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The Wooing of Cassandra Pentaghast

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The first rose Cassandra found was confusing, to say the least. She awoke before the sun, washed her face, and put on her sparring leathers. When she opened the door to her room above the smithy, there it was, lying on the floor. She nearly stepped upon it in the predawn gloom.

How did it get there? Who would put it there? It couldn't have fallen. Nobody ever came up here, and certainly not in the middle of the night.

Taking up the flower, Cassandra considered it. It was freshly cut, obviously from the Chantry garden. It was beautiful, though not perfect. A few petals showed this rose had been here for long enough to get thirsty. Turning, she went back into her room and placed the rose in a mug of water.

Not a very beautiful vase. But it lightened up the room just the same.

Cassandra left her bedroom with the hint of a smile upon her lips, and went about her morning as usual.

She sparred with The Iron Bull, landing him upon his rump only once. But once was enough to put a bounce in Cassandra's step as she left the sparring ring. Placing her sword in the bin with the other practice weapons, she stood back and stretched her fingers up into the heavens. Her gaze followed, and she saw Leliana standing upon her balcony outside the rookery, looking out into the morning sky, likely for one of her birds.

Cassandra took a moment to study her. There had been a change in her fellow Hand of late. Hope restored in Skyhold had restored a piece in Leliana that had been missing since the Conclave. Yes, she still mourned Most Holy, of course. Leliana had been close to the woman Dorothea as a person as well as Justinia's the figure. But in Haven, Leliana had been… cold. Lethal, efficient, and colder than the sleet and snow that fell from the sky. But upon making it to Skyhold and naming the Inquisitor, something had warmed within her.

Cassandra could not quite say what it had been, but Leliana smiled and laughed again. She had missed Leliana's laugh.

Moving her gaze before she could be accused of staring, Cassandra moved to a barrel full of water and drank deeply. Then she went to the baths.

Where she found her second rose. This could most certainly not have been a coincidence. This flower was not dropped. It was lying on top of her preferred spot to place her clean clothing - far off from the water, atop a broken pillar, where they would not get wet. Plucking the bloom up from the stone, she considered it. This one was yellow, like the sun in the sky, rising higher above Skyhold at this very moment.

Shaking her head, utterly bemused, Cassandra placed the rose atop her dry clothing and went to bathe. She nearly forgot about the blossom by the time she was done, but there it was, waiting for her, begging her to consider it once more as she pulled on her leggings, her shirt, her stockings and boots. She washed the clothes she had worn to the baths, taking them to dry in her room, all while contemplating the meaning of this second rose and its placement in a place meant for her to find it.

An admirer? But whom?

The third rose came on a tray of food she picked up at the tavern. She had intended to take the tray back to her rooms, where she could eat and read in peace. But a third flower, clearly meant for her, could not be ignored.

"You. Ser dwarf," she said, addressing the bartender.

"I have a name, Seeker," he said.

"As do I," she shot back.

He almost cracked a smile. "Fair enough. What do you want?"

"Where did this come from?" Cassandra said, gently fingering the rose. This one was also yellow, though paler than the last.

He shrugged. "Chantry garden, I expect. Doesn't the mother keep a rose garden back there?"

Cassandra huffed in frustration. "I am not a simpleton. I know a rose comes from a garden. I meant who, and why. Why is this rose here? Who put it there, if not you?"

The dwarf shrugged again. "The tray was already made, with a little note that had your name on it. I figured you ordered before going to the baths and wanted it ready when you got here. Did you not order the rose, too?"

"I- why would I order a rose with my porridge?!"

A third shrug. If he shrugged again, Cassandra might have to hit him. Or hit something. "I don't know, Seeker. You're the one ordering roses with your breakfast, not me." Then he turned and walked through the door leading to the store room and kitchen.

His indifference was vexing, to say the least.

Utterly discombobulated, Cassandra nevertheless took her tray to her room and added the rose to the mug with the other two. She then ate half her meal before taking up her newest book, plucked from the depths of the library when no one was looking. It was a book of epic poetry in Nevarran, so old that she had to rely on her education as a girl in the ancient dialects. But what she could read was beautiful, and besides, she enjoyed the occasional exercise of her mind. She was not only a wielder of brute force. Though, she thought to herself, thinking of Bull on his arse earlier, I am very good at brute force.

Cassandra tried to concentrate. She really did. But she found herself considering the three roses sitting on her desk without meaning to. Each time, she would double down on her reading, but eventually she admitted defeat, after reading the same complicated sentence five times without truly gleaning its meaning.

Finally, she allowed herself to study the flowers. They had opened further with the water and the sun coming in through the window. How long would they last? They were very beautiful. Cassandra's life didn't often have things in it that only served to be beautiful. Usually it was only books, and that was something private, never on display just for the joy of its beauty.

Who had left them for her? And why? As before, Cassandra's mind went to a possible admirer, but who could it be? She was not very good at detecting flirting, admittedly, but still she did not think anyone had been seriously flirting with her recently. Perhaps Dorian, but Cassandra had never thought he was serious, even if deep down she did find him to be handsome. He was not her type, however, and as he and the Inquisitor were an item, she could guess that she was also not his type.

So who else might admire her? Josephine was kind and patient with her, but Cassandra did not think this the ambassador's style. Cullen would either be far more forward than this, or more awkward - she had seen the evidence whenever the barmaid Flissa walked into the same room as him and he immediately turned red and stammered. He was very handsome, and could certainly sweep her off her feet if he wanted to, but never had he ever been awkward with her.

No, Cassandra decided. It couldn't be Cullen.

The Inquisitor had flirted with her a little, and she had appreciated it. But he was now with Dorian.

Who else might do something so obviously romantic? Who would know her well enough to know she would find it charming?

A thought suddenly leaked into her daydreaming. What if it was not an admirer at all? What if it was a prank?

"Varric," Cassandra said out loud, her brows knit and her tone dark. He knew her romantic proclivities, thanks to the Inquisitor. And he would use it against her. Publicly. Just to get a laugh.

Convinced now, Cassandra got to her feet and pulled her boots on. She had half a mind to go pummel the dwarf right then and there, but something stopped her. She should at least confirm his ill will before committing violence against him.

She would need to be subtle. Cassandra had many skills, but subtlety was most definitely not one of them. Who might be able to help her?

Opening her door, Cassandra stalked out, almost missing the fourth rose. This one was orange, and it sat in a vase, balanced carefully on the handrail of the walkway above the smithy.

Anger and confusion flared within Cassandra. Who had been out here without her knowledge? Taking the vase, she ran down the stairs, looking around wildly. The only person down here at the moment was the smith.

"You!" she called.

He looked up from hammering a broadsword. "Aye?"

"Who came in here? Who left this?" She lifted the rose.

He shrugged. I swear to the Maker I will break the nose of the next man to shrug in answer to me. "Didn't see no one." Then he went back to his hammering.

Pursing her lips, Cassandra stalked back up the stairs. The rose was beautiful, but now that she was convinced this was some prank, it made her blood boil. Varric was not stealthy enough to sneak in unnoticed, but he had many friends here in Skyhold, and plenty of them were.

Who would get a laugh from this without fearing Cassandra's wrath? Perhaps Sera? She was certainly a prankster, but she and Cassandra had a conversation just a week prior about the Seeker keeping the elf safe from magical attacks. She thought they had reached an accord…

Wait. Pranksters prank people they like, and people they do not.

So. It was Varric with Sera as a co-conspirator, then. Or, at least, that was her suspicion. But she could not act without proof. How would she obtain it?

"Of course," Cassandra whispered, and she was out the door, the flame-orange rose and its vase rocking and nearly falling with the swiftness of Cassandra's exit.