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Flaming up

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"Or we could let her die."

Lyssa stared at Leliana, even as she ignored the shocked outcry from Josephine.

"We have that option?", she asked carefully, not looking at anyone but Leliana.

"Of course", the Nightingale answered, holding Lyssa's gaze, explaining in short, clear words what she meant. Lyssa nodded slowly and thoughtful. A plan started to form in her head - an elf behind the throne of Orlais. Leliana seemed to have the same idea and Lyssa felt strangely understood as they exchanged a look.

"Why would you do that?!" Sera exclaimed.

"Why wouldn't I?", Lyssa answered, a hardness in her voice that was rare. "I thought you of all people would understand.”

“But she didn’t do anything to you.”

“What? Do you know what Celene did to our people?"

"Elves? Pfft. Our people, my-", Sera started but Lyssa didn't let her finish for once.

" My people then”, she snapped. “I am from an alienage, I know how it is living there and I have not forgotten how it is to be at the whim of human rulers. And even after I left I kept informed. I remember what she did. She's not called 'The butcher of Halamshiral' without reason. I'll support Briala."

"That two-faced asshat? She's not better than those fuckin' nobles, grabbing at every opportunity to better herself. Who do you think she gonna put in power here, huh?"

"As if being an elf at a human court is a position to relax in. I knew Shianni, the appointed Ban of Denerim. She was a damn good woman and what did happen to her? She was killed just a few years into her position and more blood was spilled and our oh-so-great king and queen did nothing to save her or anyone in Denerim's alienage. But if Briala has Gaspard in her hands, she has an actual shot at changing something."

"But she was sleeping with Celene, even as she killed the elves at Halamshiral", Sera protested.

"I don't care she slept with Celene. They parted ways after Celene bathed herself in elven blood and you saw yourself that Briala is not above getting her hands dirty."

"Yeah", Sera scoffed, "and not above killing people who might hurt her agenda."

Lyssa flinched as she remembered the elven servant she saved from an obvious trap set by Briala. But she didn't waver. "I'm not saying Briala is perfect. But if I have the option, I'll be damned if I let Celene keep the throne. Her hands are dripping with the blood of innocents. She deserves to die."

"By that logic you could kill half of the people here", Bull said calmly and Lyssa shot him a look.

"Give me the means to do it without hurting everyone depending on them and I might just do that", she said sharply.

An uncomfortable silence stretched between them. Lyssa scanned the faces around her. Leliana calm and assured, Cullen pensive, Josephine desperate and shocked. Sera seemed primarily angry by now and when their eyes met, the archer scoffed again and stomped away. Bull nodded at her before following Sera and for once, Lyssa couldn't make head or tails from the look in his face. But at least he didn't seem angry as well. Solas held her gaze for a long time, thoughtful but approving and she let out a breath she hadn't been aware she had held. He rarely weighed in into the decisions forced on her but his opinion still mattered to her more than most others.

"So how do we proceed?", he asked, coming to stand next to Lyssa who looked at Leliana, putting all thoughts of the magnitude of this decision out of her mind. There would be enough time to panic about it later.

 

Lyssa nearly faltered when she watched Florianne approach Celene, knowing it would end in bloodshed. This was different than a fight, different than attacking or defending. This was calculation, willingly accepting murder. No. It was condoning murder. Lyssa felt her throat close, pushing away the guilt welling up in her, and as Florianne stroke she closed her eyes, murmuring a prayer to Elgar'nan and Falon'din - the god of revenge and the god of death. Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself for what awaited her next and was surprised at how easy it was to ignore Celene's body on the ground as she pursued Florianne outside.

 

"She really thought he would just give her Orlais", she wondered idly a half-hour later, looking down at Florianne's dead body. Somehow, hearing the late Duchess talk about Corypheus had helped her put the whole evening into perspective. This wasn't about Orlais. It was about Corypheus. And even after everything she had done this night, Orlais' fate still wasn't in her hand - she had only given it a push in a certain direction. A direction which could possibly bring peace to the whole of Orlais, including its elves.

"Come on. The night is not over yet", Solas murmured, softly running his hand over her back and Lyssa nodded.

"Yeah. I haven't had enough to drink yet", Sera muttered and looked up in surprise as Lyssa wholeheartedly agreed. When they shared a careful grin, Lyssa was relieved. Maybe their tentative friendship wasn't damaged beyond repair after all.

 

In retrospect, Lyssa couldn't tell what exactly happened in the following hour. Speeches and toasts and talks blurred together and when she finally found herself outside on the balcony again, she was tired to the bone and high-strung like a bow at the same time.

"I'm not surprised to find you out here", Solas said as he joined her, giving her a smile. "Thoughts?"

"It's been a very long day", she sighed and he tenderly tucked a strand of hair behind her ear.

"For everyone, I'd imagine", he agreed. "It's nearly over now. Cullen's giving the men their marching order as we speak."

Somehow, that didn't really help. The thought of going back to traveling immediately, to another ten days of cramped nights and long days was tiresome in its own. Solas seemed to guess her thoughts and gave her hand a quick squeeze before he made a few steps backwards, bowing with a smile and offering his hand.

"Come. Before the band stops playing - dance with me."

"You haven't forgotten", Lyssa smiled, perking up and laying her hand in his.

"Never", he said and with the ease and skill she knew from their practice led her across the balcony to the tunes wafting out into the night. As their lips met beneath the moonlight the last of the tension of the evening fell away and the steps of the dance were forgotten when her arms came around his neck as he pulled her close.