Solas notices the ring right away. “New jewelry, lethallan? I would think metal sturdier than wood for that.”
“The Keeper sent it. I was feeling homesick, and something Cole said made me want to write to her about here and how much I missed mother and Atisha and everyone else. She didn’t write anything back, just sent this.” She turns the wooden ring around her finger, until the stylized lock is facing away, and the running wolf facing up. The fit is perfect, and she wonders when the Keeper had it made. “I suppose she didn’t really need to write anything for me to understand her message.”
“A Keeper’s ring. Not really something for their Firsts. Are you Keeper for Clan Skyhold, then?” he asks, his smile mocking, and she is reminded of the first time they had time to speak, his distaste for the Dalish written plainly across his face, even as he spoke the elvhen tongue better than even the Keeper. She still cannot place his accent. “There are few wolves this high up to protect us from.”
She hums in agreement. “That was the general impression I got too. Scolding me for wanting to return and reminding me of my duties here, as both Inquisitor and one of the People. Though I doubt she meant for me to take another meaning away from it.”
“And what else would that be?”
“Hawke says she killed Corypheus,” she says instead of a direct reply, eyes on the mural of Haven burning, Corypheus looming over it. “I believe her. Even if only half the things Varric wrote of her are true, I know she is particularly good at killing things. But if he cannot stay dead, we must find some other way of stopping him. He may claim to be a god, but history tells us gods may be defeated.” She thinks of the doomed red future Dorian and she visited, clenches her fist, and feels the upraised design of the lock pressing into her skin. “He is no god of ours. He may kill us, but he will not command us. He will not rule us. Our lives are our own to decide, not theirs. So I shall play the wolf and lock him as far away from Thedas and her people as I can before he destroys everything good about it.” She consciously lets herself fall out of rigid posture she has drawn herself up into and lets out a soft breath. “Just as soon as I can think of a way to do it.”
His eyes are bright with something she doesn’t understand and he's closer than she remembers him being. “Lethallan, you are a constant source of surprise and wonder. However did the Dalish make you?” She can't break away from his gaze, can feel herself sway forward towards him.
“I do hate to interrupt,” Dorian says and they both startle, look to see him standing in the doorway. “Cassandra has finally snapped and gone for Varric’s throat about keeping the Champion from her. Do be a dear and stop her, won’t you? She likes you.”
“We’ll talk later, Solas,” she says, barely keeping herself from sprinting to Dorian’s side to keep from answering his question, to stop him from looking at her like that. To stop from thinking about what might have happened next.
Solas takes a step backwards and draws up with a soft breath, like he was trying to regain control of himself. "Yes, we should."
She’s not certain what just happened, and he looks almost as lost as she feels. He looks away and the moment passes. “Where are they?” she asks Dorian.
He offers her his arm, leading her away. “We just need to follow the shouting. And the betting. I have five gold on him managing to escape before you get there.”
“He’s rather sneaky, I have faith. Which is why I’m not even going to take the long way round to get you there.”
She blinks against the light as they step outside. “At least tell me it’s not the tavern, we’ll have no way of controlling the gossip.”
“I see Josephine’s etiquette lessons are beginning to rub off on you. No, not the tavern. But I have something far more important to discuss than where Cassandra is rampaging.” His smile is bright and sharp and she groans, already knowing what is about to come. “Just what was it I was interrupting? Were you proposing marriage? Did you find the location to lost Arlathan? Solas was looking at you like you hung the stars in the sky.”
She let out a huff. “Must you always be ridiculous?”
“I’m not,” he says with a pout. “But if a man looked at me like that, I’d rip his clothes off.”
“Is that why the Bull always goes around shirtless?” she teases, trying to change the subject.
“We’re not talking about me,” he scolds.
“You’re allowed to be happy, you know.” He scowls at her and she giggles, relenting. “We were talking about Corypheus. No really, stop frowning like that, we were.”
“You two are so boring. I’ll just have to make something up.”
“I couldn’t propose to someone even should I want to, Dorian. A Keeper’s duty is to the clan as a whole, they can’t put one person above it. Firsts are allowed to marry, but-” she thinks of Ghallia, leaving the clan for another, replacing a First freshly promoted to Keeper, young enough that Ghallia will have years with her wife before she will have to set their bond aside. “It is better we don’t, in the long run. Could you be with someone who could never promise to hold you above all else?” She notices she has unintentionally tightened her hand on his arm and eases off.
“Revas-” he starts and she can’t bear the pity in his eyes.
“Let’s just agree not to poke at each other about our love lives and lack thereof, shall we?” she says shortly, pushing into the armory. Dalish and Krem have moved aside to let them in, while Stitches and Skinner block the other entrance. She can’t see where the other two are, but there’s no doubt they’re somewhere nearby. The Iron Bull is holding Cassandra away from an annoyed Varric, who is taking further cover from her behind a table. Otherwise the building is empty, the Chargers apparently having cleared out everyone but themselves, keeping the Seeker’s tantrum from having too great an audience. Though likely everyone already knows.
“That’s cheating,” Dorian says.
“Didn’t want him dead,” Bull rumbles.
“Cassandra is this really what you should be doing?” Revas asks.
“He lied to me!” Cassandra says, struggling against Bull’s hold. She doesn’t seem to be trying as hard as she could, and she appreciates that the Seeker is using up her angry energy with something not her fist to Varric’s face. “You sat there, spoonfeeding me all that bullshit, told me you had no idea where she was, and I believed you- and all this time you knew!”
“You people have done enough to her!” Varric shouts back, hands slamming down on the table. “Like the Conclave was any place an apostate should be, no matter her status in one city. Half the Templars there would’ve killed her on sight. They agree with Meredith about magic.”
Cassandra hangs in Bull’s arms, the fight gone out of her. “Just get out of my sight.”
“Gladly,” the dwarf replies coldly, slipping between Stitches and Skinner and opening the door. He stops, turns around. “You know what I think? If Hawke had been there, she’d have been just as dead as everyone else when the place blew.” The door slams shut behind him.
“Did you really expect him to trust Templars with his best friend, the apostate mage who killed the Knight-Commander of Kirkwall?” Revas asks as Bull releases Cassandra.
The Seeker drops into a chair and glowers.
Dalish signs a quick ‘these crazy shem’ at her and Revas’ lips twitch. ‘Poor hunting, unwise hunters, go elsewhere’ she flicks back and Dalish grins, careless and carefree, and nudges Krem before whispering something in his ear. The two of them are already moving as Bull laughs at Cassandra’s glare. “Chargers, I think we’re done here. Good luck, boss,” he says, motioning his men out. He wraps an arm around Dorian’s waist as he follows them.
“Unhand me at once, you lummox. I cannot be seen anywhere near those pants.”
The door swings shut behind them, but she can hear Bull’s rich, low laugh. “Want me to drop them for you now?”
Cassandra makes a disgusted noise, shaking her head. “Honestly, the two of them.”
She perches on the table beside Cassandra, feet kicking as they dangle. “Seems to me the two of them do good work together. Or would Varric’s head still be attached if they hadn’t stopped you?”
The Seeker crosses her arms across her chest, leaning back to glower at the door Varric left through. “He- might have been a little rougher for the wear,” she concedes. “I can have a terrible temper.”
Revas turns the wooden ring around her finger, thinking. “Varric's right.” Cassandra squawks in outrage, sitting up straighter in her chair. “He is, Cassandra. Corypheus was always going to attack the Conclave. There was something there he wanted, something he needed. Even if I don’t remember what happened, I know that much. What do you think he would have done if he had seen the woman who killed him, even if it didn’t hold for good?”
The Seeker is silent for a time. “He’d have killed her on sight,” she sighs out.
“And I’ve read the Tale of the Champion. Face it, Seeker, she was the center of a storm in Kirkwall. She would have done the Inquisition no favors had she been a focal point for it.”
“And you have done so much better? Haven might disagree.”
“You made me Inquisitor, Cassandra, I did not volunteer for it,” she snaps back, then immediately regrets it. “Ir abelas, I meant no insult to Hawke, I doubt there was anything she could have done to change what happened. But she’s a lightning rod for the worst kind. The Inquisition must draw the best and be above reproach, not be another place for mage-templar battles- no matter our personal opinions on the matter. I’m little better leading than Hawke would have been, Dalish and a mage and a nonbeliever. You’d have done better putting yourself in charge.”
“It had to be you. Or whoever else might have stepped through that portal with that mark on their hand. Its ability to close rifts will always make you the focus of attention. Better the rest of us be left to our work.”
“Cowards,” she says, nudging the other woman’s leg with her foot. “You just want someone else to place the blame on should this all fall apart.”
“You’ve done well. Never think you haven’t.” Cassandra pats her leg. “I should- apologize. To Varric.”
“You look like you’ve eaten something sour.” She fights to hold back a laugh, but Cassandra’s narrowed look says her face is giving her amusement away anyway.
“I dislike being in the wrong.”
“It happens to all of us. At least you’re aware enough to admit it. Sera-” she closes her mouth with a click.
“Yes I was there for that squabble with Solas.”
“I understand her complaint better than she thinks. The People can be cruel to elves not born to the clans. So she rejects the Dalish with twice the ferocity they rejected her, never mind that I have never said anything to her about it. It is enough that I have a tattoo on my face. She doesn’t see the hypocrisy.” She shrugs her shoulders inwards, interlocking her fingers on her lap and admiring the way the green glow of the anchor plays against her ring. “It was different in my clan, only half of Lavellan was even born within it. We had several who left kin behind in cities and towns to join us. My mother could read and write, helped those who couldn't write letters to family back home, read them letters they got back. She mocks the trials they and my parents went through, finding a home within the clan away from the shit humans gave them. Just because Sera found a way to fight back without giving up her home, without making it about being elven, doesn’t mean all other ways are wrong.”
“You can’t change people’s minds by willing it. Give her time.”
“She doesn’t want to change her mind, she wants to be proven right. And Creators help me, when I'm proven right about how I escaped the explosion, I’ll have to keep from shoving the truth in her face to make her eat her words. Because I know if I’m wrong, she wouldn’t hesitate to do the same to me.” She opens her hand, lets the soft buzz of magic run down her arm to tickle the anchor, making it shine brighter until all of her hand is lost behind the glow. “Andraste didn’t save me any more than she saved herself.”
“You’ll forgive me if I continue to think you receiving the mark to be a gift from the Maker to help us, no matter Corypheus' original intentions for it.”
“Whatever lets you sleep at night. In the end, it doesn’t matter. Only that the mark closes rifts.” She kicks off the table. “Come, cruel duty awaits.”