Trevelyan looked up from the mess of reports scattered on her desk. “Solas,” she greeted, pressing her hand against her temple to ease the headache she had been nursing for hours. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Were you looking for me?”
“Yes,” Solas replied, his voice carrying an edge. It wasn’t his usual calm, soothing tones.
Trevelyan straightened, her back popped as her spine unbent. “Walk with me?” she asked. “I need some fresh air.”
She pulled her rumpled clothes straight and exited her quarters. Even as her legs took her away from the work, her mind churned. There was just so much to do. Empress Celene’s masquerade ball was coming up and there was much she wanted to be done before the Inquisition got bogged down by the Game. Trevelyan stopped just before the heavy door that lead out to the battlements. With a grunt, she pushed the door open. A gust of cold wind slapped her face as she shivered.
Trevelyan picked a secluded spot, away from the guards. This needed privacy that much was clear. She was always the one seeking him out to learn about the Elvhen and their history. The subject was fascinating to her. It was more than just learning about a foreign culture, it was more than because she needed them as allies. Solas coming to her was out of the ordinary, whatever Solas wanted to say was important.
The spot was quiet. Trevelyan leaned her arms against the battlements. She closed her eyes for a moment, letting the brittle cold wash over her. The cold leeched the tightness from her temples. Taking a deep breath, she put all her worries and concerns aside, this time was for Solas and his concerns, not hers or the Inquisition’s.
The wind whipped her black hair against her face. Her short ponytail jerked left and right. The slender elf stepped up next to her. For a moment, neither spoke, they weathered the elements together. Solas had been a fixture in her party lineup whenever she set out from Skyhold. Even before that, Solas had been a fount of knowledge regarding the Anchor and Fade. Trevelyan never tire of the stories he had to tell. But today, it’s different. She wasn’t here to listen to one of Solas’ Fade adventures.
Trevelyan waited. Solas would speak in his own time.
“You’re planning an expedition to the Exalted Plains soon,” Solas said.
It wasn’t a question, but Trevelyan nodded as she turned to face him. Solas’ has a deep furrow between his eyes. “I need a favour,” he went on.
“If I can help, you have my arm,” Trevelyan offered immediately.
Solas regarded at her. His gaze was unreadable as always. His eyes darkened for a moment. It was there and gone, Trevelyan wondered if she had imagined it. Regardless, if Solas needed help, she would not hesitate to give it.
“One of my oldest friend has been captured and forced into slavery.”
Trevelyan straightened. "Tell me everything."
“I hate this,” Sera complained.
The Exalted Plains was filled with ancient crumbling ruins, paths that were the remnants of the Elvhen civilisation. The trip from Skyhold to the base camp Harding had set up took the better part of a week. And a week spent on horseback was trying for everyone, but Sera more than most. Trevelyan smiled at the rogue. “We’ll be back at Skyhold before you know it.”
Sera glared at her. “It’s boring... Nobody to prank here, yeah? It's all grass and hills.”
Her arms swept out to encompass the wilderness that surrounded them. Trevelyan ducked, narrowly missing getting smacked at the back of her head by her arms. “We are coming upon the camp soon,” Trevelyan pointed out, “but I’d rather you refrain.”
Sera rolled her eyes. “I'm not stupid, yeah? Pranking scouts, stupid and dangerous. They're one of the little people, they don't need to be pranked.”
Iron Bull roared with laughter. "Who does then?"
"Like Leliana? Cassandra?"
Sera wrinkled her nose at Bull. “Horn-head should keep his mouth shut if he knows what’s good for him.”
Trevelyan grinned. Bull was good at distracting Sera when she was bored. Trevelyan always felt tongue-tied around Sera, her mind wasn’t made for verbal sparring the likes of which Sera enjoyed. At least, when she clumsily expressed her interest, Sera didn’t flat out reject her. The rogue wanted to get to know her better.
That’s not a yes, but that’s not a no either. It gave her hope.
Trevelyan took Sera’s words at face value. And she hoped more expeditions with Sera would give Sera a chance to get to know her better. So far, she neither pulled away nor did she avoid Trevelyan. Nothing seemed to have change but it didn’t stop the butterflies of anxiety fluttering in her belly.
Trevelyan glanced at the sky, they only had an hour of daylight left. She hoped to make it to base camp. And they could get down to work the next day, closing the rifts and setting up more camps in the area. She bit back a sigh. There was just so much to do. Silently, Trevelyan wished she had more time in the day.
She had never been one to take the easy road. That was never an option for her. Her childhood had seen to that. Trevelyan's gloved left hand rose to touch her left ear, the one that had its tip taken off. The edge was ragged but it didn’t have the raw red of a fresh wound. Trevelyan grimaced. It was particularly sensitive to temperature changes and Skyhold’s weather hadn’t been kind. Trevelyan lifted her eyes, she found Solas looking at her. She offered him a small smile, hoping it looked reassuring.
“We should hurry, I'd like to get to base camp tonight,” she said, straightening in her saddle.
Solas nodded. “I appreciate you taking me along,” he said. “I shall attempt to dream of my friend tonight.”
Trevelyan nodded. Life had taken a strange turn since she took a contract to escort some mages to the Conclave. And she never failed to marvel that somehow she was now in charge of so many people. Still, as bizarre as it had become, running the Inquisition felt familiar. It’s no different from running a mercenary band, albeit it’s on a scale she had never faced before. The stakes ran beyond her purse strings and her next meal, it extended to the fate of all Thedas.
“Boss,” Iron Bull called out.
Trevelyan jerked her head up, smacking herself inwardly for being distracted. It’s been a while since she was in the field. Her hard won habits had eroded away after spending too much time in Skyhold.
She saw what caught Bull’s attention. It was the base camp.
Trevelyan emerged from the tent she shared with Sera. Solas was already up, clearly eager to get going. She had spoken to Harding the night before. The scout had done good work. Trevelyan’s map had a number of landmarks and rifts marked out. That’s not even including rescuing Solas’ friend. It’s going to be a long day. And it seemed it would be a while before they would to return to Skyhold.
Plus, there was rumours of a Dalish camp here on the Exalted Plains. She was intended to make contact. It would help with relations and expand their reach into the Exalted Plains. One day, she promised herself. One day, she would find him.
“Good morning,” Trevelyan shook herself from her morose thoughts as she splashed some water on her face.
Solas nodded in greeting. The embers of the fire were still glowing, Solas was poking at it, trying to coax it to life. Trevelyan swept her hair back into a ponytail and secured it with a leather strap. Her eyes swept across the horizon, the sun was still a mere hint, the air crisp and chill. Trevelyan enjoyed the peace of the dawn.
Being away from Skyhold afforded her time to get away from the political side of the job. There was nothing worse than being forced to use her family name to maneuver among the dangerous Orlesian Game loving beasts. Trevelyan, a name she worked so hard to get away from but now it’s something she wore like it was a set of armour that didn’t fit.
In the field, she could only rely on her trusty maul, her companions at her back, and the clean, clear-cut fire of the battlefield. Even though her heart still ached, remembering the many friends who died when the Conclave blew up. People only remembered Divine Justinia, the many high ranking Templars and Chantry members, who remembered the people who were only there by happenstance? Who else remembered her merry fellowship who perished because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time? She took the job that led to their deaths and she survived. It didn’t seem fair then, it still didn’t feel right now.
Trevelyan sighed and walked to the fire. Solas flicked his eyes at her. It was a sound at odds with the mood she woke up with. She pulled two tin cups out of her saddle bag and concentrated on making tea. A crash coming from inside Trevelyan’s tent shattered the quiet. Solas flinched minutely, a slight furrowing of the brow, at the sound while Trevelyan waited. Two seconds later, Sera pushed the tent flap away and emerged.
“Cold,” Sera growled, her hair sticking up every which way. “Remind me why am I here, Inky? It’s too cold, yeah? This isn’t what I meant when I say we should get to know each other better, you know?”
Trevelyan smiled and handed her a cup of hot tea. Sera held it between her hands. The snarl on her face quickly replaced with a grin as she sipped. Harding and the others were beginning to stir, and the camp was coming to life. Trevelyan sat down on a log and she chewed on some hard bread, her eyes snagged by how the dawn sun cast a soft glow around Sera’s face.
“Stop that,” Sera said, her eyes still on her tea.
Trevelyan blinked. “What did I do?”
“You’ve been sneaky, Inky,” Sera said, her eyes darting towards her. “Sneaky Inky, looking at me.”
“Do you approve?” she ventured, her lips pulled into a lop-sided grin.
“Course yeah I approve,” Sera giggled.
Solas sighed. Trevelyan thought he was going to roll his eyes but Solas was above such gestures. The apostate intrigued her. Her hand drifted to her ear again. Trevelyan clenched her jaw and forced her hand away. She stuffed the rest of the bread into her mouth and stood abruptly. “We move out in 30 minutes.”
The journey started easy enough. The party left base camp in a westerly direction, heading towards the coast before cutting back south. There were Freemen loitering all over the Plains, but their party dispatched any enemy they encountered with ease. Then, they came upon a rift.
Trevelyan charged, ramming her armoured shoulder into the demon, knocking it clean off its feet. The demon screamed as she swung her maul down. Once, twice, thrice. The scream was cut short as her double handed weapon came crunching down one final time. Trevelyan wiped perspiration from her eyes. Satisfaction flooded her chest even as her eyes roved the battlefield for the next enemy. Sera shouted. “Get down!”
Trevelyan dropped to the ground without questioning. Sera let loose a barrage of arrows to take down the last enemy. “Eat it!” she cried triumphantly.
The battlefield was clear. Her lungs heaving from the exertion as she walked towards the open rift overhead. Her jaw tightened, she always hated this part. Trevelyan thrusted her left hand towards the sky. A tingling sensation ran up her arm to her chest, pins and needles of the worst possible kind. She bit back a gasp, focusing to keep the Anchor pointed at the rift. As the rift closed with a boom, she winced. Trevelyan shook her hand, trying to get rid of the sudden sharp pain that always came with the closing of a rift. It was a lightning bolt that travelled from her fingers to her shoulder. As she turned back to the others, Iron Bull was already securing their mounts as Sera picked through the field looking for anything useful.
“Inquisitor,” Solas called out as they mounted up.
“If we followed the river we will be near where my friend is,” Solas said, his voice tight, unnaturally so.
Trevelyan nodded, rolling her shoulders. “Let’s make haste.”
Sera watched Inky. Inky might think she was sneaky but nobody was Sera’s match. She knew that much. The lines of Inky's shoulder, the stiff way she held her reins, the bend of her neck, Sera knew Inky was tired but pushing through. Inky could never quite hide that grimace whenever she closed a rift.
Maybe it hurt to use the Anchor?
Sera had never really considered the question before. Inky might be one of the big ones now, but she never behaved like the other uppity types. Inky was one of the good eggs.
Of all the things Inky did, her almost involuntary need to touch her damaged ear was the most curious. Sera watched, she observed, Inky’s hand always flinched away when she realised someone was watching. But she was better than most, Inky never caught her watching. It was extremely odd behaviour and it wasn’t the first time Sera wondered about it. She didn’t believe the story Inky told about the ear.
The day after returning from a gruelling two months out at the Storm Coast, where everything was wet and miserable. Everyone was happy to finally be dry and warm. With the Chargers leading the conversation, Bull was comparing his newly earned scars with Blackwall, it was inevitable the conversation drifted to Inky’s scars.
“We've heard about how you got the one at your eyebrow, Inquisitor,” Varric said, “what about your ear?”
Sera saw the flinch at the mention of her ear. Inky's hand drifted upwards before aborting the gesture. A grin split her face, but it never reached her grey eyes.
“It’s nothing interesting, what I want to know if how you managed to grow such manly chest hair and Bull is almost hair free?” she countered, deflecting the question.
That did the trick Bull got into an argument between the manliness of chest hair between Qunari and Dwarves. Inky leaned back against her chair looking more relieved than amused.
“Pain. Confusion. Betrayal. Why, why, why? Am I not beloved?” a voice drifted over from Sera’s side. Cole’s voice pitched low, only she and Inky heard it. Sera never forgot the stricken look in Inky’s eyes. It was there and gone in an instant. Was Inky afraid? Why was Inky scared? Nobody else had noticed. Sera pretended she never heard Cole’s words and faked a laugh.
Eventually Varric caught on and he wasn’t deterred. “Come now, Inquisitor,” he said, “that’s not going to work. Tell us, there must be an awesome story tied to that ear of yours.”
Inky was steadier this time, more prepared than before. “It was years ago when I first started out working as a merc,” she said bending forward, her voice pitched to carry.
The others shifted to hear the story better. Her gestures wild and wide, her voice went up and down in pitch and cadence, drawing the others in. Inky always had a way with words. She was as much a storyteller as Varric was. Sera preferred Inky’s stories. Maybe it was because of Inky’s voice, Sera wasn’t quite sure herself.
As good a storyteller Inky might be, she was all stammers and half formed sentences when she came to see Sera in her tiny space above the Herald’s Rest. Inky was cute being all shy and quiet. Sera smiled. She was the only one who got to see that tentative, careful side of Inky. And she liked it.
“And so the whole thing was a mess of bodies, limbs and battle cries,” Inky said, “As I was trying to get to the asshole, that Fade blasted archer shot me!”
She slammed her fist onto the table, the plates clattered while Josie and a few others jumped. “That bastard took out my ear!”
Varric roared as the others joined in. “That’s the most ridiculous story I’ve ever heard,” he exclaimed.
Inky was laughing too, but it never reached her darkened eyes.
They were pushing themselves harder than necessary for one of Baldy’s friend. It’s probably a spirit, who else would be friends with that ass-tight Baldy. It was way past midday when Solas spotted his friend turned demon.
“You're not with the bandits?” one of the men asked as they approached.
Inky turned and signalled for Sera and Iron Bull to keep a lookout. The demon looked docile, under control for now, but such Fade infested mess tended to have a way of spilling their chaos everywhere. Inky and Baldy dismounted to deal with the mages while Sera had her bow in hand and Bull pulled his great sword from his back. She kept her eyes on the demon. She could hear Solas’ voice, loud, sharp and biting, completely at odds to how he usually was.
Iron Bull shook his head. “Not good.”
Sera snorted. It was an understatement. “It's a demon, yeah? Those are never good, Horns.”
Trouble seemed to follow Inky everywhere she went. Thank the Maker’s hairy balls, Inky was more than a match with all the monsters and crazy people they faced. And Josie handled the sneakier part of rich crazy people.
Sera snorted, rolling her eyes as Solas’ and the mage’s voice got louder and shriller. She tried to keep an eye both on the demon and the shouty mages. Inky flexed her left hand, visibly swallowing a sigh. Iron Bull walked to Sera’s side. “Liking what you see?” he asked, his voice low and deep.
“Yeah, sure, why not? She is easy on the eyes, yeah? Says what she means too, unlike Baldy there. I like her, who doesn’t?”
Iron Bull narrowed his eyes at her. “You know that’s not what I mean.”
Sera shrugged. “Maybe, maybe not, I’ll need to get to know her better before I jump into the boat with her. But she is looking mighty fine so far, yes.”
“Don’t lie to yourself Sera. You know her plenty well, I know how often she comes looking for you when we're back in Skyhold. Trev makes time for you even though she is pulled in a million different directions at the same time.”
Sera wanted to shut Bull’s mouth, he was always sticking his horns where they weren't welcome, but the demon reared onto its legs and roared. Inky was a silver streak of armour leading their way into battle.
“We must hurry!” Solas yelled, trailing after Inky.
Sera’s eyes sharp and watchful, her arms and bowstring taut as she watched Inky’s back.
“Sera! Bull! Get the binding circle!” Trevelyan yelled as she rolled out of the way of the demon’s massive claws. “Solas cover me!”
A warmth infused her body as she felt Solas’ barrier come over her. That bought her a bit of time. “Damn!” she cursed as she struggled to her feet.
She had to hold on and keep the demon’s attention focused on her so that Sera and Bull could finish the job. Freeing the spirit turned demon was way harder than killing it, but for Solas’ sake, she was going to try and free it. The maul crashed against the demon’s toughened hide. The impact sent shock waves up her hands and set her teeth chattering. It did nothing but enrage it.
“One down!” Sera whooped.
Trevelyan grinned, her fingers tightened around the hilt. Sera’s voice triumphant voice had renewed her flagging strength. The demon turned towards Sera, attracted by her voice. Trevelyan growled, there was no way she’d allow the demon to hurt Sera.
“Over here!” Trevelyan yelled.
A pair of blood-red eyes sized her up. Trevelyan bent low, expecting it to swing at her with its claws but she was wrong. A clap and a crackle snapped across the air around them. A long whip of lightning lashed out towards her. Trevelyan dived to the ground, but the whip was quicker.
Her chest erupted in agony as electricity coursed through her body. Her muscles spasmed in excruciating tightness. She wanted to scream but her throat closed in on itself. The demon roared. Trevelyan had to get clear, but her limbs were cramping and twitching. The whip came down a second time and her world went white.
“The Inquisitor is down!” Solas shouted.
Vaguely she heard Bull roaring at the demon. A wave of warmth eased the pain enough so that she could pour a healing potion down her throat. Trevelyan succeeded in dribbling half the bottle down her armour. The little she managed to get down pushed the pain at bay. Trevelyan gasped, air finally flowing into her lungs. Her trembling hands reached for the maul she had dropped. With a grunt she lifted it and headed straight for the demon.
By the time the final binding stone was destroyed, Trevelyan was more numbed than in pain. Her muscles had mostly stopped twitching though her chest was completely sore. She was sure it was from all the rolling and diving she did. Sera came straight towards her while Solas went to speak with his friend.
“Are you all right?” Trevelyan asked, her eyes raking over the rogue's leathers, searching for telltale signs of blood.
Sera frowned. “You are the one to talk! You took the purple light show full on, are you all right?”
Trevelyan grimaced. “I’ll be happier if I never have to do that again.”
A harsh laugh escaped Sera’s lips. Trevelyan secured her maul at her back and waited as Solas spoke to his friend, now no longer a demon. The entire conversation was in elvish. Trevelyan glanced at Sera.
“What?” she asked.
“You understand any of it?” Trevelyan asked.
Sera made a face. Trevelyan turned her attention back to the conversation between Solas and his friend. She saw the slump in his shoulders and his friend dissolved into ash. Solas turned towards her, his face pale and infinitely sad.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t do more,” Trevelyan said.
“You have done more than I could hope,” Solas said, his countenance shifted from one of bitter melancholy to bloodthirsty fury. “All that remains now is them.”
Trevelyan listened as the mages tried to justify their actions. Solas’s staff flared to life as he stalked towards them. In the end, no reason was good enough for Solas and she understood. Forcing the nature of someone to change was impossible and in the end Solas’ friend paid the price. Her hand drifted to her ear, fingering the long healed notch. She knew better than most. Trevelyan would give Solas what she couldn’t get.
It was all over in a crackle and flash.
“Damn them all, I need some time alone, I will meet you back at Skyhold.”
Trevelyan sighed as she watched Solas stalked off into the distance. That was unexpected, cutting her party down to three.
“So what now, yeah?” Sera asked.
They made camp near the Dalish encampment across the river. Though the Dalish Keeper there was a little stand-offish but Trevelyan figured if they weren’t going to attack them on sight, it’s probably safer to be nearer to the Dalish than not. Tents pitched, and a fire was started. Bull and Sera were still outside chatting away. She shook her head, unable to understand how they still had the energy for that, she was exhausted.
Trevelyan headed into the tent she shared with Sera. As she unbuckled her armour, she winced. Her chest was aflame. As she pulled her undershirt up, she found a dark line running from just under her right collarbone to her left hip.
“Damn that whip.”
Trevelyan applied some salve, it helped to numb the wound and settled in for the night.
It made no sense to return to Skyhold having just spent one week on the road getting here. Waiting around for one week for Dorian or Vivienne to travel down felt equally meaningless. In the end, Trevelyan decided it was better to get as much done as they could. The going was tougher with just the three of them but they made it work. Trevelyan looked at her map. “The other rift should be nearby,” she said.
Bull nodded. “Let’s get this done, the sun is getting low. I don’t want to be running into this rift when it’s dark.”
Her hand tingled a little the way it usually did while near rifts. “Come on,” she said, putting her heels to her horse. “It’s this way.”
Sera’s arms burnt. The green hole was still spewing forth demons. She growled as she unleashed a barrage of arrows, killing a wraith sneaking up on Inky. With both Inky and Bull being front line warriors, it was up to her to keep their backs safe. She reached towards her quiver for more arrows.
Bull was hacking away at a Shade while Inky was dancing with a Rage Demon. Even from her distance, Sera could feel the waves of heat radiating from the Rage Demon. Inky must be roasting in her armour. She gritted her teeth and loosed her arrows at blinding speed.
The Rage Demon flailed and caught Inky across her armoured front. Sera frowned. Inky was usually fast for a person dressed in heavy armour but today she was slower. Sera saw Bull had no trouble with his foe, the Rage Demon was the biggest threat on the field. She moved in closer, drawing its attention. Her hand reaching for her poison tipped arrows.
“Thanks.” Inky panted as she got back to her feet.
Once Bull dispatched the Shade, the three of them made quick work destroying the Rage Demon. Bull wiped the pouring sweat from his face with the back of his hand. “It was close,” he remarked, his single eye staring at Inky’s back.
Sera agreed, but she was busy retrieving what arrows that were still useable. The rift closed with a boom. Inky’s back was facing them, her face upturned to the sky. Bull glanced at Sera. She shrugged.
Inky turned and smiled. It was a wan, limp little affair.
“You feeling good, yeah?” Sera asked.
Inky nodded. “Yeah, all's good. Come on, we should make camp soon.”
Sera was poking at the fire, watching the embers danced against the night sky. Bull had his polishing stone out and his great sword across his lap. Inky stretched but aborted the action midway as if it pained her. “I’m tired, guys,” Inky declared, her skin shades of yellow and red against the fire. “Wake me up for the last watch.”
Sera exchanged a look as with Bull as they watched Inky go. She stumbled as she entered the tent. A soft curse drifted over as she kicked a rock out of the way. Then, muffled sounds of armour hitting the ground. “You saw that?” Bull asked.
“She had been doing that the past few nights,” Bull went on.
“I’ve noticed, yes.”
"Something is wrong," Bull said, not taking his eyes off his work. "She was slower today too."
Sera nodded again. She had seen the same things. A heavy stone seemed to press against her chest as her eyes lingered on the tent she shared with Inky. It was another two hours later before Sera decided to turn in. Bull had agreed to take the first watch. Sera lifted the tent flap gingerly. The moonlight parted the dimness inside. She stepped in and the first thing that hit her was the smell. Her nose crinkled at the scent. Inky had been using the salve again, she was probably just sore from the bruises she was bound to have.
Sera let the flap go and plunged the tent into darkness again. Her eyes adjusted, but the colours remained muted. Inky was lying on her side, her body entirely still, her breathing deep and even. She sighed as her fingers worked at the straps of her armour. Her feet shuffled towards her bedroll. There was a clink as her boot kicked something. She looked down and found an empty bottle of healing potion. Sera frowned. Inky wasn’t injured, not from today’s battle, anyway. No matter. It was meaningless to wake Inky to ask. Instead, Sera crawled into her bedroll and promptly fell asleep.
A moan broke the silence. Sera held herself still. Her hands half way towards her bow. Maybe she dreamt it. There was no more noise. She closed her eyes and started to relax again. There was another moan, louder, longer and infinitely more intense. Sera jerked upright.
In the dim light, the human was shivering, her eyes squeezed shut. Her hand stretched out towards Inky’s face but she hesitated. Inky groaned. Sera pushed her reservations aside and placed her hand over Inky’s forehead. It was burning.
Inky was curled up as if protecting a wound. Gently, Sera guided her onto her back. “Sorry.”
It was an apology nobody heard. Sera lifted Inky's sweat soaked undershirt. There was a cut, shallow but hot and angry, diagonally across her torso.
How did this happen? Was this the cause of Inky’s slower reactions? It's obvious that wound wasn't fresh and it was hurting her.
“Sera, what’s going on?” Bull’s voice came from outside.
“Inky’s having a fever. She got hurt. Must have been from one of our earlier fights.”
“Is she ok?” Bull rumbled as he paced outside the tent.
“Wound seems infected but shallow. It will be ok,” Sera said as she searched her packs for a bottle of healing potion.
“I’ll get her to drink a potion and we’ll see how she is in the morning, yeah?”
Where was a healer mage when they needed one? Right, he threw a tantrum and left.
Trevelyan groaned, her head was pounding. Her chest subsided to a throbbing mess. She forced her eyes open and winced at the brightness.
“Shit!” Why didn’t anyone wake her for the watch? The sun was completely up.
She bolted upright and instantly regretted it. The tent spun around her as her empty stomach roiled. She pressed her left hand against her mouth. The Anchor surged and sent a jolt against her mouth. Trevelyan jerked her hand away.
“I hate this,” she muttered as she hunched over, praying for her stomach to settle.
The tent flap ripped open and Sera trooped in. “Inky, you’re up!”
Trevelyan didn’t have the energy to respond the way she usually did. The rogue didn’t need an answer. Her hand pushed Trevelyan’s hair away from her forehead and pressed against it.
Sera hummed. “Still hot,” she said. “How are you feeling?”
Trevelyan pulled her forehead away and stood up. “I’m fine,” she said, “What time is it? We should head out.”
She pushed the flap aside and stepped into the sun. Bull was there, drinking from a cup. “You’re up,” he said, before frowning, “Boss, you don’t look so good.”
Trevelyan sighed, her head pounded harder in the sun. “I’m fine. We have a lot of road to cover today. We should break camp.”
“Eat something, yeah?” Sera said as she emerged from the tent, already dressed in her scout coat.
Bull shoved a tack hard bread into her hands. Trevelyan looked between Bull and Sera, she knew when she was being managed. Trevelyan sighed and ripped a piece of bread off with her teeth, hoping the appearance of eating was enough to appease them. Her stomach was in no state to accept food.
Trevelyan patted her pockets for her map but realised she was still dressed in her undershirt. Bull handed her his own map as if he read her mind. She chewed, slow and methodical, as she pored over the map.
“We should head north, I think we’re mostly done with-”
Trevelyan stopped, her hand pressed against her mouth again. Bull blinked, shifted closer. “Boss?”
There was little time. Trevelyan twisted to avoid the map. Her gorge rose and what little she ate came rushing out.
Trevelyan spat. It was dark green-yellow and smelly, burning her insides as it came out. She gasped. Even though there was nothing left in her stomach, her guts hadn’t got the message. Her eyes watered as she heaved again and again. Her chest screamed with every motion. Bent on her hands and knees, Trevelyan’s hand trembled as she wiped the sweat from her face. She groaned, finally trusting her guts to stop rebelling. With a grunt, Trevelyan straightened and got to her feet. The sudden movement sent a wave of vertigo over her.
“Here,” Bull handed her a waterskin. "Slowly or it's all coming up again."
She took small sips even though she longed to drain it, missing the look Sera and Bull exchanged. Trevelyan breathed heavily, the world was a little hazy, a little out of focus. Blood rushed from her head. Trevelyan blinked, as darkness gathered around the edges of her vision.
Sera was frowning and reaching out towards her. Trevelyan frowned. She didn’t remember doing anything to offend Sera. Why was Sera frowning at her? Sera was saying something. Trevelyan cocked her head, Sera’s voice was strangely hollow and far away. Bull looked concerned, he was also reaching out to her.
Everyone moved like they were underwater. Trevelyan blinked, slow and deliberate. The encroaching darkness ate away what strength she had left. She attempted a step forward but her knee buckled. Trevelyan folded like a deck of cards. And her world went black as her head smacked onto the ground.
Three days. It was three days of waiting. Healing potion, after healing potion. Each one closed the wound a little more but how Inky groaned as new pink skin tried to stretch over the wound. Inky struggled. “No more, please, no more. Stop, please.”
Tears pricked at her eyes as she poured a little more down Inky’s throat. “I’m sorry but you’ve to drink this. It helps, it will help you.”
Inky’s throat moved, taking in a little of the potion. “It burns, it burns,” Inky moaned, her eyes half open, still delirious from the fever.
It was only after Sera all but ran out of the tent that she allowed the tears to fall. This was too much. She was torturing Inky. Bull glanced at her, making a point to say nothing, not about her tears, not about the begging he heard.
He sighed and headed into Inky’s tent. Sera was torn. Being around Inky just broke her, but she couldn’t stand not having Inky in her sight. Sera paced around the fire pit, staring at the dancing flames for a moment before she caved.
She entered the tent, the air inside warm and muggy. The scent of healing potions was overpowering. Bull had his hand on Inky’s forehead. He shook his head. “Too hot,” he said, “the wound is infected. She needs a proper healer, we can't wait any longer. And we’re low on healing potions. We have to leave tomorrow.”
Sera nodded. She knew that, they knew that but they had been praying for a Maker blasted miracle. Inky was usually so alive, eyes blazing. Nothing kept her down, not even a day of wading through the Fallow Mire. But now she lay on her bedroll so still, so pale. Almost corpse-like. Sera sighed.
“Get some sleep,” Bull said, “I’ll watch her tonight.”
Her eyes lingered over Inky’s form, they didn’t have enough bandages to keep the wound covered. It’s open, exposed to the air. A faint scent of rot coming from it. Her gaze traced the gash, redder and rawer than before. The tent was silent, safe for Bull’s heavy breathing. If Inky’s chest wasn’t moving, Sera was sure she was dead.
Her chest ached at the thought, it was unbearable. “Sera, go. We’ll move at first light.”
Sera didn’t move. She couldn’t. Inky’s chest rose and fell, even and shallow. Her brow creased. Where was the shy smile only she got to see? Where was the boundless energy? Where was her loud and easy laugh? Where was the Inky she knew and loved?
She gasped. Love. The ache in her chest flared hotter, brighter, louder.
“Sera,” Bull called again, pulling her from the new found revelation.
Her eyes met Bull’s. His dark eyes bored into her soul, Sera had no idea what he found there. “Go and get some rest,” he repeated.
Sera took a shuddering breath and stood. As she stood in the threshold, Sera had to turn back and look at Inky one more time. “Where’s a hand-wavy, all magic, shiny mage when you need one?” she asked bitterly.
It took all of seven days for them to get to the Exalted Plains. That’s with four healthy and formidable members of the Inquisition. It was a ride filled with camaraderie and fireside chats, complaining about the weather and Inky’s sneaky glances. The trip back took twice as long. It was painful and slow. Their pace was dictated by Inky’s endurance.
She was stoic when she was lucid. Inky rode her own horse gamely though she needed Bull to hoist her up on her horse. Sera took the lead while Bull took the rear. Inky's olive skin, turning ashen as the day wore on.
“You need a break, yeah?” Sera asked, eyeing her critically.
Inky's jaw twitched. A refusal perched on her lips. Sera frowned. “You’re exhausted, so am I,” she insisted, “it’s time to take your potion anyway, we’re taking a break.”
“I’m ok,” Inky sighed, managing to give Sera a faint lopsided smile. “I can have the potion a little later. It doesn’t hurt now.”
Sera wrinkled her nose, her eyes taking in the sweat beading at Inky's forehead, her trembling hands. “Liar, Inky shouldn’t lie. You’re a bad liar.”
Days stretched into weeks. The hop-scotching between base camps was taking a toll. The fever receded during the day only to come flaring to life in the night. After choking down a potion, Inky would grit her teeth, muffle her groans but Sera was wide awake, listening to every single one. Every day Inky got a little weaker, her eyes a little duller. All strength was wrung out of her body. The potions were using her body’s reserves to fuel the healing, but it was healing wrong, all wrong.
Every morning, Sera would unwind Inky’s breast band and clean the wound. The skin was close, but it was hot and swollen. Pus wept, dark and rotten. “I’m sorry,” Inky would always say.
“Why you sorry? This isn’t your fault,” Sera replied, the wet washcloth skimming the abused skin gently.
Her eyes lingered more on the accursed wound than Inky's round pert breasts. She had thought about these mounds of flesh, to see them, to touch them but not this way. This was wrong. Everything was wrong.
“I…” Inky’s voice trailed off. “I don’t think I…”
Her voice broke. Sera’s eyes darted from her work to Inky’s face. Inky averted her eyes. “No,” Sera declared. “You hear me, yeah? You’re not dying. There's still a hole in the sky, Coryphefuss is still out there, you’re not dying.”
As much as Sera insisted, the truth was before her eyes. Inky’s ribs were showing more than before, her skin alternated between clammy and boiling. “I’m sorry,” Inky's voice husky as she apologised again.
Sera bit back a growl and went back to cleaning Inky’s wound. Inky's grey eyes knowing, her body fought against the infection, healing potions were sealing the poison within her body. Her blood being poisoned from within.
The next day, Inky fell from her horse and after that, she was never really lucid anymore. She rode, lashing against Bull’s broad back. Her breathing shallow, her body constantly too hot.
“Trev, you got to drink,” Bull said as he held her up in a sitting position.
Her head lolled, her lips clamped shut. “Please, no more...,” she begged, her voice a rasp as her body shook.
“Trev, it’s just water, no potions today,” Bull said. “Promise.”
Sera growled, all frustration and anger. There was no potions today because they had ran out. There was only one left between the three. The next base camp was a distance away, and they had to make up for lost time. Sera waxed her bow string, her movements jerky and sharp. Her eyes trained on Inky. Her parched and cracked lips parted slightly, allowing Bull to dribble water in. They would just have to be that much more careful tomorrow.
Sera raced. Skyhold loomed ahead. Bull was hurrying the best he could while being mindful of Inky’s weakened state. Whatever reserves she had, it had all been spent like a cheap coin, trying to heal a wound too poisoned, too rotten to be fixed by potions alone. Inky needed a healer, and she needed it weeks ago.
Sera was rough as she tugged at the reins, her horse skidded to a stop. She swung a leg over and dropped to the ground. With a flick of her hand, she tossed her reins to a standing stable hand and she ran off without a word.
Cassandra was training in the ring when Sera came in. “Sera!” the Seeker shouted.
She made her apologies and handed off her recruits to one of Cullen’s knights. She tossed her dummy blade into the pile and ran towards Sera. “What happened? You’re late, ten days late,” she growled. “Where’s the Inquisitor?”
The days upon days of anxiety and fear came bubbling up. “Inky’s hurt, she’s hurt bad,” Sera all but wailed. “She needs a healer now.”
“Where is she?” Cassandra asked, her arm gripping Sera’s arm almost painfully.
“Bull’s got her, I came ahead to get a healer. Is Baldy here? She needs him.”
“Solas came back more than a week ago but he left early today to… ugh! It doesn’t matter,” Cassandra growled, her eyes darting about the courtyard. “Vivienne is hosting some kind of soiree for the nobles with the other mages and Dorian is Maker knows where. The rebel mages has been send to reinforce our outposts. There isn’t any other mages left.”
Cassandra spotted Cullen coming down the steps towards them. “Rutherford!” she called out and waved him over.
Relief flooded Sera as Cassandra took charge. The Seeker would make things right again. She always make things right. “Sera, get Stitches, he is in Herald’s Rest with the other Chargers. Let him know what’s going on, but quietly. The nobles cannot know,” she said.
Sera nodded, not waiting to see what instructions the Commander got. When she returned, she found them at the stables out of sight of prying eyes. Bull had arrived. Cassandra and Blackwall were untying her from Bull. Two pairs of strong arms cradled Inky like a baby. The look on Cassandra’s face spoke volumes. Nothing fazed the Seeker but this, nobody expected this.
“Please, please, please,” Sera whispered under her breath, “I never asked for anything, Maker but please, please, please. Inky cannot die, not here, not now.”
Stitches pushed past Sera and was instantly at Inky’s side. Cassandra managed to find a wooden board and Inky was resting on it. Her eyes closed, Sera stared at her chest. It rose and sank. The stone that sat on Sera’s chest sank back to her guts. “She’s alive, we made it to Skyhold. She will get help. Inky will be better,” Sera pleaded.
“I can’t work here, we should get her to her quarters,” Stitches said.
Bull dismounted, Blackwall took the reins off his hands. With Cullen on one end, Bull on the other, Cassandra went ahead making sure the way was clear. They took the longer route, to avoid going through the great hall. Sera was by Inky’s side all the way.
A voice raspy and dry from disuse. “Inky, we’re back at Skyhold. You’ll be ok, yeah?” Sera said, her eyes only for Inky.
But instead of replying, Inky groaned, a sound long and pitiful, like an animal dying. “No, no, Inky, you will be ok. Doc’s here to fix you.”
Stitches had his hand on Inky’s forehead, sniffing a little at Inky as they carried her across the battlements. He shook his head. “Her blood’s been poisoned, we can’t wait,” he said.
Cassandra’s jaw tightened. Her eyes flicked towards Inky, barely conscious, hardly lucid. “Here,” she said, as she led them to Solas’ room.
Sera ran ahead. The table that dominated Solas’ room was piled high with books. With a sweep of her hands, the books, papers and unlit candles scattered across the floor. The board Inky lay on was slid onto the table. Stitches had his bag of tools ready.
Inky’s pain glazed eyes took in her surroundings. “Where?”
Bull placed his hand on her shoulder. She grimaced, even the slight touch was excruciating. “We’re back at Skyhold, Stitches here is going to look you over,” Bull glanced at his man.
“I’ll need to cut away everything,” Stitches said, gesturing vaguely at Inky’s chest.
Sera took hold of Inky’s hand, her fingers laced between hers. She gave it a tiny squeeze. The returning one was so weak, for a person who wielded a maul almost daily, it was jarring. Inky managed a small tug of her lips. Her eyes flicked over to Stitches’ and she nodded her permission.
“Begging your pardon, Inquisitor,” Stitches muttered as he took a pair of shears to the damp and dirty undershirt she was wearing.
The thin layer of cloth fell away easily, revealing the bandages and breast band. Stitches went more slowly now. As the shears took the tainted material off, the wound was exposed to the air. Everyone visibly recoiled at the stench.
“How did this happen?” Cullen said, “It’s all black and…”
Cassandra shot Cullen a look, flicking her eyes between him and Inky. Embarrassment burnt a trail up Inky's face. Sera traced the line with her eyes. Black pus was seeping out from the wound where the skin was broken. It must have been an agony for Inky. Stitches said, “The wound extends downwards, I’ll need to take her breeches off as well.”
Inky squeezed her eyes shut and nodded again. Cassandra turned and ripped a cloth off one of the tables behind them. Inky was as naked as the day she was born for a moment before Cassandra covered her with the sheet.
This was wrong, this wasn’t how Sera wanted to see Inky’s body for the first time. She wanted the sight all to herself, not laid out like a pig ready for slaughter.
“This isn’t a wound made by mortal means,” Stitches said.
Bull nodded. “We think she had taken the wound-”
“The Pride Demon,” Inky croaked, interrupting Bull, her eyes opened and pricked with tears.
“Yeah that,” Bull finished.
The rage that simmered for the better part of two weeks boiled over. It was all Baldy’s fault. He asked for help, which they had given but instead of sticking around, he took off. He bloody ditched them without a single thought for them. He didn’t stick around like how a true friend would. He was the only healer in the party.
Sera’s jaw ached as she gritted her teeth. Inky was the priority now.
Stitches sighed as he cast an expert eye on her wound. “Is a mage available?” he asked, eventually. “A sleep spell will be the best. A sleeping draught in the Inquisitor’s condition is too dangerous. The healing potions have taken a toll on her body. Her body is already feeding on itself.”
Cullen shook his head. “I’ve sent a runner to get Dorian.”
Rough hands pressed against Inky’s chest, over the wound. She hissed, teeth grinding, clenching and hurting. Sera glared at Stitches but she knew, sometimes hurts needed to hurt more before it got better.
“We can’t wait. I need to let the poison out now.”
“What do you need?” Bull asked.
Sera felt useless as she watched the others got ready. A candle found, lit and set up. Sharp and pointy instruments lay out. Bandages ready, poultice prepared, elfroot set to boil. There was nothing she could do to make Inky better. All she could do was to hold her hand, her too warm, too limp hand. “It will be ok,” Inky said, her voice steady.
Why was Inky comforting her? Sera frowned but her lip trembled. “Do something!” Sera shouted, her eyes pleading.
“I will do my best,” Stitches promised, before turning to Inky. “I will have to cut through the skin and let the poison out. It will hurt, a lot.”
Inky nodded, her jaw set. Cassandra produced a strip of leather. “Bite down on this.”
She opened her mouth and Cassandra wedged the leather between her teeth. The false calm that Inky had before was completely stripped away by fear. Her wild eyes searched something. Stitches took two steps away to confer with the others. Sera stepped closer to Inky.
Sera squeezed her hand. Tears pricked Inky’s eyes, her grey eyes, lighter than she had ever seen. Licks of orange and yellow reflected in them. “It will be ok,” Sera promised, fervently praying she wasn’t lying.
“Hold her down,” Stitches said as he picked up a wicked-looking knife.
Bull and Cullen had their hands on each of Inky’s legs. Cassandra took her right arm, leaving only her left free. “I’m sorry,” Sera said as she pressed hard against Inky’s shoulder.
The blade flashed, and plunged into flesh, past skin. The leather between her teeth creaked as her jaw tightened. A breath was taken in and not let go. Inky cried through her clenched teeth, tears now flowing freely.
The pungent scent of rot filled the air. Black blood flowed from the wound. Inky was completely tensed, her muscles taut and corded. The blade cut and sliced, again and again. Inky’s struggles grew weaker and weaker. Her jaw too tired, too weak to close around the leather strip any longer. And it fell from her lips.
The next time, Stitches cut, Inky screamed.
By the time Dorian came, Inky had cried herself out. She still groaned as Stitches worked but Dorian took one look and knew what he was expected to do. With a gentle feather torch, he pressed his hands over Inky’s temples.
“Nothing too strong, or too deep, her body is extremely weak to accept anything but the lightest touch,” Stitches warned.
Annoyance crossed Dorian’s face, but he kept his mouth shut. Slowly Inky’s eyes slid shut. “I’ve just put her to sleep,” Dorian explained. “She is in no pain now.”
Sera sighed, finally allowing herself to relax. Everyone let go of Inky’s limbs. Bruises already forming on her skin. Red and angry under their palms. Sera looked a bruise the shape of her fingers around Inky’s arm and winced.
Stitches worked tirelessly. packing the poultice over the newly open wound after cleaning it with a cooled elfroot solution. With everyone’s help, the white bandages were wind over Inky’s body. They were mummifying Inky alive. Dorian sighed, taking his fingers away.
“It should hold for a while,” he said, sweat beaded his brow.
Everyone looked like they aged ten years. The candle was burning low. Stitches said, "Get her somewhere quiet. Someone should watch her. The pain will be immense the first few days. If you keep her under, it would be better for her healing, at least for the first couple of days. We can try the sleeping draught after that. Then after her body recovers its reserves, we can give her healing potions.”
Bull nodded and clapped his hand against Stitches’ shoulder. “Good job.”
The door creaked open. It thudded against the stone wall. Bull ignored the sound. Cassandra, Sera, Dorian and Cullen had carried the Boss back to her room a while ago. Stitches had gone back down to the courtyard for a well earned pint or two. Bull could guess who was behind him.
It was bad, the worst Bull had seen in his years leading the Chargers. The wound was unlike he had ever seen. The fear was a stone weight around his neck as he sped that last distance back to Skyhold. He was so sure Trev was dead. She was so still during the last couple of hours. There was no way he could check, her being strapped to his back like that.
It was only after Stitches declared she was out of immediate danger that Bull breathed again. The stench of iron still filled the air, but he had cleaned up as best he could. Bull shrugged and turned around.
Solas was staring back at him. “What happened?”
The willow thin elf walked into his domain, eyes wide at the work desk turned blood stained surgery table. Bull sighed, audibly. It took him a few breaths to clamp down on his instinct to introduce his fist to Solas. It wasn’t his place, if it was anyone’s job it was Sera’s or the Boss'. Bull grunted and grabbed the soiled sheet that had covered Trev’s naked body. It all needed to be burnt.
“What happened?” Solas repeated, his voice a hushed whisper.
The anger rose at his question. Bull opened his mouth, ready to give Solas the cold hard truth when Sera burst in.
“Baldy!” she shouted. “I heard Baldy is back!”
Sera froze when her eyes met Solas’. Bull snorted and folded his arms. He was not going to miss this show.
Sera, arms corded with wiry muscle, had her fists clenched. She was visibly shaking with the same burning fury. “You! You’re shite! The shite that left us right after we helped your friend. What about us? ‘Bout Inky, huh? We’re not important, yeah?”
Solas stiffened, but he kept stock still as he weathered Sera’s barrage. Sera advanced, her finger stabbing and pointing. “You go on and on about the blasted Fade, the true heritage of elves, who cares? You don’t even care about the people who were helping you! What you have is blood, blood on your elfy hands, Baldy!”
“Shut up, Baldy. You don’t get to speak, you don’t get to ask for anything. You’re worse than all the demons in the world, you just making use of the people around you,” Sera all but shrieked her words.
A smirk found its way to Bull’s lips. Solas looked confused, shaken and worried. As angry Sera was, she eventually ran out of steam. She glared at Solas. “You stay away from Inky!” she growled finally, words having ran its course.
Her eyes found Bull’s. When she saw what was in Bull’s hands, she frowned. “Bull, leave it,” Sera snapped. “It’s not your mess to clean up.”
With that, Sera left the room without waiting to see if Bull followed. In the wake Sera left, the silence was almost oppressive. Solas looked at him, his eyes repeating the same question. Bull shook his head. “Ask the Commander or the Seeker, they’ll tell you if they can bear to. I can’t talk to you now, I might bash your head in.”
With that Bull left, taking the sheet with him.
“Inky don’t do this,” Sera whispered as the sleeping draught dribbled out of her mouth again. “You can’t wake up yet, Stitches say it will be too painful. Please drink. Inky, just drink. Please…”
Half the potion was soaking the pillow, leaving a brown stain at the corner of her lips. Sera put the bowl down, giving up. Her hands shook a little as she took Inky’s hand. It was still hot, like there was a rage demon burning her from within.
Sera had spent two days caring for Inky. Nobody could convince her to take a break. Cassandra eventually left with a selection of bread and jerky for Sera. Normally, Sera would be oohing and ahhing at the size of the room, the view from the balcony. Hell, the size of the bed would definitely be commented on. All the first times with Inky had gone all wrong. Her hands clenched so tight her knuckles went white.
Her eyes lingered over Inky’s chest, checking, making sure it moved up and down. Inky barely survived what Stitches had to do. All that blood, all that pain. And for what? It’s all elfy-shitface Baldy’s fault. Why? Why had he left the party? Baldy couldn’t just hang around? Spout more elfy bullshit at her, Sera would take it, for Inky. Anything but this. Sera couldn’t put her anger towards Baldy behind her, it was a fire still hot and raging.
“Travel to the bunkhole of Thedas to help Baldy’s friend, yeah?” Sera snarled. “And he left, he shitting left us. He needed to cool his bleeding head? Bees and curses take him!”
Her voice cracked at the end. Sera wiped the tears from her checks furiously. Stitches was a good egg, saving Inky’s life, excising the poison from her blood. Sera stared at the bottles of healing potions all lined up on the table. She wished she could just pour the liquid down Inky’s throat and have her all healed up but no she couldn’t.
Inky’s hand was once strong and firm, now looked thin and slack. This was all wrong. Her breath hitched as anger swelled in her chest. Sera wanted to fling the sleeping draught to the floor. She wanted to scream, tear her hair out and most of all unleash an arrow into So-fucking-las’ face. He deserved her rage. He was responsible for all this. Giving him a piece of her mind wasn't quite enough. How she longed to do something, anything than to be still.
But Inky needed her. She trusted nobody to do it right. Maybe Cassandra, maybe Bull but nobody else. Sera should speak to Bull, he helped Inky get back to Skyhold. Without him, Sera would have fallen apart on the road. She was barely holding together as it was now.
Sera wept as her thoughts ran on and on, cataloging everything that was wrong. One after another like a never-ending stream where she leapfrogged from thought to thought with no aim or destination. Then, her brain slammed to a stop. Her eyes widened as she turned her head towards the warm hand she was holding.
The long slender fingers, made rough by the use of a huge maul, curled around hers. Skin gliding over skin. Slowly, that sun kissed hand moved towards her face. Sera stared unbelieving. It was the sun moving across the sky, slow but inevitable. She held her breath as the hand cupped her face gently.
It was everything Sera had dreamt about. That was how Inky’s hand felt if she would ever touch Sera. Tears streamed uncontrollably down Sera’s face. She didn’t want it this way. Not with Inky on her back, still hovering on death’s door.
The thumb lifted and danced gently across her cheek, wiping the tear away. One finger went behind her ear and traced the length of it. Sera leaned into the touch. It was perfection for that split second.
Then a moan, low and agonising came from the woman she loved. Sera could admit it now. She loved Inky, she had just been playing coy. Regrets, bitter and caustic, ate at Sera. A harsh gasp for air so raw, so tight, dragged Sera back to the present. Her lungs burnt in Inky’s stead. “No, no, no,” Sera whispered.
Sera took the bowl up again and looked at Inky. Pain clouded grey eyes staring back at her own. “Inky, you can’t be awake yet. It’s too much, all too much,” Sera said. “You got to drink this. Inky, please for me.”
Through the haze of pain caused by stitched up skin and flesh, Inky nodded and frowned. Her eyes squeezing shut at the effort. The hand that was gentle against her face, curled into a clawed fist as pain ripped across the long jagged wound. The red slash that was an angry demon mouth that almost tore her in two.
Her lips pressed into a thin bloodless line eventually parted. It was permission granted. Sera didn’t wait for an invitation. She spooned the sleeping potion into Inky’s mouth. Sera watched as Inky’s throat worked. Each spoonful was slowly swallowed.
Another then another. Each spoonful was a tiny bit of hope worming into Sera’s heart. Each spoonful made Inky’s eyes sagged shut for longer and longer periods, but she forced her eyes open, refusing to look away as if she didn’t bear to take her eyes off Sera. Each spoonful took a silver of Sera’s rage from her chest. Inky’s warmer than usual hand against Sera’s face eventually grew leaden. Sera knew Inky lost the battle to the draught when strength was leached out of her body. The gentle hand fell unceremoniously back to the bed.
Sera placed the empty bowl down. Her heart ached, both sweet and bitter. Her soul too tired to even think. The fires of her rage banked by Inky’s mere touch. Sera slid into bed with her. Careful not to jar her, the unnatural heat rising from Inky’s skin was a furnace warming Sera.
Inky would heal, she would be better. It was the thin thread of hope Sera hung onto.
It was foggy and vague. Sunlight coloured her world red through her closed eyes. She tried to open them but they were too heavy. It was a familiar sensation of too much sleeping draughts. What happened? She remembered snatches of conversations and sights but mostly it was a continuous agony of searing pain across her body.
Then the memory slammed into her mind. Pride Demon, the lightning whip and healing potions that hurt more than they helped.
“Sera,” she gasped, wrestling her eyes opened.
The view before her was familiar. The stone ceiling of her room in Skyhold. The soft white sheets that cradled her. Gentle snoring, Trevelyan frowned. That was unexpected. It came from a weight pressed against her side.
She swallowed again, her throat parched and sore. “Water,” she croaked.
The lump next to her shifted. Then a head covered with unruly blond hair popped into view. “Inky!”
Trevelyan smiled. It was the best sight she could wish for. Despite how heavy she felt, Sera’s face made it all worthwhile. “Water,” she repeated.
Sera slid off the bed and disappeared from her view. Trevelyan lifted her head, eager to keep Sera in sight. The slight movement made her chest catch fire. Trevelyan hissed, her head slumped back onto the pillow.
Sera frowned, her teeth worrying at her lower lip. Trevelyan could see deep marks that drew blood all along her lip. Lifting her arm, she tried to reached towards Sera’s face. All she managed was to get her forearm off the bed. “What happened?”
Sera pushed some ice chips into her mouth. Trevelyan accepted them gratefully. “You almost died,” Sera said, flinching at the last word.
“Not what I’m asking,” Trevelyan said, her tongue thick from sleep. Her heart clenched. Why was Sera speaking like everyone else? Was it that bad?
“Biting, to stop the buzzing,” Sera shrugged, “Too much buzzing thoughts, yeah?”
The return of her usual way of speaking brought a smile to Trevelyan’s lips. Sera reached out and pressed a hand against her forehead. Trevelyan wanted to savour the touch but instead she flinched. Sera’s hand was so cold, it was painful. She sighed as Sera took her hand away and disappeared from view.
The conversation took a lot out of her. Despite her eyes sagging shut, Trevelyan fought against the tide of exhaustion. A cold compress was pressed against her forehead, bringing relief from the fog clouding her mind. Sera brushed the hair away from her face, the sensation sent shivers down her spine.
“Sleep, Inky,” Sera whispered. “You need to rest and heal.”
As Trevelyan sank into the void of sleep, she felt the gentle press of lips against her cheek.
“No…” a voice moaned. “Please no more…”
Sera blinked. Inky’s room was completely dark. Only the starlight was streaming in, from the glass windows that led out to the balcony, was the only source of illumination. The fire had burnt down to mere embers.
“Please, it hurts.”
The voice was an arrow straight through her heart. Those were the words Inky repeated, again and again as Bull and her forced healing potions down Inky’s throat just to keep her alive.
She shifted gently and sat up. A sliver of moonbeam lit up Inky’s face. It was all contorted and scrunched up. She was having a nightmare.
“Inky,” Sera cooed, “it’s a nightmare, it’s not real.”
Inky’s body was all tight and then a sudden jerk brought her to wakefulness. She groaned, in pain this time. Her eyes snapped open as she searched out for Sera’s. The grey eyes blinked as confusion replaced with relief. Inky sighed with a grimace. “You’re still here,” she breathed, her hand reaching out for hers.
Sera took a shuddering breath and laced her fingers with Inky’s. “Where would I be, yeah?”
Inky gave her another one of her lopsided smiles. All Sera felt was guilt. These nightmares were frequent, and it was all things she had put Inky through. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. Inky was supposed to sweep her off her feet with gallant gestures towards the little people, heads of her enemies, fun pranks, so much cookies. This was all wrong.
“Come back,” Inky said, her eyes blinking slowly. “Come back here.”
Inky’s voice yanked her back to the present. She stroked Inky’s hair. That always soothed her. Pressing a palm against her face, Inky leaned into it like a cat. It was all she could tolerate at this point. Eventually, her breathing deepened and even out. The lingering smile on Inky’s lips was more precious than all the stars in the sky.
Sera rose from the bed. It was days since she left Inky’s side for more than a quick bath and a fresh set of clothes. But this was the last straw, these nightmares couldn’t continue. It happened so many times throughout the day. Nightmare followed by a whispered conversation and more sleep, Visits from Dorian or Vivienne with more ice chips while Stitches came to check on the wound. There were always more poultices, replacement of bandages, more poking and prodding. The others visited when they were back from the field, but Inky spent more time sleeping than awake to enjoy their visits. Everyone came except Baldy. Sera would rather he didn’t visit, but she needed him to fix these nightmares. As much as she loathed to see Baldy, for Inky, she would.
Trevelyan had never hated her bed more. She had lost weeks, lying in bed, unable to sit up without her body quivering in pain. There was work to be done, rifts to close, allies to meet, a Winter Palace to visit. Did she miss it? Was it over? Josie would kill her if it was. She growled low in her throat as frustration with her own body mounted. She might put on a smile for the others but inside she chafed. Despite Stitches yelling at her, she needed to get off her bed and soon. It’s not like Corypheus was going to give her a pass because she couldn’t stand unaided.
Trevelyan vaguely remembered Solas chatting with her in a weird place where mountains hung in the air and they walked upon a green sky. He had pulled her out of a cycle of never ending agony of flesh knitting and pulling apart. It was a relief to step away and realised it was a nightmare. Or was it real? Trevelyan sighed. Her days blended into her nights and they stretched into one continuous foggy memory. Reality and dream were all one and the same.
Sera had been there, constantly nursing her, day after day. That was the only bright spot. She glanced at the warm body pressed against hers. Trevelyan trailed one finger over the elf’s face. Sera’s nose wrinkled. She chuckled a little. The dark eyes bags were stark against Sera’s fair skin. Trevelyan frowned. She had to get better and soon. This just couldn’t go on.
Gingerly, Trevelyan shifted away from Sera. The elf curled tighter in her void, mumbling sleepily, a thin strand of drool escaping from her slack lips. Trevelyan's eyes lingered for a moment more before she tackled the task of actually getting off the bed. With a grunt, she levered herself off the bed. Her body ached in protest. It wasn’t as bad as the first time she tried. That attempt ended with her on her hands and knees, Sera was scolding her even as the rogue helped her back to bed.
Trevelyan glanced at her wardrobe. It’s time to get dressed. Lying in bed, semi-naked for the better part of two weeks with Sera sounded fantastically sexy. It was anything but. She needed help with everything from changing her bandages, applying the smelly poultice, cleaning her body and even passing water. To say it was far from her fantasy was an understatement.
It took some effort but Trevelyan got dressed in a pair of loose pants and shirt. Then she heard a murmuring from the foot of the stairs. She shuffled over to find Solas mounting the stairs. “Solas,” she greeted.
The apostate inclined his head. “May I have a word?”
Trevelyan glanced back at the bed. Sera was still sleeping soundly. She loathed to have Sera woken up by her conversation with Solas. She nodded. “Let’s talk elsewhere.”
Solas’ frown indicated his skepticism in her ability to make it far. Trevelyan’s jaw set, determined to prove him wrong. She wrapped a heavy coat over her shoulders and set about navigating the stairs. Solas allowed her to set the pace as they made their way to the battlements. All she could manage was a dignified shuffle, Josie would have been proud if she saw it.
Trevelyan stepped through the threshold and onto the battlements, where it all started. The cold wind hit her like a wall. Her ears were instantly cold. The damaged one ached. Trevelyan forced herself not to touch it. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. The cold air stung her lungs. “What is it?” she asked, curiously. “Is everything all right?”
Solas looked at her before turning away, somehow not quite able to meet her eyes. He opened his mouth once, twice, but it snapped shut before any words escaped. Trevelyan leaned her back against the battlements and waited. Solas had his hands clasped behind his back facing her, his shoulders taut and stiff. His eyes looking everywhere but at her face, slowly, they drifted from her collarbone to her hip, the path of her wound. Trevelyan shifted uncomfortably and angled her body away.
“Inquisitor,” Solas started, turning his eyes to the vista before them.
Trevelyan frowned. “Come on, we’re alone. Just drop the title. Trev if you will, Trevelyan if you prefer.”
The elf dipped his head and said, “Trevelyan, I must apologise.”
She cocked her head. “Why?”
“You took a grave injury while helping my friend, helping me. And I left while you needed me. It was irresponsible of me to do so.” Solas’ words were as tight and clipped as he stood. His back was ramrod straight as if facing an execution squad.
Trevelyan sighed. “I won’t deny that the thought had crossed my mind,” she confessed.
Solas jerked his head as if surprised by the admission.
“I am but a human, our capacity for grudges are legendary,” she went on.
His eyes were measuring as he looked at her. “You’re not just a human,” Solas pointed out.
Trevelyan stiffened. Did Solas know, or was he just implying she was the Inquisitor too? She shook her head, pushing the thoughts out.
“It’s over and done. You didn’t do it on purpose. It was a mistake pure and simple. I hadn’t realised it was that bad of a wound.”
“It’s a Fade-tainted wound,” Solas said, his voice switching to the tone he tended to take when he was gearing up for a lecture. “And you’re somehow more tied to the Fade as a result of having the Anchor.”
Trevelyan rolled her eyes. “Figures. The Anchor is a gift that just keeps on giving,” she said. “I wonder where I’ll be if I didn’t take that job that put me on the path to the Conclave.”
Solas eyed her, his gaze appraising. “For what it’s worth, I’m glad you are the one with the Anchor.”
A particular giant gust of wind whipped her hair across her face. Trevelyan glanced at Solas for a moment, noting he had no such problems. She snorted and shivered. “It has been a wild ride so far.”
“You’re not just a human, Trevelyan,” Solas repeated.
Trevelyan’s hand reached up to touch her damaged ear. Solas didn’t deign to explain his words, instead his eyes darted over her shoulder. Solas bowed and said, “Once again, I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve cause. This will not happen again.”
Solas walked away from her. Trevelyan blinked at his abrupt retreat until a voice rang out. “Inky!”
She whirled around to find Sera running towards her. “Are you supposed to be up?” she asked, her eyes narrowing.
Trevelyan chuckled. “Nobody said I couldn’t,” she pointed out.
Sera reached out and had one arm around her waist, another on her left arm. The Anchor tingled a little at the contact. Trevelyan smiled. “Back to bed, yeah,” Sera said, urging her back indoors.
“No,” she protested. “I’m not going back to bed till it’s sundown. I’m hungry. Let’s go to the Herald’s Rest for some food.”
Sera laced her fingers between her. A blush crept up Trevelyan’s face. Days upon days of Sera seeing her naked and this was what did her in? Sera sniggered, it wasn’t a kind sound. “Shiny, you’re blushing?”
“Shiny? What happened to Inky?”
Sera’s smile just widened. “I like blushing Shiny. You’re my blushing Shiny.”
Trevelyan arched an eyebrow at Sera. “Yours?”
“Yes, mine. All mine,” Sera confirmed.
Trevelyan’s heart thumped against her ribs. As her eyes widened with realisation, Sera’s grin matched it. If Trevelyan thought she was blushing before, she was completely beet red now. She couldn’t explain why but tears sprang from her eyes. “Really?” she asked, her voice breaking.
Sera frowned and quickly cupped her face. “Yes, truly, yeah?” she assured, “this is no trick, no prank. This is truth, this is real.”
Without asking, Sera grabbed Trevelyan’s wrist and press her open palm on her chest. Trevelyan jerked her hand away in surprise but Sera kept a firm grip.
“Feel that?” Sera asked, her eyes, wide and sincere. It took Trevelyan’s breath away.
Under her hand, she could feel Sera’s heart thump again and again. “Yes,” she said, “I feel it.”
“That’s yours, Inky,” Sera said, her voice quiet and hushed. Her eyes flickered away from Trevelyan’s grey ones for a second before looking back at her. “All yours.”
Trevelyan grinned and laughed through her tears. “Mine,” she said as she pulled Sera against her chest. She didn’t care if the motion pulled at her stitches, making her chest hurt. All Trevelyan cared was Sera in her arms.
When she finally loosened her grip enough for Sera to push off from her chest, Sera pressed her lips on her cheek. “There, all better, yeah?”
Trevelyan smiled, heat raising up her face again. “Almost,” she said.
One hand cupping the back of Sera’s head, another on her waist, Trevelyan leaned into Sera. She pressed her lips on Sera’s. At first Sera’s body was stiff but it lasted for mere moments. Her warm lips parted, allowing Trevelyan’s tongue in to explore. Sera tasted like clouds, like sunshine, like home. Despite her torso protesting as Trevelyan straightened, the grin on her face had never been wider.
She nodded. “All better.”