Eyes watched her as she stepped in with her new shem husband. Adhlea swallowed any rage she felt towards the older man as she bowed with Gaspard to the Empress of Orlais.
Perhaps some Tevene slavers would hear of this, he said to her clan members. They’re quite fast; they’d be happy to take some of the young ones. Translation: He’d set some slavers on her clan if they didn’t follow what he wanted.
What do you want? Keeper Deshanna had asked, without any pleasantries in her voice. Her voice was cold, angry.
The duke had met her eyes. That one, he had said, with a smirk. With the markings on her forehead.
Deshanna had stiffened; ‘twas no secret in the Clan that she was to be Deshanna’s First.
Our beliefs do not condone a child, Deshanna informed him darkly. Warningly. The Clan, and Adhlea, had been horrified to hear Deshanna’s words.
I cannot bear children either, Gaspard had admitted to the Clan. I will take her in the morning –
She returns to us every summer, Deshanna barked. Or we come for her with the rest of the People, she had added with a frightening grin.
Gaspard stared at her. Perhaps it was Deshanna’s seriousness, or something else; yet, in the end, he nodded with permission – as though they needed it.
As soon as Gaspard left, Deshanna had turned to Adhlea.
Keep your temper under control, Deshanna ordered harshly. Do not be cowed. You will return each summer; do not tell him of your magic. And whatever you do, the People are trusting you.
Adhlea had the hopes of her clan and some of her people riding upon her. She could not be like them, them who played a Game and ripped thousands of lives apart on a whim. She had to be better.
Adhlea had told Gaspard her name was Kerrah; it was tradition to tell the shem the names you were given second. He knew, of course; he simply requested it be on the wedding registry. All of it was simple and easy and she’d already spent four years in his company – being his wife, even in name only – would be simple, right?
“The Grand Duchess Adlee Kerrah Lavellan –“ Adhlea winced at the butchering of her first name, but pleased that it was mispronounced because, hey, at least nobody would fuck around with her name, “de Chalons, wife of Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons.”
Gaspard tugged her elbow up as he stood straight, looking directly up at the Empress. Adhlea forced her head to remain down, folding her hands into her dress.
A long silence built up.
“First a mage, now an elf, Gaspard? Your standards have fallen far indeed.” Empress Celene sounded amused. “Enjoy the party, Duchess. Given how long his late wife lasted, I highly doubt you’ll see another one.”
Murmurs swept over the court. She moved her head up, seeing the shemlen looking at her; her heart pounded beneath her breastbone, panic starting to seize her.
“Please ignore her words,” Gaspard said, unusually somber. “Empress Celene forgets my late wife Calienne died of illness due to extenuating circumstances. Now, I shall introduce you to those that matter, simply shake their hands – do not bow. You’re a Grand Duchess, you’re above all but my dear cousin the Empress.”
Names and faces blurred between each other. Adhlea murmured her appreciation for the meeting and everything necessary until Gaspard made his excuses for her and summoned a servant to aide her to her room.
A flat ear escorted her out; Adhlea knew enough about the Game these past four years to not show her utter relief at being out of there until she was alone – yet, even as she did, a rather cultured voice met her ears.
Seeing as, in true Orlesian fashion, a mask was upon her face, the nineteen-year-old Dalish elf turned to see a fashionably dressed woman appear.
The elven servant bowed to her. “First Enchanter,” he murmured.
“First Enchanter,” Adhlea said, without bowing her head.
“Quite an intriguing young elf, aren’t you?” Adhlea blinked. “Have you yet gone through your Harrowing, dear?”
In the past four years, Gaspard had not had a close eye on her all the while. Adhlea tended to stray off and practice before the shemlen found her. Due to her ability to stay out of sight and the one thing Dalish elves learned not to do, they never found her easily. They were loud, bumbling fools, being shem, but still.
Adhlea glanced at the servant. He remained composed.
“Oh, dear, he’s one of my lover’s. He won’t rat you out to the Empress or her cousin, nor shall I,” the First Enchanter crooned. “Come now, dear. Let us talk.”
“Forgive me, First Enchanter, but I’ve no idea what you would like to speak of,” Adhlea finally said, narrowing her eyes behind her mask.
“Of course not, dear. I’m simply talking to fellow member of the Court. I am Vivienne, First Enchanter of Montsimmard,” she said with a bow. “Now, please, dear. I would like to hear more about you, perhaps introduce you to your new sister-in-law.”
“I know Lady Florianne,” Adhlea said quietly, feeling trapped.
“Nevertheless,” Vivienne pressed.
Adhlea swallowed in fear before following.
Vivienne towed the smaller woman towards her rooms. The Empress was indeed generous once she’d heard Duke Bastien had taken her on as a mistress.
Opening the main door that connected hers and Bastien’s and Nicoline’s rooms, Vivienne swept the younger masked woman into the room, snapping her fingers and ordering wine.
“Forgive me, Enchanter,” the elf said after a moment, “I do not drink wine.”
Vivienne laughed. “Oh, my dear. Wine is the only drink you must drink in company – did your husband not tell you?”
The elf met her eyes squarely. “It is part of my religion,” she said, as soft as ever. Vivienne laughed again.
“Ah, yes – you are Dalish. Forgive my mistake.” Vivienne swept her hand across the lounge. “Please, do sit. We have much to discuss.”
The elf sat, her eyes never falling from Vivienne as she did so.
The wine was brought out. Vivienne set one across from her.
“Word to the wise, darling,” Vivienne said, her voice low, “at least pretend to be drinking. Not drinking at all will cost you much.
The elf dipped her head and took up the goblet. Glancing in it, she seemed surprised at the contents.
Vivienne winked at her. “I’m afraid you’ll have a bit more trouble with the flutes,” she informed the other.
The elf nodded.
“I appreciate the advice.” Her words sounded like she was forcing them out.
The door opened once more. Duchess Nicoline entered, her sharp, shrewd gaze turning to Vivienne’s guest. Bastien gave Vivienne a fond smile before his gaze, too, fell upon the Dalish elf.
Bastien was the first to find his words upon seeing the elf.
“Grand Duchess,” he said, his deep voice reassuring. “Quite an honor to have you here today.”
Vivienne flicked a glance at the elf, who looked positively terrified at seeing them.
“Darling, he’s your husband’s former wife’s father,” Vivienne said, not in a whisper.
“If you would like,” Duchess Nicoline said, warmth returning to her posture, “consider us your father-in-law and mother-in-law, my dear.” She walked forward, sitting down next to the elf and taking her hands. “We do enjoy the company, dear one. We’re just rather shocked, is all.”
“Oh,” the elf said, sounding utterly surprised. “I…” Once more, Vivienne met her eyes. Realizing the elf was honestly terrified at that moment, Vivienne took pity on her.
“Nicoline,” she said, her voice respectful of the woman who allowed such an affair between Bastien and herself, “the Grand Duchess does not know many of the rules, it seems. Gaspard must have been lacking in his instruction.”
Nicoline laughed, a surprisingly genuine laugh.
“My offer was not made out of a ploy, dear,” she informed the elf. “How old are you?”
The elf swallowed. “I turned nineteen during En'tara'syl'nu'man – forgive me, Guardian.” She carefully took her hands back from Nicoline’s grasp, a flush appearing beneath her mask.
“Young indeed,” Nicoline said, furrowing her brow. Vivienne was mildly surprised, too. Bastien himself was going on fifty, Nicoline forty-nine. Vivienne was twenty-seven. Not ten years previous, Calienne herself was going on twenty-three when she’d died. Gaspard had already been twenty-eight. Now, he was nearly forty and taking such a young bride – well, Celene knew as well as Nicoline that Gaspard could not have a child, so perhaps he’d only done it to piss Celene off enough to make yet another bid for the throne; yet having a bride half his age was quite… odd. Especially an elf. “How long have you been learning the Game, dear?”
“Four years, Duchess,” the elf with a higher station answered meekly.
Nicoline tsked, then turned to Vivienne.
“Will you educate her? I’m not certain I have the fortitude to train yet another in the arts,” the Duchess purred.
Vivienne bowed her head. “Why, of course, Duchess. I would be honored.”
“Divine Justinia IV asked for you personally?”
Adhlea nodded. “Forgive me, Lady Florianne, I simply do not know how to act.”
Yes, it was probably panic that made her come to Florianne of all people. Even so; Florianne invited her in almost dubiously.
“None of my dresses would fit you,” Florianne said with a mutter. “But I suppose you only brought clothes that the maids pick out for you?”
Adhlea flushed behind her mask. “It is because I do not fit into Orlesian clothes that well,” she murmured. “I have tried to wear a corset, yet truth be told I was too small to fit the tightest setting.”
She still was. She didn’t have much of an appetite due to the fact if it wasn’t cooked by herself, she didn’t normally eat it. Plus, the human servants always gave her the nastiest of looks when she reached for food, so Adhlea couldn’t be blamed for not eating (nor would she blame the human servant. It was just what it was, she supposed.).
“I suppose, then, the ball dress I never wore would have to do,” Florianne replied, bringing out a thousand layers of dress. “Undress. Even the mask, Grand Duchess; we cannot very well put the dress on you over it.”
Adhlea averted her eyes before removing her clothes first.
“So it’s true,” Florianne said, sounding envious. “Elves do not grow hair like humans.”
Adhlea removed her mask and set it down gently.
“Oh, wow. Those markings are very Dalish, no? No wonder Gaspard wanted you to keep them hidden. There would be a riot,” Florianne remarked candidly.
Adhlea flicked a frown to her. “I do not recall you being this candid before,” she remarked.
Florianne shrugged. “In private, I can say whatever,” she said with a smirk. “There is no way to prove my words. Now, hurry. It wouldn’t do for you to be late arriving at the Chantry.”
Adhlea set her teacup down as the door opened, the Divine murmuring her thanks as she walked in, flanked by one of the Sisters.
“Divine Justinia,” Adhlea said, standing hastily – too hastily, it seemed; the elf toppled forward. The Sister was quick, grasping Adhlea’s arms and helping her gain her balance. “Sorry,” Adhlea gasped, sitting back in her seat.
“Not a problem, child,” Justinia smiled gently. “I have come here to assault you verbally with my words; I only hope you don’t have future-seeing enough to assault me in front of my fellow sister.”
“’Twas an accident,” Adhlea promised, looking at her hands. “I had no clothes suitable to wear to this meeting you have called.”
Justinia sat in front of her teacup, picking it up and sipping it before speaking again.
“I must say, I’ve not had the honor of meeting a genuine Dalish elf,” Justinia said mildly. “Tell me, my dear, are you Andrastrian?”
“No,” she said, her voice cracking. “I am not Andrastrian, Divine. I am Dalish – not a revivalist Dalish, but still. I hold onto my people’s gods.”
Justinia frowned minutely. “I am not familiar with the term revivalist,” she admitted.
Adhlea quirked a small smile. “I do not do most of the rituals,” she admitted. “My faith is as strong as it might be. If you question me that do I believe Andraste was real? I do. I simply do not wholly believe in the Chant of Light, Divine.”
“How refreshing,” Justinia beamed. “Sister Nightingale, I believe this one would be perfect.”
Sister Nightingale looked frightening as Adhlea glanced up at her.
“Perfect for what?” Adhlea tentatively asked.
“Sister Nightingale has been asked for by the Reverend Mother in Kirkwall,” Justinia said, airily. “Perhaps you can escort her there?”
Adhlea had a feeling she wasn’t asking.
“Certainly,” Adhlea whispered.
“Of course, the dear Reverend Mother has yet to send word on when she expects Sister Nightingale,” Divine Justinia went on. “I certainly do not expect you to leave from here. I have heard your husband gave you a chateau in the Frostbacks? Sister Nightingale shall meet you there, my child.”
As Adhlea was shown out, her head was spinning and she was shaking.
I was just forced into escorting a Sister of the Chantry, Adhlea thought despondently.
Adhlea opened the door to her rooms soon after she’d met with the Divine. An elf stood out there in elegant clothes, a smile affixed to her face.
Adhlea guessed this elf in question was Briala, the lover of the Empress.
“Am I correct in presuming you are Briala?” Adhlea asked, turning to her after Briala had entered and after Adhlea had closed the door.
The elf turned to her.
“I am,” she said, her clear Orlesian accent indicating she was definitely a city elf. “And we need to talk, little Dalish elf.”
Thank you for revealing your safety. I’m sending your brother to ascertain whether or not you will be coming this summer.
I accept all types of comments :D Flames will be ignored or used as fuel for my dear Lavellan's fire-power XD
“You’re not staying for the Season, are you, dearest?” Vivienne quirked an elegant eyebrow at the elf. Kerrah shook her head, her odd magenta eyes meeting Vivienne’s squarely.
“No, Enchanter. Today is the last night before I am to leave for –“
Whatever the elf was planning on saying was cut short as the reason Empress Celene had ordered them before her this day entered the room. An elven servant, as plain as her dressing clothes, was shoved in before templars.
“And why do you bring a servant before me?” Celene drawled.
A templar shoved the girl down. “The knife-ear’s been saying things,” the templar said in a nasty drawl. “Some lies that got Lord Ventrus in trouble at home with the Lady Ventrus. He asks you to handle it in the manner befitting the rabbit.”
Vivienne figured this trivial matter had been brought out because of the new duchess. Even as the templar spoke, she could see the elf’s hand tightening, abnormal heat building up.
The ice-inclined enchantress summoned some of her magical ability, cancelling out the heat.
“Oh? And what has this elf been saying?” The Empress’ rather displeased tone indicated she cared little for either the elf or the racial slurs; Vivienne was already bored, knowing the outcome. When it came time to speak for the elf, not even the duchess would. While it wouldn’t be irrational to think such, the duchess had acted as others acted; not as she as an individual.
A bit of a pity. Vivienne liked making order out of the chaos.
“She says the Lord Ventrus took a liking to her. Lord Ventrus said the rabbit came onto him,” the templar said with a shrug. “So he slept with her. Now the rabbit’s saying she didn’t. Fucking knife –“
“It would do well for you to be reminded, I care not for those words,” the Empress said, smirking coldly down. “Ten lashes, for forgetting. Do it on your own time; try not to wait too long, Captain. As for the elf… Do you have anything to say in your defense?”
“Will they not let her speak?” Kerrah asked, as her head was shoved up to display a rag stuffed in her mouth.
“This is but a formality, dear,” Vivienne said with a sigh. “The elf is really just a commoner. I would not concern yourself with the fates of the elves of this city. Show them kindness and they will run with it.”
Kerrah only stared at the farce of a trial. Vivienne turned to speak with a minor lord about his daughter’s impending nuptials as the Empress spoke once more.
“I see. Nothing in your defense. Very well. Does anyone take responsibility for this elf?”
Nobody answered her, too involved in their conversations yet all with half a mind to answer the Empress when it came.
This time, Vivienne was actually surprised. Turning as most did, to look at Kerrah, the elven duchess moved.
With all the courtly decorum of one who had spent years going down ballroom steps, Duchess de Chalons stepped down and bowed to the silent Empress Celene.
“If it pleases you, Empress, I will take full responsibility for this elf.”
The Empress flicked her hand. Even from this distance, Vivienne could see the violent tremble.
“Take her out of my sight, Duchess.”
Vivienne hurried out, muttering her hasty apologies and accosting the duchess on her way out.
“Duchess,” she said, tapping her arm.
Kerrah turned, her violet eyes narrowed.
“She’ll forgive you if –“
“I am an elf,” Kerrah said, loudly. “I will not stand by if she is falsely accused. If she wasn’t.” The elf shrugged. “I shall give her consequences.”
The elf looked utterly terrified.
Vivienne was torn for a moment.
“Allow me to accompany you?” she requested.
Kerrah inclined her head in acceptance as they made their way out of the Empress’ ballroom.
Three hallways later and the duchess stopped, turning to the scared elf and removing her gag.
Faced with two important people, Calia bowed her head as her tears continued to fall. It was an accident, she’d spoken too loudly near Lady Ventrus explaining her scrapes from the… Incident in the garden.
The duchess’ hands pushed Cali’s head up to meet her face, her Orlesian mask pushed to the side – the side facing the First Enchanter.
She was Dalish.
“Did you lie?” the duchess demanded, unreadable eyes staring at Calia.
Calia shook her head.
The Dalish woman drew her into a hug. Calia’s eyes widened.
“What on Thedas are you talking about, dear?” The First Enchanter sounded bored.
The duchess moved back and drew her mask back on.
“This elf was raped, Lady Vivienne.”
“She could be telling a lie,” Lady Vivienne said, sounding exasperated.
“Vivienne, when it comes to this, I do not tolerate liars.” The duchess’ eyes met her eyes; Calia saw empathy. Not pity.
“Did you ever stop feeling –“ Dirty. Calia swallowed the word.
“So long as nothing around me reminds me of it, I don’t dwell,” the Dalish elf replied. “I can’t say it’s healthy, but I am… Well.” She half-laughed and moved her hands around her face. “I am certain that if Gaspard had not forced me into the dress, I would have forgotten my wedding date.”
Calia glanced to the First Enchanter, who managed to look half-interested and mostly bored at the same time.
“Now, might I ask your name?”
Calia’s attention returned to the elf. “Calia, my lady.”
Calia had already decided. If there was an offer for her in this lady’s house, she would take it.
“Come with me, Calia. I’ll pay reparations for so-called damage to his house,” the duchess said, earnestly clasping her hands.
Calia opened her mouth, then paused.
“My lady, my two sisters remained at Lord Ventrus’ estate. I will not leave them to face the same thing I did,” Calia said.
“I warned you,” the First Enchanter said, her voice dry. “Reparations for a damaged reputation is one thing, dear. Taking on elven servants so soon? A bit of a reputation-ruiner.”
“I’m already known as the knife-ear who was pretty enough to catch Gaspard’s attentions, there’s not much else that can be insulting to me,” the elf replied sharply, dropping Calia’s hands. Her tone softened as she turned to the First Enchanter. “I’m sorry, Lady Vivienne. I did not intend to –“
The First Enchanter waved her hand. “Don’t apologize, dear. I’m rather amused by this whole affair, to be honest; also, Lady Ventrus is like a dragon. Do be careful. I’ll send someone your way after I’ve managed to get you an audience with her.”
Calia opened her mouth as the duchess turned to her.
“I do not want to cause you any more trouble, my lady.”
The duchess grasped Calia’s hands. “I will not let you be alone,” she said, magenta eyes staring warmly into Calia’s green. “I was not. If it gets to be too much, Calia, let me know.”
These servants are too troublesome to do anything with. They constantly flirt and try to seduce my husband; I tire of their presence. The reparations to my husband’s reputation and the wages returned was a boon we absolutely thank your generous spirit for.
Lady Fiona of Vanetria
Gaspard was not unaware of his wife’s displeasure at being forced into this marriage. Truth be told, he’d only married the small Dalish elf because she’d been nearest to the fire. She’d been a tiny thing, even then; smaller than her fellow elves – but not delicate. He could have sworn that he’d heard someone calling her praises with her bow expertise. He knew from experience that a bow was not easy to handle.
And now she was in a coveted position. Not many had known Calienne was a mage. Picking a new wife had simply been done to piss off Celene; Celene could not have her own lover, Briala, by her side as Gaspard could have his elven wife. Petty, yes, but even so.
Gaspard was also well-aware that his new Dalish wife was attempting to gather elven servants. For what, Gaspard cared not unless it affected his future plans.
He was actually going to knock on her door; he’d raised his fist to rap on it politely when he heard his new wife speak in an uncharacteristically loud voice.
“Fenedhis, she cannot send him! He’s not used to humans. He’d likely burn this house down!”
Something smelled like it was burning.
Gaspard opened the door quickly, just in time to see his new Dalish, supposedly rogue wife put a hand over the burning parchment, ice crackling over it. It was a letter that had arrived while they were at the Winter Palace for the wedding.
Kerrah’s back stiffened, her head turning to look at him in naked fear.
He released the door. She was a skittish woman; he’d known her dislike and fear of templars before.
“I heard you scream,” he said, tiredly. “You’re a mage, are you not?”
She slipped out a dagger, brandishing it.
“I will kill myself if you send me to a Circle,” she said, her voice almost inaudible.
Gaspard rubbed the bridge of his nose.
“I shall bring a templar and a mage here,” he said with a sigh. “You will learn from them to control your magic; I will not put you through a Harrowing.”
Not if he could help it. Some sympathy for this tiny slip of a Dalish mage slid through him. A Harrowing was dangerous for an average mage – he… he honestly did doubt her mental strength, if it were comparable to her current strength. Not that he’d ever tested it, he knew better than to irritate a woman. Calienne’s own temper may have been quiet, but hell had no fury quite like a mage pissed off.
Now, he simply had to do the impossible. Finding a mage and a templar that would help her.
Vivienne glanced around as the carriage rolled into Val Royeaux, Duchess de Chalons across from her. An invitation to her from Bastien to enjoy a salon there was bound to be entertaining, as boring as the Winter Palace had become after the new Grand Duchess’ arrival, marriage, and introduction with the court. Gossip had flowed in abundance when Gaspard did not return within the month; Vivienne had the feeling it was less exciting than Gaspard… enjoying the elven girl as the more crass lords had said.
Indeed, it was. It was really just the two getting the chateau ready. Gaspard had let it grow overrun, and yet – again, from the gossip – even the four years of the girl’s training, he’d not had a full staff.
So, with thousands in gold coins (not even a dent in the Grand Duke’s fortune), they had left to Val Royeaux to hire some servants. With the two being mages, there was no risk of them getting killed. Still. The tiny duchess looked nervous beyond anything each time when they’d set camp up; Vivienne had attempted to speak with her, yet had gotten little more than ‘family issues’ out of her.
“You know,” Vivienne said at length, “seeing there is an alienage here, if you make friends out of several of the lords here you can own a share in it to.”
The duchess turned to her. Vivienne wondered idly about the mask that she always had on; did it suit some purpose, or was it just to make this girl more mysterious?
“Why would I want a share in the alienage here?”
Vivienne shrugged elegantly. “Doesn’t take much. A city elf hired from an alienage it two hundred gold – fifty of it to the elf, the rest to the alienage, dear. Think of it like a bride’s dowry.”
“I have no idea of what you speak,” the duchess confessed.
Vivienne knit her brows. “Surely your family –“ Vivienne then realized, a little late, that this elf came not from an alienage, but a clan. A clan of wild elves. “Sorry, darling. You’re just so well-bred that I completely forgot. Most women with good families have a dowry. It’s the bride-price.” Vivienne cast another gaze out as they stopped on the edges. “Money or estate given to the husband. Essentially, you are giving the alienage a percentage to hire the elf in the alienage. If you do choose to go there, I’d think about hiring a guard. Ten thousand elves in a space roughly the size of the market of Denerim does not make for good company alone.”
The began moving again.
“Don’t worry,” the duchess said, in a dry tone. Vivienne arched a brow. “My brother is here. He’ll not let any harm come to me.”
Vivienne laughed lightly. “Ah, you agreed to meet up with him here? How does sending –“
“You haven’t felt him?” The duchess seemed to be frowning as she interrupted Vivienne.
“What… exactly do you mean, dear?” Vivienne once more furrowed her brows in confusion. She did not like being confused.
“My brother is a mage,” the elf explained, tilting her head. “I can feel his magic. He’s been following us… for two and a half days?”
Vivienne’s eyes widened. “You can feel people who use magic from far away?”
“You mean you can’t?” the other returned with her skepticism clear.
It wasn’t often Vivienne was the unbalanced one. She did not like feeling such.
“No,” she said, stiffly. “I cannot.”
Meeting Syven was unexpected. One moment, they walked alone, Vivienne turning to the duchess to say something; the next, a purple mist came from nowhere as a Dalish elf with weapons glittering on almost every inch of him appeared. He wore fighting leathers, too; Vivienne disliked such clothing.
“Who are you?” She had her staff in her grasp; she’d gotten rather excellent at controlling ice with the staff.
Mages could do magic without the staves, but it was rather unwise to not have a focus. Without the focus, you were tearing at the Fade. Vivienne could recall an unfortunate incident in Ostwick that, without a certain house’s help, would have ended with the mage’s death. Unless you were so attuned to the Fade in a particular skill, you really couldn’t do much without a focus anyway.
Tearing at the Fade ended with death and demons. Vivienne preferred the pace of the Game to the magic she wielded, but it was a useful tool in getting what she wanted.
This man, however… His hair was red, his face marked with an elven god’s markings, and his eyes were an odd silver. Vivienne stared him down.
“Sis!” he exclaimed, glancing to the duchess, of whom had her hands hiding her masked face. “You never write anymore.” A pout came over his face.
“I wrote last month,” the duchess replied, slowly dragging her hands from her face. “I’ve been too busy.”
“Mm.” The elf sized Vivienne up shrewdly. “Who’s the shem?”
“The First Enchanter of Montsimmard,” the duchess replied, glancing at Vivienne. “Lady Vivienne, this is Galifalon Lavellan.”
Vivienne politely nodded her head to the other. He stared at her with his odd silver eyes and dismissed her entirely.
“Asa’ma’lin, when are you leaving this place?” He wrinkled his nose.
“As soon as I meet with a few lords,” the duchess said with a sigh. “Lady Vivienne, I must go seek out some people so that Gaspard won’t think I wasted all his gold. I’ll see you at the salon.”
Vivienne bowed her head, watching with a thoughtful expression as the duo left, the duchess talking quietly with her brother.
Vivienne wondered, not for the first time since meeting Duchess Kerrah, if not all Dalish were the same at heart.
Then, she entered her own familiar territory and, as usual, pushed the thought away as Bastien and Lady Nicoline greeted her.
Chapter 5: Krem
Here we are! A coincidental meeting of Lavellan and Krem.
AKA she's not meeting all her future companions. Just... maybe THEIR companions! haha no.
Writing style is a bit different, but I thought Krem was more about action than about the Game. Also, if it's not obvious I have no clue how politics work so anything that sounds good I can truthfully say I am pulling it out of my ass.
A lil' bit of Iron Bull here, but I have something delightful in store for... Most everyone I have her *coincidentally* meeting. Most of this is basically story set up and I ship hard two characters that most likely never interacted. I WILL GO DOWN WITH THAT SHIP.
Cremisius Aclassi listened as a duchess of some kind bargained with two lords in a pretty nice tavern. It wasn’t because he was ordered to, merely that he was bored out of his skull. Also, in hiding.
The Chargers were waiting for the right time to leave the city, having left a… Well, it was all Skinner and Dalish’s fault, really! They had too much fun torching the lord’s house (without anyone in it, as Krem was not fond of killing people that didn’t have anything to do with the job, much less any children…) So, yeah, the job was to burn some documents while the house was empty, and yes, Dalish and Skinner did so, and yes, they were seen fleeing the crime scene but really.
All Dalish had to do was slap some of her ‘secret’ stash of concealer that she’d stolen from a bunch of people’s homes onto her elf marks and all would be great.
Even so. Elves leaving the city without a valid reason? They would most likely be arrested. Then killed.
Charger or not. Krem had already done all he could by slipping some of his own well-earned coin to several guards; now it was up to them whether or not they followed through on their promises.
Dalish shifted, a frown sliding onto her face. Mage or not, Dalish had a strange sixth sense when it came to elves – Dalish elves in particular.
Krem glanced behind him. A redheaded woman with the edges of an Orlesian mask and tipped ears – a high-born elf? Probably not. Her companion, another redheaded elf who turned.
Dalish markings on his face made his face almost girlish, though there was a sharpness to it that dissuaded that notion immediately after it was made. Faint scars littered his face, indicating he was well-used to fighting or even hunting.
The lords talking to the lady bowed and smiled to her. She got up and nodded to them as they retreated before she, too, turned.
The mask covered half her face, from her nose up. It was reminiscent of a butterfly, molded almost perfectly to her face. Krem did not see if she was Dalish; yet the male redhead immediately dragged her over to their table.
“You’re Dalish,” the man said, sharply and staring at Dalish.
“That’s my name, don’t overuse it,” Dalish replied, offering a smirk; Krem frowned. Something had unsettled Dalish greatly. “Formerly of Clan Boranehn.”
The woman cursed, startling the three Chargers.
“Clan Boranehn,” the woman added to her obvious swearing. “Is your name really Dalish?”
Dalish rolled her eyes. “I don’t have my vallaslin for kicks, you know.”
“Dirthamen,” the man said, glancing at the woman with a smirk lifting on his face. “God of –“
He yelped as the woman flicked the tip of his ear.
“I know who Dirthamen is, you idiot,” the woman said, sounding exasperated. “We’re sorry for intruding. We don’t really…” The woman trailed off.
“I get it,” Dalish huffed. “You sensed me. Everyone senses me. Wait, my vallaslin is hidden – how’d you –“
The man rolled his eyes. “I’ve been in Val Royeaux for ten days –“
This time he wheezed as the woman elbowed him in the gut.
“Sweet Sylaise…” the man gasped. Krem was just glad nobody was staring. “You’ve… gotten stronger…”
He clutched onto the table as he drew in breaths.
“Don’t lie,” the woman said, a sweet smile on her face. “Especially not to a liar. We’ll leave you be; apologies for approaching you like this.”
Dalish stood with a frown –
“Also, your vallaslin is raised,” the woman said, stopping two feet away and looking directly at Dalish.
“Always had been,” Dalish said, folding her arms. “You shouldn’t have been able to see just that.” Dalish looked uneasy. “Is it how I know you’re mages?”
The man pointed at her, then at the other woman, who smiled.
“You’re not wrong. Sorry again for disturbing you.”
They exited quickly.
And yet, their lovely meeting with them did not end there. In fact, Krem was asking the universe what on Thedas did he do to deserve being locked up and possibly executed (for one, he joined the Iron Bull’s Chargers, so there was that…) as they were shoved to the ground by guards two days later.
This was, apparently, a common enough occurrence that nobody stopped on their way out, simply walking or riding by as more reinforcements came.
Dalish’s eyes widened as a carriage started to roll past. The carriage came to an abrupt halt at a loud yell, the door to it opening as it stopped.
“Oh, there you are, Dalish!” The woman from two days previous cried out in apparent relief. “All of you, hands off my guards.”
“And who are you, you fucking knife-ear, to tell us what –“ began a guard before he was silenced by a throat clearing.
“Duchess de Chalons, is there an issue?” The man’s voice.
“Only that these fools are attempting to hurt my guards,” snapped the woman’s voice from earlier. “What is your name, soldier?”
The soldier holding Krem jolted up, pulling Krem with him. Krem’s head was still being held down, but he did notice something rather odd.
The elf had no shoes on. It was just barely seen under her layers of dress.
“Um…” the guard hesitated.
“What if,” Krem turned his head as Dalish and Skinner were brought up harshly, “we did not give you our names and we let you and your guards on your way, Duchess?”
“Very well.” The three were let up.
“Since you’re injured because of these men, you all can join me in my carriage for a while,” she announced, not so loud so that it was obvious; yet not so low it was clear she was just offering them a ride out of eyesight of the guards.
Krem let Skinner and Dalish in first. The redheaded man from earlier was there and it did take a little arranging to let all of them squeeze in – what with the duchess having such voluminous Orlesian skirts and all – but it worked.
An awkward moment passed as the horses started again.
“I’m Kerrah,” the duchess said at last. “This is my brother, Galifalon.”
The silver-eyed man inclined his head.
“Skinner, Dalish, Krem,” Krem said shortly.
Galifalon gazed directly at Skinner. “If we get attacked, we’re going to pretend we’re cannibals.”
“Mythal’s the more likely one,” Dalish said. “But yeah. It’d be fucking hilarious if we pretended to eat humans.”
Galifalon, Skinner, and Dalish all grinned at one another.
Krem gazed at Kerrah.
“How did you grow up with him?” Krem wanted to know.
“He’s not always this bad?” Kerrah offered with a helpless shrug. “Although, he did leave quite an impression on an ally of mine.”
“Vivienne hates me,” Galifalon deadpanned. “And I hate her.”
The carriage jerked to a stop.
“Looks like we’re at your stop,” Kerrah offered.
Krem nodded. “Looks like Chief’s come to visit personally. I should leave first.”
He clambered over the elven duchess’ lap, opened the door, and tumbled out.
Krem cursed, the Maker’s name leaving his lips in a blasphemous curse.
Dalish snorted, jumping out with some weird elven dexterity that was apparently actually only given to Dalish elves, because Skinner tried the same thing and utterly failed.
Kerrah peered out, her brother over her head looking down with mild concern.
“You three okay?” she called down.
“Yes, thanks!” Krem staggered to his feet before turning to the Iron Bull, who was staring at them with a confused expression. “This is our boss, so we’ll be going now!”
Kerrah smiled uncertainly, her eyes flicking up to the tall Adaar before both vanished into the carriage, the horses starting and trundling off.
“How’d the mission go?” the Iron Bull asked, not commenting on the strange lady with the carriage.
“Dalish burned the documents,” Skinner said.
“But she lit the manor on fire, too,” Krem finished.
The Iron Bull looked disappointed that he didn’t see the fire, but… Well. Most people flipped out when an Adaar appeared.
“And her?” Bull tilted his horned head to the lady.
“A duchess of some kind,” Krem shrugged. “We met her once a couple days ago.”
The Iron Bull snorted. “And she let you in her carriage?”
“Those two are very powerful mages,” Dalish said with a shudder. The meaning was clear.
The two of them could have handled themselves if Skinner or Dalish or Krem had decided to attack in the carriage.
So small time skip. I am skipping summer with the Clan for an EXCELLENT REASON, I assure you.
(okay, actually, I don't want to screw up something later on. I might come back and add a part or two later, but... Right now, this works. FOR NOW.)
Cullen Rutherford entered the chateau with trepidation in his steps, the mage Minaeve behind him. Despite Minaeve’s muttered complaints, they were silenced at the image of the Grand Duke de Chalons towering above them.
“None of this shall be uttered to another soul,” he said, warningly. “You two are to provide instruction to my lovely wife, Duchess Kerrah de Chalons. Should I hear you’ve spoken to anyone but the current occupants here or myself about her existence as a mage, I will make certain those who uttered those words can no longer speak of her.”
With that said, the Grand Duke vanished outside; Cullen glanced over at Minaeve as the Duchess herself appeared.
“Oh,” the Duchess gasped. Cullen turned to see her fitting on an Orlesian mask. “I am Kerrah de Chalons. And you?”
She did not hold out her hand; one glance into her violet eyes and he knew she was afraid of him.
“Commander Cullen Rutherford, Your Grace,” he said, bowing.
“Minaeve,” Minaeve offered. “Formerly of Clan Boranehn.”
Why – oh. Cullen’s eyes widened as he realized this woman was also an elf.
“I am part of Clan Lavellan,” the now-so-named Dalish duchess said, firmly.
“Even married to him?” Minaeve arched a brow.
“Even so,” the duchess nodded. “Follow me. I’m afraid I had no knowledge of your arrival here today, for I am entertaining guests, and keeping both of them in the same room is…” The Dalish elf shook her head. “Does not matter any longer. Follow me, please.”
She drew open a set of doors that led to a spacious room – and into a warzone of magic. Chairs were toppled over, fires smoldered on the table, and electricity buzzed.
“Madame de Fer,” Duchess de Chalons said, her voice sharp, “please, do try to keep this house intact. I highly doubt the Duke wishes to replace yet another room. And Syven, should you keep throwing magic around everyone, I will shove that fireball straight up your ass. I am tired of your shit.”
The Dalish man snorted and stepped back. “I’m assuming their arrival means you’re not coming,” he sniffed.
“Summer is a season away, brother. I do intend to journey there, as I always have,” the woman snapped.
The elvish man sniffed, before glaring directly at Cullen.
“Templar,” he said, his voice tight. “Sister, I will remain with you.”
Cullen could already feel the headache, even as Minaeve stepped forward and introduced herself.
“Ah. That clan,” the Dalish man muttered. “Fuck Clan Boranehn. You would’ve done excellent in Clan Lavellan.”
Minaeve’s brow furrowed. “My Keeper assured me all clans toss out unwanted mages,” she said, a little crinkle in her brow that was mirrored by Madame de Fer. The two Dalish in the room exchanged disgusted looks before the Dalish man gripped his staff and produced a fireball.
“I am the First of Clan Lavellan,” he announced. “Due to my elder sister’s position, she’s relegated to the position of Eternal Second.”
“We also have a Third, and so forth until a sixth,” the duchess said, glancing at her brother.
“Actually, the sixth left,” the Dalish man informed her. “He just had a baby with Eludysia. Pretty cute kid. You wouldn’t know, but they named her Dhaviha. Anyway – he left to help another clan with the mage stuff.” He turned to Minaeve, his mercurial eyes warm. “Clan Boranehn is a clan of dickless cowards. You’re better off without them and if you ever decide to leave the Circles to run around in the wilderness, I’m ninety percent sure that they’d welcome you. We’ve had sixteen more members inducted into the clan,” he added to the duchess, whose jaw dropped. “Some are from Denerim and other alienages; seven from Kirkwall. Times are changing, asa’ma’lin.”
Sister Nightingale was waiting when Adhlea arrived back at the chateau on a hart after summer; Adhlea closed her eyes and silently screamed.
Nevertheless, she made good on her promise.
“How long shall this journey take?” Adhlea asked, longingly looking at the chateau.
“Two months,” Sister Nightingale informed her crisply. “To get there. Maybe add on another month.”
A fuckin’ knife-ear, a duchess? Don’t make me fuckin’ laugh. Surely it’s in jest.
Why? What makes her so special?
She’s a heretic. She’s blasphemous. It’s clear she’ll not adhere to the Chantry. I’ve been sayin’ she’ll bring the world down; nobody’s listening.
They’ll listen. They’ll see it. Eventually the fuckin’ rabbit will show her true colors. It’s just a matter of time.
-Found in an abandoned manor in Val Royeaux soon after the appointment of Duchess de Chalons
Chapter 7: Varaina, Fenris, Hawke
The two most uncomfortable months of Adhlea’s life passed by in dreadfully boring silence in the carriage Sister Nightingale had gotten for this journey, and later the ship. Well, honestly, Adhlea wasn’t bothered by the ship – to get to the Free Marches and into Wycome one did go across the Waking Sea. Still, Sister Nightingale was always silent whenever they shared the carriage and practically vanished on the boat to Kirkwall.
By the time she was settled in Kirkwall, expecting a quick stay, she was extremely lonely. Despite the fact there was a whole welcoming party – Kirkwall’s Viscount, to be named, welcoming her to the city – Adhlea wanted more.
She knew, obviously, one did not show off magic in this kind of city. She had an elvhen guard with her at all times, but kept a rather low profile until she ran into an older woman. Due to some elaborate make-up Vivienne had showed her, Adhlea’s face was powdered into a flat-ear’s face. Normally, Adhlea would proudly show her Dalish marks off, but – no. Not here.
This woman looked strikingly similar to her; in fact, the woman paled when she saw her.
“Mother?” she asked, looking at Adhlea hopefully.
“I’m too young to be your mother, miss,” Adhlea replied, looking down.
“What –“ The woman shook her head. “I am Varaina,” she told Adhlea. “You look almost exactly like my mother.”
Adhlea hesitated a moment. “My mother died by slavers seventeen years ago,” she informed the other. “I was told by my Keeper I look almost exactly like her, too. Might I ask your mother’s name?”
“Helana,” Varaina replied. “Helana, formerly of Clan Sabrae.”
Adhlea’s eyes widened. “That, too, is the name and former clan of my mother,” she admitted to Varaina.
Glee shone in Varaina’s eyes. “I’ve always wanted a sister! Now I have an older and a little sibling,” Varaina cheered gleefully.
Adhlea chuckled. “And another brother,” she told Varaina with a small smile. “My little brother, Syven, is also my twin.”
Varaina gaped at her, the glee giving way to astonishment.
“Holy shit!” Varaina gasped. “Come, please! We must tell Leto!”
Adhlea only had one question as she, and by extension her guard, were dragged deeper into the city by Varaina’s surprisingly strong grip.
“Who is Leto?”
“She wants to talk to you,” Marina said, her brown eyes serious. “I know you cannot forgive her, but – she doesn’t appear to be lying. This time, anyway,” Marina added darkly.
Fenris scowled, yet stood, taking a dagger from his bedside.
Marina simply raised an eyebrow, but moved aside.
Fenris entered the room where Varaina was, opening his mouth – only to stop short.
There was a small elvhen woman – for, despite her height, a smaller stature than Varaina – looking around with trepidation.
“Why are you here, Varaina?”
His voice was, as usual, dark and angry.
“I ran into this elf here,” Varaina said, looking anywhere but him. “And I found this young woman. You and I share Mother’s blood with this one. So, please, Fenris; I know you cannot forgive me, but I want to mend things between us.”
Fenris turned to the other elf. “Did you come here by way of orders?”
“Do you mean here as in Kirkwall or this place?” the elf shook her head. “I came to Kirkwall because I was forced to by… Someone I must not speak ill of; and Varaina here brought my guard and I to this place.”
Varaina frowned. “Your guard? What are you, a high-ranking slave owner?”
The girl shook her head with a frown. “No, I don’t tolerate slaves.”
“Then are you a mage?” pressed Varaina. “Maybe of this Circle?”
“I have never been in a Circle in my life,” the woman confessed. Fenris opened his mouth –
“Then just who are you?”
The elf blinked at her. “I would have told you, but you couldn’t even hear me over the shouts of the guards racing to murder the mage who turned into an Abomination five streets over,” the woman said to Varaina sharply.
Despite what Varaina thought, Fenris did have memories of their mother, Helana. Only ever enough memory to sketch her. This elf woman did indeed look like Helana.
“Varaina, Hawke will give you room for the night. After, though, you leave,” Fenris snapped. “We’ll eat dinner together only because Hawke wants to actually eat tonight. And I want to know my new sister.”
Or debate if she was trying to kill Fenris…
“Can Evander eat, too? He tends to get a little grouchy.”
The guard ran into the courtyard where they all stood, huffing and puffing.
“What-ever,” Fenris ground out.
Hawke was nice. Well, as nice as one could be as a bounty hunter as she claimed; as they all sat down and waited, Hawke finally got around to asking what Adhlea hadn’t gotten to say.
“What’s your name, by the way?”
Adhlea hesitated, glancing at Evander. He mimed closing his lips.
“My name is Adhlea Kerrah Lavellan de Chalons,” she said, looking down at the table and hoping it would swallow her up. “Grand Duchess de Chalons, wife of Grand Duke Gaspard de Chalons.” Silence, save for Evander’s eating, filled the room. “But right here I am simply Adhlea.” Honestly, she was excited; perhaps that was why she spoke her brother’s true name and her own.
“Clan Lavellan? Wow,” Hawke said, sounding impressed. “Does marrying a shemlen get you exiled?”
“Marrying a shemlen is looked down upon,” agreed Adhlea, “but it is not a cause for banishment. My current circumstances are different.”
“How?” the only other Dalish elf at the table scoffed. “You married Empress Celene’s cousin.”
One of the women at the table looked vaguely familiar. However, that didn’t cross Adhlea’s mind as she spat at the other Dalish elf.
“Considering I was forced into this marriage, it’s fucking different,” she snarled at the other, her hands heating up. The silence stretched.
“Apologies,” the other elf said, lowering her head. “Please forgive me. Hawke says I have issues. I am Merrill of Clan Sabrae.”
Adhlea relaxed. “Considering all the shit your clan’s been through since before the last Arlathvhen I’m not surprised. I apologize for allowing my temper to seize me.”
“Surprising that your human husband has not found out about your mage abilities,” spoke the familiar human. “I am Leliana, by the way.”
“It was hard, hiding it from him,” Adhlea muttered to herself even as she nodded to Leliana’s words.
“What’s this I hear about you and Fenris being related?” Hope was sparkling in Hawke’s pretty eyes. Adhlea glanced at the white-haired, glowing-with-lyrium elf.
“Helana Sabrae,” Adhlea said after a moment.
Merrill dropped her fork.
“You have got to be joking,” Merrill said. “The former First is your mother?”
That sparked recognition in Adhlea. “Yes! That’s why Keeper Istimaethoriel was so intent on Syven or I becoming First!”
Merrill stared at her. “I do recognize that – not Syven Galifalon Lavellan.”
Adhlea winced. “Yes.”
“Is there a story here?” Hawke looked mildly put out.
“Yes, sorry.” Merrill threw her an apologetic look. “Syven is… well-known since the last Arlathvhen. He thought it would be wise to substitute the alcohol with a rather strange herb he got from a passing merchant. It was an aphrodisiac, and the clan elders drank it during the sixth day of the meeting. He also poured another herb into the younger kids’ drinks. It had the effect of a nobleman’s laxative. He was then punished on the eighth day before apparently being rescued. He declared he had seen Mythal and decided to submit himself to Ghilan’nain. All but his clan laughed.”
“Oh, no, everyone laughed at him for weeks after,” Adhlea quickly assured the brunette. “Until he got his vallaslin when we were fifteen.” She brushed her hands across her forehead, forgetting it was covered by make-up. “Of course, he was also drunk that time, too.”
Merrill’s eyes widened. “Your clan keeps alcohol?”
“Not usually.” Adhlea grimaced. “He wanted to get it done by me, as he had done my vallaslin. It is usually left to the Keeper, due to the magic it requires,” she added for the benefit of the table. “But Syven and I are the only elvhen twins that have magic, so Keeper Istimaethoriel allowed it. And the alcohol. I still do not touch wine.”
“Should I –“ Hawke stood, reaching for her glass.
“I am grateful that you ask, but having it sit there reminds me of something. I will drink it tonight,” Adhlea added, glancing once more at Merrill. “It is a little early, but perhaps you and I can celebrate the new year tonight?”
Merrill beamed brightly.
“Of course!” she gushed.
Fenris sat next to his newfound sister.
“Are you leaving?”
His new sister didn’t look at him. “I did not think you would want me to stay.” She hesitated, then pushed on. “Varaina is accompanying me when I leave. I asked her to upon hearing her speak with Hawke.”
“Well, at least she’ll be gone.” Fenris shifted. “There’s something happening in Kirkwall. I’m staying.”
She nodded. “Right. Well, Hawke offered us rooms for the night. Do you mind if Varaina and I sleep here?”
Fenris shook his head. “You should be – “
Something exploded across Kirkwall. Fenris was standing by the time he could fully see what was going on; his sister stood and nearly tripped over her own feet.
Fenris was able to stop her from falling on her face.
“A mage,” his sister muttered. “I can feel their magic.”
“We should check it out,” he said, tugging her forward.
She shook her head. “I can’t,” she said. “I won’t go to a Circle.”
Fenris stared at her. “Then you should go,” he said after a moment.
Hurt flashed over her face before it was smoothed over. “Dareth shiral, Fenris.”
He didn’t know what it meant; he did not know elvhen. But he found himself tossing what she’d said back to her; maybe he did not say it right, but the smile she tossed over her shoulder made him feel less like he’d never see her again.
“Dareth shiral, Adhlea,” he called.
A clear time skip. Takes place 4-5 months after Kirkwall. Shortened the time period. Might change something later. Let ya know if I do!
“We have siblings?” Syven inspected Varaina, getting up close and personal to her. Ghilan’nain’s markings were vivid on his face. “Weird. I didn’t think we’d have flat-ears as siblings.”
Adhlea snorted. “Well, I’d say don’t be rude, but – no offense, Varaina – we Dalish don’t tend to filter ourselves.”
Varaina giggled, sounding a bit nervous as she smoothed down her skirts. “I like this set up,” Varaina admitted. “You have servants, food in your belly…”
“I tend to let the servants do what they want since I’ve hired more from the Val Royeaux alienage,” Adhlea admitted. “Most of them are… very Andrastrian. As you can tell, my brother and I are not.”
Syven grinned at Varaina. “Her husband doesn’t know she keeps a miniature shrine for the elvhen gods in her room,” he whispered theatrically.
“I do not,” Adhlea said, lifting her nose snootily. “It’s on the veranda.”
She collapsed into giggles at Varaina’s wide-eyed look.
“Clan Lavellan isn’t revivalist,” Syven told Varaina matter-of-factly. “We do worship our gods, but our Keeper is firmly grounded on gaining political allies by way of Adhlea. If that means Adhlea turning a little native, then she’s not too upset by it.”
“I’m not going native, Syven,” Adhlea growled. “I had to gather some allies. I have several pieces of blackmail about Vivienne that I could use if she ever decided to try to force me into a Circle; I am friends with Lady Florianne, who seems to have her hands in lots of areas, and I’ve recently gotten a message from the advisor to the Empress, Lady Briala.” Adhlea arched a brow. “The Empress’ elvhen lover.”
Syven’s mouth hung open.
“All this in about a year since your marriage?” he gaped, staring at her.
Adhlea nodded. “Believe me, I’d rather not do this political dancing. It’s not meant for me, yet I’ve gotten damn good at it. Making allies in Val Royeaux does well for me as well, as I’m slowly getting more elves free from the alienage.”
“You’ve stated you’re very pro-elf, then,” Varaina said, her eyes sharp. “Doesn’t that give you enemies?”
Adhlea gave her a sharp grin. “Vivienne has given me lessons on buying and reaping the benefits,” she said with that same grin on her face. “First day I was in Val Royeaux with her I managed to haggle with some of the lords that control the alienage. I get a percentage of the benefits now; any enemies I make, I will make because I am an elf in a high position, not because I am pro-elf. The city elves think this is some sort of alienage, of course, but it’s not. It’s working and living in far better conditions. If the shem have words to say, they’ll look to Gaspard. With Vivienne seen with me, though, it is better for everybody if they don’t say a word.”
“Wow,” Syven muttered, shaking his head. “Do you admit your lack of belief in their Maker?”
“I admitted I believe Andraste was real,” Adhlea said, “and that I am still very Dalish. My beliefs are firm.”
“Divine Justinia!” Divine Justinia smiled at the very Dalish elf she’d sent Leliana with. The Duchess was still very small, but from what Justinia had heard of her she was quite adept at the Game.
Seeing elves working in amazing conditions – especially since there were no clear markers to indicate who was who – made Justinia privately wonder if the Chantry was going to call an Exalted March on them. There were even elvhen guards mixed with the humans – though, again, it seemed they were recruited for their opinion on elves rather than their greater ability.
Also… to be frank, Justinia wondered if her husband agreed with this, although she did assume with a chateau with these large gardens and an almost obscene amount of yard such workers were necessary.
Who would be insane enough to steal from the Grand Duke himself? She didn’t know.
(She did hear something about there being a crazy Dalish elf living here, but Justinia very firmly did not judge, especially since an offense against a member of royalty – even a Dalish elf – would result in even Justinia’s death [maybe].)
Someone peeked around the elf she’d met. Justinia hid any surprise as this one was un-masked and a few years older than the rumors said Gaspard’s wife was.
“Great, the Divine’s here. Should I hide the shrine to our gods, sis?”
Justinia laughed as her Sisters stiffened.
“I apologize for not sending forth a warning letter, my dear. The lord at Haven made it expressly clear we were to seek you first.”
The woman blinked at her from behind her mask.
“Might I ask why, Divine?”
Justinia’s brows rose. “Grand Duke Gaspard did not tell you? The village Haven and its surroundings in the Frostbacks are owned by you,” she explained, patiently. “The lords that own several villages answer to you. Of course, the king of Ferelden was most displeased with the Grand Duke’s actions when he bought it, but the Grand Duke took the land for his previous wife right before she died. The land was given to you to do as you saw fit.”
The redheaded woman beside the young duchess looked at Justinia with an open mouth.
“Did I just hear that right? You own almost an entire fucking mountain range?”
“What,” the duchess said, her voice strangled.
The redheaded man that appeared, bristling with more weaponry than half the guards, was very wild-looking. He, too, shared height with the duchess; his own face had an almost feminine quality to it; were it not for the scowl, he would have definitely, and presumably, looked like the young duchess.
Even the scars that marred his face didn’t seem to detract from it as mercurial silver eyes met theirs.
“What do you need her land for?”
“Due to you not having the land before now, the village known as Haven has been repaired,” Justinia informed the duchess, watching as the man with silver eyes stared at her with boredom, “and the Temple of Sacred Ashes, where the Urn of Andraste was once held, is a religious site. However, due to events that happened in Kirkwall recently, we have come to ask for you to come to the Temple in the next few weeks to give any insight into the events.”
Justinia did not add in her writ for the Inquisition quite yet.
“I see.” The duchess smiled at Justinia. “Did you need a testimonial for everything that happened, or do you simply need whatever I saw?”
“I was there, too,” piped up Varaina.
“Varaina, you were asleep,” the duchess said in a dry voice. “Evander was there, and he picked you and ran through the city.”
“Just you,” Justinia admitted.
The duchess nodded. “I will be there,” she promised.
Chapter 10: The Breach
Adhlea dropped her mask as she opened the doors. A grotesque person was fucking floating and doing something to Justinia. And templars. The smell of old lyrium sickened her, but she mustered the courage to speak her mind.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
She was in fighting leathers due to the fact wearing a dress was like asking to die or worse, but there was no way Justinia didn’t recognize her voice. She saw the terror inside of Justinia’s eyes; where Justinia had once screamed for help, there was only despair in her eyes now.
“Run!” Justinia shouted. Adhlea’s eyes flashed.
“Kill the elf,” the gross guy said, looking back at Justinia.
Adhlea may not have used a knife in a few months, but there was no way she forgot. She was no rogue, yes; but self-defense lessons both with her clan, her brother, and the elven chevaliers who came back to the chateau (to not let Celene know that Gaspard was actually training elves; they tended to not call themselves cheveliers. Still) to teach the other women even a little bit of self-defense made it habit to carry her best close-range weapon with her under her fighting leathers.
She threw the knife at the floating guy. He jerked back, the orb falling to the ground.
“STOP!” bellowed the man as everyone lunged to it. Everyone paused for a fraction of the second, the humming power gone.
Justinia was slowly getting paler. Adhlea jumped for it, sliding underneath a templar and practically falling on the ground, stretching out -
Her hand touched it. Agony made her scream –
“Give it to me, you – “
No! She slammed her burning hand on the orb.
Everything happened too fast after that.
The world exploded in a haze of green and stone and something was glowing.
However long it took to reach that glowing figure, Adhlea didn’t know. All she knew were spiders coming after her and trying to kill her.
She crawled faster as the figure urged her to hurry. The glowing figure shoved her through something, and then she was falling forward.
She slammed onto solid stone, her consciousness deserting her.
When she woke, she was being yelled at.
She couldn’t understand through the haze of pain pulsating through her.
Her arm was grasped. A scream left her lips as it came alive, her eyes squinting at her.
“I don’t know,” Adhlea gasped out, shaking her head. “I don’t know what happened – one minute – “
She frowned, trying to remember –
“Why were you spying at the Conclave?” Her concentration to remember broke.
“I wasn’t,” Adhlea responded honestly. “Divine Justinia invited me herself – I was in Kirkwall when the mage blew apart half the wall.”
The Seeker dropped her hand in shock.
“Why?” she demanded, her vision latching onto – Leliana? The woman shook her head an infintisimal amount. For the love of the Creators, we’re STILL playing the fucking Game right now?! “What happened?” She returned to gazing at the woman in Seeker’s clothes.
“You were the only survivor,” Leliana announced. “The Conclave exploded.”
Adhlea’s eyes widened in horror. “What about the Divine?”
Leliana shook her head. Adhlea swallowed in guilt; she actually did remember Justinia screaming for help – then telling her to run for some reason.
“Why were you invited to the Conclave? What would a Dalish elf have to do with it?” The Seeker was scowling.
“If I tell you, Cassandra,” Leliana said, causing Cassandra to give her a furious scowl, “then the story must be said she is a spy. Rook, that goes to you as well; both stories must be kept under wraps, but people will assume the worst.” The guard shifted. Adhlea took that as him being both Rook and acknowledging Leliana’s command.
Cassandra gritted her teeth.
“Then speak,” Cassandra spat, hand on her sword.
“She was invited because she was in Kirkwall the night the mages rebelled,” Leliana said. “As was I. She was my escort. Grand Duchess Adhlea Kerrah Lavellan de Chalons.”
Cassandra’s hand dropped in shock. Along with her mouth.
“Telling people will probably bring undue attention,” Adhlea added, widening her eyes; it may have had the effect of innocence, but she was trying not to cry. Justinia is dead. “I don’t know what’s happened, but – well.” Adhlea shrugged. “I’ll do what I can to help.”
Cullen nodded at Minaeve as the mage hurried into Haven before glancing up at the people approaching. “Seeker, Leliana…” he trailed off to look at the elf with the glowing hand.
“Adhlea,” the woman supplied. “Elf with glowing hand, if you don’t want to call me by that name.”
Despite the seriousness of the situation, he chuckled at her bravado. He could tell she was using whatever inner defenses she had. Terror shone through her eyes.
“Do we have enough soldiers to escort her to the Breach?” Seeker Pentaghast glared at him.
“No, Seeker,” Cullen shook his head. “Leliana, could you hold Father Roderick off?” Leliana whirled and stalked off, taking the lord aside and beginning to speak to him a rushed whisper. “Seeker, you’ll have to take her up there or simply pray that it won’t spit out more demons.”
It pulsed, the glowing mark on the elf’s hand to spark. The elf gritted her teeth and clenched her fist.
“Whatever it’s doing, it’s fucking with my hand,” she ground out. “We need to hurry before I pass out again.”
“You think you will?” Seeker Pentaghast looked alarmed.
“No, Seeker. I’m totally fine. I just have a fucking glowy bit in my hand that hurts more than getting my damn vallaslin, and I nearly passed out then,” the elf snapped at the other. “Now if we could hurry along, then I’d like to make sure the world isn’t going to end.”
The Seeker scoffed before stalking past Cullen.
“If you’ve got any available personnel, send them our way,” she ordered briskly, striding forward. “We’ll attempt to close it.”
“You might meet the apostate and the dwarf up the road!” he called after them. He had no idea if she heard him.
No idea if anyone reads this, but here it is - at this point, my Lavellan is extremely terrified. I did not show it too well due to me writing this at 2am and currently not being able to add things to it 'cause WORK, but hopefully you understand.
In the heat of the moment, Varric was glad Chuckles was around. Otherwise, this tiny breach would’ve overrun them long before; as it was, he was running out of bolts and he didn’t really like knives.
Chuckles’ ice magic was suddenly joined by blazing fire. The demons seemed to turn, en masse, to gaze at the new mage.
“Get out of the way!”
An immolation circle appeared below him.
Chuckles froze him before he could move. In hindsight, it was a good thing, too – the mage had only given him about a second’s warning before the immolation circle exploded into a fiery inferno.
“Give me your hand!” Chuckles barked at the new person as the ice wore off; he turned to see a line of green connecting a young elvhen woman’s hand to the rip.
She tugged it seemingly unconsciously, and it closed with a pop.
Now that he could see her, he realized that patches of her hair were definitely white, but the rest was an almost ruby color.
“Good to see you here,” Varric announced, causing violet eyes to gaze at him. “Varric Tethras. Heard you dropped out of the Fade. And this is Bianca,” he nodded towards Bianca.
A smirk appeared on her lips, her eyes turning to Bianca. Varric waited for the inevitable you named your crossbow Bianca? moment. “You were in Kirkwall, weren’t you? Hawke spoke of you.”
Varric blinked before snorting.
“Ah, you must be that Dalish elf she mentioned in passing before she vanished. Nice to meet you.”
“And I am Solas, if there must be introductions,” Chuckles interrupted, causing the other elf to offer him a smile.
“Adhlea Lavellan,” she said. “How did you know it would work?”
She wiggled her fingers.
Solas shrugged his head. “I did not,” he admitted evenly. “I took a risk.”
“Shall we continue?” Seeker Pentaghast looked like she was vibrating with frustration. “I would very much like to pull the sky back together.”
“There’s only a giant hole in it!” the elf woman grinned sarcastically. “Might take a few tries. Just because I’ve got magic fingers doesn’t mean I’m all-powerful, Seeker.”
“I have lyrium potions,” Solas offered.
The female mage turned to the male. “Thank you, but I would honestly rather die before I take lyrium potions, Solas.”
She spun on her heel and began to run towards the hole in the sky.
Any panic she felt was forced into a ball, to be used as fuel for later as she faced the Pride demon. She used her meager rogue skills and vanished.
See, it was possible for a rogue to be a mage and vice versa. If you had the aptitude for both, you trained for both. Training in only one when you could do both was just stupid and could cost a lot of lives; Syven was amazing at being a rogue, not so much with magic despite him being the clan’s First. Adhlea was amazing with magic, not so much with her rogue abilities. Even so, she summoned electricity to fry this guy before leaping on it. Yes, there was a risk of friendly fire, but this was worth it.
Adhlea had only done this once, and that was when she’d been thirteen and templars had found her in the woods. After they’d finished with her, she’d refused to be their victim.
One had burned as her blades sunk into her flesh. The other had fallen victim to her own blood and wolves’ teeth. One had ran as she’d killed his fellow templars.
Adhlea made this demon burn as she poured her pain into it, fire flaring into existence on the weapons, boiling the demon from the inside. She shoved all her emotions into those points, ignoring the electricity washing over her as it tried to get her off, as Solas used his abilities.
It exploded, sending her flying. Her body slammed into a wall.
She could feel bones cracking, but still; she got up. She got up, trembling as she faced the Breach.
She pushed her hand to the sky. Her arm glowed, pain jabbing into her body and making her vision darken. A line connected the two; Adhlea felt like it resisted her. She poured her mana into her shaking arm, feeling the Breach reluctantly fuse together.
She closed it.
“Yes!” Cassandra shouted, her face littered with shallow cuts.
“Yay,” she mumbled before the ground rushed up to meet her face, not five feet away from the previous place she’d passed out at; she didn’t know she didn’t hit it because of a quick apostate elf.
When she woke up, she was on a hard bed. Given that she’d always slept on the loveseat in her own spacious rooms in the chateau Gaspard had given to her, she was not ungrateful; she was simply surprised at how badly her back hurt.
A door opened. She turned. The elf dropped the plate, looking shocked.
“Oh, apologies,” the elf gasped, bowing. “Leliana will want to know you’re awake!”
“Wait – “
“She said at once, Herald!”
Herald? The title stunned her for long enough that the elf was gone. She heard the loud mutters cease; Adhlea sat up, glanced at the shoes and then the bandages on the table.
It would be a bit harder; she had grown accustomed to shoes, but she’d forego them for now. Adhlea quickly bandaged her feet and ignored her hair, instead just leaving it as it was.
She did run her fingers through it, just in case.
She then got out of bed fully, stepping to the door and opening it.
Sweet Sylaise, there were dozens of people out there, bowing their heads.
She walked past them. “Herald,” some of them muttered. “Andraste,” others whispered.
I am not Andraste, she thought with a certain amount of horror as she practically fled to the Chantry. Her beliefs, despite the amount of elvhen servants she’d collected from Val Royeaux’s very Andrastrian alienage, remained staunchly Dalish.
She heard a Chantry man blustering. “She is not Andraste, nor her Herald! This is heresy!”
“Then, good ser, I suppose you can burn me at the stake,” she said, interrupting whatever Commander Rutherford was going to say. “Then we can all cheerfully leave this place and you can go back to your daily live – oh, wait.” She snapped her fingers, enjoying the bewilderment on Leliana’s and Cassandra’s faces as she did so. “I’ve got the only thing that can stop the fucking hole in the sky from growing any bigger. Unless you want it?” She lifted her arm, then trailed her eyes over it. “Damn. What do you know, my arm isn’t removable.”
“And you wouldn’t want to hang her quite yet,” Leliana said, her voice measured, “for we still have not ascertained whether or not a corpse could close the Breach; given the fact it has nearly killed her before and nearly vanished both times, we can assume not.”
The Chantry man spluttered incoherently. He ran off with a glare, babbling about telling the clerics in Val Royeaux. Adhlea turned to Cullen.
“I know him,” she announced, turning to Leliana. “He and a mage named Minaeve came to my residence.”
Cullen’s jaw dropped. “Forgive me, I – “
“In front of everyone, address her as Herald,” Leliana hissed, gesturing for them to enter the Chantry. “It is for the good of everyone involved. Knowing her as the Duchess now would only cause them to lose faith in the Inquisition.”
“Faith in an organization that is barely a month old,” Adhlea said, glancing to Cullen as they tread the length of the Chantry. “I assumed you wanted me known as Andraste’s Herald so whichever way this goes, faith in the Inquisition sparks?”
Leliana simply offered her an enigmatic smile.
“I assume that you’ll need to return to your home soon,” Leliana told her, “if you are not going to use your title anyway.”
“Only if my husband comes to visit,” Adhlea replied as Leliana opened the furthest door. “And even then, if he comes it shall be from Orlais and he does not tend to check and see if I am in the chateau the moment he arrives.”
Leliana chuckled lightly. “It seems you are well-aware of this fact.”
“I asked a servant to pose as me in my rooms to see if Gaspard would see if I was there while I spent the week in the woods,” Adhlea said dryly. “She told me that he did not come the entire week.”
Leliana stared at her for a moment. “Your marriage is certainly unconventional.”
Adhlea tilted her head. “Perhaps.”
A throat cleared.
Adhlea turned to gaze at the rather outrageously-dressed woman; seeing as her gaze was pleasant, Adhlea assumed this one was rather keen on being nice rather than playing the Game.
“Andaran atish’an,” the woman greeted.
Adhlea’s jaw dropped.
“You speak Elvhen?” she asked, her eyes bright and a smile on her face.
The woman smiled sheepishly. “You just heard the summation of my knowledge, actually,” she said. Antivan, then. “I am Josephine Montilyet, diplomat from Antiva. ‘Tis a pleasure indeed to meet you, Herald.”
Adhlea sighed. “I thank you, Josephine. I go by Kerrah.”
Adhlea was for clan, not outsiders.
The door opened behind them once more. Cassandra entered. Adhlea turned, her eyes meeting the human warrior’s. Cassandra looked away, then her eyes skittered down her clothes.
“Whose idea was to dress her in such clothes?” Cassandra questioned as she looked down at the clothes Adhlea was currently wearing.
“No idea,” Leliana said, frowning. “Is there something wrong with it?”
Adhlea glanced down.
“I don’t see anything wrong with it,” she said after a moment.
“You are a mage, are you not?”
Adhlea nodded, blinking.
“Those clothes aren’t fit for anyone but a servant,” Cassandra criticized.
Just for that… “Do only elven servants wear this?” She wasn’t oblivious. Even the servants at the chateau wore at least a band identifying them as servants of the de Chalons household. Here in Haven she’d noticed that there were more elves wearing this clothing than there were humans.
Cassandra frowned. “Yes, but what has that got to do with anything? You are a noble.”
“I will wear what I wish,” Adhlea said, curtly. “Now, what is it you dragged me here for, exactly?” She turned to Leliana, anger in her veins. Anger that she tried to suppress, but…
“I wanted to ask you if you would go to the Hinterlands to find a Chantry mother,” Leliana said, gazing at her. “There are also a number of Breach rifts in the Hinterlands. Taking care of them might be a way to gather more supporters.”
Adhlea nodded. “Who would I be taking?”
Leliana looked surprised. “I was thinking it would take a lot more to get you to talk to a Chantry mother,” she said, before her eyes narrowed as Adhlea raised a single brow. “Ah. I see.”
“Exactly,” Adhlea nodded. “So long as she does not try to convert me, I’m fine.”
It was at that moment everyone in the room seemed to connect just why.
“You’re not Andrastrian, still,” Cullen blurted.
Adhlea smiled and shook her head.
“I will never be,” she promised. “Who am I taking?”
The first journey was painful. Cassandra had the map, but they had to take a quick detour due to their lack of horses. Solas’ face was neutral upon seeing the sprawling estate, Cassandra’s eyes were wide at the lack of guards on the outside of the iron gate and wall, and Varric just whistled.
“Wow, Dahlia. Didn’t know you were this rich,” Varric said, sounding rather impressed.
“Well, it’s not something I like to boast,” Adhlea muttered, “to people that are not in the know.”
The Game, of course, was about making hidden threats and using money to follow through. She whistled, a piercing bird’s cry that shattered the peace of the day.
Her brother appeared and slammed her to the ground, a fist slamming next to her head.
“You –“ he looked like he was struggling not to swear, then abandoned it. “Fenedhis lasa, asa’ma’lin! I thought the Void had taken you!”
Adhlea rolled her eyes and used her strength to shove him off.
“I’m alive, little brother,” she said, standing as he did. “Unfortunately, brother... I’m known now as the Herald of Andraste because of this.” She lifted her dominant hand. Yes, she used both, but it was far harder to do things with her right than her left. She’d only started using her right with regularity since she’d married Gaspard due to Vivienne pointing out people would know she was left-handed if the ink kept smearing her letters.
Her brother’s silver eyes narrowed at the green cracks in her skin.
“I’m guessing it has something to do with the hole in the sky,” he said, slowly. “Still, best we don’t talk out here.”
They don’t have time for tea, even as Varaina appeared and hugged her.
“Varaina, we’re on a mission,” Adhlea said to her, clasping her hands in a way she knew would instinctively calm her, like she’d calmed Calia. “Please have the others not say anything about this. I’d rather not Gaspard know right now.”
It took a minute. Varaina looked excited.
“Does that mean I get to pretend to be you?”
Adhlea took a deep breath. “Please don’t,” she requested. “You can’t wear a mask to save your life. If Gaspard announces his arrival, send me a letter and I’ll be here as fast as I can. Evander will look over the staff; I apologize for this.”
Varaina shook her head. “I understand,” she said, her eyes flashing with a fire Adhlea had never seen before. “It has to do with the Conclave, right?”
“I thought you were dead,” Syven said, looking ill at ease as he stared at her. “Asa’ma’lin –“ He looked at her, and she looked down, ashamed. His face hadn’t changed, but his eyes said everything.
You almost left me alone.
I didn’t mean to, little brother.
“I’m going to tell Keeper Istimaethoriel,” Syven announced.
“You do that,” Adhlea said with a smile. “Keep Varaina safe, brother. I came to borrow some horses. I’m headed to the Hinterlands.”
“Oh. No, I’m coming –“
Adhlea gave him her Look. The Look had been Keeper Deshanna’s before The Incident which led to Syven’s vallaslin, but Adhlea had had years to perfect it.
“Protect. Varaina,” she ordered. “Or ask another from the clan to do it.”
Syven hesitated, but finally nodded as he scowled.
“That’s one of your clan-mates?”
Adhlea blinked over at Solas.
“My brother, yes,” she replied, once more turning to face the front even as they entered the Hinterlands from the east. They had yet to get to the Crossroads – that would take another day and a half more.
“Your situation… Is unique, I presume?”
Adhlea snorted. “You presume correctly. I’m the only elf in all of Thedas to have such a position. Dalish, heathen – all of that. I would have an easier time if I were not a mage.”
“A Dalish mage. Talking about your Keeper suggests you remain in contact with them?” It was posed as a question. Adhlea sighed, looking up at the sky. She could not see the edges of the Breach this far from it; good, that meant her clan shouldn’t be able to see most of it.
“My Keeper sends my brother to check up on me,” she said after a long moment, “because she knows I would not do well with the other members of the clan. They… Do not like what my Keeper has bid me to do, and do not think I do enough. Syven alone… He, and his judgement – or lack of – I can handle. Although, he does not get along with other women.” She threw a teasing glance at Solas. “He was halfway to throwing himself upon you.”
Solas, for a city elf, took no offense at that.
Cassandra cleared her throat as Solas went to speak.
“Your brother chooses the company of men?” Cassandra looked mildly confused.
Adhlea glanced at her. “My brother chooses whatever gender he desires on the day he desires it,” she informed Cassandra dryly. “I, personally, desire men more than women. However, if the Dread Wolf comes to me as a woman, I wouldn’t hesitate.”
Solas chuckled. “Isn’t the Dread Wolf, in your mythology, a male?”
“Ah, but the Dread Wolf is a trickster,” Adhlea corrected sagely. “I’ve no doubt that, should the Dread Wolf wish, they would come as a woman. I’d still have no complaints.”
“I’d hate to be your Dread Wolf,” Varric remarked. “You seem to have a plan in mind should you encounter him.”
Adhlea nodded, turning to him. “Merrill has one, no?” she questioned; Varric shook his head.
“Merrill was…” Varric heaved a sigh. “Merrill was banished from Clan Sabrae.”
Adhlea’s eyes widened.
“Why?” she realized her voice was loud. “Why?” she repeated, softer.
Varric looked ill at ease. “Few months ago, before the Seeker over there dragged me from Kirkwall, she found something in the Arbor Wilds – however, a witch there informed the Empress and humans took it.”
Adhlea frowned. “What could be so important that she’d be banished from Clan Sabrae?”
Varric shrugged. “She called it an Eluvian or something.”
Adhlea jerked her horse’s reins to a complete stop.
“An Eluvian?” she repeated. “A human informed Celene about it? Why? Humans can’t use it.”
“Unless they know how to enter it,” Solas added, so low it might not have been meant for Adhlea to hear.
“Why’s an Eluvian so important?” Cassandra demanded.
Adhlea flicked her reins, glancing at Solas. She may not know him, but right then, they exchanged glances of concern.
“No reason,” Adhlea lied through her teeth. “So long as they don’t figure out how to use it,” she added under her breath, spurring her horse on.
Solas remained silent as he watched the young elf talking with Mother Giselle, looking at her in quite a new light. She was married to the Grand Duke of the shem, still in contact with her clan, and was unaffiliated with any Circle.
She had power, money, and was changing things slowly, even if it was in her own chateau. It didn’t escape his eyes that all the servants save a few were elves. He truly didn’t doubt her Dalish heritage, for she had spoken rather proudly of it before. She had not broken by the shem, but –
Maybe it was just Solas. There was an air about her around templars, even when they’d managed to run into a few. She stayed well away from them.
Maybe it was just a fear of Circles – Solas doubted it as he thought it. He dismissed it moments later as she scooted back an inch as templars appeared to glare threateningly at her.
The templars turned. Adhlea was gone before they could make a stride, a barrier settling around her as she darted towards the apostate mages.
“Mages!” she called, loudly. “Please, stop attacking the innocents!”
“They have labeled us apostates! We are people as well as mages. Please step aside,” the mage added. For a killer, the mage was rather polite.
The second mage summoned a fireball. “Get the fuck out of here, knife-ear,” the mage sneered. “Or I’ll roast you.”
Adhlea withdrew her own staff, fireballs igniting and swirling around the tip.
Solas frowned minutely. If she’d been taken to a Circle, she should’ve been unmarked. Not many got their vallaslin early in life; certainly not early enough for her to be showing this level of skill. Dalish mages seemed to be devastating when it came to a few selective attacks, but didn’t tend to be able to hold fireballs at the tip of their staves as this one was doing.
(He may have slept for a few… [thousand, give or take] centuries, but he did hear things. Plus, Knowledge was a friend of his.)
“I may be a knife-ear,” Adhlea said, her voice angry, “but I’m also the only one willing to spare your fucking lives, you damned fools. So, put down your fucking staves and I’ll let you join the Inquisition. Deal?”
“You’re –“the second mage’s fireball sputtered. “You’re part of the Inquisition? I heard they hated mages!”
“The Maker loves all,” Mother Giselle called out, the two templars pausing in their silent approach to the trio of mages. “’Tis why she is here, the beloved Herald of Andraste!”
Solas raised a brow. Daring move.
The two apostates were being joined by others now. Solas moved, taking his own staff out just in case. He heard Varric and Cassandra move as the first mage finally spoke again.
“You’re a Dalish, Andrastrian elf?”
“I am not the Herald of Andraste,” Adhlea said, very firmly. “I believe Andraste may have existed, after all there are texts, but I am Dalish. Sweet Sylaise, I feel like I explain that to everyone!”
The second mage and the first one look towards the approaching group.
“Look,” the first mage said, looking very earnest, “we believe you; we do. It’s just hard to when there’s Templars everywhere. The apostates…” The first mage looked to the second. “Look, just go to the Witchwood and ask for Lady Trevelyan. She’ll talk with you, but she’s got a temper.”
Solas looked to Adhlea. At that moment, Adhlea had a wild grin on her face.
“I look forward to meeting her,” she said, her voice deadly.
Lady Elaine Trevelyan, of House Trevelyan in Ostwick and formerly of the Kirkwall Circle, eyed the returning apostate mages with annoyance in her eyes.
“She’s the bleedin’ Herald of Andraste!” Her second-in-command, Arthur, looked horrified. “And an elf, at that!”
Elaine blinked at him. “Excuse me? What did you just say?”
Elaine wasn’t a believer in the Chantry. She did believe in the Maker, just… Not to the point of adoring the Chant. Essentially, she wasn’t an extremist. She did not believe that elves were inferior; in fact, her third-in-command was an elf; was. Minaeve had left to join some Inquisition thing at the request of a Chantry sister.
“Well, the Chantry mother we saw at the Crossroads said she was,” her new third, a woman by the name of Allana, said, shoving Arthur away. “But she claimed to be Dalish; even had those markings Minaeve claimed were on most Dalish. So, I told her to come here.”
Allana was not easy to fool. If Allana exposed their hideout, then it was best the apostates be ready for her.
“How long until they come?” Elaine asked after a moment.
Allana shook her head. “Not long, I’d guess.”
Indeed, it wasn’t. Light was fading by the time the Dalish elf and her group came, thankfully without templars. Allana was watching the front, making certain their wards weren’t shattered by enemy templars (seeing as, yes, some templars like Evangeline had decided to stay with their ward – not because they feared that they might do what that one mage had done in Kirkwall, but because of love.).
Elaine took a deep breath, standing up and feeling quite like she was getting ready to be put on trial.
Varric could not make this shit up if he tried. A Dalish mage called the Herald of a Maker she didn’t believe in, a hedge mage with no fashion sense, a Seeker who tended to hit first and ask questions never (unless the Divine called for it), and a dwarf all gathered in front of a bunch of human apostate mages.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the Dalish mage in question was currently married into the royal family of Orlais.
It did show here, as well. As Adhlea stood in front of Lady Trevelyan, she looked like a noble. One noble to another.
“Lady Trevelyan,” Adhlea began, folding her arms behind her back, awkwardly around her staff, “I am Kerrah Lavellan of Clan Lavellan. I request that you and your mages consider joining the Inquisition.”
“Why should we?” Lady Trevelyan looked like she was at home on her throne of roots. “You cannot guarantee our safety, Herald.” Her sneer was obvious.
“I am a mage, myself, Lady Trevelyan,” Adhlea said calmly. “Besides, once it is known, I can guarantee your safety personally.”
“How?” Lady Trevelyan stood, glaring down at her. “You cannot stop the tides of templars from coming – “
“I can,” Adhlea interrupted fiercely. “The Inquisition accepts any. If I must, I shall use my sway as Herald – “
“Herald of a Maker you do not believe in,” Lady Trevelyan said, shaking her head. “How can I believe you? Give me something, a title you perceive is yours. You hold yourself as nobility – indeed with the confidence of a woman with titles abound – yet you have not said a word of them. Give me an assurance of your nobility, and I will decide if that sway is good enough.”
Varric couldn’t see Adhlea’s face, but he could see her hands tightening, squeezing each other – until they relaxed.
Adhlea straightened even further.
“I am Grand Duchess de Chalons,” she said, clearly. “I am wife of the Grand Duke Gaspard, and I hold the title of Duchess of the Frostbacks. So yes, I guarantee your safety, Lady Trevelyan; I am family, if only by extension, of the Empress herself.”
Lady Trevelyan narrowed her eyes.
“How do I not know you lie?” she asked, suspiciously.
“You do not,” Adhlea replied easily. “You can only trust me by my word. I belong to no Circle, and I am no Andrastrian. I am an apostate, same as you. I will do whatever the fuck it takes to make this world better, and if that means flinging my word around carelessly, I will do it.”
Lady and Duchess met gaze-for-gaze.
Then Lady Trevelyan slumped and sat back down, groaning.
“We’ll take it,” the apostate said. “You going to offer the templars a chance, too?”
“Any templar that doesn’t attempt to kill us,” Adhlea replied, relaxing completely.
Lady Trevelyan nodded, looking world-weary. “Some in the camp are templars.”
“Some of the Inquisition are templars,” replied Adhlea. “Some are Seekers, some are civilians.”
The Lady Trevelyan looked up at her with a frown. “You said, if the templars don’t try to kill you. Why that stipulation? You did not have it for the mages, who attempted an attack.”
“Ah, but I like mages,” Adhlea said, in a bright tone. “Also, templars and Dalish elves don’t tend to mix that well. Not the marked ones, anyway.”
She brushed a hand on her face.
Lady Trevelyan nodded once more. “We’ve no room for more people in our camps, I’m afraid. I’ll send my third with you. Allana, take good care of them.”
“Would be my pleasure, Lady Elaine,” the mage who’d told them the location said with a bright smile.
Varric really couldn’t make this shit up. It was strange enough to see Adhlea as an elven figurehead for a god she didn’t believe in, let alone a Grand Duchess – which meant –
“You hold the land of the Frostbacks?” Cassandra was the quickest to pick at the elf.
He could see her face change as she passed him, her lips drawing tight and her shoulders hunching minutely.
“I had no knowledge of it until I was called to come to the Conclave,” she said, her voice low.
They met with Horsemaster Dennet, who apparently supplied the horses for Orlesian nobility. Allana was friendly, seemingly worry-free. They were severely lucky that they didn’t run into any templars right then; Adhlea only groaned when they heard about the wolf problem.
“We can’t go to the Inquisition without someone taking care of the wolves,” Dennet said, shaking his head as he spoke with Allana. “We’d help – any cause that the Divine was planning on creating – but we just don’t have the ability to protect our druffalo. Oh, and there’s something spawning demons.”
Adhlea closed her eyes.
“You are all welcome to stay here for the night,” the horsemaster wrapped up. “Should templars come knocking, I’ll send ‘em the other way.”
They were shown to an empty horse stall that looked like it hadn’t been used for ages. Adhlea wouldn’t complain; sleeping on hay was better than sleeping on the ground.
Yet… Even as she lay there, under the horse stall, she couldn’t fall asleep.
She stood and padded out; Solas was out there, too – a fact she hadn’t noticed in a while.
The apostate turned to her as she approached; she hesitated for a moment.
“Cannot sleep, Mistress Lavellan?”
Perhaps it was the way he said her name. Not Herald, not Duchess… Syven himself was the only person in years to not call her Duchess or miss. Not even her clan-mates called her Adhlea. They called her ‘Second’. As in, Second to Syven’s First.
“No,” she said quietly, remaining standing. “You?”
“I find myself unwilling to go into the Fade this night.” She distantly recalled he was something called a ‘dreamer’. She’d never met one. Deshanna had never said if her mother was one, though she sincerely doubted it. “Please, sit.”
She shook herself out of her thoughts and sat next to him. His presence was very comforting; maybe it was because he was a mage? Adhlea did not quite know.
“I hope I do not bother you,” she murmured to him quietly.
“You do not,” he replied, just as quietly. Then, “Were you brought up as a First?”
She looked to him in confusion. “I’m sorry?” she tried.
“I realize many of your mannerisms are similar to the Firsts I’ve encountered in the Fade,” Solas said, rather quickly. “You’re quiet, but then you can be quite deadly. Forgive my curiosity.”
“I was fourteen when I got my vallaslin,” she said after a momentary silence. “One of the first in my generation. My brother did mine with Keeper Istimaethoriel’s help. You must know few twins are born in the clans, let alone a pair of magical twins,” she added, a wry twitch to her lips. “Our father was not a mage, but we assume our mother was. Anyway, I was chosen that summer to be Keeper Istimaethoriel’s First, while Syven was to be the backup.” She paused. “I was barely fifteen when Gaspard decided to threaten my clan’s safety in order for him to gain a wife. My keeper agreed to the terms; the order was re-arranged, and I became Keeper Istimaethoriel’s Second.”
“You assume your mother was?” Solas questioned, still in that calm voice.
“Our mother was killed by Tevene slavers not soon after we turned four,” Adhlea said, softly. “She was of Clan Sabrae, so Clan Sabrae only ever allowed her to see us when they were in the area. She was visiting and got killed by them; luckily for my brother and I the rest of the clan came back not long afterwards.”
Neither she nor Syven recalled their mother’s face. Deshanna had assured her it was only trauma. But meeting Varaina and knowing that Syven’s and Adhlea’s father did not have red hair, both had to take after their mother. Varaina was a mage – inclined to the lightning element. Syven was inclined to ice, and Adhlea to fire. Fenris was not a mage, as was made clear when he did not get in trouble in Kirkwall (Adhlea had several very vague letters from him, mostly complaining that Hawke made him write).
“The Dalish must be very careful not to attract too much attention, I suppose,” Solas said, still looking at the stars.
“For the most part, yes,” agreed Adhlea. “But as the Dales are unofficially the Dalish elves’ land, we chose to remain. Of course, some of us settled on the fringes, because we know we can not survive fully without the humans’ help; some others – like a certain clan I shall not mention – decide to live in the woods fully yet still bend to the official practices.”
Solas turned to her, looking curious.
“What clan?” he wanted to know.
Adhlea grimaced. “You know Minaeve, the creature researcher at Haven?” Not that Adhlea had time to talk to her.
“I do,” he responded, interest in his eyes.
“Her former clan has a habit of tossing aside mage children,” Adhlea admitted. “My clan and Clan Sabrae usually have a trade – our male mages help sire other mages in other clans, and occasionally a female mage will help. It’s usually discouraged for the female mage.”
She blushed and looked away from Solas.
“Forgive me, I must be so tired I’m speaking so much.”
“Please do not apologize. I tend not to have much contact with the Dalish. It’s… enlightening,” the other said. “I do not truly understand their need for worshiping the… gods.”
Adhlea snorted and glanced out of the corner of her eyes. “Keeper Istimaethoriel, when she became Keeper, became Keeper over a very revivalist clan. Now, we only do the major celebrations.”
“What changed?” Solas enquired. “Did she become Keeper because of a disagreement, or…?” he trailed off.
“My Keeper told my brother and I, as prospective Keepers, that she had met with someone who was firm on who and what we were,” Adhlea said, her smile fading as she thought back. “She told us that when we were ready, she’d tell us. Now, Syven might never know because I asked him to watch over Varaina and I will most likely never know because I’m probably never going back there for good.”
“You never know what the fates may hold for you,” Solas told her with a soft smile.
“Enough about me!” Adhlea nudged him with her shoulder. “What about you? Where are you from?”
Solas turned from her. “A small village,” he said, folding his hands in his lap. “I have long since parted ways from it.”
“Did they not like the fact you were a mage?” Adhlea wondered.
Solas chuckled. “I am what is known as a dreamer,” he said, looking at her. “When I dream, I dream in the Fade. I pass through the Veil and walk through dreams.”
Adhlea’s eyes widened. “Really?” she asked, fascinated.
“Yes,” Solas nodded. “Spirits are very kind, if you meet the correct ones. I have a dear friend in one such spirit, one of Wisdom.” He gestured all around them. “Memories in certain spots – I can visit them.”
Adhlea closed her eyes as she listened to his rather smooth voice. “Can you tell me about your visits to the Fade?” she asked quietly.
“Certainly. Once, I slept in a forest that…”
Solas finished his story, quietly as he was assured she was asleep. Glancing at his company, he was assured she was, her face relaxed in sleep. Solas actually wasn’t sure when she’d fallen asleep; he was, however, pleased that she was getting some sleep.
He realized that he, too, should sleep. Lightly, though, in case a demon wandered from the hill above.
Or in case the apostate mage she’d welcomed was not actually quite so… good.
Despite it all, he caught only a couple hours of sleep. Unlike if he’d slept in Haven or elsewhere where he was not actually needed, he tended to sleep until the sun’s rays hit his face.
Surely enough, the others woke up before he; yet he still appeared awake when they appeared.
“Wow, you two look comfortable.” Varric’s unnecessarily loud voice stirred Kerrah from her sleep.
(He knew, from Knowledge, the Dalish elves had stuck to a good naming system. One private name for clan use, a formal name that everyone used, and the clan name at the end of it. He would respect her and not use her private name.)
“I don’t know about him, but I was,” the elf lied with a smile. “Shall we go on?”
“Yeah. We’ve got demons and shit to deal with today,” Varric said as the smaller elf stood. “Sure you’re up for it?”
“If we don’t clear out the demons by the end of the day, we’re not going to ever do it,” Kerrah said with a grimace. “Let’s get started.”
The group started off, Cassandra shooting Solas a dark look as she stormed by.
“Um, mister elf,” the human apostate said, looking to him with wide eyes. “Does she always…” The apostate made a vague motion towards Cassandra.
Solas opened his mouth to answer diplomatically when the current noble of the ground cut in.
“Yes. Cassandra doesn’t seem to like unattached mages. Or mages. Or elves. Or Varric.”
“I think that’s just the Seeker’s way of looking at things,” Solas offered quietly. “Although, your assessment about Varric is correct. She seems to despise him.”
All three mages looked to Cassandra and Varric. Cassandra was marching solidly, Varric about five human feet behind her.
“We should probably follow,” Kerrah said, hastily. “Before she looks for us.”
“Agreed,” the human said, striding forward hesitantly.
Solas stopped Kerrah.
“If you’d like, I know a spell that would ease any discomfort from the night,” he offered.
Surprise flickered in her gaze before she shook her head.
“Thank you, Solas. But not today.”
Adhlea collapsed on the side of the bank, wiping her brow as her chest heaved. Similarly, Allana looked like she’d just been running the entire town of Haven thrice over. Sounded like she was dying, too.
Solas just offered Allana a lyrium potion. Allana took it before pausing.
“Would you like this, Herald?”
Adhlea grimaced and shook her head.
“Mistress Lavellan has declined the use of lyrium potions,” Solas explained.
“That can’t be good,” Cassandra said, scowling like she always did. “What if you’re on death’s door?”
“I have my own reasons,” Adhlea said, diplomatically.
“Ah.” Allana nodded. “In my fourth year at Ostwick I nearly burned the library down,” she explained. “And I may have exploded some lyrium crystals.”
“Ostwick Circle?” Adhlea tilted her head at Allana. “You wouldn’t happen to know of a mage named Vivienne, would you?”
“Yes,” Allana replied, making a face. “Snooty, bitchy Vivienne. Her and Elaine were always at odds because of it. Ostwick was… Better than Kirkwall, at least.”
“Now that we’ve all calmed down,” Cassandra said after a long moment of silence, “perhaps we should tackle that wolf problem now.”
“Yeah…” Allana stood, then offered Adhlea one.
Adhlea took it; Allana staggered as Adhlea pulled.
“Sorry,” Adhlea gasped. “I’m not… Really in shape, apparently.”
“No, it’s fine,” Allana said, wincing as she shook her hand. “You just have a strong grip.”
Cassandra glanced at the ragtag group. “I’ve received a raven from Leliana,” she announced without preamble.
Both female mages groaned.
“You two will desperately need training,” Cassandra informed them in a deadpan voice.
“I don’t need much!” protested the Herald, looking all the world like a young girl as she looked up at Cassandra with a pout.
“Please… Let me join the spirits of the Fade,” the apostate female mumbled, burying her face into her knees.
“You’re out of energy and we’ve conquered three rifts in two days!” Cassandra folded her arms. “Why exactly are you two so tired?” she questioned, suddenly suspicious.
The Herald scowled as the apostate suddenly stiffened.
“We’ve been training our magic,” the Herald admitted. “What did Leliana send?”
“The name of a Grey Warden and his location,” Cassandra told her. “And the possible location of the Hero of Ferelden, though according to reports she’s been out of contact for years.” Cassandra looked up, opening her mouth again. “Unless you –“ Cassandra’s eyes narrowed on the Herald’s. The Herald stared up at her with wide eyes. “You know where she is, don’t you?”
“You really don’t want to know,” the elf said, looking away. “From what I’ve heard, she’s not in the best place right now.”
Cassandra pointed towards the green hole in the sky.
“Nobody is in the best place,” she said, with an obvious effort to not scream at the Herald. “Where is the Hero of Ferelden?”
“Nowhere I can reach,” the Herald glared right back.
Cassandra gripped her scroll tight, opening her mouth once more –
“I wouldn’t, Seeker.” Solas was leaning against a wall. “I’ve my doubts that the Warden didn’t go back to her own clan. Seeing as not all Dalish clans get along with each other, there’s not much you can do.”
“Not until the Arlathvhen,” the Herald mumbled.
“Maker have mercy,” Cassandra groaned. “How can you be so childish, especially as you’re a duchess?”
The Herald arched a brow at her.
“Because I’ve no political obligations right now,” the Herald informed her seriously. “It would be different if you spoke as one from Nevarra. Here, right now…” She leaned back. “I’m surrounded by people who really don’t know me, I’m under the stars, and there’s no way I’m being proper until we are facing other nobles.”
Cassandra took a deep breath and pinched her nose.
Were all elves this strange? Cassandra hadn’t had much of a chance to personally interact with elves in Nevarra, what with any elves in the Seekers of Truth indoctrinated thoroughly.
The Seeker swore under her breath before pointing in a vague direction.
“Let’s see if we can’t recruit this Warden for us,” she said, scowling. “Then we return to Haven, where I will speak with Commander Rutherford about training. Maker knows you need it,” she said with a sigh. “For now, let’s sleep.”
They slipped in their tents, Cassandra sharing with the human mage, Solas going with the dwarf; the duchess was alone in her tent.
The Seeker knew the other mage wasn’t asleep, even as time ticked on and night got cooler.
“Fine,” the Seeker grumbled, stepping out without her weapons before walking over to the Herald’s empty tent, then proceeded to kick a peg down and collapsing the rest of it.
The Herald in question stared at her like she’d been caught.
“There’s room in my tent,” Cassandra said, briskly.
“Are you certain –“ the Herald started, only to stop at Cassandra’s scowl.
“I wouldn’t offer if I wasn’t serious, Herald.”
The Herald only hesitated once more before following Cassandra.
They did, eventually, fall asleep.
Short chapter. I, um. Stopped it at a weird place. Didn't fit in with the next one.
Blackwall, for the moment, ignored the mage who’d come in, talking to the men who he’d technically conscripted.
“Now you know how to defend your homes,” he said to them. They were grinning as he dismissed them, this time truly turning to the mage and her fellow companions. “And you are?”
The elven mage stepped forward, her eyes the strangest shade of magenta. “Offering you a dangerous job, Warden Blackwall. Life or death. Reparation of the world. Could end in you dying.”
Well, at least she was honest.
“Ah. Well, while that sounds interesting, I’ve got stuff to do.” Blackwall didn’t move as those eyes seemed to brighten as she smiled at him.
“Like what?” she asked, walking past him. “It’s an interesting place, the Hinterlands. Beautiful. But…” Blackwall’s eyes followed her backside as she turned to him, his eyes flicking up to meet hers. He did not flush, knowing that’d give him away. “The world is ending if we don’t close that Breach. You will die if you don’t help; doing this, helping us repair it… Well, honestly, you would be lauded a hero.”
It took a second to talk. Maybe it was her eyes. Probably the eyes.
“I’m afraid I’m much more a coward,” he found himself admitting to her.
She laughed. “If that’s how you want to put it. Join our rather odd group and your chances of living go up by a small, almost negligible amount. Don’t, and… Well, I can’t say your chances will get much worse.”
“What’s your name?” he asked her, eyes alight with wonder as the elf once again met his eyes.
“My name is Kerrah.”
“Is it me, or does Blackwall seem to be attracted to the Herald?” Allana tilted her head as she murmured to Varric, leaning down to speak to him.
Varric snorted. “I’m assuming she’s attracted a spirit of charisma to her somehow.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised,” mused Solas. “Or it’s something else entirely.” He had an expression of disapproval on his face.
Allana frowned, unable to get what he was saying.
“Oh. Maybe,” Varric responded, sounding disgusted.
“What are you two going on about?” Cassandra scowled as both the Herald and the Warden approached.
“Nothing,” Solas and Varric said in strange unison.
Cassandra muttered something that Allana couldn’t hear.
“We headed back to Haven?” The Herald sounded eager.
“Of course,” Cassandra said, shooting her a disgruntled look. “Perhaps Warden Blackwall can teach you some weaponry basics, Allana, Herald.”
“No,” the Herald said, firm. Allana chanced a glance behind them as they departed from Lake Luthias and noticed she was not to be budged. “I can wield a bow, I am good with a dagger; I will not touch a sword, Seeker.”
“Oh, all right,” Cassandra sighed. “Allana?”
“I’d love to learn!” Allana said perkily… only to backtrack. “Only if Lady Trevelyan agrees, though,” she said with a nervous laugh.
“I bet she will,” the Herald commented. “Mages are restricted, especially if they’re women. More women should learn how to defend themselves.”
The Herald moved forward, then, so Allana could not quite judge her mood.
Still, Allana agreed with that passion.
Seeing Haven once more was a boon to her eyes. Seeing the tents scattered in the snow, Adhlea stopped just outside them as people – the apostates from Witchwood – came out into the cold, shuddering. Adhlea’s eyes tracked to seeing Lady Trevelyan staring at her with hopeless eyes.
She glanced to her companions.
“Cassandra. You, Varric, Solas, and Blackwall – escort Allana into Haven and inform Leliana I wish to see her and whomever has refused to allow these apostates into the town.”
Cassandra nodded, not arguing in the cold air. The apostates moved out of the way as Lady Trevelyan approached and the five horses passed, Allana looking back.
“You’re staying?” Lady Trevelyan asked, folding her arms, her teeth knocking against one another.
Adhlea’s brows furrowed at the obviously freezing group.
“Where are your staves?”
Lady Trevelyan shook her head. “They took them,” she replied. “To make sure we weren’t sieging.”
Adhlea hesitated for the smallest of seconds before taking her staff off. She met Lady Trevelyan’s resigned gaze; Adhlea let the weapon stab into the snow.
“Light a fire. I’m freezing my ass off,” Adhlea scowled, looking away.
“Are you certain?” Lady Trevelyan asked.
“Yes,” Adhlea replied, looking back at her and gazing at her. “I’m certain.”
“Call me Elaine,” Lady Trevelyan offered abruptly before summoning flames and throwing them to the smoldering, weak fires.
“Call me Kerrah,” Adhlea invited before wincing. “I’m also afraid I was lying about my ass, by the way.” She offered the woman a tight smile. “I think it’s numb.”
Lady Trevelyan snorted. “Dalish elves are so strange,” Elaine muttered before putting the staff on her back and holding out her arms. With difficulty, Adhlea threw one of her legs over the saddle and slid down, Elaine catching her with a grunt before setting her on the ground. “Arthur, come get her horse and feed it. Dustin, come and get the duch – the Herald – a few blankets.”
“I’m not the Herald of Andraste,” Adhlea muttered to her.
Elaine looked at her for a moment.
“Perhaps not,” she murmured. “Perhaps you are a Herald of a different divine being. Be it yours or mine, Herald – you bear a message of something.”
Elaine set her down.
“Now eat,” Elaine ordered.
Minor lord Bayard de Balanche strode out to the apostate camp, swelling with outrage at the audacity of a fucking heretic of an elf. He did not feel any particular hatred with the elven people; but this – this was too much. Andraste was sacred to him.
He had allowed Divine Justinia to hold her Conclave here due to his neglect of paying the duchess that reigned these lands; more people meant he could finally pay off some of his debt, of which Grand Duchess Calienne had been most forgiving with during her last year of life.
Behind him, the Left and Right Hands of the Divine strode with him.
The Herald sat on her horse, poised and angry. Her staff was on her back. She glared down at him with a fury that could’ve froze the lake over.
He refused to be intimidated.
“Lord Balanche,” the Herald said, remaining on her horse. Her mask of frozen fury pierced him moments later as she spoke once more. “I expected more respect from a lord that does not pay his Grand Duchess the proper tithe.”
He swallowed, opening his mouth. His words dried up when he spotted the ring on her finger.
The de Chalons ring that Grand Duchess Calienne had worn rested on her finger. He recognized it because the crest on her ring had been a dragon curling around it, two small wings with an amethyst stone set in between. It had been unique; Calienne had showed him once, boasting of the craftsmen in Verchiel; a craftsman who’d made the ring unique.
Here, it rested on her finger. On the finger of a woman who was not Calienne. Not the woman who’d come to collect the yearly tithe.
Yet, now, the tithe belonged to this elven woman.
“I shall forgive half the debt you still owe for the last… Hmm. Eleven, twelve years?” The elven woman smiled at him with rage in her eyes as she continued. “In the meantime, open Haven to these starving apostates.”
“Haven –“ he gathered whatever bluster he could. “Haven is mine, my lady. I cannot –“
“Ah!” The woman giggled. He hated the whimsical giggle. “My dear Lord Balanche. You signed the writ of Divine Justinia, did you not? Pending my permission, as long as you received the taxes upon the land you allowed the Chantry to control you’d allow Justinia free reign. Well. Now, I am telling you, as the Grand Duchess of the Frostbacks, you will open the gates. Should I have the need to repeat myself, Lord Balanche, I think you’ll find the two other towns will have need of a new lord, as I will demand full reparations. Am. I. Understood?”
Lord Balanche, in that moment, had never hated another person so much.
“You will regret the day you threatened me, Herald,” he spat as he gestured for them to open the gates – a useless gesture; they’d already had the gates wide open.
The Herald’s face changed to faux puzzlement.
“My dear Lord Balanche, I never said a threat,” the Herald said, a wicked smirk twisting her red lips. It was a smirk of one assured she had won.
Balanche intended to go straight to the king of Ferelden.
He could only stand aside as the Herald flicked her horse’s reins; he could only watch as the apostates of many scattered Circles entered at the back of a mage Herald.
He swallowed his own rage and entered, ignoring the awe people were eyeing the Herald with.
He turned into his chambers and wrote a note, addressing it to one certain group. After he’d sent it, making dead certain that it was not intercepted by one of the fucking Left Hand’s ravens, he allowed himself a malicious smile before writing another letter, this time to the King.
Adhlea winced as she entered the war room with Lady Tre – Elaine.
“Leliana, Cullen, Josephine – meet Lady Elaine Trevelyan, apostate mage of Witchwood,” Adhlea said before nodding at Cassandra. “Thank you, Seeker.”
Thank you for allowing me such power.
Cassandra rolled her eyes. “I did it because I didn’t want people to starve,” the Seeker said with her usual scowl.
“I did quite enjoy Balanche’s reaction,” Leliana smirked. “Anyway, Val Royeaux has demanded you answer for your heresy.” Her smile slid off like water off of a duck. “As a Grand Duchess, you have clout there. But I assume you wanted to arrive not as that. Seeing as your face is unmasked… Well. I can see why Cullen did not recognize you.” Leliana turned, bringing a heap of clothes. “An Orlesian battlemage outfit.” She took out a pair of boots. “I’ve heard of your comfort with daggers. I’d suggest not bringing a stave, but I truly do wish to not have you killed – even so. These loops will hold daggers in them.” She gestured in the boots before rifling through the outfit and taking out the jacket. “I used about a hundred spies to get this for you,” she said, looking directly into Adhlea’s eyes. “This jacket will hold your staff – and, I’m not kidding with you, has been enchanted to withstand a veritable army’s attacks. However, one time use and I’m not even certain it hasn’t been used.”
“That’s a rare item,” Elaine said, awe in her voice.
“When do I leave?” Her voice did not tremble.
“I will be there to argue your case,” Cassandra said, her permanent scowl softened a bit. “Lord Seeker Lucius should see reason.”
Adhlea looked to Leliana, who set the jacket down.
“A week.” Leliana offered her a tight smile. “A week, and then you get to convince the people you’re a Herald of a woman you don’t believe in.”
I believe she was real. Keeper Deshanna was a major factor in that. I just do not believe I am her Herald.
Adhlea gathered the clothes, muttered her goodbyes to the war council, and stepped out.
Solas was out of his cabin, warming himself up by the fire out there while attempting to draw when he heard approaching footsteps crunching against the snow.
He stood, closing the sketching book to protect the pictures, set his charcoal aside.
“You’re busy,” the young elf said, her eyes darting to the sketching pad. “I’ll just come back another time.”
“No, I was merely drawing,” he said, dismissing it. “Is everything… are you in good health? You look pale.”
“Just…” The Herald sighed. “My problems will go away,” she finally said. “Might I ask you something about magic?”
Solas nodded, stepping aside and brushing snow off the other side of the bench before sitting, pulling his sketching book in his lap.
“I’m assuming we shall be talking for a small bit,” he explained as he gestured to the open spot. “Please, sit.”
She swallowed and sat. She looked the fire, obviously in deep thought; when Solas wondered if she was actually going to talk, she did.
“What are your thoughts on blood magic?”
Not wholly unexpected, but still… he did not expect that to be the first question she asked.
“I, myself, do not practice it,” he said after a pregnant pause. “The people of the Chantry liken it to being an abomination – that is why templars execute those who use it. However, inherently there is nothing wrong with it, save for the intent behind the spell.”
“Ah.” She nodded. “How do you – I mean, could someone become a dreamer?”
Solas was already shaking his head in denial. “No. One must be born one. Though, a dreamer can pull you into the Fade or watch your dreams.” Feeling her gaze, he smiled reassuringly at her. “I do not peek into anyone’s dreams.”
She nodded, looking only mildly reassured.
“You spoke of dreaming in a forest,” she said, tapping her fingers against her leg nervously. “Could you tell me a story I won’t fall asleep to?”
Solas noticed her trembling, though it seemed to go away.
“Perhaps we should go inside,” he suggested, glancing pointedly at the darkening sky. “And we can speak of what I learned in warmth.”
Gratefully, she ducked into the warmth as he opened his door. He allowed a tiny smile at her shock.
“It’s so bare,” she said, unable to help herself.
“I prefer it,” Solas said, shutting the door. “Would you like anything to drink?”
She nodded. He poured her a drink. She tossed it down easily.
“You’re afraid of something, right?” She lowered the cup, staring at him. “I do not pretend to understand the Dalish,” he said without preamble. “In fact, as I have walked the Fade, I know more truths about this world than many.”
She gripped the cup hard, then relaxed it.
“I know some of what the Dalish were was lost,” she said, her voice tight, her eyes never wavering from his. “But not all of it was false.”
“I never said it was,” he replied, steadily. “I simply said I knew more truths than most. I do not speak this to insult you, da’len; rather, I speak it because you asked for knowledge. I am eager to share what I know.”
She set the cup down.
“I’m not –“ she paused. “I am not afraid of my magic. I am afraid…” She took a deep breath. “This was a mistake,” she said, walking to the door, opening it and letting a blast of cold air in. She didn’t turn even as she said one last thing before shutting the door. “Thank you, hahren.”
Solas frowned minutely.
Chapter 19: Val Royeaux: Chantry and Templars
I am most likely going to die. She approached Val Royeaux with a tightness in her chest she’d more recently come to know as the kind of tightness before a battle. I am going before the Chantry, who will denounce me a heretic and do what they did to –
She snorted to herself.
Who am I kidding? They won’t do that. They’ll probably hang me.
“Everything okay, Herald?” Varric’s voice broke her out of her thoughts. She turned to them – meeting Cassandra’s eyes, Cassandra shook her head grimly. They didn’t know why they were headed to Val Royeaux.
“I’m going to ride ahead a bit,” Adhlea chirped. “Don’t worry, I can take care of myself,” she added to Cassandra, who looked like she was going to object before turning and flicking her reins to get away from Varric and Blackwall. Her horse leaped forward, a full gallop forward.
She rode hard for about thirty minutes before she stopped due to someone in the middle of the road.
“Whoa!” she called, her horse circling and calming down. The man in the middle of the road smiled up at her.
“Hello, fellow traveler! You wouldn’t happen to be the Herald of Andraste?”
“Nope!” Adhlea wasn’t a particularly good liar at the best of times – never had been – but she had a feeling that this man just might let her pass if –
The smile on the man’s face never moved.
“Thanks, Cassandra!” Adhlea jumped off her horse as the man released the hold he had on his bowstring.
“Knives?” he offered.
“Who exactly are you?” she demanded.
“Someone with nothing against you in particular,” the man said. Adhlea took out one of her knives, eyes never leaving his. “However, we were contracted to kill you by an old Ferelden lord.”
“Oh , for Mythal’s sake – could this wait until after I come back from Val Royeaux?” She was honestly curious. “See, the Chantry there could very well kill me. If I don’t die, you can attempt to kill me after, if you’d like.”
The man tilted his head. “Well, the contract specifically stated to kill you before you entered Val Royeaux, so –“
“And what if by killing me you anger someone else entirely? You’re probably from the House of Repose, yes?” The man’s cordial nod made Adhlea nod. “I am not only the so-called Herald of Andraste, but also the wife of Gaspard de Chalons. If you decide to attempt to kill me, Gaspard will do his utmost to see me avenged, as he looked thoroughly into his late wife’s death – if only to keep up appearances.” She could see a thoughtful expression on the assassin’s face. “Okay, how’s this. Discuss it fully with the House of Repose and if they say differently, I will fucking stand still in your attempt. Okay?”
The assassin nodded. “You make a valid point, Duchess. Please wait for our response.”
He bowed and vanished.
Adhlea slid her knife back into her boot before taking a deep breath and sitting astride her horse once more.
“Polite assassins?” Varric laughed. “And here I thought the Antivan Crows were polite.”
“The House of Repose is the Orlesian equivalent of the Antivan Crows,” Adhlea replied, this time going at their pace. “I’ve no doubt Nevarra and Ferelden have similar Houses or organizations such as these.”
“Not the other places like Orzammar or the Dales?” Cassandra shot back.
Adhlea jerked her head to Varric.
“Varric is the first dwarf I have ever met,” she announced, “and dwarves from Orzammar don’t leave the Deep Roads. And elves?” she snorted. “Elves are embedded into the House of Crows with humans. Plus.” Adhlea turned a smirk that she knew looked just like her brother’s when he was talking about cannibalism to that Dalish elf they’d met when she’d first come to Val Royeaux. “Do you think the Dalish are helpless?”
Cassandra stared at her, actually paling. Varric laughed.
“And that, right there,” he boomed, “is why you’re Dahlia.”
“We’re arriving,” Blackwall commented, distracting everyone from the as she turned, nausea clawing at her insides.
They entered the gates without being stopped; these were the Moon Gates, so there were no guards in the daytime.
(Adhlea really doubted Celene’s wisdom at not having guards at the Moon Gate in the day.)
A woman in distinct Enchanter’s robes – the leader of the mage rebellion, Adhlea assumed, as she did not seem to want to be seen. A hood covered her head as she stopped the riding group from entering.
“Herald,” she said, her eyes meeting Adhlea’s. “I am Grand Enchanter Fiona. The mages under my command await you at Redcliffe. I have heard talk of your stand with Lady Trevelyan, and if you would hear the mages out, we would ask you meet us there.”
Adhlea nodded. “Thank you, Grand Enchanter. I will think upon your words, should I survive the Chantry.”
“I highly doubt you’ll have an issue here,” she said before striding past Adhlea. “Seekers have arrived; the Lord Seeker is not in a pleasant mood.” Adhlea blinked over at Cassandra.
“If Lord Seeker Lucius is here, then perhaps the Seekers would be open to helping us,” Cassandra said, a look of hope on her face.
“I’m a Dalish elf mage. There’s no way Lord Seeker Lucius would consider helping me.” Adhlea dismounted. “Let us walk from here. I do not wish to intimidate people with a Grey Warden and a Seeker atop mighty steeds.”
Varric gave a snort. “I wouldn’t intimidate, Dahlia?”
Adhlea gave him a thoughtful look. “If you had Bianca out and a persistent scowl on your face as well as armor, yes. As it is, you and Solas share only one thing.”
Varric brows shot up as Adhlea took a deep breath.
“A lack of fashion.”
“Solas is way worse off,” he said. “But don’t mock the threads, elf.” He gave her a mock-stern look. “I’ve worn these clothes since I last saw Hawke.”
Adhlea gave a fake look of disgust. “Is that why they smell?” They stared at each other for a moment.
Varric chuckled. “Don’t worry, I actually like bathing after battles.”
Adhlea nodded. “Aye. Perhaps one thing I like about this.” She wiggled her ring. “I can take however many baths I wish and none will say otherwise.”
“Elves don’t bathe?” Cassandra asked, looking –
“Yes, Dalish elves do bathe,” Adhlea sighed, rolling her eyes. “We just can’t do it when we’re busy with moving. Otherwise everyone never moves and all the elves would be dead. Alienage elves take turns bathing.” Adhlea shrugged. “I admit, some of the human ways are easier.”
They tied their horses to a post, getting frightened looks from others. Adhlea was less nervous – less nervous after dealing with a House of Repose assassin and meeting the Grand Enchanter.
As they crossed the silent courtyard, all eyes flicking to the group of silent four, an arrow zipped by Adhlea’s face.
She stared at the red fletching. A parchment was wrapped around it.
“Cassandra, please grab that for me.”
Cassandra nodded and yanked the arrow out.
“Keep the arrow intact, please. The letter might be useful.”
Cassandra nodded, giving the arrow to the only person who had a quiver, even if they were bolts and not arrows. Varric smirked as Cassandra slid the letter in her jacket.
Adhlea kept walking, her eyes on the Chantry lady standing on the raised wooden dais – right next to the gallows.
Adhlea swallowed nothing.
Reverend Mother Hevara is not to be trifled with, Leliana had warned. Do not tell her about anyone causing the Breach. Just try to make it out of there alive. Do that, and hopefully they’ll stop arguing about the Inquisition. If you need it, a copy of the writ has been made.
Everyone had grimaced after looking at the thick book. Divine Justinia had either made a scribe very angry, or she herself had forced her own old hands to write every character in that book.
Adhlea held her head up high as she approached the silent crowd. Mother Hevara started to talk as Adhlea arrived, her features cold even as she attempted to warm the people.
“Together we mourn the Divine. Her naïve and beautiful heart was silenced by treachery!” Her words… also had the opposite effect. “You wonder what will become of her murderer.” Hevara’s eyes sliced into Adhlea’s. “Well, wonder no more.” She gestured to the dark-skinned man next to her, who looked uncomfortable. Adhlea smelled lyrium. Her heart picked up, but she managed to stay there. “Behold! The so-called Herald of Andraste, risen where our beloved Divine fell.” The Mother’s eyes kept on hers. “We say this is a false prophet. Our Maker would send no elf in our hour of need!”
Adhlea had enough. The angry murmurs rose.
“I have said no such claim!” The people quieted. “I have not claimed to come from Andraste,” she repeated, not moving as the Mother stepped to the edge of the dais. “I have – repeatedly – said I am Dalish. I have come here in peace, to talk – and this is what you do! There is a real threat, and it needs to be dealt with!”
Cassandra stepped up. “It’s true! The Inquisition seeks only to end this madness before it is too late!”
Adhlea heard steps, clanking armor.
She drew back, behind Cassandra, as she spotted the Lord Seeker and his templars approaching.
“It is already too late!” Mother Hevara shouted back, pointing with a triumphant smile.
Blackwall moved quietly, sliding half in front. Adhlea picked up Bianca being moved behind her.
I’m being shielded.
Was she truly that obvious?
“The templars have returned to the Chantry! Your Inquisition will face their might!” Hevara claimed.
No. Adhlea took a deep breath.
Purple smoke made her vanish. She hurried, shoving through people invisibly before getting on to the dais in front of the first templar there. Her form was revealed once more as the Seeker raised a hand –
“Don’t!” Seeker Lucius’ head turned. Dark amusement flashed in his eyes as he lowered his hand and spoke.
“I did not come here to help the Chantry, you foolish woman,” the Lord Seeker barked. Adhlea took a step forward.
“No, you didn’t,” Adhlea said, narrowing her eyes at him. “You desired to make a scene.” I will not let her get injured for trying to do what she sees as right. “Does your vows as a Seeker give you a right to hurt a Chantry mother, Lord Seeker? Or are you simply one who strikes without thinking, like a barbarian?”
On a dais, in the capitol of Orlais, in the city where Celene herself undoubtedly languished, was probably not the ideal place for such a huge argument. However, disliking the Chantry and allowing the Lord Seeker to abuse his position as a warrior and possibly strike a Chantry mother would, no doubt, end up in a war or even an Exalted March on the templars. Despite Adhlea’s reasons for fearing templars and not liking them, she wouldn’t wish an Exalted March on anyone.
The Lord Seeker stared at her for a moment.
“You are a mage, yes?” he smirked. “I can think of one easy way to get rid of you.”
He stepped off the dais.
“When you’re done, inform the templars we’re leaving Val Royeaux to the Chantry,” the man said. “I don’t care if anyone dies here.”
Adhlea’s eyes widened fractionally. Templars were going to smite them all. Lord Seeker Lucius intended for this to be a very public message.
“Get down!” She summoned her mana, pouring everything she had into a barrier to form, casting a haphazard barrier spell right as the templars smited them all, ripping at the Fade so hard as she did not have time to pull her staff out; she felt pain start to spark in her hand –
The world exploded into stars.
For eternity, she tried to move, to wake up – something pushed against her lips, forcing breath past them.
“Breathe, Herald!” A male voice panicked. “Anyone have a lyrium potion?”
She couldn’t breathe. What the fuck made him think she could swallow?
She forced her muscles to move. Her mana was depleted –
She found her chest moving, her lungs forcing air out, her mouth opening and –
Syven. Her clever brother.
Dalsih mages didn’t do phylacteries. Deshanna was not a blood mage; yet, she had made – when Adhlea was to leave – make her own kind of phylactery due to Adhlea’s own blood magic episode. Adhlea was not a blood mage, The Incident notwithstanding. Merrill had admitted she, herself, was a blood mage; Adhlea had enquired as to what made a blood mage a blood mage. You must first become Tranquil, Merrill had said with a whisper of dread. And then you can use the magic of your blood, but even then. There is always a price.
Syven had thought she was dead. Syven had been upset, but he’d known she’d survived due to her phylactery.
She could feel mana as he filled her blood with his own.
When he stopped, she took a deep, shuddering breath and opened her eyes.
The brown-skinned templar from the dais side leaned over her, genuine worry in his eyes. Adhlea was well aware he straddled her. Her breaths started coming short.
“Please, no,” she gasped out. “Please get off, please –“
The templar scrambled up, horror in his eyes.
“I swear I was just trying to help,” he promised. Full sunlight blasted on her face.
I am alive.
Cassandra blocked the thing that made her feel alive.
“Would you like a lyrium or an elfroot potion?” she asked directly.
“Elfroot,” she said, fighting to keep her breaths even.
Cassandra nodded, kneeling down and sliding a hand under Adhlea’s neck. Adhlea still couldn’t move; Cassandra blocked her view of the courtyard as she made Adhlea drink the potion.
“A lyrium potion would help better,” Cassandra informed her, tartly.
Adhlea stared at her.
“I’m not dead,” she reinforced.
Syven was actually with Deshanna in the Dales when he felt it. He’d requested another be sent to guard Varaina due to needing to talk with Deshanna. He’d rode to the Waking Sea, hopped the first boat, and was in the clan three weeks after leaving – not like he’d not done it in a shorter time period, and with Adhlea, but the point was he was with Clan Lavellan when he felt like something was wrong.
He’d patted himself down and found it, his elder sister’s vial of blood. Deshanna had stopped her lesson as he’d taken it out, focusing on it –
He felt like he’d fallen from a great height, his lungs screaming –
No, those aren’t mine.
He called his mana to his fingers, pulling more strength from the Fade.
Breathe, you fucking idiot. His sister wasn’t listening. Breathe, dammit!
He could feel something scratching as he strained, trying to force the magic to bend to his will –
Even if he became an abomination –
Deshanna slapped him.
He lost focus, the mana slipping from his grasp. Deshanna covered his hands with her older hands, warm and weathered. She pulled and prodded at his magic before he felt her gently probe at the Fade.
Magic swirled down from a small gap. Syven clutched at it like a dying man.
This time, he was completely focused. This time, he told his sister to breathe with him.
He inhaled and exhaled. Forcing her muscles to work. Syven inhaled. Exhaled.
Then he let her go.
Her phylactery grew cool as he set it down, his hands shaking.
So were Deshanna’s.
Syven stared at his hands.
“Am I a blood mage?”
“No.” Deshanna shook her head. “Syven, you must not tell anyone of what we did.”
Syven tilted his head.
“What you did, you mean?” he clarified. “Keeper, you’re really powerful with the Fade.”
“I had a good teacher.” Keeper Deshanna patted Syven’s head. “It is a good thing that you had that.”
Syven slid it back into its spot.
“You need to hurry back,” Deshanna told him, abruptly. “She might need some help for whatever she’s doing.”
Gaspard and his group of chevaliers rushed to the incident spot next to the Moon Gate. He’d told Celene she should have people guarding the gate.
Several templars lay dead, with several more soldiers laying dead with a few civilians. The Reverend Mother Hevara was praying as, halfway across the courtyard, a Seeker and a living templar knelt by someone’s side.
He pointed to a dwarf after dismounting from his horse.
“Dwarf.” The dwarf twitched and turned, his eyes widening in recognition.
“Oh, shit,” the dwarf said, looking resigned. “SEEKER!” The dwarf turned and shouted to the Seeker. “The Herald’s husband is here!”
The Seeker moved. Gaspard’s eyes widened as a familiar red head turned to him as she did so. The Seeker picked the Herald – his wife was the fucking Herald of Andraste! – up easily in a bridal carry.
The templar followed behind as the Seeker walked to him.
“Grand Duke,” the Seeker said, stopping a few feet away.
Kerrah looked to him, looking timid.
“You…” Gaspard snorted. “How is it I knew you were involved somehow?”
Kerrah made a face.
“Because I’m apparently a danger zone,” she croaked, not at all sounding like herself.
“With all due respect, Grand Duke, I must get the Herald to a secure room.” Cassandra eyed him. “Unless you have a place?”
“I would rather not have you all face Celene today,” Gaspard admitted in return. “I must oversee several things, but Gavin will show you to a lord I know will not say a word.”
Gaspard gestured to Gavin, then looked to Kerrah. “I will speak with you later.”
His wife gave him a tired smile. “I really look forward to it,” she said, her tone weakly sarcastic.
Lord Francois de Carvana was a lord of a small area in Verchiel; so small that it might as well be a negligible title. So small, in fact, he only had to go there once or twice a year to collect taxes to pay his once-a-year tithe to Gaspard. He did not get involved in politics, if only because he wasn’t nearly important to have much attention put on him. His own introduction to the Empress had been in the midst of other lords.
Gaspard had only spoken directly to him once concerning his lands. Francois still wasn’t sure why Gaspard had spoken to him. It was literally a ‘my chevaliers require a pathway that will not make a big deal out of them, might I use your town?’ request. Gaspard had already been using his lands, so he’d said it was fine. There was only a small increase.
Still, the lord intended to sleep soon, ignoring the commotion outside as chevaliers galloped past.
Then there was a knock.
Francois opened his door to see on of Gaspard’s chevaliers.
“Grand Duke Gaspard requires your assistance to allow these five into your home,” the chevalier said before mounting his steed. Francois was simply left blinking at the dwarf, Grey Warden, Seeker, templar, and elf standing on his stoop.
He moved aside quickly.
“Thank you,” the Seeker carrying the elf said to him. “Might we use your parlor?”
She didn’t wait for an answer, instead rushing into it.
“Forgive the intrusion?” the templar said, looking uncomfortable.
“You shouldn’t have followed us,” the dwarf said. “Oi, Warden. Care to find some alcohol?”
“I didn’t smite her,” the templar said, a scowl forming on his face.
“You might as well have,” the Seeker growled, a livid glare on her face.
“Seeker!” the elf called out. “Can you come here for a second?”
The Seeker gave the templar the ugliest look imaginable on a woman’s face (Francois really did not desire to have that look directed on him) before retreating in the parlor.
“Might I use this alcohol? Everyone but the Herald needs it right now,” the Grey Warden said with a frown on his face.
Francois nodded in permission.
The Seeker stomped out, a glare on her face as she stared at the templar.
“The Herald offers her thanks for saving her life,” the Seeker spat, “and asks if you would be willing to make sure Lord Seeker Lucius does not – and I am repeating her – go power hungry and force the Chantry to make another Exalted March.”
The templar blinked. “She –“
“I do not approve,” the Seeker said, scowling. “But since she is listening, I will not tell you what I truly wish to say to you.”
The templar nodded. “If he does intend to do something such as that, would the Inquisition welcome any templars leaving him?”
“YES!” the Herald’s voice floated out.
The Seeker’s glare deepened.
Francois was privately shocked that her face wasn’t permanently frozen in such a dark look.
The templar smiled and left the manor.
The Seeker’s glare vanished, a scowl that seemed to be her natural resting face settling on there.
“I need a drink.”
“I have some elfroot potions?” Francois said, making everyone look at him. “Ah, yes – where are my manners. I am Lord Francois de Carvana.”
“Thank you for being hospitable, Lord Carvana,” the Seeker said, rubbing her face with her glove. “I am Cassandra Pentaghast. This is Warden Blackwall –“ she motioned toward the Grey Warden, “and storyteller Varric Tethras. The Herald of Andraste is laying on your couch –“
“NOT THE HERALD OF ANDRASTE!” the elf in the parlor called out.
“- also known as the Masked Duchess.”
“Who the fuck calls me that?”
Francois choked at her language. And at the shock.
“Practically everyone, Duchess,” he called back.
“If I could move quicker, I would show you what I thought of that!” she called out.
“Don’t insult your host!” Seeker Pentaghast called back. She nodded to the lord. “Forgive me. Duchess Kerrah has managed to survive the brunt of a Holy Smite.”
“She’s a mage?” Francois blurted.
“Even if she wasn’t, Lord, the templars – all but that one that was with us – attempted to murder everyone near the Moon Gate gathered around the dais.” The Warden folded his arms. “Now, I’m certain at least half of ‘em were just following orders, but them attacking Chantry officials is a course tantamount to treason against everyone – Orlais, Ferelden, Nevarra – all of them. That would be bad, but they also attacked the proclaimed Herald of Andraste. Everyone saw it.”
Master Tethras grimaced and took a swig from the bottle he held. Francois internally winced.
“Yeah, everyone saw the Herald protect them with a barrier. Everyone also saw the elf get thrown halfway across the fucking courtyard and slam into the ground. Dahlia should’ve died from the impact of the smite.” Master Tethras shrugged. “Hell, now they might think she’s Andraste herself.”
“Was it a direct hit from one of them?” One was bad, yes, but –
“Three,” Seeker Pentaghast said, her voice low. “Three hit her right after she cast a pretty big barrier; barrier broke, but it saved many civilians.”
“Think the Chantry will chalk it up to blood magic?” Warden Blackwall turned to her with questioning eyes as he spoke.
Cassandra pinched her nose.
“The writ is clear,” she said, heaving a sigh. “The Herald is an unplanned side-effect, but the Chantry will proclaim she’s the Herald now. Elf mage or not. I don’t think they’d even consider blood magic, so no.”
“They should.” They all turned. The Herald sat down – or collapsed, onto the parlor doorjamb. “Because it was blood magic.”
Seeker Pentaghast frowned. “You are a normal mage. You could not move, let alone give yourself a wound!”
“I…” The Herald blinked, shaking her head. “I had an accident when I was younger,” she admitted. “I was in a difficult situation where I was given magebane – the potion that forces a Tranquil-state without being Tranquil – and – and things happened. I begged my gods to save me. I could not move until they were leaving and I used my blood in a creature summoning.” The Herald’s voice was detached. “I summoned a pack of wolves that tore one apart, and then the other I killed with flame and fury. After I was helped back to my clan, I was told by my Keeper that I should not do that. Dalish elves do not ordinarily keep phylacteries of any mage but blood mages; I gave my blood to my brother, and he helped me live.”
Francois could see the confusion on the three non-mages’ faces.
“Creature summoning is not summoning something such as a demon,” he said, all eyes swiveling back to him. “It is summoning nearby animals.” He bowed to the Herald. “I will keep my silence, Lady Herald. Nobody shall know from me.”
She did not look at him.
Varric didn’t think Cassandra and Blackwall entirely understood; Lord Francois, who had said he’d get some rooms made up and vanished, certainly did. The enormity of what she’d just told a pack of strangers had hit him as she’d spoken.
Elves in the city and Dalish elves had the most problems with human templars due to the ancient enmity between them.
“How long ago?”
Her magenta eyes met his. “Nearly ten years ago. It’s not bad if I don’t see things that remind me of it. Reliving it hurts.”
“At least they’re dead, right?”
She laughed hollowly.
“There were three.” She curled her right hand into a shaking fist. “Three templars.”
A pack of wolves tore one apart, and the other I killed in flame and fury.
One could be alive still.
“Kerrah, if you ever need my assistance to kill him,” Varric said, entirely serious, forgoing her nickname, “I will gladly do so.”
“Every time I see one,” she whispered, looking away from him, “I think it’s the last one. And I’m terrified that when I do see the last one, I won’t be able to kill him.”
Varric smiled. It was not a nice smile.
“If I am with you and you see him,” he swore, “you just point him out to me and Bianca here’ll do the rest.”
Gratitude shone in her eyes.
Gaspard found himself at the younger lord’s house as dusk settled. A servant opened the manor’s door, the scent of supper filling his nose.
The servant led him to the dining room. As he entered, he heard the Seeker saying something.
“- don’t you dare, Varric!”
“You kill all my fun, Seeker!”
Gaspard arched an eyebrow as he stared at the odd group.
“What happened?” he demanded as he sat down at the only free spot. “And what happened to your arm? Were you the spy at the Conclave?” He directed his questions to Kerrah.
Kerrah moved her spoon in her soup.
“First, the Conclave,” she said after a moment, dropping her spoon. “I asked Leliana to say I was a spy. I was invited due to me being in Kirkwall last fall.”
“And why were you in Kirkwall?”
“I was asked to take a Chantry sister there,” Kerrah said, looking utterly drained. “And my arm…” She raised her slightly glowing arm. “This thing can close rifts in the Veil, Gaspard. It happened… mm, right before I was thrown into the Fade? I’m not sure. The Fade thing, though – that was true. I guess I fell out of the Fade.” She shrugged. “Lastly, what happened today – we were coming to see the Chantry sisters of Val Royeaux. I thought they’d sentence me to death.” A giggle slipped from her lips. “Instead, the templars decided to kill everyone to witness whatever the fuck Lord Seeker Lucius decided not to do. So I took a Holy Smite and nearly died.” Kerrah looked up at him. “And by morning Revered Mother Hevana will announce me as a holy person and proclaim me the official Herald of Andraste.” The elf snorted. “Imagine that. An elf as Herald of Andraste.”
Gaspard took a deep breath.
“Grand Duchess.” Lord Carvana appeared, looking faintly quizzical, holding a note. “A note from the First Enchanter of Montsimmard.”
How did Vivienne -?
“Thank you, Lord Carvana,” Kerrah smiled at the lord. “I can’t move that well. Might it be put in the room I am to sleep in?” He nodded and vanished, Kerrah looking to the Seeker. “Can you hand me the note you got from the arrow?”
Cassandra nodded, sliding a hand beneath her breastplate and handed it to her. Kerrah read it while Gaspard took a bite of the soup, deeming it safe to eat; for a moment the only sound was the slurping of soup.
“Oh. Interesting. I am hoping to meet this person – do me a favor and collect the handkerchiefs?” She held the message to Blackwall, who nodded. She turned to the Seeker. “Seeing as my identity is out there now – thanks, Varric, by the way – can you arrange something to take us to wherever Vivienne asks me to be?”
He watched the Seeker nod.
“And Varric…” The dwarf looked up at her. “Please, don’t piss off any nobles.”
Varric offered her a grin.
“No promises, Dahlia.”
She smiled warmly at them before it turned grim as she looked at Gaspard.
“I am the reason for the big fucking hole in the sky,” she announced out of nowhere. “It’s my job to fix it. I cannot do that staying in a chateau.”
“No,” he agreed. “But the land is yours. You do know I officially titled you Grand Duchess of the Frostbacks? You answer both to King Alistair and Empress Celene if any lords in the range decide to complain.”
His wife took a steady breath.
“Yes, as a matter of fact. Divine Justinia informed me of that particular fact not a week before her death.”
Gaspard sighed before standing.
“I must draw Celene’s attention away from you,” he said. “And possibly do damage control.”
She nodded. “I apologize, Gaspard, for the issues you face on my behalf.”
Gaspard offered her a smirk. “Let me say that my dearest Empress has her hands full.”
Sera tilted her head at the man standing there.
“The Herald is injured,” the man explained, “but she said she finds your note interesting and would like to meet you.”
Sera pouted. “Aw, what? I was hopin’ to impress her Herald-ness by showin’ her the mass of breeches.”
“Yeah, well. I’m what you got.” The man frowned. “You said breeches, right? The Inquisition could always use breeches.”
Sera grinned. “Look, I’ll meet her Herald-self. Just don’t herald me!”
The man looked unamused. Sera was gonna steal his breeches for not liking her joke.
She followed him to a manor house with a pompous-looking carriage in front of it. An elf with a glowing hand and wearing filthy-looking enchanter’s garb stood, leaning on it, talking with a woman with an ever-present scowl and a dwarf.
Their conversation died as Sera followed the grumpy Warden, the elf holding out her right hand to shake.
“Kerrah,” the woman said. Her other hand was glowing.
“Does the Inquisition thingy need breeches?” Sera lifted the sack of breeches. “I stole everyone’s breeches.”
“Everyone always needs breeches,” the Herald told her with a serious look. “Unless you were planning on soaking them in honey and leaving them outside, we could use someone like you.”
Sera grinned. “Hey, that could work on enemies!” she pointed at the Herald. “Now, we might just get along, you’nd’I.”
“I’m… Not certain,” the Herald said with a light chuckle. “Do you know where Haven is?”
“If you want to help, meet us there.” The Herald put a hand to her elfy markings. “I’ve got other things to complete before we return there.”
Sera nodded. “I’ll meetcha there, your Herald-ness. See if I like the place ‘fore I come to a decision.”
Decision made, Sera twirled around and jogged off.
“First Enchanter,” one of Bastien’s servants said, interrupting her moon-gazing. “The Herald of Andraste has arrived – as have the Duchess de Chalons, a Seeker, a dwarf, and a Warden.”
Vivienne arched a brow. So the Herald was in the company of those ones? Interesting. The Duchess had strange company; however, given that the Herald was purported to be an elf, they were most likely from the same clan.
“Send in the marquis,” she ordered silkily. “I want to see if the Herald or Duchess will stop him. Ah, and bring that box I had delivered from Verchiel.”
The servant bowed, vanishing as conversation stopped.
Hearing the marquis start blustering soon after, Vivienne took a deep breath and stood, ready to play her part.
She appeared at the top, waving her hand. This had taken a lot of practice, to freeze him simply by doing such a thing.
She turned to address the Herald; the world tilted as Vivienne’s eyes met the glowing arm, then proceeded to stare into a familiar masked face.
The Herald of Andraste was the Duchess de Chalons. Or, as she was more popularly called, the Masked Duchess.
Vivienne felt a smirk curling onto her lips and banished it.
“Cease your bluster at once, Marquis. You insult two people in one,” Vivienne said, descending as elegantly as ever. Adhlea let out a breath. “What should I do with him, Herald?”
Knowing the Game, he would be disowned. Adhlea swallowed.
“Perhaps he should learn to still his tongue before speaking,” she said, stepping forward. The Marquis looked terrified; whether or not it was because of the mask, Adhlea cared not. “Perhaps his parents should send him my husband’s way. The Duke of Chevaliers will treat him like any other recruit.”
Vivienne smirked. “You are as interesting as ever, darling.”
She moved her hand, the ice shattering in chunks. The marquis fled the salon.
“Come, dear,” Vivienne beckoned. Adhlea stepped up and removed her mask. She felt Vivienne’s searching gaze on her face, searching for any imperfections. “Darling, you know you have white in your hair, correct?”
Adhlea’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry?” No, she had not!
“Ah, it is no matter. Presumably, it is from your walk in the Fade.”
Just what I wanted. Some other connection to Justinia’s death.
“I asked you here, Herald, so that I may become an Inquisition member,” the First Enchanter said, showing them to a lounge on a veranda. Both sat facing each other. “As you know, I am well-versed in the Game. I can help you; I know the ins and outs of the Court. I even have the ear of the Empress, should I want it.” Vivienne gave her an unexpected smirk. “To be perfectly honest, dear – if I’d known who you were I would have come forward much sooner.”
“Forgive me if I’m a little suspicious,” Adhlea replied, clasping her hands together. “Why do you want to help close the Breach?”
“The Breach threatens all of us, dear,” Vivienne said, smiling under her Orlesian hennin. “If I do not help, I will look like I stood by and did nothing; I would rather not do so.”
Of course. Ulterior motive.
“Very well.” Adhlea closed her eyes. “I’ll send a message to Leliana. She’ll have whatever you might need or want.”
Vivienne smiled. “That would be lovely, dear.” A servant approached. “Ah, yes.” A box with an intricate sigil was handed over. The servant bowed before leaving; Vivienne handed the box to Adhlea with a smile on her face. “I had this made for you, as a gift; I know how proud you are of your heritage, and I do hope you find no offense given.”
Adhlea opened the box.
“I wasn’t sure if they would fit, but the creator assured me that they will fit…”
Adhlea just stared at the items before snapping the box closed.
“While I thank you for the gift, First Enchanter –“
“Duchess.” Adhlea glanced at Vivienne, not knowing what to feel. Vivienne did not smirk or smile. Instead, her brown eyes met hers with odd seriousness. “I did not have them made to insult you. You are a Duchess; an elven one at that. Showing these,” She indicated the delicate-looking metal elven ear covers she’d had made for Adhlea, “will send a message at any salon or ball. You’re quite terrible at the Game, my dear, but it is well-known I am an ally of yours. Of course, it ruined my reputation quite a bit; yet, I am still favored by the Empress. That alone should tell you that the Empress herself does not know what to make of you. Wear them with pride.”
Adhlea nodded her head as she stood and re-masked herself.
“I will take your advice into consideration, Lady Vivienne.”
She left the salon unbalanced, before all and re-masked. Her carriage awaited her and her companions; as they pulled away, Adhlea stared at the box.
“A gift?” Varric eyed her. “Something expensive?”
“Vivienne,” Adhlea said, forcing her tone to remain even, “gave me something extremely expensive and dangerous.” She closed her eyes. “It is something that will make what I am obvious.”
“What, like fake ears?” Varric snickered.
Adhlea opened the box and gave him, and him alone, a peek.
She did feel a bit of a kinship with him more than she did with the other two. Mythal above, she was suddenly grasping how loud her position was when she ought to have realized it a long time ago.
“Holy shit,” Varric said, blanching. “That’s… Woah.”
“Yeah.” She shut the box before the others could glimpse it.
Solas heard a knock on his door. Shutting his book of writing, he stood and opened the door.
The Herald stood there, looking a bit pale.
“Hey, Solas,” she greeted, her voice quiet. “Am I bothering you?”
Solas shook his head, opening the door and inviting her in. Summer was well on its way; though the trees did not show it, he could feel it in the air.
“Is something the matter?” he asked her, politely.
She shook her head. “I, um.” She laughed, looking a little self-conscious as she turned around, presumably to hide. “Well, it’s a Dalish thing, really. I know you’re not Dalish – probably don’t like the Dalish – but you’re the only elf I know that...” She sighed, then whirled to him, her face a little red as she set her face. “You saved my life. I cannot repay that with just a little trust. In my clan, I have only let my family and Keeper touch my hair; I wanted to ask if you would braid it.”
Solas blinked. “Braiding hair requires trust?”
She shook her head. “It’s a calming technique I found I liked. My brother did it, whenever he was around; I know it is strange, but right now I was wondering if you’d tell me stories from the Fade. And. Maybe.” She shrugged.
Solas frowned in confusion for a moment, then mentally shook his head.
“Certainly.” He sat on the ground, against his bed. She sat in front of him, producing a comb. He took it and began combing it. “I can tell you many things of the Fade. What subject in particular?”
She hummed. “Have you ever seen anything about the Qun?”
The comb snagged on a knot. She didn’t complain.
“I have seen few things there,” he said, neutrally. “Few… good things.” He did not think she wanted to hear about the violent ways of the Qunari.
“Well, what’s one?”
He could not, at the moment, think of one specific memory. “I cannot think of one,” he admitted. “It would take some time to think. In the meantime, tell me of your clan. You are Dalish, are you not?”
He set the comb aside, then ran his fingers through her hair.
“Proudly,” she said, quietly.
“And here you are, lauded by the people as the Chosen of Andraste. A chosen hero to save us all.” He did not intend to allow his feelings to come out sarcastic, but it came out that way. “How does that feel?”
Adhlea had a feeling that no matter what she answered, he was probably going to take it the wrong way. Hoping to keep the weight of the room light, she answered in jest.
“Sounds dashing. Should I ride on a horse or request a dragon be brought before me?”
He did not laugh as she felt his fingers skillfully braid her hair.
“Every war has its heroes,” he murmured. “I’m just wondering what kind you’ll be.”
“The kind that hopefully lives,” she informed him dryly. “That’s looking less and less likely, however.”
“Were you injured in Val Royeaux?”
Oh, well, you know. Apparently I caught three holy smites and nearly died if not for blood magic…
“Not badly,” Adhlea replied. She drew her brows together. “Hey, Solas… How did you come to be here? In the Inquisition, I mean,” she added. She felt his hands falter for a moment.
“I was in the hills above Haven,” he said, resuming his task, “when I felt a shockwave through the world. Knowing what I did when I saw the hole in the world, I came down and offered my expertise when I heard there was a survivor. The Seeker, Seeker Pentaghast – she was, and has been, accommodating. Then, however, I was threatened with death if I did not help save you.”
Solas could remember that moment very clearly. The rip in the Fade had screamed as a humanoid form had come out; with a mighty shove, the then-unknown elf had been thrown out of the Fade. Cassandra had barked at him, with her sword aimed at his throat, to heal the elf or die.
Solas had done what he could, being in the cell with her – watching as she nearly died several times.
“She threatened to kill me,” Solas said again, “as I tried to save your life. I requested lyrium potions when it seemed the worst of the dangers had passed. I was given them away from you, then I was called to go help with the Breach. Whatever happened there… I am shocked you survived it.”
“Same,” the redheaded elf murmured.
“How are you feeling?” He changed the subject, not wanting to know quite yet what had happened. If she remembered it. “Truly. How do you truly feel about all this?”
“I… am angry.” Her honest words gave him slight pause. “I am angry at the thought people are once more blaming mages. I am angry that I must play a distasteful Game. I would much rather fight with weapons than words.”
“I feel sympathy for the mages,” he said, quietly.
“You plan on leaving, if we win this, right?”
He kept his mouth shut as he finished her braid.
“Done,” he said after tying the braid, yet made no move to get up as she shifted, turning around and facing him with those earnest magenta eyes.
“Solas, you know you can trust me, right?”
He allowed himself to nod.
“Then trust me when I say I will not let anyone harm you,” she promised. “Should you desire to leave, I will make them let you go.”
“How would you stop them, da’len?” He slipped again.
“However I had to, hahren.”
She stood; Solas stood after her. She reached his chin, so he did have to look down at her, allowing his expression to naturally soften.
“Thank you,” he said to her.
Chapter 24: The Iron Bull
Krem waited at the door to the Chantry, not really wanting to go in. Skinner and Dalish were waiting for him to escort him back to the Chargers (Bull disliked having his Chargers killed off and never coming back… Or betraying him, but Bull knew Krem wouldn’t!); Krem saw an elf approaching the Chantry.
He met magenta eyes that seemed vaguely familiar. They lit up in recognition.
“Oh, hi!” she smiled at him. “Is there something you needed?”
“I was looking for the Herald,” he said, pretending he didn’t know she was the Herald. “There’s a group out on the Storm Coast that’s willing to fight with the Inquisition, but the leader wants to meet with the Herald to make the arrangements.” Iron Bull was getting annoyed at the lack of actual resistance from the bandits. And the rain. The Chargers as a whole were sick of the Maker-forsaken rain.
He saw exasperation flicker over her face.
“Right.” She nodded. “I’ll just let the Herald know.”
He nodded back to her.
Job done, he walked out of Haven. He’d see her soon.
The Iron Bull laughed as a fireball exploded in his general vicinity two weeks after Krem had gone to the Chantry. The Inquisition had arrived! Ice and fire barrages flew through the air.
Two saarebas. He finished his last victim, turning to see a party consisting of three elves, a human, and a dwarf engaging seven others. The human warrior taunted her enemies; a well-placed fireball shattered a shield. He sat down to enjoy the show.
“Varric! To my left!”
Two arrows exploded as a guy attempted to kill the human.
“Sera, my right!”
Two more arrows exploded.
“Okay, that’s it!” The female mage whirled and pointed at the female, her adversaries all dead. “I am never taking you two on the same trip with me!”
“Yeah, you will,” the dwarf snorted. “I just wouldn’t put Sera in the same group as Solas.”
“Will any of you help Solas and I?”
“I’m done, Seeker.” The male mage turned and froze two of the idiots ganging up on the Seeker.
“Sorry, Ca – Seeker!”
“It’s fine,” the Seeker grunted as she finished her opponent off. “Just, please. If you’re needing a warrior with Sera, please take anyone else besides me.”
The female mage nodded; just as the warrior turned to loot the dead body, the mage used her left hand to give the Seeker a rude gesture.
The other female elf giggled maniacally.
The female mage slid down the embankment, striding confidently into the camp.
“Hello,” she said, moving directly up to him.
“Well, I’ll be damned,” the Iron Bull said with a sharp grin. “The Herald of Andraste, an elf.”
Her smile became edged, her eyes cooling.
“Yes. And you’re an Adaar, are you not?”
The Iron Bull shrugged. “I’m Qunari.” He bent forward as the other members of her little group came in behind her. “Heard you were able to shake off three templar Holy Smites within a day.”
Her smile remained sharp even as the dwarf tensed and the human’s hand went to her sword hilt.
The two elves behind her were staring at the back of her head.
“Oh, that’s true,” she said, her eyes brightening. “I heard you desired to speak with me. Why?”
“Well, now that I know your face behind the mask, I gotta ask a question.” His Chargers were watching with half-raised cups – he could feel their stares. “Why’d ya let those three in your carriage?”
The elf’s mask slipped as confusion flashed in her face.
“Who three?” she asked… Before recognition flashed in her eyes. “Oh. I don’t know. I just did.” She shrugged. “I did what I would’ve done even if I weren’t what I was.”
“An elf or a –“
“I am both,” the elf cut in, her eyes once more turning cold. “Do you have any pertinent questions, or am I wasting my time here?”
The Iron Bull grinned. “I like you,” he announced with a laugh. “These are the Chargers.” He gestured behind him. “I’ll introduce each of them later. Anyway – I am Qunari. Ben-Hassreth, actually.”
Explain, please, her blank expression screamed.
“Spy,” he elaborated. “I’m a Qunari spy. I spy for them, I give you Ben-Hassreth intel.”
“That’s… quite obvious, telling me you are a spy,” she said, looking suspicious.
The Iron Bull grinned. “Part of the job is knowing when to lie and when to tell the truth.”
She seemed to concede the point.
“How will we know when you’re being honest?” the Seeker asked, looking suspicious.
“We won’t,” the elf said, her eyes never leaving his. “We’ll just have to trust each other.”
Oh, yeah. He liked this elf.
“All right, Chargers!” He stood, turning to his Chargers. “Pack up, let’s go!”
They rushed to do his bidding; he stopped Dalish with a hand.
“Dalish. Any weird magic shit going on?”
Dalish scowled at him, but knew better. “No. Other than them.” She flicked her gaze to the duo. “She’s… Only a little more dangerous, but I would not fuck around the other elf with her. He’s very powerful. She doesn’t seem to sense it.”
The Iron Bull took her suggestion seriously.
“Shall we go back together?” he offered, grinning sharply.
“We’ll finally be out of this rain,” the dwarf grumbled.
“You guys can,” the Herald said. “Cassandra and I have something else we need to do here.”
“I’m joining, if that’s acceptable,” Iron Bull offered immediately.
“I’ll stay!” the other female elf cheered.
“I’ll make certain Master Tethras does not get lost,” the last elf mage said.
“Can I stay?” Dalish asked.
“No,” Iron Bull replied. “You need new arrows.”
“The Herald has made a lot of allies,” Cullen said, seeing the list of allies. “Even so, we should probably decide if we’re to offer sanctuary to the apostates.”
“We’ve already done so with the Witchwood apostates,” Leliana pointed out. “Even now.” She gestured out the side window of the room. Magic flashed as the mages trained outside Haven. “More arrive every day. Who is to say that the Grand Enchanter wouldn’t keep her word?”
“I have never known Grand Enchanter Fiona to be an honest person.” Lady Trevelyan’s words brought their attention to her. “She lies, and easily too. I would not be surprised to learn that she actually wasn’t a Grey Warden, even though I know she was.” The woman retained her position, leaning against a bookcase. “In this case, however, I think she might be telling the truth.” Lady Trevelyan snorted.
“The templars might help,” Cullen offered.
“Tell that to the Herald,” Leliana said, dryly. “Honestly, Cullen. It’s like you don’t believe she got smited.”
“Smote,” Cullen corrected. He noticed her glare and relented. “I know. We’ve also got to deal with a possible visit of the king.”
Leliana shot him another glare. “Yes, Cullen, I’m well aware. The King of Ferelden is coming to mediate because that lord just had to complain.” She inhaled. “I’ll see what the Herald wishes to do with the mages or the templars. Do not be surprised if she chooses the mages.”
“Leliana!” One of her agents appeared. “The Herald has arrived.”
“Just in time,” Leliana said. “Please get her here,” she added.
Not five minutes later, a tired-looking Herald stepped in, her clumsy braid coming loose. “I’m beginning to think I should get a dosage of smites again,” she said in a light tone. “Being injured or near death seems to be the only real reason I get to sleep these days.”
“Apologies, Herald,” Cullen said, straightening. Leliana pretended to be unconcerned. “However, we must discuss if you’ll be attending to the mages at Redcliffe or not.”
“I will,” the Herald replied. “She didn’t specify how long they’d wait. I suppose I can leave in two days.”
“Ah, yes. The First Enchanter has arrived, as well,” Leliana added, rather darkly.
“How the fuck did you put up with her?” Lady Trevelyan put into words what Leliana could not.
The Herald smirked. “Let’s just say I can’t stay around her in large doses, or I will literally strangle her with zero compunctions.” Her smirk faded. “She was also one of my only allies at Halamshiral. I would’ve been eaten alive if she wasn’t my friend.” Her smirk returned full-force, and vicious. “If my brother was here, I’d just threaten her with staying alone with him. She’d back off in a hurry. My brother loves to piss people off.”
“Ah.” Cullen swallowed. “Right. Anyway. Are you leaving in two days?”
She nodded. “I’ll let Solas and… I suppose I’ll ask Sera and the Iron Bull to join me, so I’ll let them know.”
She turned around.
“She needs to eat more,” Cullen said, frowning.
“Are you going to tell her that?” Leliana asked him dryly.
Dorian, dragged from the depths of sleep, opened his eyes reluctantly. Felix sat in front of him, eyes wide.
“She’s coming to Redcliffe.” Dorian wondered if Felix was ill again. Felix shoved a cup into the other’s hands after he sat up. Just inhaling the Maker-blessed coffee from Tevinter made him more awake. “Dorian, the Herald of Andraste is coming to Redcliffe.”
“Joy,” Dorian murmured. “She’s fucked. We’re all fucked.”
Felix shook his head. “She’s less than a day away,” Felix told him. “She’s able to close the rifts. Come on, Dorian.”
Dorian heaved a sigh.
“Fuck. Fine.” He took a deep drink of his coffee. “The fucking Herald is arriving. Let’s all pray to the Maker that she’s interested in women.”
Felix rolled his eyes. “Not every woman will throw themselves at you,” he murmured.
Dorian jerked his head. “You should go. You wouldn’t want your father to get the wrong idea.”
Felix scowled, but left the room.
Dorian Pavus sighed and stood.
He had about a day to make preparations.
Maker, if Alexius found out… He was worse than screwed.
Syven leaped off his horse as he made it gallop, fully intending on leaping on his sister and giving her a piece of his mind. His foot got caught, however, so he ended up slamming his head on, like, two rocks and a tree stump before he got out a ‘woah’. He managed to slide his foot out of the saddle, then he waved at his sister and her group.
“Isa’ma’lin!” His sister ran at him and slammed into him. He hugged her hard.
“You nearly died again,” he said into her shoulder.
She laughed. “Syven, with you watching over me, I couldn’t die.” She removed herself from his grasp. “Thank you,” she added, smiling up at him.
He brought her forehead to his. Their vallaslin tingled, a warmth that only happened when shared blood and magic came into contact.
“Who is that?”
He moved his head.
“Hey, sis.” He moved his head back into position. “Why the fuck are you traveling with flat-ears and a Qunari?”
She laughed a little. “Oh, Falon. I feel safer with the extra muscle.”
“But you don’t need it.” He frowned. “You’re like a fucking Qunari yourself.”
With that, Adhlea shoved herself away from him. “Let’s go!” she said, sounding annoyingly chipper.
“Wait, asa’ma’lin, you still do have that Qun-like strength, right?” He jogged after her, actually wanting to know.
“Do you want to find out?” she asked, tossing a smile over her face.
“Yes.” Syven tilted his head. “Even if you have to elbow me. I would be reassured.”
She elbowed him in the solar plexus. Hard. It wasn’t quite as hard as it probably would’ve been had she used her right hand (he’d noticed the green glowing thing in her palm earlier), but it still left him winded.
“Shit!” He felt himself steadied by a large hand. “Thanks, Qun guy. What’s your name, by the way?”
“The Iron Bull,” the Qunari said with a smirk. “And you?”
“Galifalon. Call me Falon, I dislike ‘Galifalon’.”
“Sure thing, Falon,” the Qunari smirked. Syven smirked back before glancing at the apostate he’d met before. “I don’t think I ever got your name.”
Syven snickered. “Pride?” he chortled. “You must have quite the ego.”
Something flashed in the blue eyes of the apostate. “Perhaps. I am an expert in the Fade.”
“Uh-huh.” He turned his attention to the only other woman. “And you, blondie?”
“Sera,” Sera replied, staring at him. “Are you an ‘elfy elf’? You look like an elfy elf.”
“Yep, I’m an elfy elf,” Syven nodded. “So’s she.”
“She’s the Herald, though,” Sera said with a pout.
“Don’t worry, I don’t really do magic,” he said. “Unless it’s to freeze something.” He gave her a cheeky smirk.
Chapter 26: Dorian
Adhlea spotted the Grand Enchanter, walking to a tavern with her head down.
Fiona jerked to look at her, confusion marring her face.
“I’m sorry,” Fiona apologized. “Do I know you?”
Adhlea laughed, a little bewildered. “You told me you and your mages were waiting here about a month ago,” she said, frowning.
“No, I did not,” Fiona replied. “I –“ Fiona jerked. “Sorry, I must go.”
Adhlea watched her go, feeling completely stumped.
“Are you certain it was –“ began her brother, only for Adhlea to whirl and accidentally hit him as she attempted to shush him.
“Sorry, Falon. But you can feel it, can’t you?” She looked at him and Solas beseechingly. The very air seemed to be wrong. Just…
Solas’ eyes widened.
“Fools,” he breathed. “Whomever used such magic… It is far more dangerous than blood magic.”
Syven narrowed his eyes. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” Adhlea admitted. “What makes the air wrong, Solas?”
Both mages looked to the third. Solas glanced at both of them.
“Time.” He inhaled. “Someone used time magic. It will not end well – it will reset itself if it becomes too unstable.”
“Who would be so damned stupid to use time magic?” Syven sounded disgusted. “Theoretically, it could destroy the world.”
“Indeed.” Adhlea blinked as Solas agreed with her brother. He didn’t seem the type to agree with Syven on anything. “I’ve never experienced time magic personally. I’d imagine Adhlea would be the most affected; she alone met Fiona –“
“I did not. I had Blackwall, Varric, and Cassandra with me,” Adhlea protested.
“They’re not… Elvhen,” her brother said, staring at Solas with a frown. “Anyway. This is a trap. Obviously.”
“But a trap for whom?” Adhlea wondered, turning once more to the tavern. “If it’s for us, we must spring it.”
“I was really afraid you’d say that.” Syven checked his weapons. “Sis, trade ya. Staff for bow.”
Adhlea nodded, taking her staff off and taking Syven’s bow, checking the string.
“Think you can manage it if you have to?” Syven checked with her.
Adhlea smiled sweetly at him.
“Just because I’m also a duchess does not mean I’m helpless, Galifalon.”
“Meh. Knives, magic, and arrows are your specialty, sis. Not subtlety.” Syven patted her head.
She scowled at him. He… wasn’t wrong… Syven was still an ass.
“Wait.” She froze. “Where is Varaina?”
“Oh, Enaste’s looking after her.”
“Oh. Good.” Adhlea liked Enaste. Enaste was very shy, but she was also very deadly. “Shall we go?”
“Yep!” Syven gave her a big grin before flipping her jacket hood up, then his own.
Even with the different clothes, it’d be hard to tell who was the Herald. Adhlea grabbed Syven’s right-hand glove, flipped the glove around and slid it on her glowing hand. After a silent weapons check, the siblings started up the walkway without another word, their footsteps purposefully loud.
“That’s fuckin’ creepy,” Sera announced loudly.
Gereon Alexius glanced as the door opened.
Two cloaked beings were standing in the doorway, hoods pulled up to conceal their identity.
“Let me guess,” he said, glancing at their hands and scowling as their left hands were concealed by gloves, “one of you is the Herald of Andraste.”
“Indeed. Your mage, Fiona, asked for our assistance.”
As they were far away, Alexius couldn’t see their faces.
“Reveal your faces,” he demanded. He’d bet that the one with the staff was the woman.
“We want assurances this isn’t a trap,” a slightly deeper voice said.
Gereon flashed a smile.
“I hadn’t expected you for another day,” he admitted casually.
The one with the staff shrugged.
The one with the bow flipped their hood back before the other one did.
Alexius laughed. “I can see why that duke married you, elf girl.”
Her face went as blank as marble.
“I’ve come to bargain,” she said without preamble, striding in. The door shut behind the two as they strode in. “The Inquisition would like the mages on our side.”
“Straight to the point.” The door opened once more, admitting his son. Alexius took a drink. “Tell me, what makes you think the mages desire to be yours?”
“You used –“
Alexius straightened as Felix stumbled against the Herald, looking ill.
“I am sorry,” Felix gasped at the woman.
“I –“ she looked worried. Alexius stood, helping his son to his feet.
“I await you at Redcliffe Castle, Herald,” Alexius snapped out. “I will be waiting for your proposal in a week’s time.”
He took his son out, ignoring for the moment the Qunari and two elves outside it.
Adhlea opened the note the man had managed to slide in her jacket.
Meet in the Chantry. Please hurry.
She tossed her brother’s glove back at him as she darted out of the tavern, passing by Solas, Sera, and the Iron Bull. The words were hastily scrawled; if someone was in trouble –
She heard the Iron Bull’s pounded footsteps, but she was opening the Chantry doors before any of them caught up to them.
“Holy shit!” she threw an immolation circle down, diving past it as she forced it to ignite and burn the demon.
The Iron Bull charged in, axe swinging as Adhlea threw a barrier down, trying to keep herself alive as a demon threw liquid fire at her. He cackled. Adhlea turned her attention to the one man she didn’t know – he was a fellow fire mage.
She didn’t get to admire his technique as the rift in the Chantry spat out another group of demons. Adhlea raised up her hand, connecting it with the Fade Rift.
This Rift was stubborn. It did not want to yield.
Adhlea jerked her hand back, leaping to the side.
Not all their time had been spent hunting demons and such. In the Storm Coast – along with getting the Blades of Hessarian – they’d gathered some blood lotus plants. With a slightly creepy grin, Adhlea tossed a bottle of Antivan Fire in the middle of the demons.
“OH YEAH!” The Iron Bull shouted.
Satisfied that the demons were once again occupied, Adhlea turned to the Rift, lifting her hand once more. The others hadn’t been so resistant; Adhlea had pretty much just wiggled her fingers and shut them. She closed her eyes to concentrate, imagining the Veil between this world and the next. In her mind, it was like a door that would not stay completely closed as she reached for the key.
Fire from the outside world seared her face with heat. Seconds passed.
Abruptly, the Rift snapped closed as though it were angry.
Adhlea blinked open her eyes, and it was like time had slowed; the minute the line connecting her hand and the Fade Rift vanished, time restarted.
Adhlea was suddenly disoriented by the sounds, shaking her head as dizziness assaulted her.
“Are you all right?” Solas appeared before her, concern on his face.
“I thought time had slowed,” she admitted.
His face was grim. “It did.”
“Fucking weird,” her brother snapped, looking angry and unsettled.
“Elfy shite,” Sera said, her voice weak.
“What is it you’re talking about?” The mage who’d been fighting first appeared behind Solas.
Adhlea shook her head. “Nothing of consequence.” She moved around Solas, holding out her hand. “Kerrah Lavellan of Clan Lavellan.”
“Dorian Pavus,” the mage said, bringing her hand to his lips and kissing it. “Formerly of Tevinter.”
Adhlea saw Syven stiffening, but paid him no mind and withdrew her hand.
“Well, Dorian Pavus, formerly of Tevinter,” she said, casting him a flirtatious grin that was entirely false. “That was exceptional fire magic. Can I ask you for some pointers?”
He smiled at her, but it didn’t reach his eyes.
“Of course,” he bowed. “I am at your service.”
It was nighttime; Dorian watched, feeling worn out as he hung out in the Chantry with them. They had long since decided to set out for Ferelden Keep in the morning; in fact, the Qunari and the Herald were the only ones other than Dorian himself that weren’t asleep.
The Herald finally sat up from where she was laying on a pew. Probably sacrilegious, to sleep in a Chantry, but Dorian really couldn’t find it in him to care at that moment.
She moved silently. Dorian plastered a fake smile on his face as she walked to the pew in front of him. She perched on her knees on the pew before him, legs dangling out of view.
“I do not,” she said, staring at him, “like humans in a sexual way.”
Her voice was very blunt.
“I was flirting with you to see your eyes.” She tilted her head. “My brother prefers the company of men, Sera prefers non-elf women, and… I’m not sure about the Iron Bull. So, judgement is nil from the group.”
Dorian raised a brow.
“You’re very observant,” he said, putting his arms behind his head. “But the world is fucked, like I told Felix.”
“Mm. Probably,” agreed the elf. “I mean, I’ve been trying to change things, but it’s only been two years since I became a duchess, so –“
“You’re the Masked Duchess?” Dorian certainly had heard of her. Two years ago, before he’d left his home with Alexius, he’d heard his father talking to his mother.
A Dalish elf, it’s rumored. The Masked Duchess is definitely an elf. Disgraceful.
“I… I already have titles, I don’t need another one,” she groaned, slamming her palm to her face. “Okay, so here’s a big question: If we go to Redcliffe Castle, we’re definitely walking into a trap, right?”
“Yes,” nodded Dorian. “Unless your people are excellent shots, you’re all going to die. Probably.” Dorian considered. “We are,” he corrected. “I suppose I’m lumping my lot with yours.”
The Herald smiled at him.
“I’m glad,” she said, before turning and laying back on the pew. Dorian decided he might as well sleep, too.
“What, exactly, are Venatori?” The Tevinter sighed as he walked with Kerrah and Galifalon. Solas listened, keeping an ear on them.
“Imagine every classical magister who has been called evil,” The Tevinter said, his tone surprisingly light, “and then forget that. The Venatori are worse. They’re the ones who do every blood ritual under the sun and moon, sacrificing elves and the other lower people for shits and giggles. And power.”
“Is Alexius part of these Venatori?”
Dorian nodded. “He doesn’t do the blood magic, but he has, in a way I’m not sure I understand, proven time magic is real. Since the Breach, he’s been able to bend time quite easily – though to my knowledge he’s not reversed it.”
“Well, to me, he has,” Kerrah stated, pressing her hand to her vallaslin. “About a month ago, I was in Val Royeaux and Fiona came to me to bring me here. Now, I’m here and she’s got no idea that I did meet her.”
“Hmm. Well, shit,” the Tevinter oh-so-eloquently said. “Since time travel with magic is a forbidden art to do anything but theorize on, I’m not quite sure what will happen. You seem well-versed on magic, have you been to a Circle?”
“You could say that,” Kerrah said, looking over at the Tevinter with a grimace on her face. “I’ve been taught by the First Enchanter of Montsimmard. When she has the time.”
“Ooh, the Ice Enchantress,” Dorian said with a smirk. “Tevinter might be as far from Orlais as it is, but we’re not entirely removed from politics here.”
“I assumed that, given that you know of a nickname not even I realized I had been given,” Kerrah grumbled.
“What nickname?” Galifalon’s eyes were sharp as he entered the conversation.
“The Masked Duchess, apparently.” Kerrah made a motion towards her face. “I chose to wear a literal mask in public, as I really didn’t want snide remarks on my vallaslin. Gaspard didn’t agree or disagree, so I did it.” She shrugged. “I’m not ashamed of it, just… I wasn’t really ready.”
Dorian snorted. “Well, darling, you’re gorgeous. No need to hide that pretty face anymore.”
“Oh, Dorian, you make my heart flutter!” Kerrah snickered right after she said it. Solas gathered there was quite a joke there.
“Well, if you weren’t, I’d say you were drop-dead ugly and I don’t want to be seen in public with you, dear.” Dorian looked at Syven.
“You know, Dorian, I’m beginning to think you have a crush on my sister here,” Galifalon said, throwing an arm around the Tevene mage. “Should I threaten your balls or is my message clear?”
“Dear, it simply depends on what you plan on doing to my –“
“Okay!” Kerrah coughed. “As much as this flirting session is entertaining, the castle is up ahead and I’d honestly rather not get murdered unawares. Dorian, please flirt with my brother later.”
“Wait, sis –“
“Falon, this time I’m going to tell you to shut up and actually expect you to listen.” Galifalon snapped his mouth shut, for once looking serious. “This,” she gestured to the castle and their group, “is a trap. An obvious trap. So, do we all go through the front door or should the two rogues hide?”
“Let’s hide!” Sera suggested, looking very much like she wanted to run.
“Hiding would be good,” Galifalon agreed. “That way he won’t know to look for us and we can kill anyone who gets in our way to get to you.”
“I also shouldn’t be seen with you,” Dorian said, frowning. “At least not immediately. Mostly for the shock value, but if Alexius sees me with you he’ll know that you know of the Venatori. He’s probably seen the Iron Bull – hard to miss him, actually – but he doesn’t tend to pay attention to elves so he might think whichever one you don’t bring was just passing through. As for Falon… Damn.”
“No, I can make it work.” Galifalon took his bow and quiver off. “The rumors say that the Herald is a mage; however, he’s only ever seen me with a staff. Looks like everything depends on Sera.” Quickly the duo traded weapons.
“Will I be furthest from any weird elfy elf stuff?” Sera asked hopefully.
“Yes, Sera. You’ll be furthest from weird elfy elf stuff,” Kerrah said, rather dryly. “Solas?”
Solas nodded. “It is a good plan,” he agreed.
“I can’t wait to see you in action, Boss,” the Qunari agreed with a sharp smile.
That matter settled, they started off for the last stretch, Dorian splitting away and Sera going to hide.
They walked up the pathway, mages lining it in silence.
When the doors opened, Solas was mildly surprised to see Tevene decorations on the former castle of the arl.
“Hello,” a servant, a human one, said, approaching the group. “How might I serve you?”
“I’m the Herald of Andraste,” Kerrah said, her entire demeanor changing in the blink of an eye. “I have come for a discussion with the lord of this castle. Is he available?”
“I – he said you alone may see him when he comes,” the servant said, nervously.
“I am hardly going to enter a stranger’s castle without guards,” Kerrah said, sounding offended. “If you need to run along and say that to him, be my guest.”
Solas desired, at that very moment, to see her face. To see whatever made the human look utterly terrified – no, not on hers. Galifalon was smirking. And the Iron Bull was leering.
Wow. Utterly terrifying. Solas arched an eyebrow at the human.
“I’ll be right back!” the human shrieked, leaving. As soon as he was out of eyesight, Kerrah sighed.
“Falon. Are you smirking like you want to eat him? We are not cannibals,” she snapped out without turning.
“Aw, asa’ma’lin. Don’t be mean,” Galifalon said, with an amused pout.
Kerrah just shook her head as the human came back.
“If you’ll follow me,” he said, gesturing forward.
Kerrah folded her hands behind her back and began walking.
The Boss was interesting. She didn’t, disappointingly, resort to violence; but her simple presence, as straight-backed and serious as her face was, seemed to draw attention like honey to flies.
“I was hoping we could make an arrangement,” she said, coolly. “About the mages you have under you. See, here in Thedas it is highly frowned upon to hold hostage a bunch of mages.”
“Ah, but dear…” She twitched, though it was curious as to why. Hadn’t the new Tevene called her that? “I am no member of this country. I am here on Fiona’s invitation; she herself gave her and her mages to me. Rest assured she’s in good hands.”
“I will not,” the boss said. “I –“
“For the love of the Maker!” A sick human appeared. “Father, she knows of the Venatori.”
Alexius’ entire demeanor changed. “What? How?!”
“I told her.” The new Tevinter strolled out, swaggering to a stop next to her.
Alexius’ face turned dark and furious. “The Elder One is furious with you,” he said to the Herald. The Herald scowled.
“Who is this ‘Elder One’?” she demanded. Alexius let out a broken laugh.
“Someone even I cannot beat.” He brought out an amulet. “He’ll be pissed off, but surely getting rid of you would grant me pardon.”
He threw it. The Tevene grabbed onto the woman, trying to move –
A flash of green light. Nothing. The Tevene and the Boss were gone.
“Dammit,” Bull grumbled. “I barely got to work for –“
Another bright flash of light. The Herald and the Tevene were in entirely different clothes; the Herald had her bow strung, aiming it at the bastard.
He was wise enough to hold his hands up, his face pale.
“How?” he rasped. “How are you alive?”
“You know,” the Herald said, her voice trembling. “That’s exactly what you said before I killed you a year from now.”
Chapter 28: Time Travel
A part of me is cringing at parts of this chapter. That's all I can say... Hope you KINDA like the chapter. Not the death.
Not a WORD about the magic. Making stuff up as I go is what's happening.
Adhlea staggered forward, throwing up as her senses told her she’d just taken a nasty fall. Or jumped off a waterfall without breathing properly. Or running without being a good runner.
“Kerrah, are you all right?”
Adhlea held her hand up, breathing heavily before being sick again.
“Creators,” she whispered after she was done wiping her face off with a handful of the water they were standing in. Not clean water but she was lucky she’d not thrown up in that. “I thought we were gonna die.” She made a face. “That was some nasty magic shit.”
“Time magic, if I had to guess,” Dorian suggested.
“Gee, really?” Kerrah made her way forward, sloshing through the water and opening the cell door they were in with a creak. “Do you know where we are, generally?”
“Generally, I’d say Alexius’ castle. Which is actually the arl’s former castle.” Dorian wrinkled his nose. “Looks terrible.” She heard him sloshing behind her, so she started up the steps. “I know this place well, though we might want to see if there’s anything valuable here he’s left.”
“Wouldn’t that cause a time paradox?” Magical time travel theories were just that – theories. But… Theoretically, taking something from the future might cause something else to unbalance.
“Eh. If it’s nothing too big I’d say go for it, darling.”
She snorted at the nickname as they crept forward.
“Darling and dear. Alexius and Vivienne and you all call me that.” Adhlea took her bow – her brother’s bow – and prepped it in case for any enemies. She felt naked without a staff, but she’d deal. “Difference is, I actually like your way of saying it. I know, it’s weird, but.” She lifted her bow as she picked up footsteps. “Just so you know, someone’s coming.”
He nodded, pulling his staff out. She peeked around the corner, then at her bow.
If I don’t remember everything, I’m screwed. She jumped out, rolled, rose her bow and loosed her arrow.
It was deflected easily. Adhlea jumped up, pulling another arrow out, fitting it in her bow and slipping down the hallway to climb on a crate. The man – templar – rushed her, priming a Holy Smite.
She fired, changing direction in the last second. He bellowed in the hallway as he dropped his shield.
Dorian stepped out, fireballs primed –
“Watch out!” someone yelled in fear for the templar.
The templar looked up.
Dorian used a barrage of fireballs to finish him off.
Adhlea aimed, breathed, shifted, fired.
This time, her arrow hit the mark. She drew another out of her quiver as she jumped from her vantage point.
“These are templars,” she said lowly. “Have you ever met the ‘Elder One’?” Dorian shook his head.
“Never. I’m guessing since you came to Redcliffe that the templars got corrupted.”
“To be perfectly honest, I’d rather the templars get corrupted than the mages get imprisoned. Very few of my people are in the templar order.” She did not miss the look he gave her. “I don’t really… I’m not against humans, but I’m very much on the side of my people.”
“I…” Dorian seemed at a loss.
“I don’t like Tevinter magisters because they enslave and kill elves.” She took a deep breath. “My mother was a Tevene slave before I was born, and she had two children born into slavery. It’s a long story, but suffice it to say I’m pretty much only fond of humans I like.” She shrugged as she continued. “If it makes you feel better, some of these guys will be alive in the past. I think.”
“I heard something down that way!”
“Hurry! This leads to another dungeon, but we can’t leave too many bodies,” Dorian hissed, shoving a door open. Adhlea darted in before running down the steps. She heard a rattling breath, turned –
An image straight out of her nightmares greeted her. Fiona was in the cell, looking feverish.
Considering massive red lyrium was currently growing from her body, Adhlea wasn’t too surprised. Her empty stomach roiled as the former Grand Enchanter turned to her.
“Herald?” Hope was so clear in her voice. “No… You’re dead. You must be the Maker.”
“No,” Adhlea responded quietly. “I’m not the Maker. Fiona, is there any –“
Fiona closed her eyes. “This is my penance,” she groaned. “There is no way for me but death.”
“You probably should put her out of her misery,” Dorian said, quietly. “She’ll be alive in our future.” He hesitated, obviously wanting to say something else.
“What?” Adhlea demanded.
“Well, obviously, she did join with an evil magister…”
Adhlea felt like ice-cold water was doused on her.
“They’re going to make her Tranquil?”
Dorian shrugged. “I wouldn’t be surprised.”
Adhlea came close to the bars. She held her breath as best as she could. “Fiona, do you want it to stop?”
Fiona opened her eyes. “I want the pain to end,” she replied. “He said you’d come, before they took him away. He said… He said abelas, asa’ma’lin.”
Her heart jumped.
“He tried to keep them away from me. But in the end…”
“Did – did he say anything else?”
Unfocused eyes focused on hers.
“He said something about… About you being something called a falassan. He said this was his halam’shivanas. It was a lot of elvhen. I’m trying to remember.” She squeezed her eyes shut, sweat breaking out. “He also said, to tell you if I wanted peace. To say ma ghilana mir din’an.”
Adhlea’s people’s language had fallen far, and Adhlea herself had spoken only Common in the last few years. Still, hearing it made her only take a second to piece it together.
“Ir abelas, Fiona.” She raised her bow. Fiona only smiled before Adhlea shut her eyes and loosed the nocked arrow.
She turned away, unable to look.
“What did your brother tell her to tell you?” Dorian’s voice was quiet as they walked further.
“The idiot called me… Essentially, slow. A slow arrow. And then the fucking idiot said this was his sweet sacrifice of duty, and told Fiona to tell me to guide her into death when she was tired.” She swallowed the lump. “I –“
“Oooh,” a familiar voice said. “That’s not possible. You’re dead. Unless it’s more elfy shite!”
Dorian let out a small groan.
“I don’t think it’s, as you say, elfy shite,” he said, delicately. “More human shite.”
“Fuck, so it’s demon shat, right?”
“Yes, let’s go with that,” Adhlea forced. “Sera, I’m a terrible lockpick –“
“I have this one, darling,” winked Dorian. “I’ll be sure to teach you a year ago.”
She punched Dorian in the shoulder. He stumbled in shock, looking very pained.
“Shite!” Sera laughed. “You about knocked him on his ass!”
Adhlea flushed. Okay, seriously – Syven was stronger than her. He had to be. She wasn’t that strong. One had to have some muscles to move a bowstring.
“I’m not that strong,” she said, flatly.
Dorian was wincing as he picked the lock on the cell. As it clicked open, the lockpick broke.
He swore in Tevene.
“I got the next ones,” Sera said, bouncing. “Though I don’t like that other elf. He’s friends with Coryphenuts.”
I’m regretting letting her out. “Right, let’s just go and try –“
“What ‘bout the other elf?”
“She can’t,” Dorian said quickly, putting a hand on Adhlea’s shoulder. “Her body’s encased in lyrium.”
“Then let’s go already! I need to find a real bathroom. And maybe food.”
“We don’t have time to dawdle too much,” Adhlea said, walking forward quickly. “Where are the other dungeons?”
“Through the doors hidden over there.” Sera gestured. “They’re blocked by weird shite.”
Boxes. Adhlea picked one up before letting it drop.
“Then let’s move the weird shite,” she snapped at the blonde elf.
Together, the two made short work of it; Adhlea almost cried when she realized there was other shit on the other side.
“Move, please.” Dorian conjured a fireball.
The door splintered, as did the boxes.
“Who the fuck is there?” Adhlea darted through the burning wreckage.
“It’s just me, Bull.”
Solas’ shocked voice was also heard in that block.
“That’s my name,” she said, stepping in their view. “Dorian, could you get the Iron Bull out? Sera –“
“He’s friends with Coryphetus!” Sera stubbornly folded her arms across her chest.
“I am not his friend,” Solas said, sharply. His eyes flicked to Adhlea’s. “Hurry, though, Kerrah. The Elder One is coming.”
“Oh, great. Does this ‘Elder One’ have –“
“Corypheus,” the Iron Bull rumbled, Dorian finally unlocking his cell with a small amount of cursing. “And Solas had something to do with the Breach.”
Solas’ nostrils flared. “I did not,” he snapped. “The Elder One has an Elvhen foci – he was using me as a means to an end. I refused to help him utilize its power, even if I knew how to.” His eyes met Adhlea’s, who hesitated. “Please, lethallan.”
Adhlea flinched at hearing that, especially since what Fiona said made her think –
“Sera, Dorian – one of you, get him out. It doesn’t matter. What’s done is done.” She turned to the Iron Bull. “And my brother?”
The Iron Bull closed his eye. “He’s… no longer among us.”
“He lives, but not in a way that you would like,” Solas said, stepping out of the cell. “However, I had an idea, if you would permit me to speak.”
Sera scowled. “Your first idea was to break out. That didn’t go well.”
No. Their eyes all burned with lyrium; Solas seemed the least affected.
“What?” Adhlea demanded of him.
“Alexius doesn’t think you survived, let alone think you traveled in time as you clearly have.” Solas nodded at her clothing. “Perhaps if you changed clothes and tried to look hunted, he’ll not think of the possibility of you being from the past.”
Adhlea closed her eyes and pressed a hand on her vallaslin.
“Time ticks away,” Sera muttered, agitatedly.
“All right,” Adhlea said after a moment. “However, I think we might need to search for Alexius’ notes on how Dorian and I get back to our time. There has to be a way.”
“Easy.” Dorian moved his shoulders around. “Find the fucking amulet he used, use it and get back to our time. But Solas does have a point. If Alexius thinks you’re from the past, he’ll not hesitate to give you to this Corypheus.”
“Where would we find clothes?” Adhlea asked abruptly, looking to Dorian.
“Guards’ quarters. It’s close enough to the throne room and Alexius’ quarters that we can find whatever we need there.”
Adhlea nodded, turning to the final door, the door that should lead outside. Pushing it open, Adhlea stalked through it, not seeing if her companions were following. Four more dungeons that were suspiciously filled with lyrium later and Adhlea pushed open one more door.
Sickly green light filtered down. She’d seen it earlier, but didn’t understand.
Until now. She couldn’t help but stare at the sky in abject horror.
“It kept expanding,” Solas murmured. Adhlea turned – a flash of white caught her eyes.
“Is that –“
“Your brother was to be executed by Corypheus,” Solas said, his voice solemn. “From what the guards said, as soon as Corypheus came close he used, in conjunction, ice magic and a ward to keep it that way. Corypheus broke out of it. Your brother… Did not.”
He lives, but not in a way you would like.
“Fastest way is through the courtyard. Hopefully it will be a bit cool outside,” Dorian said a few feet away.
Adhlea clenched her jaw and stalked down the hallway.
They maneuvered around the blocks of ice silently, being extremely cautious. Their own noises caused everyone to pause. The Iron Bull was the only one to stride without worrying.
Adhlea saw the biggest cluster of ice.
You fucking idiot. She moved, seeing nothing even though she could feel the centerpoint of magic. She placed her vallaslin on the ice, closing her eyes as the chill sank into her head.
Then she removed her forehead, turning and meeting Solas’ eyes. They were full of guilt – or remorse, she didn’t know and did not care. This wasn’t her time.
Brother, I will kill Alexius and this Corypheus. I swear it.
“We’re almost to the door,” Dorian called as loudly as he dared.
Adhlea brushed past Solas.
“Come on,” she said, roughly.
Dorian opened the door to the guards’ chambers, opening his mouth.
So it wasn’t empty, then.
“Wrong door?” he offered before the captive snapped his neck with her feet and an arrow sprouted from the guard’s head.
The Herald slid into the room, bending down to pick up the knife as the woman looked resigned.
“Is this a new form of torture? Some illusion of Corypheus’, perhaps?”
“I doubt anyone but me would do this, Leliana. You’re dangerous, and nobody I know would cross you or free you while you still live.”
So saying, the Herald used the tip of the knife to rather inelegantly unlock the cuffs, just jamming it every which way.
“That may be easy this time,” Dorian said, dryly, “but not all locks will be as pathetic as that.”
Leliana was let loose. She glared at Dorian.
“Tevinter,” she said, crisply.
“Leliana, was it?” he offered her a charming grin. She was not amused.
“We should move from here. I think the guard was –“
Kerrah held up her hand.
“Let me give it to you. Alexius cannot know I’m from a year ago until it’s too late. So we need to change, in the unlikely event he still remembers what I looked like a year ago.” She gestured to Dorian. “And we need to know about any specific points that caused that.”
Leliana nodded. “Right. Tevinter, there’s some clothes for men in the adjoining room. I’ll speak with the Herald. We need to be gone as soon as we change.”
Dorian nodded, walking to the next room. He found the clothes and a knapsack – in case they really were stuck here, he didn’t want to be entirely fucked – and a stash of weapons and potions. Dorian changed as fast as he could.
He re-entered the room again, seeing Adhlea shoving her feet into boots, her mouth set and anger clear.
“Fuck,” the woman said. “I knew he had a plan, but – I never knew –“
“You knew he might kill her?”
Adhlea shoved her boot on fully. “Yes. I didn’t fucking care.” Adhlea’s eyes seemed to brighten. “She burned Halamshiral to prove a point. So no, Leliana. I didn’t fucking care.”
“Who’re we talking about now?” Dorian tossed the knapsack to the elf. She caught it – quick reflexes – and shoved her clothes in it before tossing it back. The Tevinter mage slid it on his back, wincing as it brushed the forming bruise. Really, what did she do? Spend a thousand days carrying bricks around?
“My husband and Celene.” Adhlea scowled. “I didn’t think he’d be so bold as to kill Celene, though I shouldn’t be surprised and now I apparently have to stop it.”
“All we know is that someone of the de Chalons family killed Celene and Gaspard got the throne,” Leliana explained.
“And as I said not a few minutes ago, Florianne could’ve killed Celene.” Adhlea shook her head. “We can’t talk about that now.”
“Maybe, but,” and Dorian wasn’t sure whether or not to mention this, “he could have married someone else, no?”
Leliana and the elf exchanged amused glances.
“Dorian, how long would it take you, if you weren’t into dick, to court and marry someone?”
Dorian’s eyebrows shot up, but he answered. “About three months… I don’t understand –“
“In Orlais, in order to properly marry someone, it’s a year-long affair,” Leliana interrupted. “And an appropriate period of mourning is six months. Having announced his perusal of a new wife and married her not a month later, Gaspard de Chalons was the exception for this one instance. He would need her to raise an heir. While it is known that he cannot, er, copulate due to an extremely unfortunate incident in his youth, nobody would question her honor,” here Leliana dipped her head to Adhlea “nor question a said heir’s legitimacy. To the world, as long as he looked even vaguely like either…” Leliana shook her head. “No, he would not have taken another wife. To my knowledge, he’d sought out a child in his previous marriage, but Duchess Calienne died.”
“It’s complicated,” Adhlea summed up. “And not important right now. We’ve got to go.” Those eyes, which had dimmed, now flared to life.
“Your brother might be able to help. We could go find him,” Dorian suggested.
“Oh, he tried.” Adhlea pointed to the courtyard. “Sadly, he’s in no condition to help anymore.”
Dorian winced as he connected the dots. “Forgive me,” he asked, lowly. “I did not mean to speak so callously earlier.” It was probably why she’d stormed off.
She shook her head and stood.
“Come,” she said, finally. “Let’s get this and get back to our time.”
Chapter 30: Alistair
The group encountered loads of templars and guards. Adhlea wondered where they all had come from; they miraculously managed to not die thanks to Dorian’s foresight. Her quiver was nearly empty by the time they reached the throne room.
Adhlea didn’t know how, but she felt him. Him; magic simmering like a Rift next to a Rift.
“There’s a Rift in the next room,” she said, warning him. “It feels like the one in the Chantry.”
The mark on her hand sparked. Adhlea pushed the pain that it skittered up her spine.
“Let’s take care of it, then.”
Adhlea took the lead, slamming the doors open. She was pretty sure she didn’t look like she’d come from a year previous; yet as a pale, death-white Alexius looked up at her, she knew he knew.
“How?” he rasped. “How are you alive?”
He went to stand. Leliana’s arrow slammed next to his face.
“You missed,” he croaked.
“Leliana never misses.” Adhlea lifted her hands as the Rift sparked, her hand as usual connecting with it. Magic flared; the Rift did not resist, surprisingly. Well, not so much; Adhlea honestly doubted that there was much of the Veil between the worlds left. “Where is the fucking medallion, Alexius?”
The magister looked tired and defeated and dead.
“Right here.” He threw it at their feet. “It’s useless anyway.”
Thunder crackled outside.
“Ah, he arrives.” Alexius’ mouth lifted in a ghost of a smile. “Enjoy your last minutes, elf. As will I.”
He closed his eyes.
Adhlea never took her eyes off of him, handing the medallion to Dorian.
“Corypheus arrives,” Leliana said sharply.
“I’m not generally one to kill in retaliation,” Adhlea said, her voice low as she ascended the steps. “But there is one thing I want vengeance from you for.” Alexius opened his eyes wearily. “My brother.”
“He was not my choice to kill,” Alexius replied with a faint sneer. “I would’ve killed that useless bitch Fiona. He kept saying you were alive and injured Corypheus.”
Adhlea had her knife on his throat.
Adhlea turned her head, giving Bull the darkest glare she could muster.
“Corypheus is coming,” Leliana said, her voice stern. “We can buy you as many moments as we can.”
“I can’t ask that of you,” Adhlea said, stepping back from Alexius.
Alexius lunged forward. Adhlea shoved him back down, feeling a faint sting in her side as she glanced to Alexius to shove him away.
“You do not need to,” Solas said. Adhlea turned fully to them – they were already on the outside of the doors, templars advancing forward.
“I’ve got it!” Dorian shouted triumphantly as the doors began to shut. Lightning arched outside, briefly illuminating a figure Adhlea knew was this Corypheus. “Stand still!” Dorian brought her to him roughly. She thought she heard Leliana’s scream. She moved –
“You move, and we’re here!” Dorian shouted.
The doors opened. Adhlea took Dorian’s distraction to take out her bow and fire an arrow at his face.
It hit his forehead, and his eyes glared at her as she felt the same sick feeling she had last time. The arrow had done nothing.
She took out her last arrow and nocked it as Dorian grasped her arm tightly; she squeezed her eyes shut as Corypheus flew at her, a snarl escaping his mouth –
Silence. She opened her eyes. Her arrow was nocked, pointed squarely at Alexius’ face. Alexius, who looked alive and well and completely stunned that they were still alive.
“How?” he rasped. “How are you still alive?”
“You know,” she said, voice trembling, deciding to fuck with Alexius a little bit, “that’s exactly what you said before I killed you a year from now.”
She still had an image imprinted on the back of her eyelids. All of them glimpsed in the hallway – Sera being stepped on, Leliana brutally stabbed, Solas dead by fuck knows, there’d been so much blood covering him, and Iron Bull being simply blasted aside by that fucking orb Corypheus hadn’t thought to use on them.
And most of all…
Her brother, eternally living as a gigantic piece of ice.
She felt magic surge through her. She let the arrow go, jerking it to the side and watching it impale the wall behind Alexius’ face, fire flickering on it. She wanted her staff.
Alexius opened his mouth.
“I swear to the Creators and to a Maker I do not believe in I will fucking kill you if you talk,” Adhlea snarled, baring her teeth at him in anger.
He had the gall to look amused.
The hall’s doors opened. Alexius paled; Adhlea tensed and whirled, snarl fading yet a remnant still there as she readied a throwing dagger.
She fumbled with it, barely keeping hold of it.
“Hey, Worship-ness!” Sera bounced in, looking happy. “King Alistair of Ferelden is here, said he was on his way back from a meeting in Val Royeaux when he heard you were here.” A beat of silence. “Why are you looking at me so weird?”
Adhlea had a hard time breathing.
The king was precisely what Dinlaselan Doshiel Aleriel, formerly of Sabrae, had told Adhlea he was three summers ago – right before her impending marriage. Doshiel had re-chosen her name after leaving the Grey Wardens (fuck all of ‘em, the Warden had spat, ‘cept Alistair. He’s hot. I love him. She was drunk. Doshiel was always drunk) as a big ‘fuck you’ to all of them. Her new clan had raised eyebrows to her new name, the one who is defiant, refuses, and grey wanderer, but it wasn’t like they cared. Aleriel wasn’t too strict like, say, Boranehn (which most of the clans hated), or Hawen.
Aleriel still did trade and shit with Lavellan. Similar to Sabrae, but Aleriel knew to keep their distance (unlike Sabrae, which was why their clan was always getting into trouble at the Arlathvhen…).
Anyway. Doshiel had described Alistair from his mabari to that weird hairstyle that, oddly enough, looked like Cullen’s.
(I doubt you’ll ever meet him, Doshiel had said, and I’m still in contact with him anyway – but shhh. She’d made a point of shushing Syven, the person she was talking to in a corner, from telling anyone. Adhlea had been trying not to listen in. But if you ever meet him, tell him I wish I said yes. She then took a drink. Actually, don’t. That’d just make it harder to lie to him in letters. She’d looked so damn lonely then.)
It wasn’t entirely the king that made it hard to breathe. She’d just fucking time traveled and there her companions were. All alive and well and Syven was there.
Her brother was the one giving her the most scrutinizing look as the king stomped his way in.
“K-king Alistair,” she greeted, cursing how her skills as a duchess were failing her. “I –“
The king stopped her by raising a hand. His face turned quizzical.
“Uh, Herald, you do realize you have a dagger in your side, right?”
“That doesn’t matter, Majesty.” No, she really hadn’t. “Because we’re all royally fucked.” She turned to Alexius. “Why did you side with that ugly fucker?”
Alexius looked exhausted, no longer amused.
“To save my son,” Alexius admitted pitifully. “To save my son from dying, Your Grace. I wanted to erase time and stop him from turning into a darkspawn.”
Felix looked away as they all looked to him in shock – save Dorian. Adhlea gritted her teeth.
“So you’d let the world die under his thumb than search for some other answer? That’s extraordinarily stupid!”
“You’ve never lost someone, have you?”
That was the wrong thing to say.
Adhlea grabbed his armor and hauled him up before stepping onto his damned throne and slamming him against the wall.
Her body was exhausted from all the emotional shit from being tossed into the future, finding out what might have caused it, dealing with the fact her brother died – she knew that adrenaline was all that was working.
“You,” she said, with effort, controlling her temper by the barest thread, “had my fucking brother killed, Alexius, dear.” She spat the endearment out. “King Alistair!”
She didn’t move from her spot.
“Yes?” Alistair asked from behind her.
“If it pleases you, I would like to be the one to administer justice on this man.” She spat the word out. “Felix was not responsible for his actions; nor was Fiona. She should not be harmed, either.”
“I can allow you to judge this man,” Alistair said, “and I can allow his son to leave, but Fiona must be turned Tran –“
“With all do respect, your Majesty,” Dorian piped up, “I suggest you allowing the Herald to, er, put a figurative leash on the former Grand Enchanter. The Inquisition is taking responsibility for apostates, after all.”
There was silence.
“How about we discuss it after we get to my castle?” Alistair suggested, sounding perky. “Care to let him down, Herald?”
“Bull. Help me down.” She sneered into Alexius’ face. “I don’t want this trash to fall on me.”
“You got it, Boss.”
He sounded like he was close to howling with laughter as he grasped Adhlea’s waist and, apparently mindful of the knife in her side, gently set her down.
Adhlea couldn’t stand the sight of him. She swallowed and turned to Felix.
“Forgive me. I did not mean for it to sound like I thought your death trivial, Felix.”
Felix offered her a sad smile. “I’m sorry he went to such lengths.”
“Bind him,” Alistair ordered. “Would you like a lyrium potion, Herald?”
“No,” she said, snapping. His eyebrows shot up. Adhlea pinched her brow. “Forgive me, Majesty. It has literally been the longest day of my life. Solas, um, would you care to help me a little?”
Solas, looking mildly confused, nodded.
They walked out into daylight. Kerrah took the knife out while walking.
“Here.” Solas shoved a potion at her. “You didn’t need my specific –“
“Did you have any-fucking-thing to do with the Breach?”
Her words were abrupt. She didn’t look at him.
Solas pressed his lips together before lying.
“I had nothing to do with the Breach.”
“Okay. Well. It’s a little odd how future-you knew the orb was an elvhen foci.” Her voice was shaking, her hand gripping the potion bottle tightly. “I’ll ask you once more, Solas – did you have anything to do with the Breach?”
How the – perhaps his future self had told her the foci was elvhen. But why? Did Corypheus imply such a thing? His blood ran cold. Did Corypheus -?
“No, da’len.” He shook his head as she turned to him, hoping that Corypheus hadn’t said a damn word. “I did not have anything to do with the Breach.”
Her magenta eyes stared at him with poignant grief, and he had no idea why; he was about to ask when she closed her eyes, apparently to compose herself.
“What happened, in the future?” He wanted to delicately probe, but –
She opened her eyes and stared at him with blank eyes.
“You all died,” she said, her voice blank. No emotion escaped. “You all died, and – and I will never forget seeing your bodies laying on that damn floor.”
With that said, she moved away from him.
Chapter 31: The Warden
It took two days to reach the castle of Alistair; they used a little-known pass to shave about a month off their journey. Iron Bull would never forget the awe he’d felt as the Herald had snapped, having the unique vantage point to see, if not hear, whatever face she made.
(He’d shifted when she’d started to step on that throne.)
There’d been a beat before her face had turned wrathful. If the Qunari had gods, you’d be a fool not to pray to them. If he was ever under that wrathful gaze, he figured he’d be fucked.
He’d fought to keep his laughter under control when he realized she needed his help – he, if nobody else, could see the trembling in her legs.
Oh, yeah. He wasn’t disappointed at all.
He kept his eyes on the woman, making sure she wasn’t going to flip out on them as they traversed the land.
Denerim was a welcome sight, if only because it meant an actual bed. Galifalon had said something to the king, only for the king to laugh loudly. The elven man had dropped back to the Herald, who kept her head forward and only chuckled once.
Galifalon had continued to needle at her, his eyes sharp; the Herald had spurred her horse forward.
Something had happened, that much he’d guessed from her look alone that she’d given Alexius.
Speaking of, Alexius had been given a horse and a firm guard. There were conversations scattered around, but Iron Bull recognized that they didn’t dare approach him. He got it. He was a Qun.
Entering Denerim was a whole other experience. People seemed to genuinely like the king. It was weird. Nobody liked the Empress much…
It took a while to get to the palace as the Herald was pulled up front and announced; he could imagine the grimace as she waved to the dozens of children and adults. From their wide eyes, he could imagine not a lot of Dalish elves were in Denerim.
He got some wide-eyed looks, himself.
He was a Qunari, though; he was used to it.
Adhlea ascended the steps in her filthy, blood-soaked clothes next to the pristine-looking Alistair, feeling out of place.
People bowed and greeted Alistair, who warmly welcomed them – respect was given to Adhlea, given that she strode in next to Alistair.
Alistair turned to her as they strode forward. “I’ll have clothes awaiting you in your chambers. I have something of note to discuss with you about Lord Balanche.” Adhlea didn’t feel any anger like she expected. She was too tired. “But that should be tomorrow. My wife awaits, as does our lover.”
Adhlea’s eyebrows shot up as Alistair stopped at a pair of doors that were too… un-elaborate to be the throne room. Opening this pair of doors, they entered a dining room.
The Warden, the Hero of Ferelden, sat languishing in a chair with a cup in her hand, loose as the queen played with a lock of her hair.
It slipped out of Adhlea’s mouth. Doshiel turned, her eyes lighting up with delight.
“Ah!” Doshiel set her cup down, took her hair back from the queen, and stood. Doshiel opened her arms wide. “Clan Lavellan, was it? Come, lethallan!”
Adhlea was pulled back as she stepped forward, Syven giving her a grin before hugging the other.
“Andaran atish’an, lethallan,” Syven muttered to her, giving her another squeeze before releasing her. “When did you get her from Clan –“
“Ah. That’s… A rather long story,” Doshiel said with a strained smile. “How did you come to be here, lethallan?”
Adhlea lifted her left arm ruefully. “Being a Herald, I suppose.”
Doshiel’s mouth dropped in shock.
“Druffalo shite!” she shrieked. “You, a member of the fucking aristocracy? Fuck, and I thought I’d seen it all.”
“How’d you know?” Adhlea looked downward. Right, her clothes were splattered with future-people blood. She just barely contained her shudder.
The Warden stabbed a finger at her.
“Everyone knows the Herald of Andraste is the Masked Duchess.” Doshiel snorted.
I must've been really tired to have this dude incorporated into the story. Fit of madness. Talking about Gavin, folks. And the Warden... The Warden is tired of fighting. She'd killed a ARCHDEMON. She deserves rest. And ale. Also, credit for the, er, INSPIRATION of Gavin goes to Warp Zone. One of their videos... INSPIRED me.
(I don't have a life.)
“All monarchs got a copy of the writ, even the people in Nevarra and Antiva. Orlais and Ferelden aren’t the only ones to feel this unrest.” King Alistair sharply turned around, looking to where the Duchess now sat, in the Ferelden version of court clothes. They were different than Orlesian due to the fact nobody wanted to wear hundreds of layers just to look pretty. So, essentially, she wore only a couple layers of comfortable fabric. Doshiel herself had lent the smaller elf some of her clothes. The other members of her party were in their rooms, Doshiel out here and drinking. Since leaving the Dales, the elf had cut back on her drinking severely. Alistair didn’t know if it were because she was now far, far out of the reach of the Wardens in his court, or what. “They just exploded here. Orlais hasn’t helped matters. Nor has rumors of the Inquisition being headed by an apostate.”
“It’s not,” the Herald said when Alistair paused. “It’s not headed by an apostate. It’s headed by… Well.” The Herald shrugged. “We don’t have an Inquisitor. They have yet to elect one.”
Alistair dipped his head to her. “Precisely the reason I am worried,” the king admitted. “Divine Justinia was to elect an Inquisitor. She’s dead, so the decision rests in her Right and Left hands.” He paused, looking around his council. “Duchess, I heard word you ordered Lord Balanche to allow apostate mages in; that you threatened him.”
The Duchess came at him, her eyes cooling. It was odd, how her ‘Herald’ persona was full of fire and her ‘Duchess’ persona was full of ice. Interesting, to say the least. He knew Doshiel had two personas; one of a serious Grey Warden, and the other of a proud Dalish revivalist. Doshiel was not a mage, but that didn’t mean she didn’t feel sympathy towards the mages’ plight.
“I did no such thing,” the Duchess said. “I merely implied that he was going to leave. That’s it.” She shrugged. “I offered him a way out if he allowed the mages into Haven. I was awaiting your arrival in Haven, actually; things in the Hinterlands happened and I had to help out the lovely Grand Enchanter.”
Doshiel whistled lowly. “You do realize this isn’t Orlais, right?” Alistair shot her a dark look.
“Right. Well. About the apostates,” Alistair began. “Are you raising an army to defeat Orlais and Ferelden?”
He glanced at the Duchess. She looked insulted.
“Who do you take me for, Enchanter Fiona? No. We need mages to stabilize the damn Breach so it doesn’t expand even more when we have to fix it.” Back to the Herald.
“Ghilin’nain’s horns, you didn’t close it?” Doshiel’s voice was entirely too shocked.
The Herald shook her head. “Not permanently. The problem was with the mark I received during the Conclave explosion.” She brought that hand up. “It closed it temporarily. There’s no way to tell when it’ll open again.”
“Damn.” Doshiel took a drink. “May Mythal show her favor on you.”
The Herald flicked a distasteful look to her. “Revivalist? I would’ve thought Andrastrian.”
Doshiel coughed. “Both, actually. I just need to get used to speaking in curses.” She tilted her head. “Isn’t your Keeper a revivalist?”
The Herald snorted. “No. Rituals are only for the major holidays.”
“Your… Shared history aside, Doshiel, Herald –“
“Kerrah.” At his look, the Herald shook her head. “Not Andrastrian, your Majesty.”
Doshiel laughed inappropriately at the irony of her situation. Kerrah just shot her a dark look. Alistair looked to the heavens and asked the Maker to grant him patience; he’d need it.
Then he looked back to her, eyes once more serious.
“I do realize that you are still recovering from what Alexius did to you. However, in order to stop whatever might happen, I must ask.” Alistair stopped his pacing and wheeled to stare at her.
A fleeting look of pure rage flashed across her face as she looked past him, looking out the window.
“The Breach was spread across the sky,” she said, her voice quiet. “Gereon Alexius made a deal with someone named Coryphenu –“ All of a sudden, she closed her eyes as she flushed. “The Elder One.” She muttered something that sounded like thanks a lot, serah. “Alexius sent us to the future –“
“Impossible,” one of his councilors interrupted. “Time travel is merely theoretical, not –“
“Many things are possible, now,” interrupted the Herald, her eyes snapping to the council member. “Especially considering there is a giant fucking hole in the sky.”
“Have to give her that,” Doshiel murmured, taking a swig of her drink.
“Oh. Yes, where exactly does that hole lead to?” mused another Council member.
“The Fade,” the Herald said with a puzzled frown, glancing towards Alistair like who is this guy?
“He’s new to Fade sh – stuff,” Alistair said, nearly copying Doshiel and saying ‘Fade shit’. “This stuff is, admittedly, quite hard to process when you’re not a mage.”
“Hard to process even when you’re a mage, believe me.” The Herald closed her eyes and pressed a hand on her vallaslin, rubbing the blood-mark as though she had a headache. Doshiel had murmured to him the previous night as they’d headed to bed that her vallaslin honored the mother goddess, Mythal, as much as Doshiel’s own honored Sylaise, the hearth-keeper; when someone else touched it that wasn’t elvhen, the vallaslin produced an almost painful effect. Doshiel’s own was incomplete, yet as complete as she wanted it what with loving two humans. Doshiel had said that whenever they touched their own vallaslin you really couldn’t feel it, so maybe it was like that fake alcohol she was currently drinking. She believed it was alcohol so it acted like alcohol; therefore the Herald thought touching her vallaslin stopped a building headache, so it would.
(Alistair had taken great pains when he’d found her on a, er, random trip to the Dales. The clan she’d been given into had been hostile at first, going so far as to tie him and his sole guard up and threatening to eat him; when they’d found out Doshiel was in love with him, they untied them. It was only later that Doshiel had giggling-ly told him and his guard that the Aleriel were not, in fact, cannibals and simply threatening them because everyone thought Dalish elves were. Apparently Aleriel had been hiding her under her new name so as to not let the Wardens find her. All Dalish elves cared for their own and as Alistair hadn’t exactly been forthcoming, they’d assumed the worst. Alistair had not had the heart to tell Doshiel that the Aleriel were getting annoyed by her drinking up all their ale, though. The fake alcohol had been concocted in secret; since the people at the tavern were not forthcoming on how they made it, Alistair figured that keeping it in Denerim was fine. Also they may have threatened him. What? He may be king, but you don’t piss off your best ale-makers unless you wanted your ale to taste like watered-down piss.)
(And on second thought, the fact that Dalish elves threatened to eat people because people said they did was not exactly helping the Dalish elves as a whole.)
“Fade shit aside,” the Herald said, earning a snort from Doshiel, “I do not know who Leliana and Cassandra plan on making the new Inquisitor.”
“Hopefully it’s not a human,” Doshiel said with a grimace. The Herald looked dearly like she wished she’d said that, but didn’t dare.
“Why?” one of his councilors asked into another’s ear.
The councilor he’d asked was actually a friend to many dwarves. Yet it was still surprising to hear his response.
“Because every-fucking-other leader is a human, ‘bout time there was something like a fucking Adaar or elf at the head of a super large organization. Fuck, Gavin, actually read the damn room!”
“I don’t understand politics!”
“You don’t understand shit, Gavin.”
“Why not dwarves, though?”
“Dwarves have their own rulers,” the Herald said with a grin, “and personally I’d rather an elf. Adaar, while great, are mostly under the Qun. And guess who the Qun have as rulers?”
“Adaars?” Gavin said timidly when it became apparent she was looking directly at him.
“Indeed,” she nodded.
“Then it should be an elf, right?” Gavin’s loud statement was bold and declarative.
“Be very careful, councilor.” The Herald was now the Duchess, smiling at him in a way that screamed don’t fuck up. “Some people might not wish to hear that.”
“But you just said that you would rather have an elf,” Alistair interrupted, frowning… and wondering immediately why he was involved in this.
The Duchess waved a hand. “I’m very well-known to be pro-elf, Majesty,” she smiled at Alistair. “People don’t tend to argue with me even if they don’t take my side. Very few in my own Court would think to seek revenge on me.”
There was a definitive pause.
“Gavin, shut the fuck up.”
“Yes, your Majesty.”
Doshiel met her by the window. Seeing the child from Clan Lavellan was like someone had slammed her head into a steel door. And yes. That had happened.
It was painful to see another Dalish elf in the city, trapped by circumstances that may not be her own. Doshiel did not leave due to several fears – Wardens, being run from Aleriel like she had from Sabrae, getting a fucking Call again, archdemons, take your fucking pick! – but she could at least leave if she wasn’t afraid. This elf did not have that luxury.
No, Doshiel thought as she leaned against the wall, staring at the da’len with studying eyes, this elf had no choice.
“Did you get banished?”
Doshiel’s question was stupid, because once banished you had your vallaslin marred. Her vallaslin was not marred.
“No. I…” the da’len faltered for a moment. Doshiel heard footsteps that stopped, but did not turn. “Gaspard threatened my clan. We’ve… the Lavellan, we’ve settled near Wycome. I mean, it’s not permanent, and they – we – do leave to visit other clans, but Gaspard told my Keeper he thought visiting a Dalish clan was simply a moment of curiosity. He threatened my clan with slavers, and my Keeper shoved me onto them.”
Doshiel’s eyes widened. “Holy fucking shit, what the hell is wrong with –“
“Nothing is wrong with Keeper Istimaethoriel,” the Lavellan da’len snapped, turning to her with fierce, angry eyes. “Don’t – please don’t suggest something like that.” She gripped the side of the window. “I went back every summer. It was the only way to keep learning magic, keep up my strength, and to remember my promise. I would do it for the People. I’m a duchess. It’s different than the advisor to the Empress; instead of it being a covert affair…”
Doshiel understood. “While the elf bitch whispers in the Empress’ ear, you can bring allies to you and hopefully change things with the elves.”
The Lavellan snorted. “Yeah, something like that.”
Doshiel shrugged. “I kinda suck at being a Dalish elf.” She smiled at the Lavellan’s look of well, I was thinking it but I didn’t want to say it. “I honor the gods as best I can – including the Maker, because yes, da’len, I’m also Andrastrian – but I do nothing in the court but listen. Here in Denerim, the people are fine with the system. It works.” Doshiel closed her eyes. “It will work, until it doesn’t. Rather, I think, like what that elf bitch in Halamshiral is thinking.” Doshiel took a swig of her drink, grimacing and wishing desperately it was real alcohol. Sadly, it wasn’t. “You aren’t the only elf trying to make things better, but you’re in the best position to actively do so. I believe Sylaise burns within you.” Doshiel placed a hand on her cheek; the Lavellan closed her eyes. Doshiel leaned in, the top of her vallaslin meeting the Lavellan’s. She felt a wonderful cooling sensation on her forehead where her vallaslin met her skin.
A throat cleared.
Both opened their eyes and removed foreheads, the younger elf flushing a little bit.
Doshiel turned her head. The bald flat – er, apostate elf (she had to remind herself that saying ‘flat-ear’ was offensive to city elves and Alistair had reminded her that his mistress or no, the people would [and had] complain[ed] to him) stood there, looking pretty uncomfortable.
“Forgive the interruption,” the apostate said, something in his eyes as he looked at Doshiel with an unfathomable look that made her shiver (in fear? dread? excitement?). “However, we must leave early tomorrow morning due to something going on at Haven. It may have something to do with the Breach.”
Doshiel watched the Lavellan nod even as she tensed up.
Lavellan gave her a smile before walking past her, Solas turning as she approached, as though to go with her.
“Tuelanen ama na, da’len.” Creators protect you, child.
The Lavellan turned, a smile on her lips. “Juviran ven es'an hama sul em.” I shall walk the path they lay for me.
She flushed again, then spoke once more. “Nuva es'an ama tas i'na.” May they protect you as well.
Doshiel waved a hand lazily. “I’ve got Alistair,” she winked, smiling.
The Lavellan smiled once more before Solas cleared his throat.
Doshiel’s smile faded as she stared at the bald elf as they walked. Something was definitely strange with that man.
“You know, I don’t think I actually know a ward like that.” Galifalon turned to Solas. “You’re the Fade expert of the Inquisition. Would it be possible?”
Solas thought about it for a moment, thinking. “I believe so,” he said, slowly. “Though unrealistic without immense preparation. Or a strong, almost unnatural inclination to ice.”
Galifalon snorted. “You’re looking at a natural-born ice mage,” he said with a smirk. “Kinda like sis, though she’s fire.”
Solas’ brows rose. “She has fire, and you ice?”
“Weird, isn’t it? Our sister Varaina’s inclined to the lightning element, though she doesn’t use it as well.” Galifalon shrugged. “Or last brother Fenris – he’s not a mage, but that might also be because he’s got lyrium brands.”
Solas frowned even as Dorian seemed to reflexively jerk his horse to the side.
“Dalish elves brand their –?”
“Fuck, no. He’s not Dalish.” Galifalon was clearly relishing the Common curses. “Kerrah and I are Dalish. Fenris and Varaina,” Galifalon gave him a huge grin, “were born in Tevinter.”
Slaves, most likely.
“A story that is not ours to tell,” Kerrah called back from the head of the line.
Galifalon pouted. “You kill all my fun,” he muttered.
“Fun is subjective, little brother.”
Galifalon lifted his eyes to the sky. “Dread Wolf take me,” he groaned.
No. Solas flicked his reins. “Da’len, if this has to do with the Breach…”
“I’m actually going to talk to Leliana about attempting to close it soon.” She looked at him, concern in her eyes. “If we do, and something goes wrong… There are civilians in Haven.”
Solas tilted his head. “You’ve a plan, I assume?”
She nodded. “It’s terrible, but it might work. If, and this is just if, the Breach ends up exploding, I’d like every civilian to be gone; I’ll ask Leliana if she’ll start evacuating them to other villages. My place of residence resides too close to the Breach.”
He nodded, agreeing with her. Hopefully, though, he’d have the Anchor back after the Breach was closed.
“If we’re going to attempt to close the Breach,” she said after another silence, “I’m going to need training. I was…” She hesitated, then went forth with it. “I was hoping you might train me.”
Solas blinked. He… had not expected that.
“Not about the Mark. It and I… As weird as it sounds, I feel like it and I have an understanding.” She stared at the Mark, which sputtered softly as she stared at it. She didn’t wince.
“And this… understanding, does it draw on your mana?”
She glanced up at him, a fine crease between her brows.
“Yes,” she said, after a moment. He wondered if he’d said something in the future to that nature. “It’s taxing, but it doesn’t cause me any pain rather than if I don’t feed it. And that’s only when it’s active.”
“So, essentially, the Mark is a parasite,” Galifalon suggested, butting into the conversation.
“Eww, that’s nasty, that is!” Sera’s voice floated from behind them, discussing something rather lowly with the Iron Bull. Solas didn’t care.
The Herald’s face became annoyed and proceeded to use the hand with the Anchor to lift her middle finger to Galifalon.
There was a silence. Solas knit his brows together.
Dorian snickered. “Ah, dear, thank you for that! I never thought you would do that.”
He continued to snicker. Sera snorted; the Iron Bull chuckled.
Solas blinked. “What does that finger mean?”
It stirred a vague recollection in him, from the thousands of years wandering the Fade and possibly even from Arlathan, but… He didn’t remember what that gesture meant. Just that it was rude.
“Fuck you,” the Herald told him. Solas felt a little offended.
“That’s what the finger means?” Galifalon sounded stunned.
“Servants do it all the time to each other if they’re mad at one another.”
Ooh. Shemlen custom.
“Wow. If Keeper Desh – Istimaethoriel saw you do that and knew what it meant she would’ve had you lugging the babies everywhere.”
“That’s how she got so strong?” muttered Dorian.
“No, she did other things too.” Galifalon smirked smugly at his sister. “Strong as the Iron Bull, if I’m right.”
“I’d like to see her muscles first,” the Iron Bull called back.
“I don’t wear shorter sleeves for precisely that reason!”
“I’ve got to see ‘em,” Sera called up. “I’m going to get ya in short sleeves, just you wait Herald-tits!”
For some reason that made Kerrah explode into laughter.
“Sera,” she gasped. “I love you.”
“Is there somethin’ I’m missin’?” the crass elf asked as Dorian began to chortle.
“Cory –“ the Dalish elf leaned forward, shaking so badly as she did Solas was quite afraid that she was going to fall off. She stopped, gaining a bit of control over herself. “You said,” she said before giggles erupted; she shook as she continued talking, “Coryphenuts.”
She erupted into laughter again; Solas’ entire body went cold.
She did face Corypheus. She learned his name.
He had a bad feeling about all of this, though he simply allowed a wan smile to cross his lips as he fell back in case anyone looked at him.
Adhlea woke up early and walked outside Haven, walking over to the templar encampment. They were the only ones with proper targets; in the dim light of the morning, she tied her hair up and took a couple daggers from a chest. From there, she began throwing them.
She was great at throwing them. Using them in close combat – like a sword, actually – was a huge mistake. Syven was good with arrows, shit with throwing daggers, relatively good with a sword (if he had to use one) but amazing with using daggers in close combat.
It took years for muscle memory to develop; Adhlea had used all the time at her clan wisely as well as the four years before she’d married Gaspard to get this damn good at throwing shit and using a bow. Projectile weaponry was her specialty.
She stilled after throwing a knife.
There was also another reason why she was here. She’d asked Cullen to be at the templar tents early. She wanted him to remain hidden, in case something bad happened.
“Yes?” her voice was quiet.
“Get the fuck out of our training area, ‘fore ya cut someone else’s ear,” a voice sneered, gaining ground. “Fuckin’ knife-ears.” She stepped forward as though knowing his hand was coming near her shoulder. “You really should’a stayed in the fuckin’ alienage you came from, rabbit.”
She walked forward, calmly. Assuredly. She took two of the knifes out, bowing her head and walking towards the templar before passing him and bending over the chest – before whirling around and having the knife at his throat.
One hand, on his belt, froze. Wide eyes turned even more fearful as he realized he was well and truly fucked.
“Cullen.” She dearly hoped –
Nothing for a moment. The fear vanished from the templar’s eyes and he opened his mouth.
“Nobody’s gonna save ya here, rabbit.”
Fucking hell, Cull –
“And just why is that, Jenkins?”
“I’ve heard some nasty rumors,” Adhlea smiled. “Just wanted to make sure they weren’t true; looks like I was wrong in believing you wouldn’t abuse your power.” She waited until Cullen was behind him to remove her knife. The man tried to move quickly, but froze.
Cullen had his sword placed next to his ear.
“You dishonor the Templar Order, Jenkins,” Cullen said. “You can get him now.”
Two female templars appeared, their gazes furious.
Cullen returned his attention to Adhlea.
“It won’t work again,” he warned.
Adhlea smirked at him, causing him to frown.
“But it sends a message,” Adhlea replied, coolly. “It sends a message that whether a knife-ear,” she glared at everyone standing there around them, many staring down with shame and still others glaring at her, “or a human or a Qun or a fucking dwarf is to be allowed to train here. If I here any more rumors of assault by templars, I’m going to make certain that the templars are gone.” She flipped her dagger and aimed the hilt at Cullen. “That includes you, if you can’t get a handle on your templars.”
“Would you do the same to the mages?” Cullen asked, narrowing his eyes.
Adhlea smirked. “I’ve already dealt with the mages.”
Yes, Elaine had been furious – not about Adhlea’s warning that should rumors reach her ears, Adhlea wouldn’t hesitate – but that there were rumors of apostates assaulting other people.
Whether or not it was sexually, Adhlea wasn’t going to tolerate it.
Solas eyed her form as she swung her staff. It wasn’t bad, but he wasn’t actually here to teach her anything to do with the staff. She stopped and knelt, perusing a book on a dry rock, only dry due to the protective barrier she’d placed under it. Interesting. He could see the edges; presumably it warded against the elements – at least until she took the book off and scorched it. That, too, carried a backlash if not done right.
She turned, swinging her staff around in a circle.
He realized, after a moment, what exactly she was doing. A ring of fire appeared, at first only at the tip; as she continued swinging, it looked like it sprouted from the opposite end of the staff.
No, he thought. She’d formed a fireball at a spot and forced the flame to spin.
She closed her eyes, as was her habit; another fireball formed.
She was starting to tremble. She’d probably been practicing for a while.
Then she stopped and switched directions with the staff. Solas cast a barrier as she opened her eyes.
The fireballs mostly landed on the frozen river. One stray fireball hit the pier; Solas threw a ball of ice to extinguish it.
“Oops,” the Herald offered with a wince.
“How long have you been here?” Solas eyed the dry ground. “Practicing Circle magic?”
“Not that long,” she said, turning to the book and waving her hand.
Nothing happened. She scowled deeply, then moved her hand in a forceful direction.
The book jerked off the rock, sailing into the snow a few meters from the rock.
The Herald scowled and walked over to it, flicking her staff and scorching the wards on the rock.
He could feel the magic lash out.
“Circle magic is so hard,” she said, sitting down and taking a waterskin from the side of the rock. “Vivienne suggested I try to do what the apostates did in Witchwood; they used their own magic to hold their books up.”
“I remember,” Solas replied, sitting next to her. “Did you ask Lady Trevelyan?”
The elf shook her head. “No. She’s busy with her apostates. I thought it best to practice on my own.”
Solas tipped his head in acknowledgment. “You are very skilled,” he noted. She flushed – with pride or anger if she thought he was being condescending, he wasn’t too sure; she often seemed to feel contradicting feelings at once.
“Will you be teaching me some offensive magic?” she wondered.
Solas shook his head. “What I wish to teach you today is not offensive. If that is what you were hoping for, I deeply apol –“
“Solas.” He eyed her. “I appreciate any time you take to teach me.”
She was being genuine. No masks here.
“Thank you.” He eyed her. “This magic is… not exactly dangerous. It is useful for lighting flame that only you or another user of this particular magic can wield; well, that and water would do the trick. Also, your death.” She was looking less enthused now. “The point is, it is a variant of your flame. It reveals things that were previously hidden.”
He called to it. Shaping it with his hands, he cupped the flame and brought the Veilfire to life.
Greenish-blue fire danced in the palm of his hands. Her eyes went wide.
“It is extremely difficult to bring to life,” Solas admitted. “Your natural inclination to fire would, I assume, make it easier. My predilection for ice magic makes it weaker.”
“It’s pretty,” the flame-haired elf breathed, leaning closer.
“Cup your hands,” Solas offered, an idea beginning to form. It might not work; magic so rarely worked the way one wanted it to. Perhaps, though, with the Anchor close, he could help the process along. She followed his instruction easily. He transferred the flame to a single hand, then took her Anchor hand with his right. Her eyes widened.
“Apologies,” he said to her, gently nudging the Anchor to accept his direction. “I acted without thought. I can try to –“
“No, it was just startling,” the magenta-eyed woman said, her eyes returning to the flame. “A connection is needed, then?”
He nearly started as she nodded towards the Anchor. Could she feel the magic he was nudging? Odd.
“Yes, again. I should have warned you.” He focused, drawing his other hand to hover over her Anchor hand. As normal, she closed her eyes, her magic sluggishly touching his from her other hand. Solas nearly took his hand away as her magic touched his – his magic screamed wrong wrong wrong – but he remained steady, breathing as one did and not letting his dislike of the world’s magic show on his face or in his magic.
Carefully, he let it drop into her awaiting palm.
Her eyes shot open, a crease forming in the branches of her vallaslin as she stared at the fire in her grasp. He kept up some magic.
“Here is the flow. Feel it.” She kept staring at it, mesmerized; when he felt her magic overtaking his in a similar manner, he slowly released the magic.
As soon as he had, it vanished. The flames did sputter before vanishing, meaning she could hold them; it was just a manner of her holding them consciously.
Solas once more summoned the flames, still holding onto her Anchor hand.
“Feel them,” he ordered. “Try to remember how much mana you’ll use.”
She frowned at them harder as he slid them into her palm.
Repetition, he’d learned, was a good thing when it came to magic. Certain spells only needed a rudimentary grasp of knowledge in order to do what you’d like. What Solas was showing her was how they felt, how he summoned them. He’d no need for a staff with this spell.
She was not able to sustain the flames indefinitely, due to her other practicing; Solas had a suspicion she’d practiced more than Circle magics as she cupped her trembling hands again, for about the twelfth time he’d summoned the flame.
“That’s it for today,” he said, taking his hand from her warm Anchor.
“I can still –“ she began, a frown on her face, only for Solas to hold up a finger.
“You don’t want to strain yourself too badly, da’len. Doing this alone has brought you to the point of exhaustion; I suspect that with a little more time, we shall go on to conjuring the Veilfire. For now, here is another lesson: know your limits.”
She looked a little murderous, but allowed her hands to drop to her lap – before her eyes lit up.
“How come you don’t use a staff for lighting that Veilfire? Wouldn’t it be easier?”
He was already shaking his head.
“No. The staff of a mage emits what you wish; as in, if you suddenly desired to freeze a strip of land, you would need to focus. Mages need staves to focus their will, or else you would be practically ripping at the Fade.” Well, no. Mages didn’t; when one learned it from birth, plucking at the Fade was like strumming a gentle instrument. A gentle instrument that, should you pluck too hard, you would grab the attention of either a spirit or a demon; Solas had known his own limits, therefore the risks were less. Mages in the now had to reach past the Veil and into the Fade. If Kerrah had been –
No. He quashed the thought before he could think it fully.
“Shall we head back to Haven? I would assume Leliana or Cassandra would be worried for you.”
She nodded, standing and brushing snow off of her before picking back up the Circle text; she slung her staff on her back and started as he did, carefully walking across the frozen lake. Snow was starting to fall again.
For a few moments, they were silent.
“For some stupid reason, I thought I was going to be sentenced to death by the Chantry when I went to Val Royeaux.”
He nodded. “An adequate worry.”
She chuckled. “Only when you consider how much doom-and-gloom stories Leliana was sharing with Cassandra. Other than that, I really shouldn’t have been; I was also imagining another Divine Justinia.”
Solas looked to her. “You sound as though you knew her.”
She smiled at Solas, the smile a trifle sad.
“Upon my introduction to the Orlesian Court, Divine Justinia called me to meet her. We met, I told her exactly what I was, and she asked – well, you know Orlesians, they don’t ask – me to take Leliana to Kirkwall. Obviously, I did not refuse. Then she came to my chateau to request my attendance at the Conclave, I went, and – well.” She shrugged. “This shite happened.”
Solas chuckled lightly. “Seems the most strange things happen to you, no?”
She laughed lightly, breath forming in the frosty air.
They walked in companionable silence; just as they reached the other side, Cullen ran up. His face was a poorly-concealed look of fear of something – no, of something.
“Lady Herald!” Kerrah twitched. “Some Inquisition scouts have been trapped in the Fallow Mire. Leliana wanted to know if you were up to going?”
Kerrah nodded. “I’ll leave in the morning.” She tossed Solas a slightly amused look. “I don’t know where this Fallow Mire is. Want to join?”
“I do,” Solas replied. “We will do our exercises each morning and night.”
He found himself amused at the fleeting look of absolute dread that flashed across her face.
Yes. All the hints towards the Dread Wolf? Totally intentional. Don't care if you're already tired of them. I've never made as many references before, and there's all the more to come! :D
And about the vallaslin...
I thought... Well, isn't it kind of stupid that the vallaslin is said to have been slave markings, and yet - yet even in many fics, I've yet to see an actual USE for them. I mean, yeah, they honor the gods. But... WHY CAN'T YOU MAKE THEM FEEL SHIT? Like earlier I expanded a whole bunch on them and not a peep! Really want your opinions on my writings, folks, just no flames. They'll just make me write more weird shit.
Also, the next chapter is the Avvar fight and it's pretty lame compared to my other fight scenes... Haha... I'm actually honestly terrible at fight scenes. It's like one of the only ones. Mostly because I don't actually have the guts to vividly describe the deaths of various characters. I'll probably add in a few more scenes, buuut they'll be further on. Sorry/not sorry. Horrible action writer here.
Read and review, please. :D
The Fallow Mire was wet. And miserable. And full of the undead.
All in all, Adhlea regretted coming here. Solas, too, looked like he was sorely wishing he could have stayed.
“I’ve heard this place stays wet all year,” Blackwall said, chopping the head of a walking skeleton off.
“I’m not surprised if it does.” Adhlea glanced up. There was no sign of the Breach, which was surprising and yet… not. It was so cloudy she’d be surprised if it could shine through that. She fired off a few fireballs, hitting some of the skeletons. Bones clattered to the ground.
“Herald!” An Inquisition scout, Lace Harding, appeared, running through the rain. “We’ve got a pretty nice space over here!” Harding yelled over the downpour. “Sadly, we only have three tents, and one of them’s occupied!”
Adhlea genuinely regretted picking men, all of a sudden.
“Lovely,” Dorian said with a smirk. “What do you say, Blackwall? Feel up to being roommates?”
Blackwall nodded after Adhlea looked away, trying not to give away how uncomfortable she’d be sharing with Blackwall. It’s not that Blackwall wasn’t nice, but he was just… He stared. It made her a little uneasy, but she didn’t know why. Dorian winked at her, making her blink at him.
“Come on, da’len. We’ll do our exercises and then rest.” He walked up to Harding and gestured to her, pointing at himself and Kerrah. Harding nodded before motioning them to follow.
The rest of the group plodded forward, soaked thoroughly.
“It’s risky to have tents here,” Harding explained, gesturing to the overhanging shelf as the rain sound died down when they went under it. “We’ve got intel on the scouts, though. They’re being held by the Avvar chieftain of this area.” She straightened as they came into a cave. Ah, yes. Caves. Best thing ever…
“Why?” Adhlea frowned. Harding glanced up at her.
“Word is, he wants to battle you, Herald.” Harding threw her a worried glance. “I’ve heard his gods told him his tribe would be blessed by the Sky-Mother if he beat you.”
“Avvar tend to fight until the death, right?” Harding nodded.
“If you choose to fight him, it’s recommended you don’t bring a staff.” Adhlea frowned again. Harding offered her a smile-grimace. “You’d be considered a cheater. Any win you make, it has to be with knives or bows.”
Of course it does.
Harding turned with the group. At the entrance to the cave, one of the camp’s scouts was dragging in another one. The second one was extremely injured, but alive.
“Captain, the Avvar actually want a fight,” the uninjured man said, his gaze flicking over the wet group. “They’re very insistent that their gods demand it.”
“Of course they do,” Adhlea muttered. “They’re using the name of their gods to fight me. Creators above.”
“Do you want us to see what herbs are around here?” Dorian asked, volunteering Blackwall. “I’m certain you don’t want us to watch you if you…”
“Fail? No, that’d be sad.” Adhlea tapped her lips. “Harding, who has the last shift to watch and make sure the undead don’t overrun this camp?”
“That would be Darrin. He just took the last shift, so he’s sleeping.” Harding folded her arms. “Want him to wake you two when his shift starts?”
Adhlea nodded. “I would.”
When they entered the tent, Adhlea’s heart was beating rapidly. Solas immediately drew a sleeping bag against the other side of the tent; she dragged hers elsewhere and shucked her outer layer. No matter how cold she was before she went to bed, she was always practically – and pretty grossly – dripping with sweat when she woke up.
When she did, she was surprisingly cool. She shifted, wondering why; then she spotted a cooling sigil on the bottom of the tent. Solas was out of the tent; Adhlea grabbed her jacket and got up. They waited out there, without looking impatient. Adhlea wondered why she’d woken up, then assumed it to be the coolness. It was a welcome change, if she was honest.
“Thank you,” she murmured to Solas.
“You were overheating,” Solas said, simply. He offered her a small smile. “I highly doubt you enjoy waking up in the heat.”
“You’re not wrong.” Sleeping with Allana and Cassandra that one time had been strange, and she had worried, but she’d been pressed against the wall of the tent. Besides, it’d been the fucking Hinterlands. The night was always freezing there. “I know you know I’m inclined to fire, but maybe you could show me how to make the rune?”
He nodded. “No matter what inclination you have, ice runes can be used by anyone,” he explained.
She nodded once more at him in thanks.
“How is the evacuation going?” Elaine hopped on the War Table as she asked that.
“Well, slowly,” Cullen admitted, “as we do have to search for a place to hold the civilians until we close the Breach. Lady Vivienne suggested a village six days from here; we’ve been funneling them there slowly in case we are being watched.”
“You think we’re not?” Leliana folded her arms. “As of late I feel an ominous shadow around.”
“I’m not saying we are not,” Cullen said, standing and putting a hand on his sword. “It’s just a matter of telling whoever is watching that we are a village of soldiers or a village of both civilians and soldiers. It makes less sense to send civilians away unless we’re sure in our military might.”
“From what the Herald was saying, it’s not Orlais or Ferelden.” Elaine met their gazes with intensity. “It’s this Corypheus guy. I don’t think he gives a damn if civilians are leaving.”
They exchanged glances.
“You don’t believe her,” Elaine realized.
“Time travel… is impossible,” Cullen said. “And her words are only backed by a man from Tevinter and an apostate elf who seems to have undying faith in her. I’m not saying she is wrong –“
“No wonder she doesn’t fully trust you and takes matters into her own hands,” Elaine interrupted, scoffing. “Is it because she’s an elf, or a mage?”
“Neither her race nor her powers define our trust in her,” Leliana said, glaring at Elaine. “She knows what happened to the Divine, yet she’s said nothing. How can we trust her if she says nothing about that?”
“Maybe it was traumatizing!” Elaine threw her hands up. “From what she’s said, the Divine was amazingly kind to her. Fuck, Leliana! Ask her. Ask her for the full story! I almost guarantee she’ll not argue and she’ll tell you!” Another thought occurred to her. “And you do realize that the Herald has given you her trust, right? The least you could’ve done was give her the same.”
Chapter 36: Herald vs Avvar
Adhlea and Solas stepped into the Avvar stronghold. It was really weird to see them in the ruins of a castle. From her thoughts, she’d imagined them camping like the Inquisition had, in the caves around the area. It was just weird to realize that no, this tribe did no such thing, instead camping directly under the rain.
She’d barely slept after her Veilfire exercises with Solas. Good news: She’d conjured up a spark of a flame. Bad news: Solas had deemed her still not ready to push forth.
It had been awkward for her, in the same tent as another elf… And a man, at that. Yes, he’d only taken off his pack, but it was still the principle of the thing. It was different than falling asleep on a tree next to him. Somehow.
“I sense an Elvhen artifact,” Solas murmured to her.
Adhlea flicked her hand. “I don’t think I’ll need help,” she whispered back. “I’m going to dissuade him from this way.”
“You do realize he is the one with the mace, yes?” Solas questioned her.
Adhlea looked to him, then back at the Avvar leader.
“I am well aware of what he wields. Get to the artifact, then find the soldiers,” she whispered back. “If you can’t get them out without killing, then do whatever it takes.”
“That might be against their tribal rules,” Solas murmured.
“It isn’t against mine,” Adhlea hissed at him before striding forward. In the back of her mind, she could feel Solas slipping away from her as she did so; the silence of the Avvar unnerved her.
“You,” the leader rumbled. “You who have dared to take our lands.” Oh, yes – the Frostbacks were home to a number of Avvar leaders.
“I am the Herald,” she said, her voice strong. “You have some of my people. I’ve come to retrieve them.”
The Avvar man stood. Holy shit, he was as tall – if not taller – than the Iron Bull.
I wonder, she thought, ice sliding through her veins, if I have not made the biggest mistake of my life.
“Beat me in single combat,” the man rumbled. “And I will have no choice but to bow to you.”
Adhlea took out her daggers.
“Ready when you are, Chieftain,” she said with teeth bared in a facsimile of a smile.
He grinned at her words before descending the steps, briefly setting down his mace and discarding his wolf pelt.
In a similar fashion, in recognition of their customs, Adhlea quickly unbuckled her Enchanter’s cloak and did her hair up as he turned to his tribesmen.
“In the fashion of our people, in recognition of the Sky-Mother, she is to be given the Challenger’s Mark!”
An Avvar with a bowl of paint approached. She pointed towards the Avvar chieftain, then motioned clumsily to remove one more layer.
Adhlea shucked off her Orlesian coat, as warm as it was, and stepped from her boots. Gooseflesh rose as she did so, the rain making her even more wet and miserable as she stood there. The Avvar woman took her right arm and drew once, then twice, two loops around her arm. Even though it was raining, it did not force the paint to run.
“You are ready,” the Avvar announced. Adhlea watched as the Avvar stepped back.
The Avvar man ran at her with a beastly roar.
Adhlea dodged his first blow with wide eyes.
His mace slammed the ground with a bone-rattling slam. Adhlea heard it being removed and turned, running at him before attempting to dodge it.
It clipped her Anchor arm.
A shout of pain and the Anchor spiking in agitation later, Adhlea wondered how the fuck she was so damn stupid as to let it touch her.
Focus, teldirthalelan. Do not let anything distract you. Adhlea ducked a swing. If it’s a larger opponent using a sword, use the moments in between.
Adhlea’s bare feet slammed on the ground as the elf shot for the steps. She heard the man running after her, felt the air begin to bend. She slid, her body slamming onto the ground and knocking the breath out of her. Stars formed in her vision as her left arm was jostled. Rain was making the wounds bleed heavily.
Adhlea got up, forcing her left arm to move, grasping her dagger and getting up with it. Her right arm clutched her dagger in a death grip.
I simply need to disarm him. She made it to the top of the steps as he brought the mace down, cracking the steps where she’d fallen. Fuck. Her eyes caught sight of several members limping away. This man could not turn away; she thought frantically.
“Dread Wolf take you!”
The Avvar laughed. “Not even your Dread Wolf can save you, child of the hearth-keeper.”
I chose Mythal, Adhlea thought, gripping her daggers as he brought the mace up. Mythal, grant me your protection! She darted forward, forcing her legs to move well on the slippery slope and, with all her Creators-given strength, slammed into the Avvar leader.
Both of them sailed down, slamming hard against the steps. The chieftain bellowed in wordless agony; Adhlea heard the mace rolling down. She decided to disarm him. Not completely.
He howled again as she stabbed her daggers in each of his arms, in the shoulder-muscle. As she’d been taught in her clan, those wounds would remain.
Then she stood, picking the mace handle up, and brought it sailing around to land, with a satisfying crunch, next to his head.
It took a lot out of her as the warriors went silent; the chieftain going silent.
“He yields,” an older voice said, the voice dark and furious.
Adhlea looked up to see –
She looked down. “You are dishonorable,” she informed the Avvar beneath her. “False chieftain.”
He bared his teeth at her. She bared her teeth at him, yanking out her daggers mercilessly.
“For the time being, he was chieftain.” The Avvar who had declared his warrior had lost dropped his kill. “You have earned the stripes of the Sky-Mother, daughter of the protector. Few outsiders have; show some pride in it.”
The same Avvar from before melted from the darkness, holding the same bowl.
On the same arm, the Avvar added three lines – one connecting the two bars and extending past it, then two more on either side.
“You may go. Your people have long left.” The Avvar waved his hand. Adhlea took her clothes and left the stronghold. A few of the Inquisition scouts remained there, warily eyeing yet another Avvar who stood beneath a Rift. The Avvar turned to her, his face unmarked by Avvar war-paint.
(How she knew so much about Avvar culture? She lived in the Frostbacks, for Mythal’s sake. There was reason for her to. She knew that there was penalty for a false chieftain to declare a champion’s match; problem was she didn’t know if the punishment was given to her or him.)
“The Sky-Mother says you can close these holes in Her,” the Avvar rumbled.
Adhlea nodded. She shoved her clothes at a scout – “Hold onto them for me, please,” she requested with a forced smile – and charged at the demon-spawning rift.
She was lucky, only having the difficulty of killing the shades that constantly threw balls of magic at her as she tried to close it. Also, the Avvar killed half of them.
The Inquisition members killed the rest.
She turned to the Avvar.
“Have you a clan?” she asked.
The Avvar shook his head. “I wander,” he replied.
Adhlea gave him a close-mouthed smile. “Would you like a place to wander from?”
Yes, she was offering an Avvar a place in the Inquisition.
The Avvar gave her a smile, full of teeth.
“As long as the Sky-Mother ails, I shall join your cause,” the Avvar man announced.
Chapter 37: Unto The Breach
If you're going to ask about the supposed typo I made... No, there isn't a typo in this chapter. It's intentional.
We of the Magisterium would like to personally handle Magister Gereon Alexius’ punishment. His son, Felix Alexius, has spoken rather harshly of what occurred; we desire to hear it from the magister himself.
Thank you in advance,
With all due respect, the Magisterium must speak to the one person who holds Magister Alexius’ fate. The Inquisitor Lavellan.
King Alistair Cousland
Since we’ve last written, a lot of things have happened. Actually, since I left. I have two siblings (Syven most likely told you of them) I found in Kirkwall. I met Doshiel Aleriel in Denerim; she’s King Alistair and Queen Anora’s lover. We had a chat. It was uncomfortable.
I have not had much of a chance since the hole appeared in the sky to write. My sincerest apologies. I’ve more recently found myself called a Herald of Andraste. Ridiculous. I still hold steadfast to my faith in Mythal. Somehow, I have created a temporary peace between mages and templars in Haven. It’s – I still have no idea how.
We’re getting ready to close the giant hole in the sky, Mamae. And yes, I know you are not my mother, but you once said… Well, you know. I’m scared, Mamae. I’m absolutely terrified that I might actually die doing this and I don’t want to, Mamae. I still feel my work is unfinished.
Oh! I nearly forgot. I’m learning to refine my magical skills by an apostate Fade-Walker. He’s strict, and he’s kind of like you. He flicks my ears. It’s rude. And mean. You two would get along great. I miss everyone.
Haven was empty of all but the Chantry Father and sisters and the mages and templars. Vivienne had left – With several carts. With things Adhlea had in her own cabin.
Annoying, but Vivienne had a bad feeling. Vivienne also didn’t like to take chances.
So there they were, ahead of her. Dorian, a Tevinter mage; Solas, an apostate mage; Cassandra, a Seeker; Varric, a storyteller; and the Iron Bull, a fucking Qunari. Adhlea looked behind her, at the mass of silently terrified mages and templars.
This made her heart pound. But… But it also made her somewhat proud. Because fucking mages and templars were working together.
“What is it?” Elaine stopped next to her.
“I think tonight will be a change in history,” Adhlea smiled.
Elaine looked troubled. “You’re not scared?”
Adhlea turned. “I’m terrified,” she admitted. “But if I die… It would all be worth it, to close the Breach.”
She strode forward, staff a heavy weight on her back.
“We die tonight, I want it to be known,” a shaking Minaeve blurted, causing people to give her curious looks, “I’ve always wanted to go out doing something really awesome. Like fighting a dragon.”
Adhlea paused. She’d seen Minaeve around the Chantry in the past months and weeks, but as Adhlea rarely spent time inside the Chantry as a rule save for the War Room, it wasn’t hard to imagine the duo not meeting. All she knew was Minaeve had expressed a desire to study creatures. Not kill them.
“I thought you disliked fighting?” Cullen asked, his ridiculously thick armor not hindering him in any way.
“I’ve always wanted to fight a dragon!” Minaeve sounded offended. “I just… It has to be in a safe environment.”
Adhlea tilted her head.
“Oi, Iron Bull!” The tall Qun turned his head towards her. “We survive this, we’re taking Minaeve to fight a dragon. Good with that?”
“Sure thing, Boss!” The tall Qun glanced at Minaeve. “Don’t worry, it depends on what dragon you choose to fight and where! There’s the fire-breather in Ferelden.”
“There’s a dragon in Ferelden?” Minaeve squawked, paling.
“Ah, don’t worry! Only wyverns tend to come around the Frostbacks,” the Iron Bull laughed.
That didn’t seem to be Minaeve’s worry.
“We’re here,” Cassandra announced, her voice grave. “Everyone in position.”
Silence descended once more. Adhlea hung back, staring at the Breach with fear.
“Opening it will be much harder than closing it,” Solas murmured, “but with every mage concentrating and giving you their power, you should have more than enough power to open and close it.”
“I know,” Adhlea whispered, recalling the letter she’d sent to Deshanna a week ago. She wished, suddenly, she’d thought of it sooner. Wished she could say her goodbyes.
She closed her eyes and stepped forward, Solas’ hand that was on her shoulder falling off.
Setting her shoulders, she strode into the middle of the silent courtyard.
Meeting Cullen’s grim face as the templars got ready, she nodded. He nodded as soon as the line was done.
Mages’ staves glowed. She met first Solas’ eyes; Solas bent his head to her in respect. She quirked her mouth before her eyes trailed along the apostates, staring each of them in the face before meeting Elaine’s tearful expression.
“All of you,” Adhlea started, turning to the Breach, “have sacrificed a lot. Should we survive this, let’s drink a pint together, all right? On me.”
A smattering of chuckles.
Adhlea took another deep breath before extending her hand.
She opened the Breach. Demons started to formed. This was where the templars came in handy, as a series of Holy Smites (smites? Smitings? Ugh, templar terminology) made them return to the Fade. Adhlea raised her hand once more.
“Mages!” Elaine’s authoritative voice was echoed by Fiona’s as they sent their magic into Adhlea.
Adhlea let her mind feel above her, in the Breach.
The Breach was a gaping wound in the fabric of reality. What Adhlea had done was push the sides together haphazardly and hope it worked. Now, though, Adhlea had to drag the Veil itself back together, a piece at a time; she focused the Anchor in doing so.
She did not move for what seemed like hours as demons poured out, en masse. A pride demon jumped through. The templars did their duty and beat it down, vanquishing it.
Adhlea’s arm trembled. She was halfway through when a mage’s power stopped; they were probably unconscious.
Keep going. It sounded oddly like her Keeper. You can do this. You must.
No, that was her Keeper What the fuck what was her Keeper doing here
Where the Fade is concerned, you are an inch away, her Keeper admonished gently. You must keep going.
I do not think I am strong enough.
If you are not strong enough, then you will die. Everyone you know will die. Her Keeper spoke matter-of-factly. Do you want that, da’len?
Then do it. She could feel a phantom pain in her ear as though her Keeper had flicked her there in admonishment. And know the People will never desert you, da’len.
Adhlea pushed through. She pushed through even as her hand spiked with pain, even as she felt mages collapse around her. Her Keeper’s magic had long since left her, but Adhlea knew. Adhlea knew she was watching as she slowly closed her hand and forced the tear in the Veil to close.
She jerked her hand back. For a moment, the rift leading to the Breach remained for a long moment before a pulse exploded out in the sky, the rift bursting into non-existence; Adhlea fell to the ground, staring as the hole in the sky was covered by clouds.
“THAT’S WHAT I CALL MAGIC!” Dorian’s exultant shout broke it. Cheers exploded around the place.
Adhlea laughed joyously.
Their joy did not last long.
Adhlea dropped her tankard, a sick feeling as half the mages still awake and conscious ran out. Adhlea followed, hearing the warning bells ring.
“Some of the trebuchets aren’t firing!”
Adhlea’s eyes widened at the approaching army. She shouted over to Cullen, causing him to jerk.
“Cullen, whose colors?”
Cullen shook his head. “None!” he shouted back.
Adhlea took up her staff, leaping over the wall and grunting when she slammed onto the ground.
“Herald, what are you doing?” Cullen grasped her hand and tried to stop her.
She stared into his eyes.
“We don’t let people die,” she snarled. “Get them to the Chant –“
A roar pierced her bones. Adhlea jerked as Cullen did, a fucking dragon appearing and spewing flame at Haven.
Fire landed. Thunder clapped from where it hit the ground. FUCK!
“Get them to the Chantry, Cullen! They’ll die!”
Adhlea slammed out of the town, staff in hand. She stopped as a templar’s sword narrowly missed her before the templar toppled. A human boy looked up at her with otherworldly eyes.
“They’re hurting,” the boy whispered. “They want it to end. They’re screaming and scared. He’s angry, thief. He’s coming for you.”
Adhlea felt a chill down her spine, but jerked her thumb inside, getting ready to tell him –
“If I want to help, I’ll get in there? Of course.” He paused. “I’ll help the ones on the ground.”
She nodded before running. The Iron Bull was already using his axe to chop down lyrium-addled templars; ice flew from nowhere to slam into one who attempted to hack into Blackwall. Further up, Cassandra and Varric were helping the trebuchet-handler; Adhlea put her staff on her bag and joined them up there.
The struggling and inebriated soldier moved, throwing up her hands.
“Cassandra, get the soldier to the Chantry!” Adhlea drew the trebuchet back by herself, thanking every Creator that she wasn’t dumb enough to relent on her strength training. She was having quite a bit of trouble, but the adrenaline pushing her through was more than enough for another push.
The trebuchet fired, slamming into the mountain where the bulk of the red templars were coming from. An avalanche drowned them out, stopping all of them in their path. Not like they didn’t have a good bunch of them still running at them!
Adhlea run up the path to the other trebuchet, fireballs, weaker than usual, slamming into others. Lightning sparked under another.
Adhlea turned. Varaina. Syven stood next to her, a young woman with Falon’Din’s markings on her face casting barriers. They formed a truly fierce trio – especially as the woman cast an immolation circle at a red templar without even looking.
Adhlea grit her teeth together. Fuck, she thought, despairing, turning back around and running up the hill to the final trebuchet outside of Haven.
“Someone help!” she shouted as she found herself ass-deep in red templars.
A distinctly Qunari roar answered her. An axe broke one of them in half; Adhlea trusted the Qun (she thought it was Bull) to watch her back as she turned, throwing an Antivan fire potion down; the searing heat made her eyes water.
“Nice one, lady!”
Oh. Well. Adhlea found her back pressed against the Qun lady’s back.
“Thanks!” Adhlea yelled back. “Got a knife?”
“Left side! In a loop!”
Adhlea reached blindly and plucked the knife, throwing it at the archer.
“Archers!” the Qun lady bellowed.
“Barriers!” Adhlea cast a barrier. “It’ll deplete soon, move in two seconds!”
Adhlea twisted her staff before flicking her free hand. Fireballs slammed into one of the archers as the Qun lady moved.
The Qun lady made quick work of some of the templars, then lunged for the trebuchet. Adhlea leaped onto the platform, glaring at the templars who followed mindlessly.
She started to try another spell –
“DON’T TOUCH MY SECOND!”
Enaste’s voice boomed over the chaos. Adhlea thought she sounded just like her mother at the last Arlathvhen when she found Syven had spiked their drinks.
(Keeper Deshanna was terrifying. Why Enaste wasn’t Keeper Deshanna’s First was a genuine mystery at times like these. At others… not so much.)
Templars turned to see the three elves. The Qun lady grunted, the trebuchet moved – then the templars made the mistake of rushing the daughter of Clan Lavellan’s Keeper.
Winter’s Grasp, a weather spell, formed in a circle, freezing them. Syven looked in awe as it only affected the templars to the point of freezing despite the spell covering the hill. Snowflakes formed.
Enaste rose her staff horizontally, looking annoyed.
“You piss me off,” the mage said before turning her staff vertically.
They writhed before collapsing, their inner organs – which were apparently necessary for even red templars – completely crushed.
“Fuuuck,” Varaina said, drawing out the word. “So that’s why when you appeared Syven looked at you like you were the Maker?”
Just like that, Enaste leaned heavily against her staff. Not because she was tired; Enaste was extraordinarily lazy. Reason number one why she was number three in line to become Keeper.
“Mmm. Let’s get this going, yes?” Enaste straightened with a pout. “I like conserving my energy. I was in the middle of a sightseeing project when I got called by Keeper to babysit a flat-ear.”
“Keep her safe,” Syven said, rolling his eyes. “Also, asa’ma’lin, you know you have a Qunari behind you that isn’t the Iron Bull?”
“Adaar,” the Qun – er, Adaar – said, stomping behind Adhlea. “Qunari are cultists. I’m non-Qunari. Adaar. Name’s Yenera, from the tribes of Adaar in the Free Marches. I come to join the Inquisition and the night I come, the giant hole in the sky is closed and I’m suddenly ass-deep in demons and templars with red lyrium. Yay.”
Her deadpan delivery was met with silence.
“We should go back,” Adhlea said, well-aware of the awkward situation. “All of us. Yenera, we might have a use for you after all!”
She turned to smile at Yenera. Yenera smiled back at her. Seeing as Adhlea had only ever seen the Iron Bull, she’d assumed – wrongly – that the female Qunari (Adaar) looked similar. Oh, how wrong; this one was taller than Adhlea, yes, but that was where the similarities ended. Her skin was a healthy bronze, white hair in a braid and draped across a shoulder. Horns, wildly twisted back, seemed to help keep her hair back.
Adhlea felt envious of her outfit – so much skin showed, Adhlea wondered how she was protected at all.
“Let’s kill some shit,” the warrior laughed. “Come on, elf!”
The Adaar picked her up easily, settling Adhlea in such a way that Adhlea could cast easily. Essentially, Adhlea was sitting on one of the warrior woman’s arm’s while the other arm handled the big-ass axe with almost stupid ease.
Syven looked mutinous.
“What the fuck?” he whined. “I want that to happen to me!”
Adhlea stuck her tongue out. Enaste cleared her throat.
“Let’s hurry,” Adhlea said, turning to Yenera. Yenera nodded before setting off at a comfortable jog; Adhlea felt really uncomfortable. She didn’t end up casting, because Varaina and Syven put up an excellent offense while Enaste jogged behind them, casting barriers on all of them.
Syven was also laughing at her. Every time he cast an ice-ball, he threw her a smirk.
Behing Yenera’s back, Adhlea gave him a murderous glare.
“Halt! Who –“ Adhlea whipped her head around, forgetting to change her expression as she glared at Cullen. Cullen backed off. Adhlea whistled as loud as she could; Yenera winced.
“Call them back, Cullen. And this is Yenera. She’s helping.” Adhlea returned her attention to Cullen as she heard the Iron Bull shouting the retreat. Good. Her system of whistle – druffalo shite, they needed to get in NOW!
“RUN!” Bull shouted, being followed by a big group of red templars. Blackwall was limping and running as fast as he could, pushed along by Solas and his potions.
Enaste cracked her back, stepping forward.
“Move,” she ordered them crisply.
They dived out of the way as Enaste once more summoned Winter’s Grasp, freezing about half of them.
“Let me down!” The Adaar dropped Adhlea on her feet. Adhlea drew on her reserves, stepping a bit past Enaste. “Syven! The ale!”
There were several tankards of ignitable ale sitting on the trebuchet, mostly because the apostates who’d procured it hadn’t anywhere else to put it. The Chantry had too much in its stores.
“Right!” the rogue shot towards them, slamming his knife down and flinging the ale.
“Hurry!” Enaste’s voice was sharp as she trembled. Varaina was shocking half the line behind the ones locked in Winter’s Grasp, but neither of them could hold out.
A barrel slammed in the middle of the frozen ones. Adhlea whistled. Syven dropped the ale he held and ran back to relative safety. Adhlea targeted the frozen ale. It exploded. Adhlea forced a literal line of blazing fire.
Lastly, the mage took a bottle of Antivan fire – her final bottle – and threw it at the trebuchet.
The resulting explosion was remarkably violent, blowing the three mages holding back the fucking legions of red templars at bay far back.
“Holy shit, Boss!” the Iron Bull laughed breathlessly. “Fucking brilliant! Might’ve been better than gaatlok!”
“Inside!” Adhlea shouted. Her people agreed, Yenera grinning as Cullen ushered her in without attitude. Adhlea helped slam the doors closed. Haven was on fire. Adhlea heard someone yelling from a burning house; she climbed a nearby ladder, jumping into it. The smoke assaulted her eyes, but she kicked the door. It swung open, weakened by the fire. The man inside ran out. Yenera appeared, holding a smoldering guy named Adan Adhlea barely knew and a sobbing Minaeve.
“Cullen!” Cullen appeared.
“Yes, Her –“
“Get Yenera into the fucking Chantry! She’s got injured!”
Cullen didn’t even give her a reproachful look as he took in the two injured. Yenera wasn’t smiling any more.
Adhlea followed, helping Threnn, the requisitions master; she thanked her lucky stars she’d ordered Dennet to take the horses to a safe place.
Inside the Chantry at last, Adhlea, her siblings, Enaste, and Solas all took a breather. The Chantry shuddered.
“This place won’t last long,” Cullen panted. “We can’t flee with all the wounded; nor with the wall of fire at the gate.” He threw Adhlea a small glare. Adhlea arched a glare.
“You should thank me, considering we all were about to be overrun with templars.”
“He’s after you.” Adhlea spotted the boy from earlier. He stood from his spot. “He knows a way out,” the boy said, looking at Cullen before looking once more at Adhlea. “He wants you. He’s so, so very angry.” The boy looked down. “Everyone’s angry and scared.”
Adhlea clenched her fist. “Roderick.” The father looked over at her. He was dying. Adhlea closed her eyes and sighed. “Tell Cullen of the way out. I’ll personally distract the giant-ass dragon.”
“Adhlea, you –“ Syven started.
“You can’t-“ Enaste gasped.
Adhlea raised her hand against her clansmen’s objections, silencing them before they could speak more. She stared at Cullen.
“I’ve nearly died so many times,” she said, her voice soft. “If it’s time, it’s time. I’m not going to waste time offering shit words of oh, I’m going to die, because if I don’t then they’ll be for naught. I’d rather say something when I know I’m going to die.” She turned and smiled at her brother. “If I do, everything goes to Varaina.”
Syven’s jaw dropped. “I’m your brother!” he shrieked, undignified.
“And she actually knows that she can’t act like a Dalish elf in the Court, she isn’t one,” Adhlea remarked, dryly. “Besides, isa’ma’lin, you’ll know if I die.”
She stepped to the door, past them.
“I misjudged you.” Roderick’s voice wheezed. “You might not be a Herald of Andraste… But you herald something great is coming.”
Adhlea turned, a slight smile on her face.
“And I suppose I misjudged you,” she replied, nodding at him. “Now, go, Cullen. I’ll distract the dragon. Light a flare when everyone’s clear.”
“She’s so scared.” Cole watched the door slam shut. “She’s terrified that she’s going to fail. He’s wrong, he won’t be killed by her.” Cole turned to Solas, tilting his head. “She’s strong, she won’t die.”
Unlike most, Cole realized after listening, this man was not quite a man. Cole heard only whispers of ancient pains; hundreds of ancient pains that touched each other even now. Solas felt sorrow for the one who just left, yet seemed against helping her. No, Solas wasn’t his name – Solas was but wasn’t – he stopped as the elf shook his head. The whispers stopped.
I don’t want her to die! The woman next to the man, both of them with hair that, on this night, reminded everyone of fire and dragons, had her hands on her mouth. The man next to her simply took her and set his mouth, privately thinking along similar lines.
Contrarily, the one with hair the shade of wet dirt simply prayed to Mythal.
(Cole knew a woman who had gone by that name; it wasn’t pertinent, nor did he think she could hear the prayers of those who dedicated themselves to her.)
“She won’t,” Solas said, quietly.
Cole stood. “I want to help,” he said, staring at Solas.
Solas smiled at him. Cole knew that he knew what Cole was.
“And help you have,” Solas affirmed.
She panted as the dragon landed on the dirt, heavily and angrily. Lyrium grew out of it in patches. The dragon snorted, its menacing eyes –
Wait. Wait just a fucking minute.
“I see you’ve met my pet.”
Adhlea scrambled backwards as Corypheus descended from the sky, hovering in the air. It looked effortless. She was suddenly tripped as the dragon’s tail slammed behind her legs. She fell on the ground, the back of her legs stinging.
Please, Creators, do NOT LET ME GET INFECTED WITH THE BLIGHT, PLEASE –
“You recognize it, do you not?” Corypheus was fucking gloating. “I am Corypheus; you will bow beneath me, mortal fleshling. I have seen the seat of the Maker, and it was empty. This dragon was once an archdemon –“
Doshiel is going to fucking scream.
“Unfortunately, the blight cannot be passed down from my archdemon.” Corypheus smiled. It was not a good sight to see. “Now, let me have my Anchor, girl.”
He raised the orb. Her body jerked through the air, her arm sailing into his grasp. It sparked violently.
She whimpered in pain without intending to.
“You’ve spoiled it!” He threw her to the side, next to the trebuchet. Adhlea grabbed the nearest weapon she could fi –
It was a Creators-damned sword. Adhlea bit her lip as she pointed it at Corypheus – and a flare behind Corypheus shone.
“Well, Corypheus.” She was amazed her voice was so steady. “I’m afraid we’ll have to cut our meeting short!”
He frowned at her, turned –
Adhlea flung the sword at the dragon, turned to the trebuchet and kicked it before running. The trebuchet fired, Adhlea having winched it before he’d arrived.
The ball of stone slammed into the mountain.
An avalanche rumbled. Adhlea dived into the hole just as snow slammed into Haven.
Snow buried her.
Cole stayed behind, knowing Solas had need of him.
“Lead her out,” Solas whispered. “Bring her to us. The Anchor cannot fade.”
Cole tilted his head. “You mean she. She cannot fade. You do not want to fail her again.”
Solas blanched. “The Anchor,” he said.
He’s lying. Cole nodded to himself and Solas.
He wanted to help. He could help Solas, and her, too.
Because in Solas’ mind, he kept thinking of her name before calling her the Anchor. He was trying to distance himself from her.
Would it be helpful to make him think her name? No, Cole thought before leaving. As a spirit, he could change his shape. It would be helpful for the girl to not die. She would not really recognize him in this form, so Compassion took the form he needed to.
When Syven sent the flare into the sky, he kept his eyes on the mountain. His heart pounded as there seemed to be a streak across the sky – and then a rumble from below and above, a rumble that caused his heart to break as he saw snow pour from the mountain.
“Adhlea!” He made to go back, to find her. To dig through the snow. He couldn’t leave her there.
His waist was caught.
“Let me go, you Tevinter bastard!” Syven fought the hold of the Tevene mage.
“I’m not sure your sister would like you to kill yourself!” the Tevene mage grunted.
“Yeah, and you’d know all about her, right?” Syven kicked his leg back, but missed the guy’s spot.
“Shit!” Syven was moved in another direction. “I’m certain your sister’s fine, she did survive three holy smites after all!”
Syven stopped before reaching inside his jacket.
“She’s a blood mage?” The arms around his waist recoiled.
“Not on purpose,” Syven answered, distractedly. The phylactery pulsed, the glow fading and returning dimmer. “You’re a fire mage, right?”
“Yes, why –“ Syven shoved his sister’s life at him.
“Warm it,” he said, crisply. “Make sure she doesn’t die.” Varaina glared at him. Syven gritted his teeth. “Please,” he said through his clenched teeth.
“Should I just light my hands on fire, or –“
“No!” Syven snatched the vial out of his hands. “Don’t worry, sis, we’ll keep you alive.”
He rubbed the fingerprints off the glass.
“Now,” Syven said, starting to walk after the rest of the group, “I’ll teach you how to warm someone up using only a phylactery.”
Varaina inhaled and exhaled at the forward camp. They’d just gotten back from the pass; Cullen said he’d go back and see if Adhlea was at the pass at all.
She pulled her legs up to her chest.
Varaina turned to the voice absently. A stretcher laid on the ground, a young elven woman laying there.
“I’m Minaeve,” the elf said. “I’m the creature researcher.”
“Varaina,” Varaina awkwardly replied. “The… Herald’s sister.”
“Well, you two do look similar.” Minaeve winced. “Sorry, not feeling great. Burned,” the elf informed Varaina. “What about you?”
“Oh, well… My sister might die and I’m as useless here as I was in Kirkwall,” Varaina… lightly said.
“I wouldn’t worry,” Minaeve said after another pause. “The Herald’s pretty tough. Wouldn’t be surprised if she appeared soon.”
“How soon is soon?” Varaina asked, softly.
“However soon she comes,” Minaeve shrugged before letting out a short yell. “Fuck, I forgot about my burns!”
Varaina poked at the snow. “Would snow down your shirt help?”
Minaeve glanced at her.
“I don’t know, how about we try it? Anything’s got to better than this.”
Varaina gently moved her to on her side.
Cullen sighed as he moved to the pass. Nothing; no sign she’d come this far.
He opened his mouth, ready to turn to his men and order them back, when he saw something at the edge of his vision.
Something flickered, green motes of magic similar to the Herald’s glowing hand. Cullen struggled up the slope with his heavy armor, yelling as he saw her, staring down at the army with despair etched on her face. She was on her knees.
“It’s her! It’s the Herald!” he shouted. “She’s alive!” Her eyes met his, glazed meeting his own. Cullen darted forward, dropping his torch and leaving it to sputter in the snow. “Herald, you can’t fall asleep –“
“I hate snow,” the Herald said, before collapsing in his arms. Cullen hauled her up, her dead weight easy to carry.
“She’s alive, but she’s cold. We must hurry so that she does not die!” Cullen was immediately followed by his fellow torch-wielders. He took the most direct way through the camps – meaning he shouted at all the members currently there to get the fuck out of the way.
They got out of the way, whispers meeting his ears. He barreled through them, hearing the murmurs start overpassing them.
The forward camp in sight, he yelled. “Prep a medical tent!”
Almost instantly, one was up.
“Blankets!” He set her down. Her lips were turning blue. Cullen was not a medicine man, but he did assume that it wasn’t a good sign.
Adhlea didn’t know how she got out into the snowy hell. She could barely move her legs. Every so often she’d fall.
Was this… Was this her punishment, this snow? Was Syven thinking she was dead? She could only think so much before her thoughts consisted of coldcoldcold.
She fell again. This time, she actually felt some warmth.
Is this bad? I feel like I should be worried.
Something crunched in the snow. A low whine.
Move, felasil, her inner Syven barked. Or else you’ll be last.
Last for what?
For dinner, felasil!
Syven! Keeper’s voice was an admonishment. Insulting your sister is bad!
But she’s being one! A phantom pain in her ear.
That’s… a memory. She turned over, her eyes staring at the sky. A face moved over hers. Six eyes stared down at her. I feel like… That’s supposed to be bad. A tongue licked her face. Ew, that’s gross.
Somehow, she got up. The wolf was nowhere in sight. There were no wolf-steps. The Dalish elf stumbled forward.
Are you going to give up? Another memory. She must be dying. Somehow, that wasn’t too concerning. If you run from him, then you give up any chance you would have at helping the People, and I will not accept failure, da’len.
She… she’d wanted to leave Gaspard, maybe convince Deshanna to run from Wycome. She remembered yelling at Deshanna and Deshanna not talking to her for the rest of the week. Then Adhlea had apologized; Deshanna had smiled at her warmly.
Hawke and Fenris. It was clear Fenris liked Hawke romantically; and it was clear Varaina had hurt him. Adhlea had never asked. Never in Fenris’ letters had he mentioned it. She had to help them. Maybe he couldn’t completely forgive Varaina, but he could let go of his hatred for her. Maybe.
Adhlea fell. Warm fur caught her.
Keep going, she told herself. She clawed at the ground, forcing herself to get up and kept going.
Her legs ached. She just wanted to stop.
She collapsed next to a firepit, embers smoldering.
It’s still warm. She saw the pass. I hate snow. I cannot believe it always fucking snows even in the middle of fucking summer here. Wherever ‘here’ was. Hours-days-weeks-months could be passing for all that she was aware, her vision darkening and lightening intermittently.
She got up once more. She looked behind her. Bloody footprints marked her passage.
Huh. She turned forward. I haven’t even felt my feet in hours… Has it only been hours? How long has it been?
Fur brushed the backs of her legs. Keep going, the wolf seemed to insist.
She started walking again. Wind bit and clawed, making her go almost parallel to the ground.
She made it to the edge of the pass. They were below her. Hundreds of people were walking, carrying lit torches.
This time, when she collapsed, it was of despair. She’d never make it, wolf or not; they were going too fast and nobody would search -
“It’s her!” Was that Cullen? “It’s the Herald!”
Why did he sound so surprised?
He watched him come up to her dully, muttering something too muffled for her to hear.
“I hate snow,” she said, before her vision darkened one final time.
Solas’ head was bent at the forward camp. Cole had returned not long before, the spirit helping ease others’ pain. He did not speak of whether or not Ker – the Herald – was safe.
He assumed the woman was long dead. And with it, everything. He resigned himself to running again, as he had once before.
No sooner than he thought that did something happen.
“No way –“
“Fucking shite, there’s no Maker-fucking way –“
“Prep a medical tent!” Cullen’s orders drew attention as all eyes turned to see the Herald, in all her unconscious, half-dead-looking glory. Not a pleasant sight.
Quickly, the Herald was given a tent; Solas came to her. Elfroot, healing, and – sadly for her, in this case she could technically not object – lyrium potions were all forced into her body. Furs were piled on top of her; Solas worked to make sure she didn’t die for a second time. Cassandra was glaring at him again and fingering her sword. This time, though, it was because the smaller elf seemed to bring out slightly maternal feelings in the Seeker.
(If the Seeker had a maternal bone in her body, anyway.)
By the time he finished, he had a half-formed plan in his mind; when he got the all-clear, he crashed in his own tent, slipping into the Fade and finding her easily.
It was easy because the young spirit had her dreaming of a wolf – six eyes, flashes of fur –
He took the role of Fen’Harel.
...I'm ninety percent sure Fen'Harel's OOC here. Probably.
If you like it, please comment. :D
Adhlea was not awake. She could feel that much. Like she hovered in some sort of murky mist, just hanging there and unable to see.
Six eyes and fur kept her there, as though trapping her.
Then she wasn’t there. She was elsewhere. She was sitting on the edge of a mountain overlooking a castle. She had only one thing to say.
“I hate snow.”
Someone was next to her. She didn’t look; she had a feeling of who he was.
“I can lead you to this place,” an impossibly smooth voice whispered, their voice echoing and impossible to pinpoint gender; Adhlea assumed that either meant Fen’Harel was fucking with her or he was someone she knew. Considering the only elves she knew of were certainly not Fen’Harel, she concluded the Dread Wolf was fucking with her. “You need only ask.”
“What does it cost?” She didn’t care about insulting him. Keeper Deshanna always said be nice if the Dread Wolf came; but considering Adhlea highly doubted Keeper Deshanna thought the Dread Wolf would come to one of them (it wasn’t like he ever appeared to elves. The stories always spoke of humans being fucked over by him), Adhlea thought cutting to the quick was a good idea here.
Actually, Adhlea was tired. So tired, even in this dream, she didn’t even know if her reasoning made sense.
“Did I say a price?”
“Nothing comes free.”
“Then I suppose the price is easy. Fix it up. Make it better. Don’t send an avalanche on it.”
He sounded exasperated, as though an avalanche would be rather inconvenient for him.
Adhlea hummed, noncommittedly.
“Did you help me when I asked for help?”
The Dread Wolf was silent for a moment.
“What do you mean?”
“A little less than ten years ago. Did you give me the creature summoning?”
“And if I did? It saved your life.”
“I’m not ungrateful. But this would mean I still owe you one.” She frowned. “Actually, two. If you led me through the snow.”
“That was not I. I did request help for that one.” He was silent once more. “I do not require you to owe me.”
“I do not like it when I owe people,” Adhlea murmured, closing her eyes.
The Dread Wolf was silent. “Then,” he said, “offer that spirit in your company a place. That is what you’ll owe me, da’len.”
She sighed. “That’s a small thing,” she said, burying her head in her knees. “I’ll take the place you offer.”
The Dread Wolf vanished.
Adhlea blinked, her gaze instantly burning into the ceiling of the medical tent. She turned her head to arguing voices, thinking maybe she should help. She moved her feet –
“Adding another heated voice will not help, Herald.” Mother Giselle, looking exhausted and tired, offered Adhlea a small smile. “In fact, all it would do would make it far worse.”
Adhlea accepted the Mother’s words at face value.
“They’re in awe of you,” Giselle murmured to her once more sitting on her bed. “They know death is final, Herald. Yet, now, they’ve seen you shake off death twice.”
“I never died.” Adhlea mustered up the strength to look Giselle in the eyes.
“No,” Giselle agreed. “Walking through the Fade and surviving an avalanche is no unremarkable feat, child. Even the rumors of what happened in Val Royeaux have spread far and wide. Taking three Holy Smites is no small feat; and with the Revered Mother Hevara on your side, you have no shortage of believers. They need this faith.”
Adhlea stared at her with wide eyes. “I’m not – I’m not Andraste. I’m not her Herald.”
“The Inquisition must survive,” Giselle pressed.
Adhlea stood, nearly toppling over. At the edge of the camp, she could see her friends – even Vivienne – sitting on a series of logs, speaking lowly to each other.
“Faith has had its time, Mother Giselle. Now is the time to move forward. We need action, not words.” She turned, wanting to walk away; she was stilled by the faces of awe looking at her. She was awake, she was standing.
“Praise be to the Maker!” a city elf knelt.
Others looked away as Adhlea tried to walk away.
Mother Giselle started to sing. It formed a horrible ball in her chest, a ball of anxiety as they sang to her. As they knelt to her, with reverent eyes.
She saw Solas watching her, before walking away; his face was blank, as though he did not know what to thnk.
As soon as they let her, Adhlea followed him, trying to get away. She watched him wave his hand, Veilfire springing in a weirdly-placed torch.
“It’s rare, if not never, that they raise one of us so high,” Solas spoke when she was behind him. She stepped up beside him. “I was very worried for you, Kerrah.”
She hesitated. “Solas, in my clan, one can choose to change their names. I’d like for you to choose something other than Kerrah.” She looked down. “It was something my mother gave me; Syven chose to keep his and have Galifalon as the name people outside of the clan know him as.”
Solas stared at her. “You would like me to choose, and not him?”
Adhlea shrugged. “Kerrah does not suit me.” She looked out, staring at the ground. “I feel like a Keeper,” she said, muttering. She didn’t mean for him to hear her.
“If you would like me to,” he said, “then I shall choose one. When we get settled into wherever the Inquisition goes, then I shall give you a name.”
She beamed at him. “Thank you.” She hugged him – then hastily removed her body from him. He looked startled, but not displeased. “Oh, speaking of places, I got a dream message from… Well. You might call me stupid, but it was from Fen’Harel.”
He looked even more surprised. “Is he not the Dread Wolf of your mythology?”
“Yes, but… I don’t know. He wasn’t like I thought he’d be.” She frowned for a moment. “Still, he showed me a place in the Fade. A place where the Inquisition can learn and grow. Of course, it would need fixed up, he said; but that was the condition he gave in order for me to have it.”
Solas’ expression was bewildered. “That does not truly sound like a Dread Wolf and more of a mischievous spirit.”
Adhlea shrugged. “We have nowhere else to go. If he lied and showed me something nonexistent, we’ll still have an idea of what we need.”
He nodded. “You have a point.”
Adhlea nodded. Something urged her to try it now. She waved her hand in a similar fashion to Solas; the Veifire sputtered to life in her palm.
She did not look at him. “While I dreamed, I could feel this.” She turned to look at Solas, closing her hand and catching the faint pride on his face that he’d aimed at her. “Solas, when we settle in the place Fen’Harel showed me, if you are willing to show me, I would love to learn more magic from you.”
“I would be honored to teach you,” he replied. “And… I would not mind bringing you into the Fade, showing you what can be done in there.”
“If you are there, I’m certain I’d love it,” Adhlea said, feeling like her face was burning. She was just happy. Happy that Solas was proud, yes. That was it. No other reason.
She was shoved to the ground. She found herself laughing as Syven clutched onto her with a death-grip.
“Please be careful,” Solas said, his mellow voice somehow meeting her ears over her laughter. “I did just bring her back from the brink of death.”
“Yeah, thanks!” Enaste batted her eyes at Solas. “You from around here?” She twirled a lock of hair around her finger. She was flirting. With Solas.
Adhlea snorted as Solas’ faintly amused expression went flat.
“No,” he said, walking away.
“Oh, don’t leave!” Enaste followed him back into camp. They could hear her pestering Solas with blatant innuendos.
Varaina cleared her throat.
“Unless you want Solas to have to heal her again, then you really should get up,” she advised Syven.
Syven groaned, but got up, lugging Adhlea up.
“Adhlea Ker –“
“Kerrah no longer suits me,” Adhlea said, touching her brother’s face. “I’m awaiting Solas’ choice.”
Syven’s eyes widened for a brief moment. Then he snorted.
“I bet he’ll pick something like Mirwen,” he teased.
“I’d like anything but ‘Kerrah’ at this point.” She folded her arms. “My husband will need to be notified… Eh. That can wait.”
“I sent a letter to Keeper Deshanna. She helped with the Breach, so I figured she should know you’re not dead yet.” Adhlea turned to stare at him. He seemed to find the snow extremely fascinating.
“My dear brother.” Adhlea kept smiling. “Were you, by any chance, at the closing of the Breach when I explicitly told you to watch Varaina and make sure nothing attacked the chateau?”
Syven raised his hands in defense. “Vivienne had the chateau taken care of! Everyone was leaving. By the Void, most of the servants there are waiting for you to call them to the place we’re headed. We don’t have a place yet, but –“
Adhlea started back to the tents, casting a brief glance at the torch. She took a trembling breath, hoping she could do this – she focused, raising her hand and forcing it to extinguish.
With a sputter, the flames died. She kept walking, oblivious of her brother’s wide eyes.
“We do have a place,” she said, refuting his statement. “We have the place someone told me about.”
She strode directly to Leliana, Josephine, and Cullen.
“We can’t go to Orlais, that’s insanity no matter what the rumors are,” Josephine was saying. “And we’re not going to Tevinter. That’s idiocy.”
“We should –“ started Leliana, only to jump as Adhlea slammed a dagger into the table – rather unnecessary, but it made them shut up.
“We’re going there,” she said, calmly. “We’re going to a sacred elvhen space.” She withdrew her dagger. “I have been shown the way. If you trust me, even a little.” She met Leliana’s eyes with a courage she was trying to muster. “You will follow. I leave at dawn.”
She turned away.
“What a shithole.”
Sera wasn’t wrong, though Syven dearly wished she hadn’t said it aloud.
“We’ll get it up in no time,” Josephine said, eyebrows high. “Who… Exactly lived here before?”
“It is Tarasyl’an Te’las,” Solas murmured. “The place where the sky was held back.”
Syven went mute in astonishment. This… ruined pile of bricks and stones was the fabled place where the Dread Wolf brought the Veil up? It was… underwhelming. When Deshanna had spoken of it, she’d spoken of a massive, beautiful place where the Veil had been erected. Not… Not this pile of rubble and dust.
“I suppose it wasn’t just a mischievous spirit after all, Solas.” His sister smirked. “I’ve got a promise to keep, now!”
Syven turned to her. “Sister, who told –“
A mischievous spirit…
“Asa’ma’lin, you did not get this place from Fen’Harel!” He placed his hands on her shoulders. “Please tell me it isn’t so!”
“Er… yes,” she said, looking mildly sheepish. “What?” she defended herself. “If you truly believed the stories, then believe he literally just asked me to make it better.” She paused. “And, well. Not to drop another avalanche on it.”
“You’re a fucking idiot,” he said with a roll of his eyes, flicking her ear. She glared at him, rubbing the end.
“Good news!” A scout appeared. “It’s habitable! Most of the lower levels are intact, and there’s supplies to repair it temporarily; not for long, so I’ll be sending out some missives to requisition supplies, if that’s okay with you, Herald?”
The scout looked to Adhlea in askance. Syven’s brow rose.
Adhlea looked bewildered, yet she still nodded.
“Good. We all need a bit of rest.” Leliana strode forward – only to stop. Skyhold suddenly seemed to grow colder; hostile.
“Enchantments,” Adhlea suggested, wary. “It might be the one invited to live here must go forth.”
Leliana gestured her forward.
“Then by all means,” the human said, rather dryly.
Adhlea stepped forward. Syven followed her.
And for the first time in a long time, elves stepped into Skyhold.
Adhlea could not explain it, really; something about the place just seemed… Warm, as though it was greeting her.
Dust and dirt were the things that greeted them. Adhlea spent much of the first day helping clear grass and rubble from the dirt. The second was setting up a makeshift hospital inside the grounds.
It was there she found Cole, Cassandra holding him at swordpoint. Dusk had fallen and Adhlea had intended to show Cassandra to the new War Room Josephine had claimed.
“What’s going on?” Adhlea stared between the spirit and Cassandra.
“He’s a demon,” the warrior spat.
“I’m pretty sure he isn’t,” Adhlea said, voice dry. “Considering most demons are warped versions of spirits, I highly doubt Cole is a demon. Perhaps he is a spirit of some kind.” She flicked a glance to the boy, whose blue eyes were staring at her in an unfamiliar manner. “You are a spirit, right?”
“I don’t know. I just want to help,” the boy said, softly. “There’s a man. He’s in agony. He’s not going to make it, yet the healer won’t stop no matter how painful the cries; he doesn’t want to hear the screams.”
“Tell her how you help,” Cassandra ordered, pressing her blade further.
“Only by making them not hurt anymore.” Cole moved from Cassandra’s blade, seemingly uncaring of the threat it posed. “Can I help this man?” Adhlea met his eyes again, clear blue and not human at all.
“Go ahead,” she said after taking a moment to glance at the Inquisition soldier that could not be saved.
The boy helped.
Adhlea felt like something brushed against her mind, but she only offered the spirit a smile.
“Thank you,” she said, for the soldier who could not say it.
The spirit’s eyes widened for an unknown reason. Adhlea turned away.
“She can see me.”
Solas looked at the spirit boy, who seemed upset.
“The fire-elf,” Cole replied. “She could see me, she remembered when I tried to make her forget. I made the other one forget, but I could not make her forget.”
Adhlea did not forget him? Solas pressed his lips together, thinking. Perhaps it is because her presence in the Fade is similar to those of ancient Elvhenan. Or perhaps the wards?
“Wait, why did you call her a fire-elf?” Solas was distracted by the more surprising words of the spirit.
Cole tilted his head. “Because that is what she is,” the spirit replied, looking puzzled. “She is the fire-elf. She burns very brightly.”
So even a spirit could feel it.
“I… will try to see what makes it hard for you to make her forget.” Solas would rather not mess with the mind, but if he had to he would. Messing with the mind led to trauma later. He’d seen it in Arlathan.
Cole nodded before vanishing. Solas would have to think for a while.
Chapter 43: Inquisitor Lavellan
Inquisitor Lavellan appears. A plan is set in motion.
Okay, so you might've noticed I actually put a chapter description. Well... please don't get used to it. Probably only will happen on the really important chapters. Hope you like, and I hope to see comments about this chapter!
Adhlea got up about a week later, intending on going to eat and going through more of those many letters Leliana was making her go through just because letters had to go out and come back. Adhlea was planning on tackling the ones from Empress Celene and King Alistair.
Skyhold’s repairs were about halfway to the halfway point; temporary fixtures were being made and camps were set up in the valley below the ancient fortress.
She slipped into the mess hall, people murmuring ‘Herald’ as she passed them. She nodded back to them as she collected the meal everyone ate. She called it sludge. Syven called it shit. Enaste told them both to shut the fuck up and eat what you’re given with her thumb and middle finger poised to flick their ears, all with a smile on her face.
She walked to her table – everyone had long since accepted the Herald’s Inner Circle would probably eat at the only circular table in the back – most of her friends present. Vivienne had, surprisingly, gotten to Skyhold the previous day with half the chateau’s servants.
(Why, my dear, Vivienne had smirked. I hear things quickly.)
Vivienne was probably having a four-course meal in her rooms. Adhlea sat down with her ‘food’, her clattering waking up a snoozing Dorian.
“Morning, sunshine!” she greeted him with a smirk.
He opened an eye balefully. “How you elves are such morning people, I’ll never know,” the man groaned.
“We have to get up early every morning,” Enaste yawned.
“You didn’t,” Syven said with a smirk. “You were the laziest of all.”
Enaste eyed him. “You do realize I’ve learned shapeshifter magic, right? I could transform and destroy Skyhold.”
“You could, but if you do I’ll make you bald,” Adhlea said pleasantly. “Because I made a deal and I will uphold that.”
Enaste turned her lazy eyes onto Adhlea. “You made a deal with the Dread Wolf. There might be cataclysmic consequences.”
Adhlea nodded. “Consequences I’ll pay, if it comes to that,” she said, quiet.
The Iron Bull appeared, two bowls of slud – food in his hands. “Budge up there, ‘Vint,” he grumbled. “The fuck did that redhead spy want? Ugh, it’s too early for this shit.”
He dug into the… food with gusto as soon as he sat down.
“Leliana sent a message to you?” Adhlea pushed her spoon into the sludge before taking it out. It clung to her spoon. She lost her appetite. She dropped the spoon back into the sludge.
“Yeah, something about you needing to see her after you’re done eating.” Syven frowned. “She said that it’d make sense after we showed you to the courtyard. Some thing for the Herald or some shit.” Syven pushed his bowl aside, making a face. “Still, let’s hurry. I think I’d rather go check and see if Leliana’s ravens brought anything from the clan back.”
“Maybe.” Adhlea shrugged and stood. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Mornings suck,” Dorian moaned.
“Poor baby, want me to wake you up?” Syven leaned up and licked his face.
“WHAT THE FUCK?!” Dorian jumped up, now wide-awake; Adhlea hid a smile at Dorian’s suddenly red face as he scraped his fingers on the spot where Syven licked.
“Aw, damn, and here I thought we’d had something, Dorian! Licking’s a no-no?” Syven couldn’t conceal a grin as Dorian smiled darkly.
“Would you like a few fireballs to show you we have something?”
“Tease!” Adhlea rolled her eyes.
“Wait up! I want to see what they have planned!” Varaina was smirking.
“You know,” Adhlea groaned.
“I’ve been helping go through mail,” Varaina smirked. “With Josie. Day before yesterday, they held a small War Room debate that I happened to be there for. Let’s just say the vote was unanimous.”
“’Raina. Don’t go spoiling it,” Dorian said. “The lovely young lady deserves some happy surprises.”
“Does everyone know?” Adhlea turned to eye everyone sitting around the table.
“Probably not Solas,” the Iron Bull said, standing. “He’s not left the library he found.”
Adhlea rolled her eyes. “I didn’t expect much of him. He’s done so much for the Inquisition already.”
They left the pretty much deserted mess, people hurrying up and out.
“Seriously? What’s the big deal?” Adhlea stepped out of the mess, seeing Cassandra waiting for her.
“You didn’t tell her, did you?” she demanded of the rest.
“No,” came a thorough unison.
“Good.” Cassandra looked grudgingly pleased. “Come now, Herald. I have a question to pose to you.” Adhlea walked with her towards the many steps that led to the main keep. “You see, all this time, we, as the Inquisition, have been leaderless… Or so it seems.” They started up the steps. “The Inquisition needs a leader: one who has already been leading it.” Leliana stood at the first level to the keep, holding a giant, ancient-looking sword.
“This sword was held by the First Inquisitor, Ameridan.” Oh, that person she’d heard of. “It is traditionally passed down from Inquisitor to inquisitor.” Adhlea arched a brow. Leliana flushed. “If there had been an Inquisitor after him. The point is there, however.” Leliana gestured over her shoulder. The people down on the ground looked up, watching the three of them on the first landing – even Solas was watching, leaning against the wall in the very back. “We want you.”
“But…” But I’m not your chosen one. I already have a title! I don’t want another one. “But I’m not human.”
And that, in itself, was a fact no-one alive knew. Was Ameridan human? Or was Ameridan an elf?
“You’re offering this to an elf. Is that what you truly want to do?” What she really wanted to ask was, Are you quite sure you know what you’re doing?
Leliana shrugged. “As Herald, you showed us not only your true colors, but to what ends you would go. You fought, you killed, you picked herbs and you brought back materials. You closed rifts, you gained allies – you even fought an Avvar. None of these accomplishments can be ignored.” She took a deep breath. “You brought together templars and mages alike, united to close the Breach. This world needs you – not just for your diplomacy skills, not just for your fighting skills or your strength. Humans need to be reminded, sometimes, that being human is not something to be particularly proud of.” Leliana smiled.
“I, personally, would be terrified of handing this power to anyone,” Cassandra admitted. “But I believe it is the only way.”
She tried to come up with another reason. “But I’m a mage! No person in Thedas is going to stand for a mage being Inquisitor.”
“You are a mage,” Leliana agreed. “But you do not have Circle training. You have proved that, without a doubt, mages do not need a Circle to exist. Once you’ve been appointed, we’ll discuss that at length.”
“Falon’Din’s bones, I’m not really given a choice, huh?”
“The other choices were an Adaar with a penchant for vile jokes or a noble woman with a habit of drunk-flashing everyone,” Leliana said, her voice dry. Adhlea winced. Yenera and Elaine were indeed quite… Odd, sometimes. And that was coming from a Dalish mage with a penchant for threatening to burn people.
“Fine.” Leliana handed her the sword. “I will be an ambassador to world; I will lead the fight against Corypheus. I will set an example – both as a mage and an elf.”
Leliana nodded, then turned to the people below.
“Commander! Have they been told?”
Cullen nodded. “Yes!”
“And will they follow?” Cassandra demanded.
“Will you follow?” Cullen’s shout reached Adhlea’s ears. She looked to Solas, who offered her a slight nod and a tilt of the head. She could not understand why his opinion mattered to her; perhaps it was just because he was her hahren.
“Yes!” the people below shouted, elf and human alike.
“Raise the sword,” Cassandra hissed.
“The Inquisitor Lavellan!”
She burned with pride. They did not use her duchess name.
A smile curled along her lips.
“The Inquisition is for all,” Adhlea emphasized when she could put down the damn sword. “Except, you know. Empress Celene and most Orlesian nobility.”
Both of them looked scandalized, even though she’d said it low.
She snickered at their faces.
“Now, Inquisitor. I’ve got a missive from Tevinter for you to see.” Leliana took her arm and guided her into the War Room. “It’s addressed to you. It’s… Actually, it’s partially what sparked the unanimous decision.”
“I tried to find out where Hawke went,” Cassandra said with her usual scowl. “Not that I don’t trust you, but Hawke is the Champion of Kirkwall. All my letters were returned. Unopened.”
“I get it. Hawke did have a lot to do with the mage rebellion. But,” Adhlea said, turning to her. “You should know Hawke really isn’t into fighting the same fucker she fought. I get letters from my brother, who happens to be her lover.”
Cassandra’s eyes widened before she rolled her eyes.
“Of course she is. Let me guess, you’re also in contact with the Warden.”
“Yes, I am. In fact, she lives with King Alistair. She’s not going to be pleased that Corypheus brought that damn archdemon that was a dragon back to life that she fought and killed.”
She glanced to see Cassandra looking horrified.
“Should we prepare for a sixth –“ she began, only to stop as Adhlea shook her head.
“Was I blighted?”
Cassandra blanched. “No, but – Maker’s breath, you’re telling me the blighted thing touched you?”
“Knocked me on my ass in Haven.” Adhlea motioned to her still-healing legs. “Shall we sit? My feet are still a bit tender after I walked through miles in the snow without shoes.”
Leliana winced at the mention of that. “Right. We shall.”
Chairs were dragged into the War Room. Adhlea sank into hers gratefully.
“Here’s the notice from Tevinter.” Josephine appeared, setting the letter down.
Adhlea noted the name on it.
She opened the expensive parchment.
We hereby request your presence at the Magisterium. You may bring whomever you wish. We must discuss, at great length, the punishment that is to be given to Magister Gereon Alexius. As such, we also request his presence.
“We’re not moving that man,” Adhlea said, gritting her teeth. Alexius had been dumped – at the first opportunity – in the dungeons.
“No.” Leliana shook her head. “However, the Magisterium will not cease and desist. However, you showing up there will cause an uprising, unless you’ve some ideas.”
Josephine brightened. “We could always hide the ears,” she suggested. “We truly don’t wish to cause a revolt.”
“No, we do not, but the truth will reach the ears of the Magisterium eventually.” Adhlea did have an idea. “I have a terrible idea.” She placed her forefinger on her chin in a thinking position, her thumb touching it. “If Vivienne ransacked my cabin in Haven, I have the worst idea in the history of ideas.” She swallowed. “Because nobody knows Vivienne’s surname. Dorian did not recognize my surname, so if he just met me in the Imperium, he wouldn’t think Vivienne wasn’t just given my surname.”
Josephine bit her lip. “We can’t lie –“
Adhlea held up a finger at the ambassador. “That’s the thing, Josie – would you mind if I called you that?” Josephine shook her head with a smile. “Okay. Josie. The Game.” Josie was starting to get it. Leliana was smirking. Elaine snorted.
“I don’t get it,” Cullen said, sounding hopelessly lost.
“Misdirection,” Leliana said, still smirking that unsettling smirk.
“Basically, if Vivienne marched in, they’d all assume she was the Inquisitor,” Elaine said with a nasty smile. “Meanwhile, all the Inquisitor has to do is stand there – and if she’s masked, maybe with whatever she’s talking about, and answer when addressed as Inquisitor. If they’re asked directly they could not lie, but they could stretch the truth. However, the Inquisitor will have to reveal herself IF they demand that of her. So, technically speaking…”
“That’s… the worst plan ever. What if they clap her in chains and drag her off?” Cullen’s eyes were wide.
“Duchess!” Adhlea indictated herself. “Creators, Commander. One might think you’d forgotten. The Inquisitor Lavellan might be shit-deep in trouble, but they cannot touch the Empress’ cousin-in-law without potentially risking a war.”
“Damn,” Cullen breathed, looking weak.
“There are lots of holes,” added Leliana, “but if we could convince other parties to go, we’d not be totally screwed.”
“We’d need to convince another elf,” Adhlea added, “and hope Vivienne is nice enough. Also, send a missive in my neatest handwriting; Dorian has to come, he’s awesome, being Tevene and all… We’ve got the shakiest, shittiest plan in the world. Let’s get Vivienne and the four elves who might agree into the same room.”
“No.” Varaina shook her head. “Not going back to Tevinter.”
“Maybe,” Syven allowed.
“No,” Sera said with a slouch. “I’d fuck them up. They haul elves in, Inky!”
“I… highly doubt I could pull off the look.” Solas looked mildly uncomfortable at the thought.
“Cover your baldness and you’d look dashing,” Enaste said, pretending to swoon.
“Solas.” Varaina got up and got in his personal space. “Think…” she leaned closer. Solas leaned back. “Of the books.”
“Books,” he said, glaring at her, “are not why I’d go.”
“We could actually see if the situation is as precarious there,” Adhlea offered, looking at her nails. “See if the slavery is horrible. I’ve never been to Tevinter. Maybe I’ll just ask Gaspard to take me one day. Guess that means no training for –“
“I’ll go,” Solas scowled. “And this look is something I prefer, Varaina, if you’ll kindly leave my personal space it would be greatly appreciated.” Varaina looked suitably chastised even as she backed off.
“Great.” Adhlea took a deep breath. I’ve gotten one part down. Let’s see if Vivienne will say yes... Actually, Dorian first!
Dorian dropped his book. “Tevinter?” Minaeve shushed them. Dorian scowled at her, then picked his book back up and stalked to the door, Inquisitor following him. “Why?” His voice echoed. Minaeve shushed them again. He scowled, waiting until they were on the ground floor to ask again. “Why?” The Rotunda smelled of fresh paint.
“The Inquisitor has been called to stand in front of the Magisterium.” Dorian could feel the blood draining from his face. “But the Game is the Game for a reason. If she agrees, this will all play out well.”
He thought for a moment. “Have you gotten another elf?”
She nodded, biting her lip.
“Who will be playing -?”
“Madame de Fer.” Dorian’s brows shot up. Adhlea – the Inquisitor – cringed. “Is that a bad thing, or a –“
He laughed. “Oh, dear,” he said, throwing his head back and laughing wildly. “Tevinter will never be the same.” He kept laughing. “Tevinter, watch out!”
“The thing is…” Dorian paused. “I’ve not actually asked, seeing as. Well. She could say no…”
“Of course, darling. I’ll go as your decoy.”
Vivienne watched her flounder. “But I didn’t –“ the duchess said, looking shocked before a look of realization came over her.
Vivienne smirked but answered anyway.
“Oh, darling. I’ve always wanted to go to Tevinter. Plus, two fake servants? Hilarious, dear. I’ve had the metal-worker here commission a set of ear-cuffs I’ll have on whomever comes with you. I’m assuming you’ll wear a mask? I’ll need to make everything perfect, darling.”
“Solas is coming,” she said, glaring as Vivienne made a face. “As is Dorian. He’s from Tevinter; he comes from a noble household.”
“Mm. Well, we’ll see if we can make this work, darling.” Vivienne reached under the chair she’d had dragged up to the overlook she watched the world from. “Here’s these. They’re the old ones I made for you; I’m having new ones made for you for the Winter Ball in Cloudreach.”
“Why not earlier, in Guardian?” The elf had a point.
“Well, darling, the Empress wanted to give the Chantry adequate time to prepare a new Divine, but the people still haven’t decided, so it’s looking more like she’ll push the ball back further. Still. These will more than work.” She opened the decorated earcuffs once more. “You’re looking to dress to impress, even as a fake servant? Well, darling. Subtle humiliation – even though these were not to be such a thing – is a thing Orlesians do. We’re all terribly awful inside.”
She wasn’t smiling, though her tone remained usual. Vivienne was warning the young duchess; the duchess nodded in acknowledgement.
“When do we leave? Rumors can only be stayed for so long,” Vivienne relaxed back as the darling Inquisitor took the box.
“As soon as we’ve got a full plan,” she said, looking up. “We’ll have to match, as servants, but as Inquisitor, I can’t –“
“Oh, darling.” Vivienne had a plan in mind. “You two won’t be my servants in Tevinter. You’ll be their guests.” She smirked darkly. “The Game is, after all, my arena. I shall play in it.”
“Whatever you decide.” The duchess backed up a step, looking wary.
“Since it’s nearing Harvestmere, I’ll assume it’ll be chilly.” Vivienne did so delight in scaring the smaller duchess a little. “I’ve got the perfect plan, darling. Don’t you worry.”
“You asked me to choose a new name for you.” Solas’ voice made Adhlea jump, turning from where she was moving a few tomes. “I’ve come up with one… I believe it might work for you.”
“Oh?” Adhlea had been rather distracted, what with the upcoming trip to the Tevinter Imperium and all. “What did you come up with?”
“Thalia.” Solas leaned on a pillar. “She who protects us.”
“And if I miserably fail at protecting everyone?” Adhlea shook her head.
“You didn’t. You triggered an avalanche even though you knew it might lead to your death; you stayed behind to protect those people from Corypheus.” Solas’ gaze met hers evenly.
“You’re giving me too much credit,” she muttered, turning and walking to the shelf. Intact library or not, the bookshelves themselves were shit and they’d had to replace them with new ones. Blackwall had claimed he was good at building; he wasn’t wrong. “I almost ran away from the dragon.” She slid the tomes upon the shelf. “I’ve never seen one that close. It… it was terrifying, Solas.”
“Courage,” Solas murmured, suddenly a bit too close, “is not the absence of fear, lethallan. It is acting in spite of fear.” Adhlea turned and looked up at him. He smiled down at her gently. “You faced an evil greater than anything you’ve ever faced; you resigned yourself to a fate most would be desperate to avoid. All to protect people you barely know. So, I believe Thalia would suit you, better than most. I had a few names, but…” He leaned against the bookshelf. “I believe you act to protect those around you.
“I…” She turned back to the books, looking away from Solas so he didn’t see her flushed face. “I… thank you, Solas.”
“It is nothing, lethallan.”
The carefully controlled aspect that was his magic moved away as Adhlea tossed a look after him, a smile on her face.
It is more than you know, Solas.
Due to my culture, I have been told that my middle name, Kerrah, no longer suits me. The esteemed elder I have come to hold in high respect has informed me that ‘Thalia’ suits me best. I am now known as Adhlea Thalia Lavellan.
Now, as the least strange news has been finished, the Chantry has declared me Inquisitor Lavellan. This position is highly unprecedented. Please believe me that I did not accept such a title easily.
Thus, I must inform you. The place where I am leading as Inquisitor from will not tolerate interference. The Frostbacks have been claimed as Inquisition territory; King Alistair himself has agreed with such a statement.
Empress Celene agreed. Alistair agreed. Everyone agreed to the formation of the Inquisition. They signed the authority to Divine Justinia to pick an Inquisitor. When Divine Justinia died, her writ declared her will to be carried out by her Right and Left hands. I am bound to this position. I have also written to Empress Celene.
Forgive me, please. I only ask because I know this has now caused you grief. If you’d taken any other elf, this probably would not have happened. I truly apologize.
Adhlea Thalia Lavellan
(PS: In case you were worried, ‘Thalia’ means ‘she who protects us’.)
Your Royal Majesty Empress Celene:
I must beg your pardon thrice.
First, as a Dalish elf, I have the luxury of allowing an elder to choose if my name means anything. I realize what news may come after this, you might not care. My name is now Adhlea Thalia Lavellan.
Secondly, I must apologize for writing to you, rather than telling you in person.
Thirdly, I am now Inquisitor Lavellan. This means, according to the writ, I am both your subject and not yours; I follow your rules in your country, as I would King Alistair’s. However, I am – again, according to the writ of Divine Justinia – technically an impartial judge between every single country in the world. I respect all rules but bend the knee to none.
Lastly. Gaspard is not involved in any of this. My being Inquisitor means that I am technically above him. I have no authority to judge your men if they’ve done you wrong or broken your laws. The Inquisition’s aim is to heal the broken sky first and stop someone terrifyingly evil.
As for the Frostbacks, as they are my lands, King Alistair has allowed me to claim them as Inquisition territory. Neutral.
I will be quite unreachable in the next month due to an emergency; please direct all inquiries to Revered Mother Giselle. She has been sworn to secrecy on Inquisition matters.
With all respect,
Duchess Adhlea Thalia Lavellan
Archon of the Tevinter Imperium,
I shall be arriving in Tevinter shortly with a retinue. Until his fate is decided, Gereon Alexius stays where we have him.
Call me what you like, da’len. Creators know Enaste does not call me that enough. You’re strong. Keep fighting. We have a few issues here with the Lord Wycome; we are trying to peacefully resolve it. As soon as it is resolved, we shall contact you.
Keeper Istimaethoriel Lavellan
...I don't know where the tarot cards came from. I was going to delve deep into it for like, a couple chapters... then I lost interest in it. It's too complicated and I don't really believe in tarot cards, anyway. Also... I felt like Adhlea needed a hobby, so - the statues, I guess?
“So, you as Inquisitor. That must mean a great deal to you,” Solas remarked as they set sail, ready for Minrathous. It wasn’t the biggest ship, but it was the fastest to get to the other side. If they’d gone the other way, as in through Orlais, it would have taken months rather than a few weeks at most.
“It does. I have pride as an elf, you know,” she said, glancing at him. “Well, obviously you know. It’s not like I’m subtle about loving my elven heritage.”
Solas chucked for a moment. “Indeed. We’ve not reached Tevinter. Why don’t we practice our magic in… Our room?” On such short notice, Vivienne had been forced to purchase only three separate rooms. Solas chose to ask Adhlea if she was alright if he stayed in what was supposed to be her room rather than bunking with Dorian. She’d allowed it. Two nights had gone by and he was still hesitant to say it. It’s not that he was uncomfortable staying in the same room as Adhlea, and no, he did not fully intend to stay with her for the duration – he’d rather stay with a… fellow elf, if he dare say so, than a human. No matter Dorian’s preference, it was clear Adhlea liked staying with her… kin.
“Let’s,” she smiled at him. “And talk, because if we light something on fire they’re going to have questions and I’d rather not answer them.”
He smiled faintly before they made it to their room.
“If you light something on fire, I can extinguish the flame,” Solas reassured. “However, I was actually going to ask you if you knew warding well.” He recalled the backlash she’d gotten from the warded stone in Haven and winced.
She winced, too, probably remembering that incident or another.
“No. Enaste was better at them, mostly because she’s lazy. If she could, I bet she’d create a ward that warded off anything physical while she slept.”
Solas chuckled as they made themselves comfortable.
“Wards are mostly to alert people of danger, though they can be made to ward off weather,” Solas started. “At most, they can alert you if someone with ill intent enters.”
“Deshanna started using those wards,” Adhlea admitted. “She kept making them further because we settled near-permanently in Wycome.” She blinked. “I mean Keeper Istimaethoriel, sorry.”
Solas waved it off.
“Until we get back to Skyhold, we’ll not delve into practical lessons. Skyhold is better equipped for… accidents,” he said, delicately.
“Just say it. I’m the worst student you’ve ever had,” she groaned, putting her head in her hands.
Solas snorted, despite himself. “Far from it,” he said. “I once had a student who lit everything on fire. It’s not the greatest thing when you’re teaching fire-elementalists who don’t need a staff.” Especially considering he chose ice as his own.
One of Mythal’s guards, actually. She’d died shortly before the Veil had been erected. Sylaise herself had to place wards on the metal pike so that the poor elementalist didn’t burn through it. He could very much see Adhlea as a similar elementalist, if she had been born in Arlathan. In fact, possibly the whole trio of her, her brother, and her sister.
Adhlea’s eyes were wide.
“That bad?” she whispered.
“…she wasn’t a terrible student, she just had a hard time not making everything on fire,” Solas allowed. “And that did set her back when I was helping her out.”
Dorian rapped on the two elves’ door, a pack of tarot cards in his hand.
“Dorian!” the lovely little flower that was the Inquisitor flushed as she opened the door for him to see rumpled sheets and Solas reading a book in candlelight.
“Oooh, scandalous,” he said, dramatically. “I’m bored and Vivienne is getting some, ah, beauty sleep, shall we say. Care for some terrible, unreliable fortune-telling to pass the time? They’re the only pack of cards I found on this boat.”
She stared at him. “If I get Death, I’m kicking you out.”
She let him in.
“Care to join, Solas?”
The older elf flicked a gaze up. “Not particularly,” he said. “False magicians use them to play others. I’m surprised you buy into it, Thalia.”
Dorian blinked. “Thalia? Who is –“
He remembered. “Ah. Pardon, I forgot.”
Thalia shook her hand. “Believe me, it’s been hard getting used to being called something other than ‘Kerrah’.” She closed the door behind him. Dorian and her sat on the ground.
“Do me first.” He gave her the cards. With a resigned expression, she laid three sets of cards out.
“One of them should be the major arcana and the others I forgot.” At his expression she shrugged. “I didn’t have enough interest at Court to learn more about it. As soon as I heard ‘arcana’, I was there with Vivienne but it turned out he was just someone who was making shit up.”
“What did he give you?”
“The Fool, the Lovers, and a reversed Queen of Cups.” She set the stack of cards down and looked up at him with a dead expression. “I am not innocent, I don’t think Gaspard and I equal a good union, and fuck martyrdom.”
Dorian flipped the three most important cards of his life over.
Strength, reversed Ace of Wands, and reversed King of Wands.
“If one lacked passion, why would I be overbearing?” He snorted.
Thalia grinned at him. “Well, they got the ‘strength’ right. Want to flip over your other ones?”
Dorian shook his head and took the deck, shuffled, and set them out again.
Thalia flipped over an entire side.
Strength, reversed Lovers, Seven of Cups, Two of Swords.
“Looks like you’ll have difficult choices, you’re searching for answers, you’re in a disharmonious relationship, and you’ll still be strong through it all.” Dorian glanced up at her. She was eyeing the cards like she didn’t quite believe them. “Come on, dear. Only mages with the ability to use these can get even one of these right.”
She shrugged and flipped over the first card of the second group.
“I got Death,” she said, glaring at Dorian.
Dorian raised his hands in his defense. “I did not look at them. I would not do that.”
“Death can also be a sign of change,” Solas said from where he sat. “Renewal of a cycle, a fresh start.”
“Well… Still.” She shoved the cards to Dorian. “Is there food anywhere around here? I’m hungry.”
Dorian nodded and stood. “After you, milady.” He swept into a deep bow.
Dorian dropped two cards. Quick as can be, Solas grabbed them from the air.
Dorian tried not to read too much into it. They were the reverse Hierophant and the reverse Magician – both of them reversed to Solas.
No, he decided as he thanked Solas for catching them. They couldn’t be meaningful. Solas was a hobo apostate mage. Not a rebellious trickster – not the way he dressed.
“Solas, out of curiosity, why did you pick throwing daggers to wield?”
It was some time after that disaster with Dorian, Adhlea doing what she did to calm her nerves. Making halla statues. The question popped out among many other distracted questions.
Solas shifted. “I do not always use a staff,” he said, sounding slightly embarrassed. “I always have a few up my sleeve, though so rarely do I use them. I prefer magic to blades. What are you making?”
“Halla statues,” Adhlea replied, twisting the horns of one with a heated hand. “It’s… Something I find calms me. And one of the few things I can do with magic without a staff,” she added, wryly. “I can sell a lot of them to any merchant for some coin. I send the coin my Keeper’s way. It helps them.”
She carefully set the cooling halla statue down.
Chapter 47: Tevinter
They landed in Tevinter three weeks after leaving Skyhold.
Adhlea was grateful for Solas’ silent presence after they left the ship. As they stopped at an inn for a day and a night to be ready in the morning to enter Tevinter proper; they’d not don their ‘official servant’s garb’ until they neared Minrathous, which would take another two days. Still, it took a lot of effort not to stop her horse and shake the slaves she could see branded with bastardized vallaslin. She’d been ready –
“Don’t,” Solas had said in a pained voice. She’d turned to him, her mask nearly limiting her vision. “Don’t look, da’len. Keep looking forward.”
Even Dorian looked slightly sickened. Adhlea remembered his words in Haven when she’d asked him about Tevinter keeping slaves.
I’d never really thought about it, he’d admitted. It just… was. They’re there, and they’re not here. If that makes sense.
So Adhlea had followed his words as they continued on, Vivienne in her coach.
They stopped one last time, hours before Minrathous. Vivienne coached them on how to slide on the ear-cuffs, then had them slide on their ‘servants’ garb’. Both of theirs were normal Orlesian servants’ clothes, but both had hidden armor and weapons in their bags. To her surprise, Solas had opted not to take a staff, rather stashing daggers in his pack; he’d given her palm-sized daggers without Vivienne seeing them. No doubt they’d be searched, but Adhlea was not worried about that.
Both of them wore boots – Adhlea wore her sturdy ones, with loops with guard-less knifes in them (luckily they’d come with a sheath), Solas similar ones, more than likely – and cloaks that spoke volumes about them. Red ones; red like blood.
In order to throw off any more scrutiny, it was found that slipping on lace gloves for the women – as high as they could go – would hide, for the moment, the proof of the Inquisitor position belonging to Adhlea.
In short, they were dressed like royal servants. Not just simply Madame de Fer’s servants.
They were up before dawn, Adhlea and Solas both being subjected to the beauty rituals required of them; Adhlea was done before Solas, so she had to wait to see him; when he saw her, she saw his eyes widen in surprise as she finally affixed her mask to her face. Even her hair had to be perfect.
“We have a few more hours,” Vivienne said, quietly. “We should go.”
They rode into Minrathous without applause. There was none to greet them; Dorian looked remarkably relieved that although the coach was getting curious looks, there wasn’t a sudden outcry of virulence at the two elves riding horses behind Vivienne’s coach.
“This is where it gets dangerous,” Dorian muttered, looking straight ahead. “They know we’re here.”
“Wouldn’t expect anything less,” Solas breathed. “Let the Game begin.”
Adhlea straightened on her horse.
They were stopped by an elegant man that looked… similar to Dorian.
“Great Inquisitor,” he bowed. Dorian stiffened in his seat. “Lady Lavellan, House Pavus welcomes you to Minrathous.” He made no notion that he was even aware of Dorian’s appearance; Adhlea was… slightly relieved that Magister Pavus said nothing about Dorian’s appearance.
Adhlea was also well-aware of the eyes.
“Thank you,” Adhlea said, keeping her eyes straight and face forward. “My lady does not tend to talk when you speak of that title, my lord. She has instructed me to answer.” Misdirection, misdirection!
“I prefer Madame de Fer. Lavellan is such a strange surname to me.” Vivienne smirked. “My dear Thalia is correct, however. Please address me as Madame de Fer.” As soon as he’d kissed her, she withdrew her hand. “Should we take this elsewhere, Lord Pavus?”
“Certainly, my lady. I shall direct your coach and servants to my household, if you would like.”
“Ah, as much as that is appreciated,” smiled the woman, “These two servants are also serving as my bodyguards. I’m quite afraid that I must insist they follow behind your coach; it wouldn’t do for one of them to run off and tell the sweet, sweet Empress that I lost them. She’d call an army against Tevinter!”
The duo laughed lightly; well, that hadn’t been planned, but – well. Perhaps they could work better like this.
Magister Pavus kept a fixed smile on his face as he nodded.
“Very well. If you’ll all follow.”
Adhlea, once the carriage door had shut and none could see her expression, glanced to Solas.
“Well, it’s not a lie,” Dorian murmured. “But with every misdirection, it can raise suspicions.”
“In other words,” Solas said, glancing at her and barely moving his lips, “we are, as you say, fucked.”
Creators damn it, things weren’t supposed to be this hard.
“How do you think they’re doing?” Varaina set a book on the shelf above her. Even if Vivienne didn’t travel around, they’d still reach Minrathous in about five days.
“I’d say they’re doing fine.” Syven sighed, looking up from his book. “Have you heard that she’s been invited to Orzammar?”
“Considering she won’t be back for a while, I was hoping they’d open it to the Inquisition. Guess I can’t be surprised they refuse.” Varaina shrugged. “Honestly… I hope she never –“ Her eyes widen. “Oh, fuck. Syven.” She turned, her face ash white. “Our master was in Tevinter. I don’t know if Fenris killed him.” She swallowed. “If he sees Adhlea, he’s going to want her. He was always intrigued by Mother’s red hair.” Varaina tugged at her locks. “Her hair is already somewhat white from the Fade.”
“Assumed, but yes. You should write to Fenris and hope.”
Varaina nodded. “Let’s hope he fucking opens this letter.”
Marina shoved the letter at Fenris. “Read it, please,” the woman said, begging in her eyes. “I have a bad feeling about it.”
Fenris was already scowling as he flopped into a chair. He opened the letter.
Adhlea is in Tevinter. If Denarius is still alive, he will know she is our sister. Please, Fenris – don’t allow her to suffer our fates.
I am not lying. Tevinter called her to see them. She’s posing as a bodyguard of the Madame de Fer. If I lie – which I do not
Look, older brother, my asa’ma’lin Adhlea is in trouble if your fucking master still lives. She dies, it’s on you. Name’s Syven, Adhlea’s younger twin. We’re Dalish, Varaina’s not lying. I will fucking murder you if my sister comes to harm. Today is the fifth of Harvestmere, she should arrive in Minrathous by the tenth.
Syven and Varaina
Fenris stared at the letter.
Something… Something told him that this was no joke.
Marina’s footsteps were heard as she appeared. Fenris was hurriedly packing.
“Marina, I need your help. In not killing Denarius –“ you told me not to do it, so I didn’t and now look at where we are “ – my sister Adhlea, the lady duchess woman who came with Varaina, she could be in danger.” He paused. “Significant danger. She’s headed into Tevinter. If this bird flew in directly after they wrote the letter, she should have arrived two days ago.”
Hawke’s eyes hardened. “Fuck. Fuck.”
“What?” Fenris’ eyes widened at her stern face.
“The Inquisitor going into Minrathous, your sister going there? Coincidence? Fuck. I should’ve answered Leliana.” Hawke shook her head. “Let’s go.”
“Even if it’s nothing, Fen,” the human mage said, her brown eyes softening, “I will stay with you. I want you to take a detour, though. I want you out of that piece-of-shit’s hands. I will arrive in Minrathous on the seventeenth; it is my hopes that nothing will have happened. Something does, go directly to Magister Tilani.”
Fenris nodded. The female magister and Hawke had clashed on one memorable occasion; somehow, the duo had turned out to become even friends. Fenris still did not understand women.
Hawke vanished through the silent halls of her large home. Fenris finished packing and followed soon after.
Vivienne glanced at the almost unnatural stillness of her ‘servants’ and the bored yet alert form of a reading Dorian. Vivienne had requested the use of the library for her and her retinue; the Lord Pavus had been most accommodating.
Five days since arriving at Minrathous and Lord Pavus waxed poetic about the servants – no, slaves. He’d not made no mention of the Inquisitor, so Vivienne knew the ruse was working; but Adhlea had said, just the previous night as she’d ‘guarded’ the inside of Vivienne’s room (actually slept. Solas had her up before the rest of the household, as the Fade-Walker was apparently able to sleep and guard at the same time. Somehow. Vivienne no longer doubted the dreamer’s abilities after he’d stood guard four, going on five nights in a row.), Vivienne’s goal was to keep Magister Pavus from being suspicious. No ruler would be content to wait, and unless there was a valid reason, Vivienne should push to meet with the Archon.
Even Dorian had his brows raised.
“My dear Magister,” Vivienne crooned after a particularly long and grueling game of Wicked Grace (Magister Pavus was a dreadful player. Vivienne much preferred Thalia. She may not have the ability to not advertise her movements on the board, but she was entertaining. She was beginning to regret agreeing, although honestly, she would like to meet with the Archon), “it has been five days since my arrival. As much as I delight in Minrathous, my Empress does expect me back.”
“Ah. Forgive me!” the magister smiled and stood. “Lovely Inquisitor, your formal invitation to the Imperium Magisterium and the subsequent ball.”
Well, in Thalia’s oh-so-eloquent words, they were indeed screwed. Vivienne lounged back, humming to herself.
“I do hope,” she said, silkily, “that I won’t be without my guards, and that they are treated well.”
“I do notice you are rather careful here,” the magister smiled. It was not a good one. “Might I ask why?”
Vivienne was the Mistress of Ice, and it showed even here as the enchantress smiled coolly at the magister.
“I get a lot of death threats outside the walls of the keep I live in,” Vivienne informed him silkily. “Of course, I’ve told the rulers about them, but they,” she waved her hands to the red-robed elves, “are my adequate, well-paid meat shields. He.” Vivienne motioned to Dorian. “Is my rather idiotic guide.”
“A failure of many things,” the magister said, finally deigning to look at him.
“Ah, Magister Pavus; I would not blame the young man. Clearly he’s not been shown how to treat his betters by his parents; I shouldn’t expect too much from him.” Vivienne faked a sip of her tea as she not-so-subtly stated that she blamed the Magister for his rather atrocious manner.
Dorian gave the magister a smirk. The magister looked like he’d been struck. Looked like Vivienne had finally lost all good-will with him.
“The convening of the Magisterium begins in the morning,” the magister said, his voice cold. “I shall have the slaves wake you up.”
“No need, darling.” Vivienne rose elegantly. “My servants are well-accustomed to waking me up.”
Vivienne inclined her head to Magister Pavus.
Once in the room, Thalia took her mask off. “Well-paid meat shields?” she hissed in Vivienne’s ear.
“They’re going to find out,” Vivienne hissed back. “And technically, I’m not lying. You are an adequate meat shield, dear.”
Chapter 49: The Magisterium
The day to see the magisters dawned far too early. Adhlea’s stomach was in knots.
Oh, just an average day, then, full of magisters that ruled the Tevinter Imperium and would have to listen to Vivienne give a full account of what Alexius did; and Adhlea’s identity would be shown and everything would fall to pieces.
And Dorian… Dorian was smirking as the group were shown into the Magisterium.
“What’s so funny?” Adhlea murmured, barely moving her lips.
“We’ve got human serv – er, they’re slaves, but they’re human,” Dorian murmured back. “No elf has ever stepped into the Magisterium before.”
“You two are very lucky,” Vivienne said, in earshot as magisters turned in the hallways. “No elf, in all the time the magisterium has stood, has ever set foot in these gilded hallways! Correct, Magister Pavus?”
“Indeed,” their lucky guide replied stiffly.
Adhlea did not glance at Solas. Hair rose on the back of her neck; she felt like she was being watched.
Her eyes moved over the people watching. Yes, she was. A short human man was staring almost hungrily at her as she moved by. As she left his vision, she held back a shudder.
“Magister Denarius,” Dorian murmured in her ear. “Be very careful to not be alone around him, Thalia.” Adhlea nodded almost imperceptibly.
“Vivienne.” Solas’ murmur reached all of their ears, but only just. “We will need to be straightforward. No misdirection in the room. Do they seal it, Dorian?”
“Always, to keep the slaves from prying into affairs,” Dorian muttered.
“Then as soon as the magisterium is sealed,” Solas explained, “Vivienne, you must drop the act.”
“What act?” Vivienne chuckled lightly even as she whispered. “Darling, I’ve played the Game a while now. I already knew what was to happen when I woke up this morning. We all did.”
Magister Pavus turned from his several paces ahead and gestured. “The center is where you will stand. Please await the Archon.”
The group of four swept in.
Time for the show. They did not wait long, as the raised platforms on all the walls lit up as magisters took their places, the Archon sitting right below a seat that was draped in sheer black.
“Is that where your Divine sits?” Viviennne asked, not bothering to lower her voice. The words of others covered it well.
“He earns his name, doesn’t he?” Dorian snorted.
The Archon’s platform lit up; the Black Divine’s lit up. Everyone was there.
Doors slammed shut.
Magisters went deathly silent.
“Inquisitor Lavellan – er, Madame de Fer, you were told to bring the prisoner Gereon Alexius so that we might figure out what exactly occurred. Felix Alexius is here to bear witness to your testimony. Why did you refuse to bring the prisoner?”
“Before we get into all the fine details,” Vivienne said, smiling under her Orlesian hennin, “everyone in this room seems to think I am the lovely Inquisitor Lavellan.” She took off her white, right-hand glove. Her voice echoed in the silence. Here we are. Adhlea held her breath. “While it is indeed true I am held in quite high esteem, I’m quite afraid that these two elves were not the bodyguards.” She stripped off her left hand glove, revealing single-toned brown skin. Tension rose as she raised her hand and wiggled the glow-less one elegantly. “My lovely little Inquisitor, come out of your shell.”
Adhlea stepped forward. A pen could have fallen and be heard dropping to the lush, carpeted floor of the magisterium as she removed her left hand glove. The Anchor sputtered to life as she took off her right hand glove and took a deep breath.
“Magisters of the Tevinter Imperium,” she said, loudly and with the utmost confidence, “I did not appear before any in broad daylight in order to not spark any civil war within your borders. I speak as the Inquisitor Thalia Lavellan before you.”
The Archon’s voice was frozen. “Remove the mask, Inquisitor.”
She hesitated, placing a hand on it.
“Magisters!” Dorian’s hands clapped on her shoulders. “My name is Dorian Pavus, former scion of House Pavus. Please, let us wait until after the ball; wouldn’t want to show the Empress and King Alistair that the Tevinter Imperium does not show its invited guests the courtesy of explaining themselves, especially after the dearest Inquisitor has expressed a desire not to spark a civil war.”
Dorian seemed to speak easily to the group. Given that Adhlea was constantly reminded that he’d been born a Tevinter, she had quite easily forgotten he had experience here.
Above the Archon, a deep voice rumbled out.
“I would hear the elf out.”
Whispers went to a roar. Dorian leaned closer.
“This is a new Divine,” he said, sounding puzzled as he whispered in her ear. “The other one would have kicked your ass out.”
Adhlea nodded, casting a quick look to Solas. He offered her a tense smile.
“ENOUGH!” The Black Divine’s voice exploded out in annoyance.
Silence once more.
“Speak, elf girl.”
Adhlea swallowed and stepped forward. Dorian let her go as she went directly to the middle.
“Magisters,” she began again. “Magister Gereon Alexius used an amulet to twist time in Redcliffe. He and a group of other mages, known as the Venatori, follow the Elder One. This Elder One goes by the name of Corypheus.” Silence echoed in the chamber. “Alexius attempted to kill me by sending me into the future using an amulet. I met with the Elder One –“ shot an arrow in his face “- with my companion Dorian Pavus. His testimony is much more thorough than mine; as for the reason I did not bring the former magister.” Adhlea stared at the Archon’s shadowed figure. “He killed an arl of Redcliffe and tortured his family and staff before murdering them in his multiple attempts to turn back time past the Breach’s appearance. Notes we found indicated the magic was only available whilst the Breach was active; it could not twist time before the appearance of the Breach. This, coupled with the fact he illegally enslaved over a hundred mages using their phylacteries gave Alistair enough reason to kill him. However, due to the fact that he attempted to kill me and the fact even you, Archon, and the Bla – the Divine of this country – signed Divine Justinia’s Inquisition writ; Gereon Alexius is the Inquisition’s to punish however we see fit.”
And that had been a surprise. Here, she had thought that the Archon and the Black Divine would hate the thought of the Inquisition; but Justinia had cleverly and blatantly said that the Inquisition was neutral and only answered to the Southern Chantry. Given that Tevinter wasn’t really engaged with the South, Adhlea’s surprise had been much less. After all, it was now only the South who were having the issue of rebelling mages.
Speaking of the writ, it had taken an entire fucking night to read through the damn tome. With Solas, who mentioned that it was drier than even the Hissing Wastes. Given that the Hissing Wastes were said to be almost insanity-inducing, Adhlea had given him a higher pay for the duration of the mission.
Her voice never wavered.
“Did we, now?” The Archon sounded amused. “Bring out Felix Alexius.”
Adhlea watched as a door near her level opened, Felix looking terribly frail. Sick.
“If we gave you Felix Alexius, we expect a trade,” the Archon boomed. “Gereon Alexius in exchange for his son.”
“Denied.” Adhlea’s words flew out without thought.
“You dare –“
“Archon.” The Archon went silent. “Why do you refuse, Elf?”
“I am Inquisitor, Divine,” she said, boldly. Coldly. “If you must address me, address me by my title.”
Vivienne sucked in a sharp gasp.
“As you wish, Inquisitor.” He sounded even more amused than the Archon. “Why do you refuse?”
“I refuse,” Adhlea replied, coldly, “because a sick and dying boy is nothing to his father. His father will pay the price for his actions.”
“You dare speak to the Divine in such a tone?” the Archon sounded outraged.
“I dare,” she said, showing teeth, “because he is not my Divine. Try to order me around all you desire, Divine. I will not trade a sick weakling for his father.”
“I suppose the death penalty would be rather ineffective on the sick,” the Divine replied, after a measurable silence. “Release the prisoner.”
Felix was released. Dorian jolted as he fell.
Adhlea inclined her head in respect at the hidden Divine. “If I am allowed to have one of my own administer aide?”
“You may,” the Divine rumbled. “Inquisitor Lavellan, we recognize the claim you have on the life of former Magister Gereon Alexius. We’ve no use for Felix Alexius. Take him with you. I shall see you in a few hours for the ball, Inquisitor.”
Adhlea flicked her wrist unnecessarily. Dorian helped the blight-sick young man up.
Chapter 50: Maevaris Tilani
“I do not like the Divine here,” Vivienne muttered after freshening her makeup.
Adhlea shuddered to herself. “I’m more worried about Magister Denarius.”
“Who, dear?” Vivienne frowned at her.
“Magister. Creepy.” Adhlea shuddered. “Tell me, Vivienne – do you think I handled myself well in there?”
“I thought you’d insulted the Divine,” she replied, a fine crease between her brows. “What worries me is how amused he sounded.”
“Dorian said he was new,” Adhlea said, fixing her mask. “Are you ready?”
“Hardly. Now, we are known.” Vivienne looked genuinely nervous. “As soon as we arrive, the ball will be in full swing. Everyone will look at you; and you’ll be escorted by nobody!”
A knock came to the door.
“Carriage for the Inquisitor from the Divine,” a slave said, timidly.
“Apparently,” Adhlea said, her face paling, “I do have an escort.”
Maevaris Tilani swallowed as Madame de Fer stepped in with the forsaken scion of House Pavus on her arm. Dorian nodded to her. The female magister started to walk, only to stop as a slave rapped a spoon on a glass.
“The Divine and the Inquisitor.”
There was the traditional hush. The dark-skinned Divine stepped into view, the Inquisitor stepping after him.
A new mask was on her face, similar in image. If Magister Tilani had to guess, the Inquisitor had many masks tucked away. Probably to color coordinate, as her mask was a light green while her dress was a dark color; it made her glowing hand – tucked into the Divine’s arm – glow brighter.
Maevaris had to admit, the elf was bold. Tricking the entire Imperium to think that the dark-skinned Madame de Fer was the Inquisitor without outright lying… She had to tip her head to the woman.
When she’d first stepped behind the Madame, Maevaris had been confused. Then Madame de Fer had stepped to the side and inclined her head to the elven Inquisitor. The way the elf had spoken suggested an elegant upbringing.
As the Divine stepped directly to the table with finger foods and alcohol, the Inquisitor’s eyes met hers. Detached, cold – and oddly, very beautiful. The Divine rarely attended such paltry events; the new one had a little smirk on his face.
“Why is nobody dancing?” The Archon murmured somewhere behind her. “Someone should be.”
Like magic, some couples practically fell onto the dance floor. Maevaris scanned the floor for Dorian; she started almost violently as she felt a hand on hers.
“Hello, Mae,” Dorian murmured.
“Why aren’t you with your companion?” Maevaris dragged him onto the dance floor. “Since you grabbed me so rudely, you must give me a dance,” she told him in a crisp voice.
Dorian and Maevaris danced for a couple seconds.
“Keep an eye on Magister Denarius, please. If the Inquisitor leaves early, watch him.” Dorian’s mustache brushed her ear.
“Why should I do this?” Maevaris twirled. Dorian kept a hold on her hand as the bards played.
“Because you promised long ago, Mae.” Dorian gave her a small, sad smile. “I’ve thrown my lot in with her. I almost refused to come to Minrathous; then I thought –“
“I will not be part of the Inquisition, Dorian.” Maevaris stepped back, intending to end the dance. He kept a hold of her hand, indicating he still needed to talk as he looked around.
“Not asking you to, Maevaris. Tevinter as a whole owes a lot to the elves.”
Maevaris had enough of this, talking in public. She stepped up on her tiptoes.
“Veranda. After this next dance.”
Dorian let her go, Maevaris getting passed along as gently as any woman would here. The Divine stood from his and the Inquisitor’s seat; the Inquisitor stood with him.
Maevaris cleared the floor, slipping to the veranda.
“How the fuck do we owe them anything?” She stared at Dorian, who gripped the edge of the veranda with much strength.
“Simple, darling.” Maevaris turned to see Madame de Fer against the wall. She’d barely noticed the enchanter’s departure from the dance floor; speaking of, the Divine bowed to the Inquisitor as she bowed to him. “The Tevinter Imperium destroyed her homeland, paved the way for an Exalted March, and now they’re your slaves.” The woman examined her fingertips. “Oh, and there’s the tiny thing of your Magisterium being responsible for Corypheus.”
Maevaris clenched her teeth. “You haven’t been here in a while, Dorian. But I’ll tell you – the Divine looks amused, but he is swift in punishing. The smallest offense almost means death. I can’t help you at –“
“I’m just asking you to watch the Inquisitor while she’s here,” Dorian said, mildly. “I’m not asking you to commit treason against the Bla -, er, the Divine.” Maevaris’ eyebrows shot up. “What? I’ve lived in and out of Tevinter for the past four, five years. Though, I did not think it was enough time to go native! By the way, when did we get a new Divine?”
“Last year. Around when everything in Kirkwall happened.”
Dorian closed his eyes, looking… relieved.
“I thought you were going to say when the Justinia died. By the way, when’s the holiday?”
“Oh, he –“ Maevaris frowned. “He just kept the previous Justinia’s death day. Why?”
“You declare the death day of the Divine –“
Maevaris held her hand up to shut Vivienne up. “Andraste’s tits,” she breathed. “He’s fucking dancing with her.”
All heads turned to the Inquisitor and the Divine. It was a traditional waltz, well-known in each circle.
“He’s not on either side,” Maevaris said, head barely turning to Dorian, her eyes still on the dancing duo. “All the previous Divines have been firmly on the oppression of elves. Nobody knows where he stands. It’s a rocky slope. Which is why this is so strange.”
He dipped the elf, that same odd, amused smile on his face.
The song came to an end.
“During the duration of her stay,” the Divine’s rumbling voice said, “she and her companions are under my protection.”
“He just painted a target on her back,” Vivienne hissed. “On all our backs.”
“Not just that,” Maevaris said, faint. “He just fucking painted the biggest target on his head.”
“Mae,” Dorian said, voice careful. “What happened to the last Divine?”
“He was killed by a mage,” Maevaris said, sounding faint. “So the Archon allowed his successor to ascend.” Maevaris turned wide eyes on Dorian. “But, Dorian… The new Divine. He… he might be a mage.”
Vivienne’s eyes narrowed. “Interesting. I doubt she’ll be able to tell.”
Maevaris gave her a confused look as another magister, with a repulsed look on his face, asked for a dance. The Inquisitor obliged.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, Dalish elves – possibly just elves in particular – who are mages have this intriguing little ability to tell who is a mage or not.”
Maevaris shook her head. “That’s impossible,” she murmured. Was it? Her family didn’t own any mage elves; they were given lyrium brands to suppress magical ability. Or collared.
“Is it?” Vivienne murmured. “Still. We should all be very careful. And probably return to the party.”
With that, Vivienne melted back into the crowd.
Maevaris was left with Dorian.
“Do you love her?” she wondered, as Dorian watched the Inquisitor with interest.
“Hmm?” Dorian glanced at her. “No, Mae. I would not wed you because I do not feel like being untrue to myself.” Dorian gave her another sad smile. “I’m afraid you would not be so understanding of why I fled.”
With that, the former scion of House Pavus entered the party once more.
Maevaris was left alone on the veranda, her eyes once more staring at the woman who danced with Magister Denarius.
Chapter 51: The Black Divine
He was, admittedly, quite taken aback when she’d stepped forward. Having seen her behind the Madame de Fer, he’d assumed – wrongly – she was just a well-paid servant of the Orlesian woman. Hearing her speak, he’d been amused. Truly amused, at how well she made it clear that she wouldn’t budge. She was stubborn, certainly; he’d then decided to play the best host he could.
Seeing her in the rather… fetching shade of green that matched her mask and mark, he’d held back any attraction.
Petrus Ignatius was, unknown to many, the bastard son of an elf slave and a magister. He’d been sent to the Chantry when he was young; his mother had visited him in secret.
It wasn’t that he sided with the elves; he was simply well-aware that they were the oddities. Antiva, the Anderfels – every other country had supposed equality with the elves.
The only ones he could say did not lie about their elves being equal was the ones who decided to go join the Qun. The Qun, who, as of late, had tried to infiltrate the Imperium. Tevinter was loathed. This might very well be the only chance Tevinter had a chance to survive.
So, Petrus decided to take her to a dance he did not usually attend, making the slave driving the coach drive around a few buildings. She did not look at them, simply stared at him with her strange magenta eyes.
Petrus had smiled at her.
“Do not worry, Inquisitor. I don’t tend to grab every elf I see and force them into slavery.”
She’d given him a cold smile.
“Only most of them, correct?”
“You wound me, dear Inquisitor. As Divine, I am not in charge of the day-to-day affairs. That would be the Archon.”
“Mm.” She transferred her gaze to behind him.
“Stay another day,” he said, on a whim. “Allow me to show you some of the… delights of Tevinter.” The coach stopped; the Inquisitor getting ready to leave. “Allow me, Inquisitor.” He stepped out. He preferred humans to sleep with, but he could not deny her beauty. She was even married; from what he could tell, into Orlesian nobility as he led her out.
He also noticed, with a smirk, she was abnormally warm. An elven mage.
Not that it factored into any of his plans. He was not so in desperate need of a bedmate he’d sleep with an elf.
“Would those delights, perhaps, include a library?” she questioned as they walked forth into the hall of dancing.
He’d not counted on her question; nevertheless, the way she’d spoken had also spoken of a magister, Corypheus – not with any notes in her voice to have the people attack her verbally, but he could draw his own conclusions. She wanted anything at all. She and her Inquisition was desperate.
“Perhaps.” He looked down at her. She kept her face forward. “Orlesian nobility, I’m assuming?”
“Perhaps,” she returned back at him.
His smile was amused.
He led her into the ballroom, heading for the two seats – one for the Archon, one for the Divine, but this night one for the Inquisitor and one for the Divine – at the food table. Finger foods were available.
The hush was quite irritating; he could see naked jealousy in the eyes of the other humans.
Perhaps they thought his guest was merely faking it; perhaps they were envious of her seemingly ethereal presence. Still.
They sat as everyone started dancing.
“I assume you’ve not eaten anything,” he murmured to her, not touching the food.
She refused to look at him. “I don’t tend to eat things not made by my own hands.”
“Ah, the elf in you, I presume?”
“Hardly,” the woman said, her head turning to meet his eyes with cold fire. “I’m Dalish, Divine. It’s the Dalish in me.”
Now… that. That was a genuine surprise. He’d never met a true Dalish elf.
“Shall we dance?” he questioned, offering her his hand. “You’re familiar with the Orlesian waltz, yes?”
She glanced at him. “If I wasn’t, Celene would have killed me long ago.”
He… wondered if that was a joke.
Still. Once on the floor, the duo bowed in almost perfect unison. The dance began.
The dance ended with a dip; he performed it with that same amused smile. She wasn’t even out of breath; he supposed as Inquisitor she had to keep in shape.
“During the duration of her stay,” he said, loud enough that it carried to the veranda where he could see Maevaris Tilani staring at them in shock, “she and her companions are under my protection.”
He did so enjoy the brief silence.
“Dance, Inquisitor. Enjoy the night,” he said, offering a cold smile to the masses. Dance with her, he made his face say. He left her to the magisters.
He knew that color of red. It had always been an odd color on the elf woman who’d borne a child with the same color hair. Her eyes had been green.
He’d been almost disappointed when the boy he’d re-named as Fenris’ hair had been a dark brown, then turned white during the placement of the brands. He wondered, if he didn’t place them on the entire body, would her hair turn white? He’d always faintly regretted letting such a gorgeous red out of his hands; now, though… Perhaps there was a chance for him to reclaim it.
He asked for a dance, keeping his eyes on her brilliant red hair for most of the dance, piled up in an elegant bun with a few strands artfully arranged around her face.
Perhaps, he could use her. He did want his prized slave back; all he had to do was tell the Divine he wanted his lost property to return and more than likely he’d allow her to remain in his… custody.
She said not a word to him. He said nothing to her.
“May I cut in, Magister?”
The cold voice of the former scion of House Pavus cut in. Denarius found himself the object of cold, pissed off eyes. He had little choice but to leave.
“Of course,” Denarius said, reluctantly releasing her. The Inquisitor was whisked away in a flurry of skirts.
Return to Val Royeaux at once.
Gaspard was definitely not prepared for Celene to recall him to Val Royeaux immediately after reaching Verchiel. His cousin had sent a poor runner, who’d been shaking in his boots, to give the letter to Gaspard. Gaspard had allowed the page to stay the night.
The Empress, upon his arrival, had made him wait one day before Briala appeared to him.
“Grand Duke,” the Empress’ lover demurred, bowing low. “The Empress requests your presence in her chambers.”
He followed her. In the nearly empty hallways of Celene’s private residence, there was no need to wear masks, though she did tend to look down upon anyone who did not dress presentably.
His cousin flicked her hand at Briala.
“Lock the door on the way out.” He heard the rage in her voice as Briala bowed and left. The door slammed shut. Celene had been bent over her writing desk; she threw a letter at Gaspard. “Read it.” He picked it up.
He read it, his wife’s letters crisp and neat and confident. Herald, then Inquisitor. Intriguing.
“I find nothing wrong with my letter.” He folded it. “Why did it not go to Verchiel?”
“It arrived half a day after you left,” the Empress said, her eyes meeting his. Rage glittered in her eyes. “Now read this.”
She walked over to him and shoved the second, much-longer looking, letter in his chest. Gaspard read it, too – it said much the same thing, except the unreachable part.
“Were you aware,” Celene said, her voice angered, “that the Herald was your wife?”
“I told you as much the day the incident between templars and Chantry sisters occurred, Empress.” He knew he very well hadn’t, but then again he’d only said there was a mild incident concerning the Herald of Andraste, templars, and Chantry sisters. Celene had not asked about his wife. “Is there something concerning about these letters, Empress?”
Celene glared at him. “You did not tell me the Herald was her. Why did you leave her there? Alone?”
“If I recall, Empress, it was because you did not want her here,” Gaspard replied, sharply. “And she did not particularly like Verchiel, considering all the violent actions towards her.” She’d spent all of a month in Verchiel before he’d found out she’d run out of there under the cover of night. He’d found her two days later, sleeping in a tree. He wouldn’t have found her if that squirrel hadn’t tried to attack them.
(It was a long story. Suffice to say one of his men had become rather traumatized by the event and thoroughly hated squirrels. It had been so stupid that Gaspard had been exasperated by the fact a fucking squirrel had traumatized his man.)
“You should have kept her with you,” the Empress spat.
“Too late now, Empress.” He did not grin at her. “I had no knowledge of her becoming Inquisitor. You’ve kept me quite busy, Empress.”
She kept glaring at him. “If this Inquisition proves to be too much –“
“With all due respect, Majesty,” a new voice said, from a person he had not noticed in the room, “the Inquisition is neutral.” There was a mighty thud. “All the monarchs signed it. Even the Qunari leaders.” Morrigan of the Arbor Wilds snorted as she stood. “Justinia must have sent several people to them. Even so, the writ is binding; you cannot simply pretend to have lost it. Do you not pay attention to what you sign?”
Celene narrowed her eyes. “Be careful, Morrigan.” The three in the room knew it was an empty threat. Morrigan alone knew how to open the Eluvian, though Morrigan did not cross through the mirror but once. Even then, Morrigan had barred anyone from entering. Her face had been paler than death. Celene transferred her gaze back to Gaspard.
“Walk very carefully, Grand Duke. Walk like shards of glass pierce your feet,” the Empress said, her voice delicate and low. “I will be watching. You’re free to leave.”
Gaspard bowed deeply before leaving, letter clutched in his hand. He had to give Ker - Thalia credit for at least attempting to warn him.
You know, I have a tumblr, but I suck at posting on there, tbh. So, instead -
I HAVE A BLOG!
I've actually had it for a while now. It's got rants I've had on multiple subjects, an angry rant about my sister directed towards her that I REALLY kinda don't want her to see... ANYWAY.
I was thinking that I made all these characters and there's barely any information on what they look like here. SO.
On my blog there's my Dalish Inquisitor OC character description. For most of the major characters I'll be making one, and I'll be fleshing out side characters like Elaine Trevelyan and Yenera. There's a major spoiler for Yenera listed on Adhlea's page, but... Not really all that concerned with that, tbh.
Here's the blog site:
Just one last thing. I will add a photo of her as what she'd look like in the game, but seeing as it's a PS4 version, it's probably not going to be up for a while. Also, additions may be added on occasion because I refuse to let my Lavellan become a Mary-Sue.
...I wanted there to be bigger stakes, it'll all make sense when I post a few more chapters, ya'll can bite me if you don't like it.
Review, please! I enjoy hearing constructive criticism. Also, flames will be used by Adhlea.
“I actually did do something last night,” Solas glared. “Aside from keeping him alive.” He jerked his head to Felix’s sleeping form. “I slipped into the library.”
Dorian’s brows rose. “Without getting caught? I didn’t think that was possible.”
I have more tricks up your sleeve than you know.
“It is. I had to leave before anyone caught me.” Solas was, grudgingly, thankful that the Divine had given them new accommodations due to the hatred Thalia was going to face from Dorian’s father. “I found no mention of anyone named Corypheus.”
Thalia removed her mask as she flopped down in the armchair. “What if that’s not his real name? From what Varric spoke of, the Grey Wardens had over a thousand years to kill him. It might not be so far-fetched to assume that he had a name change in the centuries; perhaps Corypheus was simply a name to put them off.” She stared at her mask, thoughtfully. “After all, a lie said often enough to yourself is one even you might believe.”
“Again, it was over a thousand years ago,” Dorian added after taking his gaze from the rather quiet Inquisitor. “We’d have to do a deep, thorough search. I’ll message Maevaris, a good friend, and see if she cannot help.”
“That… would not be wise,” Solas cautioned. “If you intend to meet with her, you should ask her then. We do not know how long we will stay here.”
“A week more, at most.” Vivienne stepped into the room. “After all, you’ve promised something to the Divine, haven’t you, dear?”
She was looking at Thalia with narrowed eyes; Thalia did not respond.
“Inquisitor.” Solas leaned forward, placing a hand on her still one.
She jolted as though he’d shocked her; with how deep in thought she appeared to be, he assumed that was the case. He withdrew his palm.
“What?” she asked, looking confused.
“You promised the Divine something?”
She sighed. “I did. An Antivan Crow will attack me sometime in the next day, and I cannot have any of you near me.”
“Why not?” Vivienne looked incensed.
Thalia bit her lip. “He has decided to outlaw lyrium branding, but he needs a valid reason.”
Solas’ eyes widened. “No,” he said, anger coating his voice. “That would be dangerous, da’len. You will not do it.”
Her eyes rose to meet his. “Did I ask for your opinion?” she demanded, ire in them. “I have his assurances it will not go that far.”
“What happens if it does, da’len? You could be cut off from your magic!”
“The Antivan Crow will be watching.” She picked at a flaw in her dress. “The Divine feels apathy for the slaves, but in outlawing the branding…”
“What good will that do?” Vivienne questioned, sipping a drink. “Darling, you’d be disfigured with the brands, but honestly. It isn’t like the lyrium cuts off magic –“
“It does in elves, not humans,” Solas said, keeping his eyes fixed on hers. “And you are willing to let your connection be cut off from the Fade –“
“It will not go that far,” Thalia snarled. “Should the Divine break his word, I’m more than happy to break whatever I promised in return.”
“What? What did you promise in return?”
Her eyes stared at his, hard and unflinching. “I promised that I’d get rid of the Archon so a new one could step in. In fact, I’ve already spoken with the Crow who is set to injure me. Should the Divine break his word, the Crow will not follow through.”
Solas blinked. “…why?” he asked. “Why promise him something and not gain something –“
“All of this is for the fucking library,” she snapped, interrupting him. “While I’m off with the magister I’m supposed to have killed, you all will be searching for the magister’s real name; when the Archon dies – which, if all goes to plan, should be at the end of the week – you three must leave. I’ll find my own way back to Skyhold.”
“That is idiocy,” Vivienne said, her eyes narrowed. “Who is to say they’ll let –“
“Vivienne – when I do go missing, do not raise a fuss until a day later. The Divine has a dinner with the Archon planned that you and Dorian will be invited to; the Divine has assured me that they do not know of my relation to Empress Celene.” The Inquisitor looked drained.
“Dear,” Dorian said, looking confused, “who is it the Divine wants to be rid of?”
“The creepy magister, Magister Denarius.”
“I fucking forbid it,” Dorian suddenly snapped, his face darkening as she said the name. He looked pissed. “Anyone but him. He might think it’s a trap.”
Thalia gave him a cold smile. “Whether or not you forbid it, this is going to happen anyway.”
Despite their attempts, Adhlea refused to budge. She retired to the only other bedroom not long after Dorian tried to forbid her; Adhlea tried not to let her own fears get in the way.
The door opened behind her. From just the feel, she could tell it was Solas.
“You’re going to yell at me, aren’t you?” She sat on the huge bed.
“No.” He closed the door. “I do not quite understand why you choose to do this, but if you can trust the Divine here…”
Adhlea snorted. “Trust doesn’t factor into this. The Divine needs to train mages to stem any attempted attack from the Qunari; what better way than to use elves?” She forced a laugh. “He’s a fucking bastard. And he knows it, too. But he’s smart. Having me do two favors for him – this one, and the Archon – guarantees me one favor from him; he’s already giving me access to the library for information on Corypheus.”
Solas sighed. “Da’len –“
“My name is Adhlea, Solas.” Adhlea swallowed. “You’ve more than earned the right; you have saved my life twice.” She turned to look at him. “If something does go wrong, if the Archon doesn’t die, then could you…” She trailed off. “No. I ask far too much of you now.”
“I have followed any orders you have given me previously, da’len.”
“Adhlea.” She felt a small smile on her face. “Call me by my name, Solas.”
“I do not think that wise, Inquisitor.” His voice returned to being careful rather than gentle. “Where would you have me meet you?”
Adhlea swallowed one last time.
“In Wycome,” she said, turning to him. “My clan resides there. There’s a ship; we’d only arrive at Skyhold a few days after Vivienne, if she follows my direction.”
“And if you don’t go there?”
“I will.” She nodded. “If the Archon doesn’t die in a week exactly after I am injured, Solas, go to Wycome.” She took a deep breath. “Tell Keeper Istimaethoriel that I sent you, and tell her of Skyhold. She will welcome you.”
“Even without a vallaslin?”
Adhlea met his eyes. “When you meet Keeper Istimaethoriel, you will understand, I think.”
Hawke slipped into Maevaris Tilani’s home without any thought to the consequences. She’d hide there until night, then –
Hawke, embarrassingly, screamed and jumped, clutching her heart. “Andraste’s tits, Maevaris!”
“Not even close,” Maevaris deadpanned. “Why are you here?”
“My lover’s little sister might be in danger from Magister Denarius.” Hawke noted the exhaustion that suddenly crossed Maevaris’ face.
“Is your lover’s sister, by any chance, Inquisitor Lavellan?”
“I don’t know. Is she a rather pretty redhead with magenta eyes?” Hawke had eyes, even if she wasn’t into women.
“That’s her,” Maevaris agreed. “She got injured. Magister Denarius has the antidote to the poison in her system at his estate, so he’s taking her back there.” Hawke felt cold all over.
“Of course he does!” Hawke shouldered her pack. “Got to go, thanks for the information, Magister!”
She slid out the way she came, hopped upon a passing horse tethered to a carriage – she was able to glimpse a bit of the crest as she cut the leads of the horse, this was the fucking Divine’s carriage. Hawke flicked her reins, ignoring the yell, and shot off with the horse.
Hawke forgot to tell Maevaris to send Fenris back, but hopefully they’d meet on the road back. Either way, Hawke hoped she could get ahead of any carriage holding the elf.
Who was she kidding? This was probably a ploy to get Fenris back, if he knew they were related. Neither Hawke nor Fenris were sure of his original hair color, so –
Varaina. The chances of the magister not noticing the similarities went down to zero. With a fluid swear, Hawke drove the horse faster.
The Champion of Kirkwall, not just Marina Hawke, focused to a single point.
Zevran Arainai ran into Fenris two days after leaving after his latest job. For a long moment, both elves glared at each other in the middle of the road.
Zevran moved to the left, anticipating Hawke’s lightning ball. Fenris shifted, the ball of magic just passing his face.
Hawke stopped the horse – a carriage horse, judging by how the horse was covered with sweat and almost foaming at the mouth – next to them before jumping off.
“She’s not in Minrathous,” the woman said to Fenris, looking awful. “I just came from there.”
“Minrathous is a day away,” Fenris said, turning his gaze to her worriedly.
“And a half,” Zevran volunteered, smiling at Marina. “Hello, Marina.”
“Hello, Zevran,” the Champion said, her eyes and voice flat. “Why are you here?”
“Well, if you must know,” Zevran smiled, “I’m tracking a little something for a young lady. The little something was seen passing this way not a day ago, and I’m afraid I’m a little behind. So if you don’t mind…” He picked the reins of his horse up.
“Who ordered it?” asked Hawke, pale.
“I… am not allowed to say,” Zevran replied. “The young woman asked for silence, and so far I’ve kept my word. Almost an entire boring month watching her, and this seems to be the one time I have some time at my leisure.”
“It’s the Inquisitor you’re following, isn’t it?” Hawke questioned, narrowing her eyes.
Zevran sighed. “What’s the point of having a secret – what are you doing, Hawke?”
“Making fucking sure you’re doing your fucking job,” Hawke snapped into his ear after she’d climbed up behind him. “Seeing as the woman in question is Fenris’ little sister and has just been kidnapped by the magister who wants Fenris back, go!”
She kicked the horse into starting.
“Are you certain, Marina? I’ve barely seen anyone on this road!”
“He must have taken a direct route to Solas,” Zevran’s words were unhurried. “There’s two passes that are possible, though when you take into account the possibility he was traveling in a party, that goes down to one, if he didn’t go single-file.”
“Why?” Marina demanded at his back.
“Because one of them,” Zevran said with a smile, turning off the road, “is a cliffside. One mistake of the horse and you’re fucked, so normally you’d not take it if you didn’t want to risk anything.”
“We’re taking it, aren’t we?”
“Keep your legs out of the saddle, and if the horse falls I am almost positive I can keep you from dying!”
“I found it.” The elf man that had been at Redcliffe dropped a book down on the table after slipping into the Magisterium library while they were all sleeping. Felix looked at it with confusion. “I found a single mention of Corypheus in the entire library.”
“Does it have his real name?” Felix got looks from everyone as he spoke.
“You knew it wasn’t his real name?” Felix nodded, frowning.
“Father said that he’d been held by the Wardens for over a thousand years. If I were, I would give the Wardens a fake name so my House wasn’t spoiled; that is, if his House remains.” Felix had his doubts it didn’t, if only so some would gloat about being descended from a powerful magister who seemed to have cheated death itself.
“You’re awake!” Dorian looked delighted. And much, much more alive than his doom-and-gloom self when Felix had last seen him. “You actually do look a lot better.” Dorian looked concerned more than anything. Felix nodded.
“I feel a lot better,” he said, looking towards the Orlesian woman. “Where is the Inquisitor, by the way?”
The Orlesian woman offered Felix a tight smile. “Doing what she does best – getting into ridiculous trouble for a simple favor.”
He noticed the cold look the elf shot the Orlesian woman.
He decided not to ask.
“We were going to leave your care to Magister Tilani,” Dorian said, bringing Felix’s attention to him. “However, as you’re awake, it’s clear we need to leave.”
“Yes, the deadline was yesterday and he’s not dead,” the elf said. “I’m not headed to the port we previously were at; the Inquisitor asked I meet her in Wycome.”
The Orlesian woman flicked her wrist. “That will be a few days longer.”
The elf shook his head. “At most, two. The Inquisitor assured me of this. We should arrive at Skyhold about two days after you, if nothing goes wrong.”
“Can I come with you?” He looked to Dorian. “I’m pretty sure House Alexius has been barred from the Magisterium.”
Dorian snorted. “Very well. We might be able to take care of that blight in you.”
“I won’t give my hopes up,” Felix said dryly. “Might as well die under a flag I can feel pride under.” And wasn’t that telling; he chose the Inquisition that might give him a chance to redeem his name rather than his birthplace, which he had grown up in and practically ordered to believe in. He’d lost faith quickly, in Tevinter, when his father followed the Venatori.
Lord Seeker Lucius and most of the templar order is gone. I’m following them, but it’s not going to be easy. I do not believe Lord Seeker Lucius is truly behind this. Do not call me naïve; I am well aware of his capabilities. I’m leaving this letter behind in the hopes you’ll receive it before it’s too late.
Lord Seeker Lucius’ behavior has been strange since before the incident in Haven – ever since he summoned a demon and slew it. He could be possessed, but he was strong. Or we could entertain the possibility Lord Seeker has been dead and the demon itself took over his role.
I’ll write you when I find out.
[notation – Found this in the rubble of Therinfal Redoubt, partially hidden by a body. Unsure if it is the writer or not. Seeker needed to advise. Krem.]
Cassandra, after days of hard riding, stared at the body with a hard look.
“Not my former apprentice,” she remarked, standing as she turned to the Charger. Krem straightened.
“Great, we can burn this body, too.”
“Did you see a man that looked like this?” Cassandra had, with help from Blackwall and Varaina – who was next to her in full Enchanter’s robes, looking disgustedly at the body – had the Lord Seeker’s visage sketched on a page.
“Yes,” Krem said after eyeing it. “He was rotting in the dungeon; though, really, it was only his insides. Talis said it was a preservation spell of some kind.” Krem shrugged. “Burned him where he was after realizing most of him was squishy on the inside.”
“His insides practically became his insides,” Dalish said, making a face. “That’s why I used the torch to light him on fire.”
“Mm, right,” Krem said, looking exasperated. “The torch. Now, can we burn his body? I’d like to think having them burned is the best way to get rid of the lyrium taint.”
Cassandra nodded. “If Varric is to be believed, red lyrium is similar to darkspawn. Try not to bite your nails.”
“Why wasn’t the letter sent?” Varaina questioned, her brown eyes wide.
“Probably because when most of the Seekers were gone, there was no need for birds. Daniel probably thought it would be best to follow and did not have time to teach a bird to deliver a message.”
Varaina nodded. “I see. Do you think Varric would have more ideas on the red lyrium?”
“Possibly,” Cassandra reluctantly admitted. “Let us return to Skyhold and interrogate him there.”
“Red lyrium?” Varric could feel the blood drain out of his face. Fighting corrupted soldiers infused with it? He’d suspected something like what had happened to Meredith in Kirkwall had happened to the templars, but – hearing that the Seekers were being infused with it made him sick.
“Yes. Oh, right.” Cassandra slid a long sheaf of parchment to Varric. “Read this quickly. It is the Herald – the Inquisitor’s – account of what happened a year from now.” Varric’s brows shot up.
“But that’s impossible,” the dwarf muttered. “I’m no magical expert, but time travel – you can’t. It’s impossible.”
“Apparently it was only possible whilst the Breach was still open,” Cassandra said, “and it is how the former Grand Enchanter did and did not meet the Inquisitor in Val Royeaux.
Varric read as quickly as he could. Fiona had red lyrium growing out of her. As she was in pain – in extreme amounts – I took it upon myself to end her misery. The Iron Bull, Sera, and Solas were all infused with red lyrium. Sera was a bit more insane, the Iron Bull – not really sure, and Solas was… Solas. Perhaps it affects the races differently?
Damn. He’d not thought of it like that. But if that was the case –
“Seekers are naturally resistant to lyrium,” Cassandra said when Varric stopped reading and pointed out the passage with ‘maybe it reacts differently’. “And obviously, templars are… not.”
Well, she wasn’t wrong…
“Well, what happened to the Grand Enchanter seems to be a fluke, if anything.” Varric scowled. “I’ll send some messages. Hopefully, no lyrium deposits turned red, but if they are, they’ll need to be destroyed.” Varric shoved Dahlia’s report back to Cassandra. “I should have an answer by the time the Inquisitor comes back. If I don’t, then my contacts suck.”
Cassandra rolled her eyes.
“Don’t tell me what?” Dinlaselan asked, tilting her head; a remnant of the Grey Warden she had been entered the elf’s posture.
Alistair swallowed as he turned from Anora, who clutched a letter addressed to Doshiel from the Inquisition.
“Nothing,” he lied.
“Alistair!” Anora hissed.
Dinlaselan leaned against the column. “Don’t tell me it’s another Blight,” she said, lazily. “I’ve not heard a Calling, yet. Honestly, just whispers in my head.” Alistair flicked a glance at the seemingly unconcerned posture of the other elf. “Don’t worry, Ali. No Warden ceases to hear the whisper of the Calling.”
“Then you will not like the news the Inquisition has sent,” Anora said.
“Anora!” Alistair glared at his queen, who arched a forbidding brow at him.
“What? I’m not willing to piss her off.”
The queen tossed the letter at Dinlaselan, who caught it. The ex-Grey Warden got paler as she read the letters on the page before glancing up at Anora and Alistair.
“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me,” the woman said, paler than the white column she now sagged against. “Someone resurrected a fucking archdemon?”
“Corypheus,” Alistair supplied. “I knew you’d –“
“Alistair, stop. Please.” Anora was giving him a pleading look.
Alistair shut up.
Dinlaselan took a deep breath, crumpling the missive in her palm before stalking from the room.
A scream, hair-raising and fucking frustrated beyond belief, exited the ex-Warden’s mouth as she let it out outside the throne room, mostly so that people wouldn’t think she was murdering Alistair and Anora.
The next day Dinlaselan announced she was heading back to the Dales to grab her armor she’d left with her clan.
When Adhlea woke up, she was certain it was only hours after the arrow had gone through her body. Murmurs faded in an out; her head started to throb in agony like she’d gotten a nasty sunburn.
She moved her hand up –
Another hand caught hers.
A familiar voice. She blinked, squinting in the sunlight. She looked at a face she vaguely recognized – pale white hair, blue eyes, lyrium brands – my brother, but not Syven. She frowned, feeling the fresh hell that was her face throb angrily in response; she let her face smooth out. “Who are you?”
“Damn.” A different, still familiar, female voice. “Memory loss.”
She frowned, pain reminding her again just how much of a terrible idea that was, looking over. A woman with short brown hair and a blood-stripe across her nose stared at her with a similar expression of worry.
“I expected it. She got hers closer to the mind; wouldn’t be surprised if they damaged something.” The white-haired man kept holding her hand, fiddling with it. “Adhlea.” His voice was calm. “There was a magister in Tevinter that did this to you. We’re nearing Wycome now.”
They were in a coach? As she thought that, she realized that it was just smoother than she was used to.
“She’s not likely to remember Tevinter if she can’t –“
“I remember getting shot by an Antivan Crow’s arrow,” she interrupted, frowning. “I remember –“
Like the pothole she felt as she spoke, she remembered. Not everything, but Hawke and Fenris. Lyrium. Getting shot by a poisoned arrow, then – then nothing. That was a blank.
“What did he do?” Her voice was worried. High. “What did that fucker do to me?”
She reached for her magic, trying to even feel for it, but she couldn’t. She couldn’t feel the Fade. She couldn’t – she couldn’t fucking feel her magic.
“Hey.” Fenris grasped her hands, calming her. “We’ll figure it out. Just – calm down, s-s-sister.”
The fact that he made an effort was appreciated. But it didn’t help her situation.
“I am a mage,” she growled at him, trying to push away the emptiness and search. “I am a fucking mage and I will not cease to be!”
She yanked her hands from his grasp and touched her vallaslin, hoping that it might ease any ache.
Almost like magic, it did; it was a balm to her head as she cleared her mind. She took a few deep breaths, then opened her eyes.
Fenris was looking at her with guilt. No. Not at her. At her vallaslin. She realized that she felt it.
It was raised.
Raised vallaslin usually only happened if the keeper was incompetent. For her entire life, Adhlea had never actually felt her vallaslin save for a few of the branches that branched off the main branch, and only then it was at the part where they did so. Syven had had a remarkable skill doing hers.
Mythal’s vallaslin went under her eyes; when it was fully complete, one could see some of the ones marked with Mythal’s vallaslin under the lip. Adhlea had eventually planned to finish it, but now –
She could feel every inch of her vallaslin. Every-single-fucking-inch.
Adhlea tended to cry very easily, so honestly it wasn’t a surprise she burst into tears at the thought of her vallaslin, the thing she chose because she wanted to protect others and maybe be protected, too, had been sullied by lyrium. She couldn’t even feel the soothing hum of magic in her veins or feel the fucking Anchor in her hand.
She lost everything that mattered to her.
Deshanna Istimaethoriel Lavellan was not an idiot, no matter what her mother might say. Deshanna claimed only the insight into certain situations that she was granted, letting the wisdom of the People guide her. Deshanna didn’t know everything. She knew just enough; enough to say the right things at the right time with the right, knowing eyes.
Her clan always shied away from her knowing eyes when she was younger yet followed her as blindly as they’d followed Isanami when she’d come into her own as Keeper.
This insight was both a curse and a blessing. A curse, when specific things that would be good for the People came about directly in her path – where she had to choose a path and follow it, consequences be damned – and a blessing, for once a path was chosen, Deshanna was rewarded with the knowledge of her choice.
One example would be Adhlea, had she not been forced to marry Gaspard.
Adhlea would have gone to the Conclave as a spy of Clan Lavellan. She would build her allies through sheer will alone; make enemies through that as well.
She would never meet Fenris nor Varaina. Varaina would have died, Fenris would never have known about Adhlea; Adhlea would – as far as Deshanna thought she could see – die from the green mark.
Yet – with the marriage, Adhlea would have more allies than she thought. She would tie the races together almost like she was a net around a school of a thousand different fish.
She would also almost die quite a few more times.
Perhaps the only thing Deshanna did not quite count on was the Dread Wolf.
As footsteps crunched down outside the aravel, Deshanna broke off her chastisement of Ghimyean and turned, her eyes meeting his.
You best take the Dread Wolf by the ear when he comes, the voice of Isanami barked in her head.
Shut up, Mother.
Deshanna smiled. “Hello, traveler,” she greeted, warmly.
“I am here on behalf of Adhlea,” the Dread Wolf informed her.
Adhlea? How does he know her?
“I see,” Deshanna replied. “I am Keeper Istimaethoriel, traveler.”
“Solas,” the elf replied, meeting her eyes.
“You are welcome in the Lavellan Clan, traveler,” she said. “All we request that in return for you having food and shelter you help my kinsmen.”
The Dread Wolf inclined his head. “It would be my pleasure,” he lied.
Deshanna could see through lies, too.
“Follow me, traveler,” she said, gesturing to him.
She felt him following.
Ghimyean narrowed his eyes as Hallen looked impressed.
“You managed to get out of a scolding.” Hallen said with a chuckle.
“Shut up, Hallen.” Ghimyean shifted his feet. “Keeper’s never had that look on her face before.”
Unease had flickered across the Keeper’s face before she’d turned to see a stranger from the city standing there, mentioning the Eternal Second’s name.
What have you done now, sister?
Their Keeper seemed partially distracted; Ghimyean had always endured scoldings as they came from his mother-figure. She never broke off in the middle of a scolding.
“Ghimyean, come on! We don’t have time for you to stare at her!”
Ghimyean hefted his quiver and followed Hallen.
Deshanna gestured to a tent that was always empty. “You may have this tent, Wolf.”
The elf jerked, his eyes widening.
Deshanna smiled at him. “It would be appreciated if you helped the hunters when they come back.”
She left to attend to her other kinsmen.
Three days and he waited, getting more and more tense with each passing one. He had his bags packed, kept well away from the other elves; Deshanna did not ask much of him, simply that he light the fire or help the hunters.
He did, without complaining.
Then a shem approached. It was rare that they came directly to the clan; it was clear she wasn’t from around them, yet she seemed relieved to see the camp.
“Is there a Keeper Isti – fuck, I can’t say the super long name – is this Adhlea Lavellan’s clan?”
“Where is she?” The Dread Wolf stood, striding over to her.
The shemlen rose her hands in universal surrender. “Look, she asked for her keeper. She’s twelve paces in the woods; she said she didn’t want to be seen by anyone but the Keeper.” The shem gestured towards her back. “I carry no staff and my companions are both elves. If you are Solas, she’s requested you leave Wycome without her.”
“I refuse.” The Dread Wolf clasped his arms behind his back.
“He comes, too,” Deshanna allowed. “No matter what, my foolish da’len entrusted her name to him. He will follow. As will you, shem.”
She strode forward, heading to where she was told, feeling for her magic.
Her eyes narrowed as she withdrew her staff. A fire was lit in the forest, she could see.
She walked without hesitation, the Keeper staring at the red hair. It was her, but why could Deshanna not –
Adhlea turned. Her vallaslin was lit blue. Something cold burned deep in Deshanna.
“Keeper.” Adhlea’s voice was unsteady.
“Come here, da’len.”
She opened her arms wide for her Second.
“Who did this to you?” She touched her ward’s face, just around the vallaslin. “Who dared try to sully the visible dedication you have to Mythal? Who dared to cut your connection to the Fade?”
“My…” Adhlea choked. “My fault, Keeper. I was a fool to think he’d keep his word!” Her ward buried her face in Deshanna’s chest, shaking and crying.
Deshanna’s fury grew.
“This is not your fault,” she said to the young woman. “You expected something to happen, not this. Whoever does this is a monster and should be killed. Immediately.”
“Oh, he was,” the white-haired elf next to a blonde elf said with a bloodthirsty grin. “I made sure of it.”
“Mamae,” Adhlea gasped, looking up at her with watering eyes, “I can’t feel my magic!”
Deshanna’s eyes stung.
“For the night, and for the night only,” she said, glancing behind her, “you are allowed in my clan. Assuming, of course, you don’t mind sleeping under watch.”
The human shrugged. “So long’s nobody tries to kill me, I’m fine with it.”
Solas did not expect that.
It was one thing entirely to see a vallaslin branded on a slave’s face incorrectly. It was another to see a vallaslin over-branded with lyrium and forcing her connection to the Fade to break. It was horrible, and even though he knew it happened almost daily in Tevinter, he still felt so much anger. Perhaps it was because it was… Adhlea. Solas was not certain.
It was Deshanna who came to him, her eyes filled with rage.
“Dread Wolf,” she said, standing next to him. “I know you most likely do not care for us shadows.” He looked to her sharply. It was one thing to know who he was; it was another for her to think and accept the truth of what the modern elves were. “But if you care for her at all – which, I believe you care about her as a student – I would ask one thing of you.” Her eyes were still fierce with that bright anger that was mimicked in Adhlea’s eyes – so similar that he knew who she had been raised by – so he stayed and listened.
And he agreed. With all that she asked in mind, he stayed out of the Dalish clan that night, choosing instead to sleep in the clearing where the blonde elf had opted to stay in. The blonde elf did not move, but Solas knew the blonde elf would not live if the blonde elf decided to attack Solas.
The Dread Wolf started a hunt.
The Divine of Tevinter was dreaming of nothing; he was a mage with adequate control over his dreams, but not quite enough to keep him out. Fen’Harel slipped into his dreamlessness and filled it with terrors; terrors of pain and servitude. He did not break the man’s mind, simply left a whisper.
This is for her.
He had not planned on it. He did not think rationally. It would not even occur to him until much, much later what he had whispered in the Divine’s mind.
Adhlea stepped off the boat with Fenris and Hawke joining her and Solas; the Crow had vanished halfway to the ship in Wycome so Adhlea didn’t know if the Crow was still watching them or had left. Either way, the ma – former mage didn’t care. She’d avoided them on the ship, paying for her own passage with the last of her halla statue money she’d completely forgotten to give to Deshanna.
She felt like she was dropping through quicksand. Her magic was gone, though not her sense of where other mages were; somehow, she could feel Solas and Hawke at the edge of her awareness but unlike before the Lavellan could not reach out. Could not nudge Solas’ magic playfully.
(Not as though she’d done so before. She’d been rather frightened he wouldn’t accept any playful magic nudges… Plus, it was difficult to explain just what she was doing. She was used to doing it with Syven so much.)
Could not learn magic from Solas.
They talked, avoiding stuff about magic; whenever something near that was brought up Adhlea flinched at the reminder.
She could remember everything – mostly – up to the point of the Crow’s arrow. She could remember nothing after it and only the vaguest of memories of what happened in the carriage and the first night with her clan.
We will follow you soon, da’len, her Keeper had told her right before Adhlea had boarded the ship. Things here are… Unstable. I am getting everything ready to leave.
She’d spoken to Solas, of who had had a strange expression on his face as he’d listened; kissed Fenris on the forehead as though blessing him; and inclined her head to Hawke. Few humans had been tolerated and none before had spent the night with her clan. Hawke was welcomed, even if it wasn’t with fully open arms.
Days bled through each other as they found a familiar path. They’d long since passed where Haven had once been situated – only knowing where it was because the Temple of Sacred Ashes’ ruins remained, untouched even by the avalanche Adhlea had caused – and only now traveled into Skyhold’s area.
Snow had piled up around the massive castle. Tiny flakes dusted their horses and their bodies as they entered, Adhlea pulling the cowl she’d had over her face down even further as well as her head. She did not want to be heralded; perhaps it was a good thing the castle was mostly empty save for the scouts above. Four riders were not much of a threat.
And Skyhold… Skyhold itself was dotted with mages. Adhlea could feel every one of them as she dismounted.
“Can one of you tell Leliana I’ll be in my rooms?” She did not look up to any of them as she asked that, then dashed away. Her feet pounded up flights of steps, forcing herself through clusters of people that muttered about how rude she was; mutters that cut short as soon as her Anchor caught their eyes.
She opened her door and slammed it shut, heart racing; she wearily climbed up the steps before she flopped on the ground in front of her bed.
She was never going to use magic again, she was certain of it.
The first time after she came back from Tevinter and saw her collection of staves in a closet full of them, she was hesitant to try one.
It can’t hurt. Nobody had mentioned her face, though she did tend to go out with a mask on more often than not. She took the staff and flicked it in a practiced maneuver. Nothing. No miraculous surge of power. Adhlea dropped it, collapsing next to her staff, not actually looking at it.
I’m… powerless. Adhlea stared at her Anchor hand, then looked at her normal one.
With a sudden surge of red, the small elven mage took the staff, stood, and broke it upon her knees. She grabbed more staves, breaking them as best as she could, removing the foci and dashing them to the floor. They rolled into corners of the floor; Adhlea couldn’t give a damn. She turned to the fireplace, then gathered the broken staves up and threw them in. She then collapsed on the bed, staring outside at the weather that matched how she hurt inside.
It was snowing.
“Dahlia, I need – woah.” Varric was unprepared for the coldness of the room, nor the darkness as he shut the door after hearing her call for him to come in. “Dahlia, light a fire in here or something, would ya?”
He ambled up the steps.
Hearing a soft yes, he continued forward. Scanning the room, he saw her sitting in front of the balcony doors; huge gusts of snow had piled nearly halfway up the balcony doors. She was bare-armed; Varric noted that no, Red Lily (her twin) had not been lying. Dahlia did have muscles, even though they were not like Cassandra’s; they were hidden easily if she weren’t hugging her knees to her chest.
He noted the tear tracks down her face, halfway hidden by her legs. Lyrium, edging under her eyes and throwing her vallaslin in sharp relief, Varric suddenly realized.
See, lyrium potions did help. Short-term, at the most. Then they left one exhausted, barely able to fight. Mages couldn’t easily get hooked on lyrium due to the lyrium being drowned in other medicinal herbs and shit. Using it as a restorative – again, it only worked for a certain amount of time.
And – here was the fucking clincher – liquified, straight lyrium was the rare magebane poison; rare because barely anyone without Orzammar ties could get. And even then, Orzammar cooked the shit up and gave it to Circles in strict quantities.
Varric only knew this because of his own ties to Orzammar, as small and limited as they were. He had no fucking desire to know why this young woman had been branded with lyrium in Tevinter.
“Hey, kid.” She probably wasn’t much younger than Varric, but – she looked so young right then. Her red eyes – both figurative and literally red eyes – glanced to him, before she tugged her legs tighter together. “What happened?”
“I…” She looked away. “It doesn’t matter, Varric. What is it you want?”
“Well. That can wait for Leliana.” Varric sat down next to her. “Did I ever tell you of the story where Daisy used blood magic to summon a bunch of nugs?”
“Merrill summoned nugs?”
“On accident.” Varric leaned against Dahlia’s bedpost. “We were all ready to face a possible invasion thanks to Hawke kicking the Arishok’s ass in single combat; Merrill decided to use a summoning circle she’d learned from watching another mage or some shit. Well, the only army that came was a fucking nug army.”
“Mmm.” She sounded… uninterested.
“Damn, usually that gets a laugh. What’s wrong, kid?”
“I don’t want to talk about it,” the mage whispered. “If you don’t want anything, Varric, please –“
“Dahlia, you’re sitting in a cold room, staring at the snow without lights.” Varric stopped her before she could try to bullshit her way out of it. “I’m asking because I’m genuinely concerned. The Merrill story was just to get your spirits up. Now, you will tell me what’s wrong.”
She hesitated a moment longer.
“I can’t feel magic.” Her voice was a mere whisper. “I can’t use magic anymore, Varric.”
“I can’t remember what happened in Tevinter,” she said, burying her head into her knees, “but I’m… I’m so damn sad and scared.” There was a pause. Varric was unsure how to respond to that but didn’t have the chance to as she asked a question Varric should have eventually seen coming. “Merrill… Merrill was Tranquil, she said, before she was able to use blood magic, right?”
Varric let out a low expletive.
“No.” Varric stared out at the snow. “It was a botched attempt to make her Tranquil, yes. Merrill was never completely Tranquil. She couldn’t use most of her magic after that for a while.”
“I see.” Misery coated the ex-mage’s voice.
Varric… Was at a true loss to help her.
“I’ll grab Leliana or –“
“Calia.” She lifted her head, briefly. “Calia would help.” Varric tried to remember who Calia was, but gave up as he stood, deciding to let Leliana send this Calia to Dahlia.
“Alright, I’ll send Calia up.” Besides, Alexius’ trial was later; she’d need that Calia to get her down, more than likely.
Don’t be alarmed when you see her, Leliana had instructed Calia on bringing out her mistress. She is hurting, and it is not entirely physical.
Calia swallowed and entered the room. There were no candles lighting the room. It was like an ice-box.
“My lady? It is I, Calia. Miss Nightingale asked me to retrieve you to judge the magister?”
“I’ll be down shortly, Calia.” The quiet voice of the Grand Duchess was scratchy and sad. “Would you be so kind as to bring some heated water up before I return?”
“Of course, my lady.” Calia knew the Grand – er, the Inquisitor was a mage and had frequently re-heated water, but did not ask because she was not an idiot. “Miss Nightingale gave me some masks for you, my lady. She said you requested them?”
There was a rustle and a sigh. “Come on up, Calia.”
Calia stepped up.
“Mistress Lavellan, I –“
Her words faltered, her eyes alighting on the glowing blue lyrium markings that so clearly lighted her vallaslin.
“They’re… Strange, aren’t they?” Like all elves, Calia had the ability to see in the dark. The Inquisitor was huddled on the edge of her bed, a thin blanket wrapped around herself. “Can you light the fire? I think it’s getting cold.”
Calia headed over to light the flint. She knelt to light the logs – only to pause.
“My lady, these are your staves!”
“Broken, yes. Useless to me. Speaking of them… I’d like my entire collection of them given to the apostates. I’d rather not look at them. Can you hand me a mask?”
Calia swallowed, lit the fire, and walked back to where she’d dropped them before placing one on the bed.
“I’ll let the apostates borrow your staves,” Calia said, her voice firm. “You’ll need them eventually.”
“No, I won’t. Get –“
“What if you need to bash an enemy, my lady?” Calia drew herself up to her full height as she interrupted her lady. “And all you’ve got to do so is a staff? Idiocy, my lady, is not using the resources available to you.” Calia gave her a small smile. “I’ve got no magic and I’ve used a staff to hit someone.”
“You? You hit someone?” Her mistress sounded more alive. “With a staff?”
“I was employed by a Circle briefly,” Calia admitted. “I hit a templar with a staff to stop him from killing a mage. Lady Trevelyan was most grateful. I believe it was Miss Allana who was to be killed.”
“Wow, Calia.” The Grand Duchess fit her mask on her face, this time with an entirely different purpose. “You are full of surprises indeed.”
Calia bowed. “I try my best, my lady. If I might be bold for one moment longer?” At her lady’s nod, Calia spoke once more. “Ser Krem of the Chargers was wondering if you were up for training with them; they’re always looking for good archers to help teach their newbies.” Calia wrinkled her nose. “Not sure if that’s a nice term or not…”
“Tell him I’ll think about it,” the Inquisitor murmured. “For now, let us go.”
Calia nodded, letting her stand first.
Yenera's past is revealed...
Gereon Alexius was not afraid of anyone. But as the door opened, showing the Inquisitor who’d survived Death thrice… He thought he should comply to whatever sentence he got as he got the most dead look he’d ever seen in a living being’s eyes. Whatever happened, he should cackle and dance; but he felt a chill course through him as the Inquisitor settled in her Andrastrian throne, just staring at him with those dead, unemotional eyes.
“You said,” she said, suddenly, her voice a monotone, “you just did it for your son. Sentencing you to death would be a mercy, Magister; but you have valuable wisdom in that mind of yours. Be grateful your student and son suggested a worthwhile punishment aside from death.” She took a deep breath. “Former Magister Gereon Alexius, you are hereby sentenced to living out your life in service to the mages you enslaved.”
Her dead eyes bore into his.
He swallowed and settled down, even as he was forced up and the Inquisitor vanished back to her quarters.
The name change was a bit… surprising, as was your new position. I will be arriving at the Inquisition stronghold soon. Perhaps we could discuss things then?
Gaspard de Chalons
Yenera of the Dales did not particularly know the Inquisitor. It was plain to see when one was practically drowning; maybe that’s why Yenera wasn’t fighting with that Qunari bastard in the courtyard and instead helping mages search out Rift-shit; well, that’s what she was supposed to be doing.
Instead, she was watching the three Tevene mages argue with each other, people watching with looks of curiosity.
“-branding people with fucking lyrium okay? Especially when you know it cuts them off!”
“They’re dangerous,” the fucking magister being punished said.
“Who are?” Yenera had tuned in too late. The fire-mage turned to her, his eyes burning. Almost literally.
“Elven mages,” he spat. “Tevinter branding their elven slaves means that the elven mages cannot connect to the Fade. It’s similar to Tranquility.”
Yenera tilted her head. “Is that the term for the Empty Ones? The ones who cannot do anything but what they’re ordered to?” The mage nodded. Yenera turned to Alexius with a frown. “My mother was Tranquil.” Her frown turned into a scowl. “My father was never the same after the templar did that. Do you know what being Tranquil feels like?” The three shook their heads. “I don’t either. My mother did. When my father ordered her to tell him how she felt, she was smiling. Guess what she said?” Yenera leaned forward, hearing nothing but the breaths of the silently library and the fluttering of wings. Fresh paint drifted from below. “She said, ‘Everything and nothing. I feel like the world is dying and I feel like I’m screaming and clawing and trying to use my magic. I feel like dying.’ Tevinter is the shittiest place on Earth, if you Tranquil-ize everyone.”
“Oh no, Tevinter doesn’t,” the dark-haired mage said, glaring back down at the man sitting at the table. “In fact, I didn’t know what happened to elves. I merely assumed they were collared, that the non-mages were branded. I didn’t know that all mages that are elves are branded. Have you ever branded one of them, Gereon?”
“Never above the age of seven,” the man ground out, presumably from the grasp the younger Tevene male was holding him with. “They did not know magic then; it was safer.”
“Leaving them free will, then?” Yenera furrowed her brow. “Is it safer?”
“Hardly.” Yenera turned to see a white-haired elf standing by a stack. He had lyrium brands on his throat. “Theoretically, they wouldn’t remember having magic or how it felt. They can go insane, more often than not. I wasn’t a mage,” he said, gesturing to his brands. “I asked for them to free my mother and sister. Not that Varaina was grateful; we have two younger siblings because of what I did.”
“How old were you?”
“My sister is about ten years younger than I,” the white-haired man mused, “and Varaina about four. So ten. Give or take a year.”
“Unless your master was unreasonable, he shouldn’t have given a non-mage the brands,” the oldest Tevinter magister snapped. “Why do you ask this of me?”
“Is there a way to remove the brands, Father?”
The youngest Tevene in the group stilled them all. He was looking at his father with unfathomable eyes.
“Tell him!” Yenera glared at the oldest magister. “Your son is dying and that’s all he’s asked, from what I heard – so tell him.”
The magister hesitated. Then he sighed. “Possibly. I never entertained the idea. It was such a similar ritual to Tranquility that it never crossed my mind.”
Yenera slammed her axe into the table. It cleaved in half.
“I’m going to tell you this once,” Yenera said, leaning down with dark eyes. “You don’t help us find a way I will personally hang you by your unmentionables outside and make damn certain you don’t die. Am I understood?”
Yenera had seen the edges of the blue markings on the Inquisitor’s face. She connected the dots.
“Who got branded?”
It was Yenera that answered the unknown voice, despite the brunette Tevene paling.
“The Inquisitor,” she answered, roughly, moving her eyes to see the giant Qunari with a redheaded Dalish elf on the top of the stairs.
The temperature seemed to drop. No, didn’t seem. It did.
“Who. Did. It.”
“Someone dead,” Fenris replied. “Someone I made very fucking certain wouldn’t be doing it to anyone else, Galifalon.”
Wasn’t that the Inquisitor’s brother’s name? Shit. Oops.
Yenera found herself accosted by the leader of the apostate mages.
“I heard about your mother being Tranquil,” the woman said, speaking quickly and yet still slow enough to get her point across. “But… If she could feel, she wasn’t Tranquil. Not all the way. By the way, I’m Elaine.”
Yenera nodded, her face not changing as she did so; Elaine’s eyes widened. “It’s similar to the Inquisitor’s situation.” The Adaar woman frowned at the human. “May I ask why you wish to know about my mother?”
Elaine flushed. “Oh, well – actually, I wanted to know if you were secretly a mage?”
Yenera shook her head. “Nah. My mother was an elf mage,” Yenera revealed, “but that useless piece of shit of a blood father I had was not. My mother killed him,” Yenera informed Elaine with no trace of a smile, “after she found out he was kidnapping people and taking them to Par Vollen to be brainwashed by the Qun. She fled with me and married another – an elf, who surprisingly accepted me – but was found anyway.” Yenera scowled. “I… wanted to find a cure, but by the time I was old enough, Mother passed away.” She looked down. “I left ‘cause I didn’t want the elf to think I was burdening him. It was hard, having to help Mother and I was just… not fit for company.” Yenera blinked at Elaine, shoving the dusty memories back. “So that’s my tragic backstory. What’s yours?”
“Ah, I don’t actually have one,” Elaine admitted. “I come from a noble house, and I was sent to the Circle in Ostwick by my mother when I turned fifteen. Fifteen years later, here I am.”
“Wow,” Yenera snorted. “Tragic.” Elaine punched Yenera on the arm.
“How are you fitting in with the Inquisition?” Elaine asked, eyeing her seriously.
“As I’m still the only other Adaar ‘round here, I get the darkest looks ever,” Yenera admitted. “Second only to the whispers about the servants and the Inquisitor and her kin.”
Elaine’s eyes sharpened. “That’s right – you said your mother was an elf.”
“Uvun Boranehn,” Yenera said with a wistful smile. Her mother’s white hair was the one thing Yenera had inherited – that, and her skin. Yenera’s skin bronzed easily. Her mother’s brother was also not a mage, a redheaded man named Revassan of Clan Boranehn. “So, I’m technically a Dalish Adaar. Ha.” Yenera snorted. “Elf-blooded or not, I’m still as tall and strong as a Qunari warrior. Can’t do much about that. I’ll just have to endure the looks.”
“Hmm.” Elaine was scowling. “It’s not right. Elves and Qunari are the top-hated – sorry, Adaar,” she apologized to Yenera.
“Nah, it’s fine. So long’s the Qunari bastard doesn’t call me one of him then I’ll not say a word. And yeah, elves and Adaar are the most hated species, though I don’t get why the elves are,” Yenera frowned.
Elaine shrugged. “Thousands of years of mutual hatred, actually, between humans and elves. They were enslaved by Tevinter – a bunch of humans – for about a thousand years until Andraste rose up and helped free them.”
“Andraste was human,” Yenera pointed out.
“True,” conceded Elaine. “But some elves, some Andrastrian elves, say that Andraste had a lover, an elf named Shartan. It’s not proven, nor will it probably ever be.” Elaine shrugged. “I’ll do what I can on my end to stop the glares, but I’m not sure if it will work.”
Yenera smiled. “You’re the first person not to, other than the Inquisitor and her kin when we met.”
“Lady Trevelyan!” Elaine turned her head. “Allana needs your help to subdue a monster in the mess hall!”
Elaine scowled. “It seems like my idiot sister requires my attention. It was nice speaking with you, Mistress Bore –“
“Call me Yenera,” Yenera called to her back as she hurried away. Elaine flashed an awkward smile over her shoulder to the Adaar. Yenera smiled.
Chapter 59: A Snowball Fight
A bonding moment.
...maybe I just really wanted to indulge in my need to have Adhlea have some actual FUN.
The servant girl who had faced the Empress after accusing a lord of assault stared at him with fire in her eyes.
“I’m going with you,” she said, her eyes narrowing, “if only to be sure you don’t cause the miss pain.” Calia – or something to that name – opened the door to his wife’s chambers. He’d sensed the number of hostile eyes on him; he made very sure to not show he could sense them. He stepped into the barely-lit room. “Miss, the Grand Duke has arrived!” There was a mad-sounding rustle.
Calia slipped past him, stepping up and lighting lamps as Gaspard stepped in, to face her after months. She wasn’t looking at him, but out the window. The snow wailed outside.
“Thalia.” She didn’t move. “It suits you.”
“I wouldn’t know about that,” she said, turning her head a little.
Gaspard saw the blue lines. “What happened?”
She sighed. “I agreed to something that I shouldn’t have and lost my magic.” She gestured to her face. “Now, I have to wear masks because someone defiled my vallaslin. I am a mage without magic. I might as well be Tranquil.”
Calia cleared her throat. “Miss.”
“What? It’s true.”
She turned to him fully. Blue lit up her face; Gaspard’s brows shot up. They were… really beautiful, in reality.
“I think,” he said, “they look beautiful.”
A brow rose. “Seriously? They’re lyrium, branded onto my skin! You’re not a mage, Gaspard. Have you ever…” She paused, then pressed her hand to her heart. “I used to feel it, like a heartbeat,” she said, hollowly. “I could bend fucking fire to my will. I could summon a fireball and I could…” She stopped, Gaspard taking another step to see her eyes were covered with a sheen of tears. “I could threaten my brother with my fireballs and we could fight with magic. I could feel the Fade, right beneath my fingertips. I could fucking feel the Anchor. Now, I try to reach for it and there’s a block that I can’t get through and I’m drowning because I want it back.” Her face twisted. “Solas said Thalia was an apt name for me. Now… Now it’s useless. I’m use –“
“No.” Gaspard interrupted her. She looked at him, looking lost. “Calienne… Calienne couldn’t use magic, during the last three years of her life. She could touch it, but she was so ill it hurt. That, I think, is what killed her.” Calienne had been wicked and beautiful and helped Gaspard’s plans because she wanted to. She had been the woman he’d fallen in love with before she’d died. “You… You are far different from Calienne. You are stronger than her in different ways.”
Thalia wasn’t great at playing the Game; even ill Calienne had been a master. Calienne, on the other hand, could not wield a weapon and wasn’t bold about much, even in her mastery of the Game; Thalia was bold in leading an entire organization that remained completely an utterly neutral from anyone. Gaspard had mourned Calienne for six years before choosing a random elf he didn’t even know was a mage. For four fucking years his wife had managed to hide her being a mage, for Maker’s sake! It was only happenstance he’d found out!
“If I thought you useless, I wouldn’t have come looking for you outside Verchiel,” he reminded her. “Or had my guards escort you and your brother to ensure you’d return.”
“No, but Gaspard.” She shook her head. “This is what you threatened my entire clan with.” She stared at him. “You threatened them with this.”
She gestured shakily to her face.
“Not,” Gaspard said, lowly, “my finest moment.” He took a deep breath. “I don’t actually know if there were Tevinter slavers nearby.”
She stared at him with wide eyes.
“You were bluffing?!”
He winced. “Yes.”
She threw up her hands. “Keeper Deshanna, how the fuck were you fooled?”
“Not sure she was,” Gaspard muttered to himself. The Keeper had hesitated, staring into his eyes before he’d seen pain flicker over her face. And resignation before vitriol had taken over.
Adhlea stared at him.
“Oh, for fuck’s sake! That’s just what I needed to hear!” She inhaled and exhaled, as though struggling to retain her temper.
Gaspard backed off.
“I think,” he said, “I should leave. I have a meeting with Miss Josephine Montilyet.”
That wasn’t until later that night, but he figured to be out of the radius before she burst into flames.
“Calia.” Adhlea had enough of her own fucking cowardice. Sure, she’d gone to stalking around the place at night, but again – she’d only been in here with her ruined vallaslin. Gaspard had… Surprisingly, helped. He was nice, for a royal family member. Well… Sort of. The explosion about her Keeper he’d dropped on her had been unwelcome. “Calia, I need you to take my masks and…” She hesitated before blurting it out. “Fucking burn them.”
Calia lit up.
“Yay!” Calia jumped up. “It’s… a good thing I already did.”
Adhlea stared at her for a long moment.
“Yeah,” she said, her voice no longer confident. “When are the Chargers practicing today?”
“They should be in the courtyard about… now, judging by where I heard them as I was passing by.”
Adhlea nodded, making to get a cowl –
“Nuh-uh! I may be your servant, but as of right now, you need to stop hiding!” Calia dragged her away, shoving her at the door. “Go! Be your best self, lethallan!”
Adhlea’s eyes widened. “You’ve been taking lessons?”
“Yes, Ser Syven is nice. But don’t get distracted. Leave!”
Adhlea tremblingly touched her door and opened it.
A servant, Nora, grabbed her arm and dragged her forward. “Come on,” the older elf growled. “I’ll not have Ser the Iron Bull waiting. What a dumbass name.”
“But – I’m supposed to practice with Krem –“
She faltered and tugged back when she felt a mage coming. A servant burst through the door with another one her age. Nora passed her along; she was distracted by them and didn’t know where the mage went.
Adhlea… Was truly bewildered as the two servants opened the door and Yenera was standing there with a grumpy face.
“Wait, I changed my – ah!”
She squeaked in a truly embarrassing way as she was lifted up and flung over Yenera’s shoulder.
“Everyone outta the way!” Yenera bellowed, charging and – oh, Creators, was Yenera waving her battle-axe around?
“Yenera, you could hurt someone!”
“Oh, chill, Inquisi-tits.”
“Never say that around Sera!”
Yenera laughed in a truly ominous way before stopping. “You don’t have a full bladder, right?”
“What, no. Why, what are you AAAAAHHHH!”
She found herself falling. No barrier meant –
She slammed into arms.
“Aw, just like a princess,” the Iron Bull snickered. “Thanks, Adaar bitch!”
“Fuck you, Qunari bastard!”
“We’re all tired of your moping,” the Iron Bull said with a glance down at her. “Looks like that husband of yours made ya stop for a moment. All right, men – just like we practiced! Hit ‘er with everything!”
She opened her mouth to ask what when something cold – snow – hit her.
Magic? But I can’t –
Something hit her arm.
“It’s called a snow-ball fight, Boss!” Krem lobbed another ball of snow. “Watch out for the Boss’ hits, Boss.”
Something big hit her back. She looked behind her. The Iron Bull slammed a hand with Skinner; Krem yelped as he was hit.
Adhlea crawled over to him. “How’s about we gang up on them?” Krem’s brow shot up. “You know I’m a good shot. Let’s show ‘em.”
“I’m helping, too!” Dalish appeared. Her power as a mage wasn’t substantial, but it still hurt. She didn’t see Krem shaking his head. Adhlea swallowed the lump in her throat.
I’m done crying.
“Three against seven,” Adhlea said with a shaky smile. “Let’s fuck their shit up.”
She clumsily grabbed a pile of snow, then watched Dalish pack it into a ball.
“Pack it,” Krem advised. “And then throw. As hard, and as accurate as you can. Face-shots mean you’re out, and no putting rocks in ‘em. That’s a penalty, as it could injure someone.”
“Alright.” Adhlea had never played in snow. As a potential Keeper, she’d always been stuck inside the aravel with Keeper Deshanna while the other children played and learned to survive. She packed it, peered above the snow, saw the Iron Bull leaning down and scooping up snow –
“Let’s make a stockpile, while we’re not being pelted.”
The three made a quick stockpile; then Adhlea saw the Iron Bull aiming.
The snowball exploded the snow where the trio were hiding.
Adhlea leaped up, to act as the decoy, flinging snowballs as fast as she could. She downed two.
The Iron Bull laughed and pelted her with snowballs. Adhlea protected her face as best she could.
How long they were messing in the snow it wasn’t certain until Adhlea heard someone behind her and threw an accurately-placed snowball.
Solas wiped the snow off of his face with a dry look.
“I’m so sorry,” Adhlea tried not to laugh as Krem took the time to pelt Solas with another snowball.
“It’s fine.” He cleared his throat. “I would like to speak with you, alone, if possible?”
She nodded, then began to walk with him.
“I know that I can no longer be your teacher in magic,” Solas said, his eyes sad as Adhlea looked down. “But if it is possible, I can teach you the words of the Elvhen people. Even some spells for when you get your magic back.”
Adhlea jerked her head up, staring at him. “But it’s impossible.” Her heart beat faster. “Isn’t it?”
Solas shrugged. “It’s unheard of,” the mage hedged, “but considering you said you could not feel the Fade – could not feel the Anchor itself, even – suggests that until you get sense of the Fade back, you’re less likely to be able to close rifts. I wouldn’t say that it’s an impossibility.”
“Inquisitor!” Cassandra’s loud voice made her turn with Solas. There were multiple people in the hallways. “Inquisitor, the king of Orzammar has asked an audience with you.”
“Is he here?” Adhlea doubted it.
Cassandra shook her head. “No. He sent a letter. Like the Archon, but it’s less likely to be a trap.”
“Dwarves,” Solas said, exchanging a look with Adhlea. “I don’t particularly enjoy dealing with them.”
“You wouldn’t be coming, then,” she said, trying not to let her disappointment show.
“I highly doubt I am needed on this excursion,” he said. “As I’m certain you’re going.”
Adhlea inclined her head. “As Inquisitor, I must.” She swallowed. “Guess that means Syven’s coming along.”
“You should take Dorian and the Iron Bull,” Solas rather unexpectedly said. “They might be useful.”
“Cassandra, would you be all right to come along?” Cassandra, Varric – of course she was dragging Varric along, he’d missed out on the Tevinter trip – the Iron Bull, Syven, and Dorian. Two mages, two warriors –
“Yenera expressed a desire to get away from… Alexius,” Cassandra said, carefully.
“Three mages, three warriors and a rogue,” Adhlea hummed.
“Two,” Cassandra murmured.
Adhlea flinched. “Yes, two,” she murmured.
“Three.” Solas’ firm voice made her glance up to him. He was glaring at Cassandra.
“Two,” Adhlea countered. “It’s all right, Solas. I’m good with that.”
“I,” Solas said, looking down at her, “am not. You will get your magic back.”
Adhlea offered him a hopeless smile, ignoring the warmth that stirred inside her when he was so firm.. “Doubtful,” she murmured.
“Josephine also asked you to meet your husband in the War Room. Apparently he has some ideas about how to tackle the rifts while you are unable to close them,” Cassandra reported.
Adhlea had the displeasure of seeing Solas’ face close off.
“Come,” Adhlea said, shooting Cassandra a dark glare. “You are a Fade expert. Surely he will take your opinion into account.”
Josephine Montilyet had not felt such a migraine as both the Duke of Chevaliers and their resident Fade expert bickered. It was giving her the worst migraine in the world.
Inquisitor Lavellan looked like she regretted everything; from the moment Solas had been introduced, the Duke had been cordial. Solas had been, as well – until the Duke had pulled the Anchor into the conversation.
“If she cannot wield it, then the rifts will only grow bigger. If there is any way to remove it –“
“There is not,” the Fade-walker had snapped. “If there was, I would have found it.”
And it’d gone downhill from there. Gaspard had cooled and said something snide. Solas had returned it.
Josephine stared at Adhlea, who was clearly growing angry.
“Enough, both of you!”
Josephine started nearly violently. Adhlea shot her an apologetic glance before her magenta eyes glared at Gaspard and Solas equally.
“If you intend to have a pissing contest,” she said, her voice cold, “then take it out of Skyhold. I’ll not have it. Gaspard – some of your experienced chevaliers around the Rifts that spawn more pieces of shite would work, yes – but you also have the problem of the demons already in the area. You would have to have places as the Emerald Graves crawling with Chevaliers, and the Empress would grow suspicious. Solas does have a point, though. I intend to get my magic back, even if it’s just the Anchor. Solas is also a Fade-walker, Gaspard, so please do show him respect. I also do intend to journey to Val Royeaux to speak with the Empress – don’t give me that look, I know she sent you here, whether or not she sent you while you were coming – as soon as I am back from my next trip.” She took a deep breath.
“You intend to go to the ball there?”
She shot Gaspard a look. “Yes, as when I get there, you and I need to have a long, long conversation that I completely forgot about until this moment.” She arched a brow at his face. “I intend to show up as the Inquisitor, as she did invite me along with Vivienne. Should be fun.”
Gaspard inclined his head to her. “Are you headed to Tevinter again?”
Josephine stared at Adhlea with Solas. Solas suddenly turned away, leaving the War Room.
“Hardly,” the elf replied, shooting a concerned look towards the door Solas just exited. “Orzammar, actually. You can even tell the Empress.”
“Should I tell her about Tevinter?”
“If you’d like.” Adhlea smiled, a smile of teeth. “I’m not under her purview. And I was invited by the Archon.”
“Who is now dead,” Josephine added.
“Oh. Now the Black Divine can rest easy,” the elf said, sarcasm thick. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go find some assistants to aid me in my quest to bring peace about the land.” She stalked off, slamming the door shut.
Gaspard turned to Josephine.
“Did… The Black Divine upset her?”
Josephine closed her eyes. “The Black Divine offered her search of his libraries in return for getting a magister out of the way and the Archon – the now dead Archon – killed. According to her, the Black Divine promised the magister would not be able to brand her, but.” Josephine arranged her papers. “The Black Divine was too late, the Archon was not killed, and our leader has her face marked due to the Black Divine not coming in.” Josephine saw Gaspard’s face was white. “She has been doing things far more dangerous, Grand Duke. I highly doubt it will get any easier.”
“No,” the Grand Duke swallowed. “It seems I underestimated the Inquisition’s reach.”
Josephine eyed him.
“Whatever it takes,” she said, softly. “Inquisitor Lavellan is doing whatever it takes to stop Corypheus. If that means trusting someone to keep his word even though they themselves doubt it, she will do it. If Corypheus can be stopped, she will walk to the edges of the earth to do so.” Josephine shuffled her papers together. “Now, with all due respect –“
“Let me ask you just one thing,” the Grand Duke interrupted. “Is she and the… Fade-walker involved?”
Josephine was not an idiot.
“Considering that he is her teacher in all things magical and elvhen, they are involved in a sacred relationship,” Josephine said, sweetly. “But if you ask if they are in a romantic relationship – no. Solas is merely concerned for her.” The Grand Duke scowled, but his expression smoothed out as she finished speaking.
“Thank you, Lady Montilyet. I shall put in a good word for you in Val Royeaux.”
Lovely. She smiled at him pleasantly. As he left, she glanced at Leliana. Her presence was only obvious to Josephine, apparently. The door creaked shut.
“He is definitely going to be in for a shock,” Leliana murmured.
“Indeed.” Josephine opened her sketchbook. “So I made some designs for the Winter Ball in the spring. How do these uniforms look?”
She knew Leliana’s look of disgust was not fabricated.
“The Inquisitor is not wearing that,” Leliana said. “Nor am I. If I go in, I dress to impress. And this, no offense intended, my dear heart, but this is awful – especially with the Inquisitor.”
“How about you let the Inquisitor choose?” Leliana added. “She’s got some skill with drawing, I’ve heard. Or perhaps that’s Solas.”
Josephine’s eyes lit up. “Solas! We could ask Solas.”
Leliana grimaced, but Josephine ignored her. Surely Solas had good ideas when it came to clothing!
The Iron Bull typically only used saarebas for one of two things: really powerful mages and really powerful warriors. As he traveled the Hinterlands with a non-Qun Adaar, a shrimpy elven archer named Sera, a white-haired elf with similar lyrium brands, the disgruntled Seeker, the leader of the apostate mages (although apparently it was unofficial), a dwarf, and a spirit boy he constantly forgot about, he came to the very firm belief that his boss was, in reality, a saarebas.
In Qunlat, that meant ‘dangerous thing’.
No, he was not calling her a thing. He was simply stating that she was very powerful in her own right and she could probably, if she were ever really interested, be very welcome in the Qun.
She was, enthusiastically, killing red lyrium-infused templars. A snarl lit her face as she drove her knives over and over again into a group of them.
Taking a glance around, it really was only the elves who gave such weird grins. Cole just stood in the middle with his knives, staring at Boss.
“You ache because you can feel it surge,” the boy said as the last templar in their way dropped. “It hurts so bad you just want it to go away.”
“Thank you, Cole.” The Boss gave Cole a cool smile as she sheathed her daggers. “I very much do appreciate having all my thoughts aired out for everyone to hear.”
“She’s afraid,” Cole said, turning with her. “She’s afraid of going down there. It’s a big black abyss; I don’t like small spaces.”
Elaine looked to the side, her face reddening.
“I… really hate being underground,” she admitted quietly.
“Should I even be here? We’re a huge group! Why d’you need all the protection?” Sera frowned, kicking a rock.
“It was at Leliana’s request. Look, you two can go off somewhere else if you want.” She turned to the others in the group. “Anyone else want to leave?”
Nobody said a word as she stalked past them.
“Wow, she’s not happy,” Varric announced.
“She’s lonely,” Cole said, his eyes wide. “She’s afraid that without her magic, she’ll be useless. I have to do whatever I can to get it back.”
“Are you guys coming?”
“We should follow,” Yenera muttered, a frown on her face. The Iron Bull hesitated, then called up.
“Hey, Boss – want me to babysit the shrimpy archer and the mage girl?”
“Whatever you want to do, Bull!”
Yeah, if she kept up that attitude the king of Orzammar was going to through them out.
Chapter 61: Orzammar
...so I'm stuck. During the scene where Dorian meets his father, I'm conflicted on who to take. So, if you all wouldn't mind tossing in a review or two about who you think Dorian should take to meet his father (it's not for a while yet, but it WILL happen), I'll give you the choices and you give me reasons why or why not it's a bad idea? Syven and Bull, Syven alone, Syven and Adhlea, or just Adhlea.
Review and help me, please!
“Welcome to the Deep Roads,” Lace Harding greeted, gesturing to them before peering at Adhlea. “Nice markings,” she said with a smile. Adhlea forced a smile onto her face.
“Thanks. They’re in fashion in Tevinter.”
Harding winced even as Yenera snorted. “Sorry. I can’t help but think they’re darkly pretty.”
Adhlea looked to the ground. “Yeah. There’s at least one good thing about these, you want to know?”
Harding nodded, looking hesitant.
Adhlea’s grin became a little bit more natural. “At least I won’t get lost in the dark.”
Fenris choked on his own spit while laughing.
Harding’s smile returned. “Good to see you’re in high spirits. The dwarves aren’t, though. They’re constantly having to deal with unnatural earthquakes – I even heard a darkspawn seal was broken. The king has asked me to tell you, through many, many dwarves, that he would appreciate it if you could see what was causing it. He also wrote this to give to you.”
Harding gave her a letter.
With the earthquakes happening, there will be no time to meet. The Shaperate has offered one of its own to show you into the Deep Roads, should you accept our plea.
Many thanks in advance,
The King of Orzammar
“He’s a new king,” Harding muttered. “He sent dwarves up here.”
Varric snorted. “He’s probably going to get assassinated soon.”
Harding nodded. “Most likely.”
Adhlea’s brows shot up. “And this is why I prefer Orlesian royalty. At least in Orlais you know every single dance there’s a possibility of an elaborate assassination of one of the nobility.” Adhlea winced as she realized what she just said. “I cannot believe those words actually left my mouth. They taste disgusting.”
“Yeah, for a moment I was worried,” Varric muttered dryly. “You said you hated Orlesian politics.”
“The last attempt on Celene was actually tragically boring,” Adhlea remarked. “The guy ran in and attempted to kill her by running up the stairs. He was scolded on his lack of creativity and sent back to the House of Repose.” Harding was just staring at her in blatant shock. “What? In Orlais, there’s these elaborate schemes. Blackmail, intrigue, love – half the time it’s for something-or-other Celene did with a man to elevate his status or ruin his reputation. Everyone knows – well, the women do – that Celene has an elven lover. It’s like the romance novels I was sent while learning Common.”
“Wow, Dahlia. Orlesian politics are screwed up,” Varric muttered.
Adhlea shook her head. “Orlesian politics aside,” she said, straightening, “we’re supposed to be meeting someone of the Shaperate? What’s a Shaperate?”
“Ah, yeah, you’re meeting Valta as soon as the lift is ready. She doesn’t want to see the sky.”
“She does that, it renders her casteless,” Varric mentioned to Adhlea as she looked at him in confusion. She nodded, understanding smoothing her forehead.
“You mentioned darkspawn,” Yenera said, sounding happy. “We going to kill ‘em?”
“Hopefully,” Harding said, “but it’d honestly be better if you’d brought a staff. You don’t want darkspawn touching you,” she told Adhlea.
“Oh, yes. About that.” Adhlea’s smiled strained. “Thanks to Tevinter’s fashion, I’m no longer a mage.”
Harding paled drastically. “I keep saying the wrong things!” She buried her face in her hands.
Adhlea sighed. “Ah, well. You reacted better than my brother.” She mocked him in a high-pitched voice. “Oh no, you’re no longer a mage, that’s terrible. I guess now I can threaten Vivienne again and you can’t shove fireballs up my ass, nyah!”
“She’s actually been threatening to make Vivienne make him an ice statue,” Yenera said, sounding rather wistful. “It’s been great.”
“I wish Enaste had stayed,” Adhlea muttered. “She terrifies Syven when she does magic.”
“Hey! The lift’s done!”
“Your inner circle is so weird,” Harding informed Adhlea with a grin.
“I know,” Adhlea grinned back.
“Anyway. You all can go down now. Lift’s done.” Adhlea stared at the lift, any grin sliding off her face as she stared at it.
“You can’t be serious,” she said, suddenly unsure. It had only a few boards holding it together.
“Afraid so,” grimaced Harding. “If it’s any consolation, if you die by falling we’ll exaggerate your deaths!”
“You know,” Yenera cackled, “I think I like you, half-dwarf girl.”
“Name’s Lace Harding,” Harding said back without batting an eyelash.
“Can we please get going?” Cassandra groaned. Adhlea had actually forgotten she was here at all.
“Sure.” Adhlea swallowed and stepped onto the lift first.
“Hope you don’t die!” Harding cheerfully said as they crowded. “Try not to move too much, and don’t stand too close to the edge! Come back alive!”
They started down.
“I’m regretting coming here,” Cassandra muttered.
“Hold onto me, Seeker. We’ll make it through. I got my battle-axe; lovely Valencia can cut through rock like butter!”
“Yeah, no,” Varric said quickly. “I wouldn’t, Seeker.”
Adhlea was quiet, staring at the carved images.
“Larger than life,” Cole whispered. “I don’t want to be one of them.”
“Whose thought was that, kid?” Varric sounded only mildly interested. Adhlea’s face burned as she stared at a passing beard of a paragon or king.
“Hers,” Cole said, still quiet. “She doesn’t want to be one of them.”
Yenera was a Creators-blessed being.
“Nope, I sure as fuck don’t. From what I hear, paragons get the pointy end of the sword.”
“Can only dwarves be paragons?” Cassandra sounded intrigued. “Or can humans be named one?”
“Well… I don’t think so,” Varric hedged. “Honestly, I think an exception could be made with Dahlia and Dagger. Elf-blooded children always look like the non-elf. They could just say that Dahlia was a dwarf.”
“There’s no way I would be romantic with a dwarf I don’t know,” Adhlea said, her voice flat. She then turned, very carefully, to wink at Varric. “Guess that means you’d be my only option, eh?”
His brows shot up even as he smirked. “Well, Dahlia, I’m tempted, but – nah. You got a husband and a side lover, right?”
Adhlea frowned. “A side lover? Why would I have one of those? If it got to Orlais that I was fucking someone, Gaspard’s reputation would be in tatters.” Unless, of course, he approved. Then he’d quash those rumors with a few vicious ones of his own; if anything, Adhlea would have to be the most secretive person in Thedas if she didn’t want Gaspard to have to deal with it. Not that Adhlea planned on having a side lover.
“I heard there was a lover’s spat in the War Room,” Varric said, amused. “You, Solas, and Gaspard were all there.”
“Solas is –“ Adhlea felt fire rush to her face. “Solas is my mentor,” she said, mortified. “Not my lover. They were having a pissing contest; I believe neither won, though truly I had to leave.”
“Uh-huh,” Varric said, skeptical.
Adhlea looked at Cassandra, who was smirking.
“You do seem to look to him for a lot of things,” Cassandra mentioned.
“Oh, my Creators,” Adhlea muttered. “There is nothing untoward going on.”
“Not like you’d be able to tell us,” Yenera snorted.
“I am not fucking Solas!”
Her shout echoed. She clapped her hands on her mouth as they passed a lip in the wall, dwarves staring at them.
“Oops,” she muttered.
“I think that’s the reddest you’ve ever been,” Yenera observed.
Adhlea turned around, refusing to look at her. “You all suck,” she announced, trying and failing to scowl; she did feel a bit of attraction to Solas, but it was purely physical. Well. No. She enjoyed his intellect, his physical appearance, his voice, his almost lyrical cadence when he did speak – oh, no. Adhlea clamped down on those thoughts. Purely physical.
“You slept in the same tent, shared the same bedroom on the way to Tevinter…”
“For the love of –“ Adhlea turned once more and made it very firm. “Solas has saved my life. He and I shared a bedroom –“ and a bed, but really. They don’t need to know that. “- due to Vivienne only buying three rooms on that ship. I slept in the same room as Solas so we could practice magic.”
“Magic magic or…” Yenera wiggled her brows suggestively. Fenris frowned disapprovingly.
“Oh, my gods,” Adhlea put her face in her hands, dying of mortification. “Just magic,” she groaned. “Dorian can tell you what kind.”
“Oh, he said the rooms were soundproof.” Cassandra was enjoying this. “So, did you –“
“NO!” Adhlea cringed at her half-scream of denial. “N-no,” she stuttered. “Solas was a gentleman, and I have firm boundaries.” Like slipping a dagger under her pillow. Just in case.
“Alright, alright!” Varric seemed to realize that was enough. “Stop embarrassing her.”
“But it’s so fun,” Yenera muttered.
“For you asses, yes!” Adhlea turned back around, still red. The lift stopped; Adhlea peeked out between her fingers.
“A song, a song beats in tune with the heart,” Cole muttered. “You can hear it, but you don’t recognize it.”
They were stuck or something. They were at the bottom of a Paragon statue, suspended in air.
Adhlea’s heart flew into her mouth as the lift dropped faster before shuddering to a stop again. Adhlea glanced up, ready to shout, but stopped at the thin crack of sky seen above.
Were they really that far down?
Once more, the lift began descending. They were silent, all of them watching until they stopped on – sort of – solid ground.
Adhlea was the first off, followed by Yenera and Cole; Fenris let Cassandra off before he, then Varric, stepped off.
There was an audible sigh of relief from Fenris as he stepped from the lift.
“I have a feeling not many elves or humans have ever stepped down here,” Adhlea remarked.
“Not since the fall of your Arlathan, elves haven’t been down here,” a female dwarf said, stepping forward, but remained in the gloom. Thanks to her elf heritage, Adhlea could see almost perfectly in the darkness of the road. Covered bodies lay on the stone beneath them. “I am Shaper Valta. You know you have lyrium attached to your face, right?”
She was looking mildly concerned for Adhlea.
“Not by choice,” Adhlea replied.
Valta nodded. “I see. Let’s get going.”
“Where exactly are we headed?” Adhlea asked, her group falling into step behind her. She was glad that dwarves might not have as strange a reaction to her face.
“To the Legion of the Dead,” Valta replied, glancing back at her. “Your assistance is welcome, Inquisitor. The earthquakes have only worsened since.” Valta halted. “Earthquake,” she muttered.
Adhlea felt nothing –
“Ah!” Her head felt like it was splitting open, something thundering in her mind. She placed a hand on her vallaslin, trying to get it to calm down, to ease her sudden headache. Everything was rattling. She leaned on the wall.
As abruptly as it started, it faded. Adhlea cracked her eyes open, unaware that she’d closed them.
“- the lyrium, perhaps,” Valta was saying, sounding fascinated. “They were both branded, yes? Interesting.”
Adhlea’s head pounded, still.
Fenris grunted as he stood, the white-haired elf looking angry beyond belief.
“Magic shite,” he grumbled, looking uneasy. “Dwarven magic shite.”
“Dwarva can’t do magic,” Valta deadpanned. “The only magic we can do is shape stone.”
Adhlea rubbed her forehead. “Just… I think it might just be the earthquakes,” she said, wincing. “Creators, it’s painful.”
She had not read a lot about dwarves. She did know that the way they chose Paragons was weird, but the dwarves probably thought elves were weird, too.
“Let’s continue,” Valta announced, continuing on.
The sound of approaching footsteps of a large group caught the Legion of the Dead’s attention. Dwarven eyes warily watched as Valta reappeared, a female elf right behind her. A dwarf, two humans, a Qunari woman, and another elf made the strangest group that the Legion had ever seen in the Deep Roads.
What caught their attention, however, were the lyrium brands on the first and second elves. One had lyrium branching all over her face in a specific pattern; the brands on the second elf were mostly hidden, only a few inches on his neck and seen on his arms before his hands were hidden.
“We getting ready for an invasion?” muttered one of the Legion, tensing.
Valta turned to the female elf. “Inquisitor Lavellan, this is a company of the Legion of the Dead.”
The Inquisitor offered a smile and a wave.
“Hello!” she chirped.
“I don’t think they’re happy we’re here, Dahlia.” The dwarf with the crossbow folded his arms over his chest. “We’re part of the Inquisition, Legion. We accept all-comers.”
“Except assholes,” the Qunari lady said. “And, just so you know, I’m actually not Qunari. I was born in the Dales. I’m an Adaar.”
“In other words, this isn’t an invasion,” Valta informed the Legion. “They’re here to help.”
“They might just make things worse,” Renn said, stepping forward. “The Assembly is choosing a new king.”
The above-ground dwarf snorted. “And he might actually make the shortest-reigning king in the history of the dwarves. How’d he croak? Poorly timed arrow?”
“You probably shouldn’t joke, Varric,” the female elf said, shooting him a glance. “The proper response is probably to give your condolences.”
“That’s all on you, Dahlia. We just reflect you.”
The female elf just sighed. “The Inquisition offers its condolences for the king’s death. Varric’s opinion on this doesn’t matter.” She inclined her head. “I am Inquisitor Thalia Lavellan of the Dalish clan Lavellan. We have come to offer our help on the earthquake problem.”
“And maybe I get to kill some darkspawn,” the Adaar said, hefting her axe.
“Well, then.” Renn offered a smirk. “Us Legion of the Dead don’t particularly care if you’re diplomatic. We were just curious why you brought one of each race down with you.”
The elf cast her eyes to the ceiling.
“My… advisors,” she said, through gritted teeth and a forced smile, “seem to think I am incapable of taking care of myself now that I can no longer wield magic.” She jerked her thumb behind her. “I had an actual Qunari with me as well as a mage and an archer, but they’re still on the surface due to them apparently not wanting to babysit me.”
“That’s… kind of pathetic,” Renn muttered. “Anyway, let’s get going. We don’t have time on our side here.”
“True.” The Inquisitor strode forward. “Where are we headed?”
“Down the Deep Roads,” Renn replied. “Valta, you joining us?”
“I don’t want to go down there,” the human boy said, hiding behind the Seeker woman. “It’s cold and dark and they’re screaming. They’re screaming for it.”
“I will stay with him,” the Seeker said. “So long as the Legion does not decide to kick us out. A human’s eyes are not good in the dark.”
“Don’t try anything, Seeker, and I’m ninety-percent sure they’ll not kick you out.” The casteless dwarf glanced at the Inquisitor, who nodded. “Keep Cole safe.”
The Seeker glanced down at the boy distastefully. “Fine,” she said, folding her arms.
“She doesn’t like me,” the boy muttered. “She thinks I’m a demon.”
The Seeker scowled. “Yes, well, it IS your choice to remain behind with me,” the Seeker said flatly.
The Inquisitor cleared her throat.
“Cole is under the protection of the Inquisition,” she announced, flatly. “Whatever happens, know that if we come back and the Seeker tells me he’s been attacked, I will not hold back.”
“I think they got it, Dahlia.” The casteless dwarf faced forward. “All right, Shaper. We’re ready.”
“Let’s get going,” Renn ordered Valta, taking one torch.
“Won’t we need more?” Valta frowned.
“Elves can see in the dark, Scribbles,” the dwarf said with a smirk. “And I may not sense the Stone, but you can be damned sure I can see fine. Only person who can’t see in the dark is Shrimp.”
The tall Adaar shook her head. “I cannot,” she admitted. “And only seeing shit with Inquisi-tit’s markings would be a recipe for me falling off the edge into the abyss.”
Solas was in the Rotunda painting on the wall when the human known as the Duke of Chevaliers approached. It was long after the Inquisitor had left; Solas had no doubt that he’d waited because he knew she’d be deep in Orzammar at this point.
“You intend to bring her magic back, yes?”
Solas calmly set his paints down, turning to the chevalier. The human had aged well, possibly because he was nobility. Solas put his hands behind his back. “I do intend to do so, yes.”
The Duke looked him up and down, then turned to peruse the half-painted mural Solas was creating. “Who are you painting?”
Solas kept his face neutral. “I felt it was necessary to depict the Inquisitor. It is not finished.”
All he had so far was a sword and two hands, one with the Anchor spreading upwards.
“You should represent her properly,” the human said, turning to look at him, his expression unreadable. “As what you, and the Inquisition, sees her as. She is a mage, after all.”
I already intended to do so.
The door to the Rotunda opened. Solas closed his eyes.
The approaching footsteps skidded to a stop.
“You,” Galifalon said.
“You’re her brother, aren’t you?” Gaspard seemed unconcerned.
Solas waved his hand as Galifalon removed a knife, freezing the youngest member of Adhlea’s family.
“He shall thaw in a few minutes,” Solas uttered calmly. “I suggest before he follows through on his attempt to kill you that you remove your presence from his sight.”
“I’m not particularly worried,” Gaspard said. “He’s tried to kill me before.”
With that, the human left. Solas waited until he was gone – the door slamming shut and all, before unfreezing the younger elf. Galifalon looked pissed. “Why the fuck did you do that?”
“Try to kill him elsewhere,” Solas advised. “I truly do not wish to clean up blood.”
Solas picked up his paints, returning to his mural; he suddenly recalled something Josephine had asked him to do, and that he’d finished. It would be perfect for this image.
With that, he started again.
Ser Delrin Barris, formerly of the templar order, stepped up to the gates of Skyhold. It’d taken months to find the new sanctuary of the Inquisition, even with directions from many scouts in the Frostbacks. An Avvar stood in front of the gates, staring up at the sky.
“Um, sir,” a female former templar hedged, “is this really the right place?”
A familiar face met Barris’ face. Warden Blackwall. He was offering the Avvar a platter of food. The Avvar sat down where he stood and took the platter before digging in with his hands.
“Warden!” The Avvar did not look up, but the Warden did. The Warden approached the group. “I’m the templar that –“
“Oh, it’s you,” the Warden said, sounding unenthused. “Inquisitor ain’t here, but we can offer you a place to stay until she comes back.”
“What did you do to them?” another templar whispered, as though the retreating Warden could hear them.
“Oh, just wrong place, wrong time.” Barris grimaced. “Remember hearing about Lord Seeker Lucius’, rather, unfortunate mistake of attempting to kill people in Val Royeaux? I was there. I did not attempt to kill the Inquisitor, or any civilians.” Barris started following Warden Blackwall. “I don’t even know who the Inquisitor is.”
“Inquisitor is the Herald,” Blackwall called back. Apparently he did have enhanced hearing. Shit. “And don’t any of you remark upon her face when you do see her.”
Delrin Barris nearly regretted coming there as he spotted several vicious-looking creatures gnawing on bloody meat.
“Horsemaster Dennet! Here’s another nug for ya!”
“Toss it into the pile, don’t have time to watch it,” the horsemaster grunted. “I’m going to sign off on their extermination. I’d rather not have those things trying to eat the other horses.”
“At least you tried,” a woman nearby sighed. “I honestly can’t believe what the Inquisitor was thinking, letting them in here.”
“Ah, she was probably in her rooms… hiding,” the horsemaster shrugged.
“Dennet, that’s rude!”
“Still rude. Don’t ever say that in public.”
“Are they mad? They act like they don’t have a care in the world!” Elissa sounded scandalized.
“Oh, they care,” the Warden said, stopping in the mostly snow-free courtyard. “They’re just trying not to show it. Half our recruits come from the Inquisitor’s travels. Ah, Calia!”
An elf maid appeared, her brown hair in a clip. Instead of the Inquisition’s insignia on her dress, there was a crest of a dragon with wings outstretched.
“Remember those templars that might’ve been coming? These are them. Show ‘em to the barracks, please.”
Calia nodded. “Okay. Please follow me.” She began walking. “You’re going to have to bunk with the apostates that don’t have rooms yet; Skyhold isn’t entirely equipped to deal with so many personnel so we’re building a barracks in the back. Like I said, it’s not finished – they’re still building it – and that’s why you’re bunking with mages. Rules are, unless you’re training, don’t fight with the apostates. That will get you kicked out of the Inquisition. No smiting others,” she said, looking at them from over her shoulder. “That’s an automatic kick-out. You want to practice your smiting, go into the forest and make sure nobody’s around. Also, we’re on a strict lyrium rationing; you’ll have to deal with what you get when you get it.”
“I’m beginning to think I should’ve stayed at home and not joined the templars,” muttered someone in Barris’ group.
Barris silently agreed as Calia threw open a door that held like forty mats. Twenty of them were currently occupied, with a strict sense of who goes where.
“Women go with women, men go with men,” Calia announced. “If you feel it, sleep in the middle.”
Barris shook his head. “None of those with me, miss.”
Calia arched a cold brow. “None of who?” she demanded before sweeping in the middle. “NO FIGHTING,” she said to the apostates, who looked nervous and hostile. “Or both Mistress Trevelyan and Master Rutherford will kick you out.”
Calia proceeded to leave the room without another word.
“Well, shit,” a female apostate said. “I’m going to have to be extra careful about exploding shit.”
Yenera ran into the fray of darkspawn, her axe swings wide yet controlled. She felled as many darkspawn as she could, with dwarves still hacking everywhere. The elves and dwarves got there just as Yenera settled her battle-axe on her shoulder.
Thalia looked disappointed. “Aw, damn,” she cussed. “I wanted to kill some darkspawn.”
“I’m glad we didn’t have to fight darkspawn, they’re fucking creepy,” Varric muttered. “Plus, their blood can infect, just like it has Felix.”
“Speaking of, we can bottle a bit of the blood up and –“ started Fenris, only to get shouts of ‘no’ echoing everywhere.
“If it breaks, then we’d all be fucked,” Varric explained to a disgruntled-looking Felix. “Dahlia’s dangerous on a good day, if she were infected I’d say Yenera might stand a chance.”
“I don’t want to kill any of you,” Yenera announced. “That would be tragic.”
“Well, we could take some skin,” Thalia suggested.
Everyone looked from her to the darkspawn.
“No,” Yenera said decisively. “I am not touching them.”
Thalia made a face.
“Wait, what are you even debating?” Valta asked, clearly confused.
“We need samples of darkspawn,” Thalia said, shuddering as she moved forward. “Creators, this is nasty.” She took out a vial.
“You’re not going to –“ began Yenera, only to be thrown a dark look that made her shut up.
“I am. I just remembered I had a few empty phylacteries I hadn’t been able to use,” she said. “They’re notoriously hard to break.”
She took a dagger and sliced some darkspawn open.
“That is repulsive,” one of the Legion said, looking like he was going to faint.
“Are you attempting to find a cure for the Blight?” Thalia asked, barely moving her mouth.
“No,” the Legion dwarf said.
“Exactly.” Thalia bottled up the phylactery, then opened a vial. “Darkspawn skin, and done.”
She stood, sliding them into her pack.
“I never thought I’d be somewhat pleased someone is trying to find a cure for the Blight,” Valta admitted, curious eyes still on Thalia. “It’s still very disgusting.”
“Nothing worth doing is ever truly perfect,” the elf replied. “Now, seriously, we’re trying to get to the issue that’s causing earthquakes, so let’s go.”
Solas stared at the boy. “You’re still dying, though the progression of the Blight has lessened.”
“Great news. How long?”
Solas shrugged, ignoring the Tevene that stood next to him. He stood and walked to the desk. “Months, years. I do not know. You going to Tevinter and then here might have cured you a little bit.” Skyhold’s ancient wards might be working magic with Adhlea’s unconscious –
Solas’ eyes widened as he stilled.
“Well, Solas, I appreciate your help.”
Solas suddenly dug through his notes, finding the sheaf of paper denoting which abilities were conscious or not.
“Solas?” Dorian’s voice made him blink back to where he was. “Solas, is there something wrong with Felix?”
“Your magic and the wards around Skyhold,” Solas said, looking to Felix. “How long has your magical strength been waning?”
“Since I arrived, but I can lift a sword,” Felix said, frowning.
“Is this about Felix, or –“
“It’s about both Felix and Adhlea,” Solas said, transferring his gaze to the notes. “Whenever Adhlea has been sulking, what, precisely, has it been doing?”
“Snowing,” Felix said, his eyes lighting up. “The Inquisitor and the wards are connected?”
“If, what I’m guessing is true, yes.” Considering I just gave it to her, the odds of my being wrong are nonexistent. “The wards are so old they’re influenced by strong emotion. She almost genuinely died after Haven; she’d associate snow with death. She felt like she was dying. So, the wards responded; yet Felix here has been in pretty excellent health whist she has been inside the wards; she wants everyone to be happy and healthy.”
Felix’s eyes lit up. “Unconscious use of magic,” he breathed. “But she said she can’t.”
“Her consciousness is blocked from the Fade, not her unconsciousness.” Solas lifted his hand to his chin. “If we were to journey there, perhaps she’d regain her magical connection, but there’s still the lyrium to consider.”
“There’s no way to remove it, though,” Dorian countered. “Unless she gets so pissed off that she uses magic consciously, there’s little to no way that she’ll –“
“Anger is not the only way she uses her magic, though it is in her nature to be angry,” Solas said, almost unthinkingly; it was obvious.
Twin stares gazed at him. Okay, maybe it wasn’t as obvious as he thought…
“On the boat,” Solas said, slowly, “while I was reading, she was making glass statues. She likes to make things with her hands. It takes a certain finesse to make what she did.”
“The halla statues?” Dorian frowned. “The ones she sold as soon as we went on our way?”
Solas nodded. “Indeed. She was not perfect about it, but she sold them to anyone. She did not intend for them to be perfect. She likes creating things, but very rarely has the time.”
Dorian arched an eyebrow. “Uh-huh. Well, considering that it can’t be passive magic that we’re forcing out of her, we have to make her angry. Genuinely livid.”
“Then you come up with a good plan that won’t end with your eventual death,” Solas said rather testily.
“Hey, Shrimp, watch where you’re swinging that!” Varric had just barely dodged the woman slinging her battle axe around. Yenera was entirely too battle-happy.
“Don’t worry, Dwarf. I’m not going to kill you,” Yenera said, not reassuring Varric in the least. Varric fired Bianca twice more; Adhlea’s opponent fell. The elf looked tired and worn – they all did. Even Shaper Valta, and she hadn’t been fighting.
There had been two more earthquakes. The last one Adhlea had managed to stay standing, at the very least; he was more worried about her brain and veins than he was about anything else at the moment, because every time there was an earthquake he could see her face getting redder and redder.
“What does the Song of the Stone sound like?” Adhlea wondered as they continued into the Deep Roads. Varric found it unnerving to realize that, yes, her eyes literally glowed in the dark like a cat’s.
“It’s hard to explain,” Renn muttered, the Legionnaire keeping his axe ready. “It’s… like a second heartbeat in the form of a song. It’s the Stone’s heartbeat, if that makes sense.”
“And that,” Valta added, “is why I say it’s probably a Titan.”
“What is a Titan?” Varric’s question was seconded by Yenera and Adhlea. Fenris looked like he could care less.
“Nothing of concern, since it’s not in the Memories,” Renn glared.
“Oh, because if it matters it’s in the Memories?” Valta scowled at him.
“You do know most of us have no idea what you’re talking about, right?” Yenera sounded rather bored.
Varric turned to explain. “The Shaperate deals with putting Memories down in Dwarvish in the Library of Memories,” he said. “Anything that matters, such as the dead or kings or Paragons, the Shaperate carves in stone books with lyrium. Technically, if it’s not in the Memories, it didn’t happen.”
“Which is why I got removed from Orzammar,” the Shaper said, her eyes turning to the other people in the group. “I decided not to remove a Memory, and I got removed from my post. Politics aside, it isn’t right to lose history.”
“Wow.” Adhlea sounded impressed. “Orzammar sounds more and more like Orlais with each passing moment.”
Varric snorted. “That means it’s bad,” he said to the Legionnaire and Shaper. “Orlais is shit.”
“Agreed,” Adhlea muttered.
“Are you from Orlais?” Valta looked interested.
Adhlea shook her head. “A… Well. Long story short, I married into the nobility. I’m originally from the Dales, according to my Keeper. I’m a Dalish mage – er. No. Not anymore.” A thoughtful expression appeared on her face. “Could you remove the lyrium from my face?”
The Shaper glanced to the Legionnaire.
“Not without possibly killing you,” the Legionnaire replied. “Him, probably.” Renn nodded at Fenris. “Not you.”
Adhlea looked crushed for a moment. “Right.”
“Let’s stop now,” Valta suggested. “You guys aren’t looking too well.”
They laid their bedrolls out, a fire being started for the food; most likely nobody was going to actually sleep, but it was best to be prepared if they were. Adhlea tilted her head at Valta when Renn and Yenera vanished, presumably to make sure there were no darkspawn coming.
“You never did answer the question,” Adhlea mentioned. “What’s a Titan?”
Valta glanced up at her. “A Titan is one of the original Shapers,” she replied, eyes coming alight. “They formed us out of the Stone. I’ve only seen glimpses in the Memories; I’ve looked and looked for them but they vanished. It’s long been said that the Titans were the original Shapers until they died.” Valta shrugged. “That’s the story. Renn doesn’t think it’s true. You guys should get some sleep.”
Varric snorted, closing his eyes. It was like always. He did not dream; no dwarf did. When he woke, it was to a short scream and Adhlea’s eyes weeping blood as she breathed harshly, her vallaslin shining so bright it hurt Varric’s eyes.
Adhlea hoped for a peaceful night. She was actually happy; no magic around her, only massive headaches that happened every time there was an earthquake; so when she went to bed she hoped there’d be enough to get rid of the constant ache in her mind.
You’re one of them.
It was a discordant harmony that hurt her ears; a discordant harmony that sang words in her mind. It was the opposite of the malleable, harmonic Fade; it was to firm and repeatedly stabbed pulses into her brain.
She felt like something was peering all around her with mild interest. Adhlea tried to cover her ears.
Murderer, the voice-song said-screamed-sang. Murderers, all of you.
Adhlea didn’t know what the voice-song was trying to convey. She’d not killed whatever lurked down here – well, there was the darkspawn, but those were gross, disgusting, disease-ridden creatures –
Her mind felt like it was being prized open, examined, and fumbled back together. This wasn’t magic, per se – this was –
She jerked up, a short scream exiting her mouth as she did. Fenris had smacked her in his sleep; when she’d screamed, he’d jerked up – looking red-eyed and ragged.
“Everything – oh, Paragons,” Valta gasped. “You guys need to get out of –“
“No.” Adhlea shook her head. “No. Whatever’s at the center of the quakes –“ What was that? My head hurts, but… What did I hear? She was distracted by tears, it seemed; she wiped under her eyes, brushing them away.
“You’re bleeding, Dahlia,” Varric said. “How long since we passed out?”
“Few hours, maybe?” Valta shrugged. “Long enough for Renn and Yenera to finish a few rather… Disgusting stories.”
“I’m sorry for hitting you,” Fenris muttered to Adhlea, distracting her. “I’ve trained myself to respond to any threats instantly. I wake up with loud noises.”
He’d forced himself to hit her because the voice in his dreams was a threat and he knew Adhlea would scream. Adhlea felt majorly embarrassed.
“We need to get to the center of the quakes,” Fenris said, standing. “And fast, too. There’s no time to waste.”
Adhlea wanted to scream. She’d been wanting to scream. But as she had for a while now, she pressed her lips together and refrained.
They took the camp away quickly, hurrying down to Renn and Yenera. Both looked up and stood, looking alarmed.
“We’ve got to keep going,” Valta said, throwing a look over her shoulder at the two elves.
Yenera looked disgruntled, but the duo stood and followed the group down.
“Valta, if there is a such thing as a Titan,” Varric said as they reached a lift going down (It was clearly old, and even if Adhlea wasn’t afraid there was going to be yet another quake, she’d still be utterly terrified of this rickety thing in front of them), “could it have magic?”
“No.” Valta shook her head. “If you’re thinking maybe it connected with the Inquisitor and Fenris, then it’s entirely possible. Just… No, not with magic. Dwarves would dream, but we do not.” Valta glanced at Adhlea. “If it spoke of dwarves –“
“No,” Fenris said, sounding horrible, rubbing his throat. “It didn’t speak of dwarves. It spoke, sang and screamed of ancient murderers. Why would it do that?”
Adhlea stepped onto the lift, thinking.
A tremor ran through the cavern. Everyone froze, to prepare for another quake, but – nothing. The room shuddered and went still. A pulse of pain through Adhlea’s skull, then nothing.
They took the lift, deciding to silently clutch onto Yenera. Her battle-axe could cut through rock like butter. Hopefully.
Cole stopped messing with the sticks, standing up from where he’d been seated. The spirit wasn’t afraid; he could feel it starting to whisper.
“It sings,” he muttered. “It speaks of an ancient deed that closed it off. It speaks of an ancient deed that made it silent. It wants to move again, it wants its freedom to shape once more.” Cole turned to the Seeker. “It sees her. It sees her markings; it thinks she’s part of them but she’s not, she’s wrong. She is-and-isn’t. She’s wrong-and-right, but it cannot see.”
Cassandra stared at him like he was… A demon.
“Can you be more specific, Cole?”
Cole frowned, trying to listen.
“It’s hard, because it’s the opposite of what I’m used to,” he admitted. “It speaks of the fire-elf and the mother-elf and the hunter-elf; it speaks of the friend-of-the-dead-elf and the sun-elf by the mother-elf’s side. They… They fought it, they won; they shaped the aboveground into what it became, and then the world was separated and the elf-shadows fled.” The whispers gained in noise; Cole realized with a shiver that It looked at him. He felt it was wrong. It was the opposite of the Fade, which he was apart of. “It thinks she’s the mother-elf and the fire-elf at once, with the markings tainted with lyrium to spite it – it’s wrong, you’re wrong.”
He addressed It. It, who retreated quickly, not wanting to hear what Cole wanted to say.
Cole refused to be ignored.
“Just let her speak!” Cole called to the thing-that-was-all-around. “Let her tell you, and you will see.”
He had never felt so useless, then, because it did not listen.
It just left. He was standing in a room filled with the faintest of whispers, and none the ones around him could hear.
He could feel her distress, but also… resolve.
Cole brushed up against her.
She gently pushed him away.
She was and she isn’t and she is, he realized. A mage who isn’t and yet who is.
“She’s going to be okay,” he said, turning to Cassandra with a smile.