It’s early enough that what light floods the courtyard is grey.
The first hints of a northern sun, pearled and wintry, have begun to appear. The cold season arrives quickly in the Frostbacks—if it ever leaves in the first place— marking out those used to the Fereldan chill, and those not so equipped to deal with it.
“Can we be sure you’re even mortal?” Dorian asks miserably, from behind the tall collar of his very thick, very woolen coat. It’s a beautiful piece of tailormanship, as dark as summer plums, hemmed in golden trim— even Cullen, who does not consider himself anything close to fashionable, can recognize its quality.
“Reaver blood runs hot,” the Inquisitor replies, rocking back on her heels. In contrast to the rest of her party, bundled and insulated, she is outfitted poorly for the weather, but it doesn’t seem to bother her; her dark elk-skin boots are the thickest thing on her, thigh-height, painstakingly fastened tight by a myriad of laces and buckles. The rest of her is streamlined, chestnut leather and silverite, a light mail vest, and gleaming, pointed gauntlets. Her freckled shoulders and upper arms, crisscrossed with milky scars, are exposed to the biting air.
Dorian shivers and tries to disappear into his coat. “I think you’re just strange and terrifying.”
Her answering grin is wide and toothy, revealing pointed canines. “The compliment is appreciated.”
“What are we waiting for, again?” Varric says. He’s in the middle of buttoning up the last stretch on his jacket. The dwarf knows how to dress for winter— his gloves, a fine pair, are lined with thick, brown fur.
Nehn throws the thick rope of her braid over one shoulder. “Solas is just gathering the last of his tools. We’ll be dropping by into some ruins on our way there.”
“Ruins, presumably elven? Oh, joy. You know what that means, don’t you? Spiders.” Another shudder from the mage, but not one caused by the temperature.
“We could just take Curly here,” Varric suggests, making Cullen cough.
Nehn laughs, full-bellied and loud. It echoes in the courtyard, ringing off the cobblestones. “It’s only been a handful of minutes, you absolute babies.”
“The Commander has business to attend to while you’re gone,” Cullen says pointedly, raising his brows for emphasis. “Which is why he’s only come to see you off, a courtesy he needn’t have paid you, I may add.”
The Inquisitor nods. “Quite right, quite right. He’ll already be stressed enough in the absence of my distinguished company, Varric. Leave him be.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that. Maybe with you gone, he’ll actually get some sleep.”
Cullen resists the shockingly tempting urge to stomp his foot. Or dive into a hole. “I am right here, you know.”
“We know,” Nehn assures him. The Inquisitor stares at him appreciatively, hazel eyes affectionate and loving and all at once desirous. He coughs again, clearing his throat. Thankfully, his flush from the cold is disguising whatever heat is now burning in his face. And his neck. And his ears.
Dorian’s excited exclamation interrupts his thoughts. “Oh, thank the Maker. There he is. We can get moving— I think my feet have begun to fuse themselves to the ground.”
True enough, the cloaked, lanky figure of Solas is approaching quickly, descending the stairs to the main hall. He is the most inconspicuous of the group, clad in muted colors of off-white and green, obviously no stranger to long travel or life on the road. His staff, a gnarled arm of yew, glistens with an aura of magic.
“My apologies for the delay,” he says to the Inquisitor, pulling up his hood. “I couldn’t find something I needed.”
“It’s no problem. Go on ahead, I’ll catch up with you.”
So the three set off— grumbling Dorian, silent Solas, and patient Varric— while the Nehn turns to the Commander. She walks up to him, until she’s close enough to touch, and then grasps at the collar of his coat with both hands, the gauntlets biting deep into the fur. The sharp tang of rosemary and citrus accompanies her wherever she goes, warm and heady.
He stares down at her, amused. “Something you needed?”
She just grins and tugs on the collar. “One for luck, Commander.”
He has to bend to accommodate her, but it’s not an overly taxing price to pay: she presses her red mouth to his, flooding him with a rush of love and longing, things that would convince him to while away the entire day in her arms, if they had more time. He slides his arms around her waist, lets her lean into him. She nips playfully at his bottom lip when she pulls away, nuzzling her nose to his.
“Don’t forget me,” she says, and he sighs, kissing her temple.
“How could I?”
In the distance: “Are you quite finished?”
She breaks out of the circle of his embrace with a laugh. “Best be going.”
He squeezes at her hands before they’re separated, murmuring the only blessing that comes to mind. “Be safe.”
She farewells him with a small wave, then turns, going to join her party at a jog.
He misses her already.