“Where is she now?” Cassandra asked with a disgusted noise as she realized that Lyssa was nowhere to be seen. They all stopped and she wiped the sweat from her forehead. They had underestimated the temperature difference between Haven and the Hinterlands and were a bit overdressed. Solas used the opportunity to take his coat off and put it on his rucksack, seemingly unperturbed.
“Maybe she finally grew a head and left after all," Varric said, grinning when Cassandra glared at him.
“I promised to stay and I will," Lyssa said calmly as she came out from beneath the trees towards them, the arms full of elfroot. She had watched them amusedly for some moments.
“You stopped for… this?” Cassandra sputtered, clearly confused, gesticulating at the plants. Lyssa nodded.
“Of course. This is elfroot," as if this explained everything.
Cassandra and Varric shared a confused look while Solas just smiled. Lyssa sat down with crossed legs to sort through the plants and after a moment, Varric shrugged.
“Well, this is as good a point to take a break as any.”
He sat on a small boulder, taking Bianca off and shrugging out of his coat. Cassandra looked from one to another before she sighed.
“Alright then," she said, a bit sourly, “but just a short one. We still have a long way to cover.”
“The more reason to keep up our strength," Lyssa stated calmly, her hands quickly and practised breaking off bad or crumpled leaves, wiping insects from the plants and gathering the best leaves. Solas sat down as well across Lyssa, giving her a hand. Lyssa smiled at him as she realized that his hands were just as practised as hers at this task. For a second he seemed surprised at both her work and her smile, a tiny flicker of the corner of his mouth betraying his approval. Somehow this delighted Lyssa more than she had expected and for a second she allowed herself to watch him even as she worked, trying to pinpoint what exactly it was that had held her attention.
It probably just was the familiarity of the situation, she finally decided. It was something that could have easily have happened in the camp back home - someone starting a task and others joining in while sharing stories.
A short pang of sadness that was familiar by now came with the thought but it was short-lived. She tried to see it as a sign: making a home was possible everywhere. If she had managed to to it in the midst of a Blight, she could do it now again, she decided. Maybe she didn’t even have to do it alone, she mused, watching Solas’ long, delicate fingers pick another leaf. There was help here as well. Lyssa starting humming to herself, working with the plants a welcome normality in this crazy new life.
“You seem to be in a good mood," Cassandra remarked and when Lyssa realized it had been directed at her, she nodded and shrugged at the same time.
“It’s good to be outside again. Outside and in the warmth. I’m not much use holed up permanently in a snow-covered village," she said.
“Personally, I could use less warmth at the moment," Varric commented and took a big swig of his waterskin.
“Here, give it to me," Lyssa said and he gave her the waterskin. But instead of drinking as well, she took two or three leaves, crumbling them between her hands and putting them into the waterskin, giving it a shake before handing it back to Varric.
“Aaaaaalright," he made suspiciously and she gave him an amused smile.
“Try it," she said.
Varric gave her a long look, then he shrugged and tasted. With a thoughtful look he moved the water in his mouth, before he swallowed.
“Sort of… minty?" he said and Lyssa nodded approvingly.
“You’ll see. In a few minutes you’ll be much refreshed and won't mind the warmth. Cassandra?”
Lyssa had put a few leaves in her own water skin as well and done the same for Solas who had given her his without her having to ask for it. Now she looked at the Seeker who still eyed her somewhat suspiciously. When Cassandra didn't react, Lyssa let her hand sink and shrugged, getting back to bundling the plants in front of her. She couldn’t hide that Cassandra’s distrust hurt her, after she had been nothing but forthcoming and they had already fought side by side several times.
“Oh come on, Seeker. If I can stomach it, you can, too," Varric grumbled after looking at Lyssa.
“It’s alright, Varric," Lyssa said, standing up and fastening the elfroot bundle at her belt, next to another bundle of nearly-dry embrium. “I understand it. I really do. Not everyone approves of -”
“It’s not that," Cassandra suddenly interrupted her and something in her voice made Lyssa look up. To her surprise, Cassandra returned her look without flinching before she repeated: “It’s not that.” Lyssa searched for the telltale signs that would tell her that the Seeker was lying and found none. She nodded and Cassandra seemed relieved. Then the warrior gripped her sword and swung her shield back on her back. “Let’s go on.”
When they made camp that night, Lyssa waited until she could get Cassandra alone before approaching her. She had watched the Seeker for the rest of the day and nearly slapped her forehead as she realized what was going on. She could’ve seen it sooner. Without further ado, she gave Cassandra a small poach.
“What’s this?" Cassandra asked but this time more curious than suspicious, opening it and looking at the light brown and green powder within.
“It’ll help with the cramps," Lyssa said. “You needn’t have worried about the elfroot," she added. “It wouldn’t have made it worse.”
Small red dots appeared in Cassandra’s cheeks and she seemed terribly embarrassed. “How… did you know?”
Lyssa gave her a small smile. “I’m both a healer and a woman, Cassandra. I know the signs. This is mainly ground willow’s bark, rasperry leaves and lady’s mantle. Two pinches in hot water per cup should make you comfortable. You can take them up to five times a day if need be. And if you want, I can heat a stone which you can take into your bedroll before you retire.”
The red dots on Cassandra’s cheeks were flaming and for some moments she was too flustered to speak but she nodded and gripped the poach a bit harder.
“I…” she started, then caught herself, looking Lyssa square in the eye. “Thank you. And I am sorry about earlier. The first day is always the worst and any stimulant usually makes it even worse.”
Lyssa nodded. “I understand. You could’ve come to me directly - I told you I was also trained as a healer, didn’t I?”
This time, Cassandra was openly blushing and definitely uncomfortable.
“I know. But I didn’t think you’d be able to do anything. You are…” She stopped embarrassed and Lyssa knew immediately what she had wanted to say.
She took a deep breath, before ending the sentence: “I’m only Dalish after all, right?”
Cassandra’s face told her that she was dead-on. Lyssa looked to the ground, moving her weight from one foot to the other. She wasn’t really surprised but still not used to this casual degradation of her self and her culture. Suddenly, Cassandra surprised her by touching her arm.
“I won’t make such a mistake again," the Seeker said with conviction and Lyssa saw she meant it.
“Good.” She gave Cassandra another smile before she returned to the campfire where Solas was preparing a rabbit Varric had shot this afternoon. The dwarf was nowhere to be seen.
Solas watched her as she settled down next to the fire and stretched her hands and feet towards the fire with a content sigh. The evenings still got cold very early.
“Lady’s mantle?” he asked after a while, breaking the surprisingly comfortable silence and Lyssa followed his eyes to Cassandra’s tent into which the Seeker had disappeared to take off her armour. She perked up and smiled.
“Yes. And raspberry leaves and willow’s bark. You saw it as well?”
Solas gave her a smile. “I know a bit of healing as well, so - yes.”
“Why haven’t you said anything to her?" Lyssa asked.
“Well. The Seeker doesn’t strike me as one of the women trusting a man with these issues.” He didn’t seem offended at all, just stating a fact and Lyssa nodded, starting to loosen her braids.
“I hadn’t heard of using raspberry leaves?" Solas asked and looked at her, pausing when he saw her shaking out her hair before she started to brush it. She didn’t see the sudden intensity of his gaze, working the comb through the long strands.
“You haven’t? Do add it to your recipe. It’s also a perfect preparation for a birth, only in the last weeks though.”
He gave her a look she couldn’t really read and that itself was something so unusual, she let her hands sink. “What is it?” she asked, suddenly concerned but his guards were back up and he smiled before looking back to the rabbit over the fire.
“It’s nothing," he said. “Tell me about the other ingredients. Or is it a Dalish secret?”
She narrowed her eyes at him but this time she could see that he was deliberately teasing her.
“Ha ha," she made drily and shook her head, before she continued to brush her hair while listing the ingredients of the tea. When Varric reappeared a few minutes later from his tent, the small polishing kit he used daily on Bianca in his hands, they were deep in conversation, exchanging knowledge and ideas. He shook his head.
“Good thing Anders isn’t here," he mumbled, sitting down next to Lyssa.
“Why?" she asked and he gave her a certain look.
“You wouldn’t stop for days. Two healers at one fire is bad enough, believe me.”
“Sorry," Lyssa laughed. “What would you rather talk about?”
“Anything!” he exclaimed. “Have I told you about how we managed to save the Viscount’s son from slavers? Well, he wasn’t really the Viscount’s son but still. Good story.”
Lyssa had rebraided her hair into a simple plait and exchanged an amused look with Solas. “You haven’t,” she said and Varric settled into a more comfortable position, a satisfied smile on his face.
“Well. We were down in Kirkwalls Alienage, minding our own business, when suddenly we heard the desperate cries of a woman.”
“Ugh, not this again," Cassandra groaned as she came out of her tent and sat down, putting a small kettle with water into the fire. Lyssa looked at her and one eyebrow went up as she realized the grumpiness was fake. The Seeker actually enjoyed listening to Varric’s stories, it seemed. Varric grinned.
“Relax, Seeker, this is a version you haven’t heard yet.”