Actions

Work Header

amata

Work Text:

Here is how Krem breaks the myth and shatters the legend to reveal the simple truth of the Inquisitor underneath it all.

He falls in love with her. 

He falls so irrevocably in love with her that he manages to see beyond the gilt and the glory, and he sees the truth of the woman that is Lavellan. More importantly, he sees her heart, and then, he sees how she hands her heart to him without hesitation, without fear, and asks only for such a simple thing like his love in return.

And Krem does.

 


 

Krem remembers when he first heard of the Inquisition. He was at a tavern, drinking a sour mug of ale after another successful job for some nutcase Orlesian noble. Dalish and Skinner were in fine spirits, and Dalish was leading a good half of the tavern in a bar song. Rocky was drunk enough to challenge the Iron Bull to an arm wrestling match.

Krem was decently buzzed but not quite the full way to being shit-faced. He doesn’t like being shit-faced unless he’s with the Chargers and the Chargers alone. There are too many chances of danger and risks waiting in the shadows for him to commit to being fully drunk. But yeah, Krem remembers the tavern decently well. 

Mostly because there was a drunk Chantry sister there, screaming about heresy.

That’s the thing that stands out in his memory. That and the taste of the horrible ale. That caught his attention right away, but instead of agreeing with the Chantry sister’s declaration of heresy, he decided that it would be an opportunity to make some money. Convincing the Iron Bull took some time, but a week later, he managed to get his boss to relent. 

That’s how Krem arrives in Haven with his teeth chattering and his coat tightly wrapped around his body. He packed a coat that was better for the coast: Rivaini cotton and Antivan leather all sewn together in layers for a waterproof coat. The mud of Ferelden and the snows of Haven don’t mesh well with it. Dalish wool or treated weave from Highever would fare better in this kind of weather along with thicker leather boots from druffalo or bearskin. He can knit together a scarf out of wool or sew himself a new shirt out of some thicker fabric if need be. Well, that’s only in the case that he and the rest of the Chargers actually get employed by the Inquisition. These kinds of thoughts are the only ones that circulate in Krem’s head as he trudges up the path to the town.

In the distance, he can see a figure bent over a patch of snow, trying to chip away from a rock. When he steps closer, his boots crunch the snow with a sound loud enough to startle the figure into looking up. Krem squints his eyes and he can see the symbol of the Inquisition emblazoned across her thin cuirass. The coat she’s wearing covers up part of the symbol, but he recognizes the hairy eye. He’s seen that terrible symbol tacked up onto one of the logs on the Storm Coast.

Now that he’s closer, he sees that she’s Dalish. Well, having a Dalish elf as a Herald of Andraste would certainly attract more Dalish elves to the job. Krem supposes that it’s reasonable enough and offers up a hesitant wave and smile. The elf’s face breaks into a wide, open grin, and she dusts her hands off on her pants before she gets up to wave excitedly back. Krem can’t help but grin even wider; it’s been such a long time since someone else outside the Chargers was that eager to see him. It’s just the line of work he’s in, nothing more, nothing less, but it’s nice.

“Andaran atish’an,” she calls out, bright and cheerful. “Are you looking for something? What is your name?” 

Krem peers at her closer, and she glances down at her still-dirty hands. She vainly tries to dust her hands off on her breeches, but that only makes the ore dust from her hands transfer in long, chalky streaks onto her thighs. He tries to stifle a laugh and says, “Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi of the Bull’s Chargers, ma’am, but you can just call me Krem. I was looking for the Inquisition’s ambassador to pitch a job opening.”

“Oh,” she says, emphasizing the sound into a wide, long O. “Are you looking for a job, Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi?”

“Yes,” he nods. “And hopefully for the rest of my group as well. And you can just call me Krem.”

The elf blinks and twists her fingers together before she asks, “Really, Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi? Are you sure it would be alright? Is that not rude?”

“Yes, I’m sure. Go ahead, no big deal,” he says with a shrug. He’s not sure what the big focus is on titles. Maybe the Inquisition is strict with proper titles? If so, that’s going to be a big pain in the ass. 

“Ma serannas, Krem,” the elf says, testing his nickname out. She smiles to herself and tries to mouth out the sound of his nickname again but silently. It’s honestly rather endearing, and Krem finds himself liking this Inquisition scout more than he should. The elf glances back up at him and says, “Ambassador Josephine Cherette Montilyet is likely still in her office. I can take you there if you want.”

“Sure,” Krem says. He shoves his hands in his pockets and prepares to follow after the elf when he feels paper in his pockets. Oops. He coughs to get the elf’s attention and fishes the papers out of his pockets. He holds them up and says, “I’ve got identification papers if you want them. For extra security and clearance and all that.”

She accepts the papers, but she looks over the document with a disinterested, cursory glance. Her eyes slide over the paper to the point where Krem realizes that she can’t fully read. But then, her gaze hones in on one section before she looks up and narrows her eyes at Krem. Her eyes seem like they’re piercing right through him and examining every part of him for her own discretion, but then, they soften and return to her easy smile. 

“All good. I will now take you to the ambassador if that is alright with you,” she says as she tucks the papers carefully away into her own pockets. Somehow, she manages to make sure none of the dust and dirt from her hands transfers over to the paper. 

She bends down and gathers up her tools into a soft leather pouch. It looks dark and worn buttery-smooth, likely from years of use, but Krem guesses that it must have originally been some sort of rabbit hide. The texture and the thickness of the leather seems familiar enough, and from his experience, only leather from rabbit skin ages that color. Nug skin takes on more of a pinkish brown while bearskin tends to become a deeper brown. Also, he doubts that a Dalish elf would be able to hunt down animals with more rare skins and hides. She gathers up the ores she’s collected into a different pouch and taps her chisel into the rock one last time. Krem sees her mouth out something, but he can’t tell what she’s saying from the shape of her lips or the sound. Must be some sort of blessing or prayer in elvhen; Dalish sometimes does a similar thing before and after battle. 

As she busily tidies up her work, Krem shifts and feels distinctly awkward by the silence. “Uh,” he finally says. “I didn’t really catch your name.”

“I did not give it to you,” she responds simply. 

“Oh,” Krem says, absolutely dumbfounded. He flushes a pale pink out of embarrassment, but he’s saved from having to reply when the elf giggles. 

It’s a light, tinkling sound, and she glances up at him with a cheeky smile. “Ifit would make you more comfortable, you may call me L,” she offers. “I did not mean to make you feel uncomfortable with that answer if that makes you feel better.”

Krem tests out the name and draws it out into a long ell sound. “Nice to meet you, L,” he says with a grin. 

“It is nice to meet you too, Lieuten— Krem,” L says, stumbling over his title in the middle of it. She presses her lips thinly together and tries, “Krem. Krem. Krem. It is a very nice nickname. I like it.”

Krem can’t help but laugh at the expression she makes as she whispers his name over and over again under her breath. They set off towards Haven, and Krem automatically reaches for at least one shred of conversation. “How’d you make it to Haven?” he chooses to say.

L reties the knot on her bag of ores as she explains, “My clan wished to know more about the plans the Chantry was making for the conflict between mages and templars. Although we are not Andrastian, the actions of some have great consequences for many.” Krem glances at L, startled at the sudden serious tone. Her expression is solemn, but when she catches him looking, she evens her expression out and brings the smile back.  “Also, I enjoy adventures,” she adds. “Seeing new things is very, very interesting. And fun! I enjoy it, and my job in the Inquisition lets me travel to many new places.”

“Oh, what’s your job?” Krem asks next. It might be helpful to know what kind of job scouts do to gauge what the Chargers’ role in the Inquisition would most likely be. He could also adjust his job pitch for the Chargers if need be.

“I help people,” L responds in a matter-of-fact tone. The way she says it makes it seem like the answer is obvious. “The job is very simple, and that is all there is to it. But sometimes, it takes different forms like finding resources, scouting around, and fixing some problems. Also, Ambassador Josephine Cherette Montilyet and Sister Nightingale like to make my job sound more complicated than it is by adding too many words to the description.” She wrinkles her nose when she mentions the complication, but she looks over to Krem and asks, “What do you plan to do?”

“Well, the Bull’s Chargers is a mercenary group, and we just take on jobs for hire. We’ve taken on giant spiders, had a bad run-in with a couple giants, guarded a few caravans, things like that,” Krem says. “I assume we’d take on a similar role in the Inquisition if we manage to secure the job.” He personally hopes that they don’t have to take on jobs involving giants again though, but he keeps that thought to himself.

They move on in silence as L considers Krem’s statement. After they ascend the hill, she asks, “And is your captain not here to make the deal?”

“No, he’s still back with the rest of the group to keep them organized and in one place. I’m more of the messenger,” Krem says. He sheepishly rubs the back of his neck and wonders if that’ll make him look strange to the ambassador or the Herald.

“Were you the one to come up with the idea?” L asks. 

Krem stops in his tracks and sputters, “Wh- How did you know?”

L gives him a beatific smile and explains, “You are the one here instead of the captain. If the captain — this Bull , I think — wanted the job badly enough, then he would be the one here in Haven, walking to the ambassador’s office, talking with me.” She shrugs and says, “If he thinks staying back is more important and more worth his time, then it is likely that he would send someone that cares more about the job than he does. If he did not, then the chances of that person traveling more slowly, being more careless, especially with the job pitch, and other tasks are much higher. Am I not correct?”

L doesn’t miss a single beat, and she strides onward into Haven with the tails of her scout’s coat fluttering behind her. Krem speeds his steps up as he says, “N-no, you’re right. You’re right. How did you know so quickly though?”

L glances back at him and says, “If you think about it enough, I think it would be reasonable to assume that.” Her tone makes it seem like it’s the most obvious fact in the world, and Krem grimaces. Her gaze slides to his left, and a smile grows on her face again. “Oh, hello, Varric!” she calls out.

Krem whirls around to see a short dwarf. “Hey there, birdie, who’ve you got there?” he says as he jerks his thumb over to Krem. There is only one Varric that Krem knows of, and that’s the famous author, Varric Tethras.

L pats Krem’s shoulder and says, “This is Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi of the Bull’s Chargers. I am taking him to the ambassador’s office.”

“Krem is fine,” he cuts in. “Krem is super duper fine.”

Varric gives him a once-over before saying, “Oh, okay, sounds good to me. My name’s Varric. And hey, after you do that, stop by the tavern for a bit. We’ve found something that you might like.”

L nods, “I will, Master Varric Tethras of the — “

Yep, that’s the Varric Tethras. Grim’s going to kill Krem if he doesn’t get the author’s signature at the very least. Grim’s favorite novels were all written by Varric, and Krem wonders how he’s going to tell Grim about this. 

Varric clicks his tongue with disapproval and warns, “Birdie, what did I say about the names?”

“Of course, Varric,” L says with a laugh. When Krem looks over at her, there’s no trace of guilt on her cheerful face. There’s only a teasing glint in her eye that lets Krem know that she did it entirely on purpose. 

“There we go,” Varric nods. He gives a short wave to both of them and says, “See you later then. Nice to meet you, Krem.” He walks off towards a different part of Haven, and Krem wheels around with too many questions to ask L. 

L smiles, “That was Master Varric Tethras of Kirkwall. He is a very nice person. He also writes good books apparently.”

“Apparently? He’s one of the most famous authors in Thedas!” Krem sputters.

L waves him off to say, “Mmm, yes, yes, he writes books. But he is also a good storyteller, a good trap-maker, a good cocktail maker, and a good person. I think that is more important than the fact that he writes books. He is a good friend, and that goodness does not often show up clearly enough in his books for my liking.”

“Which of his books have you read?” Krem wonders. Perhaps his initial judgement on her reading abilities were wrong.

L wrinkles her nose and answers, “None of them, but I do have another friend who can recite nearly all of the books by memory. She informed me that there was very little about Varric himself in the books which I think is a shame.”

“Oh, okay then,” Krem says, absolutely dumbfounded. He really doesn’t know what to make of L. Were all Dalish elves like this? Dalish isn’t like this at all. 

Thankfully, the Chantry isn’t far from here now. L leads the way while waving and calling out various greetings to nearly everyone that passes by. A foot soldier, another scout, even a Chantry sister. At least she’s friendly, Krem muses. Well-liked. I can see why. There’s just something endearing about her despite the few oddities here and there.

Once they enter the Chantry, L makes a beeline towards a specific door. She swings it wide open and calls out, “Hello, Ambassador Josephine Cherette Montilyet! I have a visitor for you.”

Krem peers over L’s shoulder — which isn’t hard to do since she’s short — and sees the ambassador, decked out in gold satin. She jumps and drops her tablet on her desk as she cries out, “Oh! Oh, Lavellan, you startled me!”

“Ir abelas, Ambassador Josephine Chere—”

The ambassador lifts a hand to stop her and sternly says, “Lavellan, if I am going to call you Lavellan instead of Herald or your Worship, then you must call me Josephine.” She puts her hands in her pockets and fishes out a couple of chestnuts and candies. “Also, I have these for you.”

“Oh!” L exclaims. She bounces over to receive them carefully from the ambassador’s outstretched hands and says, “Alright, Josephine, ma serannas and I will do my best to remember.” She glances back and asks, “Krem, would you like a candy?”

He, in turn, gapes at her with an open mouth. Lavellan?! Was this little Dalish elf really the… “You… You’re the Herald?!” he sputters.

Lavellan makes a face and says, “Oh. I do not like that title. Please do not call me Herald. L or Lavellan is fine, whichever you prefer.” She hops up to sit on Josephine’s desk and tucks the candies in another pouch at her belt. Then, she cups the chestnuts in her hands and starts roasting them with some sparks of fire magic that crackle up from her palms. Krem can’t stop staring at her, and Lavellan says, “But Josephine, Krem is here to negotiate a job offer. Here are the papers he gave me.”

The ambassador exchanges a look with Lavellan before she says, “Excellent. Thank you for your help, Lavellan.”

“Of course,” Lavellan says. She lifts one chestnut up to the air to examine it. Satisfied with what she sees, she cracks it open with a concentrated blast of magic from her index finger. She cracks the shell open with deft fingers, and Krem is just left to stare at her in stunned silence. “Please let me know if you need any more assistance with anything else,” she says before she pops the chestnut in her mouth.

Ambassador Montilyet scans over her desk and picks up a bundle of letters. “Oh, if you could sort those letters for me, it would be wonderful,” she says.

Lavellan squints at the pile and asks, “By shape or by quality?”

“Quality, please.”

“Alright,” Lavellan says. With a nod of her head, the letters float up and follow Lavellan as she walks over to the corner. She deposits her chestnuts carefully in a plate that’s already on a small side table. Then, she takes the letters in hand and starts sorting them into different piles. From what Krem can tell, she’s sorting them by the thickness of the paper, the quality and intracy of the wax seal, and even the scent of some of them. Lavellan picks up one heavy, thick envelope with gilded edges and takes a small sniff. She wrinkles her nose and tosses it derisively to the side.

Ambassador Montilyet clears her throat, and Krem jumps. “Well, Lieutenant, I believe you had something to tell me in regards to the Inquisition?” she asks as she turns her full attention on Krem.

Krem tries to collect his composure and settle himself with the fact that L is the Herald of Andraste. However, his job — and his friends’ jobs — rely on him and this job pitch. “Ah yes, milady,” he says before he launches into his speech.

He goes through the entire rigmarole of negotiation and debate over prices and services, but ultimately, they close on a tenuous deal. The Inquisition will meet with the Iron Bull to determine the final terms of the deal. It’s as good as Krem expected, honestly, but when he rises up to leave, Lavellan clears her throat. 

“Are you planning to stay?” she asks. 

Krem shakes his head for a no. “I’m afraid I have to go back to my boss, your Worship,” he tells her.

That gets a genuine flash of discomfort in her eyes, and she quietly says, “I am no god or divine herald to be worshipped. Call me Lavellan like I call you Krem, Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi of the Iron Bull’s Chargers.” 

“Sure thing, Lavellan,” Krem says. He tries to uplift the overall mood of the conversation when he adds, “I like the sound of your name better than the title anyways.”

Lavellan perks up at the sound of her name, and she smiles at him with a brightness that rivals the sun itself. “Then,” she says. “I will escort you back out, Krem. And I will be there to meet you back on the Storm Coast.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it,” Krem replies. He’s startled to find so much honesty in the phrase when he says it out loud.

And when he finds her again on the Storm Coast, his is the first name that she cries out, long and clear for the world to hear. Krem instead of Lieutenant Cremisius Aclassi of the Iron Bull’s Chargers. Krem instead of a name long gone and dead to the passing of time and his own embrace of himself. 

Hers is the first name that he calls out as well. His voice is hoarse after too many battle cries, but the syllables of her name slip off his tongue as if he’s known them for years instead of days.

 


 

The Chargers like to offer their own version of events and various comments whether it be a bar fight or how the last mission ended up belly-up. Krem’s “cute little love story” (as Dalish calls it) is no exception.

Dalish is delighted when she first hears about Krem’s infatuation. She’s the first one to find out about it, and she crows about it in a high trill around the bar. Krem chokes on a mouthful of ale because she found out that he loved Lavellan even before he realized that he loved Lavellan. “Absolutely adorable,” she croons. “Our Krem de la Crème's all grown up now.”

But when the Chargers all stumble back to their own beds for the night, Dalish remains. Her cheeks have red flushed across them from all the ale and beer she drank, but her eyes are steadily sober as she reaches for Krem. One hand is curled around the shaft of her “bow” and the other hand reaches out to tap Krem on the nose with one long finger. “You know what I’ll say and do if you hurt or trap her, right?” she says in a low drone.

The words are simple and true, and it sobers Krem right up. “Of course,” he replies.

Dalish purses her lips together and says, “My loyalty’s to the Chargers. We’re our own sort of clan, you and I and all the others. But when it comes to the People like her—” She cuts off her sentence, and the rest of her words remain written across the emotions of her expression and the vallaslin that curls around her brows for Krem to read. And he reads them, clear as day.

“Of course,” he repeats. He laughs sheepishly and rubs the back of his neck as he says, “It probably won’t lead to anything. You know, she’s the Inquisitor and the Herald, and I’m just a mercenary from Tevinter. Besides, the Dalish don’t like Vints.”

“Don’t lump us all together like that,” Dalish says. Her tone is lighter though. “You’ve seen the way she and Dorian get along like peas in a pod, and he’s a Vint. You two do as well, but it’s different.”

“Different?” Krem echoes.

Dalish nods, “Different. You’ll see. Well, glad we had that talk. Just a little something that I felt inclined to say. Good night now. I’ve got a bed and a hangover waiting for me.” With that, she turns and leaves him in the tavern as the night grows steadily longer in her wake.

Dalish isn’t the only one to interfere as well. Skinner stops Krem one day after he finishes training with her. Somehow, she’s managed to lop off the heads of the training dummies with wooden daggers, and Krem doesn’t want to know how. Scratch that; he does want to know, but if he asks Skinner, he’ll have to spar and train with her to find out. He doesn’t want that wooden dagger any inch near his throat, and although rationality tells him Skinner wouldn’t chop his head off, past experience tells him that Skinner will almost certainly leave bruises. 

“Be good to her,” Skinner merely says at the end of it all. Krem doesn’t get what she’s talking about until she juts her chin out and jerks her head over to the far side of the training ring. 

Lavellan’s perched on the fence, kicking her heels against the fencepost, with a basket in her lap. She’s braiding up some elfroot in her hands, but when she notices Krem, her face breaks out into a grin and she waves. Krem almost jerks forward when it seems like Lavellan’s losing her balance. He doesn’t know why; he wouldn’t be able to reach her in time. But Lavellan rights herself and resumes braiding up the elfroot, presumably to dry later.

Krem turns back to Skinner and says dryly, “I already got the notice from Dalish.”

“You’re getting it again. Be good to her or you get the knife,” Skinner says flatly. She claps him on the back with so much force that Krem lurches forward, and just before she leaves, she comments, “Let us know how it goes at the bar. It’ll be another good laugh.”

Later that night, Dalish crows, high and loud, “I was right! Pay up, Grim. Twenty gold please.”

Krem curls his hands around his tankard and narrows his eyes. “What gold?” he asks.

Grim looks over at Krem and shakes his head before he reaches into his pockets to toss gold at Dalish. She tries to catch every one, but the coins that she misses mysteriously remain in the air. Dalish snatches them back with magic glimmering at her fingertips.

“They made a bet on whether or not the boss showed the same interest back,” Rocky tells Krem. He shakes his head as well and continues, “Don’t know why Grim was stupid enough to bet against Dalish. It’s bright as diamond, it is.” He leans over to Krem and whispers, “But damn boy, keep going at it. We’re raking in the winnings in the betting pool.”

“Are all of you involved in this betting pool?” Krem asks. Disbelief pitches his voice up, and he exhales out, “I should’ve expected it.”

“Listen, we did the same thing for Skinner and Dalish,” Stitches snorts. “Why wouldn’t we do it again for this one?”

“But you lost during that one again, Stitches, and so did you, Grim!” Rocky chortles. He slaps his hand against the table and makes all the tankards rattle. 

“Alright, alright, I might have underestimated this,” Stitches mutters. “But I can’t believe Grim bet that much against it.”

“Why?” Krem asks. He leans forward and adds, “You did that the last time for Dalish and Skinner, didn’t you?” And lost good coin over it too.

“Go big or go home,” Bull booms. He pulls Krem in with his arm and ruffles his hair as he continues, “Otherwise, there’s no fun in it.”

Grim grunts and slides over a small velvet pouch to Dalish. Dalish tosses the bag up, and all the coins spill out of it before floating down to hover in front of her. She adds the other twenty coins in with it and makes a big show of dividing them into different piles for the Iron Bull, Rocky, Skinner, and herself. 

“Showoff,” Stitches chuckles fondly. He reaches out to flick one coin and makes it jitter in its path.

“Archer’s trick,” Dalish says with a wink.

Rocky and Stitches end up getting into an argument as to whether or not Krem should give Lavellan some sort of gift. Dalish laughs and says that Krem should declare his ardent love for Lavellan for no other reason other than the fact that it would be “downright hilarious.” Krem has to admit that if it were any other Charger in his position, he would be throwing gold into the betting pool and chiming in with the same amount of enthusiasm. Even Skinner smiles at the ruckus, and Grim grunts more than he normally does.

But at the end of it all, when they stumble back for another night underneath the stars, the Iron Bull stops him. “What’s up, boss?” Krem asks.

The Iron Bull — keener than the rest of them despite the missing eye that Krem watched him lose one night in a tavern far, far away in Tevinter — clears his throat to tell him a quiet, simple truth beyond all the laughter and the crude jokes and the songs that they’ve done before. “She’s a sharp one, not because she wants to be, mind you, but because of what she is now,” he warns Krem. “Herald and Anchor and elf in a world that breaks her kind. You’re tough, kid, but be careful.”

“I am,” Krem says, awkward and shifting. “Careful, that is. And she’s not really that interested. We’re friends.”

“That’s what you like to tell yourself,” Bull chuckles. Krem swears he’d wink if he had both eyes — and oh the guilt suddenly pricks him in the back of his mind when he sees Bull’s torn, missing eye but it passes — and Bull smiles. “Feel free to invite her to No-Pants Friday.”

He turns around and lumbers out of the tavern and into the snows of Haven. Krem lingers in the warmth and dim light of the tavern, listening to the sounds of the tavern go quiet. 

Sharp. It’s not a word that he would choose to describe Lavellan, but it’s a thought that Krem mulls on. He takes his own leave and plods through the snow, leaving deep footsteps behind. He wraps his jacket tighter around himself and finally decides that he’s alright with sharp things anyways. 

 


 

“First Enchanter Vivienne of Montsimmard tells me that my clothes are too dirty and ragged,” Lavellan says plaintively as she looks up at Krem seated on his usual barrel.

The night is still young, and the party looks like it’s going to roar onward in Haven. They’re one week away from the final, official closure of the Breach, and instead of waiting in fear and apprehension, someone in the tavern decided to start a pre-celebration to uplift spirits. There are a trio of people singing and playing instruments while a group of people are dancing a Ferelden-styled folk dance. The song itself involves a lot of mabari and running in the moors at night. The tavern is packed full of people, but Lavellan presses closer to Krem in the crowd. 

“What do you mean?” he asks. He squints at Lavellan’s clothes and looks at her closely. Even after all those years, his childhood never quite escapes him. He’s managed to convince her to use more durable materials for her own protection, but as he examines her, he notes where the wool is fraying and where the cotton is tearing. “Oh,” he says simply. “I think I see why.” 

Lavellan eyes him warily as she asks, “Are you going to tell me to start wearing Orlesian clothes like First Enchanter Vivienne of Montsimmard did?” Her fingers dance over the hem of her shirt, tugging it and rubbing it between the pads of her fingers. Ah, there’s another reason for the slight tear along the edge of her blouse.

Krem shakes his head and replies, “No, I’m going to tell you that you have a hole in your shirt near your pants.”

“Ah,” Lavellan says. She glances down to inspect it before she lets out a soft huff of laughter. “That is where I ripped it after feeding one of the horses in the stables with Master Dennet of the Hinterlands. It got caught on a nail in the wall and just ripped,” she informs him. “I did not rip it on purpose.” She pauses before leaning in to whisper, “Sometimes, I think that First Enchanter Vivienne of Montsimmard thinks I do it on purpose.”

The close proximity and the low rustle of Lavellan’s voice makes Krem flush, so he tries to backtrack and change the subject. “Do you always call people by their full names and titles?” he asks.

Lavellan bats her eyelashes at him and says, “Is that not what people prefer?”

In the back, Dalish whoops, “You go, da’len!” She’s thoroughly inebriated, but that doesn’t stop her from raising a glass to Lavellan as she calls out, “Make those shemlen as uncomfortable as you can!” Skinner ends up having to tug Dalish back to her seat before she topples over. 

Krem glances back at Lavellan, but she only smiles beatifically underneath Krem’s doubtful gaze. “I see,” he says.

“Do not worry about it too much, Krem de la Crème,” she says brightly. “I am simply being respectful.”

Krem doesn’t miss the way Lavellan says his nickname with so much warmth. He tries to shake off the thought by saying, “Yeah, mm-hmm, completely. I heard you call Bull ‘Mister Iron Bull of the Ben-Hassrath’ once and that made him choke on his Maker-forsaken alcohol. It was some sort of Qunari drink that makes your throat burn and close up too.”

“Oh really?” Lavellan asks as she sits down on a chair of her own albeit backwards. She props her elbows up on the back of the chair and says, “Is it anything worse than Dalish moonshine?” Her nose wrinkles adorably as she frowns, and she reaches out to flick the barrel Krem’s sitting on. “Unfair,” she complains. “Everyone has fun singing and dancing and drinking while I am limited to only one drink. Then, someone makes me start drinking juice as if I were some child. I can drink more than Cullen at the very least. Dalish moonshine would knock him out in a single sip, and I have drank three bottles’ worth before.”

“I’d drink juice with you,” Krem says. He then immediately realizes how stupid that sounds, but Lavellan looks up. Her eyes reflect the tavern light and make her irises look luminous and bright. Krem flushes red, but Lavellan cocks her head to the side to get a better look at Krem.

“I would like that,” she decides. “I would like that very much.” She pauses before she reaches out to tap Krem’s nose. “And yours is a name that I will always use with fondness,” she tells him. “Krem, Krem, Krem. Whatever you are comfortable with.”

“I mean, you can call me Cremisius if you really want,” Krem impulsively says. “But everyone just calls me Krem. That’s easier, you know, and it’s familiar. I like it.”

“Hm,” Lavellan murmurs. “But in the end, I will always default to what you are comfortable with because I would not like to make you uncomfortable in any way.” She sheepishly laughs and tells him, “You make me feel comfortable with you. A person to find in the midst of all this strangeness.” 

The confession makes his chest feel tight and warm, and Krem ducks his head. “I mean, I don’t know how to respond, but you…” He trails off. He counts off words in his head and tries to match them together into something coherent. Krem looks back up at Lavellan again and admits, “You do too. I like spending time with you.”

Lavellan’s face creases into a familiar smile — a sight that he’s quickly started to treasure — and she says, “Always.”

This is the moment that he remembers, one week later, when the avalanche pours down from the mountains and buries Haven and Lavellan in one fell swoop. His heart pounds with too much fear and adrenaline pent up in a single place, and he chokes out a faint word. “Always,” he echoes, one week too late.

 


 

Haven is buried, but the world seems to slowly be coming back together. Lavellan is the one sewing it together at the seams with both her Anchor and her newfound position as the Inquisitor of the Inquisition.

She tells Krem that she doesn’t want the title, doesn’t want the fame (or infamy), doesn’t want the eyes of a world that dislikes elves on her at all times. Krem does what he can and listens; he bends his head and understands. The weight of responsibility and of expectation can be crushing. 

That somehow leads into more and more conversations. Krem and Lavellan manage to find quiet places in Skyhold. Even though construction is going on in nearly every part of the castle, there are a few places. One of Krem’s favorites is a grassy slope near the place where the workers are widening and stabilizing the path up to the castle. From there, he can see the entirety of the mountain valley as well as the snowy peaks that rise up in the horizon with a grand splendour. Lavellan likes the place too, and every now and then, she’ll gather up the herbs that spring up on the slope as well. That is when they trade story for story, myth for myth, and laugh for laugh.

This time, Lavellan’s testing how far Krem’s childhood knowledge of fabrics go. He really didn’t think that Lavellan would be taken with such a simple thing. One minute, they were working on repairs for Lavellan’s armor and clothes, and the next minute, he made some sort of stray comment about the materials she must have used for her armor. Lavellan pounced on that and started asking him more about his personal knowledge on fabrics and materials. 

“Dalish wool,” Krem says as he taps the edge of Lavellan’s thick jumper. “You can tell from the way they combed and wove the yarn together from halla hair rather than sheep’s wool.” 

Lavellan claps her hands with delight and pulls up her jumper to reveal a thin undershirt underneath. She seems to have absolutely no issue with shedding her various layers of clothing, and she asks, “And this?”

Krem blinks. He still doesn’t know why she finds it so fascinating, but he obliges her by pulling off his glove and stretching out one bare finger to run it down the length of the fabric. Lavellan shivers under his cold touch, and Krem tries to pull away a touch faster. Still, he answers, “Fereldan fabric woven with cotton from Orlais, probably.” 

“You are a wonder,” Lavellan decides as she pulls her jumper back in place. “You are an absolute wonder.” 

“Well, it’s all down to experience,” Krem tells her. “My father was a tailor and my grandfather was a tailor before that. I was apprenticed for several years too. Look, you could probably do the same thing with plants if it came down to it.” He looks around for some sort of plant to use as an example, and he points out to it. “What’s that then?”

“Elfroot,” Lavellan automatically answers. “A mountain variety that is hardier and tougher. The stem is woodier than the ones in the fields.”

“Now, that’s something I don’t know how to do as well as you,” Krem says. He can’t help but smile when she blinks at him with a touch of confusion. He turns back to the tear in Lavellan’s clothes and deftly knots off the thread.

Lavellan resumes wiping down her breastplate, and they work in silence on her armor for a while. They’re sitting so close that their shoulders bump against each other every now and then, and Krem can hear the soft melody that Lavellan idly hums under her breath. It sounds like something Dalish would sing when the sun swung low beneath the horizon, but this one sounds lighter. Almost more hopeful. Krem allows himself one brief second to glance longer at Lavellan than he would normally, but Lavellan looks up just before he looks away.

Their eyes lock, and Krem freezes. He should look away, he should look away now, resume his work, pretend like there’s nothing wrong. And really, there isn’t anything wrong. It’s just the simple truth that his heart pounds a sliver of a beat faster when he’s around Lavellan. She’s magnetic, drawing him in a way that makes him want to laugh out loud breathlessly, and he can’t help that. But it’s attention that she might not want. So, Krem offers up a crooked smile for her before he starts to thread a needle.

“You did not have to help me with this, you know,” she quietly says. “I appreciate your help.”

“Always,” Krem tells her. “Always for you, Lavellan.” It’s an echo of something that she told him, once upon a time.

He’s rewarded with a slow, secret smile that spreads out over her face. It’s a slow unfurling, a gentle, growing sort of thing, but it’s there alright. Lavellan says, “I like it when you say my name.” She hesitates before she admits, “I enjoy spending time with you, Krem. I enjoy it very much.” 

“I — I do too,” Krem says in a rush of breath. “This. You and me. Together. I like it too.” Krem regrets the words that he chose the minute they leave his mouth, but by this point it’s too late. 

It makes Lavellan break into a full grin, luminous and glorious, but she ducks her head down and resumes polishing the edges of her armor. The rest of their work goes quickly, but towards the end, Lavellan leans against Krem’s shoulder for support. She’s so warm, and that warmth fills Krem with a strange feeling that wraps tight around his heart. 

He glances over at her and wonders if he’s falling in love. Krem doesn’t quite remember falling in love with Lavellan. Loving her is an easy thing, a state that is, not a thing that was or a thing in progress. It happened, quickly and slowly and gently and viciously and all things trapped in between to the bursting. But he does remember one night out of all those incipient nights.

He remembers a tent on the great plains of the Dales. He remembers the stars spread across the midnight sky after the cast of thick twilight and bloody crimson sunset. There were two bedrolls laid out next to each other with the tent flap still wide-open to reveal the star-splintered sky. He remembers gazing at her face with the dim light of the moon and stars slotting through that open flap, remembers tracking the lines of the tree branches tattooed across her cheeks, and remembers smoothing a stray lock of hair behind her pointed ear.

 “I think I’m falling in love with you,” he whispers, in that slim and precious memory, when he’s sure that sleep and dreams have claimed her. He holds his breath after he says it, but there’s no response. Krem remembers that he was relieved at that. A sigh of relief slips out past his lips as he settles back into his former space besides Lavellan. She’s so warm. Krem finds that he can’t explain the soft feeling of happiness that settles deep inside the cage of his ribs and the chambers of his heart when he curls up closer towards her.

Krem remembers that he was almost completely asleep when he felt Lavellan turn towards him and whisper, “I think I have fallen in love with you long ago.”

Now, as he sifts through that memory with a piece of Lavellan’s armor still in his hand, he impulsively leans in closer. She doesn’t shift away, and instead, she sways closer to him until their lips gently brush across each other. It’s not even a kiss that Krem’s ever heard of in the romance novels that Orlais profits so much off of or the stories that he’s overheard in various castles during mercenary jobs. But it still manages to send a thrill down his back and make him shiver for the want of more.

Lavellan pulls back and holds her breath. Krem looks at her, eyes likely wide and startled like some sort of doe caught in the mark of a hunter’s. She starts to turn away from him and fold up back into herself, but Krem leans in for one more kiss. He doesn’t pull away from her and instead, he quietly allows himself to say. “Kiss me again.”

 


 

The first time that he calls her amata is accidental. 

It’s in the library, and he's half-asleep on one of the window seats while Lavellan is searching for a book. She’s still in the process of learning how to read, but she’s making surprisingly good progress. There are stacks of books on the desk right by the window seat with similar titles to what Lavellan’s looking for.

“You know, it would be so much easier if you just told me the title instead,” Dorian drawls out. He’s lounging in a chair tipped back so that it’s only standing on its two legs. His feet are up on the desk as far away from the books as possible, and he adds, “I organized that shelf myself too. I could find it in a minute.”

Behind the shelf, Krem can hear Lavellan’s muffled voice say, “Then that defeats the entire purpose of a search.” She pops her head out behind the shelf just far enough to finish, “And I believe in the value of a journey.”

“Suit yourself,” Dorian snorts, but Krem can still see the fond look in his eyes that betrays both his tone and his words. He glances over at Krem and murmurs, “Help her out if she needs it, will you?” His voice drops to a bare, sliver-thin whisper as he adds, “Not that I think she can’t do it, mind you, but because I don’t want her to waste time on something like this when she could be doing other things with her free time that don’t involve the Inquisition. She works too much, you know.” 

“I know,” Krem replies, and he answers in a voice that is wisp-light and air-soft. He knows far too well. He’s seen her work herself to the bone and do everything for this cause that entangled her in with a net of green light. Especially after Haven and all the problems across Thedas that pour directly into her lap, Krem is inclined to let her rest and enjoy herself rather than rifle through musty books for something that her advisors recommended. Let them find the damn book themselves, he thinks reproachfully. 

Dorian glances over at the shelf once more, and he exhales out one simple sigh. Then, with a flare of his cloak and a flip of his hand, he declares, “I’ll be heading out then. Do call if you need me.” He holds up one finger. “And calling me does not mean jumping out of the tower windows, screaming my name at the top of your lungs. We do not want another person fainting and cracking their head open on the cobblestones. The workers just repaired those; they’re practically new if you ignore the fact that we ripped them off a ruin.”

“Yes, Dorian,” Lavellan replies. She sounds rather distracted though, and both Krem and Dorian can hear the sound of pages flipping rapidly. 

Krem settles back in the window seat as Dorian leaves with yet another sigh. Lavellan comes trotting around the corner with another stack of books and plunks them down on the desk. She squints her eyes and rubs her chin as she tries to connect the letters into words. Krem can see the way she mouths the words, carefully and slowly, as if each word was a treasure in of itself. But to no avail. None of the books are the ones that she needs if Krem judges by the look on her face. Her lips turn downward, and her brow creases with distinct frustration.

She goes around the corner again, and Krem can hear her shuffling her feet and slipping books on and off the shelves. This repeats two or three more times — Krem’s lost count by now since he’s been here for so long — and finally, Krem starts to unwind himself from his sunny spot to take a look. Now, the desk is completely covered with stacks of rejected books, and Lavellan is still searching.

He pads around the corner and finds her utterly engrossed in reading. Her head is tilted to the side, and she’s still mouthing out the words to herself and tracing each letter with the tip of her left finger. The Anchor sputters green light, dim and erratic, over the letters and illuminates them with a glittering spark from the Fade. She doesn’t even notice Krem’s approach which is rare for her. 

Krem wonders if he dares, if he should try, if he takes another step forward, but there’s a certain part of him that’s always been quicker than lightning and sharper than silverite when it comes to taking risks. He’s the kind of person that’s always been intimately familiar with the elusive mathematical analysis of the thing known as risks and the resulting statistics of them, but he figures that he’s been successful so far. That’s what makes him move forward and gently slot his arms around Lavellan as he murmurs, “What are you looking for, amata?”

The last word makes him stumble. That single last word slips off his tongue, easy as air and truthful as the ever-shining sun, but it makes his mind stutter and twitch on the sheer sound of it. 

Lavellan turns around, still in his arms, and now, they’re only inches away from each other. At this distance, it would only take one nod forward to brush his lips against hers. Krem’s still busy fumbling with the concept of amata in his mind though

“A book,” she replies in a voice that is the same volume as his. “But it seems as though it does not want to be found.” She slips her own arms around him, gentle and loose, loose enough for him to wriggle out and leave if he wants. It’s a signal, a sign, a way out if he needs. She’s always been good about that, but Krem wants to tell her that he’s happy to stay if she’ll have him.

“Really now?” Krem muses. He curls his arms around her until his hands are against the small of her back and holds her with the same amount of gentleness that she gives in. “How is the journey to find it then?”

“Frustrating, but not quite as frustrating as other things. I would rather stay here, trying to read the common tongue, than be in Orlais to please some other inconsequential lord,” she chuckles. She pauses. Krem can see the way she hesitates from the way she presses her lips together and the way her ears flick back slightly. Finally, she asks, “What does amata mean?”

Krem doesn’t reply for a brief moment. What does amata mean? The simple translation is heart, but to him, it means more than that. It means warmth and safety, peace and comfort, the metaphorical, transliteral heart being his heart that he would gladly give to her, a space between the cage of his ribs that belongs to her as well as him. It means a grassy slope outside the walls of Skyhold where they can be themselves without titles or responsibilities to weigh them down. It means her eyes underneath a star-scattered sky just after a blood-red sunset and the sound of the wind whistling past the tall grasses of the Dalish plains. It means her, her, her, in all the ways that Krem can’t quite put into words. It means he is handing over his heart over to hers so that she can be heart, so that she can be amata.

“Heart,” he finally says. He decides to stick with just the simple translation, but the look that unfolds over Lavellan’s face tells him that she knows. She knows the implications, knows the nooks and crannies of the meanings that saturate the word. She knows.

Lavellan leans in closer and whispers, as if she were telling him a secret, “In my tongue, it is vhenan.” When she says it, she says it so firmly with all the sureness she can muster up. It is not accidental, not like Krem’s truth that slipped out of his mouth like a bird in flight, but it holds the same weight. 

“Amata,” Krem repeats, slow and careful to savor the word. The second time he says the word will not be accidental. “Vhenan,” he tries. His mouth and tongue don’t quite do the word justice, and he fumbles with the syllables. Still, it’s worth it to hear the delighted laugh that bubbles out of Lavellan.

She leans in fully now and kisses him, kisses him with sparks of magic on her skin, kisses him with laughter halfway on her lips. Krem kisses back and curls one hand into the locks of her hair and keeps one hand on her back, pulling her closer and closer until he is laughing with the kiss as well. The sun streams in on them both from the window of the seat Krem left unoccupied and through the empty slots of the bookshelf where books once were. 

“Vhenan,” Lavellan manages to say in between. “Amata.”  

“Ah, it would be amatus for me,” Krem corrects.

Lavellan repeats, “Amatus.” Her cheeks crease into dimples as she repeats once more, “Amatus.” Her tongue doesn’t quite match the words as well. There’s a distinct Dalish lilt in between the syllables, but that makes Krem love the sound of it even more.

When she finally pulls away —  her lips reddened from their kissing, hair tousled and ruffled with his fingers — Krem thinks she looks beautiful. But more importantly, Lavellan looks at him as if he were the world and the sun and the moon and the stars. By that, Krem means that she looks at him the way she marvels at the sheer beauty of the world, and that startles him. He’s not particularly special — mundane, if anything — but when Lavellan looks at him like that, he feels like he’s soaring. 

“Perhaps,” she carefully says. “The books can wait for later.”

“I thought you had a journey to accomplish,” Krem teases back. 

She reaches up to tweak his nose and replies back blithely, “A journey is better spent with you, vhenan.” She pushes away from the bookshelf to twine her arms around Krem’s neck and murmurs, “Only if you’ll have me, amatus.”

“If you’ll have me too, vhenan, then yes,” he promises. “It’ll always a yes, amata.”

 


 

Lavellan is usually the one to wake up in the morning, and Krem usually rolls over in bed to find an empty spot beside him in the bed. The space usually holds onto the barest tinge of warmth though, and Krem can raise his sleepy head up to the scent of newly-brewed tea. 

She hasn’t opened the curtains yet. She never does when he’s not awake yet. Krem’s told her thousands of times already to just open the curtains and let the sun in — and he’ll be damned if him being woken up by the sun denies her the sunshine she wants — but she refuses. 

Lavellan hasn’t noticed that he’s awake yet, and Krem moves as slowly and quietly as he can when he props himself up. She putters around the corner of her room where she’s set up a small cabinet of food and tea. There’s a little ceramic dish that Dagna crafted for her that’s fire-proof, and it’s easy for Lavellan to light a small flickering candle’s worth of flame inside to brew her morning tea. She’s already lined up two small teacups and the sachet of Dalish tea that she makes herself from all the herbs she grows in the garden. Krem squints at the bag and thinks that’s the bag of tea she made with flowers from the Hinterlands. 

There are two thick slices of bread toasting on a rack above the fire dish, and Lavellan hums a soft melody to herself as she gets the small meal ready. She even taps her toes together and does a little skip turn as she pulls out a tray. Krem’s lips quirk up into a smile when he sees it, but her little turn makes her revolve towards Krem. 

“Oh!” she exclaims. “On dhea, vhenan.” 

“Avanna, amata,” Krem replies with a soft smile. He swings his legs out of bed as Lavellan goes over to fling the curtains wide open. The morning sun streams into the room via the wide windows and frames Lavellan in a soft halo of golden light. He catches her in a gentle embrace just when she turns around and places a soft kiss on her forehead. “Hope I wasn’t asleep for too long,” he murmurs. “I keep telling you, you can just open the curtains up earlier or wake me up if you want to see the sun.” 

“Why would I if that would wake you up?” she cheekily replies. She taps Krem’s nose and says, “Besides, you are the person I want to see in the morning, and you deserve rest.”

“You sleep less than I do,” Krem points out.

Lavellan’s expression dims at the edges, and she hides her Anchored hand behind her hand. Krem’s expression sobers as well. They both know about the nightmares and the pain that plague Lavellan from night to night. They know the tinge of green that it casts on her skin and her magic, seeping in through the cracks and twisting its way into her very self. But today is supposed to be a good morning, a treasured morning, and it’s so rare for Krem to have the Inquisitor’s time — his lover’s time — all to himself. So, he sets the topic of nightmares and Anchor aside in favor of holding Lavellan’s hand and tugging her closer to the tea. 

The way Lavellan squeezes his hand in an apology that he doesn’t need but finds that he still appreciates, the way he whispers amata and the way she whispers vhenan back, the way they help each other put on their armor, and the way he tucks an embrium blossom behind Lavellan’s ear and places a kiss on her forehead when he’s done. These are the ways that they finish their quiet morning before they straighten up to face the world once more.

Lavellan dons on the sharply carved mask that is Inquisitor and that is Herald and seals herself up in the persona that the Inquisition has handed her. It's almost like a lamb to the slaughter, and indeed, it was like that at the very beginning of Haven. But she’s a legend now, someone that will be immortalized in the history textbooks and the scribes’ documents for ages on end, and perhaps, somewhere in the future, someone will talk about Lavellan in the same hushed tone that they use for heroes and heroes alone. 

But in this space, quiet and warmed by the morning sun, Krem gets to see Lavellan for Lavellan, not Herald or Inquisitor or hero, underneath the gilt and glory lacing up her meager shoulders. And perhaps, Krem thinks, this is love. This is love in the smallest moments of things, love in the quietest, tenderest things that are separate and divided from the weight of duty and responsibility. This is him handing his heart to her and her handing her heart to him. A simple thing, untouched by gilt and glory except for the glory that they make for themselves in the soft morning. A trade in equal reciprocity, made in the space between them and sealed with a kiss that he places once more for good measure on her lips with a soft touch. 

Always.