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Wholly Unexpected

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The sun filtered down through the verdant canopy of leaves just above him. He turned from the face of his beaming auburn-haired wife to look across the garden. There, sprawled amongst the grass and the small purple flowers, his eldest daughter played with his beautiful baby boy. She was glorious in the midday sun, her golden hair looked like a halo around her head as she balanced her black-haired brother on her feet and held his arms as she bounced him up and down. Her laughter rang across the garden as the boy giggled and cooed at her. Looking at her smiling face from across the garden threw him back into his youth.

The first time he saw her mother’s face. Hands throwing lightning, she ran across the meadow, hunters following behind, arrows flying, others bursting out of the shadows and slitting throats. His eyes did not leave her face, the swirling jade lines like branches across her brow, dancing across her visage as sparks of purple rolled over her sun kissed skin and gathered in her palms to burst forth with the slightest flick of her fingertips and tilt of her staff. It reached out from her to strike at the bandits surrounding he and his youngest brother Johann. Just before she reached the two of them, a bandit across the clearing loosed a final arrow before falling. The arrow screamed towards the elven woman in front of him and his eyes grew wide.

He would not stand to lose their would-be savior just to keep his family’s secret. He took a deep breath, let his aura loose, and then snapped it in tight to throw it at the arrow flying toward the woman before him. The arrow burned into ash mere inches from her face.  He was so focused on stopping the arrow that he did not notice the woman who had been coming to save him stopped dead in her tracks the moment he let his aura loose. When the others saw her movement cease, they froze where they stood. As his brother sat dumbstruck beside him, he pulled his now unbound hands in front of him and brushed the ash from his wrists. He watched as the pieces clicked together in the woman’s mind before her eyes filled with mirth as she smirked and lilted “You must show me how you so thoroughly hide your aura, shem’len.”

“That,” he said, pulling a knife from his boot and cutting his brothers bindings, “is a family secret,” and he winked at her as he pulled his brother to his feet. She laughed at him then, a glorious sound that relaxed the hunters around them and snapped his brother back to reality.

“’re a mage.” Johann managed to sputter staring incredulously at his beaming brother. “Joseph, how can you be a mage?”

Joseph sighed and rubbed his hands down his face. “It’s a very long story, Johann.”

The woman in front of him flashed a smile, “If it so thoroughly shocks your companion ser ‘Joseph,’” she teased as she placed a delicate hand on his shoulder and twirled around him, “I think it’s a story I would like to hear as well.”

Johann huffed loudly, and sounded more than a little miffed when he spat “I’m not his companion, I’m his brother,” from between clenched teeth.

The woman’s eyes lit up, this would be interesting “Hunters of clan Lavellan, I believe the Keeper would take great interest in our new friends,” she announced, turning to the gathered elves. “Why don’t we take them to camp and let her meet them?”

Johann was glaring intently at Joseph, but after they observed what was left of their own camp- and there was not much- that they had no choice but to go where these elves took them. They grabbed what belongings weren’t bloodied or burnt, untied their horses, and began to follow after the Dalish who led the way. Johann let out rhythmic whistle and a crow swept down from the trees to his shoulder. “I guess that blasted bird might do some good after all,” Joseph mumbled as Johann attached a short message to its foot and tossed it into the air.

“Father needs to know we’re alright after a run in with bandits, and since we’re going to be delayed by this,” he motioned ahead of them to where aravels were coming into view, “I thought I’d tell him we were going to take time to recover before returning home.”

Joseph smiled as they walked into the Dalish camp and were greeted by the sight of a young Dalish Keeper, who was evidently being told of the previous event, clear by the shifting looks of pride, confusion, and inquisitiveness on her face. “Andaran atish’an. I am Keeper Istimaethoriel, you have met my sister and First, Ellana. You are welcome here, and very…” she paused, circling her hand and trying to come up with an appropriate phrase and prodding in search of any detectable aura from the shem before her. After being unable to locate his aura she threw up her hands in exasperation and settled on “Unexpected.”

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“Do we have to send her to study again this summer, darling? I would love to keep her just this once. The boys always miss her so much,” she heard her stepmother plead with her father from the other side of the garden. Then came her father’s quick response, a little white lie that they had used since she was old enough to pull it off.

“You know her visit is all Johann looks forward to dear. Besides, her education is so important. She is my accepted heir and must have the best education possible, and there is no one better to teach her than Johann.”

Just a little lie. She did visit her Uncle and learn from him during the summer, but that was because he accompanied her for the two months each year she spent with clan Lavellan. She smiled inwardly and stood up from the ground, cradling her youngest brother, now asleep, in her arms while her other four brothers ran circles around her excitedly showing her the bugs and flowers they had gathered while playing. She adjusted her baby brother so she could hold him in one arm and scooped up the next youngest with the other to hold him on her hip while he tucked flowers into her long hair.

She looked lovingly at her brothers as she approached her parents and could help but think the words she’d been told so many times “If it weren’t that you all had your father’s emerald eyes, you’d never know you were siblings.” It was true, her brothers looked like her father and much of the Trevelyan family. Broad shouldered though they were young, built strong, destined to become warriors in their own time. They had dark hair and strong jaws with slightly tanned skin. She on the other hand was willowy and lean, with delicate features and hair like spun gold. She was, according to her father, her uncle Johann, and her mother’s clan, the spitting image of her mother, but with her father’s eyes -and as the clan loved to jokingly point out, his ears as well. Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of the clock in the foyer striking the hour. She rushed the rest of the way to her parents and handed her sleeping brother to his mother while the other slid down her side to the ground. She kissed her parents on their cheeks and ran inside calling “Dance lessons,” over her shoulder. Madame would be furious with her if she were late to ballet.

Joseph stared after his daughter as he saw her rushing through the hall and up the stairs through the windows. He stood slowly and looked over to his wife. “If it is already so late darling, I should look over the preparations for Saturday’s festivities, I shall be in my study until supper time.” He gave his wife a chaste kiss and ruffled the hair of his nearby son before retreating to his study. Once there he poured himself a glass of brandy and collapsed into a large armchair near the fireplace. After making sure no one was nearby, he flicked his wrist and the fire was blazing. He stared into it and his thoughts returned to his daughter. She was to be eighteen years old. The age he was when he met her mother. His beautiful Ellana had been gone from him for almost as long as his daughter had been alive. Four years with her had not been enough. But at least he had their daughter.

“Enasalin,” Ellana said looking lovingly at their bundled up child, then looking up at Joseph, “Because she is our victory.”

He look his daughter into his arms for the first time and whispered “Enasalin,” at her as he gently touched her cheek.

He slammed his fist into the arm of the chair and bit his lip to stifle a sob. He couldn’t even call his daughter by her given name, because then his family would not accept her. So she became Valencia Trevelyan, and she played the part. He did not want to let her go in the next week, but he knew she longed to be with her clan. Knew how she longed to run, hunting, with her mother’s brother, to learn magic from her aunt and Keeper, and be free to be Enasalin, something she could never be in Ostwick.

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“Valencia Trevelyan, if we don’t leave for Ostwick soon your grandfather will have my head on a pike” Johann shouted across the Dalish camp.

           “I’ll be right there Uncle!” She turned and buried her face in her aunt’s neck, wrapping the Keeper in a fierce hug. When she finally pulled away, she turned and was immediately enveloped in an embrace by the man next to her aunt. She “oofed” as the air was forced from her and the sputtered out “I’ll miss you too Uncle Tyven.” When he let her go she threw her arms around her aunt and uncle’s neck at the same time and whispered, “I love you both. I’ll send word from the conclave. I know how important this is.” Then, she ran, before any more of the young elves could ask for more hugs or kisses goodbye. She turned around and kept running while backwards, waving and beaming, executing one extra and unnoticeable flick of her wrists leaving one little surprise for the young ones.

           “Dareth shiral, Enasalin” was called out in a flurry of voices, none quite at the same time, as the clan members watched her go. Then little squeals of excitement caught in their ears. Valencia mounted her horse and she and her Uncle Johann were riding quickly away as the adults turned to see what had the children so excited. Her uncle chuckled and said softy “Now tell me, did your father teach you to make flower garlands with magic or is that one I have to thank Deshanna for?”

She smiled broadly and said, “That one I came up with myself. I thought covering the aravels in them would help cheer up the little ones since I’m leaving them early this year. I hate to see them cry.”

Johann laughed and turned to her, “All joking aside, do you think you and Theo can ride through the night? If we don’t make it on time to the party, father will string me up at mother's behest.”

The girl patted her horse on the neck and tossed her head back with a short laugh. “Of course. We’re in better shape than you, old man.” At that, she stuck out her tongue, tapped her heels into Theo’s sides, and shot forward quickly. Johann shook his head and pushed his own horse to move faster and catch up.

When they arrived at her grandfather’s estate, Valencia was grabbed from the stables and rushed into her grandmother’s chambers by a group of elven servants. When the greying woman in charge sent the rest of the elves off Valencia pressed small bag of Dalish treats and halla carvings into the woman’s hands mouthing "for the children" with a wink and a shushing finger to her lips. She knew the servants whispered in wonder at where these gifts came from each year, but knew the older woman with the sparkle in her eye hadn’t told and never would. The older woman nodded in understanding and left the room after ensuring Valencia’s bath was prepared, ushering the girl’s grandmother in.

“Valencia my dear, I’m so glad you made it in time,” the matriarch of house Trevelyan said as she delicately placed herself on a chaise across from the tub.

Valencia began unbelting and unlacing her armor before removing it and placing it in neat stacks on a low table near the tub. When she was down to her leathers she sat on the floor in front of her grandmother allowing the older woman to remove the tight braids from her hair and brush it out. Her grandmother was not an affectionate woman, and according to her father, never had been. But each year when she returned from her “studying” she and her grandmother repeated this process. Valencia learned early on this was her grandmother’s way of saying “I love you.” She chatted idly with the woman about her studies as she brushed, and when the brush clicked lightly as it was returned to the table covered in soaps and oils she stood and held her hand out to help her grandmother stand.

The woman stood and turned to leave the room, but stopped when she reached the door. She turned her head slightly and said, “Sometimes, it is hard to remember you’re not a child anymore, but a woman of twenty three years. Especially since I still remember the day your father brought you home strapped to his back,” the older woman sighed and turned with her back to the door, leaning the back of her head against it and closing her eyes. “Bastards have always been common among nobility, but they normally are not part of the family. But there was no way we could not accept you. Not when you are so special my dear. And I’m afraid you do not hear that enough. You are the pride of this family, the jewel of house Trevelyan, and I only wish the best for you.”

Valencia had never hugged her grandmother before. It was understood that such an act of affection was simply forbidden. But, before she knew what she was doing, she was on her knees in front of her grandmother, arms wrapped around the woman’s waist, face buried in her skirts with sobs wracking her body. She knew her family thought her a bastard, it was best for her and her father if that was what they believed, and she knew they loved her despite it. But to hear such uncharacteristically kind words from her grandmother, it felt like the weight of a thousand fears lifted from her heart. When she regained enough composure to realize what she was doing, she started to stutter apologies and pull away before the woman fell to her own knees and wrapped her arms around her granddaughter tightly.

“I love you, Valencia. I do not know what results the Conclave will produce, but I need you to know that.” The woman pressed a kiss into the top of the girl’s head before standing and composing herself. As she began to leave the room again, she said “Do not speak of this to anyone,” and shut the door behind herself.

It took Valencia several minutes to process what had happened and pull herself together. She finally stood and mumbled, “That was unexpected,” before unceremoniously stripping off her leathers and smalls and sinking into the tub.

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They had crossed the Waking Sea with little trouble. It seemed even the weather was waiting to see what came of the Divine’s Conclave. It was all that was spoken of in the towns she escorted some distant relatives through on their way to Haven. She knew the town of Haven and the Temple of Sacred Ashes would be filled with Templars and mages alike. She had to focus.

She took a deep breath and reached deep within herself. She pulled at the threads of power from the fade around her, tucked her mana deep inside herself, and wove the threads together tighter than she ever had before to hide her aura, in an amplified version of the technique passed down their branch of the Trevelyan family for generations. She smirked as she thought of the technique; it meant she wasn’t the only one in her family hiding something. She just happened to have more to hide than most.

After all, no matter how they loved her, her entire family would be scandalized if they knew she wasn’t her father’s beloved bastard after all, but was a very unexpected legitimate child. Albeit between her father and a Dalish First he was married to for three years before she passed on, but a legitimate child all the same. She was certain that it would mortify them to know she spent her summers with the clan and had even asked her aunt and Keeper to take on the vallaslin. Her aunt had, of course told her no, and at the time Valencia was furious.

“I want to be Dalish,” she wailed through angry tears, “I just want to be Enasalin.” At that her aunt pulled the sobbing girl to her chest and held her there, stroking her hair.

“You will always be Enasalin to us, sweet girl. We are your clan. Your family. You needn’t worry about being Dalish, we know you are in your heart.”

It was clearer to her that day then she had ever been before. As long as she had to live two lives she could never be herself. As Valencia she could not be free, but as Enasalin she could not be with her father and brothers. To understand her people, she had to live among them as Enasalin. But to be their enasalin, she had to be Valencia. She loved her father and her family, but she loved her clan just as much. She could not decide between them, did not want to, but knew one day she would have to. But until then, she kept her secrets, just as she and her family always had.

She kept her secrets close to her like the cloak over her armor as she rode up to the village of Haven. She held them in as she held her breath when she walked past the Templars. She hid them behind her eyes like her sympathy as she walked past the mages, and swallowed them like her nerves as she walked into the Temple of Sacred Ashes.

And then everything quite literally blew up around her.

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As she moved towards the rift, she replayed how her day had started in her mind. Chained to a floor, with a Creators’ damned pain shooting through her arm. When she opened her eyes, everything was a sickening green and it took only a moment to realize it came from her hand. And before she knew it she was being questioned, threatened, accused; all of something she didn’t remember. And then as suddenly as she had been accused, she was asked to help close the hole in the sky. And she offered her help without question or hesitation. That was who she was.

And then she had to fight demons and head towards what the woman leading her, who she was reasonably sure the woman with the hood called Cassandra, kept referring to as “the rift.” All Valencia could do was silently beg the Maker that she would survive long enough to actually help. But if the demons were any indication of what was to come, she was afraid she might not.

That was until she began climbing a set of stairs and Cassandra called out “We’re getting close to the rift, you can hear the fighting.”

“Who’s fighting?”

“You’ll see soon. We must help them.”

Valencia ran until she saw people fighting the demons that were apparently falling out of a smaller version of the giant tear in the sky. She leapt off a low wall and shoved two daggers straight into the back of a lesser shade, ripped them out and went slashing after another as the people around her finished off the rest of the demons.

The tallest elf she’d ever seen grabbed her wrist and shouted “Quickly, before more come through.” She saw energy rip through her hand and into the rift, causing the small tear before her to burst and mending the air in front of her. Feeling the rift close was almost pleasant, a tingling feeling like the relief of shaking a numb limb awake.

She looked to the man holding her wrist with eyes full of wonder “What did you do,” she breathed, wanting to know about this magic that was certainly a part of her now even though it felt nothing like her own.

“I did nothing, the credit is yours,” he gestured to her, sounding pleased.

“At least this is good for something,” Valencia said and smiled slightly before looking at her hand. She then continued mumbling what she was sure was too quiet for anyone to hear about “This creators damned green thing,” and how she “must’ve done something to piss off the Maker,” even as the man in front of her lectured her on his theories about the association of the mark, the breach, and the rifts. She was only pulled fully from her own thoughts when Cassandra spoke again.

           “Meaning it could also close the Breach itself.”

           “Possibly,” he replied, pausing slightly before looking to Valencia and saying “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.” She was too busy staring back at the man to respond, unable to push the thought that his head was shaped like an egg from her mind at this serious time, and internally scolding herself for it.

           “Good to know. And here I thought we’d be ass deep in demons forever.” Valencia turned around to the sound of a familiar voice and her jaw dropped when she saw the dwarf with the crossbow standing there.

“Varric,” she took an excited step forward before deciding better of hugging the dwarf in front of the woman whose prisoner she assumed she still was and the elf who she didn’t know.

“Twinkles, how the hell’d you get wrapped up in this shit,” he stated more than asked and shrugged at the pointed look he received from Cassandra.

“That’s a nice crossbow you have there,” she said trying to save Varric and herself from an explanation about how they knew each other, and because she didn’t know how to answer. She doubted the deflection would last long, but anything was better than explaining that right now.

“Ah, isn’t she? Bianca and I have been through alot together.”

“You named your crossbow Bianca?” Valencia’s eyebrows raised slightly at the question.

“Of course. And she’ll be great company in the valley.”

“Absolutely not,” Cassandra started, then huffed out a breath. Valencia couldn’t help but note Cassandra might be the first person she’d met (aside from her grandmother) who obviously disliked Varric. “Your help is appreciated, Varric, but…”

“Have you been in the valley lately, Seeker? Your soldiers aren’t in control anymore. You need me.” Cassandra let loose a disgusted noise so perfect in its disdain for Varric that Valencia was certain the Seeker must have a great deal of experience making disgusted noises. The thought made her smile and then she realized she was standing in a puddle of demon ichor and shouldn’t be smiling at all. She stepped slightly to her left and out of the puddle as the elf began talking.

“My name is Solas if there are to be introductions. I am pleased to see you still live.” Valencia found herself with a silly grin on her face again.

Introductions! We just killed demons and closed a hole into the fade and he’s talking about introductions! And who names their child “Pride”? Or was it because he was so tall? I’ll save that joke for later. Need to be serious.

“He means, ‘I kept that mark from killing you while you slept,’” Varric looked at me and clarified.

“You seem to know a great deal about it all, h-…” I cut my word short and coughed to hide my flub. Not used to being around elves I can’t speak Elvish to. Going to have to be extra careful.

“Solas is an apostate, well-versed in such matters,” Cassandra said by way of explanation, but it didn’t help. I’m technically an apostate myself, but I don’t have any clue what’s going on.

“Technically all mages are now apostates, Cassandra. My travels have allowed me to learn much of the fade, far beyond the experience of any circle mage. I came to offer whatever help I can give with the Breach. If it is not closed, we are all doomed, regardless of origin.”

There are so many ways I could respond to that, oh no time to think, “Well, I’m glad someone knows what is going on. I’m afraid I’m still lost.” Fenedhis, that sounded stupid.

“Cassandra, you should know: the magic involved here is unlike any I have seen.” Well, it being ignored is better than it being pointed out, I suppose. “Your prisoner is no mage,” oh, thank the Maker he doesn’t know, “Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power.” Huh, that little scar above his eyebrow scrunches up when he’s serious. Cute.


There’s a giant green hole in the sky. Quit looking at his face and finding things you like.

“Understood,” bless this woman. She keeps saving me from my own thoughts. “We must get to the forward camp quickly.” Annnnddddd… she’s gone.

“Well,” Varric shrugged, “Bianca’s excited! Come on Twinkles, time to kill shit.”

Oh, this is going to be interesting. I just hope I can keep myself under control. Deep breaths, keep the aura collected. Cassandra is evidently a Seeker of Truth, she’ll sense it if I slip up at all. Breathe and run.

“It is apparent you know the Prisoner Varric. How?” Definitely a Seeker. Trying to interrogate already. But at least she’s not threatening to kill him like she did me.

Varric chuckled while we climbed down the hill and said “Ask Twinkles yourself, Seeker.” Shit, Varric. Why?

Well I guess I have no choice, “My uncle and my mother are patrons of the arts. Both have commissioned works from Master Tethras in the past.” Not a lie. Just not all the details.

“Oh come on Twinkles, there’s no use in feeling embarrassed when the world is ending!” Then a broad hand slapped between my shoulders and Varric continued gesturing grandly with his arms as we ran. “Twinkles here has been dancing and singing at the behest of her stepmother since she was knee-high on a nug. Maria wanted to showcase the girl’s talents, so she got in contact with Johann, Twinkles’ uncle, and a longtime investor in my publishers. Johann asked me to write up some short scripts, and I’ve been writing little musicals for her birthday celebrations and family gatherings ever since. She's really quite good. Could’ve gone far if they’d let me stick her in the theater when I tried, but you know, heir apparent to house Trevelyan and all that.”

“Demons ahead,” Solas’ voice broke through Varric’s story and saved me from any more embarrassment. What is wrong with me when fighting demons is a relief?

“So Twinkles, are you innocent?” The question came shortly after finishing off a group of demons and starting up another hill. Dammit Varric, can't you stop for just a minute?

“I don’t remember what happened, Varric, but I’m pretty sure that Rift is more important anyway," Now I'm saving lives and killing demons as an excuse out of a conversation. Mythal's tits, what's wrong with me?

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           Valencia held her hand out to the huge Rift above her head in the same motion Solas had guided her with that first Rift, disrupting the connection to the Fade and causing the Pride demon that was trying to electrocute her companions to fall forward and become vulnerable. She watched as Leliana’s people, some of whom she had found when she took the mountain path, fired arrows from above and Cassandra slashed mercilessly at the creature's legs. It all felt strange, somehow familiar. She turned her head just in time to see the demon stand and whip electricity around its body toward Solas. She felt her body move on its own, cloaking herself in shadows to run and leap as high as she could onto the demons back before the plunged her daggers through its body just below its neck. That was when it became apparent to her; this was not the first time this had happened. She was dreaming a memory in the Fade.

          She was certainly no dreamer, they were few and far between, but when she was aware of the dream, she could alter it to some extent. Before she has the chance though, so noticed something off about the dream. There was someone else there, someone watching; she could feel it. So she let the memory play out, felt the demon disintegrate beneath her as she pushed off its back to land on the ground, daggers in hand. She felt herself sprint to where Solas was lying, unconscious, as she returned her daggers to the harness on her back. She absently recalled Varric saying “Damn Twinkles, that jump was impressive,” in the background and remembered the feeling of panic as she looked at the unconscious and heavily bleeding elf’s face. She dropped to her knees and pulled his head slightly into her lap to angle it up. She grabbed his jaw and pushed his mouth open with one hand as she uncorked a healing potion with the other.

           She poured the potion into his mouth and prayed he would swallow whispering, “Come on, come on. You kept me alive, now it’s my turn.” She watched the gash on his head begin to close and saw his eyes move behind his eyelids. A grin started spreading across her features as his eyelids fluttered open. He looked up at her and she remembered thinking about how he was actually quite handsome- in spite of, and maybe in part because of the egg-like shape of his head- and then she felt the heat that crept up her face when she realized she was still holding his head on her lap.

She heard Varric clear his throat as she released Solas’ head and he sat up. She began to stand, knowing Cassandra was about to tell her to close the Rift. But instead, she heard the faintest whisper of “Fascinating, such strong feelings within the memory,” as she felt her connection to the Fade deteriorate and her body begin to wake.

She blinked, one, two, three times and looked around her. A small shack, warm and comfortable; she let out a sigh of relief, at least it wasn’t another prison. It was then she noticed the small elven girl walking toward her with a box in hand. When she noticed Valencia was awake, the box slid from her hands and to the floor.

“Oh I didn’t know you were awake, I swear!” The girl looked panicked, eyes wide and darting, much like a startled halla.

“Don’t worry about it. I only,” she stopped mid sentence when the girl fell to the floor in a bow and started into an apology. She felt it when Enasalin swelled inside her and before she knew it, she was next to the girl on the floor, with a hand on her shoulder shushing her as sweetly as she could. “Do not apologize, sweet thing,” she cooed. “There is no need to be afraid of me, and you need not ever bow before me.” The girl looked up at her, confusion and apprehension still on her face, but then Valencia smiled at her. It was the same smile she gave any elven servant she met at family estates and parties she attended, understanding, sympathy, and respect clear in her expression; three things most city elves never saw from a human. The girl smiled back, a small thing, seemingly unsure of what to do. Valencia pulled the girl up to her feet and kept a hand on her elbow and one on her shoulder so she wouldn’t run away. She offered the girl another smile and asked, “What is your name, sweet thing?”

“M-my name,” the girl stumbled over her words, still confused by the situation. Valencia looked at her with patience and the girl took a deep breath. “My name is Emma.” When Valencia’s smile broke into a grin the girl felt emboldened. “May I ask your name milady?”

“The Lady Valencia Trevelyan, Jewel of Ostwick,” she said with a terrible impersonation of a crier's voice that roused a small giggle from Emma, “but you may call me Valencia, if you would like,” she finished with a wink. The girl smiled broadly and repeated her name back. Something in her mind jumped back to the apologies the girl had been spewing and her hands fell limply to her sides, her gaze following them. “Did you say three days?” She looked up at the girl and saw her eyes go wide. “I’ve been asleep for three days?”

“I’m certain Lady Cassandra would want to know you’ve wakened. She said ‘At once.’ She’s in the Chantry with the Lord Chancellor. ‘At once,’ she said.” And with that the girl ran out the door and into the village of Haven.

With a life like hers, not many things could have surprised Valencia, but when she stepped out of her little shack and her eyes adjusted to the light glaring off of the snow, what she saw did just that. It was like the majority of the denizens of Haven were just a few steps away from the little shack. Then she saw the soldiers saluting with their hands over their hearts and heard the whispers. They were calling her the Herald of Andraste and whispering about her efforts to close the Breach. She didn’t know what to make of it and ran as fast as she could in the direction of the Chantry. This time when she heard herself being accused, it was the voice of the Seeker that came to her defense instead of jumping to blame her.

By the time she stepped into the room she could hear Cassandra and the Chancellor arguing in, she had decided that her choice to dislike the man on the way to the Temple had been an excellent idea. She stood stock still as they argued around her, speaking only when they expected her to. She was still incredibly confused when Cassandra slammed a huge book with the symbol of the Seekers emblazoned on its cover on the table in front of her and began speaking of an Inquisition. Roderick was gone and suddenly they were telling her how unprepared they were. How they had no one to lead their Inquisition, no support from anywhere. And she again found herself offering her help without even thinking about it.

She spent the rest of the day exploring Haven. She met the quartermaster Threnn, the blacksmith Haritt, the merchant Segritt, the barmaid Flissa, and the apothecary Adan. When she stepped out of Adan’s hut, intent on finding his predecessors notes, she almost ran right into Solas.

“The chosen of Andraste, blessed hero sent to save us all,” he said by way of greeting.

“Am I riding in on a shining steed,” she replied with as much sass as he had spoken his greeting. This earned her an approving almost smirk before his look saddened and he spoke of the extinction of griffons and posturing being necessary. Then he brought up journeying through the Fade and her attention was caught, she was asking if that was dangerous, telling him how impressive it was. He smiled and it touched his eyes, but only for a moment before he was on about staying at least until the Breach was closed but that he worried for his own safety. The words were spilling from her lips before she could stop them, and offer of protection, of friendship, or that’s what she tried to convince herself or as she spoke. “You came here to help, Solas. I won’t let them use that against you.”

“How would you stop them?” Valencia couldn’t tell from his tone if he thought she was flirting as her mind finally accepted her words for what they were.

“However I had to,” she admitted. And he thanked her.

She took a few steps forward, then without turning walked backwards and faced the place where Solas stood again. “Can I ask you a question, Solas?” She looked at him almost expectantly.

“Of course.”

She smiled a little and looked down as she rubbed a hand across the back of her neck. She sighed and looked him in the eye, letting hers dance slightly with mirth. “Did your mother name you Pride, or is it because you’re tall?”

Solas’ jaw went slack and he looked at her dumbfounded. When she realized he wasn’t going to answer, either because he was offended or didn’t understand she looked down, blushing furiously.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you,” she said in a rush, “I just thought it would be funny since Solas can mean “pride” or “stand tall.” I meant nothing by it, really.” She turned to run away, thinking now would be the perfect time to get out of Haven’s walls and find those notes the apothecary needed.

“Wait,” she heard Solas call out and she stopped mid stride to face him. “I am not offended. Just surprised. It is not everyday one meets a human with knowledge of the language of my people. It was very… unexpected.”

Her face began to brighten, but fell when he uttered the word unexpected. She began to walk away and he called out, “A pleasant surprise, though!” She smiled a little to herself and ran again, happy instead of embarrassed.

Chapter Text

Valencia had run all around the area near Haven looking for the notes for the Apothecary and enough materials to assist the Quartermaster with providing proper swords for the Inquisition’s soldiers. When she found the notes and finally stopped collecting elfroot and iron she headed back into the village proper. She climbed the first of the stairs and was going to take the notes to Adan when she saw Varric for the first time since she’d woken up. He had seen her approach and was holding a wooden bowl and spoon out to her. She smiled and dropped to the ground to sit cross-legged and took the bowl gratefully.

Varric looked at her with a serious expression for once. “So, now that Cassandra’s out of earshot, are you holding up alright, Twinkles?”

Valencia had already begun shoveling the stew from the bowl into her mouth after realizing how hungry she was. She looked up at him wide eyed when she noticed how unladylike she was being. Varric had been around a bit while she had grown up, but he’d never seen her outside of the Trevelyan’s influence. She swallowed quickly and began apologizing for her behavior.

“Twinkles, you don’t always have to be the shining beacon of nobility. You’ve been through some weird shit. Eat up, then you can tell me if you’re alright,” he chuckled while he spoke. Apparently, she wasn’t as prim as her grandmother and stepmother had made her be. He figured that was a good thing.

She smiled a thank you and nodded as she continued eating the surprisingly good stew. When Varric saw her nearing the end of the bowl he went back to his line of questioning. “So, you go from being the most wanted criminal in Thedas to joining the armies of the faithful. Most people would have spread that out over more than one day.”

“I’m just trying to do the right thing. Too many people died up there. I’m the only one who made it out alive, and I just don’t know what else to do.”

“At least you’re doing something. We’ve been staring at the Breach for days, watching demons and Maker-knows-what fall out of it.”

“Well, hopefully this,” she held up her left hand and wiggled its fingers, “can help with that.”

“If I were you Twinkles, I’d consider running at the first opportunity. I’ve written enough tragedies to recognize where this is going. Heroes are everywhere. I’ve seen that. But the hole in the sky? That’s beyond heroes. We’re going to need a miracle.”

Valencia threw a grin on to hide her worry, something she’d learned from her time with Varric. “Haven’t you heard Varric? I am a miracle.”

Varric breathed a single chuckle, “I sure as hell hope so kid.”

“If nothing else,” she said, standing up and dusting herself off, “at least I can help a few people before the world ends.” Varric smirked at her and she continued, “Which means I need to get these notes to the apothecary, and these materials to the quartermaster. We can talk more later,” she called over her shoulder as she ran down the path.

“Maybe we’ve got a chance,” Varric said to himself watching her run, but then he saw her stumble over a rock in the path, falling and looking around to make sure there weren’t any other witnesses. “Or maybe not.”

Tomorrow, we leave for the Hinterlands. I’m to find a Mother Giselle there with refugees from the Mage/Templar war and see if we can find a way to bring in either the Rebel Mages or the Templars to aid in closing the Breach. But maybe if I lay here in this bed for long enough, I might be able to fight down some of these nerves.

“Someone get Sister Leliana and the Lady Cassandra!”

I’d grown used to the sounds of the camp and this was a new one. I don’t know if I have ever been out of a bed and out a door quicker in my life, but suddenly I was running toward the shouts I heard coming from just outside the walls of Haven. As I approached the gathered soldiers and pushed through their circle, what I saw might have been more shocking than waking up to a sickly green hole in the sky. Three Inquisition soldiers had my Uncle Johann pinned to the ground and standing above them was my Uncle Tyven with a knife pressed to the throat of the Commander. I couldn’t help the surprised breath that escaped from my lips or the words that followed, despite the growing crowd that I barely noticed now included the the Spymaster, Ambassador, and my traveling companions for the next day, including Varric trying to push through the crowd for a better look and Solas standing on the steps out of Haven watching the goings-on with a blank look on his face.

“Garas quenathra,” Johann looked up at me from where his face was pressed to the dirt with relief in his eyes, but Tyven kept the knife close on the Commander’s throat as his crazed eyes landed on my face. I stepped forward and more words slipped from my tongue without thought. “What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” Tyven’s pupils remained wide and I realized he wasn’t hunting. He felt like the prey. As the group of people I knew pushed their way through the crowd I slipped into shadow and crept behind my uncle. If I did this wrong, the Commander wouldn’t have a chance at survival. If it weren’t for the crowd ready to draw swords I’m certain Tyven’s blade wouldn’t be hesitating if he thought he was helping Johann. I took one deep breath and lunged for his right arm, grabbing his wrist and prying it away from the Commander’s throat so the man could drop below the blade and out of the way.

I vaguely heard several gasps as Cullen stumbled towards the crowd. I heard scrabbling as Johann was pulled up, but they had him gagged and his words of protests were muffled.

I had no weapons with me, and couldn’t risk magic around these people. If Tyven didn’t snap out of it soon, this could be a messy fight. It would have to be quick. He slipped from my grasp, which was expected from the leader of clan Lavellan’s hunters. He went to flank me, jumping body almost parallel to the ground as he aimed two daggers for my lower back, intending to stab and pin in one move. I knew that trick- and how to counter it. I dove for the ground, tucking my head as I brought my legs up to meet his body. I wrapped them around his hips and threw all of my weight into flipping him over. He landed on his back and I jumped up, turning in the air as quickly as I could to press my feet down onto his wrists and fall to sit on his stomach, knocking the wind out of him. This was the opening I needed. I grabbed his shoulders and stood, feet still holding his arms down. I held my face above his, smiling. I had never been so thankful to have so much hair, as it hid our faces, and my words from the crowd.

“Ma serannas, hahren. That was an excellent lesson in how not to fight,” I whispered to the man below me.

His eyes finally seemed to focus on my face. “Enasalin…? Ir abelas, da’len. I was not myself.”

I let out a breath of relief and stood, offering my uncle my hand to pull him up as he continued breathing apologies. It was only after I stood I realized most of the assembled Inquisition was staring at us. All the nerve I’d gathered to fight moments ago withered and died beneath the eyes of the Seeker and Left Hand who both had weapons trained at my Uncles.

“Fenedhis,” I heard Tyven breathe from between his teeth as he took on a fighting stance again.

It was then Varric finally broke through the crowd and spotted Johann. “You dirty nug humper!” He shouted jovially, not bothered by the serious air around him. “What are you doing here,” he asked stepping towards the group of soldiers and Cassandra who had Johann by the arms and neck.

“You know this man Varric?” Cassandra had a way to make everything sound like an accusation, but it gave me the will to speak.

“That’s my uncle,” I shouted almost too quickly and continued spewing words, “and I would really appreciate it if you didn’t kill him and would let him tell me what just happened!”

The Seeker looked utterly lost for once but I saw the pieces click together in Leliana and Josephine’s eyes. Varric had gotten close enough to pull the gag from Johann’s mouth.

“First, we thought you were dead. There was no word and we all heard about the explosion. Then on our way here to collect your body, we heard that a Trevelyan girl was the only survivor, and that you were a prisoner. We were coming to save you,” Johann admitted as quickly as he could. “But evidently, you are not being held prisoner and accused of the murder of the Divine,” he said very confused.

Josephine cleared her throat and stepped forward. “Lord Trevelyan I assume,” Johann nodded and she continued, “On behalf of the Inquisition I would like to apologize for the lack of communication on our part. We have been overwhelmed since the disaster and the attempted calming of the Breach. For all my planning, I never thought to inform the family of The Herald of Andraste of her wellbeing or status. An oversight on my part I am afraid."

Tyven bristled beside me, and unspoken question if I believe I was the chosen of a prophet to a god he did not believe in. I kept my posture the same, but drew my left hand up to my heart and turned it to show him the mark. It wasn’t an answer, but a signal that one way or another I was touched by some strange magic.

The moment was broken by Johann’s words. “The Herald of Andraste?” A flabbergasted question as the soldiers finally released his arms and Leliana finally stopped pointing an arrow at my uncle Tyven’s heart.

“Perhaps we should go to the Chantry and explain,” Leliana conceded.

“And perhaps Lord Trevelyan can explain why it was necessary for this man to hold a knife to my throat,” the Commander interjected before stalking off towards the Chantry.

“That was a really awful idea,” I muttered to uncle Tyven as Commander Cullen, Cassandra, Leliana, and Josephine led my uncles and I to the War Room. I felt Solas and Varric’s questioning eyes on my back the whole way to the Chantry. This would not be easy to explain away.

Chapter Text

           The walk to war room took only a few minutes, but with the prying eyes of Haven on our backs it felt like hours. When we were finally in the safety of the Chantry’s walls with guards posted at the outermost doors the flurry of questions began, uncle Johann beginning with all the authority of a lord in his voice before anyone else had a chance to speak.

           “My niece is no longer a prisoner, correct?”

“Correct,” Cassandra began, “after she woke up, she offered any help she could give with the Breach and I realized my mistake in thinking she caused the explosion that killed the Divine.”

“And now you believe her to be the Herald of Andraste?”

This time Leliana spoke. “She stepped out of a Rift, and the soldiers who witnessed this saw a woman behind her. She herself recalls the woman reaching out to her, but little else. To walk through the Fade and survive, it must have been Andraste that guided her.”

“And no one thought to inform her family,” Johann bellowed. “She is not only our heir apparent, but is know across the Marches as the Jewel of Ostwick! She is our pride and beloved by all of us! And no one, not even the Ambassador of the Inquisition,” he looked pointedly to Josephine, “thought it would be wise to inform us that she lived!”

I watched in awe as the advisors stood silent and my uncle fumed. But then a single tear slid down his face and he stepped towards me. Tyven, still beside me, wrapped me in and embrace from behind as Johann wrapped his arms around me from in front and held me against his chest. He began to sob into my hair.

“We thought you were dead. Then that you we being held and tortured. I’m just so happy you’re alive.”

The warmth of my uncles was the first familiar thing I’d felt since I left for the Conclave. I reveled in the feel of their arms around me, ignoring the surprised gasps from the others in the room when Tyven wrapped his arms around me. Before I could stop it, he was being dragged away from me and Johann had a fierce look in his eyes.

“Private!” Cullen was shouting to a recruit from the door. “I would like this man escorted down to the cells for interrogation,” he was calling out as a soldier walked from the outer doors towards us.

“Let me go, shem’len,” uncle Tyven said in a disturbingly calm voice.

“What do you think you are doing to my companion?!”

“He was going to kill me earlier! He cannot be trusted around the Herald! She is our only hope at returning order.” Cullen then pulled his sword as Leliana and Cassandra held Johann back by his arms.

Another weapon trained on my uncle, seeing the wildness return to his eyes to hide his panic, did what nothing else ever had. Twenty years of suppression since I’d come into my magic broken. Before if I had released it, it had been measured, intentional. But this was instinct. I snarled and all eyes turned to me. Tyven kicked the door shut from his place in the Commander's arms, anticipating what was about to happen.

Sparks of purple rolled over my skin as I pooled electricity in my hands. Cullen and Cassandra looked baffled, and Leliana had pulled Josephine to a corner of the room holding her behind her body.

“Let my Uncle go,” I commanded in a voice too deep, too dark, full of rage. Cassandra released Johann’s arm and stepped away. “No. Commander. Let my Uncle go before I do something we all  will regret.”

I felt the atmosphere in the room change from fear to shock as Cullen’s eyes widened and Josephine breathed “This elf is your Uncle?”

Chapter Text

     The Commander had let Tyven go, whether out of shock or fear I couldn’t say. He immediately returned to my side, daggers drawn as if to protect me. Johann had pulled a knife from his boot and was on my other side. I still had magic rolling from my body; I’d never let it flow like this before.
     “Ma serannas, da’len. I would not do well in a cage,” Tyven quipped. He and Uncle Johann pulled in close to me; both ready to run taking me with them.
     “Where did this magic come from,” Cassandra’s voice demanded more than asked.
     “Herald, please calm down,” Leliana said, slowly walking toward the Commander. “We need to understand what is going on. And I’m sure we all have questions for each other,” she continued as she took the Commander’s sword from his loosened grip and placed it on the floor, kicking it under the war table.
     That clatter of metal against stone freed my mind from its fierce flurry. My aura pulled back into me where it was normally kept and all magical presence left the room. I saw the Seeker relax from the corner of my eye and watched the Commander pull himself back up to stand straight and strong.
     “My apologies,” I took a step toward the Commander and saw him step backwards. I lifted my hands to show I meant no harm and took two steps backwards, leaning against the war table to hang my head in shame. “I do not know what else to say. Ask your questions. I have nothing left to hide.”
     “You are a mage,” Cassandra, of course.
     “Maker’s breath. Why don’t you feel like one,” Cullen sounded absolutely baffled.
     I let out a heavy sigh. “It is very hard to explain. But I spent many years learning to suppress my aura and mana. I can control it well enough that neither Templars nor Mages can sense it. I keep it so suppressed that I require only a small focus to cast.” I gestured to the stone hanging from the chain around my neck. “I apologize; I have never lost control before. But Uncle Tyven does not do well with capture, as you saw earlier.”
     “That brings another question Herald,” Josephine began before Leliana silenced her with a sideways glance.
     “You know I am the Inquisition’s spymaster.” I nodded at her. “I obviously investigated your background. You are, by all accounts and indications a bastard. Why are you referring to this elf as your uncle?”
     “Because she is my niece, shem,” Tyven growled.
     “Uncle, please,” I glanced up from the floor to his face before pushing off the table to pace the room. “As far as most know, I am a recognized bastard. But, to the few who know the truth, I am not simply Valencia Trevelyan. I am Enasalin Valencia Trevelyan of clan Lavellan,” I paused to look at the faces of those around me and saw only confusion. “My mother was a Dalish elf. She saved my Uncle Johann,” I gestured in his direction, “and my father from a group of bandits. My father loved her deeply and they were bonded. She died shortly after my birth at which point my father took me back to Ostwick with him. Since I am only a half elf, I appear human.”
     “You say few know of this. Who?” Ever the vigilant spymaster, looking for secrets.
     “Myself, my father, my uncle, my clan, and now the people in this room.”
     “It would mean scandal if people knew the heir to house Trevelyan was half Dalish,” Josephine said what I read in Leliana’s eyes.
     “And a mage,” Cassandra added.
     I nodded solemnly. “These are things I know. That is why it is such a close guarded secret, one even the Nightingale could not sniff out.”
     The entire room was staring at me. “I am sorry I threatened you Commander Cullen. I am no less inclined to aid the Inquisition now than I was before. But I will not stand to have my family threatened and would hope that you would be willing to let them go. Be angry if you will, but I will do everything I can to help you all end the chaos and hopefully close the Breach.”
     “I can understand wishing to protect one’s family,” Cullen said with genuine warmth in his voice, “And I do not doubt your sincerity. I would be happy to keep this information private if that is your wish.”
     “I would greatly appreciate that.”
     “Then so be it,” Cassandra spoke like it was an order. “Leliana, see that our guests are escorted safely and quietly out of Haven,” Leliana nodded and left the room signaling for Johann and Tyven to follow. I offered them small smiles and quick pecks on the cheek as they left. “Josephine, I expect some letters should be written to the rest of the Herald’s family.”
     “If she would be inclined to, I’m sure additions in the Herald’s hand would give her family some reassurance.”
     “I would be happy to aid you, Lady Montilyet. Could we write my clan as well?”
     “As you wish… excuse me, I am no longer sure what to call you, since you make that face when I call you Herald.”
     I chuckled softly, “You may all call me Valencia if you wouldn’t mind. It may not be my given name, but it is the one most commonly used.”
     “Of course, Lady Valencia.”
     “Just Valencia please.” I looked at Cassandra and the Commander, “If you both wouldn’t mind, I would like it if you would call me Valencia as well.”
     “I will make note of it, Lady Herald,” Cullen, ever the professional saluted with his hand on his heart and left the room. We will need to work on that.
     “I will call you Valencia in private if that is what you wish, but publicly, I believe Herald will help the Inquisition’s influence.”
     “Of course, Seeker.”
     “Cassandra, if you wouldn’t mind,” she returned with a small smile. “I would like to hear more of your background and parents at some point if you ever wish to share,” she added before leaving the room.
     “Now about those letters Josephine…”

     Several hours and three long letters later I returned to my little shack. I felt lighter than I had in ages. I was surprised by how good it felt to know that at least a few people (outside of those who had always known) knew my secrets and were not going to tell them. It would likely damage their Inquisition’s reputation if they did. I laid on my little bed and sat up when I felt an uncomfortable lump beneath my pillow. I reached under it and found a small leather bound journal with a hastily written letter on top.

     This journal belonged to your father. When we thought you were gone, he wanted it burned with your body. I think he would want you to have it now.
     Tyven and I left you surprises. Take good care of Falon’Din. And be sure to get to the stables and brush out Theo. I found him roaming the forests miles from Haven.

Love Johann.

I turned and saw Tyven’s owl sitting in the little cage where a Raven had been before. He was the smartest bird I’d ever met and was a better messenger than any Raven. I smiled and drifted to sleep thinking about Tyven leaving him and Johann finding Theo for me. Maybe things would be alright, as long as no one else found out my not-so-secret secrets.

Chapter Text

 The first day of riding to the Hinterland’s had been very uneventful. Valencia kept the attention off herself by riding next to Cassandra and conversing with her most of the way. Cassandra knew what she was doing and responded to each question she was asked until Valencia asked about her brother, hoping to connect with her, having five brothers herself.

     “I would prefer not to speak of Anthony. Another time, perhaps.”

     Valencia knew the look that crossed the Seeker’s face, if the same emotion hadn’t been clear in her voice. She felt a twinge of sympathy. “I am sorry, Cassandra, I won’t bring it up again.”

     She received a sound between a grunt and a hum in response and the ride continued in relative silence aside from Varric’s occasional jibes at Solas. After a time, the sun began to set and they tried to find a good spot to camp for the night. Valencia had dismounted and was walking through the trees, Theo following behind like a well-trained mabari. She found a decent sized clearing with a small stream running through it. She led Theo up to it then pulled her pack that was draped over his back down. She looked around and saw no signs of her allies.

     They must have wandered in the wrong direction. She shrugged to herself and set to unrolling her bedroll. She spread it out on the ground and wandered to the edge of the clearing to look for firewood. Firelight should bring them in. She gathered some rocks from beside the streambed and made a circle, placing her gathered wood in the middle and starting a fire as quickly as she could - without the use of magic. She pulled her boots off and dipped her toes into the cool water of the stream. If they don’t show up soon, I’ll have to go looking.

     A rustling caught her attention and at first she thought it was one of the others but the movement was too quick and jerky to be any of the people traveling with her. She followed the movement with her eyes and caught sight of a ram running from the clearing. She undid the ties that held her bow to her pack and grabbed a single arrow from her quiver, sprinting silently into the woods behind the dear. She preferred her daggers, but dinner had a head start on her and she had plenty of practice hunting with a bow thanks to her uncle Tyven’s lessons. She knocked the arrow as she ran, following the sounds of hooves hitting the earth and incredibly thankful for the feeling of dirt, grass, leaves and sticks beneath her feet. She reveled in the feeling, reminded of hunting trips with her clan.


     “Twinkles, where are you?”

     She heard them calling for her, but she was lost in the thrill of the hunt. She saw the ram turn sharply to the right, almost doubling back towards her little camp, away from Cassandra and Varric’s shouts. If she tried to turn like that on the duff beneath her, she was certain to fall. Her heart was pounding, her blood rushing through her veins so quickly she could feel it. It was the first time she’d hunted since she left clan Lavellan. It was freeing, and she knew it would be over soon, but she wasn’t going to let it end with her skidding across the forest floor. She ran straight at the nearest tree and pushed her left foot into it with her next step, running one step up with her right foot, and shoving off with both feet at the same time. She drew back as her body was propelled through the air, aimed, and loosed within four heartbeats. Her arms extended downwards as she tucked her head and rolled back up to her feet before running to where the ram had fallen.

     “Seeker, I believe I’ve located the Herald,” she heard Solas call and realized she vaguely recalled catching a glimpse of him while she ran up the tree.

     She led the way back to camp, ram slung across her shoulders. It looked almost comical, the large beast being carried by such a small woman, but Solas made no comment following several meters behind her.

     When she dropped the ram and began to field dress it she heard Solas walk up to her side, leading his mare while Cassandra and Varric noisily began making their way towards them.

     “That was rather impressive.”

     She hummed at the compliment and tried not to get any blood on the mage standing beside her.

     “I was unaware that noblewomen were trained to be efficient hunters,” he commented while watching the quick work she was making of the ram with one of her smaller daggers.

     Valencia was unsure whether or not she should be insulted. His tone of voice sounded more questioning than anything, and he seemed a curious sort, so she decided not to take offence and thought she might indulge him with an answer. “Despite all my stepmother’s best efforts I didn’t have a very traditional upbringing- especially for a lady in a noble house. Papa wanted me well versed in not only traditional pursuits but also combat and the like. I’m not just a Lady after all, I’m expected to take control of House Trevelyan someday and have to,” she deepened her voice to sound more like her father and pointed one finger up along the blade of her dagger shaking her finger for emphasis “show all who would challenge my claim that I am fully capable of honoring and defending the Trevelyan name.” She chuckled at herself and went back to her task.

     “Is such a challenge likely? I am afraid I am unfamiliar with such practices.”

     “Well, to be fair it’s not very common,” she blew a few loose hairs out of her eyes, “but is actually quite likely. Not from my immediate family mind you, but some of the more distant cousins who haven’t gone into the Chantry have already challenged me, and I’m not even head-of-house yet.”


     She laughed and bitterly spouted “I’m a girl. I’m a bastard. I believe in reform. I’m unmarried. Pick a reason.”

     Solas was opening his mouth to speak when he was cut off my a loud “My favorite was the one who stood on the table at your eighteenth nameday celebration and yelled ‘any girl who spends that much time dancing belongs in a whorehouse, not in a seat of power,’” Varric snickered at the memory and Valencia’s eyes warmed.

     She tossed her head back as a burst of laughter escaped her. “And then Grandmother calmly flipped the table over and dragged him out the door by his boot,” she amusedly recalled.

     Solas chuckled, a short sound, but still sincere in its mirth. While Cassandra held her hand in front of her mouth to hide her smile and blurted a “You cannot be serious.”

     “Completely, Geneviève is a scary lady when she wants to be.”

     Cassandra eyes danced with amusement but she made a scoffing sound to try and hide it.

     “Scary enough that Varric doesn’t even have a nickname for her in fear he might incur grandmother’s wrath. She may live in the Marches now, but she’s incredibly Orlesian and a master at The Game. She could ruin a man with three words and a well placed writ of payment.”

     Varric shuddered exaggeratedly “Honestly Twinkles, I’m glad she let you deal with him instead of doing it herself.”

     “Deal with him,” Solas questioned from the seat he’d taken near the fire.

     “I dueled him,” she responded while she shoved four large portions of ram onto an arrow and used it as a spit above the fire. “I like my daggers the best, but Papa is a warrior and I’ve had good training with a sword.”

     “It was fun to watch,” Varric interjected. “Picture this," the dwarf made a grandiose sweeping motion with his arms as he told the story, acting out Valencia's part as he spoke. "This skinny thing wielding a broadsword while her opponent uses a great axe. She literally danced around him when he charged at her, smacked him in the back of his knees while the flat side of her sword, let him fall then held the flat against the back of his neck while the gathered crowd cheered and he sputtered apologies from the ground.”

     Cassandra was looking at Valencia with admiration on her face and Solas stared into the fire nodding as if in approval.

     “It’s not really as exciting as he makes it out to be. I just wish they would have learned by now and would stop,” she turned the meat and tried to hide the blush creeping up her face. These people were learning far too much about her in too short an amount of time.

     The rest of the trip to the Hinterlands fell into a pattern. When they were riding Valencia would tread lightly around questions about herself to keep Solas and Varric from growing suspicious. She spent a great deal of her time speaking with Cassandra about the Divine, the Seekers, and the Andrastian faith. Any time left was spent asking Solas questions or trading stories with and catching up with Varric, always careful to keep the topic away from what happened in Haven with her uncles.

     When they reached the Hinterlands the relief was palpable as Inquisition banners came into view above the scout camp. It was short lived as the situation in the Hinterlands was fully explained by Lead Scout Harding. Valencia listened intently, cringed when Varric tried to make a joke about his own book, and without another word or any prompting left Theo in the care of the scouts at the camp and ran as fast as she could for the Crossroads.

Chapter Text

         The Hinterlands are a mess. She’d done all she could for the refugees so far, closing rifts nearby, finding them supplies and food, even convincing a cult to aid all the refugees they could. But the amount of death I’ve encountered, the amount of death I’ve created… No matter what I do I can’t make up for that. No matter how many lost lovers I track down, no matter how many druffalo I lead home, no matter how many last words I deliver or wives I save by finding wayward sons with healing talent, it will never counteract the amount of lives I’ve taken.

     After the first battle at the Crossroads, she’d plunged and slashed and sliced without thought until they stopped moving and until they stopped charging. They were the first people whose lives she had ended and she new at that moment they wouldn’t be the last. She felt the sickness churning in her stomach, felt the bile rise up her throat and as the others checked on refugees and told her to seek out mother Giselle she had to run off to the bushes to empty her stomach. The only one who noticed had been Solas.

     That night when the camp had quieted and she sat staring at the fire instead of resting in her tent he’d approached her. “Herald, are you feeling unwell?”

     He knew when she looked up at him grinning that the smile was fake even as she whispered, “Valencia. I’ve a cousin named Harold, and I’d rather not be titled like him,” she joked, “But I am fine Solas, thank you for your concern.”

     He crouched next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder in what he hoped was a comforting gesture. She flinched when he made contact, but allowed her troubled emotions to show in her eyes. “I killed them, Solas. I’ve never… not before. But now…” her voice broke and she sobbed silently. “I can’t get their faces out of my head.”

      His lips pulled tight in a sad smile. “I have seen my share of battle and death. I would like to tell you that it grows easier, but it does not. Remembering, that they are people, and that you have ended all they could be is what makes you a good person. It keeps you from losing yourself to madness.”

     His words had helped calm her enough to go to bed that night, but she slept fitfully, and would for many nights to come. Each time they engaged in combat with more people, no matter if they were Rogue Templars, Apostates, bandits, or highwaymen, she felt herself sinking. She was supposed to be helping restore order, but all she felt she was doing was slaughtering people.

     The weeks they’d been in the Hinterlands, sealing rifts, battling demons, clearing out bears and black wolves, marking places for watchtowers, all she could think of was the lives she was taking. She put on a strong face and tried even harder than usual to be kind, but it was all she could do to keep herself together during the day. So each night, she dreamed of drowning in blood, the faces of each person she’d killed swirled in her mind, and each night she woke with a start, sweating and panting.

     So she wrote her clan and sent Falon to deliver it. She needed something, anything to help stop the guilt. She knew of a tradition in the clan, and she hoped they would send her more information. What she got instead was very unexpected.

     Valencia was up late one night staring at the fire again. The nightmares had gotten worse and she was avoiding sleep as much as possible. She heard the flap of large wings in the night and the soft hooting of Falon in the woods in front of her. She checked to make sure no one was watching, grabbed her daggers just in case, and ran off into the night.

     She found the owl alighted on a tree branch in dense enough forest not to be seen from the camp. As she reached for the message on the owl’s leg, she heard a branch above her creak and pulled her daggers as she jumped backwards in a defensive position. There was a soft thud and a crunch of leaves as the elven man dropped to the ground in front of her. He looked up at her grinning, eyes reflecting the moonlight with an eerie glow.

     “Tch, been with the shems long enough you’re ready to knife me,” the figure jokingly accused.

     “Athras,” she breathed. “I just wanted information, I didn’t want them to send anyone.”

     “ ‘Shanna sent me your letter. Said you sounded ‘broken.’ Figured I could help,” he said stepping forward and wrapping her in a tight embrace.

     She melted down into his chest, she was just a little taller than him, her human blood giving her a slight advantage. He lowered them slowly to the ground as her knees gave out when her sobbing began. She emptied her feelings into his chest, relieved to be able to cry and tell someone all her troubles. When she finished, he put his hands on her shoulders and held her out to look at her.

     “You truly want to take on the vallasabelasan?” He was staring at her looking for any signs of doubt in her eyes.

     She nodded firmly, she had decided before she’d even contacted them. But she had planned on doing it herself.

     “You know there will be pain?”

     Another nod.

     “Then let us begin.”

     He pulled the tools needed out of the pack he took off his back and showed her each ingredient as he mixed it. The vallasabelasan was a tradition that as far as she knew was only practiced in her clan. The writing of much sorrow- an act to show remorse for what one had done. It was similar to traditional tattooing, but done with an ink that was created to highten the pain of recieving the marks. Many took on lines or symbols as repentance, but she wished only to take on marks for each life she took as a kind of pennance.

     She opened the toggles on her tunic, exposing her breast band and ribcage. She placed a piece of leather between her teeth and lay back onto the ground, telling him the number she needed. He set to work beginning at the far right side of her ribs, working his way across before starting a new row. She hissed at the burning pain of the ink. Her eyes tried to water, but she refused to let tears fall. She held her body stiff, despite the urge to writhe and stop him and run. She felt the burning spread over her body- like a fire through her veins and under her skin. Her body was trying to shut down, trying to pass out instead of endure it, but she forced her eyes to stay open, to watch each time the needle glinted in the moonlight and met her skin. She would always feel sorry for all the lives she’d taken, but she felt relief at the thought that now she could never forget them even if they weren’t ever present in her thoughts.

     When the task was complete Athras pulled her up into another embrace, careful not to pull her ribs against his. He pressed a kiss into her forehead and murmured, “It is good to see you, even if the circumstances aren’t the best.”

     She pulled her body closer to his and winced at the pain when her ribs touched his armor, but she would endure it to feel his closeness. “When they sent you to your mother’s clan I thought I’d never see you again,” she spoke into his shoulder.

     “You don’t have good enough luck to get rid of me forever ma sa’el,” Athras mumbled as he pressed his lips against hers tenderly.

     Her mind went back to stolen kisses behind aravels, minutes sneaked together in the woods. He was her first love, and she his. They’d been but children, merely 16 and still pilfering kisses. They didn’t need the complications of anything more. They cared for each other deeply and that was all they needed. Her father was furious of course, more at himself for not anticipating it than her for her feelings. And he’s explained as much.

     Athras was the one thing she could never have, and unlike her father, she wouldn’t be able to hide her romantic entanglements with an elf. She liked to think she would have been able to choose to stay with the clan instead of returning to Ostwick, but with her lips against his for the first time in seven years, she accepted what she had always truly known. She had no choice. When her father decided it was time for her to take over the house, she would never see her clan again. Even if she could stay with her clan, it would be bad for them. The other clans tended to be isolationists: human presence was frowned upon and in many cases dealt with violently.

     But in this moment, none of that mattered. She focused on his lips moving against hers, the pain across her torso, and his clothing gripped in her hands. The kiss that started off so light and tender was growing in fervor and they both pulled away breathless.

     “I missed you,” she whispered, her forehead pressed against his, breathing in the scent of mint on his breath.

     He kissed her again, harder than before, but pulled back quickly. “I missed you too Enasalin.”

     There was a shout from the camp. “The Herald’s missing!”

     “Fenedhis,” they both quietly exclaimed as she fumbled to close the toggles on her tunic and he slung his pack over his shoulders. She stood and he handed her a leather pouch containing a small jar of ink and a set of needles.

     “I hate to think it, but I’m sure you will need more ma sa’el,” he kissed her again and started running into the woods. “We’re moving towards Dirthavaren soon if you want ‘Shanna to send me a letter. Goodbye, Enasalin.”

     She stood there alone as he disappeared from sight and let a single tear run down her face before turning and marching back towards camp. Her skin was screaming under her tunic, but she felt better than she had since that first battle. When she returned to camp murmurs of relief passed over the area as people returned to their bedrolls. Cassandra retained the irritated look in her eye.

     “Where were you,” she questioned.

     “I had to get out of camp for a while. I haven’t been able to sleep without nightmares and needed to work through things alone,” she raised a hand to stop Cassandra’s next words. “I know it was reckless, and I’m sorry for worrying you. But I feel better than I have in some time, and right now, I need that to be enough.”

     Cassandra nodded curtly and stalked back off to their shared tent.

     “I wouldn’t piss the Seeker off if I were you Twinkles,” Varric called out sleepily. “She’s liable to find a way to separate the mark from your body so she can beat you without dooming the world.”

     “Unlikely,” she heard Solas yawn. “There seems to be no way to separate the mark from her hand and it remain functional.”

     She shook her head with a quiet chuckle, crawled into her tent, and went to sleep without being plagued by nightmares.