Chapter 1: Chapter 1
My name is Selena Hawke.
It hasn't always been. I lived a life once, long ago and literally far away. A life of modern convenience and personal hell, with an ex-husband that drank too much and used his fists to express his frustration. A life with the most amazing children, all grown and moved on. A life where I died.
My after-life, my new life and body, began in Kirkwall, surrounded by people that would eventually become my dearest friends and in some cases, loves of my life. To give me stability in their weird world of elves and dwarves and magic and dragons, Garrett Hawke gave me his name. It didn't hurt that he and his true love, Anders, loved me as well, and we became a family. Then Fenris joined us, the man that stole my heart and cradled it to him just as I held his.
But Fenris and I both have our problems when it comes to love and communication. We've both fought hard to be able to say and do the things we feel are right, and sometimes we forget that saying those things might hurt the other.
When I died again, hurdled back from Kirkwall to Earth, into a life I had never lived, I was alone and scared. My loves were a world, an entire existence, away, out of my reach. And then God, or the Maker, or whoever, gave them back to me. A prayer Fenris whispered into the dark that was actually answered. We were happy for a short time as I introduced them to the world I came from- shopping malls and television, cars and the internet. But it was never meant to last, and we dove right back into saving Thedas from itself once again.
We have children now, our family bigger than ever with the addition of the twins, Jackson and Victoria, as well as Garrett's own twin siblings and his mother's new husband. I couldn't have been happier. And then I went and fucked it up again. I said things, took sides, without considering Fenris' thoughts and opinions. I drove him away and the last sight I had of him before he and Garrett, along with Wardens and soldiers, went off to the Western Approach, was him kissing Skinner, one of the Iron Bull's Chargers.
Thankfully the Chargers were sent off on a job the next morning to Nevarra or something, or Anders would have had an even harder time getting me out of my shell than he did. He became my rock, my beautiful blonde Warden, and I guess I became his distraction while Garrett was gone. He rarely leaves my side these days unless there's an emergency in the clinic. And when it comes to things like judgments (which I hate) or figuring out military strategy (where I get completely lost) his non-military/mage/doctor mind can be invaluable. Especially when it comes to dealing with some of Cullen's obviously Templar answers to solving issues. Sparks have literally flown between the two in the War Room and Bethany and I have an ongoing bet over who will cave first. The jury's still out on that one.
And when the night's get too long without the men that we love with us, Anders lets me curl into his side and will hold me through the worst of the nightmares, or I him through darkspawn dreams, and have slow, languid sex until we're both too exhausted to do anything but pass out.
And every crow that flies to Leliana's aerie causes my heart to lodge in my throat and Anders eyes to flare with concern. This one was no different really, the two of us stepping out into the courtyard from our rooms to face the day, looking up into the sun to see the bird's silhouette as it headed to the tower. We both grimaced, giving each other a squeeze around the fingers, before heading off to the main Keep for breakfast while Abby fed the twins. It wasn't' until later, when the runner approached us at the long table where we sat among friends, that the fear really hit.
“My Lady Regent? Sister Nightengale requests you speak with her right away in the aerie.”
Have you ever seen that weird, slow blink done in TV or movies? You know, the one that's supposed to show the main heart throb's surprise or realization about something important, but the audience is supposedly too stupid to figure out for themselves without it? Yeah, I had one of those moments. A real slow blink, before turning my head to my lover, eyes starting to fill with dread. It was just a feeling, and the rational part of my brain told me I was being paranoid, but with so many changes now to the the game timeline I couldn't trust that someone- someone very important to me- wouldn't be hurt or, God forbid, dead.
I took Anders' hand in mine and stood from the table, taking him with me.
“Um, the Nightengale said for only you to come,” the poor scout stammered.
“Too bad,” I replied, moving toward the rotunda and the stairs leading up. “I outrank her.”
Leliana's work space struck most as a giant storage room. Crates upon crates were piled high around the large opening that lead down into Solas' work space. Really, these crates acted more like stairs, allowing Leliana and her scouts to interact with the messenger crows that they used as they perched in their hanging cages. Her desk was nothing more than a rough wooden table and chair that might have been carved during the last Age- or knowing the history of Skyhold, several Ages ago. The only thing relatively new, painted and gilded, surrounded by thick red candles that smelled heavily of beeswax, was a small shrine to Andraste hidden away in an alcove.
Today she stood before her desk, a small scroll spread out before her, face pensive and brows drawn in slightly. I did not like this look, not one bit. She looked up when we entered with no note of surprise to see Anders with me. Not surprising there, the woman knew everything, I swear.
She straightened, trying to go for calm but I could see the worry etched into the thin lines around her eyes and lips. “They have faced Magister Erimond and the Wardens. Even with their forewarning Erimond managed to escape and has fled to Adamant fortress. The group has...they have decided to follow right away and have sent for our armies to meet them.”
My heart fell straight down into my shoes, Anders' fingers tightening around mine. This couldn't be happening. This wasn't how it was supposed to play out, not at all. They were supposed to come back to Skyhold first, plan and prepare and then strike when we were at our strongest. Now we were left scrambling. Did Max order this? Nathaniel Howe? Why would Garrett have agreed-
“Leliana, how fast can a contingent of scouts be out there to meet them?”
“There are approximately fifty spread out throughout the Approach with another fifty in the nearby Exalted Plains,” she said, nodding slightly in what I hoped was approval.
“Send crows with orders for them to meet up with Trevelyan and his current party. They are to waylay and basically make a nuisance of themselves with any supply shipments they see heading into Adamant Fortress. We might not be able to stop them from doing something stupid, but we can slow them down a bit. Maybe enough for the rest of our forces to catch up.” I rubbed a hand down my face with a sigh. “Have Josephine, Cullen and Bethany informed of what's going on and meet us in the War Room in an hour. We'll need to go over strategy. Anders and I will inform the Inner Circle that we need to be ready to move out, preferably no later than the morning.”
Leliana nodded and called over a couple of runners while Anders and I started back down the staircase. Halfway down, once our heads had cleared everyone's line of sight, he stopped and pulled me into his chest, wrapping long, strong arms around me. We stood like that, leaching strength from the other, for several seconds until a runner brushed past us on his way to speak with and advisor. A twisted smile, a kiss on the nose, and a nod of approval, and we were off to prepare for one of the most horrific battles in Thedas' history.
So As most of you know that read this series, I'm going through the beginning stages of a divorce. That said every penny is now wrapped up in lawyers that doesn't go to rent or food. If you like my work I'd appreciate anything you might be able to do to help me out. Please do me the favour of buying me a coffee, and if you contact me on Tumblr I'll write you a drabble of the pairing of your choice.
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
What the ever loving fuck! Why in the name of Britney Spear's love child would you have gone off to Adamant without backup? Are you that anxious to die? I swear in the name of a number of holy deities that don't belong on this world that I am going to do some pretty horrible things to you when I get there.
Your very aggravated wife
It's not my fault! Asala-Ashkaari got it in his head that we needed to move immediately and got the Wardens to agree. He's been very...angry since we left and you know what he can be like when he's angry. You wouldn't like him when he's angry (I remember that reference! We watched that movie that one day it wouldn't stop raining and Doc swore up and down we were all going to drown, even though we here waaaaay up in your tower).
I wish you and Doc were here. I love Asala-Ashkaari dearly but he's just not himself. Please tell Doc how much I love him, and love you too.
Your devoted husband
We love and miss you too. We will reach Val Royeaux tomorrow then Adamant in two more weeks. There are contingents of scouts harrying any supply lines headed to the fortress and I'd appreciate it if you could help them find what they're looking for. And maybe kick a bit of Venatori ass as well, that'd be great.
Please tell Asala-Ashkaari Never mind. I'll tell him myself. Keep smiling. We'll be there soon.
Your soon to be dealing with Orlesians wife
Anders' magic against my skin feels like a cool breeze, not enough to cause a shiver but enough to raise small goosebumps in all the right places. When he used his magic during sex it felt even better, and was usually accompanied with a renewed stamina that kept us going for hours. It's as though all your nerve endings come alive all at once, but in the most amazing way.
We were stopped in Val Royeaux for the night, one week into our three week journey to Adamant, having stocked up on supplies and met with some nobles willing to loan us their mobile armies. Ugh! I hate politicking, I really do. It's why I have Josephine, God dammit! But stopping in a major city centre meant an inn with a room perfect for my apostate and me.
Actually it was more like a bloody apartment with a bed big enough to handle the Iron Bull and all of his sexual gymnastics with a couple of voyeurs making themselves comfortable as well. There was a lounge area and study, as well as a balcony overlooking the market square. There was no kitchen per se, but the fireplace came with wrought iron hooks for warming pots of soup or water for tea. And at least once an hour from sun up to sun down, there was a maid making a nuisance at the door asking if we needed anything.
But right now there was a beautiful apostate's hands roaming into anxious apostate places...wait, no. That's not a thing.
“Love, are you all right?”
I blinked, my attention returning to what was happening around me. “Oh Shit!” I had drifted off, my mind not on the task at hand. “I'm just-”
Anders chuckled, his eyes so understanding it made me want to cry. “I get it, Sweetheart. Your head's just not into it right now. I understand.” He moved away from the edge of the bed where we had been sitting, his bare torso glittering gold in the late afternoon sunlight. I didn't exactly have a lot in the way of clothing on right then either, clad in nothing but some smalls and a tan. On of the perks of riding everywhere was the amount of sun I was finally getting.
“God, Anders, I'm so fucking sorry,” I mumbled into my hands, now covering my face with my elbows on my knees. “This isn't fair to you in the least.”
Anders sat back down next to me, rubbing small circles onto my back. His skin was warm, roughened with callouses from staff work. Even without magic his touch was soothing and I arched slightly into his fingers. We sat like this for several seconds before he spoke. “Selena, Sweetheart, if you and Fenris were anyone else, I'd be telling you that you might want to rethink your relationship.”
I gasped, sitting up to stare at my lover in hurt shock. “WHAT? You think I should just...dump him or something? Are you insane?”
“I said IF you were anyone else,” he corrected, tapping my gently on the tip of the nose. “Obviously you're not so we need to come up with a different solution. There's something there between the two of you, something that I don't think could ever be matched. Like you're two parts of a whole, better off with the other than you could ever be apart. That said, you're both also terrible with relationships- for good reason, of course. Fenris has days when he has trouble figuring how to behave as a person, let alone how to handle someone else, because of being fucked over by Danarius. And from some of the shit you told me about what went of with you and your ex-husband, I'm surprised you're as together as you are.
My suggestion? Send him a letter. Just a little note to let him know you're thinking about him. He'll never reach out first- he's just too damned stubborn like that- so you need to do it. Don't mention the fight, or his kiss with Skinner, or anything that might lead up to that kind of conversation. And nothing too long. His reading skills still aren't the best and if he gets frustrated he'll just toss it aside and never read the damned thing. Think you can do that?”
I stared at him for a moment, feeling the tears brimming along my lids. How did he get so damned smart? How could he be so concerned about my relationship with Fenris when his own other half was hundreds of miles away?
I threw myself into his arms, tears breaking free to splatter against his chest, and I sobbed. I cried for our losses, our gains. Our family separated by divides of distance and heartache, and I cried for all the God damned stress being heaped on all of our shoulders because of motherfucking Corypheus. But I think mostly I cried because, when all was said and done, somebody had to. Why shouldn't it be me?
I love you. I miss you.
Your forever wife
He read it again and again, a thousand, a hundred thousand over the weeks and months and years to come. The parchment softened and wore along the creases and stains from fingers and tears marred it's surface. But whenever things became hard or frightening he would read those words that she had given him. I love you I miss you I love you I miss you I love you I love you I love you I love you...
So As most of you know that read this series, I'm going through the beginning stages of a divorce. That said every penny is now wrapped up in lawyers that doesn't go to rent or food. If you like my work I'd appreciate anything you might be able to do to help me out. Please do me the favour of buying me a coffee, and if you contact me on Tumblr I'll write you a drabble of the pairing of your choice.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Off to play in the sand
I have learned many things about myself since waking in Kirkwall oh so long ago. Sweetberries are a gift from God. The lack of indoor plumbing was not. And I really, REALLY, hate deserts. I hate the sand and it's amazing capacity to find its way into inconvenient places. I hate the heat that burns the skin from your bones during the day and the cold that creeps in and cracks those bones at night. I hate it's flat expanse of nothing. I'd curse it all to the darkspawn if it hadn't already been overrun at least once.
We were a day out from where we'd be meeting up with the Wardens, Garrett and...Fenris. The closer we got the more bouncy Anders became in anticipation, talking nearly non-stop, wisps of sparkly magic leaking from his fingertips when he got really excited. As for me, well, my gut clenched and my hands shook. Much as I missed them, I missed having the babies to distract me from what I was feeling. I very nearly wheeled my horse around and returned to them more than once until my rational brain reminded me that they were three weeks travel away.
I didn't know how to deal with what I was feeling. Fenris had never answered my note to him, sent two weeks ago now. Plenty of time for some kind of reply. Was this some kind of 'fuck you' thing? A silent message to leave him alone? Or was it like how I was feeling, too many thoughts to get it all down in writing? Especially since Fenris' writing skills still weren't the best.
ARGH! Stupid brain, shut the fuck up already!
We were currently a group of a dozen- Anders, myself, Max and the Inner Circle. Commander Cullen was with the rest of the army about a day and a half or so behind us while Bethany had stayed at Skyhold with Abby and the babies to prepare for the influx of Wardens that would be coming their way. I had every intention of recruiting them into the Inquisition, knowing the fight that was coming up. No way was I losing the Wardens to Weisshaupt! When it came time to assault the Keep we'd be splitting into groups of somewhat balanced power, assuming that certain party members remembered how to work together- that's right, I'm looking at you Max and Viv!
I still wasn't comfortable with the two of them being anywhere near each other. I was waiting for the dagger in my back- or knowing Vivienne, the poison in my cup. Thankfully, other party members seemed to understand and were continuously insinuating themselves between the two. Varric would suddenly regale them with outlandish tales until one or the other rode away, or Cole would materialize on one or the other's mount and startle the crap out of them. The Iron Bull tried once but one look from the Iron Lady had him cringing and backing away. Dorian saved the day by insinuating that Viv's outfit was out of season and they were off trading insults lightly veiled in fashion help. Even Cassandra would lend a hand by taking Maxwell off for sparring practice until late into the evening and the lady mage had retired to her tent- which we made her share with Sera. I'm evil, I know.
It was dusk, cool enough to travel without the bone chilling cold that would come around midnight. Sera, Varric, Cole and I were scouting ahead on the canyon walls while the rest of our party followed behind. With corrupted Wardens, Venatori and Red Templars wandering about it was better safe then sorry.
The Western Approach reminded me of the outback of Australia- not that I'd ever been, mind you, but I've seen my fair share of the Discovery Channel. What the game doesn't tell you about is the bugs. Fucking mosquito-like things that sucked more blood than a vampire, little midges that wouldn't stay out of my ears. Even something akin to a dragonfly but so large that I would swear I saw it wink at me.
Ugh. I really hate bugs.
I wondered how Fenris was getting on with all this. Would his markings act like a bug zapper? Lure them in with the pretty light show and then zap! Dead bugs. I grinned at the visual but that didn't last long. Any thought of Fenris had a knot form in my chest the size of a softball. God, I missed him so much.
“Love from hurt and hurt from love, twisted, tangled, torn and turned around. You don't think you can keep going and he's afraid to stop. But together you are whole, strong, calmness in a sea of despair.”
Well there went my heart out my throat. “Jesus fucking Christ, Cole! Stop sneaking up on me like that!” I exclaimed, hand up to my chest.
“You were thinking too loudly,” he replied with what I would swear was a slight pout. “I had to come and help. Your love is deep but tangled with fear and doubt, just as his is. Two halves of a whole, you need to be together for the world to work.”
I sat and thought about what the boy said for a minute. “What do you mean 'two halves of a whole', Cole?”
“Like the Hawke and Mister Anders,” he said, eyes far away in thought or listening to the thoughts of others. “Separately they were only half of what they should be, minds and heart a knot of pain, anguish. Together it eases, slides away, smooths to glass and causes sparks to fly. You helped them with that. Now you need to help yourself.”
“What do you mean? How did I help them?”
“The Hawke feared for his family, afraid to add another to the list of the dead. But because of you his mother lived, did not become the doll that shambles. A crack appeared in the fear and he decided to trust his heart. Mister Anders was not just Mister Anders, they were two beings in one, lost alone together, searching, striving, obsessed with the wrong. You sent the one where it needed to be and freed the other from the pain. The wall around the heart was broken and love could soothe the hurt. You helped.”
I thought back, back to my early days in Kirkwall, when my knowledge of the game had helped keep Leandra alive, and the weird Rift power in my gut had separated Anders from Justice. How things had just sort of clicked for them after that. Huh. I had been so absorbed in my own issues I never really noticed. As we moved along the rocks I thought back to moments shared between the four of us. The ball we attended in Kirkwall where Garrett announced our engagement, the night the boys gave me my ring, back on my finger because of Leandra's thoughtfulness. The trip to the zoo and the movies, evenings on the couch watching bad rom-coms, and so many nights between the sheets...on the floor, in the shower, the kitchen, God just wherever we could fit really. The births of Jackson and Victoria and the looks of awe that made my heart soar. And as much as I love the others, I realized that if Fenris had not been a part of it all, nothing would have been quite as bright.
Suddenly, Cole reached out to touch my forearm, drawing my attention back to the here and now. The clash of steel, faint but with the way these canyons distorted sound that could still be fairly close. I turned to tell the spirit boy to warn the other parties but he had already vanished. With a nod no one else saw I crept forward until I could look over a lip of stone into the depths of the canyon beyond.
Maybe 200 or 300 meters away and down two groups of soldiers were fighting it out. The silver and blue glinting in the moonlight told me it was a group of Wardens which meant the others were probably our own guys, harrying a supply run, though for the life of me I couldn't see any carts that would put proof to my theory.
Moving closer I glanced up to spy Varric and Sera across the gap, also moving into a better position to see what was happening down there, bows at the ready. Good thought. Thankfully I had brought my compound bow and had remembered to oil the gears before starting today's trek. Wouldn't do to get sand in the pullies now would it? Knocking an arrow I moved so that the last of the sun's fading light would illuminate the players, and I quickly realized something.
The Wardens down there were ours.
There were six bodies down there facing off against a mass of over a dozen. As arrows flew and strange, twisting roots reached out from the ground to fell long range opponents I realized that Nathaniel and Velanna had found a bit of high ground from which to see the battlefield. Oghren's axe swung, cleaving an opponent in two while little Sigrun dashed between two mages, hamstringing them both. My husband, Garrett, slammed his sword against his shield, drawing the attention of a group of zealots into attacking him instead of the two on the hillock. And-
“Fenris,” I breathed.
He faced a single opponent, a massive mountain of a man brandishing a maul as big as he was. My love looked tiny in comparison but I knew appearances were deceiving. Painfully I pulled my eyes away to glance first further back down the canyon, then up at the other archers. Our guys were coming up fast, Cole in the lead, so I caught Varric's eye and got into position.
Minds in sink, the dwarf, elf and I let loose, two out of three bad guys going down. Fuck! The giant facing off with Fenris was too thick to realize he'd been shot. He swung that damned maul straight for Fenris' head, and I had that brief moment of panic before a flash of blue light filled the air and a certain bad guys hammer just went sailing through, knocking him off balance. That was all the edge the elf needed for him to reach into his opponent's chest and removing something vitally important.
God, I loved that man. And when his eyes lifted to the canyon edge and found mine my heart stopped, held in a grip of ice. Before he smirked.
Once the rest of our guys rounded the bend and joined the fray the fight was quickly over. Those of us up top made our way down into the bowl, and I admit I raced a little faster than was probably safe. But he was down there, looking up at me, stepping forward, arms reaching out to catch me as I skidded those last few feet. The sweet scent of sword oil and leather and lyrium engulfed me and for just a moment, fleeting though I knew it would be, everything was perfect again.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
I'm going to apologize now. If you're hoping that the Selena/Fenris debacle is over you're going to be disappointed. Their angst must continue for a little while longer but trust me when I say that when things finally settle down it will be wondrous.
I wish that I could say that that perfect moment where Fenris and I held each other tight was all we needed to mend our fences and move on, but alas...
“Oi! You two gonna make nasty in the sand I's leavin'! That's just Ugh! Man bits!”
...a certain roguish archer had to go and spoil the mood. I love Sera, don't get me wrong, but right about then I really wanted to strangle her.
I fought it as long as I could but when Fenris lifted his head from my shoulder and stiffened I knew that our moment of peace had officially ended. “You brought the Magister?” he hissed.
I sighed and stepped away, head down in defeat. I was just too damned tired of all this. “Yes, I brought Dorian. I brought every able body since someone decided to up the timetable, we're going to need all the help we can get.”
“His is not help, it's a hindrance.”
Several of the others made noises of protest, though the Iron Bull's deep growl was the most prominent, taking a step to stand just a little in front of Dorian as though to shield him from Fenris' words. Dorian, for his part, just looked sad.
“Really, Dear. Get control of your underlings and let us be out of this canyon,” Vivienne said with disdain, nose high in the air as though something stank. It was probably her perfume.
“I'm sorry, did you just say 'underlings'?” Okay, I was getting pissed now. I felt a warm hand take hold of my shoulder, the smell of Garrett and Anders mixed to calm me enough to not punch the bitch in the mouth- although a shiner would look wonderful against her complexion, it really would. I took a deep breath then smirked. “Since I hold Fenris and Dorian both in the highest regard, if they are underlings, what does that make you? A has been Enchantress from a Circle that no longer exists, a former confidant of an Empress that replaced you with a hedge witch from the Korcari Wilds, and guessing from that hideous headwear a wanna be Qunari.” Bull snorted at that one. “Nothing but an underling's underling. A servant, if you're lucky.”
I could feel the build up of icy magic near her hands as the rage flared in her eyes and had Speed pulled from it's sheath at my waist and to her throat before she could think of casting. Others drew their weapons around me, even Max though it was obviously reluctant. “You wanna have a go, Viv?”
“That is Madame de Fer,” she ground through her teeth, eyes flashing.
I chuckled. “Nope. One thing you need to learn about me is that you need to earn my respect, including all the lovely titles and what not. You haven't done that, not by a long shot. You don't even get your full name, just plain old Viv.” That's right, I can be a bitch when I want to. Nobody says shit about my Fenris and gets away unscathed. Finally, after way too many tense moments, she let her power dissipate and there was a collective sigh of relief as weapons were replaced. Speed stayed a little closer to hand than before, I wasn't about to get complacent with that woman in my face.
We doubled up on horseback for the newcomers to our party, my heart twisting a little when Fenris decided to ride with Cassandra, Varric flanking them. The dwarf smiled softly and gave me a wink, hopefully a sign that he was going to try and work his magic with the elf. Garrett decided to ride behind Anders, though he gave me an apologetic- and kinda steamy- kiss before leaving my side. He and I would spend some quality time together later, I was sure. I couldn't begrudge him wanting to ride with the man he loved.
Strangely enough, it was Solas that chose to ride with me.
“May I ask a question, Lady Regent?”
“It's Selena- or Starlight if you're Varric, Hawke if you want to confuse me with Garrett- but Sure, Soals. What do want to know?”
The elf behind me chuckled softly before continuing. “Your blades. They are elvehn. May I inquire as to how you came to own them?”
I glanced at my hip where Lightning lay, flickers of light escaping her sheath as we moved. “Nothing special, really. I found them in the market in Kirkwall. The seller couldn't get rid of them fast enough, they kept shocking any would-be purchasers. Never did that for me, though so I got them for a steal. He couldn't pronounce the elvehn names for them so he called them Speed and Lightning.
Solas hummed under his breath, air huffing at the hair along my neck. He was way closer than I thought and a shiver ran up my spine. What the hell? “Maybe there's a trace of elvehn blood in your veins that allows you to wield them.”
I snorted. “That's ridiculous. I'm not even from this world, let alone part elf. We don't have any where I come from.”
“Truly? And there were no tales of elves in your world, or something similar?”
That drew me up straight, surprised at the idea. Of course we had stories of elves, from DA and Tolkien to the ancient Norse myths. But to think they might be real? No, that was preposterous. “I'm as human ans human comes, Solas,” I finally replied. “Trust me.”
“I see. Well, your blades are remarkable, to say the least. I have seen their like wielded in the Fade by ancient elves of renown, their powers magnifying the abilities of their wielders. Tarasyl-lahn and Soulean, Thunder and Lightning.”
“Wait! Thunder?” I asked, surprised.
“Yes. If significant speed is achieved, there is a sound not unlike thunder that creates a wave of pressure, flattening your enemies.”
Wow. I'd never had that happen, though to be honest, I had been focusing on my archery for some time now. Maybe I should start practising my stabity-stab-stab.
So As most of you know that read this series, I'm going through the beginning stages of a divorce. That said every penny is now wrapped up in lawyers that doesn't go to rent or food (Of which I now have none because I haven't been called in for work in four weeks). If you like my work I'd appreciate anything you might be able to do to help me out. Please do me the favour of buying me a coffee, and if you contact me on Tumblr I'll write you a drabble of the pairing of your choice.
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
The battle of Adamant Fortress. Ugh.
How do I describe Adamant Fortress? I remember looking at it in the game and thinking that it had to be huge, and that parts of it had to be of Tevinter design because it looked like that prison that's there too. I could think those things because I was sitting in the comfort of my computer chair and staring at a screen I could pause when I needed it.
In real life- sometimes I can't believe I'm thinking that- Adamant was the size of a city block and at least four storeys tall, if not higher, made of the local stone and centuries of sand build up. Not that I saw any of that, really. No, what I saw was the blood, and the fire, and the bodies of so many. Too many.
We split into three groups to assault the walls. Cole, Dorian, the Iron Bull and Vivienne would be with the men on the eastern wall, helping to protect the men on the ladders. Varric, Solas, Maxwell and Cassandra would be in the front with the battering ram and Cullen's main force, breaching the main gates, while Anders, Blackwall, Sera and myself would be going through a small tunnel entrance one of Leliana's people had found at the base of the western wall. I know, you're probably wondering why I would send Max in the front where everyone could see, but that's just it. Everyone. Could see. And they would be watching him, the man with the glowing hand, instead of watching some of the other more strategically vulnerable places in the Keep.
And with three groups we added our three new comers. Garrett went with the first group, since as per the game he was supposed to be helping on the ramparts. Nathaniel, as the group's Warden, was at the main gate, to try and help convince warrior and rogue Warden's to leave the fight. And Fenris was, of course, with me.
And that wasn't awkward, no not in the least.
“You spoke to Hawke before we split up,” he said quietly, as we entered the rough hewn tunnel, Blackwall's torch the only illumination.
I glanced at him, crouching alongside as we lead the group further along. His face was set like stone, only a slight dip in his brow showing his anxiety over where we were and what we were about. His weapons of choice were too large to fight well in these tight quarters but when given the choice of going with the group for the front gate he had refused. Strongly. With words.
“I did,” I replied. “Why?”
“May I ask what you said to him?”
I wanted so badly to say something flippant, something like 'you can ask but I might not answer' but that would be stupid and just add more bullshit to the argument. No, instead I was completely upfront and truthful. “I told him that he was loved and that, no matter what, he was not to go after Clarel. I don't give a shit how much he wants to or how close she is to him when she runs by, he is to do absolutely nothing.”
“Why?” I hear Sera from behind. “He gonna get a magic zap? She cursed or somefin?”
“I guess you could say that,” I say with a shrug. “He just can't be anywhere near her, or there's going to be a decision that needs to be made. And I don't trust the person that would have to make that decision.”
I could feel Sera staring at the back of my head a moment before she blew me a raspberry and I smiled. Leave it to Sera to let everyone know her opinion on things in the most wonderful way. Blackwall huffed a low chuckle along with Anders beside him. Only Fenris remained quiet, and his somber eyes had the weight settle once more upon my chest.
There were few Wardens here in the bowels of Adamant and we were able to take care of them easily. I'd ask them to back down and present themselves to Commander Cullen. If they agreed we let them pass, Sera watching our backs until they were beyond bow range. But if they attacked Fenris would distract them with a quick flash of his brands so that I could use the stealth techniques Isabela had taught me to disappear and get behind them and Blackwall moved up into the space I left behind. Anders would cast quick barriers and paralysis glyphs while Sera would target any long range opponents they might have among them.
Tarasyl-lahn and Soulean- so weird to think of them that way- became invaluable to me in these tight quarters. I would try and find other rogues in the party, easier to take out with my smaller blades through leather armour. The big boys could take the Warden plate instead. I tried to make their deaths quick, armpit or neck thrusts. When I spotted someone not attacking, whether with indecision or clearly surrendering I would give them the gentlest of noggin knocks to be dealt with later.
What? I'm not an indiscriminate killer. Just a somewhat successful one.
We ended up on the dais in behind Clarel and Erimond, just in time to see her run after the Magister as Corypheus' dragon fired its weird energy attacks and a fucking Pride demon unleashed electricity everywhere. God Fucking Dammit!!!
We were all here now, fighting the monsters as they tried to take out our men and the Wardens that had joined us. The warriors formed a line protecting the mages and archers while Cole and I slid around the Shades and possessed Warden mages to incapacitate who we could. I hated it, I felt dirty taking out a Warden. They're supposed to be the good guys in this world and that bastard Corypheus had twisted them into something wrong. I felt their blood slick my fingers and wanted to be sick.
A hand reached out to touch my shoulder in passing and I threw Cole a sad grin. He knew I needed it right about now. A brief nod and he was gone once again in a puff of displaced air and I was on the hunt for another opponent.
The fighting was dying down, finally, and I searched the area for my people. Most were fine though winded, with few major injuries. When I saw that Fenris was one of the downed I began to rush to his side to help Anders in some way when I spotted Garrett running off out of the corner of my eye. Oh that fucking idiot! He was going after Clarel, even after I told him not to! When Maxwell and Nathaniel followed I knew I was going to have to go too. I raced off after the group, Solas and Blackwall at my heels.
If you've played the games you know approximately what happened next- and if you haven't why are you even reading this? Now imagine an inner dialog consisting of a lot of incoherent screams and swearing. Cause there was a lot of that. Not to mention the heat from out of control fire, the shaking stone and deafening roar caused by the dragon. And the absolutely mind numbing terror.
We ran up on Clarel beating Erimond to a pulp which was something of a gratifying sight but I knew what was coming next. I turned to see the dragon looking down upon us. Upon me. We made eye contact, it saw me and nodded as though to worthy adversaries before reaching out to pluck Clarel up into it's maw.
Oh God! The sound of that. Even over the noises of battle still raging on around us in the Keep I could almost feel the crunch of bones snapping. She never screamed, never made a sound, even as the creature threw her down and began to advance upon us. Fuck! It was coming, behind us the multi storey drop to the earth below.
Oh fuck fuck fuck fuck... Clarel was reaching her arm up, her voice quiet in a speech I knew by heart. There wasn't time to move, no time to try and make a run for it. We were going to go down, either to crash to our deaths or to enter into realm of Thedas hell. I reached out to grasp a hand near me, Garret's, and tried to find safer ground but it just didn't exist. We were so screwed.
Clarel blasted the creature with the last of her power just as it leapt towards us, blasting it up and over us to take out the edge of the collapsed section of the Keep at our backs. Someone screamed for us to run but it was too late. I pulled at Garrett's arm to try and get him out of the fall zone but it was too late. We were going down, the world spinning around us as it rushed in. The ground was too close, too fast, Max wasn't going to do it. We were all going to-
Green light flashed and the world went away.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
TRIGGER WARNING!!! The very beginning of this chapter has the results of physical abuse and implied sexual abuse. It's relatively short, only in italics, but it's there.
While dealing with my divorce I'm in therapy and dealing with some pretty nasty shit I haven't been dealing with properly, and my therapist suggested I use some of my experiences and use them in my writing, as a way to purge it from mys system. So, in the end, you can always blame him for reading this.
Harsh fingers gripped at my scalp, pulling at my hair to bare my neck. I hurt everywhere from the punches and kicks that had rained down upon my body already. Blood oozed down into my left eye even as the right swelled shut. I could no longer scream, no longer even grunt with each new pain. I could feel myself shutting down; when the sharp tip of the blade touched the skin of my throat my only thought was that I wished he would get on with it and end things already.
But that was never how he worked. James would always draw it out as long as possible, then when he felt I had 'learned my lesson' he would leave me in a huddled, bleeding pile on the floor to 'think about what I had done'.
Of course, what I had done was exist. It was really the only excuse he needed.
“Selena! Selena, wake up!”
But tonight was going to be a bad one, I could tell.
He was laughing, a harsh barking noise, dark and vicious. With a hard twist to my hair James had me stuttering up to my feet, pushing me ahead of him into the bedroom. Fuck, no. I knew what was coming next but there was nothing I could do to stop it. In previous instances I had cried and screamed and fought to free myself but nothing ever really worked, so why fight it now. It was inevitable, really.
The knife stayed to my throat until the first click of the handcuff sounded, cold steel against my wrist, tethering me to the bed. I despised this four post bed, I really did, as though the bed were to blame instead of the monster I was married to.
“Please, Selena! Baby you need to wake up for me!”
What was that? Was I asleep? No, no, I was very awake. I could feel the tip of the blade running up my skin, slicing through my clothes as I lay trapped on the bed. He licked the line of blood that welled up where the knife dug a little too deep. Wisps of soft purple smoke wafted from his lips, tongue scalding.
I didn't understand. Why smoke? Was it because of the deep violet of his gaze as he leered up at me?
I turned to face the window that looked out onto the dark rocky landscape outside, bathed in an eye searing green light. No...wait...our bedroom looked out onto the street. The neighbours had watched horrible things happen to me for years and done nothing.
“Maker's Ass, Baby! Please! I need you to open your eyes for me.”
I heard that voice again, louder and more strident. I knew it, knew it almost as well as I knew my own. I wanted to believe that voice and open my eyes but they were already open, weren't they?
“Not as open as mine,” the James monster hissed, forked tongue flicking along my skin.
I screamed, flailing against the arms that held me tight. Panting, harsh and ragged, scuttling backwards away from the bodies in front of me until my spine hit sharp rock. It took me a few moments to recognize the faces that peered at me in concern. Solas held a torn bit of cloth dotted with blood as though he had been dabbing at a wound, Blackwall standing beside his kneeling form on guard for possible attack from outsiders. Nathaniel and Maxwell stood as well though both were instead turned towards me, Nate in concern while Max seemed nonplussed. And then there was...
“Garrett,” I breathed before throwing myself into his arms. He clutched at me so very tightly and it felt like the protection of home.
“Oh, Baby, I thought we might have lost you,” he nearly sobbed into my hair.
“Indeed,” Solas added. “You appear to have sustained a slight head injury in your fall into the Fade and were rendered unconscious. Normally, while in such a state, your mind would have drifted the Fade while your body repaired itself. But when your physical form was already in the Fade? There was no telling what might have happened.”
I shuddered in Garrett's arms, remembering what had gone through my mind and my husband's arms tightened even more. James was gone, far away, another world away, and would never be able to hurt me again. I was free of him, wrapped in the love of a beautiful soul. A soul that seemed to not want to ever release me. “Garrett? Sweety, you need to let go now,” I said softly. He just shook his head and I grunted slightly as his arms tried to tighten even further. “Please, Garrett. I- I'm having a bit of trouble breathing.”
His arms loosened a fraction but not nearly enough to release me and he mumbled something into my hair. “What was that, Husband?”
“Can't lose you,” he said just loudly enough to reach my ear.
It takes everything I have not to burst into tears at this. Sometimes I forget just how much Garrett clings to family and love to keep himself sane. It's his lifeline, especially when the Berserker frenzy hits him in battle, to have a loved one there to ground him once again. He's always just so strong, a bulwark against the chaos. I want so badly to cling to him as he does to me, to banish the lingering pain of the memories that run rampant still. But I can't. Not now. We both need to get our collective shits together and get the fuck out of here. Preferably without losing anyone.
I reach up to gently pull Garrett's face away so that I can look into his eyes. They are so damned vulnerable, tears glazing their surface. “Can't lose you either. Let's say we get out of here so neither of us gets lost, okay?”
He stared into my eyes a moment longer before I saw the wall descend in his eyes. Aloof Garrett had arrived, loose and lax, Teflon man where everything just rolled off him. Not the world's best coping mechanism but I guess there's certainly worse. Like drinking too much and beating your wife and- No! Stop thinking about that shit and concentrate on what's happening in the here and now. There would be time to deal with that shit later.
We moved throughout the Fade, not something I ever would have thought I would say let me tell you. And it was absolutely horrible. There's a pervasive smell, like sulphur and the excrement of dogs mixed together in a cooking pot. The air feels almost hot while the water seeps into your boots and the cold of it seems to crawl up your limbs like vines.
When the Fearlings came- oh God, how I wish they'd been spiders! No, I got James and Fenris. Sneers and indifference and the flash of a knife blade. Sometimes James wore Fenris' armour, sometimes Fenris was dressed in blood stained jeans and an old, ratty tee. The knife always flashed with blood. My blood. I froze, not able to defend myself against the onslaught of fear that gripped me, until Garrett bashed a Fenris in the face and it vanished in a puff of dark smoke.
Remember the game, they aren't real, just manifestations of your fear. I can do this. I shook myself like a dog and threw Garrett a thank you smile before reaching out with my blades to slice through my fears.
We made our way through the Fearlings fairly quickly after that. We killed memory wraiths and watched as Maxwell regained his time in the Temple of Sacred Ashes. I know in game we could see the memories as they returned but here, in the here and now, all we saw was Max becoming more grim, more...angry I guess you could say. More cruel.
Oh not in an 'off with his head' kind of way. No, more in a 'keep up or you get left in the Fade' kind of way. It was somewhat off putting to say the least. The longer it lasted, the more we each began to watch him. Even Nathaniel realized there was something off and kept a surreptitious arrow nocked and following the man's movements, ready to lift and draw at a moment's notice.
There was something I noticed, though, as we made our way along, visiting the graveyard and listening to the Fear Demon spout it's bullshit; there was no mention about me. I had no grave marker as everyone else did, the demon spouted none of its nonsense in my ear. It was as though I were invisible to it. After a while the others seemed to notice as well.
Blackwall and I exchanged looks when the demon claimed he was 'nothing like a Grey Warden' but he and I knew what that was about and there was no surprise there. Solas received his missive completely in Elvehn and I wished I were more fluent. I had no idea what was said but he looked my way in any case, as if he needed to check for himself that I was completely in the dark. I raised a questioning brow but he shook his head and walked off to continue our journey,
Garrett's was the standard crap about not being able to protect anyone he loved, but we both new that was bullshit. I just reached out to give him a reassuring squeeze to his fingers. He smirked and gave me a quick kiss to the lips. “This guys a moron, isn't he?” he chuckled.
I grinned back. “He definitely needs to get caught up with the program. He's so far out of whack.”
Nathaniel was last and his was...well, really it shouldn't have come as a surprise but still...
“I wonder, Howe, did you become him? The man you despised and loved and grew up to idolize? Do you truly stand by the innocent to save all that is good in the world? Or do you just love the kill? The power in taking the life of another? I certainly wonder.”
I knew the demon was speaking of Nate's father, Rendon Howe. The monster that had slaughtered an entire noble household, who had systematically tortured and destroyed any and all rivals until his death at the hands of the Warden Commander, Fereldan's Queen. Nathaniel's eyes widened, his body tensed. The demon had hit a nerve with that one. I prepared to face the jealous wrath of Garrett to touch the archer's arm but my husband beat me to it. Hand on the man's shoulder, squeezing it in reassurance. Nate turned in surprise but gave a nod that he appreciated the help, straightening his spine before turning to continuing on our path.
Now you may be wondering about the spirit of Divine Justinia during all this and she did pop her head in every once in a while but only long enough to make sure we were on the right path towards the rift in the distance. It was as though she were trying to avoid us. And while she addressed each of the others in our party at least once, she never spoke to me. As though she didn't know I was there.
This was just getting ridiculous.
Now the giant fear demon, stupid fucking Nightmare, was actually a bloody spider and I wondered whose fear of the things was at the near phobia level to make us all see the same thing. His Fear minion was large enough that, had he been with us, it would have towered over the Iron Bull, with what looked like a face hugger from the Alien movies over the upper portion of it's face. Ugh! Gross!
Justinia did what Justinia does, floating up into Nightmares face and teleporting it away for a fight or tea or whatever, leaving us with Fear and it's Fearlings. Barriers up thanks to Solas and the fight began fast and furious. Once I got it through my thick skull that the James figure I kept seeing was not actually James I had a great old time stabbing him repeatedly...if a little too enthusiastically on occasion. What? Can't a girl get over her personal demons in a visceral fashion these days?
It was weird though. The little guys could see me just fine, but big, bad and ugly passed me by every time. In fact at one point during the fight it happened to float by me so I swiped out with Soulean, grinning as he jittered to electricity's dance. The damned thing glared around the battlefield to find his attacker, 'eyes' passing right over me. Hmmm...I could use that... Then I remembered a crucial bit of game info that kind of got forgotten in the heat of things.
“Solas! It's weak against lightning!”
The elf nodded to me and gathered his mana in a crackling ball of electricity. I readied my blades and gave them a little twirl- cause if you're gonna kick ass why not make it fancy?- waiting for Solas' signal. The warriors were blocking the monster's movements with their shield's raised while Nathaniel took pot shots to keep it distracted. And I waited. I fidgeted. God dammit I wanted to move!
And then Solas nodded and I was moving, sliding between Garrett and Blackwall, Tarasyl-lahn and Soulean sliding effortlessly into where the creature's kidneys would sit- assuming demons had kidneys of course- just as the largest lightning ball I had ever seen exploded against Fear's chest. Electricity met electricity creating a massive arc of power that ran through the beast and a concussive boom sounded over the plain, our guys falling back onto their collective asses. I could feel the vibrations of power running up and down my arms, still gripping my blades in it's back. Little hairs up my arms danced in the light until they reached the power of the barrier that still surrounded the rest of me. Probably good as I'd most likely have electrocuted myself. Stupid me.
It took a moment before I realized that strong hands were pulling me back from a demon's corpse, blades sliding out and covered with ichor. Ugh! Gross. “Come on, Baby. Time to go,” Garrett said softly, pushing me to catch up with the other guys. Shit! Nightmare was coming and I let my brain wander! We had to run. NOW!
Maxwell stood at the edge of the Rift, Solas and Blackwall stepping through, Nathaniel quick on their heels. He looked at us and I could see the smirk, the glint of nastiness in his eye as we rushed to catch up. No, fuck NO! That fucking little bastard! I'm going to kill him! Shove my blades in so damned deep-!
He looked over his shoulder as he stepped into the Rift and winked before slamming it closed, Garrett and I trapped on the other side.
Chapter 7: Chapter 7
Tip toe through the Fade crap
Not really sure if I should put a trigger warning here or not. There's a lot of panic and fighting to survive, just so you know.
Days, weeks, eons or minutes. I couldn't tell any longer, it was all too long and too hard. Too painful. Garrett and I, trapped in the Fade, doomed for eternity.
We had fought the Nightmare, even managed to destroy its corporeal body. Once that was accomplished the remaining Fearlings ran for cover, caught in their own terrors. But we did not come out unscathed, unfortunately. At some point I took a blow to the chest, cracking several ribs and making it difficult to breathe with any ease, and my poor Garrett was hit by a flailing spider leg across the temple, rattling his brains terribly. He seemed fine at first but as we wandered away in search of a way out he became more and more disoriented and lethargic. This was so not good.
His arm was now across my shoulders and I supported his weight as much as possible. Even the pain of my ribs, there was no way I was abandoning him and we could not stop moving if we were to find a way out.
Damn that Maxwell! I was going to wring his damned neck when I got my hands on him! I was going to squeeze and squeeze until his face turned purple and his eyes bulged out and-
Garrett coughed, hard and wet. Looking up I saw a splattering of blood along his lips and pupils that were no longer even. Oh...fuck. My husband is going to die on me and there is nothing I can do about it unless I can get us out of here. Ruminating on how I was going to go about killing that fucking Trevelyan was going to have to wait.
I shored his body up a little higher against my hip, only to have him slip down even farther, nearly completely limp in my arms. “come on, Baby,” I pleaded. “We've gotta keep moving, okay? Can you do that for me?”
He made a noise, a soft grunt and shuffled his feet. He was trying, my sweet Husband, and I was so very proud of him. This was the reason we followed him in Kirkwall, his indomitable spirit to do what needed to be done. I could do no less. But what to do? How did I get us out of this?
I thought back to the game and compared it to where we were now. The terrain was the same. Sights, sounds, sky and ground all mix and match. The city floated black in the air, hanging in my peripheral no matter which way I turned my head. Very disconcerting, that.
The water was ice cold and dark, seeping into the bone the moment our feet touched it, even through our boots. It pulled at our already slowed steps and nearly dragged Garrett off his unsteady feet. I fought to keep him in my arms. I could NOT lose him. I NEEDED him, WE needed EACH OTHER if we were going to survive. I just...I had to...
I realized I couldn't feel my feet any longer and that we had been standing in the same ankle deep water for some time. Time enough for the chill to reach up into my legs. Shit! Fuck! Have to keep moving, have to-!
It was then I spotted the odd, linear shape out of the corner of my eye. I turned and spotted a mirror, tall and stately. And, of course, broken. Was that... “An Eluvian?”
Yes! It was an Eluvian! I recalled the scene where Kieran, Morrigan's son by King Alistair, had run through her Eluvian directly into the Fade to meet with his grandmother, Flemeth. A direct link to the Fade, just what we needed to get out of here. But would it work? Neither Garrett nor I was a mage, we'd have no way to open it on our own. At least I didn't think so. But there were no Rifts near us and no idea in which direction one might be found or how far it was. No, we were going to have to find an Eluvian. A whole one, anyway.
Garrett was next to useless for me now, barely moving on his own power. More than once I was forced to set him down so that I could flash my blades to dispatch a shade or six. My ribs were screaming now, at least one moving from a crack to a full break, and my breathing was terribly laboured. We weren't going to last much longer like this. Then there was the thirst. Hunger I could handle but being thirsty like this was agony, especially seeing as we were surrounded my lakes of water. But, yeah, there was no way we were drinking that shit. Might as well just lay down and die right then.
And the voices.
Whispers in my head to leave Garrett behind, to drop his bulk in order to save myself. And they all sounded like James, that nasty, spiteful hiss of his. It was like the Fearlings all over again. Why the fuck could these lesser spirits get to me when the big guys couldn't? I just didn't get it! And they were fucking relentless! God, they just wouldn't shut up! Make them FUCKING SHUT UP!!
Oh that's not good. I stopped moving. How long were we just standing here, knee deep in ice water and listening to the voices? My fingers were lax and Garrett was starting to slip out of my grip. This was so not good. I tightened my hold and jimmied him up higher on my hip, a stab of sharp pain letting me know what my ribs were thinking about that idea. Shit! Something was cackling, a rough, nasty laugh, somewhere behind us. I knew that laugh. It was so not a good laugh.
“Garrett, Sweety, we gotta move, okay?” I cajoled, continuing on to who knows where. “Please help me, Baby. Please?”
There was the softest of grunts and he tried, he really did, to take another step, but his legs just failed him. Fuck! I couldn't even put him down to check where all the damage was, the water too high. I had to get us to higher ground. Now.
We trudged along, my eyes scanning the landscape for somewhere, anywhere, that might be above water level. At this point I'd be happy with a rock outcropping or a little ledge. What I found, after a forever of walking, was a set of rock stairs suddenly appearing out of the corner of my eye. When I turned my head they were almost impossible to see, but at an angle they were clear as day. Had I been missing obvious means of escaping the water all this time? I chose to live in denial and decided that no, this was the first set. The nasty voice behind us laughed a shit ton louder for all that.
Oh fuck. Now I really was sure of what was behind us and it was so not good. Getting Garrett up the stairs was an exercise, let me tell you. “Come on, Garrett, lift your foot for me. Okay, now the other one. You're doing great, Baby, one more.”
It continued like that, up and up, forever and a moment. I could hear heavy, splashing steps behind us now, though when I looked back I saw nothing there. I'd missed a big old stone staircase, why not a giant assed Pride demon, too, right? But enough with the horrid thoughts, I had to get us out of here!
The staircase seemed to go on forever though that might have been because Garrett was moving at the pace of a baby learning to walk. Splashing turned to crunching stomps and I knew we were in for a world of hurt, the demon on our tails, breath hot upon our necks. I leaned into Garrett, pressing my lips to his temple. “I love you, Baby,” knowing we were about to get seriously chomped. I could see it now, a few feet behind us. Dark and malevolent, sparking with electricity between its fingers as it laughed and laughed.
We were fucked. We had long since passed our capacity to fight even the lowliest Shade let alone a demon of this strength. I turned to Garrett in my arms and pressed my lips to his softly. “I'm sorry, Baby. I tried. I love you.” I thought of Anders never holding this man again. I thought of Fenris. Oh my Fenris, beautiful and fierce and so fucking passionate. Tears welled at the thought of leaving him. I heard the crackle so damned loud I curled into Garrett's body and waited for the whip to obliterate us.
I cracked open an eye and glanced back towards the demon, only to see a wall of blue power between us, and a figure of light and armour. He was giant and powerful, and oh so very familiar.
“Keep going,” the Spirit rumbled, arms raised to keep the barrier in place. “What you seek is not far now. And tell Anders that I miss him.”
I nodded, wishing I had the time to talk to him more, but now really wasn't the time. I hitched Garrett up on my hip once again, a piercing pain lancing through my chest from my ribs. I felt a heaviness begin to spread and coughed, spitting up a dribble of blood. Oh that is definitely not good. Damned rib must have nicked a lung. “Okay, Garrett, time to take a step with me. Let's go.”
So close and yet so far, it still took us several minutes to get up the last few steps, Garrett's bulk making speed a fallacy. But then there it was, tall and gilt though with a patina of Fade corruption, a fully intact Eluvian.
And now what?
I set Garrett down before the giant mirrored surface and looked it up and down. Behind us I could now hear the sounds of battle, Justice's barrier having fallen to the demon's electricity and the two doing battle. I couldn't dawdle. But how to open the damned thing.
I placed my hand against the glass- well, not really glass, more like a sheet of ice over liquid mercury, hard but with a desire to bend and slide and move. I f I could only find the key. Two hands, run all over every surface, every word of elvehn I knew, Tolkien's Elvish, open sesame, anything, everything. And I got nowhere.
“God dammit, open!” I hit the glass. “Open, you fucker!” fists pounding. “WHY” slam“WON'T” slam “YOU” slam “FUCKING” slam “OPEN?”
“Maybe because it's not your door, you do not have the proper key,” a voice chuckled. Shit, I knew that voice. All too well.
I looked at the glass, not even realizing I had clenched my eyes shut in my frustration. Staring at me from the other side was someone I didn't expect but really should have. She smirked, waving the glass away with a twist of her fingers and I fell forward into her arms. I was dizzy now, more liquid dripping down my chin as I struggled to breathe. “Oh Earthchild. The predicaments you get yourself into.”
The world was going away now. I could barely breathe out the name of the woman that held me. “Flemeth.”
Chapter 8: Chapter 8
A look into what's happening to the rest of our wondrous family
So for the next few chapters there's going to be a fair bit of third person POV as we take a look at what's happening outside of the Fade.Our giant family is split up in at least three separate places right now and that just can't stand. :)
The fate of Thedas would be very different if it weren't for Anders. He wanted to hate the mage for this but knew deep in that part of his brain that wasn't really talking to him right at that moment, that the man was right. Gauntleted fingers deep within Trevelyan's chest gripped tightly to the man's heart, and he couldn't in good conscience, squeeze any tighter.
When the creature known as Trevelyan had exited the rift, then closed it with no Hawke, no...no one else following, Fenris' mind had blanked. Only Anders' calm, strong grip upon his arm had stayed the killing blow. But oh how he wanted to squeeze. Just a little bit.
“Fenris, love, you need to let him go now. Rutherford is here to take him into custody, but we need to keep him alive for now.”
Fenris glanced behind him quickly, not giving the snake on his claws the opportunity to attempt an escape- not that it would have worked if he had. He would have only removed his own vital organ in the attempt. Commander Cullen was in fact, standing behind them, manacles at the ready. But he so wanted to destroy this...creature, this... Fenris' breath hitched in his lungs. Garrett and... Despair was slowly replacing the consuming rage in his chest, and his hand slid from Trevelyan's chest cavity. The elf never saw the man collapse to his knees or Cullen rushing forward to place him under lock and key. Instead he turned, placing his tear stained cheek against Anders' chest, feeling his arms wrap around him.
Soon the sounds of fighting were replaced with revelry as the last of the demons fell to sludge, but the two- in fact the entirety of the Inner Circle- were too lost in their grief to notice.
It took only a week for the nobles to start bitching and moaning, as was their way. With no Selena to act as regent, they demanded someone to lead the Inquisition, someone that could deal with the Rifts dotting their lands. They were demanding Maxwell Trevelyan. And with the Inquisition's need for said nobles support, it was looking like they weren't going to have much of a choice.
Sitting in a huddle in Cullen's command tent- the largest other than the infirmary which was filled to the brim with casualties- the three advisors, Cassandra, Anders and Fenris were trying to come up with a plan to mitigate the damage that was sure to come.
Anders and Fenris had not spent much time together during the week since Garrett and Selena's...disappearance. The Healer did what he did best, burying himself in work, of which there was plenty after the fortress battle. Up at dawn after a restless night, working until he had no mana left then working even longer on injuries that could be dealt with with bandages and potions, only to stumble back to his tent and passing out from exhaustion.
Of course, Fenris wasn't much better. He had begun with sparring with any and all comers, often sending his opponents off to Anders to deal with after beating them. Finally the Iron Bull stepped in, able to take most of the damage the elf could dish out. Even then the Qunari would surreptitiously sip back an elfroot potion or two before hitting his bedroll at night. Asala-Ashkaari could sure deal out the damage.
But now, looking upon each other with dark, sunken eyes and greyed skin from lack of sleep, they sat on the ground together, fingers entwined in support.
Josephine cleared her throat before beginning. “As you may be aware, a majority of the noble families that support the Inquisition have made demands that a new leader be put in place. One that can deal with the menace plaguing the land.”
Anders grunted. “They mean Max. They want you to release that monster and put him in charge.”
Josie sighed, looking down at her hands twisting together. She really did not want to be talking about this. “Yes.”
Fenris' fingers clenched around Anders before he leapt up and began pacing the confines of the tent. “That is absurd!” he growled. “He is a monster! He murdered Hawke and Selena to remove them from power above him and they want to just hand him the position he covets?”
“Pure speculation,” Leliana said. Fenris turned to glare, growling deep in his throat but the spymaster just raised her hand to cut him off. “You are most likely correct but we do not know for certain what happened in the Fade. Solas, Blackwall, and the Warden Nathaniel escaped through the Rift before the others, we have only Trevelyan's account of them already being deceased to go on.”
“Sincerely doubtful,” Cullen added. “Someone had to have destroyed the Nightmare demon in the Fade for it's Shades to crumble in the material world. Who if not for them?”
“It matters not now,” Leliana continued. “What matters is that we are not going to be able to put off the nobles for much longer and we need Trevelyan's marked hand to close the rifts so we will have to free him eventually. No, what matters is the welfare of the Hawke children.”
This caught Anders' and Fenris' attention. “What about them?” the healer demanded.
“If Maxwell is put in charge, there is no telling what he may do to them. His position is not completely secure with them still in a place of power. I am suggesting we put them, and the two of you, into seclusion.”
The group exchanged surprised glances before Josephine asked, “Where?”
Leliana chuckled softly. “It's not very secluded if we all know where they are, now is it? And Trevelyan could make things difficult if we all know their location. Plausible deniability will be a must in this case.” She frowned, tapping her bottom lip with a perfectly manicured nail. “No, we as the Inquisition's advisors will not be allowed to know your location.”
“Then how will you reach us if we're needed?” Anders asked.
“I have already sent for a friend who will meet you on the road towards Val Chevin, then the three of you will meet up with Scout Jim and Abby with the babies. After that he will guide you to your final destinations. If we find ourselves in need of you I will contact someone that will know someone that will know his location.”
“That's a little convoluted, isn't it?” Cullen asked, Fenris grumbling the same.
“Yet necessary,” she replied. “Though I wish it weren't.”
“When will be implementing this change?” Josephine asked, already making notes on her ever present writing board.
“As soon as possible,” the spy master replied with a curt nod to Anders and Fenris. “A raven is ready to fly to Skyhold with orders for Jim and my friend is already en route. I suggest the two of you put your packs together and head out tonight, when the moon is dark. The fewer people see you depart the better.”
“What of the Inner Circle?” Fenris asked. “Some of them are our friends, we would be loathe to leave without a good-bye.”
“I will inform them that you have gone on a scouting mission, to work through your grief” Cullen said. “You can write to them at a later date, once you're all safe.”
Anders looked to Fenris, sharing their discomfiture. No time to plan, no one to rely on but themselves. Once again travelling blindly into danger.
It was like adventuring with Hawke all over again.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
SMUT!!! SMUTSMUTSMUT!!! Fenders smut.
Have I mentioned that there's smut?
“We are lost.”
“We're not lost.”
“Do not lie to yourself, Mage. We are most certainly lost.”
Anders released and exasperated sigh and carefully refolded their map to stash in his pack. They'd been like this for over a week now, Fenris telling him in the morning as they set out that he trusted Anders to get them where they needed to go and, come night fall, complaining about how lost they were. “You know what? Fine!” he said with a grunt. “We're totally and utterly fucked! We're lost in a country neither of us knows, with civil war going on all around us, and demons, and Red Templars that would like nothing more than to stab me repeatedly and Venatori that would be ecstatic at the thought of taking you back to Tevinter with a chain around your neck!”
He could feel himself getting shriller, panting to get another breath. In the back of his head he knew that he was starting to have a panic attack, similar to the ones that he had at Kinloch Hold when he had first arrived and no one could understand him and vice versa and no one would listen to how much he just wanted to go home! But he just couldn't seem to stop. Fenris' wide eyes and surprised 'oh' face seemed to just add fuel to the fire. “I know you're scared and so am I! I'm fucking terrified! But having you bitch at me every fucking night isn't fucking helping! You know what would fucking help? Getting off my back about it and maybe not giving me shit every night!”
Shit! He was crying now, but he just couldn't seem to stop himself, clutching his arms around himself and curling up, his body waiting for the inevitable blow that was to come. Except that this wasn't Kinloch and he hadn't just been yelling at a Templar. “Mage?” he heard Fenris say softly, crouching slowly before him. “Anders may I sit with you?”
It took him a moment to choke back his tears before he nodded, looking up to see the elf lower himself next to him, hips close enough to touch. They sat in silence for a time, both watching the flames of their campfire, not that Anders remembered it being lit. Fenris probably did it while he was bawling like a baby. Leave it to the elf to be practical while he was a mess. The heat was soothing and as he calmed, anxiety easing with Fenris' closeness, he felt his muscles ache with the release of tension and his lids drooped with a sudden wave of tiredness. So when fingers lightly touched his back he leaned into the sensation without a thought.
“You're right,” the elf said softly, startling Anders into reopening eyes he hadn't realized he had closed. “I should not lay the entire burden on your shoulders. You are doing what you can -and amazingly well- while I am not much more than a trial for you to endure. You do not deserve this.”
Anders leaned to press against Fenris' shoulder, careful of the sharp points of his armour. “You're not a burden, Fenris. I just...need some encouragement once in a while.”
Fenris' fingers drifted up to cup the mage's neck and knead at the muscles there, relaxing him further. “I will endeavour to try. And if encouragement is too difficult I will do my best to take care of you when we stop for the night.”
Anders nodded and slid further down against him, letting the soothing feeling of the elf's fingers lull him off to sleep.
Anders cracks open gritted eyes, mouth dry as sand. He hated waking up like this after an attack, especially when he wasn't indoors near a source of fresh water. Of course, it could be worse. At some point during the night Fenris had gotten up and erected their tent, then managed to lift him without waking him, tucking him into his bedroll before joining him. The sun is softly lighting the canvas of the tent. Sun must be just coming out, he thought to himself.
Carefully he sat up, though he found that his muscles weren't as tight as they could have been and a quick, judicious use of healing magic took care of the lingering pain. And, lo and behold, a water skin has been left close at hand, which he takes up and swishes a mouthful before swallowing it down to take care of the lingering dryness. And, of course, now that he's sat up, the call of nature becomes extremely shrill. Because of course.
Anders wiggles from his bedroll, whispering to Fenris that he'd be back in a moment when the elf groans and twitches in his sleep next to him, and slips from the tent to stretch in the early morning sun. It's actually relatively nice out here in the wilds of Orlais, all things considered. Where they had stopped wasn't too far from a small stream, the forest not so dense that they couldn't get around easily but thick enough that most wouldn't travel through it in favour of the roads. Demons and army deserters were still a problem but could be avoided fairly easily
Shaking his head to clear out the last of the cobwebs, Anders moves off into the bush a few feet and lets loose, scanning the brush as he does. It was weird, a slight prickling at the base of his neck, almost as though he were being watched. But the trees are quiet, not a rustle or squawk of displaced fauna to be heard. Anders shrugs and tucks himself away before making his way back to the tent.
Inside Fenris has rolled over and curled into the warmth the Anders had left behind, causing the mage to chuckle softly. No matter where they were, Fenris always seemed to gravitate to the heat, his early Tevinter life showing. Anders slid in himself into the bedroll and curled around the elf, burying his nose into Fenris' hair and breathing deeply. He smelled of sword oil and the sun, and that sharp ozone scent of the lyrium under his skin. He understood why Selena had loved just breathing the elf in, it was intoxicating in it's way, heady and a little arousing.
“Mage, what are you doing?” Fenris asked, voice muffled by Anders' chest.
Anders grinned. “Smelling you. Selena's right, you smell good.” He felt the elf under his fingers stiffen slightly and he realized his fuck up. He pulled back to look the man in the eye, though Fenris refused to look any further than the mage's neck. “I'm sorry, Fenris. I know you miss her and I should watch what I say.”
Fenris sighed before looking up and Anders was a little surprised to see tears forming in the stoic warrior's eyes. “No. You should not have to curb your words to spare my sensibilities. You have your own pains, what with Hawke gone along with her.”
Anders felt the ball of pain suddenly filling his throat. It was something he had been forcing himself not to think of but it was true. Selena was the light that filled all of their lives, but Hawke, his sweet, crazy Garrett, was his! He was, for the longest time, that one thing that kept him going, kept him grounded. Without Hawke he had thrown himself into his work to keep from thinking about it, then it became all about the flight from Trevelyan. But neither of them could keep this up and the only person they had to lean on was each other.
Anders leaned down and placed a soft kiss on Fenris' forehead, his skin warm and soft under his lips. Once upon a time he had really hated this man, only coming to some sort of compromise by Selena and Hawke's insistence. And now, here they were, holding on to each other, running and hiding and keeping each other from falling apart. He felt Fenris shift beneath him and Anders ducked his head down to gently touch his lips to the elf's.
Fenris moaned softly into his mouth, cupping his cheek beneath with a roughened palm. His scent, his taste, was heady and Anders felt himself hardening at the sensations. Fuck! It's felt like ages since he's wanted someone like this, didn't think he ever would again after Garrett went into- No! Don't think of that. Mind only on the moment. The moment, Oh Sweet Maker the moment!
“Take me, Mage,” Anders heard Fenris whisper softly.
Okay, wait, hold on. “Fenris?”
The elf took a deep breath, his forehead pressed to Anders' collar bone. “I need to feel something, anything, that isn't this never ending darkness. I wish to feel you, inside me, filling me.” He paused, breath harsh in an almost sob. “Please.”
Anders placed a finger beneath the elf's chin and lifted it to place a soft, chaste kiss to his lips. “Lie back for me,” he said softly, smiling when Fenris scrambled to comply. Golden morning light filtered through the canvas of the tent, bathing the elf's darker skin, giving it a gilded sheen. Fenris was truly a beautiful sight, Anders mused. Gold skin and silver lines, hard muscle under velvet flesh. He found himself very lucky to have such a bounty.
“I'm going to take care of you.” Anders knelt beside Fenris' body, running a flat palm down his front, causing goosebumps to rise on the elf's skin. “You're in good hands, Fenris. But if you don't like anything I'm doing, you have to let me know, all right. Say the word, and it all stops, understand?”
Fenris nodded but Anders waited for verbal confirmation. “Yes, Anders,” Fenris snorted, exasperated. “I scream out 'Master' and you stop, no question.”
Oh yeah, that was definitely a word that would kill the mood. “Okay, Fenris, relax for me. Lie back and just feel what I'm doing, all right?”
It started slow, just the pads of Anders' fingers travelling slowly over every inch of exposed skin, removing clothing as he came across it. In only minutes Fenris was vibrating with tension, self-imposed helplessness adding to the tension. Anders lips followed his fingers, sucking hard on the skin and biting down ever so gently. It was slow torture and the elf's senses became heightened and sharp as pleasure bloomed. But knowing how it would feel, Anders stayed away from his partner's cock, instead focusing on thighs, stomach, the back of his knees, salty with sweat.
Fenris whined high and tight when the mage drew back for a brief moment, fumbling with the front pocket of his pack to retrieve a small vial of oil. Fenris saw it and chuckled softly, Anders looking sheepish. “What? I pack for any emergency.”
“And exactly what type of emergency calls for elfroot oil?”
“Fair enough, Mage. Now get back in here before I am forced to take drastic measures.”
Fingers drenched now in the herbal smelling oil, Anders rubbed lightly at the elf's puckered hole before slowly inserting a finger to the first knuckle. Fenris gasped, body tensing before he relaxed enough for the digit to move within him. Anders took his time, ensuring that there would be next to no pain, continuing with two fingers, then three, all deep within the elf's body. And when he crooked his fingers just so Fenris was near flying from the bedroll, back arched and face slack in bliss.
There was a lot of Tevene swears. Quite a lot. Some of them Anders had never heard before.
“Fenris? Are you all right? Do you need to stop?”
“If you stop now I will remove your hearth through your spine,” he growled.
Right. No stopping then. “Okay then. I think you're ready. I'm going to remove my fingers now, please don't kill me.”
“Don't give me reason.”
Anders chuckled lightly as he took hold of Fenris' calves, spreading his thighs and hooking them up over his forearms, lifting the elf's lower body slightly and lining up his cock. Another quick shot of oil onto his dick and Anders was slowly inching himself inside the tight hole.
Fenris tensed at first and Anders paused, waiting for him to relax or tell him to fuck off. Thank the Maker it was the former, Fenris' muscles loosening with a deep groan, allowing Anders to continue pushing himself in until a lifetime later he was seated to the hilt. Fenris wrapped his legs around his waist, fingers clutching at whatever he could touch. It was blistering heat and overwhelming and perfect.
Anders' hands held onto Fenris' hips as he began to move, starting slow but soon moving into a pounding rhythm. The elf's cock was dripping with his need for release but Anders wanted it to last, to give Fenris that connection that he begged for. He could see how close the elf was but he refused to touch the man or speed up his ministrations.
“Haaa...” Fenris squeezed his eyes shut tightly and ducked his head forward. “I-I...need! I need!”
But he didn't use the word and for that Anders reached out to cup Fenris' chin and push his head up. “Look at me.” He cracked his eyes, looking at Anders reluctantly. “Just look at me,” he commanded softly, his hand sliding from Fenris' chin to grip his hair at the nape of his neck. Fenris held the mage's gaze, though the slight twinge of pain from Anders' fingers made him wince. Though not enough to use the word.
Anders didn't say anything else, just began moving once again. He didn't let go of Fenris' hair or look away. Their gazes were locked as his pace sped, snapping his hips against Fenris' hips once more. The intensity quickly regained speed but Fenris never looked away. As familiar tensions and heat build up within the two of them, all Fenris did was curse and moan, never once calling a stop. And when Fenris exploded untouched across his stomach, his eyes never strayed from Anders' own, not until Anders came himself.
Afterwards the lay together, sweaty and sticky, neither having felt better in a very long time. Fenris grumbled about substances drying and Anders huffed a soft laugh, only for the moment to be broken badly.
“Now that you gentlemen seem to be finished, might I suggest that you come out for some breakfast?”
Later the third man would marvel others with the tale of the mage and warrior, both bathed in nothing more than incandescent light, their tent sent flying several feet away. They shone with righteous anger- and quite a bit of beautiful skin of course. “You!” they cried out in unison.
Zevran smirked, stirring his coffee cup with a small silver spoon, a large pot sitting near their now built up cook fire. “Yes, me. And according to the sweet Leliana, our sweet querida has gotten herself lost and her paramours are in need of some aid in hiding. Leave it to me, amigos. I will make it so that the Trevelyan can never find you.”
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
Happy New Year!
So let's have a look and see just where our intrepid heroes ended up after the Fade...
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
My Dearest Lady Sister,
There's a Witch living in opulence, a glittering Lion under her thumb, who is now suddenly caring for a wayward couple as though they were the Saviours of the World. Few have any access but the rumour abounds of falling stars and birds of prey. So very silly what the servants will come up with when searching for gossip.
You'd think with the Lion's pretty party coming up there would be so many other things to talk about, but the subject most are concerned about cannot be uttered without repercussions most are unwilling to pay. You know how it is, blood stains silk so easily and no one wants to ruin their shoes.
By the way, Lady Balouin sends her regards and has requested I send along an invitation to her salon prior to the Lion's festivities. I suggest a well worded refusal. The wine will most certainly not be to your liking.
Leliana read over the missive once again. That Morrigan was at Halam'shiral with Empress Celene was not news but good to have confirmed, but 'wayward couple' and 'Saviours of the World' was. Tailor could only be speaking of- But how? They had been lost, physically, in the Fade of all places. Not exactly a place one escaped from. But, then again, these were the Hawkes. They seemed to do ten impossible things before breakfast on a daily basis.
This is information that could not reach Trevelyan's hands, that was for certain...Hmmm, it seemed she would have to send a raven out to a Crow... but first a quick missive to Lady Balouin. That woman just couldn't seem to understand that you just did not poison every single one of your rivals, real or perceived. Try other things, dammit! Who would drink the wine if you always use the same weapon?
I had to admit, as far as Fade dreams went, this one was pretty damned good. Thick feather mattresses covered in silks and velvets, gilding on just about everything, even shit that was completely impractical, and elvehn servants with heavy french accents. Everything I pictured Orlais to be, and since I'd never actually been to compare my dreams to reality I knew the Fade had to have plucked it all out of my head. How clever of it.
The clincher was Morrigan, standing at a bookshelf just as she had been during her appearance in Origin, same tilt of the head and long reaching arm. Same soft snicker. “I see you've awoken. Mother would be pleased.”
I snorted, which had a small frown forming on her lips. I couldn't help it. Morrie had no clue her mother had found her in the game, another little flaw to prove I was still in the Fade. I shifted to sit up in the bed, blankets sliding down and -oops!-boobs! Morrigan chuckled throatily as I scrambled to cover myself once again and I glared at her. “Laugh it up, demon!” I grumbled. “Just lose the fantasy and get back to reality. I've got things to do, you know.”
That had the woman/demon pausing for a moment. “You believe yourself still in the Fade?”
“Duh,” I said with scorn. “Of course. No way I jumped from the Fade straight to Orlais. Especially not Halam'shiral, which is where I would find the real Morrigan right about now. No, I'm sure some demon pretended to be Flemeth- and they are going to be in so much shit when she finds out- and when I passed out they made up this place to fuck with me. Now where's Garrett?”
DemonMorrigan looked exasperated. “You truly are in Orlais and if I have to see my mother again in this lifetime it will be too soon. As for your spouse, he is in the adjoining room being treated by healers. He had some internal damage that needed to be dealt with but will make a full recovery in time.”
She barely had time to finish her sentence before I was wrapping the bed sheets around me and stomping towards the door. “C'mon, Bitch. You're going to take me to him. NOW!”
I could hear the demon behind me chuckling as I sped out into the corridor and stopped, uncertain on where to go next. The Morriedemon whispered to go right and I turned, heading for the next door. She had said he was next to my room and I really didn't have much choice but to take her at her word.
Another bedroom, this one done in dark woods, hunter green and burgundy, with paintings of people on horseback hunting who knows what. A very masculine room, in that terrible stereotypical way. The bed was massive, the chairs huge and overstuffed, fireplace wide enough to cook with. And dwarfed within a mound of blankets and pillows was Garrett.
I rushed to his side, tripping over sheet edges and nearly flashing the room, pushing a small woman dressed in fancy velvet robes out of my bloody way. He was pale and looked so small in that giant of a bed. Circles like bruises stained the flesh beneath his eyes while actual bruises marred his cheek and collarbone. I heard a rustling whisper behind me and the soft click of a door closing.
“He'll recover,” the Morrigandemon said from behind me. “The Healer you so unceremoniously pushed away, while not as skilled as your Anders, is the best the White Spire had to offer. He needs rest now, that's all.”
“See, shit like that is why I know this is the Fade,” I said with a snort, taking Garrett's hand in mine gently. “Morrigan- the real Morrigan- would have no clue as to who Anders was. She never had any dealings with him in the game.”
“Ah yes, and no one could have possible heard of the Lady Regent and her three beaus, could they?” she said mockingly. “No one gossips about the trysts that happen between them, about the Champions of Kirkwall or the Lyrium Ghost. Or the Healer Warden that saved every patient, every mage, that crossed his path. No, of course not, not in Orlais.”
“Okay, yes, fine. My logic is a little flawed. That doesn't make this real.” Garrett's hand was so wonderfully warm, I rested it up against my cheek just to revel in it. “Prove to me this is real. Prove it to me and I'll shut up about it, but right now I just need to be alone with my husband, okay?” I could feel tears burning behind my eyelids, threatening to fall. “Please?”
There was a long pause before the demon answered. “Of course, Lady Regent. I will leave you to him. And might I suggest you find some clothing? Or a robe? A sheet will only keep you warm for so long.”
I snickered lightly, staring down at my husband. “Whatever you want, Morrie. Wouldn't want to disturb your delicate sensibilities.”
Morriedemon snorted behind me then left the two of us alone in blessed silence.
So updates might be even slower than they've usually been for a while. I've gone and aggravated an old tennis elbow injury and have had to go back to using a brace and taking pain killers for it. Physiotherapy will be starting up again next week just to make life that more interesting. Of course, all that means that typing gets pretty painful after a short time so I can only work in little bursts. I have another chapter after this in reserve and about half of the one after that. Hopefully I can use them to tide you guys over until I can get my butt back in gear.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
So what's happening with our intrepid Scout Jim and the wonder babies? Let's find out, shall we?
Jim scratched absently at Spirit's ear, looking out into the dense underbrush around their camp. Abby was asleep near the fire, curled around the babies and the cat, Warden. They'd been in Orlais about a week now, trying to get as far from Skyhold as they could before Trevelyan returned from Adamant. Lady Leliana's missive had been insistent. Get out of Skyhold. Get out of Ferelden. Stay off the Imperial Highway. Someone would come for them.
It would have been nice if she had told him WHO would be coming, but with the Nightengale beggars couldn't be choosers.
It hadn't been easy getting the babes out of the fortress. There are guards and soldiers everywhere, most of whom knew Jim on sight, especially since he had begun his protective detail with the twins. And so anyone who spotted Jim knew that the babies were sure to be nearby. They probably never would have been able to pull it off if it hadn't been for the Mabari and cat. Jim had grown up a good Fereldan, knowing all about how smart Mabari dogs were, but the cat? Filled with disdain and general annoyance, the feline had still seemed just as smart-or even smarter- than it's partner. The cat would scout ahead, coming back to silently commune with the dog then run off again to distract whatever guard was in their path. Basically if it weren't for the animals they would have never gotten the children out before Trevelyan returned.
Under his fingers he felt Spirit tensed and Jim slowly let his fingers drift down to the knife at his belt. There was someone out there, the dog was never wrong. A slightly harder dig at the dog's ruff to let him know that Jim understood before standing up and pretending to stretch, twisting to get a better look through the trees around them. Yes, he could feel them. Three at least, most likely more. At least one archer up in a tree 30 yards to the left. Two approaching in full view to keep his attention. Jim glanced back at Abby, noticing that she was no longer breathing deeply but had not moved from around the children. Good girl, keep wary, run if needed. The cat had vanished, but being a cat it could be anywhere.
“Ho the camp!” one of the men called out cheerfully. Jim could almost feel the insincerity dripping from his tongue. “Can my brother and I share your fire?”
Brother. Right. “Of course, Good Sir!” Jim replied, his best goofy smile plastered on his lips. He waved towards the fire, releasing his grip on Spirit's ruff and distracting the men from the dog in the process. “But please, if you would, keep your voices down while my woman sleeps.”
The men both chuckled and Jim could almost see their evil intentions in the sound. “Sure, sure,” the one man said, side-eyeing the other. “Wouldn't want to disturb the missus.”
Jim felt more than saw the shapes of two more bodies approaching from Abby's other side. So a minimum of five...with the dog's help he could most likely handle them, but while keeping an eye out for Abby and the babes? Harder...
It was the cat the made the first move in the end. A short, sharp cry from the archer and the unmistakable thud of a body hitting the ground, the crack of his spine when it collided with the rock beneath his hiding place, and a cat leaping onto the corpse from it's high branch. Thankfully, Jim got over his shock before the others and managed to get his knives bloody before their assailants could recover.
For Jim, this was an ancient dance, something he hadn't been able to indulge in in a very long time. He had grown up alone on the streets of Denerim, fending for himself for the most part, some of the younger street kids later in his teen years. A quick slice of the blade had been his back up when his bewildered, dopey persona didn't do the trick. But this time, oh this time, the persona wasn't even needed, the pretend, the playacting, all gone. No, this time Jim just...let loose. He could feel the blood in his veins singing with release as he danced with the movement of his blades. Peripherally he saw Abby move away with the babies, one tucked under each arm, into the treeline, but that was a side thought. A footnote to what was happening around him.
Three of the five were down permanently now, another breathing out his last, gurgles of blood sliding from his lips as Spirit moved away from, muzzle liberally covered in his life's fluids. That left the last, the talker, standing before him. He was a big man, dirty and dishevelled but muscled and obviously well-fed. The whites of his eyes shone bright with panic but his rusty, pitted sword never-wavered.
He watched the fight with interest, reaching out to stroke the cat beside him on the branch. How very interesting. He had spotted the extremely subtle signs of the skill beneath the bumbling surface, but most would not. And his dance was exquisite. Only this last marauder stood before him and the canine now and he was tempted not to render aid after all, if only to see what the outcome would be. But as a Crow he had intelligence that others would not and this foe was not like the others. A former bodyguard to a noble Orlesian house until he raped the nobleman's daughter, escaped before he could be put to death for his transgressions and fled first to Fereldan, then the Free Marches and Nevarra, leaving a wake of defiled young ladies behind him, only to return to Orlesian soil and take up with roving bandits. A skilled chevalier against a Denerim street fighter and trained Mabari.
A little too close to call for his liking, and he had promised his friend he would see to the little family's well being.
With a sigh he gave one last scratch tot he purring cats ears and jumped to the ground.
Jim heard the soft thud of feet hitting the ground behind and for just a moment he was certain that he had failed. Another assailant in the trees when he had only accounted for the one. But the dog didn't react when he had for the others so Jim decided that he was just going to have to trust in the canine's discretion. The man in front of him was different from the other bandits and was going to take all of his concentration. And then, of course, he gets distracted.
“Amigos!” Oh fuck... “What seems to be the problem?” Antivan. A Crow? “All this commotion will disturb the young ones!” And, Oh Maker, is the other guy actually peeing his breeches? Yup, that is a very unmistakable smell right there.
“Oh, now that is certainly not how one should introduce themselves is it?” the Antivan continued, moving up to stand at Jim's right, opposite the Mabari. Out of the corner of his eye he saw dark black leather, woollen hood and a stylized silverite mask. Definitely a Crow. But one that seemed to be on their side, at least for the moment. “Not that it matters, Fitzgerald Scott-” the large warrior started in surprise, face going from pale to near grey “-the Crows send their regards.”
Jim could never explain afterwards what actually happened. He knew that, in the grand scheme of things, he was pretty damned fast, but this? He didn't even have the chance to blink before the Crow was in the larger man's space and the warrior was bleeding out on the ground, throat a clean line of deep red. Spirit had stood but still made no aggressive moves towards the stranger, in fact was wagging his tail and lolling his tongue in an approximation of a smile.
The Crow was chuckling softly as he leaned down to clean his blade on the dead man's tunic. “You are quite the bladesman, Scout Jim.” Spirit barked happily and jumped about a little as the man turned to face them. Although his ears were covered, his nasal ridge proclaimed him elvehn, with tanned skin and gold blonde hair. Accented by swirling, dark lines of a tattoo, his eyes sparkled with the colour of cider. “And greetings to you, fierce Mabari protector. It has been too long? How is my Querida?” The dog whined, lowering itself slightly even as the Crow approached. Running his fingers through the dog's ruff he replied, “Ah, my friend, we will find her once again, as well as your other masters, have no fear.”
The elf then turned his attention, and frighteningly sexy smile, back to Jim. “Ah! I have been remiss, let me introduce myself. I am Zevran Arainai, sent to aid you by my dear friend, the Nightengale.”
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
Holy Crap! Would you look at this, I'm not dead!
Sorry about the long gap, guys. Lost three chapters of work that needed to be completely rewritten while dealing with physiotherapy for chronic tendonitis. Which makes typing a serious bitch, let me tell you.
But I'm all caught up now and have started posting once again. Thanks to everyone that's still sticking with me.
This chapter has three different POVs so you can get a bit of info of how the Inquisition is doing without our intrepid heroes.
Varric leaned forward over his ledgers, pen poised and looked out over the Great Hall from beneath his brows, trying to be as surreptitious as possible. Trevelyan was making the rounds again, Madame de Fer following in his wake. In general the nobles loved him, fawning over whatever attention they could get, though there had been more than one instance where a wrong word slipped into the wrong ear had netted the offender a hefty fine or, in one case, the removal of a somewhat delicate appendage.
The mage woman laughed softly at something Trevelyan said and Varric scowled. Of all the Inquisition members, she was the only one doing well in the end. Buttercup and the Kid had left quite quickly when Trevelyan had begun working with the noble gits that were causing the Red Jennies a heap of trouble. And after the Qunari offered the Inquisition an alliance that Tiny then sabotaged by saving the Chargers against their illustrious leaders orders, he and his company were summarily fired- at least, officially. The Nightingale still gave them jobs under the table in order to keep them close.
Sparkler joined up with the Chargers soon after as well. Trevelyan had gone behind the Tevinter's back and contacted the man's father to send him home to who knows what fate. But a certain sweetheart of an ambassador couldn't keep that sort of information to herself, allowing Dorian to sneak out in the night. And although no one would speak of it, Varric was certain that Trevelyan had done something...untoward. And if it were proven true then Bianca was going to be having a word or two with the man's steak and two veg.
Hero was technically still a member but had gone off to who knows where, ostensibly to keep 'recruiting' for the Wardens. It was a lie, of course, said only to keep Trevelyan from hunting him down when some of the man's questionable allies met bitter ends across the Hinterlands.
The Seeker stayed, of course. She figured she started this mess, it was only right to see it through. Solas stuck around, though no one was really sure why. Trevelyan treated the mage worse than most other elvehn servants around Skyhold, but the man never did a thing about it. Just sighed, glared, rolled his eyes, and kept on doing whatever it was he did.
And him? Well, someone needed to keep an eye on things. There were certain Dwarven organizations that were very concerned on the way things were going out here in the mountains.
Bethany scrubbed at her eyes with the heel of her hands once again, the headache nothing new since her brother and his wife had died in the Fade. The notes laid out on the library desk were neatly written but cramped on the page, as though Dorian had been afraid he wouldn't be able to get enough paper to write it all down. The notes the man had left behind in his little nook had been copious and relatively well thought out, but a lot of them seemed to assume that the reader knew about other things that the mage had worked on which, sadly, Bethany had not. But when Dorian had fled, Cullen had begged her to take over his research work before Trevelyan appointed someone of his own choosing. Someone answerable only to Trevelyan.
“Sweetness, you work yourself too hard.” Oh look, speak of the Demon.
“I know, Cullen,” she sighed, leaning into the feel of his large, calloused hands sliding over her shoulders. “I just...really don't want to have to face that man. And he never comes in here.”
“You know,” Cullen said, and Bethany could practically feel the little smirk pulling at his scarred lip, “you could always sneak through the rotunda and come visit me in my office. Solas wouldn't mind and would likely even help you escape from the man. You could stay in my room with your books and notes for a bit of quiet.”
Bethany smiled, reaching up to cup the backs of Cullen's hands upon her shoulders. Since Garrett and Selena's disappearance he had been her rock, her shoulder to cry on. And she happily helped him mitigate some of the symptoms of the poor man's lyrium withdrawals. “you just want me trapped in your rooms, don't you?” she giggled.
“Ah, you've caught me. Now whatever are you going to do to me?”
Bethany felt a shiver run down her spine at the thought. “I might have a thought or two.”
“Well hot fucking damn.”
Dorian smirked, leaning on his elbow, spread out on his side facing the tent flaps where the Iron Bull now stood, two steaming bowls of breakfast in his hands. He knew he looked good, a light sheen of sweat glistening on his skin from the desert heat. Even with sand sneaking into places that sand should certainly never be, he had not been happier in months.
When the Regent and her husband had died in the Fade, he had tried to make a go of it with the Inquisition. He'd returned to Skyhold with the intent of continuing his research into time magic, only for Trevelyan to sic some of his father's henchmen on him. He blessed Lady Josephine for her timely intervention. How she knew about it, he would never ask and she would never tell.
Dorian had packed whatever belongings he could manage and high tailed it straight to the Chargers, who had already been let go at that time. He knew that, on his own, Dorian would be easy pickings for Red Templars, Venatori, or even his father's goons, and so he decided that there was safety in numbers, even if that number was Bull.
Of course, two nights later and he was spread out in the Iron Bull's bedroll, knees pressed up to his shoulders and new constellations of stars bursting behind his eyelids. They had been sharing a tent every night since.
“See something you like, do you?” he said, running a hand down along his side over his smooth skin.
Bull growled deep in his throat and stepped forward. “Yeah, porridge. Come on, eat up, Big Guy. We got a job come in.”
That got the mage's attention. He sat up quickly, hand out for his bowl and giving the Iron Bull a space to sit. The Qunari levered himself down slowly, bum knee creaking as he moved and Dorian winced at the soft groan the larger man couldn't hold back. He hated hearing his lover's pain, though they had found that the judicious application of a bit of heat from his hands did wonders for the man's muscles.
A few quiet finger fulls of thickened oats with a generous dab of honey and a few sweetberries- Selena was right, these little things were amazing!- and the Iron Bull began to describe their next detail. “Empress of Orlais is having some fancy shindig. Masquerade party, some kind of peace talks, the works. We're gonna be auxiliary protection, behind the scenes stuff where Venatori are more likely to be, while Nightingale and Cullen's men are out front where the nobles can see them.”
Dorian gulped the sudden rock of porridge trapped in his throat. “What about...him?” he asked softly.
Bull reached out to place a comforting hand on his lover's back. “He'll be there but you never have to see him. I promise. I'm going to need you to do a separate job for me while we're there.”
“Oh? Do I get to show of my considerable assets?” Dorian asked with a slightly forced smile. When all else fails, act like you're perfect and the world should be falling down at your feet.
Bull knows about Dorian's coping methods and runs with it. “You might need to sweet talk your way further into the palace than we can get. The Sister tells me that we might find a couple of wayward Inquisition members that vanished at Adamant under Trevelyan's influence.”
Dorian thought back to that cock up of a battle. There had been deaths, of course. Plenty of them. But disappearances? Who had-! It finally hit him. He stared at the Iron Bull with wide, hopeful eyes. “You don't mean...?”
. “Apparently that is the rumour,” Bull replied. “I don't know the circumstances, but one of Red's spies sent her word and she's passed it along to me. We're to make contact if we can and find out if Starlight is willing to take over her old job.”
“Why wouldn't she?!” Dorian exclaimed, talking vehemently with his hands and flinging a gob of porridge on to Bull's chest. “Trevelyan has sent her lovers and children into hiding, for Maker's sake!”
Bull scraped the oats off his skin and sighed, sucking his finger clean. “But her and her family now have an opportunity to live a quiet, happy life. Wouldn't you want that for your children? Away from all this Inquisition political crap?”
Oh. “Well...I would have to think about it, certainly,” he grudgingly agreed. “But Thedas needs her right now. Can she really say no to that?”
“I don't know, Dorian. But in the end, if you were in her shoes, would you take back the reins of this debacle? Rebuild the entire thing from scratch from the shit that Trevelyan has made of it?”
Dorian thought about it for more time than he thought should have been necessary. And he still couldn't answer the question.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
I'm posting this while at my ex-father-in-laws and his internet isn't the best so I'm hoping that this loads properly :)
My physio therapist has cleared me to go back to work, so while this means I can type more at a time, it means that when I'm working I'll have less time to do it. Six of one, half dozen of another, right?
I couldn't say I was surprised when I opened my eyes to the green, swirly landscape of the Fade. Maybe a little brighter, not quite so much of a nasty mould green, but still bloody well green. I turned all around trying to spot the Black City but it was illusive today, apparently. Ah well, I'm sure it's around somewhere.
I didn't feel anyone near me until the figure spoke. I knew this person quite well after all these years, even if I wasn't completely sure of who exactly they were. Welcome back, Earth-child.
I snorted, glancing at the figure from the corner of my eye. Cloaked in a nondescript cloak of indeterminate colour, slightly taller than myself, with long fingered hands and a chin that was sharp and pointed. His skin colour, on the other hand, seemed to shift through the gamut, from pale as a Fereldan to dusky and dark as the Rivaini. I even spotted Fenris' sweet caramel and silver lines, causing my eyes to tear. “I never really left, you know. Physically, I mean.”
Really? The figure asked. You are absolutely certain of this? You believe that the one you know as Flemeth would allow another to take her visage to trick you? The figure chuckled, a familiar sound that I couldn't seem to place for the life of me. I believe you have a low opinion of Flemeth if that is the case.
I turned to fully face the figure, though they were still turned away from me, looking out to the landscape of the Fade. “Dude, for all I know, you're nothing but another demon trying to fuck with my head. And I really don't appreciate it, let me tell you.”
I see. And boy did he ever sound disappointed. Would you trust me in conducting an exercise?
The figure turned to face me fully and, let me tell you, that is some fucking daunting shit. No eyes that I could see but damned if I couldn't feel them just burrowing into my soul. Thank you, Earth-child. I request that you close your eyes. I promise that no harm will come to you.
Needless to say I was reluctant but I did it anyway. This guy hadn't steered me wrong yet, right? I wasn't sure exactly what I was supposed to be doing, just standing there with my eyes closed, waiting around like an idiot.
Now tell me what you feel. What do you smell or taste or feel on your skin?
I stopped to think about it for a moment. “Well, I guess I can hear the water, down below us somewhere.” And suddenly I could, very clearly, as though the water were right next to us. “I smell...almost a rotten egg smell, sulphur,” and Oh God, could I smell the fucking sulphur now. “The air is pretty stagnant here. It's not moving at all.”
Really, Earth-child? You do not feel my touch upon your arm?
My eyes flew open and the instant I could see that it was true I felt the warmth of another's touch radiating up my forearm. “Why-?”
The Fade is made up of perceptions when you are here only within the mind. Your senses are only as good as your will. With your eyes closed, you're mind had no notion that my touch was coming and so felt nothing at all. In the waking world, your senses are sharper, more in tune with each other and themselves. No one sense relies on others to be perceived.
I stared, trying to process what I was being told. The longer I looked into the shadow of that hood the more detail I could sort of make out, though now I wondered if that was my own idea of what I wanted to see or not. Because this figure that I've been speaking with off and on for years, looked very much like Solas. But why would I want to see Solas of all people, instead of say, Fenris or Anders, or even Garrett for fucks sake? Maybe because Solas has visited my dream before? Or...oh fuck, I don't know. Maybe in the back of my head I thought that if someone was going to try and teach me something he should look like an egghead professor.
Please, Earth-child, think on what I have said. Your mind must remain sharp if Thedas is to survive what it needs to to move on.
“Move on? What does that mean?” I asked, cause that didn't sound ominous at all.
Something for another night, he replied. When we have more opportunity, perhaps. For now it is time for you to wake up.
Warm, thick arms were wrapped around me, holding me close to a chest covered in sweet, if slightly itchy, chest hair. I burrowed in deeper to my little cocoon, enjoying the peaceful closeness after my conversation in the Fade.
Conversation in the Fade...
I sat up suddenly, dislodging the arm around my shoulder, eliciting a groan from my companion. I dreamed! A real dream, a Fade dream, complete with my strange visitor and everything! And if I dreamed myself into the Fade, then... “We're really here?”
There was an inquisitive grunt next to me and I turned to see Garrett's pretty blue eyes slitted and watching with a soft grin. He...he looked okay. I mean, really okay, no bruises or swelling or anything to prove that not long ago he had been at death's door. With a sob I hadn't realized I had been holding back I threw myself down into his embrace and clung to him as though any moment he would disappear. Which, I mean, with what's been happening over the past little while, might have been the case.
I think I mumbled something about shutting the hell up and burrowed deeper into Garrett's chest which had him chuckling as he tightened his grip. After a few moments he asked, “Where are we?” Mumble mumble. “Babe, I can't understand you when you talk into my pectorals.”
I smiled and pulled away enough to clear my lips to move. “Orlais. Halam'shiral. With Morrigan.”
“You're kidding,” he said. “How in the Void did we end up here of all places?”
“Long story short, we got to an Eluvian, Flemeth opened it for us and dropped us off with her daughter. Who is probably not all that pleased with me because I kept calling her a demon.”
“I see that your paramour has awakened.” Oh fuck, speak of the demon herself.
Morrigan stood at the door, framed by the candlelight of the hall, a dark silhouette with fiery eyes. “Yeah, he's up. And thanks for taking care of him. I appreciate it.”
I love it when she gets all flustered. “Yes, well...you...you are welcome.” It's some of my favourite dialog in the first game, really. I vow to do it as often as possible. “Did I hear correctly that you no longer believe me to be a demon?”
I smirked, sitting up enough to wrap myself in the bed sheet. I was still pretty damned naked after all. “That's still on the fence about that one. I have met your mother.”
Morrigan grinned in response, stepping further into the room to stand by the edge of the bed. “I understand your reticence.” She turned to address Garrett, who was lounging indolently with an arm tucked behind his head and a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. My sweet man was not nearly as comfortable with having the witch in our room than he appeared. “How are you feeling, Serrah Hawke?”
He shrugged his shoulder, hand tightening imperceptibly at my waist. “Been better, been run over by a horde of Qunari.”
The woman quirked a quizzical brow at me but I just smirked and thumped him lightly on the chest. “Don't be a shit. I've already treated her badly, you need to be the good guy for once.”
“Aw! Do I have to?”
Morrigan snorted and turned away to head out the door once again. “I expect little from men as a rule. He is no exception. Now, if you would rouse yourselves- and preferable dress- the Empress would like an audience at her convenience. Which, in Orlesian politics, means now.”
As the woman closed the door behind her I sighed and curled back up around my husband's warm, naked chest. “I don't wanna meet the Empress,” I whined.
“Neither do I. Sweetheart.”
“But we gotta, don't we?”
Garrett chuckled and kissed the top of my head. “Yeah. Or go live on the streets of Orlais in nothing but this sheet.”
“Tempting but no. Let's go see what her Imperial Pain-in-the-Ass wants, shall we?”
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
Happy Birthday to me! Just...don't ask how old. It's old enough to lie about the answer.
I don't remember getting into the bath. In fact, I don't remember leaving Celene's meeting chambers at all. I mean, I had to have, obviously, to be sitting in a bath tub now, but that didn't mean that the trip from there to here was any clearer in my head.
Trevelyan has been in charge of the Inquisition for near four months now. And he has alienated nearly all of it's allies to the point that Fereldan is considering declaring war.
Four months, she said. What felt like days was months here in Thedas. My heart was hurting at how long my babies had been without me or Garrett. And that in those four months they had been driven from their home for fear for their lives and had been living out of tents. Thank God for Abby and Jim. Without their quick thinking and willingness to care for them, Victoria and Jackson would be dead now, I was certain.
And then there were Anders and...and Fenris. Fuck! We had left things so badly between us and now he was out there, thinking I was dead, and I had no way to tell him otherwise. I had no idea where they could be except as far from Maxwell Trevelyan as they could get.
Fucking asshole Max! My blood boiled at the thought of Maxwell Trevelyan and what he did to us. I swear to Christ or whoever is out there that I was going to do some very irreparable damage to that boys nether regions when I got my hands on him. I mean, it's one thing to go after me, even my men were big and bad enough to take care of themselves against his kind of shit fuckery, but babies? MY babies?! Oh no, that definitely could not stand.
We are considering joining King Alistair in his bid to dismantle the Inquisition.
Fucking stupid political bullshit, I swear to God! What the fuck had Trevelyan done to get Alistair, of all people's back up? I mean, Al was a pussy cat. Well, unless Darkspawn were involved. Or somebody gave his wife a hard time, I guess. But then Gwen would just knock their block off and be done with it. Or, that's how I played her, anyway, and when we met at Redcliffe she seemed to be running true to form.
I believe Trevelyan to be planning to assassinate me, backed by my cousin, Gaspard. They will both be in attendance at the masquerade ball I am hosting four weeks hence. I would request that you attend and act as my bodyguard during that time. If it is proven that Trevelyan is plotting he will be arrested at that time. You will take his place within the Inquisition once again.
Is that what I wanted, though? Did I want to drag my family back into that cess pit of fighting and politics and just plain bullshit? And did we really have a choice? My kids, my small babies, had enough power between them to almost literally revive the dead. I don't think Anders would have made it after his head wound and the frigid mountain cold if it hadn't been for their magic. And as far as history was concerned, they were the true Heralds of Andraste. Could I take them away from the people that needed them to have hope in surviving the fuckery of life?
I faintly heard the door open and close behind me, heralding Garrett's return. “Hey, Love. Hope you enjoyed sparring with Celene's guard, because do I have an earful for you.” He didn't answer but I figured he would be removing his armour and sweat-covered gambeson before popping in to join me in the bath. I slid a little further down, relishing the warm water I still didn't remember drawing. “She says that she's thinking of joining King Alistair in waging war against Trevelyan. Wild, right?”
There was a soft grunt of acknowledgement and I smiled. He must be really sore from taking a beating if he wasn't making any more noise. I closed my eyes and waited, enjoying the relaxation of the water. It wasn't often that I really got to take my time at this sort of thing so I was going to enjoy it while I could. I heard noises drifting from the bed, footsteps softly treading towards me. Any second now, Garrett would say something about my state of undress, I was sure, and I waited in smirking anticipation. He stepped close enough that I could smell his skin- sword oil and...lemon? And tobacco?!
My eyes flew open and there was someone else, not my Garrett, staring down at me from behind a Harlequin's mask. FUCK! I scrambled to stand in the water, reaching for whatever I could find to defend myself but hands were wrapping tightly around my throat before I could do much more than twitch.
He squeezed, other hand joining the first, cutting off my air until spots of black danced before my eyes. Shit! I kicked, clawed at his hands but the slippery nature of the tub made getting purchase impossible.
How did I not know that this wasn't my Garrett? Please let him come, let him not find a corpse after all the shit we'd been through. Let me see my babies again. My Fenris. Please, God, let me see Fenris one more time.
The assassin was saying something softly in Orlesian but I couldn't concentrate enough to understand. The darkness was taking over now, no matter how I fought my attacker, I couldn't pry his hands from me. In a last dash effort I reached for his eyes and scratched at him with all my might. Release! Thank Christ! But then, fuck, he grabbed the back of my head and with a last shove, slammed my forehead against he side of the tub.
That was going to leave a fuck of a goose egg when I woke up.
If I woke up.
Chapter 15: Chapter 15
I'm currently writing Halam'shiral and I am almost crying at certain parts. Lovely, happy, I'm-never-going-to-do-such-horrible-things-to-you-again parts. But until then...
I don't know if it's because I fight to live while drowning but I've heard others say that it's not much worse than falling asleep, which is a load of absolute bull crap. Your lungs burn, your muscles cramp, your brain screams at you to breathe but if you do you'll die. Thank God I was only in a bathtub when I jolted back to consciousness, inhaling enough water to hydrate a buffalo or I would most certainly no longer be of this mortal coil. As it was I was a hacking, snotty, disgusting mess, dragging myself over the edge of the tub. To the world at large: don't drown. It's not pretty.
Part of my brain acknowledged that there was noise going on around me, some kind of scuffle and a voice frantically calling my name but I have to admit that my heart really wasn't in it. No, my heart was kind of stuck in the 'trying to breathe' portion of the night. The noises settled and a voice called my name, a hand touching my shoulder.
I don't think I've jumped away from a touch, searching for a weapon faster in my life.
“Whoa there, Sweetheart!” Garrett said, kneeling next to the edge of the tub, hand still outstretched. “It's all right. Just me, see? Just little old me.”
I looked around frantically, sure that the Harlequin had to still be here, hiding for another attack. But at first all I could see was my husband, flecks of blood on his cheek and chin, tunic spattered with more, the bathtub now separating us as I apparently managed to vault the edge opposite him. Huh, pretty good for a lady that was fucking close to finding out if the Maker was real a minute ago, huh?
And then I spotted the body behind him and cried out in alarm. “It's okay, Love. He's dead, see?” Garrett pointed to the gaping wound still seeping blood onto the assassin's costume. “He's not going to hurt you again. I promise. Let's get you covered and call for a guard, all right?”
I'm pretty sure I nodded though I couldn't seem to take my eyes off the corpse on the floor. An Orlesian assassin, a Harlequin done up on an outfit of black and white diamonds, half mask of ivory dotted with black stones, now splashed with garish red. His eyes were still open and staring with surprise, most likely that Garrett managed to best him. I shuddered, then startled when the heavy weight of a dressing gown was wrapped around my shoulders. Garrett reached out to take my hand and helped me to a full standing position, then sat me on the edge of the bed. He looked me in the eyes for a moment, concern written over his face, before ducking his head out the bedroom door, ostensibly to speak with the guard that was supposed to be stationed in the hallway. Where the fuck had he been while I was getting killed? Asshole!
Soon enough the room was filled with people- more guards, their captain, Morrigan, the Empress, and every noble in residence that could conceivably find a reason to be there. The body was taken away, questions were asked. And asked again. And asked and asked and asked until I was ready to scream, and half the time when I answered, the voices of nobles would be talking over me and scoffing with disbelief because, of course, nothing as indiscreet as a an assassination of this type could ever happen in Orlais, let alone the Winter Palace, so I must be lying and set the entire thing up to gain favour.
Thank God Morrigan basically snarled the whole lot of them out of the room before I could do something regrettable. Satisfying, but regrettable.
I think Celene patted my hand before leaving, taking all but two guard along with her, but by then my head was on bloodshed and murder, so I really couldn't tell. Garrett lounged so lax next to me that I was fairly certain that his thoughts were mirroring mine as well.
“Celene has a new set of rooms prepared for you on a different floor, for your protection. It is not as opulent as these, but I believe that will not be to your detriment, yes? I will escort you, once we have collected the little you brought with you from the Fade.”
“Thanks DemonMorrie,” I said softly, straightening my spine. Time to suck it up and get back with the program. Garrett moved next to me, hand sliding up to rest at the small of my back.
Morrigan chuckled. “Am I still a demon to you, then?”
“Nah. Think of it as a nickname. Scary as any demon and twice the power.”
Morrigan smiled and nodded, leading us out of what had become a death room.
In the following weeks I learned that living near the higher placed servants had its advantages, and it's draw backs. The Seneschal had a suite of rooms here next to our own, and we wanted for nothing. Basically he would pop by for a quick visit, take a look around our space and note things he didn't see, and we would have it within a day or two. We never asked for a thing but damn, if we suddenly didn't have a shit load of things. New weapons and armour of the highest quality, clothing fit to meet with the Empress- which we did. A lot- and even little things like more yarn and needles so I could keep my hands busy and not strangle the annoying noble bastards that refused to just leave us alone. Thankfully Morrigan had the forethought to give us a different name to go by while in the palace, lest Max figure out we were here. I laughed when she told me what it was, an off shoot of Celene's mother's family apparently, the de Lauzon's.
It had been my maiden name and I nearly cried from laughing so hard.
Unfortunately the Empress' personal seamstress was also on hand so I couldn't never escape the overbearing hag of a woman. Don't get me wrong, I'm sure she was a nice person when she wasn't trying to push hideously coloured satins on me because 'they are the fashion, Cherie', or had so many pins between her lips they looked like hundreds of tiny, tiny teeth, but I refused to spend any more time with her than necessary to find out. Admittedly her work was exquisitely detailed and good quality, even if she was a slave to trend. Horrible, horrible trend. I refuse to wear a bird cage dammit!
Of course, while all of this was going on we were still trying to figure out who had set the Harlequin after me. Had Florianne figured out who we were and set him after us? Max or Viv? Some unknown noble jack off that wasn't a fan of perceived competition for the Empress' favour? This, right here, was why I hated the fucking Game. It got to the point where I was chomping at the bit for the damned ball to take place so that I could finally get around to killing somebody and get the fuck out of this horrible place.
I had never really been a fan of my French Canadian background and the bullshit that went along with family reunions, but Orlesians? A million times worse, I swear.
I don't know if you'll ever see this but I miss you so badly right now. My heart breaks at the thought that you might not smile for me when you see me again, but I hold out the tiniest of hopes that you will. Your smile is so beautiful that I can't imagine a world without it. Soon this damned ball will be over, I will have dealt with the traitor and you and I can meet once again.
Until then, Beloved,
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
Here we go guys! Countdown to Halam'shiral. I will eventually be sketching some pics of everyone's outfits and either post them here or on my Tumblr.
Fenris looked down at himself in the Inn's mirror and frowned before reaching towards the little side table for the slip of paper it held and placing it into the breast of his tunic. He had memorized the words what felt like years ago but he went nowhere without it. IloveyouImissyouIloveyouI missyouIloveyouImissyou. It had become the litany with which he got through his day. And today would be a horrible day, he could feel it in his bones,
He refused to consider how the Antivan had managed to get his hands on the finery that he, Anders, and Fenris himself now sported, or the opulent room at this Inn based in the centre of Val Royeaux. Not to mention the invitations and carriage to the ball at Halam'shiral later this evening. The babes would be spending the night here under guard of their nanny and Jim while the three men entered the den of debauchery and malice, Thank the Maker. This place was relatively safe, probably safer than he realized if the former Crow had enough contacts to secure it in the first place.
Of course, he might end up killing the other elf himself before the end of the night. The costumes he had procured were, well, they were very Orlesian. And most assuredly not subtle. Anders had been handed a mass of dyed blue leather strapping that somehow manifested into trousers with a matching doublet with silver trim and a silver half mask that appeared to be wings stretching out away from his face. It was very reminiscent of a Warden uniform without actually stating his Warden status. Fenris and the assassin each wore supple black leather breeches and matching jackets over white silk shirts but where Fenris' trims and full grinning skull mask were in silver, Zevran's accoutrements and bird skull mask were glittering gold. The three would also have charcoal grey wool cloaks and black leather boots- Fenris' missing the soles after he attacked them with a dagger. He was going to need to feel the ground beneath his feet if they were going to be expected to fight.
“Almost ready?” Anders asked and Fenris turned to take a final long look at the man. Hair pulled back, freshly shaved and dressed so well, he could almost believe that the group of them had not spent the last months living rough in the woods. The elf nodded, then flushed slightly when he realized the mage was taking a long approving look of his own.”All right then. Zevran is waiting down at the carriage. Let's go meet our fates, shall we?”
The men turned to give each of their children a soft kiss on the head, Fenris marvelling at how big they'd gotten since their mother... Anyway. Victoria swirled a few mage lights int he air in goodbye, which the elf took pride in not flinching at, and the pair headed out the door on the way to the ball.
Well, the seamstress may have despaired at my lack of following the fashion trends, but she still did exactly as I asked her. I wanted clothing pieces that, during a fight, could be easily removed or fought in so I went with a knockoff of a sari. First I paired a short, tight cream silk tunic and matching set of hakama-like pants, wide and billowy enough to seam like a riding skirt. They had concealed slits along each thigh to be able to reach the small blades I'd been able to strap there. Unfortunately, Speed and Lightning were just too long to be comfortable. Over that was a matching kimono belted loosely shut with a heavily embroidered sash. Last was a thin cream silk haori, an over-jacket painted and embroidered with cherry blossoms in a pale pink . Embroidered slippers and a few touches of gold jewellery finished off the entire ensemble. Oh, and the mask. Can't forget the God damned, effing mask now can we? No, of course not. It was a bright gold half mask with gold chains that wound up into my hair that was twisted up onto the top of my head and held in place with decorative sticks. I hated it, I wanted it gone, but it was my concession to the seamstress for sewing up what I actually wanted.
Well, beggars can't be choosy, can they? One quick pull at the sash and I could be stripped down to the tunic and pants for easy fighting.
Garrett's was much more simple and I kind of wanted to be a guy right about then. Cream silk tunic and leather breeches to match my own costume, but with darker leather boots, belt and a large pirate-style hat, complete with a sprig of cherry blossoms and albino peacock feathers. His gold mask was full-faced to try covering his beard, since he absolutely refused to shave it. And because I told him I would divorce him if he did. What? Garrett would look way too much like Carver if he did, admit it. Top it all off with an 'ornamental' sword hilted with gold filigree and topped with emerald and sapphire embellishments, but with a blade that could cut through the biggest, meanest bad guy out there in a matching sheath at his waist. It was the best we could get out of Celene as far as the 'no weapons' rule of the ball.
No one at the ball would recognize us, I was certain. I didn't recognize us.
A Chantry bell rang off in the distance and Garrett stepped to my side, arm crooked and held out for me. “Well, My Lady de Lauzon? Shall we go knock them off their incredibly high heels?”
I chuckled and slid my fingers onto the proffered arm. “Of course, My Lord de Lauzon. Let us go and wow them, pick a few of their pockets and then, if we have time, maybe stop an assassination, hm?”
“Well, if we must,” he said mockingly and I laughed, closing the door behind us.
The Iron Bull went over the plan in his head, ticking off what had been set up already and what needed to be accomplished. The rest of the Chargers were out in their assigned areas, with Dalish acting as runner between them to relay messages and calls to arm. Thankfully Dorian had been able to come up with a cream to cover her tattoos or they would have had to use Skinner to blend in with the other elven servants, but that would have ended up with at least three nobles stabbed to death and the Imperial Guard on their heads. Not a good idea.
Dorian had also set wards in certain strategic areas that would alert him if people had passed them into areas that no one should be treading. It was a long shot, but there were still parts of the Palace under reconstruction and would make good sites for Venatori to congregate. And now his beautiful mage was dressing for the ball so that he could mingle with the Orlesian nobles and maybe, just maybe, find their wayward friends.
“Bull, could you please help me with this sash? I find it just will not sit right, no matter what I do. I am considering ending its existence with a touch of fire at this point.”
Bull smirked and stepped forward. Dorian looked resplendent in his white silk jacket and black wool breeches. They had decided on a simple cut with good fabrics, trim in a matching black instead of the more flashy metals or jewels that the nobles would be sporting. With a half mask of white dragon bone intricately carved with vines and flowers thanks to Grim, Dorian appeared to be as just as high a class as the other nobles gathered without being gaudy, garnering enough attention that they would actually deign to speak to him if only to figure out where he actually stood in their social standing. And with his darker skin tone and rich, black hair, he was also exotic enough to intrigue.
The Iron Bull looked his lover over and couldn't help leaning in to take a strong inhale of the spicy aroma he seemed to exude. It was intoxicating, and suddenly he really wished that he could just rip off the offending clothing and take the mage right here. But no, they had a job to accomplish. Instead he slipped his fingers beneath the sash belt at the man's waist and pulled slightly, smoothing it out and settling it the way it should lie at the his hips. He stepped back before the urge to grab those hips became too strong to resist. “You remember what you need to do, right?”
Dorian sighed and rolled his eyes, a slight smirk belying his irritation. “Yes, Bull. I am to mingle among the Orlesian nobles, listen for any useful gossip, concentrating on the Grand Duchess Florianne and our lost Regent and her spouse. If I hear anything useful I am to search out Dalish and order a glass of Agrigio. I am to stay as far away from Maxwell Trevelyan as possible but the rest of the Inquisition is aware of my presence and will give me aid if needed. In case of an emergency there are staves hidden in an alcove off the library, a supply room next to the gardens and apparently even in a potted plant in the ballroom, pretending it is an exotic tree.”
The Iron Bull smiled at his lover's recitation. “Okay, yeah, you got it. I'll be out of sight for the most part unless I'm needed for an emergency. Mostly in the Servant's Wing and wandering the areas being rebuilt. If the worst happens, make your way there, all right?”
In his usual flippant manner Dorian said, “Yes, Mother.”
Bull smacked the man on the ass with a smile, the mage giving an indignant squawk. “All right, Peacock, out the door with you.”
Dorian reached for the knob and Bull reached out to rest his hand over the other man's. He wasn't sure why but suddenly this was very important. His heart clenched in his chest. “Be careful, all right, Kadan?”
Dorian turned to look up at his lover, eyes wide and deadly serious. “I will, Amatus. If you will.”
Bull nodded and the two of them went to face the masses.
Josephine looked out over the crowd of Orlesian nobles and sighed inwardly. Perhaps having the few Inquisition members still together wearing matching uniforms had not been the best of ideas after all. As soon as most nobles saw the red jacket and blue sash of the Inquisition they glared and gossiped at best, glared and sent possible assassins at worst. Thankfully Leliana and her scouts had managed to thwart the attempts so far, though it had been a close thing in more than one instance. Poor Blackwall was still bandaged around the ribs from a relatively deep stab wound that, without Anders, Solas had been unable to heal completely.
She wondered where they all were now as she watched the men and woman begin the first of the dances on the ballroom floor. According to Leli, the Hawkes were here somewhere tonight, disguised but watching and while the Ambassador wished she could spot them, she knew that if she did they wouldn't really be hiding very well. And with Trevelyan in attendance that would be dangerous indeed.
A flash of pale cream caught her eye and Josephine turned to watch the matching pair glide across the ballroom floor. What a beautiful couple she thought. The gold of their masks showed them to be nearly of the same station as the Empress herself, and while the man's costume was close to the standard Orlesian fare, the woman' was much more exotic. Rivaini, maybe? Though her skin tone was much more Ferelden or Marcher. Very much against the current fashions of Orlais, anyway. She smiled, watching the couple glide, and wondered what her friend, Selena, would be wearing to the soiree.
Chapter 17: Chapter 17
First reunions, coming up!
We split ways after a few turns on the dance floor, Garrett to stalk the gardens while I fielded a few Dowagers and nosy Ladies before making my way to the servants' quarters. Every flash of red jacket had me turning away and finding a convenient alcove to hide in- one of which was occupied and wasn't that an embarrassing moment! I couldn't be absolutely sure who would side with Maxwell besides Viv, though I was relatively certain that most would be against him. But I just couldn't be sure, and in the end, my kids' lives were at stake. I couldn't afford to fuck this up. So better to avoid everyone linked to the Inquisition.
God, did it hurt, though. I saw Varric out of the corner of my eye, surrounded by avid fans, and the tears just started. Thankfully, some hoity toity bitch from somewhere no one had ever heard of made some remark about my kimono and I got to take her down a peg with one simple sentence: “And who were you again?”
One thing about Halam'shiral is that it is a LOT bigger than in the game. Like, a lot. And it twists and turns and if you don't have a map and a compass you are going to get your ass lost. Thankfully Garrett and I had thought to make marks on the walls as we explored over the last month so we could find our way back if we needed to. Except that now there was an elf with a bucket of water and brush, scrubbing at our marks.
“Hey!” I cried, rushing forwards. “Don't erase those! I need those!”
The elf turned, startled, but I hadn't gotten closer than ten feet away when another figure stepped from a doorway between us. “Miss, please let the man finish his work. You should not be down here.”
My breath hitched. While certainly not the first person I wanted to see tonight, he was a shock of the familiar after all this time. I froze, mouth and eyes wide, fingers suddenly shaking uncontrollably. If a Venatori came upon us now I would be as good as dead, I was sure. After staring a few moments- or maybe a year or two- I whispered, “Krem?”
Well, if you think I was shocked, you should have seen that young man's face. The colour drained so quickly I thought for certain he was going to pass out on me. Even the elven servant reached out to steady him in case he started to fall. And then strong arms were enveloping me and I felt the warm wetness of tears on my shoulder. He didn't say a word, just held on as if for dear life.
My heart broke. I expected shock, of course, and had some hopes as to the reactions of my two wayward loves, but this? This was a complete surprise. Cremisius Aclassi and I were really not much more than acquaintances, certainly not friends in the conventional sense of the word. And yet his reaction was as though his long lost family had been found alive and well. Which, I mean, I guess was sort of true. I wasn't nearly as dead as he had thought. The elf smiled and turned away, leaving us to hold each other. I hoped he wasn't going off to clean more of my marks or I was going to be so lost later.
I felt the moment when the man regained his composure. He straightened his spine, under my fingers and pulled back, eyes red rimmed but clear, expression all business. “I'll ask how you got here later. Right now, the Chief is going to need an update on the particulars of what's going on as far as security. That means me taking you to him.”
I nodded, realizing that having the Iron Bull and his Chargers helping me with Florianne could only be a good thing, and Krem let out an ear piercing whistle. Seconds later a harried looking Dalish came at a dead run. Dressed in servant's garb and with her vallaslin covered in makeup she would have been easily overlooked by the nobles of Orlais. Great disguise.
“Taking this lady to the Chief. Back in ten,” Krem said, all business, taking my arm and tucking into the crook of his own. I wondered briefly why he didn't mention who I was to the elf but we were off at an almost jog before I could ask.
The Iron Bull was positioned just off the kitchens, able to scan both the gardens and the food prep areas without moving overly much, slumped currently against a stack of crates, giving an air of nonchalance that I knew from experience was a complete lie. When he spotted Krem and I he stood and motioned for us to move behind a series of thick hedges, probably put there for quick lovers' trysts to be honest. They had that feel to them. Actually, all of Orlais felt like that so maybe not.
Krem opened his mouth, I assume to introduce me, but Bull raised his hand to cut him off. A deep inhale and the Qunari was smiling. “Well, the Fade must have been fascinating to keep you away so long.”
I chuckled. “Not really. Certainly wouldn't recommend it for your next vacation. Too many demons, not nearly enough booze. And absolutely no redheads.”
“Yeah, that sounds like shit. Think I'll hit Antiva instead.” He paused, his smile drooping to something almost teary. “It's good to see you again, Boss.”
Well damn if that wasn't what it took to break out the waterworks. Next thing I knew I was crying into a giant, grey chest, thick arms wrapped around me tight. I heard a soft conversation between Bull and Krem and then the two of us were alone while I bawled like a baby. If this was what it was going to be like all night I was going to have to seriously find a place to redo my makeup.
He let me keep going until the tears started to dry up. “Okay, Starlight, you okay now? Cause we gotta talk assassinations.”
I sniffed and straightened up, pulling away from the Qunari's warm embrace.”Yeah, sorry. Just...”
“I get it, Boss. And when this is all done we are soooo having a party to celebrate. But right now it's time to work.”
“Right,” I said, making sure that stupid god damned fucking mask was in place. Have I mentioned how much I hate the thing? Yes? Well, still... “Florianne is the true assassin, Gaspard's sister. She works with Corypheus. But Gaspard also has Ferelden mercenaries stationed around the place and Celene knows about them and is prepared to take them out. But not Florianne's Harlequins. Briala's elves are all over the place with the regular servants but I'm not sure exactly what it is that they're up to other than information gathering. And erasing the marks I made around here so I wouldn't get lost in this fucking maze.”
“Okay, tell me about these Harlequins.”
I thought back to my own encounter with one and shuddered. Bull, ever watchful even with one eye, reached out to touch my arm in concern and I gave him a rueful smile. “Masters of stealth. If you see them they look like flashy clowns but that's just it, if. If they don't want to be seen they won't be. Most wield daggers for up close and personal work, not above poisoning, sniping with a bow...strangulation.” Fuck, couldn't keep the revulsion off my face that time.
“Long story, Bull. I'll tell you later over a drink. Or six.”
“Okay, Boss. Any idea what we can do to mitigate casualties? And where is our other half?”
“Garrett's up in the gardens, schmoozing and keeping an eye out for Trevelyan. Something tells me that Maxwell could care less if Celene gets murdered, so long as whoever ends up on the throne is easily manipulated. But what is really needed is for all three major parties to find a way to work together and stop ripping this fucking country apart!” I thought about that for a second. “Actually, Bull, maybe you can help me with that.”
“Just what are you thinking, Boss?” he asked, head tilted slightly, with a smirk.
I explained to him the three rooms where items and people could be found to help blackmail the three politicians into cooperating and he laughed. Especially when I told him of the soldier on Celene's bed. “I can grab Krem and a couple of the other boys and deal with some of that. But that one guy, the Fereldan merc, you say there's a rift near him?”
“Yes and no,” I scratch at where the mask rubs on my cheek while I thin about it. “There's the potential for a rift there, and if the Inquisitor is ambushed by Florianne and the Venatori then he opens it to keep the archers from skewering everybody. But if we can get the guy out before Florianne or Max know what's going on...”
“Then no demons, gotcha,” he said with what I assume is a wink. I laughed which is probably what he was going for. “Okay, so why don't you head back up to check in with Hawke and me and the boys will get started. I'll send Dalish to you when we've finished, hopefully with a certain item so you can talk to the former lovebirds.”
I nod and move to make my way back up to the revelry when a warm, grey hand reached out to envelope my own. “We missed you, Boss.”
I couldn't answer without tearing up once again, but I smiled and patted the back of his hand before turning to walk away once again.
God, I had missed them too.
Chapter 18: Chapter 18
Just started a new temp job (Yay! Employment!) but I'll try not to let it delay updates- not that I'm the most consistent with all of that, but it doesn't mean I won't try.
The music was horrible. The food was worse. He couldn't understand how he had gotten from 'Darktown Healer and Apostate Mage Warden' to, well, this. Somehow spying on Orlesian nobles and searching for an assassin for Zevran, by request of Leliana. In the end, Anders figured he'd wander the gardens and mostly just stay out of the way, let the guys who were used to sneaking and fighting do the majority of sneaking and fighting.
And he was starting to regret his decision. The gardens were spectacularly dull, with only a few dowagers and lords long into their dotage sitting out amongst the flowers.
Well, no, that wasn't quite true. There were two men among the throng that stood out, both for their possible youth and their finery. The first he was fairly certain might actually be Dorian, from his cocksure stance, bronze skin and perfectly oiled moustache peeking from beneath a white bone half mask. He considered going over but was concerned of the two of them being spied by Inquisition men and so let it be for now.
Truth be told, it was the other that held his attention. Though covered head to toe with a rakish hat, full gold mask and shiny cream silks, something about the man reminded him of his lost love. He wasn't even sure what it was. The way he stood? The breadth of his shoulders, or how his waist tapered in to hips perfect for holding?
The other man turned towards him and froze, then quickly turned away and made a beeline for a small alcove. Well, shit! He followed, certain that the man was some sort of spy or something. Not that Anders had any idea what a spy would look like, of course, but still. Barrier cast at the last moment just to be safe, he raced into the alcove behind the mystery man- who was standing statue still with his back to the door. Instinct told the mage to close it behind him.
“Why did you run?” he demanded.
“Because the things I plan to do to you are too depraved even for the Orlesians.”
Anders' barrier nearly faltered because this? This just wasn't possible. Was...was it? “Stop it, demon! You can't be him!”
The figure's shoulders slumped slightly, and oh what that did to the crack in Anders' heart, then reached up to remove both horrible hat and mask as he turned. Anders' barrier collapsed completely. If this really was a demon in disguise let it take him. Seeing Garrett Hawke's face again after he'd been gone for so long lifted his heart with joy and he would die a happy man. He may have made a noise of longing but he was too busy drinking in the sight of his love to take notice.
Garrett did though, stepping forward, fingers stretched out to brush against Anders' cheek. The touch was all it took, that little electric spark to have the two men clutching at each other, lips pressed fiercely, teeth clashing in their fervent desire to drink the other in. They parted only long enough to tuck their faces into the crook of the others' shoulder, breathing in the familiar scents.
They were home.
“Broody, what the fuck are you doing here?” Varric hissed, clutching at the elf's sleeve and pulling him into a darkened corner. There were quite a few of those around the palace, so it seemed. Fenris yanked back to reclaim himself, though he did not move away. “The Spymaster asked Zevran to come check things out as far as the assassination went and the mage and I got dragged here along with him.”
“But the Inquisitor is here!”
Fenris looked out from the shadows to the dance floor where the man was sliding across the floor with the Grand Duchess Florianne in his arms. It was like watching oil moving along the length of a blade- slick and shiny, sharp enough to kill.
Ugh! He was getting poetic in his old age!
“I am well aware of the dangers, dwarf. My ears and markings are covered, and I avoid the man so as not to be seen by him. I will be safe enough.” He turned back to face his friend. “And what of you? You stayed with the Inquisition, obviously.”
Varric looked away sheepishly, scratching briefly at his thick mass of chest hair that event the Inquisition uniform couldn't cover. “Yeah, well, I've sort of been spying from within, ya know? Deshyrs of the Merchant's Guild have got to get good prices somehow, right?”
Fenris smirked. Trust his friend to go for the money. “What of the others, Varric? Who will stand against Trevelyan if the time comes?”
“Pretty much everyone except the Iron Lady. She's so deep down Max's backside she's gotta come up his throat to find the light.”
Trust in the dwarf to surprise a laugh out him. Fenris nearly choked on his own spit over that one. “Thank you, Varric,” he said with a smile, resting his hand on the dwarf's shoulder. “I needed that. Now, I best be getting back out to the floor, lest the nobles begin believing that you take no wife for your love of elven men.”
“You wound me, Broody!” he exclaimed, hand resting on his breast in mock pain. “I would marry you in a heartbeat, you know that!”
Fenris sighed and moved away from his friend. “But my heart is lost to another, my friend. My apologies.”
I saw the man emerge from the alcove that Varric had dragged him, the dwarf following close on his heels, and I wondered just who he might be. He was so familiar he made my heart hurt but there were no real distinguishing marks that I could see. Face and head completely covered, the skull creepy, black shiny silks that made him nearly glow. Even gloves which made me think he had to be sweltering. I doubted he was more than one of the dwarf's contacts but I decided that maybe he needed watching.
The strangely dressed woman was watching him. Probably looking for some new conquest since it appeared her spouse had abandoned her to the press of nobles. She was certainly graceful enough, the skin that he could see without blemish and pale, hair dark and thick. But no, he would not consider replacing her with another, no matter how superficially alike they seemed.
Shit! What the hell was going on here? Celene, Max and Florianne were all moving to the balustrade to talk to the party goers. This wasn't right! Nothing like this had happened in the game at all.
I moved to the wings near them, as close as I could get without being in the way, Gaspard nearby. He looked angry enough to spit nails and I didn't blame him. If this was what I thought it might be, he had basically been snubbed. Of course, so did Briala, who I spotted watching from the opposite wing. But an elf standing with the Empress was unheard of, while her cousin? Even if he was her rival he had every right to be a part of the speeches. The other man, the one I spotted with Varric, stood near her and I wondered just what his stake in all this was. A spy, I gathered, but for Varric? The Merchant's Guild? Or was he with the Inquisition, an infiltrator. He definitely bore more watching.
He had great legs, at least. Something to make the watching worth while.
God, could that woman drone on! She was saying something about the unrest and the need for peaceful times or some other such gibberish but, fuck, did I just hate her voice. I imagined stabbing her myself just to make her stop. Or maybe letting Florianne's blade find it's mark.
Shit! The woman had her knife out and Max was...Max was moving away, letting it happen. Well, fuck that!
A quick tug at my sash had kimono and jacket falling to the floor as I leapt forward. A quick grab and pull at the Empress' collar had her plummeting to the floor out of the way of the woman's knife, though it did manage to slice shallowly across the meat of my upper arm. I spun away from the assassin, hands grasping at the small blades secreted within the slits of my pants so that, finally, I could properly defend the royal idiot.
In my peripheral I could see Celene's guard coming out of the woodwork, only to be cut down by those damn fucking Harlequins and I wanted to scream. Where the fuck were Max's men? Cullen should have had them surrounding the dais by now! And what the hell was this? The strange man in black had moved to a nearby potted palm tree and extracted...a great sword? Holy fucking shit! How does one hide a great sword in a plant! Maker's hairy ball sack!
I dodged the woman's blade once again and realized that Florianne sucked at close combat. I knew she was an archer like myself, but her hand to hand combat was severely lacking. “Hey! Sword guy! Keep her boxed in! She fights like shit without room to move!”
The man nodded and slid around behind the woman, essentially boxing her in. Gaspard unsheathed his own sword and stood before the garden doors while Briala had a bow trained on her from the left wing and another patron- this one also in black but with a large crow skull mask- had blades drawn to cover the right. Crow skull struck a cord with me but I really didn't have the time for that right now. Celene, the moron, still lay prone at our feet, mouth open and gasping like a fish.
“Give it up, Florianne,” I taunted with a grin. “Nobody's killing the Empress today. Corypheus is just going to have to lump it.”
“The Elder One needs her death tonight!” Ugh, stupid people and their rhetoric. “I will see Celene's blood spilled.”
She stepped in with a low slash which I managed to parry and use to grab Florianne's wrist and wrench up in behind her back, my mouth now pressed up to her ear. “Don't think so, Sweetheart.” The stranger moved in to secure her other arm and just like that, the chaos was over. “Cory-penis is just going to have to live with disappointment.”
The stranger chuckled and I froze. Oh. Oh shit. Slowly, like I was moving my head through molasses, I looked up into his eyes. Deep emerald eyes that I loved with every fibre of my being.
And, of course, that's when Maxwell Trevelyan, Inquisitor and asshole extraordinaire, decided to take out the Empress himself.
Chapter 19: chapter 19
Men and women were screaming, dashing about like headless chickens and blocking access to the scene by the men and women that needed to be there. Celene had finally managed to get herself out from under Florianne and I only to clutch at the blade now embedded in her stomach, Maxwell Trevelyan's hand firmly pushing it in. He was...he was grinning and it was probably one of the most horrifying things I had ever seen. He was well and completely mad.
Up until the moment he wrenched the blade away it was as though the world around us had frozen, shock overcoming everyone. Then she gasped and the world snapped back into action.
I jumped forward, one blade still drawn, the other dropped when I had apprehended Florianne. Quick, before Max could find a weapon, hamstring then kidney. But his boot kept the small blade from cutting very deeply and he wore some kind of armour, thin leather I imagined, under his Inquisition coat. Shit fuck!
“Hey, Anders! If you're out there, we could really use your healing hands right about now!” Max made a slicing motion with the blood stained blade but I managed to dodge it. Barely. “And anybody else out there!”
Sword guy- Fenris, oh my Fenris- slashed at Trevelyan but he was just that little bit quicker. Which, I realized, shouldn't have been possible. Fenris had always been faster than Max while sparring, even without activating his markings. I cast a quick glance around, eyeing as much of the man as I could, the surrounding dais and ballroom. Max looked insane but normal in every other way. Around us were fighting soldiers and clown assassins- there's something I never thought I'd say- as well as Briala tending to Celene with a man that I was fairly certain was Anders, judging by the magical glow and blond locks dipping down around his mask. Gaspard had joined Fenris in attempting to disarm Trevelyan, but the man was just too damned fast and getting faster by the second. A Haste spell, maybe?
I looked out over the ballroom and there, centre stage, was Vivienne de Fer, her hands aglow with magic. I also saw the Iron Bull to the far left gesturing to another man directly across from the mage. Darker skinned and dressed as a black and white domino, he raised his palms and flung a blast at the Enchantress that had her flying back and onto her ass. Then surrounded by the raised blades of the Bull's Chargers. The Iron Bull looked up towards me and gave a wave. Max's speed had been neutralized.
I turned back to the fight just in time, realization of who I was hitting Trevelyan at nearly the same moment as Gaspard's sword. “No!” Shit fuck shit fuck shit fuck! We still needed him! Bastard that he was, that fucking mark was all that we had to close those God damned Rifts! I rushed forward to grab him as he slid from the blade to the floor, blood streaming now from his lips.
“You!” he wheezed, blood bubbling up to spray my face and mask. “You died! I killed you!”
“No, Max,”I said, helping the mad man gently to the marble floor. The servants were going to have a hay day trying to clean this. “We didn't die. We escaped.”
“No!” he cried, spraying more blood as he tried to struggle ineffectually in my arms. “No no no! You have to die! You can't take what's mine! I earned it! I deserve it!”
He flailed in my grip, others stepping forward to try and help hold the man still, but he managed to raise his left hand and slam it just below my ribs. His left hand. The marked hand.
Years ago, in the days when Kirkwall was my home, I had a power deep inside my gut. A deep green light that severed a spirit from its host and destroyed a woman possessed by red lyrium. The same green light that Maxwell Trevelyan was now feeding into me at a rate of a thousand suns. Okay, that was probably an exaggeration, but this is my pain and I'll describe it the way I want.
There was more screaming- some of it probably mine, some of it definitely Max's- but it was like a low hum compared to the sound of my own rushing blood and the cacophony of the Fade being shoved into me. Moments felt like hours as the world went on around us. Fuck, Max, what did you do?
And a voice answered me, echoing as I saw the light of life disappear in Trevelyan's eyes. I cursed you. Like I was cursed.
The morning after the ball at Halam'shiral felt surreal. Most nobles had fled into the night when the royal ballroom had become flooded with a brilliant green light, and who could blame them really. Their experiences with green light usually revolved around demons at this stage of the game. Max's death had set off the remaining nobles in speculation over what would happen with the Rifts that had yet to be closed.
Well, up until Max's mark flashed to life across the expanse of my ribs.
And let me tell you, that shit fucking hurts! No wonder the bastard lost his marbles. I wondered how long it would be before I followed him.
But as soon as they saw that stupid tear across my torso they began calling me Inquisitor and making their demands as nobles do, which I summarily ignored. And when my guys started using it I told them that, in no uncertain terms, was I not going to be the fucking Inquisitor. I'd stick with Regent if I had to have a rank, thank you very fucking much. Then I hugged each and every one of them. Hard. For a very long time.
Josephine cried a little and then demanded to know who my seamstress was and if we could replicate my dress and...well, I had a hard time getting her to stop. Cullen called me sister and told me that Bethany would be waiting on pins and needles back at Skyhold for our return. Varric tried to ply me with alcohol and demanded stories while Solas smiled softly and placed a chaste kiss on my cheek, muttering something in Elvehn I would probably never understand. My Crow masked friend was actually my Crow friend and he spun me about with a cheerful 'Querida!' before sliding me down into Anders' arms for a quick tear up and tight hold. Dorian admonished me for 'giving him a grey hair'. I told him he would look stately with grey hairs and that mollified him a bit before he let me go to the one person I truly needed to be with at that moment.
Mask and gloves removed, his shock of white hair and pointed ears revealed for all to see, he reached out his hand for mine, eyes wide and hopeful. With a quick prayer that none of this was more Fade dreams I slid my fingers against his and let him pull me along as he turned towards the nearest balcony doors. Finally alone, the noise of the others behind us blocked by the closing glass doors, a servant shutting them that I was going to have to thank later.
We stood there looking out at the gardens as the sun began to light the blooms, fingers gripped tightly in each others'.
“Are...are you in pain?” he asked, and the deep sound of his voice startled me. The quiet had been just that pervasive that any noise was jarring, even the deep timbre of his voice.
“Oh, no. Well, I mean it does but it's not something I can't handle. When it flares up, though. Fuck did that hurt like a bitch!”
Fenris chuckled and I nearly cried. It had been so damned long. But I was afraid. We hadn't parted well and I didn't know where we stood and so I held my breath and waited with his fingers clasped in mine, staring out at the flowers.
Another pause, a deep breath, and he spoke. “I once believed that there was nothing worse than the thought of living without you, but I was incorrect.” Well shit, if that didn't stab me right in the heart just a little. “I have actually lived without you and it is the worst pain imaginable. Thinking about it is nothing in comparison.”
He reached into his doublet and pulled out a worn piece of parchment. Unfolding it very carefully from it's heavy creases I saw that it was the note I had sent him while he traversed the Approach. “This was my talisman. I would read it's words throughout the day, repeat them to myself, and you were never far away from me.”
I turned from the view of the garden to truly see the man that I loved. And I did, to the very depths of my heart. And I knew in my soul that he loved me too. I slid my hand up to cup his cheek, feeling a tear as it slid down. “I missed you. So much.”
“And I, you, Amatus.” Lips soft as velvet touched mine for the briefest of moments. “With all of my heart.”
We spent a day at the palace before Celene, in all her wondrous gratitude, basically told us to get the fuck off her lawn. So en masse the Inquisition's Inner Circle- what was left of them-, advisors, Zevran, my loves and I descended upon the poor inn where our children had been sequestered. The Innkeeper fainted, his wife laughed her ass off, and we basically took over the place for a while. Abby cried, Jim cried, Spirit and Warden jumped and yowled and barked in what I assumed were appreciation of our return. Victoria switched from babbles to screaming at me at the drop of a hat while Jackson just wrapped his small, chubby fingers through Garrett's beard and refused to let him go.
And yes, I cried too. A lot. It was disgusting.
That night no one really wanted to leave the group for separate rooms and so bodies curled up on chairs and mattresses dragged in from neighbouring rooms. The Chargers, Bull and Dorian conceded defeat and spread out in the main room around the bar, with the admonishment from the Innkeeper's wife that she had counted the liquor bottles and measured every ounce.
And while no bed, save for those made for Qunari, could comfortably fit six people, we made it work. Jackson and Victoria slept wrapped around each other in the centre with Garret and I curled up around them. Fenris lay behind me, Anders behind him, arms around us and touching whatever skin could be reached. It was wonderfully grounding, something I hadn't realized I needed until now, because deep down everything still felt like it could be the Fade fucking with me. Probably would for a very long time. I shuddered at the thought.
“Selena?” Fenris whispered gruffly.
I shook my head, taking his hand in mine and wrapping it tighter around me. How do I explain to him my fear, terror really, that all of this is just some sick demon joke? He seemed to understand, pulling me in tight to his chest, warm and solid and just that little bit tingly from the lyrium. It was that feeling, in the end, that let me fall to sleep. Because no demon would ever be able to get that electric hum just right.
Two days into our travels to Skyhold and I was more than ready to throw most of our party under a rampaging dragon. No one would leave us alone! I mean, I understood. We'd been presumed dead and suddenly were not only back, but head of the organization once again. Friends were afraid to let Garrett and I out of their sights, advisors needed our input on anything and everything, and there was letter after report after letter after report...well, you get the idea.
Even when it came to the sleeping arrangements we weren't alone. There were only so many tents available, one of which commandeered as a prison of sorts for our illustrious Madame de Fer and her round the clock Templar-trained guards, and so there was a lot of doubling and tripling up. And while our family had been given the largest of the lot- courtesy of the Iron Bull- Jim and Abby had to join us so the men took turns on watch so it wasn't too crowded.
Tonight I was sitting with Fenris and Anders at the fire, one curled up on other side, while Garrett did a round of the camp with a couple of the Chargers and Cullen. Jim and Abby were with the babies in the tent and most of the others had gone off to rest. This was probably as close to alone as the three of us were going to get for a while so I was making the most of it just touching whatever skin I could get and they seemed to be doing the same. Anders had his cheek resting at the top of my head, his fingers twisted with mine in my lap, while Fenris was against my shoulder, one hand slip up under the hem of my tunic to rest at the small of my back, his other hand placed gently on my knee.
We spoke of nothing for quite a while, just listened to the sounds around us. The fire cracked and popped, crickets chirped and men on duty murmured softly to each other. When a fennec screamed from closer than I would have liked- most likely now in the clutches of a hawk- I jumped and my lovers whispered soothing words to relax me once again.
It was nice, lovely really, but God did I ever want to fuck them!
“Sweetheart?” Anders said. “Why are you squirming like that?” His voice was all suggestion, of course. Smug bastard knew I was horny as all hell. Fenris chuckled because there was no way I was getting this past him either.
“Oh, just stop it, the two of you,” I scoffed. “Way too public out here for my taste. I want us to have a proper reunion, in a proper bed and no interruptions. Or possible witnesses.”
Anders turned slightly to kiss at my hair. “Soon, Love. When we get home we can lock ourselves away for a night and do wonderfully depraved things to each other.”
I giggle at the image, though the feeling doesn't last. No, it's going to be a very long time before the four of us can really be alone together. No, there will be a million and one things to do once we reached Skyhold. So many things to fix after Trevelyan's short reign, things to keep going forward with to beat Coryphi-shits. Allies to find and beg to return.
It sort of hits me then, just how much work it's going to be to fix...well, everything. Even the problems I had with Fenris haven't been fixed exactly. More like it's all been put on the back burner so we could just enjoy being with each other again after so long. I must have stiffened or made a noise at that because Fenris raised his head and looked at me in concern.
Well, fuck, if that didn't just set off the water works. I don't even know why, really, but the tears just couldn't be stopped and I was clinging to my wondrous elf as though our lives depended on it. I threw my arms around him, my face pressed tight into his shoulder. I felt Anders press himself up against my back and it just sort of made the crying even worse. And fucked if I could even explain why. Fenris must have asked or something because Anders was saying, “I think she's finally reached that wall, where everything is all just a little too much at once. She'll be all right.”
Except that it didn't really matter if I was all right, in the grand scheme of things. What mattered was if they were all right. Fenris and Anders and Garrett. Victoria and Jackson. My friends, my advisors, my people. So many people. Skyhold, Ferelden and Orlais. Thedas. Thedas was what mattered, not me. I didn't matter.
I heard others approaching, drawn by my sobs no doubt and I turned to look out at them with tear-filled eyes. Garrett and Cullen were both kneeling at my feet, Solas of all people standing right behind them. Varric and Cassandra stood almost close enough to touch on the other side of the fire, the Iron Bull near them with Dorian wrapped in his arms leaning against his chest. Leliana and Josephine stood slightly farther back, but looked no less concerned. Josie fiddled helplessly with the hem of her nightshift until Leliana reached out and placed a stilling hand upon hers.
Anders was right. The fate of all of Thedas was too much. But this, right here. These people. Doing everything I can to protect these people, Sera, Cole, Blackwall, Bethany. This I could handle.
Can I ask a question here? Do I write a little too vaguely? There have been a couple of times now where I thought I wrote something with an obvious outcome and someone came away with something completely different. And not like a feeling or anything, I mean the outcome of an event. Said outcome was rather obvious to me, but apparently not to everyone and I'm trying to figure out how to improve that without sounding like I'm talking to small children. (I really hate dumbing things down. It feels condescending to me.) Suggestions? Opinions? Please?
Chapter 21: Chapter 21
We finally make it back to Skyhold, and there's smut people!!! NSFW but it's at the end.
Skyhold was a mass of chaos as we descended upon it. It seemed as though everyone not actually working was surrounding the entry gates, cheering our arrival. It was noisy and crowded and to say the children didn't like it would be putting it mildly, adding their very loud two cents to the cacophony.
The men and women that were working seemed to be doing so haphazardly, as though someone had come in and told them in no uncertain terms how to do their jobs and those words were completely and utterly wrong. With a cry of dismay Anders veered off from the main party as soon as he saw the state of the infirmary, which had apparently been moved back out to the tents. A quick glance showed that the previous clinic had been relegated to nothing more than storage and our rooms nearby? Well, the less said about the mess in there the better. Someone- Trevelyan more than likely- had destroyed everything he could get his hands on.
Josephine stepped up behind me to place a hand softly against my arm. “We were able to move anything personal before he did this. We stored them in crates marked 'witherstalk tea' in the sheds near the stables. Have no fear, Regent.”
I spun and gave her a fierce hug, which she reciprocated after a surprised moment. “Thank you, Josephine.”
As we moved further into the Keep, I saw more and more instances of abuse, mostly among the elves and children running about but even Master Dennet was sporting a swollen jaw and cut cheek from what looked suspiciously like a ring. I asked Solas to do what he could with it until Anders could have a go and I swear the old horsemaster teared up. What the fuck had been going on here? This was horrible!
Horses seen to, soldiers relieved of duty for the day and off to the barracks, our party made its way further into the grounds, and I was disgusted first by the smells, then the messes- rotted food and human waste for the most part- that had not been tended to in some time. I was nearly throwing up for the stench and Fenris ended up handing me a rag from his belt pouch, normally used to wipe down his sword. At least the strong smell of sword oil drowned out everything else.
Bethany met us at the base of the stairs leading inside, flying directly into Garrett's arms where she wept into his shoulder enough to wet the entirety of the front of his shirt. He laughed and swung her about, something I picture him doing when they were children. It had the tears drying up quickly, and when he finally set her down she gave both Fenris and I much more reserved, yet still joyous, treatment. “Where's Anders?” she asked with concern, even as she scooped Jackson from Jim's arms for a cuddle.
“He ran to the infirmary to berate the poor souls that were probably only following Trevelyan's orders,” I replied. “Poor sods. He'll be back when he's satisfied that they know how pissed off he is.”
Leliana stepped up next to us as Cullen was reaching out to pull Bethany, and by extension Jackson, into a hug. “Lady Regent, I realize that you have just returned after many months, but there are a myriad of logistics that will need your immediate attention if we are to set all of...this to rights.”
I looked around the upper bailey with a sigh. Gods, what a mess! And I hadn't even been inside yet! I feel warm, slightly tingly feeling fingers wrap around mine and Fenris gives them a squeeze in encouragement. Okay, yes, I could handle this. “All right, everybody go do what you need to do. Advisors, we meet in Josie's office just as soon as you can drop off our things and collect whatever you need to present. And we're going to need food. Lots of food.”
I have such a fucking headache! There's so much! Everything is fucked up, almost beyond repair! Trevelyan micromanaged Skyhold into the Gods damned ground, behind the backs of each of his advisors who couldn't keep up trying to right all his wrongs. And if anyone spoke up or complained he was more than happy to use his fists to finish the argument, or when that didn't work, kick the offender out completely. Merchants we had been dealing with before Adamant had been replaced with shadier, cheaper alternatives that sold inferior- and in the case of the livestock feed, diseased- goods. A large number of mounts, druffalo and goats all contracted something called 'mash lung' due to the mould in the feed, which is why Master Dennet was now sporting bruises.
Letters were written, first to King Alistair, then to several other nobles that had withdrawn their support after Trevelyan alienated them, explaining the situation and inviting them to visit within a month's time. I didn't think that would be enough time to get Skyhold back to rights but Josie insisted that it couldn't be any longer or we risked the nobility not believing our word on fixing things in a prompt manner.
Anders came in briefly to give me run down on the state of the infirmary- shitty- and Garrett soon followed with his own tirade about the state of the armoury- empty for the most part, broken and rusted for the rest. How the fuck did this even happen! We weren't gone for that long!
Finally, with Josephine's assurance that I wouldn't need to address the masses of Skyhold until the next day- yippee!- she left me alone to cradle my pounding skull in my hands. The silence was beautiful, right up until I felt fingers slide up along my shoulders.
I spun in the chair, brandishing the first thing from the desk that came to hand, and odd little letter opener that sort of looked like a gold stork. At least the beak looked like it could poke a bit. Thankfully Fenris had backed up enough and raised his hands to fend me off that I didn't stab at him. Not that the tiny blade would have gone in very far or anything. I mean, maybe if I'd aimed for an eye...why the fuck was I thinking like that?! My brain has turned to mush, I swear. And- was that my heart in my throat? Why was I breathing so hard? Had I really been that startled?
Slowly, Fenris reached out to pluck the letter opener from my hands, placing it on the desk before enveloping me into his arms. And didn't I just melt like fucking butter at that. “It's all right, Amatus. I promise.”
Well, fuck. Here come the water works.
I swear sometimes that, when it comes to me and my tear factory, Fenris had the patience of a saint. He just let me bawl into his shoulder, holding me tight to him. I'm going to blame the headache for this little breakdown, and the fucking stresses caused by a certain motherfucker that ruined fucking everything. Not my million and one insecurities or anything like that.
After a few minutes the elf pulled away from me and gave me what I'm sure he thought was a reassuring smile, and it's beautiful, don't get me wrong, but my Fenris still has a few issues with how to express that kind of thing. There was a lot of teeth. I kind of shivered at the visual of what he could do with those teeth and his smile became a smirk.
“Come with me, Amatus.”
Fenris pulled me along until we were in an area I hadn't really been in before, a long covered veranda overlooking the gardens. Just as the gardens themselves were much larger than the game would suggest, there were many more rooms available for guests of nobility that would shit a brick at having to bunk with the soldiers. He brought me all the way to the end, then paused as though suddenly unsure of his decision, but before I could react he straightened himself and pushed open the door.
We were met with a waft of warm steam that quickly dissipated to reveal a large bathing chamber, complete with porcelain tile and copper tub large enough to seat at least two. You know, assuming those two were both Qunari.
I gasped in surprise. I mean, holy shit, right?
Fenris moved in behind me and gently pushed me inside, closing the door gently with his foot behind us. “You need to relax, Amatus. Let me care for you.”
I felt a little uncomfortable at that. “Fenris, are you sure. That sort of smacks of-”
“I am well aware.” His voice was much more gentle than I was accustomed to when that particular subject came up. “This is something I am choosing to do. Please let me.”
He always knows just what to say to make me do what he wants, doesn't he?
He lead me to the tub with the smallest of smiles, then turned and began unbuttoning my shirt. When I tried to brush his fingers away to do it myself he gave me that slightly disappointed parent face that I am absolutely helpless against. Okay, let's face it, it's Fenris. I'm pretty defenceless against a lot of the things he does. Once nude, he helped me step into the heated water, which felt absolutely amazing after sitting with Josephine for hours after spending days on the road.
Instead of joining me, Fenris stripped himself of only his armour and under tunic then pulled a nearby stool over to sit behind where my head rested. “May I wash your hair?” he said and I think I moaned something positive that had him chuckling. His long fingers combed through my hair as he used a small bucket to pour blessedly hot water over my scalp, then used a faintly scented bar of creamy soap to scrub away the grime.
Fenris' fingers tingled against my skin and I could almost smell the lyrium in his skin over the rose scent of the soap. His touch was sure yet gentle, so very like him, though no one else except maybe the children ever really saw it. It was the kind of care he showed when he truly loved someone. He rinsed my hair out with another bucket of water then set about soaping up my shoulders and arms.
I lay there in the steaming water for quite a while, not realizing that the heat was slowly vanishing until the bath was barely tepid and Fenris had long since finished washing me. I looked around to see him seated on the stool, now pulled around so that he was near my feet. He was watching me with concern.
“Are you well? You were crying.”
I was? I reached up to wipe my cheek, surprised to feel the hot wetness of tears. “I'm not sure why. I wasn't thinking anything bad, just how I feel completely loved by you right now. And how much I love you in return.”
He smiled, a real smile, large and bright. The kind he never gives to anyone and my heart skipped a beat. It was so damned beautiful. “Then let me continue the treatment, Amatus. If you would remove yourself from the tub I will help you dry and dressed so that we might retire to our temporary accommodations.”
I don't really remember getting to the room after that. I barely remember actually getting out of the tub. There were soft touches and a lot of sighing and moaning and, well, mouths. Okay, only two mouths but damn if that weren't some fine oral manipulations!
The bed was large, I remember that much. Big enough that, when Anders and Garrett joined us, it would be tight but not so tight that people would be falling off. But for now it was the absolute perfect size. Sprawled almost at a diagonal, nude and still damp from the bath, I watched with half-lidded eyes as my love approached, slowly shedding his clothing as he came.
Fenris is a beautiful man. I don't think I can ever say that enough. Slightly taller than the average elf, Lithe, yet still well-muscled and strong, with darkly tanned skin and eyes that shone like emeralds in the soft light of the nearby fire. But really, above everything, is that soft smile that pulls at the corners of his lips and makes his entire countenance just light up. Most people see his markings, or his hair, but for me, this is what made him truly beautiful.
He lit his markings softly, melding soft white with the fire's orange, then reached out to run his fingers along the skin of my ankle. The vibrating tingle shot straight to my groin and I moaned in pleasure, causing him to chuckle darkly. He knew just what to do, the bastard. His fingers trailing up my leg had me squirming “Fenris, please!” I begged, though I wasn't sure exactly what I was begging for.
But, of course, he ignored me, moving up the bed to kneel between my legs, his glowing hands travelling up to swirl his fingertips around my hip bones and up across my ribs. God, that felt so fucking good! But He never touched where I really wanted, skirting my most sensitive areas. Fenris chuckled once again, a single finger reaching up to circle around the aeriola of my breast. Little Fucker was doing it on purpose! Well, I wasn't about to stand for that!
With a quick twist I wrapped my legs around the elf's waist and managed to flip him over onto his back. The look of surprise mixed with dark arousal nearly had me coming right then. Of course, having his hard cock pressed up against my heat had something to do with it, I'm sure. Fuck, it had been too long. I reach beneath me to take a hold of him. “It's been too long, Love. Please,” I said.
His answering yes was not much more than a pained groan, made all the louder as I slid myself down his length. I had to pause and just...feel him. Fuck, it was like... I can't even describe it. It's almost like coming home. As wonderfully amazing as he felt physically, there was a sensation in my chest, in my heart, that finally felt as though it had been filled.
And speaking of filling...
Fenris slid his tangling fingertips up the length of my thighs to grip tightly at my hips, urging me to rise and fall against him. Already I could feel the heat building within me, so very close after only a few thrusts. I wanted it to last but I knew that, now, we had time. We had eternity to be together.
“Amatus, please,” Fenris growled, and that was the trigger. I exploded above him, screaming his name for anyone and everyone to hear. Moments later he followed me into the abyss, the shock of his lyrium skin drifting within my own setting off a second orgasm. I collapsed against Fenris' chest, my face pressed into the crook of his neck as I tried to figure out where my toes were and what they were used for.
Fenris wrapped his arms around my waist, nuzzling at my ear. “Amatus,” he whispered. “Selena, please. Just...don't die on me again. I can't...I can't”
Silently, I promised.
Chapter 22: 22
I swear I'm still working on this! I have three more chapters finished and waiting to be edited, but my brain is insisting I work on something for Dorian and the Iron Bull and it is very loud in there if I don't.
Also I apologize about all the crying that's been going on. I promise there isn't too much more, but loved ones coming back from the dead can make people pretty emotional.
So very warm. Comforting heat pressed up against my spine, against my chest. So familiar and wonderful, I never wanted it to end. I snuggled in closer and felt something soft tickle at my nose. A deep breath and I could smell that tingly ozone scent that could only be Fenris' lyrium. Then there was a brief hum and soft kiss pressed to my shoulder that I knew could only have come from Anders. He must have joined us in the bed after Fenris and I fell asleep last night.
Reluctantly I cracked my eyes open to see, mainly, tufts of white hair and a tiny expanse of forehead, my lover tucked up in close to my chest. It was so beautiful I actually found myself choking up a little. I never really expected to ever see this again, after all the bullshit we put each other through. I was certain, at least in the deep recesses of my mind, that we were pretty much done. So to wake up to this had tears welling in my eyes.
I must have made a sound or something because Anders, very quietly, called my name. “It's okay, Love. Just...very thankful right now.”
One of the three arms draped across my hip- and let me tell you, that is heavier than you might think- tightened just a little, and he pressed another kiss to my skin before resting his forehead against my shoulder. “I understand, trust me.”
We lay like that for a time, but soon I really needed to pee. This is always one of the hardest parts of sleeping with multiple individuals who were all a little cuddly at night. It wouldn't be so bad if I were on the outside, but I never was. “Um, Anders. I need the privy. Can you-?”
I could feel his grin against my back but he wiggled back off the bed to let me free, though I still had to fight the octopus arms of Fenris, and also Garrett pressed up against the elf. They each grumbled but, in the end, curled up closer to each other. So damned cute.
I turned and finally got a good look at Anders standing next to me. His hair was sleep tousled and eyes still droopy, but his smile was so filled with warmth and love that I would have gladly crawled back into bed for more cuddles if my bladder weren't having serious hissy fits. As it was I cupped my hand around his jaw, pulling him down for a soft, brief kiss. “I'll be right back.”
“I'll be waiting.” And, oh the promise in that short sentence.
Ablutions taken care of, I returned to find my three men curled around each other in sleep and couldn't bring myself to disturb them. So I dressed quickly in a simple wool dress and slippers, and went in search of breakfast and my children.
It was later in the morning than I thought, Skyhold's people bustling about, cleaning up the disaster that Trevelyan left it in. The overwrought gold Orlesian decor that had been installed in the Great Hall was being removed, Thank God! It was enough to make my eyes bleed. But it was all on its way out, Yay!
I waved to Varric on my way past, though he seemed a little lost in thought, pen pressed up to his lips before dipping it in his ink pot and scribbling in his notebook. Nearby a small buffet had been set up by the Skyhold cooks and I grabbed a couple of still warm rolls before turning and heading out to the upper courtyard.
Work seemed to be going on here as well. The metallic clang of practice swords and shields going through drills filled the air from the nearby practice yard and greetings were called between passers by as they hauled goods to and fro. It looked like people were in better spirits now than they had been previously, giving me hope that maybe we could come back from the shit storm Trevelyan had wrought.
I scanned the people of the courtyard, though it didn't take long to find the owner of the angry voice as he stomped his way towards me. Other voices and sounds of the day grew quiet as people focused on what was happening on the courtyard stairs. He was a large man, burly, with the kind of thick fat that came from muscles turned with age. I recognized him as someone that worked for Master Dennet, though I could not recall his name. I stood my ground as he came at me, face near purple in his fury as he pushed it right up into my own.
“Maker forsaken piece of trash whore, too busy fucking her way across Thedas to take care of your responsibilities here! That's right, Whore Queen, I know all about you! Left us with a madman to fuck your way into every bed you could get!”
I was struck completely speechless at this. What the fuck? Wait- was this-?
I couldn't comprehend what this man was saying, struck dumb by the filth he was continuing to spew. Was this really what people thought had happened? That I had just abandoned them? But I hadn't- we hadn't! I was so shocked by what this man was saying that when his fist swung out I couldn't dodge it, didn't even try.
I have to say this, I've been hit by a lot of people since my first days here in Thedas. Templars and bandits, demons even. But, fuck, if this guy didn't have a killer right hook! Pain exploded across my cheek and eye with contact and I lost my footing, nearly falling over the side of the staircase onto the stair level below me. Things got a little fuzzy for a bit after that. There were a couple of sharp blows to my hip and upper thigh and then hands were pulling at my shoulders. I struggled to push them off before sound started registering again instead of just the deafening sound of my own heartbeat.
“Amatus, stop. It's all right, you're safe.”
Arms wrapped themselves around my shoulders and I leaned back into the warm expanse of Fenris' chest. Yes, this was better. Fuck that hurt!
As sounds began to make more sense in my head I realized that there was quite a bit of angry shouting, mostly at my attacker, and the pained grunts and groans, flesh hitting flesh, of a fight. I looked around, fighting my vision past the swelling that was now taking place around my eye, to see the most astounding of sights. Normally, I would expect Fenris, or even Garrett, to have waded in to dispatch an attacker. But there was Anders, dressed in nothing but a pair of sleep pants, fists balled and swinging at the horseman.
“ASSHOLE! How dare you? How fucking DARE you?!” the mage screamed, laying into the man who was now prone upon the steps. The attacker was looking around frantically to make an escape but the base of the stairs was now filled with several Inquisition soldiers as well as Cassandra and Cullen. There was no running from this.
Anders was still swinging, his punches pretty solid, even for a mage. Warden training maybe? “They DIED! Trevelyan killed them! Left them in the Fade to rot! They didn't just...run off! How stupid are you? How...how...”
Anders was stilling his punches now, standing over the man, shoulders shaking and I pushed away from Fenris to approach him. “Anders? Sweetheart?” I called, reaching out a hand to touch his arm, shaking hard enough to shatter.
“He- he can't-”
I walked around the mage, looking up into his tear-stained face. My poor love, a fucking rock until someone says or does the wrong thing. I reached up to cup his face, just as I'd done earlier in the bedroom. It took a few moments before he looked down into my eyes, eyes unfocused and staring out into his thoughts. But when he came back to me, I said, “We're alive.”
As though the levies had burst, my poor love burst into sobs, wrapping his arms around me and pulling me up close into his chest, his face pressed into my neck. I held him as tightly as I could, glancing behind him as I saw Fenris wrap an arm around a worried Garrett's waist. I gave them a brief smile before turning all of my concentration back to Anders. This is what was needed right now, and I was going to provide.
Behind us a protesting idiot was being hauled away to the holding cells beneath Skyhold and life went on.
Chapter 23: Chapter 23
Cole's back and BABIES!
slight trigger warning for mention of pain and suffering to animals but nothing graphic
“I swear to God that at some point we are going to stop all this damned crying,” I said with a chuckle.
Anders was calm once again, his doctor half kicking in eventually to heal up my face and hip. Just bruises, really, but you know Anders. Now he was wrapped up in Garrett's arms while Fenris held me close to his hip and the four of us plus Abby, Jim, and the children sat in our rooms. I had Jackson resting on my other hip while Victoria crawled around with intent, chasing something I couldn't see.
The others hemmed in agreement, though in a couple of cases it sounded a little watery. I realized it was probably going to be like that for a while. I mean, once people here got over the whole 'came back from the dead' thing it would be fine, but we still had some Inner Circle members missing, and while Blackwall would be stoic and Cole kind of...well, Cole, Sera would either beat the crap out of me or turn into a snotty mess. Not that I could blame her or anything.
I never really realized how much I liked the little archer. In that interrupted play through of the game Garrett and I had going before Father Brian's frantic call, I had found her rather annoying. She was loud and brash, and quite the racist, but in person? Well, she was still loud, and her pranks could be a serious pain in the ass. And she had her racist tendencies. But she's also protective and caring, and sort of, kind of, funny if you look down real deep.
Speaking of which... “What are our plans for fixing everything?”
I glared at Garrett, because really, I just didn't want to have to deal with all this fucking shit right now, then sighed because whether or not I wanted it, this was my life now and I had better damned well get used to it. That and it's hard to stay annoyed when your son is softly smacking you in the face because you're making mean eyes at his daddy. Fenris chuckled and moved to take him in his arms so that I could sit on the edge of the bed. “I don't know. Everything is just so different from the God damned game I just have any idea anymore.”
“We're coming up on the Arbor Wilds mission, right?” he asked, moving to sit next to me. “We didn't get to finish that one.”
“I know!” I threw up my hands in frustration. “And I have no clue what personal quests were done- and how the hell do I go about asking about those? Hey, Dorian, you meet up with your dad yet? No? Well, guess what? And then there's our missing Inner Circle members. Do I search them out and re-recruit them? Do I let them come to me? I just...argh!”
Garrett reached out to pat my hand. “Don't worry, Love. It'll work itself out, I promise. We just have to-”
Suddenly there was a cacophonous wail that I realized was coming from the children, so loud and discordant that we all had to cover our ears from the din. Victoria was on the floor, head tilted up and tears streaming down her face while her twin was slamming his little fists into Fenris' shoulder as he screamed. But this wasn't the usual cries of children, but as loud and reverberating as being at a rave.
“My Lady, what is going on?” Abby cried, though over the din I barely heard her.
“I don't know!” I said, moving to grab Vicky from the floor. She took a death grip on my tunic but continued to scream.
Suddenly there was a pounding on the door and someone calling for us before the door swung open and Cullen rushed in, his hands flung up to his ears. “Lady Regent! Are you and the babies all right?”
“We're fine, but I don't know what's got them so upset!”
“There's a fire, at the stables! The soldiers have it mostly contained but-”
I have no idea what he was saying after that as handed the kids over to Abby and Jim and ran full tilt out to the lower courtyard. Once out of the Great Hall the air was thick with black smoke and the cries of injured and dying animals, as well as the orders being called out to men manning buckets being filled at the well. And thank God the well was so damned close to the stables!
We kept going, pushing people out of our way as we went, trying to get down the stairs. Seeing Fiona and several mages standing and watching had me pissed to the gills. “Ice and Force mages! Got down there and help! Healers! Get to the infirmary to deal with the wounded!” I screamed at the group, noting with satisfaction when several moved to do just that. That Fiona just stood there did not bode well for her in my books.
At the base of the stairs, Ser Barris was calling out orders to several templars that were trying to wrangle terrified mounts away from the flames. The stables were completely engulfed, and the fire was trying to spread to the outlying buildings. Behind me I felt a wave of cold and shivered as Anders rushed past me with his hands encased in ice. Garrett and Fenris joined the bucket brigade, hauling water wherever they could.
Fuck! This was so not good and getting worse by the second. We needed to find a way to cut off the fire, keep it from finding more fuel to burn. The way it was going now it would soon jump to the scaffoldings that were all over the lower courtyard.
Okay, yes, the scaffoldings! “Barris! We need to take out the scaffolds! Move as much wood out of here as possible!”
The templar looked around us. “Yes, I see what you mean. But what do we do with the woods?”
“Throw it off the bridge for all I care! Let's go!” I grabbed at a nearby pole and began pulling ineffectually.
“Let me get that for you, Boss,” a voice rumbled behind me as giant grey hands reached up above my head and began jerking at the structure. I looked up to see the Iron Bull frowning at the scaffold and yanking hard, so I moved out of the way to let the man work. “Dorian is trying to help corral some of the animals, seeing as fire magic really isn't the best for this situation. He could definitely use a hand, if you don't mind.”
I nodded and looked around for the man, desperate to have something to do, because I am sure that if I didn't I would end up a panicky mess. Not that I had the time to find him or anything.
“Dark feathers, sharp talons, they come for brother, they come for me. Mama! Mama! I need you! Cold, no heart, can't see in, can't stop-”
Cole! Holy fucking shit, Cole was suddenly standing there, next to me, his slim fingers clutching at my sleeve. “Cole, what-?”
“No time. The little ones need you.”
Oh fuck! I turned and ran as fast as my legs could take me. The babies were in danger. All of this was a distraction to get to them. Staircase, staircase, Great Hall is empty, everyone at the fire, fuck fuck fuck gotta go faster!
Speed and Lightning are in my hands. How? I didn't put on my weapons belt this morning. Maybe Cole? Doesn't matter, I'm armed. Reach the room, door's ajar, slam my way inside, scan the space. Find the threat.
A man, an Inquisition soldier's uniform, holding a sword, Cole standing as a shield in front of Abby who is cradling the babies as they scream. Jim is on the floor. There's blood but doesn't look like it's too much, might still save him. But first I've got to-
Two elvehn blades are piercing the man's armour like it's made of fucking paper before I've even had the chance to think about what I'm doing, static electricity coursing through his bones. It's like he's cooking from the inside out like he was in a microwave. I try to wrench out the blades but they are stuck in there tight, not like on bone or anything. More like they don't want to be pulled out. Again, not a now thought. Later, definitely later.
I drop the blades instead and rush to Abby, taking the children from her and feel their little hands wrap themselves tightly in my hair. I try to soothe them as we all drop to our knees around Jim. It's worse than I thought. The gash along Jim's midsection is oozing sluggishly, not because it's shallow so much as his blood is pumping so very slowly. And still the pool grows bigger around him. Soon it will be too late. “Cole go and get-”
“The babes will heal him.”
As soon as the words left the spirit boy's mouth Jackson and Victoria stopped their crying and both turned their little heads to focus on Jim. It was as though the air in the room froze and we all held our collective breath.
For several moments nothing seemed to happen, and then, like a strange white noise you hear but can't place, there was a glow in the air. Not a centralized glow on hands or wounds like there would be if Anders were healing, just that the room itself became brighter. Soon the light became too bright to comprehend, shifting from ambient gold to healing green, and I watched, dumbfounded, as the gaping hole that had been Jim's stomach smoothed out into fresh, unblemished skin.
“Clean, whole, pretty. We like Jim.”
I turned to Cole who was still watching the scout on the floor, then at the children, who were now cooing softly to each other. As much as I love my babies, I have to admit, at this moment, they kinda scared me a little.
Chapter 24: Chapter 24
I swear I'm writing as often as I can but right now I'm a 45 year old woman with a book report due on Monday!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
A few hours later the War Room was a grim, crowded room smelling heavily of burnt wood and other, less savoury things. The Advisors, Inner Circle in residence, Zevran, Bethany, Morrigan, the boys and myself all seated on whatever chairs and stool we could drag into the room, not to mention the guard at the door that Leliana had decided was a necessary precaution. And the babies that I absolutely refused to be without. Currently the Iron Bull was distracting them, making faces and letting them grab at his horns. Abby and Jim had been sent to the Infirmary just in case- and really just to give them a chance to reassure each other that they were each all right. Cole was watching the children avidly, his body pressed up against my leg from his spot on the floor while I absently stroked his hair, floppy hat placed in his lap.
I was trying to remember what it was that Cole had told me before we ran to save the children. The others were all speaking softly among themselves over what had happened, damages and losses and injuries. What would be needed to recover. But I just couldn't concentrate on any of that. Something Cole had said had been important, something about...birds? No, that wasn't right...
“Black feathers and talons,” the boy whispered beneath my suddenly stilled hand. Yes! That was it.
“Querida?” Zevran took a step closer, gaining my attention. “Did I hear that correctly?”
I nodded and the elf turned to the War Table where we had made a pile of everything the man had had on him. The clothing he had been wearing had been a set of stolen Inquisition leathers, non-descript and easy to miss. Weapons were equally as bland, though they did not appear to be Harrit's work, now that I got a good look at them. Zev searched meticulously through every nook and cranny until he finally pulled a thin strip of paper from the shirt hem. He unrolled it and read quickly, humming softly to himself.
“It is as I feared. A member of the Crows, though as the Grandmaster of the organization let me say that I did not sanction this, nor would I ever.”
Leliana reached over and plucked the slip of paper from the man while I sighed. “I know, Zev. It's not your fault. You've been a little busy dealing with us and our problems to focus on business of late.”
He stepped forward and kneeled in front of me, taking my hand in his. “Querida, you know that you hold a very special place in my heart. I regret nothing in dropping all to come to your aid.”
“I know and I thank you sincerely. You took care of my family for me while I was gone and helped bring us all together. I will be forever grateful to you.” I leaned forward to place a chaste kiss of the assassin's cheek and- Oh my Fucking God!- he blushed! I laughed at the sight and the flustered elf backed off, smiling.
“My Lady Regent,” Leliana interrupted. “If this note is to be believed, the paying client appears to be a mid-standing Orlesian family, the Du Rochelions. Quite pious, second and third children often given over to the Chantry for training, works closely with the vassals of Duke Ghislain, Madame de Fer's lover. Perhaps after the House of Repose's Harlequin failed at their job, they tried another tactic.”
I kind of sat there and stared at the woman in a stunned silence for a few moments, the others in the room watching me. “Are... are you telling me that it was Vivienne that sent the assassin after me?” I asked, incredulously. “But how did she know that Garrett and I were even still alive?”
“Most likely the same way that I learned of it,” the Spymaster replied calmly, because if something ever ruffled the Nightingale’s feathers we were all doomed. “Spies abound, some of them working for multiple employers at a time. With De Fer's contacts I would have been more surprised if she hadn't known you were at the Imperial Palace.”
I slumped down in my chair, resting my forehead in my hands. It was just...too much. I couldn't handle this shit anymore. One thing on top of another, on top of another. How did I deal with all of this without going completely fucking insane? Well, more than I already was, anyway.
I felt Cole's soft touch on my leg, stroking to give comfort as he listened to the jumble of thoughts in my head. “Want to flee, hide, disappear. Take my family and go go go. Home, warm, safe, no decisions, no relying, failing, dying. What's a 'Chicago Style Pizza'?”
I couldn't help it, I snorted, even as more comforting hands wrapped themselves around me, and wiped away a new stream of tears. 'God dammit, I'm crying again,” I mumbled from someone's chest, Garret's by the scent. “I haven't been this emotional since I was pregnant.”
I felt Garrett tense minutely beneath my cheek but Anders just chuckled. “You're not pregnant, Love. You're just trying to deal with some pretty traumatic events while simultaneously taking over a massive organization after that last guy left it in ruins. Nothing major.”
“Oh, is that all?” I laughed, and if it was tinged with just the slightest hint of hysteria, no one said a thing.
In the end I did end up walking up to each member of the Inner Circle in residence and asking point blank if a particular even had taken place, then commiserated with them over the outcome that Trevelyan had fucked up.
Some things were too late to fix; Cassandra's Seekers were now all long dead, and while they would have died in game anyway, I had hoped to get to them early enough to at least save a few. Especially Daniel, her former apprentice. The meet between Dorian and his father, since Trevelyan had every intention of bundling the mage off to whatever fate awaited him in Tevinter, obviously did not go well at all. It would have been good for Dorian, emotionally, to get all his anger at the man off his chest once and for all, if nothing else, but that ship had sailed. Quite literally.
Poor Wisdom died a demon of Pride, and Trevelyan had the bad taste to then recruit the mages that bound her in the first place. When walking with Solas along the battlements one afternoon we happened to run into one and I very nearly threw him off the edge myself. Solas chuckled at my show of rage and patted my shoulder in silent thanks. I don't understand why the elf stayed after what the man did to him and his friend, but I'm grateful that he did.
There were events that came to be that, in the end, had no good outcome, really. Though, in the end, I think the best thing happened in the long run. The Iron Bull was faced with the worst of possible decisions: send his boys off to die or a dreadnaught of Qunari soldiers. The Chargers die and he is suddenly utterly alone. The Qunari die and he is no longer one of them, a Tal-Vashoth outcast just like the men and women that he hunted to the death so long ago. Trevelyan demanded that the Chargers die, but in the end the man decided that he would not be a 'good little soldier' and decided for himself. Really, for the first time. For that he and the Chargers were ostensibly fired, though Leliana still sent them work and their exile only lasted until the asshole was dead anyway. And he managed to snag himself some gorgeous Tevinter ass out of it so there was that.
Then there was Sera's personal quest. Trevelyan sent the soldiers to march around Verchiel, but not to discourage the nobility so much as to draw them out and make deals with them. Sera being Sera pulled some major pranks on the man and made a break for it, off to help the poor and downtrodden as she had been doing before the Inquisition. I was hoping that, with ousting Trevelyan's noble lackeys and working to repair the damage they caused, I could coax the archer to return to us. I missed her terribly.
Trevelyan had told Cole in no uncertain terms that he was not getting the boy the Rivaini amulet and cast the spirit from Skyhold's walls. One of the first things on my list of jobs was sending out some of Leli's scouts to find the piece and let Cole decide for himself whether he wants to return to his spirit self or continue his growth into humanity. I would not decide that fate for him, it had to be his own.
Bianca, the real Bianca, had yet to show her face at Skyhold. Whether it just wasn't time yet, she decided that Trevelyan was not someone she wanted to deal with, or Varric had warned her off, I didn't know. But at least it was something that Trevelyan hadn't fucked up.
There was also Blackwall, still off wandering the countryside. I didn't know if he would ever return, seeing as I knew his secret and he has yet to tell anyone else, even though I expressly told him he had to do it. Ugh! Stubborn old fool. Still, I missed him and his gruff ways and beautiful carvings. The stable felt empty without him.
There still quite a few rifts out there across Fereldan and Orlais that I was going to have to deal with soon, but until then I was getting reacquainted with my friends and helping them in nay way I could. The way they had gone out of their way to help me.
to anyone that follows my tumblr, tatteredspiderweb, I realize that recently you've been getting a lot more of my DA cross stitch stuff than anything involving writing. I apologize but don't expect that to change too drastically in the near future. It's something I'm excited about and I want to try and keep the momentum going.
Chapter 25: Chapter 25
Headed off on her first mission with a team.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Three weeks later and we were on our way to Redcliffe.
Zevran, as well as several of Leliana's people, were off searching for proof about Vivienne's procurement of assassins against me, so her trial was being put off until then. In the mean time Cole's Rivaini amulet had been found, tested and found wanting. So now a group of us were on our way to Redcliffe to confront Cole's past. As part of the trip we were going to be stopping at a couple of places that scouts had marked as hiding rifts for me to try closing, then afterwards we'd be meeting up with King Alistair and his entourage to escort him back to Skyhold in time for Josephine's ball.
As per the game, I was travelling with Cole, Solas and Varric, and while I've known Varric for years, Solas and Cole were basically unknowns to me and I looked forward to spending more time with them. Anders and Garrett had decided to stay at Skyhold with the kids but Fenris refused to leave my side, and I have to say I was glad. I had no real choice about going out now, what with this weird mark across my ribs, but I was dreading the possibility of being separated from my family for any period of time. Even having one of them near me made me feel better.
What wasn’t making me feel batter was this new armour the guys had me wearing.
“I feel like everyone is staring at my belly button.” Fenris chuckled at that which sort of made wearing this stupid outfit worth it. With the Mark stretching across my ribs, wearing regular armour while trying to close a Rift might be an issue, and so the Iron Bull brought out a possible solution. On first look it appeared to be not much more than a pair of harem pants and a fancy breast band, with thin ropes wrapped around in a twisted pattern to help hold it all in place. How it worked I wasn’t really sure but Anders claimed that there were enchantments woven into the cloth and I believed my love in most things.
“I don’t know about everyone, but I know that I am finding it hard not to appreciate the view,” Fenris said with a soft smile, letting his eyes roam down my body. We were in the middle of setting up camp for the night, the two of us fighting a losing battle with tent poles and canvas. I flushed at the compliment, getting darker when Varric piped in.
“You are looking pretty good there, Starlight. Been a while since I’ve seen you so healthy.”
I scoffed. “It’s been a while since you’ve seen me, period.”
“True. True. But you’ve got to admit, before you worked things out between you and the elf, you weren’t nearly as…well, you, as you usually are.”
Fenris reached out to rub his hand lightly along my spine as I thanked the dwarf for the compliment.
We finished setting up camp and Varric and Cole went out to hunt down a bit of meat for dinner while I prepared small potatoes, wild onions, and a purple root vegetable that tasted a lot like garlic, though I couldn’t remember the name of it for my life. Soon the boys came back with nearly a half dozen rabbits that they quickly skinned and gutted for me. Fenris chopped everything finely which I then set out of our oiled frypan over the fire.
We sat in relative silence as the meal cooked, each lost in their own thoughts. The meat cooked with a savoury goodness that had my mouth watering. Even Cole seemed to be watching the cooking with interest, though truth be told, he could be conversing with the spirit of the rabbits for all I knew.
Soon enough, fried rabbit flank and vegetables were spooned out around the fire and we all dug in as though we’d been starving ourselves. Well, except for Cole who just sat near my leg on the ground, occasionally reaching out to touch as though making sure I was still there. Or that he was.
In time the rest of our companions wandered away, most to their tents, Cole to go help someone or something, who knows, until only Fenris and I remained. It was nice, quiet. It was so seldom that he and I spent any real time alone together anymore. Not since…well, not in a very, very long time. We just sat, comfortable with each other, staring into the flames.
“We should spar.”
Wait, what? We should…what?
Fenris took my hand as he stood, pulling me along. “Come. We should spar together. Show me how you’ve grown in our absences.”
I nodded, still surprised really, but followed willingly enough as he pulled me away from the camp to a relatively flat area where we could mock battle. We had no blunted weapons with us so the real thing would have to do, just more carefully. “All right, Fenris. What did you have in mind for this?”
He drew his longsword even as Lightning and Speed came to my hands. “Flat blade touches only. We continue to five touches. And I promise to keep my phasing to a minimum, otherwise it belies the touching rule.”
I smiled. I could handle that.
I barely had time to blink before Fenris was swinging that damned sword of his and I was forced to spin out of its reach. I grinned. So it was going to be like that. He, too, was grinning, moved now into a defensive position with the sword held before him. Not a problem, really. Two-handers were slower than sword and board, which left quite a few spots open for a couple of quick daggers. It’s their armour that kept them from major damage.
But Fenris was a lot faster than most two-handers and getting a good shot on him was more difficult than it looked. I would dart in, feint, spot an opening only to have him guarding it and lunging out before I could touch him. He was a very frustrating opponent, which I’m sure is a part of his attack technique. Piss the enemy off into making a mistake.
Then I noticed something that had me smiling. I began stalking around the warrior, watching as he paced along with me. Yes, I was right. I could use this. I began moving around him at a light jog now, forcing Fenris to spin with me to keep me in sight. I switched direction, darted forward then back, watching Fenris become annoyed with me. That’s right, gorgeous, lose focus. Keep that sword up and away from where I’m going to hit you.
I could see it in his eyes, when I should strike. There was a spark, almost a twitch, before he was about to make a move, and so I did it. I dove forward, somersaulted just beneath the blade of his sword, and slapped the flat of my blade against his hamstring.
In a real fight, the flat of the blade would be an annoyance, but Fenris reacted as he would ha had we been fighting for real and fell, as though he had actually been cut. And I followed up as though it were real, jumping up and pinning my opponent, Speed and Lightning crossed at his throat.
“I think I win, Amatus,” I said with a smile.
Fenris chuckled. “I do believe I, too, win in this situation, seeing as I have the most beautiful of women straddling me.”
Smooth talking bastard. And I admit it, I blushed, and while distracted loosened my hold on my blades. Well if that tricky asshole didn’t suddenly have our positions flipped, with me flat on my back with an oof and him leaning his full body over me.
“It appears that I win, now, my Amatus.”
I'm going to apologize now if I take even longer than usual to update. After the divorce I found myself needing Social Assistance, which is a horrible thing. I've gotten myself back in school now, updating some very rusty admin skills to try and make a better life for myself. But it means that I have very little free time to write between classes, caring for my special needs niece, and getting my little Etsy shop off the ground. So, anyway, don't think I'll be abandoning this at any time, I'm just kinda slow.
love all the kudos and messages. They keep Selena and the boys going.
Chapter 26: Chapter 26
Closing our first Rift and helping Cole become.
We were a day out from Redcliffe when the Mark began to itch. At first it was nothing, almost like a mosquito that keeps buzzing at your skin. But it wasn’t long before that itch began to feel like the mosquitos were under the skin and would not stop bleeding me dry. It burned and buzzed, driving me insane before we were anywhere close enough to close the Rift that was causing it.
Fenris, sensitive as he was, noticed right away that something was wrong, reaching out to take my hand as we rode side by side and watching me with concern. Cole appeared on my saddle behind me and gave me a comforting hug around my waist. Touching was something he had begun doing a lot more of since he had returned to Skyhold, and I wondered if it had something to do with making certain things around him were real or wouldn’t disappear.
Varric tried to distract me from the discomfort with stories, as he usually did, mainly of stupid things Garrett did. It did the job for a time, but not nearly long enough. All too soon the buzzing under my skin was just too much and I began scratching at it, pulling at the skin with my nails as though I could rip it out.
I froze, whether from surprise- Solas just didn’t talk to me much- or some kind of personal magic from the authority in his voice, I didn’t know. Not to mention, no one had called me that since Merrill. I didn’t realize that Solas might have thought of me as a friend.
“Scratching at it will only cause you to bleed. Once we have found this Rift and closed it, we will stop and I will attempt to find a way to keep it from bothering you as much as it does. “
I nodded and Fenris gave my hand another squeeze. Varric gave me a pat on the leg and even Cole held on just a little tighter. These men, my friends, my loved ones, were here for me and I loved them so much for it.
Within another few minutes we saw the sickly green glow of the Rift off to our left. We dismounted and tethered the horses to a couple of nearby trees out of the way and began creeping up on it. As far as Rifts went it was relatively small, in a lightly treed area and some crumbling ruins around it. A half a dozen Shades were wandering the space as though at loose ends, with a heavy air of being seriously annoyed. Apparently getting pulled through a Rift from the Fade was irksome. Who knew?
Through a series of hand gestures that Fenris, at least, was familiar with, and some sneaky thought reading by Cole, I got the guys to move around so that we surrounded the Shades. Solas and Varric on high ground to the East while I took West, Fenris and Cole took North and South respectively. With this small of a group it was the best we were going to get. The others waited for my signal so I drew an arrow and knocked it, waiting for the perfect target. It wasn’t long before one of the Shades moved to give me a great shot, right between the…well, strange sockets that I think were supposed to represent eyes.
As the arrow flew, Solas cast barriers, first on the melee fighters, then the rest of us, while Cole and Fenris flew in, blades flashing. The first wave went down fairly easily, the element of surprise on our side, but the second wave was not to be underestimated.
Rage demons, two of them. Solas could hold his own with an arsenal of ice spells but even from my vantage point I could see flash burns appearing on Fenris’ skin. Even Cole was not coming out unscathed, one of the demons backhanding him to slam his back up against a pillar. And the wooden shafts of my arrows and Bianca’s bolts turned to ash before they could do much more damage than scrape their flamey hides. Our only real chance was in keeping them busy while Solas froze them.
When one of the monsters pinned Fenris beneath it’s fiery bulk, though, I kind of lost it. I threw my bow to the side, drawing Lightning and Speed from their sheaths and jumped down into the fray. Of course, when I say jumped down, I really mean I apparently completed something of a magical feat that no one knew I was capable of.
I’m told that this is what the others saw: I leapt from the fallen wall that I had been perched on. Lightning’s static charge wreathed me in a dancing array of electrical bolts of energy while Speed simultaneously seemed to turn the world to molasses and moved me from my attack position to Fenris’ side in the flash of an eye. When my feet hit the earth a green flash pulsed from my torso, moving both down my legs into the ground and up into the bodies of the demons, and up into my arms to create a line of power from the Rage demons, to me, to the Rift. They screamed, I screamed. There was no ice cream, though I would have dearly loved some right about then.
After what felt like forever, someone grabbed my wrists and placed my hands firmly on my ribs where the mark flared and pulsed. I blinked eyes that I hadn’t realized were closed to see Solas there with a look of deep concern. “Lethal’lan, the Rift is closed. Take a breath, calm yourself.”
Nope, wasn’t happening. Instead I dashed around hm and went to my knees at Fenris’ side, who was sitting up with a face like a wet cat. “Nearly bested by a damned Rage Demon. Fasta Vass, the Mage will have a good laugh over that one,” he grumbled.
I giggled and helped him to his feet, giving him a quick peck on the cheek before moving past him to see to Cole. The boy was sitting on the ground now, as opposed to lying on it, though he still seemed a little dazed.
“Cole? You okay?” I asked, kneeling in front of him.
He tilted his head like a dog with a math problem. “Tilting, listing, world on its axis. I keep falling down.”
Solas joined us and ran a quick hand of glowing blue over the boy’s head. “His eardrum appears to be ruptured. I will give him a potion and we should rest here for a short time.”
I nodded, leaving the two of them together and wrangled Varric and Fenris into helping me collect our gear from the horses and setting up a small lunch.
“Hey, Starlight,” Varric started with a smile. “Think I could use that whole ‘saving the day on a streak of light’ thing n my next book?”
“Um…sure?” I mean, it’s not like I knew what the hell he was talking about at that point, right?
Redcliffe Village is an odd dichotomy of light and dark. Happy and bustling on the surface but with dark scars in it’s not-so-distant past. It felt like only yesterday that I was stealing the mages out from under Alexius not too far from here and there were still many mages and templars skulking around it’s darkened corners. But the docks and nearby shops seemed to be doing a brisk business and somewhere nearby a child was laughing. It was nice, though the smell of fish pulled out of Lake Calenhad had Fenris making faces.
We were just leaving the horses in the hands of the local Stabler when Cole suddenly cried out, rushing off towards the monument for the Wardens located in the center of the village. Standing in its shadow were a pair of men and if it weren’t Thedas I would have sworn that a drug deal was going down. Though considering the nature of lyrium, it kind of was a drug deal of sorts. Cole was angry, furious, at the man, calling him out on what he allowed to happen during his time at the Spire at Val Royeaux. The reason, in the end, of why Compassion became Cole. The others watched the argument, then continued it among themselves, but I only watched Cole.
In truth I watched his eyes. There was no compassion left within him for the Templar running towards the docks away from us. That, more than anything, told me what Cole would likely choose, but he was going to need someone to stand by him. I reached out to lightly touch his arm, then motioned for us to follow the Templar.
The Templar had nowhere to go, having run to the end of the docks and unable to go further. We stood at the other end, blocking his escape. Cole was breathing heavily, fists clenched, shaking so hard the metal buckles on his hat jangled. I pulled my bow and held it out for him to take if he wished.
“It’s time to make a choice, Cole. Do you turn away, make him forget, and ease his conscience? Or do you take his life as he took your namesake’s and keep this man from possibly killing another young mage, whether through ignorance or ill will?”
It felt as though it took him an Age to move, though really it was only a few moments, but in the end, he reached out and took my bow from my fingers and sighted. There were fewer tremors now, softer and calmer breaths. He was no longer reacting strictly with anger, but with thought. This was how I had hoped he would approach this decision. Cole’s next move would be the catalyst for the remainder of his existence.
The arrow flew with a soft whoosh of air. It was an almost delicate movement of air, blowing a few thin hairs along the boy’s cheek. The cry of pain from the Templar, however, was not. The man bellowed with pain and rage and terror, an arrow piercing his foot and stapling him to the wood of the docks. “I hope that someone hears your cries before you starve, Templar,” Cole hissed, handing me back my bow and leaving with his head held high.
I couldn’t help it, I chuckled. My baby bird was going to grow up to be such a bad ass!
Chapter 27: Chapter 27
Oh look! It's everyone's favourite King!
“So how have you been since coming back from the dead.”
I groaned and shook my head with a smile. King Alistair Theirin chuckled and nudged my shoulder with his own. Well, with his upper arm anyway. He was quite a bit taller than me and our shoulders would never really meet unless, maybe, I stood on an apple crate.
We had met up with Alistair and his entourage- prison guards, as he put it- earlier that morning, after spending a night in Redcliffe. In my head I was calling his group the faceless hoard since they mostly refused to remove their helmets while on the road. Currently the hoard were fanned out around us, and I could kind of feel what Alistair was talking about. It was almost like we were actually a bunch of prisoners being led off to the Gallows. You know, except for the horses. Generally people didn’t bother to hang horses, even when they did something really bad.
I don’t know, maybe there’s some kind of horse serial killer, stomping the hapless innocents around him, out there or something.
Alistair and I were leading our mounts for the moment. I don’t know about Al, but my butt was seriously saddle sore and the walk was doing me good. Fenris and Solas were ahead of us, still seated, and chatting softly about whatever it was they talked about. They rarely said anything out loud around me, but it never felt like they were purposely keeping secrets, just really quiet. Varric was riding his pony so only looking down on us by an inch or so, telling tall tales when Al and I weren’t chatting to each other. Cole was off doing Cole things. I hoped he was all right.
“Tired, mostly,” I replied with a soft sigh. “Trevelyan left quite a mess to clean up in his wake.”
“I can only imagine. Leliana has been trying to keep me updated on your progress. And, of course, your Ambassador Josephine has sent me all sorts of flowery words. Not sure what all of them were, but they were pretty anyway.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, that sounds like Josie. She’s kind of like Zev but without all the sex.”
Alistair whistled. “Wow! That is kind of a scary thought.”
“Yup. She can rip you to shreds and you’ll thank her for it, all without getting one wrinkle in her puffy gold blouse.”
I had to snort. “Never mind. You’ll see when we get there.”
“You never answered the question. How have you been?”
I gave him a look from the corner of my eye. “You really want to know? Or just making conversation?” Then I grimaced. “Or are you so bored with courtly talk you’re looking for juicy gossip?”
Alistair gasped, placing a hand on his chest in mock affront. “Gossip? Me? Well, I never!” which had me chuckling once again. He smiled, that oh so typical Alistair boyish smile which said all sorts of things about how my Cousland, Gwen, had fallen for him. He sobered as he continued. “No, I actually want to know how you’re doing. And no sugar coating! That’s something my queen does on the rare occasion I see her nowadays and I have to fight her for the truth every time.”
“Gwen’s off searching for the cure, right?”
He looked surprised, whether from my knowledge of her purpose or my use of her given name I didn’t know, but continued nonetheless. “Yes. In fact, when she was with me at Redcliffe when we first met she had only returned for a day or two before heading off once again.” He sighed wistfully and stared off into the clouds. “There will come a time when we can just settle down and be together. But until then I get to play monarch and pine.”
I looked forward and became a little wistful myself, watching the lithe form of my lover atop his bay mare. He turned to look back and grinned at me before turning his attention back to Solas. “Yeah, I can understand that,” I replied. “Someday all this bullshit will be over and maybe we can finally settle down with our family and just…be.
But to actually answer your question, it’s been hard. Not just cleaning up the mess left behind, but all the personal stuff. Fenris and Anders thought we were dead and even when Garrett and I were out of the Fade, we had to lay low because of Trevelyan and his bullshit. And I won’t even go in to how hard it was to be without the babies for that long! Even this short trip is trying on my nerves.”
“Why did you not bring all of them with you? A trip like this wouldn’t be too hard on the children, would it?”
“Probably not, but we knew I’d be closing a Rift or two and I didn’t want to chance it with little ones too close. Not to mention that there’s still a lot of work to do at Skyhold and I didn’t feel comfortable not leaving a family member to help oversee it. Garrett’s good at things like that. And if Garrett’s staying behind, then so is Anders.”
“I had heard that your little group had favourites,” Alistair said, teasing.
I thought about that for a moment. “I don’t know that ‘favourite’ is the right word. I’d almost say soulmates if that didn’t sound cheesy.”
“Cheesy?” Alistair was back to mocking, though of himself. “Everybody knows I love cheesy.”
I laughed, which was, of course, the intent. “Yeah, yeah. You and your cheese. But it’s true, I think. I mean, I love Garrett and Anders, don’t get me wrong. But there is a connection between myself and Fenris, something almost tangible. From what Anders tells me, if he hadn’t had the welfare of the kids to worry about he might have tried to join me in death, and I know it would be the same for me. In fact, now that I think about it, he sort of did that the first time I died.”
Alistair stopped dead in his tracks, causing Varric to laugh from his perch on the pony and pause his chicken scratches. Apparently, he had been taking notes of our conversation without our knowledge. “Didn’t you know, Cheese Man? Our little bit of Starlight has died a few times now. Doesn’t seem to want to take, though.”
Pulling up their mounts, Solas added, “I have heard that you had returned from death once before but did not give it much credence.”
I flushed, returning the soft smile that Fenris gave me as the two elves looked down at us. I felt the whoosh of displaced air behind me just before long, warm arms wrapped themselves around my waist and I patted the hands that held me in place. Whatever else, Cole gave good hug. “Well, let’s see. I drowned and woke up in Thedas. Then there was Meredith stabbing me in the guts and waking up back on Earth. Then there was all of this Fade shit, though I didn’t actually die for that one. Oh! And the assassin in Orlais. Pretty close call on that one.” I frowned. “Shit. I die a lot.”
“Love to pull you back, love to keep you safe, love to keep you here. Surrounded and swirling, covered and kept, you love and are loved in return. Forever and always.”
I patted the boy on the arm while the others looked at him with mild confusion. “Thanks Cole. It’s true, the love I feel for everybody is a lot of what keeps me coming back. And I have so much love around me that I’m fighting to stay.”
There was a sort of stunned silence and I looked around the group, a little confused. “What? Most of you knew all this already. Okay, not Al or the Hoard but still, this isn’t breaking news or anything.”
I watched as Fenris, very slowly, dismounted his mare and came to me, enfolding me in his arms and holding me tight to his chest. “It is not that it is new to us, but that we never thought of the number of times that we nearly lost you. Really lost you. And that, in the end, what brings you back and keeps you here is the love that you hold in your heart is somewhat humbling. Thank you.”
More arms joined Fenris’ around my waist and shoulders. Cole was still behind me but Varric had come and was holding me tightly with his arms over the boy’s, while Solas had moved in at the other side and rested his arm awkwardly across my shoulder while trying to touch Fenris as little as possible. Truth be told, I don’t think Solas has really touched many people and the fact that he tried made it all that more precious.
“Now all we need is Zevran here to make some sort of sexual inuendo and everything would be perfect.”
I couldn’t help it, I started to laugh. Like deep down, belly laugh until you pee yourself kind of thing. Leave it to Alistair to figure out how to break up the abundance of emotional sharing and turn it into a giggle fest.
“All right guys, break time’s over,” I giggled, pushing arms off me and making for my mount, expecting the others to follow suit, which, of course, they did. “Let’s get this entourage of metal to Skyhold so your fearless leader can have a bloody bath! Josephine promised me vanilla scented bath salts!”
We rode off at a brisk walk with that, all smiles and chuckles, and when Fenris came up to my side and leaned in to whisper, “Forget the assassin, imagine what Isabella could have come up with,” I nearly fell off my horse, laughing so hard.
Chapter 28: chapter 28
On the road home
We were half a day or so from Skyhold’s main gates and , for once, the horde was riding behind us instead of around. I think the idea was for the sentries to see the royal standards and the king before a small army or soldiers. That sort of thing can be taken very, very badly. It was kind of nice to be able to actually see where we were going instead of a sea of shiny metal.
So far in our travels we had closed seven rifts, took out four bandit crews and saved a family of ducklings that got themselves trapped in a most evaporated rain barrel. Varric was left in fits of laughter while Fenris, Solas, and Alistair just shook their heads with smiles.
Cole called me their hero and gave me a hug that very nearly broke a rib. Cole gives some damn good hugs.
The problem? There was a group of men not far ahead on the path, about twenty or so, all on foot but looked well-armed. A quick reconnaissance by Cole and we were forewarned with one word; Wardens.
Have you ever had a feeling that, even when everything looks like it should be shit, and experience has taught you that it is, you still feel like what you’re looking at is a good thing? Until that moment that would have been a ‘me neither’, but that is exactly what was going on right then. Every other soul around me was preparing for a fight while I just…watched.
The group wasn’t marching or readying for a fight themselves, no, they were sort of…sitting there. Like a lunch break or something. Some were chatting in small groups while others were siting around a bit of a fire pit.
I started forward, my mare at an easy walk, while the others drew blades and prepared spells behind me. It wasn’t necessary, I felt it in my bones, but let them do their thing anyway. Let the ‘big strong men’ do their thing. I craned my head, searching the people as we got closer. Men and women, most not much older than twenty-five, watching as we approached but no one making a move beyond warming their hands in front of the flames.
Then I saw what I realized I had been looking for. His back was to me but I would know that head of dark hair anywhere, the broad set of shoulders, the stance of a seasoned soldier. I stood in my stirrups, cupped my mouth and called out as loud as I could.
He spun, that thick beard flashing with a lot more silver than when I’d seen him last. And a much broader smile. He was what I pictured Garrett would look like in another fifteen years or so, and, damn, if the thought of him looking like that didn’t do some wonderful things to my insides! But no, I already had more men then I could handle most days, and I wouldn’t want to poach from our lady ambassador. Josie would make my life hell if I tried.
He came up to the side of my mare and reached up to help me swing down into a hearty hug. “My Lady! Aren’t you a sight for sore eyes!” Blackwall chuckled gruffly. “You are looking exceptionally fine.”
“What? For a dead chick?” I laughed, stepping back. I looked around us, surveying the men and women he had gathered. “Who are your friends?”
Blackwall straightened, a look of fatherly pride on his face. I felt the others move up behind us as he explained. “I told Trevelyan that I was recruiting new Wardens which was, of course, a lie. No, instead I was looking for the deserters, the ones that learned of Clarel’s insane plan and left the order. The one’s that realized that there was no way that all Warden’s, everywhere, would be hearing the calling at the same time. So I searched throughout Ferelden, Orlais, the Free Marches, and gathered who I could, waiting until I heard the good word.”
“The good word?”
“That’s right, Boss Lady! We was waiting to hear you’d finally made it back!”
I spun at the sound of that voice, smiling even wider even as I searched for that shaggy mop of blond locks hidden within the group. Finally, with a lot of yelling and garbled swearing on her part, a trio of Wardens were forcibly pushed aside to reveal the feistiest little archer this side of the Frostbacks.
I didn’t have time to begin saying her name before she had thrown herself at me in a bone crushing hug. “Sara! Hey, Bumblebee, I missed you!”
“You missed me?” she was pulling back to stare at me with wide, incredulous eyes. “You missed me!? I’m so mad at you I could spit,” so she did. “You been back for ages! Why didn’t you say nothin’? We all thought you was dead!”
“I’m sorry, Sera, I couldn’t. It was the only way to get Trevelyan to slip up, and to keep the babies safe.
Sera sighed and backed away, wrapping her arms around her waist. The others in my party were coming forward now, looking over our lost friends.
Softly, at my side, Cole whispered, “Well, fuck.”
Now, if that wasn’t the most surprising thing in the afternoon I don’t know what was. Everybody choked or gasped while he looked around at us in confusion. “Stay outta my head, Weirdy Pants! We talked abou’ that!” Sera cried, fists balled and ready to slug the boy.
“I’m sorry, it was loud and needed to come out! You weren’t going to say it.”
“No I wa’n’t gonna say it, cause I gotta watch my swearin’. Can’t swear so much in fron’ a the bubbies!”
We laughed. It was one of those things that you just couldn’t stop, the idea of Sera curbing her language so ridiculous that we had no way of helping ourselves. Even stoic Solas was chuckling. Everyone but King Alistair, that is.
“I’m sorry to ruin everyone’s fun but I think I need to say something. Mostly because this man,” he pointed to Blackwall, “seems to be presenting himself as a Warden, and he most definitely is not.”
And just like that, swords were being drawn around us; Royal soldiers, Wardens, even Fenris. My love and Cole both moved to shield me, groups of Wardens and soldiers moved in front of Al and Blackwall, it was a God damned Mexican standoff.
“Blackwall?” I looked to the man from the corner of my eye as I faced off against the King. “I know I said I would try not to force this on you, but it doesn’t really look like you have much of a choice anymore. Time to spill the beans.”
The man sighed, shaking his head slightly. “The men with me know the truth of it, but I was hoping that I could explain my past to the entirety of the Inner Circle at once. Well, I guess it can’t be helped, can it.” Blackwall straightened, throwing back his shoulders to face Alistair head-on. “Your Majesty, my name is Thom Rainier, former Orlesian military Captain. Let me tell you a story and you can pass judgement when it is done.”
Chapter 29: Chapter 29
Men are idiots...
Okay, mos men are fine, but there are a couple of guys that are definitely within the idiot range...
We travelled as a very tense group after that. The Wardens were on foot and so Fenris and I walked with Thom at our side, while Varric and Solas rode somewhat ahead of us, Cole moving back and forth between Solas’ horse and Thom’s side. Alistair rode next to Fenris, staring straight ahead and thinking some pretty deep thoughts. I didn’t really like that, mostly because I couldn’t be sure exactly what the man planned to do about the false Warden, but Thom was my friend and, no matter what, I would stand by his side. The Wardens had fanned out behind us while the King’s men were on horse-back behind and around them
We arrived as a very large, very tense, very uncomfortable group, but that was nothing compared to the moment when Josephine saw Thom.
It was like watching a slow-motion scene, her face moving from shock to joy to a lip-pursing wariness. And poor, hopeful Thom was left hanging a she turned to begin the wonderful job of housing all the men that had just wandered into the Keep.
I reached out to pat him on the arm. “Why don’t you head over to your room for now and we’ll call a meeting of the Inner Circle in about two hours, okay?”
He nodded sadly and followed the stablehands taking our mounts over to the barn for brushing down. Meanwhile, Leliana had come out to greet her old friend, the King of Fereldan wrapping his arms around her waist on flinging the woman about in a bear hug. The woman’s girlish giggle was so odd to us that both Fenris and I stared wide-eyed for a moment. Just...weird, man. Very, very weird.
But what seemed even weirder to me is that neither Garrett nor Anders had come out to greet us. I mean, I guess they could have been busy somewhere, but usually one of them would at least pop a head out to say hi before running back to whatever it was they needed to do. Even Abby was there with Jim, each holding a wriggling, squirming child that was growing way too quickly for my liking.
I was taking Jackson from Abby’s arms when Cullen approached. He looked concerned, never a good look for the commander of your armies. Even worse when he was, ostensibly, your brother-in-law.
“Selena, may I speak with you and Fenris for a moment?”
We nodded and moved out of the main thoroughfare of people working around us, each with a child cooing and burbling in our ears so that Abby and Jim could take some time to themselves for a bit. Cullen cleared his throat, rubbed his hands together, stared at the ground, rubbed at his neck-
“All right, commander. Out with it.” I was never really all that patient when it came to him and his inability to put three words of a personal nature together. Bloody, uptight Templars fucking with a good man’s head.
“Um, well, it seems that Hawke and Anders, are, well…”
He mumbled something under his breath and I nudged him with the tip of my boot to have him speak up. “Fighting.”
I think I was too shocked to respond, as Fenris ended up doing it for me. “What do you mean ‘fighting’?”
“I mean that three nights ago there was a blow up between them, one that was so loud that Leliana’s crows were disturbed in the aerie while they argued in the lower bailey. Walls shook, whether by magic or Garrett’s fists we’re uncertain. It was…unsettling. And now they refuse to speak. Bethany is beside herself with what is happening, and an upset Bethany is not something I wish to handle at any point in my life, thank you very much.”
“What, exactly, were they arguing about?” I asked, after sliding Jackson’s fingers out of my mouth. Apparently he was interested in my teeth today. Victoria was enjoying pulling on her father’s hair, much to his chagrin. She was a strong one and he winced often with her pulls.
“We’re not certain. By the time it reached the point that the Keep could hear them, it had devolved into curse words and, what I would swear, was the language of the Anderfels. Now they just refuse to speak with one another, going so far as to leave the room if the other walks in. Its demoralizing the people, upsetting the children and has Bethany in such a state that I hear all about it. Constantly.”
“Shit,” I huffed under my breath. After a moment’s thought I said, “Cullen, there’s going to be an Inner Council meeting in the War Room in a couple of hours you and Bethany will need to attend. Fenris, if you want to go to the room and bathe after the road, go ahead. I can take the kids with me to go visit our wayward men and have a couple of chats with them.”
But Fenris shook his head. “No, I will come.” He reached up to pull Victoria’s inquisitive fingers from the tip of his ear. “If it becomes necessary, I can wrangle the children while you slap them about for their nonsense.”
I giggled. And people thought Fenris had no sense of humour. “All right, Amatus. I assume, Cullen, that Anders is in the Infirmary.”
He nodded. “Yes, he stays there most times, I think even sleeping there. Garrett has been haunting the lower levels recently, beneath Josephine’s office.”
I knew exactly where he was talking about. “Okay, let’s start there. Anders will still be in the Infirmary when we’re done, most likely. And I have a feeling I know what it is he’s discovered and want to see it for myself. At least before Dorian sees it and tries to ‘organize’ everything.”
We set off, waving to Cullen as he headed off to his tower. What could have gotten into my boys that they, of all people, were fighting? It just seemed so farfetched.
Skyhold is even more of a labyrinth than the game suggests and, even with a trail of lighted sconces we got ourselves lost twice before we entered an area that looked somewhat familiar. Of course, I nearly lost Fenris to the wine cellar until I reminded him that he would probably have to share it with Dorian and he chose to continue with me rather than possibly be caught alone with the other Tevinter. He might be slowly thawing towards Dorian, but I couldn’t really expect miracles, now could I?
And, it turns out, Anders wasn’t in the Infirmary after all. As we approached, we heard muffled voices that eventually became a very angry mage and mumbling warrior.
“Why didn’t you greet her when she came home? She’s up there, you know, probably wondering where her husband is.” Wow, that sure sounded sarcastic. What the fuck is going on?
“Anders, I don’t just answer to her back and call. I’m not her slave.”
Fenris balked at that but Anders was answering before he had a chance to say anything. “You’ve done nothing but talk about her since the moment she left. ‘I should have gone with her. I miss her. I wonder what she’s doing now?’” There was a heavy thump as though Anders had hit or dropped something. Garrett cried out and I stepped into the light of the room they were in to check they were all right.
Anders and Garrett were squared off, each on either side of a long table covered in ancient tomes, the walls of the room covered floor to ceiling in more books than the entire library upstairs. In the future I would be combing through every title, but for now there was this issue to deal with. Anders had, apparently, slammed his fist into the table hard enough that a small cloud of dust was just beginning to resettle.
“Anders, what the fuck? These things are delicate!”
Apparently, that was the last straw. “Fuck you, Garrett Hawke! Go to your wife! I fucking hate you both!”
Wait. Both? Did Anders just say…?
Fenris reached out to touch my arm and I knew that I hadn’t imagined it. Anders had just told Garrett that he hated me. Not anger, not irritation. Hate.
There was a time, in a life now long gone, when my husband had told me that same thing. James would tell me how much he hated me, and I would beg and plead for his love once again. I didn’t understand that that was his way of getting attention from me. And when I stopped begging he would beat that attention out of me. To hear Anders say it froze my blood in my veins.
“You are both fools.”
Fenris was glowing with his own anger, Victoria in his arms adding her own glare of anger to her fathers. They both turned, having just realized that we were there, faces slack with shock.
I couldn’t handle that, I needed to… I reached out, plucking Victoria from Fenris’ arms and took her and Jackson back with me up into the open air of Skyhold, away from the devastating hurt Anders had unleashed in that tiny library.
They watched her go, hearts heavy with guilt. Except for Fenris, of course, who was quite literally glowing with his anger. “You are both idiots.”
At least they both had the presence of mind to look chagrined at this. Fenris was ready to slam their heads together at this point. From their vantage point they would not have seen her face as she took their daughter from his arms, but he did. Devastation was putting it mildly. The only time he had ever really seen it like that was when he, himself, had broken her heart so long ago in Kirkwall. And he was still trying to atone for that. And while Hawke had not said the fated words, his carelessness had helped to bring them about.
“Hawke, the Mage was without you for months. It is akin to losing a limb. Now that you have returned, he is feeling insecure, uncertain that you will remain at his side. That you won’t…disappear once again.
Mage, Hawke and Selena had only each other during those months, in some horrific conditions we can never imagine. Without her in front of him, Hawke is also feeling insecure. It will take time before she can leave his side and him not be in constant concern for her safety. Be patient.”
He paced a moment before turning back to the two men, glowing finger pointed, voice arched. “You have made her cry. Both of you. I can feel her tears, even from here. You will make this up to her, just as I do, every Maker forsaken day. Is that clear?”
They both nodded dumbly, the guilt etched deeply. Anders was in tears, himself, at his own stupidity. Fenris nodded and stalked from the room to let them figure themselves out. He had an Amata to find. Because he really could feel her tears, hear her sobbing in his mind, and it was breaking him.
Chapter 30: Chapter 30
Not doing too well...
And Dad Solas to the rescue?
We ended up in the stables. It’s not the first place I would have thought of, had I actually been thinking at all, but my feet dragged me there. Or maybe it was my nose.
As a kid growing up, I had a Grandmother that raised horses for harness racing. I used to love spending time with her at the farm, mucking stalls, brushing them down after a run, caring for the harness equipment and the rigs. It was soothing. When she passed and her three daughters, my mother included, sold the property, I cried as though my heart had broken- which it had, in a way. That soothing peace was gone forever. But that smell, oh that smell was such a wonderful reminder. Stone and wood, hay and horse. And yes, even the shit. Normally they would have warmed my heart, but not today.
Little fingers patted at my cheeks, and childish voices babbled in my ears as we went, but I couldn’t seem to bring myself to reassure the babies as we sat ourselves among the haybales. Nearby mounts whickered, grunted, screeched, made whatever noises their breed made but they sounded muted in my head. Everything was muted.
He hated me. Hated. I just…didn’t understand. What did I do? How did I…fix it? Can I fix it? Or is it something that…that isn’t fixable. How could he even say-?
Someone was talking to me but it didn’t really register. Noting really did at that moment and a part of me knew that wasn’t right but, I just couldn’t seem to care. Why care about any of those little things when someone that I loved so dearly hated me?
“My Lady, what’s happened? What is wrong?”
I thought to answer but why? The voice didn’t belong to Anders so why bother explaining myself. Someone else could deal with it. I was too busy lost in thought about what to do about Anders. How to make him love me again.
It’s kind of pathetic, isn’t it? No wonder he hates me if this is how I react to it. Maybe he’s better off without having to deal with me. I’ll just…I’ll leave him alone, I guess. I’ll stay our of his life. Spend most of my time…away.
The kids were slid out of my arms but I just sort of knew that it was okay, the person who took them was trustworthy. They didn’t cry or make a fuss so they knew who came for them and it was okay. It wasn’t me so it was okay. If someone as wonderful and thoughtful and kind as Anders had gone so far as to descend into hate what kind of terrible person was I? Maybe James was right and I wasn’t worth it, maybe I needed- Oh God! I couldn’t breathe! When did that start? It was too much, the world was starting to grey around the edges.
“Boss? Can you hear me?”
Yes, yes, God yes but I can’t talk, I can’t answer! I try to nod my head and I guess it worked.
A giant grey hand reached into my field of vision and touched my knee. Apparently, at some point, I had started staring down at my lap instead of the stables around me. “Can you feel that, Boss? If you can’t answer yet, it’s okay to nod, but I need to know if you’re with me, okay?”
I tried to speak but the words wouldn’t come so I nodded once again. Vaguely I had the thought that it was the Iron Bull with me but it was gone again after a moment.
“Okay, Boss. You’re okay. I’m going to carry you to your rooms. Is that all right?”
My rooms? The rooms I shared with- I shook my head vehemently. “No,” I croaked. I guess I needed a drink of water or something, my throat felt parched. As though I’d been crying or something, though my face was dry. “No. Anywhere but there. Or the Infirmary. Take me… the rotunda.”
“All right, Boss. I think Solas was in there cataloging some books that came in while you guys were away.”
I think I nodded again, but then I was up in the air and against the broadest chest I had ever imagined. Being carried by the Iron Bull is like when you were carried by a parent as a child. You feel dwarfed, cocooned in a very soothing warmth. And safe.
“Solas? Got an emergency here. Give me a hand?”
I was shifted around and felt myself laid onto one of the large wing chairs that Solas had absconded with from the upstairs library. They were comfy, but not as warm as being held.
“What is the issue, the Iron Bull?’
“No clue. Blackwall found me while searching for her guys, but was having no luck. Asked her if she wanted to see them but she wanted to come here instead.”
“Here? How odd.” I felt fingers lightly brush my cheek but it was difficult to summon the energy to care. “She is chilled. Is there time before the Council meeting to send someone to the kitchens for some of the soup I saw at the lunch tables today?”
“I’ll get it myself. The ladies down there can’t so no to me most days.”
There was a sigh and chuckle before the sudden silence of the large man left the room, and Solas moved to kneel in front of me. He draped a blanket over me from elbows to knees “That should help. You appear to be suffering from shock, Lady Regent. Hopefully, once you’ve warmed, you will speak with me about what has happened to you. In the meantime, the Iron Bull has gone to fetch you something to warm yourself with, and I will be working at my desk. Some fool of a servant left all of the book acquisitions on my desk instead of bringing them to Dorian. Probably for the best, though. Otherwise that man would most likely sort them into the stacks and I would never see them.”
Shock? Yes, I guess this felt like shock. It wasn’t like this was my first bout with it. Usually, when shock was a possibility, it had been counteracted before it could become an issue, but there was this one time, one of the first where James had attacked me, when I had hidden myself away afterward and something similar to this had happened. I learned later that, had I not sat next to the household vents and the furnace come on, I would most likely have died as my organs slowly shut down.
Was I really like that again? Had I fallen so far down the rabbit hole that I couldn’t climb out by myself? In the back of my thoughts I heard Solas call up to the library and another voice join his a few moments later, but it was still a little difficult to concentrate on what was going on around me. It dawned on me that this felt a lot like after what happened with Dorian’s magic in the fight with the Red Templars, but without the terror to go with it. It was more like a lassitude that I didn’t feel worthy of breaking.
“Well, hello there, Dearest. Solas tells me that you are feeling a touch chilled. Shall we do something about that then?” Oh. It was Dorian. When did he get here? I think I nodded as Dorian reached to pull my hands out from under the blanket and placed them within his own magic-warmed ones.
His face was concerned when he looked back over to Solas. “How long has she been like this?”
“It can’t have been long, no more than an hour or so. We only returned this morning.”
“And there was no sign of this at all?”
“No, Dorian,” Solas said with an aggrieved sound. “There was no sign at all. Whatever triggered this happened after our return.”
“What about Anders? Has he seen her?”
I jerked up in the chair, blanket falling away as I gripped harder at the mage’s hands. “No! No Anders!”
“A- All right, then. What about your other paramours? Should someone go and fetch Hawke or Fenris?”
I fell back and shook my head. I didn’t want them to see me like this, pathetic, unworthy of either of them. “Who has the kids?”
Solas stepped forward to answer. “The Iron Bull has asked his Chargers to take them under their wings for the remainder of the day. I believe he said that Messere Aclassi has some stuffed toys for them to play with.”
That was good. Krem was great with the little ones. I just hoped that Rocky didn’t try showing them explosives or anything.
We sat in silence for a bit before I realized something. “Dorian, shouldn’t you be at the Inner Circle meeting?”
“You are certainly more important, Dearest. I can read the minutes later this evening if necessary.”
I shook my head. “No. This is something that you should really hear first hand. Please?”
He grimaced at the idea, but was distracted by the Iron Bull returning with a large, steaming bowl of soup. “All right, but the two of us are coming right back to see you afterwards, understood?”
I nodded once again as Bull placed the bowl on Solas’ desk and wrapped his arm around Dorian’s waist, the two leaving with concerned eyes and strained smiles. I hated that I had caused that.
I stood, blanket now wrapped around my shoulders, and took a second chair at Solas’ desk in front of the soup bowl while the elf perused the books laid out in front of the, periodically making notes in a large ledger beside them. The soup was thick with chunks of what I thought was Ram meat and some kind of orange tuber I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. Tasted a little bit like a tart version of sweet potatoes. The texture was good, anyway. We sat together in companionable silence, the clink of the spoon or rustle of papers the only sounds beyond the soft murmuring of people out in the Great Hall. So when Solas spoke it was actually a little jarring.
“Forgive my intrusion, Regent, but why can we not call for Anders to attend you?”
I didn’t look up from my almost empty soup bowl, spoon paused halfway to my mouth. I didn’t even think about whether or not to answer him, just let the words slip out on their own. “Anders said he hates me.”
“And why did such a patently false statement affect you so?”
This one I thought about. And while I didn’t really know Solas as well as other members of my team, something told me that I could trust him. I mean, I trusted him with my life, and the lives of those I cared about. Why not trust him with how those terrible little words made me feel. “Before I came here, to Thedas, I was recently divorced from another man, did you know that?” I asked, raising my head and setting the spoon back in the bowl. I pushed the soup aside and rested my elbows on the desk, cupping my chin. Solas shook his head, leaning forward slightly. His ears almost seemed to twitch with interest. “His name was James and we were married for a long time. Had five children together. Things were pretty good. I mean, not great, but good. I was…content.
Then there was an accident and he suffered a brain injury. He… changed. It wasn’t an overnight thing; very subtle. Sneaky. But eventually my James wasn’t there anymore, was replaced by a mean, violent man that constantly told me how much he hated me between beatings. And other things. So when I heard someone as wonderful and kind as Anders say that he hated me, well. Maybe it wasn’t James’ accident that caused him to say and do such horrible things. Maybe it was…maybe it was me.”
“Do you truly believe, in your heart of hearts, that you are to blame?” I opened my mouth to answer but he cut me off, hand raised for silence. “No, think about it. Delve deep into your heart and think about whether you are truly someone that others would hate. Not be jealous of, like Madame de Fer, or to destroy because you interfere with his plans, like Corypheus. But truly hate. If you can tell me that you truly believe that you are such a terrible person, then I will agree with you. But until that time, I will continue to believe in what I’ve seen of you; a kind woman with a large heart and too many responsibilities. Someone that cares more about everyone around her than she does about herself. Someone that needs to go out and find the men she loves and sit down to have a long talk with them.”
I chuckled softly, going back to finish the last of my soup. “Someone that is taking up your desk space with her food, so you can’t spread out your books.”
Solas smiled in return. “Very true, lethalan, though it is no trouble.”
“I’m surprised that it’s you here talking to me and not Cole.”
“He tried, but I sent him off to speak with Anders and the others. I believe the Healer is in need of counselling as much as you at this juncture. And I’m afraid that our mutual elvenh friend, while certainly loves the man, might remove his head from the mage’s shoulders if he says the wrong thing.”
Yeah, that would probably be a problem. Hard to kiss and make up when faced with decapitation.
Chapter 31: Chapter 31
I am working on about 3 hours of sleep and am posting this while I'm supposed to be doing class wrok, so I apologize if this makes absolutely no sense. :)
It was the night of Josephine’s ball and Anders had been avoiding me like the plague. Not that I went out of my way to find him either, but he was steering clear of every place where I might conceivably find him. Apparently, instead of working the infirmary, he was making what ended up constituting housecalls, visiting ill or injured people in their rooms or the barracks, with a Healer 4him at any given moment.
I’m sure Garrett knew where to find him, but he was avoiding me too. No, that’s not right. It wasn’t that he was deliberately avoiding me, more like he was making our contact minimal so as not to piss off the mage. I understood, really, I did, but it still hurt. I missed him- both of them- but I could get behind the thought that, maybe, if he didn’t go out of his way to see me, Anders might forgive him.
I missed them both so much.
Not that my time was empty, mind you. Not by any stretch of the imagination. Josie kept my busy with all the little things that needed going over before the ball tonight, while Leliana and I spent a long afternoon deciding how to deal with the rising tension with the Trevelyans in Ostwick. Apparently, the death of their son, even if he was one that they never really seemed to give a shit about before hand, had angered them somewhat. Who knew? We were going to start with some discreet digging into their financial and personal affairs and go from there.
As was expected, I spent a fair bit of time with King Alistair and, by extension, Cullen. The two men had a great many stories to tell regarding their boyhood during Templar training and what went on afterward and couldn’t seem to get enough of telling each other- and anyone in their general vicinity. It was like a game of one-up-manship with no winner. Then Bethany joined us one night at the tavern and it became a ‘my wife is better than yours’ contest. That’s when I finally just shook my head and bid them goodnight, dragging my sister-in-law away with me.
The babies went everywhere I did during all this. I had lost so much time with them that it never dawned on me until a chat with Abby about what to do about their upcoming birthday just how old they were. Victoria was now cruising around holding furniture every chance she got, and Jackson was not far behind her, wobbling on his chubby little legs. I had already missed so much, I didn’t want to miss this too.
But not tonight. No, tonight they were spending their time with Abby and Jim, and a guard of Cullen and Leliana’s choosing around their rooms. There were going to be too many unknowns around the Keep for the next few days and we were not going to have a repeat of the assassin incident. Not if I could help it, anyway.
I stood before the mirror that I had had placed in this room after moving from my shared suite with the men. I don’t know if Anders ever slept in our rooms, no one would tell me, but I wanted to give him the option. I know, you’re probably wondering why I would go to the trouble for him after he was the one that started all this, but it’s just the way I am. I admit it, I’m kinda pathetic.
“Beautiful,” Fenris whispered from behind me, stepping forward to wrap his arms around my waist. I returned the embrace, covering his hands with mine and giving them a squeeze.
Josephine had outdone herself, getting the seamstress that had created my gown for Halam’shiral and getting her to Skyhold in time to create another version, this one in shades of violet and lavender. We’d decided to forego the haori this time and focus all the black embroidery details to the kimono itself, and the tunic that I had sported earlier had been shortened to barely the length of a sports bra. If I needed to use the Mark for any reason, I wanted to be able to access it easily. Strangely, Josie didn’t put up a fuss over that, but Maker forfend that there be slits in my pantlegs to be able to reach my knives! She despaired over people seeing my flash a bit of thigh. A bit of thigh! It was bloody ridiculous! I finally told her, in no uncertain terms, the slits stayed, or I would go pantsless. Apparently, pants were preferable. I wonder what she would say if I told her that the women who originally wore kimonos didn’t wear them with pants?
The seamstress had worked another miracle when it came to Fenris’ outfit. I thought for certain that she would balk when she learned that she was creating something for an elf, but she merely nodded and went about measuring him. I learned alter that she was well versed in dressing the elvenh companions of many of Orlais’ elite. That little tidbit made my skin crawl but Fenris told me to leave it for now, so I did. See? I can be accommodating!
Fenris preferred a much simpler ensemble, favouring breeches in butter soft leather and matching silk doublet, all in black, with lavender and violet accents to match my own. But it was the embroidery itself that made both pieces really stand out. A Wolf on the left, Griffin on the right, both en rampant as the Orlesians called it, back to back while a Hawke soared over them with its wings spread from one shoulder to the other. Their eyes were picked out in shades of grey and blue. It was exactly as I had pictured it and I made sure that Josie got the name of the embroiderer so that I could maybe poach them for our own.
“Do you think Garrett and Anders will wear theirs?” I asked, a little afraid of the answer. I had requested a more ‘Grey Warden’ feel to theirs- Garrett in shades of grey with blue stitching, Anders in blue with grey, the animal eyes in shades of lavender and black. I wanted the world to know how much I thought of them as ‘mine’, even if one of them was avoiding me.
“If they do not, I will hunt them down, strip them in the middle of the dancing, and force them to apologize for their childish behaviour,” He growled.
I smiled softly and squeezed his fingers once more before releasing him and stepping away just as a knock at the door heralded our grand entrance. “Well, guess it’s time to go face the music. You ready?”
“Fasta vass, not even close! But I look forward to the faces of all those sycophantic Orlesians when they see you dance on my arm.”
Fenris’ grin was so wicked I couldn’t help but laugh. And shiver in anticipation of after all the dancing.
Chapter 32: Chapter 32
Party Time! But there's too many Orlesians...
I swear to God, once Corypheus was dealt with I was retiring to a little village somewhere to raise chickens or some shit and NEVER DOING THIS CRAP EVER AGAIN!
There were two separate dance areas within Skyhold- the Great Room, where I currently stood with Fenris and Garrett, greeting guests as they entered; and a space we had begun calling the Pillar Room, a space beneath the Great Room that sported frescoed walls, marble floors, and a dozen marble pillars along the walls. There were musical troupes working both rooms and long buffets filled with food. It might have been fun…if it weren’t for all the fucking Orlesians.
“Inquisitor! Our rooms are so cozy! It’s like living as a servant!” some noble or other said in the greeting line, the sneer hidden by his mask and yet so very obvious.
Oh, somebody did not like being corrected. The forced cheer turned to ice. Well, if ice were covered in a thin sheen of oil. That was my first thought when it came to this guy. An oil slick, made for pretty colours in the light, but slippery as fuck and oozed. “I am the Inquisition’s Regent only, until my children are old enough to take the reigns, or a new Inquisitor is decided upon. But I am not the Inquisitor, nor will I ever be.”
He waved it away as though my words could be seen in the air and he was bothered by their buzzing. “Pish tosh!” Who the hell said pish tosh! “The title matters not! You are still in charge of the Inquisition and therefore the title stands.” Oh, for the love of-! The man was an idiot. “I’m afraid my room is too small. I will need to be moved immediately.”
“Sir,” I began with a sigh, “You are the seventh noble to demand better rooms and you are nowhere near the most important of the lot,” he bristled at this, like a frustrated hedgehog, “and I will tell you what I told them; there are no more rooms available, and as a military installation, we have few rooms of significant size, all or which are in use by our soldiers and the infirmary. I can not -and will not- move them to accommodate you. If our accommodations are not to your standards, you are free to go home.”
The man blustered for a bit- I have no clue what his name was, even though Josephine had introduced him to me mere moments ago. Too many names in too short a period- but he eventually apologized, not really meaning a word of it, and moved along.
Thankfully, Josie came to rescue us from the tedium. “Regent, it is time for you to open the dancing. If you and your partners would care to move to the dais to make the announcement? And King Alistair will be first on your dance card.”
God, that was another thing. An actual dance card. A thick piece of vellum with the names of high ranking nobles and a few of the Inner Circle. Well, the ones that could be trusted in a soiree such as this. Sera had been banished upon threat of magical things happening to her if she so much as showed a pinky toe near the revelers. Cole was also staying scarce, though more for his own sake than anyone else’s; he didn’t need all the bullshit that came with hanging with Orlesians. It’d warp his brain.
Dorian and the Iron Bull were attending on a provisionary basis. Both men had dealt with Orlesian nobility before, and attending balls such as this was second nature, but Orlesians were, on the hole, a nasty lot. If they started getting harassed, they had permission to hightail it out of there asap. Blackwall was staying out as well. Not so much because he couldn’t handle himself as he was too well known as Thom Rainier in Orlais. None of us needed the aggravation.
I nodded to Josie and, with Fenris taking my arm, made my way across the crowded Great Hall and up to the dais where the Inquisition Throne sat. I hated that chair. With a bloody passion. And someday I vowed to drag it into the middle of the room, borrow one of Blackwall’s axes to chop it into little bits, then set it on fire. The idea of a chair raised above everyone else, where a person had to decide the fate of others, was ludicrous as far as I was concerned. And the fact that tomorrow, after all the revelers had woken for the day, I was going to have to choose how to punish a former member of the Inquisition’s Inner Circle just pissed me right the fuck off.
That’s right. Apparently, it had been decided while I was out closing Rifts and ferrying around kings, that Viv was going to be judged the night after the ball, while all the nobles of Fereldan and Orlais were in residence. And guess who had to deal with all of that shit?
“Amatus, you’re growling.”
“Sorry,” I said with chagrin. “I just really hate all of this.”
“Leave the growling to me,” He said softly, leaning in, his soft hair brushing against my ear and sending shivers down my spine. “I’m better at it.”
I looked out to see Alistair smiling widely at me. He knew what sort of things we were talking about and, much as I love the guy, I wanted to tell him, and everyone else, to fuck off so I could drag my elf into a closet to do wonderful things to him. But no. If I blew this off, Josephine would probably turn into some kind of she-dragon and literally eat me alive.
You’re picturing it right now aren’t you?
Well then, let’s get this show on the road. “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mesdames est Mesieurs, welcome to Skyhold!” There was some half-hearted cheering, and I plowed on through. “This past year has been a whirlwind of good and bad, peace and war. New friends and lost loved ones.” I scanned the room searching for a certain familiar face to no avail. “But now, if we are to become the allies I hope we will, let us now take the time to get to know one another, and maybe even find some common ground that goes beyond the battlefield. Like dancing!” The cheers were a little louder this time, mostly from Alistair. He can be pretty loud when he wants to be.
The King of Fereldan reached out to lead me down the small steps to the space designated for dancing. “Nice speech,” he chuckled. “No flowers, no kissing butt, nice and simple.”
“Thanks, Al. Appreciate that. I’m sure I’ll hear all about how it was too short and not nearly enough spoken Orlesian for most of them.” I said with a sigh, lips still tugged up in a smile. It was hard not to smile when Alistair was around.
“Seen Anders yet?”
Then he asks me that and there goes that smile, right out the window. “No. He never came to stand in the reception line with the rest of us and, as far as I know, he’ll avoid this the rest of the night. I hope he at least makes an appearance for Garrett’s sake. He’s been miserable since the blow up.”
“You’re kidding me.”
Alistair knitted his brows in what looked like annoyance, something I don’t think I’ve ever really seen on the man. I mean, sure, most of my exposure to him was though a video game but still. “From what I’ve heard, you were upset enough that you were near catatonic for a short time, and since then you haven’t had nearly the… the… I don’t even know. You’ve been down.”
He spun me around and I scanned the room as he did. Nope, still no Anders. Fuck. On the other hand, Fenris and Garrett were actually dancing together, the elf leading because there was no way in hell Fenris would follow. Ever. And they weren’t even the oddest couple out there as the Iron Bull lead Dorian in a beautifully intricate waltz. “You don’t even know me that well. How do you know if I’ve been down?”
“You’re not joking around like you did on the road. I mean, you’ve been smiling and told a few one liners, but your energy is almost non-existent.”
I chuckled softly. “Yeah, I guess that’s pretty true. I just haven’t really had it in me, you know? See, this is why I think you make a pretty good King.”
He looked surprised. “What do you mean by that?”
The music was ending, and we spun one more time around the floor. “You notice the little things. Most people in power don’t, they’re too caught up in the big things to give a shit. But you see the small stuff, and if something is off you can handle it before it becomes big stuff.”
The music ended on a flourish, the king dipping me to the applause of the room. “Huh. I never thought of it like that. Thanks. Now, should I drop you for the laughs or do you think someone would gut me?”
I glanced over to my boys and saw that neither of them were really smiling. “Maybe you should just let me up. Wouldn’t want to cause an international incident, now would we?”
Chapter 33: Chapter 33
Two chapter back to back? Happy New Year!!!
It was nearly dawn for fucks sake, about damned time everybody had cleared out and retired to their rooms! I had officially left the revelers a couple of hours before, but too many of them just kept going. According to Fenris, by the time he left the Great Room, Cullen had given Bull sanction to announce that they had ten minutes to clear out or they were volunteering for sparring practice with the Chargers in the morning. Josephine wasn’t happy but at least people went to bed.
Now Skyhold was sleeping peacefully, except for me. I hadn’t seen Anders all night, though I’m told he made a brief appearance after I left, and something felt very wrong. You know that little niggle in your gut that something somewhere was not right, even if you have no idea what it might be? Yeah, that.
I decided to go for a little walk. Still dressed in my finery of the night, I slid my knives back into their thigh sheaths and headed down into the bowels of Skyhold.
The dungeons were quiet, only Viv and her posted guard in attendance, and even then, the mage was fast asleep. And she snored. Loudly. The Universe sometimes has the best sense of humour. The wine cellar- and yes, I know it held more than wine, but booze closet doesn’t have the same ring- was empty, though evidence that Dorian had stopped in was still visible. Two clearly empty wine bottles and the short cape he had been wearing at the beginning of the night being good indicators.
Someone had also been in the Small Library, leaving behind several open tomes on healing and medicinal plants, as well as a room temperature cup of tea. Anders? Was this what he did while hiding out from me? Well, he couldn’t have left all that long ago. I was going to find him if it killed me, God Dammit!
I was just reaching the Pillar Room when I heard it.
I froze, the speaker hidden from my sight by a pillar, though there were at least two more there besides man and mage. Templars. Going by the armor, two of Barris’, though they were jittery and shifting enough that I could hear the jangle of their armor. Barris’ soldiers were more disciplined.
I heard no answer from Anders but the other continued to speak. “We’ve missed you, Anders. No one could ever take us the way you used to. And we’ve tried to find replacements, believe me. Little boys and girls with tight little holes and so scared they can barely breathe. They make some lovely sounds, but nothing like what you used to make.”
Oh, fuck no! I stepped around the pillar though no one seemed to notice. Anders had been cornered by the trio, the one I presumed to be the speaker much too close, so far into Anders’ personal space flecks of spit could be seen on the mage’s cheek. And Anders stood stock still, trembling in terror, eyes wide and pupils tiny. So far gone into his traumatic memories he was having troubles pulling himself out. I could understand that, more than I wanted to admit. Well, this certainly couldn’t stand.
I pulled at the sash of my clothes, stripping down to tunic and pants, reaching in to unsheathe my two small knives. Yup, knives. Versus three armored men with longswords and shields. This was going to be damned tricky. Unless…
Cole, I need all hands on deck! Pillar room ASAP!
“Well, hello there, boys,” I greeted with false cheer. “Here for some late-night dancing? I’m afraid the ball is over, time to toddle off to bed now.”
They spun to face me, and I could see almost right away what was wrong with them; a red sheen over their eyes. It glowed in the darker light of the Pillar Room, most likely missed in the brighter light of the Great Room up above. Fuck. This was going to be worse than I thought. I didn’t know how infected they were under all that armor and that shit can spread like wildfire if you weren’t careful.
Now, there is one good thing about a Templar’s dress armor- there were weak spots everywhere. The gorget is small, leaving the throat area wide open. Large gaps in the armpit area, the groin, backs of the knees. The bad thing was that it was still armor. And all I had on me were a couple of steel knives. Well, I guess there was nothing for it. I was just going to have to be better than three red-infused Templars.
This was going to hurt.
Three warriors, swords and shields pulled, faced me in that room, the glow of their eyes beginning to fill the space with an angry crimson. I spared a quick glance over their shoulders to look at my mage. “Anders? I could really use a hand right about now.” But he was still unresponsive, lost in a trauma I could inly imagine, and would never want to.
I blinked, and they were suddenly on me, moving with a precision and speed that did not come from Templar training. It was all I could do to keep their blades from hitting flesh as I spun and dodged, knocking the blade to the left of me wide with a knife. They kept coming, trying to box me into a corner as I wove around marble pillars.
Okay, analyze the situation. How do they move? Find a blind spot and exploit it. It was the only way I was getting us out of this anytime soon and by now, after the past few weeks and the ball earlier, I was exhausted. I could feel it in my bones. Pretty soon I was going to start flagging and then they would definitely get me. Get us.
I didn’t consciously see the opening one of the Templars left me, but my little knife had suddenly sprouted from his exposed clavicle. Unfortunately, it got snagged on his armor coming out and was wrenched from my fingers. Now I was down to one knife and two Templars. Two heavily armed Templars that were moving in for the kill. I was panting, knees shaking, and a sting in my side told me that maybe I wasn’t as unscathed at this juncture as I thought. Not sure when somebody grazed my hip but now that I knew it was there, the pain was flaring, and I could feel a wet trickle moving down my thigh.
One of them swung and I spun to avoid it, but not fast enough. The Templar blade sliced across my back deep enough that I felt the skin tear in a line from shoulder to mid-back. I screamed, but continued my turn, other knife coming up to plant itself in the offender’s underarm while it was still raised from the strike.
Shit. Now I was unarmed with a Templar still to go. Faintly I heard the cries of others coming to our rescue but if they didn’t hurry, we’d be shishkabob before they arrived.
“Anders, Baby, I need you to hear me right now,” I called, ducking millimetres from a swinging blade. “I need your help.” Duck, run, hide behind a pillar. “I need you to save us.” Sword scrape across my knuckles, leaving bloody smears on the marble. “Anders, please.” Duck, dodge, take a deep breath and “ANDERS-“
It was like a shock of cold. I tried to keep talking but something was stopping my voice, something that I couldn’t explain. I looked down and saw the reason right away; there seemed to be a blade sticking out of my lower left shoulder. It had gone in through the back, the point dripping blood on the floor. And, oh, would you look at that. The floor was coming up to meet me, so I wouldn’t have to fall so far. Wasn’t that thoughtful of it?
Oh, Anders, run. Run, Love, before they do this to you, too. Run for your life. Please. Please!
A light, soft at first, then brighter, engulfing the room, bright yet so very soothing. Someone was screaming my name. Someone else was just screaming. Footsteps pounded into the room, there was shouting and the clashing screech of blades. Voices were calling for me, trying to keep my attention, but I just couldn’t seem to focus on anyone. I was too busy watching the blood flow on the marble beneath my cheek. Josephine was going to have a hell of a time finding someone to clean this up. And it got even harder to focus as the grey began to creep in.
“Selena? Sweetheart? Can you hear me?”
Oh, Anders, I can hear you. It’s too bad that this is going to end up being it for us, isn’t it? We never got that chance to talk. I never got that chance to tell you that I love you. No matter what, I love you. A stupid fight would never stop that. “I love you so much.”
“I love you, too, Sweetheart. But right now, I need you to stay awake for me, all right? Selena? Selena!”
I tried. I really did. But I just couldn’t do what he asked.
Chapter 34: Chapter 34
I'm sorry there was a cliffhanger...
Lies! All lies! I'm not sorry at all! Mwahahaha!!!!
Seeing the green light of the Fade was nowhere near as comforting as it used to be.
I stood on the cliff overlooking the rocky crags that had become synonymous in my mind with the Fade’s dangerous landscape. Demons roamed with no clear destination and no benevolent spirits seemed to be in the vicinity at all. We were in the realm of the Nightmare.
We. Because as I stood there, looking out on the landscape, a figure stepped up next to me. Taller than me, with a lithe build somewhat hidden beneath a cloak of non-descript grey, and an air of…maleness, I guess. I just knew that the person beneath the cloak was male, even though I saw nothing else.
*It has been some time since you came to visit us, Earthchild. *
Yeah, I know. After coming here in person, it’s a little disconcerting to be back, you know?
*Yes, I can see how it might be. I apologize. *
Why? It’s not like you caused us to be trapped here.
He paused and for a moment my heart froze in my chest. * Of course. But the apology still stands, on behalf of the Spirits of the Fade. *
I turned to face him, searching for something, anything, that would tell me who he really was. Something about him was so familiar to me, but I just couldn’t seem to place it. A word? Inflection as he spoke? Fuck! This was going to bug me forever! But all I saw was a bit of pale skin and the edge of a chiseled jaw.
What did you need? Why was I brought here this time?
*You brought yourself. I came in search of you, to lead you home. *
Oh. Right. I got stabbed, didn’t I? Where do we go?
*Nowhere. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. It is your soul that is here, not your corporeal body. Movement is unnecessary to traverse our expanse. But, truly, we will not be moving at all. I want you to think of something. A memory. Something pleasant that causes you to instantly smile. *
I closed my eyes and thought. Something that made me smile…I tried the kids first, and yes, they made me smile but there was no one memory that I could fix on. Then Fenris and Garrett but the same thing happened. What memory would do it?
Amazing Grace…How sweet the sound… Ah! There we go…
“What’s that song you’re singing?”
I looked up from the sink full of bubbles and dirty dishes. I had left the boys at the kitchen table scarfing down a third helping of lasagna and started scrubbing early. One thing I’ve always hated was a sink full of dirty dishes. I guess, while I was working, I had been singing under my breath. Anders had heard me and come to investigate. “It’s called Amazing Grace. Something I used to sing in church as a kid all the time.”
Anders hummed in disapproval. “Church song, huh?”
“Not like the Chantry,” I smiled. “Though, to be fair, we didn’t have any mages to oppress. Even if we did, there are so many other groups that our religious systems go around oppressing, mages would just be another notch in their bedpost.”
“And you sing their songs?”
“Well, I don’t follow their teachings like I did as a kid, but I still love the music.”
Anders stepped farther into the room, wrapping his arms around my waist and resting his chin on my shoulder. “Can you sing it for me? I like the sound of your voice.”
“Glutton for punishment,” I teased, “but okay. Here it goes;
Amazing grace! How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home.
The Lord has promised good to me
His word my hope secures;
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.
Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.
When we've been there ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun,
We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we've first begun…
“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound, that saved a wreck like me.”
“It’s wretch, not wreck.”
My throat was so dry when I corrected him that it was difficult to get the words out. The singing had stopped, but I missed Anders’ voice so much that I kept talking. My eyes were closed and there seemed to be a cloth over them, but I knew by feel that my other men were in the room as well. It’s been so long since the four of us had been together that I wanted to keep it going as long as I could. “If someone could give me a sip of water, I can help Anders with the lyrics.”
I felt strong hands slide beneath my back across the shoulders and leverage me up to a sitting position. Fuck, that hurt! There was a sharp pain in the left shoulder and my entire chest felt pulled tight. So that part actually happened, at least. Sometimes it was a little hard to tell what I see in the Fade from what happens in real life. I had kind of hoped the stabbing part had been imaginary.
Pillows were fluffed up behind my back and I was set down to lean against them. Better. Not perfect, but better. The cloth slid down my face to land in my lap and I looked around the room. We were in our rooms, Anders in a chair he had pulled up beside me, while Garrett and Fenris stood- no, hovered- nearby. “So, guys, what happened after I passed out?”
The guys exchanged looks and I knew something bad happened. With the number of nobles in the Keep, for all I knew there was some kind of international incident. Josie would have a field day with that one.
Finally, Fenris growled, “The mage lost his mind.”
I looked from Fenris to Anders, eyes wide. “What do you mean ‘lost his mind’?” This did not sound good.
Garrett came and placed a reassuring hand on Anders’ shoulder, while the man himself looked down at his clasped hands, blushing in chagrin. “He didn’t lose his mind!” He admonished. “He just…got a little too protective.”
“I went ballistic and fried the last templar so badly he’s nothing but ash and a mark on the wall. Then when some of the Inquisition guard came in I tossed them around badly enough that if I weren’t also a healer they’d be in traction for months. Fenris ended up having to subdue me with a right cross that knocked a tooth out.”
Needless to say, I was stunned. I stared at the top of the man’s dishevelled blond head as I spoke. “Guys? Could you give us the room, please?”
Fenris nodded, gave me a soft kiss on the cheek before going to the door, pausing only when Garrett didn’t follow right away. The warrior looked between Anders and I, concern etching his features. “You sure?”
I reached out to lay my hand softly in Anders’ hair, stroking until he lost the tension that had been creeping up his shoulders. “Yeah, I’m sure.”
He nodded, and the two men were gone, leaving Anders and I alone. I continued to pat at his hair for a while, just enjoying the silky texture of it. To tell the truth, there was a point in time, not long ago, when the thought that I might never get to do this again had flitted across my mind. So, I was taking advantage while I had the chance, and waited for him to speak. This was one of those times when I couldn’t push him to talk, otherwise he would clam up or make a break for it. But we seriously needed to discuss some shit, or we were never going to recover.
“The blades were poisoned,” he finally began at a whisper. “And the stab wound nicked your aorta.” Oh. Well, shit. “You lost a lot of blood. Too much. Your heart stopped a couple of times while you were being healed. I- I almost…”
He was crying, his hands raised now to cup his face as he shook. I let him for a time, stroking his hair as he did, knowing that he had to have been holding in a shit ton of stress while I was out of it. Sometimes what you needed was a really good cry.
When he began to calm I finally said, “Thank you.”
He lifted his head to look at me, eyes wide and rimmed red with tears. “Thank you? Thank you! You should be berating me for causing this! I put you in danger by not being there for you and freezing up like that! You should be giving me shit about the horrible things I said! Why aren’t you yelling at me?”
I pulled my hand back into my lap and smiled softly. I was starting to get tired again, and sitting up like this was becoming painful. “I’m too tired and sore to yell. And, well, I’ve had a long time to think about what happened and…okay, yes, I’m pissed off at what you said. It hurt me. A lot. And I kind of turned into a bit of a vegetable there for a while until Solas, Bull, and Dorian managed to talk me around. But I also understand how you must have been feeling. I mean, the love of your life is finally back after you thought he was dead for months, and all he seems to want to talk about is his wife. If I didn’t know the players already, I would say that would make a great episode of Doctor Phil.”
“Ugh! That guy was terrible,” Anders said with a chuckle.
“Then why did you guys keep watching it?”
“Because he was funny! I always got a laugh out of Garrett when I tore his diagnoses to shreds.” There was a long pause before he continued. “I sometimes wish we were back there, watching your television and eating pizza. Things were…not simpler but…different. There was so much less pressure.”
“In some ways,” I said. “No Chantry breathing down our necks, no expectations beyond what we accepted for ourselves. But your magic and Fenris’ elf ears would have to be hidden forever. And Garrett was born a warrior. He was already getting bored with nothing to fight. No, this is the best world for the three of you. And where you go, I go.”
“Even if its not the best world for you?”
“Oh, Sweetheart, the three of you are my world. Without you, I float, aimless. You gave me a reason to keep growing and learning. And living.”
Chapter 35: Chapter 35
I'm not sure if I'm going to be uploading more or less frequently for the next couple of months. I've just started a new co-op placement, which should mean I'm really busy, but for these first few days I haven't done all that much so more writing time... We'll see, I guess.
In the meantime, here! Have a chapter.
I am a shitty patient. It’s one of those things that, as a person, you know about yourself, and find that you just can not change. I try to be patient. I mean, I really try, but it’s not a lot of use.
I fidget and complain. I try to sneak out, not that I get very far. I have even gone so far as to try and bribe Cole into poofing me out of the room; he claimed he couldn’t do it, but I think he’s holding out on me.
Unfortunately, because of the poison coating from the Templar’s sword, I was healing a lot more slowly than would be normal with Anders’ magic. He also hypothesizes that, because of my earlier case of shock, my body wasn’t at full ability to fight the poison, but I think that’s just his guilt talking. He sits with me every chance he gets during the day, between the Infirmary and spending time with Garrett, and sleeps pressed up against me every night. Oftentimes I’ll feel his magic pulsing over me in the night, after waking from one of his nightmares. I let him do what he feels he needs to do, then wrap my arms around him and pull him back down into sleep.
When Anders wasn’t at my bedside, Fenris or Garrett were there instead. My three men seemed to refuse to want to leave me alone for longer than it took to use the facilities, and even for that they walked me to the door and waited for me to finish before aiding me on the return trip. I understood that they were protecting me and wanted to help, but it irked me that just that short little trip took all the strength I had in me. For nearly three days it was all I could do to stay awake after that short little jaunt.
I had many other visitors during my convalescence. Alistair was a staple; possibly because it gave him an excuse to avoid the lingering Orlesian horde that still filled our halls. My recovery was juicy fodder for gossip and Orlesians just loved to gossip.
Cullen would come in with Bethany, usually bringing the kids in with them. Beth had gotten it into her head that she wasn’t spending nearly enough time with her niece and nephew, and so was kidnapping them near daily. Cullen acted as though he was only going along with it for her sake, but I could see in his eyes how happy he was having the little ones climb all over him. Even on days when I could see him wince from the pain in his joints and the tension in his neck, he smiled and laughed for them.
The only good thing about forced bedrest is that I have plenty of time to knit. Thick, chunky wool sped across the needles because what the hell else was I going to do? I made scarves for most of the Inner Circle with a couple of exceptions. Sera insisted that a scarf would get in the way of her bow draw -true- and instead she received a fluffy hat that covered her ears and had her giggling when it tickled. Cole asked if I could make him a pair of mittens, which he spent time talking to because, apparently, the sheep that donated its wool was happy with how it was used.
Yeah, I wasn’t touching that one.
Dorian being Dorian, demanded and entire ensemble. I made up a sleek set of charcoal wool with intricate cables and have never seen a man so taken with knit wear. The hat and mittens only came out when out in the courtyards but, damn, if he didn’t find an excuse to wear the scarf whenever possible.
I was working on the last one now, but it was the largest of the bunch; a scarf for the Iron Bull, with the standard for the Chargers worked in intarsia, black on red. The clack of the needles was a soft counterpoint to Varric’s voice as he told me all about how Cullen had lost his shirt, once again, to Josie in cards.
“You’d think Curly would stop while he was ahead, but no! He gets it in his head that he knows what he’s doing wrong and tries to fix it, just to make it all worse for himself!” He rocked back with laughter, glove-covered fingers resting on his stomach. The dwarf was complaining of cold hands but didn’t want to lose the dexterity he needed to write, so gloves with the tips of the fingers unfinished were born.
I chuckled along with him but, truly, I wasn’t really feeling it. Laughter is hard to fake when you’re anxious to just move. It wasn’t Varric’s fault, or Cullen’s lack of card playing skills. I was just being difficult. Again.
“So, how are things, really, Starlight?”
Stupid dwarf and his ability to see right through me. I sighed, placing the knitting in my lap. “I am bored to tears, I want to get out of this room and see the God damned sun, and I really want people to stop treating me like I’m going to collapse at any second. Even if I am.”
“I get you there,” he said, sitting up to tap at his chin. “It’s tough when so many people care about what happens to you.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, I know, you old dwarf. They love me, I love them, yada yada. But I can’t just sit here and do nothing but knit all day! And I certainly can’t judge cases or close Rifts from my bed.”
“Speaking of which, what are your plans for the Iron Lady, anyway? You’re going to have to take care of that pretty soon. Empress Celene has started making noise about sending her to Orlais for judgement if you’re not up to it.”
Ugh, that one. We save her bloody carcass and get barely a thanks for it before we get the bum’s rush out of her country, and now she wants to steal away my prisoner. Most likely to give her a slap on the wrist and send her on her way. Stupid Orlesians.
I thought about for a minute before making a decision. “Varric? Could you run out and find Anders and Josephine for me?”
Varric grinned wide. “Sure thing, Starlight. Gimme two shakes of a nug’s butt.”
Okay, that was a new one.
While Varric went to find people, I slowly turned on the bed, sliding my legs over the edge and set my feet on the floor. I was going to need to get dressed for this, and I certainly couldn’t do that in bed. My body ached worse than the day after running a marathon, but I could do this. I mean, I gave birth to twins without modern medicine, I could do this, right?
Using chair backs to lean on I made my slow way to the wardrobe and found a simple robe of sky blue velvet with a simple cinched waist and front ties that I wouldn’t need help with. I stripped off the cotton nightdress I had been wearing and sat to fight with the gown when there was a knock and Josie let herself in.
“Lady Regent, you wished to-“ and then she spotted me, mostly naked on the chair, and turned her back with an extremely dark blush. “My Lady! You- You’re-!”
“Trying to get dressed, thanks. Could you go in my trunk and find me a breast band? I forgot.”
“My Lady, why are you getting dressed? Did Anders release you form confinement?”
“Not yet, but I need to conduct Viv’s trial and I can’t do that from here.”
Josephine moved to the end of the bed where my trunk full of underthings was situated and found a simple breast band that I could put on with little help. “Should I assume that Master Tethras told you about the Empress’ letter?”
I took the undergarment from Josie’s outstretched hand. She still hadn’t turned to face me. “Yeah, and you should have been the one to mention it, not him. This is pretty important. I’m not about to let her take Viv and hide her away from punishment. And we can’t be seen dragging our feet when it comes to the judgement of our citizens.”
“I am aware, my Lady, but there have been some unforeseen circumstances that caused certain…delays. We were waiting for Anders to clear you before we scheduled any new trials.”
“Yup, well, I’m clearing me. At least for a couple of hours. Long enough for you to get Viv ready for her trial and to conduct it, anyway. And do me a favour? Make sure that King Alistair and as many of the Orlesian nobles that are still in attendance are there to witness, okay?”
Josephine made her way to the door, back still turned. Guess she was embarrassed by nudity. Something I’d have to remember. “Of course, my Lady. Shall I come to let you know when we are ready to proceed?”
“Please,” I said, finally getting the breast band around me. I wiggled the girls around until they sat properly.
Josie nodded and headed out the door, only to be replaced by Anders. “What do you think you’re doing?”
I sighed. “I think I’m getting dressed. And I’m going to need your help.”
He stood straighter, placing hands on his hips. Full on Doctor mode. “You are not ready for that. You need to get right back into bed.”
“Anders, I can’t.” No matter how much you might want me to, Love. “I have to go out there and pass judgement on Vivienne before Empress Celene swoops in a steals her away. And I have to do it in front of as many nobles as possible, so they’ll take word back to her- and anyone else they might answer to- that I’m fit as a fiddle. I need your help for this, Love. Please.”
He wanted to say no, I could feel it. But he didn’t. Instead he looked sad, like he was watching someone he loved walk away with no chance of coming back. God, I hope that wasn’t the case. I wanted to be able to come back from being this, the bloody Regent. I hated being Regent so very much.
Finally, he stepped forward and placed a softly glowing hand on my shoulder. “I’ll help you. But I want you to know that it’s under duress and as soon as it’s done you are right back here and in bed, got it?”
I smiled with relief, tension I hadn’t known I’d been holding easing from my spine. “Thank you, my Love. I don’t think I could get through this without you.”
I felt the cooling wave of healing magic move down my body even as he scoffed. “Of course, you could. You’re the strongest person I know. You can do anything.”
I smiled at him. “You idiot,” I said, fondly. “I’m only strong because I need to be. For the kids. For Fenris and Garrett. For you. If it were eft up to people like Vivienne or, God Forbid, old Meredith, the people that I love would be struck down or locked away. I can never let that happen. So, I play politics, and I pretend to be more than I am. Anything, to keep you safe.”
For a moment he looked stricken and tears began to gather in his eyes, but a few quick blinks later he was smiling broadly. “Well then, let’s get you on your feet and ready to face the lions.”
I don’t think I could have loved him more at that moment.
Chapter 36: Chapter 36
Time to go to Court! (the legal kind, not the Royal kind)
Also, another friend pays a surprise visit...
The velvet skirt kept trying to trip me. Yeah, that was it. I wasn’t almost falling every three seconds because my legs felt like wet noodles, of course not. Thankfully, I had a wonderful Mage to keep me upright. Anders let me lean on him as we walked arm in arm, trickling healing energy into me from the touch of our skin.
We paused at the entry doors before making our way into the Great Hall, both of us taking deep, calming breaths. We could hear Josephine herding the nobles about in that strange, compelling way that she had, getting them into the places she thought were the best representation of their station.
“Well, Sweetheart? Are you ready?” Anders asked, looking down at me. It’s not often I remember just how much taller Anders is to me and then, suddenly, it’s like looking up into his nostrils. I mean, not literally, because that would be weird, but still.
“God, no,” I said with a dark chuckle. “but let’s get in there and get this over with.”
The trip from the door to the throne was only a few steps but it felt like forever as we moved and the crowd around us quieted. Fenris and Garrett had taken up a position to the right of the throne, mostly to make the fact that Anders would be to my left seem less obvious. I was going to need Anders’ healing help through these proceedings.
King Alistair, as visiting royalty, had been given a seat on the dais to the right of the throne and would be sitting in to observe the judgements. He stood as we approached and bowed, causing a rise in volume from the mass of people in the Hall. Basically, the king of a neighbouring country had just acknowledged that I stood above him. No way was that going to be ignored, especially by someone like Empress Celene. I really hoped Al knew what he was doing.
His irreverent smirk and little wink made me wonder, even as I smiled.
The room was packed, a hell of a lot more than I was accustomed to. I would have thought that the majority of nobles would have returned home by now, but apparently, my convalescence was big news. There were a cacophony of hushed whispers around the room as Anders lead me to the throne. I had made a deal with him before we even left our rooms- I sat on the throne on my own, so that the assembly would see me as fit, while he would get to hover and use his magic surreptitiously as needed.
I nodded to Josephine and she checked her ever present clipboard so we could begin.
It was a long, slow process. I had been gone from Skyhold for quite some time, and Trevelyan hadn’t exactly been prompt on the whole ‘judgement’ thing before his death. There were property disputes, criminal hearings, and general disciplinary hearings to go over. Cullen handled the majority of martial offences, Fiona spoke for any mage issues, and Barris handled the majority of Templars, but they each wanted my final say on their decisions. I only argued against one in which a soldier was found to be AWOL from guard duty on the battlements. Normally I would have been in agreement with Cullen’s punishment of a dock in pay and night shift on the wall for thirty days, but I had the man explain to me why he had been missing. Apparently, his wife had gone into labour and while he had informed a fellow officer that he needed to leave to attend the birth, the officer had not informed their commanding officer. I requested that Cullen lower the punishment to one week of nights, to begin in thirty days’ time. With a brand new baby, money was at a premium, as was someone able to take over night feeding for mom.
I also got to meet the new baby, a little boy named Winston, who looked as red as a tomato and had a good set of lungs on him. Alistair made faces until the baby smiled.
By the time Vivienne’s case came up on the docket, I admit that I was flagging. My back and shoulder hurt, even with the magic that Anders was feeding into it, and I was fighting my eyelids to stay open from fatigue.
Josephine spoke in her usual calm manner, but I could hear the underlying disgust she felt for a woman that she once considered a colleague. “Your Worship, may I present Madame Vivienne de Fer. She stands accused of treason, attempted murder upon yourself, apostasy, as well as several other minor offences.”
I watched as Vivienne was brought in front of the dais. She stood as straight as she could with the heavy iron manacles weighing her down, chin up, eyes focused on me. A little slimmer, her cheekbones just that little bit sharper from the change in diet, a little paler for the lack of sufficient sun. Those were the only outward signs, really, of her incarceration. She was allowed to wear her usual attire to the proceedings, though not her hanin, or her staff were in evidence. Like I would give a mage charged with attempted murder a staff. Pfft!
Suddenly, Alistair called for attention. “Regent, if I may?” I nodded and he continued. “De Fer is not a legal name in Orlais.”
Okay. “How interesting, Your Majesty. I was unaware.”
“I have been speaking with several members of the Orlesian nobility over the past few days and have had the information verified by empress Celene herself.” The man sounded almost smug, not that I blamed him. Most people thought of him as a bumbling idiot, but there was a shrewd brain under all that blond hair. “Vivienne is not a natural born Orlesian citizen, but from the Free Marches. She began her time in the circle at Starkhaven and was transferred to Montsimmar in her teens. It is a name that was given to her as an insult, apparently, because she refused to bend to the will of her classmates or teachers. But, legally, she is just Vivienne.”
“I see,” I said, mostly to myself. “So what you’re saying is that, legally speaking, no matter my final decision, the Empress can’t argue on Viv’s behalf because she’s not a citizen.”
“That’s it in a nutshell, yes.”
I watched Viv’s reactions as we spoke. She remained straight and tall but I could see her eyes widen slightly and a little twitch began to develop in her right eyelid. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to show that the fact that we knew about her past irked her. I could use this.
“Thank you very much for that information, Your Majesty,” I said with a smile. Al beamed at me and I made a mental note to ask him for his advice more often. He thrived on being useful and too many people thought he was just useless. Which was so far from the truth they could barely see each other.
“Well, then, Viv. Let’s hear what you have to say for yourself.”
She gave me her best haughty stare. “Madame Vivienne.”
I laughed. “Nope! See, we already discussed that part and you are so not a Madame. I’m not even giving you the option of a full name. You’re Viv, no more, no less. So, let’s hear what you have to say for yourself.”
“I did nothing wrong and therefor have no defense.”
Well if that didn’t shut the room up. Even behind me, Anders power flared for a moment, a testament to his own surprise and anger.
“Do I need Josephine to reread the charges? I mean, the one for Apostasy is ridiculous, I’ll give you that. With no Towers, all Mages are Apostates, and more power to them as far as I’m concerned. But I really do seem to remember the attempted murder. And since you were helping Trevelyan in his plan to assassinate Celene, a sitting ruler, which counts as treason, I’m going to have to leave that as it stands as well. So, yeah, the big ones are definitely going to stick. So let’s try that again, shall we?” I leaned forward, my chin in my hand, elbow on the throne’s armrest. “How do you plea, Viv?”
Could this woman stand any straighter? If she kept throwing her chest out like that she was going to fall backwards. “Not guilty.”
I smiled. Okay, I bared my teeth in a terribly feral manner that made a couple of the closer nobles cringe, but whatever. “You got any witnesses for your side, there, Viv?”
“Not at the present time, my Dear.”
Oh there was that condescending moniker. God, I hated that. I’d find her guilty for that alone. “Present time, huh? So, you’re expecting someone to sweep in and save you from my evil clutches, are you?”
She looked me in the eye and I realized that she actually had, right up until Alistair opened his mouth. How deep was this woman in Celene’s pocket? This was going to take some investigating.
“All right, I am prepared to pass judgement,” I called out to the room at large. Shifting my attention back to Vivienne, I said, “On the first count of treason, I find Vivienne guilty.” Nobles began shouting both epithets and agreements. I waited for them to settle down before continuing. “On the second count of attempted murder I find Vivienne guilty.” And off they went again, louder this time. Like a bunch of five year olds told it was nap time right after eating candy. It took forever for them to shut the hell up, until Josephine stepped forward and cleared her throat. No one, not even Orlesian nobility, wanted to piss her off. I really needed to get her to teach me her secret.
“Okay, so Apostasy is dismissed. It’s a stupid charge and I really don’t want it on my docket anymore. The other miscellaneous charges I’ll discuss with Lady Josephine at a later date. But as far as the major charges I am prepared to pass judgement.”
Vivienne stared straight ahead, no longer looking me in the eye. She had the air of someone waiting patiently for the headsman’s axe to come and end her suffering. I wasn’t certain if she would appreciate my decision or not.
I was about to pass judgement when there was a commotion at the entry of the Great Hall. Josephine gave me a look and I nodded for her and Cullen to go and deal with the issue. They had barely left my side when I saw a group of figures approaching through the throng of nobles. A dozen men dressed in shiny silverite armour, bows and swords, and…were those kilts? Well, shit.
They parted and a man stood, flanked by his guard. Tall, with reddish hair that graced the line of his shoulder and the bluest eyes ever found on man or beast. His white armour had been replaced with a black velvet doublet and leather breeches, and a gold circlet adorned his brow, but I would recognize my favourite lay-brother in an instant.
“Your Majesty!” I called. “We welcome the Crown Prince of Starkhaven to Skyhold.”
Sebastien smiled. “I thank ya’, Lady Regent. Our apologies abou’ bein’ late fer yer ball, but we were held up at home.”
“Of course. If you could give us a few moments to finish up with the proceedings here, our ambassador, Lady Josephine can see to your accommodations and then we can speak privately.”
“Well, actually, I find that our arrival is quite timely.” Huh? “For, ya see, ya have in front of ya an escaped mage from the Starkhaven Circle. And I am tasked with bringin’ her ta justice.”
I looked, from Viv to Sebby, surprised being the least of my emotions. Vivienne had turned a horrid shade of gray and had actually begun to hunch in on herself. What in the name of fuck was going on here?
Chapter 37: Chapter 37
Okay, I realize that in the Wiki it says that Viv was at Ostwick before Montsimmar but that doesn't work for what I need. Thankfully THIS IS AN AU!! :P
“The bairns are beautiful, Selena! And so big! Ya must be feedin’ them whole cows at a time,” Sebastien laughed, bouncing Victoria up and down in his lap.
We had retired to Josephine’s office once the rabble in the Great Room had finally settled down, which much longer than it really should have. Mostly because Orlesians are a nosy lot and didn’t want to disperse without knowing every single detail. Preferably before anyone else so they could lord it over their peers. Cullen threatened people with bodily harm and the room emptied fairly quickly after that. Viv was led back to her cell, looking a lot meeker than I had ever seen her, and Abby was called to bring the babies while we took over the sitting area Josie had set up by the fire in her office space. Sebastien and Vicky were in the wingchair, two of his guard standing behind, while Garrett, Fenris and I were on the sofa, and Anders had the chair opposite him. Little Jackson was secured in Garrett’s arms, mostly to keep the man from attempting bodily harm on the Prince.
Garrett still had some hang ups when it came to Sebastien, though to be fair, he was trying to be civil. Well, he was basically ignoring the man, which for Garrett was pretty much the same thing.
I chuckled and pat at my husband’s knee. ‘Yeah. They seem to take after Garrett in size, don’t they?”
“Aye,” Sebastien looked thoughtful. “They’re near a year now, and showing strong features of their parentage. But I would swear that they have traits from all four of their prospective parents.”
Well, that was an odd thing to say. “Why do you say that, Sebastien?”
“Well, take this wee lass for example,” he said, holding Vicky up a little higher in the air before settling her once again on his lap. She giggled and tried to lift the man’s kilt. Silly little Vicky, already going after a man’s good bits. “She has Fenris’ darker skin and green eyes, and her dark hair could be from Selena’s line, of course. But she is larger than her brother, and has a very forceful personality, doesn’t she? Not something I would expect from either of them, but from Hawke? Certainly. And young Jackson, over there. Slighter, paler, with Garrett’s bright blue eyes. But look at him sitting there in Ander’ lap. His hair is nearly the same shade and they have an identical look in their eye as the little one studies me. Its certainly interesting.”
We all just sort of stopped in shock for a moment while Sebastien continued to play with our daughter, turning to stare at Anders and Jackson. Now that I really looked at the two of them together I could see what Seb was talking about. It was almost like looking at a mini-me of Anders. I mean, there were a few differences- the colour and shape of Jack’s eyes were more like Garrett’s, and I’m sure the shape of his ears and the tapered length of his little fingers came from me. And his slim build could certainly come from Fenris’ elvehn heritage. But the rest of him looked just like Anders. Which shouldn’t have been possible for a Warden.
I wanted to ask Anders if it was a possibility; not just the Warden thing, but the whole multiple Dad’s conundrum that Sebastien had proposed. But, right now, we still needed to know what the Prince was talking about in regards to Viv.
I reached out and patted Anders’ knee, hoping he knew that I was going to be touching on this subject with him again later, before turning back to Sebastien. “Your Highness, as much as I enjoy talking about the children, we really need to discuss what you addressed in court regarding the prisoner.”
Sebastien’s smile faded and he passed Vicky off to Fenris who stood and began to pace the room with her. She was not happy about losing her new plaything and needed a distraction to keep the fussing to a minimum. Sebastien, on the other hand, straightened and switched from our good friend to the head of a Free Marches City State. “I have reason to believe that Vivienne of Montsimmar is actually Kelya of Starkhaven.”
“And what reasons are those?” Garrett asked with a soft growl. Still being civil. I guess.
“Approximately twenty years ago there was a small uprising at the Starkhaven Circle. Nothing too serious and it was put down quickly. But several mages escaped when their phylacteries were destroyed. All of the mages were recovered except for Kelya. At the same time, Vivienne arrived at Montsimmar, claiming to be a transfer from Starkhaven, but that her phylactery disappeared somewhere along the road. The Templars did not question it because she presented herself without a fight. It’s only recently, with the collapse of the Circles, that it came to light that the paperwork she presented at Montsimmar, returned to my hands in lieu of the fact that Starkhaven hasn’t had a proper Circle in nearly ten years, had been forged.”
“Okay,” I said, frowning thoughtfully. “If she is who you think she is, why would she present herself to another Circle after fleeing the first one? That doesn’t really make a lot of sense.”
“Kelya was not one that felt the yoke of oppression too heavily,” Sebastian replied with a sigh. “She was one that wanted to do the oppressing.” I felt Anders stiffen beneath my hand and gave him what I hoped was a reassuring squeeze as the Prince continued. “Kelya was a Loyalist, but she wanted to be on top. The problem was that the leader of their fraternity had no intention of stepping down any time soon and Kelya was chaffing at the bit.
But Kelya was also an alchemist, with a penchant for making potions with a…let’s call it a little extra kick. She managed to give the head of the Loyalist faction a draught of what should have been a sleeping potion that would have him resting for at least a week while Kelya solidified her hold on the other members. But the potion was too strong, and interacted with another potion the man was taking to head off a case of gout. He did not die well, to say it nicely.”
I could just imagine, and by the looks of the other men in the room, so could they. Even little Jack had a pensive look on his face, though, to be fair, he looked like that when he was filling his diaper too.
“So you think that this Kelya made her escape with the others, then presented herself with a new identity to Montsimmar to try again in Orlais?”
“I do believe so, yes.”
“Do you have any other proof that Vivienne is this Kelya person?”
Sebastien gestured to the other two men he had brought into the room. I had thought them to be Royal Guard but apparently it was not so. “These two men are former Templars from Starkhaven, since retired and acting as council and administrators within my court. They both recognized her right away as Kelya when we entered the Hall.”
“Would they be willing to testify to that fact?” I asked, looking up into their faces. Both well over six feet and built nearly as broadly as Garrett, they both had the air of seasoned veterans. One, introduced as Ser Willis Thayer, was completely bald, including lashes and brows that made me think it was a genetic abnormality as opposed to an aesthetic choice. His eyes were a warm brown, however, and his soft grin kept his face from being all that frightening.
The other, Ser Durrant Conlin, was a few years younger, at least in seeming, but had the hard countenance of a man with many burdens. His dark hair was shot through with grey and was nearing his shoulders, completely opposed to the Templar way of military precision. His eyes were sunken from lack of sleep and I could see the faint red line that outlined his mouth as he tried not to clench his teeth. I remembered this look and made a note to have Cullen have a little chat with him. This was a man trying to kick a habit of a lifetime and it put him up a notch or two in my eyes. He also kept wiggling his fingers at Victoria, even when not looking in her direction, which had her giggling madly.
Both men nodded assent to my question. I’d have to get Josie and Cullen, maybe even Leliana, to sit down with them and take a deposition before we returned to judging Viv. I wanted everything to be above board on this. Willis and Durrant agreed to stay until the trial and I made sure to let them know to visit the on-duty Barracks Sergeant to find them bunks. By extension, without guards to travel with, Prince Sebastien of Starkhaven would be staying with us as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Sebastien. It’s Garrett that was going to be a handful for the duration.
Chapter 38: Chapter 38
You've been warned
Five days. That’s how long Cullen and the others told me it would take to take the deposition of the two Templars and go over the paperwork that Sebastien had brought with him. Five days of trying to placate Garrett’s paranoia, of entertaining not one, but two Royals. Of trying to fit a somewhat normal life into this crazed madhouse that had become my life.
To be fair, my advisors did take the brunt of the work off my shoulders. They would give me an overview of what needed to be addressed, have me sign a stack of forms, then let me loose to wreak whatever havoc I could get myself into. Okay, havoc is probably too strong a word, but I will say that hanging out with Sebastien again was kind of fun.
“What’s the pool up to now?” Garrett asked, wrapping an arm around me to rest a hand on my hip.
We were in the gardens, a series of archery targets set up in farther and farther intervals along the walls. It had started as a practice session with Varric, me, and a couple of Inquisition archers. I liked to keep my skills up, and practicing with the troops, apparently, gives them a bit of a morale boost. Then Sera started giving…advice…pointers…actually, they were probably jeers, but with her accent it was kind of hard to tell.
Then Sebastien had come out and joined us. To say that Sera didn’t like him would be an understatement. He was a ‘pious blighter’, a ‘rich tit’, and then some of the men began whispering that the Prince might be an even better shot than the elf.
Well if that didn’t have the girl storming over to take up a practice bow and fire off a volley of shots, each finding their mark perfectly. Next thing you know, others are drifting in to watch, Varric’s taking bets, and the crazed elf girl and former Chantry Brother are laughing like the best of friends.
Varric looked down at his notebook and grunted. “The adds are pretty even at this point but the pot’s gone up to almost thirty Sovereigns. Everybody seems to want to get into the act.”
“I believe I shall add another five gold on the Prince, as well, Master Tethras,” Solas said, stepping in to stand on my other side.
“Really, Chuckles? I didn’t think you were into this kind of thing,” Varric replied, incredulous.
The elf looked over the two archers and nodded. “Yes. While Sera is, indeed, a natural bowman, the Prince of Starkhaven is disciplined and not given to fancy tricks. If you look carefully, Sera’s arm is beginning to waver while Prince Sebastien’s is still steady.”
I looked the two over and saw that the elf was correct in his assessment. Sera’s shots were moving further from their mark. Not enough for most to see the difference, but for another archer, like me, it was there if you looked. “That is a good eye, Lethallin.”
His head whipped towards me and I realized hat I had said. He and I have never spent so much time together that I could really use that particular term of endearment. “Oh! My apologies, Solas, I shouldn’t have-!”
“No. It’s all right, Regent. I…” he paused in thought for a moment. “It has been some time since someone has thought of me as a close friend and I am glad that it is you. Thank you.”
“Then, please, not Regent. Selena is fine.” I blushed. He seemed pretty damned sincere, not something I was used to out of the elf. Not that he wasn’t sincere, just that he always seemed a little cold when he spoke with most people, but this time he seemed…I don’t know…warmer. More…well, sincere is really the only way to describe it.
“Thank you, Selena. And I will endeavour not to call you Starlight, as Master Tethras is wont to do.”
I chuckled and Garrett squeezed my hand as he smiled. “Thanks. I’ll keep the ‘Chuckles’ to a minimum, as well.”
“Ma serranas,” he replied, turning back to the spectacle that was archery practice.
A short time later I spotted Anders and Fenris leaving the main Keep and I moved to intercept them, patting Garrett briefly on the forearm as I went. He glanced around the space, remaining tense until he saw who it was that I was going to speak with. Garrett was not dealing with having the Prince in residence well at all. I jogged up to the boys, placing a soft kiss on their cheeks as I approached. “Guys, can I talk to you for a sec?”
“Of course, Love. What do you need?” Leave it to Anders to jump right in and see what kind of help he can provide.
“Garrett is feeling a little insecure with Sebastien here. Do you think that, maybe, we can do something special for him this evening? Drag him to our suite for dinner, maybe a private bath and massage. Make him feel like he’s cared for, you know?”
Fenris growled softly, pulling me into his side for a light kiss to the forehead and Anders smiled widely. “Of course, we can do this. I will talk to the kitchen staff about preparing something easy to transport and does not need reheating. In case something interesting occurs.”
I giggled, pressing myself closer to Fenris’ side. “Oh, I’m certain something interesting will be going on, trust me. It’s part of the reason I need to make sure you guys are on board with this. We’re going to need a spotter.”
Anders’ eyes grew wide, ears and cheeks pinking, remembering the last time Garrett and I had needed a spotter. It had been absolutely fabulous for all involved, and I sported some interesting bruises for days afterward. Garret can get a little too enthusiastic sometimes, hence the need for the spotter.
“All right, Love. Do you need me to distract him for a bit? While you set things up?”
“Could you? If Fenris is all right with getting dinner, I can run to the rooms and get the bath ready. Maybe find some oils with a fragrance he enjoys.”
“Oh yes! That one that smells of Royal Elfroot and sandlewood!”
Jobs allotted we moved off to complete our tasks. I immediately went to Abby, who was teaching the little ones the fundamentals of not touching fire. Unfortunately, Vicky had seen one of the mages tossing around a fireball and had decided that it looked like a fun new toy. After much screaming and a trip to Daddy Anders’ clinic, the children were getting the ‘fire is hot, don’t touch’ lesson.
I explained the plan to the elvehn nanny, and she agreed wholeheartedly to take the twins for the night. I would have to remember to do something nice for her and Jim one of these nights. I dumped a lot on their shoulders, and they deserved the recognition. And a date night.
After Abby I went in search of whoever was our room attendant for the day and requested a private copper bath be brought in. Normally we would use the more communal tubs on our floor- each floor in the Keep having a bathing room that was segregated men and women, as well as a few of the nobles’ guest quarters having smaller, private tubs. But our small suite of rooms had no such luxury, mostly because we preferred not bathing alone and there were no private baths big enough for two, let alone the four of us.
By the time I had the tub sorted out, Fenris had a large tray filled with meats, cheeses and something I’ve been calling crackers though was really closer to hard tack, if I were to be honest. There were also several bottles of wine- more than we could possibly drink in one night even with the four of us and one of those being Fenris himself. My hope was that Fen was stocking up for several nights like this, which made my heart flutter just a little bit. Well, and someplace lower as well, truth be told.
An hour later, the tub was filled and steaming by the fireplace, oils set out on a small stool while another and a bucket were placed at the head of the bath. Thick, wool drying cloths were stacked nearby and Fenris and I were both dressed in bathing robes that Josephine had decided were essential to our wardrobes recently. I could kiss the woman. They were Orlesian silk in bright jewel tones and were so light against the skin that I almost couldn’t feel it. Tonight, I was sporting the amethyst while Fenris had the sapphire blue, while we had set aside the ruby for Garrett and emerald for Anders. All matchy matchy, though I didn’t see the robes staying on for long.
With perfect timing I heard the soft rumble of Anders’ and Garrett’s voices out side the door. Fenris stepped up to wrap an arm around my waist just as the door opened. Garrett stopped in surprise and Anders smiled from behind him. “What’s all this, then?”
“This is unofficial ‘Hawke Appreciation Day’,” I replied with a small smirk. Anders gave Garrett a soft push to step forward and close the door behind him as I continued. Fenris stepped up and began divesting him of his outer clothing. “We are here to pamper you. There is a bath prepared, as well as a light dinner. The children will be cared for this evening by Abby and Jim, and I had a servant sent a missive to the Advisors that we were not to be disturbed unless there was a life or death emergency. Mostly because if there is a disturbance, I will kill someone.”
Garrett chuckled darkly and I could see his pupils expand. You know the look; the one a man gets when he’s certain that specific parts of his anatomy are going to get a large amount of attention in the near future. I smiled and stepped away towards the tub, allowing him to follow at his own pace.
“Well this is just… I mean, wow.”
“Once Fenris has finished helping you to undress, if you wouldn’t mind stepping into the tub, I will begin with washing your hair and skin. Anders, your robe is over on the bed. Would you mind changing and then coming to help with Garrett’s feet? I know that your foot rubs are a wonder.”
“Of course, Love,” he said with a grin, moving off to get himself ready. Meanwhile, Fenris had disrobed our man and was folding his things while Garrett stepped into the tub, settling with a pleased groan. I moved the one stool and bucket so that I sat behind his head and poured water gently over his scalp. “Just relax, Sweets, and we’ll take good care of you.”
Garret just moaned in contentment and lay back as I took up the soap bar we used as shampoo and lathered up his hair. Garrett had beautiful hair, thick and soft. I loved running my fingers through it and took the opportunity to relish it now. I massaged his scalp and neck, even soaped up his beard. After rinsing I got him to settle back and relax while Anders, now robed in emerald green, oiled up his hands and began attacking the arches of Garrett’s feet.
Meanwhile I slipped out of my own robe and climbed in to sit in Garrett’s lap, facing him. A bit of oil from Anders and I set to massaging Garrett’s shoulders and chest. Surprise returned to pleasure as I worked.
And a certain something was showing some pleasure of its own, if you know what I mean.
I ran my fingers along Garrett’s pectorals, missing his nipples by the barest of margins and watching as they pebbled with anticipation, working the oil into his skin. I moved lower, over his abdominals and stomach until my fingers hit the water line. Then I let my hands roam even lower, taking him in hand.
Garrett arched at my touch, pressing himself harder into my hand and groaning loudly. Anders and Fenris both chuckled quietly and I smiled. My man was already getting worked up and it was beautiful. Anders finished off with his feet, moving to tidy up the bottle of oil and fetch a drying cloth. I sat up, Garrett’s moans turning from bliss to disappointment.
“Sweets, it’s time to move you to the bed,” I said with a laugh.
“MMM… too comfy. Don’t wanna,” he complained, refusing to open his eyes.
“If you move to the bed, I’ll do wonderful things to your body.”
Well, if that man didn’t move at mock speed! He was up and reaching for the cloth Anders held out for him almost faster than I could get up off his lap, then nearly fell over laughing.
I took his hand and lead him over to the bed. “Lie face down and make yourself comfortable. Anders, are you going to continue with the massage, or would you like me to take over?”
“I’ve got it, Love. Why don’t you grab the food tray and feed him a little? Got to keep his strength up.”
I agreed wholeheartedly and fetched the tray, one of the wine bottles, and some glasses that we kept in a small cupboard near the fireplace. We had mostly broken Fenris out of the habit of drinking directly from the bottle, but if glasses were not readily available, he had a tendency to slip, so we tried to keep at least one glass anywhere that drinking might be done. The servants found it amusing, if nothing else, to find the odd lonely glass tucked away in a drawer or cupboard. Either way, I set everything down on the small end table and fetched a chair to the side of the bed. I loved my man but there was no way I was leaning down the entire time to feed him. Fenris joined us after stoking up the fire in the fireplace, laying out next to Garrett on the bed and softly continuing where I left off with the man’s scalp massage.
It was like those old movies with, like, Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra or something. The Roman Lord- in this case, Garrett- being fawned over by his beloved slave girls. Don’t let Fenris know I said that! He might rip out something important.
It wasn’t long before some very interesting noises began to come from between Garrett’s lips. Especially after Anders’ wandering hands began to migrate south, down his thighs and calves, only to begin the trip north once again to pay particular attention to Garrett’s, admittedly fine, ass. Fenris handed the healer the bottle of oil once again and I smiled. I knew what that meant.
I replaced the small bit of cheese I had been feeding Garrett on the tray and moved the breakables out of the way. We had learned the hard way, once, that limbs tended to flail when we all got going and spent several days trying to remove a red wine stain from a bedside rug. By the time Fenris and I had disrobed, Anders was already up to the first knuckle of one finger, Garrett squirming as he did.
I leaned on Anders’ back, resting my chin on his shoulder. “He’s quite beautiful like this, isn’t he?”
Fenris replied. “I agree. Though, I think you should turn him over on his back once he is prepared. Allow Selena a chance to enjoy other aspects of him.”
I couldn’t have agreed more. Neither could Garrett, judging by the deep groan he released at Fenris’ words.
“Give me a few more minutes,” Anders said, panting slightly from his own exertions. “I don’t want to go too fast or it will be a little painful. Garrett hasn’t been the receiver in a while. He’s pretty tight.” Garrett’s moans sounded almost painful at that and we all chuckled softly, enjoying his reactions. “Why don’t you, two, get started and we’ll join you.”
Moving around Anders to Fenris’ side was a little awkward on such a large bed but soon I was in my love’s lap, running my fingers lightly along the length of his ears as he attempted to devour me. Or, at least that’s what it felt like. We were putting on a show for Garrett, who watched us with dark, avid eyes. It wasn’t long before we were rutting against each other and Anders was flipping Garrett around onto his back.
This was what I was waiting for, why I needed a spotter. Anders angled himself at Garrett’s opening while I turned from Fenris and leaned down, wrapping my lips around Garrett’s cock. He gasped loudly, his entire upper body raising up off the bed before slamming back down with a cry. His hands immediately found their way to the back of my head, winding his fingers in my hair and giving a short yank.
Normally I’m not the biggest fan of pain during sex but going down on Garrett sort of turned off certain switches in my brain to where I got off on it a little. The problem is that we both had a problem of getting too into the moment and forgetting that some pain can result in a more permanent kind of injury. Worse than a few bruises and a sore throat.
I let Garrett take the lead for a bit, dictating with his hands how fast and far he wanted me to go. After I had his rhythm down, I took over, varying the speed and duration until he was almost crying. While I was doing this, Fenris had moved behind me, sliding into my very wet pussy. I groaned around Garrett’s cock, the vibrations lending just one more sensation to his overstimulated body. His grip in my hair tightened painfully, his other hand grasping at the sheets beneath him.
From behind me I felt the tell-tale tingle that Fenris’ tattoos were lighting up and I could feel where his fingertips on my hips were beginning to slip beneath the skin. Imagine a vibrator that could touch you just about anywhere and it would affect the most intimate parts of you all at once. It’s euphoric, especially when Garrett’s cock was keeping being able to breathe fully at a minimum. God, if he didn’t come soon, I think maybe I would end up passing out. There was even little dark spot floating in front of my eyes.
Thankfully, both Garrett’s and Anders’ rhythms had become erratic, heralding their imminent finish. I could feel the ball of heat pooling just beneath my belly as well, building to its inevitable conclusion.
I’m not sure who exactly it was who yelled out ‘Oh Fuck!” but it began the cascade of orgasming bodies; first Anders, then Garrett, followed by myself, with Fenris lasting a few more thrusts at the end. Garrett wrenched my head up off his lap and pulled me up to his mouth, sucking the last of his own spunk I hadn’t managed to swallow down from my lips, the fingers of his other hand reaching up to grab at my forearm. There would be a bruise or two from his fingers there come morning.
But that wasn’t all he wanted. Garrett was still mostly hard, even after all of that, so as Anders removed himself from his lover, I was yanked over Garrett’s crotch and entered forcefully.
Oh Fuck! My pussy was still spasming with the orgasm I had from Fenris, only to now by filled with another large appendage. It was too much. I was screaming with release moments after being entered. I looked down, but Garret’s eyes were completely blown, he wasn’t seeing much of anything right now. His berserker nature had taken control and we were only along for the ride.
Don’t get me wrong, it was a lovely ride. Hard flesh rubbed at every nerve ending inside me. Anders to the left of me, Fenris to the right, were running their power-filled fingers up and down my arms, adding sensation after sensation. It was wonderful! Amazing! I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t see, I could only feel the pounding of Garrett’s flesh and my heart beating so damned loud.
With one last painful slam of his hips into mine, Garrett yanked me around so that my neck was beneath his teeth and he bit down, hard, as he came, setting off a third of my own.
Chapter 39: Chapter 39
Look who's back! Sorry about that, folks, but life has a tendency to kick my butt on a fairly regular basis and, when I did get the writing bug, it was for another character all together. But I'm hoping to be able to work on this more now that that particular scratch has been itched.
Here we were, back where we started almost a week ago. It was Alistair’s last day with us and, while he had stretched out his visit as long as he could, Denerim was calling his name with his own political fiascos to fix. But, for now, he was sitting on the dais with me as he had previously, my lovers to either side of my chair. As a visiting royal, Sebastien would normally have been up there with us, but since he was presenting the case, he was standing with Josephine until Viv was brought forward.
The Great Room was wall-to-wall bodies this time around. Visiting nobles, Skyhold staff, soldiers, and even a few Chantry clerics were in attendance, waiting to see what I would do about Madame de Fer. The rest of the Inner Circle had positioned themselves to flank the dais as well, just in case anything hinky went down. After what happened with the Envy demon, at least a few of my friends liked to stay nearby during judgements, just in case. Generally speaking, I paid them for this in knit wear and fresh cookies.
I saw many chocolate chips in the near future.
Once again, Vivienne was brought forward in chains, though this time her clothing had been replaced with a simple long-sleeved gown made of plain cotton that reached the floor. She looked…diminished. Not nearly as confident as I was accustomed to seeing her. A small, petty part of me was dancing with joy. Well…maybe not dancing but wiggling at least. Like a puppy, wagging its tail. The grown up in me admonished petty child me for her behaviour but was, generally, not listened to.
“Lady Regent, as you know, it has come to our attention by His Royal Highness, Prince Sebastien of Starkhaven, that the woman we know as Madame Vivienne de Fer, once leader of the Loyal Mages of Thedas, First Enchanter of Montsimmar, and Imperial Enchanter of the Court of Orlais may, in fact, be an escaped mage from the Starkhaven Circle. She, also, still must be judged for her crimes of treason and attempted murder,” Josephine said, consulting her ever-present board as she addressed the room.
And full depositions have been taken from Ser Willis and Ser Durant?” I asked, nodding to the two former Templars standing with Sebastien.
“They have, your Ladyship.”
“And they are still willing to testify in open court?”
Ser Willis stepped forward and bowed deeply. “Yes, Lady Regent. We-“
“It won’t be necessary.” Everyone paused to stare at the former Enchanter. “I will be changing my plea to guilty.”
“You do realize that you could be, theoretically, setting yourself up for death or Tranquility by pleading guilty, right?” I asked, complete incredulous. I mean, really, when the death penalty was on the table, who in their right mind didn’t fight to stay alive?
“I am aware. But I am also aware that Ser Willis and Ser Durrant know who I am, who I was once upon a time, and there is no point in arguing the fact, when I am certain that you have already judged me as per the previous charges. What is the point in fighting when I am already dead?”
I sat back in my chair, slightly stunned. “Well, I apologize to you, Prince Sebastien, and your men, for making you wait these last five days, and for having your men give their depositions to my advisors. Apparently it was not necessary.”
“Tis no worry, Lass,” Sebastien reassured. “The respite was a thankful one and your accommodations have been splendid. ‘Twas no hardship, let me say.”
“Okay then. Let’s get this done with. Last chance to have something to say to the court, Vivienne, formerly Kelya of Starkhaven.”
“I was a stupid girl and I made a mess of my first life. I vowed to not make that mistake again, and for twenty years I followed that. But I became too enamored with my own position and made a second mistake. One that might very well lead to never making a third. I do not regret what I have done, only that I should have done it better.”
I stared at the mage for a few moments, then at the faces that lined the room. Most looked angry or disgusted, a few simply stone-faced, no emotion at all. A few of the servants were actually smiling as I prepared to mete out justice to the woman. Viv had never been particularly nice to the serving staff at Skyhold, especially the elves, of which there were many. They were relishing watching the woman get her comeuppance.
I took a deep breath and sat forward once again. “Well, no matter what name you go by, you are still a brilliant alchemist, and I would hate to lose an asset because she was something of an idiot.” There were murmurs beginning to spread around the room. I glanced at Cullen who nodded that everything had been prepared. “Kelya of Starkhaven, once known as Vivienne of Montsimmar, I sentence you to serving the Mages of the Inquisition, focusing on your alchemical skills. You will be under the direct jurisdiction of Grand Enchanter Fiona and a minimum of two Templars, to be determined by Commander Cullen. You will be moved from your accommodations here in the main Keep, to the Mage’s Tower, to be directly supervised at all times. Once Corypheus has been defeated, Starkhaven can petition for a change in your status and that can not be contested by you at any time. What say you, Prince Sebastien?”
“More than fair, Lady Regent. We appreciate your allowing us the opportunity to judge her at a future time.”
I sat back with a smile and sighed. “This I so decree, Regent of the Inquisition, on this the nineteenth day of Pluitanis, known as Guardian, nine forty-two Dragon. Guards, please take Miss Kelya away until her Templar guards can take her.”
There were some pretty astonished faces around the courtroom as the woman was taken away. The most astonished being Kelya’s own.
“I’m going to miss you, though I’m fairly certain the cheese cellar will not,” I said with a giggle, wrapping my arms around Alistair’s neck. We were standing at the gates, the majority of the King’s honour guard waiting for him along the bridge as we said our goodbyes.
“It was one wheel!” he protested with a laugh.
“The size of Varric! Josie gave me such an earful!”
“Well then, please apologize to the Ambassador for me. She is the last person in Thedas I would ever want to have angry with me.” We both shuddered involuntarily at the idea. Now serious, he continued, “Are you sure about how it went with Vi- Kelya? Aren’t you afraid of that coming back to bite you on the posterior?”
“Yeah, kind of. But I also want to give her a chance, you know? That, and the idea of using that kind of corporeal punishment makes me sick to my stomach. My conscience wouldn’t let me.”
“You could have deferred judgement to Sebastien,” he suggested.
“No,” I said sternly. “Don’t get me wrong, I love Seb, but he has some very definite Chantry views on anyone with magic. I send a mage off to him and I might as well do the deed myself.”
“Well, I wish you luck of it, Lady Regent. I’m off to the salt mines of Denerim, to toil away the rest of my days.”
I laughed, just as he wanted, and gave him a little push towards his guards. “You’ll be fine, Your Majesty. We’ll do our best to visit once our Rift issues have cleared up.”
“I’ll hold you to that, my Lady. And write me letters! Lots of them! I get so bored reading nothing but reports all day.”
I gave him a deep mock bow as he moved away, continuing to wave. “Whatever you say, Alistair. And packages of cheese whenever possible.”
As the entourage moved out of sight, a figure moved up behind me. “He’s left, then?” Cullen asked.
“Yup. And Sebastien leaves at first light tomorrow. By then the majority of visitors will be gone as well.”
“That’s a relief.” He sighed and reached up to rub at the back of his neck. “We’ve had reports from several of Leliana’s people. It seems they have found where Samson and Calpernia have been amassing their red lyrium supplies. Leliana has requested a meeting in the War Room within the hour.
Oh. The Shrine of Dumat. I had almost forgotten about that. I wonder…
There was the slightest puff of displaced air as Cole made himself known in front of me, causing Cullen to take a slight step back in surprise. “Yes, I can do that,” the Spirit said before vanishing once again. Well, there was once thing taken care of, anyway.
“Maker’s Breath,” Cullen muttered. “What was that about?”
“I’m hoping to maybe save the life of a particular Tranquil, Commander. And timing could be everything.”
Chapter 40: artwork
So no one could see the pics when I posted them here, although I could which was odd. So using my tumblr to link to them instead. Sorry about the confusion.
Chapter 41: Chapter 40
I swear I'm still working on this! Unfortunately I've had some writer's block of a terrible magnitude, and what words did want to come out, were for another character and fandom altogether (sorry, I have other loves than DA). But I swear I'm trying.
On that note, on August 8th I will have been posting about the lives of Selena and her family for five years. Holy shit, right?!? I was thinking about doing something special but haven't decided what yet. Guess I'll have to think about this one...
The longer we rode, the more I realized that my body might not quite be up to it.
We were now over a week out of Skyhold and by the time we stopped for the night, I was already asleep on my horse, leaning back against Fenris’ chest. The first day I nearly fell off onto my face if I hadn’t woken enough to catch myself, and now Fenris insisted on riding with me, just in case. We would reach the Shrine tomorrow, assuming the weather held and there were no delays. Of which me and my overwhelming need to sleep was one.
We were travelling with a slightly larger than normal group this time. See, because of what I had done in securing both Mage and Templar aid, I had also set both Samson and Calpernia up as Generals in Corypheus’ army. And that meant that there should be two sections of the Shrine of Dumat that we were going to have to deal with. I only really knew about what happened with Calpernia’s old master through reading some wiki articles before we returned to Thedas, so I was kind of at a loss as far as what to do there. But I knew about Madox and I hoped that Cole could prevent the Tranquil from taking his supply of Blightcap mushrooms. I really despise needless death.
So, to that end, I would have Fenris lead Varric, Solas, and Cassandra into the lower levels to see what could be done, while I took Cullen, Dorian and Bull around to handle the search for a way to diffuse Samson’s armour, picking up Cole on the way. Once again, Garrett and Anders were staying behind, though without so many ruffled feathers. This time they each promised to spend as much time as possible together and not to take it personally if one began fretting about another partner.
But right now, I kind of regretted not bringing Anders’ magic healing hands along. It was just so damned hard to stay awake!
“Amatus, it’s time to get down now.”
I think I grumbled something along the lines of making him babysit the kids alone when we got back if he didn’t give me five more minutes, but he just chuckled.
Suddenly I was being lifted and pulled from Fenris’ arms while he laughed, and I flailed helplessly. “Come on, Boss. Give the horse a break. She’s been carrying twice the weight for miles.”
I mock-glared down at the Qunari. “Are you calling me fat, Bull?”
“Are you nuts?! You’d flay me alive if I did!”
I laughed, setting my feet down on the wonderfully hard packed earth. “See that you don’t. I’d hate to have to explain to Dorian why you were dead.”
“Have at it, Dearest,” the mage said with a casual wave as he approached. “If he ever said something like that within my hearing, he would be flambéed before you had the chance.”
As Fenris and I wandered away to hobble our horse I could still hear the Iron Bull pouting about Dorian being unfair. By the time we were getting our tent set, the two were at the ‘kiss and make up’ stage.
“Get some rest, Amatus. We will reach the Shrine tomorrow before mid day and you will need all of your strength for the fight that is certain to occur.”
Fenris was right, but I was awake now, and didn’t feel like lying down when I might be able to help out in the camp. But Fenris was insistent and I found myself flat on my bedroll, staring up at the canvas ceiling of our tent. I reached under my tunic and fingered where the Templar blade had gone in. There was no real scar anymore, but my mind told me exactly where it was, like the flesh was smoother in its newness.
There was a time in my life that the thought of taking another man’s life was abhorrent, but when I thought about the men that had attacked Anders, and the fact that they were dead, I was happy. No…that’s not quite right. I was satisfied.
Before we left, Sera had taken me aside and asked me why I hadn’t killed Vivienne outright for all the horrible things she did. It took me a while to figure it out, but it was because putting Vivienne to death would have just been revenge, and really that’s not much better than outright murder. The same could be said about having her made Tranquil, because in the end her soul, that thing that made her a person, would also be dead. On the other hand, if she had attacked me or mine, I would have killed her without a second’s thought or remorse. I might have felt bad about, if only because she was not some faceless entity but someone I actually knew, but I would have done it.
Would I have been the same way had I never come to Thedas? I wondered. I was familiar with violence, don’t get me wrong, but it had almost always been directed towards me. And now I was a very different person than I was then. I was stronger, not just physically but in my heart. I loved and had protected the children of my previous life, but they had moved on to becoming their own people and protecting themselves when everything changed for me. I worried that, without the influence of the people here in Thedas, I would have become a…nicer person? Kinder? I don’t even know how to quantify it.
Ugh! This was ridiculous! There was no way I was sleeping with all this overthinking going on. I sat up, scratching lightly at my stomach, and stumbled back out of the tent to where Varric was now preparing our meal.
“Hey, there, Starlight,” he said. “Not feeling up to another nap?”
I grumbled as I sat myself on the ground next to the log he had perched himself on as he tended the cook fire. “No. Can’t shut off my brain.”
He turned and pulled a plank of wood and some wild carrots from a nearby pouch. “Here, then. Slice these up for me. Some of the guys have gone to see what kind of game they can scare up. We’ll add it to the pot.”
I smiled in thanks and set to work. Varric began telling me another story about Garrett from before I met them, and though it was one I had heard several times, I was enthralled with it; laughing and gasping when the storyteller wanted me to.
In time, people drifted back towards us. Cassandra and Cullen finished with erecting the tents, Solas finished the last of the wards around the camp, the others with a fresh rabbit or nug that they set to skinning and roasting. I laughed when Fenris tried to caress my cheek with his bloodied gauntlet and made him go get clean. Eventually, with dinner finished, we each took up a bowl and sat, exchanging stories that had us crying until tears were rolling down our cheeks. Even Cullen got into the act, extolling the tale of the current King of Fereldan, dressed only in a very small towel, chasing after the Tower cat that had stolen his small clothes.
And then it sort of hit me; the old me, the pre-Thedas me, would have hidden away at the thought of being surrounded by this many people, even if they were my best friends. It wasn’t that the old me was kinder, but that I had very few reasons to become the protective mama bear that I am now. I would kill to protect these people, and I know they would do the same. And that, right there, was the major difference. In my old life, my ex, my friends, they never would have done the same. My kids maybe, but I would fight them every step of the way. And knowing that I was as important in their eyes as they were in mine made me want to be around them.
I snuggled back into Fenris’ arms, smiling when he placed a soft kiss on my temple, and listened to my family talk as I drifted off to sleep.
Chapter 42: Chapter 41
Well, here it is. Five years ago today I posted the first chapter of Tale of the Stranger, giving birth to the weirdest poly relationship ever. There have been ups, downs, unintentional hiatus' and writing jags that produced several chapters in a month. And there's still plenty more to come as we are only approaching our trip to the Arbor Wilds.
Now, before you start reading this chapter, I will only say DON'T PANIC!
The Shrine of Dumat was a shit show, the only real good coming out of it that Cole was able to keep Madox from ingesting his supply of Blightcap mushrooms. Fenris’ team was unable to free Calpernia’s former master and saw him die while the rest of us fought through the fires raging on the upper levels to find the equipment Dagna would need to be able to build the Samson destroying rune. By the time we returned to camp that night we were all exhausted and covered in soot. Some of us were still coughing heavily from what we had breathed in and poor Cullen had to lie down with a terrible migraine from the lyrium.
While the others migrated to their bedrolls that evening, me, Dorian, Solas and Cole lingered behind to speak with Madox. Well, Cole didn’t really seem to have a choice as Madox clung to the boy’s arm as though he would float away. I had been watching the Tranquil as the day wore on and he was acting less and less like the Tranquil I was accustomed to. He seemed…scared. The others saw it too, judging by the calculating looks they gave him.
“Twisting, turning, inside out and upside down. Elated and joyful, wishing to die. There is no middle ground. Why do I feel this way? How do I feel?” Cole said softly in that wonderful Cole way of his.
Shit. There was something I vaguely remembered, back when I had played the game. A mission for Cassandra, one that had been basically fucked up by Trevelyan before he was taken out. Involving Spirits and reversing… “Cole,” I said softly so as not to startle the mage clinging to him. “I think your being a Spirit has reversed Madox’s Tranquility.”
The mages both gasped and turned to stare at me while Madox hid his face in Cole’s shoulder. Cole simply nodded. “Yes. His emotions have returned but he has forgotten how to deal with them. There are too many, all at once. He is drowning in his own mind.”
I thought about that while the men talked among themselves. Too many emotions, too much stimulus. It sounded a lot like my niece- well, ex-niece since she was my sister-in-law’s child, but I adored her, and she still called me Auntie up to the day I…died. Sarah was mid-functioning autistic, meaning that her emotional levels jumped randomly, could be over-stimulated by the smallest of things, and there were days when any kind of verbal communication was beyond her. Maybe what Madox needed at that moment was to be treated the same way I would handle Sarah.
“Yes,” Cole piped up, obviously reading my intent in my thoughts. “That should work. Quiet, dark, nothing to distract from the self that is self. He wants to be like you, but there is too much.”
“Glad I have your approval, Madox,” I said with a smile. “Can Cole take you to a tent? It will be dark, and we’ll try to be quiet.”
Madox nodded slowly and soon Cole was helping the man up and away, returning soon after with a soft smile. “He is quieter now. Soon he will sleep.”
“I’m glad. This kind of transition is going to be hard on him and I want to make it as painless as possible.”
“But what actually happened?” Dorian asked. “He is Tranquil, for Andraste’s sake! That’s supposed to be a permanent thing here in the South, is it not?”
“People are told that, yes. But evidently there is a way to reverse it,” replied Solas.
I sighed. They weren’t going to be happy about this one. “Yes, and it’s something that the Seekers of Truth have known about for a very long time.” Dorian swore while Solas furrowed his brow is displeasure. “Before you go off half-cocked just remember that this is something that Cassandra did not know about until very recently and she’s most likely warring with herself about how to broach the topic with people.”
“How does one go off half-cocked? That is not something that should be halved.” Cole looked around at us with guileless innocence and I couldn’t help it. I laughed loudly, then had to smother myself before it bothered Madox too badly.
“Thanks, Cole. I needed that.” Dorian and Solas, too, were smiling while Cole still just appeared non-plussed.
“You’re welcome? But I am still confused.”
I patted him on the arm. “I’ll tell you when you’re older.”
Cole still seemed troubled, but he sat quietly and listened while the three of us continued talking.
Fenris’ coughing woke me in the morning, and I was instantly on alert. “Fenris? What is it?”
He shook his head, his hand raised to ward me from my questions even as he continued to cough. It sounded thick, as though he were losing a piece of his lung along with the air. “It is nothing,” he said once he could breathe again. “A bit lingering from yesterday.” His voice was even rougher than usual, and I could see that he had gone pale with the exertion.
“Nope, not buying it, mister.” I could be a stubborn ass too when I wanted. “I’m going to find you a potion and get Solas to have a look at you.” I fumbled around the tent to try and find my pants. I know I had pants yesterday, where the fuck did they go? Oh, there!
“No, please, Amatus. Do not bother the man. I will take the potion. It is certain to be enough.”
I looked him over head to toe but could see nothing wrong besides the pale tone and coughing, which could just be an illness and bad timing. Still… “All right, potion only for now. But if it gets any worse we are talking to Solas and then hauling ass to Skyhold to find Anders, got it?”
Fenris smirked. “Yes, Mother.”
I laughed and swatted his shoulder lightly. “Fine, get up you rotten child, or there will be no treats later.”
“Hmm. I wouldn’t want to miss out on my treat.” Oh my GOD! That voice should be bottled and sold as an aphrodisiac; I swear. I leaned in to kiss him and it took quite a bit of will power to pull away, let me tell you. But we did and began to prepare for the day as we heard the rest of our large party begin doing the same.
By mid-day I was flagging again, but this time I had no Fenris on the horse behind me to keep me upright. He had decided to ride ahead and scout the land, falling back every so often to report his findings to either Cullen or Cassandra before disappearing once again. I knew it was his way of keeping me from mother-henning him and I could understand it, but it did not make me any happier about it. No, instead I had a horse to myself this time and staying upright was becoming more and more of a struggle.
I felt the lightest of touches against my elbow for a moment and a brief electric tingle, and suddenly I was feeling better. No, more than better. I felt absolutely fucking amazing! I turned to see Maddox pulling his hand back, curling in closer to Cole’s chest on the horse next to me. Normally Cole wouldn’t bother riding but, when Maddox refused to ride with anyone else, the boy relented.
“Maddox? Did you just use magic?” I asked, keeping my voice down so as not to spook him. Or any of the others, to be fair.
“Yes,” he replied, so quietly I almost didn’t catch it.
“Are you a healer, Maddox? Because I feel wonderful right now.”
“Yes. A Spirit Healer.”
I was stunned. A Spirit Healer? But those were so rare! How could Meredith have made a Spirit Healer Tranquil? It was blasphemous! It was a damned good thing that bitch was dead already, or she’d be sprouting several new holes around the facial area for that.
Cole snorted and I realized that my mental image of a hole-filled Meredith sprouting the balls of cotton I imagined were what she had had for brains must have looked pretty silly to the Spirit. Well, I guess I was glad I could be a source of amusement, anyway.
Suddenly there was a shout from the front of the group, and I focused on the others riding ahead. Several of them had dismounted and were huddled around Cullen, Solas, and another form that I could not make out on the ground. Three horses stood without riders; Cullen’s, Cassandra’s and…
“Fenris!” I don’t remember dismounting or rushing to my lover’s side, only that I was there, taking him from Cullen’s hands to lay across my legs as I kneeled. “Fenris, what happened?”
But I could guess what happened when he began coughing again, this time blood spraying across his lips. Fuck, I knew I should have had Solas take a look at him this morning! “You bastard!” I yelled, though I’m not sure why. “You told me it was nothing! Why the fuck did I believe you?”
But Fenris wasn’t answering, of course. He was pale to the point of grey now, the blood on his lips and chin standing out even more starkly. His breathing was shallow and seemed to be getting fainter as it fluttered against my hands.
I felt more than heard Cole at my back “Amatus…sorry…not a burden…”
I let out a dark laugh. “Idiot. When you get better I’m going to kick your ass, just see if I don’t.”
“Lethall’in, I am uncertain that I can halt the progression of what is ailing Fenris,” Solas said softly, laying a hand on mine. I didn’t realize I had been shaking until he stilled my fingers. There are particles of burned red lyrium in his lungs that are trying to merge with the lyrium that is already in his body.”
Oh. Oh fuck no. I pictured how he had looked in my nightmare, so long ago. The terrible red that had wormed its way around him, through his skin and mind. I would not let that happen to him, even if I had to kill him to keep it from happening. It’s what he would want. I had to get him to Anders to heal-
The group around me flinched with my cry, but the former Tranquil nearly fell to the ground in a curling ball. Cole popped over to his side and the man leaned into the Spirit’s touch, whimpering. But I couldn’t wait for him to get a hold of himself, I needed him. Fenris needed him. “Please, Maddox. I need you to heal him! I- I can’t lose Fenris. Please!”
Very slowly, much more slowly than I could handle but was most likely only a few seconds, Maddox unfurled himself and approached, kneeling at Fenris’ other side once Cullen moved out of the way. “I will try, Mistress,” he said, voice barely more audible than a breeze, but I nodded all the same. I looked down at my love’s still face and feared we might already be too late until he coughed once again. More blood splattered into the air, some catching me across the cheek. I felt the first bubbles of panic until Maddox began to glow with magic.
The sensation of Maddox’s magic was very similar to Anders, cool like the feel of peppermint on the tongue, but where Anders’ magic was a soothing minty green, Maddox was the colour of an orange creamsicle. And it bubbled along the skin like a good champagne. A small part of my mind wondered if it had to do with the flavour of spirit that came to help the healer that changed the colour of their magic, or maybe a quirk of their personality, while the rest of me babbled like a panicky idiot in my brain.
It took a long time and Fenris seemed to get worse before he got better, coughing entire crystals out of his lungs that one of the others would reach out and remove from his face before anything else could happen with them. “Don’t you dare fucking leave me, Fenris!” I cried. “You’re supposed to stay with me, remember? How am I supposed to tell Garrett and Anders that I let you die on me, huh? Jack and Vicky need their dad, you can’t leave me alone with them!”
“Lethall’in, look,” Solas said softly, placing his hand softly on my shoulder.
I glanced up at him then back and realized that, yes, Fenris was starting to look better. His colour was returning oh so slowly, and the coughing was less harsh and bloody. And soon the coughing eased altogether. The orange glow of Madox’s magic eased and disappeared, leaving us sitting in the sudden quiet.
Well, quiet until Maddox began to giggle. I looked up to see tears streaming across his cheeks even as he smiled widely and began to laugh more heartily. “Oh, Maker! That- that felt wondrous! Like I’m supposed to feel! Like I was whole!”
I smiled softly at the mage as he sprung up from the ground and began to dance in circles, though my attention soon returned to the bundle in my arms when he began to stir.
“What happened?” his voice raspy and quiet.
“You didn’t listen to me,” I said. “and for that you get no treats.”
Chapter 43: Chapter 42
Okay, I'm really sorry it's taking me so long to update this thing. I've been dealing with some medical issues for which I am FINALLY being medicated and hopefully this will help with my ability to make myself write.
That being said, I'm not completely happy with the next couple of chapters but I need to get them out before I can move on to bigger and better things. I may go back and do some rewrites eventually, but for now, this is what you get.
Well we were just a mess after that, trying to make our slow way back to Skyhold. While the crystals were gone, Fenris’ lungs were still riddled with cuts and we were stopping every few hours for Maddox to flush out the accumulated blood and heal what he could. I wasn’t much better, getting almost too tired to sit up on my own hours before we would be stopping for the night. We were able to fashion a litter, at least, so that he could be pulled along without too much difficulty, but I got the dubious honour of riding with the Iron Bull.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore Bull but, let’s be honest, he puts out a lot of heat and is very loud. Especially when you’re pressed right up against his chest, which seemed to be his favourite place to keep me. On the other hand, he makes an amazing pillow, as long as you keep your head away from the shoulder harness. And more than once I’m pretty sure I felt him purr, but it could be I was just missing my cat, Warden.
Maddox was becoming a little less anxious around our group as well, which was a good sign. Cole still needed to be near the man, but he no longer had to touch the spirit to feel somewhat calm. I think a good part of that was that he was getting to use his magic again as he was working on Fenris several times a day. But not being a mage myself, I have to just assume. It was a safe bet though.
Nearly a week later we could see the turrets of Skyhold in the distance and a sense of elation went through us. Travelling is fine but so much had gone wrong on this trip that the sight of home was a heartening one. Even Fenris perked up a little more, to the point that he wanted to try sitting at the fire with us the night before we were to arrive. It didn’t last more than an hour before he needed to go lie down in our tent, but it was something.
We set out early and by noon we were crossing the bridge into the lower courtyard to the fanfare that had become the norm for us. What wasn’t the norm was the fussing. Anders started making a beeline towards me but when he saw the state that Fenris was in, he went full on doctor mode and had him transferred to the clinic right away. Maddox followed along behind, at a loss for what else to do, dragging Cole along with him.
Meanwhile, Bull manhandled me into Garrett’s waiting arms, huffing about my gaining weight for which I was seriously going to punch him later. A brief hug and my husband was demanding I tell him everything, especially about what happened to Fenris.
I don’t know what triggered it, if it was Garrett’s demand or the stress or that I felt like I was holding on to my sanity by the thinnest thread, but that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Tears formed quickly and I was gripping Garrett’s shirt and sobbing. My legs collapsed under the weight of it and he quickly took a hold of me, pulling me in close to his body.
“Shit! Baby, I’m sorry!” He exclaimed. “I didn’t mean to-“
“What. Did. You Do?”
Suddenly I was being pulled away from Garrett’s arms into a pair that I didn’t recognize right away, until he spoke again. “Why is my mistress crying? Did you hurt her? I’ll kill you; I swear I will!”
“No, Maddox, it’s all right,” I tried to reassure him. “It’s not Garrett’s fault.”
“Wow, this is Maddox? I thought he was a Tranquil?”
I sighed, wiping at the now more than likely disgusting mess of tears and grime on my face. “It’s a long story, Love, and I really need to get in and sit down with the kids and some food. Come with me so I can update you on everything that happened and then we can go see how Anders is doing with Fenris. Maddox has been a wonder in saving him but there’s only so much a mage just coming back into his power can do.”
Of course, we couldn’t just stop and have a baby cuddle because goodness forbid I not update Josie and Leliana as soon as my feet touch down. I could have left it to Cullen, but Bethany had beat me to it in dragging him off to relax and center himself. Ah, I can’t fault the guy. He had a hell of a time out there dealing with shit from his past and the lyrium. Hours later and the main hall was filled to the brim with people grabbing dinner, so I was waylaid by many of them wanting nothing more than the ability to say that they spoke with the regent herself. It was annoying as hell and I was ready to remove limbs by the time Garrett and I were able to get out into the courtyard and down to the clinic. Not that I had the energy to move much more than an eyelash or two, I was so damned tired. As it was, Garrett was carrying quite a bit of my weight as I leaned on him heavily.
“Babe? How are you doing?”
I wanted to tell Garrett I was fine, but we would have both known it for the lie it was. “Just tired, love. Ready for the day to be over already.”
“Okay, well, how about when we get into the clinic, we have you lay down on a cot for a bit. We can visit with Fenris and Anders before I take you to our rooms. Sound good?”
I nodded, concentrating more on getting one foot in front of the other than on answering him. This overwhelming lethargy just seemed to be getting worse as the days wore on, not better. I knew that I was going to have to ask Anders to have another look at me. But later. After Fenris was better.
“Hello, Sweetheart. How are you feeling?”
I looked up, not realizing that I had been watching my own feet as we made our way to the clinic, or even that we had passed the threshold. Andes was watching me now, coming around the cot that held Fenris as the elf sat up and sipped on a bowl of broth. I must have been looking rougher than I thought because the mage was all healer business. Maddox was sitting on a stool nearby, watching other healers moving about among the patients assembled.
Garrett helped me onto the cot next to Fenris as I forced myself to answer. “Not great, Doc. I get tired much more quickly these days. Some days are worse than others. Today has been the worst so far.”
Everybody else was looking at me in concern but Anders just smiled slightly and let his fingers begin to glow. “I’m just going to check and see what’s going on in there, all right?”
I wanted to protest. I had literally just been thinking that he should be conserving his energy for Fenris’ issues over mine, but I ended up just nodding and laying down on the cot. Fighting over it would have been pointless so I might as well just get it over with. I must have dozed off while he worked because when I opened my eyes again, both of my hands were being held by Garrett and Fenris. Anders’ magic felt cool against my skin as it petered out.
“Well, Doc? Am I going to live?”
Anders chuckled and rested a hand on my knee. “Yes, Love, though I think the poison may have done a bit more damage than I originally thought. Your adrenal gland was looking a little rough but I’m pretty sure that I’ve repaired it to the point of it continuing to heal on its own. But I’ll be keeping a sharp eye on you for the next few days, just so you know.”
I fell asleep mid nod.