Chapter 1: With Magic Born of Blood and Lyrium
Hi! I have many fic ideas, but this has been consuming my life. I actually need feedback - I have all the way up until the Corypheus/Haven confrontation written, and I can't keep it in my notes anymore. So I'll post slowly while continuing to work on this fic so I can finally write my ship fics/origin fics for my other characters. PS: if you want to get a glimpse at my character aesthetics for Subira, check out my www.pinterest.com/marelena11
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It’s very slow, coming back to the land of the living, and she barely remembers the heart-starting dream she had had. In fact, it felt almost far away. The dripping of the cell is the first thing she notices when she regains consciousness. Blinking her eyes open in the dim light of the room, she feels very heavy. Thrown in for sleeping outside a shop again probably, she grouses sleepily.
After a moment, she shifts and her hands get caught on cuffs. Simultaneously in the dark four swords are drawn, metal singing against metal and she freezes in fear.
She reminds herself to take deep breaths. They can’t hurt her if they don’t know she’s scared.
She mentally repeats this in a mantra, turned away from the door. Her face is scrunched up tight, terrified of whatever is going to come through it. She can hear muffled voices coming down the hallway, closer and closer. It won’t be long now.
“-Leliana, we cannot forcefully interrogate a child!”
“A child? A monster!”
The door swings open in a wide arc, based on the air that pushes itself towards her. The old metal door creaks the whole way and she peeks out of her left eye, just for a moment, gaping at the sight before her.
The Left and Right Hands of the Divine step through the threshold, bickering quietly without paying notice to the quivering teenager on the ground.
“S... Sister Nightingale? And Seeker Pentaghast... What...”
Her confusion fades to faintness as she slumps against the restraints, head lolling. She can feel the harsh thumping of her heart pulsing against her neck. Something angry and hot like pain spits and sputters to life on her left hand side and the two Hands finally cease their arguing when she cries out.
What happened? Where’s Castelleta? And the others? Her brain is hazy with pain. She’s only able to discern that whatever is causing her pain is of magical origin before her thoughts are scattered again.
“I don’t know-“ She clenched her jaw and makes her hands into fists, arms tensing from forearm to upper arm as she forces herself into a sitting position with her head hanging forward. Sister Nightingale has disappeared from her vision and if she focuses she hears the just-there tapping of soft shoes on the ground behind her. “-I don’t know why I'm here, but I didn’t do anything.”
The Seeker narrows her eyes. “Explain that.”
The thing on her hand has chosen now to crack and spark to life, forcing her upright position to falter and she viciously swallows bile, unable to hide the horror coloring her features. The Hands watch intently.
“I... Can’t!” She grinds out, sure she’s going to rip one of her own teeth out on accident.
Maker, this pain is excruciating.
Another wave of pain passes from hand to arm to neck and she bites down on her bottom lip hard enough to draw blood, trying her hardest to wait it out. She won’t beg for death.
The Left hand steps from the side into her line of sight, sweeping an eye over her. “Do you have any idea what happened?”
Stubbornly, she grits her teeth. “If I did, I probably wouldn’t be in this situation, would I? I’d be halfway to the Anderfels by now, puttana.”
“What a mouth on you, hm?” The Left Hand leans in, grinning like a cat. “I wonder where you come from, to talk like that?”
Seeker Pentaghast pinches the bridge of her nose. “Leliana, please - do not antagonize the child.”
“Yes, Leliana,” she pouted mockingly, the dainty name rolling off of her richly-accented tongue in a honeyed tone. “Do not antagonize the child.”
The two women wonder how much to tell the seething teenager on the ground. How trustworthy can she be? On the other hand, if they’re all dead, wondering about how trustworthy she is won’t matter. For the angry, frothing-at-the-mouth child on the ground, it isn’t about trust. She knows she cannot trust them at all - most especially the Left Hand.
The faster she convinces them she’s just another street rat to throw on the cobblestone to scuttle away, the faster she can find Castelleta and get out of here.
“If I had done something to really warrant my arrest,” her chest heaves to get the words out, “Then you wouldn’t have even known I was here.” Her teeth are bared and her breaths hiss by them as she pants.
In the dark lighting of the room, her eyes almost have a dangerous glint shining over them. The green of her irises appear alight for just a moment, but it’s gone before either Seeker or Sister Leliana can look closer.
“You make a bold assertion for the suspect currently detained,” The Seeker steps forward with a hand on her sword, fire blazing in amber eyes.
Subira grins into the face of her would-be executioner.
Sister Nightingale, without taking her eyes off of the prisoner, steps in with a hand on her counterparts chest. “We need her, Cassandra!”
Her face falls. She hadn’t even realized she was looking forward to goading the Seeker into killing her.
“Go to the Forward Camp, Leliana. I will show the girl the Breach.”
Well, that’s certainly not an ominous name. “The what?”
The Seeker continues conversing quietly with her counterpart, almost as if she hadn’t heard her.
“Hey, puttana di ferro!” She calls, and both women turn to look at her. “Remember me? What is ‘the Breach’?”
The Seeker, either not knowing the language (perhaps ignoring her creative use of it) or truly unsettled by the events, adopts a grim look. “It would... be easier to show you.”
Which is how she ends up being lead outside of the Chantry’s dungeons (funny that they have those, considering it is a place of worship, but Subira shrugs the thought away) and into bright light. How long had she been out for?
Certainly she’d seen her fair share of magical mishaps; being a mage who’s lived her life in secret, traveling on the road. But this...
The knowledge of the destruction something like this must have caused brings her to her knees on the snowy ground, with the agonizing pain flaring in her hand and up her arm. She curls into herself and bows her head as the pain crawls up her shoulder, forcing tears out of her eyes and gasping breaths out of her lungs. Clouds of vapor cling to the heavy mountain air around them before floating away.
“Every time the Breach spreads, so does the mark. And it is killing you.”
Yeah, no shit! Thanks for the heads up!
She snorts. “Seems like I’ve got no choice. Let’s go, Seeker.”
The Seeker seems unfazed by the girls disgruntled demeanor and simply leads her through the town she knows as Haven. Her expression becomes that of one forlorn, remembering that - at least to her - mere hours before she had stolen a corset two sizes too big for her, charmed a young guard far from his post before knocking him out.
The money she stole made sure (after she returned the corset) that her and Castelleta were able to go to sleep with full bellies that night in a warm bed. They spoke in hushed whispers of the days to come until they fell asleep cheek to cheek.
Obviously, they don’t know she’s a mage yet. If they did, she’s sure they’d have as many Templars they could spare guarding her.
The idea makes her shudder. She doesn’t have time to continue that train of thought because they haven’t gotten very far before a bridge collapses. She groans exasperatedly when her ribs hit stone, cursing whatever gods exist above for that particular placement.
Get up, get up! Okay, Seeker Pentaghast is on her feet-
Demons. Holding back the sigh of exasperation is far harder than it should be, all things considered. If this is the beginning of it all, she doesn’t even want to imagine what it’ll be like later on.
Unsteadily she makes it to her feet and blinks rapidly to clear her vision, trying to find her balance.
“Get behind me!” The Seeker roars, taking up a defensive stance.
Hah! As if. She rolls her eyes even as she frantically searches for a weapon before landing on a discarded staff. She shakes her head and turns to look for anything else - Aha!
She grabs the daggers off of a dead soldier with a whispered blessing before turning to face the demon that has crept up on her.
“Come at me, you ugly bastard,” She sneers, parrying it’s swipe at her before ducking under its wide arms and slashing rapidly.
The demon dissolves into the ground with a hiss and she breathes heavily, pressing a hand to her ribs. The soft green glow is missed by the Seeker, and the girl can stand taller and draw breath a bit easier before the Seeker has her attention on her again.
The Seeker turns to the prisoner, sword drawn. “Drop your weapon!” She barks. “Now!”
She huffs. “‘Thank you, person I have locked up as a prisoner for providing backup.’ Oh, you’re very welcome, Seeker.”
The words are dripped in sarcasm and the Seeker frowns.
She continues flatly, “Now, shall I still drop them and leave myself defenseless? I surely shouldn’t trust you to watch my back.”
The Seeker draws her lips into an even thinner line at the young girls agitation.
“Fine,” She sheaths her sword with a tired sigh. “I cannot protect you. Perhaps I should remember you chose to come willingly.”
The girl snorts, tilting her chin up in defiance. “Perhaps you should.”
They make their way trudging through the snow in silence, the older woman noticing scars of all sorts marring the girls dark skin. The Seeker can tell that she’s at least lived in Antiva if she isn’t of Antivan origin. Rivain, maybe? The accent makes it hard to tell.
The Seeker frowns. She is just a child, really. She cannot be past her sixteenth year. What would a child be doing at the Conclave in the middle of all of this destruction?
Similarly, Subira wracks her brain for anything that could point her towards an answer. All she remembers is parting ways with Castelleta and promising to find her later, paying a serving girl to switch places with her, slipping into the kitchens and navigating her way through and then... Nothing.
She remembers running, a woman, and the horrible feeling of being chased but knowing you’re trapped. She shudders involuntarily.
There’s simply a blank gap in her memory from the kitchens to the horrible flashes of green that she feels like might be the fade, but that wouldn’t make sense. Nothing is making sense...
“We’re close! You can hear the fighting.” Subira focuses in again.
“You’ll see soon enough.” The older woman charges ahead, sword and shield in hand.
“Oh, thank you for the vague answer. Completely answered my question.” Subira mutters, drawing her blades.
A dwarf unloads bolt after bolt into the demons pouring through the crystalline tear in front of her. She feels the pull of the fade from the other side; the lulling scent of salt water and lavender drift past her tantalizingly and the smell of Antivan spices mingle in between in a big cluster of things she didn’t realize she had missed.
But there’s an undercurrent of sulfur and things that are wholly wrong; creating an incense that burns as an offering for an entity that should not be awakened.
Shaking her head, she jumps into action, startling the dwarf beside her.
“Woah, hold on! Seeker, you’re letting the kid fight now?”
“That’s kind of unfair, short stuff! Don’t worry about it!” She answers for the older woman, twirling with precision and landing a hard kick to a demons side before plunging her dagger into its head. When she removes it, it makes a sucking noise and ichor clings to the blade and she grimaces. “Euch, gross.” In vain she tries to fling the guts off of the blade and into the snow, but they’ve seared themselves to it like skin to metal.
She hears rather than sees the mage coming up beside her and tenses when she sees his staff drop from her peripheral.
“Quickly, before more come through-!”
Anticipating his move, she darts out of reach and grabs for the force of energy in front of her. She feels the disconnected threads in front of her and she yanks, yanks, yanks until something gives, following the marks lead.
The force pushes her to her knees, breathing heavily and drained.
“Next time,” she heaves, “a simple ‘stick your hand into the chaotic swirling vortex’ will do. Speaking of, how did I do that?”
“Duly noted. And that can be answered simply; Whatever magic opened the tear in the sky also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorized that the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened.”
He turns to Seeker Pentaghast now, “Your prisoner is not a mage. In fact, I find it difficult to believe that any individual would have the power to achieve a feat such as this.”
Subira nearly bites off her own tongue from her surprise. There is absolutely no possible way he can say that she isn’t a mage; especially if he’s a trained apostate, the way he seems to be. He’d be even better at telling, actually.
Why is he lying for her?
Varric clears his throat. “And here I thought we’d be ass deep in demons forever. Varric Tethras; Rogue, storyteller, and occasionally... unwanted tagalong.” He grins at the Seeker, who in return pins him with a scowl.
“Hey, not sure if my opinion matters at all here,” she waves a bit to draw their attention, “but if you’re just coming along to annoy her,” she jerks her head in Seeker Pentaghast’s general direction. “Please don’t.”
The Seeker seems pleased and she rushes to add,
“She has a big enough stick up her ass as is - without adding a dwarf-sized one.”
The scowl returns as Varric laughs and laughs.
The Seeker turns to the dwarf. “Your help was appreciated, Varric, but-“
“Have you seen the shit-hole that is the Valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore. You need me.”
The teenager puts her head in her hands to try and push back the pounding in her head - caused by being in so much contact with the fade - while the two argue. They pay her no mind, content to verbally hash it out. Eventually she’s had enough, and isn’t afraid to say so.
Subira clenches her fists. “Will you two please... Shut up!” Varric’s eyebrows raise into his forehead, and the Seeker’s mouth hangs open before snapping shut. “I can barely hear my own thoughts and you two are making it worse! Chei!”
“That does not sound like any language I’ve heard in the south,” the mage says, in a clear invitation to begin a conversation and to divert them from the present subject.
Not that she minded much, because those two were bickering as if they had all the time in the world.
In a flat, non-conversational tone, she replies, ”It’s Riviani.”
He nods. “You are quite young to travel such a long way, are you not?”
“And you’re quite bald to be so nosy, are you not?” She mocks, the elf’s eyes widening comedically.
Varric chokes on the water he’s drinking from his flask.
“We are leaving.” Seeker Pentaghast interrupts, evidently having made up her mind on Varric.
Subira mutters about how she got to have her argument uninterrupted, but follows without further complaint.
“I am Solas, if there are to be introductions.”
She looks over at the bald elf, Solas, she now knows. It’s the first thing he’s said since they started moving.
And since she pointed out his baldness.
“What he means is ‘I kept that mark from killing you while you slept.’” Varric chimes in.
“Interesting,” she mutters thoughtfully, wondering if dying in her sleep would’ve been more beneficial. “My thanks. I’m sure I’ll owe you in the near future, then.”
Solas furrows his brow. “That is... not necessary.”
She rolls her eyes. “A life for a life, Master Solas. You saved mine, so I will watch your back. Good deeds are hard to come by, you know.”
The three adults exchange glances.
“Hey, kid,” Varric calls from behind her and she turns to face him. “How old are you?”
The girl pauses her steps, tipping her chin thoughtfully.
“Hold on,” she begins counting under her breath. “I just passed my fifteenth. Should be nearly sixteen?"
She scratches her head thoughtfully and Varric gapes.
“Makers hairy ass, kid. What are you doing tangled in the middle of all of this?”
The Seeker hisses at Varric to ‘not blaspheme in front of a child’. Subira shrugs.
“I’ve heard worse.”
Varric grins, causing Cassandra to give him a withering look of warning, though he pays her no mind.
The corner of her lips turn up. “When you live in an orphanage or the street for most of your life, you hear lots of things that little ears aren’t meant to.”
She turns her attention ahead. The call of the fade is closer again, the veil is thinner. It pokes and prods at her being unhelpfully, and feels sticky on her skin as if it was a layer of syrup stuck to her.
“Demons ahead, be ready.”
“How do you know?” Seeker Pentaghast demands, still drawing her sword and preparing her shield.
“The mark.” she replies smoothly. The Seeker is none the wiser to her lie.
The fight begins in a flurry of motion as magic, arrows, and one teenager share a battlefield in a whirlwind of daggers and dark hair. Each move is a bit like Subira herself; graceful, calculated, efficient, and, most importantly: utterly chaotic.
Subira darts to the left, cutting off the arm of a demon reaching for her before thrusting the other blade into its chest. It dissolves into the rift like the rest who fell beneath her and she reaches her hand out to close it, bringing the threads of the veil back together. Pain and power sizzle in her palm and she wonders if that’s what divinity feels like.
“You are becoming quite proficient at this.” Solas appraises her.
It’s hard for her to tell whether or not that is sarcasm, stating a fact or a genuine compliment, so she stares at him for a moment before walking away.
“The forward camp isn’t far, right?” She asks the Seeker.
“No, child, it’s not.”
Flashes to an overbearing orphanage ‘mother’ pulse in front of her momentarily, slipping on some ice but regaining her balance. The Seeker reaches out to stabilize her but hesitates at the glare the girl sends her way.
Subira curses the close connection to the fade and vivid imagination but also the entire situation. She wouldn’t be so off-kilter right now if it weren’t for the proximity of the fade. This brings her back in a circle of thought to Solas; why is he protecting her?
Thinking back, during the initial fight (and the fight after) he’d been an inhibitor; he allowed her magic to come to a focus in the storm of the fade, though she hadn’t realized it at the time.
An anchoring force was exactly what she needed, but the circumstances of his knowledge... it’s strange.
She’ll have to keep an eye on that one.
“So, did you do it?” Varric’s question pulls her out of her thoughts.
The other two party members listen in, eager to hear the answer.
“Who’s to say?” She shrugs. “I sure as shit hope I didn’t. It’s very unlikely I came all the way here to cause destruction. But it is what it is,” she waves a hand.
Varric whistles. “Damn, Spitfire,” he shakes his head. “That’ll get you every time. Should’ve spun a story.”
Trust me, Varric! If I had considerably more time and resources to work with, I would’ve spun a story.
The Seeker makes a noise of disgust. “That’s what you would’ve done, Varric.”
“Damn right I would! Tends to prevent premature execution.”
“Listen, if I had the balls to lie to the woman made of muscles on top of muscles,” she jabs a finger at Seeker Pentaghast, “I would. But I don’t, so I won’t. Though, at the rate things are going for me, premature execution might be my best option, so I’ll get back to you on that.”
They arrive at the forward camp to see a red faced chantry official and Sister Leliana in what looks like a one sided argument. The latter has her face schooled into indifference, and Subira reminds herself that she should also be practicing keeping her cards close to her.
Her brief stint in Orlais taught her much and she would do good to capitalize on those teachings. While she detested the pomp and flair, Orlais did give her one good thing; Castelleta.
“-do no such thing!”
The Sister presses on. “Chancellor, we must get the child to the Temple of Sacred Ashes. It is our only chance!”
“‘Our only chance’!” Chancellor Roderick mocks. “You have already caused enough trouble without resorting to this... exercise in futility.”
The Seeker fumes silently and the Sister is deathly still, and yet the danger that she presents is clear. The Chancellor is treading on very thin ice.
“I have caused trouble?” Sister Leliana asks in a low, threatening voice.
Chancellor Roderick seems to either have a death wish or too big an ego to care. “You, Cassandra, the Most Holy, the prisoner – haven’t you all done enough already?”
There’s a crack in the facade of Sister Leliana. She steps forward, eyes blazing. “You are not in control here!”
“Enough! I will not have it!”
Idly, Subira wonders which one of them actually is in control, but wisely decides that that question is one for later.
“Ah, here they come.” The distaste is clear in Chancellor Roderick’s voice.
Sister Leliana shifts and straightens, composing herself. “Chancellor Roderick, this is-“
While Subira is contemplating the finer, less appreciated art of simply sneaking away, Chancellor Roderick breaks her out of her thoughts.
Chancellor Roderick angrily addresses the Seeker. “Why is the prisoner not bound for trial and execution in Val Royeaux?! I hereby order you to bind her at once!”
She subtly shifts behind the Seeker before straightening out again, hoping it was missed. The Seeker straightens up and widens her stance, placing a tight hand on her sword.
“There’s the premature execution! Varric, what do I owe you for calling that one?” She calls back wryly.
Varric laughs with a hand on his stomach. “Maybe a drink, Spitfire!”
She’s about to take him up on that offer when she hears the Seeker scold him and reach back, a yelp of pain following.
Instead, she folds her arms and places her hand comfortingly on the hilt of her daggers and stays facing forward, not wanting to risk the Seeker’s wrath.
Which is in good taste, as the Seeker steps forward boldly to address the Chancellor. “You order me? You are nothing more than a clerk! A glorified bureaucrat!”
The Seeker glowers at the ignorant man and her arm subconsciously hovers out in front of the girl.
She tunes them out for awhile, now contemplating the negative outcomes if she fadesteps and takes off - sneaking away, but with style, she thinks.
She thinks she hears the Chancellor call the Seeker a ‘thug’, which doesn’t seem to fit with the ‘holier than thou’ reputation she’s earned all across Thedas. Most nations see the Hero of Orlais’ faith as something to model, a woman of good conscience and heart.
“-is dead! We must elect a replacement, and obey her orders on the matter!”
What? That got her attention. The first detail she notices is how quiet it becomes. Sister Leliana, aside from a twitch of her fingers, shows no outward reaction. The Seeker grasps the hilt of her sword.
“So... are any of you actually in charge?” She drawls, taking them out of their arguing to focus on her.
“You killed everyone in charge!” Chancellor Roderick accuses, leaning forward over the table.
She clenches her jaw and grips the pommel of her left dagger. Somewhere in the background she thinks she hears Varric mutter, “Oh, he’s done it now.”
“I have seen too much innocent death to kill an entire Chantry of people trying to find peace!” Subira steps forward and the man backs up a step. “You know nothing of what you speak! You useless, performative Chantry officials hide in your offices and play with the decisions of lives you have never met! Bambino sucio nadie ama!”
With the overwhelming emotions comes flaring power that normally she could control, but it’s seconded by an energy sharing the space. It slams into her like a wave on the Waking Sea and briefly she feels it travel to her head.
Somewhere she hears a gasp and a weapon being drawn, but she can’t tell from what direction the noise comes from. It’s almost as if its echoing around her and yet she feels like the noise was far away.
Her vision is suddenly dark and she sways, knees hitting the ground. Nausea swells like waves in her stomach and she fights to keep its contents inside.
“-not dangerous, Seeker. Just the mark reacting to the girl’s emotions.” Solas placates the intimidating warrior and she begrudgingly backs up.
The sound of a weapon returning to its sheath hesitantly is heard in her ears.
“Call a retreat Seeker. Our position here is hopeless.”
The cowardly man sticks his nose up at the seasoned warrior with weariness in his tone. Subira attempts a scoff but only coughs dryly.
“How do you feel?” The mage asks quietly.
“Like an unstable magical lightning rod.” She grunts as discreetly as possible, trying to open her eyes without being overwhelmed.
“I suspected... You are aware, then?” His eyes dart to the others talking around them and back to her.
He nods once and helps her stand, handing her a cloth he pulls out of his satchel to wipe the blood under her nose.
Finally able to keep her eyes open without becoming off-balance, she glances at her marked hand. It’s grown slightly, the fade-green tendrils curling and crawling slowly up her wrist. She sighs in annoyance.
“Well? What do you think?” Seeker Pentaghast turns to her and she scoffs.
“You’re asking your child prisoner? You really are more desperate than I thought,” she mutters, then bites her lip. Aggravating these people is a bad idea and she backs off.
“You’re hardly a prisoner, kid,” Varric laughs ironically, “more like an unwilling participant to the end of the world!”
“Varric, don’t encourage her,” The Seeker pinches the bridge of her nose.
Something that caught her attention when they were talking resurfaces in her mind. “You said something about missing scouts on the mountain path. Let’s take that route. It’s safest, you said?”
The quicker she can get out of here, the better. The Seeker seems disappointed, but the Left Hand’s keen eyes miss nothing and she can feel her taking in every detail. She hardens her expression and meets her gaze.
The young girl has met worse. The Left Hand is no match for her. If I survive this, I’ll outwit her. I’ll keep us safe.
“So, kid... What did you call the Chancellor back there?”
Solas’ lip curls up slightly, curious of what the young girl came up with, and the Seeker decides - warily - to listen to what is probably an earful. Varric raises an eyebrow when Subira blushes bashfully and rubs her neck.
“It... hm, slips my mind... no translation in the common tongue. Just a string of phrases in Antivan, really...”
“Hey, give me some credit, kid! I know some Antivan from an old friend of mine, and I heard...” the dwarf scratches his beard. “Something in there about a child? I think. You were talking pretty fast.”
“I may... have called him a dirty, unloved child.”
It’s silent for a moment before Varric laughs loudly. “Oh, Rivaini would love you.”
Solas hums. “That translates similarly to an elvhen phrase... ‘len-‘“
“Len’alas lath’din,” She says without missing a beat, surprising Solas. “I know bits and pieces of a few languages. Things you pick up from traveling.”
The Seeker sputters at the entire idea. “You... That’s completely disrespectful,” and then, after a moment of thought, she murmurs, “Even if he’s earned it. Chancellor Roderick is a thorn in everyone’s side.”
Varric is quick to play mediator. “Ah, lighten up Seeker-“
Subira rolls her eyes, interrupting whatever Varric is about to say. “It’s not like he understood me,” she sticks out her lower lip, pouting. “Plus, does it matter? I’ll likely be dead by the time the sun sets.”
“Don’t talk like that, Spitfire,” Varric claps a hand onto her shoulder as best as he can for only coming up to her mid-waist. “Have faith. We’ve got your back.”
She nods, but doesn’t feel anything behind it. These people aren’t her friends! What does she do if she survives? What do they do if she survives?
These people are not her friends. They may not be her enemies, but nothing good can come from her being here any longer than she absolutely needs to be. Soon she can return to the nearest safe area and find Castelleta and the others and they’ll all be okay and back on the road.
That’s what she keeps telling herself, anyway. She’s now surrounded by adults who are in charge and she’s just the child who follows orders. The child who they’re accusing of mass murder and a heretical crime against the Chantry and need her to stop this before it goes any further.
It’s so much different than being the one in charge when they’re on the road and she’s never felt more like a... well, a child.
Her thoughts spiral out of control as they fight their way through the tunnel pass up until they close the rift. The smell of Rivain and the sound of seagulls calling her closer greets her, pulling her in and as she pulls the tear shut the sounds of the harbors of her home country try and lure her. Once again, in the middle of it all, something distinctly wrong and burnt is tangible and she feels her nausea building.
The wave of pulsing energy from the fade forces her to her knees and she groans, stifling the scream that nearly makes its way out of her. Bile builds in her throat and her eyes are burning before she realizes it, retching into the powder white snow.
Her body shakes with the effort to expel whatever is left (meagre as it is) in her stomach, and when it’s done is when she realizes someone is holding her hair. Subira doesn’t get a chance to see who, as they pull away. Shakily she makes it to her feet.
“Thank the Maker you got here in time, Seeker.” One of the scouts says.
“I did not close the rift, Lieutenant. Nor was it my idea to search the mountain pass. You can accredit that to the girl.”
Eyes turn to Subira and she suddenly shrinks back, raising a hand sheepishly. “Hello?”
With a roll of her eyes, the Seeker begins to talk logistics with the soldier - who she now knows is a Lieutenant - ignoring the trio off to the side. Subira stretches and begins walking.
“Spitfire! We can wait a bit, it’s alright!” Varric calls after her.
“It can’t wait,” she says curtly, turning her head just barely. Her body is tense and ready to flee. “This ends.”
Either I die with it or it closes. But this ends, that I promise.
She begins walking long before the rest of them, waiting for them to catch up at a tree up ahead. No one attempts conversation as they make their way to the remains of the Temple.
She doesn’t hear their footsteps halt behind her as she takes the first tentative step towards the destruction. The sound of sucking in a harsh breath reaches her ears - she realizes it was her, her lungs suddenly feel like they can’t get enough air, as if it’s being pulled from her chest - and she clutches at her hair, desperate for anything to hold on to.
The image of a kneeling, burned corpse won’t leave her head even when she blinks and she turns, breaths coming short. Her eyes burn from smoke and ash and tears and the wind carries the prayers unanswered of the Holy who burn for their Maker.
Varric looks at the Seeker pointedly, gesturing to the clearly overwhelmed girl. Despite the concern etched into the warriors features, the Seeker stares back at him, gesticulating wildly to say ‘what am I supposed to do?’
The dwarf crosses his arms impatiently, once again gesturing to the girl. Seeker Pentaghast sighs.
Strong, gauntleted hands cover Subira’s arms. “Come,” the Seeker says softly. “Do not look.” The older woman orders it, but not unkindly.
She’s steered through the smoldering remains of the Temple, eyes glued downward. Electricity races up her arm and pinches at her spine as she draws nearer to the source and she gasped quietly, stiffening and relaxing. She clenches her fist and tries to control the tremors; everything is crumbling, dead, destroyed...
“Seeker,” Varric calls out. “Is this-“
“Red lyrium,” The teenager breathes, eyes lighting up with horror and fascination. “What is that doing here?”
“You know of it?” The Seeker eyes her.
Cautious eyes dart back and forth. “A bit.” She looks at Solas.
The dwarf continues to stare at the red mineral. “I see it, Varric,” The Seeker says exasperatedly.
“But what is it doing here?”
Solas hums and rubs his chin. “Magic could have drawn on lyrium beneath the temple, corrupted it…”
“That wouldn’t make much sense though, would it?” The three heads turn to Subira, and she blushes under their stares.
“I mean, how would lyrium - regardless of how far the explosion reached - be corrupted by magic? Lyrium is magic,” she stares at the fascinating mineral with wide eyes.
For a moment she contemplates touching it just to see if it’s as hot as it seems but her common sense overrides that decision.
“I do not know, but we will deal with it when the time comes,” Cassandra decides.
After much grumbling from Varric, the group moves on and quickly find themselves greeted by Leliana.
“Leliana! Thank the Maker you’re safe.”
Seeker Pentaghast is relieved to see her friend out of harm's way. Subira rolls her eyes, ready to either die or get out of here.
“We close this once and for all. Let’s go.”
“Before that,” the Orlesian lilt reaches out to her, reminding her so much of her wayward friend. “Is there anyone who we should reach out to in the case of...”
“No,” Subira looks up at the Breach, it’s chaotic whirls reflected in her green eyes. “It’s always just been me.”
She shrugs and cracks her knuckles, trying to conceal the electricity that races through them. Her mana is unstable with no way to release it and the build up of another magical energy source inside her.
Without another word Subira jumps down, thinking that behind her she can hear the worried voice of Varric call out to her, accompanied by a “Be careful!” from the Seeker. Quickly the adults make haste to follow her and get into position.
“Keep the Sacrifice still.”
The deep voice rocks her to her core, like she’s heard it before. Her skin tingles unpleasantly.
The Divine! And those soldiers restraining her - Templars, maybe? The armor isn’t right...
“Most Holy?!” Hearing her own voice startles her. “Hold on, I’ll get help-“
“We have an intruder. Slay the halfling.”
The memory fades out in a billowy echo, the shadow of a man dissipating into mist.
“You were there! Most Holy called out to you for help! What happened?!” Seeker Pentaghast steps into her space angrily and Subira steps forward to meet her, just as angry.
“I told you, I don’t know! The fade must be bleeding into this place...” Subira murmurs, turning to look at the Breach.
Solas forms his response carefully. “Yes,” he says finally. “She would be correct. Memories from what occured bleed into this world. I believe, if you use the mark, you can reopen the Breach and seal it correctly.”
They share a look. “That means attracting attention, Solas.”
Seeker Pentaghast frowns. “Attention?”
Subira sighs, rubbing the side of her face. “Demons, Seeker Pentaghast. Reopening something like this will attract all manner of spirits who are curious, however when interacting with the intent of humans and the remains of this place...” she trails off.
Solas picks up where she left off, “Those spirits would lose their way. She is correct.”
The Seeker looks ready to question her, but she turns away from seeking eyes.
“Stand ready!” She calls, far louder and far more commanding than she feels.
Reaching out and grasping for the Breach, she cries out when it takes a hold of her. Seeker Pentaghast takes a step towards the girl but Solas holds out his arm, shaking his head.
The smell of summer peaches and a sweet perfume flood the air. Subira’s eyes are half-lidded, arm shaking as the first connection with the Breach is formed. A bead of sweat forms on her forehead. The Seeker looks at Solas expectantly.
“The Fade draws strongly on her, it seems,” his brow is drawn into a furrowed line. The Seeker looks between the two of them. “Her memories and feelings are being drawn to the forefront. Most likely, if I had to guess, the last most influential emotions before the Breach.”
Her words are a little less than mumbled breaths and frantic as the connection continues. “Crows, running...” her arm continues to shake, hand curling into a fist so tight it must be uncomfortable, and sweat shines on her face and neck.
“Castelleta, I’ll find you, I’ll make this right...”
The smell of salt water and the sound of waves crashing onto some faraway shore hits their ears suddenly and most flinch reflexively, though nothing comes of it. The waves crash and thunder rumbles distantly.
Suddenly her body lights up green and she pushes back, forcing the energy from her body. Solas and the Seeker wince, briefly covering their eyes.
The Breach expands in a burst of light and for a moment, nothing happens. The young girl kneels on the ground, winded. It’s only for a moment before she jumps to her feet.
“Back up!” She yells. “NOW!”
A pride demon forces its way through the tear, the laugh it lets out grinding against her ears. She has only encountered them while dreaming, never in the material world. The sheer size of it makes the ground shake and crumble beneath its feet and her knees clack together when she stumbles back.
Her body shakes from the exertion of harboring so much energy in her body and her skin feels as if it’s buzzing. Drawing her blades, she imbues as much magic as she dares into her strikes, parries and slashes.
Unfortunately, the demon has drawn upon the chaos and is incredibly strong, even with the amount of focus on it. Her motions become repetitive and the demon still does not fall. Her arms and legs feel exhausted.
With a stroke of ingenious, she runs towards where the mark has been pulling her: the giant tear in the sky.
“Kid!” Varric shouts, barely able to turn from his targets for the risk of being overrun. “What are you doing?!”
“Trust me!” She shouts back at him and swallows, because she doesn’t even trust herself. She’s putting her already limited faith into some mark of strange magical origin.
Facing the Breach, she thrusts her hand into it and doesn’t allow it access this time. Instead she pulls, and pulls, and pulls until something gives into her-
With a resounding ‘pop’, the Breach crackles and spits green fire, weakening the demon and the lesser ones surrounding it.
“Hit it with everyth-“ She coughs, spitting up blood. “Hit it with everything you’ve got!” She shouts hoarsely.
Swaying to her feet, she rejoins the fight. She takes out a demon creeping up on the Seeker clumsily, pausing to catch her breath. The Seeker cries out to warn her, but it wouldn’t have been fast enough anyway.
Unable to avoid it, a large hand smacks her into a wall, and she falls to the ground. She feels, rather than hears, what would be the sickening crunch of bone over the blood rushing in her ears.
No... Castelleta... find them... her... dying here...
The first person to reach her was Leliana, kneeling next to the mumbling girl with a fair amount of concern. Though the Seeker cannot leave the battle for too long, she rushes over next, placing her sword in the ground and sliding to her knees, taking the girl’s head in her lap. Leliana brushes a surprisingly gentle hand over the girls forehead who, instead of leaning into the touch, flinches away.
“No,” she mumbled weakly. “Don’t...”
Cassandra looks helplessly into her colleagues face. She needs to get back to the fighting, and she has little skill in the way of comforting children. Leliana allows herself to be gentle and goes to reassure the girl.
“Oh, dear girl, I’m not here to hurt you...” she cooed.
The girl seems to come to life with the sound of her voice and Leliana can’t help but feel her heart break a little bit.
“Cas...” Her voice is weak and wheezy.
Leliana freezes. She has a split second decision to make. These could be the last breaths this girl takes.
“Yes, my friend. How are you feeling?”
The crumpled girl on the ground laughs, blood bubbling up on her teeth. “Like shit, Cas,” she spits the blood off to the side. “Worse than when the Crows...” She trails off. Her eyes flutter open and shut.
Leliana furrows her brow, sharing a look with Cassandra. Interesting.
She tries to keep her voice low and light. “How would you like it if I sang for you?”
The young girl below her eyes close but nods, face peaceful. Leliana nods at Cassandra and gently they pass her between them, cradling the girl’s head in her lap as the Seeker returns to the fight. The child seems oblivious to the fighting going on around her, resting her head on Leliana’s leathered legs. Leliana picks a well known Orlesian lullaby and takes a deep breath.
By the time she’s finished her song, the apostate - Solas? Leliana cannot summon his name at the moment - hurries over with a healing potion and a brush of magic over her ribs. The girl moves slowly, jolting at her apparent consciousness. It’s minutes of fighting, screaming and crackling from the battle surrounding the Breach before she’s able to move.
Subira barely sits up, looking left and right, hiding the flash of disappointment when all she sees is Leliana. “W... what happened?”
Solas looks behind him, seeing the Seeker deal the killing blow to the pride demon. “You were incapacitated, but the demon is down. We must seal it now.”
The girl nods, wincing as she forces herself to her feet and declining both the mages help and Sister Leliana’s. Approaching the Breach, she feels the energy begin to prod at her. She looks up at the horrible green rip in the veil.
“I’m sorry, Cas.” She whispers up at the Breach, like it can tell Castelleta the words she cannot.
The last thing she remembers is her own screaming and blood in her mouth as she attempts to close it.
So Subira was raised in Antiva from a young age, but was born in Rivain and is Riviani. (important to make the distinction) She can read - this is explained later - but knows how to navigate the world based on her experiences and taught herself many of the skills she has acquired. But I digress - I will frequently combine very poor Italian and Spanish to make up for the lack of actual Antivan because it's definitely a mix of cultures. I chose a different language for Rivaini (though she doesn't speak it often) based on another fic writer who chose Igbo.
Translations or Contextual Things:
puttana - whore, bitch
puttana di fierro - hey, iron whore!
chei - fuck!
Bambino sucio nadie ama - dirty unloved child *sound familiar?
len'alas lathdin - dirty, unloved child *but in elvhen
Chapter 2: Girded in Lyrium and Silverite
Subira reminisces with an unexpected ally and tries to come to terms with being thrust into the spotlight.
Waking up not in the darkest pits of the Void or in chains surprises her, but then again she’s been surprised a lot lately.
She groans at how sore her ribs are, but realizes it could be worse, running a heavy hand over her ribs. A flash of green and the soreness minimizes, causing a sigh of relief.
Moments later, an elf servant drops a box - when did she even come in here? - and dropped to her knees.
“Woah, woah, slow down,” Subira says, bewildered. “What are you doing?”
The servant doesn’t meet her eyes. “They say - say you are our hero, my Lady-“
Subira‘s mouth forms an ‘O’ shape. She’s never been a ‘Lady’ of anything.
“-not woken in three days, we’ve anticipated your recovery...” the elvhen girls voice shakes with how fast she speaks.
“Oh, alright,” Subira says with a shaky voice. “So... there isn’t a mob out there ready for my blood?”
The servant gasps. “Maker forbid, no! You stopped the Heaven’s from splitting further. They - they call you the Herald! They say Andraste has blessed you herself!”
The servant’s eyes have lit up with hero worship and it makes Subira’s stomach uneasy. Unfortunately it shows on her face and the girl interprets it as dissatisfaction with her.
“The - the Seeker is in the Chantry. She said she wants to see you at once! At - at once, she said!”
Subira raises a hand in an attempt to keep the her there for a moment longer, but the servant is already retreating from the cabin. Somewhere in the mess of words she thought she heard ‘Herald’ but shrugs it off and chalks it up to the elf being nervous.
After returning all of her possessions - noting that she feels like there’s something missing, but cannot fathom what that would be - to her person and redressing, she presses her ear to the door.
All of these people want a glimpse at her and it’s unnerving. Her skin starts feeling too tight for her body and she backs up, looking for a way out. She opens the window to her right and creeps out, landing on the ground silently.
She turns to look at the woods. No one can see her from here. She could take off right now and never be seen again, find Castelleta, maybe cut off her hand...
“Going somewhere, are you?” A familiar Orlesian voice sounds out behind her and she jumps, spinning around to face the woman smirking underneath her cowl.
Subira pins her with a scowl. “No, I... just didn’t want to deal with the crowd out front,” she half-lies, focusing on the Left Hands cheek and not her eyes. “I could hear them through the door.”
The woman nods, seemingly chewing this over. “So, you aren’t considering running into those woods right now and finding someone named... what was it...” she smiles coyly. “Cas?”
Her eyes widen and for a moment, just like that day in the dungeon, they appear alight. It’s gone before Leliana can inspect further, just as before, and Subira is storming towards the older woman.
“How do you know that name?”
The woman only raises a brow. Quietly, she replies, “You said it while you were injured. And while we treated you after the Breach... you said many things.”
Subira turns and takes a deep breath, forcing herself to relax. “Fine, yes! I was thinking about running. Can you blame me?”
“Not at all, actually.”
Subira seems to be cut-short. “I - what?”
“I don’t blame you at all for wanting to run. Come, sit with me. I shall tell you a story,” the older woman lays a blanket on the ground and sits on it cross legged, patting the space next to her with a wink. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite.”
“I do,” she serves back, still not trusting any of the people she’s being forced to cooperate with.
She sits down on the blanket as far from the older woman as she can.
“I believe we are not so different, you and I,” Sister Nightingale says dramatically. “I’ve known many who were running just like you.”
Subira’s eyes widen. “I - I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
When the girl says nothing else, the other woman takes it as a sign to begin.
The red haired woman takes a breath. “Once, a young woman was a romantic. Oh, how passionate she was! In love with windswept hair and being carried up stairs, singing on balconies! The places she wanted to go!
“But she was the daughter of a servant, taken in and raised by a kind noble woman. Ah, no one noticed a dancing servant. Until someone did.”
Her tone drops in suspense. “Oh, a seductress of a woman, she was. She took this young woman under her wing, told her she had the potential for great things. This woman taught her the art of being a bard. Do you know what a bard does?”
Subira debates on how to answer. “I know what they really do.”
Blue eyes inspect her for a moment. “Hm,” she settles on. “Oh, the dances they danced, the music they sang, the crowds who loved the Mistress’ Nightingale! This Mistress taught her how to wield a dagger between the ribs, to brew the most deadly poisons. The young woman fell in love with the Bard Mistress, and her Mistress with her. Or... so she thought.
“The young woman was on an assignment for her Mistress. ‘Do not open it’, she said - for the first time in a very long time was she instructed not to open an assignment. Upon inspection, it seems her instincts were correct; her lover was selling Orlesian secrets to other countries.”
“That’s treason, isn’t it?” Subira asks quietly.
Their legs are touching now - when did she move closer? She doesn’t even care about the stupid story... though she doesn’t move away. For convenience, she tells herself.
The Left Hand nods with a grim look on her face. “Indeed, it is. And so the young woman went to her lover, begged her to cease her activities. She feared for her Lover’s life, of course. If they caught her, she’d be executed or tortured. Her Mistress told her she’d burn the papers come morning.”
“But she didn’t, did she?” Subira stares at the snowy ground.
“No, she didn’t. Her Mistress framed the young woman, forging the papers to seem as if it were her lover who sold the secrets of the Empire. She was taken from Orlais to where she was tortured, until a kind Revered Mother snuck her out and provided safe haven in Valence. She hid, soon traveling to the chantry in Lothering to serve as a Lay Sister for a long time. The young woman lived in fear. She never wanted to see her ex-lover again.”
“It wasn’t the last the... woman saw of her though, right? She came back.” Subira digs her toe into the snow, looking at Leliana intently.
There’s a pause. “Yes,” followed by an intake of breath. “The Mistress became obsessed. She became convinced that her former student was plotting retaliation, when all she wanted was to get away.”
“The story is sad, Sister,” The younger of the two starts. “But why share it with me?”
“I told you because you want to run, to get away. You’re scared. I understand,” the woman reaches out to tuck a stray piece of hair behind the teenagers ear but the girl flinches, and she retracts her hand. “we can only protect you if you’re here. If you run, if you’re on the road, we cannot keep you safe.”
“I don’t need anyone to keep me safe,” she says hotly. “I’ve done just fine on my own.”
“I’m not saying you do,” the older woman soothes. “But times are strained. It may be in your best interests to stay. After all, I was taught best. If you run,” she stands up. “There is nowhere you can go that I wouldn’t find you.”
“You can try, puttana-!”
The insult is out of her mouth before her tongue catches up with her brain and immediately she steels herself for a hit.
“Do you truly expect me to strike you?” The voice isn’t angry. Inquisitive, more like.
“You are an unknown. I trust but one person with my life and I do not even know where she is. So, Left Hand, that question is not for me to answer, but for you.” Subira makes her way to her feet, wincing with her bruised side. “After all, I would not know either way. Is there someone beyond your mask?”
Leliana feels her eyes widen slightly in surprise, and then narrow. Subira smirks.
“By the way, that painting you keep? Of the birds? Gorgeous work.”
The former lay sister is momentarily stunned. Then, she feels a tug on her tunic and looks down. When she looks back up, the child is gone.
Amused and intrigued, she murmurs, “Damn.”
Subira approaches the door hesitantly. They’re arguing - she can hear it. She should just turn around and run away. These people don’t truly need her to do... whatever they plan on doing here, anyway.
Despite the fear creeping up her spine, she inches closer. The voices beyond the door begin to travel with more clarity as she gets within opening distance.
“Have you gone completely mad? She should be taken to Val Royeaux immediately, to be tried by whomever becomes Divine.”
A deeply accented voice disagrees with him. “I do not believe the child is guilty, Chancellor.”
Seeker Pentaghast is... defending her?
She can hear a sneer in his voice when he speaks now. “The prisoner failed, Seeker. The Breach is still in the sky. For all you know, she intended it this way.”
The Seeker makes an annoyed noise, muffled through the door. “I do not believe that is true.”
“That is not for you to decide! Your duty is to serve the Chantry!”
All Subira hears is ‘your duty is to listen to me’. It appears Seeker Pentaghast hears similarly, because she replies as though her patience is running thin.
(Idly, she wonders why someone like the Seeker even has to take orders from him, but decides to think more about Chantry intricacies and politics later.)
“My duty,” a pause, probably the Seeker trying not to strangle the man. “is to serve the principles on which the Chantry was founded, Chancellor. As is yours.”
Taking a deep breath, Subira decides to open the door.
Chancellor Roderick turns to her. “Chain her. I want her to be prepared for travel immediately!”
Two Templars take her arms and she tenses, opening her mouth to tell them in no uncertain terms that no, thank you, she will not be going with them - but someone comes to her rescue.
“Disregard that, and leave us!” Seeker Pentaghast orders.
The Templars release her, salute in unison and shut the door on their way out. Subira brushes herself off with a nervous shudder before placing herself in the shadowy part of the room.
“You walk a dangerous line, Seeker!”
The Seeker glares. “The Breach is stable, but still a threat. I will not ignore it.”
“Let me guess... you need my help,” Subira says warily.
Chancellor Roderick turns on her. “Don’t think I have forgotten you! You have done plenty. Your actions will be taken into account by the new Divine.”
She backs up subconsciously, noting that both the other women in the room take protective steps towards where she and Roderick face off.
That could be useful. Then she’s startled by another thought - if she hadn’t been actively looking for anything out of the ordinary, she wouldn’t have noticed the silent woman on the other side of the table. Maker, Leliana really can be quiet. She’ll have to pay more attention for quiet, annoying Chantry women.
“Remember who our enemies are, Chancellor,” the Seeker says impatiently. “The Breach is not the only threat we face.”
Leliana finally steps forward to speak. “Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave. Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with the others - or have allies who yet live.”
The Chancellor recoiled. “I am a suspect?!
Leliana doesn’t change, calm and unwavering as ever. “You, and many others. We want answers just as much as you do, Chancellor.”
He seems to not hear her. “But not the prisoner!?”
“I heard the voices at the Temple. Most Holy called out to her for help,” The Seeker defends.
Subira decides staying quiet for this argument is the most wise decision.
“So her survival, the mark on her hand - all a coincidence?”
The mark, as if knowing it was being mentioned, sparks to life vaguely. Enough to create pinpricks of heat in her hand and she clenched her jaw, pressing her hand into her tunic.
“Not coincidence,” the Seeker corrects, “providence. The Maker sent her to us at our darkest time.”
Subira stares at her like she’s grown two heads and her previous decision of staying quiet is thrown out the window.
“So, what?” She crosses her arms. “Five minutes ago you want me dead, but now that the mark is convenient for you I’m allowed to live? Now I’m your savior?”
Both the Seeker and Leliana stifle a sigh. They’d known that wouldn’t go over well, but had hoped they could prevent it for a little while longer. Unfortunately not.
“The Breach remains,” Leliana reminds softly. “And the mark is the only means of closing it.”
Subira stares before huffing and backing off.
“That is not for you to decide,” Chancellor Roderick hisses in reply.
His angry noises have gotten more guttural, she’s noticed. Perhaps he needs to sleep. Or cough. Maybe both?
In her musing she failed to notice that the Seeker was about to slam a tome onto the table until she did, startling her.
“You know what this is, Chancellor? A writ from the Divine, granting us authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn!”
Continuing with her momentum, she storms into Chancellor Roderick’s personal space. “We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible, and we will restore order with or without your approval!” She pokes him in the chest for emphasis.
Chancellor Roderick snorts with disgust and rushes out of the room.
She eyes the book on the table with as much distrust as she does the woman who had placed it there.
Leliana shakes her head, unaware of or willfully ignoring the girls growing suspicion.
“This is the Divine’s directive: Rebuild the Inquisition of Old. Find those who can stand against the chaos,” she rubs her temples. “We aren’t ready. We have no leader, no numbers, and now no Chantry support.”
The Seeker turns to Subira. “We need you to join us.”
“Me?” Subira laughs incredulously. “I am a child thrust into the middle of a holy war.”
The redhead gives Subira a long, measured look. “Remember our... talk.”
Subira smiles until the points of her teeth are visible.
She shakes the Seeker’s hand. “I owe Varric a drink, so as long as I can leave-?”
“Hold on!” Seeker Pentaghast demands. “You are too young to drink.”
The young girl grins wryly. “No parents, no rules.”
The Seeker looks uncomfortable and opens her mouth to speak but closes it. Her counterpart steps forward.
“While you’re here, I’d say you’re considered under our care. It would be hazardous to the Inquisition’s reputation to allow you to openly drink.”
“So what are you saying? I have to listen to you all now?” She crosses her arms and raises her chin defiantly.
“Yes, that is exactly what I’m saying.”
She chuckles, earning an eyebrow raise from Leliana. “Forget it. I’ve lived my entire life without being told what to do. If it helps, I’ll water it down.”
She slips from the room faster than they can keep her and the Seeker sighs. “This is going to be quite the journey, isn’t it, Leliana?” Her fingers come up to rub her temples.
Leliana smiles. “Indeed, Cassandra. Look at the bright side,” she offers, patting her colleague on the shoulder. “We may be able to parent that child yet!”
Cassandra only groans to the sound of Leliana’s laughter.
Subira plops down next to Varric without a word, startling him.
“Makers balls, Spitfire! Warn me next time.”
“It’s more fun that way,” she shrugs. “Didn’t I owe you a drink?”
“I’m pretty sure that the Seeker will have my head if I allow you to drink.” Subira just looks at him with an eyebrow raised.
Varric raises his hands in surrender. “Alright, alright! Don’t stare at me like that, kid. It’s unnerving.”
After ambling off, a few minutes later he returns successful: with a mug of more-ale-than-water for himself, and a mug of more-water-than-ale for her. She doesn’t complain and drinks quietly.
“What’s your name, anyway?”
She hesitates. She has not used this name in many months. “Anita.”
“Anita.” He nods. “Pleased to meet you, Anita. Now that the Seeker is out of earshot... how are you doing?”
The girl frowns around her mug, staring into the fire. “What do you mean?”
“Most people don’t go from being no one to the most wanted person in Thedas to the ‘Herald of Andraste’ in one day.”
“They’re calling me what? I thought that elf had just lost it,” she mutters.
“Oh, you... hadn’t heard about that yet?” Varric rubs the back of his neck.
“No,” She grits her teeth. “Not really. But it’s... fine. I guess. And I’m fine. This is nothing.”
Varric whistles. “You have balls to make it this far, kid.”
“Or dumb luck,” she suggests with a shrug.
“Or that,” he agrees, raising his mug to toast her.
She eyes him before rolling her eyes and smiling slightly, toasting his mug and taking a drink.
“I just wish I was back on the road,” she says. “I miss seeing the stars every night. Though, I don’t miss the bears. Or the thugs. Or the cold. Actually, maybe I don’t wish I was back on the road so much.”
“You been... uh, alone, your entire life?” Varric asks.
“Yes,” she says, looking down. “My mother had me while living in Rivain, I was told. She brought me to an Antivan orphanage when I was really young for one reason or another and vanished.”
Varric contemplates this, sipping his ale. She shrugs.
“It’s never bothered me. I mean, anyone who didn’t stick around isn’t worth my time, right? I don’t remember any of it, anyway.”
She stares distantly into her cup. Her life swirls in the contents, distorted and unclear.
“Is that why you speak more Antivan than Rivaini?”
She nods, still not looking at him. “I’ve spent most of my life in Antiva. I can speak Rivaini just fine, but...”
“Antiva is home,” he offers, taking a deep drink.
She nods again.
“Maybe storytime can happen another night,” she says suddenly.
“Yeah, yeah of course, Spitfire. I’m always here. Come see me whenever,” he says with an easy smile.
She returns it half heartedly, handing him the mug and standing, walking towards the Apothecary. Outside of the cabin at the far end of the path, boxes are piled on top of each other and there sits Solas, quietly observing the night sky.
“Ah, the Chosen of Andraste: a blessed hero sent to save us all,” he quips, turning to look at her before returning his attention above them.
“Oh? Am I riding in on a shining steed, too?” She mock-pouts.
“I would have suggested a griffon, but sadly, they’re extinct. Joke as you will, but posturing is necessary,” Solas, ever the pragmatic.
“Oh? Is it? I don’t remember ever signing up to be a Holy symbol, so I wouldn’t know,” she says in irritation.
Solas smiles in a way that fits his namesake. “Indeed, young one, it is. I’ve journeyed deep into the Fade in ancient ruins and battlefields to see the dreams of lost civilizations. Every great war has its heroes. I’m just curious as to what kind you’ll be.”
“These wars and heroes of civilizations are ages past. I have seen as you have seen,” His eyebrows raise. “Why assume I’ll be a hero at all, Master Solas?”
Solas chuckles not... warmly, but maybe something close to it.
“Solas is fine, young one. And because, it is decided for you. The makings of a hero are yet on their way,” he smiles gently, eyes sad. “And unfortunately, heroism doesn’t always mean what we want it to mean. Remember that.”
Subira smiles tightly and they exchange farewells, promising to see each other tomorrow when they set off. She leaves him to his stargazing, thinking hard about what Solas said.
She weaves through the paths of Haven until she’s out in the woods, on a dock overlooking a frozen lake. The moons shine brightly overhead and the wind blows through the trees with a soft whistling. She didn’t hear the soft, but barely noticeable crunching of snow behind her.
“Would Andraste save me if I threw myself into this river?” She challenges, looking up at the sky. “What would the world do without their unwilling hero once again?”
She lets her legs dangle and places her elbows on her knees, palms holding her face up. She feels the overwhelmed tears well up in her eyes and sniffles.
“I suppose, then, that I would have to dive in after you and pray you survive.”
The deep Nevarran voice startles her nearly off of the dock and she breathes heavily, wiping her eyes without turning.
Warily, she asks, “I didn’t hear you approach, Seeker. Am I needed in Haven?”
Cassandra attempts to stand non-imposingly in case she turns around. “No, I simply saw you leave and wished to ensure your safety.”
The young girl scowls, standing, “You should return to Haven. I can protect myself.”
The Nevarran snorts outright and Subira glares, “What?”
“You are standing before a frozen lake, challenging the Maker’s bride in a test of fate.” She deadpans.
“I can protect myself from things that matter,” she mutters, turning back to the lake.
The older woman behind her frowns. “That does matter. Do you know what would happen-“
“I know what would happen!” She explodes. “The fate of Thedas is resting on my shoulders and I don’t want it! I didn’t ask for any of this! I have people looking to me for answers when all they’re going to find is a damn screw up!”
She stomps her foot and the ice below the dock cracks. It might not have been the most mature decision, but damn did it feel good.
The Seekers face remains impassive, but her sympathy is clear in her eyes. Cassandra walks forward and goes to put her hand on the teenagers shoulder.
“Having responsibility is frightening-“
“It isn’t responsibility I’m scared of,” she snarls. Turning to face the Seeker and displacing her hand in the process, “I took care of us on the road. Me! I tempted guards into the night and I shed their blood. I took their money and I fed us when we were hungry!”
The Seeker frowns. “I do not blame you. This is all new and frightening. Having so many depend on you is not comforting. That is why I came to tell you that they are not depending on you,” she crouches, placing her hand on her shoulder. “They are depending on us. So long as you are here, we are all going to work together. It will not be just you.”
Subira looks away and takes a deep breath. “Alright.”
The Seeker nods once before turning to leave.
Cassandra turns. “Yes?”
“Anita. Call me Anita.”
“Very well, Anita. It is getting late, I suggest retiring before it is too cold.” She walks away into the warm light of Haven, her tall silhouette disappearing.
“Why do I not feel better?” She asks the sky.
The sky does not answer. Subira returns to her cabin and stares at the ceiling until a fitful rest takes her.
puttana - whore, bitch
Chapter 3: From the Height of Heaven they Plunged
Subira has some traveling time with her new companions and learns that she really dislikes being close to people. Absolutely.
And that she needs to sleep more.
The next day, Subira finds herself walking side by side with Seeker Pentaghast in the Chantry after an early rise with certain apostate.
He went over many things with her but she mostly tuned him out. The mark stings in her hand and shoulder and she lifts her hand to inspect it idly as they walk.
“Does it trouble you?”
The question snaps her out of her trance and she makes a fist, returning it to her side. “No, it doesn’t.”
Cassandra eyes her suspiciously. “...That’s a relief,” the older woman settles on. “Solas said-“
“I know,” Subira interjects, not unkindly. “Solas and I had tea early this morning. He and I discussed the mark and what we need to do.”
“Ah. I see.”
“Though, I wonder what harm there could be, powering up something we barely understand?”
“Hold on to that sense of humor, Anita. I’m sure you’ll need it in the months to come.” They’ve reached the door now.
“I’m sure I will,” Subira mutters.
Cassandra clears her throat when they enter the room. “May I present Commander Cullen, Leader of the Inquisitions Forces.”
A man with curly blonde hair and a fluffy mantle stands before them, eyes red-rimmed like the rest of them; an indication of many nights of no rest. She assumes he’s supposed to look charming, but then his mantle moves and her eyes widen at the Templar insignia plastered on his breastplate.
Anita barely holds back the snarl. “Charmed,” she smiles, all teeth.
“This,” Cassandra hurries to move on. “is Lady Josephine Montilyet, our Ambassador and Chief Diplomat.”
She is an Antivan woman, with black hair in a neat bun and deep brown skin; a lovely bronze accentuated by the gold in her outfit.
Montilyet... yes, she knows that family. She’ll have to be careful around her.
Anita, to the surprise of Cassandra, curtsies and tips her head in greeting. “Pleasure to meet you, Lady Montilyet.”
The Antivan woman’s eyes light up at the proper greeting.
“And of course, you’ve met Sister Leliana,” Seeker Pentaghast says.
“My position here requires a bit...”
“Based on the hood, dark demeanor and inability to smile, I have to guess... you’re the Spymaster, right?” Anita raises a daring eyebrow.
They all exchange glances. “Tactfully put. Yes, I am.”
Cassandra clears her throat. “I introduce to you, Anita.”
“This is an impressive bunch of titles. All for little old me?” Anita bats her eyelashes.
Leliana rolls her eyes while Lady Montilyet laughs. “To the matter at hand?”
“Yes, right. We’ve all discussed that your mark needs more power to close the Breach,” The Seeker starts.
Leliana steps in, “Which means we must approach the rebel mages for help.”
She shrugs. Seems like an okay course of action to her.
But of course, that dumb Templar has to open his dumb Templar mouth.
“And I still disagree! The Templars could serve just as well.”
The snort makes its way out of Anita’s mouth before she can stop it.
Without breaking her thought, eyeing the teenager, the Seeker continues. “We need power, Commander. Enough magic poured into that Breach-“
“-Might destroy us all! The Templars could suppress the Breach-“
“That’s pure speculation, Commander.” Leliana reminds calmly.
Anita holds up a hand. “Hold on,” she says directly to Commander Cullen in an incredulous tone. “Are you serious?”
“Excuse me?” The Commander sputters.
“I mean, you have to be horribly misinformed to not know what you’re talking about so grossly,” she says. “If you attempt to suppress a source of magic that big, it’d be catastrophic. No doubt even larger than the last explosion that was caused.”
“How - Why is she-?”
Anita laughs. “Anyway, if you want my opinion, and you’re going to get it anyway because of,” she waves her marked hand around. “This, then I want to go to the rebel mages. I won’t be stepping one foot near the Templars.”
“Unfortunately,” Lady Montilyet intervenes, “Neither group will speak with us yet. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition. You, specifically.”
“Have they forgotten that there is more to be worried about?” She scratches her head absentmindedly. “That didn’t take long.”
The Commander groans. “Shouldn’t they be arguing over who’s going to become the next Divine and not the teenager?”
“Some are calling you - a child, especially one that does not hail from the South - The Herald of Andraste. That frightens them.”
“I heard about that. All I have to say is: what the-“
“Anita, do not finish that sentence.” Seeker Pentaghast warns.
Cassandra nods and before Lady Montilyet can continue speaking, she takes a deep breath and says instead:
“Kedu ụdị iberibe?”
It’s quiet. None of them know Rivaini, and so the only way to translate what she said is by way of tone.
Based on the way she spat the words out, it wasn’t anything pleasant.
Tentatively, Lady Josephine continues. “The remaining clerics are calling it blasphemy, and us heretics for harboring you.”
“Chancellor Roderick’s doing, no doubt,” Seeker Pentaghast says with disgust.
“It limits our options. Approaching either group for help is currently out of the question.”
“Not necessarily,” Anita says thoughtfully, drawing the attention of each adult in the room. “I have... favors I can potentially call in. A discussion for another time,” she waves a hand, “about this ‘Herald of Andraste’ business?”
“People saw what you did at the Temple, how you stopped the Breach from growing-“
Anita furrows her brow, confused.
“-They have also heard of the woman who was seen behind you when you were first found. They believe that was Andraste.”
She nods, considering it. “Yeah, definitely not Andraste.”
“Even if we tried to stop that view from spreading-“
“Which we have not,” Seeker Pentaghast reminds Sister Leliana.
Blue eyes pierce green. “The point is, everyone is talking about you.”
The underlying message hits loud and clear:
Everyone is watching now.
“It’s quite the title, isn’t it? How do you feel about it?”
Anita gazes at the Commander with a bored expression.
“I’m no Herald of anything,” she shrugs. “And definitely not of Andraste. She’s never helped me.”
Commander Cullen doesn’t seem to note the hostility in her voice. “I’m sure the Chantry would agree.”
“People are desperate for a sign of hope,” Leliana points out, “For some, you are that hope.”
Lady Montilyet debates her next words. “For others, you’re a symbol of everything that’s gone wrong.”
The laugh that erupts from the young girl startles them. “Anyway,” She recovers quickly, taking a deep breath. “They aren’t concerned about the Breach?”
The Commander chuckles. “Oh, they know it’s a threat. They just don’t think we can stop it.”
Lady Montilyet adds, “The Chantry is telling everyone who will listen that you’ll make it worse.”
“However,” Leliana says. “There is something you can do. A Chantry cleric by the name of Mother Giselle has asked to speak to you. She’s not far, and knows those involved far better than I.”
“Let me guess,” Anita sighs, cracking her knuckles. “This isn’t optional and I’m heading off to go speak with her?”
“That is exactly what I’m getting at.” Leliana continues to look emotionlessly from behind her hood.
“While you’re there, look for opportunities to extend the Inquisition’s influence,” the Commander says.
“We need agents to extend our reach beyond this valley, and you’ll be able to reach them.” Lady Montilyet adds.
“In the meantime,” Cassandra interjects. “Let us look at other options. I won’t leave this all to the Herald.”
“Mhm, no,” Anita says, turning to face Cassandra.
“What? What is it?”
“The ‘Herald’ thing. You’re going to have to not call me that.”
The group set off two days later - Anita, Cassandra, Varric and the mage, Solas. The Seeker kept a close eye on the teenager, who looked over her shoulder as if on a time dial and fidgeted with the handles of the daggers hooked to her waist.
They are two days into their journey, and she hasn’t threatened Varric. Yet. Cassandra calls that diplomacy, no matter what Josephine says.
Varric snapped her out of her musings. “Um, Seeker?”
She groans. “Ugh, what, Varric?”
“The kid seems to have disappeared-“
Cassandra stops point-blank and Solas nearly walks straight into her.
Turning this way and that, indeed, it seemed that Anita had disappeared.
How long had she been gone for?!
“Well, you see, she went off a little bit ago, and she said she’d be back soon, so I figured-“
Between anger and utter confusion, she turns to tear Varric another one when there’s a rustling to their right.
“Relax, I’m right here,” the girl mutters, pushing through the brush.
Cassandra storms up to her.
“Where did you go?” She demands, looking her over for injury.
“First, kindly remove yourself from my face,” she says, hands out in front of her as if to ward the Seeker off. “Second, I was tracking something big. I believe I injured it, though I am unsure. It’s ahead, there’s a clearing.”
“And how do you know this?” The Seeker’s tone is impatient.
“I climbed a tree.”
The girl turns on her heel, simple hunting bow in hand and off in the direction of... whatever she was tracking.
“Herald... Herald!” Cassandra calls after her.
“I told you to call me Anita!” Is the echoing reply.
The teenager is already twenty paces ahead of them, not looking back. The Seeker groans and starts after her, Solas merely smiles to himself and Varric does what he does best; observes.
After all, the best history is written by the bystanders.
With the deer Subira took down, they had much left over to munch on the third morning and third night. It ran out quickly when shared with the rest of the Inquisition Scouts who met up with them, but more scouts meant more hunting anyway.
That was on the third night. Now, it was the sixth night, going onto the seventh day. Subira was wide awake. She had mapped out every inch of the camp; escape routes, choke points, blind spots, everything.
Always with a cautious hand on the hilt of her daggers as she prowled. The Inquisition Scouts who were on guard were slightly unnerved by the way she stalked around camp, but because of the nature of her position they said nothing.
By the time the sun rose over the horizon she had bitten her lip in thought enough to draw blood, smeared slightly onto her chin during her long night.
Subira wondered, leaning up against a tree as the pale moonlight receded and the milky dawn began to rise, how her companions (if they could be called such) would react to her odd sleeping habits. Or lack thereof, rather.
She’ll admit it, she’s a bit paranoid. One too many late night bandit raids onto her camps when on the road had lead to this.
And, considering the volatile nature of the mark, it’s connection to the fade and her capability as a dream walker, she’d rather not test her luck with sleeping right now.
Being a mage means that dreams are vivid as it is, but being particularly apt in fadewalking when there’s a magical mark on your hand as a mage?
Definitely a recipe for disaster. She’ll wait it out until she has to sleep, and then she’ll navigate the fade herself. Plus, she’s fairly sure that Solas is what is referred to as a “somniari”, and Subira decided she’d really rather him not be dragged into her dreams on accident.
Though, speak of the devil and he shall appear...
“Anita,” Solas greets, startling her out of her thoughts.
He smiles with one corner of his mouth. “My apologies. I simply noticed you were awake and wondered if you would indulge me in a trek through the woods?”
She thinks on it for a second. She has nothing else to do, and maybe he’ll have good insight for her. “Sure.”
“Wait a moment, da’len. You just have a bit of...” he produces a cloth from... somewhere, and holds it out to her, pointing to her lip.
The moment she touches it she hisses. “Damn it all, that hurts.”
He chuckles. “I imagine it does. How does one split their lip in the night, I wonder?”
She sighs, wiping it and her chin clean. “When I’m nervous I bite my lip. I suppose in my worrying, I bit a little too hard.”
He hums and doesn’t reply, turning to the forest and starting forward. She follows his carefully placed footsteps. The forest is peaceful and serene this early in the morning, with no light seeping through the trees yet.
“You are resilient,” Solas says when they’re a good ways in the forest, stopping to observe the flora. “You have lived a hard life.”
She fidgets under his observations. “Haven’t we all?”
He smiles ruefully. “Yes, but not as you have,” he looks up at the trees towering above them. “I will stay.”
She raises a brow. “Was that in question?”
He laughs quietly. “I was not sure how an apostate mage would be received here.”
She frowns. “If I had to, I’d protect you.”
“Oh? And how would you do that, da’len?” He smiles.
Her eyes harden and her fingertips spark. “Through any means necessary.”
“Ah, yes. Let our minds not wander. I brought you out here because I wished to see what your... specialties are,” he holds up a finger before she can interrupt. “I have seen your skills as a rogue. I mean your other skills.”
“I...” She looks away. “I can’t practice, Solas.”
He raises a brow. “Why not? I myself am an apostate mage.”
She thinks of the people she’s protecting. “I just can’t.”
Nodding, he processes that with a hum. “It does not mean you would not benefit from my tutelage.”
“I don’t know...”
“Think on it,” he urges. He looks to the sky. “It is still dark. You could show me something of your skills.”
She shifts from foot to foot. “I... sure.”
She takes a steadying breath and closes her eyes. The sticky webbing of the Veil settles around her and she twists it, striking out with her fist. A large impact is left in the tree in front of her.
Solas looks impressed. “You showed great restraint. Why?”
“I’ve seen what I can do unrestrained,” she gives a small, uncertain smile. “I figured that was better. With all the magical energy pent up in my body...”
He nods. “You are powerful, da’len. Do not forget the magic in you.”
They make their way back and Subira has a lot to think about, contemplating Solas’ words. She returns to leaning on the tree from before, noting that the sun is peaking through the trees now.
Eventually, people started rising and beginning their day. The next guard shift rotates and she pushes off of the tree, silently removing her weapons and entering the tent she shared with the Seeker without a sound, knowing that she was working with very little time.
Having observed Seeker Pentaghast since she arrived, she knew that she rose with the sun and only went to bed when everything to be done was finished in its entirety. Her routine was always the same; rise, drills, eat, and continue.
She places the sheathed daggers at the end of her bedroll on top of her belongings, keeping only one weapon on her (or, under her pillow, but close enough to arm herself) and slipping into the bedroll as quietly as possible, feigning sleep.
As predicted, moments later Seeker Pentaghast woke up. The Seeker followed the same routine this morning as she had the others. She left moments after her morning prayer and for a long while, Subira simply laid in her bedroll thinking - until she heard Cassandra become closer again.
Hastily getting ready for the day, she throws her satchel over her shoulder and straps the knife she kept under her pillow onto her arm. Double-checking that her self-brewed poisons and healing concoctions were on her person, she sighed and left the tent, greeted with the sight of Solas in deep meditation and Varric shining his crossbow.
“Great! Everyone’s awake. We should be ready to go within a candlemark,” she calls. Varric waves a hand and she thinks she sees Solas tip his head slightly, which is good enough for her.
Kedu ụdị iberibe - what the fuck?
somniari - turns out this is Tevinter for 'dream walker' or those with affinity for fade talents etc so I’ve gotten p-p-pranked
Chapter 4: Choir of Silence
The Seeker ponders the child now under her protection. Subira and Cassandra have a disagreement.
Cassandra finds herself observing Anita far more - the endless circles under her eyes, the blank stares and dry humor to evade any topic.
She thinks somewhat fondly on her, knowing that she had accidentally adopted motherly feelings toward this child. Internally though, she felt disgruntled, as children were not a topic she ever something she looked on with fondness - far too many Pentaghast ideals fell around children and how many a woman could pop out to preserve bloodlines.
But this, also, was not something she wished to think of - if the problem was not one she could punch or stick her sword in, she found no point in putting thought into it.
She can tell Anita needs to sleep. She’s seen the little that she eats and she knows that the girl is hiding something. Whether that ‘something’ is related to the Breach or not?
The only one who could truly say is the Maker, and He doesn’t seem keen on giving any hints. Sometimes she wonders why Anita won’t speak more to them - to her - and is often disappointed when she turns over on her side in their tent but is laying awake.
It’s puzzling to say the least and this is all introspection about her relationship with a teenager! Of all frivolous things, she’s wondering what a teenager thinks of her. It’s not that she cares, per say. But being on more amicable terms with the girl certainly couldn’t hurt, what with how volatile her and Leliana’s relationship currently is. She nearly rolls her eyes just thinking about it.
She does her musing while observing the setting sun. It takes approximately ten days to set into the Hinterlands to get to the Crossroads, and so far they are on day seven. Soon they will begin their first official Inquisition Mission: Approach the Revered Mother Giselle. Idly she wonders how that may go, given Anita’s... innate ability to agitate authority figures. Or their ability to set Anita off, depending on how one looks at it.
Out of the corner of her eye she sees that Anita is standing in the middle of the stream they’re camping by. Water rises up to her knees and aside from gentle splashing when she shifts, all is still. With her eyes closed and head tipped upwards, arms spread wide, she seems to be accepting the sky itself into her. A glow settles around the teenager, soft and reverent. For a moment, Cassandra’s breath is taken away and she is reminded why they are calling her the Herald of Andraste.
The moment is over as soon as it began, because Anita’s eyes open and ever vigilant, notices her watching. The content look is replaced with a blank scowl and she gracefully - as best as one can in knee-high water - exits the stream. The girl sits in front of the small fire they’ve built and unsheathes a small, well-worn knife.
What surprises the older woman is that she takes out what looks like a half piece of widdled wood and begins gently picking at it with the knife, focusing intently.
“I did not know you carved,” Cassandra comments.
Anita’s hand slips and instead of the clean cut that was meant for the wood, the skin of her finger received it. The girl barely reacts to what must’ve hurt a lot, only cursing in Rivaini under her breath and dropping the wood onto the ground.
She replies flatly, “You do not know a great many things about me.”
The girl is all bite and scowl, fluffing up her feathers in an attempt to seem bigger even when there isn’t a threat. Her finger bleeds as she looks for something to wrap it with, becoming more frustrated and going to rip her shirt.
“Allow me?” Kneeling in front of her, Cassandra has a cloth in one hand and flask of water in the other, reaching for the bleeding finger.
Anita scowls and pulls away. “I can handle it myself, thank you.”
Cassandra sighs. “Must you bleed away in the name of your stubbornness?”
Anita concedes only slightly, turning to the older woman with a stormy expression on her face. As she begins to gently pour water on the wound, she speaks.
“It occurred to me I do not know much about you, Her - Anita.”
Anita laughs in response, startling Cassandra. Out of all responses, a laugh was not the first one (or the second, third, fourth and so on) she expected.
“I know, Seeker. It’s intentional.”
Cassandra pauses her work, looking up at the child. Her lips are pursed and she’s looking anywhere but the Seeker.
“Why is that?”
Anita looks at her incredulously.
“I am serious, I assure you. Humor me.” She returns to the act of gently cleaning her finger, trying to assess if the split flesh will need stitches or perhaps Solas’ healing if they can get it quickly enough.
The girl takes a moment before speaking in a voice Cassandra has never heard her use.
“It’s better this way. Trust me.”
The words are practically mumbled, but they’re there. Anita looks at the ground, brows furrowed.
“Is that right?"
Anita nods firmly.
“Is it better this way to protect others, or better this way to protect yourself?”
Olive green eyes fly up to her. But then she settles on something in the distance and her eyes harden, looking away again.
One hand is absentmindedly rubbing her thigh. “It protects everyone involved.”
She wraps the finger in the piece of cloth and determines that all it needs is a bit of healing. She sits next to the girl tentatively, unsure if this will go well.
“I am Cassandra Pentaghast, I have served two Divine’s in my time and I hail from Nevarra-“
Her words startle Anita out of deep thought. “What?”
“I heard you, I heard you,” she takes a deep breath. “Why?”
Cassandra allows a small one-sided smile. It tugs at the scar on her face.
“To show you that it is not always damning to be vulnerable.”
Anita is quiet. Her breaths are shallow as she stares at the ground contemplatively.
“Good evening, Seeker,” She says quietly. “Thank you for this talk. I will reflect on it.”
Cassandra counts it as a success.
Three more sleepless nights and now Subira wanders the forest in the pale light of the barely-morning rays. Far too tired to stumble into their tent and shuffle into her bedroll, she’ll simply tell the Seeker she rose early if questioned. Though she doubts she will. The most the Seeker will do is scold her for wandering off so early when no one is awake.
The Seeker. A baffling woman. Why would one so intimidating and closed off and absolutely unapproachable... approach her?
Subira can’t wrap her head around it. This woman, who has no idea who she is or what she’s done, where she’s been, who she’s been, whose she’s been - is beginning to trust her. Is beginning to like her, to have... reluctantly she’ll call it affection for her - because there is no ‘caring’ in this equation, not for her and not in the middle of an Inquisition - and she doesn’t like it. Attachment has never worked out well and the only reason Castelleta and Herah and Michalis are so stuck to her is because they refused to leave.
This idea of attachment, of forming real bonds with people and being unable to leave: It scares her.
Today, they will talk to Mother Giselle and see what there is to be done about this little Inquisition of theirs. She’s nervous -really, really nervous - because any and all Chantry Mothers she’s spoken with have all said the same thing:
“You’re not welcome here, beg somewhere else!”
“Dirty child, away from the steps!”
Or some variation of the two. Or, a third variation in which they imply she has diseases and that she comes from a whore.
No Chantry Mother has ever wanted to help her, that’s for sure. Maybe with the end of the world on their doorstep, this Mother Giselle will want to be extra cooperative.
Time to go, then.
“Coming, short stuff!”
A hearty laugh. That’s what she loves about Varric; that despite his embellishment, so much of him is hollow and fake. She sees it in the sadness in his eyes and his words, in his laughter.
In his loneliness.
They’re alike in that way. She supposes, though, that she has something alike with everyone she’s encountered so far.
But Varric? Just like Anita - crow, anonymous, one of many - isn’t her name, Varric used to be someone else too.
Seeker Pentaghast is up by the time she makes it back to their deconstructed camp, only looking mildly annoyed.
“Enjoy your morning stroll?” The scowl on her face tells Subira that that question is rhetorical.
Subira flashes her most charming smile. “Yes, quite. It’s very refreshing, Seeker. You should try it.”
The only response she gets is an annoyed noise.
Over a week into the Hinterlands for what? For a nun to tell her to go to Orlais and tell a group of people ready to run her through with pitchforks to play nice. Subira is grumpy as they leave and everyone can tell.
The only consolation is that she gets to return to the Hinterlands to help the refugees she intended to assist. Even then, she herself told the Scouts to help in any way they could, as long as it didn’t interfere with their post. She didn’t feel like incurring Leliana’s wrath.
Her caveat to returning is that she has to be careful about rebel mages and her appearance. She’s deep in thought, planning how she can help the refugees in the Crossroads and their next trip when Varric steals her attention.
“Hey, Spitfire!” Varric calls. “Be careful! There’s Templars in this area!”
Subira turns to call back that the Templars should be careful because she’s in the area, when she steps into a trap and a startled yell leaves her mouth as she darts out of the resulting fire.
The skin on her leg is blistered, sizzling and raw peeking through her leggings. Forcing back nausea she focuses on anger and draws her blades, turning towards the first sound she hears, leg faltering under her weight.
Behind her, she hears Varric shouting and Seeker Pentaghast demanding she stand down and fall back, but all she feels is anger.
Body thrumming as a conduit of magical energy, she faces her opponent head on. Vaguely she feels the cool cloaking of a barrier and the distinct signature of Solas’ magic.
The Templar in question isn’t alone, but she has eyes only for him. She snarls and darts in to clash with his sword and shield, but flits away and attacks from the other side. Darting behind him and using her momentum to grab onto the Templars armor and swing herself up, twisting until she can grab his helmeted head and yank it back. She ends him with a clean cut across his throat.
He chokes and sputters while she curses him to the grave in three different languages unsteadily before removing herself to join the fight elsewhere. Solas is providing back up to the Seeker, who is taking on one Templar, but another is coming up behind her.
She sprints, ignoring the flaming pain in her leg and yells, gathering his attention. Without breaking stride she lifts one of her bottles, shaking it furiously and giving the Seeker one warning to scatter before smashing it on the ground and retreating to safety.
When they both look back, the men are on the ground choking on their own blood and unable to breathe.
“What is that?” Varric asks, a little out of breath, collecting any bolts he can.
“Just something I know how to make,” Subira mutters, trying not to focus on the pain in her leg.
“Somethin’ you know how to make? Damn, Spitfire, you’re really holding out on us.”
Ignoring Varric’s lighthearted teasing, she thinks to the men on the ground and the poison she used. Potion would be more accurate - and it’s of her own make. Hopefully they don’t think about that too much.
Cassandra’s voice calls across the camp. “We are going to clear the bodies and camp here tonight.”
Oh, no questions asked then. The Seeker has a firm edge to her tone and Subira is too tired to fight. She goes to help, but Solas puts a hand on her arm.
Solas motions to her leg. “Allow me to look at your injury?”
“Thank you, Solas, but I can handle it myself,” she says pointedly.
He nods in understanding. “At least allow me to help you do this, da’len,” pointing to the fabric.
Too tired to argue, she concedes. If she weren’t so exhausted, she would’ve thought more about the fact that he called her ‘da’len’.
Varric and Seeker Pentaghast clear the bodies and begin setting up a camp while Solas inspects the burn, carefully separating the burned cloth from her scorched skin. It hurts and tears escape her eyes, but she doesn’t make a sound.
When he has thoroughly separated cloth from scorched skin and poured cold water over the area multiple times, he wraps her leg tightly in a wet cloth. She’s about to protest and then feels the formation of ice crystals on the cloth, soothing the burning skin and giving her relief.
“At least until you can handle it,” he says quietly. “That will keep it clean, and relatively painless.”
She smiles, grateful. “Thank you, Solas.”
He nods before standing and brushing off his knees, retreating to where Varric has just about finished setting up their tent. Gingerly, she makes her way to the tent her and the Seeker will share for the night, dropping her satchel on the ground and rolling out her bedroll.
The Seeker walks in with a stormy expression. “What was that?”
Subira looks up blankly. “What?”
“You did not fall back when we called you, your carelessness allowed you to get injured-“
Subira jumps to her feet, barely hiding the wince. “Excuse me? My carelessness? It could’ve happened at any point. I was barely that far ahead, and either way, I took him down didn’t I?”
The Seeker paces as she removes pieces of armor, her gauntlets coming off first.
“You are missing the point,” she says thickly, her accent rolling off the tongue differently in her frustration. “You did not listen to direct orders in the field. You endangered yourself and you could’ve lost your life.”
“Yes, yes. And what a tragedy that would’ve been, right? Losing your fucking Herald?” Subira mocks.
“Do not talk to me like that-“
“Or what, Seeker?” Subira’s eyes burn with a challenge and her chin tips up just so.
The Seeker rolls her eyes and makes a disgusted noise, turning away. “Go to bed, Anita.”
“Fuck you.” Subira slings her satchel over her shoulder and walks - as best as possible - out of the tent.
“Anita! Come back here!”
Subira doesn’t answer, walking further into the foliage until she can swing into a tree with low hanging branches. Ignoring the Seeker’s angry squawking in the distance, she gently unwraps her leg and hisses when the cool air of the Hinterlands hits the wound.
Assessing the damage is easy and she takes a deep breath, centering her mana and lowering a hand to her wound. From the inside out the skin and tissue heal slowly, leaving only scratchy red marks. The area still stings and she digs through her bag for one of her poultices and applies it liberally, wrapping her leg with the cloth Solas had used.
Taking a deep breath, she leans her weight against the trunk of the tree, looking up at the sky. It’s beginning to make way for night, the moons chasing away the rest of the burning sunlight and she revels in the one normal thing she can count on before dozing off.
Chapter 5: Oak and Iron
Tension between Subira and her newfound allies.
Cassandra is worried sick, though she would not admit to being so if asked. The Herald didn’t return last night, and as much as she’d like to pretend she’ll return without a doubt, the Seeker isn’t sure. Anita barely trusts them as it is and Cassandra curses her blunt mouth and useless brain for arguing so carelessly with the girl.
It’s early, early in the morning when she returns. Circles under her eyes and red rimmed, she stumbles into their tent and stops at the sight of an awake Seeker.
“Oh. You’re... awake.” She rubs the back of her neck with the marked hand.
“You expected me to be asleep, then?”
“You’re always asleep right now,” is the immediate reply. “And then in probably about... half a candlemark is when you’re awake.”
“I did not know you paid so much attention.” Really, she didn’t. Cassandra is slightly unnerved by it.
“I notice everything.” The girl is swaying on her feet, eyes fluttering shut. Cassandra reaches to steady her and the girl turns away.
“No! I am - Fine!” Even as she says it her accent makes it difficult, and it comes out sounding odd.
“Did you even sleep last night?” The warrior feels the previous annoyance bubbling up again.
“Yes! No-“ she fumbles. “I tried, but I - wanted to keep watch. Yes.”
Cassandra furrows her brow. “Where did you sleep?”
She’d looked everywhere last night, so there’s so few places she could’ve settled down...
“I’ve slept in plenty of trees before,” She waves a hand. “Not very comfy, though.”
“You need actual sleep. We will delay our departure until late morning.” Cassandra declares, thinking it reasonable.
“No!” Anita protests. “I don’t want to sleep. I can’t!”
“Have you been avoiding sleep? Anita...”
“Don’t give me that... that!” she spits at the older woman. “You don’t know what I see!”
“You are right.” Anita looks up. “I don’t know, because you have not told me. When are you going to see that we mean no harm to you?”
“When I know that you mean no harm to me.”
Anita turns to her bedroll and trips, falling into it. She groans.
“Sleep. I will inform the other two that we are delaying.”
Anita grunts her answer and doesn’t move. Cassandra only shakes her head and exits the tent to tell their companions that they won’t be leaving for a few more hours.
She’s running like a rabbit, heart racing fast and seeing everything at once. Castelleta appears in front of her and she reaches out, tries to grab for her, but her hands move through her and she’s moving forward again, memories of Antiva and the Templar insignia. A howl sounds and suddenly she is staring up at a monstrously sized wolf with six eyes peering down at her, head tilted. The wind shifts and the Wolf howls, strong enough to shake the trees and the ground and suddenly the world is red, everyone is red, she is red-
She shoots up in her bedroll, chest heaving. Shushing hits her ears and a hand pushes her back down onto her bedroll.
Tiredly, she blinks at the blurry image of the Seeker, her heart slowly reducing its fast rate. “Cassandra?”
“Go back to sleep, Anita. We still have some time yet.”
A warm hand settles itself over her unruly head of hair and she jerks her head slightly, but then she’s shushed again and the hand tentatively brushes through her curls.
“I will protect you, Anita. It is safe."
The Nevarran’s voice lulls her to the precipice of sleep and she fights it.
“P - Promise?” She manages to get out on a sleep-thick, accented tongue.
Her eyes already begin to flutter shut again, heavy with sleep and greedy for more.
“I hereby promise as a Seeker of Truth to protect you. Have you ever heard the story of how I became the Right Hand?”
The girl shakes her head slowly.
“Well, Varric likes to embellish it. Would you like to hear what really happened?”
Subira nods slowly, eyes falling shut fully.
She thinks she hears Cassandra sigh deeply as she drifts off, but the warm hand doesn’t stop brushing through her curls. She slips off the precipice and into sleep as the woman describes the fight between the dragons and the mages to save Divine Beatrix.
Cassandra has watched the girl sleep since she fell face first into her bedroll, and it’s a disturbing sight. She thrashes, fights, and in some cases speaks. The Seeker was shocked to find that not all of it was nonsense, but she also did not know enough about the girl to make sense of it anyway.
Opening her book with one hand, she sighs when the girl falls back asleep. She’s still frustrated with her, but not angry. The Seeker is more hopeful about the possibility that they can have a constructive talk about it when she wakes up.
Subira wakes feeling more rested than she has in days. Vaguely, she thinks she remembers the Seeker promising to protect her and sitting by her, but she stifles a chuckle at that. Turning to her right, she startles when she sees the Seeker herself sitting next to her bedroll, reading a book.
Cassandra doesn’t look up. “Are you well rested?”
“Um... yes.” She says tentatively. Wasn’t she angry?
“Good. We will depart when you are ready, then.
The older woman stores her book and stands, stretching. She begins to put on her armor.
Subira rubs her face and blinks before changing into non-scorched pants - which wouldn't have been possible if the Inquisition hadn't provided clothes - and donning her own lighter armor, double checking her satchel and securing it around her neck.
“I’m ready, Seeker.” The Seeker nods.
“There cannot be a repeat of what you did yesterday.”
“No, Anita. Do not ‘Seeker’ me. This is not up for debate. You will not repeat the stunt you pulled yesterday.”
“You are not my mother, Cassandra!” She barely notices the slip. “You and your insufferable Left Hand need to realize I have done just fine without guardians my entire life!”
The Seeker takes a deep breath. “It is not about that,” she says far more calmly than she feels. “It is about the fact that you put yourself in danger unnecessarily when you are the only person who can-“
“Yes, I’m the savior,” Subira rolls her eyes. “But I can handle myself. I am not a child who needs to be looked after. I’ve looked after myself my entire life!”
“You threw yourself into danger!”
“I wasn’t in any danger! Those men have no idea who they’re facing when I get onto the field,” she snarls. “They have no idea who they’re dealing with when I put a bit of costume rogue on my face wearing a corset too big for me and lure them from their posts or when bandits on the road decide that a ‘little girl’ should pay their toll price with her body.”
Her eyes flash and Cassandra is finally getting an idea of who this teenager really is.
“People have no idea who they’re dealing with,” she hisses angrily, pointing her finger at Cassandra. “And neither do you!”
Cassandra grunts in frustration. “I know I am dealing with a petulant child who does not realize just how big this world is!”
Subira snorts, shaking her head and exiting the tent. Cassandra calls after her, demanding they finish their talk, but she ignores her.
Varric and Solas are standing awkwardly in the middle of their deconstructed camp, ashes from their fire mixed with dirt. Varric whistles under his breath.
“Hey, Spitfire,” he says gently, going to pat her on the shoulder but dropping his hand half way.
She smiles softly, but there’s something fragile about it. “Good morning, Varric. Good morning, Solas. Shall we?”
Immediately upon arrival to Haven she’s ushered into a meeting, much to Varric’s disapproval. After a three week trip there and back, he’s clearly in favor of letting the kid rest up. He argues with Cassandra about it for several minutes before he ends up throwing his hands up and walking away, probably to the Tavern.
“So, to Val Royeaux?” The girl suggests bleakly to the adults around the table.
“Do not be so glum, Herald!” Lady Josephine says brightly. “The Capital is never a dull place to be. I’m sure your visit will be entertaining.”
Subira sighs forlornly. “Your positivity is infectious, Lady Montilyet, but I find I cannot get behind the sentiment. I detest Orlais and it’s shining Capital is no better.”
Sister Leliana raises an eyebrow. “Oh?”
“Mhm. I have never fancied Orlais. Though, never let it be said that they Play lightly," she mutters. "Looking out for daggers in your back teaches you a lot."
The adults stiffen at her possible play on words. “You’ve played, then?” Lady Montilyet asks.
“Oh, yes,” Subira says far more lightly than she feels, the words tasting sour. “I’ve spent... an extended amount of time in Orlais before. Who does not get drawn into the Great Game?”
Cassandra mutters something unkind about Orlesian’s and Leliana elbows her in the side.
Chapter 6: Chasing Shadows We Never Saw
The Inquisition arrives in the Capital of Val Royeaux. Somethings fishy about the Lord Seeker...
Posting this tomorrow (in the morning, actually, because it’s one am) hopefully it gets more traction. I really want people to enjoy and give feedback on this story - it’s possibly the one I’ve worked the most on only because Subira suddenly just over took my life. Don’t get me wrong, I have in depth written out backstories for everyone else too, but theirs haven’t become fics yet.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The trip to the Capital takes less time than anticipated. It’s actually a little over two weeks on foot, but it passes fairly quickly. She spends most of the time glaring at Seeker Pentaghast or smiling at Varric’s jokes.
One of the nights while they journeyed to Orlais, she tells a story she had heard from a bard in a traveling merchant caravan in Rivain, and she told another she heard from a different caravan in her travels in the Anderfels.
The stories were perfect for reminiscing quietly while giving the rest of them something to build off of about her without giving them anything at all.
One night, Varric takes a long look at her and asks:
“Hey, Spitfire, where’d you learn all this healin’ stuff?”
She felt herself stiffen immediately and remembers forcing herself to continue the motion of cleaning her daggers and keep her tone nonchalant.
“A midwife, as anyone does,” she lifts the blade up to the light of the fire to inspect it.
“A midwife?” Varric shakes his head. “You know, they say midwives are typically mages... You got anything you want to share?”
The dwarf’s grin is obviously teasing, but it hits too close for Subira.
“No, Varric,” she puts her dagger into its sheath. “I don’t. The midwife I learned from was not a mage. It’s poultices and field medicine, nothing more.”
Hurriedly, she collected her things and stands to go to bed with a quickly muttered ‘goodnight’, away from Cassandra’s dissecting gaze and Solas’ knowing stare.
When they enter the city, the first thought she has is that Val Royeaux looks just as she remembers it, both during and after the War. Things in Val Royeaux are frozen in place through the years, too caught up trying to look pretty to change. She’s busy admiring the scenery when the scout approaches, returning the salute half-heartedly.
“The Chantry anticipated your arrival... as did a great many Templars.”
Seeker Pentaghast handles the talking when it appears the Herald will not. Subira physically feels herself stiffen at the news of the Templars. She spaces out thinking of all the ways this could go wrong, not thinking of her feet going in front of the other.
They walk into the main Courtyard where a crowd has formed and a Chantry cleric speaks passionately.
“Good people of Val Royeaux! Hear me! We mourn our Divine-“
Subira tunes her out mostly, only hearing the last part when the Revered Mother points at them.
“-You seek those responsible for her death? Look no further! The so-called ‘Herald of Andraste’” the cleric sneers, “Claiming to rise where-“
“Enough!” Subira says far more confidently than she feels. “Your fear-mongering is out of control!”
The Seeker steps in. “We seek only to close the Breach and bring order!”
“Something the Chantry clearly hasn’t put at the top of its to-do list!”
A hand on her shoulder tells her she needs to stop talking, but out of her general dislike for listening and the adrenaline coursing through her body, there’s a good chance she won’t.
“Look! The Templars have returned to the Chantry. They will protect us!”
Protect you? From who?
One of the approaching Templars punches the Revered Mother across the face.
“Oh, brasca!” She winces. “That must’ve hurt.”
One of the Templars who had remained in Val Royeaux goes to assist the fallen Mother.
“Still yourself! She is beneath us,” The angry looking one barks.
“The only-“ She stalls her remark, staring at the Templar who spoke.
His eyes lock on her. “Look what we have here. A child-prophet. Bah! A puppet,” he declares with a sneer.
“Lord Seeker Lucius, it is imperative we speak to you,” Cassandra tries.
“You will not address me!” The ‘Templar’ breaks his eye contact with Subira, making her take in a breath she didn’t realize she’d been holding.
“Creating a heretical movement, raising up a puppet as Andraste’s Prophet - you should be ashamed!”
“How... dare you!” Subira fumes and pushes past the Seeker. “You, without honor, without soul, would dare judge Seeker Pentaghast’s character in such a manner? Insult her? Would you like to duel, you worthless piece of-“
Her irises had begun to glow mid-way into her impassioned speech. The Seeker lays a hand on her shoulder and to her confusion even through her gauntlet finds it hot, quickly retracting it. After a moment she tries again.
“I would not engage in a duel with a half-baked Herald who cannot handle herself,” the man says cruelly. “The Templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the mages. You are the ones who have failed. You who would leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear!”
He addresses the crowd,
“If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late. The only destiny that demands respect is ours!”
Subira scoffs, causing Cassandra to tug on her arm, but she doesn’t heed the silent warning.
“If you didn’t come for the Chantry, you just came to make speeches!” She taunts.
“I came to see what frightens old women so, and to laugh.”
The kind, nervous looking Templar from before comes up on the Lord Seeker’s right.
“But Lord Seeker, what if they’re right? What is she really was sent by the Maker? What if this child is the-“
A greasy looking Templar walks up. “You are called to a Higher purpose. Do not question.”
The Lord Seeker begins speaking again. “I will make the Templar Order a power that stands alone against the Void. We deserve recognition. Independence! You,” he looks directly at Subira, and she has to repress a shudder, “have shown me nothing. And the Inquisition… less than nothing.”
The man takes one more good look at her, sizing her up. “Templars! Val Royeaux is unworthy of our protection! We march!”
Practically foaming at the mouth and determined to have the last word she shouts at his back, “You cannot hide behind illusions forever! You see me, but I also see you!”
Varric reaches an arm out to steady the shaking girl. “Woah there Spitfire, I dislike bad Templars as much as the next guy, but what's got you in a twist?”
“Nothing,” she mutters, withdrawn. “Don’t worry about it, Varric.”
“This victory must please you, Seeker Pentaghast,” A voice rings out.
The Mother who was hit.
“We came only to speak with the mothers,” Cassandra speaks as though she’s explaining it to a young child, shaking her head. “This was your own doing."
“And you had no part forcing our hand? Do not delude yourself. Just answer me this, Herald of Andraste,” suddenly turning the attention to Subira, “do you believe the Maker sent you?”
“I’m just a thief caught in the middle,” she admits. “But I’ll try to fix things and not run when it’s frightening.”
The cleric looks relieved. “That is... more comforting than you may imagine, child.”
Subira smiles slightly, a little crooked. “No, I think I understand. Here,” she takes three big wobbly steps forward, ignoring Cassandra’s attempt to steady her, and kneels down next to the cleric. She rifles through her bag, carefully avoiding her many potions.
“Aha! Here it is. Trust me,” the girl bites her lip in concentration, gently applying a salve of her own make to the woman’s jaw, who stiffens and then relaxes after a moment.
The cleric looks at her with an odd expression when she’s done. “I... thank you, Herald.”
Subira snorts. “I’m just a kid, Mother Hevara,” she says quietly. “I hope you heal well. If I were you, I’d stay away from Val Royeaux. The Templars are not to be trusted.”
Returning her salve to her bag, she dusts off her knees and stands, turning to her companions. She takes a deep breath and drags her hands over her face.
The unsure looking Templar stares at Subira and then walks off slowly after the marching Templars. Cassandra shakes her head sadly.
Cassandra eyes the suddenly exhausted girl. “Has the Lord Seeker gone mad? This is very strange...”
“It’s not strange,” Subira mumbles, taking deep breaths through her nose. The energy a presence like that sapped from her was enormous and her eyelids flutter, concerning the older woman. “He’s the same but not the same. Two - but under one name.”
Cassandra scowls and shakes her head. “What?”
Solas sweeps a calculating eye over her, having felt the shift in her mana. Mentally protecting yourself from a demon is exhausting, especially for people with the talent for fadewalking.
“We need to find a place to bed for the night. The Herald will not be able to travel until further notice.”
“What?! She’s fine!”
Subira also chose this moment to stumble into Cassandra. The last thing she says with coherency:
“The Secrets of your Order are too long in the dark,” she whispers, eyes fluttering closed. “He will lead them into the dark...”
And then promptly passed out.
brasca - an Antivan curse word, basically 'damn' or an 'oh, shit!' type of deal, you dig? you can find it in some Zev stuff from DA:O
Chapter 7: An Ocean That Has Already Been Drained
Subira has an encounter in the fade after a meeting in the city square leaves her weak. Cassandra and Subira prepare for Madame Vivienne’s soirée.
When she opens her eyes, Subira can immediately tell that it’s the fade. The whole sky is the sea, the salt water air permeating into her skin and the wind is the rushing noise of waves crashing against the shore. There are whispers in her ears and every direction she turns.
Panic begins to fill her the longer she stands there, the whispers are becoming louder and the air becoming suffocating. The sky-sea rages.
The feeling spreads until it’s her whole body and she’s running suddenly, no longer looking up at the sea-sky and now running through the forest, a myriad of faces rushing past her. Each voice is garbled and she cries out before speeding up.
“You...” She breathes.
In the middle of the forest, there is the man from the city square.
The Lord Seeker turns and with a blood-curdling laugh he reveals his true form. “Does this form please you? Is it without soul? Without honor? Let me introduce myself: I am Imshael.”
The sky-sea storms and rages, the waves crashing against it’s atmospheric shore. It thunders, and lightening flashes in front of her before Imshael appears. She screams to the sound of his echoing laughter.
She wakes up panting, beads of sweat on her forehead. A cooling hand touches her head and a feeling of calm spreads through her.
Solas speaks after a moment of quiet. “I felt a strange energy while meditating. The same one I felt in the square.”
“I... believe it was nothing.”
He leveled her with a measured look. “Regardless, there is little I can do now.”
She nods, drawing her knees to her chest. “Did I miss anything?”
“You were invited to a soirée tonight by a Madame de Fer. Seeker Cassandra advises it would be unwise not to attend.”
Subira groans. “You mean Seeker Cassandra says it’s necessary, then?”
“I believe as much, yes.”
Solas seems to find this amusing, but since he doesn’t show much by way of expression she can’t prove it.
A few scouts travel with them, similarly outfitted with borrowed horses as Cassandra and Subira are. It takes them about five days on horse back to arrive at the Estate. Varric and Solas travel with them up until a checkpoint a bit away.
When the scouts heard of the soirée, they went to work immediately. How they managed it in so little time, she’ll never be able to guess, but Subira is glad for it.
Leliana’s scouts (though she’s sure Josephine’s diplomats there in the city had a hand in it) outfitted her in something suited for noble born daughters and women, really; She wore beige breeches - typically worn by young men, but for ease of navigation they made the exception, because apparently they wanted her in a gown - with simple black hunting boots laced tight up to her knee. Tucked into her pants was a stark white dress shirt, crisp and the collar flat.
To tie the look together was an overcoat, a dark navy blue with black and gold trimming and gold cufflinks. The coattails went right to her mid thigh and swished quietly behind her.
Olive green eyes were lined with kohl and gold powder on her cheekbones and her normally unruly curls plaited into a beautiful Orlesian braid down her back, she could’ve been a maiden out of those silly books that they would read at the orphanage.
When presented with a looking glass, she hardly recognized herself. They left her with a hand on the gold frame to stare reverently at her reflection. How could she have never known she could look... beautiful?
Cassandra’s voice breaks her out of her trance in front of the mirror. “Anita, are you ready? Madame de Fer is not a patient woman!”
“I’m coming!” She calls back, taking one last look at herself.
Boot heels clack quietly as she makes her way out of the room Josephine procured in a quaint inn just a few miles outside the estates grounds. Subira took a deep breath before turning the corner and presenting herself to her three companions, arms spread wide.
“So, how do I look?” She turns in a circle halfheartedly, worried about their reactions. All of it feels like too much for her.
“Spitfire, you’re going to knock off their knickers at this soirée!” Varric grins encouragingly and Subira smiles shyly.
“You think?” She brushes a stray hair behind her ear.
“You clean up quite nicely, Your Worship.” Cassandra comments politely. The addition of her title sours her mood.
She digs the toe of her boot into the floorboards. “Yes,” she replies quietly. “Thank you, Seeker. I suppose I do. Shall we?”
Varric and Solas exchange glances. Cassandra at least looks guilty, opening her mouth to speak but closing it.
Chapter 8: Little Porcelain Figurines
Subira experiences discomfort once again in the middle of the spotlight, but soldiers on for her duty. An experienced player of the game is introduced and sees potential in the young and upcoming hero.
Cassandra watches with no small amount of amusement as Anita takes in her surroundings. Her eyes are wide as they enter the Chateau of Duke Bastien De Ghislain.
“You appear to be in shock, Herald.” She comments.
Anita looks up at her briefly, then back at the sea of masked guests. “I’ve never... been in one of these,” she gestures to the party with a gloved hand. “I was always in the walls.”
Cassandra nods slowly. “I see.”
“But Orlesian’s certainly have not changed,” Anita’s voice is lower now. “Their finery is still a woven web around deceit.”
The older woman represses a snort. “That is true.”
“Oh, they’re announcing us.” Anita grimaces and retreats closer to Cassandra’s side.
“Announcing the arrival of Cassandra Pentaghast and the Herald of Andraste, of the Inquisition!”
The sea of guests turn to where they have entered. Anita’s confidence falters before returning in full and she gives a broad smile.
“Oh! The Herald,” a woman gushes, fanning herself with a large hand fan. “I did not believe the tales of you being so young. Tell me, are the stories true?”
Anita smiles, and Cassandra can hardly tell it’s fake. “Oh, my Lady, I’m sure most of it is embellishment. After all, I am just one girl!”
“Ah, Herald!” A man with a thick mustache approaches. “You are... quite young, are you not? I am surprised.”
Her pleasant smile doesn’t fall. “Ah, but aren’t the young truly old and the old truly young, after all?” She laughs, causing a chorus of laughs to go up around her.
The man laughs politely. “You have a sense of humor about you, Herald! I would not have expected that. And modest, too! I wish to know, what is your opinion on the civil war?”
Anita barely misses a beat, though Cassandra catches the waver in confidence.
“I think it is a great tragedy, of course,” she says sagely, nodding her head. Others nod along with her. “If only the Empire would cease this war and bring peace to the lands of Orlais once again.”
“The Inquisition intends to bring peace, yes?” Another man says from Cassandra’s left. Anita turns to look at him.
“Yes, the Inquisition-“
At this moment, a man begins his descent down the stairs loudly. “The Inquisition! Hah!” He guffaws. “A revolutionary movement filled with political outcasts pretending to answer a higher calling. It’s a power grab!”
The salon goes silent, murmurs echoing throughout the crowd.
“And what would you know of it, my Lord?” Anita’s voice cuts through the quiet calm, deadly sharp.
Pushing away from Cassandra, she begins to walk through the crowd, which parts for her.
“I beg your pardon?”
“What would you know of being a political outcast reaching for power? Unless, of course, you are one yourself,” Anita says confidently, her chin raised high.
The man stutters on his response, “I’ll have you know - I - You would do good to shut your mouth, little girl!” He threatens, a hand on his sword. “Unless you’d like to try your hand against me outside?”
Her smile is deadly, all teeth. “I would gladly oblige, my Lord, however I don’t believe I should challenge a blade so... inadequate.”
Cassandra puts a fist to her mouth to hold her startled laughter, slowly moving towards Anita. Before it can go any further, the Marquis is frozen.
Cassandra blinks a few times. Anita laughs. “What a predicament you’ve found yourself in!”
The clicking of heels cause a hush to fall over the room in anticipation of the wearers arrival. “My dear Marquis, how unkind of you to use such language in my house against my guests.”
The woman, who must be Madame de Fer, struts - exuding confidence in her stride. Since the first flick of her hand, Anita’s eyes have been trained on her almost in reverence. Cassandra watches curiously.
“You know such rudeness is... intolerable,” the Madame drawls.
“M-Madame Vivienne! I humbly beg your pardon...” the frozen Marquis stutters out.
Circling the Marquis like a cat, she stops in front of Anita, a grin on her masked face. “You should.”
She turns back to the quivering man. “Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear?”
Turning back to Anita, she clears her throat. “My Lady, you’re the wounded party in this... unfortunate affair,” she says with a clear distaste for the man who’s disrupted her night. “What would you have me do with this foolish, foolish man?”
Anita gains a look of understanding. If she says kill him, this woman will.
Cassandra dearly hopes she will not ask Madame de Fer to... dispose of the admittedly annoying Marquis.
The girl takes a deep breath. “You are a gracious host, Madame Vivienne,” She says loudly. “I leave him in your capable hands. I’m sure whatever punishment you decide for him will be enough.”
Cassandra nearly breathes a sigh of relief. Madame de Fer smiles, but it’s a different one than before. Softer and a bit less calculated.
Madame de Fer unfreezes the Marquis with a snap of her fingers. “Poor Marquis,” she coos. “Issuing challenges and hurling insults like some Fereldan dog lord...”
She laughs while the Marquis coughs and shivers from his time spent as an icicle.
“And all dressed up in your Aunt Solange’s doublet,” She sneers mockingly. “Didn’t she give you that to wear to the Grand Tourney?”
Madame de Fer makes a disapproving noise, turning away from the man. “To think, all the brave Chevaliers who will be competing left for Markham this morning...” she turns back to him accusingly. “And you’re still here.”
While Cassandra enjoys putting men who believe they can push whomever they wish around in their place as well as strong, empowered women, she sorely hopes Vivienne has a point she’ll make soon. This is dragging on. Anita, however, seems to be hanging onto her every word.
“Were you hoping to sate your damaged pride by defeating the Herald of Andraste in a public duel?” She pouts. “Pathetic. Perhaps you thought her blade would put an end to the misery of your failure.”
The Marquis says nothing, shamed into silence by the truths spoken to him. “Run along, my dear,” Madame de Fer laughs lightly. “Do give my regards to your Aunt.”
With as much dignity as the man has left (which, Cassandra assumes isn’t much at this point, having been torn to shreds by Madame de Fer) he walks out of the room, presumably to gather his things and depart.
Madame de Fer turns to Anita, eyes sparkling. “Come along, darling,” she smiles. “We have a lot to discuss, yes?”
Chapter 9: Cruising through the Real and Fake
Another politically powerful person steps into Thedas' uneven playing ground. Two intelligent women broker a deal amongst the chaos.
Hey guys I just wanted to say: Thank you for everyone checking out this story! So much time (most of it my sleep time) has gone into this work - currently, Subira is moving into Skyhold and she'll take your well-wishes grumpily like the teenager she is. I'm honestly working on this faster than I anticipated - but the progress makes me happy. Currently editing the very large section that's in my notes (and adding more) and eventually it'll be transferred to my drive when I reach Adamant. Ooo boy... we've got a long way to go! Basically, thank you for the kudos and the comments, your support means the absolute most. Have Chapter Nine <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“I’m delighted you could attend this little gathering,” Madame de Fer comments, leading them towards an open window.
The breeze feels wonderful on Subira’s flushed skin from the heat of the ballroom.
“I’ve so wanted to meet you,” she continues.
“It’s an honor, Madame. I am surprised you extended an invitation in the first place. But then again, who wouldn’t, with the Inquisition being an unknown.” Subira remarks.
“Allow me to properly introduce myself, my dear,” the woman turns to face Subira and Cassandra. “I am Vivienne, First Enchanter to Montsimmard and Enchantress to the Imperial Court.”
Subira curtsies. “Charmed, Lady Vivienne.”
“Ah, but, I didn’t invite you here to exchange pleasantries. You are correct, darling; with Divine Justinia dead, the Chantry is in shambles,” Subira nods along.
“Only the Inquisition might restore sanity and order to our frightened people. As the leader of the last Loyal Mages Of Thedas, I felt it only right that I lend my hand to the cause.”
Subira freezes. Loyal mages? Dammit, she thought her name was familiar. But... Firmly, she shakes those thoughts off. The world is at stake, ideology cannot get in the way here. The Inquisition needs mages, and she’s offering them on a silver platter.
“A player of the Game such as yourself? I’m sure there is more for you than that, Lady Vivienne. You’re an intelligent woman, I can tell,”
Subira can feel Cassandra tense behind her. Probably regretting letting her take the reigns for this conversation.
“And between two intelligent women, I believe your help would be more than appreciated. You will find the Inquisition at Haven, with accommodations for you and your people.”
Madame Vivienne laughs, a twinkle in her eye. “Oh, a smart one! You catch on quick, little Herald. The loyal mages and I are happy to lend our assistance.”
Subira feels Cassandra relax. “Thank you for being a most gracious Host tonight, Madame.”
“Yes, Madame de Fer,” Cassandra says gruffly, clearing her throat. “It has been a pleasure.”
“Nonsense, the pleasure was all mine, my dears. Au revoir, my Lady Herald, Seeker Pentaghast.”
The imposing woman sweeps from the room, off to tend to her guests.
“Come on,” Subira grumbles. “Let’s go.”
They were silent as they rode on borrowed horses back to the checkpoint-inn, the only noise being hooves hitting the gravel road. They won’t start back to Val Royeaux until tomorrow, considering the late hour.
“You handled the soirée well, Anita,” Cassandra comments quietly.
The girl seems to be in deep thought, staring down at her saddle. She looks up. “Oh. Um - Yes. Thank you, Seeker - I mean, Cassandra.”
“I’ll admit, I did not expect you to fare so well,” the older woman says.
Subira shrugs. “Arrogant men and women underestimating me is not a concept I am unfamiliar with. Not having to hide in the walls is an added bonus, I assure you.”
“I can imagine it would be.”
They ride in silence for the rest of the way, neither having much to say. The soft wind brings a cool breeze with it, cooling the ever-warm air of Orlais. Subira sighs.
When they return to the inn, she promptly tore off all of the clothing she could as fast as possible. It was too stiff and confining, she wanted her soft cotton back. The best part was when the servants brought her a basin of water. She hasn’t been able to really wash since... Since they found her, actually.
But she’s exhausted and resigns to only wiping her face down with a cloth, remembering that she covered her tattoo with costume rouge and a bit of glamor magic.
The haggler who sold her it wasn’t lying then, she muses as she inspected her cheek in the looking glass; this stuff lasted. A few smudges but otherwise it looked normal.
Hopefully no one in the Inquisition is up-to-date on Antivan Crow customs. Plus, an orphan of the name by Anita isn’t much to go off of. They’ll never know.
Resigning to not cover the tattoo, she continues to wipe off the grime that’s accumulated around the costume makeup and then down her neck and arms, pausing at her marked hand.
It’s splintered throughout her hand and softly glowing, a dim light being emitted from it. The tendrils crawl up her wrist and wrap around her thumb and she closes her eyes, taking a deep breath.
One day at a time.
They’re finally leaving the city - it will be a month and a half trip in total when they return to Haven, and she's never been more thankful for a sleepy mountain towns existence - when she approaches, soft footsteps alerting them to her presence.
“If I might have a moment of your time?” The accent is so familiar, and Subira hopes when she turns it isn’t who she thinks it is.
“Grand Enchanter Fiona?” the Seeker is confused by her presence, in such a populated area such as Val Royeaux.
“Leader of the Mage Rebellion,” Solas muses. “Is it not dangerous for you to be here?”
“I’d heard of the Inquisition gathering in Val Royeaux, and I wanted to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes.”
Subira furrows her brow. There should be some amount of recognition in her eyes... But there’s none. Something about her voice... it’s wrong.
“If it’s help with the Breach you seek,” the Grand Enchanter starts, “Then perhaps my people are the wiser option.”
That doesn’t sound like a decision she’d make at all! Fiona ran and hid her people to keep them out of the fighting, and to offer them up to the Inquisition instead of allowing the Inquisition to come to her?
None of this makes sense.
“I’m surprised, Grand Enchanter,” Subira finally finds her voice. “That the leader of the Mage Rebellion wasn’t at the Conclave.”
She crosses her fingers mentally, hoping Fiona passes her test.
“Yes,” Cassandra says warily. “You were supposed to be, and yet somehow avoided death.”
“As did the Lord Seeker, you’ll note,” Fiona says testily. Briefly she makes eye contact with Subira. “Both of us sent negotiators in our stead, in case it was a trap.”
That’s not what happened! Subira wracks her brain for anything else that she can remember but finds everything regarding the Conclave and her involvement just... gone.
“I won’t pretend I’m not glad to live. I lost many dear friends that day.”
The words sound like sand paper off of the Grand Enchanter’s tongue. Subira tries not to cringe.
“It disgusts me to think that the Templars might get away with it. I’m hoping you won’t let them.”
The Grand Enchanter would never make an accusation like that! A mage making such an accusation with nothing to go off of could be a death sentence.
“You believe the Templars were behind the explosion, Grand Enchanter?” Subira draws the attention back to herself, searching the woman’s face and body language.
“Why wouldn’t she?” Cassandra asks with a shrug.
“Lucius hardly seems beat up over his losses,” Fiona says lowly. “If he’s concerned about them at all.”
That’s the only fair point she’s made this entire conversation, but only because there's something wrong with the Lord Seeker, too.
“You heard him. You think he wouldn’t happily kill the Divine to turn people against us?”
“I think making wild accusations is a dangerous practice these days,” Subira says quietly.
With an eye on the girl, Fiona continues. “So yes, I think he did it. More than I think you did it, at any rate.”
“Are you extending your help to us, Grand Enchanter?” Subira has had enough talk.
“Consider this an invitation to Redcliffe. Come meet with the mages. An alliance could help us both, after all. I hope to see you there.”
With one last glance at the Herald, the woman walks away. “Au revoir, my Lady Herald.”
Cassandra stares after the woman for a few moments. Everyone is silent.
“Come. Let us return to Haven.”
Not even a second after the words have left her mouth, an arrow hits the ground at Subira’s feet. Cassandra is in front of her with her shield immediately, looking for danger, but Subira waves it off, picking up the arrow.
“It’s a... oh, for the love of-“ Subira presses a palm into her forehead.
“What is it, Spitfire?”
“It’s a scavenger hunt from the Jennies.” Subira grinds out, annoyed.
“Who are the ‘Jennies’?” Solas asks curiously.
“The Red Jennies, Chuckles,” Varric smiles, but Solas looks at him blankly. “You don’t know of them?”
“I admit, I also do not know of these ‘Jennies’,” Cassandra comments, reluctantly returning her shield to her back.
“They’re a bunch of - troublemakers, basically,” Subira curses her luck. “They’re useful to have on your side. They dislike royalty, the noble class, anyone who might mistreat the ‘little people’.” She uses her index fingers to form quotation marks.
“And if they are not on your side?” Cassandra asks.
“If not, they’re a pain in your ass.”
“I assume you’ve come across some Jennies, Spitfire?”
Her reply is muttered. “Oh, I’ve come across some Jennies, Varric. Come on, off to do a scavenger hunt.”
Baffled, Cassandra doesn’t move. “What do you mean? We’re off to do a scavenger hunt to find troublemakers?”
“If we don’t, they’ll just mess with us. We want them now before they’re annoying. Trust me.” Subira marches off in the direction of the first clue.
au revoir - until we meet again (probably not needed, but wanted to make sure that anyone who doesn't know French is caught up)
Chapter 10: Familiar Faces (but not yours)
Red Jenny says hello. And to watch your pants. Varric could’ve sworn he’s seen this before, but in the words of a wiseman he once knew (Hawke) ...
“Maybe it’s nothing.”
“When you said a 'scavenger hunt’, Anita,” Cassandra pants, shield bashing one of the mercenaries before running him through with her sword. “I figured you meant there would be something ridiculous at the end of it. Not armed guards! ” She snaps.
“Oh, pardon me! I seem to have followed the other scavenger hunt!” Subira hisses, narrowly missing being nicked by a dagger and rolling off to the side before striking the man in the throat.
“Come on , you two! Let’s finish these guys and see who’s waiting for us,” Varric calls, shooting a man in the chest. He falls like a pile of logs.
Solas, ever the mediator, tries to interject. “If I may-?”
“No!” Both Cassandra and Subira turn to yell at him, finishing off their targets before sheathing their weapons.
Solas holds his hands up in a gesture of surrender and the women seem to accept that, moving forward through the villa.
A man with a heavy Orlesian accent and an arrogant mask waits for them. “Ah, the Herald of Andraste! Who sent you?”
The girl in question blinks. “Who are you?”
“Oh, don’t try that! I’m too important not to know! Of course the Inquisition would want to find me-“
“Hey!” A voice calls out from across the way, shadowed. Clearly holding a bow, with the figure of a woman. “Just say ‘what’!”
“What is the meaning of-“ The man gets an arrow into his throat.
“Ugh, squishy one but you heard me, right? Just say ‘what’!” The woman laughs, coming into the light. “Rich tits always want more than they deserve - Oh shit, you are a kid!”
Subira frowns. “I’ve probably killed more people than years you’ve been alive.”
“Aw, and a right creepy one,” the woman sounds disappointed. “Right, anyway. In your face, I’m Sera. But I’m Jenny. Red Jenny, that is. We protect the little people from nobles who want to mistreat them, yeah? ‘Rah, rah! I have power!’”
She walks a little closer, causing Cassandra to bristle. “And you’re the... Herald thingy, right? With the glowy hand? You’re gonna put the sky back together, yeah?”
Subira lifts up her gloved hand, peeling it off to reveal the mark.
“Wicked!” Sera breathes, and then shakes her head. “That’s some right creepy shit, Harold.”
Subira brushes off the mispronunciation, chalking it up to her accent.
“Yes, I plan on repairing the Breach. And the Jennies want... what? A cut? ” Her voice is stern.
“ Woah, hold on now! We ain’t like that!”
“The Jennies I met left an Alienage to burn because they had already collected their coin from ‘ the little people ’,” Subira sneers.
“Listen, I don’t know what you’ve seen or heard, yeah? But I have contacts. Good contacts , not the type who would let an entire Alienage burn! Bloody hell, that’s awful! I’m an elf myself, you see?” The woman tugs on her ear, somewhat hidden underneath shaggy hair.
“I want to protect the little people, Harold. I know your Inquisishy-thingy is the best way to do that. What do you say? Probably best to give me an answer soon, the guards are coming. Don’t worry though, someone gave me a key to their storehouse.”
“Oh, so they have no weapons?” Varric asks.
“ No, ya git! They have no breeches!” She cackles.
Subira furrows her brow. “What do you mean no-“
That moment, the guards crash into the courtyard, wearing no pants except sleeping trousers.
“Oh, my,” Cassandra says, blushing deeply.
“Uh, don’t look, kid.” Varric says with a grimace.
When the fight is over, Sera brushes herself off, collecting her arrows.
“Seeker, did you see her bow skills? She’s amazing,” Varric hisses.
“I want her to join us.” Subira says, a little roughly. She’s tired and wants to leave Orlais.
“Yes!” All four of them swivel to look at Sera. “Uh, I mean...”
She begins whistling and drops the arrow in her hand, pretending that she can’t find it.
With a sigh, Subira makes her way to Sera. “Sera, in your face, I’m Anita, the Herald of Andraste,” The words taste like ash on her tongue. “But I welcome you to the Inquisition.”
“Right on! The Inquisition is set up at Haven, yeah? I’ll meet you lot there!”
Before they can get a word in edgewise, the odd woman is climbing up and over a wall, scrambling into the night.
“I’m sure I’m going to live to regret this decision.” Subira says, running a tired hand down her face.
“Lighten up, Spitfire. What’s the worst that can happen?”
“Come on, Cassandra!” Anita is close to whining.
“Why not? ”
“Because we need to return as soon as possible, we cannot deviate to the Hinterlands!” Her harsh tone causes the teenager to shrink and she softens.
“Anita, we will return to the Hinterlands to help. I promise, we will. But we must return to Haven right now. Okay?”
She just nods.
The Seeker’s brows furrow, looking intently at the youth’s face. “Is that... a tattoo?”
Anita’s cheeks flush. “It’s... yes,” she puts her hand over it, but Cassandra gently moves her hand away, inspecting the flawless lines across her jaw and cheekbone.
“You’re very young... to have such tattoos,” the older woman says cautiously.
“Yeah, well,” Anita laughs nervously. “I didn’t ask for them.”
They both go still. Solas and Varric have stopped walking ahead, curious about what could possibly be so important.
“These weren’t here when we found you... When...?”
Anita turns, taking her face from the Seeker. “A bit of costume rouge goes a long way,” she says quietly. Her voice is devoid of emotion. “It doesn’t matter, Seeker. It was a long time ago.”
“Focus,” Anita snaps. “ La mia sofferenza non è mai finita. ” she mutters.
“Anita-“ Cassandra tries again, going to put a hand on her shoulder, but Anita ducks out of it, walking to catch up with Solas and Varric.
Cassandra shakes her head before starting after them. It seems she makes one step forward in learning about her, and three steps back.
Solas hangs back as Anita trudges forward, allowing Varric to take this one.
“So... Spitfire,” the dwarf says casually, when Cassandra and Solas are many paces behind them. “What happened back there?”
Anita shakes her head, turning to face him. “Nothing, Varric.”
His eyes catch the tattoo curving across her cheek and jaw, scanning her for a moment before looking at the trees. He’s sure he’s seen those before...
But maybe it’s nothing.
La mia sofferenza non è mai finita - my suffering never ends
Chapter 11: Glamorize the Chaos
Subira re-learns that the fade won’t always be on her side. Varric and Subira reminisce together in the Singing Maiden and our Hero is reminded of what comes with being a hero - Worship. Uncomfortable and scared, she wonders about her fate in the coming future.
They camp for the night in a cozy little clearing near a stream, underneath the stars but right next to the trees. Very picturesque, in Varric’s words.
That night, she figures she can sleep for a bit, strengthening the protection around her dreams and settling down, sleep taking her exhausted form easily.
And instead of demons like Imshael, she dreams of Castelleta reaching out for her, begging her to find her.
“Cas?” She calls softly.
Her voice is quiet, terrified of the dark surrounding her. The fade has always bent to her will, it has never formed against her - until the mark, that is. Her dreams have gotten intensely violent in nature.
Cas does not answer, and the feeling of dread increases.
“Cas, please! I’ll find you, I didn’t abandon you!” She says desperately.
Absently, she realizes there are tears rolling down her cheeks.
“Where are you, corvo?” Castelleta calls out. “Why haven’t you come to find me?”
“I will! I’ll find you, I will...” She sinks to her knees and hugs them to her, loneliness aching deep in her chest.
“You’ll fail them, you know.”
Grand Enchanter Fiona sits in chair across from her now, casually inspecting her robes.
This one doesn’t recognize her either. “You’ll fail them. You cannot win, Herald.”
Fiona’s body becomes consumed with red, the sky bleeds around her and the wind screams. It carries the scent of burnt flesh and dead into her nostrils and her eyes burn. The bodies of her allies in a world gone red appear in front of her. There are few bodies she does not recognize among them.
Cassandra. Solas. Varric. Cullen. Leliana. Josephine. Castelleta. Vivienne. Sera.
She chokes and sits up with a gasp, breathing so hard she coughs uncontrollably. Her heart is racing and she feels overheated, remembering red-
She scrambles out of her bedroll and out of the tent to the edge of camp, throwing up her dinner from the night before. She heaves and breathes heavily, another wave hitting her.
She kneels there, choking and gasping on bile and spit, trying to get air into her lungs when a hand lands on her shoulder. The girl doesn’t think, she reacts; drawing the blade she keeps in her sleeve and clumsily goes to attack, but finds her hand caught in a firm hold and she struggles.
The firm tone causes her to stop and breathe, blinking to clear the moisture from her eyes. She sees Cassandra and it hit her that she just tried to attack her, dropping the dagger and backing up.
Cassandra is blunt and hardheaded. She has no experience comforting scared children and yet, here she is, in the middle of the night, attempting exactly that.
“Anita, it’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you.” she tries.
Anita just eyes her before nodding. “I’m-“ a cough, clearing her throat.
She spits off to the side, and Cassandra hides a grimace. “I’m sorry for disturbing you.”
Cassandra blinks. “It is... It’s no trouble.”
Shakily she begins to walk towards their tent. “Hold on,” Cassandra says gently. “Here.”
She hands the girl a water flask and a cloth. Wrapped in the cloth are a few leaves of elfroot.
“T-thank you,” Anita says with trembling lips, trying not to imagine Cassandra the way she looked in her dream. Her eyes water-
“I - I can’t-“ Anita’s words caught in her throat.
She takes a swig of water and swishes her mouth out before spitting again, popping a few leaves of elfroot into her mouth, chewing with a sour look on her face. Turning, she spits those out too, using more water to clean her mouth again.
She takes a deep breath, feeling more composed and cleaner now despite the tears that had welled in her eyes. She takes a long drink of water, suddenly very thirsty.
“T-thank you, S-Seeker,” Anita curses her stuttering.
“It is no trouble, as I said... Anita.”
Anita nods and returns to the tent, crawling into her bedroll and staring at the ceiling. A few moments later, after switching watch with Varric (and Bianca, he would remind her if he could hear her thoughts) Cassandra enters the tent as well, settling into her bedroll. Anita shakes furiously, teeth clattering together so hard it sounds painful.
“Are... are you alright, Anita?”
Anita barks out a laugh - it’s wet and catches on her tears. “No,” she says dryly. “No, I’m not.”
They lapse into uncomfortable silence. Cassandra wants to reach out to the shaking youth and comfort her in some way, but she’s always been useless with feelings, always been useless with children - she wouldn’t know where to start with either of these things, and would probably just muck it up. It’s probably better that-
“Hey, uh - Cassandra?” Anita calls out, voice raw.
There are several moments of silence that stretch out until finally, “Never mind,” Anita’s voice is no more than a hoarse whisper. “Goodnight.”
When they wake up, Cassandra looks down with no small amount of surprise to see the Herald curled up next to her, nodding off to sleep but not quite allowing herself to fall. Her eyes are just barely open.
“Anita, did you get any sleep?”
“I... couldn’t,” she says quietly, sitting up and rubbing her red eyes.
Cassandra sighs. There’s no point arguing with her about it. Instead, they pack up and continue their way back to Haven.
After two or so weeks more of banter and more often than not arguing, they arrive back from Val Royeaux. Anita does not have any more dreams that wake Cassandra up, but she also does not mention anything else about it. Cassandra suspects she has them more frequently than the girl lets on.
Try as she might she cannot imagine what Anita wanted to talk to her about that night in her tent, and she wishes the girl would open up more to her.
She attempts to stay vigilant while the girl falls asleep each night to give her a sense of security, but it’s fairly difficult when said girl turns on her side and feigns sleep most nights.
Anita and Cassandra immediately make their way to the Chantry - after Anita divests herself of her armor, complaining of it restricting her breathing. But she suspects that is yet another way to escape the duties that she does not want.
“Thank goodness you’ve arrived. We heard of your meeting in Val Royeaux,” Josephine walks out of seemingly nowhere, causing Anita to jump.
“Makers breath, Lady Montilyet!”
“Apologies, Your Worship.”
Josephine has the barest hint of a smile on her face, though, so Cassandra doubts how apologetic she is.
“How could news have possibly gotten here so quickly?” Cassandra asks like she already knows the answer.
“I had my agents posted all over the city. We could not risk anything happening to the Herald. They sent word ahead.” Leliana says, coming from the other side.
Anita jumps slightly, face contorting into a barely-noticeable frown for just a second and then pauses.
“Alright, where is he?”
Josephine cocks her head. “Who, Your Worship?”
“The Commander! You two,” she points at Josephine and Leliana, “came out of nowhere, so it goes to say that he is also going to do so.”
Anita looks around before skeptically stepping forward, opening the heavy war room door.
The Commander is leaning over the table, inspecting something. The girl clutches her chest.
“Maker... Are you all here to help close the Breach, or is this an elaborate attempt to kill me?”
“That remains to be seen,” Leliana says dryly from beneath her hood.
Josephine gasps, “Of course not, Your Worship. Leliana simply has a twisted sense of humor.” The Antivan glares pointedly at her longtime friend.
Cullen looks up, sighing. “All jokes aside, it’s a shame the Templars have abandoned their sense.”
The girl barely contains the snort that makes its way out of her body. When did the Templars ever have sense?
“At least we know we can approach the mages now,” Anita offers hopefully, trying to simplify the matter.
“Lord Seeker Lucius is not the man I remember,” Cassandra remarks. “He was almost entirely different, in fact. It was most peculiar...”
“What? What is it?” Josephine looks far too eager to find out information she didn’t previously have.
“Anita said something... strange, before losing consciousness, about the Lord Seeker. Funnily enough I can’t seem to remember it now...”
“How odd,” Leliana says, looking at Anita with calculating eyes and shifting the topic. “Almost as odd as what my agents have been reporting. He has taken the Order somewhere, but to do what?”
Anita sighs, already sick of politics. “Do we have to go in circles talking about mages and Templars? We all already know which group I want to ask for help. The Templars will be of no help to us.”
“No, no... We must look into it. I’m certain not everyone in the Order will support the Lord Seeker-“
“Commander, did you not just hear me? The Templars will be of no help. And the mages have invited us to sit with them! Out of our options, one has far better chances of getting this Breach closed.”
The Commander looks thoroughly chastised. Josephine covers her mouth with her hand daintily, hiding a small smile.
“You think the mage rebellion will be more united? It could be ten times worse, for all we know,” he argues. “Think logically! Do we want abominations everywhere-“
“That’s under Chantry doctrine!” She snaps, startling Josephine and Cullen.
Leliana and Cassandra stay impassive, though both want to hear what she has to say. She’s been very tight-lipped about her political inclinations thus far.
She takes a deep breath. “Abominations aren’t nearly as common as people, yes, even ‘well informed Templars’” She sneers, “such as yourself, think they are. They only happen when Chantry doctrine is enforced, in areas such as the circles.”
The adults are silent, the only noise a soft scratching of quill on paper as Josephine takes notes. Leliana looks like a woman putting together a puzzle.
“So if my opinion here doesn’t matter, fine. But I am not stepping foot near a Templar. Not one.” She crosses her arms and tilts her chin up.
“We should consider our options,” Josephine says lightly. “We need agents in more places, as mentioned - something you can help with when you return to the Hinterlands. That should help us get started.”
Josephine is a wonderful mediator and situation diffuser. She’ll have to take notes.
“When do we depart to the Hinterlands?”
Leliana answers this time. “Two days. That way we can get our affairs in order - and you can rest a bit. It also gives us time to settle smaller conflicts on the map,” Leliana spreads a hand to several markers.
“Your trip is meant to last around three months, with the mage-templar conflict spilling out and the work that must be done,” Cullen chimes in.
Anita nods, taking it all in. “Meeting adjourned?”
“Yes, you may go. We will settle more of this tomorrow afternoon.”
Leliana follows Anita, who is walking through the Chantry. “Herald, a moment.”
The girl turns to face her, a displeased expression on her face. “Please, call me Anita.”
“That would be improper, no?”
“I do not like the title,” Anita grits out. “Did you need something?”
“Yes, actually. While in the Hinterlands, I would like you to locate a man named Warden Blackwall. There will be directions on where he was last seen.”
Anita raises an eyebrow. “Why do you need a Warden?” And then, after a moment of thought, “and why ask after the meeting?”
Leliana sighs. “Because the Wardens have gone missing, all except King Alistair. The others do not think my concern important. I heard of this Warden Blackwall and wished to investigate. Can I count on you?”
Blue eyes search olive green. “Yes,” Anita says eventually. “I won’t let you down.”
Leliana lets her lips curve into a smile. “Good.” She pats the girl’s head as she goes by. “See to it that you don’t... Anita.”
With very little to do, Anita spends the first half of the day resting and rubbing her salves and tinctures into her sore muscles. Then she picks up her daggers, unfortunately new, and goes to practice her form and blade work. When better to practice than when you’ve just relaxed?
It’s difficult, since she can’t use her magic, and she has to practice more often if she wants to be able to protect herself. After all, she’s relying on one form of protection now.
Seeker Cassandra is beating a practice dummy into nothing when she arrives, a look of clear, concentrated frustration on her face.
“Did the practice dummy offend you? I can have some words with it, if you’d like.”
Her extending a conversation to the woman surprises herself, but she smiles crookedly anyway.
The woman barely spares her a glance. “They are worries not befit a child, I would not place them upon you.”
Subira frowns. “But they involve me. I can tell. Pretty much everyone’s worries nowadays involve me. It’s okay.”
Cassandra frowns herself, then says, “I wonder if I did the right thing,” very quietly. “One day, they may write me down as a mad woman, a fool - and they may be right. What I have set in motion will change everything.”
Subira looks up. “Sometimes,” She starts, “We’re stuck between the rules we feel bound to, and the ideals we’ve adopted for ourselves. I think, Cassandra Pentaghast, that you did what you thought was right,” she takes her attention off of the sky, looking at the older woman now.
“I think you made the best decision you felt was possible in a situation where bad decisions surrounded you.”
Cassandra smiles a bit, feeling it tug at the scar on her cheek. “I... Thank you for your candor... Anita. You’re very wise, for someone so young.”
“Oh! Uh.. no problem, Seeker,” Anita blushes, not used to ‘thank-yous’.
She turns quickly, finding a relatively unused practice dummy and getting to work.
After bathing (bathing is a word for it - warm water and a cloth in her cabin isn’t exactly what she’d call luxury accommodation, but it’s something) and changing into a clean outfit, Subira made her way to the tavern.
She felt sore all over, but it was good to get into the habit of practicing again. After once again rubbing her salves into her sore muscles, she remembered that Varric said he had plenty of stories waiting for her at the Tavern should she choose to eat there with him.
It’s been awhile since she’s had a proper meal - her stomach thinks so, anyway - and so the Tavern beckons, warm and inviting. No one notices her, thankfully, entering from the side entrance with a hood pulled up. She spots Varric fairly easily, sliding in next to him and pulling the hood down.
“Makers hairy - Spitfire, you’re going to kill me one of these days, you know that?”
She smiles. “And then you’ll be six feet closer to your Ancestors!”
He laughs, taking a drink of his ale. “That’s true, Spitfire, that’s true! Now, let’s order you some food and we can talk.”
After flagging down Flissa - the Tavern is incredibly busy considering Haven has refugees, pilgrims from the Conclave, and villagers - who takes the order with a tired but thrilled smile and ordering a simple plate for dinner, she turns to Varric.
“So, lay it on me. What stories do you have for me?”
He has a mischievous spark in his eye. “I was thinking that we make a deal.”
She sighs. “What type of deal?”
“A story for a story. You tell one, I’ll tell one. We can go back and forth wherever we are and if it’s too much, you can pause or stop your story.”
“What happens if you stop your story?”
“It becomes the other person’s turn,” he smiles. “No pressure, y’know?”
She scoffs. “I know you’re being really nice and all right now, but I’m not made of glass. Make it higher stakes!”
He laughs, holding his hands up in surrender. “Alright, alright! If you don’t finish your story, you have to...” he holds his chin between his thumb and forefinger, thinking. His eyes light up.
“You have to try to steal something from Nightingale.”
“Who - Oh.”
He grins like a cat. “You too scared for that?”
She finds herself grinning right back. “Oh, you’re on.”
Cullen joins them tentatively, Varric calling him Curly in a vaguely affectionate tone, sitting across from them. He eats quietly. His shy and almost tentative nature reminds her that there is a person behind the Templar and she ruefully shakes the thought away.
When Flissa comes back with her food, she thanks her quietly and passes her far more coin than she should be owed for this, and the woman’s eyes widen.
“You’re her, then?” The barkeep puts her hands on her hips with a soft smile. “Figures the Herald of Andraste would overpay. Take your coin, Herald, it’s the least I can do.”
Varric watches the emotion play out on Anita’s face, the girl trying not to grimace. “No, please,” she insists. “I don’t need it, and I’ll be able to access more. You’ve been wonderful, thank you for dinner.”
Flissa looks like she’s about to fall at the feet of the teenager and start worshipping, her eyes are practically filled with stars. And while it’s a great humanizing moment that Varric could put in a book - actually, he couldn’t have written this girl’s story better if he tried, a story could not compare to the actual events happening in real time, and getting to witness it!- he can see how her expression shifts and her posture changes uncomfortably.
“Of course, Herald,” the woman beams. “Thank you for your generosity. You truly are what the world needs in these dark times.”
Subira watches the barkeep go with distant eyes. If only Varric could write ‘How to Save The World For Dummies - How My Idiot Friends Keep Saving the World’, it would be infinitely helpful to her.
“Spitfire!” He says suddenly, startling both Cullen and Subira out of thought. “How about that story? Curly was around for this one, actually, and I remember all the guards faces...”
Subira wonders what story to tell, yawning softly even as she listens with stars in her eyes about how Hawke, Varric, Isabela (and Fenris, who was convinced to come along but mostly just willing to watch them get themselves into trouble from afar) stole Meredith’s signature headpiece - a crown.
Cullen frowns in thought on small details, laughs quietly about the rage painted on Knight-Commander Meredith’s face when the crown was found on top of one of the statues outside of the Chantry - a statue of a quivering slave.
Subira particularly liked that story. She likes the Hero Version of Hawke that Varric paints, even if she knows that it’s likely she’s just a tired woman who did her best, and not a Hero. But she’s a good woman, in her books.
And admittedly, when she got her hands on a copy of The Tale of the Champion, she did read it. A few times, actually. The exciting adventures and clear exaggerations of Varric’s writing made her exhausting days brighter, until the book was found and burned in front of her. That scar hurt more than most of her physical ones. Mostly, it was a reminder to not get caught.
Hawke is better than what she is, anyway. Not even an adult and already committing crimes that would put a Merchant’s Guild member to shame. She can’t be selfless, she can’t give herself to a cause like Hawke gave herself to Kirkwall.
Subira wonders if she’ll survive by the end of the world.
Chapter 12: A Movement in the Making
The past visits Subira with two of her present allies. I wonder which one of them is able to de-escalate the situation. (Hint, Cassandra simply cannot catch a break here). Next chapter, onto the Hinterlands! This is just one of those mediums to give you an idea of how the main character is doing and everyone else is. Answer: Subira isn't doin too hot.
I edited this to add in a scene because it was needed!!
Subira enters inconspicuously from the side entrance - as she always does - and joins Varric at his table and blinks.
Sera is there, joined by Cullen, Cassandra and even Solas. The elvhen mage seems less than enthusiastic about it, however.
“Oh,” she ends up saying. “Hello, everyone.”
“Hey, Spitfire,” Varric grins. “You’re just in time. How about that bet we made?”
Subira smiles uneasily, her eyes darting to the other people around. “I don’t know...”
“Well,” he grins, “you could always pass and steal-“
“No, no,” she waves her hands, “I’m good. I’ll tell a story. How about...”
She holds her chin in her hands, staring at the table. Her eyes light up.
“I’ll tell you a story about my friend Michalis!”
“That must be cheating-“ Varric complains.
“I’m in the story, you fool!” She laughs.
“Now, once upon a time a girl traveled through Nevarra...”
It was supposed to be in and out. Castelleta and Herah were off scouting for other necessary supplies, and she was checking out a nobleman’s purse. It shouldn’t have enticed her so much - but after she saw the way he treated his servants, she knew she had to have it.
From the corner of her eye, she sees Castelleta approach their meeting place. One less thing to worry about.
She’s almost close enough to slice the bag and run, all she has to do is-
“Hey!” Castelleta shouts across the way. All eyes snap to attention. A figure is seen running away from her and she bolts.
Subira groans, knowing it’s now or never. She slices the bag and takes off in their direction, hearing muffled shouts of surprise seconds later.
Thirty seconds into running and she finds Castelleta with a young boy pinned up against a wall. “Woah, Cas, stop,” she says, pushing on her shoulder.
“This little shit tried to steal from me-“ Her accent is thicker in her agitation.
“Look at him, Cas,” she demands, pointing at him. He’s thin, dirty from what looks like days of running. And younger than them.
“How old are you, kid?” Subira asks gently.
The boys eyes fill with tears. “E-Eleven,”
She looks back at Castelleta as if to say ‘I told you so’. “Can you tell us your name?”
“I’m Michalis,” he whispers, holding up the thing he stole from Cas. “I’m sorry I stole the food. I was just really hungry...”
Subira shushed him. “It’s okay, kid. Come with us, we’ve got you.”
His eyes brighten. “Really?”
“Yeah,” she looks at Cas and while there’s a grumpy look on her face, she seems to be softening for the younger boy.
Shouts of guards and dogs sound close in the alleyways. “But we have to go, because some noble prick is going to be missing this,” she holds up a large sack of money with a grin, placing it into her satchel. “And we need to find Herah.”
“Did you get caught?” Sera asks, eyes wide.
She laughs. “No, thankfully I wasn’t going to be brought before - what are they called again? Mor - mor-“
“Mortalitasi,” Cassandra supplies, taking a sip of her ale.
“Them!” She exclaims. “Yeah, Michalis was on the run from them, it turns out.”
Cassandra turns still. “What?”
Subira shrugs. “Michalis is a mage, and I guess he was born into some family in Nevarra with royal ties. They wanted to induct him into the Mortalitasi, but he didn’t want that.”
Cassandra nods slowly. “I see,”
Subira cocks her head and then Varric asks, “Hey, Seeker, aren’t you like, royalty in Nevarra?”
“Oh, shit!” Subira exclaims. “Oh, fuck, please don’t tell me you’re part of those Pentaghasts.”
Her laughter is getting hard to be maintained now. Cassandra raises an eyebrow.
“Unfortunately, I am. 78th in line for the Nevarran throne. In Nevarra, you may have heard my Uncles name mentioned-“
“-Vestalus,” Subira finishes, laughing so hard she can’t breathe. Cassandra blinks.
“I... stole... from... him,” she gasps between breaths.
Everyone at the table chuckles, ultimately watching the Seeker for her reaction. Finally, she blinks again, lifting her ale to the girl. “He deserved it,” she deadpans, taking a long drink.
They all erupt into laughter and giggles, more stories being shared and hands slapping on wood. Subira feels less alone.
Subira watches Haven from atop the walls. Cullen and Cassandra train the troops, the Commander shaking his head when the Seeker takes his soldiers down faster than she can blink. Varric tells stories around a small campfire with Sera hanging onto his arm. All of these people from different backgrounds, who she would’ve never known before-
“Observing, hm?” Vivienne’s voice breaks her out of her reverie. “And what do you see?”
Subira lets her eyes wander past, towards the rest of Haven. “A movement in the making?”
The older woman lets a smile spread across her face. “Yes, but more than that: an opportunity. You have here the most faithful gathered, all rallied behind you. Power like that is hard to come by.”
“Apparently so,” she murmurs.
“This can be used for very wonderful things, Herald,” Vivienne reaches and straightens a lock of her hair behind her ear. “Thedas as we know it is on the brink of change. Can you tell?”
She merely nods in response, a pensive expression on her face.
“Quiet today, hm? I wonder where your quick mind has run off to,” the older woman laughs lightly. “But I will leave you to your sulking, young one. Try not to waste the day like this.”
Before she can protest that she wasn’t sulking, Vivienne is going back the way she came. She sighs, turning to go find something to do for the day.
Vaguely, she remembers entering Josephine’s office once to speak to a woman named Maeve about some objects she picked up when in the Hinterlands - and seeing familiar Antivan candy sitting in a dish on her desk.
Now, normally this wouldn’t interest her and she’d ignore the memory and walk away. However, these are a very specific candy. The one they only ever gave to the ‘good’ kids in the orphanage.
Nearly every shop owner had a few of these sitting out, though they never liked the orphan children in their stores, so it was rare that they got to enjoy them. Whenever she could get her hands on them, she savored them.
So she sneaks into Lady Montilyet’s office, quiet as a mouse. It’s the second day - before they’re going to depart to the Hinterlands - and about mid morning. Right now, the Ambassador and Leliana are having tea together and discussing reports, gossip and anything else that happens to come up.
Walking up to the desk, she brings her shoulders in closer, hunching. It makes it easier to run if she’s smaller. Reaching for the candy, she almost has it-
“What do you think you’re doing in here?” Leliana’s voice is sharp and accusing behind her.
Her whole body tenses, causing her hand to falter. She turns very slowly, folding in on herself. “I was... I...” She doesn’t look up, too afraid to see angry eyes that remind her of the past. Her eyes are closing and if sound is falling away, soon she's going to hear-
“Sister Leliana, please, I’ll handle this.” Josephine hurries into the room, gently taking over the situation. Subira's eyes open and slowly, the feeling recedes.
Josephine gives the woman a pointed look. Instead of arguing, Leliana opens her mouth once, closes it, and nods before walking away.
Josephine closes her door softly, walking to stand in front of Anita.
The girl doesn’t look up. “I’m sorry I was in your office, Lady Montilyet,” she whispers.
The Ambassador is curious. From what she’s seen of the child, she’s boisterous and not afraid of... anything.
“It’s quite alright, Herald. I’m just curious - what brought you here?”
A flush makes its way onto the girl’s cheeks. “I... the candy, in the bowl on your desk,” Josephine’s mouth forms an ‘O’, and her eyes softened.
“It’s a favorite of mine, from home. I used to steal it all the time and it’s just a habit-“
Josephine holds up a hand and she stops, just like that.
“It’s alright,” she reassures, “In fact, any time you want one, you may come take one.”
Anita looks up, disbelief and bewilderment coloring her features. Josephine smiles and goes to retrieve the bowl of candy.
“Here,” She holds it out to her. “Take one. Or two, I don’t mind.”
Slowly, eyeing the woman in front of her, she takes one piece of candy. She unwraps it and pops it into her mouth, closing her eyes and savoring the flavor.
“Thank you,” She says quietly.
“It’s not a problem, Your Worship. I don’t mind at all.”
She deflates, and Josephine feels concern bubble up. “Your Worship? Is something wrong?”
She looks down. “Can you... call me Anita? Please? At least when it’s just us and everyone else?”
Josephine looks like she’s going to protest, and Anita rushes to continue. Her green eyes are striking, almost like the fade, and Josephine finds it hard to look away.
“It’s hard to feel like a person anymore. I feel more like a figure.”
Then after a moment, Josephine nods, grinning when she sees the bright smile that this brings on the girl.
“You can come into my office whenever you’d like, Anita,” she says, testing out the name. “I’ll always allow you in. Any hour.”
“Okay.” Anita says, a small smile on her lips. Somewhere in her, she believes this kind Antivan woman.
After so long - nearly an entire month, to that insufferable Capital and back, including the trip to Bastien’s Estate - in the company of Cassandra, Varric and Solas, all she wants is some space. Peace and quiet, if you will.
She spends the rest of her day in Josephine’s office, dutifully - and without a word - assisting her in sorting her paperwork, delivering reports, and anything else she may need.
Sure, soon the two of them they will be called into the War Room and she will depart Cullen’s forces there, Leliana’s various scouts there, apply Josephine’s Ambassadorial skill there. But right now, there is calm. There is peace in the subtle motions of work.
When there is nothing left to do, she sits in a chair next to her desk, savoring the taste of sweet Antivan candy and good company.
They finally depart for the Hinterlands today, and Anita is already awake, looking at the ceiling. When the sun rises it barely makes its way over the small town until far into the day - Haven is shrouded by tall mountains and trees. But just barely, there’s warm light seeping in through her windows.
She’s getting dressed when there’s two sharp knocks on her door, and she goes to answer when Cassandra steps through. Anita yelps, going to cover her side - her chest is already bound, but it’s her scar she’s worried about. Her face twists up in an angry scowl.
“Why didn’t you wait?!” The girl barks at the older woman.
Cassandra has the decency to look guilty. “I... apologize, I... assumed you’d be in bed...”
“You assumed wrong!” She’s aware her voice is raising, but her blood is loud in her ears and her skin is tingling nervously and all she wants to do is escape-
“Anita, please lower your voice,” Cassandra asks gently. Her eyes catch on the tail end of the scar.
“This is what I didn’t want you to see,” she hissed, turning away. Revealing her back to the older woman shows more scarred skin, though significantly less than her front.
“Please leave me to get ready, Seeker,” Anita says, voice stiff.
“Of course, Herald,” Cassandra replies in kind, used to receiving orders. “We will be at the gate when you are ready to depart.”
When it’s obvious the girl isn’t going to reply, Cassandra quietly exits her cabin, not hearing her dissolve into tears when the door shuts.
A face of steel is in place when Subira arrives at the gate, her hair is tied back and wrapped. Josephine, the lovely woman, gave her a gift before she got too far past the Chantry - a headscarf, to hold her hair out of her face, in case tying it up wasn’t enough, and to help keep her cool. It is a light grey, made of strong cotton, and wrapped expertly around her head and shoulders.
Deep down, Subira was overjoyed that the older woman thought of her and gave her such a wonderful gift. But she only nodded and held Josephine’s hand firmly when she received it, uttering the quietest of ‘thank-you’s.
She probably mirrors the women from her home country, and she takes pride in that. Hard working mage women make hard working mage women, it seems.
“Are you ready, Herald?” Seeker Pentaghast is on full display, a hand on her sword and eyes looking out towards the horizon.
“Yes, Seeker.” she replies.
Varric and Solas watch the exchange curiously, each looking as if it’s a game of chess that should be carefully picked apart and analyzed. Sera looks bored.
“Woohoo, more traveling,” Subira says sarcastically as they begin their trip.
“Lighten up, Spitfire,” Varric says unhelpfully, patting her shoulder as he walks by. “You’ll be in great shape by the time we get back!”
She groans loudly before following after him.
Chapter 13: Hope is Far
The Hinterlands are full of the aftermath of the Mage-Templar conflict. Subira feels crushed under the weight of all the work they must do. A new ally joins the mix.
From the outskirts camp just outside of the crossroads, they travel West, towards the closest Templar encampment. On the way they cross the path of a ram, and since they’re so close Subira declares they’re going to pause in the crossroads.
Arriving in the village caused Subira’s heart to break several times over. In her head is a to-do list:
- Assist injured refugees.
- Kill rams.
- Deliver rams to butcher.
- Establish Inquisition camps.
- Root out last Templar camps.
- Root out bandits on the roads.
- Acquire bear hides, if possible.
- Find Horsemaster Dennet.
- Acquire horses from Horsemaster Dennet.
- Get potion from Hyndel.
- Close rifts.
The last one she was the least excited about. Unfortunately she was sure her to-do list would grow even as she crossed things off mentally, so that was unfortunate. But the scouts she had spoken with a month prior did heed her word, and had been helping the refugees as much as possible.
Now, Varric, Solas, Cassandra and (for most party members anyway) unfortunately Sera, watch her work before they set off. She is hurrying between patients, helping the overworked and tired field medics. She whispers soothing words to the patients and rubs her self-made concoctions onto burns and she pours her potions down their throats. Many are encouraged to drink water or take a bite of food and sit up a bit.
Most are humbled, ecstatic when they realize the Herald of Andraste has come to help them in their hour of need. It’s clear to the three who have traveled with her that she’s uncomfortable, but for the sake of morale - and these injured, dying people - she will keep on. They can’t stay forever, and eventually Subira stands up and dusts off her knees.
“I’m going to need more elfroot, thankfully the Hinterlands is chock full of it...” she murmurs. “Oh, and the Healers here will need some, and I’m sure I’ll run into others who also do... and Corporal Vale needs...”
“Don’t get too lost in your head there, Spitfire,” Varric says. “Seeker says we gotta head out.”
“Okay, Varric! Coming.” Subira hums to herself as she returns her things to her satchel.
“Yeah, Harold!” Sera says teasingly. “Your brain will get all mushy!”
She makes weird faces with her lips, drawing a small laugh from the girl, but she doesn’t look up from what she’s doing as she mentally catalogues.
Her checklist now looks like this:
- Assist injured refugees.
- Kill rams.
- Deliver rams to butcher.
- Establish Inquisition camps.
- Root out last Templar camps.
- Root out bandits on the roads.
- Acquire bear hides, if possible.
- Find Horsemaster Dennet.
- Acquire horses from Horsemaster Dennet.
- Get potion from Hyndel.
- Close rifts.
- Acquire mage caches for Recruit Whittle.
- Harvest elfroot.
It’s going to be a long three months in the Hinterlands.
Well, she’s certainly found a lot of elfroot, that’s for sure. Varric groans every time she stops to harvest a bit more and Sera stomps her feet.
The first thing on their list - and the easiest - is the rams, and there are supposed to be Templar and bandit camps in the direction they were pointed in.
Multitasking, it seems. The first bandit camp they stumble across is easy enough, she comes out with a few scratches and Cassandra has to come to her rescue when she takes on two bandits twice her size, but is otherwise a success.
Fighting their way through the Hinterlands makes Subira appreciate her down-low identity even more, and miss it. They arrive at a lovely looking stream and Cassandra nods to her. She declares they’re making camp, seeing as its already mid-day. They need to have camps set up throughout Thedas if they’re going to keep an eye on things.
She takes in the serene beauty of the Upper Lake Camp, as the scouts have begun to call it. There’s puddles but they’re shallow, and spindleweed lines the stream. Beckoning a Scout over, she doesn’t look up.
They salute. “At your service, Ser.”
“Oh, please, none of that,” she says vaguely. “I just need a favor. I’m going to be setting off again, and this isn’t of great import - I need someone to harvest as much of that spindleweed as you see?” One finger points at where she means while the other holds her map.
“Right away, Herald!” The Scout didn’t get the memo, clearly, saluting again. Sighing, she thanks them genuinely.
She surveys the map quickly, furrowing her brow. Warden Blackwall seems to be just up over this waterfall, if these directions are anything to go off of.
Pocketing her orders, maps and directions, she walks to the rocks, finding a good foothold and hoisting herself up. She’s already got a leg up and over to the top when the Seeker notices her.
“Herald! What in the Makers name are you doing?!”
“Sister Leliana-“ She grunts, slipping as she loses concentration. “-Said That Warden Blackwall could be found just over here. I am not going all the way around!”
Cassandra looks ready to argue, but Varric just pats her arm as he walks by, fastening Bianca to his back. She sighs, following him, Solas behind her.
Sera is already scrambling up right next to Subira. “Want a hand, Harry?”
Subira scowls. “No, thank you! I can-“
Her hand slips and she frantically grasps for a handhold but finds none. Sera’s eyes widen, reaching for the girls shirt and missing.
All the Seeker sees is a wobbling Herald and a panicked elf and she moves, pushing her back into place. The girl has the decency to look sheepish, pulling back to show that with her reflexes she pulled a knife from... somewhere - and dug it into the closest place she could.
“But I thank you, dear Seeker,” she says playfully. “A knight in shining armor! Oh, all the women must swoon.”
The Seeker grunts and lets go of the girl, not confirming nor denying her jest. While the girl may have been joking harmlessly, those types of comments have always left her... unsettled. Especially about women.
“I know I am!” Sera chirps, reaching a hand down to pull the girl up, who breathes heavily when she’s finally on her two feet looking at the lake they’ll have to walk around.
“Come on, slowpokes!” Sera mocks. “What, are you grannies or soldiers?”
“Neither!” Varric says with a breathy laugh. “I’m just a writer!”
“Words are a weapon of their own, Varric,” Solas says smartly, passing him and climbing up beside the Herald.
“Yeah, yeah Chuckles,” he mutters, climbing up another rock. “Mock me and the irony of my career choice.”
“He does have a rather succinct point, Varric,” Cassandra says thoughtfully, pulling herself up just a second before Varric.
She hesitates but extends a hand to him, and his eyes widen before grinning and accepting it.
“Always knew you liked me somewhere in there, Seeker!”
The woman grunts and turns to march through the sloshy wet ground to find a path. “And you ruined it.”
The Herald chuckles somberly. Walking slowly with the light surrounding her and bouncing off of the water, she looks regal.
“Isn’t that how it always is for people like us, Varric?”
“People like us, Spitfire? You’re a little young for fatalistic wit.” He grins wryly from one side of his mouth.
She shrugs. “The things we touch turn to ash.”
With that, she walks forward with a quiet confidence, only stopping to harvest black lotus and some spindleweed along the way.
Sera whistles in the silence she left behind. “She’s a troubled one, ain’t she?”
Varric chuckles, gaining his bearings and walking after the girl who is going to wrap the world around her fingers.
“Aren’t we all?”
Finding Warden Blackwall wasn’t what she expected... at all. The Blight was a far away worry to a girl who roamed the streets of Antiva with dirty feet and hungry eyes. So she didn’t have quite an idea of what to expect - but this?
Somehow she expected him to look... less guilty. And more sure of himself. Instead, she’s met with a man who shoulders so much guilt she’s sure his shoulders are about to break. Bringing him into the Inquisition is questionable, but she also remembers Leliana’s words.
“Well, if you aren’t what we need...” She turns to walk away, looking at the quiet lake. It’s quite nice in the Hinterlands, when you get past the bears.
“Wait! Uh, Inquisition... Agent?"
Slowly, she turns. “Yes?”
“I, uh... a Warden is good for something, right?”
“What can a Warden do that I cannot, or a mage or a soldier cannot?” She challenges, folding her arms.
He scoffs. “Kill a fucking Archdemon if pressed,” she looks bored, so he continues on. “Listen, the Wardens didn’t have anything to do with this, I meant that. But if it’s soldiers you need... Maybe you need me. Maybe you need a Warden.”
His determination is decidedly genuine to her and she smiles. “Welcome to the Inquisition, Warden Blackwall.” She extends her hand to him.
“Well met, Lady...?”
“Herald,” The Seeker says from beside her. “You are speaking to the Herald of Andraste.”
“I prefer Anita, personally.” She says tightly.
He nods, noticing her stiff posture. “Well met, Lady Anita.”
“Varric! He does the thing that J - Lady Josephine does!” She complains.
“What did I do?” Blackwall asks curiously.
“Ah, Ruffles is just prone to polite titles and manners,” the dwarf waves a hand. “Our Herald here doesn’t like it.”
“I call her Harry!” A blonde elf appears upside down from the large tree next to them, legs hung over a branch. “Or Harold, you know, because of Herald?”
“Makers left tit!” The man swears. “Has she been here the whole time?”
“Sure have, Beardy!” The girl flips out of the tree and lands on her feet.
He notes the bow on her back - so that’s where the arrows came from. At first he thought it was from the dwarf, Varric, but his crossbow uses bolts.
“You can come with us,” Anita offers, a hand motioning to her group. Sera and Solas glare at each other, and Cassandra barely hides her disdain for Varric. “We’re a group of misfits, but we’re fun. Unless you’d rather meet us at Haven.” She thinks on her offer and continues,
“However, we are going to be in the Hinterlands for a little over three months. But the choice is yours, I don’t mind.”
Blackwall considers it, answering humbly, “I’d be honored to travel with the Herald of Andraste, if she’ll have me.”
Anita groans, tipping her head back. “None of that! If you’re going to travel with us I won’t hear any of it, got it?”
The man grins under his bushy beard. “Loud and clear. Allow me to gather my things?”
Blackwall informs them that just a few clicks away Horsemaster Dennet’s farm lays, and Anita seems to visibly sigh with relief.
Unfortunately, on the way there’s also a rift, nestled between rocks above a river. Before dealing with it officially, Anita establishes a camp a few hundred feet away from the river with some scouts who were passing by.
Sera stays behind with Blackwall, deciding that ‘demon-y shite’ wasn’t for her. Anita sends them off to do something she heard one of the Scouts mention - a large druffalo was missing, and she needed them to locate it while they dealt with this. Additionally, there was some cache in the river that needed to be located so the Scouts could return it to the rightful owner in the name of the Inquisition.
Cassandra watches as Anita’s fingers twitch, nervous and restless but for the life of her she cannot figure out why. The girl sighs, cracks her knuckles and motions for them to follow her, and off they go to fight demons.
The rift crackles and spits in conjunction with the searing tear in the girls palm, lighting up her veins up to her wrist and she hisses in pain, shaking her hand.
When Solas approaches to take a look at it, she brushes him off with a firm stare and mutters something in Antivan before getting into position. He only shakes his head before drawing his staff, encouraging Varric and herself to draw their weapons as well.
The rift suddenly explodes in a burst of light and with it, demons spawn. Immediately from it a lesser terror and two wraiths appear, splashing and hissing menacingly. Anita throws down a bottle before disappearing in a puff of smoke and reappearing on the other side, slashing at a wraith. Solas casts a barrier over her and the battle truly begins; Varric provides backup to their Herald by shooting bolts into the wraith, sending it back into the rift.
Cassandra shieldbashes the terror, stunning it before running it through with her sword. The warrior makes quick work of it while Solas and Anita tag-team the wraith on the other side and it falls under their onslaught. With a smirk, she goes to close the rift-
It blows her backwards, a terror landing on top of her in the freezing water. She gasps for air, attempting to escape without magic but the terror removes itself and she shudders, forcing herself back into action.
Varric yells something unintelligible when the girl falls, but Solas and Cassandra understand well enough - get to her!
The Seeker felt her heart stop when Anita goes down, even if it was only for a second. Hair dripping and expression angry and determined, she looked like a fierce heroine. Easily enough they dispatched the rest of the demons and Anita lifts her hand to the rift.
She slowly forms a fist, dragging backwards until the rift becomes smaller and smaller. With an explosive crash, the rift seals, and Anita stumbles, a little dizzy from the magical transfer, but successful and smiling slightly.
“Scared us for a second there, Spitfire.” Varric claps her on her shoulder.
She laughs. “Let’s go find this Horsemaster, shall we? This water is cold.”
Chapter 14: When the Rain Comes
Horsemaster Dennet is introduced to the Inquisition and Subira makes a furry friend.
Dennet is curt and to the point, something no one else in the Hinterlands seemed capable of being. Subira is glad for it, when she all but stomped in soaking wet and exhausted. He was polite but firm, pointed them in the direction of Bran and that was it.
Now they’ve got watchtower locations to set up, and after speaking with his wife they learned about some weird wolves. Subira snorts, Demon wolves. What’s next?
A voice calls after them on their way off of the property. “Excuse me, little lady! Herald!” They turn to see Dennet standing next to a large Ferelden Forder in a paddock, saddled up and brushed.
“You’re the one who’s going to put the world back together, so you need the finest mount you can get. Take care of him, and he’ll take care of you.” Dennet reaches through and pats the large horse on the shoulder.
“Oh! I certainly... I couldn’t,” she says. “My companions don’t have mounts, so we’ll have to leave him here for now. I’m sure he’ll be in good hands.” To the confusion of everyone, she turns to keep walking.
A woman appears. “Hold on! Why don’t you try out my race-course on that horse my father just gave you?” She’s got a huge grin on her face and her hands on her hips.
“I mean... I don’t know...”
“Go for it, Spitfire!”
“Varric, we shouldn’t-“ Cassandra begins out of the corner of her mouth.
Varric lowers his voice. “Let the kid have some fun, Seeker.”
Hesitantly, Subira makes her way to the large mount, reaching her hand through the gap. His large muzzle noses her hand and she giggles, rubbing his snout gently. “You like that, huh? Oh, you’re just a big softie,” she murmurs.
Before anyone can get a word in edgewise, she’s climbing over the fence, petting him and cooing. Subira climbs on to the second rail of the fence with wobbling legs, barely able to find her balance.
Cassandra’s eyes widen when she realizes what she plans to do. “Anita! Be careful, I could just-“
Subira ignores her. With one hand on the saddle and a foot in the stirrup she swings up, pushing off of the fence. It looks a bit like a scramble because of how large the horse is, and she looks tiny on him, but it looks right.
With a grin, she leans down and hugs the horse. “I love him!” She declares.
The woman, Seanna, she introduced herself as, clears her throat. “You going to run my course?”
Subira’s grin widens. “Of course!”
Seanna explains how it works, shows the markers and gets into position. They adjust the saddle a bit so she can properly ride, and then the woman is at the gate, about to open it.
“Three... Two... One... Go!”
She takes off, riding his neck and weight off of his back just the way she always did before. His strong legs and powerful thundering hooves tear up the ground beneath them and she doesn’t even realize it’s happening before she lets out a happy yell, encouraging him on through the course. He grabs the bit and charges forward, leaping over a stonewall. In the background, she can hear Varric cheering and Cassandra worrying but all she notices is how free she feels.
It‘s reminiscent of when Subira broke Castelleta out.
Aside from the servants, not a soul was awake in the Orlesian manor. The sticky humidity sticks to Subira’s skin as she slowly opens Castelleta’s window, silent as a mouse when she crawls in. She turns to find the girl not in her bed. Panic seized her throat and a flame erupts from her hand for light.
Castelleta is to her left, rolling her eyes. She places a finger to her lips and jerks her head to the window. Subira nods, extinguishing the flame and gesturing to her. Cas exits first and Subira after her, gently closing the window. They climb the trellis and carefully make their way down.
Like shadows they move, the only noise the slight rustling of Castelleta’s night dress. When they arrive to the stables, the girl immediately begins shucking it off.
“Do you have the clothes?”
Grinning, Subira digs through the bag she packed and hands the girl comfortable cotton trousers and breathable shirt. Castelleta changes quickly while Subira messes with the bags on the horse she stole somewhere else.
“Cas, I saddled up a horse in that stall,” she points to the right. “Get on, and let’s go.”
For a moment, it’s still, and Subira tilts her head. “Cas?”
Castelleta, the taller of the two, steps forward and hugs her best friend tightly. “Thank you,” She says thickly. It sounds like she’s crying.
“Oh, Cas,” she whispers. “You’re my best friend. I love you-“
“More than death loves an Orlesian party,” Cas pulls back, grinning. The tears in her eyes sparkle as she grins.
“Exactly,” Subira says, matching her grin. “Now let’s leave this hellhole behind.”
Castelleta nods, lacing up the simple boots she was able to steal and hide in the barn for this moment. Quietly she opens the stall door, cooing to the horse and walking her out. They mount underneath the shadows and trot quietly until they’re at the edge of the property. Cas slows to a stop.
“It is... hard to leave my life behind.” The Orlesian looks back at her home. “But I will not miss it.”
She rips the ribbon with her family colors out of her hair and throws it on the ground, grinning at Subira wildly before taking off in a gallop.
Subira laughs and takes off after her. Castelleta’s laugh sounded like freedom and Subira’s soul feels light and together they might’ve found a family.
The wind is whipping in her hair and hitting her face and before she knows it she comes up on the end of the course, shaken by the memories.
“That was amazing!” Seanna exclaims.
“Spitfire, you’ve been holding out on us!”
Cassandra is quiet, as usual, but seems to be watching her closely. Subira breathes deeply.
“Yeah, well,” she struggles to find the words. “I don’t ride much.”
“Why not?” Seanna asks loudly. “With skills like that, you should be-“
“Orphans don’t typically have the money to ride,” Subira says a bit flatly, dismounting the horse. “Especially when I was using my skill to steal.”
He barely even broke a sweat, but she still walks him forward and away from the prying eyes and ears until he seems more relaxed.
She tries to hand him back over to Seanna and requests that he stay here until mounts for everyone can be acquired.
Seanna grins, earlier conversation forgotten. “Well, I can help you with that.”
Subira raises an eyebrow. Maker, please no more riddles or favors.
“They aren’t warhorses, like this big guy,” she pats his shoulder. “But we have some horses that are just as good for riding, if your companions need mounts.”
Subira could’ve cried with relief. “Yes! Please, that would be wonderful. Thank you.”
“It’s my pleasure,” Seanna says kindly. “We want to help however we can. Even if we can’t send the warhorses until the crossroads are clear, we can still help the Herald and her companions travel faster.”
By the end of the visit, Cassandra, Varric and Solas each have a mount. Seanna told them that if they ever need another to ‘come see her’.
Riding out on her Ferelden Forder feels different than walking around to do things, and she squirms uncomfortably in her seat.
“This will shorten our time in the Hinterlands greatly,” Solas comments.
Cassandra nods. “Absolutely. We must make use of this, and immediately get to work.”
“We haven’t been up that way,” she points to a pass that’s East of the farm. “I want to see if anyone needs help.”
And so begins the story of Subira and things she wishes she didn’t say.
Chapter 15: So Does The Cold
Solas and Subira understand each other far more than one would think they do. Varric and an eavesdropping Seeker learn more about the burden she bears.
I understand some of these chapters are rather short, and I have to do that purposely - I'm separating the writing I have based on information and how it needs to be received, so if I group one thing somewhere but need it to be somewhere else, it doesn't have the same effect, ya dig? Basically some are short just for the impact of the message I'm trying to get across. Watch out for those ones! Curve balls, I tell ya!
Eventually they finish clearing the way that Anita pointed out. An Elvhen woman had her ring stolen by Templars and Cassandra has never seen the teenager become so livid so quickly. The familiar eerie flash of fade-green snaps over her eyes, but it’s gone in a second. Curiously, Solas seems to have noticed it as well this time.
Anita, with a single-minded focus, tracks the Templars down. She was deadly efficient and her use of poisons and tricks on the field made them no match for her. She’s left heaving, standing over the last Templar with the ring in her fist. Her green eyes almost swirl.
Her head snaps up. “Yes, Varric?”
Anita pauses, and very quietly comes the reply:
“No, Varric. No I’m not.”
She begins walking back to the widow’s cabin while the sun sets softly in the background.
That night they’re all exhausted as they make it back to the camp right next to the Redcliffe Farm. Cassandra takes her time polishing and rubbing down her armor, then moving onto her sword and shield. During the time it takes her to settle down, eat a small meal and prepare for bed, she notices that Anita is absent. With a thoughtful frown, she walks off into the night with a torch to check the perimeter.
Anita is crouched by the lake, having scrubbed her hands raw. Soft crunching alerts her to the mages presence.
“Hello, Solas,” she greets quietly.
He says nothing, merely kneeling beside her to examine her hands gently and then standing, hands behind his back.
“What was it?” Is what he eventually asks.
She barely utters, “what?”
And so he repeats, “What was it that you saw?
She looks into his knowing eyes and thinks that this is the price of Pride, then - knowledge. His grey eyes hold a sense of hurt and understanding in them that must’ve come at a high cost.
“Everywhere I look, Solas,” her voice trembles and she looks back at the calm lake. “It’s blood. Always on my hands, on my arms, and I can’t... I can’t get it off,” her voice is a murmur.
“Being a hero is not kind, is it,” she turns her gaze back up at him. His expression becomes painfully stifled before he closes his eyes and exhales.
“No, da’len,” he answers truthfully. “It is not. Nor is it fair. For that, I am sorry.”
She isn’t sure why he’s apologizing - whether it’s on account of the fact that she’s forced into this situation or, maybe he isn’t apologizing to her at all, but she nods anyway, her eyes slipping closed.
“Me too,” she whispers.
The wound on her heart made by the elvhen widow does not close easily. It is days of constantly snapping at those near her and retreating quickly, pushing them further and further from her - or trying to. Varric says one night, when everyone is laying around the campfire and half asleep,
“Kid, you alright?”
And she exhales, her hands forming fists, composing a shaky answer:
“It is... hard, fighting this war. These Templars, leashed to a cause that most were bound to by birth,” Across the campfire, a Seeker winces at the truthful statement, “would take and take and take... don’t they know when enough is enough? That killing women and children and husbands and fathers is enough? How much blood will be enough?!”
Her sudden spike in pitch startles Varric briefly. Cassandra is smart enough to keep her breathing even and eyes closed - even if she’s constantly surrounded by reminders that they truly don’t know who this girl is.
Anita’s hand clenches. “That widow... her ring. I’m glad... I’m glad I could return that to her. To someone.”
It’s quiet for several moments.
“Goodnight, Varric, Seeker. May Andraste guide you both tonight, for a safe travel through the fade. I am going to check the perimeter.”
Anita stands fluidly and vanishes into the night. Cassandra shakes her head and shares a look with Varric, who knows she is awake now.
“Fighting this war...” Varric chuckles under his breath.
“What was that, Varric?”
He shakes his head. “Nothing, Seeker.”
But they both went to bed that night with much to think about.
Chapter 16: Out of my Zone
Hinterlands Shenanigans. We learn more about the relationship of the mark and Subira. She also cannot seem to stop getting injured.
This is a bit of a shortone and I just wanted to add it :^)
“Sera, for the last time, I can’t condone you nicknaming Solas ‘the Eggiest-Elf’ or anything of that sort,” Subira sighs from the saddle. Sera rides next to her on a shorter horse - a morgan, Seanna said.
The elf in question whines. “Aw, why not? The name fits, don’t it?”
Subira would never admit it out loud, but she did agree with Sera’s description. But Solas’ tutelage is too integral for her to risk him being insanely vain, or simply insulted by the childish jaunts. Plus, an elf named ‘Pride’ most likely would not appreciate it.
“Because Solas doesn’t look like an egg, silly,” is what she says.
Cassandra rides behind them, her distinct scowl in place. Her eyes show the tired look of a woman babysitting insufferable children. She sits on a larger horse - a warmblood, Seanna told them - to hold her armor and herself comfortably. Blackwall sits on a warmblood similar to hers, and the two converse quietly every now and then.
Of course, Blackwall seems to have taken a shine to Sera (and Subira, if she’s honest) and both girls quirks, so Cassandra occasionally looks like she is considering the pointy end of her sword as the most reasonable option for herself.
Mentally, Subira goes over what they have to do. It’s been three days, packed with correspondence and tasks. Solas, Varric, Sera and herself set out two days ago to kill and deliver the rams that the refugees at the Crossroads needed. She made sure to distribute the herbs she’d been collecting and drying, the healers there thanking her profusely.
The three of them even managed to finish up clearing the Crossroads! Which leaves cleaning up the rest of the Hinterlands and the rifts.
It is progress, however, and Subira will take it. Right now they’re going out to mark watchtower locations - as soon as that’s done, they’re going to send a runner back to Haven to request that the Commander send soldiers to build the towers.
Then, they’re going to figure out the demon wolves. They’ll close any rifts, of course, and deal with any Templars or bandits in between.
Thankfully the only mages they’ve run into have been desperate men or women battling, and were half dead when they stumbled across them.
It’s Subira’s hope that if they come across an actual group of mages that she can save them. There could be children, they could be people like Castelleta or Herah or anyone of their group. But she won’t hold out hope, knowing the people she’s traveling with.
She sighs, slumping in her saddle. It’s a lot to deal with. And they’re still going to be here for at least a month, with the time cut down by having horses - they have to make their way to Redcliffe to meet with the rebel mages eventually. And who knows when that’s going to happen, most likely at the end of Harvestmere, when things settle down.
“Ey!” Sera leans from her horse to Subira, tugging on her leg. Subira jolts.
“Maker! Sera, don’t do that!”
“You were gettin’ caught in the net of those brains,” she knocks a fist against her own head. “Wanted to make sure you didn’t get lost in there!”
Subira smiles. “Thanks, Sera.”
Sera smiles crookedly and waves it off. “Listen, I heard-“
An arrow whistles and does not pierce her armor, but knocks her from her horse. Her startled yell alerted the others into action; Sera drew her bow from the back of the horse and took aim and Varric did very similarly. Cassandra and Blackwall draw their swords and dismount, charging into battle. Solas casts spells from the back of his horse.
“Dammit,” She grunts, dislodging the arrow from her armor. “That’s going to bruise tomorrow.”
Subira’s breath has been pulled from her but she manages to stand and draw her weapons. She joins the fight from behind one of their archers, drawing her blade across his throat, rolling to the side to avoid an arrow at close range and thrusting the dagger into the next archers throat. Her face is sprayed with warm blood and she nearly sputters but she just spits, does not stop to wipe her face. There’s more blood on her than when they started and she can’t bring herself to care.
Turns out the area is a watch tower location. Good thing they cleared out the bandits, then. One less thing to do. They’ve only got a few more.
They just happened to stumble into the deranged wolves, of course. On their way back from marking the rest of the watchtowers - it’s now late, late in the day and the wolves seem even more menacing.
It was a demon, brought through by a nearby rift - and somehow slipped through - causing the disturbance in their behavior. She knew this before the others did, but she didn’t dare say so - how would that look if she announced the mark made her privy to all of its secret dealings?
It wasn’t really communication, it was just... a feeling, as they got closer. And when they stumbled - well, walked close enough - into the wolves den, she knew. The first wolf came from the side, lunging at her with swirling green eyes and foaming mouth. Luckily she has relatively good reflexes, because otherwise she’d have been being gnawed on by a rabid, fade-affected wolf.
She managed to duck and roll away just in time, the claws just barely missing her neck and instead ripping open three lines on her shoulder. They weep openly, spilling blood down her arm, and she cries out before gritting her teeth and drawing her weapons. If she doesn’t, she’ll die.
Facing off with the wolf, she waits until it makes a move. When it lunges, she ducks and slams her dagger into the ribs of the animal. It falters with a loud cry, and she kicks it off, quickly finishing it with a blow into its neck.
When she turns, everyone else was finishing up. Cassandra slit the throat of a wolf and it died with a weak cry, Blackwall released his from its position pressed into a wall and it falls limply to the ground. Sera fires an arrow into the last one, snarling and growling with blood on its muzzle, ending its life.
Her hand cracks and the mark infecting her hand clenches, almost as if in anticipation. Shuddering, she stumbles towards where she knows the source to be, ignoring the concern of the others.
She feels the sickly fade-green infection spreading up her shoulder and into the injury she acquired from the wolf. Somewhere in the back of her mind she is calmed, somehow knows it’s fine, that the mark is only there to help.
Suddenly a terror demon springs up, wearing the same magical signature as the one in the wolves. Startled, she stumbles back and Cassandra charges at the monster.
Subira is so dazed after the dispelling of energy from killing the terror demon she does not realize she’s on her knees afterwards. Her ears ring and when she blinks, suddenly Cassandra is in front of her, hands on her shoulders and wearing a frown.
“-olas, what is happening?”
“I believe this to be side effects of the mark. I do not think they’re permanent.”
“You don’t think-?!”
She looks at the hand Cassandra has on her injured shoulder. “Move it,” the woman furrows her brow. “Your hand, move it, I need to see...”
The woman reluctantly, with a raised brow, moves her hand, as Subira looks at her shoulder. The injury shrank, the three lines significantly smaller and no longer weeping blood, only wet to the touch and dried on the edges. When she presses down, green tendrils swirl in the surrounding skin before disappearing.
“Anita!” Cassandra admonishes, leaning in closer. “When did you get that?”
Subira looks up, still very dazed. “The... wolf? Yes, the wolf. But... it is fine, Seeker. Do not worry.”
Blackwall steps forward, bandages in hand. “Here, little lass,” he says gruffly, kneeling. She offers her shoulder minutely, causing a frown from Cassandra - because she never allows anyone to treat her without a fight, nor does she typically allow strangers so close.
Blackwall quietly wraps her shoulder with the bandages as best as he can, thankful that her armor is lighter with thinner layers underneath.
“Let’s move,” Cassandra says when he finishes, standing.
Subira doesn’t move for a moment, only looking up at the Seeker. It suddenly registers and she nods, standing as well. She sways on her feet and Cassandra reaches out to steady her. Subira allows it, even leaning into the warrior in her haze.
When they get to the horses, Subira looks up at her Ferelden Forder and murmurs, “oh, no.”
“Something wrong, Spitfire?” Varric has concern written into his face, already mounted on his pony - when did that happen?
“No, no, it’s fine,” she murmurs, leading the horse to a large rock and climbing up, carefully mounting. Her eyes slip shut more than once.
Subtly, Cassandra ties their horses together, but Subira doesn’t notice. She keeps a grip on her saddle and heels down, but her head bobs. She’s barely able to make out the dregs of conversation.
When Subira wakes next, she blearily blinks her heavy eyes and smacks her dry mouth together, wincing at her sore shoulder. Tentatively, she presses onto the skin around it and this time there are no green tendrils - she must’ve imagined it. Rubbing her eyes, she sticks her head out of the tent.
“Hey, you,” she calls to the nearest scout.
At the sight of their leader so disheveled they jump and salute, but before they can offer her anything she says:
“How long have I been out? Where is everyone?”
The scout swallows. “You have been asleep for two days, my Lady. The Seeker has lead a group out to finish the tasks in this section of the Hinterlands, they should be back soon.”
Subira nods slowly. “Thank you.” She retreats into the tent and lays back down.
Two days, and they’ve probably been getting things done. That’s useful, actually. They can move on to another part of the Hinterlands and set up more camps, and they can also see about that meeting in Redcliffe.
A month left.
When Cassandra returns she’s completely ready to go, dressed, stretched and she changed her own bandages. The woman tries to not fret over her like a motherhen and fails miserably. Subira holds back a yawn.
“We can travel here,” Cassandra points to a marked section of the Hinterlands. “Now, when we have finished our work there I believe it is in our best interest to meet with Grand Enchanter Fiona.”
Subira nods. “I was thinking the same thing.”
“Good, then we shall depart. We have much to do before this trip is done.”
“That we do, Seeker,” she murmurs. “That we do.”
Chapter 17: The Path is Dark
Meeting with Grand Enchanter Fiona for the first time in a long time. Things get heated in the Inquisition - there is no way forward that doesn't make them all uneasy.
Y'all as I'm editing this chapter and going on to 18 - which is the Back to the Future chapter, as I jokingly call it in my head - and I kinda forgot how heartwrenching I wrote it. Oops. My idea is that... she's fifteen, nearly sixteen. All of this is going to be too much too fast, and that's how this is supposed to be experienced. She's a kid, not an adult. Poor Su :(
Also I'm adding a second edit from days later, I'm gonna post this tonight so that you guys have something because I'm starting work at the barn this week and I'm not sure when I'll be able to update/write more in my notes for draft chapters.
After another week of traveling, picking up odd-jobs on the way and then two weeks of completing what they came there to do, they are finally ready to meet with the mages.
“Send a scout ahead,” Subira says, looking down at the map. The nearest scout nods, saluting before swiftly exiting the tent.
“There are strange reports from Redcliffe, Seeker,” she says, pointing at the map. Cassandra leans down with a frown. “Look at the dates. Some are reporting it to be twenty-six Harvestmere, others report it to be twenty-one Harvestmere, and some report that they aren’t sure what day it is at all.”
Subira says worries her lip between her teeth. If it has anything to do with how the Grand Enchanter was acting, then the mages are either in big trouble or about to be.
“We will look into it,” the woman promises. “We must get going if we’re going to arrive by mid-day.”
On the list of things Subira wasn’t expecting, the time-altering rift was one of them. Expecting to make a clean cut to the demons hamstring, instead she goes flying forward when time speeds up and she gasps, the air leaving her lungs too quickly for her to breathe it in.
She fights her hardest and notices that Cassandra and Varric are having a similar problem. Solas seems intrigued by the odd rift. Lucky him, she grumbles to herself. He gets to stay out of range.
The rift doesn’t resist her when she lifts her hand to it, the mark sucks it back in almost faster than usual and she gasped, clutching her hand. Cassandra steps forward in worry, but Subira turns to address the scout they sent ahead hours ago.
“You should know that no one knows we’re coming, my Lady,” the scout reports. “You can find the Grand Enchanter in the pub, however. Also, dispatch for you.”
Subira takes it with a furrow in her brow and then smiles broadly, folding it and handing it back to the scout.
Seems like in their three weeks of travel, Cullen sent his soldiers and the first of the watchtowers have been built. Dennet is already preparing to send the horses for when the last one is completed and soldiers are stationed there.
“Thank you,” she smiles, saluting with a slight bow and starting forward.
“Let’s get this over with, shall we?”
The tavern is warm and welcoming when she enters, the exact opposite of the feeling that courses through her when Fiona makes eye contact. This one knows her.
Then who was in Val Royeaux?
“Hello, Inquisition,” she says politely. “What have I done to gain the honor of this visit?”
“Grand Enchanter,” she clears her throat. “You... visited us. In Val Royeaux, and invited us here.”
Subira uses her eyes and pleads with Fiona not to give anything away. While Subira knows she hasn’t been there since before the rebellion, it wouldn’t do for others to know that she knows that.
“It couldn’t have been me,” she says with a furrowed brow. Subira nearly breathes a sigh of relief. “I have not been to Orlais nearly since before the rebellion.”
“It was someone who looked and sounded exactly like you, extending an invitation to negotiate with the mages,” Cassandra interjects.
“I wish I could do just that,” Fiona says patiently, looking at Subira with an apology. “But I no longer have the ability to negotiate with anyone.”
“What?” Subira exclaims.
“The rebel mages are in the service of Magister Gereon Alexius,” She grits out, like the words hurt to say. “as someone indentured to a magister, I cannot negotiate with you.”
“How... could you!” Subira half-yells before she can stop herself.
Fiona’s eyes turn sad and she looks away.
A door slams open and Subira turns to see a weathered Tevene man in a hood. This must be Alexius.
“Ah, I apologize, my friends! I am Magister Gereon Alexius. And you would be the Herald?” He asks Cassandra, not giving Subira a second glance.
“Actually, Magister,” she says. “That would be me.”
His gaze turns to her immediately. “I see. Well, take a seat, take a seat. You need mages, I have them. Let’s negotiate.”
She sits across from him, eyes hard. “Listen to me, and listen to me good, Magister. I don’t know why you’re so far south. Frankly? I don’t care. But I know you shouldn’t have these mages. Something isn’t right here.”
He laughs at her, causing her scowl to deepen. “Oh, a feisty one! Tell me, how many people does that work on?
“It works on many when my dagger is in their stomach.” She spits.
His eyes close off and he stops laughing. “Enough of this. What are you willing to give for these mages?”
Her scowl becomes a twisted grin and she leans forward. “Oh, I can give you a few things-“
Fiona looks on with alarm, but Subira gives her a hard look. This is not a conversation they can have here.
A man much younger stands next to their table and Alexius laughs to attempt to break the tension. “Felix, would you write this down for me, please? Forgive my manners; my son Felix, friends.”
Felix comes forward and for the slightest second makes eye contact with her. She knows something is going to happen before it does, and she reacts immediately when he falls into her arms, grasping the piece of paper thrust into her hand.
Quickly she helps him stand, genuinely concerned. He does look rather pale, the veins under his skin purple instead of blue.
“Felix? Felix, are you alright?” His father is fluttering around him like a bird.
“We will have to continue this later. Fiona, you’re needed in the castle.”
Hastily, they exit the tavern, leaving the four of them. She opens the note.
“‘Come to the chantry, you’re in danger.’”
Varric sighs. “Aren’t we always?”
She walks to the door, about to open it when she feels a soft tug on her sleeve. “Excuse me, miss,” his voice is quiet and toneless.
“I heard you’re with the Inquisition and I was wondering if I could seek protection there.”
She sees the symbol on his head and her heart clenches. “Of course,” she replies softly. “Find any Inquisition Scout, tell them the Herald sent you. You are welcome there, you will be safe.”
She shudders. Tranquil have always made her slightly uncomfortable, not that it’s their fault.
Walking into the Chantry she expects Felix to meet her, not a very smug man who knows how handsome he is with a perfectly groomed mustache. He’s observing a rift that sits in the middle of the room, spewing out demons for him to disperse of.
He harrumphs. “Oh, perfect! A little help with this?”
She jumps into action, her companions following behind her. Solas’ barrier falls over her like a chilly water fall and she fearlessly attacks the first demon she sees. She was panting by the end of the second wave but raised her crackling hand up anyway and sealed the rift.
“How does that work, anyway?” The mustache-man asks. She looks down at it. “You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and boom!”
She shrugs. “Yeah, that’s about right. Now, who are you?”
He laughs carelessly. “Right to business, are you? Well, I’m Dorian of House Pavus, most recently Minrathous. How do you do?”
Cassandra curls her lip up behind her, but Subira pays her no mind. “I am Anita, but some call me the Herald of Andraste.”
“Well met, Anita,” he grins genuinely, “Magister Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance here should prove most invaluable.”
Subira is absolutely in love with him. Not in a romantic sense, in a ‘I-love-his-aesthetic-choices-and-personality’ sense, and she already knows she’s going to accept his help.
“Not that I don’t enjoy your charming company,” she wiggles her eyebrows to the best of her ability, causing a small laugh to erupt from her new acquaintance. “But where is Felix?”
“He should be here soon,” he assures her. “He was supposed to get you the note, and then meet us here after ditching his father.”
“Is Felix... okay?” She had noticed the paleness of his skin and sickly clamminess to it, the slight shake of his hands and how he seemed unsteady. All of it seemed too real to be an act.
Dorian shakes his head and answers quietly. “Felix has been sick for many months.”
Cassandra steps up next to her, arms crossed with a firm expression on her face. “And why would you help us? You’re betraying your mentor because..?”
Unperturbed, Dorian turns with a shrug. “Alexius was my mentor. He is not any longer. Not... for some time.”
He takes a deep breath. “Look,” he addresses this mostly to Cassandra. “You must know there’s danger to this one,” he points at Subira, “here. That much should be obvious.”
She nods, not changing her stance. Subira glares at her, stepping forward with a warm smile to Dorian.
“Any information you have would be greatly appreciated, Dorian.”
He smiles. “Well, let's start with Alexius claiming the mages right out from under you,” She scowls and he nods. “Almost like magic, yes? That’s exactly what it was. Alexius manipulated time to arrive here before the Inquisition and pull their allegiance out from under you.”
Her scowl deepens. “Why a few hundred mages? What could he possibly need with them?” And then she backtracks, “Time manipulation?”
“The rift you closed here. You saw how it affected time around it, yes?”
Her companions slowly nod. “The magic Alexius is using is wildly unstable. Soon, there will be more rifts like that one, further away from Redcliffe.”
“I’ve seen a lot in my time, Sparkler,” Varric says. “But time control? You’re going to have to give us a little more than ‘take my word for it’.”
Solas hums his agreement, examining the man with a disinterest - though wary.
Dorian pinches the bridge of his nose. “I helped develop this magic. When I was still his apprentice, it was entirely theoretical. Alexius couldn’t get it to work. But you’re right, I don’t understand either. Why rip time to shreds to gain a few hundred lackeys?”
A new voice joins the conversation in the empty Chantry. “He didn’t do it for them,” the figure reveals itself to be Felix in the dim, flickering light. “He did it to get to her.”
“Me?” Subira looks left and right. “What does he want with me?”
Her first thought is, did I steal from him in the past? And then her next thought was, oh fuck, what if that’s what it is? She's known the rich ones to hold grudges.
“Took you long enough,” Dorian quips warmly. “Is he getting suspicious?”
“Sorry,” Felix apologizes. “And no, but I shouldn’t have played the illness card. I thought he would be fussing over me all day.”
He turns to Subira and her companions. “My father has joined a cult. The Venatori, they’re called. Tevinter Supremacists, and whatever he’s done for them? He’s done it to get to you.”
Cassandra’s scowl deepens. “Alexius is your father. Why work against him?”
Felix sighs. “I love my father, and I love my country. But this? It’s madness. For his own sake? You have to stop him.”
“It would also be nice if he didn’t rip a hole in time,” Dorian says dryly. “There’s already a hole in the sky.”
“Well,” Subira says when there’s a few moments of silence. “Do you have any ideas?”
Dorian grins. “You already know that he wants you. Expecting the trap is the first step to overcoming it. I can’t stay in Redcliffe; Alexius doesn’t know I’m here, and I’d like to keep it that way.”
Subira nods, already mentally planning for the trip back to Haven and pausing their Hinterland work.
“But whenever you’re ready to deal with him? I want to be there. I’ll be in touch.”
He begins walking away, but turns. “Oh and, Felix?” Felix looks up. “Try and not get yourself killed.”
Felix shakes his head. “There are worse fates than dying, Dorian.”
Subira has a flash to a dream where a world is covered in red.
They travel back to Haven, just in time for a letter to arrive from Redcliffe. It’s a formal invitation from Alexius to the Herald to sit down and speak inside Redcliffe Castle.
“Alexius asked for the Herald of Andraste by name,” Josephine starts, tapping nervously on her clipboard.
“It’s so obviously a trap,” Cullen snaps, pausing from his frantic pacing for just a moment. He sounds weary and tired. It’s clear him, Leliana and Josephine have been arguing since the scout brought the report ahead of them.
“It is,” Subira agrees, and Cullen looks like a hopeful puppy - guess she’s about to kick a puppy.
“But we have no other options. We can’t waste time here.” His face falls immediately as expected and he returns to his pacing.
Leliana daintily holds her hands in front of her. “A Tevinter Magister controls Redcliffe, invites the Herald to the castle to talk, and some of us want to do nothing.” She looks pointedly at Josephine.
“Not this again...” Josephine pinches the bridge of her nose.
Cullen rolls his eyes, focusing on Subira instead of either of them. “Forget that. Obviously something has to be done - but nothing can be done. Redcliffe Castle is an impenetrable fortress. It’s survived the Fifth Blight and thousands of assaults. If you go in there, and something goes wrong, we cannot get you out.”
His tone darkens. “You’ll die. And we’ll lose the only means of closing these rifts. I won’t allow it!”
Leliana growls, leaning over the table. “And if we don’t even try to meet the magister, we lose these mages to Tevinter - and leave a hostile foreign power on our doorstep!”
Josephine intervenes, her own pitch rising imperceptibly. “Even if we could assault the Castle, it would be for naught. An ‘Orlesian’ Inquisition’s Army marching into Ferelden?” She leaves the question in the air. “It would provoke a war. Our hands are tied in every direction. There is no way to get them out.” She runs an agitated hand through her now slightly disheveled hair.
Cassandra’s mouth turns up in a scowl. “The magister-“
Cullen interjects firmly. “-Has outplayed us.”
It’s quiet for several moments. Cullen runs a hand down his face. “I don’t like the idea of sending you in there blind, Anita.”
Subira shrugs. “I have to take that risk, Cullen.”
“Wait,” the Spymaster says quietly. “I may know of a way. There’s a passage; an exit for the family. I can get my agents in through there.”
Cullen is quick to snap back, “Your agents will be spotted-“
Leliana turns her gaze to Subira. “That’s why we need a distraction. Perhaps the envoy Alexius wants?”
“It’s risky, but that could work,” Cullen mutters, rubbing his chin.
“Fortunately, you’ll have me,” a familiar smug voice chimes in, striding through the door. A panting scout comes up behind him.
“He said - he said - he has information - on the magister-“
Cullen dismisses the poor scout. He salutes half heartedly and shuts the doors behind him, trying to catch his breath. Dorian comes up next to Anita and ruffles her hair with a smile, ignoring the obvious bristling by the others in the room.
“I will sneak in with - who is it, Leliana? - her agents. That way, they won’t suspect a thing. Otherwise, the minute they step in the castle? Mission failed!” He twirls his mustache. “I’ll disable the wards he has up and help dispatch of any guards we come across. Meanwhile, Anita here and her envoy keep Alexius busy. Everyone wins.”
Cullen rubs his chin. “That... could work,” he groans. “I can’t, in good conscience, order you to do this. We can still go to the Templars if you don’t want to play bait.” He sounds a bit hopeful.
She sighs. “I know this idea isn’t popular. But it’s what we have to do. We don’t have other options.”
And boy, when this is all over, the Templars were looking mighty good to her.
Chapter 18: Troubles Yet to Come
Redcliffe Castle - Back to the Future, where Subira is thrown forward in time. Her companions are drenched in a world of red lyrium and the smell of death follows her every step.
Because I’m pretty far where I want to be in the plot (writing ahead I mean) I’ll drop this little gem. Uh, be warned. Angst. ANGST.
Dressed in a fine overcoat and breeches, sturdy boots and daggers strapped to her waist, she looked the part of visiting dignitary. The only thing helping her keep her cool are the tips Vivienne gave her - and the things she learned by watching Josephine.
Cassandra walks to her right, armor finely polished and shield firmly attached to her back, and Vivienne is to her left, regal and coldly imposing. The exact reason they picked them - to stand out and ward off any unwanted attention directed towards the Herald.
They’d prepared for days, with Vivienne instructing the young Herald. They figured having the imposing mage with them would set an image that they desperately need, especially with their figurehead being so young.
Now they approach the castle. She’s nervous, but she’ll never admit it. She holds her head high and walks heel to toe, just like Vivienne taught her.
“Announce us,” Subira demands upon reaching the awaiting man.
The man who greets them looks nervous, checking the scroll before looking back up. “The invitation was for the Herald.”
Subira clicks her tongue. “If my companions cannot join me, then I shall stay here with them.”
He rubs the back of his neck and clears his throat. “Of course, my Lady.”
She pierces him with a cold stare. “Now, announce us.”
He gulps, nodding. “Of course,” and begins leading them to the throne room.
Clearing his throat, he says, “Magister Alexius, presenting to you of the Inquisition, the Herald of Andraste and her companions: Cassandra Pentaghast, Seeker of Truth, Right Hand of the Divine and Madame Vivienne de Fer, Leader of the Loyalist Mages of Thedas, First Enchanter of Montsimmard and Mistress of Chateau Duke Bastien de Ghislain.”
Alexius does not seemed pleased by the companions she brought with her, a contemplative frown on his lips. Nevertheless he paints a fake smile onto his face, lounging on his stolen throne lazily with fires burning high to give the illusion of power. Grand Enchanter Fiona stands demurely by one side, his son Felix on the other. Guards with unfamiliar armor line the pillars.
She does not bow her head to him when she approaches, instead quirking an eyebrow. He scowls and inclines his head, causing the tiniest of smiles to form on her face, and she then returns the favor.
“My friend! It’s so good to see you again!” His words sound wooden, standing to face her. “... And companions, I see.”
Vivienne and Cassandra take up the right and left sides behind her, eyeing anyone in the room. Alexius stands across from her with an uninterested look on his face and Subira takes in every detail she can about him.
She holds her hands behind her back. “So, Gereon,” she starts. “Can I call you that? Anyway, Gereon, we’re at a bit of an impasse, aren’t we?”
His eyebrow twitches at her use of his first name. “Yes,” he says slowly. “I’m sure we can work out an arrangement that is equitable to... all parties.”
“Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?” Fiona leaves his side, standing next to Subira to face him.
“Well, Fiona,” he says in a bored tone, “You would not have turned your followers over to my care if you did not trust me with their lives.”
Subira sees the stricken look cross Fiona’s face.
With a sharp grin, she interjects. “Join the discussion on behalf of the Inquisition, Grand Enchanter, I beseech you.”
Alexius looks ready to evaporate her on the spot. She merely turns back to him and raises an eyebrow.
His play now.
“Thank you, Herald.” Fiona bows minutely and backs up, eyeing the Magister standing above them.
Alexius retreats to his stolen throne. “You already know the Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach, and I have them. So, what shall you offer in exchange?”
Subira’s smile drops, stepping forward. “Well, Gereon,” she flicks her hair out of her face. “I’d much rather discuss the Venatori.”
His face is carefully blank. “I have no idea what you mean.”
Felix turns to his father. “She knows everything, Father.”
Alexius’ face falls. “Felix, what have you done?”
“Your son is concerned, Magister,” Subira tries to appeal to his love for his son.
“You walk into my stronghold with your stolen mark - a gift you don’t even understand! - and think you’re in control?” Alexius asks dangerously, standing and hovering steps above Subira. “You are nothing but a mistake!”
Daughter of a whore.
“Then tell me, Gereon Alexius,” she spits venomously, “What is so special about this awful thing?”
“It was the Elder One’s moment!” He cries. “And you were unworthy to even stand in his presence.”
“Father, listen to yourself,” Felix pleads. “Do you know what you sound like?”
Dorian approaches from the shadows, shaking his head. “He sounds exactly like the villainous cliche everyone expects us to be.”
“Hello, Dorian.” Subira greets with a small smile.
He smiles at her before returning his attention to the magister, coming to stand in front of Vivienne.
“Dorian,” Alexius shakes his head. “I gave you a chance to be apart of this. You turned me down!” he gesticulates wildly, “The Elder One has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from the ashes!”
“Who is the Elder One?” Subira asks with a grimace. “Was it he who killed the Divine? A mage?”
Is there an insane fanatic with a cult of Tevinter followers running loose through Thedas?
Alexius growls. “Soon, he will become a god!”
Subira’s blood gets colder with every word he speaks.
“He will make the world bow to mages once more. We will rule from the Boric Oceans to the Frozen Seas!”
Fiona speaks up, fear in her eyes. “You can’t involve my people in this!”
Dorian steps forward, arms spread wide. “Alexius, this is exactly what we talked about never wanting to happen. Why would you support this?”
From her peripheral, Subira can see Venatori guards dropping.
Felix steps forward to plead his case again, placing a hand on his father's shoulder. “Please Father, give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach, and let's go home.”
Alexius turns to his son, eyes wild. “No, it’s the only way, Felix. He can save you!”
Felix furrows his brow. “Save me?”
Alexius pleads his case desperately with his son. “There is a way! The Elder One promised. If I make up for the mistake at the temple...”
Felix interrupts harshly. “I’m going to die, Father. You need to accept that.”
Alexius moves on as if he hasn’t heard him. “Seize them, Venatori. The Elder One demands the halflings life!”
The last Venatori drop to the ground with sickening gurgles, their throats cut or necks broken by Inquisition Agents.
“Your men are dead, Alexius,” Subira says. “Give up.”
“You...” he falters. “Are a mistake! You never should have existed!”
“My mother would agree!” Subira hisses back. To her satisfaction, his eyebrows raise in surprise just the tiniest bit.
And then he pulls out the amulet, crackling with green power and already tearing at the veil. Her hand sizzles and she falters.
“No!” Dorian hits the floating amulet with magic, but it’s too late. Subira is sucked backwards into the swirling green and black, her screams echoing for seconds after it disappears.
She splashes into disgusting, murky water on her hands and knees, grimacing when it hits her face and mouth.
This... is... Redcliffe.
Dorian is next to her, sopping wet but only from the knees down because of his height. He turns, placing his hands on her shoulders. It’s then she realizes she can’t hear, watching his mouth move and hearing no sound.
“Dorian?” She can feel that her voice is small. “I can’t hear you.”
He nods reassuringly, mouths something that looks like “it’s okay.” And feels the anxiety in her chest lessen, even if everything is red and wet down here and the mark feels like it’s on fire.
Speaking of the mark...
She stops paying attention to Dorian, who is fretting over whether or not she’s okay, and pulls off her soggy glove. She bites back a gasp.
The mark is deeper, her skin barely visible. It wraps nearly all around her wrist and up to her mid forearm. She looks up at Dorian with panicked eyes.
He puts both hands on her shoulders and tries to encourage her to breathe deeply with him. Slowly, she calms down. She realizes that her hearing has returned.
“I can hear again,” she says quietly. He hums. “Dorian, where are we?”
“Well,” he backs up, looking around. “I think it’s when, not where.”
She stares at him blankly.
“This is Redcliffe Castle, but not when we were here. Therefore, I believe we were displaced in time.”
“Oh, okay, yeah, right,” she laughs and runs a hand through her hair. “That’s fine! That’s just fine!”
“We need to start moving,” he says gently. She nods, pulling the glove back on and walking forward. Not two steps later do two guards appear.
“Blood of the Elder One! Where did they come from?!”
The two guards who stumbled upon them rush into action, each taking one of them. She slides slightly in her dodge, but quickly gets the hang of it and positions herself behind the guard she rushed, yanking his head back by his helmet and dragging her dagger across his throat. He lets out a wet gurgle before she drops him into the murky water and she looks to see how Dorian is doing.
His guard is dead, slightly smoking and he returns his staff to his back. He gestures wide. “Shall we?”
Subira chokes at the sight of Grand Enchanter Fiona up on the wall, red lyrium protruding from her. There are dark circles under her eyes and her face is gaunt.
“Subira,” Fiona says with relief. Dorian raises his eyebrows. “You’re alive.”
“Grand Enchanter,” she breathes. “What... what happened?”
Fiona grimaces and goes through the harrowing task of explaining exactly what happened - and including that it’s been an entire year. Subira’s panic raises with every word she speaks.
“Dorian, we have to get back, we have to, we have to-“ she buries her head in his robes and he hesitantly ran his hand over her head, quietly speaking with Fiona and then gently ushering her along.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers back to Fiona as they walk away. Dorian nudges her forward.
Further in the dungeons reveal Cassandra kneeling before her. The Chant of Light falls from her lips and her hands are weakly clasped in front of her, shaking with the effort. Subira takes the pommel of her dagger and frantically shatters the rusty lock, sliding to her knees in front of Cassandra.
“C-Cassandra?” She hates the way her voice breaks but all she can see is the red haze of lyrium in the Seeker’s eyes and the gaunt protruding of bone and the way her voice is two-toned.
The other woman’s head shot up. “Is it really you? Has Andraste given us another chance?” A dirty hand comes up to stroke her curls and Subira leans into it. “I am sorry. I failed you.”
Subira bursts into tears. “No!” She sobs. “I failed you, I failed all of you! He’s right, I’m just a mistake. None of this should’ve happened. I’m so sorry.”
Cassandra gently brings the girl into her embrace. Subira has never allowed hugs but she hugs her back as tightly as she dares, shuddering and heaving.
“I’m so sorry.”
“Do not be, Anita,” Subira winces. “We will fix this, yes? Come, Vivienne is here somewhere. There is much you need to know.”
Stopping in the room over to retrieve her weapons (how uncreative, they didn’t repurpose them or anything - just moved them a room over?) and armor, Cassandra adopts a grim look.
“After you... died,” she hesitates on the unpleasant words, and then shakes them away, “The Elder One stormed down. He killed Empress Celene, and there was a demon army. No one could stand up against him and win.”
Subira’s heart breaks for everything they’ve gone through.
Vivienne sits in the corner of her cell, prim and proper as ever despite her circumstances, but still not right. Her hair is grown out to her ears and it’s greasy and matted, her eyes have the same red tint that Cassandra’s have.
“Begone, demon,” Vivienne sneers. “I will not be tricked with foolishness.”
Subira breaks the lock and kneels in front of Vivienne. Even though they had not known each other long, she wished things were different. The guilt she feels is heavy on her shoulders.
“I’m not a demon, Madame,” she says quietly. “I’m just a girl trying her best. And I’m so, so sorry,” her voice cracks.
Vivienne eyes the breaking girl in front of her. “Well,” she stands up and dusts herself off, offering a hand to the child. “If this is the way I shall go, I see no more fitting a way bestowed from the Maker.”
Subira looks up with unshed tears in her eyes. “Do not cry, my dear,” Vivienne gently coos. “This will be nothing but a dream to you, when Altus Pavus fixes this.”
Tears slip down her cheeks. “I don’t want it to just be a dream to me,” her voice cracks and she swallows thickly. “You’ve all suffered an entire year for me. It’s all my fault.”
Vivienne shushes her, gently rubbing the tears out from under her eyes with her thumb. “It is no one but that wretched Elder One’s fault. Now, let’s go get you back.”
Subira sniffles and nods, turning back the way they came. She picks up a key on their way, thinking it’ll be useful.
“Tell me how the halfling knew of the Elder One’s plans!”
A grunt follows and Subira takes off at a run, ignoring the startled calls of her companions behind her. She doesn’t notice magic flaring up and bursting out of her in sparks of green light and before she realizes it she’s shattered the door off of its hinges.
Leliana hisses something at the man, snapping his neck with her legs. When Cassandra arrives she’ll have to get Leliana down. Or...
With a jerk of her hand, the chains cut from the ceiling and Subira rushes to catch Leliana, stumbling under the force of her weight.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers, jamming the key she found earlier into the locks. The former spymaster rubs her wrists and looks down at the distraught teenager.
Subira, for the most part does not react at what’s been done to Leliana. Her face crumples and she buries her head in her hands. Cassandra walks up behind her and gently takes her into her arms, running a thin hand through her hair. Leliana sighs and grabs a bow from the corner.
“Don’t you want to know how we got here?” Dorian asks, confused.
“No.” Leliana doesn’t even look at him.
“Well, we never actually died-“
“You’re just talking to fill the silence!” She hisses. “To you, this will be a dream. But this year was real - to all of us. Real people got hurt!”
Subira hugs Cassandra tighter, her tears starting fresh while the Seeker sends Leliana a harsh look and receives a blank one in return.
“We should go find Alexius, Anita.” Cassandra says in her two-toned voice. Subira nods against her front, sniffling and pulling away but grabbing onto the woman’s hand.
None of them - except Dorian, who has been here a few precious weeks - have known the teenager to be clingy and attached. Cassandra worries for what will happen when she returns to the time when they are alive.
If she can.
When they enter the courtyard and into the air, Subira falls to her knees with a gasp. Cassandra immediately grasps her shoulder and she’s, for once, thankful for the support.
“The Breach,” she wheezes, standing on shaky legs. “It’s everywhere.”
The veil is nowhere to be found, the Fade thick and all around her. The waking world and the land of dreams have come together to form some horrible purgatory where nothing makes sense anymore and it feels like the air in her lungs is being ripped out with every breath.
A pulse of pain takes her breath away and she rips her sleeve up with no regard for those in her company. Green tendrils crawl slowly up her arm and around her elbow, pain pulsating through her very being.
“Anita!” Cassandra gasps. “Your arm...”
“It’s okay, it’s okay!” She frantically assures her, nerves frazzled and bent out of shape. She pulls her sleeve back down. “When we get back it’ll go back to normal. Everything will be fine!”
Cassandra gives her a look that says she doesn’t quite believe her before they continue on. Subira is brought to her knees moments later, barely able to warn them that there is a rift ahead.
“I’ll be along in a second,” she hisses, clenching her sizzling hand. “Just... go!”
Reluctantly, Cassandra leaves her side to join the fight. Subira makes her way to her feet and arrives just in time to kill a demon creeping up on Leliana. She doesn’t wait for a response, instead deciding to close the rift and be done with it.
She braces herself and lifts her hand. The mark is reluctant, almost as if it knows that this is not right. Subira prods at it, forcing it to take the rift in and tears prick her eyes when it finally closes, sniffling when it’s done.
Everything passes in a blur. She barely remembers splitting up to collect the shards and moving from room to room. The occasional dry banter between her companions seems like background noise that she’s hearing through cotton stuffed into her ears.
All she remembers is red lyrium jutting out from the walls, the floor, the bodies, from Grand Enchanter Fiona. All she hears is Vivienne two-toned voice and Cassandra’s prayers murmured under her breath and Leliana’s dark eyes.
The blood she spills onto the floor stains her hands and she breathes in the veil, a netted webbing meant to catch reality but what is reality? Nothing makes sense. All she knows is that she wants them to pay.
She doesn’t care about her magic anymore, and no one has asked: she’s imbuing her blades with green lightning every time she strikes, savage and feral and angry and desperate. All she wants is to stop seeing so much red and the blood she’s spilling will never come out of her skin-
Her head snaps up. They’re at the door now and the last piece is ready to go in. “Well?”
Cassandra nods and places it in. The door doesn’t open dramatically much like Subira expected, so she shrugs and kicks it open.
“Alexius!” She bellows and she swears the force shakes her vocal chords. “You have a lot to answer for.”
“I knew you’d come back,” he says hollowly.
His voice stops her in her tracks. No, this isn’t right! He’s supposed to be... angry! Vengeful! Not defeated, not...
“The Elder One knew I hadn’t gotten rid of you that day,” he continues. “and I knew you would come back eventually. Nothing would fix the mistake this time.”
Subira growls. “You... was it worth it, Alexius?! Look at what you’ve done!”
He turns to face them. His eyes are sunken in with lack of sleep and he seems thinner like everyone else in this twisted nightmare.
“It was for my son...” he looks at a figure kneeling by the fireplace. “But it doesn’t matter anymore.”
Subira notices that Leliana is gone seconds too late. The woman hauls what was once Felix up by his collar and holds a dagger to his throat.
He doesn’t react.
“Felix!” Alexius cries out.
“That’s Felix?” Dorian breathes. “Makers breath, Alexius, what have you done?!”
“I saved him!” The man replies indignantly. “Please, don’t hurt him. I’ll do anything.”
Leliana stares at the magister. “You know what I want? I want the world back.”
Black blood stains the tiles and Leliana is blown back into the wall. Subira cries out in alarm, only narrowly dodging a blow meant for her. She looks up into Alexius’ eyes.
Desperation. Anger. Hopelessness.
There are just barely threads left of the separation of fade and waking world, and she forces herself through them, barreling towards Alexius. There is an apology on her lips when she twists her dagger in his gut.
He slumps to the ground with the faintest of smiles on his face.
Dorian looks dismayed. “All of this for Felix... He died a long time ago, didn’t he?”
No one answers. Subira looks down at her hands, stained redandredandred-
“-hour? No, that’s not possible! You must go now!” Leliana exclaims, readying her bow.
“Quite right, my dears. You must go now if you’re to make it back,” Vivienne agrees, magic crackling at her fingertips.
“We’ll stall as long as we can.” Cassandra promises.
“What? No!” Subira cries. “I can’t let you do this. It’s suicide!”
“Can’t you see?” Leliana smiles mirthlessly. “We are already dead. The only thing that matters now is that you get back, and that none of this happens.”
Her eyes fill with tears but she nods, looking at the ground so she might not have to watch them walk themselves to their graves. Cassandra brings her into a tight embrace that she returns.
“Be strong,” she murmurs - and then she’s gone. Vivienne squeezes her hand once before following and the doors shut with a finalizing slam.
Her heart squeezes and everything feels like too much, too fast. Leliana points her bow towards the door.
“You have as much time as I have arrows.”
The spell starts up behind her, Dorian concentrating on getting them back while the sky outside darkens and rumbling is heard in the distance. She anxiously shifts, looking back at Dorian.
Suddenly the door is thrown open and a rage demon throws Cassandra’s head down, another tosses Vivienne aside like a rag doll. Without thinking she moves forward and Dorian clamps a hand down on her arm.
“I have to help them-“ she sobs. He pulls her into his robes, shielding her from having to watch.
“If you go, you’ll die! We have to get back.”
She nods and buries her head into his robe so as not to see the lifeless eyes of those who would give their lives for her. Leliana shoots arrow after arrow, strength radiating from her as she murmurs the Chant.
The last thing she sees is Leliana’s peaceful expression before being sucked back to their time.
They land in the same positions they started in. Subira looks at Alexius and his surprised face and all she sees is red-
“Anita! No!” Dorian pulls her back, nearly losing his hold on her while she struggles.
“He has to pay, Dorian! He has to pay!” Tears stream down her face and her vision is blurred now, feet slipping on the carpet in her futile attempts to escape him.
She stops resisting and slides to her knees. Dorian gently brings her to her feet and she pushes away, striding towards Alexius. There is real fear in his eyes when he takes a step back.
“You,” she hisses, eyes crackling with deep emerald sparks. “You are coming with the Inquisition to await trial. Do not expect mercy.”
Felix doesn’t attempt to argue, quietly accepting his father's fate. “I will return to Tevinter.”
“See to it that you do.” She spits.
Turning, she falters when she sees the concerned face of Cassandra and the more indifferent one of Vivienne. All she can remember is lifeless eyes and gaunt cheeks and two-tones-
Dorian nudges her gently and she shakes her head to clear it, blinking multiple times at the addition of the King of Ferelden and his wife, Queen Anora.
“King Alistair,” She bows as best as possible, though she’s sure its stiff. “To what do we owe the pleasure, all the way from Denerim?”
“The rebel mages cannot be allowed to stay here any longer.” Queen Anora answers instead.
Subira sours. “If you will, I asked His Majesty.”
Everyone in attendance is shocked by her audacity and Queen Anora looks ready to tear her apart for it, but is stilled by a hand on her shoulder. The King shakes his head, observing the shaken girl.
“Well, Herald,” he says firmly, “The rebel mages cannot be allowed to stay in Redcliffe Castle any longer, as I’m sure you understand.”
She laughs, to their surprise. The hollow noise sounds like it’s choking on a sob. “Yes, I understand quite well. If only I were afforded such a luxury. The rebel mages,” she looks at Fiona and immediately regrets it, slamming her eyes shut to force away images of a red-lyrium consumed woman. “May come with the Inquisition.”
“To what status?” Fiona asks warily.
“That will be discussed at a later time, as I’m... far too tired to be making such a decision. I’m sure the Council will want to review this. Most likely, Grand Enchanter,” she fixes her eyes on a painting. “It will be as allies. Do you accept the offer?”
“I would,” King Alistair interjects. “It’s more than you will get from us.”
Fiona, stuck between a rock and a hard place, sighs. “The rebel mages accept.”
“Good, good. Now, if you'll excuse me, I need...” She walks away without further word, pushing past both Cassandra and Vivienne without stopping to look at them.
“Pavus!” Cassandra storms up to Dorian, grabbing his collar. “What happened?!"
He pushes her back, but not off. “This is nice fabric, Seeker!” He looks back and forth. “This is a conversation best saved for Haven.”
She lets him go fully, looking lost. “Will... will she be okay?”
Dorian looks down. “I don’t know, Seeker,” he answers truthfully. “I really don’t know.”
Chapter 19: They Call Me After Dark
The Beginning of the Aftermath of Redcliffe. Cassandra struggles through those maternal feels and cleans Subira up after her ordeal. Dorian is the best Uncle... Dad... Figure. Thing. Best one to wake up to after a nightmare, right?
Anita does not speak the entire night. She does not eat when the scouts announce there is dinner, nor does she wash herself from the blood and grime covering her body. She sits, staring into the fire, until there are too many people and she retreats into their tent without a word.
Cassandra watches the normally expressive girl stoically react to her surroundings. After she finished eating she finds herself at a crossroads - until Vivienne pushes another bowl of food into her hands and looked in the direction of the tent.
She nods, but the woman is gone anyway. Taking a deep breath, she approaches the tent slowly and clears her throat.
“Anita, I am not sure what happened out there today...” she hesitates. “And I am not so good with words. But I have some food for you. May I come in?”
There is no response.
She sighs. “Anita, please answer me.”
After several moments of complete silence, she fidgets. Placing the bowl in someone’s hands - she doesn’t look at whose - and approaching the tent, she opens the flaps and gasps.
Anita is gone.
Swearing loudly, she turns. “You there!” Pointing at a scout, “Hand me your torch!”
She runs around to the back of the tent, inspecting carefully. The tracks are covered carefully, but the dirt is disturbed just barely. Sighing, she goes off in the direction of the tracks. They get messier as she goes, uncovered and frantic looking.
“Anita?” She calls, far into the forest. “Anita, please. Come out, it’s cold out here.”
“Go away!” A cracked voice calls from nowhere. Cassandra cannot pinpoint it. “I can’t - I can’t see anyone right now!”
The Seeker sighs. “Anita, you must know I’m not leaving without you.”
Choked sobs are heard. “Just... go away!”
“Anita, please!” Her own voice is tired. “Why won’t you let me help you?”
Suddenly, a figure drops in front of her. Cassandra startles backwards before she realizes it’s Anita, eyes red rimmed and filled with tears, her cheeks puffy and stained and lips swollen.
“You sacrificed yourself for me!” She half-screams, half chokes. Her tears and sobs are overlapping.
“I - what?”
Anita sniffles and turns away. In the light, Cassandra can see the black of demon blood, specks of human blood and rips in her clothes from the ordeal that was Redcliffe Castle.
“You sacrificed yourself for me, in the future,” her voice breaks, “And I had to watch. I had to watch a world filled with red be sacrificed in my name, all because I disappeared.”
The mark flares up when she turns, her eyes brighter than Cassandra has ever seen.
“For some... for some deadbeat kid, Cassandra! You didn’t deserve to die that way! You spent a year in a cage like... like an animal! It wasn’t right!”
Anita turns and slams her fist into a tree, smearing blood onto the bark. She’s breathing heavily, almost heaving.
Cassandra wasn’t prepared for this. “I...”
“And Leliana hated me,” she sobs. “Vivienne was thrown aside like a rag doll. The world was red and my hands were stained with red and everything was red-“
She puts her hands into her hair and sinks to her knees.
“I don’t want this,” she cries. “I don’t want this, I don’t want this, I don’t want this...”
Cassandra kneels next to her, knowing that no singular comfort she can offer right now will help. Instead, she will offer her presence and hope that is enough.
Eventually the girl’s crying subsides to hiccups and sniffles. She doesn’t respond when Cassandra tries to get her attention, and so the Seeker ends up carrying her bridal-style back to their tent. Laying Anita down in her bedroll, the older woman sighs.
She exits the tent in search of a bowl and a source of water - thankfully, a Scout has some specially for washing up that they collected earlier in the week, and she fills the bowl before grabbing a cloth from her things.
Placing the bowl and cloth aside, she frowns at Anita’s form. The girl clearly disliked people seeing her, but she cannot stay in those awful clothes overnight, it would only serve to make her feel worse. Cassandra makes a promise to herself - and Anita - that for the girl’s sake she will do it as fast as possible and will not look at her unless she has to. She also leaves her binding on, thinking Anita would approve.
The torn shirt isn’t worth keeping, so she gently tugs it off of her limp limbs and sighs at the scratches and bruises on her arms. Leaning back, she dips the cloth into the water and then wrings it out.
Gently, she runs the damp cloth over Anita’s face and neck, making sure to get all the blood and dirt before moving to her shoulders and arms. Then she pulls one of her own nightshirts over the girl’s head. Normally she would’ve simply bathed her torso as well, but out of respect for the girl’s privacy regarding her body, she has no problem leaving it.
She debates on whether or not to take her breeches off, only because she knows she’ll be uncomfortable and tomorrow is sure to be difficult as it is.
Sighing, she can only hope that the girl won’t plan her murder for removing them and gently gets to work - tugging a warm pair of soft, loose fitting pants on her instead. With a soft smile, she tucks the blanket around her shoulders and moves her own bedroll closer, laying down but not going to sleep. She suspects it will be a long night.
Distant thunder rumbles and shakes the ground. The feeling of impending doom fills her and yet she cannot will her limbs to move, cannot make anything happen to change what is going on around her.
Castelleta is slaughtered before her and she watches as her body decomposes and red lyrium grows over it. Herah has her not-fully grown horns cut off slowly, and starves to death in a cell with Michalis. Their bodies join the red lyrium that crawls up the walls like Castelleta’s.
Her throat is thick with screams that won’t release themselves and it feels like she’s drowning. The entire world is water and yet it’s an ocean of red; red like the blood that was spilled, red like the lyrium, like the glow of her companions eyes or the haunting ambiance of the castle.
She is drowning in red and cannot breathe - when she takes a breath her lungs burn and she exhales dust, as if she’s lived a thousand years and her lungs are petrified. She watches, one by one, as those she’s come to know are tortured or killed in front of her. A daunting laugh accompanies the rolling thunder now, sounding closer.
An image of Alexius appears in front of her, contorted and warbled.
“The Elder One demands her life!”
The water seizes her in a tighter hold, as if she could go anywhere, like she isn’t already trapped.
Alexius looks at her with a cold stare and evil grin. Suddenly, she has the feeling that this is not a memory of Alexius any longer.
A deep, echoing voice rumbles from the visage of the magister. “The Elder One sends his regards.”
The last thing she remembers from the dream is red water filling her eyes, nose, mouth, lungs - anywhere it could, screaming until she couldn’t anymore.
When she wakes up, she fights immediately. There’s a weight over her and she doesn’t stop to think, her heart is pounding and she feels like she’s underwater still and she’s afraid if she opens her eyes that she’ll see a world covered in red-
“Anita!” Dorian’s voice, gentle and soothing, snaps her out of it. She pries her eyes open and Cassandra is the one who restrains her, looking for all the world a concerned friend. As soon as she knows she isn’t a danger to herself or them, the Seeker releases her.
“It is alright, Anita,” Dorian soothes. “It wasn’t real.”
“But it was,” she gasps, trembling. She tries to remember, grasping at the threads of her dream. “He - sent a message-“
“He?” Cassandra asks, deadly serious.
Dorian pays her no mind, taking Anita’s shoulders gently. “You must tell me everything you remember from the dream, Anita. This is very important.”
She closes her eyes and forces herself to remember a world of drowning red and barely realizes it when there are tears running down her face.
“The Elder One,” she croaks, eyes snapping open. “He sent - his regards.”
Dorian pales. “You’re sure?”
She nods shakily. “I - I am.”
The Seeker looks impatient but also understanding at the same time - an odd combination. Dorian nods before squeezing the girl’s shoulders gently.
“I will draw sigils of protection for your dreams,” he says softly. “And after that we will have to find something stronger - runes, perhaps?”
His eyes are tired and drooping and she feels horrible for waking him up. “I’m sorry,” she says hoarsely.
He smiles. “It’s no trouble, little magister,” he jokes, causing Cassandra to glare. “I know waking up to seeing my face would make anyone feel better.”
Anita laughs, coughing when it catches. “That is very true, you’re a dashing mage after all,” her eyes are dropping again - already? - and her heartbeat is slowing, completely forgetting the other woman in the tent as her focus dwindles.
“Dorian,” she half-whispers. “You have to promise... to protect Cassandra,” she says conspiratorially.
He laughs gently. “I do not think she needs my protection, little one,” he runs a hand through her hair.
“I know,” she says vaguely. “But he’ll hurt her again... you saw...”
Dorian’s look becomes grim. “I understand, little one,” he pets her hair gently. “I will not allow any harm to come to her. I promise.”
The girl nods and mumbled something incoherent before slipping off to sleep again. Dorian smiles to himself - magic really is a gift sometimes, making troubled teenagers sleep is a perk - and goes to leave.
“Pavus,” the Seeker starts. “I - uhm...”
Dorian raises an eyebrow.
“Stay here with her,” she suggests. “She’ll throw a fit if she wakes and you are gone.”
He considers it, and then nods. “I will go retrieve a blanket, and return.”
When he comes back, Cassandra is sitting up and staring at the curled up figure of Anita.
He lays down next to her, close enough for her to reach but not close enough to smother her, and gets as comfortable as possible.
“Pavus,” the Seeker says suddenly, breaking the quiet.
He sighs. “Yes, Seeker?”
“What did she mean?”
He closes his eyes. He really is not getting enough out of this for him to willingly answer her questions this late at night. The Maker better see him being a good person right now, because otherwise they are going to have some words.
“There were many horrors in the future we saw, Seeker,” he says vaguely. “Let us leave it at that unless she decides to share. I believe this is a story she will only tell once.”
The Seeker grunts her response, book open on her lap but clearly not reading. He sighs again, looking at the agitated woman.
“You clearly have questions. Or concerns,” he suggests.
She nearly snaps at him, but realizes that risks waking up Anita - and that he does not deserve it.
“I simply dislike problems that I cannot hit with my fists or stick my sword into,” she admits and nods at Anita. “She is... an entirely new concept to me. It is hard.”
Dorian laughs softly. “That is true. It is difficult, the path that is set before her,” he looks at the child resting uneasily next to him. “But there is no turning from it. All we can do is weather the storm with her.”
And he means that - as he has no intention of leaving now, not when this angry, heartbroken teenager has wrapped him around her finger. Much like the other allies she’s accumulated, he muses. 'Come for the end of the world, stay for the child you become attached to.' Interesting angle, but he wonders if the Inquisition could make it work
The woman nods slowly, chewing over his words.
Chapter 20: I Should Stay Strong
They return to Haven for a debrief, Subira acts like a feral animal, and Cassandra wonders how to reach out better to her.
This one is only kind of short because it just happened to be in the middle of some other Important Scenes that couldn't be separated. Sorry - When I post this (hello future me and future readers!!) I'll upload it with another chapter so you're not getting no substance! Also, I know I added a mission in that only appears if you go to the Templars (its only a mention) but I needed it there to facilitate the conversation about political stuff.
Anita does not speak for days following what Varric has dubbed ‘the Redcliffe Incident’. When the healers try to examine her upon returning to Haven, she backs up and places a hand where her daggers would be - they had to remove them early on, as her violent dreams became increasingly obvious - before snarling.
Adan blinks and sighs. “Lass, ya ain’t gonna get better if you don’t let us look."
“I have no injuries,” she said hoarsely, her throat sore from disuse.
Adan laughs. “You a healer now, little lady?”
“When I have to be,” she snaps, turning on her heel and walking away faster than Cassandra can keep her.
She struggles to keep up, but finds her talking quietly with Solas and decides to turn and stay just out of hearing distance to give her privacy.
Anita returns what feels like at least half a candlemark later, but could not have been nearly that long.
“All checked out,” she grunts, crossing her arms.
Cassandra raises a brow. “Is that so?”
Anita nods, seemingly done talking. She sighs - she’ll just have to trust Solas knows what he is talking about.
“It’s a good thing you did,” Cassandra comments.
“Allowing Hasmal’s mages to come to Haven, I mean.”
“They need protection,” She rasps. “I would not offer it to their Templars.”
Cassandra frowns. “They were the ones who reached out in the first place, correct?”
Anita laughs dryly. “The Templar handlers, being praised for doing their job! Oh, what a glorious day,” she jibes. “Yes, they were. But to what end? These mages have never had a choice otherwise - they trust these Templars to take care of them like defenseless children and the Templars see them as pets who need their protection.”
Cassandra supposes she never saw it that way, that they were doing their job and if a Templar truly wanted to ensure the protection of a mage, then fantastic. Perhaps...
“I can see... where you’re coming from,” she says after a pause.
The girl’s eyebrows raise. “Huh?”
Cassandra smirks. “Is it so odd that I would agree with you?”
Anita scoffs. “You are a basically a super-Templar whose order fucked up so badly that the Kirkwall Chantry blew up.”
Ouch, Cassandra bites back the instinctive reaction to chew the girl out for her comment. Anita has been scathing with her remarks as of late. She’s especially sure that Varric has been feeding that particular fire when they visit in the Singing Maiden.
“That is true,” she says. “We did not do our job - and were not following the ideals that the order was founded upon. That is why I left the Order, after all.”
Anita hums. “You worked for the Divine anyway, right? You technically weren’t even a Seeker anymore.”
The older woman plays with this thought. She supposes, in a sense, that she was not a Seeker anymore. Yes, she was sent to investigate Kirkwall, but that was on Divine Justinia’s orders, not the Seeker’s.
“Not exactly, but something like that,” she concedes.
The girl nods, walking away. “Leliana wanted to speak with me. I’ll see you later, Cass.”
Her brow furrows. “Cass?”
The girl turns, the start of her first real smile in days spreading. “Yeah, Cass.”
She does not have the heart to tell her no, she can’t call her Cass. So she sighs and bucks up, because if she cannot handle a teenager giving her a nickname then she really can’t handle the end of the world.
Chapter 21: Liability
Josephine and Subira get some gentle bonding time, because I thought they deserved it. Leliana is reminded that being one of multiple single adoptive moms of an emotionally volatile teenager is a lot more difficult in practice than in theory.
Hi guys I don’t know when I’ll update next because I was making pie crust and cut my finger on a food processor so uh. gimme a few weeks to get better please. Currently writing this note from the hospital and it is amazing that I haven’t lost my mind
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Subira makes her way hesitantly to Leliana’s tent. She has been avoiding her since Redcliffe - something she knows has not gone unnoticed by the other woman. But it’s easy to pretend - while the mages come in small groups and transfer to Haven, there’s lots to do. Once they’re all at Haven they’ll need several weeks to study the Breach and prepare to close it. She sighs.
At least most of the work left in the Hinterlands can be done through correspondence. There are few rifts she must return to close - and from there they are going straight to the Storm Coast, as Leliana said there were a few things to do there.
She looks up at a very handsome man. “Oh, hi. Do you need something?”
He clears his throat. “I’m Cremissius Aclassi. I’ve tried to get someone here to take my message, but it’s been hard.”
She smiles. “Well then, I’m just the person to do it. What do you need?”
He smiles down at the at-ease teenager. “I work for a mercenary company called the Chargers. We want to lend our help to the Inquisition. My boss, the Iron Bull, is set up with our company on the Storm Coast helping clear the dark spawn that have been rising.”
She nods seriously. “That’s a very kind task to undertake.”
He shrugs. “You know, the end of the world and all that.”
She laughs. “I definitely do know. I’ll make sure we come see what you can do - we have some stops in the Hinterlands to make, but we’re going to the Storm Coast right after that anyway.”
“Perfect,” he smiles. “I’ll be on my way. Thank you for your time, Lady...?”
“Oh please, I’m no Lady,” she waves him off. “But I am Anita. It was a pleasure speaking with you.”
She sends him on his way and finally stares at Leliana’s tent. There’s no reason she can’t just go to Josephine’s office instead and write the woman a note about whatever she needs. Maybe...
Her feet make up her mind for her, walking through the Chantry and knocking on Josephine’s door. She hears a faint “come in!”
“Hi,” she mumbled, looking at her feet. Josephine looked up quickly, assessing the teenager before finishing the sentence she was writing.
“Hello, Anita,” she replies. “Is there something you need?”
“No,” she mutters, walking forward and sitting in the chair next to her desk. “Just wanted to come see you.”
Josephine smiles, subtly pushing the bowl of candy towards her sometimes-helper, but as of late Anita has not been eating them. It’s concerned the Antivan woman - the normally brave and abrasive teenager has made herself as small as possible.
“Well,” she says after a few moments of writing. “Is there anything you want to talk about?”
Subira looks away. “No.”
Josephine smiles. “I think that is not true, Anita. I also know that you’ve been avoiding Sister Leliana.”
The girl fidgets with her hands. “I can’t look at her.”
Josephine’s brow furrows. “What do you mean?”
“Not after Redcliffe.”
She nods, gaining an understanding. It makes more sense when you take that into consideration - though in the formal report the girl had been as vague as possible without jeopardizing their future, it was evident the future she saw was not bright and sunny.
“I see,” she says quietly. “Are you going to go see her?”
Subira looks like a hart caught by hunters and Josephine laughs softly. “Her and I talk frequently, pequeño cuchilla.”
Subira slumps in her seat. “I don’t want to,” she mumbled. “Even though I know she wants me to. What does she even need to talk to me about?”
Josephine knows, but if she tells her she won’t go at all. “I am not sure, she was rather tight-lipped about it.”
“I think that, if things go as badly as you think they will - though, I am sure they will not - I might have a plate of cookies and tea waiting for you when you’re done.”
Subira perks up. “Really?”
Josephine smiles and nods.
“Okay,” the girl mutters. “I’ll go. But I don’t have to like it!”
The diplomat laughs. “That is often said about many things we have to do in life.”
Subira leaves after that, trudging her way to from the Chantry to Leliana’s tent. She’ll just... listen in, first, to see if she’s busy. That way she can leave if she is.
She quietly walks around, pressing herself up against a post of her tent where the thick leather covers the outside.
“-Butler? I knew it. Did he really think we wouldn’t find out?”
Subira frowns. What could this be about?
The older woman sighs, obviously distressed. “Deal with him.”
Subira, as quietly as possible, removes herself from her place of listening and approaches from the front, stopping a good distance away.
Leliana looks up, and for a moment she seems stricken, muttering to herself in Orlesian. “... on second thought, Agent,” she calls to the Agent walking away. “Apprehend him. See that he lives.”
The scout salutes and continues on their way. Leliana rubs a hand over her face.
“Why did you let him live?” Subira asks.
Leliana looks at the teenager faced with saving the world. “... I realized it was advantageous to allow him his life.”
The girl nods, mind too full to question. “So... what did you need?”
Leliana turns, rifling until she finds her reports from Redcliffe. “In your reports from Redcliffe,” she can practically feel the girl stiffen behind her. “I am not sure on some details.”
“You don’t want to know.”
Leliana raises a brow, turning. “Oh?”
Subira scowls and looks away, crossing her arms. "I told you all you needed to know. Trust me, I didn’t jeopardize this future.”
Leliana shakes her head. “Even the smallest details could be important, Anita. You leaving them out is-“
“I can assure you, you don’t want to know!”
Leliana blinks. Once, twice. Then opens her mouth to speak, but Subira has gained confidence.
“You really want to know what happened?” She sneers. “You sacrificed yourself for me. You, Cassandra, Vivienne - I watched you all die before being sucked back to a time where you’re very much alive!
“I watched a world bleeding red be destroyed because I was not there to save it, you - you were tortured! You cannot even imagine the things I saw and you want the details?”
Leliana opens her mouth to speak and closes it, unsure of how to respond to the very emotional teenager. She’s practically vibrating with energy.
“Well,” she starts, not sure how this will be received. “I always liked a gamble.”
The girl explodes. “Are you serious?! That wasn’t a gamble - it was an outright suicide! You hated me, would not even look at me, and the only peace I saw on your face was when you were dead!
“Fuck you and your gambles! I don’t need anyone dying for me!” Subira grunts in frustration, swearing angrily under her breath as she retreats to her cabin rather than go see Josephine.
She doesn’t really want company right now.
pequeño cuchilla - little blade, one of my mixes of Italian and Spanish to make Antivan.
Chapter 22: A Little Much
Josephine and Cassandra team up on Leliana in School: You Might Be a Bad Parent. Sera and Subira pull a prank, but who's laughing?
I don’t know how long this is but I’m gonna post it because I don’t know how long it’s gonna be before I can write
Cassandra debates on storming into Leliana’s tent, but is far too exhausted for that. Striding in and leaning up against a post, she waits until Leliana decides to acknowledge her.
Leliana goes for pleasant. “What can I do for you, my friend?”
“Cut the shit, Leliana,” Cassandra grunts. “What did you say to Anita?”
The woman’s eyes widen imperceptibly in surprise before her mask falls back into place.
“I am unsure-“
“Leliana,” Cassandra warns, “I am not playing games.”
The other woman sighs. “I asked her for details that she left out of her report on Redcliffe.”
Cassandra’s face darkens.
“I did not mean anything by it,” she continues. “I figured even the smallest details could-“
“You did not mean anything by it?” Cassandra’s voice is thunderous. “Maker, but I could throttle you right now, Leliana.”
Leliana doesn’t know what to say.
“We ask - ask so much of her. She gives and gives and gives, has not stopped giving to a cause she does not even want!” Cassandra’s voice is a yell now. “And you could not allow her that one thing?”
“No, Leliana. I do not care for your knives dressed up in pretty words right now. You’re going to fix this.”
“How do you expect me to do that?”
The Seeker laughs harshly on her way out. “Find a way.”
Leliana rubs a hand over her face tiredly, absentmindedly stroking one of her ravens.
Subira watches the elf’s head go back and forth.
Sera looks up, laughing wildly. “What’re ya doin’ up there?”
Subira shushes her. “Come up here!”
Sera giggles before climbing up onto the roof of the house. “What’s goin’ on, Harry?”
“I’ve heard you like to pull pranks.” Subira says in a conspiratorial whisper.
Sera’s face splits into a grin. “That I do.”
Subira smiles and lifts up a bucket of paint.
“Want to prank with me?”
Sera cackles. “Do I? Of course I do!”
“Alright, now I’ve got a plan...”
“Pardon me, Lady Josephine, but have you seen Anita?” Cassandra asks from the doorway.
Josephine looks up briefly. “No, Seeker. Why?”
“Well, it’s - Nothing,” the Seeker huffs, turning to leave.
“No, no, come back here!” Josephine chides. Cassandra turns back slowly. “What is it?”
“It’s just that I’d normally have seen her by now,” the woman grumbles.
Josephine smiles knowingly.
“What?” Cassandra huffs.
“You’re worried!” Josephine all but coos.
“Of course I'm not!”
“Alright...” But Josephine is smiling and Cassandra can’t resist the start of a smile.
A soldier comes up behind the Seeker. “Seeker, I have been requested to fetch you and Lady Montilyet.”
Cassandra turns, brow furrowed. “By whom?”
He shakes his head. “I cannot say. Only that Commander Cullen is waiting for you with Sister Leliana at the steps of the Chantry.”
Josephine and Cassandra exchange a look and proceed to the doors of the Chantry.
“Do either of you know what this is about?” Cassandra asks, arms crossed in front of her.
Cullen sighs. “No, I had hoped you would.”
Leliana is silent, scanning their surroundings.
On the roof tops, something moves. “What was-“
Two figures take off at running starts from the rooftops, bows drawn. Their arrows cross over each other, each hitting the intended target; a sheepskin full of paint, splattering all over nearby soldiers and the sides of houses.
High pitched laughter can be heard. “Nice shot!”
Two more arrows are shot from opposite sides, paint once again exploding all over the surrounding areas.
Cullen blanches. “By the Maker!”
“Cassandra, what can we do?” Josephine asks.
“I... am not sure,” the woman answers truthfully.
The shooting of arrows continues for several minutes, the town of Haven being splattered in blood red paint.
Suddenly, it’s quiet. The creaking of a bow string being drawn can be heard from above the Herald’s cabin.
“Lady Montilyet,” a voice calls. “I’d move, if I were you.”
Josephine is startled into action by those words, as seconds later the arrow is fired above them and paint splatters atop Cullen, Cassandra, and Leliana. The steps of the Chantry are painted as well.
The figure on top of the roof disappears, and then it approaches from the side, throwing the bow on the ground and yanking down their hood.
“Disorienting, isn’t it?” Her voice is cool, looking out at the chaos left.
Anita turns back to them, staring at Leliana in particular. “This is what I saw.” She gestures wide. “A world painted red, confusing and upside down. Nothing made sense. Much like what I’m sure you all felt before watching this go by.”
Sera stands a few feet away, blinking widely. She’d thought it was weird to want to use that color red...
“Do not ask me again, Sister Leliana.”
Anita turns and walks away, Sera looks between them like she missed something important and then trots off after the Herald.
Paint just barely splashed the hem of Josephine’s dress, but her eyes are trained onto Leliana, much like Cullen and Cassandra’s.
“How are we going to clean this up?” Cullen asks dismally.
“I’m sure we’ll find a way,” Josephine says brightly, eyes hard. “Won’t we, Leliana?”
“Well, Lady Montilyet,” Cassandra starts, wiping paint off of her armor with a disgusted frown, “that’s easy for you to say, you’re not covered in paint.”
“Of course, Josie,” Leliana says absently, staring at the retreating back of Anita. “I’ll find a way.”
Chapter 23: So Many Questionable Choices
Arguing is normal with your mom right? Also, Mom-Cassandra feels ft. Subira loses a fight against a shirt.
Cassandra and Anita arguing is a common sight among the Inquisition.
Today’s argument is about Dorian, Anita’s affectionate Uncle-like mage associate. Cassandra doesn’t trust him at all, and is attempting to sway her opinion on him.
“Yes, the Tevinter - Are you forgetting that he turned on his home country to help us?”
Cassandra grumbles, folding her arms. “He is still of a like mind of his countrymen-“
Anita scoffs. “Are you serious?”
“You’re entirely too free with your trust-“
“You think I trust anyone?”
It’s silent after Anita’s biting question. She looks no closer to taking it back than she is to kicking Dorian out.
“Dorian can be a valuable member of the Inquisition. You won’t even give him a chance,” Anita tries.
“Because it’s chances that-“
“Not every organization is the Seekers, Cassandra!” Anita yells. Several heads turn towards them. Among them being Varric, Solas and Dorian, who happened to be in the area inconspicuously - by which the narrator means entirely conspicuously, but Cassandra and Anita were too wrapped up in their argument to notice.
Cassandra’s face goes red to white. “I-“ she is silent for several moments. “You want to bring him with us immediately? Are you mad?”
Anita huffs, turning away from the older woman. “Dorian has done nothing but help us. He is coming, and that’s final.”
After that argument, they ride for the Hinterlands. Dorian awkwardly tries to comfort Anita and Varric jibes about the woes of the Seeker as they go.
The party ends up being Varric, Dorian and Cassandra - meaning that the woman contemplates clawing her eyes out multiple times. Blackwall and Sera come with them, though they’ll be stationed in the Hinterlands, and will not be coming to the Storm Coast.
“How many more rifts do we have to close here?” Anita asks suddenly while they’re going over maps.
“None.” Cassandra answers while going over a ledger.
“Oh? Wonderful, we can move to the Storm Coast.”
“Are you sure you want to make such a trip so soon-“
Anita glares at her.
“I simply believe it would be more beneficial to continue work here-“
“Yes, yes,” Anita says agitatedly. “We have Solas’ elvhen relic to investigate and an entire Keep to clear out. But this mercenary group will not wait forever. There is much awaiting us on the Coast.”
Anita gives her a hard look and the older woman drops it with a sigh.
Subira groans. “My clothes are plastered to me!”
Dorian, with his hair wet and limp and his mustache frizzy, agrees. “This weather is absolutely atrocious!”
“Would you two stop complaining?” Cassandra snaps.
The wet, rainy climate of the Storm Coast really wasn’t making her feel any better, though with armor it’s a bit easier to stay dry.
“I’d have to be inclined to agree with them, Seeker,” Varric grumbles. Similarly, he’s in a bad mood, as with the horrible weather he can’t write without ruining his materials.
“Oh, look, the camp!” Subira breathes a sigh of relief.
Scout Lace Harding stands with a hood, though it doesn’t seem to be doing much good.
“Welcome to the Storm Coast,” she tries a smile, but all Subira wants is a warm pair of clothes. “Now there’s a few things you should know...”
With a sigh, Subira enters the tent to change into dry clothes and more protective armor. Her wet shirt clings to her skin and she struggles to pull it off, tripping over her feet and landing in a grunting, grumbling heap.
Cassandra walks into the tent. “Did I miss a fight?”
“Ha-ha, you’re so funny,” Subira says sarcastically.
“Would you like my help?”
“Yes, please.” she mutters.
Cassandra also struggles, but fairs better than Subira, removing the wet article of clothing for the girl. With that out of the way, she changes into drier clothes, sighing when it warms her almost instantly, and heavier armor.
Cassandra shuts her book and stands, stretching.
“She said there were scouts missing, right? We’ll investigate that after we go meet this mercenary group, just in case it ends up being longer than expected.”
Chapter 24: Eating Me Alive
Storm Coast Adventures! It's kind of just universally accepted that Subira is the Tiny Version of Cassandra and they're both in charge. (everyone is more scared of Cassandra, though)
While posting chapter 23 I decided it was too short so I’m posting this one too. Enjoy!
With the wet weather it’s difficult for her to fight, but she adjusts. Fighting alongside Dorian is an interesting addition and finds herself distracted due to the plentiful banter.
“Anita, not to rush you my darling, but I believe the rift isn’t getting any younger!”
“Oh, I’m taking my time, aren’t I? My apologies!” She throws back, finally closing the rift with a bang.
Stopping to catch her breath, she notices a towering Qunari making his way over and tenses, reaching for a staff that isn’t there. She relaxes when she sees the man that she spoke to before at Haven.
“Cremissius!” She calls with a bright smile. “Fancy seeing you here!”
The man raises a hand in greeting, clearly overseeing something. The Qunari, who must be Iron Bull, is in front of her now.
“Another one of my country men...” Dorian mutters behind her, but she cares little for his rambling and pays full attention to the towering Qunari.
“Didn’t think it was true,” he grunts, looking down at her. “But I guess there’s worse candidates for fixing this mess.”
“Thanks, I think?”
Cassandra stands protectively at her side, arms crossed.
“I’m the Iron Bull, but I’m sure you already knew that,” he points to his horns. “Dead give away, you know?”
She chuckles. “Perhaps a little bit. Well, hello Iron Bull,” she sticks her hand out. “I’m Anita. Some call me the Herald of Andraste.”
He shakes her hand firmly, but gently. She’s glad for that, honestly, because his hands are huge and she’s sure he could break her bones.
He retracts into himself, and she notes that he tries to make himself smaller - less intimidating. Smart. But not smart enough.
He sits on a stump of wood. “Nice to meet you. On to business, the Chargers want to offer their services to the Inquisition.”
Subira crosses her arms. “About that. Why would a mercenary group offer their help?”
He shrugs. “End of the world? Listen, uh, I’m about to tell you something that could make you very mad. Ever heard of the Ben-Hassrath?”
Visions of the night her and Castelleta found Herah flash before her eyes.
She clenches her fist. “No, never. You see, I didn’t do much with politics before all of this.”
Cassandra eyes her, wondering what her angle is.
The Iron Bull continues on, unknowing. “Well, we’re kinda like - Qunari spies. And the Qun is real worried about that Breach. So, they sent me to check it out.”
“Why tell us?” She demands, dizzy with memories of barely getting out alive from fights with the Ben-Hassrath.
He’s unfazed, shrugging slightly. “Nothing gets past Red - your Spymaster. Figured we’d have a better chance if I was honest.”
She laughs loudly, shaking her head. “Honesty? Fuck you.”
The Iron Bull’s eyes widened before he begins to roar with laughter. “Oh, shit. The stories are true then!”
She steps forward and grabs the leather strap on his chest, pulling downwards as hard as she can. It doesn’t work as it would on a human or an elf, but he stumbles, and that’s enough.
“Listen here, Ben-Hassrath,” She hissed, “You can join the Inquisition under a watchful eye - every single report you send to the Qun goes through Leliana first. I have killed enough of you - and if you turn on us, you’ll be the next. Got it?”
The Qunari swallows, nodding. “Payment will, uh, go through your Ambassador, so don’t worry about any of that,” he says, straightening when she releases him.
“I wasn’t.” She says coldly.
“Uh, good, then.” He clears his throat as Cremissius approaches.
Cassandra, Dorian and Varric watch with interest.
Cremissius approaches, clearing his throat. “Throat cutters are done, Chief.”
“Check again, I don’t want any of those ‘Vint bastards getting free. No offense, Krem.”
“None taken,” the man smirked, walking away. “Least us bastards know who our mothers are. Have one up on you Qunari then, right?”
Dorian sniffs in a way that tells her she’ll be getting thinly veiled comments about allowing him to stay.
“Oh, hold on!” Krem turns back. “You’re the one I spoke with at Haven.”
Subira smiles. “That would be me. Hello, Krem!”
Cassandra looks down. “You spoke to this man?”
“Yup!” She nods. “Wanted us to come see the mercenary company. And now we have!”
The Seeker silently decides she should probably monitor what she does more.
“I didn’t realize you were the Herald,” Krem flusters, clearly embarrassed at having addressed her so informally.
“I didn’t tell you,” she points out.
“Right. I’m gonna... go check on the Throat Cutters now, Chief.”
“Anyway, Bull,” his head swivels to her. “You’re with us today. I want to see what you can do. The Chargers can head to Haven - I have some correspondence that can go with them.”
Dorian eyes Bull in distrust.
“And Dorian, so much as a peep out of you and I’ll-“
“I’ve heard your creative threats the entire way here, Anita,” he pretends to brush off some lint. “I’ll behave.”
“Good. We have missing scouts to investigate.”
She’s humid, covered in dirt, sweat and blood by the time they make it to the Blades of Hessarian. There are Mabari hounds barking madly with foam mashing between their teeth, and angry looking men.
“Herald of Andraste!” The Leader bellows, banging a crude-looking sword against his shield. “Fight me!”
She grits her teeth. “You know what - Fine!”
Cassandra tugs on her arm. “I cannot allow you to duel-“
Subira finds herself annoyed and rips her arm out of her grip. “You cannot ‘allow me’ to do anything. I am going to accept the challenge.”
Bull meets Cassandra eyes briefly before stepping forward while she nods slightly, stepping back.
“Little Boss, pardon my boldness, but I could fight as your Champion?” Their new companion suggests, “I’d be a bad front line body-guard if I didn’t offer.”
Warily, she eyes him. Logically, she’s sure that he’s both trying to appease Cassandra and herself. Knowing it’s the best she’s going to get, she grumbles and throws a hand forward. “Take it away then,” she mutters.
Bull grins widely, taking his axe off of his back. “Oh man, this is gonna be great!” The Leader looks visibly nervous, now, as Bull approaches. “I am fighting as the Herald’s Champion. Do you accept?”
“The Challenge is for the Herald-!”
“Do you... accept?” Iron Bull asks in a low voice.
The man across from him, bulky but significantly shorter than the tall Qunari, swallows and nods.
“Good,” Bull grins, but with an edge to it. “Here I was thinking I’d have to kill you without fighting you.”
Subira has to admit - and she does, at the campfire - that Bull is a formidable fighter. He beat the Leader of the Blades of Hessarian within minutes, his giant axe stopping right under his chin at the end - but even then the man refused to yield. Bull had simply shaken his head and finished it, leaving the rest to Subira.
Who, obviously, when the Blades of Hessarian offered themselves to the Inquisition, she accepted. Cassandra wasn’t pleased with her choice and Varric was a little stiff about it, but at least Dorian and Bull get why it was a smart move.
The Storm Coast was aptly named, evidently, because it never stops raining. The campfire is barely off the ground and yet the embers are kept alive by Dorian’s magic, something even Bull was grateful for.
“So, Little Boss,” his voice rumbles across the quiet suddenly. “What do you think ‘bout the Inquisition’s new Blades?”
She takes a moment to think before replying. “I believe their intel will prove invaluable,” she begins slowly, “but what do I know?”
He laughs a roaring laugh and Varric chuckles from where he, in vain, tries to write underneath a canopy they have set up.
“Indeed, Little Boss,” his chuckle rumbles. “Indeed.”
Dorian fluffs his feathers like an offended motherhen, but she lays a soothing hand on his arm. Bull and Dorian haven’t gotten along the entire time and Cassandra is already sick of it - Subira is not that far behind.
“Varric?” she calls out suddenly. He hums in response. “Why do Bull and Dorian... not like each other?”
Immediately there’s overlapping responses of, “We like each other,” and “He’s a Qunari,” but she ignores them in favor of the dwarf she posed the question to.
Varric pauses, looks up, and then goes back to what he’s doing. “Well, Dorian is from Tevinter, Spitfire, and Bull is a Qunari-“
“No, no, I get that,” she insists, leaning forward in her seat. “I mean when they make problems from nothing just to flirt? But it’s mean flirting? Why do they do that?”
Bull’s laughter booms throughout the camp, echoing and solid. Dorian looks as red as a ripe cherry.
Varric chuckles deeply, trying to control it and failing. “Well, Spitfire, you’re old enough to know what flirting is, and I’ve written enough books to be able to tell you one thing: sexual tension.”
She furrows her brow. “They have... sexual tension?”
Varric nods, going back to writing.
“But... okay,” she shrugs helplessly, not at all any closer to understanding.
“Sorry, kiddo,” he shrugs apologetically.
“It’s okay,” she smiles widely, “I’ll just ask Cassandra!”
Dorian chokes on his drink while Varric guffaws, shaking his head. Bull laughs loudly, barely able to control it.
“Little magister, I implore you,” Dorian says when he’s caught his breath again, “do not ask Cassandra about this. And if you do, promise you’ll do it when I’m around!”
Chapter 25: Hiding From the Fighting, Longing to See
We're one step closer to closing the Breach. Subira breaks her own heart.
The missive from Leliana arrives three weeks into their ‘adventures’ on the Storm Coast.
10 11 9:41
Grand Enchanter Fiona sends her regards with good news.
She and the Rebel Mages have finished studying the Breach.
Return to Haven ASAP.
Subira scowled at the missive multiple times, wanting to clutch it in her hand and be done with it. Instead she takes several deep breaths and places it on the desk, penning a quick reply.
14 11 9:41
Pausing engagement in the Coast. Changing direction towards Haven now. Will arrive within the week.
Deeming that acceptable, she folds the missive and steps out of the tent, quietly instructing the runner to immediately make it back to Haven and to not delay. As soon as the runner is off, mud splashing in the wake of his horses hooves against the rocky ground, she turns to the Inquisition Camp.
She clears her throat. “Attention!”
Her party, all lounging around the fire, look up immediately. They each share a look - the same one every time she becomes a little bit more like a leader. The question “how much of herself will she lose to this cause” is always on their lips - but never spoken. It doesn’t have to be.
The girl folds her arms behind her back and takes up a wide stance. “We will be heading back to Haven at once. Anyone who needs to change post or deliver missives may come and do so now.”
Eventually, one of the scouts nod. “Right away, Herald!” And with a busy walk, began to gather their things.
This prompted everyone else to begin preparing and she, surprisingly, found herself pleased. As she waits, satchel around her waist and note from Leliana clutched tightly in one hand, she gently strokes her mount.
He’s become an invaluable friend during their time in the Storm Coast. At night when she could not sleep, she would sit next where he stood for the night and quietly rant - often feeling vindicated by his agreeable sounding snorts and whinnies from time to time.
“Little Boss, camp is loaded up. You ready to go?”
The Iron Bull is a potion she has not yet learned to swallow, and it takes several moments for her face not to sour.
“Yes, Bull,” she manages, turning to face her saddle. “Just a moment.”
He lingers hesitantly, a strange combination when paired with his size. “Do you want a hand?”
She pauses, considering it, and looks up at her giant horse with a sigh. “Fine,” she mutters.
He grins and steps forward, hands clasped together. “Okay, so, I’m not going to give you a leg up, because if I did then you’ll be launching over him and into the Waking Sea,” she actually laughs a bit at that, “so I’m just goin’ to lift you up onto him. Got it?”
She nods. “Sort of? Go for it - Oh!”
Bull lifted her carefully, underneath her armpits, and places her on the back of her horse. She looks from where she was to where she is and back to Bull.
“Holy... shit,” she says in awe.
He grins. “We’re ready to go when you are, Little Boss.”
By the Maker if he isn’t growing on her. She scowls, shoving the now probably torn missive into her saddle pack.
“Let’s get moving, Inquisition!” She calls, turning her horse towards the edge of camp. “We have lots of ground to cover.”
Her back and the bottom of her thighs are as sore as they’ve ever been upon returning to Haven, having ridden at a fast pace to make good time. There are people at the gate when they approach, and she groans.
“Is it too late to just bury myself in the snow?” She says, muffled by her headwrap as she pulls it across her face in agitation.
Bulls deep chuckle shakes even the leaves. “I think it is a little too late for that one, Little Boss.”
He turns his head to Cassandra. “Boss, anything I should know about Haven?”
The woman raises an eyebrow.
“You know, before a giant Qunari walks into a sleepy mountain town?”
Her mouth makes an ‘O’ shape. “Not that I know of, Iron Bull. Just don’t make too much of a fuss. Also, here,” she digs through her saddle bags and hands him a scroll.
“Hell yes!” He grins widely.
“What is it?” Subira asks politely.
“The Chargers arrived just a few days ago after stopping in with two of your companions in the Hinterlands,” Bull informs her from the scroll.
“That’s nice,” she said without any feeling behind it. Conversation picks up and slows down but she barely notices.
She sighs, her head dropping tiredly. As soon as they’re closer to Haven her frowning face picks up and a tight smile stretches itself over her lips.
Dismounting several feet away from the waiting group of Advisors she holds her horses reins in one hand and places the other on her hip. “Alright, what’s with the welcoming party?”
Josephine laughs. “We felt it was appropriate to greet you, considering the subject of your arrival.”
“I suppose...” she blows a piece of hair out of the way, scrunching up her face when it falls back onto her nose and lips.
“Well then,” she says when her horse has been taken from her to be put away. Her companions - all but Cassandra, a pivotal member of the Inquisition - have dispersed. “Let’s get to business, shall we?”
Hunched over the War Room table, she doesn’t meet the eyes of any of the others who are gathered there.
Grand Enchanter Fiona, whom she hasn’t had a chance to speak with since her arrival, stands quietly in the back of the room. Leliana and Josephine stand opposite each other and Cullen stands next to Fiona, at the opposite head of the table to Subira. Cassandra has her arms folded behind her back and observes from the side.
“Grand Enchanter, if you would be so kind as to share your findings to start this meeting off,” Subira says softly.
The woman clears her throat. “After studying the Breach, we determined that your companion, Solas - is indeed correct about many of his theories. It is him that helped lead us to many of these discoveries about the Breach and subsequently, how the mark will affect it.
“But nonetheless - without the mages supplying you power, it would be a vacuum, constantly taking. You would not survive, we estimated,” Subira blanches, so the woman rushes to continue.
“After a considerable amount of research, it was decided that we simply needed a considerable amount of lyrium for such a harrowing task - as well as having our mages practice relentlessly with Solas on the transfer of energy and magic.”
Subira breathes a bit easier. “Alright,” she processes with a nod. “Thank you, Grand Enchanter. Now, we do have to think about where to go after closing the Breach - you know, Inquisition priorities, but I think that can wait.”
She sighs, rubbing her face. “Finish whatever correspondence you have tonight, settle your dues. Tonight and tomorrow will be set aside for the town of Haven to... prepare. Then, we close that damned thing once and for all.”
Everyone murmurs small noises of agreement. They do not talk about how many meanings ‘prepare’ could have.
“You heard the Herald,” Cassandra’s voice calls out. “And, Grand Enchanter? Be sure to keep a copy of your notes on the Breach. I’m sure history would like them.”
Subira nods. “I would like them, too.”
Chapter 26: Eclipsed in the Eye
The Breach is closed!
update to this, my friend is literally a godsend and she’s my unofficial beta but totally my beta, but basically. uh. i didn’t keep track of time AT ALL so I was like “hey can you calculate for me”
it was not, in fact, three months.
IT HAD BEEN 183 DAYS.
so uh. it’s Cloudreach, and I’m an idiot. it’s literally a miracle that this chapter hasn’t been posted yet and that I’m updating a draft.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everyone in Haven is spending time with those they’ve become comrades with in the past six or so months, attempting to restore order to the world. But Subira... she stares at her satchel, sitting on her bed mockingly. It has every important thing she could ever need in it - including the potions she brewed for herself when she had the resources to do so. Her heart aches suddenly at the thought of losing these people.
As soon as the Breach is closed, she told herself.
It doesn’t make it hurt any less.
Vivienne is the one who finds her looking out at the snowy lands surrounding Haven, hands behind her back and no expression to be seen.
She simply asks, “Are you afraid?”
And Subira weighs this question in her mind. On one hand, Vivienne is someone she’s already begun to look up to - a strong mage woman - But is also expecting something with her answers.
“Only fools are afraid of things that they cannot see,” she settles on. And it’s true. If she dies closing the Breach, at least she kept the world safe for her friends.
Vivienne nods, a small smile quirking on the corner of her lips. “Very good.”
Subira dips her head. “Thank you, Madame.”
Vivienne waves a hand. “My dear, call me Vivienne when it is the two of us.”
Subira feels herself relaxing marginally. “Then you must call me Anita, too,” she challenges.
The older woman laughs softly. “Who am I to deny the wishes of the Herald of Andraste herself? As you say, Anita.”
“Thank you,” she says genuinely.
The woman is already walking away. “Whatever for, darling? I only reminded you of a fact,” she says vaguely over her shoulder.
“And what would that be?” Subira asks curiously.
Vivienne stops walking and turns. “That there is nothing to fear. But I did nothing - you did the work.”
The woman continues walking and Subira sits on the walls for as long as there is daylight, contemplating Vivienne’s words.
Dorian is the one who comes to wake her up. His warm voice encourages her to lift her legs from the bed and rise, attaching everything she may need onto her person.
The sun is barely over the horizon, burning peak blazing from where it edges over. But the calm starry night sky stays constant, slowly being chased away by a milky morning. Her breathing calms as she watches it.
Opening the door, she blinks. Dorian, Varric, Cassandra and Sera stand before her, all wearing different faces of wavering concern. Somewhere in the back, she notices Vivienne and Iron Bull chatting, Solas off to the side.
“What are you all doing here?” She tilts her head.
“Oh, little magister,” Dorian says fondly. “We wouldn’t leave you to do this yourself. You’ve collected quite the bunch of people here, you know.”
And it’s true - an apostate elvhen mage, a Tevinter Altus, a rogue Seeker, a wanted fugitive with a writing career, a Loyalist mage and a Ben-Hassrath. Imagine the bar jokes one could make with that, she muses.
“I’m glad to have you all by my side,” she says finally, looking somewhere in the distance. Behind her, the sun continues to rise slowly. “Thank you for fighting to get us where we are. Let’s close this Breach.”
Together, her small support group and the mages make their way to the ruins. Even as she approaches from yards away the energy left behind shakes her core and she shudders on her next exhale.
Grand Enchanter Fiona eyes her from her place beside her, staff clutched tightly in her hand. Vivienne and Dorian walk on the other side, discussing magical theory - occasionally with input from Fiona. Solas is uncharacteristically silent, with not one remark about the Breach spilling from his lips and instead a tight-lipped frown on his face.
It all feels like background noise to Subira, who is planning her escape even as they march toward their impending victory. To the Herald of Andraste - who is about to do the impossible task she set out to do and then abandon the cause her name is tied to.
Standing under the Breach again leaves her with a sense of foreboding that shakes her very being. She watches the mages get into position, with Solas’ firm hand and Vivienne’s cool guidance and Fiona overseeing the whole affair - while Dorian stands by her side. She can see Fiona anxiously eyeing her and wonders when she’ll be able to speak with her next.
She turns to look at the man who very quickly felt like family and tries to smile but it wavers, memorizing every detail about him.
Dorian frowns. “What’s wrong?”
She looks up at the Breach. “Nothing, Dorian,” she sighs, clenching her fist. “Just anxious.”
“Don’t worry your pretty little head about it,” the mage says with a grin, patting her head gently. “You’re going to be just fine.”
“I know, Dorian,” she replies, trying to choke back the sudden wave of tears. “I know.”
In the background, Bull and Cassandra talk out of the corner of their mouths. Her expression is worried, and Subira doesn’t blame her. This could go very badly.
“Mages!” Fiona suddenly calls out. “In position!”
Time to get ready, then. With one last steadying squeeze on her shoulder, Dorian backs up to her line of supporters waiting for her.
“Channel your energy into the Herald!” Solas’ normally level voice is clear and sounds like an echoing boom in the hallowed temple.
Slowly, the transfer of mana begins. It pools in her and the mark begins to buzz underneath her skin. In a great beam of light, the Breach connects to her hand and for several moments, it is too bright to see.
Subira is cast backwards, the wind knocked out of her and she’s left looking up at the sky in a daze. Dorian hurries to her side, breathing a sigh of relief at her slowly blinking eyes. Cassandra is right behind him, trying to hold back.
“Dorian,” she rasps, sitting up. “I did it?”
He smiles and points at the sky - a scar of greens and blues and purples ripple across, but no longer does the Breach remain.
The sound of cheering all around her reaches her ears and she barely summons the emotional energy to smile and throw up a fist, causing a large whooping to erupt from the area.
“Woohoo,” she said weakly, and then let’s her weight fall back into the snow. Her companions laugh and begin the task of helping her up.
update from an ENTIRELY different day (7/9/19) im posting this with chapter 24 because ch.24 is so short. E N J O Y I’m not posting the others until I finish at least the Hidden Oasis scenes etc. see you soon!!
Chapter 27: Gone are the Days of our Peace
Get ready for the Elder Ones attack... but where was Subira?
Hi guys I just got out of surgery to repair my tendons and I have to recover for 4-6 weeks but I have a few more chapters to upload here and still more to separate into drafts, don’t worry!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Everyone is celebrating. She can hear it as the sun sets; the dancing, the mead and the laughing - the assurance that they’ll live another day. She’s been avoiding it all for hours, just sitting in the small cabin that has become almost like a home to her - somewhere to come back to after a hard day, that would always be there, and it’s become bittersweet to sit in the space she’s claimed as her own.
Josephine had attempted to get her to come out earlier, with a gentle voice and soft knocking until she finally gave up. Not without promising to have tea waiting for them later. Leliana herself tried as well, checking through the window - thankfully Subira had thought to hide under the bed. She thinks Sera, Dorian and Bull tried to come see her at some point, but the hours have blended together so much that she has no idea if they did or not.
With a remorseful sigh, she slides off of her bed and pulls up her hood before quietly slipping into the night.
When she notices the army on the mountains, she’s very far away from Haven. The smell of burnt copper drifted to her, grey snow mixed with soot and red peered eerily peered at her from afar. Deep into the snow and at least a candlemark away, she whispers an apology into the wind before going as fast as possible back to Haven, wondering if once again she’ll be too late.
She can only imagine, when the alarm begins to blare and, in a hurry and covered in snow, how she looks to them - a different set of clothes, her weapons and her satchel on her person - but there’s no time for any of it.
Cullen is barking orders and Cassandra is pacing anxiously while Josephine shakes and Leliana tries to soothe her. It’s all too much for her to handle, turning away from the accusing eyes.
“I can’t help if you don’t let me in!” A pleading, echoing voice calls out.
Curiously, she walks closer to the door. The presence isn’t a threat, and they just want her to-
Suddenly the door is open and before her stands a hulking behemoth of what used to be a man, covered in red lyrium. He stands there for a moment, swaying before falling with a great thump and revealing a new figure behind it.
“Oh, no,” she murmurs, eyes focused on the corpse. “No, no, no!”
“Anita!” Cassandra calls, coming closer, her hand outstretched. “What is wrong?”
“It’s-“ words fail her. Nausea rises in her stomach. She rapidly feels the blood leaving her face as she panics.
“A world painted in red,” the strange boy breathes, and all heads turn to him. “The Elder One - he’s here. He’s really not happy you took his mages.”
She thinks that her heart stops for a full second when he says that, because she blinks and then she’s on the ground with her head between her knees. Josephine’s soothing voice is in her ear and warm hand rubbing her back.
When she looks up, the strange boy is knelt in front of her. His hat obscures his eyes but something makes her feel like he doesn’t need to be looking at her to see.
“My name is Cole,” he says softly. “And I want to help. You can still save this one.”
His grounding, sure words brought her back to reality, each breath crushing the fragile weight of her chest.
“Okay, Cole,” she says determinedly, still shaking. “Then help you shall.”
Standing, she dusts herself off, pushing aside Josephine’s fretting. “Commander, strategy. Now!”
He jumps, affronted, before settling back into pacing. “Well - the odds don’t look good. But with the trebuchets we have a better chance-“
“Perfect,” she interrupts. “We must protect Haven. Bring everyone to the Chantry, and I will bring a small force to the trebuchets. Good luck,” she pauses, and then adds:
“Maker be with you, Commander.”
He smiles sadly. “And also with you, Anita.”
Josephine stops her before she can take off, pulling the girl into a tight hug and then pulling back, placing a lingering kiss on the top of her head. “Be safe and come back to us, Tesoro.”
She can only nod, trying a watery smile and rushing to begin the preparations. Hurriedly traveling around Haven, she runs into several of her allies; Dorian plants himself by her side, staff in hand at all times.
“I am not leaving you,” he says stubbornly, pretending to preen at himself, “Let’s go find the others.”
Sera is the next to offer her help to defend Haven.
“And miss all this? You must be outta your mind. I’ve got your back, Harry,” and the elf ruffles Subira’s hair affectionately.
Cassandra, of course, once they run into her again, adamantly demands to come with her.
“I am responsible for you, Anita,” she argues, swallowing thickly. “It would not be - I am not allowing you to go out there on your own.”
“Hey, Seeker!” Sera blows a raspberry. “She has us, too!”
The woman only makes a vaguely annoyed noise, but Sera seems to count it as a victory.
“Varric!” Anita calls out, beyond thankful her favorite sarcastic dwarf is unharmed. “I need you to spread the word to my other allies; I need anyone who isn’t coming with me to the front lines to defend the people of Haven - get them to the Chantry!”
Varric winks, pulling Bianca off of his back. “You got it, Spitfire. Be safe out there, okay? You better come back in one piece.”
She smiles weakly before leading the charge to the trebuchet, every attack feeling stronger and angrier. Those infested with red lyrium give off immense, oppressive heat and when they close in on her space she fights the urge to gag at the awful stench of decaying flesh stuck to the growing mineral.
“I almost got it!” She grunts, turning her focus solely to the trebuchet and forgetting her blindside.
“Anita!” Dorian yells. The only warning she gets is the barrier he casts falling over her snugly.
The barrier, while protective, is not enough to save her from when the trebuchet explodes. She goes flying into the snow, groaning and feeling numb. Gauntleted hands flip her over and search her frantically.
“I’m fine, Cass,” she murmurs. “Completely alive, see?”
“There is a dragon, Anita,” the woman says urgently. “We must go, now!”
Subira forces herself to her feet, moving as fast as possible back to the chantry. For once she does not see the flashes of a world in red that used to haunt her, because instead it is unfolding in front of her eyes.
She slams a Templar into the ground, her dagger in his neck. She doesn’t look at his unseeing eyes.
Something slams into her and she rolls over to get away, shakily pulling herself off the dirt, lip split and bleeding onto the snow around her. She has a discarded short sword held in one hand and a dagger in the other.
She charges a behemoth coming up behind Cassandra. The hulking mass of used-to-be-man stumbles, groaning. An onslaught of arrows and spells volley into him and he falls with a thud.
“Herald!” A soldier pants, emerging from the Chantry. “Commander Cullen requests your presence.”
Knowing there is nothing more she can do for the town behind her, she enters the Chantry with a sense of finality.
tesoro - a term of endearment, its like 'dear' or 'sweetheart'
Chapter 28: Promise Surviving the Breach
The Elder One is gone, Subira is in the snow, and the Inquisition mourns the loss of their Herald.
Everything is... fuzzy. What happened? Subira tries to move but finds herself stuck and groans, too tired to continue. Absently she can feel the pain of cold surrounding her on all sides and something crushing her leg.
Come on, wake up.
Castelleta’s voice rings in her head firmly when her eyes slip shut and she groans. “But I don’t want to get up yet,” she murmurs.
Really, Su? It’s time to get up.
Herah, now, with a soft smile she can feel.
“But I’m so tired...”
You can do it, Su.
Michalis’ bright voice fills every corner of the darkness in her mind and she finally forces her eyes all the way open, blinking sluggishly in the blue tinted light of the cave.
Haven... Dragon... Corypheus... Corypheus!
Subira tries to get up but cries out - her leg is caught by a piece of the trebuchet that got pushed after her. “Fuck, okay,” she grits out. “Think, Subira, what do you do...”
I’d get the big piece of wood off of your leg before you lose it.
Despite knowing that the voice of Castelleta isn’t real, she can’t help but talk back.
She grunts. “Thanks, ass, but how?”
In vain, she tries to scramble out from underneath it and gasps when all it does is tug on her leg stuck underneath it.
Ouch, Su. Don’t try that again.
Herah is slightly more sympathetic in her head and she feels vindicated, slightly. She’d feel more happy about it if she wasn’t hearing their voices because she’s probably near death.
“Ugh!” She shouts, frustrated with the wood on her leg. “Why won’t you just move?!”
She can barely pull on her mana with how exhausted she is, but if she uses just a little bit and pushes with both of her legs...
Gritting her teeth, she drags the tiniest bit of magic forward and uses it to force the wood upward, pushing as hard as she can with her legs. Tears stream down her face and she scrambles out of the tiny space made for her, gasping and shuddering when she’s out.
Now she can properly assess the damage, leaning up against a wall. Bringing a hand up to her head brings more blood than she can stand the sight of right now and quickly moves on, feeling a swollen bump on her temple. She must’ve hit her nose, but by some divine luck it didn’t break, it only feels bruised. Blood is dried underneath it and mixes uncomfortably with the snot dripping out of her nose from the cold and her tears.
She inspects her hand and flinches when she touches her own wrist, gingerly pressing on the deep claw marks left by Corypheus. They bleed shallowly and they don’t worry her too much, so she moves to her torso and hisses uncomfortably. Determining that she most likely broke some ribs at least, she moves to her bad leg and immediately jumps back when she touches it.
Yeah, she’s fucked.
“Okay, this is good, you know what? This is good,” she mutters to herself. “I have my pack-“
Her pack is no longer around her waist.
Turning left and right, she searches with her eyes for her satchel and breathes a deep sigh of relief when she sees it sticking out of some snow just out of her reach.
“Alright, I can do this...” She braces herself to move...
“Figlio di puta! Cazzo culo!”
Her leg flares with pain and she forces herself through it, gritting her teeth until she can grasp the strap of her satchel and drag it out of the snow towards her, breath leaving her in gasps. She wraps her wrist first, sparingly using her poultice. She attempts to wrap her ribs but only ends up with more pain and gives up on it, turning her full attention to the awful wound on her leg.
Her thigh is bruised deeply, the dark skin mottled and broken underneath. The bone must be broken, but she doesn’t know if she can reset it herself. All she can do is wrap it together and down one of her potions, making getting up with the help of the wall just a little bit easier.
Throughout all of this, the mark is surprisingly quiet in her hand. It’s almost like it’s lying in wait, dormant, to see how far she can make it. Well, she’ll show it.
When the demons appear ahead of her, hissing and growling, she’s desperate and angry. All she really knows is that she doesn’t want to die yet - but didn’t she? - and certainly not to demons, and a scream rips itself from her throat as she forces the mark to life.
The demons are gone when she opens her eyes, ripped apart before her and thrust back to whence they came.
She stares at her palm in distrust and disbelief. “Oh, okay. So we’re just doing that now? Got it, got it.”
Talking to yourself, Su?
“I have nothing else to keep me awake,” she shrugs to her mind-Castelleta.
The snow is blinding when she steps out of the cave, immediately causing a disorienting feeling to fall over her. The cave is only a few feet behind her and she looks back.
If she stays there, she’ll likely die before anyone finds her. If she goes into the storm, she may die before she finds anyone.
Taking a deep breath, she walks into the unrelenting snow.
Sera had cursed them all out.
“Right, then. So we’re just supposed to leave her there? In the snow?”
When Varric tried to console her, she flipped him the bird before trudging as far ahead in the thick snow that she could when she found out that Anita stayed behind. Similarly, the dwarf was also upset by the loss - numb in a way he hasn’t felt since Kirkwall was determined unsafe for all of his friends to stay together.
Dorian is quiet. Not even Varric can prod him into chuckling or commenting, and Iron Bull’s presence doesn’t even faze him. He just keeps wishing he had done more. Staring at the whistling snow and hoping she’ll walk out of it. Even Vivienne, surprisingly, appears to be very deep in mourning for the child. She is somber and withdrawn, thinking about the child who had seemed invincible.
Josephine had been crying for as long as they had been walking. The tears didn’t stop once they started; they would only dull and then overflow with new warmth and freeze on her cheeks. Leliana tried to comfort her, but the woman couldn’t be consoled.
“Lascia riposare!” Josephine snarled in Antivan when, still, Leliana persisted. The hooded woman retreated quietly.
Leliana, unsurprisingly, wore no outward emotion. But it was clear to anyone who knew where to look and what to look for that this didn’t leave her unshaken - red rimmed eyes and staring into space, frequently muttering to herself and tightly clenched fists all lead to her distress.
Cassandra, next to her, could barely contain her anger. Anger was the easiest emotion next to sadness, and she was furious with the young girl for sacrificing herself like that. And she was beyond devastated that she had lost her.
The Commander and Solas, if one could believe it, were walking side by side in an empty quiet. It wasn’t companionable - they certainly weren’t friends, but nor was it an uncomfortable silence. It was simply silence - empty and gaping, because neither man could summon something to say after the loss of Anita.
When they set up camp, none of them could look at each other. Too afraid to see the pieces that Anita left in them all, and too afraid that they weren’t there to begin with. That she would already be washed away from them or buried in the snow with her.
Everyone was drawn into their own circle of thought. Josephine helped with the refugees, Leliana had her scouts scouring the black of night as best as they could to find that little girl. The Commander directed his soldiers to aid the wounded with help from the Chargers and Cassandra. Nearly everyone was doing something to keep their mind off of the fact that a child had demanded she be allowed to be used as a sacrifice... and they let her.
Eventually things settled down, with more and more of Leliana’s scouts reports turning up nothing, they had to begin to talk about a plan of action.
“Hey!” Varric stands before them, hands planted on his hips. For once, there isn’t a coy smirk on his lips or smugness in his voice. And then he demands, his voice cracking on the end, “I want to know what happened. Why didn’t she make it?”
Cassandra’s throat closes on the question, her eyes immediately shutting. Why didn’t she make it? What a good question indeed.
She hasn’t stopped asking herself that.
“Bring the Iron Bull and Dorian to us, Varric,” she says when she has control of her voice.
The dwarf does so without remarking, talking back or questioning. Then, they all stand in a hesitant circle, quiet and tear stained.
“Well?” Varric demands. He’s the one getting answers this time.
“The story starts with me,” a blonde boy murmurs from behind them.
“Who... You’re the boy who helped Roderick show us the way,” Cassandra remembers suddenly.
He tilts his head at her from under his hat. “Very good. I wasn’t sure if you’d remember me, but you did.”
“How does the story start with you, kid?” Varric asks.
The boys voice becomes a hushed murmur when he speaks. “A world of lyrium caught on fire. Gasping, burning breaths. ‘Be strong’ she says, and then they are gone. She thinks that perhaps now she can return the favor.”
He disappears after that - with no trace of him that ever said he was there.
Dorian clears his throat, hoarse from crying. “... So, with that story?”
“Right,” the Commander starts, just as torn up as the rest of them. “Well, when the... Cole, told us Roderick had something to tell us...”
Figlio di puta! Cazzo culo - a mix of Italian and Spanish to make a wonderful pair of swears, 'son of a whore' and 'fucking ass' (though. it may translate to dick ass which... is fine too. i can imagine subira yelling that)
Lascia riposare! - leave it alone/let it rest!
Chapter 29: Maker Remind Me
Basically a recap of what went down in Haven told through flashbacks. A surprise at the end! Don’t be worried for too long.
It wasn’t looking good for them with the addition of the dragon. Subira swore in every language she knew in her mind, and then her head shot up.
She was being watched.
Sure enough, helping Chancellor Roderick stumble into the Chantry was the boy who had warned them. She cannot see his eyes from underneath his hat, but she knows he has something to say.
“We can bury Haven,” Cullen offers, running a hand over his face. “We can choose how we go. Not many get that.”
“No, we don’t,” she says slowly, calculating eyes studying the odd boy. “Do we, Cole?”
Cole shakes his head. “Chancellor Roderick has something he wants to tell you. He’s going to die.”
The man weakly lifts his head. “What a charming… boy…” he attempts a chuckle, but it’s dry. “There is a path... out of Haven,” he rasps. “You wouldn’t know it if you didn’t make the yearly pilgrimage. Andraste must’ve shown me...”
Suddenly she’s filled with hope, turning to Cullen. “Commander, have Chancellor Roderick lead you out. I’m going to go say hello to the Elder One.”
Cullen’s face scrunches up. “There is no way I’m letting you do that, Anita.”
“No way you’re letting her do what?” Cassandra approaches, her ‘no time for bullshit’ face plastered on.
“I - Nothing!” Subira replies defensively.
“Chancellor Roderick has a way out of here,” Cullen says slowly, sorrow in his eyes.
“Well, that’s good news,” the woman replies, brow furrowed. “So what does that have to do-“
Subira walks to the door. “To get out of here, someone has to stay behind.”
Realization dawns on Cassandra, horror coloring her features. “By Andraste! No, you’re not-“
A hollow laugh escapes her. “You haven’t been able to stop me from doing anything since you met me, Seeker,” the woman frowns. Subira sighs and continues,
“Cass, the world needs you. All of you. This Elder One won’t stop until he gets me. I’m going to show him what he’s missing.”
“Like hell you are,” Bull grunts, approaching with Dorian.
The mage nods. “Quite right, little one,” he smirks, but there’s no life behind it.
“None of you can stop me from walking out of this door right now,” she points out, hand reaching toward her satchel as a last resort.
Bull looks her over and then raises a hand. “I probably could,”
She thinks on it and shrugs. “Yeah, you probably could. But you aren’t going to - Look! This is the best for everyone!”
“If you’re going out there, I am coming with you.” Cassandra insists.
Bull grunts his agreement. “Me too, short-stuff.”
“Couldn’t keep me away,” Dorian nods.
Subira sighs deeply, dropping her hand. “I can’t stop you, can I? Let’s go give them hell.”
They fight their away across the once quiet town, the sky streaked with smoke. Every time she feels her resolve falter, she thinks of all the dead they could not save lying in the snow and her fight returns tenfold. The Chant of Light quietly falls from her lips, too quiet for anyone to hear but her. She does not let the familiar phrases spill from her lips out of comfort - not the traditional kind, anyway. She is in two worlds of red at once, dancing through snow colored with blood, the sky dark with smoke and dragon fire.
The dragon gets closer, encroaching on their fought for territory. “Bull! How’s the trebuchet?”
He grunts. “Nearly there, kid!”
She doesn’t reply, throwing herself at another Red Templar. It can’t be long now.
“Bull!” He halts his hands on the wheel, turning to face her. She moves closer and lowers her voice. “When it’s time... get them out of here.”
His grip on the trebuchet falters. “I can’t-”
“No!” She shouts, turning to another Templar that was fast approaching. “You will do this, Bull!”
The Templar is dead by the time he found himself nodding and continued cranking.
“Now her hand is raised-“
She takes out another Red Templar who was too close to Dorian, shoving her dagger into his stomach.
“-A sword to pierce the sun-“
Cassandra charges forward and bashes a Templar with her shield, allowing Subira to slip in and cut her short sword across his back and twist her dagger into his ribs.
“-With an iron shield she defends the faithful-“
A Templar stuns Cassandra and knocks Subira to her knees. She glares hatefully up at him before throwing a bottle at the ground and rolling backwards, arms spread before her companion.
Her eyes happen to trail to the sky, looking at the dragon fast approaching.
The flames separated them now, winded on her back. She hopes Bull keeps his promise. Struggling to her knees she whispers the last line as she gets to her unsteady feet:
“-Let chaos be undone.”
Cassandra, for as cold as she is, suddenly feels hot with anger. “She told you to get us out of there - and you listened?! She needed us, she needed-“
“How were we going to get to her, Boss?” Bull asks tiredly. “She made the right call.”
Varric pats Dorian on the arm, who looks deep in thought. “Something the matter, Sparkler?”
The mage shakes his head. “No, I’m simply reflecting...”
The dwarf raises a brow. “On?”
“Anita was reciting, before...” he trailed off. Everyone looks in different directions at the reminder that they could not save her.
“Ah!” He says suddenly, startling them. “The Canticle of Victoria, three.”
Cassandra clears her throat, face angled towards the ground. “Now her hand is raised, a sword to pierce the sun. With an iron shield she defends the faithful. Let chaos be undone."
They all look down, collectively holding a moment of silence. Cassandra’s reciting of the Chant that was most likely their Herald’s last words wash a myriad of different emotions over them all - guilt, shame and regret being the most easily identifiable ones.
A chilling voice sounds behind them. “Numb limbs and blinding pain. Cold, so cold - I think I will stop fighting here. I am sorry, everyone, for many sins I cannot be abstained from. I tried, I tried... I am tired...”
They all bristle immediately, turning to where Cole’s voice came from. “Who-“
“Commander! Seeker!” A soldier shouts. “We think there’s someone out there!”
The two share a look before bolting across the snow.
Her eyelashes feel like they’re stuck to her face and her nose might as well have pins and needles. She’s been walking for so long she’s afraid that she got turned around.
Every time she wants to stop, a voice in her head encourages her to keep going. Sometimes Castelleta, sometimes Herah and sometimes Michalis.
But it’s been so long since she’s heard one of their voices, and she’s getting so sleepy...
A wolf howls in the distance. She shudders but cannot bring herself to truly care, trudging painfully through the snow. Slowly, she slides to her knees, eyes closing. She can’t feel the pain from bending her broken leg.
Her vision and hearing go in and out.
“Thank the Maker!”
That’s Cassandra’s voice! She tries to force her mouth to work, for sound to come out, but all that happens is a struggled whine. Her body no longer responds to her commands and will not move, not even when she is lifted off of the ground and into someone’s arms. Her limbs are grateful for the break, but her wounds...
The movement wrestles a pained cry from her lips, shrill and involuntary. The moving stops immediately and a soft shushing fills her ears, followed by a warm, fluffy fur being thrown over her. She hums and burrows into whoever’s arms she’s in happily. If she’s to die like this, then she’ll die warm and safe.
When she’s laid down on a cot, she’s finally able to force her lips to move and her eyelids to open.
“C-Cass,” her voice rasps, hoarse and grating. The woman turns, gasps, and hurries to her side. She takes one of her cold hands in her two strong and warm ones. Subira grips as tightly as she can.
“Anita,” the woman breathes in relief, tears glittering in her eyes. “You’re awake-“
“Got to see you... Thank you,” she says without much coherency. Her vision goes darker to the sight of Cassandra becoming increasingly worried, hand going slack in her grip.
Chapter 30: Blood so Bold
Treating Su's injuries, soft recovery moments between her and some of the inner circle.
She awakens again not much later, groaning and whimpering. Her eyes snapped open as they try to set her leg.
“Sh, sh,” Dorian brushes a hand over her head softly. “It’s okay, it’s okay. You’re going to be okay...”
On her other side sits Solas, focusing most of the magic. Vivienne is there for emergency mana, intently watching as Solas helps the Healer reset her leg.
“Dorian,” she gasps between sobs, hot tears trailing down her cheeks and onto her neck. “Hurts...”
“I know, I know,” he soothes, somewhat frantic, brushing away tears with his thumb. “It’ll be okay...”
She can hear somewhere beyond the tent fast footsteps approaching and walking away repeatedly in fast motions. The movement stops when another pair of footsteps approach, and hushed conversation ensues.
“-can’t do anything right now, Cassandra...”
“...aware, Leliana, but she’s in so much pain...”
A pause, then quiet words. “-must weather it. She can.”
A frustrated grunt escapes the other woman. “...should not have to.”
Anything else they might be saying is cut off by her high pitched cry of pain when the bone is finally set. Her focus is cut off from anything else as it radiates from the leg to her waist and she groans. Dorian quickly thrusts a potion down her throat. It leaves her gasping and sputtering, sticking her tongue out at the disgusting bitter taste.
Outside the tent, she hears the conversation waver again, a scuffle in the snow briefly taking her attention.
“None of that now, young lady,” Vivienne says with the barest amusement. “We take our medicine like big girls.”
With an apologetic face, the field medic presses gentle fingers into her ribs. She squirms away.
“The healer has to look, da’len,” Solas says quietly, placing a steadying hand on her shoulder.
“Master Solas, she has two broken ribs,” the medic relays the worst. “If you can heal the internal damage, we can reset and wrap her chest, and then her body will do the rest.”
The man nods, a look of quiet determination on his face. The healer presses down on her ribs and Subira makes a startled noise, soothed immediately by the feeling of healing magic drifting over her.
As she drifts back into sleep, the healer lifts up her wrist, gently unwrapping the bandage and gasping softly. She notices that her shoulder is already bandaged firmly in place.
“By the Maker, what did that to her?” Dorian swears, looking at the deep gouge marks on her wrist.
She tugs weakly on the closest person’s sleeve - Solas. Cassandra has finally entered the tent, looking flushed and with a slight wetness on her cheeks. She approaches and kneels close to Solas, worry clear in her eyes.
He leans down. “Yes, da’len?”
What was it she wanted to say? Oh, right! With her last act of coherency, she forces the name out of her mouth:
With that small piece of important information shared, she allows herself to slip into a warm, dreamless sleep.
The next time she wakes, Josephine is by her side, one hand gently grasping hers. Leliana sits next to her - though, probably more for Josephine than for her, she thinks grumpily - and shifts on her cot. Something must’ve changed on her face, because a hand brushes over her cheek gently.
“Anita? Are you awake, Tesoro?”
Her cheeks reddened. She’s too sleepy to reply, mouth only forming half-syllables and mumbles.
Josephine laughs shakily, wiping away a tear that made its way down her face - when did that happen? “That’s okay, quierdo. I’m just glad you’re here.”
The hand holding hers squeezes softly and she fights for consciousness, forcing her fingers to squeeze back.
Leliana leans over, brushing stray hairs from her cheeks. “We’re all glad you’re alive, Anita,” she says softly. “Rest up, chére.”
Subira feels a soft smile form before she falls asleep again.
The first time she wakes up without falling right back asleep, she notices Mother Giselle next to her. And then the pounding in her head sets in, exacerbated by the shouting near her tent. The soreness in her body makes her groan.
“Easy, easy,” the woman murmurs when she tries to sit up. “You did not attempt an easy task, you have earned your rest.”
Subira snorts. “So they’re arguing for fun, then?” Her voice is scratchy and hoarse.
Mother Giselle sighs. “They have the luxury to stand bickering amongst themselves because of you, child.”
“That doesn’t change that I am needed. Rest can come later,” Subira decides, immediately deciding differently when she moves upward too fast and falls downward with a gasp.
“You probably need the Healer, now that you are awake,” Mother Giselle remarks. “But I am reluctant to get her.”
Subira’s brow furrows. “Why?”
The Revered Mother sighs, looking to where the raised voices are coming from. “The longer they believe you rest, the longer you are abstained from their needless fretting.”
“Needless?” Her eyebrows fly into her hairline. “We have a... Oh, Corypheus!”
She’d nearly forgotten about him! Surprising, considering the guy is at least eight feet tall and smells like his body is decaying.
She’s pretty certain he was decaying in some places, now that she thinks on it.
But there’s no time for that. She once again tries to sit up fully without thinking and this time a pained cry leaves her lips. Kind face pinched up in a frown, Mother Giselle firmly helps her lay back down. A layer of sweat coats her forehead and the older woman pats it dry with a cloth.
“You must be thirsty, child. Here,” she carefully slides a hand under Subira’s back to support her as she leans upwards again, just enough to reach the water. She helps her lay down, slowly as before.
“Can you bring them to me, please?” Subira asks once she’s positioned more comfortably.
Mother Giselle looks like she wants to protest, but nods her assent and leaves the tent in order to gather the arguing parties. All four voices hush at once and Subira smirks at the mental image - grown adults being chastised by one Revered Mother who couldn’t hurt a fly.
Moments later, Josephine’s relieved face comes into view. “Oh, Anita!” She exclaims, coming to kneel by her bedside. “It is so wonderful that you are awake.”
“Indeed,” The Commander says awkwardly, scratching the back of his neck. “We’re all more than glad you’re alive. And more than grateful for your sacrifice.”
She cocks her head innocently. “What sacrifice? I didn’t die.”
The four of them exchange glances. “Oh, boy,” she mutters, rolling her eyes into her head. “Alright, what news am I not going to like hearing this time?”
“It was widely believed you had died to give us time,” Leliana says cautiously.
She shrugs. “Yeah? I would’ve thought I was dead too. There were times when I thought I was dead. So what?”
“The point is that people have watched you... in a sense, come back to life,” Josephine finishes for her friend.
Squinting, the teenager trails her eyes between the four of them, trying to figure out what she’s missing. And then it clicks.
“Oh, Andraste’s flaming tits-“ she swears, causing a deep blush to fall over both Josephine and Cullen’s faces. Cassandra can’t seem to muster up the will to scold her. Though, she could’ve sworn Varric has said something similar to that... she’s going to kill that dwarf.
“We figured that would be about your thoughts on the matter,” Leliana says apologetically.
“I’ll tell you one thing: I definitely didn’t die tonight, and the one thing that is keeping me alive is not the Maker. Do you want to know what it is?” She asks with a wry grin.
Leliana and Josephine exchange cautious glances. “What is it?” The Antivan asks.
Cassandra chuckles, shaking her head. “That is exactly something I would expect.”
Subira salutes. “Glad I can live up to expectations,”
Her smile fades when she remembers exactly who she was trudging on in spite of.
“Anita?” Josephine squeezes her hand once. “Are you alright?”
“Yes, yes, I just remembered...” she takes a deep breath. “I need to tell you what happened when I got separated from the others.”
tesoro - dear/sweetheart
quierdo - ^ same deal
chere - dear
Chapter 31: The Dawn will Come
The Dawn will Come. Subira has to come to terms with the fact that she's a holy figure now. Hint: she does not.
Slow, measured steps make their way towards her. When she looks up, her first thought is run. Nothing that tall, deformed and covered in red lyrium is friendly.
But she has nowhere to go. So she stares into the gnarled face of her aggressor, stubbornly refusing to look away. She shakes, teeth clattering together and body twitching when the dragon screeches behind her, it’s looming presence at her back.
The being stands beyond a ring of fire, holding an orb. “Pretender, you have toyed with forces beyond your ken long enough.”
Her eyes water, his voice grating against her ears and terrifying.
“A shame, halfling,” it snarls. “You could’ve been useful to me. And then you interrupted a ritual years in the making!”
“Oh, sorry I interrupted your planned ritual,” she spits. “Seems I missed your fucking newsletter. Make sure I get that next time, alright?”
The being in front of her looks bored, almost mildly annoyed.
“Who are you, anyway? What are you?”
The being laughs. “Mortals beg for truths they cannot have. It is beyond what you are, Halfling. Beyond what I was.”
“What you were? Alright, if this is some midlife crisis I don’t know how else to tell you that this isn’t it-“
Forcefully, he continues, stepping forward through the flames. “Know me. Know what you have pretended to be. Exalt the Elder One; the will that is Corypheus!”
He glares down at her. “You will kneel.”
She spits at his feet. “Die in the Void.”
Corypheus chuckles darkly. “Perhaps. But not today, halfling.”
“You haven’t asked for anything,” she hisses desperately. “Don’t all villains follow like, a code? ‘Demand nefarious thing’ is one of them?”
Corypheus grunts. “I ask for nothing because it is not within your power to give. But that will not stop me.
“I have come for the Anchor. The process of removing it begins now.”
The worst pain she’s ever been in flares to life in her palm and races up to her shoulder. She screams, falling to her knees and fisting the snow between her palms and green lightning sparks out of her hands. Corypheus scowls.
“It is your fault, ‘Herald’. Instead of dying with your interruption, you stole its purpose.
“Your unique blood is the only reason you survived. What marks you as ‘touched’, what you flail at rifts, I crafted to assault the very Heavens!”
He curled his fingers and she screams until her lungs run out of air, panting and whimpering in pain and her hand clutched to her chest. Her stomach empties itself and she heaves until there’s nothing left to give, gasping and shuddering.
“And you use the Anchor to undo my work!” He hisses, “The gall!”
She gasps through frightened tears, “I never wanted this! I don’t even know what it does!”
“It is meant to bring certainty where this is none. For you, the certainty is that I will always come for it.”
He presses closer, anger clear on his face. He yanks her up into the air, long nails pressing uncomfortably into her skin. Her shoulder feels like it’s being wrenched from its socket and recognizes the voice whining in pain as her own.
“I once breached the Fade in the name of another,” he says almost mournfully. “To see the old gods of the Empire in person. I found only chaos and corruption!”
His grip tightens on her wrist and she struggles, whimpering at the strain. Any more and he’d tear it right off. “Dead whispers. A thousand years I was confused! No more. I have gathered the will to return under no name but my own.”
He brings his face very close to hers. His breath is terrible and a wave of nausea rises over her. “To champion withered Tevinter and right this blighted world. Beg that I succeed. For I have seen the throne of the gods...”
His voice becomes a harsh whisper, “...And it was empty.”
Suddenly she’s being launched into the trebuchet shoulder first and she cries out, her vision split in two as he draws nearer. Her hand continues to spark and flare.
“The Anchor is permanent,” he thunders, his dragon circling behind him. “You spoilt it with your stumbling.”
A sword lays discarded near her and she forces herself to move, lunging for it and hefting it in both hands.
“So be it. I will begin again, and find another way to give this world the nation - and god - it requires.”
Behind him, the signal fire is shot into the sky. Her heart sings with relief. Without breaking eye contact, she barely holds the sword up with one hand while the other slides into her satchel.
“And you,” he shakes his head, almost apologetically. “I will not suffer even an unknowing rival. You must die.”
“No, Corypheus,” she says weakly. “You were arrogant when you breached the Fade the first time, and you’re arrogant now.”
She throws a bottle at his feet and lunges for the lever, sagging against the trebuchet when it fires. The sound of snow rumbling across the mountain is enough to jolt her into action, running painfully until she trips into a mineshaft and then...
The entire time she told the story, she rubbed her hand. It hasn’t acted up, but she is tense in wait of the horrible pain that he made her feel. Each of them wears a different level of concern on their face, ranging from teary to horrified to stony.
“And that’s what happened,” she sighs. “After that I woke up in tunnels underneath Haven, much like the ones you used I suppose. And then I was in the snow.”
Josephine clutches one of her hands between hers so tightly she’s afraid she’ll never let go. “It must’ve been so frightening,” the woman murmurs, and she blinks.
She hadn’t... Really stopped to think about it. When it was happening it was the most frightening thing to ever happen to her, but now? She has other things to focus on, and breaking down to cry isn’t on her to-do list.
“I guess,” she shrugs, looking away.
Cassandra is quieter than normal. “I believe one person can help us.”
Subira tilts her head. “Who?”
“That would be me, Spitfire. Glad to see you’re still kicking,” Varric says from the front of the wide tent, a tired grin on his face. “The name Corypheus isn’t unfamiliar to me. But the story can wait until we’re somewhere more protected. You just worry about resting up.” He winks at her and gives a wave before disappearing, much to her confusion.
“Can you guys help me stand? We need to figure out a plan, and I’m sure you had all your stuff over there,” Subira shifts up onto her elbows, stifling her gasp but not the contorted face of pain.
Leliana is the one who steps in, her hand surprisingly gentle as she pushes her down. “We will do so in here, to let you rest.”
Subira nods and slowly settles back into the position she was in. They begin slowly talking over the options they have, but no matter how hard she tries to keep them open, her eyes slipping shut. Her breaths slow to whisps through her teeth and nose.
Josephine watches with affection for the young girl, softly rubbing circles on her hand as she nods off and tries to stay in the conversation. Cassandra would wait for her answers, slow to come and sudden when they did. Leliana was quiet and Cullen was patient. All were just grateful she was alive.
Mother Giselle is tending to her when she wakes up, once again to the sound of arguing nearby. She shakes her head.
The older woman shakes her head. “I believe it is time the people see their Herald,” she says gently, but firmly.
Swallowing, Subira nods. Barely able to get up on her own she leans heavily into the older woman, gasping and whimpering when they moved the wrong way. Mother Giselle is patient the whole way through, taking her time and trying to prevent pain to the young girl.
“-What would you have me tell them?! This isn’t what we asked them to do!” Cullen’s raised voice makes its way to her, and she flinches reflexively.
Mother Giselle shushes her and gives her a warm squeeze. “It is alright, child,” she says gently. “Tensions run high when the spirit is tested.”
“We cannot simply ignore this, we must find a way!” Cassandra’s voice is thicker with her frustration.
"And who put you in charge?" Cullen snaps, making Subira wish she could move a little faster because this is definitely not going anywhere good. “We need a consensus or we have nothing!”
Josephine makes a wide gesture between them. “Please, we must use reason,” she pleads with them both. “Without the infrastructure of the Inquisition, we’re-“
“It can’t come from nowhere!” Cullen interrupts.
“She didn’t say it could,” Leliana defends venomously.
“Enough!” Cassandra yells. “This is getting us nowhere!”
Subira startles backwards in Mother Giselle’s grip, nearly falling to the ground with her injuries and she groans.
Cullen scoffs. “Well, we’re agreed on that much!”
Mother Giselle rubs a warm hand on her back. “Maybe you should rest,” she says with concern. “You are shaking.”
Subira stops to focus. Her body is twitching and shaking, almost vibrating outwardly.
“Why are they doing this?” Subira whispers.
“We have time to doubt, and we turn to blame. Infighting may threaten as much as this Corypheus.”
“It won’t,” Subira says vehemently, the seriousness startling the Revered Mother. “I won’t let it.”
Mother Giselle smiles after a moment. “That is wonderful to hear,” she pauses, changing the subject. “I wonder if adding another heated voice to them will help...”
“Well-“ Subira starts.
“Our leaders struggle because of what we survivors witnessed,” Mother Giselle says with a knowing look in her eye. “We saw our defender stand - and fall. And now we have seen her return.”
Subira shakes her head. “No,”
“Yes,” Mother Giselle insists. “The more the enemy is beyond us, the more miraculous your actions appear. And the more our trials seem ordained.”
Subira has a discomfited look on her face. “That is hard to accept, no?” Mother Giselle asks rhetorically. “What we have been called to endure, what we perhaps must come to believe.”
“But I didn’t die, Mother Giselle,” Subira says stubbornly. “I escaped the avalanche and Corypheus.”
The older woman shakes her head. “Of course, but the people know what they saw. Or perhaps what they needed to see - the Maker works both in the moment and how it is remembered. Can we truly know that the heavens are not with us?”
“Corypheus is a physical threat,” Subira hisses as she pushes off of the older woman, batting off her concern. “Heavens with us or not, he is something that must be dealt with. Not whether or not I’m truly the Maker’s chosen.”
She walks to the others slowly, an arm wrapped around her side and limping. Josephine sits next to a fire with Leliana sitting by her feet and Cassandra anxiously taps her foot, holding onto a post. Cullen is stands, pouring over maps. Subira clears her throat, and each of them turn to look at her.
“What are you doing up?”
All four try to talk to her at once and she stumbles under the force of their words. They almost visibly back off a little bit, realizing how overwhelming it was. Each seem lost and tired, worn out and weary from hours of arguing and no sleep.
A melodic voice begins to sing clearly. “Shadows fall, and hope has fled. Steel your heart, the dawn will come…”
Cassandra turns to look at the approaching Revered Mother, her tormented expression relaxing slightly.
Leliana looks up from her arms next, head tilted.
“The night is long, and the path is dark, look to the sky, for one day soon... the dawn will come.”
Josephine sits up fully now, a more hopeful look on her face as she stares at Subira and Mother Giselle.
Leliana begins the next verse. Her voice is light, carrying the notes clearly. Mother Giselle sings with her.
“Shepherd’s lost and his home is far-“
By the rest of the line, many have joined, the last remaining of the Inquisition banding together tightly. Josephine, Cassandra, and even Varric are among them.
“-Keep to the stars, the dawn will come…”
Cullen looks deep in thought, downtrodden and lost. A light forms in his eyes as the Inquisition comes together.
“The night is long...”
He joins as well, now, his eyes closing. “...and the path is dark. Look to the sky, for one day soon, the dawn will come...”
People slowly come around where Mother Giselle is subtly supporting her weight, falling to one knee before her. She tries not to panic at the hope she’s inspiring in these people.
“Bare your blade, and raise it high. Stand your ground, the dawn will come.”
Solas approaches from the side, watching the forces this young girl brought under her now bend their knee. He almost regrets that he must use her - but it is for a relative good. She is too valuable to let slip through his fingers.
Patiently he waits for her, only catching the last thing Mother Giselle says to Anita before leaving them:
“An army needs more than an enemy. It needs a cause.”
He nods. A very wise woman, Mother Giselle. He holds a great deal of respect for her. His eyes follow her as she leaves, a contemplative look upon his face. He steps forward.
“I would heed her well,” he advises and then asks, “Do you have a moment?”
“Of course,” she says with a tired smile. “My tent?”
“Yes,” he frowns. “Do you need a potion? How do you feel physically?”
Slowly limping back to her tent with Solas cautiously in tow, she waves him off. “I’m fine, Solas. What was it you needed?”
“An army needs a base of operations. Luckily, I know just the place. Have your scouts go North of here - they will find a Castle...”
Due to her injuries, they carefully place and remove her atop her Ferelden Forder every day they travel. Her glum mood was obvious to anyone who could see her.
With her head placed atop her hand, she examines the same snowy mountains she’s been looking at for days now. And then the soft plucking of a lute begins.
Mary Den’s melodic voice is clear. “Find me still searching for someone to lead me-“
Subira looks back at her, and the woman has her eyes closed while gently strumming her instrument.
“-Can you guide me to the revolt inside me? Promise surviving the Breach-“
Subira clears her throat, looking to the sky.
“Templar igniting fire inside me... Maker remind me, gone are the days of our peace.”
Cassandra looks up in surprise at the soft, deep singing that comes from atop the horse. Anita has never sung in their presence and has never said she liked to, either. Her voice is slightly grating from sickness and disuse, but it’s no less beautiful. Those around her stop to listen to her and Mary Den.
They sing together now, “now we reside in the great divide...”
Mary Den looks up at the girl, changing the last lyric:
“Promise surviving the Breach in the sky.”
Subira smiles and repeats it, and the lutes soft music fades out as Mary Den strikes the last chord.
I just think Mary Den is neat. I was listening to the Soundtrack of the Tavern when I wrote that end piece... so, you know. There’s probably gonna be more of those every now and then, but not too often. Anyway enjoy the chapter! I’m literally approaching Adamant right now (im like, three quests in the Western Approach away) so that’s neat! I’ll tell Subira you guys said welcome back when she gets back. You know... probably not a good idea, knowing what happens there. She’s an aggressive child
Chapter 32: Believe in my Soul
Subira has lasting injuries from her fall at Haven. Her companions worry out of their minds and she really just wants to be able to do things.
They made an excruciating pace across the snowy mountains, and then in the distance she can see... something. She spurs her horse forward, grunting at the jostling of her wounds, but needing to know.
She comes to a ledge, and her breath is stolen. It’s there... in the flesh. The Fortress Solas told her about.
“Tarasyl'an Te'las. Skyhold,” Solas says serenely from the ground next to her. Her brow furrows.
“The place where...” she mumbled to herself, trying to figure out the translation before looking to Solas with puppy eyes.
He sighs. “‘The place where the sky was held back.’”
“I like it,” she declares. “So uh, who’s abandoned castle is this? I really wouldn’t like Orlais or Ferelden deciding to claim ownership when we set up in there.”
Solas chuckles. “Do not worry about that, da’len. They cannot.”
A moment passes. Wind blows snow across the mountains and rustles past her ears.
He looks thoughtful. “It is awaiting a new master, Anita.”
His eyes are even and she shudders, passing it off as cold as she pulls her furs around her tightly. Cassandra stands on the right of her mount, a hand on his neck and looking at the Fortress in the distance.
“You surely mean someone like... Cassandra? Or Leliana?” She says nervously.
Solas gives her a level look. “You have been-“
She coughs, trying to hide it in her elbow. It goes on a bit longer than it should, and when it’s over she has trouble catching her breath. Her leg stings with the jostling and she grasps her knee.
Solas drops whatever he was going to say with a look from Cassandra, but he doesn’t seem to be too torn up about it. They give her worried looks, but she smiles and waves them off, finally beginning the last stretch of their journey to Skyhold.
Josephine is overjoyed to have a desk again, set up right where they have the War Room. The entire day was spent moving refugees here, supplies there, troops this way. It’s exhausting, but she can begin the tiring task of sending her diplomatic contacts a message. Many she wrote on the way - there was a lot of time to kill while journeying to Skyhold - and now only had a few left.
But... looking at her desk and then the door, she supposes it wouldn’t hurt to check in on Anita. And Leliana, too. She cannot seclude herself in the first tower she finds, Josephine shakes her head.
The sun is setting now, she notes, walking out to the Courtyard. People are still moving, changing an abandoned fortress into a base. She spots Cassandra assisting Cullen’s soldiers over in the corner, and Leliana speaking quietly to an Agent off to the side.
Anita is walking through from the make-shift infirmary with Dorian, his arm slung across her shoulder, talking softly and squeezing every now and then. She has a hitch in her leg now - it’s very noticeable, but Solas says with time and healing it will become less, to the point where Anita will get used to it. Though, she’s incredibly frustrated by her limitations right now.
The girl looks sickly, smaller than she used to carry herself and still carries the furs around her shoulders. Cullen had walked by and dropped his mantle on her earlier in the day, gently ruffling her hair and a conspiratorial finger to his lips.
It was one of the first things to bring the start of a smile to the child’s face. Recently, she’s been withdrawn and lifeless, not even lashing out as she used to. Instead she doesn’t reply to bait, just shrugs it off. Neither Varric or Dorian can rib her into joking with them and Sera can’t even cheer her up.
Josephine’s heart aches. Anita is a troubled child who desperately needs love - in Josephine’s opinion at least - because it’s clear no one has ever shown her affection. Even the addition of “Tesoro” or “Quierdo” to a sentence makes her blush or completely shut down.
The girl coughs once, causing Dorian to pause with a frown. Anita smiles and waves it off, but as soon as she takes another step forward another cough leaves her body. It’s harder to stop that time, her chest raw and heaving, gasping breaths to get air into her lungs. Once again she convinces him to continue, managing to walk a longer distance but she suddenly doubles over, arms around her stomach.
She can’t stop and she’s lightheaded from the lack of air. Startled yells sound around her but her eyes are closed, tears escaping as she coughs. When she nearly falls headfirst she falls into arms instead, seeing the face of Dorian above her.
Josephine ran as fast as she could down the stairs without tripping on her skirts, stopping feet away from Anita. A hand comes up to cover her mouth and she feels tears coming to her eyes as the Seeker approaches, worry written on her face.
Anita then finally breathes some air into her lungs, pauses, and turns her head to throw up, gasping pitifully. Leliana’s voice carries on the wind, yelling for a healer. Rushed footsteps are all around her. Josephine has her face buried into Cassandra’s chest, eyes red rimmed.
Finally, it recedes. A healer pushes their way forward, slapping away hands and moving in closely, trying to listen to her ragged breaths.
The woman leans back and shakes her head with a grim expression.
“Well? What is it?” Dorian asks impatiently, but with concern. He’s heard of men bigger than Anita falling to injuries less than her own.
“It is as I feared,” the midwife sighs. “Pneumonia set in. Her lungs were full of fluid - blood, mostly, from the broken ribs. I was hoping we had gotten to her in time.”
Josephine sniffles. “She will be okay, though, yes? My eldest brother had pneumonia, once, and it was hard but he recovered-“
The midwife shakes her head. “It is not that easy,” she brushes a hand over Anita’s sweaty forehead. “She is younger, more fragile in the body. Her lungs cannot take what an adults lungs could take.”
“What can we do?” Leliana asks from beside Josephine
“Nothing, except what we have been doing,” she sighs. “Potions, rest, warmth. This is a fight she must win herself. She will be incredibly weak afterwards, should her body be strong enough to fight this.”
Josephine gasps again and buries her face into Cassandra’s chestplate again. While uncomfortable, the older woman seems fine with wrapping one arm around her friend and staring in disdain at the sick child on the ground.
“Dorian,” Subira croaks. He leans down immediately.
“Can I have some water?”
“Of course, my dear,” he says gently. “My lady Seeker, do you have any water for our Hero?”
Cassandra smiles shakily and takes a canteen off of her hip, stepping forward. “Of course,”
She drinks thirstily, some spilling out on her cheeks and neck. Forgetting to breathe, she involuntarily takes a breath in and suddenly she’s curled on her side, coughing so hard her head hurts.
Josephine is crying again, muffled quietly in Leliana’s chest. Cassandra obscures her blurry view by kneeling in front of her, concern written on her face.
Anita tries to smile on a shaky breath but is caught by another fit, feeling something wet pass by her lips. Arms feeling like lead, she lifts a hand to her mouth and pulls it away.
Cassandra has come to the same conclusion, looking at the specks of red in the snow. She looks up into her face and her vision slides. Then it’s wet and cold underneath her head and the voices that are trying to get her attention blend together and sound like they’re underwater.
Her coughing fades into whimpers as her body involuntarily tries to make her cough, a spasm wracking her body.
sorry for the cliffhanger!!! thoughts?
Chapter 33: I Can See The Sudden Emptiness
Aunty Viv vibes and Subira Really Just Wants To Walk Around. Cole being wig.
She wakes in a large room with high ceilings and a large fire roaring in the fireplace. Somewhere in the back of her mind she recognizes it as the room Josephine wants her to take, but doesn’t hold onto that thought for long. She’s laying on a mattress on the floor and the room is very plain. On pillows next to the mattress sit Varric and Sera, quietly playing cards together.
Sera notices her watching them first. She vaults on to her knees, and then suddenly slows down.
Cautiously, she comes closer. “‘Ey, pardner,” she says playfully. “How ya feelin? Must suck b-“
Varric punches her in the shoulder gently. Sera rolls her eyes. “-Fine, must suck a lot that ya stuck up in this stuffy room, huh?”
Subira can only nod, too afraid of another fit. After a few moments, she decides to try and talk.
“I’m... feeling,” she said hoarsely, licking her lips before continuing, “like nugshit.”
Sera’s lips split in a wide smile before bursting into hilarious laughter. “‘Atta girl!”
Varric chuckles, patting Sera on the back as he comes closer, kneeling by her. “I gotta hand it to you, you must have the worst hand in life I’ve seen dealt.”
Subira snorts weakly. “This isn’t even... the half of it.”
He shakes his head. “I hope it is, Spitfire. I hope it is. You’re goin’ to get better, you hear?”
She nods with a small smile, shaking as she pushes herself into a sitting position, legs crossed. “Deal me in?”
“Always a place for you, kiddo. Ask and you shall receive.”
She thinks with a finger on her chin and a mischievous grin. “Does this mean I can finally shoot Bianca?”
He deals her in with a chuckle. “Bianca is a different story. Maybe one day.”
They confined her to bed rest for several days and she’s sure she went stir crazy in the interim. All she had were different books they gave her and she especially delighted on Vivienne’s classical instruction books - she steadfastly denied a tutor, insisting she can teach herself - pouring over them with hungry eyes. The Advisors would watch fondly from the doorway as she read, waiting for her to notice that she was needed.
The day she’s cleared to stand up and walk again is the day Vivienne comes to see her, right as she’s about to rush out of her quarters - though technically she was not supposed to leave the room - and the woman almost looks amused.
The First Enchanter seems immune to the young girls growing restlessness, asking in a smooth tone, “My darling Herald, I heard through the grapevine that you were cleared to walk. Would you care to join me for a stroll?”
Subira eyes her warily and accepts the daintily offered arm. Perhaps they wouldn't mind that she left if it was with one of her other companions. She takes slow, measured steps on account of her short breath and sensitive leg, but Vivienne doesn’t seem to mind - simply content to have the child on her arm.
They arrive at Vivienne’s preferred - rather, claimed - area of the keep, a balcony overseeing it all. Subira leans on her own against the railing, still in awe that the Inquisition made it so far.
“Haven was completely indefensible as a base of operations,” Vivienne says when they’re both quiet.
Subira nods absently. “Was I supposed to do something about it? Leliana and Cassandra chose Haven, not me.”
The mage clucks her tongue. “You have more power than you think, Anita. Accepting others bad choices blindly is not a virtue.”
Subira crosses her arms, and Vivienne chuckles, turning to her. “I do not comment to slight you, my dear,” their eyes meet for a moment. “You left yourself vulnerable to an attack. It was merely a miscalculation, correct? I am sure you don’t plan on repeating it.”
Flashes of Haven appear before her and she nods mutely.
Vivienne smiles softly before continuing seriously, “You must recognize that the enemy struck a huge blow against the Inquisition?”
She nods. Her body is proof of that, and the recovery she has ahead of her. As it was she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to properly pull a bowstring back again.
“It would be foolish to say that I don’t need guidance, Vivienne,” Subira admits shyly. “I am not used to the spotlight. Haven was, as you said, a miscalculation. But everything else...”
“Do not worry, my darling,” Vivienne replies brightly, patting her on the head before clearing her throat and offering her arm again, clearly intending to escort her back to her room. “I am here to help.”
She knew that, eventually, everyone would have to disperse. The constant watch to ensure she was eating and drinking the correct amounts and getting just enough physical activity couldn’t be kept up while Skyhold was in repairs. There were so many things to do - there wasn’t time to keep monitoring her, and she eagerly waited for when they would stop watching.
As soon as Josephine smiled and left her room with a kiss pressed to the top of her head, Subira closed her study book on the theorem of arithmetic expression and prepared herself.
She does her hair tightly in a braid and pins it up in a bun. She ties a piece of cloth around the lower half of her head, followed by a headwrap. It may seem like overkill, but it’s mostly in case she starts coughing and so no one recognizes her.
No one looks twice at an Agent wearing a hood in the halls, but she pulls it down over her eyes anyway. Confident no one will recognize her when she reaches the make-shift infirmary, she pulls it back.
A nearby field nurse hears her approach and looks up, asking for what she can do and then she looks up a second time.
“Why d’ya got that on ya face?” The nurse asks skeptically, again looking her up and down.
She pulls it down just enough to say, “I have a terrible cough, ma’am, and wouldn’t want to get anyone sick.”
With a stare and then a huff, the field nurse directs her on where to go and gets to work immediately. It feels good to heal again and something in her surges to the surface but she refrains from using too much, no matter how her skin tingles and aches with power, the things she knows she can do to help, to heal and to repair-
Dalish and Stitches are set up assisting the Inquisition medics. Neither of them seem to notice her and she ducks her head to stay out of their line of sight. It wouldn’t do if either of them saw her using magic to heal and figured out who it was.
Raised voices reach her ears and she tilts her head, helping the patient she’s treating lay down carefully. Standing up and walking around the corner, she notices Solas and Vivienne facing off. Cassandra, off to the side, says something every now and then but is very clearly uncomfortable with the situation.
Looking between the wounded and her companions, she has probably a few seconds before they notice her staring. Demurely, she hangs her head, pulling the mask down as she approaches. Vivienne and Cassandra both give her a reproachful look when they spot her.
Solas pauses in his argument, a deep disapproving look set on his face. “Should you not be resting?”
“I should,” she agrees easily, folding her arms. “Now, what is this about?”
“Don’t worry, my dear,” Vivienne sniffs with an air of nonchalance. “Simply a disagreement on the nature of a demon.”
Solas’ face becomes thunderous, clearly not happy with Vivienne’s use of ‘demon’ and opens his mouth to retort but is interrupted by Subira’s tired look and he settles on huffing, looking much like a bird preening ruffled feathers.
“It is not simply a disagreement, nor is it about a demon. Cole is an entirely unique case,” Solas elaborates with piercing eyes.
A silence spreads between them as she tiredly considers her options to unsettle as little of her companions as she can.
“We had wondered if the boy was perhaps... a mage, considering his unique abilities,” Cassandra supplies through the silence hesitantly.
Subira sighs, rubbing a hand across her forehead, thinking of how to word it without giving away that she’s going to let Cole stay regardless.
“Okay,” she says slowly, “Cole hasn’t been a problem. But, as I am...” She winces on the lie, “...not familiar... with such things, I need both of you to help me make a decision.”
Solas takes a deep breath. “It seems Cole is a spirit, pushed through the Veil when the Breach was formed. He can cause people to forget him, or not notice him entirely.”
She nods slowly. She had also noticed his abilities, it wasn’t difficult. “I see. A spirit of what, exactly?”
Solas replies with a slight furrow in his brow, contemplative rather than confused, “It is rather complicated. After consulting friends in the Fade, I was told he is most like a Spirit of Compassion.”
“Friends in the Fade,” Vivienne sneers haughtily, “Demons, you mean?”
The elvhen man seems very close to strangling the Circle Mage, straightening his posture. Maker, she forgot just how tall he really is compared to most elves she knows.
He retorts scathingly, “They are spirits uncorrupted by intent or impression. It could be said that every being has the ability to be violent or passive. Your Circles were frighteningly lacking in their studies and you, Madame,” he says the title cooly, calmly, “are frighteningly ignorant as a result. Herald, I implore you, speak with Cole yourself.”
Everyone in the vicinity can feel the power radiating off of the proud elf. Vivienne sniffs, her upper lip quivering when she goes to speak. “I find your opinion on the Circles horribly uninformed for someone who was not in one.”
Solas smiles with the side of his lips, but his eyes are hard. “A weak argument.”
Vivienne scoffs. “Regardless, the Inquisitor did not come here to see us face off. I believe this ‘Cole’ could become corrupted. My dear, it would only hurt you if we had to cut him down for your safety.”
Subira frowns, rubbing the back of her neck uncomfortably under the Enchanter’s affection. “But, Vivienne, he saved us. He was the one who got Chancellor Roderick to give us the path out, who warned us-“
“And what tricks does he hide?” Vivienne hissed venomously.
Cassandra reluctantly agrees, nodding. “Madame de Fer may be right, Herald-“
The girl stubbornly stands her ground, nodding at Solas. “No. Your fear of him is unfounded when all he’s done is help. Solas is right; I’m going to go talk to Cole.”
The other woman does not look insanely pleased with the lessons she gave her on the power she holds working against her, but walks away with her head held high, cold eyes glaring daggers into the elvhen apostate for as long as she can see him. Solas backs up to speak with Cassandra.
Cassandra is watching her intently. Subira turns to approach Cole before she can say anything else.
“Choking fear, can't think from the medicine. The cuts wrack me with every heartbeat. Hot, white pain-“
“Cole,” she interrupts, suppressing a shudder. “Are you... feeling their pain?”
“Yes,” he answers simply, staring downward. “I want to help. I can make them forget.”
In the background, Cassandra turns to Solas. “Speak plainly, Solas, what are we dealing with?”
The man sighs, watching Cole with a calculating eye. “Demons, in their natural form, must possess something to cross the veil. They look hideous and grotesque as a result,” Cassandra motions for him to continue. “But I can sense no possession from Cole because he has not been possessed - that is his body.”
Cassandra’s face twists into an uncomfortable frown. “So he simply... exists?”
“It would appear so,” Solas hums, unworried. “He is not malicious, Seeker. His only purpose is to seek out those who need his assistance.”
She eyes him warily. “How do you know?”
He doesn’t flinch under her scrutiny, simply sniffing. “I am well versed in manners of the Fade, considering my travels. I have spent an extensive amount of time researching spirits. Rest assured, Cole will not bring harm to the Herald.”
Cassandra hums, but does not reply. He takes this moment to excuse himself as Subira makes her way back over.
She nods to Solas’ retreating back, “What was that about?”
“Nothing, Anita,” the woman replies with a casual air of pleasant, but uncomfortable, indifference. “Simply inquiring about Cole, here.”
Cole, who was in front of them, has vanished. He’s tending to the wounded privately.
“He’ll be fine, Cass,” Subira sighs, going to walk up the stairs. “Solas is right. We can review it with the Grand Enchanter, if you wish... Though, Vivienne would be most unhappy if I did that.”
The Seeker rushes to her side. “I’m fine!” She swats the older woman’s hands away when she tries to offer her arm. “I can do this. I’m recovering, not an old lady.”
The Seeker raises an eyebrow and stays close instead, replying, “Isn’t Madame de Fer already unhappy?”
With a suddenly somber look, Subira shakes her head. “She just doesn’t understand.”
At Cassandra’s questioning look she elaborates. “She has spent her entire life hating herself because it was the easiest way to survive. And now that means she believes people like Cole, who in their nature cannot hurt, are dangerous by default.”
The other woman is stunned by the girl’s sudden candor and has no idea what to say, but she’s glad when the girl speaks again.
“It’s sad, more than it could ever make me angry or upset,” she adds thoughtfully. “I wish she could see that things aren’t as awful as she thinks they are. It makes me very sad. I think she might be sad, too.”
They say nothing on the continuing ascent, both with too many thoughts and Subira trying to focus on her breathing. When they finally make it to the main courtyard, she’s out of breath.
“I’m going to head to my rooms,” she informs Cassandra, and then pulls a scroll out of her pocket. “Please, can you have someone deliver this to our Spymaster? I don’t think I can do the trip to the Rookery today.”
She marches - or, limps - off with as much dignity as she can muster, muttering about Spymasters and secluded towers full of annoying stairs. Cassandra smiles after her, letter in hand and now on her way to see Leliana.
“Leliana?” Cassandra’s voice calls out into the empty rookery. Typically, she would simply wait for the Spymaster to show her face, but Anita had expressly asked to deliver this to their Spymaster and it gives them a moment to speak.
“Ah, Cassandra,” Leliana emerges from some side entrance, a cat-like grin on her face. “My favorite Seeker.”
Cassandra fights a blush, knowing Leliana is toying with her and clears her throat. “An - The Herald has a message for you.”
A neatly sculpted brow raises. “Oh?”
The Seeker hands it over and Leliana scans it quickly, turning it over in her hands. “Odd...”
Cassandra frowns. “Is something wrong?”
“No, but she has asked for a private audience in her chambers,” Leliana murmurs.
The other woman nods with a sympathetic look. “Well, whatever she needs, best not to keep her waiting. Her temper has been-“
Leliana cuts in with a wince. “-horribly short lately, I know.”
Approaching the stairs, Cassandra lingers. Leliana looks up to see apprehension sparkling in her eyes.
“Is there something else?”
The woman sighs, her shoulders slumping. “You know what we must do, and soon.”
Blue eyes turn towards the window, lips now turned down in a frown. “I know,” is all she says in reply.
“Guilt,” the whispy voice that has echoed Skyholds hallways since they began renovations intones softly, “Deep and clashing, I wish there were another way-“
They pivot to where the haunter of Skyhold sits on the rookery table. “Cole,” Leliana says sternly, her eyes sharp.
He looks up with milky eyes. “Your hurt is loud. Both of you,” he clarifies and they look in opposite directions. “feel guilt for what you feel you must do, how you must proceed. She wishes to forget, but it can’t be so - the memories have already been claimed,” he murmurs.
Cassandra tilts her head, but when she blinks, Cole is gone. She sighs, exiting the rookery with a grim exchange of looks with her long-time colleague.
Leliana sits at her desk and thinks deeply about what Cole said even as the words fade from her mind.
Chapter 34: Under Pressure
Subira continues to struggle under the weight of the Inquisition. Solas and Cole try to help. The Chargers love Anita.
The Spymaster arrives early, of course. It seems that regardless of how Leliana attempts to unsettle her to see who their Herald really is, the girl is always prepared. Always that smart glint in her eye.
She finds Anita sitting in front of the fire, half leaning off of the settee and her hand outstretched towards the fire almost magnetically.
“Is it not warm enough in here?” Leliana quips as she steps through the door.
The girl startles, wrapping her furs tightly around her and retreating back to her spot on the cushions. “No, it’s fine,” she replies, straightening a bit. “I wanted to talk to you about the casualties from Haven.”
Leliana’s face doesn’t change. “Who told you we totaled them?”
“I heard you and the Commander discussing it the other day,” Anita replies casually, once again adjusting on the settee and crossing her legs.
The fur wrapped around her shoulders and the flames reflecting against her skin make a powerful image.
Leliana shakes her head. “It is not for you to worry about, Your Worship-“
“Don’t start with me, Spymaster,” the teenager says tiredly. Slumped on the settee with her furs wrapped around her, the image changes. She looks beyond exhausted.
The Spymaster merely nods. “We did not lose nearly as many as we anticipated, but still... too many. If only I hadn’t pulled my agents back, then perhaps...”
“No,” she suddenly chokes out, and Leliana fears she’s going to have a coughing fit. But when she looks closer, it seems she’s holding back tears. “It wasn’t your fault for wanting to protect them.”
Without thinking, Leliana argues back, “But they know the risks!”
Is she arguing with the girl or herself?
“They are not expendable!” Anita’s voice raises, fire light making her eyes look like raw crystals of viridium. “Every member of the Inquisition is a person with feelings. We are fighting together, and that means we do not use and discard our agents.”
Leliana barely inclines her head, thinking back to when she spared Butler for the girl’s benefit. “Was there anything else, Your Worship?”
Anita scowls. “No, Spy - Leliana.” The front of power leaves the girl in one almost physical wave, curled up on the settee in exhaustion. “That would be all.”
Leliana leaves without another word, thinking about how the fire lowered itself when the energy drained from Anita. When she looks back, she holds her head in one hand and the marked one clenches the wolf fur tightly.
Cole appears on the bannister next to her as she passes and she increases her pace, walking with all the intent to ignore him, but she remembers his melancholy words behind her:
“The elements call her home, so close but so far. She is tired.”
She lays on her back on the training grounds, coarse dirt sticking to her sweaty arms uncomfortably and the sun beating down on her face. She groans.
“Again!” Cullen calls, and she growls in frustration, her breath coming in short pants.
“I’m never going to be able to fight like I used to,” she hisses, rolling to a kneeling position and stabbing one of her short-swords in the ground.
“Not with that attitude you won’t,” he scoffs. “Come on, we have a little bit left. I know you can do it.”
When she looks up she sees unwavering confidence in his eyes. It gives her the strength to force her wobbling knee to stand and hold her weight, to ready her blades and calculate her next move.
And then Cullen calls, “Now!” and she takes off, teeth gritted and flitting behind the Commander. He turns to block her but she slips under his guard and slams her elbow into his sword hand and he grimaces. While he repositions his sword she uses the opening to use the pommel of her weapon to disarm him, breathing heavily and crossing her swords over his neck with a grin.
He mirrors her grin. “Fantastic, Anita! You did amazing!”
She retreats and they shake hands firmly, ‘the first rule of swordsmanship’, Cullen had said. Turning to get water from the bucket they keep for training, she notices some of her companions watching. Blackwall gives her a thumbs up and Sera smiles before blowing a raspberry.
She rolls her eyes. Typical Sera.
When she turns back, Cassandra is standing by the Commander. “Anita, well done,” the woman says warmly, pride radiating from her.
“Thank you,” she replies happily, even as she feels Cole’s presence behind her. The scene wavers slightly, but doesn’t change.
“It’s not real,” he says sadly, mirroring her thoughts. “I wish they would see how hard I try. Why don’t you see me?”
“Cole,” she hangs her head. “I know.”
“Why do you feel that way?” He asks softly, his head tilted to the side. “They are proud.”
The scene changes to Cassandra watching with fond eyes as Subira makes a mistake before correcting her stance gruffly, hiding her softness behind a firm hand.
“You miss all the right parts,” he adds. A scene appears of Leliana, leaning on one of her many ‘perches’ now available throughout Skyhold. She smiles as Subira hits a bullseye on a target for the first time after her shoulder injury.
Angrily, she forces the images away and they disappear into mist. “It isn’t like that, Cole. They only - they don’t care. I’m a tool, a weapon! They don’t even think I’m capable.”
The spirit-turned-boy frowns under his hat. “They all care for you in their own way. Afraid to get attached, afraid to lose you, afraid to lose hope-“
“Damn them and their fears,” she roars suddenly, lightning crackling from her fingers and eyes swirling. The spirit immediately takes a step back and disappears in a swirl of icy wind.
She kneels on the ground and screams for all she’s worth, lightning becoming brighter and brighter until it’s all she can hear and see.
Vaguely she feels a pair of cold, grounding hands tugging on her own that clench into themselves and saying over and over, “stop, da’len, stop.”
When she calms down, the only thing left in the fade is the smell of ozone and burnt ashes. She now notices Solas, holding her shaking, smoking hands in his and looking down at her with cool, worried eyes.
“What are you doing here?” She scrambles back, embarrassed.
“Cole came to me”, he says firmly, but gently. “And it is a good thing he did. Your emotions were out of control, and could have attracted spirits with bad intent.”
She shudders, breathing deeply. “I apologize for the disruption,” she said quietly. “I need to wake up anyway. We can talk later.”
“Wait, da’len-“ he tries, but she leaves the fade and snaps back into reality, her eyes blinking open as awareness flows into her like a slow tide.
Looking out past her balcony, she realizes she slept pretty late into the afternoon. Her naps were getting very intense now that she sleeps less and less at night, too restless to get a full night of rest. Often they were full of nightmares and she will wander the fortress until one of their ever vigilant agents - but of course, never the Spymaster herself, because she can’t be dragged away from her work - will herd her back to bed, or Josephine catches her.
The last one only happens when the Ambassador is also up late finishing last minute work and Subira happens to stumble upon her and the older woman disapprovingly encourages her to go back to her room.
With a sigh, she sits up and stretches. Might as well join the Chargers in the Tavern before she’s dragged to the War Council. That’s all they want her here for anyway.
The Chargers and Anita have gotten familiar over the past several weeks they’ve settled at Skyhold during her extended recovery. They call her ‘Ana’ now, a sweet nickname from Krem that caught on with everyone else as if it was carried on the wind, seeds of the girl planting themselves in the mercenaries hearts.
Bull lifts her onto his shoulders whenever she enters the Herald’s Rest. She thinks it’s kind of dumb that she can’t drink at a place named for her, but too many people take away the liquor she does manage to steal. They play cards, laugh, and chase each other around.
Their barkeep, Cabot, just shakes his head at their antics. The Chargers will sit outside with her and watch the stars at night. Sometimes, Sera joins. Sometimes, Cole joins. They give her a sense of peace she hasn’t had since she joined the Inquisition.
She can tell Cassandra worries about her hanging around them, that both Josephine and Vivienne agonize over her etiquette after a particularly rowdy night and that Solas believes she should focus on her studies more than late nights with the Chargers.
All of this and she can’t bring herself to care too much - the Chargers don’t treat her like the Herald of Andraste. They treat her like a nearly sixteen year old girl who hungers for information and nourishment. But more than that she hungers for freedom.
There’s no freedom to be found in the missions she must go on for the Inquisition, and nothing she won’t already know that she will find: Death and destruction where they will bring hope, corruption where they will bring light. The Chargers give her a chance to pretend she’s somewhere else; a kid taken in by a group of rowdy mercenaries who have good hearts.
Dalish once quietly took her aside along with Krem, sneaking through the dark of Skyhold. They all know the guard rotations by heart, making it all the easier to sneak into a small clearing right outside of the fortress. Subira remembers every word they said to her very clearly:
Dalish looked left and right, holding up a hand to Krem. He nodded, looking down at Subira. Then Dalish went off into the night, slipping through the trees. The very soft crunching of leaves could be heard until it disappears. Subira looks at Krem in question, and he shakes his head, pressing a finger to his lips.
She nods, nervously tapping her foot. Minutes later, Dalish emerges again, nodding to Krem and dusting off her hands. “All set. We were not followed. Just in case, though, I set up traps.”
Subira raises an eyebrow. “You mean wards?” Krem and Dalish exchange a look. “Your ‘bow’” she airquotes with a grin, “is very impressive. But you can’t fool me. Also, I spied on you guys once.”
Krem smiles. “Can’t hide anything from you, can we?”
She shakes her head. “Anyway, what’s with all the secrecy?”
Dalish clears her throat, crouching in front of Subira. “Ana, this is very important. You must listen carefully and not speak a word of this to anyone. Following?”
At the girls nod, she continues. “When this Inquisition no doubt has political ramifications, the Chargers don’t want it to fall on you. We want to take you with us.”
Her mouth opens and closes, throat suddenly dry. Her eyes prick at the edges. The only thing she gets out is, “why?”
Krem shakes his head, placing a hand on her shoulder. “We care about you. You grew on us.”
Dalish nods solemnly. “You did. And we will not have this Inquisition kill you. So when you tell us,” she places her hand on Subira’s other shoulder and squeezes, “we will take you away from here. If you can’t do this, if it’s too much, just say the word.”
Close to crying and her throat dry at the idea of freedom, she croaks, “what about the Inquisition?”
Krem gives his friend a warning look and Dalish snorts, plowing through anyway. “The Inquisition? Fuck the Inquisition. Let the shems fix the world they let go to the Void,” at Subira’s head tilt, she continues, “Sure, the Breach? Not them. But let the countries battle it out amidst the chaos of Corypheus and fix their own damn problems. The Chantry? Not yours to fix. The mages? Not yours to fix. None of this is your responsibility, Ana.”
Tears finally roll down her face and she can’t help it, sniffling and quickly rubbing her face. “I’m sorry,” she hiccups. “I just really don’t want to be here. I never did.”
Dalish seems to get it and pulls the girl into a tight embrace. Subira finds herself leaning into it, clutching her shoulder and crying. “I can’t leave yet,” she sniffles. “I have to try and fix things. But if I need to get away... I’ll tell you. Thank you. Thank you.”
Krem ruffles her hair with a soft smile. “Anything for you, kiddo. The Chargers are behind you.”
She sniffs again, wiping her face as she pulls back from Dalish. “But what about Bull? Does he know?”
The two Chargers share a look and Krem answers easily, “Chief will have to make a choice when it comes to that. But it won’t. I know he’ll choose us.”
She tilts her head. “Us?”
He grins. “The Chargers, Ana. You’re one of us now, don’t you know? But let’s hold off on saying that,” he suggests, thinking with a shudder of all the ways the Seneschal could string him up from Skyhold for recruiting the Herald of Andraste into a mercenary company.
In her mind, Subira thinks of the joy of being unconditionally accepted and the prospect of introducing Michalis and Castelleta to the Chargers... perhaps Herah would be a little nervous, considering the Iron Bull, but everyone could be happy. Everyone could be happy.
“Sounds like a plan,” she smiles softly. “Let’s get back before Leliana’s agents notice I’m gone. I don’t want her to string me up.”
That night was one of the first that she felt hopeful for herself. Not for the fate of Thedas or an injured patient, but for her own future. It made going on easier.
She spends tonight’s night hours with Bull, Sera and Dorian at the Heralds Rest, laughing and telling ridiculous stories. Vaguely she remembers her head lolling against Bull’s arm, and then being carried to bed. Dorian followed closely behind, she remembers.
She thinks that they might have argued about how to tuck her in and that Dorian may have tucked her hair behind her ears and head, but she isn’t sure.
Now, they’re finally leaving Skyhold for their first mission since Haven. Cole is accompanying them, this time, having asked to be able to help. Meanwhile, she deploys the Chargers back to Haven to see what can be found. In case there are salvageable things or perhaps survivors.
(She wasn’t holding out hope on that one though.)
All in all, things are looking fairly good for an Inquisition basically being run by a teenager. She adjourns the meeting with a tired smile, ready to go grab her things and ride to the Hinterlands. From there they will not return to Skyhold for at least a month and a half - they are going right back to the Storm Coast, and from there to the Fallow Mire to investigate missing troops.
Those accompanying her are Solas, Cassandra and Cole. Varric had wanted to come, but said something about some contact he had to write or... something. She wasn’t really listening at that point. Dorian also wanted to join, but he ended up lending his service to the Chargers on their mission back to Haven and couldn’t.
(Dorian and Bull gave each other what Varric described as “bedroom eyes” and she still doesn’t understand when that happened. Or if it’s happening at all and they’re just constantly trying to one up each other, but she isn’t going to ask.)
Vivienne did not offer her help, instead using her political clout and contacts to help Josephine in the corners that even she couldn’t reach. It was clear that the woman wanted to help oversee the keep while these reconstructions and key partnerships begin. Truthfully, Subira is pretty sure she didn’t want to muck around in the Fallow Mire in her Val Royeaux robes.
Skyhold was a bustling area of activity and part of her couldn’t wait to see it when she got back from her trip.
Descending the final few steps to the training yard, she notices Sera pacing agitatedly. “Oh boy,” she mutters under her breath. She prepares herself for a shitshow.
“Sera,” she calls out when she’s a few feet away, “Is everything okay?”
“Okay?” Sera asks incredulously, pivoting on her heel. “You know that war we talked about stoppin’, yeah? Stick some arrows in the dicks of nobles who get too big for their pants? That’s not a friggin’ archdemon, is it?”
Subira blinks, slowly formulating her response. “To be fair, I also did not expect the archdemon. Corypheus was a surprise, to say the least.”
“A surprise?” Sera exclaims. “No, a surprise would be, ‘Oh, I stepped in dog shite!’ No one says, ‘Oh, a magister god-monster! I’m surprised’. Impossible things aren’t surprising!”
“Okay, Sera,” she says tiredly. “I get it, but if you don’t tell me what’s wrong I can’t help.”
Sera guffaws. “Well it’s got to be nonsense, doesn’t it? We’re kind of screwed if it isn’t. I mean, that Coryphee-thing - magister, right? Story is he cracked the Golden City. But that’s a hazy dream. If not - seat of the Maker? Real thing. So the Maker? Real thing. Fairy stories about our end of the world? Real things! It’s too much, innit?”
Subira opens her mouth to reply, but the elf cuts her off. “And you’re just... so bloody weird about it! Not weird, but normal-weird! You just act like everything is normal and the world isn’t on the edge of ending!”
The overwhelming adult gives her pause, and she takes a deep breath. “Sera,” she finds a way to speak each word with patience, “I know that. But if I stop to freak out and cry about the fact that I nearly died to that thing, that he held me eight-feet above the ground by my wrist and monologued into my face, then everything we’ve fought for falls apart.”
Sera looks into the teenagers face, takes a deep breath and closes her eyes. “Well, fuck,” she laughs darkly. “You really are a kid. Fuck. I keep forgettin’ we’ve put Thedas’ problems on the shoulders of a teenager.”
The elf comes closer and ruffles her hair gently, “Look at us, treating you like you’re some... Second-Andraste. You’re a kid, not our saint. Hell, you ain’t a leader.”
“It’s alright, Sera, really,” Subira replies in confusion, wondering how this went from trying to comfort Sera to the elf comforting her.
“It isn’t bloody alright!” Sera insists, pacing as she rants now. “You know what? I’m goin’ to talk to them proper. Ladies Fancypants, Stabby-Stab and Iron-Breeches need to-“
“No, absolutely not!” Subira says sternly. “They have enough to worry about. I barely have any responsibility, anyway.”
“Is that what they want you to think, or what you want them to think?” Sera asks challengingly, straw hair falling into her eyes.
A small smile, cunning smile quirks at the edge of Subira’s lips. “You tell me.”
“Ugh, right, don’t give me any of that shite!” Sera groans, rolling her eyes.
In the distance, she hears loud voices and the sound of horse hooves picking up. “Sera, I have to get going, we’re-”
“Yeah, yeah,” Sera blows a raspberry at her and waving her arms. “Go on now and save the world. I’ll be here with my bees.”
“Okay, Sera,” she smiles and turns to go, but the hitch in her leg makes her trip and she scowls. “Fuck this damned leg.”
Sera cackles behind her. “Oi, watch the language, squirt!”
“Watch who you call squirt! You’re almost shorter than me!”
Chapter 35: Can She Be Forgiven When the Cold Grave Has Come?
Hi-ho, hi-ho, to the Hinterlands we go... Oh, and more Subira backstory.
The return to the Hinterlands is not nearly as exciting as it could’ve been, nothing to write home about - not that she could write home - but she supposed that with them putting an end to the Mage-Templar War could slow things down there.
The group went, under Solas’ direction, to inspect an elvhen relic - which they did not allow her to join them for, because of the stairs involved and how it could be ‘potentially dangerous if they got stuck in there’. She hadn’t even bothered with that argument, simply sat down with a huff and prepared to wait.
A Dalish elf who had also come to inspect the relic seemed at odds with Solas, but she couldn’t figure out why. Somewhere in the back of her mind she takes a deep interest in Solas’ dislike of the Dalish, a keen sense of wrong that spirals outward and makes her vaguely uncomfortable.
Eventually, covered in mild cave-dew and looking no worse for wear, they emerge and were successful, according to Solas. She knew, of course - as soon as the Veil was adjusted she felt something shift or click.
About a week into being back into the Hinterlands, Varric shows up, looking sheepish. “Seeker,” he calls. “Got a minute?”
The woman grunts and approaches, arms crossed. “Yes, Varric?”
He scratches the back of his neck, releasing a nervous breath. “Well, you see, there’s an old... contact of mine. They need some help securing red lyrium-“
Cassandra’s expression closes off, eyes narrowing at Varric. “What?”
“My contact needs help keeping it out of Orzammar, don’t get your knickers in a twist,” he grins weakly. “There’s a dwarven thaig entrance not too far from here. I think we need to go.”
Cassandra sighs, already planning the extra days in their course of travel. “Of course, you are right. Red lyrium cannot be allowed to pass through Orzammar unchecked.”
Cole’s head tilts at Varric, remarking mournfully, “Cunning smiles and quick goodbyes. She will never stay, will she?”
The dwarf looks away and Cassandra peers at him curiously, brow furrowed.
“Alright, saddle up then!” Anita calls suddenly, startling both adults. Neither had realized she was listening.
Cole does ride a horse, but the spirit doesn’t seem to understand why. He mounts with little difficulty, however, and waits patiently next to Solas, who hums. “Where is our destination?”
Varric remounts his pony as Cassandra and Anita mount their horses. “A dwarven thaig.” He takes a deep breath, patting his crossbow habitually (and a bit out of comfort).
Here I come, Bianca.
Varric is very tense the night before they reach the thaig. Subira doesn’t avoid him, per say, but she also doesn’t want to risk making things worse on accident. Instead, Solas joins her while she makes her way through the brush under the moons that night, silently assessing her, it seems, before clearing his throat.
“Herald,” he greets her formally and she makes a displeased noise as she always does under the title. “May I have a moment of your time?”
She buckles down with a grimace, keeping her gaze straight. “If it’s about the other night-“
“You hold an incredible amount of despair in you. Fear, as well. Yet you have not drawn unwanted attention in the Fade or become possessed,” he says calmly, one hand on his staff, the other behind his back.
At this, she shrugs, and he continues, “your fortitude is admirable, da’len. Just remember, if you ever...” he clears his throat, moving his attention to the sky, “require anything, you know where to find me. Perhaps you can provide inspiration for or add to my mural.”
He looks back down when he finishes speaking to find her looking at him with a mildly curious expression but also more: Gratefulness mixed with an unidentifiable emotion swim in her eyes for a moment before she shutters them out, blinking casually and turning her gaze away.
“Thank you, Solas,” she smiles as genuinely as possible. “It means a lot.”
Somehow, he leaves feeling more disconcerted.
In terms of days, this one wasn’t going spectacularly. Things had progressively grown sketchier as they descended into the cavern of the thaig and while thoroughly scared and annoyed, she wasn’t surprised to find out Bianca had struck an agreement that allowed her to study red lyrium.
“Are you kidding me?” She finds herself asking Bianca through clenched teeth, uncaring that this woman could kill her in a heartbeat. “Are you insane? You made a deal with them so that you can study-“
Varric gently pulls back on her arm. “Hey, hey, Spitfire, let's ease off a little...”
She shrugs off his grip, turning to him now. Bianca watches through a critical eye. “No, Varric, I won’t! You’ve been miserable this entire time! I don’t even know why, but I know this...” she mentally fumbles through her vocabulary, “puta tonta is the reason!” Her anger makes it difficult to get the words out, stumbling over her own tongue and barely making it to the other side, “and - and she made a deal with them that we - we just barely fixed. What - what do you think would’ve happened had they gotten through to Orzammar or had a constant supply, huh?”
The strain of leading is clear on her face. She is not Anita to them right now, nor is she herself. She’s the Herald, a teenager who must think beyond herself.
Bianca steps forward, hands up. “Listen, I didn’t expect-“
“You,” Anita turns venomously. “Don’t talk. You did this to further your knowledge without realizing what was at stake. Everything the Inquisition has done to restore peace could’ve gone to pieces! Did you not see what it did to Kirkwall?! What it’s doing to us now?!”
While facing the woman, green sparks trail down the teenagers arms and crackle at her fingertips, but she breathes deeply and forces it down.
“I didn’t realize-“
“You should have!” Anita shouts. “We are leaving. And you,” she storms forward and jabs her finger into the dwarf. Everyone holds their breath. “No more disappearing. From now on you’re answering to us - the Inquisition, Leliana - I don’t care, but obviously you can’t be left by yourself or with the Merchants Guild.”
Bianca puts a hand on the hilt of her blade. “Listen, kid,” she says, eyes flinty. “I don’t know who you think-“
The Anchor suddenly crackles and sparks to life with energy, startling Bianca backwards. Anita hunches over her hand, burning brightly in the dim light of the thaig.
“Burning all the way up, ripping and agonizing - why won’t it stop? Black cities, empty thrones and lost prayers - divinity has never been kind.”
Solas’ eyes sharpen at the end of the sentence, but he still looks her over with worry, trying to see the clenched fist she holds tightly to her chest.
“Cole,” Varric admonishes the boy gently, eyeing Anita. “Remember what I said about reading other people’s thoughts out loud?”
“But they’re are so loud,” he says softly, his face contorted as he no doubt tries to sort through all of the hurt he can hear. “There’s so much in there and I want to help! And, those aren’t-“
Cassandra lays a hand on the girl’s shoulder, which she shrugs off. “I’m fine,” she says when she’s regained her breath.
“Solas will be the judge of that,” The Seeker decides, the two of them sharing a nod behind the girl’s head.
“... Fine, but after we leave this place,” she sets her tired gaze on the startled Bianca and an oddly calm Varric. “Make sure Leliana has a trail of her. I’ll drag her to Skyhold myself if I have to.”
“Got you loud and clear, Spitfire,” he flashes her a grin, returning the crossbow-Bianca to his back.
“Varric, we can talk about this! I thought you trusted me,” Bianca says with a good amount of hurt in her voice.
He shrugs, not meeting her eyes. “You haven’t been very trustworthy in a long time, Bianca.”
After leaving the thaig, Cassandra demands that Solas look over the Anchor. Anita dodges and evades them, not wanting to worry them but also wanting - selfishly, but what child is not selfish? - to keep more of her to herself, the more they try to interfere.
“It doesn’t bother me,” she insists, head twisting left and right as she searches for an exit.
The Seeker isn’t convinced, arms crossed. “Then why won’t you allow him to look?”
“Because I don’t want him to waste his magic. I’m serious, it’s fine!”
Cassandra sighs shaking her head at the remarkably stubborn girl. Without warning she presses forward and slings Anita over her shoulder. “If you’re going to act like a child, I am going to treat you like a child. Solas,” she calls, bringing Anita over to a log.
The girl doesn’t kick or scream, but she does pout thunderously as they prepare to inspect the mark. Solas rolls up the sleeve she has covered her left hand with and he sucks in a harsh breath.
Thick chartreuse and white tendrils flow through her hand and wrist, her veins lit up the same color. The gash in her hand is difficult to discern but it’s there if one looks hard enough, the tendrils not quite wrapped around the edge. Cassandra tries to stifle her gasp and fails.
“Has it... been like this the entire time?” The older woman asks quietly, eyes level.
Solas carefully flows healing magic into the mark and she involuntarily sags, the burning pain becoming cool relief. The only thing that remains is a slight feeling of pins and needles - but that is leagues better than how it felt before. Her head nearly lolls with the physical relief this brings her.
Initially, she doesn’t answer, rolling her tongue around in her mouth absently as she searches for words. And then Cole opens his mouth:
“It fits like a puzzle piece, a respite to the pain in overflowing waves of soothing relief, gracias al creatore-“
“Cole,” she says with exhaustion in her tone, tongue heavy and every muscle sore. The spirit stops talking.
And then to Cassandra, without meeting her eyes, “no.”
The magic attached to her body retreats further into her palm and consolidate there almost in a dormant state, swirling and pulsing. They almost swim in a circle, one following the other, a perfect fit.
“Is that true?” Cassandra grunts, arms crossed.
Oh, she hasn’t been unhappy with me like that in awhile. Whoops.
“I don’t know, Seeker of Truth,” she grounds out the title, causing the exact reaction she wanted: a scowl and anxious shifting, “is it?”
Solas clears his throat. “You may come to me anytime the Anchor becomes too much, da’len.” He swipes his thumb over her hand once and then stands.
She nods, pulling her sleeve back down and remaining where she is. Her body accepted the magic Solas offered like a puzzle piece, but suddenly she turns her gaze to the sky. The sunset is nice and the burning wax streaks of reds, yellows and oranges across the sky are a welcome distraction from everything.
Cassandra approaches at some point but ultimately turns back and leaves her to her own musing - something she’s grateful for because she’s sure they’d end up arguing. Cole does sit next to her for sometime in silence, offering a solitary comfort that warms her heart. Varric is the one who finally takes the plunge, plopping down next to her with a weary sigh. Cole disappears.
She doesn’t look up. “Long day, huh?”
He laughs dryly. “You could say that. Look, Spitfire, I wanted to talk about something you said earlier...”
With steel in her stomach she takes a deep breath. “Okay.”
“When you mentioned Kirkwall-“
She shifts nervously, interrupting. “I was... around... the area every now and then. I guess you could say I became familiar with the area.”
He raises an eyebrow. “Surprising that I never saw you, given how much I traveled that city. I mean, I know nearly every Comte and Comtesse.”
She sighs, digging her boot into the dirt. “You wouldn’t have. I was under express orders not to be seen.”
He eyes her from his peripheral, lips pursed slightly. “Just who exactly were you involved with, Spitfire?”
A hand trails down the tattoos on her face absently. “I... was hired. I had no choice.”
It’s quiet for several moments. “If... you’d rather-“
“I think story time has been a long time coming,” she interjects, mentally subtracting details from the story she’s about to tell. “There once was a group of Assassin’s sent from Antiva to track down a rogue...”
Her orders were simple enough. Go with the Crows and observe Mage-Templar relations in the city for the time being.
If possible she was to take out the assassin they were tracking down, but that was a last resort if the other Crows couldn’t do their job.
He was to be left to the ‘professionals’ - she scoffed at that internally, because why make the thirteen year old do your dirty work if you don’t trust her, but they didn’t like that question. She has a sprawling bruise on her cheek and a split upper lip for it and spent most of the trip quiet as a result.
Instead of staying in the city as they instructed her, she followed them to the rocky mountain coast where they intended to wait for their chosen sell-sword (the irony in this cannot be exaggerated, in her opinion.)
This ‘Hawke’ was incredibly skeptical of them, she knew this, but couldn’t tell what it was that tipped her off. She spends a day following the woman around Kirkwall for them, gathering useless information until she tells them to do it themselves and going off on her own to begin her own mission.
The Crows set up camp in a small alcove sheltered from the strong winds and she sets up close by, then sweeps away to the nearby clan on the mountain.
“Andar’an Atish’an,” she greets softly to the standing guards.
They seem confused but incline their heads slightly and one asks in a thickly accented Dalish tongue, “What do you require, outsider?”
Politely, she smiles and bows her head. “I simply seek information - and perhaps to repair my bow?” She pulls a broken bow out from behind her sheepishly. They nearly grab their weapons but relax when they see the state of it.
With a confident look between each other, the first guard says, “You may enter, stranger. Do not cause trouble... please.”
The second guard takes another look at the bow she had presented to them and says deadpan, “That bow will not be salvageable.”
With a practiced look of despair, she looks it over. “Are you sure? I know you would know more than I would, but this is my only bow...”
The hunters exchange hesitant looks. “Go find Master Illen, our blacksmith. He will help you, da’len.”
She smiles broadly. “Thank you very much!”
Returning the broken bow that she’d never seen before in her life to her back, she enters the Dalish camp. They mostly try to ignore her presence, but some huddle around and eye her carefully.
“Excuse me?,” she says to the nearest woman, who blinks before straightening in attention. “I’m looking for Master Illen? That’s where I was pointed to, at least.”
The woman frowns slightly, looking her over. “What could you need from a Dalish blacksmith, stranger?”
“You see, my bow is broken,” she explains, removing it from her back again to show them the scuffs and breaks in the wood.
Sweeping a critical eye over the bow, the woman sighs. “Allow me to show you to him. That bow is laughable and it will be a miracle from the Creators if it can be salvaged.”
She nods mutely, following the woman to who she presumes is Master Illen. They speak in Elvhen for a few moments before the Master smiles at her.
“Who might our young friend here be?”
With practiced shyness, she removes the bow again, presenting it to him. “I’ve seen for myself that the Dalish are the best craftsmen around - and my bow broke, and I was in the area, and...”
The man holds up a hand to stop her forced rambling, taking the bow from her gently and examining it. “This cannot be repaired, da’len.”
She deflates. “Oh, okay. Thank you anyway, Ser. May I have the bow back? Perhaps I can sell the scraps.”
He eyes her before folding his arms, bow in hand. “Why do you not have any other weapons? Where are your guardians?”
“You see, I - I’m alone. I need that bow or I can’t get food, or protect myself...”
Which absolutely isn’t true by the daggers on her back under her shirt.
He frowns, running a hand over the broken wood. “How long will you be here, child?”
Pretending to think, she taps her chin. “I don’t know yet, a few weeks maybe. I have to find someone.”
He nods slowly. “While you are here, I will gift you with a bow of my own make. But I am trusting you to bring it back to me.”
The girl grins. “Of course! Thank you so much, Ser!”
Master Illen clears his throat. “Yes, well... it is no problem, da’len. If it is a person you seek, perhaps one of our scouts can assist you.”
She nods happily, accepting the new bow he hands her and approaching a hunter.
The hunter doesn’t look up from what she’s doing. “What’s a shem kid doing in camp?”
“I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but I’m looking for someone while I’m in the area and was told you might be able to help.”
The elf looks up and glares, looking her over. “Fine. There’s a system of caves in this area that are all pretty easy to hide in. I’ll draw you a few maps.”
Just her luck! “Thank you, Ser! I’ll be out of your hair soon!”
The elf walks away, muttering something like, “I sure hope so,” and returns with the drawn maps several minutes later.
“Here. Don’t get lost,” She grunts.
“I won’t! Thank you for your help!”
When she’s finally in the cave system she groans. Not that she doesn’t respect the Dalish normally, but having to pretend to be a defenseless idiot grates on her nerves every time.
An accented voice rolls into the cave, fairly amused and cocky. “Ah, the Crows finally found me. Again.”
She rolls her eyes. “No, I found you.”
The owner of the voice strides into the light, surprise and then sadness settling over his face. “The Crows are sending children after me now?”
“No, I came after you myself. They don’t own me,” She snaps defensively.
“Your markings would say differently,” he leans his weight on one leg and studies her.
One of her hands comes up to caress the tattoo that is mirrored on his face and she shakes her head. “I was sent with the Crows on their mission to kill you. But that’s not why I’m here.”
He raises an eyebrow, crossing his arms. “That’s surprising, but go on, I’m very intrigued.”
“You left the Crows. How? Why?”
His look becomes far away, almost wistful. “I betrayed the people I loved for them. I realized that I could not do it again, and that I was done being leashed.”
Her cheeks burn underneath the tattoo.
“You can do it too,” he says softly. “You do not have to be what they want you to be.”
“I’m their property,” she hisses, teeth clenched. “I did one job because I was hungry and desperate and suddenly I belonged to them.”
“That does sound like the Crows,” he sighs. “You said something curious. You are not a Crow?”
She spits. “Not by choice. I’ve avoided them as long as I could until... I’m not a Crow. Just a business partner.”
He nods carefully, still inspecting her. “Why did you come to find me, little Velasco?”
“Don’t call me that,” her eyes flash with steel. “And because... I wanted proof.”
The calm assassin inclines his head. “Proof of what?”
Varric nods slowly. “What happened after you met the target?”
“I went back to Antiva, briefly. I...” Received a punishment for allowing them to die and Zevran to get away. “... Was reassigned to Kirkwall. I was in the city before the Qunari attack, and again when the mages and Knight-Commander Meredith faced off.”
The dwarf whistles. “What could your employers need you in Kirkwall for?”
She smiles secretively. “That’s for another time.”
While the sun sets even further and the burning sky fades to reveal the moons, she quietly reflects on the days events. Varric leaves with a pat on her shoulder at one point and she rested her chin in her hand.
Eventually she flicks over the information of the day and remembers a dragon sighting in the area. She lights up with glee, an idea hit her.
Standing with care for her injured knee, she finds the closest piece of paper and quill.
Iron Bull (and your handsome mage acquaintance),
Your presence is required. When the Chargers have completed their tasks at the remains of Haven, send them back to Skyhold. Enclosed in the letter are coordinates and a map to our relative location.
She places a copy of their location on a map into the missive, finding the nearest raven and, with a small kiss to its beak, sends it off.
That night she dreams of the clan on the mountain.
Admittedly, she did not go back to the small camp she had set up near her fellow Crows, instead choosing to stay with Zevran for a short amount of time. According to him, Hawke had a chance to kill him already - and didn’t. She has a meeting with the Crows the next day and Zevran is going to interrupt.
“Fashionably late, of course,” she can hear his voice saying. She feels the small smile she had worn. “Otherwise it’s just not worth it.”
The firelight was warm and cozy in the cave. She liked Zevran - he was nice, funny and most of all he understood.
She tried to ignore what it meant when they confronted the Crows meant to kill Zevran.
“You don’t have to go back, you know,” Zevran’s voice says casually, sharpening one of his blades. Even as a memory she remembers it as clearly as the day it happened.
She sighs with the memory, the bone-deep tiredness setting in. “And do what? Be on the run? No, I have to finish this.”
“Finish what?” He asks without looking up.
She doesn’t answer. They both know that she doesn’t have any clue what she has to finish.
“Well,” he says, putting his blade away fluidly. “If you ever need me, I am not a hard man to find. But I do believe there is a nest that needs to be ahem...” his eyes focus on the entrance of the cave. “Dealt with.”
“Be safe,” she says without thinking. “Uh - Antonio has a weakness in his left leg. Past injury.”
Zevran nods, no amusement in his face now. He pats her head. “You’ll be fine, corvo,” he says with a sad affection. “You, keep safe as well.”
She nods, not trusting her voice as he leaves. The firelight flickers but she stays still, leaned up against the wall and catatonic-like. The thoughts of “why didn’t I go with him” and “I’m trapped again” race through her mind unbidden, but in the thrall of a memory she has all but no choice to bear them.
“So, this is what you’ve been doing up here,” a vaguely familiar voice says from the entrance, leaning up on the side. “Can’t say I’m impressed. Haven’t even used the bow.”
The terror she felt then courses through her veins again as she bolts to her feet, looking for another exit.
“Relax, shem,” the Dalish hunter from days ago said with a bored tone. “I’m not here to kill you. Or to drag you down Sundermount and have you questioned for not using a bow.”
“Then...” her voice came out as a squeak and she winces as she did then, “why are you here?”
The hunter shrugs. “Curiosity? Not often a shem - much less a kid - lies to us so boldly and then does nothing with it. I mean, you tricked everyone. That’s why they sent me up here to check on you, it’s been so long since you came down.”
“I tricked everyone... but not you?”
“I didn’t believe you were helpless,” the elf clarifies, pushing off the wall and entering the cave properly. “And if the clan is going to be stuck on Sundermount for much longer, I figured might as well find some entertainment...”
“Ah,” she replied a bit flatly. “Well, here’s your entertainment. I simply needed to get to the caves to find someone I heard you had been sheltering, and didn’t want bloodshed to do so.”
The hunter nods absently. “Well, did you find it?”
Subira blinks. “It? No, I found him.”
The woman snorts. “No, obviously you found the assassin. I mean what it was you were looking for in the assassin. Did you find it?”
As the memory fades and she feels herself waking up, she finds herself wondering if she ever did find it.
puta tonta - dumb whore
andar'an atish'an - elvhen greeting, enter this place in peace. (this is intentional, having her use this greeting - it makes her appear as a slightly confused but well meaning human)
shem - slang for 'quick' and typically referring to humans
corvo - crow
velasco - also crow
Chapter 36: Thunder Under the Earth
Subira decides to do a thing.
A little bit of a short one but worry not, I’m about to add a ton of chapters to my drafts to be ready for uploading and they’re all super long.
Her plan was - is - foolproof. About two weeks into tying up loose ends in the Hinterlands, the Iron Bull and Dorian arrive at a nearby camp. She receives the missive with joy and begins preparing to join them.
“Cassandra, Solas, you are being relieved from duty temporarily,” she said without looking up.
Cassandra bristles. “What? Who is-“
“Iron Bull and Dorian are going to replace you. I need you both to return to Skyhold to prepare for our trip to the Storm Coast,” she insists, digging through her bag.
Cassandra scowls. “I don’t think you can just-“
“I can, though,” she grins, looking up. “I’m the Herald or whatever, which means I’ve got some amount of authority, right?”
The older woman sighs, sharing a mournful look with Solas that screams ‘young hubris’.
And so, Solas and Cassandra begrudgingly return to Skyhold while Subira welcomes the addition of Dorian and Iron Bull.
“So, kiddo,” Bull rumbles when he sees her, ruffling her hair. “What did you need us for?”
In her, a presence roars in anticipation and trembles with raw power. Her eyes light up, leaning in close with a whisper. “A dragon.”
He whoops, reaching down and then placing her on his shoulders. “Oh, hell yeah!”
Although Dorian and Varric grumble about how potentially dangerous this is, neither outright refuse to come. In fact, Dorian seems to enjoy striking down dragonlings and Varric takes trickshots with Bianca.
A loud, thundering roar shakes the ground. Bull cheers, pounding on his chest. “That’s what I’m talking about!”
She grunts, slamming a dagger into the skull of a dragonling and wincing as she slips on her bad leg, blinking as her stance corrects itself. She shakes it off and called it muscle memory.
Time slows down when the High Dragon settles itself into the small clearing. It’s like it can see through her, looking for something she doesn’t know she has. It lowers its head, as if in a bow.
She’s stunned. Absolutely captivated by the amount of intelligence in her eyes, the swirling green that reflects back to her, causing her to blink.
And then it roars, shaking the cliffs and causing rocks to fall in chipped pieces.
Clearly, it’s not above being ready for a fight.
“Bull, flank it!” She shouts, running to the left, narrowly avoiding being hit by fire. “Dorian, ice her. Varric, target her hind legs!”
Dorian complains about having to use ice, but does so efficiently. Bull manages to get a critical hit to the dragons leg, causing her to roar and lash out angrily, searching behind her for the source of her pain. For all his weight and height, Bull is surprisingly nimble and avoids being slashed with large claws.
Subira darts under the chest of the dragon, slamming her short-sword as hard as she can into the thick skin and grunting as the weight of the dragon shifts downward.
Her leg creaks as she presses back, energy surging forward under her skin and into her muscles with a boost of strength, moving forward with her blade in its chest.
Thank the Maker Cassandra has been showing her in the forge how to properly sharpen her weapons.
It doesn’t kill it, but she must’ve hit something important because suddenly she’s being gushed with hot dragon blood and the dragon is retreating, causing her to fall to the ground as it’s powerful wings carry it away on the battlefield.
Panting, she looks up at the beast. It’s beautiful, but also terrorizing the locals. But this mesmerizing beast has left dozens of children, and she has lived a long life. A proud one.
“Bull,” she shouts, running towards the dragon. “When I throw this at its face, attack it’s throat!”
The man grunts and she takes that as approval, throwing the flask at the dragons face. The glass breaks and a gas erupts that changes colors in front of the dragons eyes. It sways and shakes its head and in the distraction she uses her short swords to scramble on to the back of the dragon, ripping one across its wing. It roars in pain, lashing out indiscriminately.
Bull slams his axe into the dragon's neck, and it begins to sway heavily. She scrambles, breathing hard, to the top of its head before plunging her dagger into its temple. It falls and she falls with it, causing a panicked noise to go up among her companions.
When the dust settles, she’s completely uninjured, standing next to the dead dragon. She strokes its horns forlornly.
“Go in peace, my friend.” she whispers before closing each of its eyes.
No one speaks for a few moments, Varric leading her away from the dragon. “We’ll get the Scouts to cut the head and we can go back to Skyhold with it.”
She grins, her hair incredibly thick and frizzy from the heat and blood splattered in her teeth from the fight. “I can’t wait to show Cassandra!”
Of course, Cassandra was not nearly as happy about the fact that they killed a dragon - without her - as Anita was. The girl was beaming as she arrived back at Skyhold, smugly waiting for a large wagon to make its way into the courtyard. When it did, a hush fell over the fortress.
“Did... you kill that?” Cassandra asks, a large vein nearly popping out of her head with the strain of holding herself back.
Anita bounces on her toes, bad leg just barely faltering. “Yes! We killed it, and I climbed on top of it-!”
Cassandra steps forward, fingers twitching by her sides and looking far too ready to throw something. “You what?!”
Josephine approaches now, clipboard in hand and with their Seneschal in tow, placing a calming hand on the Seeker’s shoulder. “Cassandra, please, I’m sure whatever it is-“
Her words abruptly stop when she sees the head of the dragon.
“Did...” Josephine trails off in astonishment, eyes coming back to the beaming teenager.
“I did,” Anita says with a grin.
In her eyes they can see clearly something bright and desperately shining, but the Ambassador can’t put her finger on it. She anxiously taps her foot while she thinks, wondering internally if they don’t pay enough attention to her and resolves to talk about it with the Inner Circle.
Perhaps that’s why she took on an entire dragon.
Leliana’s face is impassive, but she steps forward to see the dragon better.
“Impressive, ma petit puce,” she comments softly, gently smoothing out some of the girl’s hair.
Anita beams, impulsively throwing her arms around her. Leliana freezes, and Josephine and Cassandra look on with wonder. Slowly, she returns the embrace, a small smile curving on her lips.
Anita pulls back, cheeks slightly red and hands now behind her back. “We should have a party!”
Josephine raises a brow. “A party?”
“Yeah, you know,” she digs the toe of her shoe into the stone. “I mean, it’s a dragon, and...” she mumbled something incoherent.
The Ambassador cocks her head. “What did you say? Speak up, tesoro.”
“... it would just be nice,” she mumbled, not willing to admit she hasn’t had anything celebrated or been to a party that wasn’t part of some sort of assignment.
Or that her birthday passed.
The three of them share a look. “I’m sure we can arrange something,” Josephine says with a smile, brushing a motherly hand through Anita’s hair.
After the dragon incident, a rule was implemented that she must consult her advisors before swapping her companions out, whether it’s in person or by letter. But she got to kill a dragon and everyone forgot - no one forgot - about the Anchor incident, so the win outweighs the loss to her.
Although, later when she realized that Leliana called her 'petite flea’ as a term of endearment, she was very confused, but nonetheless pleased.
tesoro - dear/sweetheart
ma petit puce - my little flea (a french term of endearment)