Actions

Work Header

Fire at the Heart of the World

Chapter Text

 

Violette Surana. That was a name he had not expected to hear again, let alone paired with fancy Chantry titles. Herald of Andraste. Inquisitor. Samson almost laughed at how ridiculous this all was. Violette “Fuck the Maker and his hot bride” Surana had become the Chantry's puppet? Hard to believe, yet he doubted his scouts' reports could have been wrong.

Still, it could all be just a coincidence, he thought, another woman sharing the same name.

Right, and I'm the Emperor of Orlais.

It wasn't until they clashed in the Arbor Wilds — until he stared down her angry silver eyes — that he truly believed. Violette Surana was indeed the Chantry's blessed Herald.

He was a dead man. He'd known it the moment she had taken down his armour. But he'd be damned if he was going down easy. He'd give her a good fight, maybe even add a new scar or two to that pretty face of hers.

They fought, and he lost.

He never expected to wake up.

But he did, and there he was, stripped of his armour and strapped to a table, with no less than five heavily armed warriors watching over him with menacing scowls. Former templars, all of them. He could see it in the way they carried themselves. That aggressive stance could only be Chantry trained.

“Don't move,” a soft voice warned him.

Samson looked up despite the warning. There was a woman — a healer, no doubt — applying bandages around his right leg, the injury a parting gift from the Inquisitor.

“Or what? Your lackeys are going to strike me down?”

“Or you might reopen those wounds.”

She was pretty with her sharp features, her soft blond hair tied up in an intricate braid and the pointy elven ears peeking from underneath it. Her face was clenched in concentration, her piercing blue eyes completely focused on her task. She looked almost familiar.

“Do I know you?”

He couldn't place it but he was sure he'd seen her somewhere before. The Gallows, perhaps? No… Surprisingly, he remembered all of the innocent faces who had crossed his path in that wretched place. One of the poor souls he'd helped off the streets of Kirkwall, then? Those he remembered far less clearly.

“No, we've never met before. My name is Nemea. I'm—”

“I see you're already awake,” Cullen's stern voice interrupted them as he walked through the flaps of the tent.

“I see you still have a stick up your arse,” Samson hissed back.

The Commander sneered at him, a look Samson remembered well. He'd seen it in Kirkwall, directed at the mages and the occasional arrogant templar recruit. To see it aimed at him? Well, he must have done something right.

Cullen ignored his comeback, focusing his attention on the healer instead. His eyes went soft for the briefest of instants before he settled back into the professional posture that was required of a man in his position. It happened so quickly Samson wasn't sure he didn't imagine it.

“It won't be long now before we leave. I want him sedated for the entire trip back to Skyhold,” Cullen commanded.

The woman crossed her arms over her chest. “It's a two-weeks trip, maybe more,” she answered, unamused. “He'll need to eat and drink. How do you suppose we do that if he's sleeping?”

The woman glared at him in a way that reminded Samson of Orsino and Meredith. Perhaps that was it — she did look a little bit like the former First Enchanter. Cullen held her gaze steadily for a few seconds. You could cut the sexual tension between them with a knife. Samson found it almost entertaining.

“Should we ask for the Inquisitor's opinion?” she pressured him, unwavering.

Cullen's reaction was subtle, but Samson could have sworn he saw fear pass through his eyes. Some things never changed, apparently, and Violette still scared the shit out of men twice her size.

“He stays caged the entire time and he is not to speak to anyone,” Cullen conceded.

The healer rolled her eyes, ready to argue some more before Samson cut in. “It's not like I'll be running races anytime soon with that leg anyway.”

Cullen gave him a quick and dirty look before stepping out of the tent, leaving Samson alone with the healer and the five guards circling them. She sighed before going back to work on his injured leg.

“So, now that the Commander has graced me with his presence, when do I get to see the almighty Inquisitor?”

“She—” The woman took a deep breath, swallowing hard. “She hasn't come back yet.”

“Oh.” Samson felt a pang in his chest, although he wasn't quite sure why. A few hours ago, he had been the one trying to take down the blasted woman. Why would he care what happened to her?

“What did you say your name was?”

“Nemea.”

“Well, Nemea, I wouldn't worry too much about her. Violette's always been a hard nut to crack.”


 

Samson would not see the Inquisitor until a week later, when he caught a glance of her as they were travelling through the Dales. She was arguing with the Commander, something that happened a lot, or so he’d been told. It wasn’t hard to guess why. Cullen had always been a good Chantry boy, believing what the Chant preached and what it didn’t, following orders blindly, never questioning them — in other words, everything Violette despised in a templar.

That same evening, she visited Samson with a bowl full of stew. He eyed the food with suspicion. “I'm not hungry,” he groaned. Not that he thought she might try to poison him. Not that he cared. Between the corruption coursing through his blood, the lyrium withdrawal and his impending trial, he'd be dead soon enough.

She took a spoonful of stew into her mouth. “Your loss, then.”

“Are you here to gloat? Flaunt your victory in my face ?”

She looked at him in silence, her grey eyes burning with their usual fire. Maker, she barely looked older than the last time he'd seen her. Only the small wrinkles around her eyes hinted that time had passed. And even then, she barely appeared to be over forty while he, thanks to years of living on the streets, suffering from lyrium withdrawal, looked ten years older than he really was — and felt like it too.

“Open the door,” she commanded the nearest guard, a burly man with a scarred face that probably put the fear of the Maker into anyone who dared cross him.

“Your Worship, this man—”

Anyone but Violette, of course. She glared at him like she was going to flay him. She knew exactly what Samson was, she just didn't care, and no one could stop her.

“As you wish.”

Samson could see the man trying not to shit himself as he opened the door to his cage. He might have laughed, were he not so confused by the Inquisitor’s next action. She swiftly climbed up to sit next to her prisoner like they were old pals going on a vacation together. What was she playing at?

“What if I attacked you, strangled you with those chains?” He rattled them for good measure.

She answered him with a loud snort. “I defeated you when you were armed and had a contingent of red templars at your back. I think I could take you all alone and unprotected.” It hurt, how true it was. Without his red lyrium armour, he was but an old washed-up templar. “And if I can't, they certainly could,” she continued, gesturing at the guards still posted around his cage.

She took another spoonful of stew. “I'm curious.” She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. “How does a templar end up serving an ancient Magister? Not just any Magister, but one of those the Chantry uses as an excuse to abuse us all?”

The question hurt. He had his reasons for doing what he had done, but would they satisfy her? Maker, he wasn't even sure they satisfied him anymore. Had it been worth it, in the end? Corypheus had promised him a new world, a better, fairer world. But looking at her now, looking at how many rose up to follow her… 

“I'm not allowed to speak to anyone,” he grumbled, looking away from her.

“Says who?”

“Your fearsome Commander.”

“Well, I outrank him. In fact, I outrank everyone in this camp, so I can do whatever I want.”

Entitled bitch.

“Well, Inquisitor —” He spat her title like it was a curse word. “—I'm curious too. How does an apostate mage end up doing the Chantry's dirty work?”

“I'm not the Chantry's bitch.”

So that struck a chord. Good to know.

“You want to know what I think?” He leaned forward and his eyes bore into hers, their faces so close he could smell the scent of stew on her breath. “I think you're a prisoner here, just like me. I think you want nothing more than to run away from here, but something's keeping you here.”

Violette held his gaze without flinching. “Corypheus wants to destroy the world and most importantly, he wants me dead. I quite like being alive.”

“Can't you see the Chantry has been manipulating you?”

“We're not the Chantry.”

“Is that what you tell yourself? You used to be smarter than that, Violette.” Fire danced in her eyes and, for a moment, Samson thought she might roast him. “The woman I knew would never have let them use her—”

“That was thirty years ago,” she cut him off with anger. “I guess people change.”

“There you go, you've got your answer. You've changed, I've changed, we've all changed!” He leaned back onto the bars of his cage, breaking his stare. “Anything else you want to know, you'll have to wait until the trial to hear it.” If I live long enough, he almost added.

“Fine!”

She left abruptly, visibly pissed at him — as she should be — leaving the bowl of stew behind her. Samson dug the spoon into it. Not bad as far as Fereldan food went.

Chapter Text

“Inquisitor, do you have a moment?”

Violette took a deep breath to compose herself. This was not a good time. But then again, there were no good times when it came to Cullen. 

The Commander was fidgeting on his feet, waiting for her to give him permission to speak. Maker, what she would give to not have to deal with any of this. She knew exactly what he wanted to talk about: Samson. And while she didn’t want to have this conversation now, she knew she couldn’t avoid it for long.

“Make it quick,” she sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose in exasperation.

He cleared his throat and straightened himself, the perfect model of a military officer. “It’s about Samson.”

“Yes, I gathered as much. What about him?”

“Your choice of sentence — or lack thereof — was rather surprising.” His brow furrowed deep in the middle of his face. “You decided to let him live—”

“You make it sound like I’m some bloodthirsty madwoman!” she snapped, eyes growing wide. “I’ve never sentenced anyone to death.” I’m no templar, she almost added, but this was yet another conversation she did not need today.

“You usually defer judgement to someone else. You gave Alexius to the mages — against my advice, I might add; you sent Erimond back to the Wardens; you gave Mayor Dedrick to the Fereldan authorities. Maker, even Rainier didn’t get the mercy you’re giving Samson, and he’s actually our friend.”

“Your point, Commander?”

She was growing increasingly annoyed with him, least of all because he was right. She had been surprisingly lenient with Samson. He had done despicable things. He was responsible for so much horror and deaths. And she had offered him a chance at redemption in service of the Inquisition. But Samson had been a good man once and he had made some good points during his trial.

“Why give him a second chance, of all people?” Cullen asked. “After everything he’s done— Are you trying to reward him?”

“What?”

“You’ve made no secret of your hatred for the Chantry or the Order—”

“They’ve made no secret of their hatred for me either,” she hissed through gritted teeth.

“Was that your way of thanking him for destroying everything you despise?”

“Yes.”

That took him by surprise. He had made assumptions about her,  but apparently, he had not been ready to hear her admit them.

“Samson did a lot of good over the years, he saved a lot of people. And what did the Chantry do? They threw him out on the street like garbage. They completely cut him off lyrium even though it could have killed him.”

“Samson committed crimes. That’s why he was kicked out of the Order.”

Not for the first time, Violette wanted to punch him. “Samson tried to give a young mage a semblance of normalcy in a world that wouldn’t even treat him like a person. He was punished for it, harshly. And Maddox…” Her voice broke at the memory of the young tranquil — too young, much too young .

“What happened to Maddox was abhorrent, but it doesn’t excuse Samson’s actions.”

“No, it doesn’t, and nor should it. He is still our prisoner, I did not pardon him. But I know he saved many innocent lives in Kirkwall—”

“And he took thousands more when he decided to follow Corypheus. Him being a good man years ago doesn't change that.”

He was right — of course, he was — but he was missing the point. It wasn't about excuses or forgiveness. It wasn't even about Samson, not really. It was about the mistakes that were made and the will to repair them.

Samson had good intentions when he’d joined Corypheus. That the creature twisted them to serve his dark purpose didn't change the fact that he wanted to fight for a better world. And wasn't that what the Inquisition was fighting for as well? Samson might have been Corypheus' general not so long ago, but the man who saved all those mages in Kirkwall was still there. Maddox was proof of that. And this compassionate and devoted man could be their ally. He could help them save the world.

“Tell me, Cullen. You were a templar too once. What made you so worthy of leading the Inquisition’s forces? Why you and not someone—” with less innocent blood on their hands “—more neutral?”

“I don’t see what that’s got to do with—?”

“You must have committed many crimes yourself, only getting away with them because the Chantry was on your side.”

“I’ve never— The atrocities Samson committed—”

“Meredith was crazy long before you were even born," she continued. "You were her second in command for six years before everything went tits up. Do you really expect me to believe you didn’t see anything?” She pointed an accusing finger at him. “You had the power to depose her, yet you did nothing. Your inactions sparked this entire war, Cullen.”

She was surprisingly calm for someone who was accusing the commander of her forces of being a reformed criminal.

He stared at her in horror. “You think I don’t know that?” he grumbled. “You think I don’t spend every waking moment thinking about how I could have made a difference if I'd just acted sooner?” He turned away from her for a brief moment, taking a deep breath to gather himself. “But what does this have to do with Samson?”

“He deserves a chance to atone. Like you did.”

She left before he had a chance to protest further. As far as she was concerned, their conversation was over. She wasn't going to give Cullen the satisfaction of having the last word.


 

Josephine had her people prepare a room for Samson. She’d chosen a rather secluded place, in a nearly decrepit part of Skyhold the builders were still working on, likely as a precaution to avoid offending any visiting dignitaries. The room was small and sparse, with only a small bed and an old wooden desk standing under the tiniest window Violette had ever seen. The place didn’t even have a chair to sit on, she noted, something that would need to be remedied.

Samson was sitting on the edge of the bed when she came to visit him that day, his eyes cast on an invisible point in the wall. He seemed weary, more so than the last time she’d seen him. He'd gotten paler — something she hadn't thought possible — and his eyelids hang heavily over his bloodshot eyes. She would need to ask Nemea to take a better look at him when she got the chance.

“Are you comfortable?” Violette asked him. He didn’t budge, not even to blink. “Do you need anything? A book? Maybe a deck of cards?”

“Why?” he groaned, still staring at the wall.

She shrugged. “To occupy your mind.”

He blinked and finally looked away from the wall. His eyes focused on her instead. “What? No, I meant, why did you spare me? Surely, most of your followers wanted me dead, and I don't blame them for it.”

“Maker, give me strength,” she sighed. “I’ve already had this conversation today.”

“Is it because of what happened between us in Kirkwall?” he continued.

Her face took on a crimson tint in less time than it took him to finish his question. “Maker's breath! No! That was thirty years ago! Why would you even—? No!”

“Good,” he whispered sadly, and all of a sudden, Violette wished she were anywhere but here. Did Leliana say something about wanting to see her as soon as possible?

She took a few steps towards the door before pausing, her hand resting on the handle. “I agree with you when you say the Chantry should burn for what they've done,” she said, twisting her head towards him. “But did the rest of the world have to suffer too?”

Samson slowly lied down on the bed, turning his back to her as he gave her his answer. “The people have always been suffering, Inquisitor. The real question is, how much are you willing to sacrifice to make it stop?”

Chapter Text

He'd gone through lyrium withdrawal before, on the streets of Kirkwall. He remembered the pain. He remembered the shakes and the headaches. He remembered the hunger, the thirst.  

This was worse.

Samson’s body ached in every place. His brain was ready to implode inside his skull. His breaths were short and painful, as if the air filled his lungs with rusty nails every time he inhaled. His voice came out as a frail whimper whenever he tried to scream for help. 

And he couldn’t seem to be able to stop shaking.

The pain had started almost as soon as he’d been captured, but until now, it had been bearable. Nothing he hadn’t gone through before, he kept repeating to himself. But that was a lie he was no longer willing to entertain.

He heard a voice, faint, distant. It was the healer, Nemea. She'd come to bring him his morning tea, as she'd done almost every day since he'd been taken prisoner in the Arbor Wilds. It was a blend of elfroot and various medicinal herbs. The stuff barely worked, only relieving the pain for an hour or two, but he indulged her. She was good company.

“It tastes too sweet,” he'd complained the first day. “It's too sweet to be medicinal.”

Nemea had chuckled. “I added some peppermint leaves to the blend to make it easier to drink. Plain elfroot tea tastes awful.”

“Don't bother. I’m not some child who needs to be coddled.”

“It’s also good for your health,” she had pointed out. “It helps with digestion.”

That morning, however, she found him lying on his bed, shivering and sweating like a greased nug. He heard her bark orders at the guards not unlike how he'd witnessed Violette do when she was on edge — which was relatively often, now that he thought about it.

Nemea helped him sit up against the wall, placing one of her small hands over his forehead to check for fever. “Maker's breath, you're burning up!”

“Feels cold to me,” he muttered through his chattering teeth.

He raised his heavy eyelids halfway only to be blinded by the light pouring through the door she’d left wide open behind her. He winced, but forced his eyes to remain open. He could barely make out the woman’s features through his clouded vision as she helped him remove his tunic, damp with sweat. He heard more than saw her dip a small piece of cloth in the large bowl of water he kept by the bed to clean himself up. She ran it over his face and chest with slow, careful touches, occasionally casting a healing spell to relieve his pain.

“What the fuck is going on?” Samson barely recognized the Inquisitor as she walked in, his mind still numb from the pain. “What happened to him?”

“He's going through lyrium withdrawal,” Nemea answered.

“When was his last dose?”

“He hasn't gotten any since his capture,” the healer revealed in a sharp tone. “I wanted to give him a draught of regular, blue lyrium to help him before we safely transition him off it completely, but Cullen—”

“Fuck Cullen!” Violette yelled, and if he'd been in better shape, Samson might have retorted 'I'm sure he'd like her to.' But as it were, he was too exhausted for witty repartee. “Your job is to keep him alive, Nemea,” she continued, her tone a little softer, but still firm. “I don't care what Commander Noodlebrain says. If not getting any lyrium could kill him, then you give him lyrium.”

Samson snorted despite himself. 'Commander Noodlebrain'.

“The thing is,” Nemea hesitated, “he's been taking red lyrium for a long time. I don't know how his body is going to react to the blue or how much of it he'll need to alleviate the worst of the symptoms.”

“A lot, I’d wager,” Samson cut in, not liking the way they talked about him as if he weren’t right there in the room.

There was a pause as Violette thought it through. Samson knew exactly why they were hesitant to give him lyrium again — even the regular stuff. It was for the same reasons Cullen had refused to give him any in the first place. It would grant him power against the mages, including the Inquisitor herself. Though Samson knew that even with an entire cask of blue lyrium, he would be no match for her. She had beaten him while he was powered by the full strength of the red. Now, he couldn't even pinch her if he wanted to.

“Do it,” she decided. “I'll handle Cullen's ire.”

Nemea hurried out of the room, likely on her way to raid the Inquisition’s lyrium stores. Violette replaced her, kneeling in front of him to take over her duties. 

“I'm sorry,” she breathed, her hand running steadily over his face.

“What for?” he groaned, the shiver running down his spine a manifestation of his fever and not at all a reaction to the soft touch of her hands against his burning skin.

“I didn't spare your life so you could suffer this kind of torture.”

She sounded almost kind. For a woman who had been raining fireballs down on him a mere few weeks ago, she was surprisingly gentle.  

“Not your fault, Inquisitor,” he said wearily. “I actually thought this would happen much sooner.”

The room fell quiet save for the peaceful sound of dripping water every time Violette dipped the piece of cloth back into the bowl. Her touch was a little stiffer Nemea’s, but she still dabbed the small rag over his flesh with the expert care of someone who'd done this a few times before. It felt nice, soothing. The shakes started to slow down, and Samson breathed a little more easily. Even his vision wasn’t as blurry anymore. He could almost make out the flicker of light in her silver eyes whenever she lifted her head to look at him.

“Do you want your tea?” she offered after a while. “Or would you prefer something solid to chew on?”

“Tea's fine.”

She abandoned the wet cloth to wrap a blanket around his shoulders. The wool was itchy, but Samson didn’t complain. He grabbed the large cup of tea Violette was handing him and took a few sips. It had gone cold, but again, he didn’t complain. This slight discomfort was probably the least of his problems as his stomach contracted suddenly and violently. The damn beverage came back up faster than he had swallowed it and splattered at their feet, mixed with bile, something that looked like blood, and whatever he had eaten last night. Violette rubbed his back in slow, large circles until his stomach stopped churning.

“Sorry,” he muttered after he was done retching.

“Don't worry about it,” she sighed, putting the cup away as Nemea's lean silhouette stepped back into the room. “I’ll send someone to clean up the mess later.”

 The young healer placed a small, cold vial in his hand, and helped him hook his trembling fingers around it. He could see it glow through the blur, and hear the song, faint, almost imperceptible, but oh-so inviting. Nemea guided his trembling hands up toward his mouth, keeping them between hers until he'd emptied the bottle's content.

The thick liquid ran slowly down his parched throat in an all-too-familiar wave of power. Yet, he'd been taking red lyrium for so long the sensation had become almost foreign to him. Blue lyrium didn’t flow like the red. It was cold instead of hot. Calm instead of rough — but no less destructive. It didn’t make his bones burn from the inside or threaten to burst open from the raw fire coursing through them. And it wouldn’t give him as much power. But it did the trick. It reduced the pain. It quenched his thirst. His heart stopped thumping like it wanted to break free from his chest, his vision started to become clearer, and soon, he stopped shaking altogether. 

“How are you feeling?” Nemea asked with genuine concern in her voice.

“Better.”

Violette reached out to check his forehead. “You’re still hot. If the lyrium doesn't help bring your fever down completely, I'll have a bath drawn for you.”

His lips curled into a crooked smile. “Why, Inquisitor, are you trying to get me naked?”

Nemea let out a suppressed chuckle. 

“Oh, trust me,” Violette purred with amusement. “I won’t be making any innuendos when I do.”

‘When’ not ‘if.’ Was she flirting with him? Hard to tell in his current condition. Samson was about to make another lewd suggestion, one that would probably have him thrown back into the dungeon — you could blame his lingering fever for it — when the sound of the door interrupted them, quickly followed by the loud roar of an angry voice.

“You're giving him lyrium? Have you gone completely mad?” Cullen. Great. “It could bring back his—”

Something cut him short. Samson’s vision was still a little hazy, but he could almost picture Violette aiming her intense glare at the Commander.

“If he dies under your care,” she threatened, “I will hold you personally responsible for it, and you'll know what I'm really capable of.”

“I'd listen to her if I were you, Commander.” Samson taunted weakly. “I've seen her take down men bigger than you.”

“Shut up,” Violette hissed.

“I hope you won't come to regret that decision,” Cullen said, shuddering.

“Just get out, Cullen. This room is crowded enough as it is without you getting in the way.” While there was no venom in her voice, it was clear to Samson that the Commander wasn’t Violette’s favourite person.

Cullen did as she'd ordered, albeit with a lot of reluctance, quickly followed by Nemea. Samson had seen the way he looked at her, with longing and melancholy. If anyone could appease him, it was the healer. Violette rolled her eyes. Watching them together seemed to annoy her for some reason. But as far as Samson had seen, she always looked annoyed. Unless she was pissed. Then she would look ready to set everything on fire and you had better run from her if you valued your life. 

He wondered, sometimes, what it would take to get some actual, genuine happiness out of that woman.

Chapter Text

Metal clashed against metal. The two former templars swung their swords and rose their shields relentlessly, grunting with each strike. They weren’t fighting to the death, or even to draw blood, but they fought hard nonetheless. This wasn’t just a simple spar. They were competing against each other for Maker only knew what. Manly men things, Violette guessed.

A small crowd had gathered around them, placing bets on who was going to win the fight. Cullen was younger and healthier, but Samson was more experienced and taking lyrium on a regular basis. There might be no winner in the end.

Violette was watching the training grounds from the northern battlements with great interest when Varric approached her.

“Would you care to place a wager, Inquisitor?” he asked with his usual mischief.

“I’m only here for the show,” she answered with a crooked grin. “I always did like the sight of big men pounding each other like wild druffalo.”

“They look more like two grumpy bears than druffalo to me.”

The two opponents were fighting like they were settling scores. Cullen, for allowing years of abuses to fester in Kirkwall. And Samson, for destroying the Templar order. But it was obvious that they were still holding back. She’d seen Cullen in the field, and she’d battled Samson before. She knew full well what both of them were truly capable of.

She chuckled. “Give it time, Varric. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the fifty odd years I’ve roamed Thedas, it’s that men will always find reasons for excessive violence. Even more so when they’re human. That’s why Cassandra is overseeing their little pissing match, I suspect,” she said, pointing her chin towards the Seeker who was paying close attention to the two adversaries, ready to intervene at the first sign of foul play. “In case one of them takes it too far.”

“If that were to happen, who do you think would get the upper hand?”

Violette thought about it for a moment, watching Samson deflect a blow with his shield, before answering, “Cullen.”

Varric raised an eyebrow. “You’re supporting Cullen? You, of all people?”

“I don’t have to like him to think he has a good chance of winning,” she explained. “It’s not about who’s better or stronger, it’s about who can last longer. Samson is still recovering from his red lyrium addiction, he’ll tire faster.”

“I don’t know. He did give us quite a challenge at the Temple. Surely it wasn’t all because of the red stuff.”

“Are you trying to goad me into placing a bet, Varric?”

“All I’m saying is that if he wasn’t a highly skilled warrior, he would have become paste in a heartbeat, like everyone else who crosses your path. So maybe he deserves the benefit of the doubt.”

“I’m still not going to give you money,” Violette laughed.

“Oh well, it was worth trying.”

Varric moved on to another mark, a young scout who always seemed to end up where he wasn’t supposed to be. Odds were the poor sap would be left moneyless before the fight was even over. Although, he did seem to regard Cullen with great respect and admiration for reasons Violette couldn’t fathom, which made the likelihood of him getting some of that money back a little higher if her predictions turned out to be accurate.

She remembered a time, as a girl in the Circle, when she’d enjoyed watching the Templars train in the courtyard. She didn’t like them, but Maker, did they look good with their broad chests and their strong shoulders. During the summer, some had even taken to sparring shirtless, their glistening muscles rippling with every move they made. Nobody trained shirtless in Skyhold — the weather wasn’t warm enough and Violette doubted the Commander would have ever allowed it. Kirkwall had probably been very dull under his leadership (in addition to being frightening). But Samson had been given some old training gear that left his arms bare from the shoulders up to the elbows, and she could see his muscles flex when he swung his sword.

This sparring session had been Nemea’s idea. She had explained that Samson needed more fresh air and exercise to help his recovery. Cullen, true to himself, had initially refused. So Violette had offered to spar with him herself. She was no warrior, but she could hold her ground long enough to make the former general sweat, something that she had actually been looking forward to. All of a sudden, Cullen had found himself a lot more cooperative, arguing that it would be inappropriate for the Inquisitor to spar with their most dangerous prisoner. What if he took it as an opportunity to cripple her? What if she was seriously injured before her big fight against Corypheus? His patronization had peeved her, but she had decided to let it slide, if only because she wanted to observe Samson’s skills from a distance.

From her perch, Violette caught a glimpse of a smug grin on Samson’s face. His lips moved as he talked to Cullen, but she could not make out any sound over the roaring of the crowd. It was an effective taunt though, judging by the crimson tint the Commander’s face was taking. He lunged forward, striking Samson with a powerful shield bash. The general staggered back with a yell, but kept his feet on the ground. Blood was gushing out of his nose when Cassandra stepped in between them to put an end the fight. She barked quick orders to disperse the crowd and soon, they all went back to their regular work, disappointed with the brawl ending in a draw. Although some were probably going to argue that, having drawn blood, Cullen was the clear winner.

As Cullen stormed away in a huff, Violette walked down the stairs to meet his rival. She found him sitting on a bench, recuperating and not even bothering to swipe the blood off his face.

“What did you tell him?” she asked, failing to suppress a smirk from spreading across her lips.

“That he should get laid,” Samson groaned, a hand pressed against his bleeding nose. “Although he probably gets more than I do these days.”

Violette snorted. “I doubt he would have hit you this hard if he did. Here, let me take a look.”

She took his hand off his face and quickly cast a minor healing spell over his swollen nose. He still looked like shit though, with blood drying around his mouth and chin like some feral beast.

“I’m surprised you didn’t hit him back harder,” she quipped.

“Not in front of the ladies.”

She snickered before replying, “Since when do you care?”

He scoffed in fake outrage, a hand over his chest. “I'll have you know I've always been a gentleman.”

This time, her laughter was louder, less restrained. She was making fun of him, yes, but the sound was so refreshing that he couldn't help but join in.

“You and I must have very different definitions of what a gentleman is,” she said, still smiling. “I remember you knocking me down a few times during our fight in the Temple. I might even have gotten a scar or two out of it.”

“Or maybe we have different definitions of what a lady is,” he teased, his eyes drifting up and down her body as he was trying to remember their confrontation. “Where?”

She smirked, teasing him right back, “Wouldn’t you like to know?”

There was a smile on his face as he watched her wistfully. A small but genuine one. He seemed almost content, but his eyes gave him away. There was less red in them, but they still shone with sorrow.

“How are you doing?”

He gave her a distant look. “How does it look like I’m doing?”

“Well, it looks like you’re getting healthier. You’ve got more colours on your face and you’re filling that armour rather nicely.” She let her eyes roam over his body for a moment before settling her gaze on his face. “But I know better than anyone that pain isn’t always something you can see.”

He hesitated, staring at his hands in silence as he considered how much he should tell her. “I’ve been having troubles sleeping lately,” he confessed eventually. “Nightmares mostly. Sometimes the shakes, but I can’t tell if it’s the craving or the nightmares that are responsible.”

“I can have Nem prepare a sleeping draught for you. There are plants that can help—”

“Don’t bother,” he grumbled. “They’re a reminder of what I’ve done — of the kind of man I am.”

“And what kind of man is that?” 

He looked away from her, letting the question linger between them. She didn’t need an answer, she knew exactly what he was thinking: a traitor, a criminal, a monster. It was the same thing everyone had been repeating over and over again ever since he’d arrived. But when she looked at him, Violette saw a different man, a man who cared too much about others and paid a heavy price for it. She wished he could see that too.

“Better yet,” she continued, “what kind of man do you want to be?”

He drew his brows together into a frown. “I don’t know what you want me to say.”

“I don’t want anything, Samson. Whatever happens next has to come from you. It has to be your own decision. Do you want to wallow in self-pity for the rest of your life? Or do you want to rise up and make amends for all the pain you’ve caused?”

A stern-looking guard — one of Cullen’s men — walked up to them before Samson had a chance to form an answer. He stopped in front of them and saluted Violette. “Forgive me, Your Worship. I’m to take the prisoner back to his room.”

“You should get yourself cleaned up.” She rose to leave. “Think about it while I’m gone.”

“Gone? Where?”

The guard fidgeted nervously. “Some dumb shit on the Storm Coast that requires the attention of the Inquisitor,” she answered nonchalantly.

It wasn’t entirely true. It wasn’t just ‘ some dumb shit’. It was a potential Qunari alliance. And rescuing that damn Sutherland kid and his Company. Very important stuff. Not that she’d be caught dead admitting she actually cared about either.

“Don’t worry, I’ll be back before you can miss me.”

Chapter Text

Samson spent days suffering through Cullen's interrogations — which was to say, answering a lot of questions with “I-don't-knows” followed by a contemptuous “As Corypheus' general, you know surprisingly little about his whereabouts.” He'd already given Cullen the locations of all the Red Templar camps he could think of. What more did he want? Samson didn't know where the Elder One was hiding and he never had. Besides, he had a feeling Corypheus would show himself sooner rather than later. The Inquisition had thwarted his plans at every turn, he was pissed and desperate. And desperate people made stupid mistakes. Even when they were ancient magisters with a God complex.

Now, the two former templars spent most of their time glaring at each other in tense silence until someone else came to their rescue. With Violette still on the Storm Coast, the task usually fell to Nemea who would share lunch with the two of them while trying to make conversation. She was sweet, and Cullen was clearly very taken with her, but even she couldn’t find a way to make them utter more than a few monosyllabic sounds.

In the hours after lunch, Samson’s guards escorted him through the corridors of Skyhold to a place deep within the belly of the fortress. It was an undercroft that had been converted into a forge by the Inquisition. The place reminded him of Maddox, the lively young apprentice and the stone-faced tranquil Meredith had turned him into. It wrecked his heart — or what little was left of it — to know that never again would he find Maddox working at his anvil, nor hear the sound of his hammer hitting steel and ringing through the night in a symphony of blows and crackling fire.

Looking around him, Samson found the cave impressively built. Its structure was solid and durable. Whatever purpose it had served in the days of yore, its foundations had remained strong and sturdy. No wonder it had been chosen to house the Inquisition’s workshop. 

He also did not fail to notice the precipice on the far side of the room, a steep fall from the mountain. Maybe this was why he'd been brought here. The Commander couldn't bear to so much as look at him anymore so he'd asked his men to push him into the abyss.

“Ha! You're here!” an oddly cheerful voice echoed through the cave. “Of course, you are. The Inquisitor said you’d come down eventually.”

The perkiest dwarf he'd ever met stepped in front of him, closely followed by a young human girl who couldn’t even be old enough to drink. In a corner of the forge, a moustachioed man observed the scene unfold with underlying unease. He didn’t look like a soldier, but he had the face of someone who had seen his share of conflicts and was ready to intervene if someone ever stepped out of line.

“The Inquisitor?” Samson repeated with confusion.

“Hmm hmm, she hopes my research could help in your recovery. I’m Dagna, by the way, the Arcanist and the Inquisition’s expert on red lyrium,” she explained in a string of words so quick he doubted she had even breathed in between sentences.

“What about her?” Samson asked, pointing his chin at the girl.

“I'm Neriah,” she answered shyly.

“She's my apprentice, sort of. She's here on behalf of the Grey Wardens. They’re studying the Blight! Isn’t that marvelous? I might join them when all this is over. If they’ll have me, of course.”

Samson was still staring at the younger girl, his eyes growing wider by the minute. “How old are you?”

She fidgeted. “Sixteen.”

“There's no such thing as being too young to follow your vocation,” the dwarven woman chirped.

“It’s not quite what I had in mind, to be honest,” Neriah said in a quiet voice.

He froze as the girl’s answers sunk in. “You're the Warden's daughter,” he gasped.

She gaped at him. “How did you know?”

He swallowed hard. “I was there when your mother took you from the orphanage.”

How long had it been — ten years? — since he had met the Warden? Thirty-two if you counted the day she’d been born. Maker, did he feel old all of a sudden.

Warden-Commander Surana had walked through the Gallows’ doors shortly after the Blight. Samson remembered it well. Cullen had been extremely jumpy that day. But Cullen had been jumpy every single day. Ever since he’d been transferred to Kirkwall, in fact. So Samson hadn’t really thought much of it, not until he had seen the woman walk out of the Knight-Commander’s office. She'd been clad in a heavy Grey Warden armour that should have made her look small given her short stature had it not been for the sheer amount of power that radiated from her. Meredith herself had appeared insignificant next to her. Her face had been set in an angry scowl, her silver eyes burning with fire. And Maker, she had looked so much like her mother in that instant Samson had almost forgotten how to breathe.

Her mother… Violette… She had been the main reason behind the Warden-Commander’s visit. Surana had wanted to meet her parents, only to be thrown out the door by a massive brick wall named Meredith Stannard.

It hadn’t mattered in the end. Violette had been long gone by then, having escaped a year after her daughter’s birth, and the father had — rather understandably — never come forward to claim her.

Samson had escorted Surana back to city. He had wondered, for a brief moment, if the ferryman had been the same one who had carried them across the bay when he'd brought her to the Chantry as a baby, twenty-odd years prior. Probably not, but he had looked the right age.

She had offered to buy Samson a drink after he’d mentioned having been on friendly terms with her mother back when she’d still been a Circle mage. The Warden hadn’t seemed to care that he was a templar. What could he have done anyway? Poke her with his little sword? The one she carried had been far more impressive and odds were the woman who had faced the Archdemon knew damn well how to use it.

They'd talked for hours, well past Samson's allotted time in the city. He didn't remember what he'd been supposed to be doing that day. Hunt down alleged apostates, most likely. Instead, he had offered her an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on if she'd wanted. She hadn’t needed the latter, but she had recounted her story to him, downing her drink every time the memories had been too painful.

“The orphanage was bad. The Circle was worse,” she’d said with barely contained bitterness. “Jury’s still out on the Wardens, but it’s not looking good either.”

And he’d listened to her tale. The good. The bad. The horrifyingly ugly . And he’d wondered, looking at her then, how a twenty-year-old girl could feel so miserable that throwing her life away for a world that feared and hated her had seemed like a fine alternative. There had been his answer: the world feared and hated her and all of the others like her. What else was left for them?

Samson had felt guilty for the part he’d played in all this, for taking her from her mother and bringing her to the orphanage. And he’d felt guilty for the part he had still been playing then. But he couldn’t leave the Order if he’d wanted to. Blasted lyrium!

“Is there— Is there something I can do for you?” he had asked with uncertainty. He couldn’t turn back time, but he could at least try to bring her some peace of mind.

That was how he had ended up in Kirkwall’s Chantry orphanage, reuniting a young mother with her four-year-old daughter.

It was Neriah, now sixteen years old, who pulled him out of his reverie. “Are you all right, Ser?” she asked him with concern as she was helping Dagna collect her ‘samples’.

Her silver eyes were boring into him. Her mother's eyes. And her grandmother's.

“I'm sorry,” he murmured, for everything and nothing in particular.

Chapter Text

Drinking might help. She knew it wasn’t healthy but at this point, fuck healthy. She needed sleep and the voices whispering at the back of her mind had a way to keep her awake all night long. A few drinks would addle her brain and maybe — maybe — help her ignore those damn voices.

Violette uncorked the bottle of Aqua Magus she kept hidden under her desk and groaned. Empty. Dammit! Another trip to the cellar was in order. Maybe she still had a bottle of that Carnal liqueur left lying around. She had heard it was a good Orlesian spirit, said to ‘enhance sensation’ — whatever that meant. It didn’t matter though, she only wanted to get drunk tonight. So maybe expensive alcohol wasn’t the way to go, then. Cheap ale from the Herald’s Rest would work just as well.

Herald’s Rest. What a convenient name! Rest was exactly what the Herald wanted for herself tonight!

She scrambled into the first pair of breeches and blouse she could find and made her way down the stairs. She should have taken the servant’s passageways like she usually did. They were more discreet and they made it easier to avoid the people she wanted to avoid. People like Cullen, for example. She hadn’t expected to run into him in the main hall at such a late hour. Did that man ever sleep? Or was he sneaking out of someone else’s room and back to his own?

Violette really didn’t want to know the answer to that last question.

“What are you doing up so late?” she asked him anyway, desperately trying not to look as annoyed as she felt. “Did something happen?”

“I— Er— No,” he answered, rubbing the back of his neck nervously. “I just have some trouble sleeping lately, that’s all — nothing else, I swear.”

Right… 

“Well, that makes two of us.”

She hoped that would be it, an awkward acknowledgement of each other’s presence before they each went in different directions. But Cullen fell into step next to her.

“No offence,” she hissed, “but I just want a drink. I’m not looking for company.”

“It’s the Well of Sorrows, isn’t it?” She stopped in her tracks. “It’s the reason you can’t sleep at night anymore,” he stated as if it were an obvious fact.

“How did you—?”

“I’ve noticed you’re looking more and more tired each day. It was subtle at first, but you’ve started wearing makeup around your eyes to cover your heavy lids.”

Violette gaped at him. Was she so tired that she was mistaking Leliana for Cullen?

“Aren’t there potions that you could take to help you sleep?” he continued. “Nemea can brew a great herbal tea—”

She sighed, rubbing her temples. “Camomille and blood lotus, I know, I’m the one who taught it to her. But I’m afraid that, in my case, it’s just not strong enough.”

She had tried every herb at her disposal already. They helped her fall asleep, that much was true, but they never silenced the voices and she always woke up more tired than before she had gone to bed. She told Cullen as much. She must have been really, really sleep-deprived to willingly confide in him.

“Have you tried drowning the voices?” he suggested, his brows furrowing into a deep frown.

“That’s the plan.”

Violette resumed walking, Cullen close behind.

“I meant with more noise.” She must have looked confused because he thought it necessary to clarify, “If they’re louder when it’s quiet around you, then perhaps what you need is some ambient sounds to silence them.”

She paused, considering his advice. It might have sounded counterintuitive at first, but the more she thought about it, the more it made sense. She did sleep better when they were out in the field, with the bustling sounds of nature surrounding her, the whispers of a busy camp, the three men snoring loudly by her side…

This idea might actually work.

“Not that I’m trying to pry, but that’s an oddly specific suggestion,” she said with a frown. “I didn’t know lyrium withdrawal came with hearing voices.”

“It doesn’t.” Cullen rubbed the back of his neck again. “I got the idea from Surana — the Warden, I mean.”

“Ana?”

He nodded silently. “If you remember, she stayed with Hawke the entire time she was here.”

Of course, she remembered. It had been the first time she had met her daughter — the daughter the Templars had taken from her at birth. And it had only been through a twist of fate that they had met. Ana had been investigating corruption in the Grey Wardens’ ranks when Corypheus had made his move against the Inquisition, so Hawke had thought it best to introduce her to Violette.

She had spent decades yearning for this day, dreaming of pulling her daughter into a tight embrace, of telling her it would be all right, she would be safe, Mama was here to protect her… Yet, when the time had come, she had been far from ready. She had brought that woman into this world but, as they had come face to face for the first time in three decades, it had suddenly occurred to Violette that Warden-Commander Surana, despite her name, was a complete stranger to her. There would be no turning back the clock, not this time. There would be no ‘making up for lost time’ either. After thirty years, the best Violette could do for her daughter was being a friend, and she had always been shit at being a friend. But Ana? Oh, Ana could be friends with anyone. Leliana had told Violette as much back in Haven, when she had probed the spymaster with questions about her former travelling companion. Andraste’s tits, Ana was friends with Cullen, of all people! A fact that even he had been surprised to learn.

“When I asked her why she wouldn’t prefer staying in a private room,” the Commander continued, “she told me that she had trouble sleeping on her own because of Corypheus’ Calling.”

The fake Calling. One more reason that old bastard needed to be stopped, and fast.

Cullen chuckled. “She said, ‘Hawke snores like a bronto, so I barely hear the Archdemon’s song when he’s around.’ From what it sounds like, your situation is not unlike hers.”

So similar, in fact, that it scared Violette more than anything else. Flemeth had been able to control her in the same fashion the ancient magister controlled the Grey Wardens. What if drinking from the Well had given him the same power over her? Maybe she should have told her advisors what had truly happened at the Altar of Mythal…

“Thank you, Cullen. I appreciate your help. I really do.”

“Have a good night, Inquisitor.”

“You too, Commander.”

She pushed the tavern’s front door and walked into the place, determined to finally get a good night’s sleep. At this late hour, it wasn’t as busy as it had been during the day, or even as busy as it had been a mere couple of hours ago, but it was still noisy enough that Cullen’s idea could work. 

Violette didn’t buy a drink. She just picked a seat in a far corner, propped her feet up on the table and closed her eyes. Her ears picked up the quiet chatter of lingering conversations, the soft sound of a rag sliding over wood as the bartender washed the counter, even the distant snores of someone she suspected to be Iron Bull, probably passed out drunk somewhere nearby. The voices still whispered in her head but, lost amidst everything else, Violette realized that they didn’t bother her as much as they did before and, for the first time since she had returned from the Arbor Wilds, she managed to sleep until dawn.

Chapter Text

Commander Cullen had allowed Samson an hour of supervised free time in the garden for his good behaviour. He didn't particularly enjoy being put on display for everyone to gawk at. The disgraced general who had been vanquished by the mighty Inquisitor. But it was better than being cooped up inside his dark bedroom all day. Or glaring at Cullen in silence. Or getting poked in weird places by Dagna. 

Nemea agreed with him. She'd been the one to insist he spent some time outside, like a child who needed a push from his mother. “Some fresh air will do you a bit of good,” she'd said. She wasn't wrong, although he could do with less angry looks thrown his way.

With no one but his guards to talk to (both of whom couldn’t despise him more), Samson was soon struck with intense boredom. Maybe he should have accepted the Inquisitor's offer when she had suggested bringing him books. As it were, he was sitting alone on a bench in the middle of a lush garden on a beautiful Sunday morning with no one willing to strike up a conversation. He was left alone with his thoughts and memories, both of which brought him nothing but grief.

Looking around the garden in an attempt to keep his mind occupied with something other than pain and regrets, he let his eyes fall absentmindedly on the people around him. Inquisition scouts were taking a break and enjoying the sun. Orlesian nobles sat together under the gallery, whispering scandalous gossips in each other's ears. A Revered Mother was offering counsel to a young maid. A woman was tending to her plants in a small corner of the garden. Samson's eyes lingered on the curves of her body, hidden under tight-fitting clothing; on the way her shoulders moved as she turned the earth with a spade; on the beads of sweat trickling down the back of her neck… All right, he couldn't see that much, but he had enough imagination to burn the image into his brain.

Maker… He shut his eyes hard, stifling a groan. How long had it been since his last fling that he found himself turning into a lecher? Not since Kirkwall, and even then, he'd had to pay for it. Not that it mattered. Not that any beautiful woman would ever even deign to come to talk to him now.

Except she did.

She caught him watching and her lips curled up into a wry smile. Her silver eyes cut right through him like a knife in warm butter.

“Why don't you come and help instead of staring at my arse?”

The conversations stopped around them. Faces turned towards her, then towards him. He could feel their eyes burning holes through his skins as murmurs started to rise around them once again. Great, more unwanted attention, exactly what he needed.

Samson swallowed, willing the blushing to stop. “I don’t know. It’s a nice looking arse, Inquisitor,” he sneered. These people were going to talk anyway; let them. “I find myself rather enjoying the view.”

Violette snorted. “I bet.”

She came to sit on the bench next to him, wiping her dirty hands on her blouse. She smelled of earth and sweat and something sickeningly sweet that made him ache with longing for something he could never have. All of a sudden, he wished she would go away. Harmless flirting was all well and good until one of them started craving for more and inevitably got hurt in the process.

“What kind of herbs are you growing?” he asked, trying to stir the conversation in a different direction. “Poisons to take down your enemies?”

“Elfroot, actually. For you.”

He blinked, perplexed. “What—?”

“You’ll need a lot of it to alleviate the pain once we start diminishing your lyrium intake. Royal elfroot would be more efficient, but it takes longer to grow.”

He frowned. “You don't have to grow it yourself. Elfroot is common enough that you could find some in the stables, under all the horse shit.”

As a matter of fact, he would bet his life that the Inquisition had more than enough of the little weed to treat their entire army if Corypheus ever decided to attack them head-on. Not that he would though. Skyhold held strong defences and the magister was too smart to even try it. Not until he'd acquired the powers of the gods anyway.

“I'm sure you're right, but I will not stick my hands in horse shit for all the gold in Thedas. Besides, I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart. Not entirely, anyway,” she admitted. “Gardening is the most normal thing I can do around here. It helps me keep my mind off—” She grimaced painfully. “—other things.”

She fell silent, her gaze lost into the distance, her mind seeming to drift away somewhere far from here.

“You drank from the Well, didn't you?”

She jumped, startled, and turned her gaze back towards him. He almost expected her to deflect, but instead, she gave him a firm, “Yes.”

It should have bothered him. That power should have been his. But instead, the reason he found himself wishing he could take her place was to steal away her pain.

“And now it's giving you headaches.”

Samson didn't need an answer to that statement. He had trained to become the Vessel. He knew damn well what to expect from the Well of Sorrows (it was all in the name after all, sorrows). But Violette hadn't been prepared and now, she was paying the price.

“Maybe I can help,” he let out without hesitation.

Her eyes widened for an instant in surprise before confusion took over her features, knitting her brows together in a sharp V.

“The red lyrium and the armour were supposed to help me sustain the worst of it,” he started to explain, “but I did prepare my mind with some meditation and breathing exercises.”

Violette gaped at him, her eyes locked onto his, probably wondering if he was hiding some dark ulterior motives behind his proposal. He wasn't, but he couldn't blame her for thinking he might.

“I—” Samson fidgeted nervously. “These exercises are part of the Templar training. Cullen could help you just as well if you don't think you can trust me.”

“Oh yes, the idea of spending my days with Cullen makes me tingle all over,” she quipped, the corner of her lips lifting up into a smirk.

As if on cue, the Commander walked into their line of sight. Nemea was keeping him company, her arm linked with his. Adorable and shy, they looked the perfect picture of a gallant knight courting his beloved, the kind of couple Samson thought could only be found in old Orlesian songs and cheap romance novels. 

Cullen bent down to whisper sweet nothings into her ear, looking all flustered. Nemea was giggling like a teenage girl, the tip of her ears growing as red as the Commander's fur coat. Ah, to be young and in love.

On his right, Samson felt Violette tense. A quick look in her direction revealed that the scene unfolding before them didn't please her. Nose flaring, lips pressed into a thin line, she stared at the young couple with fire in her eyes. Interesting.

“They make such a cute couple, don’t you think?” he couldn't help tease her.

“No,” she answered firmly, her nose scrunching up.

He should have known better than to fan the flames, but the ridicule intensity of her reaction amused him far too much. 

“Well, I think they're perfect for each other. She's sweet and caring, and he's— he's— pretty, I suppose. Do you think they're slee—?”

Violette cut him off with a fiery look. “She’s my daughter.”

“Oh.”

He’d heard people talk about the Inquisitor’s second daughter, the one she had raised, the one who had not been stolen by the Chantry. Samson had met the Warden on a few occasions over the years and for some reason, he had expected the other girl to look the same: hair as black as a starless night; a soft, round face sprinkled with freckles; their mother’s eyes, as sharp as silverite daggers. It was ridiculous, of course, considering how little Ana actually looked like her mother. She had inherited Violette’s lovely grey eyes and her sly smile while Nemea had gotten the rest. In retrospect, the young healer looked a lot more like their mother than the Warden ever did. Samson should have noticed the family resemblance a lot earlier. 

“So, I assume you disapprove of… whatever is happening between her and Cullen?”

“You assume correctly,” she grumbled through gritted teeth. “But Nemea is a grown woman who can make her own decisions. I have no right to intervene, especially when I’ve been known to cavort with people of far worse repute.”

That piqued his interest. “How much worse?” Samson asked tentatively, knowing damn well it couldn't be anyone as bad as him, Corypheus' right-hand man.

She answered him with the most suggestive smile he'd ever seen cross her rosy lips. Maker… The thoughts suddenly coursing through his mind were almost overwhelming in their ardour.

“I'll see you later,” she stated calmly as she got up to leave. 

He blinked rapidly. She had reverted to her Inquisitor persona so fast he wasn't sure he had not dreamt the whole exchange. “What?” he blurted out.

Real smooth… 

“So you can show me those meditation techniques you're so certain will help.”

This was a bad idea. This was a bad idea. This was a bad idea.

“You know where to find me, Inquisitor.”

Shit.