solas replied “Thedas.”
Gwen shook her head and answered “I have no idea what Thedas is…”
Cassandra looked at this small woman… she clearly had magic but how could she have never heard of it before… this did not make sense.. she could not sense possession in her, but could not believe her ears… how could she not know what Thedas is… or who the most Holy was… Asking another question, she replied “Then do you know how you got here?”
Gwen sighed and replied “I remember taking shelter from a thunderstorm in a church then being sucked into a strange green light against my will. Then I remember being chased by something and falling, before waking up in this cell.”
Cassandra asked “Strange green light? Do you mean the breach?”
Gwen retorted “What is the breach?”
Cassandra could not sense deception but something was not right with this woman… she reached for a set of keys she had on her belt and opened the door. Grabbing the small elf by her shackles and dragging her out of the dungeon and up a flight of stairs leading into an antechamber with high wooden ceilings finally making her way through a large set of double wooden doors before taking Gwen to the first sunlight she had seen in days.
Looking up she witnessed the swirling green tempest in the sky, this vision almost made her eyes bulge ever further out of her head... if that was even possible, Gwen demanded “What the fuck is that?” pointing up to the anomaly with both of her hands.
Cassandra looked back at her charge and raised her eyebrow in question replying “That is the what we are calling the breach… I think a templar might help get some more answers out of you.” She saw Captain Rylen walking by as she beckoned him over, asking “If you could follow me I could use your help in questioning her.”
Both Cassandra and Rylen took an arm and drug her back down into her cell where Rylen silenced her and Cassandra asked her questions again… getting no helpful answers. She groaned after a time and left her charge to the templar to get some fresh air and help prepare the soldiers to handle the demons on the front line. It was some hours later when Captain Rylen returned to give his report.
Cassandra asked “Did she give any new information?”
Rylen shook his head and replied “Unless you count her singing a song about 99 bottles of beer on the wall until she fell asleep… then no Lass.”
Chapter 2: All By Myself
Poor Gwen... it is just not her day is it?
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Gwen awoke from her slumber leaning against the stone wall of the cell and her head leaning against the bars separating her cell from the adjacent one. The sound of multiple footfalls approaching made her snap her head up towards the door. Several armored men came marching through, the templar she learned to be Ser Rylen came in front of her cell carrying a bowl with some vegetables and bread, and a glass of water. Stopping right in front of her cell and glancing down at her.
He raised an eyebrow looking at his charge, then asked “Am I to be expected to be serenaded again today Lass?” Remembering how frustrating it was to listen to her sing for hours yesterday, grateful when she finally laid her head against the wall and passed out.
She glared up at him and said “Depends… are you going to do that weird thing again to me today? If so… then fuck you and the horse you rode in on…” Raising her head up to look at any direction other than him.
He tilted his head up in confusion and replied… “What does my horse have to do with this?... but that is no matter. If you can behave… I have come to bring you food.” He looked over at her as she saw what he offered… reluctantly nodding her head in agreement.
Huffing as her stomach growled, she glanced over at him sideways and replied “Well when you put it like that… I suppose I can… restrain my inner minstrel…”. Thinking that if it came down to it she would sing hours of “this is the song that never ends” smile coming to her lips at that thought.
He knelt down placing the food and drink within her reach, watching how she frantically grabbed the offerings consuming them. The other soldiers who came in with him had been busy taking the other prisoner out of his cell and placing him in the middle of the room. Leaving him in an unceremonious heap on the floor, as his hand flared up again.
Gwen stopped eating for just a second, cringing at watching his unconscious reaction asking “Is he going to be okay...”
Rylen shrugged his shoulders, answering honestly “I do not know what will become of him… though the Seeker and Nightingale wish to speak to him… perhaps he might have more answers as to what is going on then you seem to.”
She squinted her eyes a bit as she took a large swig of water snidely replying “Like I have said a million times… I don’t know what the fuck is going on here.” Humphing as she went back to eating in silence under the watchful Templars eyes.
The marked man in the center of the ground started to stir… bringing himself to a sitting position before the mark flared again, causing him to wince in agony. The other soldiers in the room drew their weapons, surrounding him watching his reaction closely as the door to the cells opened. Two women entered… one who Gwen recognized as the Seeker, and another woman she had not seen before… a hooded woman who followed right behind the brash Seeker. Upon the two women entering the room the soldiers sheathed their weapons, backing up to give them space. The Seeker circled behind the man as he looked around trying to take in his surroundings. The hooded woman kept her place in front of him.
Cassandra leaned down and spoke into his ear “Tell me why we shouldn’t kill you now? The Conclave is destroyed… everyone who attended is dead… except for you two…” Circling back in front of him as she finished her statement.
He looked around in confusion and saw the small elf in one of the cells on the other side of the room… quietly watching this interrogation… he swallowed and replied “What do you mean everyone else is dead?”
Cassandra picked up his shackled hands and watched as his mark flared up again asking… “Explain this?”
He dropped his gaze to the floor trying to think for just a second, before hesitantly answering “I can’t…”
Cassandra circled around him, frustration oozing out of her as she replied “You also have no idea how to explain this?”
He looked down at his hand answering “I don’t know what that is… or how it got there.”
Not having anymore of it, she lunged at him grabbing him by the collar of his shirt proclaiming “You are lying!”
Gwen watched the reaction and spoke up to defend this man “Hey! Don’t hurt him… see he doesn’t know what happened either!” Resisting the urge to call her a psycho bitch at the end of that sentence, fearing more retribution.
Rylen took her by the hand and sternly said “Quiet… this is not a concern of yours.” Gwen glared up at him and did what she was told… resisting the urge to give him a piece of her mind… and flip him the bird.
The Nightingale looked over at the female prisoner momentarily then grabbed Cassandra’s arm trying to calm her by stating “We need him Cassandra…”
The man replied “I do not understand…”
The Nightingale looked down upon him and asked “Do you remember what happened, how this began?”
He thought about it for a brief moment and replied “I… I remember running… things were chasing us… an elf girl… and then a woman… “
The Nightingale copied back “A woman?”
He continued “She reached out to us… but then…” He sighed not being able to remember more.
Cassandra pushed the Nightingale back, requesting “Go to the forward camp Leliana… I will take him to the rift…” Walking back to the male prisoner and helping him get up.
The man asked “What did happen?”
Cassandra replied “It would be easier to show you…” leading him out of the room with his hands still in shackles.
As they both walked out of the room Gwen piped up again “Where are you taking him! He knows nothing… come on…” In her frustration she kicked one of the bars of her cell and leaned back against the wall. Looking back up at the Templar she glared and stated “See he doesn’t know what happened either… how can two of us have the same story?”
Rylen thought about it for a moment as the rest of the soldiers left the room, leaving the two of them alone. After much consideration he answered “Two people collaborating the same tale does bring up a good point lass… I will need to discuss this further. Enjoy your meal.” Nodding as he too left her alone in the room.
She grabbed her bowl and finished the rest of her meal quickly then leaned back against the wall, sliding down again… hating being left alone in the dungeon like this. After a short time, she felt her sadness encroach her again and started to sing to herself to just have something besides silence. “When I was young…” sniffing before she started back again “I never needed anyone… and making love was just for fun…” Taking a breath before continuing “Those days are gone…” sniffing again then continuing “Livin’ alone… I think of all the friends I’ve known… When I dial the telephone… Nobody’s home…” Sniffing again, feeling a tear slip down her cheek as she started the main chorus “All by myself… Don’t wanna be…. All by myself… anymore…” stopping her song as she could not contain her tears any longer crying into her shackled hands.
Sometime later she had calmed herself and was just staring at the ceiling when she heard more steps coming from down the hall. Listening carefully, she heard two people talking as they approached… one of the voices she recognized as Ser Rylen and the other was an unknown female voice with another thick accent. Ser Rylen held the door open for the unknown female as Gwen took in her appearance, she was a tan skinned woman in a ruffled yellow and blue outfit with black hair braided around her head. This woman walked in front of Gwen’s sell and stopped at the door, taking a quick look over the small woman contained within. Turning to Ser Rylen she commanded “Now, if you would be so kind and release our guest… I can take her from here.”
Rylen looked over at this woman and raised an eyebrow in question asking “Are you sure of this my lady?”
The woman nodded her head and replied “This poor woman has been through enough… she has shown no danger since she arrived… I will be perfectly fine.”
Rylen nodded and complied answering “Of course my lady…” Opening the door to Gwen’s cell and motioning for her to follow.
Gwen slowly got up off of the floor and walked out of the cell standing there in the open doorway… happy, but confused for the sudden change in heart for this treatment. The unknown woman took a set of keys from her belt motioning for the young elves hands. Gwen complied and felt relief as the shackles were removed from her wrists. Taking her hands, she rubbed her sore wrists before looking up at this woman smiling, then saying “Thank you so much… I was afraid I was going to have to wear those decorative bracelets forever.”
The woman laughed at her and smiled a bit before holding out her hand and introducing herself “I am Josephine Montilyet… and if I heard correctly you are Gwenevere Johnson, yes?”
Gwen took her hand and shook it firmly replying “Gwen, if you would… I’ve never been one for such formal names.”
Josephine motioned to the door and replied “If that is what you wish… if you would follow me I am sure you would be interested in freshening up and a clean change of clothes”
Her eyes grew wide and she could not hold herself back as she gave Josephine a hug, thanking her a million times before she let her go and apologized repeatedly for her overzealousness. Walking down the dim hallway, up the stairs and into a small room with four beds. She wished there was a shower waiting, but was left a bucket of hot water, a bar of soap, a washcloth and a towel. Looking over to the bed her new attire was laid out for her: an unflattering pair of underwear, a dark blue wool skirt, an off-white tunic and a tan colored vest with leather ties to finish the look. She laughed quietly to herself as she felt like she was preparing herself for a Renaissance festival... she just hoped no one would call her a wench. She looked back to Josephine after she took her black hoodie off, holding it in her arms and asked where to put her clothes.
Josephine replied “If you could just leave them in the basket over there, the servants will tend to it...”. She did a double take upon seeing the design on Gwen’s shirt and could not resist asking “What is that on that horse... and does that horse have a horn?”
Gwen looked up at Josephine and tilted her head thinking about how to answer. She pointed to her shirt and replied “The woman on the horse is what we call a Mermaid… it is a mythical half human half fish creature. The horse is called a unicorn… also a mythical creature. A unicorn is a magical horse that sometimes has wings… I take it from your question neither of these exist here?”
Josephine answered back “I am not familiar with either of those… but those are very beautiful creatures.”
Gwen replied “I guess with magic existing, I was hoping for at least unicorns being real… but I guess I will have to settle for magic… do dragons exist?”
Josephine sighed and answered “Yes… they do but they are rather destructive creatures and are incredibly dangerous.”
Gwen nodded and replied “Got it… no cute dragons.” She thought about it for a moment and remembered her ears… she has not seen herself yet and was curious to see if anything else had changed since she came here. Asking “I know this is a silly question… but is there a mirror I can use… I know I felt my ears, but have not seen them.” Josephine went over to one of the drawers in the room and opened on and found a mirror. While she was doing that Gwen took a quick glance at her now bare arms since her hoodie was off. Yep, her tattoo on her left wrist was still there… as was the large freckle on one of her hands and that scratch she got from a cat across her arm many years ago. Josephine handed her the mirror and she looked upon herself. Her auburn hair was still in the braid she had it in before she went to school several days ago. Her eyes were still as blue as the ocean on a warm summers day… still had that prominent freckle on her right cheek. She moved the mirror over to show her ears…. they looked the same at the bottom… but had grown larger at the top ending at a point. As many pictures she had seen of elves, she was actually surprised that her ears were not longer.
Josephine interrupted her inspection asking “Find anything interesting?” curiosity getting the best of her.
She nodded and answered “Well with exceptions to the ears being… well elfy, everything else is how I remember it. As strange as this is going to sound… I just wanted to make sure that I was really me.” She groaned as she looked at her hair again in the mirror… “This is going to take a lot of scrubbing to get all of this stuff out of my hair.”
Josephine nodded and commented “Of course you want to freshen up, if you need anything a servant will be waiting on the other side of the door to assist.” Leaving her alone in the room, shutting the door quietly behind her.
Gwen stripped down naked and took the bar of soap and washcloth, dipping them in the hot water and building up a lather as she cleaned several days of grime off of her skin and hair. She was pleased to note that the soap had a familiar smell… lavender. After getting as clean as she was able she started placing on the clothing… noting that there was no bra. She looked down at her pathetic bosoms and sighed. Thinking that she probably didn’t even need a bra to begin with… tucking the shirt into the skirt before placing the vest on. Messing with the leather laces up the front of the vest in a feeble attempt to get some sort of cleavage. She frowned as she looked down upon herself… her small stature and frame would never give her the cleavage she would hope to get. Giving up on that she brushed through her hair with her hands and placed it up in the best pony tail she could without a brush. Then looked at her bare feet and had to ponder how strange work boots would look with this outfit… but for now it would have to do. Walking over to the door she opened it to greet the world outside in her new attire.
Ser Rylen and Josephine were chatting when they saw the door open. Josephine greeted Gwen “Now that you are freshened up, I was wondering if you would like to join me in my office. We do have much to discuss.”
Ser Rylen looked over to Josephine and added “I will be out here… should you have need of me, my lady.”
Josephine looked over at the templar and answered “I thank you for the offer… but I do think we will not be needing your assistance.”
Gwen looked over at the templar and raised an eyebrow at him. Following Josephine into her office passing by the Templar, turning her head to look at him as she passed… sticking her tongue out at him like a grade schooler before acting like nothing happened as she closed the door behind her.
Josephine looked behind her and asked “Did you say something?”
Gwen flushed tried to look innocent before proclaiming “No…”
Josephine finished walking to her desk and sat in her chair, motioning for Gwen to follow suit in a chair on the other side of the desk. She then picked up the satchel and placed it on her desk before asking “We had some questions about items in the satchel… we found on you when we discovered you at the conclave.”
Gwen’s eyes perked up at the sight almost shouting “My backpack!... oh… sorry about that… did not mean to startle you… just wasn’t sure if that came with me.” Glad that she had a few of her possessions with her.
Josephine smiled at the reaction and started by opening the bag then pulling out the two hard bound books. “We were curious as to the writing in these… books. No one has seen any writing like this, so we could not decipher their meaning.”
Gwen pointed to the book on the left of the desk saying “That is a history book on Western Civilization… and the other one… it might as well be in a foreign language for its content also confounds me… that is a math text book.”
Next Josephine pulled out a few of the electronics she had in her bag, asking “What are these?”
She immediately looked over to her smart phone and picked it up, trying to activate the touch screen… when that failed she tired the power button… with no avail. Gwen groaned and answered “Well this is a smart phone… it is a means to vocally communicate with others, take pictures, watch videos of cats and such… but it needs to be charged every few days to work… and needs signal and I don’t think I can find either of these here so right now is a nice paper weight.” Next, she picked up her calculator, glad that this one was one with the solar strips so it would work here. She turned it on and showed Josephine it explaining “This is a calculator, it makes calculations waaay easier and faster.” Josephine nodded and seemed interested in the device. Next, she picked up her e-reader answering “This is what we call an e-reader… much like the smart phone it will be useless once it runs out of power, but for now it seems to have a decent amount of life in it. This device holds the books I have placed on it, so I can read without having to carry all of these books with me. At the moment I have 45 books on it.”
Josephine picked up the device and turned it upside down… and questioned “What do you mean it has 45 books on it… where does it put them?”
Gwen thought about it for a second… she did not quite know how to explain it… because she herself did not know how it worked… stupid technology mumbo jumbo that she knew nothing about. She laughed and answered “I guess I cannot use my standard smart aleck answer of sorcery… but honestly as far as technology is concerned… I don’t know how to properly explain how it works. I just know that it does.”
Josephine then grabbed the small bag with all of her pens and pencils in it and placing it on the table. “What are these strange sticks and these hard things with it?”
Gwen noticed the quill and ink pot on her desk and smiled, then replied “You might like these… may I see my bag for a moment?” Josephine nodded and she grabbed her binder and her sketchpad placing them both on the table. Then continued “These are what we call pens.” pressing on the button on the back to activate the writing instrument… scribbling on a piece of paper in her notebook watching Josephine’s eyes light up at the ease of use.
Josephine picked one of the pens up and pressed the button on the other end of it and asked “Might I try?
Gwen nodded and answered “By all means have at it.” She watched the woman write in an unknown script across the paper with ease, smiling in satisfaction when she finished. Gwen smiled at her and answered “If you like you can have one… but do keep in mind it will eventually run out of ink.” She then grabbed the pencils and opened up the sketchpad doing a quick doodle on them, explaining “These are art pencils, these are used for drawing by artists… I am not an artist per say but I do like to sketch every now and then.” She then grabbed the sharpener and explained “This is used to make sure the tips of the pencils are sharp so they can be used more effectively.” She then handed a pencil over to Josephine and let her try one out on her sketch pad, watching her make a spiral design quickly and also liking the ease of use.
Josephine smiled and commented “These tools are convenient in their ease of use.” Next, she pulled out her make up bag and asked “What is in here?”
Gwen pulled out her compact and opened it, explaining “This is what we call powder… it helps cover the blemishes on your face, giving you the appearance of clear skin… like this.” Taking the puff and getting a small amount of product on it, before taking the mirror in her other hand holding it up as she put the power on her face, evening out her complexion.
“Oh my… that looks like fun.” Josephine smiled as she watched Gwen power her face.
Next Gwen picked up the eyeliner and lighter and explained “This is a lighter… it makes a small fire… which I use to slightly melt the eyeliner making it easier to apply.” Demonstrating by striking the lighter and using it briefly on the eyeliner before applying it on her eyes using the mirror again. She then picked up her eye shadow and mascara and explained “These are eyeshadow and mascara… these help to bring out your eyes in conjunction with the eyeliner… like this.” and took the small brush contained within, mixing a few of the colors together before placing them on her eyelids giving her a bit of color. Then took the mascara and brushed it upon her eyelashes making them appear fuller and more vibrant. She then took the tools and asked “Would you like me to put some of this on you as well?”
Josephine tried to contain her excitement as she smiled and replied “Yes please… this is so exciting.” Feeling like a young girl again as Gwen carefully took the eyeliner and traced her eyelids, then blended the eyeshadow over her eyelids, then finished the look with the mascara. She handed Josephine the compact so she could see herself in the mirror. Josephine gazed at eyes for a few moments in the mirror before proclaiming “You are right… it brings out my eyes… I don’t know what to say.” Next Josephine picked up a colorful cylindrical tube and asked “What is this?”
Gwen opened the container and twisted the bottom making the dark pink colored product spin up explaining “This is lipstick… it colors your lips like this.” Before taking it and applying it to her own lips, rubbing her lips together to evenly spread the product.
Josephine jumped up and down in her seat a bit excitedly proclaiming “Can I try that?”
Gwen smiled and replied “Of course.” Handing the lipstick over to Josephine watching her try it on herself using the mirror.
Josephine grabbed another small storage bag from the backpack and was about to ask about its contents when her office door opened quickly, with Leliana and Cassandra both entering. Josephine saw the disheveled appearance of both women and asked “Is there something the matter?”
Leliana spoke first stating “We took Lord Trevelyan to the breach and were able to stabilize it… but he has fallen unconscious once again.”
Gwen’s eyes opened up wider in shock as she quickly blurted out “He will be okay? Right…?” Swallowing audibly from her concern.
Cassandra looked upon the small frightened looking elf and hung her head low as she replied “That is up to the Maker now…”
And for those of you who are fans of Celine Dion... yes that is from her All by myself song :)
Chapter 3: The Stars Are Wrong
First day out of shackles... lots of questions to be had and new characters to meet.
Gwen sat there with her jaw open for far longer than she ought to have after hearing that they were not sure if the marked man would ever wake up again. He had done so much for them all, he made the creepy green hole in the sky stop growing… she did not even know his name. She wanted to be able to thank him and probably punch him in the arm for pushing her out of… well, where ever they were. Probably saving her life from something… she could not remember, other than being frightened of it. She sniffed a few times then looked up at the downtrodden seeker before asking “Did we ever learn his name?”
Cassandra answered hesitantly “Maxwell Trevelyan…” She looked over at Gwen and took a few steps forward towards her. She took her hand and was about to pat her on the shoulder to comfort, but felt she had to say her thoughts first. “I feel that I owe you an apology. After what I heard at the Conclave and by Lord Trevelyan’s account of the events, I believe you.” She watched the elf raise her head up in confusion at the sudden change of heart, before continuing “I was blinded by my own remorse in not being able to protect the Most Holy… Divine Justinia. I wanted retribution… needing someone to answer for it and I convinced myself that the two of you had to be responsible for her death.” Putting her hand out in front of her instead as a welcoming gesture.
Gwen took her hand and shook it, replying “With as much craziness that is going on right now… I would suspect me too. Just don’t sic a Templar on me like that again… that is a terrible way to get to know people.” Not being able to resist the heavy sarcasm dripping from that last statement.
Cassandra chuckled a bit and game a faint smile replying “I will endeavor to not be so… brash in my choices again.”
Gwen accepted her apology and nodded, responding “Good, because I have another song up my sleeve just in case… and I am not afraid to use it.” Jokingly threatening her as she winked.
Cassandra recalled her conversation with Ser Rylen and chuckled, keeping her threat in mind and spoke again “If you and Josephine are done here, Solas has requested to speak with you again. If you would follow me, I can take you to him.” Trying to not sound so menacing as she spoke. Gwen nodded, waving goodbye to Josephine and promised to talk to her later. She followed her out of the chantry into the main yard, then walked the stony path leading to an alcove of houses to the left of the place of worship. Walking up the stone steps she saw the elven apostate and spoke “Here she is as you requested, I will take my leave.” She watched Solas nod before turning around and strolling back towards the chantry.
Solas looked over the young elf, noting the change of clothing and the cleaner appearance. Taking a better look at the young mage now that she was not in a dimly lit cell covered in filth, the dress became her nicely showing off her slim physique. He moved his gaze to her face, rounded giving her a childlike appearance, vivid deep blue eyes… reminded him of the sea, and her auburn hair was now loosely flowing over her shoulders completing the image elegantly… she cleaned up well. Feeling he stared at her for a bit longer than he should, he spoke “I see they have been treating you better since I last saw you.”
Gwen smiled at him and replied “Yes, Josephine was nice enough to rescue me… and gave me a chance to clean up… this skirt will take some getting used to. I didn’t normally wear these girly things.”
Taking note, Solas nodded, then asked “Do you wear things like you had on when we came upon you? I have never seen fabric like those before.”
She nodded and answered “Yeah mainly just jeans and t-shirts… it looked overcast before I went to school, so had my hoodie just in case it rained… well it did.”
This peaked his interest so he asked “School… so you were a scholar where you came from?”
She giggled a bit at this misunderstanding “Oh no… nothing like that. It is expected of us to further our education after high school to make something of ourselves… I was a slacker and put it off for a few years. But figure had to start somewhere.”
He was curious so he asked again “What were you studying? If I may ask?”
She sighed and answered “I wasn’t sure yet… had just moved half way across the state to attend a cheap college. Figured I would start off with the basics until I decided what I wanted to do. So, enrolled in history, math, freshman English and a drawing class.”
He nodded and replied “That is a rather diverse selection of topics, is that normal?”
She nodded and answered “Yep… we are all required to take the first three… the drawing was for fun.”
He nodded and found that each answered question just created more, he asked again “I know what Cassandra and Ser Rylen have told me but am curious to hear it for myself, what do you remember about the last day where you were from?”
She nodded and smirked replying “I am just glad you did not do that weird thing that Rylen did… that felt so… eerie… I never want that to happen again… What was that anyway?”
Solas replied “He silenced you, which is suppressing your magical abilities to be nonexistent, cutting of your powers. It is an ability that Templars have.”
Taking note of her sudden change of topic, she apologized “Last day back home… right. Sorry about the sidetrack… is just so much to take in.”
Solas replied “No need for that da’len, you find yourself in a strange place, surrounded by strange things and people, I would have a multitude of inquiries myself if I were in your place.”
She thought back to what seemed like a lifetime away and started off “I was on my way back home from class… I live a good distance away by bus in a sketchy part of town. I was not paying attention to my surroundings and I missed my bus stop, so I got off once I realized my error. When I stepped off it was raining cats and dogs outside, so I tried to find shelter. Ended up getting lost in a part of town I had never been to, seeking refuge from the thunderstorm. I ended up finding an abandoned church that was not locked, so figured I would wait out the storm there before figuring out how to get home. After sitting there for a while, I saw a green portal open up in the middle of the room and ended up being sucked into it. Last thing I remember is running… I don’t know from what though. Then I fell to the ground, followed by the man next to me and saw that glowing woman… after that it is waking up in that cell.”
Nodding, he replied “That is quite the ordeal for one day.”
She giggled awkwardly a bit and replied “You are telling me… I still am having a hard time believing this all is real.” She took her hand to her ear and touched it and continued “I mean these ears… how am I supposed to sleep on these?”
He shook his head and laughed quietly to himself at the thought, answering “I never gave it much thought I suppose, I never thought of my ears getting in the way of my sleeping before… it is an interesting conundrum.”
She thought back to something he said when they first met, he said that she had magic… she had to see it for herself. She asked him “You said that I had magic… are you sure? I have never done anything magical ever… I don’t even know where to start.”
He understood what she asked and pondered the easiest way to show her, then replied “That is easily done da’len.” Then he reached behind him to wield his staff, holding it in the air with one hand in front of him. He continued “If you seek proof, all you need to do is touch this staff… if you have magic it will react to you.”
Gwen swallowed audibly and took her trembling right hand from her side and slowly reached to the wooden instrument. She closed her eyes and looked away before taking one finger touching the staff, not sure what to expect. Immediately upon contact she felt it hum on her finger, before taking her whole hand grasping the tool. She opened her eyes and looked at the staff and noted how it felt… almost natural to be there. Feeling the staff as it seemed to almost become an extension of her arm, feeling the humming radiate through her. Flabbergasted, she muttered “Whoa…” Before being silenced by her dumbfounded state, she didn’t have words to explain what she felt.
He nodded and took his staff back, securing it back to its resting place on his back, before replying “As I said da’len… you too have magic. If you like, I can help instruct you on it another time, but for now would you care to join me for a meal?”
At the sound of the word her stomach involuntarily grumbled, she nodded and replied “I suppose it has been a while since I last ate… but only if you do not mind my questions.”
Solas replied “But of course, though I will have some of my own. But I find that captivating conversation does make food more enjoyable, if you will follow me.” Taking his hand and gesturing down the stone staircase.
Gwen followed Solas down the steps, on a small path to a building that was a short walk away. Walking through the wooden doors and into what she guessed was a tavern of some sorts. She followed him to a small table off to the side and he gestured her to take a seat. She watched Solas leave her momentarily to walk over to the bar, quietly talking to the lady behind it. She took a look around, noting the wooden tables with candles on them, hay and dirt scattered across the floor. Torches upon the walls, a fireplace in the middle of the room keeping the place warm from the chill that threatened to sneak in from outside. A wooden chandelier with candles around its round surface… she had never seen a chandelier in person before… this was new. Looking around she noticed the other patrons, some in clothing matching her own, others in something that looked more elegant than when she had seen previously and a third group in this weird white outfit with red going down the robes and golden looking embellishments… noting the matching symbols she guessed it was a uniform of some sort. The place looked full, looking out the window she noted the change in light, seeing it was dusk… they must have come at dinner time.
She would have taken more in, but it was then that Solas returned with two bowls of something. Placing one of them in front of her, then another in the spot across from her, before sitting down himself. Looking into her bowl she saw that it was some sort of what she guessed was stew, with some potatoes, a dark colored meat and some vegies mixed in. Wanting to make a smartass comment about her food, she shook her head and bit her tongue. This joke would be lost on him, so she chuckled quietly to herself and tried her stew.
Solas looked up from his meal and turned his head in curiosity asking “Something about your stew amuse you?”
She laughed out loud this time and shook her head a few times before answering “I was going to ask if the… well whatever this meat is was free range and grass-fed… but I don’t think that joke has the same connotation here. What type of meat is this anyway?”
Smiling, he replied “Druffalo.”
She grinned back, then tried to morph into a serious snob face while she asked “Was the druffalo grass-fed? Because I only eat free range, content, lightly killed, grass-fed druffalo.” She could not keep that straight face long before she started laughing. Catching her breath, she explained “It is a joke about certain people where I am from… being picky about what kind of food they eat.”
Solas nodded and replied “Well considering that a druffalo is a grazing beast, it is probably grass-fed.” Trying to add to the joke he did not quite understand, but Gwen was laughing so he thought he would continue to keep her amused.
She took a few spoonfuls of the hearty stew and savored the rustic flavor, and liked how it seemed to warm her from the inside. She looked over at Solas and asked “Will I get a staff of my own sometime?”
Placing his spoon in his own bowl, he replied “We will need to see where your magic strengths lie, so we know what materials to use to be more beneficial to channel your natural abilities.”
This piqued her interest, so she asked “Where do your strengths lie?”
He gently responded “I have spent much of my time studying the fade and spirits. There is much you can learn about a place and its history from the fade.”
Her brows furrowed in confusion as she asked “What is the fade?”
Solas had to think of how to describe this, so he started “The fade is where we go when we dream. As a mage we have more vivid dreams and can access spirits that dwell there.”
She thought about it for a second and answered “I thought dreams were just images and stories your mind came up with on its own while you slept… not meaning anything, usually forgotten shortly after waking.”
Gwen asked him question after question for sometime about the fade, asking to clarify things she did not understand, sitting there for what seemed like hours as he satiated her endless inquiries. They were both pulled from their bubble when a voice came from behind her saying “Andraste’s dimpled buttcheeks… Chuckles does know how to smile.”
Solas raised his eyebrow at the dwarf and thwarted “It is not as though I lack those facial muscles, Master Tethras.” Knowing the formal title would irk the dwarf.
Gwen turned around and looked upon the man behind her… smaller in stature, but stocky in build. Wearing a bright red tunic with gold embellishments on its trim, hanging open, exposing much of his chest hair. Blonde hair pulled back into a small pony tail, a large chained necklace upon his neck and at least a day’s worth of stubble growing in.
He grinned at the small elf and placed his hand on her shoulder before introducing himself “Name is Varric Tethras… and you must be Songbird.”
Gwen sat there for just a second before she responded… “Songbird?”
Varric pulled out the chair next to her and sat down, placing his own ale on the tabletop. He turned to her and asked “Yep, did you really sing the same song to a Templar for hours?”
She looked at him and nodded, replying “I sure did.”
He asked again “And did you tell that same Templar the next day to go fuck himself?”
Grinning ear to ear, she answered “Well… not quite the words I used, but damn straight I did.” Wicked grin growing across her face.
Varric looked over to Solas and asked “Are you sure she is a mage?”
Solas nodded and replied “Absolutely.”
Varric went and offered his hand to Gwen, continuing “I don’t know where you keep them Songbird… but you must have some mighty impressive balls to tell that to a Templar.”
She shook his hand and replied “Well am sorry to disappoint Varric… but I am afraid I left those in my other pair of pants back home.”
Varric laughed and slapped her on the back so hard she buckled forward a bit and almost fell out of her chair, replying “I think we are going to get along just fine.”
Solas watched her reaction and remembered how she reacted to meeting him, so he asked “Do you have dwarves where you come from then?”
Gwen just about choked on her drink when she heard that question… how was she supposed to answer without insulting the man she just met. She thought about it for a moment and answered “That depends… are dwarves a race here?”
Varric looked over at her with a puzzled look on his face asking Solas “She really doesn’t know anything does she?”
Solas looked over to Varric and responded “I am afraid not… to answer your question dwarves are a race here, how are they different where you are from?”
She looked up at the dwarf and hoped she would not insult him, so she started off saying “Well dwarves are not a race where I am from, but a… umm… mutation. While they grow up, they do not have the right levels of growth hormones released so they have a very short height… we also call this dwarfism.”
Varric pondered what she said and replied “I am not sure what a few of those words you said mean… but you are saying there is only one race where you are from?”
Gwen nodded and answered “Yes… only humans… dwarves are humans, just little people.”
He looked over at her and noted the ears and raised his eyebrows asking “Then how are you an elf?”
Gwen shrugged her shoulders and replied “A few days ago I woke up in bed a human, and then I was spit out of a green thing in the sky an was an elf… I have no idea how or why.”
He patted her on the shoulders again, lighter this time to not knock her over again laughing “I am going to have to talk to you more often Songbird… you probably have stories I could never dream up… which I am probably going to steal and overembellish… but that is a small detail for later. Here let me get you a drink.”
As Varric got up from his chair and walked towards the barkeep Solas answered “Varric amongst many other things is an author.”
Gwen nodded and answered “I see… should I be worried?” fearing as to what might be said about her for all eternity through the written word.
Solas replied “He will probably change your stories many times… so you will probably be fine in literature.”
Varric returned a moment later with three tankards of ale stating “These are on me.”
Gwen took a large swig… after the last few days she could use a good drink. She looked over at Varric and remembered a word he said earlier that she did not know… figuring the storyteller might be willing to also answer questions she asked “You said a word I did not know earlier… what is Andraste?”
The dwarf had to set down his ale upon hearing this, then replied “Well shit… you really are from somewhere else. Never heard of Andraste?” He looked over to her as she waved her head no. He chuckled and replied “Well settle down Songbird and let me tell you a tale…”
Gwen listened to him talk for about twenty minutes about Andraste, the Maker and some of the basic religious tenants from what she could gather. When he finished she nodded and answered “So basically sounds like Christianity… with female leaders and less sexism… but the same amount of guilt? I think I can wrap my head around that.”
He chuckled a bit himself and replied “You’ll get the hang of it all in no time, though there was another reason I came to speak to you. Ruffles asked me to show you to your quarters.”
Gwen had long since finished her meal and now that her drink was empty, she pondered what kind of lodgings they would give her. She answered “See you tomorrow Solas… lead the way Varric.” She got up out of her chair and noted the difference in heights she only had maybe five inches on the dwarf. She sighed as she thought she had to be the shortest elf ever. They both walked outside into the night, she looked up into the sky and saw two moons hanging in the sky. She looked over at Varric and asked “Has there always been two moons?”
Varric raised and eyebrow and asked “Yes… how many moons are you used to seeing?”
She replied “Only one… I really am far away from home I guess.” At this point they had reached a building on the other side of the settlement.
He looked over at the elf and replied “We will figure this out yet, but for now try to get some shut eye.” Before handing her a key, then walking off into the night.
She took the key and opened the door, inside she found a small room with a fireplace on the far side running, a small bed with her backpack and her previous clothes laying upon it. She looked at her clothes and noted that they had now been cleaned. She looked around the room and saw a little desk with a candle upon it, a few books stacked into a pile next to it and a small pot in one corner. She took her old clothes and folded them placing them on the desk, before taking off her leather vest and placing it there. She took off her boots and then crawled into the bed, trying to sleep. But after a few hours of staring at the ceiling. She groaned and gave up, putting on her hoodie and her boots she walked outside with the key in her pocket just, staring up into the stars.
Looking up at the night sky she tried to find familiar constellations, she looked but could not find the big dipper, the little dipper or Orion. She wished she knew more about astronomy… or physics for that matter… she might be able to place where she was in the universe… But for now, all she could determine is that she was nowhere near home, the stars were all wrong.
She stood there studying the night sky, trying to come up with her own pictures in the night when she heard the crunch of snow quietly come from behind her. She quickly spun around and saw three figures making their way towards her. Her senses told her something was wrong… adrenalin poured into her system as she prepared for the worst. She slowly backed towards the door to her place, hoping that they were just passing by… but she hoped in vain.
All three men barricaded her against the wall, not letting her get her escape back into her hut. One of them spoke “So here is the knife eared bitch who killed the Divine…”
Another one replied “I wonder what the Chantry will give us for bringing her in?”
She swallowed hard and was glad she had her steel toed boots on… at least she could inflict some damage with these. One of them lunged at her and she ducked, successfully dodging that attack, but got grabbed by one of the other men from behind. She took her foot and stomped on his as hard as she could while biting his arm. He let go with a yelp as she kicked him away, to have to dodge a fist as one of them screamed “You bitch!” She went and kicked one of them in the crotch knocking him down to the ground in the fetal position while the other punched her. The first strike hit her arm, then her back, then she was grazed by the one aimed at her face. She felt her lip spit and a warm fluid flow down from her nose… she tried to kick, bite and scratch with her keys in her hands to defend herself, but found the two remaining men to be persistent in their attacks. She kicked one of them in the knee as hard as she could, hearing a loud crack as he fell to the ground screaming in pain.
She thought to herself, two down one to go… it was then she heard the rapid approach of another set of rapid footfalls coming towards her. She braced herself for yet another attacker and was shocked when this new set of footfalls ran into the attacking man slamming him into the wall. She looked over at this man in the moonlight, he had his sword drawn and against the third attackers throat, pinning him to the wall. She noted his armor shining on his shoulders and some sort of fluffy looking dark fur adorning his neck.
He spoke sternly at the now frightened man demanding “This woman is under our protection… you will come with us.” After he spoke, Gwen noted four more armored men march up behind him, taking the two men who were whimpering on the ground by the arms dragging them away.
He stepped back, releasing the man from his sword, sheathing it as one of the other men took him away. Quietly he approached the frightened, small elf woman, trying to conjure up the most soothing voice he could muster saying “You are safe now, are you hurt my lady?”
Gwen reached up and touched her nose, it was tender to the touch, and her lip hurt. She replied “I think… they broke my nose.”
The man replied “If you follow me I can take you to somewhere safe to get that looked at.”
She nodded and followed the man back into the chantry building’s large double doors. As they walked further down the hall two women came out of one of the rooms in their nightclothes. She recognized them as Josephine and Cassandra.
Josephine gasped loudly at her new friend’s state, almost shouting “By the Maker what happened… who did this to you?” Running up to her placing her hands on her face, trying to sooth her hair with her hands.
The man replied “We found three men attacking her outside of her quarters… they are now being detained. We will decide their fate in the morning.”
Josephine looked at the blood on Gwen’s face and looked to Cassandra asking “Could you get Solas… he could fix this.”
Cassandra looked at Josephine and replied “Of course Josephine.”
Josephine went to Gwen’s side and wrapped her arms around her, gently patting her back saying “There, there… the healer will be here any moment.” Watching Gwen burst into loud sobs in her arms, staining her nightclothes with her tears and blood.
Gwen looked over to the man and got a better look at him, she saw he had blonde hair, that was swept back as if styled, a scar on his lip. She looked at his outfit… her eyes did not betray her in the moonlight, he did indeed have a red fur adornment to his armor.
Josephine looked over to him and replied “Thank you Commander, for your help in keeping her safe.”
The Commander replied “It was no trouble at all, my Lady.”
A few minutes passed as Josephine tried to calm the poor girl, then the chantry doors opened once again. Cassandra stormed in followed by a sleepy looking Solas.
Once Solas glanced at the sight, his eyes became more focused and he dashed up to the frightened looking girl. He quietly cooed “It is alright da’len… let me fix this…” She looked up at him, tears running down her cheeks and she sniffed loudly and nodded in agreement. Solas removed her from Josephine’s clutches and took her to one of the benches lining the walls. Sitting her down he drew out his magic and touched her face with a light green glow illuminating from his fingertips.
Gwen could only watch as his fingers went and touched her nose, she felt a sharp pain as her nose moved back into place, then relief as it set its self. He then went to her lip and placed his fingers on it, concentrating with his eyes closes as they glowed again. She felt her lip close back together, Solas then removed his hands. Taking the sleeve of his shirt, he went and wiped the blood away from her face trying to clean it up. He looked into her eyes and answered “You are safe now da’len… no need to look so frightened.” She sniffed a few times and nodded yes.
Cassandra and the Commander had been talking while Solas had healed her… she didn’t catch a single word they had said. Cassandra then stopped that conversation and spoke up “She will need protection it seems… for she will be a target for the Divines death.”
The Commander nodded and replied “If you like, I can place a guard at her quarters at night to make sure this does not happen again.”
Cassandra thought about it and replied “For now that will be acceptable Commander Cullen… We will make sure during the day that she is not without escort.”
All of those gathered nodded in agreement. Solas went up to Gwen and said for everyone to hear “I will take her back then and wait until the guard is in place.”
Cassandra replied “As you wish Solas.”
Solas took Gwen by the arm and lead her out the chantry doors back towards her quarters. He watched her take the key from her jacket pocket and fumble with it a few times before the door finally opened. He led her through the doors and sat her on the bed, taking off her jacket and boots and trying to tuck her into bed. They both sat in silence for a few moments until a knock on the door made her jump. Solas, got up from the chair at the desk and answered the door. He opened the door and let Ser Rylen in.
Gwen took the covers and gathered them to her as she crawled towards the corner of the bed towards the wall.
Rylen looked down at her and noted her reaction. Trying to have a soothing voice, he answered “Worry not lass, I will not silence you again. I will be standing guard outside, do try to get some rest.” He nodded over to the other elf and walked back outside.
Solas walked over to Gwen once again and started speaking again in elvan… the soothing tone she listened to… even though she had no idea what he was saying. The poetic tone of his voice, slowly making her eyes droop as she finally relaxed and drifted off into the fade.
Chapter 4: Learning to Play with Fire
Learning to play with magic and cute time with Josephine ahead. Enjoy :) Updating for errors as I catch them.
Cassandra walked down the dimly light stone hallway once again as she did the day before… but this time for a far different group of prisoners. She entered the dimly lit cells yet again in a fowl mood… This time with just cause, she told herself. She walked over to the two men standing in front of the cells, noticing Cullen pacing back and forth behind Adan. Adan was bent over one of the prisoners, inspecting the damage that had been inflicted the night before. Cassandra asked “What is his condition?”
Adan looked up at the Seeker and answered “Well, it looks like this one has a number done on him. Bunch of scratches on him, a few bite marks and a dislocated knee. The one over to the right has some bruising on his back, and this one over there just seems to be kicked in his… bits. Feisty little one we seem to have on our hands.”
Cullen replied “I would have to agree… she does seem to be full of surprises, doesn’t she?”
Cassandra nodded and looked at the three men in the cells with squinted eyes, as she asked them “So, why would you attack an unarmed woman without provocation?”
The one who had been taken into custody with minimal injuries stood up quickly, pressing his shackled hands to the bars before spitting out “That knife eared bitch helped kill the divine… for this she must die!” Before huffing loudly and slumping back to the cell walls, defiance and vengeance radiating from his movements and expressions.
Cassandra scoffed and sternly answered “She was not responsible for this… she is a victim as much as we all are. We will find who is guilty and bring them to justice…” She started to walk out of the cell room and stopped before turning around and stating “Adan, tend to their major injuries and then see to Lord Trevelyan…. We will decide how to deal with them at another time.”
Cullen nodded in agreement and followed her out of the room, speaking as they both walked down the stone hallway “I will also arrange to have a guard posted here.”
Cassandra replied “I also want to thank you for your help with Gwenevere, I fear what else might have happened to her had you not arrived.”
Cullen answered “As do I… have you heard how she is doing this morning?”
She answered “Josephine took her off of Ser Rylen’s hands this morning, she seemed to be in better spirits… she does seem to be resilient.”
He nodded and replied “That is good to hear, I will make sure the guards will continue to keep an eye on her so this should never happen again, of that you have my word.”
She answered “I talked with Solas this morning as well, he has volunteered to help train her in the use of her newfound abilities.”
Cullen answered “I shall speak with the man, it might be wise to keep a Templar on hand during these lessons to help protect her from herself, should the worst happen.” Cassandra nodded in agreement as they both exited the dungeon hall.
Gwen stepped from behind the screen with a new outfit on and slowly twirled around in a circle for the overly giddy Josephine. Feeling the fabric of the dress raise as she twisted in the emerald green dress that Josephine insisted she had to try on. She stopped twirling and raised an eyebrow and glared over at the gleeful looking ambassador saying “You are having way too much fun… dressing me up like some life-sized doll…”
She grinned and took in her new friend in her green dress, loving how it accented her delicate form perfectly, flowing in elegantly in all of the right places. She replied “Nonsense Gwen… I just thought you would like another change of clothes from those that you arrived in.”
She wrinkled her forehead asking “I thought my jeans went great with that vest and shirt you gave me yesterday…” She took her hands and waved them over the dress before continuing “This… is overkill. I am not a Barbie doll… how am I supposed to live day to day in something like this?”
She grinned and replied “With graze and poise… but for now…” She dug through the pile of dresses laid out on the bed and picked a more practical looking grey dress with a leather looking bodice and handed it to Gwen before adding “This will have to do.”
Gwen huffed, rolled her eyes and answered “Fine… I wear the dress… pants just seem so much more practical.” While she was changing she had a brief flash of what happened the night before and pondered what they had called her… so she asked from behind the screen “Josephine… what does knife-ear mean?”
Her eyes widened in shock, as she stood up from sitting on the bed before running behind the screen to grab Gwen’s shoulders before asking “Where did you hear that?”
She swallowed and replied “One of the men last night called me a knife-eared bitch…”
Josephine wrapped her hands around her shoulders in a hug before answering “Knife-ear is a derogatory term that some people use for elves…”
Gwen looked up at her and pointed to her ears and replied “Knife-ear? Really that is all they could come up with? I look at them and I think they are elegant and pretty…”
It was at that time both women were surprised by the spoken reply from Solas “Our ears are one of our distinguishing features da’len… it is an insult that bothers some of us, but I see it as no more of an insult than saying that someone has a nose or feet.”
Josephine snuck out from behind the screen to greet the elf “We did not hear you enter Solas… how are you doing this morning?” Trying to get back her composure from being surprised.
Solas nodded and greeted “I am well, I was going to ask if Gwen wanted to join me in some lessons… but she seems to be otherwise occupied…”
Gwen called out from behind the screen “If you give me just a moment I’ll be out…” As she scrambled to get the last tie of the leather bodice in place, she took her hands and ran it down the fabric smoothing it before stepping out from behind the screen. She looked at the man and noticed his grin as she stepped out, before stating “I would love to learn how to use my… newfound abilities… that is if Josephine is alright with this?”
Josephine looked almost disappointed when she saw that Solas was taking her away, but not wanting to hog her entirely to herself, she answered “Of course… you have much to learn, do see me later after dinner, we can begin on your reading lessons.”
Gwen smiled and answered “It’s a date, see you later hun.” Before taking Solas by the arm and walking him out of the room and half way down the hall before finally releasing her breath. She then turned and faced him, looking up into his eyes before saying “Thank you… I was afraid of how many more of these things she would force me to try on for her amusement… Now what did you have in mind Solas?”
Solas motioned for her to follow as they both walked out the chantry doors and down the pathway towards the main gate, speaking as they walked “I was thinking on my offer from yesterday and think it would be a good time to see where your magical strengths lie, Commander Cullen and I had a talk this morning and he believed it vigilant to have a Templar on hand should it be necessary. I tried to tell him that it would not be needed, but he insisted. So, wanting to help keep the relative peace we have here, I agreed to his… condition. Ah, here is the man now.”
Half way through the settlement they walked up to a familiar figure leaning against the stone wall, yawning heavily before Gwen recognized him as Ser Rylen… she asked “Do you ever sleep?”
He chuckled briefly and replied “Until a few moments ago, yes… I just think our dear Commander just wants to have a familiar face assigned to you… personally I think he just doesn’t want to subject anyone else to your antics.”
She grinned evilly back at him as she replied “Be warned I do have another song up my sleeve… just for you.”
He shook his head and laughed again, sarcastically replying “Just for me? I feel honored… lead the way Solas…”
With that the three of them ventured to an open space away from the camp with what looked like a test dummy set up in a clearing in the snow. Ser Rylen found a tree stump in the clearing at sat down as he watched the two elves talk.
Solas and Gwen both walked to the middle of the clearing about fifteen feet between them and the combat dummy and stopped. Solas started out his lecture “There are many types of magic, I can show you the basics and see if any of them seem to be more natural to you as a start.” He held up his hand in a palm up gesture in front of him and a slow burning flame appeared hovering above the palm of his hand. He continued “This would be what frightened you at first, this is just a simple flame.” With a gesture he closed is palm and the fire vanished. He motioned for her to mimic the way his hand was out front of him and nodded when she complied. He continued “Good. Now close your eyes and picture that flame, feel its warmth radiate from your palm.”
Gwen did as she was told and closed her eyes, tried to picture fire in her palm and remembered what all the roaring fires in fireplaces looked like, then how her lighter in her backpack created the small flame. She closed her eyes tighter and wrinkled her forehead trying to feel the flame… she opened her eyes and saw nothing. She grunted and looked over to Solas who was standing in front of him and told him “I don’t think it is working…”
He chuckled lightly and replied “Try once more da’len… relax” He watched her close her eyes and try again, after a few moments of nothing happening he circled around beside her, wrapped one arm around her waist and the other reached out to mimic what her hand was doing, lightly touching her hand with his own, letting his own magic flow through her to give her the slight nudge she needed. With that action a small flame appeared in her hand and he stopped his aid, watching as she opened up her eyes and saw the flame just existing above her own palm. He looked down at her and replied “I just gave you a small nudge, you are maintaining that on your own.”
Gwen just stared at her own hand, not believing her eyes… she was dumbstruck and all that she could say was “Whoa…” She watched the flames dance across the air in front of her for a few moments and closed her hand, with that movement the fire ceased. She looked up at Solas who was still standing beside her, he had just released his grip on her side and took a step back. She asked “Should I try again?” He nodded and just watched. She tried to remember what it felt like, and tried to summon that feeling again in her hand. With a few moments effort the small flame appeared once more. She closed her hand and jumped up and down in her excitement loudly proclaiming “I did it… I can’t believe I did it…”
He watched her gleeful reaction and waited for her little celebration to end before he suggested trying another school of magic. He repeated his lessons going through ice, lightning, telekinesis for a few hours with difficulty and varying degrees of success. Finally, he wanted to try something different in this lesson, trying out healing magic instead of offensive abilities. He went and took a small dagger he had in his pouch and placed a small cut upon the tip of one his fingers. He asked her “Do you remember how it felt when I healed your nose and lip yesterday?” She nodded and he continued now take you hand and place it on my wound, try to feel that energy from yesterday and see if you can heal this.
Gwen stepped up to him and took his finger in her hand and concentrated within seconds a green glow emanated from her hand and she watched the small would close up as it were not there at all. She looked up at his face and asked “Was that good?”
He nodded and answered “That seemed to come easier than any of the other magics we have tried today. It seems you will be skilled in healing magic.”
She smiled and added “Fire didn’t seem so bad either once I got the hang of it. But you are right healing, that did seem like the easiest for me.”
He thought about it for a moment and answered “Alright, for now we will make those two schools of magic our focus of study… we should venture out into the other schools to help give you a more rounded experience in the craft once you are more skilled. I think I know what type of staff we should have commissioned for you now. I will talk with our resident crafter to arrange for one to be made.” He looked over at the untouched combat dummy and said “We should get you some practice using your magic on a far away target… this time you will have more weapons in your arsenal should fools like those form last night choose to bother you again. Now take your hand like I had you do before and create a flame.” He looked over at her and she complied with his wishes, he continued “Now make it larger… good… now take your hand and try to throw it at the dummy over there.”
Gwen tried as he asked and hurled the ball of fire towards the target and watched it fly through the air and hit the snow to the left of the target about five feet away… She huffed, and pulled her hair behind her ear with her hand before giving it another shot. She tried again, concentrating on the flame trying to throw it where she wanted it… this time barely missing her target. She groaned and tried once again, saying to herself in a whisper “Well third times the charm…” Before throwing another fireball through the air, finally making a direct hit on the target igniting the dummy. She would have jumped up and down this time… but she just felt so warn out. Who knew magic would be so tiring… she went and found a nearby log and sat down.
Solas watched his young pupal with pride with her accomplishment and followed her over to the log and sat next to her asking “Tired da’len?”
She gave a deep sign and answered “Yes… I just feel so drained.”
He answered “Your endurance will grow with practice… for now I think we have done enough.” He looked over to Ser Rylen who had long since fallen asleep on his stump and laughed quietly, continuing “It seems we did not need his presence after all… but I can see the Commanders concern.”
Gwen was puzzled by this statement and asked “Why was he here anyway? To silence me should I accidently set myself on fire or something?”
Solas nodded and answered “In a manor speaking, yes. That would be part of his purpose here… to silence you should your magic overwhelm you before you could harm yourself or others. He is also here to make sure you do not harm others should you be taken in by possession from demons.”
Her eyes widened at the sound of that… she had to repeat “Demons?... Really? Demons?”
Solas nodded and answered “Yes, as a mage, demons will be drawn to us from the fade and will attempt to use us as a method to gain access to our world. Should you give into their temptations, you will lose yourself and become and abomination… which Templars are trained to destroy.”
She looked over at the sleeping Templar and asked “So he came here prepared to kill me today?”
Solas explained “Nothing we were going to attempt today would have been dangerous enough to warrant that… I would have stopped you myself before he would have been needed. In this world, untrained mages such as yourself are considered a great risk. So, the chantry believes for your own protection and for the protection of those around you, a Templar is needed to help you learn safely… As of right now… like myself, you are considered an apostate. Since neither of us have spent time in the circle.”
She looked up at him and questioned “What is the circle?”
He replied “The circle is where most people who are found to be gifted in magic are sent to be trained by other mages. This also helps them be protected from the outside world that would persecute them. Templars are there to help keep the peace in the tower as I understand it.”
She raised an eyebrow and asked “So magic is feared here?”
He looked down at the ground and answered “Like many things… people fear that which they do not understand.”
Her stomach grumbled and she sighed to herself, looking over at the sleeping Templar across the way asking “Do you think we would get in trouble if we just left him there like that?”
Solas laughed quietly to himself and answered “As amusing as the thought would be, I think you are right… it might be assumed that we did something to him. We should wake him and be on our way.”
She slowly walked towards Ser Rylen and debated on how best to wake him… speaking up she said “Ummmm… Ser Rylen… Mr. Templar…”
At this he shot his head up in a start and looked around seeing the two elves standing there expectantly, he shook his head and answered “How long was I out for?”
Solas answered “For a few hours, you missed the whole lesson…”
Ser Rylen facepalmed at the realization, quietly muttering “Cullen is going to kill me…”
Gwen gave a crooked smile and offered “We won’t tell if you won’t…”
Rylen looked up at the two mages and dropped his head, replying “I thank you for the offer, but I will let him know myself. I am glad to see that your lesson went well.”
The three of them walked back to camp and Gwen watched as Ser Rylen went to go talk to another man, with blonde hair and armor adorned with a long red fur. She stopped in her tracks and asked Solas “Is that the man who helped me the yesterday?”
Solas nodded and replied “Yes, that is Commander Cullen.”
She turned to Solas and said “I thank you for your lesson today and I shall see you at dinner… but I need to talk to him, to thank him for coming to my aid last night… and to try to make sure he is not too hard on Ser Rylen for us.”
Solas nodded and replied “I shall see you soon then, da’len.” Before walking away towards the main gates.
She walked up behind Commander Cullen, he was talking with Ser Rylen and she overheard him saying “I know you have not had a lot of sleep lately… but you are there for her protection as much as everyone else. Magic can be dangerous, especially in the untested…” He looked into his eyes and sighed shaking his head before continuing “We will discuss this later, but for now you look dead on your feet, dismissed.”
She watched Ser Rylen walk off and the Commander stood there, back to her viewing the frozen lake, hand rubbing the back of his neck, oblivious to her presence. To not startle the man, she slowly walked around him from his side and then walked into his field of vision. She spoke once his head looked up and he spotted her, saying “You don’t have to be so hard on him… we made it through the lesson in one piece, didn’t even turn anyone into newts.” She winked at him, hoping her joke would make him laugh.
This statement instead stunned him, as he crooked his eyebrows and asked “What do you mean turn someone into newts?”
She laughed and shook her head a bit before explaining “Well… you see where I am from it was a joke that magic would turn you into newts, frogs, cats… all sorts of things…”
He remembered his conversations with Solas and Cassandra about the strange elf and he had to clarify “But I thought magic didn’t exist where you are from?”
She shrugged her shoulders and explained “It doesn’t… we just have stories and old wives’ tales to keep children behaved… like be a good little girl or that mean old witch will take you into her candy house and turn you into a newt and eat you.”
This statement confused him even more as he answered “You really do have strange notions of magic where you are from… I have never heard anything like magic performing a feat like that.”
She smiled up at him and continued “I would also like to thank you for coming to my rescue last night… I think I would have been much worse for ware had you not shown up when you did.”
He bowed his head politely and smiled back, replying “It was no trouble at all my Lady. I do have to say, I was impressed how you handled yourself before I came in, where did you learn how to fight like that?”
She answered “My Mom made me take some self defense courses when I was younger, and made me brush up on them before I moved away from home. When you live in a not so good part of town it is best to know how to defend yourself, just in case the worst happens.”
He replied “A wise woman indeed.” He reached into a pouch hidden behind his cloak and pulled out a small sheathed dagger and handed it to her, adding “I fear that those may not be the last people that will make an attempt again… we will keep an eye on you while you are present in Haven, but we cannot be everywhere. It would make me feel, more comfortable if you kept this on you.”
She looked at the dagger with the ornate carvings on the handle, taking it out of the sheath and admiring it as it glinted in the setting sun. She put it back and then attached it to the belt on the leather covering of her dress before saying “Thank you Commander… I will keep it close.” She looked up at his eyes and noticed they were golden, and looked even better when he smiled… she continued “I will… see you later then.” Waving as she walked off, hoping she did not look too much like an idiot… or blushed too much.
Cullen watched her as she walked off, noticing how the sunset glinted off of her wavy red hair.
Gwen walked through the main gates and meandered until she found the tavern, opening the doors and walking in looking for Solas. She looked up and found him, sitting next to Varric again. Varric greeted her with a crooked smile saying “There you are Songbird, we were waiting for you…”
She sat down and noticed that a bowl of stew and a glass of ale was already there waiting for her. She smiled and took a few bites before answering “I hope I didn’t keep you two waiting too long.”
Solas answered “Not at all, I had just sat down a moment ago myself. Varric insisted on joining us.”
He nodded and answered “I figured with as many questions as you had for me last night, I should come up with a few of my own… am interested in hearing about where you are from.”
She took a swig of her ale and asked “Alright Varric, what do you want to know?”
He thought about it for a second and asked “Well I have heard the story from Cassandra, but I want to hear it from you… how did you get here? Well what you remember of it anyway.”
She took another long drink before she answered, she told the tale of the church once again, trying to go into more details as Varric asked about things he was uncertain of, he wanted to know what more about things looked like, and finally how she was sucked into the green light with every detail she could remember. He then asked what a bus was, and was trying to wrap his head around how a carriage could move without an animal pulling it. Asking “I thought you said there was no such thing as magic in your world… how does a carriage move on its own?”
She replied “In my country we stopped using horses as a normal mode of transportation almost a hundred years ago, yes, we still have horses, but only the very wealthy or those on large farms still have them.” She thought about how to answer his question about how they moved and she honestly answered “I know that our busses have something called an engine in them… and they need a fuel source to burn… which somehow gives them the energy to move. Once the fuel source is gone they can no longer move until you put more fuel into them… I don’t know how to explain it without it sounding like magic, I am afraid I cannot answer more than that.”
He patted her on the back and replied “That’s alright Songbird… we cannot know the answer to everything… that would take the fun out of life.”
Solas nodded and answered “I would have to agree with you on that point Varric, always so much to learn and unearth.” He looked up at the door and noticed Josephine walking in and towards them.
Varric followed his eyes and greeted her “Why good evening Ruffles, what brings you to our humble little table?”
She gave a diplomatic smile and answered “I was here to barrow Gwen for a while… she asked me to help her learn how to read our texts.”
Varric looked over at the elf and asked “You don’t know how to read?”
She looked over at the dwarf and answered “I know how to read… just not how to read the written language here… I figure if I am going to be here, I need to learn. The sooner the better.” She picked up her bowl and ate the rest of her stew quickly before giving a polite bow to both of them, saying “Now if you gentlemen will excuse me I have a headache waiting for me.” She grabbed Josephine by the arm and walked with her out of the tavern, back to the main chantry building into her office.
Josephine replied “I hope to not be that strict of a tutor to create a headache.”
She laughed and answered “No… I didn’t mean it like that… I meant that learning something like this is going to take some getting used to and I fully expect to be frustrated, many many times as I try to wrap my mind around this.” She watched Josephine pull out a book from the corner of her desk and took a seat, and gesturing for Gwen to take a seat next to her.
A few hours later and several pages of notes done she took her head and let it fall into the book that Josephine was using. Josephine looked over at her in shock and asked “Gwen… are you alright?”
Gwen just groaned loudly into the pages answering with her face still in the book “I think that is all I can do for one day… my brain is full and I don’t want it to start leaking out my ear…”
She replied “Well I think it was a good start, we will have you reading in no time at all. Shall we try this again tomorrow night?”
Gwen took her hands and placed them on the desk, pushing herself up from the book before looking at Josephine with a bleary-eyed smile, replying “It’s a date… see you tomorrow.” Giving a very loud yawn as she stretched while standing. She waved goodbye as she walked out the door. Walking literally right into Commander Cullen. She stumbled and almost fell backwards from the impact.
Cullen’s quick reflexes caught her before she could fall to the ground. He looked down at her and asked “Are you alright my Lady?”
She gave a very awkward laugh and looked up at him hoping her face was not as red as her hair due to her embarrassment, answering nervously “I guess I didn’t look where I was going… Sorry about that…”
He smiled down at her and helped her regain her footing before releasing her from his grip, replying “No harm done. I was here to escort you back to your quarters if you are done for the evening.” Both of them started walking through the hallway and through the doors as he continued “I thought about what you said about Ser Rylen earlier and decided that perhaps you are right. I gave him most of the evening off to rest. I will be standing guard in his stead for the first few hours.”
She looked up at him and was glad to hear that he at least listened to her. She replied “Good, he looked very tired and has had to put up with my shenanigans for the last few days… he has earned a small reprieve.”
They both walked in silence the rest of the way as she admired the night sky once more, and both of them stopped once they reached the small hut that was given to her. She fumbled with the keys and unlocked the door, before opening it and turning around and saying “Goodnight Commander.”
He just nodded and replied “Sleep well, my Lady.” As he watched her turn around and close the door behind her.
She locked the door and leaned against it, sliding down until she reached the floor. She could not believe how much of a complete idiot she was to walk into him like that… She just about kicked herself for her mistake. After much fuss with ties in her outfit, she flung off her dress to the floor, not caring that it would get wrinkled. Standing there in just her undergarments pondering what she would wear before looking up and finding a set of nightclothes laid out for her on her bed, she changed into them and crawled in. Yawning deeply, pulling the covers over her head before sleep finally claimed her a few moments later.
Chapter 5: Swinging in the Moonlight
Adorable times ahead :) I know, a bit shorter than my other chapters but just made sense to end it here.
The next two days consisted of Gwen going through a series of lessons with her newfound tutors. Breakfast with Josephine and Leliana as they both went over the social aspects of the world she found herself in, supervised daytime magic lessons with Solas, dinner with Varric and Solas and evening reading lessons. She was finally starting to get a hang of the new alphabet and for that she was proud, starting to recognize commonly used words. Even was able to start getting a legible chicken scratch that she had to call writing… penmanship was never a strong suit back home either, she guessed that some things would never change… even magical powers couldn’t fix that. These last few days had been a blur of learning, her brain rebelling as it tried to absorb all that was thrown at her, closing her eyes for just a moment.
She opened her eyes a second later and almost had a heart attack at what she saw, she found herself sitting on her folding chair leaning on her black card table, that she had pushed into a corner of the room as a makeshift desk. Her books were stacked in a pile at one end of the table, a pile of unopened mail on the other end, papers and a glass that she forgot to clean up, sitting next to a book that was opened. She looked around seeing her apartment, boxes still unopened left in neat piles against the far wall. Her kitchen probably still had that sink full of dishes that she had been too lazy to wash… no dishwasher at this place. She looked around the room and saw her bed against the other wall, unmade mismatched sheets everywhere with a few choices of clothes thrown across it, she couldn’t decide on what to wear so the rejects were left there, laying across her mattress as she left them before she had gone to class. Her tv, one that she rescued from the dumpster, still sitting on the bookshelf she used as a makeshift stand. The screen had a line of pixels in it that was always a blue line across its face... Normally that would have bothered her but, you didn’t look a free tv in the mouth when you ate ramen every night. Rabbit ears on top of it, held in place by push pens in the wall behind it to help keep it in place for the best reception. Looking around the room she had to frown at the bare walls, she had not had a chance to put up any form of decorations yet. So, she still had those apartment white walls that reminded her of crazy houses in movies. A large crack running down the wall originating from the single window with cheap blinds in it, the only sunlight that got into her place.
She looked around some more taking in the familiar sights before she was startled by a voice she did not expect, saying “This is indeed an interesting place, I have never seen anywhere like it before.”
She looked up and saw Solas standing in the small hallway that had her closets on either side leading to her bathroom. He was looking around, almost in awe experiencing that which he had never seen before. She blushed and looked around at her apartments disheveled stated and apologized “I am sorry for the state it is in… I have not had visitors here yet.”
He just nodded and looked around “No need to apologize da’len. It is just a lot to take in and experience.”
She got up from her chair and walked to her kitchen, turned on her sink and started washing the dishes in the sink… embarrassed from its neglected state. Solas just walked over and observed her work, fascinated by the new sights. She washed in silence for a few minutes before she finished her sink full of dishes, placing them one by one in the drying rack on the counter before looking up to him and asking… “Did you want anything to drink or a snack? I am afraid I don’t have much to offer.”
Smiling, he chuckled lightly before replying “I am fine, but thank you for the consideration.”
She just looked at him confused and huffed, taking her hand and brushing her hair behind her ear… it was then she realized that it was pointed, not rounded when she gasped again in shock. It hit her… this shouldn’t be possible. She looked up at him inquisitively and asked “How did this happen? This isn’t real is it?”
Solas thought about how to respond for a moment, before answering “You are correct in a sense… this is the fade. The fade reflects what we have seen, I let it take a form that is familiar to you as to not startle you too much by my appearance.”
Raising one eyebrow, she asked “So you are really here with me, not just a figment of my imagination running away with me?”
He nodded and answered “That is correct, I am seeing what you are seeing. I look around and see many things that are new and fascinating to me… I will endeavor to keep my curiosity in check.”
She chuckled awkwardly and replied “Well if you have questions feel free to ask away… welcome to Earth I guess… well the small part of it I called home.”
Solas looked around and could not resist asking questions “I look at your home and see light coming from those things on the ceiling, but they do not appear to be flames, what are they?”
She looked up at the light fixture in the ceiling of her kitchen and pointed up asking “You mean these?” Solas nodded and she continued “These we call light bulbs… I just know that we have something called electricity that I pay a fortune for to run them… I don’t think I can accurately explain how it works. I just know they have these little metal wires in them that glow white hot when they are turned on.” She walked over to her fridge and opened the door, showing him how the light turned on as she added “We have lights like these on a lot of things, and in most rooms.”
Solas walked behind her and took a peak inside the fridge and noticed the temperature change, asking “So this large box is to keep food cold?”
She nodded and then opened up the freezer, explaining “And this one is to keep things frozen… no ice magic here to do that. Though we did find a way of our own to keep our food from spoiling as fast… if you would like take a look around, ask away.” She watched him wander around her small apartment asking questions on what he did not know, she tried to explain the best she was able, apologizing for not knowing how a lot of the gizmos she used everyday worked… only that they just did. Also, she had to try very hard to not giggle when he amused himself with the light switches for a few moments. After a bit of time passed, she pondered and had to ask “Would we be able to go somewhere else or just hang out in my apartment?”
Considering her request for a brief moment, he walked up to her and took her hand in his. He then instructed “I want you to close your eyes and picture a place, somewhere you know very well, somewhere you can picture with vivid detail. I will help you.”
Doing as he asked and closed her eyes, trying to picture her favorite spot growing up… she felt his other hand touch her shoulder and felt magic spread through her system. When she opened up her eyes again she could not believe it. She saw her favorite park… the one she went to go clear her thoughts at night when she could not sleep when she lived at home. She watched Solas also open his eyes and take in his surroundings. She reached up and took his hand and tugged, indicating that she wanted him to follow. Leading him down the concrete path until they reached a small play ground with a few benches in the grass. She led him off the path and onto the gravel, walking past the slide and the seesaw until she came to what she wanted. Grabbing the chains of one of them she sat down on the swing and motioned for him to do the same. She watched him mimic her actions and take the swing next to her. She took her feet from the ground and let the swing gently rock back and forth as she looked up to the sky explaining “This is where I would go to organize my thoughts… it was peaceful here. Could see the whole sky and just swing.”
Solas looked up at the sky with her and noticed the single moon in the night sky, he asked “So this is the moon you are used to seeing?”
She nodded and answered “Yes, only one. And these are my stars.” She pointed out to a series of stars and said “If you look over to here you can see Orion” She then pointed to another set of stars saying “There is the big dipper… and over here is the little dipper.”
He followed her hand trying to see the pictures that she saw in the stars, looking to see familiar patterns of his own, frowning when he could find none. He pondered what he was sitting on, so he asked “What manor of chair is this?”
She looked over to him and giggled, then she explained “This is a park, where children go to play outside… though I always came at night because there were no children then and it is quiet. We are sitting on a swing set, if you watch me can show you how it works.” She took her legs and pushed and forced her body to allow the steady flow through the air as she swung, higher then higher. She looked over at him watching and said as she came back down “This is for fun, try it.” Smiling at him as she passed by him again on her way back up.
He tried mimicking her motions, after some effort getting his own momentum going, gliding through the air. She looked over at him and smiled, he asked “Like this?”
She laughed on her way back down as she passed him and said “See? I told you this was fun… now watch this…” Swinging harder to get a little bit more height she waited until she reached the apex of her swing. She jerked the chain with her hands pushing her legs up and over, between the chains flipping backwards off the swing and landing in the gravel below, her knees bending slightly upon impact. Once she realized she stuck the landing, she stood up like a gymnast with her hands up in the air, then turned around to see his reaction. She pouted when she watched him just shake his head and smile. Crooking an eyebrow, she replied “Are you going to be like my Mother and tell me how I am going to break my neck doing that?”
Putting his feet down on the gravel to slow himself to a gentle stop, before looking up at her standing in front of him. He answered with a sly grin on his face “I wouldn’t let that happen do you da’len, but we can talk about this more when you wake up.”
It was then she sat up, gasping for breath as she found herself in her bed, unsure of how she got there.
Chapter 6: For Now Begins... the Inquisition
The Inquisition what a show... sorry loved that movie ;) Props if you get the reference. She finally gets to briefly meet Lord Trevelyan as the Inquisition is officially formed.
He had checked up on her several hours ago, finding her feverously rubbing her temples and frowning over a book as she tried to make out its text. Scribbling notes onto parchment with one of those ingenious writing utensils she came with. He could not comprehend having to learn how to read all over again in a different system of symbols… the thought made his already aching had hurt more. Walking back into to Josephine’s office he spoke a quiet greeting of “My Lady…” Then stopped at what he saw before him. Lady Gwenevere was fast asleep with her face sitting on the open pages of one of the books she was trying to learn from. Her hand still barely holding onto her pen as it made slight markings on the page, her hand slightly twitched as she slept. Noting the candle had almost burned down to its wick, he blew it out and gently spoke again “My Lady…” He watched as she stirred slightly, mumbled something he could not comprehend and resumed her slumber.
Noting her heavy sleeping, he thought of the strain that position had to be putting on her back and neck… he knew the knots that would form from this sleeping position all too well and did not wish this inflection upon the sleeping maiden. Carefully he rotated the chair, and slipped one arm behind her back and one under her knees lifting her up, she was so small, almost like a child in stature. With ease he carried her through the chantry, wrangling the double doors with one hand while keeping the sleeping maiden in his arms proved to be a challenge… but with perseverance he succeeded. Stepping outside under the moonlight she shivered in the cold breeze and snuggled her face into his ensemble, trying to get warm. With this, he sped up his pace to a brisk walk as he carried his sleeping charge.
Reaching her lodgings, he opened the door with one hand and pushed it open with his knee. Walking in he turned around and carefully shut the door with his foot before placing her on her bed. He watched her for just a moment as she rolled over to her side and grabbed her pillow with her arms, as if embracing it for a hug. This made him smile a bit, as he shook his head and went to work on taking off her boots. Figuring out the lacing, he untied the knots and unlaced her boots enough to slide her feet out, setting them on the floor next to the bed. He looked around the room for a blanket to throw over her, but frowned when he could not find one. With careful effort he lifted her legs up and slid the comforter out from under her, gently covering her sleeping form. Making sure she was comfortable, he quietly opened the door and shut it behind him. It was a voice in the dark that startled him from his thoughts.
Varric asked “Songbird alright there Curly? I saw you carry her into her house.”
Cullen groaned at his nickname, answering “Lady Gwenevere fell asleep reading, so I took her back to her quarters to rest.” He pondered his actions for a moment… not to long ago he would have shuddered at the thought of carrying a mage so. But now he had carried her and was concerned for her comfort. He smiled at himself at this realization… small strides towards his endless repentance for the man he used to be.
The dwarf chuckled lightly to himself, before replying “Glad to hear it Curly… glad to hear…” As he let his mind ponder to the endless possibilities his wandering mind could conjure.
Gwen rubbed her eyes and wondered how she got into her room. Looking at her attire she noted she slept in the same outfit she had worn the night before, and her boots were taken off, neatly placed next to her bed. She got up and got ready for the day when she heard a commotion outside. Hastily putting on her boots, she was finishing tugging her dress where she wanted it as she walked out the door. She stepped outside and witnessed what had to be the entire population of Haven just standing around awestruck, murmuring to each other. Walking around the outside of the crowd she found Solas sitting on one of the stone walls leading to a staircase and she looked up to him and asked “What’s with the block party? It a holiday I don’t know about yet?” Jumping up on the wall to sit down next to him as she looked at his face expectantly for a clue.
Chuckling at her small joke he replied “It seems Lord Trevelyan has finally awakened.”
Gwen asked “That is the man who fell out of the fade when I did right?”
He replied “You would be correct da’len.”
She looked at all of the people and wondered, so she asked “All of these people are here for that? Why?”
Looking over at her, he responded “The stories have spread and now they are calling him the Herald of Andraste.”
She raised an eyebrow and asked “So… we both fall out of the fade and he gets called that?” She sat there for a moment staring at her boots and considered the glowing mark on his hand that had almost killed him while he slept. Also remembered all of the scrutiny she had received with her own story. She then continued “Well… I don’t have a magical green mark on my hand that tried to kill me… and perhaps maybe I don’t want that kind of attention… my story is hard enough to swallow as it is.”
He smiled at her and answered “I think you may be right to let him take this mantle.”
Looking up from the ground again to gaze at him and quipped “I guess as an elf we get no fancy titles… so here sits Gwenevere… the girl with the preposterous stories and the most unimaginable luck in the universe.”
Chuckling at this proclamation, he replied “Varric gave you a nickname already, and as far as they go… Songbird is not a horrible one to acquire.”
Smirking back at him she winked and joked “Doing my part to pester Templars… one song at a time.” Looking around she noticed that the crowd had started to disperse, people going back to their duties. Remembering what she could of how she got here in the first place she vaguely remembered being pushed, curious she asked “Do you think I might get in trouble for punching the Herald in the arm for pushing me? Or is that a bad idea to do to a religious figure?”
He replied “I think some members of the chantry may not be so opposed to the idea… but as for the current crowd I would refrain from that thought for now. That push probably saved your life.”
Remembering how much that landing hurt and the few bruises she had afterwards she sighed and answered “Perhaps you are right… but he could have pushed me more gracefully so I didn’t at least take a swan dive to the ground… it might have hurt less.”
While they were speaking a middle-aged man dressed in white robes, a black cap covering his hood and a red tabard came up to the sitting elves. He pointed a finger at Gwen and loudly proclaimed “Chain her! She needs to go on trial for what she has done!” He walked up to her and grabbed her arm, pulling her off of the wall.
Gwen fell to the ground on her knees and managed to get her arm away from this aggressive man. She yelled at him “What the hell do you think you are doing? I haven’t done anything wrong!”
The man went a grabbed for her arm again and was stopped by two sets of arms this time, pulling him away from the girl. He looked up and saw Solas and Cullen pull him away from Gwen.
Cullen huffed in anger, demanding “Just what do you think you are doing Chancellor Roderick?”
Chancellor Roderick forcefully pulled his arms away from both of the men and stepped back, harshly explaining himself “She needs to be taken to Val Royeaux for trial for murdering the Divine and forming the breach!”
Gwen pulled herself from the snow and brushed off her skirt before standing up and glaring up his eyes, trying to look as furious as she felt. Growling at him “I had nothing to do with this! I have already been through all of this once before!”
Another female voice spoke up from behind Chancellor Roderick who responded “Did you not listen to what we discussed before… leave us before we have you forcibly removed.” Gwen looked around him, seeing Leliana step up with a man who she thought she recognized. She was not quite sure of who he was... she couldn’t quite place where she had seen him before. He was tall, muscularly built, with short dark brown hair and a bit of stubble growing in.
This man also spoke up “You will leave this girl alone, she is just as innocent in all of this as I am.”
Glaring around at all of the faces surrounded him, Chancellor Roderick straightened his uniform and warned “You have not heard the last of this… I have connections.” Before stomping off towards the entrance.
Gwen signed and joked as soon as he was out of earshot “Shesh… I didn’t expect to find the Spanish Inquisition here…” Looking down at the ground as she finished. Hearing a gasp from Leliana she looked up at her and pondered the inquisitive look on her face before asking “What? Was it something I said?”
Leliana raised her eyebrow and asked “How did you know? We are reinstating the Inquisition of old to investigate this…”
She wrinkled her forehead in confusion and asked “It is a joke where I am from… really? The Inquisition?”
Cullen answered “Why yes… why would it be a joke?” Confused by her reaction to the word.
Gwen laughed slowly to herself and face palmed before answering “The Spanish Inquisition where I am from, was known for being…. Waaaaay too inquisitive.” Doing wide hand gestures to help emphasize the word way.
The dark-haired man laughed at her joke and waked up to her. With a smile and a quick arm movement he offered Gwen his hand. She reluctantly took it and his appearance seemed to spark a memory… she did not recognize him at first, but now that he was all cleaned up and in proper lighting… no wonder her mind could not place him. She took his hand and lightly shook it as he introduced himself “I am Maxwell Trevelyan… you must be the girl I fell out of the fade with.”
She just nodded shyly and responded “Gwenevere Johnson… though I just prefer to be called Gwen… never been one for formal names.” Twisting her foot nervously in the snow as she spoke. Looking back up at his face she continued “I am glad to see you woke up… after seeing you in that cell for so long I thought you were going to die in there like that chained to the floor.”
Maxwell gave her a cocky grin and brushed one of his hands through his hair before retorting “Going to take more than a maker given mark and a hole in the sky to bring me down.” Winking at her as he walked off with Leliana, talking very animatedly with each other as they left.
Cullen looked at the interaction and fell back on an old nervous tic, rubbing the back of his neck with his hand while responding “That would be who some are calling the Herald of Andraste”
Gwen smiled at him and replied “Awfully sure of himself, isn’t he?”
Solas shook his head and answered “He does have skills to back up that confidence, and he does not seem so brutish once you get to know him.”
Cullen saw the look between the two elves and could tell when he became the third wheel, giving a polite nod of his head towards Lady Gwenevere and saying “I am glad to be of assistance my lady. I will help ensure you will be safe here, of this you have my word.” Walking off towards the front gate leaving the two elves to themselves once again.
She watched him walk away and smelt her clothes, before joking with Solas “I swear I have washed… was it something I said?”
Shaking his head, Solas answered “As I understand it he is a former Templar… and probably is not completely comfortable yet in the presence of mages… and with us both being here, I can see his reluctance to stay.” Giving her an answer, but keeping his thoughts to himself… he had caught the man staring at her very intently from time to time.
Gwen’s stomach grumbled and she flushed red, laughing awkwardly to herself as she replied “It always finds the quietest moments to say… feed me.”
Nodding in agreement, Solas replied “That is not a problem you alone have… I think most of us share in its vocal cries… shall we appease it?”
Feeling a little less awkward, she nodded and joked as they walked to the tavern “Yes… it is a savage beast that needs to be well fed or else it will find a way to burst out of my stomach and eat unsuspecting cute things like birds and puppies.”
Solas chuckled quietly at her joke and retorted “Though I would not recommend puppies… are a bit to stringy and tough for my tastes.”
She laughed at his banter, answering “Well then we shall have to be satisfied with local druffalo… as long as they are grass fed.” Winking at him as they both entered the tavern.
Varric noticed both elves walking through the door and he shouted across the room “Chuckles! Songbird! I saved a spot for you over here!” Standing up on his chair and waving to get their attention.
Gwen, looked over at Solas and shrugged, walking over to the dwarves table. Taking a seat next to him, while Solas sat on the other side of the table. After claiming his seat, Solas got up and went to go get food for Gwen and himself as Varric stole her attention. She thought his over enthusiasm on seeing them both was endearing and had to poke fun of him “Didn’t have to stand on your chair to get our attention hun. We could hear you loud and clear.”
Giving off a roguish grin he replied “What are friends for? I was just happy to see you up and waking of your own accord this morning, you had me worried last night Songbird.”
She blinked in confusion a few times before stuttering out “What do you mean Varric?”
Looking up at her with a question of his own on his face, he asked “You mean you don’t know what happened last night?”
Shaking her head, she answered “I remember studying in Josephine’s office after she had went to bed, then next thing I know I was awake in my own bed.”
Varric put his elbows on the table, resting his face on his hands, anxious to tell this tale “When I was going home after drinks last night I saw Curly carrying you back to your place… Are you sure there is not more to that story than that?” Looking for any juicy gossip he could get his hands on.
She just stared at him for a second and asked “Who’s Curly?”
He laughed and shook his head, answering “That would be my nick name for Commander Cullen.”
She gasped in shock at this, demanding conformation “Cullen took me back? Really?... Then how come this morning he seemed to not want to stay in my sight for more than was required…” She had to rethink the whole event from this morning… surely Solas had to be right on something about him not wanting to be in her presence… Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a bowl being placed in front of her. She ate in silence as she watched the Varric and Solas talk, pondering the possible implications of today’s interaction, not paying attention to a word between them. Perhaps she was just reading too much into this… She needed to stop this. Pulling herself from her little solace, she looked up and asked Solas “What will we be learning today?”
Varric went and patted Gwen on her back saying “Well there you are, we thought you went off in your own little world there for a moment.”
She almost choked on her porridge, coughing to clear her windpipe before answering “You gave me much to think about Varric… that is all.”
Solas answered her question by saying “Today I thought we would work on barrier magic.”
She wasn’t sure on what all that entailed, so she asked “Barriers?”
He nodded and replied “Barriers are a magic sort of shield that protect, the recipient from incoming harm from spells or attacks.” He looked over at the dwarf and thought for a moment before continuing “Actually Master Tethras, if you would join us for todays lesson, your crossbow would be of great benefit for our learning mage.”
Varric went and patted his crossbow lightly, saying aloud “Not to worry, Bianca won’t hurt you…”
She looked over at the dwarf and had to question “You named your crossbow Bianca? Oh wait… I guess in my world we are known to name our cars, and other various things… so maybe not so strange after all to name a weapon.”
Varric chuckled at this comment and retorted “Glad to hear you think so. We would be happy to help.” He pointed at Solas as he continued “You just need to make sure I don’t accidently shoot Songbird… Bianca doesn’t like hurting her friends.”
He nodded and Solas replied “I will help ensure that no one will be harmed, of that you have my word.”
Much of the morning was spent getting Gwen to be able to product and maintain a steady barrier. She got so excited that she jumped up and down when she finally got one, and her celebration made it fail… causing her to get pelted in the forehead with the small rock that Varric had thrown at her. Solas had wanted to start it off small, wanting to not make it hurt too bad should she fail… she was glad it was just a rock and not Bianca… because that would have hurt. Solas went to heal the lump on her face before calling it off for a break for lunch. After food and a bit of a pep talk, she was ready to try again. With her enthusiasm regained, she put up barrier after barrier, as she began to work with harder and harder things to block. Starting with rocks, then moving to bolts from Bianca… not aimed directly at her, but close enough to graze past her face… Varric was one hell of an accurate shot… and for this she was grateful. And finally ended with both Varric shooting at her and Solas hurling a few fireballs at her at the same time. After spending hours working on keeping a barrier on herself, she fell to her knees panting from exertion. Wanting to just fall into the snow for a moment to feel the coolness on her face. She changed her mind on that thought as she felt the snow start to melt through and make wet knee prints on her skirt. Instead she got up and sat on a nearby rock, taking her hand in the snow to get a small snowball to wipe across her face to cool her down for just a moment. Both Solas and Varric walked over to her with concern.
Varric asked “You alright Songbird?” Strapping Bianca on his back as he asked.
She dropped the snow she had in her hand to the ground and looked up at them, taking her sleeve and wiping the water from her face, hoping it cleaned off the sweat she felt like she was covered in. Answering “I think so… I just feel like I have run a marathon…”
Solas had not heard this word before, so he asked “What is a marathon?”
She facepalmed again… she had to stop using Earth words so much… She explained “A marathon is something that people run in for fun… it is a 26-mile race… something that I think only crazy people do.”
Varric raised his eyebrows and asked “People think that running that far is fun? That sounds more like torture to me…”
She laughed and replied “I would have to agree… I was lucky to be able to run one mile before passing out… let alone 26. But I think I have had enough for today, I think I need to go clean myself off and change out of these wet clothes.”
The three of them walked back into Haven and parted ways once she had gotten back to her small abode. Taking her bucket in her room she carried it over to the well, where she got some water and carried it back to her place. Once inside, she used the trick that Solas had shown her on how to heat up water. Submerging her hand in the cold water, channeling fire magic to heat the water to a warmer and more desirable temperature. She then stripped down and washed the sweat and grime off of her from today, washing her hair with a cloth and the warm water. Before changing into her jeans and a top that Josephine had given her. She would frown at seeing her back in her pants again… but she had been wearing too many skirts for her liking as of late. She took her dagger in its sheath and placed it in her back pocket. Looking at her backpack she was reminded of a thought from earlier, she dug through the front pocket and grabbed one of the pens from its pouch and placed it in her back pocket before putting on her boots and venturing back outside.
Once outside, she remembered that she had often seen Commander Cullen working out in front of gates of Haven… so she figured he would probably be over there. Pushing open one of the doors enough for her to slip through she looked out and saw the frozen lake, and a series of recruits seeming to practice fighting drills on the shore. Next to a couple of tents she looked up and saw the man she was seeking, shouting out instructions at people as his head was buried in some paperwork he was reading over. She walked up beside him and waved, he didn’t seem to notice her at first, so she took a few more steps closer and got his attention.
He glanced up from his paperwork and noticed her auburn hair first, looking at her face he gave a polite nod, saying “Greetings my lady… what brings you amongst the troops this afternoon?”
She watched him place his paperwork down, and put a rock on top of it to keep it from blowing away. She waited for his complete attention before getting up the courage to talk to him again… he was so much bigger than she was, resembling a lion with the fur adorning his armor. She looked into his eyes and was almost in awe of their color… she had never seen anyone with amber colored eyes like his. Blinking a few times before she remembered why she was here in the first place. Shyly, she twisted one of her feet in the snow as she spoke “I was told that I am to thank you for bringing me to my room last night. I wanted to thank you for the kind gesture.”
This is not what he had expected… he was just making sure she made it back to her quarters without issue… he had done the same for other mages while working in the circle before… why should she be any different. He placed his hand on the back of his neck again nervously before responding “It… it was no trouble at all, my lady.” He really wished he didn’t have that nervous tic of his… he felt silly. He continued “I tried to wake you, but you were completely out… so I thought it best to take you back to your room myself.”
She flushed red at this and apologized “Sorry about that… I am a bit of a heavy sleeper… my mom used to joke around that you could run a full stampede of cattle through my room and I would sleep through all of it.”
Smiling at her joke, he replied “I just did not want you to develop a crick in your neck from sleeping like that… I have done that a few times myself… and the day after is excruciating.”
She remembered the other reason she was here and she nervously looked to the ground for a second and got her determination back to not look like a bumbling idiot. She reached into her back pocket and pulled out the pen she had in it, playing with it in her hands as she said “I was told by Josephine that you do a lot of writing too… and as a thank you for last night… well and for this morning too I guess I wanted to give you one of my pens.” Holding out the pen to him as a gift.
He smiled at the thought and answered “There is no need for the gift, I was only doing my duty.”
She held it out still and looked more intensely into his eyes and quietly responded “No really… I insist. Just thank you for watching out for me.”
He took the pen and pressed the button on the top of it, like he had seen Josephine do with hers, and made a quick scribble on the side of the paper. This ease of use did seem helpful, so he gave a small bow with his head and a gentle smile and answered “Then I thank you for your generosity, my lady. I shall use it well.” Carefully placing it, in a pouch on his belt.
She was dazed a bit, looking at his grin… she had to get out of here before she went into complete idiot mode. Blushing she looked to the ground, hoping to hide her redness saying quietly “You are most welcome Commander Cullen… I will see you around.” She walked off towards the gate, just concentrating on not tripping on things like, rocks… or her feet as she walked through the gate. Before she beelined to the tavern. She was greeted by her usual table of friends and was shocked to see Maxwell there. She just sat down in her chair and accepted the drink that was put in front of her, hoping that mild inebriation would make her forgot how much of a muttering idiot she was not so long before.
Chapter 7: Old Drinking Songs
This chapter immediately follows the last. Drinking at the tavern and singing an old drinking song. I did not write this song contained within. It was written by Mike Cross and made famous by the performance done by Brian Bowers.
Enjoy the shenanigans :)
Gwen had lost track of how many drinks a few ended up being, and before long her speech was slurring and she was almost shouting at people. Her friends kept on putting glasses in front of her as they celebrated the Maxwell’s awakening and the forming of the Inquisition. Much jubilation sounded from the tavern that night. Maxwell had heard that Varric had nicknamed the small elf Songbird and was curious to hear the tale of how she got that title. Varric told it… exaggerating many details for dramatic effect as Gwen nodded and blushed as he continued.
Varric told the tale of how Gwen masterfully was released from her prison cell with the power of song alone. Singing the same song over and over again until the poor Templar she had subjugated to it had started to pull his own hair out, and then bashed his head against the walls to not hear it continue on for another second… but she had persisted non the less, thus earning her freedom.
Gwen stood up holding her drink, some of it sloshing over the side as she slurred “That’s… nots how it went… he didn’t do that… I sung until I passed out… they let me out the next day!”
Varric sighed and shook his head, and answered “And here I was trying to make your story more exciting, but you ruined the mood Songbird.” Feeling disappointed in his story telling spoiled by her outburst.
She stood up slamming her mug to the table and said “Songbird… I’ll show you Songbird… I have a song for you all.” She stood up on her chair and wobbled a bit, somehow getting her footing before she stood up on the table before the party she sat with and continued. “This is a drinking song back from where I am from… but first I should explain what a kilt is… A kilt is a skirt that the men of Scotland wear, they take it veeeery seriously…” Slurring a few words as she tried to explain. Taking a few steps down the table she kicked over someone’s drink and began to sing the old Scottish drinking song.
“Well a Scotsman clad in kilt left a bar one evening fair. And one could tell by how he walked that he'd drunk more than his share. He fumbled round until he could no longer keep his feet. Then he stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street. Ring ding diddle iddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh. He stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street.” Taking a few more steps down the long table as she began the next verse.
“About that time two young and lovely girls just happened by. And one says to the other with a twinkle in her eye. See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt. Ring ding diddle iddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh. I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt.”
“They crept up on that sleeping Scotsman quiet as could be. Lifted up his kilt about an inch so they could see. And there behold, for them to view, beneath his Scottish skirt. Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth. Ring ding diddle iddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh. Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth.” The end of this verse earned a few whistles from the rest of the tavern as she continued on.
“They marveled for a moment, then one said we must be gone. Let's leave a present for our friend, before we move along. As a gift they left a blue silk ribbon, tied into a bow. Around the bonnie star, the Scot's kilt did lift and show. Ring ding diddle iddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh. Around the bonnie star, the Scots kilt did lift and show.” This earned a bit more attention from the other patrons as a few more applauded at the end of this verse as she went to finish the Scottish folk song, stepping on someone’s plate of food as she walked down the table again as she finished the last verse.
“Now the Scotsman woke to nature's call and stumbled toward the trees. Behind a bush, he lifts his kilt and gawks at what he sees. And in a startled voice he says to what's before his eyes. O lad I don't know where you been but I see you won first prize. Ring ding diddle iddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh. O lad I don't know where you been but I see you won first prize!” The end of the song earned more whistles from many of the men in the tavern and a very loud chuckle from Varric and Maxwell who then helped her down off of the table, making sure she did not fall on her way down. Sitting back down in her chair, resting her head on her arms on the table.
Varric sat her back down in her chair, patted her very hard on her back and got her another round, reminiscing he confessed “That reminded me of the many times we drank at the Hanged Man with Hawk. She would have loved that song.”
Gwen raised her head from her arms and asked “Who is Hawk?”
Maxwell laughed from the other side of the table and responded “She is the Champion of Kirkwall… I bet Varric has all sorts of tales he did not share in that book of his.”
The Dwarf raised his mug and smiled, replying “You have no idea…” Winking as he took a large swig of his ale.
Maxwell looked across the table and saw Gwen trying and failing to have another drink. Looking over at Varric, he stated “I think she has had enough… I will take her home.”
Gwen spilled her drink on the table as she yelled in a very slurred manor “I have had enoughs when I says I’ve had enoughs....” She was interrupted as she felt herself being picked up from behind and slung over a shoulder. She took her fists and tried to punch his back… but mainly ended up just playfully slapping him on his back, as she yelled “Put me down! I can walk!”
He just laughed as he told his new drinking companions that he would be back in a few minutes. He carried her from the tavern and started to make his way down towards her lodging as she yelled at him, continuing to try to hit is back and get away from his clutches, but his years of warrior training had made sure the feisty maiden had stayed put, as he walked down the snowy path. Laughing, he commented over his shoulder “You will just hurt yourself trying to get away, I am just trying to make sure you get home safely.”
She continued her pounding and shouting until she saw a hazy figure walk up to the commotion they caused. As he walked closer, she recognized Commander Cullen, she shouted at him “Commander! Help me! This brute will not put me down!” Slurring a few more times as she yelled, continuing to pummel his back with her tiny fists.
Walking closer to the pair of them and smelling the obvious scent of ale that clung to them both. He raised an eyebrow, as he jokingly asked “Is there a problem Herald?”
Grinning and patting Gwen on the back with the hand holding her over her shoulder he replied “I was just making sure she made it home safely… she has had far too much to drink this evening.”
Gwen huffed and pouted, wiggling more as she complained “I have not… I can walk on my own! Commander this oaf will not put me down!” Wiggling her legs as she yelled.
Cullen considered her request and figured that since she was most of the way home, he could supervise the rest of her short trip back to her quarters. Replying to her request, he answered “I can ensure she makes it back safely from here Herald.”
Maxwell smiled and shook his head at Cullen, replying “If you insist… she is all yours. Take good care of her.” Putting Gwen back on the ground supporting her by the arm as she tried to stand up properly.
Cullen nodded at the Herald and replied “Of course.” Watching her trying to stand on her own, when she seemed stable enough, Maxwell left the two of them, chuckling to himself as he walked back to the tavern for another round.
Gwen just stood there for a moment turned around and stuck her tongue out at the retreating Maxwell, before boldly stating “See I told him I could walk.” Grinning up at Cullen and trying to take a few steps.
Cullen walked slowly with her for a few feet and noticed her swerve and almost fall to the ground as she lost her footing. He grabbed her and let her body slump against his before she hit the ground. He shook his head and righted her again, asking “Are you sure you are alright my lady?”
She huffed and blew a strand of hair out of her face, before looking up at him and squinting, responding “I am fine… I just need the world to stop moving on me for a few minutes… then I can walk just fine!”
Cullen chuckled quietly to himself and offered her his arm for support instead. Deciding that if she could not make it with his help, he would take the Heralds que and carry her again himself… though in a much more dignified manor than he had just seen her in. He let her brace herself and righted her again and offered “Shall we go now, my lady?”
Taking a few steps, she stumbled again, Cullen caught her once more, and this time just let her lean against him, as he put his hand around her waist. They both started their slow trek across the stone paths leading to her small housing. One they made it there, Gwen tried to open her door by twisting the doorknob and pulling the door out. She tried several times and failed and huffed out yelling at the door “Why isn’t this blasted thing working!”
Cullen just shook his head and laughed at this display… twisting the nob and pushing the door inwards with ease. He smirked at her answered “The door pushes inwards my lady…”
She looked up at him feeling like a complete idiot and flushed completely red before answering nervously “Oh… I guess it does…” Laughing awkwardly to herself, as Cullen walked her into her house and helped her to sit down on her bed. Gwen took off her boots, letting them drop to the floor and crawled under the covers, not bothering to take off any other piece of clothing.
Cullen went and searched her small abode and found a bucket, placing it next to her bed, in case she needed it in the middle of the night. Walking looking up, he had seen her boots thrown haphazardly on the floor, he picked them up and placed them neatly on the side of her bed. Seeing her tucked already in her covers he smiled and quietly offered “Sleep well my lady.”
Gwen just grinned at him and giggled until that giggle turned into a large yawn. She looked back up at him and answered quietly “You know… you have very pretty eyes…” Before closing them and passing out on her bed.
He was taken by surprise with that comment… surely it had to be the alcohol talking. Looking over at the sleeping maiden, noticing her facial features, looking so relaxed in her sleep. He thought quietly to himself, remembering the color of hers and he could almost say the same of her ocean blue ones… Shaking his head, he stopped that train of thought. She was a mage, a mage under his care and he had no room for such notions as these going on in his head. Walking out of the lodging, leaving the sleeping maiden be as he walked back out into the cold, star filled night.
Chapter 8: Equine Ineptitude
Hangovers and horses, should be a fun time of fluff and laughs.
Squinting her eyes, she covered them with her arm trying in vain to protect them from the sun’s rays shining through her window, tormenting her as it proudly proclaimed what time of day it really was. Carefully she sat her self up, trying to ignore the pressure in her head as it felt like her brain was being squished into mush. Looking around noticed the bucket on the floor next to her and the large glass of water sitting upon the nightstand next to her bed. Feeling like she had just eaten a mouthful of sand she grabbed the glass of water and chugged it, hoping that would get the nasty taste from her mouth. Getting up she released that yet again she had slept in her clothes just like she had the night before, her boots were sitting neatly next to the bed, and looking around the room she saw another bucket of water, next to a small stool with a cloth neatly folded on top of it, with a bar of soap sitting in the middle. Looking up to her desk, she saw a new pair of clothes neatly folded for her.
Walking over to the pail of water, she noted that it was still warm. One of the servants must have been in here recently to supply the clothes and the wash water. Undressing and sitting upon the small stool, she washed herself of the grime from the previous day, before putting on the new set of clothing and attempting to venture outside. Stepping outside she squinted her eyes to help block the evil day stars rays, using her hand to help shield the light away from her face. She dragged herself back to the tavern for a small breakfast… hoping she didn’t need to crawl to make her destination. Knowing that she had to at least get something in her system before she attempted to tackle the day.
Walking through the door she huffed as she walked up to the bar, asking Flissa for some bread and some water before taking a seat at what seemed to be their groups normal table. Laying her head back on her arms she rested her head on the table as she waited for her meal to be brought to her. She only sat there for a minute when she heard the loud sound of chairs being pulled away from her table.
She kept her head right where it was, not evening bothering to lift it. Varric laughed and commented “Welcome to the land of the living Songbird… I see you made it back in one piece.”
Gwen groaned loudly and kept her head where it was and asked “Can you please go outside and turn the sun off… it is too damn bright… and if you could not shout… that would be great.” She heard Varric chuckle to himself, patting her on her back as he took the chair to her left. At that same moment another voice laughed quietly, as the chair to her right also slid out and became occupied.
Another hand was placed on her shoulder, but this time it stayed for a moment, before its owner spoke in a soothing tone asking “Do you need some help with that da’len?”
This made her carefully raise her head up and stare at Solas for just a moment with her mouth hanging open, before she asked “You can help with this headache?”
Solas nodded and placed his hands on her scalp, concentrating and sending healing through his palms. After a moment he removed them and asked “Better?”
She let out a long sigh and smiled at him, her head still hurt, but it was in much more manageable pain levels now. She answered “Yes… much better. I think I can live with this now. Remind me not to do this to myself again…”
Varric chuckled and replied “We can’t have that, now can we? I cannot wait to see your performance again once we get back.”
Raising an eyebrow in confusion, she asked “Get back? Where are you going?”
Solas answered “We are to join Maxwell Trevelyan to go locate Mother Giselle in the Hinterlands.”
This just raised more questions in her mind so she asked “Who is that?”
Varric answered “She seems to be the only one of the Chantry Sisters who seems to want to try to help us, versus throwing the both of you in chains.”
She looked up at her two friends and asked “So both of you are going?”
Solas replied “Yes, and the Seeker will also be joining us.”
Looking down at the table she spoke her mind “What am I going to do all by myself then?”
Thinking about it for a moment Solas placed his hand next to hers and waited for her to look up to him, before responding “Continue to practice your magic, Ser Rylan will help keep you out of trouble… I trust him that much.”
Varric chimed in as well “Also keep on working on your reading… I may have a book or two waiting for you when you get back.” Winking as he finished.
It was then she heard the door slam open from behind her and a brash voice with a thick accent spoke “So there you two are, if you are prepared the Herald is ready to depart.”
Varric rolled his eyes, before betting up and answering “Coming seeker… I’ll catch up with you when we get back kid. Take care of yourself.” Patting her on the back as he walked out.
She waved good bye to both of them, then started eating her meager breakfast. After finishing it, she stretched her arms before standing up and walking back out into the sun once more. It was still bright outside, but not enough to cause pain anymore, Solas had indeed taken the edge off of her affliction of her own creation, and for that she was grateful.
Walking down the courtyard by herself, she went in search of Ser Rylan for his assistance… just as Solas had suggested. Reaching the gate, she opened it enough for her to slip through and stood there for a moment looking over at the training recruits, looking for the Templar. She found him in front of one of the tents, giving out drills to the fresh blood.
After shouting out another order for them to do ten laps around the lake he looked over at Gwen and greeted her “Morning Lass… I hear I missed quite the show last night.”
Gwen flushed bright red and twisted her boot in the snow, answering “I guess I am not going to live that one down am I?”
He laughed, replying back with a smirk “I will have to hear that song from you sometime… I hear it was as entertaining as it was scandalous.” Winking at her as he finished.
Laughing awkwardly to herself, she noticed that he was directing drills… usually the Commander did this. She was confused by the change and wanted to know “Where is the Commander this morning?”
Ser Rylan replied “He is over by our meager stables practicing his riding skills.”
This made her snap her head up faster than she thought possible, unable to contain her question before it slipped out of her lips, almost yelling “We have horses here?”
This was not the response he expected… he answered her “Not as many as we need, but we do have a few here.” He pointed towards the blacksmith’s and continued “Commander Cullen seems to have one right there.”
Gwen followed his pointing and stood there for a moment… Commander Cullen was sitting upon a white horse with large brown spots. She could not contain her excitement any longer. She shouted “Horsie!” Making her way across the camp as fast as her feet could take her, leaving her question to Ser Rylan long forgotten as she just had to meet this magnificent beast herself. Bringing herself to a halt a few feet from the horse, she just stood there in awe for a moment. Talking quietly to the animal in a soothing high-pitched voice as she inched closer, before placing her hand on its neck and petting it. Smile going from ear to ear as she continued to talk and touch the majestic creature in front of her. So lost in her own world that she did not even hear Commander Cullen ask her a question.
He spoke up louder this time and asked yet again “Are you feeling well my lady?” Wondering if he should be concerned for her mental state.
Gwen shushed him and quickly answered “Don’t ruin this for me… let me have this moment… it’s so pretty…” Almost sniffing back a tear as she had a moment with the horse while Cullen sat upon it, looking down at her like she was a crazy person. She didn’t care.
Cullen just sat there, dumbfounded at her reaction… it was a horse, he didn’t understand what enamored her so. Grabbing onto the saddle he dismounted the horse and walked around towards his head, holding his reigns to help keep him calm. Watching Lady Gwenevere’s eyes light up, seeing her joy at petting the noble creature. Obeying her request, he let her, pet and talk to the animal for a few moments before he spoke up again asking “Are horses not a common thing where you are from?”
Taking her eyes off of the horse, she looked over at him and noticed the puzzled look on his face. She continued petting the horse’s mane while she answered “This is the closest I have ever been to a real horse… horses are not a mode of common transportation anymore… so not many people have them. Mainly rich people are the only ones who can afford a horse.” Sadly remembering all of the times she asked Santa for a pony for Christmas as a little girl… and even into her teens and how he never once delivered.
Pondering this for a moment he looked over at the young woman, she looked so happy just standing here like this… he wanted to do something to keep that smile on her face so he suggested “How would you like to ride him? I mean… just around the to the gate and back...”
Gwen jumped up and down with her excitement and almost shouted “Yes! I absolutely would… but how do I get up there?” Looking up to the saddle… it being so high off of the ground compared to her stature.
Cullen chuckled for a moment and replied “You need to try to get your foot up in that stirrup and use it as a step to get on.” He watched her try and fail to do so for a few moments, then offered “Need a hand?”
She looked down at the snow in embarrassment, before looking up and responding “Yes… I do…”
He knelt down and made cup with his gauntlets, for her to place her foot for a lift and explained “Put your foot here, I will give you a boost up.”
She followed his instructions and stepped onto his hands, before she knew it he was lifting her up in the air and on top of the creature. She squealed with delight once she was up and situated in the saddle properly. Looking down at him she asked “So what do I do now?”
He shook his head and laughed a bit before answering “For now nothing, just hold on while I take you on a small walk, enjoy the ride my lady.”
She was smiling so much and laughing, she was afraid her lips might be stuck like that for ever… as she held onto the saddle’s horn… not knowing where to place her hands. Helping her to keep her balance as Commander Cullen slowly lead the animal to the gates and back. She spoke as soon as they got back to the sables “Thank you Commander… you just made my week. I don’t know how I can thank you for this.”
Smiling up at her he replied “It was no trouble at all my lady.”
Still sitting up on the horse she now had a major conundrum… how to get back to the ground. She grabbed onto the horn again and asked nervously “Umm… how do I get down?”
Cullen explained “You just need to unhook your foot from that side and use the stirrup over her as a step down.”
She nodded and tried, but as she got her one leg up and over the saddle and her foot caught, causing her to come crashing down… right on top of the Commander. She was grateful for his quick reflexes as he caught her before she hit the ground, and was able to keep himself upright as he gently placed her back on her own two feet. She turned as red as her hair, before she profusely apologized over and over again… making herself feel even more like an idiot.
Shaking his head, he replied “No need to worry about this my Lady, we will get you to be an expert horse rider yet… you just wait and see.” Offering her a warm smile.
Looking up at his grin she had to blink a few times to get back to her senses… that smile of his was dangerous… he had to watch where he pointed that thing lest he make her forget how to do things like walk or breathe. She spoke with a quiet voice as she asked “Can we try this again tomorrow?”
Patting the horse on the neck while he answered “I can do that if you wish, but it will have to be after I am done with my drills and training. So tomorrow at dusk sound alright?”
Without evening thinking she blurted out “Yes!” She swallowed a bit and then tried to reign in that overenthusiasm and continued “I mean… that would be great I will see you then.” Hoping she didn’t make a complete fool out of herself, she walked back over to Ser Rylan and remembered her original question for him, to ask if he would help watch her as she practice magic. And so went her days went, while the Herald and his entourage were away. Magic practice with Rylen, reading and culture lectures with Josephine and sometimes Leliana and finishing off her long day with riding lessons from Commander Cullen. So much to absorb every day… so many new things to learn that her brain hurt as much as her muscles did, but she was happy… and for this… she would not trade anything.
Chapter 9: Playful Questions
Playful banter time... the best kind of banter :) Enjoy some more fluff. Feel free to leave kudos if you enjoyed my work and comments are always welcomed :)
Commander Cullen, Josephine and Leliana all stood in their various places around the map, moving markers and adding new ones based on the latest information received in by Leliana’s ravens. Mother Giselle had been located and was on her way to Haven as they spoke, being accompanied by a few soldiers for her protection. Horseman Dennet had been found, he had given the group a series of tasks to complete before he risked sending horses to Haven. All that was left was to erect the watchtowers and the Inquisition would have the horses it so desperately needed. All three of them agreed that this should take priority and Commander Cullen had gotten a list of troops and laborers to ensure the structures completion. Reading more of the message, it seemed the Herald and his party were going to spend a bit more time in the Hinterlands, giving aid to the refugees by closing a few more rifts and gathering supplies to keep those seeking aid fed and warm in the harsh Ferelden climate.
Leliana moved a marker on the map and grinned as she looked up at Commander Cullen on the other end of the table as he contemplated troop allocations, brow furrowed as he was deep in thought. Placing a new marker of her own on the map she asked “So I hear you have taken a certain mage under your wing for training?”
He snapped his head up at the woman and flushed a little as he stammered “Yes…” Taking his hand and placing it on the back of his neck as he continued, trying to salvage this situation “She had never ridden a horse before, and it is a skill she should have since she now finds herself suck here for the foreseeable future.” Hoping to keep the flush off of his face in front of the present company… they both had very sharp eyes.
Leliana’s grin broadened as she noticed the reaction, the normally stoic Commander seemed almost besotted by their new elven companion. She continued “I also hear that you have a special detail on her while in town specifically for her safety?” Pausing for a moment as moved a marker on the map before adding “She has become quite skilled in healing magic as well according to Ser Rylen’s and Adan’s reports on her progress.”
Josephine pipped in “She also has been quite and adept student in her reading and writing lessons, I think she has the basics down already, she will be fluent soon enough.” Stopping to place a marker of her own before looking up at the Commander and adding “She also told me that you gave her a dagger for her protection? Is this true?”
Commander Cullen stayed his hand on the marker and looked up at Josephine… only trying to guess at what she might be insinuating at. Returning his eyes to the map he cautiously answered “Yes… she needs to learn how to defend herself… she has found herself alone and confused in a new world, of course I am concerned for her safety.”
Josephine’s lips perked into a grin of her own as she nonchalantly asked “Perhaps it would be constructive to show her how to use that weapon.” Waiting anxiously to hear his response to this query.
Commander Cullen nodded in agreement and commented “Perhaps you do have a point… I can help with that. She should have some instruction in how to wield the weapon, lest she hurt herself.”
Leliana raised her eyebrows and grinned, quipping “I imagine you are anxious to show our friend just how to use that dagger of yours…” Giggling quietly as she moved another marker.
He looked up from his marker and looked at the two giggling women and slowly answered “Of course… I shall offer instruction.” Looking even more confused as both women’s smiles grew more pronounced as it suddenly hit him… the double entendre of her words hitting him like a maul. He flushed bright red, placing his hand on the back of his neck again before stammering “Maker’s breath… I… I didn’t mean it like that…”
Josephine continued her giggling and asked Leliana “My… I feel warm… but it seems our dear Commander is more flushed than either of us… are you feeling well?” Smile growing even larger as she giggled, fanning herself with a paper to add to the effect.
Not missing a beat, Leliana joked “I imagine our stoic friend is trying to not picture… certain activities in his mind right now.” Winking at him and laughing even more.
Huffing loudly, glaring at the two women at the other end of the table he had enough of this folly, announcing “If you two are just going to stand here and gossip like hens… I will leave you be with at least a shred of my dignity intact.” Turning around and storming out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Storming through the chantry, down the stone steps passing the two mabari statues and passing through the main gates. Stopping his march once he reached the command tents set up on the shore overlooking the now frozen lake. Looking up he saw his second in command shouting out drills to the new recruits, he watched them for a moment, proud of how far they had come in the last few weeks, even without Lady Cassandra’s assistance. Walking up to Ser Rylan, he commanded “I shall take it from here, go get some rest.”
Rylan shouted out an order for everyone to take a few minutes, then looked over at his commanding officer, he looked a bit more agitated than usual, so he curiously asked “So… how did the meeting go?” He watched Cullen’s face turn bright red as he tried to concentrate heavily on a document that a runner had just handed him.
Cullen read over the document a few times before he finally felt the flush leave his face before looking up and answering with a lie “It went fine… if our reports are accurate the Herald and his party should be back within the week, along with a heard of horses to help our cause.”
Raising an eyebrow to question, Rylen probed further “Went fine doesn’t usually involve being flustered like that… you are not telling me something.” Giving a silent chuckle at the man, with a grin on his face like the cat who caught the canary.
Cullen shook his head and was not going to give him one detail to latch onto… Rylen could gossip as well as either Josephine or Leliana could. He took his hand and rubbed one of his temples, to try to relieve some of the pressure from the headache that had never ceased since he stopped taking lyrium many weeks ago. After a few circles with his fingers, he looked up at his second in command and donned a grin of his own as he shouted “Alright men, break is over… time we all go for a nice run around Haven.” He smiled as he heard the many groans from the troops, looking over at Rylen as he stood there smiling. Cullen’s smirk grew even larger as he looked over to the man, proclaiming “This includes you Rylan… don’t want you getting too soft on me now.” Laughing to himself, as he set a nice pace for the fellow soldiers to keep up with him as he took them for a long run around the sanctuary grounds.
After taking the men out for a nice long run, he let them all go for a meal, Rylan would finish up their evening drills later. He stopped one of the servants asking for water to be sent to his tent, walking down to his lodgings. Taking a seat on a chair at his desk, taking off his mantle and breastplate, sitting in his tunic and his trousers at his desk as he picked up his large stack of paperwork waiting for the water to arrive. He became so adsorbed in his reading, he did not even notice the water bucket sitting at the opening of his tent, until he looked finally noticing its presence. Stripping down, he took a cloth and a bar of soap, making suds on the cloth as he cleaned the sweat off of his skin. The warm water helping to ease the ache he felt in his overworked muscles, he sighed with contentment just letting himself relax for just a moment. After he felt he had removed the sweat from his skin, he dried himself, and put on a new tunic, and trousers, leaving the old ones in a pile for the servants to wash later when they picked up the laundry.
Taking a seat back on his chair, he looked at his armor and noted that it was looking a bit dull in places… when was the last time he serviced it? Picking up his breastplate he found his polish and began to slowly work it into the metal, restoring it to its former glory. He lost track of time as he finished his breast plate, working to his pauldrons, then his gauntlets… finally finishing up on his greaves methodically rubbing the concoction into the metal before he was interrupted by a female voice quietly saying “Knock, knock.” This made him almost drop his greaves to the ground as he snapped his head up to see who had now entered his tent. Standing there in a dark blue skirt, and that strange hooded cloak she was found in, holding two plates of food was lady Gwenevere. Once he gained function of his mouth again due to being startled, he asked “My lady, what brings you here?”
Placing both of the plates on his desk she smiled and answered “A little birdy told me that you have not been in for a meal today… so I thought I would bring it to you instead. You’re welcome.” Before sitting down on the desk, grabbing one of the plates and placing it on her lap, her feet dangling off the edge of the desk, feet hooked together and rocking slightly.
He was astonished by her concern… he could not remember the when he last ate… yesterday he thought. Flushing a bit, he stuttered out “Thank you my lady… you didn’t have to bring this to me yourself… surely one of the servants could have done this.” He looked over at the elf on his desk and she just shrugged her shoulders and watched him. Placing his greaves on the bed, he reached over to the now cold bucket of water, and washed the polish off his hands before joining Gwenevere in silence as they both ate. He was more famished then he had expected, quickly finishing his meal as Gwenevere slowly ate hers. He placed his plate back on his desk and asked “Would you mind if I went back to the armor while you finish.”
Finishing chewing her bite of bread, she swallowed and answered “Sure… can’t have the Commander of the forces in half polished armor, now could we? What would the nobles say? It would cause such a scandal they would talk about it for decades.” Laughing as she resumed her meal.
Her snide remarks about the nobility made him chuckle and smile as he resumed his task. He was only half paying attention to his task and watching her… uncertain as to why he was having a hard time concentrating on his undertaking. Wanting to not seem rude he remarked on her progress “You have picked up horseback riding with great ease over these few weeks, given a bit more time we will make you an equestrian yet.” Grinning up at her, as she seemed to flush herself from his praise.
Finishing her last few bites quickly, she explained “I think you are greatly exaggerating my riding skills… I was just working on not falling off.” She remembered her first official lesson… she had fallen off several times and had to see Adan to help with the bruising afterwards. The lessons after that had gone much better, more catching herself before falling, finally figuring out what to grip where and with what to stay mounted.
Chuckling again, he answered “Well that is the whole point of riding a horse… not to fall off.” Remembering the earlier conversation with Josephine and Leliana… they did have a point, she should also learn how to use that dagger. Trying not to think back upon the teasing he had incurred earlier, he added “I also think that you should be given some basic instruction on how to use that dagger I gave you… you still have it don’t you?”
She lifted up her cloak and showed it sheathed and attached to her belt, smirking as she answered “Yep… I don’t leave home without it.”
This made him feel a bit better… he often worried for the young lady’s safety. Wanting to help ensure she stayed safe and sound, he offered “If you would like, instead of riding today we can go over basic dagger skills. You do have magic, but as I understand you are more of a healer than an offensive caster. In battle this makes you an easy target… with that dagger, you can make an opponent think twice.”
Pulling out the dagger she held it, looking at the blade while holding it up in front of her face as she asked “So… there is more than the pointy end goes in the bad guy?”
This made him guffaw for a few moments, before he worked on catching his breath, replying “There is a bit more to it than that I am afraid. Follow me and we can get you started.” Standing up, putting on a leather jerkin to cover his tunic, before offering a helping hand for lady Gwenevere to get down from his desk. She smiled and followed him outside. Once there he looked around in the training equipment and found what he was looking for, picking up two wooden daggers. Handing one over to Gwenevere as she frowned by being handed the practice weapon. Resisting her pout, he replied “Until you are better versed in this weapon we will both use the practice ones.” Thinking about it some more, he also noted that she should get a set of armor as well as she stood there in her skirt wielding the dagger. Making a mental note to place an order for her in the morning.
Both of them spared for a several hours until she was panting heavily from exertion… she had more resilience than he had anticipated. Walking over to her he patted her on the back and said “I think that is enough for today… what did you do for a living back where you are from? You could have shown up several of the new recruits with your stamina.”
Taking off her Jacket and tying it around her waist, she sat down on one of the nearby stones before grinning up at him answering “I moved boxes of stuff off of trucks and manually stacked them on shelves.” Proud of herself for impressing him.
He was taken back by that statement, not thinking as he replied “You mean to say you did manual labor for work?”
She rolled her eyes at him and laughed answering “Just because I am short doesn’t mean I am not strong…” Taking her arms and flexing her biceps and sticking her tongue out at him, before giggling more. She caught her breath and winked at him, joking “We have a saying where I am from… good things come in small packages.”
This made him smile, he answered “Indeed they do… Shall I walk you back to your lodgings then my lady?”
She winked at him and jumped up, taking her arm, wrapping it around his elbow, teasing him “You have worn me out kind Ser… if you would make sure that I make it back to my humble abode without incident I would be much obliged.” Trying to pull of her mock stuck up noble voice for added effect.
Smiling back at the small maiden he answered “It would be a pleasure my lady.” As he walked her back through the main chantry gates under the stars.
Chapter 10: When in Rome
Gwen thinking of home and meeting Mother Giselle. Also very cute surprise at the end that I will not spoil. Kudos and Comments always welcome I hope you enjoy :)
Gwen used her sleeve to wipe her brow of sweat while taking a break sitting on one of the stone walls. After spending most of her morning helping Adan, she had earned this moments respite. Tending to the many ailments of the refugees that kept on coming for their pilgrimage to see the final resting place for Divine Justinia. A large number of them had come in with Mother Giselle from the Hinterlands, with more mouths to feed and shelter, she pondered how they would keep everyone safe in the middle of winter. She had seen the large party enter this morning shortly after she woke, and noted the new Chantry sister in their midst, but had not spoken to her yet herself… she did not know what to make of the newcomer. For now, she just knew that Josephine and Leliana had kept her occupied most of the morning… making her miss her breakfast with her friends. She had kept herself busy for the last few weeks, trying to learn to be a productive member of the society she now found herself in. As she saw no way back to the life she once knew, she thought she had better make the most of her comfortable situation her friends had granted her by giving her a place to stay.
Staring up at the breach lost in thoughts, she was startled by a heavily accented voice of a woman that came from behind her. “I see I am not the only one concerned by the breach.” This accent reminded her of Leliana’s… so if she had to wager a guess, it was Orlesian in origin.
Looking behind her, she saw the tall woman wearing white and red robes, her head covered by the ornate hood that the Chantry clerics adorned. Venturing a guess, she asked “Mother Giselle I presume?”
Walking next to her she answered “I am.” Stopping to turn and face the young elf before continuing “I would like to thank you for helping those who are injured here in Haven… I know it is not the easiest of tasks.”
Bowing her head and staring at her feet Gwen agreed “You can say that again… is more tiring then I ever dreamed possible.” She looked around at the town around her and smiled at what they as a group had started to build… then she looked back up at the large glowing hole in the sky. Fidgeting nervously before answering “I may not have many skills that this lot may find helpful… but we need to fix that before something far worse could happen.”
Placing her hand on the young elves shoulder, she answered “The Maker’s will is not known to us, but I feel we will not be abandoned when we need him most.”
Gwen had heard stuff like that before… she was remined of one of the psalms her Grandmother made her memorize as a child. Continuing to look up at the anomaly in the sky, she recited “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
She listened to the young elf’s words, following the poetic flow of her voice as she recited a piece she had never heard before. Smiling, she commented “I was told by Sister Leliana that you are not from Thedas… was that a scripture from your home?”
Gwen nodded at the woman, answering “From what I hear there are many similarities between your Maker and what some of my people called the Lord or God. That was what we called a psalm. It was my Grandmothers favorite… even though I am not religious… I did find myself reciting this in my head when I was lost or frightened. It can give some comfort.” Looking back down at the ground, she missed her grandmother… though it had been a few years since she had passed, but an ache like that never seems to completely go away.
Mother Giselle noticed the small changes on her face, she asked “Do you find yourself missing your home?”
Sighing, she answered “I miss my parents… but since I was released from my cell, I know that many people here in the Inquisition have tried to make sure that I am comfortable and looked after… for that I am eternally grateful. So much to learn… reading, magic, potions, politics, horseback riding…” She looked down at her belt and remembered her dagger there… just learning how to survive in this new world… it was a chore. Thinking about her situation she was reminded of an old earth adage, she muttered “When in Rome… do as the Romans do…”
The Chantry Sister had never heard that phrase before… but she could see how it could relevant. She nodded and answered “I have never heard of this Rome before… I may have to ask you about it sometime.” Gwen nodded in response and Mother Giselle continued “I also hear from Sister Leliana and Lady Josephine that you have been a very adept pupil… The Maker has certainly blessed you with a gift for adapting quickly to new things.”
She didn’t think her abilities were that extraordinary… she just had to learn so she could survive. Rubbing her hands together nervously she looked down at them and replied “I am honestly surprised my brain has not exploded into a million pieces yet… that would be such a mess to clean up.”
Mother Giselle joined her for a nice chuckle, as she noticed a figure walking down the path towards them… seeming almost nervous to approach the two women. Recognizing who it was, once he was within earshot, she spoke up and invited him “Greetings Commander, no need to look so apprehensive.”
Gwen looked around Mother Giselle’s shoulder and saw the Commander standing there, looking nervous with his hand rubbing the back of his neck, she teased him “I assure you… we won’t bite.” Winking at him as she grinned, beckoning him closer. Resisting the urge to tell him that she just might… but didn’t want to make him look even more flustered than he was already.
Dropping his arm back to his side, he approached the two women and looked at the two, trying to not be intimidated by the Chantry Sister and the small elf with the warm eyes. Remembering his task, he cleared his throat and repeated his instructions “I am sorry to intrude, but Leliana wishes to have a word in private with you about your Chantry contacts.”
She nodded and replied “But of course… I will go to her at once. We shall have to chat again sometime Gwenevere.”
Gwen frowned at being called by her full name, but nodded and answered “I look forward to it, see you around.” Watching her walk back off towards the keep.
Cullen had another reason to find her… he had gotten a report earlier and had something he wished to show her. Grinning warmly, he commented “If you will come with me my Lady, I also have something I wish to discuss.”
Looking at his face, she could tell he had something he wasn’t telling her. Playing coy, she tilted her head and batted her eyelashes a few times and questioned “Oh?” She put her hands on the wall and hopped off, safely landing on her feet without incident. Grateful that she did not fall on him in the process, ruining the whole mood she was trying to achieve as she teased him.
He led her to the main gates, admiring how the sun gleamed off of her hair… wondering of hand what it would be like to touch it. Not sure where that thought had popped up from, he shook his head to change his train of thought. He stopped Lady Johnson as she reached her hands to open the large wooden doors. She looked up at him in confusion and he shook his head with a gentle smile and explained “If you could just close your eyes for a moment, I have something to show you.”
Now she was really confused, but was dying to know what this was all about. She obeyed and made a huge effort to show that her eyes were closed tightly, she then asked “Okay eyes closed, now what?”
He answered “Now if you will just take my hand and follow me…” Reaching down and taking her small hand in his gauntlet, pushing the door open as she followed closely behind him, he looked back at her and playfully dictated “No peaking… not just yet.” Walking her closer towards the lake, passed the tents where he had been training his recruits this earlier. Once, he had her where he wanted her. He pulled on her hand and asked “Now if you will turn this way.” Watching her follow his voice, giving a quiet chuckle to himself as he noticed her impatience. Figuring he had given her enough suspense, he requested “You may open them now.”
Gwen complied and opened her eyes, looking towards one of the open spaces by the lake and saw several large creatures happily situated on the snow. Her pupils dilated when she released that she was looking upon a small herd of horses. You could almost hear her jaw hit the ground… she stood there speechless for several minutes. Finally regaining control of her senses, she finally willed herself to move, almost sprinting towards the majestic creatures.
This was the reaction he was hoping for… though, her earnestness would probably not have her desired result. He quickly caught up to her and reached for her arm, holding her back before she got too close to the herd, warning her “Careful now… to quickly and you will spook them.”
Her eyes just looked at him wide, pleading “But… but… horsies…”
He shook his head, her answer bringing a grin to his face as he answered “Just walk up to them slowly... just like we talked about.” He looked over at her she nodded as she remembered the lessons. He watched her carefully walk towards the herd and slowly walk amongst them… grinning ear to ear as she walked from one horse to the next, carefully petting each of their foreheads talking quietly to each one as she lavished them with attention. Gracing her nimble fingers through their manes, sometimes scratching their ears if they let her. He happily just sat there and watched her, loosing track of time before the clearing of someone’s throat bust his bubble.
“Absolutely besotted by the young lass, aren’t you?” Rylan joked, as he playfully punched his arm to get his attention.
This brazen declaration stunned him, taking a few heart beats before words could find his lips. He answered “I… I am not.” He swallowed and continued “She has just been working so hard lately, and I just wanted to put a smile on our friends face.” Hoping that would stop that accusation in its tracks.
Rylan shook his head and smiled as he replied “Friend now is it? Are you sure? The way you look at her sometimes I would swear it was as if you were watching Andraste herself grace us with her presence.”
Taken aback by this comment he answered “There is nothing like that going on… now if you don’t watch it I will make sure you have something else to occupy your mind, since you seem to have free time to dream such outlandish notions.”
Mocking insult, he joked back “You wound me Cullen, I will leave you be watching your charge.” He stood there for a moment and watched her too, before adding “She does have a rather enchanting smile, doesn’t she?”
Cullen raised his eyebrows and looked over at Rylen as he gently shook his head. Standing there for a moment to go back to watching the young mage as Rylen left him alone to his task. After Rylan left, he found himself thinking over that last statement before deciding for himself, that he was right. She does have a captivating smile.
Chapter 11: Breakfast with Friends
A little backstory time :) As always kudos and comments will always be welcomed :)
Balancing a covered tray on her left hand, Gwen made her way through Haven into the Chantry, grateful to find a helpful soul who opened the large wooden double doors of this building for her and followed her down the hall to knock politely on Josephine’s door. “Knock knock.” She announced before the helpful man opened the door for her and she carefully walked into the room placing her surprise on Josephine’s desk.
Josephine raised an eyebrow at all of her effort, playfully answering “You could have had one of the servants carry that for you, no need to carry it all the way here by yourself.”
Gwen reached up and took a wayward lock of her hair and tucked it behind her ear as she smiled up and answered “Well this would be part of the surprise… you got me thinking, so I talked with the cooks yesterday and was able to arrange this.” She lifted up the lid and waved her hands in a showy manor to unveil her meal.
Josephine looked at the contents and saw some sort of yellow bread and a jar of honey. She looked at Gwen and asked “I have never seen anything like this, what is it?”
Smiling, Gwen answered “We call it French toast… it was one of my favorite breakfasts back home. It is bread in an egg wash and you cover it with a syrup… I couldn’t find anything like that here, so I improvised with honey. You will love this.” Winking as she handed one of the three plates to Josephine and took one for herself. She placed the third plate on the other side of the desk and removed the tray, placing it on the floor so they could eat. Figuring Leliana would take her plate when she came in to join them, she often was late to their breakfasts.
Josephine watched how Gwen prepared her breakfast, taking the jar and spreading a small dollop of honey on her pieces of bread. After Gwen was done with that she mimicked her actions and carefully spread a small amount of honey across the bread. Taking her fork, she cut off a piece and ate it. She had never had anything like this and she remarked “This is delicious… I must tell the cooks to make this again sometime.”
Gwen grinned and boasted “That was part of the surprise… I made this.”
Josephine almost dropped her fork at this, her eyes widened in surprise as she asked “You know how to cook?”
Gwen winked and replied “My family, we were not wealthy enough to have servants so we did the cooking and cleaning on our own. I know how to cook some things, but will have to relearn how to do so since there are no microwaves and ovens are vastly different here.” She looked down at her plate and pushed her piece of French toast around with her fork as she spoke, trying to not let her homesickness get to her again.
Josephine reached across her desk and placed her hand on Gwen’s shoulder in a gentle gesture, she asked “You have not spoken about your family much since you got here… I have not asked too many questions since I did not want to upset you. But perhaps now might be a good time to talk about them, it might help you feel a bit better.” Smiling gently as she saw Gwen raise her head from her plate.
Gwen nodded and answered “I thank you for not prying so much… it is hard to think that I will never see them again. Talking about it just seems like it brings a finality to it all and it hurts.” She took another bite of her food before looking up at Josephine and asked “So… what do you wish to know?”
Josephine had a million inquiries run through her mind as she picked out the most basic one asking “Tell me about your parents.”
She took a deep breath and started “My Mom has long raven colored hair that she keeps up in a bun on her head most days, especially when she works. She teaches Kindergarten.”
Josephine had never heard that term so she asked for clarification “What is that?”
She continued “Kindergarten is a level in school where children between five and six are introduced to the public-school system, where most of them start learning how to read and write, start to learn numbers and things.” She reminisced about how happy teaching made her mother and seeing the warm glow in her gentle brown eyes. Gwen continued “My Mom loves her work, she loves children and having a job where she gets to see young ones grow and blossom makes her so happy.” She then thought of her father and explained “My Dad is a very tall, has brown hair and has very tanned skin, and is very muscular… which comes in handy for what he does for work. He is a firefighter.”
Another term that she had never heard before so she asked “What is does a firefighter do?”
Gwen replied “A firefighter is a person who puts out burning buildings and runs into them to pull people out to safety.”
This shocked her, dropping her fork to her plate as she exclaimed “He runs into burning buildings? Is that a common problem?” Trying to wrap her mind around how someone would want to run into a burning building instead of out of them.
Gwen shook her head and explained a bit more “Buildings do catch fire from time to time, but not as often as you think. He mainly spends most of his days helping carry very overweight patients to stretchers so they can be taken to hospitals for help. But they are trained to deal with fires and helping people should the need arise. I was always afraid that one of these days when he went to work he would not come back… fighting fires is a very dangerous job. But he also seems to get a lot of satisfaction out of his work.”
The door opened and both women watched as Leliana joined them, saying “Raven’s kept me this morning.” She looked at the two women both settled into their spots and half way done with breakfast, before she added “I see you two started without me.” She walked over to the side of the desk and started eating her own breakfast.
Josephine hoped that Leliana’s intrusion would not stop the conversation she had begun… she wanted to know more about Gwen’s mysterious past. After sitting and taking a few more bites of her food she asked “Do you have any siblings?”
Gwen swallowed her food and answered “No I do not… I am adopted. My mother is not able to have children.”
This statement made both women stop eating for a moment as they looked at her with questioning eyes, Leliana asked “So you do not know anything of your birth parents?” Prying her for answers.
Gwen quietly answered “No. I was left at my father’s fire station shortly after I was born. My Dad was the one who found me wrapped up in blankets at the door and took me to the hospital. After a few weeks of being in the foster care system my parents were able to take me for adoption since my birthmother was never found.”
Josephine replied “That was very sweet of him.”
Gwen continued “I could not have asked for better parents. My Mom speaks very fondly of the day that she found out that they got to keep me… usually makes her cry a bit, she was so happy to finally have a baby of her own. She called me her redhaired gift from heaven.”
Leliana remembered how Gwen had explained that she lived by herself before she came to Thedas, she asked “What made you want to leave home then?”
Gwen thought for a moment and carefully answered “I loved my parents very much but I wanted to see the world, go somewhere different. Try something by myself. So, a little bit later than most young adults, I finally got into college and moved 400 miles away from home to a much larger city in my state. My Mom cried so much as she helped me pack up my things before I moved out. Talking about how much she was going to miss her baby girl now that she was all grown up.”
Josephine chuckled a bit at that and replied “I think all mothers do that… mine certainly did. It was like I was never going to see her again, I had to write her every day for the first few weeks to help console her.”
Nodding a bit and smiling at the thought “Mine made me call her every hour while driving to my new place, and I had to spend an hour talking to her over the phone trying to stop her from crying when I finally made it to my apartment. She wanted pictures of everything, and almost demanded that I come home right away in fear that I might starve. I had to assure her that I would be fine and sent her updates constantly… I guess she was not ready for me to leave the nest just yet.”
Leliana answered “I have to agree… mine did something similar.” They all sat there, taking a few more bites of their food before Leliana asked “How do you think they are doing now?”
Josephine looked over at Leliana and glared daggers at her for a moment for asking such a question. Gwen, gave a small smile at Josephine for that gesture and honestly answered “With me being gone for this long I am guessing they had assumed something was wrong and did everything in their power to find me. I hope they are doing well… but I imagine them both being very upset about my disappearance. They probably are thinking that I may have died…” She started to feel the tears build in her eyes as she wiped them away with her fingers in vain.
Josephine got up from her chair and wrapped her arms around Gwen, trying to soothe her ache whispering quiet assurances that everything would be fine. Thinking that she would have a serious talk with Leliana later about her serious lack of tact for that comment.
Sniffing a bit, Gwen wiped the last of her tears from her eyes before looking at the rest of her breakfast that she could no longer eat, before quietly saying “I just wish there was a way to send a message or anything home… to let them know that I am alright. It pains me to think that they do not know that I am alive and well…” Giving a small prayer in her mind, asking to any deity if they existed to let them know that she was alive and alright. Spreading out her newfound wings and learning to fly in a strange new world that she never in her wildest dreams could have guessed actually existed. She sniffed a few more times and forced a smile to her two concerned looking friends and continued “It does no one any good to dwell over things that are not in their power to change… so for now I will have to look to what I can actually do something about.”
Leliana nodded and wanted to share the news that had kept her late this morning, hoping it might cheer up the small depressed looking elf. She mentioned “I received word that the Herald and his party will be returning back this afternoon. I am sure there are a few amongst them who you would like to see again.”
Though she had made due with those who were left in the camp over the last several weeks throwing herself into her studies, she longed to see her other friends again. This made her genuinely smile as she thought of speaking to them and listening to their tales of what the Hinterlands had brought them. Perhaps to day would not be so bad after all.
Chapter 12: Getting Your Feet Wet
I was trying to keep a more regular posting schedule than I have as of late, but work problems and a death in the family has thrown a wrench into this plan. I thank you all for your patience and hope you enjoy.
The Herald had returned with his party, Gwen had been anxiously been waiting by the gate for their return. Smiling when she saw the return of those that she now called friends. Worries had plagued her from their long absence… though she kept herself busy, her mind was quite capable of conjuring the worst images for what could happen to those she had been now considering her new adoptive family. Solas smiled seeing the young elf waiting their return. Walking up to him and offering to take one of his bags from his horse, as he dismounted. She followed him back to his home in the village, talking about his adventures as well as her own as they advanced down the snow littered stone path. Helping him put his belongings away as they continued to speak, he was impressed with what she had learned in his absence. Solas was pleased to see her thirst for knowledge, he found that to be a rather rare quality in a person, though a desirable trait in the situation that she found herself in. Not everyone had the mental aptitude to attempt to traverse the currents when thrown into a crisis, most would accept their fates and drown in the waves.
Once he had finished putting away his belongings, Gwen followed him outside and they both sat on the stone wall in front of his humble abode, swinging her feet back and forth as she asked him more questions she had come up with during his absence. She was asking Solas for more clarifications on the fade when they heard the commotion from the chantry.
The growing tensions between the Inquisition mages and templars had reached a boiling point, being spurned on by Chancellor Roderick. Curiosity got the best of them both as the quietly walked down the path to watch the whole encounter. Gwen stood there with her arms crossed as she watched Cullen and Maxwell break up the hostilities and send both parties walking away peacefully. Maxwell quietly entered the chantry after talking with Cullen, leaving him there to deal with the verbal taunts from the Chancellor. This left her in awe for his patience, if she had been in his place her quick tongue would not be held so quietly and she might have decked him for his insinuations. She remembered his own accusations and actions against her, almost seething from the memories. That man was trying to stir up a hornets’ nest and if left to his own ambitions may have succeeded without the timely intervention from Maxwell and Cullen.
Solas seeing her distress, pulled on her arm leading her away from this scene before she did something that she would later regret. When she looked at his face with a question in her eyes, he answered her confusion “Da’len, that does not concern us.” Tugging her arm towards the opposite direction of that encounter. Gwen sighed and followed, mumbling under her breath “I guess it would not be wise to poke that sleeping bear…” At first, she was not sure if Solas heard her, but by his chuckle he did. She followed him to the tavern to go eat some lunch, figuring Solas was probably famished from his journey. She felt a little guilty keeping him from here with her questions, staring down at her food for a moment. As they slowly ate, savoring the first meal in many weeks that had not been prepared over a campfire, he let her continue her round of questions, answering as best he could, hoping to be of use to the younger blossoming mage.
Sitting there for some time, even after their meal had concluded, grateful that Flissa let them keep their table undisturbed. Their conversation was interrupted by the sound of armored footsteps approaching them. Solas looked up from his companion and acknowledged the interloper, greeting “Afternoon Herald.”
Maxwell nodded to his greeting and was pleased to see he had found his quarry, looking over at the young elven mage on the other side of the small table, red hair in a braid falling over her right shoulder. He pulled up a chair and sat down with them, clearing his throat before he spoke. Remembering his earlier conversation in the war room with Cassandra, Leliana and Josephine as he asked about the progress of the Inquisition while he was in the Hinterlands. He was pleased to find that Gwen had been studious in his absence, learning how to ride a horse, how to wield a dagger, getting more practice with her healing magic and taking positive strides in her reading and writing abilities. Both Cullen and Cassandra vehemently opposed the idea of bringing her along, both fearing for her safety. The Commanders concerns surprised him. The normally stoic man almost seemed infuriated by the idea, but after hours of arguments about this they had all come to an accord. He felt that he could help protect her as she got her feet wet as she continued to learn how to become a productive member of society in Thedas. After a night of rest, he had plans immediately set off for Val Royeaux and speak to the Chantry sisters, hoping that some of them might see reason. Wanting her to be amongst his group, he looked upon her and asked “So how would you like to join us on a trip to Val Royeaux?” Showing his confidence with a grin.
She stat there for a moment wide eyed and silent before she could finally get the mental composure to speak, stuttering “Me? But… I have never left here before. Wouldn’t I just be a burden?” Not trusting herself to be useful in her inexperienced state.
Feeling certain of his abilities, he boasted “You would not be coming alone Gwen. I am bringing Solas, Cassandra and Varric, as well as a small accompaniment of soldiers. You have my word, I will keep you safe.”
Maxwell sat down with the two elves and chatted about the new task at hand. Discussing how he wanted them to be ready to leave at dawn, trying to ease Gwen’s worry with reassuring smug smiles. He had faith in his abilities, no harm would come to her in his presence. Though it did peak his interest, the fervor the Commander had shown by his concern for the young mage. He had guessed that the two of them had perhaps become closer in his absence. From what he knew of the man personally, and what he had discerned from his conversations from Lady Cassandra, it had seemed strange to evoke such a reaction from the normally stoic man. The motley crew drank ale and talked through the evening before, Cassandra mentioned that it would be best if they all called it an early night, Gwen took her warning to heart and left her comrades drinking into the night sometime later.
Gwen awoke the next morning with her stomach full of butterflies, grateful that she did not drink enough last night to be hung over on top of her unsteady nerves. Gathering a bag of some supplies she might need, she packed a few sets of clothes, her pencil case and her sketchpad, put on some leggings and a light tunic on before donning her new leather armor that the Commander had generously arranged to get made for her. His thoughtfulness gave her pause, she would have to find a way to thank him sometime. Taking her belt and making sure her scabbard was secure to her belt, then strapped her staff to her back before taking her bag from her bed and venturing out her door towards the sables. She was greeted by a wave from Maxwell, she waves back and trotted over to the horses. Maxwell took a black horse with a white mane and tail out of the stalls and walked it to Gwen.
Gwen stood there for a moment admiring the majestic creature before she was pulled from her own world by Maxwell’s voice. Stating “This horse will be yours for the trip… she will treat you well.”
All Gwen could do is stand there speechless and nodded, walking up to the horse and petting its nose, talking quietly in her high-pitched voice trying to soothe the creature. Maxwell, took her bag from her hands while she talked to the animal and secured it to her horse. She seemed to be lost in her own little world until a gentle voice spoke up from behind her, stating “I wondered which one they would give to you for this journey. She is a gentle one and will follow your lead, da’len.”
Gwen smiled and turned to see the bright eyed Solas, standing there with his own travel supplies in tow. Before he walked over to his own steed and secured his own belongings. Cassandra and Varric came down shortly thereafter, Cassandra scolding Varric about something or other as they walked down the stone path. Looking at this display and seeing the dwarves stagger and sluggish motions, she had to guess he was not a morning person. Unable to resist the urge of being in a position to pester him herself, she dawned her brightest smile and said in an overly cheery and alert manor, “Why good morning Varric… isn’t it a lovely morning?”
Varric grumbled under his breath as he made his way to his own horse, securing his equipment and Bianca to his saddle. Protesting as he worked, “Not all of us are so bright and chipper this early Songbird…”
She laughed and replied, “Or perhaps you had too much to drink last night?”
Still grumbling as he worked, he retorted “Too much? Never…” Continuing to protest under his breath as he worked. Once he finished, he covered a very wide yawn with his gloved fist and climbed upon his own mount. Looking down at the small elf still standing there, just watching he gave a sarcastic grin and asked “Well come on Songbird… we don’t have all day.”
Gwen stuck out her tongue at the dwarf and carefully mounted her own horse. Giving the sleepy looking dwarf a wide grin of her own as she successfully completed the task on the first try… she was going to also have to thank Cullen for this as well sometime. The party started to make their way out of the camp and as they passed to the outer gates of Haven, she saw Cullen standing there. Maxwell stopped his horse and greeted him “Morning Commander.”
Cullen looked almost apprehensive bout something, but put on a forced smile looking over at his entourage before answering “Good morning to you as well Herald.” He swallowed, and tried to reign in his anxiety before continuing “Safe travels to you…”
Maxwell nodded and made a few clicking sounds with his mouth, and tugged at the reigns, commanding his mount forward as they walked through the gates. Gwen locked eyes with the Commander, nodding herself and waving as she passed. This trip made her nervous but with his training, and the help of those who now surrounded her, she tried to give a confident smile to the man. Then turned her own head to watch ahead of her, leaving the safety for the place she now thought of as home.
The party traveled on the road for several days, making camp at dusk and taking turns with watch as the night slowly lolled by. Varric would sit at the fireside and entertain them with his tales, some of which just sounded to fantastical to be true. On the third day Gwen was wondering what the point of bringing her along was, nothing had happened just traveling. No bandits, no bears… just a few rams, a few wolves that she spotted in the distance and some fennecs. She was starting to wonder if that constant glower that Cassandra seemed to have in Varric’s presence was sending a low frequency warning to all of the local predators. Around noon the party was approached by an Inquisition scout that said that a fade rift had been spotted nearby, marking the location on the Herald’s map.
Maxwell looked over at the rookie elf smirking widely, asking “So Songbird, you finally ready to get your feet wet?”
Gwen gulped before answering “Ummm… sure…?”
Varric looked over at the nervous looking elf and laughed, smiling to show her his confidence in their task, saying “That’s the spirit.” Winking as he passed her on his horse leading to their destination.
Gwen led her horse to follow the party in silence as she tried to overcome her bundle of nerves. Listening to the group as they gave tips and advice for what she was about to see. She just nodded and tried to keep her horse going in the right direction, and the reigns in her hands as her palms began to sweat. She had heard of people talk of demons, been warned that demons would tempt people, especially mages in the fade and how they were a menace to the general populous, riling up local wildlife and killing the unprepared who happened to stumble upon them. This would be her first encounter with one… she had seen movies, had her own preconceptions to what they might entail, but this foreign terror had her on edge.
Once the rift was in their sights, the party stood there as Maxwell gave instructions to the group, most of them nodding in unison as if this was all old hat. Gwen just stared at the glowing green miasma in the air, translucent and ghastly. The other members of the party nodded to his instructions, only Solas seemed to look over to Gwen as he dismounted.
He walked over to her and helped her dismount and gave her a reassuring glance, quietly advising “Da’len… no need to look so uneasy. Remember what you have practiced. Stay near me and just try to keep barriers on us, we will keep you safe.” The pair walked over to the rest of the party, staves at the ready.
Maxwell looked over his company, walking over to Gwen and messing up her hair with his hand, laughing as he reassured “This is old hat for us… we will keep you safe.”
Varric laughed and replied “Sure you will Blitz.” Winking in Gwen’s direction as he readied Bianca with bolts.
It was at that moment when Gwen saw how Maxwell had earned that nick name, he charged in sword in hand over his head uttering a piercing shout as his feet carried him to the anomaly, ready to strike at the first demon that materialized from the rift. As he passed the threshold, several transparent green shades appeared around him, and a few dusty, shawl covered specters that directly took the brunt of Maxwell’s sword. Gwen swallowed nervously, noting how the air around them seemed to chill several dozen degrees, and time seemed to slow down, making everything seem to pass by in slow motion before she nodded and worked on throwing up barriers on her friends.
Varric rained down arrows on the further away green transparent demons who where shooting at them from a distance. Cassandra was headfirst in the fray next to Maxwell taking on the adjacent specters with sword and shield in her hands, pushing several of them back with brute force from her shield before stabbing them lethally with her own brandished weapon. Solas was helping Varric, hurling a few ice bolts towards the ranged opponents and freezing a few of the melee ones in place for the two warriors to clean up. Gwen just kept tabs on her party members, watching her feet and avoiding the spikes that seemed to shoot up from the earth its self, working on keeping all of her friends safe from harm. After a few minutes, which seemed to feel like hours to her all of the demons had vanished, but the rift still hung in the air, taunting them.
Maxwell shouted to everyone to be ready for the next wave, as he raised his hand, a green surge of lightning shooting from it to the rift its self as he attempted to damage the tare in the fade. Another round of demons appeared and the fighting began once again. Having an idea what to expect this time, she made sure to keep an eye on Maxwell more than the others as he seemed to run in, careless to his own wellbeing and just focused on dealing as much damage as possible. She strained to keep barrier after barrier on him, but continued none the less. Feeling a bit more confident in her abilities, she went and started shooting a fireball here and there at the ranged demons helping to bring them down faster so the whole group could take down the wave faster. After the demons had been banished back to the fade, Maxwell raised his hand once more to the rift and grunted as he summoned that green lightning from his hand, effectively erasing the rift from existence, leaving clear sky and the smell of ozone in its wake.
Gwen’s legs failed her as she let herself collapse on her knees to the ground, breathing heavily as she wiped the sweat from her brow. Solas walked over to her, and sat down next to her, smiling as he praised “Well done da’len.”
She flushed and nodded answering “Like riding a bike isn’t it?” Solas was not certain of the exact meaning of the phrase, but nodded none the less taking a quiet guess in his own mind what it meant. He would ask her to clarify later on their trek.
Maxwell wandered over to the two elves and beamed at her boasting “I told you we would not have any problems.” Winking at her as he walked to his horse to place his weapons away.
Gwen worked on catching her breath for a moment and was pleased with herself. Perhaps she would not be a burden to her friends after all. This thought made her smile as she mounted her own horse joining her friends as the continued to make their way to Val Royeaux.