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A Wandering Dream

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Chapter One
Slipping Into the Deep End

 

Gravel shifting under boots disturbed the silent night air.  Waves broke over the lake shore rhythmically.  Ale punctuated the evening with its unique, yeasty odor.  Muffled laughter sounded in the distance.  The tiniest hint of metallic clinking could be made out as the young man moved through the lesser traveled area of Redcliffe.  The sound of rope sliding made his feet still and his hand go to his sword handle out of reflex.  A line of clothing shifted then, making the young man release the breath he’d been holding.  He relaxed a fraction and began to search for who was pulling on the clothesline.  He rounded the house he’d been walking alongside and for the second time that night, was brought to a stand-still.  This time, however, was for a completely different reason. 

A lovely young woman, dressed in simple cotton frock with apron tied around her skirts, was pulling the dried clothing in for the night.  She folded each piece and set them into the wicker basket at her feet.  He couldn’t help but admire the elegant curves of her face and her small but calloused hands.  She worked swiftly.  As he stood mesmerized, he could make out the smallest tune being sung just a note off-key.  Golden strands of curly hair attempted to escape the chignon her hair was pulled back into causing her to pause every so often to tuck an errand stray back into place.  It was then he noticed her tapered ears.  Not fully extended as other Dalish.  Pointed yet also blunted.  Perhaps she was of half-blood then?  It didn’t matter.  He was stricken.  She turned and spotted him standing in the shadows. 

A gasp echoed around as she dropped the basket she’d just been reaching for.  Her eyes slid to his right hand and she fell back upon her backside.  She held up an arm in terror as she scrambled back a few paces.

“P-please, ser!”

He frowned at her and stepped forward only to realize her fear.  He could have slapped himself.  He quickly sheathed his blade and held up his hands in a show of peace.  “I’m not going to harm you, miss.”

“S-says the man approaching from the shadows with a blade drawn!”

How could he be so careless?  He stepped further into the dim light cast from the house.  “Forgive me.  I wasn’t thinking.  I heard a sound and came to investigate.”

She stopped shrinking back and studied his armor.  “You’re a templar.”

“Yes.  I am.”

“What is a templar doing, skulking in the shadows?” She huffed, moving to her feet finally.  Dusting her skirts free of the detritus she’d been lying upon.

“I…” He sighed, “have no decent answer for you.  I was returning back to the docks and I heard a sound.  I meant no harm.  Nor to frighten you.”

“Well.  You did just that.  My master is going to be very put upon when he sees this mess,” she sighed as she picked up the now overturned basket of clothing. 

He winced as he moved to help her gather the pieces of cloth.  “Forgive me.”

“Already forgiven.”

He looked up into the most stunning pair of deep, nearly purple-blue eyes.  No doubt from her Dalish blood.  A becoming flush colored her cheeks.  He felt a silly smile take over his lips.  “I am very grateful to hear that.”

“Are all you templars this silly?  Walking about at night, terrifying young lasses witless?”

“I would hope not.”

She laughed, the sound warming him.  “Well then, aren’t you just the unlucky one?”

“Or the luckiest of them all.”

Those large eyes blinked a few times before she ducked her head with a bashful expression.  “You’re dangerously flirtation, ser knight.”

He felt his own cheeks heat.  “I’m not usually.  What’s your name?”

She looked up again, glancing at the door as though warring with herself.  “I should go back in, ser knight.  Tis late and my master—”

“I only ask for your name, miss.  Nothing more.”

Biting her lip, she glanced back at him before she rose quickly and darted for the house.  He felt his heart fall as he rose to watch her disappear.  She paused, however, in the doorway and looked back at him. 

“Heliana,” she called back, “and you, ser knight?”

“Greagoir.”

The tiniest hint of a smile showed on her petal soft looking lips as she stepped into the house.  “Good evening, Ser Greagoir.”

The door shut and he stood in the dimly lit back courtyard of some stranger’s home with a dumb smile upon his face.  His walk back to the docks was far less dismal and lonesome this time. 

…..

Heliana sighed as his mouth trailed over her neck again.  “Greagoir…we have to go…we’ll be missed.”

“I know…” He sighed, letting his forehead touch hers.  “I just want this to last a bit longer.”

“I as well, but your duties come first.  You know that, my love.”

He smiled at her, cupping the distended belly between them.  “Just another moment.  I need to say my farewells to the little one.”

Heliana rolled her eyes but still giggled as he knelt and kissed her swollen abdomen.  He murmured into her flesh, nuzzling his nose there.  That was precisely when the little rascal within kicked.  Greagoir pulled back with a stunned look before laughing.

“Did you see that Lia?  They kicked my nose!”

Heliana snickered and shook her head.  “They know how to handle you already.”

“You tease but you love me.”

“I do.  Maker only knows why,” she sighed dramatically before they shared another kiss.  He pulled away and ducked away carefully so as not to be seen leaving their little private nook they’d found for their special meetings.  As far as her master knew, she’d been intimate with a stable boy.  Her master was very unhappy when she began to show.  But that had really been the most of it.  He was old and hardly had the energy to care much about what she did outside of her duties as long as she did them in a timely fashion. 

The waddle back to her master’s home was uneventful.  She was just at the threshold of the steps when she felt a warm trickle down her thighs.  Her heart suddenly sped up.  It was time. 

Hours passed and sometime in the late evening, the local healer handed over her precious newborn babe.  A little girl.  When asked what her name was to be, Heliana remembered a name Greagoir had tossed out once when they’d been discussing names months ago.  It was perfect and she fell in love with the name as she stroked her daughter’s face.

…..

“Moira!  Wait!”

Heliana growled under her breath about ungrateful children and fast legs as they headed for the woods just outside of Redcliffe’s gates.  Her letter was tucked safely in her bodice as the little five-year-old ran like the little hellion she was, ahead of Heliana.  The giggles that came from the little rascal filled her with such joy.  However, her heart stopped the moment she spotted a man’s figure hiding behind a tree up ahead.  She began to run after Moira.

“Moira!”

Moira glanced back at her just as the man jumped out.  Heliana nearly screamed as the man grasped her child.  It lodged in her throat however as he fell to the ground in a heap of giggles and peals of squeals.  Moira wiggled and writhes as she was tickled relentlessly.

“Papa!!!  N-no!!  N-no t-t-tickles!!” Moira barely stuttered around her raucous laughter.

“What?!  No tickles?!  Since when?” Greagoir sat back on his calves, frowning playfully.

“Since I grewed up!” Moira huffed, moving to mirror her daddy’s posture. 

“You grewed up?  In a month?  What else have I missed, eh, scamp?” Greagoir reached out to ruffle his daughter’s hair affectionately. 

“Nothing too grand.” Heliana placated him, hearing the underlying guilt in his voice.  “Your duties haven’t kept you from anything momentous.”

“’cept I lost a tooth!”

Greagoir looked over at Moira.  “You lost a tooth?  How?”

“She tried to fight the stable boy’s son.”

“…really now?”

Moira grinned widely, proudly showing off the small gap from where she’d lost her tooth.  “I socked ‘im real good, papa!”

“Scamp, you shouldn’t take pride in fighting with others.  A means to an end.  There must be a good reason to fight.” Greagoir patiently scolded the girl.

Moira looked down, properly chastised, scuffing her tiny slippered foot in the dirt.  “He started it…”

“And you must always be the stronger in patience, wisdom, and action.”

Moira nodded solemnly.  Greagoir sighed and ruffled her hair once more.  She looked up through her hair with a smile at her papa.  Heliana waited until he stood and made his way over to her.  They embraced and she inhaled the scent of lyrium, embrium, and peppermint.  A unique mixture that was wholesomely Greagoir. 

“I heard your master is upon his deathbed.”

“Yes.  His son has returned to the house to manage his estate.  For the time being, I believe my station will remain.  He hasn’t fired or demanded any of us leave.  But time will tell.”

“I have been praying.”

Heliana smiled, “good.  It wouldn’t do for a templar not to pray.”

“You jest at me so,” Greagoir chuckled into her hair as Moira went about the clearing, cartwheeling, summersaulting, and plucking various weeds and flowers.  “She’s bigger every time I see her.”

“Children do that.  They grow.”

“Yes, but so fast?”

“Faster than we can imagine.”

“What if I—”

“Don’t even start with that again.” Heliana groused, pulling away from him.  “You will not leave the Order.  It is your dream, your desire, your very…essence, Greagoir.  You mustn’t let even us sway you from your calling.  Andraste called you to this life.”

“I fear that I am not as good a man as you seem to believe.”

“Then your fear is misplaced.  You took no vows of chastity.  You have upheld your vows stupendously.”

“Yet I leave an unwed lover and a child fatherless the majority of the time.”

“She is not fatherless.  You come whenever you can!  What more could anyone ask of you?”

“You could ask me.”

“And I won’t be the reason you break your vows to Andraste.”

Greagoir stared at her and she simply glared him back down.  He sighed and nodded, conceding as he always did.  They both knew it was true.  She knew if he did forsake his vows, one day…he’d grow to resent that choice.  Being a templar was what he was meant to be.  She could never stand in the way of that.  Moira didn’t want for anything with a small stipend he sent every month.  Moira didn’t even grouse or fuss about him not being around.  Quite the contrary, she was exceedingly proud of that her papa was a strong templar.  They took their time in the field, playing, relaxing, and spending a day together.  By the time the sun began to dip below the horizon, Heliana hefted Moira upon her back for the trek back home.  Greagoir tucked some of the little girl’s brown curls back behind her ear as they walked.

“If something should change with your station, send word to me immediately.  I can find you another home to work in.”

“I will.”

At the edge of the village they parted with a chaste kiss.  Heliana made the rest of the travel home.  As she neared her master’s home, she knew something was amiss.  All the lights were on and many people mulled around inside the house and front courtyard.  She skirted around to the back servant’s quarters and slipped inside.  Setting Moira in her little bed, tucking her in, she headed back into the main house.  Different passerby paid her no heed as over the next two hours they came and left.  She knew then that her master had passed.  Slowly trickling out until only two other servants, Heliana, and the master’s son were left.  She gathered the mess the mourning visitors had left behind.  The other two servants retired at her behest.  They’d been dealing with the chaos far longer than she as it had been her day of rest.  Tucking the last stray bit of debris away, she planted her hands on her hips.  With a soft sigh, she decided upon going to see her now deceased master.  He’d been fairly kind to her.  It was the least she could do.  She knocked once and slipped into the room.  She was the only one in there so she left the door open in case someone passed by. 

“May Andraste take you to her side.” She whispered and bowed her head.  She turned and left the room to return to her own quarters.  As she passed by the guest quarters, she was stopped by her master’s son as he stepped into her path.

“Aren’t you the lovely one?”

Heliana carefully schooled her expression into blank neutrality.  “Thank you, ser.  But I am just a simple maid.”

“Good enough for me.”

She had averted her gaze to the floor as was customary of servants.  She frowned and looked up.  He was upon her in a moment.  She cried out in alarm as he grabbed her roughly, shoving her against the wall.  He attempted to kiss her and she turned her head aside.  Trying to push him away, she could hear her futile cries echoing down the hall. 

“Please, ser!  No!”

“You’re my servant, now serve me!” He snarled in her face, slapping her hard enough to see stars.

“Mommy?”

Heliana’s world turned to ice.  She turned wide eyes to Moira, standing in the hall, rubbing her little eyes in sleepy confusion.

The man turned to look at Moira then back.  He snarled at Moira, “go back to bed, cretin.  Mommy’s busy tonight.”

Heliana pushed at him.  He shoved her harder against the wall.  Moira made a small gasp before she ran across the house and began to hit the man with her tiny fists.  The man turned and backhanded Moira so hard she hit the floor and skid.  Heliana felt her blood cool and then heat simultaneously.  She snatched the expensive Orlesian vase from the table beside them and slammed it over his head.  He stumbled back and she pounced upon him in a blind rage.  He hurt her baby.  He would pay.  It was that simple in her enraged state.  She continued to smash the pottery into his face until she was coated in red up to her elbows.  When she came to her senses, she dropped the surprisingly sturdy vase and scrambled away from the bloodied mess she’d made. 

Terror. 

Cold, complete, utter terror overcame her.  Once she was found to have murdered a nobleman or at least a man of money…she would be sent to the prison.  Moira would be taken away.  Greagoir couldn’t be associated with her lest his career suffer for it.  No.  She rose quickly and rushed to Moira.  She gently shook her baby girl.  Moira blinked up at her, a whimper then a soft cry, and she was in Heliana’s arms. 

“Are you all right, my little bird?”

“I-I’m…all right.” Moira sniffled. 

“Close your eyes, love.  Don’t look until I say so, okay?”

“O-okay.”

Heliana checked to make sure Moira was listening before she lifted her child and rushed for the servant’s quarters.  She made note the other two were sound asleep.  Thank the Maker for small miracles.  She set Moira down and scrubbed her hands of the blood quickly before changing and cramming a bag full of clothing and supplies.  She sent a prayer for forgiveness up to the Maker’s Bride and stole part of the coin from her two fellow servants as well as taking all of the stipend and bit she’d made and been stashing.  She tucked Moira into a large cloak and flung another around her own shoulders.  They then ran.  She made it to the docks and found one lone dock hand of a fishing boat.

“Where are you sailing and when?”

“’Bout to set sail now, actually.  Up to the channel north of here.”

“How much for safe passage?”

The man frowned down at her and Moira who stood, hiding behind her mother’s legs. 

“You runnin’ from something?”

“Does it matter?” She shook a bag of coin for emphasis.

The man nodded and took it.  “Climb aboard, miss.  Below deck’s the best bet for safety.”

“Thank you.” Heliana plucked Moira up and took his advice, heading below deck and hiding behind crates of goods.  It didn’t take long before she felt them take off from the docks.  She didn’t stop fretting until a good hour of sailing had passed.  She then buried her face in Moira’s hair and sobbed silently.  She’d just ruined Moira’s life.  What kind of a mother did that?  She also just robbed Moira of her father.  There was no way she could contact him now.  Not for his sake.  Moira, for all of her quietness, reached up and held her mother as she wept.

“It’ll be okay, momma.  It’ll be okay…”

If only Moira could be right.  Nothing would be okay again.  Heliana just hoped that their journey from Lake Calenhad to the coast where a large system of docks laid along the shores.  That’s where they would leave Ferelden behind.

…..

Her blade was strong and able!  The demons and foes fell at her feet with each mighty swoop of her sword!  Her templar armor was tried and true!  That there…movement…that crow would rue the day it crossed Ser Moira the Great!  Not even this tall grass would hide the beast from her now! 

Moira swung the twig that was just about as long as her arm.  The now six-year-old played out in the tall, grassy field just along the main road of the town they’d settled in.  Markham was just a simple two-hour ride by horse or carriage away.  The simple farmsteads that rolled over the hills here were fantastic for an actively imaginative little girl.  The Chantry here was fairly active as well.  The city guards were mostly friendly. 

In her active state, Moira wasn’t paying much heed to her surroundings.  She parried a strike from her imaginary foe.  Stabbing the stick forward, she jumped a stride before her as well.  The stick lit ablaze in her hand.  A sharp cry of dismay exploded from her as she threw the stick into the field of grass.  Her eyes went huge like saucers as she realized her mistake.  Horse hoofbeats rushed up.  A huge bucket of water doused the flames before they could take off.  Moira turned toward the adults; shame written on her face.  She didn’t mean to do that.  She didn’t even understand how she did that.  Two city guards grasped her by her upper arms roughly and began to haul her from the field.  She yelped in pain and tried to pull away.  Their grips got painfully tight.  She began to cry.  Her tears rolling freely down her face.  She was scared.  What did she do?  Was she going to get a firm scolding?  She wanted her momma. 

Momma’s voice called out shrilly.  Moira turned to try and see her.  She barely caught sight of her momma rushing after them only to be stopped by the city guard who’d doused the flames.  Momma screamed and reached for her, fighting to get past the guard.  Moira felt actual terror then.  Momma couldn’t get to her.  This wasn’t right.  She began to kick and flail and scream.  Anything to get away.  The men dragged her, none-the-less, to the Chantry.  They stopped before the Chantry where the sister came out.  

“What’s this?”

“A mageling.”

“Oh, Maker…” The sister looked at Moira like she was displeased.  “I’ll be right back.”

Moira waited, trembling as the sister disappeared and reappeared a few minutes later. 

“They’ll be right around.” The sister spoke.

The rattling of a carriage made Moira cringe.  The guards turned and shoved her into the awaiting carriage.  Moira tried to run out only to be shoved back in roughly.  The back was slammed shut with a cage-like door.  She grasped the bars, spotting her momma running across the field.  The carriage jolted and began to move quickly.  Momma chased it until she fell in the road, still reaching for Moira.  Moira reached back through the bars, wailing like a babe as momma faded from her sight.  She eventually slid back until her back was pressed to the back of the carriage.  She hugged her little knees and shivered endlessly.  Whenever she fell asleep, she couldn’t tell.  She was woken roughly as she was yanked from the back of the carriage.  She yelped and recoiled.  That earned her a sharp smack on her back.  They yanked her from the carriage again and dragged her up a long drive and set of stairs.  She looked up at the intimidating tower looming over her like a hungry giant.  She was led into the tower and through a long corridor before it opened into a courtyard. 

A man in templar armor approached.  The men holding her shoved her forward onto her feet.

“New mageling for you.”

The templar sighed as he came to a stop.  Moira fled the men who’d hurt her and darted up to the templar, wrapping her tiny arms around his thigh.  The instant safety the scent of something sweet, that red flower momma always sought out to put in her hair, and that funny tea momma would sometimes give her made her look up at the templar with admiration.  He sneered back at her.  She tilted her head.  Then his metal gauntlet smacked her in the face.  She sprawled upon the ground as pain blossomed all over her face.  She tasted blood.  She stared up at the templar; the one who should have been a hero.  He glared down at her.

“Filthy creature.  Go on, collect your payment at the gate.  You there, take this vermin up with the other fledglings.  Keep an eye on this one.  We may have a potential possession on our hands.”

And just like that, Moira’s world turned completely upside down.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Two
Feel the Current Within

 

Twenty-Two Years Later

 

“Ugh.”

Grizzly knickered and bumped Moira’s shoulder as she led the large, ruddy colored horse through the downpour.  She jogged with the reigns in hand.  It was too damn slippery to risk riding her.  Last thing she wanted was to have to put down a damn fine animal.  She spotted a small cave just up ahead, carved into the rocky hillside.  She darted down the slope.  A rattling sound had her grabbing her weapon.  She pulled the sickle looking blade from her thigh holster and held the weighted chain in her left hand.  A cloaked figure, male form the looks of it, held a sword at the ready as he stood beside his own large equine with a cart attached.  They stared each other down for a long minute, getting further soaked by the second.

“Seeing as how you’ve yet to attack nor demand anything, I assume you are no bandit?” His smooth Ferelden accent sounded as he jerked his head toward her.

“No.  Banditry is paltry and unamusing.  Shall I assume the same of you, good ser?”

“No bandit here.”

“Then, shall we share that lovely patch of dry earth there for a bit?  I’m not fancying the soaked smalls I’m about to sport.”

He made a chuckling sound and gestured, “ladies first.”

“My, how chivalrous,” Moira mused as she led the way.  The cave was just large enough to hold both people and keep their horses mostly dry and content.  They squeezed in with the cart awkwardly hanging out of the cave.  They stood there for a long set of minutes, watching the sky. 

“That…is not stopping anytime soon.  Is it?” The man asked with a heavy sigh.  Moira had the feeling it was rhetorical but she wasn’t one to let questions go unanswered.

“Perhaps it’s attracted to the countryside and trying to court it?”

He snorted and shook his head.  “That’s a unique outlook.”

“Well, it’s either that or the clouds are depressed and sobbing their sorrows.  Your pick.”

“I think I’ll stick with the lighter one.”

“Good choice.”

“May I ask about that weapon you carry?  I don’t recall seeing it’s like before.”

“Hm?” Moira looked at her right thigh.  “Oh.  It’s just something I picked up from a job in Par Vollen.”

“You’ve been to Par Vollen?”

“Mm.  Ugly country.  Gray.  Everything.  I thought maybe the large qunari would be interesting after all I’ve heard of them.  Nothing of the sort.  At least not the ones I came across.”

“The one I’m acquainted with would certainly change you mind.  Then again, he’s technically Tal Vashoth, so…”

“Moot point then.” Moira grinned at the man.  He looked back and she had to swallow her tongue.  Maker, but he was a handsome man.  Tall and broad in the shoulder; muscular from what she could glean from what of his arms she could see from under his cloak.  But it was his eyes that were the most striking.  Amber brown, like whiskey in a glass.  Then the next was a blasted distracting scar bisecting his lip, accentuating his smirk.  This man was like a female libido’s dream walking around.  She tore her gaze away, clearing her throat.  She heard him clear his throat as well as they fell into an awkward silence.

A shiver raced over her spine.  She was not particularly happy about the notion of standing in a cave, wet, cold, and hungry.  But, duly so, she did not want to use magic and announce to this stranger what she was capable of.  So.  The old-fashioned way.

“Think there’s any good wood to be found?”

A choking sound came from her right preceding, “I beg your pardon?”

“Wood.  Fire.  Heat.”

“O-oh…” He reached up to rub his neck, a rather becoming shade of rouge staining his cheeks.  “Right.  Fire.”

“Think there’s any dry kindling or wood to be found?”

“Out there?  No.  But I might have—” he trailed off mumbling as he stepped closer to the part of the cart that was wedged just inside the cave.  “Yes.  Here we are.  A few bundles of dry twigs and three pieces of firewood.  Maker’s breath, is that all I have?  Really?”

“It’s a start.  We can drag a few smaller chunks into here to dry out by the fire we start.”

“True…let’s hope this doesn’t last the entire night.”

“What?  Am I such terrible company already?  Shame.  And here I thought I was a delight.”

He laughed, “no.  You’re not terrible company.”

“If you don’t mind starting a fire, I have some dried meat and bread in my saddlebag.  I’m more than happy to share.”

“Thank you,” he spoke as he knelt to the ground.

Moira rummaged around her saddlebag and withdrew a chunk of bread from her last stop and a wrapped parcel of dried ram jerky.  A small wedge of cheese happened to fall into her hand as well.  She turned to see he’d gathered a few medium sized rocks to create a campfire barrier while he was bent further over, blowing over the embers he’d sparked.  A fire rose up within a few moments and he continued to nurture it until it was licking away at the dry firewood.  She waggled the cheese in her right hand.

“Looks like I have an extra treat.  Cheese.”

Those whiskey colored eyes raised to her with amusement sparkling within their depths.  “Who would turn down cheese?”

“A crazy person, surely,” Moira scoffed as she folded herself upon the cave floor beside the fire.  She tore the bread in half and held one out for him to take.  She took a bit of the meat jerky and used a small knife to slice some cheese off before setting the parcel down for him to serve himself.  Sandwiching the meat and cheese in the bread, she took a bite.  Staring out at the downpour that didn’t look to be letting up but instead getting heavier.  A blinding flash lit up the outside for a fraction of a second before a near deafening rumble rolled overhead.  Moira shuffled deeper into her cloak, trying to ignore the unease that always came with storms.

“I can’t say I’m much fond of lightning either.”

Moira raised her head to regard her impromptu companion.  He was giving her a knowing look.  She nodded slowly and shifted in her spot.  Very uncomfortable memories threatened to swim up and take her.  Shaking them off, she simply replied, “once bitten, forever shy.”

“Indeed…”

Clearing her throat, Moira gestured to the outside.  “Looks like we’re stuck for the night.  There is no way that is letting up before morning.”

“No.  It certainly doesn’t look that way.”

“Since we’re stuck here,” Moira held her hand out to him.  “Moira.”

He took her hand, shaking it firmly.  His grip was firm, warm, and sent a very peculiar sensation down to the pit of her belly.  This man was strong, formidable; a warrior.  Not that she needed a handshake to be able to tell that.  But it helped. 

“Cullen.”

Moira smiled before she turned back to her meal.  He did the same.  Time slowly trailed by until she couldn’t hold back her exhaustion any longer.  Stifling a yawn, Moira shifted her cloak around to wrap more fully about her small frame.  Lying back on the packed dirt, she stared up at the ceiling of the cave.  She glanced over as Cullen shifted about as well.  He pressed his back to the back wall of the cave, just about four paces from where she laid.  He tugged his own cloak around himself and leaned his head back.  Turning away again, Moira closed her eyes.  She had confidence he wouldn’t slit her throat in her sleep.  Besides, Grizzly was nearby and was an incredibly light sleeper.  She’d stamp her hooves and whinny if he even moved toward Moira.  That was the upside to having a close bond with one’s steed. 

…..

Morning light slanted in over her eyes.  A soft knicker stirred her from her sleep.  A yawn broke from her as she shifted to stretch.  She stopped, however, at the press of a warm body beside her.  Her eyes widened before narrowing.  She turned, looking over her right shoulder.  Cullen’s back was to her.  She also noted she was far closer to the back of the cave then she’d been when she’d fallen asleep.  He slowly peered over his own shoulder.  A sheepish look that must have mirrored her own was on his face.  The both rolled over and away from one another, refusing to look at the other.  Packing up their belongings, they both ignored the druffulo between them.  She was retightening Grizzly’s saddle un-necessarily just to have something to look busy with. 

Cullen cleared his throat, “so, uh.  Thank you for the food and company.”

“Right.  Yeah.  Of course.”

“This is…where we part then.”

“Looks like.”

“It was nice to meet you, Moira.”

“Likewise, Cullen.”

“Safe travels.”

“You as well.”

They both led their steeds out and back to the road.  Facing opposite ways, they waved awkwardly and mounted their horses.  They set out in their respective directions.  Moira was a good twenty minutes away before she burst into laughter.  How stupid.  That was so ridiculously awkward.  It wasn’t like she’d never slept beside a man before.  Granted, none as devastatingly handsome as that one…but still.  A small, yearning feeling settled in the pit of her gut.  Casting a glance at the empty road behind her, she shook herself.  What a silly girl she was. 

…..

Denerim was such a unique city.  Places were incredibly lively; almost overly so.  Other places were so dull and lifeless it was like drudging through the afterlife.  Moira never did care much either way for Denerim.  But it was great for a mercenary like herself.  There was always a job to be had.  Some paying very nicely, in her opinion.  It had been a good two months since her cave adventure.  She still mulled over why it stuck with her even now.  The best she could surmise was that Cullen had carried a unique scent that she only realized after they had parted.  It was an old comfort.  The smell of elfroot and embrium.  If he’d had a sweeter scent melded in, then that would have been the perfume of lyrium.  Just like her papa from when she was just a tiny girl.  That was probably why she’d felt comfortable around him.  Unwisely so.  He could have been a rapist or murderer for all she knew.  ‘But he wasn’t,’ her mind tossed at her.  Rolling her eyes at herself, she groaned audibly.  Why the bloody void did one stranger, one man, have to make her lose her sensibilities?  ‘Stupid woman.’

She moved to stand before the job posting board.  She scanned over the flyers present.  Escorting…exporting…importing…

“You look capable.”

Moira turned her head with a bored look at the man who spoke to her.  “Yeah?  Why?”

“I’m assumin’ since you’re at the board here you’re lookin’ for work.  Am I right?”

Biting back the scathing sarcasm she really felt like slinging at him, she smiled thinly at him.  “I suppose so.”

“I got a job and I can’t exactly post it.  Y’get what I mean?”

Unposted jobs always paid better.  But…they usually weren’t exactly legal either.  Her coin purse was getting low.  Turning toward him, she gestured at him to lead the way.  Details were important and if it couldn’t be posted, it couldn’t be openly talked about.  Her hand stayed on her weapon as they walked, out of sight under her cloak.  They reached an alleyway.  He checked both ways before motioning her to follow.  She stepped into the darkened alcove and moved her back to the wall.  She wasn’t a fool.  The man dropped the act.

“Sorry about that.  I’m actually one of the king’s own guard.  I’ve been tasked to find few good warriors for an escort mission.  But it’s of utmost secrecy.  I don’t even entirely know of who is to be escorted from Brandel’s Reach here.”

“And I’m just supposed to believe you’re a royal guard?” Moira crossed her arms, glaring at him.

He gave her a small smile and withdrew an official seal, holding it out for her to inspect.  “I’m actually glad.  You’re the first one to actually question me on my credentials.  The ship is at the docks and is prepping to leave in one hour’s time.  The voyage will last four days to get to Brandel’s Reach to meet the secondary party that will join you in escorting the figures back here.  All in all, there should be ten of you along with the escorted.”

Moira handed the seal back.  “Why is the king so wary and secretive about this?”

“He didn’t say but I assume it is politically charged.”

“What kind of pay am I looking at here?”

“Oh, right,” he removed a coin pouch.  “This is the first half.  The other half will be delivered upon safe arrival.”

Moira eyed the pouch.  That was a hefty sum upfront.  She narrowed her eyes.  “Is this where the rest of your men jump out and attempt to arrest me for accepting a job too good to be true?”

“What?  No.  Of course not.  This is legitimate, miss.  I swear it.”

“There’s a catch.”

He shifted on his feet and eyed her closely before he chuckled, shaking his head.  “And here I thought mercenaries were all in it for the money alone.  Look, there’s some…suspicion about some people going on this mission.  That’s all I can say here.  If you’re not who we’re looking for, you’ll get a lovely sum of money and probably a bit of prestige upon arrival back in Denerim.”

“Thinly veiled threat.”

“Only if you’re who we’re searching for.”

Moira felt a dry smile spread on her lips.  “One more question, what happens if another hired blade tries to slit my throat or take my coin?  You know, competition and all that.”

“Well, considering the Amaranthine isn’t sovereign territory of Ferelden…I’m not certain there’s much we could do.”

“Well then, sounds like I have a ship to catch.”

“Indeed it does.”

Moira took the coin and cautiously made her way to the docks.  She kept her eyes and ears open for an ambush the entire time.  It wasn’t until she was aboard the vessel and a good hour at sea that she relaxed marginally.  Among the five hired swords, she was the only woman.  Two of them were brothers; an archer and a battle-axe wielder.  One of them was a rogue with double blades and a wiry, suspicious look to him.  The last was a quiet warrior with a shield.  He sat furthest away, whetstone in hand, working at his longsword.  Moira sat at the aft, upon a crate, watching the waves lap at the sides of the ship.  Tucking her right foot up, she breathed deeply of the saltwater air.  Four days.  She could handle that.


 

Chapter Text

Chapter Three

Unexpected

“Here it is now.”

Cullen looked up from the letter he’d been reading, leaning against a pillar by the pier.  The ship from Denerim was approaching the docks.  He tucked the letter back into the leather-bound folder and slid that into his travel bag.  He pushed away from the pillar and passed Ser Adelaide, Ser Barris, Ser Ryla, and Rylen.  The last he clapped on the shoulder as he moved to the carriage just set out of sight.  He rapped his knuckles on the door.  It opened and Max Trevelyan grinned at him.

“Yes, guard.”

“You’re enjoying this far too much, Trevelyan.” Cullen quipped back, trying to ignore the tick in his brow.

“Oh, you had better believe I am.”

“Max,” Josie sighed from inside the carriage, hiding a small smile behind her hand.  “Be good.”

“I am good!”

“Says you,” Cullen snorted, leaning on the carriage.  “The ship is approaching, your majesty.  I came to inform you that we’ll be ready to depart shortly.”

Queen Elissa was snickering to herself in her corner of the carriage.  “Very well, Commander.”

“I’m going to go inform Prince Montrel now,” Cullen saw the sour look that crossed Max’s face.  He didn’t bother hiding his amusement as he shut the door and moved to the second carriage.  He knocked upon that door and waited for the Antivan Prince to open it.  “Prince Montrel, the ship is approaching the docks now.  We shall be ready to depart shortly.”

“It is about time, no?” The prince huffed, clearly unhappy at the wait.  “The sooner I am upon that ship, the better.  This place is so…unpleasant in smell.”

Cullen smiled patiently and bowed, closing the door.  He stepped back and made his way back to his men.  Rylen chuckled as Cullen came to a still.

“Trevelyan really doesn’t like Montrel, does he?”

Cullen smirked, “no.  He doesn’t.  Then again, would you blame him?  That man is a terrible flirt and seems to think even wedded women are appropriate targets.”

“If you ask me, he deserves to have the Inquisitor teach him a lesson or three.” Ser Ryla spoke, rolling her eyes. 

Ser Adelaide giggled and shook her head.  “That’d be quite the sight.”

“Probably best not to encourage an international incident.” Barris added, not without humor.

Footsteps approached them.  Cullen stepped forward as the captain of the vessel they’d be boarding came over to greet them.  The man shook Cullen’s hand. 

“All docked, ser.  Crew’s just loadin’ up the last bit of supplies we ordered from the docks.  Ready when you are.”

“Good.  And the extra guards?”

“Already aboard, ser.”

“Good, very good.” Cullen nodded his approval.  “Rylen, please escort the first carriage.  Barris, please escort the second.”

Both men turned and headed in the direction of the carriages to do just that.  The captain led the way back to the ship once the diplomat were properly cloaked and hidden in their surrounding guards.  The former templars made a defensive circle around the four.  They all boarded.  The captain led them to their accommodations for their journey back to Denerim.  There were three rooms, plushy decorated.  The forward room was given to the queen, the one to the left to Trevelyan and Josie, and the one on the right was for Prince Montrel.  Cullen assigned Adelaide to the queen, Ryla to Trevelyan, and Barris to Montrel.  He and Rylen would take the upper deck.

To say Cullen was not looking forward to sailing…again…would be an understatement.  If it weren’t for one of his best friends, he would have flat out denied the request for his sword arm.  The ship pushed off and Cullen stopped in his climb up the steps to lean on the wall.  He took deep breaths to calm his nerves.  He regained himself and climbed the rest of the way up.  Rylen was at the door, waiting patiently.

“Those tricks I taught you working, mate?”

Cullen rubbed his neck, “a bit.”

“If it’s too much, go sit by the rails.  The fresh air’ll do wonders for your sickness.”

“Or make it worse…” Cullen grumped.

“Aye, if you let it.”

Cullen snorted as they walked toward the front of the deck.  He scanned over the mercenaries.  One of these was quite possibly an assassin.  The report from Divine Victoria was very clear.  Someone was trying to murder the queen.  Hence the secrecy of this mission.  It was his duty to ensure that didn’t happen.  He brought only the finest of his former templars; ones he thoroughly trusted.  They were all recovering or recovered lyrium addicts.  As he was. 

He was proud of how many men and women had flocked to the recovery camp he’d set up with what he’d been given by the Inquisition upon their disbanding.  Alongside that, came a very healthy amount from Divine Victoria herself.  She even purchased land in Ferelden, just for his cause.  Cassandra had come and gone frequently to aid them wherever she could along with a handful of Seekers. 

As his eyes scanned over the crew and mercenaries, he met a pair of very shocked eyes across the deck.  He returned his gaze to those eerily familiar eyes.  The blue-purple color was one he could never forget as they’d not left his mind for at least two months.  But what in the Maker’s name was she doing here?  Moira.  She stood from the crate she was sitting on and began to walk toward him.  He raised his brows at her, taking in her appearance.  He forced himself not to notice how…nice…that corset made her curves look.  She stopped before him with a disbelieving laugh.

“Cullen?”

“Moira…what are you--?”

“I was going to ask you that!”

“You know this lovely lass?” Rylen asked from his side, reminding Cullen that he wasn’t alone. 

“Er, yes…well…sort of?”

Moira snickered at his answer, “we spent a thunderous night together in a cave two months ago now.”

Cullen spluttered at her answer as Rylen turned to look at him with obvious surprise.  “I—no!  It’s not like that!”

Moira’s peal of laughter was distracting.  Maker save him, but she was going to be the death of him.  She covered her mouth with her gloved hand and shook her head before she spoke again.  “We both got stuck in that nasty deluge with the lightning storm and Ser Cullen was kind enough to share a fire with me.  That’s all.”

“Ah…see, now that sounds more like the Cullen I know.” Rylen chuckled, looking at Cullen with no small amount of amusement.

“What are you doing here?” Cullen asked, trying to ignore the way his mind kept wandering to that morning.  The feeling of her small, warm body pressed against his.  Even if they were back to back, it was still incredibly poignant for him. 

“Hired for this escort mission.  You?”

Cullen felt a knot in his gut.  Surely she couldn’t be…?  “As were we.”

“Speaking of, I’m going to go make some rounds.” Rylen winked at Moira before he turned and walked away. 

“Were you hired at random too or…?” Moira asked quietly after Rylen walked away.

“No,” Cullen shook his head, “I was requested.”

“Well, now I feel a little insulted.” Moira teased, scanning his face.  “You get seasick, don’t you?”

He frowned at her perception, “why do you ask?” 

“Your brow is a bit slick and you’re looking slightly green around the edges.”

“…am I?” Maker’s breath.  If he couldn’t even stand aboard without feeling queasy, what good was he?

Moira reached down to her hip where her travel bag sat.  She withdrew a small pouch and a waterskin.  “Here.  Put a pinch of salt under your tongue and hold it there until it dissolves.  Take tiny sips of water every so often.”

He stared at the offerings.  Should he take them?  Then again, she didn’t poison him before.  Why would she now?  Could he trust her?  He looked into her eyes and saw what seemed like pure, innocent, honesty.  He wanted to trust her, despite his better judgment.  Praying the Maker wasn’t about to prove him the largest fool of all, he took the items from her.  He did as she stated and moved to an empty crate and perched on the edge of it. 

“So, you are a hired sword?” He found himself asking.

Moira shrugged, “pays decently most of the time.  Grizzly enjoys the benefits.”

“Grizzly?”

“My horse.  She’s currently put-up in one of the stables in Denerim.  Probably angry as the void that I left her for so long.”

“Why Grizzly?”

Moira smiled, obviously recalling a memory.  “Because that horse is the most daring, bold beast on four legs.  Most horses run from wyverns.  She charges at them like an angry bear.  If you look at her left rear flank, she has a nasty scar from one of the times she nearly lost.”

“Your horse…fights…wyverns.”

“And other various creatures too…yes.  She tries at least.”

“I’ve never heard of that before, honestly.  Even my steed knows to steer clear of them.”

“I never said she was the most intelligent of creatures.  But she’s the closest thing to family I’ve had for…well, ever.”

“No siblings then?”

“No.” Moira looked away.  Cullen knew he should leave it but something in him begged to ask.

“What happened to your parents?” At her wince, he mentally berated himself.  “You don’t have to answer, Moira.  I’m merely curious.”

“No, you didn’t do anything wrong.” Moira shifted to sit beside him.  “My mother was a maid.  My father a…templar.  When I was five, my mother protected me and we had to run away because of it.  I was taken away at six and she…died.  Not long after.”

“Your father was a templar?”

“Yes.  A very honorable one.  Probably still is one.  Well, unless…”

“Unless?”

“Unless the, um, lyrium…robbed him of his mind.”

She knew about lyrium madness?  He scanned the ship once more, pleased that nothing seemed amiss just yet.  “It’s not common knowledge that lyrium does that.”

“Not for common folk, I would assume.” She agreed, avoiding his gaze.

“You were taken at six, you said.  Were you kidnapped?” He watched her face closely.  She sighed and looked down.

“No, Cullen.  I was taken.  To Ostwick Circle, if you must know.”

She was a mage.  Cullen watched the anger cross her face before she covered it with a neutral mask.  He cleared his throat, “did you ever seek your father out?”

A scoff, “and say what?  ‘Hello, Greagoir!  It’s me!  Moira!  Your daughter?  You know, the one that suddenly disappeared in the night once upon a time?’  That’d go over well.  If he even remembered he had a daughter.”

Cullen’s eyes widened, “Greagoir?  Knight-Commander Greagoir of Kinloch Hold?”

Moira’s shoulders tensed as she turned to look at him.  “You know him?”

“I served under him.”

A weighted silence fell over them.  Moira’s eyes were large with surprise.  “Y—you served under my papa?”

Cullen couldn’t ignore how adorable her slip up was.  Calling her father ‘papa’.  The discomfort of his time serving in Ferelden came rushing in over that small enjoyment.  He swallowed thickly.  “Yes.  During the Blight.”

“…Maker, you were there when the circle was taken over…” It wasn’t a question, he noticed.

He did not want to go over this.  The nightmares had mostly faded over the years.  But having such a blatant reminder was…unsavory.  He opened his mouth to try and steer the conversation away this topic.

“Sorry.  That probably doesn’t help.” She spoke softly, wringing her hands together and unwinding them repeatedly in her lap.  “Was…was he…?”

“Among the dead?  No.  He survived.  From what I understand, he retired around seven years ago to a tiny roadside village in Northern Ferelden.”

“Was he a good man still?”

“Greagoir is still one of the most honorable men I’ve ever been blessed to know.  I…I admit that I failed to be as just as he was.  He refused to have the Rite of Annulment enacted even when…he was begged by a fool to do so.”

“It’s not foolish when one is faced with such horrors.  It’s entirely natural to desire to see it ended to keep it from happening again.” Moira sighed, shaking her head.  “Evil exists wherever good resides.  It’s not hard to find bad people among great.”

“It is foolish to condemn the innocent because of the guilty.”

“True.”

Rylen walked down the steps from the right, “nothing I can see worth worrying over.”

Cullen remembered himself, standing up then.  “I should inspect the ship myself as well.  Take a few moments for yourself, Rylen.”

“Aye.  Will do.” Rylen hopped up to sit beside Moira.  Cullen felt a strange stirring in his chest at the sight of his good friend so close to Moira.  He turned and walked away.  He needed to think and to do that, he had to put a little distance between himself and the woman who he seemed unable to escape.    

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

With the Tides

Moira rose with sun the next day.  Emerging from the rigging hold, she swiped a breakfast of stale bread and lukewarm tea.  On the main deck, she leaned on the railing, watching as the sun rose higher over the water.  All manners of colors adorned the horizon; like buckets of spilt paint mixing together slowly.  Her senses alerted her to footsteps approaching her.  She sipped her tea, acting as though she had no inclination to her soon to be guest. 

“I was not informed that such lovely creatures would be upon this venture.” A smooth, Antivan accented voice sounded from her left.  She turned to look at the Prince Montrel as he gave her a look that she supposed was meant to make her swoon. 

He was attractive enough.  Dark, shoulder length hair pulled back at the nape of his neck.  Aristocratic nose and sharp features.  His eyes were a grey tone that was reminiscent of a cloud just before the rain.  His jaw was angular, masculine.  His body was built as though to entice a woman with ease.  He was too delicate. 

“I’m certain the templar ladies would love to know that you think so highly of them, your grace.”

Prince Montrel laughed.  Ugh.  It was such a pompous sound that made her fight the urge to roll her eyes.  “You are such a tease, my lady.”

Moira clenched her jaw as he sidled even closer to her.  His hand sliding along the railing to rest just beside her hip.  “I don’t tease, your grace.  Merely state facts.”

“Mm.  And you would have me believe that such a…refined looking woman would be so humble?  Surely you must know you are a sensual flower, just begging for attention…?”

Moira could swear she heard her nerve snap internally.  Leaning just a bit closer to him, she lowered her voice to purr.  “Yes…I do just beg for attention, your grace.  Just not from men who are used to getting whatever they want with a bat of the lashes and a crook of their finger.”

She stepped back and spun away.  She made it all of three steps before she realized Cullen and Rylen were watching from near the doorway.  She cursed her luck.  Of course the one man she’d not mind a flirtation with was watching her exchange.  Then again, what was she thinking?  She was a mage.  He was a templar.  Former, yes, but once a templar…always a templar.  Beside them stood a woman she knew by reputation alone.  Josephine Montilyet-Trevelyan.  The former Ambassador of the Inquisition and wife of the Inquisitor Maxwell Trevelyan. 

“That was brilliantly done.” Josephine beamed at her upon Moira’s approach.  “I’ve not seen him quite so put upon since we started this venture.”

“Oh…uh…” Moira balked, “so that was obvious, huh?”

“Can you do it again?  I’d pay to see him flinch and pout like that again.” Trevelyan chuckled from where he stood by his wife.

“Not exactly the best image for political purposes, Trevelyan.” Cullen pointed out with absolutely no heat to his words. 

“If he tries to flirt or touch my wife one more time, I cannot be held accountable for what I’ll do to him.  I just can’t.” Trevelyan replied with a growl.

“As much as I’m sure Ali would agree, for the sake of negotiations, please don’t murder one of the Merchant Princes, Inquisitor?” Queen Elissa piped up as she stepped out from the doorway as well. 

“Ugh…” Trevelyan let his head fall back. 

“Oh!” Josephine suddenly yelped out, causing Moira to jump.  “I cannot believe my manners!  Forgive my appalling lack thereof.  I am J—”

“Lady Josephine Montilyet-Trevelyan.  Former Ambassador of the Inquisition.  Believe me, my lady, your reputation precedes you.”

“Not all bad, I do hope.”

“Oh no, hardly any bad at all.  You’re said to be one of the kindest diplomats to be met.”

“What lies!” Trevelyan teased, earning him a smack from his wife.

“Watch it, you.” Josephine threatened even though she was smiling.  “I am very pleased to hear that.”

“Don’t believe her.  She’s just happy all the bad things haven’t come to light.” Cullen added into the teasing.

“You two!  I swear!  The Maker sent you both to test my very being.” Josephine huffed.

“Imagine if Leliana were here.” Trevelyan grinned, “you know she’d have more than her fair share to add.”

“Enough.  What about you, Max?  Where are your manner, Lord Trevelyan?”

Sheepishly, much to Moira’s amusement, the Inquisitor turned to her.  “Maxwell Trevelyan.  But please, call me Max.”

“Is that appropriate for my station to address you so informally?” Moira asked, surprised by his request.

“I hate formality, one.  And two, a friend of Cullen’s is a friend of mine.   He’s a hard enough nut to crack as is.”

Cullen made a sound of protest which only made Moira grin.  She shot him a glance to see he was blushing.  He rolled his eyes at Max. 

“Queen Elissa Cousland-Theirin. Though I’m certain that was a bit of a given as well.  What is your name…?”

Moira blanched at being addressed by the Queen herself.  She cleared her throat and attempted a horrendous failure of a curtsy.  “Moira, your majesty.”

“That looked like it hurt.” Max commented and Moira felt her face heat with embarrassment.

Cullen punched Max’s shoulder, making the Inquisitor flinch and hiss.

“Hey!  You can’t hit me!”

“You’re no longer my superior, so yes.  I can.”

“I’m a Lord, I’ll have you know!” Max puffed up his chest.

“Not yet, you’re not.  And I’m still a Commander.  I never lost my rank nor my title or holdings.”

“That’s because Leliana looks at you like a baby brother.” Max rolled his eyes.

“Yes.  The Divine treats me as though I’m family.  What’s your excuse?” Cullen smirked as he crossed his arms in challenge.

Max snorted, “is that really something to brag about?”

Moira laughed, unable to hold it in.  Josephine shook her head, looking at Moira, “they’re always like this.  Pay no mind.”

“I should probably go make sure everything is going smoothly around the deck.  It was a pleasure to meet you all,” Moira bowed this time, unwilling to show her lack of skill in curtsying once more.  She felt warmed by the farewells as she stepped away.  Taking the steps to the higher deck, she pushed aside anything but her task at hand.  Normally, the idea of assassination wouldn’t bother her.  It happened.  All the time, really.  Until she met the people who were being targeted, she still hadn’t cared too much.  If she were in a position to stop it, she probably would have.  Otherwise, it would have been no sweat off her back.  She had a good sum of coin just from taking the job.  It wouldn’t have mattered if she got the latter half too much.  But now?  Now it felt like she was personally involved.  She felt the need to be more diligent in her efforts to ensure the assassination didn’t happen. 

The day progressed uneventfully.  The four political figures came up top a few times throughout the day.  The sun dipped below the horizon an hour ago.  A lanterns had been lit around the deck.  Moira sat on the railing at the back of the ship, dangling her feet out over the sea below. 

“Maker’s breath, woman!”

She almost startled at the sound of Cullen’s voice from behind her.  She looked over her shoulder as he approached her with two steaming mugs in hand.  A disapproving frown was settled over his face. 

“What?”

“Do you have any inclination as to how dangerous that is?”

“You know, it hadn’t occurred to me.  Enlighten me, oh templar, ser.” She drawled with a smug smile. 

He scoffed, holding out a mug to her.  She spun around and set her feet on solid wood and took the mug.  Cullen turned to lean back on the railing, sipping at his mug.  “Josie really likes you.”

“Really?  We only met for a moment.”

“She’s a fairly decent judge of character.  You impressed her.”

“Certainly not my curtsy, though.”

Cullen laughed at that, “no.  That was…”

“Painful looking.  I gathered as much.”

“You’re not noble born.  It only makes sense you’d not know how to curtsy.  I certainly can’t.”

“Now see, that I’d pay to see.”

“That is not going to happen.”

“Not even if I ask?”

“No.”

“What if I pout?”

“Still no.”

“Beg?”

Cullen’s cheeks pinkened, “no.  I will not curtsy for you.”

Moira chortled into her mug, taking a sip of the contents.  She blinked and stared into it.  “Is this sipping cocoa?”

“Yes?  Is that a problem?”

“…no…I just…I’ve never had it before…” Moira admitted on a hushed mumble.

“Not even in your travels after…everything?”

“No.”

“Now I feel very pleased in my choice.”

Moira smiled as she took another sip.  “You’re too kind, ser.”

Cullen and Moira sat in a comfortable quiet for several long minutes.  Cullen reached up to rub his neck before he cleared his throat.  “Why don’t you carry a staff?”

“…nothing screams ‘apostate’ like a staff.”

“True.”

She sighed and shifted a bit, “to be honest, I hate what I am.  I loathe magic.  It destroyed everything in my life.  If not for magic, templars wouldn’t have to guard mages.  If not for magic, my momma…”

“Magic can also do good, Moira.  It was magic that sealed the breach.  It was magic that helped defeat Corypheus…”

“You have to know that sounds very odd coming from a templar.”

Cullen smiled, nodding.  “I’m aware.  And it’s former templar.”

“Cullen,” Moira looked at him exasperatedly, “you know as well as I that templars are never fully away from that life.”

“No,” he agreed, “but we aren’t bound to it as tightly.  Or some of the toxic ideology that goes with it.”

Moira shifted and pulled her weapon from the holster.  She held it out to him.  Cullen looked at it then at her before taking it.  She chuckled at the surprised look on his face by the weight of it.  He turned it over and examined the curved blade. 

“You said you picked this up in Par Vollen?”

“That I did,” Moira leaned in and pointed to the engraving along the side of the blade. 

Cullen frowned, “that’s not Qunlat.”

“No, it’s Tevene.  Numquam cades.  Never falter.  I’ve never found what this weapon is actually called.  I get the feeling it is a custom one.  Maybe something taken off the dead body of a Tevinter.” Moira shrugged.

Cullen’s thumb ran over the enchanted rune embedded in the handle.  “Do you channel your magic through this?”

“When necessary.  I rarely fight with my magic though.”

“Why is that?” He asked as he handed the weapon back. 

Moira slid it back into its sheath, wrapping the chain around her waist, tucking it under her corset where a little lip was concealed to hold it securely.  “I never was very good with offensive spells.  Healing is more my expertise.”

“I see,” Cullen looked into his mug as though lost in thought.  Wondering if he was thinking of another question, Moira caught movement in the shadowed area near the steps, over where the door leading up from the lower decks resided.  She grabbed his forearm to stall whatever he was thinking and nodded her head toward it.  It didn’t take him even a second to react as he shifted, setting his mug down silently.  Moira silently withdrew her weapon again and crouched down, stalking forward and to the left.  Cullen took the right and did the same with his own sword drawn as silently as possible. 

Moira could just make out a crouched body in the darkness that the lamp light didn’t quite reach.  But what she could make out, was a figure moving around by the door leading below deck.  The crouched person shifted their weight.  Cullen slid out and rushed the person.  They stood and blocked Cullen’s sword with their own shield. 

“Stop!  Wait!” The man called out; Cullen locked their blades.

“What do you think you’re doing?!” Cullen growled at the man.

“Trying to do what I was hired to do!” The man replied, angrily. 

The person below turned at the outburst.  It happened to be Queen Elissa and Lady Josephine.  Moira’s gut was telling her something still wasn’t right.  The glint of something caught her eye from the top of the steering housing.  She rushed toward the small steering housing that stood up on the top deck.  She spun the weighted chain in her left hand and let it fly.  A sharp curse from above before the resistance on her chain was all she needed to know.  She spun and yanked downward.  The person sailed over her and slammed into the deck at her feet.  Flicking the curved blade around, she slit his throat in one quick motion before she unwound the chain.  Turning, Moira leapt over the railing and landed with a roll on the deck below and began to search for the other one.  A burst of smoke signaled the rogue emerging from his stealth.  Right behind Josie.  Elissa grabbed Josie and yanked her out of the way of the first swipe of blades.  Moira swung her scythe blade around and let it fly.  The rogue had the sense to dodge.  He rolled away, turning to glare at her.  Now that she had his attention, Queen Elissa had the opening she needed.  Pulling a short sword from under her skirt, she ran the man through from behind.  Using her foot, the queen shoved the dying man off of her blade. 

Moira yanked her weapon back to her hand and released a breath slowly.  The door burst open and the last of the mercenaries came flying out, rolling ass overhead.  Stalking behind him was Trevelyan.  Gone was the playful man from earlier.  This was the infamous Inquisitor now.  He stood over the man with his singular right-hand glowing with fire. 

“Am I to assume you were attacked as well?”

Josie nodded, a hand at her neck.  “Yes.”

Trevelyan’s eyes raised from the terrified mercenary to spot the dead man at the queen’s feet and then shifted to Moira.  He narrowed his gaze.  “I have to ask, did you have anything to do with this, miss Moira?”

“No,” Moira answered but was cut off by Cullen.

“She dispatched the first assailant and distracted the second for Queen Elissa.”

Trevelyan then turned to the last mercenary.  “And you?”

“I spotted the one move into stealth just as the Queen and Lady came outside.  I was waiting for him to reappear so I could dispatch of him myself, my Lord.” The man answered.

“Yet you were skulking in the shadows like they were.” Cullen retorted, turning to glare at him.  “That’s rather suspicious, don’t you think?”

“I tried to tell you but you were attacking me!”

“It’s what he was hired to do.” Trevelyan spoke evenly.

“So was I!”

Trevelyan turned back to the man at his feet who looked to be having trouble breathing.  “You majesty, I think I will defer to your judgment here.”

Queen Elissa looked at the man, “if he wished us dead, he could have easily done so when we came out.  He was up there, wasn’t he?  I believe him innocent of this attempt.  As for this fool, I need him for questioning.  But he looks half-dead already.”

“I can fix that,” Moira strode closer, sheathing her weapon.  “If you’d like, that is.”

“Dead men can’t talk.” Queen Elissa smirked.

“That they can’t.”

Moira knelt and let her mana flow into her hands.  Her restorative magic flowed forth and began to seek out the injuries.  Healing them just enough to make it easier to persuade information out of him, she settled back on her heels. 

“I won’t say he’s right as rain, but he’ll definitely be up for some talking once he wakes.”

“Good,” Trevelyan spoke, reaching down to grab the back of the man’s collar.  Dragging him, the Inquisitor returned to the door.  “Rutherford, I want a full sweep done to ensure no others, crew included, are part of this.  It’s a bit too convenient that not all the lamps were lit and the crew isn’t anywhere to be seen.  Don’t you think?”

“I do.  It will be done.” Cullen replied, nodding to Trevelyan. 

Moira watched as Cullen and his men set to work doing just that.  She stepped aside, unsure of what to do now.  The other mercenary stood with her.  He sighed, rubbing his face.

“So much for easy money…”

Moira eyed him, “nothing is every easy money.”

He scoffed at that, “tell me about it.  Just want to help feed my wife and wee babe.  This isn’t what I thought it would be.  Thought I put all that fighting behind me.”

“There’s always another battle to be fought.  There’s always another corrupted soul, overreaching.  That’s just life.” Moira closed her eyes and tried to tune out everything that was stirred forth by the evening’s events.