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Of Freedom and Forgiveness

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Rhea Lavellan paced the interior of her private quarters anxiously, awaiting Josephine's call. The soft, loose garments she wore did little to conceal the growing curve of her pregnant stomach. Rhea never was fond of dresses, like the petal pink one she wore, but it was the only garment she felt truly comfortable in. But how she dressed when with child was the least of her concerns.

The Inquisitor faced demons from the Fade and fire-breathing dragons in combat, yet nothing scared her as much as what was to follow. Her advisors were preparing the great hall of Skyhold for her to pass judgment. The accused was none other than Thom Rainier, a fugitive Imperial Army Captain, but better known to the Inquisition as Warden Gordon Blackwall. The thought of judging the man who was once her lover and possibly sentence him for crimes sent Rhea down a spiral of fear and she stumbled onto her bed. She couldn't do it, but part of her feared she would have to. Tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and rolled down her cheeks while she cradled her stomach. She remembered swearing that she would raise their child alone if necessary, but while she slept, Rhea unabashedly dreamed of a future where her child would have their father.

"Inquisitor?" Rhea scrambled to her feet at the sound of Cullen's voice entering her room, greeting by the sight of her him and Josephine ascending the stairs. They wore matching expressions of concern upon seeing her red eyes and damp cheeks. Cullen and Josephine had been by her side while Leliana had her men track down Blackwall; they were her support during the most trying time of her life where she felt so alone.

"We have the prisoner ready for judgment, but we can delay if you need more time." Josephine walked over to Rhea and Cullen followed her. Rhea wiped at her eyes, but no made to move. Her voice was hoarse and quivering. Her hands were shaking uncontrollably as she descended down in a path of hysteria. Josephine kneeled down to where Rhea could see her face and Cullen maintained his distance, ready in the case a medic would need to be called.

"I can't. I've already delayed the trial for a month and each day that passes, I am more hesitant to judge him. I have to make a decision and I am deathly afraid that I will have to sentence him to an undesirable outcome." Rhea wheezed, her breathing labored and erratic, and she felt like the emotional walls she created for most of her life was finally crumbling down. After several months with child, her ability to suppress her emotions grew weaker and she felt vulnerable. Rhea hated to be vulnerable.

"These things take time and as far as I am concerned, the emotional health of your child far outweighs when the trial takes place." Josephine cupped Rhea's face in her hands "What outcome do you want?"

"I want to forgive him, for everything…" Rhea sobbed quietly, her protective guard slowly coming down. She curled in on herself and Josephine exchanged a nervous glance with Cullen. He gestured silently to the door and Josephine shook her head. Softly, she coaxed Rhea out of her curled position and when she did, she grasped Rhea's hands comfortingly.

"You have that power and no one within the Inquisition will judge you for that. We support you and your happiness, Rhea. If having Rainier by your side is the healthiest option for the child inside you, the Inquisition fully supports that decision." Josephine admitted and slowly, Rhea's tears came to a stop. The Inquisitor wiped her face again to clear the wet marks from her cheeks and rose.

"I'm ready. There is no other time…" She stated firmly and she, with Cullen's gracious offer of his arm, descended the stairs of her private chambers and towards the great hall. Josephine walked in front of them and entered the hall. The limited conversations hushed upon Josephine's arrival and the two guards flanking the throne snapped to attention.

"Presenting Inquisitor Rhea Lavellan," Josephine gestured to Rhea and Cullen walking into the room and the members of Skyhold gathered watched in silence as the Commander assisted the Inquisitor to her throne. Rhea grimaced while she eased herself into the throne and Cullen leaned in close to her ear from her left side.

"You are stronger than you believe you are." He whispered to Rhea before he moved to his post off to the side. Cullen's words caught her off guard, but they were a welcome change to the negative thoughts running through her mind in the past few weeks. Rhea surveyed the crowd for a brief moment to collect her composure. In various parts of the crowd, she noticed her inner circle watching her and sending her soft smiles of compassion. Cole in the far corner, Varric, and Cassandra standing beside each other, Vivienne by the feast… all of her inner circle was in the audience for this moment. A surge of gratitude raced through her and Rhea nodded to Josephine. Two guards dragged Blackwall forward in a pair of cuffs and stood behind him. Blackwall refused to look at Rhea sitting on the throne. Josephine cleared her throat and stood beside Rhea.

"For judgment, this day, Inquisitor, I must present Captain Thom Rainier, formerly known to us as Warden Blackwall. His crimes… well, you are aware of his crimes. It was no small expense to bring him here, but the decision of what to do with him is now yours." Josephine backed off to the side and Rhea took center stage. The crowd was eerily silent and hanging on to every word. For months, the Inquisitor had been elusive and hermetic and now the reason why was back in Skyhold.

"I didn't think this would be easy, but it’s harder than I thought," Rhea admitted, and the crowd could see the sadness in her eyes.

"Another thing to regret. What did you have to do to release me?" Blackwall inquired gruffly, still looking away from Rhea.

"Josephine called in a few favors. There are enough people out there who owe the Inquisition." Rhea shifted in her seat, attempting to make herself more comfortable.

"And what happens to the reputation the ambassador has so carefully cultivated? The world will learn how you've used your influence. They'll know the Inquisition is corrupt." Blackwall growled and a few people in the crowd whispered about his ungrateful attitude towards the woman who saved him from harsher judgment.

"I wish there'd been another way, but my options were limited." Rhea sighed, sensing his disappointment, and bracing the tears from coming. She would no show weakness in her court of power, not even for Blackwall.

"You could've left me there! I accepted my punishment. I was ready for all this to end. Why would you stop it? What becomes of me now?" Blackwall inquired and Rhea bit back her tongue. Anger flared up in her mind alongside the depression which plagued her for months after he vanished on her. But, she realized that anger suited no one.

"You have your freedom," Rhea remarked. Blackwall appeared shocked and disbelieving about Rhea's verdict. He shook his head, but she remained firm in her judgment.

"It cannot be as simple as that."

"It isn't. You're free to atone as the man you are, not the traitor you thought you were or the Warden you pretended to be." Rhea declared, despite the few scandalized murmurs she heard throughout the great hall.

"It'll take time. You would accept that? And what I used to be? I lied about who I was, but I never lied about what I felt…" Blackwall moved closer to the throne where Rhea sat. Cullen and Josephine, seeing where the conversation was heading worked to shepherd the residents of Skyhold out from the hall to allow the Inquisitor privacy. Members of the inner circle joined in this effort while the guards, with great hesitation, gave space to the Inquisitor. The hall was cleared, leaving only the Inquisitor and Blackwall. "No matter what I was or what becomes of me, right now, I am a man with his heart laid bare. I leave it in your hands."

"Come here," Rhea beckoned Blackwall to her feet and Blackwall trudged over, resting on his knees at the foot of her throne. Rhea mustered all her strength to rise out from her throne and cupped his face in her hands. "You were ready to die, but I wasn't ready to let you go. Your place is here… with me."

"I don't know how to be with you as Thom Rainier." Blackwall admonished, turning his head to the side in shame. Rhea's gaze softened on her lover and her thumb absentmindedly stroked his cheek. She nudged him to look at her in the eyes; bright eyes of the wild met with the steely grey of a hardened man in a shower of emotions. Even though it was his identity, Rhea would always see him as the noble Warden Blackwall she fell in love with.

"You said you didn't lie about how you felt. Go with that." Rhea pressed her lips in a tender kiss to Blackwall's forehead and held him in her arms. All the sadness that overtook her when he was gone melted away like rain clouds when the sun emerged from the darkness. Rhea felt so light that she wanted to smile and laugh now that he was in her arms once again.

"As you wish." Blackwall bowed to her will without a question; she was the greatest thing in his life and he hated that he almost jeopardized what he had with the Inquisitor.

"Wait; there is something we must discuss. I know we never discussed children or marriage… or much of a future at all. But I need to lay my heart bare. Blackwall, I want you to be in our child's life. I understand if you aren't ready for that or that isn't what you want. I just needed it out there." Rhea was silenced by Blackwall pressing his finger to her lips and raising to his full height.

"Rhea, you said it yourself- my place is at your side. I am going to be a father to our child growing within you and I will love them as much as I love you." Blackwall didn't anticipate Rhea flinging herself deeper into his arms and nearly stumbled backward on the steps. He lovingly threaded his fingers through her unbraided hair and pressed his lips against hers, which Rhea met in earnest. The Inquisitor and her lover wound themselves in each other's arms with the weight of their separation and doubts lifted from their shoulders.