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Suddenly, Qunari

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I startled awake in an awkward position, my neck and shoulders aching. It took me a few seconds to realise I was sitting down haphazardly on a wooden crate, leaning against a cold stone wall. Hence the awkwardness and neck cramps. I blinked with tired eyes and looked around. It was a corridor, dimly lit by evenly placed open flame torches stuck on the walls. Pushing against the crate to stand up, I felt an odd sensation in my chest, almost as if I had done something strenuous and pulled a muscle in a weird place.

The situation made no sense to my sleep addled brain. I had definitely fallen asleep in my own bed the night before. Glancing around, I hoped someone would pop up and tell me why I was suddenly in a medieval castle.

“Hello? Anyone here?”

My voice echoed off the halls, causing me to lift a hand to my throat. It was deeper than it was supposed to be. Maybe I had a cold? Yet, my throat didn’t feel sore. I blinked again, eyes still sleepy and partially shut as I glanced from left to right.

There was no answer, so I took a right and started walking.

It didn’t feel quite real. You know that feeling when you’re dreaming, and almost realise what’s going on, and the dream starts to slip away, it stops being real? That’s the only way I could explain it. Like there was something at the edge of my vision, something not quite solid, just out of reach. My head felt muddy.

“Someone, help me!” a woman’s voice pleaded for help. It came from behind a pair of wooden doors, only a short distance ahead of me. I broke into a run and barreled through the heavy doors.

The sight inside made my jaw drop.

“What the fuck is going on here?” I asked, my loud voice booming off the stone walls. Something about the setup felt familiar to me, but my mind was cloudy, unable grasp at the straws.

To my left stood people in plate armor, surrounding an elderly woman. She wore white and red robes topped with a weird hat, and her whole body was floating in air. The realization of how bizarre this was hit me, making my eyes widen. She was floating...?

“Run while you can, warn them!” the woman gasped, drawing my attention to the man who was standing in front of her.

Well, I say man...

The horrible apparition was made of flesh and bone, with impossibly long claw-like arms and fabric clinging to his arms and shoulders which vaguely resembled clothes. Sharp, flat pieces of what must have been some kind of red stone stuck out of its head, its wrinkly face being the only feature that vaguely resembled a human being. It snarled at my interruption, and I startled, taking a step backwards.

“We have an intruder!” the apparition said, glancing at me. “Slay the Qunari!”

I stared. “The what now?”

I was unable to wonder for long, because the woman took advantage of the distraction my entrance had caused and kicked something out of the hands of the monster who had just ordered my death. The glowing green ball fell down with a clink and rolled towards me with force. I instinctively caught it.

Bad mistake.

The ball burst with energy, causing me to scream in agony as pain started from my hand and traveled through my entire body. The undead monster charged at me with a growl. That’s when I finally connected the dots, realising why this all seemes so very familiar. As the power of the orb consumed me, I realised I had seen all of this before, albeit from a very different angle.

In one of my favourite video games ever... Dragon Age: Inquisition.

That was the last thought I had before the whole place exploded.

 

I woke up slowly. My body hurt all over and I felt vaguely disgusting, yet I was able to think more clearly. It was a sign that I was actually waking up this time, not just having crazy dreams about video games. It amused me to recall the dream I’d just woken from. It had been centered around the Divine and Corypheus, and somehow I ended up there in the Inquisitor’s place. Surely dreaming about Dragon Age was a sign I spent too much time playing video games and reading fanfiction.

Something bright flared behind my eyelids, and I opened my eyes. Only to see darkness... and green, sparkling light.

To my confusion, I once again found myself waking up in an unfamiliar place, even though I could swear I had gone to sleep in my own bed. I was kneeling on hard stone floor, my arms bound together by metal shackles. Green light lit up my left hand and I marveled at it. Only for a second though, because soon a wave of pain hit me, making me double over in agony.

It didn’t last long, and I tentatively uncurled myself, sneaking a glance at my hands.

I drew a sharp breath at the sight.

They weren’t my hands. Even in the darkness, I could tell that the skin color didn’t match. They were also larger than my hands had ever been. And the fingernails were sharper, almost claw like. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness, and at the edge of my vision I saw two guards dressed in very familiar green uniforms.

The door burst open, and I glanced up with wide eyes to see Cassandra Pentaghast stride in with a scowl on her face.

“You’re kidding me,” I stated flatly. My voice still sounded strange.

The famous Seeker stopped dead in her tracks, confusion clouding her face.

“Excuse me?” she asked, and I got the distinct impression this wasn’t what she had planned for her entrance.

“I’m still not awake?” I asked, shaking my head with a groan. Another woman slipped past the Seeker, her hooded face hidden partially by shadows. Her presence made me shook my head again. “How long can a dream this realistic possibly last?”

“You believe you’re dreaming?” spoke a soft voice. Leliana, the voice of deadly reason. “Why?” she inquired.

I stared at her, then turned to the Seeker, and then back to Leliana. “Uh, obviously I’m dreaming. You guys aren’t real,” I said, gesturing with my bound hands. The awkward motion caused the guards near the door draw their weapons. “None of this is real.”

Leliana gestured to the guards and they sheathed their weapons. She turned back to me with narrowed eyes.

Cassandra scowled and took a threatening step forward. “Explain.”

I looked up at her and weighed my options. “Nah,” I said, not feeling too threatened, since it was a dream. “It’s too complicated. Besides, according to dream logic, you guys are just gonna ignore whatever I say.”

The Mark on my hand flared up again, and I grit my teeth. “I could do without this though,” I said once I had my breath back. “What a shitty dream. I was hoping to meet Varric, at least.”

“Varric Tethras?” Cassandra uttered, voice laced with poison. “You know that insufferable dwarf?”

I guess you could say so. He’d been a favourite of mine ever since Dragon Age 2.

“Varric and I go waaay back,” I said with a laugh. Leliana and Cassandra exchanged glances. “He’s a fellow writer so I guess we were always fated to sync up. That, and the magnificent chest hair.”

Cassandra scowled. “We don’t have time for this!” she growled, and grabbed my shoulder. Which hurt, by the way. Note to self, don’t piss off Cass. “Everyone at the conclave is dead. Except for you. What. Did. You. Do?!”

“Okay!” I groaned out, “Geez, I’ll explain! Just stop, that hurts like a bitch!”

The Seeker released her grip, and took a step back. I caught a flicker of doubt crossing her face, but it was gone in a second. My shoulder was still hurting, and because of my bound hands I couldn’t even rub it like I would have.

“I think I’m supposed to say something about running, and spiders, and a woman?” I said and coughed awkwardly. “Sorry, we got so off track, I can’t remember my lines for this bit.”

Leliana and Cassandra stared at me.

“What,” Cassandra growled out.

Leliana stepped forward. “The soldiers who found you said you came out of a rift... They said a woman was in the rift behind you.”

That sparked a memory.

“Oh, right! That was like, the Divine, or her spirit, helping me to escape!” I said brightly, but my face fell at the expressions of the two women looming over me. “I think...?” I trailed off uncertainly. “Oh, I wasn’t supposed to remember that bit.”

Cassandra put a hand to her face in frustration. “He’s talking nonsense. Was there truly no injury to his head?”

Leliana shook her head, a calculating look crossing her face.

“Oh, I actually remember stuff. Like, I’m pretty sure this is ruining the whole plot!” I said and laughed. “Well, whatever, I wanna get out of here.”

The Seeker and the Nightingale turned to look at me with interest.

“Okay, so there’s this guy called Corypheus, who is sort of like darkspawn, I think? Anyway, he had this orb which he was going to use to rip open the Veil in order to enter the Black City!” I said enthusiastically. “He was about to do that in the Conclave, using the Divine as a sacrifice, when I burst in, the Divine kicked the orb out of his hands, I accidentally picked it up and BOOM!” I laughed, and both Cassandra and Leliana flinched. “Insane, right?”

They stared at me.

And stared.

And stared.

“You are right,” Leliana said flatly. “The apostate must have missed the head injury.”

My smile faded and I sighed. Of course they didn’t believe me. What a waste of good dream time. “Whatever. We should get moving if we wanna close those rifts,” I said and struggled to stand up. “Let’s go, I want to meet Varric already!”

My jailers exchanged glances once again, and had a silent conversation that I wasn’t able to decipher.

Finally, after what felt like ages, Leliana turned to me. “You will cooperate with us?” she asked.

I cocked my head. “Yeah, of course! What kind of asshole wouldn’t?”

Cassandra snorted. “As long as you do not run. We must get going, we cannot waste any more time.”

She unlocked the shackles on my arms, put a rope around them and helped me up. And up. And up. I was taller, practically towering over both of them. That made me pause. “Uh, I’m tall?” I pointed out.

Leliana, who had been about to slip away, paused and threw me an odd look over her shoulder. “Does that come as a surprise to you?”

Cassandra stalked ahead, and I stumbled after her. “I’m not short, but not this tall either.” This reminded me of my earlier panic, and I glanced at my hands. “Also, my hands look weird.”

“The mark on your hand is somehow connected to the rift,” Leliana said as an explanation, coming to walk beside me as we walked out of the dungeon and up to the main Chantry building. “We were unable to stop it from spreading.”

At the top of the stairs Cassandra turned to look at me. “And it is killing you. Unless we can close the Breach, you will likely perish with it.”

I was still staring at my bound hands, totally weirded out. “Yeah,” I said and glanced up at her. “Don’t worry. Closing the rifts and stabilizing the Breach should be a piece of cake with this on my hand.”

The mark glowed again as if woken up by all the talk about it. This time I was prepared for it, so I only screamed a little bit.

“Son of a bitch!”

Still hurt like hell, though.

Leliana hummed thoughtfully. “I must leave for the forward camp,” she said and gave Cassandra meaningful look. “I will see you two there.”

As my hands were still bound, I was unable to wave at her, but I did give her a slight smile, still reeling from the pain of the mark. “Bye, Leliana.” I think she didn’t expect me to know her name, because she stiffened a little, but kept walking. I looked at Cassandra and raised my hands with what I hoped was a meaningful expression on my face. “I would like to be able to wave to people, you know.”

Cassandra made that delightful ‘ugh’ noise that she always directed at Varric in the games and reluctantly cut the rope around my wrists. Then she turned sharply and stalked to the doors of the Chantry. I followed at a slower pace, absently rubbing at my poor wrists.

“There will be a trial,” Cassandra said. “I can promise no more.”

As the doors opened and daylight streamed in, I took a better look at my hands and body.

Yep. My hands were still huge, grayish in color, and those fingernails definitely weren’t human. It was also instantly obvious that I wasn’t wearing the normal starting gear of the game. The armor was still green, but it had several metal plates attached here and there for additional protection. There was also a corsetlike brown leather vest secured tightly with string around my waist, and a belt comprising of several empty pouches around my hips.

What a cool dream.

“So I’m Vashot,” I muttered.

“What?” Cassandra said, turning to look at me.

“Uh, just kinda surprised,” I said, giving her a tight smile. “This dream is weird.”

Cassandra shook her head. She glanced up at the sky, and I couldn’t help but follow her gaze.

Holy shit. The breach was nothing like in the game, where everything was sort of muted. After all, it was just a computer game. The real thing reminded me of a black hole, swirling and terrible, something that might eat everything around it in just a moment with no way to defend against it. And in all of its terribleness, it was beautiful.

“Wow,” I breathed out, and felt the first sliver of actual fear since the start of the dream. “I gotta close that?”

Cassandra nodded, and gestured for us to walk again. Haven was filled with people, coming out of their tents to glare at me. Some even threw rocks towards us, and I scowled at them. They noticed my expression and hastily backed away. Afraid of the big bad Qunari, huh?

I snorted.

“They have decided your guilt,” Cassandra explained as we walked. “They need it. The people of Haven mourn our Most Holy, Divine Justinia, head of the Chantry. The Conclave was hers. It was a chance for peace between mages and templars. She brought their leaders together... And now they are dead.” She glanced at me.

“Sorry,” I said, even though I knew it wasn’t my fault. “That sucks.”

Once again, her reaction to me was strange. “Let’s get moving.”

By now I realised that every step I took was shaky and uncoordinated. I kept stumbling, unsteady on my feet, like my legs and feet weren’t quite as I imagined them to be so I kept misjudging the distances. It really affected my balance, and Cassandra had to stop me from falling flat on my face a couple of times. Towards the end of the path, I had almost gotten the hang of walking again.

We cleared the first bridge/stronghold, and Cassandra yelled for the gates to be opened. We trekked up the path in silence, until I noticed the bridge ahead of us and remembered something.

“Wait!” I called out.

Cassandra stopped in her tracks underneath the bridge’s stone entrance. “What is it?”

“That bridge is going to explode!” I yelled to the soldiers standing on the other side of the bridge. “Stay clear!”

Cassandra must have heard something in my tone of voice, because she took me seriously and barked out a repeat of my order to the confused soldiers. Just as the last of them stepped off the bridge, several pieces of flaming rock descended from the Breach above and crashed into it. If anyone had been standing on it just then, they would’ve fallen down to the ice, along with the boulders which would have crushed them to death.

Cassandra whirled towards me, her jaw hanging open. “How did you know that was going to happen?!” she asked.

“It’s my dream, remember?” I said, shrugging, not wanting to get into an argument about her fictional existence.

Cassandra groaned at my response, and looked at the remains of the bridge with pursed lips. She gazed at the rubble and the frozen river, and suddenly spotted the demons that had fallen from the Breach. “We have to get down there!” she said with a grimace. “We cannot let those demons escape!”

We thought it best to climb down the side of the river, avoiding the ruined bridge entirely. Cassandra unsheathed her weapon and charged towards the two demons. “Stay behind me!” she commanded.

I shrugged. As Cassandra fought, I looked to my left towards the rubble, where I could see a large two handed maul leaning against a wooden crate. Huh, just like in the game. I wandered there to pick it up. It didn’t feel nearly as heavy as it looked, and I gave it a few practice swings.

“Drop your weapon. Now!” Cassandra barked from behind me.

I dropped it without a second thought and swirled to face her. “Oh, sorry!” I apologized.

"Drop your weapon. Now!"

Her face showed surprise. “Wait,” she said, contradicting her previous command. She sighed. “You should keep it. I cannot protect you, and I cannot expect you to be defenseless.”

I shrugged. “Okay. I have no idea how to fight though.”

Cassandra looked at me, baffled. “I thought you were a mercenary.”

“And I remind you again, this is a dream!” I said with a laugh.

The Seeker made a disgusted face and muttered something under her breath about apostate elves. “Here, take this potion, just in case you’ll need it,” she said, handing me a vial of red liquid. Must have been a health potion.

I glanced at it curiously and stored it inside one of my many pockets.

We walked for a while until we came across more demons. This time there was three of them, and even though Cassandra was able to flank two of them, the third one noticed me and came straight at me.

“Shit!” I panicked, and swung the maul towards its head the best I could. Of course, since my hand-eye coordination was shot to hell at that particular moment, the swing missed the demon’s head by miles.

It kept coming and took a swipe at my shoulder.

“Motherfucker!” I swung the maul again, and was able to get a few good hits. It didn’t exactly seem to injure it, but at least I was able to keep it from touching me again.

Suddenly the demon turned to dust, revealing a scowling Cassandra, who must have attacked it from behind.

I panted slightly and tenderly clutched at my shoulder. That stung like a bitch. Wait. That hurt a lot. And before that, the mark had hurt me. And then Cassandra’s grip on my shoulder...

“This is a dream,” I muttered. “Pain is an illusion created by your brain. Technically there’s no reason you couldn’t feel pain in a dream...”

Cassandra strode over to me, looking pointedly at my injured shoulder. “Drink the potion.”

I glanced down at her, wide eyed and panicked. “This is a dream right?” I asked, my voice shaking. “Say something silly... no, I should count my fingers...” I mumbled, staring at my hand. My vision was getting fuzzy.

“We don’t have time for this!” Cassandra said with a groan. She dug her hand into my pocket, took the cork off the health potion, and handed it to me. “Drink this, it should help with the injury and shock both.”

“I’m not in shock, why would I be in shock, this isn’t real!” I said with a hysterical giggle.

Cassandra let out a frustrated sound, pushed the vial to my lips and gripped my nose tightly. It was an awkward angle, since she was shorter than me. Unable to breathe through my nose, I was forced to gulp down the red liquid.

As the vial came out empty, I pushed her away with a scowl. “What was that for?!” I asked, coughing.

“You were being hysterical,” Cassandra stated. “We cannot waste any more time here. We need to keep moving!”

I rubbed my throat and smacked my mouth, trying to stop the unfamiliar taste from lingering. “All right, geez... Let’s go.”

The Seeker stared at me for a moment with an unsure expression on her face, as if to make sure I wasn’t going to burst into tears. Then she nodded and we trekked onwards.

We came across some more demons, and the fights went in a similar fashion. Cassandra charged first, I did my best to distract the single straggler, trying not to get swiped by its claws, and as soon as she was done with the two, Cassandra saved my ass again.

As we reached the snow covered stairs, Cassandra sprinted even faster, leaving me panting slightly behind her. However, I wasn’t as out of breath as I expected to be. Must have been that infamous dream logic.

“We’re nearly there, you can hear the fighting!” Cassandra called out.

“Egg head and Varric,” I muttered under my breath, still pointedly ignoring my previous outburst of panic by burying it somewhere deep, deep down. “At least Varric is fun.”

“Hurry! We must help them,” Cassandra said.

And indeed, the closer we got more we heard steel clashing with something... organic. There was also the sound of lightening and strangely enough, frost. That must have been Solas and his magic.

Cassandra charged straight into the fight.

I hesitated for only a moment before jumping in with her, taking on the demon nearest to the rift. I hit it on the head and it shrieked at me. I dodged as it tried to swipe at me, and hit it from the side with as much force as I could muster. Suddenly it froze, totally covered in frost, and there was a thunk as an arrow embedded itself into the demon’s chest. It crumbled away into nothing.

I shifted to take a step back, but someone grabbed my arm and unbalance me in the process.

“Quickly, before more come through!” Solas urged and lifted my hand towards the rift.

I closed my fist as I had seen the Inquisitor do in the game countless times before, and felt a sort of tug at my navel. The rift glowed brighter for a moment before closing entirely. I stumbled back and scowled at Solas, who had unbalanced me, nearly sending me flat on my face.

“You shouldn’t go around grabbing people,” I pointed out as a greeting.

He tilted his head as if admonished. “I only wished to help,” he said, and turned slightly towards Cassandra. “Now we know there is a way to close the rifts.” Then he turned his sharp gaze back to me. “Whatever magic opened the Breach on the sky, also placed that mark upon your hand. I theorised the mark might be able to close the rifts that have opened in the Breach’s wake.”

“Which means, it could also close the Breach itself...” Cassandra said, giving me a thoughtful look.

“I told you so,” I said flatly.

Solas raised an eyebrow. “Oh?”

“Yeah, I know everything,” I deadpanned, causing Solas to stiffen slightly. Oops, probably wondering if I knew his real identity. “Also, I’m like 90% sure this is still a dream. Pain proves nothing, since pain is a product of our mind. Ergo, our minds can trick us.”

“That’s an interesting theory, Tiny,” said a gravelly voice of God from behind me.

I swirled and grinned, truly happy since the beginning of this dream. “Varric!”

The author was wearing the same silken shirt as in the game, exposing his glorious chest hair. He gave me a confused look. “Do I know you?” 

“Nope!” I said, still grinning from ear to ear.

Cassandra frowned. “You said you’ve known him for a long time,” she said.

“I never said anything about mutual knowing,” I said with a shrug. Not even Cassandra’s angry huff could ruin this moment for me. I took a deep breath, and grinned again at Varric. “So, that’s a beautiful crossbow you have there.”

He smiled crookedly. “Isn’t she? Bianca and I have been through a lot together.”

Cassandra groaned in the background.

I grinned. “I guess you could say I’m a fan,” I said, amused. “I’ve read some of your work.”

“A fan, huh?” Varric smirked, “Maybe after all this is over I can sign something for you.”

“It will become a family heirloom,” I deadpanned. Then I turned to Solas, who was watching our conversation with a upward turn to his lips.

“You’re the mage who kept me from dying, right?” I said, giving him a curt nod. “Thanks for that.”

He nodded back. “I am Solas, if there are to be introductions.”

“Okay,” I said. “Well, we should probably....” I started walking.

“What do you wish us to call you?” Solas continued, following me and ignoring my attempt at dodging the introductions.

I froze and glanced at Solas, then at Cassandra, and Varric. They were all looking at me with equally expectant faces. I sort of grabbed at my chest, just to be sure. Yeah. I know, I’m a weirdo.

“What are you doing?” Cassandra huffed at me, incredulous.

“Just checking,” I muttered. “My name is Kaaras Adaar. You can probably.... call me Adaar. That should be fine. Yeah.”

Solas and Varric, new to my particular brand of insanity, exchanged confused glances.

The Seeker just groaned. “Solas, you and Adan must have missed a head injury when you inspected him,” she said. “We have not been able to make sense of most things that has come out of his mouth since he woke up.”

Solas gave me a curious look. “There was no head injury. I did check, several times.”

“The Seeker thinks I’m crazy,” I said. “But to be honest, so do I. This dream has gone on for way too long now.”

Solas’s eyes flashed. “That is the second time you’ve mentioned you believe to be dreaming.”

“Yeah, because I am,” I said, smiling at him with half of my mouth. “I mean, look at me.”

The three of them regarded me as they walked.

“What do you see?” I asked.

“A Qunari mercenary,” Solas said.

“Vashot,” Varric corrected.

I shook my head at them. “Yeah. But the problem is, when I went to bed last night, I was human,” I said, deciding not to mention the gender thing. This was strange enough. And it wasn’t like I particularly minded.

“This is what I meant!” Cassandra groaned, pinching the bridge of her nose. “The Qunari is out of his mind!”

Solas just stared at me thoughtfully. “You were human?”

“Yup,” I said and strode past them, taking advantage of my long legs. “Now, are you coming or not?”

They scrambled to catch up with me.

Chapter Text

To be honest, the dream was starting to get to me a little bit. The two newest additions to our group wouldn’t stop asking questions. Ordinarily, I would have loved chatting with Varric and even Solas the egg, but I was still a bit shaken from my earlier encounter with the shade and only wanted to go with the flow of the weird dream until it ended. No metaphorical ponderings needed, thank you very much.

“So, Tiny, where are you from?” Varric asked after the first fight died down.

I narrowed my eyes at him. A normal question like this was horribly suspicious when coming from the author in question. “Around,” I said.

“Around?” Varric inquired with a raised eyebrow.

“Just around,” I repeated, shrugging to make my point.

“I can’t quite place that strange accent of yours,” Varric murmured.

That’s when Solas butted his egg head into the conversation. “I have to agree with Master Tethras,” Solas said, his face an irritating mask of calm. “It is not an accent I recognise, either. And I have traveled a lot, both in the Fade and out of it.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter what I say, does it?” I said, my smile flat. “You won’t know the place since, I repeat, this is a dream.”

Cassandra blew out a breath, disgusted at our conversation. “You will get nowhere questioning him,” she said and stalked ahead angrily. “I told you, he speaks nonsense. Maybe he inherited an uncommon accent from his Qunari parents. ”

Varric glanced at the Seeker doubtfully, then turned to look at me. “I have never met a Qunari with an accent quite like that.”

“You have lots of Qunari friends, do you Varric?” I smirked, tilting my head towards him. “I guess I should have known, since you met a bunch of them in Kirkwall.”

“I’ve met enough of them,” he said noncommittally.

“We should make haste, there are still rifts here that pose a threat,” Solas said.

Of course that’s when a group of shades appeared just a couple of meters away from us. Bastard jinxed us.

“Ugh!” I groaned and gripped my mace more tightly as one of the shades charged straight at me. “This dream sucks.”

Solas froze the demon with a quick spin off his staff, then turned his attention to Cassandra, who was tanking two of the shades.

I stared at him for a moment, slightly envious. Why couldn’t I have been a mage? That had always been my default in the game. “Thanks,” I quipped nonetheless, and put all of my strength into one swing. The demon shattered to pieces. On the other hand, raw physical power was cool, too. “Awesome!”

Varric whistled. “Quite a grip you got there, Tiny,” he said, coming to stand next to me as we caught our breath. “Took just one hit.”

I grinned at him. “This Qunari body is good for something.”

Cassandra muttered something under her breath that sounded suspiciously like ‘Maker help me with delusional Qunari’.

While I was mentally high-fiving with Varric, Solas had turned to look at the two of us, with a thoughtful expression on his face. He looked like he wanted to comment, but apparently he changed his mind at the last second. “We better keep moving.”

And so we did. Demon after demon, we kicked their assess and moved towards the forward camp. I was starting to get the hang of fighting, and I was slowly getting used to my new body and its proportions, thus I was less likely to stumble flat on my face in front of Solas and Varric.

As we climbed the stairs up towards the hilltop, Varric asked me, “So, are you innocent?”

I rolled my eyes. It had been one of my wishes for there to be a dialogue option righ at this point of the game. I guess I sort of got my wish. “Yes,” I said, turning to glare at him.

“So who did do it?” He asked, curiosity rising at my confident denial.

“You know,” I said thoughtfully, “I think you actually know him? You and Hawke killed him once.” He raised his eyebrows. Following his expression carefully I continued, “His name is Corypheus. Ring any bells?”

Varric stopped dead in his tracks, forcing Solas to jump to the side to avoid a collision. Cassandra stopped too, only few steps ahead of us.

“What.” The author’s voice held none of it’s usual snark as he stared at me.

“Yep, that darkspawn of a magister is still walking around. Fun, right?” I grimaced.

“Are you sure? Did he tell you his name?” Varric asked, his face pale.

“Nope, but I’m 100% sure,” I said. “And he wasn’t alone.” I glanced at Cassandra, who was following our conversation with a curious, yet somehow conflicted expression on her face.

“Varric...” Cassandra started, but was interrupted by Solas.

“We should keep moving,” he said, stepping closer to the three of us. “This conversation can wait until we reach the forward camp, or even later. Seeing as the prisoner is no mage, I doubt he caused the Breach. Indeed, I find it difficult to imagine any mage having such power. If what he says is true, it is possible that this magister was behind all of this.”

“Understood.” Cassandra’s expression shuttered.

We moved on and came across yet another group of demons.

“I hope Leliana made it through all this,” the Seeker muttered.

“She’s resourceful, Seeker,” Varric comforted.

I snorted. “We’re all thinking of the same Leliana, right?” I asked, “The deadly assassin who can kill men with her pinky finger and not break a sweat?”

Cassandra snorted at the image. “You’re right. She’s probably fine.”

There was a rift just outside the forward camp, meaning it was down to us to take care of it.

Well, me.

“Take this, you little shit!” I yelled, swinging the mace at the shade’s face. It shrieked in pain and came at me. Oops.

Varric saved my ass with a quick crossbow bolt to the demon’s back. I grinned at him, then raised my hand to close the rift. As before, there was that feeling of a tug in the center of my being. I reached for it and pulled. The rift closed with a bang.

“Level up,” I muttered.

“The rift is gone, open the gate!” Cassandra ordered, and the doors opened before us.

“We’re clear for the moment,” Solas said. “Well done.”

Varric nodded. “Whatever that thing on you hand is, it’s useful.”

The guards stepped back as they saw me, obviously intimidated by my Qunari stature, but I just waltzed past them, eager to see Leliana again. She was, as always, in middle of an argument with Chancelor Roderick.

“You have caused enough trouble without resorting to these exercises in futility!” Roderick spat.

“I have caused trouble?” There was enough venom in Leliana’s voice that it would have made lesser men wet their pants.

But Roderick was either very stupid, or very brave, because he kept on going. “You, Cassandra, the Most Holy---” he started to say, but spotted us and stopped, leaning against the table. “Ah, here they come.”

Leliana gave us a faint smile. “You made it,” she said. “Chancelor Roderick, this is...”

“I know who he is,” Roderick spat, pointing his finger at me. “As Grand Chancelor of the Chantry, I hereby order you to take this criminal to Val Royeaux for execution!”

I crossed my arms, not intimidated in the least.

Cassandra saw red. “Order me?” She growled. “You are a glorified clerk. A bureaucrat!”

Roderick snorted. “And you are a thug, but a thug who supposedly serves the Chantry.”

Leliana shook her head. “We serve the Most Holy, Chancellor, as you well know.”

“Justinia is dead,” the Chancellor said, and I could detect a hint of weariness in his statement. “We must elect her replacement and obey her orders on the matter.”

“Cool,” I said with my arms still crossed, and received a bunch of confused glances. “While you’re doing this, I’m gonna traipse up to the Temple and close the Breach so ya’all can take it easy down here and argue over politics.”

Roderick pointed his finger at me again. “You brought this on us in the first place!” he yelled. Then he seemed to deflate, lowering his hand. “Call a retreat, Seeker. Our position here is hopeless.”

Aww, poor Roderick.

“We can stop this before it’s too late,” Cassandra said with conviction. “The prisoner can seal the rifts, it is only logical the same approach will work with the Breach.”

Roderick shook his head. “How? You won’t survive long enough to reach the temple, even with all your soldiers.”

“We must get to the temple, it’s the quickest route.”

Leliana stepped in. “But not the safest. Our forces can charge as a distraction, while we go through the mountains.”

Cassandra scowled. “We lost contact with an entire squad on that path. It’s too risky!”

“Listen to me, abandon this now! Before more lives are lost.”

That’s when the Mark sparkled, almost sending me to my knees. “Fuck!” I gasped, instinctively leaning on the shoulder of the nearest person, who happened to be Solas. “That was a bad one,” I groaned out.

Solas helped me back on my feet and as I straightened up, I realised they were all staring at me. Whether it was because of the cursing, or because the Mark acting up weirded them out, I’m not sure.

I gave them my best Hero Smile ™. It was only partly fake, since my hand was still aching like a bitch. “Don’t worry guys. Leliana is right, the mountain path is the safest.” I nodded at her. “We can still save those soldiers, and it won’t take too much of our time.”

“You can’t possibly know that,” Roderick said.

Cassandra gave a meaningful look to Leliana. “Earlier, the prisoner knew one of the bridges was going to explode,” she stated. “We were able to save the lives of several soldiers because of him.”

That made Leliana, Varric and Solas look at me with wide eyes. “How is that...” Leliana drifted off. A look of epiphany came over her. “You kept mentioning dreams.”

I scratched my neck. “I would see why you would think that,” I said, remembering the prophetic dreams she’d had in Dragon Age: Origins. “But my situation is the opposite of yours.” I gestured around us. “This is the dream.”

Solas hummed thoughtfully, drawing my attention to him. “You say you have reason to believe this is all a dream,” he said, “but what would make you believe it is reality?”

I opened my mouth, then shut it. He had a point. “... Nothing,” I said, scowling. “Pretty much everything that happens could be explained by my own mind playing tricks with me. I’ve had dreams before where the usual dream checks had no effect.”

I could feel my mind reaching for the obvious conclusion.

“Stop talking,” I said, gripping my head. “I don’t want to think about this.”

Solas backed off. “As you wish.”

“Tiny is right,” Varric said. “As interesting as all this talk about dreaming is, we should postpone it until after we close up that green hole up in the sky.”

Dwarves don’t dream, do they? Must be weird for him to listen to all of this dream talk.

Cassandra saved me from further headache. “Leliana,” she said. “Gather everyone left in the valley. Everyone.”

Leliana nodded, and off we went.


 

You know how in the game, the cut scene made it seem like it took just a couple of minutes for the Herald and their party to get to the area with the ladders? Well, my weird dream decided that cut scenes were boring, so we had to make quite a trek in the snow before we got to climb and kill more demons.

“You said Corypheus had help,” Varric said out of nowhere.

Cassandra gave him a disapproving glance.

I looked at him, my eyes wide. Wow, I was really fucking this up, wasn’t I? Because I had opened my mouth and babbled away several times now, I’d spoiled the whole surprise concerning Corypheus’s identity.

“You’re not supposed to know any of this,” I said, my breath coming out faster. This is a dream. This is a dream. This is a dream...

“I told you not to question him until later,” Solas said, coming to my rescue. He gave Cassandra a look I couldn’t quite decipher. Probably conveying ‘he’s totally crazy, so stop asking questions’.

Cassandra nodded and glared at Varric.

Varric raised his hands in surrender. “Sorry,” he said, not sounding sorry at all. “But when a Qunari with a glowing hand claims that a dead enemy is suddenly not so dead, I get curious.”

“Doesn’t matter, does it?” I muttered. “It’s a dream. What a shame...”

Solas slowed down until he was walking on my left. “Adaar,” he said pointedly, and it took me a moment to realise he was addressing me. That was my name now. “Whether or not you believe this is a dream, it would not be wise to treat it as such. Dreams can be just as dangerous as real life.”

I shook my head and laughed. It wasn’t a very nice laugh. “But they shouldn’t be, Solas,” I said. “Dreams are scenarios made by your brain, using memories as building blocks. They’re not real.” Solas opened his mouth to say something, but I cut him off. “And no, there are no demons or spirits. That’s all part of this world, but they’re as real as you are!”

His expression darkened and he grabbed my forearm, stopping me. Huh, for such a slim elf he was hella strong. “As intriguing as your thoughts are, promise me something,” he said. “Just for now, treat everything like you would if it was real.”

I stared at him. Right. This was Fen’Harel, and he probably didn’t like anyone saying he wasn’t real, whatever form he was currently occupying. “Sure.”

“Swear it on something you hold sacred,” Solas dared. At that moment, I could have sworn his sharp eyes were staring straight into my soul.

I blinked and looked away, suddenly feeling small in his presence although I was nearly head and a half taller than him. I noticed that Varric and Cassandra had stopped too, some distance ahead of us, and were staring at the two of us curiously.

I looked back at Solas, and nodded. “I swear on...” I thought quickly. Ah, yes. “...on Dorian and Bull.”

Something about my tone of voice must have placated Solas, because his shoulders relaxed slightly. “These two people are that dear to you?” he asked curiously.

I chuckled, suddenly feeling embarrassed. “You could say that,” I said with a faint smile and scratched my neck. I only shipped the heck out of them. Those two were the One True Pairing. I might have also had a massive crush on both of them, but well... That wasn’t important.

Solas nodded and let go of my arm.

I glanced at Varric and Cassandra, who were pointedly looking away, but I knew they had probably heard us talking. My face grew heated. “Let’s continue,” I said and caught up with them with only a couple of strides. Long legs for the win. I passed Varric, who looked thoughtful.

“Varric, pretend you didn’t hear that,” I said, grimacing. “If this is indeed reality, I don’t need you writing about the insane outbursts of the Hera--- uh, the weird Qunari with the glowing hand.”

Varric, my beautiful Varric, caught my drift. “Well, now that you mention it, I do have a couple of stories that could rival your own...”

To Cassandra’s detriment, Varric entertained us with his tales of some particularly crazy brand of Kirkwall citizen and before we knew it, we’d reached the ladders.

“The tunnel should be just ahead,” Cassandra said as I started climbing. “The path to the temple lies just beyond it.”

“What manner of tunnel is this?” Solas questioned right behind me. “A mine?”

“Part of an old mining complex,” Cassandra confirmed. Wow, the wind was really starting to howl in my ears, the higher up we got. “These mountains are full of such paths.”

“And your missing soldiers are in there, somewhere?” Varric sounded dubious. Ah, for a dwarf, he didn’t really like caves. I assumed that extended to mines, as well.

“Along with whatever has detained them,” Solas quipped.

“We shall see soon enough.”

I waited for the others on the last platform, nervously shifting my weight from one foot to the next. Solas came up first and gave me a searching look.

“Are you alright?” he questioned.

I took a deep breath. “Sure,” I said, giving him an attempt of a smile. “I’m just kinda nervous now that I have to...” fight demons and think they’re real.

Solas nodded. “You have done adequately so far,” he said reassuringly. “You will be fine.”

“Adequately?” I said, giving him a playful glare. “Gee, thanks.”

Varric reached the top and joined us, a bit out of breath. “That was too many ladders for my taste.”

I grinned at him, pretending to be more courageous than I felt. Fake it ’til you make it, right? “Shall we kick some demon ass, Varric?” I asked.

Behind him, Cassandra had reached the last platform as well. “This is no joking matter,” the Seeker growled out. “We need to find those missing scouts.”

Varric gave me a mischievous look. “Well, Bianca’s excited,” he said, shrugging.

I must have let out a strange sound, because the three of them turned to look at me with equally weirded out expressions. “Sorry,” I whispered. He said the thing...!


 

The tunnels were bit of a blur, the heat of combat getting to me, adrenaline flowing through my veins. I remember hearing splashes and crunches, my maul hitting its targets and various demon fluids dirtying my armor. I must have made quite the sight by the end of it, because when we reached daylight again, even Cassandra was giving me concerned looks.

“What?” I asked, blinking my wide eyes. I shook my head to clear it, and suddenly felt fatigued.

Varric whistled. “You were swinging out that maul like your life depended on it, Tiny,” he said.

I raised an eyebrow. “Doesn’t it? You all keep insisting this is real.”

Cassandra shook her head. “You should preserve your strength. If you tire out, you’ll be useless.”

I scowled at them and crossed my arms. “It was a blur, sir,” I quoted Hamilton.

“Why does that feel like a quote?” Varric wondered.

I smirked at him.

Solas dug through his bag and handed me a vial. “Drink this,” he said. “We cannot have you collapsing in the middle of a fight.”

I took it cautiously. “What is it?” I said, opening the cork and sniffing it. “It’s not lyrium, is it?”

“You don’t know what lyrium looks like?” Solas asked, then at my expression he hastily continued, “Of course not, it’s just a rejuvenation potion.”

“Well, I know it’s blue,” I muttered. I was never going to willingly ingest titan blood. Eugh. Suddenly, I was glad I wasn’t a mage after all.

I gulped down the potion and we trekked on. It wasn’t long until we came across bodies of the missing scouts.

“That cannot be all of them,” Cassandra said.

“So the others could be hold up ahead,” Varric reasoned.

I nodded. “You’re right, we should hurry.”

We broke into a run.

“Our priority must be the Breach,” Solas interjected. “Unless we seal it soon, no one is safe.”

“I’m leaving that to our Qunari friend here.”

There it was, another rift. “We have to close that,” I said, stopping for just a second to give a meaningful look to Solas and Cassandra. “Look out for terror demons!”

I hate terror demons.

“Sealed, as before,” Solas said, giving me a slight smile as the rift closed. “You are becoming quite proficient at this.”

“Let’s hope it works on the big one,” Varric quipped.

“I really hate terror demons,” I gritted out in response.

Solas had done his best to shield me and Cassandra with his barriers, but one of the sons of bitches had gotten to me and thrown me on my back. It was going to bruise pretty badly. Nope, not thinking about that.

“You cannot take another potion so soon after the last one,” Solas murmured. “But the rejuvenation potion should still be working to some extent.”

“Thank the Maker you finally arrived, Lady Cassandra,” one of the scouts said, drawing my attention to them. “I don’t think we could’ve held out much longer.”

“Thank our prisoner Lieutenant,” Cassandra said, turning to look at me. “He insisted we come this way.”

The scout saluted me the Fereldan way. “You have my sincere gratitude.”

I made my way to them. “It’s fine,” I waved her off. “Are all of your guys okay to walk? The way back should be clear for now.”

The scout nodded. “No one was hurt too badly.”

I let out a sigh of relief. For a moment there, I had been worried I would have to teach them some of my very limited first aid. I had no idea how much the general population of Thedas knew about the workings of a human body. “That’s good.”

“Go while you still can,” Cassandra urged.

“At once,” the scout said. She barked orders at the other scouts and they were off.

“The path ahead seems to be clear of demons as well,” Solas pointed out.

“Let’s hurry, before that changes,” Cassandra said. “Down the ladder, that’s the way into the Temple.”

I looked back at them. “Why do I always have to go first?” I asked. I was fine with heights going up, but going down was another matter.

“You have the Mark,” Cassandra said pointedly.

“Glowing-mark-of-doom privilege,” I muttered, very pointedly not sliding down the ladders like in the games, because that was just insane.

Varric snickered.

“So, holes in the fade don’t just accidentally happen, right?”

“If enough magic is brought to bare, it is possible.”

“But there are easier ways to make things explode.”

“That... is true.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes. “We will consider how this happened once the immediate danger has passed.”

We were nearly there.

“The Temple of Sacred Ashes,” Solas said.

“What’s left of it,” Varric muttered.

I stopped suddenly, remembering the blackened figures of the victims, turned into statues for the rest of eternity. Just like in Pompeii. My face twisted and I felt green. “I don’t know if I want to see this...” I whispered.

“There is no other way,” Cassandra said.

Solas came to my aid, once more. “Here, take a hold of my shoulder. You can close your eyes until we’re past the worst of it.”

I stared at him. “Thanks,” I said and took a hold of his shoulder. I hadn’t expected such kindness from the Dread Wolf. But then again, he was probably just a figment of my imagination and therefore nice to me.

Dorian and Bull, I reminded myself. Just for now.

Walking with your eyes closed gets old pretty fast, but it was better than the alternative. It had looked horrifying in the game, and I had no desire see it in dream real life.

“That is where you walked out of the Fade,” Cassandra said gently, “And our soldiers found you.”

I grasped Solas’ shoulder a bit tighter, reminding myself not to look. There was a smell... And as much as I tried not to breathe in through my nose, the scent was somehow making its way up my nostrils.

“They said a woman was in the rift behind you,” Cassandra continued, oblivious to my little panic attack. “No one knows who she was.”

She must have discounted my ramblings in the dungeon, because otherwise she might have mentioned the possibility that it was Divine Justinia.

“You can look now,” Solas said and I did.

The Breach was huge up close. And even more terrifying.

“Yeah, I’m just going to...” I said with a strangled laugh and crouched down, hugging my knees. “It’s just a dream. Dreams can’t hurt you...”

Solas shot me a disapproving look.

“You’re here!” Leliana said, relief evident in her voice. “Thank the Maker.”

I heard her run to the four of us, then stop. There was a silence. “Is he...?”

I stood up suddenly, getting head rush and swaying on my feet. “I’m fine!” I said, giving Leliana a bright smile. I don’t think it was very convincing, since Solas had to steady me so I wouldn’t fall. “Let’s close that Breach!”

She looked at me dubiously.

Solas sighed deeply. “There is nothing to be done,” he said. “We must continue.”

Cassandra nodded in agreement. “Leliana,” she said, “have your men take up position around the Temple.”

Leliana nodded once, then left.

“This is your chance to end this,” Cassandra said. “Are you--?”

I didn’t wait for her to finish asking. “Nope. But let’s do it anyway.”

“This rift was the first,” Solas said. “It is the key. Seal it, and perhaps we seal the Breach.”

Cassandra nodded. “Then let’s find a way down. And be careful.”

We stepped forwards and a voice boomed out from beyond the fade. “Now is the hour of our victory. Bring forth the sacrifice.”

“What are we hearing?” Cassandra breathed out.

“At a guess? The person who created the Breach,” Solas answered.

I nodded. “Yeah, that’s Corypheus.”

Varric scowled. “That little shit...”

“Oh, there’s red lyrium here,” I remembered as we made our way down. “Don’t touch it, it will probably make you insane.”

Varric shuddered. “Good advice, Tiny.”

“Keep the sacrifice still.”

I jumped down next to one of Leliana’s scouts. He startled, and I gave him an apologetic smile. The rest of the party followed me and we approached the rift.

“Someone, help me!”

“What the fuck is going on here?”

“Now, this bit I do remember,” I said, happy to provide some answers.

“That was your voice. Most Holy called out to you, but...” Cassandra trailed off, confused.

The rift expanded a bit and we saw a green, shadowy version of the events. Probably memories from the fade slowly leaking to the real world through the rip in the veil. Corypheus made an intimidating figure even when you couldn’t see most of his darkspawn features.

A large Qunari walked upon the scene.

“What the fuck is going on here?” the Qunari said. He had large horns that curved upwards, and he was build like... well, a Qunari.

“Oh, is that what I look like?” I asked, turning to Solas. He was watching the scene curiously and didn’t answer.

“Run while you can, warn them!”

“We have an intruder. Slay the Qunari!”

There was a bright flash and the memory faded.

“You were there!” Cassandra whirled to me. “And the Divine, she... Was this vision true? What are we seeing?”

I shrugged. “As far as I know, yeah,” I said. “My last memory before waking up in the dungeon is happening upon that. Then the whole place exploded.”

“Echoes of what happened here,” Solas theorised from the sidelines. “The fade bleeds into this place.”

We walked to him, our discussion about the Divine on hold for now.

“This rift is not sealed, but it is closed,” Solas continued, turning to face the three of us. “Albeit temporarily. I believe that with the mark the rift can be opened, then sealed properly and safely. However, opening the rift will likely attract attention from the other side.”

“Yeah, there’s going to be a huge ass pride demon.” I wiggled my eyebrows at Solas. Hehe, his name was pride...

Solas pointedly ignored me.

“Stand ready!” Cassandra barked to the soldiers.

At the Dread Wolf’s signal I approached the rift, held out my hand and pulled. The thing exploded, sending me to my back, and causing a huge ass pride demon appear out of thin air.

Varric, Solas and Cassandra glanced at me, startled.

“I told you so,” I muttered, and then decided to leave gloating for later. I didn’t want to get stepped on. “Kill all the smaller demons first so I can disrupt the rift! That will leave the pride demon defenceless!” I shouted.

Strangely enough, everyone took my word for it.

I also took care of the smaller ones, but mostly I tried to stay out of the the figurative fire and literal electricity, and to keep my eye on the rift. It took a couple more tries than I assumed, but just as I was ready to give up the pride demon went down for good.

“Now, seal the rift!” Cassandra yelled. “Do it!”

I reached and pulled, and holy shit, this one was different. I felt it growing bigger, and bigger, and the tugging became stronger and stronger, and it was going up....

It exploded and I went down.

 

 

 

                                  “.....head wound...”

 

 

 

      “....he..... injured.....”

 

 

 

                       “.... potions.....”

 

 

 

 

    “.... I don’t think.....”

 

 

 

                          “... three days....”

 

 

 

I snapped back to awareness with a thunk. Because I had fallen out of bed. The side of my head hit a bedside table, or a dresser, because there was an aching pain coming from my left temple. I reached up, and froze.

“jESuS CHriST,” I yelled, sitting up, “HAVE I GROWN HORNS OVERNIGHT?”

There was another thud, this time accompanied by clinking. An elf had entered my bedroom only moments before, carrying some sort of a wooden crate filled with things that were now scattered across the floor.

Wait. An elf?

“Oh you’ve got to be kidding me,” I groaned, my memory coming back to me. “Am I still dreaming?”

The elf didn’t answer. She? He? They were staring at me, terrified out of their mind.

I stood up. Then, realizing that I was almost naked save for some sort of night gown, I fell back on the bed and crawled under the covers. “I’m done with this,” I moaned, and turned to the poor elf. “Go tell Cassandra that, okay? I’m done with this!”

“Right at once, she said,” the elf muttered and ran off.

I shook my head, made myself into a blanket burrito. “A qunari burrito,” I giggled.

Someone knocked on the door.

“This cabin is empty!” I exclaimed.

Varric opened the door with a raised eyebrow. “You wouldn’t make a good rogue,” he said, stepping inside. “Now, would you mind explaining why that elf just came running out of here like there were darkspawn on her tail?”

I shrugged.

Varric stared at me for a moment, dragged a chair from the table and sat facing me. “So, you’re awake, huh?”

I laughed. “Wrong!”

He shook his head. “You were out for four days, Tiny.”

“Yeah, four days in dream time,” I insisted and drew the blanket tighter around myself. “You probably stopped existing while I was out cold, since you’re all figments of my imagination and all.”

“What about your promise to Chuckles?” Varric inquired, the cheeky bastard.

I stared at him. “I told you to forget hearing that,” I said, my cheeks heating up. Dorian and Bull. I had sworn on Dorian and Bull... How embarrassing. “Besides, that was only for a while.”

“I don’t remember him saying you could stop,” Varric said pointedly. “And if you really believe this is a dream, then it hasn’t that long since that conversation, has it?”

I nodded. “You’re right...” I trailed off and narrowed my eyes. “I thought dwarves don’t dream.”

“I’m not an idiot, Tiny,” Varric chuckled. “Besides, I’ve done research.”

Ah. “For a moment there I thought I had you,” I said.

He smirked, and stood up. “Not in your dreams.”

I chuckled.

“Well, you better dress up,” Varric said, “Cassandra wants to see you in the Chantry.”

I looked down at the blankets and the night gown I was wearing underneath. “Right,” I said. “Is there anything here that fits me?”

Varric’s smile turned possibly evil. “Well now that you mention it...”


 

Spoils of the Qunari seemed to be a thing, because I was currently wearing the heavy armor from the DLC in question.

“I’m so disappointed,” Varric grumbled.

He had obviously been hoping that the revealing outfit would embarrass me, since it left little to the imagination. But instead of letting the leather straps touch my bare chest, I tied a red piece of cloth around my chest, similar to the fashion female characters wore it in the game. Dressing up had been pretty weird, seeing as this body was definitely male, but I had pointedly ignored it. No matter what Solas kept insisting, it was just a dream after all. Better not get attached. I did like the pronouns though. Very refreshing.

I grinned at him. “No sane person would wear this armor without a bit of an adjustment in the the Frostback Mountains,” I pointed out. Even with my little addition, I was probably going to need an extra layer. It was cold up here. I had no idea how the Iron Bull survived without a shirt. “It’s designed for the tropic.”

There had been quite a crowd outside the cabin, but thanks to Varric’s presence we passed them without any trouble except for the occasional whispers and pointed fingers. We soon reached the Chantry building.

“Well, this is where I take my leave,” Varric said and abandoned me with a wave.

I squared my shoulders and stepped in. I had to squash my first instinct which was to go around looting things and reading books and scrolls, because I knew I was late enough as it was.

“Have you gone completely mad?” Chancellor Roderick’s voice echoed in the Chantry hall. “He should be taken to Val Royeaux immediately, to be tried by whomever becomes the Divine.”

“I do not believe he is guilty.” Aww, Cassandra was defending me.

“The Qunari failed, Seeker,” Roderick said, “The Breach is still in the sky. For all you know, he intended it this way.”

He had a point, as annoying as he was.

“I do not believe that.”

“That is not for you to decide. Your duty is to serve the Chantry.”

“My duty is to serve the principle on which the Chantry was founded, as is yours, Chancellor.”

I had heard enough of the familiar conversation so I just strode in.

The Chancellor pointed his finger at me. “Chain him!” he ordered, “I want him prepared for travel to the capital for treason.”

I rolled my eyes and crossed my arms. The two guards guarding the door looked from me to Cassandra hesitantly.

“Disregard that,” Cassandra said, “and leave us.”

That they did obey.

“You walk a dangerous line, Seeker,” Roderick spat out.

“The Breach is stable, but it is still a threat,” Cassandra said, scowling. “I will not ignore it.”

“I closed the Breach,” I said. “I could have died.” Not that the Inquisitor ever had, but... My point still stands.

“Yet you live,” Roderick pointed out with a sneer. “A convenient result, insofar as you’re concerned.”

“Have care, Chancellor,” Cassandra growled. “The Breach is not the only threat we face.”

Leliana stepped in. “Someone was behind the explosion at the Conclave. Someone Most Holy did not expect. Perhaps they died with others,” she said with pointed look at the Chancellor, “Or have allies who yet live.”

“I am a suspect?” the Chancellor gasped.

“You, and many others,” Leliana admitted.

“But not the prisoner?” he asked with a frown.

“I heard the voices in the Temple,” Cassandra said. “The Divine called to him for help.”

I raised a hand and they all turned to look at me. “First of all, Chancellor Roderick here maybe be a bit of a d-bag, but he has nothing to do with the Conclave.”

Leliana gave me a startled look as if she hadn’t expected me to defend him, and so did the Chancellor.

“I told you who was behind the explosion earlier, didn’t I?” I pointed out. “And as it happens, they do have allies who still live, and I know who those are too.”

Cassandra shut her eyes with a sigh.

“What?” Chancellor Roderick asked, confused. “You admit to knowing who is responsible?”

“Yes,” I said, rolling my eyes, “But it wasn’t me.”

“He admits it!” He swirled to face Cassandra with crossed arms. “So his survival, that mark on his hand, all a coincidence?”

“Providence,” Cassandra said, her eyes glinting. “Maker sent him to us in our darkest hour.”

My eyes widened. Oh, no. “Umm, yeah, I don’t think so. Why would your Maker send me?” I mean, apart from the obvious reason, that I was accidentally possessing the body of the Inquisitor..........................

Oops.

Yeah, what a fucked up dream. It had to be.

“The Maker does as he wills, it is not for me to say.”

I shut my eyes. “Even if it means your Maker made a big fucking mistake and got the wrong person?”

Cassandra snorted. “I don’t know about that,” she said, and I opened my eyes to look at her. “However, I will not pretend you were not exactly what we needed, when we needed it.”

Leliana nodded. “The Breach remains. And your Mark is still our only hope of closing it.”

“This is not for you to decide!” Roderick growled out.

Cassandra dumped a thick, familiar looking book on the table.

Stab it! I cheered internally.

“You know what this is, Chancellor,” Cassandra said. “A writ from the divine, granting us the authority to act. As of this moment, I declare the Inquisition reborn.” She stalked towards Chancellor Roderick. “We will close the Breach, we will find those responsible and we will restore order. With or without your approval!”

Roderick stared at her for a moment, before huffing and storming off.

Cassandra let out a frustrated sound.

Leliana touched the book softly. “This is the Divine’s directive,” she said in reverence. “Rebuild the Inquisition of old. Find those who will stand against the chaos. We aren’t ready,” she admitted. “We have no leader, no numbers, and now, no Chantry support.”

“But we have no choice,” Cassandra said gravely. “We must act now. With you at our side.”

I stared at them. The air was filled with anticipation.

“Okay, good luck with that,” I said, turning to leave. “I’m just going to wake up now.”

Cassandra caught my arm in her steel grip. “You cannot deny this any longer. You are awake.”

I looked down at her. At Cass. Cassandra Pentaghast. The Seeker of Truth. She was such a badass, and I was ruining the moment. “You have no idea how cool this moment should be. I should be taking your hand and swearing to do my best and shit, but I can’t,” I said, my mouth tightening. “I’m not...”

Leliana touched my shoulder on the other side. “You were here when we needed you,” she said. “You’ve already saved countless lives of our soldiers. That is enough.”

My eyes felt hot. “It’s not enough,” I said, shaking my head.

Cassandra’s grip slackened. “It has to be.”

I let out a sigh. “If you say so,” I said and turned away to wipe at my eyes. Like I was fooling them... These ladies missed nothing. “So, is this a good moment to talk about Corypheus?”

Cassandra and Leliana exchanged glances. “It can wait until our first official meeting when the others are here,” Leliana said. “Until then, you should rest. Maybe talk to Solas about your dreams.”

“Rest and talk to the Egg,” I muttered. “Got it.”


 “You still insist you’re dreaming,” the Egg in question said disapprovingly. “You promised.”

I shrugged. “You said for a while, so...” I was sitting on a rock next to his cabin, overlooking most of Haven. “Besides, I feel like I’m going to break if I have to take all of this in for real.”

Haven was big. Bigger than in the games.

“You cannot use such an unhealthy coping mechanism,” Solas said, staring down at me. “It will chip away at your mind.”

I crossed my arms. “Well maybe I can just come to a slow eventual realisation, instead.”

Solas sighed. “You are stubborn,” he said and sat down next to me. Huh, didn’t expect that. He turned so his body was facing me partially. “Will you tell me your story?”

Your story. The words made me shudder, and not just because I was in active denial. I didn’t want these people, my dear characters, thinking I was even crazier than they already thought I was. “Yeah, maybe we shouldn’t talk about this either.”

Solas frowned. “Why not?”

I laughed. “I don’t want to sound even more insane.” I lifted my hand to comb the fingers through my hair (an old habit), only to realise it was now tied up on a small bun on top of my head. Weird. I dropped my hand. “I already said I used to be human.”

Solas hummed thoughtfully, and he gave me a smile. It looked kinda... placating. “So you’ve said.”

“You think I’m crazy,” I said, my face falling.

“No,” he hastily said, “I don’t think so. However, I don’t necessarily think you’re right, either.”

I scowled at him. “How can I not be wrong but not right either?”

“It is possible that the memories you have aren’t yours,” Solas said thoughtfully, rubbing his chin. “Maybe they were mixed up in the fade.”

I stared at him, wide eyed.

He noticed, and turned to look at me.

I narrowed my eyes. Don’t ever speak to me or my son again, Solas, I thought and got up. “Okay, that’s it. I’m going to find Varric.”

Solas stood up as well, shrugging. “It is only a theory,” he said.

“It’s a dumb theory!” I growled, “I know my race, like you know yours, Pride.”

His eyes narrowed. “Perhaps I was wrong,” he said frostily. Ugh, great. Now he’s mad at me? He’s the one who was supposed to make me feel better, but made me doubt my own damn memories. “You certainly act human enough.”

“Whatever!” I said and walked off. “I’m going to the tavern. Or wherever Varric is.” I paused. “Probably the tavern, then.”

Varric was indeed in the tavern. I waved at him from the door. Flissa stared at me with wide eyes (I didn’t miss the way her gaze drifted to my horns) as I ordered some lunch and whatever passed as a drink, and made my way to Varric’s table.

“What time is it?” I wondered. “I just ordered a drink.”

“It’s always a good time for a drink,” Varric grinned, and raised his own pint in a greeting.

“Solas is a jerk,” I said, as Flissa brought me a plate of... something. I think it might have been porridge. I scowled down at it, imagining the Egg in its place. “Will you tell me a story so I can get my mind off it?”

“What am I?” Varric asked, “your personal storyteller?”

“Might as well be,” I muttered, thinking of the ways he was probably going to profit off the Inquisition’s story. “Will you tell me about Hawke? What was he like?”

Varric’s expression softened slightly. “Ah, alright...”


 I spent the afternoon in pleasant company. The storyteller was interrupted some hours later, as a scout came to inform I was needed in the Chantry. I drained the rest of my pint and left Varric muttering to himself. Apparently my never ending list of questions had given him something new to write about.

Cassandra was waiting for me at the entrance.

“Are you feeling any better?” She asked as soon as I was in range.

I nodded. “No thanks to Solas.” I sighed. “But I ate while Varric entertained me with stories about Hawke.”

Cassandra scowled. “The Champion...”

I gave her a smile. “It was just what I needed.”

The Seeker sighed, and her eyes were drawn to my hand. The one that was glowing. “Does it trouble you?”

“It doesn’t hurt much,” I said. “But I don’t know...” Since the Inquisitor eventually lost their arm due to the mark, I wasn’t too fond of it.

Cassandra nodded. “What’s important is that your mark is now stable, as is the Breach. You’ve given us time, and Solas believes a second attempt might succeed, provided the mark has more power,” she said. “The same level of power used to open the Breach in the first place. That is not easy to come by.”

“So, mages or templars, huh?” I asked, glancing at her.

Surprise crossed Cassandra’s features momentarily. Then it was gone. “Yes.”

She led me to meet the War Council.

“May I present Commander Cullen, leader of the Inquisition’s forces,” Cassandra said, gesturing to him.

My eyes had already been drawn to the impressive figure on the other side of the table, wearing armor similar to that of a templar, with dark brown fur on his shoulders. I had thought he would be taller... Oh, it was me who was freakishly tall.

Cullen gave me a slight smile and a nod. What a cutie pie. “Such as they are,” he said, looking down. “We lost many soldiers in the valley, and I fear many more before this is through.”

“This is Lady Josephine Montilyet,” Cassandra said, and pointed to the woman dressed in a golden blouse. “Our ambassador and chief diplomat.”

Her eyes were wide, but her smile was gentle. “You’re... taller than I’d heard.”

“You guys are shorter than I thought,” I said, grinning. “It’s all very relative.”

“And of course, you know Sister Leliana,” Cassandra said.

Leliana nodded at me. “My position here involves a certain degree of...”

“She is our spymaster,” Cassandra said bluntly.

“Yes. Tactfully put, Cassandra.”

I fought to hide my grin. “Yeah,” I said. “It’s really awesome to meet you all in person. Of course, I already knew your names,” giving Cassandra a wink. “I’m just that cool.”

Josephine was scribbling down my words as I said them. “Awesome,” she muttered, “Cool?”

Leliana gave me a look I can only describe as downright scary. “And how is that, exactly?”

I let out a sigh. “Well, you know how I kept telling you this was all a dream?”

Cassandra groaned, hiding her face. “You’re not still going on about that.”

“It doesn’t matter,” I said, crossing my arms, “Even if this is real, I know stuff. Things that haven’t happened yet. Personal details about all of you that you haven’t shared with me.”

Cassandra straightened up, suddenly alert. “And that’s how you know about... Corypheus?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said, swallowing. “We should probably lead with that.”

Chapter Text

Although I was pretty sure it was all an elaborate dream, I chose to take this bit seriously.

“Okay,” I said and scratched my chin thoughtfully. “Can I have a quill and something to write on, please?”

“Of course,” Josephine said and, gave me exactly that.

They all stared at me curiously as I dragged a chair from the corner and sat down. I scribbled down what were the most important points to cover, while withholding what I could. If all of this got out somehow, Corypheus might change his plans and then we all would be totally fucked. I decided to not start with the whole, “I’m a human from another world” bit, because that was a bit too much.

It took a couple of minutes, and I had to cross out several things to phrase them better, but I managed it.

Looking at the piece of paper, I closed my eyes briefly, and stood up. The advisors took a step closer in anticipation, but I snatched up the paper so it was out of their line of sight. “Now, all of this information is strictly need to know...” I paused, and looked at Leliana. “Wait, is this a saying here?”

Leliana nodded. “It is.”

I grimaced. “If any of this information gets to the enemy, I can’t help you much,” I said. “If that happens, I’ll be going into this as blind as all of you.”

The advisors all exchanged worried glances, but Leliana held my gaze. “I'll make sure that won't happen,” she vowed.

I hesitated briefly, thinking of Varric and Solas. I could always fill them in later. The way they’d acted in the beginning of the game made me think they didn’t get on too well with the advisors at first. Probably because Solas was an apostate and Varric had been violently interrogated about the Champion. So I doubted they would be too keen on attending... However, I was sure neither of them would appreciate being left out, since I was about to drop some major truth bombs.

I folded the parchment in two.

“Actually, can someone go get Varric and Solas, really quickly?” I said. “They need to know this stuff, too.”

Leliana stepped out of the room briefly. I think she sent a servant or a guard to pick them up, because she wasn’t gone long. “In the meanwhile...” she said. “I am curious about your writing. I couldn’t read it.”

Cullen agreed, as did Cassandra. Even Josephine reddened slightly, indicating they all had been trying to read it while I was still writing.

I grinned at them and waved the closed piece of parchment. “It’s not Engl--- I mean, Common.”

“What is it, then?” Josephine asked.

I shrugged. “My native language.”

Leliana made a thoughtful sound. “You do have a strange accent.”

Before I could elaborate, Varric and Solas stepped through the doors into the War Room. Solas gave me a raised eyebrow, while Varric surveyed the room with interest. He was probably already jotting down mental notes on how to describe the moment if he ever put it into one of his books.

“Why are we here?” Solas asked briskly.

“Because I asked for it,” I said, and grimaced. “This is going to be really weird, so I’d rather get it all explained in one go. At least until we get new members.”

“This should be interesting,” Varric muttered.

Cassandra rolled her eyes at him.

I ignored them, and opened the piece of parchment again to gather my thoughts. “Okay,” I started. “I’ll repeat what I already said. This information is strictly need to know.” I glanced at Varric and Solas, “If any of this gets out to the enemy’s hands, we’re fucked.”

Josephine shifted in the corner of my eye, holding in laughter at the cursing.

“As some of you might have noticed, I just know things. Also I’m completely insane for even speaking to you, but let’s not dwell on that.”

Solas crossed his arms at the remark.

I swept my gaze from Solas to Cullen. “What’s important is this,” I emphasized. “I know things that will happen. And this knowledge is heavily centered around the Inquisition. With this information, I’m hoping we can avoid some unnecessary deaths from ever occurring, just like at that bridge earlier.”

Cassandra nodded, and I noticed Cullen standing up little straighter at that. “And how do you know this?” he questioned.

I shook my head. “Even if I tried to explain, it would make no sense to you guys. All you need to know is that I’m on your side, and I will do my best to help the Inquisition in saving Thedas from the Breach and those behind it.”

Cassandra sighed. “So you will not even try to explain?” she asked, crossing her arms.

Guess it couldn't be helped. Glancing at Varric, I got an idea. “Okay. How about this...” I started. “You have read Varric’s Tale of the Champion. You have read it several times, so you remember what some of the characters say, when things happen in the story, and so forth.”

Varric’s eyes widened. “Where are you going with this?” he whispered, voice hoarse.

“Now, let’s say some day you wake up, and oops, you’re in Kirkwall!” I exclaimed and threw my hands up. “You start to walk around, and suddenly you walk straight into the Champion of Kirkwall, there with his trusty sidekicks including the author himself.”

Cassandra, Cullen and Josephine were all staring at me blankly, but Varric and Leliana had varying expressions of horrified realization on their faces.

“So, what would you think?” I said, pointedly looking at Solas, whose expression hadn’t changed at all. “Would you think you were crazy? Perhaps that it was all a dream?” I huffed. “In the end, it doesn’t matter what I think. I know what will happen, because I know this story.”

“Our lives are not a story!” Cullen said, a frown on his face. “This is ridiculous.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, covering my face. “I’m not very good at explaining this.”

Solas stepped up. “Perhaps we should forget the how, and focus on what you know.”

I gave him a small smile. “I will focus on some basic facts about Corypheus for now, and what we need to do in order to close the Breach,” I said and turned to Cassandra and Leliana. “Corypheus is behind all of this. He was there at the Temple of Sacred Ashes, he was that shadowy figure we saw in the fade rift.”

In the corner of my eye, I noticed Josephine starting to scribble on her notepad.

“Josephine!” I barked. She startled and dropped her quill. “Don’t write any of this down.”

“Yes, of course...” she muttered, “My apologies.”

“It’s fine,” I said and tried to smile at her. It probably didn’t work too well, but she looked slightly less nervous. “As I was saying... Corypheus worked with the Grey Wardens to imprison the Divine.”

“What?!” Cassandra and Cullen yelled at the same time. It didn’t escape my notice that Leliana hadn’t reacted much. Perhaps she already suspected the Wardens.

I nodded at them. “I don’t claim to understand it, or even remember all of the facts, but Corypheus can mimic what the Wardens know as the Calling.” I glanced at Varric, who was stone faced. “Uh, for those who don’t know, the Grey Wardens are initiated by consuming a potion of sorts. The main ingredient might be darkspawn blood? Anyway, they bear the taint, and they know that at some point they will hear the Calling. That’s when they usually choose to go to the Deep Roads and end their lives by fighting the darkspawn.”

I looked around the room and noticed that some of the inner circle looked ashen, like they had heard the most disgusting thing ever. Only Leliana and Varric were handling the news well. They probably already knew most of this.

“Anyway...” I trailed off, hesitating. “Corypheus created a fake Calling so all Wardens heard it, and then basically used their fears against them. I can’t remember what he promised them, but he must have been persuasive.”

Cassandra leaned against the table, her hand on her mouth. “This is worse than we thought,” she said.

“I agree,” Cullen said, flexing his fists. “If this Corypheys was able to manipulate even the Wardens, then...”

“Hawke and I were sure Corypheus was dead,” Varric hissed out. “How could he survive?”

“Um... He does that thing Archdemons do?” I pointed out.

All eyes in the room turned to me.

“What?” Leliana whispered. We all heard her, because the room was deathly silent.

“Yeah. Umm, he can somehow take over the nearest body that bears the taint, and sort of... re-grow himself?” I said, awkwardly scratching my jawline. “Don’t ask me how, I have no clue.”

“What else is there?” Cullen asked, starting to look like he desperately needed a drink.

I glanced at the parchment in my hand. “Oh,” I said, turning to Leliana. “There is a spy in the Inquisition ranks. I don’t know if it’s just this one guy, but this is exactly why we should be careful.”

Leliana’s eyes hardened. “Who?”

“Agent... Butler?” I said, “Yeah, I think that’s his name. I think he killed someone...? Or will, anyway.”

Leliana sighed. “He hasn’t done anything yet, so you must understand my caution to condemn him. But I will keep eyes on him at all times.”

I nodded. “Just, you know, don’t kill him. We need to know who he’s working for.”

Leliana held my gaze steadily for a while, but eventually relented. “As you wish,” she said, nodding.

Looking around the room, I felt a sliver of anxiety make its way up my throat. “Umm, and then there is the mages versus templar’s issue. You’re right in thinking either mages or templars would do.”

Cullen perked up at that. “Then we should approach the templars,” he said.

I shook my head, thinking of the envy demon masquerading as their leader. “It won’t be that easy...” I trailed off. “And there is a situation in Redcliffe we’ll need to resolve anyway.”

“So you think we should pick the mages?” Leliana asked.

I nodded, but then paused. “Well, actually... I have a plan that might allow us to get the help of both. But that requires the help a person we’ll meet in Redcliffe. And since it has to do with magic, an area of which I am no expert on, I don’t have a clue if it will actually work.”

Solas raised an eyebrow. “What is this plan?”

I grinned faintly. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”

He frowned, disapproving.

“Anyway, the Redcliffe mages will be conscripted by a Tevinter Magister, mostly against their will. And we are not going to leave them to that fate,” I said, sweeping my gaze around the room, daring them to disagree. To my astonishment, none of them did. “Oh, and that same Magister also happens to work with Corypheus.”

Cullen and Cassandra leveled me with an unamused look.

“Always the ‘Vints,” Varric muttered.

“Unfortunately, neither the mages or the templars will speak to us yet. The Chantry has denounced the Inquisition,” Josephine pointed out, and pointed her quill at me. “And you specifically.”

Getting back on track, finally. “So they think I did it?” I sighed, leaning against the table.

“That is not the entirety of it any longer. Some are calling you, a Qunari, the Herald of Andraste,” Josephine explained. “That frightens the Chantry. The remaining clerics have declared it blasphemy. And us heretics for harboring you.”

That was fast. But then again, I had been asleep for four days.

“Chancellor Roderick’s doing, no doubt,” Cassandra muttered.

“It limits our options,” Josephine continued. “Approaching the mages or templars for help is currently out of the question.”

In the game, I had mostly played the type of characters who either disliked the title, or didn’t really care, as long as they could help people. But I really hated the title.

“Herald of Andraste, huh,” I said, pinching the bridge of my nose. “This is going to get annoying, isn’t it?”

“People saw what you did at the Temple, how you stopped the Breach from growing... They have also heard of the woman seen in the rift when they first found you. They believe that was Andraste,” Cassandra said, then hesitantly added, “Those soldiers you saved haven’t forgotten how you warned them, either.”

“Great,” I said and crossed my arms. “I made it worse.”

“Even if we tried to stop that view from spreading...” Leliana trailed off.

“Which we have not,” Cassandra continued.

The corner of Leliana’s mouth shifted a bit. “The point is, everyone is talking about you.”

Cullen nodded. “It’s quite the title, isn’t it,” he said. “How do you feel about that?”

I stared at him. “Can’t you guess?” I asked blankly. “Seriously, I don’t know what to think anymore. I think if there is a Maker, or Andraste, or whatever you want to call them, they made a serious mistake picking me.”

Solas emitted a thoughtful noise. I glanced at him, but his face was unreadable.

Cullen chuckled. “Tell that to the Chantry, and they wouldn’t know whether to agree or disagree with you.”

Leliana shook her head. “People are desperate for a sign of hope. For some, you’re that sign.”

“And to others, a symbol of everything that has gone wrong,” Josephine said.

There was a brief silence, as we pondered the implications.

“So,” I wondered dryly, “Are we going camping to my absolute favourite place, the Hinterlands, to talk to a certain Mother Giselle in order to gain her assistance?”

Josephine’s eyes widened, and she looked down at her notepad, bewildered. “How... did you do that? That information wasn’t on any of the visible pages.”

Everyone in the room turned their gazes to me.

I shrugged. “I did just tell you I knew things, in a rather lengthy way. Weren’t you listening?”

Varric laughed. “Yeah, but that doesn’t make it any less weird when you guess what we’re about to say, Tiny.”

That’s when I realised what had been nagging at me in my subconscious. I turned to Varric with a pointed finger. “You need to come up with another nickname, Varric!” I exlaimed. “That one is taken.”

Varric raised an eyebrow. “By whom?”

“Trust me, you’ll know when the time comes.” I said and grinned at him, then turned to face Cassandra, Josephine and Cullen, who were staring at the two of us, slightly bemused. “When are we leaving?”

Leliana glanced from me to Varric, and to Solas. “We’re still waiting for a report from one of our agents.”

I nodded, and Cassandra stepped in. “When it arrives, we will be ready to depart as soon as you’re well, Herald.”

My grin fell. “No,” I said. “Nope, nobody call me that to my face. I don’t care what you call me when you’re talking about me behind my back, but absolutely no Herald talk in front of me.”

“Very well,” Casandra said, frowning. “Adaar?”

I smiled at her. “That’s much better. And I’m totally fine, so really, there’s no need to delay.”

Cassandra nodded.

“Now, who else is hungry?” I said. “Because I’m starving.”

“I’ll join you,” Varric said. “I didn’t get to finish my story from earlier.”

“Unfortunately, I have duties to attend to,” Cullen said, followed quickly by Cassandra, Josephine and Leliana, who all escaped the room. Leaving only Solas.

“What about you?” I asked him, “Feel like sharing a meal with the crazy Qunari, or do you have mysterious errands to run too?”

Solas shifted his shoulders slightly. “I have no objections,” he said.

“So eager,” I drawled out. “Let’s go.”

At the tavern, I realised I didn’t actually have any money to order food with. I have no idea who paid for the lunch I had eaten earlier, since I hadn’t even thought about it. There had been no coins in the clothes I was wearing during the prologue, so I assumed I had none. Turns out, they had taken Adaar’s--- my belongings, after I was found near the Temple. I would probably find those with Josephine or Cassandra, unless they had been already delivered to my room.

“I have a room?” I asked, blankly staring at Varric.

“Of course you have a room. You’re the Herald of Andraste,” he said dryly as the three of us settled around a table. “They can’t just throw you in any tent like a commoner.”

“I find it bothersome no one mentioned your belongings after you woke up,” Solas pointed out. “They should have returned those to you immediately, since you are no longer under suspicion.”

“Yeah,” I said, “that is odd. I should probably ask about it.” They probably forgot, with all the Herald stuff going on and the Chantry at their heels. Commander Cullen didn’t look too well rested. None of them did.

“I’ll pay,” Varric offered with a grin. “It can’t do any harm to have the Herald of Andraste in debt to you.”

“Thanks,” I said, briefly glaring at him, then sighing. “But I swear, I’ll pay you back. I’ll have something to eat and some tea, please.”

Solas looked at me, his eyebrow raised in what I think might have been surprise. “You like tea?”

I grinned, while Varric flagged down the waitress. “Probably not. The one they have, anyways. But I doubt you guys have coffee.”

“Coffee?” Varric said. “I haven’t heard of it.”

I let out a deep sigh. “Explaining would be too depressing since you don’t have it,” I mourned.

It didn’t take too long for the food to arrive, and to my relief it was just more porridge, but with the additional side of white bread and cheese, and what I recognised as potatoes and butter. Thankfully, no meat.

“Heck yes,” I said, and took a large bite of the bread.

“You are enthusiastic about such a simple meal,” Solas observed.

I swallowed before speaking. “Well, so far there’s been no meat, so I’m all good.”

Varric took a sip of his ale, and raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?”

I shrugged. “I haven’t eaten meat in ages, so it’s not something I really look forward to. It will probably mess me up a bit, even.”

“You... don’t eat meat?” Solas asked, bewildered.

“Is it a religious thing?” Varric asked. “I’ve heard of people within the Chantry who abstain from eating meat.”

I shook my head. “No, the meat business is just really fucked up where I come from, so choose not to take any part in it.”

“I can’t imagine anything that would make me stop eating meat,” Varric wondered.

I glanced at him, and then at Solas, who was equally confounded. I shook my head again. “No, you couldn’t. Can we drop this? I don’t really like to talk about it. I’m going to have to eat meat while I’m here or starve, anyway, so discussing it would be pointless.”

Varric spread out his hands in silent apology. “I can talk to Flissa and let her know. While traveling, it’s a different story, but while we’re in Haven it shouldn’t be too big of an issue.”

Realizing I had been tensing up about it, I relaxed a bit and smiled. “Thanks.”

Flissa came back to our table to hand me my tea. I thanked her, and took a sip.

My face must have twisted up, because both Varric and Solas started laughing.

I needed to teach these poor people how to brew good tea.


 

We received the message from Scout Harding that evening, which meant we would leave at dawn. By then, I had managed to solve the mystery of Adaar’s missing belongings. Apparently the elf I had scared to death that morning was supposed to deliver them to me, but finding me awake had rattled them so much they had forgotten about it. I ended up picking them up from Josephine.

But that brought me back to the issue at hand. Packing for a journey to the Hinterlands.

Something I had absolutely no idea how to do.

“Varric,” I moaned, walking towards his campfire, “Help me.”

Varric looked up from his writing, and saw me pathetically holding my backpack. “What’s wrong?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“I don’t know what, or how to pack,” I said.

“What sort of an mercenary are you?” Varric chuckled. “Sit down and stop fretting.”

I sat down, and buried my face in my hands. “This is not a good beginning for an adventure,” I muttered. “I know I told you earlier, I’m not a Qunari, or a mercenary. In other words, I know nothing.”

“How about we start with what you’ve already packed, huh?” Varric said.

I looked up at him. He looked patient, and not like he was going to announce to the whole camp that the Herald of Andraste didn’t know how to pack a simple travel bag. “Umm, there’s one change of clothes, couple more of underwear-- uh, smallclothes, and rope.”

“Rope?” Varric wondered.

I shrugged, thinking of Samwise Gamgee. “Well, there’s this one character who always says you need rope when you go for an adventure...”

Varric chuckled. “Not bad,” he said. “You got your things back from the Ambassador, didn’t you? Was there anything in the bag already?”

I thought back. “Rope. Knives. A blanket. Some clothes...” I trailed off, and took a small ceramic jar from my pocket, showing it to Varric. “And this!”

Varric took it from me, opened the lid and took a sniff. “Yep, that’s horn balm,” he said and handed it back.

I took it back with wide eyes. “And....?”

“You use it on your horns, or they drop off,” Varric said with a snicker.

I grasped my left horn protectively. “No,” I gasped. They were very nice horns.

“Relax,” Varric chuckled. “I was just messing with you. To be honest, I’m not sure what you Qunari actually need it for.”

I looked down at the jar. It wasn’t big, but I estimated it weighed at least twice as much as a full water skin. If I left it, I could carry more water or food. It probably wasn’t even that important...

I put the horn balm back into my pocket, away from the bag.

“So, what else do I need to pack?”

Chapter Text

Ah, the Hinterlands. The least favourite zone. Or at least, least favorite among those players who couldn’t stop creating new characters and replaying the first 10 hours of the game infinitely. (Yes, I did that a lot.)

Did I mention we would be walking there? Starting at the ass crack of dawn?

Such fun.

After making myself ready for the day, and double checking I had packed everything Varric advised me to pack, I made my way to the tavern for some breakfast. Although the sun wasn’t even up yet, there were couple of stragglers here and there getting ready. I even spotted one two soldiers on their way back from the Tavern, quite drunk. Lucky for me nobody paid me any heed, and I was able to arrive at destination without any unnecessary commotion.

“We need to discover coffee beans,” I groaned out, plopping myself on a seat at Varric’s regular table, making the poor seat creak under pressure. Right. My new body was made of over 200 pounds of pure muscle.

Look, I’m not going to go into details, but it was pretty confusing (and a little bit exhilarating) waking up that morning and actually taking the time to wash up and dress myself. I spent an embarrassing long time pinching at my rock hard biceps and poking at my impressive, and equally carved out flat chest. I had a six pack, for god’s sake. Not to mention the horns and... other parts. It was weird. Not bad, just weird.

It briefly crossed my mind that I had effectively body snatched the main character of the game. But that way lies madness, so I had decided not to think about it too much.

“Again with the mysterious coffee,” Varric hummed. “Makes me wonder what we’re missing out on.”

“It tastes horrible, but it makes waking up early way easier,” I said, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

Varric made a thoughtful sound and continued writing. There was an empty tray containing the remnants of his breakfast, including an empty bowl and a cup.

I stared at him for a moment. “Fun or work?”

“Both,” he said, not bothering to look up.

“Hmm,” I hummed and dropped my chin onto my arms, still keeping an eye on his writing. I wondered if he was writing to Hawke. Or perhaps Merril, or Fenris. If everything had gone as it usually did in my playthroughs, Anders was alive. Still, somehow I doubted Varric kept up correspondence with him. He probably had spies onto him, yes, but I couldn’t imagine the two of them exchanging letters.

Flissa delivered my breakfast and distracted me. I thanked her with what I hope at least resembled a smile, and dug in.

“You should hurry up,” Varric said after I’d taken a couple of bites. “We’re leaving any minute now.”

I took bigger mouthfuls of the porridge and a big gulp of the tea. “Yeah,” I said after quickly swallowing, “But I can take the bread with me and eat it on the way.” Like an anime character late for school, I thought, my lips twitching at the idea.

“Oh, Cassandra would love that,” Varric drawled out with a smirk. “You really aren’t that good of a mercenary, are you?”

“No,” I snapped, already getting sick of the comment, since I had explained it several times. “I am not. But as long as this thing is stuck on my arm,” I continued, waving the hand that had the Anchor, “You’re stuck with me.”

Varric raised his eyebrow. “So it seems,” he said, softer than before.

Oops, I hope I didn’t scare him off.

We spent the rest of the meal in what I hoped was a compassionate silence, then met up with Cassandra and Solas at the gates of Haven.

“There you are,” Cassandra said, scowling at the two of us. “I was thinking I would need to send a search party for the two of you.” She eyed the piece of bread I was nibbling. “What is that?”

“The Herald decided to save time and eat the rest of his breakfast on the way,” Varric stated seriously, but there was an undercurrent of amusement to his voice.

Cassandra’s eye twitched. “Is this your doing, Varric?”

I strolled up to Solas, who was watching the two of them bicker with a bemused expression.

“Good morning,” I greeted, and took a bite of the bread.

He nodded at me. “Are you sufficiently prepared for the journey ahead?” he asked.

“As well as I can be,” I said. At his questioning look, I explained, “Varric helped me pack.”

“Ah,” Solas said, falling silent, like that explained everything. To be fair, it kind of did.

“Soooo, are you excited to get out of here?” I asked, bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Can’t be that fun to stay in a camp full of trained templars if you’re,” I did air quotes, “an apostate.”

He raised an eyebrow at me. I was unsure if it was because of the air quotes, or because of what I said. “It will be pleasant to be moving again, that much is true.”

I stared at him. He stared back.

“Cool,” I said, already feeling awkward. “Hey Cass, are we going or what?” I called out.

Cassandra straightened up a bit, and turned my way. “Yes, we should depart. Do you have everything you need?”

I nodded. “I think so.”

“Good,” she said. “Scout Harding and her team will meet us at the rendezvous point near the Crossroads. If the weather keeps well, we’ll be there in nine days.”

“Nine days?” I said weakly. “That’s... great.”

I already missed cars.


 We spent the first half of the day in silence. I felt awkward, both wanting to speak and not wanting to speak at the same time. I wanted to ask them personal questions, some of which I already knew the answers to, and questions that would have made no sense coming from someone who was pretty much a stranger to them.

Except... Now they knew that I knew stuff about them. Whether or not they actually believed it.

I slowed down my stride until I was next to Varric, who had been keeping to the end of our little party along with Solas.

“Varric, I was wondering if I could ask you a question?”

The author in question glanced at me. “Ask away, Glowy.”

I blinked. “No.”

“No good, huh?” Varric murmured. “Fear not, I’ll come up with something.”

“Anyway, I was wondering about Hawke,” I whispered, throwing a glance at Cassandra’s back to make sure she couldn’t hear. “You know how I said that I know this story?” I said, gesturing my hands around us.

“Yes...?” Varric said, raising an eyebrow.

“Well, I also know the story of the Hero of Ferelden. And the Champion of Kirkwall.”

Varric sighed. “Of course you do.”

“But there are some details that could vary,” I continued. “Mainly concerning the Hero and the Champion themselves.”

“And what detail is that?” Varric asked, his expression deceptively smooth.

“Well, mostly the question of who the hero was,” I explained. “They could’ve been a Dalish elf, or a city elf. They could’ve been a dwarf, or a human. There were these different... Variations in the story. And the first one was always the question of who they were.”

Varric seemed confused. “That’s a rather large detail, buddy.”

“With Hawke though,” I pointed out, “It’s always Hawke. But there was one thing I wanted to know... What was their first name?”

Varric stared at me for a moment. I don’t know what he was looking for, but apparently he was satisfied with what he found, because he answered, “Joel Hawke.”

I let out a breath. “Good.”

“Good?” Varric questioned. “You can gather that much from just his name?”

I scratched my neck. “Pretty much. The default was always Garret Hawke. But the story I’m most familiar with, the story that I really know... That’s always Joel Hawke, the mage extraordinaire.”

Varric snorted. “Of course you know he was a mage,” he drawled. “Why wouldn’t you? It’s not like I went to great lengths to never mention it in the book.”

I shrugged. “Sorry.”

“Interesting,” Solas butted in, having been listening to the two us the whole time, the bald bastard. “Even I didn’t know that particular detail.”

I leveled him with a pointed look. “Imagine that. Even you don’t know everything.”

Solas let out a small sigh. “So you are still angry from yesterday,” he wondered.

“Oh, imagine that,” I growled. “You implied I don’t even know who the fuck I am. Of course I’m still angry.”

“I have to admit everything you’ve said since has made me doubt that theory,” Solas admitted. “Your version of the events is rather...peculiar.”

I glared at him. “Yes, well. It’s true, in case you were wondering.”

He let out an indifferent sound. “Indeed.”

Damn that Egg. I turned my attention back towards Varric, suddenly getting an idea.

“Hey Varric, wanna hear a foreign song?” I grinned. “To pass the time.”

He raised an eyebrow. “You sing?”

At the corner of my eye, I saw Cassandra turning her head towards us, curious.

“Well, haven’t done much singing in this particular body, but I reckon I can still carry a tune,” I admitted.

“Then, be my guest,” Varric said with an amused smile.

I nodded and went silent for a minute, trying to think of the perfect song for the moment. I also wanted to pick a good one, since I was giving Varric, Solas and Cassandra their first taste of Earth music.

As it came to me, I grinned.

I imagined the violin in the background, adjusted my step to the rhythm of the song, tapped my hand against my side, and sang. My voice, deeper than I was used to, surprised me at first. But it ended up fitting the song better than well. After all, Voltaire was a guy.

You, there on the bridge
Where’ve you been, what’s your name?
And you, there on the wall
Where will you go to, once you fall?
You, lost at sea
Do you need me, do you need directions?
Hey, put down the gun
What are you thinking?
You were someone’s son

The taste of tears
The sting of pain
The smell of fear
The sounds of crying, oh...

During the first part of the song, I had been alternating between looking at all the three of my companions. Both Cassandra and Varric looked fascinated, even Solas looked more thoughtful than usual. I closed my eyes before next chorus so I wouldn’t have to look at them. The lyrics were about to hit pretty close to home.

A long, long time ago, I fell to this place
From another dimension
And thrust amongst the beasts
And the way they behave, it borders on dementia
Now through all these years
I can barely take it
I don’t think I can make it
Take me away from here
I wanna go home
I’m so sick and tired of--

That’s when my voice cracked a bit but I kept going. Realising I couldn’t just walk blindly, I looked towards the horizon.

The taste of tears
The sting of pain
The smell of fear
The sounds of crying, oh

As you’re standing at the edge of your life
What do you remember?
Was it all you wanted?

I’m trying to earn a set of feathery wings
I wish I could protect you here
Oh, please don’t cry, now, smile
As you’re standing at the edge of your life
Your troubles are over
Mine are just beginning

I’m trying to earn a set of feathery wings
To take me away from here
It’s me you leave behind...

Oh, if only I could have been there
I’d be a hand for the sinking
If only I could have been there
I’d be a prayer for the dying
See the pain etched in my face,
Oh, I’m so sick and tired of

The taste of tears
The sting of pain
The smell of fear
The sounds of crying, oh

As you’re standing at the edge of your life
What do you remember?
Was it all you wanted?

I’m trying to earn a set of feathery wings
I wish I could protect you here
Oh, please don’t cry, now, smile
As you’re standing at the edge of your life
Your troubles are over
Mine are just beginning.

I glanced at Cassandra, Varric and Solas, like trying to convey a message. I wasn’t sure what that message even was, but I hoped they still understood it.

I’m trying to earn a set of feathery wings
To take me away from here
It’s me you leave--

You’re gone from here
Don’t leave from here
Don’t leave me here
I hate it here
You’re gone from here
Don’t leave me here
I need you here
I need to see you smile....

As my voice faded away, there was a moment of silence. We kept walking.

“Well,” Varric broke the silence, “That was a hell of a song, Feathers.”

I blinked, looking at him. “Feathers?”

“There were several mentions of ‘wanting to earn your feathery wings’,” Varric smirked. “It’s a good as name as any.”

“I’m only now realising how many references are going to go over your head,” I commiserated, but smiled nonetheless. “There’s this myth concerning these sort of... higher beings back home, called Angels. They do everything that God tells them to, they can be messengers, soldiers, anything. They’re typically portrayed as humans with huge, feathery wings. In some of the tales, they need to help mortals in order to earn their wings.”

“And this song references those tales?” Solas asked curiously.

I nodded.

“It wasn’t a very happy song,” Varric pointed out.

“There are happy songs, sad songs, love songs...” I trailed off. “I don’t think there’s anything we don’t have songs about.”

“I’d like to write it down, if you don’t mind,” Varric said.

I laughed. “Yeah, sure. It’s not mine though, so don’t give me credit.”

Varric hummed noncommittally in answer.

Solas looked between the two of us, then asked, “You said there are stories about our world, as well known as Varric’s books. Are there any songs about those stories?”

My mind flashed immediately to couple of fan made songs... But those were full of spoilers.

“You know, Solas...” I grinned, “There is one.”

I let out a laugh, and looked straight at Varric, and started to sing: “Fight for your values, and fight for your friends! Fight through this Blight, find the light at the end! Through the Age of the Dragon, the people will talk... Of the day they were saved by a hero... named Hawke!”


 During the rest of the day, I entertained the party with couple of more songs, mostly introducing them to magic of Disney, until my voice was starting to crack, putting an end to the musical theatre. We stopped to eat twice, once at noon and again around sunset. That’s when Cassandra decided we should make a camp and retire for the day.

I was surprised to find I wasn’t overly tired. My feet ached slightly from all the walking, and I definitely wouldn’t be bursting into song anytime soon, but I wasn’t as deadly exhausted as I had expected to be at the end of the day.

“You know, Feathers,” Varric said as we all sat gathered around the fire that night, bellies full and full of good humour. “If I didn’t know better, I would start to suspect you’re in fact a bard.”

“Sticking with that name, huh?” I grinned, and shrugged. “The songs I know, I know well enough to sing because I’ve listened to them so many times. Now, don’t ask me to sing some random songs I’ve heard like once, because even I can’t do that.”

“Spend a lot of time in places with singers, then?” Varric continued. “Like taverns?”

I shook my head. “No, we have technology that allows us to record a song, and then listen to a perfect copy of it as many times as we like later.”

“Huh,” Varric said, and took out his notebook, obviously writing the idea down. “How does that work?”

I made a face. “Honestly? I don’t really know. I only know how to use it, not how to make it.”

Varric lowered his notebook in disappointment.

Solas chose that moment to join the conversation. “Maybe it’s not a best idea for you to be sharing these details with us, even if you did know.”

Damn those Welsh vowels. He really did sound like Gareth David-Lloyd. Which instantly made me want to agree with him, even though most of what came out of his mouth annoyed the hell out of me right now.

I shrugged, “It’s only music. It’s not like it’s bombs or anything.”

“Bombs?” Varric asked curiously.

“Yeah, you know, like Qunari black powder?” I asked, and saw both Solas and Varric’s eyes widen. “We have that technology at home as well, except we’ve perfected it way further. You can either kill one person very precisely, like a bowman would using these tiny metal things called ‘bullets’, or kill an entire countries with one bomb.”

“And I guess you wouldn’t know how to make either of these?” Varric asked, his shoulders tense.

I shrugged again. “Not any more than I know of how the records work.” It wasn’t technically true. I knew more about atom bombs and guns than I did about music records, but they didn’t need to know that. And it wasn’t like I wanted anyone in this world to own weapons like that, either. It would do them no good.

Varric immediately relaxed, as did Solas. Huh, I hadn’t even noticed him tensing up.

“If you’re quite finished, we need to decide on the rotation, and then go to sleep,” came Cassandra’s voice from behind me.

I looked up at her, then behind her at the three tents. There were four of us, so maybe I would be bunking with Cass.

“Feathers and I will share a tent,” Varric said, “If Solas doesn’t mind the first watch?”

Solas nodded head, “I have no objections.”

“Oh... I thought...” I trailed off, bit disappointed. I had expected to be able to talk to Cass alone, maybe get some sort of a friendship going. We hadn’t had many chances to talk privately after I woke up. You know, like a sort of a sleepover?

“Did you want to take the first watch?” Cassandra asked, totally obvious to my thoughs. “It’s said to be the easiest.”

Of course. To them, I was still just some random dude with a glowy arm, a man nonetheless. No way Cass wanted to share a tent with me.

“No, it’s fine,” I said, doing my best to smile sincerely. “I’ll gladly bunk with Varric. I just hope he doesn’t snore.”

“Funny,” Varric said flatly, “I was about to say the same about you.”

Chapter Text

Varric aimed for the foot, and the mage went down.

“Please...” the mage pleaded, scrambling backwards. His eyes darted left and right in panic. “I just wanted to be free.”

“Get him!” Cassandra roared from somewhere.

I lifted up my maul, but hesitated. He looked so young. Maybe seventeen, nineteen at most. By his clothing, I recognised him to be one of the circle mages who left with the others, not one of the real apostates who had lived in the wilds.

“Too slow,” came a voice behind me.

Then a blinding pain in my back. The templar Solas was fighting had slipped past, and thrust his sword right through me.

I looked down at the blade that was poking through my chest. The blood glistened prettily in sunlight. The world tipped off its axle, and I was suddenly on the ground.

“Too bad,” Cassandra said, looking down at me.

“H-help...” I gurgled, holding out a hand towards her.

“I guess he wasn’t really the Herald after all,” Solas mused.

“I came up with that nickname for nothing,” Varric said, “How disappointing, Feathers.”

I looked at their scowling faces, my vision blurry from tears. What a shit way to die. Untrusted and alone in a strange world.

“Get up,” Varric said. His mouth didn’t move.

I frowned. What?

“Get up, Feathers,” Varric said again, and woke me up with a kick to the shin.

“Ouch!” I sat up, and rubbed my eyes. My whole face felt stuffy. Had I been crying in my sleep?

Varric walked past me towards the back of the tent.

“You were moaning,” he pointed out with a chuckle. “Nice dreams?”

“The opposite, actually,” I said quietly, brushing strands of hair away from my face. My heart was pounding like I had been in a fight.

“Ah,” Varric said and grimaced. He rummaged through his bag and took out his notes, a quill and ink. “Your turn is up. I need to catch up on work before the others get up.”

I nodded, and tied up my hair on a bun with a strip of leather.

“I really miss coffee,” I muttered, and quickly dressed. Which was a miracle in itself. The Qunari armor I wore was a bitch to put on. At first I needed help to put on the bigger armor pieces, since they weren’t exactly comfortable to sleep in. But as our journey progressed, and my tent buddy started getting annoyed at having to help me out every morning, I slowly learned how to do it on my own.

It addition to the huge shoulder pads, it had lots of straps, weird bits of cloth and leather hanging from it. I had kept the piece of cloth I added back in Haven, so I wouldn’t freeze to death in the mountains (it also doubled as a pyjama top). Seeing as the armor had quite a lot of bare skin even after that, I also started out with a heavy scarf around my neck. However, the further away we got from Haven, the less time I spent wearing it, and now it was at the bottom of my rucksack.

It was to be our last day of traveling. According to Cassandra, we should reach Crossroads by noon. Unlike the rest of them, I knew for sure we would be walking into a battle field, so I had been mentally preparing for it since we left Haven.

Speaking of fighting, I hadn’t had too many nightmares during my time in Thedas. In fact, I couldn’t recall having a single dream. Suddenly having a nightmare unnerved me deeply. If I was dreaming now, that mean I was now connected to the Fade in a way I wasn’t before.

I shook my head.

It was disturbing how quickly I had come to accept this place, including its governing rules of magic, as real. But walking down the Frostbacks, seeing details that weren’t in the games, and just being plain bored did a lot to lessen my suspicions. I had kept up a daily stream of Disney songs in order to entertain my companions. I didn’t want to shock them too much as of yet, and they seemed to react to Disney with much better humour than to Voltaire (although Solas later confessed he preferred the latter). There would be more time for sad, deep songs when we got back to Haven.

Once I got the hang of it, even the night watches became routine.

Back home I would have put the telly on to create some background noise after waking up from a nightmare. Instead, I was surrounded by the soft sound of nature around me and the occasional shuffle from our tents. The details of the nightmare were beginning to fade, but the uneasy feeling didn’t.

Thankfully I only had to sit in solitude for roughly two hours until Solas emerged from his tent. After the first night, I had questioned why the Egg got his own tent. No offence to Varric. He was good company, apart from the snoring. The mage cited some bullshit like “needing to be able to access the Fade without any interruptions”. I thought he might have just been shy, and too used to sleeping alone.

“Morning,” I said softly, and wondered if elves ever got bed hair. Maybe that’s why the Dread Wolf decided to get rid of his.

Solas nodded at me, and began to brew himself a cup of tea. Weirdly enough, he didn’t do it every morning. The action led me to question what type of tea Solas drank. Maybe it was caffeinated, like black or green tea, and he only drank it when he felt tired.

“I bet you would be the type to drink coffee,” I muttered low but obviously not low enough, because Solas turned his gaze towards me. “Coffee is somewhat similar to tea. It has caffeine,” I explained. “Caffeine makes you feel less tired.”

Solas raised an eyebrow, and looked back and forth between his tea, and me. “It does indeed sound useful. Where does this plant grow?”

I scratched the base of my horn absently. “Warm climates mostly.” Maybe the Iron Bull would know it.

“In the meanwhile,” Solas said with a tiny ghost of a smile, and raised up the pan he was using. “Would you like a cup?”

Maybe he noticed the mood I was in after the nightmare, maybe not. But his unexpected offer made my chest feel lighter. I wondered about that mysterious smile for the rest of the morning, my nightmare forgotten. Eventually Varric and Cassandra came out of their respective tents and started up breakfast.


 

We made good progress, and met up with Harding and her scouts before noon.

“Herald of Andraste,” Scout Harding said, looking up at me. “I’ve heard the stories, everyone has. We know what you did at the Breach. We might not know much about the Qunari, but you won’t get any backtalk from anyone here. That’s a promise.”

“You must be Scout Harding,” I grinned down at her. “Pleasure to meet you. And I don’t want to correct you, but I’m not technically Qunari. Every Qunari living outside the Qun is called Vashot.”

“Ah,” she said, relaxing a little. “I’ll make a note of it, sir.” I didn’t doubt her. “I, all of us here, will do whatever we can to help.”

Varric chuckled. “Harding, huh? Ever been to Kirkwall’s Hightown?”

Harding glanced at him. “I can’t say I have, why?”

Varric grinned. “Because you’d be Harding--”

“-- in Hightown,” I finished and grinned back at Varric, who let out a surprised laugh.

Cassandra made a disgusted sound at the both of us.

“We should get to business. The situation is pretty... dire,” Harding said, glancing from me to Varric dubiously. “We came to secure horses from Redcliffe’s old horse master. I grew up here, and people always said that Dennet’s herds were the strongest and the fastest this side of the Frostbacks. But with the mage-templar fighting getting worse, we couldn’t get to Dennet. Maker only knows if he’s even still alive. Mother Giselle is at the Crossroads helping refugees and the wounded. Our latest reports say that the war has spread there too. Corporal Vale and our men are doing what they can to help protect the people, but they won’t be able to hold out very long.”

I nodded. “Thank you, Harding. We’ll do our best.”

Harding saluted, and walked away from the group.

Cassandra gave me a searching look. “You handled that almost impressively,” she said, like it pained her to admit it.

“Geez, thanks Cass,” I said dryly. “Anyway, now that we’re just minutes away from the Crossroads, I gotta warn you guys. We’re walking into middle of a mage-templar fight when we arrive, so you should be prepared.”

My three companions all nodded gravely.

“The trail continues just down that hill,” Cassandra said, having asked directions from one of the scouts mingling about. “Let’s go.”

I would like to say that it was horrible. That I couldn’t do it, or that I threw up and fainted without killing a single human being. But when you refuse to think about it, killing is disgustingly easy. I did my best to just knock out most of them, especially the mages, but when you’re swinging around a huge ass maul, there’s a thin line between knocking someone unconscious and giving them permanent brain damage.

“You did good, Feathers,” Varric said to me, when I just stood there, watching the bodies on the ground and trying to get my shuddering breath under control. It was worse after, when you had the time to think about it.

“You’re definitely starting to get the hang of this,” Cassandra added.

I glanced at Solas, who was looking at me intently.

“Your first time fighting humans?” Solas guessed softly. He realised I hadn’t done this before. It wasn’t the same as killing demons. Demons just popped out of existence or turned to ash. Human bodies stayed.

Varric and Cassandra exchanged worried glances.

I rubbed the bridge of my nose and breathed in. And out.

After the worst passed, I asked: “Do you know how to check if any of them are alive?” Cassandra nodded. “Okay, good. I want them all checked, and the ones who are still breathing are to be given into Mother Giselle’s care. Question them when they wake up.”

Cassandra stepped up to me, confused. “They are criminals.”

In the corner of my eye I noticed movement. There were couple of Inquisition men watching us, listening.

So I raised my voice. “Most of them are just idiots, caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time. Chain them up if they’re violent, but their wounds should be seen to.”

Cassandra stared at me for a moment, her face stony. For a moment I thought she would argue. Then she nodded, and repeated my order to the men who had been watching us. They got to work immediately.

“Interesting choice,” Solas said, stepping up to me.

“What, giving them a chance to explain themselves?” I snorted, crossing my arms.

Solas shook his head. “Mercy,” he clarified.

I stared at him, surprised. “It’s not mercy until they’ve been cleared of their crimes,” I explained. “Until then it’s just common decency. Innocent until proven guilty.”

Solas stared at me, his head tilting like a curious puppy. “What an interesting concept.”

“Mother Giselle is over there,” Cassandra interrupted. “You better see her so we can move on.”

I sighed at the interruption, but nodded. “Yeah, you’re right. Let’s go.”

As always, Mother Giselle was tending to a wounded man, who didn’t want to be treated with magic.

“Don’t... let them touch me, Mother...” the man moaned out. “Their magic is...”

“Turned to noble purpose, their magic is surely no more evil than your blade,” Mother Giselle pointed out.

“What...?” the soldier asked.

“Hush, dear boy. Allow them to ease your suffering.”

I stood couple of meters away from them, feeling too awkward to interrupt them. When Mother Giselle seemed to be done and got up to approach another wounded, I stepped forward.

“Mother Giselle?” I asked, even though I recognised her.

“I am,” she said, turning towards me. “And you must be what they are calling the Herald of Andraste.”

I wondered if it was the horns, or the glowing hand that clued her in.

“You wanted to speak to me?” I asked, ignoring the Herald quip for now.

“I know of the Chantry’s denouncement,” Mother Giselle said, walking further away from the wounded. I followed her. “And I am familiar with those behind it. I won’t lie to you, some them are grand standing, hoping to increase their chances of becoming the new Divine. Some are simply terrified. So many good people, senselessly taken from us.”

I nodded. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Fear makes us desperate, but hopefully not beyond reason,” Mother Giselle said. “Go to them, convince the remaining clerics that you’re no demon to be feared. They’ve heard only frightful stories of you. Give them something else to believe.”

“You think I could do that?” I asked doubtfully. In fact, I already knew I couldn’t, since most of the chantry was full of bigoted idiots. Actually, it reminded me of good old Earth. They couldn’t accept anything that didn’t fit in with their interpretation of their Holy Book, no matter how much one argued, or used logic against them.

“If I thought you were incapable, I wouldn’t suggest it.”

I raised an eyebrow. “And if they refuse to listen to reason?”

“Let me put it this way,” she said with a small smile. “You need not convince them all. You just need some of them to doubt. Their power is their unified voice. Take that from them and you will receive the time you need.”

“Thanks,” I said. She didn’t give me any new information, but I didn’t want to be rude.

“I honestly don’t know if you’ve been touched by fate, or sent to help us. But I hope. Hope is what we need now. The people will listen to your rallying call. Like they will listen to no other. You could build the Inquisition into a force that will deliver us. Or, destroy us.”

“I don’t know either,” I admitted. “But hopefully it’s the first choice.”

Mother Giselle slipped me another hint of a smile. “I will go to Haven, and provide sister Leliana the names of those in the chantry who would be amenable to a gathering. It is not much, but I will do whatever I can.”

I nodded to her, and she walked away.

“She’s intense,” I said to Varric as we watched the Chantry Mother go.

“You can say that again,” Varric agreed.

“Corporal Vale is coordinating the Inquisition’s efforts in the area,” Cassandra told me. “We should speak with him next.”

I agreed, so we talked to Corporal Vale in his little camp. He told me the usual spiel. Nobody is doing anything to help, the refugees are cold and starving, find someone who can make potions, all that stuff. And he mentions Dennet and his horses.

After talking to the Corporal, I sat down on one of the crates and looked up at my companions. “Can I have a look at the map?”

Cassandra handed it to me silently.

“There’s a good place for us to camp here,” I said, pointing to the campsite near the lake.

Cassandra nodded. “We’ll go there first. And then?”

I gave her an amused look. “So you expect me to make the decisions, now, do you?”

Cassandra blustered, “Well, I...”

Solas butted in. “Since leaving Haven, something has changed. It’s been even more pronounced since we arrived. Your presence feels more solid. Unwavering,” he explained. “Besides, you seem to know where to go, and what to do next.”

Huh.

I looked towards Varric for help, but he nodded in agreement. The traitor.

“Okay, okay,” I said, raising up my hands. “But you shouldn’t trust me blindly, because to be honest, I’m not sure about anything right now.”

Cassandra nodded, relieved that Solas came to her rescue. “I agree with Solas,” she said. “I could feel it too. And despite your doubts, we would like to know what you think is the right action to take.”

“Right,” I said, scratching my chin. I could feel a stubble forming. Weird. “We make camp first. Then we need to take care of the immediate problems, like that whole thing with food and supplies. To the best of my knowledge, this area has a lot of rams, and at least one fade rift.” I pointed to the area around the Elven woman’s cottage. “Plus, as we walk around the area, we might come across apostate supply catches. If we mark those on the map, the soldiers can go get them and spread the supplies equally among the refugees.”

“Useful,” Varric muttered.

I grinned at him, and pointed to the area over the river. “After that, I say we go to Dennet’s to get the horses. And close whatever rifts we see on our way. Sound good?”

Varric grinned. “You’re quite the master strategist already, Feathers.”

I winked, and looked to Cass and Solas. “What do you guys think?”

Cassandra looked at the map, then at me. “It’s as good a plan as any,” she admitted.

Solas tilted his head in agreement. “Lead the way, Adaar.”

As we climbed up the hill towards the campsite, I sidled over to Solas to speak with him.

He looked at me curiously. “Yes?”

“I wanted to talk about what you said,” I hesitated, “...about me feeling more solid.”

“Indeed,” Solas said, crossing his arms behind his back and slowing down to a walk. “When we first met, I felt the Fade around you was confused, somehow scattered.”

“And you didn’t think to mention it to me before now?” I said, my face crunching up.

Solas looked sideways at me.

“I believed it to be because of the Mark,” he confessed. “But then it changed. And the others could feel it too.”

I snorted. “Of course.”

“Do you feel it?” Solas enquired, his eyebrow raised. “You have been more... stable, since we left Haven.”

I paused. To be honest, I did feel different... My thoughts were less scrambled. I could focus. Before, it was like there had been a layer separating me from the rest of the world and now it was gone. Also, there was the nightmare.

“I had a dream last night,” I admitted, not meeting Solas’s gaze. “A nightmare, actually.”

Solas stopped in front of me. We stopped walking.

“You didn’t dream before?” he asked, forcing me to meet his eyes.

“I don’t recall any, at least,” I ground out. “And I usually remember my dreams.”

“This is... disconcerting,” Solas said, his face falling. “Being connected to the Fade for the first time in your life could bring trouble. Even for you, who clearly isn’t a mage.”

“Demons?” I asked, rubbing my arm. “Yeah, I know. That’s why I thought I should mention it.”

Solas nodded, and opened his mouth to say something, but our conversation was cut short. The rest of our party had noticed us lingering.

“We’re here, Feathers, Chuckles,” Varric called out. “It’s nearly time for lunch, so stop dawdling!”

I broke into a sprint, grinning. “Hold your horses, Master Tethras! The same rations we’ve been eating every day for the past nine days aren’t going anywhere.”

Varric chuckled. “No,” he said, and pointed towards the waterfall flowing from the lake further up the hill. “But if we’re lucky, we’ll be feasting on some freshly caught fish tonight.”

I looked where he was pointing, and had to cover my eyes against the glare of sunlight bouncing of the flowing water. “I thought we were going hunting for the refugees,” I said, worried. “Empty promises don’t fill stomachs.”

Cassandra dropped her bags on the ground. “Adaar is right,” she said. “I’m equally tired of the rations, but we need to act fast. Who knows how long it takes to gather enough food to feed all of them.”

“Not to mention the situation with the supplies,” Solas pointed out. “Nights are getting cold.”

Varric grunted. “Fine,” he said. “Work first, fun later.”

Scratching the underside of my horn in thought, I suggested: “Maybe we should mention the lake to some of the soldiers. If they can manage to catch fish, that might provide some aid regarding the food situation down there.”

And so we did. After setting camp, we walked back to Corporal Vale and suggested that he order couple of his men to check out the lake. He agreed on the idea, and even received some volunteers from the refugees. Meanwhile, our little party traveled Southeast. Of course, we didn’t get very far, because after ten or so minutes of walking, the Mark on my hand crackled with green light.

There was something in the air. Not a smell, exactly. More like a feeling, like that sensation under your nose when you’re about to sneeze. I think it was present when we closed the other rifts on our way to the Temple of Sacred ashes, but I wasn’t sure.

“A rift,” Solas guessed.

I grimaced. “There’s gonna be a bunch of them here.” One of the multiple reasons I disliked Hinterlands so much.

There was a dark green crystal formation floating in the air just within out line of sight. As we approached it, the rift briefly expanded and spewed out some green wraiths.

“To the usual formation,” Cassandra barked, unsheathing her sword. “Adaar, you know what to do.”

“I came here to chew bubblegum and kick ass,” I said and reached for my maul. “And I’m all out of bubblegum.”

Chapter Text

Monster goo really sticks to your armor like nothing else. I was in a desperate need of a shower. Just one problem on that front. Thedas doesn’t have showers.

After closing not one, but two rifts in the span of an hour, our whole party was covered in said goo. Everyone except Varric, who had managed to keep his distance. I was so diving into the lake when we got back to camp.

“I wonder if someone still lives here,” the author in question said, glancing at the wooden cabin.

“Yep,” I answered, and wiped my face with a rag, doing my best to undo the damage. “And we’re going to help her.”

“Someone important, then?” Varric asked with a raised eyebrow.

I shrugged and walked towards the cabin. “Who isn’t?”

Taking a deep breath, I knocked on the door three times before taking a step back.

There was a brief shuffle from inside, then the door was cracked open just enough for the face of an elvhen female to look through it. She looked haggard, her dark hair was caked with mud and god knows what, and she narrowed her eyes at our party.

“What do you want?” she asked.

“We’re with the Inquisition,” I said, keeping my tone light. “Just wondered if you needed any help out here. It’s not exactly safe, with all the mages and templars running around.”

Her face softened a little. “The Inquisition, you said?” she repeated and opened the door wider. “Come in.”

I had to bow my head upon entering so my horns wouldn’t graze the doorway. The four of us shuffled inside awkwardly. I could see from the elvhen woman’s expression that she was surprised to see Solas among us, but she didn’t mention it.

“My name is Adaar,” I said and then gestured to the others. “This is Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast, Master Varric Tethras and Solas.”

“I’m Maura,” the woman said, leaning against a table. “I used to live here with my husband, until rogue templars caught him digging out a tree stump. They killed him and stole the ring from his finger, ‘in case it was magic’,” she spat.

“I’m sorry about your loss,” I said, already thinking ahead. “If we find them, would you like it back? We’re heading towards Dwarfson’s Pass right now, but we’ll circle back here eventually.”

Maura’s gaze went from me to Solas, then back again. “I doubt you’ll find it, but... yes. I would like it back.”

I shrugged, giving her a small smile. “You never know.”

“What was that all about?” Cassandra asked once we left Maura’s cabin and she was out of ear shot.

“Doing little things like this will make people trust in the Inquisition,” I explained. “Word spreads fast.”

“Hmm,” Solas said.

I glanced at him. There was a small smile on his lips.

“What?” I asked.

“You say you’re doing it for the Inquisition,” he said, “but something tells me there’s more to it.”

“Well, I don’t particularly like rampaging templars either...” I trailed off.

Varric chuckled. “So our Herald is a bleeding heart,” he said. “It’s no secret. First he insists on treating the wounded templars and mages who attacked us, then he takes upon himself to go hunting for food and supplies for the refugees.”

I looked at him sharply. “What else can we do right now?” I asked. “Despite the Mark on my hand, we have no support from the Chantry, nevermind the mages or templars. Besides, since we’re closing the rifts all over, there’s no reason not to multitask. There’s four of us, so we can move relatively freely without having to worry too much about the rogue templars or apostates. We need to do what we can, where we can.”

“Well said.” Cassandra smiled.

I felt my face heat up. “Thanks,” I said, “but it’s the truth. While we run around we might as well help out. Delegation is useful, but you shouldn’t be afraid to do your part of the little things.”

“This is some good stuff,” Varric muttered, scribbling away in his notebook.

I looked east. “There’s an old castle that way,” I said pointing. “There’s a cult of Andraste that have settled down there. And a rift we need to close.”

“That would be Winterwatch Tower,” Varric said, looking over the map.

“Then let’s go,” Cassandra said, but we were interrupted.

“Excuse me,” a voice called out. “Have you seen another Inquisition Scout? Elven woman, answers to Ritts.”

It was an Inquisition scout, waving at us. We walked closer to him.

“You said your friend is missing?” I asked.

The scout nodded. “She was supposed to be checking on some apostates. I’m on duty here, or I’d go look for her.”

“With all the templars and mages fighting, you shouldn’t separate,” I said, sighing. “If you wait here, we’ll go through the other pass over there, just in case she decides to come that way,” I said and pointed past the trees towards where I knew a corpse of a noblewoman would be waiting for us. If I wanted to recruit that one agent in the castle, I needed the letter she had in her pocket.

Varric and Cassandra exchanged looks, which I ignored.

“Thank you, sir,” the scout said, saluting. I wondered if he somehow recognised me, or if he was just being polite.

Once we were out of ear shot, Cassandra looked at me disapprovingly. “Why are we going this way?”

I shrugged. “I just remembered something. We might as well go this way first.”

Varric was looking at the map with a thoughtful sound. “Hmm...”

I peeked towards the map. “Oh, is there a cave this way?”

His expression soured. “How...?”

“I just remembered that as well,” I said, grinning. “Your face reminded me.”

“What a peculiar way to remember something,” Solas said.

I glanced at Varric, and airquoted, “’You know, not every dwarf likes caves’”.

He grimaced and rolled his eyes.

There was indeed a cave there. It looked like some poor bastard had been camping in there, but they had been attacked. Maybe by bandits, maybe by templars or apostates. On the dead dwarf’s body there was a mysterious letter about the hidden treasure beneath the waterfall. I already knew what it was about, so I wasn’t too interested, but Varric read through it with a thoughtful expression on his face.

There was also a chest there. We took what was inside, marked down the location since there was some iron veins in the walls of the cave, and then continued on our way without a word.

Just minutes later, we came across yet another body. This time it was the body of the noblewoman.

“Mages and templars, and innocent people caught in the middle,” Varric muttered. “Some things never change.”

I looked through the woman’s pockets, and as I expected, found a letter adressed to her.

“My Lady Vellina,” I read, and started grimacing the futher I got into the letter.

“I know you’re frightened, but the light in the sky shouldn’t scare you. It’s the eye of the Maker, finally coming back to take the faithful to the Golden City. Leave your father’s servants and come up into the hills, away from the pointless fighting between the templars and mages. Let me introduce you to Speaker Anais. She’ll explain everything, and we’ll be together and happy, waiting for everything to be right in the world.

Your love, Lord Berand.”

Nobody spoke.

“We should let him know she’s dead,” I said, looking up at Cassandra. “This idiot deserves to know he’s the reason his lover is dead. ‘Leave your father’s servants’, really? What kind of an idiot is he?”

Cassandra was frowning. “This Speaker Anais must be one of the cultists in Winterwatch Tower.”

“Yeah,” I said. “I have to say these people seem batshit crazy to me. Who the hell joins a cult?”

“People who are scared out of their minds?” Varric suggested.

I sighed. “Yeah. Let’s keep going. I can’t wait to meet them.”

It didn’t take long until we got into another fight. A bunch of mages ambushed us as we went through a bottleneck formed by the rocky hills.

“We’re not templars!” I yelled. “Stand down, please!”

“I don’t think they care,” Varric grunted.

My maul swung towards one of the mages and I spun. The mage lost his balance and fell flat on his back, and I assumed he was down for the count. But as I turned around to attack the others, Solas yelled out, “Don’t turn your back!”

I glanced back, and noticed the mage glaring at me, about to cast a spell. I didn’t have time to react before an arrow pierced his neck and he fell back down, blood gurgling from the wound. I looked away.

“Shit, Feathers,” Varric said. “He almost got you.”

I frowned, and hit another frozen mage with my maul. After the fight died down, Cassandra, Varric and Solas gathered around me.

“You need to be more careful,” Cass said. “Don’t turn your back to your opponent unless you’re sure they’re either unconscious or dead.”

I wiped my maul with a rag. It came out bloody. “Yeah, sure.”

Varric sighed deeply. “Let him be, Seeker. He’s still learning. Besides, we’re all here to watch his back.”

“True,” Cass amended. “But we might not always be there to help you. So please, be careful.”

I looked at her. Damn, she was right.

“Alright,” I said. “I’ll be more careful in the future.”

We could see the a smaller tower from where the fight took place, so we headed that way. We could have just climbed the hill towards the Winterwatch Tower, but it was really steep, so we went inside the smaller tower to take the stairs instead. There was a chest there, which Varric handily lockpicked open for us. Some gold, materials and a shield.

“You need this?” I said, handing the shield to Cassandra, who took it with a curious look.

She inspected it, then gave it back to me. “It’s a decent shield, but mine is better.”

I nodded, then looked at Varric. “Is this worth carrying with us to the castle and selling it to someone?”

Varric raised an eyebrow, but took a look at it. “Hmm,” he said, “sure. It won’t get us much, maybe one gold at most.”

“Alright,” I said, standing up straight. “Then I’ll carry it. We can never have enough gold for supplies.”

That got me an amused chuckle from Varric.

The stairs seemed never ending, I noted as we started our trek upwards. But to my surprise the extra shield didn’t seem to affect my speed in any way. Damn, superior Qunari bodies with amazing strength. I could only imagine how strong the Iron Bull was. The guy could probably bench press 400 lbs easily.

“So, we’re supposed to meet with some Chantry clerics in Val Royeaux after all this,” Varric started innocently as we walked. “You ever been there?”

I cast him a hard, long look. “What do you think?”

“You said you’ve read stories about us,” Varric pointed out. “But last time I checked, nobody learns terrain and locations from stories. It’s something you have to see for yourself.”

I stopped walking. The others, who were walking behind me stopped as well.

“It’s complicated, okay?” I said, glaring down at Varric. Of course the old ‘I read about you in books’ story wasn’t going to fly with all of them. I knew that. They weren’t stupid.

“Varric has a point,” Solas mused, causing me to shift my gaze towards him. “It’s something I, too, found peculiar. Your knowledge far exceeds what one might read in a book of fiction.”

“I get it, okay?” I sighed, “I know it’s fucking suspicious. But I wasn’t lying. I just didn’t tell you all of the facts.”

“Why?” Cassandra asked, her arms crossing.

“Because you wouldn’t understand,” I said, gritting my teeth. “It’s something that doesn’t exist here, despite all the magic and shit. I’ve told you. Where I’m from, we have technology. With that technology we can create whole worlds. It can show us stories so realistic, it’s almost like we live through them ourselves.”

“That sounds....beautiful,” Solas said.

“Impossible, more like,” Varric said good naturedly. “Are you sure you aren’t talking about plays? Where bards and other professionals act out stories? Because we have those here.”

I swatted him slightly on his shoulder. “You know I’m not.”

“Alright,” Varric said. “So you have ways to experience stories. But that doesn’t explain the terrain.”

I shrugged. “In some of the stories, we have freedom to go around as we like and learn about the environment as much as we like. This was one of them.”

Varric blinked. “Huh.”

I started walking up the stairs again. “I said it’s complicated.”

“No, that actually makes sense,” he said. “Since you said there are several versions of all the stories, and how you knew what had happened just by learning Hawke’s full name.”

I looked at him sharply. Did he figure out that the player effectively was Hawke? I don’t think they would like that idea.

“Having choice to go around as you wish would affect the story,” Solas butted in. “So that means there would be several versions of the same story.”

I smiled thinly. “Right. You got it.”

I really didn’t want to go into the discussion about free will, or the lack of it with them. Seeing as demon possessions were a real thing here. If you thought about it, none of the characters in Dragon Age games ever truly had free will. You could manipulate your party members with gifts and look up dialogues in order to get the best reactions out of people. Not to mention the main character who was part of the world and had a background, history and relationships in the world, but was entirely controlled by the player.

With thoughts of free will roaming through my head, we reached the top, and followed a path towards the Winterwatch Tower. At the end of the path stood a red haired woman in long, dark robes. She must have been the Speaker.

“I know you. They call you the Herald of Andraste, for what you did at Haven,” Speaker Anais said. “But are you? The Maker has not told me.”

“I don’t know,” I told her honestly.

“As I suspected,” she said, frowning. “Stories of you mastering the rifts are just blind heresy.”

“No, I can seal rifts,” I corrected her.

“Then prove it. Show me that the rifts bend to your will. The will of the Maker. Show me the power you wield.”

I narrowed my eyes. “This cult... What are you doing here? What do you think is happening?”

“The Chantry has fallen,” Speaker Anais said. “And shown its imperfection in doing so. The Chant of Light was a lie. It was arrogance to think that mortal lips could frame the Maker’s will. So we wait in silence. The Maker has opened the sky. Soon He will call his chosen back to the Golden City.”

I pursed my lips. “We’ll talk more later.”

She nodded, “Until the Maker brings you back to us.”

The gates opened up, allowing us to enter the Winterwatch Tower. There were cultists milling about, some were praying, some were simply sitting or walking around. Despite their matching outfits, it was obvious that many of them were refugees.

“I suppose it’s only natural that some would turn to worshipping the Breach,” Solas said quietly. “If only on hopes of appeasing it.”

I nodded, and looked around. To our right was a tavern, and straight ahead was the rift. We had been walking and fighting for hours now, so I gestured towards the tavern and unsurprisingly, everyone agreed. Since there was only one table downstairs and it was taken, we went upstairs. We sat down and dug into our backpacks for rations.

As we ate in silence, a young man with a dark short mohawk and purple robes approached our table.

“Excuse me,” he said. “While you were coming up, did you meet a young noblewoman with blonde hair and pale green eyes? Lady Vellina should be here. We need to be together when the Maker comes.”

I exchanged glances with the others. Cassandra nodded at me.

“We found her body,” I said bluntly, and reached into my pocket. “She was carrying this letter.”

The young man paled. “That letter...” he said, his face crumbling. “Vellina is dead? But... We were meant to be together. The Maker would not keep us apart! What am I suppose to do now?”

I felt pity for him, although it was entirely his fault his lover was dead. Besides, he was a nobleman... “If you have connections, then you can help the Inquisition to restore order.”

“I...” he said, hesitating. “Yes. If waiting here in the hills leaves innocents to die, then I will spread the Maker’s word by the sword. My men and I will lend our strength to the Inquisition. Thank you”.

He bowed to me, and walked off to join his friends.

I was left speechless. “What...what the hell just happened? I didn’t tell him to take up a sword and fight. Frankly, with that letter showcasing his idiocy, I’m worried about letting him anywhere near sharp objects.”

Cassandra hid a smile. “I agree. But do not worry,” she said. “Once he gets in touch with Haven, they will direct him where he’s needed the most.”

We rested for a while, and everyone was content on watching the cultists bustle around in silence. But eventually it was time to move on. We got up and headed towards the rift towards the back of the building. It was located in what looked like a courtyard, except it was underground, so there was no sunlight.

As soon as we descended the stairs, the rift flared up and two lesser terror demons popped into existence.

You are aware of my love for terror demons, right?

But surprisingly enough, this time the fight went quickly and unlike last time, I didn’t get thrown on my backside even once. Maybe it was because I had gotten used to fighting, or maybe our party dynamics had shifted because we were familiar with each other’s fighting styles. Whatever the reason, the fight was over almost as soon as it started. My companions focused their attention on the demons, and I took the opportunity to close the rift as soon as they were all defeated.

“Take that, you fugly sons of bitches!” I yelled and pumped my fist in triumph.

“Fugly?” Varric laughed. “You say the strangest things.”

I grinned at him. “Let’s go talk to Speaker Anais. I’m sure she’ll want to... speak with us.”

Varric’s chuckles echoed around us all the way there.

“Maker’s tears,” Speaker Anais said. “I was a fool to have doubted you. How may we serve you, Herald of Andraste?”

I had pondered about this choice for a while. In the game, recruiting the cultists under Leliana or Josephine would help the war effort and give you more experience and power. But this wasn’t a game.

“Help the refugees,” I said. “Many of them are in need of food and shelter from the rampaging mages and templars. That’s the least you can do.”

Anais bowed to me. “As you say, Herald of Andraste. Some few will remain here, the rest will go forth and do your will. When the Maker calls you to your greater purpose, remember that we served you.”

I nodded, and walked away, only slightly freaked out by her.

“Are we heading out?” Solas asked. “There is a vendor over there.”

“Oh?” I asked, looking. “Right, for the shield! We can buy some more rations as well, if they have any.”

“Let me handle the haggling,” Varric muttered.

“Sure,” I grinned at him. “You be the traveling merchant, I can play your Qunari bodyguard.”

To my annoyance, the vendor recognised me. “You must be the Herald of Andraste,” he said. “You are welcome to any of my wares.”

“Was it the horns?” I asked, “or the glowing hand of doom? No matter.” I sighed. No fun roleplaying for me. “We’re looking to sell this shield and buy some rations.”

He took the shield from me. “Hmm,” he said. “I’ll give you two gold.”

“It’s worth at least three,” Varric huffed. “If you won’t buy it, we’ll find someone who will.”

“Alright.” The man frowned. “Two gold and fifteen silver, then.”

“Two gold and twenty, and you got a deal,” Varric said.

The vendor had been glaring at Varric, but then he glanced up at me and nodded. “Deal.”

After we bought the rations and walked away from the vendor, I gently poked Varric. “Earlier you said we could maybe get one gold for it,” I reminded him.

“You always start with a price higher than your target,” Varric said like it was obvious. “That way the more you give in, the more your opponent thinks they’re winning.”

I nodded slowly. “I guess that makes sense.”

“What, no haggling where you’re from?” Varric asked with a raised eyebrow.

Cassandra and Solas turned to look at me, interested.

“Not really,” I admitted. “When you go to buy something there’s always a set price. If you try haggling, people think you’re either an idiot or disgustingly frugal. Unless it’s something really, really expensive. Then you might get a small discount. Even then the original price is highly inflated and the seller knows it, and that’s why they allow you to get away with it. You’ll feel better about your haggling skills, and are more likely to buy something from them again.”

“Can you give me an example?” Varric asked.

I thought about it. “Well,” I said, “if you were to buy a modern equivalent of a horse carriage. The original price might be 150,000 euros. But the seller knows it’s not really worth that much, and will allow you to haggle it down to 125,000 euros. You feel accomplished, and yet the seller still wins.”

“How much is an euro?” Varric asked, already reaching for his notebook and quill.

“I’m not entirely sure what the exchange rate would be,” I admitted. “I haven’t gotten the hang of gold and silver yet.”

“We should compare the price of a similar object,” Cassandra said.

I turned to look at her. “Huh, good idea,” I said. “Let’s see... How about a mug of ale? I know the average cost is roughly 2,5 euros.”

Cassandra turned to look at Varric.

“Hey,” he said, “I’m sure I’m not the only person who knows the price of ale here.”

Solas smirked. “No, but you are the kind of person who would pay attention to it.”

Varric huffed. “Fine,” he said, “I believe the current average is 2 silver.”

“Huh,” I said, surprised. “That would make the exchange rate 1 silver to 1,25 euros.”

“We can draw up more comparisons later,” Varric said. “I’ve got to admit I’m curious.”

We were heading towards the gate when I suddenly stopped walking.

“There is a young elvhen man somewhere here among the cultists,” I remembered. “His parents live at the crossroads. We need to find him and tell him his mother is sick.”

“You didn’t even talk with any of the villagers,” Solas pointed out.

I just shrugged. I didn’t need to talk to the guy’s father to remember this quest. I had completed it fifty times, at least.

Cassandra sighed. “Where is he?”

I pointed towards the top of the tower. “Somewhere up there? I think. I don’t remember his name. Just that he knows how to make the potion his mother needs.”

Solas nodded. “We’ll find him.”

And we did. The young man, Hyndel, was of course really worried for his mother.

“What? She was fine! She hasn’t had breathing trouble in...” He trailed off. “Alright. I can help. Here, I have some already made. Take it to her now!”

And so we were on our way, finally leaving the cultists behind us.

“Do you hear fighting?” Solas said.

I nodded. “That must be the missing scout! Quickly!”

We ran to her aid. She was fighting two templars. It didn’t take long for the five of us to defeat them.

“Thank you,” Ritts said. “If it weren’t for you, I’d be dead.” She paused, clearly avoiding to look at the elvhen woman who was lying dead on what appeared to be a picnic blanket. “Do you need anything? I should probably report back.”

“This is a mage,” I pointed out.

“Eldredda, yes,” Ritts said. “I think that was her name. At least, I’d heard other apostates call her that.”

I looked at her pointedly. “Looks like someone was having a picnic.”

“Yes, the mage... must have been hunting for blood magic. The templars attacked the apostate... I suppose I got caught in the middle.”

I stared at her more, and raised my eyebrow.

“So, the truth,” Ritts confessed. “I might have been, um, passing time with Eldredda.”

“You were trying to find a moment’s peace in the midst of this war.” I sighed.

“We were... yes. At first she was just a mage who saw me and didn’t attack, but later, we...” Ritts trailed off. “So, are you going to report me?”

I glanced at Varric, and nodded my head at him.

“Look kid, if you can talk an apostate out of their pants in the middle of a war, you’ve got a gift. Use it,” Varric encouraged. “Make contacts, get information, and help the Inquisition. Do that, and our lips are sealed.”

Ritts looked surprised. “Alright... I can do that,” she said and looked at me. “And thanks, for going easy on me.”

I grinned. “No problem. But first, how fast of a runner are you?” I asked.

At her questioning look, I took out Hyndel’s potion and handed it to her. “I need you to take this to the Crossroads as fast as you can. Hyndel’s mother has breathing problems and she needs it now. His father should be outside one of the buildings there, looking for someone’s help to get a message to his son. This is of the utmost urgency, do you understand?”

A look of understanding bloomed on her face. “Yes, of course, sir. I’ll leave straight away. Thank you again!”

We watched as she ran off.

“Quick thinking,” Solas said. “There are yet more rifts here that need closing. We wouldn’t be as fast as a single scout.”

I smiled. “Exactly. In fact, there’s one just downhill from here.”

And of course it was the goddamn rift with the Rage demon that always ended up killing me, even those times when I played on easy mode. A shiver went down my spine at the thought. There was no game over this time. Just death.

“... Maybe let’s not close that one quite yet?” I said, scratching my neck. “We should hunt some rams and head back to camp before it’s dark.”

Cassandra nodded. “We only have couple of hours, then. The sun is already getting low.”

“We should be able to catch enough on our way back,” I mused.

“Why leave this one for later?” Solas questioned as we walked.

I swallowed, avoiding his gaze. “Um... It’s a big one?”

There was a silence.

“You’re afraid,” Solas breathed out, as if in wonder.

I glared at him. “Okay, yes. I’m scared to death! Is that what you want to hear?”

Cassandra touched my shoulder gently. “It’s alright.”

I pushed her off. “No, it’s not!”

We stopped walking.

“You don’t get it,” I said, my eyes burning. I avoided their gazes. “This is for real. I’ve died closing that rift so many times I’ve lost count. A huge rage demon comes out of it, and it almost always kills me with a single hit. I’m not taking that risk until I know we’re ready for it.”

“Feathers...” Varric murmured. “We can close that rift later. We’ll just have to warn everyone not to approach it until then.”

I looked at him, then chuckled wetly. “Shit, Varric. I hope you’re not banking on a new bestseller detailing the life of the Herald of Andraste, because nobody wants to read a book with a cowardly main character.”

“Nah, it just brings more authenticity. The readers will love that,” Varric said and smiled. “Now, let’s see about those rams, shall we?”

I took a deep breath. “Yeah.”

Solas sidled up to me as we walked.

“I didn’t mean to upset you,” he confessed. “You haven’t shown much fear since closing the Breach. It...surprised me. I apologize.”

I looked at him. “Oh,” I said. “No, I’m sorry for blowing up.”

He inclined his head. “Do you know how many rifts there are left in this area?”

I quickly counted them in my head. “Uh, on top of the one we’re not closing, just one,” I said. “Why?”

“If we close one of them, the veil here should become more stable than it is now,” Solas said. “That gives us more time before we need to close the last one.”

I nodded. “It’s past that hill over there,” I pointed towards the way we’d come through to the pass. “I’m actually surprised we didn’t run into it on our way here.”

“Then we should close it before we head back,” Solas said.

Cassandra, who had apparently been listening, agreed. “We’ll be in less of a hurry to come back here.”

“If we manage to get some horses from Master Dennet, then the next trip back here will be much quicker,” I added.

“Shh,” Varric hushed us. “There’s couple over there.” He pointed to two rams grazing some distance away from us, and took out his bow.

I glanced at Solas, seeing as he was our only ranged specialist in addition to Varric. “Help him out?”

He nodded, and gripped his staff.

They aimed and shot, and the two rams went down. Varric’s target struggled for a moment longer, but it had stopped moving by the time we had walked over to it.

“We need couple more,” I guessed, looking at the size of them. “Surely the pelts will be of some use as well?”

“It will take time to prepare them,” Solas said, “but yes.”

We only walked for five or so minutes until there was that feeling in the air again. I was just going to call it a rift sneeze from now on, okay?

“There’s the rift,” I said, “And if I remember correctly, it has more terror demons for our enjoyment.”

“Just keep your guard up,” Varric said, “And focus on closing the rift. We’ll focus on the enemies.”

I nodded. After freaking out about the Rage demon, I must have been looking uncertain. “Roger that.”

There was one green wraith and one terror demon at first. As we got rid of those and waited for the rift to burst again, two more terror demons appeared. As they were both occupied with fighting the others, I took the oppoturnity to turn to the rift and pull it close.

It closed with a bang, sending the two terror demons on their asses, where they were met with arrows, ice and a sword respectively.

“Good job guys,” I grinned. “We can start heading towards the camp now. Just keep your eye out for templars, since there should be at least one group of them left here.”

“The group with the ring?” Solas questioned.

“Yep,” I said. “We’re going that way, so I wanna find that ring and return it.”

I didn’t need to wait long, because as soon as we were nearing the place where Ritts’s scout friend had been, we were attacked by a group of three templars. Solas froze one of them, aided by Cassandra’s trusty sword and shield, and Varric shot the second in the knee. That left me with the third one.

The templar and I circled each other for a moment. Then he attacked with a roar, attempting to bash me with his shield.

I was beginning to suspect these templar idiots were all addicted to lyrium, because that was just sloppy. I sidestepped him easily, and swung my maul at his legs, toppling him over. He fell, and rolled on his back. I kicked his sword away from his grasp and put my right foot, along with most of my weight, on top of his chest.

“Did you and your buddies kill an elvhen man around these parts?” I asked casually.

“I--,” the templar grunted, his eyes darting left and right. “...what?!”

“Now,” I continued with a smile, “I suggest you think really hard. He was digging out a tree stump. His wife told me you even stole his wedding ring from his cold dead body.”

“He was an apostate!” the templar wheezed out.

I gripped my maul harder. “Wrong answer.” I hit him with enough force to knock him unconscious, and dug through his pockets. I couldn’t find it.

“Looks like this one was holding all the valuables,” Varric said, gesturing to his opponent, having riffled through the man’s bag. “Is this the ring we were looking for?”

I walked over to him and took it. “I’m not sure,” I said, and showed it to Solas. “Is this Elvhen?”

Solas took a short look at it and nodded. “Yes.”

“Well, then.” I huffed. “Looks like we found our culprits.”

Cassandra walked up to us. “I think your opponent is still alive,” she pointed out.

I grimaced. “If we leave him here, he’ll just attack someone else. But I’m pretty much convinced all of the templars around here are addicted to lyrium. It’s a sickness, so it doesn’t feel right to kill all of them either.”

“He admitted to killing that man,” Cassandra said. “As much as I admire your capacity for forgiveness, we do not have enough resources to capture every templar and mage we come across.”

“Prisoners need to be fed too,” I said, sighing. “You’re right.”

“Would you prefer if one of us did it?” Cassandra asked hesitantly.

“No,” I said, my mouth turning downwards. “The man who passes the sentence should swing the sword. If you would take a man’s life, you owe it to him to look into his eyes and hear his final words. And if you cannot bear to do that, then perhaps the man does not deserve to die.”

“That is a quote, Feathers,” Varric muttered. “I can feel it.”

“Are you going to wake him up?” Solas wondered.

“No,” I said, putting my maul on my back and reaching for a knife I had hidden in my boot. “He already had his say.”

Funny how much your morals can change in the course of a week. But that was the reality in Thedas. Not everyone could be saved.

As we made our way towards Maura’s cabin, none of us said a word. The dusk was about to break, so we didn’t have much time to linger.

“Maura?” I called out, knocking on the door twice. “This is Adaar.”

The door opened and Maura looked at me, surprised. “You came back.”

“I said I would,” I said with a small smile and offered her the ring. “Here, we found this ring on one of the templars.”

“This is it!” Maura said, her eyes shining slightly. “Praise to you and the Inquisition for giving my husband justice. It won’t bring him back, but it his spirit will rest easier now, as will mine.”

I nodded, and we left her to be. On our way back to the Crossroads, we managed to kill two more rams. We also spotted two supply caches, marking their location on the map so that the scouts could come get the supplies tomorrow.

Finally, we were back. And we were immediately accosted by an elvhen man, who really, really wanted to meet the Herald of Andraste.

“Which of you is he?” the elvhen man asked, “Please, I heard he was with you. I need to thank him personally.”

I raised my hand to wave at him. “Uh, hello?”

The man’s gaze zeroed onto me. Then onto my horns. Then back to my face. “You’re the Herald? No matter,” he said in wonder, and dropped to his knees in front of me. “I wanted to thank you. An Inquisition scout brought me Hyndel’s potion, and said you sent it. Without you my wife would be dead!”

Uh.

Help?

I grasped his arms and lifted him back on his feet. “You’re welcome,” I said. “But there’s no need to thank me.”

“What?” the man said, “You’re the sole reason my wife is alive! She developed breathing problems today, worse than ever before. I was trying to find someone to send a message to my son, sure it was too late. That’s when that scout appeared out of nowhere, carrying my son’s potion. It’s a miracle! I never even had time to ask for a messenger.”

Cassandra, Solas and Varric all turned to stare at me.

“Umm,” I started, “Well... I had a dream about it last night. That’s how I knew?”

The man’s eyes widened.

“Please,” I said quietly, hoping like hell that this wouldn’t backfire on me. “Do not speak of this to anyone. I just wanted to help.”

He nodded fervently. “Yes, yes, I promise. Thank you!” He bowed deeply at us, and he was gone as fast as he’d arrived.

“This will spread,” Cassandra pointed out. “I think you knew that, even as you asked him not to tell.”

I sighed, and looked up towards the darkening sky. “Yes.”

“I’ll send a raven to Leliana,” Varric promised. “We should get on top of the rumors so we can control it.”

“Let’s try to keep it to small things,” I said, suddenly feeling very tired. “We need people to underestimate us.”

“Herald of Andraste,” Varric mused as we made out way to our camp. “The Seer of Small Details. It has a ring to it.”

I rolled my eyes. “I foresee myself accidentally hitting a dwarf in my sleep, if he doesn’t stop with the Herald-ing.”

“As you wish, Feathers,” he grinned. “You know you’ll always be the mercenary who doesn’t know how to pack to me.”

I smiled, and hoped that truly would be the case. After the Herald became the Inquisitor, it felt like Varric’s interactions with him went from friendly to polite. Almost like the big title and responsibility the Inquisitor was forced to carry made Varric out of reach for him. And it always made me sad, since Varric was one of my favourite people in Thedas.

After dinner, I decided enough was enough. If there was no showers, I would damn well have a bath. Last rays of the sun were dipping beneath the horizon as I stripped naked and stepped into Lake Luthias.

Varric was accompanying me and dutifully looking away until I was submerged from waist down.

“You can look now,” I said with a shiver and turned around. “Your less than innocent eyes are safe.”

The water was freezing, but I would rather freeze than run around covered in demon goo.

Varric turned his head from where he was sitting on top of a large rock. “Why did you insist I came along again?” he questioned.

“In case of bears,” I said and rubbed a piece of soap over my arms. “If you go beyond this lake, there is a veritable beehive of bears in the forest. Makes sense some of them might wander over here as well.”

“You only use me for my crossbow,” Varric teased.

“I have an eye for beautiful ladies,” I snarked back and ducked down to wash my hair.

I couldn’t stand the cold water for more than couple of minutes, so I washed up quickly and ran back to the shore. Varric was holding out a large piece of linen cloth, and averting his eyes again. I took it gratefully, patted myself down and quickly got dressed.

“Where were you two?” Cassandra asked when we returned.

“Feathers wanted to take a bath,” Varric said with a smirk.

“Isn’t the water freezing?” Cassandra questioned with a frown.

“Yep,” I said, “but I’m used to bathing nearly every day. A bucket and a rag just won’t do it for me.”

“The Herald of Andraste was a fancy noble,” Varric muttered. “Interesting.”

I rolled my eyes. “It’s just custom,” I said. “Nothing noble about it.”

Solas made a thoughtful noise from where he was sitting. “I too prefer bathing,” he said. “Alas, lakes like this one are usually a rare sight.”

Poor Solas. I’m pretty sure Ancient elvhen gods were pampered with as many hot baths as they would like in a day. But now the Dread Wolf had to live like the rest of the common folk.

As we sat around the campfire that night, I sang a song from Hamilton.

The Inquisition scouts, who hadn’t travelled with us and therefore hadn’t heard any of my songs, stopped what they were doing and curiously gathered around to listen.

I may not live to see our glory
But I will gladly join the fight
And when our children tell our story
They’ll tell the story of tonight

Let’s have another round tonight...

I smiled at all of them, and raised my mug of pitiful, watered down ale.

Raise a glass to freedom!
Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you...

I looked at Varric, Cassandra and Solas.

Raise a glass to the four of us
Tomorrow there’ll be more of us
Telling the story of tonight
They’ll tell the story of tonight

Raise a glass to freedom!
Something they can never take away
No matter what they tell you...

Let’s have another round tonight
Raise a glass to the four of us
Tomorrow there’ll be more of us
Telling the story of tonight

Let’s have another round tonight
They’ll tell the story of tonight

Raise a glass to freedom
They’ll tell the story of tonight

They’ll tell the story of tonight...

By the end of the song, most of the scouts had started to sing along, since the lyrics were simple and the tune was easy. Varric too. If Cassandra and Solas sang, I didn’t hear them. Maybe they just hummed along. But as the last notes hung in the air, I noticed that everyone was smiling.

It was a good ending for a long day.

Chapter Text

The next morning found us up before the sun. I thought I was getting used to the early mornings, but apparently not. The quality of my sleep had been shit, which immediately affected my mood. We had lot of work to do if we wanted Dennet to give us those horses. Afterwards we would need to return to Haven and eventually travel to meet the few chosen clerics who were willing to give us heretics a chance.

We ate a quick breakfast and we were on our way. This time we headed west, towards the river and hopefully over it.

As we descended the rocky hill next to our campsite, we could see several groups of mages and templars. In the distance stood the ruins of an old castle, and barely a stone’s throw away from it was a burning building. The fire was slowly attempting to spread from the wooden structure to the shrubbery surrounding it, although telling by the smoke the surroundings were too wet for the fire to spread any farther. It had rained copiously just days before, so the fields were filled with puddles of rain water.

“Look at this. The apostates have gone mad with power,” Cassandra said, indicating to a small group of the mages and templars who were fighting each other just across the clearing from us.

“The templars aren’t looking any better, either,” Varric pointed out.

We were forced to fight the first group of mages we came across. And then, another group of templars. Behind the area with the templars there was a small campsite, now abandoned. Varric discovered a letter on one of the bedrolls.

We must be ready to fight not only the mages, but those who sympathise with them. Have not the mages blood magic to trick the minds of the unwary? Are not most people as we know them sheep, ready to be led by those who speak with authority? The people must be protected from the mages. It is our right and duty. But those who supply them with lyrium? Those who offer them comfort and food? Those who shirk their duty to supply us a worthy fight? They are sympathisers, who have slain with demons and can only breed abominations, and they must be slain as such. We will wage our war from our camp off the West Road and we will not stop until this world is clean.

The letter was written in a crisp and educated hand. There was no signature.

I showed the letter to Cassandra. She read it with an increasingly frustrated expression on her face.

“Those who would aid them must be slain?” she questioned, “This is madness. The templar order would not stand for this.”

“That’s why they’re called rogue templars, Seeker,” Varric pointed out.

“They’ve abandoned their order and everything it stands for,” Cass continued, ignoring Varric’s comment. “We must do something to stop them before more people get hurt.”

She turned to look at me.

I sighed. “Must we?” I asked, already getting tired of the mage-templar conflict.

“They seem not care who they attack,” Solas mused. “For they believe their path is the right one.”

“That’s a dangerous mindset to have,” I agreed and looked to West. “Their camp should be near the waterfall just that way.”

Beyond some boulders was another small group of templars.

“Kill the Qunari!” one of them yelled.

I hit him over his head with my maul and he went down like a bowling pin. “Vashot, technically,” I muttered and hit him again. By then, the river was within our sights. And so was the templar encampments.

Before we started out attack, I turned to Cassandra and the others. “Do we really have to?”

Cassandra rolled her eyes at my whining.

“This road will not be safe until they’re dealt with,” Solas said with a frown.

“Stop being so logical,” I huffed out. “Or I’m gonna start calling you Spock.”

He shot me a confused look, but I shook my head and didn’t explain.

They had two templar knights and one templar archer guarding the entrance. We took care of them easily enough, and although we did our best to make as little noise as possible, we were worried they would alert the others.

Farther up the sheer descent of rock was a makeshift wooden wall.

“The templars have secured a position ahead,” Cassandra noted.

We snuck inside and split up. There were two archers and one knights standing around, so we each picked our targets and attacked. Solas and I went for the knight, while Varric and Cassandra took out an archer each. Visibility was bad since the walls combined with the rocky terrain made it impossible to see where the rest of the rogue templars were hiding. We were incredibly lucky, because despite the sounds of combat no backup came to their aid.

As we rushed beyond the next set of walls, we came across three templar knights in various states of undress. Some of them looked sweaty and shaky, no doubt suffering from lyrium withdrawal. Their eyes would dart left and right; some of them were muttering to themselves. Poor bastards. The Chantry had done them a huge disservice.

One more archer entered the fight from the far end of the camp.

“Varric, take the archer!” I ordered and swung my maul an entire 360 degrees. It caught two of the knights. One went down, but the other one managed to lift his shield in time.

“Ox-man bastard,” he growled at me.

“Fuck you too,” I replied and swung again, this time from his left side. There was an opening there, clear as day. He didn’t answer after that, for obvious reasons.

After the battle we sat down to catch our breaths and tend to our weapons. There was no injuries, but we all took rejuvenation potions.

“Their supplies will help the refugees,” I said, marking the location on the map. It seemed ruthless, but these bastards had deserted their order and planned to kill innocent people for even associating with mages. “Hopefully nobody ransacks the camp before our scouts get here.”

“The refugees should be safer on the King’s Road now,” Cassandra said, pleased.

“We must still deal with the apostates, however,” Solas pointed out.

I pointed at cliffs surrounding the camp. “This stone is also rich with iron,” I said. “Let’s make a note of it on the map as well.”

Varric nodded. “Good eye, Feathers. Which reminds me... I saw you handle that templar with the shield. You spotted his opening just like that,” he said, snapping his fingers.

I blinked. “Huh,” I said, “I guess you’re right. I didn’t even realise.”

Solas chuckled softly. “You have improved in strides in just a matter of days,” he said. “It is equally as baffling as it is impressive.”

“Thanks,” I murmured, not used to such praise. “I’m just sort of going with the flow.”

Cassandra eyed me curiously. “They are correct,” she said. “Your style of fighting has drastically changed for the better. It’s like you’ve gone from swinging around aimlessly to... well, actually aiming.”

“Gosh,” I drawled with a grin, “Was I that good before?”

Despite the rejuvenation potion, I was already exhausted by the time we got back on the road and started crossing the bridge. Which by the way was in sore need of repair. One of the rotting boards broke underneath my weight, so I ended up walking in soaking wet boots. The trek up a steep hill wasn’t fun in wet shoes, let me tell you.

The Hinterlands. Why do you gotta do this to me, man? Wasn’t a bunch of rifts, terror demons and murderous templars enough? Don’t even get me started on the bears and wolves.

Speaking of...

We were almost at the Redcliffe Farms when three black wolves attacked us. Eyes glowing green, jaws snapping and mouths frothing, their howls made the hairs at the back of my neck stand up.

“Shit.”

One of them ran straight at me. I swung my maul at it, making it cry out and whine. But as soon as it was back on its feet it attacked again. And again. I hate fighting animals, canines especially. It just doesn’t feel right. The wolves finally fell one by one and stayed down. I was so done. And it was barely even noon.

“No normal wolf would fight with such determination,” Cassandra said.

“The Breach might have driven them mad,” Solas speculated, “or perhaps a demon took command of the pack.”

I glanced at him. The Dread Wolf himself was speaking of wolves...

He raised an eyebrow, catching me staring at him. I tried to smile despite my worsening mood. “Good theory, maybe we’ll check it out later,” I said, trying to hide that I had been thinking of his hidden identity again. I really had to stop doing that.

We followed the tiny path farther into the cluster of farms. There was an abandoned house on the right. Then a druffalo enclosure and the stables. At the end of the path we saw a big house plus two smaller buildings, all of them with tattered Ferelden banners hanging in the front. The main building was even adorned with gargoyles depicting proud mabari war hounds.

“This must be the horsemaster,” Solas deduced.

We went straight inside, since the door was ajaar.

“So you’re the Inquisition, eh?” Dennet greeted us, his hands at his hips. “Hear you’re trying to bring order back. It’s high time someone did. Never thought it would be one of you big brutes, though.”

Wrong fucking thing to say, mate.

“Name’s Dennet,” he continued, “I served Arl Eamon for thirty years as horsemaster. I hear your Inquisition is looking for mounts.”

I smiled at him, a little too widely. “If you want what’s best for Redcliffe, you’ll provide us horses,” I said with my best customer service voice.

“I do want what’s best for Redcliffe,” Dennet said. “But you’ve got some work to do first. I can’t just send hundred of the finest horses in Ferelden down the road like you send a letter. Every bandit between here and Haven would be on them like flies on crap. You’ll have mounts once I know that they won’t end up as cold winter’s breakfast. My wife Elaina manages the farms, and Bron’s in charge of my guards. They’ll tell you what they need.”

Now, you gotta understand. I was really, really tired.

I looked at him dead in the eye. “No,” I said. “I fucking well know what they want. They want watchtowers and for someone to get rid of the wolves, right? Well, bad fucking luck. People will die unless we get those horses, Dennet. Are you willing to take that risk while we run around building watch towers and killing wolves for you? Are you?”

Dennet took a step back. “How did you....”

I took a step forward in response, towering over him. “Give us those horses and I’ll make a personal goddamn promise to get you those watchtowers as quickly as we have men to spare. Hell, I’ll even go take care of those wolves right away. But we need to get those horses moving towards Haven, now.”

Dennet swallowed. “I guess I’ll have to take your word for it... I don’t know how you knew what we needed, but I’ll get you your horses. Just, please, take care of them.”

I fell back, my expression softening. “I promise.”

Dennet walked off quickly to tell his men the new orders. And when I say he walked, I mean he walked as fast as he could without outright making it to seem like he was running away from the scary Qunari.

“Herald!” Cassandra snapped, “You cannot speak to our allies like that.”

“Sorry,” I said, dragging a hand down my face. “I’m getting tired of this shit.”

“You can be really scary when you want, Feathers,” Varric murmured.

“That is no excuse,” Cassandra said, frowning. “Stop being childish.”

“I know,” I groaned out. “It’s just... Today everything is getting on my nerves. And the more I think about it, the more I realise that we’re losing time. It will take at least four days to travel back to Haven on horseback and depending on how many men we have on us, it will take more than that to get the horses over there. Which means until then, traveling anywhere will be so much slower for everyone. We need those horses.”

I sat crosslegged on the floor, taking my boots off. They were still dripping water.

Cassandra hesitated. “We’re not in a particular hurry right now,” she reminded me, her voice softer than before. “Mother Giselle is traveling to Haven as we speak. Until she gives out those names and we gather enough recognition for the Chantry clerics to agree to meet with us, we cannot enter Val Royeaux without being attacked on sight.”

I pursed my lips, thinking. “Yeah, but when they do agree we need to travel to Val Royeaux and back, plus god knows where.” I knew where, of course. The Storm Coast, Crestwood... We fucking well needed those mounts before Corypheus attacked Haven.

“One thing at a time,” Solas said wisely. “Do not worry about the future yet.”

I took couple of deep breaths. “Right. Let’s go handle those wolves, and then we can get the hell out of dodge.”

On our way out, I noticed a book on Dennet’s table. It was Hard in Hightown by Varric Tethras. I really wanted to read his books. I made a mental note to ask if there were any in Haven’s library when we got back.

We decided to close the rifts near Dennet’s farm first. There were two; one in the river canyon and one on the hill just behind the farm itself. We owed it to him and his farmhands to make the place safe so that Dennet could safely send over his horses to the Inquisition. Besides, I already felt bad for snapping at him.

Following a path between two fields, we walked past another large building. This was in a considerable worse condition than the others, it was basically falling apart. From there the path split into two different directions. We turned left and there, just behind some trees and a huge boulder was the first rift.

I sneezed.

Cass, Solas and Varric turned to look at me.

“What?” I asked. “They make my nose all tingly.”

Solas looked intrigued. “That must be the effect of the veil’s lingering magic in the area.”

“Whatever it is, we better get rid of it,” Varric commented.

We approached the rift and it expanded, spitting out two terror demons and a single wraith.

“Always with the terror demons!” I moaned.

“Maybe they like you,” Varric suggested with a smirk.

“God, I hope not.”

As we dealt with the first wave, the rift spat out three more terror demons. And then I pulled it shut. “Now, to the river so we can close the other one and deal with the wolves.”

We followed the path back and found a good site for a future Inquisition camp. It was just between the run down farmhouse and Dennet’s house. The spot was perfect, since it by one side it was shielded by large rocks and there was a quiet stream of water on the other side. From there it was a short walk downhill to the ravine.

“The rift,” I mumbled. Shit. This one was notoriously difficult, wasn’t it? “On the other hand, let’s leave this one for later too.”

It was the rift with a huge ass terror demon and a revenant. It was always super hard to reach the rift in order to close it, too. If we walked into that one accidentally our asses would’ve been toast.

“Are you sure?” Cassandra asked. “It is worryingly close to the farms.”

I swallowed audibly. “Yeah. This one might be even worse than the one in the Pass. Let’s tell Dennet to warn his workers in the meanwhile.”

Giving the rift a wide berth, we waddled through the riverbed to the other side. Yes, through the river. My poor boots may never be dry again. We followed the river downstream on the opposite side and came across four wolves. At first they just circled us, but as we approached the den’s entrance they attacked and we were forced to kill them.

“We’re getting closer,” Solas guessed.

The entrance was a cave. Because of course there was a cave.

“This cave must be the lair of those strange wolves,” Cassandra said.

Thankfully the area itself wasn’t underground, just the entrance. But it was completely surrounded by stone; there was only one exit. A lone straggler from the pack smelled us coming. Solas had so cleverly guessed the cause behind their strange behaviour, and we were caught between a literal rock and a hard place when the terror demon responsible popped out of nowhere.

It was impossible for us to split up evenly, so Cass and I were flushed against each other’s sides as we fought back first the wolves and the then the terror demon. It nearly got me several times, warping in and out of existence to fuck with us. Varric and Solas did their best to back us up; shooting ranged attacks when they could and in Solas’s case providing us with barriers and healing spells.

Finally, the terror demon fell and the remaining wolves ran way.

“With the demon dead, the farmers should be safe from the wolves,” Cassandra said, swiping sweat from her forehead.

“I expect the wolves will also be pleased to be free from the demon’s control,” Solas reminded us.

I glanced at him. “Yeah,” I said, now feeling really bad for the poor animals. “What’s left of them, anyway.”

It put a damper on our mood. That’s why what happened next was such a special treat.

We were walking back the way we came from when a strange sound echoed in the ravine. It was like a mix between a wild hog’s scream and the neigh of a horse.

“A dragon?” Varric asked, making us all tense up.

That’s when I remembered the other quest set near the river, and broke into a sprint.

“Herald, wait up!” Cassandra called out. She only calls me Herald in private when she’s pissed at me.

But I didn’t slow down, because sure enough just up the cliff there stood a huge beast of an animal. A druffalo.

“Hey baby,” I cooed, “yes, you! Hello! Come here!”

Druffy the druffalo glanced at me with her big doe eyes and snorted loudly.

I dug into my bag and offered her a piece of bread. “Druffy, look,” I said, “it’s a snack! Yes, from one horned friend to another!”

That’s when I realised the others had caught up with me, because Varric burst into laughter. When I glanced back, even Cassandra and Solas were holding back chuckles.

Druffy took the bread from my palm with her wet snout. And as she chewed, I slightly patted her on her head. “Good girl,” I grinned. “Let’s get you home.”

I had to keep offering her treats to get her follow us all the way to the farms.

“Why are we doing this again?” Varric asked Cassandra.

“Hush,” Cassandra said. “The Herald’s mood seems to have improved. Don’t ruin it.”

“The Herald of Andraste, the Chosen Prophet,” Varric muttered, “And the Tamer of Druffalo. There’s a good joke about horns somewhere in there.”

We returned Druffy to her enclosure, and the farmer thanked us profusely.

“Bye,” I waved to the beautiful animal. “I’ll miss you.”

Dennet was waiting for us in front of the stables.

“You’re back,” he greeted us plainly. He shifted, crossing his arms. I had a feeling he didn’t appreciate being intimidated by some random ox-man. “I prepared four of my best horses for you. The others will be ready by the time your men come to get them.”

“We closed the rift beneath on the hill over there,” I said, “but there’s still one in the ravine. Tell the others not to go there until we take care of it.”

He nodded. “I will.”

“Thank you for the horses,” I said, regretting my short temper from earlier. “Truly. I’ll send men to build the watch towers as soon as possible.”

Now, riding a horse in wet shoes is only slightly more comfortable than walking in them, but you gotta count your blessings, right? Thank god I actually knew how to ride. I couldn’t handle galloping too well (yet), but I was okay as long as we weren’t going at neck-breaking speeds.

By the time we were back in our camp everyone seemed to be ready to turn in. But it wasn’t our bedtime yet. We had to talk to several scouts about the empty templar encampments and assign the building of those watch towers. Then we spent time writing messages to Cullen and Leliana about the horses and what we’d achieved so far. All of it took several hours, and it was equally as exhausting as walking around fighting demons.

Okay, okay. Slight exaggeration there. Almost as exhausting.

By the time we actually could go to sleep, there was no singing. We just ate and crawled into our tents, glad for the Inquisition scouts who kept constant watch over our sleeping forms.


 

The next day was better. My previous bad mood was gone, and our shoes had dried overnight.

We discussed our next move over breakfast.

“The mage camp is somewhere in this forest,” I said pointing it out on the map. “But with the templar camp gone, the fights should die down somewhat, so it isn’t high priority.” I pointed at another corner of the map. “There are some bandits up there, but I suggest we’ll take care of them later. We can take care of these on our way to Redcliffe, later.”

Cassandra coughed, getting my attention. “When are we going to Redcliffe?” she asked, frowning.

“Oh,” I said, blinking. “That’s later. Don’t worry about it.”

“This has to do with your knowledge, doesn’t it.” It wasn’t a question.

“Yes,” I admitted. Redcliffe would be our destination eventually, no matter what. Even if my secret plan wouldn’t work, I would always side with the mages rather than the templars. Sorry. Mage player bias.

Cassandra sighed, and closed her eyes. “Please, continue.”

“Okay. There’s an old elvhen temple in the area, hiding an artifact that we should activate. It will help strengthen the Veil in that area or something, according to Solas.”

Solas looked at me sharply. “That truly is disconcerting,” he muttered.

I winked at him. “So I say our work here is done for now. Let’s go back to Haven.”

They all agreed with varying degrees of cheeriness, and thus began our road trip back to Haven.

I suppose you’ll want to know about our horses. I conveniently didn’t describe them last night, because I was so tired I honestly didn’t pay much attention. But we’ll start with my ride. She was dark brown, and huge. And when I say huge, I mean I was able to ride her comfortably. And may I remind you, I was also huge. I don’t think I would have been able to ride her if I had been in my old body. I would have been too scared of the size difference, even though the horse seemed to be the gentlest and the most good natured animal I had ever come across in my life.

Dennet didn’t provide the horses with any names, so I thought I would come up with my own. I thought long and hard about it as we traveled, and some time during the afternoon I cracked it.

“Freya,” I said out loud, patting her neck. “I’ll call you Freya.”

Freya snorted and nodded her head, as if in agreement.

“That is an unusual name,” Solas said from on top of his horse, riding next to me. “What is the meaning behind it?”

“Freya was the goddess of war, love, death and beauty, and lot of other things,” I said. “Her name literally means ‘Lady’ in Old Norse.”

“I think it’s very fitting,” Cassandra said from ahead of us. “Every soldier should treat their mount like a lady.”

I laughed. “You’re right. I didn’t even think of that,” I admitted. “What are you naming yours?”

“I am undecided,” said Solas.

Cassandra shrugged. “I don’t know yet, either. I’m not so good at names.”

We all turned to look at Varric, who was riding next to Cass.

“What?” he said. “I know I’m a writer, but these things take time.”

“Your is a stallion,” I said, looking thoughtfully at Varric’s gray horse. It was smaller than Freya. I grinned. “So if we were to stick with Norse mythology, your horse should be Fenrir, whse name is sometimes translated as Fenris-wolf.”

Varric swirled to glare at me. “How?” he sputtered.

“Don’t ask me,” I laughed, “but Fenrir is a character from Norse Mythology. He’s a gray wolf, and the son of Loki, the trickster god. That reminds me,” I said turning slyly to look at Solas. “How about Loki for yours?”

Solas looked thoughtful. “Why not,” he gave in. “It has a nice sound to it.”

I was trying to hard not to laugh at his face. Oh god.

“Will you come up with a name for me too?” Cassandra grumbled. “As I said, I’m bad with names, and you seem to be carrying a library of them underneath those horns.”

I thought about it. “How about Sigyn?” I said. “She was the wife of Loki, and goddess of fidelity. Her name means ‘victorious’.”

“Sigyn,” Cassandra tried, tasting the name. “Yes. I like it. Thank you.”

“You’re going to need to spell out all of these for me,” Varric said, resigning to his fate. “Not Fenris, of course. I know how to spell that.”

I grinned. “Alright... Let’s start with Freya. That’s F-R-E-Y-A...”


 

“How do you write as you do, Varric?” Cassandra asked. “I can never find the proper words.”

Varric stared at her. “You... write. Really?”

“I’ve needed to describe events in reports,” Cassandra said with a huff. “They always come off as...”

“Dry? Boring? Lifeless? Stale?” Varric suggested.

“You...are an ass.”

Varric chuckled. “Just helping you find those words.”

I laughed too, which drew Cassandra’s attention to me.

“What about you, Adaar?” she asked. “Back then in Haven, you said that you write.”

Varric’s gaze zeroed onto me in an instant. Oh no.

“Nothing like Varric,” I hastily clarified. “It’s just a hobby. I’ve never...officially published anything. In print, I mean.”

“But you have published...unofficially?” Varric asked, raising an eyebrow. “In some other way?”

Did fanfiction count as publishing?

I scratched the underside of my horn. “Yes, I guess I have.”

Cassandra kept looking at me expectantly. “And...?” She prompted.

“Well,” I started. “First of all, you shouldn’t compare your writing to someone like Varric’s. We all have different styles and we’re all at a different point, learning wise.”

Varric hummed. “Sure.”

“And second, you should always recognise your audience. If you’re writing a report, it doesn’t have to read like a mystery novel. But there are tricks you can utilize to make your text more enjoyable even then.” At this point I was getting everyone’s full attention, so I might have gone into lecture mode. “Maybe look at your word choices. If you keep using the same words over and over again the story becomes repetitive. On the other hand, don’t use any unnecessarily complex words if there’s a simpler alternative available.”

Cassandra processed my words for a moment. “I think I understand,” she said slowly. “I shouldn’t try to make my reports more complicated than they need to be.”

I grinned at her. “Yep!” I said. “Come to me any time if you want help with anything specific, I’ll gladly help out.”

“You might yet regret that offer,” Solas said with a smile.

Varric chuckled. “So, what kind of writing did you do?” he asked.

I avoided his gaze. “Mainly romance. Stuff similar to Swords & Shields, but umm....”

“No, really?!” Varric asked, bursting into laughter.

Cassandra’s eyes widened.

“I did some other stuff too!” I corrected them. “But romance stories are popular among readers and a blast to write. The story has a clear goal; the pair needs to get together and bam, wham, thank you ma’m. The reader is left satisfied, most likely having chosen that particular story because they know what to expect.”

“Isn’t it boring reading the same kind of stories over and over again?” Solas asked.

I shrugged. “Not really,” I said. “Familiar is good. Clichés are clichés because they work.”


 

“It occurs to me I don’t know if you even believe in the Maker,” Cassandra said suddenly one night, as we were gathered around a campfire eating dinner.

I winced.

“Is that even a valid question anymore?” Varric asked with a snort. “The man claims to be from another world.”

Cassandra threw him a glare over her bowl of soup. “Nevertheless.”

“I’ve never had faith in organized religion,” I admitted, breaking a piece of bread in half. “My parents were members of a church, sure. I went there on Sundays with them, and sometimes we prayed. But as soon as I went to school and learned there was more than one version of the truth and our world was filled with different religions, I knew it was all bullshit.”

“How can you say that, especially now?” Cassandra asked, her face scrunching up like it did when she was frustrated. “Surely your presence here must mean something.”

“Maybe,” I said, “or maybe it’s all a big cosmic joke. Who can tell?” I shrugged. “People claim that their holy book is the right one and that their truth is the real deal. But every holy book is written by men and men are fallible. That means that every piece of information in those books is questionable.”

Cassandra backed down, her shoulders falling.

“I think I understand your point,” came the Elvhen voice of reason, “But surely every myth is based in reality?”

What a thing to hear coming from Fen’Harel himself. The Dalish were afraid of him, even going as far as to curse people with the Dread Wolf’s name.

“Yes,” I countered and raised an eyebrow, “but does that mean we should take those myths as the absolute truth?”

Solas inclided his head... and smiled. “It pleases me that I am not the only one to think so.”

“Of course you two agree,” Varric muttered. “Maybe next you will start talking magical theories.”

“What’s that Varric?” I asked, grinning. “Do you want Solas to explain magic to you?”

Varric escaped into our shared tent with a huff, leaving me, Solas and Cassandra to finish our conversation.

After gathering her composure, Cassandra asked, “Are you familiar with the story of Andraste?”

“Mostly, yes,” I said, my mouth getting away with me, “and we had a similar prophet called the Christ. Except he was a man and the son of God. They say he performed miracles. He was betrayed and killed publicly, but three days later he came back to life. According to the particular theory my parents believed in, his death cleansed humans of their sins permanently. God would always forgive us no matter what we did.”

“There are... some similarities to Andraste,” Cassandra admitted reluctantly, her face troubled.

“Cassandra,” I said, suddenly feeling bad for her. “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t bore you with stories of Christianity. You gain effectively nothing useful from the information.”

She nodded, but I could see that my words had rattled her.

“Actually,” I said in order to salvage the situation, “I know for a fact that Andraste was a real person.”

“You do?” Solas inquired, raising an eyebrow.

“The Hero of Ferelden went to the Temple of Sacred Ashes in order to save Arl Eamon’s life,” I recalled, “and she met the Guardian. He was one of the first Disciples of Andraste. Who knows? Maybe the Maker is real as well. Hell, I’m open to anything as long as I have some kind of proof.”

That seemed to placate Cassandra, who smiled. “Faith is not based on proof,” she pointed out.

I laughed. “Well, there lies the problem. I probably should have a bit more faith. Like you said,” I reminded, “I’m in Thedas after all, which in itself should be impossible. But it happened.” I grinned and sent her a sly look. “As soon as the Maker starts talking to me, I’ll let you know.”

“You shouldn’t jest about such things,” Cassandra admonished, but there was a small smile on her lips.

Before I knew it, four days had passed and at noon of the fifth day we returned to Haven.

We left our horses in the stables and went our merry ways from there. I suspect most of my companions made their way towards a bath. In fact, it was in my agenda as well. However first I wanted to know our progress, so my first stop was the Chantry building. But I was unable enter because there was an angry mob gathering in front of it.

“Your kind killed the most Holy!” a templar shouted.

“Lies!” a balding mage across from him yelled, pointing his finger. “Your kind let her die!”

“Shut your mouth, mage,” the templar said, his hand reaching for his sword.

Cullen came in between the two, furious. “Enough!” he roared.

“Knight-Captain,” the templar called out feebly.

“That is not my title,” Cullen ground out. “We are not templars any longer. We are all part of the Inquisition.”

A snide voice cut in. “And what does that mean, exactly?” Chancellor Roderick asked.

“Back again, Chancellor?” Cullen sneered. “Haven’t you done enough?”

“I’m curious, Commander, as how your Inquisition and its ‘Herald’ will restore order as you’ve promised,” he said, looking over the angry crowd. He was one to talk. It was more likely that the Chancellor himself instigated the argument to begin with.

“Of course you are,” Cullen muttered. “Back to your duties, all of you,” he ordered everyone around them.

The mob dispersed and I walked up to the pair.

“Oh, you’re back,” Cullen said, as if surprised.

“None of the scouts sent word ahead?” I asked curiously.

“They might have,” Cullen allowed, now smiling slightly. “I just didn’t expect you to come straight here. I figured you might want to rest first.”

“I wanted to check up on everyone, and then there was a commotion. I was curious,” I said, gesturing around. “Seems like they’ve kept you busy.”

“Yes,” Cullen sighed out, crossing his arms. “Mages and templars were already at war. Now they’re blaming each other for the Divine’s death.”

“Which is why we require a proper authority to guide them back to order,” the Chancellor said.

Cullen glared at him. “Who, you? Random clerics who weren’t important enough to be at the Conclave?”

The Chancellor kept at it. “The rebel Inquisition and its so-called ‘Herald of Andraste’?” he asked and scoffed. “I think not.”

“If the proper authority hadn’t completely failed, the Conclave wouldn’t have been needed,” I pointed out.

“So you suggest I blame the Chantry and exalt a murderer? What of justice?” Roderick asked.

Cullen was losing his cool. “That won’t help restore order here and now.”

“Hah,” Roderick laughed humorlessly. “Order will never be restored as long as this rebellion is allowed to fester.”

“Well, let’s hope we find solutions in Val Royeaux,” I said, “And not a cathedral full of chancellors.”

Cullen smiled wearily. “The stuff of nightmares.”

“Mock, if you will,” the Chancellor sneered. “I’m certain the Maker is less amused.”

I turned to Cullen, already getting bored of the Chancellor and his negativity. “So, do you need me for anything? Did Mother Giselle give you that list of names?” I asked.

The Chancellor huffed and stomped away.

Cullen looked thoughtful. “Yes, Mother Giselle gave us the list when she arrived. There will be a meeting later. We weren’t certain when you would return, so there is time yet. Maybe you can take the time to... freshen up.”

I looked down at my armor, which was admittedly rather gunky. I had tried washing it in the river couple of times, but blood is really hard to get off. Thankfully the prominent color of my armor was red, so blood didn’t show too much.

I glanced at the sun. It was just after noon. “You play chess, right? Can I tempt you in a game later tonight?”

Cullen blinked in surprise, then his face reddened just slightly. “How did you... Um, I’ll have to look at my schedule...” he trailed off, hand at the back of his neck, “to tell the truth, I am swamped with reports right now.”

My face fell. “Oh, well,” I said, trying not to look too disappointed. “That’s perfectly alright.”

“Some other time maybe,” Cullen said quickly.

“Yes, of course,” I said, smiling. “It’s cool. I understand.”

We stared at each other.

“Cool,” I repeated. “Well, I’m off to take a week long bath. I’ll see you in the War Room.”

I bolted.

What just happened. Did I ask Cullen out on a chess date? I think I did.

Hoolyyyyyy---

“----shiiit,” I said, closing the door to my cabin and sliding down on the floor. “What the hell? Adaar, you cannot ask cute people out on chess dates just like that.”

“Why not?” Solas asked from my bed.

I blinked. He was still sitting there.

“Why are you on my bed, Solas?” I asked, because that was the more pressing question.

“Because I was waiting for you,” Solas said and stood up. “I was curious if you have suffered any more nightmares. Despite my best efforts, there never seemed to be a quiet moment on the road to ask you.”

Right. Cassandra wouldn’t have liked the news that I might now be open to demonic possession.

“Nope, no new nightmares so far,” I said, shaking my head. “If you’re so concerned about it, I’ll tell you when I have one.”

That seemed to placate him, because he nodded. “Then,” Solas said walking over to me, his arms behind his back. “Why can’t you ask people on ‘chess dates’, as you call it?”

I stood up from my position on the floor and brushed off my clothes. “Well, first of all,” I said, holding up one finger. “Cullen is not attracted to guys. Second... umm. I’m pretty sure that first thing overrules everything else.”

Solas raised an eyebrow. “Oh, you’ve enquired him?”

I laughed. “You know I haven’t. I just know these things.”

“The Commander’s sexual preferences are important to the fate of the Inquisition?” he asked. “How fascinating.”

Smart-ass.

I rolled my eyes. “Not really, no. But umm, you know how I said there are different versions of the story? It varies a lot and sometimes the Herald, whoever they are, ends up romancing someone,” I explained hesitantly. “Sorry, it sounds really crude when I say it like that, but it’s actually very cute.”

“What about me?” Solas asked, like he was talking about the weather.

I could feel my face heating up. “I’m not... going to talk about this anymore.”

Solas had been my first Inquisition romance. And even though I never finished playing that particular playthrough, it was memorable. It was the voice, okay? I really liked his voice actor in Torchwood.

Solas tilted his head, smirking as if he had guessed what I was thinking about. “As you wish,” he said and walked past me to the door. “Let me know if you have any more nightmares.”

He left. What a jerk.

It was only then that I realised that might have been his subtle way of finding out what I knew. Right now he had no reason to think that his identity would be revealed by the end of this. He was simply a skillful mage who happened to be in the right place in the right time in order to save the Herald’s life. If I revealed what I knew of Lavellan’s romance, there might be a crack in his confidence and he might flee no matter what I said.

I couldn’t let that happen. I was really fucking unsure of his motivations, but from what I knew from the game and bits of fanfic, I doubted Fen’Harel was evil. Unless this was one of the cases where fangirls were blinded by a character’s sex appeal and brushed aside all of their bad qualities... That was actually a possibility, now that I think about it. But despite his condescending attitude towards the Dalish and humans at times, he never seemed evil.

Not for the first time, I wished I had played Trespasser.

Sadly enough, my knowledge concerning the DLC was bits and pieces of information gathered through friends and copious amounts of fanfiction. Again, not exactly something you should trust unconditionally. I knew that the Inquisitor lost their arm and Solas had a plan that might destroy the world, but the details were sketchy at best.

In fact, my memory of the latter half of the game was vague. I could only hope that I would remember more details as things progressed.

I went to take off my armor when I noticed something shiny laying on top of my dresser. It was an entirely new armor set.

Damn, it was nice and incredibly badass. I would recognise the Flames of the Inquisition heavy armor set anywhere. Built out of white and dark metals and adorned with golden scales, it was a formidable sight. Alongside it were a bright red piece of fabric to be worn as a belt, dark leather trousers, brown leather gloves and white leather boots. There was also a black undershirt to be worn under the armor itself, and a red scarf that matched the belt.

The advisors really wanted me at my best, huh? Guess some random Qunari armor wouldn’t cut it when traveling to Val Royeaux.

I vowed to try it on as soon as I had bathed. That led me to realise that I shouldn’t be taking off my clothes, because the only bathtubs in Haven were in fact located inside the Chantry, away from my cabin.

I sighed, thanking the Powers That Be that I had only taken off my shoulder pieces and shoes, and not the whole armor.

Putting my boots back on, I grabbed clean underwear from the closet and gathered the new armor into my arms. I also picked up a razor, because the stubble on my chin had grown quite a lot in length by now. Then I marched into the Chantry. One of the stone faced chantry sisters was kind enough to show me to one of the unoccupied rooms that had an actual bathtub and promised me I wouldn’t be disturbed. She even called over couple of servants to carry hot water into the tub.

The servants handed me a piece of soap and two (!) towels.

I thanked them profusely, locked the door, stripped naked and sank into the warm water.

I had to bend my knees to completely fit, but it was still way better than just cleaning up with a bucket of water and a rag. Or even swimming in that lake. In fact, it was so relaxing that I must have fallen asleep because the next thing I knew, someone was knocking on the door.

I looked over, hesitating if I should get out of the rapidly cooling water or not. “Hello?”

“Just making sure you’re okay,” Varric’s voice carried out. “I was looking for you and the servants said you’ve been there for half an hour.”

“I fell asleep,” I confessed.

Varric laughed.

I glared at the door and got up, quickly drying off and putting on the new leather pants and the black undershirt. When I finally opened the door, Varric was still there, leaning against the wall opposite of the door and grinning at me.

“Why were you looking for me?” I asked, taking the dry towel and squeezing my long hair with it. Corner of it got caught in my horns, effectively hiding my face from view.

“Is it true you have a thing for Curly?” Varric asked. He must have noticed my shoulders tense, because he laughed. “So it’s true. I was certain Solas was pulling my leg.”

I grabbed the towel so it fell off my horns and face, and looked mournfully at him. “Why is this happening to me?” I asked, “Does everyone know?”

Varric shrugged. “People like to talk.”

“I have a thing for everyone here,” I muttered under my breath.

“What was that?” Varric asked, his eyes glinting.

Welp. Let’s not go there.

“It was a bad idea. I never should have asked him,” I said instead. “Poor Cullen. He was so flustered.”

Varric helped me fasten the new armor. “You good to go?” he asked.

“Actually, now that you’re here,” I said, showing him the straight shaving razor I had found in my cabin. “Can you help me shave?”

He looked at me silently.

I looked back at him.

“You don’t know how to shave?” he asked incredulously.

I shook my head. “We had specialized equipment. I don’t know how to use a straight razor.”

Never mind the fact that my original body simply didn’t grow facial hair. Which was a shame. I thought it was cool.

He shook his head and took the razor from me. “All right, sit down. Tip your head back, and don’t move a muscle.”

I did as he told and closed my eyes. The whole situation was weird. My first beard shave, and Varric Tethras doing it for me. The thought made me giggle, which in turn made Varric snap at me several times.

“Done,” he said eventually and slapped a wet towel on my face.

“Thanks,” I said, wiping my face with it. “I’ll have to learn to use that thing eventually, but I didn’t want to accidentally stab myself.”

He chuckled darkly. “Truly an unfit death for the Herald of Andraste.”

We walked towards the Chantry doors together. On our way there were several chantry sisters bustling around, and couple of servants. They all whispered among themselves as we walked past. As we exited the Chantry doorway the sun hit me at a just the right angle, causing me to squint.

“Excuse me,” a voice said. “I’ve got a message for the Inquisition but I’m having hard time getting anyone to talk to me.”

My knees went out from underneath me, and I had to grip onto Varric’s shoulder to keep myself from falling to the ground. I vaguely registered him grunting at the extra weight.

“Krem?” I breathed out weakly. He wasn’t supposed to be here. Not yet.

Cremisius Aclassi quirked an eyebrow at me. “Do I know you?”

Chapter Text

“Do I know you?” Krem asked. Upon noticing my trembling form he added, “Are you all right?”

My heart was thumping so loudly that for a moment I hardly heard his question. My jaw refused to move and shape words. Lucky for me, I wasn’t alone.

“Don’t mind him, he fell asleep in the baths,” Varric drawled. “And haven’t you heard? The Herald just knows things.”

Krem’s eyes widened and he looked up at me. Unlike with several other people I had met, Krem’s eyes didn’t travel up to stare at my horns.

“Your Worship,” Krem said and saluted sharply. “I didn’t know. My name is Cremissius Aclassi...” he started and trailed off,”...but I guess you already knew that.” Krem lowered his hand, looking uncomfortable.

That’s what caused me to finally regain control over my body. The sole idea of me causing discomfort for Krem was unforgivable. He was a perfect cinnamon roll, too pure for this world. I stood up straight and swallowed.

“I have an approximate knowledge of many things,” I said with a weak grin. Nobody would understand the reference, but I was already used to that. I scratched the area where my horn and my temple connected. “That, and I was a mercenary, you know. I’ve heard of the Bull’s Chargers.”

As much as I hated lying to Krem, I needed to keep up appearances for now. I hadn’t quite figured out what the hell I would tell the Iron Bull. I wasn’t that good of a liar, and with his Ben Hassrath training he would see right through me. It wasn’t a good idea to let the Qunari know everything either, because that would not end well for anyone involved.

Krem must have had some information about Adaar’s mercenary background, because my lie caused him to relax incrementally.

“To my knowledge, we’ve never actually met,” I clarified and held out my hand. “My name is Kaaras Adaar. Also known as the Herald of Andraste, that blasphemous Qunari, the Divine killer, and any other insult you can come up with.”

Varric threw me an unimpressed look.

Krem stifled a snort and shook my hand. “Call me Krem,” he said. “If you’ve heard about us, you might already have guessed what I’m doing here. We’ve got word of some Tevinter mercenaries gathering out in the Storm Coast. My commander, the Iron Bull, offers the information free of charge. If you’d like to see what the Bull’s Chargers can do for the Inquisition, meet us there and watch us work.”

My eyes glazed over a bit as he spoke. Bull and Krem... Out of everything that could have gone wrong, I couldn’t believe this was happening right now. The Chargers weren’t supposed to contact the Inquisition until after Val Royeaux. That was a bit worrying, actually. Had my presence really affected the timeline this much?

“Yes,” I said after he stopped talking and cleared my throat. “Actually, we might be traveling to Val Royeaux soon. I’m sure we can make a detour on the way there.”

Krem nodded. “I appreciate it, Ser.”

I smiled. “At ease, Lieutenant. Will you be heading back immediately, or do you have time to spare?”

Krem’s expression turned guarded. “I’m not in a hurry,” he said slowly.

“I’ll buy you a drink if you tell me a bit more about the Bull’s Chargers,” I said, my smile stretching into a smirk. “I need to convince the others about your company after all. They’ll be handling the actual transaction, I’m just the pretty figure head.”

Varric huffed. “That’s how it starts,” he whispered conspiratorially, “the Herald offers you a drink, and next thing you know you’re rescuing kittens out of trees with him.”

I kicked his shin a little harder than necessary. “Shut it, Varric. You’ll scare him away. Besides, you fight apostates, templars, and demons more than you rescue kittens.”

Krem glanced between the two of us. “I’m a mercenary,” he said blandly, “both are included in my job description. We accept contracts with whoever makes the first real offer. However, normally there are more fancy nobles ordering us around.”

It’s entirely possible that joining the Inquisition was originally Krem’s idea. The Iron Bull probably went with it once he realised it would allow him to fight bigger enemies like dragons and how perfect the job would be for Hissrad. And yeah, considering what I’d heard about Trespasser, maybe he truly did get orders from Ben-Hassrath. Who knows.

A foggy memory of Bull inside the Fade surfaced to the forefront of my mind. He had been cursing Krem for joining the Inquisition.

Varric chuckled. “I like you, kid.”

Yesss, my babies. Become best friends for life, okay?

“I’ll buy you that drink,” I said, tilting my head towards the tavern. “While we’re at it, I’ll grab a bite to eat before they want me in the War Room.”

“I’d be a fool to turn down a free drink,” Krem said with a shrug. “I’ll tell you what I can.”


 

Krem explained all the basic details about the Chargers (mostly for Varric’s benefit) and entertained us with a couple of stories. Our drinks were interrupted in the middle of a story I couldn’t recall ever hearing during the game. One of Leliana’s agents tapped me on the shoulder and told me the meeting was starting.

“Oh,” I said, “thanks.”

The agent left as quickly as she had arrived.

I glanced back at Krem who was looking at me curiously. “Sorry, they need me in the meeting,” I said. “You’ll have to finish that story when we meet again.”

Krem raised his mug at me. “I appreciate the drink,” he said with a slight grin.

“Will you keep him company?” I asked Varric.

“Might as well,” Varric said, relaxing back into his seat.

So I left the two of them talking between themselves. But man, did I wish I didn’t have to, because Krem was just getting to the good part of the tale. The Iron Bull was about to make an appearance and bust some bandit skulls.

The two soldiers stationed outside the War Room saluted me. The door was open, so I slipped inside.

Cullen hadn’t arrived yet. Leliana, Cassandra, and Josephine were gathered around the table looking at the map and talking in a low voice.

“Hey, everyone doing okay?” I greeted them.

They looked at me, and Josephine smiled. “Herald, it is good to see you again. Cassandra tells me you’ve been busy.”

“You as well, Madam Ambassador. Please,” I said with a smile, “Call me Adaar. That goes for you as well, Leliana.”

Leliana didn’t smile. “You should get used to the title sooner rather than later,” she said.

I sighed. Guess there was still some work to do before we could be all buddies. Leliana was such an intriguing person. She was so sweet in Origins, and then a total badass in Inquisition. Despite my personal views on organised religion, I greatly admired her devotion to the Maker. And I really didn’t want to get on her bad side. In fact, I wanted to be on her best side.

Cullen entered the room and closed the door. We exchanged brief greetings.

“There is a letter for you, Hera-- Master Adaar,” Josephine corrected herself, and was rewarded with a smile from me. “It is from your old mercenary company.”

Various eyes turned to me. I had claimed to be from another world in the previous meeting just two weeks prior, so of course they were curious to see my reaction. I cleared my throat and accepted the letter. It was sealed, but I was certain at least the Nightingale had read it.

Adaar,

I heard you were dead, and then a prisoner, and then maybe you fell out of the fade and landed on your head and forgot who you were. Seriously, stop that. We still haven’t been paid.

Some of our kith made it out of that giant shit hole full of demons after the explosion. The rest are dead or missing. I don’t know how many were rounded up by angry humans. If you’re not dead and you remember who you are, help me find our brothers and sisters.

Shokrakar

P.S. If you forgot who you are, I’ll remind you. Your name is Adaar. You’re Vashot. You didn’t get paid for being blown up.

Well... Whoever this Shokrakar was, they had the right idea. In fact I didn’t remember them. Because I wasn’t Adaar. However, it was heartwarming to realise there was someone left who cared enough to initiate contact. It didn’t matter that Shokrakar emphasized the money, because simply knowing there was someone out there was good. Might have to go with the amnesia route with them if we ever met, though. At the moment there were more pressing issues at hand, like helping Shokrakar to find the rest of the Valo-Kas mercenaries.

I looked at Josephine. “Some of my kith didn’t return,” I started, doing my best to pronounce the name, “Shokrakar wants my help in locating them.” I turned to Leliana, who was watching me closely. “I trust your agents can handle this matter? Surely you know everything there is to know about my company by now.”

Leliana inclined her head. “Of course.”

“I’d prefer them all alive, if possible,” I said with a tight smile. “Whoever is left.”

“Yes, obviously,” Leliana said, answering my smile. To my surprise, it seemed genuine. “In case you were wondering, your intel on Butler came through. He tried to kill one of our agents, but failed miserably. All thanks to you.”

Cullen, Cassandra, and Josephine all stood up a little straighter at the news.

“Maker’s Breath,” Cullen muttered. “It really is true, then?”

“The Herald has shown remarkable knowledge during our travels in the past two weeks,” Cassandra confirmed.

I scratched my horn, embarrassed. “I told you I knew things... Guess you didn’t entirely believe me.”

Cassandra was thoughtful. “Because of your actions at the Crossroads, there are now rumours floating around regarding the source of your knowledge...” she trailed off.

“The belief that you truly are Andraste’s chosen has only spread,” Josephine continued. “Even the Chantry is finding it difficult to ignore you.”

“So we’ll go to Val Royeaux to speak with those clerics?” I asked.

Leliana raised an eyebrow. “Where did you get such an idea? No,” she said. “It’s far too dangerous.”

“Having the Herald address the clerics is not a terrible idea,” Josephine wondered out loud.

“You can’t be serious!” Cullen exclaimed.

Hey, offense taken, Curly.

“Mother Giselle isn’t wrong,” Josephine said. “At the moment the Chantry’s only strength is that they’re united in opinion.”

“And we should ignore the danger to the Herald?” Leliana asked.

I crossed my arms. “The worst those clerics can do is insult me.”

“Don’t underestimate the power of their words,” Leliana said. “An angry mob will do you in just as quickly as a blade.”

I dropped my arms. She was right, of course. I didn’t want to get mobbed to death. Least of all in a place like Val Royeaux.

“I will go with him,” Cassandra said, coming to my aid. “Mother Giselle said she could provide us names. Use them.”

“But why?” Leliana asked, frustration clear in her voice. “This is nothing but a--”

“What choice do we have?!” Cassandra burst out. “Right now we can’t approach anyone for help with the Breach. Use what influence we have to gather the clerics together. Once they’re ready, we’ll see this through.”

Raising my hand, I spoke up, “I have an idea on that protection front.”

Leliana looked at me curiously. “Yes?” she asked.

“What route would we normally take to Val Royeaux?” I asked. “Because if we can make a little detour on the Storm Coast, I’ll have an actual bodyguard with me.” I glanced at Cassandra. “No offence, Cass. But he’s actually taller than me.”

“What are you talking about?” Cullen asked, frowning.

I grinned. “The Bull’s Chargers, a mercenary company,” I clarified, “Their leader can given even you a run for your money, Commander.”

Cullen looked dubious.

Leliana leaned against the War Table with a sigh. “I have heard of them,” she said. “And I have admit they’re impressive. But the Iron Bull...”

I wiggled my eyebrows. “Suspicious, right?”

She narrowed her eyes. “You know? Yet you’re still willing to work with him?”

“He’s a spy for the Qunari,” I said, making the advisors shift uncomfortably. “But he’s totally open about it and it works both ways, he’ll be willing to share some of his information.” I grinned. “Besides, he’s worth it.”

Leliana glanced at Cassandra, who had a ‘just go with it’ expression on her face. “Very well, if you’re sure,” Leliana said, “but you will take some of my agents with you to meet this Iron Bull and his Chargers, and then continue to Val Royeaux. We will make the suitable arrangements so you can catch a boat straight from Jader.”

I grimaced. “A boat? Is that really the best option?”

“It is the fastest route,” Leliana said bluntly. “Especially if you insist on going via the Storm Coast.”

Shit.

“How long would it take?” I asked, and added, “just the boat ride.”

Josephine stepped in. “Five days at most,” she said, scribbling down something on her notepad, “three and half, if the weather is ideal.”

I groaned. Up to five days on a boat? In Thedas?? I would have been fine if it was a huge ass cruise ship because those things barely moved. But smaller boats were certain to be rocked by the waves, which meant I would spend the entire journey puking my guts out.

“Please,” I said, looking at my advisors pleadingly, “please, tell me there is some sort of herb or a potion I can take. Otherwise I’ll be sick the whole time.”

“You suffer from seasickness?” Leliana asked with a frown, “How unfortunate.”

Cassandra touched my shoulder briefly. “Do not worry,” she said with a hint of a smile, “I have the same affliction. The potion will not help completely, but it should at least allow you to keep food down.”

I smiled back at her, uncertainly. I was used to heavy grade medications that would pretty much take me out for the duration of the journey, but I doubted Thedas had any of those available.

“Let’s hope it works.”


 

The next morning I slept in, since nobody came to wake me up. On the road you always got up with the sun, but I was the type of person who needed to catch an extra hour or two whenever it was possible. I didn’t actually sleep for more than nine hours, max. Mostly I just laid in bed, staring at the ceiling and thinking about what a shit show my life had turned into in just a couple of weeks.

Me, the Herald of Andraste? What a fucking joke.

It was different when we were travelling, fighting demons, sealing rifts, overall keeping busy. But finally being away from people. Actually having the time to think about things... My prospects didn’t look too good. If I didn’t die from sealing the Breach and somehow survived Corypheus and his dragon, then Murphy’s Law dictated that the damned mark would end up killing me instead of just taking my arm.

Yeah. It wasn’t a nice morning.

Dressed in a simple navy blue blouse, a very familiar looking leather vest and a new pair of boots I’d found at the bottom of my wardrobe, I emerged from my cabin barely two an hour before noon. In Thedas’s time that equals to sleeping most of the day away. Most people there get up at a crazy hour. That’s life without the wonders of electricity.

“The Herald finally graces us with his presence,” Varric commented as I walked past his usual campsite.

Varric. The best friend of Hawke. Hawke, who would end up in the Fade with us and could die helping us get out. Shit. I couldn’t be responsible for the life and death of someone like him. Despite my best efforts to keep cool, I could feel my face twisting up.

“Shit, Feathers,” Varric said softly. “I was joking.”

I hid my face with my hand, not wanting Varric to see me freak out. Again. “It’s okay,” I said and took a shuddering breath. “Today’s just... not a good day.”

“Ah...” Varric trailed off. “Have you eaten?”

I shook my head. “Not yet.”

“Let’s get some food into you, maybe it will cheer you up a bit,” he said and stood up.

We walked to the tavern in silence. Varric gestured for me to sit down at the table nearest to the fireplace while he went over to Flissa. The pair talked in a low voice. Everyone else was at work, except for me, leaving the tavern silent and empty. Only the sound of the fire crackling in the fireplace and Flissa’s bustling behind the counter disturbed the silence.

My forehead hit the table with a thud.

“Look out or you’ll make a dent with those horns of yours,” Varric said. There was a sound of a plate and two mugs sliding across the table.

I didn’t look up.

Varric sat down across from me, shifted a few times, but didn’t say anything else. Eventually, the sound of a pen on paper filled the air, as Varric started writing. We stayed like that for a while.

“Varric,” I said, bringing my hands underneath my chin, still slumped against the table. “When you write to Hawke, will you tell him to bring Anders with him?”

Varric’s pen stopped. He watched me for a while. “How did you....” He trailed off and shook his head. “I don’t think that’s possible.”

I didn’t need to ask why he thought so. “Yeah, I guess not. Too many people after him now.”

Varric looked at me, an eyebrow raised. “But you want to meet him? Why?”

“No reason,” other than the fact I wanted to see him and Hawke together, and maybe talk to him (and wrap him in a blanket and tell him everything was okay). Listen, I’m sure Fenris and Hawke make an equally cute couple, but Hawke and Anders were the couple in Dragon Age 2. I didn’t warm up to Fenris until my second playthrough. The elf was a cutie when you got to know him, but Anders was just... Anders.

“At least tell him to bring his mabari,” I murmured. “I want to pet Bread.”

Varric groaned. “I deliberately left that ridiculous name out of the book.”

My lips twitched into a ghost of a smile. “I can’t imagine why.”

Eventually I did eat, but it didn’t really brighten my mood. However, I had a mental list of things I wanted to do before our departure. Thus, I left the tavern, Varric’s worried gaze following me out.


 

The first item on my list was meeting the apothecary, Adan. I hadn’t yet thanked him for taking care of me after the soldiers found me at the Temple of Sacred Ashes. If memory serves, and indeed it did, Adan was missing some of his deceased master’s notes. Lucky for me, I knew exactly where they were.

I passed Cullen’s recruits on my way to the abandoned cabin. Several of the soldiers stopped what they were doing and stared when they saw me, but were quickly berated by the senior officers. Cullen was there, too, supervising the training. When our eyes met, I gave him a slight wave and he nodded in greeting before turning back to his work.

The walk to the cabin wasn’t long, but the distance was larger than in the game. It was hidden by the small group of trees though, so it didn’t come as a surprise that nobody had been there since the Conclave. The door was slightly ajar, and everything in the small house was covered by a thin layer of dust. Unlike in the game, the notes weren’t conveniently on the desk just for grabs. I had to go through the bookcase and finally the drawers before I found a stack of parchments, bound together with string just enough to keep the whole thing from falling apart.

Back inside the walls, I knocked on the doorframe of the apothecary. The door was open.

“Anyone here?”

A harried looking man dressed in robes came into the view. When he saw me, he frowned. “You’re back, again.”

I gave my best effort for a friendly smile. “Adan, right? Sorry I didn’t come to thank you before we left. It’s been kinda hectic.”

He nodded, wiping his hands on a piece of cloth. “Tell me about it,” he muttered.

“Do you still have need for these?” I asked, waving the stack of papers.

“What is...” he trailed off, his eyebrows climbing towards his hairline. “Are those Master Taigen’s notes?”

I nodded, handing them over. “I only remembered them when we came back to Haven,” I said. “Sorry.”

Adan started browsing the stack immediately. “Huh,” he grunted. “Thank you. These will come in handy.”

“No problem,” I said, “just let me know if you need anything. I still owe you.”

He grunted again, already totally absorbed in the text. “Yes, yes...” he muttered. “Just get us an actual healer. Even I can’t do everything.”

Adan had a point. Mother Giselle was adept at handling some of the work, but as far as I knew she wasn’t a mage or a trained healer. Hopefully, once the Chargers arrived they would spent most of their time in Haven. Stitches was one hell of a healer. And speaking of healers, after Val Royaux we needed to go to Redcliffe. There was some sort of a healer or a potion maker in the village, who could help the refugees in the Crossroads...

I really needed to start keeping a journal of these things, which is why my next stop was the Chantry building. To be more precise, Josephine’s office.

“Madam Ambassador?” I called out, knocking on the door.

“Just a moment,” Josephine’s voice called out. “What is it?”

I opened the door and peeked my head in. Josephine was arranging a stack of papers on her desk. To be frank, she looked exhausted.

“Is this a bad time?” I asked.

“Of course not,” Josephine said with a polite smile. “Please, do come in.”

Closing the door behind me, I took a curious look around. Unlike in the game, Minaeve wasn’t located in the same office as the ambassador. I had spotted the elvhen mage in the main hall instead. She had a desk in one of the corners behind the pillars, next to an overflowing bookcase. It was an equally good fit, but it had thrown me off a bit at first sight.

“What can I do for you, Master Adaar?” Josephine asked, looking up at me.

“Well,” I started, “I didn’t really want to take your time with this, but I couldn’t figure out who else to ask. I need some equipment for writing.”

Josephine’s polite smile faltered a little. “Writing?” she asked, as if surprised by my request. Then she seemed to mentally shake herself. “Ah, yes, of course. Could you be more specific?”

I scratched my left horn absently. “I want to start a journal so I don’t... forget important details,” I said pointedly. “It needs to be something I can carry with me when we travel.”

Josephine nodded. “I see,” she said, thoughtfully. Then she opened a drawer in her desk and rummaged through it. “Yes, I think this will do nicely.”

Josephine offered me a leather bound book made from dark leather with a simple floral pattern etched on the cover. The paper, at least I was pretty sure it was paper instead of parchment, was pale yellow. The pages seemed less uniform than I was used to, but otherwise the journal would have been just at home at some vintage shop back home.

I took it. “Oh,” I said, looking it over. “This is really nice.” Then, because I wasn’t sure how prevalent paper and books were in Thedas, I asked, “It wasn’t outrageously expensive, was it?”

Josephine smiled mysteriously. “Not any more than usual.”

My gaze went back and forth from her smile to the notebook. “Hmm,” I said dubiously and reached for my coin purse, which was hanging from my belt.

“Oh, there’s no need,” Josephine said, shaking her head. “Please accept it as a gift from me.”

My hand froze. “Uh,” I said, not knowing how to respond. “Really?”

“Of course,” the ambassador said, her face a perfect mask of politeness.

“All right,” I said slowly. “But only on one condition.”

Josephine blinked. “A condition?” she asked curiously.

I grinned. “I’m sure you have questions,” I said. “After all, as an ambassador you are in charge of the Inquisition’s public relations, right?”

“...Yes,” Josephine agreed.

“Well, I’m sure you’re being bombarded with angry letters, asking after the strange Qunari who’s being called the Herald of Andraste,” I chuckled humorlessly. “So if you’re wondering about anything specific, I’m offering to answer any questions you might have.”

“Ah,” Josephine said, realisation crossing her features. Her gaze traveled to a particular piece of paper on top of the pile she was arranging earlier. “In fact, there is something I’ve been meaning to ask you...”

“Yes?”

“As you are Tal-Vashot,” she started, and threw me an unsure look, “people have asked. You grew up outside the Qunari homeland, but...” Josephine trailed off and sighed. “Ah. There is no easy way to ask your thoughts on the Qun.”

I brought my hand to rub the bridge of my nose. “And there is no easy way for me to answer,” I said, giving her a meaningful look for the second time in our conversation.

Josephine hesitated. “This is because of the... knowledge you acquired in the Fade?” she asked.

“I didn’t acquire anything,” I muttered. “But yes. You’ll quickly find that my knowledge of the world as you know it is very lacking. And that includes the politics, the religion and even things everyone here might consider common knowledge.”

Josephine tilted her head curiously. “Oh?”

“I know some things,” I said, crossing my arms. “For example, since you asked, I know enough of the Qun to say that I would never willingly follow it.”

That made the Ambassador’s smile a little more genuine. “That... is reassuring. People ask how a Qunari could be Andraste’s Herald. It worries them if they believe it, angers them if they do not. Convincing them of your good intentions will be tasking.”

“You already know how I feel about the title,” I said and sighed, lowering my arms. “But I understand. Winning people over isn’t easy. I’m sure having you on our side will help us immensely, Lady Montilyet.”

“I hope so,” Josephine said, her expression brightening. “It will be interesting. Strangely enough, your mercenary work is not so inflammatory. People are fabricating extravagant tales of your heroics.”

I shifted uneasily. I didn’t really want to talk about the mercenary work, as I had no idea what it actually included. “Right,” I said and paused, remembering a particular dialogue option. “About the fade, and what happened... Do you really believe I was sent by Andraste?”

“I should much like to believe so, Your Worship,” Josephine said and looked down at her desk.

I frowned at the distant form of address.

“The miracles Andraste performed were so long ago, they’re difficult to picture. If it were truly her in the Fade who saved you...” Josephine trailed off, and looked up at me, her brow furrowed. “In any case, many already believe you walk in the Maker’s light.”

Shit. Why was everyone in Thedas so strong in their beliefs? It both baffled and amazed me.

I gave her my best attempt at a smile, thanked her once more the for the notebook and fled the room.

Of course, the moment I stepped outside, my gaze zeroed on Leliana, who was praying on her knees under the canvas ceiling just in front of the Chantry building. I cared for Leliana and wanted to help her, so in the game I always interrupted her and did my best to help. But now my step faltered.

What can I say? Leliana scared the shit out of me. Besides, since I didn’t believe in any higher power, I had zero words of comfort for her and I would probably end up making it worse.

For the second time in just moments, I was unable to come face to face with the faith of the Andrastians, so with one last glance at the Nightingale’s bowed back, I fled the scene.

Maker help us indeed.


 

It took couple of days for Josephine to arrange our journey, so we were able to rest for three more days before leaving. Krem, on the other hand, left the following morning. Knowing that Leliana’s agents were in charge of the ravens in Haven, I asked her if any letters had been sent to to Bull, Hissrad or any other Charger I could remember the name of. Her answer was negative, so if Krem did send a message, he did it after leaving Haven.

Our trip to the Storm Coast began on the 27th day of the Cloudreach, the fourth month of the Thedasian calendar. By then spring was already in full swing. Even in Haven the sun was reaching higher and higher during the day and it made the temperatures more bearable. The farther from Haven we travelled, the more obvious it was that spring had truly arrived.

I was still getting a hang of the names of the month. It was hard, not unlike learning a new language. It didn’t help that even in my mother tongue I always struggled with names of the months and their corresponding numbers in the calendar. Next month would be the aptly named Bloomingtide. The fourth day of Bloomingtide would mark the one month anniversary of my arrival to Thedas.

Leliana had sent three of her agents to travel with us, as promised. The scouts wore identical uniforms, and they all had their own mounts. Josephine also sent one of the Inquisition soldiers with us. He was riding a carriage pulled by a stocky workhorse. According to the Ambassador, the carriage contained items of great importance for the duration of our stay in Val Royeaux. I took that to mean, “you need more than one set of armor so they won’t think the Inquisition can’t afford to clothe their leaders”.

Now that we had horses, the journey itself took six days in total. And it was really boring.

Thankfully, I came prepared.

Haven’s library didn’t have Varric’s infamous Sword & Shield series, but they did have The Tale of the Champion and Hard in Hightown. I took that as a tiny victory because I had always wanted to read the former in particular.

Armed with my new notebook and couple of pieces of charcoal, I also finally started my journal. Writing down important details from the games turned out to be easier said than done, since I was mostly familiar with the first half of the game. I also found myself writing down my favourite lyrics, because I wanted to keep entertaining Varric with songs from modern Earth. I could no longer google the lyrics if I forgot them, after all. Sometime I shared them with Varric, who had taken up the habit of writing down every new song I shared. Once, I asked him why he was so interested, and he just chuckled and said, “Details are important.”

Of course, I never wrote down anything important in English.

After I found out none of the advisors were able to understand my native language, I knew it was a good idea to use that instead of English. One needed to be prepared for prying eyes, or in case something happened to me and the journal ended up in the wrong hands. I didn’t want some random bandits knowing the future of Thedas. Despite all of these safe guards, I did my best to keep mentions of future events as vague as possible. You never knew if someone with enough time and knowledge got their hands on it and was able to decipher the language from scratch.

After a few days, I got used to our new routine. It wasn’t that different from our jaunt to the Hinterlands. We woke up early, had breakfast and went on our way. We stopped for the occasional break, but otherwise continued until noon and ate lunch. Then we rode again until it was nearly dusk, made camp and enjoyed dinner. Josephine’s carriage held more complicated resources for cooking, so food wasn’t as bland as it had been in our previous journeys.

I didn’t sing any songs on the road, as per a request from Leliana’s agents. They were there mainly in order to protect us from bandits and other enemies of the Inquisition and they didn’t want to be distracted.

Apart from the lack of singing, the only other difference was that with the carriage and the horses, we were able to carry more equipment. Thus, me and Varric no longer shared a tent. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because my insomnia was back.

What insomnia, you might ask.

I had deluded myself into thinking that because I was no longer in my old body, I might be able to sleep like a normal person.

Of course, it didn’t work like that.

After a long day of travel I went into my tent, exhausted from the day, closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep, only to end up staring at the tent ceiling until the sun was up and someone came to wake me up. After that first night, I realised I was wasting time just laying there, so spent the nights writing my journal or reading Varric’s books instead. Every couple of days I would eventually fall into an exhausted slumber for a couple of hours, but all in all it was very similar to my insomnia cycle back on good old Earth.

Only this time around I didn’t have coffee or energy drinks to help me stay alert during the day.

After a couple of days I started receiving concerned glances from Solas, Varric, and Cassandra. From that I gathered I must have developed dark circles under my eyes. I wondered how those looked, since my skin and facial features were now different than they used to be. I didn’t have a mirror with me, so I couldn’t exactly see for myself. In fact, I hadn’t yet seen a single a mirror, so the finer details of my face remained a mystery.

One of the scouts, a short woman with brown chin length hair, struck up a conversation prompted by my sleepy demeanour. She had familiar features, and I realised she was the same agent who had come to the tavern in Haven to inform me of the War Table meeting just days prior.

“Are you okay?” she asked me at breakfast. She had already finished eating, and was currently sharpening her dagger across from me.

I took a bite of my bread, and regarded her while I chewed. “I’m fine,” I answered after swallowing. “Just tired.”

“Trouble sleeping?” she scout asked giving me a sympathetic look.

“I’m used to it by now,” I said and hid a yawn behind my hand.

The scout nodded and continued her work. I watched while I ate the rest of my breakfast, and realised I had no idea what her name was. None of the scouts had introduced themselves when they joined us.

“Sorry,” I said, making her look up. “What’s your name?”

“Millie, my lord,” the scout said, suddenly sitting up straighter.

I sighed. “No need for all that shit,” I said. “At least when it’s just us. Call me Adaar, okay?”

The scout glanced around, as if expecting her friends to scold her, but when it didn’t happen, she gave me a mischievous grin. “All right, Adaar,” she said and let out a giggle.

I smiled, amused. “How did you end up with the Inquisition?”

Millie, having finished sharpening her weapon, sheathed it and started to pack away the tools. “Oh, I’ve worked under the Nightingale for ages,” she said. “Even met my fiance that way.”

“Oh?” I said. “Is he back in Haven?”

Millie shook her head. “He’s a blacksmith in Denerim,” she clarified. “But we’re looking into it. Leliana promised me she’ll try to get him on the roster as soon as the Inquisition’s financial situation is more stable.”

I blinked. “That’s rough,” I said, “living so far apart must be difficult.” And all this without the help of the internet or even phone calls.

Millie gave me a small smile. “It’s fine,” she said with a far away look. “We’re both lucky to have well paying jobs. Besides, once he joins the Inquisition, we’ll probably see each other so often we’ll get sick of each other,” she added with a grin.

“I’m sure you won’t,” I said with an answering grin. “If he’s a good guy, then it should be like living with your best friend, right?”

Millie nodded in agreement. “Do you have someone?” she asked.

I shook my head and scratched my neck. “Not really,” I said, “I’m not really one for romance.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a hopeless romantic until the end of my days. I just wasn’t one for the physical aspects of said romance, which made things rather difficult after a certain point. Most people expected more out of a romance than kisses and cuddles.

“Don’t give up,” Millie said with a pout. “If it’s meant to be, it’s gonna happen.”

“Yeah,” I agreed with an awkward chuckle. “I’m sure you’re right. But there are more important things to worry about right now. Like that thing on the sky,” I said and wiggled the fingers of my left hand, drawing her attention to the mark.

Millie paled, as if she’d forgotten who she was talking to. “Uh,” she agreed. “Yeah. Maybe take care of that first.”

I laughed at the look on her face.


 

The rain didn’t start until the fourth day of our journey.

Thankfully we were all fully equipped with the proper travel cloaks, so we were prepared. But the thing is that if a piece of clothing is not made from plastic, it eventually gets wet no matter what. So despite our shiny new gear, the rain was enough to dampen our spirits.

The last day of travel started out cloudy, but there was no rain apart from a brief shower around noon. It passed quickly, and we were all still mostly dry. That was a good thing, because soon after we reached the Inquisition’s camp, where Scout Harding and her men were waiting for us. Harding left the Hinterlands briefly after our first meeting and traveled straight to the coast. None of her scouts were missing as of yet. I aimed to keep it that way.

“Your worship,” Harding said, “For what it’s worth, welcome to the Storm Coast.”

I waved my hand dismissively. “None of that nonsense, please Harding,” I said with a tired smile. “And thank you. We’re imposing on your fellow scouts just for a couple of hours, enough to rest and eat before we meet up with the Bull’s Chargers.”

“You’re welcome to our camp,” Scout Harding said warmly. “Our hunters have just returned, so we’ve got a veritable feast to offer.”

I perked up. “Got any fish?”

Harding nodded.

“Awesome,” I said, rubbing my hands together.

Cassandra released a long-suffering sigh. “How have you found the area so far?” she asked.

Harding shifted anxiously. “There’s a group of bandits operating in the area,” she said, “they know the terrain, and our small party has had trouble going up against them.”

“The Blades of Hessarian,” I said with a grimace. “Technically you could call them cultists. You should be careful, this could get ugly.”

Harding’s eyes widened, and she snuck a disbelieving glance at Cassandra. “It’s true?” she whispered, then caught herself and shook her head. “Of course it’s true.”

Varric chuckled. “You don’t know the half of it.”

Harding looked up at me. “Could you be more specific, Lord Herald?”

“There is an amulet called the Mercy’s Crest,” I thought out loud, “we should find either the amulet itself or instructions for crafting one. Anyone wearing it will be able to enter their camp and challenge their leader.”

“Is that wise?” Solas asked, frowning. “Negotiating with bandits? What if they refuse to honor the challenge?”

Cassandra crossed her arms in thought. “Solas is right,” she said, “however, we cannot completely ignore this opportunity.” She looked pointedly at me, which I took as a cue to explain more.

“They will take our scouts as captives if they get the chance,” I said. “If we go there without the crest we’ll have to kill all of them. With the crest however, they’ll promise to completely follow whoever wins.”

Cassandra sighed. “Of course they do.”

Harding looked back and forth between me and Cassandra. “What about those mercenaries you’re going to meet?” she asked. “Can they lend a hand?”

“Huh,” I said. I hadn’t even thought of that. “They might. Good idea, Scout Harding.”

“All in day’s work,” she said with a smile. “Now, how about that grub?”

Chapter Text

Harding and her small group offered us a veritable feast. The food was delicious.

Yet my appetite had all but vanished.

Usually my bouts of insomnia were accompanied by an increased appetite. However, ever since our arrival on the coast my nerves were acting up. Anxiety and sleep deprivation didn’t mix well. Everything was becoming so real, so fast. Just ten days ago Krem had dropped a figurative bomb on me, shattering all of my expectations of the next couple of weeks. I had thought I would have the time to relax with Cass, Solas, and Varric on our trip to Val Royeaux before we needed to recruit any new members into our party. But Krem had arrived and thrown me completely off guard.

I wasn’t ready.

Ten days was nowhere near enough time to prepare for meeting the Iron Bull. He wasn’t just any character. He was the reason I started playing Dragon Age in the first place.

I still remember the particular conversation which led to it. I had been chatting with a friend of mine about Star Trek, and happened to mention how Vulcans had a special term for a lover, friend and a soul mate — T’hy’la. She told me that hey, Dragon Age franchise’s newest installation has a humanoid race with a similar term. You can even romance one of them!

I had been instantly intrigued by the idea. The next day I bought all three games and started playing. And boy, the games were nothing like I had played before.

The rest is history.

“Are you ready to go?” Cassandra asked. The walk from Harding’s camp to the rendezvous point on the beach was short, barely five minutes.

I laughed, half hysterical. “No,” I wheezed out, gripping my chest. “I think I’m dying.”

“I am not surprised by your reaction,” Solas said. “You are different from the other Qunari. This Iron Bull on the other hand, is not. They are mindless beasts, held back only by the strict teachings of the Qun.”

“Hey,” I muttered with a half-hearted glare. “The Iron Bull is nothing like that.”

“Yeah, you’re right,” Varric drawled. “He’s a Qunari spy, that’s even worse. Absolutely nothing to worry about there.”

“I’m not worried about that,” I said, scratching the bit that connected my horn to my temple. “I’m worried because...”

“Yes?” Cassandra prompted.

“What if hedoesn’tlikeme?” I blurted out, burying my head in my hands.

That is your main concern?” Cassandra groaned. “Herald...”

“Bull and Dorian,” Varric reminded me with a smirk. “Isn’t that right?”

Horrified, I whirled towards him. “Don’t utter another word,” I hissed. I was stupid to think Varric would let it go. I should have guessed he was eavesdropping back then. That’s what you get for running your mouth and thinking you’re dreaming.

“Just saying,” he drawled with a shrug, “you didn’t swear on my name.”

I glanced around, paranoid that Bull’s Chargers were somehow within the hearing distance. “Look, none of you can mention that incident ever again,” I said, “Especially in front of the Iron Bull. Please.”

Varric looked at me for a moment before rolling his eyes. “Deal,” he said, “but you owe me one.”

I sighed in relief, turning to Cassandra and Solas. “Pretty please with a cherry on top?” I pleaded.

Solas was amused. “Your business is your own.”

Bitch, you say that now yet you blabbered to Varric about me asking Cullen for a game of chess?

Cassandra nodded in agreement, although I sensed that she was curious. “I agree with Solas. It is truly none of our business.”

I let out a deep breath and crouched down, my forehead touching my knees. Disaster averted, if only just barely. I really didn’t need the others talking in front of Bull and making me look like a creep. Even if I might have qualified as one. But hey, in my defence, a month ago I had no idea fictional characters were real.

Now if I only could manage to get a hold of my body and get back up.

“Adaar?” Cassandra asked. “Are you all right?”

“No,” I muttered, “I can’t seem to be able to move.”

Solas and Cassandra helped me back to my shaky feet. There was something happening deep down in my gut, a feeling not unlike the one you get when riding a rollercoaster. And it was slowly increasing in intensity.

“Can you walk?” Solas asked, peering at my sweaty and pale face.

“I think so,” I said weakly. “Just give me a moment.”

Okay. You can do this. Fake it ‘till you make it. Be professional. Act like you don’t know him from Adam. Like you haven’t read hundreds upon hundreds of fanfics about him. Oh god, will he be able to tell everything I’m thinking just from my hands or something?

Relax. Relax. He isn’t Sherlock Holmes. Although, he might be equally as bad.

Shit. Not helping.

“The longer you worry about it, the worse it gets,” Varric said finally, as if understanding my predicament. “We should just get it over with. Remember, his lieutenant is there. You’ve already met him.”

Varric was right. Krem would be there. It would be okay. Better get it over with.

We descended down the face of a rocky hill. The gravel beneath our feet crumbled with every step we took, forcing us to move with extreme care. Eventually we came to stop on a hilltop with good visibility down to the beach, where we could see a group of people fighting. And in the middle of it all, a large Qunari swinging an axe.

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. He was build like a brick house.

“They’re fighting the Tevinter mercenaries,” Cassandra said, “We should give them a hand. Adaar, maybe you should stay back. You still look a bit shaky.”

Oh, hell no.

“No way,” I said, “this is one fight I’m not missing out on.”

Faster than Cassandra could react, I grabbed the shield from her back, laid it on the steep hill and stepped on it sideways. Pretending that the shield was a snowboard, I spread my feet as wide as I could, slightly adjusted my center of gravity and bend my knees until I found balance. The shield’s leather straps provided some grip for my shoes.

Soon I was sliding down the hill faster than was possibly safe. It was idiotic, stupid and incredibly reckless, but I did it anyway. My makeshift snowboard naturally slowed down towards the end of the slope, so I jumped off, landing in a squat.

Right next to me stood an enemy archer, who hadn’t noticed my approach until the shield I had used slid past him. He turned, bewildered, and was met with a maul to the face. Bloodstream filling with adrenaline, my previous anxiety faded to the background.

I looked back and saw Cassandra and Varric both gaping down at me, their mouths open. Even Solas’s eyebrows were impossibly high.

“Come on!” I mouthed and gestured them to follow. They started descending down the hill at a considerably safer pace.

I turned back to the battle and recognised some of the Chargers. On the far side of the battlefield, fighting two armored mercenaries, was Krem, back to back to a muscular black guy who was probably Stitches. Some distance away from them stood a blonde haired elf with green vallaslin holding a bow, but no arrows. Definitely Dalish.

There were three more guys I recognised from the game. Another elf, a dwarf with a moustache, and a human. They must have been Rocky, Skinner, and Grim respectively. They fought alongside handful people who hadn’t been in the game, and thus I had no idea who they were.

Then, at the center of the battle, there was the Iron Bull.

If I had thought he looked massive from afar, he was truly larger than life in person. I couldn’t help but marvel, finally able to look upon him in high definition. Wide horns, massive biceps, covered in scars, and... shirtless. I was wearing two layers topped with a cloak, and the dude was fighting with no shirt on. It allowed me to observe the way his muscles moved in rhythm with every swing he delivered.

Maker, show me mercy.

I would’ve stayed to admire Bull’s physique some more, but there was another archer not far from where I was standing and she hadn’t spotted me yet. I tightened the grip on my maul. She was facing the direction where Bull was fighting and my approach took her by surprise, throwing off her aim just as she released the bow string. I didn’t give her a chance to reach for her knives after the initial attack, instead opting for an overhead swing.

When she was no longer moving, I risked a glance towards the direction the enemy’s arrow had gone. It had landed on the ground just a couple of feet from where Bull was fighting. Bull, who at that same exact moment chose to look towards its source.

Our eyes met, and Bull grinned.

My grip on the maul slackened, the feeling from earlier hitting me at full force. This time it didn’t stop there though, instead it wriggled its way up and gripped my chest. There was no limit to it. At that moment, that feeling was my new reality, stretching over to infinity. I had heard countless love songs during my lifetime, and I finally understood what they all meant.

Then I blinked and Bull turned away.

What the fuck?

I grabbed my chest. The feeling was still there, albeit fainter. It fluttered up and down, from my stomach to my chest like... a butterfly. Oh. My. God. Did I have butterflies in my stomach? Was that an actual feeling people could experience?

I must have zoned out for the rest of the fight, because soon enough Varric was standing beside me.

“The Seeker wants to hurt you badly for that stunt you just pulled,” he said.

“Hmm,” I said.

Varric peered up at me. “You still in there?” he asked, waving a hand under my nose.

“Uh huh,” I answered, nodding.

The Iron Bull was checking up on the Chargers. That meant he was going to walk over to us any minute now.

Varric noticed the direction of my gaze and chuckled deeply. “Good luck,” he said. “I’ll make sure to describe that face you’re making accurately in my next book.” He patted me on the back. “I’ll leave you two to it.”

What? Varric, no don’t leave me alone—

“Hot damn, it’s true,” The Iron Bull said with a laugh. “Oh, the Chantry must love you. Qunari mercenary as the Herald of Andraste,” he said with a small smile. “Who would’ve thought?”

I looked up at him. Yep. Up.

He was taller than me by at least half a feet. Everything I had so meticulously planned to say was completely erased from my mind. I could barely remember my own damn name.

After staring for far longer than was considered polite, I managed a meek, “Hello.”

“Hello,” The Iron Bull echoed back with a knowing smile. He tilted his head towards a rock and sat down. The tiny sliver of my mind that remained logical helpfully supplied his bad ankle as a possible reason. It also added that maybe he was using the injury, obvious because of the metal brace, as a way to evaluate my reaction and garner additional sympathy.

I shook my head and tried to relax. This was fine. Bull was cool. Absolutely nothing to be nervous about. He was just a Ben-Hassrath agent capable of reading my every move and facial expression. No biggie.

“I assume you remember Cremisius Aclassi, my lieutenant,” Bull said, waving his hand towards Krem.

Krem took that as a sign to approach us.

“Good to see you again,” he greeted me and turned to his boss. “Throat cutters are done, chief.”

“Already? Have them check again. I don’t want any of these Tevinter bastards getting away,” Bull said. “No offence, Krem.”

“None taken,” Krem said with a shrug. He turned to go and called out over his shoulder, “At least a bastard knows who his mother was. Puts him one up on you Qunari, right?”

Bull’s gaze zeroed back onto me. “So,” he said with a tiny smile. “You’ve seen us fight. We’re expensive, but we’re worth it.” He laughed. “And I’m sure the Inquisition can afford us.”

I nodded, still unable to speak, let alone negotiate a price.

“Wouldn’t cost you anything personally of course,” Bull said like he knew what I was thinking. “Unless you want to buy drinks later.”

It was a joke. I knew that. Unfortunately my body didn’t quite comprehend this fact, because I could feel my face heating up.

Bull’s smile widened a little. “Your ambassador, what’s her name?... Josephine. We’d go through her, get the payments set up,” he explained. “Gold will take care of itself, don’t worry about that. All that matters is that we’re worth it.”

“I know,” I said, finally finding my voice.

Bull looked at me. “You do, do you?” he asked in a casual tone.

I scratched my horn absently, avoiding his gaze. “I saw you guys fight.”

“You’re not just getting the boys,” The Iron Bull said. “You’re getting me.” Damn, I couldn’t not look at him at that. He caught my gaze. “You need a frontline bodyguard, I’m your man. Whatever it is – demons, dragons. The bigger the better.”

I nodded fervently.

Bull stood up and took a few steps towards me, still holding eye contact. “There’s one more thing. Might be useful. Might piss you off.”

I fully expected him to continue, but he didn’t. He just stopped and stared at me, throwing me for a loop. I was sure this was when he was supposed to tell me he was a spy, and then make a joke about having a thing for redheads. My previous anxiety returned, turning my hands clammy.

“Yeah?” I asked, thinking maybe he just needed prompting.

The Iron Bull stared at me. The corner of his eye crinkled up slightly as his mouth stretched into a smile. “They’re true,” he said. “Those strange rumours about you.”

I blinked. The what what now?

“You knew I was Ben-Hassrath even before you set a foot on this beach,” the Iron Bull deduced.

Oh shit. Abort mission.

“I... uh....” I mumbled, not knowing how to react.

“But you came anyway,” Bull pointed out, and burst into deep laughter. “I like that. Together with your grand entrance and what Krem told me, you’re definitely not what I was expecting.”

I looked up at him, mesmerized. Damn, if I didn’t love hearing that laugh.

“I was going to tell you anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” Bull continued. “Since you know, I’ll keep it short. The Ben-Hassrath are concerned about the Breach. Magic like that could cause trouble everywhere. I’ve been ordered to join the Inquisition, get close to the people in charge and send reports on what’s happening.”

Well, he wasn’t wrong. Corypheus posed to threat to everyone. But still... My first instinct was to trust Bull, because I felt like I already knew him. But he was literally a spy, someone who was trained to manipulate people. Every logical bone in my body said that I should pay extreme caution around him.

Once again in the span of minutes, the Iron Bull read me like an open book.

“Relax,” he said with a chuckle. “Whatever happened at that conclave thing, it’s bad. Whatever I am, I’m on your side.”

I gave him a nervous smile. That sounded so flirty when he said it. However, it was up to me to make sure we had all the details on this deal, so I spoke up again.

“What kind of information would you need to send to the Ben-Hassrath?” I asked.

“Enough to keep my supervisors happy, nothing that would compromise your operations,” Bull clarified with a small shrug. “The Qunari want to know if they need to launch an invasion to keep the whole damn world from falling apart. You let me send word of what you’re doing and it will put some minds at ease. That’s good for everyone.”

The words ‘Qunari’ and ‘launch an invasion’ in a same sentence unnerved me deeply, but it’s what I expected to hear so I nodded.

“Hmm,” Bull said thoughtfully before continuing, “I also get reports from Ben-Hassrath agents all over Orlais. You sign me on and I’ll share them with your people.”

Huh. I had been under the impression he was going to share information about the Qunari and their possible movements, but I must have remembered that part incorrectly. Now that I thought about it however, that would have been too good of a deal.

I had to ask. “And what do we get in return?”

“Enemy movements, suspicious activity, intriguing gossip,” Bull said with a smirk. “It’s a bit of everything. Alone they’re not much, but if your spymaster is worth a damn she’ll put them to good use.”

“She?” I asked. “I see you’ve done your research.”

Bull chuckled. “I have a weakness for redheads.”

“Don’t we all?” I asked, finally breaking into a genuine smile. “However, Leliana would eat you for breakfast.”

Bull’s lips twitched upwards. “You don’t have any other questions?” he asked.

“Not really,” I said with a weak shrug. “Besides, I’m not the trained spy here. I doubt I could get you to tell me anything you weren’t already planning to tell me.”

There was a pause.

“Good point,” Bull admitted. “What’s it gonna be?”

“Oh,” I said, my eyes wide. “You’re in, of course. I thought that much was obvious. Just make sure to send all of your correspondence through Leliana so there won’t be any trouble.”

Bull chuckled. “Will do,” he said and turned to call out, “Krem, tell men to stop drinking on the road. The Chargers just got hired!”

“What about the casks, chief?” Krem whined. “We just opened them up. With axes!”

“Find some way to seal them,” Bull snarked back. “You’re Tevinter, right? Try blood magic.”

I smiled at their banter, and gathered up my confidence to speak again.

“The Iron Bull,” I said, catching his attention. Calling him just Bull didn’t seem appropriate, since he didn’t know me. “We’re headed to Val Royeaux next. But I was hoping you and the Chargers might help us deal with some trouble here on the Coast, first.”

“Sure thing,” Bull said easily. “Always up for some trouble.”

Cassandra, Varric, and Solas had been standing off to the side. I motioned them over.

“This is Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast, Master Varric Tethras, and Solas, our resident mage,” I introduced them with a wave of my hand. “Guys, this is the Iron Bull.”

“Nice to meet you all,” Bull said, glancing between them in a quick fashion.

Cassandra eyed him warily, and nodded stiffly in greeting. “Hello,” she said plainly.

Solas nodded too, but didn’t speak. I wondered what he was thinking.

“So, Tiny,” Varric drawled, giving me a long sideways look. “Feathers here tells me you’re a Qunari spy. Got any exciting stories?”

Varric must have remembered my comment about his initial nickname for me, and finally understood what I meant. After all, there was no other possible nickname for Bull.

If Bull was surprised at Varric’s knowledge he didn’t show it. “Hundreds,” he said, but didn’t elaborate.

“I was just telling him about the Blades of Hessarian,” I explained. “We should get that over with before we leave for Jader. Um....” I trailed off and turned to Bull. “About that. I was kinda banking on you coming with us to Val Royeaux. That’s how I convinced Leliana the trip here was worth it right now. She thinks I need a bodyguard.”

“Really?” Bull asked, but shook his head. “I’m fine with that. You’re the boss, it’s your call.”

I looked away, hoping my face wasn’t physically capable of blushing any darker. In the games Bull calling the Inquisitor ‘boss’ was super endearing. But it made me embarrassed because of all the subtext I had managed to attach to the term.

“I suppose you plan on dueling their leader personally?” Cassandra asked, her arms crossed. Uh-oh. She was still mad at me for using her shield to surf down the hill. “...Since you don’t seem to care about your safety.”

Bull looked curiously between the two of us. “A duel?” he asked.

I briefly explained the situation.

“... If we win, they’ll follow my orders and work for the Inquisition.”

Bull whistled. “Nice. What’s the problem?”

“You cannot duel their leader!” Cassandra said, throwing up her arms. “You barely handle yourself in fights with backup.”

I stiffened. “You said I was getting better just weeks ago. Were you lying?”

“No,” Cassandra said with a sigh. “You truly are getting better. But this is too dangerous.”

“I say we just kill them all,” Bull said.

I was pretty sure that was a test. Later in the game Bull was pretty upfront about how he lets people charge at him. That way he always gives them a choice.

He was testing me?

Varric laughed. “You don’t know the Herald,” he said. “He wants to hand out second chances like candy.”

I pouted. “We’ll do that when we finally have enough resources to house prisoners,” I reminded him. “So far there’s been more than enough killing, so we’re not letting this chance past us. Besides,” I said and looked Bull in the eye, “their leader is a total asshole.”

Bull laughed. “Whatever you say.”

“Despite the duel, we’re still left with the issue of the Crest,” Solas said. He’d been strangely quiet since he walked over with Cass and Varric. Probably more than wary of Bull, and quite rightly so. They both had secrets upon secrets. “We do not have it, nor the instructions for making one.”

“My boys can help with that,” Bull said. “They just need to catch a couple of their men and get intel.”

“Our best chance is finding the actual Mercy’s Crest. It should be round and flat, attached to a leather cord with serpentstone in the middle?” I described it from memory. “If we can’t find the Crest itself, then we need to at least find the instructions for making one.”

“Right.” Bull nodded. “I’ll let the boys know.”

I hesitated. “Tell them to be careful. The Blades aren’t beyond taking prisoners in order to have leverage against us. They really don’t like that people call me the Herald of Andraste.”

“Don’t worry,” Bull said with a confident grin. “They know what they’re doing.”

I wrung my hands. There was really nothing I could do. The Chargers were professionals, hundreds of times more experienced than me. They would be fine. I was just worried because it was the Storm Coast, and if things went ape shit later, it might be the last place they ever saw.

Nope, not going there.

Bull was staring at me oddly. “Really,” he repeated. “They’ll be fine.”


 

After informing the Chargers their new orders, Bull split up with them, joining our little group instead. We were going to close the rifts on the coast while waiting for the Chargers to return. Cassandra walked next to me. She kept throwing suspicious glances at Bull, who walked in front of us and chatted with Varric. Solas was just behind them. Millie and the other two scouts kept an eye on our rear.

I looked at Cassandra. “Something you’d like to say?”

Her face scrunched up in frustration. “Despite what you said, I don’t trust him,” she said.

“I know you don’t, and I get it,” I said, “but you don’t need to trust him, not really.”

Cassandra looked at me, confused. “I don’t?”

I raised an eyebrow. “You only need to trust me.”

“Herald,” welp, there it is again, “it doesn’t work like that. He’s a Qunari spy.”

“Yeah, and?” I asked. “If I hadn’t already known, he would have told us. That’s a good sign.”

Cassandra sighed. “You’re not taking this seriously enough.”

There was a deafening roar in the distance, accompanied by the crackle of electricity. It was the Vinsomer. At an instant, I scrambled and caught up with Bull and Varric. They were both frozen in place staring in the direction of the sound. The dragon wasn’t near enough to be visible through the fog, but judging by the sound it was close enough that I could guess what the Iron Bull was thinking.

Bull turned to look at me and opened his mouth.

“No,” I interrupted.

He raised an eyebrow. “No?” he repeated.

“No, we’re not fighting the dragon,” I said, and then grinned. “Not yet, anyway. We need more than one mage for a dragon fight.”

I distantly heard Cassandra groan in disgust.

“Nice,” Bull said, deep and guttural, and grinned back at me.

We stared at each other until Varric asked, “Feathers, where did you get the idea for that stunt you pulled with the Seeker’s shield?”

I looked away from Bull, still grinning. “Oh, I kind of reacted without thinking. I absolutely love snowboarding, and despite the fact that shield surfing looks really dangerous, I’ve always wanted to try it.”

The mental images of shield surfing characters such as Legolas from Lord of the Rings and Link from The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild flashed through my mind. Seriously, it was the coolest shit ever.

“Snowboarding?” Bull asked, raising an eyebrow. “Sounds interesting.”

“It is!” I beamed at him. “I used to go every winter with my brother. You use this kind of... well, board,” I said and gestured with my hands, “to slide down snowy mountains or hills. Normally you use protective equipment and special boots for it. So don’t try what I did at home, kids.”

Bull snorted. “It’s certainly one creative way to use a shield.”

I wiggled my eyebrows. “Right?”

“You’re right, it does look dangerous,” Cassandra said, not amused. “And it dented my shield rather badly.”

“Sorry?” I said, wincing. “I’ll get you a new one, I promise.”

Cassandra shook her head. “Just don’t do it again. I thought you were going to break your neck.”

“Where did you grow up, if sliding down a snowy hill was a fun past time?” Bull asked, eyeing me curiously. “Guessing that wasn’t the Free Marches.”

Shit, shit. Of course he had done his research.

“I’ve lived in lots of places,” I said, trying not to sweat. Technically it wasn’t a lie.

Bull gave me an amused look. “You don’t have to answer if you don’t want to,” he said.

“I didn’t know you have a brother,” Cassandra said curiously.

“Well, yes, we haven’t really talked much about my family,” I said and kicked a small pebble. “He’s long dead.”

There was an awkward silence.

“I’m sorry,” Cassandra said. “I shouldn’t have--”

“No, it’s fine,” I said, avoiding her gaze. “No way you would have known. Besides, it happened years ago.”

Varric coughed. “Tiny, you were saying about giant-baiting...?”


 

Fighting beside the Iron Bull was glorious. There was a certain amount of feral glee on his face whenever he swung around that huge axe of his. I have to admit I found myself spacing out and staring at him more than once when we fought. It happened mostly when everyone else was occupied and I was supposed to concentrate on closing the rifts.

The Iron Bull was ripped. Yes, I said it. It was impossible to forget Bull’s later banter with Varric, and the words Bull wanted the author to use when describing him in the book about the Inquisition.

It was true though. He was ripped.

Another rift closed with a bang, and I rubbed at my poor hand, the one with the Anchor on it. This was the second rift we’d closed in the span of an hour. I poked at my fingers, and I could feel the touch distantly, almost like someone else was doing it. The feeling was weird, like half of my hand was asleep. It was most concentrated around my pinky finger. My hand tingled, and it reminded me of all the times I had slept in an awkward position and accidentally cut off the circulation in my arm.

“That should be the last of them,” I said, shaking my hand. “We can head back to camp.”

“Good job,” Cassandra said giving me a small smile. I smiled back.

“Is the mark hurting?” Solas asked, stepping closer to peer at my hand curiously.

I shook my head. “Not really,” I explained. “It just feels numb.”

“Let me see,” Solas commanded. He took my offered hand and looked it over, his brow furrowed. He must have done some sort of Ancient Elvhen Magic ™ because the numbness receded, restoring my hand it’s full range of feeling again. He stepped back, giving me my hand back. “Did that help?”

In the background, I heard Bull grunt uncomfortably at the blatant display of magic.

“Yeah,” I said, staring down at it and wiggling my fingers. “That’s much better. Thanks.”

Once again, I was reminded of the inevitable. Better not to get fucking attached, because in little over a year’s time, I would be walking around with only one arm. That is, if Corypheus didn’t kill me first.

“It is no trouble,” Solas said, his hands behind his back.

We started walking back to camp, and Bull made his way to my left side.

“So, how did a Vashot mercenary end up as the Herald of Andraste?” he asked. “I’ve heard about your work with the Valo-Kas, of course, so I know why you were there. But the information about what happened at the Conclave isn’t exactly reliable.”

I very pointedly didn’t look at the others. Leliana had helped me to come up with a cover story and drilled it into my head just for situations like these. I didn’t intend to explain the whole ‘from another world’ bit to Bull until I knew we could really trust him. I mean, I already kind of trusted him... But it really wasn’t the sort of information the Qunari should get their hands on.

... Also, I knowing his reaction to the whole Fade thing during Adamant, I didn’t want to freak him out.

“I don’t remember,” I said. It wasn’t exactly a lie, so I felt confident enough to make eye contact. “They say I walked out of a rift. My last memory is just from moments before the whole place exploded. Can’t remember much from before, either. For example, the details about my mercenary career are all fuzzy.”

The last part was true, at least. I had no idea how I ended up in the Temple in the first place, or what had truly happened in the Fade. For all I knew, the whole thing was very different from the game’s cut scene. I doubted it, but it was possible. There was no sure way to know until we recovered my memories from the fade at Adamant.

“Hmm,” Bull said thoughtfully, gazing at me. “Explains how you fight, at least.”

“You mean badly?” I asked with an embarrassed laugh.

“Nah, I wouldn’t say that,” he said. “It’s like you have the how, but not the why.”

Interesting. “What do you mean?”

“It’s like your body knows what it’s doing,” he grunted. “But your head doesn’t.”

“So like... muscle memory?” I asked hesitantly. “If you do something enough that it becomes routine, you can sort of do it with your eyes closed?”

“Maybe. Doesn’t explain the Seer thing.”

Varric, who had been listening to our conversation, chuckled. “When he woke up, Feathers didn’t even know the date, or how to correctly set up a tent,” he said. “Whatever knowledge he gained in the Fade, it’s a double edged sword.”

“That’s non-essential information,” I argued, sticking my tongue out.

“How does that work, exactly?” Bull asked.

I shrugged. “I know some stuff, but I don’t know other stuff. It’s a mixed bag.”

“You knew I was Ben-Hassrath,” Bull said, thoughtful, “and recognised Krem in Haven.”

“Yep,” I said. “And for example, I could have bet on the colour of the breeches you were wearing when we met, and won.”

Bull raised an eyebrow and looked down at his trousers. They were those ridiculous green things with purple vertical stripes. “How is that an essential detail?” he asked.

“It tells me you have zero fashion sense,” I said, causing Varric to laugh. “I do love the leather harness. And the eye patch. Very strapping,” I added with a wink.

“Yeah?” Bull asked, his lips twisting into a smirk. “Thanks.”

I blushed, realising what I’d just said. “If you’re into that sort of thing.” I coughed. “I wouldn’t know.”

Varric laughed again, but this time it was directed at me.


 

Turns out I was worried about nothing.

After we had made our way back to camp, the Chargers came back in time for dinner. And lo and behold, they found the actual amulet. Apparently someone in the Blades had planned a coup d’etat, but had failed. The Chargers easily relieved the two Blades’s agents of their weapons, their knowledge, and lastly the Mercy’s Crest. The Iron Bull probably told them the real reason why we needed the Crest, because they didn’t kill the Blades and instead took them as captives. It was easy enough for Harding’s men to supervise them until their leader was dealt with.

By the time they returned the sun had already started to set, so we left the actual fight for the next day.

The Chargers set up their tents next to ours. Since Scout Harding didn’t have that many men with her, they easily fit within the Inquisition campsite. They stuck together during dinner and discussed their new orders with the Iron Bull. I couldn’t help but keep glancing at them at the corner of my eye, half amazed and half curious at their presence. After we had eaten, I helped Cassandra to draft a report on the acquisition of the Bull’s Chargers, making sure to mention Adan’s insistence on needing an actual healer to help him.

Later that night, I walked over to the edge of camp to where our horses were located, and started brushing Freya. She snorted at me, as if saying, ‘about time’. I sighed and gave her a treat, which she snatched up and munched on happily.

“Cute horse.”

I whirled around dagger in hand.

Bull raised his hands in surrender. “Whoa, it’s just me.”

I stared at him blankly, then turned my gaze down to the dagger in my grip. Where the hell did that reflex suddenly come from? I didn’t have any self defence training in martial arts, least of all with knives and daggers. Truly weirded out by the reflex, I put it back into its holster.

“Sorry, you startled me,” I said with an awkward laugh.

“Hmm. So I see.”

I looked up at Bull. He was leaning against a tree, seemingly relaxed, but his face was unreadable.

“Are you really okay coming to Val Royeaux with us?” I asked. “It’s kind of short notice.”

Bull chuckled. “Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, now feeling stupid for asking and frustrated at my own reaction. The butterflies in my gut fluttered at the thought. “Maybe you don’t like boats. Maybe Val Royeaux sucks ass.”

“Hah! Val Royeaux isn’t my favourite place in Thedas, that much is true,” Bull said with a tiny smirk. “Too many rich humans stuffed into one place. Makes it harder for someone like me to blend in.”

“And boats?”

“Not a problem,” he said. “But since you mentioned it, I’m assuming you don’t enjoy them much.”

Turning my face into Freya’s fur, I groaned. “I’m going to die.”

“You’ll live,” Bull said steadily. “I told you. You’ve got me now.”

I lifted my head slightly. “Are you going to fight the sea?”

He laughed. “No, but I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

“You don’t have sleeves,” I snorted. Freya neighed in agreement.

Bull blinked his eye slowly. “Part of my charm.”

Oh my god. Did he just... wink?

“Did you just wink?” I wheezed out, my breath catching. “Did you just fucking wink??”

Damn, I love you, I thought. Then immediately regretted it, because my face heated up faster than I could react. Mortified, I lowered my face back into Freya’s mane. Brain freeze, ice cream, cold floor under your toes in the morning, I listed in my head, trying to get my traitor body to cool down.

“You still breathing?” came Bull’s voice.

“No,” I muttered.

“Chief, stop flirting with the Herald,” Krem’s voice floated from the direction of the campfire. “I need a word.”

Thank god. I made a mad dash past the two of them, not caring how stupid I looked, because at that point I just needed to get out of there. As I made it closer to the campfire, I heard the sound of armor clinking and the soft sound of hand meeting flesh.

“What?” Bull said defensively. “He likes it.”

He wasn’t wrong. I did like it. It was just my own reactions which made me wish I could sink deep into the ground and never be seen again. I had never been able to keep a straight face during the flirting scenes of the game, and it was ten times worse in person.

I sat next to Varric, who was grinning widely, scribbling into his notebook.

“Not another word,” I said, my face dropping to my hands.

“I didn’t say anything,” he replied innocently.

Maker help me. If this kept on, I wasn’t going to be able to function whenever Bull was around. I didn’t even want to imagine what would happen when Dorian joined us. It was going to be a disaster. Although... If they focused on each other, I might be able to pretend I was just a fly on the wall.

“You’ll get used to it,” Varric said suddenly, with a surprisingly serious tone.

I glanced at him. “Oh?”

“Speaking from experience, yes,” he continued glumly.

Oh. Oohh. Was he talking about Bianca? It was hard to imagine Varric so flustered because of a lady.

Krem and Bull joined us eventually and sat next to each other on the opposite side of the fire. Krem gave me an encouraging smile, while Bull very pointedly didn’t look at me, instead leaning back against a tree stump and closing his eye. The soft light of the campfire flickered over his scarred face, and I felt a twinge in my chest.

“Why won’t you treat our new friends to a song,” Varric drawled. “What a better way for them to get to know you? Worked well enough for us.”

I glanced at Solas and Cassandra. They both looked indifferent, but seemingly not against the idea.

“Sing something nice,” said one of Leliana’s scouts. “It’s been ages since I’ve heard a bard.”

I coughed. “Well, I’m not really a bard...” I trailed off, taking in the faces of the other scouts. They had all been softly talking to each other earlier, but now they looked at me expectantly. “Oh, all right.”

Krem leaned forward. “You sing?”

I shrugged. “It’s a hobby.”

“Go on then,” Krem said and elbowed Bull, who opened his eye.

“Okay,” I said, my voice squeaking. I turned my gaze to the flames. “Umm. I hope ya’ll like this one.”

I took a couple of deep breaths and stared into the fire in order to calm my nerves. I tapped the simple rhythm on my thighs, counted to twenty, and started to sing.

 

I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you to a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, she cut your hair
And from your lips, she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

I risked a glance at Bull, who was staring at me. I mustered a small smile.

 

Baby I have been here before
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor
I used to live alone before I knew you
I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch
Love is not a victory march
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

At this point most of the listeners had caught onto the simple melody, so during the chorus I was joined by a few of the scouts and, surprisingly enough, Krem.

 

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

I closed my eyes, approaching the most demanding parts of the song.

 

There was a time when you let me know
What’s really going on below
But now you never show that to me, do you?
And remember when I moved in you?
The holy dove was moving too,
And every breath we drew, was Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

I drew a deep breath and opened my eyes, keeping my gaze unfocused.

 

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you
It’s not a cry you hear at night,
It’s not somebody who’s seen the light,
It’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah...

I gave you all, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I had to touch
I told the truth, I never came to fool you
And I’m sorry that it went all wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

In the final chorus, most of the people around me were repeating the phrase.

 

Hallelujah... Hallelujah
Hallelujah... Hallelujah
Hallelujah... Hallelujah
Hallelujah...

The last notes hung in the air and nobody spoke. I broke the silence by reaching for my water canteen and taking a couple of big gulps. This particular song always wrung the living hell out of me, including my voice. Couple of the agents clapped politely. I smiled at them.

Just like that, most of them dispersed and started talking amongst each other, leaving the core people of our party alone once again.

“You didn’t learn that song in Orlais,” Bull commented.

I shook my head. “Nope.”

“And you said you’re not a bard.” He eyed me thoughtfully. “Hmm.”

Cassandra put a hand on my shoulder. “That was a beautiful song,” she said, and hesitated. “What kind of meaning does it have?”

I nodded, mindful of Bull and others who might have been listening. We had agreed not to talk about my world in front of people who I weren’t already aware of it. “It has several religious references,” I said vaguely. “Plus ‘hallelujah’ literally means ‘praise god’.”

“Interesting,” Varric muttered, already scribbling down the lyrics onto his notebook, like he always did after hearing a new song.

“Indeed,” Bull repeated, still watching me closely.

I swallowed. “It’s way better when sung with instruments,” I said, avoiding his gaze. “I’m afraid without a good guitar to accompany it, my interpretation falls rather flat.”

“Boss,” Bull said, “I don’t know shit about music, but that was definitely not flat.”

I chanced a look and saw him staring into the fire, his brow furrowed in thought. Krem, who sitting beside him, nodded in agreement.

Cassandra drew my attention back to her. “Now that we’re all still here, we should go over tomorrow’s plan,” she said pointedly. “You said the this Mercy’s Crest should allow you to challenge the leader of the Blades.”

I nodded. “Yeah. It might be just me, or he might allow a small group to fight against him,” I said, doing my best to remember the details. It admittedly wasn’t much. “He has a bunch of mabari which he’ll sic onto us, so we should be prepared for anything.”

“Dogs, huh?” Varric mused.

We needed a plan.

Chapter Text

The next morning I woke up to Cassandra’s voice, calling me to breakfast. After hours of staying awake, I had finally nodded off in the middle of Varric’s Tale of the Champion, so the book was still nestled on my chest when I opened my eyes. I quickly changed from my sleep clothes into my undershirt, leather pants and a cloak, foregoing the actual armor for now, and climbed out of the tent. The sky was overcast and it was drizzling slightly, but the daylight hurt my tired eyes nonetheless.

A mixture of Harding’s men and the Chargers were bustling around the camp, most of them having already eaten breakfast. Dalish and Krem were sitting by the fire, chatting. Bull was nowhere to be seen, so I sat next to them, clutching my breakfast.

“Morning,” Krem greeted me.

I nodded, grunting vaguely in response.

Dalish chuckled. “Not a morning person, are you?” she asked.

I shook my head and started eating. After I was more than halfway done and felt marginally better, I looked at the two of them again. “Sorry,” I said, my voice rough. “I’m just really, really tired right now.”

“It’s fine,” Krem said with a chuckle. “One of our men, Grim, doesn’t talk much even on a good day. We’re used to it.”

I did my best to smile in response, and looked at Dalish. “You’re Dalish, right?” I asked and quickly added, afraid I had somehow remembered it incorrectly, “That’s what people call you? That’s your name?”

Krem snorted into his cup. “That’s right,” he said.

Dalish saluted me with a grin. “I’m an archer,” she said.

“I noticed yesterday that you have invisible arrows,” I said dryly. “Very clever.”

“Isn’t it?” Dalish asked, excitement clear on her face.

“And that crystal on your bow,” I said, “it’s for aiming, right?”

“Exactly,” Dalish said, her smile impossibly wide. She elbowed Krem. “Krem, the Herald gets it!”

Krem laughed, out loud this time.

“What’s so funny?” Bull asked, walking up to the three of us.

“We were just discussing elven archery,” I deadpanned.

Bull snorted. “Right.”

Suddenly reminded that we had work to do that day, I showed the remaining bits of my breakfast into my mouth, stood up and walked back to my tent. Bull stayed back to talk with Krem and Dalish. When I came back, now wearing my armor and having packed my bags, Dalish was gone. Krem and Bull glanced at me and fell silent, causing my step to falter, unsure. Had they just been talking about me, or were they staring for some other reason?

“If you’re ready,” Cassandra said, walking up to me. “The scouts sent word of some movement near the Hessarian camp. We should hurry.”

I nodded, nervously touching the Mercy’s crest, which was currently dangling from my neck. “Let’s go.”


 

As the bird flies, the camp of the Blades of Hessarian wasn’t that far away from the Inquisition’s own. However, on foot it was a different matter. We had to go around several steep cliffs to get there, so the walk took a little longer than I expected. Several off the cliffs surrounding the camp were too steep to climb down safely, which was sort of the point. They had the clear advantage in case of an ambush.

So we took the long way around. All in all, the walk wasn’t more than thirty, forty at the most. Bull, Varric, Solas, and Cassandra were with us. On top of that, Leliana’s scouts tailed us, but they didn’t join us in approaching the actual camp. They were under strict orders to stay outside unless we called for them. Walking into the compound with a large group might be seen as too threatening and we might not get inside at all.

Two of Harding’s men were waiting for us on the path leading to the Hessarian camp.

“Your Worship, Lady Seeker,” the scout greeted us, saluting. “We were keeping an eye on the camp last night, when we noticed something unusual.”

“What is it?” Cassandra asked.

“It seems like...” the scout trailed off with a hesitant glance at me, and then at Bull, who was standing on my right. “It seems like the Hessarian’s might be dealing in slave trade.”

What the actual fuck.

“What.”

At my tone, the scout exchanged a nervous look with his partner. “A slaver’s wagon entered the camp late last night,” he said.

“Well... shit,” Varric muttered.

“How dare they call themselves the Blades of Hessarian?” Cassandra seethed, “The Hessarian’s blade embodies mercy, yet they’re dealing in slaves?”

“Those ‘Vints we took out yesterday,” Bull wondered out loud. “They might have been involved.”

I glanced at him. He was looking thoughtfully towards the walls that surrounded the camp.

“Yeah,” I agreed, tiredly rubbing my eyes. “That’s a definite possibility.”

I am too tired for this shit.

“How many, do you think?” I asked the scout.

He looked distinctively uncomfortable. “The carriage wasn’t too large, but by then it was too dark to make a head count,” he said. “At least four. But it really depends on if the slave hunters care or not.”

I stared at him, uncomprehending. “What does that even mean?”

“If they do not care for their ‘product’,” Solas said coldly, his whole face impassive, “they will pack the carriage beyond its safe capacity.”

“Shit,” I said, grimacing. That hadn’t even crossed my mind. “We need to take care of this.”

Cassandra sighed. “I agree,” she said. “Whatever purpose we came here for before, we cannot allow this to continue. The Inquisition cannot look the other way when it comes to slavers. They are blatantly disrespecting the laws of both Orlais and Ferelden.”

Yet, both Orlais and Ferelden did not care that slavery was pretty much rampant under their noses in the elven alienages. Nor did they care that elves were generally treated like shit, I wanted to add. I refrained from commenting, however, as it wouldn’t really help our current situation.

“We’ll go with the original plan,” I said, “except now I need to demand the release of the prisoners.”

I really didn’t want to say ‘slaves’, because that shit was too messed up.

Cassandra thought about it for a moment. “Very well,” she said. “Just... do try to be careful.”

We advanced upon the wooden gate and we were greeted by two guards. Both wore navy blue armor and had large swords at their hips. I led our little group to them and came to a stop, the crest clearly visible on top of my armor.

“A qunari challenger approaches,” one of the guards muttered.

“Well, if you believe what’s been said...” the other guard trailed off in response. She eyed me curiously.

“We’ll see,” the first guard said, clearly dubious. “The others failed.”

They called for the gate to be opened. It swung inwards slowly, the hinges creaking ominously.

I glanced at Cassandra, who nodded in encouragement. We stepped inside the compound. A handful of their agents were milling around inside, and upon noticing me, they all quieted down and gathered at the edges of the compound to watch us. There was no sign of the slaves or their wagon.

The Iron Bull caught my gaze, and he slightly tilted his head towards a large outbuilding nearest to the wall. There were clear imprints of hooves and wheels on the wet ground, still relatively fresh. I nodded as discreetly as I could.

The leader of the Blades of Hessarian stood at the back of the camp in front of an altar made of stone and wood. It was comprised of an enormous statue of a dog, and a literal mound of skulls. They looked like actual human skulls, but I wasn’t sure. The man himself had light long hair tied up on a ponytail, and a long beard growing on his chin.

“So you would challenge the Blades of Hessarian?” he asked with a sneer. “Or did you expect me to stand down because you’re an oxman?”

I came to a stop in front of him.

“I’m here on behalf of the Inquisition,” I said loudly, making sure that my voice carried all the way to our spectators. “If you agree to negotiate, there is no need for violence.”

The man spit on the ground in front of me. “I know who you are,” he growled. “You and your Inquisition spread lies about Andraste’s will.”

A disapproving murmur rolled through the remaining Blades. I didn’t know if it was because they agreed with him, or because they thought I really was the Herald of Andraste and they were shocked at how their leader spoke to me.

I glared at him. “And you’re a piece of shit who works with slavers,” I called out. Someone in the crowd gasped. “Wasn’t Andraste herself a former slave?” I continued, “So how dare you disrespect everything she stood while claiming to do her work.”

The Hessarian leader paled slightly. But then he straightened up, and glared at me. “Lies and slander,” he spat back at me. “You’re a Herald of nothing but falsehoods!”

I crossed my arms. “Then you don’t mind if we take a look around,” I said casually. His eyes narrowed. “Since you have nothing to hide and all. Surely you’ll let us, in order to allow your followers some peace of mind?”

The man growled. “Your Inquisition holds no influence over us. I don’t have to show you anything.”

Oh, that’s how you’re gonna play this, you little slaver piece of shit?

“You leave me no choice,” I said the famous words, loud and clear. “We cannot allow you to continue.”

“If you want justice,” he spat, “then come and claim it!”

I looked around. The Blades of Hessarian who were spectating us weren’t even pretending not to watch anymore. I remembered Bull’s words from last night.

“You gotta show them you’re not afraid of a fight,” he had said. “But that it isn’t your first option. So you need to negotiate. Then if... when that fails, you fight.”

“All right,” I said, narrowing my eyes. “Just the two of us, is it?”

The leader man nodded, his face twisting into a snarl. “I don’t need any help against the likes of you.”

I exchanged pointed glances with Bull and Solas. Along with Cassandra and Varric, they stepped aside. When they were sufficiently positioned away from us, I turned back to the leader of the Blades.

“All right,” I repeated, reaching for my maul, stepping up to him. I gripped it in my left hand, and with my free hand formed a ‘come hither’ gesture. “Let’s go, just me and you.”

Taking a leaf out of the Iron Bull’s book, I waited for my opponent to make his first move. I didn’t have to wait for long. He let out a battle cry and charged at me, his sword held high. I sidestepped his initial attack easily enough, but he didn’t slow down and instead swung at me again. That one I had to block with the handle of my weapon. There was no standing still though, because we jumped apart as soon as we touched. It was now clear that the guy wasn’t willing to talk, so I didn’t wait for him to get back at me.

I have to admit he’s good. We circled each other for a while, attacking, clashing and breaking apart. Eventually, a sheen of sweat began to appear on my opponents face as he got tired, and his eyes started darting to the side, looking for an out.

That’s when I noticed that he had a tiny opening on his left, unguarded. I took it. He fell flat on his back, and was forced to roll over when I followed my initial hit with a swing which just barely missed his head.

He scrambled to his feet and let out a piercing whistle.

Three mabari hounds exited their cages, growling and frothing at the mouth.

“On it, boss!” Bull called out, already holding his axe. He stepped in the path of one of them, catching its attention. The second hound was frozen solid, due to Solas’s intervention.

I on the other hand was forced to jump aside, because the third one came straight at me. “Perkeleen perkele!” I cursed as the mabari jumped at me, forcing me to swing my maul sideways. It’s teeth clenched around the handle. “You said you’d fight me one on one!” I called out.

Damn, I hate fighting dogs.

There was a loud whine, and suddenly Bull was there, wrestling the hound and allowing me to turn my attention back to my real opponent.

He held the sword in front of him protectively, his face a scowl as he watched his hounds try and fail to win the fight for him. He noticed my gaze and raised the sword higher. I ran at him and he dodged. My next strike hit him hard on his shoulder, and the sword slipped out of his grip.

I kicked the blade away. “Do you yield?” I asked, lowering my maul just a little.

“I’ll yield...” he growled, “when you’re dead!”

He jumped at me again, this time armed with a dagger.

I stepped aside but I wasn’t fast enough, because a burning sensation erupted on my upper arm. But as he slashed through my armor in his anger, the guy left his guard wide open. I took the chance, and he fell down with a wet smack. A couple of more hits made sure he stayed down.

“Adaar,” Cassandra called out. “Are you okay? You’re bleeding.”

I raised a hand to my bicep. When I pulled it away to look at it, my entire hand was bloody. “Oh,” I said numbly.

Bull had already walked up to my fallen opponent and was currently inspecting the dagger. He sniffed it. “Doesn’t seem to be poisoned,” he said.

“Great,” I muttered, glaring at the thing. “I’ll just die of tetanus instead.”

“Tetanus?” Bull asked.

“Lockjaw,” I clarified and received an understanding nod in return. “You get it from rusty knives, nails and funnily enough...from animal bites.”

Solas made his way to me. “Allow me,” he said. First, he handed me a health potion. “Drink this.”

I complied.

He took a clean strip of cloth from his bag and wiped the wound carefully with it. It stung like hell. Then, he placed both of his hands over the wound just inches above it. The area glowed briefly. Solas lowered his hands, satisfied.

“Wow,” I breathed out. The only sign of the injury was newly healed skin, softer and just a tone lighter than the surrounding tissue. “That is. So cool.”

Solas gave me a smile with a hint of a smirk.

“Thank you,” I said.

He tilted his head in acknowledgement. “You’re welcome.”

Bull grunted. “If you’re done, there’s someone who wants to talk to you,” he said and gestured with his thumb at a man dressed in the typical Blades of Hessarian uniform. He was talking to Cassandra, but kept wringing his hands and craning his head to get a better look at me.

“Hey,” I said, catching Cassandra’s attention. “Who’s this?”

Cassandra looked at me. “He and his friends did some digging while you fought.”

I looked at the young man. “Is that so?”

He squared his shoulders and walked closer. “My name is Bob, Your Worship. Me and the guys heard what you said about the slavers. We have been suspicious of Buckley’s comings and goings for a while now. We just couldn’t prove it.” He paused. “While he was distracted, I checked out the outbuilding with Mike and Andrew.” He pointed to the same building we had noticed upon entering the camp. “You were right. We took care of the slaver who was guarding the cart, but... What should we do with the slaves?”

I grimaced. “Show us.”


 

The first thing I noticed upon entering the outbuilding was the smell. That, and the fact that four of the six the slaves were children. The oldest kid was a young teenager at most. They were all elves, huddled next to each other inside the tiny prison wagon. Their faces were covered in dirt, their hair oily. The kids all wore matching, shapeless clothing with no discernible qualities, while the two adults seemed to be wearing some kind of simplified leather armor. It looked vaguely Dalish. One of the Blades, who Bob identified as Andrew, was standing in front of the cage door, trying to coax them out of it. He was very much unsuccessful.

Varric cursed silently from beside me.

I could tell the moment they noticed me and Bull walk into the room, because the kids flinched in fear, and the two adults glared at me.

Shit. This wasn’t going to work.

“Solas,” I whispered, catching his attention. He turned to look at me, and I could tell he was absolutely furious because there was no hint of emotion on his face. “Can you and Cassandra explain to them what’s happening? Right now I would just make it worse.”

He nodded. Cassandra looked hesitant, but as Solas walked up to the wagon, she followed after him.

I caught Bull’s gaze and pointedly walked outside. I didn’t look back to see if he followed me, because I was confident he would. I settled just couple of steps away from the doors, leaned against the wall and rubbed my eyes. I was way too tired for this kind of shit. Fucking piece of shit slavers.

“Good thinking,” Bull said, coming to lean against the wall next to me. “The Seeker might come off as a hard ass, but she’s a woman. Easier to trust... Plus her armor is pretty recognisable.”

I nodded mutely.

“Your other pick seems pretty straightforward at first glance,” Bull continued. “He’s a healer and an elf. But those aren’t the only reasons you chose him, are they?”

“No,” I said, glancing at him. I wondered if Bull’s Ben-Hassrath training helped against someone like Solas. If you didn’t know to be suspicious of him, it was easy to look at him and only see the obvious. Solas was a non-Dalish elf and an apostate. Of course someone like that had secrets. It was hard to guess just how deep those secrets truly ran.

Bull nodded his head. I expected him to ask about it, but he didn’t. We stood there for a while in silence. Then we saw Bob walk across the yard to go talk with a small group of the Blades. I walked after him, and Bull followed silently.

“So,” I said, catching the group’s attention. They fell silent and looked at me. “I’ve got the Mercy’s Crest and I beat your leader... Buckley, was it? Do any of you have a problem with that?” I asked. “I’m telling all of you right now: if you had anything to do with this slaver business your leader had going, you better leave. That sort of shit doesn’t fly under my watch.”

Bob stood forward from the group. “Buckley was a bastard. You’re not the first one to stand up to him, you’re just the first one to win. We’re all happy with that. It will be an honor to follow you,” he said, saluting. “The Blades of Hessarian are at your service, Herald of Andraste.”

The men behind him saluted alongside him.

Well, that was easy.

“That was easy,” Bull commented.

“I just literally thought that,” I said, cracking a smile. But the smile vanished, because I saw Solas exit the outbuilding. When he saw the two of us standing there, he stopped and changed direction.

“How are they?” I asked.

“The children have no family,” Solas said, frowning. “Cassandra suggested they go to Haven.”

“I agree,” I said. Then hesitated, and asked, “And the two adults?”

“They are Dalish, but agreed to come along with the children for now,” Solas said.

“Are any of them hurt?” I asked, frowning. “Can all of them make the trip? The Chargers are going that way so it shouldn’t be a problem.” I glanced at Bull, who nodded in agreement.

Solas nodded stiffly. “We explained that we’re with the Inquisition,” he said. “They wish to talk to you.”

“Oh,” I said, surprised. “Sure.”

This time, Bull didn’t follow me, but stayed outside as Solas led me back into the building. By then, the former slaves were standing outside the wagon, the kids still huddled together as a small group. One of the kids, clearly older than the others, was standing protectively in front of the other three and watching Cassandra talk with the two adults. When they saw me walk in, they all fell silent.

“This is the Herald,” Cassandra said, motioning to me. “He is the reason we’re here today.”

Keeping to a suitable distance from the elves, I waved and said, “Hey. My name is Adaar.”

The two adults stared at me. It was only then that I realised that they had heads of messy, short red hair and golden eyes. They both bore Mythal’s vallaslin on their faces. In fact, the two adults were practically identical in looks.

I squinted at them. “...Wait... Do I know you?”

“Herald, what---” Cassandra started.

“Shit,” I said, feeling like I might throw up. “You’re not from clan Lavellan, are you?”

The two exchanged glances. The one on the right glared at me. “How did you know that?” he asked, and made a movement as if reaching for a weapon at his back, before aborting the movement when he remembered he didn’t have any.

Oh no.

“I need to sit down,” I said, gripping my forehead. “This is too much.”

“Hey, it was us who just got rescued from slavers,” the red haired elf snarked. “You’d think it would be us swooning here, not you.”

“Brother,” the other one admonished, elbowing him. “Don’t be rude.”

Cassandra glanced between them and me. “Do you know them?”

That was the billion dollar question. I ran a hand over my face. “Cassandra, Solas, Varric... May I present to you Fëanor, the First of clan Lavellan, and his brother Finwë.”

The twins tilted their heads in equal confusion.

Fëanor looked at me curiously. “How do you know our names?” he asked.

Because I created you and gave you those names? Jesus.

They were two of my favourite Inquisitors. I had wanted to play as both a mage and a rogue, but couldn’t be bothered to come up with two different looks for them. So, I created created two identical looking Dalish Inquisitors, and imagined them to be twins. In my back story for them, whichever of them was sent to the conclave had been strictly down to random chance. Sometimes it was Fëanor, the mage and the First of clan Lavellan. And sometimes it was his twin brother Finwë, the rogue archer. Fëanor had been totally in love with Dorian, while Finwë had a thing for Bull.

“It’s complicated,” I said with a sigh. “It has to do with the whole Herald of Andraste thing. Never mind that now. How did you end up here?”

“Those cursed slavers jumped on us when we were on our way to do some business in Redcliffe,” Finwë, the one who had glared at me earlier, said. He frowned. “We should have been more careful.”

Fëanor nodded. “They confiscated our weapons,” he said, and turned a little green. “They even fed me mage bane, so I couldn’t fight back.”

I grimaced. Mage bane was a disgusting poison that the templars and the Chantry used to keep mages from using their powers. It was very much lethal in large doses.

Fëanor shook his head as if to clear his thoughts. “In any case, we are truly grateful for your help,” he said. “Since the Seeker suggested it, we will come to Haven with the children to ensure they’re looked after. They might not be Dalish like us, but we can’t just leave them.”

Finwë nodded in agreement.

They had a point. The children must have been taken from an alienage before the two of them. It was obvious that the two brothers were in much better shape. If I had been in their position, I would’ve wanted to see that the kids were being taken care of as well. I mean, who would trust relative strangers with a bunch of kids? I wouldn’t. Not to mention we were all shems to them.

I looked at the four kids. They were staring at me curiously.

“Are all of you okay with coming to Haven?” I asked and crouched down to their eye level, but kept the distance between us. “There are other refugees over there. Other elves, too.”

The young teenager in front of the group frowned. He glanced from me to the twins.

“Do we need to go back?” he asked.

“To Denerim?” I asked.

He hesitated, blonde fringe falling over his eyes.

“Are you not from Denerim?” Cassandra prompted.

The kid opened his mouth, then shut it and scowled at the ground instead.

“Hey, it’s okay,” I said. “You don’t have to tell us unless you want to.”

He looked up at me for a moment, then shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m from Kirkwall.”

I glanced at Cassandra and Solas. They looked grim, which I took to mean bad things. Maybe that meant the kid had been with the slavers for a longer time than the others?

“Okay,” I said. “Thanks for telling us. And no, you don’t need to go back unless you want to.”

He stared at me. “Okay,” he said, and nodded. “Then we’ll come.”

“Look after the twins too, okay?” I whispered conspiratorially and winked.

The teen glanced from me to the two Lavellans and nodded seriously. “I will.”


 

It took some planning and a lot more talking. Millie and the others scouts joined us inside the Blades of Hessarian camp, and we came up with a solid plan for the kids and the Lavellan twins to travel to Haven. We also gave them back their weapons, which we found within a trunk. Luckily the slaver (now indisposed) had been holding onto them during the journey.

It fell onto me and Cassandra to negotiate with the Blades. Bob, naturally, became my second hand man withing the Blades. He promised the Blades would do things the Inquisition way from now on, and also follow the rules I gave them. There wasn’t too many. Mainly, don’t work with slavers, don’t rob or harm innocent people, and if you have the option, capture your enemies instead of killing them. Oh, and I also made sure their camp healer mostly knew what the fuck they were doing and didn’t try to use leeches or anything equally stupid to cure the common cold.

By the end of the afternoon, things were starting to look good. But all that management was exhausting.

Cassandra was hammering out some final details with the Blades, which meant I was free to take a little break. Exiting the building, I spotted the Iron Bull sitting just some distance away, writing a letter. I only hesitated briefly before joining him.

“You look tired, boss,” Bull said when I sat down. He stopped writing.

“That’s my secret, Cap,” I said, cracking a smile. “I’m always tired.”

He stared at me, uncomprehending.

“Sorry,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Long day, my brain to mouth filter is in pieces by now. You’re not the only one who will never get that joke around here, don’t worry about it.”

Bull shook his head. “If you’re that tired, you should ask Krem to brew you a cup when we get back to camp.”

My hand dropped. “A cup?” I asked blankly. “Cup of what?”

“...of coffee?” Bull said, eyebrow raised.

I took in a long, careful breath. “I’m going to kill Varric.”

“How come?” Bull asked curiously.

“He told me--” I started furiously, then stopped myself. Varric told me there was no coffee in Thedas. But I couldn’t say that without raising a number of flags that just screamed ‘suspicious alien from another world’. How was I going to explain this one?

I scratched my neck. “Well, as I said, my memory of certain details is fuzzy. I asked about coffee and he told me he had never heard of such a drink.”

Bull chuckled. “That is pretty funny.”

“Yeah,” I huffed, rolling my eyes. “So funny to laugh at the expense of caffeine addicts who need their fix.”

“Don’t worry,” Bull said. “I’m sure the boys have some extra to spare you.”

Actually, they didn’t.

“Sorry, sir,” Krem said back in camp, waving a small sack of coffee beans. “We’re almost out.”

“You’re kidding me,” I groaned. “Please tell me this is a joke.”

The Iron Bull scratched his neck. “Shit,” he said. “I thought for sure we had some. Krem and Grim are the only ones who drinks that stuff, so we don’t replenish our supply that often.”

I slumped down dramatically. “My life force...” I moaned, “...escaping...”

Bull patted me on the back. “Val Royeaux has some for sure,” he said with a chuckle. “You can get your fix then.”

“Sure,” I muttered. I was kind of getting upset for real, now. I hadn’t slept in like a week, and I pretty much needed caffeine to function at this point. But I didn’t say that, because that would’ve just been embarrassing.

I slunk off to talk with Cassandra, and missed Krem and Bull exchanging significant looks.


 

Ma serannas,” Fëanor said, as they prepared to leave with the Chargers. “Thank you, once more. The Seeker said it was because of your insistence that you even happened to be in this area to begin with.”

I scratched my horn awkwardly. “It was a coincidence, but I’m happy it turned out this way.”

“Hell of an coincidence,” Finwë snorted from beside his brother. “No matter, we owe you and the Inquisition. After we make sure the children are safe and we return to our clan, don’t be afraid to call for our help if you need it.”

Fëanor nodded. “We don’t normally butt our heads into... outsider business, but this Breach thing seems to be a threat to everyone in Thedas. And I’m sure the Keeper will be pleased to see us return in once piece.”

They bid their farewell.

Dareth shiral,” I said with a wave.

The twins looked surprised at first, but then grinned and walked away without a word.

“I didn’t know you speak the language,” Solas said.

I jumped. “Jesus,” I breathed out. “Do we need to put a bell on you? Don’t sneak up to people.”

Ir abelas,” Solas said.

I glared at him. “That means sorry, right? Well, sorry to disappoint. I don’t know more than a couple of words here and there. Bits and pieces. Enough to impress someone who knows jack shit, but not enough to properly use it.”

“Hmm.” Solas looked thoughtful.

“So... What’s the deal with those twins?” Varric asked, coming to stand next to us. We were still waiting for the Iron Bull say goodbye to the Chargers. “You looked like you knew them.”

It was only late afternoon, which meant we could still catch good five hours of travel and be in Jader in just a couple of days.

“You know what I said about the variations regarding the Hero of Ferelden and Hawke?” I asked. “And how the details vary depending on who the Hero or Hawke actually are?” I continued, rubbing my face tiredly.

Solas nodded.

“Yeah...” Varric trailed off, eyeing me warily. “That.”

“Yeah, that,” I said. “Those twins? If they had been in the right place at the right time, one of them could be standing in my place right now.”

Solas and Varric stared blankly at me.

I shrugged. “I assumed the others died in the explosion, but turns out I was wrong.”

“The others?” Varric hissed with a nervous look around him. “What does that mean?”

“The other potential Heralds,” I said, slightly amused. “Any one of them could have taken my place at the Temple and gotten this Mark.”

“That makes no sense,” Varric said.

“Potential timelines are complicated,” I said. “Who even knows if all of them even exist?”

“Clearly some of them do,” Solas pointed out, frowning. “As is evident from those twins. This is fascinating.”

Varric reached for his notes. “Okay, tell me everything you know about these potential Heralds. I’ll find out where they are.”

I shrugged again. “Sure. So first, there’s the human noble from the Free Marches called Trevelyan...”

With that, we set off to Jader.


 

Our growing party moved slowly. Despite most of the journey being on the Imperial Highway, the roads weren’t in a good condition and the wagon slowed us down considerably. It was hard to maneuver such a rocky environment. In fact, we moved slowly enough that the Iron Bull, who was the only one without his own mount, was able to keep up with us on foot. He walked beside me and Freya.

Despite it’s imperfections, the Imperial Highway was quite safe, so we didn’t run into any trouble and managed to cover nearly fifth of the distance to Jader in just half a day. But when we set up camp that evening, we realised there was a problem.

Varric now had the privacy of his own tent. In the grand scale of things that didn’t really matter that much. But we had neglected to take another extra tent for the Iron Bull. For some reason, everyone assumed he would have his own. When we asked him about it, he shrugged apologetically.

“Didn’t expect to come with you straight away,” he said. “I usually share a tent with Krem. Less shit to carry.”

In hindsight it was a stupid mistake. We even had Josephine’s horse drawn carriage, so an extra tent would have been an easy task since we expected for Bull to join us. We could have taken it with us just in case. Leliana’s men all shared one bigger tent, so they were no help either. Cassandra suggested that Varric and I share a tent again. The author didn’t look too happy about the idea.

“No offence, Feathers,” he said. “But I’d rather sleep on my own.”

“If it comes down to it, I’ll sleep outside by the fire,” Bull offered. “I’ve slept in plenty worse places.”

I frowned. That didn’t sit well with me. “And if it rains?”

He shrugged. “Then I’ll rotate with whoever has the night watch.”

“No way,” I said, crossing my arms.

“No?” Bull repeated, amused.

“If nobody else is willing to sacrifice their privacy, then I will,” I said, throwing a glare at Cassandra, who opened her mouth to argue. “Hell, my new tent is large enough for three, if it comes down to it.”

The Iron Bull gazed at me, his expression giving nothing away. In the corner of my eye, Cassandra crossed her arms, clearly unhappy about the way the conversation was going. Finally, Bull must have seen something in my face, because he nodded.

“If you’re sure,” he said, keeping a close eye on my reaction, giving me a chance to back down.

I relaxed, not even having realised I had tensed up. “Yeah, I am.”

And that was the end of it. Cassandra informed me that since there was more of us now, I didn’t need to keep taking any watches. That annoyed me, because special treatment for the Herald, no thanks. She finally agreed to a compromise. I would do couple of watches per week, instead of doing one every night.

I reluctantly agreed to that. She also insisted that I always do the watch paired with someone else, just in case.

Just in case what? Geez. I wasn’t even the Inquisitor yet and they were already starting to treat me with the silk gloves.

Bull had the first watch that night. I didn’t have a watch scheduled until the following night, but I couldn’t for the life of me catch any sleep because the insomnia was still in full swing. I eventually gave up and went outside to sit by the fire next to him.

“Can’t sleep?” he asked, with a casual tone.

I nodded, and waved the book I had taken with me to read. The Tale of the Champion. I was nearly in the part where Hawke’s mother died. It wasn’t a nice story. No matter how many jokes Hawke made, Dragon Age II would always be a tragedy, nothing else. If nothing else, the ending made sure of that. Damn it, Anders.

By the time Bull’s watch ended, I was tired, but still unable to sleep. He had left me to read in peace, but now I could feel his gaze on me. I looked up and gave him a questioning look, but he just shook his head and went inside.

I crawled into my bedroll couple hours later as quietly as I could. I was exhausted both physically and mentally, but I knew I couldn’t fall asleep quite yet. Still, I was well aware of the refreshing effect just lying down silently could have, and there was a long day of travelling ahead of us.

I glanced at Bull’s sleeping form. He was lying on his back, left arm beneath his head. His chest fell and rose in a slow rhythm. I wondered if he was really sleeping, or if I had woken him up and he was just pretending to be asleep. It took me a while, but I eventually fell into restless sleep and managed to catch three hours. It was better than the night before, but still rather abysmal overall.

Bull was already up by the time I woke up. His bedroll and bags were gone, too. I followed suit and packed and dressed up for the day, and finally exited the tent to join the others for breakfast.

When we finally departed, Bull once again joined Freya and me.

“Do you usually stay up so late?” he asked, again, keeping his tone very casual.

I looked at him in surprise, not having expected the conversation. “Not really,” I said. “Just when I have trouble sleeping.”

He hummed noncommittally in answer. Varric called out to him and asked him more about his run-ins with giants and dragons, so that was the end of the conversation.

That evening, we put up our tents, ate dinner and chatted for a while before everyone headed to their tents, ready to sleep after a day of travel. Despite me still feeling nervous around Bull, it felt oddly natural. There was no lingering awkwardness. Probably because Bull acted so normal about it and the previous night had gone so well.

However, that didn’t change the fact that I was still in the middle of an insomnia cycle, which led me to my current predicament. Mainly, staring at the roof of our tent, the anxiety amping up as my thoughts swirled around. The most prominent thought, of course was ‘I can’t sleep, I need to sleep’. And that only made it worse, as you might imagine. My breath caught and the canvas walls of the tent were suddenly hovering over me, suffocating.

“Relax, boss. You’re being loud, no wonder you can’t sleep.”

I blinked and exhaled a confused rattle of breath. “What?” I asked, turning my head to look at the Iron Bull, who was staring at me through the darkness.

“You’re too loud,” Bull repeated.

“... I wasn’t talking.”

“Yeah, but you were thinking,” he clarified. “Also, in the past three minutes your breathing changed like you’re about to pass out.”

I groaned, hiding my face into the crook of my arm.

“Wanna talk about it?” Bull asked.

My expression turned into a full blown grimace, and I swallowed. “It’s nothing. Like I said earlier, sometimes I just have trouble sleeping. It happens.”

Bull shifted. “No shit,” he said, “I figured ‘tired and exhausted’ wasn’t the look you’re going for.”

I chuckled humorlessly. “Yeah,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Haven’t been able to catch a full night’s sleep since we left Haven.”

It sucked, but I was very much used to it by now. Back home I never went to a doctor, because I disliked them and figured they would have just started me on some medication. I didn’t want to get addicted to sleeping pills, which is something couple of my friends had struggled with, so I just... coped. Eventually, after staying up for long enough I would fall into an exhausted slumber for a couple of hours, just enough to survive the next day. It wasn’t ideal, but then again I was rarely in life and death situations prior my arrival to Thedas.

“That’s more than six days,” Bull pointed out.

I nodded, closing my eyes.

I was fucking exhausted by now, but the sleep just wasn’t happening. It had been like this ever since I was a kid. My parents were at their wits ends trying to get me to sleep. It made sleepovers insanely difficult. Once I reached my teenage years, the situation improved slightly. I was no longer so anxious about where I was sleeping, and eventually I was able to catch shuteye anywhere, from a sofa to a train or even a classroom if I was tired enough.

But the anxiety about falling asleep at night stayed. My adult life was a big mess of good and bad sleep cycles and I just had to deal with it. Being a student with an unsteady schedule didn’t help the issue. The more all-nighters I did, writing essays or studying for exams, the more it backfired on me, triggering another phase of insomnia.

Bull interrupted my thoughts. “Want to try something?” he asked.

I opened my eyes and turned on my side to fully look at him. Bull was leaning against his elbow, half sitting and looking at me with a serious expression.

“If you’re going to suggest meditation, I can tell you I’ve already tried that,” I said dryly.

“Nah,” Bull said with a chuckle. “Figured you’ve already tried stuff like that, things you can do alone.”

I looked at him warily. “Probably tried most of them, yeah.”

Neither his gaze nor his easy tone wavered. “Sometimes physical contact can help.”

I stared at him, unsure of what he was getting at. “And by that you mean...?”

Bull just looked back at me and patted the ground next to his bedroll as an invitation.

I couldn’t help it. My face immediately heated up. It wasn’t like he was propositioning me. Still, I wasn’t exactly a tactile person normally. I didn’t dislike physical contact. In fact I enjoyed it very much. I was just raised in a distant home, so it was something rare for me.

“I won’t do anything you don’t want me to do,” Bull said, his gaze inspecting my face carefully. “Promise.”

“...Just sleeping?” I asked.

Bull nodded. “Just sleeping.”

It’s not that I didn’t trust him. Technically we had only known each other for two days, but for me it already felt like years, for obvious reasons. Maybe it felt awkward because I liked him, like really liked him, and he was probably aware, since I was so obvious about it.

“If you’re not comfortable...” Bull trailed off, his arm falling.

“No,” I said quickly. “Um... I’ll try anything once.”

Bull’s single solitary eye stared straight into my soul, and I stared back. After a moment, his lips stretched into a small smile, and he leaned back, patting the space next to him again.

I stood up quickly, gathered my bedroll and placed it next to his. Bull shifted slightly so that the two bedrolls overlapped, and then lifted his arm as an invitation. I hesitated only briefly before lying down on my side next to him. Bull moved his arm slowly, as if not to scare me off. He lowered the arm, curling it over my side and hugging my whole body to his. He was radiating heat. It wasn’t uncomfortable, quite the opposite actually.

“Still okay?” Bull asked quietly.

“Warm,” I muttered, nodding. He let his arm relax wholly, his hand finding the small of my back and moving softly in a circle. I let out a small sigh as the tension drained out of my body and my eyelids drooped.

“Do you usually sleep on your side or your back?” Bull asked after a while, speaking in a low voice.

“Hmm,” I said. “My back.”

Bull shifted slightly. “We should try that then. Bigger chance of you actually falling asleep.”

I opened an eyelid and peered at him. “Sure.”

He moved onto his back and his arm lifted off me. Immediately, I was missing the warmth of the connection. Damn. I blinked and shuffled over a bit, seeking to re-establish it.

“Here,” Bull said. “Let me.”

He grabbed hold of my shoulder and positioned me so that the back of my head was leaning slightly against his shoulder. If I hadn’t been so damn comfortable and sleepy, I would have blushed again.

“How’s that?” Bull asked, his breath warm at the back of my neck.

“It’s nice,” I muttered, bit self conscious. “My horns aren’t poking at you, are they?”

Bull chuckled and I felt it with my whole body. “No,” he said, clearly amused. “No poking.”

At that I actually did blush, and Bull chuckled again. All things considered, it was funny, so I let out a quiet laugh.

We soon fell silent. Bull moved his arm so he was effectively hugging me to his chest like a teddy bear. His large hand, now situated at my hip, moved in a lazy circle. I lay there, listening to his slow and steady breathing for what couldn’t have been more than thirty minutes before my eyelids turned impossibly heavy and I decided to rest them. Just for a couple of minutes.

I woke up to a stray ray of sunlight streaming through the flap of the tent. I blearily cracked open my eyelids, disoriented, and at the same moment realised that my pillow was moving. Then I realised that it wasn’t a pillow at all, but I was in fact snuggling the Iron Bull. My right arm was thrown around his bare chest, and the right side of my face was buried in his neck. I froze, last night’s conversation coming back to me.

I had to have been desperate and more than little sleep deprived to agree to that. Technically there was nothing bad about it, since it was Bull’s idea, but I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed for accepting his offer.

“You’re doing it again,” grumbled a voice right next to my ear. “Thinking so loud. Stop worrying.”

I tensed slightly, not having realized Bull was awake.

“What did I just say?” he asked with a sigh, his hand coming up to pet my hair. “You need to loosen up.”

Oh.

“That’s... nice,” I muttered, my eyes falling shut.

Bull chuckled softly. “This will stay strictly between the two of us, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Hmm,” I agreed, unable to remember why I had been worried.

“Wouldn’t want the others knowing the Herald is actually a cat,” Bull continued, amusement coloring his voice. “I could swear I heard you purr last night.”

I grinned into his shoulder. “Cats are good.”

“Sure,” Bull agreed, “didn’t say they weren’t.”

Outside the tent we could hear the others getting up and cooking breakfast, so to my regret I realised we would have to get up eventually.

“Thanks,” I murmured, not wanting to move. “I actually slept.”

“No problem, boss,” Bull said easily, lifting his arm off me. “Anytime.”

I sat up and glanced at him. There was an easy smile on his face, but his gaze was serious. He was serious. I rubbed my eyes, already knowing this was going to spell trouble for me.

How was I supposed to say no to an offer like that?


 

Yeah, I know. I’m an idiot.

I knew that Bull’s orders were to get close to me. I knew that in a possible future, if the Charger’s ended up dying and Bull stayed with the Qunari, he would try to kill the Inquisitor without much hesitation. Therefore, if I had a lick of sense in my thick skull, I would stay far away from him until his personal quest was completed. I knew all of this, and I knew it well. But did I listen to my own advice?

Of course not.

The only thing that gave me hope was the fact that Bull wasn’t exactly a monogamous person in the games unless the Inquisitor romanced him, or he got together with Dorian. Which meant that once the trip was over and we returned to Haven, Bull might be distracted by all the Chantry sisters and other locals. I could use that as an excuse to stay away.

It didn’t stop me from enjoying it while it lasted.

That evening I was sat on my bedroll, and nervously glanced at him.

Bull took one look at me and rolled his eye. “I said anytime, didn’t I?”

Yep, I thought as I felt his chest move underneath my ear with every breath he took. I’m such an idiot.

Chapter Text

We reached our first destination at noon of the third day.

Jader is a relatively small Orlesian city, but considering I hadn’t actually been to an authentic Thedosian city before, it was an exciting experience for me. The boat we were supposed to take from Jader to Val Royeaux was already waiting for us in the harbour. Josephine had already done all the arrangements to ensure our journey would go smoothly so that we could leave almost as soon as we arrived.

Before going through the city gates, Solas handed me a small vial. “For your sea sickness,” he said at my questioning look. “Best for you to drink it early rather than late.”

I looked at it. It was full of murky green liquid. “So I just drink this?”

“Yes,” he said. “A small sip three times a day. I have more after you’re done with that one.”

I took a gulp, and grimaced. The bitter flavour kind of reminded me of a kale smoothie, except for a minty aftertaste. “Thanks,” I said. “Let’s hope it works.”

Solas handed another vial to Cassandra, who nodded in thanks and immediately took a sip as well.

Upon entering the city, we were assaulted by a distinct smell. Yep, there it was. Nice, old medieval city smell. It wasn’t nearly as horrible as I had expected it to be, but then again, these people had magic. Maybe they had a magical ways of disposing of the... waste.

I wanted to look around a bit more, but even if we hadn’t been in a hurry, we couldn’t have loitered much. According to Leliana, there were several nobles in Jader who sided with the Chantry and wanted to get rid of the Inquisition. Therefore, it was best to keep our presence to a minimum. As an extra precaution, Cassandra made me wear gloves to cover the Mark on my hand. Couldn’t exactly hide the horns, but our party consisted of two Qunari now, so we didn’t arouse quite as much attention as before. We looked rather like any other mercenary group.

Cassandra went on board to talk with the Captain. That left me, Varric and Bull to supervise the crew as they carried the last of our things inside. Solas had gone on board along Cassandra to make sure the horses were comfortably housed. Yes, we were taking the horses with us. Since this was all Josephine’s doing, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the ship was big enough to carry our mounts.

Standing there on the docks, looking at our ship did zero to curb my uneasiness about the impending sea travel. I was sure the damn thing would rock like a rubbery lifeboat in a thunderstorm as soon as I stepped onto it. Even with the help of the potion Solas had given to me, I felt anxious.

“You okay?” Bull asked, eyeing me from the side.

“Yeah,” I lied, my voice hoarse. The anxiety was turning into a physical, constricting feeling around my throat. “As I said, I’m not a fan of sea travel.”

“Just try to relax,” Varric said with a huff. “You drank the potion Chuckles made. It will work.”

“Easier said... than... done...” I started to say, but erupted into wheezing coughs. “What... the hell...?” My hands rose up to my throat in distress. My eyes watered, blurring my vision.

“Shit,” Bull said and grabbed my shoulders. He batted my hands away from my throat. “Don’t panic, boss. You’ll make it worse.”

Oh fuck. I knew what this was. An allergic reaction.

“Get Solas!” Bull ordered. There was a shuffle and the sound of footsteps. I stood there, struggling to breathe and heard the Iron Bull curse again. Suddenly I was being lifted up. I must have blacked out at that point, because the next thing I remember is waking up to Solas’ relieved face mere inches away from mine.

I was laying down on the deck of the ship, my head resting on something soft. Bull and Varric stood behind Solas, both staring intently at me as if to make sure I was still alive. They visibly relaxed when I met their eyes.

Solas backed away. “Seems like the potion caused a strong reaction in your system,” he said, disapproval dripping in his voice. “If the Qunari hadn’t recognised what was happening, you could have died.”

“Well... I couldn’t have known...would I?” I said pointedly, glaring at him and sitting up. My throat still felt scratchy, but I could breathe again.

“Ah.” Solas sighed, understanding. “In any case, you cannot keep taking the potion. For the reaction to be this quick, the main ingredient must not agree with you at all. I’m sorry.”

I groaned and turned my face upwards. “Why does this happen to me?” I asked the Powers That Be. Then, because it was better to know of this shit, I turned back to Solas. “What is the main ingredient? I don’t want to ingest that shit accidentally in the future.”

“Black Horehound,” Solas said. He glanced at Bull and Varric, who were listening intently. “Also known by its more common name, Bull’s Blood.”

I swirled to stare at Varric and Bull. “Really? Bull’s Blood? Really?”

“You can’t make this shit up,” Varric drawled, albeit a bit shakily.

“Good to have you back, boss,” Bull said with a small grin.

“Bull’s Blood,” I repeated, staring at him. “That’s like the universe saying I’m allergic to you.” Or more like allergic to you bleeding, so please don’t ever die okay?

Bull smirked.

“What happened?!” Cassandra called out, running up to us. She looked at me, still sitting on the floor of the deck. “Herald, they said you—”

“Adaar is perfectly fine,” Solas said. “It was an allergic reaction.”

Cassandra came to a stop. “And what is that exactly?” she asked, her face crunched up in a confused frown. “The crew said he looked to be poisoned.”

“Under the Qun, we’ve got a word for it. Kata-asaara, the breath of death. The person simply stops breathing. To an untrained eye it can seem similar to poison,” Bull said, “I should know, I’ve seen my fair share of both. Back in Seheron, I watched a local die of kata-asaara.” He shook his head. “Poor bastard was stung by a bee.”

Solas looked at the Iron Bull and raised an eyebrow. “I must admit my surprise at your knowledge of such matters,” he said politely, arms behind his back.

Translation: I thought your people were unthinking beasts who destroy everything in their path.

Bull gave him a look. “It’s actually common knowledge.”

I rolled my eyes at their bickering. “Lucky for us the Qunari have advanced science,” I muttered and made a move to stand up. Bull held out his hand, and I took it. He helped me back on my feet with a tug, and I was reminded of the last seconds before I passed out. Bull had carried me on board.

“Thanks,” I said, my hand still in Bull’s. I paused and looked up at him. He saved me from dying an embarrassing death by a herb. “Seriously, thanks.”

Bull smiled. “All in day’s work.”

“We’re almost ready to depart,” Cassandra said, interrupting the two of us.

I let go of Bull’s hand and coughed, taking a step back. Cassandra’s words brought up the new dilemma. We weren’t even moving and I could still feel the damn ship shifting beneath my feet. This journey was going to be rough.

“Couple of days of sea travel and no drugs for me,” I said darkly. “Yay.”

“Maybe...it won’t be as bad as you think,” Cassandra said optimistically.

“When has something like that ever happened?” I asked her. “Seriously, I nearly choked to death because of a potion that was supposed to help treat sea sickness. Luck is not on my side today.”

“He’s right, Seeker,” Varric said with a grimace. “Better prepare for the worst.”


 Varric was correct. As soon as the ship made it to the open sea, I was ready to throw up. The Iron Bull advised me to keep my gaze on the horizon. It was an old trick I was familiar with from endless road trips as a kid. It had something to do with the way your eye sight and inner ear were connected. If your eyes didn’t see motion but your ear could feel it, it resulted in nausea. But it didn’t really help that much, and I couldn’t spend all of the journey on the deck, anyway.

You know what else helps nausea? Sleeping as much as you can, so you aren’t conscious for it.

But Adaar, how can you sleep if you have insomnia, I hear you ask. I’ll tell you.

Constantly throwing up that first day did wonders for my energy levels. I felt like dying. After spending couple of hours staring into the horizon and throwing up, the Iron Bull dragged me indoors and in very clear terms told me to sleep it off. I glared at him weakly in response, but the floor beneath my feet shifted and my stomach lurched. The expression was wiped clean off my face.

“Freshen up, and I’ll help you to fall asleep,” Bull said. He sat on the bed of the cabin and took off his leg brace.

I stared at him for a moment before shrugging. Doing as I was told, I quickly brushed my teeth, splashed some water on my face and changed into my sleep clothes. Then I crawled into bed where the Iron Bull was already waiting for me, leaning against the bed frame so that he was half-sitting, half lying down.

“Here,” he said once I was settled in, “give me your hand.”

“What for?” I asked, but held it out anyway.

“I know this one trick,” Bull said with a chuckle. “Learnt it from a friend of mine in the reeducators.”

He grabbed my wrist, and placed his thumb where you would normally take a pulse, pressing down gently in a small circular motion. The feeling was weird at first, but as he continued, I could feel the nausea receding somewhat.

“Score two for science,” I muttered.

Bull chuckled, and I felt the vibrations through my back.

“Told you I had a trick up my sleeve,” he said.

This whole thing between us was going to drive me crazy. Bull was being very nice, very quickly. I knew he was naturally a friendly guy. My biggest problem was that I was having difficulty separating my feelings for the fictional character the Iron Bull and the living, breathing Qunari I was currently snuggling.

For all intents and purposes they were the same person. Only, I couldn’t be sure what kind of a butterfly effect my actions were causing towards the status quo of Thedas. It would be a spectacularly bad idea to assume that everything would turn out just like in the games. The Qunari were an unknown and as much as I hated to admit it, so was the Iron Bull. I wanted so badly to be able to trust his friendliness, but I couldn’t. The guy was just doing his job as a Ben-Hassrath spy.

“What are you worrying about now?” Bull asked, breaking my train of thought.

Realising I had tensed up, I did my best to relax back into his embrace. “Nothing much,” I lied.

“Hmm,” Bull replied. “Sure. You realise I’m in direct contact with your heart beat right now?” he pointed out.

Damn.

“Yeah,” I said ruefully. “Sorry.”

He didn’t press it, but instead continued the acupuncture-esque treatment of my wrist in silence.

“It’s just...” I trailed off. “This whole thing we’re doing. I don’t really understand what’s happening.”

Bull didn’t answer immediately, which just made me more anxious about his response. When he finally did speak, he began with a deep sigh. “Look, boss. You don’t have to think so hard about it,” he said. “I’m just helping you out. All you gotta do is relax.”

I twisted around to look at him. “But...” I started, and trailed off at his serious gaze. “I mean, okay. I appreciate your help.”

“It’s what I’m here for,” Bull said. He actually said that.

I stood up and glared at him. He raised an eyebrow in question.

“I’m going to say this only once,” I said, crossing my arms. “I should have said this before, but I didn’t because I’m an idiot.”

“Go on,” Bull said, looking amused.

“If you’re doing this,” I said and gestured between us, “out of some weird feeling of obligation, then we can’t continue. I’m— the Inquisition isn’t paying you to be my personal teddy bear.” He didn’t reply, so my word vomit continued, “I need to make sure you’re not doing any of this just because you work for us, I mean, I’m enjoying this just as much as the next person but I just can’t take that sort of advantage of the fact that—”

“If anyone’s taking advantage, it’s me,” Bull interrupted.

I stared at him blankly. “I... what?”

“From the moment I saw you, it was obvious you were into me,” he said. I looked away in embarrassment. “But there was something I couldn’t figure out.”

I peered back at him. “Oh?”

Bull huffed in annoyance. “It’s like you trusted me blindly, and yet at the same time you were afraid of me,” he said, shaking his head. “It was driving me crazy. And then you offered to share your tent with me like it was no big deal.”

“It really wasn’t,” I said, confused. “You didn’t have a tent.”

“No one shares a tent with the person who makes them scared like that,” Bull said, his face serious. “Yet you didn’t even hesitate. If Krem hadn’t mentioned it to me earlier, I would’ve been convinced it was my presence that kept you from sleeping that night.”

I frowned. “And...?”

Bull shook his head. “Figured if I helped you out, I might get you to relax a bit, maybe tell me what’s up. Didn’t really work out like I wanted it to. Sure, you don’t look so terrified anymore. Instead you relax like you don’t remember what you were so afraid of. And suddenly you tense up, just like earlier.” He looked at me pointedly. “And now.”

Oh. I tried to relax my shoulders. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologize,” he said easily. “Maybe tell me what’s bothering you instead.”

“I... I can’t,” I said, sitting down on the edge of the bed. “I’m sorry.”

Bull regarded me carefully. “Does this have something to do with the whole seer thing?”

I snorted. “Kinda, yeah.”

“Do you want to tell me?” he asked.

I had no idea how this early version of the Iron Bull would react if I told him the whole story, about me being a human from another and knowing about the future of Thedas through a damn video game. Knowing the Qun’s stance on magic, and considering the way he reacted to the whole Fade thing during Adamant, he would probably freak out.

“I would like to...but...”

“Something’s stopping you?” he guessed. “Then it’s simple. Don’t tell me.”

I blinked. “Just like that?”

“Just like that,” Bull repeated.

“And whatever this is...?” I asked.

Bull reached forward to take my hand again, but stopped just short, not quite touching. I closed the remaining distance, causing his lips to twitch into a smile. “This,” he said, “doesn’t have to be anything you don’t want it to be.”

“And you’re not doing this just because you technically work for me?” I double checked.

“Trust me,” he said with a chuckle. “I don’t do anything I don’t want to do.”

I regarded him for a moment. “Okay.”

We quickly returned back to our earlier position. Bull started the treatment on my remaining wrist, and said, “You know, there’s one thing I wanted to ask.”

“Yeah?”

“What the hell is a teddy bear?”


For the rest of the trip I pretty much barricaded myself inside that cabin. Yes, the cabin was solely mine. Well, mine and Bull’s. Cassandra, Varric, Solas and the scouts had two rooms between them. Apparently Josephine and Leliana had insisted on my privacy. God knows why, since I couldn’t have cared less before the journey began. But now I was thankful for it, because when the waves were at their strongest, I could die in peace and not have to worry about bothering the others.

I slept as much as I could. I didn’t eat much, since I didn’t want to throw it all up again. Bull’s trick with the wrist and acupressure points worked wonders most of the time, but it really wasn’t magic. The journey was made solely bearable by the fact that I found it incredibly easy to fall asleep snuggling next to Bull.

I was unable to write at all during our time over the water, as I had expected, being very aware of my own limits when it came to travel sickness. It just sucked, because by then I had gotten used to writing down the days events in order to gather my thoughts. Thedas had no anonymous blogs or chat rooms for venting, after all.

For the first time in a while, luck was on our side. The weather was pretty much perfect, so we were only stuck on that god forsaken boat for two nights, and reached Val Royeaux on the morning of the third day. The core of our party was to going to meet the clerics. Leliana’s scouts would do their own thing. We didn’t want Val Royeaux to think it was an invasion or anything. Two Qunari were intimidating enough. Besides, I’m sure the scouts had things to do. Like, spying... and... espionage?

Since Cassandra, Leliana, and Josephine wanted me to look presentable, I was wearing the shiny white and golden armor with the red sash. It was actually pretty comfortable, on top of looking really cool.

Before we left, I cornered Solas in private.

“So, Solas...” I said casually. “You wouldn’t happen to know any good, subtle ways to tell if someone is possessed. Or actually a demon in disguise.”

“I do. In fact I know of several ways,” Solas said, staring at me with a frown. “But most of them involve engaging the demon, or using magic to do so. Neither of which I can recommend you to do, since you are not a mage. Why do you ask?”

“Damn,” I muttered, looking away. “No reason.”

“Adaar,” he said and caught my gaze, “Demons are dangerous. I hope you know what you’re doing.”

I swallowed. “Yeah, me too,” I admitted, and darted past him. Cassandra, Varric and Bull were already waiting for us outside, so when he finally caught up with me, he couldn’t bring the subject up without raising unneeded suspicion from the others. And we had already agreed not to discuss demons and possession in front of Cassandra. I could feel his disapproving gaze on my back for the rest of the morning.

The deeper we entered the city, the clearer the sound of chantry bells got.

“The city still mourns,” Cassandra noted.

A masked lady walking by glanced at us and promptly ran away, accompanied by a hilarious shriek.

I snorted. “Bit of an over reaction, wasn’t it?”

“Just a guess, Seeker,” Varric drawled, “but I think they all know who we are.”

“Your skills of observation never fail to impress me, Varric.”

A scout met us at the gates of the Summer Bazaar. The place was really impressive. Lots of white stone, gold, and massive statues. The weather in Orlais was very different to Haven or even the Storm Coast, and no wonder. It was a whole different country. The air was warm and soft, and we could hear birds singing all around us. It was indeed... very summer-y.

“My lord Herald,” the newly arrived scout said, kneeling in front of us.

I waved a hand at her, and she stood up after only brief hesitation.

“You’re one of Leliana’s people,” Cassandra observed. “What have you found out?”

“The Chantry mothers await you,” the scout answered, “but so do great many templars.”

Cassandra’s eyebrows rose up. “There are templars here?”

“People seem to think that the templars will protect them from...” the scout trailed off hesitantly. “From the Inquisition. They’re gathering on the other side of the market. I think that’s where the templars intend to meet you.”

“Only one thing to do then,” Cassandra said with a determined expression on her face.

“Umm,” I started. “Anyone else think it’s ridiculous how these people are reacting to us? Like we’re here to start a war or something?”

“Eh, ‘Royans,” Varric said, rolling his eyes. “They love to be dramatic.”

“The Templars wish to protect the people? From us?” Cassandra asked with a huff.

Varric gave her a meaningful look. “You think the order’s returned to the fold, maybe? To deal with us upstarts?”

In case you’re confused about Varric’s remark, you need to know about that a lot of shit happened after Kirkwall’s Chantry blowing up and before the Conclave. There was some kind of an incident in the local circle of Val Royaux. It centered around Cole, and the mages and templars of the White Spire. I was pretty sure that Wynne, Leliana and Shale had been somehow involved as well.

There was the usual “mages are evil” and “templars are unfair to us” talk from both sides. Blah blah, Rite of Tranquility could be reversed, people were murdered, things happened. Led by Grand Enchanter Fiona, the mage fraternities ended up holding a vote for independence and independence won, just barely. Lord Seeker Lambert sent a letter to Divine Justinia and declared both the Seekers of the Truth and the Templar order free of the Chantry’s authority, thus nullifying the Nevarran Accord.

Then, Cole stabbed him to death.

Cassandra frowned. “I know Lord Seeker Lucius,” she said. “I can’t imagine him coming to the Chantry’s defence, not after all that’s occurred.”

Yeeeaah. There might be a little bit of trouble on that front. It was possible that Lord Seeker was an envy demon in disguise who wanted to wear me to the prom and take over Thedas. I glanced at Solas, remembering our conversation from earlier. From what I remembered from the games, Envy demons were pretty devious. Which meant that just asking, ‘hey, are you a demon?’ probably wouldn’t work out that well.

“So basically we’re in deep shit?” I asked.

“We’ve discussed this,” Cassandra admonished me, no doubt cringing at the mental image of me cursing in front of the Chantry Clerics. “But...yes. Perhaps.” She paused. “What have you seen of this meeting?”

We’d agreed to speak of my knowledge as if I was an actual Seer, since not everyone was in on the whole human-from-another-world shtick.

Varric, Solas and Bull looked at me in interest.

I shook my head. “Nothing good.”

The din of the gathering crowd increased with every step we took towards the centre of the market square. The actual market place was bigger than in the games, so there was a significantly larger group of people waiting for us than I had anticipated. Still, the group wasn’t quite an angry mob. Not yet, anyway.

Three people clad in Chantry uniforms stood in front of a small, wooden platform just before the entrance to the docks. It was an excellent location to speak from, so that they would be seen and heard by most of the vendors and people visiting the square. Ser Barris, a templar who I knew was a good guy, stood beside the three clerics. One of the clerics spotted our group, and that’s when the fun started.

“Good people of Val Royeaux, hear me,” called out Revered Mother Hevara, the one with the fanciest hat. The crowd immediately quieted. Good ol’ Thedas. The fancier your hat is, the more power you hold.

“Together, we mourn our Divine,” Hevara continued. “Her naive and beautiful heart silenced by treachery. You wonder what will become of her murdered. Well, wonder no more.” She pointed a finger at me and the crowd parted around us. “The so-called Herald of Andraste. Claiming to rise where our beloved fell! We say, this is a false prophet! A wicked Qunari sent to subvert the Maker’s words!”

Bull and I snorted at the same time. I was as far from an actual Qunari as one could be.

“I claim no such thing,” I called out. “We’re here to talk.”

“It’s true,” Cassandra said from beside me. “The Inquisition only seeks to end the madness before it is too late!”

“It is already too late,” Hevara said with a smirk and pointed stage left. “The Templars have returned to the Chantry. They will face this Inquisition, and the people will be safe once more.”

A group of templars led by Lord Seeker Lucius entered the square. I did a quick head count, making out about twelve of them. Lord Seeker marched up on the stage, making me twitch in anticipation. A guy in a helmet decked the Revered Mother, and she fell down.

The crowd gasped. Ser Barris stared at Lord Seeker in aghast.

“Still yourself,” Lord Seeker Lucius said with a smug smile, “she is beneath us.”

“Hey,” I called out, “what the hell?”

The Lord Seeker looked down at me. “Her claim to authority is an insult,” he spat out. “Much like your own.” He shook his head, and walked of the stage.

Cassandra shook herself out of a stupor. “Lord Seeker Lucius,” she said, running after him, “it’s imperative that we speak with—”

“You will not address me,” Lucius ground out without a glance towards her.

Cassandra stopped in her tracks. “Lord Seeker?” she questioned, baffled.

The Lord Seeker looked furious. “Creating a heretical movement, raising a puppet as Andraste’s prophet. You should be ashamed,” he snarled and faced her. “You should all be ashamed! The Templars failed no one when they left the Chantry to purge the mages. You are the ones who have failed. You, who would leash our righteous swords with doubt and fear!”

Cassandra stared at him, her expression falling.

Lucius glared at me. “If you came to appeal to the Chantry, you are too late. The only destiny here that demands respect is mine.”

“Ser Barris,” I said, ignoring the raving madman in front of me. “What do you think of all this?”

Barris’s eyes widened, and he looked around him in confusion. “How did you—,” he started, then bared a fearful glance towards the Lord Seeker. “What if he really is Andraste’s chosen?” he asked.

“Him, a Qunari?” the Lord Seeker said with a dark laugh. “I would rather believe a toad our saviour. He has nothing, no power, no influence, and certainly no holy purpose.”

The asshole with the helmet, the whole who’d punched the Revered Mother, glared at Ser Barris. “You’re called to a higher purpose, do not question,” he snarled. Geez, what a jerk.

Lord Seeker Lucius glared us down. “I will make the Templar Order a power that stands against the void. We deserve recognition. Independence!” He struck his chest with a fist. “You have shown me nothing. And the Inquisition, less than nothing,” he said and glanced around. “Templars! Val Royeaux is unworthy of our protection. We march!”

Yep. Delusions of grandeur. Had to be the Envy demon. That, or the original Lucius was an a total asshole. Kind of hard to tell with the Templars, sometimes.

“Charming fellow, isn’t he?” Varric snarked.

Cassandra was still staring in the direction the Templars disappeared to. “Has Lord Seeker Lucius gone mad?”

“That depends,” I said hesitantly. “How well did you know him... before?”

“He took over the Seekers of Truth two years ago, after Lord Seeker Lambert’s death,” Cassandra said, her brow furrowing in thought. “He was always a decent man, never given to ambition and grandstanding. This is very bizarre.”

Well, that is debatable. According to what Cassandra learns about the Lord Seeker during her personal quest, Lucius Corin was in fact kind of a jerk who had decided to work with Corypheus. He joined that crazy doomsday cult, Flame Order or something, which wants to overthrow the Seekers and bring about the end of the world. And since the Seekers weren’t any use to Corypheus, Lucius lured them one by one to his little cult and had them all killed.

“I don’t think that’s really him,” I said quietly, crossing my arms.

“What?!” Cassandra whispered back.

“I see,” Solas said, understanding slowly blooming on his face. “This is why you asked for my advice earlier.”

I nodded. “We can’t talk about this here, it’s too dangerous,” I said, and gave Cassandra a look and gesturing to the dissipating crowd of people still milling around us. “I promise I’ll explain everything once we’re somewhere more private.”

Cassandra’s face was still formed in an angry frown, but she nodded. “Very well.”

We turned around to leave.

“This victory must please you greatly, Seeker Cassandra,” the Revered Mother said, catching our attention from where she was still lying down on the stage.

Cassandra frowned, not in mood to play games. “We came here seeking only to speak with the mothers. This is not our doing, but yours.”

“And you had no part in forcing our hand?” Hevara asked. “Do not delude yourself. Now we have been shown up by our own templars, in front of everyone. And my fellow clerics have scattered to the wind, along with their convictions.” She looked at me. “Tell me, if you do not believe you are the Maker’s chosen, then what are you?”

“I’m just someone who’s here to help to close the Beach,” I said, and offered her my hand. “Are you okay?”

“That is... more comforting than you can imagine,” she said and after a moment, accepted my hand. “Yes. I must have strained my back when I fell.”

I helped her up without a word.

“Thank you,” she said, and continued. “I suppose the matter is out of our hands now. We shall see what the Maker plans in the days to come.”

“What do you believe I am?” I asked, instead of rolling my eyes like I wanted to.

“Our Divine, Her Holiness, is dead. I have seen evidence for everything except what would comfort me.”

I stared at her blankly. “And...?”

“For you to be true, a great many things must be false. And if you are false, a great many things must have failed,” she shook her head. “There is chaos ahead, whatever your intentions.”

Well, she wasn’t wrong. This whole thing was going to be a shit show.

“Maybe we can stand against that chaos, even a little bit,” I suggested.

“I hope against hope that may be the case.” She looked doubtful. “Whatever becomes of us, and the Inquisition, is in the Maker’s hands now.”

That, I took as a cue to leave her be. As we left the area with the stage, a masked woman at one of the stalls tried to catch our attention. She was dressed in a grey hat and a beautiful, green dress, and surrounded by crates of vegetables and fruit.

“Excuse me,” she said. “But... is what they’re saying real? The Inquisition is trying to fix the hole in the sky?”

“Yeah,” I said, vaguely remembering her. She was the vendor who wanted to help out. Belle, or something. “We’re doing our best.”

“No one is doing anything,” she huffed in frustration, “The Chantry’s useless, and the templars...Andraste, I never thought they’d abandon us.” She sighed. “Listen, your camp will need food. I have contacts. We’ll have deliveries there in days.”

“You want to help the Inquisition?” Cassandra asked, suspicious.

“Never been part of something this big before, but...” Belle nodded, “If your Inquisition’s going to seal the sky, I want in.”

“We should give her the benefit of the doubt, don’t you think, Cassandra?” I asked, smiling at the first friendly person we’d met in Val Royeaux.

“I think the woman was asking you and not me,” Cassandra replied.

“Well, he is...” Belle trailed off.

“The Herald of Andraste,” Cassandra said and sighed. “I understand. Haven is a mess, but we won’t turn away anyone willing to help. Invite her, if it pleases you.”

I grinned. “Welcome abroad, Belle.”

Belle’s mouth dropped, and she gaped at me. “You know me?”

I winked at her.

“That’s equally unnerving, every time,” Varric muttered.

“Head to Haven,” I continued, ignoring him. “We need good people.”

“I...” Belle said, still shaken. “I don’t know if I’m that, but it will be nice to see. Thank you.” She curtsied.

I left Belle’s stall with a shiny pear in my hands. Finally, fresh fruit. I understand needing to prioritise calories over taste when it came to rations, but even in Haven, we rarely saw any fruit. I swear, that woman might single-handedly save the Inquisition’s forces from scurvy.

I bit into my pear in front of the gallows. “Bit morbid,” I said between mouthfuls, eyeing the wooden structure. “Are executions always public entertainment over here?”

“Not always,” Cassandra said quietly. “It’s most often done to emphasize the severity of the crime.”

“So, mostly politics?” I asked, “You know—”

An arrow flashed past my shoulder, making me jump and almost drop my pear. The arrow hit the wooden pillar in front of us. We drew closer, and noticed a piece of parchment tied around it.

“What’s that?” Cassandra asked, narrowing her eyes. She walked over to pick it up. “An arrow with a message?”

“That would be from the Friends of Red Jenny,” I said, trying to calm down my racing heart.

Cassandra read through it. “The handwriting is atrocious, I can hardly understand it,” Cassandra pointed out. “But you are right, once again. This person would have us find red things in order to discover... a baddie.” She said the word like it physically pained her, and handed the note towards me.

“You don’t wanna mess with the Jennies,” Varric said gravely.

“I’m aware,” I said and took the note. On the other side of it was a badly drawn map of the market place. There was also a small comical scribble of a man in an Orlesian mask, with arrows pointed towards him next to the word BADDIE. The world was underlined three times, and circled. “But this is actually a good thing, trust me.”

Sera wasn’t my favourite character, but she was hilarious. Besides, Friends of Red Jennies would make rather powerful allies. I didn’t intend to pass that by just because she went a bit too far sometimes.

Cassandra interrupted my musings. “I believe that messenger is trying to catch our attention,” she noted.

I looked up. “Oh.” A man dressed in simple, yet elegant robes approached us.

“You are the Herald of Andraste, are you not?” the man asked. He wasn’t wearing a mask. “I have an invitation for you.”

I nodded. He handed me a small envelope, and left.

“Guess he doesn’t need an answer,” I muttered. Turning to face the others, I opened the message. You could use a single word to describe the whole thing. Beginning from the choice of paper, to the beautiful cursive handwriting and the words itself, the message was simply poised.

You are cordially invited to attend my salon, held at the Château of Duke Bastien De Ghislain.

Yours,
First Enchanter of Montsimmard
Enchanter to the Imperial Court

Yep. That was Vivienne, all right.

I showed the note to Cassandra. There were more details about the time and place on the flip side of the note. “I’ve been invited to the Château of Duke Bastien for a salon,” I explained with a grin and gestured my new armour with a flourish. “Lucky for us, Josephine made sure I have some presentable armour with me.”

“Maker help us if you were to attend without your best armour,” Varric drawled.

Cassandra sighed.

“That soirée isn’t until tomorrow, so until then we’ve got plenty of time to check out those places mentioned in the Friend of Red Jenny’s letter.” I glanced at the Iron Bull. “You up for a treasure hunt?”

Bull grinned. “Bring it on, boss.”

“In the mean while,” Cassandra said with a roll of her eyes. “I’ll have our things delivered to an inn. I suspect it will be a few days until all this business is done with.”


 We agreed to split up. Varric would accompany Bull and me to find the clues around Val Royeaux, while Solas and Cassandra would rent us a room and go pick up our things. Once they were settled in comfortably, Cassandra would undoubtedly get started on crafting some letters in order to inform Leliana and the others of our disaster of a meeting with the clerics. They needed to know about the appearance of Lord Seeker Lucius and his merry templars.

The badly drawn map told us that there were three clues for us to find, with the closest one being at the nearby docks, so we headed there first. The place was abandoned at that time of day. Not unusual, I suspected, since it must have been mostly used by the vendors and that meant it saw use by early mornings and late evenings. We had to look around more than in the game, but eventually we found a red handkerchief behind one of the empty barrels. Tied to the handkerchief was a key, and a small slip of paper with a hastily scribbled message on it.

Key lifted from drunk, swearing about Herald. Don’t know what door, I’m out. My debt is paid.

“We’ve got a key,” I said, waving it around. “If my memory serves me, the next clue is in that tavern. Or restaurant. Lion something.”

“I believe it’s a cafe,” Varric corrected with a chuckle.

“You’re taking all the fun out of this,” Bull noted. “It’s no real treasure hunt if you know where everything is beforehand.”

It was kind of awkward trying to sneak into the cafe without ordering anything, but we didn’t want to linger. For that horrendous crime, one of the workers glared at us from the sidelines, but didn’t say anything. I felt bad, so I dug through my purse and slipped couple of coppers her way.

The cafe had no visible clues. Of course not. This was Sera we were talking about.

“Look underneath the tables,” I suggested with a sigh, and ducked down to do just that.

“Found it,” Varric called out after a few tries. The patrons at the table stared at him, their mouths hanging open comically. He ignored their blustering and walked back to where me and Bull were standing. “It’s just a message this time. ‘Thank you friends for helping good Lady Keris. Saw those who asked about Herald enter third passage. Could not stay to see them exit.’ Huh.”

“Ah,” I said, and blinked. “That is absolutely zero help. Means nothing to me.”

“What, there’s actually something you don’t know?” Varric snarked.

I mock glared at him. “I’m not all-knowing, Varric,” I said, crossing my arms. “But I do know the next clue should be on the upper levels. Come on.”

You know those fast travel points in Val Royeaux? The red and blue doors around the Summer Bazaar? Well, those doors lead inside small towers. And what’s inside those towers...? Why, small spiral stair cases, of course. Really worn down ones, too.

“These are not up to Health and Safety regulations,” I muttered, taking care with every single step so I wouldn’t plummet to my very painful death. Luckily the space was so narrow I could touch the wall on both sides with my hands. Because there were no railings to hold onto, either.

“Up to what?” Varric asked from behind me.

“Forget it,” I said with a sigh, and silently cast a prayer for all the servants who had to brave those damn stairs daily.

The last clue was stuffed inside a red sock and hidden behind a potted plant on a balcony overlooking the market square. It was a scrap of paper ripped of an official looking document, that read something about meeting at the three bell’s time.

“At three bells,” I muttered and frowned, re-reading the note. “Well, we’ve got a key, and a time. I think that one in the cafe was supposed to give us the place, but, um... it kinda failed.”

Bull hummed. “Let me see that second note again.”

I handed it to him.

“As I thought,” he said. “See the paper this is written on? The paper itself is a clue. It’s a report from a nearby stable. Has the stables’ name on it and everything.”

“Ooh, I get it!” I said, getting excited again. “These clues are all connected? Meaning if we go to that stable at three bells, and find the mysterious third passage, and that’s where the key will fit in?”

“Most likely,” Varric said.

I clapped my hands together. “I feel like a detective in a mystery novel with all this gumshoeing.” I said with my best 1920’s gangster accent, and let out a giggle. “This is the bee’s knees.”

“That. Is adorable,” Varric said. Bull nodded in agreement.

I put my hands to my hips. “Come on fellas, let’s dust out, we need to tell Cassandra the news!”

Bull chuckled. “You know this could very well be a trap?” he asked.

“I have no doubt,” I said with a grin, “but we ain’t patsies, are we boys? We’ll go out there packing heat, and they’ll be the ones in a pinch.”

“I have no idea what you just said,” Varric said with a laugh, “but I love it.”


 Since our mysterious meet up would happen at three that morning, we had the rest of the day to do as we pleased. We went to the inn and met up with Solas and Cass. It was one of the most respectable establishments you could find at a medium price range. Medium was good. Not too cheap, which meant the toilets and the bathrooms weren’t too disgusting, yet not too expensive as to rob the Inquisition of all of its gold. Of course, it had all been hand-picked beforehand by Josephine and Leliana.

Each member of our party had their own rooms, but the bathroom and the hallway were shared between us. It sort of made the whole thing remind me of a shared flat, or something. Only thing missing from was a kitchen.

I was lying down on a comfortable bed inside my room, jotting down details and events from the past couple of days in my journal, when there was a knock at my door.

“Adaar,” Cassandra called out. “We need to talk.”

I jumped up and opened the door. “Hey, Cass,” I said. “What about?”

She frowned at me. “What you said about Lord Seeker Lucius,” she said. “You promised you would explain when we were somewhere more private.”

“Right, um,” I said nervously. “Come in, I guess?”

Cassandra nodded, and stepped inside. I closed the door.

“So, you should probably sit down for this,” I said and went to drag the only chair in the room to the center of the room. I gestured to it. “Please.”

Cassandra raised an eyebrow, but sat down. “From what I understood, you asked Solas for his advice, and he already knows what you are about to tell me.”

I nodded, swallowing. “Yeah,” I said and scratched my horn. “I don’t even know where to start. “

Cassandra stared at me, her gaze determined. “Start at the beginning,” she suggested.

“I’m not sure of when that is either,” I admitted. “Long story short. That man we met today isn’t Lord Seeker Lucius. It’s an Envy demon who wants to possess me in order to use the Inquisition’s power to fulfil its own, nefarious purposes.”

“What?!” Cassandra exclaimed, standing up. “You would—”

“Cassandra, I swear I’m not making this up,” I said quickly, “you know that I know certain things, this is one of those things. If we choose to pursue the Templars as our allies in closing the Breach, we’ll eventually uncover the demon’s plot at Therinfal Redoubt.”

“But, the Lord Seeker would never—” Cassandra argued, then closed her mouth, and paused. She slumped down on the chair. “You’re right. Today’s spectacle was completely out of character for him.”

“I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I know you knew him.”

“He was a good man,” Cassandra said softly.

“Umm... About that,” I hesitated.

Cassandra looked up at me, her brow furrowing. “Yes?”

“The Lord Seeker is still alive,” I said. “He just kinda, decided to leave the Templars and the Seekers, and joined this weird doomsday cult instead.”

Cassandra stared at me, baffled. “What?”

“Promise of the Flame or something like that,” I muttered, “I can’t remember the name, sorry.”

“Flame?” Cassandra repeated, her expression souring. “You don’t mean the Order of the Fiery Promise, do you?”

“Yeah, that’s it!” I said, snapping my fingers. “He joined them, and let the Envy demon take command of the Templars. My memory is super hazy on the details otherwise, so I’m sorry if I’m not of any real help. But we need to look into him as soon as we can, because if I remember correctly, he’s luring Seekers to him and getting rid of them since they’re immune to Corypheus’s plans.”

Cassandra sighed. “You must have known this before hand, yet chose not to inform us earlier. Why tell me now?”

“It took me quite a bit of thinking before I could remember all of these details,” I said. “And then I wasn’t sure you’d believe me,” I admitted hesitantly. “But seeing those Templars today, I felt I had to say something. Maybe you can help me come up with a plan. Maybe we can reach more templars so they’ll join the Inquisition’s ranks. I don’t know.” I sighed. “Whatever we do, we need to be extremely careful. Corypheus is fully aware of the envy demon and is using the templars to his advantage. If we make one wrong move and he realises we’re onto him, we lose any advantage my knowledge gives us.”

Cassandra contemplated this for a moment. “You are right,” she said. “Even with your information, acting brashly would be a mistake.”

“But I doesn’t feel right to do nothing, either,” I muttered. “The more templars and seekers we can save from Corypheus and his pet demon, the better.”

Cassandra sighed and stood up. “I will contemplate on this for now. I cannot ask Cullen or the others for advice until we meet face to face,” she said. “It is too dangerous to sent ravens with information this sensitive.”

So yeah. At least Cassandra knows. We might be able to come with some sort of plan to contact Ser Barris or someone else who we knew to be trustworthy. It was better than nothing.

“By the way, Cassandra,” I said. She turned back around, just short of opening the door. “It probably isn’t a good idea for me to go to that salon on my own tomorrow. I’m not exactly an expert on Orlesian etiquette.”

Cassandra raised an eyebrow. “Are you asking me to come with you?”

“You are more familiar with Orlais than I am,” I admitted. “And I might be the Herald, but were a founding member of the Inquisition and along with Leliana, you were one of the Divine’s most trusted people. I don’t think anyone would be too surprised to see you accompanying me.”

“You are correct,” Cassandra agreed, nodding. “I shall come with you.”


 That night, we followed Sera’s instructions and slipped into a secluded courtyard. Two warriors and an archer, all wearing golden masks, awaited us.

“It’s the Inquisition’s Herald!” one of them yelled.

“They know who we are,” I quipped.

They were caught off guard so it was a relatively easy fight for us. That, and there were five of us and only three of them. After the fight died down and we could look around, I noticed a was a very familiar looking, blue door on the other end of the courtyard.

I looked at the others. “When I open this, everyone duck.”

“Why?” Cassandra asked.

“Fireballs,” I said as an explanation.

“Fun,” Varric remarked with a grimace.

I opened the door and jumped back. A fireball immediately followed where my head had been just milliseconds ago.

“Herald of Andraste,” a voice with a thick Orlesian accent called out.

Since there were no more fireballs coming, we stepped through the door and stared.

A man with a ridiculous hat and a golden mask struck a comical pose. “How much did you expend to discover me?” he asked. “It must have weakened the Inquisition immeasurably!”

“We have no idea who you are,” I said, crossing my arms. “And I know things.”

“You don’t fool me,” the man laughed. “I’m too important for this to be an accident! My efforts will survive in victories against you elsewhere!”

There was a sound of an arrow, and a shriek. The man looked behind him just as one of his guards fell to the floor, dead.

Sera stood there, pulling back the string on her bow. “Just say ‘what’!” she yelled.

“What is the—” the Orlesian idiot started, and caught an arrow in his neck. He struggled for a few moments, then fell down, dead as a doornail.

“Eww,” Sera said, scrunching her nose in disgust. She walked towards us. “Squishy one, but you heard me, right? Just say ‘what’? Rich tits always try for more than they deserve.” She kneeled down to the dead guy and pulled out the arrow. “Blah, blah, blah! Obey me! Arrow in my face!”

I muffled a laugh.

“So, you followed the notes well enough. Glad to see you’re...” Sera trailed off, looking up at me. “You’re big. Real big. From the North, yeah? Rivain or... North.” She paused. “I mean it’s all good, innit? The important thing is: you glow? You’re the Herald thingy?”

“Yep, I glow,” I said, and wiggled my marked hand at her. “What’s up with this guy?”

“No idea,” Sera said, glancing at the dead guy. “I don’t know this idiot from manners. My people just said the Inquisition should look at him.”

“Right,” I said. Made as much as sense as anything. “Of course.”

“Name’s Sera,” she said, and gestured to some wooden crates nearby. “This is cover. Get round it.” At our confused looks, she added. “For the reinforcements. Don’t worry. Someone tipped me their equipment shed.” She grinned. “They’ve got no breeches.”

“Why didn’t you take their weapons?” Varric asked with a groan.

“Because, no breeches!” Sera cackled.

There’s something pretty disturbing about fighting against a bunch of guys with no pants on. They were shockingly easy to defeat, seeing as half of their bodies were unprotected.

“Friends really came through with that tip,” Sera said, and giggled. “No breeches.” She turned to look at me. “So, Herald of Andraste. You’re a strange one. I’d like to join.”

“I don’t see why not,” I said.

Sera blinked. “Just like that? No need to explain?”

“Well, I already know you represent the Friends of Red Jenny, and that your name is Sera,” I listed off. “Also, you’re funny, and you want to help. That’s enough for me.”

Cassandra groaned.

“I like you,” Sera said with a smirk. “Get in before you’re too big to like. That’ll keep your breeches where they should be. Plus, extra breeches, because I have all these...” She glanced down. “You’ve got merchants who buy that pish, yeah? Got to be worth something.” She paused. “Anyway, Haven. See you there, Herald. This will be grand!”

“Bye,” I called out at her rapidly disappearing backside.

“Who...” Cassandra trailed off. “What?”

“You sure attract the weird ones,” Varric commented.

Solas didn’t even dignify me with a comment, instead choosing to vaguely glare into the direction where Sera had disappeared off to. He was probably incredibly annoyed by her existence and saw it as an insult to all elves.

I looked at Bull. “What do you think?”

Bull shrugged. “She seems like fun.”

“Right?” I asked, grinning. “I mean, I don’t always totally understand what she’s saying when she speaks, but I have to admit she’s fun. You don’t know it yet, but you two are going to be the best of friends.”

He raised an eyebrow. “Yeah, I could see that happening.”

“What have I done to deserve this?” Cassandra groaned, recognising the trouble the two would bring to the Inquisition.

“There, there,” I said, patting her shoulder. “I’m sure we’ll all suffer equally.”

Chapter Text

We returned to the inn after our midnight shindig with Sera. The bathroom had no mirror, but at least there was a water basin and fresh towels. I wiped the worst of the blood from my face and armour with a wet towel and exited the shared bathroom.

Stepping outside, I bumped into the Iron Bull, almost literally.

“Oh, hey,” I said, awkwardly lowering the armour pieces in my hands, having taken it off in the bathroom in order to better get into all the nooks and crannies. Blood was really hard to clean off, and nobody wants to deal with that after it’s all crusted the next day. Bleh.

“Hey,” Bull said, slightly leaning against the opposite wall. “Everything all right?”

“Fine,” I said, smiling up at him. “Just about to turn in.”

It was hard to see Bull’s face in the dimly lit corridor, but I could sense his gaze on me. I gazed back at him, squeezing the armour in my hands. Then the moment passed, and Bull inclined his head. “Well, don’t let me keep you.”

I smiled, slightly confused. “Okay,” I said. “Good night, the Iron Bull.”

“Good night,” Bull echoed back softly.

Too bad Bull had his own room now that we were in Val Royeaux. I dragged myself to bed, desperately wishing I had a good excuse to snuggle up with him. It couldn’t be too hard to sleep on my own, could it?


 Yes, it could.

The next morning I managed to get hold of Millie before heading for breakfast. I was desperately aching for a cup of coffee, not having slept more than what equalled to a short nap. It was nothing too unusual considering my history with insomnia, but after sleeping so soundly for several days in a row, coping with it was harder than usual. After getting used to using a hulking beast of a Qunari as your teddy bear, learning to sleep alone takes a bit of time.

“I’m looking for a merchant with this name,” I said, handing Millie a piece of paper. “Could you find out if he’s in the city at the moment?”

Millie, looking slightly surprised at the request, took the offered note and read it. “Interesting,” she said, looking up at me. “What do you need him for?”

I shrugged, trying to look casual. “He might have something I need.”

Millie raised an eyebrow. “I’ll do my best,” she sad. “This shouldn’t take too long.”

“Thanks,” I said gratefully. “I’m going down to the tavern for breakfast with the others. You’ll find me there.”

When I arrived downstairs, I saw Cassandra and Varric sitting around the same table. They didn’t seem to be talking. Varric was scribbling something down in his notebook and Cassandra was just finishing off her breakfast. I watched the two of them while explaining one of the workers my breakfast order. Once the food was done, I paid, grabbed the breakfast tray, and made my way to Varric and Cassandra’s table.

“Morning,” I said, still bleary eyed from the sleepless night. “Solas and Bull aren’t up yet?”

“Good morning,” Cassandra greeted me. She was nursing a cup of tea between her hands.

“Morning,” Varric said, briefly glancing up from his writing. “Chuckles already left. Apparently he had errands to run. Haven’t seen Tiny yet.”

I wondered what Solas was up to. Probably secretly inciting an elven rebellion or something. It was hard to know with him. I felt like I had once read somewhere that the elven servants across Thedas had started mysteriously disappearing after the events of Trespasser. Damn, I really should’ve played that DLC.

“Hmm,” I said, chewing a piece of cheese. “I’d like to get some personal errands done today as well. I’m looking for a specific merchant who has something I need. Sent a scout looking for him, just in case he happens to be in town.”

Varric stopped writing. “Oh?” he asked. “Must be important.”

Cassandra frowned. “What does he have?”

“It’s not really an Inquisition matter,” I said, scratching my right horn. “Just something... personal I’d like to take care of while we’re here.”

The Iron Bull chose that moment to walk down the stairs. He spotted us, and instead of going to the bar to gather his breakfast, made a beeline to straight to our table. “Good morning, boss,” he said, settling down across from me. “Varric, Seeker.”

Varric and Cassandra greeted him with varying degrees of politeness. To my never ending embarrassment, I felt a foolish smile appearing on my face. “Good morning,” I said. “Are you, uh, not eating breakfast?”

Bull shook his head. “I already ate,” he said. “Was just getting some work done upstairs while waiting for the rest of you.”

He must have gotten up pretty early. Guess that’s how he normally does things, without an awkward Herald hanging off him every night, ruining his schedule. Instantly feeling a prickle of guilt, I looked down. “Okay.”

Thankfully, Millie’s arrival saved me from wallowing any further. She found us just as I was finishing up the last bites of my breakfast.

“Found what you’re looking for,” Millie said, slipping me a note similar to the one I’d handed her just barely twenty minutes ago. “You should be able to find him at this location, if you go before noon.”

I thanked her, and she left.

Bull, who hadn’t been there for the earlier conversation, looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“The Iron Bull,” I started with a grin, “Would you like to help me intimidate a slimy merchant?”


 Turned out that we all had our personal errands to run, so we agreed to split up and meet up later. Varric and Cassandra went their own ways, and I took Bull with me to the location specified on Scout Millie’s note. The shop was only a short walk away from the centre of the Summer Bazaar. Not quite the best of locations, yet not too shabby either, which led me to think that the owner must have had some sorts of connections to have acquired it. That, or a small mountain of gold.

Bull and I arrived to the shop’s door after a brisk walk. I came to stop in front of it before entering, my arm already on the handle. “Just stand next to me and look menacing,” I whispered to Bull. He gave me an amused look and nodded.

Stepping inside, we were immediately greeted by a bald man with a golden mask covering his face. “Good morning,” he said politely, stepping out from behind his desk. He had an evident Orlesian accent. “What can I do for you on this fine day?”

“That depends,” I said, letting my gaze travel around the room with feigned disinterest, taking my time. There were couple of shelves filled with different kinds of expensive looking knick knacks, but all in all, the place looked more like an office than a shop. “I’m looking for something very specific.”

The merchant rubbed his hands together in anticipation. “I’m most eager to help, of course,” he said. “Maybe if you could tell me what exactly you are looking for, Monsieur...?”

“Adaar,” I said, and looked straight at him. “I am an Agent of the Inquisition.”

“Monsieur Adaar of the Inquisition,” he said, nodding. Then he looked nervously at Bull, who was standing next to me with his arms crossed. “And your... friend?”

“Oh, don’t mind him,” I said, inspecting my nails. “He’s just security.”

“I... see,” he said, glancing back and forth. “And what is it that you’re looking for, Monsieur Adaar?”

“It’s an amulet, about yay big, golden,” I said with a gesture, looking down at him. “You might know better as the Pavus Birthright.”

The man flinched like he’s been hit.

I smiled, showing teeth. “Gathering from your reaction just now, you do have it. Excellent.”

Ponchard glanced around. “B-but how did you...?” he asked. “I only acquired it last week. I haven’t told anyone that I have it!”

So Dorian had been here only a week ago. Interesting. We were cutting it very close. I had been wondering how Dorian’s timeline fit the Inquisitor’s own. To my knowledge, Dorian had been travelling outside Tevinter for a while now, and eventually he’d run out of gold and had to resort to selling the amulet. The fact that he’d already been to Val Royeaux to sell it to Ponchard was a pure stroke of luck on our part.

I raised an eyebrow at the merchant’s question. “That’s for me to know, and for you to find out, if you’re lucky,” I said, although I had absolutely no intention of telling him. “Well, name your price, Monsieur.”

“A-actually, I wasn’t going to sell it...” Ponchard said, nervously shifting his gaze between me and Bull.

“Oh?” I asked, voice flat. “I am shocked. And I came all the way here just to see you.”

Bull made a noise of agreement. “Bit rude,” he grunted out.

Ponchard was now visibly sweating. “I guess I could m-make the exception for an agent of the Inquisition,” he said shakily. He took a pen and paper and wrote something down on it, handing it over to me. “This is my asking price.”

I glanced at it. It was bit high, but I could afford it. I didn’t really care about the money, I just wanted to get the amulet out of his slimy hands. “It’s acceptable,” I said, taking out my coin purse, and counting out the required amount before handing it to him. “There you go.”

Ponchard took the coins, and hurriedly walked to his desk. He unlocked a drawer and took out a small wooden box. “Here,” he said, handing me the whole thing.

I opened the lid. On top of a soft cushion sat a golden amulet with seven small gemstones, depicting a two headed snake. “Thank you. All seems to be in order,” I said brightly. “I’ll be sure to recommend your services to the Inquisition in the future.”

Ponchard bowed to me, deeper than he was required to. “Glad to be of s-service, Monsieur Adaar.”

The door shut behind us with a clink, and Bull whistled. “You really weren’t kidding when you said he was nervous around Qunari,” he said.

I grinned at him, tapping my temple. “This head of mine is good for something.” We started walking back towards the centre square. “I guess it was a bit mean to take you with me,” I admitted. “But otherwise he might have started haggling for favors instead of gold, and I didn’t want to involve the Inquisition in this.”

Bull chuckled. “What do you need that amulet for, anyway?” he asked. “I doubt the Inquisition has much need for a noble birthright.”

I gave him a small smile. “It’s a secret.”

He raised an eyebrow, but didn’t comment further.

We made our back to the centre of the Summer Bazaar. “Want to look around a bit?” I asked. “Apparently officially working for the Inquisition means they pay you!” I chuckled, scratching my horn. “I haven’t had the chance to spend any of my wages. I was thinking of maybe buying something fun for the road.”

Bull agreed, and we browsed through several stalls. One merchant of exotic foodstuff happened to have coffee beans, so I ordered two large sacks from him, delivered straight to our inn. After that, we looked around for a good hour until we came across something I really, really wanted to buy.

“How much is that?” I asked, pointing at a guitar-like instrument which was hanging from the roof of a stall.

The merchant hummed thoughtfully. “Two Royals and fifteen Crowns,” he said.

“Two and ten, and you’ve got a deal,” I countered.

The merchant nodded. “Deal,” he said, and reached for the instrument, laying it on the table.

I handed him the coins in exchange for the guitar. “Thank you,” I said. The guitar even had an adjustable leather strap attached to the back of it. I carefully pulled it over my head so that the guitar was hanging safely on my back. “I’m feeling peckish, let’s go eat.”

We had set the Café from yesterday’s treasure hunt as our meeting place with Varric and Cassandra, so we headed there. It wasn’t yet noon, so the place wasn’t too packed, thankfully.

We ordered and sat down. I idly plucked the strings of the guitar, doing my best to get it in tune. The shape of the instrument was a bit strange. It also had twelve strings in pairs of two, instead of the regular six. Thankfully, I had played 12-string guitars in the past, so after the initial tuning and experimenting, it wasn’t too difficult to get used to.

“You can actually play that thing?” Bull asked, leaning his elbow on the table. It creaked beneath his weight. A server came by our table and handed Bull his drink.

“You bet I can,” I said with a grin. After making sure it was somewhat in tune, I stood up, raising my left leg on the chair and propping the guitar against it. I started plucking the strings in a simple melody that made up the beginning of “I’m yours” by Jason Mraz.

Bull raised an eyebrow at the unknown melody. I grinned at him, and started to sing, bobbing my head in sync with the rhythm.

Well you done-done me in, you bet I felt it
I tried to be chill, but you’re so hot that I melted
I fell right through the cracks
And now I’m trying to get back

I grinned wider at Bull, who was chuckling at the lyrics.

Before the cool done run out
I’ll be giving it my bestest
And nothing’s going to stop me but divine intervention
I reckon it’s again my turn, to win some or learn some

But I won’t he-si-tate no more, no more
It can-not wait, I’m yours

After the first chorus, I looked up and noticed that the workers of the cafe had stopped what they were doing, and a small crowd of people was gathering at the wide cafe entrance, watching and listening to the strange melody.

 Well open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and, damn, you’re free
Look into your heart and you’ll find love, love, love, love
Listen to the music of the moment people dance and sing
We’re just one big family
And it’s our God-intended right to be loved, loved, loved loved loved

I paused for emphasis, and the whole cafe was silent until I continued.

So I won’t he-si-tate no more, no more
It can-not wait, I’m sure
There’s no need to com-pli-cate
Our time is short
This is our fate, I’m yours
Do, do, do, do you, but do you, do, do, do you,
but do you want to come on, scooch on over closer, dear
And I will nibble your ear

I winked at Bull. He laughed. I slipped into a short, scatty melody full of nonsensical words, before continuing to the next verse.

I’ve been spending way too long checking my tongue in the mirror
And bendin’ over backwards just to try to see it clearer
But my breath fogged up the glass
And so I drew a new face and I laug--h--ed
I guess what I’m been saying there ain’t no better reason
To rid yourself of vanities and just go with the seasons
It’s what we aim to do
Our name is our virtue

But I won’t he-si-tate no more, no more
It can-not wait, I’m yours

Open up your mind and see like me
Open up your plans and, damn, you’re free
Look into your heart and you’ll find that, the sky is yours
So please don’t, please don’t, please don’t
There’s no need to complicate
‘Cause our time is short
This oh, this oh, this is our fate
I’m yours

I lowered the guitar and bowed dramatically to Bull. Some of the onlookers clapped politely. I waved at them and bowed at them, too. A man separated himself from the others, and went to talk with one of the workers nearby.

“Once again, you surprise me,” Bull mused. “I’ve never heard anything quite like that.”

I shrugged and offered an apologetic grin. “Sorry?”

“Don’t be,” he said, shaking his head with a smile. “It’s interesting.”

The worker who had been approached by one of the onlookers walked up to me. “That gentleman over there would like to know how much your usual wage is,” he said with a thick Orlesian accent. “He would like to hire you to play at his next party.”

Bull burst into laughter.

I scratched my horn awkwardly. “Sorry, I don’t think I have the time to go around singing in peoples parties,” I said. The worker nodded curtly, and returned to speak with the man who was using them as a messenger.

“If the whole Herald thing doesn’t pan out, you can always become a minstrel,” Bull said.

I turned back to him with a grin. “So what you’re saying is, I should quit my day job?”

Bull’s answer was interrupted, when the onlooker himself walked up to our table. He was wearing an intricate golden Orlesian mask and fancy, embroidered clothes. “Name your price,” he said, crossing his arms.

“Sorry, I’m not a minstrel,” I said.

He bristled. “Do you even know who I am?”

I blinked, glancing at Bull. He shrugged. That meant he couldn’t be anyone too important. Looking back to the guy, I said politely: “Look, I mean no offence, but I don’t perform for money.”

The man snorted derisively. “You cannot expect me to believe you don’t need the money,” he said, his nose crunching up like he’d smelled something bad. “You are a mercenary at best. Nobody would hire a Qunari as anything else. Now, stop this pitiful attempt at haggling.” He reached for his coin purse. “I need someone to perform at my soirée in two days time—”

“No, really,” I interrupted him, speaking a little louder. “I’m not interested.”

“How dare you—!”

Of course, that is when Cassandra and Varric walked into the café.

“What is going on here?” Cassandra asked, frowning at the all the raised voices.

The masked noble gazed at Cassandra’s very visible Seeker armor, and he smirked, no doubt thinking this was his chance to one up me. “This filthy Qunari thinks he can refuse my offer to—”

“Excuse me?” Cassandra asked, her voice chilling the whole room. “Herald, what is he talking about?” she asked, looking at me for an explanation.

“This guy wants me to perform for him, and won’t take no for an answer,” I said shortly, crossing my arms.

Cassandra’s glare shifted to the masked Orlesian, who looked from me to Cassandra in obvious distress. “Now, see here,” he spluttered, “You couldn’t have expected me to know—”

I held out a hand to stop him, making him pause. “You mean to say you’re sorry?” I asked. He nodded. “You’re sorry that you’ve accidentally insulted me?” I continued. The man nodded again. “Are you always such a jerk to your employees, or just the non-human ones?” I finished, frowning.

“I—... That isn’t any of your business,” the man stuttered.

“Run along now,” Cassandra said, waving a dismissive hand at the man.

The man paused, as if to think. Then he puffed out his chest and glared at us. “How dare you order me about? I’ll have you know—”

Bull finished the last of his drink, placed the mug on the table, and stood up.

The man’s gaze followed him up, and he visibly swallowed. “I’m sorry for any misunderstandings. I must dash. Good bye!” he said quickly, backing away with a bowed head. Once he was out of sight, I glanced at Cassandra, Varric, and Bull.

We burst out laughing.

“What an ass,” Varric snorted.

“I hope he isn’t anyone actually important,” I said, still stifling a chuckle.

“Never mind him,” Cassandra said, a small smile playing on her lips. Then her expression turned serious. “We have more important things to worry about. The salon begins at eight bells. Have you finished your errands?”

“Yup,” I said, lifting up the guitar to show it to her. “We’ve got what we came for. Just waiting for our lunch order, now.”

Cassandra eyed the musical instrument like it had personally offended her. “What use do you have for that Antivan... thing?” she asked.

“Music, my dear Cassandra,” I said with a grin, “never needs a reason.”

Cass sighed, but didn’t argue, so I guess she wasn’t vehemently against the idea. We ate lunch, gathered up our things and apologised to the workers who had seen the earlier argument with Mr. Asshole. Then we returned to the inn so we could prepare for the night’s main event: Vivienne’s party.


 First order of business was cleaning up a bit. The workers at the inn had prepared me a nice, hot bath thanks to Cassandra, who had the foresight to order me one in advance. First I just sat there for a bit, relaxing in the soapy water. Then, I thoroughly washed my hair, which was disgusting after over a week of travel. Finally, I stepped out of the bath and rinsed with a clean bucket of water.

After drying up, I put on a nice clean white under shirt and a pair of pants, both hand picked by Josephine for an occasion just like this. To my surprise, upon returning to my room, I found the Iron Bull waiting for me, sat on my bed.

I paused at the doorway. “Hey,” I said, leaning against the frame, trying to play it cool but probably failing miserably.

Bull turned to me and smiled. “Hello.”

“What brings you here?” I asked, pushing away bangs of wet hair from face.

“I’m not here to ravish you or anything,” he said with a chuckle. “No reason to look so nervous. I’m here because Varric let me in on a little secret.”

Oh noooooo. Varric, what did you do?

“And what w-would that be?” I asked, now even more nervous than before.

Bull cast me a knowing look. “That you have no idea how to shave.”

“Oh. Right,” I said, my hand coming up to scratch my stubbly chin.

Bull motioned over to the little writing desk in the corner of the room. On top of it was a bowl of water, a smaller wooden bowl with shaving cream, and a straight razor. He lifted up a towel and threw it at me.

“So Varric put you up to this?” I asked, barely catching the towel.

“Once I found out, I volunteered,” Bull said with a grin. “Sit down.”

Huh.

“Okay,” I said, slowly sitting down. I wrapped the towel around my neck and shoulders to protect the clean shirt, and immediately began to fidget with its lower corner.

Bull stepped behind me, and lowered his hands on my shoulders. I did my best to relax, although it was insanely hard. I was about to let a skilful spy armed with a sharp blade near my jugular. Not to mention the fact that since our arrival to Val Royeaux, I hadn’t been sharing a room with Bull, which heavily limited our physical interaction, making me more skittish than normal.

Bull let his hands rest there for a moment, as if sensing my anxiousness, and giving me the time to get used to his touch. Then, he reached for the shaving cream and lathered a generous amount of it on the lower half of my face with a soft, round brush.

“I’m going to start shaving now,” he said, his voice soft. “Tilt your head back a bit?”

I did as Bull said, and he reached for the razor. I swallowed.

Bull made quick work of it. He circled around me as as he shaved with short, precise strokes, eventually coming to stand in front of me. His left hand cradled my chin, while his right moved in a smooth line across my jaw for a finishing touch. I stared up at him and he smiled slightly, the corner of his eye crinkling up slightly. “Much better,” he said, his left hand lingering warm on my jaw. “At least for an official outing. That rugged look of yours isn’t too bad, either.”

I wondered, not for the first time, what I looked like. “I have to take your word for it,” I said softly.

Bull dropped is hand a stepped back. “Or you can take a look yourself, if you’d prefer,” he said, reaching for something on the table. He held out his hand, offering the shiny, flat object to me.

I held my breath. “Is that...?”

Well, I’ll be damned. It was a small square mirror, barely the size of my palm. I took it from Bull and held it up at an arm’s length to catch the first glimpse of my new face.

I blinked, and my reflection blinked back at me. To my surprise, it wasn’t at all like looking at a stranger. Aside from the horns and the skin, the face looking back at me was distinctly familiar. The nose was slightly taller, the jaw more angular, and the cheek bones sharper, but the green eyes and rest of the features were almost the same. Almost like looking at a distant relative who happened to have horns, grey skin, and much more testosterone. On top of that, there was also a thin scar that ran down from the base of my left horn all the way through the left eyebrow.

How the hell any of that that was possible, I didn’t know. But I was slightly grateful to whichever power had put me in there. The fact that my new features held a familiar resemblance to my old ones made things somewhat easier. At least I wouldn’t be completely oblivious if someone drew a portrait of me.

“Huh,” I said, tracing the scar with my finger. “That’s me.”

Bull leaned against the table. “You look surprised.”

“Well,” I said, looking at him. “It’s been a while since I saw a mirror.”

It wasn’t a lie. It had been over a month, which truthfully was a long time for someone who was used to seeing a mirror every morning.

Bull hummed thoughtfully. “Well, my job here is done,” he said with a slight grin. “I hope you have fun at the party.”

“Thank you,” I said, truly grateful for his help, and for getting my first glance at my reflection. “I’m sure it will be great.”


 The carriage ride to the Duke De Ghislain’s mansion took the better part of an hour. You don’t really realise it in the game, but that guy actually lives outside Val Royeaux. Once we finally arrived, fashionably late of course, the party was already in full swing. People were mingling about, talking, and there was gentle music played in the background. We received many confused and interested looks as we stepped farther into the parlour.

“A pleasure, ser,” a masked noble with a golden mask and a hat said, effectively ignoring Cassandra at my side. “We so rarely have a chance to meet anyone new. It is always the same crowd at these parties. So you must be a guest of Madame De Fer. Or are you here for Duke Bastien?”

The woman beside him gave me a curious look from behind her mask. “Are you here on business? I have heard the most curious tales of you. I cannot imagine half of them are true.” She shared a look with the man.

I glanced at Cassandra, and then back to the pair. “What have you heard about me?” I asked.

“Some say that when the Veil opened, Andraste herself delivered you from the Fade,” she said, and hesitated. “There have also been rumors... That you’re a Seer.”

“Everything you’ve heard?” I mock-whispered, paused, and gestured for them to lean in. They did, and I gave them my best roguish grin. “Completely true.”

Cassandra sighed loudly.

The woman giggled. “Better and better,” she said, hand coming to her chest. “The Inquisition should attend more of these parties.”

“The Inquisition,” came a derisive voice came from the balcony. “What a load of pig shit.” A man in a light blue outfit and a fluffy hat walked down the stairs. There was a sword at his hip and on his back. “Washed up sisters and crazed Seekers,” he said, gesturing with his hands. “No one can take them seriously. Everyone knows it’s just an excuse for a bunch of political outcasts to grab power.”

He came to stand right in front of me. Cassandra took a threatening step forwards, looking insulted, but I put out a hand to stop her. She gave me a look.

“The Inquisition is working to restore peace and order to Thedas,” I said calmly.

“Here comes the outsider, restoring peace with an army,” he spat.

I mean, he wasn’t wrong...? More than he knew.

“We know what your Inquisition truly is,” he said, really getting into my face. “If you were a man of honour, you’d step outside and answer the charges.” He reached for the sword at his back, but before he could grip it, he froze in place. A sheen of frost covered his skin.

“My dear Marquis, how unkind of you to use such language in my house, to my guests,” said Madame Vivienne de Fer. She stalked down the stairs, her hips swinging dangerously as she closed in on the frozen man. “You know such rudeness is... intolerable.”

“M-madame Vivienne,” the man struggled to speak, his teeth chattering, “I humbly b-beg your pardon.”

“You should ,” Vivienne said pointedly, circling the unfortunate man. “Whatever am I going to do with you, my dear?” she asked, paused, and turned to me with an inquiring gaze. “My lord, you’re the wounded party in this unfortunate affair. What would you have me do with this foolish, foolish man?”

“I think he gets it,” I said, amused.

“By the grace of Andraste, you have your life, my dear,” Vivienne said and snapped her fingers. The frost receded. “Do be more careful with it.”

The man almost fell over, and started coughing. He fled the scene of his humiliation quickly, leaving us alone with the rest of the guests, who were listening to the discussion discreetly.

Vivienne looked up at me. “I’m delighted you could attend this little gathering,” she said, like she hadn’t just offered to kill a man for me. “I’ve so wanted to meet you.” She glanced pointedly at Cassandra. “May the Herald and I speak in private?” she asked.

Cassandra nodded, and stayed where she was while I followed the Orlesian enchanter to a quiet corner of the party. We stood there basking in the moonlight, in front of massive windows overlooking the courtyard.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” Vivienne said. “I am Vivienne, First Enchanter of Montsimmard and Enchantress to the Imperial Court. And if everything I’ve heard about you is true, you already knew that.”

I gave her a smile. “Interesting party,” I commented.

Vivienne raised an eyebrow at my non-answer. “I’m glad to keep you entertained, my dear,” she said. “I wanted to meet face to face. It is important to consider one’s connections carefully. With Divine Justinia dead, the Chantry is in shambles. But the faithful flock to your banner, pinning their hopes on you to deliver them from chaos.” She gave me a serious look. “As the leader of the last loyal mages of Thedas, I feel it right that I lend my assistance to your cause.”

I nodded. “Of course. The Inquisition would more than happy to have you, Lady Vivienne.”

“You didn’t even have to consider it, did you? No follow up questions?” Vivienne asked, and then smiled. “Seems like the rumors are true. You are so very interesting.”

“You’re going to be an invaluable member of the Inquisition,” I said, and finally grinned. “Nobody else could possibly compare.”

“Now you are just flattering me, my dear,” Vivienne said, her lips curling into a smile. “Do enjoy the festivities and the food. I will see you again before the evening is over.”


 I nibbled on some fruit while I looked over the cornucopia that was the party’s buffet table. There were lots of options from several types of roasts to tiny little bite sized cakes, pastries, croissants, fruit, and such. And of course, there were drinks, which were being topped of by several attentive servants. I forewent the meat options and instead opted for a slice of what looked to be chocolate cake. And to my surprise, it really was chocolate.

Delighted at the fact that Thedas had chocolate, I turned back to Cassandra. “You should try this,” I said. “It’s delicious.”

Cassandra, who had been looking around the party with a rather constipated look on her face, looked at me, and then at the piece of cake in my hands. She frowned. “We did not come here to eat,” she said.

“No, but we should make the best of the situation, since it’s rude to leave too early,” I said, giving her my best persuasive look, and offering her a plate of the cake. “Just try it.”

Cassandra rolled her eyes, but accepted the offered plate. She cut off a small piece with her fork, and hesitantly placed it into her mouth. Her sour expression cleared instantly and she looked down at the cake in wonder. “This... what is this?” she asked.

“Chocolate,” I said smugly, taking another bite out of my slice. I watched Cassandra continue to eat the piece of cake with a wondrous expression of satisfaction on her face. As we finished, I looked around the ballroom and noticed a large object covered by a white sheet near the doors leading into the gardens. Curious, I wandered off to take a closer look.

I glanced around, but nobody seemed to be paying me any attention, so I lifted the sheet and to my amazement saw a wooden grand piano. The shape was slightly foreign and the keys didn’t look to be made out of ivory, but it was definitely a piano. In fact, it closely resembled a large harp that had been put into a box and attached to some table legs. It reminded me of the oldest surviving pianos in the world that I’d seen some pictures of, years ago.

The sight of the instrument was both familiar and foreign. It instantly made me homesick, because in that single moment I was transported back to Earth, just for a second. But then reality came crashing down around me and the subtle differences I noticed made me very aware of my current location. Nevertheless, the instrument was beautiful. It faced the rest of the ballroom, so it clearly had been placed there in order to be played for an audience.

I stroked the keys, barely touching them, and my admiration was interrupted by a voice from behind me.

“Do you play?” Vivienne asked.

I glanced at her, and saw that she had quietly escaped all the guests garnering for her attention, and was now looking at me with an intense expression on her face, and a goblet of wine in her hand.

“Yes,” I admitted, wanting to turn back to admire the piano, but feeling like Vivienne wasn’t done talking yet. Turning my back to her felt like turning my back to a predator waiting to pounce.

“You must forgive my surprise,” Vivienne said, taking a sip of her wine. “This instrument is only just taking off in Antiva. Un cimbalo di cipresso, it’s called over there.” She gave me an inscrutable look. “And you, out of all people, happen to know how to play it.”

Uh oh.

“Well,” I said, my hand finding the back of my neck in embarrassment. “I’ve done some travelling?”

“Are you asking me or telling me?” Vivienne asked, raising an eyebrow. I opened my mouth to answer, and she continued, “It doesn’t matter, my dear. Now that you’ve revealed yourself, you simply must grace out little gathering with a song.”

At this point I realized that everyone else had noticed that Vivienne was now speaking to me, and they were all eavesdropping - politely, of course. Cassandra looked up from her second piece of chocolate cake (she’d gone back for more) and gave me an alarmed look. “What did you do?” she mouthed at me. I shrugged helplessly.

“I’ve heard you have quite the talent for music,” Vivienne continued, pretending not to notice me and Cassandra’s silent little conversation. “Please, I insist.” She motioned for the minstrel to stop playing the background music, and motioned her over. “She will accompany you if necessary.”

I sighed. I was both pleased and annoyed by the development. I was itching to get my hands on the first piano I’d seen in Thedas, but anxious to play it in front of such a crowd. I had been a while since I played, and I only knew a couple of songs well enough in order to be comfortable playing them to an audience full of snobby strangers.

Dragging the rest of the sheet from top of the piano, I sat down, cracking my knuckles and stretching my neck. When I was sufficiently comfortable, I looked at the minstrel beside me. “Feel free join in,” I said. She nodded at me.

I lowered my hands to the keys, took a deep breath, and started to play a haunting, simple tune. In the original version the beginning was very short and to the point, but I looped it a couple of times so the minstrel would be able to get a good grip on the melody. And like any professional, she quickly got the hang of it and joined in. Satisfied with the result, I started to sing.

Dancing bears, painted wings,
Things I almost remember
And a song someone sings,
Once upon a December

Someone holds me safe and warm,
Horses prance through a silver storm
Figures dancing gracefully,
Across my memory
Ooh

I glanced up from the keys at Vivienne, who looked pleased. The rest of the crowd seemed transfixed.

Someone holds me safe and warm,
Horses prance through a silver storm
Figures dancing gracefully,
Across my memory

Far away, long ago,
Glowing dim as an ember
Things my heart used to know,
Things it yearns to remember

And a song someone sings,
Once upon a December...

The last notes of the piano hung in the air.

“Beautiful,” Vivienne said, clapping politely. “Absolutely beautiful, don’t you think?” she asked, addressing the crowd. They all politely clapped and nodded, murmuring amongst themselves. “And so, very interesting.” She paused. “I do hope to hear many a more songs from you.”

“You flatter me," I said, inclining my head at her. “And it would be my pleasure, Madame De Fer.”

“I do believe this concludes our evening,” Vivienne said. “It was ever so lovely to meet you, Herald. I look forward to our continued cooperation in Haven.”


 After the party came to an end, our journey back to the inn took way more than an hour. We weren’t the only ones leaving by carriage. In fact, the château grounds were positively jammed by all the guests and their servants. By the time we got back, I was dead on my feet. However, my insomnia seemed to be there to stay so I didn’t catch any more sleep that night than I had done the night before. Instead, I wrote down more stuff in my journal and finally finished reading the Tale of the Champion.

And thus, once the morning came, I was once again tired and aching for a cup of coffee. And to my surprise, as I walked down the stairs to the tavern, I was met with the delicious aroma of freshly brewed coffee. I followed my nose blindly and found the Iron Bull and Varric with a large pot of coffee on the table between them.

“Coffee,” I said stupidly, sitting down and making grabby hands towards the pot.

Bull poured me a mug and handed it over. “Careful, it’s still hot.”

I blew on it for a couple of seconds before taking an impatient sip. It was scolding, but I took another sip. It was coffee. “You’ve saved my soul,” I said, taking another sip. “Thank you.”

Bull chuckled, shaking his head. “I’ll never understand what makes you and Krem like that stuff so much. It just makes me jittery,” he said. “I prefer cocoa.”

Varric took a sip of his own mug. “It’s not too bad, I grant you,” he said. “Just bitter.”

I nodded. “To be honest, it smells better than it tastes,” I admitted. “But I drink it for the caffeine. Gives you a little bit of an energy boost if you’re tired.”

“Speaking of... I think I heard you walking around last night,” Bull said pointedly.

I shrugged, avoiding his eye. “Had some stuff to do before I slept.”

Since I wasn’t looking at him, it was difficult to figure out if he believed me, but thankfully I was saved by Cassandra’s arrival, and the matter of my lack of sleep was left go.


 We sent the scouts ahead to the docks, with everything we couldn’t carry ourselves. Such as all of our souvenirs, Josephine’s fancy clothes, and of course, the most important: the coffee. You mustn’t forget the coffee. Relatively happy with how our trip had turned out, we walked out through the gates of the Summer Bazaar in order to return to the ship. And you’ll never, ever, guess who happened to accost us the moment we stepped through those gates.

“If I might have a moment of your time?” Fiona called out.

“Grand Enchanter Fiona?” Cassandra asked, clearly surprised.

I tried to look shocked, but probably failed spectacularly, because I wanted to roll my eyes so hard. We had been in the city for two nights, and this was when she decided to approach us?

“Leader of the rebel mages,” Solas said. “Is it not dangerous for you to be here?”

“I heard of your meeting with the clerics, and wanted to see the fabled Herald of Andraste with my own eyes,” Fiona said. She regarded me curiously. “If it’s help with the Breach you seek, perhaps my people are the wiser option.”

“So you’re offering to help us?” I asked. Too bad Alexius had other plans, which meant our meeting would be worthless in a matter of days. Well, actually it was useless already. It hurt my head to think about it. Time travel was complicated.

Fiona inclined her head. “We’re willing to discuss it, at the very least. Consider this an invitation for Redcliffe: come meet the mages. An alliance could help us both, after all.”

“I fully intended to ask for your help with the Breach, anyway,” I admitted, and dug into my bag. “Before you go, will you do something for me?

Fiona raised an eyebrow in surprise. “What is it?” she asked.

I handed her my notebook, opened to an empty page. “Write down your invitation and sign it. If you can bother, maybe use a code word or something only you would know.”

“This is highly unusual,” Fiona muttered, but accepted the notebook. I didn’t expect it would do much good, but I had to try.

“Please write the date and place, as well,” I added, handing her an inked quill.

Fiona scribbled down a short invitation, and signed it like I had asked her to. Then she handed the notebook back to me. “Now, will you accept my invitation?”

I nodded. “Sure,” I said. “But why the hell did you come all this way to invite us?” I asked, voicing something which had always bothered me in the games. Val Royeaux was like a week’s trip away from Redcliffe. “Ever heard of a raven?”

Fiona was taken back. “Well, I...” she trailed off. “It is dangerous to send such sensitive information by raven. Besides, it is important to choose our allies carefully in days like these. As I said, I wanted to meet you myself before extending the invitation.”

Eh. Good enough.

“All right,” I said. “Well, thanks for the invitation. I’ll see you in Redcliffe.”

“Au revoir, my Lord Herald,” Fiona said with a nod, and walked away.

“That... was something,” Cassandra said. “At least one of the parties wants to work with us.”

Bull made a thoughtful noise. “Why did you ask her to write it down?”

“Time magic,” I said, and blew on the ink to make it dry quicker.

Cass, Solas and Varric didn’t react, since they were already aware of the situation in Redcliffe. Bull raised an inquiring eyebrow. “Time magic?” he muttered darkly. “Of course.”

I shrugged and waved the notebook at him. “This probably won’t do much to improve the overall situation when we get there, but at least Fiona might trust us a little bit more...” I trailed off with a grin. “...When it’s time.”

Cassandra groaned at the pun. “We should get going. We’ve got a long journey ahead of us.”

The advisors were aware of my unfortunate reaction to the motion sickness potion. However, we didn’t have the extra time nor the resources to divert our route through the rest of Orlais and the Dales, so I was yet again stuck on the ship for two nights. Without a word, Bull took on his role as my teddy bear and helped me to sleep for most of the journey. I wasn’t too broken up about it, actually. After two nights of barely any sleep, I slept pretty soundly, and our second boat ride was done in what felt like an instant.

Trouble came only when we left Jader on horseback, and Cassandra informed me she’d been able to get her hands on another tent. Which meant I didn’t have to share with Bull.

“Okay. Cool,” I said, pointedly looking away. “Cool, cool, cool.”

It wasn’t too bad. I now had the power of coffee on my side, so once I had drank the first cup of the day, I wasn’t too tired. I managed to catch couple of hours sleep per night on average, anyway. Mostly, I spent my nights writing down songs and other details I didn’t want to forget while the others slept. It was fine. It was all fine.


 After five and half days of travel, we finally arrived back to Haven. Later I found out that our party was there just days before Sera and Vivienne, who would both arrive just slightly after we had already left for Redcliffe.

Cassandra and I were met by the advisors as soon as we stepped foot inside the Chantry.

“It’s good you’ve returned,” Josephine said. “We heard of your encounter.”

“You heard?” Cassandra asked. “I did send a letter, but...”

Leliana smiled. “My agents sent word ahead, of course.”

“It’s a shame that the templars have abandoned their senses as well as the capital,” Cullen said, crossing his arms.

“About that...” I trailed off. “We should talk about the templars. The situation is kind of flammable.”

“The Lord Seeker is not the man I remember,” Cassandra said with a heavy sigh, and glanced at me.

“True,” Leliana said. “He has taken the Order somewhere, but to do what? My reports have been... very odd.”

“We should have this discussion somewhere more private,” I said, looking around, and gestured everyone into the War Room.

Cullen, Leliana, and Josephine glanced at Cassandra, who nodded. “It is of utmost urgency,” Cassandra said, “yet it must be kept secret for the time being. If word gets out, it will be a disaster.”

We filed into the War Room. As the door slammed shut, I leaned against the table, taking calming breaths. I looked at Cassandra for support, and she nodded encouragingly at me.

“Lord Seeker Lucius,” I started, expecting a backlash, “might have been replaced by an envy demon.”

“What?” Cullen asked, shaking his head. “That is quite the claim. What evidence do you have of such a thing?”

“I’m aware of the odd reports... but nothing of this calibre,” Leliana said, her eyebrows impossibly high.

Josephine just looked baffled. “An envy demon?”

“I’m bit sketchy on the finer details, but I’m pretty sure the man we met in Val Royeaux isn’t the real Lord Seeker,” I explained, gazing at them seriously. “I expect y’all know how Envy demons work. They don’t just kill whoever they replace, but hide them away and learn about them. If I’m correct, that also means that Lucius Corin is still alive but he’s kinda... well, not on our side, any more.”

“Adaar thinks that the Lord Seeker has joined the Order of the Fiery Promise,” Cassandra said, her face an unmoving mask. “We haven’t been able to investigate this further yet, but I have no reason to suspect he’s wrong, not after all the the proof he’s provided.”

“The Promisers? Those idiots?” Cullen asked, exasperated. “How is that order still alive and kicking?”

“I do not know,” Cassandra said, her face betraying her disgust.

“Anyway,” I said, idly scratching my horn, “the demon masquerading as the Lord Seeker has been leading the rebel templars astray. He’s been feeding them Red Lyrium and using it to control most of the high ranking officers. They will essentially all end up working for Corypheus if we don’t do anything.”

“Of course,” Cullen said, cursing under his breath. He looked haggard. “What are our options?”

“If we want the element of surprise on our side, we can’t afford to do much,” I said, feeling guilty as hell. I didn’t want all of those poor bastards to die just because their leader was a persuasive envy demon and they had no idea. “But we could try contacting and warning people in the Order. Those who we know are trustworthy.”

Cullen nodded. “I’ll see what I can do. I’m sure not everyone in the Order supports the demon.”

“I know Ser Barris is a good guy,” I said. Cullen scribbled his name down. “But I repeat, we need to be extremely careful about this. If we change too much, they might change their plans and then my knowledge is useless.”

The advisors exchanged glances.

“Our safest bet would be to contact them anonymously,” Leliana spoke up.

“So that they can’t trace this knowledge back to us?” I asked and frowned. “Will it help though? The word has already been getting out that I’m a Seer.”

“That is not the extent of the rumors about you,” Leliana said, her lips quirking into a smile. “In fact, there are so many, I doubt the enemy truly believes any of them.”

I gave her a look. “Your doing, I take it?”

The Nightingale inclined her head, but didn’t comment further. “And what about the mages in Redcliffe?” she asked instead.

I scratched my horn in thought. “As you probably know, Enchanter Fiona invited us to Redcliffe to meet with the rebel mages.”

“You think the mage rebellion is more united?” Cullen huffed. “It could be ten times worse. Surely, considering the situation with the templars, it isn’t the best time to...” he trailed off with a sigh. “Maker. I don’t know what to think of any more.”

Poor Cullen.

I smiled softly at him. “I intend to recruit both parties, Commander, no matter how opposed to the idea they might be.”

He nodded, but didn’t look entirely convinced.

“Last time, you mentioned someone in Redcliffe who can help us,” Cassandra pointed out.

“Yes.” I grinned, thinking of Dorian. I was itching to meet him. It would be so much more fun with him around. “They know Alexius personally, and will be invaluable help in fighting against him and his magic.”

“And this ally will also help us with recruiting the templars?” Cullen questioned.

I nodded. “If it all goes smoothly, yes. It doesn’t matter that the templars and mages refuse to cooperate right now, the important thing is that we stop either of them from falling under Corypheus’s rule.” I looked at each of the advisors in turn. “Do what you can to warn the templars and the Seekers without compromising our advantage.”

“You said that the Envy demon is using Red Lyrium to control the templars,” Cassandra said. “The Seekers do not use lyrium.”

“Yes, and that is why they’re such a threat to him,” I said, grimacing. “If I’m right and they’ve been sold to that doomsday cult, then our last and best bet is finding them before they’re killed. I don’t remember the name of the place where they’re being kept, but I do know it was some kind of a castle in Ferelden. It is also the location of the real Lord Seeker Lucius.”

“We need to find that castle,” Cassandra ground out through clenched teeth.

Leliana nodded resolutely. “I’ll put my best men on it.”

“We can only pray most of them are still out there,” Cullen said, running a hand through his hair. “Maker, how one man’s actions can have such huge consequences...”

We talked a little more of our strategy for the upcoming couple of weeks. Cullen and Cassanra still didn’t quite trust the mages, but they conceded after I assured them I had a plan. We would just have to be careful of Alexius and the temporal rifts, and things should go relatively smoothly.

Just as it looked like our discussion might have come to an end, Leliana spoke up, surprising me. “There is one other matter,” the Nightingale said. “Several months ago, the Grey Wardens of Ferelden vanished. When we discussed the Conclave, you said that the Grey Wardens assisted Corypheus with the Divine’s murder.”

I nodded, uncertain of where this was going. “Yeah?”

Leliana glanced down at some papers. “While you were in Orlais, I received word of a lone Grey Warden in the Hinterlands. Naturally, I had my men capture and interrogate him. He claims not to know anything about the Conclave.”

What? A Grey Warden near the Crossroads...? Oh no.

My jaw dropped. “You arrested Blackwall?”

I could practically see the floating text in my mind...

Blackwall greatly disapproves.

Chapter Text

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.”

“Sure.”

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
Melava somniar
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
Dirthara lothlenan’as
Bal emma mala dir

Fëanor and Finwë, both being familiar with the lyrics, joined me for the last verse.

 

Tel’enfenim, da’len
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.

No problem.

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.

Okay.

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?”

Uh....

“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.

“I’m sure.”

“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.

Traitors.

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?”

Chapter Text

“Good, you’re finally here,” Dorian said. “Now, help me close this thing, would you?”

Meeting Dorian Pavus in real life was like staring straight at the Sun; it almost hurt to look at him. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in that situation, but sometimes a person is so beautiful that you can’t help but be in slight denial about their existence. Well, Dorian is one of those people. Hundred percent pure perfection.

“Oh no, he’s hot.”

Everyone turned to look at me, including Dorian. “Excuse me?” he asked.

My face heated up and I prayed for the ground to swallow me whole. “Uh—” I started to say. Some gods must have been on my side that day, because the rift behind Dorian cracked open. Everyone was too busy fighting demons to react to my blunder.

I beat myself up during the entire fight. Oh my god. What did I do? I fucked up, and now Dorian thinks I’m a total creep.

The rift closed with a bang, and Dorian turned to me. “Fascinating. How does that work exactly?” he asked, and then chuckled. “You don’t even know, do you? You just wiggle your fingers and boom, rift closes.”

He chose to ignore my comment, bless him. Thankful for the small mercy, I grinned and wiggled my fingers at him. “You could almost say it’s... magic.”

Dorian laughed at my pathetic joke. “Ah, I’m getting ahead of myself again,” he said, and bowed. “Dorian of House Pavus, most recently of Minrathous. How do you do?”

Wait, what’s my name again? My brain short-circuited at his dazzling laugh.

“Watch yourself,” Bull muttered, “the pretty ones are always the worst.”

Bull’s comment shook me out of my stupor. “Kaaras Adaar,” I said, bowing with a flourish. “Nice to meet you, Dorian.”

“Suspicious friends you have here,” Dorian said with a cautious glance at Bull. He turned back to me. “Alexius was once my mentor, so my assistance should be valuable, as I’m sure you can imagine.”

“Oh, I can,” I said with a grin.

Cassandra groaned in the background, and I heard Varric mutter something to himself.

Dorian raised his eyebrow, but chose to let it go. “You should know there’s danger, that should be obvious even without the note,” he continued. “Let’s start with Alexius claiming the allegiance of the mage rebels from under you.” He paused for dramatic effect. “As if with magic, yes?”

I nodded in agreement.

“Which is exactly right!” Dorian revealed triumphantly. “To reach Redcliffe before the Inquisition, Alexius distorted time itself.”

There was a brief silence, during which nobody reacted.

“Are you just going to let the poor man talk?” Varric asked.

“Well...” I trailed off, scratching my horn. Dorian did have a lovely voice.

“Herald...” Cassandra growled out in warning.

“All right. What is going on here?” Dorian asked, crossing his arms. “I just told you that time magic exists. Truth to be told, I was expecting a bigger reaction than this. Something more along the lines of ‘that's impossible’, or ‘Andraste’s flaming underthings!’.”

“I’m afraid our Herald here is bit of a Seer,” Varric said, spreading out his hands in surrender. “He knew what you were going to say before you said it. We’ve been making plans to defeat the Venatori for weeks now.”

“I’m sorry,” I said with an awkward smile. “I wanted to hear you explain it.”

“I—” Dorian started, his cheeks reddening slightly. “What?”

Cassandra crossed her arms. “Are you sure it’s a wise decision to share this information with a Tevinter Magister?” she asked.

“Altus,” Dorian and I corrected at the same time. He glanced at me with wide eyes.

I shrugged apologetically at Dorian, and turned to Cassandra. “First of all, he’s an altus, not a magister,” I said. “Secondly, yes. We shall be sharing this information with Dorian, because he’s incredibly important to this mission and deserves to know.” I glanced at the others. “Any further questions?”

They shook their heads.

I turned back to Dorian. “So okay, we’re aware of the delicate situation over here. Alexius is using time magic, which is really unstable, and might spread everywhere and destroy the world. You can help us because you were his apprentice and know the theory behind it. Is that about the gist of it?”

“Yes, I suppose it is,” Dorian said, blinking in surprise. “I still don’t understand why Alexius is doing all of this,” he said, stroking his chin. “Ripping time to shreds just to gain a few hundred lackeys?”

“He didn’t do it for them,” Felix said, appearing from the shadows behind us.

Dorian looked relieved. “Took you long enough,” he said. “Is he getting suspicious?”

“No, but I shouldn’t have played the illness card,” Felix said. “I thought he’d be fussing over me all day.” He glanced up at me. “My father’s joined a cult. Tevinter supremacists. They call themselves the Venatori.”

“He knows,” Dorian said with a breathless laugh. “Apparently, the Herald of Andraste is a Seer.”

Felix’s eyes widened. “So it’s true?” he asked. “There have been so many ridiculous rumours about you, I didn’t think any of them could be true.”

I waved my hand. “Yeah, yeah,” I said. “I’m very much aware your dad’s cult is after me.”

“They’re obsessed with you,” Felix corrected me. “But I don’t know why. Maybe because you survived at the Temple of the Sacred Ashes.”

“You can close the rifts,” Dorian said thoughtfully. “Perhaps there is a connection? Or they see you as a threat?”

“If the Venatori are behind the Breach in the sky, then they’re even worse than I thought,” Felix said gravely.

“All of this for me?” I said with a grin. I couldn’t not say it. “And here I didn’t get Alexius anything.”

Dorian chuckled. “Get him a fruit basket, everyone loves those.”

I giggled. It was one of my favourite lines.

Dorian sobered quickly. “You know you’re his target. Expecting the trap is the first step in turning it to your advantage,” Dorian said. He turned to Felix. “Alexius doesn’t know that I’m here, and I want to keep it that way for now,” he said and turned to me. “But whenever you’re ready to deal with him, I want to be there.”

Dorian turned to leave, and I panicked.

“Wait!” I called out, taking a step after him. “Dorian!”

He stopped and turned to me with a raised eyebrow. “Yes?”

I froze, not even knowing why I had stopped him. And put on the spot, I couldn’t help myself. “I don’t know if you’re busy or anything but maybe you’d like to come with us to Haven maybe it’s a bad idea I just thought it mightbenicetotalkalittlebitmore—” I blurted out until my lungs were out of oxygen.

“You... want me to come with you?” Dorian asked slowly.

I took a deep breath, and nodded. “Will you?”

“Well, I suppose...” Dorian trailed off, thinking. “I don’t have much else to do.” He nodded to himself. “Yes, why not. I’ll tie up a couple of loose ends here, and meet with you at the Crossroads tonight, once it’s safer for me to sneak out."

I nodded, grateful I didn't need to try convince him, because my higher brain functions were offline. “We’ll probably be camped just next to Lake Luthias, at the edge of town.”

“I’ll find you.” Dorian swapped a final glance with Felix. “Don’t get killed.”

“There are worse fates than dying, Dorian,” Felix murmured. He and Dorian disappeared through different doors.

Having managed to keep quiet so far, I silently turned to face the others.

Cassandra cleared her throat. “Why—” she started to say, but I cut her off by exploding into a victory dance. I topped it with little jumps and hops, not caring how ridiculous it might have looked. “Yes!” I squealed, pumping my fist. “He said yes! Dorian is coming with us! Can you believe it?”

My joy was cut short, because the impromptu victory dance caused a sudden ache at my side. My hand was immediately drawn to the magical wound I had sustained only two nights ago. “Ouch.” Guess it wasn’t completely healed, yet.

“For Maker’s sake!” Cassandra said with a long suffering sigh. “Don’t injure yourself any further!”

Solas rushed to my side with a disapproving look. As soon as his hands reached me, the pain subsided. “I understand you’re excited by this Tevinter mage, but please, have more regard for your own well being.”

“Sorry,” I said, slightly embarrassed. “And thanks.”

Solas nodded and backed off.

“Take it easy, Feathers,” Varric said, bemused. “It seems you’re forgetting that you’re the only one in this party who knows him,” he added.

That, along with the wound, put a bit of a damper on my mood. “Oh,” I said blankly. “Right. Guess I’m the only one who’s excited, then.”

“He is pretty though,” Bull said grudgingly.

“Right?” I asked, beaming at him. “He’s like a work of art.”

Varric groaned and put his face in his hands. “Oh god. You’re worse than Hawke.”

My grin widened. “You know I’m gonna take that as a compliment, right?”


Before leaving Redcliffe Village, we crossed a couple of things off my literal To Do list. First, with Varric’s help, we hired that one chantry woman/slash smuggler to work for the Inquisition. Then we spoke with the old man who wanted to leave flowers at his wife’s grave and assured him we’d get it done. The last thing on my list was the the shed full of tranquil skulls by the lake.

I tried the door. It was locked.

“Varric,” I said, my voice low. “Think you could get this open for me?”

“Sure thing, Feathers,” he quipped and got to work.

“What do you think we’ll find inside?” Cassandra asked me while we waited.

I grimaced. “Something not good,” I said, and glanced at everyone’s curious faces. “You remember how I recruited Clement and the other tranquil to work for the Inquisition?”

They nodded.

“I didn’t do it just because they’re useful,” I said. “They won’t be safe here as long as the Venatori mages occupy this place.”

“You mean, someone’s after them,” Bull concluded, crossing his arms.

Just as he said that, the door clicked open. We were greeted with a sight that made the little hairs at my neck stand up in disgust. Several shelves of Tranquil skulls, wooden bases with blue runes on them, and a large leather bound book sat on top of a writing desk.

“What the...?” Varric trailed off.

I took a step inside, my shoulders hunching up in anger. “You remember those Occularium we’ve been finding all over the place? Those creepy skulls aren’t just decor, they’ve got an actual magical properties,” I hissed from between clenched teeth, and turned to face the others. “This is what they’ve been doing with the Tranquil.”

“So every Occularium is made from the skull of a Tranquil?” Solas asked, his voice low, and dangerous. “I had wondered what happened to them when the circles fell. What a tragic waste.”

I looked at Solas. His jaw was working like he wanted to continue, but couldn’t. I wanted to place my hand on his shoulder to comfort him. So I did. When he finally looked back at me, there was fire in his eyes.

“I know,” I said, although I knew my words couldn’t heal this hurt. “I’m sorry.”

Varric cursed. “I’d figured they’d fled with the rebel mages. Poor bastards.”

“I had wondered where they had gone,” Cassandra said, her face falling. “I should’ve looked harder.”

I sighed. “No use beating ourselves up. Let’s just make sure no more Tranquil fall prey to these monsters.”

She nodded. “We should put out orders to help and recruit any Tranquil our scouts happen to come across. I’m sure Commander Cullen will agree wholeheartedly.”


Next was the healer.

“Can I help you?” the elven woman asked, her gaze going up to my horns for a moment before settling on my face.

“There are refugees at the Crossroads who need a healer,” I said.

“Of course they would,” she said and scoffed. “These attacks by the templars have endangered countless innocent lives.” She shook her head. “But if I go to the crossroads to help, I might end up in danger myself. I doubt those refugees would risk their lives for a knife-ear.” She looked me in the eye. “Why should I risk mine for them?”

“The Inquisition welcomes anyone willing to help: human, elf or otherwise,” I said pointedly. “If you help those refugees, we’ll make sure you’re protected.”

She thought about it for a moment. “All right,” she said. “If the Inquisition soldiers are there, I might be safer, regardless. I’ll head to the crossroads today. Just give me time to gather my things.”

“Thank you,” I said. “By the way, are you running low on herbs, by any chance?”

“Yes, we have had many injured from attacks by those cursed templars. I need herbs to treat people’s wounds.”

I grinned, and reached for the large pouch of herbs on my waist, having taken it with me just in case we ran into her. “Here,” I said. “These should do for a while.”

She took the offered pouch, her eyes widening. “This will be truly helpful. Thank you.”

We left the healer’s little shack and I heard Varric chuckling to himself.

“What?” I asked, raising my eyebrow.

“So that’s why you’ve been collecting weeds more than usual lately,” Varric said with a grin. “I swear, it’s like we stopped every couple minutes for the last couple of days,” he said and did a humorous imitation of my voice. “‘Ooh, wait up guys, there’s elf root here!’ We thought you had turned into a hoarder of resources.”

Solas coughed, suspiciously laugh-like.

I narrowed my eyes at him, and looked at the others. Solas and Cassandra seemed to be fighting a smile, and Bull was openly grinning at my embarrassment.

“Hey,” I protested feebly. “It’s good to be prepared. You never know when you might need elf root!”

“Or iron,” Varric said.

“Or drakestone,” Cassandra added, her face perfectly straight.

“Cass?!” I moaned out, clutching my chest dramatically. “Not you too! The betrayal, the horror...”

Bull rolled his eyes and patted my head. “Come on, boss,” he said, comfortingly. “Forget about them. We should get going, there are things to do and elf root to pick.”

I glared at him, and he laughed at my face.

This time I definitely heard Solas chuckle.


“We should go to Witchwood next,” I said, glancing down at the map in my grip. We were standing just outside the gates of Redcliffe Village, trying to decide on our next move.

“For the apostate stronghold?” Cassandra asked thoughtfully.

I nodded. “For that, and the one remaining rift in the woods nearby.”

Varric crossed his arms. “Are you sure you’re up to it right now?” he asked. “That wound seemed to bother you back in the Chantry.”

I frowned. “I’m fine.” It didn’t even hurt that much.

“Boss...” Bull trailed off, frowning down at me.

I glanced at him. “Geez, alright,” I caved in. “I’ll keep out of the fight as much as I can. Does that satisfy you?”

He smiled. “It does.”

My face heating up at his sincere tone, I looked away, focusing my attention back on the map. “So first we should go through here,” I said and pointed at a path which separated from the Redcliffe Road. “According to our sources the rift is little bit farther inside the woods. If I remember correctly, the apostate stronghold should be just beyond this point...”


“Why don’t they ever just surrender?” I murmured from behind my hand, stepping over a body of a young mage. The battle was over, and I had managed to stay in the sidelines of the fight. Without the adrenaline running through my body, I just felt vaguely sad at all the violence. Somehow it was always worse when they were mages, because I knew how shitty they were treated in Thedas. It was no wonder so many of them went insane or turned to demons.

“It is what it is,” Bull said, patting me on the back, and leaving his hand there to linger. The weight of it was comforting.

“But how do you do it?” I asked. “How do you justify this over and over again?”

Bull shook his head. “You don’t,” he said. “There’s no point in trying. The only thing you can do is to think about the people your actions will save in the future. The King’s road will be slightly safer now that these guys aren’t roaming free anymore.”

I sighed. “I guess...” I trailed off, still feeling morose, but slightly better knowing that Bull was trying to cheer me up a little. I coughed. “I mean, of course, I knew that. It’s not like I’m completely new to all of this...” I trailed off, scratching my horn awkwardly.

Bull gave me an amused look. “Right...” he trailed off. “That amnesia still affecting you?”

I shrugged, scratching my horn gain. “I guess,” I said, and my hand paused. “Speaking of which, my horns have been really itchy lately. You wouldn’t happen to have any tips to fix it?”

“Are you serious?” Bull asked, raising an eyebrow.

I nodded, and my hand moved to scratch again, but Bull moved faster than me and caught my wrist in his grip.

“First of all, stop that,” he growled. “You’re making me itch just looking at you.” He peered closer at my horns. “When did you last use your horn balm?”

I gave him a blank look. “Uh...”

Bull groaned. “You’re hopeless,” he said. “No wonder you’re itchy.”

Giving him my best puppy dog eyes, I said, “I don’t have any horn balm with me.”

He shook his head. “I’ll give you some of mine when we’re back at camp,” Bull said. “I can’t believe you haven’t been using any for who knows how long...”

I shrugged. “I’m a disaster of a person, what did you expect?”

The rift was relatively easy to take care of.

With Bull, Cass and Blackwall acting as my bodyguards through the fight, I didn’t have to do much except wait for the rift to be ready for closing. Demons always seemed to be drawn to me during these fights, so if Cass hadn’t suggested for the warriors to work as my body guard brigade, I probably would have been forced to fight at least one of them. As it was, the others took care of the three first terror demons, and the two subsequent ones as well, while I just stood there and looked pretty.

After closing the rift we headed back to our camp and met with the others, who had already started packing up. A smaller group of Inquisition soldiers stayed there to keep an eye on the area in case the bandits decided to return. In the meanwhile, we headed back to the camp overlooking the Crossroads Village. The rest of the day went by quickly, seeing as we had to deal with quite bit of admin. While we’d been away, the Inquisition had build those watch towers for Redcliffe farms. According to Corporal Vale’s reports, the situation there was much more stable, and now that the apostate stronghold had been dealt with, things should be looking up for everyone.

I took it upon myself to introduce the elvhen healer to Corporal Vale himself, and told her to go straight to him in case she needed anything. She threw me a bewildered look, but agreed to do so, and once again thanked me for the herbs.


I was coming back from a visit to nature’s lavatory, when I realised that there was bit more hustle and bustle in the camp than usual. Curious about what was going on, I glanced around to get a better picture of what was going on. Conveniently for me, Corporal Vale happened to walk past me at that exact moment.

“Corporal Vale. What’s all this commotion?” I asked, hiding a yawn behind my palm. It was getting rather late, and Dorian still hadn’t shown up.

The Inquisition agent immediately straightened his spine and saluted at me. “I was just about to head over there to find out myself, ser,” he said and glanced around, lowering his voice. “Someone told me they caught a spy.”

I raised my eyebrow. “A spy?”

“Someone trying to sneak into the camp unnoticed,” Corporal Vale explained. “Someone from Tevinter, apparently. But he’s been apprehended, so it should all be under control.”

The stupidity of the situation was so tangible, that I could almost feel my spirit vacating my body. “Hey,” I said slowly, giving him a thin smile, “You do know that we’ve all been sat here, waiting for our Te-vin-ter ally for like three hours now?”

The Corporal visibly paled. “Oh.” His eyes widened. “Oh, those idiots!” he repeated with a groan.

“Please tell me you haven’t been detaining our guest for three hours,” I begged.

“No, no, I think he just arrived!” Vale said.

I sighed in relief. “Take me to him.”

The scout, who kept quietly apologizing to me as we walked, led me to the corner of the camp where a large tent had been erected, presumably for occasions just like this. Raised voices floated through the closed canvas doorway.

“Just tell us who you’re working for, ‘Vint.”

“I already told you, I’m not a spy. I was invited!”

Not wanting for things to escalate any further, I threw aside the tent flap and entered to find two scouts interrogating Dorian. He was sitting on a large crate with his arms and legs crossed, looking bored to hell. A quick look told me that his staff and belongings had been confiscated, leaving him only wearing his armor and a small spell book hanging from a strap on his waist.

“Dorian! Are you okay?” At the sound of my voice, the scouts looked at me and immediately saluted. I waved my hand at them and they relaxed.

“Oh,” Dorian said and threw a pointed glare at the two scouts. “I’m just peachy.”

The two scouts exchanged hesitant glances.

“What the hell is this?” I asked, crossing my arms.

“Herald,” the man who’d been speaking earlier spoke up, “We caught this ‘Vint spy sneaking into the camp--”

“Actually,” Corporal Vale coughed and spoke in a low voice. “The Herald was expecting him.”

The two scouts turned to look at me, their eyes wide.

I groaned and pinched the bridge of my nose. “All of you, get out of here. Corporal Vale and I will deal with you later.”

The two scouts scrambled to get out of the tent like their lives depended on it, Corporal Vale fast on their heels.

“I’m so sorry, Dorian. This shouldn’t have happened,” I said, turning to face him.

“Oh, it’s not necessary,” Dorian said, waving his hand. “Despite their eagerness to catch a handsome Tevinter spy, there was no real harm done. Although, I must thank you for rescuing me,” he said, putting his hand on his chest, “I’m afraid the discussion was starting to go around in an endless circle.”

I chuckled at Dorian’s description of himself. “Still, I can’t let this kind of stuff keep happening,” I said, thinking of Blackwall. “Seems like I need to have a talk with someone about how to spread information around effectively so that everyone knows what’s going on.”

Dorian smiled. “Evidently.”

I looked down at Dorian who was still sitting down, and offered him my hand. He clasped it tightly.

“Despite your less than welcoming entrance,” I said with a grin, pulling Dorian up and shaking his hand slowly, “I wholeheartedly welcome you to the Inquisition.”

Dorian smiled. “Thank you. Glad to be here, despite the awkward misunderstanding.”

My hand might have lingered a little bit longer than necessary before I let go.

There was a large travelling rucksack next to the tent’s entrance, and a mage staff. Since they were closer to me than to Dorian, I lifted them up. “These yours?” I asked, offering them to him.

“Yes, thank you,” Dorian said, grabbing his staff first and putting it on his back before grabbing the bag and lowering it on the ground next to him.

A thought occurred to me. Dorian was a mage. “They took your staff,” I mused out loud, ”but you could’ve easily beaten them even without it.”

“True,” Dorian said with a raised an eyebrow. “But that would’ve been a rather violent start for an alliance.”

My hand reached for my neck in embarrassment. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it,” I said. ”Just thinking out loud.”

“I see.”

I coughed. “Did everything go well in Redcliffe?” I asked. “No trouble?”

Dorian shook his head. “Everything went smoothly.”

We stood there for a moment in silence. I felt both giddy and anxious at the same time, somehow unable to figure out how I should act around Dorian. I knew so much about him but he knew essentially nothing about me. I desperately wanted to act naturally, but what was natural for me would probably freak him out at this point. Seer or no seer.

“Um,” I broke the silence, scratching the base of my itching horn. “We should get back to the others so I can introduce you to everyone properly.”

Dorian made an elegant gesture with his hand. “Lead the way.”

I nodded and walked past him. Outside the tent, some curious onlookers watched us go, but nobody approached us, not until we reached the corner of the camp where my party was set up in. Varric was the first to notice us, and he grinned at me.

“Finally found your mage?” he asked, not bothering to get up. He was cozied up by the fire with his usual notebook in his lap.

I grinned back. “I did,” I said and looked around, raising my voice a little, “Hey guys, I'm glad to finally officially introduce you all to Dorian Pavus.” I waved my hand at Dorian. “Dorian, meet everyone.” I paused. “Well, everyone who's here, that is.”

Dorian handled it like his usual self, although I could swear I sensed slight hesitation from him as he looked around. Then he offered a raised eyebrow with a smile. “Charmed, I'm sure.”

I chuckled and scratched my horn. “Let's make rounds to help you put names to the faces. They're really not as scary as they look.”

Varric was the closest, so we started with him.

“This is Varric Tethras,” I said. “I'm sure his works are known even in Tevinter.”

Dorian's eyes widened slightly at the name, and Varric offered him a roguish grin in response. “I charge extra for autographed copies.”

I rolled my eyes at him. “You never offered to sign my copy,” I pointed out. “Taking up new business ventures, are we?”

“I would never ask for money from the Herald of Andraste,” Varric said in mock horror, “Who do you take me for?”

“Sure,” I said with a snort.

Dorian was watching our banter with clear amusement.

“Uh, right, I'll carry on,” I continued and walked past Varric towards Solas. “This is Solas, our resident grumpy apostate and secret nerd.”

“Nerd?” Solas asked, looking up from a book he was reading. It looked old and heavy, which made me wonder why on earth he was carrying it around.

I looked pointedly at the book and raised my eyebrow. “Someone who wants to know everything about everything.”

Solas tilted his head. “Fair,” he said to me and then looked at Dorian. “Welcome,” he offered shortly, and went back to his reading. Dorian nodded at him in return.

Once we were out of Solas's immediate earshot, Dorian inched closer to me. “You already have a mage,” he murmured. “Why did you ask me to join?”

I snorted. “What, is there a limit to the number of mages I'm allowed to bring with me on adventures?”

“Well, no,” Dorian said, raising an eyebrow at my tone. “I was just wondering.”

“Sorry, didn't mean to snap at you,” I said with a sigh. I then smiled secretively. “Technically you're the third mage to join our efforts,” I said, and at his inquiring look, added: “You'll meet her later.”

Next was Cassandra, who was sitting next to Blackwall little further away from the fire. They were talking in a low voice, and when we approached, they both immediately looked up at me with their full attention. Ugh. They were too good to me.

“This is Seeker Cassandra Penthaghast, and Warden-Constable Blackwall,” I said with a wave of my hand. The two exchanged curt greetings with Dorian, but similar to Solas, didn't seem overly welcoming.

We made our way towards the last member of our party.

“And of course,” I said with a growing grin, “The Iron Bull, Captain of a mercenary group called the Bull's Chargers and my personal bodyguard.”

Bull was sitting in front of the fire on the opposite side from Varric. When our gazes met, I realised that he'd probably been watching me and Dorian going around the fire to gauge everyone’s reactions and shit. Of course he had.

“Now, I know the Qunari and Tevinter have some bad history behind them…” I started.

“That's an understatement,” Dorian muttered, eyeing Bull up and down. Bull just smirked up at him from where he was sat on a bench crafted from a large log of wood.

“Despite that,” I said pointedly, hands at my hips, “I’m trusting that you both can act professional and won't let such petty conflicts affect your friendship.”

“Friendship?” Dorian asked weakly.

“I’m a seer, remember?” I said smugly. “You are going to be friends, believe it or not.”

“Whatever you say, boss,” Bull said, clearly enjoying Dorian's shocked expression. He smiled at me, and then gave Dorian his complete attention for a moment. “Nice to meet you, Dorian.”

Dorian stiffened just slightly under Bull's gaze, but nodded. “Likewise.”

I glanced between them for a moment, trying to read the atmosphere but unable to decipher anything more than vague tension between them, then ended up looking at Dorian. “Right then,” I said, slapping my hands together. ”Do you need help setting up your tent?”

Dorian's expression softened slightly. “I’m sure I’ll manage. But thank you for the offer.”

I shrugged. “Okay,” I said. “I’ll be bunking in that big tent over there, if you need anything or have questions.”

Dorian nodded and made his way to a free spot of land. I watched him go, and turned to Bull, who was watching me watching Dorian.

“You really like that he took up your offer to come along,” Bull mused out loud. “You really like him.”

“Yeah,” I said, then realised what I was admitting to, and narrowed my eyes. “Hey,” I protested weakly.

Bull snorted. “There was a nervous sort of energy around you the whole time you were standing next to him,” he said thoughtfully. “It kind of reminded me of when we first met...” he trailed off and smirked. “You like me too, boss?” He asked innocently, lifting his arm and offering me the place next to him on the log.

I took the cue and sat down next to him, cuddling up to his side. “Yes,” I said with a roll of my eyes. “I like you as well, as if you didn't already know that.”

“Aww, you like me,” Bull repeated with a grin, making me swat his shoulder lightly.

“Anyone with a pair of eyes and half a brain knows that,” I said and yawned, “so let it go already.” I settled down next to him and leaned slightly to my right, putting some of my weight against Bull's shoulder. It was kinda cold, and he was soft and practically radiating heat.

“Tired?” Bull asked, absently rubbing his ankle.

“It’s been a long day,” I sighed and glanced down at his hands.

“Yeah, it has,” Bull agreed with a slight grimace.

“Your ankle bothering you?” I asked and then smirked, and hid my grin against Bull's shoulder. “You know, I'm sure Dorian knows plenty of useful healing spells that might help relieve the tension…”

“Ugh,” Bull grunted with disgust. “That'll be the day. Letting a 'Vint mage mess with my leg.”

I just hummed knowingly. “You'll never know,” I said. “People can surprise you... and anyway, you did admit he's pretty.”

Bull just sighed in response.


The fabled Herald of Andraste wasn’t quite anything like Dorian had expected him to be.

First, Dorian was completely blindsided by the offer to join the Inquisition forces in Haven while the negotiations with his mentor Alexius continued.

Then, he kept being surprised by the man’s friendly attitude. Everyone else was overly cautious of him, like the hulking beast of a Qunari who kept glancing at Dorian from the corner of his eye, and the Seeker, who openly frowned at him whenever she thought he wasn’t looking.

But the Herald’s attitude was the complete opposite. His smiles and lingering friendly touches came easy and seemed absolutely genuine, and Dorian didn’t know what to think of it. He couldn’t help but be suspicious at first, until he realised the man was like that with everyone.

The next morning, when they were all still gathered at the camp side for breakfast, Dorian did his best to figure him out. He didn’t have much luck.

“How long have you known the Herald?” Dorian asked the infamous author Varric Tethras. He fully expected the answer to be something akin to a year, since everyone seemed to get along with him so well.

“Oh, for about six weeks,” Varric said.

Dorian blinked. “What?”

The dwarf smirked, and pointed behind Dorian. “Tiny over there has only been with us less than three.”

Dorian looked over his shoulder, and saw the massive Qunari in question effectively snuggled up with the Herald in front of the campfire. The Herald was sat between the mercenary’s legs while the latter applied some sort of balm to his horns in large, gentle movements. The Herald laughed at something that was said, and the ensuing smile lit up his whole face.

Vishante Kaffas, if that wasn’t attractive. Those two shouldn’t be allowed within ten feet of each other.

Slightly embarrassed by his own thoughts, Dorian couldn’t decide whether to laugh or cry. Instead he looked back to the dwarf. “You’re pulling my leg,” he said with a sniff. There was no way those two had only known each other for a couple of weeks.

“I know exactly what you mean,” Varric said, sipping his drink. “The Herald just has that effect on people.”

Thoughtful, Dorian looked back at the two Qunari, and quickly realised he’d been caught. The Herald stared back at him with wide eyes. Wait, was that a blush?

Dorian looked away, feeling his own face heat up in response.


The morning after Dorian joined our party, Bull fulfilled his promise to help me and my itchy horns. In fact, as soon as we woke up that morning, he took it upon himself to sit me down in front of the fire. I was situated between Bull’s open legs, his chest warm and welcoming against my back in the chilly morning air. I might have leaned back a little more than was strictly necessary.

Bull took a large dollop of the horn balm and started applying it onto my horns in gentle movements.

“Mmmm,” I said, closing my eyes, a slow smile creeping to my face. It felt nice. I hadn’t known it would feel nice.

Bull chuckled. “It’s been a while, huh?”

“Yeah.” Damn, that already felt better. The itching was gone.

He continued in silence for a moment. “So...” Bull trailed off. “You’re in a good mood. Still happy about the mage joining us?”

I opened my eyes slowly. “I am,” I said looking to my side, trying to catch a glimpse of his expression, to no avail. He was just behind my field of vision. “I know you don’t like mages. Or ‘Vints. But like I said, you should give him a chance, please. He’s a good guy.”

Bull huffed and his breath warmed up my neck, tingling. “Alright,” he said. “Anything for you, boss.”

This time I turned my head to look at him. His hands paused, letting me turn. “I mean it,” I said seriously.

Bull looked back at me. “So do I.”

I sighed and faced forwards. “You’re impossible,” I said, leaning my back against his chest and letting the remaining tension to flow out of my body.

“Sure, I’m the impossible one,” Bull retorted with a snort. “I’m not the seer who’s called the Herald of Andraste.”

I grinned and closed my eyes again. “Shouldn’t you listen to your seer of a boss, then?”

Bull chuckled. “Now we’re just going around in circles.”

“Mmm,” I admitted, starting to lose focus again.

“Your mage has been watching you,” Bull whispered.

I opened my eyes, and glanced towards where I'd seen Varric chatting with Dorian earlier. And true enough, Dorian was looking towards us. Or more precisely, at me.

I couldn't help it, I blushed.

Bull chuckled. “You were right, boss,” he said. “I am starting to enjoy having him around.”


On the third day of our journey back to Haven, Varric sat down next to me in front of the dwindling camp fire. We were done with breakfast and starting to pack up for the day.

“What’s that song you were humming just now?” Varric asked, and added, “Is it the same one you were playing yesterday?”

I glanced up from my notebook. “Sorry, I didn’t even realise I was humming,” I said, slightly abashed. “It’s... a good song.”

“Are there lyrics to go with it?” Varric asked, his curious gaze flickering to my writing.

My hand went to my neck in embarrassment. “Yeah...” I trailed off. “I wrote them down in my notebook some time ago. Why?”

“Why, he asks,” Varric rolled his eyes. “Because I’d like to hear the whole thing.”

Bull stopped in the middle of what he was doing. “The one you were playing yesterday...?” he asked, his brows furrowing. “Oh, that one!” Bull said, and smirked knowingly. “He’s been humming that since Redcliffe.”

“It’s just been on my mind, that’s all,” I protested. “It’s very catchy.”

Dorian looked at the exchange between us, curiously. “What are you talking about?” he asked.

I glanced at him, and felt my cheek blush. “Umm...”

For some reason, I hadn’t sung in front of Dorian yet, and the thought made me weirdly nervous.

“Don’t tell me you’re being shy now,” Varric said incredulously. “I heard you even performed in front of a crowd at Madam De Fer’s salon. Sure this isn’t any different?”

“Madame De Fer’s...” Dorian trailed off, his eyebrows rising towards his hairline. “Really?”

“It’s not... well,” I muttered, voiding his gaze. “I’m not that good.”

Cassandra, who had been listening to the bunch of us talking, snorted and walked past me. I followed her movements with wide eyes. She walked to the horse drawn carriage, returned with my guitar in tow. She pushed it into my hands with a long suffering expression. “Just do it.”

I sighed and nodded, my bemusement winning over my anxiety. “If you insist.”

Bull, who’d been in the middle of packing up, very pointedly stopped what he was doing. He sat down on a wooden box, and turned his body so that he was facing me fully. I threw him a faint grin, and he returned it.

Dorian stayed standing with his arms crosses. His eyes flickered between me and the others, as if gauging everyone reactions to the situation. Even Solas had stopped what he was doing in order to pay full attention to the new song, which I appreciated.

The melody started out simple, but I looked down at the guitar’s neck while playing it. I hadn’t tried played it though often enough on this new guitar, so I wasn’t quite I wouldn’t make any mistakes. Once I was done strumming the intro, I looked up and directed my gaze towards Bull.

Yeah I’ve been searching for you my whole life
And all the lives we’ve lived before
Been traveling for miles to see your smile
I can’t believe that finally I’m yours
And even if we blew into the wind
And had to go back to the start
You know I’d keep searching
Cause baby it’s worth it
To see your face again
Get time to reverse
And start at the beginning
So I could find you again

Dorian shifted in the corner of my eye, and I glanced at him. His arms had dropped down. Upon realising that he was now unabashedly staring, I couldn’t help but grin at his reaction. But the song continued, and my grin faded.

Finally you’ve opened your eyes
We’ve been waiting for this moment
Darling you don’t gotta hide
Where have you been?
You say to me
Baby, I swear that I’ve been running
Looking for you constantly
Cause my heart was always here
I just needed something to believe

I pointedly looked towards Bull, my gaze softening.

There’s something about the way
That you look at me baby
I just can’t explain
Breathing in this very moment
Here with you
I don’t want it to slip away
Hear a voice that’s so familiar
I’ve known from long, long ago
Try to find the words to say to you
For the first time

I closed my eyes, and continued into the final part of the song.

I've been searching for you my whole life
And all the lives we’ve lived before
Been travelling for miles to see your smile
I can’t believe that finally I’m yours

I opened my eyes, intentionally letting my gaze travel from Dorian to Bull, as if making a point.

And even if we blew into the wind
And had to go back to the start
You know I’d keep searching
Cause baby it’s worth it
To see your face again
Get time to reverse
Start at the beginning
So I could find you again


I briefly closed my eyes again as the last notes faded away, trying to compose myself before chancing a glance at my audience. And as I finally looked up, Bull met my gaze with a grin and started clapping. The others joined in.

“Another catchy one, Feathers,” Varric said as I walked past him. He grabbed my sleeve and added, “So many love songs lately. Don't think I haven't noticed.”

I grimaced and nodded, making my way towards Dorian and Bull, the latter smiling at me. I smiled back and glanced at Dorian. “So... what did you think?”

“I’ve never heard anything quite like it before,” Dorian admitted, his eyes slightly wide and his jaw slack. “It sounded so lively yet... beautiful.”

I scratched my neck awkwardly. “Aww, thanks. I'm happy you enjoyed it.”

“Did you compose it yourself?” Dorian asked curiously.

“No, no,” I said hurriedly, “I don’t compose. I just repeat what I've heard.”

Bull rolled his eyes. “That’s what he keeps saying, but I've never heard any of these songs before,” he said, giving me a bemused look. “And I spend a lot of time in taverns.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow and glanced between the two of us, puzzled. “You won’t reveal your sources, then?” he asked me.

I shrugged, avoiding eye contact. “Oh, you’ve never heard of any of them anyways, so there's no point.” Quick to change the subject, I offered my guitar to Dorian. “Do you play?”

“Ah,” Dorian said with a slightly panicked look to his eyes, “Sadly, I do not. So I’ll leave the entertainment to you.”

I shrugged. “Okay. But you like music?”

“I enjoy it,” Dorian confessed, “And if your future pieces are anything like that one, I’ll certainly look forward to more. I can’t stand hearing the same, stuffy old songs over and over again.”

“Good.” I grinned. “And I look forward to introducing you to more of them.”


As we ate lunch, Dorian sat next to me and started up a conversation. “So you're a seer,” he pointed out. “How does that work?”

I shrugged, not exactly comfortable with the lie. “I can tell the future to some degree. Mostly bigger details that affect lots of people,” I said, hoping to god that there wasn't some Handbook to Seers and Prophets that Dorian had read and thus knew how to bust me. “Things to come, and some things which have already passed.”

Dorian nodded thoughtfully. “Interesting. And if I asked you what's for lunch tomorrow?”

“It doesn’t work like that,” I said, “The details come to me. I don’t pick them, and it doesn’t tell me something as trivial as lunch.” I recalled  telling Bull I’d known the color of his trousers before we met. “Usually."

“Ah, see,” Dorian said, waving a spoon. “Even I could tell you what's for lunch tomorrow.”

I blinked. “You could?”

“It’s stew,” Dorian said, eyeing his bowl of stew distastefully. “It’s always stew.”

I laughed so hard I spilled half of my lunch on the ground.


Time passes quickly in good company.

The last morning of our journey found Bull and me eating breakfast inside our tent. I was yet too tired to face the others, and Bull wanted to work on something private. While I ate, he continued writing something which looked to be a letter. I watched him scribble away and couldn’t help but think that he looked incredibly cute with his face slightly crunched up in concentration.

I swallowed the last bit of my food. “Are you writing in Qunlat?” I asked.

Bull looked up at me. “Yeah, why?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Can I see?” I asked. At his hesitant expression, I added: “I don’t know how the language.”

Bull thought about it. He turned fully to gaze at my face, as if to gauge if I was telling the truth. Then he shrugged, and handed over the unfinished letter. “Feel free. It’s not like I’m writing about anything you’re not already aware of.”

I took the offered piece of paper and glanced down at it. “Huh,” I said in surprise.

Bull raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“The writing system is familiar,” I said, tilting my head. “I can read it and make out sounds, but since I don’t know the language itself, it’s rather useless information.”

Qunlat looked like Cyrillic script, which is something I’d studied briefly couple of years ago while taking some beginner Russian language classes. It was a good language to know when living in my home country.

I handed the letter back to him, and he took it.

“Didn’t expect that,” Bull said, stroking his chin thoughtfully. “Tal-Vashot don’t usually bother teaching their young to read Qunlat, since Trade is hundred times more useful. You’re just full of mysteries, aren’t you?”

I gave him a bashful smile, but inwardly I was wincing. “Yeah.”

Bull paused. “You don’t want me to ask where you learnt it, do you.”

It wasn’t a question, but I nodded, avoiding his gaze. To my shame, I was afraid to start this conversation because I was still unsure of how much information I should divulge to Bull before his personal quest. It wasn't like I distrusted him... I just didn't fully trust him. Not with this. Not yet.

“I won’t ask, then,” Bull said easily, looked down, and continued writing the letter.

I whipped my head up to look at him, but he didn’t react at all, just kept writing like he didn’t realise what he’d just done. Ugh. Why did he have to be so sweet?

For the remaining day, my thoughts kept shifting to his easy acceptance, while I silently cursed my stupid heart.


After four days we arrived back in Haven, and only briefly settled in before being summoned to the War Room. Alexius had sent me an invitation to Redcliffe to officially continue our talks concerning the mages. Luckily, we knew it was coming so we were prepared. Everyone else was already inside by the time I met up with Dorian by the doors.

“Are you sure I’m invited?” Dorian asked. “Seems like official Inquisition business.”

“Would that stop you?” I asked.

Dorian grinned. “Fair point.”

I waved my hand dismissively. “I kinda know the gist of what Alexius wants, but in case there are surprises, you're the one who knows him best.”

We entered the room and I politely introduced everyone to Dorian.

“Now that your ally is here,” Cullen said, giving me a dubious look, “Can we finally discuss this futile plan? We don’t have the manpower to take the castle. Either find another way in, or give up this nonsense and go to the templars.”

“I told you, we've got to be careful with this.” I looked at him. “That reminds me, any news on that front?”

“Yes,” Cullen said with a sigh. “We received a letter from Ser Barris. He’s offering to smuggle us to Therinfal Redoubt, and asking for our help, even though he isn’t sure of our identities since our correspondence has been anonymous. So far we think it’s genuine…”

“But it could be a trap,” Leliana offered.

“Just like Redcliffe,” Cullen pointed out.

I sighed. “Alright,” I said. “I told you before, I already have a plan regarding the templars.”

Dorian, who had been oddly quiet so far, raised an eyebrow. “You do?”

Everyone turned to look at me, and I shook my head. “I’m going to handle handle one thing at a time.”

Cullen nodded, looking slightly impatient.

Cassandra agreed with me. “Redcliffe is in the hands of a magister. This cannot be allowed to stand.”

Josephine looked at me. “The letter asks for the Herald of Andraste by name. Like Commander Cullen said, it's obviously a trap.”

“How welcoming,” I muttered. “What does he say about me?”

Leliana smiled. “He's so complimentary that we're certain he wants to kill you.”

Dorian snorted. “Yes, that does sound like Alexius.”

Cullen sighed, obviously frustrated. “Redcliffe Castle is one of the most defensible fortresses in Ferelden. It has repelled thousands of assaults. If you're going there, you're going to die.”

Everyone simultaneously turned to look at me.

“What?” I asked.

“You have a plan already, don’t you?” Cassandra asked.

“You wouldn't have asked us to gather and ready a small force to depart by tomorrow if you didn't,” Leliana pointed out.

Dorian looked at me, disbelievingly. “Tomorrow?”

“Alright, I’ll explain,” I said. “Of course it's a trap. Was there ever any doubt?” I shook my head. “Alexius wants me dead for his little cult leader,” I said and threw an apologetic look at Dorian. “Not that he has that much of a choice, to be honest. Corypheus promised to cure Felix.”

Dorian cursed. “Of course,” he muttered. “Felix was always his only weak point.”

“The question remains, what should we do about the invitation?” Josephine asked.

I grinned. “Leliana, you know those tunnels beneath the castle?”

“Yes, that's not a bad idea. Get a small force in through the tunnels and attack when their guard is down…” Leliana trailed off, nodding. “But we would need a distraction. Someone to keep everyone's attention on them.”

Cassandra groaned. “Oh, of course.”

“It’s what I do best,” I said with a grin. “Charge in and talk the enemy's ear off.”

“It could work,” Dorian murmured thoughtfully.

Leliana was the one with the most information about the castle defences, having been there during the last Blight with the Hero of Ferelden. She and Cullen, together with Dorian, hashed up a plan of attack, while I made sure things sounded familiar. Leliana recommended me to bring a small team with me, so I divided up our party and eventually decided on Dorian, Bull, Solas and Vivienne. Of course, we still needed to ask them to join us, especially Vivienne who I hadn't seen since Val Royeaux, but I didn't think there would be any trouble.

“You want me to stay here with Varric?” Cassandra asked, her nose crunching up in irritation.

“Yep,” I said.

She sighed. “You're not going to explain yourself, are you.”

“Nope.”

It took a couple of hours, but eventually everyone filed out of the door, ready to start preparing for the mission ahead. All except Cullen, who stayed by the table, still deep in thought about strategy and finalizing his personal notes. I nodded my goodbyes to him, being the last to leave.

“Don’t worry, it will go well,” I said by the door.

“Are you reassuring me, or yourself?” Cullen asked dryly, then sighed and gave me a tired smile. “Nevermind me. I hope so too.”

Once I was out of the room, he visibly slumped, leaning on the table, and sighed. He got back to his notes, but only managed work for a couple of minutes until the door opened again.

Cullen looked up and a bemused smile made its way onto his face.

“Oh, it’s you. Did you forget something?”

Chapter Text

Stepping out of the War Room, I found Dorian leaning against a pillar, waiting for me. I stood by the doors for a moment, admiring the sight of him standing there so casually, softly illuminated by candlelight. It was both otherworldly, and totally ordinary at the same time, so much that it made me focus on the moment with unusual intensity. I wasn’t a religious person, but standing inside that Chantry, I suddenly felt blessed.

After the moment of reflection, I moved again, and closed the distance between us.

“Dorian,” I greeted softly, coming to stand right in front of him.

“Adaar,” he replied back, nodding at me, and stood up a little straighter now that he had my attention. “I wanted to thank you.”

I blinked slowly. “For what?”

Dorian uncrossed his arms, then paused for a moment, as if unsure of where to start. I watched as he took a deep breath, and suddenly his hesitancy was gone, replaced by an air of determination.

“When we first met inside that Chantry, you believed me just like that,” Dorian said, snapping his fingers and letting out a disbelieving chuckle. “Most of your allies seemed to be against me, but you thought otherwise. You even went as far as to ask me to travel here with you. And now you’re making me a part of your team.”

I lowered my gaze to the floor, flustered. “Ah, well, you know, I already felt like I knew you since--”

“Shush,” Dorian interrupted me, making me shut my mouth, and look up at him. His brow furrowed as he continued, “I know you’re a seer and all that, but even then... How would you know for sure what kind of person I am? That’s a lot of trust to put in someone you hadn’t even met.”

I gazed at him, my head tilting to the side. “I guess,” I said, puzzling over why this was even an issue to begin with. “It never really occurred to me. I just know you’re a good guy.”

Dorian sighed rather dramatically. “You’re irritatingly sweet, you know,” he said, rubbing his forehead like he was getting a headache. “People are going to think I’m an evil Tevinter magister using you for his nefarious purposes.”

“But you’re an altus,” I pointed out, “so there goes the believability of that theory.”

Dorian cracked a smile. “Very funny.”

I smiled back at him, until a thought occurred to me, and I broke the eye contact. “So… I’m probably going to the tavern tonight, would you like to join me?” I asked, scratching my neck.

“Ah, I’m truly thankful for your offer,” Dorian said, somehow succeeding to make his response sound sincere even though he was simultaneously looking slightly disgusted by the idea, “But I’m going to turn in early tonight. If you want us to depart by tomorrow morning, I’m going to need my beauty sleep.”

I was disappointed, but not surprised. Planning was kinda exhausting, and considering that one’s quality of sleep usually took a hit once on the road, I couldn’t blame him. I, for one, still had to let Vivienne know we would leave in the morning. Solas and Bull were already aware of our plans since I had explained it to them earlier, and hopefully that meant that they were prepared to leave without further prompting from me.

Dorian and I parted ways at the Chantry entrance, and I carried on with my tasks. I was so deep in thought, trying to figure out the best way to explain tomorrow’s departure to Vivienne, that I almost walked into Krem.

“Boss?” Krem asked, a slight frown appearing on his forehead. “I could swear I just saw…” he trailed off, then shook his head. “Never mind.”

“Ookay,” I said, raising an eyebrow at the weird greeting, but deciding to let it slide since I was kinda in a hurry. “Did the Iron Bull already catch up with you guys? We arrived like…” I glanced towards the sun to gauge what time it was. We had arrived back in Haven in the late afternoon. Now, the sun was already starting to dip behind the horizon. Our session in the War Room must have taken longer than I thought.

I whistled. “…damn, at least couple of hours ago.”

Krem nodded absentmindedly. “I’m actually on my way to the tavern,” he said, pointing towards the establishment in question with his thumb. “Most of the guys are done with work for today, so everyone’s gathering for drinks. Feel free to join us, if you’re not too busy.”

“I’m actually going to take you up on that after I run some errands,” I said with a grin. Then, realising what Krem had just said, I gave him a pointed look, “Until then, please remind your chief we’re still on plan. We’ll be leaving bright and early tomorrow.”

“Noted,” Krem answered with a salute and a mischievous grin.

Despite her in-game location inside the Chantry, Vivienne was actually set up in one of the wooden little houses not too far from my own little shack. She must have only hung around the Chantry during business hours so that everyone else could easily talk to her. But not even someone like Vivienne could spend all day working, and thus she needed her own lodgings.

I politely knocked on the door, hoping Vivienne wouldn’t be too bothered by my presence in her private space.

To my relief, Vivienne opened the door with a polite smile upon her lips. “Herald, what a lovely surprise,” she said. “Please, come in.”

Inwardly grimacing at the address, I smiled back. “Madame De Fer,” I greeted, and ducked into the small room, minding the horns on top of my head. With a pointed look around the room, I continued, “I hope you’ve been settling in alright.”

“It is sweet of you to worry,” Vivienne said, her lips curving into a smirk. She sat down behind a beautiful coffee table. Although I was now effectively hovering over her, Vivienne’s commanding presence in the room didn’t falter at all. “Despite what you might think, my life hasn’t been all roses and Orlesian ballrooms. I’m quite used to roughing it, as one might say.”

“Oh, right,” I said dumbly.

It didn’t escape my notice that despite her words, the once simple room had been decorated rather heavily. The room was like a different country compared to mine. Lots of expensive fabrics, pillows, beautiful candles, and more chairs around the coffee table than I would know what to do with. A distant scent of lavender hung in the air.

“Would you care for some tea?” Vivienne asked, drawing my attention back to her. “Please, sit.”

“Oh no, don’t bother on my account, please,” I said, shuffling my feet, choosing to stay standing. “Unfortunately I can’t stay for long right now.”

“Then I expect you’re here to talk about tomorrow.”

“So you already know?” I asked, “I hope this isn’t on too short notice…”

“Lady Josephine sent word ahead, of course,” Vivienne explained with a raised eyebrow. “To be quite truthful, I have been expecting something like this. After all, imagine my surprise, when upon my arrival here in Haven, I received word that you had gone to Redcliffe to negotiate with the apostates,” she said, her tone amused.

I tensed up slightly, ready to defend my actions and the remaining mages in Redcliffe.

“However,” Vivienne continued, “Although I might not agree with your methods, I will come to Redcliffe with you. It is what I signed up for when I offered my services to the Inquisition, after all.”

I relaxed, letting out a sigh of relief. “Thank you. It’s good to know I can count on you to have my back.”

Vivienne’s answering smile was softer than before.

“Always, my dear.”


The tavern was surprisingly busy that night. I guess drinking after work never gets old, no matter which world you are in. To be fair, I didn’t blame anyone for enjoying a night of ale and good company. Life in Thedas was tough, and sitting inside the Singing Maiden warmed both your mind and soul.

Soldiers were streaming in and out as I entered, and to my avail there were no empty tables in the entire tavern. Even the singular empty seats, sprinkled here and there, seemed to be far and between.

Most of the Chargers were seated around their regular table in the corner, along with their leader who, thanks to the horns, was easy to spot. Bull must have noticed me looking around by the door, because he waved me over with a loud bellow. I threw him a hesitant smile and pushed through the crowd towards the bar. Flissa gave me a mug of ale, looking slightly more harried than usual. Everyone around seemed to be too occupied with their drinks or company to notice who I was, because nobody saluted or even bothered to stare.

I zigzagged my way to the table, holding the mug high over my head to stop people from bumping into it and accidentally making me spill it. Once I was able to safely set it on the table, I let out an audible sigh of relief.

“Boss, you finally decided to join us!” Bull called out with a grin, and pointedly elbowed Krem in order to get him to scoot over. It set off a chain reaction on the long bench, everyone on that side making a little room for me. Once done, I was just about able to squeeze between Krem and Bull.

I nodded my greetings to everyone and they all returned to their previous conversations, sans Bull, who was patiently waiting for me to react to his words. Bless him, he could probably tell I hated being crowded like this. All the noise and the people… It was distracting.

“Yeah,” I said once I was able to focus. Bull’s left thigh was pressed tightly against my right, and I tried not to focus on the sensation too much. It was ridiculous. I had basically slept on the man for weeks on end, but I was embarrassed to sit next to him.

I coughed, clearing my throat. “I’m a bit too buzzed because of all the planning. It will take a while to wind down before I can sleep, so I thought I might as well enjoy the company.”

Bull paused, his mug halfway to his mouth. “Nervous about Redcliffe?” he asked slowly.

“A bit,” I said, sighing. “I know we still have to actually travel there, and that’s several more nights before any action,” I explained and sipped my drink. I was actually starting to enjoy the taste of ale, even though I wasn’t that big of a drinker. “But that just means so many things can go wrong.”

“Hmm,” Bull said, eying me thoughtfully. “Sound like you need something to take your mind off it.”

I shrugged, taking another sip. “I guess.”

Bull grinned, leaning against the table. “Too bad the ‘Vint isn’t here to distract you.”

I smiled at the mention of Dorian and absently fumbled with the pint in my hands. “Yeah, too bad.” My smile turned into a smirk. “I was looking forward to hearing him diss Fereldan ale. I bet he’s more of a wine guy.”

Krem broke off from his conversation with Dalish, and turned to me a with a suffering expression. “So it’s true, then?” he asked. “The boss wasn’t just pulling my leg... The Inquisition really has gone and recruited an altus.”

I gave him a curious look. “That’s right. His name is Dorian Pavus.” I paused, and put extra emphasis on my next words. “He’s a good guy.”

“If you say so,” Krem answered dubiously. “Pavus, huh?”

“Do you know him?” Bull asked, peeking over me to watch Krem’s face.

“Nah,” Krem said, taking a slow sip of his drink. “But I might know of him. I think the name rings a bell.”

Interesting. I guess the Pavus family did have a widely known reputation in Tevinter, even among the soporati.

“Whatever you might have hear about his family, please, don’t automatically apply it to him. I have on… uh, good authority,” I said with a meaningful wiggle of my eyebrows, “that his dad is a huge jerk face.”

“His dad is a magister, right?” Krem asked, his face crunching up. At my nod, he continued, “Then that isn't so hard to believe.”

I snorted, propping my elbow on the table and leaning my jaw against my palm. My pint of ale was starting to run low. I was always too quick of a drinker. “You didn’t hear any of this from me, of course,” I mumbled, frowning. “However Dorian feels about his dad, I’m sure he wouldn't appreciate some random weirdo bad mouthing his family.”

“The Herald of Andraste is far from a random weirdo, but I’m sure we all understood your meaning,” Bull said with a grin.

I frowned at him, and then down at my mug. Empty. “Kalja on hyvää kun sitä juo,” I muttered.

Krem paused, his mug halfway to his mouth. “What?” he asked.

“Beer is good when you drink it,” I translated.

“What?” Krem repeated, his eyebrows rising higher and higher.

“Just something my friend used to say,” I explained, slumping over the table. I was starting to relax a bit. Those pints were larger than they looked, and the ale today wasn’t as watered down as usual. Or maybe I was just extra tired from the planning.

Krem leaned over me to throw a confused look at Bull. “What language was that?” he asked.

“Hmm, I wonder,” Bull mused, offering no explanation.

Suddenly, most probably because of the alcohol I had just drank, I felt like singing. Looking around, it occurred to me that the crowd had started to thin out while we had been talking, and the tavern wasn’t nearly as full as it had been what seemed like only moments ago. The Charger’s table was still as full as it had been, but everywhere else people were starting to leave and the flow of new people coming into the tavern was starting to dry out.

“Hey, I think I’m gonna get my guitar,” I said, pushing myself up from between Bull and Krem, a little unsteady on my feet. Krem, Dalish, and Stitches cheered at me, before bursting into laughter at my lack of balance.

“I’ll join you outside,” Bull said, getting up and putting his hand on my shoulder to steady me. At my questioning look, he grinned. “I gotta take a piss.”

“Okay,” I said, amused, and allowed him to lead me to the door and through it, all the while being way too conscious of his warm hand still touching my shoulder. “I think I can walk the rest of the way by myself,” I said, but made no effort to step away.

“Sure,” Bull said. If he seemed hesitant to let me go and lingered for a bit longer, I’m sure it was just my imagination.

I shook my head. “See ya in a mo’,” I said, turned around and headed to my cabin. The fresh night air sobered me up a little bit as I walked, and I started to feel a little embarrassed for being such a lightweight. However, my musical mood didn’t fade and I still wanted to sing for the Chargers, so I walked bristly to complete my retrieval quest.

Once I was to my shack, I unlocked the door and stepped inside. I had to look around for a while and force myself to focus in order to find the guitar, but eventually I discovered it safe underneath my bed, where I had secured it earlier. I didn’t want to play an out of tune guitar in front of the Chargers, so I took a couple of minutes to tune it and warm up my fingers.

By the time I got back to the tavern, the bench where I’d been sitting was now empty. The people who had been sitting on it were gone, and Krem had gone over to the other side of the table to huddle up in a group with Stitches and Dalish. Bull still hadn’t come back from his trip to the lavatory. I slipped back into my seat and set the guitar on my lap and struck up a few basic chords. Hearing the guitar, Krem shushed very loudly, and the remaining Chargers who had been in the middle of conversations fell silent and they all settled down to stare at me.

I had to fight my instincts and stop myself from grinning, and instead took on a very serious expression. Then I started to sing while strumming a slow but slowly quickening beat.

 

Here at home, in this steeple
Made of chrome, above a city of steel
I've chosen bats over people
Because I never did liked the way humans made me feel!

I let my lips stretch into a wide grin, and the Chargers burst into laughter as the meaning of the lyrics sank in. I continued singing to ongoing melody, wildly exaggerating my expressions to make it more comedic.

 

So we sleep all day and we rise at night
And we spread our wings and take into the skies!
And when the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta be like that?"
I just look them in the eye
And tell 'em "I was raised by bats!"

I wiggled my eyebrows. Dalish and Skinner were laughing uncontrollably, with the former smacking the table with her hand and trying to catch her breath with little success. My eyes fluttered shut as I continued to the next verse, which had more sensitive lyrics.

 

When I was young I was feeble
And it stung when they pushed me down
I was so hated by these people
That I knew I had to do what I could to get out of that town

I opened my eyes and grinned.

 

So I ran away to this sacred place
And was taken in by creatures of the night
Now when the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta dress like that?"
I just look them in the eye and tell 'em "I was raised by bats!"
When the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta be like that?"
I just look them in the eye and tell 'em "I was raised by bats!"

Those dark days seem far away
I've risen to a better place
So do like me follow the dream like that!
Just throw your ol' life away and get raised by bats!

While I was singing, out of the corner of my eye I saw Bull make his way back into the Tavern and to the bar to pick up new drinks. He turned around and headed toward our table, but for some reason he stopped, and stayed standing some distance away from the table without approaching us, just staring. I tried to ignore him and continued playing.

 

So we sleep all day and we rise at night
And we spread our wings and take into the skies!
We do it all our way
Live our lives like that
Cause there's no one here to fill our heads with lies!
And when the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta be like that?"
When the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta dress like that?"
When the people all stop and stare
And say "Why ya gotta be like that?"

I winked.

 

I just punch them in the eye
And I bite them on the thigh
And I kick them in their ass where the sun don't shine!
I look 'em in the eye and tell 'em "I was raised by bats!"
I look 'em in the eye and tell 'em "I was raised by bats!"
I was raised by bats!
I was raised by bats!

I strummed the melody to the end with a wide grin on my face. Couple of soldiers around the half-empty tavern, who had never heard me perform before, clapped and cheered enthusiastically. The Chargers were still falling apart over the lyrics, except for Bull, who was standing still and giving me a weird, searching look.

I tilted my head questioningly, but Bull just shook his head and finally walked all the way to our the table. There was more room on it by now, but he still sat down next to me in the same spot as earlier. He set down two mugs of ale, and pointedly pushed the other one towards me.

“For the entertainment,” Bull explained. “My treat.”

“Thanks,” I chuckled and took the offered mug. “Based on this, I could probably make my livings as a bard if one could survive off ale alone.”

“Hey boss, are you taking requests?” Krem called out from the other side of the table.

I hesitated. “Uh, I might not know the songs you want.”

He waved his hand dismissively. “We were thinking of that song you sung back on the Storm Coast, that first night we got hired by the Inquisition.”

Oh.

“In that case, of course,” I said, bemused. “You liked that one?”

“It was pretty great,” Krem admitted and pointed to my guitar. “And I’m sure it’s even better when you have that to accompany your singing.”

“All right then,” I grinned. “Just give me a moment to catch my breath.”

Krem nodded and went back to his conversation with Stitches. I took a sip of my mug, and heaved a small sigh. Requests, huh?

“If this becomes a regular occurrence, maybe you should start charging extra for requests,” Bull said, grinning at me.

I shook my head. “Despite my joke, I’m still not an actual bard. I just do this shit for fun.”

Bull shrugged, curling his hands around his mug of ale. “Suit yourself. But don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.”

I eyed him for a moment, weighing if I should ask him about the way he was staring at me during the song, but if he didn’t want to talk about it… I guess it was okay. I was content just to sit in silence for a while.

And so we did, until I had gathered my energy enough to belt out another song.

“I heard there was a secret chord, that David played and it pleased the Lord…”


 I woke up slowly, my head feeling muddy and my mouth tasting like something had died in there. Ugh, beer breath.

“What time is it?” I groaned out, not daring to open my tired eyes.

The thing currently working as my pillow shifted slightly. “We still have couple of hours before we’re due to leave,” Bull said in a low voice.

Oh. My eyes flew open, and focused on Bull’s face, barely inches away from me. His eye was closed, but there was a slight smirk on his face.

“I’m sleeping on you again,” I said dumbly.

“Yes, you are.”

I rolled over a bit, so that my head lay on an actual pillow instead of his chest. “Uh... “ I groaned out, covering my eyes with my forearm, “When I joined you guys for drinks, I really didn’t intend to end up here.”

Here being inside Bull’s tent. My memory about last night, as muddled by sleep as it had been, was slowly coming back to me. Bull had walked me back from the tavern, and very pointedly asked me where I wanted to sleep. In return, I had positively clung to him and told him that the bed in my little shack was too tiny for cuddling.

“That’s not what you said yesterday,” Bull said. I peeked at him from behind my arm, and he turned to his side in a slow, languid motion. His eye was now open and watching me. “In fact, I believe your actual words were, ‘delicious, finally some good fucking sleep in Haven’.”

“Oh god,” I groaned. “My life is a joke.”

Bull chuckled, then sobered up a little. “You know, I believe told you to stop worrying about this,” he pointed out.

“Sure…” I said, rubbing my eyes. “But that’s easier said than done. I was going to at least try to sleep in my own goddamn room for one night.”

Bull considered me for a moment. “Does it really bother you so much to rely on other people?”

I sighed, letting my arm fall on my face again. “It’s not really about relying on other people...” I trailed off.

“So it’s specifically about relying on me.”

I didn’t answer, but my body must have tensed up slightly, because Bull put his hand on my arm in a slow, soothing movement.

“Hey, you’re a seer and I’m a Ben-Hassrath,” he said with a chuckle, attempting to lighten the mood. “If you didn’t have some suspicions about me, I’d be concerned.”

I lifted my arm and looked at him. “Nope, it’s not that either,” I said fervently, holding his gaze steadily. “It’s really not about that at all.”

It was true that it wasn’t exactly safe for the Qunari to be aware of the true depth of my knowledge about Thedas’s future. Seers were… at least a thing over here, and not everyone believed I was the real deal, but being a weird dimension travelling human from a place where your whole world was a form of entertainment was another thing. Until the Iron Bull had made his choice about the Qunari, telling him the true story was out of the question. I didn’t want to put him into that position, to force him to choose between me and them.

But honestly? That had nothing to do with my reluctance. Deep down I was selfish enough to enjoy his company even if he did end up breaking my heart later… No, I was more concerned about Bull and Dorian, and what this thing meant when it came to their relationship.

Bull looked at me, and I looked back at him, and eventually his face turned perplexed. “I believe you,” he said. “But that just makes you even more confusing.”

How do you explain to a man who you really like, and who seems to somewhat like you back, that you can’t hog all of his attention because that means another man who would also really like him and be liked back by him, might not end up liking him at all? I really didn’t want to be the reason why Bull and Dorian never got together.

I fell back on the pillow, groaning. “It’s really fucking complicated,” I said.

Bull leaned his chin against his palm. “Try me.”

I threw him a look, considering it. “When I say it’s complicated, I mean it has to do with the future, and my knowledge of it, and many possible futures that might all be affected by everything I say and do.”

Bull shifted uneasily. “Ah. You mean that kind of complicated.”

I laughed. “Maybe we should talk about this some other time, maybe when I’m not feeling kinda hungover,” I said and looked around. “Speaking of time, how long do we have until we gotta leave?”

“A while yet,” Bull said.

I looked at him, and then down at the space between us. “Enough for a short nap?”

Silently, Bull turned on his back and lifted up his arm as an invitation. I crawled beneath it and snuggled up to him, glad to catch up on some last minute sleep before our next journey.


Couple of hours later the morning greeted us sunny and bright. The weather was perfect for a long day of travel. Dorian, Solas and Vivienne were waiting for the two of us by the gates of Haven, along with a considerably large group of other Inquisition agents and soldiers who were going to come with us for back up. It was weird to notice how our group was actually bigger than it had ever been before, even though this time we didn’t have Cassandra or Varric with us. The lack of familiar faces left me feeling a bit wrong footed and uncertain.

I vaguely recognized couple faces from seeing them around Haven, but apart from Millie, I didn’t really know anyone’s names. Still, good to know they weren’t all strangers.

I took a deep breath. “Here we go.”

Bull, who had been watching me, patted me on the back. “No need to look so worried. We still have days until anything exciting happens.”

“That doesn’t help much,” I groaned, dragging my feet towards one of the agents who was holding the reigns of my horse. I thanked him and guided Freyja towards the beginning of the entourage, where Dorian, Vivienne, and Solas were waiting for us with their own mounts.

“Sometimes, if I’m nervous about something, I feel like waiting is actually worse than the real thing.”

“Hmm,” Bull hummed. “Maybe so.”

“Good morning,” Solas greeted us. “Are we ready to depart?”

“Morning,” I echoed, stealing a glance at Dorian and Vivienne, who both nodded back at me. Dorian looked a little sleepy, but otherwise fine. I gave him a hesitant smile, and he smiled back. “I think so, looks like everyone’s here…” I trailed off. “This is so weird to do without Cassandra. I always feel like she’s the de facto leader of our party.”

Solas gave me an amused glance. “I believe that honor has been slowly transferring to you.”

My eyes widened. “...Nuh-uh.”

Bull chuckled. “Don’t antagonize him, he’s been twitchy all morning. Besides, I think it’s safe to say that the Spymaster has the honor of leading us this time,” he pointed out and nodded his head to the left, where Leliana was giving instructions to some scouts.

At Bull’s words, we all glanced at her. I felt my shoulders relaxing a little. Somehow I’d forgotten she’d be coming along, even though this operation hinged on her knowledge of the Redcliffe Castle. Her scouts would be instrumental against Alexius.

“I feel safer already,” Dorian muttered under his breath.

“Leliana is a treasure and I’ll hear no arguments about it,” I said, grinning at him. I continued in a stage whisper, “She is very scary though, I’ll give you that.”

“I believe the correct word would be ‘intimidating’,” Dorian said dryly. “Although accurate, ‘scary’ makes us sound like naughty school children.”


 When we finally departed, our formation was the following:

Leliana led our entourage, surrounded by a small group of her scouts. Then came our little group with Solas, Vivienne, Bull, and me. At the back was an assorted group of soldiers, scouts and other Inquisition agents. We had two whole horse drawn wagons of things with us, holding stuff like tents, rations and weapons. Due to the large amount of people and horses in our party, the journey was expected to be a little longer than usual. While a small group on horseback could make it from Haven to Redcliffe in about four days, a big group like ours should expect to spend at least one or two extra nights on the road.

We hadn’t really discussed it before our departure, but I wasn’t particularly surprised when at the end of the first day, I was told that my and Bull’s large tent would get another occupant.

“Ah, are you sure you’re okay with this…?” Dorian asked, shifting his weight awkwardly from leg to leg. He gripping his bag tightly, and looking dubiously at the tent which he’d been assigned to.

I sighed. “I believe I literally said couple of weeks ago that, ‘this tent could hold three people if needed’,” I said dryly. ”So the blame lies entirely on me.”

“Hey,” Bull slapped Dorian on the back lightly. “We’re all comrades here, I’m sure we can make it work.”

Dorian narrowed his eyes at him. “I’m sure,” he said, his voice devoid of tone.

I gave him a concerned look. “If you’re not comfortable, I’ll talk to whoever is in charge of the tents. I’m sure we can arrange something else for you.”

Dorian let out a long suffering sigh. “No, don’t bother on my account. I think I was just surprised they would make you share your tent with… well. Truly, I don’t see any problem with this arrangement.”

I raised my eyebrows, asking for an explanation. “Surprised they would make me share my tent with…?” I trailed off pointedly.

He crossed his arms, giving me a look that was both annoyed an playful. “You know what I mean.”

I sighed. “If this is about you being an evil Tevinter magister again, then yes, I know what you mean,” I said, rolling my eyes, “I’m just saying, not everyone here thinks like that. And I’m sure whoever was in charge of the dividing us into tents isn’t a total asshole. Leliana chooses her people better than that.”

Bull grinned. “I think you’re right, boss.”

Dorian glanced at him, surprised. “Oh?”

“Whoever made these arrangements knows us pretty well,” Bull explained. “I think they single handedly picked the only two people here who don’t have any problem with you.” He gave Dorian a placating look. “It’s not that you’re suspicious, it’s just that most people have their prejudices, and boss has been very vocal about how great you are.”

Dorian’s cheeks darkened. “He has?”

I twatted Bull on his shoulder. “Whatever you’re doing, stop it.”

Bull shrugged. “I’m just speaking the truth.”

“Well, don’t,” I said, feeling my own face heat up. “Let’s just set up the tent and get to sleep.”

Of course, this proved to be easier said than done. Once the tent was up and we were arranging our things inside, it occurred to me that Dorian might find me and Bull’s sleeping arrangements a little… weird. If he didn’t know the reasons behind it, then seeing the two of us cuddling and sleeping together like we had been doing almost every night for the past couple of weeks, might strike him a little odd. He certainly knew that we had shared a tent, but despite the rather handsy way Bull seemed to touch me in public sometimes, I don’t think he knew about the cuddling.

Bull had popped outside, already having placed his sleeping roll on the ground, and Dorian was placing his in the opposite end of the tent, which left me awkwardly standing there in the middle, trying to decide what to do. In the end my embarrassment won out, and I placed my sleeping roll a respectable space away from Bull’s. Then I sat down in order to start untying the knots of my armor until Bull returned.

He took one look at where I was sitting, and said, “What do you think you’re doing?” His tone was wholly unimpressed, and it caused Dorian to look up from the book he’d started to read.

I looked up at Bull, and then at Dorian, who raised an eyebrow. “Umm.”

Bull frowned and crossed his arms. “If this is gonna be an issue, I’m changing my mind about what I said earlier,” he said, nodding his head towards Dorian. “The mage can fit into some other tent. But I’m not letting you go without sleeping because you’re embarrassed.”

My face burned.

“What in Andraste’s name is this about?” Dorian asked, totally bewildered, glancing between me and Bull.

“Well, what’s it gonna be?” Bull asked.

“I was just going to wait until you got back before making a decision…” I trailed off. “Although now that I said it out loud, I guess that’s a dumb excuse.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Wait to do what?”

“I didn’t want to make you uncomfortable or anything,” I said, scratching my neck. “But me and Bull sort of… well…”

Bull looked at Dorian straight in the eye and said, in a grave tone of voice, “We cuddle.”

Dorian blinked. And blinked. In fact, apart from a slight drop of his jaw, he seemed to be frozen in place.

“...I think we broke him,” Bull said, waving a hand in front of Dorian’s face.

Dorian’s face flushed dark, all the way to his ears, and he bristled at Bull, waving away his hands and rearing back a little. “I’m fine!” he muttered.

I couldn’t help it. The mix of embarrassment and anxiety, and finally Bull’s straightforward way of handling the issue caused me to burst into chuckles. “I’m sorry,” I said between snorts of laughter, “But your face just now. You looked so surprised! What did you think we were talking about?”

“Not about that,” Dorian muttered.

“Sorry?”

“Never mind,” he said louder. He and Bull exchanged a knowing glance, which made me blink at them stupidly. “Anyway, don’t let me keep you,” he said and paused. “Although knowing what he just said about you not sleeping, I can’t help but be curious about the nature of such an arrangement.”

“Boss has trouble sleeping,” Bull said simply, and herded me to stand up so we could put our sleeping rolls closer together. “Physical contacts helps.”

I sat back down and took off the remaining armor piece, and stretched my arms a little. Ugh, I was so stiff after a long day of riding. “Yeah, it’s helpful that I have my own bodyguard slash teddy bear,” I said with a faint grin.

Bull grinned back at me.

“Huh,” Dorian said, peering at me. “Interesting.” He paused, looking thoughtful. “What’s a teddy bear?”


In the morning I realized that my left arm was getting really sore and numb again, so I approached Solas about it. After all, he had been able to fix it couple of weeks ago.

“Solas,” I said, catching his attention after I had eaten breakfast and people were still milling about, getting ready to pack for the day’s travel. “Can I talk to you while we’re still camped out?”

He nodded, and gestured for me to lead. I walked straight to our tent which was still up, since it was the only place with any hint of actual privacy. I didn’t expect the thing to take too long, but since I intended to speak with him about the Mark, I’d prefer if any overly eager scouts weren’t eavesdropping us.

I sat down and motioned for him to do the same. “My arm has been bothering me again.”

Solas’s expression tightened perceivably. “I see.”

“I figured you might be able to do the thing again?” I asked, rubbing my hand with a little more pressure than was necessary.

“How does it feel?” Solas asked.

“I can’t really feel my pinkie finger anymore,” I said, and pointed to my upper arm. “And it’s sorta painful around here.”

With my permission, Solas took my hand and seemed to run some sort of a diagnostic spell on it. It took a couple of minutes. “Hmm,” he said thoughtfully. “It looks like the Mark is damaging the nerves in your arm in some way.”

I grimaced. “That doesn’t sound too good.”

Solas shook his head. “It isn’t,” he said, and then cast another spell that made my arm feel better. “There. Does it feel normal now?”

I flexed my whole arm and trying out the full range of motion before nodding. “Yes, thank you,” I said, thankful for his help, even though it was technically his fault I was in this shit to begin with.

“You’re quite welcome,” Solas said.

“So…” I started hesitantly, “I was wondering if you could teach that spell of yours to Dorian? I, uh… Just in case I somehow end up travelling with just him in tow for a while.”

“It is just a simple healing spell,” Solas said, giving me an amused look. “Although it might not be his area of study, I’m sure even he is well versed in such matters.”

“Oh!” I said, blinking in surprise. “It’s not….” I trailed off, feeling ridiculous.

“Not?” Solas asked.

“It’s not some weird highly specific rift magic,” I said, burying my face in my palms, trying not to seem too suspicious. I had just automatically assumed the spell was some kind of highly advanced magic only Solas knew. “I thought you might have been doing something special since, you know, you’re the only person who has studied the Mark in detail... And you’ve done all that fade stuff as well.”

“I’m flattered you think me so highly capable,” Solas said with a slight grin upon his lips. “But in this case, it’s just a simple healing spell. My studies with the Mark were cut short when you woke up.” His face seemed troubled, suddenly. “And truthfully, I wasn’t getting much results.”

I cringed, thinking of my poor hand if everything turned out like in the games. “Uh, could you maybe continue your studies? You can get the free reign of hand anytime you want.”

Solas raised an eyebrow. “Interesting,” he said. “I’ll consider it.”

That wasn’t a yes. Damn it.

“Please do,” I said, mustering all my remaining humour into a grin and hoping it looked at least a little bit believable, “As much as I like you and Dorian, I don’t want to be dependent on a mage friend helping me out for the rest of my life.”

The true alternative, of course, was me being left with no hand at all.


 On the second day of travel, Bull approached me with a question.

“I wanted to ask you something,” he mentioned off-handedly, coming to sit next to me by the fire.

“Fire away,” I said, stirring my bowl of stew and carefully lifting up a spoonful of it towards my mouth.

“Have you realized you’re starting to lose muscle?” he said, catching me completely off guard.

“Uh…” My hand froze halfway up to my mouth. I dropped the spoon back into the bowl, and turned to face him. “...what?” I asked, blinking at his suddenly serious expression.

“You avoid meats, you like bread and potatoes but always refrain from eating more of them with this wistful look on your face,” Bull listed off with an unimpressed look at my bowl, “pretty much the only thing you eat plenty of is the goddamn broth.”

I continued to stare at him, unable to speak.

“You eat whatever you’re given so I know it’s probably not down to your appetite, but if you get to pick the portion yourself you eat way too little,” Bull continued like he hadn’t just shaken my world view a little. “Why is that?”

I looked down at the bowl, and then, weirdly enough, at my hands. My… large, very manly hands. “Well, shit.”

Bull raised an eyebrow.

I stood up and rushed past Bull before he could say anything more. “I gotta talk to Solas!” I called over my shoulder at his confused look.

The mage in question was sitting at the edge of the camp, which suited me just fine, since I didn’t need other people overhearing us. He looked up at me curiously as I came to a stop in front of him, slightly panting at having practically ran the distance between us.

“Something the matter?” Solas asked curiously.

“I. Am. Huge,” I hissed, gesturing to myself, practically vibrating in my place “Look at me! I’m tall! And muscular! I have actual muscles!!”

He raised an eyebrow. “Is this going anywhere specific?”

“You don’t get it,” I said and grinned. “All this time I have been eating for a body which had half the muscle, and which was more than a foot shorter!”

Solas blinked, as if adjusting his mental image of me. “Ah.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “You’ve been unconsciously eating the same amount as if you were still in your… original body,” he said quietly.

I nodded. “Bull said I’ve probably lost some muscle.”

Solas looked over me carefully. “I think he’s right.”

We came up with a solution, and I walked back to where Bull was sitting, waiting for me to return. I sat down and started eating the bowl of broth again. The silence continued, until Bull finally broke it.

“So what did he say?” he asked.

“That you’re right, of course,” I said in between mouthfuls of soup. I paused. “And also that you should pester me to eat more, since we spend most of our time together.”

Bull snorted. “Done.”

I glanced at him. “You don’t mind?”

“Anything for you, boss,” Bull said with a slow wink of his solitary eye, making me groan in embarrassment. He glanced at my bowl. “Speaking of which, let me get you seconds.”

I handed the mostly empty bowl to him, and watched him walk away. Then my gaze happened upon Dorian, who was walking from Bull’s direction towards me, carrying a bowl and a mug. I whistled at him and once I managed to catch his attention, motioned for him to join me.

“I’m really tall!” I chirped with a grin once he was within hearing distance.

Dorian paused, then sighed and sat down. ”That sort of day, is it?”

“Yep.”

He took a sip of his drink. “And dare I ask why you announce this information as if it’s only just entered your knowledge?”

I tilted my head and regarded thoughtfully. “Ask me again after Redcliffe, or during. I might just tell you.”

“Oh, joy,” Dorian said flatly, but his eyes sparkled and gave away his amusement. “How can I wait until then? Why not bestow this sacred knowledge upon me this very moment?”

“You’ll just have to bear it,” I said with a grin. “To be quite honest, I don’t think you’d believe me if I told you.”

He raised an eyebrow. “What, really?” Dorian asked, suddenly losing the mocking tone.

I nodded. “Oh, trust me. That thing?” I said, pointing to the Breach in the sky, always visible in the distance even from where we were, “That thing is nothing compared to it.”

Dorian looked up at the Breach, and then at me. “Suddenly I’m not sure I want to know.”

Suddenly sorry that I had made him so serious, I added, “Well, it’s not actually a fair comparison. The thing I might or might not tell you...” I trailed off, shrugging. “It’s not really a bad thing.”

“Yet by making that comparison in the first place…” Dorian pointed out, looking a little lost.

“Yeah, sorry,” I chuckled awkwardly. “I only meant to say that it’s massively weird.”

“Fair enough.”

We sat in silence until Bull returned with my bowl of soup in one hand, and a mug the other. He stopped a few feet away from us, considering the newcomer on my right, before shrugging and sitting down on my left. He handed me the bowl of soup. I gladly accepted and continued eating, while Bull peered over my head to gaze at Dorian.

Dorian glanced at him with a raised eyebrow, but Bull didn’t speak.

Unable to take the tension, I looked pointedly at the mug in Bull’s hands. He hadn’t been carrying it earlier. “What’s that?”

Bull grinned. “A little treat for you, after you finish your meal.”

I inched closer, trying to sneak a peek. “Is it coffee?”

“Nope. In fact, you should avoid coffee. I’ve noticed you eat less when you drink it.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Don’t you dare take my coffee.”

Bull rolled his eye with a huff. “Relax, nobody’s taking your coffee.”

“What is it though?”

“Eat instead of talking and you’ll find out.”

I practically inhaled the rest of the food. “Well?” I asked, my left leg bouncing up and down with nervous energy.

Bull chuckled and handed me the mug. “Careful, it’s still hot.”

I took the offered beverage and raised it under my nose, only to inhale in the sweet aroma of cacao, which greeted me like an old friend. “Oh!” I said, my eyes wide. I hurried to take a sip. “Mmmm,” I moaned out loud, my eyes slipping shut and my legs going lax as all the stress melted out of my body.

“Absolutely delicious,” I said, opening my eyes to look at Bull. “Thank you.”

“Glad you like it,” Bull said, grinning brightly at me. Then, his gaze went past me, and the grin turned into a smirk.

Wondering what he was looking at, I started to turn around to follow the trajectory of his gaze.

Suddenly, Dorian coughed violently. He covered his mouth with his left hand, his cheeks already turning red.

“Are you okay?” I asked, instantly forgetting Bull’s smirk in my concern for Dorian’s well being.

“Ah,” Dorian wheezed out from behind his hand. “Quite alright, thank you. I just choked on a piece of potato.”

“Oh no,” I said. “That’s the worst.” I took my water skin and handed it to him, “Here, have some water.”

“Thank you,” Dorian said, taking it graciously as one could while still coughing.

Bull burst out laughing, and Dorian’s cheeks seemed to grow even darker, despite having stopped coughing after drinking his first sip of the water.

Of course, Bull refused to explain what was so funny, leaving me confusedly glancing between the two of them.


 We reached the Hinterlands on the eve of our seventh day of travel, and chose to stay in the camp next to Lake Luthias, overlooking the crossroads. Although the distance from there to Redcliffe Castle was slightly longer, the existing camp and its soldiers meant that it would be hard for any possible enemies to realize we had more people with us than was needed for a peaceful negotiation.

We sent a raven to the Castle to inform Alexius we would be coming in tomorrow afternoon.

The plan was for me and our little elite party, comprised of me, Bull, Solas, and Vivienne to enter the Castle alone as a show of good faith. In the meanwhile Dorian, Leliana, and her men would sneak in through the back door to secure our asses for when Alexius finally shows his true colors and tries to have me killed.

After a fitful night’s sleep, the day of the reckoning finally arrived, cloudy and humid.

I had calmed down during the travel from Haven, mainly because being out in the nature, chilling on top of a horse was naturally soothing. By the evenings, I was always physically tired out and unable to worry so much. But now that it was finally happening, I couldn’t help but get anxious again.

“I think I’ve packed everything I need,” I muttered under my breath. My belongings now consisted of two large flasks of water, a larger than normal amount of healing and mana potions, and bandages. Just in case. I needed to be prepared for anything.

The only thing I really lacked was rations and camping equipment, because packing my pockets full of food would be too suspicious. Not to mention that the guards at the castle would allow us to take our weapons, but taking a full bag of traveling items like a sleeping roll into a negotiation like this would simply be bad manners.

I still had some healing potions and bandages I wanted to take with me, but my pockets were already full. Thankfully, that’s when Dorian happened to walk by me.

“Dorian, come over here, please,” I said quietly.

He turned to look at me with a raised eyebrow, but did as I told. “Do you need something?” he asked.

“Do you have space in your pockets for these?” I asked, handing him the remaining potions and bandages. “And it needs to be your pockets and not our bags, I don’t think we can take the bags into the negotiations without seeming too suspicious.”

Dorian blinked down at the items. “I think I have space for them,” he said. After a few moments of arranging, he was able to fit them all onto his person. “What’s this all about? Do you expect trouble?”

I gave him a look.

He chuckled humorlessly and ran a hand down his face. “Of course, we’re running straight into trouble,” he muttered. “But do you expect more trouble than you’re telling us?”

“Maybe,” I said slowly, considering. “The whole seer… thing… It’s a bit of a mixed bag. If I tell you too much, it will affect your reactions and the outcome will change, making my knowledge practically useless...” I trailed off.

Dorian hummed thoughtfully. “I understand,” he said softly. “However, the way you’re preparing makes me think you know exactly what kind of trouble we’re getting into. And from the look of it, it won’t be pretty.”

I grimaced. “You’re right about that. More than you know.”

Dorian stroked his chin. “Have you told the others to pack this carefully as well?” he wondered.

“I’ve told them to prepare for the worst, but if I’m predicting this right…” I trailed off, frowning. “Well, let’s just say preparations like this might not help us that much.”

And by us, I meant everyone else.

If things ended up like in the game, and Alexius’s victory in Redcliffe hinged solely on me being there to secure it, then everyone who wasn’t Dorian or me probably couldn’t get that much use out of extra potions and bandages. Because if things went as I assumed they would, then the others would get captured by Alexius’ men. Any extra items they had on them would surely be confiscated.

“Yet, you’re taking the chance to prepare for it anyway,” Dorian pointed out.

“You’re right,” I said and sighed. “I’ll tell the others to pack up as well, just in case.”


 Leliana’s men, consisting of a small group of agents, left just a couple of hours before our departure to Redcliffe. Dorian went with them, since his presence would immediately alert Alexius that something was wrong.

This arrangement left me, Bull, Solas, and Vivienne traveling to the castle on our own. Back in Haven, when we had planned the attack, both Cassandra and Cullen had been adamant that we take more people with us. When I pointed out that we didn’t have a large entourage last time either, and any extra scouts or agents would be made to stay outside the negotiation room anyway, they finally conceded. Couple of our agents where already waiting for us in Redcliffe just like last time, so on the outside nothing seemed to have changed from our last visit. We were just a ragtag team of people with the Herald of Andraste, ready to strike a deal with the Tevinter magister.

I was too anxious to make small talk, so we traveled in silence.

The scout who had greeted us at the gates motioned for servants to take care of our horses, and then lead us to the Castle entrance, where we were met with Alexius’ men. At that point, the scout just nodded a farewell to us and left, like we’d agreed.

“The Herald of Andraste,” one of Alexius’ men said curtly. “This way.”

As we walked through the castle, I glanced at my companions. Bull seemed to take in everything in a stride, his eye flitting around lazily as if he wasn’t committing every possible escape route to memory. Solas’s face was set in a neutral mask, impossible to decipher. Vivienne on the other hand held in place a cold, polite smile, which she targeted at all of Alexius’ men who dared to look her way. She fit right in.

At the chamber doors, as I had predicted, they tried to make the others stay behind while I entered.

“The Magister’s invitation was for Master Adaar only,” the blond haired attendant said distastefully. “These others will have to remain here.”

“Where I go, they go,” I said plainly, in a tone that left no room for arguments.

Bull gave the guy his patented unimpressed stare.

The guy in front of us paled a little. “Ah… of course. This way please,” he said, and opened the doors. We followed him inside. “My Lord Magister, the agents of the Inquisition have arrived.”

“My friend,” Alexius called out, getting up from the throne he had been lounging on as we entered the room. “It’s so good to see you again.” His smile faded a little at the presence of Solas, Vivienne, and Bull. “And your associates, of course,” he hastened to add. “I’m sure we can work out some arrangement that is equitable to all parties.”

I gave him a polite smile, but couldn’t get a word in edgewise, because Fiona took the lull in the conversation as an opportunity to voice her opinion. “Are we mages to have no voice in deciding our fate?” she asked.

Alexius gave her a look. “Fiona, you would not have turned your followers into my care if you did not trust me with their lives.”

“If the Grand Enchanter wants to take part in these talks, then the Inquisition welcomes her input,” I said.

Fiona nodded at me. “Thank you.”

Alexius nodded, and went back to sit on his throne. “The Inquisition needs mages to close the Breach, and I have them.” He paused pointedly. “So, what shall you offer in exchange?”

“I’d much rather discuss your nifty little time magic.”

Lifting his eyebrows in surprise, Alexius gave me a blank look. “I’m afraid I have no idea what you mean.”

Felix turned to his father. “He knows everything, father.”

“Felix,” Alexius said tightly, “what have you done?”

“Your son is only concerned that you’ve gotten yourself mixed up with something terrible,” I said.

Alexius snorted. “So speaks the thief!” he said. “Do you think you can turn my son against me?” he seethed, and got slowly stood up, stalking towards me. “You walk into my stronghold with your stolen Mark —a gift you don’t even understand— and you think you’re in control?” He paused. “You’re nothing but a mistake.”

“What do you know about events the Conclave?” I asked.

Alexius glared at me, his lip curling in distaste. “It was the Elder One’s moment, and you were unworthy even to stand in his presence.”

“Father, listen to yourself,” Felix pleaded. “Do you know what you sound like?”

“He sounds exactly like the sort of villainous cliché everyone expects us to be,” Dorian said, walking out from the shadows.

“Dorian.” Alexius looked disappointed. “I gave you a chance to be a part of this. You turned me down. The Elder one has power you would not believe. He will raise the Imperium from its own ashes.”

“Make the Imperium great again, huh?” I snorted.

Alexius pointedly ignored me. “He will make the world bow to mages once more. We will rule from the Boeric Ocean to the Frozen Seas.”

“You can’t involve my people in this!” Fiona called out.

Dorian tried pleading with his mentor. “Alexius, this is exactly what you and I talked about never wanting to happen! Why would you support this?”

“Stop it, father,” Felix joined in, “give up the Venatori. Let the southern mages fight the Breach, and let’s go home.”

“No!” Alexius said. “It’s the only way, Felix. He can save you!”

Felix tilted his head in confusion. “Save me?”

“There is a way…” Alexius trailed off. “The Elder One promised. If I undo the mistake at the Temple…”

“I’m going to die,” Felix said, his voice cracking. “You need to accept that.”

Alexius completely ignored him. “Seize them, Venatori! The Elder One demands this man’s life.”

But it was too late. Leliana and her agents were already inside the castle, and they took down the last of the Venatori in the hall. They dropped dead in front of Alexius’ eyes.

“Your men are dead, Alexius,” I said.

“You. Are. A Mistake!” Alexius growled, and prepared to cast a spell. “You should never have existed!”

“No!” Dorian yelled, jumping in front of me, and casting a counter spell. It caused a magical backlash, throwing the two of us violently back in a sudden burst of magic.

We found ourselves landing on our butts in in ankle deep water, a little disoriented, but still in one piece. I hastened to get back on my feet, and offered Dorian a hand to pull him up. He accepted with a grimace.

“Displacement? Interesting,” he said, looking around. “It’s probably not what Alexius intended. The rift must have moved us, but… what?” He bet down to look at the floor. “To the closest confluence of arcane energy?”

I coughed softly, drawing his attention to me.

His expression cleared. “Ah, I expect this what you meant by trouble.”

“Yeah,” I said, grimacing and scratching my neck. “If I’m right about this… we were thrown about a year into the future.”

“The future?” Dorian asked, furrowing his brow. He stood up. “Ah, of course! It’s not where, but when!” he exclaimed. “Alexius must have used the amulet as a focus… Yes, that makes sense.”

I nodded. “Yeah. Now, the trouble is that we need the amulet to get back.” I paused and trailed off, looking around. “Actually…”

“Yes?” Dorian asked.

At the first glance, the location seemed similar to the game. But upon further inspection, it was a little different. Instead of huge crystals of Red Lyrium growing out of the wall, there were only tiny specks of it here and there… And if I remembered correctly, the room in the game had been some sort of a dungeon with metal bars in several directions, but the room where we were standing was pretty much in ruins. In the corner to my right was a cell door, ripped from its hinges and lying on the ground, but apart from that, the room was lacking in… dungeon-ness.

“That might be more complicated than I thought,” I said. “Something is different. This place, for one. And according to my, uh, knowledge, there should be two Venatori soldiers attacking us about right now.”

Dorian tightened his grip on his staff, ready to fight.

Nothing happened.

I groaned, placing my face into my hands. “Of course it couldn’t be that simple,” I muttered. “I knew my presence must have changed some things… But I didn’t expect this whole thing to go this differently.”

Dorian sighed. “Time travel is complicated,” he admonished. “You should have told me of this plan ahead of time. In fact, why didn’t you?”

“If I had told you, your actions might have changed the outcome completely, and I couldn’t let that happen,” I said. “Because I’ve got a plan, and we needed to come here and get our hands on that amulet in order to do it,” I said. “I thought it was worth the risk. Although, depending on what’s changed… I might have been wrong.”

We exchanged grim looks.

“Let’s look around,” Dorian suggested. “Maybe we can get more hints about what’s happened and you can make an educated guess about our situation, and then we can get back. If we can.” He paused. “Seeing as we didn’t as much travel through time as punch a whole through it and toss it into the privy,” he said, giving me a soft grin. My face must have shown my anxiety, because he added, “But don’t worry, I’m here. I’ll protect you.”

“I know,” I said with a soft smile, my heart melting a little.

Dorian smiled back. Then his eyebrows set into a more determined look. “Let’s go.”


Leaving the room and looking around, we came across a handful of guards, but they were all either alone or in groups of two, so we were able to take care of them on our own. I acted as a tank, and Dorian secured my back with his magic. However, I couldn’t help but worry. The lower we went into the dungeons, the more empty cells we found. There were couple of larger ores of Red Lyrium growing out of the walls, but considerable less than in the game.

“You look worried,” Dorian said, as we left the second dungeon area and headed upstairs. “What exactly did you expect to find here amongst this doom and gloom?” He asked, while sidestepping a particularly large vein of Red Lyrium growing from the floor.

“I thought some things might change, but I wasn’t quite prepared for this,” I muttered. “According to my… uh, vision, there should be more people here.”

“Surely less people in the dungeons is a good thing?” Dorian said, raising an eyebrow.

“Yeah, but…” I trailed off, considering how much I should share. “I kinda expected to find the others here.”

“Oh.” Dorian frowned. “But they’re not here, which means…”

“Either they were able to escape, or they’re being held somewhere else, or worse.” I said, grimacing. “I’m hoping for option one.”

We dealt with a couple more guards, and then came to a hallway with several doors. Sound of talking drifted from behind one of them.

“Tell us where they’re hiding,” a voice growled out.

Someone laughed. “Never.”

It was Leliana.

Then, the sound of a gauntlet meeting flesh. Dorian and I exchanged glances and hurried to the door. I kicked it open.

At out entrance, the interrogator whirled around, and Leliana took advantage of his distraction. She hoisted her legs up on top of the guys shoulders, and then squeezed his neck until he fell limp on the floor.

I got the keys to the shackles from him, and unlocked the restraints holding her in place.

“You’re alive,” Leliana said, frowning at the two of us.

“Time travel,” I said as an explanation, and searched her face for clues to exactly how different things were in this timeline. She didn’t look nearly as bad as in the game. In fact, her face was more or less intact, apart from a split lip and one bad bruise on the side of her face.

Leliana rubbed her wrists, nodding.

“Aren’t you curious about what happened?” Dorian asked.

“Not particularly,” Leliana said. She rummaged through the interrogators pockets for another set of keys. “Whatever happened, happened.”

Yep, however different things had been, this Leliana still didn’t care. “So, uh, Dorian and I need to get this weird time amulet from Alexius. Do you know if he’s still in the castle?”

Leliana narrowed her eyes. “You’re going back.”

I grimaced. “Yeah. I want to stop this from happening.”

“Fine,” Leliana said curtly. “Yes, Alexius is still in the castle. He has barricaded himself into the main hall.”

“Can I ask, when we disappeared…” I trailed off. “What happened to the others?”

“They were captured,” Leliana said. “And then, they escaped.”

In unison, Dorian and I let out breaths of relief.

“That’s why I’m back in Redcliffe,” Leliana continued, her face unreadable. “I’m here to track down Solas.”

“Solas?” Dorian asked.

Uh oh.

“He’s been leading a resistance group against Alexius ever since this all started,” Leliana explained. Her gaze slid to me, and somehow I knew that she knew his real identity. She had a murderous glint in her eye. “Ever since the Inquisition fell, I’ve been trying to track him down.”

“I see.”

No, I didn’t see. What the hell, Solas?! He’d gone completely off script.

Leliana eyed the two of us, as if considering. “I’m sure you two can find more answers if you help me to find him,” she offered.

Dorian crossed his arms, and tapped his foot. “Doesn’t seem like we have much choice,” he said and looked at me. “Unless you want to go straight for Alexius and the amulet?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think we can fight him with just the three of us.”

“Good,” Leliana said. “Let’s go.”

Fighting our way out of the castle was both easier and harder than I expected. We were able to handle the occasional Venatori guards on our own, but the closer we got to the main level, the more people there was. And more mages, who were unpredictable at best. There still weren’t as many enemies as I had expected to see, but with just the three of us, even these ones presented a challenge. In the end, we ended up sneaking our way around, just to make sure that we didn’t get into a fight we couldn’t handle. It wouldn’t do us any good if some stray guard were to sneak away to alert the rest of them.

Finally, we made it outside, and the sight of the sky made both of us pause. Leliana watched our reactions carefully.

“Vishante kaffas.”

“Shit.”

It looked absolutely horrifying. The swirling breach had grown and grown, until it looked like it might swallow the rest of Thedas with it. I could barely tell the time of the day, because the green glow overshadowed the sun.

“Yeah, I should probably stop that from happening,” I said, trying to lighten the mood.

“It’s already happened,” Leliana said.

“You know what I mean,” I muttered.

She gave me a look, like she wanted to say something more, but Dorian stepped in between us.

“This really isn’t the time,” he hissed. “Let’s get out of the open.”

Leliana nodded, but I knew that wasn’t going to be the end of it.

As we turned the corner into the empty courtyard, we were met with the sight of tall, hooded figure. Even in the green light of the Breach, there was a glowing, ominous red pallor surrounding them. Red Lyrium.

Leliana instantly raised her knives, preparing to attack, but I raised my hand to stop her.

“Wait,” I whispered to her, narrowing my eyes.

The hooded figure chuckled softly, and a deep voice bounced off the surrounding stone walls. "Your estimation was pretty accurate. It's been a year to the day," the stranger said and lowered the hood, revealing a wide pair of horns, a glowing red eye, and a very familiar face.

The Iron Bull smirked. "Welcome back, boss."

Chapter Text

My reaction was just to stare stupidly. Leliana didn’t take long to get over her shock, if she had been surprised in the first place.

“The Iron Bull,” she said, the poison in her words audible. “Still working with Solas, are you?”

“Figured it was my best chance, and turned out I was right,” Bull said, barely giving her a glance. His eye was strictly glued to me. “Boss, are you okay? You haven’t said a word.”

“What… How…” I started to say, and shook my head. “Never mind. Can I hug you?”

Dorian gave me an incredulous look. “This is hardly the time to—”

Bull took three long strides and opened his arms. I practically jumped at him, squeezing as hard as I could. He was still warm as ever, and he smelled the same. Leather, steel, and a hint of cacao… Except, now there was something else mixed in there which made my nose twitch. Something slightly metallic, maybe—

Bull pried away my hands from around him, and put some distance between us. “Sorry, boss,” he said, his voice rough. He blinked in rapid succession. “We should avoid prolonged skin to skin contact.”

“What?” I asked. “Why?”

Bull lifted his cloak to reveal a calcified, bright red scar on his left shoulder. That’s where the distinctive red pallor had originated from earlier. Now that it was visible, it practically screamed DANGER.

“Shit,” I said, rubbing my eyes. “Shit.”

Dorian hovered next to me. “Is that…?”

“Red Lyrium,” Bull said tightly. “Same stuff you probably saw in the castle. It’s nasty, so I really wouldn’t recommend touching it.”

But… you’re touching it. It’s on you.

“What happened?” Dorian asked, since I was unable to. My jaw had clenched shut involuntarily, and my teeth ground together so hard it was starting to hurt.

Bull glanced at Leliana, who was standing behind us and keeping a look out for enemies. “I’ll tell you on the way,” he decided. “Alexius’ forces aren’t what they used to be, but it still isn’t safe to stand out in the open like this.”

“Okay,” I said, trying to take in the situation. At least Bull was… relatively safe. I’d been pretty worried for him back at the Castle when we couldn’t find him, or the others. But he was alive.

Wait.

“On the way where?”

Bull grinned. “I figured you already knew since you were shacked up with the Nightingale here,” he said, and started walking. We followed with Leliana at the rear, so I was unable to see her expression.

I frowned. “Know what?”

“Solas has put up a good fight against Alexius,” Bull said. “I’ve been helping him.”

Just as I had gathered my jaw up from the floor, it dropped down again.

Dorian spluttered. “You have been working with a mage?” he asked incredulously, waving his hand at Bull’s whole figure as if to underline how unbelievable the whole thing sounded. “You?”

“The guy isn’t too bad for a mage,” Bull said lightly, and his eye flitted to Leliana and then to me. He seemed to come to a decision, because he continued, “He’s single handedly responsible for gathering up forces for the resistance. After the Inquisition fell, he was the only person with any manpower left standing. Without him, we’d be screwed.”

My eyes widened, as the implications of what he had said sunk in. Did Bull know who Solas was…? And he was still working with him?

Hell, first Leliana, and now Bull. Did everyone know?

“Right,” Dorian said. “Not bad for a mage, you say,” he muttered.

Based on the way he had spoken in circles around it, seemed like Bull didn’t want Dorian to know about Solas’ secret identity. That meant that I had to settle for asking about something else.

“Exactly how close to the castle are you guys set up?”

We had only been walking for a couple of minutes at that point, but scenery was already starting to change. Whereas the grounds surrounding the castle were almost bare with no trees or other vegetation to block the line of sight, the wildlife around us was already morphing into that of a forest. As we walked, I had tried to mentally map our location to the best of my knowledge, but admittedly I had been too preoccupied to keep track important land marks. I knew we had to be somewhere close to the castle, and we hadn’t seen any water yet, which should have put us north of the lake.

“You’ll have to see for yourselves,” Bull said. “It’s not far.”

Leliana snorted from behind us. “You can’t be that close to the castle,” she said, “back when you started, my men went over every inch of these woods. They found nothing.”

Bull just smirked. “See for yourself.”

The woods had grown thicker and thicker with every step we had taken. But then, we were suddenly in an empty clearing in the middle of the forest. And it really was empty, except for a couple of small boulders at the end of the clearing, almost directly opposite of us.

Just a pile of ordinary rocks. Pretty anticlimactic.

“Now what?” Dorian asked.

“Can’t enter the Wolf’s Den without a key,” Bull said mysteriously, and took something out of his pocket. He waved it at us and winked. It was a small stone, with a rune carved onto it.

Leliana breathed in sharply. “So that’s how…”

I nudged Dorian and whispered, “Should I know what that is? Is this a magic thing?”

Dorian rolled his eyes. “Yes, it is ‘a magic thing’. Just watch and learn.”

Bull grinned. “Oh, this?” he said, walking further into the clearing and confidently approaching the pile of rocks. “This is is nothing yet. This is just the key. Watch until you see the door.”

I followed him more or less confidently, Dorian at my side and Leliana slightly at my back. Bull was only couple of feet ahead of us, but suddenly, and without a warning, he vanished into thin air.

Freezing in my place, I stared with growing horror at the empty spot where Bull had been standing only seconds ago. “Where did he go?”

Dorian sighed, and ran a hand down his face. “Just wait. I think he’s coming back.”

Bull popped back into existence with a slightly sheepish smile on his face. “Sorry,” he said. “I forgot. We need physical contact for this to work.”

He offered me his hand.

I blinked at him. “…what kind of Harry Potter bullshit is this?”

“Take the man’s hand and let’s get this over with,” Dorian said. “And while we’re at it, I’m going to grab hold of you, if that’s okay.”

“I don’t really know what you mean, but grab away,” I said, giving him my left arm. Then, I rolled my eyes at his attitude. “Sorry I’m not informed about how magic works like you are, Mr. Altus. Some of us didn’t spend years in a private magic school like you.”

I wish. Still waiting for that Hogwarts letter.

“Mr. Altus? I’ve never heard that one before,” Dorian said with a snort. “Come on, I’ll explain how it works once you’ve tried it. Leliana, you better take a hold of my cloak.”

Leliana silently stepped forward and grabbed a fistful of Dorian’s cloak.

Bull, who had been following our conversation with a smile on his lips, finally interrupted our shuffling conversation. He must have sensed my hesitation. “Boss, I promise you’re going to want to see this.”

I looked at Bull’s offered hand, and his confident smile. I was confident that he wasn’t going to lead me astray, not right now, so… I grasped his hand.

The clearing itself didn’t change, but my view of it did.

In front of us stood a tall, magnificent Eluvian, set in a darkened silver frame. A corner of the looking glass was cracked, but the whole thing was radiating with energy, so I knew it was active.

“Fucking hell,” I yelled, and instinctively went to pull my hand away.

Bull didn’t let go. “Calm down,” he said. “It’s safe to use.”

“Safe to use? Are you fucking kidding me? This is the last time and place on the fucking earth I’d ever use an Eluvian.”

Dorian shuffled awkwardly behind me. “What, exactly, is an Eluvian?”

“This is the only working pair. Solas destroyed the rest of them,” Bull said, ignoring Dorian’s question. “Corypheus can’t get to us through it.”

I paused. It still seemed risky.

“Are you sure it’s safe?”

Bull sighed. “Sure? No,” he said. “Nothing is really safe these days. But it has worked for us so far. Just ask Leliana.”

I turned to look at Leliana, and saw that she was scowling at us.

“They’ve been making regular raids to the castle to disrupt Alexius’s operations,” she explained sourly. “And every time I sent someone to investigate, they found nothing. I think if it’s worked for them for all this time, it’s going to work now.”

Letting out a deep sigh, I conceded. “All right,” I said. “If you say so. I have to admit, the fact that out of everyone, you are the one willing to use it…” I said with a snort. “It makes me feel a little bit better.”

Bull gave me a knowing grin, and tugged us forward.

We stepped through the mirror, still holding onto each other. Going through an Eluvian really isn’t a particularly enjoyable experience, but we made it through to the other side in one piece.

The place was just as spooky as it had been in the game, if not more. The whole scenery had a grey tint to it, and the thick fog swirling around us certainly didn’t do anything to lessen the creepy atmosphere.

“We can stop holding onto each other now,” Bull said. Leliana let go of Dorian’s cloak, and Dorian let go of my arm.

Bull looked down at me, where I was still grasping his hand. “As much as I’d like to keep holding your hand, I really shouldn’t expose you to any prolonged contact.”

I blinked. “Oh, right.”

Neither of us let go.

Dorian cleared his throat, and Bull slowly pried open my hand with a slightly regretful smile on his face.

Despite the undeniable spook factor of the place, Leliana was looking around, not particularly interested in our hand-holding shenanigans.

Bull looked at her pointedly. “Don’t wander off,” he said. “There’s only one other working Eluvian in this place, so unless you know the one, you’ll be lost for the rest of your life.”

“Noted,” Dorian said, swallowing audibly.

The walk through the foggy crossroads seemed to take longer than the walk from the castle. Maybe it was the suspense. Maybe it was my growing desire to punch Solas in the face. Really, who knows?

There was an oppressive feeling all around us. It was clinging to my skin, just a layer of something invisible, barely there. Something I couldn’t rub away with my hands. I decided to make some chit-chat to distract myself, before I ended up scratching my skin raw.

“What was that disappearing act and the rock with the rune on it?” I asked, rubbing the Mark on my hand. It felt… itchy and restless, somehow.

Dorian hummed thoughtfully. “It seemed like a rather complicated perimeter ward,” he explained. “It allows you to create a barrier to hide something, like a secret entrance. Anyone without the key won’t be able to see a thing. They might be able to stumble their way across it if they’re lucky, but generally people don’t go examining things they can’t even see. They trust their first impression, which would be an empty clearing with a pile of rocks.” Dorian threw Bull a questioning look. “Am I right?”

Bull nodded. “Sounds about right,” he said and shrugged. “I don’t know the details, I just know how to use it.”

“It’s rather useful,” Dorian said. “You only need one key rune to be able to access it, even with a larger group of people. Only one of them touches the key, and everyone else touches each other.”

I blinked. “So… basically magic is like electricity? It goes through you?”

Dorian laughed. “If that’s the way you want to think about it,” he said and smirked. “But no, not really. Not even close.”

We eventually arrived in front of another active Eluvian. Bull gestured to it with a flourish. “Visitors first.”

Just looking at it made my skin crawl, but I was desperate to be out of this place. I glanced at Dorian and Leliana, only to be met with expectant looks. I sighed and stepped forwards. “I guess I’ll go first. Wish me luck.”

Running had worked for for Harry Potter at the Platform 9 and 3/4 quarters, so it should work for me. I broke into a sprint, and quickly stepped through. The experience was twice as bad without Bull and Dorian holding my hands, but due to the speed I had taken off with, it was over quicker.

Upon touching the ground on the other side, I would have fallen flat on my face, if someone hadn’t stopped my fall with a steady hand to my chest.

“Whoa, take it easy, boss,” Krem said with a grin.

“Krem!” I exclaimed, standing up straight. “You’re here!”

“Where else did you think I’d be?” Krem asked, leading me further away from the mirror so the others could step through. Then he grimaced, seeming to realize who he he was speaking to, and added, “Actually, don’t tell me. I don’t think I want to know.”

We waited for Dorian and Leliana to step through the Eluvian, the Iron Bull not far behind them.

“Krem!” Bull greeted with a grin, “Look who the cat dragged in. You better pay up.”

“Yeah, I figured I had lost when I saw the boss stumble through and almost break his neck,” Krem fired back. “Did you throw him or what?“

Bull looked at me with a raised eyebrow. “Maybe I should have kept holding on to you after all.”

I shrugged helplessly. “I don’t… like that form of travel. I figured a running start would get it over with quicker.”

Dorian stroked his chin. “It’s rather fascinating… but I have to agree with you. It’s not a particularly pleasant experience.”

“Where is Solas?” Bull asked Krem. The two of them started walking through the long corridor we had ended up in, and rest of us had no choice but to follow. Leliana was a quiet presence at our backs, but I could sense her curiosity.

“In the throne room, the last I heard,” Krem said. “You taking them straight to him?”

“No reason not to,” Bull said, glancing back at us. “I expect boss wants to speak with him, anyway. I doubt we could hold him back if we tried.”

“You’re right,” I said. “You couldn’t.”

By the time we came to the end of the corridor, I was itching with curiosity. Where had the blasted Eluvian taken us?

Krem pushed open the door with little fanfare, and we stepped down the stairs into a very familiar inner courtyard.

“Are you fucking kidding me?”

Bull grinned. “Welcome to Skyhold.”

I broke into a run. The others struggled to keep up with me as I sprinted through the tent-filled courtyard and towards the stairs which led up to the throne room. In the back of my mind, I realized that although anyone wasn’t out right stopping me, I received some strange looks from people. Some of them were sitting around camp fires and others just walking around on various errands. It didn’t escape my notice that most of them were elves.

I raced up the stairs, and through the open double doors, only to be met with a sight I wasn’t expecting.

Wolf idols. Wolf hides. Wolf-everything. Everywhere.

The whole throne room was decorated in the dubious style of someone who had a really big boner for the Dread Wolf.

I found Solas at the back of the room, huddled up in a quiet conversation with another elf, someone I didn’t recognize.

“What in god’s name are you wearing?”

The outfit reminded me of the pictures I had seen of him in the Trespasser DLC. It was very… feral, but also impeccably regal. Lots of fur and leather.

Solas turned to me slowly, glanced at me from my toes to my horns, and nodded to himself. “So it’s true,” he said, ignoring my outburst. “You’ve returned.”

He whispered something to the elf next to him. She nodded, curtsied, and quickly left the room.

Solas turned his full attention back to me. “Come. We have much to discuss.”


Confident that Dorian would be fine under the care of Krem and Bull, I followed Solas through a door which lead up to the battlements. None of the inner rooms seemed to be in a horrible bad condition, but as we walked through the castle, I realized that this wasn’t the castle I was used to. Unlike in the game, none of the renovation work had been done. The rooms were dusty with unuse.

“You are familiar with this castle,” Solas said, when we reached the battlements. He had been watching my reactions.

“Yeah.”

“If things had been different, would I have brought you here?” he asked, crossing his arms behind his back.

“Corypheus attacks Haven, and the Inquisition is left without its headquarters,” I explained. “You lead us to Skyhold.” I looked down, to the mass of tents and people below us. “It has another name, Tarasyl-something.”

“Tarasyl'an Te'las,” Solas corrected, and came to a stop. “Yes. That sounds like something I might have done under different circumstances.”

“How long have you been here for?” I asked.

“Nine months, give or take.”

I grimaced, looking down at the tents on the courtyard. “Yet the castle hasn’t really been renovated at all,” I pointed out. “You could have all of those people sleeping inside.”

“The base of the castle still stands, but some of the wooden parts are structurally unsafe. We haven’t had the time or the manpower to go through them,” Solas said, eyes flashing. “What do you think we’ve been doing for the past nine months?”

“To be honest, I have no idea.” I looked at him curiously. “I don’t really understand what’s happening,” I confessed. “This is all… very different from what I was expecting.”

Solas breathed out a weak chuckle. “That’s a first for you, is it?”

“Yeah.” It left me feeling like a rug had been pulled out from under me.

“When you disappeared,” Solas said, “all hope against Corypheus disappeared with you. The Inquisition was thrown into chaos. Everyone left at the Castle was imprisoned. We all thought you were dead.”

I nodded. “That bit sounds familiar,” I muttered. “But something changed, didn’t it?”

A weak smile appeared on Solas’s face. “Hope returned to us from an unexpected source,” he said. “The Iron Bull had reason to believe that you were still alive.”

“The Iron Bull?” I asked, blinking. That was the last thing I had expected him to say. “What? How would he know what happened?”

Solas nodded. “He told me he couldn’t tell me how he knew, but that we still had hope for your eventual return. Apparently, he had also prepared for capture, because he was able to break all of us out.”

I frowned. “Leliana said the Inquisition fell.”

“It did,” Solas said. “They had no chance without you.”

Gazing at him standing there, I wondered how the others had taken it when Solas broke off from them and founded his own little resistance group. Evidently not well, since Leliana seemed to be out to get him. “But here you are, still standing.”

“Here I am,” Solas said, with a slight challenge to his voice. He met my gaze more calmly than he had reason to. “The Dread Wolf, Fen Harel.”

All the air came out of my lungs like I’d been punched.

“You really did know all along, didn’t you?” Solas asked, taking a step forward, like a Wolf stalking its prey. He eyed me curiously. “You’ve known my true identity all this time, and I had no idea.”

I was afraid to speak. Hell, I was afraid to breathe.

Solas came to a stop inches away from me, looking up to meet my eyes. “In my arrogance, I believed not even you, who had shown unbelievable knowledge, would have any reason to know the truth about me,” he muttered. His hand rose, like he was about to touch. But then he lowered it, shaking his head, and took a step back.

“Whatever plans I had before,” Solas said with a self deprecating chuckle, “they are gone now. The Breach is swallowing the whole world, and Corypheus and his army of demons isn’t far behind.” He sighed. “I’ve done my best to disrupt Alexius’ plans in Redcliffe, but without your help, we have been unable to seal a single rift. The Inquisition fell months ago, and with Empress Celene’s death, so did Orlais and most of Ferelden. We have no hope of stopping Corypheus without your help.”

I swallowed. “Uh. Sorry. I don’t think that’s really an option anymore.”

Solas narrowed his eyes. “What exactly is your plan?”

“Dorian and I need to go back to Redcliffe, and steal the time amulet from Corypheus,” I said. “We’ll go back to before any of this ever happened.”

Solas’s gaze hardened. “I see.”

“I know this sounds like a load of bullshit, but none of this needs to happen,” I said. And then, because I couldn’t think of anything else to say, I added, “I’m sorry.”

Solas turned his back to me and leaned forward, both of his hands on the wall.

“You shouldn’t go back to the castle until you have a solid plan,” he said. “You can stay here for a the night, make plans, and gather your strength. My scouts have information to help you map the current forces at the Castle.” Solas looked down at the courtyard. “Now, I believe you should go back to your Tevinter friend. I’m sure he will want to hear an explanation for all of this.”

Recognizing a dismissal when I heard it, I nodded. “Thank you,” I said and turned to walk back the way we had came.

“Adaar?”

The sound of my name made me turn back. “Yeah?”

“I believe it would be best if your friend stays in the dark regarding my true identity,” Solas said. There was an undercurrent of a threat to his voice. “I will order my people not to address me by my title, but there is a very real possibility they will slip up.”

He didn’t want Dorian to know, understandably enough. “What can I do about that?”

“You said you used to be a writer,” Solas said, his face unreadable. “Take Varric’s advice. Make something up.”


Dorian was waiting for me at the doors of the main hall, with Bull in tow. “Finally,” he said, crossing his arms. “Where did you disappear off to?”

“I had to talk with Solas,” I said, scratching my neck. I gave Bull a look, trying to convey something with my face but not even knowing what it was. “He’s… uh. He’s kind of the leader around here.”

“I thought I must have misheard you two before, but now you said it again,” Dorian said, his eyebrows climbed up towards his hairline. “Are we talking about the same person? That bald elf? The silent type?”

I nodded. “It’s complicated.”

“I never thought he’d be the leader of anything,” Dorian said.

Bull chuckled. “You’ve never seen him in action. He does very convincing speeches.”

Dorian gave him a dubious look. “Right,” he said and turned to me. He lowered his voice before speaking. “No matter. What I’m interested in is the fact that that there are almost no humans in this place.”

A pair of elves walked past us, paying us no heed, and Dorian fell silent. He didn’t continue speaking until the pair had completely passed us. “Now, why is that?” he asked, giving Bull a pointed look.

Bull shrugged casually. “Who knows.”

“Solas’s… um, tactic of recruitment…” I trailed off. “I believe it works best with the elves.”

“What tactic is that?”

Bull caught my eye, and slowly said, “He assumed the identity of the Dread Wolf, and has kept Alexius shitting his pants in fear ever since.”

Dorian gave us a blank look.

“The trickster god, Fen’Harel,” I clarified. “None of this ringing any bells?”

“Yes, yes,” Dorian said, waving a hand. “I know who Fen’Harel is, I’m not a total imbecile. But what does a mythical figure from elven lore have to do with recruiting?”

“I think it’s largely metaphorical,” I said, praying that Dorian would take my explanation at face value. I didn’t like lying to him, but I also didn’t want anger this Solas. He had an army of elves at his beck and call, after all. Didn’t seem wise to mess with him, no matter how much I wanted to let Dorian know the truth. I don’t think he was good enough liar to be able to fake not knowing.

“Doesn’t matter if he’s real or not, all it matters is that Solas is willing to play the role. At the brink of Thedas’ destruction, he’s taking a stand for the elves.” I paused. “I don’t think anyone’s really done that to them before. Stood up for them, that is.”

Dorian’s face softened. “Ah,” he said, visibly swallowing. “That would certainly explain it.”

I explained everything Solas had conveyed to me about the current situation. Bull offered couple of comments here and there. At the end of the explanation, Dorian seemed thoughtful, but he didn’t ask any further questions. Once we had talked through it, the three of us descended down to the courtyard, where we were met with yet another familiar face.

“I’ll be damned,” Varric said with a strained laughed. “Krem was telling the truth for once.”

I gave him a muted grin and sat down next to him. “Hey, Varric. It’s good to see you.”

Dorian sat next to me, since he had nowhere else to go. Bull had told us he had some work to do, but he’d promised to join us later. Leliana was nowhere to be seen.

Varric’s presence made me painfully aware of the fact that I didn’t see recognize anyone else in the courtyard. Not a single one of them.

“…just you, huh?” I asked softly.

Varric grimaced. “Just me. Sorry to disappoint.”

“They said that the Inquisition fell,” I said, rubbing my face. “I didn’t want to take it so literally.”

“Some of them might still be out there,” Varric offered, but he didn’t sound like he believed it. “I heard Leliana made it. She came with you, right?”

I nodded.

Varric’s shoulders lowered a little. “Good.”

“What about Vivienne?” I asked. “She was at Redcliffe with us.”

“She went back to Orlais.”

Shit. “Ah…” I trailed off. “No other familiar faces?”

Varric shook his head and then paused, giving me a curious look. “Well, the king of Ferelden was here a couple of weeks ago, but I don’t think you know him.”

My jaw dropped. “Alistair was here?”

“Of course you know the King of Ferelden by his first name,” Dorian muttered.

Varric let out a strangled laugh. “I forgot who I was talking to,” he chortled. “Yeah, as you said… King Alistair was here along with an old buddy of his from his Warden days. But they only stayed for a couple of days. Apparently they’ve been going around Ferelden, helping folks to defend themselves and taking down all the Venatori agents they could get their hands on.”

Well, now I was curious. “Who was the friend?”

“Antivan crow called Zevran,” Varric said. “I actually met him once in Kirkwall, years ago.”

I slapped Varric’s shoulder repeatedly. “What?? Both Alistair and Zevran were here and I missed them?!”

“Ouch, don’t hit the messenger,” Varric moaned in jest, rubbing his shoulder.

“I want a refund,” I said, turning to Dorian, and slumping the majority of my body weight against his shoulder. “This is worst the time travel ever.”

Dorian sighed, but didn’t push me away. “Isn’t that what our plan is all about?” he muttered. “A refund?”

“I guess,” I said. “And I shouldn’t be complaining. This is better than some alternatives.” I paused. “It’s not like I was expecting everything to be rosy.”

Dorian stiffened underneath my weight. “…it could have been worse?”

“Way worse,” I said, thinking of those Lyrium infested companions who always greeted the Inquisitor in the dungeons. Compared to that, Bull seemed to have been lucky. And yet…

“Despite our luck, let’s not count our blessings, yet,” Dorian said. “Not until we’re completely out of this mess.”

I nodded. “Point taken.”

“Hey, Feathers,” Varric said, interrupting out quiet conversation. “I had Krem dig something up for you,” he said with a grin and pointed to his right.

Krem was walking towards us with a guitar in hand. My guitar.

I jumped up. “You kept it?” I asked with wonder in my voice. “That’s really my guitar?”

Krem handed it to me. “It’s a bit banged up, but nothing should be broken,” he said with a grin. “We were hoping you would grace us with a couple of songs tonight, after dinner.”

Our loud conversation hadn’t gone unnoticed. People around us started murmuring.

“I haven’t heard music in ages,” someone wondered.

“Me neither.”

My eyes watered without my permission.

“Of course,” I said, gently stroking the guitar’s wood with my fingers. The wood was covered in scratches and the whole thing as covered in dust, but the as Krem said, nothing was broken, and all the strings were still attached. Considering the circumstances, it would do just fine. “As many as you like.”


Bull eventually joined us around the campfire. And weirdly enough, Leliana was with him. Bull sat down next to me, but Leliana kept her distance. She sat down across from us, on the other side of the fire. The shadows danced across her face and made her features seem softer. However, her eyes were steely.

“You, uh…” I trailed off, “speak with Solas yet?”

“Yes,” she said, the whole syllable possibly dripping with acid. She didn’t seem inclined to share anything more.

Dorian glanced between us, but didn’t say a word.

Honestly, I was starting to feel like this whole thing was a huge ass mistake. This future might have been better than the alternative I was expecting, but things were still messed up. And it was all my fault for trying to keep to the script.

I hugged my knees to my chest, clutching the fabric of my pants so hard my knuckles turned pale. “Right.”

Leliana eyed me for a while, before speaking again. “You knew what was at stake,” Leliana said, her voice cold. “And you let it happen anyway. I know that to you this is just some kind of mistake that you think you can erase, to make it seem like it never happened.” She glared at me. “But it did happen. We all lived through it.”

I tried to form a sentence, but the lump in my throat made it hard to catch my breath, let alone speak.

Nobody spoke. Even Varric avoided my gaze.

“That’s a little unfair, don’t you think?”

My head swirled to look at Bull. He was steadily holding Leliana’s gaze like it was a challenge. “Just because he knows the future doesn’t mean he’s omniscient.”

He was sweet to defend me, but Leliana was right. It was my fault. I should have just come up with a plan to stop Alexius from throwing us into the future in the first place.

“’S alright,” I muttered. “I should’ve found a way to stop this.”

Bull sighed. “Look, I don’t claim to know how any of this works, but isn’t that what you’re planning on doing? If you go back, then you’ll effectively stop all this from happening.”

“That depends which theory one believes in,” I muttered. Technically, there could be several time lines which intersected with each other… Or there could be just the one, which warped back when something changed. Time travel was… complicated.

Dorian put his hand on my shoulder. The simple touch felt incredibly grounding.

“I know,” he said. And I think he did know. After all, he was the one who had researched all of this years ago with Alexius. “But this has happened now, and we need to deal with it.” He threw a disappointed look at Leliana. “Throwing the blame around doesn’t help any of us.”

Leliana met his gaze for a moment, then looked away.

“Thanks.” I didn’t deserve him or Bull defending me, but it still warmed my heart.

“Don’t thank me yet,” Dorian muttered. “We still have to get out of this mess in one piece.”

Dinner was served not soon after, and even Solas descended to the courtyard for it, although he didn’t join our little circle, preferring to keep to himself. The food looked very bland, and the portions were small, but apparently there was enough to go around, because everyone got a plate, even us.

I stared down at the plate in my hands, and my empty stomach growled at the sight of food. However, my appetite was completely gone. “It’s stew.”

Dorian cracked a smile. “It’s always stew.”

Bull snorted from where he was seated, on my right. “It’s the end of the world, and you two are complaining about the food?” he asked.

The end of the world. Right. That didn’t help my appetite at all.

“I don’t expect you to understand, since I you wouldn’t know quality even if it hit you in the face, but I for one am used to better things in life,” Dorian countered with his usual snark.

Bull grinned. “Oh, I can recognize quality, all right,” he said, and despite his words, his eye was glinting with mirth, “I’m just not a spoiled little princeling like you.”

“Spoiled?” Dorian gasped dramatically. “For the hundredth time, I’m not spoiled. It’s called having standards.”

Despite the overall gloomy situation, I couldn’t help but duck my head to hide my grin at the sight of their playful banter. Varric obviously felt the same, because he caught my gaze and rolled his eyes.

“Oh, is that what it’s called?” Bull practically purred out. “Explains a lot.”

Dorian’s face flushed. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Bull’s face remained impassive, apart from a little smirk dancing on his lips. “Oh, nothing.”

“You—”

I burst into soft giggles. They both stopped talking, and looked at me. “Thanks guys. I really needed that.”

“I’m sure I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Dorian said, struggling to keep his face blank, but unable to keep a tiny smile from crossing his face. “But you’re welcome.”

Thanks to their cute, morale-raising bickering, I managed to finish the stew and keep it down. Then I drank until my mug was empty. Remembering my promise to Krem, I started tuning up the guitar in order to sing.

Bull pointedly set aside his empty plate, and leaned forward so that he was leaning his elbows against his knees, resting his head on top of his palms.

I tuned the guitar for a while, just playing out random chords, until the sounds of eating started to fade. One by one, people turned their eyes towards me, and the courtyard filled with silent anticipation. Wondering what to play, I looked glanced around, and my gaze was inexplicably drawn towards Solas. He was sitting by a fire closes to the stairs, alone. He caught my gaze, and suddenly I knew what I was going to play first.

I looked down, and started plucking the melancholy notes of the melody.

Wake to find only silence
Elvhenan faded, gone
Our memory lost to time
Only ghosts sing the old songs

Alone, reap what you’ve sown
Harellan, Fen’Harel
King only of dust and bones

People broke into murmurs around us. I felt the weight of Solas’s gaze burning into the back of my head, but I ignored it and kept singing.

And all you saw were shadows
And left only with your pride
In the void, bitterness grew
Till pride tore open the sky

Will darkness now reign?
Halani, Fen’Harel
Opposed stood a single Flame

In another world, Lavellan and Solas would have been comrades, friends… lovers, even. But in the end, it all went sideways, because of Solas and his plans.

One shield to keep the dark at bay
There was no choice but to stay
Though they should be enemies
Fight on, fight on, Wolf and Flame

Fight to bring tomorrow’s light
Hellathen, Fen’Harel
We’re not lost, you have been blind

I didn’t dare to glance at him, so I just kept playing.

Still all you saw were shadows
Framing for a vivid flame
Oh how you dreaded the day
Amber eyes would burn with blame

Fight for the one by your side
Enasalin, Hahren
Wolf and Flame to back the night
Though victory has a price

Left only with severed ties
Dareth shiral, Fen’Harel
Such cost for your gentle lies

Still alone, where will you go?
Ir abelas, Fen’Harel
King only of dust and bones

Everyone clapped politely, and I finally chanced a look at Solas. His face was blank, and he stared at me for a moment. Then, without a word, he stood up, and walked back inside. I watched him walk away, and wondered if I had made another, terrible mistake.

“Tough audience,” Bull commented.

I grimaced. “Yeah…” I trailed off. “Actually, I think I should go after him.” I pushed the guitar into his arms. “Here, take this.”

Bull accepted the instrument with a shrug. “Don’t be too long.”

Accompanied by confused murmurs from the crowd, I climbed up the stairs towards Skyhold’s throne room. Reaching the doorway, I only hesitated for a moment before stepping inside. I wasn’t sure if Solas wanted me there… and honestly, all of the wolf decor was kinda creeping me out.

Contrary to my expectation, Solas wasn’t in the throne room. I frowned, and walked to a door on the left which led to the rotunda. The door was heavy on its hinges and it creaked audibly in the empty room, making me flinch. See, this shit is why I wasn’t a rogue.

Solas had his back turned to the door. If I hadn’t been looking out for it, I might have missed the tensing of his shoulders. Apart from that, he didn’t react to my presence.

Well, he didn’t order me to get out, so I took it as a win, walking further into the rotunda and coming to a stop on his right. He was just standing there, looking at the empty walls. In another life, that’s where all of the Inquisitor’s choices would be recorded as beautiful murals.

My left hand instinctively clenched up. The Mark tingled along the movement. “So…” I trailed off, hugging the arm to my side. “Do you remember how I asked you to keep studying the Mark?”

Solas glanced at me briefly. He seemed to be debating whether to answer or not. Finally, he sighed, and turned so that he was looking at me fully. “I do.”

“There’s actually a good reason for it,” I said. “And not just the fact that it makes my arm hurt.”

A slight frown appeared on his face. “That reason would be…?”

“I’m gonna lose the arm,” I said and swallowed. “If we don’t come up with a solution soon, then the mark can’t be removed without removing the whole thing.”

“I’m sorry.” Solas face softened. “The Mark… it’s been killing you since you got it.”

“Yeah, I know,” I said, grimacing. “Look… I don’t claim to know everything. But since, you know, your secret is out in the open and all, and we can talk freely about…” I waved my hand at the Mark, “this whole thing, don’t you have any tricks up your sleeve which might have even the slightest possibly of helping me out?”

“Hmm.” He looked down at my arm, and then at up my face. “First, tell me something.”

“Yes…?”

“That song in the courtyard,” he said, crossing his arms behind his back. “It is not one I’ve heard before. Is it from the future, or from your world?”

I hesitated. “It’s…not from the future.”

“I see.”

Running a hand down my face, I sighed. “I’m sorry, it was kinda bad taste to sing it in the first place.”

“It told the story of my failures,” Solas murmured. “However, there yet remains those which can be fixed. We must succeed in returning you to the time you left. Corypheus must be stopped.”

He took a deep breath, and turned to face me fully. “Now, let’s take look at that hand.”

I handed him my arm and he took it. He cast a couple of spells, before sighing irritably. “It’s no use,” he said. “Our time is too limited to be able to help you now.”

“Shit.” My hand clenched into a fist.

“However,” Solas said, letting go of my arm, “once you are back in your own time, ask me again.”

I looked up at him. “Oh?”

“With enough time and study… It might be possible.” He gave me an inscrutable look. “With Corypheus looming over us, removal of the Mark didn’t use to be a priority. But if you’re persuasive enough, I’m sure you can convince me.”

“Okay,” I said, giving him a smile. “Thank you, Solas. Truly.”


 After my talk with Solas, I returned to the courtyard and resumed singing. I ended up performing so many songs that I was starting to lose my voice. Luckily, that was the point when Solas announced that he was turning in for the night. That began a massive domino effect, with practically everyone getting ready for sleep.

When it came time to turn in for the night, I kind of forgot where I was, because I approached Bull like I was used to doing every night back in the original timeline.

Bull took one look at me and said, “We can’t.”

I blinked. “What?”

“It’s too dangerous,” he said, his mouth a thin line of dissatisfaction. “I was able to hold your hand back at the portal, but only because it was just for a couple of minutes. Risking a whole night of proximity with me is out of the question.”

“But…”

He grabbed my shoulder. “No buts,” he said. “You have to sleep without me.”

“I’m not sure I can,” I said. Suddenly horrified, I realized it was the truth.

Bull sighed. “Maybe…” he trailed off. “Maybe ask the mage if he’ll help you.”

“Dorian?” I asked. “Is there a spell he could use?”

“No, you idiot,” he said, rolling his eyes. “Ask him to cuddle with you.”

My cheeks heated up. “That’s, uh…”

“I’m not a magical teddy bear,” Bull said dryly. “It’s not me. It’s the physical contact.”

“I….” I trailed off. “I don’t know…”

“Just trust me,” he said, turning me around so that I was facing the direction where Dorian standing, talking with Varric. Bull gave me a little push. “Try it and you’ll see.”

I took a couple of steps forward, and glanced back at him uncertainly.

He waved his hand at me in a shushing motion. “Go on.”

I swallowed and took another step. When I was within hearing distance and they could hear my footsteps, Dorian looked up at me. “Ready to turn in?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I said, and my hand instinctively went to the back of my neck. It felt like my whole face was on fire.

I opened my mouth. Then closed it.

“I’m setting up over there with the Iron Bull.” Shit. That’s not what I meant to say.

Dorian nodded. “I’ll join you in a minute.”

I speed-walked back to Bull. He gave me an unimpressed look.

“You chickened out, didn’t you?”

“I prefer the term ‘tactical retreat’.”

Bull sighed. “Come on, let’s get you set up. Maybe you can catch a couple of hours of sleep without cuddles.” He didn’t sound too hopeful.

We ended up sleeping next to each other. Bull was on my left, Dorian on my right, and I was a respectable distance away from both of them.

Sleep didn’t come easily to any of us. It didn’t help that the night sky never really got completely dark, with the Breach covering such a big chunk of it. The thing cast a green pallor on everything, like a great, big, diseased moon.

Even Dorian kept tossing and turning for ages. When he finally fell asleep, I was tired, but not any closer to falling asleep. I sighed, and turned on my side to look at Bull.

He too was lying on his side, gazing right at me.

“Hey.”

“Hey.”

My hand inched towards the space between us. Bull’s own hand mirrored the movement, until our fingers were inches away from touching.


I must have dozed off at some point, because I woke up to Dorian moaning about it being too early. Bull was already gone, and the rest of the Dread Wolf’s forces were up and running. We were the last ones to wake up.

Although I desperately wanted to stay in bed, I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and forced myself to get up. I was still gathering up my borrowed sleeping roll when Dorian broke the silence.

“So what exactly is our plan?”

I glanced at him. “Solas said his scouts have information about the castle. We’ll hear what they have to say, and then we can make a plan of attack.”

“I don’t care about the plan of attack,” Dorian said, rolling his eyes. “I mean the amulet. You’ve been so vague about it, I just know you have something planned.”

My hands stilled.

“So I was right.”

Sighing, I abandoned the sleeping roll and stood up. “Yeah, I guess you needed to know at some point,” I said. “After all, this all depends on you.”

Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Me?”

I took a step closer to Dorian until we were within whisper distance. “I know I said we’ll get the amulet and go back in time to the moment we left, right?”

He nodded.

“Except, I’ve got a better plan,” I whispered with a grin. “You’re definitely not going to like it.”


The official planning commenced after breakfast. Everyone who was in the know gathered inside the throne room, even Leliana, who I hadn’t seen since our talk before last night’s dinner. Varric was there too, and Krem. Apparently the two of them had taken the liberty of talking with the scouts and gathering up relevant information about the castle.

The situation over there looked pretty dire. Alexius had barricaded himself into the main hall. Since our departure yesterday, he hard re-arranged his forces so that most of them were protecting the entrances.

“I’ll send three groups of our best soldiers to create distractions on two separate sides of the castle, away from the main rooms,” Solas said. “With the seven of us, we should be able to deal with the remaining forces and make our way to the main room.”

“Wait,” Krem said, his eyes wide. “You’re coming too?”

Everyone turned to look at Solas. “Of course,” he said, giving Krem a cool look. “The Herald needs all the help he can get.”

Krem and Bull exchanged glances.

“What’s so unusual about it?” Dorian asked.

“Nothing,” Bull said. “We just didn’t think it was that kind of a mission.”

Solas raised an eyebrow. “This might be the most important mission yet.”

I blinked, looking from Solas to Bull and to Krem, who was still looking slightly awed by Solas’s participation. “Right…” I trailed off. “If my information still holds true, Alexius is holed up in the main throne room. That door is sealed with shards of red lyrium, and we need all of those shards to be able to enter. There are five of them.”

Solas nodded. “I’ll tell everyone to keep an eye out for them.”

I grimaced, looking around the room. Leliana, Krem, Varric… Bull.

“I feel obliged to warn all of you,” I said. “Things might have changed, but from what Solas told me yesterday, I don’t think things haven’t changed enough. If Corypheus still holds a demon army at his command, what I’ve seen might still come to pass.”

Leliana’s expression tightened. “And what is that?”

“If you come with us, this might be it,” I said. “Before things changed, I saw a future where Corypheus arrived to Redcliffe with his army, ready to strike down Alexius for his failings. If the old timeline keeps, he might still come, and if that happens, I’m not sure this is a mission you can come back from.”

Silence. Nobody breathed.

“That is a risk we’ll have to take.”

I looked at Solas in surprise. “Are you sure? You’ve got a good thing going on here. You’re under no obligation to help me.”

“With the way things are now, Corypheus cannot be beaten,” Solas said, frowning. He seemed to be truly regretting the way things had turned out. “If getting that amulet is our last chance, then be it. Right now we’re just surviving, but how long? Until the next winter? Until the Breach grows, and there will be nothing left for the victors?” he asked, sweeping his gaze from face to face. “We’ve been preparing to make our last stand for a while. This is that stand.”

Krem, Varric, and Bull nodded.

Leliana crossed her arms, but didn’t disagree.

“Even if you won’t be there to see the results?” I asked.

Solas looked at me, his face unreadable. “Even then.”


It really wasn’t what I expected at all.

Unlike in the game, where the Inquisitor stormed the castle with a small party made up of his closest companions, this time was different. Almost everyone in the Dread Wolf’s camp was preparing for the attack against Alexius. Everywhere I looked, people were packing their things, crafting arrows, and sharpening their respective pointy objects.

By the late afternoon, everyone was ready. The three groups of Solas’s soldiers went through the Eluvian first. Once they were through, it was our turn. The walk through the creepy, magical crossroads was as unpleasant as last time, but this time there was an undercurrent of something else. Something more sinister, thickly laced with with anticipation.

Stepping through the Eluvian into the forest clearing, underneath the afternoon sun and the green glow of the Breach, I shivered.

Our little group of six made our way through the gates. Nobody spoke until we came across the first group of Venatori, and Solas did something completely unexpected.

He took a running leap towards the enemies, and in a blink of an eye, turned into a massive, six eyed wolf. A gaping maw full of pointed teeth tore into the Venatori swordsman closest to him. The poor guy didn’t have time to react before he was ripped into shreds.

“What the fuck?!”

Bull turned around, glanced at the six eyed wolf, and gave me a rueful grin. “Impressive, right?” he said, and parried a sword strike from a Venatori soldier. Couple of more strikes and the guy was down. Bull wiped blood from his cheek.

Krem laughed a little breathlessly. “Makes you glad he’s on our side, huh?”

My jaw was still hanging open. “I didn’t know he could do that!”

Dorian came to stand next to me. He cast a protective barrier over Solas, who glanced back at us before tearing into the next Venatori soldier.

“You could have warned us,” Dorian said, his voice wavering. “Shape shifting is not something you see every day.”

“It’s a neat little trick he’s picked up along the way,” Bull said, glancing at Dorian and giving me a pointed look. Don’t blow the game now.

As much as I wanted to shout, ‘Dorian, that’s the actual goddamn Dread Wolf right there!’, I couldn’t. It wasn’t safe for Dorian to know who Solas really was. If it had been just an ordinary secret, I would have told him… But if we managed to return, and Dorian’s reactions to Solas changed, then he would be in danger. I didn’t want some agent of Fen’Harel stabbing him in the dead of the night while he slept.

“I guess that’s fair,” I said, thinking of Morrigan, “I know another apostate who was never trained in a circle but could turn into a giant spider. I suppose this isn’t too different from that.”

“No wonder he took the name of the Dread Wolf. With that talent, it’s quite fitting,” Dorian said. Then he rolled his eyes, and muttered, “I’ll never understand hedge mages.”

Once the first battle was over, Solas turned back into himself. Nobody said a word as we dug through the pockets of all the Venatori soldiers. Well, what was left of them.

“I found the first shard,” Solas said. He grabbed it with a piece of cloth, and raised it until it was visible to all of us. Then he put it inside a pouch which was hanging from his belt.

I sighed in relief. “With any luck, we’ll be through that door in no time.”

We were indeed able to find four more lyrium shards just making our way through the castle and towards the throne room. The whole thing was easier than I thought it would be.

I must have jinxed myself, because before we made it to the door, a rift opened up in the middle of the hall and we were forced to fight five whole terror demons plus a pair of wraiths. By the time the battle was over, we were exhausted.

“I doubt Alexius will go down without a fight,” I warned, rubbing my aching hand. “If there’s a chance to take a breather, it’s now.”

Solas agreed, so we took a couple of minutes to bandage any wounds. The warriors of our group all took rejuvenation potions, and the mages followed suit with lyrium. Then we gulped down the last of our water.

“Well, it’s now or never,” Dorian said, looking at the imposing door. “Hand over the shards. I think I know how to work this thing.”

Solas did as was asked, and looked on curiously as Dorian figured out how to open the locking mechanism. It took maybe ten, fifteen minutes, and then the massive doors opened up slowly. We strode inside and walked the length of the throne room, where Alexius himself was waiting for us, standing with his back to the room in front of a fire place.

“And here you are, finally, ” Alexius said, not even bothering turning to face us. “I knew you would appear again. Not that it would be now. But I knew I hadn’t destroyed you. My final failure.”

“Was it worth it?” Dorian asked, his voice cracking. “Everything you did to the world? To yourself?”

“It doesn’t matter now,” Alexius said. “All we can do is wait for the end.”

I exchanged looks with Dorian. “The end?”

“All that I fought for, all that I betrayed, and what have I wrought?” Alexius continued, “Ruin and death. There is nothing else.” He turned around. “The Elder One comes, for me, for you, for us all.”

While he had been speaking, Leliana had walked up to the front. She grabbed Felix by his armor and lifted a knife to his throat.

Alexius cried out in alarm. “Felix!”

“That’s Felix?” Dorian asked. Felix was so pale and lifeless that he was barely recognizable even to his best friend. “Maker’s breath, Alexius. What have you done?”

“He would have died, Dorian,” Alexius pleaded, “I saved him! Please, don’t hurt my son. I’ll do anything you ask.”

Conflicted, I looked from Alexius to Leliana. On the other hand, that wasn’t really Felix anymore. It was a lifeless husk of a human being. But Alexius didn’t see it, so killing him wouldn’t really serve any other agenda than pointless revenge.

“Leliana.”

At her name, she looked at me.

“We can get more information by keeping him alive,” I said, even though I had no idea how much of the Corypheus’s plans Alexius would be willing to, or able to, divulge. “Please.”

Leliana frowned, and then after an excruciating wait, she nodded, and lowered the knife.

I turned to Alexius. “Please, tell us what you know, and give us the amulet. We can—”

My plead was interrupted, because two elves slipped through the ajaar stone doors, one supporting the other. “Fen’Harel!” the first one called. He was wounded, holding his side in a painful way. “There is an army of demons marching on Redcliffe!”

They came to a stop in front of us, and the second elf spoke. “We don’t have enough men to hold them back for long.”

Everyone turned to look at Solas. “I see.” He closed his eyes with a sigh, and then looked at me. “Continue, while we still have time.”

I nodded. “Alexius—”

“There’s no point… My son is gone, isn’t he?” Alexius muttered. He slid to the floor, eyes blankly staring at Felix and Leliana. “I tried countless and failed to correct the mistake at the Conclave. The Elder One is coming for us all. There is no escape.”

“None of this has to happen!” Dorian snapped. “Just give us the amulet—”

Alexius either didn’t hear us, or he refused to listen. He continued muttering about the Elder One, completely ignoring our pleads.

At that moment, I don’t think anyone expected for a spell to knock Alexius unconscious.

I whirled around. “Who did that?”

“It wasn’t me,” Dorian said.

“It was me.”

Solas walked up to Alexius, bent down, and pulled the amulet from his neck. “He was getting tedious with his ramblings. We are running out of time.” He stood up. “Now, Dorian, begin your spell. You are the expert, after all.”

Dorian and I exchanged glances. He nodded. “Right, hand over the amulet and I’ll—”

“I think I’ll keep a hold of it for now,” Solas said. He graced us with a small smirk. “After all, I’m going with you.”

It was so quiet, you could hear a pin drop.

“That is not a good idea,” I said.

“Why not?” Solas raised an eyebrow.

I glanced at Dorian, who was giving me a meaningful look. Behind his back, he was holding up two fingers. “Uh, because, there can’t be two of you in the same time,” I said. “It will mess up everything.”

Solas nodded. “Of course,” he said. “The other me will have to go.”

I broke into cold sweat. Shit. This path clearly going towards a Very Bad Ending. “That’s not what I meant…”

Solas traced the amulet with his finger. “Whatever your meaning, we are running out of time,” he said. “Begin the spell.”

Dorian grimaced.

Fucking shit. We couldn’t have this future Solas coming with us and killing his past self. It just… wasn’t right any way you looked at it.

“Please,” I said. “Don’t do this.”

Solas shook his head. “I might not be able to go back before the Conclave, but with everything I know now, I will be able to—”

He dropped to the floor, unconscious. Krem was stood behind him, holding the tilt of his sword as a blunt weapon.

What the hell?

“Good job, Krem,” Bull said.

“Thank you,” Leliana said. “I was getting tired of listening to him.”

“What?” I repeated, my jaw hanging open as my head swiveled between them. “Did you know he would do this?”

“I had my suspicions,” Bull said with a grimace. “I never fully trusted him. Well, more than usual.”

Wait… “Have you and Leliana been working together all this time?”

Leliana crossed her arms. “Bull has kept a open line of contact to the best of his abilities.”

Bull lazily saluted at her, and then turned to me. “Our only mission was to prepare for your return, and then get your ass out of here. Now, as long as that amulet does what it’s meant to do, we’ve accomplished our goal.” He looked towards the door, frowning. “Although, I don’t think we’re quite done here yet.”

I just blinked at him. “So… all this time, you all have been… just waiting for me to come back?”

“Yep.”

“But how did you know? Who told you all of this?”

“That’s where it gets complicated,” Bull said, his expression turning blank. “I can’t tell you without the code word, boss.”

“Code word?”

“Try it,” he said. “When I say ‘time travel’ and ‘codeword’, what’s the first word that pops into your head?””

“But—”

“The first one, boss.”

Absently biting my tongue between my teeth, I wondered. Could it be that simple?

“Gallifrey?”

Bull’s expression softened. “Got it in one, boss,” he said. “You told me all of this, and then told me not to tell anyone about it unless certain conditions were met.”

“I told you? But—”

“Wibbly wobbly timey wimey,” Bull said. “Those were your exact words.”

I covered my mouth to stop myself from laughing at the absurdity of the situation and those words coming out of the Iron Bull’s mouth.

Dorian leaned down to pick up the amulet from Solas’s slackened grasp. “Yes, yes, this is all very fascinating,” he said and stood. “I need to get started on this spell.”

“How long will it take you?” Leliana asked.

“Give me quarter of an hour, maybe less, and I should be able to figure it out,” Dorian said, and gave me a pointed look.

I nodded and turned my back to him. “Guys, is it doable?” I asked.

Bull looked to where the two elves from earlier were still waiting. After Solas had fallen down in a heap, they had silently watched our discussion.

“You two!” Bull barked out, “How close is the enemy?”

“They were almost at the gates,” the first elf, who’d spoken with Solas, said. “It won’t take them long to break through the rest of our defenses now. And without him—”

“Never mind that,” Bull cut him off. He turned to the second elf. “You can still run, right?”

The elf nodded cautiously. “Yes, sir.”

“Go see what the situation at the gates is, and report back as soon as it gets worse.”

He didn’t need to be told twice, because he high tailed right out of there, leaving his comrade looking at us with thinly veiled disgust.

“Can you still stand?” Bull asked him, and as he received a nod, he continued, “Go on the other side of the door and yell if we’ve got incoming.”

“I’ll join him just in case,” Varric said, and turned to Krem. “Kid, come with me.”

Krem glanced at Bull, who nodded.

“Keep it up, boss,” Krem said, gripping my arm and pulling me into a brief hug.

Varric did the same. “It’s been a pleasure, Feathers.”

My eyes burned.

Then they both walked to the other side of the door, but didn’t close it. I hoped that it wasn’t the last time I would see them.

I glanced towards Dorian, and saw the he was already deep in thought, figuring out the spell. He kept muttering and glaring at the amulet. Hopefully he would be able to include my additions to the spell-work, the ones I had asked him to do before we had left Skyhold. I could only pray that he succeeded, because my whole plan hinged on it. I didn’t want all of this to be for nothing.

Bull touched my shoulder. “Seems like it’s time for goodbyes.”

I turned to to look up at him. “Oh.” I swallowed around the lump in my throat. “I don’t like goodbyes.”

“I don’t doubt you,” Bull said with a humorless chuckle. Then with slow, gentle movements, giving me time to stop him if I wanted to, he caught both of my hands in his, raising them to his chest, on top of his heart, and just… held them there.

Blinking rapidly, I tried to lessen the stinging in my eyes.

“These days, I don’t let people touch me,” he whispered. “But I’ll make an exception for you, even though I know I shouldn’t.”

“Don’t,” I said, my voice breaking. “Don’t…”

“Don’t what?” Bull asked. He leaned down until our heads were almost touching. “Die?”

I closed my eyes and leaned forward, closing the distance and pressing our foreheads together. “Yeah.”

“Boss,” he sighed, “I’ve been dead for a very long time.”

Goddamn Red Lyrium. I wanted to hunt down the person who had hurt him and make sure they met a very painful end.

“You know, boss,” Bull whispered. “Normally I’m not a jealous guy. But the thought that there’s another me out there, one who needs you… and who gets to keep cuddling your dumb ass until you get tired of me—”

“I’ll never get tired of you—”

“—I have to admit it makes me a little jealous.”

I broke into ugly laughter, which turned into sniffles, and finally into quiet sobs.

Bull lifted his head and softly touched my jaw with his hand. “Hey.”

“H-hey,” I said, my breath hiccuping as I tried to fight the tears.

“Be good to me, okay?” Bull asked. “I like to pretend I have everything under control, but I don’t. That guy needs you more than he’s telling you.”

I nodded. “O-okay.”

“And stop being so damn self-sacrificing. Anyone who has a pair of eyes in their head can see that you like me,” he added.

“You only h-have one eye,” I pointed out, sniffing.

Bull grinned weakly. “Oh yeah, Krem had to point it out to me.”

I let out a weak laugh and threw my hands around his shoulders, hiding my face into the crook of his neck. “You’re unbelievable,” I muttered.

A polite cough alerted us to the fact that we weren’t alone, and I turned to see Dorian who standing few feet away from us, the amulet in his hands. “It’s more or less ready,” he said, eying the two of us curiously before averting his gaze. “I just need you to come stand here so I can start casting.”

I reluctantly pulled myself away from Bull, but not before squeezing him one more time around his waist.

Bull hummed into the hug and then patted me on my head, the touch lingering for a second. Before separating completely, he bent down and whispered into my ear, “I want you to take the initiative. But I don’t have similar restrictions about the mage.”

Then he turned and said, “Hey Dorian, before you start…”

Dorian raised an eyebrow. “Yes?”

“Come here,” Bull said.

I just watched the two of them dumbly, having no idea what the hell was happening.

Dorian took a hesitant step forward. And then another. And another, until he was standing in front of Bull, looking up at him. “What is it? We’re on a bit of a schedule here, if you haven’t noti—”

Bull drew him into a long kiss. It was sweet and almost chaste, and Dorian didn’t really have time to react, apart from a slight slackening of his hands, which fell to his sides, pulled down by gravity.

When Bull finally withdrew, he was smiling smugly.

Dorian stared up at him, mouth slightly ajaar.

Bull turned to me, winked at me with his single eye, the ridiculous buffoon, and patted Dorian on the back. “You better start the spell, big guy.”

“You— you—” Dorian stammered out, but he was cut off by a roar that reverberated through the whole castle.

Krem popped his head through the doors. “Chief, we’ve got incoming!”

“That’s my cue,” Bull said, and stepped past us. He exchanged a glance with Leliana. “You’re their last line of defense, Nightingale. It’s been a pleasure.”

Leliana nodded at him. “Likewise. Maker be with you.”

With a last fleeting glance at me, Bull briskly walked to the doors, stepped through them, and pulled them close with a deafening slam.

“Dorian!” Leliana barked. “Get on it. We don’t have much time.”

Dorian shook his head as if to clear it, then nodded. “Stand there and don’t move an inch,” he said to me and started casting a spell. I did as I was told, but my gaze kept returning to where Bull had disappeared behind those stone doors.

The amulet rose from Dorian’s grasp into the air, and a green, glowing vortex surrounded it. While working to cast the spell, I heard him mutter to himself angrily, “That—that absolute lummox—”

I glanced at Leliana. There was a loud bang, and the stone doors shook. “You have as much time as I have arrows,” she said, stepping closer to the doors, and grabbing an arrow from her quiver. She started reciting.

“Though darkness closes, I am shielded by flame.”

We heard screams and yells, and the doors creaked open. Three Venatori soldiers and a massive terror demon stepped inside, but not before throwing someone on the floor like a lifeless rag doll. It was— the horns— that was—

“Andraste guide me. Maker, take me to your side.”

Dorian must have sensed me tensing up, because he yelled at me over the humming of the spell. “You move now and we all die!”

The whistle of arrows and the sounds of fighting faded in the background. I could only hear the blood thrumming in my ears and the rapid beating of my heart.

Leliana stood against the Venatori, but she was fighting a losing battle. There were too many of them. The terror demon was about to—

There was a bright flash, I shielded my eyes. When the glare receded… It was over.

The throne room was dark and unmanned. In the dead of the night, only our ragged breathing broke the silence.

“Come on,” Dorian murmured and silently slipped his hand into mine. “Let’s go see if it worked. If we’re lucky, there time-space continuum is still standing.”

I nodded numbly, unable to form a coherent sentence. Dorian led me to the secret passage way he had used with Leliana and her men. The passage was dusty, filled with spider webs and Maker knows what else.

We walked in silence.

Dorian held my hand, not once letting go.