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Aydin felt only slightly panicked as he searched for Blackwall, peering around the oddest places. With growing concern, he turned around in the middle of the barn as footsteps approached. One of Lelianna’s scouts approached him, handing him a crumpled paper.

“The Spymaster confirmed it. Blackwall is gone.”

Okay- that made him panic a little bit more on the inside. He tried to keep a neutral face but couldn’t hide the concern. “Lelianna must know by now, right? She knows everything.” He tried to reason, with himself mostly. He couldn’t be just- gone .

“She doesn’t know everything. Yet. Sister Lelianna had us search the Warden’s quarters. We didn’t find much-except that.” He gestured to the paper. “It was missing from last week’s reports. I don’t know what he would do with this information, but it could be a start.” The scout applied tentatively, noticing the Inquisitor’s growing anxiety.

Why was Mornay being executed? Only tomorrow in Val Royeux. Blackwall might be there- he needed to leave. Now . He folded the note and shoved it in his pocket, storming back up to the castle to gather his armor and leave. Whatever that man was doing, Aydin would find him. It doesn’t matter.


 

Aydin jogged through the gates and immediately turned his head to the crowd gathered around a gallows. A man- Cyril Mornay? Was that him ? He was being introduced and sentenced. He joined the crowd, kept his hood low and stared up at the scene.

“Poor bastard. All right, where’s food? Orlesians always keep these things stuffed-” Sera wandered off, Aydin sighing at her remark.

“This is grim,” Varric commented. Aydin barely paid attention to the dwarf, only focused on searching. Where was Blackwall?

“Stop!” A familiar voice shouted, the Warden running up the stairs and shocking the guards, who readied their weapons.

“A Grey Warden!” the Bailiff announced.

“This man is innocent. Orders were given and he followed them like any good soldier!” He looked directly at the Bailiff and then to Mornay. “He should not die for that mistake!”

“Then find me the man who gave the order!” The Bailiff demanded, his helmet piercing in the sunlight. Aydin felt sick, but maybe he wasn’t even here to save Mornay- well, he was but maybe that wasn’t the whole point. Blackwall cast a glance to the crowd.

“Oh, shit .” Varric breathed, realizing the look on the Warden’s face.

“Blackwall!” Cassandra shouted, but the man shook his head violently.

“No- I’m not Blackwall. I never was. Blackwall has been dead for years. I took his name to hide like a coward just to avoid who I really am. “ He lowered his head in shame, and the rogue felt his own knees trembling. They were going to kill him- take him away .

Even though it had been a year since they’d met, Aydin and Blackwall had assumed a close friendship, the boy even looking up to him as a father figure, or for guidance (Shite advice, though). He didn’t want to admit it but he had grown attached, Blackwall meant something to him. He was a good friend, honorable and loyal. He was always there when Aydin needed someone… He didn’t want to risk all of that effort now just because the man wanted to prove a point or whatever he was doing-

“It’s over. I’m done hiding. I gave the order, the crime is mine. I am Thom Rainier .”


 

Aydin met him in the cells. He looked so… broken. He was grimy, hair greasy as the bags under his eyes deepened with every minute. He wanted nothing more than to hug him-but the bars were kind of in the way. He crossed his arms and leaned back against the wooden support beam. How does he say this without being a complete teenager?

“Why did you lie to me?” Okay, that wasn’t supposed to sound as childish as it did but he couldn’t help it. Everything Blackwall- Rainier had told him about himself had been a lie? What about everything they shared? Were those a lie too? He felt himself growing anxious and waited for the man he thought he knew to respond.

“I had to.”

Aydin gave a choked laugh, a lump growing in his throat that he forced down.

“I didn’t take Blackwall’s life. I just traded a death- he wanted me for the Wardens but was killed by Darkspawn. I took his name so his goodwill wouldn’t die out. Rainier died, and Blackwall lived. The man he was would never let another die in his place.”

“Was the Bailiff telling the truth?”

“Yes, I did. It’s time we all took a good look at who I really am.” He stood suddenly and pounded against the bars, angry at Aydin's stunned silence.

“Don’t you understand? I tricked my men! I never told them-I gave the order! And when it came to light I ran ! Those men, my men, paid for my treason while I played pretend!” He hit the bars again and Aydin stumbled back, breath catching in his throat. He never thought he’d be afraid of this man. Rainier knelt on the ground, his shoulders tense and his knuckles white as he gripped the bars.“This is what I am- a murder, a traitor. A monster.”

Aydin knelt down with him and pulled the hood down, revealing more of his face. He let his hands stick to his knees, clutching the fabric as they shook. “You are more than that. At some point, you stopped playing pretend.” Rainier looked up at him, hope devoid in his eyes but somehow still there.

“You foolish boy.”


 

He paced in the war room, Cullen looking at him with pity. He hadn’t even removed his armor, he didn’t want to. Somehow he felt safer with it on, like he wasn’t alone. But that was stupid because it was armor. And armor wasn’t even alive. Also, Cullen was in the room so he wasn't along. But he felt that if he even took it off he would suffocate. 

“You read the report Lelianna had on Rainier. We couldn’t have connected it to Blackwall before, but now we can.” Cullen spoke from the tense silence, and Aydin stopped. “He was a respected captain in the Orlesian army, and he led a group of men that took the fall for his order to kill one of Celene’s biggest supporters. Not many escaped, but men like Mornay managed to get away.”

“Yes- thank you. I kind of… forgot.” He mumbled awkwardly. The commander walked up to him and placed a hand on his shoulder, looking down at the stressed boy.

“What do we do now? Blackwall- Rainier- has accepted his fate… but you don’t have to,” he reasoned softly, “We have the resources, he can be released to us. You can pass judgment on him yourself. You are affected by this more than most, after all.” He added the last bit under his breath and pretended not to be annoyed by the fact. How could Rainier just up and disappear? Betray his own soldiers and leave them for dead. He despised Rainier, but he knew that their boy Inquisitor was closer to him than most of his inner circle. And that itself was a surprise. Everyone in the young man’s entourage was fiercely loyal, and them recently finding out he was no older than a child? Even more so.

“What do you think I should do?” Cullen sighed, removing his hand from Aydin's shoulder.

“While I hate the man for his unacceptable actions against his own men, the minute he shed his past he owned up to it. Why? He betrayed our trust, betrayed his mens’ trust. I personally would let him rot, but this is not my decision.” Aydin looked more conflicted than before, and Cullen felt a little worse than he had at the start. He wasn’t helping.

“Josephine said that after Halamshiral, they owe us favors. We can use that. Have him released to us.” Aydin folded his arms and stood, making haste for the door as soon as the commander nodded, on his way to inform the ambassador.


 

“For judgment this day, Inquisitor, I present Captain Thom Rainier. Formerly known to us as Warden Blackwall. His crimes… well, you are aware of his crimes. The decision of what to do with him is yours.”

Blackwall hung his head limply, his pride for owing blame obviously ruined as he was taken from his cell by Inquisition soldiers, much to his surprise. His wrists ached from the heavy cuffs, but he kept his head lowered respectfully and tried not to wince much. The hard cots weren’t very easy on his back. But he shouldn’t complain, his men suffered far worse. When he dared to take a glance at the ‘almighty Inquisitor’, he was taken back. The boy looked terrible, eyes wet and curled up on the throne. Even the guards seemed uncomfortable in his presence, while the stuffy nobles stayed ignorant to the Inquisitors’ depression. He noticed his hair was a fluffy mess. As  usual , he remarks softly in his head.

“I never thought this was going to be easy, but it’s harder than I thought.” He huffed grimly, crossing his arms over his knees as his foot tapped against the front side of the throne. He leaned forward, letting his jet black hair fall over his eyes.

“Another thing to regret,” the former Warden mumbled, glancing back toward the ground. He never meant to make Aydin feel this way- but he couldn’t keep running away. He had to stop and face the light, he couldn’t just hide forever. When he heard that Mornay was going to be executed- something in him just snapped. Then he became angry. “Using underworld ties to free me? You’re a criminal, same as me.” Aydin’s eyes widened, then narrowed. Right- like an inquisitor the boy must hide his feelings, no matter how much of them he wears on his sleeve. “The world will know how you have used your influence. They’ll know the Inquisition is corrupt.” Why was he even saying this? Aydin was definitely not corrupt. He felt the anger boil down back into regret. Maker-damn it. He wanted to apologize, but his pride wouldn’t let him.

“I wish there had been another way but my options were limited. I had no choice.”

“You could’ve left me there!” the man shouted in defiance, making Aydin flinch back. “I accepted my punishment. I was ready for all this to end. Why would you stop it? What becomes of me now?” He saw the wetness shine over Aydin’s eyes again, and Rainier sighed.

He knew that the young man had become attached to him, before Adamant. They had spent much time together, mostly discussing opinions on the war, and of course trading stories of both of their times in the Marches, mostly Ostwick. They had learned much of each other, and soon he would find Aydin seeking his guidance, sometimes asking for his opinion on big decisions, even though he should have been consulting his advisors instead. Aydin claimed they were all too biased in crazy directions, he could never make a choice with them looming around and judging him. During their camp-outs in the wilds, cold or warm, the boy would always sit by him- sometimes fall asleep on his shoulder(ignoring that damn look from Varric). It was endearing, but why had he let him grow attached? Rainier himself knew this was coming, so why did he let this pass? It wasn’t acceptable, it wasn’t fair to Aydin.

“You are free,” he said quietly, ignoring the gasps and murmurs from the nobles.

“It can’t be as simple as that.”

“It isn’t. You are free to atone as the man you are, not the traitor you thought you were or the Warden you pretended to be.”

“The man I am? I barely know’im. But he- I ... have a lot to make up for.” He paused for a moment. “If my future is mine, then I pledge it to the Inquisition. My sword is yours.” He couldn’t ignore the look of relief and joy and hope spread across the boys’ eyes. The guards unlocked his cuffs and he rubbed at them with a small grin, turning and heading for the barn. He needed an hour or two to get used to this feeling of freedom after he accepted the punishment of death not long ago.


 

He was not, in fact, expecting Aydin to visit him after the emotional ordeal he had to endure. He knew that he wasn’t unused to the feeling of inner turmoil, but that didn’t mean Rainier had to like it. He made a promise to protect the young man long ago, and he broke that promise. He was thinking of a way to make it up to him when he heard footsteps enter and the barn door close. The fire was roaring, and he felt a nervous sweat on his brow. He didn’t turn, he couldn’t face him. Not after another betrayal.

“Please look at me.” The warrior’s shoulders slumped. He couldn’t say no to him. Turning, he faced Aydin and tried to steel himself again. He looked… genuinely terrible. The bags under his youthful eyes were misplaced. The mischief that used to harbor there was replaced by sadness. He seemed gaunt, almost. The armor was gone, only replaced by the garments his mother had sent in. The poncho covered him more, the darkness of the wool made his skin seem paler than normal.

“Can I have a hug?” He whispered, taking a step forward. His hands wrung together, a feeling of insecurity. Rainier knew it well. He was at a loss for words but only opened his arms slightly to gather an armful of Inquisitor. Aydin buried his head into the older mans’ chest, silent sobs causing his shoulders to shake violently. He placed a hand on the back of Aydin’s head, running his fingers through tangled locks gently as he rubbed his back. What he did was just- but how it affected others. He never even thought about it. When he had left the castle, many of his fellow companions gave him this look . Especially Bull, he looked very mad from where he, Varric, and Dorian were conversing. Which was strange, because those three in a room together? Unlikely.

The night seemed to go on as he lay back against a stack of hay, Aydin curled into his shoulder. His grip was a little tight, but he supposed he deserved it. He let his arm lay comfortably around the young mans’ back, squeezing it occasionally when he would notice his breath picking up again. Aydin never just flat out cried--he cried in parts. He would stop to think for a while, and it would start back up all over again. It bothered him because he shouldn’t be thinking about this so much. It was over. He should stop thinking about it.

There had been a large amount of silence between them, guided movement when they got tired of standing. Aydin just held onto him and didn’t let go. They had discussed it, but now he knew the kid had abandonment issues.

“So what should I call you? Rainier, Thom, or just… Blackwall?” he rested his chin atop Aydin's head, thinking for a moment.

“Stick to Blackwall, I’m so used to people calling me that now. But more as a title, less than a name. Like Inquisitor.”

“The real Blackwall must have been important to you if you pretended to be him and do… good stuff… instead of what you tried to be before.”

“He didn’t deserve to die, but I didn’t know him well. But he was a good man. That I knew. I didn’t want his memory to fade, just wanted to give people hope, I suppose.” He stopped for a moment. “Like you do.”

“I thought my title was something I told to people to manipulate them--I’m corrupt, remember?” Aydin teased, curling into himself more.

Blackwall flinched, “I deserved that. I didn’t mean it, I was just… angry at the circumstances. I know you didn’t choose this, so it wouldn’t make sense for you to flaunt it in everyone’s face.”

“You were angry at yourself.” Aydin corrected quietly.

“I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“It’s fine.”

“It’s not .”

Aydin sighed, breath warming his jerkin. “Yes, you did. But it’s over now, and it’s not like your my slave or something. You’re allowed to be angry at me. I shouldn’t have chosen your fate. I just… I couldn’t lose you.” he admitted sheepishly, hiding his face in the older mans’ shoulder. He withdrew his arm from across Blackwall’s chest and wrapped his arms around himself instead, but the former Warden didn’t budge.

“I understand.” He really did, not wanting to lose all you love- someone you’re close to.

 

“Blackwall?”

“Yes?”

“Tell me a story.”