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“Everyone that attended is dead, except for you.”

How those words hit him like a stone in his chest when they were said. He almost couldn’t believe them. No, refused to believe them, when he first woke up after the explosion. Evelyn was gone. No one else survived, aside from Maxwell. His wife was gone. And when it finally sunk in, he’d no time to grieve because a hole that led to the Fade was destroying the world, and Max was their only hope for survival. But after, when he’d the time to process, it settled over him like a dark cloud.

His wife was dead. He was alone.

He remembered that first confrontation with Chancellor Roderick. Three days before, when he made his way to the Breach. He’d been alright, up to that point, more or less still clinging to the hope that Ev was still alive and just hadn’t been found yet, but the closer he got to the Breach, the better he could see the destruction left in the Breach’s wake, and had all but lost any hope of ever seeing his wife again. That grief was quickly shrouded in anger, and when Roderick accused him of murder he lashed out.

He made Cassandra’s barking look so docile in comparison when he darted toward the man, snatched him up by the collar and screamed in his face.

“I lost my wife in that explosion, you bastard! You really think I would bring this upon her?! On all of us?!”

The Seeker and Leliana had to pry him off of the Chancellor before he did any serious harm, but he didn’t regret his actions. Fueled by rage, he, the Seeker, Varric Tethras and the elven apostate, Solas, continued to the Temple with or without Roderick’s expressed approval on the matter. Max was ready to get it over with, and attempt to seal the Breach with the mark on his hand. He didn’t care if he died in the attempt. His anger won over every other emotion that day. But after?

When he woke up three days later, all he could do was blink the stars out of his eyes as they adjusted to the sunlight, silently making his way to the Chantry. If he kept moving, didn’t think about it, think about his wife’s honey blonde hair, big brown eyes, musical laughter, and instead found something to focus his anger on, he was fine. Fists were white-knuckled, jaw flexing as he made his way to the chapel at the top of the hill, he burst open the door, not caring if it swung so hard it nearly came off its hinges.

He heard the argument before he entered the room. Heard Cassandra taking his side of the matter.

“-He lost his wife, Chancellor. How can you possibly hold him responsible for all this still?”

“He could be lying! He has no memory and he was the only one to survive? The only one who can confirm or deny anything he says? He’s guilty, Seeker!”

“I do not believe that.”

Max quickly tired of the debate and barged in, and the guards nearby whipped out their swords, and Roderick yelled, “Chain him! I want him prepared for travel to the capital for trial!”

“Disregard that, and leave us,” Cassandra commanded, and their eyes met, for a second, his and the Seeker's before they were trained on Roderick with a murderous glare. Admittedly, he made Cassandra nervous. He was no mage, nor was he a Templar, and there was not a drop of Lyrium in his veins for her to subdue using her Seeker abilities. And she’d seen him fight. In strength and skill he was her equal, and it was intimidating, though she wasn’t frightened of him.

She understood his anger, for she understood his pain, and she was angry too.

“So you still need me around, it seems,” he said to Cassandra, though he kept his eyes on the Chancellor. Cassandra nodded. “How can I be of use?” he asked between his teeth.

“The Breach is stable, but it is still a threat,” she informed. “And I will not ignore it,” she spat at Roderick.

“Someone or something killed my wife along with hundreds and I want answers just as much as you do,” Max told Roderick. Then he turned to Cassandra and the Nightingale nearby. “Just tell me what I can do.”

“You’ve done plenty already,” said Roderick, “And your actions will be taken into account by the new Divine.”

“Have a care, Chancellor,” the Seeker warned. “The Breach is not the only threat we face.”

“Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave,” said Leliana. “Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with the others, or have allies who yet live.” Her blue eyes bore into Roderick accusingly and he gaped.

“I am a suspect?” he asked.

“You, and many others,” she answered.

“But not the prisoner?”

“Were I a prisoner, I’m fairly certain I’d be in chains still,” he remarked offhand.

“And you are not our prisoner,” Leliana told him. Roderick opened his mouth to argue.

“I heard the voices at the Temple. The Divine called to him for help,” Cassandra defended.

“So his survival, that thing on his hand, all a coincidence?” Roderick argued, and Max ground his teeth.

“Providence,” said Cassandra, before Max could speak. “The Maker sent him to us in our darkest hour.”

For a moment, his anger left him, just long enough to process what he just heard.

Roderick was right, it couldn’t possibly be a coincidence that the sole survivor of the explosion possessed the one thing needed to close the Breach in the sky. But, Andraste preserve him, could it have really been a sign from the Maker? Could it really be true? Why would He take Evelyn from him? Could he even entertain the idea that it was all preordained? That the Maker blessed him with this gift, and as payment, he demanded Evelyn?

It wouldn’t surprise him. The Maker demanded everything. Their lives, their deaths, he was a spiteful God. And His was not an easy path to follow. If his faith taught him anything, it was that nothing was ever easy, and nothing was gained without sacrifice. He swallowed at Cassandra’s words, almost wishing she’d take them back. But they were also a comfort. Could Evelyn really be at the Maker’s side? “Though all before me is shadow, yet shall the Maker be my guide,” he mumbled to himself.

Cassandra leaned her head. So he was a believer. Or, at least, he believed in the Maker, which was a comfort to her. Maybe she wasn’t the only one desperately clinging to the hope that maybe all this happened for a reason. And for the first time since meeting him, the Seeker saw a new emotion, aside from teeming anger, momentarily don his features. Though he was still rather grim. And Roderick was still angry. “We lost everything. And then, out of nowhere, you came,” she said to Max.

“The Breach remains, and your mark is still our only hope for closing it,” Leliana told Max, who nodded in understanding.

“That is not for you to decide!” Roderick argued, pointing his finger, but then jumped when Cassandra quickly flew into a rage and grabbed a book, slamming it down on the table between them.

“You know what this is, Chancellor,” she said. “A writ from the Divine, granting us the authority to act! As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn! We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we will restore order, with or without your approval!”

Max lifted a brow, having to resist the urge to applaud the Seeker, as Roderick huffed angrily and marched out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Beside Cassandra, Leliana sighed, and said, “This is the Divine's directive, rebuild the Inquisition of old, find those who will stand against the chaos. We aren’t ready. We've no leader, no numbers, and now, no Chantry support.”

“But we have no choice,” said Cassandra. “We must act. With you at our side.” She turned to Max.

He had read of the old Inquisition. Hundreds of years ago, people united under a single banner for a cause, to fight the evils of Thedas, and later they’d split and formed the Templars, the Circle of Magi, and the Seekers of Truth that intervened when necessary. All under the direction of the Chantry, but there was no Chantry. Not at the moment, not with the Most Holy and so many dead, those that might take her place. No, the world needed a new order at the moment, one that dealt with the real threat.

“So will you join us then?” Leliana asked, and he nodded.

“I will do what I can to help,” Max told them both. “Just point me in the direction of whatever needs stabbed.”

Leliana snorted. “What did you do?” she asked, and then specified with, “In the Free Marches? You come from a noble family, yes, but what was your profession?”

“I was a pig farmer,” he deadpanned, with a blank look. “Just let me know how you plan to move forward from here. In the meantime l’ll make myself useful best I can.”

He walked away at that, leaving both women burning with a million questions for him, but he couldn’t really care. It seemed Cassandra was right about something. The Maker put him on this path, for whatever reason, and he would see it through. He would help them close the Breach, he would help them find answers, and he would help restore order, one way or another. And one way or another he would find whoever was responsible for Evelyn's death, and shove a sword down their throat.

But outside the Chantry he lingered, staring up at the sky.

Wondering if she could see him from the Fade, if she would be proud.

Because he hadn't been a pig farmer.

He was far from a noble Trevelyan.

He'd killed people for a living.

Evelyn never knew about it.

Miles away from Haven, across the Waking Sea, in a forest hedging the Vinmark Mountains, this redheaded elf paced in front of a campfire one morning. Word had finally reached Lavellan in regards to the Conclave Mahanon attended, there was some sort of explosion, though there was no way of knowing if he still lived. His wife, Ellana, paced in front of the fire, amber curls swaying with her movement, and she chewed on her lip.

She wasn’t ready to believe he was dead, regardless of what their Keeper might think. She couldn’t bear the thought of losing her vhenan, not at a time like this. But Deshanna wouldn’t let her leave the clan to go look for him. She forbid it. Either Ellana waited for Mahanon to return, or nothing. If she left the Free Marches and ventured south, she would be cut off completely from Clan Lavellan. They would have nothing more to do with her if she took such a risk while carrying Mahanon's unborn child.

But she had to go to him. Their Keeper mourned him as if he were already dead, and she couldn’t stand how easily they had given up hope. It was abhorrent to Ellana. It disgusted her, and she’d already argued for several hours, yes, argued with Deshanna over her belief that the Gods had fated it, and that the Gods did not want them going south. Deshanna wanted her to move on, as if she could. Expected her to grieve for a time and then remarry, so that someone could provide for her and help her raise her child.

That was the last straw that had her pacing in front of the fire. Either stay there and forsake her vows to Mahanon, who might still be alive, or leave and never be welcomed among the Dalish again. After a time she stopped pacing and green eyes stared into the fire, until the grey haired matriarch of their family walked over after speaking with some of the elders in regards to their missing First, that they already pronounced dead that morning and did funeral rites for.

Deshanna sighed. “If there’s no convincing you to stay, da'len, we will do what we can to see you safely across the Waking Sea and to the mountains, but after that you are on your own.”

Once more tears stung Ellana's eyes. “How can you do this to me, hahren?” she asked.

“Do you think I find pleasure in this?” Deshanna countered, placing a hand on her shoulder. “To send yet another of my own into the unknown? I have already lost one child, and you are asking me to bear losing another.”

“But what if I find him?” Ellana asked. “What if he’s alive? Deshanna you have to have hope. You can’t lose it now.”

“I choose to not lose anymore than I already have lost, da'len.”

Ellana blinked the tears from her eyes and stared into the fire some more, thinking it over. “I have to go. I can’t stay here, not without Mahanon. I won’t. I refuse.”

“Then I see you’ve made up your mind.”

“I have.”

Deshanna patted her shoulder. “I will tell the others. We will get you to this village, Haven, if it even still stands. But after that, may the Gods keep you then, falon.”

With a deep breath, slowly in and out, Ellana Lavellan sealed her fate from then on out.

She packed a satchel of meager belongings and was escorted by some of their warriors to the nearest port, the very same route Mahanon had taken when he went south. They were on friendly enough terms with the human locals, whom they bartered with in order to book passage across the sea to Jader. From there, a guide would take her through the mountain pass that led to the village that stood under the mountain where the Temple of Sacred Ashes had stood.

But the guide would only take her so far before turning back to town, and from there, she was on her own. It was a hard day's journey through the rocky mountain crags on foot, even more so for the Dalish woman that traveled alone, with only the occasional road sign to guide her. She was tired, sore, and hungry by the time she reached the village the next morning, but could hardly care when she spotted the Breach in the sky. Her eyes widened when she saw it. The rumors were true then.

There was indeed a swirling green hole in the sky that led to the Fade of all places. She was almost in awe of it, and also terrified for Mahanon. How could anyone possibly survive that? Could this rumor she heard of this person called the Herald of Andraste also be true then? Was it her husband? The people of Jader didn’t know who it was, couldn’t say for certain, only that some of the Chantry folk believed they’d been guided out of the Fade by the burned woman called Andraste.

Ellana swallowed nervously as she neared the village, seeing people rushing past, carrying wood with which to fortify the encampment. Soldiers trained out by the tent and one of them looked like he might be in charge, or one of the higher ups. He had a tattoo on his face, and barked at the soldiers while they trained in a Starkhaven accent. Nearby a smithy was hard at work, hammering away at the forge along with his apprentices, and some others stood around in groups, talking.

But none of them were Mahanon, so she approached the tattooed soldier and asked him about her husband, but he could only shrug and say, “The Commander's the one you ought to speak to, lass. He’d know better than me. But he’s in a meeting at the moment. If your husband’s alive, I’m sure he’s around here somewhere. Try up in the village.” She nodded, and thanked him, before walking away, headed toward the main gate of Haven, heart pounding in her chest.

At that same moment, Maxwell Trevelyan was bursting angrily through the door on his way out of the Chantry, clenching both fists. Of all things, they’d suggested he be the one to meet with the remaining clerics in Val Royeaux to try to talk some sense into them. It seemed preposterous to him, but he'd reluctantly agreed. Though to top things off for his day, some of his distant relatives thought to use their ties to him to their advantage, thinking the Inquisition would fight on their behalf.

He wanted to say, “Tell those snobby bastards to fuck off,” But managed to instead suggest Josephine politely decline their request. He was in a righteous mood when he left the Chantry, the advisers following shortly, all eyeing him curiously as they wandered back to their posts, Cassandra making her way to her spot in the training yard to spar for a little while, as Max prepared for the trip to Val Royeaux. Leliana headed back to her tent nearby, and Cullen also made his way to the training yard.

It was at that moment he spotted her, coming up the steps. Saw flaming red curls tumbling down her slender shoulders, lightly tanned skin accentuating the patch of freckles on her cheeks and nose, though largely obscured by the ribbon like loops and swirls of a tattoo covering her whole face. Wide green eyes searching frantically for something or someone, and she turned her head to give him the perfect view of her small, pointed ears. She had a fur cloak around her shoulders, though barefoot. Dalish.

And if her appearance wasn’t evidence enough, it was obvious in her accent when she spoke. It had a lilt to it, not quite Starkhaven, but definitely Free Marches, and their eyes met. “Pardon me, sir,” she said. “I’m lookin' fer an elf, goes by the name o'Mahanon. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Have you seen ‘im?”

He shook his head. “I haven’t, but speak to Sister Leliana. She might know where he ran off to.” He pointed to Leliana’s tent nearby, and she nodded, thanking him. “I wish you luck,” he said in parting, then walked past her, headed down the steps, on his way to see Herrit at the smithy by the gate. But he turned and glanced back, one last time. He couldn’t help himself. She was beautiful, and something about her gave him an odd feeling. The mark in his palm started to tingle, and his heart started racing.

He shook his head at himself as he walked away. What Evelyn would think if she were there now, he briefly mused upon, but quickly shoved the thought aside. It hurt too much to think about her. So instead he silently counted the number of steps it took to get to Herrit's work station.

He wasn’t the only one to get an odd feeling. Ellana felt it too when she ran into the man. But she quickly dismissed it in pursuit of speaking to this Sister Leliana in the tent. She wasn’t quite what Ellana expected. She’d pictured a robed cleric, but instead she came face to face with a cool collected stare belonging to one of the most intimidating looking women she’d ever seen. Leliana had this look about her, just like the man she ran into, a look that said, “I’ve killed a lot of people.”

“Can I help you?” Leliana asked.

“Oh Creators I hope so,” she said. “I’m looking for my husband. Mahanon. He’s Dalish, from Clan Lavellan of the Free Marches, has blonde hair, blue eyes. And he’s been missing. Can’t find him anywhere. Can you tell me where he is? He, well, he was at the Conclave. We sent someone to see what it was all about, if it might effect our people in any way, and he never came back.” A look of sympathy replaced the emotionless stare and Leliana sighed.

“Apologies, but we know of no other survivors aside from the Herald. If he was there at the Temple, he was too close to the blast. I’m so sorry for your loss.”

Her world skidded to a halt when she heard those words, spoken gently, and with great care. But they might as well have been hallow. Ellana stood there and just blinked for a moment, trying to wrap her head around it. Leliana edged nearer, moving to place a hand on her shoulder as if to console her but she backed away, blinking the tears from her eyes. The next few minutes were a blur, a haze really, as she made her way out of the tent and out of the village.

She had been wrong. He was truly gone, and never coming back.

Unbidden tears streamed down her cheeks as she walked through the village gates, having no idea where to go or what to do. People stared as she passed, but she didn’t care. Not knowing what else to do with herself, she made her way down to the frozen lake and sat on the dock overlooking the ice. At a safe distance from people of any kind, she sobbed relentlessly, hugging her shoulders that wracked with every heave of her chest. One hand rested on her abdomen as she cried.

Up by the gate, the Herald lifted his head just in time to see her walk by, looking utterly distraught. His heart pounded. He had a bad feeling about it, and couldn’t ignore the feeling. So he followed her. She’d also drawn the Seeker’s attention, who stopped sparring with the wooden target and stared, placing a hand to her forehead to block out the sunlight. “Do you know that woman?” she asked Max when he approached, and she noticed he was staring too. He shook his head.

“She was looking for a friend of hers,” he said. “I guess she didn’t find him.”

He left the Seeker’s side and headed down the bank, watching her carefully the whole time while he slowly made his way over. She was crying. He had a feeling that whoever she had been looking for was not only gone, but likely dead. And this person meant a lot to her. Maybe her husband, or brother, and he could sympathize. Though he wasn’t sure if it were really a good idea to approach her, and paused when he made it to the dock. He should’ve just walked away, maybe. It was none of his business.

But he didn’t, and instead he stepped onto the dock and started across it, stopping a few feet away. “Are you alright?” he asked, making her look up at him, and he immediately wanted to kick himself. “Forgive me. That was a very stupid question to ask,” he said. “I take it you didn’t find your friend.”

“Husband,” she corrected. “He’s dead. Died in the explosion.”

That admittance brought fresh tears to her eyes and she looked away. “I’m so sorry,” he said.

She snorted disbelievingly. “Sorry, he says,” she mumbled. “Look I don’t need your sympathy,” she snapped angrily at him, though he was hardly offended by it. “Just go away, whoever you are. I don’t expect you to understand. And I won’t take no pity from some shem either,” she added, scathingly. “You have no idea I’m going through.”

“I might,” he admitted, and slowly moved to sit next to her on the dock. “My wife died in the explosion,” he relayed, and she turned to look up at him at those words.

Then she turned back to staring at the frozen water. “Then maybe you do understand,” she said. “I’m sorry, I had no right to get angry at you like that-”

“Don’t apologize,” he said. That only seemed to make her feel worse though, and more sobs wracked her body. She hugged her shoulders tighter, and started to tremble. So Max did the first thing he thought of, reached out, and pulled her into a hug. This shocked her a little, not expecting that in the least. And he didn’t know why he did it either. But it seemed like the right thing to do. And after her first initial flinch, she relaxed, and leaned into it, just let him hold her while she cried.

It was the first time he’d touched a woman since losing Evelyn, and his pulse raced.

"Please don't ever apologize, miss. You dont owe anyone a Maker-damned thing. Don't let anyone tell you different."

He rubbed circles in her back as he soothed, fighting the emotions that rose up within him.

And losing that fight.

Ellana herself was too grief stricken to acknowledge the fact that some human stranger was hugging her, and it didn’t click in her mind immediately that she’d so ruthlessly insulted this human, when he seemed kind to her. She just cried into his embrace until all the tears dried up, but even then, it wasn’t enough. She knew without a doubt that it would never be enough. She felt a hand stroking her hair, and her heart lept in her chest.

This was wrong, she shouldn’t be touching him like this. This human. But alas, she was no longer welcomed among her own people. She might as well be shemlen herself, as far as they were concerned.

Why not drive the wedge in deeper.

She lifted her head to kiss his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered. He nodded a little. “Forgive me, but ...I never got your name?”

“It’s Maxwell. Maxwell Trevelyan. And who might you be?”

“Ellana,” she said. She almost said Lavellan, but… “Just Ellana.”

"Do you have any family Ellana?"

She pointed to her stomach, saying, "Just this little one 'ere."

He glanced at her abdomen, then back up at her.

She was pregnant?

This probably wasn't the right thing to do, wasn't exactly appropriate, but he didn't care. He made up his mind that instant to spoil the ever loving shit out of this woman and her unborn baby. Maker only knew what awaited for them. But he knew. And if anyone had a problem with it, they could kiss his arse, for all he cared. He was the bloody Herald of Andraste, he could have whatever he damn well wanted. So he fully intended on caring for them both, if she would allow. He'd see to her every need. Personally.

And make sure she never had to suffer ever again.