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An Unseen Sight

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Her thumbnail rubbed against the button, not enough to depress it, but just enough that it wiggled in its slot. How many times had she played this out? Every decision was made to see every outcome, all the nuances in the storyline. Would it tell her more, would it change anything? It wouldn't. So the next best thing was used for closure. Seeking out like minded people, she would delve into their worlds and read their versions; Inhaled their angst, and devoured their should haves, the could haves, the fix its, or the going down with this ship. Some she loved so much, she regretted it was not cannon. Some were horrifying, even delightfully horrifying; enough to question her sanity and moral compass. Those were her favorites. Still her finger hovered and circled the button contemplating. This would not change she lamented. Cassandra's face stayed as calm as ever waiting for the answer that would trigger the next orchestrated response. But wasn't that the comfort she was seeking? Why she watched her favorite movies over and over and replayed her most beloved games. There was something cathartic about knowing what would happen. Unlike so many other things.

She sighed and put the controller down, leaning back into the well worn leather of her office chair. The plastic armrest scrapped her arm and snagged the soft satin of her nightgown. She had bought it on a whim and hated it the next day, but was too embarrassed to return it. Instead the sewing machine was pulled out and slits, ribbon, and lace were inserted until her hatred died into a quiet approval. She was admiring the little bows and delicately trying to free the thread that had caught when the room was illuminated by a crack of lightning. The storm outside raged as it usually did in the sweltering heat of a Florida summer night.

"Did you hear that?"

She froze before slowly righting the chair, staring at the screen. Cassandra's expression was narrow, suspicious, and looking up. Outside the sky boomed, shaking the mobile home, shaking her insides. "This isn't supposed to happen," she breathed, watching the warrior pull out her sword,

"Reveal yourself!" The thunder punctuated the lightning flash at almost the same time and the lights flickered.

"No!" She grabbed for the controller nearly tipping in the chair as it flicked again. The next clap she felt in her teeth, her hands seizing up along with the rest of her before she was thrown. Her first thought was the fall to the carpet was taking too long. Her second thought was holy fuck its cold! There was no third as her body slammed onto a freezing and unyielding ground, her elbow ramming painfully into her ribs and ripping a scream from her lungs. Thunder crashed close, jostling her and her eyes snapped open in time to see a behemoth of a creature dropped beside her. The ground fractured and her stare tore from the creature to race to whatever her instincts already knew.

She was on breaking ice. And before her was a creature so familiar and yet so alien in its realness that her mind struggled to put a name to it. It 'looked ' at her. Demon! lightning whipped around it and she gasped, choking when her lung protested the cold. PRIDE DEMON!  As if understanding her train of thought, the laugh it made had her screaming and scrambling on her good elbow away, her legs wind milling in a way that would've been comical if her life wasn't on the line. A war cry stole her attention and she watched several fighters rush the behemoth.

A blue film like cellophane rested over her and she panicked trying to flick it off the same time a lightning whip tossed her across the frozen lake like a doll. The impact stole her breath but nothing more as the blue fizzled out, perhaps worn out by the brunt landing. Fuck the barrier! Move idiot, she chastised pulling herself up and running a few steps before trying to slide to a stop when wraiths appeared. The pain this time registered immediately without the barrier to stop the orb that struck her chest. In game it had been annoying that her HP dropped when hit with weakness, but here? It was visceral, a fatigue that hit like a hangover while suffering the flu. She wobbled and spread her legs to keep from collapsing. "Hold it," she gritted out as bile flooded her mouth.

A movement from her peripheral sent her upright, hands up to defend her face but the soldier flew past her. "My lady, you need to run!" No. Really?, She nearly spat as she fumbled into another awkward shuffle just as a crash shook the ice. She glanced up just in time to see Cullen motherfucking Rutherford drive his sword into the pride demon's chest and shield bash it, bowling it over. The ice fissure snaked to her and her awe transformed into horror. In her idiotic stupor of hot man taking down a baddie, she had failed to see the tell tale glowing ring of the terror demon's jack in the box attack. A barrier surrounded her just as she was launched into the air.

Her relief was short-lived; it seemed this emotion was going to be her experience of Thedas, because the moment her back hit the frozen lake, it splintered and cold water invaded everything. Fire and lightning danced down her arms, legs, throat and chest; stealing breath and leaving nothing but agony. Opening her eyes, she understood intimately what the color ice blue really was. Shadows moved above in a frenzy followed by a blinding green light. I can't die here! The thought came like a warhammer to her numbness and she kicked up, pressing her hands to feel for the place where she had slipped through, and found nothing. I'm going to die here, she amended as her hands slowed and dots danced before her eyes. I don't want to die! 

Ice struck her face, parting like glass for the massive ax from above. She saw the hand and reached, reached, reached to find nothing, fingers long since too numbed to react.

Kick!

I can't! I can't! I can't breathe!

A horned head appeared and a hand wrapped around her outstretched forearm easily, pulling her as if she weighed no more that a bag of groceries. Bull, its Bull!  She breached the surface and sputtered while inhaling, immediately regretted it as she vomited the water that had tried to make residence in her chest. Her hands flailed wildly trying to find purchase to pull the legs she couldn't feel out of the death hole. "Hey, hey, I've got you." The bass and scratch in his voice pinned her still. It wasn't the one she knew. This voice was guttural with the last syllables; the 'you' sounding more like it was growled out than spoken.

Don't look. Don't look. Luckily fate intervened as a fur mantle was handed to him and he gently draped it over her back. She dropped her head instantly into the fur. Hands gentle yet firm urgently wrapped it the rest of the way to her shoulders. Instead of the all seeing eye of a Qunari, amber ones sought hers. "My lady, we need to move you. Do you understand?"

"This shouldn't be possible," her traitorous mouth answered without prompting.

He frowned pressing a hand to her shoulder to guide her to sit up, averting his eyes as he pulled the fabric closed over must be a scandalous attire for this world. She watched his mouth move but didn't register the words as her own mind panicked. This isn't possible. I'm dead. I died. Lightning hit me and I'm dead and no one will find me until I start to stink...who will feed my cats?

"She's not shivering anymore, Cullen. We need to move her now." She flinched back into the present.

"I can stabilize her for now." Her head whipped up at the voice and shuddered visibly as Solas knelt down, hand extended. Dread Wolf! Her whimper gave everyone pause, and he schooled his face to calm indifference before speaking softly, "It is only healing magic to soothe you."

"Magic does not exist where I come from. I don't know how it'll affect me." You twat faced idiot.  Words didn't leave her mouth without her tasting them first. She had never made a mistake when she trusted her instincts though and so she lifted her head a little higher and said firmly, "And this should not be possible."

Solas blinked confused before she was hauled into Iron Bull's chest. "Another time Solas. Let's get her to the healers tents." Her head turned involuntarily into his chest as the wind assaulted her. His skin...The texture is different, firmer? Denser? Is there a thicker layer of protective covering in the epidermis?

"Yeah, none of that made any sense but keep talking." She looked up startled before frowning, and then frowned deeper when she couldn't feel her eyebrows. "I'm dead."

"Well that's a little preemptive," he laughed looking at her.

"No. To be here means something happened back where I'm from. This isn't-"

"Supposed to be possible. Yeah we heard the first time. Here we are." She was deposited onto a bed and after a flurry of movement and some rushed whispering a cup was placed in her hand. She stared at it watching the herbs float in the milky liquid. His large hand wrapped around hers and pushed it to her lips. "And if it's poison," she asked mildly lifting her gaze and immediately being pinned by his stare.

"Your dead already remember," he teased pushing the cup more urgently. A smile flashed across her face before she hummed, "To the afterlife then." It was grainy as it passed her tongue but she finished it in two swallows. She opened her mouth to speak and fell back onto the cot instead, eyes searching the canvas before his head blocked her view. Her heart stuttered at the expressionless gaze before her lids closed against her will. Poison it is then. And I better think of a plan fast just in case I do wa...ake.....uup.

Chapter Text

The warmth surrounding her was punctuated by something metal clinking somewhere nearby. She had awoken slowly wondering what her cats had gotten into when the fur over her came into view. This is not my bed...or my cat...or my home. The memory of earlier had her breathing low and smooth, letting her brain go over every playthrough, any fanwork she could remember before she decided on a plan. You can do this, either its real or its not but... you've a story to tell either way.


She made a small noise of discomfort and moved to sit up. One guard left the room while another stayed by the door. She barely spared him a cursory glance before pushing the blanket off and standing slowly. They changed my clothes...she was wearing a simple long nightgown of white, but it was far too soft to be a commoner's robe. She filed that into the plans she had building. God help me, She groused and stood, pushing her mop of black curls from her face just as Leliana, Cassandra, and Josephine walked in. Thank goodness Cullen didnt' come. While she wasn't shy, she definitely didn't want to be standing with a possible see through nightie. Well he already got an eyeful yesterday!


A quiet stand off ensued where she watched them, mostly Leliana really, and they watched her in turn. She folded her hands in front of her stomach and tilted her head impassive even as her pulsed jumped in her fingers. She almost frowned when her right hand didn't find the three rings on the other to play with. Probably for the best. Calm. Control.


"You gave us all a fright. We are glad to see you up so soon," Josephine chimed in before Cassandra could move forward. She made a small thoughtful hum and looked toward the window.
"I'm unfamiliar with how soon is so soon. How long was I out?" She moved now and was proud when she didn't wince when Cassandra slightly pulled out her sword. She paused letting her eyes rest on the hand still on the pommel for a few seconds too long to show her displeasure, before raising her gaze, still impassive. "I must have misunderstood, waking up in a room instead of the dungeons. Am I a prisoner?"


"There are just many questions regarding your...appearance. You understand of course," Leliana finally spoke, eyes watching her so hard, she was sure there would be red welts on her skin.


"Of course. Speaking of appearances, I require some time to compose mine before this interrogation, as polite as it is, begins? Where may I find a washroom? I advise you to bring those you trust in the meantime. I wish to repeat this exceptionally long conversation as little as possible."


"I'll have someone bring in some water for you," Josie inclined her head before leaving. Leliana eyed her a moment longer before turning to leave. "Oh, my lady?" The Nightingale paused and she continued, waving a hand to the Templar, "The sentry. Shall he watch me bathe as well?" She smirked when the Templar blushed and waited outside the door.


She finally turned her head to face the window before closing her eyes letting out a shaky breath and swallowing back the tears. Good, keep it up. A soft knock interrupted and an elf brought in a ewer, bowl, and a soft cloth, leaving them on a dresser before scurrying out. Poor thing. She bathed quickly, surprised the water was lukewarm and not frigid. They do think I'm a noble. She poured some into her hair to try and tame the beast on her head. Another soft knock and a dress was laid gently out on the bed. She eyed it and hummed softly. It was simple but clean. Still early in the game then? The dress was on with a little trouble around the chest and hips but overall it fit well if not a tad too long. She was trying to finger comb her hair when a harder knock came. Fuck. Show time. You can do this.


"Enter." She would've like to say she was surprised when the advisers followed by Cassandra, the Iron Bull, and a Dalish male elf entered. But the more people for her to focus on meant that the Nightingale could watch her undisturbed. The woman was a force to be reckoned with. She kept her eyes on their faces, even as she wanted to dip her eyes to the elf's hand. Before the door closed Solas walked in, hands clasped behind his back. Well shit.


Dipping her head low and bending slightly as the waist, she acknowledged them. "Introductions are in order then, yes? Allow me to start. Ambassador Lady Josephine Montilyet of Antiva, Sister Leliana the Nightingale, Left Hand of the late Divine, spymaster and bard extraordinaire. Cullen Rutherford, military commander and ex Templar of both Kinloch hold and Kirkwall. The Iron Bull, Qunari spy also known as the Ben-Hassrath. Cassandra many many names Pentaghast, last true Seeker and 87th in line to the Nevarran throne. Also former Right Hand of the Divine. And Solas," she paused eyeing him through her hair longer, enjoying the slight widening of his eyes before finishing with, "life long apostate from a small village far to the north." She caught the hard glint in his eye before bowing lowly, hands out and poised. "Jessabelle Snow, Jess if it pleases you. I'm glad to finally meet you all in the flesh. Though this by no means is truly possible."


She stood and raised an eyebrow at all the hands on weapons. "I am not possessed, now cut that out," she added firmly, before softening and whispering, "And you must be Herald Lavellan. I see no weapon...mage then?" He made no moves, just studied her with passive gray eyes so she nodded and continued trying to wrack her brain for the blue vallislin on his face. "I, as you can guess, am not from this realm. Where I am from there is no magic. No dwarves, elves, or Qunari. Only humans. We live by scientific theories and technology."


She watched the awe overcome Solas' face as everyone except for Bull and Leliana looked disbelieving and seconds away from being aggressive. The two spies had poker faces statues would be jealous of. "So you are from beyond the Fade," he breathed.


"No. We don't have a Fade. Are you familiar with parallel dimensions?" When they shook their heads she nearly thanked God out loud. Cassandra's hand looked like it would warp the handle of her sword however, so she kept her praises to herself.


"Could you explain, perhaps we know it under a different name," Solas offered clearly intrigued.

"Yes of course, that is a possibility. Though I ask you hold your questions until the end,; its very easy to go around in circles when speaking of this. Parallel dimensions is the theory that other worlds co-exist side by side on different planes, or dimensions. Also called alternate realities" Super over simplification laced with bullshit. "We have no magic but our technology has created things that no man should be able to do. One of the less dangerous things is a construct called a Television screen. Its like a-a-hmm. Hold a moment," Jess looked around the room before spotting the fireplace. Strolling over she slapped a charcoal out with the poker, tapping it gently until it was cool enough to hold. Folding her dress under her legs while kneeling she held the stick above the floor and then paused.


"Is anyone using this room regularly? I'd hate to cause such a mess but may I need a lot of space." When Josephine motioned for her to continue she drew a circle inside a rectangle. "This is my world, simply called Earth. A Television screen," tapping the square, "is like a window into another world. Through it we can see into another by walking through a specific persons life." She drew a line out from the box and then a stick figure above it, ignoring Bull's snort. "When we, hmm how should I explain this in a term that exists in this place," because she was definitely not going to be called a gamer when she had the opportunity to think of something else. Besides if this was real, and she was starting to believe it was...Panic later, She ordered herself before nodding as if she had come to a conclusion, " When we Pathwalk, we see things as they happened to the person. But its more deep than that. We can see multiple lives of the same person called a Tether, because everything revolves around that person's decisions. I have lived as the Dalish warden Mahariel, both male and female. If Mahariel didn't not rise to meet the threat, then Warden Tabris of the Denerim Alienage. If not them, then either the dwarven noble Aeducan or the casteless Brosca. Or The noble Couslands. Or a Mage Amell or Surana-"


She paused at the inhale and sat back on her heels. You must be joking. Is this my playthrough? She looked straight at Cassandra, "Could you find Varric and bring him here. I'm starting to see a pattern. At least I hope I am." She looked about to dispute before spotting something over her head; probably Leliana nodding, and turned without a word. "


"You do realize this is all very hard to believe," Cullen finally snapped. She stared at him pursing her lips. "Do you still keep the worn lucky coin you received before becoming a Templar?" He stiffened and she turned to Leliana. "I wonder. Does Sten still enjoy studying paintings and cookies and kittens? Did Surana give Dalish gloves and Antivan boots to Zevran? Did she find Morrigan's mother's grimoire?" Please let this be, She held her gaze to Leliana as she said these things waiting. She almost broke in the silence before the red head nodded.


She turned to Cullen and sighed deeply. "That was wrong of me. You are not responsible for my displacement and it was unworthy of me to lash at you." His gaze softened and she looked back at floor and the stick painting her fingers. Holy hell the man is gorgeous even if he looks ragged. There was an awkward silence before Cassandra returned with Varric in tow.

"Ser Varric Tethras! Dashing rogue and storyteller."

He froze for only a second before giving a rakish smile. "A fan of my work I see."


"Unfortunately I have never read a single one of your books but I hear they were amazing. Jessabelle Snow. Jess if it pleases you." She held out her hand which he held and kissed briefly.

"So you needed me for something?"


"Yes. And as your leading expert on Hawke, can you tell me; was he a well, a he or a she and were they a mage?" He frowned. "Of course she was a mage. Everyone knows that."

She was quiet turning the stick in her hand. Holy shit...this might be a playthrough.


"Lady Jessabelle," Josie prompted, quill poised to continue taking notes. Jess avoided looking at either Bull or the spymaster. This next part was critical to her survival. She cleared the lump in her throat nodding. "The Television lets us see things that were and what could have been by choosing to do things differently. I have walked as the Warden and I have walked as a female Hawke, as a force mage. I saw her love Fenris. But there are endless worlds were possibilities can happen."

Varric looked stricken for a moment before running his hand over his stubble. "Later Varric, I promise," she soothed as she saw the wheels turning. Fanworks here we go. She drew several lines branching off the stick figure."An example is there was a world where she loved the Arishok and he her, but he chose the Qun nonetheless and the same situation happened. They still fought in mortal combat. These events are called Tetherpoints or Tanglepoints. meaning no matter what decision you made, you would always come up to this moment." Varric gruffed, and she spared him a sympathetic smile. Anders....


She drew a circle on random points of the lines and then branched off to show the choices before ending at different X's. "There are other worlds I have been a Pathwalker on. I was Commander Shepard of the Alliance Navy. I was a bounty hunter in a place called the Borderlands. I was a Dragonborn, slayer of Alduin the worldeater and... none of this matters, let me return to the situation at hand.


I have walked as the warden, the champion, and most recently the Herald. I walked multiple worlds. But there is only so much I could see before I got weary and moved on. It takes a lot of time to see these things. And besides all this, the Television is not capable of physically moving a Pathwalker into that reality. It breaks every law of physics, it breaks reality. Its only meant to be viewed and experienced visually and audibly. And its frowned upon in my home to waste time doing this so the likelihood of an invention that could transport one such as what seems to have happened to me.... is next to zero. At least in my dimension. In another reality maybe but not mine."


"How is this time wasted, this is wondrous," Solas finally interjected, clearly shocked at this turn of events and not the whole falling from another world.


"Do you know who's responsible for the Divine's death," Cassandra blurted out moving forward, only to be stopped by surprisingly, Varric. She was surprised they had held their questions this long actually. As close to the truth and you won't have to lie in the long run. "I may but that remains to be seen, Lady Seeker. My world is...not a good place. I mean its wonderful and it's beautiful, but we're at war. Always. Even when we're not actively attacking another nation, we're considered to be in a cold war; a stalemate. We," she swallowed and wrung her hands a bit. Movement to her left showed Leliana had moved to watch her better. How did she explain this without looking guilty?


"We only have one race and we still found things to hate about each other; things as silly as politics, skin color, birthplace. When we come together we create amazing things. We have cured diseases that used to wipe out whole populations, we found ways to replace lost limbs and to make vehicles that move faster than any land animal. We have flown in the sky in machines called airplanes and we can communicate with someone on the other side of the earth in seconds with telephones. But we also created weapons of mass destruction. The most terrifying is the nuclear bomb. These things can level a country in minutes, ignite every thing and everyone, and they make the land sick for ages so no one can live there. And almost every country has several and they're aiming it at each other. So if one government fires, everyone fires and these things could lay waste to the the earth several times over. Spending time...Pathwalking is considered trivial in the face of these threats, but it was comforting to me. And many others."


"Is it possible your world made the breach?" Jess whipped her head at the Iron Bull ready to argue. She opened her mouth to speak and then paused. A trap. She turned her head side to side drawing in the air above the lines she made as if calculating. "You know...I can't say no without having a shred of doubt. Nuclear bombs are literally considered to be weapons of total annihilation. But I see several problems with this. The problem with that theory is that my world does not have a Fade, and the breach seems to be a tear in the veil, yes? Also I have seen several outcomes, but never that. Another problem and one that terrifies me even more is that if what you say is true...then I have no world to go back to."


Her voice cracked on that last part as the dread sunk into her bones. Clearing her throat she continued hoarsely. "Which now brings me to two dilemmas, Do I have a home to go back to, and how do I avoid destroying the timeline in this world while I search."


"Destroying the timeline," Varric repeated shaking his head, "Is that as shitty as it sounds?"


"Yes. Say if I told Hawke she was going to be denied entry to the deep roads so don't go to Hightown. She may then have gone back to smuggling or something else and never met you. She wouldn't have been able to buy back the Amell estate and wouldn't have met with the Viscount to deal with the Arishok, therefore not becoming the Champion. Kirkwall may have fallen to the Qunari before the Chantry even blew. Its hard to tell what is supposed to happen without knowing the timeline. Clearly this isn't a timeline where the Herald died trying to seal the breach the first time. So I have that in my favor."


"I was supposed to die," he finally asked, his voice actually having a brogue quality. Like Sebastian...Mmmm. "Apparently not in this world. But in another...it's possible. In that world however your advisers would've had to be more...well it doesn't matter. You survived. And you've gone to Val Royeaux already, as the Chargers don't approach you until after, so this timeline is good so far. Have you met a red jenny?" He seemed a bit unnerved but nodded. "And Lady Vivienne? Is she here?"


Jess tried, she really did try to keep her face neutral, but Leliana immediately moved in like a shark that caught the sent of blood. "You don't approve?"


"Have you seen something," Cullen asked at the same time. She groaned and the Herald held back a smirk. Hell but elves are gorgeous. Is everyone in this place?  "No I haven't gone to see her just yet. We thought it best to brush me up on Orlesian customs."  She translated that into 'how not to piss off nobles because I'm an elf.' he waited a breath before smiling seeing that she came to the same conclusion and asked, "Is she a threat?" My, he's blunt. Everyone stared at her waiting.


"In my world, when the government is asked a question that is classified, they usually state this; I can neither confirm nor deny that claim. Please understand. I want to minimize any chance of me making things worse. Trust me, while we never believed it possible to enter another world, we've speculated and theorized. And it has so rarely ever ended well. For anyone. EVER."


"But you have to be able to tell us something," Varric insisted, giving her a lopsided smile. She pursed her lips thinking. "Madame de Fer is someone you can tell their motives from the first words out of their mouths. She is a social climber and will only ally herself if it will in some way benefit her. She will be an asset as an introduction to Orlesian nobility and those social circles, which will prove useful in funding and spreading news of the Inquisition. But don't for a second believe she's not ensuring her own future position as well."


She stood up stiffly and smoothed out her dress. "You have weaseled out more than I wished to say, and in this manner have painted yourself a picture of someone you haven't even met yet. This is what I mean when I say I don't want to effect anything. If we can conclude for now and address this more later? I have much I need to ruminate on. Especially if home..." There was a tangible silence. They understood the dread of losing your world; the damn thing sat in the sky above them.


"Of course Lady Jessabelle. We'll speak more later." Thank god for Josie, as everyone had to slowly file out now, even though Cassandra, Varric, and Solas lingered. She sat on the edge of the bed until the door finally latched shut. There was no doubt a guard was posted outside, probably listening, so she laid down and buried her face under the pillows to silently cry.

Chapter Text

The thought of leaving the room just yet was absurd; the Nightingale no doubt had her agents watching. A wonderful thought, and she had yet to see any sign from the Herald's circle that they believed her. No one had come back to ask questions, and she had assumed either Varric, Solas, or Cassandra were going to break down her door. but no one had. No more likely was her being accosted as soon as she stepped out of the room by a Templar. Another wonderful thought. No. Focus. Assess, prioritize, plan, contingency plan. This is nothing new. Just another Tuesday!


Instead she drew a few new lines on her diagram and named them in cursive and as vaguely as possible. While English was spoken, thank God for small mercies, a glimpse into a book on the nightstand was filled with runic lettering that had crossed her eyes. Still, she hadn't awoken from this nightmare yet and would guard her secrets; they might be the only thing still keeping her alive. That, and the misconception that they believed her to be a noble, which she would address at some point, also as vaguely as possible. No point in throwing away power they were willing to give.


She jotted down under a line for the Hinterlands a few things; the elven widow, because damn Thedas to hell if she wasn't gonna make sure that widow got her vengeance, Tyrdda's axe, the room in Redcliffe with the poor tranquil skulls, ect. If she was to be here for an undisclosed amount of time, she was going to do her best to right a few wrongs along the way. Social justice and all that jazz. She had made a few other lines and the sun was beginning to dip when a knock drew her attention from trying to remember what happened in the Hissing Wastes.


She glanced up briefly and mentally prepared herself as Leliana entered. Alone. “Perfect. Just who I wanted to speak to. I-" she stilled as the blade was pressed against her throat swallowing the surprise in a muffled grunt. She breathed as calmly as she could even though she knew it trembled, forcing her eyes to stay locked on the calculating blue ones in front of her. “I didn't take you as one so wasteful in any timeline, Sister."


“Do you really believe yourself so valuable?”


“I was taking about the dress.” Jess smirked at the little betrayal of surprise exposed before continuing, “It would be a shame to bloody a perfectly good dress that someone else can use. Is the Inquisition so well off?” A soft scoff barely perceivable except for the fact that they stood so close escaped the spymaster. “You don't scare easily.”


“I happen to scare as easily as the next person Nightingale. I also happen to choose to not let it rule me.” There was a moment of nothing, and then Leliana moved back and replaced the blade into a slit somewhere on her person, just so happening to look down. “You wrote more,” she noted.


“I did. Though I’m less inclined to share.” Jess turned her back while rubbing the side of her neck, the cold metal still leaving a ghostly chill. Stepping to the window to put some distance between the two of them while her heart stopped its thunderous staccato, she listened for footfalls. It was stupid of her to let her guard down, and she would strive not to repeat that mistake.


She knew Leliana was probably trying to decipher her work, but her cursive was so looped, people could barely read it on earth. How much less then in another world. “I'm not familiar with this language," she finally said and Jess simply hummed in acknowledgement that she heard. "Unsurprising, really." She put on a show of pacing, though not really a show as she was actually trying to think of a course of action to win her some favor. “Have you your assurance that I’m not possessed, then? Or should I expect a few more attacks?" She shot a glance over at her, noticing the small creases in the corner of her now mirthful eyes. She’s trying not to smirk! I may win her over yet…yeah right.  


“I know your all very busy but if you could bring Lady Josephine in? There's a few logistics I’d like to go over. There's also-" Her stomach decided in that moment to roar in protest at being ignored so long. There was a moment of silence before she cleared her throat with a small ‘excuse me’. Leliana actually smiled now before turning for the door. “I'll inform Josie of your request and ensure something is brought for you."


“That's very much appreciated. Thank you.” The door was barely closed before she gritted her teeth and glared at her stomach. Are you fucking serious!? You have enough meat on you to go two weeks without eating! She touched a hand to the side of her neck again looking at her fingers for a possible speck of blood.. That had been close. Too close. Blowing an errant curl from her face, she paced the room, being careful not to smudge her outline.


First things first, she would orient herself. While the timeline was not exactly as big an issue as she had made it seem, she still didn't want to be left out of major events. There was the smallest knock and an elf zoomed in with a tray, placing it on a table with one chair in an alcove she hadn't even noticed. “Thank you” she murmured, nearly breaking when the elf looked up in shock before bowing and running out.
The smell of heavily spiced stew lured her over and she sat down quickly at the sight of bread and cheese beside it. Oh Yes! Carbs.


The door opened again and the three advisors waltzed in. Seriously, she's going to test me with food? Without the least bit of hesitation she quickly pushed in her chair and greeted them with a small dip of her head. “Thank you for coming. I know your very busy but I didn't want the unpleasantness of the three of you trying to shoo me out of the war room when trying to speak to you there.”


Cullen spared a glance at Leliana as Josie, tactful as ever answered, “We appreciate your concern and thoughtfulness.” Jess gave a small smile before tilting her head to Cullen. “I was expecting the spymaster and the Ambassador. I was not expecting you to be lured away from the training of your soldiers.” He bristled and answered, “anything to help my men is worth my attention.”


Jessabelle straightened with her hands laced behind her back. “Is that so? I must wonder if this care extends to mages. Are you comfortable taking orders from an elf, that's a mage no less?” She held up her hand halting either woman from speaking when she heard the shocked intake of breath.


Cullen's angry face had her slowly shifting her feet. She was no fighter by nature, but no woman should be without some form of self defense, even if it that defense meant running. “The Herald has my full support and trust.”
“That's not what I asked but it's good to know. I wouldn't serve in an organization that allowed its commander to rape and abuse its charges.”


He looked like he had been slapped, all the anger transformed into shock and horror. “I would never! I-I you have seen this?” She dropped her gaze while pursing her lips, thinking of the fan works with a dark!Cullen and how they shook her. There was a surreal edge to it. A good man by most standards, whose bias and cruelty was accepted because it was the status quo ; it was too muck like home. “You were- you never healed from-" she sighed and wrung her hands pacing. She bit her bottom lip before dropping gracefully to her knees in front of him and placing her forehead to the floor. “I'm sorry for questioning your honor Commander. I have many biases that I need to sort before I can be of help and…I have no excuse. This is twice I've blamed you for my issues when you didn't deserve it.”


His boots shifted before she heard a soft “Maker’s breath. Please get up.” She peeked up, unsure and startled at his outstretched hand. Accepting the gesture she immediately took a few steps back once she was standing. “Your far kinder than me to extend a hand after I so thoroughly insulted you. It speaks volumes of a good character to go with your good looks.”


She turned to the women just as he blushed and rubbed the nape of his neck. “After that shameful display, I hope you'll still be willing to lend an ear to my concerns? ”


Leliana motioned with her hands to continue and Josie held her pen waiting. “I have mulled over this and I think I may have found a way to help the Inquisition. It gives me the opportunity to prove my intentions through actions that I can't otherwise voice.”
With a sweep of her hand she motioned to the floor. “When the Herald returns to the Hinterlands, there are a few things he can focus on to aid him. I’ve determined these are significant enough to warrant the time it takes to do so and still not leave a massive ripple in the timeline while I research.”


She waited to see if they would object before continuing. “If I had arrived before the trip to Val Royeaux I would've warned you to not bother going so soon. The Chantry was never going to see past the Herald's ears, much less his magic.” She stuck up her nose and in her best French accent mimicked, “the Maker would send no elf in our time of need!” Unable to control her eye roll earned her a small smile from Cullen. She felt her cheeks pink and cleared her throat. “Moving on. The people in the Crossroads and Redcliffe however? They are worth more than you realize in terms of support. Also there is the legend; Tyrdda's Bright Axe that he may wish to explore. That weapon will also be worth the trouble. Follow this advice if you choose to, it's not a prerequisite for any future information. This is just a show of my goodwill.


On a more direct way of helping; I have mentioned my home's knowledge of medicine. While I myself am a…muscular therapist, there's other things I would like to share some with your healers. While Thedas does have magic, I can't imagine a lot of mages will willingly show themselves as such during these times. These simple yet crucial non magical skills could drastically increase a patient's survival rate. Anyone with sufficient training already may be able to save someone's life or limb.”


“And help those with an aversion to magic,” Leliana added. Jess knew she failed the test as soon as her mouth pursed. She knows I’m sympathetic to mages. Oh well, she would've said it herself sooner or later. She ignored the look of glee in the spymasters eyes at outsmarting her and extended a hand to Josephine.


“Lady Ambassador. This next piece of information I believe might benefit you most of all. I understand the Inquisition may have some trouble with funding at the moment.” Josephine stilled in her scribbling. “That does seem to be the case,” she noted nonchalantly as if it wasn't a true concern.


Jess ignored the urge to call out her bluff. “I have several ideas to bring in revenue, but I'll need a few days to prepare the outlines before presenting you with them. In the meantime I'll need an allowance for some paper and writing equipment. You can continue to hold the jewelry you've removed from my person while I was asleep as collateral.”


It took all her power not to smile wildly at the sudden stiffness in all three of them. “We were trying to find the origin of the craftsmanship,” Leliana explained just as Josie was entering an apology and Cullen was just ensuring they were not enchanted. She fanned her hand.


“I understand your caution. The Herald must succeed and you can't afford to underestimate the enemy. I just hope you realize sooner rather later that I’m not against you. But since we're on the topic. I have to explore the sight where I came through for clues and I know your not going to let me wander through Haven alone and unsupervised. I was hoping one your spies would be available.”


Before Leliana could speak, Cullen answered, “I already have a Templar stationed outside your door." Jess leveled him with a stare that made him shift. “Of course you do.” It came out with more annoyance than she wanted to share; “the problem is I’m not used to being followed by something that sounds like the whole kitchen cutlery is following me. I’d prefer something a bit more subtle, and I don't want the locals thinking I’m a prisoner being paraded around. I have very little training in combat and I plan to keep it that way. I’m a healer and have no desire to train my hands for death.”


“You can't be left defenseless,” he immediately argued. She smiled coyly and put a hand to her head. “Why Commander, are you offering to protect me personally?” His stuttering was adorable as he fumbled for words. “I’m teasing,” Jess laughed mirthfully, letting him off the hook. She became serious and looked back at Leliana.
“I was hoping to come to an agreement.”


“And what would that be?”


“I understand and completely approve if not insist on a shadow for my own safety as well as your peace of mind. I simply ask to know the name of my observer for the day.”


Leliana was now the one to purse her lips. “I cannot agree to that.”


“A compromise then. I'll give you a name to use and you can tell it to your agent." She frowned and shifted her hips, hands behind her back. “To what purpose may I ask?”


Jess made a small resigned noise and pushed her hair up off her neck thinking. She barely caught Cullen quickly looking away before dropping her arms. Whoops. Tight dress, arms up, and hello cleavage! Biting her bottom lips and wringing her hands, she answered somewhat haltingly. “Its really quite foolish now that I think on it.”


Leliana smiled softly in what Jess assumed was meant to make someone feel a little more comfortable. It had the opposite effect on her. “All the same, I'd like to hear it. Maybe it's a compromise I can meet.”


She paced before exhaling heavily. The truth. As best as you can say. “Where I come from, it's very easy to misunderstand someone's intentions. There have been moments when I was stuck in conversation with a man and out of nowhere a highly inappropriate comment was said. A slightly threatening phrase or gestures with no warning that I'd have to skirt around. I have no knowledge of how to circumvent a situation like that here. If I feel in danger I would like to say something that would let the agent know something might be wrong. An example…I give you the word 'star gazer' for the day. A situation occurs so I say something like, ‘how interesting but I’d rather be a star gazer right now’. Your agent now knows something is up and can listen in or act if necessary. In this manner I can do my research in peace and safety.”


Both Cullen and Josie looked at Leliana. “That is actually very useful,” she mused, “and I believe it’s a compromise we can agree on.” Josie scribbled furiously while Cullen looked rather put out.


“Does this plan offend you,” she asked him curiously. His hand went to his neck but there was no blush. “I'm offended that such a thing is necessary or that you were put in such situations to warrant this.”
Her surprise must have been evident as he straightened to his full height, causing her to look up. Jesus he must be 6 feet tall. Her brain stuttered at the fierce protectiveness in his amber eyes. “If any one of my men give you trouble, inform me at once, my lady.”


“Of course, Commander.” What else could she say? She blinked and broke her gaze from them, tongue caught in a suddenly too dry mouth.


“I'll inform my agents now in case you wish to leave,” Leliana gave her a knowing smile following Cullen to the door. Jess glanced up confused. “Are we using star gazer then?”
“Until it's necessary to change it. Good evening, Lady Jessabelle.” She stood there for several minutes before returning to her now cold stew, though she hardly noticed with how hot her cheeks were.

Chapter Text

While the day had progressed as well as one could hope displaced to another time and world, she could not find herself pleased enough to sleep. The room wasn't dark even without lighting the candles; the light of the breach, the moons, and the fires in Haven painted the walls with different sickly colors. Jessabelle paced, looking at the boots and cloak that were brought in hours ago. With a sigh of defeat she snatched them from the chair and put them on angrily. The boots were a bit big and she carefully laced them for extra support around the ankle until it was tied just under her knees. She smoothed the cloak and pulled up the hood, then thought better of it and let it fall back.


Drawing in a breath for courage, she walked out of the room into an antechamber. Immediately she realized the Chantry was far larger in real life. She walked like one about to enter a duel; eyes fixed forward but still taking in everything. Just think murder, she quoted with a small lift at the corner of her mouth. Candles lined the walled and alcoves throwing her shadow into strange reliefs that kept her adrenaline up. With a hard push of her shoulder she shrugged opened the Chantry door and steeled herself as the cold slapped her. Hard.


She let the door close behind her and stared at the flickering torches. This was not a small hamlet, this was a town. And farther off were tents with evenly spaced braziers in between. Luckily the streets were well worn and for the most part followed the layout of the game, so she strode forward toward the tents and more importantly behind them, to the lake. Hands inside the cloak clenched into fists as shadows moved in the spaces between the buildings, but no came out; no one approached even though she felt she was watched. Descending the first staircase she paused at the sight of Varric's campfire, since she needed to speak with him. He wasn't there however so she continued, slightly disappointed.


A few soldiers gave her strange looks but either her face was enough of a deterrent or her short five foot three inch stature didn't warrant as much of a threat. She got to the gates and took a moment to plan out the quickest route with the least resistance through the soldiers 'barracks'. She skirted to the left stopping to stare at the now quiet smithy and noticed there was a stable on the far end of the building, the smell pleasantly familiar. That quickly brought a wave of despair as she thought about the rolling pastures she would drive by filled with either horses or cattle or some other farm animal back home. Her pace quickened to free her nose of the scent and was thankful when the sting of the wind was no longer punctuated with it.


The tents on her right held soft snoring and a few soldiers walked and warmed themselves on the other side. The longer she watched, the more she almost wished she had walked that side to warm herself as well. Florida blood did not hold up to the cold well. Finally, finally she reached the lakes edge and stared at it. There was no rift above; it obviously would've been sealed the moment it was spotted, but she still stared. The lake was still scarred with cracks. She wondered if they would have resealed already and took one step forward.


"I wouldn't do that if I were you." She jumped but didn't turn at the brogue accent. "Its a good thing your not me then." The soft chuckle brought a smirk to her lips as well. The Herald stood beside her and mimicked her posture, staring ahead. He stood several inches taller than her, her eyes reaching his jawline which she followed to the tapered ear. "If it helps, I don't want to be me either," he offered watching her from the corner of his eye.


"You mock me, you're practically untouchable.You can do what you want and the world will follow."
"Would you?"
"No. But I'm not from your world." He smirked and turned to her. "So I have no power over you."


Jess barked out a laugh with an eyebrow raise. "The only power a man has over me is what I'm willing to give to him and nothing more. Are you the type of man to take what's not willingly offered, Herald of Andraste?" His eyebrows raised but it was the chuckling behind them that finally made her turn. The Iron Bull and Varric were walking up.


"Watch out for this one, Boss. She seems to got some fire to her," the Qunari laughed. Varric shook his head with a smile. "I think you should take your own advice Tiny." She turned to the dwarf with an owlish stare. "Surely that chest hair can't be that warm," she queried staring at his open coat. His eyes lit up, clearly pleased with her joke. "Would you like to run your hand down and see?"

 

She knew, knew he was joking but she still lowered her gaze with a head shake. "Hmm...tempting but no. I'll assume all the rumors are true. I don't think I could bear the thought of stopping if its as soft as they say." She cleared her throat at his laugh and looked back out at the lake, the three men now joining her at its edge. "It's hard to believe I came from another world and landed right there. But there's nothing there now. Nothing at all." The last part was whispered, as if saying it too loud would seal her fate here. It might already be. 


"If there's a way to get you back home, we'll find it." She looked at the Herald a bit surprised. "Thank you, it means a lot to me to hear that," she answered, really feeling sincere gratitude that he felt it necessary to comfort her. She pursed her lips studying him. The roguish grin answered more than her questions could ever ask. Oh yeah, this one's a flirt. "What? Something on my face? Oh well...I suppose there actually is." She laughed delighted at his joke, especially since vallaslin was so important to his culture. She pushed her hair from her face with a chuckle. "No. I was just realizing no one told me whether you preferred Herald or Lavellan or," she waited for him to fill in the blank. "Lycus," he smiled infinitely pleased with her question. She flinched and immediately regretted it when his smile disappeared.


"You've heard that name before, was it in a vision," Bull prompted moving closer. Her hand rose of its own accord and struck him in the stomach. She doubted she would've been able to stop him, especially with one hand but he froze instantly mid-step. "You do not get to crowd me. I will not be intimidated ever again."
"Again? What the hell did you do to her, Tiny," Varric questioned looking at Bull curiously. The blood drained from her already cold face but she rose her head to meet Bull's eye. "Move back Ser. Now." He nodded with a head dip and took a full step back, hands up in surrender. Her hand stayed in that raised position a few seconds longer before letting it drop to her side, flexing her cold fingers. She turned back to Lycus and smiled apologetically. "I'm surprised by your name that's all. It holds an interesting meaning in my world that if your clan was aware of, I doubt they would've allowed it."


He cocked his head and she watched the long black braid fall over his shoulder. Much prettier than most of the option choices. She reached for it and pulled her hand back as if burned. "I am. So. Sorry." He smiled and took her hand before dropping his gaze. "You're as cold as ice!" She looked at her hand perplexed, pulling it from him. "I fell through ice. I can assure you, this is nowhere close to that."


"All the same, lets head back to the tavern," Bull moved aside to let her lead but she didn't take the offer. "I actually have more to study. I just needed to see where I entered Thedas. I have to acquaint myself with this world's history and I need to talk with you specifically Varric, but not tonight. Another time perhaps."


"Aw c'mon Rosy, the tavern's a perfect place to get acquainted with Thedas. The best information is there, sure slurred and sloppy, possibly smelling of piss and some other body fluids, but its there."
"She looks tired, Varric." She looked up at Bull wide eyed before nodding and rubbing her forehead. "It has been a trying day," she agreed walking briskly.

"Lady Jess," she looked over her shoulder at Lycus waiting. "The name?"
What name? Oh, right. She smirked and stated almost in a sing song voice, "Lycus means 'wolf' in Greek, a language in my world." She laughed at the sudden horror in his face before he swore in what had to be elven, which sounded amazing in his accent. "Of course this mark would happen to me!" She smiled all the way up to the Chantry door until she remembered that Varric had called her Rosy. What the hell is that about?

Chapter Text

The murmurs of the Chant had her throwing herself from the bed in a confused mess on the floor. Bleary eyed she glanced at the window and groaned, the glow of the breach sat prettily in a pale gray sky. Pushing herself into kneeling, she laced her hands and closed her eyes, her hair a curtain for the intruding reality. She was still in Thedas. This was real and she was stuck. The Lord's prayer slipped into her mind and she allowed the words to flow barely above a whisper from her mouth. Why not? I could use the friend right now.


The door flung open with a loud bang and she squeezed her shoulders closer together, waiting. "Oh! I-," She lifted her head to see Cassandra hastily trying to close the door as quietly as possible. She waited until the door was closed before finishing her prayer, being sure to apologize for the interruption even though she was sure it wasn't necessary. Bathing with the left over cold water, she pulled the dress back on and smoothed out the front, donning the cloak and boots.


She stared at the door, debating on how to handle the question that would eventually come. Ugh, worry when it comes, Jess. She opened the door and stared blankly at Cassandra who straightened at the sound. Or now.
"I must apologize. The templar heard a noise and was worried."


"Of course," she answered stiffly, trying to swiftly change the subject before it happened. "I have to meet with Lady Josephine. The Herald is going to need as much help as I can provide and I need information." Cassandra immediately went into warrior mode and motioned with her hand to follow.


"What information do you need that you don't already have?" The accusation or skepticism laced the words enough for Jess to roll her eyes. "Specifics, Lady Seeker. Has the Herald answered the needs of the people at the Crossroads. Is the Hero of Ferelden dead. Is Alistair the King. Is it possible for Sister Leliana to contact Zevran Araini. Has any more red lyrium deposits been found. If not, know that there will be. Logistics, completed tasks, accepted allies. Things necessary for making sound decisions without being brash."

 

Cassandra paused at that before pointing at a door. "The Ambassador is in her office."


"To work then," Jess answered strolling forward with her 'all business' walk. She knocked and waited, smiling at the lovely and polite 'enter'. Josie stood immediately and rounded her desk with a swan's grace, politely dipping her head. "Ah Lady Jessabelle, good morning. Have you broken your fast yet?"


She had expected to go straight into her requests, breath inhaled and so ready to spout her demands, that the question took her completely by surprise. She clicked her slightly open mouth shut with a shake of her head. "Perfect. I'll have something brought. Do you enjoy tea?"


"Very much, but I am more of a coffee drinker." Josie blinked almost flustered before composing herself. "I am sorry to inform you it has been a little difficult to get a shipment so far into the mountains."


"No matter, I believe a warm tea is more suited to the crisp mountain air anyway," she quickly amended, following her to a tea set by a pair of high backed chairs. Coffee must be super expensive here. She watched the two cups being poured, trying to figure out how to approach Josie now that she seemed a little more stiff and proper, if that was even possible. She paused and realized that Josie was waiting for her so she took the cup and saucer, relieved when her companion did the same.


"I seem to have put you on edge Lady Ambassador. Please excuse me. I was hoping you could inform me of proper Thedosian etiquette in the coming days so I can avoid such things with less understanding people."


Josie tittered and fanned her hand. "But you mock me Lady Jessabelle. Your manners are impeccable as is. What more could I possibly teach you?" She pursed her lips to keep from scowling. Good Lord, I'm honestly going to have to play the Game. Here we go. "It's pleasing to know some things are universal, no matter the dimensions. The Inquisition is in good hands."


"It's pleasing to hear you say so," Josie offered with a too sweet smile. Of course she didn't take the praise, your playing with a pro! She took a sip of the tea, happy with the citrusy notes. There was no doubt this tea was saved for visiting nobles. She put the cup and saucer down and exhaled. Josie mimicked the motion and made a show of giving her full attention. "The Herald is going to need something for the noble's to look at other than his mark and his ears."


Josie pursed her lips and carefully asked, "Have you overheard something that has drawn this conclusion?" Jess frowned and leaned back into the chair crossing her arms, letting her annoyance at ignoring the elephant in the room show. She sighed and nodded. "We have considered this as well Lady Jessabelle, though we are open to any suggestion you may have." Oh my God, this evasiveness is going to kill me...or I'll kill someone.


She lifted her cup again and made a small hum of approval at the taste, more for Josie's benefit. "I am curious," she started looking into the cup and stirring the liquid with small controlled flicks of her wrist, "at what the worth of the rings you've taken from me are in this world." Easy killer. While she doubted someone would be able to replicate the soft filigree design on one of them, this place had completely different stones. Hers might be rather worthless and no more than costume jewelry.


Josie immediately rose to her desk and took out a beautiful deep blue box, bringing it over to her. She handed the box delicately over and Jess took it with same care while removing the top. Her three rings, her silver toe ring and her two anklets which she didn't even notice were missing, rested on a velvet fabric. "Please forgive me for taking so long to return them. The craftsmanship is unmatched, and could not be traced to any known jewelers."


"No. I imagine it couldn't," she murmured absently, letting her fingers trace the marquise fire opal lovingly. "Lady Josephine, I need to know, with no trace of hidden motive," she held up the emerald with three little diamonds on either side, "Is this worth anything here? I will not take from the Inquisition funds what I myself can provide by selling my-,"


"Absolutely not!" Both women froze at the outburst before Josie put her hand over the offered ring and pushed it towards Jess' chest. "These are priceless Lady Jessabelle. The favor we can curry if a noble saw them and asked for the craftsman? They would fall head over heels to try and obtain one. The rumor is worth more than the coin they could bring in." She paused as a servant came in with a large tray of food.


Jess took the cue and waited until they were alone again. "I cannot make jewelry Lady Montilyet."


"That does not matter. So long as you have it, we can use it as being in touch with someone who can."


"I make clothing." Josie looked up surprised. "Your a seamstress? I was under the impression you were a healer."


"For fun."


"For fun?" Jess smiled and tipped her head. "I'm a, well...was a muscle healer by trade, a seamstress for fun. Along with some other things."
"Such as? Oh, but look at me. Let us enjoy our meal, yes?" Jess carefully filled her plate with a small piece of bread, cheese, and a few things that looked like cranberries. She purposefully ignored the meat, eggs, and small tureen of stew. Josie noticed but said nothing. The stew from last night had turned her stomach and her chamber pot, and oh! how she had to convince herself to use it, was filled with the evidence of such. Apparently it would take her bowels a while to get used to unpasteurized food. Maybe she was a pampered brat after all.


She ate in silence, mulling over how and what she wanted to present. Finally finished, she poured herself another cup of tea and offered to fill Josie's as well. When the meal was removed, they both sat in silence sipping. Finally prepared, she placed the cup back down and smiled at how Josie was already moving to grab her board.
"I feel you have questions. I'll be happy to answer what I can."


"Yes. You had mentioned there were other things you enjoyed. Would you care to specify." Jess nodded and stood cracking her neck with a small groan. "I enjoy sewing and embroidering, its very calming to me. I also enjoy painting though I'm no Rembrandt. Oh well, he's a famous painter who excelled in portraits and lighting. I myself enjoy watercolor landscapes. They're not good enough to sell but I'm familiar with art, enough to carry on a conversation."


She sat and explained her love of hiking and camping, along with other habits. She spent almost till noon explaining what a massage therapist was, and how she focused on scar tissue and repetitive motion injuries. By the time lunch was served, she had opened up enough to smile more freely around her.


"I must say this is unexpected, Lady Jessabelle. The nobility of Thedas certainly do not do most of those things."


"I'm sure the nobility also doesn't prostrate themselves to a Commander when they feel they've insulted someone. My integrity is more important to me than saving face."


Josie smiled and nodded. "Your are very unique in more than one way. Which brings me to a rather sensitive subject." She stiffened but motioned with her hand for her to continue. "We must try and find an origin for you. As it is, many of those who saw you fall from the rift are afraid."


"Whatever you choose," she answered easily, shrugging. "If you want to call me a Rivaini seer, or a foreign dignitary from across the Boeric Ocean or what have you, just let me know what you decide. Also know that I will not be manipulated into doing something I don't want to do. I'm willing to help as wholly as I can while here, but I am my own woman, and always will be."


"Of course Lady Jessabelle. I appreciate your level of flexibility. I will have a few things sent to your room and will try to locate the rest we don't have already at Haven." She scribbled away and Jess bowed, understanding this was a dismissal. She left the Chantry and wandered towards where Varric stayed, relieved to see him regaling a soldier with a story. She stood a ways behind him, hands laced and waited smiling. The story must've been about to get raunchy as the soldier suddenly stiffened noticing her and saluted, making a hasty exit.


Varric turned and grinned cheekily. "Rosy! I didn't see you there. Finally escaped the interrogations huh?" Her shoulders dropped on reflex at his casual cadence and she pulled her cloak closer sitting on a log, hoping to stave off the cold. "Why don't we go to the tavern," he offered thumbing down the street. She tensed up and he moved closer. "You okay?" He searched her face far too intently and she flicked her curls back, wincing as it caught on her cloak.


"I don't have any coin yet," she lied. And of course he saw right through it. "Uh huh. Well I can cover ya, I am offering after all. Wouldn't do to have my reputation tarnished by having a Lady pay." She laughed at that and pressed her lips together to try and stop. "No, that wouldn't do at all. Master Varric Tethras, dashing Rogue and storyteller, unwelcome tagalong, and stingy date." He grabbed his chest as if struck by an arrow and she laughed again standing. "You wound me!"


"I doubt my words could penetrate that wall of golden hair, Varric. But I'm freezing, so I'll accept." He held his hand out which she took just for the novelty of it. The Tavern was larger, like everything else, but it also had a tent linked to the side door, probably to house all the soldiers when their shifts ended. They got a table inside near the fire and she draped her cloak over the back of the chair to warm it.


He watched before flagging down Flissa and ordering them drinks. "So, Pathwalker huh?" She stopped observing the men at the counter and looked at him with an eyebrow raised. "Yes. But if you've called me here to drill me about home, I'll take my leave." She stood and his hand instantly went over hers on the table. " Easy Rosy. I just wanna know how your holding up. It can't be easy, being so far from home. Any family?" Her mouth pursed as she tried to keep her face neutral, sliding back down. Leave it to Varric to hit where it hurt the most without knowing.


"I don't want to be here. I keep hoping to wake up," she admitted raising her eyes to his and looking for judgement. She didn't find it. And he thankfully didn't press her as she dodged his question. "Hell of course you do, Rosy. Kirkwall's a shithole, but its my shithole; its still home to me. Even with all the destruction," He took the mugs from Flissa and handed her one. She stirred the amber liquid and nodded. "I'm sure the Singing Maiden is nothing compared to the Hanged Man."


"I heard that!" Jess quickly ducked her head and took a pull of the ale, almost spitting it back out. He of course, laughed. "Oh my god, oh my God, this is," she paused and looked at Flissa who was standing by the counter waiting, "So refreshing!" She grimaced and took a much smaller sip. Varric smiled and nodded approvingly at her attempt, as terrible as it was. She turned the mug and looked at him, studying the nuances in his face. He had a dusting of freckles she had never noticed in the game. Were they in the game? It didn't matter, he had them now and it was cute.


"Varric I need your help. I know its a little soon for me to ask but I'm hoping you listen and at least point me in the right direction." He shrugged nonchalantly, though he had moved the chair a little closer with that shoulder shrug. "Can't hurt to hear you out. I've seen and heard some crazy shit already." She smirked at that. She moved her chair closer to him and he immediately leaned forward for the gossip.


"Have you ever heard of Black Jack?" He scratched his head thinking. "Don't think I have. Why? Is he looking for you?" She smiled at his sudden protective stance and took a sip without making a face. "No, but how would you like to help me make some coin, legally, and you take some for your troubles." His eyes lit up as she explained the premises of Black Jack and Poker, and even Solitaire for when there's no one to play with. He asked questions all the while his fingers moved as if he was writing it all down.


"And all you need is fifty two cards."


"And the numerals of this world. I can draw the symbols. Think you can sell the idea?"
"Rosy, I can do more than that! A new way to rob people of their coin? Sailors are gonna love this!" She smiled and leaned back. "Good. Hopefully this can fund the Inquisition while I gather the other things I-Varric? Why do you keep calling me Rosy?"


"Hmm? Oh you know, you're all smiles and rosy cheeks." She looked at him flatly and he laughed fanning her off. "Okay okay. You caught me. It's just not often someone with Rivaini skin can blush as deep as you."
"Absolutely not! You pick a new name right now Varric Tethras or so help me, I'll drag you through the streets by your britches!"


"I would pay to see that." She startled and looked up at Lycus behind her. "Lord Lycus, I'm sorry I didn't see you there or I would've greeted you properly." He slid into a chair beside Varric and shrugged. "That's the point of me approaching from behind Lady Jess."


"Lord Lycus," Varric questioned with a sly grin. She scoffed at him before looking back at the Herald. "I imagine being seen as a title and not a person can get rather trying. Excuse me for being presumptuous." She leaned forward more and whispered, "but it pleases me to call an elf a lord around humans. I would love for one of them to say otherwise."


The look of awe on Lycus' face and the laugh from Varric made her throw back her head and cackle. She leaned back and blinked a few times, staring at her empty cup. "Not a drinker," Varric observed.


"No. Never actually. 'Be alert and of sober mind. For your enemy prowls like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour'." They both looked at each other confused. She scowled and pushed herself to standing, gasping when the room spun. Lycus quickly stood and took her hand placing it on his forearm. "Walk with me, Lady Jess." She forced a smile and nodded, allowing him to take her weight. She realized then there were several mugs on the table. "Varric you weasel! You were getting me drunk!" He laughed and threw his hands up innocent. "You kept knocking them back!" Lycus exhaled loudly and with a smile and guided her out.


He walked with her towards the apothecary and she stiffened at the thought of seeing Solas when she wasn't at her quickest, and he was already watching from the top of the small staircase. "Peace, Lady Jess. I won't harm you. I won't ask for what your not willing to give." She pouted and gave an exasperated sigh, looking at him.
"Really, m'Lord? Your going to use my words against me?"


"It seemed the best course of action against a woman who has made her mind clear. Here, a sign of good intent." He turned and raised his hands slowly, allowing her time to move away if she wished. Her body reacted and her left hand grasped his right wrist when it neared her head. She blinked dumbfounded at how her fingertips barely met. I thought elves were supposed to be slimmer. "Please tell me what you intend," she asked bringing her eyes back to his.


"A rejuvenation spell to help with your head." She released his wrist slowly and took a step back. "I don't know how magic will affect me. I've never even seen magic truth be told."


"I can assure you, magic is not inherently evil." She turned to watch Solas approach slowly, hands laced behind his back. She dipped into a low bow, startling them both. Ah, to surprise a demigod.  "You misunderstand. I love the idea of magic. But I'm afraid my body will respond poorly." She rose with a wobble and Lycus gently caught her elbow to balance her. "Food and drink aren't sitting well with me as is."


"Is there truly no magic on Earth," Solas asked studying her face as she shook her head sadly. He raised his hand and produced a flame. Jess gasped and jumped, both hands covering her mouth. She moved a step closer and watched completely enraptured. "How..this is," she extended a hand and pulled it back with a laugh of excitement. "It's hot!" She shook her hands out, biting her lip. "Do more. What else can you conjure?"


"I didn't 'conjure' it, Lady Jessabelle. No spirits were asked to do it. I called it from my own body using the Fade." She nodded smiling, and then shook her head confused. "Wait what? So its a...a manifestation from within your body. The elements are in you and you push them out into the waking world?" His head inclined to the side as he processed her words. "That's an interesting observation, but ultimately incorrect." Of course it is.


Lycus looked at them and extended his own hand, forming a pillar of ice. She jumped and giggled and both men fell into soft smiles at her glee. She took it carefully and then handed it back. "No, no. This doesn't make sense. This comes from somewhere. You say the Fade but that would mean the Fade is ever present; and if the Fade is ever present anyway, then the Veil would be a meaningless barrier. No, but that's not right either because the breach and rifts prove its rather integral."


Solas' lips parted slightly and she stepped closer before he could speak and motioned to his hand. "Do it again. As slowly as you can. I want to see." She lowered herself until she was eye level with his hand. She watched the ripple of the heat just before the flame erupted. "How? Why doesn't it burn you?" She winced at the headache forming and rubbed a hand over her brow. Lycus held up an hand again with a smile. "I can help you with that."


"I can assure your safety Lady Jessabelle," Solas added. "I will nullify the magic if something looks wrong." She bit her lip staring at the offered hand before nodding. "I will hold you both responsible if my brain fries." Lycus laughed and gently brought both hands to her temples, touching her skin with only his cool fingertips. She stared at his eyes and studied the markings on his face before realizing it was June's simplified vallislin. Her favorite.


The sensation was slow, like a thick cool syrup being poured on her forehead before shooting down her, stealing her breath. She gasped for air and fell back, choking under a thick blanket of cold honey. Solas caught her and lowered her to his knee, passing his hand over her face frowning. He said something to Lycus, his voice coming from under water before his hand covered her eyes and the sensation ebbed away as she fell into a merciful sleep.

Chapter Text

She sat with her legs dangling off the rock into the cold spring, the Florida sun already warming her chilled skin. She stared as the turquoise blue water in front of her bubbled up from the boil in the cave below, while also watching the foliage to the left as it rippled every now and then. She hoped it was a river otter, but an alligator would be fine too; she was far enough away to get out of harms way if she needed to. She tilted her head to the sound of someone calling from behind her, where picnic area was. A small frown creased her forehead before it faded and she looked back ahead. A gray heron flew low over the water until it landed a distance away.


She frowned and leaned her head back again at someone calling...Was that her name? Wait...did she come here by herself or with someone? "Yeah?" She heard it again. It was definitely her name, still rather far off.

"YEAH?"


"There you are," She spooked and turned to look at Solas. He looked around curiously before stepping into the water, jolting a bit at the frigid temperature. She laughed and turned back to the spring. "Yeah, it shocks everyone the first time." Something prickled her mind but she ignored it as he moved closer. She scoffed looking at his soaked pants and rolled up sleeves. "I hope you brought a change of clothes. Your not getting in my car soaking wet." Her brow knitted as she tried to remember something and looked at him confused. "Did...you come in my car?"


Instead of answering he was studying the scenery. "I haven't seen any gators yet," she offered trying to figure out his caution. He glanced at her taking in her black bikini with an eyebrow raise. Rude much? His eyes quickly averted away as if he heard her thought and questioned, "Gators?" She hummed nodding. As if called, the cattails parted and a massive flat head emerged. "Oh shit," she stood quickly and backed up until the water was to her shins.


"Fascinating. A water dragon." She scoffed shaking her head. "What? No, no. Alligators and crocodiles are like...well... yeah I can see where the similarity might be seen, but there dinosaurs not dragons...anyway. They're awesome. Perfectly unchanged for millennia." He looked at her now. "You admire them," he noted amused. "Of course I do, I love all animals." He was silent thinking before prompting, "Such as?"


She laughed and raised her hands. "Everything. I love cats, the bigger the better. I love dogs, same rules apply, the bigger the better. I love lizards and their funny little toes, and I love to hear the frogs sing at night by the roadside. And..." She stopped as the spring suddenly had a jaguar walking along the edge that the gator had been at and a Tibetan mastiff on the opposite side, closer to them. The night chorus of the frogs near her house punctuated the air.


She looked at him narrowed eyed and he had either the good sense to look ashamed or he was actually cowed. "Get. Out."


"I must apologize-"
"Get out Solas. You are not welcome in my mind." He sighed and stood straighter. "I'm sorry Lady Jessabelle, but you must," he leaned forward and said firmly, "Wake up." His shock was unbelievably satisfying when she simply crossed her arms. She gave him a feral smile and her bathing suit transformed to hard armor, spreading out and encompassing her whole body. He inhaled and took a step back as she extended her hand towards him. "Never met a lucid dreamer then?" He opened his mouth and she 'forced' him to leave, picturing the portal open behind him and yank him out before snapping shut. She stood there with her hand extended before seeing the red and white stripe down her right arm and laughed. Of course she would call forth Commander Shepard's N7 armor. But if Solas was trying to wake her in her own dream....

 

She gasped and thrashed trying fight off the heavy weight on her limbs. "Easy! Peace Lady Jessabelle!" There was a strange moment of blindness until she was able to blink his face into view. He immediately let go of her arms and stepped back. She pushed her mop from her face, grimacing when her fingers tangled and looked around at the cozy hut. "What happened?"


He lowered his gaze and sat back in the chair. "I am so sorry, you don' handle magic very well. I shoulda listened to you. You been out for hours." She noted his accent got heavier the more emotional he was. Wait...


"Hours?" She sat up and moved the rough spun blanket back. "My lord, where are we?" He looked up and motioned towards the door. "In Solas' home. It wouldn' do well for two elves ta be carrying a noble woman between them into the Chantry. He jus' heard something outside."
She let out a small nervous laugh nodding. "No, that would definitely not bode well." She stopped, listening to the ruckus outside getting louder. Lycus stood and she saw a soft shimmer flow over him as he turned to face the door.


It flew open with a bang and Cassandra entered looking around, and Solas looking thoroughly annoyed behind her. "What happened," she ordered striding over. "I fainted," Jess answered before Lycus could speak.
"You fainted?"


"I drank a few ales which I never do, but this has been rather a trying experience for me, you understand. And I stood to leave and L- the Herald was kind enough to lend his arm so I didn't embarrass myself and I must've fainted while on the way to Adan's for a possible tonic for my headache. I am only thankful Solas was there to see and must've ushered us in here. Could you imagine the scandal if it was seen that the Herald of Andraste was carrying an inebriated woman through Haven? I can assure you though that I shall not try to chase my sorrows down the bottom of an ale anytime soon."


She looked at Lycus and bowed her head deeply. "I am so sorry to have pulled you from your tasks." He smiled easily and bowed his head, composing himself once more. "Think nothing of it Lady Jessabelle. I feared the worst, when you simply dropped." She tucked her head nodding looking fully chastised. Cassandra looked between them both before making a sound deep in her throat. Yes! It screams I'm disgusted! Oh wait...that's at me isn't it...


She stood up and Solas brought her boots over. It took a great level of control to not snatch them from him. He eyed her coolly as she took her cloak and pinned it closed, walking out with Cassandra. They had made it to the space between the Chantry and Leliana's tent before she stopped her, hand on her elbow. "Are you sure you're alright? There was talk of magic being involved." Talk? Ah 'Star Gazer'. Her eyes turned to the tent and sure enough, the spymaster was at the center pole watching.


"I am fine Lady Seeker, though if you want to call a Templar to check for possession, I'll gladly stand here and wait." Cassandra's eyes went wide. "What? No! That's not at all what I was implying-"


"Then you were concerned for my virtue?" She blushed and spluttered, "N-no!"


"Then there is nothing to fear Lady Cassandra. I am thankfully well now having been under the care of two great mages and true gentlemen. And I will not cause you concern like that again. Hopefully. Or not often. Not intentionally?"


The warrior made that delightful sound again and stormed off into the Chantry. Jess strolled over leisurely to the tent, waiting patiently while Leliana looked over a missive. She dismissed the runner with a nod and looked at her with a mischievous smirk. "Yes, yes. you caught me in a lie. But I only did it to protect the Herald's name." She hummed and walked more into the tent and Jess followed. If Leliana was going to kill her, it wouldn't be in front of the chantry.


"Josie has been informing me of some very interesting things. She's very good at reading someone's intentions." Jess fixed her hair to keep the wind off her ears and waited."That's a very good trait to have as Ambassador," she finally replied when the silence was about to last too long. Leliana smiled as if she had done exactly what she had hoped. Oh shit.


"She also said you were very adept at the Game." Jessabelle hummed and looked around, motioning with her hand if she could sit on a crate before doing so. "She's very complimentary like that. I wonder if there are others that would agree to such a notion." Leliana smiled again and Jess continued, "I also wonder if the Ambassador also set aside time to discuss the fact that I was very clear that I was not to be forced."


"Of course she did, Josie is nothing if not thorough." Jess nodded and leaned exaggeratedly forward, lips pulled into her mouth and eyebrows raised, waiting for the punch line. Leliana smiled and asked, "You intend to clothe the Herald? With designs from your home?"


"Yeeees? I fully intend to run the designs by Lady Josephine first, if that's your concern." Leliana moved closer and she stood up startled at being so close to an assassin, spreading her legs to balance her weight. The spymaster noted this with an eyebrow raised but asked, "What do you need to start right away?"


That was NOT what she was expecting. She gaped for a second like fish, then pressed her lips together and paced. "I have several ideas to that. The first is I would like at least one or two elves for help, for starters." She caught the look of confusion and explained, "their hands are more nimble and should be able to embroider faster, even with no previous knowledge. Plus I have a more political reason, but we'll discuss that when the moment comes. The second thing, is Blackwall here yet?" Leliana arched a brow but nodded. "Good. I would ask him to craft me a few things that will help. Oh but don't approach him! Or anyone for that matter; I'd rather do that myself. I need to orient myself to the who's of this world, and not are they this or that."
Leliana narrowed her eyes thinking. "There are spies?"


"Your an organization proclaiming the Maker's blessing. Of course there are spies. Your spies probably have spies."


"Can you name them?" She threw up her hands and shook her head. "No, that was whole point of the pass phrase for my shadow. But I know the Iron Bull must've spotted some by now." She didn't know why she said that but Leliana confirmed it. "He has. Better that we watch them and learn what they're looking for and who sent them."


Jess blinked a few times, trying to run that sentence a few times in reverse. "I'm sorry, Am I understanding your intentionally leaving them here? Spies. In Haven. Isn't that dangerous to oh I don't know, people like me?" Leliana smiled and turned to address a runner that was approaching. "You're safe Lady Jessabelle. Your far too useful now to let anything happen." Well shit.

 

 

 

 


The poor stem nearly bent in half as she tore the leaves off. Stupid old badger of an alchemist. Part of her knew he was going to be an ass, but he really went in, insulting her for offering to get his reagents. In the end, she may have called him a rotten little nughumping coot and she was going to collect what he needed whether he liked it or not! She huffed and twisted the leaf when the knife didn't take it off cleanly for the umpteenth time.


"If you not going to do it right, you shouldn't do it at all." She sat back on her heels and glared at the Iron Bull as he approached. She had stormed out of the apothecary and had soldiers sidling out of her way as she marched to the area surrounding Taigen's cabin to cool off. Legs spread in a wide squat to keep her butt out of the snow wasn't helping her mood. "Don't you have something better to do than harass me?"


"Nope!" His mouth made a soft 'pop' at the end. Stooping to a crouch beside her, he took the hand holding the knife. A small huff escaped her but she sat up straighter to watch what he was doing. "You follow the vein," he murmured, gliding the knife down and the elfroot leaf practically flew into the air and glided down to her lap. He guided her hand to the next one and loosened his fingers waiting.


Whether it was the sudden wind shield he provided, or the growling cadence in his voice, her anger ebbed while she tried to mimic the movement. "Softer," he whispered, "You'll cut into the stem and the whole plant will suffer." She paused and lowered the knife, looking up at him. He was Ben Hassrath, he didn't say things without reason. "Are you teaching me how to harvest elfroot, or are you trying to tell me something else?"


He took the knife and harvested two more in one swipe then moved on to the next one, and she followed him over hesitantly, trying to read his movements. "So guess who finished storming around Haven waving a scroll with some very interesting numbers?" Her body froze a fraction of a second but she hummed and shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. A lot of people come and go around Haven." His head seemed to fall back onto his shoulder when he looked at her unimpressed. Jessabelle shrugged unrepentant again. "Really the Iron bull, I feel like this is something Lady Ambassador or the Nightingale can help you with. A missing runner is sure to mess a few things up."


She gasped when he closed the distance in one swift move, hands going straight up to guard her face before she could check the motion. Forcing her hands down she tried to stand taller as he loomed over her, a scroll was held out by her chest. She dropped her gaze to it, then studied his face again, trying to determine whether she should take it or not. He shook it again. Swallowing the lump in her throat, she licked her lips and opened the missive; scowling at the runes. "I can't read this Bull."


Taking it with two fingers he cleared his throat rather exaggeratedly. "Allow me. 'Tell that wasp of a woman it would take four crates of elfroot for every soldier to have a healing potion'. How strange that your suddenly out here picking elfroot even though you don't know who wrote this or how to read Common." She breathed evenly. That was all she do, anything else and she would break under his stare.

"What are you hiding?"


"Nothing." The curve of his finger tilted her chin back all the way as he went flush against her. "What do you know?" She shivered and not entirely from the cold or fear, tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth. His thumb gripped the point of her chin. "What. Do you know?"

"Too much and not enough. Don't push Bull. I can't say more."


"Can't or won't?" Her gaze hardened. "Won't." She ripped out of his gaze, snatching the basket up. "But this is a war. The Inquisition is staying in the exact spot the enemy tried to destroy. What the hell do you people expect if not some form of attack? And why the hell aren't you prepared yet?"


She stormed past him to the cabin, stopping when she noticed there were no footprints. Had it snowed recently? Or... She put the basket down and tried the door. It jiggled but refused to budge. "Need some help?"
A disgusted sound escaped her throat. Gritting her teeth she stepped back , cocked her leg, and with a cry kicked the door right by the jamb throwing it open. She threw him a dirty look with an arched brow. "No Bull, I don't need help."


"Damn. That was fucking hot." She barked out a laugh and walked in. The cabin was partitioned into two rooms separated by a curtain. She quickly ducked behind to the table and found the stack of papers. "This must be it," she breathed, squinting at the drawings.
"And what's that?"
"Adan's mentor was working on something, I think these are his notes. If it is, then these will be a big help, especially to Lycus and Solas." She smirked and slapped her hands against them. "Let's see him be mad after I hand him this." She scurried past him and ran back for Haven.


She was just past the gate when she noticed a crowd in the road beside Sleazy Seggrit. At first she thought it was the street for the catapults but she saw tents lining either side. A closer look showed elves everywhere. An alienage...a tent alienage. She handed the basket to Bull the moment he approached and strode forward. She gently moved them aside at first until they realized she was human, then they parted like the Red Sea until three men stood in front her.


"Go on now, Miss, this ain't no concern for ya." She looked between them and spotted a woman on the ground, another with her hand on her back in comfort. "Move aside, I'm a healer."
"We ain't needin' your-" she glared at him and stated firmer, "Move. Aside." He paled but stepped back and she quickly knelt to the...girl. A young woman really.


Being careful and slow she leaned her back and gasped. "Oh sweet Lord." She eyed the bruising on her face and neck. "What happened," she asked so softly, moving the mousy brown hair to inspect the damage. "I fell Miss."
Jess looked at her flatly. "You don't have to answer any of my questions sweetie, but please don't lie to me. You were attacked?"
The eye not swollen looked away but she said nothing. Jess nodded and delicately took one of her hands studying the bruises around the wrist. The fingernails were unmarred. "By a human. You didn't fight back." The girl sunk into her shoulders, "We can't Miss," she hissed, afraid to be heard.


"Was it a soldier?" There was no answer. "Someone you know?" No answer. She closed her eyes and pressed her lips together trying not to cry. She leaned closer and whispered, "Do you need witherstalk?"


She looked up then surprised before breaking down. "We can't affords witherstalk," the older woman next to her spat, "an' asides, they wont give it to us, even if we could."


"Why not," Jess questioned shocked. The woman looked at her blankly and sneered, "Take a guess, my lady."


She stood suddenly and the women cowered back. "So sorry, m'lady, don' know what came over me! must be overworked!" She looked down at them, fists balled and shaking. "Take her inside. I'll you get a potion."
Grabbing the basket from Bull, she moved to the apothecary with a fury she'd forgotten she possessed. Solas watched her wide eyed as she threw open the door.


"Dammit woman! I already sent you what you wanted!"


"I'm not here for that," She interrupted throwing the basket on the floor and taking out the papers. "I need a witherstalk potion. A girl has been violated." Adan paused but she continued, "she's an elf but I'll pay for it." He sighed and shook his head. We can't waste a-"

"I'm going to give you three seconds to fix that answer."


"Listen here, we don't have a steady flow-" She walked to the fire and held out the paper. "This is Master Taigen's work." She threw in a paper and he swore moving closer. She held the whole bundle above the fire, watching him stop but shift side to side. "You don't seem to take me seriously when I talk Adan. Now I want a health potion and I want that witherstalk or you can kiss this research goodbye. You already wasted your three seconds. Two. One."


"WAIT!" She pulled her hand back and shook the flame out from the top corner. Ripping open a chest he took out a small black glass bottle and the signature red and practically slammed them on the table. Jess eyed them, then meticulously straightened the papers in her hands and exchanged the bottles for the research.


"Now stay the hell out of my shop!"


"Not likely," She snarled and backed out, stalling at the sight of the Herald, Bull, Solas, and Varric watching. "Not one word, we'll speak later," she warned lifting the bottom of her dress and running. She already heard Adan digging in to them as she rounded the stairs to the makeshift alieange. They parted readily for her and she followed them to the tent, ducking inside.


"Here." She knelt down,placing the bottle by her legs and looked at her face, praying for something; some relief, or hope. Anything! But the girl just shook and cried harder. "We can't pay for these Miss!"


"No, no, Hey. Shhhh," She touched her shoulder, waiting for her to recoil and when she didn't she scooted closer and held her. "No darling girl. You don't owe me anything, I didn't get this so you owed me. I just-" She sighed and pulled her gently to her chest, rubbing a hand down her back. "Just what," the older woman insisted.


"I don't fucking care what you are, no one deserves this. I cant. I can't walk away and pretend I didn't see this. I'm so sorry." She squeezed her eyes and kissed her hair moving back. "Take the potions. And if you ever decide to come forward, you find me. Find Jessabelle."


She stood and pushed her curls from her face, carefully wiping her eyes in the process discreetly before leaving. "Miss?" She waited at the tent flap. "Will you be in trouble for this Miss?"
"Whatever the price, I'll pay it. Just worry about getting better, okay?" She gave her quick bow and left, walking in between the elves back towards Adan and the Herald.

She didn't stop at the sight of the Advisors and companions circled, walking right into the middle of them. "Lady-" She held her hand up to Lycus, fingers pressed against his lips. Josie made a small 'oh' and looked at the others. Jessabelle pressed her lips hard, breathing through her nose. "Let me say something first. I've had this shit on my chest since I got here. Since Earth." Lycus blinked unsure stepping back while she walked over to a pile of barrels and took some rope holding it up.


"If being a noble here means ignoring the sufferings of others, then I don't want any part of this." She held the rope out to Cullen. "Bind me and put me in the dungeons, because if I have to choose between social suicide or helping the elves gain a semblance of common respect, then I'll bring the fucking rope and dance my way to the gallows.


Shartan was Andraste's Champion, named her equal by her own hand and he was rewarded in death by being struck from your records. Warden Gaharel was an elf who stopped the fourth blight with the help of his fellow elf warden and mage Isseya yet he's barely remembered and she's not even mentioned. The Fifth Blight was ended by Warden Surana who was guess what- OH ! Look at that! A MAGE. And guess what, AN ELF. And now the only one who can save Thedas-who you have proclaimed the Herald of your God-IS A FUCKING ELVEN MAGE! Your God has been speaking to you all for centuries, through ages-and you have chosen to ignore it. Your Maker didn't abandon you, you just stopped listening!"


Her voice rung out and echoed in the silence. She breathed heavily and stood up tall, realizing she had screamed almost the whole tirade. She made a point of fixing her hair, brushing down the front of her dress and folded her hands demurely over her stomach. She cleared her throat and blinked expectantly. "Now. You were saying something?"

Chapter Text

She screwed up bad. A week in Thedas was all it took for her to be thrown in the dungeons. Granted, a large cot and furs were brought down, and a brazier was moved closer to her bars, but she was now a prisoner in everything but name. She would awaken when someone entered her cell, but never turned to address them. Instead she watched their shadow on the wall in front her. They all lingered briefly but no one spoke and so she'd close her eyes and drift back to sleep.


She had cried so hard when first Leliana had ordered Cullen to take her away. Not in front of him of course. She had stood stone still as he instructed his men where to put the cot. He'd asked if she needed more furs, but she refused to speak, hands laced in front of her stomach, remaining regal and defiant. He had brought them down anyway, trying to assure her everything would be fine; she didn't respond to his pleas.


 But once she was sure he wouldn't return, she had collapsed in to the makeshift bed and wept miserably, letting the weight of everything finally come to the forefront of her mind. She missed her home, and her cats, especially Black Betty who would worm her way under the blankets to fall a sleep by her tummy. She missed the Florida sun. She missed the smell of ozone that every afternoon brought before a summer shower. She missed wearing pants for fuck's sake!


Her eyes were grainy as they opened to the sound of someone approaching. Again she couldn't bring herself to turn. She was tired and heartsick. Of missing her home, of Thedas, of living in fear. Whatever they decided, she would bear it with dignity, that was all she could do now. She listened to the door close and waited. When again nobody spoke, she closed her eyes to fall back into oblivion.


"Are you sleeping?" Her lids parted slightly at the Nevarran accent. "I am going to assume that you are not. No one can sleep this much." A stool was dragged closer to her cot. "I...have been curious about you. My suspicions were that you were sent as a spy from whoever created the breach but...I do not believe that now." Jess stayed silent staring at the shadow in front of her, a small smile at the harsh outline of her chin and cheekbones. Cassandra sighed and leaned closer. "Were you sent by the Maker?"
"It doesn't matter if I was or was not. All that matters is what you believe." Cassandra scoffed and moved closer, and the cot jostled a bit. "Surely you must know-you must have seen it," she pleaded.

 
"I do not believe in your Maker, seeker. I have my own, though there's many similarities. My...chant never spoke of another world, only earth, heaven, and hell. But that doesn't mean that's all there is. A God that can breathe light into the world with a word could fill more books than a person could read in their lifetime. 


Maybe my God spoke to your Andraste and said, "Look, I have made a world with no magic and only humans, and war and hate still abound. Let us see what happens when we unite them. Or. Perhaps Andraste saw my God and said, "Look, your people have no magic and yet they strive. Send one to mine for they need help. I don't know Cassandra. I don't pretend to know the minds of Gods. It's hubris to even think we could understand. But that doesn't mean I don't believe."

"And what do you believe?" There was a need in her voice that gave Jessabelle pause. She rolled over and moved the fur to look at her better. The brazier had sent the woman's already severe face into stark light and shadow but the fear was there. "I believe two things right now." She sat up and leaned a shoulder against the wall for support. She watched the once indomitable woman move from the stool to the cot, eyes transfixed on her own in a need of comfort Jess was sure Cassandra didn't realize she was asking for. "And that is?"


"First. When a man is cold you do not simply tell him, 'warm yourself or you'll freeze.' You bring him closer to the fire and if needed offer a blanket. If a child is hungry, you do not sit at a feast and tell them, 'you must eat or you'll die'. You bring a chair and serve them until they are to bursting. Why then, does your Chantry say that elves have fallen farther from the Maker's grace than man, and yet denies them the right to be a Templar or a member of the Chantry? If they need the Maker the most, why are they denied the right to come closer? To serve wholeheartedly and devote their lives if they so choose in repentance? 


I believe your Chantry doesn't care about spreading the Makers blessing Cassandra. They only care about the power it has attained. It has happened in my world too, but we recognized it, and while we still fail, we try to set things right. We try to spread equality and care and love. We don't get far, and we backslide more than we progress. Hate, anger, jealousy, greed; these are proverbial demons inside every man we have to repeatedly beat down day after day. But we try."

She couldn't name the expression of Cass's face. It warred between anger and acceptance and everything in between. "And the second thing?"


"That just because I cannot see an answer, does not mean I have been abandoned. And that brings me great comfort."


"How can you accept that," she blurted out, surprising both of them. Jess softened at the vulnerability. She's so scared. All this time she's been so scared and still trying. Reaching out, she tentatively put a hand on the leather clad fingers gripping her cot. Cass blinked and loosened her hands. "If the Maker, yours or mine is all knowing, then this means They knew this would happen. And if They knew it would happen, and still put me, no put us here, then it means They believe we are strong enough to survive it. What creator destroys the children They have come to love in cruelty?"


The warrior stood up abruptly and paced. Her expression was so confused, but she simply answered, "I will think on this." Jess knew better than to speak and simply nodded, watching her pace once more before leaving. She spotted another shadow move to join her as they walked and scoffed. As if she could take on Cassandra that they needed to send backup! The woman's eyebrow could probably snap her in two! Worming her way back under the blankets, she felt lighter than she had since arriving in Thedas. Working in mysterious ways I see. She smiled and fell into a more peaceful sleep. 


The hand at her shoulder felt too cold and she whined trying to move away. "Lady Jessabelle you need to eat. It's been two days." She moved the fur and shivered at the gust of air that hit her sweaty neck, trying to focus on Cullen's face. "Maker's breath. You were right." She lifted her head and spotted Bull and maybe Stitches? Her vision blurred. "Twoo days," she asked for clarification.


"Its been three really," Bull offered moving into the cell and squeezed himself into a corner while yes, it was Stitches approached Cullen. "Three days?"
"Yeah. A servant, elf, noticed you weren't touching your food after the second day. She took the water and didn't return it the next night. You didn't even move to argue. That's when she got me." She hissed as the blanket was pulled farther off her body to examine her and curled into Cullen for warmth. He cleared his throat and pulled her closer, bringing the mantle around her. Stitches sighed and looked at her dryly. "You haven't been eatin' much 'fore all this were you?"


"Food's too different. Made me sick. Was waiting until I acclimated better." She groaned, wrapping herself into Cullen, then yanked away when his armor touched her neck, chilling her. "Stupid snow. Makes everything so cold." Stitches smirked digging through his bag. "Not from Ferel- well...not used to winter weather then?"

"I come from tropical weather. Hot sunny beaches with sand in your toes; palm trees swaying and singing in the wind. Lazy summer afternoons and running through hot afternoon rains and," she sobbed hard, wracking her body. "I want to go home! I want something familiar! I want a sky with only one moon and stars I know the constellations to!" Places were exchanged and Bull pulled her into lap rocking her, moving his pauldron to keep the metal from touching her. 


She buried her face into the crook of his arm, too tired to care about the scene she was making. "I want hot grits and hotter coffee with a dash of cream in both. I want a book I can actually read and sweet tea as tart as lemonade. I want fucking pants!" She went on and on until she couldn't think of anything else, face and hair by her temples soaked with sweat and tears.


"Good. Let it all out," Bull murmured the whole time, taking the cup Stitches held up when she at last ran out of steam. She wrinkled her nose at the smell and turned away. "Hey none of that. It wasn't poison last time. Its not poison this time," he soothed.


"You sure its a potion and not a poultice," she mumbled, smiling weakly at Stitches laugh. "It's a potion lass, " He assured and she sighed resigned, pushing herself to sit up, but he tutted her, holding the cup steady to her lips. She rolled her eyes and drunk slowly, spotting Cullen leaning against the bars watching. A strange wistful look was on his face.


"I could hear the rumble in your chest that first night by the lake. It took me a bit to realize it for what it was." She rose her eyes back to Bull. "Makes sense now that we know where you came from," Stitches agreed cleaning up his tools. She made a confused sound but kept drinking. "Sky sickness," Cullen answered for them.
She moved her head back and coughed, "Say what now?"


"Sky sickness. Your not used to being so high in the mountains. The air is making it hard for you to adapt," a musical Orlesian voice rang out. She leaned her head to the side and watched Leliana and Lycus approach. They thankfully didn't enter the already cramped cell. Jess made a sound of understanding. "Altitude sickness." She exhaled and shivered, pulling closer to Bull. His skin was cool and dry, but at least not cold.

 

"So now you parade me through the streets of Haven? Let them throw rocks at the heretic? Put me in a gibbet?"


"I dare someone to try," the elf snarled, earning a smirk from the spymaster beside him. Leliana poised her hands behind her back and that motion had Jess tensing up. Bull made a small noise from his nose...a chuckle maybe? "That won't be necessary. Your words caused a lot of commotion, but at least we know where you stand and we trust you."


"That's why you threw me in the dungeon? Because you trust me?" She tried to leave the bitterness out of her already hoarse voice; she was the one to tell them to do so after all, but Cullen shifted uncomfortably, rubbing his neck. Leliana simply ignored it and nodded. "It was the safest for you."


"Explain," Jess prompted thanking Bull quietly as he adjusted his hold and brought the blanket around her again.
"Your words struck a lot of people," Cullen reasoned. She read the 'including me' in the pause that followed. "We worried someone might try to make an attempt at your life and needed to put you somewhere people wouldn't normally go. A servant entering the dungeons twice a day for a prisoner is expected; anyone else is suspicious."


Jess stared at him trying to urge her brain to process the information. "You used me as bait," she ventured slowly, "because anyone who would be willing to hurt me for what I said...might be willing to attack the Herald at some point," she concluded, noting how Leliana smiled pleased. "Exactly."


She hummed and whispered, "And how many have tried?" Leliana opened her mouth but Cullen interrupted with, "That doesn't matter. All that matters is that they were apprehended."


"That many huh? Well I'm glad to see I make as many enemies here as I did at home. I do so love consistency." Lycus laughed at that. She smirked and then grew very serious. "So what now?"


"Now we get you healthy and send you on your way." Her eyes grew wide and Cullen quickly amended, "No! Not...Maker's breath. We're not sending you away like that. You're a part of this Inquisition."


She stayed silent and looked between the Advisors and Lycus. "You're going ta be accompanying me and gathering whatever it is you think we need," he explained taking mercy on her.
"Speaking of which, I received the amount of elfroot you suggest we have on hand. Do you care to explain?" The spymaster watched her closely. Jess bit her lip and winced at the tenderness of the cracked flesh. "I can't divulge anything right now. I do however think you should have already been prepared and am shocked no defenses have yet been built." Cullen bristled at that. "Haven is not a fortress."


"Then make it one," she snapped. She took a deep breath and then winced. Since she had arrived, her chest had felt tight. Assuming it was fear and stress, she had tried to ignore it. Now she was painfully aware of how difficult it was to breathe.


Leliana softened and moved back. "Rest for now. I'll begin having my scouts collect what they find along the way. We're still questioning one of the would be attackers, but once we're sure your safe, we'll move you back upstairs. Is there anything you need?"


"No, thank you." She crawled out of Bull's lap and pulled the blanket around her more. She lifted her head, suddenly remembering something.
"Wait! Lycus, have you heard from your clan?" He nodded and her face must've said more than she intended because he came in and knelt beside her. "What did you see?"


"I saw a terrible outcome if you send soldiers." He relaxed and looked back at Leliana with a smile. "We sent agents with supplies." She breathed and then clasped his hand in hers. "Something else will happen. Do NOT make a decision without me please. Its very convoluted and tricky to remember but...I made the mistake once and clan Lavellan was destroyed. I can't let that happen here." He paled and squeezed her hand tightly. "Thank you lethallin." She smiled and cocked her head to the side. "Am I so known to you?" He chuckled and returned her a lopsided grin. "Any shem who could make a speech like that on the spot has my vote of confidence. Rest Lamb. I'll visit again."


She scoffed at the nickname, but it was better than Rosy, so she'd allow it. "Ma nuvenin, Herald." He smirked and took his leave ushering everyone except Stitches out, Bull waiting by the door. The dark man held up a jar. "Are you gonna take this on your own, or do I have to come back and make you?" She took it gently. "Tell me what to do Stitches and I'll do it." His voice became gentle and he explained the dosage and how to administer it. "And try to eat something. Your looking thin lass."


"Yessir." He seemed to debate whether she was mocking him before chuckling and taking his leave. "Oh Bull?"


"Yeah?"


"One word of my breakdown to anyone and I'll gut you with your own horns. Understand?" He grinned far too happily. "Yeah yeah. Get some rest Kitten." She sneered at the nickname, ignoring the heat bloom in her belly.


Cool fingers touched her brow and she groaned, moving the blanket to see. She stilled staring into the gray, blue, no purple eyes? Solas moved his hand back slowly, presumably assessing her as well. “I didn't mean to wake you.“


“What did you mean then?” He paused before sitting down on the stool beside her cot. “ I have been unable to find you in the Fade. I worried for your safety.” She scoffed sitting up on her elbow. His face pinched for a fraction before smoothing out. “You seem to believe I am out to harm you da'len." Jess grunted with a shake if her head. “No I don't. I just don't want to get attached. I like you Solas. You and I are similar.”  


“Oh? And how so?” She pushed more up to buy a few more seconds to think. This confrontation had been weighing on her since she first saw him. Should she be honest with him? Did she give up his plan? Did she try to change his mind? She sighed and hesitantly reached for his hand, placing hers just barely on the tops of his fingers. He stiffened but didn't move away.


“You came to offer your help willingly. You left your way of life to help. I guess I can relate to that. My home is gone. There is nothing here to give me comfort. The people, the music, the culture, the architecture- it's- It doesn't exist." She felt him almost pull away and decided to ease the tension. Not yet. “I understand your desire to walk the Fade, learn different things. If you don't fit into this world, where else can you run but the recesses of your mind. I get why the Qun bothers you; I’m afraid of forgetting something. Afraid I'll forget the way the sun sets over the Atlantic ocean or the smell of sweet Georgia peaches in autumn. I envy your magic. And your love and thirst for knowledge. I may forget, but you never will. You'll always find it given enough time. It would be so easy for me to rely on you and that's a burden you don't need.”


Jess moved her hand away with a sigh and wiggled back down, feeling somewhat guilty for feeding into his ego. But if he was willing to deceive everyone, then she would play by his rules, even while she told the truth. As it was he seemed to be thinking very hard. “Tell me about the Fade,” she pleaded, drawing his attention back. He softened with a smile. “What would you like to know?”


“About spirits. I love the idea of a virtues existing as purely as they are. Hope. Curiosity. Patience? How wonderful to simply be.” His eyebrow went up with a chuckle. “You surprise me da'len. Not many would agree with you.”
“I shouldn't. I come from a different world without the biases already beaten into me. It doesn’t mean I'm better than anyone else, only that I’m willing to listen. “ She yawned and snuggled more into the blanket casually allowing her forearm to rest against the outside of his thigh while he spoke. She hid her smile under the covers when he didn't move.

Chapter Text

The sun nearly blinded her when she finally stepped outside. Josephine had brought her something more reminiscent of a mage's surcoat with out all the added knick knacks, and tight leather pants. Boots that fit her a little better replaced the first pair and were so buttery soft, she almost didn't want to wear them outside. Almost. Someone BULL must've mentioned her desire for more functional clothing. She ignored the humans that eyed her warily; it was harder to ignore the faces of the elves that looked up and bowed their heads when she passed. She strode over to Solas, giving the apothecary a wider berth and wrung her hands. “Can I help you da'len?”


“Da'len still huh? Its better than Shem. Yes I have a question but, well its a little...don't take offense okay?” She groaned at the eyebrow raise and moved closer to whisper. “Solas how good is elf hearing?” He blinked, clearly not expecting that question. “Why do you ask?” Pushing her hair back she shifted her weight nervously. “The humans I expected to get dirty looks from. I mean I wasn't that far from the tavern when I blew. But...I wasn’t expecting the elves to…I didn't expect a reaction from them.”


He started at her like she was an idiot and she ducked her chin. “Surely you must've known your stance would cause a reaction in them."


“No,” she hissed looking around, “I didn't. I just needed to get that off my chest after-I just needed to say it. I expected the elves to just be suspicious, not…."

“Grateful?” She looked at him flatly. “Your mocking me.”


“A bit.” She pouted and crossed her arms. His smirk was far too smug. “Elves have far more acute hearing than humans to answer your question. The way you we're yelling though, an elf would've heard you from as far as the smithy as if they were standing beside you.”


“Oh shit,” she moaned holding her head. Solas frowned and laced his hands behind his back. “Why does this concern you.”


She threw her hands up and whispered shrilly, “because all the attention is supposed to be on the Herald! I can't risk eclipsing him in any way. Humans will try to discredit him at every turn and elves NEED someone to look up to. Someone to fight for them. That someone needs to be one if their own to validate their struggles."
Solas cocked his head studying her. “I see. It is good then he has you beside him. A woman of such authority supporting him will only bolster his strength.” Jess saw the opening and rushed it. “Solas. I need your guidance on this too. I may think out of the box but I need you to let me know when I'm pushing something too hard. Please say you'll help.”


He stood taller and nodded. “Of course da'len.” She narrowed her eyes pouting. "I'll hold you to that old man." His shock was worth it. With that, she ducked her head past the tavern and went to the edge of the lake to think about the decision before her.


Lycus had asked her to accompany him to recruit Vivienne, while Leliana and Cullen wanted her to start working on gathering whatever she felt they needed in the Hinterlands. Josephine had asked her to go with the Herald to intrigue the minds of the nobles. And while she saw the promise of that, she really did not want to go to Orlais.


"My Lady, a moment of your time?" She hummed and looked back making a startled noise at Blackwall. He looked visibly nervous. "Warden Blackwall. How nice to meet you properly. I'm sorry your first image of me was of me yelling like a mad woman," she joked, looking away a bit ashamed. She smiled as his chuckle. "Well it was fiery and moving. As well as any introduction I've heard yet."


"Your too kind. What can I do for you," she prompted following him towards the smithy. "I wasn't flattering you, my lady. I mean what I said. It meant a lot to see someone willing to throw everything away for what they believe." She saw him give her a nervous look. She controlled her expression to not sympathize. This was his burden to bear. Instead she smiled. "I imagine only a Grey Warden would understand that feeling. I'm humbled to hear you say that. Truly. Your Order deserves only the best recognition for its duty and sacrifice."


She fixed her hair to hide the sudden scowl that appeared. Except for your idiot Orlesian commander that is. "Tell me, have you met Warden Commander Surana?" He blinked nervously. "Ah, the Warden Commander is a very busy woman."


"Of course she is. I apologize. You said you were out in the fields alone anyway, and that you planned to stay that way." She tapped her forehead with a shake as if her memory was jogged. That motion did not seem to ease his nerves. "But here I am rambling. Did you need me for something?" They were by the stables now, and she noticed only four horses and a few druffalo inside. It seemed he had made his home in the stables well before Skyhold. "I uh. I wanted to give you this."


"Oh?" Jessabelle took the the small object from his hand. She looked at him curiously while opening the sackcloth and froze. "Good Lord," she breathed running a hand down the wooden comb. A bramble of roses was etched along the edge. "Blackwall, this is stunning."


"Come now my lady. Its a simple wooden comb." She pulled her eyes from it to smile at him genuinely. "Maybe to you. To me, its the first gift someone had given me with no ulterior motive. Unless you want a lock of my hair as a token that is." His blush was awesome, especially since she could see it despite his beard. "That won't be necessary. Your hair was whipping around you when you spoke, wild and free and...well I don't rightly know what I thought." She smiled and put a hand on his forearm and squeezed gently. "I. Love it. And heaven knows a girl could always use a comb." He eased up then and she held the comb to her chest lovingly. "Well I won't keep you any longer. Better things to do than stand in a stable with an old man."


She smirked and shrugged. "Oh I don't know, I could get used to the company." A horse took that moment to kick at the fencing and she jumped with a laugh. "Though it seems the other inhabitants think otherwise. Thank you again Blackwall. But if I may. I was hoping I could commission you to make a few things for me. Its actually to help make the Herald a wardrobe."


"Just bring me some drawings and I'll see what I can do." She smiled and backed out. "Thank you. Again." She tried to hide her smile as she walked back towards the Chantry ignoring Bull's gaze.


Lycus whistled at the junction and she made her way of to his cabin. "What's the cause of that smile Lamb?" She scoffed and held out the brush. "Ah, something to tame that dragon then."
"Lycus!" She admonished and tried to push her hair into some semblance of order; it instantly popped back into its lion form. He laughed and smoothed a hand down it. "I never seen someone with such...healthy locks," he quickly switched at her frown. "I'm aware of how much hair I have, thank you very much. And that comment just earned you a solo trip to Madame de Fer's salon."


"Come now Lamb. I was just kidding with you." She stilled and studied his face, moving closer. "Your afraid."


"I'm Dalish," he corrected, and that explained everything he wasn't willing to say. Jess inhaled and let it out heavily tapping her foot. "Fine. But there's a list I need to make for the others." He took her free arm and walked her to the Chantry. "We'll do it all at once. They want us on our way by mornin' anyway."


"So soon!" He glanced down with a smirk. "This is the longest I been in one place since waking." She grimaced and shook her head. "Nip that in the bud now Lycus. You're a person first and foremost, a title second. If you need a few extra days, take it." He was quiet a moment before looking at her. "You're the only one who seems to remember that."


"Then I'll keep reminding you so you do too."


His smile warmed her as he whistled to Leliana. They walked to the war room where Jess paused. "I don't think-"
"Hush and get inside." She obediently went in and stood by a wall. Minutes later the rest of the Advisors filed in. "Ah. Lady Jessabelle, have you come to a conclusion," Josie asked immediately. "I have. I'll be accompanying the Herald to recruit Madame de Fer. In the mean time, there's a few things I think might help."


"I've already sent some people to look into what you and I spoke of," Leliana chimed in. "Perfect. Commander have you ever heard of a fire being used as communication? Like in the battle of Ostagar?" He frowned looking at the map. "Are you suggesting we build towers for such?"


"That's exactly was I'm suggesting. Haven as you said is no fortress. Every sign we can get of an approaching enemy is time we need to prepare or evacuate." She looked at the map with a finger raised, everyone leaning forward and expectant. She hovered then hung her head.


"Uh, so this may come as a shock, but I am terrible with directions. The mountain on the other side of the lake, where is it?"Cullen smirked at her, causing a deep blush before he tapped a mountain range on the map. "Perfect. Try to find a way to the highest safe point and build a pyre. It should be large enough that every soldier in the valley should be able to see it if lit."


"We're going to be attacked, aren't we?" Jess looked at him and shrugged. "Its a very real possibility. Better to be prepared and simply burn the pyre in celebration when the breach is closed than to have an ambush wipe us out before we can do even that." She looked at Leliana and pointed to the Hinterlands. "Elfroot, embrium, spindleweed, blood lotus. Literally everything you can. I want Antivan fire at the ready. I want health potions on every person. No life is worth losing because of insufficient resources. The people of Redcliffe need to believe in this cause and that means every hand that belongs to this organization can help. A few harvested things by every runner capable of doing so will put a big dent in what I have to harvest when we get back. Also muslin. I need a lot of it to begin planning the clothes." And for bandages. She rambled off a few more things about getting certain nobles to help and and then moved back with a definitive humph. 


"Were you royalty, Lady Jess?" She hummed and looked at Leliana confused, "No. Why do you ask?" Cullen looked at Lycus and she followed his gaze. The elf studied her, eyes darting to every corner of her face. She cringed and raised a shoulder defensive. "What's...going on?"


"You speak like one used to giving orders," he explained and she relaxed and laughed. "I have done this many times. Of course I do." she touched the map gingerly, sadly. "I never really understood how many lives were counting on me then. They weren't...'real'." She looked at him and whispered, "I know the burden you bear. I will share it, if you let me."


She clapped her hand to break the morose atmosphere. "And I shall make you look stunning too!" And just like that the room lightened. They decided to bring the Iron Bull for protection and because he was well known, and Varric to check his contacts and get any news to Orlais. Blackwall was to return to the HInterlands and help who he could while gathering. It was important that the Warden be seen helping the Inquisition; his life would depend on it later. Sera was to accompany him and kill any mages or Templar that got too big for their britches and were hurting 'people people'. Solas would ensure they had a healer.


"And Cassandra?" Jessabelle stared at the map thinking. "How long has it been since the first visit to Val Royeaux?"


"Close to two weeks." She sighed and rested her hands on the table's edge. Only two weeks, if they sent a letter now, maybe enough of the Templar would be free of the red lyrium to actually come. But if she did that, the mages might be lost if they believed an alliance had already been made with the Order. Still, if they waited to choose the mages, those still loyal would die.


A hand covered hers and she blinked, wondering when her vision had blurred. She touched her cheek and quickly spun around to wipe her face. "Oh! I...must've forgotten to blink I was so in thought." Lycus sighed and rubbed her shoulder gingerly. "Talk to me Lamb. How can we help?" She sobbed and then swallowed the rest, inhaling deeply. "You can't."


"Lady Jessabelle, please. Let us help. This is our home, and we have a right to help defend it." She looked at Cullen and pursed her lips, the words spinning in her head. "Defend it...defend...Oh! Leliana, are you still on good terms with King Alistair?" She nodded and Jess looked at Cullen, "What about you? You trained with him once yes?"

 

"That was a long time ago."


"Good. Even better. Listen very carefully. I'm about to mess with the timeline and this needs to be done precisely. Still, I don't know if it this will even help..." Lycus squeezed her hand. "Whatever happens, we'll fix it." She shook her head doubtful, looking back at the table. "I hope we can. Leliana, write a letter to Alistair pleading him to write to the Templars in Therinfal Redoubt, telling him to order them as king of Ferelden to appear before him. Josie, as sweet as he is, Alistair is not very smart with politics, so I need you to write him a draft he can follow. Cullen I need you to implore him with memories of the Order; what it stands for and how them sitting in a fortress while the rest of the world crumbles is wrong. Something...terrible is happening in that place and we need to get as many good men and women out."


"Then let us side just with the Templars," Cullen urged and she rolled her eyes. This is what she was afraid of. "No." He looked at her shocked and she cringed. "That's not my decision to make. That decision is wholly Lycus' and I will support him in whatever he decides. But if we side with the Order now, the mages will fall. And vice versa. No this is simply a time sensitive issue. If we don't act now, it won't matter that we side with the Templars later; we'll have lost too many."


She tapped the map and pointed to Haven. "If we send the missive ourselves it may not reach Ser Delrin Barris. He's a good man and I risk the timeline solely for him and his men," she looked at Cullen, "that's how much faith I have in him. He's Ferelden, so he may answer a summoning from the King. Cassandra should take a detachment of scouts and hide along the road to the fortress. You Lycus will write her a letter to give to him, urging him to bring his men and save what's left of them. That is unless you wish to side with the Templars in which case, I can think of a new idea to ally the mages that wish to join."


He shook his head, "the mages were always my first choice." She smiled relieved and then focused down the map again. "How long will it take to get the letter to Alistair, excuse me, King Alistair?"


"I'll send my strongest raven. If sent by tonight, it will reach him by evening tomorrow." She hummed and added, "And if he follows the urgency of the letter Josie writes and sends it the next morning, how long before it reaches the keep?"


"Two days at most." She slid her fingers lazily across the map and tapped Orlais. "And where will we be at that time?" Josie paused in her scribbling and answered, "Weather permitting, just arriving at the salon." Jess nodded again, chewing her lip. She looked at the Advisors, then to Lycus. "Is this feasibly possible? I know we are short on hands and resources-"


"We don't have a choice in the matter," Cullen fumed slamming his fist down and startling her. Leliana frowned at his outburst but agreed. "It will run us thin, but if what you say is true, we must try."


"Are you sure you want to send Cassandra alone?" Josie was writing without looking up, probably working on the letter already. "No I don't want to send her alone, but she has to do this. These were her people, and if she feels like she failed them twice...Zevran. Can you contact Zev to help?"


"Zevran is with the Hero of Ferelden and-you didn't know?" Jess closed her jaw and flushed. "No I-I thought she loved Alistair." Leliana hardened a bit before sighing. "She did. Until he told her they needed to end it because she was a mage and an...elf. She then made him solely the heir by having him behead Loghain himself and Anora refused to marry." Jessabelle let out a snort and then cleared her throat. "Holy hell...well good for her. I would've thought she'd agree to be a consort." She smirked shaking her head, "Then again...so no Zev to help."


"I didn't say that. I just don't think I can get the letter to him in time. He has left Surana's side a few times while she searched for a cure. She's a very capable woman. Reminds me of someone." Jessabelle lowered her head and picked at the map. "She is amazing. I hope she finds it. The world could use her for as long as she is able. If everything is a go?" Everyone nodded and she charged out of the room and into the open air. It was not the same as giving orders to a screen. She was gambling with people's lives.


The rest of the day was spent packing and clarifying any questions. She sat on the wall outside Haven at dusk, nerves in her throat. A flap of wings showed a powerful bird fly west and she hoped it was her missive, praying it would bear fruit. The Iron Bull leaned against the wall, resting his elbow near her. "So you ready?"


"Not a chance." He laughed and scratched his chin. "You'll be alright, just stick by me."


"You? Oh no. I plan on sticking to the Herald. He's prettier to look at anyway." He grinned and tilted her head. "Yeah, he is, but he's not your type." She turned her head slowly to glare at him. "I'm not going to dignify that with an answer." He shrugged and looked out at the setting sun with her. "Bull?"


"Hm?"


"Why do you keep hovering. What's your angle? I already promised to help close the breach. Is Leliana putting you up to this?"


"Nah, not now anyway. The Boss asked me to keep an eye on you." She looked at him startled. "Lycus asked you to?"


"You're not exactly warrior material Kitten." She scoffed and looked at out to the lake. "Bull?"


"Hmm?"


"Promise me something? If you can?"
"Sure." She breathed deeply and closed her eyes. "Don't ever let anyone take me alive. If I'm captured, and you're not sure you can get me out, blow the fuckers sky high. This is a good timeline; you all don't need me to succeed."


"Hey woah woah, what's got you talking like this? You see something?" She turned her head slowly to him and smiled. "I'm just worried." She touched his arm and squeezed looking back out at the horizon. She left her hand on his skin and held back the smile when moments later his other hand covered hers.


Ain't no sunshine when she's gone, its not warm when she's away
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
and she's always gone too long, every time she goes away


She scoffed at herself with a head shake but kept humming the rest. "That's pretty. Anymore to it? She hummed and nodded. "Yeah , there's more. It kind of repeats but its really catchy. Funny how sunsets make you think of weird things." He watched her and she looked back to the now darkening skies, trying to swallow a lump in her throat. He pointed toward the horizon. "You wanna learn some constellations?" He sat pointing out different stars until she began to nod off.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Lord smite her now. There were two horses left between them; the others to be used by the team to the Hinterlands. And somehow the men had thought it improper for her to ride into Orlais behind one of them. So she had her own horse...and Varric wouldn't shut the hell up with his complaining behind Lycus. The only one who seemed to be enjoying themselves was Bull, and he was walking. The camping wasn't as bad as she had expected it to be, crawling in with Lycus the first night even though he argued. In the end her shivering had convinced him and she rested against him, back to back.


"Varric!" She finally snapped . "Shut. Up. It's been three days. I offered to ride with one of you." He smiled cheekily and she had to control the urge to drag him to the ground by his coat. "You've been doing this on purpose!"


"Hell Rosy, if you scowl at the back of that horse's head any more, that poor pony'll be dead. The Seeker could learn a thing or two from you."


"Why don't you sing that song from the other night," Bull asked, and she closed her eyes to keep from screaming. "Rosy I doind't know you sing!"


"No."


"Please little Lamb. If this dwarf wiggles against me one more time," she opened her eyes wide and saw Lycus with his head back at his wits end. "No! I don't sing! I can do a lot of things but singing is not my strong suit."


"That's okay. Anything to help this fool stay quiet." She laughed at Varric guffawing, so she did. She sung good ol' Bill Withers, closing her eyes and trying to do as many 'I knows' in the chorus. She was sure she was like ten short but hey they clapped all the same when she finished. And she smiled with them.


Until the arrow flew by the Herald's head.

Chapter Text

She threw herself off the horse with all the grace of a drunken goat, knees hitting the ground and crouched as the men quickly retaliated. "Lamb! Bushes!" She didn't hesitate and ran into the woods nearest by her side for a few yards before doubling back at a crouch and hiding behind a tree. She kept a small knife in her hand, no bigger than a paring knife really. Cullen had nearly lost his shit when he found out that was all she was willing to take. Anything bigger though, and she'd more likely stab herself.


They looked like bandits, no insignia linked them to any army, not that she could've identified them anyway. She rolled at the sound of footsteps behind her and ran across to the other side screaming for help, trying to draw their attention. She ducked around another tree just as Varric's bolt found her pursuer's neck. She closed her eyes and looked away feeling sick. Stay strong. Don't look. don'tlookdon'tlook!  Shit Look!  She tried to move at the twig snap behind her cried out when her hair was grabbed and she was dragged back out onto the road.


"Drop yer weapon's or the girl dies!" She trembled partly in fear and partly in anger as a blade pressed into her throat, hands trapped painfully under the arm over her chest. Lycus looked so devastated, a shimmer of blue dancing over him, bleeding into his eyes. What the-"Now!" She whimpered and the man held her tighter, empowered by her cries. "Drop 'em!" Bull growled but spun his ax and dropped it over his feet. "Shit," Varric sighed, closing Bianca's arms. She tried to fight and her captor lifted her more up....


Freeing her left hand that was pinned to her chest. All expression left her face as she flashed them the knife to give them warning, and then drove it into the bandit's gut. He doubled over shocked and she pushed the sword from her face, cutting her forearm and collarbone while throwing herself to the ground. Lightning exploded behind her punctuated by two arrows fired. She turned and looked at the man out of instinct, ready to kick.


And screamed madly  at the burnt twitching mass of flesh. She crab walked backwards screaming until a big gray hand covered her eyes. She fought and was curled onto herself to keep from scratching him. Lycus moved her hair from her face and looked at her neck raising his hand and stilling. "Fenedis! I-I don' know what to do. Magic hurts her." He sounded so distraught she stopped fighting Bull, trying to breath through her nose. "Inside out," she breathed, trying to keep her eyes from looking behind him. Luckily Varric approached and blocked her view.


"Inside out?"


"Like a thread. Heal inside and move out. Don't push it in." His lips went into a thin line but he nodded. "Hold her still, Bull. I never done this before." She turned into Bull's grasp, exposing her neck more and wrapping herself around his forearm. She felt the painful prick and gritted her teeth as it escalated. Her feet kicked until Varric held them down at the shins.


At some point she stopped fighting and just cried. Finally he turned to her arm and held it out. She watched him close his eyes and concentrate the blue mana into a hair thin stream. His face was sweaty as he controlled the flow into her. She watched the layers repair and gasped when her nerves must've been reconnected, the pain heightening another notch. "Varric get the horses," Bull ordered as they neared the end. She exhaled when the final layer appeared, a light scar barely visible marring her arm. 

 

Lycus' head dropped to his chest with a sigh. "Let's get off the road. We'll find a place to camp. Start early tomorrow." She was lifted onto the horse with him behind her and they rode hard for miles before pulling off into the woods. They moved slower until they reached a small clearing, barely big enough for the tents and a fire. She crumpled to the ground as they built up the site, barely perceiving them around her. All she saw was the charred remains of a man.


A hand touched her shoulder and she yelped. Varric winced and pointed over his shoulder. "Small stream over there. You wanna wash up while we cook?" She stood without a word and took her stuff from the horse following his direction. The stream was really more of a trickle, but she stripped her tunic and leather bustier off, wiping the blood from the fabric as best she could before sobbing. She allowed herself to wallow for a few minutes before scrubbing her face and body aggressively and redressing.


They watched her approach nervously as they moved around. Varric handed her a bowl of dried fruit and bread. She ate a bite, maybe two then shook her head. "I need to sleep. I feel...."
"Go ahead Lamb. I'll set some traps an' be in soon." She nodded and forced herself to crawl into the tent and pulled a blanket over her head. This was going to happen, she knew it was going to happen at some point. And she thought she had prepared herself for it, but seeing it, him, the bandit...She swallowed the rush of bile and curled into herself.

 

 

 

 

She frowned looking around at the familiar apartment. "No. Not here." She closed her eyes and tried to change the setting. "You are alone." Her eyes snapped open and she turned slowly to look at the hallway that went on forever, a strange mass moving its way towards her. She felt her heart in her throat, fear and anger banging on her body like drums.
"I can make you strong enough to face this. You don't ever have to be weak again." Jess closed her eyes and clenched her fists swallowing, trying to ignore the heat at her back. "Go away. Now. I don't need help." She felt the thing in front of her and slowly opened her eyes with a small shout. The bandit 'looked' at her, black holes where eyes should be, mouth open in an endless scream. Red blistered and cracked skin covered him, with parts melted and fusing with what was left of his clothes.
She exhaled a whine before pressing her lips together. "Go away."

Someone called her name far away. In another part of the apartment. Or maybe outside. "Go away," she yelled firmer. "No one will help you-"
"Go away!"  She watched the mass shiver and gaped at the skin began to knit into something- someone new. She roared and leaped, knocking the creature down screaming. "Don't you fucking dare! Don't you dare!"

"YES! That's it! Let me in!" She glared at the red blob behind her. "Burn in hell you piece of shit! I don't need help being angry!"


"Lamb!"


"WHAT!?"


The front door flew open and Lycus entered, blue glow on his skin and eyes. He threw his hand up sending the Rage demon from the room, a push of magic flowing around rather than through her. She was strangling the Fear demon in front of her screaming as it clawed at her. He ripped her off and roared, BEGONE! and the creature dissipated into smoke like the first, a wave of blue washing over the floor.

She raged against him now trying to free her arms. "Shh, its alright Lamb. Your alright." He began to sing in Elvish, cheek against her hair until she weakened, finally slumping against him listening. "Take me from here," she begged weakly.


The house fell away and a glen appeared around them, soft grass sprouting under her feet. She let him sing to her until the fear was gone and she softened in his arms. "Why are you in my mind?" He paused and loosened his grip. "You feel very loudly. I was in the fade and just... heard it taunting you. Your the only person I know that one needs permission to enter their realm. How did the demons get in?"


"The back door apparently." He chuckled and smoothed her hair humming. "I never seen someone try an' strangle a fear demon. What were you thinking?" She laughed at that. "I did what I could. That's the first thing that came to mind."


"I don' know whether to be impressed, or terrified that that was your first choice." She smiled at his heavy accent. "Are you a Somniari?" He made a small grunt and shrugged. "Does Solas know?"
"I can never find him. He must travel far." Her lips pressed together. "You're upset."


"No, just curious. I'm not a mage, but I can understand I'm dreaming. It's just strange." He laughed and helped her sit up, moving beside her. "More strange than coming from another world that doesn't have a Fade?" She rolled her eyes. "Point taken." She closed her eyes and changed the surrounding to one of her favorite springs, feeling the tug as if ownership of the area had been passed to her. "Very nice," he mused looking around.


"Lycus, show me magic?" He smiled and held his hand out making a flame appear. She studied and asked him questions, most of which he shrugged off. "The Dalish don' teach it the way Circles do."
"I don't care about the circles. Why do you make ice and not water?"


"What am I going to do with water, bathe them?" She explained the strength of water; how it could break bones, flood someone's lungs, tear someone apart if concentrated. He listened intently nodding every now and then. "I never thought about it. I don't think anybody has."


Jess hugged her knees and rested her chin on the tops. "If I had magic I would try to find the boundary, You already know you can concentrate your mana into a thread. I'm sorry by the way." he shrugged it off. "I didn't want to hurt you Lamb. Don' worry about that and tell me more. What else would you do?"


She hummed and bit her lip thinking, "I would try different variations of spells. Like frost cone? I would try to to curve the cone into a sphere, chasing the enemy. Or use icicle like a sphere around myself! Or air- I would see if Vortex from the storm school could make someone airborne, or mix storm and blizzard to make a tornado! Or make a biotic fist, like fist of the Maker! I would wrap my fist in mana and punch a Templar right in his snotbox! Oh well...I em...I mean if that's possible." He chuckled and smoothed her hair. "You think very strangely."


"Different world remember." He pressed his lips together and sighed. "Mornin' approaches. Are you going to be alright?"
Jessabelle stared out into the glen. "Honestly, I don't know. I know it was either him or me...but I'm not from here. I don't have a right to kill anyone."


"You didn' kill him Lamb. I did. And Varric made sure he stayed dead. You hurt him, but he also hurt you. You didn' kill him." She leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. "Thank you for saving my life." She felt him rest his cheek on her head. "No need ta thank me, Lamb. Sun'll be up soon. You think you can ride?"


"I'll manage. We have to be there for Vivienne's salon. We've delayed enough already." He nodded, nuzzling her hair and whispered into her ear, "Wake up." She sat up startled and looked beside her at the empty bedroll. She peeked out and found him at the fire's edge, eyes closed and head tilted back. No way...did he stay with me while lightly dozing!


Closing the distance he slowly opened his eyes. "Were you awake? This whole time?" He gave a rakish grin and stretched. "Comes with livin' so close ta each other in aravels. No real privacy for deep sleeps. Stuck with me." She knelt down and took the hard biscuit he held up. "Do you miss it, the closeness of your clan?" He held out a bowl of porridge and nodded. "I have a sister. Younger, Dali; her feet always found a way into my gut." She laughed and smirked as he closed his eyes and rubbed his stomach affectionately. "Miss it."


"If you like, I'll put my feet on your back. They're usually freezing though." He laughed at that. The bushes rustled and Bull in close, stretching." You got any family, kitten?" She looked up from her bowl pale before shaking her head. "Not anymore. Its not up for discussion." Lycus grunted and held out a bowl to Varric who looked pretty well put together for just waking up. "Think we can make it to Val Royeaux today, I got some contacts to catch up with," he asked, completely ignoring the tension, God bless him.
"We'll make it," Lycus assured. She ate quickly and started breaking down the tent as they finished. She let them pack up while she bathed and wiped down her mouth with a scrap of cloth. Varric came over and paused watching her. "Remind me to get you mouth powder when we get there." She laughed and spat, rinsing her mouth. "Thank goodness that exists, I've been wiping my teeth and tongue since I got here."

 


She felt Bull touch her leg and lifted her head from her chest. How she managed to sleep on a horse was beyond her but the sight of the city in the distance shook off the remaining fog. Well...it was no New York skyline, but she could see the appeal after nothing but the Kings Highway. "Stay with me," she asked out of the blue. Varric turned in the seat and Lycus grumbled, slowing the horse to walk beside her.


"We're getting a hotel and resting, then heading to the salon later tomorrow night. She hummed unconvinced. "You see something that's got you spooked," the Iron Bull asked.


"No. But cities have always made me nervous. I prefer woods and mountains-warm ones anyway." They all shared a laugh at that. As they approached she touched Lycus' hand. "If anyone asks you to get off that nag, I'm going to spit in their face." He looked at her with an eyebrow raised. "Your definitely a strange one."


"Never mind. This isn't Django." His face scrunched more but he just shook his head. She watched his posture slowly straighten the closer they got until finally Varric himself slid off and walked beside them.


Anything he did, she mimicked as they approached the inn's stables. "The Lady's Slipper," she murmured, dismounting and handing over the reigns. "I'll check us into the rooms," Varric commented, pointed behind him. She wrung her hands chewing her lip. She didn't want to separate but it wouldn't be proper for her to stay with them. Lycus snapped his fingers in front of her. "I'll be near. I promise." She inhaled and bowed. "As my Herald says." She walked with her head held high and hands laced over her stomach, ignoring Iron Bull's chuckle at her paradigm shift.

Chapter Text

"Too much!"
"Nope." She groaned holding onto the post of the bed while Bull tightened the corset strings behind her. A cough escaped her throat as he gave it one more yank. The Inquisition had paid for their rooms and they shared one washroom between the two. When she had first walked in for help, she had immediately regretted it when he stood up, cracking his knuckles. Varric had already left to find his contacts and Lycus just smirked and crossed his arms with a 'this aught be interestin'.


Jess winced and tried to fix the boning digging into her hip. Bull smacked her hand away gently. "Not yet."
"If I don't do it now, its going to get worse!" He turned her and looked at her chest nodding. "Could go a little more."


"If you even try I will kill you," she warned and he let out a large bellow of a laugh. He held up the dress that was sent ahead of them and she eyed the gold fabric and groaned again. "How do you even know how to do this!"
"Worked Orlais long enough to know," he answered easily, leaving the implications hanging in the air.


"Lamb your makin' this worse and we're runnin out a time." She growled stepping into the dress and grabbed the post, resting her head against it; praying for patience...and air. Finally the torture stopped and she straightened weakly. "You ready?"


"For what? Bull!" She tensed when he squatted and reached under her dress hands on her waist. He gripped hard and pushed up. The whole corset shifted just enough to ease the pressure on her hips and pushed her chest almost out of the cups. "Bull!"


"Keep saying my name like that and I might not let you leave." She blushed at the sudden rush of heat and whined again when he took her hair and began to twist it. " God dammit stop pulling! It's not going to stay," she gasped when he pulled her head back to to fix the shorter ringlets that framed her face, staring at him mouth slightly a gape at his boldness. Whatever he saw there caused a low growl in his throat.


"The Iron Bull," Lycus warned. He smirked and finished folding her hair into a large french twist. "Mask," he demanded adjusting the gold and black porcelain over her eyes and then using the ribbon to keep her mane tied. He gave her a once over nodding. "Yeah. There we go."


She went to the mirror, expecting a disaster, and looked at her reflection. "Holy shit." The rise of her cleavage was two globes over the straight cut and framed by a black bolero. Being naturally a little too wide in the hips back home to fit pants without a muffin top, the dress flared without a bustle, though it was nowhere as near as poofy as Orlesian style dictated. She had a feeling the form fitting dress was chosen on purpose, but to what extent? Lycus nodded approvingly. "You look lovely Lamb. I worry for you."

"Now announcing Lycus Lavellan, Herald of Andraste and his personal Aide Lady Jessabelle Snow of Seere Rivain." She smirked and Lycus smiled and it was dazzling. "Rivain will suit you," he whispered. "Mention the architecture of the fountain and the lighting of the statue. Should be safe topics," she advised, smiling and greeting the first curious group. She nearly lost her composure when he was pulled in an opposite direction.


"Lady Snow," she forced a smile and bowed perfectly turning her attention back. "I have heard the most awful tales of Dairsmund. Are any of them true?" The women in front her tittered and she hummed putting a finger to her chin; the tittering stopped for a split second, probably because of her ring. "I traveled often, business always pulled me away, but I will always love the warm weather and beauty of Rivain. More interesting are the terrible rumors of Orlais. To think a nation as splendid as this could be in a civil war!" She tutted and put a hand to her cheek in emphasis. "While I've never had the," she paused and pursed her lips for added effect, "Pleasure of meeting Gaspard or Celene, I know this city must be besides itself with want for an end to this."


"Well said," one woman gasped. She smiled and made small circular conversation while watching The Herald. His ears were slowly pressing closer to his head and back, reminding her of Black Betty when she was about to attack someone touching her belly. "But I steal you time! Have you met the Herald of Andraste himself!" She motioned for him from his crowd and bowed deeply when he approached. She noticed only two did a small head bow, not willing to show any more deference in front of the others. Two is good enough for this crowd. Josie will be happy.


Lycus held himself stiffly, only doing a curt nod. "We have heard-"


"I'm sure what you've heard is very entertaining," he cut her off, his ears almost against his head, "But I can assure you its false. The only truth is that we need to stop the breach and save Thedas, and the Inquisition will do this."


"The Inquisition, what a load of pigshit." Jessabelle rolled her eyes and walked to the other side of Lycus, watching the man descend. "Marquise, darling, I think that smell is coming from somewhere else," she ducked a little to her left and looked pointedly to his shoes, keeping her fingers laced. The Game is about inflection, not outright motive. "It's alright though, your charming personality completely overrides any offense. Come, meet Herald Lavellan." The snickers had the Marquise posturing even more. "You and your...Aide," she raised an eyebrow that couldn't be seen anyway; implying I'm sleeping with him? Interesting, "are charlatans, taking advantage of the panic!" She made a small sound of surprise when Lycus took her elbow and moved her behind him.


"If you were a true man, you'd answer the charge!" She closed her eyes and felt the tell tale whoosh of magic, shivering at the blast of cold. She watched Vivienne approach, admiring the grace even as she disliked the woman. The scene played out like clockwork, with Lycus dismissing the man with an impatient wave of a hand. She followed them at a polite distance fingers laced over her stomach and refusing the offered wine from a servant. Vivienne was starting her speech, when Lycus raised his hand. "I apologize Madame de Fer but I came to offer you a place in the Inquisition. I have wasted too much time here already when the rest of Thedas needs me. Will you accept or shall I excuse myself now."


Jessabelle winced with a small hiss, "Not how this was supposed to go." One of his ears twitched back at her and he sighed. "Please my lady, the Inquisition is in need of talented mages."
"Of course it is darling. And I can assure you this is the start of something marvelous. Your Aide can accompany me back to Haven."


"My Aide is needed elsewhere, Madame de Fer. If you need a detachment, I'll gladly prepare an escort for you. Thank you for your hospitality."


He bowed and motioned Jess to follow. She forced herself to smile at Vivienne with a bow and to any noble they passed before meeting him outside. The Iron Bull opening a carriage they rented ushering her in. Once inside he snarled, "Dread Wolf take them!" She waited for his elven swearing to finish. "That good huh?"


He paused and sighed covering his face. "I don' know what I was expectin'." She watched him and decided to change the subject. "I wonder why Leliana gave me a Rivaini background."


"She didn', I did." She tilted her head with a surprised smile, but he still looked annoyed. "You look Rivaini; long black hair, sun warmed skin, and brown eyed. They honor women an' their seers are respected, an' you act like a woman used to power. Plus...your tattoos."


Jessabelle visibly stiffened, pressing more into the seat. "I didn't think anyone saw them; nobody mentioned it. Ever." He scoffed, "You've any idea how disrespectful it is to ask someone about their markings? An' as beautiful as your's are? Markings are a sign of power in Rivain. And your butterflies are delicate, like a hand took meticulous care in making them." She crossed her arms frowning. "Why the hell did we cover mine up then? We could've used them as leverage."


"For what purpose!" She flinched then yelled back, "What the hell has gotten into you!"


"They were biddin' on ya! Like if the sky wasn' fallin around them, they was more concern with biddin' on ya like you were cattle! Like if me bein' a Dalish elf meant they could try an' intimidate me in ta handin' y'over!" She blinked and cleared her throat feeling slimy. "That's...unexpected. But at least Josie will be happy." She lowered her gaze at his glower and they rode in silence the rest of the way.

She pulled the mask off when they reached their landing at the inn and was turning to address him when Bull pushed her against the wall, finger to his lips.
She watched him take his ax in hand and Lycus moved her behind him, lightning dancing on his nails. "One, two....three." Bull threw open the door and stormed in followed by Lycus and finally her. She gasped and threw herself in front of them. "STOP!"


She stood mouth open, blatantly staring at the far too smug blonde assassin in the room. His hair was pulled into a loose bun and his armor looked more like the armor a rogue Inquisitor would wear, but it was no doubt the overly suave former Antivan Crow. The two markings on his cheek weren't even visible at this angle and she still knew it was him. "Such suspicious friends you have," Zevran tutted.


"You know him," Bull asked standing straight. "Yes. No. I know of him. This is Zevran Araini, Zev to his friends." He laughed, and she relaxed more. "I must say, Leliana was right about you. Though if she had told me how beautiful you were, I would have come much sooner." Jess smirked and spread her arms wide to encompass both men behind her. "You'll have to be more specific Zev. We're all beautiful here."


"Indeed you are!" He laughed crossing his arms and leaning against the bed post. "But she had mentioned only one who wasn't a fighter. So unless you have something dangerous under that dress?"
Lycus made a disgusted noise and Zev tsk'ed again. "All the same. I have been asked to keep you safe until you reach the Ferelden border. And since I have thoroughly searched this room and found nothing that needs assassinating, perhaps you would like to show me where you rest bellisima."


"Hell yes," she breathed grabbing his arm and dragging him to her room. "Lamb!"


"Let her be Boss. If Red's vouched for him, she's in good hands."

**********

She yanked him into the room kissing him roughly, kicking the door closed. "My so violent! Leliana may wish to change her statement!" She glared at him and he smirked before caressing her cheek and taking control. Her fingers curled to the nape of neck pulling him down to her while his curled into her hair, pulling her head back. Her breath caught when the back of her dressed popped open. "Do you know how hard it was to get into this" she asked breathless being pulled back into his searing kiss. "I'll see if I can get you out faster," he murmured walking her backwards toward the bed. She almost tripped as the fabric pooled by her legs.


Zevran leaned back admiring her and a deep blush rose from her chest to her cheeks. "So responsive," he teased. Jess smirked and turned around for him to undo her lacing. "Ah ah cara mia," he corrected turning her back around and sliding his hands over her shoulders squeezing the muscles of her traps before sliding down her back, pressing open mouthed kisses to her neck. She somehow managed to focus enough to pull the lacing of his leather chest piece loose when her corset popped open. She leaned her head back and gasped laughing. "Sweet air," she sighed before he claimed her lips again, not moving back until she was gasping for air and her lips were bruised.
A squeal escaped her when he lifted her and laid her onto the bad, now turning his attention to her exposed chest. Fandoms beware, he's more dangerous in person. Her thoughts were wiped when his hands lifted her waist and pulled the bloomers yes bloomers, down and tossed them over his shoulder. "I need to find those in the morning," she warned with a smirk.


"Worry in the morning then mi amor."


"How many words of endearment do you even know?" He smirked kissing her thigh and sighed. "You know, you think too much." He licked a long slow line up her and she moaned, forgetting whatever comeback she had thought of. "Hm, yes, that's more like it," he teased and she laughed until he returned to his ministrations.


She writhed fighting to control her breaths, head thrown back. A sheen of sweat rose over her body as she tried to control her arches. He tsk'ed and took off his armour easily. "I've never met a woman so afraid to let go." His fingers dug into the crease of her hips, holding her steady as he surged forward. Her head knocked against the headboard and she let out a hiss before laughing. "Ah apologies," He whispered, yanking her down hard towards him while he thrusted up. He threw her legs over his arms with a wink, causing an arch in her spine that almost hurt.
Her release came far too suddenly, and she cried out, grabbing onto his shoulder and pulling him closer to ride it out. Finally her body relaxed and he moved back, gently rubbing her leg. A hand snaked its way to her ass and with far too much grace that should be allowed, he flipped her onto her knees and pushed in back in to the hilt. She tried to drown her keening into the mattress, until his hand found its way to the nape of her neck and pulled her onto all fours. She closed her eyes as his breath ghosted over her cheek. "It's been a while since someone was so eager, so lets take some time, yes?" A groan escaped her and she nodded, completely on board with such a plan.


**********


A soft brush on her cheek jolted her awake, looking around warily. "Shh, your safe cariña." She calmed and laid her head back down with a content moan and stretch. "I don't know of this god you keep mentioning, but I like the way his name fell from your lips." She gasped and shook her head. "I'm sure its as sacrilegious for you to say that as it was for me to...say...that." He laughed and she groaned throwing her hair over her shoulder and pushing him.


His hand curled a lock around his finger with a smile. "Che bella. Such beauty." She hummed and sat up, holding the sheet to her chest. "Apparently its the first thing people notice."


"Oh? So you are aware they call you Lady Lionheart and the Herald's black maned Lioness then." She frowned wiping her eyes to wake up more. "Your lying."


"You wound me, amor. I never lie to the pretty ones." She eyed him fully now, once again armored. "Leaving so soon? I must've been a terrible lay." His face became serious. "I would have left without waking you if that were true. Come this self loathing does not suit a face like yours." He touched her cheek and she rested her hand over his, preparing the mask of indifference she had become accustomed to. She looked up at him genuinely at peace and then slid her mask into place.


"Oh cariña, I cannot say I this is my favorite expression, and I have seen many cross your face. Truthfully though, I may never look at brown eyes the same again." She laughed and sighed letting her hand fall back into her lap. "Yes, well. I needed that." He coiled a ringlet again. "My pleasure to help amor." She hummed and pointed to a knife in his bracer, pulling it out slowly in case he wanted to stop her. He simply smirked curious. "Planning to kill me now that you've had your fun? What a saucy minx."


"That's more your style Zev, and I never copy a professional." She twirled a length of hair from by her neck and cut it before he could stop her. "Here, a memento to add to your collection of many conquests," she joked. His face was stunned and she grimaced, worried she pulled some assassin faux pas, until he tackled her to the bed and kissed her roughly. "Perhaps I should return with you to Haven after all," he mused kissing her neck. "Please don't. I'd never get any work done," She sighed and then stiffened at the hard banging on the door.


"Lamb? I'm coming in." Zevran smirked at her and sat up as the door opened. She held the sheet to her chest once more and watched him saunter past Lycus, pausing to hand him something. "I will clear the road ahead for you," he explained with a salute, closing the door behind him. Lycus stared at the door before moving closer to her, sitting in a chair by the bed. They waited each other out until he finally sighed. "You okay?"


"Yes, I'm okay." He rubbed his neck nodding. "He didn' hurt ya?" She laughed shaking her head. "No Lycus. He didn't hurt me." She sat up holding the sheet; "What'd he give you?" He smirked and poured her a cup of water, then handed her the small black bottle. She barked out a laugh and blushed. "Of course he did."

Chapter Text

She shifted in the saddle once again, wincing at the twinge from her earlier...excursions. She also made it a point not to look at Bull whenever she did. Varric kept turning in the seat behind Lycus to look at her, and she knew it was coming sooner or later. Sooner came far too soon for her liking.


"So Rosy-"


"No Varric."


"I haven't said anything yet!"


"Lets keep it that way, yes?" She had hoped that was the end of it, as he turned back around. She honestly should've known better. "So you and Zevran huh?"


"Are we honestly talking about my sex life right now?"


"No no, not at all. I just didn't take you for the type to go for assassins. In fact you hardly seemed interested in anyone back at Haven."


"Oh my God, we're actually talking about my sex life. I try not to shit where I sleep, unless its glaringly clear that it is simply sex and nothing more."  
"So casual is more your style?" She almost snarled at him. "Alright Varric, tit for tat; do you prefer dwarves or humans? I imagine Humans and their longs legs just get in the way, yes? What do you do, throw them over your shoulders? And are there whole forms you gotta fill before going at it with someone from a different guild? How does that even work? 'Hey I wanna bone your apprentice, here's ten soveriegns in case I ruin her for anyone else?"


He laughed and threw a hand up. "Alright, alright. I get the point. Then how about a song?" She rolled her eyes and threw back her head with an exasperated cry. "Eh, last night sounded a little higher in the octaves," Bull supplied. "Are you two kidding me? Either I tell you about my sexual preferences or I sing you a song. That's a lose lose for me." He smiled unrepentent and she glared before giving an indignant sniff. "Fine, let me see..." She hummed softly under her breath until the tune sounded about right.


Birds flying high,You know how I feel
Sun in the sky, You know how I feel
Reeds driftin' on by, You know how I feel
It's a new dawn, It's a new day, It's a new life, For me
And I'm feeling good


She smirked at Lycus's snort and Iron Bull's bark of a laugh. "Hey, blame him, he wanted a song!" She took a deep breath, already in the swing of the music in her head.


Fish in the sea, You know how I feel
River running free, You know how I feel
Blossom on the tree, You know how I feel
It's a new dawn, It's a new day, It's a new life
For me
And I'm feeling good
Dragonfly out in the sun, you know what I mean, don't you know
Butterflies all havin' fun, you know what I mean
Sleep in peace when the day is done, that's what I mean
And this old world is a new world
And a bold world
For me
For me


She smiled wildly, blushing at how loud she had sung the ending. As terrible as it was, it felt good to lighten up even just a little, and Lycus seemed to smile a little more too because of it. Varric nodded, "I liked that one, might ask you to sing it again." She chuckled and shook her head. "Nope, one time showing. Want anymore and you'll have to pay."

 

Varric's grinned leaning back, "Hey speaking of which-", Her head shot up at movement down the road and yanked on her reigns, pulling closer to Bull. A rider approached far too urgently.

"Peace, its one of our scouts," Lycus explained squinting, moving into a trot to intercept him.  Jess looked at Bull who watched narrow eyed. "Can you hear what they're saying?"


"I'm Qunari kitten, not elf. My sense of smell is stronger than my hearing." she made a small 'oh'. "You okay now?" She looked at him confused. "What...do you mean?"
"A day ago you had seen someone die apparently for the first itme in your life; hell you looked that was the first time someone threatened your life. It was only a matter of time before you broke down one way or the other. If the assassin hadn't showed I would've offered."

 

She smiled slowly shaking her head at the realization. "That's why you were riling me up? Because you wanted to make sure  I felt...alive?"
"That.  And because you look cute flustered." She scoffed and pushed his shoulder. "Go fuck yourself Bull."
"With pleasure kitten, with pleasure."

 

They caught up with him and he pointed to the scout. "Lamb, go with the rider; a rift has been spotted."
 "I can wait for you," she countered, looking at the scout nervously. "I won' risk it. Go on now."

 

She pressed her lips together upset at being left behind and tugged her horse ahead. "Lamb-"
"I heard you Herald. Go, I'll be fine." She spurned her horse forward into a gallop trying to keep a distance from the scout. She remembered on the way into Orlais there had been a small scouting post off on the side of the King's Highway and made her way there.


It wasn't like her to be so rash or angry over something so small. She pulled her horse to a slow trot watching both sides of the road for the path. "Lady Snow! Please wait!" She spun the horse to look at him, and he seemed to flinch. "The post has been moved farther ahead." She narrowed her eyes and nodded. "Lead the way." He looked confused and she motioned with her head, as if to help him understand. "Y-yes Lady Snow."


In the end the post was only a little farther ahead than she had remembered. She dismounted and walked to the edge of the camp, sitting on a stump. Her hand went through her hair, shaking it out with a sigh. Pull yourself together girl. This was not good. She was beyond this type of behavior. With a stretch she paced the perimeter, hands laced and back straight. The soldiers watched her curious, and she felt like a bug under a microscope.


It was several hours later that she heard Varric approaching. She walked swiftly to the path, sighing relieved when the three of them appeared around the corner. Bull paused in his laughing studying her.  "You good Rosy," Varric asked sliding down beside her. "Of course. I was more concerned for all of you,"  and while it wasn't a lie, it wasn't the truth either.  "I'm glad your back."


"Herald, there's a tent here if you wish to rest before heading out." He nodded tiredly and Jess tried to hide her frown, heading back to her self proclaimed stump.

 

As expected Bull sighed and lowered himself beside her minutes later. "Someone bother you?"


"No." He eyed her for a moment then nodded accepting her answer. "You don't trust easily," he observed laying back onto his elbows. "Should I," she countered, picking at her fingernails. "Hey," his growl made her look up even though she was trying to be stubborn. He smirked as if understanding that and she flushed angrily. "Your safe kitten."


"You weren't here."


"You said no one bothered you."


"And nobody did." She closed her eyes and exhaled. "Forget it, I don't understand it myself." He sat up with a grunt and rubbed his braced ankle. "Yes you do, you just don't want to say it out loud." A small hum escaped her as she watched him unable to argue with that.


Annoyed with his prodding she got up and knelt beside him. "Your only going to make it angrier. Here, let me. Take this...thing off." He chuckled and removed his brace and shoe. She studied the scar on the outside of his shin. Taking off the surcoat and placing it under his leg, she let her fingers slowly work into the scar tissue, muscle memory overriding her frayed nerves and letting her fall into something more familiar. She listened to his grunts, noted the muscle twitches and adjusted pressure accordingly.


"Rosy!" She snapped her up startled. Varric laughed and put a hand on her shoulder. "You okay, been calling you for a while now." She looked up at the Iron Bull and flinched; he was studying her far too intently with a smirk. "I'm sorry Varric, you needed me for something?"


"Charmer wanted to see you. That and I think you were making these guys jealous." She peered past him to the soldiers trying to look like they weren't watching her work. "They're just jealous of Bull in general," she countered, putting her coat back on.

 

"How's it feel," she murmered lowering the pant leg.
"Better, can't say I enjoyed it while it was happening, but it definitely doesn't ache now." She hummed agreeing. "You scar tissue is probably interrupting the nerve's signal. Numbness commonplace for you?"A scout came over and bowed, "Lady Snow, the Herald is requesting your presence." She sighed and stood up wincing at the pain in her knees. "Thank you. I'll go right now."


"Come back over and I'll return the favor," Bull offered slyly, earning a chuckle from Varric. With a smirk and a head shake she went to find Lycus. He stood facing the path to the road, looking regal and beautiful with his hair loose from his braid and and framing him. She stood beside him, hands behind her back. They stayed in a slightly tense silence until he sighed and she spared him a glance curious.


"I don't know how to say this."


"That's a good start. It lets me know what your going to say may piss me off, but you don't mean it to." He laughed surprised and relaxed his shoulders a bit. She smiled and inhaled with a hum. "Let me guess, you want to reprimand me for earlier?" He looked at her from his periphereal. "Reprimand may be a little harsh, Lamb." She scoffed with a smile. "Hm, okay then...How about you wanted to warn me not to storm off in front of others? I must say that's not something I can promise. Storming off is actually one of my strong suits; I look amazing while doing it."


His laugh rang out and she took a chance to lean her head on his arm. "I trust you Lycus, with my life. That doesn't mean I have to trust anyone else under you."

 

He went silent and she stood straighter waiting. "I'll keep that in mind," he finally whispered, throwing an arm hesitantly over her shoulder. She stepped closer and rested her ear to his chest. "You know, elves were always supposed to be these lithe thin creatures. You guys are more built like cats. All muscle and hidden strength."
He waggled his eyebrows and she broke into a fit of laughter, pushing him away. "Nevermind, forget I said anything."


"Not a chance." He made a show of overly stretching, posing and showing off different sides. "Oh my gosh, you ham!"  He pulled her under his arm again and she stayed, saying nothing and completely content in the silence. They both caught sight of the crow at the same time and turned to watch it land by the makeshift rookery. Sharing a look, he strolled over and waited while the handler freed the missive. He looked it over quickly then held it ou to the Herald. He frowned and held it out to her. "Read it to me please," she asked bored, cleaning out her nails. He winced at remembering her illiteracy and moved closer.

 

"Leliana says "the mission was a success, soldiers on the move, casualties on both sides."
Jess jolted back and he looked at her worried. "Casualties? There wasn't supposed to be casualties! What the hell went wrong?" He shook his head and gave his signature whistle, calling Varric and Iron Bull over. "We have ta get movin'. Somethin's gone wrong."


"Very wrong," she added motionong for her horse, hands shaking as she tried to check the stirrups. A scout came over and held out a hand to help when her fingers had slipped for the third time. She murmured a small thanks and wrung her hands. Her heart was pounding painfully against her ribs. Lycus touched her shoulder and drew her attention to his face. "Lamb. We'll fix this. We'll make it right." She forced a smile at his brogue and shook her head. "What if we can't?"


"Then we'll find who's responsible and pay them in kind." She hummed and mounted, trying to take comfort in that, even as it left her mouth tasting like ash.

Chapter Text

Jessabelle sulked by the river's edge, pulling her cloak around her shoulders tighter. The air of the camp was tense, she felt bad that Bull and Varric had to watch that argument; it was not one of her most stunning moments. As it was, Lycus was off 'hunting' to cool down. How a mage hunted was beyond her but he was Dalish so maybe he had a few tricks. Varric sat down next to her with a sigh. She watched him from the corner of her eye, not lifting her chin from where it rested on her knee. "You know he's right."
"I do." He nodded rubbing his neck. She looked back out to water, plucking at the grass by her feet. "The horses have to rest."


"I said I understand Varric."


"Then why so glum?" She wrapped her arms around her legs, trying to find words for the ache behind her breastbone. "I could've sent people that weren't supposed to die to their deaths. Its one thing to not know an outcome; its another to make the decision anyway." He rubbed her back scooting closer. "Your taking the blame for something you can't control." She rolled her head so her cheek rested on her knee, waiting for him to continue. "The Inquisition soldiers? the scouts? They chose this life Rosy. This was their choice, and they knew it might end like this. Hell, I know that. Doesn't mean we're weren't willing to. Doesn't mean I'm not willing to."


Jessabelle watched him before shaking her head. "Someone deciding their life is worth sacrificing for someone else is one thing but I made that choice for them. I just want to know what happened Varric. how did I screw up this bad." He looked at her sadly. "Can you bring them back?" She lowered her gaze with a shake of her head. "Then its not worth driving the horses to the ground." She nodded and went back to sulking.


She felt him approach and opened her eyes. When did I get comfortable enough to- Sitting up, she sighed as his boots stopped by her. "You made it clear we waited till morning to proceed. What else do you want to discuss, my Herald?" A bowl was held out in front her; she stared at it for a second, then took it and placed it by her feet.

"Eat Lamb."
"I will.
"Now." She sprang to her feet angry. "Your entitled to my advise, not my person!"


"You're takin' this too personally." She scoffed arms thrown wide and vulnerable. "Of course I am! People died!" His fingers twined through her hair to grasp the nape of her neck, squeezing gently and pulling her closer. "Oh Lethallin," he soothed sadly, "Everyone dies. How many more will before this is over? You can't take blame for everything." Her eyes traveled over his whole face, taking in the lines around the eyes and the tightness of his mouth.


"It still hurts to think about," she finally whispered; allowing him to pull her to his chest. "As it should. I worry for the day you don' care." A few tears slipped down her cheeks. He held her a moment longer, the scooped up the bowl and held it to her chest. "Eat, please. We ride at dawn." She ate the mush, begrudgingly. Her stomach was still queasy with meat, so they filled her grain, porridge, and dried fruits; and she was getting bored of it.


She stayed awake for most the night, until the sky first started to change and sprang from the tent to prepare her horse. Bull looked back from his patrol spot and frowned. "You sleep at all kitten?"
"A bit," she lied. His grunt let her know he knew. As soon as Lycus was up she rounded on him. "Search me." He jumped back startled. "W-what?"
"Am I a mage? Search me." He frowned and touched her shoulder. "Lamb I already did. Solas too when you passed out. You're no mage. Sensitive to magic yes, but not a mage."


"Oh." He grinned and crossed his arms. "Ya sound disappointed." She shrugged. "A bit relieved and a bit disappointed. I felt your approach last night. It doesn't make sense." He hummed intrigued and sighed. "We'll look into it later Lamb. Lets head out."

 

 

 

 

The cold hurt her lungs as they ascended the road to Haven so she couldn't help but cursing the frigid wind under her breath. They rode at a quick pace up the winding path until the first bridge came into view. She pulled up near Lycus and gave him a worried glance. He smiled and patted her arm. "It'll be okay Lamb." Jessabelle wished she could take comfort in that.


A horn blew announcing them as they entered and she dismounted by the soldier's tents, letting a handler take her horse. Lycus followed her lead and they walked towards the gate side by side. The Advisors came and met them on the steps, along with Ser Delrin and Cassandra.


"Welcome back Herald, Lady Jessabelle. This is Ser Delrin Barris." He hit a fist to his chest and bowed. "I'm glad you listened, but what happened, you said-No." She took a step back as Cole materialized beside him. Cullen did a double take but no one else moved, except for Lycus who pulled her back. "Why is-what happened? You're- you're-"

"I'm Cole. I'm here to help."


"The opportunity presented itself to free the Templars," Cassandra began, obviously not seeing him. "We pressed the fortress when we saw those willing and were able to free-"


"Who authorized this," She interrupted harshly, voice carrying. "What have you done?" Cassandra blinked confused. Leliana motioned for the soldiers to move everyone back. "Lamb, what's going on," Lycus worried shifting.


"No no. This isn't supposed to happen! The mages; I killed them! I messed up, I messed up!" Now everyone noticed the strange boy in the hat.
"COLE! Stop. It. Get out of my head. Please." He lowered his head. "No, that wasn't right." She ignored his rambling and approached Cassandra furious. "What. Did. You. DO."


"I ordered her to press the attack, if Ser Barris exited," Cullen explained. She sobbed and pressed a hand to her mouth pacing. "It was a tactical advantage-"

"Were the mages you killed in Kirkwall not enough!" The Commander paled, looking between her and the Herald. Lycus grabbed her shoulder and turned her to him. "Jessabelle focus! What's happening?"


"They assaulted the keep, and in doing so moved everything forward! The mages are lost to us! I killed them all!" She wrenched herself free wringing her hands. "Why didn't you listen; I planned it all out for you!"
"Lamb, How do we fix this?"
"How the fuck should I know! I gave you a plan! You all fucked it up!" He grabbed her face and held her firmly in place. "What can we do?"


She shook her head. "I-I don't know." He moved and squeezed her shoulders. "Think. Those mages need us now." She closed her eyes and breathed in deep, trying to sort through the panic. Pulling free again, she roared for a horse. "Ride to Redcliffe, don't stop for anything. Meet with Fiona, she'll tell you something strange and you'll meet a man named Alexius. If his son doesn't faint, you get the hell out of there and ride back. If he does, follow the note." She pointed to Leliana, "Send a raven to the companions in the Hinterlands to meet him in Redcliffe now. he'll need the show of support. Then call every agent, every scout back to Haven. We need every hand to prepare, Bring everything they've collected, I mean everything." Leliana nodded once and motioned for someone to follow her practically running.


Josephine came up next quill at the ready and waiting. "Compile a list of all the talents we have; carpenters, masons, tailors, hunters, I can use anyone. And send a warning that a possible attack has been uncovered. Anyone who wishes to leave now should while the road will be safe with agents coming back." She scribbled and nodded as Jess pointed to Cullen, "Call everyone in Haven and separate them into three shifts to work around the clock. Move beds to the Chantry so they have a chance to sleep peacefully. Once Lady Ambassador is done with her list, get everyone organized by trade. You know about defenses so build one." She looked at Delrin. "How many men do you have? Are they well enough to work?"


"Give the word my lady, my men serve the Inquisition." She forced a smile and motioned towards the Chantry. "Clear the trees around the Chantry and bring them here. The wood can be used for a barricade wall and we'll need to move the horses when the time comes." She spun and stopped Lycus as he mounted. "Be careful ma'falon. Stay in touch and trust your instinct. If you believe you're in danger, come back" She held onto his forearm following the horse until he turned around and galloped out.


"What should I do," she paused and glowered at Cassandra. "You've done enough Seeker. Rest for now."
"I will not be sent to rest like a child Lady Jessabelle. I made a mistake, I would correct it." She stilled and deflated. "You were following orders Cassandra. I can't fault you for that. Round up anyone unable to help, we have to get them out of Haven. And if Madame de Fer arrived, have her start freezing a shield wall around Haven starting across the lake. She may listen to you better than me. Once that's done, follow the Herald to Redcliffe."


And where will you be?"


"Adan's."


"Maker preserve us." She smirked and ran up the steps, stopping at the alienage. "I need harvesters. Anyone not assigned to a permanent position, I need in the field around Haven collecting."
"What should we get Miss?" Several had stood, runners probably from the ay they crouched ready to take off. "Elfroot obviously but rip down fresh pine needles as well."
"Pine needles, Miss?"
"Its a good antiseptic. We can use it in teas for colds and also to keep our bodies clean to prevent-just collect pine needles please. Spruce as well if you find them but keep them separated."
"At once!" She moved aside as the tent city practically evacuated to complete their orders. She ducked as a congress of ravens took to the skies. She watched them transfixed before spotting Leliana and nodding once with a smirk. They could do this.

 

 

 

 

Jessabelle winced painfully as her fingers burned, tearing the muslin into strips and soaking them in alcohol to sterilize them. She sat in a tent with several other women, mostly elves, shredding and prepping bandages into bags. She was shooed out of Adan's when she had almost fallen asleep prepping the blood lotus for Antivan fire. She had made like she was going to the Chantry to rest and ducked into another tent. A granny with only two teeth, sat hemming cross body bags from tents that wore torn down.


Jess tried to get her to evacuate but she simply refused, saying she was too old to keep running. There was no way this old woman would survive a dragon and the walk to Skyhold, so Jess found herself speaking kindly and checking on her often from guilt. The hag must've known her end was coming, because she would repeatedly tell her she was ready to meet the Maker however He chose to call her. It made her heartsick.


"M'lady?" She lifted her head wearily. "Yes dear?" The elven lass winced and cleared her throat, "M'lady you 'aven't rested at all since ya came back yesterday. We's can finish this."

 

She turned her head to look at the bolts of muslin still left. "I'm okay. I'll rest when we finish."


"Lair," Granny countered, chewing on something. Jess narrowed her eyes at her, but kept shredding.
A head popped in between the flaps; she recognized the tattoos and tried to duck her head. "Lady Jessabelle, your presence is needed in the war room."


"I'm busy Ser Rylen." He sighed and came in. "Apologies ma'am but the Commander said you might say that. I'm to escort you." She controlled her groan and handed her cloth over. "Of course you are," she replied resigned, following him out. She stumbled on a step and caught onto his arm. "Pardon me saying so, but I haven't seen you in the Chantry yet."


"I'm going now, aren't I?" He bit back a laugh and held the heavy door for her.


She opened the door to the war room, then stilled. "I'm sorry, I forgot to knock." Cullen motioned her in. "Never mind that Lady Jess. We just got a letter from the Herald. And one from this Magister Alexius." She rubbed her eyes nodding. "Is he inviting the Herald to the castle?"


"Actually," Leliana replied, "He's invited both of you. The Herald wants to know how to proceed. He says half the mages have already been taken to Tevinter." She leaned back against the wall and closed her eyes to think. "They weren't taken to Tevinter, they were killed or used in experiments, the Tranquil murdered for their skulls. Did Lycus want to go?" There was a collective hush.


"He was insistent actually," Leliana recovered. "Only Solas' urging to think stopped him from storming the castle."


"Redcliffe castle impenetrable regardless," Cullen argued.


"Its not," Jessabelle countered opening her eyes. "But I don't trust you to listen. I don't trust you with the Herald's life." He lowered his gaze and bowed his head once. "I understand your sentiment, but we can't leave him defenseless." She raised an eyebrow and looked at Leliana. "And none of you are going to try and convince me otherwise?"


"Would you even listen?"


"No."


"Then I won't waste your time. You know what will happen whether we send him or not. And we know you care for him and won't leave him. We can't convince you to trust us, but we trust you to help. We'll listen this time."


Manipulative little bitch. Jessabelle stared at her before sighing and coming up to the map. "You and the hero of Ferelden entered through a passage meant for the Arl's family escape. Your men must infiltrate while Lycus and I answer the missive. A few soldiers walking us to the castle will be enough of a distraction. If I knew he'd let me, I'd go myself rather than risk him."


She detailed the plan as close as how she remembered, not saying anything about the time displacement. They screwed her over already with a small thing, she wasn't willing to trust them with the future "And your sure he'll survive?" She stood up and cracked her neck. "I'll take the blow if it comes to that." Cullen opened his mouth and the Spymaster silenced him with a hand on his shoulder. "Don't risk yourself." She nodded rubbing her shoulder "Noted. Send another letter to Alistair letting him know we'll get the castle back for him," She yawned almost missing the door handle.


Josie watched her worried. "Lady Jessabelle, have you slept yet?"


"No, she hasn't," Rylen called from flanking the door. "Maker's breath," She heard behind her. "She'll likely break her neck falling off a horse."


"I can take her to Redcliffe," he offered and she was too tired to argue. "Fine, Yes, wonderful idea. Lets get moving. Send a signal for us to approach when your men are ready, Nightingale."


She didn't remember a bay horse being bought, but there was one in front of her now. She turned and looked around. "Cole?" She jumped when he appeared beside her. "Help wherever you can. Please help us be ready." He disappeared and she turned back to the horse. Rylen helped her mount and slid behind her. She took his arm and wrapped it around her middle. "I'm going to nap. Wake me when we're close." He chuckled and took off. "Aye lass. I can do that."

 

 

 


She opened her arms and ran into the Herald's. "You shouldn't be here," he murmured into her hair. "We don't have a choice, ma'falon." He squeezed her tighter. She walked to the camp with Blackwall and the others. "About time, Lady Bits," Sera groused. "Now lets kick this magi-whatever in his dangly bits."


"Oh how eloquent. Tell me, is this the supposed seer?" She turned and put a hand to Lycus' chest. "Good God. Do you see this? What is this gorgeous work of your Maker?" She circled Dorian slowly nodding, and how wonderful! He preened. "Well that's not foreseeing the future; anyone can see how gorgeous I am."She smiled and bowed offering her hand, "Dorian Pavus of Minrathous, it is a pleasure to meet you. Jessabelle Snow, Jess if it pleases you."


"Hm, well maybe there is something to her. She at least has impeccable taste."


"Yeah yeah, can we move it," Sera called behind her. She sighed and smiled, turning back to Lycus. "Any news from Leliana.?"


"Yes but we're waitin' for one more member." She sat by Blackwall resting her head in her hands and nodded off almost immediately. It seemed she had just closed her eyes when he shook her awake. She looked up with a jump. "Wha?" She froze at the sight of Bull. "We were waiting for him?" Lycus looked at her frowning. "I can't walk in there without you havin' a guard Lamb."


Sera snorted. "Lamb, what kinda name is that?" She ignored her and walked beside him. As they approached the castle, her face hardened even more and he looked at her concerned but motioned to the Venatori. "Announce us."

"Magister-"


"Announce us," she repeated louder with a wave of her hand. "The Herald is busy, and so am I. Don't waste our time."


He sneered a fine and motioned them in. Bull leaned down and whispered, "That was hot," forcing her to purse her lips to keep from laughing. They entered and she almost laughed again at how pompous Alexius looked. The sight of Felix beside him sobered her up. She tensed and wrung her hands as Lycus began his mock negotiations. Until Dorian arrived and it went to hell.


She ran forward and tried to push Lycus when a big gray arm wrapped her waist and yanked her back, shielding her from the flash of light. "What just happened," Sera asked paranoid, bow knocked and ready. "Hold positions," she called out, pushing Bull away and stepping forward. She looked at Alexius and shook her head. "You are sooo fucked when he gets back." The man paled and everyone else rallied waiting.


It was less than a minute before the air crackled and he appeared in all his glory, glowing blue and radiant before it fizzled out. "You lil' piece o' shit!" She gave a little shriek when Lycus grabbed Alexius's robe and let into him. "Herald. Herald!" Blackwall moved to grab him and she blocked him with a hand. "Lycus!" He paused, fist in the air. "Enough. It's over." He threw the man down and marched in front of her, chest heaving and tears streaming down his face to drip off his chin.


"You knew." She swallowed and nodded. His hand wavered near her cheek, afraid to touch her, like he was seeing a ghost. She took his hand and pressed it to her cheek. "I'm here. You stopped that from happening."


He collapsed into her sobbing and she stumbled but held him. Looking up at Dorian, she asked, "How bad?" He simply inhaled and shook his head. She nodded and rubbed his back. "Lycus you must stand," she urged. "The King of Ferelden comes." He shook his head and she gripped his shoulders hard. "You must. Five minutes ma'falon. Then you may grieve, and I'll grieve with you. But right now I need you to stand." She moved back and held him at arms length, waiting until he straightened his shoulders, and only when he inhaled and wiped his face did she let him go and moved to intercept the king to give him even another minute.


Jessabelle tried as she always did when something rubbed her wrong, to stay polite and cordial, but Fiona's demand for terms hit her hard, the tears on her collar from Lycus burning into her neck. "Your lucky to even be standing here and not in chains! If you don't like whatever deal the herald makes, then march your ass to Tevinter where the rest of the mages you sold into slavery are, and we'll take the rest!"


"Enough." She bowed lowly, hands out to her side and stayed there as he approached. "She's right Enchanter," Jess winced at the lack of 'grand' before that title, the slight glaringly obvious to everyone in the room. "You sold yourself and the people you were supposed to protect. And now you demand from me terms." His hand touched her shoulder and she rose to stand behind him, twisting her fingers at this powerful aura he exuded. This was the future Inquisitor who sat on a throne. There was a pregnant pause as he stood before Fiona, hands laced behind his back. "You're lucky I understand fear as a mage. I'll offer you an alliance, but don' presume to ask for more. Allying with Tevinter has won you no allies, and only the breach spares you. Even Dalish know better than to believe promises from them."


He marched out without a word to anyone, leaving even her stunned. "I'd take his offer if I were you. Either way you leave tonight." She blinked and looked at Alistair just as he turned his attention to her. "Lady Snow." She bowed her head, not as low as she gave to the Herald to make her allegiances clear. He smirked intrigued. "Leliana spoke a great deal about you. All favorable."


"The Nightingale doesn't waste talent. If she says kind things, it is to her credit, not mine." He tilted his head eyeing her. "I've upset you."


"No King Alistair. You keep me from my superior who clearly needs me. Your help has been integral in helping the Inquisition and I will do everything in my power to make sure Ferelden is helped first when the breach is sealed."


She bowed and walked out, then broke into a sprint once at the gates. "Which way," she asked Solas. "Its best to leave him da'len. He's...not himself." She touched his shoulder gently. "I would go after you Solas, if you were hurting. I won't leave him." She hurried down the steps looking around. "The windmill, da'len." She smiled over shoulder in thanks and ran.


Cassandra, Bull and Dorian were on the ground looking up when she approached. "How's he doing," she asked quietly. "The future we saw, well I'm sure you understand it." Dorian shook his head with a sigh. "Lycus, ma'falon can I come up?" There was no answer. She looked at Bull and motioned with her head. "Boost me up big guy." He practically tossed her onto the ledge, landing roughly on her knees. She crawled over to him and pulled his arms from around his knees to her waist, letting him sob into her lap. "It's alright love. Its going to be alright," she soothed running her fingers through his hair.

Chapter Text

Her fingers had threaded through his soft hair in a hypnotic trance, her eyes closed and waiting patiently until she felt him finally move. Lycus has adjusted to be face up, an arm over his eyes. She smoothed his forehead and slid a fingertip over the shell of his ear, earning herself a smirk. "Do you've have any idea how rude that was?"


"Is it?" He shrugged wiggled his mouth thinking. "It's pretty intimate. Not something you'd do unless you were close. You tryin' to seduce me?" She laughed and pinched the tip gently, rubbing between her thumb and forefinger. He let out a low rumbling purr. "I don’t think you're interested in me that way, ma'falon." He moved his arm and looked at her with one eye, silent before heaving a sigh. "True. Your far too willful of a woman."


"Oh? You like them a little easier then, is that it?" She teased and moved his arm. He smiled and took a curl, wrapping it around his finger. "Will you tell me what happened?"


He turned his head and swallowed. "A lot...happened."


"You don't have to tell me about the Elder One or the demon army after Celene's death. I expected you to be bothered by that, but you came back…. Destroyed. What scared you so bad?" He huffed and shook his head. She waited for him to gather his thoughts, tracing his brows. "He-Alexius imprisoned everyone, fed them red lyrium. Everyone was rotting. We found Solas and Bull in the basement still able to move and fight. Sera was gone, jus' singing a weird song. He- Bull said that you bargained for their lives. If any of them died before you, you'd stop helping. You tricked them, gave them information that let the Inquisition hold out. Every loss on their side meant...they- he," He swallowed a sob and took a deep breath continuing.

"They took the losses out on you. You had no hair, no nose, no lips. one of your ears was missin'. Skin looked burned or-or...You looked more like a darkspawn than a darkspawn! Even after all that you stood and made yourself a target after Leliana, creators Leliana looked...She fought- everyone fought so hard. Everyone believed I would be back. You made them hold out for as long as they could."
His arm went over his eyes again. She wiped her own and nodded sniffling. "I'm glad I gave them hope. Lycus," she scrubbed her face and exhaled harshly. "Ma'falon. This next part pains me to say after an ordeal like that. " He sat up and glared. "Don't tell me it gets worse."


"You have to get to Haven and close the breach as soon as possible. Preferably at noon tomorrow. The Elder One will attack Haven at night, but if he attacks during the day, we won't be able to escape."


"And where will you be while I'm closing the breach?"


"In Haven preparing the evacuation and holding it until you return. I'd go with you, but I can't risk you being distracted." He breathed a sigh of relief. "That's a plan I can get behind. Who do you suggest I take to close it?"


"You choose love. I worry people will think I hold your ear too closely. Whoever you leave behind I'll use as defenses." He took a deep breathe and pressed him thumb to his mouth thinking. "I'll take the Templars. Enough of 'em should be rested; the mages will need some time when they arrive, an' doesn't sound like I have that."


Movement below gave them pause and she leaned over to watch Cass scurry off. "I think she's gonna send a raven," Jess ventured. "The more rest they get the better. Speakin' of, lets get some ourselves. We'll ride in a few hours." She crawled to the edge and peered under; Sera, and Blackwall sat on the floor while Bull leaned against the wall. "You ready to move Boss?" The Qunari pushed himself off and strolled over, arms up and waiting. Hanging her legs, she tried to find something to grab on to control her fall. "Just let go, kitten. I'll catch you."


"Excuse me if I don't want to land gored on your horns." He laughed and rolled his wrists, urging her. With gritted teeth, Jess pushed off and crashed right into his chest, where he slid her down till her feet touched. "Thank you." He simply smirked and moved aside as Lycus followed. "To Haven then," Blackwall asked standing up, pulling Sera along with him. "To Haven," the Herald agreed, cracking his neck and shaking out his left hand, "Its time to end this." Jessabelle raised her head higher, because even though she knew it was far from the truth, the way he had said it made her believe regardless.


"Can they put glyphs now?" She pointed out at the ice wall that had been built in their absence across the lake. After a brief meeting that she was not invited to, Lycus and half the Templars were on their way up the mountain, and her gaze kept traveling to the breach every few minutes. "Not without risking our men at they pyres," Cullen explained.

"Understandable." She walked up the first steps and paused to watch some soldiers dropping crates in even intervals. "The horses need to be moved to outside the Chantry," she continued after she was satisfied with what she was seeing.


"You there!" She spun and internally prepared herself as Chancellor Roderick stormed up. "The man I needed to see," she interrupted before he could start. "The Maker comes to test your faith tonight, Chancellor. Your flock is counting on you. I am counting on you. When the moment comes, do not hesitate, 'for there is no darkness, nor death either, in the Maker's light, and nothing he has wrought will be lost'."


Jess turned and strode forward leaving him agape and stunned. "I didn't know you been studying the Chant," Cullen whispered. "He's going to die tonight Commander. It is inevitable, but through his sacrifice, he saves the survivors of the fighting. Was it wrong for me to offer him peace in a language he understood best?" She looked at him from the corner of her eye and turned down a different road leaving him standing there like she did the Chancellor. Throwing off her cloak, and tying her hair back with a leather strap,  she crouched to help a soldier lift a beam to support a wall, walking the perimeter with him.


"Well that’s an unseen sight." She waited until the soldier nodded before moving back and looked at Varric, pushing her sweaty hair from her neck. "Stick around, you might see more. How's the hunting been, enough smoked meat?" He held his hand parallel and moved it side to side. "Enough for a few days if we ration. How much you expect we need." She squatted and helped with another support beam. "At...least...urghh," once in place she leaned forward and braced her hands on her thighs, then put her surcoat back on. "At least a week. C'mon. Lets check the medibags."


Inside the Chantry, bug out bags had been placed in rows for easy grab and go evacuation. She crouched and checked a few to be sure they were all stocked the same. "Rosy, I'm starting to get a little freaked out. What aren't you telling us?" She didn’t answer and moved back outside to check the carts already filled with supplies. "Where the hell are the horses? I told them the stable needed to be moved hours ago."


"Look!" She turned to the breach and waited with anticipation. "Oh shit! Rosy look!" She spun and looked at the opposing mountain side and gasped; the pyres had been lit. "Fuck! He's not done yet and its not dark enough!" Sprinting to the gates, she caught up with the Advisors. "We need to hold this position until the Herald comes back! Get me mages on that side of the lake! As soon as our scouts get here, I want that lake lit up like Time Square with glyphs and traps. Move the Templars into shield wall position and get everyone ready to pull back to the Chantry."


"Time…square," she heard Josie question while she ran to the crates and began breaking the lids open. "Two to a crate! Heavy shield for protection!" She moved aside as two elves squatted by the crate she just opened and a Templar stood behind them. She touched his shoulder with a nod and ran ahead, doing the same to any crate that wasn't manned yet. "Madame de Fer! Get your assault mages in position. No one fires until they reach the wall. Be careful for friendly fire."


"Of course darling. This is what we train for." She ran around looking, then stopped Cullen as he ran by her. "Commander where are the healers? Why aren't the healers in their groups?"


"I'll find them Lady Snow. Get to your position." She nodded and ran back down to where Solas' hut was. She remembered this was where the wall was breached the heaviest, though they didn't know that, and she didn’t plan on letting them move her. "Kitten!" She spun and pointed. "Bull. You and your men need to hold the gate. Lycus needs to be able to get in. Don’t let it get overrun, okay?" She didn't know why but she got up, and hugged him. "Please be careful you big cow, " she murmured into his chest.


"Scouts across! Mages! Advance!" She pulled away and watched Cullen run with a handful of mages and Templars to the lake and started casting glyphs. "Go," she urged, pushing him gently and running back to her crate. She lifted a bottle of Antivan fire from the hay inside and held it, the liquid jostling from her tremors. "Are we going to be alright Serah?" She blinked and looked at the soldier beside her. "We just need to hold until the Herald gets-"


As if divine intervention had occurred, the breach exploded and sealed with a viscous pop, scattering energy down the mountain. She turned back to the soldier grinning. "We just have to hold out for the Herald." He gave a shaky grin back and she turned to watch Cullen's team returning across the ice. An animal's snort pulled her to standing. "Aww shit! They forgot the horses!"


I'll get 'em Serah." He handed her the pitch and ran down the stairs, leaving her line of sight until she saw him again running past the smithy. She watched him sprint to the stables and disappear inside.


Movement on the mountain brought her gaze up and her stomach bottomed out at the black mass that was oozing over the ridge. He has to have seen the pyres. He'll come. How the hell did Corypheus amass such an army? And how did no freaking bannorn see a horde crossing their lands!


"Everyone hold! Hold positions!" She watched Cullen stalk back and forth sword and shield in hand, truly looking every bit the Lion of Honnleath. There was an eerie silence as everyone waited with bated breath as the encroaching army hit the ice wall. She winced at the clashing of weapons crushing the ice and dropped her head into her shoulders at the sound of glyphs going off. It was a strange kind of pretty; blue ice, red pillars of flames, and lighting scattering across the snow. The sun was setting. They could survive.


"NOW!" She cocked her arm back and launched her bottle of pitch as far as she could, the sky filling and raining glass shrapnel. Antivan fire and pitch ignited in a zigzag row through the red lyruim army. She stood and tossed again, wincing at the inferno bubbles lighting the night. Jess saw a group advancing and called out, "Mages! Engage!" A strange crawling ripped threw her skull as waves of spells flew from the rocks above her, causing a recoil at the sensation.


"Look! Maker what is That!?"


She turned and watched a massive storm roll down the mountain path whipping up rocks and enemies. "Oh my god...he did it! He made a tornado! No...Its a fucking Hurricane!" A hand shoved her down and a she rolled onto her back to see a Templar crouched over her holding his shield by his head; less that a breath later a fireball slammed into it and she screamed rolling away. "Abandon position! We're overrun here!"


It went to hell quickly once the wall was breached. She threw a pitch and Antivan fire at the stairs, blocking the advance by that side of the tavern and ran around to the other side. "Go! Move back!" Helping an elf up, Jess pushed them along and got to the opposite main road. Sparing a glance down revealed that the gates had not been breached yet.

Instinct screamed and she ducked as magic flew and hit the rock to her right. She screamed and skittered back for some distance.  A corrupted mage aimed again and was struck down by Blackwall, Sera hopping along the rooftops as cover. "Rainer-arrows archers! Rain your spells mages! Don't let them reach the Chantry!"


She had tried to cover her slip, but the Warden looked at her shocked, and then very angry. A shadow moved and she shrieked again toppling to the side as a corrupted Templar swung at her. A sword cleaved it in two and Blackwall crouched next her, shield protecting his body. "How long have you known!"


"It wasn't my burden to bear! But you are EXACTLY where you need to be in you ever hope to atone for what happened! Now I'm going to the gate and you can either let me get killed and keep your identity or you can man up!" She grabbed his jerkin and pulled him closer. "You CAN be a good man, Thom Rainer. I have seen it. But you have to decide to make that true." She pushed off the ground and ran to the gate, watching the storm thin out the closer the Herald got to Haven.


A war cry sounded behind her and several enemies turned from her and charged Blackwall. She ducked under a Templars swing, sliding in the mud and stumbling before Cullen grabbed her arm and hauled her to her feet. "What now?"


"Get everyone to the Chantry. Now we begin our escape." He nodded once and took off just as Bull threw open the gate and the Herald and his group bounded in. "Lycus!" They crashed into each other in a tight desperate hug. "Lamb!" He pulled back and ran towards the Chantry holding her arm. "Lamb I need to know what happens next in case we get separated." He looked around to be sure they were safe before moving her hair and holding her face, inspecting her worried.


"A dragon is going to come. There's a trebuchet you need to use, One to fire at the moutain for the army. The other to bury Haven after we escape. You'll fall down a mine shaft but you'll live. Actually Bull can drop me down there now. Let me grab a medibag."


"Oh I'm so sorry Lamb, but I can't let you do that. Cullen. Solas." She frowned and looked behind her as the Commander grabbed her elbow firmly and pulled her back towards the Chantry. "No! No, Lycus don't! I can help! God dammit Lycus!"


Solas approached her with what she called mock sorrow and she tried to pull away. "Don't do this," she begged even as he raised his hand. "Dread Wolf take you!"  His shock gave her no comfort as his sleep spell hit her directly, the fighting instantly ebbing out to nothingness.

Chapter Text

Everything was soft, distant.  There was murmuring ever present, but it never cleared enough for her to catch the words.  It was an odd sort of limbo where she could neither feel her body nor will it to move.  And that was okay; this peace was acceptable after everything she endured so far. 

 

 

The murmuring grew frantic, angry.  Sometimes she thought she heard her name; sometimes she wondered if she was just wanting to hear her name, the sensation of slipping away almost as constant as the murmurs. 

Pain rolled down her skin and she winced, trying to will her peaceful abode back. In the span of a few breaths, ice pierced her everywhere, plunging her into the memory of the lake when she first arrived.  Was she going home? Had she died after all?

The air invaded her lungs as she arched up, gasping.  Vision swimming, she swung her arm trying to clear the cobweb from her eyes when boney strong fingers grabbed her wrists.  

"Easy da'len, your safe." Jessabelle snarled and tried to pull away.  "Get away from me." The sound was scratched from lack of use and her throat burned with the effort.  He was speaking but she refused to listen, using her meager strength to push him away until blackness took her again. 

 

Something was crawling in her mouth. She swung again and heard a soft cry and gentle unfamiliar hands tried to hold her still. "Peace m'lady. I'll get it." She opened her eyes and gagged as a string was pulled out of her throat. The elven lass put it to the side and helped her sit up. "What the hell was that," she forced out wiping a stream of saliva off her chin. 

"A trick I learned caring for my mama. She couldn't eat,the wasting disease taking her slowly. Broth with a lot of salt and fat kept her going until she refused even that. You needed to eat." 

Jess stared at her, wondering why she looked familiar. "How long have I been out," she asked watching her tuck the furs around her more. "Three days m'lady. Last night Master Solas was able to wake you but you fought him till exhaustion. I offered to help."

Jess frowned and pushed her hair, stopping when she felt the thick chunky braid. "I'm sorry, it was everywhere; I was afraid you'd choke on it." Chuckling she waved it off.  "Three days... the Herald?"

"Beside himself with grief m'lady. We thought he was gonna kill Master Solas when you didn't wake." Jess hummed unconvinced;  one because Solas was a god, and two because the idiot knew she was sensitive to magic and still ordered him to cast on her. "Did he say what he thought was wrong?"

"Something about you being a mini Fade? Magic flows in you but doesn't dispel? That's what he did, he cast dispel and you woke and then fought and then passed out.  So they thought it best not to send him in again."

"And so he sent you to care for me?"

 "Ehm, no m'lady, I begged to." She studied the rich  brown hair wrapped in a braided crown and the hazel eyes suspiciously. She fidgeted before continuing hastily; "you helped my sister Myrra when she was... hurt.  She wanted to stay when you ordered the excavation. Y'see Myrra was always weak, she never stood for anything.  I couldn't deny her this."

Jessabelle winced back shocked. "The elven girl I got the potions for?  That was your sister?" At the nod,  she felt a little sick.  "Did she make it?"

"Dragon got her when she went back to help." The whimper escaped Jess before she could stop it. "I'm so sorry." She looked up with a resigned smile.  "Don't be. Myrra stood for something she wanted to.  That's more than what most elves get in a lifetime.  Just like I wanted to serve you. Speaking of," she held out a bowl of broth, the top congealing a bit. "Please eat just a little."

Sipping she watched the elf move a few things and finally noticed the tent she was in. "Are we still in the mountains?"

"Mmhm. Should be teaching safety two days from now." Jess hummed again taking a sip. "How many did we lose." She paused in her clean up, biting her full bottom lip.  "I ain't supposed to talk about that."

"On whose orders?"

"The Herald, the Qunari, the Commander, the-"

"I get it." She winced, ears going slightly lower and flatter by her head. Jess sighed and put the bowl down. "I'm  Jessabelle.  Jessabelle Snow." The elf laughed and nodded.  "Everyone knows who you are m'lady. I'm Talia." She paused and listened, then motioned her fingers by her head... like horns. 

Jess threw herself down and pulled the blanket to her face, Talia moving over her and praying.  A blast of cold air entered, and Jess controlled her breathing until Talia stopped her mock veneration. "He's gone." "I'm going to like you," she whispered conspiratorially and smiled at the giggle she recieved. 

 

She avoided them as they walked, sparing  only simple conversation of yes she was okay to walk. No she wasn't hungry.  Yes she was cold but so was everyone else.  No she didn't want to talk about it. Surprisingly Talia would take her arm and help her along when the men were too overbearing.  She caught Bull watching them with a smirk. Also a surprise was that he didn't hover at all. She assumed it was because he carried four children;  two on his shoulders holding his horns and one in each arm. Ah well small mercies. 

There was a bustle of noise and she looked up to watch people burst into cheers and hugs. Pushing her way through the snow drift, she smiled at the sight of it. From here it looked whole, powerful, stoic, and unconquerable. Skyhold. They had made it. 

Chapter Text

It was bigger inside. Jess had first laughed at her reference and then went glum when she realized no one would get it. Instead she focused on helping inventory and mapping. She was barred from several places from the surveyors who worried about the structure stability and she calmly nodded and went about her way. There seemed to be an air of unease whenever she entered a room; everyone seemed afraid to talk to her, so she took to the battlements.


It had been a while but she knew for fact there was at least four extra towers. She walked into one just above the requisitions and hummed. A view from the broken window showed a partial view of the drawbridge and the mountainside. Spinning around she noted the closet and peeked in nodding at the space. Talia stood at the doorway watching. "Should I tell someone you wish this room?" Jessabelle laughed and raised an eyebrow. "A bedroom? No no, this is perfect for a sewing room. The lighting is fantastic and the closet will let me store finished wardrobes." She made a small 'ah' and ran off, probably to relay the message. She was a runner without a doubt. Shame, she'd have loved the company while sewing.


While she was inspecting the other door, shoulder pressed into it and pushing, Josie entered with a small hum. "A textile room, then?" She huffed and pushed her braid from her face, "if no one has claimed it yet."
"No one has. Have you found a personal room?" Jess frowned and looked around at the space. Even filled with shelves and mannequins, there would be a place for a bed behind a screen. "I would've thought to stay in here." Josie gasped affronted. "Absolutely not! I shall find one for you. The elf," she skimmed a few pages, "Talia, yes? She is to be your se- eh...assistant?" She smirked at the save. "Ask her if she's available. She's fast, I'd hate to bog her down with following me." Josie hummed and scribbled before bowing to leave. She paused at the door and looked back. "Are you alright, Lady Jess?"


Gaze drifting to the ceiling she contemplated lying. "A secret between us?" She almost laughed at how fast Josie closed the door and moved closer. "I am very unsure of myself right now? Everything that's happened and I feel...nothing. Maybe when we settle in, I'll feel safe enough to break down, but right now I just need to keep my body moving. So no meetings please. The Herald needs to stabilize Ferelden first. I promised King Alistair we would, and its always nice to have a king for a friend."


"Indeed," she agreed writing. "I'll do my best. Thank you for your honesty, Lady Jess." She bowed once and left leaving the door open. She stretched and leaned against the wall, enjoying the view before going to help somewhere else for now. Varric had found her in the courtyard and informed her she had a purse full of sovereigns from the Poker cards deal anytime she was ready for them. After a brief explanation that proved she didn't understand a lick of Thedas currency or economy, he promised to manage it for her. Anyone else she saw, she hid from, ducking into hallways and rooms not yet searched.


Within two days, people from the Hinterlands who had evacuated Haven were showing up with wares and supplies. She smiled at the thought of Leliana and Josie planning this, even without the knowledge of where they were going to end up. She sighed and kept sweeping the room out coughing every now and then. Most of the broken items had been carried out already, but she fell in love with a high backed chaise and footstool and refused to throw it out in case it could be saved. She eyed it longingly, her back and legs burning from helping other places move their rubble. Her hair had been tied back with a bandanna at least so, she had that to be thankful for.


"All these supplies, and not a single bottle Tevinter red among them." She smiled and turned to Dorian who strolled in looking around. "So this is where you've chosen to hide. Must say though, the way everyone's been avoiding you has made me feel quite accepted...and boring. I work hard for my 'Pariah' status you know." She laughed and then gasped. "Dorian don't-" A billow of dust flew into the air as soon as he flopped backwards onto the chaise.


"Vasta Kaffas!" She laughed as he stood, buried under a powder of white film. His mustache twitched doubling her over as tears came down. "You're a sadist darling. A cold blooded sadist. Why is that even still here!" She gasped for air fanning her face, needing a minute before answering. "Oh God, thank you for that." She walked over and tilted her head fondly at the piece in question. "I've always wanted a fainting couch. They were really expensive back home. I thought maybe a few beatings on the cushions could save it."


Dorian huffed. "There's no saving that love. My ass hit the wood underneath, its eaten straight through." Her shoulders drooped. "Maybe your ass was too much for it."


"Darling as wonderful ad my ass is, your ass looks like it can crack walnuts. This couch doesn't stand a chance. Come now, I'm sure Josie could get you a new one." She sighed and touched the velvet gently. "So could I, but it seemed wasteful." He scoffed and wiggled his mustache, causing her to break down again as dust filtered off. "Thanks for checking on me. You can tell him I'm fine though." Dorian crossed his arms, groaning at the dust cloud.


"Darling, no one asked me to check on you. The Herald has been in and out of meetings since we arrived. He leaves for the Hinterlands in two days, almost everyone is going with him."
"Good. the more people helping, the easier it will be." He narrowed his eyes and threw his hands in the air. "Fine! Enjoy your lover's quarrel!"


"Don't." He froze mid turn at her tone. "Don't assume to know what pisses me off; I can assure you its not what you think. It's better to just let it ebb and blow over than ruin the morale of the people. They need this happiness." He came closer looking concerned, "And what of yours?" She barked out a sarcastic sound. "What of my feelings in relation to thousands of others? Enough talk, I need to sweep since you made a mess of the floor again!" He sniffed indignant and strolled out, head high. "You should be so lucky to see one of my messes." Laughing she shook her head and swept once more.


"M'lady?" She glanced up and noticed the sky had changed to red. "The Ambassador wanted me to show you to your room. I've brought you some porridge you can eat after a bath." Anyone else and she may have argued, but Talia just smiled and waited patiently. It was hard to snip at someone like that. Putting the straw broom against the wall, she allowed herself to be led away from her work.
"Were are you from?"

"Hossberg m'lady. In the Anderfels." She made a small hum, trying to think of what she knew of Hossberg...which was nothing. "How was it there?" Talia wrinkled her nose. "Miserable. Hot. Sand, sand, rocks, and oh, more rocks. Its a very harsh region m'lady. No place for elves. Its why me and Myrra left after our mama died." She nodded, following her across the courtyard.

Iron Bull watched her from the curve of the walkway. Red had sent an agent to follow, she was concerned something was wrong with their resident oracle. He understood her worry, her reticent nature had only gotten worse. But unlike Red, he could smell it; the acidic fear she carried cloying and making it difficult to be near her. She was suffering in silence of Asala-taar, her soul sickness pervading the air around her. However the Spymaster had made a mistake in thinking she could threaten the elf. The slip of a girl had shook and trembled but refused to tell her anything Kitten had said; prepared to take a lashing if needed. Whatever she had done for that elf had earned her a loyalty most would envy. He tilted his head as his ward's laugh pealed out before she covered her mouth and whispered something, causing the elf, Talia, he needed to remember to laugh in turn.
He tilted his head the opposite way at the cold piney scent approaching, "How's it going Boss?" The Herald reached his side and watched her disappear into the castle. "Any change?"


"Not yet. But she'll come around." He sighed and pushed his braid back. "Dorian saw her. Said she was in her head." Bull nodded. "Yep, seems that way." When he had seen Cullen carrying her limp body over his shoulder, he had thought the worst; as did every elf in the Chantry. Finding out she was so weak against magic and he had ordered the spell cast anyway had his blood boiling. No wonder she was avoiding him. Luckily, the Vint had cussed him out, saving him the trouble and face.


"I'm thinkin' you should stay." He looked down at the elf in question. "Stay by her you mean?" He nodded with a grimace. "I could use you out there, but..."
"Sure Boss. Whatever you say. I can send the boys to help out if you need it. Just say the word." Lycus sighed relieved and nodded. "Thanks Iron Bull. Keep her safe."
"Will do Boss." He watched him leave and looked up at the lit tower window, her shadow moving in the candlelight. And Talia was going to help. She just didn't know it yet.

Jessabelle groaned at the heat of her water. A metal tub that looked more like a trough sat behind a curtain in her new quarters, and she actually was ridiculously excited about it once she saw it. The water was murky with all the dirt she had collected but she was content. "Need help with your hair?" She opened her eyes and looked up at the shadow on the other side of the screen. "I got it. You may lose a hand if you try." A bottle of oil was placed on a crate beside her, along with her comb. "Where did you get this?" Talia paused. "The Ambassador gave me a bag with your things."
She dunked her head to keep from getting misty eyed. Carefully coating her hair, she combed until all the knots were out and the water was cold. Changing into a linen shift she sighed at the sight of the bed. It was huge. And so much softer than the tent she had stayed in the past two days. Pulling the fur over herself, she was out before Talia could snuff the candle.

 

 

Fabrics came in the next day. She nearly swore when she walked in and saw the bolts were lain on the floor, rushing off to find a table not being occupied. Stealing one from a nearby tower, she waddled it back towards her shop. "Lady Snow?" She groaned and dropped the furniture fully intent to give her best glare at being stopped. Seriously who stops someone carrying a fucking table! She paused and went blank in the sight of Cullen. "Commander. You needed me?" He rubbed his neck and motioned to the table. "Do you need a hand?" She thought about refusing, but her fingers burned from its edge. "Please." She watched him shove his papers into his armor and go to the side opposite of her before smiling.


"Did you take this from the watch tower?" There was an awkward moment of silence. "If I said yes, would you make me put it back?" He chuckled and lifted. "No. You clearly need it." They made quick time and she kicked open the door, sliding it to a wall and lifting the beautiful blue and black bolts from the floor. "Expensive, and they throw it one the floor," she grumbled, rewrapping an edging that had come loose. "Lady Jessabelle."
She looked back at Cullen with a hum. He was rubbing his neck, not making eye contact, and she stopped, putting the bolt down and folding her arms leaning back. "Something on your mind, Commander?" Clearing his throat he raised his head and nodded. "I wanted to apologize to you."


"Oh? What for? You'll have to be specific Commander, I have a laundry list of offenses." He stiffened and then drooped. "Maker's breath, this was a mistake."


"Apologizing to me was a mistake?"


"What, No! I-," he exhaled and wiped his face. "I care about what you think of me Lady Jessabelle. I wanted you to know I wasn't who you thought I was when you first arrived. But everything I've done seems to prove just the opposite. Ugh, I'm terrible at this." She uncrossed her arms and spoke softer. "This doesn't sound like it has anything to do with me. Why don't you start with what troubles you the most." She looked around and laughed. "Maybe I should've stolen chairs too." He smiled and shrugged, "I'm sure some can be allocated from...somewhere."


"Why Commander! I do believe you just made a joke! Careful, the unmarried Orlesian women will come knocking on your door." He groaned and she laughed pleased, making him smile even more. "This is better. You seem...more real when you show emotion." She blinked slowly and he instantly went into a stammer. "Not-not that there's anything wrong with- Oh Maker have mercy."


"Your right. You really are bad at this." He froze and then relaxed at her smirk. "I should have listened to you with the Templars. I should have trusted you to know your limits. You have proven extremely reasonable."


"The Chancellor." He paused looking confused. "I wanted to talk to the Chancellor before he passed and you stole that from me. I wanted to ensure the survivors that Lycus would live and I wanted to sing the Dawn Will Come, to be a part of you all. You took that from me. And more." He looked stricken and lowered his head. "He wanted me to tell you thank you. And that he believed in our cause." She nodded. "I would've loved to hear it."


They stood in silence, each in their own thoughts, when a knock drew their attention. Talia blinked nervously. "Commander, the Herald and Ambassador are looking for you. And m'lady, Varric says he needs you for something." She smiled and pushed off the table. "Thank you Talia. And thank you Commander. I accept your apology."


Stopping at the dwarf's desk, she leaned an elbow onto his shoulder. "Rosy! Oh that's such a good spot, stay there." She smirked and rolled slightly back and forth to dig out the stiffness. "Whatcha need me for Varric?" He held up a book and she took it frowning at the colorful cover. "It that a nug?" Opening it with one hand she looked at him confused. "Its a children's book. Figured it'd be easier for you to learn Common this way. Vivienne is trying to convince Josie to let her teach you."


"Jesus Christ, I'd rather hang myself from my ass cheeks off the battlements." He laughed and nodded. "Yeah, I thought you might feel that way, though not so colorful."


"You know who's staying behind yet?"


"Uh Sparkler, Tiny, and Iron Lady." She kissed the top of his head and bopped it with the book. "Perfect, then I know exactly who to ask teach me." She strolled through the rotunda, avoiding Solas and went up to the second landing. She sneered at the mess he was making, tossing the books over his shoulder. "You know for such a large library there is absolutely nothing of interest here." She held up her book and he looked at her flatly, ready to toss it as well. "No! I need you to teach me to read. Who else is so well versed with impeccable taste could be up to the task?" Dorian paused and looked back down before giving her a cheeky grin, "Well since you asked so nicely."

Chapter Text

The walk across the courtyard to her workplace was terrifying this early in the morning, the fog covering everything until it was practically in front of her. She had jumped at the first training dummy, laughing off the nerves. Until she heard footsteps approaching. Dropping to a crouch she moved behind a dummy, debating on whether to scream for help or not.

"My Lady?"


"Jesus Blackwall, you scared me." He came closer slowly and she stood up. "How did you even see me in this?" He pointed behind himself. "I was in the top floor of the stable; saw you come out of the tower but lost you on the stairs." She hummed accepting that. "I'm glad you stayed."


"I'm glad you woke up." She chuckled nodding. "Yea, almost didn't want to."

"Lady?"


"Never mind. Listen while I have you, can you follow me up to my shop? I got some things maybe you can work on in your spare time out in the field. Send them back with some scouts?" He gave a gruff nod and accompanied her. Rolling out some sketches, she pointed to the chrysanthemum design. "So the idea is you etch this design into a block, I charcoal press it to the fabric and then embroider it so its consistent throughout the whole piece." He made a snort taking the design. "I could do this by noon today." She smirked and showed his her other designs; laurels, phoenix, peacocks.


"And this is?" She blushed and cleared her throat. "This is for me. Ever heard of a tambourine?" He raised an eyebrow and she tried again. "Uhhhh...a timbrel?" His eyebrow shot up and he nodded. "Ah, I thought it was demonic turtle." She elbowed him and caused an 'oof' and a laugh. "Careful with this old man, my Lady!" She scoffed and turned the paper frowning. "Old man my ass. Now I'm afraid to show you my baby project."


"Lets focus on one at a time. So you play one, a timbrel? That's very Rivaini of you."


"I...would like an instrument to accompany me when I sing and since I'm the only one who knows my homeworld's songs, I figure a timbrel's easier to carry and learn." Blackwall nodded. "It'd be easier to buy one already made in all honesty." She shrugged and raised her shoulders with a huff. "So....think you can help with the others?" He smiled and took the papers. "That I can do." She smiled and walked him back to the stables, surprised to find almost everyone already there. The sun hadn't even melted the mist yet.


Talia nearly bumped into her on the way out, looking for intents and purposes like a very pissed off cat. "Wait," she ushered her gently back into the barn, making sure not to touch her, "Honey what's wrong?" Dorian crossed his arms and leaned against the wall beside them. "I saw a certain Qunari harassing her." The elf in question nearly snarled at him, and Jess raised her arm as a barrier. "Talia."


"Yes, m'lady," she grumbled side eyeing Dorian; "Did he touch you?" Her ears shot up in alarm. "No m'lady! Nothing like that! He just...well...do you trust him? The Iron Bull; do you trust him?" Jessabelle leaned back on her heels a bit studying her. "I do...to an extent." She tried to ignore everyone else who was doing a terrible job of pretending not to eavesdrop. "You shouldn't, he's loyal only to the Qun," Dorian warned, "You shouldn't trust him at all."


"I can't help it. He's just my type." Dorian gasped while everyone else looked scandalized. "You're into Qunari!"
"Honest Liars," she clarified. He blinked perturbed. "Darling that makes no sense."


"It does. An Honest Liar tells you he's a liar. He respects you enough to let you come to your own decisions from what comes from his mouth. The truth is usually hiding in plain sight with them. Its the dishonest liar that I hate the most, the deceiver; he thinks so little of you and your opinions that he doesn't tell you anything. Just strings you along like a pearl necklace until after the ball and then breaks the string when the use is over. I'd rather come to my own conclusion and be respected as an individual even if its wrong than going on thinking someone is a friend but who really only wants something from me."


"Huh, so that's the reason for your casual choice preferences," Varric reasoned rubbing his chin. She scoffed and crossed her arms. "Not having this conversation again V. I'm just saying, if you want something from me, tell me. I might be able to make an even exchange." It took all her will power not to look at Blackwall or Solas. Especially Solas. It was almost like his eyes burned into the side of her face.


At that moment Lycus came in holding up papers. Jess tensed up and Talia moved in front of her. "We have our orders. Cassandra take Solas to the healer in Redcliffe, Blackwall and Sera, finish locating the supplies. Varric your with me to the horse master." He looked up spotting her and smiled, and she winced before smiling back. His ears drooped a bit. "Lamb-"


"Not now Lycus, you've your work cut out for you. As do I. Just came to see everyone off and wish you all well." He sighed and she proceeded to wave to everyone backing out. "I did what thought was right, and I wont apologize for it." She stopped walking, narrowed her eyes and forced a smile; it came off as predatory. "Well that's good then, because I wouldn't have accepted an apology spoken like that."


"Why are-" Her finger flew up, then the whole hand near his face but not touching as if to cover his mouth, "We are NOT having this conversation right now. I am not emotionally available." His ears flew back.


"What does that even mean!"


"It means I'm gonna tear you a new asshole if you keep pushing me!" She breathed deep and straightened. "Fine, you wanna do this now, everyone out. Get. Out." She waited until they filtered out and slide the door as far as it would go to resemble privacy. "You fucked me over Lycus. I trusted you to do right and you practically poisoned me and left me at the mercy of the battle. In a fucking battle Lycus. What if Cullen dropped me? What if he was swarmed? I pledged my help to you on the condition that I am my own woman. My autonomy stands. Do you understand that word? Because there will be no more help, if you don't. Now you have things that need to get done, as do I. And this conversation will NOT be coming up in public again. Are we clear?"


He hesitated and she stepped closer, forcing between her teeth, "Are. We. Clear." He nodded once and she ripped the door open to glare at everyone at the door. "Now get us some damn horses." She whipped her head and Talia instantly ran to her side, walking briskly back to the textile room. Pulling out a chair and dusting it, she motioned for her to sit. "Are you-" she stopped instantly when Jess rose her hand.

 

"I'm fine. I'm more concerned for you. What did the Iron Bull do?"

"Its nothing like that m'lady. He never even came too close to me. He was asking questions about you, but I didn't tell him anything."


Jess leaned her hip against the table thinking." Why does this bother you?" She arched a brow as those expressive ears flew back against her brown hair before regaining composure. "Because I am your handmaiden in training."


"....I'm sorry I don't understand."


Dorian strolled in kicking the door closed behind him. "Everyone knows if you want to know some dirty little secret of a noble in power you talk to their servants." Draping himself lazily over the back of another chair, he watched their interactions curiously. Jess turned her attention back to Talia, moving her hands as if piecing together the information. "So what I'm hearing is: the Iron Bull is asking about me, to you in secret, and your upset because it feels like he is questioning your loyalty to me?"


"I AM loyal to you m'lady." Jess smiled warmly shaking her head. "Oh honey. Don't worry about that, I know you are. You came to me when I was unconscious. If I believed you were going to harm me, it would've been then. Go on now. Go start your lessons with Lady Josephine and don't think about this anymore. I'll handle the Bull." She curtsied quickly and ran out as Jessabelle turned her attention to her lingering guest.


She watched him for a moment before going to the fabrics and taking out her patterns, prepared to wait him out. It didn't take long. "You know, I saw what happened in that ghastly future. I saw you. Or rather, what became of you." She hummed not turning from her pinning, but watching him from her peripheral, schooling her face as he became annoyed and stood at the edge of her table; he's like a peacock, demanding attention. She refused to look up. "You bought us time."


"It sounds like everyone did. I'm not special in that regard." His hand went firmly over her pattern, pushing the cloth to the table. She contemplated pulling it back, and opted instead to lift her head slowly brow arched. "You grabbed a poker and ran in after Leliana fell. Killed one of them even, bashed the demon right on the head. And then threw yourself around one and dragged it back towards the others, screaming the whole time for us to go." His eyes danced all over her face, whether looking for emotion or remembering what it was in that horrible place, she didn't know. But she could see a fear in his eyes, matched only by awe or curiosity.


"Why are you telling me this? I am not that person right now. I don't know if I'd have the courage to do that if it came down to it again."


"I think that protective streak is a part of you, and I think the Herald believes that too." Narrowing her eyes, she tilted her head. "If you have something against what I said to Lycus-"


"You have every right to feel how you do. Magic shouldn't be used on someone whose body can't handle it. But I want you to know I understand where he came from. We watched you sacrifice yourself for the greater good once. Its not too hard to believe you would do it again." She inhaled and pursed her lips, digesting the words.


"I appreciate you validating my feelings. And I appreciate you sharing this insight, though I'm not sure what outcome you were looking for." Dorian's expression softened. "That's a very analytical way of saying what's your point." She laughed and he smiled. "I just wanted you to know he cares. And he didn't do it to belittle you."


"I know. But its good to be reminded that people do. Care I mean." Her eyes trailed back down to the fabric. "I've work to do Dorian. I'll find you at lunch for our sessions." He scoffed and dusted the front of his tunic. "I can see when my beauty will be a distraction, so I'll bid you farewell for now."


"Indeed," she snorted, "How I'll survive these hours without your radiance is a mystery only your Maker knows." Smirking at his laugh, she continued with her work for only a few minutes before another knock interrupted. "Enter." She did a double take at Lycus standing there awkwardly, Cassandra at his side. She caught the small shove she gave him and turned around fully lacing her fingers. "Was there something else you needed, Herald?"


"Horses," he blurted out. Her frown had him shaking himself out and clearing his throat. "I'm off to retrieve horses from the Horse master in the Hinterlands. And I was wondering if you had a particular beast in mind. To ride. Personally." Her jaw unhinged in surprise and she controlled her laugh. The man really knows how to say sorry, getting a girl a pony. "I hear Imperial Warmbloods are renowned for their versatility. It would be an asset...to the Inquisition of course." Cassandra blinked surprised. "Such a beast may prove difficult to obtain in Ferelden, Lady Snow."


"Ah, perhaps a Royal Sixteen, then." It was Lycus' turn to look stunned. "You know how to ride a hart?"


"Hell no, but you think I'm gonna pass up the opportunity to learn?" They both laughed at the Seeker's disgusted snort."I should have expected that answer. Imperial Warmblood, a Royal Sixteen, anything a little less...exotic," he asked when his chuckling ceased. "Nope." She crossed her arms with a smirk, a challenge to see if he could actually find one for his apology, though she'd forgiven him in that moment already. He smirked back and she blushed at the intensity of his stare as he mock bowed. "As my Lady wishes then. Stay safe in my absence."


"And you in mine, my herald...ma'falon." His shoulders dropped a fraction in relief and Cassandra looked pleased, giving her a nod as well as they left.

Chapter Text

"At least look them over." Josie pushed the papers closer to her and poured them all a cup of tea as way of refusing them back. Leliana was watching amused by the fireplace. Jessabelle looked at the papers in question in disgust. "No. I can't even read them yet; we've just gotten the alphabet down and are working on articles."


"Most are accompanied by a portrait," the Ambassador offered sweetly. Too sweetly. Jess snatched the papers and flipped through them, sparing only a few seconds for each drawing. "No," she said again, tossing them back onto the desk. "Where did these people even hear of me that they want to invite me to dinner?"


"Some are the nobles you met at Lady Vivienne's salon," Leliana supplied, taking the teacup offered. "The rest are probably from rumors of you." She groaned and sipped her tea, the sound turning to a pleased hum. Sinking more into the chair, she closed her eyes and drank slowly, allowing the heat to sink into her bones. While Skyhold was enchanted and felt like springtime in New England, it wasn't Florida weather. Speaking of which, if she was going to push her hand, now was as good a time as any.


"The Herald is making good progress in the Hinterlands." Josie paused in her drinking and took her clipboard, shifting seamlessly into work mode; she was getting too in tuned to her. "The soldiers and supplies you asked us to send after he left proved useful. The watchtowers were completed not two days ago."


"Wonderful. It will show well that the Inquisition has the means to do what is needed so quickly." Leliana put her saucer down as well, hands laced behind her back. "Indeed. Having a grasp of the situation even a few days before needed as proved beneficial. In fact, Tyrrda's Axe has just arrived." Jess smiled unrepentant. "I bet its a gorgeous mage's staff." The Nightingale's smirk was worth the barb. "You play the Game too well, Lady Jess. You are wasted here."


With a sigh, she placed her tea carefully down, turning the cup. "I can't do what you ask of me. Not yet. We play our hand too soon and I lose any edge we've won ourselves."


"You know this," she asked implying a vision. Jess pursed her lips. "Of a sort. Really its about me not feeling comfortable in this world yet. I 'know it' but I don't KNOW it. I have some...suggestions, if your amenable." She motioned for Talia, who was standing by the door, and the elf quickly handed over a few papers she held. "You're sure about this," Jess whispered to her, watching the elf smile and nod. "Good," she turned back to the women. "I know Talia has been training under you, for when the nobles begin appearing in Skyhold. I want her to seen as my personal assistant. I've drawn up some things to match Orlesian culture but still hold an air of mystery."


She produced two sketches side by side, one clearly meant for a slighter build. "Servants of noble houses usually have matching masks or clothes right? Well I'm not fond of masks, but I love hair. Clearly." Josie smiled and turned the paper to study it more intently now that she knew what she was looking for. "Green, silvers, and yellow are my favorite colors. If these aren't a house's colors yet, I would love to build vine headbands of entwined green and silver, and scarves of yellow into my wardrobe. I would like Talia to wear this as well, mimicking Orlais in this at least. And I want her paid a human wage. I'll pay it from my own coin."


She winced at the elf's gasp; she specifically hadn't mentioned that part on purpose. "M'lady-" She held up a hand and waited for Josie and Leliana. Josie was studying the papers still while Leliana watched her, a gentle curve to her lips. "The Marcherives in Cumberland use a green and gold heraldry, but they are a small house, only notable for their ties to the crown."


"Which by Cassandra means half of Cumberland can claim that," Jess answered wryly. Josie looked up with a smile. "Correct! The addition of silver will differentiate you enough that I don't see it being a problem. These designs however..." Jess waited patiently lifting her cup once more. "They are very provocative."


"They only seem so, and that's the point; make the nobles do a double take and then be ashamed that they did. The scarf tucked into the leather bodice actually wraps down the midsection after looping the breasts, so nothing is seen through the laced siding. It peeks out from under the caplet by my neck but leaves my back exposed. My tattoos hold power, I would have them seen in snippets as I move, leaving minds to wonder just how far down they really go." Josie hummed intrigued and looked at the other. "She will have a full corset and bolero. I won't risk someone getting handsy with her." Leliana raised an eyebrow. "Why vines," she asked instead. Jess leaned back and laced her fingers, "Because of the Herald of course. He's Dalish, I thought it fitting to show where my loyalties lie. You approved the outfit for him already. Remember the etching on the mantle?"


"Silver vines on a deep blue," Josie murmured, still studying the paper. Finally she nodded. "Will you be willing to make adjustments to the final piece?"
"I'm willing to listen to the reasoning for such adjustments and their validity as necessary," she answered honestly. Josie nodded satisfied and handed the papers back. "Now as to the wages," she lifted her clipboard and scribbled. "It's not negotiable," Jess warned softly with a wince, really not wanting to argue the matter. Josie paused and nodded. "You are free to pay those in your employ as you see fit, Lady Jess. But seeing as how you are serving the Inquisition in more ways than one, I will see to the payments, for both of you." She swallowed her pride with a sip of tea, earning a smile from both women. They were learning her too well.

 

He was watching her cross the courtyard again. A month had passed since Red had sent over a note of what they had spoken of, and since then she woke before dawn and worked until noon. Then she spent hours with the Vint until dinner was brought to her room. It was clockwork, and she was withering under the weight of it. She stopped at the stairs to her tower, staring at the door, and then turned to go down the battlements. He pushed off the wall and followed. As a creature of habit, this was unusual for her. Her scent had become a constant sickly sweet, resigned to a death only she knew of, and it led him to the walkway above the portcullis.


She stood with one hand on the crenelation looking out at the mountain range, hair whipping around her like a banner. The scent sharpened and he shook his head to free it. "She's losing the battle." Bull growled and looked at the kid, Cole. "Warn someone before you do that creepy shit." He didn't respond gazing out from under his hat at the woman.


It was too much of a coincidence. Talia had come to him that morning, while he broke fast with the boys in the tavern. He had spotted her entering with a tray of food, shoulders stiff and square as she placed it shakily on the counter. She turned and pinned him with the darkest glare he'd ever seen on an elf, then deliberately left out the back door. He had waited a few minutes before bellowing out he needed to take a piss and followed.


She was standing waiting for him arms crossed. "How can you help m'lady? What do you plan to do?" He sat down on a low bench making himself smaller and almost eye level. "I need to know what happened first." It was beautiful and painful the way her face slowly melted from anger to remorse and fear. "She hasn't been sleeping. I hear her wake with a gasp, a strangled sound most nights. She's been bundling clothes and pressing them into her when she lays down for the night. This morn she was looking at her porridge, just staring. I thought maybe there wasn't enough fruit but she never complains so it..." she wrung her hands and he made a low rumble in his throat; a sound he knew calmed elves. She sniffed shaking her head. "She just broke, like a floodgate. Tears falling into her porridge. I asked if she was okay and she almost tossed the bowl, asking to be left alone for the day." He'd asked about her other habits. Kitten never let Talia touch her or do anything she herself wasn't able to do. She was too self disciplined, too independent. It meant she was making herself as small a burden to anyone as possible. And that she was afraid of something or someone.


And now creepy kid was saying the same thing in not so many words. "What's she fighting against?" Moments passed and he didn't think he was going to answer. "Even Desire couldn't bear the weight of her wants."

"Demons?"

"Desire fled and Despair has knocked, but even now its Anguish more often than not, that scratches at her door. They can't get in, she doesn't let them. She doesn't let me either, but I want to help." The Iron Bull was happy about that at least. "She hurts so loud, and so blinding. Not like the Herald, she blinds in other ways. She's like me, but not."


"Ooookay. Nice talking to you." He looked up and stared at him. "You want to help too." He paused and agreed with a shrug. "Yeah, I do." Cole nodded. Bull blinked and then he was gone. "Greeaaaat," he growled moving up the stairs. She didn't respond to him except for a slow blink, like she was putting her facade back on. He leaned over the crenelation next to her, giving her space. She wouldn't break, he'd seen her do this to others; she was patient. That wasn't his aim this time.
He stretched loudly and finally looked at her. She was kind enough to grant him an audience, turning her head from the view. He almost growled at the emptiness in her face. "The Iron Bull."


"Kitten," he joked, frowning at her scoff, barely an exhale out her nose. "Lovely view," she continued, looking back out. "I've seen better, but yeah." She smirked slowly at the answer, his opening. "I'm pretty bored of it at this point." She hummed in agreement. "You too I see. That what's got you so down?"


"I heard something interesting the other day." He forced himself to stay relaxed, rolling his head to her nonchalantly, waiting. "I just found out why they call me Lady Lionheart. Zev apparently wasn't lying; someone called me that yesterday." He felt unsure how to answer. She was not making this easy for him, no wonder Red wanted her in every ball and salon.


"I've heard it here and there," he confirmed and she blinked once with a small dip of her head agreeing. "It bothers you?" She inhaled and let it out slowly, resting her hip by her hand on the stone and looking at the other. "When I arrived in Thedas, you took me to the healers tents. They did an evaluation." She adjusted her weight and continued. "I thought I was just short, but apparently everything about me is fragile, not just my weakness to magic. Even Elves are sturdier than me. My body's not made for this place and Lady Lionheart is not a compliment; not in my book."


He read in between the words. The name originally signified her fierce values and how she was willing to roar if need be to make sure she was heard; the elves had given it to her, though he doubted she knew that from her response. She only saw it as a mockery of her own physical stature. He analyzed this in the span of a blink. "I think its also in part to your hair. The mane and all," she smirked unamused. "Perhaps."


"Hey," he moved closer and she looked up, barely seeing him. Her eyes were clouded; her soul sickness was nearing its peak. He needed to act, and fast. "Your safe."


"You say that like it should mean something to me." He studied her upturned face, the stretch of her throat; the disguised challenge. "You're afraid of me." He hit the nail on the head; her body seizing for a split second before she softened into the verbal battle ahead. Under any other circumstance, he would've been proud, fear did not give her pause. The Qun would suit her if she could learn to submit....of course.


"Why should I trust anyone, especially you The Iron Bull. Why should I trust in loyalty that swings at the beat of wings; carried by thoughts a continent away." This was a side he'd never seen, her insult masked in poetry, a game of cat and mouse he hadn't played in a long time. She stepped forward letting her chest graze his, a move that would've threw off most people. "What can you offer that can't be taken away with a word from another."


"What can you offer in return for such a promise," he countered, pleased at the sudden focus in her eyes and the shiver that ran down her arm. She hummed blinking slowly, regaining control of the conversation. "Your demanding absolute trust I'm not willing to give, in return for absolute trust your not able to offer . We are at a stalemate, and so this conversation is over." She'd make a good Ben Hassrath come to think of it. But he was better.


"And if I could?" She stopped at his side, eyes narrow but not looking at him. He was glad she had retreated on his good side; he could see her throat moving, tasting her words. "What are you implying?"


"Not once have you crossed my reports back to Par Vollen. Red hasn't asked why, figuring I don't bother because she'll make me remove it. But that's not the reason. We both know I could get the information out if I wanted to act on it." She inhaled and lifted her head higher, meeting his threat head on. "And why haven't you acted? The Qun wastes nothing."


"Because you haven't given me permission to act." She looked at him then, catching the implications by the way a blush colored her chest and neck, finding its way to her cheeks. "That is quite the trust your offering then. Perhaps you are concerned for my safety after all." Her voice was slightly breathy and he felt a prickle of satisfaction at seeing her so flustered so quickly. She lowered her gaze pursing her lips. "I will...think on your offer."


"Take your time. I'll be here."


She left quickly lifting the bottom of her dress to race down the stairs. He sighed and leaned against the stone frowning. If he hadn't decided to come up, would she have..."She thought about it. Not strongly, but she thought about it." He bit back a snarl and turned to Cole sitting where she had just been cross legged. "Seriously kid, are you trying to lose your head?" The hat tilted in confusion. "Its stuck on. How will I lose it?"


"Never mind." He paused and looked back at the tower with the single light. "She thought about it huh?"
"It's too cold here. This isn't my home, I shouldn't be here. Maybe I can go back, I fell through the sky once. I want to go home. I miss my babies. The Iron Bull, where can I find a kitten? I've only found nugs and their hands scare her." He laughed at that and pushed away from the wall. "I got an idea kid. Cullen and Red aren't gonna like it, but Josie? Yeah Josie will love it."

Chapter Text

The day the horses appeared was the best day she could remember thus far. Jessabelle ran down the stairs and watched the magnificent beasts parade down to the stables on tip toes, Dorian following at a much leisurely pace; he was far too handsome to look hurried. Master Dennet caught one look of her and barked, "You there!" She flinched and looked at him. "Yes?"


"You the one asking for an Imperial Warmblood?" Oh shit. "I am." He looked her up and down causing her to bristle. "You know anything about riding?"


"I do." He humphed and motioned to a stable hand. "I had to postpone coming for a month just to find you one. It had better been worth it." She forced smile with a chuckle. "Master Dennet, you hadn't wanted to come at all, but the fact that you showed and with an Imperial Warmblood in tow in only a month sounds like a triumph not a trial. I was told it was nigh impossible to find one in Ferelden, and yet here you are." He straightened a little at that.


The glimmer of white caught her eye and she looked back at the end of the procession of horses. She gasped as Dorian ooh'd beside her. The beast must've been 17 hands high, his withers well above her head, and a mane and tail of cornsilk gold. He was saddled as she passed a hand delicately over his nose, smiling at the woosh of warm air against her fingers. "That is a magnificent horse." She smiled at Bull who watched from the sidelines with the other onlookers. "He may even be tall enough to hold you," she laughed turning back to the beauty as it sniffed her hair.


A helper walked over and nodded to her, handing her some gloves. "He's ready for you m'lady." She was grateful to see a horn on the saddle, worried that as a supposed noble this would be an English saddle and reigns. While Vivienne would probably gripe into her later, at least Dennet was more practical, regardless of nobility. Using the horn, she pulled herself up and instantly felt the horse tense beneath her. They shifted for a few seconds, feeling each other out until finally he calmed and she led him in a loose circle. She would need to stretch more, her thighs protested the broad back already, but his gait was beautifully smooth.


"A test run then," Master Dennet called out watching closely with crossed arms but a satisfactory smirk. Cullen appeared from the stables on a beautiful bay. "I'll accompany you," he explained. "Perhaps on a horse with longer legs? I plan to give him the slack," she teased with a wicked smile and wink. He blushed and smirked back. "We can keep up."


"Then give chase!" She turned him smoothly and cantered out of the castle before breaking into a gallop. He maneuvered the winding road like a ghost, the thundering hooves the only proof he wasn't flying. Where the road finally opened she pulled him over and spun a few times until he calmed, allowing Cullen to catch up. He looked cross for a moment before relaxing. "That was very dangerous. The road to Skyhold is slick with ice."


"If you can't trust your horse not to want to kill itself, then you shouldn't be riding that horse." He opened his mouth to argue and she rode around him in a playful circle. "Come now Commander. Is there anything you enjoy freely, or is everything so strict with you?" He sighed and motioned with his head. "Lets head back." She wilted and turned around when he suddenly yelled out, "Race you!" and took off. She laughed gleefully and let her horse build steady momentum before giving him the reigns. She was at his horse's hindquarters when they reached the bridge and pulled to a slower speed before trotting back to the waiting crowd.


Bull extended a hand and she took it gratefully, dismounting. Ever since their conversation, he had taken to calling her Lady Snow in public, though Kitten was still used in the privacy of her workshop when he came by, and restricting his affections to proper etiquette. At first she had been confused until it dawned that he was making sure others saw her as a force to be reckoned with, as he himself treated her with that respect. It made a tingle start from her toes all the way up to her hair.


His hand grazed her cheek on the way down and she realized a few tears had escaped in her unfiltered joy and quickly pushed her hair back to wipe the rest discreetly. "Ser I am appalled at your cheating!" Cullen raised an eyebrow with a smile. "Turnabout is fair play my Lady." She blushed and hummed. "I'll keep that in mind good sir." She looked back at the horse and placed her hands on her hips, admiring him. "My but that is one magnificent horse," she breathed, watching them strip him down.


"You handle him well enough I suppose," Dennet agreed, taking the lead to bring him into the barn. "You've a name for him yet?"


"Dawnstar." He grunted a nod and continued. Dorian approached and whispered, "You know an all white Imperial Warmblood is worth a small fortune yes?" She paled shaking her head. "How much is a fortune in terms of this?" He wiggled his mustache thinking. "A noble son's ransom. Our Herald know of any nobility who owe him a favor?" She frowned before sighing dramatically. "How about a King of Ferelden?"


"Ah," he shrugged and held his arm out for her, leading her back to the library to finish their studies and gossip. She was able to read most works now, her penmanship the only drawback she was really having. She had just sat down beside him, legs thrown over his and book open in her lap, when someone cleared their throat. She looked up and froze at the sight of Solas, hands behind his back. "Oh my God, when did you guys get back?"


"I'm sorry to disappoint but its only me. The Herald asked me to accompany the horses back to Skyhold." Unraveling herself from her Dorian's lap, she stood and awkwardly wrung her hands. "Its not a disappointment Solas. I'm just surprised." He frowned and looked up at the rookery. "Has his letters not been getting to you?"


"Uh...Well I had been receiving letters but most of them were from would be suitors and I told Josephine if she handed me one more I would start giving them to Sera to send the correspondence back. I haven't received anything since then." He chuckled surprised before schooling his face into something a little less open but still warm. "I see."


"Lady Jess?" She leaned over the railing and looked up at Leliana. "A moment?" She saw Solas stiffen and turn back down to the stairs with a polite farewell and felt her stomach drop. "Be right there!" Sparing a glance at Dorian showed him looking just as confused. She reached the landing and had taken two steps when Talia ran up the stairs, breathless. "M'lady, the Commander and Ambassador wish to see you immediately." She spared a glance at Leliana that showed her annoyance. it seemed she had wanted to inform or question her first, and alone.


"We shouldn't keep them waiting," she forced out, briskly walking past her. She leaned closer to Talia, "Did you catch what this is about?"


"Just that some are really not happy," she whispered back falling in line behind her. They walked to the war room and heard Cullen's muffled voice well before the door opened. "This is madness!" He looked up and threw his hand up as if the conversation was moot. Josie looked unfazed as she turned to the door with a smile. "Ah, good. You brought Leliana. Let us begin."


"Yes, lets," the Spymaster drawled out. Jess laced her hands over her stomach and stood taller waiting. While they rarely agreed on most things, this was clearly a split decision. "We have spoken at length that you were not ready to enter the Game just yet," she began reading something on her board. "And that still stands," Jess answered warily. "Of course. Entering the Game unprepared could be as disastrous as sending you out into an actual battle-"


"Which is why this makes no sense," Cullen interrupted. Josie gave him a look and continued without missing a beat, "But you do know what is needed in terms of supplies and timelines. So we though to-"


"You mean you thought," Leliana added a bit bitterly. Josie inclined her head and continued again; "So it seems prudent to send you to other areas the Herald will be needing to go and preparing the necessary aid to keep the Inquisition ahead of the threat. You will not be going alone. As you have mentioned previously, there are many cultures Orlais has that you are filtering into your reputation. I believe it is time for you to choose a Champion. The Iron Bull has offered to amend his contract to allow for this and the Herald has agreed."


"How convenient," the Spymaster forced out. It was almost comical how Josie simply side stepped the animosity in the room with the same level of cheeriness. "In doing so, we can build not only the Herald's and in turn the Inquisition's reputation but also yours, putting us in a better position for an invitation from Halamshiral when the time comes."


Jess closed her eyes and groaned; she should've known better than to mention that when asked for details about the future Lycus saw. "See? Even she doesn't want to go," Cullen interjected. "It's not that," she defended, wincing at his shocked face. "I get it. I do, it makes sense to stay ahead of the competition. But I know what's out there...to some extent. The Commander isn't wrong to be worried for me. I've no skills beyond a very quick wit and a slick mouth. You're asking me to be a walking target."


"I'm asking you to be the help Thedas needs. The Herald is the Hope and Faith of the people; you can be the Voice. You wish for more equality yes?" Jess pointed at her shaking her head. "Don't do that Josie. That's really unfair." She put her clipboard down and leaned over the table to stare at her. "Who else will speak out for those who have been ignored in this conflict? You don't shy away from the hard tasks Lady jessabelle, and neither does the Herald. I'm not asking anymore of you that he himself isn't willing to give."


Her shoulders drooped; Josie had her there. "When are you planning to make the Herald Inquisitor?" The shocked look on all their faces had rolling her eyes. "Yes of course you would know of that," she quickly agreed, picking up her clipboard again. "He is due to arrive in a weeks time. The Hinterlands are nearly restored, according to a letter we received from King Alistair." Cue the gift horse. "At that time we will make the announcement."


"Does he know?" Josie paused and looked at the others for help; help she wouldn't find with their tempers flared. With a sigh she shook her head. "No, do you believe he will refuse?"


"He may. He's a Dalish elf asked to piece together the world for a people who don't give two shits about him. I would in his position; hell I tried to when I was Lavellen." Leliana tilted her head intrigued. "And what happened when you refused?"


"A lot of angry people and I had to do it anyway. Tanglepoint. No way around it." Leliana pursed her lips and looked at Josie. "We would prefer he not be forced," she started and Jess backed away from the table. "No. Nope. I'm not going to manipulate him into thinking this is some great thing. He will be hurt, he will be beaten and broken by the end of this. I can't convince him to want this. Its not right or fair. This has taken everything from him already. No."


"It's alright Lady Jess," Cullen soothed coming around the table with a hankie and she blinked back the tears that had formed. "It's not right," she whispered again, swallowing the lump in her throat. Josie sighed and wrote on her clipboard. "We will sit with him then and speak of this rather than surprising him." She nodded and cleared her throat, dashing her lashes with the cloth. "If that's everything?"


"Your choice of Champion," Josie prompted undeterred, "Do I have a choice in anyone else?" Had they been outside, Jessabelle would've bet on hearing crickets. "Then I suppose that is not an actual choice I have," she snipped. "Good day." She opened the door and Talia immediately stood up and followed. "You look angry," she whispered, staying behind her. "I am. But there's nothing for it."

 

 

 

She lifted her head at the feel of him at her door, pausing in her stitch. It opened slowly and Lycus stood there for only a breath before he walked in, arms open and smothering her instantly into his chest. "Needle! Needle!" He moved back and she dropped the fabric, embracing him fully. "They want to make me Inquisitor."

"I know."

"I don't want to be."

"I know." He kissed her hair, lifting her chin and pressing one against her forehead. "I missed you." She smiled and held his hand. "I know. I missed you too." He leaned back studying her. "You've gotten thinner, but no less beautiful." He graced a small press of his lips to hers and gathered her back under his chin. "They're sending you ahead of me."


"I know." He laughed and sighed deeply. "I don't like it. Wait. Let me guess; you know." She smiled into his chest. "Can I refuse?" She opened her eyes and thought about it. God forgive her. "Yes." He looked down and she took his hands. "I'll be inquisitor for you. All you have to do is close rifts and I'll bear the rest." His hug became crushing. "Never. Never. As long as you make me look amazing, I'll do it." She stood and led him by the hand to the closet, pulling out a covered bundle. "We'll call it your coronation attire." He groaned and she laughed unraveling it.


She laid it on the table and moved back trying to gauge his expression. The high collared tailcoat jacket was a deep blue with a soft fur lined edge. The cloak attached with silver buckles and rimed the entire bottom with fur and Silvers vines that raced up to mid back. The tunic underneath was a mixture of steampunk silver buttons and then shifted into a elven crosswork of leather and ended in a V as the tunic continued into a taper V as well at his knees. The pants were simple and practical since the boots Harritt made went to the edge of the tunic, a mix of leather and buckles.


She thought the man was going to kill her when she first sent him the idea. The first buckles were supposed to be like the ones used on roller blades back home, but he complained the end result wasn't worth the effort involved, so she changed it to simpler style. She'd get Dagna to do it. While he examined the work, she pulled her silver and green vine headband and slipped it on, waiting for him to turn. His silence made her nervous and she backed up towards the closet. "I have some other things partially finished. I'm waiting on Harritt and some other threads to embroider."


"I can't wear this," he finally whispered, finger touching the silver. She froze and swallowed the lump forming. "Is it the style? We can swap some things." He looked up and paused at her headband, looking back at the mantle before smirking. "I can't wear this because it looks like something a king would wear. The outcry will be swift."
"Fuck 'em." He looked back up surprised. "You didn't ask for this. They wanted a savior, they don't get to choose who they get and what he wears. They want you to fix their problems, they can see you as an equal. And if they give you shit, you walk away and leave them to close their own damn rifts." He laughed and gave a cheeky smile. "I suppose that's true enough."


She helped him get dressed, pinning the parts that were too wide. Harritt had written down his measurement, but as she was unable to read them , she had left it to Talia to translate at the time. She had left it a few inches wider just in case. "Did you like the horse?" she looked up from his side and smiled. "He's magnificent." He smiled and touched her cheek gently. "If you ever ask me to find something like that again, I may strangle you." Her laugh was abrupt and he smirked, holding still to let her finish.
She smiled to herself as he slept on the cot that had been brought in when he refused to leave, carefully fixing the size. He would look amazing in the afternoon sun.

 

And she hadn't been wrong. She stood in the crowd hidden under an awning to watch the people's reaction. The sun caught the silver and brought out his vallislin as he lifted the sword overhead, mantle and jacket tails billowing out behind him. "He looks the part." She looked over at Solas with a soft smile. "He is the part, the clothes just emphasize that." Everyone cheered, she watched for any naysayers and found only a few faces, all aimed at her. So be it, she'd take their envy and hate if it kept it from falling on Lycus.


"We leave in the morning," he continued. "I heard. Just not to where." He stole a look at her. "We leave for a place in the desert called Solasan." She inhaled and shook her head. "It would be be better that the...Inquisitor goes there. It will benefit him to be the one to be there. We could be better sent elsewhere." She jumped at the shadow that loomed over her, sighing in relief when she saw it was Bull. "Where do you suggest we go then." She inhaled and let her shoulders drop with a huff. "The Emerald graves will have a lot of lyrium issues, plus a lot of resources. The Storm Coast too, but I might drown under the weight of my hair. Anywhere else right now might cause some trouble we're not ready for yet." She paused and groaned. "Also the Fallowmire has some soldiers that may need to be saved if we don't warn them first."


"Sounds perfect! I'll let Josie know." She whined and looked to Solas for help but he just smiled and walked off with an 'I'll be busy packing.' She looked up at the Qunari with a whine. "Oh c'mon Bull!" He smiled and leaned down with a whispered, "Keep saying my name like that, and I'll have sweet dreams tonight." She blushed and stormed off, preparing to explain to Talia and Dorian why they were going into a bog.

 

Chapter Text

She bit her lip, watching the horses be readied. Everyone else was off eating breakfast, or in Dorian's case, sleeping in. Dawnstar was leaning his nose out to her and she couldn't help but pat it reassuringly, more for herself than him. "Lady Snow." She peered back at Cullen and hummed. Stopping beside her, he held out a slice of apple and stole the horse's affections, earning himself a scoff. "Cheater." He smiled and gave her a slice to offer. They stood side by side in silence smoothing the gentle beast's snout.


"You don't have to go, you know that right?" She turned to him with a lazy smirk. "I know Commander. If I truly didn't want to do this, there's nothing that could make me."
"Of course," he conceded looking back at Dawnstar. She studied his profile, admiring the curve of his jaw. "Are you worried for me?"


"Maker, yes," he breathed emphatically. "I know your strong, but you can't- you don't know how to defend yourself. Losing you would be a crushing blow. To the Inquisition, to everyone." She hummed with a deep inhale. "Is there anything I can do to put you more at ease? Besides not going, that is." He chuckled and looked at her softly. "I'm afraid not."


"Then I'm sorry to be a part of your distress Commander." She thought for a moment before asking, "You still play Chess?" He looked at her confused. "Yes?" She smiled and nodded. "Good. Brush up on it. I'll challenge you when we get back. Consider it a promise I'll strive to keep." He watched her before smiling. "Deal." Reaching out, she put a hand on his arm to stop him from leaving. "And Commander? You're doing great. The Templars will be better without it." He frowned before stiffening and pulling away. "You knew, know, known-"

She stopped his rambling with a smile. "Its your burden to bear, but you can endure. You didn't need me to tell you that."


"Then why have you spoken now?" Her gaze traveled back to Dawnstar; "God forbid I do die out there and never get to tell you how proud I am of you." He opened his mouth and she shook her head. "I think you should go prepare for the day Commander, starting with some bread and tea. I find minty ones help me the most with headaches." She gazed past him and smiled. "And I shall have the same." Talia waited a few feet away with a steaming roll and cup. He backed away slowly with a bow. "Safe travels Lady Snow."


She took the cup and was interrupted from a sip as Dorian groaned dramatically. "I was absolutely sure he was going to kiss you if you had just kept your mouth shut." She laughed startled, stealing a sip in between giggles. "He's freaking gorgeous, yes, but he's not my type. I'm not ready to settle down and start families. As for you? Your such a creep Dorian. What are you a voyeur?" he squawked insulted, and Talia covered her mouth to keep from laughing as well."Ha ha, well the joke's on both of you because I am not going to the bog."


Jess reeled back, shaking her head. "What? Why not?" His posturing dropped for a second before he sighed. "You'll already have the hobo apostate. Lycus wants the groups a little more rounded. Varric will be going with you instead." She found herself somewhere between relieved and pouting anyway. "Oh."


"Come now dear, surely you can be happy for me; I won't have to be in that disgusting place!" She groaned with an eye roll and turned her back to him. "Whatever. Not like I needed the most talented mage and teacher anyway." She smirked into her cup at his flustered rambling, winking to Talia who watched with an amused smile.
"Rosy!" With a 'ha!" of triumph, she threw her arms around his shoulders dramatically. "Varric! My favorite traveling companion! You would never abandon me for your own comforts, now would you?" He raised an eyebrow and laughed when Dorian stormed out in a flurry of swishes from his cloak and tunic. A small semblance of peace washed over her as she sat on a crate, sipping warm cider and watching everyone get ready. Lycus kissed her cheek and gave her one more hug before helping her mount her horse and then they were off; The Iron Bull, Varric, Solas, Talia, and her.

 

They skirted the Hinterlands, following a road more into the countryside and camped the first night in relative peace. She was taking off the heavy saddle when a package fell out of a saddlebag, jingling loudly. Varric looked up with a smirk. "Let me mistress- er m'lady." Caught off guard at the change, Jess stared at Talia stunned for a moment before handing over the saddle, stooping for the package. She smirked at the familiar rough spun wrapping. A delighted laugh escaped her as she revealed a red painted tambourine.


"He asked every vendor we came across," Varric supplied, lighting a pipe and taking a puff, watching her face like a hawk. She sighed affectionately, turning the instrument and tapping it against her hand, smiling at the happy jingle. "Play us something."


"Jeez, Varric! Let me admire my gift first!" She sat and tapped it gently, trying to hum a tune. "Hm, maybe tomorrow. I'm more rusty than I thought." He complained without heat but relented and she went to sit a bit away to practice. How long she was lost in her thoughts was irrelevant until she noticed a pair of wrapped feet beside her. "Solas. I'm sorry, were you there long?"


"Not too long." She moved over and he hesitated before sitting down. She fixed her gaze ahead, into the woods and waited; He was more patient than anyone else and she was starting to drift off when he finally spoke. "The Inquisitor has gotten powerful. I've never seen the magic spells he wields now." She hummed with a nod. "Maybe he travels a different part of the fade than you have."


"Perhaps. Or someone could be teaching him. Either way its dangerous." She blinked slowly with an exhale. "Dangerous for who? You learn from the fade and no one questions your competence. Why is he any different?" She gave him a quick once over. "You both look close in age and neither are Circle trained; what's the deciding factor?" She controlled her smirk at his slight nostril flare, her gaze blank and innocent as she waited for his answer.


"I suppose it does sound like I'm being a bit unfair when put that way." She blinked surprised and he smirked, catching her game. She smiled coyly in return. "I don't know how he does it," she offered honestly looking back into the woods. "Perhaps someone's dreams fuel them?" A corner of her mouth twitched up. So that was his aim. "Magic doesn't exist where I'm from Solas. If he's learning spells, its not from me. Have you asked him?" He frowned with a head shake and she hummed bobbing her head. "I'm sorry I can't help you." He stood with a sigh. "It's alright Lady Jess. Goodnight."


Iron Bull had watched her expression morph from horror to confusion as Talia waited with open arms for the saddle, taking it and scooting closer to him in the pretext of grabbing cleaning supplies. "She's cross with me now. What was the point of that," the elf breathed loosely, rubbing oil into the leather. Bull stretched and rummaged through the bag by his side letting his stuff rattle about. "She's not mad, you did good." She pressed her lips together tightly unconvinced but said nothing else while he pulled a bottle out and poured himself some ale.


She's not into power play; the look was one of self disgust. He swirled his cup, trying to rethink his plan. Kitten was a conundrum; she exuded power and authority while secretly hating every minute of it. But she wanted to be seen, moving through rooms like a queen yet claiming not to be. What's the word she used....autonomy. He gulped his drink and poured another watching her bob her head and tap the timbrel softly until Solas inched over. She looked different when she first saw it; the stress around her eyes and mouth softening. Did she have a thing for the Warden? He swallowed the next cup and put his stuff away, ignoring the slight curdle in his throat. Damn ale must be going sour.


He sighed and rubbed his ankle at the lingering ache; walking down a frigid mountain did nothing for his scar. Hearing her soft step, he looked up slowly as she stood in front of him, timbrel to her chest to keep it from rattling. "We need to find you a horse strong enough to carry you," she said softly kneeling. "Up," she motioned for the pant leg and he pulled it to his knee watching, her face morph. This was also her peace.


"The soldiers back at Skyhold could use treatment this." She grimaced for a second. knuckles kneading into the calf. "Lay back please." Doing as told he watched with one arm behind his head as she heaved his ankle onto her shoulder and kneaded from heel to knee. "Why'd you stop?" She paused, debating whether to answer and he held his breath. He felt a small triumph when she sighed and continued. "I couldn't separate myself from my work. The lines blurred. A lot of my patients were injured from surgeries and cancers."


"Cancers?" She hummed frowning. He caught Varric lowering his pipe and leaning back more, Solas and Talia moving very slowly in their cooking, ears pricked straight up. "Its like...a type of wasting disease. The body slowly destroys itself, so surgeons take out the infected parts in the hopes of stopping the spread and there's usually a type of...poison? that stops it but at the cost of the person's healthy tissue...and it doesn't always work. And when it does, the people have a long recovery ahead of them.


I started to see losing them as my fault. It wasn't my job to heal them. I was only there to help rehabilitate them, or offer some kind of physical compassionate touch. Let them know they were okay to be broken in secret. They fought so hard for their families but most were tired. My last client was a woman who had fought a reoccurring-" she closed her eyes and rested her head against his leg. Bull quickly moved and pulled her to his chest, slipping his hand into her hair and squeezing her neck softly.


"She didn't make it?" Jess sighed and shivered, "It's not that...she came in one day so happy, I thought she had finally won. But she just said 'that's it. I cant fight anymore. I did the best I could and I'm ready. I told my family. I'm done." He looked down at the hot wet plops on his chest and rumbled softly, easing her to rest her head. "She was so ready. I didn't see her again. I can only imagine...I can't go through that again. I got lost somewhere in there and that's not supposed to happen."

She pulled away abruptly and a new piece of her puzzle slid into place. "You ever take care of yourself in all that Kitten?" There is was, that self loathing. "Keep it elevated when you can." She left and quickly came back for the instrument motioning Talia into their tent. He poured over that show, trying to find the crack, the one thing he was missing to be able to help. Damn he wished his Tama was here to listen.

 

 

 

 


The next day found them entering the mire's outskirts a bit past noon. While the rain was in some ways miserable, most notably when it came to her hair, it was soothing in its earthiness. Warm and steady, were it not for the ever cloying smell of death and rank water, the Fallowmire could actually be called a pleasant change to the frigid Frostbacks. Talia and she had split up to walk the pond’s edge, collecting blood lotus and dawn lotus for Adan. She kept an eye turned to the water, as listening for any shuffling would've been useless with the patter of raindrops on the surface. She glanced up to see Talia working the other side of the same pond, her nimble fingers plucking the stalks in even rhythm compared to her staccato yank yank, fine harvesting knife it is, success!


A shriek brought her to attention up from the stubborn one she was pulling, watching her friend’s back as she took off back around. She tensed and turned at the warning bells in her head and gasped at the great horned shadow above her; unfamiliar and covered in furs. Her throat was grabbed before she could scream, her attacker lifting her like a doll, and on instinct she drove the harvesting knife still in her hand upward with his momentum, feeling it lodged into something with a little give. Instantly she was dropped and scrambled backwards, splashing into the muddy waters as he stumbled and fell.


Thin fingers grabbed her arms and hauled her up. “Run! Run Talia!” She pushed the slighter woman ahead, urging her to go when their path was blocked by more Avvar. A sack was thrown over her just as she inhaled to scream, hauling her up over a shoulder and she struggled pissed off at being treated like a potato sack, spewing obscenities into his fur covered back. Avvar for all the negative talk they received were nimble; she barely bounced on his shoulder even as she felt him climb over slick rocks and splash through waters with no fear of the undead. the sharp armor in her stomach probably would've gutted her otherwise.


Finally and unceremoniously, she was tossed to the ground with an indignant shriek. The sack was removed and she glared at the men leering above her before spotting Talia to her right. He reached down and she projected her voice, raising her hand, “that is quite enough! Or do you intend to dishonor the gods, foreign and familiar!”


When he hesitated she stood and dusted herself off, buying a moment to gather her thoughts. “Everyone with a shred of honor knows that the spoils of war are not partaken until after the victory. I serve a foreign God to Thedas, but have been asked to assist the Maker and his prophet, through their chosen Herald." She motioned a hand to her side. "Talia here serves Him directly. You bring shame to your gods with this act, and in doing so shame yourselves, reaping wrath upon your own heads. Does Hakkon revel in cowardice?"

They looked affronted and she quickly continued before they decided to cut her down. "If you defeat my Champion and or the Herald, because one or both will come, we will submit to you and the Mountain Father and Lady of the Skies as your spoil. In return for your respect to the gods, foreign and familiar, we shall give no resistance. And I shall regale you with stories and song until the battle.”


She walked over to who she assumed was the Hand of Korth by his attire and asked, “Well? A story of war, romance, or honor?” He looked to his left and she noticed the Sky Watcher Amund studying her closely before nodding. “She's a point whelp, you haven't won ‘em yet.” Grabbing his massive hammer from his side, he slung it over his shoulder carelessly. “The Lady is calling.”


She didn't want the only reasonable Avvar to leave, but she turned back to the hand of Korth with a slow blink, as if she knew she had a point all along. “Honor then wench. Let's see if your forgotten God has any talent in choosing storytellers.” His men laughed and she snarled offended. “Foreign, not forgotten,” Jess bit out, “and so be it. I shall tell you the tale of Mulan.”


She had never been so happy about her Disney obsession until then. They grumbled at her opening, but slow chuckles built as the song 'Honor to Us All' about the match maker progressed until she saw they were fully hooked when she spoke about Mushu, Khan, and Crikee; remembering that they believed in gods of nature. One shoved Talia's shoulder, holding out a bowl of what looked like nuts without looking away. The elf stole a quick glance up and Jess nodded once not breaking character, watching her take a small handful and passing the bowl to the Avvar next to her.


She over dramatized her movements, using her cloak as a prop and spinning with a pretend sword. They cheered at ‘Be a Man' and when she finished, an Avvar pointed to her, “the Emperor honored the Mountain Father.” She hummed and nodded. “No matter how the wind howls, the mountain cannot bow to it. It certainly does seem that way, doesn't it."


Korth grunted and stood up. “Well your god has not shown himself yet.” She smiled unaffected and shrugged. “If you don't trust your gods will answer, then you are not worthy to serve them. My Champion will come." He scoffed unconvinced and motioned his men to grab them. Talia looked at her terrified and she tried to smile in reassurance as they were led to different rooms in the fortress. She laid immediately down much to the surprise of her jailor and willed herself to sleep.

 

 

 

 

“SOLAS!” Jess felt like she had been screaming for hours. The air rippled and he appeared in a rush of energy. “Da'len! Where-" he stumbled when she threw her arms around him relieved. “I bought us time, but I’m scared. They have Talia!” He hesitated before rubbing her back shushing her soothingly. “Tell me what happened.” She explained as best she could before a sharp hot panic overtook her. "We're gonna fucking die," she wheezed, grabbing Solas' nimble fingers for reassurance; he gave it easily. “The Iron Bull has been sending scouts and searching himself. We’ll get you back now that we know where you are.” He stiffened and she heard a thunderous roar; it shook her chest and instinctively she knew the feeling. “Lycus!”

 

The fade erupted into a golden glow as he appeared eyes glittering and lightning flashing. He looked at Solas narrow eyed. “Lycus! They took us instead of the soldiers. I messed up and Talia is in danger.” He opened his arm and she squeezed Solas hand in thanks before running to him. She gasped and froze midstep, looking around. “I have to-“


She jolted awake as the door to her prison opened. Jessabelle scrambled to get up until Talia was thrown in. She looked at the silhouette slamming the door before crawling to her, a cry of anguish escaping her throat at the bloodied lip and bruises. “Tell me they didn't,” she begged pushing the brown hair that was ripped from her braid away from her face. “He didn't. He was going to, but the big one stopped him.” Jessabelle heart broke at the cracked frail voice. “Korth?”


“The one that left. He came back and he-he,” Jessabelle folded herself protectively around Talia. “I'm sorry. I’m sorry.” How many times she repeated that escaped her notice until Talia asked in a squeaky whisper, “will someone come for us?”
“I spoke to Solas in the fade. The Iron Bull is looking for us already. He'll come. And I contacted Lycus. He knows. Someone will come. We just need to hold out. This,” she motioned her hand to her injured face, “changes my tactic a bit. But Bull and the others should be here by tomorrow night the latest. And Talia?”


“Yes m'lady?”
“You point the shithead out who did this when I scream your name.” She held her tighter as the slighter woman snuggled closer as trying to hide inside her clothes.

 

Morning came and the door was opened. She stood and exited primly, face stoic and Talia copying her pose perfectly. Korth frowned at the sight. “What's this?”


“Your men don't respect the gods; much less you Hand of Korth. I don't see why we should be held to such standards. Our Inquisitor comes on lightning and war cries. Your life is forfeit by tomorrow's sunrise.” He stared at her stunned before laughing, his men following suit. She smiled viciously and positioned herself to the side of his makeshift throne and knelt down demurely. “And what are you doing now?”


“Just because you do not venerate and honor your gods with your words and actions, doesn't mean that we won't. I gave my word we wouldn't put up resistance, and so we wait.” She stared ahead, praying her bluff was accepted. The silence was deafening until he laughed again. “If your saviors don't come by tomorrow’s sunrise, your life is forfeit,” he mimicked. She turned and bobbed her head once. “As you say.” His smile faded in the face of her surety.


She wished she could fall asleep and warn them, but the noise and merriment and casually thrown threats as the hours ticked by kept her from resting. A runner came up the stairs a little before evening out of breath. “A horned beast and a mage are ripping through the men.” Korth looked at her but she kept a straight face, not bothering to turn.  An hour later a storm rolled in more intense than the day before. She looked up with an eyebrow raised, noticing the hurricane eye in the distance. “Doesn’t the Inquisitor use lightning as his primary spells?” She rolled her head to Talia who gazed back innocently. “Mm. Indeed.” The Hand of Korth stood and began pacing at that.


A fight could be heard from the portcullis and she stood slowly waiting, heart in her throat. The sky darkened and the rains fell harder, blinding. She sucked in a breath when lightning flashed and Bull's silhouette appeared, steam rising off of him. The sky flashed again and Solas appeared next to him staff glowing an eerie green. Whether choreographed or just plain luck, the affect was amazing and terrifying, her pulse racing and causing her to tremble. A low rumbling growl made her shiver with anticipation as a billow of steam escaped the Qunari's mouth.


A crack that sounded like the sky was rending in half rang out and the doorway to the courtyard they were in exploded, raining stone with the water. She felt a barrier fly over her even as the rocks missed her and pelted the stairs. Glorious. “Behold Hand of Korth, my champion The Iron Bull!" Her breath escaped her as Lycus slowly ascended the blown door frame, his eyes a brilliant gold against his glowing blue outline, hand carrying his staff, Tyrrda's Axe loosely. "And my Lord, Lycus of clan Lavellen. Also known as the Herald of Andraste," she finished with a smirk, before yelling "Talia!".  


"Last one on the right," the elf screamed out and Jess roared pointing, "Bull!" She saw his outline rise slightly, "he dies last!" Madness ensued as a barrier flew over her just as an axe swung. The blow pushed her back and she grabbed Talia crouching down to get behind cover. Arrows flew from different places, pinging into arms and legs at seemingly random. Varric.

She watched mouth agape as lightning danced in between the spaces Bull walked keeping the Avvar from advancing as his axe swung like a whirlwind in front of him. A scream that curdled her blood filled the air and she turned in time to see the Hand of Korth fry, a lightning cage his coffin. She scrambled to grab Talia when she stood and watched a man crawling backwards away from Bull as he stalked up the last stairs.

"That's the one," her handmaid spat pointing, and Bull roared raising his axe and dropping it with a sickening crunch.
She tried to keep her eyes on him, his body steaming in the pouring rain, but the soft shlickslcik sound drew her eyes to his feet, where a head slowly bounced down the stairs. "Oooooh," the sound escaped her parted lips like a long exhale as Lycus drew closer, dodging the dismembered part without a second glance. "Lamb?" She dizzily looked back up and a blur flew by her, gray hands yanking her hair from her face just as she lurched forward and vomited onto the cold blood soaked stone.

Chapter Text

"Lamb!" She pushed herself away from the bile she left behind. Gentle hands held her shoulders and she scrambled and pushed his coat back, fumbling for his belt loops. "What're-oh," Lycus pulled a health potion off and she uncorked it with her teeth before thrusting it in Talia's face. "Drink," she forced, tilting her head to spit. "No, you first."


She swigged a portion, rinsing her mouth and swallowing. Then held it up again. "Drink," she ordered harsher than before. She waited until the bottle was empty, the cuts on Talia's face fading away, and only then relaxed back onto the broken pillar. "I just need a minute," she huffed wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. It was insanely quiet and the lingering smell of cooked flesh and wet blood drove her into a minor panic. She forced her breath from her mouth in small whines, pushing Varric's hands away when he tried to rub her back. Refusing their aid, she forced herself to walk, bile swimming in her mouth at the carnage they passed on the way back to the entrance.

Bull growled and she held up a hand, approaching Sky Watcher slowly. "Your the one to helped Talia," she ventured watching him turn around to face them. The men beside her relaxed a fraction, Varric going as far as to put Bianca away. "Your gods protect you," he noted. "Better to stay on their good side."


"The Inquisitor could use your help." She caught him steal a look at her before nodding. The Avvar mumbled under his breath thinking before nodding. "You healed the Lady's skin. I think she wants me to help you."
"Welcome then," Lycus greeted coolly. "Head to camp when your ready, they'll get you situated." He motioned her forward with a warm hand on her back and she stumbled, the adrenaline slowly leaving. "I'm fine," she immediately snapped, standing taller. He led a hard pace back to the nearest camp, looking back every few minutes to make sure they followed. Once in the relative safety of the tents he crooked his finger to the Iron Bull. "We will have words." Jess shared a worried look with Talia.


They sat by a fire under a rocky overhang, wincing every time the rough brogue accent got louder. "Maker, I'd be shitting my pants right now," her handmaid lamented into the cup she cradled, ears low and back by her head.
"Maybe I should interrupt," Jess whispered. Her hazel eyes widened with a vigorous head shake. "No m'lady," she hissed shrilly. "She's right." The both jumped at Solas' voice behind them; Talia looking towards his feet incredulous. "Lycus is very vigilant of you Lady Snow. I believe a spirit of Protection follows him."


“So he's possessed,” Talia asked worried. “No honey. This sounds like a mutual agreement. Lycus must be able to control his feeling enough that the spirit of protection feels him worthy of its assistance.” Jess looked at Solas for confirmation. “That's a simple way of explaining it. Though right now, I don't believe Protection is in there.”
She looked back at the tent where the two men, mainly Lycus were arguing. She stood with a loud humph. "Well this needs to stop. I'm not going back to that gilded cage." There was a pause in the yelling and she stormed over to the tent, throwing the flap open.

She almost wilted under the stony expression he wore, pulling herself to her full height. Talia stopped at the flap and turned around to avoid facing his anger, waiting at the entrance with her hands laced.
Sit." She blinked at the authoritative tone unsure until he almost snarled a harsher “sit. With barely a glance to the room, Jess walked over to Bull who was sitting in the widest and highest part, pushed his arm from his lap and sat down. Lycus smiled something more akin to a sneer. “You think to protect him from me Lamb?”


“That depends; do your men need protection from you lord Inquisitor?”


“Don' test my patience tonight Jess. Your mouth might get you into trouble it can't get you out of.”


“You underestimate what my mouth can do.” She gasped when his hand shot out, grasping her chin with thumb and forefinger. Bull's hand tightened on her hip a fraction.” Lycus looked furious, the lines in his face cut deep to alter his tattoos in the lamp light. “Have you no concern for your life? Or has this ordeal taught you nothing?” She stared at him caught between deference and defiance. My God he's beautifully terrifying. His eyebrow arched expectantly. “What, no smart comment?”


“My mouth bought me crucial time during this ordeal. I don't see how it could prove I've no concern. But know this; This is no one's fault but my own Lycus.” She inhaled sharply at the tighter grasp on her hip but continued, “if anyone is to be yelled at, it's me.”


“Oh don’ worry; I was getting’ to you." She opened her arms wide with a smirk. “Well here I am. And here I'll stay because I'm not going back to Skyhold.” His fingers tightened and pulled her to standing. “Ya are Lamb. Yer goin’ back. Yer gettin' yourself some leathers and yer stayin’ by the Chargers. An' your waiting for orders” He glared past her and warned, “and if you leave their side or anything like this happens again, yer' contract is over the Iron Bull. Understand?”


“You got it Boss,” She opened her mouth and he held up a finger and continued much softer, “and we will not be discussing this in public again. Are we clear?” Against her better judgment she laughed narrow eyed. “Shall we then discuss my talented mouth again? ” He moved away furious. “You wicked woman! Get her dry and leave for Skyhold in the morn! Talia, a word.”


Jessabelle moved to interrupt but Bull’s firm grasp on her arm stopped her like a chain. When they had left she looked back at him with a shaky smirk. “Think I made him mad?” He narrowed his eye and let out a low growl standing. Arm still held in a too tight grip, he led her to another tent and motioned her in. “What, your not coming in? Tent too small?” He stood there for a moment, then with a grumbled Qunlat turned back out.


An embarrassed flush crept up her face, and her body began to shake. With a trembling hands she pushed her hair into a pineapple on her head and squeezed it with a towel left behind. Undressing from her wet clothes into a man's white undershirt, she pulled a blanket over her shoulders and dashed back to the fire. Varric looked up worried from oiling Bianca.


“You okay Rosey?” Pouring a cup of broth she shrugged unconvincingly. “As well as someone just abducted can be. Thanks for asking.” Leaving the glow of the fire to the edge of the overhang, she put the cup down and sighed leaning against the wall. Screw him, and anyone else who had an issue with the way she handled the situation; she did what she had to. Glancing up she hummed intrigued at the beautiful summerstone vein that rolled through the rock. Following its curve she stopped at the edge of the rainfall and stared out.


"I would prefer to not have to deal with the Inquisitor and the Iron Bull again." She jumped and looked back at Solas frowning. "I'm going to tie a bell to your neck." His smirk was insufferable and she turned back to the deluge beyond their outcrop. "I thought I saw something out there."


"Probably the bogfishers that walk the water's edge." She hummed and pulled the blankets closer. They stood in companionable silence until a thought crossed her mind. "I'm sorry if you got any backlash because of this. Lycus was really going in on Bull," she glanced up sadly. "I hope you didn't catch any of that." And then her evil brain had to tease; "You're far too gentle for that kind of treatment." As expected he looked affronted for a moment, Oh mighty Dread Wolf, before going for the bait. "None too much that I couldn't handle. He was...worried."


With a nod she looked back out, surprised when he continued. "It was actually the Iron Bull I was concerned with. The man you wounded would've been lucky to bleed out by your hand." Though dry, a splash of cold raced down her spine, as she tilted her head to towards him with without looking away. "That so?"


"Indeed." She felt his gaze coolly and suppressed her shudders replying, "I imagine an angry Qunari was an interesting sight."


"An interesting choice of words, tell me have you ever seen an interrogation from a Qunari." She closed her eyes and barked out a laugh. "If it was anything like the fight at the keep, I've no shame to say I'm happy I missed it." She swallowed another wave of bile and shrugged. "I'm glad you weren't hurt is all I was trying to say."


"As am I. Your servant is looking for you, by the way." Jess almost immediately regretted her kind words. "She's a handmaid Solas."

"Same thing is it not."

"Only as much as Maleficar and Mage are. Both are simply magic users, yet both are simply gifted." She looked at him now, studying his shock with no satisfaction. "I don't hold any ill against someone who must live their life a certain way; she cannot help but be an elf rising in an unjust world just as you cannot help be a mage in the same predicament. Remember that when you speak of Talia in my presence."


"M'lady?" Jessabelle turned and smiled softly. "I'm here." The woman in question rounded the edge and pointed behind her. "You should be resting! Come, before they start up again." She laughed and taking a risk, squeezed Solas' shoulder affectionately to show she held no anger towards him. "We are more than our position Solas. If there's anything we can become, let us become kind."


Not looking back she pulled the blanket over Talia to head back through the rain to the tent."What are you wearing," her friend's shriek drew Varric's attention and he waggled his eyebrows at the expanse of leg that was showing under the man's shirt. "Oh hush Varric Tethras! You saw far more with Isabella," she laughed rushing to get back. She paused at the sight of the Iron Bull on a boulder looking out; the perfect picture of a demonic sentinel with the lightning flashing behind him. He turned his head and she felt his one eye roving over her, a blush she should've felt with Varric now making itself known. "Come on," Talia whispered softly, pulling her along from the sight.

 

 

 

 


He watched her run into the tent below and felt a small stirring. Her scent had diminished to something more akin to a soldier's fear, not so cloying but the acidity was still there. Her arousal had also rushed up, drowned out too soon from the downpour but enough to ignite another rush of battle rage. When he had first smelled the blood, he had expected to find either her or Talia nursing a sliced finger or bloodied knee from a misplaced step. A wounded Avvar and two overturned baskets of herbs had greeted him instead.


The scouts seemed useless; while the Inquisition was a force to be reckoned with, it lacked the discipline of the Beresaad. But that was the heart of his anger wasn't it; he knew better. He should have been there beside them, not planning for the campsites. He let a low growl escape.


Glancing back down he thought about the way she had looked once they had found her. Solas had awoken with a start, saying he found her in the fade terrified, she had bought them time and the Inquisitor was coming. Seeing her standing there tall and unbowed beside that idiot while announcing them; he had expected meekness. A quiet resigned stare, not the proud and unwavering glare, the hard projected voice. When she had paled, the bruises on her neck stood out like vitaar. And yet her first concern was for Talia; he doubted she even knew she was injured. She cared too much for those underneath her. He had listened to Talia's retelling of the events while Lycus wrote, the lines in his face softening as his own pride in her swelled. His cock twitched. This woman was...something else.


But she would come down, like he had. Battle rage could only go so far. So he had stopped Talia and warned her to stay asleep tonight. That her lady would probably awaken in a fit, and to leave it to him. He smirked as he remembered the way she seemed ready to take out his remaining eye with her nails at suggesting it. He liked her. He just hoped she listened.


Walking down the place he had chosen to keep watch at the sight of horses, he warned a scout to walk the rest of the companions in. She didn't need to be startled into another panic, no matter how well she controlled it. Squatting by the tent, he listened to the two women murmuring until it died off.
Settling down onto a blanket he waited for the inevitable. It didn't take long for the strangled sound to reach him. He heard a sleepy murmur and sighed, Talia couldn't ignore her.


"Shh, sleep hon. You've been through a lot." He heard a soft murmur and opened the flap slightly. Kitten tensed and then relaxed, still smoothing a hand over the 'sleeping' elf's hair. He cocked his head, watched her hesitate before quietly pushing the covers back and crawled towards him. The sight gave him another twitch, her shirt laces open and giving him a generous view of her breasts.


Holding open a blanket, he smirked back at her shy smile. "Thanks," she whispered snuggling into it. It was a testament to her mental state that she let him bundle her and lead her to the fire. Sitting down, he pulled her gently to sit in between his legs. He waited until her shoulders dropped a fraction before squeezing hand kneading her neck gently. "Happen often," he queried softly.


Jess made a small noise in her throat, more of acknowledgement than an answer. This was as stressful as the Game in Orlais. "What do you see when it happens," he tried instead massaging the knots in the base of her skull. He smirked when a small moan escaped her, head falling to her chest. Several breaths later he was rewarded.


"An immaculate apartment. White walls against black furniture. Pictures hanging, each one filled with paper smiles and false perfection." He hummed and gently let his fingers curl into her hair, keeping his circles slow and firm. "And where are you?" he looked up and frowned at the heads that had popped out of the nearby tents; everyone had the decency of mind to stay quiet. Lycus' ears were nearly straight up as he listened.


"On the floor. A few bottles of whiskey drip their last dregs onto the hardwood floor. My vision blurs with the rest of it in my veins." Bull lowered his hands to her traps, squeezing. "And what makes you drink so much?" He felt her tense and worried he overstepped, but then she just laughed bitterly. "A man." He paused and controlled his own sudden discomfort. "He hurt you?"


"Not the way you expect. He was...perfect. Polite and educated, a businessman. Pillar of the community as they say. Me? Not so much. The fact that he even saw me was...well. Lets sum it up as I really wanted to make him happy. And I did at first. But then I inevitably would fuck something up."


"He hit you?" She chuckled and undid the mass of curls sitting on her head, and he instantly plunged his fingers in, rubbing her scalp. "I almost wish he did. I would've never stayed had he done that. No. He would look at me so disappointed, shaking his head. He would ignore me days on end. The food I cooked was left untouched, his side of the bed stayed cold; as if my fuck up bled into everything, tainted everything I touched. Until the day he would walk in and smile at me and it felt like...a benediction. Slowly he started to take care of everything so that i wouldn't mess up anymore. My paychecks-wages-went to him. Bit by bit he started to control everything; My money, my time, my friends. Alienating me from my family and their 'bad' habits. Well, no I did that, but still...


And deep down I knew something was wrong. I never told him I had a savings account, so tips and extra funds kept going in there without him knowing. I reasoned I was saving it to surprise him with something great, but I think I knew all along. I just wanted to make it work. I would do better next time. I would be more careful; I literally starved for his affection. I was completely dependent on him and his approval. My work  and alcohol were my escape, the affection I didn't give or get, I made up for with my patients or numbing it away. And that wasn't right or fair. It wasn't until my last patient, the woman who gave in that I felt it; I felt her battle. I gave all I could, I couldn't do it anymore."


She lifted her head and sighed. "You guys are terrible eavesdroppers." He worried she would close down but she rested back against him purring as he gently pulled her hair and continued massaging. Dorian and Lycus sat the closest, the others making a loose circle around the fire. Even Sera listened from her tents entrance. He hoped she wouldn't say something stupid.

"What did you do," the Vint asked carefully. Bull tilted her head gently so he could watch her face, knowing she'd control her movements now that there was an audience. "I told him and he reacted exactly as he always had. So I packed my bags in his absence, took my cat, and emptied my savings and moved to someplace warmer. Left everything. Had enough money to rent a dingy room until I got licensed for work, and tried to start again."


"Tried," Lycus asked frowning. She pressed more into him and Bull paused, fixing the blanket to pull her closer, noticing her tremors were pronounced again. "Yeah, I," she moved her head side to side thinking, "Imagine a rune stone that records messages or pictures from other people. You can see it and message back right away. I was working with a physician, helping with repetitive motion injuries. I couldn't go back to oncology uh...working with cancer patients," she clarified looking up at him. Bull nodded once and she continued. "Anyway. I was in my new apartment, and I stupidly check my...rune stone. Everyone and their mother was blaming me because I apparently caused him to try and kill himself. How could I be so cruel? Did I not have a heart? I didn't know a good man when he was standing in front me. You name it, I got it. I was done...just...tired."


"Had you no clan for help," Lycus asked gently. And that undid her. Her body seized and she sat forward with a snarl. "What clan? I alienated my friends. I ruined any relationship I had with my younger and older siblings. The way I treated my mother was disgusting. They probably didn't even know I left the state, and its better that way."


"Your family would've forgiven you," Blackwall pressed. "Maybe so but I wouldn't deserve it for the things I said and did," she spat, wet tears dripping onto his arm. Vivienne walked over and held up a cup. He almost knocked it from her hand until he caught the glare in her eyes. "Here darling. Remember to drink something when recounting an event like that. It will help you from becoming emotional."
Jess took it with a forced thank you and Bull pretended to grab for it. "The Iron Lady making you tea? This I gotta try."


"Back off Bull," she huffed taking a deep pull. She hummed and controlled the wince with a small cough. "That's...very different." Sera laughed at the face. "Pretty nasty innit?"


"It's Orlesian darling. More robust than Fereldan tea." Bull watched her take another sip out of respect and slowly moved his hand down her arm to her elbow. When her head lolled forward a bit, he slid his fingers over hers and held it up once more. "Almost done Kitten," he soothed. Barely a full gulp later her hand fell limp and he caught the cup, handing it back to the first enchanter questioningly. "She went through enough with these barbarians. We can't send her back to Skyhold without a proper rest," she sniffed haughtily. "Besides, I made sleeping draughts for the royal family, no one compares in terms of quality." The Iron Lady had a soft spot for their kitten, who would've thought?


Dorian rolled his eyes and Lycus moved closer to take her. "I got her Boss."
"And get your horns stuck in the tent flaps? I'll take her Bull." He forced a laugh and handed her over, noticing Talia standing nearby with a blanket to shield her Lady from the rain. He ignored the knowing look from the dwarf and stretched. "Lets hit the hay. We got an early morning to look forward to."
"Uh huh. Whatever you say Tiny." All the same, he had what he needed now to act.

 

Chapter Text

Jess woke to gentle rocking. "Lady Jess? Lady Jess," Talia shook her again with a hiss. "Hm? What what?" She looked up bleary eyed, pushing her matted hair from her face. "Everyone's eating. You haven't eaten in two days now. Please get up and eat something warm before we go." She huffed eyeing Talia's worried face before relenting. "I'll be out in a minute."


"Your clothes are laid out m'lady," she chirped happily crawling back out. Dressing in dry clothes and pulling her matted hair back, she stepped out and cringed at the expectant faces watching her. "Sleep well," Varric asked spooning her a bowl from the pot. Scurrying over to avoid the drizzle, she took it gratefully, sitting beside Blackwall and Sera. "Well I didn't with all this rain and sewage smell!"

She swallowed a bite before looking up with a sigh at Dorian. "You just had to drag me here regardless, didn't you," he huffed coming out of his tent with the same flourish as the Emperors New Groove. "You know what they say, misery loves company," she shrugged unrepentant. "Yes, and now you get to leave and we have to stay to finish up you wicked woman."


Jess smirked and shrugged again. "Had you come with us from the get go, you'd be leaving with us now." She ignored his tirade as Lycus slid behind her; she tilted her head slightly as he leaned forward to whisper in her ear. "You okay?"


"Besides the equivalent of getting sent to my room for misbehaving, yeah." He scoffed and took a leather strap, pulling her hair from her face and untangling it to braid it. "You're needin' to travel with a full set of oils if you're to be out here."


"Hey," she groused throwing a glare over her shoulder. "Hush Lamb. And hold still." She ate slowly to avoid stabbing herself with the spoon while he yanked her hair every now and then when it snagged on his fingers. She looked up just as Dorian came out of a tent designated the washroom and froze. "Holy hell, he's Adonis," she breathed eyeing his exposed torso and arms. Her eyes trailed the powerful legs not hidden under a tunic for the first time. She used to sit in his lap!?


Her mouth dropped open when she felt a particular bulge against her ass. Looking over her shoulder with a knowing smile, her head was yanked forward again. "Oh my god, your so into him," she teased under her breath knowing he'd hear. "Shut her yap," he hissed back. "You should so go for it," she encouraged. He paused and leaned closer to her ear. "I thought you and him were...y'know."


"Lamentably no. He's not into...the parts I have." She felt him look past her at Dorian who was now putting on his tunic. "Yer jokin' with me." With a glare over her shoulder she hissed, "I may not tell you things Lycus, but I would never joke or mislead you with something like this." She smirked and pushed up against him. "But if you like, we can have a go and I'll let him know all about it. Try to put in a good word?"


He shoved her hard that she fell off the log, spilling the bowl and howling with laughter. "Maker! What is going on over there!" She stood up quickly, just in case her dear friend needed to adjust himself and shrugged. "I am very ticklish," she explained lamely. Varric raised an eyebrow and she laughed harder, shaking the porridge off her hand. "I'm going to check Dawnstar." She took one step and was yanked back by her braid. "I ain't done," Lycus muttered, ears tinged red. Letting him finish the braid and tying it off so it rested against her mid back, she strolled to the horses and stalled at the sight of Bull.


"Lady Snow," he greeted and she spotted a few soldiers nearby and nodded. "Bull. We ready?" He studied her intensely and she swallowed roughly, controlling the urge to cross her arms as a barrier. "Yeah, once everyone's done eating we'll head back. I sent a letter ahead so Harritt know to be making you something." She groaned resigned.

 

 

 

 


As amazing as a craftsman as Harritt was, he had no patience for her frivolities. They spent an hour just choosing a cloth lining. He wanted her to have a thick level of protection, She wanted it to match her outfits. They decided on a yellow plaidweave over the Dales loden gray wool since it would match her scarves. He wanted varghest scales as her leather chest piece, she wanted fennec fur for the soft grayish silver hue. In the end they chose gurgut webbing for its green tint and hardness and opted to add silver buckles. They nearly went to blows when she asked if it could be embossed. "Its meant to keep you alive, not look pretty," he had argued. "Then stick me in a tin can suit if that's what your concerned about!"


In the end Josie had come over and promised to find someone to tool the leather so Harritt could get back to supplying the troops. She settled for a soft leaf etching to keep it simple. The good news was that the arcanist was on her way to Skyhold. Jess was still fuming in her room, nursing a headache and pouring over a tome by the window when Talia came in. "The Iron Bull requests your presence in the tavern."


"I'm busy right now hon," she groused frowning. Talia knew full well she hated the smell and noise of the tavern. The elf shifted from foot to foot nodding. "I know but he seemed insistent that it was important. Should I tell him to come here instead?" With a sigh she motioned her hand for her to let him know that was fine.

 

 

 


Bull waited by the crenelation by the tower door until she came back down. "She'll see you." He nodded pushing himself off the wall and froze, looking down at the ornate bodice ripper Talia held to his rib. "If you hurt her, I'll gut you myself or die trying," she warned quietly looking around before staring him down. He chuckled and put his hands up. "I won't do anything she doesn't approve of." She frowned before sighing, slipping the thin dagger back into an obscure pocket on her belt. She learned from the Fallowmire apparently.


Walking up the stairs he waited for Talia to open the door, which she did after realizing he wasn't going to barge in, her shoulders relaxing a hair. "M'lady, the Iron Bull." Jess looked up from her spot on the two chairs by the window, closing the book she was trying to read. "What can I do for you," she asked wearily, rubbing at the persistent ache.


"The real question is what can I do for you?" She froze hand in the air and looked at Talia. "Could you leave us a moment?" The elf looked at him and smiled being sure to casually pass her hand over the hidden weapon backing out. Yeah, he liked her. He looked back at Jess and watched the way she stood up slowly, hands lacing over her stomach. "Do you wish to clarify," she asked hesitantly. Her scent was slowly filling the room.


"We're going to be out in the field, and I need to know your okay. You handle yourself well, but even now your still affected by the stuff that happened in the bog. So I'm offering you some relief. No expectations, nothing you don't approve of. Just whatever you need." Her lips parted and she sunk her teeth into her bottom lip.


"And how do you know what I need," she challenged, like he knew she would. He closed the distance quickly and she stumbled back with a surprised sound. Lifting her easily against the wall, he pressed her there with his body, holding her delicate wrists with one hand. Fuck she was really tiny, he could feel her bones protest the move. Her pupils however were blown wide open, not in fear .


Passing a hand gently down her cheek he smirked at her attempt to glare. "Trust me Kitten, I know." He hummed softly at the heat against his belly where she rested. "Some ground rules first," he growled and her eyes fluttered as he slid her softly down to her feet. "Rules are good," she gushed out shaking slightly as she sat primly on the chair, fixing her dress. Her pulse was visible in her neck, her ever expressive neck, and he had to sit to hide his growing erection.


"You ever done this before," he asked watching her for clues. She swallowed and shook her head. "Then I need you to be honest with me at all times. I will never hurt you unless you want me to."


"I don't like pain." He smirked and nodded. "Some pain is good-"


"All pain is addictive Bull." He went silent and studied her. "See you say that as a negative thing," he tilted his head and narrowed his eyes, "yet your arousal at the mention just filled the room." he leaned forward and inhaled exaggeratedly, reveling in the deep flush across her chest and neck. "How about we deal with that if it ever comes up," he offered when she fidgeted. He didn't want to scare her from the idea. She swallowed hard and nodded, waiting for him to continue.

 

"If you ever need or want me to stop you say-"


"Sovereign." He paused and smirked. "I thought you said you never did this before."


"Well never doing it and hearing about it are two different things," she defended, the blush finding her cheeks and ears. "Sovereign it is then, no questions asked, no hesitation." He waited before leaning forward. Are you ready to start?" She blinked shocked before inhaling deeply and nodding.


"Good." Reaching into the pouch by his side he held out his fist and waited until she put her palm hesitantly under. Dropping them, he smirked as she studied the two cool heavy spheres, shaking them gently to hear the soft chime. He caught the exact moment she figured out what he wanted from her, her eyes flying to his. "Your going to put those in. And I'm going to tie one of your lovely scarves around you so you can't get them back out. When your ready to quit, you come find me. Do you understand?" She almost looked ready to hand them back, and he wouldn't have blamed her. But then she did exactly what he hoped:


She lifted her chin high and arched a brow. "I understand."

 

Chapter Text

Three things she had been taught growing up. One, always treat a gun like its loaded. Two if its looks too easy, your probably doing it wrong. And three; don't bring a knife to a gun fight. How she managed to metaphorically forget all three until now was beyond her, but here she was. Utterly screwed. Or not; and wasn't that the problem. She had boldly did as he had asked, choosing a deep red scarf from her shop. he had smiled giving her a knowing look; it was red like vitaar the antaam used. She had placed what she had assumed were kegel balls into herself. Granted they were pretty fricking big but no problem right? Then he had tied the soft scarf tight between her legs and thighs, keeping everything pressed in just the right place to rub her with every step.


Jess hated herself and her bravado the second she had strolled out of the room and onto the stairs. The damn balls chimed with every step, sending waves EVERYWHERE. She nearly broke her neck when her steps had faltered, pitching her forward, until Bull grabbed her upper arm and held on until she was able to continue. Then Talia had informed her that the Nightingale had summoned her, so off to the rotunda. And of course Solas had stopped her, because why wouldn't he want to talk to her now of all times!


"Lady Jess, a moment." She hummed and nodded, breaking out in a light sweat. "I wanted to apologize to you. You have given me much to think about since we last spoke." His posture was tall, hands behind his back, but she assumed it was still hard for him to admit he was wrong; to a shem from another world no less. "I accept your apology Solas. I'm glad you thought about it and felt it necessary to reach out to me." He inclined his head slightly and she did the same. "I may have a new theory on your sensitivity to magic," he said after a pause and she controlled the urge to roll her eyes. Of course that was why he was apologizing. "Oh?"


"Indeed. If you don't mind, I'd like to run some tests if your free."


"I'm actually heading up to meet with our Spymaster. Why don't we meet tonight in the Fade." He looked stunned before conceding and walking away. Great. Walking up the steps slowly she paused at the landing where Dorian would normally be and groaned. "M'lady? Should I get him?"


"No," she hissed fixing her hair and strolling forward more assuredly. Damn her pride to hell. The landing of the rookery was like hitting the summit of Mt. Everest and she inhaled deeply with a twisted sense of satisfaction. "Ah, there you there," Leliana crowed amused. Did she know? No, she had a mischievous look, but it was aimed at something else in the room. "I felt it better to have you come here than drag this crate of letters to poor Josie."


Jess frowned and walked over lifting the lid and then slamming it shut. "Are you serious? You made me come all the way up here for more of these damn invitations?"


"There's some gifts in there as well," she soothed. Jess scoffed and turned back to the stairs. "What shall I do with them then?"


"Burn them."


"Even one from a from a former Antivan Crow?" She stilled and looked over her shoulder slowly. Leliana smirked and held up a box and a letter. Jess rushed over and snatched them both, moving towards the window for light. She paused and slid a finger against the broken seal. "It's my job to ensure nothing is coming in that shouldn't be," Leli answered and she hung her shoulders nodding. "Of course." Why would my privacy take precedence? Opening the letter she groaned and heard the red head laugh. "His penmanship is actually exemplary," she offered slyly. Sighing, she glared at her and frowned at the scripted runes. Seriously how did someone even pull that off?


Amore Mia,
I am so pleased to hear your beauty still exists in this world. Truly the loss of someone as stunning as you would've been the... She leaned the paper over to Talia and tapped a word. "Catastrophe." Catastrophe of the age. My travels have taken me to many regions but none have enthralled me as the planes of your body.

Oh boy, he was laying it on thick.

I also find it  only fitting to return the gesture you offered me. Rest assured, no one will be looking for these, and I am only saddened that I cannot see you in it in person, wearing only it of course!. May you use them well mia leonessa. I look forward to seeing you in my dreams. I humbly remind you I am at your beck and call should you ever need my blades or other assistance. Amore sempre.
Zev

She turned to the box and noticed this had not been opened and looked at Leliana curiously. "Once I knew who the letter was from, I didn't feel it necessary to look. But I am curious," she quickly added. Jess smiled and hummed turning the box slowly. "Oh I don't know, I feel like this is a personal gift. It is from a lover after all," she winked conspiratorially and felt her heart warm at how Leliana smiled gleefully, like she must've used to do freely while with Surana. There was still hope. 


Handing Talia the letter she unwrapped the box and peered inside, gasping softly. "What is it?" Carefully she removed a golden chain diadem and four matching clasps. "Who did he kill to get these," Jess breathed as Leliana came over. "He must've went to Rivain to get it. Its a hair adornment, more common in the northern regions. Though this is well crafted, for a noble no less."


She hummed with a small smile, lovingly touching the links. "I can ask him to join us, if you like," the spymaster ventured watching her face. Jessabelle laughed with a sad smile.
"I like him, but I'm no match for an assassin Leli. He would get bored of me easily. I'd either get killed or get him killed. It can only end in heartbreak. And he deserves better than that." Slipping the piece back into the box, she crushed it to her chest with a shy smile. "I love it, however, and need to let him know." Leliana smiled softly and nodded. "When you ready, I'll send a raven to him."


She descended slowly pretending to be reading over the letter which was only half true. Here she was thinking about one man's balls while another were in her. With a snort of laughter she instantly regretted at the vibrations that shook her, Jess sighed at the ridiculousness her life had become. Leaning over the railing for breath she cursed Bull and his damn balls, causing another chuckle. Walking slowly to the battlements, she cursed her luck when Cullen caught sight of her and strolled over. Pushing her hair from her face, she smiled and prepared herself.

 

 

 

 

Bull watched her with a smirk. He had half expected her to quit after one hour. It was now nearing dinner and they had started a little before lunch. He had made sure to send a runner to everyone she had ties to, warning that the ordeal she had experienced left her jarred and she needed to keep occupied. Leliana unsurprisingly responded first. Then Cullen approached her, which was a surprise; as was the blush on the elf that trailed behind the pair. He would work on that later. The commander had claimed her for a few hours with a game of chess. They apparently were evenly matched with two losses and wins each. And of course sweet Josie had stolen her for tea time.


Now she was practically pulling herself step by step up the stairs. He had to give it to her; she didn't quit easily. Those orbs were originally meant for tamassrans who were going to be mating; the vibration meant to prepare them more easily to the long rituals. This meant the size was designed more for a Qunari woman than the slip of a human who was pulling herself along. She would be sore, too sore to do much more. He whispered and watched Talia turn her head toward his balcony before leaning over Kitten's shoulder and whispering.


Walking back to her room he sat in the chair and waited. Almost ten minutes later, there was bang on the door as if a shoulder had hit it, before Jess pushed it open and stepped in with a glare. He sucked in a breath at the scent that nearly sent him from the seat. Little beads of sweat lined her hairline and neck. "How do you feel?"


"Like I am going to kill you." Bull leaned forward and growled, watching the expression change into one a bit more cowed. "I asked for honesty at all times Kitten." She shifted slightly haughty before mewling and dropping her head, sucking in a shaky breath. "I feel like I may die if these don't come out right now," she admitted softly, and he nodded approvingly. He motioned to her bed and waited till she was ready to sit when he ordered, "Kneel."


She froze and looked up warily. "Kn-Kneel?" Not bothering to repeat himself, The Iron Bull watched her wrestle with her emotions before crawling up onto the bed with a shuddering moan, rising onto her knees. Standing he walked over and looked down at her flushed face, resting a hand gently on her cheek.


"I had originally designed this as a punishment for you, figuring you'd quit after an hour or so."


"Then why didn't you stop me," she huffed, earning herself another growl. "Because I needed you to know you were in control of your misery. We stop when you say stop. But," he cut her off, "Seeing as how your just too stubborn to listen; I've got another idea. Next time you run off, put yourself in danger, or lie to me; I'm going to put these back in and I'm gonna make you work out with the Chargers until Krem says you've had enough."


He reveled in her shocked gasp, smirking. She knew how Krem trained the boys, she'd never make it past the quarter hour. "Now. Lets take these out shall we?" He looked at Talia expectantly; she frowned slowly trying to guess his motives before she squeaked and quickly ran out closing the door gently. "Undress."


"Lord save me," she whimpered with a sigh, first kicking off her boots and then reaching up to undo her lacings. Staying still he watched her unwavering, letting the weight of his gaze unnerve her. His eye trailed the fabric as it was pulled over her breasts, the blush went to her ribs he noted. She froze for a moment at the shock of red and looked at him with an arched brow. "My turn then," he mused hooking a hand behind each knee and flipping her onto her back with an indignant shriek. He laughed and easily untied the knots, noticing some of them had been tightened; she had tried to take it off at some point.


"My my, it seems you tried to take matters into your own hands then hm?" She looked up at him wide eyed. He waited rubbing a hand against her outer thigh for her to answer, watching her cringe. "It shifted." He hummed, not giving away he was disappointed in her lie; it wouldn't do to reinforce her trauma. Pulling the scarf away slowly, he smiled at the wet slash on both the delicate fabric and her linen smalls. "You know," he stated haltingly running one finger down the moisture and enjoying her shudder, "I'm glad you lied. It will make this all the more fun."


"Wha-" he yanked the barrier away and slid one finger in, humming at the way she arched up into the air. Hooking one orb he pulled it out slowly fixated on her staccato gasps as he let in slide over her spot a few times, feeling the chime in his fingers. She dropped with grunt when he finally pulled it out, smirking at the sticky mess. "One down."


"Shit," she groaned closing her eyes and gripping the blanket for strength. The next he let linger, crooking his finger just to watch her squirm. "Just...get it...out!"


"Slippery little sucker," he explained rolling the orb out and over her clit before pushing it back in. "Dammit Bull!" She glared up at him, beautifully flushed and sweaty and he mentally shrugged; Kitten's been through a lot. Dropping his forearm over her stomach he repeated the motion, keeping her pinned in place while her fingers tried to pry his arm off. Her moans escalated in sharp breaths until she threw her head back and broke. He continued extending her orgasm, partly for the desire to make sure she slept well tonight and partly for the thrill of it, until she mewled and begged and whined for him to stop.


With one last flick he pulled the orb out and hummed at the glistening mess that coated her thighs and blanket, and his hand of course. "I hate you," she panted out weakly, eyes closed. Bull laughed and flicked her once causing her to yelp. "What did I say about lying?" Through parted lids she shot daggers at him before relenting. "Sorry," she mumbled. He nodded and brought over a wash basin and a cloth. "I got it."


"No, you don't Kitten. Let me do this." He cleaned her methodically keeping her face always in his peripheral. This was the hardest part, and sure enough she forced herself up and took the cloth. Not ready yet then. "Thank you Bull. Really. I got this." He studied her before nodding, leaning back to watch her clean up, smirking when she would suddenly gasp at a sensitive swipe. Once finished he took both the cloth and basin, brought her a shift and helped her pull it on. "Your gonna be sore tomorrow. Try to take it easy."


She grumbled something under her breath and he waited only a few minutes before her head lolled to the side, breath even and slow, and only then did he leave. Talia quickly stood up and moved to the door. "Leave her to rest. Your Lady is gonna need it. You and me though? We gotta talk." She narrowed her eyes, pushed him aside and opened the door just slightly. She sighed exasperated and looked at him, disbelieving. "You didn't even tuck her in," she hissed appalled and he had to control the urge to laugh. Slipping in, he leaned against the wall for her to return before heading down to the tavern.

 

 

 

 

 

Talia was as reticent as her mistress. He ordered her an ale and she poured half of it out before sipping it, unwilling to drink too much at once. She obviously didn't think much of insulting him, he wondered if that honesty extended to anyone else...What he did learn however was on accident; her loyalty was earned in strange ways. He poured over the information before leaning across the table. "So let me get this straight. She pays you a human salary AND is setting aside money for schools for the Alienage?"


" Yes and no, she learns from Master Pavus and then explains to me how to teach. Then after everyone is asleep I take her 'worksheets' as she calls them and teach the elves that want to learn to read several nights a week. The school is a dream she has; she has plans for a university for the mages as well." She smiled almost reverently. "She is so smart, I wonder about the world she comes from."


He took the refill offered by the maid and waited till she moved on to another table before asking, "How is she handling that part?" Talia looked away and took a sip. "As well as she can," she replied evasively. He grunted and watched her; too close for comfort. He had to remember Talia actually cared about her master, a rare thing in servants. "So you a teacher huh? How's that like?" She beamed, once again willing to talk. "Hard. And...rewarding; as she said it would be." She opened her mouth and then snapped it shut, dipping into her cup. He spotted the scout moving through the crowd a second later. "Go, he rumbled and she slipped into the patrons, taking the cup with her and leaving no evidence.


"Ser, the Nightingale has something to discuss with you." With a stretch Bull rose, rolling his shoulders. He walked the courtyard a few minutes before heading to the battlements and to the guard tower over the gate. Stepping in and closing the door, he nodded once into the darkness, "Red."


She emerged from the shadows with a courteous nod. "I must be frank," she answered, and he nodded, feeling himself tense for a battle. A bard was NEVER frank. "Go for it."

"What do you intend with Lady Jess?"


"Nothing. We agreed I would take care of her."


"I didn't realize take care of her also meant take her to bed." He laughed and leaned against the walls nonchalant, noting her ire in the small twitch of her eye. "One in the same really. She knows my intentions, Nightingale." She hummed and laced her hands behind her back, all the more dangerous in the seemingly vulnerable stance. "I hope she does, for your sake. If the Inquisitor decides to take your head, know that I will wholly agree with the edict. I don't agree with this use of her."


"Hm. Speaking of using her, have you bothered to look into how to send her back home?" Her glare was telling and he rolled his neck out before continuing, "Nah, probably haven't; she's too useful to let go, am I right? Does SHE know you're not looking? Probably not either huh?"


"Your dismissed the Iron Bull."


"Of course. Nice talking to you Red." He stepped out and walked the battlement, stopping to stare out at the mountains, unsure of why the conversation left him bristling.

Chapter Text

She laid sprawled across the chaise and stared out at the cabana to the setting sun over the ocean. The air was salty and spiced with delicious food smells. White curtains billowed softly in the warm breeze, punctuated by soft snapping of fabric and seagulls...And someone calling her name. Lifting her head slightly she frowned and focused. Moments later Lycus pushed the curtain by her feet and stepped in looking around. "Very nice."


Jess smiled sleepily and rested her head against the pillow again. "Where are we," he questioned moving her legs to sit and then placing them back over his lap, rubbing her calf absently. "Miami, by the looks of it," she murmured. Instantly people began walking the beach and the soft pulsing beat of dance music wafted from behind them. He looked back and made a sound at the neon lights that started to glow in the dying dregs of day.


"What is that sound," he asked frowning, stealing a laugh from her. She sat up and the scenery changed to a club; the rectangular dance floor flooded with people dancing. Curtains of deep blue and purple hung from the walls and ceiling, along with cages also occupying dancers. Flashing lights of dizzying colors assaulted her eyes for only a moment. She smiled and crooked her finger at him, walking onto the dance floor and letting the vibrations of the trance music spill through her. He walked over unsure, bobbing his head completely out of tune.


Shaking her own head and letting her hair fly everywhere, she cut loose for a few minutes, or maybe it was only a second; time was weird in the Fade. Leading him to the bar, the music dimmed as she began to speak. "Shirley Temple and a gin and tonic for my friend," she called out to the bartender. "You dream very vividly," Lycus noticed watching the bartender curiously. Jess hummed and took her drink, sliding the highball glass to him. "Squeeze the lemon," she instructed. He smirked with an eye roll but humored her taking the cup. Putting her hand on his shoulder, she concentrated on the bubbles, on the smooth clean sting and tart lemon.


He sipped the cup and froze horrified before taking another more discerning taste. "How," he asked looking at her amazed. "Something I've been working on. If the Fade is a real place built on events, then it means we can shape it to some extent. My memories," she gestured to the cup, "might be all I have left of home. I would like to share it, even if its something as stupid as a weekend getaway to Miami. Food and drink just happen to be my favorite topic. I remember that easiest!"


He looked back at the cup and smiled. "Show me more," he pleaded eagerly. Jess laughed and wiggled her nose thinking. She stood up and walked to the door, Lycus scrambling off the stool to keep up. Once outside he froze and looked at the massive vaulted ceiling and murals high above. "Miami still?"


"Manhattan. Lets go to Chinatown. Its the Chinese New Year and they have amazing food made only during the holiday." He blinked but followed her closely dodging the ghostly figures as she descended the Grand Central terminal and waited for the subway. He covered his ears as it came shrieking into the stop. "Quick get on! They only stop for a moment," she warned pushing her way into the subway cart. He turned and frowned at the demons on the other side of the glass doors at they closed. "Be careful," he warned, but she was looking at the map on the wall.


Jess smirked as the subway came screeching to a halt, Lycus flying and bumping into the shadowy figures behind him. "Sorry! He's visiting," she called out, helping him stand and making him hold the bar. This happened twice more before she simply made them arrive and held out her hand. "These people will haggle you. Don't stop just keep walking." She smiled as he shied away from the sellers and stopped when the drums began resounding. She closed her eyes and concentrated on as much as she could remember, the smell, the sounds, the dragon costumes dancing and the confetti everywhere.


She opened her eyes and smiled as Lycus was mesmerized by everything. She held out a steamed bun while licking a black sesame ice cream cone. Then she heard it. "Oh shit, I told Solas to meet me in the fade." And like that he appeared, taking in everything at once, though he stiffened at the sight of the other elf. Trying to control the situation, she smiled to him and motioned. "Solas, I didn't think you were coming. Lycus I'm sorry ma'falon, but I need to talk to Solas about my magic issues. Come back to Skyhold soon. I'm about to go stir crazy."


"I'm a 'lil jealous Solas. This is twice we meet in the fade with Lamb. Whenever I looked for ya alone however, ya never showed," he replied with a clipped tone and a slow blink.

"Apologies. Unless I am looking for someone, I tend to travel far." She controlled her emotions as that  statement was a can of worms, and as she had been practicing swiped her hand, making the scenery disappear to a grainy white. She pictured a bed and breakfast in the Smoky Mountains and sat down at the outside patio table motioning them to sit. "Well here we all are," she sighed happily. Ordering a coffee, she looked pointedly at Solas. "The tests you were mentioning?"


Except for the change in his stance, Jess wouldn't have been able to tell he was uncomfortable. "I don't think the fade will be a good place to test. But some questions, if I may."
"Of course," she whispered a 'thank you' to the server and moaned at the bitter taste of hot coffee splashing on her tongue. "Oh my god, I think I miss coffee the most," she sighed. She motioned to the chair again and Solas sat down hesitantly. Having mercy, she made an exaggerated 'oh' and looked at Lycus. "Before I forget again, Ma'falon, there is something you must do. Send Lady Vivienne back to Duke Ghislain. She will be a better aid to us, brushing shoulders with nobles than treading through the wilderness. And tell her to spend as much time with Bastion as she can. It's rare to find one to love in the best of times; she deserves to be by hers in the trying time that's coming."


He frowned but bowed. "Take care Lamb. We should be back in two days. The map you left really helped. All that's left is the apostate Widris." She smiled and stood, kissing his cheek. "I know I don't need to say it, but be careful with that one. Now go, so we can reunite again." He disappeared with a ripple of gold and she sat back down, sipping her cup before focusing her gaze on Solas. "So what's your theory?" His cool demeanor slid back into place. "I've explained before your body is a mini veil before yes?"


"Yes. And it didn't make sense then and it still doesn't make sense now." He chuckled and she bristled, choosing to sip her cup than be baited. "Yes well it follows the same principle, except that because you are in essence the veil itself, half of you can handle magic, and the other half, namely inside you cannot. Its why barriers and anything applied onto your body is fine. But put it into your body and it does not dispel until intervened from an outside source. That is what I would like to test."


She hummed, cup held in both both hands in font of her mouth while she stared at him. "This is going to hurt, isn't it," she finally asked putting the cup down. "It may be unpleasant, but I don't intend to set you on fire da'len. Simply restorative spells to start." She scoffed and turned her cup thinking.


"Your hesitant."


"Hell yeah I'm hesitant," she snapped. "You want me to willingly allow you to cast on me when we both know it will hurt. You promised me when I first arrived that magic wouldn't hurt me and it did. And then you assaulted me with a sleep spell that knocked me out for days."


He had the decency to wince at the last part. "Ir abelas da'len. I have not given you reason to trust me recently." She made a sound and crossed her arms. "Who are you Solas?" He froze and tilted his head in a very controlled manner. "What do you mean?"


"I mean you and I, we are not what we seem." She stood and let the mountains fade away, instead letting the image of Rivendell form. She focused strictly on the balcony where the white council met, the full moon glowing and illuminating the waterfalls. She was no Galadriel so that was out of the question but...she had a lot of interests to call upon. Letting her clothes fade to a long deep purple with gold accents in the Italian Renaissance style, she mixed white willowy sleeves peeking out from beneath the stiff fabric. Her hair was woven with gold and she imagined a gold painted line across her eyes temple to temple and one line on her chin. Why, she didn't know but she wanted to mix several styles to throw him off. And it worked by the look of his face.


She walked to the table and sat with her fingers steepled in front of her mouth and waited. He didn't take the bait; she didn't believe he would oust himself in reality. No, instead she wanted him to see her as something more than a strange shem. Maybe then he would heed her words. And the way his posture shifted to prouder, because he was nothing if not proud, showed she was getting somewhere. "Another one of your pathwalks," he asked clipped but respectfully and she smiled deviously. "Perhaps. Or a place I'm simply feel at home."
He narrowed his eyes with a smirk, trying to weed out the truth. "I see."


"I surely hope so, because I see something in you." His smile faltered there, but she pretended not to notice, waving her hand flippantly. "You carry yourself different than the elves of the cities and the elves of the Dalish. You don't act Chasind. You're too fair to actually be an apostate wandering the wilds. Aside from your lovely dusting of sun kissed cheeks and that delectable scar on your face, your too pristine. So," she tucked her hands under her chin biting her lip, "Who are you?" He was once again thrown off by her sudden flirtation. As attractive as she found him, and the bastard was attractive if she was being honest, once she had found out his betrayal she couldn't see him as anything more than a lonely lost soul. In that we are one and the same now.


He shifted and she gave herself a point for at least not causing him to reel back in disgust. She was a human and he an elvhenan. With a sigh she stood before he could answer to keep her edge. "No matter. The issue at hand was magic, and in that I have no hidden secrets. I have much to think about Solas. Let us resume tomorrow. I'll meet you in the vaults for privacy." She closed her eyes and imagined a portal. If her fade was her own creation then she could make doors as she wanted using wormhole theory. However, on the other side stood demons and she sighed annoyed snapping the portal shut with a snap of her fingers. "Apologies. I suppose I should let you leave as you see fit," she smirked coyly, "Seeing as how I'm not trying to throw you out this time."
His frown made it hard to keep her smile but she did; at least past relationships built one hell of a poker face. His head tilted as he stared at where her portal had been before forcing a small smile. "Goodnight Lady Jess."
"Goodnight Solas."

 

The choking feeling dissipated and she dropped back down onto the cool stone gasping. "No more. We've learned nothing," she croaked out rising onto her elbows shaking. "That's not entirely true." Jess swallowed and looked up at him, smirking at his shiny bald head from the chandelier just above them. "Oh? What what pray tell, have you learned?"


"I've slowly been increasing the initial burst, and you've been taking longer to succumb. Granted its only seconds, but it proves you can build an immunity to magic." Glaring, she debated kicking him in his shins and instead settled on pushing herself up to full sitting. Instantly a flash of pain exploded over her right eye, ripping a groan from between her teeth. "I think you are right, and we should quit for today however." She flinched back when his hand extended over her.


There was a second where time stood still, her in flushed shame at the show of weakness, him in abject horror of her response to him. "I'm sorry." Again they paused at the words spoken in unison. She sighed and held out her hand, giving a gentle nod for him to help her up. Dusting her pants, she stretched and patted her stomach, "Must be lunch by now right?"


Solas chuckled and motioned the way up the stairs. The ache in her head persisted, so when he grabbed her and pushed her against the wall, she hissed in pain. It fell into the background of her mind as he pressed his lips near her ear. "Josie and a noble are speaking of you," he paused as if listening, " looks like she's giving him a tour before heading to your work space."


"Shit," she groaned slipping past him back down the stairs to find another way up. "Thanks Solas," she called dashing across the courtyard and into her sewing room. Stripping quickly, she dressed in a formal attire dress with open back and bundled her hair into a massive pineapple, all the while swearing under her breath. Josie should've told her they were having visitors; she would've made sure to be away on mission!


The door swung open and Talia rushed her, face splotchy with anger. "Who did it," Jess asked taking one look. "Prepare yourself M'lady; the Marquis Arivailles does not approve of your fascination with dressing up 'rabbits' like nobles." Jess scoffed and let her take over taming her hair. "I hope the Comte wears thin pants so its easier when I shove my foot up his ass." That earned her a small chuckle. "Find Bull. My supposed Champion should be by when unknown dignitaries come making house calls."


Talia paused, clearly not understanding the metaphor but ran out the side door anyway. Doing a quick mediation she schooled her facials muscles into relaxing before putting on her silver and green heraldry. She then moved her finished works into the closet and threw a cloth over them; she didn't know the intention of this marquis and if he ruined one of Lycus' outfits, she would beat him with a mannequin.


It surprised her the Game had taken so long to try and destroy her. Hopefully Josie and Leliana would protect her where she herself lacked. Bull and Talia entered from the side door, causing her to look up once from her stitch. "Your in pain," he noted, causing her to laugh. "Yes. So lets get this buffoon out quickly, okay?" He chuckled and posted up against the wall, while Talia moved to her usual spot by her side, keeping the fabric stiff to make it easier for her to stitch. "Did you find anyone who wanted to learn to be a seamstress," she asked glancing up at the elf. Talia twitched an ear towards the door and mouthed 'later'.


"This is where Lady Snow works, but we must be quiet-Marquis!" Jessabelle saw that coming from a mile away as the door flew open. She caught him standing in the doorway posturing, clearly expecting her to demand who he was; or how dare he intrude in such a manner. Instead she meticulously pulled the thread through the fabric before stating, "Talia darling, please remind me to inform the masons there is a draft in my workplace."


"I believe that is the Marquis Arivailles I was telling you about," she mock whispered not raising her eyes from Jess's hands. "Lady Snow," Josie quickly chimed in, "Allow me to introduce to you Marquis Arivailles of Alyons." Jess paused and controlled her face at her luck. With a flourish she stood and looked at him, doing a small bow. "Marquis. How pleasant to meet you. Tell me, how fairs Alyons? It must have been quite the journey."


His posturing grew, hands on his hips and head high. "Alyons is of course doing well, Lady Snow, she-"
"Oh good," she immediately interrupted, hand to her chest. "So close to Serrault and the Applewoods, well one never knows. Tell me, have you brought any glass work from her?" He fanned his hand dismissively; Josie watching the interaction with a bards' eye. "Of course not. We've not had dealings so closely in these last years."


"Oh," Jess hummed letting her shoulders drop in open disappointment. "I had hoped to see an Andraste Tear. I hear the glass is like crystal, truly worth the trip so far out. In fact besides the lush lands and rumors abounding, there is little else to draw the eye so far east." She looked at Josie and added, "The late Divine traveled out to pardon Serrault of their Shame, yes?"


"Indeed."


"It would do good for us to let them know we harbor no ill then. Serrault has an ally in us." She added as an afterthought, "As does Alyons."


"I will inform them immediately," Josie complied sweetly, making a note. Jess held up a hand delicately and the Ambassador paused in writing. "I also must apologize, I know i said we would meet for lunch and tea but I've much to finish before the Inquisitor arrives tomorrow."


"Orlais would better suit one such as yourself," the Marquis quickly chimed in, unable to be overlooked any longer. "There are more...discerning people in Orlais you would benefit from working with."


"Marquis-" Josie started before Jess interrupted her.


"Perhaps, but I find my muse in the Inquisitor, Chosen one of the Maker. My designs, my visions falling so gracefully from such a frame." She put the back of a hand to her head, and Talia perfectly picked up a paper and fanned her. "To work on someone as gifted and elegant is the ultimate goal of an artist such as I. The people of Orlais are too well formed in the excess of her opulence." She stole a quick look at the Marquis's protruding gut and continued. "Although the First Enchanter Vivienne, do you know her, she also goes by Madame de Fer if you don't, she has all the grace and stature to excel in my works. But the rest," she shook her head and sat back down. "Thank you for visiting Marquis Arivailles. I hope to hear more of the prosperity of Alyons and the regions surrounding Serrault."


"My Lady," he began until the Iron Bull moved from his spot and came towards them. "Perhaps I shall catch you for dinner if my workload is lightened enough," Jess called out, eyeing the fabric critically. She heard Josie making all sorts of apologies on her behalf as they walked down the battlements while Bull chuckled and she looked up at him with an arched brow. "Nice spin. Be careful though, that was borderline too direct. Try not to show so much emotion."


"Nonsense Bull. Now he'll go back and tell whoever sent him...or whoever will listen that the Inquisitor's Aide is emotional and prone to passion. And when Halamshiral comes and they make a fool of themselves trying to draw me out, it'll throw them into disarray and bolster Lycus. By the way, make sure Josie knows not to trust that lying sack of shit. He set up the marquis of Serrault in an attempt to gain power. Fuck the Game," she groaned throwing back her head.


"Hm, thought this through did you?"


"I wouldn't be a very good aide if I didn't." She sighed and the weight of her knowledge pressed down on her, crushing the space in her lungs by increments. "Speaking of which, when Lycus comes, there's much we need to discuss- as a group."


"Will you tell the Inquisitor tonight," Talia asked folding the fabric so she could sew the opposite hem. "If he comes again I will. Vivienne has been informed of her trial, its only fair I share what I can with everyone else." She paused and thought about the Qunari alliance, swallowing hard the lump in her throat. Well maybe not everyone. Not yet. She heard Bull growl and Talia left quietly closing the door behind her. Before she could turn her head, his firm hand went to the nape of her neck and squeezed rhythmically. "What's going on Kitten?"


"Just like Haven. I have to bear the weight of my actions...or inaction." A deep sigh escaped her lungs, "I just want to do right. Who knew foresight could be so burdensome?" Standing abruptly she ducked and pulled away. "Thank you for coming by the way."


"But," he prompted with a smile. It was infectious. Of course he knew. "But I need to be alone to flesh out some ideas as to how to go about this. And see if Lycus is taking a nap."


"'Course Kitten. The Chargers have moved closer to your tower in the courtyard. I'll need to borrow Talia for a bit anyway, figure out the logistics of what's coming with us. That okay?"


"Yeah, of course. If you see her out there just let her know." She waited until he left to flop onto the chaise that had been brought in; a beautiful green velvet compliments of Josie, probably hinted at by Dorian. She smiled into the cushion, curious about her self proclaimed brother.

 

 

 

"Lamb." She jumped and spun from the view of the spring. "You always bring me to the wilds. Have you no home," he teased and she felt a drip of cold fear down her spine as the Florida warmth faded away and the white walls appeared. "No," he ordered eyes glowing yellow. "No. Forget I said anythin'." Jess frowned and willed the dining room of her home in Florida into being; standing beside the second hand oak table. Nothing else would form and so she fell back onto the night before with Solas; the white council balcony coming into view more quickly than her home.


"Lycus we need to talk," she stated quickly before he could get sidetracked with the details of their surroundings. "What's happened?"


"Nothing. Yet. We need to talk about what's coming and hopefully we don't screw up this time. Also," she frowned trying to find the words. He moved closer and she looked up jaw tight and square. This is not your burden to bare, only to bear in silence. "While I am telling you things now, there are things I cannot, on oath or moral standing. I need to know you understand."


"'Course Lamb. I saw what happened las' time ya spoke." She nodded knowing she was skewing the facts but oh well, she would bear the brunt of that backlash when it came. "The inner circle, they will need help. Lets start with Varric."

Chapter Text

She had made the suggestion, but now it seemed rather ridiculous for all of them to be piled in the Inquisitor's room so as to 'protect' the war room map; they were all the inner circle. Plus Talia. Jessabelle looked over at the chair by the balcony window where said elf was sitting. Maybe she had done it for her, but everyone knew she trusted her. Still it would save on future arguments...hopefully.


Varric looked stricken rubbing his hand over his stubble after the Inquisitor finished speaking. "You're sure there's more?" Lycus looked at her and she winced before sighing, standing to be in the center of the loose circle. "Unfortunately yes. What you found in the Hinterlands and at temple will not be all the red Lyrium." He looked at her with an unspoken question. "You really don't wan to know who Varric. Let the sting come once and be done with," she said softly.


"Have you the right to decide that," Cassandra asked stiffly. Jess sneered and laughed without mirth. "Your right. Let us speak on of your reason for joining the Seekers next if I will be airing out all secrets." She made a show looking at everyone and opened her mouth. "Enough; your point is proven," the warrior growled. "I hope it is, Seeker. The truth will continue to filter in much to your dislike, things with you as well that I want to tell you now but... I have the Inquisitor's approval," she looked at him hesitantly waiting for his nod, "To reveal as the basis changes for all of you." She looked at them all slowly letting her eyes bore into Blackwall and Solas and then to the Advisors. "And I don't like it. But the only other choice is inaction. And I will be blamed for that too."


She sighed deeply and stretched a leg in dancers pose, pulling the ankle towards her butt with a grunt. "Ah, that reminds me," Leliana interrupted her train of thought, "You had told us you would share what you knew of muscle healing and the like. My scouts are still waiting. Patiently of course."
Jess swung her head and looked at Talia shocked. "You didn't tell her?" The elf's ears drooped a fraction. "I-did not."


"Tell me what," Leli asked suspiciously, sending an appraising look at Talia. "I did go to the healers tents, not long after getting to Skyhold and I showed them medical techniques for healing and tried to impress on them the anatomy involved for simpler injuries. They called me blasphemous and heretical and a witch of the wilds. That only a necromancer would know the insides of the body so intimately. I told them they would bear the weight of the blood on their hands alone and washed my hands of ever working with them again." Jess wrung her hands lightly and looked at her handmaid again. "I then told Talia if she wished, she could teach the elves if they wished to listen, but I was not raising a finger to teach again. Did you?"


Talia swallowed loudly and nodded. "I did."


"And did they listen," Jess asked softer, not sure why she cared whether they did or not. "They did M'lady. Have you not noticed the lack of elves in the healers tents?" She barely held back a smirk and added, "Or the fact that the healers tents were full of Chantry sisters and mages full of rashes and bumps, the day after they humiliated you? Something about itching powder?" She stared at her friend a moment longer while Sera cackled. Jess smiled slowly. "Friends of Red Jenny then?"


"People look out for people tryin' to help," Sera shrugged. "I ain't hear nothin' of it. Don't mean it wasn't." Josie sighed exasperated, taking notes. Jessabelle turned back to Leliana. "Maybe your scouts should meet with the other elves. They may learn a thing or two."


There was a strange silence and Jess closed her eyes taking a deep breath, realizing her tone. "Halamshiral," she forced through her teeth, trying to change the subject. "Have we received invitation?" Josie cleared her throat and nodded. "Yes. Though the invitation was-"


"Gaspard," Jess sighed pinching the bridge of her nose. "So its a tanglepoint." She walked back to her seat but ended up pacing around it. "So this is what we know as a collective; Celene will be assassinated, a demon army will march across Orlais to Ferelden and everything will perish in between. The players are going to be Celene, Gaspard, a truce from all of them. Or Celene and Briala or Gaspard and Briala." She leaned against the desk and crossed her arms. "Tell me Lycus what you wish to do and I will guide you through it."


"Why not just guide him through the best course," Blackwall asked. "Indeed. Lets leave out the guesswork, shall we," Dorian added sprawled on the chaise by the stairs with a glass of Tevinter Red.

"We shall not," Jess spoke bluntly, "As we've determined already, I've no right to that. And in this matter, I agree. This is your world, you should choose who will rule the parts of it as you see fit. But," she pushed off the desk and glared at the floor, trying to form the words right. "I will use every resource in my power to make sure the world you rebuild has as close to equal standing for elves since no one else seems to care about that, even if it means I have to build myself a fortress city to give safe harbor."


"You'd have workers, M'lady, if you chose to," Talia pointed out nonchalantly as if she was describing flowers in a vase and not the threat of the start of an impending army. "Orlais would be against us in an instant. The elves rebelled-oh," Cullen stopped at the hard elbow Josie gave him.


"Yes. LETS talk about that, because its been itching on my tongue."


"Drown it with wine," Dorian suggested with a smirk and then a quick look of alarm when she took his cup and drained it. "Kitten?"
"So," she started ignoring Bull, "The Elves rebel against their repeated harsh treatment, begin attacking guards, building barricades to protect their meager little slums in Halamshiral. The VERY CITY their ancestors built. And what does the Empress do? Anyone? No takers?" She mocked looked around. "Well I'll you what the late Divine did not do." She turned slowly to face Leliana. "She did not try to stop the Empress from burning the whole elven sector of Halamshiral. To the ground. Nor did she openly condemn the act."

"The Most Holy could not fight the Mage and-"


"Are ya serious," Lycus interrupted springing to his feet.


"Oh shut it Nightingale! And you, SIT DOWN." The silence was deafening again, only the creak of leathers when Blackwall and Sera exchanged looks hissing out as she stared Lycus down. "Sit down," she repeatedly softer yet no more kind. "The Dalish have never cared for the plight of the city elves. Flat ears they are called, when they suffer all the same if not more. Had your people been smart, they would've accepted every elf that fled the alienage and built yourselves an army in the wilds."


"And the shems would've killed us when we got too big," Lycus spat. "HA! Then the Dalish are not so clever. Perhaps they should have venerated Fen'Harel after all and gained some cunning." She caught Solas stiffen but didn't react, instead she leaned forward and continued; "You could have trained them to hide in the open; told them their faces couldn't be marked because they were as children not knowing the ways. Instead your people pissed on every elf who came to you. Your people did not want them. They were not your people. They were not of The People as you call them. So they will be mine. I will have them. I will help them. I will live for them and as is totally expected when one noble or group gets too upset, I will be assassinated for them. So be it. But they are mine now to try and protect, all who would have me in return."


"And what will you do with your army of elves," Leliana asked curtly, eyes sharp and vicious. Jess threw her hands up with a snarl of impatience. "Did you not listen to a goddamn word I said! I want to HELP. Them. They need better education, better hygiene so disease doesn't run rampant in their cramped living situation. Trades they can learn and pass down. I can fund those things. I can advocate for those things. I don't care about politics, and I have no tie to nobility to stop me from doing so." She waved a hand to Varric. "How is the idea for Checkers coming along?"


The dwarf reached into his coat and pulled out a few papers, unfolding and shuffling through them. "Three buyers. I'm holding out on one. he thinks it'll sell easier among the low class since the pieces are easier to make."


"And the children's stories?" He laughed and shook his head. "My editor is practically salivating for more!"


"And the lore I told you about?"


"I'm trying to figure out how to spin it into a saga. Your Greek gods are assholes but pretty interesting assholes." She barked out a laugh at that and nodded. "That they are, but the love story between the Hades and Persephone is worth something yes?" She noticed Cassandra perk up at that though she immediately looked away. "Well yeah, I mean romance novels aren't my best sellers, but I can work with it." Jess nodded again. "So all in all, if need be to stand alone, I would be pretty well off in terms of funding yes?" He stole a look at Leliana and put his hands up in a slow shrug. "All in all...yeah."


Bull stood up and held out a hand. "I admire your desire to better the lives of the elves but I don't see how this is going to work." She shook her head pinching her nose. "In all honesty Bull, coming from a communist government, I don't think you can weigh in on this conversation beyond making them all Vidathaari."


"A what now?"


"The Qun makes sure everyone has the exact same thing to ensure everyone's needs. No one has more, no one has less, right? Excess is not an issue, nothing is wasted. And your people cannot think outside of a specific line of thought without being sent to the reeducators. That sounds a lot like the communist government where I come from. Don't get me wrong; in theory I think its the most ideal way to ensure peace. Socialism too, awesome concept; government makes sure the wealth is spread a little more evenly. Great concept terrible results.


"Isn't that what your doing," he asked scratching a horn. Leaning her head back, she thought about it hard. "I am trying to dissolve the economic-"


"Can we get on with it!" She blinked at a red faced Sera, hair pulled into crazy spikes all over her head. "She's right. We came here for the steps the Inquisitor should take not my whimsy pipe dreams." Everyone shared confused looks causing her to sigh. "Moving on! So while the details of Halamshiral are smoothed out, we should go to the Storm Coast, enlist the Blades of Hessarian, break up a red lyrium trade, and then to Solasan where the ancient elves may still help you. Unless you'd rather not have their help either." She once again ignored the bald elf by the banister as Lycus made a made a 'ha ha' mocking face at her. "Whatever you say Lamb, seeing as your the expert here." She scoffed and rolled her eyes at him.

 

 

Pulling the colorful green cotton scarf from her face, Jess breathed in awe at the sight on the Forbidden Oasis. They had been hard pressed to get here after the Storm Coast, Venatori popping up like daisies. With two outposts formed they were still trying to route out all the miscreants. Only the ground level was approved for her to investigate, and even then she was to stay away from areas where enemies could be lurking. Not that the warning did much good.


Even now, she hid partially behind a jagged outcrop, watching in awe as Bull slammed his warhammer into the giant's toes. Sera was shooting from above running along the edge like a billy goat. Varric was...somewhere; his bolts seeming to materialize in the giants arms and back. Spells arched beautifully and she could tell each one's caster by its feel. Lycus's magic filled the air with sunshine, warm and tingly. Sola's was similar but more shaded, cooler than his, like sitting under a shade tree in summer. Dorian's was sappy, it left a humidity in the air like syrup on one's fingers. She imagined Vivienne's to be brisk and cold.


A hand clamped down on her shoulder and she hip tossed them to the ground in front of her with a startled cry. Dalish laughed and gave her a cheeky grin from where she laid on her back. "I'll have to let Krem know you finally got it right!"


"Oh hush," she looked back up at Bull's bellowing laugh as he ducked a swing and smashed the giant's fingers. "Aren't you supposed to be picking herbs?" She glared at Dalish again, who just smiled and squatted behind the rock with her watching. Blackwall and Cassandra both shield bashed it's leg, toppling it. Everyone practically crawled up the thing, hacking and slashing and firing arrows and bolts. "Oh my god, they're crazy," she breathed inching lower when the water splashed close to them as someone was tossed off. "The bigger the better for the chief. He's still made we didn't kill the dragon on the coast."


Jess laughed and looked at her softly. "He'll get his chance. C'mon, before you finally decide to rat me out."


"Hey now! I'll have you know I haven't yet!"

"Oh? So it wasn't you you told Bull I was sneaking out of my cabin while on the boat to enjoy the night sky?"


"Well that was dangerous Lady J. You could've fell overboard and no one woulda known; well the chief always knew anyway so you really can't blame me for that," Dalish defended walking back up to the campsite. Krem crossed his arms at their approach, ending any smart comment Jess was going to make. She quickly held up the blood lotus she had snatched when she first had snuck down to get a closer look of the fight. "Yeah, yeah. Tali is over there, the completely other way. Says there's a lot of witherstalk that need to be picked." He gave her a knowing smile and Jess's face flamed red. "Fuck off Krem."


"Maybe when your not in the chief's tent Lady J," he answered answered straight faced, making the boys hoot and whistle. With an indignant groan and foot stomp, she walked quickly around the tents in the direction he pointed. It's not like anything happened between her and Bull since Skyhold anyway. She was forced to stay in the same tent with him since the day she had sent the nightwatch into a frenzy screaming someone was in her tent. It ended up being a fennec coming in from the coastal rains. She huffed and fanned her face, pulling the silk back to let what little breeze between the chasms soothe her cheeks and neck.


Looking down she spotted the quick tight steps of Talia, stopping here and there like a butterfly flitting to collect nectar, naked stalks where she had plucked up the flowers. Heading in the other direction to cover more ground, she began filling her basket. Turning to be more in the shade, she followed the ridge, humming to herself as she harvested deep mushrooms as well, following a trail of them into a mine shaft. Her scalp suddenly prickled and she straightened slowly before walking to an abandoned crate and sitting down, staring back the way she had come at the masked observer.


"It must be awfully hot under that thing," she commented fanning her own face. The Harlequin stepping a little closer and switched her weight, crossing her arms. "They were right about you; you don't scare easily, Lady Lionheart."


She laughed and shook her head. "I am surprised the Empress has not chastised me for that yet, being the only rightful lion. Then again there is the Lion of Honnleath so maybe she spares me out of humor." She shrugged and tilted her head. "But you have not come to debate with me silly little names, have you? In fact, I doubt you've come to talk to me at all."


"No my lady, I have not." She hummed pressing her lips together with a small nod. So she wasn't sent from the empress at least. "I see. Before you finish what it is you have to do, so you can get get out of this oppressive heat, tell me are you a stargazer? I fancy myself one."

"I am not."

"Pity." Jess jumped in her skin as a blur moved behind her would be attacker, knocking her to the ground with quick disabling slashes, the woman not even being able to scream in pain. Holding still she swallowed in a too dry mouth as Leliana's scout looked towards her. "What the fuck  is up with this world that i cant pick flowers without my life being in danger!" Letting out a shuddering breath she nudged her chin towards the body."Is she dead?" The mask tilted and shook. "Then we should inform the others so she can be questioned." She looked down at her lap and blinked away the tears forming now that the threat was over. "If you'll give me a moment to collect myself," she forced out hoarsely.


Her savior tutted and she lifted her head just as they removed the mask, the golden hair spilling forward as he smirked. "Come now bellisima you are safe, no need to cry. But if you need a shoulder, mine happen to be free." Her jaw dropped, she had tried to school her surprise but her mind was whirring too quickly. Only Leliana's chosen scout knew the password, which meant her shadow had always been but no that couldn't because-


"Zevran!?"

Chapter Text

She sat primly as Lycus, Bull and Zevran argued. Well mostly Lycus. Talia sat beside her watching with at first with amusement and now annoyance. "Its a pissing match," she finally sighed and Jess saw both elven males ears twitch toward them. "I know it is, I'm just wondering when their gonna pull their dicks out and start measuring those."


"M'lady," Talia gasped scandalized. "Everyone knows the Qunari would win that! That's why they haven't." She chortled closing her eyes trying to contain her laughter. "And you know this how sweetness." She looked up at her unamused. "He's never whipped that sucker out in front me," Jess protested hand to her chest.


"I can change if you like!"


"Finish your damn argument first," she hollered back, making him laugh. She looked back at Talia and smiled. "I'm sorry I scared you." The elf shrugged bundling herbs for transport. "You screaming my name and running madly with an unknown man chasing you was probably not the wisest choice you've made so far."


"Yes but you actually running headlong into an assassin? Had I been in real danger, he would've cut you down like cheese on a hot day." Talia paused and scrunched her face up. "What?"


"You know cheese gets all melt and easy to...never mind." They shared a laugh and she looked up to motion Dorian over. Stitches followed. "Surgeon," she greeted, earning herself a small smile from the dour man. "I got a question with the drainage thing." She cringed and nodded. "I will try the best I can. I only know from what I remember." She explained the process of cleaning the wound and putting a wick into it, pulling it slowly out day by day to clean an abscess.


"That was disgusting," Dorian remarked pushing her over to sit on the log next to her. "Hey! Excuse you sir," she grumbled nudging him with her shoulder. "Do you think they'll finish soon. This sand is terrible for my skin." Jess made a show of leaning over and studying his face intently. Yeah, I can see the wrinkles forming even as you speak."


"Kaffas! You horrid woman you!" She laughed and hugged him. "I know some mask ingredients we can make together. Have a spa day back at Skyhold." He humphed looking at her from the corner of his eye. "Well I suppose if your going to apologize, that's the way to do it."


"You gonna try and sell that too?" She screamed and stumbled off the log looking back at Varric who had snuck up on her. "You little shit!"


"Aiming at my height? Really Rosey, I expect better from you." She chuckled and leaned forward resting her arms on the log. "You know I didn't mean it like that." He gave her a cheeky grin and shrugged. "I don't know. You been a bit moody recently. Maybe I should change your name to that."


Jessabelle laughed and shook her head. "Please don't. A Broody and a Moody? Not good for story purposes." She paused and frowned. "Did Hawke go with Fenris?"
"Which one?" She balked confused. Varric's smile slowly slipped away. "You know there are two Hawkes right?" With a slow shake she answered, "All I've ever seen is either Marian or Garret Hawke, Bethany the mage and Carver the soldier. Either younger twin would be killed by the ogre when escaping Lothering. The the left over twin would either be infected by the blight if taken on the deep roads expedition to die if Anders wasn't there, or become a warden. Or Bethany was taken to the circle if left behind or Carver joins the Templar order."


The camp was quiet as everyone listened, some Chargers coming closer. Varric blinked before clarifying, "So let me get this straight. In your world there was only one set of twins. Bethany and Carver."


"One set? You're telling me there's two?" Varric's eyes grew big. "You didn't know." Jessabelle brought her thumb to her mouth thinking. How can there be two Hawkes? Unless... With narrow eyes she looked back up at him. "Are they identical twins? One snarky the other kind?" He seemed to relax a hair. "Yep. No one put it together, not that anybody really cared to as long as someone was doing the dirty work. The Champion was two people not one."


"Both mages?" He laughed and nodded. "How else would it make sense?"
"Holy shit. That's fucking awesome." She smiled and then felt the cold splash of fear from her head to her toes. "Holy shit, this is fucking terrible. Oh my god Varric, one's gonna die." She scrambled to her feet and pushed him. "Quick paper! Paper! You gotta write to them! Shit, have you written to them yet!?"


"Hold on, stop pushing! What's happening?" His big hands grabbed her forearms and yanked her down to his height, then held just above her elbows much gentler. "Rosey talk to me."
"Not here." She looked around at the gathered audience. "The waterfall. Lets talk at the waterfall." He pulled her along and they stopped on a sand bar, the water keeping their conversation muffled. "Rosey, what's going to happen to my friends."


"She's helping a Warden named Stroud," his face paled and hers followed. "And he asks her to track them to Crestwood, then to the western approach to a tower and then Adamant fortress where," she stopped and thought about all the implication this as going to cause for the Wardens. For Blackwall.


"Where what Rosey?" She blinked and studied him. His face was tight with worry. "Where someone is sacrificed so the rest can live. Either its the warden or Hawke, but if there's two Hawkes...how close are they?" He winced and shook his head.
"Close enough that they could mimic each other and seem like one person." They shared a look. "Well. Shit." He forced out a nervous laugh. "You could say that again." She stared up at the waterfall, trying to think of something, "You sent a letter already haven't you?"


"I sent two. They went their separate ways to keep the Seekers off their trail. Marian left without Merrill and Leanna with Fenris." She hummed and closed her eyes. "Any news?" She heard him sigh. "Marian said she'd contact Lea and let me know when they reached the Frostbacks."


"Send them away. Send them on a goose chase. Send them to find the Warden Commander Surana. She can't be as stupid as-just send them far away from Crestwood."
"Stupid as who?" She opened her eyes and glared at him. "Someone stupid enough to cause people to sacrifice their lives to save everyone else!" Varric glared at crossed his arms. "Don't do that Rosey. This is my friend your talking about. I care about her."


"I WAS her Varric! Don't fucking act like doesn't mean something to me! I felt her humiliation when Fenris walked out on her. I felt her scorn when Leandra berated her when both twins died. Or when Bethany was taken or killed by the ogre. I was present when Bartrand sealed you both in the deep roads to fucking die. I put a knife in Anders back just so Kirkwall wouldn't be besieged by Starkhaven when Sebastian mourned Elthina's death! I may not have the scars but I felt it emotionally okay!"

She took a breath and swallowed. "I'm sorry. I know it's not the same and-"


"No, its fine. I forget your not just looking for Hawke to fix someone elses mistake like the rest of the world. You want them happy too."
Her shoulders dropped. "They deserve it. But they won't get it, if they come to Skyhold. Hawke would never let someone else pay the price. Tell me, did she kill Anders?" He sighed and nodded.


"Marian was there at the gallows. Thank the Maker. Lea would never be able to hurt him. She's a spirit healer herself, er, without the spirit. Marian's a storm mage."
"Of course she is."


"Helloo? Yes I don't mean to interrupt, but the Inquisitor is becoming rather ornery so if you could return, that would be much appreciated." She chuckled and looked over her shoulder to Zev approaching. "The Qunari too in fact. Such cranky companions you have bellissima."


"Perhaps you should bed them then. It helped with my mood," she joked smirking at Varric's guffaw. Zevran laughed and winked. "Indeed! I shall endeavor to offer them my services. Unless of course, you need them for yourself tonight?" She laughed delighted with his banter.


"I prefer you alive Zev," she answered sweetly walking over to meet him. He was quiet for three paces before asking, "So you and the Qunari then?" Her cheeks flamed worse than if the sun was beating on them. "Uh no. Not exactly. He is...helping me through some issues. Sorta like you did I guess."


"Ah," was all he answered. She hummed and lowered her head biting her lip. "So are you staying or is Lycus kicking you out? Because if so, I suggest you go; his magic is nothing to trifle with." Zevran tutted and gave her a rakish grin. "My dear, you forget I traveled with the Warden Commander. I have a healthy respect for magic. Lucky for me, Leliana must've put in a good word." She hummed again and he whispered, "Or neither he nor she like your fascination with Bulls."


Jess halted just a step and cursed her show of emotion. She looked at him angrily, knowing full well her face and neck were flushed. "That's not for them to decide. Or you." He put his hands up and walked in front of her backwards. "Leonessa mia,you must know I am the last person to judge you. In fact, I would be happy to join you! Perhaps I can help you with tricks one can only learn in the whorehouses of Antiva!" She stumbled as Varric laughed walking past her. "Not a word dwarf."


"I think everyone heard him anyway Rosey." Groaning she walked over to Talia by the Chargers who smiled understandingly, holding out a bowl of porridge. "Hold on a sec," Bull called coming over. He placed something into it, stirred and handed it back. She raised an eyebrow but brought the spoon to her mouth. She froze mid chew looking down at the bowl and moving the contents around. "M'lady," Talia asked worried. "It takes like...chocolate."


Bull sat down with a groan beside her with a cup of ale and the stew from another fire. "Skinner thinks you should train with a dagger."
"Don't change the subject, chocolate is more important!" His boys laughed ash she glared, spooning the porridge into her a little more eagerly. She caught her handmaid's relieved sigh and smile to Bull before pouring herself some stew. "Wha's 'at," Jess asked breathing out to try and cool her tongue from too big a bite. "Roasted tusket, potatoes, and cheese." Swallowing she frowned tilting her head. "Those cute things by the water?"


"You mean those delicious juicy things," he asked taking a big bite. "You ass," she muttered. She sucked her teeth when he nudged her laughing, trying to keep from spilling her bowl. Reaching up she stole his piece of bread, scarfing it down so he couldn't take it back. "Easy Kitten. if you wanted to be choked so bad," she actually did choke then when she tried to yell at him. Her lungs rattled as his big hand pounded on her back, the boys laughing until it died down. "Ass," she grumbled again, noticing Zev standing by the separation between the two camps. He held a bowl before turning and walking away towards the pool. She realized then the sudden rush of sound as the Chargers started talking again.


She narrowed her eyes and put two and two together. "Assholes," she clarified under her breath, standing up. Talia looked up and quickly scrambled to her feet to follow. "No its okay hon. Just gonna check on our newest addition." Sliding slightly down the sand, she found him sitting cross legged on a rock staring at the water. "It is a lovely place. With some kind of hex, but lovely nonetheless," he said easily. Sliding next to him, Jess put her bowl on her knees. "I'm sorry. I should've stayed by you. I didn't think they would still be suspicious." He laughed and blew on his stew. "Such a big heart you have, but it is nothing to concern yourself with."


"You went through this during the blight. But you didn't try to kill anyone here. You don't deserve to be treated-" His finger pressed against her lips startling her into silence. "I appreciate your desire to comfort me bellissima, but trust me when I say I can handle a few glares. If its earned me your sole attention however, I shall gladly thank them for their treatment."


"Don't do that." His smile disappeared slowly as he put the bowl down in his lap, studying her intently. "Do what exactly?"
"That. Settle for whatever scraps of attention anyone is willing to give you." His eyes were boring into her but she held his gaze to convey her point. "You are not just anyone Lady Jess," he finally said. "Should I not be happy to have the full attention of the infamous Lady Lionheart?"


"Infamous?" Zev frowned and looked over his shoulder back at the camps. "Are those ears on your handmaid just for show? Surely she has told you of the rumors the elves have spread of you. We hear impeccably well you are aware yes?" His sat up slightly with an arched brow. "Or perhaps her hearing is off. It can happen if your head has been hit too many times."


"I don't care for rumors as long as they are good. She would tell me if it was unsavory."
"Unsavory it is not! They speak of you reverently." She shook her head taking a big bite to think. "I don't want that. What do they say of Lycus?"


"Much the same. They say the two of you are sent to save them. That he is a bow and you are the quiver. Wherever you set his sights, the arrows are sent to conquer."
"Holy shit," she breathed. "I mean that's pretty awesome, but I wanted them to you know...rely on themselves." he laughed and finally took a bite of his food. They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes. "Why do you care about the plight of elves? The noble say you have an elven lover." She smirked and raised an eyebrow. "Zev, they're totally right; you were my elven lover." His laugh was rich, head thrown back without reservation. "I suppose I am! Was," he quickly amended. She blushed and tilted her head. "Are your services no longer available to me?"


He hummed with a smile and leaned closer. "How can I deny such a beautiful woman if you wish them to be?" She leaned in and he pulled away just a moment too soon to look behind him. "You need something for your Lady?" Jess closed her eyes bright red, taking a deep calming breath before looking back as well. Talia approached with a noticeable hang of her head. "I just was making sure you were okay m'lady. His Worship looked antsy."


"Ah," she looked apologetically at Zev. "Ever tried to bed a woman with many brothers?" He luaghed and waggled his eyebrows. "The best conquests are the challenging ones." She scoffed and tapped his chin. "You'll be sorely disappointed then, because I will definitely try and dodge my adoptive older siblings."


"The forbidden ones are another favorite of mine," he quickly added taking her hand and kissing her palm. "Buonanotte mia leonessa." With a scoff and a gentle mush she lifted her bowl and followed Talia, pausing to catch the quick sign language she did. Jess had taught her the ASL alphabet and she had just made the sign for S but covered it, meaning Solas was watching or doing something that warranted her attention. She hummed but said nothing, instead finishing her bowl as they approached the fire's light once more.


"Lamb. A word." She gave Talia a look and sigh, catching her sign for D with a questioning look. She nodded once and headed off to the side where Lycus was standing. She inhaled and stared out into the desert night with him, pulling her scarf from around her head and shaking her hair free. "So," she finally breathed, ready to face him. They had kept their distance since the Storm Coast. She had convinced everyone to walk in wearing the blades of Hessarian amulet and it had caused such a confusion that no one attacked. He had gotten his new warriors at the cost of her temper when she had been denied permission to tag along, 'just as a precaution.'


"Leliana had warn me you had become dangerous." She frowned and tried to piece out his reasoning for bringing this up. "I would hope she'd realize my goals align with yours, if not more so now that she knows my intentions." She saw him turn his head towards her. "It's curious a previous comrade in arms of hers was tasked wit' your care." She hummed pursing her lips. "That is...an interesting notion." He sighed and stepped in front of her. "Lamb i'm bein' serious. You cant trust an assassin."


"You are a Dalish apostate, Bull is a spy, Dorian is a Tevinter Altus. You're going to have to find a better reason to hate him off the bat."


"Off the what?" She sighed shaking her head. "It...doesn't matter. I appreciate the warning."


"Lycus, are you quite finished; Jess is supposed to be singing tonight, unless you want to take over," Dorian called out from behind them. Jess glanced back at him with a smile. "I had hoped you forgot it was my turn for entertainment tonight." He scoffed and flicked her nose. "You got out of it in the Storm Coast." She laughed and shrugged, "I don't know I kinda like Sera's raunchy renditions."


Dorian sniffed and took her arm, "Yes, well there will be no repeat of that tonight. Get your little timbrel." With a groan of defeat she walked back to where the two camps had joined, giving a sly wink to Talia as she handed her the tambourine. "You remember brandy," she asked softly, smiling as the elf's hazel eyes lit up. "I love that one!" Everyone quieted down at her excitement and got more comfortable.
Jessabelle shook the instrument and motioned to Blackwall; "Tonight's entertainment is brought to you by Warden Blackwall, who has supplied me with a something to remember songs from home. A round of applause please." She clapped her hands and smiled as he turned red under his beard grumbling when everyone joined in. "Accompanying me on her flute and vocals, is the lovely Talia." She clapped once more smiling and looked at her now waiting. Talia hummed a second and then began playing and then Jess took over with her tambourine.


"There's a port on a western bay, And it serves a hundred ships a day
Lonely sailors pass the time away, And talk about their homes
And there's a girl in this harbor town, And she works layin' whiskey down
They say, Brandy, fetch another round, She serves them whiskey and wine
The sailors say, "Brandy, you're a fine girl"


Talia did the perfect, "Your a fine girl!" and "doodoododooo" sounds.


"What a good wife you would be"
"Such a fine girl!"
"Yeah, your eyes could steal a sailor from the sea,
Brandy wears a braided chain, Made of finest silver from the North of Spain
A locket that bears the name, Of the man that Brandy loved
He came on a summer's day, Bringin' gifts from far away
But he made it clear he couldn't stay, No harbor was his home
The sailors say, "Brandy, you're a fine girl"
"Such a fine girl!"
"What a good wife you would be, But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea
Yeah, Brandy used to watch his eyes, When he told his sailor stories
She could feel the ocean fall and rise, She saw its ragin' glory
But he had always told the truth, Yea, he was an honest man
And Brandy does her best to understand!
At night when the bars close down, Brandy walks through a silent town
And loves a man who's not around, She still can hear him say
She hears him say, "Brandy, you're a fine girl"
"You're a fine girl!"
"What a good wife you would be"
"Such a fine girl!"
"But my life, my lover, my lady is the sea"


She and Talia finished with a cacophony of flute and tambourine sounds laughing and then bowed as the Chargers clapped. "Again!" Sitting down Jess spent the rest of the night teaching them the song. At some point Bull had snuck off, much to her alarm at how someone so big could move so silently. Finally when she had yawned twice Krem started packing everyone in for sleep and nightwatch. "He should be back soon, do you want to stay in our old tent," Talia asked wrapping her flute carefully. "I'll be fine." She made a quick Z motion and she shook her head. "No. Not yet doing so would cause more stress." Her handmaid nodded with a hum and a bow, walking her to Bull's tent and then dipping into the one next to it.


Undressing for bed, she slipped under the sheets on her side of the space, pulling a fur over just in case the desert cold slipped in. Exhausted she closed her eyes and laid there listening to the camp fall into their routines until only the fire crackling filled the air. And against her will she, felt the tears slide out of her eyes and into her hair. Shaking violently that her teeth chattered she balled up tighter and shoved the corner of the blanket in her mouth to keep from making a sound. No matter her efforts, her intention, her sacrifice; she would always be the outsider. This was not her home and trying to choose a people to call her own had made her a threat.


Talia silently exited her tent and froze at the sight of Zevran standing in front of it listening. They shared a quick look and he sighed shaking his head before slipping back into the shadows. Chewing her lip, she cursed Bull for leaving at a time like this, but took the first elf's advice and slowly slipped back into her own, staying near the entrance in case her lady had nightmares. She laughed and joked so easily, it was hard to believe she could've been murdered only hours ago. She would do better, if her lady was willing to do everything but fight, then she would do it for her.


Slipping out she sat outside another tent and waited. Seconds later a dagger moved the flap an inch and Skinner tilted her head annoyed. "I want to defend my lady," she breathed knowing only an elf would hear that." Skinner narrowed her eyes looking her up and down. "Before dawn by the pool," and then she was gone and so was Talia, slipping back into her bedroll, listening to the soft hiccups two canvases away.

Chapter Text

This was not how he had expected his morning to go. After wanting to rip the damn assassin's head off, getting chewed by Tali who looked like she tried to wrestle a hyena, and the scent of salty tears all over camp, one missing Kitten was definitely the shittiest part. Rocky swore nobody had left the camp. Tali and Skinner had been by the pool, and Krem had watched the paths to the caves. Squatting over her bedroll Bull studied the space for any clues. Her night shirt had been tossed to the side, so it was clear she hadn't been taken.


He frowned and moved her bag from the canvas wall and sighed; the sand dipped where a body must've slipped under. Following her trail outside he moved slowly along the wall to a broken bridge, smirking at the crate that had been shifted. How she managed to move it without anyone hearing meant the boys were doing extra sets during training. Grunting as he pulled himself up he spotted the little escapee herself in the middle of the plateau, knees up to her chest and staring ahead.


"What'd I say about running off," he teased coming closer, stopping almost instantly at the scent of elfroot on her. He broke into a run and grabbed her shoulders squeezing a whine from her lungs, "Jess what're you doing on the fucking top of a mountain by yourself." Her hair smelled of salt instead of sand under her shawl and her shirt was left open with nothing underneath. At least she had put on pants. A hard slap he wasn't expecting jarred him back and he stared at her a bit more intensely. "Are you drunk?"


"Fuck you," she retorted far too empty after a hit like that. "I'm here trying to relax and enjoy the sunrise, not be accosted by a giant." The Iron Bull frowned and moved her arm, staring at the lit leaves. "Are you smoking elfroot?" She gave a lazy shrug and brought it to her lips, taking a slow long pull. Rolling her head side to side she exhaled with a heavy breath, flicking the ash and bringing it to her mouth once more. "No. Kitten that's enough. This is still a medicine. C'mon."


"Not yet."


He growled in annoyance. "Kitten come on, we're out in the open up here." She scoffed and motioned a hand out in front of her. "I'm not leaving till I see the sunrise." There was something in the way she said it that gave him pause. Snatching her elfroot, he sat down with a loud exhale, studying her from the corner of his eye. "What was the slap for," he asked nonchalantly pretending to take a pull and crushing the roll instead. She blinked lazily and licked her lips. "Instinct."


"That's the first time violence was your first instinct."


"I don't fucking know Bull okay? Maybe I'm tired of violence being this world's first move." He grunted scratching a horn. "Sounded like your world was a little violent itself."


"Its not the same violence," she sighed rubbing the heel of her hand against her eye. "You're fucking up my high Bull. The least you could do is let me see if this would even help instead of giving me the third degree." He stared ahead, trying to figure out the meaning behind that. He had seen the way her shoulders would drop whenever someone wouldn't understand her strange phrases; how her smile was just a little too hard and her laugh a little too forced. "You need help or you trying to hide from something," he asked instead, leaning back on an arm as the sky began changing colors.


Jessabelle laid back on her elbows, shirt barely covering her as she sighed and rolled her head to him. "Fuck you Bull. I should take your other eye, you see too much with it anyway." He laughed and hit her on the back. "Easy there wildcat. Your confusing your friends and enemies list."


"Am I?" He hid his concern as she went morose staring ahead at the line of fiery gold on the horizon. "Seeing enemies in everyone?" She hummed blinking slowly again. "You smell like blood," she whispered instead, causing a chill in his veins. He remembered Talia's spike of fear when he and Lycus had first come across her and Skinner practicing by the water. Her eyes had been huge, pupil blown out; yet she still ripped into him for leaving for so long. She was shaking in terror by the time she finished, pretending to storm off just like her lady. The scent of her fear had him go under the waterfall without hesitation, not wanting to risk even a drop lingering for the same thing to happen with Kitten. Questioning assassins was a messy job on easy targets, and the Harlequin did not make it easy.


Even in her stupor she seemed to understand that as she leaned her head on her shoulder and pierced him with a cold gaze. "So who sent her?"
"A Lady Mantilon." She chuckled silently with a strange twisted smirk. "That so? Poor Briala doesn't even know then."
"Know what?"
"That her lover killed her parents."

She stood up and breathed in deeply as the first glow of the sun began its ascent. Bull stood slowly watching her faltering steps as she moved almost hypnotized forward. He matched her steps, suddenly fearing she might make a break for the edge and throw herself off. "I used to sunbathe nude outside. My home faced the trees. Florida sun could burn your ass red if you weren't careful, but there is something renewing about it. The sun I mean not the naked part. Like it can burn everything clean."
"Chase away nightmares and shadows," Bull supplied softly.


"Exactly," She breathed shaking her head, another conversation taking place elsewhere. He looked around once more to ensure they were safe and stepped back, letting her have her moment. He hated this backsliding; keeping her grounded was hard enough on a daily basis. The words of the elf came back to him and he barely controlled his growl. The bastard was watching, he could smell his fucking leather boots now that the elfroot was dissipating.


Jess shuddered slightly in the cool desert morning. Her head was only slightly foggy now, and she already lamented the return of her senses. Bull moved somewhere behind her, the creak of his leather shattering the silence. Stumbling a few steps she glared at the rising sun, almost tempted to throw a rock. But that was beneath her. Focus. Assess, prioritize, plan, contingency plan. This is nothing new. The sun was rising and a new day with it. She had no choice but to follow its example. She tucked her shirt into her pants to keep it from opening more than just the deep plunging V, trying to rally herself.


With a deep shuddering breath, she looked over at Bull and nodded. "I'm ready." There was an almost palpable relief to his stance when he motioned for her to lead the way. She caught a shimmer disappear ahead of them and narrowed her eyes before smiling. Oh Zevran. Dropping down onto the crate, the walkway and then a hard drop onto the sand she walked back to camp, slowing down to listen to the commotion.


She paused at the sight of Talia stretching Krem, his foot into her hip as she leaned forward. "What're you working on," she asked critically, watching the elf look up startled. "He cramped. I'm working it out."
"Where'd he cramp?"


"His bum," she replied much to the chagrin of Krem and the Chargers amusement. Jess hummed lacing her fingers and watching. Talia hesitated, making Jess raise an eyebrow. "Is this right, m'lady?" She pursed her lips and called upon Solas' stance, hands behind her back and posture tall. "What are your objectives with this motion?" Talia looked down at Krem and answered unsure, "To work out a muscle cramp?" Jess nodded and unable to help herself came closer, kneeling down beside them. "Okay, so what are you stretching right now?"
"His...bum?"

She smiled and pointed down from his glutes to his hamstrings. With a little coaxing, she helped adjust Krem onto his stomach and went through the muscle groups, explaining which were deep to superficial and bony landmarks to feel for. She spotted Stitches snatching paper and jotting down notes, other members of the inner circle coming closer to watch as well. Instructing her pupil carefully through some range of motion stretches, she laughed as Krem groaned when Talia's sharp little elbow went into his glute.


"Lighter hon. The elbow can feel really pointy. Fix your posture. Good. Lean your weight so-yup like that." She stood up with her hands on her hips and a proud smile. Her girl learned quick.
"Ooh ooh, me next!" Dalish flopped down on the ground, kicking her legs. Jess tilted her head, warring with her curiosity a moment too long and Dalish looked up confused. "What's a matter?"
"I've...never worked on anyone except humans. I don't know if there's any skeletal or muscular differences to be aware of." She knelt anyway, hands hovering above her. "Can I palpate?"
"Can ya what now?"
"Palpate, It means to medically touch with the intent to discern what's going on." Dalish made an 'oh' sound and flopped back down with a nod. Jess frowned studying the armor she wore, trying to press and feel through the leather. Dalish caught on quick and without warning, sat up and yanked the jerkin off to reveal her linen shirt underneath. "Thanks," Jess murmured instantly palpating.


Beside the thinner build, she also discerned that elves had a more flexible structure to them, her limbs being more hyper-mobile, especially in the spine when she did a side rotation. Already her mind was thinking of ways to adjust her massage and stretch regiments. But is this an isolated case? Are all elves like this? What's the 'normal' range of motion for a healthy elf?
"Lady J!" Jessabelle snapped up and blinked as Dalish laughed. "We lost you there." She blushed and moved back, dusting off her hands. "I was...it doesn't matter." Quickly moving to get some food from the campfire, she stopped short at realizing that breakfast had already been devoured. The Chargers were locust, she lamented, heading instead to the tent to change into proper clothes.


"You seem happier when you are working." She gasped, hand to her chest. Zevran raised his hands with a smirk. "Easy mi amore, I don't mean to startle you."
"I'd hate to see if you did." Waiting till her heart calmed its frantic pace, she went back to her clothes, picking out a new outfit. "You have some news." She stood up confused shaking her head. "I do?"
"Lady Snow? You've a letter." Jess looked at him flatly, "You could've said I had mail," and stepped out of the tent to take it, opening it without hesitation. She would have to thank Josie for writing exceptionally neat and spaced apart. "Good or bad," he questioned.
Reading it twice to make sure she understood it correctly before crumpling it with a small hiss of impatience, she threw it hard against the tent. "Depends who you ask."


"Well, bellisima, I was asking you." Jess stopped pinching her nose to glare at him but ended up deflating. "We need to head back. Apparently, something has shifted and we received several invites to the ball, instead of just Gaspard." Pinching her nose again, she tried to hide the tears that were threatening to spill out. Zev twitched and sprang away from opening just as Bull threw open the tent flap. "Kitten, what happened." He looked up at the narrow space with a growl trying to side step in. "No, no I'm coming out. We have to go back. They-" she swallowed and blinked rapidly hands on her hips.


"We need to get back so we can reorganize. Something unexpected happened and it seems our illustrious leaders are in a tailspin." She tried not to make eye contact, feeling his gaze taking in her every nuance. "Lycus already left for the temple before dawn. I'm sure we can wait until they get back to head out." She forced a smile and shrugged. "Doesn't matter. Lets just get packed." 

"Kitten-"

"Bull please," she looked at him and let her mask drop. "Please, it doesn't matter." He sighed and nodded once. "I'll get the guys packing." She gave him a smile and inclined her head in thanks. "You sure you're okay," Zev asked when they were alone again. "I'm fine. It doesn't matter."

 

 

 

 


And it really hadn't mattered, she denied every invitation that the Advisors brought to her attention. Most were grand standing, just wanting to be seen with her; and she had no interest in them much to Josie's despair. Lycus was her main concern, and unless it was addressed to both of them or him, she wasn't going to entertain them. How dare they ignore the Inquisitor and try to weasel their way in through her! Luckily he backed her up and the letters were dropped. Thrown back into her work, she had Talia find her three more hands by giving her ten designs for her potential candidates to embroider, not wanting to be biased by sight alone.


She had chosen an male elf named Lennox, a female elf named Nilene, and a male human named Gunter. Talia also found her a skilled leather worker, an adorable elf boy, well teen was more correct, who went by Trevi. His name was actually three syllables long but after Jess had butchered it twice, he had mercy on her. He was eager to please and she rewarded his enthusiasm in kind, allowing him more and more leniency with his designs, sporting his belts and buckles around the keep.


Lycus's, hers, and Leliana's outfits were already done. Josie and Cullen's were part way and Lycus had yet to choose who from the inner circle were coming to the ball. She had her bets on Dorian, Cassandra, and Varric. Bull had no choice but to go because of her, but she was trying to smuggle Solas in as well. There was no way in hell though that she would allow his to come as her manservant even though he stated he didn't care. Elven god or not, he was still her friend, even if he wasn't sure about that title himself.


All her elves' ears twitched around the same time and she looked up from her stitch waiting. Seconds later the door swung open and Varric came in, paper crumpled into a fist. "When," she asked standing abruptly. He paused before sighing; "Three days out."
"Both?" He nodded and she paced, fingers laced to keep from wringing them. "I'll figure out something Varric," she finally said. He nodded and held out the paper. "Here, in case you need more info." Taking it cautiously, she tucked it into her top to read later. "I'll leave you to it," he said quietly, closing the door behind him. She forced a smile and motioned for her helpers to continue with their tasks.


Even after the dinner bell had rung, Jessabelle stayed behind, managing to finish Josie's layered blue and gold dress before heading to bed. Bathing quickly, she tucked herself in, refusing Talia when she knocked on the door to help. The bed had been upgraded in her absence, a beautiful four post bed with rich green velvet curtains over a gorgeous green and gray damask spread. Sleep came even though she hadn't expected it.


Instinct woke her a few hours later. Listening, she caught the flicker of movement; the fire dancing a little too wildly like a breeze had rekindled the flames. Looking over she reached out and pulled her paring knife from the nightstand, careful not to move the curtain and waited slightly crouched. Nothing stirred for a few breaths. And then he spoke.


"I'm not sure whether to be impressed or dismayed by your lack of fear amore."
"God damn you Zevran." He moved the curtain by the foot of the bed, leaning an arm against the post. "Tsk tsk. Come now, is that any language for a lady to have?" She pointed the knife at him angrily. "What the hell are you doing in my room?"


"Ah, I suppose it is a little late for visits. Perhaps you are cold? This castle is drafty, is it not?" There was something strange in his flirting; it lacked the playfulness she had come to expect. "Yes it is. Why don't you come sit." His surprise was masked quickly with a smile and he slid onto the spread sitting cross legged and she mimicked the pose, head tilted. "There, much better. Now, you going to tell me what's going on?"


"Has anyone told you you are very perceptive," he joked, but she didn't smile. Instead she waited him out and was rewarded moments later with a sigh. Moving his cloak, he pulled a bag and opened it, holding out a fruit. "You have been working yourself ragged. Your handmaid, your herald and your Qunari are worried. And frankly cara mia, so am I." With a deft flick of his wrist, he snatched her knife and sliced the fruit, handing her a sliver.


Jess stared at him before turning her gaze to the slice, taking it slowly. Mango; it was like a mango. "Talk to me cariña. How can I help?" Pushing her hair and scratching her head she shrugged. "Why are you here Zev?"


"Because I'm worried."


"No. I mean why are you in Skyhold?" He tensed and she instantly waved her hands frantic in front of her. "No! No, not like that. I'm worried-" with a sigh she pushed both hands through her hair and closed her eyes, holding the nape of her neck. "How do you bear the weight of the lives you've taken?"


"Cara mia, I don't see you as one who would have taken any lives to contemplate such a thing." She chuckled without mirth. "But I will. Varric's friends, the Hawkes are coming. And when they do, a snowball of shit will lead to the Wardens-" She cut herself off and he held out another slice to give her something to do. "What about the Wardens, cariña? I happen to know one." She swallowed and licked her thumb. "I know. So why are you here warming my bed and not hers?"


Zevran sighed and held out another piece, cutting himself one as well. "It is not like that between us. The taint is overcoming her. She will be going to the Deep Roads soon. We could not find the cure, and she has made it clear she does not want me around when the time comes. She has asked me to leave and find a new cause to join, one with a chance of success."


Jess leaned forward and put her hand on his knee. "Zev, I'm so sorry. I-" The idea hit her suddenly and she recoiled in disgust just as quickly. "Now that is an emotion I understand. Why the self loathing look?" Her shoulder went up defensive but she shook her head. "Nothing. It's nothing."


"That did not look like nothing. It looked like relief and then horror." She cringed and shook her head once more. "Jessabelle. Enough games. What is happening with the Wardens?" He paused in his next cut and looked at her critically. "Does it have to do with your warden who is not Blackwall?"


Her heart went into her throat but she forced herself to look confused, head tilted. He smirked and handed her the slice. "We met Blackwall once, heading to Weissaupt. Your warden is not him," He looked up, taking his slice from the blade's edge, "But you already knew that, yes?" His teeth slid against the metal with a soft shhink as he waited her out.


She swallowed hard, staring him down. "The wardens helped kill the divine." He looked stunned and she continued relentless. He wanted to back her into a corner? Fine. "They are all hearing a fake calling and fucked up big time and Varric's friends may die to protect their own warden. And yes Blackwall is not...Blackwall. But he will be a warden. I promised him he would find redemption if he stayed for our cause. And he will; at a high cost. But why have you not said anything if you knew? What game do you play?"


"You are supposedly a seer; if you knew, it was for a reason you yourself have not revealed it. And if you didn't, then you are the greatest charlatan to walk Thedas and I was not going to out you for you to have me killed. Speaking of...Will he die too?"


"Not if I can help it. I don't want him part of the siege when it happens. I don't want Hawke anywhere near there either." He wiped his knife on his pants thinking. "You want Surana to go instead." She flinched back as if struck. "No. Yes. I-I thought about it. And I hate myself for it."


"She would. In War, Victory, In Peace, Vigilance. In Death-"


"Sacrifice," she finished angrily, letting a tear escape. "This is fucking bullshit. Who do I become when I weigh the value of one life over another? Mine is the only I should put on that scale."


"Jessabelle listen to me. Surana is dying, she knows it. Do you think she would not sacrifice herself for her fellow wardens? This is not about value, but duty. If the Wardens caused this, she will fix it. Tell me cariña. What will happen?"


"Promise me, Zevran on your-on whatever you value most, that what I say stays between us. Tell her only that the Wardens are in danger."


"On my honor cariña, whatever value that has to you, it is all I have left." She pursed her lips and nodded. "So be it. On your honor then." And against her gut, she told him about the Wardens and Corypheus's deceit. About the divine. About Blackwall wanting to help, and his belief in the Grey Wardens and what they stood for. By the end she was a sobbing mess sitting in his lap while he caressed her back.


When she felt she had nothing left to cry, she moved back, resting against the headboard. "I'm sorry." He hushed her softly and she yanked his arm, pulling him into her chest. Running her fingers through his hair, she hummed softly. "It has been a long time since I have been in a woman's bed and done nothing, or her bosom." Laughing she nuzzled his head and planted a soft kiss. "I'm sorry to disappoint."


"Don't be. Yours is a wonderful bosom."


"Such a sweet talker." she Held his tightly and laid her head back, letting his warmth seep deep and soothing aches she had been ignoring. When next she opened her eyes, daylight had come and she held a pillow. What in the copy jutsu?  Sighing slightly disappointed, but still happier than she had been, Jess slid out of bed and stretched. The door opened immediately and Talia pointing behind herself. "M'lady, Varric says they're here."
"What!"
"He says they are waiting for you before they tell his Worship." Oh shit.

Chapter Text

Not bothering to dress up, Jess slipped into a pair of hard leather pants and a tunic top, Talia tying to  strings closed while she smoothed her curls from their tangled morning nonsense. "Battlements?" The elf nodded and handed her a cloak, following on her heels. Running across to the other side, she dodged Bull coming up and spun around Zevran who dropped from the railing. "Jesus guys!"


"What's going on," her Qunari-when did he become My Qunari?- asked keeping pace easily. "Someone's thrown a monkey wrench into my gears," she ran up the next step, trying to ignore Zevran's question about monkeys, and halted at the turn of three cloaks. Varric turned and smiled forcefully. "Good morning Varric! Zev," she whispered. "Yes amore?" She shivered at his breath by her ear. "Did you send a letter yet?"


"At dawn." She nodded and strode forward more confident. One hood lifted and she glared back at the green eyes. The person closest to him reached out and held his arm. All hoods pulled back when she had closed the distance and leaned against the wall. She blinked at the uncanny identical twins. Most twins had at least one defining feature; the Hawkes were looking into a mirror, no immediate difference apparent. "Rosey, meet Hawke and Fenris." She smiled affectionately; of course he would introduce her that way. 


Black hair pulled into severe buns revealed deep brown eyes that watched her curiously. Fenris looked unhinged, and while she hated to use that word for him, his mannerism was too feral, like any motion would have him glowing. That thought made her eyes trail his chin, the Lyrium bright against his olive skin. the line was raised almost like her tattoos when she had first gotten them. His sneer brought her gaze back up to his eyes, where he glared. 


"This is unexpected. Varric said three days, but all the same; welcome to Skyhold. Varric hun, could you get Lycus, and avoid Cass if you value your life." One twin smiled softly, hand resting on Fenris back as Varric left. Leanna then. "Thank you. We were hard pressed to get here what with the turmoil everywhere." Jess smiled and looked to the other one. "Yes well, there was no need to rush. Have you eaten yet?"


"We did not come here for a social call," Fenris snarled.

"Watch your tone with my lady." Jess spun shocked to stare at Talia who was eyeing him looking quite upset. Zevran and Bull looked equally surprised, the former moving closer to protect her. "Its alright Tali, they have had a trying journey," she tried to soothe, still feeling proud that she was finding her voice. Her handmaid inclined her head in apology, earning a scoff from the man in front of her. "Your slave is very protective."


"She is not a slave," everyone said at once; Jessabelle the firmest. "Fenris love," Leanna whispered pulling his arm gently. "I am not a slave, I am employed. You insult me." Jess kept her expression neutral at the sudden unsure look on his face. "Enough. We've got off on the wrong foot," she tried again. Marian finally sighed, shaking off her cloak. "Look. I get your trying to be civil and all but really Fen is right. We came because we heard the Inquisitor can help." 


"And He can. He is very talented and will be able to give you the support you need. His spells-"


"Wonderful. Another mage." Jess inhaled deeply to calm herself. "I may have to ask you to wait outside the keep if you lack control. We won't tolerate that behavior here." Fenris looked ready to attack, even with his lover's hand on his arm. "I don't remember him being so rabid," Zevran said with a tut. "Oh shit," she breathed, getting in between both elves. "Enough Zevran," she hissed over her shoulder. Marian looked amused, arms crossed and leaning back against the wall even as her sister sighed.


She spotted Lycus and Varric coming around the rampart and tried to push them apart again to meet him. "Don't touch me!" She knew what would happen the moment his markings glowed. She didn't know how fucking excruciating it would feel. His hand ripped into her chest with the force of a head on car crash, stealing breath and strength. She yanked away in pain and with a garbled scream, the world spinning as she fell back. 


Several things happened at once. Magic arched as barriers went up against a blast of lightning from behind, screams and shouting ripping through the air. She looked up at Bull as he caught her, lowering her to the ground as he roared for bandages. "Bu-" She coughed a spray of blood over his chest and neck, noticing he didn't even flinch. She blinked in a daze looking over at Talia and Zevran; both had moved behind the twins and had knives at both Hawke's throats, Lea hands up in surrender, Marian staff in hand and glowing. Varric was speaking quickly, trying to deescalate the situation. "Now," Bull roared drawing her attention to a trickle of red moving slowly down his throat to his chest as he looked back down at her. That's mine, she realized absently.


Lycus slid over and sobbed out a strangled sound looking at her chest, hands glowing. Her breath rumbling and she coughed a spray again. Strange...the pain is leaving.I don't want to die.  Movement had her turn her head again and Talia was over her, pinching her nose to breathe into her mouth. Oh sweetie, its too late for that. She coughed and the pain sharpened. Her vision was fading as Talia stood and screamed over the battlement wall, the words not registering at all in her haze.


She hadn't noticed her eyes closed so she was surprised when cool steady hands touched her face. She looked up at the warbled murmurs above her and blinked until Solas' eyes came into view. Tilting her head back he pressed his mouth over hers, breathing a spell into her lungs and the pain returned tenfold. It was maddening. There was a stab of pain in her heart from Lycus' magic, a suffocating pressure as Solas breathed healing from the inside, and then the electric jolt of a dispel to keep her awake.


Breath. Choke. Stab. Electric. Oh my god make it stop.


Breath. Choke. Stab. Electric. Make it stop. Make it stop! There was an interruption as Solas yelled something. And then it continued. 


Breath. Choke. Stab. Electric. 


Sound was returning and she opened her eyes to see a Templar, Delrin sliding to her side with a vicious rattle as his armor scrapped the stone. His hand rested on her shoulder and the three sensations now continually persisted, rending a bloody scream from her chest. MAKE IT STOP!  A shadow moved and the horns above her shifted to a wide brimmed hat, throwing her into darkness as cold fingers found her temples.

 


She breached the frigid water and blinked the blurriness away trying to get her bearings. Her arms and legs were lead, her chest painfully constricted with every breath. Spotting the shore, she realized how far out into the spring she had swam.  Oh fuck. Oh fuck. Trying to breast stroke through the exhaustion, she blinked rapidly to chase the shore into focus, closing her eyes and breathing through the weakness in her body. No. Not like this. I'm not dying like this. She opened her eyes and almost stopped when a presence made itself known beside her. It gave a strange sort of strength to know she wouldn't drown alone.

Turning her attention back to the shore, a figure now stood at the edge, watching. Move Jess. Keep moving. Gasping for air, her limbs flailed briefly before finding her rhythm again, she noticed the shore a bit closer. I'm not dying here. New strength filled her and she lowered her head to try and make the distance.


Hard hands grabbed her arm and she flailed with a scream, dragging whoever grabbed her into the water. "Jess! Stop, your safe now." She looked up wearily and grabbed onto Solas' shirt. She now became aware of the shifting sand under her feet. Half pushing half dragging herself, she finally lost strength and dropped at his feet, letting him drag her the rest of the way out. Surprisingly, he squatted down and pulled her closer to his body. "Your alright Lady Jess." She felt his head move and heard him whisper, "Thank you Focus. Thank you Resolve."

 
Looking up she tried to blink the figure into clarity. He it? chuckled and walked away disappearing into mist. "Spirit," she asked wearily. "Jess, let go. Let me help." It took her several breaths to realize what he was asking and looked around once more, realizing she was in the fade. "I can't."


"You can." His hand pushed her wet curls from her face. There was a strange ripple then, like someone rifling through her pockets and she allowed it. The spring fell away and a warm fireplace in a cozy home bloomed in front of them. Solas pulled a thick warm blanket around her and breathed on her fingers. She became aware then of her shivering. "Your in shock. Do you understand?"


Nuzzling into his chest she felt him sigh almost annoyed and couldn't find it in herself to pull away from the warmth his body provided. "Am I dead? Dying?"


"Your out of immediate danger, but the magic took a great toll on your body." She hummed weakly. "Can't I will myself better? This is real, this world." He gasped softly before stroking her hair again. "While this world is real, your not actually a part of it."


"I am," she argued softly. "I am. I am real. I cause an affect no matter where I am." There was a brief silence before he sighed. "That you do. Sleep now."


"I am," she repeated, smiling into his chest as he chuckled. "That you are." 

 

 

 


She opened her eyes and blinked, frowning at the roaring fire in her room. She looked to the left and inhaled at the sight of Talia and Zeran side by side, both their hands resting over hers. Her head was on his chest, his hand on her hair. She must've cried herself to sleep against him. Jess swallowed and winced, and his eyes instantly opened. "Amore." Talia sat up with a sob and crawled over, fluffing her pillows. "M'lady. How are you feeling?"


"Water." She blinked and Talia was already at the door running out. Zev smiled sadly and took her hand. "Mi amore, This is my fault. I should not have antagonized him."


 "No, you shouldn't have," she croaked swallowing weakly, touching his head when he laid it by her side. "How long?"


"Not even a full day. For the better I say. It was not the soldiers or Templars that were looking for blood, but your precious elves." She raised an eyebrow and he motioned towards her table. It was covered in flowers and packages wrapped in cheesecloth and stained canvas. "I knew they admired you, but what I saw, that was not admiration," he shook his head and she forced herself to sit up. 


"Lycus?"


"Locked in his quarters. I shall inform him you are well, so he can free Varric's friends."


"Free? He threw them in jail?!" She choked and rubbed the lingering ache in her chest. "I phrased that wrong," he quickly amended moving closer. "They willingly went. The smart Hawke surrendered and her dog followed, along with the other twin. I don't think they would have made it out of Skyhold alive had they not. But they are being treated well." 


"Don't call him a dog. Clearly you are not really sorry." She scolded and opened her eyes when Talia rushed in holding a bowl in both hands. Placing it on the stand she took out her knife and stabbed it multiple times, breaking off chunks of ice. She bit one into a smaller portion and held it to her lips. "Here," she huffed slightly out of breath and Jess took two pieces before her tongue stopped feeling like she had sucked on  spicy peppers.

 
"Bring Fenris here." She kept a straight face at the stuttering of her handmaid and assassin. When did he become hers? "I don't think that's a good-"


"If I don't address this, it will cause the upcoming missions to be more difficult. So please." Zevran sighed and stretched. "I will inform the Inquisitor you are awake." Talia followed a bit more hesitant. 


She stared into the flames of her fire until the door opened slowly, Fenris stepping in with Hawke and Talia. "I didn't know who you were," he said shifting, causing an exasperated sigh from his companion. She stared at him with pursed lips before answering, "And who do you think I am that you suddenly feel concern for your lack of control?" He stiffened and she raised an eyebrow waiting for him to blow again. He sighed and shook his head. "You're Lady Lionheart. I thought-"


 "It doesn't matter who you thought I was," she interrupted. "You were invited into Skyhold and you attacked a citizen of her. Be happy Lycus did not demand recompense; he'd had been in his right to ."


"He's possessed."


"He's not," she snapped, wincing. Lea extended a hand concerned. "I'm fine, thank you though. Lycus is not possessed. In fact he can channel a spirit to help simply by his virtues. A spirit of Protection honors him with extra strength from one side of the veil. The only one in danger of being possessed is you."


"I'm not a mage," he spat disgusted. "You don't have to be. You have Lyrium. Remember that the Hero of Ferelden fought abominations that were Templars in Kinloch Hold. Your rage and wrath will call them if you continue." She forced herself to sit up and spoke very slowly so he understood. "You do not know everything Fenris, and I will not let you cost me helping the elves by speaking poorly of Lycus. Your Champions still hold sway, and in essence so do you. Don't. Fuck. This. Up." She thought about and added, "Again."


Both elves looked towards the door moments before Lycus strode in, a shimmer of blue and gold on his skin. "Peace Messere," Lea offered, "We meant no harm." 


"Hard to b'lieve as my Lamb had a 'and in'er chest." She inclined her head hands still extended. Fenris sighed and bowed his head to his chest. "I...am sorry. Its unusual for someone to touch me without meaning death and I reacted. Poorly." Lycus paused before the shimmer dissipated as he moved to her bedside and pressed a kiss to her forehead. She felt his lips tremble before he moved back. 


"Warden Stroud," Jess said after he made himself comfortable on the edge of her bed. Hawke stiffened before nodding. "So it's true what they say of you." She hummed with a small wrist flick. "That's very insignificant right now. Let us focus. The Wardens are in trouble and yours is right to worry. For now lay low. I may have an alternative." She held up her hand to stop her protest. "Please. I want you safe. And I think highly of the Grey Wardens. I would save them if I can. All I ask is for time you have to give anyway."


Hawke looked at Fenris and inhaled deeply. "If we must then there is no point to offer resistance. Here is what we know of Corypheus."


"We should get Marian," Fenris interrupted. Jess hummed and nodded. "I agree. I asked you here to show the keep I hold no ill against you. It was for your safe passage out when the time comes." She smirked at the shift in Fenris' stance and continued. "And being seen with Lycus not in chains will help. But you all can converse together. And elsewhere. I am still tired and need some more rest." Lycus stood immediately and kissed her hair motioning with a wave for his hand for them to leave. Talia closed the door gently behind them and knelt by her bed. 


Jess smiled softly and cupped her chin. "You're fucking scary, you know that hon?" She gave her a watery smile and answered, "I learn from the best. The Iron Bull wants to see you tomorrow if your well. I told him your awake...since he looked ready to kill someone."


"If he hasn't yet, he won't. But still, we'll see how I feel." She smiled and looked at the door startled when it opened and Zevran slipped in. "He is an assassin hon," Jess explained clearly amused, moving her legs as he laid beside her. Talia looked unsure but climbed in on her other side. Jess smiled and snuggled them both closer, closing her eyes once more.

 

 


She opened her eyes at the hand that brushed her curls from her forehead, thrown off when the face she saw was not the ones she expected. Solas moved back hesitantly. "Are you feeling better?" She hummed and sat up from the plush round pouf. Looking over her shoulder at the balcony gave her perspective; she was on Vivienne's balcony. In the fade. In a Skyhold of old, the walls shining and luminous in the light of the warm torches on the walls. Did that mean Solas trusted her more? No, more likely he was trying to filter something. But was that fair to assume?


She sat up and looked around amazed. "This place," she whispered, watching him stand taller and waiting for her to continue. "Is this..." Sliding her feet to the floor, she gasped at the warmth of the stones, like the sun had warmed them for hours. "Do you know where you are?"


She smiled and looked over at him with a laugh. "The fade," she asked cheekily. He smirked and she slid her hand over the pouf. "My God, this is so soft. This is Skyhold but," she turned and ran to the balcony, gasping at the beauty of Skyhold in its prime. She leaned over the railing and inhaled the crisp air. He joined her standing at the edge. "Are you showing me this out of kindness or to help me somehow," she asked resting her head against her arms. "Oh!" She interrupted him from speaking and smiled deviously. "Solas. Do you dance?"


"Dance?" She hummed and stood on her toes arms up and spinning as if in a waltz. She spun and he grabbed her hand, completing the turn as haunting music filled the air.  She closed her eyes and let him lead her. "Your trying to do something." 


"Just imagining a dress and mask. I love the idea of a masquerade." She spun away and felt a dress flow out,  and something pressing onto her cheeks. She opened her eyes and paused at the change in the scenery. Dancers flowed around her and she moved quietly through them, surprised when one man in a lion mask, took her hand and spun her around. She laughed and danced, changing partners only a second behind the patrons. 


"How?" She turned and gasped at Solas, because it had to be him in an enchanting gold and black armor, a wolfen mask with a mane adorning his face and  covering his hair. He's being bold. Or testing me. She actually did hesitate, feeling a bit intimidated at the presence he exuded. "I-uh," she swallowed and bowed humbled. "Peace, Domain Ruler. I don't mean to intrude." Standing and releasing the edge of her dress, she inhaled startled at his proximity. What the fuck is happening? "You should not be here, moving, interacting."

 
Jessabelle lowered her gaze and worried her bottom lip. Had she altered his dream? But no, he had to have given her permission to shift attire in his Fade. So he was toying with her to-Oh. I see.Perhaps a game of wills and wiles then. "Forgive me, I must've become confused. I was...with a friend. Are you...a spirit? Of Revelry?" He was stone still for a breath. "I'm sorry. I-I will take my leave. My friend is probably wondering where I-"


"Stay." She tilted her head confused. "You are enjoying my ball?" She smiled genuinely. "Of course. It has been a long time since I've been to one. But my friend, I was with him and then-"
"He may show if you stay." She smiled slowly, tilting her shoulder demurely. "If your manners were less impeccable, I would call you a desire demon." He chuckled  and held out his hand, which she took biting her lip. "Are you afraid?"


"I would be foolish to be at ease in a domain that is not my own. But no, dear spirit, I am not afraid anymore."
"Anymore," he asked gliding her across the floor; she noticed the people moved out of his way without breaking from their partners. "Ser Revelry, your curiosity is making me question my former decision." He smirked and said nothing else as the music continued, gliding with her across the gilded floor before leading her to a balcony. "Hm, Solas was with me on a balcony similar to one like this." 


"Solas, your friend." She hummed and looked at the mask. "He is here often. Do you know of him? I...think he was trying to help me." She leaned on the railing like before thinking as to why he would have brought her to Skyhold during his reign. "You don't sound sure." Tricky clever wolf. "I want to be, but he doesn't trust me, so why should I give him an honor he will not grant me in return. There is  so  much I could tell him. I wonder, would he," she frowned and stood straight. "I must go Revelry. Thank you for this wonderful evening." She touched his mask and planted a soft kiss to his cheek, smirking at his stiffness but pretending not to notice. If he wanted to play as a different entity, he needed to accept the actions with it. She moved back with a demure smile and closed her eyes, willing herself into her own Fade. 

 

 


She opened her eyes and jumped at the movement on one side of her. Talia looked up concerned. "Nightmare?" She ruffled her hair with a head shake. "How do you feel?" Jess paused thinking and blinked surprised; her body didn't ache in the slightest. "I feel...like nothing ever happened. He healed me."

 
"Who, m'lady," Talia  asked setting out a pair of pants and a loose tunic. "No one dear. I'm not even sure...if it was just a dream now." Bathing and eating some bread and cheese, Jess made the slow stroll down to the Chargers tents. And was smothered immediately into a hug. "Lady J!" She stumbled back with a cough as Dalish threw herself into a bear hug. Someone slapped her in the back of the head and she turned to snap, only to wilt under Stitches glare. "Do something like that again-"


"I know. I'm sorry. I'm looking for Bull and I'm sure he's gonna give it to me worse than any of you can so could we pleeease move on."


 "Oh the Boss is definitely gonna give it to you, alright," Skinner snickered, making her blush and swear. Krem moved them back with a chuckle and motioned to the tower. "Go on up, Lady J. He hasn't come down since-well you should be the one to deal with him anyway. It is your fault after all."


 "Well shit Krem, tell me how you really feel," she grumbled, pushing her way up to the tower. She smiled at the elves who bowed and stopped to answer one who asked if she was well. Finally ascending the tower steps she knocked and entered at his gruff answer. She hummed at the slight mess of his room, bringing her attention to him sitting on his bed, unarmored and watching her. "What do you see?"


She laced her hands and took in the room once more. Everyone and their little tests. "I see a mess." She smirked at his flat expression and walked seductively towards the bed, glancing around with mock concentration. "I see... a built up comfort. I see a man trying to let someone know he is not like his brethren, he is more like them. He loves food, he loves drink," she toed an empty bottle out of her way and touched the axe buried into his foot board, "And that he likes a good fight, and a good fuck. That he likes to indulge, and he wants the visitor to indulge as well."


He blinked slowly and she raised an eyebrow crossing her arms. "No? Am I seeing something different?"


"I want to offer you a position in the Ben Hassrath." Jess parted her lips and said nothing, stunned into silence. He waited patiently and she found her tongue after a breath. "I wouldn't be a good candidate for the Qun."


"The Qun would suit you," he insisted. She gave him a tilted smirk. "No. It wouldn't. I don't submit unless it suits me, not the other way around. And I would be willing to submit only to you. Not your Arishok, your  Ariqun, or your Arigena." She gasped when he grabbed her and slammed her down onto the bed. "That so? Undress." She swallowed hard, noting the sudden tension in his muscles; a small telltale twitch in his bicep, a little in the corner of his eye. And his skin; it wasn't cool, but hot like leather seats in a car in summer.


"Your angry."

 
"Undress." Controlling the shudder, she went to sit up, and he pushed her back down. Jess paused confused before undoing her lacings while lying on her back. His eyes followed her fingers, and she blushed, hot under his unwavering gaze, pulling the shirt over her head. He hummed approvingly and looked at her pants waiting. Licking her lips nervously she undid her belt and undid the lacing freezing when he inhaled with a growl. 


"Your angry," she tried again. He looked at her flatly, pinning her arms by her sides. "I am. Fucking. LIVID." The last word was whispered, the fear and arousal spiking in her. "You just don't seem to understand how to stay out of danger, do you? Even now, you just waltzed in here without thought. Without care," he snarled that and she made a small 'oh' making him pause. What did he see?


Apparently his patience ended and he yanked her pants off, ripping her smalls down with them. "Kneel." The word was growled out, understood more than actually enunciated, and causing the ache to pool deep in her belly. The heat in her face went down to her chest and she shimmied back, kneeling. She dreaded the chiming balls, and was relieved and confused when he moved closer without them.


 Taking her wrists in one hand, he backed her up to the headboard and tied her wrists with far too much deftness to not be concerning. He yanked her up and a startle sound escaped her when her hands did not come back down. Peeking up, she couldn't help but chuckle at the ring she was tied to. 


He hummed and she looked at him just as his hands trailed down her stomach, leaning close to breathe in deeply by her neck. "Are you sure you don't think you can submit, because your doing a fucking fine job of it right now." She moaned, eyes fluttering shut as he nibbled on her throat and collarbone. "Your safe word Kitten," he breathed out with a hard nip, startling a cry out of her. 


"Sovereign," she answered breathless as he  sucked the area he bit. "Very good." Unsure of whether to say anything or not, she cried out surprised when his hand wrapped around the nape of her neck, yanking her head back by her hair. A long low sound escaped her, cutting short when he growled. She bit back a cry as his hand came down hard on her ass, a stinging aftershock feeding her arousal.


 His fingers grazed her, finding her clit and sliding against her so feather light, she twitched uncontrollably. It was madness against the harder nips and sucks he lavished on her neck and chest. "Bull," she warned, freezing when his gaze met hers. The green in his eye was barely visible. "Look at you, noble prim and proper, covered in love bites and tied to my bed. What a sight you make."


 He read right through her, destroying her perfectly built composure. She wanted to swear at him and found her tongue stilled, embarrassed and aroused at being called out. Her body flushed as her wetness began seeping down her leg, covering his hand by the sounds of it. His fingers slipped in while still rolling his thumb over clit, stealing strangled sounds from behind her teeth. "Beautiful, but hm," she raised an eyebrow at his smirk, "something is still missing." She tilted her head curious and then moaned as he stroked her firmer before moving away. 


She watched him lean over to his bed stand, blushing at the bulge in his ridiculous striped pants. He straightened and held up a long black cloth across both palms like an offering. She looked at him confused until he leaned up towards her face and she flinched back terrified. He froze and moved back only slightly waiting. 
Jess swallowed and looked from the scarf to his face  repeatedly, trying and failing miserably to keep her lips from trembling. It's a fucking cloth.  Several breaths passed before he moved towards her again.  Oh, he's waiting...She tasted the word on her tongue and shook her head, barely a motion but he caught it by the slight smirk he flashed. He held it parallel to her face, blocking her sight of him and she gritted her teeth as it covered her eyes seconds later. Blindfolded made everything worse...or better. She wasn't sure yet. But she would not say it.  


His hands pressed hard into her hips, squeezing her ass and kneading the flesh, leaving a stinging yet pleasurable wave of pain. He stole a sound from her throat again when his mouth latched onto her breast, biting and soothing rhythmically. Panting, she tried to move back as he brought her closer to her edge, gasping when he grabbed her ass again and pulled her to him. Her head dropped onto her right arm, biting her lip trying to hold back her orgasm.


Bull yanked her until there was too much tension on her arms, her legs on either side of his waist, holding her open to him, one hand cradling her, the other destroying her sanity until it hit her and her head went back with a strangled cry, body seizing as he extended her release. 


His hand moved and something, softer? Harder? Oh Oh! oh shit.  He slid against her again and she whined, tensing as he pressed into her. Even as wet as was, the stretch burned, not overwhelming, but still her breath stuttered in her chest. His warm mouth sucked on her exposed throat pulling her hair until she was arched. And she surprised herself when she suddenly relaxed, her whole weight falling into his hand and sinking down a bit, gasping at the fullness. And then he growled, vibrating her whole insides, and she would've been happy to just faint and fall away into bliss. He had other plans.


A hard thrust  made her scream, hands fumbling and grabbing the rope to pull herself up. He held her back down, his waist hitting her thighs with an almost bruising force. His breath graced her cheek, holding back a moan she could feel in his throat. "Let go," he whispered nibbling on her bottom lip.  She sobbed out a whispered 'I am.' He chuckled, sending vibrations into her before claiming her mouth, thrusting into her relentlessly. "Fuck! Fuck," she preferred that not to be her mantra but hell...


His body shifted, arms crushing her to him and stealing breath. He paused and she knew she had given something away; or he noticed something she didn't. He shifted her body,pushing up to keep her in place, then moved again, wrapping a hand delicately over her throat and increasing pressure until she went lax. She whimpered, eyes rolled back even with the blindfold and felt him sink in as far as he would go, hissing when he hit bottomed out.  "Fuck," he groaned rocking into her faster so her screams were forced out in an erratic staccato. He would break her in half.  His pace picked up into a punishing rhythm until he bit down on her shoulder, pulling her down as he spilled out with a muffled roar. 


Her head fell back when he let go, gently moving out and releasing her from the ring, arranging her carefully on her side. She blinked several times when the blindfold was removed, closing her eyes once more when his hand cupped her cheek. "Damn Kitten," he praised softly, touching her swollen bottom lip with a gentle smile. She watched him untie her wrists, rubbing them gently, inspecting for any injuries before getting up and wiping down. Her heartbeat was starting to come down and a chill set it against her too hot skin. What the fuck just happened? 


He watched her closely, filling a new basin for her when he spotted the shift. Leaving the water, he quickly bundled her into his blanket and pulled her into his lap. "I'm so sorry, I don't know why I'm crying," she laughed weakly trying to pull away.


"It's okay Kitten. Sometimes it takes a moment for your body to come down from its release. Sometimes  you come down hard. You did good."


"I'm sorry."


 He rumbled pulling her closer. "Nothing to be sorry about. You were beautiful. I'm proud of you." Her hand snaked around his neck pulling him closer and he tucked her under his chin, continuing to purr at a pitch she seemed to resonate best with. "Your a giant fucking cat," she murmured sleepily, startling a laugh out of him. He felt her smile and shook his head.  This woman was was still a mystery even in her most honest moments. Her arm slid slowly off his shoulder and dropped as she breathed out asleep. 


A soft tut had him growling in a different tone, more threatening. The elf pushed off the wall with a smile. "Easy, my large gray friend. I was merely checking on our lady. And I see she is well off." Our lady, Bull noted, filing that away for later.


"You almost got her killed." His smile faltered and he sighed nodding. "A mistake that will not repeat itself, I assure you."


"It better not." He bowed and was quiet for only a moment before smiling again. "So, have you thought of my offer?"


"I haven't had time elf," he growled.

 


"Yes yes of course," he answered flippantly, watching him with a smirk. "If you like, I can carry her to her room. The dwarf is looking for her as well."
"She can stay here until she wakes up. You can go." He tutted again with a shrug. "So suspicious, you Qunari. Ah well. Until later then." He bowed and walked out, stealing a small longing glance at her in his arms. Bull narrowed his eye feeling her ribs and finding her still asleep, her breath peaceful and even. So he hadn't made eye contact with her, but he had looked at her in almost a oh...Interesting.

Chapter Text

 Jessabelle opened her eyes, sated and sore and light. Except for her arm. She had rolled onto her stomach, arm trapped under her body and now it was numb. She hummed raised up onto said elbow pushing her curls from her face. Turning slightly she frowned at the empty bed. "Looking for something?"


 Rolling onto her back and turning the other way, she smirked at the Iron Bull, sitting in a chair by the window, reading a letter by torchlight. "You think dinner is ready?"His eyebrow raised amused. "I'd imagine the cooks are just getting breakfast prepped." She bolted upright shocked. No way; he had to be joking. He hummed approvingly pausing her from sliding off the bed. "Now you look like a wild cat. Brown skinned covered in lovely rosettes." She looked down almost instantly and gaped at the red and purple marks over her chest and abdomen. Her hands went instantly to cover her neck.


"And this Kitten is your punishment." She looked up, studying his smug expression and covered her face mortified, curling her hands under her chin as her face heated. "Oh Jesus, this is gonna be a walk of shame." His face went blank. "You ashamed of me Kitten?" She stiffened and squeezed her eyes shut angry. 
"That's not what that means!" She stood up furious and then deflated. Was there ever going to be a conversation someone understood her? "What does it mean?"


"Nothing! It means nothing!" She snatched her shirt from the ground and froze at the roar of her name. Not Kitten, not wildcat or Jess.  The way he bit out Jessabelle left her paralyzed, heart rate rising . She looked up slowly at his approach backing up until she sat on the bed. "Kneel." She shuddered and dropped the shirt, rising onto her knees. His hand snaked under her chin and tilted her head back until it was almost painful as he came flush to her. 


A small sound escaped her throat when his fingers squeezed gently, feeling her own pulse now where it pressed against his skin. "What was the first rule of our agreement?" Unable to tear her eyes from his, she watched the pupil slowly overtake the green. "Kitten I asked you a question."


"I don't know?"


"THINK." His hand slid to her nape and squeezed, milking the fear from her body. "I don't remember." He raised his eyebrow and held firmly waiting. She squeezed  her eyes closed and inhaling. Oh. Right. "Honesty." He loosened his grip only slightly, pulling her up until she stood. Jess hummed as his arms went around her waist, his chin resting in the valley of her breasts. She rested her forearms on his shoulders lightly, testing whether he'd allow it or not. When he didn't move she laced her fingers behind his head. 


"What does that mean? Walk of shame?" Jess cringed, biting her lip. "I don't know how to explain it." His eye narrowed and her head dropped immediately. "I'm sorry. Honesty, right. Uh...its a derogatory statement, usually meant for a woman who has slept with someone and looks like shit on her way back home through public. Men don't usually get slut shamed." He narrowed his eye again. "That word mean what I think it means?"


"If you think slut means a loose trashy woman with little to no morals and unseemly behavior then yes." His hands moved to knead her hips. "And you believe I would intentionally 'slut shame' you?" Her stomach plummeted. Opening her mouth to deny it, she snapped it shut in horror and he smiled kindly, continuing his ministration. "Good girl. I really thought you were going to lie to me again."


"You're mad."


"I'm concerned. Why would you think I would do something for my own personal amusement? This in here," he motioned one hand to the room, "is about you." There was a very uncomfortable moment where she realized she had jumped the gun. He nodded even though she tried to hide the expression. "Do you trust me, Kitten?" And there it was. Her lashes fluttered to her cheeks. "To an extent. There is..."


He hummed and answered, "A tetherpoint." A sarcastic laugh escaped her. "I should stop being surprised at your insight. Yes, there is a defining moment when I-I can't say Bull. I-"


"Shhh, its okay. Can you at least trust I have your best interest in mind?" Jess nodded without hesitation. "Then you need to get dressed and calmly walk outside. Take a health potion only when you're in your room. Understand?" She dropped her head and nodded. "Okay. Hey Bull?" He hummed and she grabbed his horns, yanking his head back and kissing him deeply, relishing in the startled twitch of his muscles. Biting his lip softly she smirked moving back. "Thanks hun. See you later."

 

Jess walked briskly down the battlements towards her tower, jumping spooked when Zevran dropped down beside her. He looked at her curiously but thankfully said nothing, keeping a straight face at the shocked looks the soldiers gave them as she passed.  "What are they saying," she whispered, once they were out of earshot. "Nobles have been gossiping, believing you have been killed by the elf. They are wondering if the rumors were ever true now, seeing your...appearance." She flushed trying to stare through the soldier walking his route in front of them. "And that they wish it was them."


Jessabelle barked out a laugh, head held a little higher. Goddamn you Bull. He slowed and she followed his gaze trying to spot what he saw in the darkness. "I will catch up to you cara mia. The way to your room is clear." She hummed and he crouched, disappearing from sight. Resuming her pace and trusting in his judgement, she slowed at the sounds of whispering but continued, not wanting to dance with death so soon again.


Once in her room, she opened the nightstand and took out some elfroot leaves to make tea, filling a pot with some prophets laurel for an added restorative. Why Adan ended up parting with a whole sachet still kept her up at night. She sipped until the soreness in her dissipated, moving her shirt to see the marks and all evidence were gone. She frowned noting then that her skin was fragrant; citrus and spicy. A blush warmed her at the thought of Bull washing her while asleep. 


A hard frantic knock had her running to the door panicked. Trevi looked back the way he came suspiciously, holding a bundle. "Mistress they took them!" Grabbing his arm, she yanked him in and held his shoulders. "Are you okay?" He nodded quickly. "Good. Now tell me how I can help." He shook his head tossing the bundle on the bed and she quickly held up a dress, immediately ripping her shirt up and changing. Elves heard much, so if he brought her such a beautiful dress just recently finished, he knew she needed it and she wasn't going to question it. "Talk to me Tev. What's happened?" 


"Oh, someone's coming!" She watched him duck behind her bath screen after tying the bow over her waist, jumping at the police knock on her door. "Lady Snow? Are you here? Please, open up." Slipping on the slippers Trevi brought, she ooh'd at how soft and supple the leather was, padding over to the door and whipping it open as the soldier saluted. "My Lady, apologies, but your requested in the throne room immediately. Your elves are being held for treason." He paused and whispered, "falsely." 


Jess pursed her lips and nodded. "Thank you for that," she whispered back, pushing her way past him and running down the tower to the great hall. "Announce me," she breathed halfway up, hearing the guard do so.  There was a hushed silence that made her stall at the sight of the inner circle turning to watch her enter, all looking very uncomfortable while Solas was strangely blank. Strolling over she paused at the sight of her elves, eight including Talia kneeling in shackles. Controlling her face as she took in their disheveled muddy clothes, Jess stopped to the left of the throne, studying the ones apparently on trial. 


"My Lord, I must say I don't approve in your choice of decoration. There had best be a good reason why eight elves are in chains," she pressed her lips tight when Talia lifted her head, revealing a bloody lip, "and beaten at that." Lycus, looking like a foreign dignitary in his deep blue  and silver coronation attire, looked over slowly at Josie who stepped up quickly, eyeing her with a quick apologetic glance. "The guards found these elves behind the stables, planning a coup." 


"That so," Jess answered with mock surprise. "Any plans? Papers? Letters? Anything at all to support this?" When no one handed her anything, she looked at Lycus bowing low with her hands out to her sides. "My Lord, if I may have permission to speak?" 


"Permission granted." She stayed in her bent position and replied, "I would like the men who found them to come forward and tell what they saw so there is no confusion to what this case really is." There was silence about a breath long before he answered, "Granted." She moved to the side of his throne and laced her fingers over her stomach and waited. Three men came forward and bowed. "We found them scribbling in the dirt. Others were holdin' up sheets trying to block the light of their candle, but they got away while these bunch erased the evidence." 


Jess felt her lip twitch into a minuscule snarl and looked to Josie. "Have they spoken at all since they were captured?"


"No my Lady. They have been kept...silent and separated." She closed her eyes, feeling her teeth grind. Gagged. Her elves were gagged. "Your absolutely positive," she asked looking at the guards. Yes, my Lady." Jess stared at her people, taking in their hunched trembling shoulders and then knelt in front of Lycus, touching the throne near his hand. Waiting until the gasps in the room died down before speaking, she let her voice carry. "A test my Lord. On my honor and position as your Aide, I ask that one paper be handed to every elf, one at a time. Here before you where the others cannot see, they are to write what they were doing and hand it to Lady Montilyet. It should be different for each one if they have not spoken to each other and indeed are guilty of a crime."

 
His hand lifted her chin, his face blank but eyes pleading. Out loud he spoke cold and almost menacingly, "Do I not matter to you? Does the Inquisition not warrant your cares that you throw yourself so easily?" By her ear where her hair concealed and hid them from view, he caressed her jaw  "It is for you that I must do this. These are mine, and if they have wronged you or the Inquisition, then  I have wronged you and that cannot stand. Please my Lord," she begged. She caught him swallow hard and let her go. "Stand with your back to them, to my right. Ambassador, a paper and quill." Jess rose and obeyed staring at the stained glass as Josie moved out of her line of sight behind her. Breathe. Count to ten. Breathe. It was an eternity before Josie moved back, looking at the papers. The shock on her face was clear. 


Jessabelle pushed her position as Aide, holding out her hand and was surprised when the Ambassador handed them over without delay. Without looking at them, she passed them to Lycus, watching his expression cycle from confused to angry. He flipped through them twice before finally he looked at her with something akin to disbelief; then went blank once more and held them out to her. "Please read these. Out loud if you will." 


She took the first one and held it up. "Learning to read." She let if fall to her feet and lifted the next one. "Learning to read and write." She looked around the hall before letting it join the other. She hummed and read, "Learning." She looked at the next one and smirked. "A. B. C. D. You get the idea. Next, learning. Next Studying. Next, learning to write. Next," she paused and looked down at her handmaid feeling a lump in her throat, "Next, teaching the elves who want to learn Common." She threw the rest of the papers, finally losing her composure. 
"You have assaulted innocent civilians of Skyhold. You assaulted those under my employ. You hurt my elves and I demand recompense."


"They were very suspicious, meeting in secret my lady," one guard started and she threw her hand up silencing him. "Skyhold is entitled to their services while they are under their respective foreman, and nothing more! What they do in their free time is none of your business, so if my handmaid wants to spend her nights teaching and they want to lose sleep to learn without affecting their wages, its entirely up to them!"
She stood taller and repeated stronger, "I demand recompense."


"And what would please you, Lady Snow," Josie asked quill poised and ready. She knew what they expected and had they only been apprehended, she would've asked for monetary compensation. This lack of respect demanded something more. "Eight lashes to each. One stripe for every elf." The gasps sucked the air out of the room. "Lady Snow-"


"EIGHT. LASHES. EACH." She saw the disapproval in some faces and  rose her voice, startling herself in the echo of the great hall. "My Lord, one last test if you'll permit?" She looked over her shoulder and waited for his nod before lifting a paper from the floor and handing it to him. She looked at the door to the great hall and pointed to the guards stationed. "You  there, one to the left; go to your your partner and whisper a color into his ear." She motioned for Josie's quill as he walked to obey, and waited until he was back at his post to hand the quill to Lycus. With her back to him she laced her fingers and spoke loudly. "My Lord if you'll humor me. Did you hear the color spoken?" The silence was deafening in the great hall. 


"Yes." 


"Would your Lordship please write the word on the paper. When its dry, fold it and hand it to Lady Montilyet please. Tell me when you are through." Jess made a show of fixing her cuffs and fluffing her hair. "Done." She looked down and pointed to an elf. "You there," he jolted back and it took everything in her to not wince. "Did you hear the word?" 

"I-I did my Lady Snow." She softened her voice, unable to see him cower so. "Could you please say loudly the color."


"Olive." She looked to Lycus. "That is correct. I heard olive as well." She looked to Josie and raised a hand, "Please unfold the paper and read the word, then show it to the room." She looked intrigued as she opened it and smirked holding it up. "Olive."


"My esteemed Lords and Ladies, does no one else find this peculiar," Jess responded with added passion and disbelief. "Find what exactly," Leliana asked innocently. Wrapping her fingers against her chin, She walked with a pensive gaze in a small circle. "How is it that three fully armored soldiers were able to sneak up on more than eight elves when they could have heard them coming from across the yard! Might as well have been wearing pots and pans! Either they are terrible at planning coups or," she stopped on front of the soldiers and her playful tone disappeared, "Or they did not think they were going to be attacked and continued studying until the moment they were under your fists. 


 Had they been human and meeting behind the barn, would they still have been beaten? Or would someone have pulled out a bottle and inquired to their late night meeting. Did you even bother to ask what was going on before you attacked?" Her lips pursed with a small hum at the suddenly uncomfortable looks around the room, the ones she could see without masks anyway. She raised an eyebrow at Fenris and the twins where they stood in the the shadows by Varric's table. She hoped he understood this was his partially his fault; she didn't delude herself into thinking this was not an act of retaliation. With a sigh she gazed up at the ceiling walking again in a small circle.

"You thought you found little lambs in hiding and instead have been met with a lion in lambswool clothing. So," she paused for added effect inspecting her fingernails, "Eight. Lashes. Each. Consider them my claws if you will." She turned and looked at Lycus, bowing slightly. "But I will defer to your righteous hand if I ask too much." And she would have; she made her statement. Fuck with me or mine and I'll flay you.


Lycus stood lazily. "As you wish. You are the wounded party in this unfortunate affair. That is how humans settle these matters, yes?" He threw a cocky smirk out to the crowd. Oh my God, thank you Vivienne. Josie came out of her stupor to scribble with a hurried, "As you say, your Worship. There are no other cases to be heard at this time." He nodded flicking his mantle back so it billowed as he walked to Josie's office.


Cullen came from the opposite side, hand on his pommel. Oh my god, test me today. "As a Lady, would you prefer if I administered the punishment?" Her lips parted in surprise.  "This is your ruling I understand, but I wanted to offer as your hands may not be trained for this type of ordeal." His eyes trailed to Talia coming to her side and Jess immediately knew that look. I'm such an idiot. "It might not be becoming of the Commander to discipline his people against-"


"Don't say it Lady Jess." That was unexpected. "I told you that if any of my men gave you trouble, to report it to me immediately. That extends to Ta-to your employees as well. The Inquisitor is an elf and this behavior cannot be tolerated if we are to succeed." Jess inclined her head. "Just so, Commander. But I must be present. I cannot make demands and then avoid the outcomes. That is the cowards way." His eyebrow twitched as he held in his smile at the blatant jab she was making to the nobles who did just that.


"Of course my Lady. You are as disciplined as you are kind. Tomorrow at dawn." 


"Today at noon. There is no need to prolong this and I want justice." She had expected him to give her a reason as to why  they needed to wait, and was therefore shocked when he bowed and motioned for the men to be taken away. "Commander, could you ensure these people get to the clinic safely?" She guided Talia to follow him with a gentle squeeze of her shoulder.


"Well this is an unseen sight in Orlais. Perhaps you do not fit in among us after all." She looked up briefly at the Marquise de Alyons and hummed. "It is surprising you fit into anything at all Marquise. Be happy the doors to Skyhold are wide and inviting as Ferelden doors are more square than round. You should see yourself to one just to be sure." Turning with a curt bow Jessabelle caught a brief look at the others and paled at the hard stare Solas was giving her before heading to follow Lycus.

"Lady Jess I apologize. This whole thing was terrible." Shaking her head at her wits end, she whispered to Josie, "Please don't. I don't-just ensure no elves are present at the lashings; I pushed my hand with this and I don't want to risk more animosity. Prepare whatever letters that must be sent to keep our status, but whatever backlash that happens, let it fall on me. Keep Lycus' name as clear as possible. Is there anything-"


Jess Enough." Leliana pressed her lips together and sighed. "I'm sorry this happened. Of anyone, I should've expected it. I didn't even know until Zevran warned me the soldiers were," she paused and Jessabelle blinked slowly, feeling her anger returning. "The soldiers were what Nightingale? If any of my people were raped-"


"I did not let it get to that, Amore. Confusion grenades scattered them easily." Zevran removed his hood stepping away from the wall. "Why didn't you tell me what was happening?"


"Because I didn't know for sure. And because I put your life at risk once in a supposed safe situation. I will not do it again." Jess softened and nodded. "Would they have, if you didn't intervene?" He crossed his arms studying her as she did the same. "Would you punish men on the basis of what may have happened and not was has?" She chuckled and lowered her gaze with a shake no. "Then it is best not to dwell on it."

His hand grazed her cheek and she felt her anger leech away a little more. "Come, mia leonessa, let us rest for a moment. Your life has been action packed since you came back to the living, no?" She elbowed him lightly and let him lead her away. She would apologize to Josie, maybe even write a letter to a noble to appease her, but right now, she just wanted silence and an assassin's company before her next shit show.

Chapter Text

Her hand froze over the door, unable to push it open and face the nobles still in the great hall. These bastards would suck her dry, she thought bitterly listening the murmurs on the other side of the wood. Zevran touched her back and led her towards the vaults instead. Halfway down the stairs he spun and pinned her to the wall. She didn't even get to question ‘what’ before his mouth crashed into hers, tongue demanding entrance. She moaned and pulled him closer by his collar while he moved one hand to her hair, the other to her hip grinding against her.

He pulled back and she inhaled breathless, eyes still closed and smiled when his forehead pressed against hers. "I have not seen a woman dominate a room like that in a long time, it does something to me." A small giggle escaped her throat as she threw her arms her his shoulders, blushing when he looked surprised. "What?" He blinked twice before whispering, "That was so adorable ."

"You little shit," she laughed sliding a finger over his left ear. She froze the same moment he stiffened, eyes large. Her mouth went dry as she tried to fumble for something to say. "I'm sorry," she finally blurted out, "That was very presumptuous of me." She pulled away and continued down the stairs, heart in her throat. Stupid idiot. His hand grabbed her wrist and halted her from crossing the vault. " Amore, I did not mean to offend you with my silence."

Jess looked over her shoulder in disbelief. He looked unsure of himself; it was such a strange thing to see him so serious. "Your not mad?" His brows flicked up in surprise. "No," he said elongating the word. He paused narrowing his golden eyes. "You...are familiar with our ears, yes?" She suddenly felt out of her element.

"Uh...I know that its very rude to touch an elf's ears unless your family or intimate." He smirked slowly. "Did the Inquisitor tell you that?" There was a moment of silence where she tried to remember how the conversation went, and finally giving up she nodded. He lifted her holding her up from her thighs and pressing her against a pillar. "It has quite an effect on an elf cara mia . Definitely not something you do to a stranger, unless of course, that is your intention." She inhaled with a small sound at the bulge against her core. "Is that a knife in your pocket or are you just happy to see me," she teased, unable to bring her voice above a breathy whisper. His eyes dilated and he let out a slow shaky breath. His gaze wandered over her throat down to her cleavage.

"You have no idea how jealous I was to see those lovely marks on your skin." Her face heated even more, her ears burning under her hair. He hummed and trailed up up to meet her no doubt wide eyed stare. "So envious of him," he paused with a lascivious smirk, "so envious of you." Her brow furrowed before shooting up to her hairline. His smile waned. "Does this offend you?"

"No! No I mean that's that's-you are and he's- all adults here." She snapped her jaw shut and looked off to the side to keep from stuttering. Very smooth Jess, very smooth. He laughed and pressed her more into the marble, nibbling her neck. "Never fear mi amore , your crown has not been taken."

"I wouldn't give it up that easily either," she retorted getting her nerve back. "Oh ho! Well then," his mouth found hers and ground against her again. In unison they froze when the door upstairs opened. Before she could speak, he had her down on her feet and was dragging her to the opposite stair case, throwing open the door. She went stone still when everyone in the kitchen stopped and stared at them.

Jess opened her mouth to apologize and swallowed her tongue when they bowed in unison. "Mistress, have you come for your breakfast?" She watched someone sprint to grab a bowl while another ran and untopped a large stock pot. She moved to stop them and Zev squeezed her arm, letting go immediately after. She smiled softly instead and took the offered bowl of porridge. "Fruit my Lady?" She let him put a handful of plump berries and someone else sprinkled sugar in. A hand slipped something into her palm between the bowl with a wink. "Dark chocolate," she whispered deviously, smiling at Jess's pleased expression.

"Eat quickly, Lady Snow so you can be dressed in time," Zev offered and the servants parted and ushered them through the kitchen and out to the other door. She stood there for a moment stunned at their sweetness and looked at him, taking in his impressed smirk. "Oh hush you," she mumbled with a bite.





She was thankful for the root he had given her to suck on, her stomach boiling and her eyes threatening to well up. She had decreed this. The whip snapped in the air again and she inhaled at the red river that opened on the man's back crossing another. She was grateful she had laced her hands against her stomach to keep them from shaking. She bit the root as the soldier cried out once more. But she would not look away.

She watched in masked indifference as he was untied and led away and the next soldier was brought up. Goddamn me and my arrogance , she cursed as Cullen looked at her for the signal to begin. She gave a single curt nod and he returned it before looking back. She swallowed at the scream, letting the bitter taste distract her for a moment. She stole a glance up and saw movements in all the windows facing the platform, watching. Lowering her gaze she straightened her shoulders with every exhale to keep from being obvious. She decided this. She needed to see it through.

When the last man was untied and Cullen was coiling the whip, Josephine approached, slightly pale herself. "Are you pleased Lady Snow."

"This was not about my pleasure Lady Montilyet, this was about justice. And in that, I am satisfied."

"Of course, I meant no disrespect." Jess bowed her head as well. "And none was perceived. This matter is concluded." She strolled on shaking legs down the steps, head high and shoulders back as she crossed the yard and made her way to her tower. Talia threw open the door and she ran in, vomiting bile into the washbasin with a sob. "Oh m'lady," she soothed, taking the ewer and wetting a cloth.

Big hands pulled her hair from her face. "You did good Kitten," he murmured. She coughed out a bitter laugh, hands gripping the stand. "Did I," she sobbed regretfully. "Hey, you did good," he reiterated pulling her hair up. Talia returned to her side dabbing her neck and cheeks. Jess felt a small stab of shame, turning her eyes to her basin and then away as the bile and root turned her stomach again. "I'm sorry love, that was unworthy of me ," she whispered. "Don't be m'lady. We know you aren't cruel to have seen that often."

"Ever. Not in front of me like that." Talia paused and wrapped her arms around her shoulders. "Thank you," she whispered into her hair and Jess sniffled and patted her arms. "I'm going to work. and I'm going to bury myself in cloth until this damn ball is over and done with."

"Nope. You're resting," she was lifted and tossed onto the bed with little warning. She sat up to argue and moved back from the steaming cup he held out. "Rest first. You could go into a spiral if you try to bury this Kitten." PTSD. He was right. With a resigned sigh, she downed the contents pleased with the cooling minty sweetness, and let him arrange her on her side, snuggling into his form when he laid and pulled her closer under his arm.



Days blurred as she worked. Lycus left with Cassandra, Dorian, Blackwall, and Solas to the Emerald Graves, promising to be back for fittings well in time for any alterations. It was decided that everyone would go to Orlais; even if they all didn't go to the Winter Palace, there was still lesser nobles to pull to their cause in Val Royeaux. And in Sera's case, piss off; which Jess was secretly excited about. The rooms were already booked and she needed to be done before everyone broke off to their respective mission.

Trevi held out a belt, pulling her from the flowered pattern she was embroidering into a hem of a surcoat for Cass. She paused and took the large embossed leather, looking at the beautiful spiraling design etched into the belly. It would span from almost her ribs to the rise of her hipbone. She gasped at the small tremor that emanated from it. "Do you not like it mistress," he asked worried, hands extended to take it back. "No, its gorgeous. I just, this design," she ran a finger over the grooves, "Does it mean something to you?" He tilted his head and she lifted her dress, showing the anklet he had given her, the same design etched along the midline .

He smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "I didn't realize. I should go back to my sketches." She laughed and looked back at the belt. Tilting her head, she glanced over at the leather set he was making her, a mannequin kept separate so the smell of his oils wouldn't mix into her fabrics , and noticed a similar if not same design. She hummed at him with an arched brow and smirk . Trevi hung his head and knelt by her chair. "So the truth then," he started scratching his nose.

Jess folded her hands in her lap, giving him her full attention. "So the design has been in my family for generations, my mum said it warded off evil and keeps one safe. I was" he scratched his nose again and swallowed hard and her hand flew out to hold the one he rested on his knee . He's trying not to cry. "I was wearing a pendant with it etched in the stone; a simple thing really, when bandits came through. I survived. No one else did."

She rubbed her thumb over the back of his hand, waiting to see if he would say more and was rewarded for her patience. "For years I cursed the design. I threw the pendant into a well and everything. Never felt like I was worth the protection it gave when so many people-" he scratched his nose with his free hand again and shrugged. "If there's someone worth bringing it back for, I'd say its you."

Smoothing his hair back, she kissed the hand she held, ignoring the sound of protest he made. "I'm so sorry that happened, and I thank you for the thought. I'll wear the set proudly." He ducked his head smiling and slowly pulled his hand free. "It had better work for you," he said rather serious standing and she smiled again. "Its smart that you put it on an armor set then." Trevi grinned at that and went back to his work station and so did she. Damn her and her insistence of flowers all around the bottom.

Zevran came in from the side door and yanked his cloak over his head. "Leliana has intercepted the response to your letter. She is on her way here." She abruptly stood up and began pacing. "Do you kn o w what it said?" He shrugged and replied, "Whatever it was sent her into a fury. Funny thing though, is that our Ambassador is in a fit too."

"Oh shit." He gave her a sympathetic tight lipped smile and shake of his head, disappearing. Nilene stood up ears twitching. "Oh dear, her steps are angry." Lennox looked nervously between the door and her. Jess nodded and motioned with a hand wave to go, watching them run off. Gunter moved away from the gambeson he was quilting for Blackwall and followed them with a quick bow to her. Talia gave her a quick glance and then went back to the vine she was embroidering. "You can go."

"I don't want to." The door swung open with a slam and Leliana held out a letter angrily. "What is the meaning of this!" Jessabelle looked at her extended hand innocently. "It looks like a letter Leli."

"Don't play coy with me Jess. Why is the King of Ferelden offering you an audience, at your convenience no less." She put her fabric down and took the letter, running a finger over the broken crest of Ferelden. She opened it and blinked surprised. "Yes, you can see why I was surprised; its not often a king hand writes a letter." She opened it wider and walked towards the open door for some light.

Esteemed Lady Jessabelle Snow of Seere, Aide to the Inquisition

I'm glad to hear your alright. Maker knows the rumors that come out of that place. Not that I have ill thoughts about the Inquisition mind you! The Inquisitor is doing good work and Ferelden is all the better for it. As are you if there is truth to some of the rumors. Which those I do believe. Andraste's knickers, this was a bad idea, moving on!

After looking into your request, I am pleased to say that such a thing would be possible as there have been no claims beyond what I hold as King. My Advisors however are asking for a show of good will-yes yes I know the inquisition is responsible for the closed rifts and restoring Redcliffe but the man is relentless in his insistence, especially as this is a personal request from you. I hope you understand and hold no ill will against me. Please come by Denerim at your earliest convenience so we can work out the details. Ferelden and I look forward to our continued friendship with the Inquisition.

Maker that sounds pretentious, doesn't it?

Your Ally

King Alistair Therin of Ferelden

Jess made a soft snort smiling, the man was still as awkward as ever, only a king now. "Well?" She startled at the sound of Leli's impatient voice. "I'm making contingency plans Leli, you should know this by now. The request is for a form of aid in my endeavor with the elves. I figured Orlais will be set for blood against me, but Ferelden? I deal better will people who say what they mean."

"What contingency," Leli asked softer, her bard training coming back. Jess leaned her hip against the table and rapped her knuckles against the woods pensive before looking back at her. "What happens when Corypheus is defeated, and I'm still here? The Inquisition can not last forever; just as it disbanded and became something else once the war was over long ago, we'll have that choice to face too. If the worst comes to pass, and I am not yet home, I want to make sure there is a place I can settle. With any one, human or elf whom I've helped train and wishes to continue working for me . Maybe start a little merchant city. I was inquiring about different lands where I wouldn't be stepping on anyone's toes." Lelian seemd to soften at that, looking towards Tali who hadn't looked up from her stitches, brow furrowed in concentration.

Jessabelle paused and crossed her arms. "This is twice you've questioned my loyalty to the Inquisition Leli. I won't stick around after the third. I am no Marjolie." She flinched back visibly and Jess turned picking up her fabric, not wanting to see the emotion that followed that shock. "Of course Lady Jess. Good day." Well that was a shit thing to say, nice job Jess.

Josie ran in and nearly slammed into Leli as she left. "Oh good your here too ; the Empress Celene has sent us an invitation to the ball!" Even Talia looked up shocked at that and Jess went back to her pacing, wringing her fingers. "Why now? Why now? Has Gaspard cornered her? No, she could run laps around him in the Game. And she must know we wouldn't back out from his invitation, it'd look callous and incompetent. Unless she expects us to waggle our tongues because she's empress, but that’s not her style. "

Josie nodded agreeing taking the cup of tea Tali offered while still holding her clipboard. Jess politely refused a cup to keep her hands free, but moved some sketches and schematics so they could sit at the table near the fireplace. "Do you think she is concerned the Inquisitor will rally against her," Leli offered, the matter with Alistair thrown out of mind after this news. Jess paused in her musings with a hum. "Its possible. If she knows I'm partial to elves, and if she knows I'd rather personally see her hanged for crimes against humanity, she may be concerned I'll sway Lycus for Gaspard. But she's playing her hand awfully late. Unless..."

She snapped her fingers and hit her fist to her open palm. "Of course," she hissed, seeing the blocks fall into place. Poor poor Celene . "What is it," Josie asked quill trembling with excitement. This woman loved the Grand Game too much. "Celene must've just lost Briala. Which means Briala knows Lady Mantillon ordered her parents killed and promoted Celene when she had done the deed . So, she lost her eyes and ears and just realized how much she relied on her . They truly did love each other as much as an Empress could love an elf. But she still murdered and burned thousand’ s of her lover's people. Briala is loving and kind, but that is something even she couldn't overlook.

Because of her mistakes I know not to work in shadows. But more important, that means she has the passcode to the eluvians. Which means if we win her, Solas loses the- "You're remembering something," Leli pointed out studying her face. "I am. I'm trying to see how we can use this, but Lycus has not told me who he supports yet."

"Who do you support?"

"Lycus," Jess answered matter of fact. "Orlais has fucked herself in a corner. All we need is to stop the impending demon army. As long as someone sits on the throne it doesn’t matter whose ass it is . Do I have a preference; of course I do. I know all three players motives and desires. And I can empathize with each and every one of their philosophies. But its not my decision. Once Lycus tells me who he supports I'll tell him their thoughts on the matter."

"Can you tell us," Josie asked hopefully. "We won't use it to pressure Lycus in any way. He is clever when it comes to the Game himself from what the ruling revealed...Several nobles have changed their tune since." She smiled at that, recalling the way he sat so calmly and comfortable in his immaculate attire, hair plaited and tossed neatly over one shoulder. And the way his smile and voice carried, like he was made to sit on that throne. "He did look pretty damn good, didn't he," she joked fondly.

With a sigh, she laced her hands on the table and began. "Celene I would support only because for the last twenty years she had built up education and the arts. These things are important to a country's future stability. Her support of the University of Orlais and trying to coerce them into letting in elves is noteworthy. But again, she was goaded into acting when Briala was not at her side. A mistake that cost not only the elves but most of her army and the chevaliers of Halamshiral as well. Jader and Verchiel have the most soldiers that could be called a military force but if anyone tried to attack now, Orlais would be decimated.

I dont think I have to tell you why I would support Briala. But she has worked in the shadow too long. She had missed her opportunity to rally her people,much like how the Dalish have squandered the resources and power they could've recieved had they only been more supportive to the city elves. She's naive as I've said, but she's learning now that she is no longer concerned with her lover's approval. She sees much and that insight has kept Celene in power but whoever she supports will flourish.

Gaspard has military training and believe it or not, he is a man of his word, one I would stake my life on, if he said he would defend it to the death. The Cheveliers Code is not a badge of honor for him, it is his heartbeat. He respects those who have that same integrity and in the Game that is a rare thing, so I don't despise him for his dislike of it. He simply chooses the play his rules, and I can empathize with that. I know he would honor his vow if we chose to support him under agreeable terms. But his dislike for elves and his viewpoint that they should continue to wallow in fear is why I will not outright support him. However, he owes Briala his life, and I would extort that to fullest were it my decision."

Leli gasped and poured herself another cup of tea, wiggling her chair closer. "Do tell," she asked eyes wide and gleaming. "Another time perhaps. For now we need to plan who we can be seen with outside the ball to have impact. There's no way we can accept Celene's invitation. She has seen the chessboard too late. And call Lycus back. It's time we focus all our attention on winning Halamshiral and her nobles." She paused and added to please Leli's pout, "And I will tell of Gapsard unspoken debt then. In fact, lets go to the war room."





Circling the stand with a critical eye, Jess looked up at the others frowning. "Something's missing but I cant see what." Cassandra looked down with an exasperated sigh. "I do not see what you are seeing, this looks fine to me." Lycus from his spot on the chaise smirked. "I agree, she looks quite good." Jess chuckled at her blush and circled her once more. "Is it the color," Dorian asked following behind her to see from her view. "I hope not or we'll have to start over," she groused, studying the blue on blue flower design with white lace peeking out at the cuffs.

"She needs an accessory on her head," Leliana offered from her seat by Josie drinking tea. Jess hummed and walked over to a covered table, glancing at Nilene. "Are they ready?" The black haired elf cringed nervously. "Some, my lady. I'm waiting on the faux petals." Jess smiled and whipped the covering back, letting out a small pleased sound. Masks of similar design but unique details lined the table, one still clearly not finished. Jess selected two and walked over holding them up beside Cass's face.

"No...none of these are right. These cheekbones won’t allow a mask. " Nilene rushed behind the wall into the closet and came back with several of her own coronets. "Ah, yes this might work," Jess pulled out the green leaf laurels from the silver and placed one on Cass's head, smiling. "Yes." Dorian hummed and nodded, "Maybe her hair can be braided around it?"

"Agreed. Are you pleased Lady Pentaghast?" Cass looked at her reflection and nodded. "I am Lady Jess. May we please move on now?" She sighed and motioned for her to move from the pedestal. "Nilene, please help her out and put the suit away. Okay. Who's left?"

Solas and Sera," Lycus supplied lazily, downing another cup of wine. "But he insists on dressing like a servant and she...well, Sera's Sera." Everyone sighed at that. "Cullen still hasn't come up," Josie added, looking over her board. The man in question stiffened. "He's been fitted already. I think everyone just needs to pick their masks," Jess murmured to herself picking at her lip. Going into the closet she studied the blue, gray, and green dresses and suits. Each one had its own special embroidery along the bottom hem, but they all had the same vines along the collar to tie them to Lycus. His black suit shimmered with the silver button and cuffs, the fur mantle held by crossing belts Game of Thrones style. And wasn’t that convenient in this situation.

"Don't I get a mask?" She gave him a backwards glance and smirk. "And cover your vallislin? Perish the thought! But don't worry, neither do I. I'll be painting my mask on." Josie ooh'd at that and scribbled on her board. "If possible, I'd like to see it beforehand."

"If we're all set on clothing, I'd like you to explain our next step. This plan," Cullen held out a board confused, "Can you explain it better?" Jess laid on the chaise, throwing her legs over Lycus. "Starting now, we need to send a reasonable amount of soldiers to the western approach without raising too much suspicion. So, a battalion to the Oasis, a battalion to the Hissing Waste. A battalion if we can to Serrault. And any other place we can put a presence without drawing too much attention."

"Yes but for what purpose," he insisted. She closed her eyes and threw her arm over her eyes thinking. "Can you safely say," Lycus whispered even though everyone would've heard. "I can. I'd rather not but I can. So,” she wiggled her nose thinking, “there's going to be a battle and the sooner we can get our men in position, the more Wardens we'll be able to save. Just get them there and we'll move as soon as the ball is over. Zev, any news?"

"Not yet Amore, but any day now." She nodded under her arm thinking. If Surana contacted them within the next week, they could make it to Crestwood, she could swing by Denerim and be on the way to Ghislain's estate where they'll be staying in time for the ball. Then as soon as they leave, they could siege Adamant Fortress, beat Erimond into a bloody bloody pulp, hopefully smack some sense into Clarel and no one has to die...She laughed humorlessly to herself for that.

Chapter Text

The letter came two days later and they rode for Crestwood the moment Lycus had finished reading. Against his wishes, Jess convinced Blackwall to stay behind, knowing full well there would be Wardens looking for Stroud. The wind and rain burned her cheeks at the hard pace they set there, Dawnstar’s coat steaming under her hand.

Reaching the camp was easy enough. The walk to the cave however had her huffing and red faced, her knees aching from every misstep that had her crashing to the rain soaked ground. “You okay Lamb,” Lycus called back after she smashed her fingers into a rock trying to catch herself and swore vehemently at the sky. “I'm fine keep moving.” Giving Zev and Bull a tight lipped smile, she pushed ahead and nearly wept with joy when they finally reached the cave.

“Maybe you should wait out here,” Lycus suggested removing his staff from his back. “And risk getting impaled by undead? Not a chance. Our allies are in there, along with no rain.” She stormed forward and threw her hood back once inside the dry cave. Zevran looked around narrow eyed and pointed. “I hear voices over there.”

They walked cautiously towards the back of the cave and breathed a sigh of relief when Fenris peeked around a corner and motioned them over. Jess had worried he and Hawke would hold ill feelings; all of them leaving after the sentencing of the men, but his face was rather open, no glower in sight. “Serah Jess,” he greeted in a tone that maybe, if she thought about it really hard, sounded friendly.

She held up her hands up however when Stroud reached for his sword and felt the brush of Lycus’ magic behind her. “I wouldn’t do that Warden. We’re here to help,” she warned looking around. He stole a glance to the Hawke sisters and relaxed when one of them nodded. “They’re with us, especially that one,” Marian said flippantly with a wave of her hand. “You’ve news then,” her sister asked as Jess looked at Zev for answers.

“Looking for someone?” Everyone jumped, Bull moving in front of her far too quickly for his size. “Easy! Easy. Neria cariña, must you always do that” Zev scolded, and Jess felt a bit humbled at his affectionate tone. Easy idiot. She saved his life, of course she's his favorite. The woman pulled her hood back with a smirk, blue eyes against a shock of red hair staring back at them. Small signs of the taint could be seen in the bluish tint of the veins near her temple.

“Warden Commander Surana!” Stroud looked at them nervously and Jess raised her hand again. “Peace Stroud, we asked her here to help the Order. Warden Commander Clarel of Orlais has been lacking in her observational skills. I hoped the Ferelden counterpart was more amenable to common sense.”

“I am, Clarel is a twit, she always has been but your Stroud? Well met; I’m glad to see someone kept their sense as well. So, where then is your supposed Warden? You know impersonating the Grey is a crime yes,” Surana asked venomously. Jessabelle could’ve sworn the floor had shifted underneath her. How she managed to look honestly affronted and confused was a testament of her self control. “Ma’am?”

“You know, the Warden who is not a warden walking with you?”

“Pardon,” Lycus asked looking between the two. “Will this person save us from Corypheus? Does he have the cure to the taint? No? Then let us focus, unless of course Warden Commander you cannot help us at all. Then by all means continue your pointless jabber.”

“Marian,” Leanna scolded but her sister crossed her arms and stared at Surana waiting. “Of course. Protecting the legacy of the Order comes first. Zevran tells me you have a plan.” Zevran. Jess swallowed the bile that built up with a head nod, immediately regretting it when a wave of vertigo washed over her. “I do, but I imagine Zev must’ve told you the gist of it. Right now you all must move to the Western Approach and then lay low. The Inquisition needs to deal with this ridiculousness of choosing a ruler for Orlais, and then we shall meet to storm Adamant Fortress and free the Wardens from the blood magic they’re trapped under.”

“You want us to wait once we get there,” Surana reiterated in mild disgust. “By all means rush in by yourself Warden Commander, death awaits you in particular sooner rather than later. But if you value your fellow wardens lives more than your own, you’ll wait. Some of our men are already moving siege equipment under the guise of research if you wish to join them. But I suggest laying low so the enemy doesn’t catch wind of our plan.”

Surana nodded once and pulled her hood back up. “I’ll begin travel for the Western Approach. When your men are in position, I’ll find you. Walk with me Zevran.”

“As you say Warden Commander.” She bowed and looked to Stroud and the others. “The same goes for you guys. I’d prefer you not to be there at all, but I know that might be a stretch. We leave for Orlais once we’re through here, so stay in touch.” Lycus moved to give them the places where they could send news and Jess pulled her hood up shoving passed Zev, feeling around for her riding gloves.

“Lady Jess, a moment,” Zev called after her hurriedly. “I have to reach Denerim before tonight if I wish to meet up with everyone on the Kings Highway.” Iron Bull matched her stride, speaking calmly. “I can carry you. We’ll save time if your not tripping over everything.” She laughed bitterly and nodded. “Your right, but I have my pride and I’d like to keep as much of it intact.” Little late for that. Pulling her hood up once they were outside, Zev tried once again to grab her hand. “Jess please-” She yanked away and grabbed his arm instead dragging him away. “One sec, bull.”

“Take your time Kitten,” He waved leaning against the wall but watching.

She walked a few more feet away and leaned in close. “You promised me Zev,” she hissed, feeling her tears finally falling to mingle with the rain. “She is a friend cara mia, I couldn’t lie to her. Wardens have always accepted criminals into their fold it-”

“That’s not the fucking point!” She shook her head and jabbed her finger into his chest. “You promised me. On your honor.” His eyes squeezed shut with a nod. “Amore-”

“No, don’t call me that.” She walked away and then rushed back nearly touching his nose with hers. “Fix this Zevran Araini. I don’t fucking care how, but you fix this, on your fucking honor if there’s anything left. And if anything happens to him because I trusted you,” shaking her head she pushed him away storming down the path.

She felt large steps beside her and swallowed hard. “Can we make it to Denerim on time?”

“If we leave before dawn.” She hummed picking up her pace. “You wanna talk about it?”

“Nope.”

“Okay. I suggest we cross the plains and rush to the capital.” Her lip quivered as she nodded. “Yeah, sounds good. Dawnstar will be happy to run free. You used to your Anderfel Courser yet? What’s her name, Asaara?”

“Terrible pronunciation but yea. She’s a smart horse.” Jess hummed and cursed twisting her ankle on the wet rocks, thankful he left well enough alone. Well not well at all really. They were on their mounts and leaving when Lycus and the others arrived. She looked at Zev and nodded once, which he returned and then spurred Dawnstar free. This was on her, she couldn't hold it against him but damn if she wasn't going to try.

She rode hard until the sun rose and stripped out of her leather cloak changing into a lighter dress with the leather set Trevi made her over it. “That looks enchanted,” Bull mused eyeing the design. “Could be, I always feel lighter wearing it. Lets keep moving.” Clipping on a velvet green cloak, she remounted her beast and they rode to Denerim, slowing to a walk as they approached the main gates. “State your business,” a guard barked. She pulled the hood off her head and shook out her hair.

“Lady Jessabelle Snow and her Champion The Iron Bull seek audience with King Alistair. Go on now, I’ll wait.” She ignored the sudden leer and raised an eyebrow until he moved aside and motioned her in. One ran ahead while the other ushered them to the stable. She was just dismounting when a pudgy man came running up holding a clipboard. “Lady Snow, forgive our tardiness, we didn’t know you’d be coming today. Senechal Rossin, at your service.”

“Well met Senechal Rossin. Compared to tardiness in Orlais, you could’ve been said to have met me at the entrance to this city!” He laughed at that, and Jess smiled demurely with a bow.

“If you’ll follow me, the King will see you.” She hummed pleased and followed him into the castle, thrown a bit off when he didn’t lead her to the throne room, but to a library. The Senechal bowed and closed the door behind her and Bull with another rushed apology. She gave him a quick glance and walked the wall nearest to her not touching anything. They waited maybe only five minutes before Alistair came bustling in, the pudgy man on his tail.

“Lady Snow, what a surprise. Er, I mean honor.”

“King Alistair, forgive me for showing unannounced.” He smiled and waved her off politely. “I told you to. Rossin why don’t you show The Iron Bull around the castle.” Jess smirked and raised an eyebrow, giving Bull a quick over the shoulder look at the man’s bluster. “By your leave, my Lady,” he asked smugly watching her and she winked and nodded.

She waited until the door had closed before looking at him. “This is highly irregular King Alistair.” He walked to the table and leaned against it crossing his arms. “And yet you allowed it.”

“Well I couldn’t just outright say no to a king in his own castle now can I? But I do hope your not going to be untoward since you know I’ve come to do business.” He stiffened at that. “I would never my lady.” Jess inhaled and shook her head, hands raised in surrender.

“I know Alistair, and I apologize for insinuating you ever would take advantage of a woman. I wouldn’t have let The Iron Bull leave had I believed you capable of that.”

He softened and motioned for her to sit across from him. She did and watched him unravel a map and several scrolls. “So, Caer Bronach is deserted and no one has laid claim to it in over a century. Crestwood itself won’t be able to dispute if you decide to buy the keep. Do you...plan on buying the keep?” She glanced up from the map and shrugged. “If that’s what you feel will win your people over. I’m aware how the bannorn works. I’m also not a noble nor Ferelden so I may have to adhere to your rules.”

“From what I hear, you prefer Ferelden over Orlais.” She laughed snorting, “I prefer anything over Orlais at this point but I need to get there soon regardless. I would move to the city states of the Marches, but they don’t have Mabari so that’s a no.” He brightened at that. She looked back at the map and tapped Crestwood. “Is there any other place I can look into?”

“Caer Bronach would be best, as no one wants to deal with the troubles there. If you are sure the Inquisition will clean up the area, the freemen will support you.” She nodded wiggling her nose thinking.

“Would I have your support, if I needed it?” Jess paused and laced her fingers. I forget he’s been king a decade now. “If the Inquisition is disbanded then yes. Otherwise I would need to speak with the Inquisitor. But so long as your not promoting war, I don’t see why we wouldn’t. You planning on war Alistair?”

“Maker no! I just want to be sure I have an ally in you.”

Jessabelle folded her hands under her chin thinking. “Your banns, Teryns, and Arls don’t swear oaths to you. But if Lycus goes through with allowing me use of the keep, I will sign an oath to not go against you so long as you don’t instigate acts of aggression towards me or mine either.” He leaned back nodding. “That would definitely win the Bannorn over.” The door opened and Bull walked in with Rossin. “Perfect timing,” she smiled and stood bowing to Alistair. “Again I appreciate the talk. When we finish, I’ll send a letter so you can address your people at one time. Ready Bull?”

“When you are.” Rossin looked quite put out, but she simply smiled sweetly and folded her hands waiting for him to lead them out.

Once out of the castle she blinked surprised at how much time had passed. “We can make it. If we ride straight through,” Bull offered reading her. Mounting and riding hard until just after sunset, they met up with the group just off the Kings Highway near the way just before it turned int the Imperial Highway. The relief of seeing everyone made her legs shake.

“Lamb!” She smiled weakly and toppled off Dawnstar into his arms. “Fenedhis! Someone strip that horse!” Jess tried to get her feet under her and failed miserably. Sleep. She would sleep and then she’d debrief him. Of course everyone had other ideas and a bowl of dried fruits was placed in her hands. “No; later,” she protested trying to put it down, but he took some and pushed it past her lips.

Jess swallowed three bites and then fussed until he led her into his tent to sleep. A strangled cry of annoyance escaped her when he tried to lift her back up to undress and he gave up settling in behind her.

Opening her eyes to the fade, she set a place at her favorite on the water bar and grille and waited. Lycus opened the country door and sat down at her table solemn. “Ya need ta eat in the waking world Lamb.”

“We need to talk about my meeting. I’ll eat breakfast.” His eyelids fluttered while inhaling, clearly keeping his composure. He wrapped a hand around her wrist and pinched gently, showing her where his fingers overlapped. “You’ve lost weight. Too much now.” She paled and repeated, “I’ll eat. Breakfast. Now the keep.” He nodded giving in and she briefed him on her meeting with Alistair. Lycus ate the french fries quietly, asking for clarification every now and then until he was satisfied.

“Lamb, what she mean about our supposed warden?” Jess dipped her fry in ketchup buying time. “I have a feeling I know what she means, but she could be wrong.” She’s not, but she could be.

"I don' believe you." Jess looked up and stared him straight in the eye. “Well aren't we all liars then," she answered bitterly. She waved off his suddenly worried look and added, "We’ll find out soon enough if we survive Halamshiral. You done?” He nodded and she waved her hand, changing the setting to a plush comfy couch and laid across his lap, staring at the woodland view out of the massive windows. “So,” she asked neutrally hearing his grunt before asking, “Any progress with Dorian?” She smirked at the way his hand froze from rubbing her back.

“Yer a lil shit when ya want ta be.” She barked out a laugh and nodded. “He’s uh...ahem. He’s pretty interestin’.”

“Interesting? That man is a gem. I would give my left tit for him to show some interest in me!”

“What’s wrong with your right one?”

“I sleep on my right side, keeps me from rolling over.” She smiled at his rich laugh and snuggled more. “Wake me before dawn. I need to bathe.”

“Yeh ya do.”

“Ass.”

 

 

 

She wanted to say she was happy to see Vivienne, she really did. But the first words out of her mouth were, “Darling, just because you are traveling with men doesn’t mean you have to smell like one.” And that set the mood for her. “Hello Lady Vivienne.” Talia dismounted beside her and ran to help the others unload the wardrobe chests. She had made it clear she didn’t want anyone not from Skyhold touching their things where they could steal Jess’ designs and works. There was no reason to argue that logic. “Have mercy, and show me to the quarters I’ll be staying in,” she asked rubbing her lower back.

“You know, any lady of standing would’ve taken a carriage.”

“Yes, and had I not needed to move fast to meet with King Alistair I may have, but no carriage can beat Dawnstar at full gallop.” She ignored the surprise in her face and moved to follow an elf who was beckoning them in.

“Let me wash this stench off Madame de Fer, and then we’ll talk.” Jess tried to keep from raising an eyebrow at the beauty of the halls. Rich gold against sky blue walls and arched windows let the late afternoon sun filter in and reflect. “Your room m’lady. Your companions will be on either side of this hall, and my name’s Ellina if you need anything.” Jess tried to nod, staring at the bed that could probably fit Bull, her and three other companions and the rich gold of everything. “Is there a bath?”

“Oh, yes. The door through there. It should be set already.”

She paused again at the wasroom door. Of course there would be a copper french tub. But the walk in pool in the corner lined with mosaic was a bit much. So were the two rows of oils, bubbles, soap, whatever the fuck else someone could use in water, along the edge. Screw it, she’d judge after she had her fill. She stripped dropping her clothes at the door and stepped into the steaming water, wincing at the heat. Unbraiding her hair and slipping under, she left only her nose out and hummed in reverence. Hot baths, coffee, and cats were all she needed to keep her happy for life.

Wrapping a large towel sheet around herself, she froze at the curtain drawn around the bed. Was this normal in Orlais? Dipping down to her clothes, she pulled out the skinning dagger, Trevi had fixed into a notch in her armor and slowly approached, one hand holding the sheet around her. Reaching over slowly, she yanked the cord hard and raised her arm ready to slash. At nothing.

A hand grabbed her arm and yanked her head back by her jaw, a shriek locked behind her teeth. “What’s your safeword Kitten,” was breathed by her ear and she nearly dropped in shaking relief. “Goddamn you Bull,” she hissed when his hand relaxed and rested against her collarbone. A hard nip at her ear made her gasp, closing her eyes. “Kitten,” he warned lower, “I asked you a question.”

“Sovereign,” she breathed as hard nips trailed down the side of her neck. “Good girl. Undress.”

Jess opened her eyes with a smirk and let go of the sheet, letting it pool at her feet. He hummed and pushed her hard towards the bed. “Kneel.” She moaned softly rising to her knees; damn him and the way he said that word. She inhaled when his hand pressed against her back, keeping her from turning to him. “You’ve been barking orders and snapping like a rabid dog since Crestwood.” His hand wrapped around her neck and pushed her into the mattress. “So now I don't want to hear a sound out of you, understand?”

“Yes.” A hard slap against her ass had her gasping and burying her face into the sheet gripping it tight. She squeezed her eyes shut as his hand soothed the sting before striking the other cheek just as hard, if not harder. Her stomach tightened as she gritted her jaw and let out a shuddering breath. “Good girl,” he crooned behind her.

Her eyes opened and focused on the candelabra anticipating the next strike. It came suddenly, arching her back and stealing breath. Her bottom lip found its way between her teeth at the next one.When he pressed his erection against her and she stilled at how wet he had gotten her so quickly. “My my Kitten. What would you have done if I hadn’t showed. Somehow I don’t think you deserve release just yet.”

She tried to lift her head and nearly lost her balance when he pulled her up to him. His hand trailed her cheek, her throat, and squeezed her breast, kneading the flesh. “I’ll be back tonight.” She opened her mouth to protest and froze at the raised eyebrow. “You object?” Fuck yes I object! But she shook her head and he smiled tilting her head back to kiss her deeply. “Good girl,” he whispered on her lips, nipping gently. “They’re waiting for you for dinner. You shouldn’t keep them waiting.” Jess nodded and watched him leave before letting out a shuddering breath. Holy hell, how was she supposed to sit through dinner like this!

Chapter Text

Dinner had consisted of some boar or tusket or whatever it was and lots of greens, and while she didn’t dare try the meat, Jess had gorged herself on salad and cold creamy soup. Her body was now protesting all the movement. She had hoped this meant she could go back to her room and ahem, finish her conversation with Bull. Everyone else had other ideas, and for once she didn't mind being interrupted.

“Head a little higher,” Dorian coaxed stepping her into the spin again. She had little trouble learning the dances of Thedas, much to everyone’s delight and Jess wasn’t going to admit that she absolutely adored dancing, how much more now with everyone. Cassandra was surprisingly, or unsurprisingly a really good partner, leading her through a Neverran foxtrot with gentle corrections. Dorian was now showing her an Imperial waltz, which was essentially a tango, and she was having way too much fun. “Your form is a little too stiff,” he offered again and she tried to drop her shoulders more. “Good! Now step, step, step, head turn, no other other way, yes, step step, dip low and freeze! Now up up slowly, oh my. Pray you don’t dance with an unmarried marquise if your going to give that look dear.”

“I think we can safely say she knows what’s she’s doin’, can we focus on me please” Lycus grumbled, rubbing his foot where it was smashed when he mistepped with Cass. “He’s right,” Jess panted lightly, “And I’m exhausted. Can I please go lay down now.”

“We haven’t gone over dining etiquette,” Vivienne reprimanded and Jess threw her hands up annoyed. “Its a ball, not a banquet! And I wouldn’t respond to an invitation of one anyway, much less am I going to eat in place that has assassins and people who would poison you for the fun of it! I’m going to bed.” She wiped her sweat on her sleeve on purpose just to get a rise out of Viv and stormed down the hall back to her room.

She paused in the hallway and looked at the doors that ran both sides, realizing there was no way she would actually be able to pick her room on her own. Right...so either she opened every room or she went back and asked for help. And to hell with that. Jess walked another few steps and opened a door slightly, closing it when she didn’t recognize anything. She checked one more and smirked at her rumpled bed and clothes. Ha, she didn’t need help.

She stared at the bed and undoing her braid, she jumped when his shadow overlaid hers. “Bull,” she scolded putting a hand to her chest. “Kitten, we gotta talk.” Oh lovely, words everyone wanted to hear.  With a resigned sigh she opened her arms wide. “So let’s talk.” He sat and pulled her in between his legs, finger combing her hair. “We got word from our group in Val Royeaux. We leave for Halamshiral in a day; Lycus, Cassandra, Dorian, you and me. Varric, Sera, Blackwall, Cole, Solas and Vivienne to other parts-”

“You’re repeating what I already know. What’s your point hon?” He inhaled and squeezed her shoulders gently.

“The elves here have been punished in a strange way.” Jess swallowed and hummed, focusing on his hands, trying to prepare herself. “And that is how?”

“The nobles have bound their ears inside metal helmets seeing as their hearing is so good...as demonstrated in Skyhold.” She hummed again swallowing the lump in her throat. “So what I’m hearing you say is that the elves of Orlais have been subjected to a form of torture and ridicule because I pointed out their inherent gift.” He was quiet, kneading her traps. It was eerie the way he understood when to speak and when to let her simmer.

Jess tried to piece together how to go about this and came up with a fairly easy solution. “Well, they just made our inquiries easier. Whoever didn’t do this will be our allies going forward. And if Celene has allowed it in the palace,” With a mirthless laugh she stood and stretched. “Thank you for telling me. I’ll fix this Bull, but at least I won’t be thrown off at the sight. Send in Talia, please if you see her. And tell Lycus we need a Fade meeting.” Bull curled his lip at that. “That’s weird shit, Kitten.” She shrugged uncaring. “Not enough time in the day, might as well make use of night.”

 

 

 

 

Jessabelle waited patiently for Lycus to find his tongue, smirking at the shocked looked on Bull’s face as well. She hummed approvingly circling him, taking in his attire. She had left his clothing to Gunter and Trevi, the two of them tag teaming so that Bull had an ornate loose quilted jerkin that stopped at his thighs and a sleeveless red surcoat embroidered with blue perfectly even Qunari triangles along the hem. One leaf danced at the peak of every triangle and it was as long as a duster. A large layered belt held the surcoat and jerkin even and in place. She paused when his hand lifted her chin, studying her face. “That’s fucking hot.” She smiled at that. Nilene had designed her face paint and Talia had spent most of the morning making sure everything was done as she had explained.

Her coronet was lined with large flowers and buds of golden yellow and vines, and then delicate flower petals, golden leaves, and gems were painstakingly glued into place. She then had painted in a polka dot lace design in between after shadowing her skin. Head on it looked like real lace. Would it have been easier to just wear the lace tied to her, hell yes, but Nilene had looked so pleased and in truth, if she was going to be stuck in Orlais she might as well be scandalous. The fact that Vivienne was silent was an added plus. If that woman wasn’t sure what to make of it, neither would anyone else.

As difficult as it was to make, her dress was silks layers in gold, green and silver, with flattened stamped silver circles sewed in the edge to hold it down in places where she didn’t want movement, mostly in the back. Her chest was emblazoned with flowers and gold accents, the back dipping down low to reveal most of her skin because fuck it at this point. Her favorite piece were the supple halla leather pants that Trevi made, tanning them into the perfect shade of her skin so when she spun it looked like she wore nothing until the silver stamped embellishments caught the light. Shame shame to any noble who gawked.

Josie’s dress was similar with more poof because she looked absolutely stunning in her regular dress, so added layers would only accentuate her; though hers was a high necked design with billowing sleeves. Nor did she have the scandalous pants, it was a bit too much for her. Her mask was a snow white owl.

Leliana’s dress was a black and red kaftan style lined with scale mail inside it, again thanks to Gunter and Trevi. Her neck line and sleeves were stone embroidered beautifully thanks to Nilene and her patient hand. She could probably hide a dozen knives in her sleeves alone; and her pants and shoes were supple soft ram leather for unrestricted movement. A black wolf mask pulled it together. She wondered what Solas would’ve thought of that.

“Lycus, your thoughts ma’falon?” with an inhale, he wiped down his face visibly exhausted with this already. “I’ve a feelin’ someone’s gettin’ punched tonight.”

“Yes, because that’s always the diplomatic approach,” she scoffed.

“If you’re quite through, the trip is going to have you arriving just in time to mingle, so go. I’ve a salon to attend with the Duke de Freyin, as he’s the best supporter among the nobles not invited. Waste of my time really but as you say Inquisitor.” Jess bowed deeply and followed them out to the carriage Vi had so graciously lent them, trying to ignore her bitterness. She would trade places with Vi if it meant she didn’t have to deal with the consequences afterward.

 

 

 

Halamshiral was glorious. She hated that it was built on blood and bones and stolen promises. Pasting on her Miss America smile, she took Lycus’ gloved hand stepping out of the carriage looking up at the stairs. She made sure not to make eye contact, taking in their reactions as Bull dismounted from the other side. “You’re positive Lycus,” she asked, making sure what they spoke of in the fade was still happening. He looked around with a bored sigh and hummed. Well alright then; game time. Channeling her inner most Cruella Deville, she held her fur coat and walked up the stairs, staying two steps behind and to the right of Lycus.

Gaspard de Chalons was not what she was expecting. For starters his mask wasn’t the idiotic pointy nosed one, but a gorgeous disco ball glassed half mask. She smirked at the cleverness of it; seeing one’s own reflection threw off the urge to be an ass. Maybe it even made someone amenable. He was far more adept at the Game than he seemed...or wanted people to see. “Grand Duke Gaspard, an honor to answer your invitation,” Lycus remarked looking around before locking eyes with him. Or his mask. Jess noticed that he was a few inches taller than the duke as he spoke, watching his mannerisms, trying to find his tells. The man in question turned his attention to her and bowed, “And this must be Lady Jessabelle Snow, your seer.”

“Aide Grand Duke, though I hail from Seere. I can see where the confusion arises.” She held out her hand and he took it, eyeing the rings before kissing her skin. She gasped at the heat of his lips and he paused before smirking. “Wipe that look off your face Grand Duke, rarely has anyone ever actually placed their lips to my skin,” she scolded softly so only the three of them would hear wearing a coy smirk. Now the board was set. She caught the slight flick of Lycus ear and applauded his ability to still look amused; he had been adamant not to use her as bait and yet she made it happen before even entering the halls.

“Come, let us deal with this night,” he exhaled holding out his arm. Jess slid from Gaspard to his side without hesitation. Josephine looked up and bowed as they entered, looking as beautiful as Jess had hoped she would. Leliana smiled behind her black filigree wolf mask. “Inquisitor, Lady Snow. I see you’ve met our patron.” She nodded and undid the brooch that held her fur cape. “I expected it to be colder in here,” she lamented quietly, though loud enough with Gaspard standing so close he heard. “Allow me, Lady Snow,” he offered sliding it from her shoulders. Leliana didn’t do anything but her eyes told her she had done well, that the Duke had stared at her exposed tattoos.

She waited behind the others, swallowing her nerves. She scoffed at Cassandra’s impatience and gave Lycus a smirk. With an exhale, hand in front of her stomach she strode forward when the herald began announcing her. Descending the stairs she bowed deeply to Celene and kept her eyes on her even as her chin dipped. Looking back at Josie’s side as Lycus approached the empress, she made a note of any masks this tilted up or away in disgust. Shit, quite a few, but several more looked on with excitement. Leli made a small hum, and Jess mimicked the sound. “Lady Alphonse de Brienne and her sister; you met them at Lady Vivienne’s salon," Josie supplied quietly. Ah, those two. Good we have at least one ally here.

When all the tedious introductions were done, several people started to make their way over to them. “I got the duchess,” she whispered to Lycus and strode passed everyone straight for her. The woman was clearly used to being unseen as her attention immediately locked on her with a bard’s smile of smiles. “Duchess Florianne de Chalons. I hear you are the one to thank for this opportunity for peace, yes,” she asked bowing before her. “You flatter me, anyone would do the same for the future of Orlais."

“True, yet it was you who did so. Your love for your country makes you all the more radiant. Forgive me, Lady Jessabelle Snow, Aide to the Inquisitor.”

“Your beauty and reputation precede you Lady Snow.” Jess smiled at that loaded statement. “Only after you Duchess Florianne.” Returning to stand near Lycus but not interrupting his conversation, she looked around as if bored and unfocused. She had to plan everything perfectly to buy him enough time to do what he had to do.

And it went seamlessly. As soon as he bowed to the noble he spoke to, they had turned to her like hyenas to a meal. You are Lady Lionheart, and you are not afraid of mere men.  There wan an endless supply of requests for dances, and she smiled like Miss Universe and chatted away like she had lived eating bon bons and champagne. Milk duds and sparkling water was more like, but not this night. Speaking of drinks, she caught sight of the first elf half way through through the night and paused before continuing her conversation, waving away the drink offered. Clearly no one expected that response as there was a small lull in the conversation and she quickly filled the space with talk of ending this war and stopping Corypheus.

“And who do you support?”

“Oh Lady Mantillon,” a woman tittered to the completely masked woman that approached and Jess kept her lead by answering, “The one who can end this. And we shall see soon enough.” Somehow Jess had a feeling it was this woman who had decided the punishment for the elves. Celene was still as cowed by this woman now as she was at sixteen. Jess couldn’t express her luck when Duchess Florianne asked her to dance, keeping her from having to interact with the same woman who had sent an assassin after her in the Oasis.

“I heard your answer, it is not wise to temp Lady Mantillon, Lady Snow. What have you heard about our civil war?” Florianne whispered and Jess had to hide her smile by dipping her low, turning her head to keep from going into the woman’s bosom. “Were that I could discern why my heart beats aflame my Lady. Is it this dance? Is it your concern? But I understand the dangers of a woman who loves her country so. One would be foolish to think even a weakened emperor could escape her gaze if it was for the good of Orlais. The battle of lions was enough as is without another joining the turmoil.”

“So you have heard,” Florianne queried as Jess spun away and back. “Hearing does not make it true, only perceived, Duchess.”

“Well said. Though you are a curiosity to many.”

“Indeed? I wonder as what I am to you?” Jeez this felt like the dance from Anna Karinina with all the extra movements. She and the Duchess seemed to be switching from lead to guided and she was thankful when the music stopped, her heart pounding.

She bowed at the claps and then froze. Of course they would play the tango next. Dorian moved with ease and swept her in an arch. “Make a show, he’s been gone long now,” he whispered into her hair, hand trailing down her arm. “Then I’m going to incite a switch, don’t be mad my love,” she whispered back, letting him lead her through the steps. “There, man to your left, I’m going to steal you back third stanza.” He spun her hard and she moved away with swift steps stopping in front of a man and arching a brow, waiting.

He walked her backwards onto the floor as Dorian circled and felt her cheeks flame. Holy hell, this was quite fun! “Your Imperial waltz is magnificent my lord,” she breathed when they froze for the pause. "Such beauty eclipses the flowers of autumn Lady Snow," he wheezed and she had to bit her tongue to keep from laughing. She gave him points for being clever, her dress and color choices were indeed meant to mimic autumn. He danced beautifully if not a bit modestly but when he spun her, Dorian took her hand and continued the spin before finishing with the waltz. “Brilliant,” he whispered, kissing her hand and walking away as the man approached. She spotted Lycus strolling to Leliana from the corner of her eye, nodding to whatever bullshit the man was spouting. Something about apple orchards? She hummed and nodded and added a few words here and there where he allowed breath for it.

It took her two tries to dismiss herself and walked to Bull by the food. “What did he say,” she breathed taking a cup and sipping, trying not to grimace. “Almost there. We got the duke’s blackmail.” She hummed and winked, “Save me a dance?” He blinked back stunned and she looked away with a wince. “Another time perhaps,” she quickly amended and changed the topic to business. “I need to speak with Briala before she makes a mistake. Tell Lycus to wait if you can get to him before me.” Jess walked away with a straight face knowing someone had heard and would tell the eleven Ambassador. Ignoring the curious gazes she walked around the ballroom, 'admiring' the architecture before retiring to a balcony and leaned over the edge, placing her cup on the rail. The bell rang was that the third one?  and she turned resting a hip on the ledge, watching everyone enter.

She heard a rustle in the bushes beside her but continued to stare into the ballroom. “Those hats are a cruel joke. Do they hurt their ears?” There was a brief silence. “They do.”

“Cruelty simply for the sake,” Jess spat taking another gulp. “We don’t have much time. You wanted to talk?” Jess hummed and inhaled heavily. “I can have Lycus support you with simply a word. I don’t want your spy network. I have my own, you can’t win my favour with that offer.”

“Then what is it you seek?” Jess closed her eyes, now or never; “That you never tell anyone the key phrase for the eluvian. Ever. Felassan died to protect you and it from falling into the wrong hands. Do not give it up to very person who killed him.” The gasp was very telling of the affection she had for her mentor.

“Who did it?”

Jess leaned close to the bush and whispered in a breath, “Fen’harel ensalan. Never tell anyone and consider me an ally for the elves of Orlais. I will know if you forfeit this term.” She tossed the cup over the edge and walked back inside. “Lady Snow. Then its true, your a seer?”

“Anyone can see if they open their eyes Ambassador. The problem is when to open them.”

She felt her patience slowly ebbing away as she exchanged subtle barbs with the nobles, the night progressing as pleasantly as a root canal. Most were about her elf fascination which she danced around easily by exclaiming the skills her elves had in her clothing and since they had complimented her attire already, they couldn’t back out now. All was well until an idiot spoke up.

“They say your workers have the added pleasure of your company in other matters.” The gasps were just as ridiculous as the insinuation and Jess threw her head back and laughed deeply. “Oh Marquise darling, I didn’t know you enjoyed theatre as a jester in your free time. How wonderfully delightful! But I will let you in on a little secret about me.” She winked and leaned in closely and everyone moved with her, practically salivating for whatever she was going to say.

“I never share a space with someone I don’t consider my equal; if its their job to please me then what’s the fun in that? If its not a mutual basis there is no point I say. Play to win, and let the reward be all the sweeter for it. You don't do business with those you've nothing to gain, and business as we know is pleasure. ”

“Is it so common for a woman of your standing to share space?” She smiled and touched a finger to her chin, “Are you a chevalier by chance? A trick rider maybe? Because you seem to jump on the horse before its saddled dear Marquise. One should be cautious as not fall off and break one’s own neck.” There was a joint of titters and gasps as she fanned him away. She felt his magic but didn’t turn.

“Are you regaling them with tales of your races down Syhold’s icy roads and full gallop?” She scoffed and turned away as if he had given away a secret of hers. “How else do you test the mettle of either man or beast if not when life is at risk.” She hummed and giggled to the tittering of the nobles before he took her away for a dance. “Bloody hell the vultures,” she breathed out as he led them. They had practiced in the fade and with Cass, and it showed in the way he and her moved around the dance floor. “Almost done Lamb. She’s moving into position. Call it.”

Jess spun and looked up as Celene and Florianne began talking on the balcony. “But, your no where near her-” he's changing the plan. She gasped at the sight of the duchess moving forward and pointed, “Inquisitor!” He threw a hand up just as she drove her blade through the empress, flinging her backwards with a force push that cracked her against the pillar. Jessabelle watched the nobles go into a panic as Venatori agents rushed the crowd to get out. “If they kill the dowager, it will be a happy day for me,” she whispered moving closer to him as he cast his magic and protected most of the nobles. "Wish I knew which she was," he bit out flinging a man to the ground while holding a barrier witht he other.

“Majesty behind you!” She spotted it and felt her legs move of her own accord, and much faster than she had ever ran on her own. Briefly in the back of her mind, she thought about the leather anklet she wore and Bull saying it looked enchanted before she shoulder checked a Venatori from behind Gaspard as he punched the one in front of him and took the sword. She moved to roll and tripped over the hem of her dress falling back down. The Venatori was killed with a swift lunge through the chest and she gasped turning away from the sight as he dropped.

She looked up at Gaspard’s back as he stood in front of her, guarding her as Lycus cleared the room and rushed over. “I’m okay. I’m okay,” she answered shaking before he could ask reaching up to let him pull her up. “We will talk of this,” he warned before looking at Gaspard. “Thank you for keeping her safe.”

“Call it a debt repaid Inquisitor. She risked her life for mine. Foolishly.” Jess swallowed breathless and agreed.

“Indeed. Forgive me Grand Duke, I am not trained for combat but I cannot bear the weight of inaction either. The Empress?” Lycus pressed his lips together with one curt head shake. She looked then at Gaspard and pursed her lips. “Then I believe its time to choose a ruler.” He scoffed and looked around. “There is no one else to claim the throne Lady Snow.”

“I wouldn’t be so quick to jump to conclusions Grand Duke. The Council of Heralds have been spoken to, and it seems you have spent a great deal of time threatening them, which they don’t approve of,” Lycus answered hands behind his back and looking around at the nobles who were returning.

“And there is evidence implicating you killed a noble, brought in mercenaries and chevalier to the peace talks.” She walked closer and whispered by his ear, “Not to mention you live because a certain elf in a certain dungeon stopped the killing blow you would have received against a certain noble chevalier. So,” she moved back and tilted her head coyly, “Are you ready to negotiate? Perhaps a meeting on the balcony?”

“You are a dangerous woman,” he mused motioning for them to move to the balcony. Briala was waiting for them and he gave his tirade and then so did she while Jess and Lycus simply waited until their steam ran out.

“Are you done? Really, because there is a body getting cold and a throne getting colder the longer you argue.”

“Lycus, mind your manners ma’falon. What he means to say is even with your arguing we have thought of a plan that benefits everyone and really asks very little of you.” Gaspard scoffed and crossed his arms. “No move in the Game is ever that simple.” She laughed and very carefully removed the coronet of flowers that held her hair up shaking her mane free. “You really don’t know anything about me, do you Gaspard. Here is our proposition-”

“Demands. For both of you,” Lycus corrected and she looked at him with an arched brow he probably couldn't see with her makeup. “Or you can wait ‘til the Council of Heralds decides for you. And you saw how that went for you twenty years ago.” Jess hummed impressed at his tone and delivery.

“Its simple really,” she began again, “Gaspard, you will be Emperor and I will have one favour of you. Only one. It will take several years before I can claim it, if it ever even comes about. You will make Briala Marquise of the Dales and she will help you keep the throne with the same tenacity she had for Celene, for Orlais sake,” she looked at her and added, “And she knows the favour I asked of her, it is a personal request. If you’ll agree we can move on. Lycus you spoke to the Council already yes?”

“I have. And they will support whatever we decide. But if you wish we can go over the list of nobles one more time-”

“No need, I remember Duke Laurent de Ghislain, his father is the head of the Councils, Duchess Yvonne Blanchard warrior and chevalier much like our Duke here, and Duchess Nicole de Val Montaigne, patron of historical arts and can mimic the things Celene did in her rule. Each will help Orlais in there own way but all we need is someone on the throne. So who do you think we should put?”

Briala bowed and nodded. “I accept your terms, even to help Gaspard as Maker knows he will need it more than Celene did.”

“Celene kept her power for over twenty years because of you. Any man of strategy will see the use of you, if they are worth their weight. So Gaspard do you accept your throne or not? We want very little else from Orlais. Let us be done with this so you can rule as I’ve previous engagements I need to meet.”

Gaspard inhaled and was silent thinking. “Marry me Lady Snow. Orlais could use you.” Her jaw dropped and she would’ve cursed herself at her show but she was too tired to care. “Apologies Grand Duke, but marriage is not in my direct future. I care only for my business and my plans, which at this moment do not include ruling Orlais. I do hope you won’t try to kill me in a hunting expedition as you tried with Celene's refusal?”

Lycus shimmered looking at his hands, a single crackle of lightning in his palm. “Not to worry, Lady Jess, Gaspard de Chalons is a man of integrity. Isn’t that right...Emperor?”

“Indeed, though I cannot say I am not disappointed. Au revoir Lady Snow. The best of luck with your endeavors.” She bowed taking this as her leave and wove her way to an unoccupied balcony, silently relishing in the way the nobles parted for her. Leaning her arms on the railing, she stared off unseeing into the sky, vaguely hearing the crowd as they cheered for newly proclaimed ruler. Music began playing and she waited.

One song played and ended and a small prickle of disappointment drew her attention down to her hands, studying the pale nails. Shock? Cold?  Large gray hands covered her own and she smiled closing her eyes. “So you still up for a dance after saving an empire?”

“I think I have just enough energy for one more dance,” she breathed turning around and holding his hand. Closing her eyes, she let him lead her through a slow waltz, surprised at how smoothly he could move. “One crisis completed, an undisclosed amount more to go,” she sighed, feeling her steps falter at that weight. “You still got a few hours before you have to worry about that. Try to enjoy it while you can.” Jessabelle narrowed her eyes and felt her stomach drop. Whether he meant to or not, he just let her know he knew something had gone wrong.

 

 

Chapter Text

The ride in the carriage was a quiet air of contentment. They had did what they set out to do, Florianne had actually survived the strike and Gaspard handed her over for sentencing which gave them leverage and credibility. Lady Mantillon had given her a caprise coin and a ring which she refused to wear until someone could make sure it wasn’t poisoned, but it was noted and Josie had stayed behind to speak with possible dignitaries and supporters.

Back at the estate, Talia had helped her get the face paint off and was waiting with the largest bowl she could find of fresh greens and a sweet vinaigrette that she adored. Riding clothes were set out for the morning along with papers in case she needed to write any correspondence. Jessabelle did not; she bathed, she ate, and she hit that over sized bed harder than a boxer hitting the ground after an uppercut. Breakfast was an amazing crepe and fruit roll, which she again loved and was almost, almost, sad to leave. But being back on Dawnstar and riding into the heat was preferable to spending another hour in a place where a smile could kill you as easily as a dagger. Overall it was going to smoothly, so she knew hell was coming down the highway at some point.

All hell broke loose when everyone pooled into the main tent for a debrief after arriving to the campsite just outside of Adamant. Everyone except Blackwall. “What. The actual fuck.” Jess ripped off her cloak and threw it to the ground, taking the wet cloth Talia handed her and scrubbing her face. “Varric,” she asked, one eye closing as she tried to wipe the sweat and dirt from her brow.

“I was with Solas most of the night, in case the Orlesians decided to stick his head in a vice.”

“Yes, much appreciated Master Tethras.” She narrowed her eyes thinking. Sera already looked super pissed about this so she clearly didn’t know anything. She believed Varric which meant Solas wouldn’t have had anything to do with it either. “Did anyone see him leave the inn? No one?” She bit her lip and tried not to scream. “Is there any way we can reach the keep?"

“Lamb. We need rest,” Lycus offered gently. “Right, so you all rest, and I’ll meet up with the Adamant Fortress front team. Cullen must already be well off in his planning right?” Lycus sighed and looked to Bull, as if expecting him to change her mind. Jessabelle scoffed and crossed her arms, also turning to him. “I’m sorry, is there something you’d like to say?” Her shoulders rose, hands curling into fists; because if anyone knew what was going on, it was probably the Ben-Hassrath.

“Nope. I’ll make sure the supplies are ready.” She saw Lycus practically bend at his waist in exasperation before throwing his hands up. “Ya know, yea. Why don’ ya go ahead and help the Commander then.”

Jess closed her eyes and cracked her neck, her Ben-Hassrath did know, and he just told her. “Lycus where the fuck is Blackwall; or do you expect me to believe you don't know when you’re so calm. Or...is it that you do not give a shit for your team?” Sera’s ears went flat black. “You friggin’ serious or wot!” Lycus sighed and let his head fall back. “Can we please not tonight?” Jess swallowed the lump that choked her. “My horse will be ready at dawn if anyone wants to follow.”

“You gon’ walk away without an answer,” Sera shrieked pulling away from Varric who was trying to pacify her. “He’s the Inquisitor Sera. We pledged our lives to this cause, whatever that may mean.”

“Fuck off yea!” Jess moved aside as she ran past her and out into the desert. She looked at him and shook her head. “Is he still alive?”

Lycus sighed and rubbed a hand over his brow. “The Wardens took him right after Crestwood, Lamb. I don’ have power over Grey Warden conscripts. Not even a king could’ve stopped them.”

“Holy fuck,” she gasped hand to her chest to stop the thudding of her heart. “Holy fuck, holy shit.”

“Your tent Kitten. Let’s go.” She tried to break free of the Iron Bull’s grasp on her arm in vain, instead having to walk at an angle backwards to keep from being dragged. She could hear Varric chewing into Lycus and felt a small surge of affection in between the anger of her screaming mind. Talia zoomed by them, clearing the way with an impatient shooing sound before holding the tent flap up. “Don’t let anyone near here,” he ordered.

“Am I allowed in,” she asked for clarification. “Try not to, but yea.” She nodded and tied the flap closed behind her as he let go of her forearm.

“Kneel.”

“Not now Bull, I-”

“KNEEL.” She dropped weakly to her knees, buckling down to one hip. He dropped into a crouch in front of her and she tried to focus on his pants design as the panic crawled over her face and eyes. “Kitten!” Her head shot up of its own accord. “Breathe.” She watched him take one of her hands and place it on his chest, pressing it firmly. “Breathe. Follow me.” Everything was surreal, like her eyes could see and her brain understood, but her body didn’t register the sensations as her own. “Again.”

She sniffled and swallowed the snot trying to clear her nose enough to obey. “Can you feel my heartbeat?” Her head shook absently. “Try. Tell me when you can.”

Jessabelle sobbed and shook her head trying to drown out his soft encouragement, but every time his hand would squeeze hers and bring her back. “Try. Its okay if you can’t, but try.” Closing her eyes she pushed her hand harder into his chest, noticing the texture under her fingertips. The callouses of his hand on the back of hers. The coolness of his skin. The thudding of his heart.

“I feel it,” she whispered hoarsely. A hand smoothed her hair before gently scrapping something from her skin, probably a fleck of hardened mud. “Can you feel that?” She nodded as he did it again, moving his hand from hers to cup her chin. Jess focused on the slight tug of her skin as the muck was gently removed. “He’s right. There’s nothing he could have done to stop them if they conscripted him.”

“He could’ve told me,” she argued, biting back the sound at his gentle hushes. “The Grand Game needs to be played without distractions. It’s why I didn’t tell you.” Her eyes opened, his face blurry at first from the overwhelming tears. “Fuck you Bull. How could you?” The hand under her chin caressed her throat lovingly. “You would’ve hated yourself if you were distracted and cost Lycus his hand. Blackwall is as faraway now as he was two days ago. Knowing woulda changed nothing.” Her head dropped forward to slam into his chest, a small twinge of pain in the back of her neck as she screamed into his skin angrily. “I could fucking kill him right now.” His chuckle reverberated through her; “I don’t doubt it right now wildcat. But that helps no one, least of all Blackwall. Lets walk the camp and see if he’s around.”

After composing herself, she parted from him, not wanting to use him as a crutch so frequently. She walked, hands laced over her stomach and surveyed the troops. They moved with cut throat proficiency, dodging her as they ran to their designated places. She stopped at the command tent and peered inside, watching Cullen dish out orders. He spotted her, gave a quick nod of acknowledgment and finished his debrief before motioning her in. “Amazing job at the Winter Palace Lady Jess. Gaspard’s training will be a great asset in stopping Corypheus' power from spreading.”

“I didn’t do anything except flirt and distract while Lycus snuck around the place. But I appreciate that you value the power of a woman’s seduction.” He blushed coughing and she laughed throwing herself in the folding chair in front of his desk. “You alright Lady Jess?”

“No, I’m not. Any sight of the Wardens?” He rummaged through a few of the letters on his desk and picked one up reading it. “Not yet. Word is that several have not fallen to the Calling and the Hero of Ferelden has called them to join. But they haven’t made themselves known yet.” She hummed pushing her braid out of the way. “Send word when they do please? Do we have an estimate on when to strike?” He looked uncomfortable before sitting down. “We’ll wait until dusk tomorrow, if they don't arrive, we storm the fortress regardless. Are you sure you want to be part of the surge team?”

Jess looked at him flatly. “Oh so its okay for me to wave my tits and risk being molested but I cant storm a gate after the initial breach?”

“Maker’s breath woman, it was only a question. A lot of my men would risk their lives to keep you safe.”

“They don’t have to Cullen, I’m moving within the Bull’s Chargers defensive circle. I’ll be fine. Plus I have full armor. I’m not running into battle in a dress, and  I’ll be carrying a satchel of potions. Consider me a mobile medical center for your troops.” He shook his head with a smile. “As you say Lady Jess. If that’s all?”

With a sharp exhale, she pushed herself up and bowed. “Thank you Cullen.” Walking back to her tent, she forced a smile to Talia who shifted from foot to foot. “Shall I get you something? Someone?”

“No, I have correspondence to work on. If the Wardens,” she paused thinking, “or any news of Blackwall is...overheard, please let me know at once.” Talia raised a brow and bowed. “At once m’lady.” Jess knew she would ask the other elves; if anyone has mentioned the wardens in passing, she herself would know within the hour. Reading over historical documents and laws, she drew up her plan and speech for the meeting with the bannorn once this was done.

The drums went off an hour before dusk just as Talia ran in. “War! They storm the fortress at dusk! The Wardens are already in position at the main gate!” The swears rolled off her tongue as she stripped her clothing and put on her underarmor. Talia, proficient in learning everything her elves made, slipped each leather piece on with little fuss. “Your losing too much weight, m’lady, Trevi may need to adjust these when we get back.

E tu Brutus?” She looked up confused but continued working, correctly assuming this was another one of Jess' strange phrases. Finally she held out a necklace and a helm that cover her cheeks and forehead from possible shrapnel but left her hair free; it would be too much to try and fit her mane in a full helm.

Exiting the tent, she was immediately tossed a satchel and ran to follow the moving crowd. Her heart nearly stopped at the sight of Blackwall and a Warden dwarf briefing Lycus. “Blackwall!” He turned and caught her mad dive spinning her around. “What’ve I told you about being gentle with old man my lady? And it’s...Thom. Thom Rainier. Blackwall was my mentor.” Jess froze hands on his pauldrons.

“Holy hell...no. Not yet.” He looked at her confused before getting shoulder checked by the dwarf. “Move it Warden-recruit. We’re needed at the front.” Jess looked down and gave a short laugh. “Well I’ll be damned, Oghren!”

“Eh? We uh, met before?” She opened her mouth and was caught off by a horn in the distance. “Later. Let’s move,” he interrupted running off.

“No, wait, wait Thom, you can’t-” He grabbed her hand and kissed it. “Thank you my lady. Its been an honor to join the wardens under Warden Commander Surana herself. I’ll make you proud.” She tried to grab him again and was pulled back by Krem. “Let’s go or your left behind. Shield wall needs to be up.” God fucking dammit! She tried to keep her eyes clear as they ran behind them, trying to remember anything about his armor that might help her know where he was on the field. “Not what you were expecting?” She looked at Krem and forced a smile. Thom was happy, she should be happy; except an innocent man was going to die and there was no one to pay the price.

She stood behind a shield wall surrounded by the Chargers and watched the Ferelden Wardens approach the gate. The only sound was the breath of every soldier praying this battle would be over before it started. Lycus moved through the soldiers and stood a few feet into the expanse of no mans land between the Wardens and the inquisition soldiers with his staff glowing softly as he spun it in a confident gesture, fingers barely gripping the smooth wood.

“Warden Commander Clarel! This is Warden Commander Surana! I beseech you to stop this madness! Our men are worth more than this! We are more than this!” Jess hummed impressed with the lungs on that elf, her voice carried over the field. She didn’t hear what was said from beyond the crenelations, but the response wasn’t pretty. “I swear on Andraste’s pyre Clarel if one Warden is dead in there by your hand, you’ll be begging the Maker to take you!” Jess somehow believed that threat wholeheartedly and by the shifting of the soldiers in front of her, so did they.

A horn sounded from behind them and a small panic moved through the crowd as Lycus spun around and barked for news. “Venatori army ambush behind us! And Red Templars!” He snarled and raised his hands, eyes glowing as the desert sky blackened with storm clouds. “Your time to surrender is over Clarel! Inquisition! Shield wall to the back, Assault troops to the front! Mages! Templars! Engage!” His roar shook the air like thunder as he made a lightning wall behind them to slow the encroaching army and ran ahead. A hand pushed Jess and she took off, gasping as a cool tingling ran over her body moving her faster. Fire exploded over and over until a shattering sound rang out as the rains began; the castle door being breached by an excess of magic spells.

This was not the plan, she lamented pushing through the smoldering hole and pressing into a wall to wait for the Chargers. “Lady Jess!” Spinning under an arm she squeezed back into the shield wall and kept to the side. “We need to get more in! We’ve a better chance talking down the Wardens than we do the Venatori,” Krem ordered.

“Where’s Bull?”

“He went back to help defend those who were supposed to stay behind-duck,” she dropped and moved behind him as he fought, suddenly feeling and seeing everything as if in slow motion. Magic arced over head, hurting her teeth in its unfamiliarity. A war cry made her jump aside as Fiona rushed in swinging her staff like a pole arm. She hadn't realized the army had been bolstered but it made sense; Cullen would spare nothing to assure their victory. “Jess! Move in! Cullen’s men have the ramparts!” Shit, c’mon Trevi, let your sigil keep me safe. She pulled out her shank which was no more than an ice pick really and charged in, dodging under blows and running for the stairs.

Tripping partway at a few uneven steps she ran across the top, freezing at the sight of the Wardens split into two sides; Clarel’s or Surana’s. Spotting an Inquisition soldier in trouble, she ran forward and kicked the Red Templar 300 style off the rampart. “Lady Snow, stay down!”

“Noted,” she yelled tossing him a recovery potion and sliding behind barrels as magic flashed. Her gloves creaked as she gripped the wood, head pressed against it and panting trying to get her breath and keep the panic from freezing her. I’m in the middle of a fucking battle. “Potion!”

She snapped up and ran out assessing the injury and slid to the scout, holding a red potion. “Not me...Lady. Its-I’m done.” Looking down she noticed his hand over his stomach and recoiled at the red staining his fingers. He pushed her back and motioned weakly to a soldier crawling away. Helping him, she watched as the battles raged in slow motion around her. Fuck it. Letting out a scream she pushed and kicked the enemy wherever she could fit herself. A hand grabbed her shoulder and yanked her back and she swung her shank back, hitting a clawed metal gauntlet.

“Fenris!”

“Lycus asked me to get you to the ground! Most of the Wardens have surrendered!” She nodded and kept a hand on his back as he moved them forward and into the heart of the fortress. And then the dragon showed and she swore if she had eaten, her leathers would’ve been soiled in shit. “No, no, no. Hawke where are they?” He pointed away from where it looked like Lycus and the others were, the only reason she could make him out was the incandescent glow of his lightning spells and the feel of his mana saturating the air.

It went like clockwork, the game playing out no matter how hard she tried to make it to where they were. The dragon attacked, chewed Clarel like a doll and the bridge went down, opening the rift. The fighting had dimmed to a distant roar as she stared at the place where her precious friend had been. “He’ll be back, right,” a soldier asked her, pulling her from her thoughts. “Not all of them, but he will. Where’s Stroud? Warden Stroud!” Pushing people aside, she tried to do the only thing she could; check on those who didn’t go into the rift.

Oghren, check. Nathaniel Howe bleeding out beside him, check. Potion tossed. Krem, Dalish, Rocky, Stitches working on Rocky, check check check. Skinner aaaannnnd Grimm, awesome. Dorian thank God, pale and dirty but okay. She ran up the opposite rampart she was on and continued her search. Varric looking ridiculously clean and well kept the cheeky bastard; kiss on his sweaty cheek and check. No Sera in sight but affirmed she’s okay by multiple witnesses, check. Glorious Cassandra with shitty bedside manners telling a soldier to hold still, good and completely expected. Solas healing...and mercy killing God forgive her for being too slow to help them, check. Her heart was in her throat the more people she passed. Who the fuck went with in with Lycus?

“Lady Jess!” She spun around and froze at the destroyed look on Fenris’ face. “God no...” He swallowed hard, his face a mask of fury hiding his terror. “Will they make it? Will she make it!”

“I don’t know! Who else went in with the Inquisitor! Did anyone see?”

“The Hero of Ferelden, the Champion, the Commander, and a strange boy.” She groaned and held her head. “Poor Cole. And Cullen? What the hell is going on?”

The sky crackled and she stumbled forward with a shriek, jumping behind Fenris. “Hold! Be prepared, it could be them!” Or demons. With bated breath she waited, until the rift ripped open like a wound and both Hawke twins fell out into a heap, trying to keep a wound on her arm from tearing more open. Cullen appeared with a roar, sword held and spinning around looking for an enemy, and she realized he was trapped in his mind. “Cullen your safe, it isn’t real!” He swung at her advance and she felt Dorian’s magic flow like syrup over her head and knock him out. She barely spotted Cole and then Lycus in all his glowing radiance dropped out, sealing the rift with a loud pop. She knelt beside the sisters and handed Marian from her tell tale scowl a potion for Lea, turning her attention to the Commander.

“Neria! Neria!,”Jess looked over her shoulder watching a dirty and blood soaked Stroud and Zevran push their way to them. His golden eyes took in everyone in attendance and a resigned inhale filled his lungs as Stroud continued forward. Lycus spun his staff and shook out the energy before shaking his head. “She stayed behind to buy us time. Said it was her duty as a Commander of the Grey.” Zev pressed his lips in a line before smirking. “Sounds like her,” he replied into the morose silence.

“Lady J.” She looked back and froze at the way the Chargers were looking everywhere but at her. Standing slowly she walked over hesitantly. “Lieutenant, what is it?” Krem closed his eyes and moved something from under his arm, holding it out. She stared at the helm blankly before her stomach bottomed out. The brilliant blue plume was stained red in some places, making it a nasty purple. “I’m so sorry Lady J.”

“No. Show me, I don’t believe you.” He shook his head and she screamed it louder. “Lady J, you don’t want to see this,” he begged softly. “Where? Dalish?” The elf in question rose a shoulder protectively shaking her head. Instead Zevran looked back and pointed to the slightly broken rampart near the bridge. “There were several Wardens in that vicinity when the dragon came.” She took off in a sprint, dodging under their hands thanks to the dexterity enchantment on her armor. She crawled down some rubble and made a sound at the sight of several bodies among the broken stone. Jess hissed impatiently trying to figure out how to get down from this height when a hand touched her arm. “I’ll drop you down,” Zev offered squatting and holding onto a pillar. Her lips pressed into a line but she took the offered hand and crawled over the ledge on her belly until he had lowered her as far as he could reach. She let go and dropped looking around madly before seeing him.

Part of the structure must’ve collapsed on him; his lower body buried under the rubble. “Oh my God, Thom? Thom!” Sliding to her knees as the choking thickness of her tears formed, she ripped the gloves from her hands and felt his neck for a pulse and found nothing. Something broke inside her, manifesting as an inhumane sound ripped out of her lungs. It squeezed her chest, suffocating and blinding her in its wetness. Her tears fell onto his face, making clean streaks in the dust that covered him. “Oh Thom, you did it. You helped save the Wardens.” Her fingers wiped the blood from his mouth before reality crushed her attempt at composure, curling her over his head as she screamed. Over and Over. Until the sound was warbled croak.

A hot hand touched her shoulder. “Lamb, I’m so sorry. I-I don’ know how to ask ya this, but what should we do wit’ the other Wardens?”

“I don’t care love,” she whispered watching the tear on the tip of her nose fall. “Please ma’falon. I need ya ta stand. Five minutes, five minutes an’ then ya can grieve, and I’ll grieve wit’ ya.” She sobbed out a wretched laugh. So many months ago, after Redcliffe, she had asked the same of him; after he had seen so many of his companions die. Could she not do the same for him? With a weak exhale she pushed herself up and nodded. “What do you want to do?” He shook his head. “Ain’t much I know ‘bout Wardens except their saviors of the blight. Ya got more knowledge...an’ respect than most for ‘em. Even among themselves it seems. Figure ya could tell me what to do.” She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to rally herself. “Speech time, right.”

Letting him boost her into Zevran’s hands, she tried to help push herself up, but the movement was sluggish and probably made it harder for him. He stayed quiet as she walked over to the awaiting sea of silver and blue armor. “Your Order is the makings of legends, the basis of what sacrifice truly means. But that by no right corrects this stupidity. Look around you and see which of your brothers in arms are not beside you, because you let fear rule over your hearts and minds!” She swallowed the rush of tears and leveled her chin higher. “No action goes unknown by the First Warden. No missive goes unread by the Chamberlain of Grey. Like every other nation, you have fallen under the machinations of your highers. I would ask that you join the Inquisition and atone for your wrongs rather than hide away in your mountain fortress. The world needs you now, and I would not see you thrown back to Weissaupt where your superiors would use your sacrifice to further their own gains. And I would beg the Inquisitor to show mercy.”

Jess looked back where Lycus had been standing, hands behind his back listening. He exhaled and stepped forward shaking his head. “And what guarantee do we have that they are not under Corypheus’ hold still?”

“Yea, how the fuck do we know they won’t try and kill us they way they killed the Divine,” Marian spat out. Jess smirked at her brash heart. “We didn’t know whether the mages of Redcliffe would try to kill us, or if those left of the Templar Order would deny their superiors and join our cause. We don’t Champion, but what are we fighting for if not to prove ourselves better than who we were yesterday. Orlais and Ferelden have both turned their backs to the Wardens and then complained when the blight ravaged half the continent. The same way they demanded your freedoms and then complained when mages revolted. Do they not deserve the same chance the mages have to be better, or is the blowing of a Chantry really so different?”

Lycus hummed at that and nodded. “So be it. I expect every Warden to treat the threat of Corypheus like they would a blight, he is a monster all the same. Anyone who refuses can enter their own exile and return to Weissaupt.” Jess didn’t hear the rest of his speech, though she didn't doubt it must’ve been good, judging by the roar of cheers. A hand turned her and guided her away. Murmurs whispered by her hair, soft and useless platitudes she had no stomach for. Oghren stopped in front of her, his voice gruff and undecipherable to the noise in her head. Someone pushed him out of the way and the hand at her back urged her forward.

Whoever was behind her cleared the way as soldiers moved aside. She allowed herself to be moved along until they were in a room in the fortress. Guided to sit down, she finally recognized Zevran as he knelt in front of her hands on either side of her hips but not touching. “Leonessa, do you hear me? Please say something.” She inhaled and made a soft hum, the best she could muster and his ears pricked up. “Good good.” Carefully, he took the shank from its sheath on her thigh and put it on the floor, touching her legs softly. “I am,” his head shook, “cara mia, I am so sorry.” She studied the red tinging the strands of hair that had come loose from his bun, his head bowed over her lap.”Seems we both lost a good friend this night.”

He glanced up at her with a soft hiss. “I never expected Surana to leave this place alive. I had hoped but I didn’t believe. Your Warden, Rainier, he spoke highly of you, said you told him the cost would be high. I don’t think either of us thought this would be it.” Jess let out a dry broken laugh.

“An innocent man will die now. Thom was not to be forced to join yet. Moran will be sentenced to the gallows any day now. That’s the price I spoke of.”

“Mornay,” Zev absently corrected. “Oh right. Wait,” she frowned blinking slowly before forcing herself to bring him into focus. He gave her a sad lopsided grin. “I was listening when you spoke that night in your room. I learned Rainier was a soldier for Celene and followed the trail to the murder of the nobles. It was easy to find Mornay after that. He was conscripted along with Thom, but he didn’t survive the joining. Still, Rainier was happy that the two of them would not die as murderers. I wronged you cara mia, did you think I would not do everything in my power to fix it?” She let out a painful sob and buried her face in her hands, unable to sort what she was feeling and the pain it caused her chest.

“Do not move amore,” he backed up slowly before rushing out, closing the door gently. A mirthless scoff escaped her; where was she to go?

A hand touched her chin and she blinked disoriented trying to figure the amount of time that passed. Zevran moved back and she noticed now the giant looming form, tilting her head up to the Iron Bull. His eye seemed to penetrate her skin, separating flesh and marrow and reading every thought in between. He squatted and pulled off her other glove and then unclipped her head guard, peeling it back without pulling her hair. “Kitten, I want you to nod if you understand what I am saying. The Wardens are making their pyres, and they want to know if you wanted to be present for Rainer. Do you understand?”

She nodded and he mimicked the motion, rubbing her fingers which she couldn’t feel. “You don’t have to do this,” he finally whispered looking up at her. “Lycus can light the pyre and we can get out of this desert; head back to Skyhold or Denerim.”

“I’ll do it.” He looked like he was going to argue but instead sighed in defeat. “Alright. Let’s go.” Zevran pulled out a kerchief and wiped her face, wetting the cloth twice with his waterskin before nodding. Of course, she had to look the part.

Why she did this to herself was beyond her understanding. Standing before the pyre, seeing him laying peacefully among the planks and tinder, hands laced over his chest undid her resolve. Stepping up, she smoothed his hair and kissed his forehead, wincing at the coolness already setting in. A deep blue cloak had been thrown over his legs, probably to hide what the pillar-no! Don’t think of that. Backing up and choking off the smoke of the already lit pyres, she took the offered torch and stared ahead. And then the words came.

Sunday is gloomy
My hours are slumberless
Dearest the shadows
I live with are numberless

 

Little white flowers
Will never awaken you
Not where the black coach
Of sorrow has taken you

 

Angels have no thoughts
Of ever returning you
Would they be angry
If I thought of joining you

 

Soon there'll be candles
And prayers that are said I know
Let them not weep
Let them know that you're glad to go

Death is no dream

For in death I'm caressin' you
With the last breath of my soul
I'll be blessin' you

 

She walked forward closing her eyes as the weight of finality began to press in. For him, she would do this for him. With a small cry she threw the torch into the pyre and backed up watching it engulf the first person who gifted her something, who freely admired her without expectation. Who made her things to remind her of home. Who looked over her plans for schools because he went to the Academie in Orlais and could tell her what would work in this world and what wouldn’t. Who believed in her dreams for education and the Arts for everyone. Who loved her like an uncle.

And she could bear the weight no more as her knees crashed into the unforgiving ground in this unforgiving world, her composure going up in flames along with the ones dancing before her.

 

Chapter Text

It could’ve been anyone. That was the platitude she heard the most next to ‘it wasn’t your fault.’ Jess hummed and nodded and said her thank yous like the polite woman she was raised to be and kept her chin level. She rode with her back straight. She ate the porridge that was spooned out even as it tasted like ash and burnt paper. She pretended to sleep. Sometimes she even actually did. She brushed down her horse and polished her leathers. She broke down her tent and packed her things neatly.

She remembered nothing. She understood nothing. Words were spoken and she nodded as she should, and then she went her way and kept with her routine. They were in the Emerald Graves, the trees were big; they had to be in the Emerald graves. Lycus looked very at home here. She was not. Zevran stopped trying to talk to her, The Iron Bull did not. She preferred Zevran. She looked back towards the camp at the two of them arguing from where she sat near the river. He liked to smoke elfroot in their downtime. She learned she liked to too. She learned the Iron Bull did not like that today.

Zevran had been beside her when he reached into his pouch, the green one not the brown one. That one held his good reagents. The brown one did not, the black one even less. Bull had grabbed the back of his leather jacket and dragged him away while Zev cussed in Antivan; she knew it wasn’t pretty poetry falling from his lips. She blinked from her musing to watch Cassandra yell at both of them, kicking them out of the camp until they settled whatever their problem was. She figured she was the problem; she did not want to be the problem. She did not know how not to be the problem. She had hoped her efforts were enough, but she should’ve known they wouldn’t be. No. It was not her fault. It could’ve been anyone. Damn, she was saying it now.

She blinked into the present when metal greaves stopped beside her. Following the legs up, she hummed expectantly to Cassandra. “He was a good man.” Jess blinked slowly and nodded. “He was.” The warrior shuffled uncomfortable. “It was not your fault what happened. Anyone could’ve been standing there.”

“Thank you for saying that.” She shuffled again and she waited politely to see if there was anything else she wanted to say. Cass sighed and pressed her lips together. “I am no good at this.”

“I appreciate that you are trying even though you think that. Is there anything else?” She prayed not. Her prayers were not answered.

“Someone wise once told me something.”

“Oh?”

“It was in my moment of doubt, when I couldn’t find reason in all this,” she waved an armored hand angrily into the sky, “Madness. When nothing made sense and there was nothing I could kill to make it. She had told me with the utmost conviction….” she looked to be trying to build up the courage and Jess frowned raising an eyebrow. “She told you what Lady Pentaghast?”

“She told me that even though she could not see the answer, it did not mean the Maker had abandoned her. And that if He put us here knowing what would happen, it meant we were strong enough to survive. I did not understand at the time. Now I do. And I thought I should remind her of what she had known then.” She did a curt bow and quickly went back to sit by the fire, returning to her whetstone and sword.

Jessabelle turned back around and stared at the river. Strange, she had thought herself done with tears by this point. The wetness on her cheeks proved her wrong. Perhaps she had always been wrong, perhaps the woman who she was then, when she had spoken those words was gone. But hadn’t that woman lost just as much? Her home, her family, her world. She unfolded her legs and brought her knees up to her chin, hugging herself tight, deep in thought.

Movement at her side had her rolling her head to watch Zevran limp over, sitting down sporting the ugliest shiner she has ever seen, his eye almost swollen shut. “I do not know what you see in him amore, His name tells you his every charm,” he groused pulling out the elfroot and lighting it. He looked over his shoulder with a dirty smug and held it out to her. She didn’t turn to see who he was looking at-no goading was a better word as she took it with two fingers, she already knew...Oops. Taking a deep inhale, she felt him rest his arm behind her, crossing his legs at the ankles with a smokey exhale. Leaning slightly back, she felt his eyes on the side of her face before his arm slowly went up and rested on her shoulder hesitantly before pulling her closer. She rested her head against his neck and exhaled, holding out the roll. “Go ahead mi amore, I have more.” She hummed and brought it to her lips before whispering, “You smell like sex.” He chuckled and shrugged. “I did say his name said it all, did I not?” The smoke left her mouth in a staccato laugh. “The Iron Bull huh,” she smirked the muscles feeling unfamiliar and...good.

 

Chapter Text

“Admiring your handiwork?” She loved the way his eyes jumped straight to hers with no hesitation. “It is a job well done, no?” Turning to watch Bull once more and eyeing his neck and collarbone critically where the purple rosettes stood out the most, She hummed unimpressed, bursting into laughter at his affronted look. With an indignant sniff, he went into his pouch and pulled out a roll for himself. Jess reached for it, pouting when he moved his hand away with a tut. She reached into his coat and grabbed for his pouch and his hand instantly latched onto her wrist, smile gone but eyes not unkind. “Not that one, cara mia.”

Jess paused and moved his coat, pulling her hand away from the black pouch. Her teeth found her bottom lip as she passed a finger near the snap. “Teach me poisons?” He smirked and she caught the shadow of Bull standing from the fire. “Should we not start with something more simple, say,” he wiggled his nose like he was thinking, “Potions?”

“I know, potions. Adan showed me healing and rejuvenation, Antivan fire and rockskin. Teach me poisons.” His lit up with glee but one ear flicked and she narrowed her eyes. With a small hum she shrugged and stood to get food from the fire.

Bull handed her a bowl which she took with a slow precise movement and opened her mouth to speak. The sudden silence of the camp gave her pause, so instead of what she originally intended she simply inclined her head and walked away. “Kitten?” She hummed eating a spoonful and sitting by the scouts. “You okay?” With a nod, she tucked in and was halfway done before lifting her head to the scout next to her. “Do we have any fruit?”

“Apples m’lady.” She made a small sound and returned to finish her meal. “Would...you like one?” She made a disgruntled sound, covering her mouth while she swallowed. “No no, I don’t want to eat apples by myself, that’s just rude.” She paused and then shook her head. “I-I could go for an apple,” a scout said weakly looking around. Several murmurs rang out with him.

“I don’ think we ‘ave enough apples fer everyone miss-er m’lady,” a scout whispered worriedly.

“Oh,” Jess whispered looking at her bowl with a pout. “We can cut ‘em in half,” she quickly amended running to grab a few. Jess smiled, wincing and rubbing her cheek where it hurt. “Let me,” she offered taking out her knife from her belt. “Lady, that is a toothpick, not a weapon,” a man scoffed. She laughed and looking at it and then abruptly struck out at him, please when he raised a gauntlet to block, muscle memory making his hand go for his own weapon. “A toothpick scares you, scout?” His raised eyes made her smile as apples where dropped into her dress. “Point taken.”

Jess smiled at the pun and looked at them before raising her head higher and using her story voice asked, “Have I ever told you the story of the feat of Hercules, a Greek hero and his quest for the Golden Apples?” Varric balanced is bowl in one hand and snatched his writing supplies from his bag; hustling over and trying to open to a blank page. “So Hercules is on a quest to absolve himself and one of the tasks-”

“Absolve himself of what,” Varric interrupted, bowl still balanced while he wrote. Jess sighed and moved her head side to side. “Long story short, he was cursed by a goddess and in a moment of madness he killed his family or something. So to absolve-”

“Wait wait wait! You cant just skip to the end-”

“Varric! I’m talking about apples right now! If you want I’ll tell you what I remember another time, but right now Hercules is on a quest to absolve himself of his crimes and one task near the end,” she shot him a look to make sure he wouldn’t interrupt again, “was to gain a golden apple from a mythical garden. So-”

“What garden?” She paused in her cutting and glared at him. “Eden. So on his travel to find this garden because only the gods know where it lays, he finds out atlas, who is a god like being who carried the world on his shoulders knows where they are and he’s the only one who can get them. So Hercules, being the clever man he is, offers to hold the world on his own shoulders while Atlas goes and gets one for him. Atlas agrees, gets an apple but when he sees Hercules holding the world and struggling, he decides he doesn’t wan to carry the world anymore and will leave him to carry it. Hercules admits that Atlas has outsmarted him and the gods. As a last act of mercy, he asked if he could he hold the world one more time so he could properly stretch if this is his to be his burden. Atlas, knowing the weight of the agrees. He takes the world back, and Hercules scoops up the gold apple and runs off with his prize.”

 

Bull watched her as she told her story; trying to figure out the point behind it. She chatted along and passed the cut slices around the circle, popping a piece into her mouth and talking around it. Her scent was gone; no cloying acidity, no sharp spike of fear. She smelled of elfroot and apples right now, the air with no personal scent. It was almost as if she didn’t live, an animated doll.

“Only her Will is keeping her here.” He jumped and growled at Cole. “Kid, are you trying to see if you can die?”

“Now now my big friend. That is no way to talk to your fellow travelers. Come now Cole what is this you speak of,” Zevran asked strolling over. Bull looked back to Cole and sighed at the far away look on his face. “Will only her Will is keeping her here. Resolve comes and goes but her Will is constant. Even Purpose comes to watch sometimes.”

Bull looked up as Solas approached head cocked t the side. “Are you saying she has befriended a spirit of Will? Fascinating.”

“Yes while the beautifully mature Wynne had a spirit of Faith, I don’t think I understand these things,” Zevran mumbled tying back his hair. Bull looked back to Solas. He put Kitten on edge, she smiled and laughed and was kind, but her fear always heightened around him.

“I’ll search the Fade and see what I can find,” the apostate said politely and Bull waved it off. “Nah, if Cole here is a spirit boy and the Hero of Ferelden had a spirit companion, I think Jess will be fine. No need to dig into her private life, especially if this uh...Will is helping her,” he barely controlled his shudder, “We’ll just keep an eye and make sure it doesn’t become...what fear, failure?” He caught the slight shiver of impatience in Solas before he nodded. “As you say the Iron Bull. Cole, walk with me?” He watched them leave and glanced to Zevran who was looking at the camp, relaxed and...dangerous.

“You caught that tension too did you,” he asked cheekily stretching. “Oh, she is returning...and her handmaid is beside her once more. Perhaps our leonessa is becoming herself again, no?” Bull lifted his head and growled. “Nope, she’s pissed. Tent now. Lets try and keep this quiet.”

“Oh my! Is she as violent in sex as you when angry? I will need more elfroot,” he tutted with mock concern, making him chuckle. Getting into his tent and sitting on a crate, he turned to face the entrance and waited. “And where shall I be,” Zev asked sprawling on the bedroll and furs, "here?" Too late to change now, he thought as her shadow filled the space between the flaps, her large men’s shirt a welcomed sight. “I’ll be helping the scouts m’lady. Say my name if you need me,” Talia whispered from outside.

“Kitten, you look like you got something on your mind.” She hummed and looked slowly towards Zev. She walked in front of him and held out her hand, fist closed. “Oh a gift?” Bull watched her pressed it into his palm and tilted his head at the same time the elf did. “Apple seeds? You are giving me apple seeds?” She hummed and leaned over and tapping one. Bull almost smirked at the way his gold eyes went straight down the front of her open ties.

“Apple seeds contain cyanide, a poisonous compound when crushed and eaten in large quantities. Enough can kill a man.” She stood and turned her glare to him. “If I wanted to kill myself, I would have done it already and neither of you or anyone else could’ve stopped me. I appreciate the concern, but I’m not made of glass. Stop treating me like I am. I’ve been someone’s pedestal prize once-”

He yanked her arm and tossed her onto the bed ignoring her surprised shriek, thankful that Zev rolled out of the way just enough to fit her. “Hey, listen. No, don’t give me that face. You are no one’s trophy prize, Kitten.” He held her wrists with one hand and turned her face back to him. “Do you understand?” She humphed and he held back his smirk, deepening his voice. “I asked you a question, Kitten.”

“Yes. I understand.” Slowly he passed the back of his hand against her cheek several times until she softened underneath him. “I have to say, I’m a little insulted by your assumption of us. Zevran.”

“Yes?”

 

Her eyes opened slightly wider in surprise. And there a quick spike of arousal and fear. “Tickle her.” The assassin didn’t hesitate and she broke into the sharpest peal of laughter he had heard from her yet, trying to kick him away. “Oh no you don’t cara mia,” he pinned her legs and tickled her sides and neck. “Maker, she is as wild as you!” Bull roared out a laugh surprised, accidentally letting go of one of her wrists. Her hand instantly, with out error found the one spot on his damn ribs and he jumped back with a grunt.

She and Zevran shared a look and he inwardly groaned. Plan backfire as they jumped onto him and began tickling him and damn if her bony little fingers didn’t assault his ribs just right. She fell back huffing, tears on her cheeks and smiling. “I hate you,” she grumbled. “Both of you.”

“I am insulted! I defected to your side amore!” He watched her smile soften into something sadder as she threw her arm over her eyes. Moving back up, he grabbed her waist and put her into the center of the furs. Zevran crawled to the opposite side of her and fixed his bun once more, until her hand reached out and tugged a lock gently. “Why is elven hair so soft,” she lamented combing a hand through it. “Well shit, don’t I feel left out,” Bull joked, pleased when she laughed and turned on her side to rub his head vigorously.

“It’s like peach fuzz.” Zevran laughed and his hand went instantly over the elf’s mouth. “Don’t say it,” he growled with a smirk and Zev bowed his head slightly, laying down behind her. He watched how Zev studied her every movement as he adjusted to leave a small space between them and moved her hair with the utmost care. She hummed and lifted her head pushing the mass up and out of the way, and he instantly pressed his forehead to her exposed shoulder. “My hair will strangle you love,” she whispered eyes drooping. “A risk worth taking amore.” His hand rested slowly on her hip waiting for a reprimand, and then relaxed.

He waited until her breath evened out before looking back at him. Zevran was already watching him, one golden eye open. Well. Shit. This would take some new planning, but she had responded well so why the hell not. Resigned he nodded once and smirked at the devious grin Zev gave him before closing his eye and nuzzling her back more. Maybe not so bad a change of plans then.

 

 

 

 

 

Jess opened her eyes and froze. This was not her dream; she felt it instantly. From the gray and summerstone lined walls to the warm to the torches along them. Glancing at the plush bed she rested on shelooked down and saw someone Solas had tried to recreate her renaissance dress. Slipping off the bed she neared the balcony doors and rested her hand against the glass, feeling a soft vibration. Music? Pushing it open slowly she inhaled softly and moved to the side.

She stood partially hidden on a balcony that overlooked a ballroom, watching everyone flow in swirling patterns and spiraling dress trains. They moved too close, well past what would be considered proper personal space or etiquette. “Greetings Lady Jessabelle. I'm pleased to see you've come to.” She jumped and spun to see Solas, his wolf mask in place covering himself, but he held a rather feral air about him, like a man who know a secret and couldn’t wait to rub it in someone’s nose. Which meant it was probably about her, but he made a mistake. He was cocky and in that he slipped up and she was going to let him know just who he was toying with.

“Greetings Revelry...You’ve seen him.” He paused tilting his head waiting for her to continue. “Solas. You know him too.”

“Why would you think that?” She motioned a hand from her hair and slowly, borderline seductively passed it down to her side. “He’s the only one who has seen me in my home world attire. No one, not even the Inquisitor knows of this ceremonial piece. Is he still here?” She looked down at the dance floor and hummed, intentionally being obvious that she would think it strange that plain old Solas would be in a space like this.

“He spoke with me at length on the balcony, it seems he enjoys music.” Returning her gaze she hummed and narrowed her eyes, purposely studying his eyes through the mask. “You were asleep and unguarded in your thoughts. I brought you here for your safety. Not all denizens of the Fade are friendly.”

“Of course not. This world is as real as the waking; and not a people are kind. But I am thankful it was you and not someone else who found me. Did...did Solas not sense me? He always struck me as someone strong and perceptive.” She lowered her gaze with a soft frown, catching the stiffness I his stance. “But he’s not my keeper,” she quickly added waving her hand. She tilted her head and nodded slowly as if a revelation struck her. “Solas must love your music. He’s spent a lot of time here I can tell.” He looked caught between curiosity and caution. “And the reason you believe that?” She blinked slowly, ready to rip herself out of here if needed. “You have his eyes.”

 

 

 

 

She gasped sitting up, fighting against the hold behind her before the soft hushing registered. “Peace, princessa. It was only a dream.”

“Zev,” she breathed out relieved, laying back down on her side. “Care to talk about it,” he whispered into her neck causing a shiver on her already sweaty skin. She frowned trying to remember what made her wake up so startled. “No. It won’t help. I can’t remember what scared me so badly,” she whispered back before lifting her head again and looking around. “Where’s Bull?”

“Privy, training who knows.” She chuckled at that and made a small sound at the lazy circle he was drawing on her thigh. “Did you bring a knife into bed?” He ground hard into her laughing softly, fingers trailing to her thigh until he cupped her core, pressing hard against her smalls. His other hand slid under her, pulling the nightshirt until he could palm her breast squeezing hard.

“Zevran,” she hissed trying to look towards the entrance. “Peace, mi amore, I will hear him coming,” he breathed biting into the junction of her neck and shoulder. She slid her hand between them to palm him, inhaling surprised to find him naked. “I tried, I really did tryto sleep clothed and be respectful-” She squeezed him hard and stroked up his shaft. He groaned against her neck and yanked the shirt higher up over her head. Jess pulled it and gasped when he grabbed the shirt and wrapped it around her wrists pinning her with it. “Clever,” she giggled, turning face into the furs when he ripped the flimsy soaked cloth away and slipped his fingers in. “Maker woman, your so wet.”

“As if that’s my fault alone.”

Pulling her arms so she was more on her belly, he lifted her top leg and propped it with his own, still working her with his hand. Jess closed her eyes and tried to breathe quietly, small moans in every exhale. “Zev,” she whined shrilly feeling her raised leg shake the closer he brought her. Her stomach bunched just before her climax and with far too much finesse, his hand moved to cradle her knee and he slammed into her, forcing her over. She gritted her teeth and tried to muffle her sounds as he continued to pound into her, his body somewhat crushing her upper body even as he held her leg up. His grunts by her ear made her shiver, eyes rolling back as he hit deep inside her, his pace getting harder with each thrust.

When his pace changed to more urgent, she tried to hold back her orgasm and chuckled when he tutted. “Let go, mia leonessa.” the words were forced through his teeth. Instead of waiting to see if she’d comply, he yanked her hip and broughther to her knees “Oh fuck,” she groaned panting and whimpering as he his hips slammed into her ass. She came again with a sharp cry that got louder as he didn't relent until he finally slammed into her and held her there spilling into her with a drawn out groan.

The moment he let go of her hips, she dropped onto the furs, moaning when he slipped out and followed her down. Her heart was pounding against her sternum to get out. She smiled when his head rested against the shoulder by her cheek, feeling his racing heart against her back. “If there is a better way to start the day like this with you, Andraste knows I have not found it,” he huffed kissing her shoulder softly. She laughed and weakly reached up to rub his ear softly, pleased with his low moan. “As wonderful as this is, I may die if every morning were like this.”

“Of satisfaction yes,” he teased, making her laugh harder which turned into a groan at the twinge in her stomach. “That, and exhaustion.” She breathed deeper when he pulled himself up and freed her hands, kissing her fingers softly. “Rest a moment amore, it is still early.” She snorted and wincing rolled onto her back. “As if half the elven scouts are still sleeping with the racket I made.” He hummed waggling his eyebrows. “My favorite sound. Perhaps they shall learn to enjoy it too.”

“Get out, you scoundrel,” she laughed pushing him gently while accepting his parting kiss.

 

 

 

“By the river in ten,” he had breathed when they had finished. Bull uncrossed his arms and legs where he leaned on a crate by the tent. A piss was all he went out for and he was left out of the fucking party. Ha, fucking party! Her sounds were lovely though; he was right about that. And she was right half the camp was awake now. Talia had popped her head out of her tent ear twitching before disappearing back in for a second and emerging with a kettle and some herbs, probably to prepare a witherstalk tea. Hiding is erection was a trial in itself as he made his way to the river, prepared to set some ground rules with Zevran. He smelled the sex in the air before he heard him.

“You wanted to see me.” Bull turned slowly, taking in the sweat slicked back hair and sheen to his skin. He smirked at the faint smell of Antivan oil. “Quick to press an advantage aren’t you?” The elf smiled unrepentant. “Her night terrors woke her and you were not there, what was I to do? Leave her in misery?”

“Nah, she’s quick herself. Good to know you can stay on your toes..” Zev sobered sightly nodding, pushing a hand through his hair. “To think I have been shown up by a woman with no fighting experience and apple seeds.” He squeezed his face annoyed. “How did I not know about cycocide? In apple seeds!”

“Cyanide. And don’t beat yourself up, I’m looking into it too. But that's not why we’re talking right now.”

“Oh? You have other plans besides talking though, yes?” He laughed crossing his arms. “We’ll get to that. Kitten-” He paused when Zevran put up his hand.

“You do not need to fear my friend. I understand what this is. I am happy with whatever pleasure I can get.” Bull watched him and hummed. “But you’d be happier with more.” He stiffened and laughed sadly. “Ah, but Zevran what have you gotten yourself into? Both you and her are very perceptive but trust me when I say I am content to simply be traveling with a group again. That she allows me into her space-and you for that matter is an added bonus.” Bull groaned at that. “Speaking of...Your scents will have soaked into my furs. The least you could do was roll to the bedroll.”

Zev gave him a dry smile. “I specifically remember bringing this to you in Skyhold. And yet, here we are.”

“Here we are.” He was sure of Kitten and gentle correction was the only way to go with her; too rough and she would run. This one showed him already a firm hand was needed; his hips still sported the bruises. “Aren’t you going to tell me to kneel,” the elf asked cheekily bringing him back from his thoughts. “We both know that wouldn’t work for you. You,” he switched his hand and grabbed his throat with just enough pressure to force him down to his knees.

“I don’t need a safeword amico,” he smirked, freeing his cock from the confines of his pants. “You may rethink that decision,” Bull growled pulling his head forward. He actually startled a bit at the lack of hesitation as his hot mouth encircled his head, one hand working him, and the other braced against his thigh. He knew the elf made good on his threats and teases, last time was a little heated on the violent side. He could get used to both. A hard suck made his eyes flutter as Zev pulled back with a satisfying pop. “I really do hate to cut this short, but the camp is fully up and someone is bound to come bathe. I’d hate to tarnish princessa’s image.”

“We’re bathing too.” He grunted and walked him backwards to a sturdy looking tree, slightly off the walked path and turned him. Zevran dropped his clothes with the expert ease of someone used to trysts on the road and Bull felt him, laughing when his fingers slid slightly with oil. “What can I say, I’m ever the optimist,” he defended with a smirk. “We could always use more optimism.” Bracing his hand on his hip and the other on his back to keep him hunched over, he pressed his cock against him and leaned in slowly, waiting for his exhale to move.

He set a heavy pace, grunting at the way Zev moved with him unabashedly; if it wasn’t for his hand on his hip, he doubted he would’ve caught the tremors in his legs. He pushed gently onto his back until he dropped to his knees, following him without breaking speed. Zevran moved one hand from the tree to stroke himself, breathe catching harder now. Bull smirked and took that over as well, loving the way his composure broke slightly with shudder and breathy whimper. He kept pace trying to match his release and finished only slightly sooner than him working, milking his cock, hand covered in his his hot seed.

“Damn,” Bull breathed easing out and cracking his neck, “You’ll both be the death of me.” Zevrans lumped against the tree laughing. “Funny thing; she said almost the same thing not too long ago. We should wash up and see if princessa enjoyed the show.” Bull smirked. “Caught that did you.” He flicked one of his pointed ears with a smirk. “Same way I knew you were outside the tent.”

 

 

 

Chapter Text

“Yes, you are absolutely right and I am sorry.” She bowed at the waist hands laced on her stomach.

“You mock me.” Jess lifted her head slightly to look at Lycus through her hair. “Never. Never that Lycus. I honestly wasn’t thinking of consequences; I was thinking of contingencies.” She messed up. After her and Zevran had their moment, she had waited until the soreness in her thighs and core eased before heading to the river to bathe…and got an eyeful. And under other circumstances she wouldn’t consider herself a coward, but in this she ran like a bat out of hell, too ashamed to look at them.

So when Lycus had shown up at the camp dusty and sweaty and glorious upon his hart with Dorian and Cass in tow, announcing they had found a mansion in the wilds, she had rushed him for the opportunity to go with him. He had been so pleased to see her responsive and eager for adventure, for life, that he had said yes without thought. And she failed to mention the chateau was haunted, because while she didn’t forget that it was, she saw opportunity should Crestwood fail to be obtained.

“Varric was hurt protectin’ ya. Do ya understan’?”

“Lycus I do. I am sorry. It slipped my mind. I thought it was a rage demon, not an Arcane Horror. Please believe I wouldn’t jeopardize someone’s life on purpose or malice.” He threw his hands up and she winced realizing she didn’t even give him a heads up about that, even if she had been wrong.

“Ah, ease off her Charmer. It will take more than an undead to take me down.” Varric came over and smiled sweetly, bless his heart, nudging her with said previously injured arm. “It was nothing Bianca and I couldn’t handle.” Jess smiled weakly and squeezed his trap firmly, making him close his eyes. “But if you think she needs a punishment, she can keep doing that for the next hour.” She barked out a laugh and hugged him tight. “Woah woah! I need to breathe Rosy. Put those away!” She let him go laughing covering her chest. “I’m so sorry. That’d be a terrible way to go. Survived a haunted mansion, only to be smothered by a bosom!”

“There are worse ways to go,” Lycus sighed wiping a hand down his face. He exhaled heavily eyeing her before nodding. “So be it...the Advisors are wonderin’ when you’ll be headin’ back anyway.” She hummed pursing her lips and he quickly put a hand on her shoulder. “No, not like that, lethallin. I ain’t sendin’ ya away. They say there’s been a lot a letters for ya is all. Some time sensitive.” Jess made a small ‘ah’ and sighed. “True enough. I suppose I’ve wallowed as long as this world will allow, but the show must go on as they say.”

“Who says that,” Varric asked with a snort. She rolled her eyes and ruffled his hair ignoring his protests and batting hands. “I’ll head back as first light.” She was off before even that, and everyday after. Talia yawned atop her painted horse beside her. “Do you want to stop?”

“We’re making good time m’lady. I’m looking forward to Skyhold anyway.” Jess hummed controlling her smirk.

“Any reason why,” Zevran asked pulling his horse up beside her riding with one hand resting on his thigh, true cowboy style. She held her head higher and shrugged. “Safe walls, warm beds, good food. What’s not to look forward to?” Zev opened his mouth and Jess glared at him. “Very true. Very true. Good company is always plus too,” he said cheekily not looking at her. She rolled her eyes and set a slightly quicker pace. Leave it to him to point out a crush.

The horn announced them as they climbed the winding icy path, Jess already lamenting having to leave the woods of the Graves. Forcing herself to sit taller as they passed the portcullis, she inwardly cringed at the assessing eyes of the Advisors. “Hail,” she called out with authority, the soldiers bowing lower, fists to their chests as she dismounted. She dismounted and walked briskly towards them removing her gloves. “Greetings Commander, Leli, Josie. I hear you’ve letters for me. I wish to see to my employees and shall meet you in your office in ten. You can regale me with all your wonderful news of Orlesian politics then." Cullen groaned and she took pity on him. "Not you Cullen, I don't see how it would benefit you to sit through that."

"Maker thank you," he breathed heading to the soldiers that had accompanied them. 

“As you say Jess,” Leli answered with a knowing look, ushering Josie away. She herself lingered just long enough to watch Cullen stop to talk to Talia. She had better make a pass at him. The way he looked at her it was unmistakable.

Jess opened the door to the shop and was nearly knocked over in a hug. “Mistress!” She looked down and smiled softly touching Nilene’s head. Gunter shifted foot to foot and she stepped in more, shuffling awkwardly with the elf still around her and closed the door with a gentle kick. “C’mere,” she said softly opening her arms wide and Gunter hugged her over Nilene. “Mistress, its so good to see you,” he whispered before moving back and adjusting his apron with a small sniffle. Lennox stayed at his station and smiled warmly with a deep bow at the waist, turning back to his stitching. Trevi waited until Nilene let go, scooping her up and spinning her. “M’lady, when they said you were in the battle of Adamant, I-well I’m glad my armor kept you safe.”

She touched his face gently and smiled sadly. “You didn’t tell me it was enchanted.” He winced and looked down. “Well I did bring them by Dagna and asked what she thought would help you.” Jess hummed with a nod and looked around the shop. “So, what has happened in my-”

“Lennox punched a soldier!” Jess reeled back in surprise as all the men groaned and glared at Nilene. “Oh...uh. I mean.” She held up a hand stopping her. “Let’s hear what Lennox has to say, hmm?”

“It’s really my fault,” Gunter started, halting at her eyebrow raise.

“Well, okay then. Lets see what Gunter has to say first, then Lennox.” He cringed and wiped his hands down his apron. “So while you were gone-”

“Mm hm?”

“Some noble had come by-”

“Okay.”

“And they demanded to come into the shop.”

“Oh?”

“But you never let anyone in here even when you are around so Nilene didn’t move from the door, refusing them entry.” Jess looked at her and started putting the pieces together. “And then?”

“So one noble’s guard reached out and pushed her to the floor, so I jumped up and told them that in yours and Talia’s absence I was in charge and they were not allowed in. And if they touched her again, I would personally see to them being evicted from Skyhold.” Jess felt a swell of pride but kept a straight face; she couldn’t condone  him without hearing everything, so she nodded with an approving hum.

“Well,” he continued looking nervously to Lennox who stopped stitching and was watching; his skin pale under his black hair and pupils visible even at this distance in his green eyes. “Well the guard or henchman or what have you, he kicked her because she was still on the ground afraid to get up.” Jess stole a glance at her and nodded, rolling her wrist. “So ahem, so he so Lennox-”

“So Lennox literally flew from his chair and punched that man so hard he fell out of the door and down the stairs, ass over tea kettle,” Nilene finished with gusto. Jess laughed and coughed to cover it. Well at least she used the term right. Gunter cleared his throat and nodded. “Yea, well that sums it up. Some of our soldiers came to the noble’s screaming and I think they would’ve beaten him, Lennox I mean, but I-I took the blame because-because-”

“Because he is an elf and you are a human.”

“And no one in Skyhold would doubt a human with three elves backing him.” Jess smirked slyly. “I’ll be sure to ask the Commander to have a soldier walk this battlement in my absence from now on.” Lennox looked between her and Gunter unconvinced and the human in question watched her wiping his hands on his apron. “I asked you to look after the others in my absence, and while I don’t want a repeat of this, you did as I asked. All of you.” She waited looking at each one to make sure they knew she was serious before walking to Lennox and lifting his chin. “You did good, but I wouldn’t want to lose you so please be careful,” she whispered. Green eyes shimmered and he nodded quickly. “Now, I have meeting to attend so please continue your good work.”

Once the door to Josie’s office was closed, she was instantly hugged tightly, much to her surprise. “We were so worried for you. We didn't know they took him. We didn't know.”

“I know,” Jess said pressing her lips into a tight line. “Yes, yes of course,” Josie whispered watery eyed. She wondered now if the Ambassador and Thom ever had a thing; she never bothered to ask and now it was, well it didn’t matter. Josie cleared her throat and exhaled deeply. “No one has been in his room in the stables. We thought it best if you-”

“Oh God dammit Josie,” Jess snapped putting a hand over her eyes. “I-I’ll have a soldier remove his things-”

“No! No, its not that at all,” she moved her hand and forced a shaky smile through her tears, “I’ll do it. I want to. I just-it’s hard right now to go through his things.” Leliana hummed understandingly. “We forget your not used to this type of life. May this be the last time you have to cope.”

“Well don’t tempt your Maker into making me learn Leli,” she replied dryly, earning a genuine smile from the spymaster. “I’ll get his things...soon. Now, any news from Alistair?”

“Two letters. I took the liberty of sending a response to the first one, letting him know it was me of course. Here is the second. We also received numerous invites to salons and soirees, four marriage proposals, two death threats and a package from Emperor Gaspard.” Her eyebrows couldn’t raise any farther on her forehead. “The threats I am sure you have covered. The marriage proposals I ask you to decline in the most fashionably acceptable way possible, No I don't want to read them, just tell me the names so if they visit I don’t look like I didn't read them.”

“You didn’t,” Josie replied with a gentle reprimand.

“And I won’t but if you want me to save face along with you,” she countered.

“Why don’t you have Talia read them to you,” Leli offered. “I wouldn’t want to waste my time either, but some of these nobles would make great allies in your mission.” She narrowed her eyes and sighed defeated, holding out a hand. Josie scooped up a pile and gave them over, to which she tucked them annoyed into her corset. “The King’s letter, please.”

Leli pulled it from her armor and handed it over. “Be careful Jess, he may be smitten with you.”

She arched a brow with a sigh. “Alfstanna of the Waking Sea. She still unmarried?” For the first time Leliana looked utterly stunned. “Yes?” She nodded and inhaled deeply. “Find out what her bannorn needs and compile a list. Anything I can do, send to me.”

“You intend to wed her to Alistair? What makes you think she looks for marriage with him?”

“Because any ruler wants one thing; stability and prosperity for their region. While Orlais may work in favours, Ferelden works in deeds. Lets give her some.” She opened the letter and walked to the fire, squatting to the light. “A chair Jess?”

“God no, I’ve been sitting on a horse most the day.”

 

Dear Lady Jessable Snow of Seere, Aide to the Inquisitor,

Maker I am so sorry to hear about Adamant Fortress. The Grey Wardens are better for joining the Inquisition, whether the people of Ferelden know it or not. I hear you lost a dear friend and Thedas has lost the Hero of Ferelden Warden Commander Surana. I have no words, but know I suffer with you. I have informed every bannorn of your request and most are skeptical. Had I not met you, I would share their skepticism. I have done my best to assuage them, but Arl Teagan Guerrin still stands your greatest rival. I have called a Landsmeet on the 10th of Cloudreach. I pray you can make it as it may be your only time to argue your case. Know I will help however I can but without you present, it is a moot cause. May time and the Maker be on your side.

King Alistair Therin of Ferelden.

 

She folded the letter and Leli answered her question before she could speak. “Two weeks from now. Eleven days to be exact. Do you feel prepared?” She tapped the letter against her open palm. Teagan the bastard. Whining and bitching. Quick to forget the Wardens and Lycus at the Exalted Council. “How much to hire a Crow,” she whispered with an amused smirk at Josie’s gasp. Leliana shifted slightly. “It can be done with one of my agents for cheaper.”

“Leliana! You can’t be serious!”

Jess stood and cracked her neck. “She may be Josie, but never fear, I am not. I will handle Teagan myself. If I’m lucky he’ll lose enough face to keep from interfering years from now,” she glanced over at Leliana and smirked, “Or we can reevaluate our expenses once more.”

Leliana shared her smirk and stood with her hands behind her back. “You’ve changed since last we spoke.”

“I have. Loss does that to a person. But I’ll take any intel you have on Teagan.” She pinched her bottom lip thinking. “And contact Stroud, or any senior Warden for that matter. I’ve a question.”

“I’m knowledgeable about the Order of the Grey. Perhaps I can answer your question.” Jess smacked the letter against her hand again pacing. “King Maric allowed the Wardens to return after two centuries, correct?”

“Yes.”

“And no one has exiled them again.” Leli raised an eyebrow. “No. King Alistair has never forbade them.”

Jessabelle smirked and twisted the letter in an uncharacteristic show of frustration. “I’m going to nail his balls to the table so he remembers his allies the next time he’s thinks of complaining.” Josie made a small ‘oh dear’ and she took that as her leave; she had startled the sweet thing enough. “Eh, Jess? Gaspard’s package?” Oh. Right. She closed the door and followed her to the desk where she placed a long box down. “It’s not opened,” she noted passing a hand over the smooth gray wood. “I had a mage check it for traps. Then an agent of mine. Then...myself. Its safe.”

Jess gave a single nod and opened it without hesitation, trusting Leliana’s judgment. She froze at the snow white coat that would likely dust the floor when worn. “Holy hell,” she breathed, taking the silver colored card and opening it. “Lady Jessabelle Snow of the Inquisition and Esteemed friend of Orlais, I regret to inform you that your caplet was discarded in the cleaning of the Winter Palace. Please accept my utmost sincere apology and may this replacement be sufficient recompense. Orlais hopes to be graced by you once more in the near future. Emperor Gaspard de Chalons of Orlais. Well, the man knows how to impress.”

“That...he does,” Josie murmured, her exquisite mind already factoring in the price and proper response. “Could I wear this, to the Landsmeet,” she asked staring intently at the fur. “Ferelden nobility wear furs and leather in comparison to Orlais’ silks and lace, yes?”

“This is rather an ostentatious show Jessabelle,” Josie remarked before her eyes lit up. “And that is what you’re trying to prove yes? That you can bring prosperity to Crestwood?” She looked down and reached to take out the coat before stopping to look at her for permission. “Oh don’t give me that, you know you absolutely have access to every article of clothing of mine. Though what’s this matter of a visiting noble and my workers?”

“Dealt with,” Leli replied, “Severely. They are not allowed back to Skyhold and their family name has been tarnished. Gunter is actually the son of a renowned blacksmith in Markham, Rorric Anslem of Markham. He struck out to help the Inquisition and to seek his own fame and while he has no interest in the anvil, his skill with a needle has made gambesons that rival his father’s armor.”

Jess made a small sound impressed, stepping back to let Josie shake out the coat. “Oh, its so thick. You may be very hot in this. I think its...bear. A...white bear.” Jess hummed and tilted her head studying it. “I’ll see if Dagna can’t enchant it with something cooling. If a heat rune exists, a cool one must too right?” Josie snapped her fingers, put it back in the box and bustled out of the room, mumbling a thousand things under her breath apparently. “Welcome back Lady Jess,” Leli said with a shake of her head. “Let us discuss Teagan.”

 

 

 

 

Jess walked in behind Alistair, papers held in a leather roll under her arm mostly hidden by the coat. This would be her third day in Denerim, the first two were used to speak with each party when they arrived, if they allowed it. She would be sitting in the main hall reading, looking engrossed and yet watching every new arrival with the same level of scrutiny she used in the Winter Palace. When they approached she would ask only of them and their family, the state of their bannorns or arlings, and never about her proposal. She found Fereldens liked to complain as much as the Orlesians; they were just blunt about it.

She eyed everyone around the table brought into the main hall, taking her seat farthest from Alistair to avoid an argument over that. She bowed her head politely to the Bann on her left and right. Once everyone was situated, she looked to Alistair to start the debate. Bitchfest.

“Thank you all for coming earlier this year. I would like to present Lady Jessabelle Snow, Aide to the Inquisition. She has made a request for use of Caer Bronach in Crestwood-”

“I object to this matter,” Teagan replied almost instantly. Jess opened her leather case and shuffled through some papers. “Arl Teagan Guerrin of Redcliffe, yes? I request that everyone state their objections or support and their reasoning so as there will be no confusions later. Can we all agree to this?” She looked around the table and waited for everyone to nod. She opened a hand towards him and smiled demurely; “Now that we are all in agreement please continue.”

“You are an outsider and your organization is an invading presence on Ferelden soil. They already have a fortress in the mountains. We cannot allow her free access to even more of Ferelden.” Several murmurs rang out. Fortresses that were abandoned you dumb twat.

“Thank you for your honesty Arl Teagan,” she quickly answered before anyone could speak to control the floor. “Does anyone else share his concern?” Several hands raised and she pointed to one woman. “Teryna Sophia Roan of...Gwaren.” Jess felt she would be her greatest ally if she could convince her as there were only two terynirs in Ferelden, and Highever sent a representative, not Fergus himself.

“I share in Arl Teagan’s concern. While we know your organization is to thank for closing the breach and the rifts, we know very little else. Why would you want a place like Crestwood? That land is blighted and the dead walk, or so the rumors say.” Jess hummed and nodded, “An excellent question and observation Teryna. And one I believe is proper for anyone who cares for their homeland. I would like to answer that now but,” she motioned to the two other hands that were up, “I want everyone to have an opportunity to speak. Bann Alfstanna Erimon of the Waking Sea. Your concerns are paramount to me as your region is closest to Crestwood, correct?”

She paused thrown off guard before nodding. “Correct. I am concerned about a foreign power on Ferelden soil and giving said power more land, especially so close to my bannorn.” Jess nodded and looked to the one sitting next to her. “Bann Leonas Bryland of South Reach. You agree with Bann Alfstanna?”

“I do my lady.” Jess smiled at the politeness. Half Orlesian indeed. “While South Reach is not as close as the Waking Sea, Ferelden is my home. She nodded with a soft ‘of course’. “So my understanding is that you all fear, and rightly so, that I come to take your hard fought, hard earned, hard won lands from you. And you would be correct.” The outrage was instant from several people and she folded her hands and waited; they burnt out after five minutes of shouting at her calmness and lack of defense. “Explain yourself child; that’s a very poor argument to get us to agree,” Teryna Sophia demanded arms crossed, making Jess laugh deeply.

“Had that come from any other mouth at this table, I would have been insulted,” she answered with a smile standing. “You are correct that I do want Caer Bronach, not as a military position but as the start of of a trade school and merchant base. Crestwood has been in shambles since it was invaded by darkspawn during the blight and now it is besieged with undead as you say. The land suffers, the people suffer, there is talk that the skies suffer with a dragon.

But none of that deters my concern. My concern to your opposition is this; the blight is nearly ten years over. Why has no one gone to aid them and rebuild? And if you will not help them, why are you stopping the Inquisition from doing so as well? I want the fort legally,” she motioned a hand to Alistair, “I’ve made that very clear. The Inquisitor will close the rift in the lake and surrounding area. He will stabilize the land, and I want the region to flourish because I want to settle there when all this,” she took a cue from Cassandra and waved her hand in the air, “madness comes to an end. We can send Wardens to ensure no one is infected. They can ensure the darkspawn and nothing associated with them remains.”

“How convenient that you have them on such a leash,” Arl Teagan sneered. Jessabelle’s soft exterior disappeared in a breath. “Watch how you speak of the Order that saved your brother, your castle, your city, your country, and that your King belongs to. You should not be quick to throw the aid given you as everyone should remember, anyone can be conscripted. I hear they’re looking to reform.”

He slammed his fist down, red faced, and pointed at her. “We know you set Gaspard on the throne! What’s to say you are not an Orlesian spy!” Changing his tune so quickly...how expected.

“As Ambassador to Orlais, I do not think your tone is very becoming of a man in your position. Nor do I think your sister-in-law and nephew who are half Orlesian themselves would approve of that remark either. And you insult the loyalty of Bann Leonas at this table. Also before you bring this up as well as an excuse, yes I support the reformation of the mages. I also support the Templars who remain true to their cause.” She shuffled through her papers and took a batch, walking around the table and handing them out. “Transparency is my goal, and while I don’t expect this to be completed in my time, I wanted you all to be aware of it. Also i know your concerned about me being a spy, I'm not. I’ve no love for the Game, but Orlais is still a nation and I must respect its sovereign. The same way I respect your King.

“And how do we know you aren’t trying to usurp his rule,” he spat snatching the paper from her and tossing it into the fire.” Jess raised an eyebrow and continued around the table, ending at Teryna Sophia. “You haven’t heard then.”

“Heard what Lady Snow,” Bann Alfstanna asked not looking up from the paper. “That I declined the Emperor’s suit for marriage. I have no interest in ruling a country or being queen. I leave that to my betters. All I want is a place to call home. How many refugees have flooded Redcliffe or other bannorns searching for the same thing. Is it really too hard to believe?” 

“You’ve a deep investment in the elves,” Sophia spoke up in the ensuing silence, looking over the top of the paper at her. “I do. They have assisted in the creation and preservation of your country and Thedas as a whole and yet have been swept under the rug. From Shartan, follower and supporter of Andraste, to the Night Elves who helped protect Gwaren during the Rebellion against Orlesian Occupation.” She inwardly smiled at the shock and quick look to the side the older woman made. “I know they are more free here in Ferelden compared to other parts of the world. That’s why I respect this land so much.”

“That and Mabari,” Alistair chimed in for the first time. She laughed and gave him a crooked smile. “Very true.”

“You can’t be Ferelden and attend balls and soirees and expect us to believe your a citizen.” Jessabelle lowered her head and smiled, hands on the table. Hook, line, and sinker. “Oh Arl Teagan, your hypocrisy astounds me. Do you not visit the Free Marches every year? When the Tourney year comes, are your people not left without an Arl for months at a time? Your accusations burn a hole in your own armor.”

“It’s true,” Alfstanna agreed looking up from her paper. “Your gone six months out of the year when the Grand Tourney rolls around.”

“And you do visit Ansburg three months a year atop that,” Alistair added softly. “Eamon has to stand in and he’s getting too old to make that trip.”

“I did not come to turn you on each other,” Jess interrupted before anyone else could speak either for or against him. “I came for a fortress and I and the Inquisition are willing to pay in gold and blood, because while you all might not be willing to offer the lives of your infantry, the soldiers of the Inquisition are ready, willing and able to do so. And that is a price no one can repay. Inquisitor Lavellen will free Crestwood of her burdens, and all I ask for is the fortress already left abandoned. In doing so, the road will be protected, the town rebuilt and commerce restored, because what good is saving the world if we don’t make it better?”

“Free Crestwood and we discuss the matter of the fortress,” Arl Teagan tried to argue once more. Jess controlled her snarl even though her nose crinkled slightly and she knew it showed from the way Alistair arched a brow. “I was born during the day Arl Teagan, but it wasn’t yesterday. That’s your third insult to my honor and integrity and I won’t suffer another, don’t let it happen again.” Everyone reeled back at her sudden shift. Teryna Sophia broke the stupor with a loud raucous laugh. “You’ve convinced me Lady Snow! Gwaren accepts your offer.”

“Waking Sea accepts your offer. Maker knows we could use more commerce.” Bann Leonas looked at Alfstanna and lowered his paper. “South Reach accepts your offer.” With him the bann of Dragon’s Peak followed suit.

Alistair sighed and stood. “As the Warden serve the Inquisition-”

“Ally. Ally with the Inquisition,” she corrected. He smiled and bowed his head slightly. “Of course, my mistake. As they ally with the Inquisition, Amarathine accepts your offer.”

“You can’t just state that!”

“Why not, he’s your King and a Warden is he not?” Teagan and several others blustered until a hand slammed hard against the table. Everyone froze and looked at Sophia. “Enough of your yapping Teagan! You been spending too much time with those Orlesians apparently. If the girl,” she paused and eyed Jess a moment, “If Lady Snow and the Inquisitor can free Crestwood, Caer Bronach, and solve her problems, the fortress is hers. No one’s used it in almost a century except for squatters, bandits, and murderers. Asides,” she leaned back and crossed her arms. “If you aren’t going to help the town, let someone else do it. All in favor?”

Jess looked around the table of nine and counted six for and three against. Better than she had hoped. She bowed deeply and walked around the table table, stopping beside Alistair. “I promised you that if the keep was given to me, I would sign a contract not to instigate aggression against you so long as you upheld the same agreement. This states what I believe are acts of aggression. You can amend what you feel is missing or convoluted and I will review it until we come to an agreement.”

“Why didn’t you mention that in the first place,” Alfstanna asked confused. Jess smiled and answered, “because I wanted to know who I was dealing with.” There was a sudden hush as they realized she had just set her allies. Alistair looked around the table and waited for anymore lingering questions before standing. “With that I adjourn this Landsmeet. Let us move onto the food.” Jess scoffed with a sigh and stepped out of the way as the table was moved and food was brought in. “That was very bold of you to threaten Teagan with the Rite of Conscription.”

“I’m aware, as he should be that the Wardens have saved his hide more than once to be throwing them under the...carriage.” He chuckled and nodded. “Interesting metaphor. You’re staying yes?” She glanced up at him and sighed. “I should be heading back to help plan the freedom of Crestwood. Inquisitor Lavellan will be missing me.”

“Are you and he-Maker never mind. That was highly improper of me.”

“It was. But to answer you no. He is my superior and dear friend, not my lover.” Alistair winced and shook his head. “Maker I am bad at this.” She cringed and jutted her chin towards Alfstanna. “She’s prettier than I imagined.” He followed her gaze and nodded. “She’s a good and fair bann and a great duelist.” Jess hummed and tilted her head. “Sounds like the making a good queen.” She walked away the moment his head shot up.

“Heading out already then?” She controlled her breathing and turned around with an open expression, smiling at Sophia. “Duty calls. Always.” The older woman laughed at that agreeing. “Not many people know about the Night Elves. Loghain never mentioned them again when Ferelden won her independence.”

“And isn’t that cruelty of this story. The very same people he relied on to keep his men safe and gain the upper hand at the cost of their own lives, he enslaved to fund his war effort. The Night Elves were from the alienages and fought for Ferelden just like her soldiers.” Sophia looked away and Jess made a gamble. “Were you one of those soldiers Teryna?” The woman didn’t answer and Jess nodded, trying to imagine the guilt that came with that. “He didn’t even defend his Terynir when the darkspawn attacked. We evacuated on boats when they came pouring out of the Brecilian Forest.” Jess felt her stomach plummet. Sophia's guilt ran far deeper. “Let me guess, mostly humans were on those boats. I have to get going Teryna.”

“Of course Lady Snow, safe travels.”

She walked slowly and assuredly to the main doors in case anyone else wanted to speak and sent a silent prayer of thanks no one did. Once in the stable however she bit back a scream and kicked the wall hard, startling Dawnstar. “Oh shhh, I’m sorry love,” She cooed taking his head and resting hers against it. “Did you lose the argument?” Rolling her head she looked at Bull and forced a smile. “No. We have our fortress. Once we rid it of its current occupants anyway.” He raised his brow unconvinced. “Its nothing. Its in the past and there’s nothing I can do to change that. Lets get back. I tire of this place.”

“Sure Kitten. Whatever you say.”

The dwindling sun warmed her face as they trotted across the Kings Highway. One victory under her belt. A place for her people to flourish. A place for the mages to start learning how to be part of the world and the Templars to protect in a new way. A place of learning. A place of hope, because God knew she needed it, just as much as the people of Thedas did. And maybe, just maybe she could convince Solas of that hope, that destruction wasn’t the answer.

“My birthday is in Cloudreach,” she mused watching a bird fly ahead of them.

“Yea? When? Did it pass already?”

“The twenty-seventh. Funny. I usually would try to visit a new place every year. I think I overdid myself this time.” They both shared a laugh at that and she sighed. The ache was back, but she could bear it. Things were looking up and she was happy to be in Skyhold once again, the promise of a new start. Two days later Bull got a missive about a possible alliance with the Qunari.

Chapter Text

Nimble bronze fingers cupped her cheeks, yanking her back into the present. Zevran’s eyes traced every corner of her face, mouth set in a grim line. “Tell me who to kill cara mia and consider it done.”

“What?” He sighed and put his forehead against hers. “You have been staring at the page for the past quarter hour. What has you so distraught?” Jess moved her head back and scrubbed her face, trying to clear her thoughts. “We have a lot of upcoming missions. I’ve been off my game reporting to Lycus ahead of time. I’m just trying to prioritize everything, make sure nothing slips through the cracks and all that.” She forced a smile and stretched. “Really, Zev. I’ll be fine.”

He perched himself on the edge of her table and looked out the window into the courtyard. He tutted wincing as the sound of someone hitting the dirt in full armor rang out...probably Krem. “Is this about the alliance with the Qun?” She lifted her gaze from the paper she had returned to staring at. “Why would you assume that?”

“I just find it strange that both you and our Qunari friend are in bad moods. Usually one is able to calm the other.” He gave her a sideways look not turning from the window and she schooled her face blank. “Something will happen to him, yes?”

“No.”

“Oh?” She sighed and stood, getting herself a cup of tea. “You should put a splash of Antivan brandy. It sweetens the citrus and heightens the healing properties,” he offered as she brought it to her lips. Jessabelle stared at the cup debating and then sighed. “Why not. I’ll be back, I’m heading to the storeroom.”

“Bring me a bottle as well, that man hmm, Morris I believe, he is so fickle and stingy with his wares.”

“You probably cleaned out his shipment,” She tossed back closing the door to his laugh. She kept to always wearing the jewelry Trevi made her and spun down the steps with added dexterity, flitting into the requisitions room and down the stairs into the vaults so no one could question her. She stopped abruptly at the sound of scuffling and pulled out a shank, creeping forward. She knew Solas had spies in the Inquisition and damn if she wasn’t going to try to either ferry them out, have them defect, or kill them herself. That last one was a stretch, but oh well; A for effort and all that.

Crouching down, she peered around the corner and pressed her lips together to the sight of Lycus and Dorian making out. Lycus had two bottles in one hand and the other wrapped around Dorian’s neck, while the Altus had him pressed against the wall. “Hm are you sure you don’ have anything to teach me,” he teased and Dorian’s rich laugh made her smile and grimace at the same time. “Lycus your defense is impeccable but if you want a lesson on offense-”

“I’m all ears Altus.” He let out a low purr and she cringed even lower with a smirk; she knew that sound when nibbling on Zev’s ears. God dammit, now I’m an an eavesdropper  and a voyeur too! What the shit, she cursed inwardly trying to decide how to get out of there before either of them saw her. She felt the movement behind her and inhaled shocked at the hand over her mouth. “My my princessa. What a naughty habit you have. Shh, say nothing or they will hear you,” he breathed into her hair.

Jess looked up and cursed her lot with a minuscule head shake, making him chuckle into her neck. He grabbed her waist and spun her behind a pillar, pulling her down and covering her with his cape. “Stay still or the illusion will break.” She swallowed and listened to their heavy breaths. He was punishing her for her cowardice. It had been two weeks, and she had tried to avoid the conversation whenever he tried to bring it up. She turned her head slightly and glared at at him, growing even more annoyed at his smirk.

She smiled viciously and slammed her palm flat against the ground, hard. His look of pure shock at the brazen jut of her chin was almost worth getting caught for. Lycus and Dorian looked around before sharing a look and walking towards the stairs, the one nearest them of course. She closed her eyes tight and listened to them walk closer, closer, then past them and up the stairs. Her breath shot out like a rocket when the door closed and she pushed him hard, knocking him onto his back. He grabbed her arm and yanked her over him laughing. “My my carina, your not to be toyed with,” he mused looking up at her.

“That was a shitty thing to do. Whatever moments Lycus gets to himself should be his and his alone.” He hummed with a deep inhale and nodded. “Ah. You are right of course. I apologize.” She arched a brow waiting and he shook his head. “There is no pun or joke waiting amore. I can hear a chord, a pitch so fierce when you are not to be trifled with.” He rolled and spun her into standing, pulling her into the store room. “Zev, Zev stop.” He hopped onto a barrel and smirked snatching a bottle from a top shelf, popping the cork with his teeth. “Salute.” He drunk deeply and held it out. “No. I-I’m not good with straight liquor. Takes me to bad places.” His eyes widened and he took another pull, patting the barrel next to him. “It is good for you then that I keep a skin of blackberry brine. For mixing.”

She sighed and climbed up next to him, laughing at how comfortable it actually was. No wonder Morris didn’t want him down here; he’d drink and pass out atop these barrels. “What takes you to better places, princessa?” She took the skin and sipped the far too sweet juice. “Dancing. There is a dance my mother used to dance during holidays and birthdays to fast paced drums, her skirt flying like a banner.”

“Can you mimic the drums?” She frowned wiggling her mouth. “Yes and no. There’s this base of,” she tapped her hands on the barrel to memory, hearing the rhythm was off but close. “So the dancer will come to the center and face the drummers and she’d move her body and the drummer would try to match her body movements; everything from the way she tossed the edge of her dress to the shake of her hair. Its a beautiful give and take dance.”

“Sounds like the passionera of Antiva.” She raised an eyebrow waiting for him to explain. “Its a dance where the dancer moves their body but the magic is in the feet, the shoes make a loud clicking.”

“Oh! Flamenco!” She hopped off the barrel and lifted the bottom of her skirt moving slowly through a few of the arm movements.

“Yes! Yes! You dance the passionera?” She laughed and stomped her feet quickly. “Not well. I can’t do those tight steps, my calves would cramp.” She spun her dress and posed turning slowly before sighing. “Bomba y plena is similar in that its between the drummer and the dancer, not another partner. Though, there could be one now that I think about it.” He smiled softly hopping off and wrapping an arm around her shoulders. “So dancing is your hidden passion. What else takes you to better places?" She stared at him and answered honestly, “You and Bull.” His eyes widened slightly before he laughed and waggled his eyebrows. “Yes I can see that!” She sighed and tried to explain that it wasn’t just the sex, when his body stiffened. He paused ear flicking. “Someone comes looking for you.” The door opened before she could ask. “Lamb! Lamb you down there?”

“I’m here love!”

“Come quick!” Stealing a glance back to Zev, she bolted out of the door, scoffing when he ran right by her and up the stairs, the show off. “Madre mia. What...is that?” She rushed out terrified she forgot about something in game and arched a brow at the massive hart, with Lycus looking far too smug holding its bridle. “Your Royal Sixteen my lady. Compliments of Clan Lavellan, though I hear they may disown me from the trouble she caused on the ship.” She smirked and reached out to touch her only to be snapped at. Jess smiled wildly with a nod. “Spirited.”

“She rides well,” Lycus promised smoothing down her fluffy chest. “You better catch me if she rears then,” She warned rushing forward and grabbing the saddle, pulling herself up. Jess gritted her teeth yanking the reigns as the beast bleated and spun in a circle. She fought gripping tight with her thighs as her haunches kicked, everyone moving back a safer distance. She was sweating by the time the hart realized she wasn’t getting off, both of them panting. “You done yet, pretty girl,” Jess asked breathless, waiting for the last spurt of aggression which came without fail, letting out a strangled sound at the three brisk hops and last spin. She patted her shoulder affectionately when the beast sighed in defeat. “I bet you eat men alive when you want,” she praised. The hart flicked and ear and breathed heavily, lowering her head and grazing. “She comes with me to the Storm Coast. Her attitude will remind me.”

“Of what?” She looked up at Bull who had watched her tame the beauty. “To remain patient,” she bit out when her hart gave a grunt and moved to charge him. She had to fight her back into submission and while she enjoyed the challenge, she would not be wanting to do this in the rain. Which was why she would. Dawnstar was a good boy, but his calmness would give her time to worry. Zevran gave a worried look at her and crossed his arms. “Forgive me if I ride in back of you. Far far back.”

Lycus laughed and moved back as she swung her back to look at him, nose twitching.

“You got a name for that monster,” Dennet asked with pride. “Wendigo,” Jess smiled, arching an eyebrow as if daring someone to ask. “And that means what,” Zev humored, smiling warmly. “Folklore legend, a horned man eating creature of wild power. She will not be tamed, I can tell. But she will tolerate me while I love on her, won’t you my lovely hellion. I’m going to dismount now beast, do not step on me,” She warned throwing her leg over. The hart watched her unmoving until she was down and then hit her hard with her snout.

“Oof! You awful monster you.” She rubbed her stomach and wiped the sweat from her neck as Dennet fought to lead her away. She felt less stressed after fighting with Wendigo and dusted her hands off prepared to finally face her task. Rolling up her sleeves she went to her room and wrote her reports.

Talia would wait for her to hold a paper out and the recipient and she was gone like a loosed arrow, returning before Jess could finish the next one. The last letter was when she finally looked up and found her handmaid almost asleep on her bench by the door. “Talia,” she waited until she sat up straight before continuing, “Ensure that pesky Commander has eaten. Bring him a tea of mint and prophets laurel. And if your hand happens to slip and add embrium, well we can only hope he actually sleeps tonight.”

“Yes, m’lady. Will you need me after?”

“No darling. I need this letter to reach Lycus by my own hand to be sure and then I’m heading to Bull’s. Zevran asked me to speak to him about tomorrow.” Talia smirked and Jess shooed her out, following only a few minutes after tidying and snuffing the candle.

Winded at reaching the Inquisitor’s door, she heard the quiet ‘enter’ and groaned, walking up the last flight to his room where he sat pouring over a letter. “What do ya need Lamb?”

“Your trust.” She watched him grow unnaturally still, putting the paper down and folding his hands. “You have that, but your askin’ for more yes?” Moving to the edge of the desk she laid the paper down, half folded, leaving only the bottom showing. “Please sign this and seal it. And I will send it tonight.”

He arched a brow, crinkling his vallaslin. “So urgent?”

“Yes.” He pursed his lips thinking. “What is that Lamb? Something for Crestwood?”

“Something that will save lives if it comes down to it in the Storm Coast. Your contingency plan if you will. And mine.”

“Shouldn’t I know what that is?”

“No.”

He blinked surprised while she stayed solemn. “This is a test ma’falon. For all of us. If we all fail, and I pray you will not let me down, but if it comes to it, this will save lives, save face, save me of the guilt, and save Bull.”

“You believe this.” He pulled out the quill and signed the paper, waiting until it dried before folding it up and sealing it with blue wax and his signet. Before she could take it, he caught her wrist firmly but not painfully so, pinning her hand against the table. “I don’ like yer tests Lamb. I don’ understand why you don’ trust me enough to let me know these things.”

“I told you before my love, I don’t trust people not to mess things up. My life is always in your hands Lycus. You seem to forget that while I move through Thedas as if I am queen, you are the proclaimed god of this age. I live because you allow it. I have power because you allow it. And I counsel you, because you allow it. If that’s not trust, I don't know what is.”

He sighed and scrubbed his face, moving his hand away. “Sound more like a hostage agreement.” Chuckling,she waited until he was looking at her again before perching on the edge of his desk. “As for Crestwood, you will find it convenient to leave Leliana’s agents outside of the mayors door when we leave to siege Caer Bronach.” Hiding the fear at his show of authority, she explained about the mayor, watching his face become thoughtful. She stifled a yawn after explaining the rift, old Crestwood, and the dragon, and Lycus patted her thigh affectionately. “Go on Lamb. Tomorrow we ride to the Coast.”

The night was cool as her dress billowed in the wind crossing the battlements to Bull’s tower. She bowed her head politely to the soldiers on duty, smiling at every ‘good night my Lady’ and ‘Maker watch over you.’ Rapping lightly on the door, she waited only a breath before opening it.

“Bull I was hoping-” her mind shorted at the sight. Zevran lifted his head from the bed and gave her that same piercing smirk he gave in the Emerald Graves when he caught her peeking. His arms and back from what she could see was knotted in a precise triangular design. Bull yanked on the rope he was fastening behind him before lifting his gaze. “Kitten. Your a little late, we started without you.” Zev chuckled and jutted his chin. “Could you close the door princessa, it’s getting a little cold.”

“Oh! Oh,” she stood at the threshold, hands shifting to close the door, body unsure on what side to be on.

“Kitten.” His voice broke through her panic and she looked at Bull wide eyed. “Your safeword.”

“S-S,” she swallowed and forced out a whispered, “Sovereign.” He smirked and nodded approvingly. “Good girl. Come in and close the door.” Her eyes instantly jumped to Zevran; he was watching her curiously with a soft smile, not moving and waiting for her to decide of her own volition. Breath caught in her lungs and heartbeat pounding in her temple, she closed the door slowly and leaned against it, bringing her gaze back to Bull’s eye.

“Undress.” He was serious. Her mind went a mile a second, trying to piece whether this was a dream or real. She was here, in his room, with both of them, this wasn’t a one to one type of...a cool breeze from the window pebbled her naked skin. She stared at her clothes pooled around her feet confused...when did those get there? A soft thud made her jump and fling her head up to look at the pillow tossed onto the floor a foot or so from the bed. “Kneel.” She stared at it and felt her head shake slightly. I can’t do this. Oh my God, I can’t do this. I’m going to faint.

“Kitten.” It was spoken so sweetly her heart clenched and she closed her eyes before looking at the two men who watched her carefully. Bull nudged a horn to the pillow. “Kneel.” With steps like cannon fire she walked across the room and knelt onto the red cushion, palms flat against the tops of her thighs. No one moved for a span of two breaths and then Bull yanked on the rope and continued his task at hand. Zev groaned and rested the side of his face on the mattress. “Always so rough with everything. I thought you said this was meditation.”

“It is. For me,” Bull answered without looking away. His eye fluttered and Jess felt her eyes widen even more when she saw the slight sway of Zevran, his breath coming out in a puff. Golden eyes under hooded lids locked onto her. “Breathe amore, I have to keep reminding myself too.” She nodded weakly with a shaky hum and swallowed. He’s getting fucked. In front of me. While being tied.

She felt his piercing gaze on her and lifted her eyes slowly to look at Bull and he groaned. “Fuck ain’t that the cutest face. Completely out of your element, aren’t you wildcat?”

“Yes,” she croaked out. “And yet your enjoying yourself.” She sighed with a small whimper and nodded. “Yes.”

Zev chuckled and the hissed when Bull surged forward slamming into him. “Ah,” he breathed out, “So now the game really begins.” Jess dropped her gaze and swallowed biting her bottom lip. “Head up.” Her body instantly obeyed his tone and she watched her elf’s face contort into beautiful expressions of ecstasy. “That rouge color...suits you princessa,” he breathed eyes rolling back.

She said nothing, focusing on her own breathing, the mad race of her heart, and the seeping wetness between her legs. He would smell her soon. She tried to keep perfectly still as a light sweat started to make itself known on the nape of her neck in her arousal and effort to remain unaffected. It was a losing battle with Zevran’s face and Bull’s grunts, his hands grabbing onto the ropes for leverage. And then he noticed. She caught the way his head went up, scenting the air before smirking. “Zevran. Our little princess is dripping.” Closing her eyes at the embarrassment of being called out, she waited for his next words.

“I don’t think…I believe you. I will have to see for myself.” Oh, fuck me. Oh well, I mean yeah but-

“Kitten.” She opened her eyes and looked at him with a weak sound. His smirk was so insufferable, it was glorious. “Stand and come closer.” Her traitorous legs raised her to her knees and then up, and she squeezed her eyes tight at the Antivan curse whispered. She noted something along the lines of ‘beautiful sight’ and ‘on the floor’; her mind could fill the blanks. “Your pillow is ruined,” he noted with a laugh turned groan.

“Worth it,” Bull answered panting.

“I may faint.” She swallowed her mortification at the sudden silence by focusing on the dancing spots in her vision. “On the bed. Hey.” She heard Zev groaned sharply again and snapped to attention at the calloused hand on her jaw, Bull leaning over him to reach her. “You’ll break him,” she stated dumbly, making him laugh and poor Zev swore under his breath. “He can take it.”

“Yes, well there only so much Zevran can take amico.”

“Just breathe,” Jess teased mimicking him from earlier, making Bull laugh. “You wicked woman, stop instigating him,” he murmured face buried into the sheet.

Bull led her by her jaw onto the bed and the pushed her back. Her head bounced off a pillow and on instinct she grabbed the headboard just as Zevran descended on her. She would die tonight, as she orgasmed almost immediately, earning herself another brush of Antivan swears into her thighs. “Good girl,” she heard vaguely over the roaring of her pulse, and then the assassin was rolling his tongue over her again. He bit somewhat hard into her flesh and she hissed opening her eyes and then closing them at Bull jerking him. She would die, happy, but she would die this night.

She opened her eyes at his hands digging into her hips, ropes loosened over him as Bull watched on while washing himself off. Zevran startled and looked back with a swear. “Maker could you not warm the water before doing that?” Jess laughed and Bull pulled Zevran up straight by his hair. “Up for a little revenge Kitten?”

The words spun around her muddled brain until she caught the glint in his eye and smiled, turning to kneel in front Zev. “Oh? Oh! Well I am not opposed to a bit of turnabout if yo-” His last word was dragged out as she grabbed a hip for support and pulled him into her mouth, alternating between light and hard sucks. “Amore-”

“Shut up and let go,” she breathed nipping him softly. She felt him harden even still and then flinched startled at the hot rush flooding her mouth. Swallowing before she could choke, she sucked until he finally finished and inched back from her sensitive.

Releasing him she lowered herself into a ball and breathed. “I may die.”

“I think we all may,” he joked rubbing her back. There was some shuffling and a warm blanket that was probably left by the fire was thrown over her. She tried to pull away as Bull bundled her and moved her to the headboard, holding out a cup of tea. “No one came in me,” she whispered confused. “And yet tea is still good after sex,” he replied and pressed the cup to her lips while she drank deeply. “Good girl.” She felt so small in these moments, so...safe. So proud to see him pleased with her.

“Why don’t you have a tub in here? A large bucket even!” She wiggled her head out more to watch Zevran pulling the kettle from the fire, pouring it into the ewer, then the wash basin. “No, Zevran. I rather freeze my manhood off using a washrag rather than soak in a tub.”

“Stop whining and get over here, you pampered princess.”

“Pampered I am, with the two of you! This bathing situation however, not so much. We must remedy this. Next time, her room, yes?” She laughed and shook her head, resting on Bull’s chest. The Storm Coast would go well. She was not willing to give this up.

 

 

 

 

Wendigo proved as troublesome as she expected down the mountain. But once on the plains and even in the wet cool rains of the Storm Coast she mellowed out, obeying with less correction. Jess felt a kinship with the beast that preferred the wilds over the snow, having trained her with gentle clicks of her tongue and words she butchered taught by Lycus along the way. Bull had grown quieter the closer they got and the Chargers worked overtime to make jokes and play pranks, Zevran joining in every so often. Lycus himself rode stoic on his Brecilian Surefoot beside her, face solemn.

In camp, everyone took on that battle calm. “Show us the way,” he answered dismounting. She thought about it and stayed on Wendigo. “I don’t want to make a fool of myself slipping and falling,” she explained when Bull arched his brow. He went to Krem and explained in detail one more time what was expected and her stomach dropped. What if my letter didn’t make it?  Shaking the doubt from her mind, she pulled her hart to follow behind Bull and Lycus.

Amore?” She turned in the seat and looked at Zev. “Now,” he asked and she nodded once. “Promise me you will do everything as I told you.”

“On my life,” he swore bowing deeply. With that assurance she caught up to Lycus.

Gatt was lankier that the elves in the Inquisition, but she could tell he was honed and dangerous. His eyes kept flitting up to her as he addressed Bull and Lycus. She controlled her face as he revealed what Hisraad meant, and her lack of response seemed to frustrate him as he spun to look down at the beach. “So, she’s the seer then?”

“From Seere,” she corrected without looking away from the beach as well. He would not get a rise from her. Too much was riding on this. He muttered something under his breath and she saw Bull look at him frowning before the fighting finished.

Now was the moment of truth. “My lord,” she whispered drawing them from their revelry. “Oh shit. They’ll be overrun.” She could hear the tremor in her Qunari’s voice. Wendigo shuffled under her, feeling her discomfort as well. “If they stay they die.”

“They knew what they were getting into!” She closed her eyes to keep from swearing at Gatt.

Call it Lycus.

“Boss?”

“They’re your men.”

“I know that.”

“Hisraad!

Call it dammit! Call it! Her eyes squeezed tight in fear and then-

“Sound the retreat Bull.” She exhaled the breath she was holding and listened to the loud horn behind her, missing some of Gatt’s tirade. “You know,” she interrupted loudly watching Krem get everyone close to retreat, “There’s a saying where I come from; the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Your contingency plan has paid off my lord.” She moved her cloak and pulled out a halla horn, blowing three hard short bursts. She watched as the Blades of Hessarian poured out of the treeline, arrows and magic flying before the charge itself. Krem, rallied and pushed the Chargers forward again and she smirked as the Venatori broke.

Turning Wendigo to face Gatt, she dismounted and pulled her riding gloves off meticulously. “This was never about the Venatori and red lyrium, was it? This was a test to see how far you could manipulate the Inquisition. And this is your answer. None. Complete your mission and take your men home. Let it never be said that Inquisitor isn’t merciful with his allies.”

“There will be no alliance,” Gatt spat out.

“And I never wanted one, we simply share the same enemy,” Lycus answered coldly, watching the beach, back to him to show his lack of concern. “Lady Snow values all life. I do not share her sentiment. Take your men, finish your mission and leave with your lives while you still can.”

“Hisraad!”

“His name,” she answered for him matter of fact, “is The Iron Bull. And his men are the Bull’s Chargers, whom you would have sacrificed.” He snarled and took a step towards her, and she caught movement to the side the same time he did. Talia rounded the tree with a bow pulled at full draw. “Say the word m’lady,” she lowered her head as if sighting him down the arrow shaft. “Leave him. We’ve more important things to do.”

He spat at her feet and stormed back into the woods. She eyed Lycus and Bull and spoke very slowly. “There are three things I never do, no matter how many times I pathwalk. I never betray Zevran to the Crows. I never betray Fenris to Denarius, and I never betray the trust of the Chargers for an alliance. Men who are willing to die for you shouldn’t have to. They deserve better from their leaders. Speaking of which, you should let Leliana know what happened here. Bull, follow me please.”

She took Wendigo’s reign and walked away back down the path they made, turning at the fork that lead to the Hessarian camp. She prayed Bull would hold it together until they got there; she wasn’t sure she could handle him alone. Leaving her willful hart to graze at the gate, she pushed it open and motioned for him to enter, closing it behind them. She was glad to see the Blades were elsewhere as she had asked. Zevran stopped spinning his dagger and eyed her head to toe before pointing to one of the lodgings.

With the utmost care she led Bull into the house, noting the furniture was arranged to stall movement to the door and pulled his arm gently until he sat on the bench farthest away. She stepped back away and leaned against the door frame, crossing her arms. “Now what,” Zev whispered behind her. “We wait,” she breathed out. Her heart was breaking watching Bull for any sign that he was past his shock. There was a very real possibility he would snap; the game glazed over his healing process, but she herself still suffered quietly the loss of home. How much more a man whose life was built to serve?

Jessabelle’s eyes were closed, trying to fight off the chill of the cold and the stiffness in her bones when his breath came out ragged. Lifting her head she held a hand for Zevran to stay back and moved cautiously in. “Hon? Bull?” His rage was terrifying as he roared a sound more animal than man, flipping the table in front of him. “Jess,” Zev whispered worried shifting at the door. “Don’t move.” Bull held his head and she wanted so desperately to tell him it was better this way, but the way his fist went through the bench kept her rooted in place.

Blindly he grabbed a broken half and smashed it against the wall, pausing only to scream and doing the same with the other part. Fear and heartache kept her in the room as he broke every surface with his fists, against the wall, or stomping the pieces with his feet. She flinched and ducked a thrown bottle; the movement caught his eye, and he charged her. Her breath caught as his fists raised high above her and then she screamed, voice cracking in its urgency but staying put.

“SOVEREIGN!” There were stars inside her eyelids from how tight she had squeezed them shut, head turned into her shoulder for protection. Releasing the breath she held, she opened her eyes warily and looked up at his, watching his gaze encompass every inch of her face. Her breath came out in thick shaky puffs as she tried to stand straighter. His arms were still above his head, hands in fists and she realized one of her own was out in front of her halting him, the other stretched out back to stop.... Looking over her shoulder revealed Zevran, both daggers in hand breathing just as hard, watching them with large pupils in his gold eyes.

Facing Bull once more, with far less courage than her voice showed she ordered, “Kneel.” Bull blinked rapidly as if trying to find the definition of the word. “Now,” she demanded swallowing past the fear in her mouth. He dropped like stone, arms falling to his sides. “Leave them up.” His face contorted but his arms slowly rose once again. She nodded, chest rising with every breath. “Good.” Looking back at Zev, she nodded once more and held out her hand. He looked murderous for a moment and then sighed putting his weapons away. Leaning out the door, he pulled in two long sticks and handed her one.

The understanding was clear on Bull’s face and he lowered his head waiting. The tremors in her hands had her fumbling to hold the stick firmly, until Zev cleared his throat. “You did your part mi amore, now let me.” Without hesitation she handed over the stick and backed up to the door. Zevran held it like a baseball bat; his anger and fear for her evident in the first brutal swing, catching Bull across the back with a resounding whack. He growled and nodded.”Again.”

“Oh don’t worry amico, I wasn’t finished.”

Her feet carried her out of the compound and down the winding path to the beach, stopping only when the frigid ocean waves washed up against her shins. Holy fuck. What if he hadn’t stopped? What if she couldn’t break through his battle rage? Shoulder rising with every inhale at the intensity of what she just witnessed, she threw her head back and screamed at the sky, sharing his rage. Picking up stones, she hurled them into the ocean until her strength failed and she stumbled painfully onto the sand, letting her head fall to her chest.

Wendingo’s agitated snort warned her first and she lifted her head slowly, blinking away the rain from her eyes. “You should have listened and left,” she warned emotionless, bringing herself to stand. She turned and felt her heartbeat race once more. A Qunari in blood red vitaar watched her unmoving. She should’ve seen this coming. How was she so stupid to think they would actually leave? But...they aren’t at the compound, or were they?

“Let me guess,” she ventured, walking two steps to the right and seeing his feet shift with her, “I’m still alive when you could have easily snapped my neck, which means...ah. I see.” No options. She had no options. These were not Avvar she could outsmart. Sten, no all Qunari were a different breed of warrior all together. She had no chance.

Except one.

With a frustrated snarl she nodded. “I see,” she repeated a bit harsher. “A bit too late, but I see. So then. Where does this leave me? Fight and die. Or submit?” She clicked her tongue in frustration and opened her jacket slowly, watching his muscles bunch. She raised a brow and took out her knife with two fingers, dropping it to her feet. “I’m not stupid,” she scolded watching his shoulders drop a measure. Opening the other side, she pulled out her shank and did the same. “Can you guarantee my life,” she asked, seeing Wendigo approach slowly from her peripheral, the damn beast suddenly deciding now not to listen to her click training.

“Yes.”

She hummed and lowered her head walking towards him. “By the way,” she added as an afterthought, “You have at most a two minute head start.” He frowned and she whistled sharply, dodging back as her hart charged forward. She grabbed the saddle slightly wrenching her arm as she yanked the horn off, blowing hard before running into the woods, breaking away from her. “No beast, run the other way,” she snapped as Wendigo kept pace with her.

Stupid hard headed animal she growled, letting her enchanted armor keep her from slamming right into a tree. She heard a fast approach behind and dared a look back to see him giving chase, her heart leaping into her throat. This was stupid. Par Vollen and Seheron were tropical areas; of course they could move through the rainy terrain with ease, while she herself stumbled like an idiot. Wendigo bleated and leaped away, bringing her attention forward once more. She closed her eyes as she was closed lined, feeling a crack somewhere in her chest as her feet lifted off the ground.

The second impact of her back against the rock stole everything from her. The spiraling horns above her barely registered as they grabbed her wrist and yanked her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes. The pain was blinding, suffocating, maddening as her lungs refused to return air from the initial strike. It was Fenris’ hand in her chest all over again, just without the blood. Her head lifted to the sky in agony and the one behind barked in Qunlat, slowing her abductor. She was brought around and carried bridle style, the rain invading her nose and open mouth, while air still escaped her.

Horns blocked her view and then a hard mouth pressed over hers, blowing and finally her body remembered its most basic vital functions as she coughed and tried to draw in breath. A cry slipped past her lips as he ran again, arms crushing her to him. Weakly she braced a hand against her chest and wheezed. She couldn’t move. Even though she wanted to, she couldn’t breath right. My ribs, he broke my ribs. Her head dropped back against his bicep and she closed her eyes.

What else could she do against true warriors? She warned Zev and Bull, and hopefully any elves in the area, namely Lycus would’ve heard her horn. There was nothing else except to wait for a moment of opportunity. Which was slim with her lungs out of commission. You stupid idiot.

She faded for a moment until the ground changed and opened her eyes to see him entering the dreadnought. She tried to pull away for the sake of resistance and immediately regretted the branding pain in her chest and side.

“Enough,” he ordered bringing her under the deck and into a room. “For fuck sake,” she groaned coughing and seizing. Laying her surprisingly gently onto a cot, he barked something and pulled out a knife. Jess swung her arm to try and take it and was instantly pinned. “Enough,” he growled again, bringing it to her armor lacing. “No!” She coughed and kicked her feet. “No, my armor- like your sword. Don’t take my armor,” she forced out breathless at the stars she saw as darkness crept in on her.

She felt them removing her cloak and then her jacket and the leather armor beneath with great patience. Something herbal was by her head and she opened her eyes to watch him remove her bra. His face was blank but his eyes were remarkably expressive as he took in the bruising. Her gaze swam above him to a Qunari with ram horns who growled something. She understood imekari and nothing else but that was enough. She was as weak as child to them and she wouldn’t deny it. A hand lifted her head softly. “Drink.”

“No.” It tightened but not enough to actually cause pain. “You will die if you do not drink.”

A small painful hum escaped her. “That sounds like a you problem. I bet I’m not supposed to die.” He sighed annoyed and she closed her eyes, figuring it to be the end of the conversation. Another hand gripped her chin and his lips pressed against her again, pushing the healing potion into her mouth. She swallowed in shock and hissed at the pain as her ribs cracked again, back into place this time. Something was still wrong though.

He held her by her neck up as the other one wrapped her ribs and chest. These warriors had unbelievably good bedside manners; their gentleness taking her by surprise. Once they were done, Ram Horns left and Spiral stayed, leaning back on his stool to study her. She watched him in kind, trying to figure out how to get him to speak. A Qunari would wait her out, that technique would not work here. It didn’t matter; she was too tired, too scared to stay up. She was on a boat to Par Vollen or wherever and she was unsure if Lycus was coming. She turned her head and stared at the ceiling until her lids dropped.

 

 

 

 

I’m coming Lamb.

 

 

 

Her eyes opened and she blinked away the tear that slipped out. She was weak and out of breath. A gasp escaped her at the movement by her cot. Spiral Horns was still watching her. She swallowed and made the motion for a drink, pushing herself slightly up as he handed her a bowl of water. “Does the Ariqun or the Arishok call for me?” He blinked at her silent and she looked back at the ceiling, trying to think of another question. “Are you Sten or are you Ben-Hassrath?”

“Besrathari.” Of course, the one name I wouldn’t know. She pressed her lips together trying to piece it. “Basra and thari so…foreigner and...thari...Viddathari means newly converted so foreigner converter?” His eyes widened just a fraction before he shook his head. “No, but you are close. It is besra not basra. I am a recruiter for the Ben-Hassrath.” She felt a block of ice down her spine and forced an intrigued hum. She needed to change the subject, and moved her eyes trailing the curve his horns. “May I touch your horns.” His face went blank. “No.”

“Why not? Are they sensitive?”

“No.”

“Then why?”

“You are like a child. Why do you want to touch my horns?”

“Because you and I are not friends. I don’t care what you think of me, just as you don’t care what I think of you. This is a learning experience between us and nothing more. If you want me simply for physical pleasure, tell me so I can achieve the same. And if you want me for knowledge, tell me so I can learn as well. And if your simply going to kill me in the end anyway, tell me so I don’t waste my time on idle chit chat and can focus on finding my inner peace.” She lowered her eyes from his spiraling horns and glared at him waiting.

“I am not going to kill you,” he finally answered, lowering his head slightly to still watch her. Pushing to sit up, she gasped at the pain that drained her face of blood, making him sigh and move closer. “You are weak.”

“I am,” she agreed hoarsely with no heat, “And you are curious.” He stared at her, gray eyes hard before nodding. “I am.” She smirked and raised her hand slowly, checking with his face every few seconds as she passed a hand gently over the horn, tracing the skin. “Does it callous naturally with age?”

“No. This Southern weather is just miserable.” She chuckled at that. “I came from warm hot beaches, rainy summer nights, frogs singing,” she stopped herself from giving away too much and moved her hand slowly to his head, humming intrigued. “The bone structure is different too, its not muscular like I thought.” He said nothing and she grabbed his horn and pulled gently towards herself. He growled and a brief standoff ensued where Jess was waiting for him to move away and he waited for her to let go. Finally he sighed and scooted the stool closer and she slid her hands into his hair trying to feel the bone behind his ear.

He made a small purr and froze snatching his head back and growling, “That is enough.” She laid back and wheezed nodding. “The healers in Par Vollen will heal that.” She hummed closing her eyes. “No they won’t. My lung will fully collapse when the boat rocks too hard one of these days and you will return to Par Vollen with a blue corpse.” In a way she believed that and was comforted in the fact that she would not be tortured; the prospect of choking to death however took some of the charm from the image.

A man entered and whispered something and she tried to figure out the meaning, but there was no inflection and no word she understood. Spiral Horns-no Besrathari gave her a curious look and left with him. Jess swallowed the urge to cry and closed her eyes. If she dreamed maybe she could contact Lycus again. For the first time? She was unsure if her mind had made his voice up.

A cool hand touched her forehead and she opened her eyes, blinking her new ‘friend’ into view. “You know what is wrong.” Her body was on fire. “Fever,” she mumbled, feeling a familiar crawl on her skin. “Why does it not break?”

“Aren’t the Qunari supposed to be ahead in all things compared to bas,” she asked annoyed trying to get comfortable.

“You are being difficult.”

“I am.” He was silent and she opened her eyes to see him staring at her curiously. “A storm has amassed and we will not be arriving as soon as I had hoped. You will die.”

“So I will. What is the term the Qun uses? Esit-taleb? All is at it should be?” He frowned. “Asit tal-eb. You should not speak what you don’t know.”

“I know that you and I will die at sea.” He blinked sitting down to watch her. She looked up at the ceiling and smiled slowly. Magic. She felt a familiar magic in the air; sunshine and warmth. It was very faint, like if carried on a breeze, but that was enough “Do the Qunari believe in promises?”

“No. There is duty and either you do it or you don’t.” She hummed and tried to take a deeper breath. “That seems like the same thing to me. A promise is sacred; only death or severe incapacitation should keep you from fulfilling it.” She turned her head and looked at him thoughtfully. “If I live, I will mourn you when you die. You are strange but not unkind. My people; the Iron Bull included made me a promise. I think they will keep it.”

He looked at her and waited. She contemplated leaving him in the dark and then smiled sadistically. Why the hell not?  He knows something is up. “The promise was if I was ever taken alive and they were not sure I could be rescued, to blow the fuckers sky high. I’d say a ship full of gattlock will get the job done. Did you know the Inquisitor’s main school is storm magic?” He stood then and left without a word and Jess laughed weakly. Either she would be rescued, or she would be freed from this life. Either way, she would not be taken to Par Vollen. If it came to the latter, Bull would know where the gaatlock was stored and Lycus or even Dorian’s spell would be enough.

 

Chapter Text

There were certain things she should’ve known and should’ve prepared for. First, he was a spy. And a fucking good one. He had started by mentioning the weather in Par Vollen, describing the trees and the warm tropical jungles. She was sucked in immediately at his mention of the spotted cats that prowled the trails just outside the cities and he caught onto quick, going into detail of the flowers and scents, and she immediately resonated with it, how the plumerias in bloom let off the sweetest smell. How the bullfrogs infuriated and entertained her. It was only when she mentioned the alligators and his head tilted did she realize what he had done. She stayed silent then, and he went on to speak of the roles of the Qun.

She could hear the pride in his voice, or maybe she was projecting. She turned to watch him when he spoke of Rasaan, the emissary, and her work guiding the Arishok, the tone was reverent almost. It broke her heart a bit, the way he saw the world so perfectly fit together. He paused and tilted his head assessing her and she looked away. “Whatever it is you want of me, I cant be it. I am not made for the Qun though I see its appeal. There is too much I hold onto to let the tide wash over me.” He hummed intrigued. “Strange that you see your struggle and yet refuse to let go of its futility.”

“It means more to me than peace of mind does.”

“You are without purpose.”

“No. I have purpose.”

“Then it is not the right one.” She snarled at him through wet lashes. “And what would you know of my purpose, spy? What lies will tell not only yourself but me to sleep better at night!”

His quiet patient stare was infuriating. “You are dead.” Jess blinked slowly, narrowing her eyes. “And you’ve drawn that conclusion how?” It was his turn to blink surprised. “You do not refute it.”

“You truly believe that. As wrong as it is, I want to understand why.” Besrathari made a small approving grunt. “Your scent is acidic with fear but also cloying with death. You have no purpose and are like a husk not realizing it has passed.” She scoffed with a smirk shaking her head, a tear slipping down her cheek. “What you smell is loss, not lack of purpose. I have lost everything. My home, my family, my people, my culture, my fucking history! Don’t tell me I have no purpose; it is the only thing I live for!” She threw an arm over her eyes and waved him off with the other, hiccuping back a sob. the weight of her arm ebbed away with her consciousness.

Calloused fingers slid over her palm when she came to, noting the hushed whispers. She turned her head and opened her eyes slowly staring at Ram Horns; both of them freezing still while studying each other. He let her hand go and moved away muttering something to Besra, and then left without a look back. Jess raised an eyebrow. “What have you found inadequate in the bas now,” she whispered hoarsely.

“Pashaara Seer.”

“From Seere,” she answered automatically. He arched a brow crossing his arms. “Strange then that you did not correct me, when I spoke of the region wrongly. Stranger still that the natives that far north of Kont-arr pronounce it Se-air, and yet you do not.” He ran a finger along her side, tapping her hip. “Or that no markings as delicate as yours have ever been produced before.”

Jess inhaled unimpressed. “Congratulations on saying only what others have only had the courage to think. What’s wrong with my hands. Why was,” she motioned to the door, “Curving Horns inspecting them?”

“You are a healer. The elfroot tinges your nail beds, and the elves follow your meditation. Yet you are also a diplomat.” She stilled trying to find the meaning behind his words. Her silence must’ve been telling; his head tilting curiously. “You have shown them how to soothe their pains through body movements, massage. And have taught them medicine.”

“Oh. Yeah,” she agreed hesitantly, not realizing it had spread from Skyhold. “But you are also a diplomat.”

“And?” He hummed and gazed at her as if reassessing something. It also reminded her of the way a rider would assess a thoroughbred horse at an auction. It lasted only a moment before he stood and followed his companion out.

Their steps became more pronounced as they moved in the hallway outside her room. Fading in and out, she guessed the days at sea so far where three. It could’ve still been only been one though. Besrathari was out more than in so when she came to from her most recent blackout and saw him staring at her, she knew something was wrong. Hopefully to her benefit.

“You are turning blue.” She scoffed with a smirk. “Pretty sure I warned you of that,” She breathed out, closing her eyes.

“You know what is wrong.”

“We also established that already.” She heard him sigh heavily and sit down. “You are resistant even in your weakened state.” She opened her eyes a crack and shrugged. “My constitution has always been weak. The resistance might as well go somewhere.”

“If you know this, then why do you put yourself into dangerous situations? Had you stayed in your fortress, you would not be here.”

“Had you not abducted me I wouldn’t be here you mean; I won't be blamed for someone else's behavior. Besides,” she winced rolling slightly to look at him better, “Life is not meant to be lived in fear.” His smirk, a smile by all accounts stunned her. “In that we agree. You would make a worthy priestess.” She hummed pursing her lips. “Isn’t that out of your role to say? I thought Tamassrans decided someone’s place in the Qun.”

“True, but as a recruiter, I am allowed to make suggestions. You...would be an exception.” Ram Horns pushed open the door and glared at her, and Jess felt a sudden very clear fear of the man. Whatever middle ground they had before was gone. He glanced at Besrathari and mumbled one word, then looked at her again and spoke a bit rougher. Besra barked out a retort, making Ram Horns turn tail with a door slam.

“We must move. Sit up.”

“We’re on a fucking boat. Where the hell are we going to go?” His hand braced her up and swung her legs off the cot. While the pain in her chest had diminished enough to be tolerable, she felt light headed and sluggish. She winced while he fixed her chest piece into place, tightening the straps with precision. “You have questions.”

She smirked with a small arch of her brow. “A lot of them.”

“Choose one.”

She let her eyes drift close as her vision swam. “You are giving me my armor back.”

“That is a statement, not a question.” She snorted annoyed with an eye roll. “WHY are you giving my armor back?”

“Because you will need it.” She made a small ‘ah’. “So they have come and battle is imminent. How close?” He spared her a glance not answering. “Hmm, that close huh.” The crack of thunder overhead made her look up with a smile. “Oh, Besra, you’re cutting it real close.” He sat back and tilted his head. “You can tell.”

“I can. But I want to see. If I am to meet a watery end, then I want his storm clouds burned in my last memories.” He blinked slowly. “You accept your fate however it shifts. It is a shame you will not come willingly.” She exhaled sight blurring and gave minuscule shake of her head. No, I would not go willingly into a forced servitude.

“You will be bound.”

“Nothing new there hon.” She held still as her hands and wrists were tied and grunted when he pulled her to standing. In the hallway, the roar of the storm was more prominent and as they neared the port door she felt his magic wash over her. Relief. She felt relief through it, his or hers she wasn’t sure, but she knew he felt her the same way she just felt his mana.

The door flung open and she teetered onto the deck, staring up at the eye they were in, the storm raging and turning up the water like a fortress wall. The Dreadnought could go no further without Lycus allowing it or risk sinking. “Holy shit,” she breathed at the small red flagged ships gliding around them in a sharp dance. “Aravels!” She spun to watch a ship fly by them, three elves on the deck manning ropes as a forth swung around, turning the ship the way a surfer would cut through waves. “That is so freaking cool.”

Someone barked an order and she was pushed down roughly. “Stay,” Besra commanded moving to help his men. She gasped as a barrier was thrown over her and magic rained down in sharp lightning bursts. “Ma’falon,” she breathed letting the aura wash over her soothingly.

Jess rose to her knees and pinpointed him on a ship away from the ones circling. “Hey! Lady Bits! Pay attention!” She turned and saw Sera hanging upside from an aravel’s mast, arrow nocked and ready. Jess sobbed out a laugh; since Blackwall’s death Sera had avoided her, going so far as to disappear when she tried to approach her at camp. That she would agree to help a sea rescue was monumental.

A cannon went off and she dropped onto the deck as the dreadnought rocked violently. They must know they can’t hit a target as fast as them. She felt the slow syrupy mana draw of Dorian, and crawled to hold onto the stairway railing, lowering her head as a fireball crashed the side of the dreadnought, rocking them dangerously. The arrows rained in then from both sides. Everything was moving too quickly, her breath catching as she tried to find the opening Sera warned her for. She didn’t see it yet, in truth she could barely see anything through her haze.

A ship caught her eyes approaching far closer and she rushed out to try and get to the bow in time. Her legs gave out and she dropped curling into herself, chest aching as air became even more scarce. A scream ripped from her anyway when Ram Horns grabbed her arm and lifted her to pierce his spear through just as a barrier slide over her a second before the lightning struck. He dropped her with a snarl and she crawl away, not turning as a fire wall ran across the deck, the heat searing even though it didn’t burn her flesh.

Sera dropped in front of her and fired an arrow before looking down. “What’s broken?”

“My lungs.”

“Say what now,” She dodged a spear that lodged in the wood sighing, turning on her heel and leaping off the boat landing on an aravel with far more grace than gravity should’ve allowed. She could see them moving as a fleet, drawing away and regrouping as orders were changed. “They have abandoned you.”

She wheezed and sat back on her heels, looking through the incoming rain up at the familiar spiraling horns. “I think they’re getting out of explosion range.” His brow creased as he looked back out to the sea. “Perhaps you were right, and we are to meet a watery end.”

“Probably,” she agreed, lowering her head. “You don’t have to be here. You are Besrathari, not with the naval warfare. This is not your battle,” she looked up at him and nudged her chin to the edge. “You still have a mission you can succeed in. Get off this ship.”

“I have been sent for you.” She froze and then smiled, holding out her tied hands. “Then come with me, perhaps you can still sway me.”

“You do not believe that.”

“You are not as perceptive as I thought if that is what you believe.” He pulled a knife and cut her free in one swipe, putting it back before she could blink. “It does not matter,” he said lifting his head to the spells.

The sky went red with six fireballs, three auras familiar. “So be it,” she breathed and he crouched with her. “Panahaden Seer.” She looked at him and nodded with a smile, closing her eyes at the blinding light. The force crushed her chest as she was thrown back across the deck, and then airborne as the gaatlok finally ignited. The barrier held long enough for her to slam into the sea and then fizzled out as she was spun like a batch of laundry from the explosion. Kicking, her head broke the water fumbling for anything to hold onto. The first two planks of wood sunk when she tried to pull herself up until she grabbed a barrel, nails digging into the wood.

The ocean had no mercy on her weakened state and she slammed into the makeshift buoy relentlessly. The rains died down to a sprinkle, though it did little to change the waves and her hair was ripped from its braid, essentially blinding her. She could hear the Qunari that still lived around her, and kept silent for fear they might try and spear her out of spite like Ram Horns. But Spiral Horns, he deserved a prayer as best she could give him. “Goodbye Besrathari,” she forced out through chattering teeth.

“Lamb!”

“Rosy! Where are you!” Her head rested against the wood arms weakening. Not now body, please not now. We’re so close. “Here,” she croaked out weakly.

“I see ‘er!” She tried to open an eye and winced at the salty burn. “Slow, slow, slow slow slow! Fenedhis Gharin, ya tryin’ kill ‘er!?” Jess turned her head to the splash and tensed up when someone grabbed the barrel near her. “Peace, Lionheart. We come from our clansman Lycus.” A hand wiped her hair from her face and Jess opened one eye wincing. I know those eyes. A beautiful square face draped with shining black hair shorn on one side smiled back. “Ya look like a drown’ rat, but I’m sure is jus’ the location. C’mon now, ‘afore the Brine get us.”

“Oh lovely,” she stuttered taking her hand and being guided to the edge of a boat. Two men took her arms and heaved her up carefully. “Isa’ma’lin! Ar’an unvena ash!” The girl pulled herself up and knelt beside her looking her up and down. “Seen better days aye?”

“Aye,” Jess agreed with a large nod. She laughed and looked back as another boat came closer and Lycus cleared the space with the swing of a rope. He toppled beside her and passed a glowing hand over her, blood running freely from his nose.

“Ma’falon, look at you,” she crooned trying to wipe his face. He hushed her with nonsensical words, lifting her chin to examine her, murmuring to his female look alike; her head nodding as she listened and answered in Elvish. Solas leaped from a nearby aravel gracefully and the two men who pulled her up jumped to the other boats. “Balances the weigh’,” the girl explained at her confusion. “Inquisitor enough. Jess tell him. He has been casting the past two days nonstop,” Solas warned trying to ease Lycus’ glowing hand.

“Dali,” Lycus answered hand out, and she slapped a lyrium potion in his hand with added gusto staring at Solas challenging. Jess covered the cork and shook her head. “If the resident apostate doesn’t think you should cast anymore, there are five other capable healers my love. I felt them.”

Her body failed at that exact time and her head dropped into his lap, vision blurring as her adrenaline waned. “Fenedhis!” She heard them as if from under water, or due to water in her ear. “’er lips is blue!

“You swear quite a lot da’len.”

“I ain’ needing advice from a flat ear.”

“Dali, Enough. Solas eolasa’ bel’ran.” Jess winced at the invading magic and heard him swear himself. “What is it,” Solas asked lifting her head. Lycus let out a string of elvish she had no hope of understanding and was handed over.

“Oh...I see.”

“Collapsed lung. Get air out...chest cavity,” she explained opening her eyes weakly and stared at the shiny bald head above her. Because she could, she reached up and ran a hand over it murmuring, “Peach fuzz, peach fuzz.”

“Jess please focus,” he sighed moving her hand. “How do I get air out of the chest cavity?”

“Ain’ air sp’osed to be there,” Dali asked sitting cross legged. “In lung not leaking into body,” Jess mumbled. Solas made a small ‘ah.’ Forcing herself to untie one side of her armor, she pointed to her ribs. “Easiest way...make a small puncture then heal it quick; the pressure drop should let the lung inflate with air again.”

“Should?” She shrugged. “My brother had this happen when he fell off a motor...horse. A small very fast horse. The Doctor made,” she paused to catch her breath, “an incision and put a tube to let it drain. I’m sure magic could do it faster and better.” Lycus moved to help her out of the armor but Solas fanned him away impatient. “Sit and rest,” he ordered sternly, moving the leather and stiffening, eyes roaming the armor. “This pattern...where did you find it.”

“Dagna,” she lied easily. His expression made her nervous. He looked doubtful, but said nothing as he moved everything and lifted her wet shirt, frowning at the bruising. “That’s mostly healed,” she snapped impatiently, the lightheaded sensation returning.

She felt the searing sting of a knife edge into her side and then a cold blast of ice numbed it away. Without her insistence her chest heaved in a deep breath. And then another and she moaned at the wonderful ache of filling her lungs to full capacity. Assessing magic washed over her again and Lycus gave hushed orders before a sleep spell pushed her under.

 

 

A cold sponge startled her awake and she sat up, nearly head butting Dali. “Yer quick aye?”

“Not quick enough sometimes,” Jess murmured relaxing at the sight of a friendly face. She waved her hand for the cloth. “I got that.” Dali shrugged and passed everything over. “Where’s Lycus?”

“Left yesterday. Took a ship ahead. Said somethin’ ‘bout a fortress. Left baldy here wit’ ya.”

“And you.”

“It’s my aravel, ‘course I’m stayin’!” Jess laughed and sighed deeply. “So your his little sister.” She grinned cheekily, a dimple on one cheek. “He tell ya that?”

“Mm-hm. And about your cold feet in his stomach.” She sputtered affronted crossing her arms.

They settled into a comfortable silence while she washed up, pulling the rough blanket over herself when she finished. “Yer skinny for a noble.”

“Jesus Christ are you kidding me?”

“No.” Jess rolled her eyed and covered herself more. “Yer also the first shem I don’ hate on sight. Definitely the first Clan Lavellan went ta save. Ya mean much ta Lycus.”

“I love him deeply.” Dali stiffened and she quickly waved a hand between. “No no honey. Not like that. He uh...he’s the only family I have here.” Dali lowered her knees and sat sat cross legged. “That’s good. He uh...he would lose interest real quick an’ all.”

“Oh I’m aware love. While he enjoys a womanly figure, he prefers a more...masculine touch.” She grinned wildly at that. “I was gonna say he ain’ like shems, but uh… you don’ mince words. I like that.” Dali’s ear twitched looking up the same time she felt Solas’ aura wash over her. “Yer bald friend...he feels...off.”

Jess hummed intrigued, hiding her concern. “He has spent a lot of time alone.”

“Nah, is’ more like...he’s muted or somethin’. Hiding.” She nodded and stretched. “He doesn’t see eye to eye with Dalish traditions.” Dali arched a brow with a scoff. “Don’ expect flat ears to understand.”

“He’s not a flat ear,” she reprimanded coldly. “He is wise. He has walked the fade. And he is right when he says your traditions are off. But that is for another day. We have just met and I will not spoil your smile.” She stood stiffly rubbing her back. “I need to stretch.” Dali waved her off pointing to the latch.

She reached up and jumped when the door opened and Solas looked down at her, expression unreadable. He reached in and she grasped his forearm without hesitation, caught off guard at how easily he lifted her with one arm. “You still look pale. How are you feeling,” he asked softly once her feet were under her once more.

“Safe among friends.” He smiled softly at that and laced his hands behind his back as she held the mast for balance. “I didn’t realize aravels weren’t just land ships.” He made a small noise and braced her easily as they went over a particularly large wave. “Where is the Iron Bull and Zevran?”

“I was wondering when you would ask that. Lycus did not trust him to not defect and sent him ahead to Crestwood. He sent Zevran after him, much to the assassin’s anger. And then the Blades of Herssarian since they did so well to answer your call.” She schooled her face neutral, making a small noise in the back of her throat. She had a lot to make up for when she saw them again. Bull, oh poor Bull. Of all the worst times to have been taken, it had to be when he needed her most. She just prayed that Zevran had helped. She thought she saw him in the fade but she wasn’t able to remember her dreams anymore.

“I’ve been having strange dreams of late,” she whispered warily and his ears perked up even though he watched the sea ahead of them. “Tell me of them.” Carefully she lowered herself to the deck folding her legs under herself. She glanced over at the elf steering, the other two polishing weapons and watching her before shaking her head. “I don’t rightly remember them, only that I’m being chased by someone...something.”

“You don’t recognize them?” She passed a hand through her hair and hissed at the matted gnarl her fingers caught on. “I know them...but I also don’t. Like they’re disguised inside a giant beast.” He turned his head slowly as if seeing through her. “A beast?”

Jess hummed closing her eyes. “Black as coal and eyes everywhere.” The chill went through her when she realized what she was describing. How did I not notice it before? One of the elves snarled something at the other and nudged a chin towards her. Solas snapped at him back in elvish and he paled looking away. “What’d he say?”

“It doesn’t matter. More Dalish superstition.” The other one looked a him disgusted. “Which one,” she asked watching Solas sit beside her bristling. “Tell me more of this beast.” She shrugged shaking her head. “He chases me through landscapes I never seen before; the sun a bloodshot eye, the moon a partial smile. The ground a massive skeleton as I hop across its ribs. A spirit of...something whispers warnings, pleading with me to save him.” She looked at him then and caught a gleam of fear and uncertainty.

“He?” She nodded and laid on her side, putting her head on his knee. He seemed to turn to stone. “The spirit is a he?”

“No. the beast. The spirit is...Wisdom! Holy shit! Solas, she’s in danger!” Jess sat slightly up to look him in the eye and he held it concerned. “Wisdom is in danger how?”

“Mages will summon her on the Exalted Plains; the cowards will bind her and twist her from her purpose making her kill. She becomes a Pride demon and...you have to set her free.”

“You have seen this.”

“It is a tetherpoint.”

“No.” He sat up abruptly and paced. He asked the elves something and one quipped back with a sneer something he didn’t like. He sat back down and closed his eyes. He opened one and quickly explained, “I must warn her.”

“Of course. I’ll make sure your not thrown overboard.” He smirked and settled in, slipping into a meditative trance.

She watched the sun come up and he was still out as Dali held out a piece of dried jerky. “We’ve no porridge for you,” she explained a little coolly. “More than I expected,” Jess replied sweetly taking it. “I spoke to Lycus las' night.” Jess hummed with a nod. “And he has arrived safely?”

“He has. We won’t reach the coast for another day without his magic to fill our sails.”

“I’m sorry you have to deal with a shem for another day. Your patience is appreciated.” Dali smirked and held out a piece of hardtack for Solas. “Fadewalking?”

“Yep.” She nodded and relieved one of the men who went into the trapdoor with a small wary glance at her. “Don’t bring the Dread Wolf to our door shem.” She smirked at the irony of that threat. Solas inhaled and opened his eyes slowly. “She is safe for the moment.” Jess smiled nodding. “Good. I’m sorry it took me so long to remember.” He took the food and chewed it with a small sigh. “At least you remembered and cared enough to warn me. Any dreams?”

“I didn’t sleep. I promised to keep you safe.” His chuckle was so condescending she was almost tempted to take it back, but then he stunned her by touching her knee softly. “Ma serannas, da’len.”

“I bet I’m older than you,” she quipped, knowing full well that was bullshit. But the last few days had been too difficult to not joke at every opportunity. He raised an eyebrow with a smug look. “I doubt that Jess.”

“Hm, I don’t know if that’s a compliment to my looks or an insult to my intellect.” He smiled and took another bite not answering and she laughed pretending to be insulted. “The beast,” he reminded her. And she sighed, taking a small bite of her meal. How to tell him without dying. “What of it?”

“What else can you remember?” She frowned closing her eyes trying to bring the image to mind. He seemed intrigued which might mean it really wasn’t him and was just a dream, her fear manifesting itself and something finding it. “I am being hunted. He is...” oh brain...why not?  “He is powerful, but wounded, like a cornered animal. Yet even while injured, he stalks me, and I find myself drawn to him even though I am afraid.”

She looked at him with a self depreciating smile and saw him watching her very carefully. “You trust him?”

“God no. But I want to. I feel...like an understanding between us. Hunter and hunted. Both caught in a game neither wants to play but has to.”

“The Dread Wolf has caught your scent. Ya should quit this game of cat an’ mouse ‘afore he strikes.” She looked at Dali who held the rope staring ahead. Jess made a confused face to Solas who looked pale in the afternoon light. “The Dread Wolf? You mean Fen’Harel?” Dali glanced back at her with a strange look. “You don’ fear him to say his name so easily. You’ll bring us bad luck.”

“No. I don’t fear him,” Jess said standing with a groan and stretching. “And my luck has been terrible since I fell through planes and landed here. Fen’Harel is the least of my worries. Unless he brought me here, in which he should be worried.” Dali scoffed but still looked around warily. “And what can ya do to a god?”

“What’s a man to a king? What a king to a god? What’s a god to a nonbeliever?”

“But you believe in your god,” Solas countered. “Indeed. That does not mean I owe devotion to every god I come across. And Fen’Harel is not a god.” Dali hissed and looked around scared. “Stop speaking of him!”

“And what is he,” Solas continued ignoring her. “Scared and alone.” There was only the sound of the mast flapping in the wind. Dali spun back to look ahead as if she heard nothing. Solas stood slowly dusting his pants off. “You know this how?” Jess hummed frowning. “I...feel it. Its familiar to me; his ache. I imagine he didn’t expect how alone he would be when he locked away the others. Does anyone honor him,” she asked Dali curious. She didn’t turn or answer.

“Only a fool or madman honors the Dread Wolf. Now the next one to talk of ‘im is swimmin’ to shore.” Jess winced, shoulder raised and peeked at the trapdoor where the man from earlier was glaring at them. “Of course. Apologies.” He gave a small harrumph and slammed the latch. She spared Solas a sheepish smile and sat back down, enjoying the breeze, nodding off here and there.

A swift kick to her leg snapped her awake and she glared at the man. “Get up, wolf bait. Yer stop is here.” He went to kick her again, that was until Solas kicked his other foot from under him and he crashed to the deck. Dali snorted and spoke elvish, making him smirk and the other guy snarl. “Come Jess,” he replied softly helping her up. They walked to the edge and she pursed her lips at the flat raft, lifting her gaze to the horizon. “We came to our clansman aid but we gotta head back to the Marches,” Dali explained eyeing the skies. “Storm should hold until ya reach the Coast. Peace to ya, Lionheart. Take the Dread Wolf with ya aye?”

“If he can catch me,” she teased, catching the small twitch in Solas’ lip. Lowering down onto the raft and flattening in fear of flipping it, she yelped when he jumped down with the ethereal grace that all elves possessed, taking the oar Dali held out to him. “Safe travels Dali,” she called up watching them swing on the ropes and turn away, their movement gaining them a bit of speed. She watched Solas row for a few minutes in silence, noting the strength in his arms. “Let me know when you get tired and I’ll take over.” His laugh was ridiculously loud for him and she ignored the sting of it to simply enjoy the sound.

She scoffed hiding her smirk and turned to watch their approach. “Storm’s going to catch us,” she whispered, staring at the swirling clouds. “We’ll be fine until we reach the shore; then the trial will come. Can you swim?”

“Not well.” She stayed quiet as the rains began and huddled lower the more violent the waves became. They still seemed pretty far off. “Get ready,” he yelled over the waves. Jessabelle gritted her teeth, swallowing the question knowing full well life would answer her before him and sure enough, they struck a rock and capsized. Her knee slammed into the sharp stone and she swallowed a mouthful of salt water when she cried out on impulse.

Solas grabbed her by the waist and yanked her up, bracing her. “Hold your breath,” he ordered and she obeyed. Ice flared around her and her breath flew out of her lungs in a sharp exhale as he fade stepped twice. She gasped like a fish, clawing at his shirt. “What the fuck-”

“Hold your breath.” She groaned and gritted her teeth at the subsequent steps thereafter. He stopped and pulled her up more, waiting only a few seconds before moving again. The next stop had her tripping and she fell onto the rocks slicing her hand, growling at the saltwater burn. He guided her away from the deep tidal pools, but her footing was terrible and more than once he had to fish her out before the sea dragged her off.

They took turns walking a few feet and then fade stepping on the submerged sand bars until the shore finally met them with actual sand. She crawled up and braced against a boat shivering. Solas was breathing deep beside her, looking around and pointed to the treeline. “I think the camp is that way. Can you make it?”

“Do I have a choice?” He smiled and helped her, stopping to heal her hand. Scouts rushed out to meet them with cloaks as the night settled in deep, ushering them to the stable.

“Your needed at Skyhold immediately. Inquisitor’s orders.”

“What of Crestwood?”

“Don’t know ma’am. Only know I was ordered to get you on your horse as soon as I saw you.” Jess forced a smile and made a happy sound at the sight of Dawnstar. “A stop was made on the plains for you. Change a clothes and a horse for Solas there. Do you need anything?”

“Food,” Solas answered quickly checking the tack. A bag was handed to her and she was helped up before she could argue. Solas looked at her and motioned his head. “Slide back. I’ll handle the reigns.” She opened her mouth to argue and he held up his hand; “my body will create a wind shield and you don’t have riding gloves.That cut will still be tender. I’ll steer.” Lowering her head, Jess slid back to give him room, holding him loosely.

And she was thankful as soon as Dawnstar took off and the wind cut through her soaked clothes and flesh to what felt like the bone. Her arms were freezing, the bag falling from her fingers within minutes of taking off. Solas made a small sigh but didn’t turn back. They reached the outpost and were ushered into tents some time after midnight. She nearly screamed in joy when Talia and Nilene rushed her, dragging her to a wooden trough filled with water. Nilene was about to run out and grab hot stones when Solas strolled past them and drew a glyph onto the bottom, and left just as quietly.

Talia yanked her clothes off and pushed her in, pouring the now steaming water over her while Nilene sobbed and rubbed her hands. “Stop stop stop. What’s going on,” Jess finally asked when the crooning got too suffocating. “The Inquisitor ordered us to come and meet you at the Coast but Lady Josephine made us set a camp here. Something happened with the nobles; everyone was running around like madmen,” her handmaid explained softly, detangling her hair.

“She sent us with all your oils and a new dress. Said we need to make sure you look presentable, make sure you sleep at least a few hours. Don’t rightly know why, but his Worship was furious. So was your, uh the-” Nilene looked at Talia for help.

“Zevran m’lady. Zevran and the Iron Bull looked ready to lighten Skyhold of her nobles. He looked downright cross with the Ambassador as well.” Jess hissed at the gnarl she pulled, waving off the whispered apology. They washed and groomed her, then led her to a cot. “Will you need a draught, mistress?” Jess lowered her head onto the bed and moaned in bliss. “No. Wake me...well when your supposed to.”

 

 

 

 

That happened to be too soon. She was dressed, her hair braided back beautifully and a cloak thrown over her shoulders. “We’ll see you in Skyhold m’lady. Maker watch over you, yours and mine,” Tali whispered hugging her. “Because that wasn’t ominous,” Jess snorted mounting Dawnstar, Solas waiting on a painted Ferelden Forder and bowed his head. “We should make it by early evening if we don’t stop and take the scouts path through the woods.”

“Lead the way Solas,” she replied, moving her horse behind his. They stopped only to stretch and give the horses a quick break and reached the winding path to Skyhold a few hours earlier than expected, slowing to ride side by side. “I hope he’s okay,” she finally confessed. “The Inquisitor?” She hummed and then added, “Also Bull and Zev. Doesn’t sound like we’re walking into a party.”

“We can hope.” She laughed and fell silent the closer they got, wincing when the horn sounded their arrival.

Almost immediately she noticed the influx of masks and soldiers. She waited until a stable boy held out his hand and dismounted with a polite ‘thank you’. “His Worship awaits you in the throne room, Lady Snow.” Her mask fell into place at the formality, nodding once and walking confidently towards the stairs. She didn’t wait for the herald to finish announcing her and strolled in, studying the masks and soldiers lining the walls as she approached the throne, feeling her heart lighten at Bull beside the Advisors, though his face was uncharacteristically blank. SHe understood; he was protecting her by staying distant after a Qunari abduction, but still....it hurt .

A cloaked figure in a silver lion's mask stood beside him arms crossed; she would know Zevran's stance from anywhere now, the slight twist in his hips where his weight was on the balls of his feet, ready to spring into action. His eyes glinted and glowed behind the mask, trailing her form and she felt a heat rise to her cheeks. Even expressionless and masked they both looked ready to murder someone. Lycus lifted his head from his hand and crossed his legs, fingers steepled in front of his chest. "Finally. The woman of the hour."

Jessabelle came right up to the seat and with a swish of her skirts knelt on one knee, hands out to the sides and head bowed. “My lord. Please excuse my tardiness and the trouble I seemed to have caused you.” His hand slid under her jaw and lifted her chin up. “Forgiven.” She raised an eyebrow noting excused and forgiven were to very different things and inclined her head. “Your mercy is to your credit, my lord.”

“It is, isn’t it?” She laughed surprised before clearing her throat raising her brow expectantly. He leaned forward tilting his head pensive.  “Though...You do have a penchant for being abducted right under our very noses, don’t you?”

“Had they better eyesight, they would know your the greater catch my lord,” she quipped back with a smile, earning herself a small chuckle, which the room mimicked. “Rightly said,” he grinned before sighing. “Even so, I’m worried only a fortress will keep you from being ferreted away from us. And so,” with his free hand he reached into his cape and pulled out a key ring. “I give you the keys to Caer Bronach. Happy birthday, Lady Jessabelle.”

“Happy birthday Lady Snow,” resounded behind her. If he wasn’t holding her jaw, she was sure it would’ve been on the floor. He seemed to read her mind and dashed his eyes to the right, where Josie stood with the others, watching the room. Closing her eyes and pressing her lips together, Jess swallowed and then put on her Miss America smile. Waiting until her lips weren't twitching and blinking back the angry tears, she took the keys with a bow. Always the fucking Game. “You always give the best surprises my lord,” she teased, standing with the keys dangling from her index finger.

Chapter Text

Whack!

Exhale, the searing aftershock radiating slowly through his bones, clearing the haze.

Inhale.

Whack! That one fucking hurt. Good. Just right. The red was fading. The Stick was clear.

Whack! The Stick breaks, a part cutting his chin as it collides with his chest and splinters. The hands and the elf come into view next, clear against a backdrop of black and gray. His expression is blank; his eyes are raging fires, molten gold in a bronze cast face. He needs more but the Stick is broken. The elf does not disappoint.

A fist collides with his chest and it surprises him enough to knock the wind out him. Another catches his ribs and the room come into color as he arches up on reflex. The opposite side is hit now that is has been exposed and his breath comes out in a growl. The next one connects beautifully with his jaw and he topples to the side, dropping his arms to catch his fall. The room comes into perfect clarity; the rain pinging against the roof. His own deep breaths mingling with Zevran’s. The soft pit pit pit of blood trickling from his mouth. And Bull laughs.

His right horn is yanked and he looks up at that fiery glare and sees anger, but no hatred as Zev cocks his fist back to punch again. But he hesitates, lowering the fist as he studies his single eye. “Are you yourself yet?” Such a simple question; so profound in its meaning. Is he himself yet? He laughs, because whatever he is now; he is not mad. He has not gone savage. His horn is let go and he comes to rise, breathing in deep and registering every ache that had escaped his notice in the red. He looks around the room now and sees she is not here. Before Zev can tell him, her horn sounds in the distance from the beach.

The panic is instant, the red flooding back and he is out in the rain throwing open the gates to the compound. Fast steps are right behind him. His vision narrows in on the slim prints of her boots and then he freezes still at the massive ones; shoulder width apart, perfectly even weight distribution. Qunari. The strangled cry is not his; but he wants to mimic the sentiment as Zevran walks the perimeter eyes moving and reading the situation, the events as if playing them out. Her blades are deposited carelessly by the water; her steps doubling back before dashing quickly to the left. Hoof prints blocked her pursuer before his steps dashed after her. He sees this instantly while the elf pieces it together but he cannot move first, because this cannot be happening. Zevran runs past him and down the broken path, head watching the ground. She ran with all the stealth of a druffalo, her fear palpable in the broken tree branches she had blown through.

Zev dropped suddenly and let out an anguished breath, lifting something delicately. “Who has taken our woman,” he whispers. Bull felt an invisible punch to his gut as he recognizes the gold hair net the elf had given her. She wore it only when she was imposing her image, the gold accenting everything about her, making her more regal, ethereal, unattainable. It has failed this time. He watches Zev squeeze the jewelry to his chest before they both dashed forward.

The elf catches sight of something, only turning his head to look back. Bull looks too and pauses for a second; a perfect whitewood arrow made from the trees around Skyhold is lodged in the chest of a Sten. His vision is swimming red. There is a scream up ahead, feral and wild and the storm suddenly rages harder. The brush parts for him and he has to come to a complete stop to keep from mowing down Zev. Looking past him he could see why he didn't move forward.

Lycus stood at the sea’s edge screaming, body glowing a golden and blue. His staff vibrated and was held aloft, churning the sea like a pot of stew. Turning he looked at him and Bull shivered slightly at the flux of magic in the air. “Where is she? Where they takin’ ‘er?” Zevran raised his hands and stepped in front of Bull slowly. “Peace amico. This Qunari knows nothing. I was with him.”

“And yet his men have gained the upper hand of a woman who can foresee the future. What next, should I expect Antivan Crows!?”

“I should hope not as I am head of House Araini,” he shouted back. “She is our mistress, amico; we are NOT the enemy here!”

“A painted Qunari took her over his shoulder,” Talia breathed sliding down the embankment staring at the ocean woefully. “I hit his partner; I couldn’t catch up to him.” She looked at him pleadingly. “Bull, will they kill her. Is m’lady...”

“They’ll take the northern pass, a plot of smooth ocean southwest of Ostwick,” his mouth spoke before his mind. “They won’t kill her. Not until whoever ordered her to Par Vollen has what they want from her.” Zevran threw his hand up in anger pacing, a string of Antivan hissed under his breath.

“Satinalia’s Pass,” Lycus murmured, turning and speeding up the slopes. Reaching the crest, he held his staff up and shot a flare into the sky. Within minutes Inquisition scouts busted through the undergrowth looking around. “What’s going on,” one stupidly asked walking up to Zevran. “Where’s lady Snow?”

“Taken you fool! Or do you think we like to shoot flares into the sky for fun, eh?” Bull dropped his hand on his shoulder and was surprised when that venom turned to him. “Braska! Don’t touch me!”

“Zevran Araini you stop that right now,” Talia scolded, lip trembling in her attempt to keep calm. The sight did something to him personally so he could only imagine the way the elf felt when his shoulders, even his ears drooped. “Perdonami bella, I-I am not myself.”

Both of them abruptly looked up to the trees, Talia nocking her bow and Zevran sliding two throwing knives into his hands. Bull felt the subtle change in the air and heightened smell of elfroot and spices. The Dalish.

Seconds later a she elf silently parted the bushes, not a single twig snapping as she came forward holding a readied bow towards the ground. “Ahn’s garem?” She looked so uncannily like Lycus in looks; hair braided down the right side with the left shorn close to her scalp. They had the same build, though she was far slimmer, more lithe. Those same studying eyes of moonstone gray. Lycus let off a string of elvish, her ear lifted and tilted toward him while keeping the rest of them in her sights. This was a trained hunter for one so young.

He noted the elf sneaking behind him and caught the small rise Zev made to the balls of his feet. It was like watching a cat rise from a nap at the sight of prey. “I need yer help to get ‘er back before they reach Satinalia’s Pass.” She opened her mouth and was trampled over by a burly looking man. He smelled of oil and forge smoke. “We ain’ got alliegance to a shem, lethallan.”

“Ar’an ema a lin glandival!” The sudden silence was quickly overrun by several Dalish yelling in elvish.

“What blood debt does Clan Lavellan owe the Lady Lionheart,” Solas asked coolly, interpreting for everyone in the most nonchalant way possible. Cool points to you Solas Bull mused. Mini Lycus gave him a dirty look; “Lionheart? So the one taken is the flat ear mistress.”

“Watch that tone,” Talia warned as a soldier started a defense. “”She is the Champion of the elves,” Bull corrected with a short shoulder roll annoyed, unable to finish what she really to him. Did he even know? Zev gave him a backwards glance and a nod. The she elf curled her lip but turned back to Lycus when he hissed a cold warning.Bull immediately looked to Solas and saw his eyebrow arch; whatever was said was clearly unexpected.

“Everything I asked you ta do. Every move ta get ya out of Wycome and safe. And then make you honored guests….it was her planning. Ya’ll not be here if she didn’t in’ervene on yer behalf. Well I’m calling on her blood debt to do the same for her.”

His sister looked at the men and put her bow away with a gritted sigh. “My aravel is ready to launch. I’ll watch yer back clansman. But after this we owe no debt.”

“Yeh can’t make tha deal lass! Ya ain't even of age!”

“Ya follow my ship any other time felasil! Gird up yer lions and lets go! A blood debt can’ be left unanswered...Our best chance is ta catch them on the moons rise.” She turned to address Lycus only. “Three boats you can have.”

“I need six.”

“We ain’t even got that many mages isa’ma’lin!” His body glowed and he pointed his staff toward the sea creating some kind of funneling storm. “I can sustain it enough to make them fly. I need six aravels. We’re not running, we’re going ta battle. Three is not enough.”

She shook her head and sighed. “I’ll see what I can do. Keeper Deshanna will not be happy. I’ll call a blood debt on you if this gets ugly, jus’ so ya know.”

“Anythin’ Dali. Ya know this.”

“I shall send a raven to Llomerynn, there is a pirate I know who will help,” Zev jumped in putting his knives away.

“You an’ Bull are going to Crestwood. I can’ trust ‘im to not defect in this state.” He felt the area get deathly silent, the Inquisition scouts shifting uncomfortably. Zevran’s head moved side to side as if trying to clear his ear. “Say what now? You are joking yes?”

“No.”

“She will be expecting us there! The Iron Bull knows those ships, yes? Tell them we can help!”

Well. Shit.

“The gaatlok is kept in the center tied to the walls to keep the powder from rolling. Makes it easier to bring to the cannons on both sides of the Dreadnought. I can help you board in the safest places.”

“I already sent the troops to Crestwood to start the siege. Lamb an’ I spoke before coming here, and we didn’ think we’d be in the coast more than a day. If we don’ send men to bolster, we’ll lose them. You, the assassin and the Chargers are the support they need.” He nodded, anger in his stomach and boiling. He used his men as a subtle insult. He wasn’t stupid, but here was not the place or time with so so much on the line. And in truth...he had hesitated.

“Shall I go with you or them as support,” Talia asked watching Zevran and interrupting his next argument. “M’lady will be furious if we weigh her life more important and sacrifice the soldiers.” Damn she was good, she learned well from Kitten. Lycus looked at them all, mouth in a straight line. “Head back to Skyhold and inform Leliana to get her men out of range of the Qunari contacts. Without Bull’s support, they’re in danger. Tell Dorian Varric and Sera to come to the shore as ya pass the camp. Everyone go. Ya have yer orders.”

 

 

 

The Chargers stayed close to him as they marched; Krem touching his shoulder every so often to break him from his trance. “We’re here with you, Chief,” he whispered softly this most recent time. “Thanks Krem brulee.” He snorted with an eye roll and the boys started making jokes now that the haze lifted. Zevran did not join in this time. The Blades of Hessarian were sent as a last minute addition and they kept to themselves near the back as well.

Caer Bronach was one hell of a fortress. He could see why she wanted it. He stared at the beast of stone and mortar as the camp made their preparations. An argument broke out between a scout and Zevran and he tilted his head to watch curious. Krem came up beside him him sighing. “Well things just got more complicated.”

“How so?”

“So you remember when Lady J told you her birthday was coming up?”

“Yea?”

“And you told Zevran because you thought it’d be awesome to come up with something for her?”

“Get to the point Krem.”

“He asked the Ambassador for some things from Antiva, drums or something. Well apparently Lady Josephine took it one step farther and made a big deal of it...Skyhold is buried with nobles looking for a handout from Lady J.” The iron Bull groaned hand over his face. “For fucks sake Josie. She knows Jess hates rubbing shoulders with nobility!”

“Can this woman have nothing without it being made a spectacle,” Zevran yelled at almost the same time. Krem winced and added, “Guess now would be a bad time to tell you its to take away from the fact that this was expected since Lady J has a ‘oxman lover’? Yeah, I gave her a piece of my mind too, Chief.”

“Josie didn’t say that,” Bull scoffed feeling the rain on his skin steam. Calm. Calm. I am not savage. “’Course she didn’t Chief! I’m saying the nobles said it! This party is for them more than Lady J, hence,” He motioned a hand to Zevran kicking a supply crate while a scout tried to placate him, hands out and imploring, “I get his frustration! Lady J deserves better.”

Bull looked around the camp and then turned to the hillside where Caer Bronach sat against the raging sky. She did deserve better, didn’t she? “Get the boys ready. We take the fortress for her tonight.” His voice had boomed, the camp going quiet and Zev pausing in his assault of the poor crate. He smirked and nodded. “Now we’re talking amico.”

 

 

Chapter Text

Remember to smile. Laugh. I’m so tired...Laugh. A dance? Sure why t he hell not even though I haven't slept well in days.

And through it all Zevran and Bull stayed behind the throne though her big guy would shift agitated and watching. Her face hurt from pretending to smile, her body ached from the abuse of the sea and now dancing around, brain trying to keep up with the muscle memory of her feet. Her vision swam as she held back the tears, unsure of why she wanted to cry in the first place. She spun and stole a glance at her boys; their faces solemn and angry. At me?

She was brought back into the marquise’s arms and winced at the heavy smell of wine as he spoke. She caught a glimpse of Lycus leaning beside Josie whispering something, the Ambassador forcing a smile and nodding, even as Cullen looked mortified and Lelian pursed her lips.

“You seem distracted Lady Snow.” She looked up at the stupid pointy nose mask and smiled. “I apologize. I am. While I for one am all about celebrating a great victory, my mind continues to wander to business and duties.” They had stopped dancing and were by the wine tables, prime spot for gossipers she knew, but unless someone asked her for another dance, she was stuck. “Duties? Yes a lady of your stature should be concerned with her duties; you are still unwed are you not? Had you a husband, I’m sure your string of abductions would never have happened.”

“Indeed, how can you be so calm when one of those savages is here? What if I am abducted on my way way back to Orlais,” a Comtesse gasped hand to her cheek in mock despair.

Jessabelle saw red. Oh its on bitches... She forced a laugh fanning her hand. “Darling Comtesse, I imagine one would have to be interesting in order to be worth abducting.” The room went silent in a span of a waltz turn. Forcing her smile she continued. “As one should be interesting if their making marriage proposals. As for duties marquise, one should concern themselves wholly to the affairs of their lands, how else will you hear about the going on abouts that truly matter to your reputation? I’ve a fortress that needs tending to and a village left to rot, you’ll excuse me if my mind wanders.” With a titter and polite bow she walked to the stairs and onto the balcony, trying to settle her stomach and biting back her tears.

“I hear there is a soft spot to land, if someone was inclined to jump from here.” She lifted her head and forced a smile to Solas.

“To my rescue again,” she joked pushing her braid from her shoulder and leaning into the railing.

“What are friends for?”

“Do you believe we are friends?” She looked up at him earnestly as cool ice magic ran down her neck and spine, a cold aura moving and pressing to her temples, soothing back the tears. He seemed to be thinking very hard, and then finally whispered, “I’d like to think so.”

“I’d like to think so too,” she answered softly. “I’ve made a decision. I’m going to hunt the beast instead of running. Wish me luck.”

He opened his mouth in what looked like a protest and quickly snapped it shut. “Go if your going to go, someone approaches.” Without hesitating she hiked up her dress and climbed over looking down, sparing him a wink before letting go. Her feet hit the dirt with little jarring and she scrambled down the incline, running into the barn. A stable hand jumped up startled and she made a hush motion, finger pressed against her lips running to the back and freezing at the sight of the door sealed with a sign that read ‘On orders of the Inquisitor, do not enter.’ Thom’s room.

Pushing the door open and slipping in, she closed it with her back and stood there, taking in the space. Unfinished carvings sat on a table, while others had cloth draped over them. Letting the tears she held earlier out, she walked slowly and let her hands graze over everything. Lifting the blanket she paused at the sketches left with it, her hand rising to her mouth.

His idea for her classroom tables. She had worried no one would fund her so long ago, and they needed a way for a great deal of people to practice regularly. He had placed sandboxes in long segmented pieces for the students to practice their writing for the day. Then the sand could be sifted to start anew. A row at the top could hold maybe a few sentences for them to copy at a time without being erased. It was practically a giant etch a sketch pad!

She sobbed and covered the piece back up, moving to another. She frowned looking at it before the realization struck her. Squatting down she lifted a leg and pulled; the piece folded slightly. It was a massage table concept, crude and not quite practical, but perfect in the love and patience that it must’ve took to make functionally fold-able. “God bless you you sweet man,” she cursed wiping her nose on her sleeve and covering that as well, she walked up into the loft. She gingerly touched his furs smiling. Bear. Of course he’d sleep on bear, the hairy man that he was. Sitting down she frowned and lifted the cover to find a book. Please don’t be a diary. I couldn’t bear it.

Opening it, she gasped at the charcoal sketches inside; beautiful drawings, concepts, observation pieces. One of her overlooking the battlements at dawn. Several of Josie at her desk or drinking tea. A few of her massage table with chicken scratch notes of what worked and what didn’t. A beautifully rendered one of Lycus on the throne. She hummed and closed the book, squeezing it to her chest sobbing. The floor creaked and she jumped up stumbling into the nightstand.

Princessa, I didn’t mean to interrupt,” Zev whispered hands up and backing away. “Oh my God, its so good to hear your voice,” her mouth blurted out. He crossed the threshold and slammed his mouth against her, trapping her for a moment against the wall before moving back and pressing his forehead against hers. Trying to look more put together than she felt, she cleared her throat and wiped her cheeks. “How did you find me?” He smiled and held a hand behind his ear. “The Iron Bull may or may not have asked one of your elves. They are impressive in their loyalty to you.”

“He didn’t threaten them,” she snapped immediately. “I wouldn’t say threatened, just looked imposingly down at them as only tall people can do. Once we came closer I could hear you and he could smell your tears.” Jess made a small ‘ah’ clearing her throat again. He motioned his head for her to go down and she nodded.

Bull was in the room looking at a rocking horse and she felt a tinge of possessiveness remembering what the nobles said. As if they knew anything about him! Storming forward she grabbed the harness of his pauldron and yanked, pleased when he immediately dropped to be eye level with her. “What are you? What is your name?”

“The Iron Bull,” he answered without thought and her smile was wide and instant. “Your goddamn right it is,” she breathed smashing her lips into his.

When and how they got to her room, she didn't care, clawing and yanking them to lay beside her. Deft fingers pulled her leather corset off and another yanked her dress, tearing the back open. Searing hot kisses burned a trail down her spine chased by the rasp of bearded stubble. It was a tangled mess, of limbs and ripped clothes; her wet cheeks and hard bruising kisses that were all tongue and teeth and urgency.

 

 

He couldn’t touch enough of her. Pulling her head back by her hair, he bit into the junction of her neck and sucked, listening to her whimper. Zevran yanked her back to him, sucking a row of wet kisses between her breasts, and fuck all if that wasn’t the hottest shit ever; watching her get lost on which sensation to chase. And every thought over the last five days came rushing forward.

At first he had wanted to kill her, or at least he thought he did. In his blood rage he had seen her standing there in front of him, almost mocking, and had charged. But then she spoke it, the one word she fought against, even when he knew she wasn’t ready for what he or the elf had in store. The sound of it screamed, her head turning away, one hand up as if that would actually stop him. Didn’t it though? The fog lifted and she was there in front of him standing her ground; as if her bones could handle a strike from a full grown Qunari Reaver.

And then she ordered him, like a Tamassran who knew her role to kneel. Him! Bull grabbed her leg and dragged her to his mouth, relishing in her scream and the annoyed scoff of Zev who had been kissing her. He moaned into her when her nails scratched rows across his shoulder and down his arm, the sting making him grow harder. Zev laid back and toyed with her hair, watching him devour her with blown out pupils, a lazy smirk on his face as he leaned to his clothes and held up a bottle of oil. “If I may,” he whispered.

Bull would thank him him later for the ‘hand’ as he coated him...and for the Stick from before. He hit like a Qunari for being so much smaller. Kitten’s sharp moan and her heat around him brought him back as he thrusted into her, bottoming out. Zevran rested behind her, propping her against his chest to let her sink down on him better, his fingers pressing soothing circles over her ribs as she writhed. Damn, apparently Antiva had some amazing brothels. He looked up almost smugly as if he had read his mind and Bull just smirked.

He was still scared of what the future would bring now. He snapped up hard and watched her claw Zev’s arms gasping. What was she to him? The elf smirked and whispered praises into her hair, kissing her temples and stole a glance at him questioningly, urging him to move again.

Whatever she was, she was here now. And so was Zev. And he doubted Kitten was going anywhere either...if he could keep the damn woman in sight that was. She broke in a sobbing scream on him, dragging him with her release. He stayed inside, watching her heaving chest and Zevran pressing little kisses into her sweaty neck. The scent of all of them mixed, reminding him of when he had finally left Seheron and went home. It left a strange twisting in his chest.

“Rest amico, you look pale...for being gray.” Jess laughed and Bull wiped her cheeks. “I’m sorry for everything Bull-”

“Stop. Not now.” She clicked her jaw shut with a hum, curling the end of Zevran’s hair, her legs trembling over his. “Rest too princessa. You’ve quite the task ahead of you come tomorrow.” Bull frowned but said nothing at her contemplative hum. You...not we….or us…

 

 

 

Jessabelle stood at the highest crenelation and watched the sun rise over Crestwood. It had been one day of debriefing after that disastrous party, and then all her attention went into fixing the fortress and sending out letters for the things they would need. She had cheated when it came to the manpower she would need at the start, leaving Talia to ‘convince’ Cullen the numbers were accurate. It had helped that she knew everything Jess wanted to fulfill and why. And if Jess watched them walk to the gardens a little closer than propriety deemed, she wasn’t going to tell anyone.

Josie was easy to ask for help after the debacle at the ‘party’. Jess explained briefly her plans for the mages, Templars and vendors, and Josie immediately began drawing up drafts for her to look over once the fortress was up and running. Those had been edited and resent until they were both happy and there was no chance of offending anyone. Anyone else anyway.

Leliana was placated into helping with the promise of special caches to be left for her agents through the surrounding areas. She also showed her a cipher she could use, something simple from her high school years but alien enough that Leli immediately loved it and agreed to help.

Really the star of her plans was Varric. She had gone down to see him in the great hall only after Talia had given him a letter telling him to ‘gather the letters from her benefactors and report her net worth.’ The breakdown went as such:

‘Lady Joan of Arc’ had supported her with a generous donation of coin. The ghostwriter ‘Stephen King’ would supply blank books and parchment, quills, and inks. The mystery chef who had taught the Orlesians that peanut butter really did go with most sweets; ‘Lady Reese Hershey’ would fund her liveries for now. All these were aliases Jess and Varric had come up with to spread her wealth but he loved the novelty of it, running with it and expanding her net worth through other investors that invested in her investors....or something along those lines. I t made no sense to her no matter how many times he sat her down. God she was glad he was on their side.

He turned a page and read a few lines before making an ‘ah’ noise sothe nobles who had gathered nearby in terrible attempts of inconspicuous eavesdropping leaned in closer. “And the Captain Isabella of the Sirens Breath offers you trade in quote unquote ‘booze, blades, and blood’ for a discounted price. She says its a favor for a friend, five of them actually.”

She hummed hand under her chin, ignoring the snooping nobles. “Let me guess; Two Champions of Kirkwall, a broody elf and a delightfully oblivious one. And you.”

“Close. Actually the last one is for Zevran. She wants to meet Black Jack though. Swears she can convince him to tell her how to cheat at his game.”

 

 

 

She smiled and lifted her head at the horns blow, turning from the door she was trying to break down to see who was entering. Jess was extremely pleased to see Delrin and a few of his men. “Hail Ser Barris,” She called out waving him over before lifting the sledgehammer and swinging again. “Lady Snow, its good...to...see you...Do you need a hand?”

“Nope. Please find Ser Brennan to get settled in. He’s the quartermaster here,” she swung with a yell and splintered the door finally, dropping the hammer with a huff to lean on it. Delrin blinked a few times before nodding. “Of course Lady Snow.”

Jess pushed on the door and huffed out, “Ser Barris. If I may be so bold as to ask your opinion before you go?” She turned and pressed her back into the door, pushing with all her weight. He pointed to it and she shook her head, denying his help a second time. “Uh-yes yes of course. What can I aid you with?”

“Your men. And you. Do you still wish to aid the mages? I have a proposal,” with a sigh she lifted the hammer and swung again. “I want the mages to be reformed but they will still need a safety net. It won’t be the same as what the Chantry allowed. This will be more of a...partnership. Their success will be your success.” She motioned him back and followed a few feet. “I was wondering if you’d be willing to sit in on my plans and give me an honest opinion and any ideas you may have yourself.”

“I would be honored Lady Snow, but to be clear, this isn’t going against the Chantry is it?” Jess reeled back as if insulted.

“That was never my intention or plan. The Chant says “Magic should serve man and never rule over him”. I intend to see that line through to its fullest extent, but I wan the people – and the mages to know they are safe. We can speak of it more later if you like and you can make a decision then to sit in or not. As it is, that aspect of my plans is still a ways out.” She turned and ran at the door, kicking it in with a roar and stumbling to a roll into the darkened hallway beyond.

“Maker’s breath woman! Are you alright!?” She heard Zevran and Bull laughing from the battlement above them and peeked out with a wry grin. Bull held his hand out and took a few coins from him. “You were betting on whether I could open the door or not,” she asked affronted. “Nah, we were betting on whether you’d kick Ser Barris’ ass if he tried to help.” She gave Delrin a wicked smile and winked. “Yes well a true gentleman knows not to get in front of a woman and her sledgehammer.”

“Indeed,” he agreed shaking his head. “If that’s all?”

“For now. Go ahead and rest. And thank you and your men for coming. I won’t betray your trust in the Inquisition or me.” She bowed and dusted off her hands. “Alright Kitten you got the door open. Let the surveyors take it from here.” She hummed wiping the sweat from her brow and fixed her gloves. “I'm sure there's another door that needs breaking down anyway.” Zevran made a lascivious groan. “I adore a woman with such a violent streak.” He stopped and looked up watching a murder of crows fly by, laughing when she groaned. “I could break down another door and give you a hard on...or I could do paperwork,” she sighed putting the tool down. 

Princessa a moment of your time?" Jess paused at the rookery door. It wasn’t like him to corner her alone to talk. “For you? Have all of it.” She smiled to the agent who was unhooking the mail and caging the ravens, checking them for injuries. She waited until everyone was settle before holding out her hand for the letters and motioned him out with a gentle head tilt. Sitting down by the window, she looked at the seals before prompting him. “What’s on you mind hon?”

Zev chuckled softly and sighed. “Always to the point amore.” She looked up with an arched brow and folded her hands over her lap after tucking the letters into her corset. “And now your stalling. Are you upset with something I’ve done?”

“No no. Its nothing like that. I just wanted to let you know that...I’m leaving for some time.” Her body went hot and cold all at once. Trying to school her face, she nodded with a small sound. “Is it safe for me to ask why? Are you in danger?”

He sighed and pushed his hair from his face before kneeling in front of her. “Don’t do that if you simply intend to placate me,” she warned coldly, watching his face.

“I do not want to go mi amore-”

“Then why are you?”

He stood and paced angrily. “I see you in your castle and the good you are doing and I cannot-” he paused and pressed his palms together by his mouth. “I must go. That is all I can tell you.”

Jess tilted her head and waited for only a moment. She would not cry. She would not beg. “Then go Zevran. I will miss you and it will be agony trying to fill the hole you leave; but I will not cage you. You are a free man. Just leave knowing you are welcome back at any time, at any hour.” She stood and touched his cheek lowering his head to look at her. “Tu eres mi alma, y mi aliento. Que Dios te acompañe.”

She kissed his stunned cheek and continued past him pulling away from his outstretched hand, out the door, down the stairs and into the tunnels they had just surveyed; to a room that held long forgotten paintings. Shifting a few to hide her if someone walked in, she sat with her back to the wall and dropped her head to her knees. Idiot. You knew better… She would not cry...at least in front of anyone. Foolish girl. Jessabelle knew better than to take it to heart. But it still hurt.

She cried all she felt she could and then scrubbed her face roughly. The show must go on. The fortress needed a castellan, Caer Bronach needed someone to love her and Jess intended to fill her time doing just that. Getting up from the floor, she fixed her corset, adjusted her pants and patted down her hair.

The stable hands needed their hay and grains.

The kitchens needed to be scoured, the larder filled and the stove’s chimney swept out.

A sewing ward needed to be established so her people could come.

The walls thankfully needed little in the way of repair except for the southern tower. She would clean every corner.

Stepping out she was dismayed at the evening sky. A shadow dropped down from a battlement above her with a thud and she was enveloped in the most rib bruising hug of her life. “When are you gonna stop causing a panic huh?” He put her down and lifted her chin, freezing and scenting her braid. “What happened?”

“Idiocy and nothing more. I’m sorry I lost track of time. Not now Bull.” she finished roughly at his inhale. He paused and moved back with a short nod. “This have anything to do with why Zevran needed an Anderfel Courser and left?” Her lips pressed together even as she tried to smile. “Ah, didn’t realize he was leaving right away.”

“He tell you where he was going?”

“No. You?” Bull winced and looked away with a deep sigh. “No, but I thought that was why he went to talk to you.”

“Well he’s a grown man. And he knows where our room is whenever he gets bored doing whatever, right?”

“Don’t do that Kitten.”

She held up her hand and forced a smile. “Not now Bull. I got a shitload of letters to read and I don’t want to talk about this.” He watched her with that infuriating all seeing eye and she almost snapped before he finally pointed to the bar that had been set up by the entrance gates. “Me, Krem and the guys will be in there if you need anything.”

“I don’t even have a bartender yet,” she scoffed disbelieving. “You’d be surprised how efficient people can be when they want a drink.” She let out a soft laugh and fanned him away, heading up the double stairs. “Goodnight Bull. Make sure the soldiers are doing their rounds on the battlement and not around the bar table.” His laugh brought a small smile to her face as she walked the empty halls, the moonlight through the arches and the candles on the floor her only light to the room in the tower.

 

 

 

Jess stood at the highest crenelation and watched the sun rise over Crestwood. It had been a month. No…two. The rift had been closed. The dragon slayed; the party Bull held afterwards had left her sore for days. The townsfolk had come by to introduce themselves in small groups. The first ones she had awarded with her business, buying hay bales from the farmer and meat from the from the butcher only. She ate personally from the fishmonger and his wife; the older woman coming and teaching the cooks how to prepare a dish she could eat without her stomach flipping out. She had already put on a few of the pounds she had lost much to everyone’s delight. In a way she felt stupid for forgetting how protein packed fish could be but she was only human after all, even if everyone treated her as something other.

The mayor had been sentenced to death. She had traveled to Skyhold for the sentencing, surprised and pleased to see lady Alfstanna there. She did not watch the beheading though. They shared the ride back, catching up on future plans and promises. The commerce was slow, but it was there and she was willing to believe it would only get better. The roads were at least safe now, so she had her full support.

She tried to sew with her elves, giving Trevi his own room where his oils wouldn't be a risk to the fabrics. The never ending flux of letters however always pulled her away after a few hours. She needed an assistant. Talia was chatelaine for now; she truly wanted to be the classroom teacher though, so Jess quietly watched everyone for anyone she deemed worthy to fill either role.

Bull came and went, keeping the roads clear, picking up jobs from the villagers to increase their trust. No further threats came from Par Vollen. She made a habit to follow any new face into the fortress, going over the rosters in bed with Bull, much to his amusement before it devolving into rough sex which she by no means had an issue with. She learned a gag reflex could be overridden...that was still a surprise in truth.

Jessabelle shook the thought away and walked across the battlements in her usual clipped pace, hands over her stomach, head parallel to the ground. She nodded briskly to the soldiers, stopping only when a clipboard was held out to review the day’s plan or updates during the night. She paused at the third one handed to her and frowned. “Who wrote this?”

“Eh Wren my lady. He watches the cave system.”

“Tell him to write it again. Neatly this time. I’d rather not sit here and try and decipher his letters.”

“At once my lady.” She smiled quickly with a head nod and continued to the rookery. “Good morning Aela. Anything?” She made sure to try and greet as many people by name, but this one she loved because he understood her distaste for all this posturing. The elf looked up with a big toothy smile, the scar on his cheek crinkling.

“Good morning it is! No news came in my lady.”

“Ah perfect. Let us hope it stays that way.” He laughed and went back to feeding the birds.

The day was surprisingly smooth. She watched Bull return from a window, the Chargers singing a raunchy song. They were so much closer now after the Storm Coast, their camaraderie bleeding into the soldiers. He looked up as if feeling her gaze on him and saluted; she smiled leaning into the sill and waved back.

Talia brought in her dinner sharing the gossip of the day. Jess paused from her meal at the sudden silence. “Tali, what’s wrong? Do you miss Cullen?” She squeaked and fanned her away. “No! Well yes, but that’s not what has me concerned...today anyway. The air just felt strange today. And I’m not the only one who felt it.” Jess leaned back frowning. “Like magic? A rift maybe?”

“No, nothing like that. Besides his Worship is still in Emprise Du Lion, if it was a rift we’d be in big trouble.” She laughed tearing off a hunk of bread. “True enough. So what else do you think it could be?”

“I don’t know Lady J. I’m sorry to disappoint this time around.”

“Oh stop. You’ve never let me down. Get that notion out of your head. Just keep looking into it and report anything you find. Hopefully its just been a weird day.” Talia hummed with a sigh. “I hope so. You got another offer for commission. This one’s on our good list.”

“Reasonable?”

“Fairly. A matching him and her ensemble. Madame de Fer sent a letter with it.”

“Fill the request,” Jess answered immediately. It was rare Viv contacted her, so she made a habit of answering anything she endorsed no questions asked. She heard through the grapvine it only bolstered Vivienne’s presence in Orlais, so she knew her reputation was being well maintained. “As you say my lady.” She took the tray and left for the evening.

Jess stayed at her desk thinking before moving a candle to the window that faced the courtyard. Bull and the boys seemed to have a good day so she wouldn’t cut his merriment short. Pulling back the covers she laid down and tried to think of anything she saw out of place herself and sighed. The cold bed always drew her attention from her duties and she contemplated snuffing the candle before burrowing deeper into the blankets. Grow up its not the first time you’ve slept alone.

Instinct made her get up and move the Bowie knife from her desk to under her pillow. Hopefully she wouldn’t stab herself like last time. She cringed and almost got up to put it back, remembering the way Bull roared with laughter until tears were in his eye before going through a very ridiculous lesson on which side of the blade she was supposed to hold. But the bed was soft, and warm. And her stomach churned with Tali’s news.

***********************

She opened her eyes and listened unmoving. Wrong. It was all wrong, the candle was snuffed but no sign of Bull. Hand around the handle she tightened her grasp and on the exhale sat up and swung, gasping when the blade collided with something and a heavy hiss rang out. Leaping up she scrambled to get to the other side of the bed and grunted out an ‘oof’ when tackled. “Get. OFF!” Struggling she turned to scream and was assaulted by a splash of something into her mouth. Sputtering she kicked over the nightstand and swung again; this time the blow was easily parried. Her limbs were suddenly heavy like dead weight and she flopped back trembling, trying to urge her throat to scream, her limbs to kick. Nothing worked! Nothing would move! What the fuck?

A gloved hand grabbed her leg and yanked her to the edge of the bed before slapping her hard, the force turning her head and popping her ear drum. “She actually cut me,” someone hissed. “I will enjoy killing her.” Jess felt her heart pounding in her chest as the situation dawned on her, his thighs throwing her legs open. Assassins! She swallowed hard and a mumble escaping her lips. “Oh don’t worry puttana, you’ll be screaming soon enough.

“Kill her and be done with it,” the other demanded even as he leaned over her. Jess closed her eyes and received another slap. “I want to watch the hope leave your eyes.” She stared at him wishing her eyebrow could arch. Hell will freeze over first asshole. I will not cry. I will not cry. BULL!

***********************

 

 

He laughed and threw his tankard back as Dalish retold the story of catching the supposed linen thief the old lady had asked them to track down. Poor culprit was a love drunk teen looking for some cushion for his date in a hay loft. He was flagging down the barkeep when an elf appeared by his arm. “Sir? If your here, whose with the mistress?” The chair clattered back as someone swore in the courtyard.

“Master Zevran? Why did you come up the cave-oof!” Bull ascended the stairs pulling the axe from his back while Zev jumped up pulling himself over the balcony just behind him. The smell of his fear made him recoil away and he pushed the door in not stopping at the sight of someone by her bed. His axe cleaved through the side of his neck and jammed somewhere around his ribs, so when he yanked back the body flew with him. And he saw her laying there unmoving. Someone choked on a scream in the room and hit the ground hard, before Zev crawled over the bed. “Princessa, amore-no no no!”

“Its not hers,” he said on auto pilot coming closer and taking in her ripped shift. He lifted her head and sniffed her hair and face. “Black toad, desert scorpion, and hmm...deathroot.” Zevran paused for a second, then tore through the pack on his belt. “Hot water, I need hot water! Bull make sure that-that filth doesn't get back up while I make this.” He walked around the bed and saw a man unconscious; he pressed his foot into his back and rested the edge of his axe on his wrist, controlling the urge to kill him.

Talia came up the stairs in her nightwear carrying a kettle and froze at the door taking everything in. “Guards! Lockdown!” She kicked the door shut and wailed almost dropping the pot. “Now woman! She’s been poisoned!” Bull watched her shakily pour him a bowl while he tore herbs into smaller pieces and steeped them. Talia wet a rag and wiped the blood that had splattered on her watching him nervously. “Okay drink, drink. This will sting a bit.”

The liquid was a bit too hot as it slid down her throat. She tried not to watch him as he looked her over, hands hovering above her body to which she was both grateful and despaired by. Within seconds her arms started to feel like ants were biting her and she winced. His eyes shot up to her face and he exhaled harshly, head dropping beside hers. “Oh Andraste, we weren’t too late.” His face hardened to the point he looked like a stranger as he glanced at Tali. “Rub her arms and legs. Its going to come back like a bolt of lightning.”

She made another small noise as the itching increased, Talia making soft soothing sounds in between sniffles and her murmured apologies. “Hold him up,” she heard from out of her line of sight. As he said she bolted up with a cry, her handmaid grabbing her and rubbing her arms vigorously. Bull exhaled relieved with a small shudder and held the man up as Zev pushed herbs in his mouth.

“Who the hell are they,” she raged through her teeth, her brain torn between drop and curl in to the fetal position, or burn the fucking world to the ground. “I am finding out princessa-”

Don t patronize me! Where were you!” She slid off the bed and nearly slipped in the pool the blood. Zevran winced and nodded. “Of course Lady Jess. I-” The man made a sound and he turned his attention back, slapping him a few times. “Ah good good. Long time see eh, Marciel?”

Jess crossed her arms and tilted her head, tongue caught between her teeth to keep from speaking. The man looked ready to piss his pants.”Zev hahaha, eh its g-good to see you. I thought you were back in Antiva.” He put his hand on his shoulder with a smile. “I was, until someone politely told me there was contract taken out a someone very dear to me. You understand of course.” He made a small groan and looked at her. He forced a shaky laugh. “You know she cut Ari’s face? His surprise was hilarious.”

“Was that before or after he tried to rape me,” she asked flatly. Zevran inhaled and closed his eyes, the muscles in his jaw bulging. “I am going to torture you Marciel until you tell me who hired you. I am going to torture you until I grow bored and then I’m going to let my Qunari lover here torture you and if you have not chewed through your tongue by then, I am going to let my mistress here give it a go. Have you ever tortured anyone Lady Jess?”

“No, but I’m willing to try everything at least once.”

“That’s the spirit!” He motioned Bull to let him go and Marciel disappeared. Jess screamed and stumbled back, grabbing the ewer and swinging it in front of herself madly.

Zevran moved too quick for her to see but she heard the cry and thud by the window and slipped again trying to move away. He was pinned to the wall by throwing knives. He tutted and walked over spinning one over his knuckles. “Marciel! That is the oldest trick in the book!” He took the pinned hand and held the blade to his fingers, pausing to look back at her. “You will want to look away Lady Jess.”

“I will not.”

“You sure you wanna watch-” Her hand flew up to silence Bull without looking back. Zev sighed and gazed at him in mock sympathy. “You have made her very angry amico. Not a good place to be.” Jess held back her flinch at the scream but continued to watch.

“Where was I. Ah yes. I was explaining why you will want to tell me the buyer. I was in Antiva because one I miss home, but two and more importantly, I was making contracts of my own. You see, I made a deal with House Toroso. Any contract taken on this woman here and House Toroso would take them out. Free money until someone is stupid enough to try, yes? How could they refuse. Well they didn’t; so,” he waved the blade around and if it wasn’t because she was scared shitless, Jess would’ve been amused by his lackadaisical method, “I said to myself ah Zevran, you have come up with such a good plan! Perhaps I shall convince the other Houses to agree to the same. And I did! How wonderful, no? You understand what I am saying? If anyone acts against her, the entirety of the Crows will be upon them. So,” he flipped the dagger into the air and drove it into the shoulder, “unless you want the entirety of House Medico to fall, you will tell me the buyer.”

“There was no buyer Zevran old friend. Ari, Callum and I came here to win favor with the masters. When we heard you were in Antiva, we knew it was the only time to strike. The elves are becoming bolder, it-it seemed right.” Jess jumped when Zevran ripped him off the wall and shook him like a doll. “You pigshit! Where is Callum!”

“I will tell you no more Zevran. Finish what you must. You have become faster in your age and we have become careless.” He looked past him at her and Jess arched an eyebrow. “For what it’s worth I’m sorry for what he did.”

“No your not. Your just sorry you got caught. Bull, is he telling the truth about a buyer?” He shifted from the wall he stood at and came to stand behind her, throwing a blanket over her shoulders. “He is. There was never a contract.” She hummed and looked at Zevran. “Kill him.” She pulled away from Bull’s gentle fingers on her arm. “No I get why but Kitten, you don’t have to be here.”

“I do. I won’t have him and his friends haunting my dreams, wondering if he is dead. Kill him. Here and now.” Zevran spun around him and bowed his head. “As my mistress demands.” She inhaled at the cold wash of fear when a red line opened up over his throat. No different than hunting...I didn’t watch then either... Her eyes jumped to meet with Zevran's and he held her gaze. Bull’s skin was radiating heat behind her. She shivered lightly but continued to see this Marciel from her peripheral until he convulsed with a gurgle. She gasped and spun into Bull putting her forehead against his sternum, taking in his heat and spicy scent.

“It is done,” Zevran whispered behind her after a few agonizingly long seconds. She lifted her head inhaling deeply, but didn’t turn around; she couldn’t. This was as far as her courage could carry her. “Good. Talia run a bath for me in the store room. Get someone to clean this mess, burn some incense to clear out the smell. I want a meeting with every soldier on shift today the moment the sun crests the sky, am I clear?”

“Glass m’lady.” She nodded and wiped her face grimacing at the lingering smell of blood. “Bull, Zevran, walk with me.” She could hear Tali barking her orders while she crossed the hallway and stood by the window as pail after pail was poured into a spare trough. “Its ready.”

“Leave us.” She waited until the door close to submerge herself in the water. Bull knelt beside the tub, resting his hand on the edge. “Jess talk to me.”

“What do you want me to say love. We both know I’m in shock and will crash soon. Being aware does not make this easier. I'll need your help when that happens.” His fingers twitched and held the edge tighter. He sat down purring deeply so that she felt it through the water and she smirked closing her eyes.

With a sigh she leaned back and pursed her lips. “You honestly couldn’t tell me that’s what you were doing?” She heard Zevran shift until he exhaled heavily on the opposite side of Bull. “I could not risk word getting out, and a mass of contracts taken in my absence. As rare as that is mind you, the coin would’ve been enough to entice a few masters to risk it.Cesar, a friend of mine and Surana, as well as an assassin can have a friend anyway warned me of the plot while I was in the market. I may owe him a horse for the one I stole to get here.”

Jess inhaled and swallowed the lump in her throat. “Callum. Who is he?”

“She. Callum is also of House Medico. Adept at poisons like me and...Ari. Slips in through the kitchen staff on most occasion. Something tells me she did not have success here with the way the elves adore you. It explains...their more brutish tactics.”

“Are you going after her?”

“There is no need amore. As I said, the contracts have made her life forfeit once I send news. House Medico will put the price on her themselves to clear their names. SHe will not make an attempt on her own, its not her forte.”

She hummed and wiped her nose, feeling the burn in her eyes. “This may mess me up for a bit.” Zevran nodded looking down ashamed. “I-we know amore. We will be here to help.” Bull stopped growling enough to agree.

“I want to say I am sorry, and I am! But I will not apologize for protecting you the only way I know how. If you ever wish to see Antiva, know it will be the safest place for you to visit in all of Thedas!” Jess let out a wet laugh and squeezed both their hands. “Protection from the Crows huh? I could get used to this. And what better way than to have two of the most powerful disciplines in my bed. An Assassin and a Reaver...sounds pretty good to me.”

“Careful, Kitten. It’s starting to sound like you planned all this,” Bull teased kissing her hand. “Whats wrong Bull? Unused to being manipulated,” she joked, shivering at the playful growl he gave her. “I have been under the hand of many different manipulations,” Zev mused, “I think this by far will be my favorite.”

“How do you feel about being over it instead,” she whispered coyly. “Ah, that? That I can do.”

Chapter Text

The pounding in her head grew and she carded her fingers through her hair, trying to soothe back the pain while attempting to listen. “I’m sorry, but let me make sure I understand this correctly,” she finally interrupted, pausing the middle of the peasant man’s rant. “What I’m understanding is that you are upset that an elf will be the one teaching the free education classes and neither you nor your family will ever be taught by a quote unquote knife ear. Am I hearing your argument correctly?”

“My Lady its just-”

“So I will tell you what,” Jess started again, writing hard enough to puddle some words onto a piece of parchment. She had asked Lycus to preside over these cases and instead he had sent her his seal, authorizing her to deal with it herself. On the one hand she was honored, but also pissed her off that she couldn’t pass the bucket to someone else. “Seeing as you must know quite a few nobles who are willing to teach for free, I’m going to let you learn as you have deemed. And when you do find someone and finish your schooling, please send them this way if they are looking for employment so that other like minded people such as yourself can have the same benefit. I wish you good luck in your future endeavors Sir. Hearing adjourned.”

She opened the box Nilene had given her, and stamped her own seal; a side view of a lioness surrounded by three circles.It reminded her of the Thundercats symbol and then stamped his beside it. As beautiful as this was done so last minute, she knew her two personal projects were going to be exquisite. Nilene would be named master jeweler or chatelaine, Maybe both. With Lennox maybe...such a cute couple if they could only see it. The man's grating voice brought her back.

“Now wait just a-”

“Adjourned,” Jessabelle repeated harsher with a soft smile afterward. “Anyone else with the same argument, may also leave as the verdict will be the same. Thank you for your concerns and time.” Two people left behind the grumbling man and she felt her smile twitch at the corner of her mouth. Ungrateful little...Later Jess, later. She turned her eye to the paper and motioned to the next man in line. “Sir, please come up. Your case is...about the education.” She barely held back her sigh and forced a small smile.

“Its nutthin’ like that miss er M’lday! My son is wantin’ to learn to read, but m’wife is ill ya see. I need him in the fields watchin’ the cattle while I tend to my wife.” Jessabelle hummed suddenly intrigued. “So what I’m hearing is...its inconvenient for you to lose a farmhand-your son namely during the schooling hours but you don’t want to stop him from trying, is this correct?” He nodded fiddling with the brim of his hat over his chest. She hummed again leaning back in her chair thinking. The desire to learn shouldn't be squandered... “If I may get back to you on this Sir; I’ll see if a special exception can be made in terms of timing or days. I’ll need no more than one week.” She smiled and wrote on her paper after giving him a far more polite dismissal.

She could do this.

 

 

C’mon c’mon! She pushed the last slug into the reserve and loaded the chamber with a loud click, before running down the ruins. “What the shit, of course I’d be in a stupid ruin running for my life!” Stumbling she turned into an alley of the abandoned buildings and walked backwards, trying to guess where it was. Closing her eyes when she felt it was safe enough to, she tried to shift the dream back.

“I feel you child, your power wanes.” The voice rumbled through the air, stuttering in her chest. Jessabelle gritted her teeth and stared at the wall ahead of her. It was right. Ever since she gave the call to end the assassin, her dreams had started to slip from her grasp. She needed to disassociate from the guilt of the decision. Guilt? Was this a guilt demon? Regret?

“Found you.” She let out a muffled growl and pressed the shotgun close to her shoulder sliding one foot back for balance with practiced ease and fired. They looked like Resident Evil dogs, just larger and bulkier; like mutated wolves. Of course wolves, why not wolves! It shattered like glass and she pumped the next shell into the chamber and fired knowing by now these bastards came in threes.

Turning and studying the wall in front of her, she tried for something smaller. A large bank safe door materialized and she threw a shoulder into it before turning and spinning the wheel until it clicked with finality. Jess stared at the door waiting and then lowered the shotgun. She couldn’t face whatever that was without figuring out who she was. How strange to think she could forget everything she learned from...well he didn’t matter. The beast knew she could not be beaten by that; she was not that girl anymore. Sitting with her back against the door she ran a hand over the Mossberg, reveling in the familiarity of something from Earth. This was a far cry from attempting to shoot clay disks out of the sky at an outdoor gun range.

Shaking her head and she frowned at herself. She was better than this. Focus. Assess. Prioritize. Plan. Contingency plan. This was...completely fricking new…Okay. How does one defeat a monster? She passed a hand over the gun again, putting the safety on. Become a better hunter. Very low hopes on that front. What else, become a bigger monster. Her mouth went flat; she was already an accessory to murder and dying of guilt, she doubted she could go that extra step. Or… the Godzilla effect. The smile spread slowly over her face as a plan began to come together. And then a figure flickered in front of her.

 

 

 

She lashed out viciously and barely registered the swears as she tried to claw her way above her attacker while he pushed her away. Without warning she was lifted and swung, hanging upside down. Shrieking she tried to wriggle down and was held against...Bull. His loud growling purr rumbling through her and breaking through her haze. “Bull?”

“You okay now Wildcat?”

“I’m...upside down.”

“Still didn’t answer me.” Jess went silent and became aware of the pain in her fingertips and hissed as she pulled her hands away from him, feeling as if her nail beds had been pulled up. “No. I-I don’t think I am.” He made a gruff sound. “Well, your responding now.”

She was dropped unceremoniously onto the bed and turned, hissing when she knelt on her own hair. “I,” closing her eyes she counted to ten. And then again. “Zev?”

“Here,” she winced and didn’t look up at the tone. A cup was thrust under her nose and she moved back shaking her head. “I don’t wan to be drugged anymore, its not helping.”

“Its tea, cara mia to sooth your nerves. I’ll have some with you. Andraste knows I can use it,” he mumbled getting another cup.

Bull watched her turn the cup several times before sipping, Zevran keeping the injured arm out of her sight. This couldn’t keep up. The assassin was quick to roll out of the way when she sat up like lightning had coursed through her, but one week in and she was only getting worse. He needed to think of something quick. And that meant calling in reinforcements. Whatever weird fade shit was going on, he knew of one person she wouldn’t hide from. Three if he was being honest. Once the cup was drained he dragged her over and positioned her against his chest, smoothing a hand down her hair.

She was getting careless...or too beaten down to care. While not exactly vain, Jess cared about her appearance quite a bit; making sure everything was conveyed with the utmost grace and poise. But her hair was sightly dry and matted. Her skin a bit greasy from jumping out of bed and going straight to work, running away from whatever was chasing her. And now her nails were bruised, blood pooling under her left index finger already. She would be in pain when writing. “Your meeting with the mages is coming up soon,” he prompted smirking at the groan on his chest.

“If your trying to reinforce my nightmares, that’s definitely the way to go,” she groused. He chuckled and moved his arm as Zevran snuggled in closer to him. The autumn was coming in fast and both him and Kitten grew cold so easily now. When all this horse shit was over with, he'd take them all to Antiva, maybe even Rivain. The boys would like that too. She let out a hard breath and he sighed as well. “You told her it wasn’t drugged.”

“I told her it was just tea, not that it wasn’t a tea for sleeping. I know that look. What are you planning?” He couldn’t turn his head without jostling her, so he pulled him closer and growled deep. “I sent a letter to the boss and-”he winced when Zev punched him. “Are you trying to get us kicked out of Ferelden,” he hissed angrily, watching her for reaction. “Or have you forgotten his anger at the Storm Coast so easily?”

Bull stared at the canopy for a moment. His temper was getting as short as hers...no scent change though. His training was exceptional. “How’d that slap feel, sounded like one mean backhand.” There was silence in the room and then he scented it in the air. Guilt. “I am very lucky she does not wear her rings to bed. I get it carino. The Inquisitor will help her better than we alone can. Forgive me if I make myself scarce during his visit though. I know how fickle mages can be.” He blinked and Zevran sighed sitting up to look at him. "You have been huffing like a prodded druffalo. Speak."

"Why'd you do it, knowing how soft she is."

"You mean why did I kill him when she asked?" Bull tilted his head to eye him flatly. His elf sighed and pushed his blond hair back from his face, passing a finger over his lips. "I was raised in a whorehouse yes? And while I consider myself luckier than most, there are certain things I doubt a very large horned man will understand." He felt his skin go hot and cold. "You gave her the vengeance you never got." 

"I...yes. And I do not regret it. No matter how many times she slaps me. There are codes of conduct, even among assassins. Ari was a monster and Marciel to for letting him. And what dashing hero leaves  a damsel in distress," he joked laying back down. Bull looked back at the ceiling and said nothing as a mild tremor ran through his side as Zevran tried to get comfortable. "I hate this weather," he heard sniffled, as if that poor excuse would hide his emotions. "Shut it," Bull growled soothingly rolling slightly so Jess slide partially onto him as well. "Oh, much warmer yes. Now If only her knee wasn't crushing my Antivan jewels."

"We'll soothe them in the morning."

"We? In the morning you say? Ah but we are early risers, I'm sure this can be endured on such promises." He shared a knowing smile and rested his eye.

 

 

 

This was entirely unexpected. Jessabelle stared at Dr. Hannibal Lecter leaning against her desk, shotgun held low and braced against her side. He examined her with a smirk, silent, and she offered him the same hospitality. This was the first time a denizen of the fade had made themselves so visible. So who was this, and why would they choose this specific persona. “I see the wheels turning.” Holy hell it sounds just like him. Jess hummed with a small arch of her brow. “Enticement? Danger? No, Manipulate,” his smirk grew a fraction. Getting warm. What did she love about Mads Mikkelson character? Dr. Lecter was clever, intimidatingly so. He also set Will Graham…of course.

“Sonofabitch.” His eyes narrowed ever so slightly, she wouldn’t have noticed if she didn’t know what to look for. Lowering the barrel to the floor she mock bowed. “Well met...Cunning.” His smile was brief and gorgeous. “Intrigue will also do. I see why Focus enjoys shadowing you. Had I known, I would’ve done so myself sooner.”

“Color me flattered,” she retorted flatly. “Why are you here now?” He held his hands open for a moment shrugging. “I enjoy a good chase. The winner is not as important as the way the game is played.” Jess hummed unconvinced. “Right. Because your not here to pick my brain and tattle.”

“Truly. I’ve no intention of interrupting-” his eyes narrowed and she flinched at the door that she did not call forward opening. She did a double take blinking. “Why the hell is Morgan Freeman in my office?”

“Patience, what brings you,” Hannibal-well Cunning asked sarcastically. “Wisdom. She has asked me to try and convince you otherwise of your plan.” She barked out a laugh and tilted her head. “And you?” He put his hands in his pockets and sighed. “You are more patient than him in some aspects. I am enjoying the methodical labor of your plans until they come to fruition.”

“He’s immortal,” she reiterated, trying to wrap her head around that comment. “And as such patience is of little consequence to him.” Ah, nothing like Morgan Freeman making you feel like a dumbass. “Yes, I-can see that now.”

Hannibal smiled and turned back to her. “So then. The game continues.” She hummed and switched off the safety to her gun. “Indeed. And I’ve a part to play, so if you’ll gentlemen excuse me. I have a hunt to return to.” She felt the fade cement a bit in her grasp, her authority reinstating a fraction. After all a Hunter must hunt.

 

 

 

 

Jessabelle froze at the sound of the horns, quill poised over the requisition form she was filling. No one was scheduled to show today. Was she dreaming, was an attack imminent? Talia ran through the open office door  with glee. “M’lady he’s early!” Charging out the room past her laughter and running to the double staircase of the courtyard, Jess let out a small cry of surprise as Lycus passed through the gates, sitting tall on his hart. Dismounting he opened his arms wide and smiled that brilliant ever so missed smile.

“There she is!” Sprinting down the stairs, she jumped into his arms and wrapped her legs around him, squeezing her face into the junction of his neck and inhaling his scent, aura, whatever it was. “I missed you,” she sobbed miserably just now noticing his hand patting her back. “Oh Lamb.” He pried her off gently and held her chin. “Ya look like ya haven’t been sleeping.”

“Thank you Lycus, that is exactly what every woman wants to hear.” She wilted under his stern glare. “I’m just tired. Your lucky you have Josie for most your correspondence.”

Try as she might to regain a sense of poise, her eyes closed and she leaned into his palm went it moved to her cheek, ignoring the callouses from his staff. “And what am I, yesterdays lunch?” Jess smiled and raised an eyebrow. “You know your not getting him back now right?” Lycus chuckled and mock whispered, “Run amatus.” Jess blinked at him surprised. “Amatus is it? Good for you.” His ears tinged pink scratching his head and Dorian laughed. “Er, right. Anyhow. The mages should be here in two days. Now don’ look that way, you’re ready.” She spotted Solas dismounting his pony and stiffened. Shit. Lycus followed her gaze and tilted his head. “Everythin’ alright?”

“Yes of course. I was researching something and would’ve preferred he not be here to lecture me.” He laughed and nodded. “He is very good at that.” She hummed agreeing with a smirk and went to face the wolf in the room. "But since he is here,"  He would see right through her, so better to be transparent. Instantly his gaze pierced her the moment she approached. “I’m losing the battle.”

Solas opened his mouth and...silence. “I’m sorry. Hello Solas, I’m happy to see you. How was your trip? Your room will be prepared within the hour. Do you have time, I need your help. I did as I told you I was going to do, and I’m losing the battle. Is that sufficient so we can walk the battlements and talk or shall I make up some more idle chatter? I hear the frilly cakes are made with real cream here.” His smirk was insufferable as he laced his hands behind his back and inclined his head. Jess led him to her favorite vantage point that overlooked the dam and the lake, enjoying the view and letting him think.

“You say your losing? How so?” Closing her eyes she felt the wind and his gaze against her face. “Have your ever heard of an herb that transports one into the fade?” She opened her eyes and studied him as he stared out, the same way he was studying her. “Such a knowledge does not exist da’len.” She scoffed with a sad smile. “I never thought you would outright lie to me Solas. I have to say I’m...not disappointed, but saddened really, more than anything else. Subterfuge I expect, given that your a lifelong apostate, but blatant falsehood? Beneath you darling.” She inhaled and turned away from the crenelation. “I’ll make sure your room is finished.”

“Such a knowledge does not exist anymore.” She paused and returned to his side, openly watching him now. “But it did once. In Arlathan?” He returned her gaze slowly. “Why do you ask this?”

“I have a last minute fail safe plan if the worst is to come to pass. The beast has learned most my tricks. If I am to defeat it, I will need a new tactic.”

“And you believe this is how?” She smiled and looked out. “To see interesting things, one needs to be interesting. I have seen many things both real and imagined.” His inhale was probably more audible than he had intended. “Lycus is here now-”

“I will not have the men I love fight my battles,” she snapped impassioned. “I have hid behind him this whole time. My standing? My power? This fortress? Everything has been given me. I will take no more.” His returned anger surprised her. “Do you truly believe you’ve earned nothing? The money, the dresses, the healing knowledge given freely to the poor and the elves specifically. All the research, the questions, the quest for-forgive me.”

She looked away at the same time, letting him stew in silence while she tried to guess what he was going to say. “The fade is thin here,” she finally said to no one, seeing his ear flick slightly. “Don’t dream too deeply. But I doubt I have to tell the fadewalker that.”

“Is that your way of asking me not to intervene?” She smiled and bit her lip. “I should remember your more clever than me, being older and all.”

“And how would you know that?” There was a slight edge to his voice that she didn’t react to, continuing to smile and tease instead. “Because you told me so on the aravel. Or were you lying then?” Too. How she felt him relax she didn’t know but only when he chuckled did she look at him. “Please Solas. I need to do this on my own. It taunts me with my secrets. I think its taking things from me. I will get them back.” She turned away knowing full well there was no way he wouldn’t watch now even if he didn’t intervene. As if his pride would allow him not to. The Godzilla effect; fight a monster with a bigger monster...And pray he doesn’t kill you too.

 

 

 

 

“You mean to indenture us! Have we no say!” Jessabelle raised her hands and tried to settle the meeting room back down. Lycus had been positioned on a raised platform and the rest of the room was made of semi circles so everyone had a clear view of the other members. She was diligent about making sure no Templar sat behind a mage to make sure they didn’t feel threatened. She made sure that no Templar was left at the tables edge as if they were an afterthought. She made sure Mother Giselle sat near the front to give some respect for the Chantry but not close enough to Lycus that she could over speak him if he so chose to. If she had been able to muzzle the mages to shut the fuckers up long enough to finish a proposal, she would call her plan solid and well thought out.

It was a few hours past noon; they had started at first light. She had fought to control the floor since then alone; battling the Aequitarians on using their magic to help everyday people by being a part of society and using magic as any other trade. She battled the Lucrosians who believed they should be paid for their work stopping droughts, putting out fires, being healers in the infirmaries Jess had insisted they incorporate to ensure people had a place to find help. She fought the Libertarians, namely Fiona about still being under Chantry and Templar rule during this transition. But apparently it was that comment that had broken Lycus’ vow of silence.

“No, you don’t.”Jess clicked her jaw shut in shock and turned slowly to Lycus. He sat head resting against his fist with one leg crossed at the knee. “I told you once Fiona that you had no right to demand anything as you sold that privilege already. Your choices are this reformation, return to under the Chantry in their circles, or Aeonar.” Jess winced and backed away exhaling slowly seeing the mages shift uncomfortably in their chairs.

He stood and stepped down from the rise, one hand behind his back and the other motioning for the papers in her hand. Handing them over she moved to the side and laced her hands to keep from twisting her fingers. This was not how she expected it to go. He paced the area where she was, reading her notes pursing his lips and humming quietly as he flipped to the next page. Finally he spoke into the silence. “Beyond being controversial, this is rather impressive and I’m a bit disappointed in ourselves for not thinking of this sooner. Famine? Natural disaster? Sickness? Using your gift for good? I fail to see a problem where you would need to lash out. Are you power hungry Enchanter that you don’t wish to help? Have you no desire for repentance from your Maker? Or for freedom for your people to rejoin society as needed and sought after members?”

Jess turned away and squeezed her eyes shut tight in a silent hiss. That was a bit too far. She had hoped they’d agree willingly. To not do so now….Lycus sighed and looked around the room. “All of you have seemed to forget your respective Orders have already failed you. The Mages would’ve been indentured to the Venatori or dead by now, all thanks to you Fiona. The Templars would be Red Lyrium encrusted husks serving Corypheus. The Chantry is still in shambles. Do try to keep that in mind when you come to your conclusions.”

Waiting until he was seated again, Jess shuffled her papers and forced a small smile. “I understand this will be a trying experience for all. Anyone who wishes to return to the simplicity of the Loyalist mages, know that the circles will still exist as a place of learning before a mage can apprentice into a town. You can write your name and your expertise and I’ll try to make sure your placed in a circle as an instructor. I’ll leave this here for anyone who wants to look it over. Lets adjourn for today. Thank you for your patience.”

Without another word she left first and wound her way to her favorite spot, shaking. Talia appeared beside her and said nothing at the tears on her cheeks, simply offering silent support. The sun had moved across the sky quite a bit before she spoke. “Why do you try so hard for us elves, for the mages? Why hurt yourself over and over?”

“Because someone has to Tali. Those with power have an obligation to those without, to right what they can. The needs of the many should outweigh the needs of the few and if possible, the injuries incurred should be as minimal as possible. I will count myself lucky if I end up being the only casualty.” She looked at her sadly; “But we both know change brings about war. The best I can hope to do is make myself a bigger target and redirect so our soldiers stand a chance.”

“Such martyrdom rarely has the effect one hopes for.” Tali gasped and narrowed her eyes at Solas. Jess had not heard his approach either but she was thankful she didn’t jump as visibly. “If I may have a moment alone with him.” Jess turned so she faced the courtyard and tilted her head closer to him. “You’re angry with me.”

“I thought you meant to free the mages.”

“And what is freedom to you Solas?” She looked at him directly and arched a brow. “Say the mages have their freedom. And then what. They are still hated and shunned. They have no survival skills. They have no coin, no home, no family. What then? More war, more death, more loss that’s what. The means do not always justify the end, dear friend. I’ve read enough history to know the worst atrocities were committed with the best intentions. Forgive me if I don’t wish that to be my legacy; a swift victory and only half the people left to celebrate it.” She sighed and pushed the braid back over her shoulder from where the wind had ripped it. “I don’t expect you to understand or believe me, but I would give my life it saves Thedas.” And I intend to Dread Wolf dear friend, if I cannot convince you otherwise.

Chapter Text

“Pull my hair again and I’ll break your staff.” She gritted her teeth when the brush snagged again. “Sorry Lamb, but this rat nest is your fault.” She glared over her shoulder at him and growled when he pushed her head forward again. “Stop fussin’. I don’ know how your men let it get this bad. How do two lovers let yer hair get this way!”

“Maybe because they’re not sadists like you. Ow!” Jess turned and swung missing him by a mile as he moved back with a laugh. Fixing her robe, she huffed and whined, “Dorian! Come get your brute.”

“Sorry darling, but that...mess on your head is a rat nest. I’m surprised at his bravery for trying to tame it.” He sat down in front of her with a sigh and poured himself another cup of wine. “So then where were we?”

“Spatial awareness in terms of the fade.” She felt Lycus pause in his brushing. Dorian on the other hand rubbed his hands together excited. “Yes yes. Now I remember. You were concerned about your body’s magic sensitivity and the idea of the space within you being a self contained realm. Fascinating concept if not completely far fetched.”

“Except,” she prompted. He swished his cup side to side and wiggled his mustache.“Except that I’ve seen magic continually cycle through you like a conduit. So while not entirely plausible its also not impossible. What’s brought this up?”

She closed her eyes as the brush finally made a pass without snagging. “I’m just curious about the fade and its constructs. What governs it?”

“Nothing governs it Lamb. Its ever shiftin’.” She held back her sigh and hummed instead. “Why don’ we go into there and ya can tell us what this is really about.” Jess barked out a laugh chortling. “Party in the Fade!” She looked up and slowly stopped at their blank expressions before rolling her eyes. “Never mind.” she sighed leaning her head back more as he began braiding little plaits. She didn’t get the answers she needed by Dalish or Tevinter common knowledge. She would need to dig deeper. And that would require getting dirtier than she already was with the secrets.

“Has Leliana found a way to send me back?” His hands froze in her tresses. Dorian glanced over her head before looking at her again hesitant. “I don’t think so darling.” Jess hummed with a small frown. She was sure if anyone could figure out how she got here, it would be the spymaster. “You still want to go back?” She blinked surprised and Dorian quickly waved his hands in front of him. “Stupid question, of course you do.”

“I don’t know if I do; I don’t think I could go back to that life after everything I’ve experienced here. I think I just want answers more than anything. I mean I miss my mom, my brother and sisters. My cats. If they’re still alive,” she grunted and shook the thought from her mind. “I miss my job; it didn’t involve politics. I miss indulging.”

“Oh? Now this I have to hear, In what pray tell.” She smirked and tapped Lycus’ leg, spurring him into braiding again. “Food. Oh there was a little bakery by my job that had the most delicious little chocolate cakes with a sweet salty ganache.” She groaned longingly. “I miss Chinese food, and pizza. I regret all the little things I took for granted.”

“Share with me.” She hummed and tilted her head back to look at him. She smiled and cupped Lycus’ chin. “I can try love. Its been a while and my dreams have been...strange. Some things I don’t rightly...remember anymore.”

“Can I come? I’ve been beside myself trying to understand the stories he’s told me.” She laughed and shrugged. “Only if you don’t complain.” She let him huff and puff without any real heat and hummed contentedly. It would be good to have fun in the fade again.

In truth she was worried the beast would show, but she was back in saddle so to speak. Intrigue, or Cunning as she preferred to remind herself, walked with her through the fade, building her confidence. He spoke often times at her. Until she realized he was speaking to someone who always walked behind her. Focus and Will he said. For some reason she didn’t want to see what they looked like so she never turned around. She wondered if he would make an appearance, but of course, there was nothing.  Its when the cats away that the...well wolves would play.

 

 

 

Cunning raised an eyebrow and she crossed her arms, kicking her legs on the bleacher she sat on. Her high school was a strange blurry mass in the background, parts of it floating above them. “So you don’t actually know if its possible or not,” she clarified, watching him inhale and lean back against the fence. “It has never been done before. But then again neither has anything like you.” Jess sucked her teeth and worried her bottom lip. “I must admit, I expected you to be a little more broken up about this,” he added breaking through her thoughts while playing with a gum wrapper curious.

“Death comes for all men. Fen’Harel and I are not immune to this. He just needs a little more coaxing than me.”

“And yet your not planning to kill him.” She narrowed her eyes and only hummed. Patience mimicked the motion with a slight twitch of his mouth. “A strange gamble. And a long one at that.” Cunning 'looked' at her and she peered back waiting to see if he found her thoughts. He move back inhaling awestruck. “Oh Jess…Now that is an interesting concept.” She watched them share a look and felt left out of the conversation clearly happening between spirits.

Patience shook his head and turned walking towards the school. “Be careful Jess. Looking for nightmares is a sure way to lose yourself.”

“I’m not looking for any nightmare. I’m looking for a dream and whats inside that dream.” He paused looking over his shoulder and it was strange to see Morgan Freeman gazing at her puzzled. “Aren’t they one in the same?” Jess opened her mouth, thought about truly and then clicked her jaw shut. “I guess not. But I know what I’m looking for. That should at least make it easier right?”

“Wisdom would be able to tell you better than me.”

“Wisdom is fucking ignoring the elephant in the room because its not her world that gonna be destroyed again! I’m not going to her and risking everything. Let him keep his own council and I will keep mine.”

“Are we your Advisors now,” Cunning mused. She felt the urge to beat him with a bat and laughed when one appeared in her hand, dispersing it a moment later. “Don’t make me regret that decision,” she warned crossing her arms again. She had a plan. She had a back up plan. It would take time, but she would scour the fade for a bell if it meant protecting her new family.

“Well,” she sighed picking up her shotgun and taking the safety off, “No time like the present to start. If it gets dicey, leave. I don’t want anything corrupting you.” Cunning tilted his head and gave her a charming smile. “My dear, I never knew you cared.”

“I don’t. I was talking to the two behind me.” He tsk’d keeping pace. “You win the favor of many men with attitude?”

“In fact I do. Men of this world apparently have no idea what to do when faced with a woman like me.”

“And what is a woman like you,” he prodded opening a Burberry umbrella. “Blunt. Unabashedly bold. Unrelenting; bitch in one word.”

“Funny you didn’t include your actual charms; compassion, patience, will, focus, mercy, understanding, space for understanding. Leadership, Oracle, gentle child, and coy seductress, all the facets of you. Who are you under all that, do you even know?”

“Nope. Lets go on an adventure and find out which of my traits it the real me. Lets traipse through the worlds looking for a demon me under all this. And pray that it is at least leading us to a lair of secrets and not of death because I don't think I brought an extra pair of underwear and if I fade fall into another world again, I at least want my good panties on.”

“How...charming.” She smirked and watched the high school blow away like sand, a rainstorm moving in. She did her best to keep the object of her search in mind, hoping the fade would lead them towards it.

 

 

“Lamb, we need ta talk.” She sat up drowsy in her chair and nodded. “Of course, Lycus,” she wiped her face and moved a paper over as he sat on the edge of her desk, touching her forehead. “Just tired love. What’s up,” she soothed before he could ask. “I spoke with Mother Giselle, or more like she cornered me comin’ out the privy.” She let out a startled laugh but motioned him to continue. “The mages reform is best done under your eye; you understand these concepts; first responders, hazmat, R&D. But she feels housing the school here too will make you a bigger target.” Jess hummed lacing her fingers over her stomach. “Don’ look at me that way. I ain’t sayin’ to drop the idea.”

“Then what are you saying?”

“If you can bear it, let Talia teach at Skyhold. Pilgrims come all the time unlike here, and she’ll be paid fair wages-”

“Equal wages.” He paused and nodded, “Ah, I see. Yes equal wages.” She hummed and looked at the wood grain of the desk frowning. Strange that she forgot to factor in the meddling but kind Chantry mother. “Copper for your thoughts?”

“I think she’s fooled you. The only reason I can think she would prefer the people would be taught at Skyhold is so that the Mothers and sisters can ensure we are teaching Chantry rules. Wouldn’t want to teach sympathy for the mages, now would we?”

“I…think you’re seein’ demons in shadows Lamb.” She glared at him and chewed the inside of her lip. You would too if you knew what I knew. “That’s a fair assumption, given everything that’s happened to me,” she bit out instead. He sighed and she waved him off. “I’ll send her; not because of these contrived arguments, but because she is good and deserves the safety Skyhold can offer." And because she endures being away from Cullen with such dignity and grace. Her face flushed at remembering how Bull had cornered her on her inspection of the cave and took her right over a barrel. The thrill and terror of being caught had peaked her far sooner than both of them had expected.

“We’ll be leavin’ tomorrow.” She snapped her up surprised. “So soon?”

“Its been a week Lamb.”

“Oh,” she blinked stupidly trying to think of something else. Then it was business as usual. “There will be a time when Morrigan asks you to go to the Temple of Mythal. I MUST be there. This is not an option. There is a chance an enemy may be born from that encounter. If I can change that fate, all the better. But if not, then we need to set a plan in motion right then and there.” He hummed intrigued with a small nod. “As you say. It will be nice to travel together again.”

“Thank you love,” she said sincerely tilting her head to receive the kiss he placed on her hair. “You worry me Lamb. The soldiers here gossip much about you. Its all praises and concerns. That you lose yourself into your work. They believe you are a princess in hiding. Please promise me you’ll be careful.” She nodded and squeezed his hand. “I do try to be hon. I don’t actively go looking for trouble.”

“I almost wish ya did. You might not find it then!” They shared a laugh and he kissed her knuckles as goodbye. Jess tilted her head and twirled a ringlet around her finger. Perhaps she should use that logic and apply it to her search. Maybe then she would get somewhere.

 

 

 

The shell burned the back of her hand when it flew out of the chamber. She stumbled and ran backwards filling the chamber and aiming again. The Black Beast laughed as more of the little hellion creatures charged her. Rolling out of the way she leaped over a boulder and reloaded, moving just in time as the boulder exploded and rained it shrapnel on her. The scream ripped out of her and she fell onto her back with a grunt. She shot the wolf that jumped over her and struggled to her feet. Bracing the shotgun to her shoulder she fired continuously gritting her teeth.

A wave of magic swung and hit her in the chest, knocking her on the ground and dissipating her weapon. “You have no knowledge of how that staff would actually destroy me. Your magic is finite and futile. You are mine and no one will save you.”

She shivered and crab walked backwards, trying to get away before freezing, processing the words. Her magic was knowledge. She never actually hit a live creature when she went hunting, her eyes had instinctively closed when her friend had done the deed. Steeling herself she stood and held her hands out at her sides.

She felt them shift then, felt Will and Focus move to be beside her, their shapes fluid until forming into lions. She closed her eyes and pictured in utmost clarity the lions she had seen on Nat Geo programs, the ones at the zoo, the ones at the circus. Animals she knew, she loved, she watched hunt, she watched feed, and the lions flew out from her sides and charged the Beast. The lionesses harried it as Will stalked in a circle waiting for the opening.

They fought the way she knew lions to fight, biting at legs, at the throat, jumping onto its back and going for the nape of its hideous neck. Smaller animals like hyenas appeared; probably wisps called from her memories of predatory pack hunters. In that moment she lost her hold for just a second as the thought of pack animals, namely lions and wolves came to mind and in an instant she felt him.

His presence was all consuming and she skittered back a few steps when the trees parted and the Dread Wolf made himself known. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes went higher, higher, from paws to the tips of his ears; bigger than a two story house. “You!” She watched Fen’Harel approach with sure precise steps. “Betrayal. Be gone. You are not wanted here. This prey is mine.” He looked at her loosely and her fists painted angry red crescent moons onto her palms.

“NO! I have her mind, she in MINE!” Jess cried out and stumbled back when it lunged at him. The magic that blew off of Fen'harel dropped her to her knees; he was so nonchalant, a flick of his head and the Black Beast-Betrayal broke like glass, green fade magic pouring out of the cracks seconds beforehand. Her smaller pack animals followed suit, shattering with a sound of dropped pottery. In an instant, memories of Solas pretending to be Revelry flooded her. He had placed his hand on her forehead when she mentioned his eyes and stole the moment from the recesses of her mind. Making her forget. It was a betrayal of her trust in him. It was how the demon had got in and why she couldn’t remember. It ate at the pain she carried of being alive in a world she shouldn't be. Of abandoning her life not once but twice because of someone else's mistakes or insistence. The truth of it burned hot like a hand held near a flame too long.

Her pride left behind, three in all, immediately circled back around to her as his attention shifted to the only other person there. “Well well well. What have we here?” It felt like six of him had spoken at once, the sound vibrating the air. Jess narrowed her eyes and put her hand on Will’s neck. “I traded one beast for another. At least this one I know.” His muzzle went into the sky laughing. In two steps he was in front of her and she stiffened as his face came down low to bring one of his eyes level with her. It was ghastly, strange and curdled her stomach seeing three eyeballs on one side. “And who little lion cub do you think I am?”

“The Dread Wolf Fen’Harel.” Her mouth had spoken without permission. Jess had wanted to bring his-SOLAS- crimes to light, his complete and utter disregard for her. His disrespect and lies. But instinct had won out, and she always followed her instincts. He head rose high while he sat on his haunches. “So I am-”

“And I am Lady Lionheart. And I am not afraid of you.”

“You lie. Your fear saturates the very air.”

“You lie,” she spat back, “you know nothing of me. If you had, you would have eliminated me the moment I stepped through your rift all those months ago.”

His head dropped slightly to his chest eyes narrowing. “Careful cub. My curiosity is not enough to save you.” She took a step forward and mocked bowed. “Forgive me mighty Dread Wolf, God of the trickery. Except that you are not a god. And neither were they.” She felt the air shift then. “Your gamble will not pay off this time either,” she continued watching him tilt his head slightly.

Thankfully he took the bait. “And what gamble is that?” She hummed and lowered her gaze thinking. “Do you know who I am,” she finally asked. “What I can do?”

Fen’harel dropped to his belly looking amused. “Will you not answer the first query before asking another?”

“You’ve all the time in the world mighty Fen’harel. Will you not humor a mortal whose thoughts are fleeting?” His eyes narrowed as he gave a twisted smile. “Who are you then, and what can you do?”

“I am Jessabelle Snow, and I have stolen your victory as surely as Lycus will steal Corypheus’, or should I say yours.” His tail tails? Stopped swishing side to side. “That orb was yours wasn’t it? The eluvians- have you found the pass code yet? The spies now struggling to filter not only Skyhold, but also Caer Bronach, and the winter palace. Its not as easy as you thought; is it?” She tutted softly looking off to the side. “I was the piece you most ignored on your chessboard, and now I am your worst nightmare.”

His jaws snapped at her, the heat of his breath and magic washing over her like an open oven. She gritted out a scream, turning her head but planting her legs, even as her knees trembled and threatened to drop her. If he ate her now, then Talia would move forward with her plans. Briala had her correspondences as well and knew what to look for; the king of Ferelden would know how to unite the banns if something happened to Caer Bronach. Alfstanna had her first shipment of wares sent, and would ride high that more would be sent and so would help defend it. If she wasn’t in the king’s bed chamber already. No help of mine of course. His growl rumbled through her, a tear rocked loose from a lash rolling down her cheek. Jess let out a shuddered breath, closing her eyes with a small sound at the size of his teeth.

He held back, this time. But she needed more, she needed prideful Solas, not military Fen’Harel.

 

So instead when faced death and dismemberment, Jess chose a completely different opposite idea than begging or threatening. Let him in not because she feared or respected him, which she did. And not because she could outwit him in secret, he would know. Jess needed to hit low, and stand on the same pedestal he stood. Let pride be the downfall of us both.

Her Will roared and he hopped back with unbelievable grace, tilting his massive black head and blinking his eyes one at a time. “How very...fascinating.” She shuddered again at the massive paw that stepped beside her, this one tawny and golden. Reaching out to balance herself she inhaled at the sense of...self that washed over her.

“You’ve done what every man, elf, Qunari has tried when a women made herself known, you dismissed her to the winds, to galas, anywhere out of your hair.” She swallowed and stepped closer to Solas. “You fucked up. And you will again, and then you’ll try to fix it and screw us over thrice. So listen to me.” He turned his head as if unimpressed, rankling her. Jess stepped forward and gasped when a smaller lion appeared in front of her. “Focus,” it hissed impatiently.

 

 

 

The air whooshed back into her lungs, tearing streaming down her face. Bull made a pained yet relieved groan and yanked her into his chest. “Jess,” he whispered her name over and over like a litany. “What...happened?”

“Fuck if I know! You just stopped breathing.” She hummed painfully and snaked an arm around his neck for balance just as Zevran came busting into the room with Lycus and Dorian. Both elves climbed over the bed while the Altus scooted around kneeling beside Bull. She shushed as they all spoke at once. Lycus was already scanning her, hand hovering over her heart. “What happened darling,” Dorian asked softly studying Lycus. “Demon.”

The room when silent and she motioned to her chest. “Dispel, quick.” Both mages flicked their wrists and she felt like ice ran down her skin, sensing the small twitch from Bull. “Demon,” Lycus repeated watching her breath. “Yeah.” The heat against her back let her know she was in deep deep trouble. She reached up and touched her brother’s cheek reaching for Dorian as well. “I’m okay now.”

“Ye faced. A. Demon. You are not alright!” She winced at the deep brogue and hushed him softly. “A moment of weakness. I opened a portal and didn’t look.” He sighed and rolled his head with a sigh. “Telamdys mar enansal,” he muttered angrily. “Common ma’falon,” she groaned. “I said damn your gift!” Her jaw dropped as he crawled off the bed and stormed out slamming the door behind him. Dorian glanced at her and sighed. “I’ll go talk to him.”

“I’ll talk to her.” Her head instantly dropped at Bull’s tone. Dorian paused glancing at her for confirmation and she sighed and nodded, nudging her head to the door. “Yes. Right. Well..I’ll be going...then.” He didn’t move and Jess groaned, “Go Dorian!” He grimaced and turned without another word. The silence was stifling as she waited for her lover to speak. Zevran stayed where he was, eyes glowing in the candlelight and blinking slowly. The spit in her mouth dried out as the time drew on.

She didn’t whether to sigh in relief or tense up when he finally moved behind her. Her lashes fluttered down as his drawn out exhale blew across the side of her neck. “Kneel.” It was whispered and made her shoulder raise in reflex as if he had shouted. She stole a look to Zev; he watched impassive cross legged, hands resting in between.

Clearing her throat softly, Jess rose away from him and knelt on the bed facing him. She glanced back at Zev and gasped when Bull grabbed her jaw and yanked her attention back. “Look at me.” She swallowed and nodded with a whispered ‘sorry’. He seemed to accept that as his hand softened. “One chance Kitten. What happened?” She opened her mouth and nothing came out. His brow arched in response and she winced and exhaled heavily. Honesty Jess. He-they deserve as much of it as I can give.

Her eyes dashed to her desk, where the two boxes sat hidden. “I did meet a demon,” she started looking back at him. “One I’ve been chasing and been chased by.” His face hardened but he said nothing and waited. “It had been preying on my memories. I faced it tonight. It let out a wave of...magic or something and it-I didn’t think to think it would affect me here. Its gone...but there’s another I hunt. Not a demon of spirit but the ones in a man’s heart.” He blinked calmly. He was anything but calm, she could feel the heat rolling off of him.

“I can say no more.” She didn’t even see him move but the air left her lungs in a huff as her head bounced off the bed, his form hovering over her easily. Her head twitched to seek Zev again and barely managed to keep her eyes on his face instead of searching. “I sometimes wonder if I should snap your neck and save us all the trouble.” The words were bit out but she could hear something more akin to desperation rather than anger.

“Oh kadan.” She winced and closed her eyes. “I can’t be without you both. I don’t know if I can kill for you, but I do know that I would die-”

“Stop!” She craned her head to look at Zev holding his own hair through white knuckles. “Just...stop. All of it. You are no mage. You cannot hope to win.”

“No.”

Her jaw stayed loose as she looked back at Bull. “No. Whatever your argument is, its not worth it.”

“It is! It is worth it,” she hissed her chest rising into him to try and push him back. “This is my fucking home now! I won’t lose it again! I won’t let him have you. None of you.” Her hands covered Bull’s where they moved to cup her face, melting into the heat he offered. “Who Kitten, who?”

“Give me a name, amore, and every Crow will be upon him. No, just me. Just me for your tears.” She snaked one hand up the satiny sheet until Zevran’s hand grasped it tightly. “I will not throw men lives as cannon fodder,” she whispered earning herself a growl. “No, you’d rather fight a battle on grounds where no one can help you! You-” Bull stopped himself lifting his head as if seeing something. “He’s a mage.”

Jess stared at him expressionless. The only face she could make and give nothing away. “Is he here? In the fortress?”

“He can only be found in the fade.”

“You lie.”

“Prove it,” she challenged. “I can smell your deceit,” Bull growled furious.

“And I can sense your scared.” He paused and she raised an eyebrow waiting for him to argue; his silence was rather telling of his emotional state. “I’m scared too,” she breathed, filling in the space. Zevran squeezed her hand drawing her eyes. Scooting closer he put her hand to his cheek, kissing her palm. “Princessa, please don’t go into battle where we can’t follow.” Her heart ached at the tremor in his voice. “I-I can’t promise that alma mia.”

Bull shifted and stood, pulling her to stand as well. “This demon of hearts; do you plan to outrun him or outsmart him?” Jess tilted her head studying his face. There was a hidden motive in that question, a trap she wasn’t sure how to avoid. “Both. If I can stay one step ahead, I hope to outwit him before he realizes what I’ve done.” His hand cupped her face gently before sliding his fingers over her hair and examining a ringlet. Leaning close to her face he stopped an inch, maybe less from her lips her lids fluttering in response to his soft growl.

“Run.” She moved back startled eyes darting to Zev; his eyebrow was cocked up in confusion as well. “W-what?”

“If you expect to outrun a demon, you should be able to outrun and outwit the both of us easily. Run. If we catch you.” He invaded her space, hand sliding and grasping the back of her neck so she couldn’t move away, “We fuck you right where we catch you.” She gasped just as Zevran laughed. “You avoid us until the moons are at the highest point of the sky, and I’ll back off and let you handle this on your own. I’ll even give you you a head start.” He gave her a hard push back, making her stumble.

“You cant be serious,” she argued as he rolled out his shoulders. “One, two, three-” She turned and motioned a panicked hand to Zevran for help. “Zev! Say something!” He smirked viciously. “Seven, eight, nine.” Jess froze like a deer in the highlights and then ran, throwing the door open and running down the stairs, feet hitting the stones in a rhythm of clock hands drawing her toward then rather than away. 

Chapter Text

He watched Zevran watch her leave and then turn to him, playful grin gone. “I will not force her to anything she does not want. Nor will I let you, no matter my affections for you.” That surprised him. Bull watched him cross his arms and walked towards the window, leaning against the sill while looking around the room. “You know, she didn’t think you were coming back.” He caught Zevran stiffen from the corner of his eye. “I had to work extra hard to keep her occupied. Learned quite a bit about her in that time, she learned a lot about herself too.”

“Your point?”

He stretched as if he didn't hear him and continued. “I learned a hard slap on her ass in private will get her annoyance but in public will make the cheeks on her face flush.” Zev frowned narrowing his eyes. “We learned she could handle the strike of a board but not the flat of a leather belt. We learned she could handle the impending darkness of a hand too tight on her throat but not with a blindfold, the dark was too deep then. She could handle a blindfold while choking on your cock but not the blindfold and the gag. Its either one or the other, and asking her to choose between the two makes her legs quake.”

Zevran groaned softly shifting his hips as his unlaced breeches became too tight around his erection. “We learned she could handle being thrown down and the side of her face held to the ground, but strike her on the cheek and she’s two breaths away from calling for an Exalted March and your head on a pike.” He scoffed at that but Bull could see his defenses had been breached. While his arms were still crossed, a lock of hair fell forward as his shoulders dropped a fraction, the only sign of him relaxing. Reaching under the bed, Bull opened his chest and shuffled through the contents continuing. “She can handle the burn of a braided rope tied too tight but not the drip of hot wax.” Zevran leaned his head back exhaling with a strained groan and whispered again, “Your point?”

“Zev, lemme ask you something. Do you really believe Jess would let someone do something she herself wasn’t willing to do?” He looked towards the door, silent for a moment before chuckling. “No, I suppose not.” Bull nodded and blinked slowly. “ Damn right. She's learning what she likes, but she'll let you know when she's displeased. Now...Do you believe I would force her into something she doesn't want to do?” He froze now, shoulders tense once again, and then swore under his breath. “No I-I suppose not. I apologize carino. That was unworthy of me.” He fanned it off and crossed his arms. By now he had given her a seven minute head start, which meant she was either just reaching the gates or had just entered the tunnels underneath. A few more and this would become more sporting. But there was still something that needed to be cleared.

“This isn’t about her.” He sat back slowly looking at the contents he had spread on the bed while watching the surprise come across his golden eyes. “I...don’t understand.” The sentence had been stretched, attractive in his Antivan accent. Bull passed a hand over his stubble thinking how to get to the heart of the issue.

“You know she’s not to blame for the assassin trying to rape her right?”

“Of course she’s not!” He almost thought he would have to dodge a blow, luckily it didn’t come. “Then why are you holding it against her?” The terror in Zevran’s face was eerie, his eyes so large the whites visible all around the gold. “What are you speaking of,” he whispered in horror.

“Ever since you came back, since that night, she’s muted in her passions. Only when your in the room strangely enough, like she’s seeking for your approval. Tonight was no different. She kept glancing at you. She tries not to dwell on that night, why are you?” He shifted foot to foot shaking his head. “That’s not-it, I worry about-,” he covered his mouth and stared at him as if Andraste herself had told him he was messing up. Bull hummed nodding. “Thought so. Cut that shit out; she’s tough for some stuff, but with others? With us, she’s fragile.” Now the other issue...

Kadan.

She looked like it had slipped from her mouth unbidden, like a fiercely held secret. “Amore?”

He glanced at him and nodded, acknowledging he heard him as his mind whirled on. “Alma. What does that mean again?” Zev looked at him flatly, calling his bluff but answered anyway. “It means soul,” he paused and looked away, “breath of the soul...ah ma sono un pazzo.” Bull grunted and scratched a horn, he was going to argue with that logic. So her heart and soul huh?

 

“We can’t stop her. You have to accept that we may lose her sooner rather later.” Zevran instantly bristled and looked away, fists clenched. “And how have you come to that conclusion?” He held his jaw thinking. “For the longest time I thought she was mourning her home, the one she left. Her scent its,” he struggled for a word in Common to explain Asala-taar. “Acridness. Soul suffering. But tonight, tonight she said this was her home. She calls you the breath of her soul.”

“And you her heart,” Zevran added, smirking. “You forget the Hero of Ferelden walked with Sten.” Bull laughed and nodded, conceding he’d been caught. “Anyway, my point is that her scent has never changed. She’s been resigned to a death; one I always thought was about her home. I don’t think she believes she can actually defeat this demon of hearts. So” he stood and filled a bag with rope, a water skin, and a small health tonic.

“This session isn’t for her. Its for you. This may be the only time you can catch her. The only chance to convince her she means something still to you. Make it count.” Zevran swallowed hard and turned away bitter. “You say it so easily. I must wonder what you feel for her.” He crossed the room in one stride and lifted his chin. “You can’t cage your breath, it only hurts you in the end. She’s ours now. In this moment. What else is there?” With a gentle shove he pushed the bag into his chest and turned him towards the door. “So go. See if you can catch the wind. And if not, bathe in its feel.” Zev scoffed and nodded, inhaling and running out.

He waited until his steps were down the stairs before sitting down and covering his mouth squeezing tightly until his jaw ached. Kadan. The place where the heart resides. Right now his heart felt too big for his chest, he was scared how cavernous that hole would feel when the time came. With a deep breath he looked towards the desk. Her eyes had skirted that way during her confession. Notes on this enemy maybe? Wrestling for a few seconds more, he stood and walked out of the room and down the battlements, banging on Talia’s door. She opened it and immediately looked up at the tower pulling her robe on. “M’lady?”

“No. We gotta talk.” He pushed himself in and slammed the door behind him.

 

 

 

“Not a word,” she warned the guard, pushing open the gate in the cavern and running toward Old Crestwood. She would not be caught in front of her people. She hissed and paused at sharp pain in her feet. Dumbass, she should’ve stopped and grabbed her boots. And pants. She looked down at the thigh length cream shift she wore and groaned. She’d stand out like a beacon. “Private Abrah, may I have your cloak?” He frowned before unclipping it from his neck and wrapping it around her. “Are you in danger, my lady?”

“No dear. Aggressive game of hide and seek,” she answered unworried, struggling to keep from laughing at his confused face. “You never saw me,” she warned again running back down the slope. Staying to the larger rocks and shadows, she made her way down to the destroyed buildings, swearing softly whenever a rock jabbed the soft soles of her feet or her balance slipped on the exposed seaweed. Stopping beside an intact building, she squatted down and checked her left foot where a persistent ache slowed her.

Her body dropped to a crouch at the crunch of stones on the other side of the house. Squatting down she warred with herself for only a moment before getting down on her knees and slowly crawling under the exposed foundation. She watched him walked on the balls of his feet, moving one in front of the other in perfect near silence, freezing whenever a stone shifted with slightly too much noise. She brought her hand slowly over her mouth and lowered her head, chin sinking into the mud so the hood covered her except for a small sliver from which she peered out of. He squatted just then and she closed her eyes at the completely terrifying sight of Zevran’s glowing eyes, feeling her heart jump in fear.

She opened her eyes a slit and watched the glowing eye narrow as if he was squinting and then he stood and continued on his way. She watched him moving only her eyes until he rounded another house. She waited a few minutes, knowing his hearing was far better than she could ever hope to understand and inched herself out. It felt like five minutes had passed before she was crouched beside the wall again. She stole a glance at the silhouette of the fortress and then craned her neck to try and see where the moons were in the sky.

“You still have twenty minutes, maybe more.” Jess gasped and stilled, shoulders up by her ears in fright. Turning slowly she looked around before glancing at the roof of the house across from her. Zevran sat with his legs dangling off the edge, one arm resting across the top of his thigh in the perfect show of nonchalance. She stared at him trying to think of something witty to say and then bolted. His surprised laugh followed her as she tore down the street. She turned and weaved trying to lose him and move farther down to the lake. Away from the house, get away from the-

A cough of a scream escaped her when his body crashed into hers and Jess vaguely recognized that he had twisted to catch the brunt of the fall himself but it still knocked the wind out of her. Rolling so he sat on her stomach and pinned her hands above her, he tutted with a smirk. “Princessa, its a bit late for you to be out here by yourself. Something could happen to you.”

“Oh yeah,” she retorted gasping for air, while trying to throw him off. “Jessabelle.” She went still and looked up at him, studying the harsh shadows of his face. “Tell me to stop and this ends.” He whispered that as if it were a secret between the two of them and she couldn’t help but laugh. He hands loosened and rested on her collarbones waiting.

Wiping an eye with the back of her hand she winced at the grime on her cheek. “Still beautiful,” he murmured. She smiled wickedly and held his wrists softly. “The only power a man has over me is what I’m willing to give him...but there was no sweeter thing I could have heard from your lips my love.” His shoulders dropped relieved and he leaned forward to kiss her.

Jess leaned up and then twisted at the last second throwing him off scrambling to her feet running. “Vixen!” She laughed and made it almost to the tree line when he slid out and grabbed her by the waist lifting her off the ground. Bracing herself on his shoulders she smiled nervously. “Something tells me I won’t get away this time.”

“Good instinct,” he growled with a smirk. Grabbing her wrists easily, he brought her to standing on her tip toes, stretching her out like an accordion. Untying the cloak slightly he yanked it off and tossed it down with a careless flourish. Zevran smirked and exchanged his grip to one hand and ran the back of his hand against her cheek. “Are you scared princessa?”

“I feel safe with both of you, you don’t scare me asesino.” she whispered back, hiding her pleasure at his small surprised blink. Her stomach flopped as he tossed her down onto the cloak, still managing to keep the brunt of it from hurting too much. She let out a frustrated sound as he easily wrestled her arms behind her and she felt him slip a rope around her wrists. “Arrgh! You little cheater!”

A hard slap against her ass stole her breath and she stilled squeezing her eyes shut and shivering at the lingering sting. “That. Fucking. Hurt,” she hissed out, trying to fight against him. She cried out when her other cheek was hit, his hand soothing the burn immediately after causing a flood of warmth. “Keep it up, amore. I could do this all night.”

“Fuck you Zev.”

“I intend to do that too.” She blushed with a small ‘oh’ but limited her fighting, waiting for an opening. It didn’t come. He wrapped the rope, looping around her chest before pulling tight. She whipped her hair over one shoulder and looked back, scoffing at the handmade leash. “Is this Antivan whorehouse style bondage?”

“Of course. Some I learned as a Crow as well, but we will get to that.”

He went around to her front and started maneuvering the length left over. She watched the slowly methodical movements of his hands and the intensity of his focus. “Is this punishment or meditation?”

“Both,” he whispered undeterred. He yanked hard, making a grunt slip out as the ropes tightened into rows in front of her chest, one at her throat, sternum, belly and gut. His hands danced over her in a back and forth movement feeding the rope and making intricate little designs. She was lulled into a sense of quiet contemplation until he he lifted hard and everything tightened. Jess gasped and tried to stand and freaked out when she realized her thighs were tied to her calves.

She glared back at Zevran until he yanked a rope from in front and it felt like her whole chest went forward almost resting on the tops of her thighs. Shimming to sit up straight once again, she watched him as his beautiful eyes slowly dilated. “Something is wrong,” he whispered after a moment of silence. Her eyebrows furrowed and she tried to look down. Testing the ropes, she tried to pull her arms free and winced when it tightened against her ribs.

Jess let out a small sound when he reached behind his back and pulled out a dagger leaning down. He froze before flipping the knife curious, watching her as her eyes followed the glint of steel. “Do you believe I would kill you?”

“You would’ve had plenty opportunity before this,” she retorted, turning her head away when the edge danced down the side of her throat. “That...did not answer my question.”

“Are you going to cut the ropes?”

“No.”

“Then why do you have a knife, asesino mio?” He smiled rakishly and bent to her side, sliding the flat of the blade against her thigh.

She tried to hold back the shiver from the cold metal, feeling her nipples harden against the chill. “Hmm, I wouldn’t have took you for one into knife play princessa. You’re so...proper.” Her eyes closed of their own accord when the blade caught the edge of her panties and cut through the fabric with ease. Yeah, well I’m such a degenerate now. Screw me. heh.... She hissed when it slid up drawing a small raised line into her skin as it traveled over her side and up her ribs, never breaking the skin. A heady breath escaped her as she tried to tilt away from the sting, moaning fully when he yanked the rope at her neck and held her straight.

“Mm, I want to explore this discovery a little further but I already have a plan for tonight.” She opened her eyes and watched him sheathe the dagger and grab the opposite side of her shift, yanking hard. The material ripped away from where he made his thin slice and she hunched over gasping in shock and feeling a flood of heat down her stomach to her core. “Yes, yes. That was what was wrong,” he whispered tilting his head as if studying a Monet painting.

His hands cupped her breasts and squeezed, massaging one and pressing hot kisses against the other, causing goosebumps. Her head fell back at the hard sucks on her neck. “You are so beautiful, Jessabelle.” Her eyes snapped open and she stared at him, his pupils blown wide. "Flatterer," she forced out weakly completely devoured in just his gaze.

Zevran abruptly grabbed her thighs and lifted her, slamming her back into the tree behind them. Jess let out a small shriek trying to keep her balance. “Shh, I got you amore,” he crooned pressing himself against her.

The pressure was exquisite and she leaned back, ignoring the rough scrape of the bark against her shoulder blades. He juggled her, her stomach muscles bunching to try and keep her upright and then in one smooth motion dropped her onto his cock without warning. Her scream was sharp and short and quickly devolved into deep breaths and grunts as he crushed her to him and slammed into her again.

He was not as big a Bull, and was far more intense as he didn’t have to watch the depths his thrusts. A strangled sound escaped her as he drove into her relentless, his face buried into her breast. “Zev. Please.” She didn’t know what she was asking for, and his hands dug into her ass holding her down and pushing up that she felt him against her cervix, the pain and pleasure dancing an edge sharper than his blade. “Please what princessa?”

“I don’t know,” she wailed head flying back and knocking against the tree, barely registering it over the sensation of the rope burning into her thighs and ribs. One hand snaked to the nape of her neck and he lowered himself to his knees guiding her own down, moving out and letting her breathe. For a moment anyway.

He turned and pressed her into the tree, paused and then moved her back, placing her ruined shift as a thin barrier before shoving her against it again. His fingers twined into her hair and tugged her head back until she whined, gritting and baring her teeth at him. “Is that a feral smile gattina?” The laugh bubbled out of her ending in a wanton moan as he slid back in and pushed to the hilt. Her nipples rubbed against the soft material and still felt the underlying bark, sending a clash of signals until it coiled and exploded into an almost painful orgasm. In perfect Zevran fashion, he was no where near ready, overstimulating into another, this one more maddening in the face of his endurance. Her cheek scraped against the tree as her body went like putty, lost to his hard slamming with her voice an endless moan to accentuate the obscene slamming of his hips into her cheeks.

Jess opened her eyes at the gentle caress against her cheek and his hip thrusting more shallowly. “Am I hurting you?” With a sniffle she shook her head and winced slightly as he pulled her head back to kiss her softly. “Do not lie to me,” he whispered in between soft presses and hard nips at her bottom lip. “Too good,” she breathed out contentedly when he picked up pace again.

“How beautiful you look so ruined, amore.” Jess smirked and arched as much as she could to rest her head against his shoulder panting. His thrusts became more erratic. “Princessa-”

“Do it,” she ordered in a tone more firm than she felt. She slid off the tree and rested her head against the cloak as he went harder until she felt the shooting heat filling her. A shiver went up her spine when he pressed a branding kiss on her shoulder and moved back, his release spilling down her thighs. She smirked exhausted at the soft curse behind her. “Beautiful,” he murmured again as she fell to the side.

Jess felt like she was swimming as his now exceptionally gentle hands freed her from the confines of the rope. Wincing while he took one leg and carefully straightened it, massaging her calf before repeating with the other. She groaned as he took her upper arm and pulled her to sitting, wiping her tears with his thumbs. The cloak was pulled around her and she heard her laugh as if it was disembodied, still floating on the high. She owed Abrah a new one. Something cool pressed against her lips and on instinct she opened her mouth for the health potion and water.

All at once the pain intensified before dulling and she toppled into his chest, soothed by his crooning and praises she felt through his chest more than heard. This was...different. Needed. Well she always needed Bull’s sessions, even before she realized she needed them. But Zevran was always so giving. This? This was surreal. So she sobbed out a breath and closed her eyes, shutting down.

She knew they were moving, the wind was caressing her stings and cuts. “Pre’hah bat’Mis!” She frowned and looked up at him confused. “What was that?”

 He looked down after a moment and hefted her up more going up the stairs. “Short speech. Its a code servants use to say a lot while saying very little. I asked them to prepare a hot bath for their mistress.” So much made sense all of a sudden. Jess had heard the clipped language and simply thought they were from across the Waking Sea.

She watched the shadows come to life as the staff ran to and from while he spoke in that short clipped code. In the bath house one of the largest troughs was already filled and a steaming bucket was brought in with the stool, and this is where he deposited her, disappearing back out the door. Jess listened, unsure whether to get into the tub or not. He returned with his bag a few minutes later and stripped himself back down, tossing a handful of herbs into the water. Jess watched him as he moved the cloak and poured water on her reverently, sloughing off the dirt and inspecting each scrap. He lifted her left foot and fished through his bag pulling out tweezers. “You must’ve known you would’ve been caught. Why push so hard?” She grimaced at the pull and he shook whatever it was off returning to inspect her sole.

“Why do you do anything knowing your going to fail? Because there’s a chance you won’t.” He froze, her foot in one hand, the little forceps in the other and she titled her head, far too sated and exhausted to try and read between the lines. “I see.” Her eyebrow traveled up her forehead slowly. “Oookaay.” He rinsed her feet and then lifted her into the trough with him. The herbs seeped immediately into her skin and soothed every lingering ache, melting her into his chest.

She woke when he shook her shoulder and looked up at Tali leaning against the edge. The water was no longer steaming. “M’lady, The Inquisitor and the others have left.” She frowned and sat up a little more, apologizing when Tali quickly looked away from them. “What...time is it? Why? Did he say?”

“He says Solas asked him to help a friend in need.” Her stomach turned to ice. “Oh no. Wisdom.” Her handmaid pressed her lips together thinking. “One of the spirits helping you?”

“Say what now,” Zevran quickly interrupted standing up.

“For Andraste’s sake,” Tali shrieked spinning around. “What about spirits,” he continued as if she hadn’t just scolded him about his cock waving near her face. Jess sighed and pulled herself up by grabbing his waist. “Spirits like Cole. But in the fade. And no Wisdom is not one-well she isn’t for or against me. I just know of  her. She is very close to Solas.” She wanted to say she hoped they got there in time. She knew it wasn’t meant to be, taking his hand as he wrapped a sheet around his waist and pulled one over her shoulders. Barely making it into the room, she humphed at Bull’s knowing smile and crawled into the bed. His cool skin rested against hers and she quickly let go of her stubbornness and cuddled into him, purring at the warmth of Zevran at her back.

 

 

 

The fade was painfully quiet. Cunning and Patience were nowhere to be found and even Focus came in and out of...focus. The pain was real. The fade was real. The loss everyone was feeling was real. She thought about Solas, picturing him in his entirety, but he didn’t come, and she hadn’t actually expected him to. This wound was too fresh and he would never reveal himself when he was so vulnerable. But she wanted him to know she was here.

Jess lifted her head from the coffee cup she had spent the time twirling between her hands at that thought. She looked around at the cafe she sat at and faded it until there was only the table and her. She closed her eyes and pictured him again. Within moments there was a crushing howl and she stood on reflex looking around.

The fade ripped open and Fen’Harel stepped out in violent beauty. She swallowed, suddenly wondering if this was a smart idea after all. His tail swished and she quickly threw her hand up, a biotic shield coming up. “How is it, mortal, that you have not only the audacity to call on me as if I am a pet to be summoned, but you manipulate the fade with no mana?”

“Its the Mass Effect.” He blinked his eyes individually and she gave a shaky smile. “Really that’s what its called. I’ll explain another time. I was hoping for a favor.”

“Insolence!” She squeezed her eyes shut and had to work up enough spit to swallow. “That’s...true.” He narrowed his eyes and ‘sneered’. “You won’t gain my favor patronizing me.” Jess scoffed at that and crossed her arms dropping the field. “I’m quite aware of that. I’m not so foolish to think I can manipulate you.” She sighed and pushed her hair from her forehead. That was a total and utter lie now wasn't it. “Look I didn’t ask for your presence or your favor for myself. Its for my friend. Solas. He’s a fadewalker.”

His tails slowed but he scoffed and growled baring his teeth. “And why should I care for one more mage?”

“Because he’s immortal!” She pursed her lips eyebrows raised and waited for his reaction. He looked almost part of the background in his stillness before dropping to his stomach. “What is that to me?”

“Nothing really. I just thought...that he deserved another ancient being to be by him right now. You’re here. In the fade. I don’t know if your strong enough to leave or if your stupidity locked you in here just like the evanuris,” she quickly put her hands out to placate him as his rumbling snarl grew, “But he lost someone close to him. Maybe the only person who knew about the world he came from. Besides you.”

There was a silence between them before he narrowed his eyes all at once and she felt pinned by the gaze. “Get to your point mortal.” Jess stepped forward, surprising them both if his slight head jerk back was anything to go by. “I can’t find him. I’m strong here, mortal or not, but he’s better. Please go to him and...sit by him. He will know what you are; he’s smart like that. I just want him comforted. I know what it is to lose everyone you love. Everyone you knew. I had people to comfort me, but I don’t think he has anyone now. Is it possible...for you? To bring a spirit back?”

She hoped. She really hoped that maybe he could pour his energy- and then she realized. It was her fault Wisdom was gone. Solas must’ve went to her after she had first spoke to Fen’Harel. And in doing so must’ve called her from her safe place to where those idiots could summon her.

“Why are you crying mortal. It is...disturbing.” Jess wiped her cheeks inhaling deeply. Tetherpoint her ass. She was responsible for most of the things that happened. “Nothing,” she said instead. “Just imagining his pain. Can you or can’t you help him?”

He sneered again and then lowered his massive head, his teeth a foot from her face. “Perhaps. What will you give me in return for my help?”

“Two lies and one truth.” He blinked perplexed and she waited. His head went back with a roaring laugh. “You presume too much.”

“So you don’t accept.” He watched, her tail swishing again for what could’ve been seconds or hours. “You amuse me, mortal. It has been a while.”

“Now you flatter me, great Dread Wolf. Am I to take that as a yes?”

“It is a yes.” Jess nodded with a hum and made a show of pacing in front of him. “I truly am a seer. I have the power to end you. I know what you really are.” His eyes opened slightly wider and Jess laced her hands behind her back with a poker face. She deliberately made them intertwined for the sheer fact that truth is always hidden within the lies. No matter what one he considered true, all were bad news for him. “Tell Solas I care, and I’ll there when he’s ready.” Why not throw a little misdirection into the mix for fun. A trickster is as a trickster does.

 

 

Chapter Text

“I’ll be okay, m’lady.” Jess hummed and fixed the hood of Tali’s cloak for the second time. “I know love. Its just...I-I’ll miss you.” She cleared her throat and dusted the deep green cloth, squeezing her shoulder. Talia’s ears drooped a bit, before clearing her throat. “Marina the lunch cook is a beast of a woman. She dragged a man out by his breeches to the guards for not stopping at the gate and getting checked in. She treats the elves under her well, better than the morning cook Selma, if your still looking for a chatelaine. Nilene should take over as your handmaiden; she is stringent with security to the workshop and should be fine balancing the two, especially with Lennox watching over her too. Watch Lieutenant Veraine, he leers at the girls on night shift. A lot. While sober.”

Jess nodded, lips pursed and listening intently watching Tali wrack her brain for anything else before snapping her fingers. “Aela.” The elf smirked, held out her hand and stopped her from speaking. “I was going to say if you need anyone to talk to, or put on surveillance, he’s the most trustworthy.” Jess made a small grunt and crossed her arms. She loved her rookery master, but beyond being sweet and to the point, and indescribably kind to the ravens, he didn’t strike her as a spy. “You know this how?”

“I just know my lady. Aela-he’s loyal to you.”

She decided to just nod and squeezed her shoulders again. “Write me when you get to Skyhold. Please.” With one last dust of her shoulder and a tight hold of her hand She backed up watching her mount the painted mare. Talia looked down and held out her hand, which she took without hesitation. "M'lady, I know I have no right to say, but I think you should learn the dagger. Skinner is a good teacher and I will never forgive myself if something happens to you."

"I'll learn," Jess promised squeezing her hand. Composing herself, she laced her fingers as the contingent of soldiers she had borrowed from Cullen moved around her. Zevran and Bull came up beside her and stayed there even after they had passed the gates were out of sight. A gentle hand at the small of her back forced life back into her limbs. “You okay, Kitten?”

“I feel blinded. And exposed,” She forced out swallowing the tears. They were for her closest confidants, and roght now the courtyard was watching her. With a deep inhale she fixed her corset, finally turning and walking towards the rookery and battlements for her daily rounds. “Zevran.”

“Yes amore.

“Find out what you can about this Veraine.”

“Shall I eliminate him.” She made a stifled snort at the matter of fact question. “No, Tali didn’t mention this sooner which means he hasn’t done anything damning. But she wouldn’t have given the warning if she didn’t believe it was worth looking into. Just observe my love.” There was a soft whisper of wind and her left side was abruptly empty. She rounded the stairs hands still over her stomach. “Its nearing the time for the morning shift to end and the lunch team to come on. If you can, watch them and report anything interesting.”

“Like what?” She smirked and looked up at him. “You used to be Ben Hassrath. You know what to look for. And let Skinner know I'll be started my mornings with her.” She turned into the covered walkway and he was gone after the first pillar. Okay, so her mornings would go as such; training before sunrise with Skinner, ride Dawnstar or Wendigo at first light, daily rounds, breakfast, rookery visit before noon- she sighed and squeezed the bridge of her nose where a headache was forming.

“Good morning Aela.” He looked up from stroking a raven’s breast, his toothy smile a welcomed sight. “I’m sorry my lady, but it is not a good morning for you.” Jess sighed and sat on the edge of the table shaking a hand through her hair. “That’s an understatement.” He paused and put the bird on its perch, bundling up stack of letter and holding it out. “Sout’easter has blown through the mountains, the birds must’ve taken refuge and everything’s come in at once. This winter's gonna be an ugly one. Hope your mages are helping those farmers enough.”

Resigned she took them and frowned, shuffling through them slowly. “No breaks today, eh Lady J.” She hummed running a finger over the purple seal of Leli, the gold of King Alistair, the blue of Orlais and threw them beside her in frustration. “God damn it. I don’t have time for this shit.” He had returned to stroking the bird and shrugged. “Told ya not a good morning.” She tried to glare at him and ended up laughing. “So you did. Listen I,” she bit her bottom lip and smiled, “Talia has left for Skyhold.” He nodded watching her. “Saw the soldiers leave.”

“Yes well.” she looked around unsure of what else to say and forced another smile. “Let me know if anymore letters come in.” He grunted blinking slowly. “I’ll be sure to bring them to you.”

“Well that was enlightening.” Once in her office she tossed the letters onto the desk and scrubbed her face. She had an apocalypse to prepare for, theses silly requests could wait. But they couldn’t really, could they? She stared at both the seals of Ferelden and Orlais. Both would be asking for her opinion, presence, or help. No one wasted fancy paper on pleasantries. Closing her eyes, she held her head and tried to breathe. One at a time. Open them one at a time. Focus, assess, prioritize, plan, contingency plan. She was getting tired of her own coping mechanism at this point.

“You waste a lot of energy on unopened letters.” Jess shot up from her chair and gaped like a fish. “My God! Solas! When did you get in!” She rounded the desk and threw her arms around him, rubbing a hand against the back of his head. He stood there stiffly, then gave a slight hug and pushed her back. “Right, personal boundaries, sorry.” He laughed and gingerly put his hand on her upper arm. “Its fine. I appreciate that that was your first instinct.” She smiled and quickly motioned him in. “Come sit! I’ll get you some te-eh...water with citrus.”

His eyebrow arched ever so slightly and she smiled sheepishly. “You detest tea.” He stared at her unmoving before nodding. “I do. But its not your favorite either. Why don’t you make us some coffee.” Jess opened her eyes wide and forced a shaky laugh. “Solas, I’m important, but not important enough to get coffee.” He blinked ever so slowly and the silence dragged on. She stiffened and looked around. “Shit. We’re in the fade. I let my guard down and you just waltzed right in didn’t you.”

“You sound upset.”

“Not at you. There’s uh...no don't talk about him, he might show.” She cleared her desk with a wave of her hand and set out a french press, cream, sugar and bitter chocolate. “The beast?” With a short glance up preparing him a cup, she sighed spooning in extra sugar to make it sweet. She paused and made little raspberry scones, piled neatly on a tray in between them. “Yes. And no. That beast is...dead, or gone for now at least.” She held out the cup and slid him the tray preparing a cup for herself. Making the desk into a cafe table she sat next to him and rested her hand against his side. “Go ahead. Drink.”

She watched him eye her hand curiously before doing as she asked. Studying his lips she took a sip herself, reliving the taste. His instant delight was worth the extra effort. “Fascinating. I was always curious about this. How do you do it?” She moved her hand, figuring he had enough of an idea to continue it himself. “Memories have power. You know the fade better than anyone. The more abstract the idea, the easier it is for me. The more fixed, the more I am hindered. The first beast taught me that.”

With a sigh, she shook a hand through her hair, ready to face the elephant in the room. “Did you get a visitor, by chance?” He folded his hands as if he had been waiting for this opportunity. “I did.” She hummed and took a scone, nibbling on the corner. “Did he give you a name or, look interesting?” He followed her lead and picked one up staring at the icing on top, before holding out an arm. Her heart nearly leaped into her throat and she wrapped her arm around his bicep, gleefully taking a big bite and waiting. Solas licked it a few times and finally bit into it with a soft moan. “So crumbly and sweet.”

Jess nodded smiling. “So then, this...visitor, did he did give you a name?” He took another bite and savored it dragging out his words. “He calls himself Fen’harel. The trickster god.”

“And you believe its him?”

“Should I not?”

“I don’t know, I mean he seemed like an asshole fitting for stories.” He looked affronted for a blink of an eye before sipping his coffee. “He did mention something about a mortal woman being insufferable.”

“Oh did he now. Who knew I had the power to fluster a god? Its his fault I’m reacting the way I am.” He huffed and bit into a scone a bit violently. “What no comeback from the mighty wolf? Did he say nothing except that I’m insufferable?

“How is he too be blame for your conduct?” She scowled and poured another cup, splashing it a bit. “The first words spoke about me weren't even spoken to me or at me. It was of me as if my own voice didn’t matter. He called me prey and solidified whatever relationship we could have to be built on him either trying to oppress or eat me. And you know I am not about that life so I treat every meeting like a stare down. Until he shows he knows more vocabulary skill to describe me as something other than mortal, prey, or woman, he will continue to waste time I would rather be directing energy into teaching and helping.”

The cup slammed down after her sip and she flushed at his eyebrow raise. “Is is really so important?”

“Not at all, but i suppose you wouldn't understand being an uneducated apostate elf.” His lips parted, ears going back, and she placed her hands under her chin and batted her eyes. Solas inhaled and ran his tongue over his teeth. “I see your point.” Jess hummed and lifted her cup again. They shared a few sips in silence when he asked, “What could you possibly teach an ancient being?”

“Possibility.” She hid her smirk in her cup at his frustration.

Setting her cup down she got up and walked a few feet away and bundled herself into a fur trimmed coat, a muff and an unshanka hat. “Walk with me.” She took a few steps and caught him walking beside her in a similar getup and held back a sound. He looked GOOD in fur. “Do you know what that is,” she asked pointing below them from the blustery overhang they stood from. “A snow bear.” Jess nodded, putting her hands back into the muff. “We call it a polar bear on earth. An apex hunter with no natural predators. Master of its domain.”

His eyes roamed the side of her face before looking back down watching the momma and her two cubs. “They’re beautiful,” he ventured and she leaned her head towards him humming in acknowledgment while not moving her gaze. The world spun fast like a snowstorm and they stood beside the emaciated corpse of one. Jess winced at the memory of the article.

“What happened,” he breathed quietly and Jess stepped forward and threw her coat off with a wide sweep, changing the landscape to the Florida beach littered with the carcasses of fish and turtles after the red tide that swept the coast. He covered his nose and she spun and looked behind him, the world spun and she stared at the aftermath of an oil spill; an albatross trying to take flight, the ducks and ducklings drowning in muck.

“Jess why are showing me this?” Walking slowly, she shifted the world so all three realities were side by side.  "There was a time in our history when we didn’t know what our actions would cause. There was no precedent; until suddenly there was. And the effect was catastrophic. We didn’t know the economical growth we made would cause so much heat that the polar bears climate would change to starve them. We didn’t think how devastating polluting our waters would be. Or that not having proper safety precautions when drilling for oil would cause irreparable damage. We didn’t know, but that didn’t spare the destruction of these ecosystems. But we know now. And the fact that we know and still continue shows how monstrous we are.”

She swallowed and moved beside him and looked out at a cityscape. He hesitantly followed her lead and gasped when the missile hit the building, people screaming. She looked up at the black hawk that flew over them while Solas ducked magic on his fingertips. Taking his hand she moved him back and watched the Abram’s Tank roll by them. She looked at him and covered her ears and he immediately mimicked the gesture as it fired.

Fingers still in her ears she walked across scenes of civil unrest, everything that flooded her on the news and history, and brief personal experience. Ducking a thrown brick she paused at the riot she herself had been in as a teen simply trying to get home, watching a nappy haired version of herself running away from the march down the street. "Was that-"

"No," she answered quickly walking a feet steps and lifting her head to the sky preparing herself.

She was loathe to show him this part of world history, but he needed to see it before he did the same. She swallowed and turned to look down at the death pits. Solas gasped and truly looked scared for a few breaths, moving back a step. “We allowed this genocide. Eleven million people were killed, six million a specific group. Just for being who and what they were. Killed brutally, tortured, erased as inferior in the eyes of a man.”

Jess closed her eyes and let her memories flood the sky around them with images of black and white news conference and papers, the museum that left her sick for most of the school trip, movies that left her crying. Anything and everything that made her feel whether it be shame, anger, or hopelessness. “We as humans allowed this to happen. This was the precedent for us where we knew nations, and people going forward were accountable for the lives of their neighbors. That this could never be allowed to happen again."

"Why are you showing me this?"

Did the elves of Arlathan believe in a hell?” He still was watching the shooting behind them, tearing his eyes away slack jawed. “What?”

“Hell. Do you believe in a hell?”

“No.”

“Then Fen’Harel will be held accountable for his crimes here." His head reeled back as if struck and she pursed her lips looking up once again. "When he had first made the veil, he destroyed a whole ecosystem a whole empire down to its animals and their uses. He didn’t know then what would happen. I get that.

But he knows now. He has a precedent. If he tries to tear down the veil and create genocide once again, he will drown in the blood this time. He will not get to sleep through this one until his strength is regained. If he insists on following his choice, I will hold him accountable under all the gods and reigning powers of Thedas from the Avvar to Tevinter. I will find allies in the sunless lands if it means his reckoning.

IF...he does not change his course.”

She cleared all imagery, documentaries, sounds and left them in white noise. His breath was sharp and shallow raising a shaky finger. “Was that nuclear war?” She inhaled and shook her head. “No. I can’t show you nuclear war properly. From what I understand the atomic bomb is a nuclear based one, but its so much worse now. This? This is modern warfare.”

He seemed to compose himself and stood hands behind his back. “I don't think you can judge him. You will hold him accountable? You are peaceful, Lady Jess. You won’t even defend yourself.”

“Do not mistaken my peaceful nature as docility,” she snapped turning on him so that he took a step back. “The fact that I value life should not be seen as a weakness for I can be leaning towards peace and preparing for war at the same time. You saw the world I lived in, do you believe I am incapable of rallying myself to a cause? The question that comes to my mind is who’s side are you going to stand on?”

She shouldn’t have been surprised when his head conceded to her, but she was. She was so sure he would blow his cover. “Your right Lady Jess. I’ve seen the good you are doing. You can rally yourself to a cause and it was wrong of me to insult you such.” Jess bit back the convenience of him not choosing a side and tried a different tactic. “Yes well you clearly don’t fear him the way I do. Tell him of the changes, show him a better world is being built. We have a religious eleven figurehead. We have a representative in Orlais, me as an advocate in Ferelden. Several artisans. Josie making equal wages in Skyhold- I just need time. And you and he have all the time in the world.”

Solas stiffened at that and she made a face of ‘oops’ covering her mouth. “He didn’t tell you I knew, did he? Its alright Solas. I won’t tell anyone your older than dirt. Orlesians would be demanding your skin regiment.” His startled laugh brought a smile to her face. “You have to go, I feel the air around you changing. Someone is trying to wake you.”

Her eyes opened slowly and she took in the office bleary. Liar. Scrubbing her face she sat up and uncapped her inkwell, prepared to face the written war of correspondence. At least she made a little headway with him. She hoped.

 

 

 

 

“No no, that sounds stupid.” Jess paced back and forth inhaling deeply. Try again, not so whiny. “Okay,” she cleared her throat and stood taller. “Bull, Zevran. I know this might be a bit soon, but there is somethi-no.” She sighed and shook a hand through her hair grumbling at the snag. “Bull. Zevran. I have something for you that means a lot- that I hope will mean- for shit’s sake Jess!” She stomped her foot and then quickly shoved the two boxes into her leather duster at the sound of his footsteps. Bull came in with a big grin.

“Guess what we just got!” He looked so visibly excited, a gentle mist of steam was coming off him in the evening cool. She smiled infected by his joy. “I don’t know but I’m dying to find out!” He turned and hollered, “Come on up Zev!” She tilted her head hopping foot to foot, being stopped when she tried to peek out the door. “Stay here. You’ll see.” She moved back when Zevran came in carrying a massive rope basket. “For you Princessa.”

“A basket! Just what I always wanted!” Bull roared a laugh and pushed her forward. “Open it.” She looked at Zev watching her with barely contained excitement and bit her lip ripping open the top. There was a moment of nothing but silence as she stared at the squirming mass of multicolored fur until at least four set of blue eyes looked at her. Mwrow? Jess screamed and reached in pulling three to her chest and burying her face in to their warm wriggling bodies. “Kittens! You got me Kittens!” Burying her face into them and listening to at least two purr she melted to the floor and pulled out more plopping them into her lap and trying to kiss each one.

“This,” sob “is” sob “The best gift ever,” she finally pushed out between sniffles. Bull sat down slowly watching his steps for kits and Zev knelt beside her holding one while patting her back. She held a little gray one under her chin and smiled at them both. “Where the hell did you find nine kittens. That’s a big litter.” Zev motioned his cat to Bull and she looked at him expectantly. “Krem and Dalish have been going into town every so often. He decided to head towards the Waking Sea bannorn and found a miller who had a cat who was ready to have kittens any day. We just been keeping an eye.

Her heart hurt. “Get over here you big idiot.” She kissed him deeply until he moved back and growled at the gray cat. “He scratched me!” She laughed and peppered kisses all over Zevran’s face and neck. “Thank you my loves.” Putting her furballs down she nervously put her hands in her coat. “So I um,” she cleared her throat and tried again. “I have been meaning to give you both something as well. A gift I hope you like and understand.”

She held out the deep blue boxes and bowed her head to each of them. Bull opened his without hesitation and froze, eyes shooting up to her and back down. She stole a glance at Zev and saw him watching intently. “This what I think it is?”

“Its...a dragon’s tooth yes.” She rolled up her sleeve and showed the smaller shard of ivory white on her green beaded bracelet. He sucked in a breath through his teeth and took out the necklace. The bale was shaped to be a lion’s head with an open maw, the eye a small glittering diamond. His fingers ran over it gently and she turned to Zev. Opening his, his smile was wide and cocky, pulling out the dragon tooth earring. He frowned staring at the diamond on his before inhaling. “You took these stones from one of your rings.” Bull stood and opened her jewelry box, pulling out her emerald ring and sighing.

She smiled and shrugged. “It didn’t feel personal enough, plus those stones were the only ones to fit in the eyes. The dragon tooth is symbolic to the Qunari, Right Bull?” He put the necklace on slowly after returning her ring.

“We don’t...claim another person but for those who want to show their deep-”

“Love Bull. The word your looking for is love,” she interjected with a smirk. He looked at her flatly and held up the necklace. “You split a dragon tooth and each one wears a half so no matter where the other is, they’re always together.” They all got quiet and stared at the pieces of jewelry. “You surprise me Kadan,” Bull finally whispered and she sighed with relief and smiled. Zevran looked at her and held out the earring. Her stomach dropped but she took it understanding he was not obligated-

The thought fizzled out when he pulled his hair over one shoulder and held out his ear. Her heart hurt, her ribs too small to hold the thudding of her heart. She rubbed the spot on his ear, smirking at his purr before frowning. “The hole seems closed.”

“Ah, no worries alma. Just push it through.” She cringed and moved a black and white kitten from her side to move closer. “You sure?”

“I’ll make the hole, you can push it in,” Bull answered leaning back to the nightstand and retrieving her sewing kit. “Ho ho! That sounds like my kind of idea!”

“Oh my God you perv,” she teased. The world could end any day now, but at least she let them know they meant the world to her.