I raced out of the War Room and into the dungeons below the Chantry, Leliana hot on my heels. The guards looked up in alarm at my entrance, and upon realising who I was, they hastily gave me the Fereldan salute. “My Lord,” the senior guard started to say, “What brings you—”
“Which way?” I asked, ignoring the guards.
“Second door on the left,” Leliana said, taking a key chain from the baffled guard and handing it to me.
The rest of the advisors made their way down the stairs.
“What in Andraste’s name is are you doing?” Cullen asked, only slightly out of breath.
I ignored him and kicked the door open, meeting a sight that made me flinch. Behind the bars on a stone bench sat a slightly hunched figure of a man in rugged, almost ill-fitting armor. At our entrance, Blackwall slowly looked up. He didn’t seem injured, but considering he was in a dungeon, he didn’t exactly look his best either.
I ran to the cell door, and after a brief fumble with the keys, was able to unlock it. It swung open, creaking ominously.
“I’ve already told you everything I know,” Blackwall said, his voice slightly raspy.
“I’m so sorry. About all of this,” I said. “Please, this was all a misunderstanding. You’re free to go.”
“Surely, we should talk about this first,” Cullen murmured.
I gave him a look. “This man had nothing to do with the Conclave. Therefore, he’s free to go.”
“But you told us that the Wardens...” Leliana whispered, trailing off. “What makes him so different from the others?”
Uh. Umm. Yikes.
Little did they know, this man wasn’t actually Warden Blackwall, but Thom Rainier, a wanted man with a dark past. He’d been been recruited by the real Blackwall, who was then killed by darkspawn during their journey to the Keep. Rainier took Blackwall’s name partly to honor the man for saving his life, and partly because he was afraid the Wardens would think he’d murdered him.
That story wouldn’t have gone down too well at the moment. And to be honest, I didn’t want to rat on Blackwall because, deep down, I thought he was a good guy.
Blackwall glanced back and forth between me and the advisors, and frowned. “What is going on?” he asked.
Everyone’s gazes turned towards me.
“Doesn’t matter how or why,” I said. “Just know, this man had nothing to do with the Conclave.” I scratched my horn and turned to Blackwall. “It’s my fault Leliana’s men took you. I forgot to tell her, since I was looking to recruit you. I completely understand if you want to leave and to have nothing to us.” I glanced at Josephine. “We better compensate Warden Blackwall for wasting his time.”
“Yes,” Josephine said, furiously scribbling notes. “Of course.”
“Compensate?” Blackwall asked, finally standing up. He stared at me, his eyebrows rising up to his hairline. “Who exactly are you?”
“That,” Cassandra said, “is the Herald of Andraste.”
I rolled my eyes at the dramatic introduction and extended my hand to the man. “Kaaras Adaar, at your service,” I said. “Again, I’m so sorry for this misunderstanding.”
Blackwall stared at my hand. He didn’t shake it. “You suspect the Wardens, but you’re letting me go?” he asked.
Forever the optimist, I didn’t lower my hand yet. “Yeah, sorry,” I said, giving him a small smile. “It’s not their fault though. There’s some bigger players conspiring against them. I’m hoping to stop their plans and help them out before it’s too late.”
Blackwall looked thoughtful. “You said you were hoping to recruit me?” he asked, searching my face for something.
I nodded, unsure of where this was going.
“I don’t know where you get your information,” Blackwall said. “Our purpose isn’t political. I can’t imagine any Warden could be behind the Divine’s death. Wardens can inspire, make you better than you think you are. We both need to know what’s going on. Perhaps I’ve been keeping to myself for too long.” He gripped my offered hand. “I’d like to join, if you’ll still have me. In events like these, thinking we’re absent is almost as bad as thinking we’re involved. In comparison to that, my bruised pride isn’t worth a damn.”
“Thank god,” I said, letting out a deep sigh. “I thought I’d fucked up beyond repair.”
Cullen, Cassandra, and Josephine collectively sighed at my language.
“Perhaps you’d like to show Warden Blackwall around Haven?” Leliana suggested pointedly. “We’ll make all the required arrangements in the meanwhile.”
Oh. We were still standing around in the dungeons.
“Sorry,” I said, and grinned. “Come on, Blackwall. What would you like to see first?”
“Just get me out of here,” he grunted. “I’ve seen enough of this place for a lifetime.”
“I’m so sorry,” I said, leading him out of the dungeons. The advisors followed behind us, but kept their distance as to give us some resemblance of privacy. We walked up the stairs and into the main hall.
“It wasn’t you who locked me up,” Blackwall said. “So there’s no need to keep apologizing.”
“It was kind of my fault. I should've known better,” I said hesitantly. “I’m kind of a Seer. That’s how I knew you didn’t have anything to do with the Conclave.”
Blackwall tensed, glancing at back at the others. “Is that right?” he asked, turning to look at me.
I quickly continued. “Of course, I don’t know anyone’s futures for sure, or anything like that. Time can be rewritten. I just know that you’ll be an invaluable ally to the Inquisition.”
He stared at me for a moment, before nodding, his shoulders relaxing considerably. “That must come in handy.”
I grinned. “It sure does.”
We went around Haven and I guided Blackwall around to the best of my abilities, paying special attention to the Blacksmith, and the stables, since I had a good guess about where he’d be spending most of his time. Horsemaster Dennet’s promised mounts had arrived a while ago, so the stables were bustling with activity. I proudly introduced Blackwall to my mount, Freya. He approached her cautiously but with firm movements, and for a moment Freya stared straight at him. Then she shorted at his face and sniffed at his pockets, looking for treats. Pretty sure that means she approved.
Of course, one can’t forget the Singing Maiden, where we ended up in time for dinner. The place was packed with soldiers, recruits, and workers, but there was a small table in the corner with only one occupant. I caught Blackwall’s eye over the crowd, and pointed to the table. He nodded, but stayed to wait for his food.
“Hey, are these seats taken?” I asked the single occupant of the table, who was writing something down.
“What?” the soldier asked over the tin of the crowd. Then he looked up, and his eyes widened slightly. “Oh!” he stood up and saluted. “Yes, ser. Of course! Sit down, please,” he said. His accent reminded me of Sebastian.
“No need for any of that,” I said and set down my tray, trying to figure out why he looked so familiar. I sat down and tilted my head, glancing at the papers next to his food.
He pointedly moved them aside. “Sorry, force of habit. We’ve been so bombarded with reports, I’ve only gone and forgotten my table manners,” he said with a self-deprecating grin, which made the tattoo on his chin stretch slightly.
I snapped my fingers. “You’re Knight-Captain Rylen!”
Of course. He was the NPC with the cute accent who the fans couldn’t get enough of, despite his minimal screen time in the actual game. There was always someone like him.
Rylen blinked in surprise. “Ah,” he said, “has Commander Cullen told you about me?”
“What, you haven’t heard?” I asked, sipping my tea. “I’m a bit of a Seer.”
“The Commander mentioned it in passing, but I didn’t expect....” Rylen trailed off, eyeing me warily. “You know about me because you’ve seen my future?”
“It’s all good, though,” I said with a grin. “Don’t worry.”
“That’s good,” Rylen said, relaxing slightly. His face broke into a roguish grin. “Because my present is a blasted mess.”
Okay, I see it now. He’s pretty cute.
Later that evening, once Blackwall was properly settled down, I found myself in company of the Lavellan twins. They were still in Haven, recuperating from their stint with the slavers. They’d taken the kids under their wing, as they had promised. One of them was due to return back to Denerim next week, since the Inquisition had confirmed that he had family there. The other three had no families to speak of. Well, no families worth returning to, at least.
Our elvhen guests shared a large tent with a bunch of other refugees. To absolutely no one’s surprise, everyone else inside the tent happened to be elves as well. There were no humans in sight excepting a single templar who stood at a guard post outside, near the wall.
Stepping into the tent, I found Finwë sat in front of the campfire, reciting an outrageous story of heroics to the kids who’d gathered around him. A couple of elvhen refugees sat further away from the fire on top of their bedrolls, and from their amused expressions, it was obvious that they had been listening to every word.
I ended up standing next to Fëanor at the opening of the tent, chatting quietly so as not to disturb the children.
“So, what’s going to happen to them?” I asked.
“We’ll take them back to our clan,” Fëanor said softly. “The Keeper won’t mind. Most of them are old enough to fend for themselves, and besides...” he trailed off and gave me a pointed look. “They might not be Dalish, but they’re still elves.”
I smiled. “You’re the best, you know that?”
Fëanor smiled shyly back at me. “They’re just kids. Wouldn’t be right to abandon them now.”
“That’s not what most people would do,” I said. “Truly, you two are great. Thanks for being so awesome about this. If you or your clan ever need anything, just let me know, and I’ll try my best to deliver.”
“Ma serannas,” Fëanor inclined his head in thanks. “Actually,” he said with a growing grin, “I’ve heard you’ve gathered quite the reputation as a bard. Care to entertain us with a little song?”
I shrugged. “Why not,” I said. “Let me just go grab my guitar.”
“What is a guitar?” Fëanor asked, tilting his head curiously.
“Ah,” I said. “It’s an Antivan string instrument. Wait here, I’ll go get it.”
I power-walked back to my cabin and grabbed the guitar, before heading back the same way. Since pretty much everyone knew my face by now, it really wasn’t a good idea to run around unless there was an actual emergency. The lonesome templar gave me an odd look when he saw me returning with the instrument. I just grinned at him and went back into the tent.
“Here,” I said, handing the guitar to Fëanor.
Fëanor turned it around in his hands, and raised an eyebrow. “I believe that’s called a vihuela,” he said. “It’s Antivan, if I’m not completely mistaken.”
I blinked. “Vihuela?” I asked, confused. “Of course it is. Well, no matter. I’m still calling it a guitar.”
Fëanor giggled and handed the instrument back to me. He walked further into the tent and sat down next to his brother, who stopped speaking at the interruption. “The Herald has agreed to sing us a song,” Fëanor explained with a smile.
The kids ooh’d and aah’d, and turned to look at me in unison. Fëanor gave me an encouraging smile, while Finwë crossed his arms. The latter looked expectant, yet somehow already bored. I sighed and struck a couple of chords, turning the the pegs to make sure the string instrument was in tune. Once everything was in order, I started strumming a quick paced melody.
When the cold wind is a’calling
And the sky is clear and bright
Misty mountains sing and beckon
Lead me out into the light
I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind, and touch the sky
I will fly, chase the wind, and touch the sky
Where dark roots hide secrets
And mountains are fierce and bold
Deep waters hold reflections
Of times lost long ago
I will read every story
Take hold of my own dream
Be as strong as the seas are stormy
And proud as an eagle’s scream
I will ride, I will fly
Chase the wind and touch the sky,
I will fly, chase the wind and touch the sky
And touch the sky
Chase the wind
Chase the wind
Touch the sky
Brave was such a fun movie, almost always outshadowed by Frozen. There was really nothing wrong with Frozen, of course, but all things Scottish were closer to my heart. The song faded out, and the kids and Fëanor broke into enthusiastic applause.
I grinned ruefully at them and lowered my guitar, but the mage stopped me.
“Do another,” Fëanor pleaded.
“Yeah, another one! Pleeease,” one of the kids echoed.
“I don’t think so,” Finwë said, shaking his head. It hadn’t seemed like he’d hated the song, but he had barely clapped. I didn’t really blame him. No matter the situation, we were still total strangers. “It’s almost time for bed.”
“I’m sure one song won’t keep them past their bedtime, brother,” Fëanor pointed out.
I raised my guitar. “All right,” I stage-whispered to the kids, “I’ll sing one more, but on one condition. You all have to promise to do as the twins say and go to bed.”
“We promise!” the three younger kids cheered enthusiastically. The eldest kid, the one who I remembered from the Blades of Hessarian camp, stayed quiet. The three others quieted down when they realised he hadn’t spoken, and they turned to anxiously face him for his response.
I looked at him encouragingly. “What about you?”
He thought about it. “If Finwë says it’s okay,” the kid said, and glanced at the Dalish rogue, who nodded. He turned back to me. “Then I promise.”
The others let out whoops of joy at his response.
I grinned, and raised up my guitar. “Some of you might know the words to this one,” I said, causing the kids to murmur among themselves. They quieted down as I started plucking a somber melody. Since this one was so short, I played the main melody once before looping back to the beginning.
Elgara vallas, da’len
Mala tara aravas
Ara ma’desen melar
I glanced up briefly, and noticed that Finwë’s jaw hung open in surprise.
Iras ma ghilas, da’len
Ara ma’nedan ashir
Bal emma mala dir
Fëanor and Finwë, both being familiar with the lyrics, joined me for the last verse.
Irassal ma ghilas
Ma garas mir renan
Ara ma’athlan vhenas
Ara ma’athlan vhenas
As we finished the song, I found all the kids looking at me with wide eyes. “That was great!” one of the kids said.
“Thank you,” I said, amused. “There’s a reason I picked that particular song. It’s time for you to go to sleep, just like the song says.”
Fëanor shepharded the kids into their little corner, accompanied by their moans and complains. Finwë stood back and gave me a look. “You know, you’re not so bad,” he said. “For a Qunari.”
“Vashot,” I corrected automatically. “But yeah, thank you.”
He shook his head. “Whatever. Thank you for singing. It was good to hear the language of the people.”
I smiled. “No problem.”
Finwë joined his brother in putting the kids to bed, and I stepped outside and let out a relieved sigh into the breezy evening air. That guy was kind of intense. I should know, since I’d played the game with him as the Inquisitor. He was slow to warm up to people, but once you gained his friendship, it was nearly impossible to lose.
I walked back towards my cabin, the guitar in tow.
“Once again, you’re full of surprises,” came a voice from across the path. It was Solas, leaning against the stone stairs that led up to the level where my cabin was.
I blinked. “Skulking alone in darkness, are we?” I asked. “You could’ve just joined us.”
Solas pushed away from the wall. “I don’t spend much time among the Dalish,” he said, folding his hands behind his back. “Walk with me?”
“Sure,” I said, stepping next to him. “And yeah, I’m well aware. ’Harold, they get so many things wrong, it’s horrible. They’re all idiots and a disgrace to the Elvhenan of old, blah blah blah.’ I’ve heard it all before.”
“Harold?” Solas asked, raising an eyebrow.
“You know, Herald,” I waved my hand, “Harold. It’s like nobody even cares what my name is.”
Solas shook his head, exasperated at my jokes. “Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have put it quite like that.”
“Of course not,” I said, rolling my eyes. “But that’s the gist of it. Just face it, you’re prejudiced. The Lavellans are great, you just need to learn to look past their Dalishness.”
“If you say so,” he said with a sigh, placating me. “But that wasn’t what I wanted to speak with you about. I heard you sing. It’s not a melody I’ve heard before, but the words are familiar.”
“Did you like it?” I asked with a grin.
He inclined his head. “Yes. The pronunciations of the words was rather lacking in part, but otherwise, it was quite enjoyable.”
“Thanks,” I said. Just to see his reaction, I added, “I believe it’s an old Dalish song.”
His frowned. “I do not think it is of Dalish origin,” he said.
“It isn’t?” I asked, raising an eyebrow. “How do you figure?”
“I have acquired much information on my journeys through the Fade, “ Solas said simply, his expression smoothing over. “Why? What did you think I meant?”
I almost had him there. “Ah, of course,” I said with a small laugh. “How else.”
Solas glanced me from the corner of his eye, his lips quirking into a resemblance of a smile. “Sleep well, Adaar,” he said pointedly, and walked away before I could respond.
I shivered, and not from the cold air. One really shouldn’t try to bait the Dread Wolf.
My insomnia was still there, in the background. It led to me trying to physically tire myself out the next day, after all of the official Inquisition business had been tended to. Cassandra found me at the far end of the training fields, hacking away at one of the targets.
That day was one of the last actually cold days of the spring. Small fluffy snowflakes fell to the ground in the light of the setting sun. A couple of recruits were mingling near the tents on the other side of the training area, but other than that, there was nobody to listen in on our conversation.
“What were you like, before all this?” Cassandra asked, wringing her hands. “It occurs to me I don’t really know that much about you.”
“What would you like to know?” I asked, hitting the target dummy.
“I’m... not sure.” Cassandra frowned. “Were were you from? What was your life like?”
“I was born 28 years ago in a small town in the middle of nowhere,” I said, shuffling in place uncomfortably. “You already know this, but I used to write a lot. I guess you could say I was a scholar,” I continued, hitting the dummy again.
“You’re 28 years old?” Cassandra asked, slightly surprised. “When is your birthday?”
“In early July— I mean, Solace,” I corrected myself.
“And you were... human?” she added hesitantly.
“Yes,” I answered, not elaborating further.
Thankfully it hadn’t yet crossed anyone’s mind to ask if I’d been a guy or a girl, because I expect that’s one thing Thedas and our world had in common: people just assumed you were whatever gender you looked to be. I didn’t feel the need to approach the subject either, since my new body suited me just fine. Actually, it was better suited than my old one had been. There was no longer a need to wear a binder, not when you’ve got actual man pecs. And seeing as I didn’t suffer from shark week, I was more comfortable than I’d been in a long time.
Cassandra let out a disbelieving laugh. “This all must be really rather strange to you.”
If she only knew. Snorting, I hit the target, this time from the side. “That’s kind of an understatement, considering my world didn’t even have magic.”
“Yet, based on what you’ve told me, your world had inventions that would seem like magic to any of us,” Cassandra pointed out. “Inventions which can repeat a music piece, over and over again... Your description of how one could experience a whole story... To tell the truth, I cannot even imagine such things.”
I gave her a rueful grin. “It was pretty cool.”
She smiled in return, then fell silent for a moment, just watching me. Finally, after I was beginning to think she was done asking questions, she spoke again. “Do you miss it?”
I paused. “Sure.” I hit the target a little harder than was necessary. “But I’m used to moving around a lot, so I’ve learnt to adapt.”
“That’s how I feel, after years of tending to business for the Divine,” Cassandra murmured, frowning. “But it isn’t the same, is it?”
“No,” I said. “It’s not. But my life wasn’t that great, to be honest. My world has its own problems. I probably would’ve leaped at the chance to come here, if there had been a choice.”
“Really?” Cassandra asked. “You’re aware of the dangers of this world... Yet you would’ve chosen this, willingly?” Her brow furrowed. “Why?”
I winked. “Because you’re here.”
Cassandra let out a defeated sigh. “I don’t know what I expected.”
“Really,” I said, “I would have taken on ten Ancient Magisters to get the chance to meet all of you.”
“If you’re not going to take this seriously...” Cassandra huffed.
“I am serious!” I said with a small laugh. “You’re amazing, Cassandra. And not just you, but everyone in the Inquisition. Cullen, Varric, Leliana, Josephine... All this business with the Breach is worth it, just to get to know all of you.”
Cassandra’s mouth opened, and closed. “I...” she trailed off. It might have been the cold, but there was slight redness to her cheeks. “I don’t know how to respond. That’s very kind of you to say.”
I shrugged. “Just saying how it is.”
“Of course you are,” Cassandra muttered, exasperation getting creeping to her voice. “I think that’s quite enough of that for today.” She shook her head. “I should take my leave.”
I lowered my maul and wiped off sweat from my brow. “I think it’s time for me to head back, as well. I’ll walk with you.”
Cassandra inclined her head, and we strolled towards the walls of Haven in amicable silence.
The Charger’s tents were visible from the gate, but as we walked I couldn’t spot Bull or any of the Chargers outside. I was thankful for the little mercy, not particularly wanting to run into Bull at that exact moment. I said goodbye to Cassandra in front of my hut. I went inside, only meaning to clean up a little and change my clothes, but ended up writing in my journal, instead.
By the time I was done, my stomach was growling impatiently and it was considerably darker outside. I walked towards the tavern, hoping I wasn’t too late to dinner. Of course, the moment I opened the door, I was greeted with the sight of the Bull’s Chargers, the man himself included, occupying the largest table in the corner.
Thankfully, there were thirsty soldiers streaming in and out of the place, meaning neither Bull nor Krem noticed me enter. I quickly walked up to Flissa and asked for my usual order, waited for her to gather it, grabbed the tray and then situated myself at the farthest corner of the room, as far away from Bull and his Chargers as possible.
Once I was done eating, I finally chanced a glance at them. Bull was talking animatedly to someone sitting next to him. I could make out white and red chantry robes on the unfamiliar figure. Oh. That must be the Chantry lady who ended up having a thing with Bull.
That was fast.
“What are you doing, Feathers?” Varric asked, sitting down next to me. “Spying on Tiny and his crew?”
I quickly looked down at my drink. “Just people watching, that’s all.”
“Of course you are,” Varric drawled. “You could join them, you know.”
Taking a sip of my drink, I shook my head. “I just came here to eat. I’ve got better things to do tonight.”
“If you say so,” Varric said, sounding unconvinced. “I won’t keep you, then.”
“Good night, Varric,” I said pointedly.
I gathered up the dishes and carried them back to Flissa, who gave me a thankful smile. Stepping back outside, I was hit with a wall of cold air, making me shiver. I took off briskly towards the Chantry, and almost bumped into an armored figure, walking back from the direction of the latrines.
“You turning in already, boss?” Krem asked. “We’re just about to start another round of Wicked Grace, I’m sure the guys would love to have a go at you.”
“Ah, I’ve got a thing I, uh, need to do,” I said, scratching my horn. “Sorry.”
Krem shrugged. “Another time, then.”
“Yeah,” I said, already taking steps to flee. “Sorry. Good night!”
It was better this way. Less lying required all around. Bull could have his fun, and the others wouldn’t be forced to watch me mope because of some unattainable, childish crush that was never meant to be. I mean, what kind of relationship could there be between us? The Iron Bull was a hot Ben-Hassrath spy who had people falling all over him every day, and I was an awkward, asexual, former human with an unhealthy fondness for fictional characters.
So yeah. It was totally cool. Absolutely fine.
At least, that’s what I told myself that night, staring at the ceiling of my cabin, utterly exhausted, but unable to fall asleep. When the sun rose up, it was as if to solely mock me.
There might have been a teensy, tiny problem.
We left for the Hinterlands the next day, with Blackwall as our newest party member. The weather had warmed up considerably in the past couple of weeks, allowing us to travel a little bit lighter. For example, apart from an occasional shower of rain, I didn’t need to wear my cape anymore.
On the 18th of Bloomingtide we reached the camp at Lake Luthias, which was the nearest Inquisition camp to Dwarfson’s Pass. That dreaded rift was still there and needed to be taken care of. Despite my growing confidence in my abilities as a fighter, I was anxious to confront it and the rage demon it contained.
To my surprise, we closed that particular rift without a hitch the morning after our arrival. While we were in the area, we also took care of the apostate cave nearby. I knew it had a Red Lyrium vein inside, which needed to be destroyed. Didn’t want any more of that shit hanging around.
We broke through the barrier easily enough, and were met with magical attacks. The rebel mages who’d been hiding there had succumbed to demons and turned into abominations. At the far end of the cave we found a campsite, a dead body of a dwarf, and a deposit of Red Lyrium.
“Whoever this poor dwarf was, he was way over his head,” Varric said gravely.
“Let’s destroy it,” I said. “So that nobody else can get their hands on it.”
Varric nodded, pleased at my decision.
It was the the rift at the river near Dennet’s farms that ended up causing us trouble.
I was already on edge as we approached it. My anxiety went through the roof, and it was so bad I actually had to stop for a moment to gather myself. Cassandra, Varric, and Solas remembered my hesitation from last time, and tried to lighten my spirits.
“I’m sure it will go fine, Feathers,” Varric said.
“Varric is correct,” Cassandra said, as if it pained her to admit it. “Your skills have improved since we last visited this place. That rift at Dwarfson’s Pass wasn’t so bad, either.”
Even Solas tried to encourage me. “We have dealt with numerous rifts since you got the mark,” he said logically, “this one is no different.”
I took a deep breath, trying to calm myself. “Thanks, guys.”
Bull and Blackwall watched the discussion with interest.
“Why are you suddenly nervous about a rift?” Bull asked. “When we closed the rifts on the coast, you were completely calm.”
“Just...” I trailed off. “I’ve got a bad feeling about this particular one.”
Turns out, I had every right to be worried. While I was distracted with closing the rift, one of the remaining Revenants managed to hit me with a long ranged spell. As soon as the rift popped closed, I fell down on my knees into the river, clutching at my side.
“Fucking shit,” I moaned. “That hurt.”
“Solas!” Cassandra barked out. She hit the Revenant with a finishing strike. It turned to dust.
Solas, who had been a little farther away casting long ranged spells, hurried up to me. He and Cassandra helped me back on my feet. “We need to get him out of the water,” he said, his voice urgent. “The wound is magical, and healing it requires more advanced techniques than I can perform here.”
“There’s a camp next to Dennet’s farm,” Cassandra suggested. “Will that work?”
“If we get him there quickly enough,” Solas said.
“I’ll carry him,” Bull said.
Solas nodded, then looked at me. “Keep pressure on the wound,” he said, handing me a clean piece of fabric.
I accepted the cloth with my right, already bloodied hand, and pressed it onto the wound. The light fabric immediately darkened into deep red. Shit.
“Drink this,” Solas said, bringing a small vial to my lips. It didn’t look like a health potion. I swallowed it without complaint, because damn, the wound hurt like a bitch.
Cassandra and Solas stepped away, giving Bull the space to hoist me up into his arms. “Got him.”
I groaned into his shoulder. “Fucking rifts.”
Solas led the way into the little Inquisition camp. Thankfully, it was barely two minutes away from the the rift we’d just closed.
“Lay him down, gently,” Solas instructed.
My perspective shifted, and I was suddenly on the ground. “Told you it was a bad one,” I murmured. “Y’all never believe me.”
“Stop talking,” Solas instructed, and cut open my shirt in one move of his dagger. Dang, there went one of my favourites shirts. “The potion you drank should be helping with the pain. It will also make you sleepy, but you cannot fall asleep yet.”
“That’s my secret, cap,” I giggled, “I’m always sleepy.”
Bull chuckled, but his voice wasn’t quite right. “You already told that one, boss.”
“Talk if you must, but don’t sleep,” Solas said, frowning. His hands were glowing.
“Magic,” I whispered, trying to focus my vision on the pretty, shiny glow. “I wish I was a mage.”
Solas sighed, but didn’t answer. He probably worked on the wound for what must have been near to ten or fifteen minutes, but was starting to feel like forever. I might have lost the passage of time, because my eyelids were feeling heavier and heavier with every second.
“’m gonna sleep,” I muttered. “Finally, some god damn sleep. No Bull cuddles required.”
The hands on my side paused for a second. Nobody spoke.
Bull sighed. “Don’t ask,” he said.
Ooh. Bull was still here.
I looked up with great difficulty, seeming to have lost the control over my neck muscles. “Hellooo, the Iron Bull, whatcha doin’ here? Come here often?” I drawled, causing him to give me an odd look. “Oh hey, Solas is here too. Woof, woof.”
“Woof, woof?” Bull asked, snorting. “Do I want to know?”
“I am done,” Solas said, expertly avoiding the conversation. “You can sleep now, if you wish. The wound is healing, but there might be scarring.” He stood up and wiped his hands clean. With a significant look at Bull, he said, “I’ll leave you to it.”
My eyelids were having trouble staying open, but I was suddenly thirsty as hell. “Water,” I said, reaching for my water skin.
“Don’t move,” Bull said, and suddenly there was a water skin in front of my nose. “Here.”
I took hold of it, and tried to tilt it all the way backwards, but something stopped me.
“Slowly,” Bull said, his hands on top of mine. He helped me to drink in slow sips until the thirst faded to the background, and I let go of the water skin, leaning back. Hmm. Sleep suddenly seemed like a great idea.
“How long since you actually slept?” Bull asked with a casual tone.
“Since Jader,” I said, not understanding why it mattered. “Sleeeeep.”
Bull sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “For someone who claims to know everything, you can be very slow on the uptake,” he said and covered me with a blanket.
“Thankss,” I muttered, snuggling deeper under the covers.
“Sleep, you idiot.”
I woke up the next morning, confused and sore, unable to remember how I’d ended up where I was. I was staring at the ceiling of a large tent, covered by a blanket. There was an empty bedroll next to me. I made a move to stand up, but quickly stopped, because a stab of pain assaulted my side. “Ouch!”
“You’re awake,” Bull said, ducking through the tent entrance. He was carrying a plate and a mug. “Good. I brought you breakfast.”
“What happened?” I asked, blearily eyeing him and the food. “Last thing I remember is trying to close the rift by the river. Things get all muddy after that.”
Bull grimaced. “That revenant hit you pretty badly,” he growled. “Solas patched you up.”
“Ah,” I said. “It’s slowly coming back to me, I think.” I glanced at the mug he was holding. “Coffee?”
“Nope, sorry,” Bull said with a shake of his head. “It’s bad for healing.”
“You can’t be serious,” I groaned out and tried to sit up again. My hand immediately went to my aching side. “Give me a hand, won’t you?” I said, suddenly breathless. “I can’t seem to get up.”
Bull placed the food on the ground and helped me sit up, then grabbed the plate and the mug again, pushing them into my hands. “Eat,” he said. “And drink that whole thing. Healers orders.”
I peered inside the mug. The liquid didn’t look familiar. “What is it?”
Bull shrugged, and sat cross-legged on the empty bedroll next to me. “Some sort of elf root tea,” Bull said, rubbing his ankle absently. “I watched the mage prepare it.”
“You watched him make it,” I mused, and managed a grin. “Making sure he didn’t poison me?”
“Hey,” Bull said with a chuckle, “I’m supposed to make sure you don’t get killed. That’s what you pay me for.”
I shook my head and took a bite out of a bread roll. “I’m pretty sure Solas needs me alive, yet.”
Bull looked at me. “Yet?”
“You know, to close the Breach,” I said, avoiding his eye. “He can’t go back to his Fade adventures until all of that business is dealt with.”
“Sure...” Bull said, clearly not buying it.
I stuffed my mouth full of food to escape the conversation. Bull just shook his head and watched me eat in silence. The elf root tea was slightly bitter, but I managed to drink all of it. Once I was done, Bull helped me up and into my armor for the day. Somewhat presentable, we exited the tent together, only to be met with everyone’s worried faces.
“Are you sure you should be up yet?” Cassandra asked.
“I’m fine,” I said, waving a hand at her. “I can barely feel it. Don’t worry about it.”
I definitely still felt it. But they didn’t need to know that.
“Solas might be a mage, but he isn’t a god,” Varric said, his voice lacking the usual humour. “You should take it easy.”
I would have choked in my own spit at the accuracy of the remark, if it hadn’t been for the Dread Wolf himself.
“There will be some lingering pain for a while, but as long as you don’t put any unnecessary strain on it, it should be fine,” Solas said, his face impassive. “It is mostly healed.”
His serious gaze was the only thing that helped me to hide my laughter.
“Unnecessary strain? Then maybe we could go visit those elvhen ruins near the East Rode,” I suggested innocently. “We might come across some demons and bandits, but I can handle those. That rift in the ravines was an exception, rather than a rule.”
Blasted level twelve rift in an otherwise low level zone.
“If you’re sure you can handle yourself,” Cassandra said hesitantly.
“Are there any more rifts on the way?” Bull asked.
“I don’t think so,” I said, looking at my map. “I haven’t made notes of any, not until the road that leads to Redcliffe.” I looked up at the others. “We should definitely go to the temple today. There’s a good campsite almost right next to it, here in the Rebel Queen’s Ravine. We’ll have an early night and continue to Redcliffe tomorrow.”
“Not a bad idea,” Varric muttered. “It will give you more time to heal.”
“Before we walk in the middle of all those Tevinters,” Cassandra said.
We all nodded in agreement. Well, everyone, except for Bull.
“So, about that time magic...” he trailed off with a frown.
I lightly punched his arm. “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”
“Thanks,” he grunted out with a huff. “But really, I’d appreciate more information.”
“I would appreciate it as well,” Blackwall admitted.
I scratched my horn awkwardly. I seemed to be doing that a lot, lately. “All the rifts around Redcliffe have sort of, buffs and debuffs around them,” I explained, and received blank looks from everyone. “Ugh. How can I explain it?”
I picked up a stick and drew two small circles on the ground with it.
“There are good rings, and bad rings.” I pointed to the circle on the left. “Inside the good rings, time goes much faster, so that your actions appear quicker to anyone outside the ring.” I pointed to the other circle. “Inside the bad rings, the opposite is true. To take full advantage of them, you either want to fight inside a good ring with your opponent outside of it, or outside a bad ring with your opponent standing inside of it.”
“Interesting,” Solas murmured. “The rifts in Redcliffe affect the time around them.”
“Time is just another dimension,” I said, with a shrug, and received alarmed look for my comment. “What?”
Thedas wasn’t quite ready for theoretical physics.
“Iron Bull,” Solas said suddenly. “I understand that among your people, you are... what is the term?”
“Ben-Hassrath,” Bull offered. “Secret police. Spies, basically.”
“You spied upon your own people,” Solas commented, disapproval dripping from his voice.
Bull side-eyed him. “Is that so different from Orlais or Ferelden? They have all kinds of people policing them.”
“What they say and do, yes,” Solas said, frowning. “Not what they think.”
Bull snorted. “What you think is what you say and do.”
“No,” Solas said plainly. “Even the lowliest peasant may find freedom in the safety of her thoughts. You take even that.”
They glared at each other.
“Boys,” I said, “No fighting in my party, please. Unless it’s mud-wrestling, and I’m invited to watch.”
Bull chuckled. “Sorry, boss.” He looked at Solas. “No hard feelings, right?”
Solas just shook his head and walked past us.
“Don’t mind him,” I said. “He’s a stubborn old egg.”
An Inquisition scout was at the entrance of the East Road, warning people to stay away. “Watch yourself,” she said. “Bandits up ahead, or something anyway. They’re blocking the road.”
“Or something?” I asked. “You don’t think they’re bandits, do you.”
She shook her head. “Bandits wait until people are vulnerable, then hit them fast, so nobody escapes. These bastards show themselves too early. They care more about driving people away, than taking loot. They’re either stupid, or they’re more than bandits. And they’re too well armed for stupid.”
“That’s good deduction,” I said thoughtfully. “And it just so happens you’re right. What’s your name, recruit?”
She blinked. “Oh.” Then, apparently only now realising that I wasn’t just some random passers-by, she stood to full attention and saluted. “Recruit Belette, ser.”
“Varric, will you write that down?” I asked, and winked at her. “We’ll put a good word out for you. You’ve got some talent, spotting a thing like that on your own.”
“I—,” she blustered, wide eyed. “Thank you, ser!”
“Now, what else can you tell us about them?”
“Several groups, some of them with bows. They’ve got better armor than most of us around here. It’s too many for us.” Recruit Belette hesitated briefly. “If you head out there, be careful you don’t get ambushed. They don’t take prisoners.”
“Thank you, Recruit Belette,” I said. “We’ll take care of it.”
We passed through the wall onto the East Road, and immediately there was a fork in the road. A small path turned to right, separating from the main road and going slightly up a small hill, covered in large boulders. I motioned for the others to follow me silently towards the path. Crouching down, I kept low and behind the rocks until we were sufficiently close to the outlaws and able to get a better view of them.
“As I thought,” I said quietly. “There’s only four of them. Solas, Varric, you aim for the archers first. The Iron Bull, Blackwall, Cassandra and I will take down the others.”
“Ah, Herald,” Blackwall muttered from behind me, “Maybe you should stay back. With your injury, and all... There are only four of them.”
I whipped my head around to stare at him. “What?” I hissed.
“I agree,” Bull said. “The five of us are more than enough to take them down.”
Cassandra nodded. “You can be... back up,” she said offered.
“I can’t believe you,” I said, and turned to look at Varric. “You trust me to handle this, right, Varric?”
“I gotta agree with them,” Varric said with a shrug. “What do you think, Chuckles?”
“You’re still recovering,” the bald elf reminded me.
I crossed my arms. “Fine,” I muttered. “But only for today.”
They were right, of course. The fight was over as quickly as it had begun. The melee fighters cleaned their weapons, and we continued onwards through the clearing.
“According to my research, ancient elves may have set up wards here,” Solas said, giving me a look. “Just as you said.”
Upon nearing the ruins, we heard sounds of combat. We broke into a run, and were met with the sight of a Dalish mage in combat with a lesser shade. “Help her!” I called out.
Solas cast a barrier on her, and Varric fired an arrow at the shade. It crumbled into dust.
The Dalish mage turned to us and raised her hands. “Peace. I am no danger to you. My name is Mihris,” she said. “By your weapons I see you come ready for battle. Perhaps we face a common enemy in these demons.”
Ah. I knew there was a bit of a backstory to her. She had been featured in one of the Dragon Age novels, which I hadn’t read when I still could have, unfortunately.
“Are you fighting the demons on your own?” I asked.
“Fighting the demons is pointless,” Mihris said. “There will always be more. And I have no ways of closing the rifts. But I have heard of elven artefacts that measure the Veil. They may tell us where new rifts will appear.” She paused. “I was not expecting so many demons, however. I believe on one of the artefacts is nearby. Can you help me reach it?”
“Sure,” I said. “In fact, we came here for that exact purpose.”
Mihris blinked in surprise. “It shouldn’t be too much farther ahead.”
We walked towards the entrance of the ruins.
“Thank you for joining me, I do not think I could’ve done this alone,” Mihris said.
“How did you end up here?” I asked.
“I was —am— First of Clan Virnehn. I left in service of my clan and saw that great tear in the Veil on my journey. I know more of magic and the Veil than any shemlen, so I hoped to help.”
“Ma harel, d’alen,” Solas admonished.
“I... we should keep moving,” Mihris said and walked past us.
I gave Solas a look. “Bit rude.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’m simply stating the truth,” he said and turned to face me fully. “You said your skills in the Elven language are basic, yet again, you understood what I said.”
I shook my head. “I just know those specific words, that’s all.”
The entrance of the temple was blocked by large stones.
“We’ll need focused magical energy to get by,” Mihris said. “You! Flat-ear!” she called to Solas. “Think you can manage it?”
“Ma nuvenin, da’len,” Solas answered in the most passive aggressive tone I’d ever heard, and lifted the rocks with a simple spell.
Two wraiths and a lesser shade awaited for us in the dark. We disposed of them easily enough.
“Hey, Solas,” I said with a grin, lifting up a torch from it’s holder on the wall. “Fire this up.”
Solas took it from me, and his fire spell turned blue as soon as it touched the torch.
“What manner of fire is that?” Cassandra asked, a little spooked.
“Veilfire,” I said, holding out my hand. “Here, let me carry it, since I’m banned from combat.”
“I’ve heard of it, but never seen it before,” Solas murmured, handing it over. His eyes glinted in the blue glow. “It is a form of sympathetic magic, a memory of flame that burns in this world where the Veil is thin.”
Solas is a lying liar, who lies.
We walked farther into the temple, and were met with three more shades. The others took care of them with Mihris’s help. I just stood there, bored out of my mind.
“There,” Mihris said. “If we activate that crystal, it should react to the strength of the veil.”
I walked over to it and turned a lever. It lit up and started spinning.
“Yes,” Solas said. He looked satisfied. “The Wards are helping to strengthen the Veil. This area should be safer for travellers now.”
“And looks like the ancestors left something for me, as well,” Mihris said with a smirk. She crouched down, picking up something from the ground. “Interesting. I believe our alliance is concluded. Go in peace, stranger.”
I cleared my throat. “Solas?”
“Ma halani, ma glandival,” Solas said, needing no further prompting. “Vir enasalin.”
“I... Perhaps you’re right,” Mihris said, her face falling. She stood up and handed me an amulet. “Here. Take it. Go with Mythal’s blessing.”
I took the offered item and put it into my pocket. “Thanks. Be careful out here.”
Deliberately making no attempt to move as Mihris left the ruins, I waited until I was sure that she was out of earshot. Then, I went to the upper left corner of the temple and started walking along the wall with the veilfire in tow.
“What in Andraste’s name are you doing?” Cassandra asked.
“Looking for a hidden fire rune,” I said. The wall in front of me glowed briefly, revealing a blue marking. “There it is! Varric, Solas, you probably know stuff about runes. Write it down, or something.”
“Sure thing, Feathers,” Varric said, taking out his notebook.
Cassandra raised an eyebrow. “A weapon enchantment,” she said, eyeing the wall. “It could be quite useful.”
“Nice,” Bull said, slightly impressed.
“The things I do for you guys,” I winked at them. “Oh, that reminds me.” Digging into my pocket, I took out the amulet I’d received from Mihris and handed it to Solas. “Here, take it. It’s an amulet of power.”
Solas raised an eyebrow. “And you want me to have it?” he asked, but took it nonetheless.
“Wouldn’t have it gotten it back from her without your help,” I said with a shrug. “Besides, I’ve got a feeling anyone apart from you wouldn’t be able to get much out of it.”
Let’s hope that giving Fen’Harel additional power wouldn’t come to bite me in the ass.
We took out another outlaw camp just outside the temple. Once again, I just stood back and let the others handle the fighting. But I did help clean up, and loot the bodies. We found an interesting, unsigned letter in one of their bags.
I read it out loud.
“The patrol pattern is not negotiable. Upon any encounter resulting in injuries, mark trail and withdraw to the villa. We must remain in fighting condition to apply appropriate force and keep refugees clear from the area.”
“What villa are they talking about?” Cassandra asked.
I shook my head. “I’m not completely sure,” I said. “Let’s check out the last camp. I need more information.”
The last outlaw camp was situated in the Rebel Queen’s Ravine. You know, that little nook before the valley with the Fereldan Frostback and the baby dragons. Despite it’s proximity to the dragon, I decided that it would be the best place to camp for the night.
The outlaw camp had four archers and a tall guy in heavy, knight-like armour, who was holding a massive maul which depicted a two-headed wolf, or a dog. He almost looked like a mini boss, or something.
I stood anxiously at the sidelines while the others fought them. After the battle, I found another unsigned letter. It read as follows:
“Preliminary digs have been more than successful. It’s extremely surprising to find such a high quantity of the product this close to the surface. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was growing. On one hand, this gives us an advantage. Without having to work with the old families back in Orzammar, or even take this through official guild channels, our families stand to make a killing. On the other hand, the proximity to the surface and to the populated areas of Redcliffe raises an interesting challenge. The war between the mages and templars should keep people out of the area for now, but as soon as the humans are done trying to kill each other, any operation we start will be uncovered.
If we’re going to take advantage of this opportunity, we need to keep people out of the area. I’d recommend manufacturing some bandits. This part of Ferelden is lousy with them, so they shouldn’t attract much attention, and nobody will have trouble believing that bandits would stake out some territory. By the time anyone uncovers the operation, it’ll either be tapped out, in which case we’ll be gone, or we’ll have the operation running smoothly, in which case we’ll be wealthy enough to deny everything and throw some money at the throne by way of apology.
Talk to the families and make it happen. This is too good to pass up.”
I looked up from the letter, my face twisting into a grimace. “They’ve been mining red lyrium.”
“Shit,” Varric cursed, taking the letter from my offered hand and skimming through it. “This is bad.”
“That must be why the Outlaws were keeping people out of the area,” Cassandra mused. “We need to inform the Inquisition scouts around here, so they can keep an eye on this place.”
I scratched my head in thought and dug for my notebook. “Let’s see...” I muttered, flipping through the pages. “Aha, here it is.”
“What are you doing?” Varric asked.
“You can’t expect me to remember all of my ‘visions’ without writing them down, do you?” I asked pointedly, and glanced down at the page. “These guys should be connected to that one Deep Roads entrance near Lake Luthias. Valammar, or something. They’ve been mining the red lyrium from there.”
Varric sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose. “How do we access the thaig?”
“They’re hiding in a fortress in the southwest,” I said, and circled the area on the map. “Let’s send people to scout out the area first, and come back to it later.”
We spent the rest of the day setting up camp and travelling back and forth between the Crossroads and the newly secured area with Inquisition scouts in tow. Eventually, we were able to eat dinner and relax a bit. It was only then, when I was settling down next to the Iron Bull in front of the fire, that I noticed that Bull hadn’t set up a tent. His bedroll and bags were on the ground next to him.
“Hey,” I narrowed my eyes at him. “Where’s your tent?”
“There,” Bull said, pointing his thumb to his right. Where my tent was.
I blinked. “What?”
He raised an eyebrow and took a sip of his drink. “You need to sleep.”
“I’m fiiine,” I answered. “I’m dealing with it.”
Bull shook his head. “When you were all drugged up after the battle yesterday,” he explained, “you told me you hadn’t slept since Jader.”
I did? Oops.
“Yeah, well, maybe I’m just like, bad at sleeping,” I argued feebly.
Bull rolled his eye. “You should’ve come to me. You had the whole trip back to do so,” he said, taking another sip of his drink. “And those two nights in Haven, as well.”
I avoided his gaze. “You seemed to be plenty busy even without me,” I muttered.
Bull stared, lowering his mug. “What?”
Oops, I didn’t mean for him to hear that. “Saw you with that Chantry lady in the Singing Maiden,” I explained, scratching my horn. I got it, he was popular. Not to mention he and Dorian could be an adorable couple later on, if I just gave them their space. I really didn’t want to stop that from happening.
Bull stayed silent.
I swallowed. “Look, I don’t want to ruin this whole ‘can’t be tamed’ thing you got going on,” I said with a demonstrative wave of my hands, “so it’s better if I just fix this on my own.”
Bull took one last sip of his mug, put it on the ground, and stood up. “Well, I’m beat,” he said loudly. “Good night, everyone.” The remaining party members and scouts called out their good nights from across the camp. Bull took couple of long strides up to me, and in one fell swoop, hoisted me up on his shoulder.
“Wait— what?” I asked, suddenly hanging upside down. “Put me down!”
(“What did I tell you?” Varric said in the background, “You owe me 50 silver.”)
Ignoring my protests, Bull grabbed his things and entered my tent. Once inside, he unceremoniously dropped me on my bedroll. “There.”
I glared up at him. “What do you think you’re doing?”
Bull laid out his bedroll next to mine and sat down. He took off his ankle brace, and leaned his head on the pillow like he didn’t have a care in the world. “Seeing as you’re such a massive idiot, I made the decision for you,” he said, placing his hands behind his head.
“I just said I’ll work it out on my own!” I protested, sitting up.
He gave me a look. “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t help you,” he said, and when I opened my mouth to speak, he added, “One that isn’t based on your own insecurities.”
My mouth opened and closed rather comically. “I... I know the future!”
He grunted. “And did the future tell you that you’re not allowed to sleep?”
I blinked. “N-no.”
“Did it tell you that one day you’ll fall asleep on top of your horse and fall to your death?” he asked. “Because that’s where you’re headed if you keep this up.”
“But...” I trailed off. “What about you? I can’t just take all of your time like this. It’s not fair to you.”
Bull’s lips curled into a smile. “You know, for all it’s worth, I’m beginning to think you don’t know us as well as you say you do,” he said and patted the pillow next to his.
I hesitantly moved closer.
Bull grinned. “Sleep is a physical need, just like eating. And sex.”
My face heated up. “Yeah, and?” I asked, turning to lay on my side in order to face him.
“I’m just helping you out,” Bull said, raising an eyebrow. “And this doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be.”
I frowned, still not getting it. “So you’ve said...”
“What I’m trying to get through your thick skull,” he said, putting his arm around my shoulder and pulling me snug to his side, “is that while I’m helping you out, you’ve got my undivided attention. Whenever you need me. So stop worrying about what’s fair to me.” Bull grinned. “I’m a big boy, I know how to handle myself.”
Undivided attention? Fuuuuuck.
I laughed weakly, and couldn’t help but compare that to what he’d said to the Inquisitor in the game. “When you say it like that, it sounds rather romantic,” I said, screaming internally, “and not like you’re just helping me to sleep.”
Bull chuckled, the vibrations moving through his whole body and into mine.
I closed my eyes and hid my face into his shoulder. “Funny, right?”
Tell that to my dumbass heart.
Refreshed from an actual night’s sleep, we finally left to Redcliffe. There was a rift that needed closing immediately at the start of Redcliffe Road, but other than that, our journey was relatively uneventful until we arrived to the closed gates of the village. There was a dormant rift right in front them.
“I want constant watch on that damned thing!” someone shouted. “Sound the alarm at the first sign of demons.”
I exchanged pointed glances with my party. “Remember what I told you about the circles?” I asked. “This is it.”
As we moved closer to the rift, it opened up, spewing forth terror demons. Cassandra and Solas took the first, Varric and Blackwall ganged up on the second one, and me and Bull advanced on the third. They all keep out of the green circles, just like I’d advised them.
Varric, ever the brave brave soul to try out new things, stood with one foot inside a yellow circle. His crossbow fired arrows one after another with unprecedented speed. “This is great!” he called out with a grin.
We dealt with one more wave of demons, and once those were gone, I closed the rift with a bang. “Didn’t I tell you it was gonna be weird?” I asked, lowering my hand.
“Ugh,” Bull grunted.
“Even with your warning, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Cassandra muttered.
“These are strange times,” Blackwall agreed.
“Fascinating,” Solas murmured.
“Maker have mercy! It’s over?” a voice called out. “Open the gates!”
One of our own scouts greeted us with a salute. “We spread word the Inquisition was coming, but you should know that no one here was expecting us,” he warned us.
Passing through the gates, we saw a group of soldiers praying in front of a chantry mother. I couldn’t tell if they were locals, or from Tevinter, but their scared faces made my gut twist in sympathy. We walked past them and farther into the village. The closer we got to the shore of the lake, the more aware I became of Redcliffe Village’s rather impressive size. People were mingling about, talking, whispering, and doing their daily jobs and chores. Some where from the local Chantry, while others were mages and locals. It was hard to tell them apart in the crowd.
There were also several Venatori soldiers, situated near the entrances and exits.
We made our way straight to the Gull and Lantern. The tavern was quiet, but not entirely without patrons. A large table in the corner had been cleared out for our negotiations.
“Welcome, agents of the Inquisition,” Grand Enchanted Fiona greeted us. “What has brought you to Redcliffe?”
“We’re here because of your invitation back in Val Royeaux,” I said.
“You must be mistaken,” Fiona said with a frown. “I haven’t been to Val Royeaux since before the Conclave.”
“Well, someone who looked exactly like you invited us here. We even have it on paper,” I pointed out, handing her my notebook, opened to the page she’d written on. “Look for yourself.”
“Exactly like me?” Fiona looked at the page, her brow furrowing. “It certainly looks like my handwriting, but I do not remember writing it. I suppose it could be magic at work, but why would anyone...” She shook her head, and handed the notebook back to me. “Whoever, or whatever brought you here, the situation has changed.”
I sighed and put the notebook away. It was a long shot, anyway.
“The free mages have already pledged themselves to the service of the Tevinter Imperium,” Fiona explained.
“This right here is why you can’t trust mages,” Bull muttered.
“An alliance with Tevinter?” Cassandra asked. “Do you not fear all of Thedas turning against you?”
Solas shook his head. “I understand that you’re afraid, but you deserve better than slavery to Tevinter.”
Fiona looked down. “As one indentured to a magister, I no longer have the authority to negotiate with you.”
“You’ve made a huge mistake, you know that, right?” I asked.
“All hope of peace died with Justinia,” Fiona said, her face twisting in sorrow. “This... bargain with Tevinter would not have been my first choice, but we had no choice. We are losing this war. I needed to save as many of my people as I could.”
The tavern door opened, and middle aged mage in fine Tevinter armor stepped inside. He was flanked by an entourage of minions, and a younger man in his early thirties. That would be Alexius and his son, Felix.
“Welcome, my friends!” Magister Alexius called out with fake cheer. “I apologize for not greeting you earlier.”
Fiona turned her gaze to him. “Agents of the Inquisition, allow me to introduce Magister Gereon Alexius.”
“The southern mages are under my command,” Alexius said, and turned his sharp gaze towards me. “And you are the survivor, yes? The one from the Fade? Interesting.”
“So...” I trailed off, suddenly very uncomfortable. “Where are the Arl and his men?”
“The Arl of Redcliffe has left the village,” Alexius said, like he didn’t understand what the big deal was.
“Arl Teagan did not abandon his lands during the Blight, even when they were under siege,” Cassandra pointed out, frowning.
“There were... tensions growing,” Alexius added. “I did not want an incident.”
Bitch, you are gonna be an incident, for stopping me from meeting Arl Tegan. He was kinda cute in Origins.
“You’re quite the long way from Tevinter,” I pointed out, instead of saying what I thought.
“Indeed I am,” Alexius said, and glanced up. “Though I have heard you are no Fereldan, either. It seems we are both strangers here.”
For a terrifying second I thought he meant something else. But then I realised that he’d just glanced up at my horns and his comment referred to me being a Qunari. “True,” I said with a smirk. “If you’re leading the mages now, let’s talk. I’m sure we can come to an arrangement that can profit both parties.”
Alexius smiled. It wasn’t a particularly nice smile. “It’s always a pleasure to meet a reasonable man.”
We sat down. “Felix, would you sent for a scribe?” Alexius called out.
Felix bowed at us silently, and immediately left the room.
“Pardon my manners, friends. That was my son, Felix,” Alexius explained. He leaned back in his chair and looked back at me. “I am not surprised you are here. Containing the Breach is not a feat that many could even attempt. There is no telling how many mages would be needed for such an endeavor. Ambitious, indeed.”
I grinned, leaning back in my chair. “Well, when you’re fighting the sky itself, you can hardly afford to think small.”
“There will have to—”
Felix stumbled back into the room. He looked paler than before.
I jumped up from my seat. He took a few steps forward, and fell straight into my arms. I gently lowered him down on his knees. “Hey?” I asked, actually concerned although I knew he was supposed to be faking it. “Are you okay?”
“Felix!” Alexius called out.
“My Lord, I’m so sorry, please forgive me,” Felix said, letting go of me. “I’m fine.”
Only then I realised that he’d somehow slipped me a small note. I clenched my fist to hide it from view.
“Are you sure you’re all right?” Alexius asked, helping his son to stand.
“I’m fine, father,” Felix repeated.
Alexius gestured towards the door. “Come, I’ll get your powders,” he said and glanced at me. “Please excuse me, friends. I shall send word to the Inquisition, and we will conclude this business at a later date.” He walked past Fiona. “Fiona, I require your assistance back at the castle.”
“I don’t mean to trouble anyone,” Felix said weakly, following his dad and Fiona.
Once the door had closed behind them, I glanced down at the note. “Come to the Chantry,” I read out loud. “You’re in danger.”
“Did the magister’s son give you that?” Cassandra asked in disbelief. “Why would he help you?”
I winked. “I told you, we’ve got allies-to-be here.”
“He’s the person you’re putting all your faith on?” Varric asked. “No offence, but he looked like a good breeze might knock him over.”
I shook my head. “Nope,” I said, breaking into a full grin. I felt giddy. “He’s waiting for us in the Chantry.”
“Mysterious,” Bull muttered.
I couldn’t help but giggle. “And dramatic.”
As much as I wanted to immediately run to the Chantry, I knew there was something important I had to take care of first. I looked around the tavern until I found a man dressed in mage robes with a telltale sign of the sunburst brand burned onto his forehead. “Excuse me,” I said. “Are you Clemence?”
He turned around, and I felt a shiver run up my spine at his vacant stare. “Yes, I am,” he said. “What can I help you with?”
“I heard the ‘Vints won’t let you stay here,” I said, doing my best not to look as freaked out as I felt. “I was wondering if you’d like to join the Inquisition, instead. We’d love to have you.”
“That would certainly be... helpful,” the tranquil mage said. “But you have only just arrived. How did you know we were being told to leave Redcliffe?”
I scratched my horn. “I just know stuff, sometimes.”
He paused. “That is strange,” he said bluntly. “But we have no choice but to accept your offer. I am an alchemist, so perhaps I can be of use to the Inquisition.”
“I’m sure your skills will be appreciated,” I said with a smile. “You’ll find Inquisition scouts at the gates. They’ll escort you onwards towards Haven.”
“Than you,” Clemence said. “While one lives, it is good to know there is still use for one’s talents.”
Walking towards the Chantry, I couldn’t help but have a little additional pep in my step. I almost felt like I might burst into song and dance any minute. There was a pressure building at the bottom of my stomach, a dull ache that grew larger every step we took towards the large building on top of the stone steps.
“This is it guys,” I said in front of the doors, mostly to myself. I breathed in and out a couple of times to calm my rapidly beating heart. Despite my anxiety, I felt a wide grin making its way onto my lips.
“Andraste’s flaming knickers,” Varric muttered. “This is almost worse than the last time.”
“Last time?” Bull asked curiously.
Cassandra groaned in disgust. “Never mind him,” she said. “Herald, gather yourself and let’s go.”
I gave her an apologetic smile and pushed open the doors.
The Chantry entrance hall was dark and quiet. There was an occasional lit candle near the walls, but most of the light came from the end of the hall, where sunlight streamed through massive, stained glass windows. The heavy doors closed behind us, and we heard sounds of combat. And I felt it was again, that weird feeling in my nose. The sign of an open fade rift.
I hurried my steps, and came to a stop in the middle of the large Chantry. Magical attacks targeted at two shades flared up, one after another, lighting up the room with a soft glow. In the middle of it all stood a mage dressed in an elegant, white outfit with a high collar. With just a flick of his staff, both of the shades disintegrated in an instant. He turned to look at us with a raised eyebrow.
“Good, you’re finally here,” Dorian Pavus said. “Now, help me close this thing, would you?”