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The Hissing Wastes were an endless frozen void-hole of sand, spiders, and bloody dwarven puzzles, Adaar thought irritably. She felt her eyebrow twitch with anger, and deliberately schooled her expression. They had spent the last week pushing hard in the Wastes to establish Inquisition presence and root out the Venatori.

She had brought Cassandra, Solas, Varric, Iron Bull, and Blackwall with her, unsure of what to expect from the trip and running out of time before they had to rally their allies and march on the Arbor Wilds. Serendipity, her honey badger, had also come along. But he had turned up his nose at the extreme temperatures and had whiled away the days curled up by the fire or dug deep in the cool sand, only his wet, twitching nose poking out.

Adaar had not slept in two maker-damned days, but fortunately all that remained to clean up in the Wastes was this sad excuse for a Venatori “stronghold,” actually a long abandoned merc camp the cult was squatting in.

Flexing her hand within her glove, she strongly considered popping a rift over those Tevinter assholes’ heads and having done with it. Unfortunately, that could lose them valuable information. Besides, Adaar was tired enough that she wasn't entirely sure she could close anything she opened. Swallowing a sigh, the mage made a valiant attempt at attentively scouting the perimeter of the hideout.

“Is she supposed to be a qunari or a desire demon?” Varric speculated, squinting up at a massive monolith curling into a sandstone arch above the camp. Bull whistled up at it and then leered at the inquisitor.

“Nice set of horns on her,” he chuckled, “Great little outfit, too. Point of fact, she looks real good all over. Sure this isn’t a statue of you, boss?” His eyes traced the flat plane of the inquisitor’s chestplate with the crude appreciation he usually reserved for barmaids clad in straining cotton blouses.

“Oh, Bull, you flatter me,” Adaar murmured, sweet and soft. All heads turned towards hers in surprise. Adaar shot a glance towards The Iron Bull without lowering her chin from the statue, flashing gold eyes beneath hooded lids and thick lashes. “You know what you remind me of?” Her full mouth curved slightly, sharp and wet like a blooded sword, and her low voice dropped down further into an appreciative purr.

“A dragon.”

Through the corner of her eye, Adaar saw Bull groan and lean towards her, drawn in despite himself. “Oh?” the qunari murmured, preening openly. Solas was staring at the inquisitor in utter disbelief, and the right corner of Varric’s lip had taken on a strange twitch.

“A dragon’s asshole, specifically: wrinkled, gray, and full of shit.”

At that, she swiveled around and marched into the dilapidated compound, staff hand cracking with lightning. Varric followed after, chortling loudly as he loaded Bianca, and a snide smirk could briefly be seen on Solas’ face before it was obscured behind swirling gusts of frozen air and stinging sand.

Bull grumbled something hurt, but quickly perked up at the sound of battle, pushing forward to the main melee. She made up for the jab by holding back on her urge to open a rift, instead opting to fight back to back with Bull. Her knight enchanter blade buzzed hot and green with fadefire in one hand, Bull behind with his own shimmering chromatic blade. Together they cut swaths through the cultists, Solas and Varric providing support from a safe distance.

At one point, pulled apart and yet also accosted from all sides in the maze-like shithole of shitty shit, she saw Varric falter, a ‘Vint arrow biting into his shoulder.

Digging deep into her flagging reserves, Adaar let loose a massive healing spell, focusing hard to only to direct the effects towards her companions while Solas and Bull strained to pick up the slack. It worked, thank the Maker, but after that, Adaar and Bull switched strategies. Covering front and rear with Solas and Varric safely tucked between them, they wound their way through the nest to the heart of the encampment, finding nothing but a waste of precious time.

Clearing out the Venatori nest and the surrounding area wore away most of the night. Banishing a newly tainted spirit had put Solas in a sour mood, and burning a camp of slaughtered Orlesian travelers had Adaar similarly minded.

Their own camp was a long trudge up from the small valley into the mountainside, made all the more exhausting under the unyielding weight of loot, water, and a ram Varric had shot down for their dinner. Adaar and Bull took turns carrying the felled creature up the mountain on their shoulders, while Varric juggled waterskins with bunches of amrita vein and Solas grudgingly took on what scavenged gold and weapons the two vashoth could not fit upon their persons. Fortunately, they met Cassandra scouting the perimeter; she took on the ram and much of the water for the final stretch to their tents.

Adaar’s face chafed and her tongue languished as a leathery lump in the sticky hollow of her mouth. Grit felt embedded in every inch of her person. Her gloved fingers had seemingly frozen into claws from gripping the ram’s hooves, a pilfered longbow strapped to her back kept catching on her horns, and sand and ichor had mixed to form a glue that leaked into the joints of her dragonscale armor and rendered it nearly too stiff to walk in. Given too much more time Adaar thought she might really become like the statue of the desire demon, frozen forever in the drifting sands.

Cassandra dropped their prospective dinner near the crackling fire, where a sleepy-looking Blackwall and a scout set about bleeding and butchering the beast. Having unloaded her own prizes with the others in a waiting cart, Adaar ducked into her tent, trying to ignore the inviting sight of her bedroll. Pen, paper, ink, and salve quickly found their way into a spare pack and onto her shoulder. Stepping back outside, she smiled a little to see Dip merrily gnawing on a leathered pig ear near the fire, beady eyes closely supervising the warden's work.

“Inquisitor!” called the requisitions officer much too loudly, striding from his worktable to her side. Adaar inclined her head to him, trying to keep a pleasant expression on her face despite her poor mood. Unfortunately, judging by the way the man began to stutter, she was quite sure she had failed in the endeavor. An ungracious thought about humans needing to better learn to co-exist kindled in her head, but she quickly stomped it out.

“N-no trouble here while you were away, messere,” he rushed, handing her a few sheafs of paper strung together with twine. “The latest from Skyhold.”

“Thank you, I’ll take care of those.” She started at the spare, reedy sound of her own voice. “Ah, regarding your request last night, we brought back a bushel or so of amrita. Left it in the wagon. See that it gets to Skyhold, but leave a few handfuls for me in my steed's pack if you would.” At his nod of assent, she clapped him on the shoulder companionably. Though it nearly knocked him over, it also seemed to mollify him, and he went back to his work with renewed vigor.

Securing a skin of water, a few strips of jerky, and a raven, Adaar moved away from camp, yet further up towards the above-ground dwarven pavilion they had scouted out the day before. A few drags of water did wonders for her parched mouth and itching eyes, though she still felt bone-weary. After relieving herself and performing a perfunctory check of the area, Adaar trod into the center of the pavilion, dropped her gear, and all but collapsed on the stone dais at the center. Lighting the rusted torches perched on each column of the pavilion took only a few flicks of the fingers, though the sudden warmth made her frozen digits ache. Absently clenching and unclenching her sore hands, Adaar released the gusty sigh she had stifled all night and looked out at the view.

The dwarven pavilion perched on the Southwest side of the Sunstop Mountains and overlooked the main valley of the Wastes. The moon hung full and heavy in the sky, illuminating the sands in lovely blue light, sparsely dotted with distant hunter’s campfires. It had been easy, so easy, to banter with those hunters they came across in the last week.

The casual trade of intel and supplies brought her back to running with the Valo-Kas, hard days work followed by harder night’s play. She missed how simple and clear it had been, though, admittedly, it hadn’t always felt that way in the moment. Most of all, she missed being comfortable in her skin, acting herself without consideration for how it may reflect upon her cause and companions. Void, but the benevolent ice queen act had overstayed its welcome, and yet even as she let herself entertain thoughts of shedding the persona, Adaar knew her position as the herald required it. Mercenary work may not have been good work necessarily, but it surely was much more enjoyable. Perhaps more honest, too.

Unbidden, faded memories of a sweet gap-toothed smile and earnest violet eyes broke to the forefront of her mind. The first time she had seen that face, Adaar had been drunkenly twirling Shokrakar about a crowded Free Marches tavern, roaring a spirited rendition of Andraste’s Mabari with the other Valo-Kas. A particularly rough spin had broken Shokrakar’s grip on her waist, and Adaar had careened into a table, knocking her head hard on a chair back. Shok left her there, gathering a giggling elven lush into her arms and resuming her frenzied movements.

Adaar, dazed, had blinked mulishly as a large dark shape loomed in her swimming vision. Head clearing, she stared up at the young man leaning over her. Fresh washed skin, black and brown and metallic blue, so like the nighttime sands of the wastes, and curving gilded horns wrapped about with intricate silvered braids. And those eyes, glowing at her out of a shy face creased with worry. A large, warm hand gingerly felt around the back of her aching head, and the lovely lips had pursed, then opened to say--

“My lady, are you alright?”

Adaar jumped, nearly reaching for her dagger at her belt, then tried to turn the movement into a casual adjustment of her chestplate. Her arm, grown stiff from the cold and the unending events of the past two days, complained heartily at the movement. Shit, she had meant to be catching up on urgent news from Skyhold and issuing fresh orders to her advisors. Instead, she had let down her guard to daydream about a past that lay in ashes and wallow in useless self pity. Checking another sigh, she craned her head and eyed the intruder over her shoulder. “Serah Blackwall,” she acknowledged politely.

The warrior hovered at the edge of the pavilion uncertainly until Adaar angled a narrow-eyed look at him that bade him move. He stepped inside, bringing his burden into the light: a battered metal camp plate and spear, weighed down with a steaming pile of meat, herbs, and carrots laden with gravy. Adaar’s stomach loudly announced its approval, and Blackwall’s beard shifted in a smirk. “Ah, seems I caught you before you started in on that petrified jerky,” he said.

Thom carefully set the plate on the dais, then sat himself beside it with a groan. He had eschewed most of his outer armor except for his silverite cuirass in a vain attempt at comfort in the limited safety provided by the inquisition camp. Adaar eyed the plate keenly for a moment, then frowned and turned to remove her gloves and stand, demurring, “My thanks, but please, eat your fill first. I’m going to try to clean up a bit.”

“How do you know I haven’t eaten already?” Blackwall asked, even as he started in on the food. He swallowed, then grumbled, “And before you ask, yes, I fed the mangy beast. Gave him a bit of the best cuts, just as you like, too.” The inquisitor smiled, small and lopsided, as she took off her scarf and wet it with a bit of water from the skin.

“All the inquisition’s men shall receive fair pay, shelter, and a hot meal. Our good Ser Dip is no exception,” she recited primly, quickly scrubbing her mouth, hands, head, and neck. She dropped the filthy scarf near her knapsack and dug out a small tub. Uncorking it, Adaar quickly swiped salve over the same areas, with special focus on her lips and the forever tender skin near her horns.

She looked out again as she worked, stiff and tired as the bloody void. The moon had dipped below the mountains, and pre-dawn light had turned the night sky murky and gray. Asleep with its beak nestled in its wing, the caged raven cawed softly. Adaar leaned down to exchange her salve for her waiting correspondence, but at the sight of the letters Blackwall growled, “Milady. The food grows cold.”

Slowly, glittering golden eyes turned towards Thom. Her dark eyebrows raised ever so slightly, but otherwise Adaar remained expressionless: a clear warning from one of the deadliest women in Thedas. Blackwall’s shoulders shivered and a faint flush appeared high on his cheeks, but he met her gaze evenly, challenging.

The Inquisitor dropped the papers and straightened to her full height, casting a flickering shadow over Blackwall. He swallowed convulsively, then caught his breath as she fell upon him in two loping strides. A large hand slid behind his head, closing around a fistful of hair just above his nape, and pulled. Blackwall’s head snapped back, throat bared, and she leaned forward, breathed into his mouth, “You presume too much, Serah.”

Blackwall panted lightly, and whispered, “Aye, lady Adaar,” but otherwise rested quiescent in her hold. Consideringly, she nibbled at his bottom lip, relishing the way he shook beneath her. Then, coming to a decision, she settled fully in his lap and turned towards the food, releasing his hair to rest her forearm between the neck of his coat and the top of his cuirass. Unable to sit up fully with the vashoth aggressively straddling him, Blackwall braced his arms behind him. She could feel how he flexed and fidgeted underneath her, fighting the urge to buck up.

She reached out, laid her free hand on the plate of congealing meat, and focused. It was a difficult trick, made nearly impossible by her exhaustion, but slowly it happened. All the skin on her body warmed, then grew hot. The plate whined as the heat warped it slightly. Adaar’s mouth, and then her eyes, and then, finally, the food, began to steam lightly. Beneath her, Blackwall was making a fair impression of the plate through gritted teeth, for surely he felt the heat of her body through the neck of his heavy coat and the thick leather of their breeches.

Releasing the magic, Adaar picked up the spear and daintily tucked into the warmed meat, sternly willing herself not to smirk. She shook lightly from the effort of pulling off that particular trick in her current state, but felt fairly confident Blackwall hadn’t noticed. His head had dropped into the crook of her neck, beard tickling her clavicle. There he seemed content to rest and release a soft stream of curses.

The spear, licked clean, dropped to the dais beside the plate. One finger swiped along puddled gravy, then disappeared between her lips. “Good man, Serah Blackwall,” Adaar purred, feeling a great deal more agreeable with hot food filling her stomach. Adaar leant back, shifting her pelvis fully into his lap, and if that happened to grind the lump in his breeches against her thigh, well, she felt she could hardly be blamed. “Now, to work?” Blackwall only groaned, arms shaking desperately where he propped them up.

Adaar reached down, sweeping the skirts of her armor out of the way, and worked at the laces to their codpieces, first hers and then his. Her other hand returned to his thick hair and once again pulled, earning her a hungry glare through his eyelashes. A quick but insistent press against her own soaked slit, then her hand was finally on him, and the glare turned liquid and desperate.

“Maker’s bloody balls, Adaar, please,” he groaned. Her slicked hand slipped and scudded up and down his length twice more, then she grabbed hold of him and slid him home. It was too easy, she was so wet, and the slide and grind of him against her, the sounds he was making, were just too damned good. The thick hair wrapped around her fist gave her the perfect leverage to pull herself up and down his cock while giving her a rare view of the jumping pulse in his throat, the way his adam’s apple worked around the curses falling from his lips. She could feel her end coming fast upon her when suddenly Blackwall’s moans pitched up in alarm, his arms shaking wildly, about to give out.

Releasing his hair to grab him by the neck of his cuirass, Adaar leaned back, pulling him with her and using his body as a counterweight. That brought the base of his cock in direct contact with her clit, and, if weak, needy moans unbecoming of a leader of armies worked their way out of her slackened mouth every time she ground down upon him, she chose to believe that Blackwall would be enough of a gentleman to never mention it.

Their chest plates loudly clacked together with every stroke, dragonscale mail jangling lewdly, all underscored by Blackwall’s filthy encouragements. His arms had recovered from their exhausted trembling upon her thighs, one hand wrapping around her waist while the other slid its way up her armor to work sweet mischief on the tip of her ear. The pleasure wormed its way through her body embarrassingly fast, swooping low in her stomach and building up.

Adaar could taste sweet healing magic in her mouth, rising with the pleasure, and writhed in Blackwall’s lap, fighting against the urge to release the uncontrolled magic. Then he kissed her, flat tongue scraping against her teeth and lips, fingers pinching at her earlobe, cock bumping against her aching cervix, and she lost it. Her head snapped back and she let out a long, helpless moan, clenching hard around his cock. Caught on the point of pleasure, Adaar felt the fade open to her briefly and, sensing her will, it pushed waves of life into the world in parallel with the frantic beat of her pulse.

Aftershocks sparking through her cunt dragged her back to the pavilion in the wastes, brought on by Blackwall’s uncontrolled thrusts up into her. Distantly, she realised she had lost her grip on his cuirass and he remained upright by the power of his back and stomach muscles alone. Shock was painted plainly on his face, even as his brows creased in the sweet pain of release.

“You--Bloody, you bloody--Milady, what have you done,” he growled. His hands were around her waist, dragging her bodily along his length, which showed no signs of flagging despite his orgasm. Adaar’s eyes widened in dawning realization, and she only had time to murmur “Oh, shit,” before he pulled out of her, flipped her onto her stomach, and drove back into her tender cunt ruthlessly. A hoarse scream ripped out her throat, followed closely by hungry moans that seemed to drive Blackwall to distraction, if the way he pushed even more roughly, more deeply into her was any indication.

Suddenly, he grabbed her by a horn and pinned her head sideways against the dais. Adaar looked up at him through the corner of her eye, mewling uselessly. She still hadn’t stopped coming, the rhythmic clench of her muscles spurred on by the crude slap of his balls against her swollen clit. Blackwall glared back at her, ruddy cheeked and wet-lipped, a meandering line of sweat working down his temple and soaking into his beard.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Adaar found purchase on the stone beneath her hands and began to buck back, relishing in the way that caused her chestplate to crush and grind against her breasts, her aching nipples. The hand at her hip gripped hard enough to be felt even through all her armor, Blackwall thrust up and ground into her, and Maker’s breath if that didn’t drag her close to the edge of another release.

“Was this what you wanted, my lovely Adaar?” he panted, punctuating each word with a thrust and a punishing twist. “Again and again you push me, was it to this end?” He was losing his rhythm, rutting helplessly, cock swelling inside her. She was no better, writhing in his grip and working a hand down toward her pulsing clit. “No matter, I am yours. I know you will bring this world to its knees, just, ah, just as you have brought me.”

Adaar growled, gave up on her damned hand, and sent a sizzling spark of electricity through her body. It hit her clit and thrummed through her to his cock, and they both came. Blessedly, this release was not fade-touched, though it shook Adaar to her core. The world dimmed, existence narrowed down to the waves of pleasure crashing through her body. Her aching thighs clamped and trembled, and her cunt clenched so hard around Blackwall’s cock that it slipped out. He groaned in dismay, though he also sat back and left his wet, red length to pulse untouched.

Panting still, she rolled onto her back and looked down the length of her body at Blackwall, sprawled below the dais. She felt as well as saw his gaze drop to her wet cunt and his leavings spilling out of it, quirking her brow in amusement at the responding twitch of his softening cock.

“Well?” Adaar murmured, flashing gold eyes at him. He frowned up at her uncomprehendingly until she spread her legs a little wider and smirked. Rising to his knees in front of her, Thom quickly set to work, spreading her lips with his thumbs before laying the flat of his tongue against her opening. He lapped at her with relish, rumbling chuckles breaking into a soft groan inside of her when she jerked into his mouth and whined. When Adaar finally pushed him away, the worst of the mess cleaned up, Blackwall grumbled disapprovingly.

After setting her codpiece to rights, the Inquisitor looked up to her pack--before starting in surprise. Elfroot and vandal aria sprouted thickly in a ring outside the pavilion, growth spurred on by her magical release. A piercing screech drew her eye to the cage, where the raven practically vibrated within, fluffing its feathers and bouncing on its perch.

Adaar coughed uncomfortably and limped over to her pack, shading her eyes against the glare of the early morning sun. She was physically and magically exhausted, but, for the moment, her mind was crystal clear. Blackwall didn’t complain this time as she pulled out the letters and set to work, gloves on, quickly issuing last-minute orders in the custom code language designed for her as the leader of the Inquisition.

Papers rolled and bound with twine, the Inquisitor turned to the cage. The door was already open, Blackwall feeding the bird bits of jerky. He took the correspondence, knotting it to one small leg, then stepped aside to begin packing up their belongings. Adaar moved forward, pulling hard on what was surely the last dregs of her energy to imbue the beast with guardian spirits of luck, cooling, and speed. The bird fairly bounced off the walls of the cage, squawking, and shot out and skyward in a burst of feathers when she touched the homing sigil upon its breast and murmured, “To Leliana, quickly now.”

Andraste’s fucking tits, I need some bloody sleep, and a date with a toothbrush wouldn’t hurt either, Adaar thought fiercely, half-stumbling back from the cage. But instead of admitting that she sloshed and swallowed what was left in the waterskin, then turned to Blackwall and said agreeably, “I should like to retire to my tent for a few hours. Would you care to accompany me back to camp, serah?” Blackwall snorted, but inclined his head, beard dripping where he had attempted to wash their come out of it with a few splashes of water.

“As you wish,” he replied, taking her pack in one hand and the empty cage in the other. They returned the way they came, though it was slower work than before, Adaar sluggish, feet dragging, back slumped.

Blackwall matched her pace dutifully, fidgeting the handle of the cage. Clearly he was chewing on a thought, and she waited silently for him to spit it out.

"I… Bull was saying something about a statue," he began, lowly, "Said it looked like you, but she was only wearing--"

Despite herself, Adaar snorted ruefully and shook her hanging head.

At the last line of sand between them and camp, they slowed to a stop. Adaar stared at the ground for a moment, trying to ignore the ache between her legs and the weariness in her heart in favor of pulling out one last, the very last, second wind. Eyeing her keenly, Blackwall murmured, “All right, love?”

Those bright eyes immediately flashed back at him, eternally challenging. The broad shoulders rolled once, then squared atop the straightened line of her spine, hands knotted piously behind her back, feet set solidly under her shoulders. Her face took on that familiar look: eyes warmly stolid, expression self-assured.

Inquisitor,” Blackwall drawled appreciatively, gazing up at her. “Welcome back. On your order, my lady.” She quirked her lip at him, then steeled her features, striding over the ridge and into camp like she owned it. Because, after all, she did.

It was quiet in camp, most of the inquisition crew trying to sleep away the punishing heat of the day, leaving only those on guard duty. Blackwall broke away from her to check on the horses.

Iron Bull looked up from his work fastidiously polishing a glittering dragon’s tooth with felt and oil. “Ah, boss, there you are. Getting a little bored here since we knocked off all the ‘Vints in this void-hole,” he whined, “You ready to save the world yet?”

Sitting in the shade of one of the tents, Varric chuckled and set down his pen. “Right, right. I’m ready, too. Let’s get out there, knock Coryphy-tits on his ancient ass.” He grinned up at Adaar. “Be big damn heroes.”

She only hummed politely at them, continuing to move to her tent. At the flap, the Inquisitor turned.

“Prepare the bags and horses, inform the scouts. We ride for Skyhold at dusk.” After that, the Arbor Wilds, and destiny. She entered the cramped tent, dropping to her knees, shucking her outer armor as quickly as her shaking hands would allow. A mound near the head of her bedroll shivered up and down, Serendipity seeking relief from the mounting heat deep in the sand. Adaar briefly considered giving her tingling clit another go, or at least trying to clean up a bit more, but she was asleep nearly before her head hit the pillow.